| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 131, 19 December 2005
Welcome to this year's very last issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The renewed GNOME versus KDE flame war and Xen virtualisation are the two leading topics in this issue; these are followed by a few interesting links, including a timeline of Perl, which celebrated 18 years of age on Sunday. Has Ubuntu Linux been dumbed down? With omission of some of the vital utilities from the latest release, Robert Storey wonders where this increasingly popular distribution is heading. Also in this issue: an interview with Robert Tolu of the GenieOS project, an update on FreeBSD release schedule for 2006, and a handful of interesting new distributions. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
GNOME vs KDE, Xen, best distribution, Nexenta, 18 years of Perl
Nothing stirs the interest of open source news sites more than a good GNOME vs KDE flame war. This is a subject that everybody has an opinion about and Linus Torvalds is no different. Last week, the creator of Linux spoke his mind - in his usual, straightforward manner, which left many GNOME fans completely stunned. Is he a troll, or is this some kind of a sick joke? Well, neither, it seems, as Linus has taken a further trouble to explain himself:
"I think the KDE development process has been a lot more 'lively', and I think a lot of the reason for that has been that they haven't allowed the 'interface nazi' kind of stifling of what people feel they need to do. Read the recent KDE-3.5 release announcement with the 'visual guide to new features', and you can feel the energy. Sure, they have three different kinds of desktop choosers. So what? You don't have to use them. But the capabilities are there if you want to.
And I think that's important. It's important, because that developer energy, in the end, is what get things done. And as a side effect, you will automatically end up with a system that understands that defaults may be good, but that different people have different needs and views. Because you had a very diverse group of people that worked on it.
Linus has a valid point - open source software has evolved to become a viable competition to expensive proprietary software not just because it is cost-free, but also because it keeps attracting many open-minded developers who want to program freely, without the constraints of some arbitrary feature goals. That said, GNOME remains a very popular desktop, so it obviously suits many users perfectly well. Either way, the discussions on many news sites and forums were lively, to say the least, and it certainly created some excitement during the otherwise pretty dull week.
* * * * *
With the recent release of Xen 3.0, there has been much talk about the virtual machine monitor. Not only we have seen a growing numbers of articles about this phenomenon and noticed several web hosting companies offering "virtual" dedicated servers using Xen, some analysts go as far as suggesting that Xen is the next killer application. Given the interest, we thought that, to jumpstart a discussion in this week's forums, we ask our readers: what is your opinion about Xen? Have you used or considered using it? If so, for what purpose? And what were your results? For those who haven't had a chance to try it out, probably the best way to do so is to download one of the Xen-enabled live CDs or DVDs, such as Xenoppix (with pre-configured NetBSD and Plan9; requires 512MB of RAM) or the Xen Demo CD (with Debian "etch" and CentOS 4.1).
Running Debian and CentOS on the same desktop, courtesy of Xen
(full image size: 229kB, resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
* * * * *
What is the best Linux distribution? As always, this is something that all users have to find out by themselves, but it helps to do some reading before you plunge into highly addictive distro testing. One of the more intelligently written articles on the subject is the recently published The best Linux distribution of them all: "A few weeks back, my friend Tom asked me a question regarding Linux - that is - which is the best Linux distribution of them all. And following is the lively conversation we had about this topic which I am sharing with you." Written with Linux beginners in mind, the article gives a few Linux distribution suggestions for all types of users and explains some of the more important aspects of choosing a distribution. A good read.
* * * * *
One of the most unusual operating system born in 2005 was Nexenta. Combining the OpenSolaris kernel with GNU and Debian utilities, the project has created a controversy - after it attempted to mix two incompatible licenses in one product. But if you ignore the squabble and look at Nexenta from the point of view of its bringing us another interesting OS alternative, especially after its remarkably stable "alpha" release, then you'll agree that Nexenta is a worthwhile project. But how did it come along? Alex Ross, the distribution's creator, explains in his blog:
"I've been a Solaris user for a long time. It was love at first sight, and the feeling is still unchanged. Throughout the years I've become so accustomed to it that it's hard to do anything elsewhere. And one day, my friend pointed me to a Linux distribution called Ubuntu. So I got a hold of it, installed it and began using it. My eyes opened wide (and I swear I must have been drooling too). I thought it was the easiest and most user-friendly environment I've ever used.
'Why can't Solaris be like this!', I shouted. For a while, I went from being a 'Solaris is the best for techies' into 'Gee, my mom can use this thing called Ubuntu' person."
