| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 219, 10 September 2007
Welcome to this year's 37th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Enthusiasm for Linux and open source software is clearly growing; with last week's announcements about Lenovo's preferred Linux distro poll and AMD's opening up its ATI video drivers, things have never looked this exciting on the Linux-supporting hardware front! But some questions remain: do we really want every major PC manufacturer to support Ubuntu only? And will other distributions be able to catch with the increasing dominance of Canonical's operating system? Read more in our editorial. In the news section, openSUSE shows faith in KDE 4.0, Puppy Linux launches a major upgrade, and StartCom announces a new release of its workstation for audio enthusiasts. Finally, if you live in or near Toronto, don't miss the upcoming Linux conference called Ontario Linux Fest. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (6.5MB) and mp3 (6.2MB) formats (many thanks to Jim Putman)
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Ubuntu on ThinkPads?
Will Linux pre-installed on desktop and laptop computers finally become a reality? Following Dell's successful launch of Linux computers in several countries, it seems that Lenovo, the world's third largest computer manufacturer, is the next company that contemplates selling Linux notebooks. Mark Kohut, Lenovo's worldwide competitive analyst, explains the reasoning on the company's official blog:
"We're spending way too much time on the enterprise market and not enough on the enthusiast market. Enterprises have been, and will continue to be, slow to adopt Linux for some of the reasons I outlined, but there are nonetheless a LOT of people running Linux out there, especially on their ThinkPads."
Kohut continues his line of thought in a later paragraph:
"We're not anti-Linux and I'm not anti-Linux. Like other vendors we're trying to figure out what our strategy should be. You all know that I can never comment on anything unannounced, so I took an extreme stance to stimulate discussion."
Attached to the blog entry is a poll asking readers what Linux distribution they would most like to see supported on a ThinkPad? The choices offered are comprehensive (and extensible), ranging from many user-friendly Linux distributions, including PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint to the more difficult ones, represented by Slackware and Gentoo, and even some non-Linux operating systems, such as FreeBSD or OpenSolaris. The results of the poll are rather predictable; those of you who don't like Ubuntu will be shocked to learn that, at the time of writing, just over half of the 17,000+ voters have chosen Canonical's flagship product, while Debian GNU/Linux (11.2%) and Fedora (5.3%) are distant second and third.
This is the second time that a Linux distro poll was conducted on a hardware manufacturer's web site and the second time that Ubuntu is walking away with most of the votes - by a substantial margin. Now, those of you who read DistroWatch Weekly regularly might remember a discussion we had in a recent issue. There, answering a question about the popularity of Linux distributions, we quoted Fedora project leader Max Spevack as saying the following:
"You know, I don't like the competition to see who has loudest fanboys. I have wanted to make Fedora cool, to make it work and make it good. This aligns with Red Hat's larger marketing belief that we're just going to make this software and eventually people will notice it's the best out there on merit. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about where we rank on DistroWatch or whatever."
You have probably guessed where I am heading with this. Yes, Spevack is right - if doesn't matter which position Fedora occupies in DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking or any of the distro polls regularly conducted by Linux web sites. However, when a similar survey is carried out by a major hardware manufacturer, it does suddenly matter. A lot. Because Dell is now selling computers and laptops pre-installed with Ubuntu, not Fedora. And if the Lenovo poll continues in the same manner as it has so far, ThinkPads booting into Ubuntu, and not Fedora, might soon be available from the computer stores near you. If that does not make Spevack at least mildly jealous, then I don't know what does.
But is the fact that Ubuntu has the "loudest fanboys" (or let's just say "loudest fans", since the word "fanboy" carries a negative connotation) necessarily a good thing? If each of the major computer manufacturers conducts a Linux distro poll and Ubuntu wins every one of them, will this give us much choice? Sure, we'll be able to choose between Windows and Ubuntu (as opposed to having no choice at all), but wouldn't it be nicer if we could choose between Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE and Mandriva? Since computer manufacturers are naturally reluctant to support several Linux distributions and since it's impossible to stop all the Ubuntu fans from promoting their favourite distro in online polls, what can be done to ensure a greater choice of Linux operating systems?
The first step would be for Spevack (and other distribution project managers) to admit that Ubuntu has done something right. The second would be to recognise that popularity isn't "fanboyism." It's all very nice to say in an interview that "our distribution is the best and that people will eventually notice." The uneasy truth is, however, that people aren't choosing Fedora, Mandriva or openSUSE, they are choosing Ubuntu. And while it's great to see so much enthusiasm for a Linux distro, I feel uneasy about the growing dominance of one sole project, no matter how good, user-friendly or innovative it is.
In the end, it isn't Ubuntu's fault that it tries to be the best. But if the Fedoras, Mandrivas and OpenSUSEs out there don't take action now, they will soon find themselves marginalised and out of contention by both the end users and the hardware manufacturers. And that doesn't sound like a good thing.
Mandriva Linux 2008: will it be offered and supported by a major hardware maker?
