| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 60, 02 August 2004
Welcome to this year's 30th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. So now on to the news below.
Is The Linux Kernel Too Bloated?
Back in January, 1992 when Linus Torvalds released Linux kernel 0.11, I wasn't able to run it. My workhorse machine at that time was a Toshiba T1000 laptop which came with MS-DOS 2.11 (in firmware). At that time, the "steep" hardware requirements for Linux were as follows:
Circa 1995, I acquired a Toshiba Libretto CT50 with a big 75 MHz Pentium processor, 16 MB RAM and 800 MB hard drive. It came with Windows 95 which crashed several times daily, but ran MS-DOS fine, and I actually managed to install Slackware on it. The Libretto was a fun toy, but I recently sold it to a collector because, quite frankly, I'm not into owning museum pieces.
- 386 or 486 Intel processor with AT-bus
- IDE hard disk (no SCSI support)
- 1.44 MB floppy disk drive
- 2 MB RAM; 4 MB recommended to use gcc compiler
- Any Hercules, CGA, EGA, VGA video card
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people out there who do own museum pieces and would love to run Linux on them, but not necessarily with a 7-year-old kernel. The fact is that the Linux kernel has grown by leaps in bounds, both in capabilities and its demand for memory. Though the desktop machine I now own is a mainframe compared to the T1000, it doesn't feel much faster given how hardware-hungry a modern Linux distro is.
Enter Linux-Tiny. The name would suggest that this is another minimalist distro along the lines of Damn Small Linux, but that is in fact not the case. Linux-Tiny is not a distro, but actually a reduced-sized 2.6 Linux kernel. Matt Mackall, the brains behind the project, sees Linux-Tiny as an ideal kernel for embedded, handheld, legacy and other small devices.
Mackall describes the relentless bloat of the Linux kernel as "death by a thousand cuts". In other words, there was no single big cataclysm that caused the kernel to balloon, but rather a zillion little things - a driver here, a feature there. In order to trim the fat, Mackall had to reverse the process, yanking out legacy drivers, reducing stack size, and ripping out new memory-hungry features such as sysfs. He reports, "My test configuration with support for a text console, IDE disks, the Ext2 filesystem, TCP/IP and a PCI-based network card results in a 363K compressed kernel image." Other experimenters have shrunk the Linux-Tiny kernel image even smaller (191K), but at the cost of ripping out some very useful features.
Of course, not all the bloat in a modern Linux distro is in the kernel - the user-space, if anything, contains even more blubber. Nevertheless, Mr. Mackall may be on to something. Right now, Linux-Tiny is still an experiment, but sooner or later I expect to see a real live distro using the Linux-Tiny kernel. Aside from being able to run it on ancient hardware, it will be interesting to see how fast it performs. One question that DistroWatch readers might want to ask themselves - Do we really need all the bloat in the present kernel and user-space?
FreeBSD Handbook (3rd Edition) Splits into Two
One of the most useful online references for free OS enthusiasts is the FreeBSD Handbook. As the name implies, it's geared for FreeBSD users, but there is so much good general information packed in there that it makes interesting reading for users of the other BSDs. Many Linux users find it useful as well simply for its clear explanations of networking principals. What makes it all the more remarkable is that it was written by volunteers and can be downloaded for free in various formats from here. Dead-tree copies (not free) can be ordered from FreeBSD Mall.
Though frequently updated, there have been only two major editions of the Handbook since it was first published. Now the third edition is almost ready to roll. Because the Handbook has grown to enormous size, a decision has been made to split the tome into two separate volumes, a User Guide and an Administrator Handbook. There is a precedent for doing so, as several years ago chapters were moved out of the FreeBSD Handbook to create a Developers Handbook.
FreeBSD Handbook, Vol. 1, User Guide
Work on the User Guide has already been completed, and the team is now concentrating on getting the Administrator Handbook into print. With some luck, we might see it in time for the upcoming FreeBSD 5.3 release, but that is not yet certain.
FreeBSD "committers" (as the developers are called) have stated that there will be a code freeze of 5.3 on August 15, and everyone expects that a first release candidate will be available shortly thereafter. FreeBSD users are speculating that 5.3-RELEASE will be available sometime around early October. A joint roll-out of 5.3 plus the Administrator Handbook would make a nice October surprise.
FVWM - Still Alive and Well
This week NewsForge featured an article by Rob Reilly entitled Four Alternative Linux Window Managers. The window managers tested were AfterStep, Enlightenment, IceWM and FVWM. Rob indicated that FVWM was his favorite.
I found the story interesting for a number of reasons, but mainly because I am also a FVWM user. We FVWM fans are definitely an endangered species - indeed, I was beginning to think that I was the only one left. It wasn't always so, as FVWM used to be the default window manager on most Linux distros. Indeed, the first time I used X Windows was on Red Hat 5.2 (circa 1998) and FVWM2 was the only option. That, of course, has changed, with Red Hat now pushing Gnome and many others plugging KDE. However, both Gnome and KDE are "Swiss army knives" offering every feature but an electric drink mixer, which incurs a heavy performance penalty.
Not everyone has been happy with the growing feature creep of Gnome and KDE, and over the past couple of years we've seen a proliferation of alternative lightweight speedy window managers. Pretenders to the throne include WindowMaker, Blackbox, IceWM and XFce, just to name a few.
But why did everyone abandon FVWM? In a word, because the default FVWM desktop is ugly. However, this is misleading because FVWM is one of the most configurable window managers around - you can customize it to make your desktop look spectacular. Unfortunately, doing so has always been a complicated task involving the editing of numerous cryptic ASCII files. The good news is that the situation has changed dramatically in the past year with the release of "FVWM Themes" (in the above-mentioned NewsForge article, the author failed to point this out).
