| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 196, 2 April 2007
Welcome to this year's 14th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! April is traditionally one of the most exciting months on the distribution release calendar and this year will be no different - Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and possibly Gentoo and Slackware are all getting ready for delivering their latest and greatest later this month. In other news, Arch Linux 0.8 hits the download mirrors, Foresight Linux publishes its first monthly newsletter, the developers of GParted LiveCD have released a new "Clonezilla" edition, and Oracle prepares for the upcoming release of Enterprise Linux 5. Also in this issue: an overview of PCLinuxOS and MEPIS Linux as part of the update to our "Top Ten Distributions" page. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com March 2007 donation is the CentOS project. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Overview of Top Ten Distributions (Part 2)
Continuing the update of our Top Ten Distributions page, today we are looking at two controversial entries in the list: PCLinuxOS and MEPIS Linux. Controversial because some readers seem to believe that a distribution that is not considered "mainstream" should not be on the list. Controversial also because -- as stated by a reader in last week's forum -- "they are just customised editions of Mandriva and Ubuntu that don't add anything useful to the Linux/UNIX world."
And yet, it's hard to overlook the fact that both MEPIS Linux and PCLinuxOS have been climbing steadily in our Page Hit Ranking statistics over the last few years. In fact, MEPIS has been in the top ten list for more than three years, while PCLinuxOS has become such a hit in recent months that ever since entering its latest beta testing period, it is second only to Ubuntu in terms of number of visitors viewing the PCLinuxOS page. Granted, these statistics don't mean much, but in the absence of any reliable usage data, they are as good a way of judging a distribution's popularity as any.
Also, as a community oriented web site, DistroWatch is in a better position to "discover" new and exciting distributions than the mainstream technology media. If you only read popular computer magazines, you are unlikely to ever hear about any distribution beyond Red Hat/Fedora, Novell/openSUSE and Ubuntu families and that would be a real pity because there is so much more on offer out there.
And those who believe that PCLinuxOS and MEPIS are just re-mastered editions of Mandriva and Ubuntu without offering anything new, then I challenge you to travel to Huston and Morgantown, meet with Texstar and Warren Woodford, and tell them that, in their faces. Will you be able to do it? I doubt it. In fact, the two (more or less) one-man projects deserve credit for being able to deliver excellent products despite having a budget of almost zero dollars and despite having to compete with such powerful Linux giants as Red Hat, Novell or Canonical.
Instead of dismissing these projects for building nothing new, we should be excited about having more distributions to choose from - not just from big companies and large community projects, but also from a few talented individuals with bright ideas and undying passion for Linux.
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PCLinuxOS was first announced in 2003 by Bill Reynolds, better known as "Texstar". Prior to creating his own distribution, Texstar was already a well-known developer in the Mandrake Linux community of users for building up-to-date RPM packages for the popular distribution and providing them as a free download. In 2003 he decided to build a new distribution, initially based on Mandrake Linux, but with several significant usability improvements. The goals? It should be beginner-friendly, have out-of-the box support for proprietary kernel modules, browser plugins and media codecs, and should function as a live CD with a simple and intuitive graphical installer.
Several years and development releases later, PCLinuxOS is rapidly approaching its intended state. In terms of usability, the project offers out-of-the-box support for many technologies most Windows-to-Linux migrants would expect from their new operating system. On the software side of things, PCLinuxOS is a KDE-oriented distribution, with a customised and always up-to-date version of the popular desktop environment. Its growing software repository contains other desktops, however, and offers a great variety of desktop packages for many common tasks. For system configuration, PCLinuxOS has retained much of Mandriva's excellent Control Centre, but has replaced its package management system with APT and Synaptic, a graphical package management front-end.
On the negative side, PCLinuxOS lacks any form of roadmap or release goals. Despite the growing community involvement in the project, most development and decision-making remains in the hands of Texstar who tends to be on the conservative side when judging the stability of a release. As a result, the development process of PCLinuxOS tends to be long and a new version is not released until all known bugs are solved. There are currently no plans for a 64-bit edition of PCLinuxOS.
