| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 185, 15 January 2007
Welcome to this year's third issue of DistroWatch Weekly! A somewhat slow week was concluded with a long-awaited new release of FreeBSD 6.2; we'll take a quick look at the new version and add a few more interesting bits and pieces from the BSD world. Besides covering the most popular BSD operating system, we also continue reviewing some of the promising new releases of 2006; this week it's the turn of Pardus Linux - an independently developed distribution with a superb package management infrastructure. In the news section, gNewSense starts work on a new release, a developer announces a Debian-based live CD for the Sony PlayStation 3, and Sun Microsystems offers a free DVD with Solaris 10 to all who are interested in checking out the venerable UNIX operating system. Finally, a quick reminder about a DistroWatch editorial policy. Happy reading!
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Pardus Linux 2007|
Having seen dozens of Linux distributions announcing themselves with great enthusiasm only to disappear at the sight of a first problem a few months later, I am not easily impressed by any new arrival on the Linux distro scene. As such, when the first stable release of Pardus Linux was announced in 2005, I found myself inserting the installation CD with a considerable amount of scepticism. At that time, Pardus was a Gentoo-based operating system, but stripped of what makes the most popular source-based distribution so great - its Portage package management. Without it, Pardus lacked the very basic must-have functionality of a modern distribution: the ability to easily install and uninstall software packages.
But unlike many others, the Pardus developers did not get deterred by the early criticism. By the end of 2006, they released a brand new version which not only included an original package management system, it also came with a number of other unique enhancements, as well as an extremely polished desktop and highly up-to-date software. My first impressions of Pardus Linux 2007 were much more positive and I decided to spend a few days investigating this distribution further. This time my conclusions were different: Pardus Linux is not only a remarkable distribution, it is also one of the most unexpected surprise packages of 2006!
Pardus Linux 2007 is no longer based on Gentoo. It comes in two flavours: as a live CD and as an installation CD, both of which are referred to by their Turkish names of "calisan" (live CD) and "kurulan" (installation CD). The live CD is not installable. The installation CD boots into a full-screen graphical installation program called YALI, which guides the user though the usual disk partitioning and system installation steps. Pardus Linux is a KDE-centric distribution, which means that the default desktop is a customised edition of KDE and all Pardus utilities are written using the Qt toolkit.
The Pardus Linux 2007 desktop
(full image size: 202kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The developers of Pardus Linux have created an operating system which has a number of unique features. Among them, the PiSi package management utility, the Mudur init system, and the ÇOMAR (pronounced chow-mar) configuration manager are touted as the most interesting features of the distribution. This brief review will focus on evaluating these three features and determining how useful they are compared to other, more established tools found in popular Linux distributions.
First, a look at the PiSi package management tools. I wrote the word "tools" in plural, because PiSi consists of several utilities, which together form what surely is one of the best package management systems in any Linux distribution available today. PiSi includes a comprehensive command-line tool for installing, uninstalling and searching applications, it adds an excellent graphical utility with modules to manage software repositories and the download cache, it provides an update manager in the system tray displaying the number of available package updates, and it is able to retrieve new software from a fairly long list of packages (1,577 at the time of writing) available for easy installation on the Pardus Linux mirrors. As a bonus, PiSi updates are accomplished by downloading only those parts of the updated program that have changed since the previous version (rather than the entire new version), saving time and adding to the feeling that PiSi was designed correctly right from the start. These are essential functions of any good package manager and Pardus Linux deserves the highest possible mark for integrating them into the distribution.
Pardus Linux 2007 includes a comprehensive graphical package manager
(full image size: 87kB, screen resolution: 822x626 pixels)
Some readers will argue that creating a new package management system increases incompatibility among the Linux distributions. While they certainly have a valid point, I feel that the developers of Pardus have done a fantastic job and PiSi is an extraordinarily good package management system. As such, I'd be inclined to make an exception and forgive the incompatibility issue in this case.
Another innovation in Pardus Linux is a complete rewrite of its boot process, also known as init in Linux. Compared to other operating systems, such as FreeBSD, Linux generally takes much longer to boot and many distributions, including Ubuntu, have recently started looking into ways of improving the boot process. The developers of Pardus Linux too embarked on implementing a new init framework with the result being a Python-based routine called "Mudur". Those readers who are interested in technical aspects of Mudur can find a detailed explanation in this article, but for the purpose of this review, here is a list of the boot times of several major distributions installed on the same machine (a Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor with 384 MB or RAM). The boot times represent the number of seconds each distribution took to get from LILO or GRUB boot prompt to the KDE or GNOME login prompt in their default installations.
|Mandriva Linux 2007
|Debian GNU/Linux 4.0
|Pardus Linux 2007
|SimplyMEPIS 6.0-4 (Beta 1)
|Fedora Core 6
|Xandros Desktop 4.1
As the results of this little test indicate, Pardus Linux boots reasonably fast, but it isn't the fastest kid on the block.
