| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 368, 23 August 2010
Welcome to this year's 34th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! This week we take a long, hard look at Salix OS, a Slackware derivative, which recently hit version 13.1.1. How does it perform and what does it offer over vanilla Slackware? We also catch up with Fedora's new Project Leader, Jared Smith, and chat with him about Fedora, the future and fixed release dates. It was a fairly quiet week as far as new releases go, Ubuntu pushed out a minor point release, Nexenta reached a new milestone, Alpine hit version 2.0.0 and Zenwalk put out a call for people to test their new live CD. In the news section we talk about multitouch technology coming to Ubuntu, new developments from the FreeNAS project and running the latest KDE on OpenSolaris. Be well and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (35MB) and MP3 (37MB) formats
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Feature Story (by Caitlyn Martin)
Taking a Long Look at Salix OS 13.1.1
Salix OS is a desktop-oriented Slackware derivative which made it's début last year. It has attracted more interest that is typically seen when a new distro turns up, particularly one based on Slackware. Late last year I was using another Slackware based distro, VectorLinux 6.0, as my main Linux desktop at home and I was well satisfied with it. However, it was becoming increasingly clear that I needed a distro with a 64-bit version so I began looking for alternatives. Salix OS came highly recommended and I have been using it ever since.
Currently Salix OS is available in two versions. The original version, with an Xfce desktop and a selection of popular Linux applications, is available for both i486 (optimized for i686) 32-bit and x86_64 64-bit architectures. The LXDE Edition, introduced last month, features the lightweight desktop and a matching suite of lightweight applications. The LXDE Edition is only available for 32-bit Intel architecture. 64-bit packages of the desktop and all the applications in the LXDE Edition are in the Salix OS repository. Both editions use a traditional installer. Salix Live, the live CD version of the distro, is currently at version 13.0.1 and is not included in this review.
Salix OS LXDE Edition 13.1
(full image size: 570kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
Salix OS 13.1, based on Slackware 13.1, was released in April. 13.1.1 is a new maintenance release for the standard (Xfce) version announced last week. It includes all the upgrades and patches offered since then. Anyone who has been using Salix OS 13.1 and has kept up on updates is effectively running 13.1.1.
When the issue of ease of use comes up either in the Salix OS forum or on their mailing list some of the developers are quick to say "we are not Ubuntu." What they mean is that being newcomer-friendly or familiar to users migrating from Windows is not one of their design goals. A couple have described the target audience for Salix OS as "lazy Slackers", users familiar with Linux in general and Slackware in particular who don't mind having additional tools to reduce their workload, while maintaining the maximum compatibility with Slackware possible. Salix OS adds automated dependency resolution, enhanced internationalization and localization, a larger repository of applications, and a well equipped suite of administration and configuration tools for both the GUI and the command line. The developers do meet their goals but can't avoid making the system more user friendly than vanilla Slackware to newcomers as well.
For this review I used two very different systems. The first is an eMachines EL-1300G small-footprint desktop sporting an AMD Athlon 2650e processor (single core, 1.6 GHz CPU with 512 K L2 cache), 4 GB RAM, an onboard NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chipset and a 160 GB 7200rpm SATA2 hard drive. I ran both the 64-bit Xfce version and the 32-bit LXDE Edition on this system. I also used my HP Mini 110 netbook which features a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 2 GB RAM, an on-board Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset, and a 16 GB SSD in lieu of a hard drive. Both 32-bit editions have been installed and tested on the netbook.
Slackware has a well-earned reputation for reliability and stability. The challenge for any Slackware based distribution is to maintain those strengths while adding features that make their offering compelling.
Installation and configuration
All the editions of Salix OS are available for download as a single iso image and all will fit on a single CD. Salix OS supports installation from CD, from within an existing Linux or Windows installation using an image on an existing partition on a hard drive, or from a USB stick. Installation across a network and automated installations, such as Red Hat's kickstart, are not supported.
While a thoroughly modern graphical installer is included in Salix Live, that version has not been offered in the 13.1.x series of releases yet and is still based on Slackware 13.0. The standard, installable editions of Salix OS use an ncurses based (text) installer which is similar to Slackware. While many will find this old fashioned I actually prefer this installation style as it is often far more flexible and configurable and it works well on almost any hardware. I installed the desktop system from a CD, the Xfce edition on my netbook from an image on my SSD and the LXDE Edition from a USB stick using UNetbootin following the simple instructions in the Salix OS wiki.
Salix OS needs a bare minimum of 840 MB to install a core system without X. A full installation requires 2.5 GB. When additional applications and upgrades are considered figure on 3 GB of space to install Salix OS on a typical system.
The installer and documentation are in English. While most of the tools and applications built for Salix OS include a wide variety of translations the installer is decidedly, and, for a distribution based in Europe, perhaps surprisingly monolingual. No other languages are supported.
When booting into the installer you are presented with a plain text introductory screen. For most users simply hitting enter and loading the default kernel will just work if you are installing on a modern system with a Pentium II or better processor. The huge.s system, for older legacy systems, is also available. It is also possible to pass any special kernel parameters required to boot a system at this time.
Once the installer loads it will first ask whether or not to keep the default US English key mapping or if you would like to select something different. Salix OS then offers two installation options: auto-install, which wipes the entire hard drive and takes defaults, or a more traditional installation which will prompt the user with a variety of questions. I really don't have the ability to test auto-install on my systems so, from this point on, I will only be describing the interactive installation process.
