| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 178, 20 November 2006
Welcome to this year's 47th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It was a relatively quiet week, only disturbed by the news about Java being released under the GPL and the unusual levels of interest in the new Linux Mint 2.0. This week's discussion revolves around adding third-party repositories to Ubuntu and other distributions; while the goal of extending the number of easily installable software packages sounds good, mindless addition of repositories can not only compromise system security, it can also break one's system beyond repair. Also in the news: Debian "etch" delays, Fedora 6 usage statistics, FreeBSD's new Security Event Auditing (SEA) system, and an opinion about including proprietary kernel modules in Linux distributions. Finally, the DistroWatch database saw an addition of four new Linux distributions last week; these include the low-end Fluxbuntu Linux and the user-friendly Ulteo. Happy reading!
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Etch delay, software repositories in Ubuntu and Mandriva, Fedora 6 usage figures, security event auditing in FreeBSD 6.2
After a flurry of recent controversial announcements by Oracle and Novell -- and the subsequent reaction by the open source community -- things have quietened down considerably last week. Linux Mint stole the spotlight due to a new release of its Ubuntu-based distribution, enhanced by many proprietary components. But many other projects continued to work towards their upcoming releases - openSUSE will announce the release candidate for 10.2 later this week, while Debian GNU/Linux is about to enter the "hard freeze" period prior to its December 4.0 release. The FreeBSD project also continues the development of its new, security enhanced version 6.2. So don't stop visiting DistroWatch during the coming weeks; unlike most other end-of-the-year periods, the pre-Christmas days of 2007 are promising to deliver a number of new distribution releases to keep us all busy during the holidays - reporting bugs, writing reviews and posting our experiences in blogs. It should be an exciting end of the year!
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Rarely does a new product generate as much excitement in the Linux community as a new release of Debian GNU Linux - a comparatively rare event on the distributions' release calendar. With version 4.0 (code name "etch") scheduled to appear next months, many are wondering about the effect Ubuntu's work and growing popularity had on its famous parent and the new features the largest Linux distribution is bringing to the table. Disappointingly, it appears that original release date of December 3rd will slip by a few weeks - that's according to the latest update as posted by Steve Langasek on the debian-devel mailing list: "The release will probably be delayed by about the same as the full freeze, that is a month. We hope to still release in December 2006." The same post also reveals the code name for the next version of Debian GNU/Linux: "If you managed to read so far: congratulations! That means you get to be one of the lucky first 10 people to know the code name for the next Debian release: it will be called 'Lenny'."
On a related note, the first release candidate of Debian Installer for etch was also released last week: "The Debian Installer team is proud to announce the first release candidate (RC1) of the installer for Debian GNU/Linux Etch. ... Note that at least one more release of the installer is expected before Etch is released; this next release of the installer will use the 2.6.18 kernel. Installation CDs, other media, errata and everything else you'll need are available from our web site." If you'd like to help with testing, please download the "netinstall" ISO images from here: debian-testing-i386-netinst.iso (128MB), debian-testing-amd64-netinst.iso (114MB).
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How many third-party Ubuntu repositories do you have in your sources.list file? Since a default installation of the single-CD Ubuntu is rather bare, many users tend to follow one of the numerous online guides to add extra software (and extra software repositories) to their base systems. An extreme example of aggressive addition of Ubuntu software repositories is this sources.list file which contains no fewer than 79 locations for binary DEB packages. It goes without saying that the majority of these packages are unsupported and some may even seriously mess up your Ubuntu system. Use at your own risk!
This proliferation of third-party repositories has led to some interesting questions. Why are there so many of them? Wouldn't it be simpler to create a "contrib" directory on Ubuntu's servers for interested contributors to upload their files? Or do these external repositories exist because, as some argue, it isn't particularly easy to contribute directly to Ubuntu? And why do so many people choose to create their own mini-repositories instead of filing bug reports or improving the main packages? If you know the answers, please discuss them in the forum below. Also, if you are an Ubuntu user, how many external repositories do you have in your sources.list file? Which of them do you consider essential? Have you experienced any problems after installing software from third-party repositories? Do you bother to check the reputation of the developer providing the files or do you just blindly install whatever gets suggested in some forum post and hope for the best? Please share your experiences, good or bad.
