| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 201, 7 May 2007
Welcome to this year's 19th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The biggest news of the past week was the joint announcement by Dell and Canonical which promises to usher in a new era in the way we choose our systems in online computer stores - a brief analysis of the announcement and what it means for us follows. In other news, the Fedora project finally merges its two package repositories, Ian Murdock announces the end of Progeny, and NimbleX offers a never-seen-before web-based way of generating a custom Slackware-based live CD. Also in this issue: a featured article that presents two excellent resources for those who are interested in becoming more proficient in Linux and open source software. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the April 2007 DistroWatch donation is the LyX project. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Opinion: Learning Linux
What is the best way to learn Linux? As more and more computer users embark on their first tentative steps in an unfamiliar environment, questions like that often found their ways into the DistroWatch inbox. Is there a fast and painless way to learn about this alternative operating system? While there is no sure way of making quick progress and become instantly at home on a new desktop, as a maintainer of a popular web site dedicated to open source software, I thought I would share my own experiences with learning Linux by recommending two excellent resources. After all, there was a time when I was a complete novice myself.
The first resource is a book called LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell by O'Reilly. Several years ago I used the first edition of this book to prepare for my LPI (Linux Professional Institute) certification exam and I found it an excellent resource. Although I was already quite familiar with Linux, by following the book, I learnt so many new things, I was astonished at how much useful stuff I had not known. Yes, it's heavily biased towards command line skills, which might be discouraging to some readers, but I honestly believe that only after learning the essential commands and becoming familiar with the underlying system you'll truly appreciate the power of Linux.
It took me about two months to go through the portion of the book that covered the LPI 101 exam. I did pass the test - not with a 100% mark (can you really remember whether the correct name of the command is "dmsg" or "dmesg"?), but I found it exciting to do the course, to find courage to sign up for the exam, and to confirm to myself that I really am a competent Linux user. The book I used has now been superseded by the second edition (released last year) and expanded to cover not only LPI 101 and 102, but also 201 and 202. Even if you'll never take the exam, LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell is a fantastic reference book to have around and to consult whenever you get stuck.
The second resource I want to recommend -- especially to those who absolutely refuse to learn the command line -- is Linux Format, a UK-based magazine by Future Publishing. Now, I have to come clean and mention what many of you know already: I write a monthly column for the Linux Format. However, the fact remains that recommending it here won't bring me any incentives at all and the only reason I write for the magazine is because I honestly believe that it's the best English-language Linux publication available anywhere. I've been a subscriber to Linux Format since August 2000 and I've been writing the DistroWatch column in the magazine since late 2005.
The reason I recommend it here is that it taught me a lot over the years. Unlike the above-mentioned LPI Certification book, this is a magazine with many tutorials for graphical applications, including office and graphics suites. Sure, there are also parts that are written for programmers and hard-core geeks, as there are those for absolute beginners, but most of the articles are geared towards your average Linux user who simply wants to be productive and get the work done. Best of all, the magazine carries very little advertising, so if you are used to one of those mainstream technology publications where the advertising-to-content ratio is about 100:1, you are once again in for a pleasant surprise. Linux Format really is good value for the money.
Dell chooses Ubuntu, Fedora merges core and extras, Progeny closes shop, NimbleX offers web-based generation of live CDs, OpenBSD and 64 Studio interviews
The biggest news of the past week was of course the announcement by Dell that it would soon start selling desktop computers and laptops with Ubuntu 7.04 pre-installed. This announcement was greeted by much excitement in the Linux community. Not only is Dell the largest manufacturer of computer desktop and laptop systems in the world, it is also the first major PC maker that dared to stand up to Microsoft and its aggressive drive to prevent PC manufacturers from selling anything other than systems with a compulsory Windows license. Although it appears that the Ubuntu-based Dell PCs and laptops will initially be offered in the United States only, this is nevertheless a promising move that has a potential to create a snowball effect, with other PC manufacturer following Dell's lead.
