| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 202, 14 May 2007
Welcome to this year's 20th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The intensive development period before the upcoming release of Fedora 7 has been marked by several release updates and further complimented by news from Red Hat Summit in San Diego last week. Will this be the most impressive Fedora release ever? Chances are that it will be indeed. In other news, the openSUSE community launches a software portal, Daniel Robbins comments on the latest Gentoo Linux, Patrick Volkerding drops Pidgin (formerly GAIM) after finding an anti-Slackware comment on the project's developer page, and several distributions, including openSUSE, SabayonLinux, sidux and Skolelinux, announce updated release schedules. In the feature story of the week, your DistroWatch editor describes what can happen when the most important piece of computer hardware suddenly decides to stop working. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
A broken motherboard|
A broken motherboard, a new computer, a new operating system... these are landmark episodes in the life of any computer geek. A series of events that started with my main desktop machine failing to boot and ended with an installation of a new distribution on a new computer, dominated my life during the past week. DistroWatch suffered as I was struggling to re-establish my normal daily routine while the floor of my home office was littered with pieces of computer hardware. As a result, I decided to turn the feature story of today's DistroWatch Weekly into a blog-like narrative, describing what happened and why it happened that way.
It all started on Monday night when a rare power cut forced me to retire to bed earlier than I had planned. I woke up the next morning, half expecting trouble from the unscheduled work interruption the night before - the motherboard had been flaky for some time (refusing to let me into the BIOS on occasions) and there was this horribly disconcerting noise coming out from the second hard disk, which wasn't even a month old and which had never even been partitioned or formatted. My premonition proved correct - the computer refused to boot.
This was when I finally decided to get a new motherboard. I had meant to do it for a while, but you know how it is: while it still kind of works, you keep postponing the inevitable upgrade. This time, however, I had no choice. Therefore, on Tuesday afternoon, I took to the streets in search for new hardware.
One of the more pleasant aspects of living in Taipei is the Guang Hua Computer Market on Hsin Hseng South Road. It is not unlike Tokyo's famous Akihabara, an area with a high concentration of computer hardware shops, only on a much smaller scale. But unlike its more famous Japanese counterpart, where the majority of shops are massive, multi-storey computer superstores, the Guang Hua Computer Market in Taipei consists of many tiny little stores, most of them not bigger than an average spare bedroom. Invariably, they are stacked to the ceiling with haphazardly placed boxes containing the latest motherboards, graphics cards, hard disks, CPUs and any other piece of computer hardware one can possibly need. These shops are very informal and staffed with highly knowledgeable sales assistants.
The way these shops work is simple: you choose your components from a list (which includes prices) and select a computer case. Then you go to get your lunch or a cup of coffee and when you come back, your brand new system is waiting for you - all neatly packed in a box with a convenient handle. The sales person boots it up for you to show that the components inside the box are indeed the ones that you chose earlier. Then you pay, cash only. These shops never give a receipt for your purchase, but the warranty is always honoured, even though you don't get anything to hold on to except a gentleman's word. That's it. Of course, there is no operating system on the computer, but that's not a bad thing, is it? ;-)
Many of the shops at the Guang Hua Computer Market also sell popular laptops and although English is not often spoken, the sales assistants will still try their best to attract any foreigner who passes by. The laptops do include the compulsory Windows license; however, some shops will refund the cost of the license if you refuse to accept the agreement (and if you really really insist). Disappointingly, finding a Linux-based (or OS-less) brand-name laptop in Taipei is still nearly impossible.
If you get tired of looking at hardware prices and checking out the latest gadgets, you can always wonder into the small side streets where incredibly beautiful, model-like girls -- wearing big smiles and tiny miniskirts -- serve refreshingly cool lemon drinks to tired geeks. Yes, the girls are there to remind you that there is much more to life than just kilobytes and megahertz....
