| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 58, 19 July 2004
Welcome to this year's 29th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. Thanks to all who sent well wishes to me (Robert) during my illness. Now on to more interesting topics below.
GRUB - The Second Coming
In order to boot Linux, you need a boot loader (note that not every OS needs or has one - MS-DOS and Windows 95/98/Me, for example, never had a boot loader). These days, when people tend to install more than one OS on their hard drive(s), one should ideally have a "multiboot" loader (one which can install multiple OSs). In years past, people would actually pay money for such a thing (anybody remember System Commander which sold for US$99?).
Nowadays, we have several good free open source alternatives to choose from. From the earliest days of Linux, there was LILO (LInux LOader), but more recently GRUB (GRand Unified Bootloader) has gained popularity. As for which one is better, it's sort of like the war between vi and emacs - good luck on trying to get a room full of geeks to agree on this one. Many Linux distros avoid the debate by offering both LILO and GRUB, allowing users to choose which one to install.
GRUB was originally the creation of Erich Stefan Boleyn. Due to some other commitments, Erich couldn't continuing maintaining GRUB. The current maintainer is Gordon Matzigkeit, and GRUB has morphed into a GNU project with many new features added.
Good as GRUB is (and it is really good), it's about to get a major shot of steroids. A new, improved more powerful GRUB dubbed "GRUB 2" is in the works. The original GNU GRUB has been renamed "GRUB Legacy". GRUB 2 offers the following benefits over GRUB Legacy:
- Create a compact core image. This will make Stage 1.5 unnecessary.
- Add support for dynamic loading to the core image, so that it can
extend itself at the run time rather than at the build time.
- Add real memory management, to make GNU GRUB more extensible.
- Add a more object-oriented framework for file systems, files, devices,
drives, terminals, commands, and OS loaders.
- Add support for internationalization. This includes support for
non-ASCII character code, message catalogs like
fonts, graphics console, and so on.
- Add an actual localization, based on the above internationalization
support. We will target on Japanese as the first step.
- Segregate code specific to i386-pc from generic code, to make
GNU GRUB portable.
- Add support for cross-platform installation.
- Develop additional software packages which will help our project and
hopefully other projects.
More details can be found on the GNU GRUB home page. Also see the "GRUB To The Rescue" article under the new "Tips, Tricks and Hints" column.
A New BSD Rises
Practically every week we see the birth of a new Linux distro (and often the death of an existing distro as well). Yes, Linux distros come and go with the wind. Many of these distros were the creation of a single starving student, and in some cases never get used by more than one person. True, a few distros are the work of a team of paid professional programmers who intend to take the world by storm with their new product, but that's the exception rather than the rule.
It's a rather different situation in the BSD world. This may, in part, be due to the fact that there are still far fewer BSD users than Linux users in existence, but another factor is no doubt the existence of Linux From Scratch which allows any home hobbyist to slap together a Linux distro relatively quickly. Perhaps in the future we'll be seeing a BSD From Scratch, but for now there isn't one.
In view of the above, it's quite a major (rare) event when a new BSD comes into existence. Last week we witnessed the arrival of DragonFly BSD 1.0 (and this week a 1.0a bug-fixed version). The project is the brainchild of Matt Dillon and some devoted followers. DragonFly is a fork of FreeBSD 4.x - apparently the DragonFly developers were not happy with the direction FreeBSD 5.x was taking. Specifically, they wanted to implement SMP in a different way from FreeBSD 5.x, and they've also taken out a fair bit of the Perl dependent stuff, plus they thought they could do a better job of writing an installer.
Everyone who's tried DragonFly agrees that it's fast, but also far from complete despite the "1.0" (or "1.0a") designation. The DragonFly team will have their work cut for them trying to equal and improve upon FreeBSD, which by all accounts is no slouch of an operating system.
Also this week, the folks over at ekkoBSD decided to throw in the towel. EkkoBSD was a recent fork of OpenBSD, and the developers had some good ideas, one of which was to make the system more user-friendly. However, as they soon discovered, creating a major operating system is not trivial, and all the more so when the developers are basically volunteers doing the work in their spare time.
Which begs the question - does the world really need another BSD? Given that the BSDs don't command a very large share of the world's OS market, wouldn't it be better for developers to pool their resources rather than going off in different directions? The Unix market has been afflicted with this issue for several decades, and some say that Linux (which is relatively young compared to Unix) already suffers from "distroitis". Perhaps less is really more? Then again, competition is generally a good thing - isn't it? An interesting point for debate.