The next step is disk partitioning, which is handled by cfdisk. The installer next asks for you to specify, at a minimum, partitions for swap and for your root file system. You can optionally define additional partitions as desired, typing in the name of each mount point you wish to use. ext4 is the default file system. Support for ext3, ext2, ReiserFS, JFS, and XFS is also available during installation. I used ext4 on both systems and have had no problems at all.
The Salix OS offers a choice of three types of installation: a full system, a "basic" installation of the core OS, X.org and the desktop environment (Xfce or LXDE, depending on the edition used) with no applications, or a "core" installation which is truly minimal and doesn't include X. Instructions to add X to the core installation are available in the wiki. Unlike Slackware, Salix OS does not offer the option to choose individual packages or groups of packages during the installation process. This makes installation decidedly simpler but far less customizable. After installing the system files the installer also offers the option to create a USB boot stick and to use either a standard or frame buffer console.
LILO is the only bootloader offered during installation. GRUB is available in the repository and can be installed later. The installer offers automated LILO configuration or the ability to edit some of the bootloader configuration file in expert mode. I've found that the automatic process usually fails to detect other Linux distributions, including additional instances of Salix OS or Slackware.
After bootloader configuration the installer then asks you to configure your time zone, decide if numlock is to be enabled on boot, and decide if SCIM (used for Asian languages) should be enabled. I found it interesting that a tool only used for Asian languages can be toggled on by an English-only installer. The next step is to set the root password and to setup one or more users. The installer does give the option of creating and fully configuring as many users as you want. The system then reboots and installation is complete.
There is no X configuration included in the installation process. Salix OS boots into the GUI by default and no option to change this behavior is offered during installation. On both of my present systems the automated hardware detection now included in X.org worked properly. This would not have been the case with my old and now defunct Toshiba laptop which used a Trident CyberBlade XPi graphics chipset. Users with some legacy systems or with graphics chipsets which are not natively supported will have to force a boot into runlevel 2 and run xorgsetup or, should that fail, manually create an xorg.conf file.
The installer also does not offer any options to configure networking. If you have wired Ethernet with a chipset supported by the Linux kernel and if you use DHCP you will have a functional connection immediately after installation. You will find, however, that your system has the unlikely name of darkstar. If you use a static IP address or want something other than default settings for wired networking you will need to use netconfig at the command line just as you would do in Slackware. Despite having a suite of rather nice graphical administration tools for other tasks, Salix OS has no pretty GUI tool to configure your network. It does, however, have a GUI tool if all you want to do is change your hostname and domain to something other than darkstar.example.net or add entries to your /etc/hosts file.
In general Salix OS does not provide a lot of proprietary drivers, nor does it package them and include them in the repository. On the desktop the old nv driver was installed for NVIDIA graphics. nouveau is blacklisted by default and not included in Salix OS. Proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers are also not included. The same is true for wireless chipsets. The Broadcom BCM4312 chipset in my netbook is neither detected nor supported by Salix OS the way it is in some other distributions. In both cases I had to download the drivers from upstream sources, build my own packages if I wanted them tracked by the package manager, and then install them.
Unlike many other Slackware derivative distributions, Salix OS does not provide its own custom kernel but rather uses the same one that Slackware uses. It is no surprise that, just as in Slackware, some manual configuration of the kernel is also a good idea. The hugesmp.s and huge.s kernels enable support for an extremely wide range of hardware by default and are quite large. To have the hardware supported in loadable kernel modules, as is done by most distributions, you need to install the Slackware generic kernel and create an initial RAM disk image (initrd file) at the command line using mkinitrd. Then you must manually edit your LILO or GRUB bootloader configuration to use one of the two generic kernels (with or without SMP support) and the newly created initrd file. The default kernel will work well for most people so this step is not necessarily required.
While installation went smoothly on the desktop I cannot say the same for the netbook. Salix OS 13.1 suffers from the same problem with I reported in my review of openSUSE 11.2 and Pardus Linux 2009 which causes the installer to hang. Specifically, in Salix OS the installer freezes at:
Triggering udev events: /sbin/udevadm trigger
As I have learned the Broadcom 4312 wireless chipset is incompatible with the b43 kernel module and the ssb module on which b43 depends. It appears that the wireless chipset conflicts with the ssb module, causing the system to freeze. Some distributions, notably Ubuntu and most of Ubuntu derivatives, have managed to correctly detect problematic Broadcom chips and avoid this issue. Slackware 13.1 does not and neither does Salix OS 13.1.x.
The workaround is to pass ssb.blacklist=1 to the installer as a kernel parameter and installation proceeds normally. Fortunately the installer does let me add kernel parameters to my LILO configuration so that the system can boot correctly after installation. This issue appears to affect several models of Broadcom chipsets in a wide variety of netbooks and notebooks, including models by Acer, Compaq, Gateway and HP.
Salix OS 13.1.1, Xfce 4.6.1 desktop
(full image size: 538kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
Changes since Salix OS 13.1 and 13.0.2a
Salix OS 13.1 is based on Slackware 13.1 so all the changes announced for the newer version of Slackware also apply to Salix OS when comparing to the 13.0.x series of releases. This includes the 184.108.40.206 kernel, updated libraries, development tools, desktop environments and applications. The default desktop environments now included are Xfce 4.6.1 and LXDE 0.5.0. KDE 4.4.3 and a wide variety of lightweight window managers are also available in the repository. Changes specific to Salix OS between the 13.0 series and 13.1 included the new and improved salixtools, a suite of both command line and graphical system administration tools.
