| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 134, 16 January 2006
Welcome to this year's third issue of DistroWatch Weekly. Several interesting announcements at last week's MacWorld provided fuel for many technology web sites, but an important question remained unanswered: will Linux run on the new MacBooks? Read on for an expert opinion. A rather quiet week on the Linux distribution front, but expect things to pick up shortly as the second test of Fedora Core 5 will be officially out today (Monday), while the first beta of SUSE Linux 10.1 should appear on mirrors later this week. Also in this issue: Fedora or Yellow Dog for your Mac, Xandros seeks beta testers, Debian terminology explained, news from the development of Dapper Drake, a new SUSE-based distribution for musicians, GParted Live CD for all your disk partitioning tasks, and a good round-up of popular Linux live CDs. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (5.46MB) or mp3 (6.52MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
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- Hardware: Intel Inside Apple
- News: YDL vs Fedora, Xandros 4, Debian terminology, Dapper features, SUSE for musicians, Euronode custom servers, Linux live CD round-up
- First Looks: Fedora Core 5 Test2
- Released last week
- Upcoming releases
- New additions: Trinity Rescue Kit, Truva Linux
- New distributions: DIY Linux, Dreamlinux, JackLab, GParted LiveCD, Kya Linux
Intel Inside Apple
It was an exciting week for the fans of computer hardware. Apple, one of the most influential and innovative computer company in existence has finally revealed what not so long ago many thought would never happen: a new generation of Apple computers powered by a processor from Intel. As always, any change of this magnitude is bound to cause an enormous amount of controversy followed by endless discussions on many Apple fan sites. Bold statements such as "MacBook Pro is up to four times faster than PowerBook G4" only added fuel to these debates.
But why are we discussing Apple computers on a web site dedicated to open source software? Well, one of the most intriguing aspects of the new Intel-based Macs is the fact that they have a potential to run Mac OS, Windows and Linux, the three most widely-used desktop operating systems natively, in a triple-boot setup. This is a feature that will excite a certain segment of the market, especially power users and software developers. Although these machines carry the usual high price tag for the premium Apple brand, it is likely that the attraction of the system will prove too irresistible for quite a few computer users.
Unfortunately, things are somewhat complicated by the fact that neither the current versions of Windows, nor any of the main Linux distributions will boot on these new MacBooks. With Windows being closed source and proprietary, it will probably take a while before a third-party develops a shareware tool providing a method to install Windows XP/2000 on Apple's new computers. With Linux, things are different and a solution is likely to be available very soon after these notebooks hit the streets. Any guesses which distribution will be the first with a rushed out press release claiming to be the only one that boots on MacBook Pro?
If you are wondering why none of the current Linux distributions will boot on these system, let's quote an expert. Answering the question "Is Fedora prepared for Intel-based Macs?", Red Hat's Peter Jones had this to say on the Fedora development mailing list: "No. Off the top of my head: our x86 kernels don't have CONFIG_EFI; installer doesn't do GPT partitioning on x86; we don't have a bootloader for them."
Trying to translate the above into plain English, the main problem with MacBook Pro is that it no longer uses BIOS (Basic Input/Output System); instead, it ships with the new EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface), developed by Intel, to perform all the early communication between different hardware parts. Although EFI does have BIOS emulation support, Apple has reportedly decided to remove it from their MacBooks.
The second issue is GPT (which stands for GUID Partition Table, with GUID being an acronym for Globally Unique Identifier), which is effectively a replacement for the MBR (Master Boot Record) in EFI-based systems. Among the popular boot loaders, neither LILO, nor GRUB 0.9x support GPT, although the new GRUB 2 (currently in alpha development) does include support for the new standard. Unfortunately, not a single Linux distribution has been bold enough to switch to GRUB 2, but it is possible that more effort will go into this area in the coming months, especially if EFI-based motherboards become widespread.
Of course, none of these problems are insurmountable and it is very likely that Fedora, Mandriva, SUSE and Ubuntu will all have full support for the MacBook Pro soon after these new Apple laptops start shipping.
