| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 188, 5 February 2007
Welcome to this year's 6th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! As usual, this week's issue focuses on a variety of distributions and topics. We'll start with a frightening financial analysis of Mandriva Corporation whose most recent financial results were published last week. The news section then looks at the release process of the Fedora Project whose latest -- and incomplete -- test release came, once again, without any release notes or other useful information. Also in the news: Ubuntu has quietly scrapped the idea of including the 3D desktop in Feisty Fawn, openSUSE and Linspire brace for surprise announcements, Red Hat's Matthew Szulik has kind words to say about Linus Torvalds, and Nexenta announces plans to produce more frequent development releases. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the DistroWatch January 2007 donation has been awarded to the GQview and Kaffeine projects. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Analysis: Mandriva - a slow financial demise? (by Matthias Schoener)
I am writing this, because there's a story that out there that I am afraid is not being told: It's the story of the slow financial demise of Mandriva. Very very quietly, Mandriva posted their results for their most recent fiscal quarter and year on the investor page of their web site. I saw no comment on it on DistroWatch, OSNews, Slashdot, or anywhere else.
Before getting into just how bad the numbers are, let me say that I used Mandriva for a long time, and was a Silver Club member for several years, until I just recently switched to openSUSE, because I became concerned about Mandriva's future after they laid off Gaël Duval, and also, because their x86_64 support was initially very slow to materialize.
In any case, I am far from a Mandriva "basher." I am a KDE user, and I feel that among the major distro communities, Mandriva and openSUSE are really the only ones that were strongly committed to KDE. So, I am certainly not looking forward to see either one of them go.
Comparing to the previous financial news releases, I see the following primary trends:
However, due to extraordinary items, the net loss for the 4th quarter 2006 at Mandriva has more than doubled from €400 thousand to €840 thousand, and the full year net result has gone from essentially break-even to a €2.84 million loss.
- Revenue: Full fiscal year revenue is up 1.4% (from €6.52 million to €6.61 million). However, fiscal 4th quarter revenue is DOWN 8.2% from €1.46 million in 2005 to €1.34 million in 2006.
- Operating expenses: Full fiscal year operating expenses have increased from €7.62 million to €8.69 million, or 14%. However, in the fourth quarter, expenses were down from €2.27 million in 2005 to €2.07 million in 2006, an 8.8% reduction.
- Operating loss: Netting operating revenue against operating expense, the loss for the fiscal year 2006 has almost doubled to €2.08 million, compared to €1.1 million in 2005. In the fiscal fourth quarter, this trend has been reversed, somewhat, as the loss seems to have shrunk from €810 thousand to €730 thousand, or 9.9% better.
It is worth noting that Mandriva's fiscal year ended on 30 September 2006. So the results that were posted last week are really already 4 months old, and the fiscal first quarter 2007 is already behind Mandriva. Mandriva hint in their news release that at least expenses have been contained, with the monthly expense run rate having been reduced from €670 thousand in 2006 to €530 thousand in 2007. I can only assume that this has been achieved through further lay-offs, which were not publicly announced.
Since Mandriva's shares are not traded on a regulated exchange, but rather on the Marché Libre in Paris (which is similar to the so-called "pink sheets" in the United States), they are under no obligation to furnish detailed quarterly results, and in fact they do not. So, for one thing, we do not know how much cash is left in Mandriva's coffers. Given, however, the drastic expense cuts, one has to assume that it's not much. Mandriva's stock seems to have lost about three quarters of its value over the past year; it now trades at €1.4, and trading is very thin. So raising new cash through a secondary offering seems all but impossible.
Unless revenue trends reverse very swiftly, I don't think that we will see Mandriva make it through this year as an independent public company. It will have to be sold or liquidated.
This leaves me with the following questions: What plans do the leadership at Mandriva have for the future? Are they looking to sell? If so, is there a potential buyer? How long can they last, without a cash infusion? What will happen to the distribution in the event of a liquidation? What's going on inside the company, now? Are the lead developers, package maintainers, etc. still with the company? Are they getting paid? What is their outlook? How does Gaël Duval feel about the trouble at the company that he founded, and that then kicked him out. Does he still have a financial stake in it?
It is sad to see this happen to a company that has brought me so much joy with their product. Over the years, I paid more money to Mandriva than I ever did to Microsoft (or now, Novell), but I always thought that the people there were worth it, and that their product should thrive. I hope it will continue to do so.
