| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 151, 15 May 2006
Welcome to this year's 20th issue of DistroWatch Weekly. With a successful SUSE Linux 10.1 release freshly behind us, the attention of distribution watchers can once again turn to Ubuntu, as the project's final two weeks of "Dapper" development focuses on bug fixes and polish. Has Kororaa broken the GPL by including proprietary kernel modules on their live CD? Nobody knows for sure, but even if it hasn't, the controversy means that the project's developers might stop all work on their Xgl edition. Also in this issue: a list of the least popular distributions as determined by our page hit statistics, an interesting new job for Marcelo Tosatti, and a look inside the latest issue of Linux Format. Finally, an opinion piece by Robert Storey about the latest privacy violations by major US telephone and cable corporations. Have a great start to the new week!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (6.70MB) or mp3 (8.22MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
SUSE and Ubuntu updates, Kororaa controversy, Aurox's Live-Generator, Tosatti at Red Hat
It was all about SUSE Linux 10.1 last week. Rarely in the history of Linux distribution releases have we experienced this kind of coverage - from the largest IT sites to the smallest community forums, everybody seemed to be excited that the 18-leg development journey (4 alphas, 9 betas and 5 release candidates) was finally over. Although it arrived nearly three months later that it was originally planned, most users will be happy to know that SUSE 10.1 ships with a number of exciting features, such as the new 3D windowing capabilities with Xgl and Compiz, as well as Xen virtualisation, and a huge number of open source software packages.
SUSE has had an excellent year. Those of our readers who have been with us for a few years will remember that SUSE Linux (or SuSE Linux, as it was called in those days) used to be a distribution developed almost exclusively behind closed doors, with only a limited number of beta testers taking part in the bug squashing action. Worse, the distribution used to be provided as a retail box only, at least initially, with a delayed availability via direct FTP/HTTP installation. Little wonder that, in those days, SUSE used to hover around the bottom of the top 10 distributions in our page hit ranking table, with the number of people visiting the SUSE page barely beating those checking out the page dedicated to Slackware!
Luckily, things have changed and SUSE is now not only a great community project and one of the most important innovators in the Linux distribution world, it is also the only real challenger to the current leader - Ubuntu. Go, SUSE!
* * * * *
Speaking about Ubuntu 6.06, also known as "Dapper Drake", some readers have apparently been confused by the unexpected recent release of "Flight" 7, a new alpha, which followed shortly after two betas. "Why making a new alpha release after the project has already entered the beta stage?", they asked. Well, this is one of peculiarities of the Ubuntu development process. It seems that "alpha" releases continue throughout the development cycle, irrespective of whether there has already been a beta release or not. If you go back to the development of Ubuntu 5.10 "Breezy Badger", you will notice the same pattern - a new alpha (or "Colony", as the alpha releases were called during the Breezy development cycle), was also released shortly after the beta release of Ubuntu 5.10. In short, there is no need to be concerned that the Ubuntu developers have taken a step back and everything is set for an exciting 1st June "Dapper Drake" release announcement!
The second question that seems to be asked too often these days is this: is it safe to upgrade to Dapper now? Well, in a word, no. While we are all getting itchy to try out the great new features or to experience the latest software versions, the truth is that Dapper is still in heavy development, with a rather large number of bugs and other issues yet to be resolved. If you want to help with testing then yes, by all means do upgrade. But if you are just curious about the new release, then stay away for now - Dapper will be ready soon enough!
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After the excitement of being the first live CD shipping with the new Xgl and Compiz, the Kororaa project was hit by an ugly controversy over the weekend. It is alleged that the project's inclusion of proprietary NVIDIA and ATI kernel modules on their live CDs is a violation of the General Public License (GPL). Kororaa's Chris Smart told DistroWatch that the allegation came from a kernel developer who is probably familiar with the finer nuances of the GPL. On Sunday, the story was widely publicised on several popular geek sites, including Slashdot and OSNews.
What does it all mean? While none of us at DistroWatch are lawyers and we are not even moderately knowledgeable about the intricacies of the General Public License, a simple question has to be asked: why has the writer decided to attack a small community project, while several much larger commercial distributions, such as Linspire or Xandros, have been including proprietary kernel modules in their commercial products for years? How exactly does Kororaa Xgl differ from the latest live CD from Linspire, which, upon detecting an ATI or NVIDIA video card, will load the appropriate kernel module without any user interaction? Or are there any subtle differences in the way the two distributions handle the video drivers? Also, do you believe that Kororaa has indeed violated the GPL and should cease the development of their Xgl live CD? Please discuss below.
