| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 232, 10 December 2007
Welcome to this year's 50th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! One of the indications of Ubuntu's popularity is the number of derivatives based on Canonical's operating system, available for every taste and purpose. Last week, two such distributions were added to the DistroWatch database - Mythbuntu, a project delivering MythTV in an easy-to-setup package, and Geubuntu, an eye-catching distro featuring the latest Enlightenment window manager. Read our exclusive review of the latter. Also in this edition: openSUSE kickstarts the development of version 11.0 with the first alpha release, a link to article discussing the importance of "libre" distributions, information about a free online RHCE study guide, and some observations about the new ASUS Eee PC. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
First look at Geubuntu 7.10 (by Susan Linton)
Geubuntu 7.10 was released last Thursday and a couple of people asked me to take a look at it. As the distribution's logo hints, it's an Ubuntu derivative that uses Enlightenment E17 for the desktop environment. This release was the first I had heard of this distribution, but it turns out they had a release to coincide with Ubuntu 7.04 as well. At that time it shipped with two different themes on separate media, but this release they were combined into one - giving the user a chance to try them both without having to download two CD images. So, there's our first improvement already.
That's probably the only improvement I'll be able to report as I didn't test the first release. However, this release speaks for itself on its own. I tested Geubuntu 7.10 on my trusty HP Pavilion laptop and found a lot of nice things to like.
The first thing that might be counted as an improvement over Ubuntu is the performance increase. More so when installed but even when run as a live CD, Geubuntu is much faster than Ubuntu. It boots faster, applications open quicker, and behind the scene tasks seem to complete more briskly. I imagine most of the credit is due to using Enlightenment as the desktop. Enlightenment has a solid reputation as a lighter desktop with much better performance when compared to its KDE and GNOME counterparts, while still providing some eye-pleasing special effects.
Look and Feel
Geubuntu is an installable live CD. For me, it booted into my machine's optimal resolution of 1280x800 pixels for the NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 graphics card and the 15.4" WXGA wide screen display. The bright and cheery Sunshine theme is the default, characterized by a Serengeti background and Enlightenment's golden highlights. The panels at the top and bottom are small and unintrusive despite containing lots of functionality. Every minute or so, a sunbeam shines down from the Sun for an interesting effect.
Changing between the two main themes is as easy as clicking their entries in the System Preference menu in the upper panel. The alternative theme is called Moonlight and is comprised of colors of blue and a night sky wallpaper. It too has an intermittent effect. A purplish-blue Enlightenment logo appears on the large Moon and reflects in the rippling water of the wallpaper every minute or so. I'd almost prefer this look if all the elements changed, but many buttons and menus retained the golden aspects of Enlightenment's Bling Bling theme. The pseudo-transparent GNOME terminal retains the Serengeti background under Moonlight too. The usual Ubuntu themes are included as well, so changing to one improves things. There is a GDM theme to match too.
The shelf at the bottom of the screen contains the main menu start button, the scrolling application launcher, desktop switcher, taskbar, and applets. On my desktop, the applets include a battery monitor, CPU speed monitor, temperature gauge, clock, and a volume applet. The retracting Xfce panel above contains preference menus, some system tools, the Ubuntu Help browser, Orage Calendar, and system tray. The system tray holds the network applet, update manager applet, and redundant battery monitor.
Geubuntu 7.10 with the Thunar file manager
(full image size: 1,088kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Applications and Tools
In the menu one finds application links, system tools, and Enlightenment configurations and options. Some of the more popular applications can be launched from the Favorite Applications submenu. They include Firefox, Pidgin, Eclair, VLC, Thunar, Synaptic, and The GIMP. These applications and others can also be found under the Applications submenu.
