| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 153, 29 May 2006
Welcome to this year's 22nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The new Ubuntu "Dapper Drake" with long-term support will be finally unveiled later this week; before that happens, however, enjoy the latest DistroWatch Weekly! The highlight of this issue is an interview with Andreas Jaeger, SUSE Linux project manager and release coordinator, who reveals the secrets of developing a complex operating system and gives us some hints about what we can look forward to in version 10.2. Also in this issue: Freespire presents its first release roadmap, Debian continues work on a graphical installer, FreeBSD seeks volunteers to maintain the Ports Collection, and Gentoo and PCLinuxOS release new documentation. Finally, a note on Picasa and a reminder about the DistroWatch IRC channel. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (8.9MB) or mp3 (10.8MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Freespire release roadmap, Debian graphical installer, Gentoo development guide, PCLinuxOS user guides, Picasa for Linux
The Freespire project, a new community distribution launched recently by Linspire, has announced a development roadmap leading towards version 1.0. The distribution's first beta is scheduled to be released on 1 August 2006, with the final product following one month later. The short testing period is explained by the fact the Freespire 1.0 will be forked off stable Linspire 5.0 and as such, it will only need limited testing. In other words, Freespire 1.0 will be just a quick launching platform, after which the development process should start evolving independently from its parent. Freespire 1.1, scheduled for release in the 4th quarter of this year, should be a more interesting product, complete with support for a number of languages, open source CNR (Click-N-Run) client, kernel 2.6.17, KDE 3.5, GCC 4, and several other features. The release of Freespire 1.1 will be followed by Linspire 6.0, the company's commercial product, also due in the 4th quarter of this year. For more information please see this forum post.
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The upcoming release of Debian "etch", currently scheduled for December 2006, is likely to provide several interesting features, never before seen in the world's largest Linux distribution. One of them is a graphical installer. As reported in the latest issue of Debian Weekly News, the Debian graphical installer is now part of the regular daily builds for the i386 platform, with AMD64 and PPC following shortly. While it still won't be the default way of installing Debian "etch", the availability of a point-and-click interface should make it easier for novice users to install Debian, a distribution often considered more suitable for use by software developers and technology enthusiasts. On a related note, Daniel Baumann has announced the availability of a new set of unofficial Debian live CDs for the i386 and AMD64 processors; images containing either GNOME or KDE can be downloaded from the project's main server or its European mirror.
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Good news for all aspiring developers of the most popular source-based distribution: Gentoo has published a comprehensive document entitled Gentoo Development Guide. This lengthy tutorial provides information on how to create "ebuilds", or meta files containing information about compiling a package from its source code, complete with other essential information, such as package dependencies. Pleasant formatting of the document makes the guide useful not only to those wishing to start building "ebuilds", but also to those readers who want to learn what goes into creating a package for Gentoo Linux.
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Speaking about community development, the FreeBSD project has issued a call for volunteer contributors who would be interested in maintaining the FreeBSD Ports Collection: "A lot of the ports in the Ports Collection have no assigned maintainer. Unmaintained ports tend to lag behind the rest of the Ports Collection in the speed of updates to new versions, and in the overall quality of the port. With nearly 15,000 third-party applications in the Ports Collection, and dozens more added every week, there is an ever-present need for more volunteers to assist in maintaining ports." Those of you thinking about answering the call, please read through the Contributing to the FreeBSD Ports Collection document and check out the FreeBSD Porter's Handbook.
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MyPCLinuxOS, a community web site serving the users of Texstar's PCLinuxOS, has released a set of installation and user guides for this popular beginner-friendly distribution. Three documents are available: a 27-page PCLinuxOS Installation Guide, a 30-page PCLinuxOS Live CD Guide and an 80-page PCLinuxOS User Guide. Especially the PCLinuxOS User Guide seem like a well thought-out publication covering basic computer tasks, such as file manipulation, work with Internet and multimedia applications and using productivity software, and even introducing some more advanced topics, like system administration and computer security. Written by Alex Belgraver and Julia Ray, this guide, available in PDF and ODT formats, is a must-have document for all users new to Linux in general and PCLinuxOS in particular.
