I’ve recently stumbled across two very interesting but not (yet) well known projects:
Vala is a “compiler for the GObject type system”. The great thing about it is that it provides a modern, C#-like language but does not require the overhead of a virtual machine or interpreter. Of course you can also use libraries created with Vala from other programs created with C or any of the bindings, which makes it a possible choice for platform development.
Despite being a very young project it already works extremely well and the developers are very responsive. I am very excited about this project because it has the potential to make low-level GNOME development a lot less scary for newcomers and more productive for everyone. I am already porting Scratchpad to Vala, which means that the next release will likely be completely native and as fast and lightweight as it looks. 🙂
Paldo is a relatively new distribution created by the same two swiss students who created Vala. Like Ubuntu it is GNOME centric, follows the “just-works” philosophy and usually provides only one application per task. Unlike Ubuntu it does not make any changes to upstream when possible and is a lot more simplistic. The package manager (Upkg) is running on Mono and serves binaries by default, while essentially being source based. Package specifications are as simple as one could imagine, so adding your own custom packages is a piece of cake. It basically just involves writing down the commands required for compilation and installation and (optionally) listing some deps. Even listing the deps is simple, because Paldo keeps packages together (so headers are always installed for example) and does not use dependency version numbers (other than interface version which is part of the package name of course). So far it appears very developer-friendly to me, so I would recommend it to advanced users looking for a simple and lightweight GNOME-centric distribution that just works.