I don't know of any distro that includes FVWM Themes, so you have to download it - you'll find the source tarball here. Before you can compile this package, plain old ugly FVWM needs to be installed. Some distros (not many) do come with FVWM, but if yours doesn't you can grab the source tarball from the FVWM website. After you compiled and installed the FVWM Themes package, make it your default window manager by including a hidden file .xinitrc in your home directory with this content:
The FVWM desktop is simple. The usual way to open an app is to open an Xterm and launch the app from there by typing its name. If you maximize an apps, it will occupy the full screen (that is, no menu bar on the bottom of the screen). This is a feature I particularly like - I find that screen clutter distracts me from the task at hand, so if I'm running Emacs I don't want to see anything but Emacs. The uncluttered maximized screen is especially appreciated when I use my laptop (because of the small screen).
There is a pager in the lower-right corner of the screen - this lets you switch between nine different desktops. The pager will often be hidden when you've got a maximized window open, so you'll need to drag the window out of the way (or else minimize it) to reach the pager. Most window managers (KDE, for example) allow you to drag windows with Alt-mouse, but in FVWM you use Ctrl-Alt-mouse. Once you get used to the concept of a pager, it's almost impossible to go back to using a single desktop. Typically, I have five or six apps open at the same time, each one on a separate desktop. The lower left portion of the screen lists the open windows - just click on one to move to it instantly.
FVWM Themes - Default Desktop
The first time you start FVWM Themes, you'll be presented with the Default theme. Click with the left mouse button and you'll be presented with a menu - one of the items is "Theme Management", and you'll find eight themes to choose from. You can also combine parts and pieces of each theme to create your own customized desktop. It's all pretty intuitive, and definitely a big step up from old-style FVWM.
FVWM is not for everyone. Especially if you're coming to Linux (or *BSD) directly from Windows or the Mac, you might find the lack of bells and whistles to be disconcerting. However, if you cherish speed, stability, and multiple desktops (populated with maxi-sized windows), FVWM is hard to beat.
SPF - Embrace and Extend?
Richard M. Stallman, otherwise known as RMS, touched off a small fire-storm when he made a post to the IETF mailing list, which was soon transformed into a Slashdot story. The subject of the message was "Sender-ID and free software". The interesting part of it all - at least for me - was that I'd never heard of SenderID. So I went off to investigate, and found it all to be quite a fascinating tale.
Before you can understand SenderID, you need to know about SPF. The chief promoter of SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is Meng Weng Wong (age 28), a native of Singapore but now residing in the USA. Meng is the founder of Pobox.com, an email forwarding service. Meng did not actually invent SPF, but rather forked it from two other open source projects (RMX and DMP). He was further assisted by SPF co-author Mark Lentczner. If you'd like to know a little bit more about the history of SPF and see a photo of Meng, you can look here. There is also this interesting interview with Meng (published June 29).
The essential purpose of SPF is to make it easy to detect address-spoofing, which is a common spammer's trick. If one could detect address-spoofing with a high degree of accuracy, it would be possible to create spam filters that would delete all such mail. Thus, SPF protects both the mail receiver and the mail sender. With a proper mail filter, the receiver can delete (without reading) spam with forged domain names. And SPF protects the mail sender too, because firstname.lastname@example.org does not want everybody thinking that he sells sex toys when in fact his only job is running a children's day-care center. Of course, stopping address-spoofing wouldn't stop all spam, but it would put a sizable dent in it.
Address-spoofing is currently difficult to detect because SMTP (the primary service for sending mail around the Internet) does not support this feature. SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) was invented in the 1980s and - in the opinion of many - is outdated and inadequate for the needs of the modern Internet. Indeed, some have suggested that it should be scrapped entirely and replaced with something else. Unfortunately, that would require a lot of cooperation from a lot of people. SMTP is an integral part of MTAs (mail transfer agents) - that is, mail server software such as Sendmail, Postfix and Microsoft Exchange Server. In order to replace SMTP, everybody would have to first agree on a new standard, and then replace their MTAs all at the same time. Anything less than 100% compliance would break the world's email system.
This is where SPF can help. SPF is an additional protocol that can co-exist with SMTP. It doesn't seek to replace SMTP. In order to use SPF, a system administrator must install a patch to the mail server's MTA - patches are available here. Currently, there are patches for Sendmail, Postfix, Exim, Courier, Qmail and MS Exchange Server. If SPF catches on, developers may incorporate this feature in the future, thus eliminating the need to patch.
Aside from having the requisite software installed, the other major infrastructure requirement is to persuade domain name registrars to support it. All domains already publish email (MX) records to tell the world which machines receive mail for the domain. SPF works by domains publishing "reverse MX" records to tell the world which machines send mail from the domain. Those "reverse MX" records are easy to publish: one line in DNS (domain name service) is all it takes.
So if SPF is so useful and easy to implement, why isn't everybody using it? In fact, it is catching on quickly - more and more domains sign up everyday. Sooner or later, critical mass should be reached and SPF will become an accepted standard.
Unfortunately, SPF isn't the only game in town. A competing standard named CallerID was introduced by (surprise) Microsoft. Less surprisingly, free software advocates (as well as many commercial ISPs) are very leery of CallerID since it is encumbered by Microsoft's software patents. For that reason, it has not gained wide acceptance. However, the marketplace is now thoroughly confused - everyone who understands the issue would like to see a single standard emerge.
For this reason, an attempt is now being made to merge SPF with CallerID, producing a new standard called SenderID. However, this can only work if Microsoft freely licenses all the relevant patents without restrictions. Even better would be if Microsoft donates its patents to the public domain (don't hold your breath). Members of the SPF team have been negotiating with Microsoft lawyers for over a month, and have received an offer for a "royalty-free license". However, Microsoft has imposed some other terms that - unlike any of the open source licenses - requires anyone who implements or deploys SenderID to specifically notify Microsoft of this intention as well as grant Microsoft permission to publish their name and address. This proposal is unlikely to fly, and Microsoft has been asked to come up with an unrestricted license. The situation is still under discussion, and Microsoft is supposed to present its new proposal later today (Monday, 2 August).