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Is your DistroWatch maintainer the only person who fails to see the point of Picasa, a digital photo management program released last week by Google? After downloading the 20 MB monster and installing it on an Ubuntu system, it didn't last beyond a few minutes I took to investigate the software. Running through WINE, Picasa felt slow and looked unsightly, with its toolbars failing to match the theme of other, native Linux applications on my desktop. With perfectly functional free programs, such as digiKam or F-Spot, do we have a need for a closed-source, binary-only and non-native beast for managing our digital images? Or do you find Picasa a superior alternative to anything that exists on Linux? Please state your views in the forum below.
Interview with Andreas Jaeger, SUSE Linux
Following the highly intensive 9-month development effort of hundreds of full-time coders and volunteer contributors, SUSE Linux 10.1 was finally released to the public on 11 May 2006. Based on some of the early reviews, it appears that the new product is possibly one of the best operating systems available today and another reason to celebrate the enormous progress desktop Linux has made over the past couple of years. But the long development cycle didn't pass without its fair share of glitches, delays and unexpected feature enhancements in the middle of the beta testing process. We asked Andreas Jaeger, Project Manager at SUSE Linux, about his experiences with managing a massive and complex software project, and to give us some hints about the next SUSE release, the development of which is scheduled to start in just a couple of weeks.
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DW: Andreas, thank you very much for your time and congratulations on your new release. If I understand it correctly, you are the release manager for SUSE Linux. What exactly are your responsibilities?
AJ: My job title is project manager which means I am the SUSE Linux project lead and as such, I act as the release manager for the SUSE Linux distribution and I basically coordinate work on our SUSE Linux distribution. So to say, I am the link to product management, the different development teams at Novell and to our community. I'm not responsible for the marketing material, e.g. the look of the retail box.
The features in the product are requested by product management, taking into account the feedback received from the openSUSE community and our customers. To achieve this, I work with various development and testing teams inside Novell and coordinate these. I'm also taking care of localization and documentation. Most of my responsibilities are delegated which means I have to handle a number of escalations.
DW: Can you describe your typical day during the SUSE Linux 10.1 testing?
AJ: There's no really typical day since I'm in fire fighting mode during such times. But it basically boils down to: I start by reading the Bugzilla reports, where I give the highest priority to those where people ask me and set the report to NEEDINFO for me - I have to unblock them so that they can continue working on bugs. Then I go through other bug reports that I'm responsible for or am CCed. I also check blockers and criticals to see that we're moving forward and how the product progresses. I have to go through my Bugzilla emails several times during the day. Then come a lot of emails I have to read and answer, both directly and on mailing lists. Depending on the bug reports and emails, I might talk with engineers face to face, if possible, or by phone, and help resolving issues.
Most mornings we had a so called daily build where we mastered CDs with the changes that were checked into our build system the day before. I look at these builds briefly, announce them for wider testing and discuss with the testers whether the known issues are really fixed and what new issues arise.
In the afternoon I had a daily conference call with all the people involved with libzypp and ZENworks to discuss development and testing. I also had a number of weekly meetings - e.g. with my project manager colleagues, all the team leaders involved with SUSE Linux 10.1, the product manager and my boss.
DW: Several of your release announcements came late in the evenings or during weekends. Do you normally work from home or do you work in an office, but stay late, if necessary?
AJ: I work four days from the office (at Novell's Nürnberg office) and Fridays in general from home (in Fürth). During the release time I did a lot of emails in the evening from home as well. There were a couple of days where I stayed late at the office but those were not for the announcements but to get everything ready ;-).
DW: Let's talk about the release process for SUSE Linux 10.1. It became obvious that something changed shortly after beta 4 when the original release plan was basically thrown out of the window. What happened exactly?
AJ: We decided to redesign the way we handle software and a new software management back-end, based on our "libzypp"library, which also integrated Novell's ZENworks technology. This allows us to not only manage packages but also patches, patterns and even products in an integrated way.
The decision to integrate this was made after Beta 3, instead of waiting for the next release. The work to integrate this was underestimated and, in hindsight, I would say that even at that point it was not ready to go in. But we decided that it would be better to continue the integration and also fix a couple of other areas, especially Xen.
DW: The recently concluded development of SUSE Linux 10.1 has to go down as the longest and most intense development process in the distribution's long history. Did you ever feel like giving up and just walking away from the seemingly thankless task of coordinating the releases?
AJ: It was the longest and most intense since I've joined SUSE - but I've heard that the 4.2 release was even worse. But I agree, this was a real exception, we've been too proud of timely delivery ;-).