* * * * *
Perl, the "Practical Extraction and Report Language", is now officially a grown-up, as it was exactly 18 years ago yesterday since the release of Perl 1.000 on 18 December 1987. Here is the description of the language from the original release announcement: "Perl is an interpreted language optimized for scanning arbitrary text files, extracting information from those text files, and printing reports based on that information. It's also a good language for many system management tasks. The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient, complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal). It combines (in the author's opinion, anyway) some of the best features of C, sed, awk, and sh, so people familiar with those languages should have little difficulty with it." See the PerlTimeline page for more details about the history of this popular interpreter.
* * * * *
As per tradition, DistroWatch Weekly will take a break before returning again in two week's time - on 2 January 2006. Looking back at the past 12 months, it certainly was a busy and enjoyable year, with Linux and other open source operating systems and applications making clear headways in terms of market share, deployment, and popularity. DistroWatch has grown too - from serving just over 5 million pages in January to nearly 12 million in October. We would like to thank all our readers, contributors, sponsors and the hundreds of people who submitted news, corrections and suggestions over the year. And to all of you who celebrate it: merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year! See you in 2006!
Ubuntu Breezy Badger - is it too dumbed down? (by Robert Storey)
People's characters are strengthened through struggle against difficulties; they are weakened by comfort.
- Chinese proverb
As some of our faithful readers may recall, I wrote a review of Ubuntu Breezy Badger, entitled The Ubuntu Juggernaut. It was published on 16 October 2005 which, by the fast-moving standards of Linux development, might seem like eons ago. Nevertheless, Breezy Badger is still the current release of Ubuntu - the next version (Dapper Drake) is not due out until April, 2006. Therefore, the review isn't yet obsolete. I still have Breezy Badger installed on my trusty laptop, and have been faithfully using and abusing it over the past two months.
All things considered, my Ubuntu experience has been positive, but I have noticed a few annoyances. Recently, I discovered what I consider to be one of Breezy Badger's greatest shortcomings - the "missing" gcc compiler.
I must emphasise that this deficiency lies with Breezy Badger alone - I swear that the compiler was present in Hoary Hedgehog (the cutesy nickname for the previous Ubuntu release). Which raises the question - "Is Ubuntu being dumbed down?"
Of course, some might argue that installing the gcc compiler is easy. Just apt-get install gcc - right?
If only. To get gcc working is not so intuitive. Packages I had to install included the following:
After installing the above, I still couldn't compile anything. This was due to a bug. I finally worked out that I needed to create two symbolic links in /usr/bin/:
ln -s gcc-3.4 gcc
ln -s g++3.4 g++
Then it all worked. However, I can't help but feel that I had to jump through too many hoops to install something that should be included in every Linux distribution. Admittedly, Ubuntu is designed with a newbie-friendly interface, and newbies are somewhat unlikely to compile apps during their first week of using Linux. However, "newbie-friendly" doesn't have to mean "oldie-hostile". Ubuntu is not just a distro for beginners - it's got enough advanced features to keep experienced Linux geeks happy. Perhaps the developers have gone too far in their attempt to "dumb down" their OS so as to make new users feel welcome.
Ideally, it would be best if the compilers and X11 development libraries were included in a default Ubuntu install. But failing that, at the very least the symbolic links should be created automatically.
|Interview with Robert Tolu, GenieOS
Interview with Robert Tolu, GenieOS
GenieOS, formerly known as "Debian Pure", is essentially a single-CD Debian "sarge" with GNOME and a few popular extras, such as pre-configured browser plugins and multimedia support. Rober Tolu, the project's creator, has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about GenieOS and about his other activities. Incidentally, a new release of GenieOS, version 0.5, was made available for download on Sunday, together with a bonus release - a remastered edition of PCLinuxOS for the GNOME fans.
DW: Robert, thank you very much for your time. First, please introduce yourself. How old are you, where do you live, what do you for living? When did you start using Linux and why?
RT: You're welcome. I really appreciate this opportunity. I would also like to say that I love DistroWatch, it has made Monday mornings a treat!
I currently live in Boston, MA and work as a Finance Manager for a local non-profit organization. I'm 29 years old, married, and have no children. I'm a Harvard graduate which is where I first heard about Linux. I was in a pharmacology class some 4 years ago when I spoke with a classmate who brought Linux up. I asked him what about Linux and he gave me some information. I didn't think much about the information he gave me until one day I was in Microcenter and happened to see Red Hat Linux sitting there on the shelf. I decided to buy it and give it a try. At first I was nervous about it, but the Anaconda installer made me feel very comfortable. However, I found that the installed system was missing too many things that I enjoy like multimedia, so I decided to ditch it and try something else. My next encounter was with Mandrake and I really liked Mandrake. But it contained too many bugs for my taste. I tried more and more until I finally landed on Debian.
