| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 84, 24 January 2005
Welcome to this year's 4th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! We comment on why we believe that there is no reason to worry about the future of Slackware Linux, reveal a new RPM package resource for SUSE users, and point out a fresh controversy occupying some of the Debian developers - XFree86 versus X.Org. Also, don't miss the newly released Linux+ Live DVD and a new distribution for Farsi (Persian) speakers - Parsix GNU/Linux. Enjoy!
The future of Slackware Linux
With the imminent release of Slackware Linux 10.1 and recent serious health problems affecting Patrick Volkerding, the distribution's founder and maintainer, it is time to look at the possibilities that lie ahead of the world's oldest surviving Linux distributions. Let's be honest about it, there is a concern in the community that if Patrick is no longer able to maintain the distribution, it will simply die. This is witnessed by the discussion forums on these pages and our inbox with regular messages by Slackware users who, as much as they love the distribution, are reluctant to make a long-term commitment to using Slackware. "What happens if Pat gets hit by a truck?" is a question often accompanying such emails.
Worry not, folks, for Slackware will survive, even if the worst happens and Patrick is no longer able to maintain the distribution. There are two reasons for it. Firstly, despite its appearance of being a low-profile project, Slackware Linux is by no means a small distribution. It has substantial following of die-hard Slackware users who spend less time bickering about the distribution's merits on public forums and more time supporting it with help and cash. In fact, Patrick mentioned several times in the past that the sales of Slackware CDs and merchandise are profitable to the extent that he is able to make a living from developing Slackware and still give it away for free download. Also, the history of Linux distributions is a good indication that a sudden end of Slackware is highly unlikely. As an example, did you know that Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian, left the project even before Debian's first stable release? Last year, Daniel Robbins, the founder of Gentoo, also retired from the organisation. Have Debian or Gentoo died because their respective founders decided to pursue some other interests? Of course not!
The second reason why I believe that Slackware will survive its current crisis is that, despite the appearance of its being developed single-handedly by Patrick, the truth is that Slackware has many contributors. Just look through its current changelog and you will notice a large number of names who help with the development, if not always directly, at least by reporting bugs. These are people who not only have a vested interest in seeing that Slackware Linux continues its existence, but who, sharing the philosophy behind Slackware, would undoubtedly be able and willing to take over the project, in case the current leader is unable to continue his work.
But perhaps the most valid argument comes from Patrick himself, as expressed in the most recent entry of the Slackware changelog: "Also, in case of emergency I've left instructions with some very trusted people, so nobody should have to worry that if something happens to me that their Slackware systems will be orphaned and unsupported. It may be a long road back for me, but there will be people taking care of security issues as they crop up (like the folks at GUS-BR and SlackSec), and if I should make an unplanned departure there is a basic plan of succession in place."
So there you have it. Even though Patrick is seriously ill with a rare disease that many doctors have been unable to diagnose, let alone cure, the Slackware maintainer is still concerned about you and I, the users of his distribution so that we don't have to run an operating system with no security updates in place. How many of us would be able to do the same? How many of us would be able to unselfishly put the interests of total strangers above those of our own?
Here is a link to the Slackware Store. If you can, support the man who is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest ambassadors of the Linux movement.
The world's oldest surviving Linux distribution is preparing a new release - version 10.1.
(full image size: 431kB)
* * * * *
SUSE increases community involvement
Browsing a SUSE mirror over the weekend, something caught my attention - a new folder called supplementary (correction: as several readers pointed out, this directory has existed on SUSE mirrors since SUSE 8.2, so it isn't exactly new). In it, you can find the following message: "Dear SUSE LINUX user. Generally, we do not provide update packages with newer versions in the official update tree. Our high quality standard forces us to keep to the versions originally published with a product to maintain the overall system in a consistent state with regards to cross-dependent packages (think of a linux system like a building, built with packages like bricks one on top of another). Fixing a problem in a package with a new version will most certainly bring about malfunctions in other parts of the system."