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Speaking about software repositories, Mandriva has posted an update on what is currently available for the recently released Mandriva Linux 2007, together with some notes on adding/updating software packages with urpmi: "The free and open source software in Mandriva Linux is available from our public mirrors and is split into two sections: main and contrib. The packages in main are officially supported, which means we guarantee that we will fix security issues and major bugs in these packages. The packages in contrib are not officially supported, which means it's up to the maintainers of these packages (whether they are Mandriva staff or volunteers) to decide whether they wish to provide updates or not."
On a related note, Coulier.org has published a comprehensive, 5-page review of Mandriva Linux 2007. The author praises the product for its usability and friendliness, but also highlights some bugs and surprising omissions, such as the lack of any update warning utility, now standard in most other major distributions. From the review: "Although some improvements are still possible, Mandriva 2007 is an excellent OS. ... With the introduction of 3D desktop, not only functionally Linux has become very hard to beat, also the coolness factor is now huge."
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How many Linux users does the world have? This hard-to-gather piece of information continues to mystify some people to the extend that they invent methods that provide at least some rough answers. In case of Fedora Core, its developers have been counting the number of unique IP addresses that connect to the distribution's yum repository to check for available updates. The result? Some 24 days after the release of Fedora Core 6, the number of unique IP addresses exceeded 300,000! This is an impressive figure, especially when taking into account that a large number of Fedora users, notably those running the distribution on servers, have yet to upgrade to the latest release. As always, the figures are not particularly accurate - while many additional users might have connected through the same firewall or proxy server without registering a unique IP address, it's also possible that some Fedora users' IP addresses get allocated dynamically which means that one user can "submit" a new IP address every time he or she checks for updates. Nevertheless, it's nice to know that less than a month after its release, hundreds of thousands of computers around the world already run the latest Fedora Core.
* * * * *
Zenwalk Linux continues to impress. Although based on -- and still mostly compatible with -- Slackware Linux, the distribution's developers continue to depart from their famous parent in order to build a more functional and desktop-oriented Linux operating system. The new Zenwalk 4.0 is the first Slackware-based distribution that ships with a modular X.Org 7.1, while its text-mode installation program has been enhanced by a number of extra modules that help with setting up users, configuring ALSA sound drivers and enabling graphical login. But probably the most useful piece of software in Zenwalk Linux is its Netpkg software management utility (see screenshot below). Easy to configure and use, Netpkg provides a simple way to install hundreds of additional software packages, including KDE and GNOME, from Zenwalk's repositories. The developers of this little distribution have done a great job enhancing Slackware and turning it into a highly up-to-date and amazingly user-friendly operating system, while maintaining the simplicity and reliability of Slackware Linux. Do give it a try!
Zenwalk Linux 4.0: the default desktop with Xfce and the impressive Netpkg software management utility
(full image size: 203kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Another eagerly awaited new operating system release is FreeBSD 6.2. Although the development process is about a month behind the original release schedule, there is still hope that the final version will see the light before the end of the year. But what can the FreeBSD users and fans expect from the new release? The Register has interviewed Robert Watson, the project founder of TrustedBSD, who explains the concepts behind the new Security Event Auditing (SEA) system: "Security Event Auditing refers to the fine-grained logging of security events in the system, and is basic security functionality long overdue in open source operating systems. There are three things that differentiate auditing from traditional OS logging facilities such as syslog: security/reliability, granularity, and configurability." Read the rest of the 3-page interview to learn not only about SEA, but also about post-mortem analysis of cracked systems, protection of data, and other security enhancements added to the upcoming FreeBSD 6.2.
* * * * *
Should you go binary or not? The issue of including binary-only, proprietary kernel modules, such as the NVIDIA and ATI graphics drivers, into the Linux kernel continues to divide the Linux user community. While most of those who have been running Linux for several years understand the obvious benefits of Free Software, many newcomers to the Linux world seem less concerned about the philosophical aspects of Free Software and more interested in making their Linux systems "just work". Although ultimately it's up to each individual to decide whether they can live with non-free components mixed into the Linux kernel, it's also important that the more senior members of the Linux user community explain the benefits of software freedom to the growing numbers of new Linux users. If you are still unclear why installing binary kernel modules may be harmful to long-term software freedom and the benefits it brings, please read this well-written commentary by LWN's Jonathan Corbet.
|Released Last Week
Linux Mint 2.0
Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution whose goal is to provide a more complete out-of-the-box experience by including browser plugins, media codecs, support for DVD playback, Java, and other components. Linux Mint 2.0, code name "Barbara", was released yesterday: "This release is based on Ubuntu 6.10 and uses the Ubuntu installer. The desktop is GNOME 2.16.1 and the kernel is 2.6.17. Barbara comes with the following plugins: Macromedia Flash 9 beta, Sun Java 1.5 Update 9, RealPlayer 10. Support for MP3, Windows and various codecs, encrypted DVDs is installed by default. Barbara comes with Amarok 1.4.4 instead of Rhythmbox. The default artwork is a blue version of the 'Human' theme." Read the release notes for further information.
