| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 44, 12 April 2004
Welcome to this year's 15th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. Last week was a slow one when it comes to distribution releases with only MoviX and Danix coming up with new versions. However, the new Danix live CD could be of interest to those waiting impatiently for Knoppix 3.4, as the distribution comes with kernel 2.6.3, KDE 3.2.1 and many other up-to-date software packages. Although the main language of Danix is Czech, it can be booted into English environment by specifying 'lang=en' at the boot prompt. Happy hacking!
Which comes first - the chicken or the egg?
by Robert Storey
Lately I've been noticing some hair loss on my head. It's not because advancing age is causing premature baldness, but rather it's because frustration with Linux documentation is causing me to tear my hair out. It's enough of a problem that I might start wearing a safety helmet whenever I install a new Linux distribution (which offers the additional benefit of protection from banging one's head against the wall).
All jokes aside, my frustration is a real one. I confess to be a distro junkie, and in the past week alone I've installed four new flavours of Linux that I'd never tried before. Unfortunately, all four proved to be disappointing in one way or another, though at least one looks like it might stick around for awhile. However, even this sole survivor (if it does indeed survive) is plagued by what is becoming a recurring problem - insufficient documentation.
Rolling your own Linux distro has now become a popular pastime, and if you frequently visit Distrowatch you'll see that at least two or three new distros make their debut every week. When I say "two or three new distros," I am not counting home-brewed "Linux From Scratch" projects that aspiring geeks create for their own entertainment. Even I played with Linux From Scratch (not too successfully, I'm sorry to say). No, when I say "a new distro," I'm talking about a project that gets beyond the home hobby/education stage. That is, somebody gives their project a name, creates a downloadable iso file, puts it online and tries to take on Debian or Mandrake for market share.
The majority of these projects are but a flash in the pan - they will whither and die before anybody even notices. Occasionally, though, one of these micro brews will suddenly take the world by storm. It's probably the dream of every true Linux hacker to create the next Gentoo or Knoppix.
I mentioned above that I installed four distros this week - now I will reveal which ones: Buffalo, Slax, Adios and Arch. Each of the four had at least one unique feature that attracted me, but within minutes of installation (or attempted installation in the case of Slax - it appears to be a live CD only) I was running into problems. In desperation, I went scrambling in search of a README, HOW-TO or FAQ file for these various distros, but came up mostly empty-handed. In a fit of frustration, I fired off an email to one of the developers, and surprisingly he wrote back:
"YES DOCUMENTATION IS A PROBLEM," he wrote (all in caps). "Wish I could afford to hire a full-time tech writer!"
The sad reality is this - good developers are rarely good technical writers. And good technical writers are rarely good developers. These are two different skill sets.
A distro can make up for a lack of documentation if there happens to be a great user community waiting in the wings to answer questions. Mailing lists, forums, news groups and IRC (debatable) can make a huge difference. With some distros, such as Slackware, there is a lot of documentation but it's notoriously out-of-date, and the user community basically provides an online "update service" (Note: before you Slackware users start flaming me to a crisp, please be advised that I use Slackware and I like it, and I'm writing some updated documentation for it myself). But for many new distros, if you can't figure out your own problem, you're sunk - there is simply no place to turn for help.
I think that we now have so many distributions that any of them that fails to provide solid documentation plus mailing lists/forums is going to go nowhere. Developers who hurl out release after release are probably wasting their time until they have a more complete user infrastructure in place. On the other hand, building user infrastructure is not trivial.
Since I like happy-happy Hollywood endings, I'm going to end this article on a positive note. There are a number of web sites out there with some pretty useful general Linux/Unix information that is worth reading. So below are some practical recommendations. I'd also like to hear suggestions from the user community - do you know of any good online resources aside from what I've mentioned below?
So without further ado, a short list:
- The Linux Documentation Project. This attempts to document everything and the kitchen sink. If you don't have broadband, you can even order the entire web site on a single CD.
- Cafe Computer. Cafe Computer is a commercial outfit, but their web site has a number of useful links. Section 8 in particular has links to many other FAQs, some of which are distro-specific, some more general.
- O'Reilly ONLamp. From the folks who brought you great computer books, O'Reilly has a huge number of great online articles, HOW-TOs, etc. There's enough here to keep you reading for weeks (or months).
- Introduction to Unix. The book "Introduction to Unix" by Frank G. Fiamingo is available online as a free downloadable PDF.