Under the Accessories heading we find Bulk Rename, estickies, Terminal, Thunar, and Tracker Search Tool. Under Games, Blackjack, Gnometris, Mahjongg, Mines, Same GNOME, Sudoku, and Chess are among the entries. The Graphic applications are Exhibit (image viewer), GIMP, gThumb Image Viewer, and xSane Image Scanner. Firefox 2.0.11, Thunderbird, Pidgin, and Pinot Metasearch Tool round out the Internet heading. The Sound and Video applications include Brasero Disk Burning Application, SoundJuicer CD Extractor, and VLC media player. AbiWord, Gnumeric, and OpenOffice.org Writer are the Office applications.
Besides the Enlightenment configurations to customize shelves, enable/disable or customize modules, select language, file manager behavior, and customize the appearance, Geubuntu retains lots of the Ubuntu tools upon which many users have come to rely.
First and foremost is the same hard drive installer. It is a user-friendly configuration wizard that walks the user through the steps to achieve a permanent installation. The first steps are choosing language, keyboard layout, and time zone. The hardest part is partitioning. There is also an import settings from other systems step, although I've never experienced too much success with it. Then one sets up their user account and bootloader options. I set mine up to install the bootloader on the install partition, but it wouldn't chainload. I ended up having to edit my main GRUB menu to point to the boot files. Other than that, and not having any settings imported, the rest of the install completed without issue.
The second most important tool is probably Synaptic. As with Ubuntu, Synaptic is the package management application and it comes ready-to-use with Ubuntu repositories defined. The Package Sources tool is also included in case you wanted to enable third party repositories, designate which regional mirrors to use, or other customizations.
Timely software and system updates are a major concern for users, so the Update Manager is included as well. While updates are available, a reminder applet appears in the upper panel. Click on it to open the Update Manager and choose which updates to apply. At the time of my testing 93 updates were available. I allowed all updates to complete and suffered no breakage that I could find.
Desktop multimedia support was acceptable through the VLC media player. It did play any of the formats I had on hand, but no sound was heard when playing .bin files. Bins are commonly used to encode videos for burning onto CD or DVD. Many players will play them directly, some won't. I had no trouble with .avis, mpegs, or mp3/4s. On the web, I had no trouble with Google or YouTube video within Firefox after Flash was installed. No other codec or plugins were available to it, so there was no support for other formats such as Apple.com movie trailers.
Compiz-fusion is included with Geubuntu, although it could not be enabled even with the NVIDIA proprietary 3D graphic drivers installed.
Hardware support was fairly good with Geubuntu. At first boot, my display, touchpad, extra mouse, sound, and wired Ethernet was automagically configured. CPU Scaling was enabled by default. Suspend and hibernate worked once I installed the NVIDIA proprietary graphic drivers. I used the Restricted Drivers tool to install the NVIDIA graphic drivers and all went well with that, although some of the GL screensavers still seem to run a bit slow.
I always test the Restricted Drivers installation of the firmware for my Broadcom wireless Ethernet on Ubuntu and derivatives, and have had no luck with it at all. It never works for me. So, imagine my surprise when it actually did work this time, even with WPA. Yippee!
Removable media is handled nicely in Geubuntu. Insert some media and an icon appears on the desktop. Click the icon and the top directory opens. Right click the media icon and there is no "umount device" or "safely remove." Instead, it automagically unmounts the volume when you close the window. The only glitch in this method I've found is that if you save to media using another application, such as OpenOffice.org Writer or The GIMP, it will not automagically umount, even after closing the application. In those cases, I still had to umount at the command line.
For Enlightenment and Ubuntu fans this distro is custom made for you. It takes the best of Ubuntu and combines it with a great desktop environment. If Ubuntu or Kubuntu is a bit too heavy for your equipment, then Geubuntu just might be what you need. It might also be an idea for those who find Elive a bit overwhelming, or those who like to be a bit different from the rest of the crowd.