* * * * *
Miscellaneous news: YDL vs Fedora, Xandros 4, Debian terminology, Dapper features, SUSE for musicians, Euronode custom servers, Linux live CD round-up
The introduction of Intel-based Macs means that the popularity of computers with PowerPC chips on the consumer desktop is likely to drop sharply in the coming years. This doesn't mean, however, that Linux distributions designed for these chips will suddenly stop being developed; in fact, research suggests that Macs tend to have longer lives than most PCs, so it's safe to assume that many users will continue deploying Linux on their Apple computers. Most of today's major distributions (with the exception of Mandriva) provide PowerPC editions of their latest products, while Yellow Dog Linux from Terra Soft Solutions continues as the only specialist distribution for the PowerPC architecture. Based on Fedora Core, but enhanced to support many features of modern Macs, Yellow Dog is certainly a good choice. If you are still undecided, Low End Mac has a good article explaining the differences between Fedora Core and Yellow Dog Linux.
Xandros Corporation has announced the start of a new beta testing period for the company's popular desktop operating system. While the release date and feature list of Xandros Desktop 4 remain a secret, based on the distribution's previous releases, we can expect a good-looking KDE 3.5 desktop enhanced by the Xandros file manager, integrated CD burning tool and the usual great support for network drives. Xandros beta testing periods normally last for around 3 - 4 months, so we can speculate that the final release will happen at some point in April or May. Testing Xandros Desktop can be a lot of fun and the company tends to reward the most valuable bug reports and feedback with free copies of the final release. If you have a spare machine and are interested in giving the new product a good scrutiny, then fill in this form and pray that you'll be one of the chosen few.
There seems to be increasing interest in specialist distributions designed for musicians, composers and other freedom-loving artists many of whom might prefer to compose and edit their music with Free Software. Most of our readers will know about A/Demudi, Musix and Studio 64, but a new alternative, called JackLab and based on SUSE Linux, has been launched recently: "JackLab is a fast digital audio workstation with an audio realtime kernel and professional tools for music production." Besides providing kernel optimisation, audio drivers and specialist software for musicians, one of the project's stated goals is to introduce user-friendly ways to manage and setup the system through YaST, so that even non-technical users can take advantage of the product. There isn't much to download just yet, but interested users might want to follow JackLab's development on its web site, forums and also on openSUSE.org.
If you are new to the complex world of Debian GNU/Linux and puzzled by its terminology as used on the mailing lists and referred to in many reviews, here is a good article that explains it all: Drag's Guide to Debian Variations. The article discusses the distribution's venerable package management system before delving into the topics of Debian branches, repositories, mirrors, archives, ports and architectures. Somewhat erroneously the article states that "Debian does not distribute full CDROM sets" due to the overhead associated with distributing software packaged by the largest Linux distribution project. This is incorrect; in fact this page lists no fewer than 124 mirrors around the world that host the CD and DVD ISO images for each processor architecture of the latest Debian release. Besides this small error, the article is a decent attempt to help you develop fluency in "Debian speak".
What is new in the development of Ubuntu Linux 6.04 "Dapper Drake"? If you are tracking the project's development branch then you are probably aware of all the interesting enhancements, but if not, here is a couple of links (with screenshots) that describe some of the new features: What's New in Dapper #1 and What's New in Dapper #2. These are essentially just cosmetic changes affecting the GNOME panel and the logout menu. As always, some of the enhancements will not please all users, so if you dislike something or have a better idea about implementing a certain feature, join in the discussion and let your voice be heard!
Euronode, a French company developing a range of Debian-based specialist servers for various tasks, has introduced an interesting concept of creating custom bootable ISO images of their products. After registering on the project's web site, users can follow a simple web-based wizard to build a pre-configured server, tailor-made for their exact needs. Once done, the web site will generate a bootable ISO image, with all configuration and server parameters already set up. The service is not free, but the ISO images generated with the help of the wizard include a 30-day trial period so that you can test it out before parting with any cash. Find more information at Euronode.org.
