| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 187, 29 January 2007
Welcome to this year's 5th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The first test build of the newly revamped Fedora Project's version 7 is scheduled for release on Tuesday. This will mark the start of a new and long development period that many popular distributions launch around this time and don't complete until the promised new features are implemented and most known bugs squashed several months later. In the meantime, Linspire has announced an expanded CNR software installation service for popular distributions, Mandriva has launched a new live CD with the Metisse 3D desktop, a Debian developer has investigated the usability of Debian Etch, and the PC-BSD team has answered questions about their recently released version 1.3. In the review section we'll take a quick look at Foresight Linux 1.0, the project's first stable release after nearly two years of development. Happy reading!
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First look at Foresight Linux 1.0|
Have you noticed how Linux desktops are getting more and more beautiful? Until a few years ago, we were lucky if our distributions came with anything other than a bland wallpaper and default KDE or GNOME theme, but in recent years much effort has been spent on delivering breathtaking graphics to our desktops in order to create that favourable first impression. Custom bootsplash graphics, login screens, wallpapers, icon sets, colour schemes and window decorations have become an essential part of many projects, even those without the money to employ professional graphics artists.
Foresight Linux is one of those pretty distributions. This is especially true when compared to rPath Linux, a project it is based on and which, like Slackware Linux or FreeBSD, comes with no custom branding at all. Luckily, the developers of Foresight pride themselves in delivering a Linux desktop that is not only functional, but also includes the latest bells and whistles - both technical and visual.
First, a warning: if you don't like GNOME, you won't like Foresight Linux. This distribution has embraced the popular GTK+ desktop like no other - it uses GNOME and GTK+ applications almost exclusively and was one of the first projects to include the growing number of Mono-based software packages, such as Beagle, F-Spot or Tomboy. In the past the project often released a test build of Foresight Linux on the day when a new stable version of GNOME was unveiled to the public, which makes it an ideal distribution on which to check out the latest GNOME features. Although the project has hinted at a possibility of creating a KDE edition of Foresight Linux in the future, for now it breathes GNOME and GNOME only.
The Foresight Linux desktop
(full image size: 460kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The long awaited version 1.0 was finally released over the weekend. After downloading the 1.1 GB ISO image, I burnt it to a DVD and started the installation, expecting to be able to admire the new release in a few minutes. This, however, wasn't meant to be. Firstly, the installation with (an older version of) Anaconda took a long time, much longer than I'd expect from a distribution of a similar size. Secondly, when it came to booting the newly installed product, I found that the GRUB bootloader wouldn't cooperate as it froze without giving a clue as to what went wrong. I had installed Foresight Linux on /dev/hda26, which could have been the problem - some distributions don't expect a hard disk to have more than a handful of partitions and end up with misconfigured bootloaders if they do.
Being under all sorts of deadline pressures, I decided to re-install Foresight Linux on the second hard disk rather than attempting to fix the GRUB problem. This went better and finally I had a bootable system. There was still one more problem, however - Foresight Linux refused to complete its initial screen configuration and hanged - until I killed the X window and re-configured the screen resolution manually.
Fortunately, these were the only two problems I encountered during my brief session with Foresight Linux 1.0. After the system was finally up and running, I found it a pleasure to use and look at, and I enjoyed the experience of having the very latest GNOME and Mono applications available on the desktop. Beagle was active by default and my (wired) Internet connection was also detected automatically. The GNOME panel's system tray included an icon to activate "GL desktop" with Compiz for those users who enjoy wobbly windows and other 3D effects (the latest NVIDIA and ATI proprietary graphics drivers are available in the rPath repositories).
On the application side, Foresight Linux 1.0 comes with the F-Spot photo manager 0.3.1, Firefox 22.214.171.124 (with Flash, Java and several media plugins installed by default) and Epiphany 2.17.90 web browsers, and OpenOffice.org 2.0.3. Other GTK+ applications, such as GIMP (2.3.13), Inkscape (0.44.1) or GnuCash (2.0.4) are also present, while Banshee Music Player and Totem Movie Player are available from the Sound & Video menu folder. GNOME is the very latest 2.16.2, but Mono is the older 1.1.18 version.
One innovative feature of Foresight Linux is the Foresight System Manager. This Webmin-like application provides the ability to configure various aspects of the computer, including networking or time zone, as well as users, services and packages. The package management features are particularly useful, since they offer a simple way to perform automatic security updates or search for packages, and even allow for subscribing to package updates via an RSS feed. This is a solid, intuitive application that should provide even new users with all they need to set up and manage their computers.