I did experience a few application glitches. Firefox froze up on me a couple of times over my testing period. The volume control/audio mixer applet freezes the desktop more times than not. Fortunately, a pop-up appears offering to either restart Enlightenment or exit - allowing me to continue on without major interruption. The GNOME terminal hangs when accessing its preferences module. I experienced one total desktop lockup that did respond to the alt+sysRq dance. Every exit is delayed for several seconds until a pop-up appears stating that some application is not closing and giving me the choice to wait or exit anyway. This occurs when I have no applications open at all, so something auto-started and running in the background or within the desktop is hanging. Not really important, but the silent boot splash does not work for me either. It didn't work on the live CD nor the hard drive install.
All in all, it's a noble second effort. Geubuntu 7.10 not flawless, but it is basically stable and offers great performance. In using it daily, it may occasionally cause the minor annoyance with some of the glitches I found or possibly some others I didn't. They were minor. I didn't find myself becoming frustrated or discouraged, most were easily and quickly recoverable.
I'd like to see more browser plugins included for convenience, perhaps substitute MPlayer for VLC and include its plugins package. I'm not sure why it would have AbiWord and OpenOffice.org Writer. I'd prefer to forego AbiWord for another OpenOffice.org app such as Impress if there's room. And if they are going to do that, they might as well substitute OpenOffice.org Calc for Gnumeric. I'd also like a more complete Moonlight theme next release.
In the end, I liked Geubuntu. I hope its developers keep up their hard work and I look forward to testing the next release.
First alpha of openSUSE 11.0, the importance of free distributions, RHCE study guide, ASUS Eee PC
Following Ubuntu's first alpha release earlier this month, it was openSUSE's turn last week to kickstart its own development process. Like the early build of "Hardy Heron", openSUSE's Alpha0 is little more than a snapshot of the current development tree and it contains few new features other than the more up-to-date package tree. The most important among them is, of course, X.Org 7.3, whose integration into previous release rounds was postponed by all major distributions, but which is now slowly appearing in most development trees. There is also a new kernel (2.6.24-rc4), as well as the optional KDE 4.0 RC1 packages, but no word about the possible integration of PulseAudio into the system. What we do know for sure, however, is that the next version of openSUSE will be numbered 11.0. And when will it arrive? According to the openSUSE roadmap, the developers expect their work to culminate at some point between May and July 2008.
* * * * *
The issue of proprietary graphics drivers, patent-encumbered media codecs and binary-only software is always a hot topic on many Linux forums. Although these proprietary bits do make our Linux computers more useful and practical in the world dominated by Windows, by installing and using them we sacrifice the software freedom as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). What can be done about this? One option is to choose one of the 100% "libre" distributions available on the market: "Distributions like BLAG, dyne:bolic, gNewSense, Ututo and the rest help demonstrate that there really isn't much left for the Free Software community to conquer. I think if gNewSense and the other distros were to offer working implementations of Gnash, OpenWengo, Hiitch and a few other cool tools, most people would quickly discover they have little or no need beyond games to use non-Free software. Furthermore, other distributions might begin to follow suit, offering less and less non-Free software."
* * * * *
Preparing for a Red Hat Certified Engineer examination doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Instead of taking an official, but expensive training course, why not follow an online tutorial or learn from study guides? Although these will not guarantee success in the final examination, they are an excellent way to prepare for the RHCE exam without having to break a bank: "I was unable to find a good RHCE exam preparation guide, so I wrote my own. ... It is very important to study the official objectives for any exam, as that is the only way to know what to expect. This is not meant to replace official training courses and manuals, but is meant to help students quickly review, so they can determine where focus their efforts and study in more detail." The 17-page guide is available for download here (PDF format).
