| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 133, 9 January 2006
Welcome to this year's second issue of DistroWatch Weekly. We had a quiet week, only disturbed by new releases from Arch Linux and DragonFly BSD. We'll take a critical look at the latter, especially from the perspective of a desktop user, but don't expect much praise for the new version. In other news, the Fedora project has started testing its new rescue CD, Gentoo has published a HOWTO on creating a Gentoo LiveUSB, and Puppy is preparing for the launch of Puppy2, a major update. Among the distributions newly included on DistroWatch we have three live CDs: ArcheOS for archaeologists, Arudius for penetration testers, and Xenoppix for the fans of the Xen technology. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (5.00MB) or mp3 (5.97MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
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Fedora rescue CD, Gentoo LiveUSB, Learning Debian, Puppy 2, Pardus Linux
One of the new features of Fedora Core 5, expected to enter a second testing phase next week, is a new rescue CD. Although not much information has been published about the features and goals of this Fedora sub-project, it is likely to become an important tool for all Red Hat and Fedora system administrators and therefore we thought it deserved some publicity. The first test release of the Fedora rescue CD was announced last week and several new builds have been released since then. The latest release, dated 8 January, appears to be built for x86_64 processors, but the developers are planning to produce a rescue CD for all three supported architectures. You can find the 70 MB ISO image in the /fedora/linux/development/isos/ directory on your favourite Fedora mirror.
The new Fedora Rescue CD has entered a testing phase.
Have you ever thought about building a bootable Linux system for a USB storage device? If so, you might be pleased to learn that the Gentoo Linux LiveUSB HOWTO has now become part of the project's official documentation: "This HOWTO explains how to create a Gentoo Linux LiveUSB or, in other words, how to emulate a Gentoo Linux Installation CD using an USB flash drive. This is particularly useful for installing Gentoo Linux on a modern laptop with no CD-ROM drive." Although the document explains the procedure running Gentoo Linux as the host system, it shouldn't be too difficult to apply the steps while using other distributions. The HOWTO, formatted in the usual high standard of the Gentoo documentation project, can be viewed here.
O'Reilly has published the entire content of Learning Debian GNU/Linux online for free access. Originally published in 1999, this "vintage" Linux publication was the first book teaching the basics of Debian - that strange distribution with no corporate backing, just hundreds of volunteer programmers. The book was also included in O'Reilly's Debian GNU/Linux box set, published in the same year, together with a CD of Debian 2.1 "slink" and a quick start guide - all labelled as "the last Linux OS you will ever need to buy". Although some seven years after its publishing the book might seem outdated, it is interesting to read the chapters about how Linux was viewed back in the final year of the 20th century and what the reality is today. The book can be accessed here.
The increasing popularity of Puppy Linux, a tiny and superfast distribution designed for older computers, has prompted the developers to start planning features for a new major upgrade. According to news published on the project's web site, the upcoming Puppy 1.0.8 will be the last 1.x series, after which all effort will focus on Puppy 2. What can we expect?, Well, Barry Kauler (the project leader) is not telling, but here are some good guesses: "Puppy will be really multiuser; the format and structure of the Squash file systems will change to give more freedom to mount custom file systems; hardware recognition will stay the same; the XDG menus and new network wizard will make it to the official release." A pre-alpha release of Puppy Linux 2 is expected "soon". More information on the project's Wiki and news pages.
It is always nice to see a mainstream technology publication giving exposure to smaller Linux distributions. Turkey's Pardus Linux is one of such projects, recently given coverage at ZDNet. Developed by a small group of developers at a Turkish research institute, the project is not short of ambition: "With the widespread use of Pardus, Turkey's software imports are expected to decline dramatically, and hardware sales and computer ownership to increase consequently, as the total cost of ownership of computers drop off." Strong words, but the project's first official release certainly looked like a winner. Originally based on Gentoo, the developers created a custom installer and several utilities to make it easier to use, while Turkish speakers will be pleased to find language-related dictionaries, spellcheckers and translation software included in the distribution. English is also supported. More information about Pardus can be found on the project's web site.
|First looks: DragonFly BSD 1.4
First looks: DragonFly BSD 1.4
Reviewing an operating system designed for hard core geeks is never easy. For one thing, there usually isn't all that much customisation to make the OS stand out (most of the OS-specific tweaks are somewhere in the kernel or userland, well hidden from the view of ordinary computer users). But also, these types of operating systems tend to have haphazardly put-together installer and system utilities, often without comprehensive documentation and without having done any usability assessments, which tends to put reviewers off. In a word, DragonFly BSD has about as much glamour as Phyllis Diller in a bikini.
