| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 28, 15 December 2003
Winners and losers of 2003
As the year 2003 slowly comes to an end, who, among the many Linux distributions, are the main winners of this year's events? And who are the main losers?
Mandrake Linux has had a turbulent year. It has slowly managed to stand up back on its feet after almost going bankrupt in 2002, but the outcome did not please everybody. The quality of Mandrake Linux 9.2 has received plenty of criticism in the media and prompted Mandrake to release a large number of product updates soon after the official release. The cost-cutting has also affected the product's usability: as an example, many Asian users were stunned by the inadequacy of previously near-perfect local language support. Yet, Mandrake remains one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions and it has become a de facto standard product for those who are trying out Linux for the first time.
Red Hat was a big winner among investors and shareholders and a big loser among users. The following quote from a Slackware mailing list sums things up rather nicely: "I have seen a lot of anger from early Red Hat adopters who acted as an unofficial sales force for Red Hat. Many of them have installed Red Hat on client sites, they now have to explain the customers that if they want to continue having Red Hat support, they will have to pay larger licence fees than they would have to pay Microsoft, the alternatives being switching to an unproven, unsupported bleeding-edge Red Hat variant or using a different distro."
The above is a single main reason why there has been a dramatic increase in interest in other distributions, notably Debian, SUSE and Slackware. But are any of them serious contenders to replace Red Hat Linux? Debian is free and will remain free, but it has yet again failed to produce a new stable release at the time when Woody is getting badly outdated. SUSE is a strong contender for corporate attention, but unfortunately, Novell's acquisition of the company has put breaks on large-scale adoption by those organisations who thought about migrating from Red Hat Linux. And can anybody, but a geek seriously consider Slackware Linux with a web site updated no more than a few times a year and a total inability (or unwillingness) to market itself?
Despite signs of abating interest in it, Gentoo Linux was one of the most remarkable success stories of this year. Portage, Gentoo's package management system, has clearly won many supporters at the time of growing dissatisfaction with some binary package management formats, although excellent documentation, active support forums and valuable community newsletters have all contributed to Gentoo's becoming one of the most widely used Linux distributions today. But despite frequent assertions by die-hard Gentoo converts, questions still remain about the product being a viable option for a large-scale deployment on mission-critical servers.
The year 2004 can also be though of as "The Year of the Linux Live CD". Knoppix is responsible for much of it, with its superior hardware autodetection, still unsurpassed by many large commercial projects. The success of Knoppix has resulted in many efforts at remastering the original project, ranging from minimalist and security distributions to various language variants, including Catalan, Bengalese or Farsi. Nowhere is this success more clear than on the Knoppix Customizations page of knoppix.net, which now lists no fewer than 70 Knoppix-based live CD distributions and related projects!
Anything else worth mentioning? Several new (or "newish") distributions are worth watching in the new year. The Debian-based MEPIS Linux and the Red Hat-based JAMD Linux have both received rave reviews by those who tried it, while Arch Linux is one of those quiet little distributions with some great ideas appealing to advanced Linux users. And Mandrake users and fans can certainly look forward to Texstar's free PCLinuxOS, which has already proved itself to be a promising product, especially compared to the US$70 MandrakeMove.
|Released Last Week
SmoothWall Express 2.0
After more than 15 months in development, SmoothWall Express (formerly known as SmoothWall GPL) 2.0 has been released: "We are pleased to announce the release of SmoothWall Express 2.0. Changes include: 2.4 kernel; new web interface; new and improved networking options; many bugs corrected throughout the beta programme; and much more..." Read the rest of the announcement, release notes and known issues for additional information.
Damn Small Linux 0.5.1 and 0.5.1.1
A new version of Damn Small Linux has been released. What's new in 0.5.1? "Added .bash_profile for user control of startup programs, both Live CD (with restore option) and hard drive installed users will benefit; improved system architecture and hard-drive install scripts to allow for a more traditional multi-user installation, each added user's environment is like the Live CD's damnsmall user, user damnsmall can now be removed; updated fluxbox; scite in place of nedit (size issue); mformat (needed to take advantage of the restore script use with floppy); modified install script to work with low RAM systems; NTFS read made to work with user damnsmall... " The full changelog.
