| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 139, 20 February 2006
Welcome to this year's 8th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux and one of the most prominent personalities of the Free Software world, is the focus of today's issue. The featured article is then followed by a news round-up quoting Mandriva's position on Xgl, discussing the current delays in the development of both SUSE Linux 10.1 and Fedora Core 5, revealing "Ebuntu", a new Ubuntu derivative with Enlightenment 17, and monitoring the career path of Daniel Robbins, the founder of Gentoo Linux. The issue concludes with the usual sections detailing the upcoming releases and new distributions. Happy reading!
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Feature: DistroWatch meets Mark Shuttleworth
It doesn't happen often that representatives of a major Linux distribution call on this part of the world. But a favourable moon constellation at the start of the lunar new year, combined with the ongoing Ubuntu Asia Business Tour meant that, last week, Mark Shuttleworth and his small team of Canonical business people arrived in Taipei for a brief, 3-day visit. Although the main purpose of the trip was to establish contacts with hardware manufacturers, system builders, integrators and localisation teams, the Ubuntu leader did not shy away from meeting with local Linux communities. As part of the visit, Shuttleworth also gave a speech at the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering of the National Taiwan University.
And what a speech it was! Dressed in a tie and suit after a day of meeting with local business leaders, the 32-year old South African multimillionaire delivered a lecture combining topics as diverse as space travel, entrepreneurship, and of course, Ubuntu Linux. Looking energetic and motivated despite the gruelling 5-week tour of 13 Asia Pacific countries from Pakistan to New Zealand, Shuttleworth explained the reasons for launching a Linux-based operating system: "We are at the beginning of a major revolution in the software industry," he said, "a revolution that will bring down many established empires and create opportunities for new ones to rise to the top."
By building a new and free operating system, the founder of Ubuntu is attempting to grasp an opportunity which fundamental changes in any industry invariably provide. "Before launching Ubuntu, I asked myself: where do I want to be? Do I want to be on the sidelines, reading about these changes, or do I want to jump straight into the action and help shaping the future?" Commenting on human potential behind any undertaking, he added: "A small group of passionate people is all it takes to change the world. In fact, if you look through the history of humanity, they are the only ones who have ever changed anything." Shuttleworth used a simple analogy to explain the timing of his involvement: "When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time? Now."
What are the fundamental goals of Ubuntu Linux? Firstly, it should be available globally. Secondly, it should provide free security updates for a reasonable period of time. Thirdly, it should be commercially viable. While Ubuntu Linux is currently being driven mostly by philanthropy and volunteer work, the ultimate goal is to make the distribution self-supportable through sale of services and custom solutions. And lastly, a Linux desktop should have compelling technical advantages, similar to what Linux has achieved in the server space, for companies and individuals to deploy. Other important goals of the project include community governance, transparency, predictable release cycle, and a clean, clutter-free desktop, with additional software available in extra repositories.
Shuttleworth also stressed the importance of having a close relationship with the maintainers of upstream software packages and other distributions, especially Debian. "Distros are doing a lot of excellent work, but the upstream often doesn't know about it." He used this opportunity to promote Launchpad.net, a SourceForge-like collaboration tool for tracking bugs and providing patches in distributions and upstream packages. Launchpad.net is designed to accelerate the exchange of information between all major distributions and remove the overhead associated with allocating developers to fixing bugs that have already been fixed elsewhere. On the subject of Launchpad.net not being open source software, the Ubuntu leader explained: "Launchpad.net will be open source. It is not yet open source, because it helps generating revenue for the company."
The upcoming release of Ubuntu Linux, code name "Dapper Drake", will mark the distribution's transition to appeal to a wider audience by providing an operating system supported for an extensive period of time - 5 years on the server and 3 years on the desktop. "This is a good time to launch such a product," Shuttleworth explained. "The 2.6 kernel series has been out for several years and is now very stable, GCC 4 has matured, X.Org has also proven itself, and OpenOffice.org 2 is a really great office application capable of competing with other similar suites on the market." The new release will also provide an opportunity for software and hardware certification to ensure mutual compatibility.
How do you spell "Ubuntu" in Chinese?
After the speech lasting for an hour, an open discussion ensued, often spiced up by humorous stories, such as those surrounding the infamous Ubuntu wallpaper or how Ubuntu once shipped their CDs to an uninhabited island. But answering a question about why Ubuntu doesn't just follow Red Hat's well established business model of providing a subscription and a support contract for its enterprise distribution, Shuttleworth once again regained his entrepreneurial seriousness: "Because then people would just buy Red Hat, and Ubuntu would always be 'second best'. And I refuse to build a distribution or run a company that is only 'second best'." He also denied that there was any truth in recent news reports about 'Goobuntu', an Ubuntu-based distribution rumoured to be developed by Google.