Why is Dell doing this? Of course, we all know that the big PC maker has been struggling financially in recent years, so the decision to sell Linux computers is probably an aggressive (and fairly risky) attempt to gain some mindshare among Linux supporters, many of whom are technological enthusiasts and are therefore often consulted by their less computer-skilled peers and family members. Like IBM or Novell, who didn't always enjoy the best of reputations until they embraced Linux, it is quite possible that the public perception of Dell will soon be transformed - from being just another computer manufacturer to representing a company whose products will be enthusiastically recommended by most Linux supporters.
The second equation in the deal is Ubuntu. Dell's decision to ship this relatively new operating system was obviously based on the market survey which the company conducted prior to the announcement, but even if it wasn't, it is a good decision. Ignoring some of the smaller distributions that don't have the necessary power behind them (not to mention regular release schedules and clearly defined support periods), Ubuntu is the only major Linux distribution that continues to do everything possible to make Linux desktop a reality. Maybe it's still not perfect and maybe there are those of you who dislike its ubiquitous presence in the media. But one thing you have to admit: Ubuntu is probably responsible for bringing more computer users to Linux than any other distribution before. Without Ubuntu, our Linux world would be considerably less exciting.
So let's give Dell a big pat on the back for its courage to go where no other big PC manufacturer has gone before. Now bookmark this page and check it out whenever you need a new Linux-based PC or a laptop!
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The long-promised merge of Fedora's core and extras repositories is finally under way: "Merge is going well now. A bunch of hiccups early on as we moved our test scripts into acting with real bits and databases and such, but now that that's over..." As for the hiccups, Jesse Keating explains: "We're scrambling to create ppc64 builds of all the extras packages, as those didn't exist before, but now they will be built for ppc64. Also we need to hook up some software to make rawhide appear. It may just be in package repo form (not installable) to begin with, we'll see. I wouldn't expect anything this weekend." For more information about the merge and other Fedora topics, please check out the latest issue of Fedora Weekly News.
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As has become customary after every release, ONLamp has published an interview with several developers of OpenBSD responsible for some of the technical innovations in the latest version: "Q: Who should we thank for porting OpenOffice? A: Porting OpenOffice (OOo) was a group effort. It is a monster of an application and the largest port we have in the ports tree by far. In the end the majority of the porting and debugging work was performed by Robert Nagy and Kurt Miller. Robert inherited Peter Valchev's initial work, setup a local CVS repository and build machine and provided access to Kurt so we could collaborate on the porting effort. After fixing some initial problems the build would complete but, soffice wouldn't launch. Debugging this monster proved quite difficult. After some rather extensive debugging sessions Kurt found the reason soffice wouldn't launch was because of a missing file that is created in the packaging phase of the build." The 2-page interview starts here.
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Speaking about interviews, here is another one. Daniel James, the project director of 64 Studio, has spoken to Linux Format about the specialist, Debian-based distribution designed for digital content creation: "Q: Why would someone choose Linux over a proprietary solution? A: There are many reasons: the ability to study, repair or improve a particular program is useful to those musicians who have the necessary skills, or are prepared to learn. For some people, it's a matter of protecting their personal investment in learning the detailed operation of a program. For example, Logic [Pro, a MIDI sequencer] users on Windows were screwed over when the Windows version of the application was suddenly killed. For others, it's simply that they can't afford proprietary audio software. And finally, because it rocks!" Read the rest of the interview here.
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Progeny, a Linux company and a distribution of the same name, announced last week that it was closing down with immediate effect: "We are sorry to inform you that Progeny Linux Systems, Inc. ceased operations April 30, 2007." Founded by Ian Murdock (of Debian fame) in 1999, the company initially built and sold a more user-friendly alternative to Debian, before discontinuing the distribution and focusing on consulting and technical support of Debian and Red Hat systems. In 2004, the company once again returned to building distributions by launching Progeny Componentized Linux and announcing an industry-wide consortium of Debian-based distributions under the name of DCC Alliance. Unfortunately, after several development releases, the Progeny distribution was once again abandoned. Earlier this year, Ian Murdock announced that he had decided to join Sun Microsystems as a chief OS platform strategist. He recently criticised the Debian project for being too inflexible and for allowing Ubuntu to run away with Linux "mindshare" (as well as market share).