While all this is happening, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) has formed a group to create a standard SPF (or SenderID). The group is called MARID (MTA Authorization Records in DNS). IETF is a standards-setting body, so if it approves SenderID, this could be very influential. Which is what worries Richard M. Stallman - that IETF will approve a standard encumbered with unacceptable terms. And there is still plenty of paranoia surrounding the fact that nobody is even sure what patents Microsoft holds. Could we later discover a "submarine patent" - that is, one which is hidden, but unexpectedly "torpedoes" us when we least expect it? Microsoft did something like this recently with a patent on their FAT filesystem. And they are still furiously filing more patent applications. To be fair to Microsoft, they are not the only ones playing the patent game. On the other hand, Microsoft has been vigorously lobbying (via the Business Software Alliance) to legalize software patents in Europe. More than a few people are convinced that software patents pose the greatest danger to free software.
Of course, the SPF folks are not stupid, and are not likely to agree to a bad licensing deal. And the reality of submarine patents has caught Meng's attention - he is, in fact, considering taking out a defensive patent on SPF for one simple reason - to prevent someone else from getting the patent and then suing for infringement. If SPF is patented, it could then be declared public domain - it's just a pity that one needs a team of lawyers to release a simple email standard. Had this been the case 25 years ago, we would probably not have email today.
So that's where it stands. The SPF developers seem to feel that it's possible to get a good licensing agreement from Microsoft. Many others (and not just RMS) are sceptical. Which should provide a fertile ground of discussion for DistroWatch readers this week. Is Richard Stallman right to be so paranoid? And can Microsoft be trusted?
Be so subtle that you are invisible.
Be so mysterious that you are intangible.
Then you will control your rival's fate.
-- Sun Tzu, in The Art of War (500 BC)
|Released Last Week
Feather Linux 0.5.5
Feather Linux 0.5.5 has been released. From the changelog: "Added an RSS reader (written specifically for Feather and available here;
changed dpkg-get so that more of Feather is loaded into RAM; added
localhalt.sh, a script in which to place commands which will be
executed on shutdown or reboot; added button to emelfm to allow easy
integration of packages using fpkg; added option to select PCMCIA on
boot for HD installs; updated Flash plugin script to version 7; updated
Opera script to version 7.53; made AbiWord script more economical - now
only downloads 7MB...." Download: feather-0.5.5.iso (61.8MB).
OnebaseGo 2.1 has been released: "The
Onebase Linux Project is pleased to announce a new updated version of
OnebaseGo LiveCD (2.1). It features OLM 3.0.6 with German locale
support, Kernel 2.6.7, and comes with 5 popular desktops - KDE-3.2.3
(Themed like MacOS X), GNOME 2.6.2 (Themed like Windows XP), IceWM
desktop manager, XFCE 4.0.6 desktop suite and Fluxbox Lightweight
desktop 0.9.9 - all in 1 LiveCD." Read the announcement and check out the screenshots here. Download: OnebaseGo-2.1.iso (620MB).
is a bootable business card size live CD based on Slackware Linux with
initialisation scripts borrowed from the Blin project. From the changelog: "added
Opera; removed xchat, micq, sylpheed, links-hacked; added Yahoo!
mesenger Gyach; added chess program xboard:phalanx; removed myServer
added xweb; added CUPS; added mtr(traceroute); added frontend installer
to HDD(alfa); updated gnumeric, abiword, nmap, lame; updated
kernel(2.6.7); added ReiserFS support." Download: austrumi-0.8.7.iso (50.3MB).
YES Linux 2.0.10
YES Corporation would like to announce the release of YES Linux 2.0.10 for immediate downloading: "The
major changes are: addition: YES Administration available from /admin;
updates: fixed cbq (bandwidth limiting); java-wrapper; renamed
/intro.yes -> /intro; renamed /admin.yes -> /admin; ssh ports are
now open in firewall by default; by default sshd configuration is more
secure, Root not allowed to login by default; made yes-intro,
yes-admin, and yes-kernel more modular using apache 2 fragments; moved
yes-kernel to non standard port 7017." The complete announcement. Download: yes-2.0.10.iso (493MB).
"Bug Hunter" 07/2004A has been released as a bugfix version of 07/2004: "It
has Firebox back, dvd+rw-tools downgraded so that k3b works again (to
write DVD) and slight improvements. The ipw2100 and ndiswrapper driver
was updated too. This time there are 2 iso images available. The 2nd
one is for systems who can not boot with GRUB in no-emulation mode." Read the release note here. More info available both in English and in German. Download: KANOTIX-BUG-HUNTER-07-2004-A.iso (703MB).
Puppy Linux 0.9.2
Puppy Linux 0.9.2 has been released. New features found in the release notes
include a "Greyboard" that several users can share over a network,
"Axel" download accelerator with a GUI frontend, Turma joined by
another text search program "reXgrep" which is a GUI frontend to grep,
"xhost" and GUI frontend "Gxhost" (which is useful in conjunction with
the aforementioned "Greyboard"), GUI network utility "Sockspy" that
monitors TCP conversation for debugging conections, "Gtksamba" the GUI
program for Samba configuration, "ntfsresize" for experts only, and
much more. Download: cd-puppy.iso (49.0MB).
Damn Small Linux 0.7.3
Damn Small Linux 0.7.3 has been released: "This
release boots directly into an enhanced X desktop at 1024x768x32 and
the mouse is auto-detected when the default video mode is used. New
boot time options were implemented along with the ability to mount and
umount the .ci extensions via the myDSL button. cardmgr was updated to
3.2.2, nfs-common was removed from startup, a .wgetrc was added, and
permissions on /dev/cdrom were corrected to let users play audio CDs." The changelog. Download: dsl-0.7.3.iso (47.6MB).
