| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 3, 23 June 2003
|How dead is a Linux distribution?
Last week, I received an angry email from the makers of ELX Linux. The writer, who is the company's "Info Manager" complained that our information on the ELX Linux page saying that ELX Linux "appears to be dormant" was wrong and alleged that their company had "suffered lost reputation and monetary damage" as a result of this statement. The author of the email demanded that we "take corrective action immediately".
I have been a regular visitor at the ELX web site, its forums and mailing list since the launch of the distribution. It succeeded in attracting media attention and all looked very impressive in the beginning, but as time progressed, many aspects of the distribution started losing their glitter. The ELX Linux mailing lists and forums are the best indication of the general decline. Once active and vibrant, both have been deserted for some months and offers of Italian crafted Rolex watches now dominate the proceedings. You can count on fingers of two hands the number of forum posts over the last few months. You won't need any fingers to count how many times an ELX Linux representative responded to users' posts. Registering for a bugzilla account gives you an unusable password, a fact that was reported on the mailing list many months ago. The news section carries "tabloid" stories such as "ELX emerges as popular OS in Brazil" (do these guys really believe what they write?), while the release announcement of ELX 2.0 in January this year was restricted to two sentences and a link to the "Buy Now" button. The online store is excited to inform you that "last few days remain for this special offer", except that those last few days have already lasted for almost 6 months. The list goes on...
It's a pity. ELX Linux is actually a very nice distribution (at least the 1.0 BizDesk, which is the only freely available edition) and during the times where the mailing lists were still active, many users complimented the product. But a Linux distribution is not just a mass of programming code and the relationship between the distribution makers and users does not end with the moment of the CDs being handed over to a post office clerk. The term "Linux distribution" refers to a complete experience that includes interaction with the developers and other users long after the credit card transaction is concluded. Any commercial distribution that doesn't make an effort to create a community and doesn't interact with users, does not deserve your patronage. Who cares if ELX is popular in Brazil if my KOffice crashes at startup?
In retrospect, the Info Manager at ELX Linux was right - this site's information that their distribution appears dormant is indeed incorrect. It would be much more accurate to say that "ELX Linux does not bother with updates of their web site, does not respond on their mailing lists and forums, provides a bug tracker where nobody can log in, does not issue security advisories and bug fixes, makes no release announcements and delivers no information about planned releases". Until this company gets their act together, you'll be better off saving your money for a distribution that does value their users.
|Released Last Week
Source Mage 0.6 was one of the new releases last week. Source Mage GNU/Linux is a source-based distribution similar to Gentoo in its philosophy and implementation; its main advantage over Gentoo is simpler initial installation and setup, while most developers will find that creating bash-based spells, as opposed to Python-based ebuilds, is generally more straightforward. On the negative side, Source Mage doesn't quite have the same number of users and developers as Gentoo and the documentation has yet to reach the quality and wealth of its more famous counterpart. If you are interested in an overview of source-based Linux distribution, these two links might be helpful: Source Based Distributions, Part 1 and Part 2.
Two other stable releases were also announced last week. Bonzai Linux has reached version 2.0, covered in more detail in the "Web Site News" section below, while Cosix Linux announced the release of version 4.0. Cosix is a Beijing-based Linux company that has been around for several years, but the distribution is not particularly popular with Chinese users and version 4.0 offers little exciting to change that fact.
Several development versions were released last week; these include ROCK Linux 2.0.0 beta5, MoviX2 0.3.0rc1 and e-smith SME Server 6.0 beta2. A lot of activity has also been spotted on the Conectiva developer pages as the distribution prepares for the release of an "Update1" to their two months old Conectiva Linux 9. This version was reportedly less than spectacular in terms of stability, hence the reason for the unprecedented update. It is interesting to note that the upgrade process is done with apt-get - "apt-cdrom add && apt-get dist-upgrade" after inserting the update CD will bring your system up to the Update1 level. If you understand Portuguese, you can find more information on these pages.
