| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 197, 9 April 2007
Welcome to this year's 15th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Debian "Etch", the long-awaited release from the largest Linux distribution project that has ever graced the Internet era, finally hit the download mirrors on Easter Sunday and provided some welcome news relief during the otherwise unexciting weekend. But the current string of important releases will not stop here; Mandriva is about to announce a new stable release of its flagship product, Ubuntu is busy preparing its first and only release candidate for "Feisty Fawn", and openSUSE is hard at work in finalising a new alpha release for delivery later this week. In other news, SimplyMEPIS announces its latest and greatest, Samuel Hocevar becomes the new Debian Project Leader, and Arch Linux changes its release policy. Finally, don't miss the third part of our overview of Top Ten Distributions. Happy reading!
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Overview of Top Ten Distributions (Part 3)
With the release of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 last week and the upcoming release of Mandriva Linux 2007.1 this week, there couldn't be a better time to update the Debian and Mandriva entries on our Top Ten Distributions page.
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Debian GNU/Linux was first announced in 1993. Its founder, Ian Murdock, envisaged the creation of a completely non-commercial project developed by hundreds of volunteer developers in their spare time. With sceptics far outnumbering optimists at the time, it was destined to disintegrate and collapse, but the reality was very different. Debian not only survived, it thrived and, in less than a decade, it became the largest Linux distribution and possibly the largest collaborative software project ever created!
The success of Debian GNU/Linux can be illustrated by the following numbers. It is developed by over 1,000 volunteer developers, its software repositories contain more than 20,000 packages (compiled for 11 processor architectures), and it is responsible for inspiring over 120 Debian-based distributions and live CDs. These figures are unmatched by any other Linux-based operating system. The actual development of Debian takes place in three main branches (or four if one includes the bleeding-edge "experimental" branch) of increasing levels of stability: "unstable" (also known as "sid"), "testing" and "stable". This progressive integration and stabilisation of packages and features, together with the project's well-established quality control mechanisms, has earned Debian its reputation of being one of the best-tested and most bug-free distributions available today.
However, this lengthy and complex development style also has some drawbacks: the stable releases of Debian are not particularly up-to-date and they age rapidly, especially since new stable releases are only published once every 1 - 3 years. Those users who prefer the latest packages and technologies are forced to use the potentially buggy Debian testing or unstable branches. The highly democratic structures of Debian have led to controversial decisions and gave rise to infighting among the developers. This has contributed to stagnation and reluctance to make radical decisions that would take the project forward.
- Pros: Very stable; remarkable quality control; includes over 20,000 software packages; supports more processor architectures than any other Linux distribution
- Cons: Conservative - due to its support for many processor architectures, newest technologies are not always included; slow release cycle (one stable release every 1 - 3 years); discussions on developer mailing lists and blogs can be uncultured at times
- Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packages
- Available editions: Installation CD/DVD and live CD images for 11 processor architectures, including all 32-bit and 64-bit processors from Intel, AMD, Power and others.
- Suggested Debian-based alternatives: Ubuntu, Damn Small Linux, KNOPPIX, sidux, Dreamlinux, Elive, Xandros, 64 Studio
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 "Etch"
(full image size: 246kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Mandriva Linux was launched by Gaël Duval in July 1998 under the name of Mandrake Linux. At first, it was just a re-mastered edition of Red Hat Linux with the more user-friendly KDE desktop, but the subsequent releases also added various user-friendly touches, such as a new installer, improved hardware detection, and intuitive disk partitioning utility. As a result of these enhancements, Mandrake Linux flourished. After attracting venture capital and turning into a business, the fortunes of the newly established MandrakeSoft fluctuated widely between a near bankruptcy in early 2003 to a flurry of acquisitions in 2005. The latter, after merging with Brazil's Conectiva, saw the company change its name to Mandriva.
Mandriva Linux is primarily a desktop distribution. Its best loved features are cutting edge software, superb system administration suite (DrakConf), excellent implementation of its 64-bit edition, and extensive internationalisation support. It had an open development model long before many other popular distributions, with intensive beta testing and frequent stable releases. In recent years, it has also developed an array of installable live CDs and has launched Mandriva Flash - a complete Mandriva Linux system on a bootable USB Flash device.
Despite the technical excellence, Mandriva Linux has been losing momentum in recent years. This has partly to do with the emergence of other user-friendly distributions that have caught up with Mandriva, but also with some controversial, anti-community decisions by the company which have alienated a large sector of the distribution's user base. Mandriva's web presence is a messy conglomeration of several different web sites, while its "Mandriva Club", originally designed to provide added value to paying customers, has been getting mixed reviews. Although the company has been addressing some of the criticism, it continues to face an uphill battle in persuading new Linux users or users of other distributions to try (and buy) its products.
- Pros: Beginner-friendly, especially the commercial editions; excellent central configuration utility; very good out-of-the-box support for dozens of languages; installable live CD
- Cons: The company's customer service has developed bad reputation over the years; complex, confusing web site infrastructure; dropping popularity due to its commercial nature and unpopular corporate decisions in the past
- Software package management: URPMI with Rpmdrake (a graphical front-end for URPMI) using RPM packages. "SMART" available as an alternative method.