Before going further, a quick refresher about the beginnings of this FreeBSD fork. Announced by in June 2003 by Matt Dillon, a long time FreeBSD and AmigaOS developer, DragonFly BSD was meant as a "logical continuation of FreeBSD 4.x series". Matt disliked the direction FreeBSD was taking when it entered the 5.x development stage - hence the reason for launching the fork. After DragonFly BSD 1.0 and 1.2, version 1.4 is the project's third major stable release.
The bootable ISO image of DragonFly BSD is very small - only about 81 MB in compressed state and 226 MB after the file is gunzip-ed, giving an early indication that the CD contains a base system only. It boots into a "live CD" mode with an option to login as root, while logging in as "installer" will start the installation program. After a few informational screens and options to return to the "live CD" mode, the installer goes through the normal formatting and partitioning stages, before in starts installing files. The installation is brisk - on my 1.4GHz P4 test system with 384MB of RAM it took only about 6 minutes. After setting up a boot loader, I was given an option to configure various aspects of the installed system, including time zone, date, passwords, users and networking. A handful of extra packages are also available for installation.
The DragonFly BSD installation program
After rebooting, I found myself staring at a boot prompt. Networking worked fine so it was time to try to extend the system by installing some useful packages. While reading the release notes I noted that FreeBSD ports were no longer supported and that the preferred way of installing packages on DragonFly BSD was with pkgsrc, a utility ported from NetBSD. It took me a while to find some information about this - the DragonFly BSD Handbook, which is an exact copy of the FreeBSD Handbook, gives no indication about the existence of pkgsrc in the system. Luckily, I found a good write-up about it on the project's Wiki pages. The pkgsrc utility turned out to be a very nice way to install binary DragonFly BSD packages; once I set the PKG_PATH environment variable, all it took to install a package and all of its dependencies was to issue a simple command, e.g. "pkg_add xorg".
Can DragonFly BSD used on a desktop system? Certainly. Or, to be more precise, that's what the project's founder claimed in this interview at OSNews.
"It is extraordinarily difficult to make GUIs work out of the box on PCs due to the wide variability in hardware and peripherals, but at the same time technology has continued to progress over the years towards standards that actually make this easier to accomplish. At some point the standards going in one direction will meet the software going in the other and systems such as Linux and the BSDs (including DragonFly) will be able to approach the out-of-the-box compatibility that took Microsoft billions of dollars of development to accomplish. It isn't a matter of if, it's a matter of when."
Unfortunately, once you try to set up DragonFly BSD as a desktop system, you'll soon realise that the above are just empty words and the developers have made absolutely no effort to push the software part of the equilibrium ahead, seemingly choosing to wait for the hardware part to move in from the other direction. In fact, using DragonFly BSD made me feel as if I was back in the mid-nineties, with every single aspect of the desktop needed to be configured manually. In the end, I did get KDE up and running, but not before I spent quite a bit of time configuring the X Window System and USB mouse, and, in the absence of any useful documentation, searching for answers on Google. An educational experience? Maybe. A waste of time? Certainly yes.
In summation, DragonFly BSD is probably a very good, stable system created by a group of talented developers with a vision. I find its installer intuitive and its package management pleasant to use. But DragonFly BSD is still an operating system designed for "ubergeeks", rather than ordinary users. The project's biggest problem, however, is the lack of any decent documentation. It took the big three BSDs many years to write comprehensive handbooks and it's foolish to expect the DragonFly BSD developers to write similarly good documentation when they clearly prefer to write code. Unfortunately, without it, the project will never become the 4th major BSD OS, especially while we are witnessing an interesting trend of building user-friendly BSDs by the DesktopBSD and PC-BSD projects. Yes, this is a very shallow assessment of a release that certainly includes plenty of exciting features, but I did expect a bit more, especially after reading the above-mentioned comment by the project's creator.
