| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 11, 18 August 2003
SuSE's dangerous arrogance
In two recent interviews with popular technology publications, SuSE's CEO Richard Seibt chose to demonstrate a high degree of arrogance. In response to CRN's question about Windows to Linux migration, Seibt insisted that "Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else." In another interview for ZDNet, the suggestion that choice meant more than the two alternatives met with another strong denial from Seibt: "If you ask [the hardware vendors], they will tell you they want to support two distributions." While in the context of the topics discussed these statements sounded more like "wishful thinking", rather than solid facts, they also represent a dangerous shift in the world of commercial Linux distributions - from peaceful coexistence with other Linux vendors and communities to a cut-throat, Microsoft-like way of competing, where facts and truths are less important that profit margins and elimination of any competing product at all cost.
First, let's get the facts straight. SuSE is nowhere near to being the second most widely used Linux distribution in the world. Granted, there are no reliable statistics to prove it, but of the many polls that occasionally appear on popular web sites, SuSE rarely does well. Take this recent Slashdot poll as a good example. Slashdot is of course an enormously popular web site, which has the ability to generate tens of thousands of votes in a few hours, but of the distributions presented in this one, SuSE, with 7% of all votes, only succeeded in beating Conectiva and Linux From Scratch. Our own page hit ranking, which is essentially a long-term poll of visitors' interest, SuSE is well behind Red Hat, Mandrake, Gentoo and Debian, and only very slightly above Slackware. Moreover, German visitors browsing DistroWatch visit the Mandrake and Red Hat pages more often than the SuSE page. Another interesting indication of SuSE's acceptance came to light earlier this year when we were looking for a dedicated server hosting DistroWatch. While about 95% of web hosting companies offer Red Hat as the only Linux choice and the remaining 5% also offer Debian and/or Slackware, of the 200 or so hosting companies we looked at, none offered SuSE as a choice of OS.
SuSE has several other things going against it. Firstly, there is little doubt that SuSE's reluctance to provide ISO images for download limits its exposure. Worse, SuSE is very selective about its markets and although it is well accepted in large parts of Europe and North America, there is the vast Asian continent where SuSE is virtually unknown. Secondly, many US-based journalists seem to be of the opinion that SuSE is a dominant distribution in Europe, while ignoring substantial parts of the old continent, such as the Spanish provinces of Extremadura and Andalusia, which have exclusively deployed Debian-based LinEx in all of their public administration offices as well as schools. A similar effort is under way in Norway with Skolelinux, which is also Debian-based. This point is not to be underestimated - we are not talking about a few dozens of computers in companies that can afford the expensive SuSE Desktop licenses - we are talking about tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Debian-based systems, with no other operating system on them! Now, this is the true success story, which SuSE will not match in hundred years, Mr Seibt!
Thirdly, SuSE's refusal to include general public in its beta testing is another sore point. If you have ever experienced the spirit on Red Hat's and Mandrake's mailing lists during their respective beta testing periods, than you know the feeling - being part of the process, talking to the developers, seeing the bugs fixed in front of your eyes - all these experiences provide not only valuable lessons for all who take part, they also create an emotional attachment to the distribution one helped to test and debug. A distribution is not just a box with media and manuals in it, it is a process. The regular distribution flame wars on public forums prove that we do get attached to a our favourite operating system.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that the wide acceptance of Linux will undermine the purity of the original ideals that have initiated its development. Yes, profits are important. Yes, there should be companies that benefit from Linux so that they can contribute to its continued prosperity. But is it necessary to resort to dirty tricks and outright lies? Is arrogance of top executives of commercial Linux companies slowly becoming the order of the day? I certainly hope not, Mr Seibt.
|Released Last Week
CRUX 1.2 has been released. Changes: "GNU coreutils is now included and replaces fileutils, sh-utils and textutils; GTK+ 2.2.x (i.e. glib2/gtk2/atk/pango) is now included in opt; /etc/ports/clc.cvsup is now included in and installed by opt/ports (i.e. no need to download it yourself anymore); opt/ports version 1.0 with driver script support (i.e. cvsup it not the only way to download/publish ports any more); default kernel is now 2.4.21; glibc message catalogs are gone; about 50 other package updates." See the changelog for the complete list of changes.
Yoper Ydesktop 1.1
A new version of Yoper Ydesktop has been released: "Yoper Ydesktop V1 has just had its first major update since its 1.0 release. This new release is tagged 1.1. With this update two CDs are now available for free download. This update includes the following new features: Gentoo(TM) Portage integration, Kerberos support, Evolution mail client (on CD2), GNOME 2.2, experimental update function for Yoper V1 users. CD1 is the standard i686 optimised kde-3.1.3 based desktop." You can find the release announcement here.
Linux MLD 7
Japan's Linux MLD, or Linux Media Lab Distribution has announced a new release, version 7. New features include automated installation, which can be initiated from within Windows (see screenshots), installation to FAT or NTFS file systems, availability of ext3 journaled file system and network installation. Upgraded packages include GNOME 2.2 (the default desktop environment), Mozilla 1.4, OpenOffice 1.0.2 and many others. The distribution comes with several boot loaders and even the ability to setup Windows NTLOADER to boot Linux. MLD7 supplies a highly up-to-date Japanese language environment, Wnn 7 input method editor, several Heisei, DynaLab and DynaFont Japanese fonts, as well as an English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionary. More detailed information is available in this announcement (Japanese only). Linux MLD7 will be available in Japan on 5 September and the retail price is set to ¥13,800.
