| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 366, 9 August 2010
Welcome to this year's 32nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Our themes for this week are Debian and communication. A freeze has been declared on the Debian Squeeze repo and we should soon see a new Stable release from the beloved GNU/Linux distribution. In honour of the upcoming release we will look at a new project which is trying to spread Debian to the world, talk about sidux and explore whether Dell is still selling machines with Ubuntu pre-installed. In our Question & Answer section we will ponder what the world might be like without Debian. In this issue we will also talk about the importance of communication in the open source community and we share some announcements with you about projects which are making an effort to exchange more information with their users. We will also look at a new project related to OpenSolaris, which has risen out of Oracle's unwillingness to communicate with the open source community. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Customer Service and Open Source Software
It is my opinion that customer service plays a large roll in attracting and keeping customers . Of course there are a lot of factors consumers will be looking at when deciding on products. Price is usually a factor, location (if applicable), brand recognition and referrals will all play a role. But to me, and many other people, the communication we have with our fellow humans makes a huge difference. It makes sense, really, we're social animals and so how we interact with others is important. This is true in most walks of life, including open source.
In a way, I think the open source community is a bit of a paradox. Here we have a huge, loosely knit group of people who, for the most part, want to share their resources and help each other. Yet this community has historically been populated by people who are more introverted  and less likely to be social face-to-face. In the physical world this usually isn't a problem. The IT people can hide out in the back rooms, or the broom-closet offices or a cubical while HR, PR, sales staff and receptionists provide the face of an organization. But the open source world works a little differently, a little more transparently, and part of that transparency is clients and end-users usually have direct contact with developers and package maintainers. When the developer has good people skills, this can be a great experience. The client gets quick results, realistic expectations and firm technical information. However, when the developer isn't comfortable dealing with the public, we get results like these:
I think angry package managers and unhelpful programmers have almost become a cliché in the open source community and almost everyone who files regular bug reports or feature requests has encountered some hostility from the software's developer. With some projects the apathy so obvious that I sometimes consider saving the maintainer the effort and marking my own bug report "WONTFIX". Perhaps that's a bit facetious, but it does raise the question, in my mind, why bother setting up a bug reporting database if the developers are going to spend more time arguing with the users than fixing problems?
Some people may look at the situation and claim if people don't like the developers' attitudes then it's best to find a different program, or even a different operating system. Open source is about choice and options so if you don't like the service provided, you shouldn't complain. It's free after all. Which is true, a lot of the software in the open source community is free and a lot of distributions are offered free of charge. But some aren't. Some distributions charge for their products, some come with support contracts and a large number of distros accept donations. Let's not forget too that some free distributions are tied to companies which sell other products. For instance, if a person has a good experience with Fedora, they may purchase from Red Hat. The same applies to openSUSE or Mandriva. Many distributions, and open source projects in general, do stand to gain by increasing their user base and making their end-users happy. Yet communicating with users in a friendly manner (while becoming easier technologically) seems to be a low priority with a lot of projects.
We all weigh our choices differently; I think it's important to have a good rapport with the organization which provides my operating system. I don't mean developers should bend over backwards to fulfil every feature request, it's not possible to make everyone happy all of the time. Rather I am suggesting distributions should make sure bug reports are responded to in a timely manner, that the package maintainers conduct themselves in a civil manner, that an effort is made to keep mailing list content polite . Developers may not think of themselves as being in the customer service business, but every time they respond to a bug report or an e-mail or respond to a user on a forum, they become the virtual face of their project. With our ability to communicate instantly with others around the world coders no longer have the privilege to simply be the people behind the scenes, hidden by a wall of customer service agents. Open source developers, whether they like it or not, now are the customer service agents. Their reactions, their words, are now made immediately public. For little hobby distros, this isn't such a concern, but bigger projects stand to gain or lose a lot of funding based on their customer service record. A quick estimate shows the average donation to Linux Mint (and there are often over one hundred donations per month) is about $25 . That's pretty good incentive to make users feel at home.