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The developers of Aurox Linux, a Fedora-based commercial distribution created by a Polish publishing company, have emailed us about a new "Live-Generator" for creating custom Linux distributions: "Live-Generator is an integrated pack of scripts for building custom live CD distributions based on Aurox Linux. Usage is very simple: user must fill in the configuration file (for custom wallpaper, boot splash, etc.) located in the main Live-Generator directory and run 'generate-live'." Aurox's Live-Generator is still in a beta testing stage, but experienced Linux users can try the current scripts directly from the project's Subversion repository. For more information and download instructions please read this announcement.
* * * * *
It is always interesting to learn about the changes in employment of well-known open source personalities. According to SoftwareLivre.org (story in Portuguese), Marcelo Tosatti, the 24-year old maintainer of the Linux 2.4 kernel series, has joined Red Hat Linux to work on the new OLPC. OLPC, which stands for "One Laptop Per Child", is a non-profit organisation dedicated to research and development of a US$100 laptop for children. Among the founding corporate members of the initiative are several major supporters of open source software, including Google and Red Hat, and the initiative has already attracted much attention in the media around the world. Tosatti, a Brazilian who previously worked for Conectiva and Cyclades Corporation, is one of the most talented Linux developers, having been given the responsibility of maintaining the stable Linux kernel at the age of 18. He lives in Porto Alegre.
The "least popular" distributions
A discussion in the DistroWatch Weekly forum last week has led to a complaint by a few readers that many lesser-known distributions don't get the same exposure in the Linux media as the heavyweight ones. In response, we thought it would be interesting to compile a "reverse" page hit ranking - a list of 100 least popular distributions on DistroWatch.
As you can see in the table below, the booby price for the least popular distribution page on DistroWatch goes to SCI.Linux, or Southern California Internet Linux. Although in development for several years, this Red Hat/Fedora-based project has been labelled as dormant for some time on DistroWatch, but a recent email from Ken Borel has confirmed that the distribution is still active. In fact, a new release, version 2005, was made available in late December and the developers continue to provide security and bug fix updates for the current version.
The second least visited page during the past 6 months on DistroWatch was that of Burapha Linux, a Slackware-based, server-oriented distribution developed by a university in Thailand. This was followed by ROSLIMS Live CD, a Romanian variant of KNOPPIX designed for medical students. The table below lists the 100 least frequently visited distribution pages on DistroWatch, with the third column representing the average number of hits per day during the past 6 months. Only distribution showing signs of life on their web sites or development repositories were included in the table.
Table 1: Ranking of the least popular distributions on DistroWatch during the past 6 months
Despite receiving less than 2 clicks per day, SCI.Linux 2005 is an interesting distribution worth investigating. It appears to be loosely based on Fedora Core, with several important differences. Firstly, it uses an independently developed graphical installer; not quite as powerful as Red Hat's Anaconda, but some will find it more beginner-friendly. Secondly, all local system configuration is performed through Webmin, a web-based configuration utility. And finally, all included packages have been recompiled for the i586 architecture. Interestingly, SCI.Linux provides a system with just one application per task, all centred around its preferred desktop - KDE. For more information about the project please visit its web site at SCILinux.com.
SCI.Linux uses Webmin for all local system administration tasks
(full image size: 174kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
As always, let's make it clear that there is no known correlation between the DistroWatch page hit statistics and the distributions' market share or quality; at best, they are just a light-hearted way of measuring what is popular among the DistroWatch readers during the specified time periods. Nevertheless, they have attracted a fair share of attention among our readers, and several web sites, including Zenwalk.org and Nuxified.org, have recently published further analyses and opinions about these figures.
Finally, those who are interested in further analysing the DistroWatch page hit statistics can find the complete data file in CSV format here. The file has no headers, but the right-most column represents data for yesterday, the second column from the right represents data for the day before yesterday, etc. The file is updated daily at around 30 minutes past midnight GMT.
Selling Grandma to the Glue Factory (by Robert Storey)
Greed is good.
- Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in the movie Wall Street.