The Foresight System Manager
(full image size: 80kB, screen resolution: 980x681 pixels)
While on the subject of packages and package management, it's worth mentioning that many other applications are available online in the rPath repositories, both the official and the "contrib" ones. One can search for them in the Foresight System Manager and install them with a few clicks or use the "conary" command in a terminal window. In fact, it is the little known Conary package management system which is the star feature of Foresight Linux and which is being developed by a number of ex-Red Hat engineers who founded rPath Linux in 2003.
Overall, despite a few early glitches while installing Foresight Linux 1.0, this distribution has turned out to be very usable system with an excellent package management utility and a unique, web based system configuration manager. It is clearly designed for users who enjoy GNOME and Mono software on their desktops or those who want to try the latest versions of these applications. Its user community is rather small, but the project has just launched a new discussion forum where users can exchange ideas and help each other if they get stuck. The presence of browser plugins is a welcome bonus for new Linux users, while the ability to load a 3D desktop with a single mouse click is an interesting idea I haven't seen elsewhere. Foresight Linux is likely to generate favourable reviews, especially for its system management features and the user-friendliness of the distribution.
For more information about Foresight Linux please visit the project's web site at ForesightLinux.org.
Linspire's expanded CNR, Mandriva Metisse, Debian usability, PC-BSD interview, Solaris
Linspire, a company which develops the Linspire and Freespire family of Linux distributions, has announced that its one-click download and installation software repository will be made available to users of several other distributions. Known as Click 'N Run (or CNR), this web-based applications has been a flagship feature of Linspire and a major attraction for many newcomers to Linux. CNR offers a wide range of features, but its main characteristic, the one-click installation of software packages, is considered to be one of the simplest and most intuitive ways of installing new applications in any Linux distribution.
The service will now expand to cover Debian GNU/Linux, Fedora, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu. CNR itself is a free service, but the company generates income by providing many commercial applications in its repositories, including a licensed DVD player for Linux. Technical details about the expanded service have not been announced, but CNR promises to deliver a number of popular non-free applications to Linux users, such as the Flash player plugin, or the Opera browser, while maintaining the original attraction of CNR - the one click installation procedure. As for free software, it's not yet clear whether Linspire will package these by themselves, but given the enormity of task, it's more likely that the company will simply integrate the packages that are available elsewhere on the Internet into its CNR service.
For more information about the expanded CNR, please read the official press release, as well as this commentary by Linux.com and this interview with Kevin Carmony by DesktopLinux.com.
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It is always a pleasure to report about distributions that don't just follow the latest fads, but implement their own ideas for a good-looking and functional desktop. Last week it was the turn of Mandriva which demonstrated a new 3D desktop in its new live CD called Mandriva One 2007 "Metisse" edition. The difference between Metisse and other 3D desktops available today, such as Compiz or Beryl, is that Metisse does not focus solely on eye candy (although there is plenty of that too), but tries to implement useful features that would increase one's productivity on the desktop. The 9-window pager idea, the folding of top windows when selecting text from the bottom one, and some of the keyboard shortcuts have the potential to speed up many common operations. As with any other software, Metisse requires a fair amount of learning and practice, but those who make the effort will be rewarded with an interesting and productive desktop environment.
Mandriva One 2007 "Metisse" with a new 3D desktop
(full image size: 2,052kB, screen resolution: 1680x1050 pixels)
What do the DistroWatch readers think? Have you tried the new Mandriva Metisse? If so, what were your impressions and experiences? Please discuss below.
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Have you ever tried to convert a less technical friend or family member to Linux? Lars Wirzenius, a Debian developer, reports about "Project Ummikko", which he used as an experiment to test the usability of Debian GNU/Linux and GNOME on a female friend. Some six month later he summarises the experiences in his blog: "I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I had expected much worse problems, but I'm happy to report now that Linux really does seem ready for the average Windows user." That's not to say that the transition went completely without problems. In the words of the newly converted user: "The things that make me want to return to Windows are gaming, flash and other multimedia, and a feeling of helplessness. I want to play Alpha Centauri and adventure games I can borrow from friends. Flash doesn't work, and installing software from Debian via Synaptic is difficult, I'm not comfortable with it." Read the entire report here.
Still on the subject of Debian GNU/Linux, Computerworld has published an interview with the current Debian Project Leader Anthony Towns about Dunc-Tank, the project's controversial experiment intended to fund the most critical parts of the distribution whenever necessary. On the subject of Debian Etch not being released in December as originally planned, Towns gives specific technical reason (delays with the removal of certain firmware from the kernel and problems with the Debian Installer), but also hints at increased "bug-finding" activity by some developers who disliked the Dunc-Tank idea and which caused further delays. This is a good, honest interview about the Dunc-Tank experiment and its effect on the release of Debian Etch. Read it here: Dunc-Tank: Success or failure?
