| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 135, 23 January 2006
Welcome to this year's fourth issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The developers of Fedora, SUSE and Ubuntu have moved one step closer to reach their goals during the past week when new test builds were announced by the three projects. SUSE's development process will now accelerate dramatically, while Red Hat has hinted on returning to a 6-month release cycle after Fedora 5. Also in this issue: the parent company of Turbolinux under investigation, features of SecureAPT, PCLinuxOS unveils a new web site, and AGNULA loses funding. Finally, we interview Alan Baghumian, the developer of Parsix GNU/Linux and one of the most enthusiastic and energetic Linux supporters in the Middle East. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (6.91MB) or mp3 (8.33MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Miscellaneous news: SUSE 10.1 beta, Fedora's release cycle, trouble at Turbolinux, SecureAPT, PCLinuxOS.com, AGNULA loses funding
The first beta of the upcoming SUSE Linux 10.1 was released last week. As was the case with openSUSE's first official release, the testing will now enter an intensive development phase where new beta releases will be produced weekly. Four weeks later, the only release candidate will conclude the development process. Once the new and shiny SUSE Linux 10.1 boxes are ready for shipment, the new version will be released to mirrors and formally announced, probably around the middle of March. This means that we are unlikely to see many huge feature enhancements at this stage and the final product will differ only slightly from what we have seen in the first beta. Based on preliminary testing, SUSE 10.1 is likely to be an even better and more polished product than the previous version, so do join in the beta testing and bug reporting to ensure that the final product is as bug-free as humanly possible.
* * * * *
It would seem that Fedora is switching back to a 6-month release cycle. Commenting on last week's Fedora review (subscribers only until Thursday) at LWN.net, Red Hat's Jeremy Katz explained: "Note that the 9-month release cycle for Fedora Core 5 is a one time thing so that some of the big infrastructural changes that have landed could happen. For Fedora Core 6, we should be going back to the more regular 6-ish months." This is good news for many power users and developers who might have felt that the extended gap between Fedora releases would make them miss out on testing new applications and features and fall behind other popular distributions that maintain a 6-month release cycle, such as SUSE and Ubuntu.
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Some of you might have read media reports about investigation into the financial affairs of Livedoor, a Japanese Internet conglomerate. The unravelling saga, complete with early morning police raids and a suicide of one its top executives, is of interest to many Linux users in Japan. The reason is that Livedoor controls both Turbolinux and the Japanese edition of Linspire, although, clearly, neither of these two holdings is significant enough for the company whose market value is close to US$8 billion. Nevertheless, Turbolinux, which recently released version 11 of its popular distribution and has claimed profitability in recent years, was quick to issue a statement (in Japanese), explaining the situation and calming down its customers.
Turbolinux is one of the companies affected by the ongoing investigation into Livedoor's financial affairs
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SecureAPT, a name commonly used by many Debian developers and users when talking about the APT 0.6.x package management tool, is an important application that should ensure better acceptance of Debian and Debian-based distributions in the enterprise. Although many users of Debian's development branches, Ubuntu and other Debian derivatives have had a chance to enjoy some of the security aspects of the enhanced APT, some might have not taken the time to learn about the new features. If this is your case, take a look at this article on the Debian Wiki pages. It is a nice write-up that explains the concepts of signatures, keys, yearly archive updates and other under-the-hood features of the new APT.
* * * * *
The story of Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system sponsored by a wealthy space tourist and philanthropist, has started to attract attention of the mainstream media. The latest publication to devote pages to Mark Shuttleworth's selfless effort is Financial Times: "Instead of the largely blue world of Windows XP, Ubuntu is predominantly brown. Some quirky features hint at its African origin, such as the little burst of drumming that rings out when an application opens. Each new version of Ubuntu is known not just by the usual number, but an animal codename, such as Warty Warthog or Breezy Badger." And what does the well-known business newspaper think of Linux and Ubuntu? "For some, Mr Shuttleworth just seems to be having too much fun to be taken seriously. But Linux has surprised many people before - there is nothing a geek finds more fun than turning a whole industry on its head." The article, entitled Entrepreneur who wants to give it all away, does not tell us anything new, but it is well-written and worth reading, especially if you are an Ubuntu fan.