Along similar lines to the above story, some have wondered whether or not Linux should be "standardized" in some way or other to avoid the fragmentation that turned Unix into a synonym for chaos. Some may recall United Linux, announced May 30, 2002. Undoubtedly the most ambitious attempt at getting Linux developers to cooperate, United Linux was an alliance between Conectiva, SuSE, SCO and Turbolinux. As things turned out, SCO had a change of management and became anything but an ally. The remaining three players managed to turn out version 1.0, but there are no plans for 2.0. To look back at articles like this one, it seems almost laughable that UL was taken so seriously.
Less ambitious than UL, but ultimately more influential, has been the Linux Standard Base. In the early days of Linux development, distros were so non-standardized that developers were giving different names to the same files, and putting them into different directories. The LSB (which relies on voluntary compliance) has been fairly influential. However, in a recent article posted at Newsforge, writer Jay Lyman questioned whether or not the LSB could survive.
There are several significant things about the Linux Standards Base that the author didn't mention in the article. The LSB is the offspring of the Free Standards Group, an organization whose membership is dominated by corporations. That in itself is hardly scandalous, but more troubling is that the Free Standards Group has been reluctant to take input from projects outside the member companies influence. In particular, Debian users feel particularly miffed that the LSB specifies that software packages should be delivered in RPM package format. This is despite the fact that Debian's "deb" format is both older and - in the opinion of many - better. Debian developers have basically rejected this "guidance," and ironically the "deb" format has been picking up converts and could very well wind up pushing RPM to the fringe. On the other hand, some have argued that this is a non-issue since the RPM format specified by the LSB is well-supported by the Debian "alien" program. However, not everyone is totally convinced, and the question remains, "Is the LSB going to survive?".
Internet Explorer Living On Borrowed Time?
Just when you thought that Microsoft might finally be getting its act together in terms of security, someone comes along and pours cold water on the whole idea.
It's no secret that many of the security holes in Windows are a direct result of Microsoft's decision to co-mingle Internet Explorer's code base with that of the operating system. This is the very opposite of the traditional modular approach of Unix programming. The deeper you integrate a program into the operating system, the likelier that a programming bug will have far-reaching ramifications that no one foresaw. It also means that fixing one simple bug could trigger a whole new slew of bugs. Thus when a security exploit is discovered in Internet Explorer, Microsoft's programmers (who by all accounts are actually quite good at their job) are forced to spend a huge amount of time testing to make sure that their patch won't create a worse problem than it solves.
In view of the above, one would expect that Microsoft would be expending an effort to make Internet Explorer more modular, but according to this story published at OSNews, the exact opposite seems to be taking place. The author, Roberto J. Dohnert, participated in an online chat with the Internet Explorer development team, and was told that IE would be integrated even more tightly into future versions of Windows. This is, no doubt, great news for developers of anti-virus software and computer security consultants. Indeed, one can almost hear the champagne bottles being uncorked at the corporate headquarters of major anti-virus vendors. As someone once said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
However, Mr. Dohnert took his arguement one step further and suggested that IE's continuing security problems might lead to it being abandoned totally by users. Personally, I doubt that. I have many Windows-using friends who have suffered repeated virus attacks - their email address books have been hijacked, their machine was made into a spam zombie, and their hard drive became a repository of warez, all without their knowledge. And what did they do about it when they finally discovered the problem? Nothing. As long as they can boot, surf the web and send an email to grandma, everything is fine. Downloading and installing a security patch is just too much trouble.
As for those of us who don't even have Windows installed, this is not the time to become smug. Security exploits have indeed plagued non-Microsoft browsers. Other than keeping your system up-to-date, the best protection is running a good firewall. If you're not running a server, you probably don't need any incoming ports to be open, so lock them down tight. Complacency can be your worst enemy.
|Released Last Week
Yoper V2 has been released: "The
Yoper team is pleased to announce the public release of Yoper V2.
Combining the elements of raw speed with the renowned stability of
Linux, the V2 is the fastest out-of-the-box Linux system in the world.
Seamless updating and software integration provided by Apt/Synaptic.
Leading edge Technology enhancements using Linux kernel 2.6.7,
bolstered with performance patches, innovative pre-linking, win4lin
support, VMware support, VMware module integration, NVIDIA 3D support,
ReiserFS4, secure shell file system, CDROM supermount, and Ndiswrapper
for Windows binary driver integration." The full announcement. Download: yos-i686-2.0.0-9.iso (644MB).
DragonFly BSD 1.0
DragonFly BSD is out: "One
year after starting the project as a fork off the FreeBSD-4.x tree, the
DragonFly Team is pleased to announce our 1.0 release! We've made
remarkable progress in our first year. We have replaced nearly all of
the core threading, process, interrupt, and network infrastructure with
DragonFly native subsystems. We have our own MP-friendly slab
allocator, a Light Weight Kernel Threading (LWKT) system that is
separate from the dynamic userland scheduler, a fine-grained system
timer abstraction for kernel use...." Find the full announcement on dragonflybsd.org. Download: dfly-1.0REL.iso.gz (78.6MB); also available via BitTorrent. Update: Release updated to 1.0a (78.6MB) to fix a serious fdisk/slice issue with the installer. An xdelta patch is also available for people who have downloaded the original 1.0REL iso.
