| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 179, 27 November 2006
Welcome to this year's 48th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! With the end of the year 2006 approaching fast, many developers are hard at work preparing their latest product releases. A new version of Xandros Desktop, the subject of our first look review, will be announced later this week, while SabayonLinux 3.2 and the PlayStation edition of Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 are also expected shortly. Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 is about to enter its hard-freeze period, while the recent release candidate for openSUSE 10.2 is reportedly shaping up into a highly polished distribution. Many other projects have been making steady progress towards their future releases - Freespire has launched its development process which will lead to a stable version 2.0 in the first quarter of 2007 and many far-reaching changes are also planned for the next release of Fedora Core. All these topics, together with the usual round-up of interesting news from around the distro world - that's issue 179 of DistroWatch Weekly. Happy reading!
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Future of Fedora, Ubuntu vs openSUSE, Debian "etch" update, Freespire 2.0
Far-reaching changes affecting the Fedora distribution are looming on the horizon. Discussed by the project's core developers during the recently concluded Fedora Summit, a number of new ideas are currently being submitted for approval by Red Hat. If they are accepted, the "Core" and "Extras" parts of Fedora will merge into what is tentatively called Fedora "Complete", with two separate products, named "Fedora Desktop" and "Fedora Server", emerging from the huge software list. Extending the current support period of about 9 months to around 13 months is another important proposal that will please many Fedora users. Those who enjoy remastering the distribution for their own purposes will be excited to learn about "pungi" and "pilgrim", two tools that will allow building custom distributions and live CDs/DVDs. Pilgrim is also expected to help with delivering an official Fedora live CD/DVD. There is a lot more - please visit the Proposed Changes to the Release Process and Live CD Roadmap pages on FedoraProject.org for more details about these and other changes affecting the popular distribution.
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While aggressive rivalry among the main Linux distributions is nothing new, an attempt to poach developers of one major distribution by another is highly unusual. That's essentially what happened late last week when Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth sent a message to two openSUSE mailing lists, inviting its developers to attend Ubuntu Open Week - and indirectly suggesting that those openSUSE developers who feel angered by their employer's recent patent protection pact with Microsoft are welcome to join Ubuntu. Predictably, the email has met with utmost resentment by those who replied to the invitation, with messages ranging from polite rejection to outright anger. Even some Ubuntu developers were dismayed by the idea, suggesting that this invitation was possibly the Ubuntu leader's dumbest idea since he attempted to pass a desktop wallpaper picturing three naked bodies as work of art.
Nevertheless, Shuttleworth's invitation isn't entirely out of place. Many openSUSE users have expressed strong disapproval over the Novell/Microsoft deal and even wowed to switch distribution if Novell doesn't retract the patent agreement. Here at DistroWatch we've been getting regular emails from readers calling for removal of Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise and even openSUSE pages from the web site and database. As such, it's highly unlikely that Novell's actions have met with full support of the openSUSE developers and although we have yet to hear of any radical action planned by them, few of us would be surprised if a group of openSUSE developers took the source code and forked it into a new distribution or joined another company or project. Shuttleworth's post should be seen as yet another way to let Novell know that its recent actions are highly damaging to the entire Linux community, thus appealing to the consciousness of those openSUSE developers who continue helping Novell and, indirectly, fuel Microsoft's anti-Linux propaganda and FUD.
* * * * *
The development of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 "etch" is nearing its end. After some 18 months of hard work there is certainly a lot to look forward to, including the latest 2.6.18 kernel, X.Org 7.1, GNOME 2.14.3 and KDE 3.5.5. Some of the work that Ubuntu has done over the past couple of years also seem to have filtered back to Debian; as an example, the update notifier, which first appeared in Ubuntu 5.04, is now installed and enabled by default to keep everyone's Debian system up-to-date with security fixes. A "Software Preferences" dialog allows modifying the installation sources without having to resort to the command line and is accessible, together with the Synaptic package manager, directly from GNOME's Administration menu. GNOME remains the default desktop in Debian 4.0, while Epiphany, rather then the much popularised GNU IceWeasel, is the default browser. As the testing branch is about to enter the hard-freeze period prior to the release, this is the best time to test the upcoming version and report bugs.
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 is shaping up to be the most advanced and user-friendly Debian to-date.
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Have you ever wondered where the strange Debian code names come from? If you are new to Linux, you will often see references to "sarge" (the current stable version 3.1), "etch" (the upcoming new release 4.0), "lenny" (the new name for the testing release after "etch", probably version 4.1) or "sid" (the perpetual development branch, also called "unstable"). As any seasoned Debian user will tell you, all these names come from an animation film called Toy Story, originally released in 1995. With the exception of Sid and a few other human characters in the movie, they refer to toys. But with a new name assigned to each new Debian release, what happens once Debian uses up all the names? There is no reason to worry about that at the moment - with the project's stable releases coming at rather lengthy intervals and with a large number of available toy characters, Debian is unlikely to run out of code names for at least another half a century!