I'm part of an excellent team of project managers at SUSE and they, as well as the team leaders, took some responsibility from me so that a few of us could concentrate on critical areas. If I would have been on my own, I might have given up. It was not thankless at all, I received lots of encouragement from the community and colleagues. It was also a challenge to release such a complex beast as a Linux distribution - and I'm always glad to release it.
DW: One of the points of criticism during the development of SUSE Linux 10.1 was lack of any release notes accompanying the betas and release candidates. This was in sharp contrast with other popular distributions, such as Fedora or Ubuntu. Don't you think it's important to inform the testers about the most important changes in a more user-friendly format, rather than just relying on a long and highly technical changelog?
AJ: This is something we'll think of for next release. Since everything is in the open, I would like to invite community members to help with this.
DW: Let's move onto the SUSE Linux 10.1 release. What sort of feedback have you been getting so far? Any praise or complaints?
AJ: Lots of praise, even personal emails, which really surprised me. During such a long phase I obviously saw the rough edges and bugs instead of how good it was, so I really appreciated this. We also got a lot of complaints about some rough edges on the package management side. The rest of the system is really excellent, the long beta phase has paid off here.
DW: What is the best way to upgrade from 10.0 to 10.1?
AJ: Boot from a 10.1 CD1 or DVD and use "Update system" instead of "New installation".
DW: One of the most interesting new features of SUSE 10.1 is 3D window manipulation and other effects with Xgl and Compiz. What do you think of these? Are they just "eye candy" or would you say they represent a truly useful breakthrough in the way a Linux desktop is presented to the end user?
AJ: I haven't seen as much excitement for a single feature as for Xgl - ever! It's "eye candy", but the users really consider it a major step forward.
3D effects on SUSE Linux 10.1 with Xgl and Compiz
(full image size: 725kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
DW: Do you normally have Xgl and Compiz turned on your main workstation at work or home?
AJ: The graphics cards in my laptop and in my workstation at home will not work with Xgl - and my main workstation at the office would work fine but I'm not using it right now.
DW: Looking through some SUSE forums and mailing lists, I've noticed a few complaints, such as a problem regarding online updates, some wireless networking troubles, and stability issues with Xgl. Are these concerns being addressed in post-release updates or do they affect just a small portion of SUSE Linux users so they can be ignored?
AJ: We have already fixed problems in the areas of package management ("libzypp") and Xgl, and will release updates for these and also for other packages, if needed. Most fixes are already available in our "factory" tree and will be released after additional testing for 10.1 as well. Also, we will support SUSE Linux 10.1 with security updates for two years, with the first online updates already available.
DW: How many full-time developers worked on SUSE Linux 10.1?
AJ: Since SUSE Linux is based on open source software and developed with the openSUSE community, it's impossible to make a guess. So, let me only answer how many developers from Novell worked on it.
We have developers working on different locations world-wide and home offices; just some examples: The Xen team is in Provo, Utah, the GNOME, Mono and ZENworks teams are based in Boston, the Evolution team is in Bangalore, and the two main SUSE locations are in Nürnberg, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic. If you add the various test teams as well, it should give us at least 250 people working on it.
DW: The KDE vs GNOME issue in Novell products continues to attract heated discussions in online forums. SUSE, a traditional supporter of KDE seems to be in conflict with Novell, which has been trying to promote the use GNOME instead. What is your view on this? Which desktop do you normally use on your workstation?
AJ: My position is that SUSE Linux has to deliver the best desktop to its users. The problem is that there's just no single best desktop and the world is split into GNOME and KDE (and XFce, Blackbox,...) enthusiasts. It's not only a different look and feel, it's also different development communities that have different philosophies. It's often said that competition is good for the user - and I think that a friendly competition will help the user. I'm glad that now we have not only a good KDE desktop, but also a good GNOME one and therefore SUSE Linux reaches out to more users.
I consider it important that both desktops work together to give users an integrated view and also a real choice. As an example, look at NetworkManager and Powersave. Those are technologies that are desktop-agnostic and nicely integrate into both desktops. For SUSE Linux 10.1 we integrated NetworkManager into our basic network setup and added a KDE front-end to supplement the existing GNOME front-end. With our Powersave technology we went the other way and integrated our libraries with the GNOME applets.