* * * * *
Online Linux media have been abuzz with the new ASUS Eee PC, a low-cost mini-laptop powered by Linux. Although the hardware stores here in Taipei have been actively promoting the new product for several weeks, it was only last weekend that I had a chance to witness its real impact on the market. While attending the annual consumer electronics show at the World Trade Center, I was surprised to see a sizeable stand devoted to the Eee PC. The show, which is not so much an exhibition as a major sales event, was well-attended and it was very hard to get to any of dozens of Eee PCs on display. The stand also featured the new, 8 GB Eee PC, while the older 4 GB ones came bundled with an external 120 GB hard drive, as well as several other accessories at no extra cost. The laptop appeared to be selling like hot cakes - while I was there, the sales personnel announced that they had one last 8 GB laptop left in stock!
The only downside was that none of the salesmen attending the stand was able to tell me which Linux distribution was installed on the system. (One of them even asked -- with a sceptical frown on his face -- whether I was sure that there exist more than one version of Linux!) I resisted the temptation to buy an Eee PC on impulse, but promised myself to do a more thorough research on it at some stage. It looks like we might be hearing a lot more about these low-cost laptops in the future!
|Released Last Week
SystemRescueCd, a Gentoo-based live CD with hard disk partitioning and data rescue utilities, has been updated to version 0.4.2. What's new? "Updated the kernel to Linux 22.214.171.124 with Reiser4; updated the alternative kernel to Linux 126.96.36.199 with Reiser4; updated NTFS-3G to 1.1120; introduced support for smbfs (Samba) again; disabled Unicode by default in the console; added MadWiFi; added extra ntfsprogs tools; added boot options - 'rootpass=xxx' sets the root password to xxx at start-up, 'ethx=ipaddress' sets the IP of all the Ethernet interfaces; 'gateway=ipaddress' sets the default route; 'dns=ipaddress' sets the dns name server (useful for PXE); solved problems with accented characters in zsh...." Read the rest of the changelog for more details.
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.18
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.18 has been released: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.18. This release includes many updated packages and bug fixes, some feature enhancements to Guardian Digital WebTool and the SELinux policy, and a few new features. What's New? The Guardian Digital Health Center - this new WebTool module allows you to monitor system temperature, fans, and hard drive S.M.A.R.T. data so you can proactively notice hardware failures; two new tools - fwknop and psad; a new stress testing suite, contained in the new stress-kernel package; several new packages; the latest stable versions of MySQL, Asterisk, Dovecot, Linux kernel, Openswan, Samba...." See the release notes for a more detailed list of changes.
Astaro Security Gateway 7.1
Astaro has announced the release of Astaro Security Gateway 7.1, a specialist, security-enhanced firewall and gateway distribution: "Astaro is pleased to announce that Astaro Security Gateway 7.1 GA is available now. Version 7.1 integrates exciting new web security features like Active Directory SSO native mode, improved performance, lower resource usage (without Squid now), intelligent caching, re-added black and white list and audio/video streaming support. On top of that we now support interface-based packet filter rules, offer a detailed network accounting report and much more. Furthermore you will experience convenience changes and performance improvements." Read the rest of the release announcement and release notes (PDF format) for further information.
Holger Levsen has announced the availability of a maintenance release of Skolelinux 3.0, a Debian-based distribution tailored to schools and universities: "The Debian Edu / Skolelinux project is proud to announce the 3.0r1 maintenance release. It includes more than 40 bug fixes and security updates that came to our attention after the 3.0r0 release. The most notable change is the much improved documentation, especially the Getting Started and Maintenance chapters are much more complete and cover everything which needs to be done to get started. The translations into German, Norwegian Bokmal and Italian (new) have been updated. Both HTML and PDF versions now include images, some localized, and provide internal document links. Important bugs have been fixed in the LDAP web-based Administration Tool. A load-balancing feature is included in the thin client system." Read the rest of the release announcement for a detailed list of changes.
