| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 136, 30 January 2006
Welcome to this year's fifth issue of DistroWatch Weekly and happy New Year to all our Chinese readers! We'll start with news about rPath, a Linux distribution and company, formally launched last week after concluding a round of venture capital financing. Which Windows applications would you most like to see running under Linux? That's what Novell wants to know -- with some preliminary results of the survey already available -- in order to help with porting them to our favourite operating system. This will be followed by more news about Xandros, Morphix, and SUSE, as well as a link to a mouthwatering bunch of KDE 4 screenshots. In our First Look series, we'll check out the progress the developers of Symphony OS have made during the last three months. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (4.25MB) or mp3 (5.06MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
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Miscellaneous news: rPath launch, Novell survey, SUSE CD layout changes, Morphix development, Xandros Education edition, KDE 4 screenshots
rPath, a company established by several prominent ex-Red Hat employees and a Linux distribution of the same name, was formally launched last week. Closing a venture financing to the value of US$6.4 million, the North Carolina-based Linux company is expected to release the first stable version of its distribution next month. rPath's business model is not quite clear yet, but the new product is built on top of a unique package management system, called "Conary", that promises to simplify long-term maintenance of Linux-based operating system. rPath was established by Eric Troan, formerly a Vice President of Engineering at Red Hat, and Billy Marshall who previously served as Red Hat's Vice President of North American Sales. Read more in the company's first official press release.
Which Windows applications would you most like to see ported to Linux? To find out the answer, Novell is conducting a public survey, which, when completed, will be used as a basis for contacting the vendors of the most often requested applications and ask them to partner with Novell to port it to Linux. If this sounds like a worthwhile task, consider completing the survey. Although still ongoing, Novell has already published preliminary results based on the answers during the past few weeks. The top three most requested applications are QuickBooks, AutoCAD and Photoshop.
Those readers who are waiting impatiently for the new SUSE Linux 10.1, due for release in March, might be interested to learn about some modifications in the layout of SUSE 10.1 DVDs and CDs. The major change concerns the differences between the retail and download editions. The first 5 CDs of both will be identical, with the retail edition containing a 6th CD containing closed-source and third-party applications. The "OSS" label will be dropped. As always, the retail edition will also include a double-layered DVD with RPM packages for both the x86 and x86_64 architectures. More information about the changes in the upcoming SUSE 10.1 can be found in this mailing list post.
Xandros Corporation has launched an education edition of its flagship product - Xandros Desktop. Aimed at academic institutions, students and teachers, the new product features support for Windows Active Directory authentication, remote connection to school VPN, wireless network access point finder, and support for Microsoft Office via Codeweavers Crossover Office. Individual students and teachers can purchase the product for just under US$50, while large academic institutions can deploy the Xandros Education edition for as little as US$10 per seat. For more information please read the company's press release.
Remember Morphix? Based on Knoppix, the Morphix live CD became a very popular distribution for developers due to its modularised nature that allowed users to easily add or remove software modules based on their needs. Unfortunately, the days when the project made frequent releases of several Morphix editions are seemingly gone and these days the developers are content to hack on some of their under-the-hood utilities. But here is some good news: "Despite relative dormancy, Morphix has had an interesting year thanks to a few interesting derivatives and Morphest 2005 last November. ... Given that the autobuilding has made new releases a lot easier there have been ideas on making mmaker GUI interfaces or even a mmaker-replacement. A new base ISO release has been imminent for some time now, but there still are minor issues to deal with." More details on the distribution's home page. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long for a new set of Morphix ISO images....
Finally, some mouthwatering eye candy of the much awaited KDE 4. The maintainer of the Planet Diaz web site has been collecting screenshots and mock-ups of the current development of KDE 4 and posting them in the site's forums to give us an early idea about the major new update of the popular open source desktop. From what we can see here and here, KDE 4 is going to be a radically different beast, with many interesting ideas being implemented as we speak. Although no firm release date is given, KDE 4.0 is expected to be out before the end of 2006.