Which is the best Linux live CD? As usual, there is no simple answer and many of us have a personal favourite or two to carry around, just in case we come across a computer with that other operating system. InformIT, a popular online reference site for IT specialists, has tested a number of popular live CDs, including Elive, SimplyMEPIS, SLAX, Damn Small Linux, Knoppix, Puppy Linux, Ubuntu, LG3D and INSERT. This is a good selection of live distributions for all kinds of purposes, accompanied with a brief description of each. If you are new to the world of Linux live CDs and DVDs, this is a good introductory article.
|First looks: Fedora Core 5 Test 2
First looks: Fedora Core 5 Test 2
After a fairly slow start of the year, many distributions are becoming rather busy with preparations for their next stable versions. Fedora Core 5, currently scheduled for release on 15 March, will be one of the first major distribution releases of 2006, so it's fair to assume that some two months before the final release, its development process has entered a fairly advanced and reasonably stable stage. But Fedora 5 will be an important release for another reason - if Red Hat continued with its stated goal of producing a new Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) version in roughly 18-month intervals, then it means that the upcoming RHEL 5 will be based on the code from Fedora 5. CentOS and other RHEL clones are also likely to watch this release closely.
What's new in Fedora Core 5? Following the recent logo changes, the entire visual aspect of the desktop, including the theme, wallpaper, screensaver and logo have been revamped "to demonstrate the exciting user friendly nature of Fedora". Test2 comes with kernel 2.6.14, X.Org 7.0, a recent development version of GNOME 2.13, KDE 3.5.0, Firefox 1.5, and OpenOffice.org 2.0.1, just to name a few major applications. The much publicised inclusion of the Mono development suite has turned out to be correct, with Mono 1.1.12 now present in this test release of Fedora Core for the first time. For international users, SCIM input method has replaced IIIMF. The entire set of Fedora packages is now built using the yet-to-be-released GCC 4.1, which, according to the release notes, "brings in new security and performance enhancements".
The Fedora Core 5 desktop with a new "bubbly theme".
(full image size: 302kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The installer has also undergone significant changes. Surprisingly, the left pane providing information about each step of the installation process is gone, while the partitioning stage of the Anaconda installer has also been altered considerably. If you are used to installing Fedora and other Fedora-based distributions with your eyes closed, then you'd be wise to pay close attention during the partitioning step of FC5Test2, where the default is "Remove linux (sic) partitions on selected drives and create default layout", with all disks selected by default! One other change - the SELinux configuration has been moved to the post-install stage, so don't panic if you don't see it in its usual place.
The Anaconda installer has undergone significant modifications in Fedora 5.
(full image size: 44kB, resolution: 800x600 pixels)
Overall, I can't say I am particularly impressed with the changes in Anaconda. It still remains one of the best and most intuitive Linux installers available today, but I found some of the changes slightly discomforting - why the sudden change of what worked so well for many years? On the other hand, my first impressions of the newly installed systems were overwhelmingly positive. A more detailed look at Fedora Core 5 Test2 will follow in the Thursday edition of Linux Weekly News; in the meantime, take a look at this sneak preview of Fedora Core 5 and read this comprehensive review at Mad Penguin.
|Released Last Week
STX Linux 1.0
The first stable release of STX Linux is out. Major changes since RC3: "Three packaged patches from the download page applied; installer corrected for creating an fstab that allows normal users to mount CDROM and floppy drives; the usual package updates; included Elleo's hacked eworkpanel with notification area; included recompiled pyfltk (XFT font rendering now also in STXCC); GTK 2 and EDE themes switched to STX for a more uniform appearance; included gnome-cups-manager for printer administration (more common than the CUPS web front-end); included Requiredbuilder for creating dependency files for Slackware / STX packages." Visit the project's news page to find out more about the release.