Fedora's forgettable Test1 release, Mandriva adds non-free repository, Ubuntu defers Beryl plans, interview with Red Hat's Matthew Szulik, Adriane Knoppix
The first test release of Fedora 7 was announced last week, just a couple of days behind schedule. As has become customary in the development of Red Hat's community distribution, Test 1 is rarely a serious release and often nothing more than a joke. Firstly, last week's build came as just a subset of the intended final product; instead of the promised "Fedora Desktop", "Fedora Server" and "Fedora KDE" editions, the developers only released a 3-CD "Fedora Desktop". Secondly, there were no release notes, not even a hint at changes, known issues or testing requests. In fact, the entire release seemed like something made in a desperate haste - as if the developers came to work on Monday and, realising that they had to release something, they just pulled some packages out of the "rawhide" development tree, placed them on a bootable DVD, and spent two minutes making a release announcement.
This is disappointing for a popular distribution which many people watch and test with keen interest. Although the intended changes from Fedora 6 to Fedora 7 are certainly considerable (and yes, there are some positives, such as the installable live CD for the i386 systems or the beautiful new icon set), there are really no excuses for releasing a product that is nowhere near ready for an early alpha test, let alone serious testing and bug reporting by the larger Fedora user community. This fiasco raises serious questions about the testing procedures at Fedora: is the traditional scheduling of the three tests faulty (perhaps the first test arrives too soon, long before the majority of the new features have been implemented) or is it the way the developers treat the first test (they clearly don't give themselves enough time to prepare for the release)?
Whatever the reason, the Fedora testing process must be re-evaluated, with clearly defined responsibilities and release tasks before every test release, not just the second and third. Otherwise the project risks that many Linux users who enjoy helping with testing and bug reporting will go and download a beta of a distribution that treats its testing community with more respect than Fedora.
Fedora 7 will be the first Fedora release providing an installable live CD.
(full image size: 460kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Mandriva's Adam Williamson has published an update on the development of the upcoming release of Mandriva Linux 2007.1. Among the more interesting points in the blog post, Williamson reveals that a new non-free directory, containing popular graphics drivers and other proprietary software, will become available to all users, not just those who purchase one of the commercial editions or the members of the Mandriva Club. In fact, the directory is already available in "Cooker" so those users who run the Mandriva development branch should now be able to test the non-free part of the distribution. This change has been apparently brought about by the fact that other distributions, notably Ubuntu and openSUSE, provide non-free directories to their users and Mandriva is simply catching up with the competition. Better late than never.
* * * * *
Speaking about upcoming releases, it seems that Ubuntu's new version, 7.04 "Feisty Fawn", won't come with as much eye candy as originally planned, after all. Those who hoped for a well-tested implementation of the various 3D desktop features with Compiz and Beryl will be disappointed as these have now been deferred to a later Ubuntu release, probably the one that will come out in the third quarter of 2007. From Ubuntu's Launchpad: "Feature specification: Composite (Compiz/Beryl) installed by default. Implementation Status: Deferred. There is no chance that this feature will actually be delivered in the targeted release. The specification has effectively been deferred to a later date of implementation."
* * * * *
Potentially interesting (and mysterious) news about openSUSE has recently reached the DistroWatch team. According to SUSEPortal.cz (a Czech portal maintained by Jiří Větvička, a Bratislava-based openSUSE contributor), starting with version 10.2 Novell has stopped providing commercial boxes of the Czech edition of openSUSE. However, to compensate the users in the Czech Republic, it is preparing a major surprise. This will only be revealed in early March, but the official Czech openSUSE web site at openSUSE.cz has an intriguing message which translates as: "From 10 August 2005 you can use openSUSE. From 1 March 2007 you won't want to use any other distribution." Whether the upcoming "surprise" is of regional importance only or whether it has global significance, we don't know yet. But the mysterious announcement certainly gives a good reason to keep an eye on openSUSE Czech Republic for further updates.
* * * * *
openSUSE is not the only distribution that keeps us on our toes. Freespire, which has delayed its promised 4th alpha and first beta releases, is also preparing a surprise for its users. Answering a question on the distribution's mailing list about the recent delays, Kevin Carmony, the CEO of Linspire, replies: "We'll have an update soon. You'll understand the meaning to our madness soon enough, and we ask for your patience and indulgence for just a few more days." Linspire has already delivered a number of unexpected announcements to the Linux user community in recent months, including the opening up of the distribution's development process in the form of Freespire, freeing up the Click 'N Run (CNR) software repository, and announcing the availability of CNR to other distributions. What is it now? We'll have to wait and see....
