| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 190, 19 February 2007
Happy New Year of the Pig and welcome to this year's 8th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Those users who enjoy beta testing Linux distribution had an exciting week as new development builds from Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, openSUSE and Ubuntu all appeared on public mirrors. In the meantime, the Fedora project announced a delay in the release of Fedora 7 - now scheduled for late May. In other news, Ubuntu has clarified its position on the issue of proprietary video drivers, Daniel Robbins is about to formally return to the project he founded some seven years ago, SabayonLinux loses two key developers, and CentOS announces plans for the all-new CentOS 5. The feature story takes a brief look at two distributions which recently bumped their version numbers while in the middle of development - SaxenOS and SimplyMEPIS. Happy reading!
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SaxenOS and SimplyMEPIS - bumps in the middle of the road
by Susan Linton
It has been an interesting week in Linux distribution development. One of the most interesting developments was the re-versioning of two distros mid-cycle. I had recently looked at earlier releases so it caught my eye when the version numbers jumped in SaxenOS and SimplyMEPIS. I wondered why. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my earlier test drives I wondered what might have changed so dramatically to warrant such decisions. I figured the best way to find out was to re-test.
SaxenOS 2.0 Beta 1
When I tested SaxenOS on February 4 it was being billed as 1.1 release candidate 2, so imagine my surprise when I saw the 2.0 beta 1 being listed as available this week. What could have changed so much?
I didn't have to wait long as glancing at the release notes offered some intriguing bait. Stibs decided to forego the 1.1 final in lieu of developing the 2.0 release due to some more major changes. To be honest, I thought the changes from 1.0 final to 1.1 development were significant enough for a major version number boost. Major changes from 1.0 to 1.1 include the name from STX to SaxenOS, the base from Slackware to Zenwalk, ISO size from 390 MB to 614 MB, replacement of the STX Control Center with individual configuration utilities, and desktop environment from Equinox to XFCE4. The most important change from 1.1 to 2.0 is a new graphical installer.
Since its inception STX/SaxenOS has used an abbreviated Slackware installer. It was light, efficient, and fast. Resizing existing and making new partitions seems to be the most overwhelming step in trying Linux for users coming from the Windows world and the most difficult aspect in using the Slackware installer. Perhaps installers could make this step a little easier for newcomers, and this appears to be the goal in changing to the GParted LiveCD installer. The most notable element is the graphical partition editor. As the GParted installer includes the famous GParted partition editor, one can easily visualize their progress towards that end.
The CD-ROM image boots into the initial configuration for the live CD environment. One can choose to set some desired options and drivers such as SCSI/SATA, RAID, video card, or to run in RAM. Then one selects their language, keymap, and other options chosen. At that point the live CD will boot into a graphical interface and some pop-ups will appear confirming one's language and desire to install SaxenOS. Then the installation wizard appears. It walks the user through just a few easy steps. These include License agreement (GPL2 and various others), the GParted partition editor, target partition, GRUB installation and reboot. Experts could do this in their sleep, while newcomers can probably accomplish this task with little trouble.
As much as I like Slackware and respect their installer, this is a definite improvement for SaxenOS, as I think its target demographic is perhaps the Windows user more so than experienced Linux users. The graphical environment is a customized Xfce desktop, somewhat arranged to resemble previous Windows versions. The window decoration is almost an exact clone of the one found in Windows XP. The panel and menu placement is similar as well. The menu contains applications for most of the common computer tasks such as communications, multimedia enjoyment, and even some web development. Some of the application include SeaMonkey web suite, TextMaker & PlanMaker, Gaim, gxine, streamtuner, Ace of Penguins (games), The GIMP, gThumb, gedit, gFTP, Transmission, Realbasic 2006, InstallJammer, and VirtualBox. Besides the Xfce settings manager, there are plenty of utilities to configure and setup one's system and hardware. Gslapt is included for package management.
I've always liked STX and can say I believe I like SaxenOS even better. It's still wonderful for older hardware and now with 2.0 it is easier to install and use. It's always fast, stable, and fairly complete. I feel like the version bump perhaps should have come at the beginning of this development cycle due to the massive interface changes, so it is definitely justified now.
SaxenOS 2.0 beta 1
(full image size: 548kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
SimplyMEPIS 6.5 Beta 5
It was almost the same situation with SimplyMEPIS. Again I had recently reviewed a developmental release, SimplyMEPIS 6.0-4 Beta 2 on Jan 7, 2007, and saw much improvement over 6.0 final. The most significant to my tastes was the great new look and a more overall feeling of polish. At the time I was scratching my head at the version number as why it was still referred to as a 6.0.