- The 85321 System Administration Study Guide, by David Jones. An absolutely outstanding online textbook for general Unix/Linux students. You can download it as a PDF or postscript file.
Is SELinux too complex?
Users who have been testing the latest Fedora Core test release have had a chance to be exposed to SELinux and its mandatory access control mechanism that attempts to implement a radically improved security model in Fedora Core 2, and later in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Although the effort expended by the Fedora developers has to be commended, there are signs that not everybody is impressed with the complexity that SELinux brings to the table. This is a reaction by one of the readers to last week's article at LWN called First SELinux impressions (subscribers only until Thursday):
"SELinux may give administrators extra flexibility, and add some extra 'layers' of protection for critical files (depending on how the policies are set). But security pros usually consider complexity to be the enemy of good security - and this system is nothing if not complex. I suspect that for every properly configured SELinux install, there will be several that leave gaping holes because they've been misconfigured."
If you have tried the latest Fedora test release, how do you feel about its implementation of SELinux? Do you think it is worth the effort to learn about the policies and get them work to your benefit and greater security of your servers? Or do you believe that it is an unnecessarily complex system, where the negatives far outweigh the positives? Please discuss below.
Fight against European software patents
If you are anywhere near Belgium this week, do try to make it to the walking demonstration against software patents, which will be held on Wednesday, 14 April, at Square de Meeus (200m from Place du Luxembourg) in Brussels. You can find out more about the demonstration, including train schedules and accommodation, on demo.ffii.org.
|Released Last Week
A new version of MoviX is out: "MoviX 0.8.3 fixes the little boot problem that was recently found in 0.8.2. Since it seems bad to release a new version just to fix a single file, a few interesting features and fixes were also added: the 'install.pl' script is now able to install automatically MoviX on a HD partition and make it bootable (but do not use this script to install MoviX on a partition shared with another OS!); when booting from HD, most files will not be loaded in RAM but rather used from the HD, so that you'll get full MoviX features already with 64MB of RAM; Russian and French menus have been updated; a Russian version of the README has been added...." Read the rest of the announcement.
A new version of Danix, a Czech Knoppix-based live CD, has been released: "What is in the new Danix? Everything you wished for. Kernel 2.6, ALSA, KDE 3.2.1, GIMP 2.0pre, Mozilla 1.6.x, Openoffice.org 1.1.1, KOffice1.3, and over a thousand of other packages. A simple installer in our mother tongue and support for Czech on the console. What is missing? Java, which is not open source, and MPlayer until we can figure out how to modify it legally." You can find more information (in Czech) on danix.cz.
Screenshot: Danix 2004.06.04 comes with kernel 2.6.3 and KDE 3.2.1
(full image size 271kB)
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Gibraltar Firewall 2.0
The developers of Gibraltar Firewall have announced that version 2 now nears completion: "At the moment, our partners have the opportunity to test Gibraltar v2. In addition to many usability enhancements in the web interface, Gibraltar v2 will include the following new features: proxy server support in the web interface (http, SMTP, pop3, FTP); advanced Spam protection; professional virus protection; addresses and port aliases; content and URL filtering; user authentication." Find out more at gibraltar.at.
Yellow Dog Linux 4.0
As was widely reported in Linux media, Terra Soft has announced two new releases of Yellow Dog Linux: "'Yellow Dog Linux' -- Terra Soft's 32-bit offering will continue to be offered from Terra Soft pre-installed on Apple computers, from Terra Soft's on-line Store in Geek Edition and box set packaging, through retail stores world-wide, and for download from YDL.net Enhanced and the public FTP mirrors. 'Y-HPC' -- Terra Soft's new 64-bit offering will be available pre-installed on Apple, IBM, and Momentum 970-based hardware, from the Terra Soft Store, and for download from the forthcoming YDL.net Professional account." Read the Terra Soft press release for further details.
|Web Site News
Your requests fulfilled: *BSD projects now included in DistroWatch
Ladies and Gentleman, one of your most often requested additions to DistroWatch is now a reality - as of today, the three major BSD flavours of FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD are now included on these pages, and will be tracked, monitored and updated in the same fashion as Linux distributions.
