| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 147, 17 April 2006
Welcome to this year's 16th issue of DistroWatch Weekly and happy Easter Monday to all our readers who observe the popular Christian holiday. As usual, we'll start with re-visiting some of the interesting news events of the past week, including the release of SUSE Linux 10.1 RC1, the election of Anthony Towns as the new Debian Project Leader, and the announcement about a new 64-bit edition of Arch Linux. This is followed by links to a handful of interesting articles: an interview with Bruce Perens about reviving UserLinux, a new review of the latest alpha release of Ubuntu, and a useful tutorial about keeping a FreeBSD server farm up-to-date. Finally, a special report from Japan analyses the current state of Linux adoption in the country. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Miscellaneous news: SUSE 10.1 RC1, interviews with Anthony Towns and Bruce Perens, Ubuntu, Arch Linux, FreeBSD, Yoper, Haansoft Linux, Multi Distro 2.5
Many Linux users greeted with enthusiasm the news about the first release candidate of SUSE Linux 10.1, made available last week. The project now promises a quick second candidate before the distribution's newest version is finalised and announced on April 25th. Interestingly, if you take a thorough look at the current development process and compare it to openSUSE's first release, version 10.0, you'll notice several major differences. With 10.0, many SUSE packages were updated very late in the development cycle, as the then freshly released GNOME 2.12 packages were quickly pushed into the final release. This time, however, things are different. GNOME 2.14, released more than a month ago, has still not found its place in SUSE's "Factory" branch, so it looks like SUSE Linux 10.1 will be the second release in a row that will ship with GNOME 2.12. Unless things change dramatically within the next few days, it's now clear that Novell will base its upcoming enterprise products on SUSE 10.1 and GNOME 2.12 / KDE 3.5.1 - a rather conservative (some would say wise) approach after the last-minute update rush that characterised the SUSE 10.0 development process.
* * * * *
Anthony Towns, the new Debian Project Leader (DPL) has spoken to NewsForge about his plans as the leader of the largest Linux distribution and challenges on the road towards the next stable release - Debian "etch". From the interview:
NewsForge: "How 'relevant' do you think Debian is these days? A number of people have expressed the opinion, for example, that Ubuntu might be making Debian obsolete -- I'm going to assume you don't share that opinion, but how important do you think Debian is now?"
Anthony Towns: "You can't say how 'relevant' Debian is without knowing who you're talking about. Someone who uses Ubuntu every day and loves it might think Debian has no relevance whatsoever, but most of the people who actually make Ubuntu are passionate about Debian as well -- e.g., Mark Shuttleworth thinks Debian is relevant enough to have reactivated his account and voted in this election. Rather than making Debian obsolete, I personally think Ubuntu has done an excellent job of bringing Debian's technologies and principles to more people, and while the relationship between the two projects is... complicated, I think it's still a healthy one and will only become more so."
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While on the subject of Debian, another interesting interview appeared in the latest issue of Linux Format - with Bruce Perens. In it, the former Debian Project Leader touches on the subject of UserLinux Linux, a Debian-based, enterprise-level distribution he started in 2004, but which became largely inactive after a few enthusiastic months. But perhaps there is still some life left in the project that has been overshadowed by the success of Ubuntu in the last two years. From the interview:
"The problem for me with UserLinux was that when I started it I was an independent entrepreneur; I had a one-person consulting company. So I had to go and make enough sales so that I made a living every month, I had to be an open source leader, and I had to run a number of projects. There simply wasn't room for all of that, and at some point... no one was paying me to work on UserLinux, and supporting my family came first. Now I have an enterprise that's paying me to work on whatever I want for open source with half of my time, so I am able to do this sort of work more."
* * * * *
Mad Penguin has published a comprehensive review of the latest alpha release of Ubuntu 6.06. The conclusion? "All in all, Ubuntu 6.06 is gearing up to be quite an impressive release. Granted, I saw some bugs during my stay on the distribution, but can I really complain? It's not a full release, so it deserves some breathing room. Considering some of the horribly authored software I've looked at over the years, I feel that Ubuntu in pre-release form is more stable than other distros when they reach final release status. It's not quite in the league of Slackware and Red Hat/Fedora in that respect yet, but it's surely getting there in a hurry." On a related note, Ubuntu's Corey Burger has emailed us to say that the project's official name is now "Ubuntu", not "Ubuntu Linux", and its official web site is at ubuntu.com, rather than ubuntulinux.org (the latter remains operational by redirecting visitors to ubuntu.com). Therefore, from now on we'll refer to the distribution simply as "Ubuntu".