PHLAK is a new distribution in our database; the name stands for "Professional Hacker's Linux Assault Kit". PHLAK is a Morphix-based security tool, geared to be used as a live CD. It was created to become the only tool security professionals would need to perform security analysis, penetration testing, forensics, and security auditing. PHLAK comes with two light GUIs (fluxbox and XFCE4), packages for printing, publishing, a little multimedia, many security tools, and a file cabinet full of security related documentation for your reading/educational purposes. Version 0.2 was released today: "For all you who have been waiting in the trenches for PHLAK 0.2 to show up, well it is here. Go grab it in the Downloads section." Visit the distribution's web site to read the announcement and learn more about PHLAK's features.
e-smith SME Server 6.0
MITEL has announced the release of e-smith SME Server 6.0. From the release notes: "Mitel Networks is pleased to announce the availability of the final version of the 6.0 SME Server. The changes in this release include engineering improvements, a new look and feel and Spanish language support for the server manager web interface, and the inclusion of a port forwarding panel." Read the rest of the Release Notes for further information.
Feather Linux 0.2.2
A new version of Feather Linux has been released. From its changelog: "Samba added; sshd setup script, Opera download script and HD install script added to menu; 'Run command' option added to menu - uses fbrun; Naim icon and Monkey webserver startup fixed; added keymap selection to X setup script."
CensorNet 3.2 has now been officially released. The announcement came in the 1st issue of CensorNet Bulletin: "CensorNet 3.2 is now available to download from our web site. There is a migration script for those wishing to upgrade from a previous version of CensorNet and a HOWTO document explaining the migration process. For a changelog, please see this post." This is an interim release prior to CensorNet 4.0; a GPL edition of is available for free download after registration.
A new version of ByzantineOS is available. The major changes in 20031212 are: "Built with LFS-5.0; kernel (2.4.22); tmpfs + tar as replacement for initrd; support for XPInstall (now you can install ByzantineOS DropIns just by clicking on a *.xpi link); Mozilla-1.5 (+ minimalistic file manager); busybox-1.00-pre4; metacity-3.6.0 (compiled for embedded systems - no GConf); ssh, sftp, scp; DirectFB-0.9.20 (dfbclock is works again); Acrobat5 as a XPI ByzantineOS DropIn." Read the full changelog for system requirements and visit the distribution's home page for further information.
Buffalo Linux 1.0.4
Buffalo is Linux is a new distribution based on Vector Linux. Version 1.0.4 was released over the weekend: "This release (1.0.4) is a free Christmas release. Its enhancements over 1.0.3 include: improved login security/actions; major cleanup of printer drivers; added CUPS 1.1.20 stable; added numerous help pages; added GIMP 1.3; installation cleanup; Christmas theme." Buffalo Linux is targeted at the small business workstation market. Besides a free edition, the project also develops enhanced editions with pre-installed database access (DB2 and Oracle) and Microsoft product execution using CodeWeavers products for US$25 over licensing costs. Visit the distribution's web site for further information.
- Ark Linux Alpha 10.1 was quietly released last week, but the distribution's web site has yet to be updated. A changelog is also unavailable.
- Kurumin 2.12.
- Source Mage Linux 0.8.0-pre2.
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Xandros Desktop 2.0
Xandros Corporation has updated their web site, informing users that the much awaited Xandros Desktop 2.0 will start shipping on 18 December. Perhaps a little late to arrive in time for Christmas, but it should still please many users who are looking at ease of use as the main requirement from a Linux distribution.
A new interim version of LindowsOS is expected this week, with version 5.0 scheduled for the first quarter of 2004.
Mandrake Linux 10.0
According to this schedule, Mandrake Linux 10.0 should enter its beta testing phase with the release of the first beta ISO images. The final version of Mandrake Linux 10.0 is scheduled for release in March 2004.
Yoper Linux 2
The developers of Yoper Linux have published some information about the upcoming version 2, based on United Linux: "i686 and use autoyast to create install CD set. Graphical installer allows resizing of partitions and has a fast install model to become Your Desktop Version 2.0. SUSE actually has released YaST under a modified GPL. One difference is that you must make it very clear that it is a modified version of YaST written by SUSE. Apart from that .... sweet fast and has ability to use other package management systems like emerge and apt. Emerge should be a standard app on all the distros. Version 1 will continue to have releases for at least another 7 years. Version 2 will be published as a Release Candidate Early 2004." More information can be found in forum post.
|Web Site News
Many thanks to Dominko Aždajić for the Croatian translation and Per Lindström for the Swedish translation of the site's navigation menus (the new translations will become available within the next day or two). Anybody interested in further translation, please take a look at this file for instructions.