* * * * *
Speaking about interviews, FreeBSD's Dru Lavigne has invited the leading developers of PC-BSD -- Kris Moore, Andrei Kolu and Charles Landemaine -- to talk about their work and the recently released PC-BSD 1.3: "The biggest portion of our coding went into the new system installer. Our old installer was the original one I wrote back for 0.3 beta and was really showing its age. This new installer has been written from scratch in C++/Qt, and offers many new features over the previous version. One of the features is the ability to setup all your preferences before the actual install takes place. This includes setting up multiple users, firewall settings, network settings, and more. The new installer also has the ability to search for previous PC-BSD installations and upgrade them to 1.3." Read the rest of the interview in ONLamp's Inside PC-BSD 1.3.
* * * * *
Finally, here is something for those readers who enjoy a good operating system fight. In Seven ways Solaris can beat Linux Infoworld's Neil McAllister argues that Solaris has a good chance of winning over Linux users if Sun Microsystems follows a simple, 7-step plan: "Solaris has been open source for two years now, and Sun is slowly but surely moving its entire software portfolio to an open source model. And yet, all the momentum still seems to be behind Linux. True, Solaris is the technologically superior OS, but plainly that's not enough. If Solaris wants to win back the market share it enjoyed in the 1990s, it needs to make a splash. Here are a few ideas for how Sun can woo Linux customers back into the fold." Read the rest of the article here.
|Released Last Week
Brian Brazil has announced the release of gNewSense 1.1, an Ubuntu-based distribution containing Free Software only: "I am pleased to announce the 1.1 release of the gNewSense distribution and tools. This release brings a number of improvements: support for arbitrary meta packages; added optional support for updates and backports; added support for multiple live CDs; produce torrent files for live CDs; support for tracking mirror freshness; KDE variant live CD; fixed NTPL issue; enabled eepro100 driver (e100 was non-free); recompiled and re-branded Firefox so we could disable the offering of non-free plugins; new artwork; various other minor fixes and improvements." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
Ryan Finnie has announced a new release of Finnix, a Debian-based, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators: "Today marks the release of version 89.0 for the x86 (and now AMD64), PowerPC, and UML/Xen platforms. Finnix 89.0 features Linux 2.6.18, a new 'finnix64' AMD64 boot profile, netboot support with a built-in netboot setup wizard, MD RAID and LUKS crypt auto-detection. An AMD64 kernel is now included on the Finnix x86 CD. While the Finnix userland is still 32-bit, using an AMD64 kernel on a supported platform yields several advantages: more than 4GB memory can be utilized natively; statically-compiled AMD64 applications can be executed; you can chroot into native 64-bit AMD64 file systems." See the release announcement and release notes for additional details.
Astaro Security Gateway 7.0
Astaro Security Gateway 7.0 has been released: "Astaro is pleased to announce the availability of the Astaro Security Gateway V7 GA. Version 7 contains a huge number of advanced features and enhancements, like transparent e-mail encryption, SSL VPN, active/active clustering and control of instant messaging, and peer-to-peer file sharing traffic. Key features of this latest release include: enhanced GUI and usability improvements; end user portal; customizable end user messages; configurable alerts; improved reporting; improved packet filter logging; active/active high availability (cluster); VoIP optimized QoS support...." Read the full release announcement for more information.
Mandriva One 2007 "Metisse"
Mandriva has announced the availability of a new live CD edition with a unique 3D desktop environment - Mandriva One 2007 "Metisse": "Metisse is a window manager developed by the In Situ project. Available under the General Public Licence exclusively for Linux, Metisse differs from a classic 3D desktop ('the cube') in the way that it offers innovative windows interactions, thus enforcing work efficiency." Originally released to the members of the Mandriva Club only, the CD image with GNOME and Metisse is now available for free download from Mandriva mirrors. For more information please visit the Metisse product pages to see screenshots and download videos of Metisse in action.
Michael Creel has announced the release of ParallelKnoppix 2.3: "Version 2.3 is released. This version synchronises all packages to current Debian unstable and fixes some bugs. In particular, the annoying hang at boot time that sometimes occurred has been solved. Also, the compute nodes can be booted using copies of the CD. This is useful if you can't get PXE boot to work for some reason and your cluster is not too large." Read the brief release announcement on the project's home page.