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The development of Freespire 2.0 is now officially underway. This is the first "real" Freespire as the project's 1.0 version was essentially a re-branded edition of Linspire 5.0 with a few updated packages. Freespire 2.0 is based on Debian "sid", with kernel 2.6.18, KDE 3.5.5, and custom modifications to some of the included packages, e.g. LBrowser (Firefox) and LMail (Thunderbird). It also integrates Linspire's recently launched free email (FreeLinuxEmail.com) and storage services. However, be warned that the first development release of Freespire 2.0 is not intended for general use as it's deemed too buggy and far from complete. Kevin Carmony:
"It should be noted that this is ALPHA and VERY early. You'll see lots of features missing, bugs, etc., but we wanted to start the process of circulating regular builds with the community. Those who are used to Linspire are used to seeing Beta releases that are at least feature complete. Those Linspire users should NOT assume that is the case here. Look for several regular builds in the weeks to come as Freespire evolves, gains the features as seen in the roadmap, moves to beta, and finally stable. Freespire builds during the development cycle will be much more frequent than the beta builds the Linspire community is accustomed to. So, don't judge a program by it's Alpha. We're just thrilled to start the regular build process with the community."
As always, if you'd like to help with debugging, enjoy bug-reporting and don't mind having to solve occasional problems, then by all means download and install the alpha release. Otherwise wait for a later development release before you investigate this new community distribution from Linspire.
The first development build of Freespire 2.0 was released last week.
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Xandros Desktop 4.1|
Xandros Corporation will release an updated version of Xandros Desktop 4 on Tuesday, 28 November 2006. Although the company refers to the new product by its marketing name of "Xandros Desktop Professional 4.0", here at DistroWatch it makes more sense to call it "Xandros Desktop 4.1", not least because the downloaded ISO images, which Xandros kindly provided to the press several days in advance, have "xandros-41" in their names. Also, while the new product is still based on the relatively old Debian "sarge" code base (the same core that the original Xandros Desktop 4.0 was built from), a number of new features an updated packages suggest that this is an evolutionary release, rather than a separate edition of Xandros Desktop.
But let's get on with the first look review of the new release. The Xandros installer has gone through a few minor changes, with ext3 now becoming the default file system (instead of ReiserFS preferred by the distribution's earlier versions) and an interesting option to preserve one's root and home directories by renaming them, rather then overwriting the data. As in previous versions, the Xandros installer also provides the express "take over the hard disk and don't ask any questions" option for less experienced Linux users.
The previous version of Xandros Desktop came under strong criticism for implementing a Microsoft-like activation mechanism to prevent unauthorised access to the Xandros update servers, a feature that angered many fans of the distribution. As a result of the negative feedback, the company has now abandoned the idea, so users of the latest release of Xandros Desktop are once again able to access Xandros Networks (a repository of security updates and extra software packages) without having to prove the legitimacy of their installation.
As mentioned earlier, the new Xandros Desktop maintains its old system core it inherited from Debian "sarge". Some of the important base packages remain unupdated, with glibc still on version 2.3.2 and GCC on 3.4.3, while KDE, the distribution's only desktop environment, remains on version 3.4.2 (originally released 16 months ago). But certain other components did receive an update; among them, the Linux kernel has been upgraded to version 2.6.18, with corresponding updates to proprietary graphics drivers by ATI (8.29.6) and NVIDIA (1.0-8776). Several popular packages also arrive in new attire - Firefox has been updated to version 2.0, while OpenOffice.org comes in version 2.0.3.
The new release of Xandros Desktop includes a number of interesting new features. Among them, the inaugural inclusion of Mono packages with Beagle desktop search tool and the availability of 3D desktop effects with Xgl and Compiz are the most obvious ones. In fact, the Beagle icon is now prominently displayed in the KDE system tray for easy access, allowing continuous updates to the user's files and making quick searches possible with just a few mouse clicks. However, other popular Mono-based packages, such as F-Spot or Tomboy, are not included. As for the 3D desktop effects, Xandros is the first distribution that has integrated a dialog with an option to enable 3D video effects into the KDE Control Centre.
Other new additions to Xandros Desktop 4.1 include support for wireless networking with Bluetooth, support for writing to NTFS partitions, and improved integration into mixed Windows/Linux computing environments. One obvious omission from this release is Versora Progression Desktop for Xandros, a commercial applications included in Xandros Desktop 4.0 as a way to help newcomers to Linux migrate their files and settings from Windows to Xandros.