However, this week Warren Woodford announced they were bumping up their versioning of this release to a number more appropriate for such a significant improvement. But their reasoning was the latest changes implemented. Now in SimplyMEPIS we find X.org 7.0 upgraded to 7.1, as well as including the NVIDIA driver 1.0-9746, ATI driver 8.31.5, Sun Java 6, and madwifi-ng 0.92. He states this release is "Beryl-ready." Moreover he says, "During the coming week we will be integrating Beryl to work the MEPIS way. Users will have the option of running Beryl or not." The packages are available in repositories as of now and hopefully the new options will be available on the CD image by final on February 24.
Again, as found in SaxenOS, I felt the version number bump perhaps should have occurred at the beginning of the development cycle, to at least to 6.1. This time, not so much because software or default desktop had changed necessarily, but because of its maturity and interface polish. I had reviewed SimplyMEPIS when it released 6.0 and was not impressed. In fact, the whole of the system seemed cobbled together and not only lacked cohesiveness, but also stability and even usability. I had several negative issues with 6.0 that left an impression of possible impending doom for SimplyMEPIS. So when the new development cycle began, I was very much interested in how things were going to shape up for this veteran OS. I tested 6.0-4 beta 2 and was pleasantly surprised. Again, not because it was such a different MEPIS, but this felt like the release 6.0 should have been. It was polished, stable, functional, and best of all, much prettier. My hope was restored. SimplyMEPIS was back.
In testing 6.5 beta 5 I didn't find a lot of changes on the surface when compared with 6.0-4 beta 2, but X.Org has been upgraded to 7.1.1. As quoted from Warren, this will make the system compatible with Beryl. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test the packages as a hard drive install was necessary for both the NVIDIA driver and Synaptic usage. I'm sorry to report the hard drive installer failed on two different machines with several combinations of factors. The only common factor between the two was the NVIDIA graphics chip. There was nothing I could do to convince the installer to finish. It stopped and the whole system stopped responding at 85%. Since this system is still in beta, we aren't going to hold that against it at this point. For now SimplyMEPIS is looking good and holds a lot of promise for this upcoming release.
Despite KDE still being version 3.5.3 and much of the same software is offered, the updated look and feel as well as the X server and promise of Beryl does seem to justify a version bump mid-cycle for SimplyMEPIS.
SimplyMEPIS 6.5 beta 5
(full image size: 557kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu drops 3D desktop, Daniel Robbins returns to Gentoo, SabayonLinux loses developers, CentOS 5 update
Much of the talk on Linux news sites during the past week was the decision by Ubuntu to drop the promised 3D desktop support from the upcoming Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn". As expected, the reaction from the Linux community was mixed. It ranged from resounding applause for taking a clear stance on the issue of non-free kernel modules to the disappointment of those users who expected Feisty to be the most stunning and feature-full desktop Linux distribution ever created. Later, however, it turned out that the applauding group misread the Ubuntu announcement. As subsequently clarified in Mark Shuttleworth's blog post, the decision was purely technical, rather than political, and the proprietary kernel modules will not be enabled in Feisty only because the 3D Linux desktop, the Ubuntu developers believe, is not yet sufficiently stable and mature. Once things improve, probably in the release following Feisty in the second half of this year, the issue will be re-visited and new decisions about the inclusion of proprietary video drivers will be made.
* * * * *
Talking about the subject of video drivers in Linux distributions, it's interesting to read what some of the well-known Linux personalities think about the issue. Daniel Robbins, the founder and former chief technology officer of Gentoo Linux, posted his thoughts in his blog: "The recent technical tightrope-walking by Ubuntu's Technical Board reminded me of a Gentoo-based distribution that was impacted by the binary-only drivers debate - Kororaa. Kororaa removed proprietary drivers from their distribution, and I don't view this as a good thing. Why? Because despite the claims of some, it's hard to see how the inclusion of proprietary modules violates the GPL in any way." Robbins explains his reasoning in several paragraphs that are well worth the read.
Interestingly, an earlier post by the Gentoo founder reveals that Robbins is now "on the verge of being a Gentoo dev": "Betelgeuse (Petteri Räty), my recruiter, has reviewed my quizzes and I appear on the verge of becoming a Gentoo developer. All that's left to do is for me to determine the areas of Gentoo that I'll be working on. Petteri wants me to have some specific initial focus on the project before I'm set up officially as a developer." Those of you who have been reading DistroWatch for a few years will remember that Daniel Robbins left Gentoo in April 2004 and later joined Microsoft Corporation where he worked in the company's Linux lab for almost a year.
Great to see you back, Daniel!