Some of you might remember that in the past I always rejected the idea to include BSD distributions on DistroWatch, so what brought the change? Well, this is one of those never dying requests - you can reject it a thousand times, but the next day you will get the same request again. But perhaps more importantly, users somehow expect to find FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD listed on these pages, despite the fact that they are not Linux. These expectations might stem from other Linux sites, such as Linux Weekly News or Linux Today, which do publish BSD related news. Freshmeat also lists BSD projects. Like Linux, BSD distributions are open source projects, they use applications developed for Linux and UNIX, and they are extremely popular. Not to mention that, as many devoted BSD users will tell you, BSD is much better than Linux :-)
The three pages are somewhat incomplete at the moment, but they will be expanded in the next few days with the addition of historical releases, as well as their respective development trees, updated daily. Other information will also be added - if you know of any related web sites and resources, recent reviews and other useful information, please mention them in the forum below, or email me directly. I have to admit that I never really used any BSD distribution and I would welcome some information about things like multilingual support, journaled file systems and any information missing from the tables. Are there any BSD-specific packages that would be useful to track? If so, mention them and I'll do my best to include them in the tables. Other BSD projects listed on this page will also be included in due time.
New on the waiting list
- FreeBSD. FreeBSD is a UN*X-like operating system for the i386, IA-64, PC-98, Alpha/AXP, and UltraSPARC platforms based on U.C. Berkeley's "4.4BSD-Lite" release, with some "4.4BSD-Lite2" enhancements. It is also based indirectly on William Jolitz's port of U.C. Berkeley's "Net/2" to the i386, known as "386BSD", though very little of the 386BSD code remains. FreeBSD is used by companies, Internet Service Providers, researchers, computer professionals, students and home users all over the world in their work, education and recreation.
- NetBSD. NetBSD is a free, secure, and highly portable UNIX-like Open Source operating system available for many platforms, from 64-bit AlphaServers and desktop systems to handheld and embedded devices. Its clean design and advanced features make it excellent in both production and research environments, and it is user-supported with complete source. Many applications are easily available through The NetBSD Packages Collection.
- OpenBSD. The OpenBSD project produces a FREE, multi-platform 4.4BSD-based UNIX-like operating system. Our efforts emphasise portability, standardisation, correctness, proactive security and integrated cryptography. OpenBSD supports binary emulation of most programs from SVR4 (Solaris), FreeBSD, Linux, BSD/OS, SunOS and HP-UX. OpenBSD is freely available from our FTP sites, and also available in an inexpensive 3-CD set.
- Rocks Cluster Distribution. Rocks is a complete "cluster on a CD" solution for x86 and IA64 Red Hat Linux COTS clusters. Building a Rocks cluster does not require any experience in clustering, yet a cluster architect will find a flexible and programmatic way to redesign the entire software stack just below the surface (appropriately hidden from the majority of users). Although Rocks includes the tools expected from any clustering software stack (PBS, Maui, GM support, Ganglia, etc), it is unique in its simplicity of installation.
- LinVDR. LinVDR is a complete, breathing Linux system smaller than 50 MB with a complete digital Video Disk Recorder (VDR) / Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and several plugins. For easy access we installed additionally the browser frontend VDR Admin and a Samba share for uploading and downloading music or DVD images with Windows clients.
- EduMorphix. EduMorphix is a GNU/Linux live CD distribution for education containing several tools for effective curriculum transaction.
- Debix. Debix can create a live filesystem from any existing linux system or create a fresh system with debootstrap. By using the device mapper from LVM 2 the live filesystem only needs a new initial ramdisk and otherwise uses the existing system unchanged as loopback image. When creating a live filesystem from scratch Knoppix-like autodetection features and the official Debian boot-floppies and/or debian-installer can be included to make a more comfortable installation.
Does anybody have any information about the status of PHLAK? This high-profile rescue CD seems to have disappeared from the Internet - its web site has been inaccessible for weeks and its project page from Freshmeat has been removed. Is this the end of PHLAK? Does anybody know?
DistroWatch database summary
- Number of Linux distributions in the database: 280
- Number of BSD distributions in the database: 3
- Number of discontinued distributions: 32
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 66
Jeremy H writes: "I am a big fan of DistroWatch and think you are doing a fantastic job! I was reading on the site stoppoliceware.org about proposed laws regarding policeware on new computers sold in the USA. Apparently this could affect users of alternate operating systems like Linux. Maybe you would want to have a read and provide a link on your site. Keep up the good work!"
Two SUSE user forums merge
Adam C writes: "Just to let you know the two user forums you have mentioned on your entry for SUSE have now merged together to become one forum. This is located at suseforums.com or forums.suselinuxsupport.de. You may wish to amend your entry to reflect this."