Salix OS 13.1 also introduced the salix-update-notifier, which puts the icon for gslapt, the graphical package manager, on the panel when updates are available. This functionality has been in other distros for a very long time but it is new to Salix OS. Clicking on the icon launches that package manager, displays the available upgrades, and gives the user the option to install them immediately.
Salix OS 13.1.1 expanded salixtools further, adding graphical LILO bootloader configuration, graphical ALSA (sound) configuration, graphical management of the hosts file, and a small tool to rebuild the system icon cache in Xfce. In addition, it is now possible to use the installation CDs as a local repository for the package manager. Of course, Salix OS 13.1.1 includes all the patches, upgrades and bug fixes released since version 13.1. The 64-bit version also now includes gnash, a free alternative to Adobe Flash Player, necessitated by the fact that Adobe has dropped support for 64-bit Linux.
OpenOffice.org is now at version 3.2. The new LXDE Edition, which uses lightweight apps, does not include OpenOffice.org by default but rather includes AbiWord 2.8.4 and Gnumeric 1.10.1. Firefox has been upgraded to version 3.6.8 in 13.1.1. The LXDE Edition uses Midori 0.2.6 as the default browser. Media players included have also changed, with Exaile 0.3.1.2 and Parole 0.2.0.2 as default offerings. Brasero 2.28.3 is now the default CD/DVD burning tool. Unlike a certain more popular distro I could mention, GIMP 2.6.8 is included by default.
Running Salix OS 13.1
While I no longer have old, legacy equipment on which to judge the relative speed of a distribution without doing benchmarks, I will say that Salix OS does still, subjectively, seem to be faster than some other distributions on my netbook. Both the Xfce and LXDE Editions have a look and feel that I find to be polished and well thought out. The initial selection of applications is good and there is a reasonable variety of additional choices in the repository. If you are used to a distribution with a huge repository like Debian, Mandriva or Ubuntu the selection will still seem small. However, when compared to other Slackware derivatives and, of course, Slackware itself, the selection is quite good, particularly for 64-bit systems where there are far fewer Slackware based options.
Out of the box Salix OS complies with U.S. law including the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) so, as you'd expect, multimedia support out of the virtual box is quite limited. However, if you go to the Multimedia menu (Xfce) or the Sound & Video menu (LXDE) you will see an item called "Install multimedia codecs". This provides a one-click method of installing patent encumbered codecs and the matching GStreamer plugins. After installation is complete Salix OS sports very complete multimedia support. Additional media players available in the repository, such as VLC and MPlayer, will take full advantage of any and all codecs which are installed.
Wireless is managed by wicd, which makes configuration and use simple and painless. If your wireless chipset is supported natively by a Linux kernel module configuration will be no more difficult that in any of the supposedly newbie-friendly Linux distributions. In addition, NDISwrapper is installed by default and a graphical tool is provided for adding Windows drivers that NDISwrapper can use, making the process of using an unsupported chipset simpler than in many if not most distributions.
The Broadcom 4312 in the HP netbook fell into a third category: a chipset which has a native Linux driver which works very well, but it is proprietary. I was able to use a script from Slackbuilds.org which allowed me to easily compile the driver and build the necessary package. Once the correct driver was installed and wicd was configured to use the correct interface (eth1 on my system) wireless worked as expected. This process should be no problem for an experienced Linux user but would undoubtedly be more than a bit daunting to many newcomers.
I ran into a similar situation with printing. While there is a menu item for printer management there really is no Salix OS specific tool. The default browser opens the CUPS web interface. I use two printers: an HP LaserJet 1020 and an older Epson Stylus C66 color inkjet. The color printer is correctly detected and configured out of the virtual box by Salix OS. The HP uses the foo2zjs driver which is included in many Linux distributions but not in Slackware or Salix OS. I had to go to the driver developer's web page, download the source code, compile it, install it and download the firmware. Once I did that the printer worked perfectly and can be managed both by CUPS and the usual HP tools which are included in Salix OS. This process is automated once the printer is detected in many of the more user-friendly distributions but in Salix OS, as in Slackware, it is entirely do-it-yourself.
I did run into one significant bug in addition to the aforementioned installer problem with my HP netbook: I have no sound through the internal speakers. Sound works properly through the headphone jack with external speakers or headphones. It also works in other distros and worked fine with Salix OS 13.0.2a. Once again this is an upstream problem which also shows up in Slackware 13.1. I've been told that if I apply a patch that Ubuntu has in their build of ALSA and compile the patched code it will work but I have not had time to confirm that as of yet.
Provided I get the sound issue resolved I must say that Salix OS 13.1.1 runs very well indeed on my netbook but it did take a fair amount of effort to get to this point. By comparison, on the desktop all the hardware "just worked" but I still had to go upstream for printer and graphics drivers and build my own packages for a few favorite applications.