The DragonFly BSD project pages can be found at DragonFlyBSD.org.
|Released Last Week
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.3
EnGarde Secure Linux has been updated to version 3.0.3: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.3 (Version 3.0, Release 3). This release includes several bug fixes and feature enhancements to the Guardian Digital WebTool, the SELinux policy, and the LiveCD environment. New features include: a new WebTool frontend to the NetDiff Network Scanner; the WebTool AIDE host intrusion detection module is now enabled by default; support for USB keyboards; the latest stable versions of MySQL (5.0.17), Apache (2.0.55), BIND (9.3.2), iptables (1.3.4)...." Read the release announcement for further information.
Arch Linux 0.7.1
A brand new version of Arch Linux has been released: "Here it is, folks. All the Arch goodness you know and love, only half the fat. We've added some better hardware detection, stock initrd support for neat things like encrypted root filesystems, network profiles, and more little goodies here and there. Thanks for the patience, everyone. As always, read the docs before installing." See the brief release announcement on the distribution's news page.
Yellow Dog Linux 4.1
Yellow Dog Linux 4.1 has been released: "Terra Soft Solutions is pleased to announce the release of Yellow Dog Linux v4.1. This next evolution of Yellow Dog provides an incredible array of updates and improvements, the foundation for the most complete, integrated release to date: support for backlit keys; PCMCIA cell phone and modem support; support for Atheros wi-fi cards; dual head configuration via the GUI; install direct to and boot from FireWire drives; USB device auto-mount under both KDE and GNOME; greatly improved sound support; graphical Up2Date package install and update tool ... and a completely rebuilt KDE and Gnome 'start' menu for vastly improved navigation of the graphical user interface." More details in the press release.
DragonFly BSD 1.4
DragonFly BSD 1.4 has been released: "1.4 is our third major DragonFly release. This release represents a significant milestone in our efforts to improve the kernel infrastructure. DragonFly is still running under the Big Giant Lock, but this will probably be the last release where that is the case. The greatest progress has been made in the network subsystem. The TCP stack is now almost fully threaded (and will likely be the first subsystem we remove the BGL from in coming months). The TCP stack now fully supports the SACK protocol and a large number of bug and performance fixes have gone in, especially in regard to GigE performance over LANs." Find more details in the comprehensive release notes.
A new version of Finnix is out: "Finnix is a small, self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators, based on Debian testing. Today marks the release of version 86.2 for the x86, PowerPC, and UML/Xen platforms. Finnix 86.2 contains several new features, including Linux kernel 2.6.15, improved hardware detection (using data from Fedora Core 4), improved reliability when booting from USB CDROM and thumb devices, and an expanded general-purpose task utility, aptly named 'finnix'. In addition, Finnix may now be installed and run directly from a hard drive." The release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
New distribution additions|
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- Barefoot Linux. Barefoot Linux is a distribution created to extend the capabilities of VectorLinux, with out-of-the-box NVIDIA support, Autopackage, locale for Tamil and Sinhala languages, and other tweaks. Currently in early development.
- nUbuntu. nUbuntu is a collection of network and server security testing tools, piled on top of the existing Ubuntu system. While aimed to be mainly a security testing platform, nUbuntu also operates as a desktop environment for the advanced Linux user.
- SlackPen. SlackPen is a live CD based on Slackware Linux. The current goal is to offer everything necessary to perform a complete security audit of a network, in a low overhead environment. The end goal of SlackPen is to provide an easy installer for SlackWall, a Slackware-based firewall distribution. SlackPen was built using Slackware and the linux-live scripts written by Tomas Matejicek.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. See you next Monday!