I am of the opinion larger open source projects (and companies) should make an effort to recruit developers who have good people skills and, at the same time, discourage their developers who lack people skills from representing the project publicly. The end-user doesn't always have to be right, but they should always conclude an interaction with the feeling they were treated with respect. One of the best ways for the open source community to spread is by referral, word-of-mouth, and we're more likely to get positive reviews by being polite to our customers. This is an aspect of business which is taken for granted in face-to-face practises, but it's something which has yet to properly catch on in many corners of the open source world. In the bazaar of FOSS, we are all ambassadors and I feel it is important that we embrace transparency and, at the same time, realise some responsibility must go with it. Much in the same way people should choose their words carefully when granted free speech, we should make an effort to keep our communications in the community civil. Open source lives in a glass house and the world is watching.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
New hope for OpenSolaris, Custom FreeBSD, new PC-BSD blog and Dell's stance on selling Ubuntu
Since Oracle took over Sun there has been talk about whether the OpenSolaris project will survive. In the past six months there have been several calls to fork OpenSolaris to keep it alive, with or without Oracle's help. One group is looking into that possibility. They have set up the Illumos project website and held a web conference on August 3. A recording of the hour long conference is available from the
* * * * *
FreeBSD Custom Releases project provides the BSD community with free, up-to-date spins of FreeBSD. They also offer, as the name suggests, custom spins containing packages which some users find helpful to have on the install media. Their latest offering is a
set of 32- and
64-bit Xfce spins. Manolis Kiagias of the project states, "As you may know, the official [FreeBSD] DVD only provides ready packages for Gnome and KDE (and also windowmaker and
afterstep) but is missing Xfce packages - a very nice alternative for
lightweight desktops. The custom DVD also provides up-to date packages for well known
productivity apps, like OpenOffice, abiword/gnumeric, gimp, inkscape and
others. Installation is done in the standard FreeBSD way of sysinstall,
but the package selection is the custom one."
* * * * *
Communication between developers and users is very important. In an effort to make sure ideas flow freely between the coders and the community PC-BSD's Directory of Community Development, Dru Lavigne, has set up a blog where she plans to talk about the FreeBSD-based project and collect feedback from the readers.
* * * * *
Though a relatively small project, DragonFly brings a lot of new and different concepts to the BSD community. The project's HAMMER file system, mail agent and thread scheduler being some of the key attractions in this project. In an effort to better showcase what the project offers, they have set up a feature page with highlights from DragonFly BSD.
* * * * *
There have been rumours floating around that Dell is dropping their Ubuntu product line. In fact, the OEM is expanding its Ubuntu line of options in some areas, while removing Ubuntu machines from its United Kingdom website. Dell's stance appears to be a confused one, but you can untangle some of the mystery in the latest Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter.
* * * * *
There are a number of on-line stores which will send you burned copies of your favourite distribution. Recently, a new provider has stepped onto the scene. They are the Debian CD project, a non-profit organization which will send you nice-looking Debian CDs. Any additional money made above and beyond the cost of burning and shipping the discs goes to the Debian project.
In other Debian news, fans of the project will be happy to know that Debian "Squeeze" is now
frozen. This means no more features will be added to the soon-to-be stable repository. This release will not only include the regular GNU/Linux branch, but will also supply a GNU environment on top of the FreeBSD kernel. As usual, no official release date has been set for Squeeze, but we're on the final stretch.
* * * * *
The sidux project appears to be going through a tumultuous time. According to the distribution's website, there "are ongoing problems between the developers and sidux e.V. (the German foundation) that need to be settled before we can move on." At the moment, a meeting is scheduled for August 14 to iron out these problems and the developers say they will post updates after the meeting.
* * * * *
Fans of the Puppy distribution and people who like netbooks are in for a treat. There is a spin-off from Puppy, called
Puppeee Linux The small distro is targeting low-resource machines and aims to be both fast and easy to use. The 1.0 release includes application clean up, 3g modem updates, some bug fixes and new themes. Worth a look if you want to teach your low-resource computer new tricks.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Playing a game of What-If
From-the-basement-up asks: What happens to Ubuntu if Debian folds?
A lot of the ground work for a good many distributions is done by the Debian project. I think, to date, there are over one hundred distros which can trace their roots back to Debian. With all of these projects, including Ubuntu, using Debian as a base it makes sense to ask ourselves what would happen should the Debian project fold. However, it is very unlikely that Debian will disappear.