Pardus Linux 2007 ships with a number of custom utilities which intend to simplify the management of the desktop. One of them is Kaptan, an interesting first-time wizard designed to configure the most common desktop settings, such as the mouse, select a desktop style from a number of pre-configured options, choose a wallpaper, and configure networking. This tool is clearly aimed at novice Linux users, since the more experienced ones will likely be able to configure these options without the wizard.
Kaptan is a first-time wizard designed to help with configuring the desktop
(full image size: 35kB, screen resolution: 648x537 pixels)
Next on the list of interesting utilities is Tasma, a Pardus configuration centre. This utility is similar to openSUSE's YaST or Mandriva's DrakConf and offers many of the same features, but Tasma is still in its early days and doesn't provide nearly as many configuration options as its more famous counterparts. In fact, most of the available modules simply link to the ones provided natively by KDE. Nevertheless, the simplified user interface of Tasma will likely appeal to beginning Linux users who might be lost in the more complex screens of the KDE Control Centre.
Tasma is a collection of mostly KDE modules offering easy desktop configuration
(full image size: 68kB, screen resolution: 689x545 pixels)
The rest of the system is the simply KDE with the usual range of open source software applications. There is Firefox for web browsing, Kontact for email and as a personal information manager, Amarok audio player, Kaffeine and MPlayer media players (with out-of-the-box support for viewing encrypted DVDs), GIMP image editor, and OpenOffice.org. Many common utilities are also present.
Overall, the two most impressive features of Pardus Linux 2007 are desktop polish (with excellent choices of icons, fonts and desktop themes) and the PiSi package management system, which has truly raised the bar among the package management utilities to a new level. On the negative side, during my testing both Kaptan and Tasma were somewhat prone to crashing, although luckily these utilities are not essential for desktop computing. As always, with Pardus being a rather niche distribution, there is a danger that the project gets abandoned at some stage, so growth in user numbers is essential for the project's long-term survival.
One final note: Pardus Linux does not provide English language support infrastructure, but a third-party forum for English speakers exists on the Dutch Pardus community web site at pardus-linux.nl.
For more information about Pardus Linux please visit the project's web site at www.pardus.org.tr.
FreeBSD 6.2, BSD licensing, new gNewSense point release, Debian live CD for PS3, Solaris media kit
The third week of January belongs to the FreeBSD project as it finally launches the long-delayed FreeBSD 6.2. As is normally the case with FreeBSD, the changes are fairly technical and include new features such as freebsd-update - a new, easy-to-use tool for applying binary security updates to FreeBSD, support for kernel-level security event auditing, updates to the FreeBSD boot loader, support for many newly added hardware devices, and various userland software updates. All security patches since the release of FreeBSD 6.1 have also been incorporated into the latest release. For upgrade instructions, please refer to the Rebuilding "world" chapter of the FreeBSD Handbook, while those who want to perform a new installation should read the Installation chapters in the same document.
In the meantime, the FreeBSD development team has been busy working on the project's next major release, FreeBSD 7. This is expected to contain a large number of radical new features, including a port of the ZFS file system and DTrace diagnostic tool from Solaris to FreeBSD, as well as substantial performance enhancements. Those of you who are interested in learning about the changes in the rapidly evolving FreeBSD 7 branch should bookmark the What's cooking for FreeBSD 7? page, which attempts to summarise the recent commits by the project's developers. FreeBSD 7.0 is scheduled for release in late 2007.
While on the subject of FreeBSD, here is an an excellent write-up, published by Groklaw, about the intricacies of the BSD licensing model. Entitled BSD - The Dark Horse of Open Source, the paper attempts to correct some common misunderstandings about the implications of modifying the BSD source code and the subsequent licensing of such modifications: "We observe that there exists a broad misconception that the BSD permits the licensing of BSD code and modifications of BSD code under closed source licenses. In this paper we put forward an argument to the effect that the terms of the BSD require BSD code and modifications to BSD code to be licensed under the terms of the BSD license. We look at some possible consequences and observe that this licensing requirement could have serious impacts on the unwary."
