| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 5, 7 July 2003
The Year of Linux
The year 2003 is turning to be something that many people predicted before - The Year of Linux. While our favourite operating system has been taking over the server rooms for some time, it is only now that it is beginning to make huge inroads into personal computing. Europe seems to be leading the way with several regional and local governments in various countries moving their public administration infrastructure to desktop Linux and many schools are replacing proprietary software with free one. It is ironic that all this is happening despite (or perhaps because of) SCO's current onslaught against Linux. The Economist has put things nicely in a recent issue of their magazine - if an obscure company in Utah decides to sue IBM for 3 billion dollars over Linux, it only shows one thing: how big an important Linux has become.
Will Debian survive the rise of Linux? Such was the title of a lengthy article in linmagau.org, Australia's online Linux magazine. The author expressed a worry that one day, when Linux is a lot more ubiquitous, Debian GNU/Linux will no longer be around. Unlikely as this scenario sounds now, none of us knows how the rise of Linux will impact on the volunteer and non-commercial Linux projects. Debian is a base that supplies the code and infrastructure to many other projects and even commercial companies. Can you imagine that one day there is no Knoppix, Xandros, Lindows.com, Libranet and a dozen of other Debian-based distributions?
Speaking about Lindows, the story of the last weekly edition regarding LindowsOS 4.0 did not go down well with many LindowsOS fans. While I don't believe that the story covering the release of LindowsOS 4.0 was overly negative, a few critical remarks in it were taken as a sure sign that the author is nothing but a massively biased anti-Lindows zealot. Admittedly, that was the case during the times when Lindows.com was long on promises and short on delivery, but as I've argued elsewhere, the times have changed. LindowsOS is a real product and, if the Lindows.com user forums are anything to go by, there are many happy and satisfied users who have successfully made the switch. If Lindows.com has finally delivered on those promises and has built a distribution that brings the power of Linux to non-geeks, then they deserve our respect.
That was another way of saying that you are going to see a LindowsOS 4.0 review on this site. Yes, I know - it will be reviewed to death by many other publications in the next month or two and most of you are probably not interested in it anyway. That's fine, just don't read it. But I want to make it clear that this site is not only for geeks and operating system junkies, but also for those who use their computers to accomplish tasks. If LindowsOS 4.0 is a good product, you deserve to hear it from a site that monitors the development of Linux distributions. If it isn't, then don't accuse us from being anti-Lindows, but try to see how the product can be improved. All distributions are striving to be perfect, but that's an elusive goal that cannot possibly be reached.
As for the Arch Linux review, you'll get that too. There is still no word on when Arch 0.5 will be out, but if things go right, it will hopefully coincide with the completion of the LindowsOS review. Why Arch Linux? Because it's the year 2003 and if you are still using an operating system where upgrades are done by inserting a CD and rebooting your system, then you are using a wrong OS. Even if the upgrade succeeds (which is by no means certain), you still have to go through the upgrade anxiety and take your computer off-line for the upgrade. With source-based distribution, you only ever install once. With binary distributions, the picture is grim and unless you are a Debian user and want to keep your OS up-to-date, you have little choice besides going through the scary upgrade procedure every time your distributor releases a new version. This can't be right. If Debian can do it -- and as will be revealed in the upcoming review, Arch Linux can do it as well -- why not the rest? If you know the answer, please share it in the forums below.
|Released Last Week
Trustix Secure Linux
It was a quiet week as far as new distribution releases are concerned and the only big news was the release of Trustix Secure Linux 2.0. Trustix is one of the more mature distributions around; the first release of the Norway-based company was announced in March 2000. However, it has been nearly 2 years since the company's last stable release, version 1.5. Trustix 2.0 is fairly cutting edge for a distribution with a security focus and the release was quickly followed by a long list of bug and security fixes. Be sure to apply them if you have Trustix 2.0 installed in a production environment.
SmoothWall 2.0-beta5 and Ark Linux 1.0-alpha8.1 (followed by a 1.0-alpha8.2 bug fix release two days later) were released last week. A word of warning for those who are interested in trying out the latest Ark - users report that the installation program does not allow for custom partition selection and the only two options for installing Ark Linux are "System Install" (takes over the entire hard drive) and "Express Install" (installs in available free space). This is a known issue with the installer, which is still under heavy development.
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
What's up with Yoper? Andreas Girardet, the Yoper developer, has posted some information about future plans for Yoper and its transformation from a commercial distribution into a community project: "I have been offered a position in the Linux Project Team for IBM in New Zealand last week and have started to work on various Yoper unrelated projects. Yoper is as such second priority. To continue this project I need users like yourself and people with technical skills to make it grow further. Since Yoper as a commercial entity is put on hold for the moment I have to ask you all how you want Your Operating System to continue from here." Version 2 of Yoper is planned to be released within the next 6 - 9 months, it will be purely community-based and available for free download immediately after release. Find more information here.
Momonga Linux celebrated its first anniversary last week. The project was created by former developers of Kondara Linux, a popular Japanese distribution, which was discontinued in July 2002. The announcement contains a development roadmap with a beta release planned for September and final release one month later. See Momonga's press release for further information.