Anyone who read last week's DistroWatch Weekly should recall my editorial entitled Wrecking the Internet: Turning Gold into Lead. I pointed out that three US telecom giants (AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, whom from here on I shall call V/BS/AT&T) plus one cable TV company (Comcast) were conspiring to eliminate Net Neutrality by pushing for passage of the odious COPE Act.
What I didn't know at the time was that just three days later, the nationally-distributed newspaper USA Today would drop a bombshell that left V/BS/AT&T running for cover. The dominant headline of USA Today's May 11 issue screamed AT&T, Verizon Offer Americans' Phone Calls to NSA. They apparently didn't have enough room in the headline to fit in Triad member BellSouth, but they were also among the guilty.
Delving into the details of the story, it's even more infamous than it first appears. V/BS/AT&T not only secretly turned over all of their phone records to the NSA (National Security Agency), but they actually were paid for doing this (the exact amount not disclosed, but almost certainly in the millions of US dollars).
The scandal created an immediate uproar. Harsh criticism poured in from both the left and right. US President Bush neither confirmed or denied the USA Today story, but issued a brief public statement assuring Americans that their privacy was being "fiercely protected" and that "the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful."
The president wasn't the only one tap-dancing. V/BS/AT&T was busily reassuring their outraged customers, who were calling in droves to switch their service to other carriers, most notably US Qwest. Qwest received a great deal of favorable publicity when it was revealed that the company refused the NSA's bribes and insisted on seeing a court order (which NSA didn't have) before turning over any phone records. I also offer my kudos to US Qwest for not putting their snout into this particular trough.
As for V/BS/AT&T, what did you expect? Is there anything these companies won't do for money? Would management sell their own grandparents to the local glue factory for $10?
Back to the original topic which ignited my passions, Net Neutrality. Having been caught with their pants down, V/BS/AT&T has (for the moment) a big public relations problem. This will weaken their efforts to get the execrable COPE Act passed, but it's not a fatal blow. Indeed, with their credibility in the toilet, expect Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth to redouble their efforts.
With all the outrageous things going on these days, it's easy to get outrage fatigue. However, this is no time for lovers of Internet freedom to give up. If you hold my point of view on this issue, and you haven't yet visited Save The Internet.com, now would be a good time to do so. If you're a customer of Verizon, BellSouth, or AT&T (including their subsidiaries Cingular and SBC), you might consider taking your business elsewhere. If you're still not convinced and want more info, there's lots of it around, like here or here.
Finally, it might be heart-warming to know that opponents to the COPE Act are growing and include some really powerful companies, as well as a number of prominent organizations from all sides of the American political spectrum. The list of allies (and it is truly an unholy alliance if there ever was one) includes Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Adobe Systems, BT America, the Digital Media Association, Sony Electronics, the Business Software Alliance, EarthLink, eBay, Skype, TiVo and Yahoo. Some of these companies would just as soon slit each others throats in normal times, but then these aren't normal times.
More info on the growing opposition can be found here.
|Released Last Week
Scientific Linux 4.3
Connie Sieh has announced the release of Scientific Linux 4.3 for both the i386 and x86_64 architectures. This is the third update to the distribution which is built from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and enhanced with extra applications and features. Some of the enhancements include: APT, cluster suite, dropit, Global File System packages and its dependencies, IceWM 1.2.20, ksh, MP3 support in multimedia software, Ndiswrapper 1.5, OpenAFS, Performance Co-Pilot, and a number of other features and packages. For more details please read the complete release notes for i386 and x86_64 processors.
FreeBSD 6.1 has been released: "It is my great pleasure and privilege to announce the availability of FreeBSD 6.1-RELEASE. This release is the next step in the development of the 6.X branch, delivering several performance improvements, many bug fixes, and a few new features. These include: addition of a keyboard multiplexer - this allows USB and PS/2 keyboards to coexist without any special options at boot; many fixes for file system stability; automatic configuration for man Bluetooth devices, as well as automatic support for running WiFi access points; addition of drivers for new ethernet and SAS and SATA RAID controllers...." See the rest of the release announcement for full details.
The AUSTRUMI mini live CD has been updated to version 1.2.0 - now with a surprise switch to Enlightenment 17 as its window manager. From the changelog: "Removed OpenBox and added Enlightenment; updated AbiWord, Bash, Firefox, Linphone, nmap, OpenSSH, OpenSSL, SDL, XMail; added d4x - downloader for X; added DECO - a visual interface for the UNIX operating system; removed e3, fbpanel, MySQL; updated kernel to 18.104.22.168." Visit the distribution's home page to read the complete list of changes.