Not much new in the above statement, but the tone of the message suggests that there will be a "but" somewhere later on, explaining the purpose of the new directory: "The directory contains RPM packages that originate from SUSE build engines and that are built for the specific distribution as visible in the directory path that leads to the package. Some of the packages have been built by their respective package maintainer at SUSE in his/her spare time. The packages are usually signed with the SUSE build key build at suse.de, or at least by the personal key of a SUSE employee so that you can verify that the packages really are from SUSE sources."
Now, this sounds more promising, with more good news later on: "We publish these packages as a service to the community (you) because many users of the SUSE LINUX operating system wish to use newer versions of specific packages due to feature or hardware support constraints in older SUSE LINUX versions without the obligation to upgrade the entire system."
Here, SUSE is addressing a concern that has been frequently raised by users of distributions with fixed release schedules, such as Mandrakelinux, Fedora or SUSE, who often wish to take advantage of new features of certain packages, but they normally have to wait for 6 months or longer before their distribution maker produces a new release with that particular package version. With today's SUSE, this problem is being addressed, at least on an unofficial, voluntary basis, but it is a step in the right direction. Although it is likely that Novell uses the attraction of these giveaways to increase SUSE's market share before rolling out the true income earners - the enterprise editions of SUSE/Novell Linux, the nature of the above message indicates that SUSE developers do this for fun, as a no-strings-attached community service. And that's great news, not only for the fans and users of SUSE LINUX, but also for the Linux community as a whole.
You can read the full message about the SUSE LINUX "supplementary" directory on this page.
* * * * *
X.Org for Debian - ready or not?
How ready is X.Org for Debian GNU/Linux, the only major distribution that has yet to make the transition from XFree86? Well, it seems that the Debian developers themselves are not quite sure, with a couple of for and against arguments published on Planet Debian over the weekend. Why X.Org is not ready for Sarge by Erich Schubert: "The much-called-for gimmics such as transparency and shadows worked more bad than good for me. They were really slow. ... Now for the bad parts: due to all the low-level work going on in X.Org, it has its rough edges. For example, X.Org locks up with DRI on my (older) Radeon Mobility FireGL 7800."
As always, not everyone agrees. X.Org isn't ready? by Daniel Stones: "In fact, I think you will find the amount of hardware support in X.Org (out of the largest three vendors, all have new chipsets supported in X.Org that aren't supported in XFree86 4.3 -- ATI's r4xx series, NVIDIA's GeForce 6 series of chips, and Intel's i9xx series, are totally unsupported) is so vastly improved that, even if the 'everything is broken and no-one noticed until now' allegation is true, the staggering weight of hardware supported under X.Org but not under XFree86 would be enough to counter this. Also, with Ubuntu, Fedora Core, Mandrake, SUSE, FreeBSD, Gentoo, and everyone else on the planet using X.Org at this stage, I think if it had massive problems, then it would be *very* well-documented."
What do you think? Is Debian behind the times, or is their patched version of XFree86 4.3.0 good enough for most users? Please comment below.
|Released Last Week
Hakin9 Live 2.4
A new version of Hakin9 Live is now available. What's new? "Total rebuild - now based on Aurox Live 10.1; new kernel - 2.6.7 with patches; installer (beta); ndiswrapper - better WiFi support; ipw2100 - drivers for Centrino chipsets; two desktop environments available - Fluxbox (default) and XFce 4.2RC3 (optional); updated stuff - Firefox, Psi, ettercapNG and others; amusing text games - moon-buggy, nethack, netris, overkill...; more intuitive menu, refreshed look." Visit the distribution's home page for more details and download links.
LinEspa is a Spanish live CD based on Knoppix and featuring the XFce desktop. A new version was announced last week, but it has only now become available for download. New features in version 0.22: boot speed improvements; elimination of boot menu selection; better hardware autodetection; the addition of gnome-system-tools for configuring various system settings; kernel upgrade to 188.8.131.52; many package upgrades, including Firefox 1.0, Thunderbird 1.0, OpenOffice.org 1.1.4, GIMP 2.0.... Read the release announcement (in Spanish) for more details.