Whenever I've run into issues and brought them to the Salix OS forum I have found the developers to be very accessible and the community to be very friendly and helpful. While there most certainly is a do-it-yourself ethos within the community everyone seems to be willing to help to the best of their ability. Over the past 10 months I have yet to see a rude or unhelpful response even when a newcomer asks a less than clueful question. While the developers may not be trying to attract newcomers to Linux they certainly go out of their way to work with them. The community around any distro is tremendously important and I have been nothing but impressed with the Salix OS community. They may not be the largest Linux distro and they don't always have answers but when it comes to being friendly they certainly aren't lacking.
Package management and security concerns
Salix OS uses Slackware apt: slapt-get at the command line and the graphical gslapt package manager. I've used these tools for years in distributions like VectorLinux and Wolvix but Salix OS, by far, has the best implementation I've seen. In 10 months it has literally been flawless for me. Yes, there have occasionally been missing dependencies but one post in the forum is all it takes to get an issue resolved. The package management software has never been the problem. This is also the first distro in which I have seen the dependencies correctly listed in gslapt for every package I check. Either Slackware apt has matured or the Salix OS developers have done a better job with it than anyone else.
gslapt graphical package manager
(full image size: 51kB, screen resolution 659x518 pixels)
In terms of look and feel, gslapt will look familiar to anyone who has ever used synaptic in a Debian based distribution. There are no category groupings for packages in Salix OS and there are other numerous small differences but the basic functionality is essentially the same. Similarly, at the command line the syntax of slapt-get is different from apt-get but what you can do with the two tools is very close at this point.
The Salix OS developers have been very quick to make security patches available, Salix OS leverages the upstream Slackware repositories so patches to Slackware are available almost immediately to Salix OS users, albeit with dependency checking and resolution added. In cases where Salix OS packages are different from or not included in Slackware repositories the patches have appeared equally quickly. Keeping a system patched, secure and up-to-date is as easy in Salix OS as any distribution I've tried.
One minor thing worth noting: the update notifier in Salix OS is conspicuously inconspicuous. What I mean by that is that other distros use icons like an exclamation point on a bright red background or a circle of arrows on a bright red background. Salix OS has no such in-your-face notification. They just use the ordinary gslapt icon in light blue and white. While I most certainly don't want obnoxious alarm bells or pop-up notifications I will say that the notification in Salix OS is so subdued that I have been known to miss the fact that it is there for quite some time. It's a minor quibble and a personal preference but I do wish the notification was a bit more obvious. Those red icons in other distros are awfully hard to miss.
Slackware also excludes some security tools which are vital in the enterprise but which are either unlikely to be used or seen as overkill in a home environment. Doing so reduces both complexity and overhead. Slackware does not include PAM, which is used to allow a wide variety of authentication methods. It also does not include SELinux. For a home or small office desktop system these choices are sensible ones. While some other Slackware derivatives do implement PAM (i.e.: Zenwalk), Salix OS developers have chosen to retain Slackware's simplicity and do not implement enterprise-level security tools.
Slackware compatibility and third party resources
According to the Salix OS developers their distro is 99.9% compatible with Slackware. There are a handful of packages which are different than Slackware 13.1, representing bug fixes and patches, additional features, and in one case a newer version. In addition slackpkg and sbopkg were designed to use a single repository while Salix OS uses more than one, so those package management tools are not compatible.
In addition, the various and sundry third party package repositories for Slackware are not recommended for use with Salix OS. To quote the Salix OS wiki: "One is always free to direct gslapt/slapt-get to any other third parties' package repositories, which may or may not handle dependencies, which may or may not be of sufficient quality and which may or may not be compatible with Salix. In such a case, you should know what you are doing because you may or may not end up breaking your system. " In a forum discussion the slacky.eu repository was specifically discouraged.
What does work well with Salix OS 13.1.x is using slackbuild scripts to compile from source and build packages on a Salix OS system. The best-known site for Slackware build scripts, slackbuilds.org is an excellent resource. I've also used slackbuild scripts from Robby Workman's repository rather than his ready built packages as I would on vanilla Slackware and had good results. Note that any of these scripts would have to be modified to run depfinder and include the output if you want your packages to support dependency checking.
Internationalization and localization
Support for languages other than English has always been an area where Slackware is rather weak compared to other distributions. It provides many of the necessary packages but provides no easy way to switch languages. This is one area where Salix OS 13.1.1 really shines when compared with vanilla Slackware.
Salix OS uses GDM as its default display manager. GDM supports changing language and/or locale on a session-by-session basis. In addition, one of the salixtools is gtklocalesetup, a GUI tool for changing the default system language and locale. Using Salix OS in a multilingual home or office should be no problem at all.
gtklocalsetup language/locale tool
(full image size: 31kB, screen resolution 515x559 pixels)
Salix OS also includes all the relevant packages from the Slackware repository including a full set of international Aspell dictionaries and international fonts. SCIM, Anthy, and the basic tools needed for Asian language support are part of Salix OS and, as already noted, SCIM can be enabled during installation. FriBiDi is also included for supporting languages written from right to left such as Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Yiddish. The Salix OS repository also includes language packs for Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird as well as for OpenOffice which are not included in Slackware.
The Salix OS forum includes a section dedicated to translations. There is an active Salix translation project at Transifex as well as ongoing efforts to translate the web site and documentation. The image below shows Salix OS 13.1.1 running set for Hebrew as the language and Israel as the locale. Note that the localization is incomplete at this point.