BinToo GNU/Linux 2007.1
BinToo GNU/Linux is a Gentoo-based Linux distribution designed for the desktop. A new version was released a few days ago, but we delayed the announcement until the installation DVD image starts showing up on download servers. From the release announcement: "I am pleased to announce the 3rd release of BinToo GNU/Linux - BinToo 2007.1 and the new installation method. In this release: new installation method contains 4 profiles for installation (full, basic desktop, minimal or server, and custom); kernel 2.6.18; glibc 2.5; GNOME 2.16.2; KDE 3.5.5; OpenOffice.org 2.0.4; Firefox 2.0...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details, installation instructions and known issues.
openSUSE 10.2 Live DVD
Adrian Schröter has announced the release of the live DVD edition of openSUSE 10.2: "openSUSE 10.2 live DVD available. The last piece of the openSUSE 10.2 distribution got released today. The Live DVD image has a size of 1.7 GB and can be used on every x86 compatible system with at least 512 MB of memory. It contains a base desktop system (KDE and GNOME) with applications for office, multimedia and Internet usage." Here is the brief release announcement.
Foresight Linux 1.0
Ken VanDine has announced the release of Foresight Linux 1.0, the first stable release of the rPath-based desktop Linux distribution after nearly two years of development: "Foresight Linux is a desktop-focused Linux system that just works. Our mission is to provide a truly useful desktop system that is friendly for the novice user, as well as flexible for the power user. Foresight comes with the GNOME desktop, Banshee for your music, F-Spot for your photos, and OpenOffice.org for your office needs. Great attention has been paid to making things simple and integrated. For example, NetworkManager makes it simple to connect to wireless access points. Foresight System Manager handles keeping your system updated." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Nonux, a Dutch Linux distribution based on Slackware with Dropline GNOME and optimised for desktop use in Dutch business environments, has reached version 4.1. What's new? Upgraded the Linux kernel to version 126.96.36.199; upgraded Mozilla Firefox to 188.8.131.52; upgraded OpenOffice.org to 2.1.0; replaced WiFi Radar with NetworkManager, which simplifies network detection and configuration considerably; several small upgrades of Slackware and GNOME packages. Users with Nonux 4.0 installed on their hard disk can upgrade to version 4.1 directly from the live CD. Please visit the project's news page (in Dutch) to read the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The openSUSE project has announced that the first alpha build of openSUSE 10.3 will be released on 15 February, with the final product expected some 7 months later - at the end of September 2007: "Next version Thursday, February 15: openSUSE 10.3 Alpha 1. The 10.3 schedule is still discussed. Subsequent alpha releases are planned every four weeks. As for the date of the final release of openSUSE 10.3 the end of September is considered." Please visit the openSUSE roadmap page for more information.
Linux Mint 2.2
Linux Mint continues its fast development cycle. According to this announcement, the upcoming version 2.2, code name "Bianca", will go into beta testing later this week, while the final release is expected on 20 February: "Here's the release schedule for Bianca (Linux Mint 2.2): BETA release: 01/02/2007, FINAL release: 20/02/2007. We encourage people who want to help to download and install the BETA as soon as it is released. With your feedback and the 20 days gap between the two releases we have an opportunity to find issues and bugs and to tackle them the best we can to make the final release of Bianca one of the best distributions there is."
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch in Tamil|
Many thanks to Thangaraj Karuppuswamy who helped translating the DistroWatch menus and common phrases that appear in distribution tables into Tamil. Tamil now joins Bengali and Hindi as the third Indian language DistroWatch has been translated into. If any readers with the knowledge of other Indian languages are willing to help translating the roughly 200 phrases into their language, please contact us (see the bottom of this page for contact details). Your help would be much appreciated!
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- JackLab Audio Distribution. JackLab Audio Distribution is an openSUSE-based Linux distribution designed for musicians, producers and media creators. It is based on a low-latency, real-time Linux kernel and features the Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK) for professional audio/midi controlling interface. The distribution uses Enlightenment 17 as its default desktop.
- sidux. sidux is a desktop-oriented distribution and live CD based on the unstable branch of Debian GNU/Linux. It was originally created by a group of developers who split from the KANOTIX project and launched their own distribution.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Gamix. Gamix, a product of the Pennsylvania-based Gamix, Inc, is a Mandriva-based distribution that facilitates the creation of boot CDs so developers may create Gamix versions of their original software. Gamix has been established to provide an open gaming alternative to proprietary platforms such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft Xbox.
- uL (Microlinux). uL (Microlinux) is a tiny Linux distribution providing essential command line utilities. It fits in a few megabytes and can be installed on the smallest USB pen drive or on older hard disks.
- UBERYL. UBERYL is a new Spanish distribution based on Ubuntu.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 February 2007. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• Issue 636 (2015-11-16): openSUSE 42.1, Fedora uses Wayland by default, Debian replaces live CD project, Steam consoles launch|
|• Issue 635 (2015-11-09): Fedora 23, Cinnamon 2.8 released, a Fedora KDE packager quits, Red Hat signs deal with Microsoft|
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|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|