But don't let me stray away from the topic of the broken motherboard. Initially, I arrived at the Guang Hua Computer Market with the intention of buying just a new motherboard, but after talking to a few sales persons, I soon realised that the issue of replacing a 3-year old motherboard is a lot more complex than I had thought. Firstly, it's futile to try to buy a state-of-the-art "mobo" while keeping the rest of the hardware unchanged; as was explained to me, the latest motherboards no longer support the "old" DDR RAM modules - there is now something called DDR II instead. Also, many of the latest motherboards come with just one IDE slot, so it would not be possible to use them with my three existing drives (two hard disks and one DVD burner).
My trip to the computer market thus turned into a decision making process: I had to make up my mind between getting an older motherboard for my existing hardware, or buying a whole new computer system. After a few minutes of thinking I opted for the latter. I justified it by convincing myself that as a maintainer of a popular technology web site, it's almost an obligation to stay reasonably current with my hardware. Besides, who doesn't like having the latest, greatest and fastest, especially if you spend long hours in front of your computer every day?
So this is what I bought:
This, together with a generic computer case, a power supply and labour cost, came to an equivalent of US$720.
Next choice I had to make: the operating system for the new machine. My 6-month adventure with Mandriva Linux 2007 (and 2007.1) was over and since I rotate my operating system about every six months in order to stay up-to-date with different technologies, I decided to switch to Fedora 7. I had not used any Red Hat product seriously since about Red Hat Linux 7.3 and even that was only on a mail server, so my re-visiting this distribution was long overdue. Besides, I always liked Fedora - it's one of those rare distributions where professionalism and expertise of its developers are all too apparent. Ask a good question and you'll be helped, ask a bad one and you'll be ignored - without flames or abuse. I wish all distributions had such approach to their users.
So after powering up the new box for the first time, I inserted the x86_64 edition of Fedora 7 Test 4 into the DVD drive and began installation - only to abandon it during the partitioning stage. The reason? I found the partitioning tool within the Anaconda installer rather limited and inflexible in the way it made decisions on my behalf. So I decided to reboot into a live media in order to partition the disk with a good partitioning tool, such as cfdisk or GParted. After reaching for the drawer to take out a live disk from it, I found myself holding a SabayonLinux 3.3 DVD. I inserted it into the drive and watched it booting wonderfully - it detected all there was to detect and even set up the correct screen resolution (1680x1050 pixels). In fact, my first impressions of SabayonLinux 3.3 were so good that I decided to delay my switch to Fedora 7 and install SabayonLinux 3.3 instead!
(full image size: 147kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Five days later, I am still on SabayonLinux. The good first impression was quickly followed by further appreciation of its Gentoo roots and the way SabayonLinux developers integrate all the latest technologies into a very exciting product; but also by disappointments over a number of obvious bugs. On the positive side, I found the flexibility of Portage excellent (despite coming on a 3+ GB DVD, SabayonLinux 3.3 doesn't include some vital applications that I use daily, such as gFTP or Liferea). Besides providing a way for easy installation of many software packages, it also allows for choosing which version of an application to install. Try that in a binary distro!
As for bugs, I was shocked to see that starting gnome-control-center only brought up an empty window and that GNOME's Services dialog crashed shortly after its launch. Beryl worked fine the first time I logged in, but failed to come up after my second log-in and I could never get it to work again. Not that I minded too much - I found Beryl's effect rather jittery, which was disappointing after the nice, smooth effects with Compiz/Xgl I enjoyed on Mandriva 2007 during the past six months. Metisse on KDE didn't work here either - I only got a black screen when I tried to launch it. I also found that the spellcheck function in OpenOffice.org did not work for some reason (as you've probably noticed by now).
Overall, SabayonLinux is a usable distribution, even if a few bugs have spoilt the pleasure somewhat. Compared to Mandriva Linux 2007, it has a few good points (Portage is wonderfully flexible, Liferea no longer crashes, the Tab Mix Plus extension in Firefox works again...), but also a few negatives (the default fonts aren't as nice as on Mandriva, the user community is smaller, its Wiki documentation rather sparse). Nevertheless, I decided to stick with it for a few weeks - at least until Fedora 7 final is released.
So this is the story of my past week. After struggling with hardware problems for several days, I am pleased to report that I am once again set up for the usual "distro watching", so news reporting and distribution page updates should come faster than last week. And if you ever come to Taipei, don't miss the Guang Hua Computer Market - it's a must see for any geek!