Salix OS 13.1.1, Xfce 4.6.1 in Hebrew
(full image size: 311kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
The Salix OS developers do meet their stated goals: making a distribution for "lazy Slackers" rather than one that is generally easy to use for everyone. Some other Slackware derivatives, such as VectorLinux and Zenwalk, have done more to make their distributions friendly to Linux newcomers at the cost of straying further away from their Slackware roots. Salix OS developers made a conscious choice to go in a different direction. In some ways Salix OS reminds me of VectorLinux four or five years ago: it definitely takes me more time to install, configure and tweak it to suit my needs than a typical Linux distro does but, much like VectorLinux back then, the end results are definitely worth the effort. How much effort depends very much on the hardware used, as the very different results with my two systems illustrate.
I've found that Salix OS, once setup to my liking, is a thoroughly modern distribution that takes no more effort to maintain and administer than any other Linux distribution. It succeeds in maintaining the stability, reliability and performance that Slackware is so well known for while offering the kind of conveniences that allow me to concentrate on my work rather than tinkering with my system. The package management, which includes automated dependency checking and resolution, works as well as any I've seen. The somewhat larger repository and the system administration tools definitely reduce the time spent on software installation and maintenance. I appreciate being notified automatically that patches are available. I also appreciate the everything is well integrated and works as it should out of the virtual box.
There are some bugs and annoyances in Salix OS 13.1.1 but nothing show-stopping. In general the Salix OS developers have delivered a very good product in a rather short period of time and there is real improvement in the customized tools for Salix OS in each release. Unlike far too many Slackware distributions Salix OS also delivers a 64-bit build that is ready for prime time.
Is Salix OS for everyone? No, it isn't. If you are looking for something that "just works" immediately after a simple installation process with no effort then Salix OS may not be for you. If you are a newcomer to Linux who is looking for something familiar then Salix OS probably should not be your first choice. If you are willing to do a little work to get everything just so and want a relatively lightweight distribution that is reliable and performs well then Salix OS may be just the ticket.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Ubuntu gets multitouch, FreeNAS developments, running KDE 4.5 on OpenSolaris, the Java drama
Ubuntu is working on bringing better multitouch technology to Linux. While the Linux kernel has support for multitouch hardware, to date not a lot of work has gone into recognizing gestures and the "grammar" of multitouch input. Canonical has also expressed an interest in building a FOSS stack which will make developing applications with multitouch easier in the future. OSNews has a short article on the work Canonical is doing in this area.
* * * * *
Things have been fairly quiet in the FreeNAS community since iXsystems got involved with the network storage project. However, things have been moving forward and
news recently appeared on the FreeNAS blog that a new experimental snapshot is available for testing. People interested in testing out this development release should look at the project's corresponding readme file.
* * * * *
Last week Mike Larkin gave a great interview over at
bsdtalk about ACPI, how it works and its status on OpenBSD. He talks about vendor support, challenges in the specification and the progress the OpenBSD team is making. An educational talk for people interested in the work that goes into making their notebook suspend and resume.
* * * * *
This is a difficult time for fans of OpenSolaris. The project has been left out in the cold of late. However, the community continues to work with existing builds and demonstrate what can be done with the technology. One of these community projects is
Korona, "a live DVD that makes it easy to peek at the current state of porting KDE 4 to OpenSolaris." If you'd like to see how KDE 4.5 handles on a Solaris box, Korona can help you do that.
* * * * *
Most of us have a favourite distribution, one that we keep coming back to. Though the process of picking a favoured distro is generally a subjective one, some people like to test, score and benchmark different systems to see if there is an objective way of picking the best. Jeff Osier-Mixon put three distributions (Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE) through a series of tests and kept score in a short, but interesting read on the differences between these popular distros.
* * * * *
A serious vulnerability in the Linux kernel was
fixed last week. The problem, which would allow GUI applications to gain root access via the X server, has been corrected and a patch is making its way into the various source trees. The above report links to a PDF file which explains how a specially crafted PDF document could be used to exploit the security hole and gain root access.
In other kernel-related news, the drivers for ATI's Radeon HD 5000 series are coming along nicely. ATI has been working to get open source drivers for the 5000s into the mainline kernel and the code is approaching production status. With this show of support from ATI and the work on Nouveau moving quickly forward, advanced open source video drivers are becoming the standard on Linux.
* * * * *
There has been quite a bit of talk in the past week about Oracle and Google going toe-to-toe over Java. The debates and reports have raised a lot of emotion, confusion and questions about just what is going on and what is at stake. Martin Heller offers
an explanation along with a few strong words on the subject. It's still a legal mess, but Heller does a nice job of clearing up the technical questions and the case's potential impact on the FOSS community.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Introducing Jared Smith, Fedora's new Project Leader
In a practise fitting for a cutting-edge distribution, every few years the Fedora project swaps out its Project Leader and brings in a fresh face. Back in July, Paul Frields stepped down as Fedora's Project Leader and Jared Smith moved into the role. Mr Smith was kind enough to take some time out from his whirlwind schedule to talk about Fedora and his new job.
DW: Jared, could you please give us a little background on how you got involved with Linux in general and Fedora in particular?
JS: I started using Linux about twelve years ago. I was working and going to
university at the time, and had taken a Unix class where I learned the
basics of how to survive on the command line. A few months later, the
company I was working for needed a server to do dial-up on demand and
share the dial-up connection between multiple employees. Linux seemed
like a good fit, so I dived in and installed Linux on a spare machine and
got the system working. Over the next couple of years, I was able to use
Linux for several other work projects, and things snowballed from there.