After the speech, it was time for a party, or more precisely, an Ubuntu InstallFest, organised by the Taipei Open Source Software User Group (TOSSUG) in a nearby coffee shop. Although visibly tired and probably wishing for an early night, Shuttleworth was overheard saying: "I want to go and see what kind of issues people here have while installing and running Ubuntu." Once in the more relaxed atmosphere of the coffee bar -- and after accepting a gift of a Chinese calligraphy roll from the organisers -- the installation walk-through could begin. This was followed by a lively discussion between the Ubuntu project leader and those TOSSUG members who were lucky enough to get close to his table. It was also the most enlightening part of the evening; after all, which other Linux distribution leader (or CEO of a company producing an operating system, for that matter) goes out to meet with ordinary users to listen to their complaints and suggestions?
In the joyful atmosphere of post-speech interaction between the Ubuntu founder and his audience, your DistroWatch maintainer stole a moment to introduce himself to Mark Shuttleworth. His first reaction? "You guys are amazing! You get the news out so fast! How do you manage that?" (Thank you for the compliment, Mark.) Does he read DistroWatch? "Yes, I read it for the news. Because you publish it before everybody else!"
All in all, it was a great afternoon and evening. As you've probably guessed by now, your DistroWatch maintainer was highly impressed by the man who has clearly set out to change the world and who is convinced that he will succeed. The speech itself was not only informational and entertaining, it was also very passionate and inspirational, frequently interlaced with words of wisdom. While it is a well-known fact that money and fame can spoil a person, it would appear that, up until now, they have had little negative impact on the founder of Ubuntu.
With so much passion and determination behind it, don't be surprised if Ubuntu Linux becomes, one day, a truly global, widely-used operating system.
* * * * *
Miscellaneous news: Mandriva and Xgl, SUSE and Fedora delays, Ebuntu, Daniel Robbins leaves Microsoft
Last week, we reported about the speedy adoption of the Novell-enhanced Xgl (X over OpenGL) graphics subsystem by several distributions. The latest development releases of both SUSE and Ubuntu now include Xgl, as well as Compiz, a new OpenGL compositing manager, while adventurous Gentoo users can also try the new features. Mandriva, on the other hand, has decided not to adopt the Novell-backed technology: "Mandriva is not going to officially adopt the Novell Xgl server (Xglx). Instead, we are trying to push the Xegl development." However, those Mandriva users who still wish to install Xgl on their systems can do so by following these instructions by Matthieu Duchemin.
After a long wait, the fourth beta of SUSE Linux 10.1 was finally released late on Saturday. While some users have welcomed the news and enhancements that have gone into the latest release, the accompanying stern warnings in the release announcement resulted in uneasiness among others. Why introduce major changes in the package manager and installer so late in the development cycle? By releasing a new beta with a large number of known bugs and no longer supporting upgrades from previous versions, SUSE's latest development release was effectively relegated to an early "alpha" status! As such, it will almost certainly take much longer than expected to stabilise the enhancements, with the result that the final release date will likely slip by several weeks. Will the new SUSE be worth the wait? Let's hope so.
Those SUSE fans who are disheartened by the current state of affairs in their distribution's development process can take heart in knowing that users of the Fedora distribution are not much better off. The third and final test of Fedora Core 5 has been postponed once again and is now expected on Wednesday, 22 February. However, the final release, scheduled for 15 March, has not been affected by the change. While waiting for the new test release, Fedora fans might find it interesting to read about the evolution of their favourite distribution, with a good collection of links to further reading material.
After Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu and Nubuntu, it seems that a new product is about to join the growing family of Ubuntu-based sub-projects and derivatives. Called Ebuntu, the new initiative is designed for those users who enjoy the spectacular desktop effects of the latest Enlightenment E17 window manager: "Ebuntu aims to provide an enhanced and attractive user interface. The secondary aim of Ebuntu is to show off the eye-candy capabilities of the Linux operating system in general and Ubuntu in particular." Although the project is still in an early development stage, the integration of Enlightenment with "Dapper Drake" has been completed and a first live CD demonstrating Ebuntu should be released for download later this week. For more information please see the initial announcement and the Ebuntu Wiki page.