And finally, with the release of FreeBSD 6.2 this week, there are signs of increased activity taking place in some other FreeBSD-based projects; it looks like the final release of the FreeSBIE 2.0 live CD is now available from a number of FreeSBIE mirrors, while rumours have been circulating about the imminent release of DesktopBSD 1.6-RC1 later this week. Both these releases are based on the new FreeBSD 6.2.
* * * * *
gNewSense, the FSF-sponsored, Ubuntu-based distribution containing strictly Free Software only, has announced plans to produce a new "point release" in the coming weeks: "Upcoming point release: we will be doing two items of note in this release. gNewSense will be releasing a 'KDE' desktop, with a corresponding CD, it is releasing merely a variant, not a distribution. This CD is to be called gNewSense-KDE. We are currently working with someone to develop our version of a fix for the Firefox or Mozilla technology issue." Other points of interest, which emerged after the recent meeting between the two lead developers in Dublin, Ireland, are requests for artwork submissions, product internationalisation features, and updates to the distribution's web site and Wiki pages. For more information please read the Minutes of the meeting between Brian Brazil and Paul O'Malley.
* * * * *
Takeshi Yaegashi has announced the release of what appears to be the first Linux live CD designed for the Sony PlayStation 3: "I've released Debian live CD for PlayStation 3 which also integrates the Debian-Installer in a single ISO image." The CD boots into a GNOME 2.14 desktop environment complemented by a small selection of other useful software applications, such as the Firefox web browser. The project's web site provides further information about the available boot parameters and instructions for remastering the CD with personalised software. The ISO image is available for download from here: debian-live-ps3pf-20070110.iso (222MB).
* * * * *
The DistroWatch Weekly forums are a frequent reminder that this site's readership comprises of a fair number of Puppy Linux fans. If you are one of them, you'll be pleased to learn about this exclusive interview with Kenneth Hensley, the author of the Unofficial Puppy Linux Guide: "In the beginning there was the forum, and I do not believe anybody anticipated how big Puppy Linux would grow in such a short time. Many suggested that a Wiki would do a good job for this documentation. This was a positive, but sadly no one showed any leadership. After messing around with StickWiki, I was going to surprise Barry Kauler by transforming his help files into one single-page Wiki. This did not go right for me, because I could not understand much of the documentation available. So I took a look at the Ubuntu guide and saw what they did." Read more at LXer.com.
* * * * *
Finally, for those of you who don't read Slashdot but are interested in testing the Solaris operating system, here is a great offer from Sun Microsystems: "For a limited time, Sun is offering a free DVD media kit which includes the Solaris 10 operating system for both SPARC and x86 platforms as well as Sun Studio 11 software. Take this opportunity to get familiar with the most advanced operating system on the planet and the tools which enable the highest optimizations and best runtime performance on the Solaris Operating System, bar-none. Sun Studio software provides optimizing C, C++ and Fortran compilers, visual performance tools, and high performance libraries to enhance your Solaris development environment." To get your free Solaris 10 DVD, please visit the Free Solaris 10 and Sun Studio Software Media Kit page and fill in your address details.
|Released Last Week
A new version of SabayonLinux, with a number of bug fixes and feature updates, has been released. Some of the main changes include: "Linux kernel 2.6.19 with sata_promise driver now supports PATA connectors too; NdisWrapper updated to 1.34rc2; KVM now is detected and works out of the box on VT-enabled CPUs; KDE Print control panel now works; AbiWord updated to 2.4.6; Democracy Player updated to 0.9.2.1; Amarok now works; ALSA updated to 1.0.14rc1; Flash Player updated to 22.214.171.124; installer: multi-user configuration now works; highly improved boot time by triggering doslowusb only when really needed; OpenGL auto-configuration now takes half of the time to configure video card...." Read the release announcement for further information.
The PC-BSD project has announced the availability of a bug-fix release of PC-BSD, version 1.3.01: "Version 1.3.01 of PC-BSD has now been made available on the download page. This update addresses several recent issues with partitioning, as well as fixes issues with certain hardware and HAL support. Users already running version 1.3 may download an update to 1.3.01 via the 'Online Update' utility." New in this release: "Updated HAL to latest version in Ports; updated PCInstall code with fixes for extended partitions; updated enable.sh script for HAL in Services tool; added Arabic language to installer; fixed issue with changing the video card on install CD to 'vesa'; fixed issue running PBIs directly from CD...." Read the release announcement, release notes and changelog for more details.