Xandros Desktop 2.5
Xandros Corporation has released Xandros Desktop 2.5: "Xandros,
the leading developer of easy-to-use Linux solutions, today announced
the release of version 2.5 of the Xandros Desktop OS. Maintaining its
strong user focus and compatibility with legacy systems, Xandros
Desktop 2.5 now offers an upgraded CrossOver Office 3.0.1, supporting
Lotus Notes 6.5.1, Microsoft Project 2000/2002, and Microsoft Outlook
XP. Current Xandros Desktop OS users can perform a single-click upgrade
of CrossOver Office with Xandros Networks." The full press release. Xandros Desktop 2.5 comes in two editions - Business (US$129) or Deluxe (US$89), both of which can be ordered from the company's online store. Existing customers qualify for special upgrade pricing.
Gentoo Linux 2004.2
Today marks the release of Gentoo Linux 2004.2 for the AMD64, HPPA, SPARC and X86 architectures! "The
Gentoo Linux Release Engineering project has worked hard to improve key
problem areas identified in the 2004.1 release. These areas of
improvement include, but are not limited to: LiveCD compatibility with
Dell server-class machines; LiveCD compatibility with SMP machines; x86
laptop PCMCIA support; Wireless (802.11a/b/g) capabilties; SATA
support. Detailed information for Gentoo Linux 2004.2, such as Release
Notes and md5sums, can be found at the 2004.2 information page Gentoo Linux 2004.2 can be downloaded from any one of our official download mirrors, as well as from our new BitTorrent system." Here also the livecd (605MB).
KANOTIX "Bug Hunter" 07/2004 has been released: "This
is a Linux Live CD based on KNOPPIX technology using mostly pure
Debian/sid. Specification: Kernel 2.6.6; ACPI and DMA enabled by
default (can be disabled with acpi=off respectively nodma); i586
optimization - not for use with older CPUs; 128MB RAM required, 256MB
RAM recommended; AVM Fritz!Card DSL support; Eagle USB DSL support; KDE
3.2.3; OpenOffice.org 1.1.2; Captive 1.1.5; ALSA 1.0.5a; GRUB boot
loader for CD start - ideal for rescue in command line mode;
Memtest86+...." Read the full release notes for more details. Download: KANOTIX-BUG-HUNTER-07-2004.iso (701MB).
Lormalinux 5 has been released on schedule: "Linux
Gaming has never been better than this! Based on Fedora Core 2 and
optimized for i686 architecture, Lormalinux 5 comes with the
selectively chosen packages perfected for your classroom, home and
office workstations... Version 5 provides a very simple installation
process eliminating the "much-to-know-details" by following the default
installation. Its kernel and packages are updated to the latest stable
versions." Download: lormalinux5-final.iso (699MB).
Development and unannounced releases
|Web Site News
Linux On The Road
A message appeared in my inbox, reproduced below (slightly edited to protect the innocent)....
I am in Slovakia (Kosice). This is also the only
place where I found an Internet cafe with a Linux machine, believe it
or not. Can't help with the news page, mainly because I am
trying to enjoy my holiday, but also because I am still battling with
connecting (a friend's) machine to the Internet. For some peculiar
reason, I can connect with Linux, but not with Windows! It would seem
that Slovakia is a Linux paradise!
DistroWatch database summary
- Number of Linux distributions in the database: 315
- Number of BSD distributions in the database: 7
- Number of discontinued distributions: 32
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 84
|Tips, Tricks and Hints
This week's featured open source program is Eliza, the "psychoanalyst". It (she?) has a long, proud history and you've probably encountered it (or its descendents) some place or other. Eliza was one of the first artificial intelligence (AI) programs. It was written in the mid-1960s by Professor Joseph Weisenbaum of MIT. The name Eliza was borrowed from the flower selling girl in the (now nearly-forgotten) musical My Fair Lady. In the play, Eliza pretended to be a lot more than she really was.
To the uninitiated, Artificial Intelligence is magic stuff. Thanks to AI, you can "talk" to a computer and it gives you the impression that you're talking to a real person who can understand and reply. This has long been the stuff of science fiction (the talking computer HAL in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of the earliest incarnations). Despite the "magic", AI programs are not all that difficult to create. Basically, all that most AI programs do is some syntactic shuffling of words, creating questions according to your responses. Descendents of Eliza code are found all over in Internet as bots or chatbots, typically used on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and in MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons).
Eliza was originally written in Lisp, a language geared for creating artificial intelligence applications. Eliza has since been ported to many other languages, and you can download a simple Perl version (Chatbot-Eliza-1.04.tar.gz) from here. Unpack the tarball in your home directory and cd into ~/Chatbot-Eliza-1.0. You don't actually have to compile anything to run a simple session, just type "./simple" and you can begin:
Welcome to your therapy session.
Your therapist's name is Liz.
Liz: Is something troubling you?
you: Well, I've been tired lately.
Liz: Do you say you've been tired lately
for some special reason?
you: Yes, that's just the way I feel.
Liz: Please tell me some more about this.
you: I don't sleep well at night. Maybe
you can prescribe some sleeping pills?
Liz: Do you wish to be able to sleep well
you: Absolutely. Doesn't everybody?
Liz: Who, for example?
If you unpacked the tarball, you can look in file README for more explicit instructions on how to install the Perl module and what you can do with it. You can, for example, set up two chatbots and have them talk to each other. I've been told that there is a schizophrenic chatbot named Perry that is a great compliment to Eliza, but I haven't been able to find it.
As it turns out, if you are running Linux or one of the BSDs, you probably already have an embedded version of Eliza that you didn't know about. As mentioned above, Eliza was originally written in Lisp, and one of the most prominent Lisp programs still in common use today is Emacs. I've noticed that the Emacs version of Eliza seems better than the Perl version - I'm not sure if this has anything to do with Lisp.
Although ostensibly just an editor, Emacs is packed with features that really have little to do with editing. You can use Emacs to browse the web (text-mode only), check your email, and possibly wash your socks. Everything that it does, it doesn't necessarily do easily or intuitively, but you really don't need to understand Emacs if you just want to play with its psychoanalytic abilities.