* * * * *
The Gentoo-based SabayonLinux, with its innovative and often bleeding-edge approach towards building a Linux operating system, became one of the brightest new stars on the Linux distributions scene in 2006. Unfortunately, its growing popularity and user demands on the development team has brought about the distribution's first casualties - as announced last week, two SabayonLinux developers / contributors resigned from the project. Christopher Villareal: "I have decided that I need to resign as SabayonLinux's co-lead and move on. I would like to focus more on my studies and graduate school but I hope to remain active in the Linux community." James Laslavic: "Effective immediately, I resign from my post as the art coordinator for SabayonLinux. So long, and thanks for all the fish." Let's hope that SabayonLinux will be able to weather this mini-crisis and move on to bring us more great new releases!
* * * * *
The development process of Fedora 7 has been extended by an extra month. That's according to Jesse Keating who published an announcement on the fedora-test mailing list, citing difficulties with merging the core and extras parts of Fedora into one distribution: "One of the big Features of Fedora 7 is a merged core and extras. In order to accomplish this, we need some improvements to the build system currently used by Fedora Extras. We need these improvements done or mostly done by the feature freeze of Fedora 7. It is very clear that these changes will not be ready by then. To accomplish these changes in time for the feature freeze, we have added another month to the schedule." The upcoming Test2 of Fedora 7 will now be released on February 27, while Fedora 7 final is scheduled for general availability on May 24th, 2007.
* * * * *
With the upcoming release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 late February or early March, many Linux hobbyists will turn their attention towards one of the many clones of RHEL, such as the popular CentOS distribution. But will there ever be a CentOS 5? If you are one of the readers who are impatiently waiting for that ear-soothing announcement presenting the new generation of CentOS, you'll be pleased to learn that the answer is a resounding "yes": There seems to be a rumour going around that there will be no CentOS 5 beta. I just want to state this officially that the rumour is wrong! There will most certainly be a beta and even a release candidate before the final is released. ... When is CentOS 5 beta going to be released? Very soon." For more information about the CentOS 5 plans please read this blog post by Karanbir Singh.
|Released Last Week
Nick Niktaris has announced the release of Knoppel 0.8, a variant of the KNOPPIX live CD designed for Greek-speaking audience. The new version is based on the recently released KNOPPIX 5.1.1, with kernel 188.8.131.52, Aufs as a replacement for Unionfs, and KDE 3.5.5 from Debian Etch. Other new features and applications include: updated OpenOffice.org 2.0.4 with Greek grammar and spell checking add-on; IceWeasel 2.0; NTFS read and write support with ntfs-3g; support for 3D desktop effects with Beryl; Amarok 1.4.4 as a replacement for XMMS; addition of KlamAV anti-virus software; updated Frozen Bubble 2.1.0, removal of Audacity, Thunderbird, SuperKaramba.... Read the complete release announcement (in Greek) for further information.
Knoppel is a KNOPPIX variant for the speakers of Greek.
(full image size: 1,172kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Network Security Toolkit 1.5.0
Network Security Toolkit (NST) 1.5.0 has been released: "We are pleased to announce the latest NST release: v1.5.0. This release is based on Fedora Core 5 using the Linux kernel 2.6.18. Here are some of the highlights for this release: the NST Web User Interface (WUI), has been greatly enhanced and cleaned up; extensive additions to managing and analyzing network packet captures; the ability to setup and manage printers; the ability to easily mount many different supported file system types; the ability to manage the NST as a file server (both NFS and CIFS); the addition of the Inprotect package (a Nessus manager); the addition of the Zabbix package (another network resource monitoring tool - similar to Nagios)...." More details in the release announcement.
Beyond Linux From Scratch 6.2.0
A new stable version of Beyond Linux From Scratch (BLFS), a book with instructions on how to extend a Linux From Scratch installation, has been released: "Version 6.2.0 of BLFS has been released. Version 6.2.0 is the complement to the LFS 6.2 book. More time has elapsed between the release of the previous version (6.1) and this one than in any other release cycle. Much of this is due to the fact that LFS 6.2 took much longer to be released than was originally anticipated. Many new packages have been introduced in the 6.2.0 version, as well as many updates, refinements and additions to the existing packages." For more information please read the release announcement and release notes. The new BLFS book is available for online reading or download in HTML and PDF formats.
INSERT, the Inside Security Rescue Toolkit distribution, has been updated to version 1.3.9a. From the changelog: "The Linux kernel was updated to 184.108.40.206; ClamAV comes in the new release 0.90 with experimental features activated; ntfs-3g was updated to the first release candidate; the GUI for ClamAV (AVScan) was replaced with a GUI for (the downloadable) F-Prot (Xfprot); support for ISDN was completely dropped; the persistent home directory feature should work again; the hard disk installer 'insert-installer' is gone until it works...." Read the complete release notes for more details.
