| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 245, 24 March 2008
Welcome to this year's 12th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Debian-related happenings form the dominant topic of this issue. The feature story is an interview with Chris Hildebrandt, one of the main developers of the increasingly popular sidux distribution. How do the developers of this project test and stabilise Debian's unstable branch? And who is behind the seductive artwork and theme that graces its fast and cutting-edge desktop? Read below for answers. In the meantime, the Debian Installer team releases the first beta for Lenny, while Ubuntu unveils its own beta of the upcoming "Hardy Heron" Long-Term Support (LTS) release. But it isn't all about Debian. In the news section, Novell hints at an upcoming release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, the Fedora board votes to remove pointers to the Fluendo codecs, the PCLinuxOS community releases a GNOME edition, and NetBSD celebrates its 15th birthday. Finally, don't miss the new distribution section where you'll find SliTaz GNU/Linux - at just 25 MB, it has to be the smallest desktop live CD ever created! All this and more in this week's DistroWatch Weekly. Happy reading!
- Interviews: Chris Hildebrandt, the sidux project
- News: Hardy Heron reaches beta, Debian releases Lenny installer, Fedora removes Fluendo codecs, Novell announces SLE 11, 15 years of NetBSD
- Released last week: Slax 6.0.3, MirOS BSD #10
- Upcoming releases: Fedora 9 Beta, Dreamlinux 3.0
- Site news: Mining DistroWatch.com logs, part 2
- New addition: TEENpup Linux
- New distributions: Calculate Linux, Physics-Live CD, SliTaz GNU/Linux
- Reader comments
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Interview with Chris Hildebrandt, the sidux project
The sidux project has emerged as one of the star distributions of this year. With its methodical approach to stabilising Debian's unstable branch and turning it into a pleasant and fast desktop system, many users are discovering the pleasure of running a cutting edge development branch of a major distribution without the most of the risks associated with using such a fast-changing system. DistroWatch emailed Chris Hildebrandt, one of the project's founders, to ask about the secrets of sidux. Chris was kind enough to reply on behalf of the entire development team, stressing that the project did not have a leader, only a team consisting of equal community members: "The sidux project does not have and does not need leaders; actually one important motivation to start the project was to prove that a serious open source project can be run in true team work and co-operation of equal community members. While I never was a serious coder, I happened to be one of the initial founders and architects of sidux. I speak here on behalf of the team (and after discussing your questions with them), but actually I am just a (minor important) member of this wonderful group of people who are creating sidux."
* * * * *
DW: Chris, thank you very much for your time. First, could you please introduce yourself? How old are you? Where do you live? What do you for living?
CH: Born 46 years ago in Vienna, Austria, I have lived and worked in Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Russia and the US. Since 8 years I'm back in Vienna working as a management consultant. I am happily married and have 3 children. Besides family and work, I spend most of my free time working with several open source projects. Most of my other hobbies have vanished over the years because of that.
DW: How long have you been using Linux? Which distributions have you used?
CH: One of the businesses I am involved in is server hosting and web development, and several different Linux distributions have always been used to run and administer those servers. Because I love to play with operating systems since 30 years, I have virtually tested and used almost every distro out there. However, the Linux desktop is something I discovered just 5 years ago. After trying some of the well-known distros, I was very quickly attracted by the beauty of Debian and Debian-based systems. After using KNOPPIX and SimplyMEPIS for a short time, I found my home in KANOTIX where I also got involved with the project. Since sidux started, I run it exclusively on all machines I get my hands on. I still look at other distributions from time to time, but mostly just to check what they do and how they do it.
DW: If I remember correctly, sidux started as a fork of KANOTIX after the development of KANOTIX slowed down and after it changed its base system from Debian sid to Debian stable. But how exactly did you arrive at the point of no return? Did you try to resolve your differences with Jörg Schirottke (the KANOTIX founder) or did you simply conclude that parting ways was the best method to solve the differences of opinion?
When sidux celebrated its 1st anniversary I took the opportunity to write about the reasons and motivations behind this split
. Also, several other initial sidux team members wrote about their personal points of view. In short, we all spent months trying to resolve the differences, but unfortunately without success. There was never a fork, but a fresh start with people who already knew each other and who had the desire to continue the good cooperation.
DW: Let's talk about sidux, the distribution. It's derived from Debian's unstable branch, which can be somewhat rough at times. How do you go about stabilising the system? Do you have any special testing procedures?