Puppy Linux 0.9.1
Puppy Linux 0.9.1 has been released. These are some excerpts from the release notes: Mozilla
has been upgraded to version 1.7, with Skipstone as the GUI front end.
Skipstone displays as version 0.8.4 however it is actually a hybrid of
0.8.4 and 0.9.3. The problem with Skipstone crashing when flipping
tab-views is now fixed, however there are still some minor problems
with tabbed-windows view. GTK applications in Puppy can now have
anti-aliased fonts, courtesy of the libgdkxft package, and this is
applied on a per-application basis. Font anti-aliasing is applied to
Skipstone, Dillo (web browser), Amaya (HTML editor) and Ted (word
processor). Download: cd-puppy.iso (49.0MB).
Turbolinux 10 F
The English language edition of Turbolinux 10 F is now available: Based
on Turbolinux 10 Desktop, Turbolinux 10 F... is the latest desktop
operating solution from Turbolinux that brings Multimedia to your
fingertips. 10 F extends functionality to support a variety of
streaming video, audio and multimedia content delivered over broadband.
10F... Fun, Fast, Future, Freedom, Flexible. Please find your 'F'.
Turbolinux 10 F is the first Linux distributions that brings Windows
and Real streaming video, DVD movies and Apple iPod support to Linux,
legally. To find out more, please read the original press release, product information page and data sheet (in PDF format). Turbolinux 10 F is available for purchase online (US$69.00).
Damn Small Linux 0.7.2
Damn Small Linux 0.7.2 has been released. From the changelog: "Added
myDSLgui, a click-and-run system for extensions; added Lua scripting
language and Lua sockets; replaced Scite with Beaver; replaced nvi with
vim; changed user from damnsmall to dsl (also took 'damn' out of the
boot process); upgraded busybox; simplified filetool.lst usage - always
edit at home; updated Firefox Flash plugin in Firefox download script;
actually shrunk the ISO by nearly 1MB from 0.7.1." Download: dsl-0.7.2.iso (46.9MB).
redWall Firewall 0.5.4c
This is a bug fix release of redWall Firewall 0.5.4: "A
'major' bug in MySQL (related to the environment on the CD) has been
fixed in this release (again ;-) ... please upgrade any 0.5.4 release
prior to 0.5.4c if you need MySQL support! Changelog: downgraded MySQL
to Version 4.0.18; modified mkisofs options which should fix reported
problems with booting the CD on certain PCs." Read more on the distribution's news page. Download: redwall-0.5.4c.iso.tar.gz (148MB).
Linux 2004-r4 has been released. This is not to be confused with the
recent OnebaseGo 2.0 (Live CD) release. Two major new features are the
new Net-Installer and OLM 3. "Being a net-based
installer it provides high level of flexibility in selection of
packages and mode of installation. Also you directly install the latest
available packs from OL-apps." The full scoop on this release is available here.
It should be noted that the Net-Installer is only meant for new users
of Onebase. The new release is available for purchase or as a free download (106 MB).
OnebaseGo 2.0 (Live CD)
OnebaseGo (Live CD) version 2.0 has been released. "This
release comes with numerous package updates, improved EPS and Docking.
EPS - eXtended package store, a new feature which was introduced in 2.0
preview1 allows users to access additional software via this." The announcement for this release can be found here.
The developers encourage users to purchase the product from their store
in order to support the growth of this project, but it also available
as a free download (457 MB).
Development and unannounced releases
|Web Site News
Linux On The Road
Robert Storey fell ill for almost a full week, slowing things down at Distrowatch for several days. Nothing more will be said here about that hiatus, but geeks are advised to get more exercise. Pushing around a mouse while getting your brain fried by a CRT monitor (even though protected by an aluminium foil hat) is not healthiest pastime. If the foregoing describes your condition, now is a good time to wake up and smell the coffee (preferably decaffeinated).
Ladislav lent a (big) helping hand from an Internet cafe in Ferrara, Italy. Not surprisingly, all the machines in the Internet cafe were running Windows, but Ladislav managed to sneak in a Knoppix CD. The interesting thing is the staff didn't even notice the difference - perhaps we Linux enthusiasts can launch a stealth campaign, slipping in Knoppix disks where it's least expected. Anyway, Ladislav's next stop was Geneva, Switzerland, and plans call for hitting Austria next. We should be hearing interesting tidbits about Linux-on-the-road from Ladislav as he winds his way through Europe.