Definity Linux has announced an imminent release of version 2.0, which has been in beta testing for the last two months. Definity Linux is a Brazilian commercial distribution based on Slackware; Definity's web site and its changelog (both in Portuguese) provide more information about the product.
|Web Site News
Three new distributions have been added to the database last week.
New on the waiting List
- Adamantix (formerly known as "Trusted Debian") is a Debian-based extension of the stable Debian branch, providing security-conscious users with tools such as PaX for preventing buffer overflow exploits and RSBAC for creating access control rules, among other features.
- Happy MacLinux is a Japanese distribution for PPC and m68k processors. It is based on another Japanese distribution called Holon Linux.
- TrX Live Firewall is a Turkish project created by Gürkan Sengün. TrX produces a Debian GNU/Linux-based desktop router and firewall package. This package is bootable directly from CD-ROM, so hard disk installation is not necessary. TrX is designed to work completely off the CD-ROM, with configuration data stored on a floppy disk, hard disk partition or, in future versions, on a USB storage device.
If you've ever worried that you'll run out of new distributions to play with, never fear - this week has brought in a flood of new ones, all of which have been added to the waiting list. Here they come, in alphabetical order:
DistroWatch database summary
- Aurora SPARC Linux. The SPARC devotees have so far been neglected by DistroWatch, but this is about to change.
- Burapha Linux. A free Linux distribution based on Slackware. The Burapha Linux project is developed at the Burapha Linux Lab at Burapha University in Thailand. It isn't a new distribution, but has not been submitted before.
- Knoppix STD. This is a customised distribution of the Knoppix Live Linux CD with security tools.
- LGIS GNU/Linux. A new Mexican distribution by LG Internet Solutions, based on Red Hat 9 with Ximian desktop as its default desktop environment.
- Momonga Linux. This is a Japanese RPM distribution started by former developers of Kondara Linux; see also the note in the "Upcoming Releases" section above.
- NBROK ZIP-drive-Linux. If you have an unused 100 or 250 MB ZIP-drive around, here is your chance to do something with it! Give your ZIP-drive a new goal, use it to run Linux! No hard disk required!
- Oralux. An audio GNU/Linux distribution for visually impaired persons, based on Knoppix.
- Panthera GNU/Linux is a new Linux distribution and that's all we know about it.
- Zeus Linux. A new Slackware-based distribution from Greece; version 1.0 is due for release shortly.
Number of distributions in the database: 154
Number of discontinued distributions: 19
Number of distributions on the waiting list: 41
Yes, the Timesavers are being worked on. The Timesavers programme was introduced to get the fans and frequent visitors of DistroWatch support this site in exchange for extra benefits. These include custom comparisons, searches, up-to-date mirror lists and other features, which are still being developed. However, in its unfinished state, the idea has yet to prove itself - only 140 people have signed up for it since its launch in January this year.
- "Mostly because of DWW I decided it was time to sign up for timesavers and support a worthwhile resource. But I see you haven't had anything new to say about it since April. Is it still a going concern?"
As a result, I have been forced to concentrate some of my efforts on other income generating activities, such as building up an advertising clientele and writing for third-party publications. I am pleased to report that this effort has paid off and several satisfied advertisers now provide much of the financial support for running DistroWatch.
This means that I can turn my attention to Timesavers. The most often requested feature is a custom comparison table listing up to 10 distributions side-by-side for easy comparison. The highest priority at the moment is to update the package list and include all the new packages (this will kill a few days), but as soon as that is done, I will get to creating the custom comparison page -- and that's a promise. The price of admission to Timesavers is US$17.50, which is a one-off payment for unlimited access to all areas of DistroWatch, including all new features. The information on this site will of course remain free for all, but those of you who are willing to support it, will get a few extra features, which hopefully save you time and money in the long run. Read about the Timesavers in more detail here.
On DistroWatch icons
Anybody out there with logo design talent? As you can see, my "creativity" last week came under some criticism and I need your help. If you can design an original logo, banner or any artwork for DistroWatch, please send them in; I'd really appreciate your work. Authors of the best efforts will be rewarded with free access to Timesavers.
- "It seems the new icon is not as beautiful as the previous one." "Hate the new Watch logo, tho. Keep trying."
On font sizes
A possible explanation is that unlike most other web sites, DistroWatch uses Unicode (UTF-8) encoding for all text on the site. This is to make it more accessible to audience using non-Latin alphabets by providing navigation menus in their native languages. In your Mozilla preferences dialog, navigate to Appearance/Fonts, then select "Unicode" from the "Fonts for" drop-down box. This is where you
should set a minimum font size and adjust other font properties. Most other browsers provide similar options for adjusting font sizes.
- "My version of Mozilla (1.3) set at the default Text Zoom size [100% (Original Size)] renders DistroWatch main body text at an unusually small font size (I would venture 8-pt). I
rarely come across sites that display text so small, whatever the organiation's intention."
That's all for this week, see you next Monday,
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(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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