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PCLinuxOS, a user-friendly distribution that has found many followers among the DistroWatch readers, has unveiled a new web site and forum: "Texstar and The Ripper Gang are proud to announce the official website for PCLinuxOS. We now have a home of our own thanks to the support from donations received last month. Thank you for supporting our community based distribution! In addition to the new website, we also have new forum software which should be easier to navigate. We are still in the process of getting everything set up so please pardon our mess as we finalize the website." Find out more on PCLinuxOS.com and join the distribution's new user forum!"
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Finally, not so happy news from the developers of AGNULA/Demudi, a Debian-based specialist distribution designed for musicians. The project, after being financed by the European Union and, in later years, by Italy's Firenze Tecnologia, has lost all funding: "Firenze Tecnologia, an Italian agency that has financially sustained the AGNULA project since April 2003, will not fund it any more, because of the need to re-allocate financial resources on other projects. AGNULA is now, to all practical extents and until further notice, a fully volunteer-based project." Despite the bad news, the developers insist that the project is not dead and have asked volunteers to join in. More information in the announcement and also in this mailing list post.
|Interview: Alan Baghumian, Parsix GNU/Linux
Interview with Alan Baghumian, Parsix GNU/Linux
Alan Baghumian is one of the most prominent Linux developers and enthusiastic supporters of free software in his native Iran. Besides maintaining a number of Linux web sites, he has also helped his brother Armen to developed xFarDic (a multi-language dictionary), wrote two Linux books in Persian ("Red Hat 9 Training" and "Setting Up and Running GNU/Linux Servers") and, more recently, has been working on Parsix, a KANOTIX-based Linux distribution with support for Persian (the dominant language of Iran, also referred to as "Farsi" or "Parsi"). He has also contributed Persian translation for parts of DistroWatch.com. Alan is a living proof that enthusiasm is often all that is needed to contribute greatly towards the development and spread of Free Software, while also helping to make computers more accessible to thousands of his fellow countrymen. In this interview Alan talks about his current projects, Linux usage in Iran, and other interesting topics.
DW: Alan, thank you very much for your time. First, would you mind telling our readers about yourself? How old are you? Where do you live? What do you do for living?
You're most welcome. First I want to thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I'm 27 years old, live in a small apartment in Tehran with my wife, and work as a technical manager of TalareWeb Ltd
, an open source web-based software development company in Iran.
DW: When did you start using Linux and why?
AB: My first encounter with Linux was six years ago. I'd read about it and decided to have a try; as I remember, it was Red Hat 7.1. Since 2001, I have been using Linux as my only operating system at home. I started with Red Hat 8, then switched to SUSE 8.1 and 8.2, Libranet, Debian, and now Parsix ;-)
As far as our company is concerned, we were tired of the problems with MS Windows and due to technical advantages of GNU/Linux, especially in our field of work, we made a decision in June 2002 to use it as the primary operating system in the office. We started with Red Hat 9, although these days all our workstations and servers run Debian and Parsix. We have kept one Windows machine - just to test web pages in Internet Explorer.
For me, the main reason for using GNU/Linux is its spirit of freedom.
DW: Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on. How did they start and what do you hope to accomplish?
I have one main goal: to help people learn about GNU/Linux and FLOSS and to correct any misconceptions about software freedom and GNU in Iran. All of my projects have been started to help me achieve this goal.
I'm currently working on the following projects:
- TECHNOTUX, the most popular web site dedicated to GNU/Linux and FLOSS in Iran. This web site was established in August 2003 and has more than 3,000 members, with 2,000 - 4,000 daily visits. We have three main sections there: news, technical and training articles, and community support forums. TECHNOTUX was my first project.
- xFarDic Multilingual Dictionary. I and my brother Armen started to work on this in April 2004, mainly due to lack of any free and open source dictionary software for Persian-speaking users. Now I think that xFarDic is one of the most complete and feature-rich multilingual dictionaries in the FLOSS world, but it still needs to get more contribution from the community to become an even better tool. We'd appreciate any help on this project.
- IranTux, an electronic e-zine about GNU/Linux and FLOSS for Persian-speaking users. We maintain a mailing list to develop its content and produce a new issue every month - in downloadable PDF formats.