DistroWatch database summary
- Number of Linux distributions in the database: 315
- Number of BSD distributions in the database: 7
- Number of discontinued distributions: 32
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 84
|Tips, Tricks and Hints
GRUB To The Rescue
I received a brief but urgent message from a friend (named Burt) a few days ago. And it was this message that inspired the main topic of this week's Distrowatch Weekly News.
Burt is new to Linux and admits to being bewildered at times, but he's very enthusiastic and eager to learn. He's been downloading and testing various distros, still looking for the "perfect" one. Over the past few months he's probably had more Linux installs than hot meals, and he keeps coming back for more. I admire his perseverance.
One minor hazard of doing so many installs is that your MBR (master boot record) gets repeatedly overwritten by the installation programs. Some distros install LILO, some install GRUB. If you mess with the BSDs, you'll wind up with something else, and Windows will overwrite your MBR without even asking. This is exactly what happened to my friend Burt. He installed Mepis, liked it, then tried something else that rendered GRUB inaccessible. Now he wanted to know if there was a way to get it back.
Fortunately, there is. What you really need (and should prepare in advance) is a GRUB boot disk. Normally, this would be a floppy, and if you search around the Internet you are sure to find a bootable floppy image somewhere. However, it's my opinion that floppies are on their way out, and indeed I have a couple of laptops that don't even have a floppy drive. Obviously, a bootable GRUB cdrom would be more useful. You could make one yourself, but easier would be to download one, and I happen to know that you can find one here.
If you boot this GRUB CD, you should wind up with a plain text mode prompt that looks like this:
Admittedly, this does not look very informative, but if you've gotten this far then you're already half way towards rescuing your system. All you've got to do now is know what to type at the prompt - the big question is how to find out?
What you should have done in advance was to look into the GRUB configuration file on your hard disk, which is /boot/grub/menu.lst (and note it's "l" not "1" - they really should have named this file "menu.list" rather than "menu.lst", but they didn't ask me). Anyway, look through this file (and perhaps print it out on paper). You'll be looking for a section that resembles this:
title Knoppix 3.3
kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/hda3 ro hdc=scsi hdd=scsi
What appears in your GRUB configuration file will no doubt be slightly different, but should be similiar. Now all you've got to do at the GRUB prompt is to manually type the above configuration information. However, you do NOT need to type the line that begins with "title", nor do you need to type "savedefault". You will need to type out the other lines. It is possible you won't have a line beginning with "initrd" (initial ram disk) - not every Linux distro makes use of this feature for booting. Assuming you typed everything correctly, after you type "boot" and hit enter, your machine should boot into Linux as it normally does.
Once you have booted and logged in as root, you can type this to restore your MBR:
That should do it. Note that the above will only work if you have "grub-install" already installed, which is usually the case. Otherwise, you'll need to download and install it.
The foregoing was only meant as a brief introduction in repairing your GRUB install. A more thorough treatment of GRUB can be found in this excellent article from Linux Journal.
That's all for this week.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• 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|
|• Issue 666 (2016-06-20): Comparing more live update methods, Ubuntu's snap packages, Antergos drops 32-bit media, GeckoLinux unveils Rolling edition, learning Linux resources|
|• Issue 665 (2016-06-13): BunsenLabs Linux Hydrogen, Fedora 24 delayed, NetBSD grows in size, Clonezilla questions|
|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
|• Issue 663 (2016-05-30): Comparing live update methods, Ubuntu MATE's progress, distros debate systemd change, DistroWatch turns 15|
|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
|• Issue 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
|• Issue 660 (2016-05-09): Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Mint's xapps, FreeBSD Quarterly Report, Debian updates 32-bit support, addressing GPL violations|
|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
|• Issue 658 (2016-04-25): Kali Linux 2016.1, elementary OS 0.3.2, Debian elects Project Leader, Fedora 24 feature preview, Nard reaches 1.0|
|• Issue 657 (2016-04-18): Redox, Linux Mint improves update manager, planned Fedora 24 features, Ubuntu 16.04 getting Snappy packages|
|• Issue 656 (2016-04-11): Qubes OS 3.1, Whonix offers bug bounties, Puppy's family tree, setting up disk partitions and running bash on Windows|
|• Issue 655 (2016-04-04): Parsix 8.5, Sabayon's Community repository, Red Hat offers free subscriptions, Ubuntu tablets, command line tips|
|• Issue 654 (2016-03-28): PCLinuxOS 2016.03, Using signatures to create a web of trust, Arch Linux rolls out Pacman update, GuixSD packages GNOME|
|• Full list of all issues|
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