* * * * *
Feedback: Linux in Iran
Last week's interview with Alan Baghumian, the developer of Parsix GNU/Linux, has attracted some interesting feedback. To say the truth, it was an experimental feature, as we weren't sure how well it would be received. After all, most interviews in the Linux world are conducted with well-known personalities - developers who could claim wide-spread usage of their applications or distributions. With Alan, however, the interview was with a rather ordinary young man, a person barely known in his native Iran, let alone behind his country's borders.
Luckily, indications are that most of our visitors appreciated the interview. Here is an interesting email sent to us by a reader located in the USA:
"I especially enjoyed reading Alan Baghumian's interview this week; that was the best interview so far, and he's a really cool person. It is a very generous act when someone with so much skill, and without Mark Shuttleworth's money, creates a technically excellent polished distro and promises to give it away for free forever. ... And at a time when Iran and the US are not on good terms, regular folks like Alan can bridge the divide, and we certainly welcome him."
We have also received a few emails from Iran. One of them, by Mohammad Tashackori, informed us about another Iranian distribution called Karamad Linux:
"Karamad, with Support from DPI (Data Processing of Iran), the first ranked company in Iran, is a live and installation Linux CD based on SLAX, with many more applications added to it. Karamad was created for Iranians, depicting elements of Iran's culture. For more description and screenshots see Karamad.com
We downloaded the latest release and were pleasantly surprised by the polish and lovely background pictures with motifs from ancient Persia. Although designed predominantly for Persian speakers, this would be a perfect distribution for somebody interested in the language, culture and history of one of the greatest empires in history. Besides KDE internationalisation, Karamad Linux also includes an English to Persian dictionary.
Karamad Linux - a distribution designed for Persian speakers and those interested in the language, history and culture of ancient Persia
(full image size: 1,339kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
|First Look: Symphony OS Build 122
First Look: Symphony OS Build 122
It has been a while since the pre-beta release of Symphony OS, a user-friendly distribution with a rather unusual desktop called Mezzo. Back then, the project attracted quite some attention in the media for fearlessly developing a unique approach to performing general computing tasks. Although Symphony OS was still a prototype, rather than a usable distribution, it showed much promise and many users have been eagerly awaiting for further news about its development.
Replying to impatient queries about a new release, the developers finally produced a new downloadable ISO some two weeks ago. Labelled as "build 122", I downloaded the new release to check out the progress the developers have made over the past few months. While this is essentially just another alpha release with many programs and features not working properly, the developers have now announced that a real beta will be released by the end of January, or soon afterwards.
What's new in Symphony OS, build 122? On the surface, some cosmetic improvements have been added to the desktop - for example, there is now a Google search "desklet" prominently displayed on the right side of the desktop, together with RSS feeds for NewsForge and Yahoo! news. There is also a Desktop Manager which looked like the right place for customising the appearance of the desktop, adding and removing desklets and other related tasks. Unfortunately, it is still work in progress and many of its functions have yet to be implemented. Nevertheless, I liked the idea and once the application works and the desklets are customisable, the desktop will become a very usable tool - not only for accessing applications, but also for monitoring news, performing web searches, and other related tasks.
Compared to the previous release (build 108 from October 2005), the base of the system remained largely unchanged. The only exception was Perl, which was upgraded to 5.8.7. Among the core applications, Firefox was upgraded to version 1.5 and Thunderbird to 1.0.7. Both turned out to be somewhat troublesome, with Firefox only launching after killing all existing instances from the terminal window, while Thunderbird seemed even more capricious as it crashed every time I pressed the "send" button.
An interesting new addition to Symphony OS is "OneClick", a good-looking application for installing packages with "Apt-Plus". As these names suggest, the two tools should take all headaches out of managing software packages by providing an intuitive one-click method for installing applications. Knowing that these are early alpha products, I didn't really expect them to work and my attempt at installing Inkscape proved me right. Nevertheless, this is yet another nice idea by the project's developers and certainly something that should add an extra value to the distribution.
Having browsed the Mezzo desktop for an hour or so, it seems that this project is still in an alpha stage, with plenty of unique, but not yet implemented ideas. I doubt that the promised beta will be released soon. In my opinion, the developers should stop worrying about any beta release pressures and keep working on the features, perhaps releasing regular alpha builds as they go. This would be a more sensible approach than rushing out another feature-incomplete release and calling it a "beta".