* * * * *
Good news for the fans of Arch Linux who would like to run their favourite distribution ported to 64-bit architectures. As announced on the project's news page and on Arch64.org, official installation CDs for the AMD64 and Intel's EM64T processors were released last week: "The Arch64 project has been working for over a year getting Arch Linux to work on the x86_64 platform. Now they've released their first official install CD. Go to their project page and give it a try!" Installation instructions, FAQs and documentation are available on the distribution's Wiki pages, while technical support and a discussion forum can be sought on the project's dedicated IRC channel at irc.freenode.net #archlinux64.
* * * * *
Imagine that you are running a farm of 20 FreeBSD servers that you'd like to keep up-to-date - with as little effort as possible. A task perfectly adequate for a seasoned system administrator, but perhaps more than just a little scary for the rest of us. Luckily, Bjorn Nelson has written an excellent article explaining the finer details of the process at ONLamp.com: "Unfortunately, keeping FreeBSD current is a very time-consuming job. I started seeing how daunting this is while watching our 20-plus FreeBSD servers age and fall into legacy mode. I noticed that Red Hat took very little time to stay up-to-date, and I thought there had to be a way to do something similar on FreeBSD. I set out on a search for what was available." This 3-page article is a gem worth printing out and keeping for future reference.
* * * * *
A sick joke or an attempt to back stab the Yoper project by its own founder? Only Andreas Girardet will know for sure - that's after the visitors of the Yoper FTP server were recently greeted with the following message: "Hello Linux enthusiasts! Good Bye Yoper! If you need a distro, then go to my favourite open source project called openSUSE and a project called SLICK, a light-weight KDE desktop with apt integration and Con Kolivas patched kernel. ISOs for SLICK are currently only on BitTorrent as this FTP server is down for maintenance. Andreas Girardet." Girardet, a talented developer and Linux advocate from New Zealand, is the original founder and developer of Yoper Linux, but he has since left the project as he accepted employment from IBM and Novell. Yoper Linux is currently being maintained as a community distribution by a small group of volunteer coders. On a related note, Girardet's opinions on Linux were recently exposed in Australia's ITWire site.
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The Zenwalk Project has published an article analysing the Page Hit Ranking (PHR) statistics on DistroWatch. Although we have always maintained that the PHR numbers are just a light-hearted way of measuring the popularity of Linux and BSD distributions and should not be taken seriously, the ranking does give an indication about what the DistroWatch readers are interested in most during specified time periods. As for actual usage, however, there is no evidence of any correlation between the PHR statistics and actual deployment; in fact, the Awstats output of our own traffic gives a very different picture of what our visitors are using. Of the 30% of DistroWatch readers who browse these pages with Linux the majority use Debian (18.5%), followed by Ubuntu (15.9%), Fedora (7.1%), SUSE (6.2%), Mandriva (2%), Red Hat (0.3%) and CentOS (0.3%). Other statistics, such as Netcraft's survey of web servers provides completely different results, indicating that Red Hat, Debian and Fedora are by far the most popular web hosting platforms on the Internet.
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It seems that we have missed the release of Haansoft Linux 2006 late last month. There wasn't any formal announcement on the distribution's web site, but the project's community section links to a download page (in Korean) for direct links to the ISO images for both the i386 and x86_64 architectures. Unlike Haansoft's previous release, the new version is also available as a live CD, which makes Haansoft Linux the first distribution that boots into a full Korean desktop with pre-configured Korean language utilities and input method (SCIM). The default desktop is the latest KDE 3.5.2, but most other packages are also highly up-to-date. Worth taking a look if you need a distribution with a solid support for this important East Asian language.
Haansoft Linux 2006 - an up-to-date distribution and live CD with complete support for Korean.
(full image size: 1,970kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Finally, an update on Multi Distro, a Linux live CD that combines a number of mini distributions into one 700 MB CD. Version 2.5, released last week, contains the following distributions:
For more information and download links please visit the Multi Distro project page at The Linux Mirror Project web site.