CH: Yes, the miracle of turning unstable into a stable and reliable operating system for every-day usage relies on a lot on testing and fixing. Our testing team consists of more than 50 people who try to break sidux every day, in order to make it stable for our users out there. Everyone who loves to test is invited to join our forums and the IRC, and to help us with this enormous task. Fixing is done in various ways, preferably by filing proper bug reports to the responsible Debian maintainers or sending patches directly to the authors of the related packages. Additionally, the core development team often provides temporary fixes via our own sidux repository until corrected packages drop in from upstream Debian. This helps ensure that the breakages sid is famous for, actually do not hit the "dist-upgrade" path for most sidux users.
DW: What about the kernel? I know that sidux provides its own kernel, but how exactly does it differ from Debian's stock kernel? Does it come with any interesting patches?
CH: The sidux kernels are the work of Stefan Lippers-Hollmann (slh), who is one of our most important and knowledgeable developers. With every new vanilla kernel he is balancing important configuration tweaks and a bulk load of additional patches, together with important driver modules. This is part of the secret why sidux detects more hardware out of the box with every new kernel. The entire development team is always busy analyzing test reports from the community and finding additional drivers we might possibly implement. We also carefully watch the development of driver projects and jump in wherever it is technically and legally possible.
DW: Does sidux include any code from KNOPPIX or KANOTIX? Maybe the KNOPPIX hardware detection modules? Or some KANOTIX kernel patches?
In order to follow our very strict coding principles and to preserve 100% Debian compatibility (but also to avoid possible legal problems) we strictly develop and use our own code. We have never been a fork. All sidux tools and packages have been developed by our team. As a true open source project, all sidux code is publicly available. We provide full sources with every release and our SVN repositories
are open to the public.
DW: The sidux distribution falls into the category of installable live CDs. Who created the graphical installer?
CH: As with all sidux tools, there are the base low-level scripts providing the functionality, and the GUI applications on top of them. The installer scripts have been created and optimized by the entire development team, while the installer GUI is mostly the work of Horst Tritremmel (hjt).
DW: The sources.list file on sidux includes two repositories - Debian sid and sidux sid, both of which are enabled by default. What are the differences between the two? Is it safe to add the unpredictable Debian unstable repositories? Can I continuously update my sidux installation and still expect a reasonably smooth ride? What is your recommendation for those who install sidux and wish to keep it up-to-date?
CH: Debian sid is our main pool of packages, we are using the entire Debian repository as our base, which contains more than 20,000 packages at the moment. The sidux repositories are supplementing it with our own applications and scripts, together with temporary fixes. We do everything to provide a "rolling release," meaning that our releases are snapshot entry points into sidux and Debian sid, which can and should be "dist-upgraded" on a regular basis. The ride is smooth because this is what all our manpower goes into: making Debian unstable a stable and reliable operating system.
I recommend weekly "dist-upgrades", however one should always consult our web site before doing so. We additionally provide scripts and tools to make this task as easy as possible for everyone. Harald Hope's (h2) smxi script is one of them, Fabian Wuertz's (xadras) Hermes and sidux Control Center another one.
DW: My first visual impressions of sidux when I booted the early versions weren't particularly good. But two years later, it looks (subjective as I may be) exceedingly pretty, especially with the new light colours, desktop theme and wallpaper. Who is responsible for this work?
CH: We are very pleased to have such talented people working in our art team. The last theme for Eros was the work of Bernard Gray (cleary), the design for our fresh Nyx release was done by him together with Daniel Prien (Daniel-S-P) and klaymen, together with the entire art team.
Seductive artwork is one of the interesting features of sidux 2008-01.
(full image size: 590kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
DW: How many other developers work on sidux?
CH: There are 13 developers in the core development team at the moment, and I estimate another 10 - 20 people who have contributed scripts, patches and other stuff. Kel Modderman (kelmo) and Joaquim Boura (x-un-i) together with slh and hjt are the most active developers today.
However, sidux is a community project and while fine code is important, a lot of non-coding work is vital and done by an ever growing amount of people joining us. Our wonderful manual is written and translated by the documentation team, held together by Trevor Walkley (bluewater) with more than 30 people doing this complicated and demanding work. I have already mentioned the art team, which ensures that sidux looks great even for your critical eyes ;-). There is our support team (over 20 people strong) with Ferdi Thommes (devil) in front, who also serves in multiple other teams and the e.V. (he seems to be virtually everywhere), answering questions and helping people day and night in the forums and the IRC. And there are the fine people from the sidux e.V. (55 members at the moment), who take care of our finances, the shop, our marketing activities and presenting sidux to the world.