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AMD frees ATI drivers, openSUSE and KDE 4, Puppy Linux and StartCom Multimedia updates
Besides Lenovo's unexpected distro poll, one other item drawing the attention of many Linux web sites during the past week was growing speculation about AMD open sourcing its ATI video drivers. While licensing and some other thorny issues have yet to be ironed out, many Linux users and developers were excited by the news. Ubuntu's Jonathan Carter: "This is real big news, considering that, if you ask most Linux enthusiasts what the biggest problems in GNU/Linux distributions are, it normally comes down to the few extra proprietary software that people have to install, which are usually Java, Flash, drivers and binary firmware blobs." Among them, the video card is probably the biggest issue, since it's unreasonable to expect computer users to be satisfied with a very basic driver powering an advanced video card costing hundreds of dollars. Now, the question is: does this mean that the next video card you'll buy will be an ATI, rather than an NVIDIA? As for me, I'd answer this question with a most definite YES!
* * * * *
We reported last week that, due to a delay in the delivery of the upcoming KDE 4.0, Fedora has decided to remove the new version of the popular desktop from the feature list of Fedora 8. In contrast, openSUSE has indicated that it will go ahead with its original plan. Stephan Binner: "The unchanged plan is to install a selection of KDE 4 applications by default on the KDE desktop of openSUSE 10.3 (some games, krfb and krdc), also from the single i586 install CD. The openSUSE 10.3 repository will have the latest possible KDE 4.0 snapshot available. In the KDE:KDE4 Build Service project we will continue to have packages of weekly snapshots and the release. And of course, we will have more KDE Four Live CDs." On a related note, here is a self-explanatory link written to intrigue all openSUSE and 3D desktop fans: Sneak Peek at openSUSE 10.3: Compiz and Compiz Fusion.
* * * * *
Barry Kauler, the founder and lead developer of Puppy Linux, has announced that the next release of Puppy will be version 3.0, rather than 2.20, as indicated earlier: "Puppy 2.20-alpha will be followed by a beta on about the 16th of September. Considering the enormous changes, a completely new 'init' script, just about every package upgraded, even a new kernel, I have decided that the final release will be v3.00." The blog post hints at the possibility of Puppy Linux 3.0 being released shortly before 29 September, depending on how buggy the betas will be at the time. Some of the changes in the first alpha include a new kernel 184.108.40.206, GCC 4.1.2, a completely updated base system, and even some unusual additions, such as the NetSurf web browser. Keep a close eye on the author's blog if you are interested in beta testing the upcoming Puppy Linux 3.0.
* * * * *
Here is an interesting piece of news for all Linux audio software enthusiasts. Eddy Nigg, the developer of StartCom MultiMedia Linux, has announced that the project's upcoming release, version 6.0.6 (based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5), will be released shortly: "In 2004 StartCom released the first add-on CD, which was a complete set of audio production software to be added to the then StartCom Linux version ML-3.0.3. Announced by Desktop Linux with an article titled "Israeli Linux software transforms PCs into music recording studios", this was the first complete Linux-based operating system which offered this capabilities. Since then, both our distributions evolved parallel to the ever advancing audio related software produced for Linux by the various software writers and projects. ... Today we are expecting the newest version ML-6.0.6, which will be already the fourth release of the MultiMedia Edition."
* * * * *
Finally, two community items that aren't quite distro related, but hopefully some of you will find the information useful or interesting. Andrew Cant from Ontario Linux User Group has emailed us to announce an upcoming event - the Ontario Linux Fest, a one-day Linux conference to be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, October 13. While the primary purpose of the conference is to present compelling topics of interest to users of Linux and open source software, it is also a social event designed to network and socialize with like-minded enthusiasts. All interested Linux users are most welcome!
The second item is a link an article at Linux.com written by yours truly and entitled A Linux user group in a Pacific paradise. This is a brief account of my meeting in Nouméa with the founder and several members of the Linux User Group of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific: "What springs to your mind upon hearing the words 'Tahiti' or 'Fiji'? White sandy beaches? Spectacular sunsets? Blue lagoons with colorful marine life? While natural beauty is indeed one of the most attractive aspects of the South Pacific, you might be surprised to learn that on some of these paradise islands there are active Linux user communities and even officially registered Linux user groups (LUG). New Caledonia, which I had the pleasure to visit last month, is one such place." Enjoy!
|Released Last Week
Absolute Linux 12.0.4 and 12.0.5
Paul Sherman has announced the release of Absolute Linux 12.0.4, a light-weight, Slackware-based desktop Linux distribution: "Pardon the rapid-fire release, but the kernel source was misconfigured and the kernel size was too large for older PCs. Also, the source code for ROX was altered for nice interface additions, NTFS read-write was implemented, and K3b now works for user accounts without any extra configuration." Some other interesting items from the changelog: "Updated IceWM, added background color change menu item to 'Settings'; added mime-type to ROX to handle .mp4 audio files (m4a and friends) with Audacious, if not encrypted they will play; updated AbScreen; added nvidia-settings to main menu." See the release announcement and the full changelog for a complete list of changes.