Damn Small Linux 2.1
Damn Small Linux 2.1 has been released. From the changelog: "New SATA boot time support; new Icontool GUI controls many icon features; new docked.lua - Lua dock apps - mount and dMix replace mount.app and wmix; mew mount.lua - Lua GUI disk mount tool; new dMix - Lua GUI sound mixer; mew ucitool.lua - Lua GUI lists UCI mounts & allows easy deinstall of UCIs; new Torsmo replaces asmem, wmcpuload, & wmnet to better support both window managers; new Ted replaces Flwriter; new .xpdfrc - to support direct printing from Xpdf; new links - Lua links download wrapper; new added Thai keyboard support...."
tinysofa classic server 2.0 Update 3
tinysofa classic server, a server-oriented distribution originally forked from Trustix Secure Linux, has received a new update: "tinysofa classic server 2.0 Update 3 (Ceara) is now generally available. This release focuses on bug fixes, integrates all released security fixes, and updates various packages to the more recent upstream releases. 'Ceara' features: the Linux 2.6.13 kernel, grsecurity support, APT and SmartPM for advanced package management, the next generation PHP 5 environment (5.0.4), OpenSSH 4.2, high availability features such as DRBD (0.7.14) and UCARP (1.1), the latest development tools and languages (GCC 3.4.3, Python 2.4), and much more." The full release announcement can be found on the project's home page.
Ultima Linux LiveCD
The developers of Ultima Linux have released a live CD edition of their Slackware-based distribution: "The Ultima Linux LiveCD is a complete Ultima desktop system squeezed into a 544MB CD. It contains everything that you've come to expect from Ultima Linux, including: a complete, modern KDE desktop with Mozilla Firefox web browser, Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client, OpenOffice.org office suite, AbiWord Personal word processor, The GIMP image manipulation program, XMMS digital audio player, complete networking support, effortless to use - just stick in the CD and reboot!" Find more information of the distribution's LiveCD page.
A new version of Nonux, a Dutch Slackware-based distribution with Dropline GNOME designed for office use, has been released. Some of the more important enhancements include: upgrade to Linux kernel 22.214.171.124; upgrade to GNOME 2.12.2; upgrade to OpenOffice.org 2.0.1; upgrade to Evolution 126.96.36.199; integration of email notification applet into task bar; improvements to hard disk installation script; updates to boot loader to detect and configure system for dual booting with Windows. More details are available in the release announcement on the project's home page (in Dutch).
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
New distribution additions|
- Trinity Rescue Kit. Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK) is a bootable Linux distribution aimed specifically at offline operations for Windows and Linux systems such as rescue, repair, password resets and cloning. It has custom tools to easily recover deleted files, clone Windows installations over the network, perform antivirus sweeps with two different antivirus products, reset windows passwords, read and write on NTFS partitions, edit partition layout and much much more. Trinity Rescue Kit is mostly based on Mandriva Linux and heavily adapted start-up scripts.
- Truva. Truva Linux is a new Turkish distribution based on Slackware Linux.
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- DIY Linux. DIY Linux is a research project dedicated to those 'Do It Yourself' Linux enthusiasts who would rather build their own GNU/Linux system from source code than run a pre-compiled binary distribution. The intended audience is the more technically adept Linux user.
- Dreamlinux. Dreamlinux is a new desktop-oriented Brazilian distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux and Morphix.
- GParted LiveCD. GParted LiveCD is a Slackware-based mini distribution with the sole purpose of making it easy to partition one's hard disk. It uses XFree86's Xvesa, the lightweight Fluxbox window manager, and the latest 2.6 Linux kernel.
- JackLab. JackLab is an initiative to design a specialist SUSE-based distribution for music production.
- Kya Linux. Kya Linux is a Linux live CD based on Slackware and SLAX. It is developed at the Universidade Estadual do Ceará in Brazil.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 23 January 2006. See you then :-)
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|• Issue 660 (2016-05-09): Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Mint's xapps, FreeBSD Quarterly Report, Debian updates 32-bit support, addressing GPL violations|
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|• Issue 654 (2016-03-28): PCLinuxOS 2016.03, Using signatures to create a web of trust, Arch Linux rolls out Pacman update, GuixSD packages GNOME|
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|• Full list of all issues|
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