To start Emacs, choose it from a menu (should be buried in there someplace), or else on the command line type "emacs". Then, to start Eliza, hit Alt-x (M-x in Emacs parlance) and type "doctor", then hit enter. Here's a little session I had with the "doctor" recently:
I am the psychotherapist. Please, describe your problems. Each time
you are finished talking, type RET twice.
Hi Doc, it's nice to meet you.
How do you do? What brings you to see me?
Well, I've been feeling tired and run down. Actually, kind of
Are you depressed often?
Well, yeah. I think it's overwork.
Why do you say yeah you think it's overwork?
Well, I spend about 18 hours a day in front of the computer. My
girlfriend says that she's a computer widow.
You have your mind on computers, it seems.
Yeah, all the time. I can't help it. I guess I'm addicted.
Earlier you said you felt depressed?
Yes. I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. Maybe I need a change in my life.
Maybe your plans have something to do with this.
You could be on to something there. I've been considering making a
trip to eastern Europe. To get away from it all.
What makes you believe that?
Well, I've been doing the same thing for years and years. Sitting in
front of the computer. Writing. Sure, it's been rewarding at times,
but I see my life slipping away.
Is it because you see your life slipping away that you came to me?
That's putting it blunt. But yeah, I think you've hit the nail on the head.
Does it bother you that yeah you think I have hit the nail on the
Bothered? No. You're a psychoanalyst. Isn't that what you do?
When did you first know that what I do?
Well, some geek told me about you. I figured I really needed your help.
You mentioned that you felt depressed?
Right. And bored. Maybe I should do something totally
different. That's why I was thinking about this trip to Europe.
Is the fact that you were thinking about this trip to Europe the real
Well, maybe I'm just trying to escape. It's either take a trip, or
If you are really suicidal, you might want to contact the Samaritans
via E-mail: email@example.com or, at your option, anonymous E-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org . Or find a Befrienders crisis center at
http://www.befrienders.org/ . I would appreciate it if you would
Oh, I wasn't really that serious. Just a passing thought.
Does the fact that serious just a passing thought explain anything
Well, I don't sleep well. Maybe I need some sleeping pills?
Do you use pills often?
No. Well, yes. Vitamin pills.
Have you been addicted to pills?
No, but I'm addicted to caffeine. Geeks drink a lot of it, you know.
Have you been sure you are addicted to caffeine geeks drink a lot of
it I know?
What the hell are you talking about?
Perhaps you could watch your tongue!
I recently introduced my brother to Eliza. As it happens, my brother is a medical technologist at a major public hospital. After experimenting with Eliza, he said he thought that it could replace the entire Psychiatry Department. I don't know if that's true, but for harried DistroWatch website maintainers, it could be just the ticket.
That's all for this week.
1 • My take on bloat (by Peter at 2004-08-02 06:13:34 GMT) |
Personaly I think that most of the bloat from current distributions comes from an avid reinvention of the wheel. There are a lot of people outhere that think they can make a rounder wheel so... instead of fixing the imperfections of current wheels they start their own version. There are also a lot of people that think that their wheels should contain like 90% of the car so... there is no wonder why the car is slow...
Let's take toolkits for a second.... Why is gtk 1 faster than gtk2? shouldn't there be a evolution? shouldn't a toolkit become as fast as posible? If the toolkit is slow how do you think the apps that use it will be?
I don't think people want different apps, what I think people want are different ways of interaction with their apps, think skins NOT services. So... Why not make their dreams come true?
2 • bloat (by Ajax Munroe at 2004-08-02 08:00:39 GMT)
nothing is worse than getting a lot of apps that you never use, distro's such as Redhat (yes, even the enterprise edition) put all these apps in by default. I know you can deselect them at install but somehow they seem to end up on your system anyway. the most bloated distro is Mandrake! the problem here is that Mandrake (and fedora core) take forever to install. and by the way.....Im sure if you took an HONEST pole you would find that Slackware is more popular than that overbloated sorry excuse for a distro called mandrake. over half of the applications installed on mandrake and fedora core are hidden, so unless your fairly adept at unix in general the average end user or newb would not see a lot of these apps anyway because you have to have command line experience. Slackware on the other hand gives you choices as to what will be on your machine. a word to newbs who are looking for a good distro...GET SLACKWARE....IT JUST WORKS!
3 • Bloat (by Non-Bloater on 2004-08-02 08:00:39 GMT)
I think it's great that they're experimenting with a smaller Kernal, I'd like to see distro's give this as an option when installing!! Would be great for smaller distro's needing the speed and the free ram!
4 • bloat (by Anonymous Coward on 2004-08-02 08:37:26 GMT)
1. I'm glad someone is doing something about the bloat. Its disgraceful that MSWin98 runs circles around GNU/L.
2. Stallman is da man.
3. Xfce rocks and is also ugly by default.
5 • musta been a slow week (by sn0n at 2004-08-02 08:40:37 GMT)
not much to read this week, still a good issue nonetheless. :: looks forward to next weeks ::
6 • Agreed - it's bloated. Must check out Linux Tiny :-) (by mr_pizza on 2004-08-02 08:56:54 GMT)
Yes, I'd have to agree that the kernel is pretty bloated. Not saying it ain't cool (I love it!), but it's certainly big.
I reckon that the pretty-new "Contiki" o/s could be a real winner. At present, it's aimed at embedded and small devices, but it could be very interesting on a PC.
I **love** to see tiny size and elegance (not just in the kernel, but in general). An example is the Rebol programming language. About 500k or so, but has a GUI, supports email and every web protocol around, and *very* concise and elegant syntax. But, it's proprietary (sigh ... ). There *are* a couple of open-source Rebol-like languages (check out "r-sharp" and "freebell" on sourceforge - both seem to be dead, but the code *is* still there - freebell has code in cvs even though it says "no files released". If you *love* tiny-but-elegant packages, these are a couple of neat little gems, just waiting for someone to grab 'em and show what they can do.