Fedora 7, Red Hat Global Desktop, Gentoo Linux 2007.0, openSUSE Software Portal, Slackware vs Pidgin, PCLinuxOS page hits
Let's start the news section with an interesting post published on several Fedora and Red Hat mailing lists. Entitled Fedora 7 -- what, when, and why, Max Spevack has summarised the recent happenings in the Fedora Project, particularly around the upcoming Fedora 7. The author reminds us that, because of the merge of the "core" and "extras" repositories, the new release will no longer bear the word "Core" in its name. Among other interesting points of the message is the fact that the entire Fedora toolchain is now free software, which makes it possible for anybody to create highly customised editions of the distribution. Spevack also mentions the official live media, KVM virtualisation, and the usual package upgrades, as valid reasons for trying out the new release. The post is worth a read as it signals a new, more aggressive drive of the Red Hat and Fedora developer community to increase the adoption of the distribution.
* * * * *
The message mentioned in the above paragraph also touches on the ongoing Red Hat Summit in San Diego, which has been a source of many interesting news releases of the past week. One of the more exciting among them -- at least from the perspective of the future of Linux on the desktop -- was the press release about Red Hat Global Desktop, a new desktop Linux initiative designed predominantly for emerging markets. According to this report by DesktopLinux.com, "the Global Desktop is not just a consumer version of the recently released RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) Desktop 5. The Global Desktop will be based on the lessons Red Hat has learned from its involvement in the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) project." Is Red Hat finally changing its long-standing conservative view of the consumer desktop Linux market? It's about time!
* * * * *
The long-delayed Gentoo Linux 2007.0 was finally released last week. Some of the early reviews signal a mixture of good and bad (see ThePCSpy and Techgage), while at the same time they agree that the new Gentoo doesn't come with many dramatic improvements or innovative features - not beyond the rewritten live CD installer and the routine package upgrades. So what's good and what could still be improved? Daniel Robbins, the original founder of Gentoo, installed the new release and commented about the experience in his blog: "Overall, the install process was significantly improved using the installer. However, there was noticeable room for improvement - general lack of refinement and questionable choices made regarding what to include on the 600MB live CD. Also, the online documentation has grown to the point where it is cumbersome to navigate and disorienting to use."
Gentoo Linux 2007.0 was finally released last week
(full image size: 268kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
What are your first impressions of Gentoo Linux 2007.0? Please comment below.
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How would you like to manage your openSUSE applications from a web-based interface? If your answer is yes, then there is a good chance that you will be able to do so soon. As reported in this blog entry by Pascal Bleser, a community project to develop an openSUSE Software Portal, a complete web-based solution for installing and upgrading applications over the Internet, was launched last week: "We're going to have a shot at a brilliant solution for managing applications, package installations and updates (both from a technical point of view and in terms of ease of use), and that the initiative and the resources come from the community." The project has already started a new mailing list, published the first interface mockup, and has invited other developers to join in. For more information please read this blog post.
Still on openSUSE, Stephan Binner has announced a new release of KDE Four Live CD, an openSUSE-based distribution that showcases the latest development builds of KDE 4 (currently in its first alpha): "KDE 4.0 Alpha 1, code-named 'Knut', has been released. Of course it's accompanied by a new KDE Four Live release and packages for openSUSE. Just keep in mind that it's the first alpha release which is totally unusable and not representative of KDE 4[.0]." While still not very functional, those readers who are curious about the progress KDE developers are making on their long way to KDE 4 can download the new release from here: KDE-Four-Live.i686-0.1.0.iso (675MB, MD5).
* * * * *
Developers' changelogs are either overly technical to the point of being boring or overly technical, occasionally interrupted by a controversial remark. Readers following the current changelog of Slackware Linux were treated to the latter last week. The reason? It seems that Patrick Volkerding was offended by anti-Slackware sentiment expressed on the Pidgin (formerly GAIM) web site and has promptly relegated the popular instant messenger into the unsupported directory. From Pidgin.im: "We have no developers using Slack, and furthermore, several of us actively dislike that distribution for its history of broken installs, as well as for its non-existant package management. You cannot create true packages for Slack." This statement on the Pidgin developer's site has since been replaced with a less inflammatory one, but the original can still be read in the Google cache (if you hurry).
