| 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!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|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 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• Issue 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Full list of all issues|