- Pros: Out-of-the-box support for graphics drivers, browser plugins and media codecs; fast boot times; up-to-date software
- Cons: No 64-bit edition offered; no out-of-the-box support for non-English languages; lacks release planning
- Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using RPM packages
- Available editions: MiniMe, Junior and BigDaddy editions for 32-bit (i586) processor architectures
- Possible PCLinuxOS-based alternative: SAM Linux Desktop
The PCLinuxOS 2007 default desktop
(full image size: 148kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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MEPIS Linux was first announced in 2003 by Warren Woodford and his company, MEPIS LLC. The idea was to turn the Debian unstable branch into a beginner-friendly distribution, complete with automatic hardware configuration, support for popular media formats, and latest software packages. MEPIS Linux pioneered the concept of an easily installable live CD - a user could simply boot the CD, investigate the content, and then install it to a hard disk with just a few mouse clicks.
In the following years the developers focused on providing reliable hardware support for all kinds of troublesome hardware, including software modems and wireless network cards. In 2006, largely due to the volatility of Debian's unstable branch, the base system of MEPIS Linux was switched from Debian to Ubuntu, which freed the development team from fixing the Debian bugs and to concentrate on usability enhancements. Originally MEPIS Linux consisted of two editions - a desktop-oriented SimplyMEPIS and a developer-oriented ProMEPIS, but the latter edition was later dropped. Currently, the project provides both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of SimplyMEPIS.
On the negative side, the distribution lacks any clear roadmap or release schedule, but it appears that periodically updated versions will be released with older code base and newer technologies, such as the 3D desktop features. As a consequence, SimplyMEPIS is no longer as up-to-date as it once was. Beta testing tends to be extremely long and final releases are frequently delayed by months from the original projection. While SimplyMEPIS CD images are available for free download, MEPIS LLC encourages satisfied users to sign up for paid-for access to a premium server, which constitutes the company's only source of income.
- Pros: Beginner-friendly; excellent hardware auto-detection and support; intuitive, installable live CD
- Cons: Software in its repositories not always up-to-date, lacks development roadmap
- Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packages
- Available editions: SimplyMEPIS for 32-bit (i386) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors
- Possible MEPIS-based alternatives: None
The SimplyMEPIS 6.5 default desktop
(full image size: 508kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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As always, if you have any suggestions, corrections or additions to the above overviews, please post them in the forum.
Arch Linux 0.8, glibc in Debian "Etch", Foresight Linux newsletter, GParted Clonezilla, Oracle Enterprise Linux
Arch Linux 0.8 was released over the weekend. If you felt discouraged from trying it after reading the overly technical release announcement, then be warned that the installation procedure and subsequent system configuration are equally technical and require much documentation reading and file editing before it can be turned into a nice desktop system. Nevertheless, the distribution keeps getting high marks from the more advanced Linux users for providing a clean system with excellent configurability. In this way, Arch is comparable to Slackware Linux, except that it has more powerful package management and a lot more software available for installation. If you expect your distribution to work out of the box a few minutes after inserting the installation CD, then this distribution is not for you. But if you enjoy having control over your operating system and don't mind editing configuration files in Vim, then Arch Linux is an interesting alternative to try.
Arch Linux 0.8 with Xfce
(full image size: 177kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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It's a well-known fact that the stable releases of Debian GNU/Linux are better known for stability than cutting-edge packages. Even so, some readers might wonder why the upcoming release (version 4.0, code name "Etch") will ship with the 3+-year old glibc 2.3 series, instead of the more recent versions 2.4 or 2.5. The reasons are simple. Here is the explanation by a Debian developer, Wouter Verhelst: "1. glibc 2.4 drops support for non-NPTL kernels (i.e. 2.4 and earlier Linux kernels); since Sarge's default kernel was still a 2.4-based kernel, upgrading to a glibc 2.4 will immediately break everything on your system. 2. Etch will have official support for 11 architectures; if we want to migrate to glibc 2.4 or later and still release, then it has to work on all those architectures." Verhelst also speculates that the future releases of Debian might drop support for certain architectures precisely because of the compatibility problem with the latest glibc versions.