Puppy Linux 2.14
Puppy Linux 2.14 has been released: "This new Puppy has major improvements in the underlying architecture as well as the applications, and some new applets created by Puppy enthusiasts. Finally we have embraced the XDG menu system, our new PET package management system is further refined. New applets are Pfind (file finder), and Grafburn (CD/DVD burner). Upgrades are many, including Pupctorrent (torrent download client), Network Wizard, Pbcdripper (CD ripper), PuppyBackup, SoxGui (audio file 'Swiss army knife'), mtPaint, elscpi. Plus lots more - read the Release Notes!" See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Lunar Linux 1.6.1
Auke Kok has announced the release of Lunar Linux 1.6.1, a source-based distribution designed for advanced Linux users: "With great pleasure we release 'Moose Drool', also known as the Lunar Linux 1.6.1 Installer ISO, to the public. This ISO is partially a refreshed installer for i686, but it is also our first stable ISO for x86_64. The x86_64 installer ISO thus marks the true final entry for Lunar Linux as a multi-arch distro. This ISO comes with GCC 3.4.6, glibc 2.3.6, Linux 2.6.20, Perl 5.8.8, and other rock solid base components. Although the x86_64 ISO is purely 64-bit only now, we're working to enable multilib, so stay focused for more news on that. This will also be the last ISO with GCC 3.x. Future ISOs will move to GCC 4.x and an updated glibc." Here is the brief release announcement.
Debian GNU/Linux 3.1r5
The current stable version of Debian GNU/Linux has been updated to include all recent security and bug-fix patches: "The Debian project is pleased to announce the fifth update of its stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (codename 'sarge'). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustment to serious problems. Those who frequently update from security.debian.org won't have to update many packages. Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 but only updates some of the packages included in the stable release." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
- KateOS 3.2-beta (live), the release announcement
- SaxenOS 2.0-beta1, the press release
- SimplyMEPIS 6.5-beta5, the release announcement
- sidux 2007-1-preview3, the release notes
- PCLinuxOS 2007-test2, the release notes
- Trustix Secure Linux 3.0.5-rc3, the release announcement
- SAM Linux Desktop 2007-test2, the release announcement
- Frugalware Linux 0.6-rc1, the release announcement
- openSUSE 10.3-alpha1, the release announcement
- Elive 0.6.3-unstable, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu 7.04-alpha4, the release announcement
- Pioneer 2.0-rc2, the press release
- X-Evian 2.0-prebeta
- Kurumin Linux 7.0-rc5
- PLD Rescue CD 2.01
- PAIPIX 6.0-rc2
- GParted LiveCD 0.3.3-5
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 (PowerPC edition)
Terra Soft Solutions has announced that, following the release of Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 for SONY PlayStation 3, the traditional edition for Apple's PowerPC computers will be made available before the end of February: "YDL v5.0 for Apple PowerPC delivery schedule: 1. Close of February 2007: Download, Install and Source ISOs via YDL.net Enhanced accounts. 2. Two weeks after YDL.net: DVDs ship from the Terra Soft Store. 3. Two weeks after DVD shipment: Download Install and Source ISOs via the public mirrors." For further information please refer to the delivery page on Terra Soft's web site.
* * * * *
A new major release of BackTrack, a SLAX-based live CD with a large collection of security and forensic tools, will be released before the end of this month: "BackTrack 2.0 final due end of February." Some of the nice new features included in the release are: "Updated to kernel 2.6.19; Broadcom, IPW2200, RTL8180, RTL8187 WiFi drivers; added Metasploit PXE ninja; updated tools and packages." More information about BackTrack 2.0 is available in this blog post.
* * * * *
sidux 2007, 2008
The developers of sidux have published an approximate release roadmap of the project's upcoming versions. If all goes according to the plan, four releases of sidux will be made this year; they will be labelled as 2007-1, 2007-2, 2007-3 and 2007-4. Details of the planned features have yet to be announced. For more information please see the 2007-1 Preview 3 release announcement (scroll down towards the end of the article).
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- Vyatta. Vyatta is a complete, ready-to-use, Debian-based distribution that is designed to transform standard x86 hardware into an enterprise-class router / firewall. Vyatta software includes support for commonly used network interfaces, and industry-standard routing protocols and management protocols. Unlike previous open-source routing projects, all these features are configurable via a single command-line interface (CLI) or web-based graphical user interface (GUI). Vyatta software is available as a free Community Edition as well as tiered Software Subscriptions that include maintenance, upgrades and support.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- CosmoPBX Live CD. CosmoPBX is KNOPPIX-based live CD with the goal to enable a user to get a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system with Asterisk up and running within a few minutes.
- Protech. Protech is an Ubuntu-based distribution made for security professionals and programmers.
- Sacix. Sacix is the latest addition to the growing number of Linux distributions made in Brazil. Sacix is based on Debian GNU/Linux and designed for use in telecentres.
- Sflack. Sflack is a new Slackware-based distribution designed for the x86_64 family of processors.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Tuesday, 27 February 2007. 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|