And Patrick Volkerding's reply? "Well, I'm somewhat shocked by this, having never (to my knowledge) done anything to any of the former GAIM or Pidgin developers to make them mad at me, Slackware, or anyone on the Slackware team. I guess if they feel it's not possible to make a 'true' Pidgin package for Slackware, there's no point in continuing to try. Having put out 7 security advisories on GAIM, I'm quite sure there will be less work here if Pidgin is not included. The Pidgin package has been moved to the 'unsupported' directory. For the record, I do not actively dislike Pidgin or any of their developers, but I do plan to use Kopete from now on."
* * * * *
The dramatic surge in the popularity of PCLinuxOS, as represented by our Page Hit Ranking statistics, has raised a few eyebrows among the DistroWatch readers. With emails expressing surprise and alleging data manipulations appearing in our inboxes on almost daily basis, perhaps it's a good time to comment on the subject. Yes, we did check the web logs a number of times during the past few months, but we have not found any evidence indicating that the figures have been manipulated in any way. The fact that PCLinuxOS is rising in popularity is likely a reflection of its quality and growing user base, not of a foul play.
If you are still not convinced, please see this Awstats output of DistroWatch.com's web log. With 4.7% of all Linux-using visitors, PCLinuxOS is now the fourth most-used Linux distribution for browsing the DistroWatch pages - that's right after Ubuntu (28.9%), Debian (11.7%) and openSUSE (5.6%), and well ahead of such well-established projects as Fedora (3.3%) or Mandriva (2.5%). So instead of accusing PCLinuxOS users of "fanboyism" and data manipulation, why not give the distribution a try and judge its merits for yourself? You might just be very pleasantly surprised....
|Released Last Week
Gentoo Linux 2007.0
Gentoo Linux 2007.0 has been released: "After several delays, the Gentoo Release Engineering team is proud to announce the release of Gentoo Linux 2007.0, code named 'Secret Sauce'. This release includes a completely rewritten version of the Gentoo Linux Installer on the AMD64 and x86 live CD and live DVD images. It also includes GNOME 2.16.2, KDE 3.5.5, Xfce 4.4, Mozilla Firefox 188.8.131.52, OpenOffice.org 2.1.0, and the 2.6.19 Linux kernel. Updated hardware support is among the highlights of the x86 release. Besides the many updated office and productivity packages x86 also brings an update to glibc 2.5. On amd64 you can enjoy updated 32-bit emulation libraries improving support for many closed source applications and browser plugins." Read the full press release for further information.
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.14
EnGarde Secure Linux has been updated to version 3.0.14: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.14. What's New? Major feature enhancements to Network Intrusion Detection System. The Attack Monitor now shows much greater detail on each attack (including links to packet dumps and CVE information) and refreshes automatically using AJAX. Also, the graphs are now much easier to read and are generated faster. There is now a link to the Network Attack Monitor directly from the main WebTool Auditing menu. This makes monitoring the Network IDS much easier. There were several improvements made to the hardware detection subsystem of einstall, the EnGarde Secure Linux Installer, which makes installing on newer hardware more reliable. Several new packages...." More details in the release announcement.
BLAG Linux And GNU 60001
Jeff Moe has announced the release of BLAG Linux And GNU 60001, an updated version of the Fedora-based distribution for the desktop: "The first update to the BLAG 60k series, BLAG 60001, has been released. This is just a 'roll up' of recent package updates, including an update from the 2.6.18 kernel to 2.6.20. The base package set remains the same. Over 200 updated packages are included. This release is primarily done so people who download the ISO don't have to then download a bunch of package updates. The repository now has over nine thousand packages and the developer's DVD set now takes three DVDs." Find more information in the release announcement and release notes.