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It is always a pleasure to report that a project has gone out of its way to complement its distribution with additional material. Last week, Foresight Linux, an rPath-based desktop distribution with focus on the latest GNOME technologies, announced the launch of its new monthly newsletter: "The first Foresight Linux Newsletter has been released! The current edition reports about what's happening with Foresight Linux, including information on the latest release, security updates, tips and tricks, what's in development, and Foresight in the press." Glancing through the first issue, this has to be one of the best distribution-specific newsletters available anywhere. Complete with a "Letter from the Editor", a tip for ATI graphics card users, introduction to the Banshee music manager, the newsletter is well worth a read even if you are not a Foresight Linux user.
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The GParted LiveCD development team has emailed us to let us know about a new edition of their live CD. Called GParted-Clonezilla, this product is designed to help users with backing up their entire hard disks (not just individual partitions). It supports all major file systems, including ext2, ext3, ReiserFS, JFS, XFS, FAT and NTFS. From the product description: "Unlike Partimage or ntfsclone, which is only for partitions, Clonezilla can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk. In Clonezilla, if a file system is supported, only used blocks on the hard disk are saved and restored. This increases the cloning efficiency." The Clonezilla edition of GParted LiveCD is available for download from here.
* * * * *
InternetNews reports about the upcoming release of Oracle Enterprise Linux 5, offered as a low-cost alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) under the Oracle Unbreakable Linux support programme: "In a few weeks when we complete testing RHEL 5 to ensure stability, robustness and interoperability, our customers will be able to confidently deploy either RHEL 5 or Oracle Enterprise Linux 5 fully compatible with RHEL5, and get enterprise-quality support from Oracle through our Unbreakable Linux Support Program." An earlier release of Oracle Enterprise Linux was criticised by the technical Linux community for appearing to be a hastily put together clone of CentOS and for lacking transparency in publishing Oracle-specific changes and enhancements. Will the upcoming release be better received? We should be able to find out in "a few weeks."
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Does Japan have a UNIX hacker for Prime Minister? A reader has sent us a link to the home page of the recently appointed head of government in Japan, Shinzo Abe. Under normal circumstances the page would not warrant a mention in this newsletter, but the picture that greets the visitors to Mr. Abe's web site is rather unusual: it contains a list of several UNIX commands right next to the Premier's photograph! Furthermore, the new Japanese Prime Minister is pictured sitting in front of a laptop, which also hints at Mr. Abe's passion for technology. And although the laptop gives a clear indication as to the Premier's hardware preference, we are left guessing at which operating system(s) might be installed on his shiny PowerBook. Is a new era of increased Linux/UNIX awareness and deployments awaiting Japan in the coming years?
|Released Last Week
Yellow Dog Linux 5.0.1
Terra Soft has announced the release of Yellow Dog Linux 5.0.1, a specialist distribution for PowerPC computers: "Terra Soft today released Yellow Dog Linux v5.0.1 for Apple G3, G4, and G5 computers. Yellow Dog Linux v5.0.1 adds more than 500 package updates to the next generation Linux operating system released last fall for the Sony PlayStation 3 with support for the former Apple PowerPC product line. Built upon Fedora Core 5/6, YDL v5.0.1 integrates the E17 desktop to provide an unprecedented level of function and interface aesthetic. Designed for users of all ages and all levels of experience, Yellow Dog Linux v5.0.1 gives new life to displaced Power Macs." Read the full press release for a list of features and other information.
DragonFly BSD 1.8.1
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 1.8.1: "The DragonFly BSD 1.8.1 release is ready. Release notes: security updates for BIND, File, libmagic, and TCPDUMP; X.Org added to various paths, including periodic directories for cron and manual paths; the dynamic loader now properly searches objects, solving problems with a number of pkgsrc applications; the fwe network interface is now properly dependant on Firewire; a bug in Vinum was fixed; update the EST module (CPU voltage / frequency reporting); the virtual kernel now properly handles spurious SIGTRAPs; MFC a bug fix for SMBFS which fixes a kernel panic." Please see the complete release notes for further details.
