Technical Overview

Shedbuilt is a decentralized, source-based, self-hosting GNU/Linux distribution for low-cost, ARM architecture computers. Now, that's a dense, somewhat obtuse introduction to our operating system, so let's unpack it bit-by-bit.


Proprietery desktop operating systems such as Microsoft's Windows and Apple's macOS are rapidly moving toward centralized distribution of compatible software, funneling applications to users through their app stores. This allows operating system vendors to take a cut of software sales while providing users with assurances of security and compatibility. In the open-source software world, centralized distribution of currated packages has long been the norm for Linux distributions, with new efforts like Flatpak opening the door to a more decentralized, but no more community-oriented future. Shedbuilt's primary goal is to empower end-users to use, inspect, modify and share free software, broadening participation in and understanding of community-led computing. With Shedbuilt, there's no distinction between users and developers - all it takes to join the community is to boot up one of our starter images.


Although Shedbuilt's tools support the creation, installation and distribution of binaries, every software package can be compiled and installed from source, right on your device. Not requiring binary distribution allows users to make useful programs available to others by disseminating light-weight build recipes through no-cost services like GitHub.


Shedbuilt targets low-cost computers build around ARM architecture processors. Because these devices are considerably slower than modern x86-based processors from Intel and AMD, it's common for GNU/Linux distributions targeting ARM to cross-compile from more powerful machines. While it saves time, this practice can mask issues that prevent compilation from the target devices themselves, making the ARM Linux ecosystem essentially dependent on the increasingly complex, costly and vulnerable world mainstream desktop computing. By routinely compiling all packages from source on supported systems, Shedbuilt ensures continuing software independence and compatibility.


We'll sometimes refer to Shedbuilt as a 'rickety' to acknowledge that our effort to enable everyone - even those new to computing - to participate in software packaging and distribution may result in certain compromises to the security, integrity and performance of users' cobbled-together systems. While Shedbuilt's tooling can absolutely be used to produce software for mission-critical deployments, support of such applications will always be secondary to broadening user participation and understanding.