| 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!
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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 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|
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|• Issue 693 (2017-01-02): Comparing small distros, fig language, video driver comparsion, Debian+PIXEL, Wayland on FreeBSD|
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|• 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|
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|• 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|
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|• Issue 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
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|• Issue 657 (2016-04-18): Redox, Linux Mint improves update manager, planned Fedora 24 features, Ubuntu 16.04 getting Snappy packages|
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|• Issue 655 (2016-04-04): Parsix 8.5, Sabayon's Community repository, Red Hat offers free subscriptions, Ubuntu tablets, command line tips|
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|• Issue 652 (2016-03-14): ReactOS 0.4.0, Debian swaps Iceweasel for Firefox, Fedora moving forward with Wayland, Verifying ISO files|
|• Issue 651 (2016-03-07): Korora 23, Linux Mint improves security, Ubuntu MATE on Raspberry Pi 3 computers, trying different file systems|
|• Issue 650 (2016-02-29): Haiku in 2016, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, 30 years of MINIX, Fedora plans Atomic Workstation|
|• Issue 649 (2016-02-22): Zorin OS 11, openSUSE launches new editions, Linux Mint website compromised, sandboxing applications using Firejail|
|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
|• Full list of all issues|
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