DW: What skills or strengths do you feel you bring to the Fedora Project
I've been using Fedora since the Fedora/RHEL split happened. I generally
tried to help out with testing betas, filing bugs, and so on. A few
years ago I started to get more involved, helping out with various
projects, the documentation team and infrastructure teams.
JS: I think my experience as a community relations manager for the (open
source) Asterisk project and my real-world experience in the business
world have certainly helped to prepare me for this role. I'm a technical
guy who doesn't mind diving into the command-line and tracking down
nitty-gritty problems, but at the same time I'm a people-person too.
It's an interesting intersection of both technical and soft skills that
you don't always find in the open source world.
DW: Fedora 14 will be the first release under your direction. Is there a
specific area you're hoping to focus on, either in the distro itself or
in the Fedora community?
JS: From the standpoint of the distribution, it's my job to continue to push
Fedora forward as a cutting-edge Linux distribution. This obviously
includes all the individual parts that make up the distribution -- the
installer, the packages, the update mechanisms, and so forth. If you
think about it, though, Fedora is more than just bits and bytes on a
disk. Our value proposition is in our collective knowledge and ability
to make meaningful change. In that regard, much of my energy and focus
is to improve the Fedora community. In short, I want our community and
processes to help people along the journey from being an outsider to
being a Fedora user, from being a user to being a contributor, from
being a contributor to being a collaborator, and from being a
collaborator to being a leader.
DW: Most Fedora releases have shipped after their original release dates.
Recently some people have suggested Fedora try harder to stick to its
schedule, others think Fedora should be more concerned about "releasing
when ready". Which do you see as being more important?
JS: Great question! The most important thing to me is that the Fedora
distribution is in as good as shape as possible when it ships. We'd be
doing our community a great disservice if we shipped an incomplete
product simply because we'd reached some arbitrary date on the calendar,
or some marketing department said it was time to ship.
DW: The Fedora Project is constantly changing. Are there any changes you
want to introduce during your time as Project Leader?
Having said that, it is very important that we try our very best to
stick to the release schedule. I have to give big kudos to John Poelstra
for the hard work he does with the Fedora release schedule. We now have
much more insight into the schedule than we've ever had before, and much
more detail about each of the milestones that must be reached in order
to ship the distribution on time. I've also got to give a big shout out
to the Fedora QA team. With their help, we've created a test suite that
we're using to help us measure our progress as we get closer to the
JS: Absolutely! One of the great things about the Fedora leadership model is
that we try to avoid the STP problem (where STP stands for "Same Two
People" or "Same Ten People"). Having regular changes in leadership (and
smooth transitions between leaders) allows for a rich variety of
thoughts and ideas. If I have the exact same ideas and opinions as the
previous leaders, I'm doing something wrong. I obviously have my own
personal opinions, and I work closely with the Fedora Board and the
various steering committees and sub-projects to try to build consensus
on the things I think will be best for Fedora.
DW: Do you have any plans for attracting more users/developers to the
JS: One of my first duties as the new project leader was to visit a couple
of conferences in Latin America and interact with our users and
developers there. In both Chile and Brazil, I had the chance to talk
with Fedora users, Fedora developers, and Fedora Ambassadors. In almost
every case, the conversations centered around the journey from user to
contributor to collaborator to leader, and how we as a community can
help others in their progress.
DW: The Fedora Project is supported by Red Hat. Are there any plans to
make Fedora profitable on its own? Perhaps through donations, offering
services, partnership programs?
One of Fedora's distinguishing qualities is that we don't want to just
build a large "fan base" of users. We want Fedora users to become
contributors and engage with the Fedora community. Building out a
community of contributors and the power of multiple people participating
is what helps spur innovation in Fedora. It's great to have a large user
base but we're looking to move a step beyond and attract active users
and contributors to the Fedora community.
JS: No immediate plans, no. Red Hat invests in Fedora (both in finances and
in human capital) for several reasons. Primarily, it gives Red Hat an
open and transparent way to work with upstream projects. Second, it
allows Red Hat to pick and choose which projects are mature enough to be
put into its enterprise products. We welcome contributions and support
from other organizations, but traditionally it's been difficult to do
correctly, due to complications such as tax law. I think any substantial
money-making offering (offering services or support, for example) would
take resources beyond Fedora's current means at this time. We do have
some partners who help us deliver both services to contributors and to
users as in the case of mirror hosting/download bandwidth.
DW: What do you feel is Fedora's greatest strength, and its greatest
DW: Is there anything else you'd like to share, on Fedora, Red Hat or the open source community in general?
Fedora's greatest strength is the wonderful group of people who give of
their hearts and minds to advance the cause of freedom and transparency.
I can't give enough thanks to the thousands of collaborators who
willingly give up their own personal time to make Fedora better.
As far as Fedora's greatest weakness... that's a tougher question to
answer. I guess I'd have to say that Fedora's greatest weaknesses are
the many misconceptions about Fedora that continue to be spread within
the Linux community in general. Part of my job is to help tell the
Fedora story, and I'm very optimistic that as people find out how Fedora
really works, they'll be enthusiastic about becoming part of the
project. Contributors can get involved directly in pretty much any part
of Fedora. For example, there's a new contributor working on the Design
who is helping to design
which may be seen
potentially by millions of people. The feature process allows any
community contributor to help bring new software and capabilities into
the distro (e.g. Peter Robinson's work integrating Moblin in previous
releases, and now MeeGo for Fedora 14).