Debian is one of the oldest surviving Linux distributions and it has been stable for a long time. The Debian developers do not rely on a single sponsor in the same way Fedora, Ubuntu and openSUSE do, their funding comes from a wide range of sources. Likewise, the Debian developers themselves are not centralized. There are hundreds of Debian contributors spread out over the world and it's very unlikely anything could cause the majority of them to stop working. What it all boils down to is Debian is very likely to have a long life.
But let's play pretend for a moment and assume the Debian team suddenly decided to dissolve the project without warning. What would happen to Knoppix, Ubuntu and the rest? My best guess is that we would see a lot of developers and a few companies/sponsors step forward to make a fork of Debian's core infrastructure. There are probably enough users and developers who use Debian (or a Debian-based project) to put together a team who would re-create the main Debian repositories. I think we'd see a smaller, more focused Debian clone. With, probably, just three or four repos which would focus on GNU/Linux without the spin-offs such as GNU/Hurd or Debian/kFreeBSD. In short, I think we would see a concentrated effort to recreate Debian as a common base from which other projects could pull. For a while there would be a vacuum and some small forks, but in the end I think we'd see one large project created which would try to follow in Debian's foot steps.
There's some precedent for this. When the Fedora Core project was created and their policies prevented the distribution from shipping certain packages, we saw several community-created repositories spring up to offer additional software. Over the years the repositories started working together more and now we have the excellent unofficial Fedora repository of RPMFusion. I think a similar process would take place in the wake of the Debian project, should it disappear.
|Released Last Week
Jo Harris just announced the availability of Karoshi 7.0, now an Ubuntu-based server operating system designed for schools providing a simple graphical interface for easy installation and network maintenance: "What's New? Built on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS; 64bit and 32bit available; choice of server and domain names; wide range of modules available - Email, E-learning, website, proxy, home access, web filtering, printing, and much more; administration of the servers via web management; mobile phone web management; the system expanded with new servers with home areas auto copied; network monitoring with Email / text message alerts." The
release announcement is here.
MeeGo for IVI 1.0
MeeGo is an open-source Linux project which brings together Moblin headed up by Intel, and Maemo by Nokia, into a single open-source activity targeting netbooks and other mobile devices. MeeGo for IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment) Version 1.0 was just announced: "We are pleased to present this 1.0 release of MeeGo for IVI. As part of this release, we are including a sample IVI home screen and taskbar, using the included Qt framework, and designed with Automotive Center Console HMI requirements in mind. We have also included some automotive specific middleware components and a few sample applications, including sample navigation program (Navit) and a sample dialer application (BT-HFP Dialer) which uses Bluetooth and a paired phone..." The rest of
the announcement is here.
The MeeGo desktop
(full image size: 251KiB, resolution: 550x413 pixels)
Parted Magic 5.2
Patrick Verner announced the immediate availability of Parted Magic 5.2, a live utility distribution designed for hard disk partitioning and data rescue tasks: "Parted Magic 5.2 updates GParted to 0.6.2, fixes some bugs, and improves international language support. The new GParted re-enables MiB partition alignment option and fixes the problem with logical partition move overwriting the EBR. A mess of bugs have been fixed with the help of Dick Burggraaff (burdi01), Jason Vasquez, and most of all, users willing to take the time to report them and help us test. Asian language support has been greatly improved with the addition of SCIM and GCIN. GCIN is automatically started when Taiwanese is selected at the boot menu and SCIM is automatically started when Japanese or Chinese is selected at the boot menu." The rest of the announcement is on the
project's home page.
After six release candidates, Rafael Bonifaz announced the availability of Elastix 2.0, a CentOS-based Linux distribution that integrates the best tools available for Asterisk-based Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) into a single, easy-to-use interface: "Elastix 2.0 includes many suggestions received from our users as well as many new ideas around Unified Communications. The ability to extend new functionalities through add-ons will allow Elastix to adapt to the requirements of broad scenarios, while at the same time enabling the integration with third party applications. There are lots of new functionalities included in this release. We will highlight the most relevant in this article: renovated dashboard, add-ons, Elastix operator panel, Elastix conference room, mail module improvements, web-based faxing, DHCP module improvements, automatic backups, and agenda module improvements." The release announcement has more information.