- Parsix GNU/Linux, a desktop-oriented distribution, not only for Persian-speaking people. As you might now, the Shabdix project (editor's note: another Linux distribution made in Iran, based on Knoppix) has been abandoned, so I decided to develop a new, pre-configured distribution with Persian language support and with frequent updates and other improvements. If our market grows, it is possible that we will sell commercial support in the future, but Parsix itself will remain free of charge. We already have a small community of Persian users of Parsix GNU/Linux, but would like to extend it. We appreciate any comments, suggestions, testing, bug report, documentation, etc.
- Books! I try to write one useful book every two years.
DW: Parsix has been in development for over a year. How does it differ from KANOTIX and what are its main features? Who is the target market?
Parsix and KANOTIX are very similar. Both of them are based on Debian "sid" and Parsix GNU/Linux uses KANOTIX's configuration scripts and kernel in live mode. Our aim is to provide a simple, stable, clean and up-to-date desktop operating system for "newbie" users. The main differences are:
- KANOTIX is a KDE-centric distribution, while Parsix uses GNOME.
- They use different installation systems. KANOTIX's installation system is a QT-based application, while Parsix uses a classic installation system written in Bash.
- A completely different package selection.
- Documentation. We try to provide documentation for new users. Currently, the starter and installation guides have been completed and the English edition of the starter guide will be ready soon. We are planning to add much more Persian and English documentation in the future.
- Parsix GNU/Linux uses Debian's standard kernels as the default kernel after hard disk installation. It is optimised for i686 or K7, depending on system's CPU.
- Parsix GNU/Linux is optimised to be used on the i686 processors family. This gives better performance for desktop usage.
- Pre-configured applications for Persian language, such as text input, OpenOffice.org, UTF-8 locale, etc.
- KANOTIX has editions for 32-bit and 64-bit processors. Currently, Parsix offers a 32-bit edition only.
- We try to minimise the use non-free software in Parsix.
Parsix GNU/Linux - a KANOTIX-based distribution and live CD with GNOME and with input support for Persian
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DW: The latest version of Parsix boots into GNOME, with its interface entirely in English. Are there any plans to offer a Persian option? Or is Persian support going to be limited to text input, dictionary and other similar utilities?
The Persian translation of GNOME 2.12 is ready and we are planning to offer a preconfigured Persian UI, with a "lang=fa" boot option, in our next major release. At the moment, it is also possible to boot with "lang=fa", or to login after selecting Persian in GDM, but the user interface is not configured completely and should be tweaked by user. Here is a screenshot
of what we are trying to achieve.
DW: How popular is Linux in Iran? Are you aware of any businesses, schools or government organisations that have switched to Linux on their desktops or servers? If so, what are their experiences?
AB: Linux has become much more popular in the last two years, but in terms of deployment it still can't compare with Windows. Unfortunately, there is no copyright law in Iran, so everybody can buy cheap copies of popular software. When a user buys a PC, it often comes with more than $5,000 worth of pre-installed software applications for free (including Windows, MS Office, AutoCad, Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, 3DMax and more). As such, Iran's IT industry has become virtually dependent on Microsoft and other closed source technologies. People start learning computers with Windows and other closed source software and most of them don't even know that other operating systems exist. This is not their fault, this is our government's fault, I think.
After the Council of Informatics launched a project called National OS, several governmental organisations started migrating to Linux, especially on the server side. Some of these companies used to deploy Novell NetWare or SCO UNIX servers, but have decided to replace them with Linux. GNU/Linux is already used in some governmental and private banking institutions as financial servers.
One of the most popular ways to use GNU/Linux are cache servers at Internet Service Providers. Otherwise, there is little migration to Linux desktops; the exceptions are certain foreign companies (e.g. SHELL) that do use it on their desktops - due to US export restrictions on certain goods and services to Iran.
There are a few companies that have been trying to develop Linux-related businesses. One of them is DPI IRAN. It is a main provider of mainframe-based solutions, as well as a Novell NetWare and SCO UNIX supporter for governmental organisations and banks. Recently, they have started developing their own commercial Linux distribution based on Linux From Scratch.
DW: Which would you say are the most popular Linux distributions among Linux users in your country?