Puppy Linux 2.12
Barry Kauler has released a new stable version of Puppy Linux. Version 2.12 comes in two editions - a larger "zdrv" edition with "a massive collection of kernel drivers and firmware," while the "standard" SeaMonkey edition "has a cut-down selection of drivers on a par with previous Puppies." From the release notes: "The greatest news for 2.12 is the support for a huge range of kernel modules, using a new 'fetch on demand' system. There are also exciting new mini applications developed by Puppy enthusiasts." Please read the release announcement for further information.
Puppy Linux 2.12 - one of the new features in Puppy 2.12 is "gorgeous fonts".
(full image size: 205kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
A new version of MCNLive, a Mandriva-based live CD with KDE, support for popular media formats, wireless networking and 3D desktop, has been released: "I am glad to announce a new edition of MCNLive, code name Cherbourg, a portable live Linux system based on and 100% compatible with Mandriva Linux 2007. Highlights: 2.6.17 kernel; 3D desktop (AIGLX) with the free X.Org drivers for Intel and ATI video cards; desktop environment: KDE 3.5.4; office suite: KOffice; Opera 9.02; music, video and image applications with most common codecs; Internet and networking applications for all your needs; NTFS read-write support. All this on less than 360 MB." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
The MCNLive "Cherbourg" live CD is based on the latest Mandriva Linux 2007.
(full image size: 145kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Olivier Cochard-Labbe has announced a new stable release of FreeNAS, a tiny FreeBSD-based operating system providing free Network Attached Storage (NAS) services. From the changelog: "Updated to FreeBSD 6.2 PRERELEASE; added new geom RAID5 module; fixed su permission; fixed FTP anonymous login; fixed the e2fsck bug, now EXT2 file system should be correctly repaired when errors are detected; added DHCP client option for LAN interface; changed default Samba buffer size to 16384; added option for not erasing the MBR when initializing disk - some RAID controllers store important data in the MBR; replace PHP 4 by PHP 5; replaced mini_httpd by lighttpd; replace sh shell with tcsh; upgraded Samba to 3.0.23a...."
AliXe 0.09 "ICE"
AliXe, a Canadian project known for developing a SLAX-based live CD localised into French, has released a bi-lingual (English and French) edition of their latest version. Called "ICE Edition", the new live CD includes the IceWM window manager, together with a range of GTK+ applications, such as AbiWord, Gnumeric, Bluefish, GIMP, Inkscape, Firefox, Sylpheed, Gaim, GParted, Graveman, etc: "AliXe v0.09 ICE edition is a bilingual live CD (English and French). It's based on SLAX 5.1.8 Popcorn." Read the release announcements in English or French for further details and download information.
AliXe 0.09 "ICE" edition is the project's first release supporting English.
(full image size: 994kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Zenwalk Linux 4.0
Zenwalk Linux 4.0 has been released: "The major version number reflects that X11 is updated to version 7.1, which is a structural modification, system wide. All X software packages have been recompiled, including a large amount of software in the ZenCommunity repository. This is the biggest change since the beginning of the Zenwalk project; however, old Zenwalk 3.x and Slackware 11 X-software packages should be compatible with Zenwalk 4.0. This version of Zenwalk uses the new stable 184.108.40.206 kernel. Netpkg has been updated with a new GTK-based user interface - a total rewrite of the software to become one of the most advanced and intuitive network package managers." More details about the changes and updates in Zenwalk Linux 4.0 are available in the release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Kids Without. Kids Without is an Edubuntu-based live CD distribution with a collection of educational software for children.
- Ubuntu Multimedia Center. Ubuntu Multimedia Center is a new Ubuntu-based Linux distribution created by Zach Thibeau.
- YaKa. YaKa is a set of scripts whose purpose is to provide an efficient method to deploy an operating system in a heterogeneous computing environment. The result is a distribution consisting of a base system and pre-configured defaults for a number of targets, e.g. Samba/LDAP/NFS server, Samba/NIS/NFS server, desktop for end users, Postfix mail server with anti-virus and anti-spam, etc.
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DistroWatch database summary
And that concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 27 November 2006. Until then,
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