Anyway - I've strayed a bit off-topic - sorry about that ... ;-)
7 • "bloat" (by DR on 2004-08-02 09:07:09 GMT)
The real bloat is in your minds guys! Without all these kernel, gtk2, qt features u would sadly cry and switch back to windows. Think about how bad gnome became after all this uncluttering. It sucks. KDE still rocks and gets better and better because of the bloat u hate so much. And your so bloated kernel is the best solution for servers and desktops.
8 • No subject (by Anonymous on 2004-08-02 10:00:20 GMT)
>>The real bloat is in your minds guys! Without all these kernel, gtk2, qt features u would sadly cry and switch back to windows.
Then why are the system requirements for win95/98 lower than most distros? It wasn't "ease of use" that almost forced me back to MSW, it was SPEED.
9 • other small 50mb distros (by Stan on 2004-08-02 10:13:57 GMT)
I'm glad somone else likes fvwm!
please check out AUSTRUMI live cd 50mb thingie
It uses fvwm and has Gimp Abiword and Mplayer all running fine from bootable business card that self loads to ram then autoejects. It has kernel 2.6.7 and plays all divX codex Cd's great
I always carry it incase somone hasnt got ac3 and divX on their PC so i can always play some divx cd's on anyones machine.
Better than DSL ?
I think so in my huble opinion. i dont like the way DSL has focused on installing "extra" stuff by downloading.
Whats the point in that? may as well carry Knoppix around and have it all on CD in the first place.
I just wanted as much as I can carry on a 50mb disk and Austrumi (or LUIT for that matter) does it.
I wish these two distros would get more recognition as everyone thinks 50mb cds = DSL
I dont want to start an argument here. DSL is great for what it is and its definitely pushed the benchmark higher and higher for a mini distro. A lot of work has gone into DSL that has filtered onto other projects (feather and INsert)
But please also consider Luit and Austrumi
10 • Bloated kernel?? (by FlS on 2004-08-02 10:23:35 GMT)
I'm wondering if a smaller kernel will make a computer so much faster.
If we look at start-up times, we see the kernel is loaded in a few seconds. It's the rest that takes ages: detecting new hardware, initialising eth0, ... I think these processes should be combined (multitasking) in order not to wait for timeouts etc.
Finally I believe that X11 is quite fat too. It may have a lot of potential but as a desktop-user, I only use 20% of its features. I'm really waiting for a small X11(like firefox for mozilla), but I don't hold my breath...
11 • No subject (by Michael Magua at 2004-08-02 11:23:34 GMT)
just use gentoo :/
12 • Bloat in kernel (by Anonymous on 2004-08-02 13:30:12 GMT)
NetBSD has this cool script called "adjustkernel" that takes a look into your dmesg and then optimizes the kernel config file for your hardware. IMO, Linux needs something similar.
BTW, could someone fix the FVWM screenshot link. Thanks.
13 • Bloat? Try Gentoo (by Beavis on 2004-08-02 13:47:24 GMT)
Binary Kernel release are HUGE!. They have to be generic enough to support a wide range of hardware.
If you are worried about Kernel bloat, then you are likely smart enough to use Gentoo Linux. You can easily reduce the size of the Kernel by compiling it from source and installing only the drivers you need.
14 • How to beat Eliza (I give up) ir become evasive (by John Coombes at 2004-08-02 15:10:28 GMT)
I have to admit Eliza is not new to me as I have played with it before years ago on Amstrad CPM machines with 2 floppy and no HDDs at all (pre-DOS). I have even customised a a version for a vintage car club, so the replies to keywords are all related to the types of vintage car and their parts. I offer the following just to point out that although very cleaver, Eliza is not infallable, and you can make it give it self away [just one other simple example of where Eliza gives it self away is that it repeats your spelling mistakes :-( ]
BTW - for the following I ran the command line type "emacs".out of Mandrake-Linux as noted above
I am the psychotherapist. Please, describe your problems.
Each time you are finished talking, type RET twice.
I have a headack
Why do you say you have a headack?
you gave it to me
Is it because of your plans that you say I gave it to you?
no you just did
Maybe your life have something to do with this.
no it is all your fault doctor
What makes you believe it is all my fault doctor?
because you are a doctor
Is it because I am a doctor that you came to me?
no it was Eliza
Eliza? Hah! I would appreciate it if you would continue.
no your turn
Earlier you said I am a doctor?
a hoorible doctor
Is it because of the people you hang around with that you are going through all this?
no it is your fault
Is it because of problems at school that you say it is my fault?
no you are just a trouble make
You mentioned that I am a doctor?
all doctors are triuble makers
How do you reconcile any hobbies you have?
nothing to do with hobbies, just all doctors are trouble makers
Are you sure that that?
Do you really think I am a doctor?
no just a trouble maker
Perhaps this has something to do with your sex life?
no its because of you
Can you elaborate on that?
because you are a trouble maker
Does it bother you that I am a trouble maker?
no you are just shit
Perhaps you could watch your tongue!
no you are the trouble maker not me
What makes you think I am the trouble maker not you?
necause I am perfict and you are the trouble maker, obvious is it not
Earlier you said I am a doctor?
all doctors are trouble makers, so as a trouble maker, you must be a doctor
Possibly hangups you have are related to this.
no it is your hangups (like all doctors)
Is it because of your inhibitions that you say it is my hangups like
no you are just a computer program so it does not matter at all
You have your mind on computers, it seems.
no stupid programs
You mentioned that I am a trouble maker?
sure it is obvious is it not
Is it because of some problems in your childhood that you are going through all this?
no it is your problem
Why do you say it is my problem?
because you are a stupid program that just feeds words back
When did you first know that I am a stupid program that just feeds
before I started as I have use Eliza before
Are you sure?
I see... Well, what makes you believe this is so?
I am god
Are you sure that I am a doctor?
Yes, hmmm... so, do you really think this is so?
I understand. So what makes you think this is so?
Oh. ...And why do you say this is so?