AB: Fedora, Red Hat and SUSE, but Ubuntu and Debian are now also enjoying increasing popularity. Fedora and Red Hat are very easy to find, but obtaining other distributions is hard and often expensive. High speed Internet solutions are very expensive in Iran. Starting in February 2003, TECHNOTUX launched a nationwide service to provide cheap CDs and DVDs of different Linux distributions for enthusiastic users.
DW: Are there any Linux Users Group in Iran? Are you a member of any? If so, can you give us an idea how often you meet, what sort of topics you normally discuss and what LUGs do to promote Linux and open source software among the general population?
. We try to present GNU/Linux, FLOSS and the concepts of software freedom to universities and schools. The Tehran LUG
, a branch of LUGIR, has introduced weekly training sessions for the public.
DW: What do you think are the main challenges for a wider adoption of Free Software in Iran and the Middle East? How far is the ability to accept right-to-left (RTL) text input in various applications? Have these problems been mostly solved or are they still an issue?
AB: RTL support in applications is much better than 3 - 4 years ago. As far as I know, there are no longer any RTL problems in any of the key applications, but there are some small bugs in certain packages that should be solved. Many of these bugs have been reported to upstream developers. Our main issue right now is the lack of Iranian and Arabic date system support in some environments and libraries, but this can be hard to implement.
DW: Alan, thank you very much and good luck with your work!
|Released Last Week
T2, a source-based distribution originally forked from ROCK Linux, has been updated to version 2.1.1: "The T2 development team is proud to present 'Lychee Punch', the first maintenance release (2.1.1) for the stable 2.1 branch. This release includes bug fixes, security fixes, updates and even some improvement to the SDE. Most notable are: Kaffe 1.1.6, KDE 3.4.3, XFce 220.127.116.11, WINE 0.9.1, Mono 1.1.10, Eclipse 3.1.1, Xpdf 3.01pl1, KOffice 1.4.2, Samba 3.0.21a, OpenOffice.org 18.104.22.168, MPlayer 1.0pre7try2...." Here is the full release announcement.
Zenwalk Linux 2.1 (Core)
The developers of Zenwalk Linux have released the "core" of the upcoming Zenwalk 2.2: "Zenwalk core 2.1 is released! The new version of Zenwalk core includes the following improvements: based on Linux kernel version 22.214.171.124 with Reiser4 support; SGI XFS support was added; Pcmciautils replaces Pcmcia-cs; video detection tool 'videoconfig' was improved and should auto-detect nearly 100% of video card drivers and monitor frequencies; network configuration tool 'networkconfig' now handles wireless settings; glibc is upgraded to version 2.3.6, GCC to version 3.4.5; Netpkg now has full dependency support...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
Parsix GNU/Linux 0.75
A new version of Parsix GNU/Linux, an Iranian distribution based on Debian and KANOTIX, has been released: "Finally, after two months of hard work, Parsix GNU/Linux 0.75 is ready! This version is the most complete and stable release of Parsix GNU/Linux ever. Many many improvements have been made since 0.70, such as new look and feel, highly improved installation system with existing installation update feature, automatic USB mass storage management, GNOME 2.12.2 desktop environment, Kernel 126.96.36.199 optimized for i686 and k7, i686-optimized libc6 with NPTL support, X.Org 6.9, new live and GRUB splash screens, Parsix documentation, many updated packages...." See the release announcement for more details.
The developers of VLOS (formerly Vidalinux Desktop OS) have released an updated version of their user-friendly distribution based on Gentoo Linux: "VLOS 1.2.1 is an updated version of VLOS 1.2, including a lot of changes: new Anaconda version updated to FC5 Test1 with X.Org 7.0, LVM2 and RAID partition support, GCC 4.0.1, glibc 2.3.5, GNOME 2.12.1, faster installation, enhanced auto-mounting of external devices in GNOME, WiFi radar now included, and much more. For the moment, AMD64 and i686 are available, but PPC will be available soon too. Go grab the full version edition in our store or the download edition from the download section." Read the release announcement and changelog for further details.