Evinux is a French live CD based on Knoppix, but with light-weight desktop environments - XFce (default) and Fluxbox. Version 0.2 has been released with the following changes since rc2: new boot logo and wallpaper; improved xcdrom - a script to help burning CDs. Here is the full release announcement (in French). The next version of Evinux is already in a planning stage, with several new features, including an option to install it on hard disk and support for English.
CentOS 3.4 (Single CD Server)
The developers of CentOS have released a special edition of CentOS 3.4 with a collection of server-specific software on a single CD: "The CentOS Team is pleased to announce the official release of a new single CD Server version of CentOS 3.4 for i386. This single CD ISO should be ideal for use in data centres for installing servers and it has also been designed for cover mount magazine use. This version includes all of the packages that can be chosen to be installed during a 'Server' install. Once installed yum can be used to install additional packages from mirrors and yum groupinstall can be used to install additional package groups. This release includes all relevant RHEL 3 updates (for U4) and errata up to January 20th, 2005." Read the full release announcement for more information.
LiVux is a Debian-based live CD created by the Linux community in Valencia, Spain. Version 2.0 was announced a few days ago and today it was made available for download. The new version, based on Debian Sarge, comes with the following new features and software packages: KDE 3.3; kernel 2.6.9 and 2.4.29; autodetection of ALSA drivers; a new boot system with a menu for selecting the desired boot mode; new version of Blender with support for generating games; update of Scribus to version 1.2.1 with a complete translation into Spanish and many new features; update of KOffice with improved compatibility for importing documents; new Mozilla and OpenOffice.org 1.1.3.... More details in the release announcement (in Spanish).
Development and unannounced releases
- CentOS 4.0-beta, the release announcement
- UHU-Linux 1.2-rc2, the release announcement (in Hungarian)
- SME Server 6.5-beta1, the release announcement
- YES Linux 2.1.0-preview, the release announcement
- ClarkConnect Broadband Gateway 3.0-rc, the release notes
- Ubuntu Linux 5.04-array3, the release announcement
- SAM Mini Live Linux 2005-1-beta, the release announcement
- Yoper Linux 2.2-prerelease, the announcement
- Slackware Linux 10.1-beta1, the changelog
- Gnoppix 0.9.3.b3
- Mandrakelinux 10.2-beta1
- Kurumin Linux 4.1-alpha2
- Lormalinux Samba Fileserver (beta1), the release announcement
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4
As reported by a large number of technology web sites, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 is rumoured to be released on February 14, 2005, during the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Boston, USA: "The upcoming release of RHEL will also include security enhancements derived from the U.S. National Security Agency's Security Enhanced Linux project, as well as improved device and power management capabilities, said Collings, who has examined the beta code. ... This launch will come on Feb. 14, according to a spokeswoman for Red Hat's public relations agency." Read more in this story by InfoWorld and find out about some of the new features in this article by Red Hat Magazine.
The developers of PHLAK (Professional Hacker's Linux Assault Kit) have announced that version 0.3 will be released in May 2005, during the DallasCon Professional Cyber Defence Conference 2005 in Dallas, USA: "We are pumped about 0.3. We have some great ideas for it. Yes the 2.6 kernel will be included in this release. Also… (whispering) there will be 42% more sneaky. We are going to weed out some old documents, add some new, and add a section for the beginners. We have also discussed a newb manual, though not confirmed, it is a possibility." Here is the full announcement.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
New distributions addition
New on the waiting list
- cdlinux.pl. cdlinux.pl is a small live CD based on Debian GNU/Linux. It is developed by a group of professors and students at the Information Centre of TASK, a university in Gdansk, Poland.
- Parsix GNU/Linux. Parsix GNU/Linux is a live CD based on Knoppix and Debian. It uses GNOME as its default desktop environment. Parsix GNU/Linux supports Persian keyboard and user can switch to Persian with Alt+Ctrl or Ctrl+Shift keys. We also included xFarDic English-Persian dictionary and Persian free fonts from FarsiWeb and FPF projects.
DistroWatch database summary
- Number of Linux distributions in the database: 377
- Number of BSD distributions in the database: 9
- Number of discontinued distributions: 47
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 85
That's all for today, see you all next week!
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