JS: Again, a big "thank you" to everyone who helps make Fedora what it is.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't thank the previous Fedora Project Leader,
Paul W. Frields, for his friendship and mentorship. He did a fantastic
job, and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors as he moves
on to a different role within Red Hat.
|Released Last Week
Robbie Williamson has announced Ubuntu 10.04.1, the first maintenance update to Ubuntu's 10.04 LTS release: "This release includes updated server, desktop, and alternate installation CDs for the i386 and amd64 architectures. This is the first maintenance release of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, which continues to be supported with maintenance updates and security fixes until April 2013 on desktops and April 2015 on servers. Numerous post-release updates have been integrated, and a number of bugs in the installation system have been corrected. These include security updates and corrections for other high-impact bugs, with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS." See the release announcement for further details.
Nexenta Core Platform 3.0
Nexenta Core Platform (NCP) is a project combining the OpenSolaris kernel with the GNU/Debian user experience to provide a versatile and powerful ZFS-based server platform, and Anil Gulecha has announced that NCP 3.0 RC3 becomes the official 3.0 release: "This is the same ISO as the RC3 release. For the near feature, the move to NCP 4.0 will be in 2 phases. The first immediate change would be to move from OpenSolaris b134 to a recent Illumos build. With this the Nexenta project will change its base from OpenSolaris to Illumos, a branch of OpenSolaris ON gate, with closed bits replaced with open code. Note that you can use the SUN_PERSONALITY variable to get the original OpenSolaris userland rather than GNU, if you so prefer." You can find the release announcement here.
Alpine Linux 2.0.0
Jeff Bilyk has announced the release of Alpine Linux 2.0.0, a specialist distribution designed for x86 routers, firewalls, VPNs, VoIP boxes and servers: "Alpine Linux 2.0.0 released. New since version 1.10 stable branch: improved threading support with NPTL; paravirtualized KVM guest support (virtio); paravirtualized Hyper-V guest support; various new and updated applications like Asterisk 220.127.116.11, BusyBox 1.17.1, Dovecot 1.2.13, OpenSSL 1.0.0a, Postfix 2.7.1, Samba 3.5.4, SQLite 18.104.22.168; support for X.Org via network install and lots of new or updated desktop applications like: AbiWord 2.8.6, GIMP 2.6.10, Gnumeric 1.10.8, Inkscape 0.48, Xfce 4.6.2.... The 2.0 series introduces an ABI-incompatible version of uClibc with NPTL threading support, this means that you cannot mix packages from older relases with version 2.0." More details can be found in the release notes.
Parted Magic 5.3
Patrick Verner has released a new version of Parted Magic, a specialist live CD designed for data rescue and disk partitioning tasks: "Parted Magic 5.3 updates BusyBox 1.17.1, FreeType 2.4.2, NTFS-3G 2010.8.8, udev 161, Linux kernel 22.214.171.124. Some other adjustments have been made to improve memory usage. We dropped Unionfs in favor of Unionfs-fuse. The main pmagic-5.3.sqfs is now one Squashfs instead of the split-up method. If anybody was having issues with G4L, give this version a try. Some other minor bugs were fixed. We are no longer supporting or supplying a USB ZIP file. Our official method for booting from USB is UNetbootin. People that know what they are doing shouldn't have any problem extracting the ISO image and executing the syslinux command. Supplying a USB zip was inviting too many people that had no clue how to boot from a USB drive and offering complex documentation was just adding to the confusion." You can read the rest of the announcement on the project's home page.
Stanislav Hoferek has announced the release of Greenie Linux 7.1L, an Ubuntu-based, user-friendly desktop distribution optimised for home users in Slovakia and Czech Republic (English is also supported): "Another Greenie Linux release is here. Greenie 7.1L is based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. What is new? Graphical design was replaced by our own theme called GreenieTree, new icons, new wallpapers. Newly added and re-added applications (Ufraw for editing RAW images, Fotoxx as an additional graphic editor and WINE for running Windows applications). Also, all upstream updates are included and a few bug fixes and additional translations are now also on the CD." Visit the Greenie website for the release announcement.
Frugalware Linux 1.3
Miklós Vajna has announced the release of Frugalware Linux 1.3, a general-purpose distribution designed for intermediate and advanced Linux users: "The Frugalware developer team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Frugalware 1.3, our thirteenth stable release. No new features have been added since 1.3rc2, but 94 changes have been made to fix minor bugs. If you didn't follow the changes during the pre/rc releases, here are the most important changes since 1.1: updated packages: Linux kernel 2.6.35, X.Org server 1.8, GNOME 2.30, KDE 4.4.5 to name a few major components; for the first time we're offering an official graphical 'netinstall' image; this time we've verified that no workaround is needed to install this release in VMware; the monolithic configuration of X.Org is now split to the xorg.conf.d directory; updated image libraries...." Read the full release announcement for more details.