Besides the standard installation CD with KDE, CrossOver Office (version 5.9.1), and the usual Xandros utilities, Xandros Desktop 4.1 also provides a second CD with extra applications, both free and non-free. Acrobat Reader, Imendio Planner (formerly MrProject), OpenOffice.org, GIMP, Skype, Thunderbird and a number of enterprise software packages, such as Citrix and SAP clients, are available for installation. Additionally, Xandros Networks provides access to still more software; we were pleased to see that a personal financial package, in the form of KMyMoney, has finally been added to the Xandros software repository.
At the risk of repeating the same old conclusions as before, Xandros Desktop is a solid, easy-to-use distribution with superb hardware detection and a good range of software applications for both home and business user. However, unlike the early releases of Xandros Desktop which became famous for extensive user interface enhancements and many unique ideas, most of the new features in Xandros Desktop 4.1 are not specific to Xandros. 3D desktop effects, Beagle, and NTFS write support are available in many other distributions, even the free ones. Nevertheless, the product remains a good alternative for those computer users who don't want to tinker with the command line and who prefer a complete and intuitive operating system with support and a printed manual.
English and German language editions of Xandros Desktop 4.1 (marketed as "Xandros Desktop 4 Professional") will retail at US$99.00 or €79.00. They will be available for purchase later this week from Xandros Online Shop and Xandros resellers.
Xandros Desktop 4.1 with Beagle desktop search, 3D desktop effects, encryption utilities and Xandros Security Suite.
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|Released Last Week
Vine Linux 4.0
Vine Linux 4.0 for i386 and PowerPC processors has been released. From the release notes: "This is Vine Linux version 4.0. Desktop environment: GNOME 2.14.2, including GTK+ 2.8 and glib 2.12, changed the GNOME/GTK+ theme to a better-looking Vine Linux theme; Firefox 2.0 (custom build for Vine Linux); Anthy is now included in place of Canna, SCIM and kinput2; default Japanese fonts - VL Gothic Font family is included as a default font for user interface, TeX and printing; movie player Totem and music player BMP (Beep Media Player). Kernel: this version contains kernel 184.108.40.206 with many driver updates and backports, which in turn supports many new devices. System components: X.Org X11R6.9.0 with backported drivers, updated ATI, NVIDIA and Intel drivers...." Read the full press release (in Japanese) for further details.
Vine Linux 4.0 uses apt and Synaptic for managing RPM packages.
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An updated version of Inside Security Rescue Toolkit (INSERT) has been released. From the release notes: "This release brings minor updates and a few bug fixes. The latest version of ntfs-3g is included, so people interested in using the NTFS write support should upgrade. Changes: added tsclient on user request; fixed bug with ClamAV file permissions; reverted to the debianesque GRUB; rdesktop is now v1.5.0; ntfs-3g, ntfsprogs, FUSE, TestDisk and mdadm were updated; ClamAV and AVScan were updated; a few basic packages were updated; the virus database for ClamAV was updated to the latest version."
Denis "jaromil" Rojo has announced a new stable version of dyne:bolic, an independently developed live CD with a collection of open source tools for multimedia production: "This is dyne:bolic 2.3. Starting from this release dyne:II core runs efficiently on solid state devices, loading its system from a compact-flash or similar controller. Moreover, this release significantly improves stability and performance, running Linux 2.6.18 kernel well optimized for real-time low latency, shipped along with new and updated software. New and updated software include: VNC for remote desktop operation and recording, MPlayer and ffmpeg audio/video codecs, DVD recording tools, Ksubtitle editor, FUSE, and PCMCIA card auto-detection." Please read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
An updated version of the OpenSolaris-based BeleniX live CD has been released: "A new release of BeleniX with several improvements is now available." What's new? "This release bundles the NVIDIA 3D accelerated driver; updated to OpenSolaris build 52; added a new X.Org configuration utility based on Perl-Curses; updated to Firefox 2.0 and Thunderbird 220.127.116.11; updated to KOffice 1.6.0 which fixes some issues with the earlier KOffice version; this release also bundles the C++ runtime libraries from the SUN Studio Suite; fixed the problematic bug that used to cause a boot-up error after hard disk install in the 0.5 release; fixed several other bugs including a problem with the zone creation script." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- DevUbuntu. DevUbuntu is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution designed for software developers, web masters and aspiring programmers. It includes a great variety of programming environments with extensive documentation.
- EduPuppy GioveLUG. EduPuppy GioveLUG is a Linux distribution developed by GioveLUG of Terracina, Italy. Its main purpose is to provide a free and intuitive operating system for children - with a good collection of educational tools and games.
- mEDUXa. mEDUXa is a Free Software GNU/Linux distribution based on Kubuntu and developed for educational purposes. It will be deployed in 35,000 computers distributed in 1100 schools, which represents 325,000 possible users (25,000 teachers and 300,000 students) in the Canary Islands state schools.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 4 December 2006. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Full list of all issues|