There are also several people focusing on communication and community issues, and there are a handful of people managing our servers and mirrors (specially Aedan Kelly [etorix]).
DW: What are your plans for the future? Will sidux always follow Debian sid or do you have any interesting surprises for us?
CH: Yes, it is safe to say that sidux will always be Debian sid-based. We actually consider sidux being Debian sid plus spices. ;-)
Every new release comes with new features and tools. There is improved support for alternative desktop managers in the pipe, I have seen an Eee PC installer, improved USB-install support, additional wireless hardware support, and there is definitely more to come. This leads to an important request: the more hardware we can examine and test, the more hardware sidux can support. We would love to work more closely together with hardware manufacturers, who would provide us with test hardware, and where we can give back decent hardware support which later on will drop into all Linux distributions.
We might see our mastering scripts being wrapped with a GUI and documented, making dirty re-mastering history and enabling all users to build a proper master adapted to their needs. But this is definitely future.
As we love to surprise our users in a positive way; simply grab any fresh release and enjoy the surprises!
DW: Chris, thank you very much for your time and good luck with your project!
CH: Thanks, but it's far from being "my" project. I am, however, a proud member of the great sidux community.
Hardy Heron reaches beta, Debian releases Lenny installer, Fedora removes Fluendo codecs, Novell announces SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, 15 years of NetBSD
With the beta release of "Hardy Heron" last week, Ubuntu has finally regained its top spot in DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking statistics for the default six-month view. This beta is looking pretty good; although there are few breathtaking features, it feels reasonably stable and the remaining month is not expected to result in any new additions, other than bug squashing and minor polishing. It seems the focus of this release was on adding enterprise and server features, rather than new conveniences for the desktop users. After all, the server edition of "Hardy Heron" will be supported with security and bug-fix updates until April 2014, so it's only natural that much of the work should go into preparing the release for long-term, trouble-free operation as a file or web server. Other than that, Ubuntu 8.04 should be a worthy upgrade for all current Ubuntu users. Will it be good enough to convince businesses and enterprises that it is time switch to Linux on their desktops? For this we'll have to wait and see..."
Ubuntu 8.04 comes with updated applications and artwork, but no major new desktop features
(full image size: 452kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Otavio Salvador has announced the first beta of the Debian Installer for Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 "Lenny": "The Debian Installer team is pleased to announce the first beta of Debian Lenny's Installer. This is the first release since Etch and the whole team has been hard at work during the past 11 months to make this release full of new features and bug fixes. Main improvements: support for loading additional CDs or DVDs from a set has been added again; the installer will now attempt to synchronize the system clock using the Network Time Protocol (NTP) when a network connection has been configured; the installer now supports adding the 'volatile.debian.org' repository when adding additional APT sources; it is now possible to start the installer directly from Microsoft Windows without the need to change BIOS settings; includes experimental support for installing Debian on systems with Serial ATA RAID...." For more information please read the release announcement. Quick download (MD5) links to the "netinst" CD images for the i386 and amd64 architectures: debian-testing-i386-netinst.iso (143MB), debian-testing-amd64-netinst.iso (125MB).
* * * * *
The beta release of Fedora 9, originally scheduled for Thursday last week, was delayed by a few days and is now expected tomorrow (Tuesday, 25th March; it's already available from some Fedora mirrors). As reported by LWN.net, one controversial change since Fedora 8 is the removal of pointers to the non-free Fluendo codecs: "The Fedora project board met on March 11 and decided to remove the pointers to the 'non-free' Fluendo codecs from Codeina (aka CodecBuddy) for Fedora 9. This is a big change from the Fedora 8 behavior. The only Fluendo codec that will still be referenced from Codeina is the free MP3 codec, which may have patent problems in some jurisdictions. As might be guessed, there are folks on both sides of this contentious issue. Some think it runs counter to the ideals of Fedora, while others lament the treatment of Fluendo."
In other Fedora news, the final round of artwork candidates for Fedora 9 (code name "Sulphur") is now available for our viewing pleasure.
* * * * *
Last week some of the enterprise-oriented computing web sites published articles about the upcoming release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, Novell's flagship product designed for large-scale, mission-critical server and desktop deployments. ITWire reports: "With the announcement of SUSE version 11 Novell is making it very clear that, as far as they are concerned, the future of the enterprise is Linux. The press release from BrainShare (currently in session in Salt Lake City) shows that Novell is clearly focussing on the enterprise, highlighting mission-critical data centre technologies, UNIX migration, virtualization, interoperability, green IT (through enhanced support for power reduction technologies) and desktop Linux innovation as the core improvements in v11. Novell always understood the core IT needs of the enterprise, seems they are yet again setting their sights on the desktop."