Progeny Debian 1.0, with Linux kernel 2.2.18 and GNOME 1.2.4, was released in April 2001.
(full image size: 693kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Bogdan Radulescu, the developer of the Slackware-based NimbleX live CD, has sent us an email about an interesting new way of building a fully customisable live CD: "I think that for the first time now you can create your custom live CD directly from a web page." The first beta version of the web page that allows building the CD went live last week and is available for testing at custom.nimblex.net. All you need to do is to select your packages, then click on the "Generate my NimbleX" button to create the ISO image. But the author warns that download speeds of newly generated NimbleX CD images might be far from ideal: "Unfortunately the bandwidth and the server has limited resources but maybe some day I will have something better!"
|Released Last Week
GoblinX 2.0 "Standard" edition has been released: "The GoblinX Standard 2.0 (2007.1) is released. The GoblinX Standard edition formerly known simply as GoblinX, is our primary and oldest live CD. This release follows the Premium 2007.1 edition and starts the second generation of the distribution. All new features and upgrades prepared for the Premium edition are included, including a new functional Magic Center which works with Xfce and all graphical user interfaces. In comparison with Premium released in the end of last month, this edition adds 'probesata' cheatcode and SATA modules support to initrd and also corrects a small error in the GoblinX installer." Visit the distribution's news page to read the complete release announcement.
OpenBSD 4.1 has been released: "We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 4.1. This is our 21st release on CD-ROM (and 22nd via FTP). We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of ten years with only two remote holes in the default install. As in our previous releases, 4.1 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system." OpenBSD 4.1 is available for two new platforms (landisk and sparc64), provides hardware support for many new devices, including many Ethernet and wireless network cards, and includes a range of new tools and various functionality improvements. Please read the full release announcement and product page for a complete list of new features.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.5
Red Hat has announced the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4.5, the fifth update to RHEL 4 series: "Red Hat is pleased to announce the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.5 (kernel 2.6.9-55.EL). This update includes the following enhancements: RHEL4 paravirtualized kernel for i686 and x86_64 and installation of paravirt RHEL4.5 guests; updated kernel support for Infiniband; NFS performance metrics; EDAC for Opteron; diskdump support for sata_nv and ibmvscsi drivers; netdump support to 8139cp driver; CIFS updated to 1.45; clustering application support through dm device ioctls.There were several bug fixes in various parts of the kernel." This is the first RHEL release with the new "point" numbering (instead of the old "4 Update X" version numbers). Please read the release announcement for further details.
Litrix Linux 7.4
Litrix Linux is a Brazilian live CD based on Gentoo Linux. After several months of development, the stable version 7.4 was released over the weekend. Highlights: support for writing to NTFS partitions; support for wireless networking; compiled for the i686 architectures; pre-installed NVIDIA drivers; support for 3D desktop features with Beryl; support for battery control on notebooks; K3B for CD and DVD burning. Litrix Linux 7.4 is built on kernel 2.6.19 and includes X.Org 7.1, KDE 3.5.6, Firefox 220.127.116.11, Thunderbird 18.104.22.168 and other popular open source software applications. Please visit the distribution's home page (in Portuguese) for more information and a screenshot.
Ubuntu Christian Edition 3.0
Jereme Hancock has announced the availability of Ubuntu Christian Edition 3.0, now based on the recently released Ubuntu 7.04: "We are very excited to announce the release of Ubuntu CE v3.0 (Feisty). The main change is, of course, that this release is based directly on Ubuntu 7.04 'Feisty Fawn'. The most visible addition is the Daily Bible Verse displayed on the desktop. This is accomplished using gDesklets and the Bible RSS desklet built specifically for Ubuntu CE. The theme and graphics have all been updated. This includes the addition of translucent backgrounds for the Gnome panels. This gives the desktop a much more polished look. We have also enhanced the theme integration to ensure a consistent Ubuntu CE look and feel." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
A new version of trixbox, a CentOS-based distribution that enables users to quickly set up a VOIP Asterisk PBX, has been released: "The trixbox team released the final version of trixbox 2.2 today. This is a much improved version of trixbox 2.0 featuring the following: easier upgrades to future versions; enhanced call data reports; new network interface manager; enhanced dashboard; new system status administrator screen; the latest versions of Asterisk and Zaptel; support for all Digium, Rhino and Sangoma hardware; enhanced Endpoint Manager (now supports Polycom, Linksys, Aastra, Snom, Grandstream, and Cisco)." Here is the brief release announcement for more details.