Nine months after the controversial decision to take up a position at Microsoft Corporation, Daniel Robbins, the founder of Gentoo Linux, has reportedly left the world's largest software company: "Robbins told ZDNet UK in an e-mail Monday that he decided to leave because he was not able to use all his technical skills in his role." Although the former Gentoo leader is no longer with the company which has been trying to discredit Linux and other open source software in recent years, he remains firmly entrenched in the Windows world as he joins ABC Coding Solutions, an independent software company providing information and consulting services for the health industry. For more information please read this news report at CNET.
|Released Last Week
Berry Linux 0.67
A new version of Berry Linux is now available. The latest release of the Fedora-based live CD ships with an upgraded kernel 188.8.131.52 (with SMP support, ndev/udev and bootsplash patches), KDE 3.5.1, Firefox 184.108.40.206 and Thunderbird 1.5. The lightweight Fluxbox window manager has been replaced with what looks like an alternative developed in-house and going under the name of "Rasp-UI". Wine 0.9.2 has been added to Berry Linux for the first time. Other updated applications include GIMP 2.2.10, Inkscape 0.43 and Sylpheed 2.0.6. See the full changelog for further information.
Openwall GNU/*/Linux 2.0
Openwall GNU/*/Linux 2.0 has been released: "After many Owl-current snapshots, Owl 2.0 release is finally out. Owl 2.0 is built around Linux kernel 2.4.32-ow1, glibc 2.3.6 (with our security enhancements), GCC 3.4.5, and recent versions of over 100 other packages. It offers binary- and package-level compatibility for most packages intended for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (RHEL4) and Fedora Core 3 (FC3), as well as for many FC4 packages. Additionally, Owl 2.0 uses our new installer, making installation a lot easier than it used to be for Owl 1.1 and below." Read the release announcements with relevant links on the project's home page.
rPath Linux 1.0
The first ever stable release of rPath Linux is out: "rPath Linux 1 available (x86 and x86_64). rPath Linux is a freely-available Linux operating system distribution, built with the Conary distributed software management system, supported and maintained by rPath, Inc. The rPath Linux distribution contains high-quality, up-to-date software, and is the base development platform for creating software appliances and purpose-built distributions using rBuilder Online." Read the rest of the release notes for further information.
Zenwalk Linux 2.2
A new major release of the Slackware-based Zenwalk Linux is out: "Zenwalk 2.2 has been released! This version introduces many improvements at system and desktop levels. Zenwalk 2.2 runs atop Linux kernel version 220.127.116.11, introducing an improved hotplug subsystem, fully based on udev. This is a major change in the way Linux handles hotpluging and coldpluging, thus resulting in faster boot times. About 140 packages have been updated, including the Mozilla Firefox web browser, Mozilla Thunderbird email client, AbiWord word processor, Gnumeric spreadsheet.... Like before, the Zenwalk desktop is based on XFce (version 4.3.0)." Read the full release announcement for further details.
LinEspa is a Spanish Linux distribution and live CD based on Knoppix and optimised for Spanish and Latin American users. The latest release, version 0.32, has been specially prepared for the International Conference of Free Software in Málaga, Spain, where some 1,000 CDs containing the distribution were given away. The most important changes in this release include a new kernel 2.6.15, addition of the AMSN messenger 0.95 with support for webcams, and new versions of Firefox (1.0.7) and Thunderbird (1.0.7). See the release announcement (in Spanish) for additional information.
Elive 0.4, featuring the latest development builds of both Enlightenment 16 and 17, has been released. New features: "This version is a stabilization of 0.3, a better release with all bad things fixed, but also with many of new features; new installer, with more file systems supported and a cleaner installation; Elive mounts automatically USB sticks and CD-ROMs, Debian-based kernel 2.6.12 + udev; Firefox with Java and Flash; ELPANEL - the new control panel of Elive with many features; easy printer configuration; Cinelerra 2.0; Elive is now much faster - DMA enabled; driver modules updated and new ones added; new version of AMSN with webcam support...." Visit the distribution's download page to see the complete list of new features, bug fixes and known issues.
A new version of Annvix, a security-enhanced, server-oriented distribution based on Mandriva Linux, has been released: "Annvix 1.2-RELEASE (Cerberus) is now available! Most of the changes since 1.1 were made to the development process; however it includes some updated software and security fixes. It is recommended that everyone using 1.1 upgrade soon as it is no longer supported. Some of the features include: 2.4.32 kernel with the Openwall Linux kernel patch and RSBAC support; updated services including OpenSSH 4.3p2, runit 1.3.3, PostgreSQL 8.0.7, PHP 4.4.2, and Apache 2.0.55...." Read the release announcement and release notes for more information.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to the waiting list|
- GNX.IN Linux. GNX.IN is a multi-purpose distribution combining the Linux kernel with the NetBSD package management system - pkg_add.
- OliveBSD. OliveBSD is a live CD based on OpenBSD with graphical environment and various software packages.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 27 February 2006. See you then :-)
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