| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 4, 30 June 2003
|How not to fork Gentoo Linux
So what do you think of the attempt to fork Gentoo Linux and create Zynot? In principle, there is nothing wrong with taking a GPL project and creating a new distribution; this has been done many times in the past. However, in this case I am going to stick my neck out and argue that Zynot is unlikely to succeed.
Why? Firstly, it has started off on a wrong foot. Taking a project and announcing a fork is a perfectly fine endeavour; launching a personal attack and dirty campaign against the leader of the original project is most definitely not! The long announcement contains little about the project's objective, road map and time line, instead it concentrates on the author's past achievements and personal grievances. How would you like to join this project? Can you be confident that next time it won't be you who receives a call from the author's attorney? No, this is not a project announcement. This document smacks of a sensationalist campaign designed to grab media attention.
Secondly, do you know who Daniel Robbins is? Of course you do, he is the creator and Chief Architect of Gentoo Linux, the fastest growing Linux distribution of all times. If you have ever read any of his superb and authoritative articles on IBM's developerWorks, then you know that Daniel Robbins is not only an excellent coder, he is also one of the most prominent GNU/Linux authorities around! No, Daniel Robbins doesn't need to write lengthy documents describing his personal achievements; his work and tens of thousands of satisfied users are far more credible references on his Curriculum Vitae.
Thirdly, distribution forks generally don't have high probability of success. How many times has Debian been forked? Do you remember Storm Linux, Progeny, Corel Linux? Has any of the surviving Debian-based projects been able to come close to the popularity of the Debian proper? And what about Red Hat? The number of distributions that have taken Red Hat as the base to create a "new" distribution can't be too far from 100, but how many of them have succeeded in getting anywhere near the number of users that Red Hat enjoys today? One, that's how many. Only Mandrake has succeeded in attaining a decent market penetration, while the rest are either long dead or have a combined market share too miniscule to figure in even most detailed statistics.
Is Gentoo Linux perfect? No, it isn't. Is its organisation and management perfect? Unlikely. Do Gentoo users love Gentoo Linux? Absolutely! Given that, I don't think there is any reason to worry about the future of Gentoo. This event is not a community split, it is nothing but a fork created by a disgruntled individual and as such, it is unlikely to attract more that a trickle of followers. Nevertheless, Zynot is a legitimate Linux-based distribution, so as soon as the project releases files for download and installation, it will be added to the DistroWatch database and monitored for releases.
|Released Last Week
The big story of last week was of course the release of LindowsOS 4.0. There is still a lot of negativity about the company and its products in the Linux community and if the page hit count is anything to go by, the interest in LindowsOS has been dropping. Nevertheless, the company has put together a real Linux distribution, it has users who have, thanks to LindowsOS, made a successful switch to Linux and it provides a very active user forum, with Lindows.com employees always around. These are real achievements, which deserve compliments.
So what's new in LindowsOS 4.0? The first thing that comes to mind after visiting the product information page is that the product range and pricing structure have become a lot more confusing. Given that Lindows.com are experts at marketing, it seems that price restructuring was done to convey a message of affordability and price reductions, so that the true cost of the product is not immediately apparent. This is a normal marketing practice by many commercial companies, although rarely used in the world of Linux distributions.
As an example, let's compare the pricing of LindowsOS 3.0 with LindowsOS 4.0. The download edition of LindowsOS 3.0 sold for US$120 and this included unrestricted one-year access to the Click-N-Run (CNR) warehouse. Now, LindowsOS 4.0 costs US$50, while access to CNR, which is essential if you use LindowsOS, costs additional US$50 per year. However, CNR now excludes commercial applications, which are priced separately (StarOffice is US$30, Photogenics is US$20 and TuxRacer Deluxe is US$10). As you can see, LindowsOS 4.0 will at best cost you only marginally less than its predecessor, while it will be more expansive in certain configurations. Suddenly, the self-proclaimed "world's most affordable software" becomes one of the most expensive Linux distributions available on the market.
The second thing you will notice about LindowsOS 4.0 is a remarkable lack of new features. A forum user has argued that "one-click configuration, one-click OS install, one-click software install, one-click upgrading..." are great new features unique to LindowsOS 4.0. I disagree. Look closely at the screenshots of this one-click-upgrade "feature" and you'll notice that the so called "one-click" will merely launch an upgrade wizard. It would be a poorly designed wizard if it did not require any decision making and further mouse clicks! Similarly, the "zero maintenance" phrase used in the same story is nothing but a marketing stunt; operating systems are far too complex for anybody to claim that theirs require no maintenance. No, there are no new features in LindowsOS, because if there were, the marketing department wouldn't need to invent phrases like "one-click wizard" and "zero maintenance".
Nevertheless, LindowsOS appears to be a solid product, at least from the first reviews published by TuxReports and ExtremeTech. While the versions of XFree86, KDE as well as most server applications remained unchanged from LindowsOS 3.0, a lot of work seems to have gone into making CNR and the entire software installation infrastructure more reliable. Overall, despite the lack of new features, LindowsOS seems an excellent product for its target market.