With each public snapshot, I look at both GNOME and KDE myself and have them on the pre-release check list.
My workstations run KDE, I switched from WindowMaker to KDE at a point when our GNOME support was not as good as it is now.
DW: With the upcoming release of the first alpha of SUSE 10.2, scheduled for 16 June, it doesn't look like you'll have much time to take a well-deserved break before the start of a new development cycle. Can you give us some hints about what is planned for version 10.2? Does SUSE have some sort of a mechanism for determining a list of new features for the next version?
AJ: I'll take some vacation soon and my colleague Adrian will handle the Alpha1 release. We will not make significant changes for 10.2 Alpha1 but we're now starting work on some infrastructure changes, such as removing GNOME 1 packages (its last use was for GnuCash, which has now also been converted to version 2) and switching to X.Org version 7. Some of the planned improvements for openSUSE include our build server project and an extension of the community in Asian countries like Japan and China.
For the features for 10.2 we use our internal tracking system called FATE (basically a Bugzilla for features). The product management team will also look at the feedback from 10.1 and the various wish lists on openSUSE.org to decide about new features.
DW: If there were no SUSE Linux, which distribution would you likely use on your workstation?
AJ: I hope this will never happen. I started with SUSE Linux nearly 10 years ago, then went to my own packages and then used SUSE Linux again. So, in this case, I would have to start a project to create a new distribution as I don't know any that is both cutting edge and still stable, has all the packages that I need, supports my hardware, is freely available, as well as integrated and therefore easy to use.
DW: Well, I am pretty certain that among the 500 distributions listed on DistroWatch, there will be one or two that fits the criteria. But anyway, thank you very much for your answers and all the best for SUSE Linux 10.2!
|Released Last Week
Barely three days after version 5.1.5, the SLAX project has announced the availability of SLAX 5.1.6: "A new version of SLAX is available. The main added feature is NTFS write support. The default behaviour didn't change, SLAX still mounts NTFS volumes read-only. But you can mount it manually with read-write support by using the command 'ntfsmount'. It allows you to safely edit all existing files on NTFS partitions. You can also create or delete files, this will either succeed or it will be refused. Please note that refusal to do an operation does not mean the volume will be corrupted. Actually it means just the opposite: it's a guarantee that your data is safe." See the latest SLAX changelog for further details.
The developers of BeleniX, a full-featured live CD based on OpenSolaris, have announced an updated release - version 0.4.3a: "BeleniX 0.4.3a with JDK 1.5 released! Another release of the live CD this month. The significant feature of this release is the inclusion of JDK 1.5 under the new Distributors License for Java (DLJ) as announced by Sun Microsystems on May 16th in JavaOne. However due to a licensing issue with a required SUN Studio C++ runtime library it is currently an installable bundle and does not execute off the live CD. This is expected to be resolved soon." Visit the distribution's home page to read the complete release announcement.
Arch Linux 0.7.2
Judd Vinet has announced the release of Arch Linux 0.7.2, a minor update to the Arch 0.7 series: "Arch Linux 0.7.2 (Gimmick) is now available for download. This time, we've provided three different ISO images for you to use: an FTP-only image (13MB), a Base-only image (145MB), and our full image that contains the entire Current repository (519MB)." Gimmick is the first official release to have the new modular X.Org 7.0 and GNOME 2.14, as well as KDE 3.5 available in a "stable" repository. Among other upgrades, it also includes the Linux kernel 220.127.116.11. Here is the brief release announcement.
Zenwalk Linux 2.6
Zenwalk Linux 2.6 has been released: "A new stable Zenwalk release 2.6 is available as a CD-ROM ISO. More than 80 packages have been updated or added. The kernel is 18.104.22.168. Since the last release, we worked on the desktop look and feel, and also on Zenwalk specific system tools, like networkconfig, serviceconfig,and Zenwalk USB automount system. In our continuous search for the best applications for our GTK2-based platform, we have added WiFi Radar to handle WiFi roaming network profiles. The extra section provides optional add-on packages made specifically for your Zenwalk system, like the OpenOffice.org suite or KDE." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Ken Smith has announced a new stable release of the FreeBSD 5.x series: "It is my great pleasure and privilege to announce the availability of FreeBSD 5.5-RELEASE. Work done between the 5.4-RELEASE and this release has mostly been bug fixes. Some 'vendor supplied' software has also been updated, mostly due to security concerns (specifically BIND and sendmail). This is the last planned release on the 5-STABLE branch. The FreeBSD development community is currently focusing its efforts on the 6-STABLE and CURRENT codelines. No new major features are planned for the 5-STABLE branch, although minor updates and bug fixes may be merged at the discretion of individual developers." Read the release announcement and consult the release notes for more information.