Frugalware Linux 1.3 - the project's 13th stable release
(full image size: 999kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Yuri Stanchev has announced the release of NetSecL 3.0, a security-enhanced Linux distribution. Unlike the previous versions which were based on Slackware Linux, this one openSUSE Studio as its build tool: "It was time for a change and we at NetSecL realized that the new version of NetSecL 3.0 is a live DVD and installation based on openSUSE. Once installed you can fully enjoy the features of grsecurity hardened kernel and penetration tools or if you like to do some penetration testing you can directly run all tools from the live DVD. NetSecL firewall is included and most of the penetration tools are ported to the new platform. Also we'd like to mention that we've got many other programs up and running with grsecurity enabled, which is great success especially when it comes to programs like WINE, OpenOffice.org, Vuze, QEMU and many gnome applications." See the release announcement and release notes (PDF) for further information.
Lunar Linux 1.6.5
Stefan Wold has announced the release of a new set of installation CD images for Lunar Linux, a source-based distribution: "The Lunar team proudly announce the final release of Lunar Linux 1.6.5. The last known issues with the ISO image have been resolved. We added support for hybrid ISO images in the last minute, which means that it's a lot easier to install it from a USB stick. New features in 1.6.5: based on Linux kernel 126.96.36.199 and glibc 2.11.2; hybrid ISO support; added support for the ext4 file system; added option to change preferred /etc/fstab style; UUID, LABEL or device name; OpenSSH and Screen are now part of the live CD to allow remote assistance during install. Summary of changes since 1.6.4: isolinux updated, all modules refreshed...." More details can be found in the release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- mFatOS. Based on Ubuntu, mFatOS is optimized for Persian-speaking users.
- Plinx. A Linux system developed by Proofpoint.
- Me-OS. An openSUSE-based distribution with a focus on ease of use.
- Pinguy OS. An Ubuntu-based distribution with a focus on providing an attractive, rich experience out of the box.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 30 August 2010.
Caitlyn Martin and Jesse Smith
|• 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|
|• Issue 579 (2014-10-06): PC-BSD 10.0.3, Debian's Jessie freeze, setting up home server|
|• Issue 578 (2014-09-29): Calculate 14, Debian's default desktop, Shellshock vulnerability, practical Tiny Core|
|• Issue 577 (2014-09-22): SymphonyOS 14.1, FreeBSD drops pkg_add, MINIX on ARM, GNU screen|
|• Issue 576 (2014-09-15): PCLinuxOS 2014.08, Mint's documentation, Debian's hardware database, CDE|
|• Issue 575 (2014-09-08): Porteus 3.0.1, Fedora's blivet-gui, Red Hat's Docker, systemd|
|• Issue 574 (2014-09-01): Ubuntu Kylin 14.04, Haiku and Linux kernel, Wayland support, Lumina, Bash completion|
|• Issue 573 (2014-08-25): SolydXK 201407, VPN gateway with FreeBSD, Ubuntu MATE, Raspbian, trusting binary packages|
|• Issue 572 (2014-08-18): ZFSguru 10.1, Fedora's Flock, beta installer for "Jessie", Ubuntu Core, rolling releases|
|• Issue 571 (2014-08-11): HandyLinux 1.6, LMDE update, default desktop in "Jessie", running out of disk space|
|• Issue 570 (2014-08-04): Neptune 4, Kubuntu's KDE Plasma 5, FreeBSD and UEFI, Linux servers|
|• Issue 569 (2014-07-28): Deepin 2014, Ask Fedora, Gentoo and LibreSSL, encrypted package downloads|
|• Issue 568 (2014-07-21): Antergos 2014.06.24, Mint based on Debian stable, upgrading CentOS, BinaryTides|
|• Issue 567 (2014-07-14): Manjaro 0.8.10, PC-BSD jails, Debian and glibc, Fedora's DNF, Xiki and Opera 24|
|• Issue 566 (2014-07-07): LXLE 14.04, OpenBSD's SimpleDE, openSUSE artwork, home security basics|
|• Issue 565 (2014-06-30): Chakra 2014.05, Fedora on BeagleBone, Matthew Miller interview, e-book readers|
|• Issue 564 (2014-06-23): Antergos 2014.05.26 and Q4OS 0.5.11, Debian LTS and glibc, Fedora DNF|
|• Issue 563 (2014-06-16): Mint 17, CentOS 7 pre-release, Debian MATE, accessing encrypted content|
|• Issue 562 (2014-06-09): GoboLinux 015, Gentoo interview, Fedora leader change, climagic tricks|
|• Issue 561 (2014-06-02): OpenMandriva 2014.0, Debian GNU/Hurd, Lubuntu and LXQt, Final Term, TrueCrypt|
|• Issue 560 (2014-05-26): KaOS 2014.04, Wayland and KDE 5 on Fedora, distros with commercial support, DenyHosts|
|• Issue 559 (2014-05-19): VortexBox 2.3, LTS-only Linux Mint, FreeBSD 11 ambitions, KDE 5 beta|
|• Issue 558 (2014-05-12): RHEL 7 Workstation impressions, LXQt and Lumina, Haiku interview|
|• Issue 557 (2014-05-05): Xubuntu 14.04, Ubuntu 14.10 roadmap, Fedora Workstation, ownCloud|
|• Issue 556 (2014-04-28): Ubuntu 14.04, LibreSSL, Lumina desktop, Deepin interview|
|• Issue 555 (2014-04-21): Robolinux 7.4.2, Ubuntu release day stats, Debian security, Porteus update|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Free Tech Guides
This FREE 177-page guide is for the computer novice who is trying to understand how a database works and what can be done with it.