MCNLive Delft, a live CD based on Mandriva Linux 2007.1, has been released: "A new edition of MCNLive, code name 'Delft' is out. It is a fun release based on Mandriva Spring 2007.1, lacking any office or work-related software packages that would seriously distract your mind. A portable Linux live system for CD or USB drives, with some smart wizards to get the best out of a live system. Add software, set it up on your pen drive, run it entirely from RAM, write to NTFS partitions, create your own version on-the-fly, switch languages, make all changes persistent. KDE 3.5.6 with a set of Internet, music and video applications, games and more: Opera 9.20, Midnight Commander, K3b, gnomad2." Visit the distribution's home page to read the full release announcement with screenshots.
Scientific Linux 5.0
Connie Sieh has announced the release of Scientific Linux 5.0, a distribution rebuilt from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and enhanced with a variety of additional applications: "Scientific Linux 5.0 i386 is now available." Some of the extra applications include: "CFITSIO - a library of C and FORTRAN subroutines for reading and writing data files in FITS; FUSE - an implementation of a fully functional file system in a userspace program; Graphviz - graph visualization tools; IceWM - a lightweight window manager; Intel wireless firmware, MadWiFi and NdisWrapper; Java; MP3 support; OpenAFS; R - a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics...." Please read the complete release notes for further details.
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
April 2007 donation: LyX receives €260|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com April 2007 donations is the LyX project. It receives €260.00 in cash.
What is LyX? "LyX is a document processor that encourages an approach to writing based on the structure of your documents, not their appearance. It is released under a Free Software / Open Source license. LyX is for people that write and want their writing to look great, right out of the box. No more endless tinkering with formatting details, 'finger painting' font attributes or futzing around with page boundaries. You just write. In the background, Prof. Knuth's legendary TeX typesetting engine makes you look good. On screen, LyX looks like any word processor; its printed output -- or richly cross-referenced PDF, just as readily produced -- looks like nothing else."
LyX - the document processor.
As always, the monthly donations programme is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and two online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org and OSDisc.com. These vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to LyX.
Here is the list of projects that received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme:
Since the launch of the Donations Programme in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$12,990 to various open source software projects.
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Translations of the Top Ten Distributions page
The Top Ten Distributions page is now available in five languages: Dutch, English, Italian, Russian and Spanish. Many thanks to Herman Meester (Dutch), Giorgio Beltrammi (Italian), Victor Serbin (Russian), Darío Burstin (Spanish), Jorge Luis Suarez (Spanish) and Marcos Lagos (Spanish) for their hard work. Translations to other languages are most welcome - if you'd like to help, please email your work to distro at distrowatch dot com (preferably in plain text format using UTF-8 encoding).
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New distributions added to waiting list
- cl33n. cl33n is a live CD based on Debian Live with a single purpose: it boots and launches the Firefox browser. It offers a virus-free, spyware-free, personal environment for Internet banking, emailing, social networking and any other online activity.
- Knoppix-NSM. Knoppix-NSM is dedicated to providing a framework for individuals wanting to learn about Network Security Monitoring (NSM) or who want to quickly and reliably deploy a NSM capability in their network.
- Univention Corporate Server. Univention Corporate Server (UCS) is a Debian-based server distribution. The "special thing" about UCS is its well integrated web front-end for single- and multi-server architectures for configuring services like LDAP user administration, Samba, Kerberos domain, DNS or DHCP. The project's web site is in German only.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 14 May 2007. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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