The first stable version of BackTrack, SLAX-based live CD with a collection of security and forensics tools, is out: "After hundreds of combined man hours, the Dev Team is proud to present our first 'final' BackTrack release." From the changelog: "Updated Metasploit 2.6; updated pbnj; fixed LILO problem; added VNC vulnerability scanner; added ThinkPad ACPI kernel module; fixed Kimset menu text; fixed switch to scripts; fixed missing fontdirs; fixed console menu size; added revhosts; fixed SPE and Absinthe wx incompatibility; added radeontool; added DMitry." Here is the brief release announcement.
Scientific Linux 3.0.7
A new update to the 3.0 series of Scientific Linux, a distribution release built by recompiling the source RPM packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, is available for the i386 architecture: "Scientific Linux (SL) release 3.0.7 for i386 has been released. We wish to thank all the contributors, testers, and all those who have given us kind words of encouragement. The Scientific Linux community is great to work with and for. Scientific Linux release 3.0.7 is based on the rebuilding of RPMS out of SRPMS's from Enterprise 3 AS, including Update 6 & 7. There aren't too many improvements over 3.0.5 other than bug fixes, security errata and updated kernel modules. The release notes can be found here." Read the brief release announcement for more information.
tinysofa classic server 2.0 Update 5
Jaakko Heinonen has announced the release of a new update to tinysofa classic server 2.0: "tinysofa classic server 2.0 Update 5 (Ceara) is now generally available. This release focuses on bug and security fixes, integrates all released security fixes, and updates various packages (notably the kernel) to the more recent upstream releases. 'Ceara' features: the Linux 2.6.16 kernel, grsecurity support, APT and SmartPM for advanced package management, the next generation PHP 5 environment (5.0.4), OpenSSH 4.3p2, high availability features such as DRBD (0.7.17) and UCARP (1.1), the latest development tools and languages (GCC 3.4.3, Python 2.4.2), and much more." Visit the distribution's home page to read the release announcement.
An updated version of PC-BSD, now based on FreeBSD 6.1, has been released: "PC-BSD 1.1 was released today, along with a PBI update file for users running 1.0, who wish to update to 1.1. This release brings the core operating system up to the latest version of FreeBSD 6.1, adds better driver support to the kernel, and improves the speed on many systems." The new release also ads "nve" devices to DHCP network detection, fixes network manager to restart network after settings change, and upgrades Online Update Utility to display status. For more information please read the release announcement and consult the release notes and changelog.
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Development and unannounced releases
- Frenzy 1.0-rc2, the release notes
- Frugalware 0.5-pre1, the release announcement
- Parsix GNU/Linux 0.80-beta1, the release announcement
- Tuquito 2.0-beta3, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu 6.06-rc, the release announcement
- Elive 0.5-beta, the changelog
- SimplyMEPIS 6.0-beta4, the press release
- Grafpup Linux 1.0.4-pre1, the release announcement
- UHU Linux 2.0-test1, the release announcement
- Truva Linux 1.0-rc2
- Kalango Linux 3.3-alpha1
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch IRC channel reminder|
Following an inquiry by one of our readers, here is a quick reminder that interested readers can join our IRC channel at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch to discuss distribution-related topics. Those of you who are new to this type of communication should use one of the IRC clients, such as the popular XChat. After starting XChat, please select "FreeNode" from the list of available networks and type in "#distrowatch" as the name of the channel. The attendance has apparently been rather low lately, but hopefully this reminder will cause a big surge in the number of "DistroWatchers" sharing their experiences with other like-minded readers. Happy discussions!
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DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 5 June 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 634 (2015-11-02): Ubuntu 15.10, Chakra upgrades to Plasma 5, OpenMandriva plans new editions, MINIX plans conference|
|• Issue 633 (2015-10-26): GhostBSD 10.1, Bodhi Linux to get new settings panel, Fedora 23 delayed, creating live image of existing OS|
|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Full list of all issues|
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