That said, Symphony OS is one of the most exciting distributions for some time. If all the promised features are implemented and are reasonably bug-free, then we have a real winner on our hands. However, based on the current speed of development, don't expect this to happen overnight. If you have some spare time and wish to help out, here is your chance to become involved in one of the most exciting Linux distributions in development today.
Symphony OS - the distribution with the most unusual desktop is still under intensive development
(full image size: 1,358kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
|Released Last Week
Linux Caixa Mágica 10 Live CD
The developers of Linux Caixa Mágica, a Portuguese desktop and server distribution based on SUSE Linux, have released a live CD edition of Caixa Mágica 10 Desktop. Designed as a bootable CD without the need to install it to a hard disk, this product is an excellent way to test the distribution and may also be given freely to friends and colleagues who might be interested in experimenting with Linux. The live CD boots into a KDE desktop localised into Portuguese. More information about the product is available in the release announcement (in Portuguese).
Caixa Mágica - a SUSE-base distribution from Portugal with the xLucas configuration panel
(full image size: 479kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
VectorLinux 5.1.2 SOHO Live
A new live CD edition of VectorLinux has been released: "The VectorLinux development team is proud to announce SOHO 5.1.2-live. We started with SOHO 5.1, added all the recent bugfix patches, and rolled it into a live CD. This is what I believe to be the most feature packed live CD available. It comes with two complete desktops: KDE 3.4.2 and XFce 4. Built upon the great heritage that is Slackware, this release features the 22.214.171.124 kernel, OpenOffice.org 2.0, Firefox 1.5, Scribus, GIMP, MPlayer, multimedia plugins, printer and scanner support and everything a complete desktop or workstation should have. If you've ever wanted to try VectorLinux, or just wanted to show your friends without having to partition hard drives, then here is your chance." The release announcement.
Ultima Linux 8
Ultima Linux 8 has been released: "Ultima Linux 8 is the latest and greatest version yet, packing in everything you could possibly need - be it a home desktop or an industrial-strength server. It packs in over 350 unique packages, including the famous KDE desktop, Enlightenment window manager, Firefox and Thunderbird, OpenOffice.org, The GIMP, and all your other favorite programs - all in a convenient two-disc set." Visit the distribution's product page to learn about the changes in the new release.
SLAX, the popular Slackware-based live CD, has been updated to version 5.0.7. What's new? "Using 2.6 Linux kernel with support for many SCSI devices; added KDE 3.5 and X.Org 7; added Squashfs 3.0 support, should be backwards compatible with 2.2; added newest Unionfs 1.1.2 which fixes many bugs but cause the following: 'uselivemod' doesn't work well and 'configrestore' is untested but should work; hard disk installer has been removed in this version." A more detailed list of changes can be found in the changelog.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
BackTrack 1.0 Beta
The developers of BackTrack, a new distribution created after the merge of Auditor Security Linux and WHAX, have announced that their first public release will be made available on February 5th: "BackTrack is the result of the merging of two innovative penetration testing live Linux distributions - WHAX and Auditor. Based on SLAX (Slackware), BackTrack provides user modularity. This means the distribution can be easily customised by the user to include personal scripts, additional tools, customised kernels, etc. The current version (v.1.0?) boasts a huge variety of updated security and forensics tools, and a rich development environment. Beta to be released on 5 Feb 2006." Visit the project's home page and forums to learn more.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distribution additions|
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- FreeNAS. FreeNAS is a free NAS (Network-Attached Storage) server supporting: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS protocols, Software RAID (0,1,5) with a full web configuration interface. FreeNAS takes less than 16 MB once installed on Compact Flash, hard drive or USB key. The minimal FreeBSD distribution, web interface, PHP scripts and documentation are based on m0n0wall.
- PerSeO Linux. PerSeO (Personal Security Operating System) Linux is a security-oriented Italian distributions based on Knoppix.
- Wikix. Wikix is a new Mandriva-based live CD made in Hawaii.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 6 February 2006. See you then :-)
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