| 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,
1 • Good work! (by Kenneth on 2003-06-23 01:52:52 GMT) |
Distrowatch Weekly has continued to improve as each week goes by. I'm happy to see that you include topics dicussed in the past week's comments and address those issues in the week after's column. Keep those columns coming. :)
2 • Appreciate the time you put in (by Mark Lee at 2003-06-23 09:32:22 GMT)
Distrowatch is one of the first sites I check each day. I really appreciate the time you take to "Check it all out" so I don't have to.
Easily worth the donation I made last year.
3 • ELX (by Michael Valentine at 2003-06-23 14:40:57 GMT)
Very good comment on ELX Linux. They would have been better served to remain silent.
4 • Freedom of speech (by Leo on 2003-06-23 14:51:36 GMT)
I am very happy that Ladislav didn't give up to the threatens by ELX. You can't just go around bullying reviewers who say something that you don't like about your product, like ELX did. Distrowatch is a site where the authors (mostly one at the time) put together info about Linux distributions, and compare them according to their opinions. If you trust their opinion, and I do, you visit and recommend the site (as I do). If you don't, you go somewhere else. So simple.
ELX would be better off taking care of their product and users, not bullying reviewers around. And let me stress this: Ladislav has always shown excellent criteria and balance in his opinions, and more than professional information management.
5 • @Leo (by Charles at 2003-06-23 16:44:41 GMT)
Are you "the" "Leo"? If so "Hi" I enjoy your shows and commentary. By the way your response was written it made me wonder. If not...I sitll agree with you 100% about ELX. I once installed it and enjoyed it, but alas...no activity.
Thank you sooooooo much for the work you put into this site. I vist everyday and now look foreward to "Distrowatch Weekly" every Monday! If you ever need and help, I'd be happy and honored to help.
6 • Re: @Leo (by Leo on 2003-06-23 16:56:51 GMT)
No, I am not THE Leo. I am just a regular Linux user/developer. But Hi anyways :-)
7 • ELX and other Linux companies in trouble (by Mill Cates on 2003-06-23 22:11:33 GMT)
Maybe some of the Linux companies in trouble, and now gradually dying or already gone, were in the business only looking for easy profits, but I think that many have had fine and respectable ideals and goals. Many of them got into serious problems just because they didn't get enough money from customers (you?).
People, please, stop expecting distro makers to act like charity organizations! Especially stop expecting that you should always get everything and a kitchen for free from commercial Linux companies.
A voluntary project like Debian can exist by voluntary support only, and because of that, they, of course, give away their products for free too. But a company needs to get enough money from their customers, usually by selling products for a reasonable price.
Whether you use a commercial or a non-commercial distro, support you favorite distro financially too if you can.
8 • When is the Xandros update due (by KMT at 2003-06-24 03:43:03 GMT)
Thank you for your web site. Due to all the reviews of the Distros here I am almost Windoze free. Of all the choices that I have tried I keep going back to Xandros for my personal choice. Readers of this post please don't flame me on my choice. Everybody has their own favorite. I would like an update as to when Xandros is going to release the next version. Once again your site is the best. KMT
9 • Elx (by Bob Weinstein at 2003-06-24 12:42:20 GMT)
Ladislav's credentials as a fair and impartial observer of the Linux scene are, in my opinion, unimpeachable. The complaints he voices about Elx as an organization: low profile in the user groups, the bugzilla problem, absence of security reports and updates, are generally well-known. On the other hand, and as Ladislav acknowledges, the company has created wonderful Linux distributions. The problem is not the product. I now rely on Elx on my home computer (it's a pleasure not to see the "blue screen of death" anymore!). I continue to experiment with many distros, and eagerly follow Distrowatch for news and reviews of emerging distros. But I feel most comfortable with, and confident in, the Elx products. I am pretty sure that Elx is not dead. The company, as I understand it, is focusing on building a reliable business stream in India, and with success. Their commercial viability, and financial stability, will help to assure their survival in a competitive business world. In the meantime, I hope they get the message, loud and clear, that they have an international base of interested users to whom they should pay more attention. Distrowatch is not the enemy. Distrowatch is the barometer. As Bob Dylan famously wrote: "...you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
10 • Supporting Distros (by Kenneth on 2003-06-24 18:50:57 GMT)
Mill, if I could give money, I would give it first to Distrowatch anyways. :)
11 • Support (by Jay Soren on 2003-06-27 15:30:38 GMT)
I just wanted to show my support for your not letting the ELX "info manager" bully you. They need to realise that everything thay do will reflect on ELX, even how they handle their own complaints. No one can or will sink ELX faster than the people behind ELX, so it's a matter of how they handle things from here on out.
Will I ever run ELX Linux? No... and it has everything to do with ELX... not a poor review or "inaccurate information." How the information manager chose to handle the situation was just another rusty nail in the coffin.
12 • In response to "Support" by Jay Soren (by Bob Weinstein at 2003-06-29 13:51:51 GMT)
Hi Jay. I just read your comment and find myself wondering why you say that you will never run Elx. Is this political protest or have you had a bad experience with the distro? I have the good fortune to have gotten my hands on their most recent version 2.0E and it is wonderful. I'm not sure that I;d install it on my mother's computer (when I get her one) but I really like it for me.
Speaking of Mom, I am contemplating Build 75 of Lycoris or, possibly, J.A.M.D. ver 0.0.6. What do you think?
13 • ELX (by Coolcmsc at 2003-06-30 00:49:58 GMT)
Well, thanks a lot! I have just purchased ELX and I am waiting for it in the post - what does all the above mean for me?
Luckyly, I have enough knowledge to be able to distinguish between politics, an anoyed and hardworking reviewer, some freeloading readers of this site and a clever attempt to get a company to with a good product to improve its post-sales service.
But some readers wilol be frightened into the hands of less worthy distros.
Whilst I remain a newby, I have tried many distros. I pay my way too, for example I purchased a copy of SuSe 8.1 home, I am a Silver member of the Mandrake Club and I have purchased the latest Win4Lin. So, snooks to all you freeloaders, whatever your clever opinions.
I have taken a careful look at the reviews of ELX (on all the sites) and also the product contents on the ELX site. Looks to me like a good product and a bad website - I'll tell you if I have egg on my face when I get the CDs.
But at least I shall have given a little cash to those doing a difficult job and will have actually tried the product before slagging it off.
Every Genious Has A Small Wooden Box.
Number of Comments: 13
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