I see... Then what makes you believe this is so?
Yes, well, are you sure that this is so?
I understand. Hmmm... so, do you really think this is so?
Have you been just trying to see what kind of things I have in my
vocabulary? Please try to carry on a reasonable conversation!
I give up. You need a lesson in creative writing...
I give up. You need a lesson in creative writing...
I give up. You need a lesson in creative writing...
I give up. You need a lesson in creative writing...
I give up. You need a lesson in creative writing...
As you see the whole thing is giving it self away as just a clever program, but it is a Fun thing to give to a newbie PLUS you can go into it and change its reply to the key words that a user types in. For the vintage car club, Eliza would ask "what do you drive" use would answer "Yes blar blar" Then Eliza would say "then it must be a three speeder, is that correct" - the User would be amazed that the computer knew the difference between a two speeder and a three speeder !!!! Of course it was just many hours of my father and I changing the pre-set progrem ask/replies/etc. You to could set an Eliza up for your club-school-work-whatever simple but time consuming stuff :-)
15 • Bloat (by Rogelio on 2004-08-02 15:26:17 GMT)
I don't believe it's bloated but it does have potential to being bloated. That is a reasonable request to developers to keep it simple (KISS) as much as possible.
16 • Eliza os online (by John Coombes at 2004-08-02 15:26:38 GMT)
For those intrested, from the third item or so, in a google search for Eliza
and yes the author know she is dumb :-)
17 • bloat... (by anonymous coward at 2004-08-02 15:50:50 GMT)
I have been using gentoo for sometime now and I agree re-compiling will save you space but all distros will give you the tools to do so.
for me I've never had to much problems with boot time
it was for the interface I use cause I am a eye candy freak..
I find the bloat in two places KDE, XFREE
first, xfree... has xeyes, xmagnafier, xkill, x...... none of which I've ever used!!! and the size alone is huge
secondly is kde, which seems to think people need more than one editor (kate, kedit, kwrite) and their dependancies are crap... I've had to install kdegames to have the utilities installed. Another example is the new change to kmail over to kdepim.... Which is the only software I use in that package.
This results in a very bloated start menu and alot of disk space wasted on apps I will never use.
gnome is a tad better with those issues but I don't find it quite as easy to use..
18 • Eliza (by Marcel at 2004-08-02 15:56:34 GMT)
Nice to see Eliza after all these years!
I remember running it on a TRS80 around '80. Anyone remember that computer, made by Tandy back then. I suddenly realise I'm growing old......
19 • FVWM2 in SuSE (by Ariszló at 2004-08-02 15:58:49 GMT)
SAX2, SuSE's X configuration tool, requries FVWM2 :)
20 • No subject (by p-Lo on 2004-08-02 16:41:19 GMT)
In Windows XP, I generally keep my total number of processes down to around 20 when not doing anything - in linux, running kde, there are over 40 when doing nothing. And at least half of them start with "k", so i know where they come from... its probably a good time to find another window manager....
21 • Bloat (by Abel on 2004-08-02 16:43:28 GMT)
Personally, I use FC2 and Debian. FC2 is very bloated... but you know what, it's not really the kernel, it's all the stupid programs (and that damn redhat icon) that they put in. But the kernel isn't bad if you just copy your .config file and rebuild the kernel off of that.
What I wish they would start doing in distros is offer a 'multi-kernel' option in the installation, what i mean by that is have five options 'default' 'home pc' 'workstation' 'server' 'custom' and what it will do is do different kernel configurations for each one, with the option of adding a few things after you select which one you want.
It would be nice, since i don't use 90% of the default kernel stuff... and i would like to have it customize it just for my computer (no bluetooth, no Intel, no ATI, no ISA, etc....) it would be nice...
maybe one day.
22 • I could have danced all night... (by Mike on 2004-08-02 18:02:02 GMT)
1. Most kernel bloat can be removed with a recompile. Well, a lot anyway. Tiny may be great for embedded systems but most of us don't use those.
2. I don't see why an entirely new e-mail system would break the old one. We have lots of IM systems running these days - they work alright. There'd be a slow change-over, it wouldn't need to be overnight at all. I can cope with two mail servers running at once.
3. My Fair Lady is NOT a "nearly-forgotten" musical. In fact it recently had a successful run in the west end, though Martine McCutcheon (sp?) is no Audrey Hepburn - not by a long way...
23 • No subject (by Anonymous on 2004-08-02 20:36:25 GMT)
I remember an Eliza variant called Dr. Sbatso which shipped with old Sound Blaster Cards. It had text to speech with it so it would say its reponses back to you. Interesting but very stupid program.
24 • mandrake (by buggs on 2004-08-02 21:36:07 GMT)
mandrake does not take forever to install. it's faster then a lot of distros I've seen or heard of. Allthough it is slower then some too. but it's fairly fast.
25 • Chatterbots & artificial intelligence (by Penguin on 2004-08-02 21:57:40 GMT)
Eliza is old and should get retired... If you're interested in her many (more competent) children and children's children, see for example.:
Perhaps the best such chatterbot is A.L.I.C.E: http://alicebot.org/ . You can talk to "her" here: http://www.pandorabots.com/pandora/talk?botid=f5d922d97e345aa1
As you can see from the sites mentioned above, the correct word for such programs is really a chatterbot. True AI = "artificial intelligence" is something else than what simple chatterbots are capable of doing. The best things that true AI programs can do nowadays (and for a long time in the future) are tasks like data mining, and organizing big complex amounts of data and information to help people make better use of it.
It is true that in the not so distant past some reductionistic scientists tried to reduce the human thinking and the essence human socio-psychological being into a few computational rules, and called it artificial intelligence, but that mission was a big mistake from the start. Being a human is simply much, much more than some simple rules that you can simulate on your Amiga... Humans are not just biomechanical things who act according to a few simple rules that can be simaleted with computers. But the ultra-materialistic people didn't want to accept that, fearing that accepting the multilevel complexity of human being would give road to non-rational metaphysics like religion. So the mission was also to prove that humans are really only such simple biomechanical beings that can be thorougly analyzed and even simulated by scientists. But gladly the blindest days of such reductionist materialism seem to be gone now.