Geubuntu is an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution that combines the power of GNOME and the beauty of Enlightenment into an eye-catching and efficient desktop. Version 7.10, code name "Luna Nuova", was released today: "Geubuntu 7.10 'Luna Nuova' has been released. There has been a huge amount of restyling and improvements since 'Prima Luna'. Many suggestions by users in the forums have been implemented: you can now switch from Sunshine to Moonlight edition instantly from the live CD or an installed system, with a single click! That's why there's no need for two ISO files any more. Geubuntu is now also faster, since it uses Thunar instead of Nautilus and Xfce panel instead of GNOME panel. You can also upgrade any previous Geubuntu Prima Luna installation from packages." Here is the full release announcement.
Geubuntu 7.10 - the "Moonlight" theme
(full image size: 683kB, screen resolution: 1280x1042 pixels)
Berry Linux 0.87
Yuichiro Nakada has announced the release of Berry Linux 0.87, a desktop-oriented live CD based on the Fedora distribution. This is the project's first version built from the recently released Fedora 8. Some of the changes include: powered by Linux kernel 2.6.23 with Fuse 2.7.0, SSH file system and glibc 2.7; read and write support for NTFS partitions with NTFS-3G; removed ATI proprietary driver; upgraded to AIGLX with X.Org 7.2 and CompizFusion 0.6.99; up-to-date KDE applications, including KDE 3.5.8, Kaffeine 0.8.3, Digikam 0.9.2, KPDF 0.5.8; the GIMP image manipulation program 2.4.2; Samba upgraded to version 3.0.27a, WINE to version 0.9.49; removed SIM. Read the complete changelog for further information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- VectorLinux 5.9-rc3, the release announcement
- Frugalware Linux 0.8-pre1, the release notes
- Trinity Rescue Kit 3.3-build304, 3.3-build306, the release announcement
- SimplyMEPIS 7.0-rc2, the release announcement
- FreeBSD 7.0-BETA4, the release announcement
- openSUSE 11.0-alpha0, the release announcement
- Big Linux 4.0-beta3, the release announcement (in Portuguese)
- NetBSD 4.0-rc5, the release announcement
- Vine Linux 4.2-rc1, the release notes (in Japanese)
- Freespire 2.0.8
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Mandriva Linux 2008.1
Adam Williamson has published a tentative release schedule and technical specification list of Mandriva Linux 2008.1: "The first major milestone of 2008 Spring development arrived today: the 2008 Spring area of the Wiki was created. More interestingly, the development page - including the tentative release schedule - was added. You will also find the general and detailed technical specifications pages, listing the planned features for this release. Highlights include PulseAudio, a switch to the fork of RPM that SUSE and Fedora are using, a parental control tool, mail import support for the Windows migration tool introduced in 2008, and automatic repository configuration via GeoIP." The first alpha of Mandriva Linux 2008.1 is scheduled for this Thursday (13 December), while the final release is expected on 2 April 2008.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- EasyLFS. EasyLFS is a distribution based on Linux From Scratch (LFS), but it also includes additional features and packages, such as DHCP, OpenSSH, support for Bluetooth and WLAN, and SELinux. Installation is done by editing a configuration script and then running an install script. EasyLFS can be installed on RAID, LVM or an encrypted root partition through usage of initramfs in the kernel. EasyLFS is targeted at users who enjoy using LFS, but have already done it a couple of times and don't want to go through all the typing again just to reinstall the system.
- NuTyX. NuTyX is an i686-optimised, French Linux distribution created from Linux From Scratch and Beyond Linux From Scratch, with a package manager borrowed from CRUX. Besides the tiny base system, the project produces a desktop edition (with KDE) and multimedia edition. The project web site is in French.
- UbuntuiES. UbuntuiES is a Ubuntu-based Spanish live GNU/Linux distribution, optimised to run on a USB pen drives. It incorporates an exclusive pen drive installer that facilitates the creation of new copies from the system and optimises the partition table in order to provide maximum space for personal data.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 17 December 2007.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 635 (2015-11-09): Fedora 23, Cinnamon 2.8 released, a Fedora KDE packager quits, Red Hat signs deal with Microsoft|
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|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
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|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
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