- Recovery Is Possible 15.2
- Damn Small Linux 2.3
- GeeXboX 0.98.7
- INSERT 1.3.6
- SLAX 5.1.0
- Olive 0.2
- Mini-Pentoo 2006.0
- Grafpup Linux 1.0.2
- LiMP (Linux Multimedia Player) 2.2
|Special report: A tale of two distributions
A tale of two Japanese distributions
Visiting Tokyo in early April is a fascinating experience. With the famed Sakura trees in full bloom, the city transforms itself from dull post-winter colours, duly matched by grey suites of the commuting "salary men" and "office ladies", to a lovely white, pink and red colour combination, making Tokyo's numerous parks an attractive place to enjoy one's "obento" (lunch box). This is a city full of surprises behind every corner - from outrageous teen fashion in Harajuku to futuristic modern buildings in Odaiba, Tokyo never disappoints a Westerner sampling the bits of this huge Asian megalopolis.
But my visit to Japan wasn't all leisure and fun. Besides enjoying the cuisine and admiring the energy that drives the world's second largest economy, I took the time to meet with representatives of two major Japanese distributions - Turbolinux and Vine Linux. Those who have been around this web site for a while won't need an introduction to either of them, but if you've only joined the Linux revolution recently, an explanation is in order. Turbolinux, established in 1992, was one of the first distributions and a popular choice during the late nineties when the company moved its headquarters to the United States. Unfortunately, the post-dotcom bust left the distribution maker in deep financial trouble; it was forced to return to Japan where it changed hands several times before ending up under the umbrella of the Livedoor group. There it has been focusing on the domestic enterprise market, for both servers and workstations, which is where the company's current strong position and profitability were built on.
I met with Linda Arai, the company's Vice President for Global Business and Corporate Marketing at the Turbolinux headquarters in Shibuya, Tokyo. Entering the attractive offices in a large office block, I received an enthusiastic welcome, accompanied by an announcement that Turbolinux had just acquired Zend Japan. The company, Arai continued, was doing a brisk business in Japan where many small and medium-size companies had started seeing value in Linux and where Turbolinux was perceived as a distribution that understood the domestic market better than other established names, such as Red Hat or Novell. Besides, the Turbolinux model is different than that of its main competitors - its products are not just bundles of open source software, they also include a range of proprietary add-ons, such as the ATOK Japanese input method, a commercial anti-virus solution and even a licensed media player for viewing file formats restricted by patents or requiring royalty payments. All these have turned Turbolinux into a successful and profitable company in the last couple of years.
Turbolinux occupies two floors in the office building. The impressive "suits-and-tie" lower floor is where the offices of the company's President Koichi Yano and other top executives are located, while the large and "geeky" upper floor is split into cubicles for the distribution's 20 something developers. A separate section of this floor is dedicated to a 4-man technical support team. Besides the headquarters, Turbolinux also has a 60-person development office in Beijing, China and a small sales office in San Francisco, USA.
In sharp contrast with the commercial nature of Turbolinux, Vine Linux is a free, community distribution developed by half a dozen hackers over the Internet. Hence the reason for meeting its two representatives -- Daisuke Suzuki (on the right), the project's President, and Kohji Matsubayashi, the Vice President -- in a pub. Besides developing a distribution, the project also has a commercial arm which provides consultations, custom solutions and technical support for Vine Linux. Incidentally, Suzuki is also the President of Japan Linux Association, a body aiming to promote and spread the use of Linux in Japan.
Although those readers not familiar with the Japanese Linux scene have probably not heard of the above names, the fact is that Daisuke Suzuki is one of the most famous Linux personalities in Japan. He started with porting Linux to Japanese computers in 1992 before developing software for Japanese input under Project Japanese Extension (PJE). Later he briefly worked for Red Hat Japan. In 1998 he started developing Vine Linux, a Red Hat-based distribution with Japanese language support. The project continues its development and a new major update -- version 4.0 -- is scheduled for release in September 2006.