Muayyad Al-Sadi has announced the availability of Ojuba 4, a Fedora-based distribution from Jordan optimised for Arabic speakers: "With God's blessing we are pleased to announce the final release of Ojuba Linux 4. This is the first release to have 64-bit support besides the 32-bit one, which we also offer for legacy PCs. Each got a LiveCD version within 700 MB and an installation media with packages within 4 GB. This release includes a pre-release version of Thawab the Arabic Islamic library (http://thawab.ojuba.org) and Ojuba-personal-lock (a GUI for folder encryption) and many more applications and enhancements. For more information please check Ojuba 4 release notes in Arabic." The release announcement can be found
The Ojuba Desktop
(full image size: 362KB, resolution: 900x675 pixels)
eBox Platform is an Ubuntu-based Linux server for small business. While its 2.0 release will be delayed, a development update was unleashed soon after its 1.5 release: "You can now download a new installer CD for the eBox Platform 1.5 series. Please note that eBox Platform 1.5-1 is a development version based on Ubuntu 10.04 and it will become eBox Platform 2.0 (next stable release) after a stabilization period. As to the improvements, the most relevant changes on this new 1.5-1 installer are focused on improving the performance. We believe that this is an important change and we would be glad to have your feedback to check that everything is right. In addition, the 1.5-1 installer includes new versions of the following modules: Users, DHCP, Backup, Groupware, Firewall, IDS, Monitor, NTP, Software Management, HTTP Proxy and Webserver." The rest of
the announcement can be read here.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch database summary|
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 16 August 2010.
|• 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|
|• Issue 627 (2015-09-14): Mageia 5, Snappy co-exists with Debian packages, creating PDF/A documents, Antergos previews Poodle|
|• Issue 626 (2015-09-07): Status of Wayland and Mir, Cinnamon improvements, an OpenBSD hypervisor, HAMMER2 gets deduplication|
|• Issue 625 (2015-08-31): OpenELEC 5.0.8, Fedora's new Wayland features, Tails releases update, the LILO boot loader|
|• Issue 624 (2015-08-24): Zorin OS 10, Sabayon's new features, Solus seeks funding, Debian turns 22, new PC-BSD repository|
|• Issue 623 (2015-08-17): VectorLinux 7.1, Ubuntu One source released, Moksha Desktop ships in Bodhi, Fedora developers debate Chromium|
|• Issue 622 (2015-08-10): antiX 15, Fedora tests kdbus, Debian tracks UEFI issues, word processors for the CLI|
|• Issue 621 (2015-08-03): Point Linux 3.0, Debian drops Sparc, Fedora package stats, VirtualBox 5.0|
|• Issue 620 (2015-07-27): Debian GNU/Hurd 2015, Linux Bible, Ubuntu MATE gets new Welcome app, Telegram on Fedora, Plasma Mobile|
|• Issue 619 (2015-07-20): SolydXK 201506, Tanglu's new bug tracker, FSF and Canonical negotiate licensing, Haiku unveils new init system|
|• Issue 618 (2015-07-13): Semplice Linux 7, openSUSE derivatives, Debian adopts GCC 5, Docker ported to FreeBSD|
|• Issue 617 (2015-07-06): Alpine linux 3.2.0, Fedora on MIPS CPUs, Solus offers daily builds, Ubuntu migrating to Snappy|
|• Issue 616 (2015-06-29): MidnightBSD 0.6, openSUSE's "42", encryption added to the ext4 file system, FreeBSD on a Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 615 (2015-06-22): Raspbian 2015, Fedora works around Intel driver issue, openSUSE adopts GCC 5, frozen desktop while copying files|
|• Issue 614 (2015-06-15): Chromixium OS 1.0, Debian 8.1 released, OpenBSD running in the cloud, sudo myths|