|Expected This Week
It seems that we will see a new LindowsOS release this week, after all. The entire Lindows web site is currently shut down and the reason is that "our web site is down for a major upgrade to provide support for our exciting new LindowsOS 4.0 release." Originally, there was a message claiming that Lindows.com will re-open on Monday and LindowsOS 4.0 will be released on Tuesday, but this message has now been replaced with a more generic and less error-prone "soon" word. The latest Michael's Minutes (the original link before the site closed was here) dispenses many grand claims and "world's firsts" about LindowsOS 4.0, but if you read closely you will find that most of the "exciting new features" are rather ordinary. Then again, it might be because most of us are not in marketing... If you are interested in LindowsOS 4.0, check what other users are saying on this unofficial forum of Lindows users, before spending money on what looks like one of the more expensive Linux distributions around.
ARMA, formerly known as Omoikane GNU/Linux, has announced the release of version 2.2 later this week. ARMA is a Japanese Debian-based distribution which has turned completely commercial and no freely available editions have been provided since version 2.1. The ARMA 2.2 press release in Japanese is available here.
The first release candidate of Trustix 2.0 is likely to be announced on Monday. The ISO images were released last Saturday, so check out one of the Trustix mirrors if you are interested in beta testing.
|Web Site News
Last week's only new addition to the database was Bonzai Linux. What is Bonzai Linux? Developed by Marcus Moeller and formerly known as "miniwoody", it seems to be a modified version of the Debian "netinst" boot CD. This CD was introduced shortly before the release of Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 (Woody) and was designed for FTP or network installation of the Debian distribution. There are several differences between the original Debian boot CD and Bonzai Linux. Firstly, the Bonzai Linux CD is a complete stand-alone distribution with the latest version of the Linux Kernel and KDE included. The installation is enhanced by the presence of "discover", which is Debian's hardware auto-detection program and it also has a much simplified package selection menu for software installation. Unlike Debian proper, Bonzai Linux boots straight into KDE by default.
Besides using Bonzai Linux as a stand-alone distribution, it is easy to convert it into full Debian after installation. As such, some users might find it a preferred method to install Debian due to its hardware auto-detection and simplified package selection. However, Bonzai Linux does not come with a newbie-friendly, point-and-click graphical installation program and most people who install Bonzai Linux will more than likely be able to install standard Debian as well. Nevertheless, it does save time by not having to wade through the Kernel modules dialog and Debian's archaic package selection program known as "dselect".
Some of you might have noticed a period of excessive downtime of DistroWatch over the weekend. This was due to a planned network upgrade and relocation by the hosting company - they physically moved all their servers into a new building. The expected downtime was 1.5 hours, but something obviously didn't go as planned and the downtime stretched to about 12 hours. This unfortunately broke the immaculate uptime record of the Debian server hosting DistroWatch. However, the hosting company promises much improved service and lightning-fast network after the change, so hopefully things will work out to everybody's satisfaction.
Three new distributions were added to the waiting list since last week's DistroWatch Weekly; these were Medialinux, Puppy Linux and System Down. If they are still active in 90 days, they will be included in this site's database. But the world of Linux distributions is also full of failed attempts and the web sites of Brazil's Luminux Linux and Spain's Linuxin have now been inaccessible for some time. If any of the readers have information about them, please email us, otherwise they will be moved into the "Discontinued Distributions" section next week.
DistroWatch database summary:
Number of distributions in the database: 150
Number of discontinued distributions: 18
Number of distributions on the waiting list: 33
|Many users reported last week that package lists for Gentoo's stable and unstable branches were missing for several days. All seems back to normal now, but these sort of things will happen from time to time. Gentoo's web site provides complete package lists, but these are split into many categories, which makes them hard to access. Fortunately, one of the Gentoo developers kindly agreed to supply DistroWatch with a one-page text-based list of all packages in both branches. A script generating this list was returning errors for a few days before it was fixed - hence the reason for missing package versions.|
That's all for this week, see you next Monday,
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