The latest AUSTRUMI release includes a surprise switch to Enlightenment 17
(full image size: 926kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
A new version of AliXe "Standard" edition has been released. AliXe is essentially a French edition of the popular SLAX live CD customised for use in French-speaking regions of Canada. The new version is based on the recently released SLAX 5.1.4, inclusive of the Linux kernel 2.6.16, KDE desktop 3.5.2, and KOffice productivity suite 1.5.0. It also supports the two most commonly used keyboard layouts in Quebec - "cf" and "multilingue". For more information about AliXe please visit the distribution's home page (in French).
SUSE Linux 10.1
Following some eight months of testing, the openSUSE project has finally released the long-delayed and much-awaited SUSE Linux 10.1: "After lot of work and several delays, we proudly announce the availability of SUSE Linux 10.1. As usual, we ship all the latest open source packages available at the time. We want to give special mention to Xgl for 3D acceleration on the desktop, NetworkManager for getting painless WiFi access everywhere, the completely open source AppArmor 2.0, and the full integration of Xen 3 in YaST." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
A new version of BeleniX, a live CD based on OpenSolaris, has been released: "A new release of the live CD is available. This is a major performance upgrade and has several fixes: upgraded to the OpenSolaris build 38; developed a new file sorting algorithm to process the DTrace output; changed the dependency of X server to wait for sshd to complete loading; disabled the check for udfs mounts during boot; updated the sort list to reflect initial files being loaded; fixed some installer bugs; a new GRUB boot option to boot with debug and verbose mode enabled; added digiKam, Kompose." Please visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
rPath Linux 1.0.2
Michael K. Johnson has announced the availability of an updated release of rPath Linux 1 for both i386 and x86_64 architectures: "Refreshed ISO images, release 1.0.2, have been made available for new installations of rPath Linux 1. These images include all updates through and including updates released on 8 May 2006. If you have already installed rPath Linux 1, you should update your current system using Conary rather than reinstall using the new images." Please refer to the release announcement for further information.
CentOS 4.3 Live CD
Johnny Hughes has announced the release of the first ever CentOS live CD: "The CentOS Development team is pleased to announce the availability of the first CentOS 4 i386 Live CD. This CD is based on our CentOSPlus kernel and the CentOS 4.3 distribution. It can be used a workstation, with the following software: OpenOffice.org 1.1.2, Evolution 2.0.2, Firefox 22.214.171.124, GIMP 2.0.5; built in support for the NVIDIA and ATI proprietary drivers. It is also a great recovery / rescue tool containing the following: read / write access to XFS, JFS, ext3, ext2, NTFS, ReiserFS, LVM2 graphical tool, GNU Parted; QTParted; PartImage; smb4K graphical SMB tool; ClamAV for virus scanning; chkrootkit for finding potential root kits; MemTest86+ memory tester...." See the release announcement for more details.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Linux Format Issue 80, June 2006|
The June 2006 issue of Linux Format should now be available from your news agent or book store. As usual, the magazine is packed with news, reviews, interviews and tutorials about Linux and other free operating systems - don't miss it!
You can find the DistroWatch section on pages 32 and 33. It starts with an editorial commenting on the fact that the majority of those who started Linux distributions years ago have since left their projects - this is true about Debian, Red Hat, SUSE, Gentoo and, most recently, also Mandriva -- but as always, there is one exception to the rule. The main article then features KNOPPIX 5.0, before a brief update on the development of the three main distributions, and an introduction to Berry Linux. How fast is your distro's security team? We ranked all the main distributions according to the speed with which they reacted to the recent critical vulnerability in Sendmail. Interesting reading....
Elsewhere in the magazine, a full-page review of Damn Small Linux 2.3 and a roundup of "live distros", including KNOPPIX, Morphix, Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, Games KNOPPIX and LG3D is complemented by an interview with Novell's Greg Mancusi-Ungaro and a great cover DVD carrying all of the above-mentioned live distros. The cover story is a 10-page feature composed after the recent Libre Graphics Meeting held in Lyon, France. There is much more, so make sure that you get your issue today!
* * * * *
New on the waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 22 May 2006. See you then :-)
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