That's all for this week, see you next Monday :-)
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|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 718 (2017-06-26): Debian 9, support for older hardware, Debian updates live media, Ubuntu's new networking tool, openSUSE gains MP3 support|
|• Issue 717 (2017-06-19): SharkLinux, combining commands in the shell, Debian 9 flavours released, OpenBSD improving kernel security, UBports releases first OTA update|
|• Issue 716 (2017-06-12): Slackel 7.0, Ubuntu working with GNOME on HiDPI, openSUSE 42.3 using rolling development model, exploring kernel blobs|
|• Issue 715 (2017-06-05): Devuan 1.0.0, answering questions on systemd, Linux Mint plans 18.2 beta, Yunit/Unity 8 ported to Debian|
|• Issue 714 (2017-05-29): Void, enabling Wake-on-LAN, Solus packages KDE, Debian 9 release date, Ubuntu automated bug reports|
|• Issue 713 (2017-05-22): ROSA Fresh R9, Fedora's new networking features, FreeBSD's Quarterly Report, UBports opens app store, Parsix to shut down, SELinux overview|
|• Issue 712 (2017-05-15): NixOS 17.03, Alpha Litebook running elementary OS, Canonical considers going public, Solus improves Bluetooth support|
|• Issue 711 (2017-05-08): 4MLinux 21.0, checking file system fragmentation, new Mint and Haiku features, pfSense roadmap, OpenBSD offers first syspatch updates|
|• Issue 710 (2017-05-01): TrueOS 2017-02-22, Debian ported to RISC-V, Halium to unify mobile GNU/Linux, Anbox runs Android apps on GNU/Linux, using ZFS on the root file system|
|• Issue 709 (2017-04-24): Ubuntu 17.04, Korora testing new software manager, Ubuntu migrates to Wayland, running Nix package manager on alternative distributions|
|• Issue 708 (2017-04-17): Maui Linux 17.03, Snaps run on Fedora, Void adopts Flatpak, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Debian elects Project Leader|
|• Issue 707 (2017-04-10): PCLinuxOS 2017.03, Canonical stops Unity development, OpenBSD on a Raspberry Pi, setting up a VPN for privacy|
|• Issue 706 (2017-04-03): Super Grub2 Disk, Snap packages of deepin applications, Subgraph OS routes network traffic for one application, announcements from Linux Mint|
|• Issue 705 (2017-03-27): Minimal Linux Live, sharing control of the operating system, new KaOS features, Uplos32 provides 32-bit fork of PCLinuxOS|
|• Issue 704 (2017-03-20): ToarusOS 1.0.4, Linux Mint's security record, Debian starts Project Leader election, Ubuntu 12.04 reaches end-of-life|
|• Issue 703 (2017-03-13): SolydXK 201701, CloudReady, Solus announces new features, KDE Connect sends text messages from desktop, openSUSE's YaST module for Let's Encrypt|
|• Issue 702 (2017-03-06): Fatdog64 Linux, elementary OS bundled with new netbook, Haiku announces new features, security and the size of a distro's development team|
|• Issue 701 (2017-02-27): OBRevenge 2017.02, Mageia 6 delays, NetBSD reproducible builds, questions about swap space, trying to steam video on a Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 700 (2017-02-20): RaspBSD, Debian replaces Icedove with Thunderbird, Fedora's licensing guidlines, tips for switching shells, finding battery charge, getting IP address and killing processes|
|• Issue 699 (2017-02-13): Clear Linux, GhostBSD network utility ported to FreeBSD, Ubuntu coming to Fairphone, elementary OS crowd funding an app store|
|• Issue 698 (2017-02-06): Solus 2017.01.01, comparing containers with portable applicatins, Tails dropping 32-bit support, Debian Stretch enters freeze|
|• Issue 697 (2017-01-30): Subgraph OS 2016.12.30, running Ubuntu on an Android phone, Arch Linux phasing out 32-bit support, Linux Mint testing updated LMDE media|
|• Issue 696 (2017-01-23): GoboLinux 016, remotely running desktop applications, Solus adopting Flatpak, KDE neon using Calamares, TrueOS tests OpenRC|
|• Issue 695 (2017-01-16): Zorin OS 12, Peppermint team fixes installer bug, Debian refreshes Jessie media, Ubuntu improves low graphics mode, Exciting things coming in 2017|