Anybody interested in a full review? I've never installed LindowsOS before, but I could probably get a review copy if there is enough interest. Otherwise I'd rather review some other interesting distribution - one that I've been eyeing lately is Arch Linux (not to be confused with Ark Linux), which should release version 0.5 shortly. Please indicate your preference in the reader comments area.
Other new releases this week: Bonzai Linux 2.1, Damn Small Linux 0.3.11, K12LTSP Linux 3.1.1 and ARMA aka Omoikane GNU/Linux 2.2. On the development side of things, we have seen the first release candidate from Trustix (2.0rc1) and another new beta release from ROCK Linux (2.0.0-beta6).
|Expected This Week
The Morphix project has indicated a possible release of a new version 0.4 some time soon: "I'm aiming for a release somewhere end of this month, or the first week of July, want to have it more or less working this time :-)."
While on the subject of new releases, Aryan Ameri has written a rough estimate of Debian's next stable release, probably version 3.1 and code name "Sarge": "The above gives us an approximate time line of 4 months plus an estimated 2 months' worth of glitches and forgotten stuff. This means that approximately 6 months from now, Sarge will go into freeze. The freeze period will also (hopefully) take no more than 6 months. This means that Sarge should be released 1 year from now." The article was inspired by this email from Drew Scott Daniels sent to the Debian developers' mailing list and it summarises likely features, packages and release time line. Read it here.
|Web Site News
The site's internationalisation was given a double boost last week. Thomas Chung was very kind to help with translating the menus and frequently used phrases into Korean, while Francois Thunus has done the same for Danish. Many thanks for the contribution.
One new distribution has been added to the database - a Thailand-based project called LinuxTLE. This is a modified Red Hat-based distribution with support for Thai and complete with OfficeTLE, a Thai-enabled version of OpenOffice. The Thai government has recently initiated a programme to launch 100,000 low-cost computers with LinuxTLE pre-installed on them. LinuxTLE is a non-commercial project; if you can read Thai, visit the distribution's web site here.
Linare Desktop is a new commercial Linux distribution and a supplier of sub US$200 PC systems. Besides revealing that Linare Desktop will be based around KDE and OpenOffice, not many other technical details are available at the moment. The product is expected to launch in August and will cost US$20.
QRey has been removed from the list of to-be-listed distributions. The project's single-page web site provides very little information without joining the non-free workshops, which makes compiling a page full of useful data an impossible task. Also, the web pages of both Linuxin and Luminux continue to be inaccessible and the status of both has been relegated to "discontinued".
DistroWatch database summary:
Number of distributions in the database: 151
Number of discontinued distributions: 20
Number of distributions on the waiting list: 34
"I would like an update as to when Xandros is going to release the next version." So would many others, no doubt. Unfortunately, Xandros chooses to be very tight-lipped, keeping everybody in the dark as to their future plans. With Mandrake, Red Hat and other "open" distributions, we don't need frequent announcements about the development status, because we can peek into their cookers and rawhides to see what they are up to. This is not the case with closed distributions so they owe up to their users (not to mention stake holders) to report on the development status frequently. If they don't, people will start speculating. Instead of getting new customers, the potential ones will take the wait-and-see attitude and possibly move on to other distributions.|
So what's up with Xandros? Any information about its progress is so hard to find, but you are in luck - or I was when I inadvertently came across this forum post signed by Ming Poon, VP of Software Development at Xandros Corporation: "[Xandros Desktop] V2 is on its way and will be available by the end of the year. As expected, there will be many improvements built into V2 that fits the older computer while making use of the many features that are available from a modern PC today." In a later post on the same forum, Mr Poon reveals a few more details: "V2 will be KDE 3 based for sure. We have our code running in KDE 3 for a few months now. Even KDE 3 is very stable now, it still has those usual UI bugs that will confuse a heck out of an average user."
So there you have it - Xandros Desktop 2.0 is set to be released before this year is over. If the distribution's first release is anything to go by, it should be a great product designed for ease of use and plenty of interesting new features. Hopefully, Mr Poon will soon give us much more detailed information on his company's official web site...
On a separate note, several readers submitted news about reviews of LinuxInstall.org 3.0 (OSNews) and Bonzai Linux 2.0 (PCLinuxOnline). After reading through them, I decided against publishing the news on the main page in both cases. The reason? Reviews are indeed frequently featured on the front page, together with news about distribution releases. However, a distribution review is a detailed account of the reviewer's experiences with the given product over a period of at least several days and should ideally include sections about the hardware configuration, pros and cons, conclusions and recommendations. Note the emphasis on "detailed". A few paragraphs of talk about installation and included applications does not constitute a review. I am not saying that these articles were bad or that they shouldn't have been published; in fact, it's refreshing to see users writing about less well-known distributions. Just don't expect them to make the headlines and don't demand that they do so.
That's all for this week, see you next Monday,
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