|• Issue 613 (2015-06-08): Fedora 22, Cinnamon 2.6 released, FreeBSD's history, working around Secure Boot|
|• Issue 612 (2015-06-01): Manjaro OpenRC, Debian, Devuan and systemd, Fedora 22 released, Mandriva closes its doors|
|• Issue 611 (2015-05-25): Kubuntu 15.04, openSUSE adopts Plasma 5, Ubuntu's Snappy, words from Debian's Neil McGovern|
|• Issue 610 (2015-05-18): NethServer 6.6, interview with Neil McGovern, CentOS supports AArach64, Foresight discontinued|
|• Issue 609 (2015-05-11): OpenIndiana 2015.03, LXLE 14.04, PC-BSD Current, creating ISO images, Ask A Leader with Peter Ganten|
|• Issue 608 (2015-05-04): Debian 8.0, Bodhi forks Enlightenment, new Debian GNU/Hurd release, distribution release frequency|
|• Issue 607 (2015-04-27): Ubuntu 15.04, Chapeau 21, Debian 8.0 features, Fedora 22 Beta details|
|• Issue 606 (2015-04-20): Linux Mint 2 "LMDE", Matthew Miller, Debian's new Project Leader, Evolve OS name change|
|• Issue 605 (2015-04-13): SuperX 3.0, HAMMER2 features, Linux 4.0, Vince Pooley, Google Code closing|
|• Issue 604 (2015-04-06): Void 20150221, Haiku's commercial partners, Debian release date, Tumbleweed features|
|• Issue 603 (2015-03-30): Tails 1.3, LibreOffice Online, Linux Firewalls book review, Kubuntu with Plasma 5|
|• Issue 602 (2015-03-23): Bodhi Linux 3.0.0, distro popularity, OpenBSD's new web server, GNU Manifesto turns 30|
|• Issue 601 (2015-03-16): Ubuntu MATE 14.10, modern distros for old hardware, AppArmor in Debian, Fedora 22 Alpha|
|• Issue 600 (2015-03-09): Korora 21, distro diversity, Ubuntu gets systemd, PC-BSD security features|
|• Issue 599 (2015-03-02): Sabayon 15.02, creating good passwords, new YaST modules, LMDE preview
|• Issue 598 (2015-02-23): Netrunner 14.1, Vivaldi web browser, Debian election, Cinnamon improvements|
|• Issue 597 (2015-02-16): MakuluLinux MCDE 2.0, Ubuntu phones launch, m0n0wall ceases development, live Linux updates|
|• Issue 596 (2015-02-09): ArchBSD 2014.09.04, encrypted e-mail, Fedora upgrade stats, FreeBSD's support policy|
|• Issue 595 (2015-02-02): ExTiX 15.1, Destroying encrypted data, openSUSE election, OSDisc statistics|
|• Issue 594 (2015-01-26): KaOS 2014.12, Commercial distros, Snappy Ubuntu, PackageKit fixes|
|• Issue 593 (2015-01-19): ReactOS 0.3.17, Unity on Mir, Bluetooth support, openSUSE election|
|• Issue 592 (2015-01-12): Mint 17.1, load averages, binary logs, GNOME Software|
|• Issue 591 (2015-01-05): Manjaro 0.8.11, systemd, Devuan, Torrent Corner|
|• Issue 590 (2014-12-22): Fedora 21, Ubuntu phone, expanding ZFS storage, Able2Extract|
|• Issue 589 (2014-12-15): Parsix 7.0, Ubuntu "Snappy", PC-BSD upgrades, How Linux Works|
|• Issue 588 (2014-12-08): PC-BSD 10.2, rolling-release Ubuntu GNOME, Bitrig, systemd|
|• Issue 587 (2014-12-01): Trisquel 7.0, Kubuntu 14.10 "Plasma5", FreeBSD on 64-bit ARM, Jolla and UbuTab|
|• Issue 586 (2014-11-24): Scientific Linux 7.0, Debian and systemd, Ubuntu MATE, application-level firewalls|
|• Issue 585 (2014-11-17): openSUSE 13.2, PC-BSD's "roles", MATE + Compiz on Mint, cleaning package cache|
|• Issue 584 (2014-11-10): OpenMandriva 2014.1, Debian freeze, trickle, systemd and boot times|
|• Issue 583 (2014-11-03): Ubuntu 14.10, ownCloud, Kylin interview, The Book of PF, Elive's commercial ways|
|• Issue 582 (2014-10-27): GhostBSD 4.0, Tumbleweed and Factory merge, systemd and fork of Debian|
|• Issue 581 (2014-10-20): SparkyLinux 3.5, Fedora's graphics stack, Debian and systemd, OpenBSD 5.6|
|• Issue 580 (2014-10-13): Rolling releases, Arch as best distro, GNOME on Wayland, MINIX 3.3.0|
|• Full list of all issues|
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