Update on Timesavers
Much progress has been made on new Timesavers features, results of which should be available early next year. On the matter of integrating them into the main site, we will have a free search page which will search each distribution's description for keywords, but more advanced searches based on categories, custom comparison tables, and other features will only be available to those who join the programme. The current membership fee is a one-off payment of US$17.50; future pricing will be determined by third party working on the project. Please visit the Timesavers page for more information.
- CPUBuilders Linux. CPUBuilders Linux is a complete RPM-based Linux distribution designed for desktop or server applications. We strive to include as much great software as possible and provide an easier-to-use Linux experience without giving up any advanced functionality. Usable by beginners, hackable by experts, compatible with widely available Red Hat 9 and Fedora Core 1 packages, and easy to keep updated with the optional and inexpensive Cognitio update service.
- Ankur Bangla Live! Desktop. The Ankur Bangla Live! Desktop is a LiveCD distribution created by the developers of the project and is designed to demonstrate the work done by the project members to date. A LiveCD distribution is a bootable CD-based GNU/Linux distribution. It has the ability to run all the available programs entirely off the CD-ROM using advanced, on-the-fly decompression techniques to load the requested programs into the main memory (RAM). This means that one will not have to install anything on the harddisk. The entire system boots off a CD, with programs on the CD autodetecting and setting up the system hardware.
- GNU/Linux Kinneret. GNU/Linux Kinneret is an operating system and a variety of applications supplied in a single package that is easy to operate and use (CD). The system does not mandate installation and/or complicated setup, and includes automatic hardware recognition, a wizard that facilitates easy connection to the Internet, as well as a rich and high-quality range of applications with maximum Hebrew support (with more languages to be supported later on).
- MIKO GNYO/Linux. MIKO GNYO/Linux is a Debian-based live CD with Japanese language support.
- PHLAK PHLAK (Professional Hacker's Linux Assault Kit) is a modular security distribution, geared to be used as a live CD. PHLAK was created to become the only tool security professionals would need to perform security analysis, penetration testing, forensics, and security auditing. PHLAK comes with two light GUIs (fluxbox and XFCE4), packages for printing, publishing, a little multimedia, many security tools, and a file cabinet full of security related documentation for your reading/educational purposes. This distro is based off of Morphix.
New on the waiting list
- LASER5. LASER5 is a Japanese Linux distribution based on Red Hat Linux. Their last release, version 7.2, is dated 14 December 2001, which is now over two years ago. There are no signs of a new release activity, so perhaps it's time to relegate this product into the discontinued distributions group and remove it from all statistics.
DistroWatch database summary
- Biadix. Biadix is a Catalan version of the Knoppix live CD.
- IndLinux. The goal of the IndLinux (Indian Linux) project is to create a Linux distribution that supports Indian languages at all levels. This "Indianisation" project will strive to bring the benefits of Information Technology down to the Indian masses.
- PROTOS Linux. PROTOS Linux is a new Serbian Linux distribution based on Red Hat Linux.
- Slo-Tech Linux. Slo-Tech Linux is a Slovenian Linux distribution based on Red Hat Linux.
- ZipSpeak. ZipSpeak is a mini Linux distribution designed to help blind people get started with Linux. It is based on the popular Slackware Linux distribution, and incorporates the Speakup Linux screen reader. ZipSpeak is produced and maintained by Saqib Shaikh.
- Number of distributions in the database: 218
- Number of discontinued distributions: 25
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 67
On DistroWatch T-shirts and mugs
We haven't moved very far with this project, largely due to lack of enthusiasm from readers. Nevertheless, we will still try to get something going in due time, although this is not a matter of high priority.
On adding new software packages to the package list
"I was wondering if you could start putting a few more apps in the line up of package details on the distro information pages... One that I would elect to add on the table is: Yellowdog Updater Modified... aka... YUM."
This question comes up often, so just a reminder: the package list is updated annually in June. You are welcome to email (or post below) suggestions about the packages you wish to see included, but because of the amount of work involved (imaging checking a package version in 200+ different distributions!), new packages are added once a year in a batch process. However, if you need a package added urgently, I will be persuaded to do the work in exchange of your kind sponsoring of DistroWatch to the tune of US$100. More information about this is available on the Tracked Packages page.
That's all for today, keep well and see you next Monday :-)
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