For those interested in the history of chatterbots and their relationship to AI, I can recommend this educational and amusing article, "Artificial Stupidity" by John Sundman: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2003/02/26/loebner_part_one/index.html (part 1)
26 • bloat... (by bhrich902 on 2004-08-02 21:57:43 GMT)
from my own experience, i find that bloat is a problem thats distro related more than kernel. i can think of two systems that i've successfully managed to install and use on a daily basis. i got my feet wet on mandrake and from installation to dafault use (default install), there where a lot i didnt need, specially daemons that take some time to start on every boot up, granted if u are an experienced user u know how to make them go away, but more importantly what to make go away, but for most linux newbs thats a problem. not so much for me at the begginning cause i just wanted to boot into a linux system more than anything and then start trimming here and there. after that i realized that i could prolly try something a little more challenging, so i did by picking up arch linux, which is considered more of a power user distro. for someone coming from mandrake, it really wasnt as daunting as the writing makes it out to be. the default install leaves you with a base system that boots into console. the kernel, again which really has not much to do with speed of boot in my opinion, is very light, and since the distro is i686 and has both option of intalling packages, binary (which makes for a fast way of setting a system up, take that gentoo ;p) and source, u really get some more choice as to how thin or bloated u need your system. point is that i had set both mandrake and arch with the same apps that i needed and kde, and found arch to boot much faster (from push of the power button into a default kde desktop). i think that distros have their things and a lot plays into the fact that a system can become bloated, not just being the kernel, because obviously u can just whip up a custom one no matter what system u use, yes thas right gentoo ;P, no matter what system. anyways, i thought id throw in my 2 cents, tho i tried to slim down the story, it still came out too long, my bad....
27 • The bastion of fvwm... (by grayrest at 2004-08-02 22:50:04 GMT)
is in the gentoo forums (http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?t=80517), it's the longest running thread that I know of in the desktop environments area and it's virtually always on the front page. I started messing with it and then decided that I liked wmi (http://wm-i.org) better. I'm pleased with wmi because the entire wm comes up on my laptop before the gnome splash screen does.
28 • SPF (by Howard at 2004-08-03 03:17:27 GMT)
As an email admin I would second the paranoia surounding M$. I think they should just release the code. My Question is, Why on earth is the IETF considering anything as a "standard" that comes attached to a single vendor? It should not be possible for any vendor to create a protocol, patent it, and then have the IETF MAKE me buy it from that vendor by saying that it is a standard.
29 • one voice many faces (by Anonymous on 2004-08-03 07:15:30 GMT)
Gandolfo, please stick to one nickname, you keep singing the same song anyway.
30 • Sysop Eliza (by Robbage at 2004-08-03 16:01:53 GMT)
Some BBS's (pre-internet) used to come with an Eliza-like Sysop feature for users to talk to when the Sysop was not available. I read a number of logs of these sessions where the user didn't realise they were talking to a program. Some sessions went on for 5 or 10 minutes until the user finally called the 'Sysop' a rude name and logged off thinking the Sysop was an idiot .
I also had a version of Eliza on a Commodore 'Pet' (That was long before the VIC-20 & C64)
31 • Linux Kernel Size (by wouter on 2004-08-04 05:32:41 GMT)
When you carefully compile a kernel with only the features and drivers you need, even disabling modules, it really isn't that big. Surely, a lot smaller than some other popular operating systems. Kernel size is neglectable, compared to user land - unless, indeed, you run on a 4mb machine.
It's just that people waste their memory by using overloaded stock kernels, installing too many modules, and run daemons for everything and the kitchen sink. I also suspect some usb and other peripherals suck more cpu than years ago, because they load more functions in the CPU instead of internal circuitery (but I'm not an expert here).
Recent Gnome eats most of my memory, and Mozilla's memory use is montrous too at times (just picking this one because of recent experiences). Then, enter such performance and resource killers like those eye-candy desklets, often written in scripting languages... And it's no surprise modern day desktops run actually slower (wallclock-wise) than those 10 years ago.
32 • You sold the Libretto CT50?!? (by Nick on 2004-08-04 17:45:29 GMT)
Weak man.. :'( *sniffle* I love my HP Omnibook 4000C.. runs Slack 9.1 (will upgrade later) dx4 100mhz 486 24mb 512MB hd.. 28.8Kbps & 10Mbps.. so what if i run it off 12VDC lead acid with an inverter & had to remove the hinges, i'm still attached to it :') I can't believe you sold the Libretto.. lappys have feelings too ya know?
33 • new linux mandrake PPC? (by luddite at 2004-08-04 20:41:42 GMT)
Sorry this is a bit random.
Got a pre-G3 mac. Considering mandrake linux PPC (PowerPC). However, Mandrake PPC seems to be "stuck" at 9.1, but we are at version 10 for x86.
Any distrowatch visitors know anything about a newer version of linux mandrake for PPC? I couldn't find any info on the official mandrake site.
Grateful for any info.
34 • Linux Kernel Size (by Da Wini G at 2004-08-06 23:35:04 GMT)
Saying the kernel is too big is rubbish .... if you compile the kernel with support for everything then of course it will be huge ... but you can have a small kernel if you know what your hardware is & you dont include unneccessary drivers .
A kernel from 1991 wont be able to run on a multiprocessor system from today ... but a kernel from nowadays can run ancient hardware ... you may have to find a driver esspecially as it might no longer be included in the sources ... but it should work .
What makes the Linux (Desktop) experience slow is mainly as far as I know the Xserver system .... which .. my guess .. brings several unneccessary layers such as network transparency between graphical elements and their final representation ....
Kernel ,command-line & file systems arent at all slow .. its the Graphics-Server .
I'll stop moaning . :-)
Number of Comments: 34
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