Ubuntu Studio 7.04
The long-awaited Ubuntu Studio 7.04, a variant of Ubuntu aimed at the GNU/Linux audio, video and graphic enthusiast, has arrived: "The Ubuntu Studio team is proud to announce its first release: 7.04 for Intel i386-compatible processors. With this release, which you can download for DVD in little over 860 MB, we offer a feature that is somewhat reminiscent of Ubuntu Server: on installation, you can choose between the Audio, Graphics or Video tasks; and choose also to install a number of plugins, which for this release is mainly aimed at audio production. We have endeavoured to keep as many of our packages in the standard Ubuntu repositories as possible." Read the rest of the release announcement and visit the project's home page to learn more about Ubuntu Studio.
Kaella is a French variant of KNOPPIX, a desktop live CD with complete support for the language of Voltaire and extra educational software and documentation for French-speaking users. Kaella 3.1, which remained unmodified from its third release candidate, was announced earlier today. Features: based on KNOPPIX 5.1.1; OpenOffice.org 2.0.4; IceWeasel 184.108.40.206 replaces Mozilla Firefox; IceDove 220.127.116.11 replaces Mozilla Thunderbird; GCompris 8.2.2 and Tuxpaint 0.9.16; addition of Kaella-specific documentation and online survival guide for Linux debutants (in French); addition of modem drivers for USB ADSL Sagem and Alcatel SpeedTouch with connection scripts; miscellaneous improvements to KDE menus and theme. Read the complete release notes (in French) for more information.
Kaella 3.1 - a new version of the French variant of KNOPPIX was released last week
(full image size: 246kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Josh Boyer has announced a slight delay in the development of Fedora 7. Originally scheduled for May 24th, it will now be made available a week later, at the earliest: "We do not have a rawhide repository available as of yet, and the release and QA teams are not comfortable going into deep freeze at this point. During the Release team meeting yesterday, it was decided to slip the deep freeze date by a week at least. This will also slip the final release of Fedora 7 by at least a week." Read more in this mailing list post.
Andreas Jaeger has announced the final roadmap for openSUSE 10.3: "We are happy to announce the final roadmap for openSUSE 10.3. openSUSE 10.3 is the next release that incorporates new features from both the community and Novell internal development. The distribution will be build for the x86, x86-64 and Power PC platforms." The project has already released three alpha builds; these will now be followed by three more, before three beta tests and one release candidate complete the development and testing process. The final release of openSUSE 10.3 is scheduled for October 4th, 2007.
A roadmap presenting the likely milestones for the upcoming SabayonLinux 3.4 has been published on the project's news page: "While we are still working on the new Sabayon Linux Portal integration, I would like to direct your attention to our 3.4 release plan. ... After the 3.4 release, the first public server side release of Entropy will be published. At the moment, I am focussing on finalizing it and starting the client part. So, there will be a lot of exciting news on this side." The second beta (or "loop") release is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), while the final release of SabayonLinux 3.4 is expected on the last day of June. See here for more information.
The sidux project has published an updated roadmap for its upcoming versions 2007-02, 2007-03 and 2007-04. It warns, however, that the roadmap is a "rough estimate" and may change: "Please understand that the following roadmap is a rough estimate regarding our release schedule and is affected by the status of upstream debian sid, major system components like X.org, KDE, the linux kernel and our own developments and is subject to changes." For more information please read the latest status report.
The Skolelinux project (also known as "Debian-Edu") has published a release schedule for version 3.0: "This [Test 4] will be the last test release of Debian-Edu Etch. After that we will release RC1, RC2 and RC3 with shorter delays in between and then we will release. We plan to release RC1 on May 19th, RC2 on May 26th, RC3 on June 2nd and Debian-Edu etch on June 9th. We might cut RC2 and RC3, as we want to release at the end of May." See this mailing list post for more details.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Translations of the Top Ten Distributions page|
Many thanks to Kamil Stachowski who has translated the Top Ten Distributions page into Polish. The article is now available in 6 languages; besides English and Polish, you can also read it in Dutch, Italian, Russian and Spanish. 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).
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- Ubuntu Studio. Ubuntu Studio is a variant of Ubuntu aimed at the GNU/Linux audio, video and graphic enthusiast as well as professional. The distribution provides a collection of open-source applications available for multimedia creation.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 21 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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|• Full list of all issues|