But the news conveyed over a few pints of Kirin by the two project leaders was not all good. The state of Linux in Japan is disappointing, they claimed, with the corporate and individual membership in the Japan Linux Association dropping year after year and the annual Linux World conferences in Tokyo becoming smaller and smaller with each event. The Linux boom that many Japanese computer users experienced at the turn of the century was quickly followed by doom and gloom - troubles with Japanese input under Linux, combined with lack of easy-to-use applications, have reduced Linux into a marginal operating system. Worse, many developers who had been previously motivated to make Japanese Linux a reality by developing user-friendly input methods, fonts and other related applications were driven away by threats of lawsuits by companies that had patented algorithms for intelligent input methods and other computing conveniences for the complex Japanese language.
So how healthy is Linux adoption in Japan? This is not easy to conclude after just two brief meetings, but it was interesting to note two points. The first one was the sharp contrast between the two entities; while Turbolinux, the business-oriented one, seemed to be doing well and the atmosphere in their offices gleamed with excitement and high hopes for a prosperous future, the representatives of the geek-oriented entity (Vine Linux) appeared to believe that Linux adoption in Japan was far too slow, even non-existent. The second point of note is the fact that most Japanese businesses and individuals don't appear to see much value in Free Software, perhaps even misunderstand the concept. That's disappointing, especially because Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
Could some of the leading advocates of Free Software, such as Richard Stallman, focus their advocacy on countries like Japan instead of frequently preaching to the converted in Spain or Latin America? For that to work, however, Stallman would have to shave, have a haircut, and put on a tie and suit before boarding an air plane to Tokyo - admittedly, a hard-to-imagine scenario. But if GNU/Linux and Free Software were to achieve world domination, what's a little personal sacrifice? ;-)
|Released Last Week
SLAMPPLite is a "lite" edition of SLAMPP, an instant home server running from a live CD. Version 2.0 has been released: "I'm happy to announce you all the new release of SLAMPPLite. Here are some changes that have been made with this release: updated and upgraded existing applications included in previous SLAMPPLite live CD; powered by XAMPP 1.5.1 and now it exists as module; based on Slackware current; used Linux kernel 2.6.16; compiled with Linux Live scripts 5.4.1; added NASLite file server applications of Server Elements for SMB, FTP and NFS; added AbiWord 2.4.1...." Read the full release announcement for additional information.
CentOS 3.7 has been released: "The CentOS development team is pleased to announce the availability of CentOS 3.7. Major changes in this version of CentOS include: Added Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) functionality to CentOS-3. IPMI is a standard for controlling intelligent devices that monitor a system. It provides for dynamic discovery of sensors in the system and the ability to monitor the sensors and be informed when the sensor's values change or go outside certain boundaries. To use IPMI, you need an interface to an IPMI controller in your system (called a Baseboard Management Controller, or BMC) and the IPMI software." More details can be found in the release announcement.
Plamo Linux 4.2
A new version of Plamo Linux, a Slackware-based community distribution developed in Japan, was released last week. Version 4.2 is the first Plamo release that comes with the 2.6 kernel series (version 220.127.116.11) and includes the UNICON patch for Asian language support on the console. Other major changes include upgrade to glibc 2.3.6, switch to X.Org 6.8.2, addition of udev, and update to KDE 3.5.1 and GNOME 2.12.2. For more details please read the release announcement (in Japanese).
Asterisk@Home is a CentOS-based distribution that provides an easy way for the home user to set up a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Asterisk PBX (Private Branch Exchange). Version 2.8 is the latest version. Features: "based on CentOS 4.3; Asterisk 18.104.22.168; Flash operator panel 0.25; Festival speech engine version 1.96; weather cgi scripts; wake-up calls; integrated WebMeetMe graphical user interface; AMP 1.10.010; SugarCRM with Cisco XML services interface + click to dial; native music on hold; fax support (spanDSP); xPL support; Digium card auto-configuration; Open A2Billing." Find more details, including installation requirements and known issues, in the release notes.
Aurora SPARC Linux 2.0
Aurora SPARC Linux, one of the very few remaining community projects developing a Linux distribution for the SPARC architecture, has released a new stable version 2.0: "The Aurora SPARC Linux Project is proud to announce the release of Aurora SPARC Linux Build 2.0. The Aurora SPARC Project is an effort to support SPARC (32 and 64 bit) hardware on Linux. Specifically, we rebuild Fedora Core for SPARC. This release is a full tree of SPARC packages that match up pretty closely to Fedora Core 3. You can install it via CD/DVD or via network. This release is our first 'stable' release based on a 2.6 kernel." See the release announcement for full details and known issues.