* * * * *
The Czech Republic has been attracting more than its fair share of Linux investment dollar in recent months. One of the largest ventures was the opening of a 207-employee Red Hat development and research centre in Brno earlier this year, which will make the second largest Czech city a significant contributor to the development of Red Hat's products. As a result of this initiative, ABCLinuxu.cz has conducted an interview with Matthew Szulik, the CEO of Red Hat, Inc, about the new centre and a variety of other topics. Asked whether he would like to employ Linus Torvalds, Szulik replies: Well, you know, asking whether we'd like to have Linus Torvalds is like asking a basketball team whether they'd like to have Michael Jordan. The answer to that is obvious. I think both Linus' value systems and also clearly his technical competency are compliment to any organization. And his leadership and his vision for the Linux kernel and the open source software has always been inspiring to me." Read the rest of the entertaining interview here.
* * * * *
LinuxAsia 2007, an open source conference taking place this week in New Delhi, India, has brought together a number of well-known open source developers. One of the attendees was Klaus Knopper of KNOPPIX fame whose presence at the conference resulted in an interesting announcement about a new product called "Adriane Knoppix". It turns out that Adriane, the wife of Klaus Knopper, is visually impaired so the couple has been working on a live CD designed for people with similar disabilities. DistroWatch already lists two projects that provide Linux-based operating systems for the blind, BrlSpeak and Oralux, but unfortunately neither of them has been particularly active in recent months. No details have been given about the projected availability of the new KNOPPIX variant, but the new live CD will certainly be a useful addition to the world of Linux distributions.
* * * * *
Nexenta, a project which has built a hybrid operating system consisting of the OpenSolaris kernel, Debian utilities, and Ubuntu software packages, has already produced 6 alpha releases for public testing. Despite the early success, it seems that Nexenta's first stable product is still some months away. To speed up the development, the project has announced that it will release more frequent ISO images for testing: "To improve the quality of development releases, we decided to introduce 'unstable' ISO releases which will be available with or without announcement." The first such CD image was released last week and is available for download from here: elatte_install_a7test1-b55_i386.iso (630MB).
* * * * *
Finally, an interesting analysis of one aspect of the open source development world - the enormous number of open source projects that exist today. Charles Babcock from Dr. Dobb's looks at some of the reasons for this phenomenon: "There are 139,834 open source projects under way on SourceForge, the popular open source hosting site. Five years from now, only a handful of those projects will be remembered for making lasting contributions -- most will remain in niches, unnoticed by the rest of the world. For every Linux, Apache, or MySQL, dozens of other open source efforts fizzle out." Anybody who is about to launch a new open source software project or start a Linux distribution should read this excellent 6-page report.
|Released Last Week
DragonFly BSD 1.8
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 1.8: "1.8 is our fifth major DragonFly release. DragonFly's policy is to only commit bug fixes to release branches. The biggest kernel change in this release is the addition of virtual kernel support and a virtual kernel build target (VKERNEL). Virtual kernels are systems-in-a-box... you can run a complete kernel as a userland process. All standard non-hardware-specific applications will run inside the virtual kernel. Performance depends on how heavily an application interacts with the VM system and how often it makes system calls, since these operations have to bed forwarded by the real kernel to the virtual kernel." Find more information in the comprehensive release notes.
Trisguel GNU/Linux 1.0
Rubén Rodríguez Pérez has announced the release of Trisguel GNU/Linux 1.0, a 100% free, Debian-based distribution sponsored by the regional government of Galicia in Spain and with complete support for the Galician language. The project's first stable release comes with kernel 220.127.116.11 and includes GNOME 2.14, IceWeasel 2.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, 3D desktop with AIGLX and Compiz, pre-configured software repository containing additional Debian 4.0 packages with security updates, new installer with improved hardware detection, support for assistive technologies, new live system which can be installed on USB storage devices, and other new features. For more information please read the full release announcement (in Spanish).
Famelix is a Brazilian desktop Linux distribution which mimics the look and feel of Windows XP. The project has released version 1.3 earlier this week with the following characteristics: many updates and bug fixes in order to facilitate the migration of users from Windows XP to Linux; Linux kernel 2.6.17; KDE 3.5.5; switch to udev for improved hardware recognition; addition of BR-Office.org; various improvements to the KDE desktop and Samba integration; simplification of the launch menu; improved hardware support for wireless network cards, webcams and modems. Visit the screenshots page and read the release announcement (in Portuguese) for further information.