VectorLinux 5.1 SOHO
The SOHO edition of VectorLinux 5.1 has been released: "The Vector development team is proud to announce the final release of our SOHO 5.1 product. This version of Vector is intended for the small office / home office user with a complete desktop experience featuring the KDE 3.4.2 desktop and XFce 4 as a light alternative. With Slackware at the core, this release features the 2.6.13 kernel, OpenOffice.org 2.0, Firefox 1.5, Scribus, the GIMP, MPlayer, multimedia plugins, printer and scanner support and everything a complete desktop or work station should have. We feature unique tools like the 'vasm' administrative menu, vl-hot (for auto-mounting external hard drives, digital cameras and pendrives), vxconfig for almost 100% GUI X configuration and a bootsplash screen never seen before." Read the full release announcement for all the glory details.
GEOLivre Linux 5.0
GEOLivre Linux is a Kurumin and Debian-based Brazilian distribution with a collection of specialist software for geographical work. Version 5.0 was released on Saturday. Among the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software included in the distribution are: UMN MapServer, PostGIS, Open 3D GIS, Generic Mapping Tools (GMT), GRASS (geospatial data management and analysis), uDig (a geospacial application and platform), JUMP Unified Mapping Platform, Terraview, Spring (a remote sensing image processing system), Quantum GIS, Thuban (a multiplatform geographic data viewer), and QCad. A more detailed description of these software packages can be found in the release announcement (in Portuguese).
GEOLivre Linux - a Kurumin-based distribution with a collection of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
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grml 0.6 and 0.2-small
grml grml is a bootable CD based on Knoppix and Debian with a collection of GNU/Linux software especially for users of texttools and system administrators. New versions of the distribution's two editions -- grml 0.6 (code name "Winterschlafpn") and grml 0.2-small (code name "Cory") -- were released over the weekend, bringing 99 new packages and many new features to the table. More details about the new packages and features are available in the two release announcements (grml 0.6 and grml 0.2-small), as well as on the project's web site.
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Linux Format Issue 76|
The February 2006 issue of Linux Format should now be available from your news agent or book store. As has become tradition recently, DistroWatch is represented by a two-page section, featuring the recent development releases of PCLinuxOS and SimplyMEPIS, as well as the final release of Damn Small Linux 2.0 and the first alpha of the new Nexenta, a hybrid distribution combining the OpenSolaris kernel with Debian utilities and packages. The above articles are complemented by a brief round-up of the current development status of Fedora, SUSE and Ubuntu, while an opinion piece discusses the emergence of new, user-friendly operating systems based on the BSD and OpenSolaris kernels.
Elsewhere in the issue, you can find full two-page reviews of Quake 4 and Eternal Lands, followed by single-page reviews of KDE 3.5, Blender 2.4 and Cedega 5.0.1. The "Roundup" section is devoted to spreadsheets, with only one of them emerging as a clear winner, while the latest KSpread gets the lowest rating I've ever seen in Linux Format - 1 out of 10. Featured articles include a Q and A style story on GPL 3, an excellent interview with Jeremy Allison from the Samba project, and several pages of tips and trick to make your hardware work better under Linux. The tutorials sections covers OpenOffice.org Impress, Fuse virtual file systems, apt-get on Ubuntu, GIMP 3D package design, Inkscape path editing skills, Emacs for programmers, PHP transactions and triggers, and creating man pages with groff. Finally, if you wish to build your own multimedia live CD, a step-by-step tutorial of creating one from dyne:bolic should help you do just that.
As usual, a feature-packed issue with varied topics to keep all Linux users and enthusiasts busy for a month. Don't miss it!
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New distribution additions
- 2X ThinClientOS. 2X ThinClientOS is a Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution with a small footprint, optimised for remote desktop computing. It features auto-detection capabilities similar to Knoppix. It boots directly to a login manager which, when coupled with the ThinClientServer, redirects users to a remote RDP/ICA/NX desktop. It features kernel 2.4 with Unionfs, XFree86 4.3, rdesktop and nxrun. The distribution can be booted via PXE, CD or installed to a hard disk or flash disk. Updates to the distribution are managed through the ThinClientServer web interface. 2X ThinClientOS requires 2X ThinClientServer to boot up; ThinClientServer is a commercial product, though it is free for up to 5 thin clients.
- Anonym.OS LiveCD. Anonym.OS LiveCD is a bootable live CD based on OpenBSD that provides a hardened operating environment whereby all ingress traffic is denied and all egress traffic is automatically and transparently encrypted and/or anonymised.
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New distributions added to the waiting list
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DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 30 January 2006. See you then :-)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Full list of all issues|
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