It took a while to figure out the right installation, but it did everything I wanted it to. And I use Debian to this day.
DW: GenieOS seems to have garnered quite a following among the DistroWatch readers even before its listing on this web site. Can you briefly describe the project and highlight the most important differences between GenieOS and Debian? What was the motivation behind developing GenieOS? Who is the target market?
RT: The initial response surprised me. I even ran out of bandwidth a couple of times, but I coughed up the cash and kept the ISO online directly until the mirrors were set up.
No differences exist between Debian and GenieOS other than the name and the fact that GenieOS includes a few plugins not derived from the Debian repositories. All I have done with GenieOS is taken the sarge installer and added pre-seeds, simple scripts, and the appropriate Debian packages. GenieOS is not a fork, rather an easy means to setup a Debian desktop.
The target market consists of all those users who enjoy the Debian derivatives, but wish they were both free and fully compatible with the Debian repositories. I created GenieOS for my own personal use, but figured why not share my installation tool with the community.
DW: GenieOS comes on a single CD so a rather large number of Debian packages are missing and whatever the user needs has to be installed later - either over the network or from Debian CDs. How do you decide packages what packages will go on the CD?
RT: Since I developed GenieOS as a personal tool, I simply include the packages I use. I like a clean desktop with one application for each task. I don't like having 10 web browsers and 5 video players. I figure a package may always be added later from the repositories. However, some people have emailed me about adding laptop packages and printing packages which I plan to do. The goal is to have a fully-functioning desktop without going overboard.
DW: GenieOS is based on Debian Sarge, which is already fairly outdated in terms of included package versions. As such, I would be reluctant to use it on my desktop, since I prefer a distribution (or branch) with more up-to-packages and more frequent releases. Any plans to change the model to track, say, Debian's testing branch or perhaps even Ubuntu?
RT: I'm strongly considering using the testing branch of Debian since it now receives regular security updates, but no plans to track Ubuntu as I wish to avoid incompatibilities with Debian repositories.
DW: The GenieOS web site seems to be rather bare, with no community resources, such as forums, mailing lists or Wikis? Any plans to change that?
RT: Not at this time. There are plenty of Debian resources available on the web and I see no need to create another. There aren't enough differences between GenieOS and Debian.
DW: How long before GenieOS 1.0 is reached? What features do you still intend to implement before you consider it feature complete? Do you have a roadmap?
RT: I'm hoping to release a 1.0 by the middle of 2006. I have no set roadmap as the Linux world changes daily and rapidly. The only issue under strong debate at this time is whether to move to Debian testing. Beyond that, anything goes.
DW: Do you use other distributions in addition to Debian and GenieOS?
RT: I currently have SUSE 10.0 and PCLinuxOS 0.92 installed. I like SUSE's hardware detection and polish. And I like PCLinuxOS for the same reasons.
I find installing packages on SUSE to be a little more difficult. I'm just spoiled with Debian, I guess. I have tried APT for SUSE, but it's just not the same. But I think this distro has real promise.
PCLinuxOS also shows real promise. It's one of the most polished and easy systems out there. My only blight with it is that it's KDE-based. I'm not saying KDE is terrible, but I just happen to be a GNOME guy.
DW: Are you working on some other projects, besides GenieOS?
RT: Currently I'm working on a remastered edition of PCLinuxOS using GNOME as the desktop. There's an ISO already available on the GenieOS site for people to download and try under the 'other stuff' tab. I've basically taken the wonderful work Texstar has done and tweaked it to suit my needs.
DW: Robert, thank you again for your time and answers and good luck with your project!
RT: I do wish to thank you again for this opportunity! I also wish to thank Josh King, Ibiblio, Brian Piorek, the Debian team, the GNOME team, and anyone else I may have forgotten to mention!
|Released Last Week
A new version of SchilliX, a live CD based on OpenSolaris, has been released. What's new? "Updated to use OpenSolaris Nevada Build 28; WLAN support added; if there is an 'open' WLAN available that supports DHCP, the related interface is automatically configured after the boot; to configure the WLAN, check the 'wificonfig' command (man page included); support is available for the following WIFI devices: Atheros 52xx chipset via the 'ath' driver, Pro/Wireless 2100 chipset via the 'ipw' driver; Pro/Wireless 2200BG/2915ABG chipsets via the 'iwi' driver; DHCP now sets /etc/resolv.conf and hostname; new Grub menu entry allows to forward to the default hard disk boot." Here is the release announcement.