* * * * *
Another week, another community edition of PCLinuxOS. This time, it's PCLOS GNOME 2008, which was officially released over the weekend: "I am pleased and excited to announce the release of PCLinuxOS GNOME 2008. Totally new and redesigned! Increased speed, great looks and out-of-the-box usability has been our main concern with this release! Featuring kernel 126.96.36.199, GNOME 2.21.2, Mozilla Firefox 188.8.131.52, Mozilla Thunderbird 184.108.40.206, GNOME office applications, GnomeDo, Me Tv, Serpentine, Brasero, GNOME Power Manager, Banshee Music Player and many more! Almost 2 GB of software compressed on a single bootable live CD that can be installed to a hard drive. Over 7000+ additional packages available after hard drive install through the Synaptic software manager." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details. Download: pclos-gnome2008.iso (666MB, MD5, torrent).
PCLOS GNOME - a PCLinuxOS variant featuring a customised GNOME desktop
(full image size: 266kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Finally, the NetBSD project celebrated 15 years of existence last week: "This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the beginning of development of the NetBSD operating system, one of the oldest actively maintained, freely-available operating systems. NetBSD runs on everything from embedded systems to desktop workstations, from handhelds to big-iron servers, and is developed by the NetBSD Project - one of the first open source projects." According to the announcement, the project made its first code commits on 21st March 1993: "The first commits were made to the NetBSD source code repository on March 21, 1993, and the first release of the NetBSD operating system, NetBSD 0.8, was announced on USENET shortly thereafter. Throughout the past fifteen years, NetBSD has increased the portability and security of the 4.4BSD operating system on which NetBSD was based, and added support for new processor and system families, while enhancing the system's performance to such an extent that NetBSD has become known as the most portable operating system in the world." So congratulations, NetBSD, and many happy returns!
|Released Last Week
MirOS BSD #10
Thorsten Glaser has announced the release of MirOS BSD #10, an OpenBSD-based secure operating system for i386 and SPARC architectures: "The MirOS Project proudly presents release #10 of MirOS BSD." A quick overview of features: "Released simultaneously on both supported architectures; support both for multi-byte and wide-character strings including conversion functions; the MirOS Korn Shell, mksh, now at release R33; pkgsrc from NetBSD can be installed and used in parallel as a complement to MirPorts; bugs in all parts of the system have been fixed; OpenBSD and Linux binaries can be run at native speed using the kernel binary emulation; security upgrades will be released both in source and binary form." Read the complete release announcement for further details.
Tomáš Matějíček has announced the release of Slax 6.0.3: "Slax 6.0.3 has been released. Among all the updates described in the changelog, it features a bug-fix for Squashfs LZMA kernel driver. What's new? Added kernel 220.127.116.11 with kernel headers, stripped sources and modules all using the same version, to prevent any possible mismatch; silenced several boot-up messages; added wpa_suplicant; updated to Slackware Current which adds new firmware; fixed a bug in sqlzma, which may cause data read errors; the 'sgnfile' boot parameter wasn't working, it's fixed now; make_iso.sh now works even if called from a different directory; fixed loading of modules from subdirectories while using copy2ram; the 'nocd' boot parameter has different meaning now, it will cause CD-ROM to be skipped, but made visible later on." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- Ulteo Application System Beta1, the release announcement
- Mandriva Linux 2008.1-rc2, the release announcement
- openSUSE 11.0-alpha3, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Mythbuntu 8.04-beta, the release announcement
- PUD GNU/Linux 0.4.8.5, the release announcement
- DesktopBSD 1.7-snapshot, the release announcement
- NimbleX 2008-rc, the release announcement
- SchilliX 0.6.5
- Famelix GNU/Linux 2.1-alpha1 (E17)
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Mining DistroWatch.com logs, part 2|
Loïc Cerf and a group of researches from the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Lyon, France, continued examining the DistroWatch page hit statistics in the second part of the article entitled Mining DistroWatch.com Logs: "The fact that the same countries appear in all the communities reveals a more general phenomenon. Western European and Australian visitors of DistroWatch.com prefer to track the evolution of identified communities of distributions, whereas visitors from other countries (in particular American ones) are prone to click more or less randomly in order to discover new flavors of GNU/Linux. Hence, the former create nice constant patterns Data-Peeler can filter, while the latter follow a behavior that cannot be set apart from noise."
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 31 March 2008.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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