The SystemRescueCd Team has announced the release of SystemRescueCd 0.3.8, a Gentoo-based distribution designed for hard disk partitioning and data rescue operations: "Version 0.3.8 (stable) of the SystemRescueCd project has been released. Changes for version 0.3.8: updated the kernel to Linux 220.127.116.11 with Reiser4; updated ntfs-3g to 1.826; updated PartImage to 0.6.6; updated TestDisk to 6.8; dm-raid 1.0.0-rc14 (device mapper tool); added serial communication tools (minicom 2.2, GTKTerm 0.99.5, C-Kermit 8.0.211); improved the welcome screen (removed images for serial console); updated Oscar (French tool to backup computers)." See the project's changelog for a full list of updates.
Pioneer Explorer 1.1
Technalign has announced the final release of Pioneer Explorer 1.1: "Technalign, Inc. announced today the final release of Pioneer Explorer 1.1. The final release of Pioneer Explorer now provides a functional Ubiquity installer. Pioneer Explorer 1.1 is the community edition of Pioneer and runs as a Live CD allowing users to try before installation. Pioneer Explorer 1.1 includes an expanded Programs folder that allows for individuals to open a simple folder on the desktop, install what they want when they want it easily. The programs folder will continue to be expanded, but currently includes applications most requested by users. The Programs folder includes VM and Innotek virtualization tools, CrossOver Office Standard and Professional, and difficult to install applications. Codecs have also been included." Read the full press release for further details.
Pioneer Explorer 1.1
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Sabayon Linux 3.4f
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon Linux 3.4f, the latest revision of the distribution 3.4 version. From the changelog: "Live boot is now 3 times faster thanks to our improved OpenGL configuration tool; Beagle only runs on-demand; Portage has been updated with performance patches; Entropy stack has been updated to the latest SVN; dependencies resolution code completed; multiple source download support completed; installer updates (Vim is on the Core Install along with groff (man pages issue fixed), better release handling, initial Entropy integration; Bluetooth stack updated; ext4 support improved (new e2fsprogs); ATI video drivers updated to 8.40.4." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Gibraltar Firewall 2.5
Rene Mayrhofer has announced the release of Gibraltar Firewall 2.5, a Debian-based firewall distribution: "It is our pleasure to announce the release of Gibraltar version 2.5. After over a year of intensive evaluation, development, and testing, this is our best release so far. This release introduces major new features: web filtering based on dynamic content inspection in addition to the usual blacklist-based approach; SSL-VPN - an HTTPS portal to Intranet services with the SSL Explorer community edition and some of its extensions; captive portal, e.g. for WLAN hotspots, based on Chillispot; an OpenVPN module in the web administration interface; a unified user management based on OpenLDAP and FreeRADIUS, user authentication for the HTTP proxy, SMTP, IPSec user certificates, IPSec/L2TP, PPTP, OpenVPN, and the captive portal is now done via a single user database." Read the rest of the release announcement for a detailed explanation about new features.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- Damn Small Linux 4.0-rc3, the changelog
- Frugalware 0.7-rc1 "MacBook", the release announcement
- NetBSD 4.0-rc1, the release announcement
- MEPIS antiX 7.0-beta2, the release announcement
- Mandriva Linux 2008-rc1, the release announcement
- Linux Mint 3.1-beta, the release notes
- openSUSE 10.3-beta3, the release announcement
- ClarkConnect Gateway/Server 4.2-beta1, the release notes
- FreeNAS 0.685-rc1, the release notes
- Shift Linux 0.5-rc2, the release notes
- Kaella 3.2-rc1
- ADIOS Linux 7.6
- ParallelKnoppix 2.7.1
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The OpenBSD project has announced that its upcoming release, version 4.2 scheduled for November 1st, 2007, is now available for pre-order. What can we expect from the new version? "New or extended platforms (sparc64, hppa, alpha); improved hardware support, including native Serial ATA support, pciide driver, lm driver...; new tools (cwm has replaced wm2 as a simple-looking low-resource window manager, zless, mount_vnd - a utility to configure vnode disks from fstab); new functionality (FFS2, the updated version of the fast file system, pkg_add has been vastly improved, ftp-proxy is now able to automatically tag packets passing through the pf rule with a supplied name, the i386 boot loader can now load amd64 kernels...)" Please see the newly created OpenBSD 4.2 page for a detailed list of new features. The official OpenBSD 4.2 CD images can be ordered through the project's online ordering system (US$50.00).
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- Kiwi Linux. Kiwi Linux is a modified Ubuntu live CD for the i386 architecture. It includes Romanian and Hungarian localisations, multimedia codecs, encrypted DVD support, Flash and Java plugins for Firefox, PPPoE GUI for accessing local Internet services (Clicknet and RDS) and write support for NTFS partitions.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- FaunOS. FaunOS is an Arch Linux-based live DVD/USB (with a hard disk installer) optimised for the i686 architectures and containing over 570 pre-installed packages.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 17 September 2007.
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