Foresight Linux 0.9.3
Foresight Desktop Linux has been updated to version 0.9.3: "The other night I published ISOs for 0.9.3, it is a minor update from 0.9.2. There was a nasty bug in Anaconda that caused GRUB install problems for some users, that is fixed now. Also, system-config-display was broken, also fixed in this release. Not completely however, it fails during the firstboot process. There are also a few updated packages, the only one to note is an update tango icon set." Here is the full release announcement.
MoLinux 2.0 "Sancho", an Ubuntu-based distribution developed by the regional government of Castilla la Mancha in Spain, has been released. The new version is based on Ubuntu "Breezy" 5.10 and includes the following: kernel 2.6.12; GNOME 2.12; Evolution 2.4; OpenOffice.org 2.0 with support for the OpenDocument format and OpenBase database application; Firefox 1.0.7; a new system for installing packages (gnome-app-install); new artwork and bootsplash; integration of the hardware notification system from Guadalinex; new translations of some of the applications. Please refer to the release announcement (in Spanish) for further details.
Version 2.0 of the Slackware-based pocketlinux distribution has been released: "This is a Christmas present to our fellows: a new version of pocketlinux. This is a major change, as we have rebuilt the complete system on Slackware 10.2. We have also added many development packages to make it easier to update KDE light using the 'SlackBuild' Scripts. This release also includes the current version of Mozilla Firefox and is the first version that comes with KDE kiosktool. This will help you to lock down the desktop. Main features: upgraded core system to Slackware 10.2; replaced KDE with the current packages from Slackware 10.2; added localised versions of 'motd' and 'login issue' to the installer...." See the release announcement for more information.
Coyote Linux Personal Firewall 3.00.37
Coyote Linux Personal Firewall has been updated to version 3.00.37: "Coyote Linux 3.00 build 37 is available for download. This release has the following changes: fix for bug#1 - changing the remote admin ACLs will now properly reload form the web admin; added a new setup interview script that is much less complex than the original. It only asks enough questions to bring up the WAN and 1 LAN interface and sets the remote admin permission for https and ssh to only be permitted from the LAN. Any remaining configuration can then be done via the console or web admin." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
FreeBSD release schedule for 2006
Scott Long, the FreeBSD release manager, has announced a preliminary release schedule for the year 2006. If the plan is adhered to, there will be four stable FreeBSD versions - one final release in the 5.x series (in April) and three releases in the 6.x series (in March, July and December), focusing on bugfixes, performance enhancements, incremental functionality and driver additions. The developers will start preparing for FreeBSD 7.0 in June 2007. For more information please see this announcement.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
Linux Format Issue 75|
The January 2006 issue of Linux Format is now on the shelves, inclusive of the DistroWatch column. It takes a look back on the major distribution releases of the last quarter of the year, the process of upgrading existing installation and introduces the Elive live CD. Lots of other stories in the magazine too, including a feature story on Mozilla Firefox 1.5, interview with Perl's Larry Wall, a guide to setting up MythTV on your computer, as well as a nice series of tutorials on GIMP, Emacs, Inkscape, PHP and Squid. See the publication's web site for the complete content of issue 75.
And if you haven't yet come up with a good Christmas present for a geek friend of family member, why not consider a gift subscription to Linux Format? Although the price of the magazine with shipping might sound a bit high, especially if you live outside of UK, remember that you'll get over 100 pages of solid content with almost no advertising. Definitely a great value for money!
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- IBLS. IBLS (Itty Bitty Linux Server) is a compact, easy-to-use web server that can be run straight off the CD, any time, any place, even on a Pentium 133MHz with 32MB of RAM. It is designed to be simple to use, and at the same time give power users the features and performance they desire.
- KNOPPIX/Math. KNOPPIX/Math is a KNOPPIX-based Japanese live CD with focus on mathematical applications. It supports Japanese, Korean and English languages.
- Nbed-Nakooki Live CD. Nbed-Nakooki Live CD is a general-purpose GNU/Linux live CD for the x86 platform. It features Norean, a collection of tools for Linux distribution creators, and Nakooki, a demonstration and pedagogic implementation of Norean tools in the form of a small source-centric distribution, which can also be used as a start point for other distributions.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. See you again on 2 January 2006 :-)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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