A new bug-fix release of SystemRescueCd is now available: "Version 0.3.2 (stable) of the SystemRescueCd project has been released. Changes for version 0.3.2: updated TestDisk to 6.5; updated ntfs3g beta to 20070102; updated Ntfsresize to 126.96.36.199 (for Windows Vista); added option 'doeject' to eject the disc at boot time; added cryptsetup-luks; added CmosPwd (decrypts CMOS password); added magicrescue (find deleted files); added mbr (install-mbr); added Mrxvt (nice terminal for X.Org); added several administration tools (sysstat, hddtemp, ide-smart); added Oscar (French tool to backup computers); improved support for hardware; improved keymaps support (fr_CH and speakup)." Here is the full changelog.
BLAG Linux And GNU 60000
BLAG Linux And GNU 60000, a single-CD, Fedora-based distribution, has been released: "BLAG 60000 (flout) is a new series with a new base (Fedora Core 6) and many new applications." The new version ships with Linux kernel 2.6.19 and includes the latest version of the GNOME desktop environment, 2.16. Among software applications, BLAG 60000 features a large number of multimedia packages, such as Democracy Player, the Kino video editor, Listen audio player and Audacity sound editor. Kiax Internet telephony software and Gaim instant messaging client are also provided. Other popular software, including Firefox, Thunderbird or GIMP are included on the installation CD, while additional 8,500 packages are available from the project's download repositories or two downloadable DVDs. Please read the complete release announcement for more information.
The FreeBSD project has announced the release of FreeBSD 6.2: "The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 6.2-RELEASE. This release continues the development of the 6-STABLE branch providing performance and stability improvements, many bug fixes and new features. Some of the highlights: freebsd-update provides officially supported binary updates for security fixes and errata patches; experimental support for CAPP security event auditing; OpenBSM audit command line tool suite and library; KDE updated to 3.5.4, GNOME updated to 2.16.1; csup integrated cvsup client now included...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
- VectorLinux 5.8-beta (live), the release announcement
- Damn Small Linux 3.2-rc3, the changelog
- Frugalware Linux 0.6-pre2, the release announcement
- AliXe 0.10-rc1, the release announcement (in French)
- 64Studio 1.1.0, the release announcement
- SimplyMEPIS 6.0-4-beta3, the release announcement
- Lunar Linux 1.6.1-rc2, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Edubuntu, 7.04-alpha2, the release announcement
- Kaella 3.1-beta1
- IPCop Firewall 1.4.13-rc1
- Magic Linux 2.0 (live)
- Guadalinex 4.0-beta2
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Mandriva Linux 2007.1
Mandriva has published a preliminary release roadmap towards the upcoming Mandriva Linux 2007.1. Apart from the recently released Cooker snapshot, four more development builds will be released between January and March 2007. According to the Mandriva Linux 2007.1 development page, the final version is scheduled for release on 19 March 2007, although the release page states that it should be completed in April 2007. Mandriva Linux 2007.1 will include kernel 2.6.17, X.Org 7.1 with AIGLX support, KDE 3.5.5, GNOME 2.17, Firefox 2.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, and 3D desktop with Compiz and Beryl. Please visit the Mandriva Linux 2007.1 release page for more information.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
A semi-annual reminder about DistroWatch editorial policy|
This is just a quick reminder about an issue that comes up from time to time: a distribution or project release announcement is only published on the main page of DistroWatch after a release announcement is published on the distribution's or project's own web site. A case in point was last week's release of Ubuntu 7.04 Herd CD 2. Normally, the Ubuntu development team sends a formal release announcement to one of the project's mailing lists; however, this had not happened until today (Monday). Similarly, many news sites reported about the release of FreeBSD 6.2 late last week, despite the fact that the FreeBSD web site continued listing version 6.1 as the latest stable release.
Those of you who want to be informed about a new release as soon as it hits the first FTP server, please visit one of the many news sites which do announce the availability of ISO images even before a formal release announcement is made by the distribution or project. One of the sites with such editorial policy is OSNews.com, but there are many others.
Of course, it is possible that we miss a release, in which case you are welcome to submit the news. Just please make sure that you email us a link to an official press release or release announcement and not to an ISO image on a random mirror. We try to be very fast with announcing new releases on DistroWatch, but we will never announce a release that has not been formally announced by the project itself.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 22 January 2007. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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