Bayanihan Linux 4
The Philippines-based Advanced Science and Technology Institute has announced the release of Bayanihan Linux 4, a single-CD, desktop-oriented distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux: "After months of continuous development and rigorous testing, the team announces the release of the latest version of the Bayanihan Linux distribution. Bayanihan Linux is a complete desktop solution, comes Internet-ready with anti-virus support, has excellent support for mobile computing, offers extensive multimedia and graphics applications, and includes an integrated, full-featured office suite." Read the rest of the release announcement for additional information.
T2 SDE 6.0.3
Rene Rebe has announced an updated release of T2 SDE, a toolkit for building custom Linux distributions: "With the usual care and maintenance a new maintenance release of the popular T2 6.0 series was released today. As stable series, the 6.0 series is maintained under strong API/ABI compatibility aspects and receives bug fixes, security fixes and light, compatible updates only. The release primarily focuses on ironing out all known live CD issues for smooth building of custom T2-based live CD/DVD and USB sticks. Pre-built x86, x86_64, PowerPC and PowerPC64 ISO images of the minimal live CD are available (SPARC64 to follow soon)." Visit the project's home page to read the release announcement.
Linux Mint 2.2 "Light"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of the Light edition of Linux Mint 2.2, code name "Bianca": "Bianca Light Edition was released and is available for download. The purpose of the Light Edition is to bring a version of Linux Mint which doesn't contain: proprietary software, patented technologies, support for restricted formats. In some countries where the legislation allows software patents to be enforced the Light Edition provides a way for users to legally download Linux Mint. The following components are not present in the Light Edition: Macromedia Flash, support for encrypted DVDs, Windows codecs, support for restricted multimedia formats, Unrar, Sun Java." See the brief release notes for information about this new edition of Linux Mint.
Arch Linux 0.8
Tobias Powalowski has announced the release of Arch Linux 0.8: "It's done - final 0.8 Voodoo ISOs for i686 and x86_64 are ready. Changelog: dropped install floppy support; switched from BusyBox to Archboot usage; updated packages (including Linux 184.108.40.206); installation on PATA and IDE possible (PATA is default now); USB devices should now work; usage of hwdetect and udev auto-detection during boot; added Memtest86+ to ISO; Pacman is included to allow installation of any other needed package in install environment; added Arch network support, including SSH, Telnet and Portmap services; added VPN support; added GRUB and LILO to install environment...." Read the release announcement for further details.
StartCom Enterprise Linux 5.0.0
StartCom Enterprise Linux 5.0.0, the first distribution built by recompiling the source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, has been released: "The newest StartCom Enterprise Linux AS-5.0.0 joins a series of successful and reliable operating systems build and distributed over the last three years by StartCom Ltd. This latest release provides full support for virtualization - the running of multiple instances of operating systems on one physical hardware unit. And depending on the installation preferences, AS-5.0.0 can function as server platform as well as advanced client workstation. StartCom Enterprise Linux AS-5.0.0, code-named 'Kishuf', is available for Intel i386 and AMD x86_64 architectures." Read the full press release for more information.
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
March 2007 donation: CentOS receives US$400|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com March 2007 donations is the CentOS project. It receives US$400.00 in cash.
It was about time that we rewarded what is the most popular clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the market. Although some might argue that CentOS merely rebuilds some source packages available for free elsewhere on the Internet without adding anything on its own, the fact remains that many users appreciate having access to an enterprise-quality distribution without the hefty support fee, complete with timely security and bug-fix updates for 5 years. As CentOS prepares for the launch of CentOS 5, now based on the recently released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (a rumour has it that it might be released as early as next week), the developers will have to prepare for the increased workload in building the update infrastructure for all of the supported versions. As such, they'll undoubtedly appreciate any donation they can get.
As always, the monthly donations programme is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and two online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org and OSDisc.com. These vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to CentOS.
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$12,640 to various open source software projects.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 April 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 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
|• Issue 670 (2016-07-18): Linux Lite 3.0, Bodhi team plans 4.0.0, pfSense changes licensing, running software across distributions, Linux Mint upgrade path|
|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
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|• Full list of all issues|