RUNT Linux 5.0
RUNT is a Slackware-based distribution designed to run from 256 MB bootable USB pen drives and containing a fairly complete (text mode only) Linux system for hardware and network testing. A new version 5.0 was announced earlier today: "RUNT 5.0 is built from Slackware 11.0 and has updated versions of nearly every package. Of greatest significance is the much newer 18.104.22.168 kernel, which now supports most SATA controllers, as well as prism54 wireless devices. With all of these updates comes a substantial increase in size. I was unable to keep RUNT under 128 MB this time and maintain the level of usability in past releases. This version takes up about 200 MB when unpacked, so at least a 256 MB flash drive formatted with 4k clusters is required." The release announcement, downloading links and installation instructions can be found on the project's home page.
After a week of testing, the final version of MCNLive "VirtualCity" has been released: "MCNLive 'VirtualCity' Final. Designed to run from a 512 MB USB Flash Drive or from a CD, this new version comes bundled with VirtualBox OSE, an easy to use virtualisation software which lets you run virtual machines at almost native speed. It seems that Mandriva 2007 and VirtualBox are a dream team. Create virtual machines, run existing VMs from your hard disk. Use this live CD (or live USB) in combination with a USB hard drive, packed with your favourite operating systems. The perfect mobile solution. Or just use it to discover what this virtualisation is all about." Visit the distribution's home page to learn about the new release.
Vincent Danen has announced the release of Annvix 2.0, a Mandriva-based, server-oriented and security-enhanced Linux distribution: "Today marks the fourth public release of the Annvix Linux distribution. It was exactly 50 weeks ago when 1.2-RELEASE was made available; this version is the fruit of almost a year's worth of hard work. Some of the new features include: 22.214.171.124 kernel with RSBAC and AppArmor support; updated services including PHP 5.2.0, MySQL 5.0.27, PostgreSQL 8.2.1, and Apache 2.2.4; a greatly enhanced installer; a completely overhauled init system; the use of the tcb suite for authentication; the use of apt-rpm as the default package manager...." More details in the release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
- Trustix Secure Linux 3.0.5-rc1, the release announcement
- SaxenOS 1.1-rc2, the press release
- Pioneer Linux 2.0-rc1, the release announcement
- Linux MCNLive 2.2-beta, the release notes
- Fedora Desktop 7-test1, the release announcement
- Dreamlinux 2.2-beta2, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Edubuntu 7.04-alpha3, the release announcement
- Beyond LFS 6.2.0-rc1, the release announcement
- GeeXboX 1.1-rc1, the release announcement
- Atomix Linux 4.1 (mini-live)
- Caixa Mágica 11 (live)
- Kurumin Linux 7.0-rc4
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
January 2007 donation: GQview and Kaffeine receive US$250 each|
We are pleased to announce that the recipients of the DistroWatch.com December 2006 donations are the GQview (US$250) and Kaffeine (US$250).
GQview, a GTK+ image viewer, has been around for many years and has established itself as a powerful software package for displaying a variety of digital image formats. Kaffeine, on the other hand, is a relative new arrival on the Linux scene, but has gained popularity at a rapid pace in recent years. It is designed as a KDE front-end for the xine engine and many KDE-based distributions now offer it as their default video player.
As always, the monthly donations programme is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and three online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org, OSDisc.com and TheLinuxShop.co.uk. The three CD/DVD vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to GQview and Kaffeine.
Here is the list of projects that received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme:
Since the launch of the Donations Programme in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$11,890 to various open source software projects.
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- NimbleX. NimbleX is a Slackware-based mini live CD which is able to boot from a mini CD, USB storage device or from another computer on the Local Area Network. Its main features are small size, a varied selection of software packages, and good hardware support.
- Trisquel GNU/Linux. Trisquel GNU/Linux is a 100% free Debian-based Linux distribution with support for the Galician language. Its main purpose is to provide an operating system for varied audience, including home and office users, educational institutions, multimedia workstations, etc. Trisquel GNU/Linux consists of three editions: "Trisguel" (a GNOME-based distribution for home users), "Trisguel PeME" (a GNOME-based distribution optimised for office use) and "Triskel" (a general purpose KDE-based distribution). The project is developed by the Universidad de Vigo and sponsored by the Council for Innovation and Industry of the regional government of Galicia, Spain.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- CowMet. CowMet is a French Linux distribution built from Linux From Scratch, using a unique, graphical package management system.
- CDriveBack. CDriveBack is a Linux live CD which makes it simple to back up and restore the C: drive of a Windows XP system.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 12 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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