Conectiva Linux 9 Upd1
Conectiva has released an update to Conectiva Linux 9. The Release Notes (in Portuguese) contain a long list of bug fixes and package updates; among the more interesting ones are updates to KDE 3.1.2, Linux Kernel 2.4.21, PHP 4.3.2, ethereal 0.9.13, openldap 2.1.21 as well as the inclusion of BitTorrent. The updates were previously available via apt-get or BitTorrent, but the complete collection is now also available on a single ISO image. Find more information about the release on Conectiva's updates page (in Portuguese).
TrX Live Firewall 3.6
The TrX Live Firewall projects has announced the release of version 3.6: "TrX 3.6 comes with Debian Woody 3.0, XFree86 4.3, KDE 3.1.3." TrX is a Debian/Knoppix-based firewall designed to work completely off the CD-ROM, with configuration data stored on a floppy disk or a hard disk partition. There are no release notes; but visit the distribution's home page to get the full package list, see some screenshots and browse the brand new user forums.
Oralux 0.04 has been released. What's new? "Based on Knoppix 3.2 (2003-06-06); the preferences (volume, type of keyboard,...) are selected via the talking menu; preferences and documents may be saved; the ISO image is lighter (378 MB); the CD may be ejected or not ejected before the system is halted; a few bugs have been fixed." Oralux is a GNU/Linux distribution for visually impaired persons, where a visual desktop is replaced by an audio interface; find out more on the distribution's web site.
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Onebase Linux 1.0
Onebase has announced that instead of 1.0 beta2, 1.0 final will be released: "We are sorry for the wrong announcement of release date for 1.0 beta2, as we have decided to release version 1.0 stable rather than having another test version. Also kindly note that the release date for this is yet to be announced.
|Web Site News
New mirror and language
Many thanks to Florin Veres in Cluj-Napoca, Romania for providing a new DistroWatch mirror as well as translating parts of the site into Romanian. DistroWatch is now offered on 11 mirrors and the site's navigation menus as well as some content has been translated into 21 languages.
New on the waiting list
- Augustux is a live CD distribution based on Debian and Knoppix. It has full support for the Aragonese language, used in the province of Aragon, North-East of Spain.
- Boten GNU/Linux is a Peanut Linux based distribution intended for home users. It provides a fully localised GNU/Linux environment in Hebrew. It's especially made for those new to Linux, though aimed to please all users, experts and newbies alike. Boten GNU/Linux can be installed in a UMSDOS partition as well and can run on 386 systems all the way up to the latest x86 machines.
- Luinux is an Internet Gateway for your home network equipment (PC, VideoConsole, TV, oven, ...). Luinux comes preconfigured so, ideally, you just have to install it and play. Once installed in your server PC you get a Debian-based installation with the following features: easy installation; Debian-based, once installed it is easy to keep it updated; journaling file system; ethernet hardware autodetection; easy backup to ISO; Internet connection sharing; firewall router; traffic classifier to prioritise important traffic; intrusion detection system; transparent http cache; system statistics via web interface; secure shell support; NTP date adjustment; instant messaging server; NetBios network file sharing; Internet file sharing.
- Oralux is a Knoppix-based GNU/Linux distribution for blind or visually impaired people. Its user interface is based on Emacspeak, an audio desktop created by T V Raman. Emacspeak offers a complete and powerful desktop. The CD includes Flite, a free Text-To-Speech software available in English and French, but other languages might be included upon request. Oralux provides visually impaired users with the ability to peruse available documentation, send and receive email, browse the Internet and other common tasks.
DistroWatch database summary
- BRLSPEAK is a Braille and Speech Mini-Distribution of GNU/Linux.
- MIKO GNYO/Linux is a Japanese Linux distribution (web site in Japanese).
- L.A.S Knoppix (Local Area Security) Linux is a 'Live CD' distribution based on Knoppix but with a strong emphasis on security tools and small footprint.
- NordisKnoppix is a version of Klaus Knopper's Knoppix, supporting Nordic and Baltic languages.
- Number of distributions in the database: 167
- Number of discontinued distributions: 22
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 58
On page hit ranking
Yes, there is little doubt that those distribution high on the list do get more hits, simply because they are perceived as popular, which equals "good" in many minds. I am reluctant to remove the listing completely, because it has been an integral part of the site since its early days and has generated plenty of interest (as well as some cheaters on occasions). But as an experiment, I have removed the hyperlinks (and with them the easy access to the individual distribution pages) from the list and anybody wishing to access one of the distribution-specific pages will have to get there via the navigation menu.
- "I wonder how Page Hit Ranking scores would change if the listing was moved away from the front page, replaced by, for instance, an alphabetical list of distros? This whole PHR thing seems to act like a snowball - the distros displayed at the top keep getting "hit" due to their "popularity" according to PHR, while those at the bottom... You get the idea."
On hyperlinks in user comments
The URLs will autoparse in comments - as long as you leave spaces on both ends. This idea has been taken from OSNews, but I am not sure if this is the best way to go about it. Maybe I should make the PHP code more intelligent so that URLs inside HTML tags will be left untouched and only URLs not enclosed in HTML tags will be autoparsed. Any other ideas or suggestions?
- "I don't know how to embed links properly into the comments... Care to share the secret?"
That's all for this week, keep well and see you next Monday,
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