|• Issue 694 (2017-01-09): MX Linux 16, Fedora considers systemd security features, DragonFly BSD to support massive swap space, Ubuntu Touch roadmap, Puppy's newsletter, sudo's password prompt|
|• Issue 693 (2017-01-02): Comparing small distros, fig language, video driver comparsion, Debian+PIXEL, Wayland on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 692 (2016-12-19): Bodhi Linux 4.0.0, Cappsule containers, Calculate's new Utilities package, Solus and Ubuntu MATE build new application menu|
|• Issue 691 (2016-12-12): SalentOS 1.0, openSUSE improves YaST, Fedora considers slower release cycle, KDE neon gets LTS branch|
|• Issue 690 (2016-12-05): Fedora 25, Ubuntu adopts rolling HWE kernel, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Haiku working toward EFI support|
|• Issue 689 (2016-11-28): openSUSE 42.2, Fedora's upgrade path, plans for Korora 25, transitioning from PC-BSD to TrueOS, Webconverger's reproducible builds|
|• Issue 688 (2016-11-21): Endless OS 3.0.5, KDE neon fixes security hole, FreeBSD's Quarterly Status Report, Rolling release trial #2 concludes|
|• Issue 687 (2016-11-14): NAS4Free 10.3.0.3, Fedora gains MP3 playback, budgie-remix becomes Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu flavours compared, Rolling release trial #2|
|• Issue 686 (2016-11-07): FreeBSD 11.0, rolling release trial #2, Debian announces supported architectures, Simplicity switching to antiX base, farewell to Mythbuntu|
|• Issue 685 (2016-10-31): elementary OS 0.4, SUSE gains ARM support, Mint improves language support, Dirty COW explained, Rolling release trial #2|
|• Issue 684 (2016-10-24): Ubuntu 16.10, Linux popularity in different markets, Fedora runs on Raspberry Pi, Ubuntu features live kernel patching|
|• Issue 683 (2016-10-17): Refracta 8.0, making packages for distributions, Alpine switches to LibreSSL, 386BSD website publishes classic code|
|• Issue 682 (2016-10-10): KDE neon 20160915, Android-x86 6.0, Fedora warns of update bug, HandyLinux drops English translation, LXQt benchmarks|
|• Issue 681 (2016-10-03): OpenBSD 6.0, DragonFly BSD to support LibreSSL in ports, systemd denial of service bug, upgraded Mintbox Mini|
|• Issue 680 (2016-09-26): Uruk GNU/Linux 1.0, blocking applications at the firewall, Lenovo controversy, Ubuntu running on the Nextcloud Box|
|• Issue 679 (2016-09-19): OpenMandriva 3.0, 32-bit vs 64-bit performance, openSUSE updates, KaOS unveils first run wizard|
|• Issue 678 (2016-09-12): Apricity 07.2016, Mageia adopts DNF, KDE neon to use Wayland, FreeBSD updates Linux compatibility, creating cron jobs|
|• Issue 677 (2016-09-05): Peppermint OS 7, Manjaro updates leadership, TrueOS becomes rolling release, organizing files, creating torrents|
|• Issue 676 (2016-08-29): Korora 24, Fedora 25 to use Wayland by default, Linux turns 25, PC-BSD becomes TrueOS, finding software licensing information|
|• Issue 675 (2016-08-22): Gentoo LiveDVD "Choice Edition", moreutils, Ubuntu improves terminal convergence, MATE packaged for Openindiana, FreeBSD improves video support|
|• Issue 674 (2016-08-15): Zenwalk Linux 8.0, Ubuntu phone follow-up, Lubuntu transitioning to LXQt, Steam running on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 673 (2016-08-03): noop linux and EasyNAS, Debian's GnuPG switch, Fedora "Flock", using "nice"|
|• Issue 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
|• Issue 670 (2016-07-18): Linux Lite 3.0, Bodhi team plans 4.0.0, pfSense changes licensing, running software across distributions, Linux Mint upgrade path|
|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
|• Issue 668 (2016-07-04): Fedora 24, Linux Mint plans for 18.1, FreeBSD and DragonFly BSD improve their file systems, comparing Flatpak, Snap and AppImage|
|• Issue 667 (2016-06-27): GeckoLinux 421, Fedora supports Flatpak, Solus unveils new features, running GNU/Linux on tablets|
|• Full list of all issues|
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