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|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
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|• Issue 618 (2015-07-13): Semplice Linux 7, openSUSE derivatives, Debian adopts GCC 5, Docker ported to FreeBSD|
|• Issue 617 (2015-07-06): Alpine linux 3.2.0, Fedora on MIPS CPUs, Solus offers daily builds, Ubuntu migrating to Snappy|
|• Issue 616 (2015-06-29): MidnightBSD 0.6, openSUSE's "42", encryption added to the ext4 file system, FreeBSD on a Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 615 (2015-06-22): Raspbian 2015, Fedora works around Intel driver issue, openSUSE adopts GCC 5, frozen desktop while copying files|
|• Issue 614 (2015-06-15): Chromixium OS 1.0, Debian 8.1 released, OpenBSD running in the cloud, sudo myths|
|• Issue 613 (2015-06-08): Fedora 22, Cinnamon 2.6 released, FreeBSD's history, working around Secure Boot|
|• Issue 612 (2015-06-01): Manjaro OpenRC, Debian, Devuan and systemd, Fedora 22 released, Mandriva closes its doors|
|• Issue 611 (2015-05-25): Kubuntu 15.04, openSUSE adopts Plasma 5, Ubuntu's Snappy, words from Debian's Neil McGovern|
|• Issue 610 (2015-05-18): NethServer 6.6, interview with Neil McGovern, CentOS supports AArach64, Foresight discontinued|
|• Issue 609 (2015-05-11): OpenIndiana 2015.03, LXLE 14.04, PC-BSD Current, creating ISO images, Ask A Leader with Peter Ganten|
|• Issue 608 (2015-05-04): Debian 8.0, Bodhi forks Enlightenment, new Debian GNU/Hurd release, distribution release frequency|
|• Issue 607 (2015-04-27): Ubuntu 15.04, Chapeau 21, Debian 8.0 features, Fedora 22 Beta details|
|• Issue 606 (2015-04-20): Linux Mint 2 "LMDE", Matthew Miller, Debian's new Project Leader, Evolve OS name change|
|• Issue 605 (2015-04-13): SuperX 3.0, HAMMER2 features, Linux 4.0, Vince Pooley, Google Code closing|
|• Issue 604 (2015-04-06): Void 20150221, Haiku's commercial partners, Debian release date, Tumbleweed features|
|• Issue 603 (2015-03-30): Tails 1.3, LibreOffice Online, Linux Firewalls book review, Kubuntu with Plasma 5|
|• Issue 602 (2015-03-23): Bodhi Linux 3.0.0, distro popularity, OpenBSD's new web server, GNU Manifesto turns 30|
|• Issue 601 (2015-03-16): Ubuntu MATE 14.10, modern distros for old hardware, AppArmor in Debian, Fedora 22 Alpha|
|• Issue 600 (2015-03-09): Korora 21, distro diversity, Ubuntu gets systemd, PC-BSD security features|
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|• Issue 596 (2015-02-09): ArchBSD 2014.09.04, encrypted e-mail, Fedora upgrade stats, FreeBSD's support policy|
|• Issue 595 (2015-02-02): ExTiX 15.1, Destroying encrypted data, openSUSE election, OSDisc statistics|
|• Issue 594 (2015-01-26): KaOS 2014.12, Commercial distros, Snappy Ubuntu, PackageKit fixes|
|• Issue 593 (2015-01-19): ReactOS 0.3.17, Unity on Mir, Bluetooth support, openSUSE election|
|• Issue 592 (2015-01-12): Mint 17.1, load averages, binary logs, GNOME Software|
|• Issue 591 (2015-01-05): Manjaro 0.8.11, systemd, Devuan, Torrent Corner|
|• Issue 590 (2014-12-22): Fedora 21, Ubuntu phone, expanding ZFS storage, Able2Extract|
|• Issue 589 (2014-12-15): Parsix 7.0, Ubuntu "Snappy", PC-BSD upgrades, How Linux Works|
|• Issue 588 (2014-12-08): PC-BSD 10.2, rolling-release Ubuntu GNOME, Bitrig, systemd|
|• Issue 587 (2014-12-01): Trisquel 7.0, Kubuntu 14.10 "Plasma5", FreeBSD on 64-bit ARM, Jolla and UbuTab|
|• Issue 586 (2014-11-24): Scientific Linux 7.0, Debian and systemd, Ubuntu MATE, application-level firewalls|
|• Issue 585 (2014-11-17): openSUSE 13.2, PC-BSD's "roles", MATE + Compiz on Mint, cleaning package cache|
|• Issue 584 (2014-11-10): OpenMandriva 2014.1, Debian freeze, trickle, systemd and boot times|
|• Issue 583 (2014-11-03): Ubuntu 14.10, ownCloud, Kylin interview, The Book of PF, Elive's commercial ways|
|• Issue 582 (2014-10-27): GhostBSD 4.0, Tumbleweed and Factory merge, systemd and fork of Debian|
|• Issue 581 (2014-10-20): SparkyLinux 3.5, Fedora's graphics stack, Debian and systemd, OpenBSD 5.6|
|• Issue 580 (2014-10-13): Rolling releases, Arch as best distro, GNOME on Wayland, MINIX 3.3.0|
|• Full list of all issues|
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