Foresight Linux 0.9.4 MR4
A new maintenance release of Foresight Linux 0.9.4, a cutting edge, desktop-oriented distribution based on rPath Linux, is available: "This is the fourth in a series of maintenance releases for Foresight Linux 0.9.4. These maintenance releases help you stay current and also ensure that new downloads include the latest stuff. To update to MR4, 'sudo conary updateall', it's that simple. There are new ISOs (both DVD and CD) and Virtual Machine images as well. Changes in MR4: GNOME 2.14.1, a lot of new versions, bug fixes." Please refer to the release announcement for further information.
GParted LiveCD 0.2.4-2
GParted LiveCD is a specialist distribution designed for the purpose of partitioning one's hard disk in an intuitive, graphical environment. Version 0.2.4-2 has been released with the following changes: "Fixed /bin/vidcard to show more info for the video card selections; fixed boot error message 'Cannot mount /dev/hdc on /mnt'. Device or resource busy'; the live CD now uses kernel modules; rebuilt X.Org 6.8.2 to be modular; rebuilt libusb 0.1.12; rebuilt ncurses 5.4 to save space; updated to Leafpad 0.8.9, udev 089, Fluxbox 0.9.15.1, Linux kernel 22.214.171.124, GTK+ 2.8.17; added module-init-tools 3.2.2, Synaptics 0.14.4; added support for Synaptics touchpads."
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Linux Format Issue 79|
The May 2006 issue of Linux Format is out. As you can see from its cover, the latest issue is dedicated to SimplyMEPIS, a popular easy-to-use distribution based on Debian and Ubuntu. The 7-page story includes an interview with Warren Woodford, the founder and lead developer of the distribution, as well as an installation walk-through and a visual guide to the MEPIS desktop. A good story for all those who are just starting out with Linux. Of course, the latest version of SimplyMEPIS is included on the magazine's triple-boot cover DVD (with the other two distributions being Gentoo Linux 2006.0 and BeleniX).
The DistroWatch section comes on pages 30 and 31 and includes an editorial on Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth, a feature story summarising the current development state of the main distributions, and a brief article about the recent new releases of Gentoo Linux and the Gentoo-based Kororaa Xgl live CD. The pages conclude with information about the new rPath 1.0 and the rPath-based, desktop-oriented Foresight Linux. The section also ranks the main distributions in terms of number of messages on their respective mailing lists during a one-month period - an interesting indicator of the levels of communication between each project's developers and users.
Elsewhere in the magazine, one can find a review of Fedora Core 5, a quick look at GNOME 2.14 and a round-up of vector graphics editors. The "What on Earth is..." section investigates Solid, the new KDE hardware library, while the interview pages bring us a session with one of the most famous Linux personalities - Bruce Perens. Next, an explanation of the many software licences and a 4-page guide to OpenSolaris and the excellent OpenSolaris-based live CD called BeleniX. A 6-page feature explains how to build a Linux kiosk, while the tutorials section carries hands-on articles on audio editing, Inkscape effects, DCOP, Bash, and PHP 6.
Whatever you do, don't miss the latest edition of the best Linux magazine on the market!
* * * * *
New distributions added to the DistroWatch database
- GParted LiveCD. GParted LiveCD is a business card-size live CD distribution with a single purpose - to provide tools for partitioning hard disks in an intuitive, graphical environment. The distribution uses X.Org, the light-weight Fluxbox window manager, and the latest 2.6 Linux kernel. GParted LiveCD runs on most x86 machines with a Pentium II or better.
- Kwort Linux. Kwort is a Slackware-based Linux distribution that uses the GTK+ toolkit and XFce desktop. Its most prominent feature is a package manager, called kpkg, for retrieving packages from download mirrors.
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- ToBiX. ToBiX is a Morphix-based Linux live CD containing a range of specialist applications for bioinformatics.
- RocXshop. RocXshop is a PCLinuxOS-based distribution with the goal to serve as a powerful and portable digital audio workstation.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 24 April 2006. See you then :-)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 683 (2016-10-17): Refracta 8.0, making packages for distributions, Alpine switches to LibreSSL, 386BSD website publishes classic code|
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|• Full list of all issues|