- Available editions: Freely downloadable Mandriva Free and One editions for 32-bit (i386) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; commercial Mandriva Discovery, PowerPack and PowerPack Plus editions for 32-bit (i386) and 64-bit (x86_64). Also high-end "Corporate" solutions for desktops, servers and firewalls, all with long-term support options.
- Suggested Mandriva-based alternatives: PCLinuxOS, MCNLive
Mandriva Linux 2007.1
(full image size: 743kB, 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.
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 and SimplyMEPIS 6.5, Mandriva updates, Arch Linux release changes
The long-delayed Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 "Etch" was finally released last weekend. It isn't easy to express the feelings of Linux users on this particular day; in a world where millions of highly precise lines of computer code don't mingle well with human sentiment, describing the excitement over a new Debian release is like trying to comprehend the entire universe. But perhaps mentioning the following two facts about Debian will summarise the importance of this release. Firstly, Debian is still the largest Linux distribution by far; with 11 supported processor architectures, it comes on no fewer than 227 CD images (add 21 to it if you want source code as well). Secondly, now that "Etch" is out of the door, we know that there won't be another stable Debian release until perhaps sometimes in late 2009 or early 2010. So enjoy the excitement and join the release party to celebrate this rare event on the distro release calendar!
What's new in Debian GNU/Linux 4.0? Quite a lot, as one would expect from a distribution that only releases once every two or three years: a new graphical installer, support for encrypted file systems, a faster and more secure Advanced Package Tool (APT), a more intelligent apt-get in the form of "aptitude", and of course thousands of updated software packages. Please take a look at the release notes for further details. And while waiting for your download to complete, another thing worth checking out is the profile of Samuel Hocevar (pictured on the right), a 29-year old Frenchman, who was elected the new Debian Project Leader over the weekend and who vows to bring some radical changes to the project - things that would make Debian more "sexy" and would turn it into the best Linux distribution.
* * * * *
The release of Debian GNU/Linux has completely overshadowed the other interesting release of the week - that of SimplyMEPIS 6.5. Originally based on Debian, the developers of this beginner-friendly distribution switched to Ubuntu as its base last year. Version 6.5, while based on the older Ubuntu 6.06, comes with a number of updated packages, support for the latest device drivers and brand new artwork. It is also the first SimplyMEPIS release with support for 64-bit processors, and given the traditional user-friendliness and attention to detail by the project's developers, SimplyMEPIS-64 is probably one of the easiest 64-bit distributions available today - complete with support for 32-bit media codecs and other binary-only software. If you are using a computer with one of the high-performance AMD64 processors, but have been reluctant to install a 64-bit Linux distribution on it for the fear of compatibility problems with 32-bit software, then give SimplyMEPIS-64 a try. You might be pleasantly surprised!
* * * * *
Despite the above-mentioned two great release of the past week, the upcoming week will bring even more excitement. The new Mandriva Linux 2007.1 is currently making its way to download mirrors around the world and should be available shortly. In the meantime, Texstar, the lead developer of PCLinuxOS, promises a new test release of version 2007 for as early as this week, with the final release coming shortly afterwards. And while on the subject of development work, both the Ubuntu and openSUSE projects are scheduled to release new builds of their respective distributions on Thursday; for Ubuntu it will be the first and only release candidate for 7.04 "Feisty Fawn", while for openSUSE it will be the third alpha release of openSUSE 10.2. However, there are still no signs of Gentoo Linux 2007.0; originally scheduled for release in February 2007; the new version was later postponed till March and beyond....
* * * * *
Speaking about Mandriva Linux, it is nice to see that the developers have published an excellent Mandriva 2007.1 Tour, an Ubuntu-style Wiki page listing detailed information about the new features, further complemented by a number of screenshots. Updated packages, several new configuration tools, and support for three 3D desktop environments should make the latest Mandriva an interesting release to test. This is also a good opportunity to remind those Mandriva users who are still using version 2006 that it will reach end of life later this week, after which the product will receive no further security updates. That's the danger of year-based versioning that several Linux distributions have adopted in recent years - despite only just entering the second quarter of 2007, Mandriva Linux 2006 is already too old to be maintained. Time for an upgrade?
* * * * *
Finally, an interesting piece of news from Arch Linux. As announced last week, it looks like the project is about to dramatically speed up the frequency of its stable releases: "Sadly, Arch will never have a 1.0 release. It is, in fact, cancelled. But this is for the best. We're changing gears and switching the way we do releases. Going forward, a new ISO image will be released with each new kernel version. This will give us an easy milestone for us, and you, to follow. In addition, like many have asked for hundreds of times, we're re-numbering our releases. When the next kernel 2.6.22 is released, we will push out a new ISO image, set with the YYYYMM based time stamp of the release. That is, if 2.6.22 was released right now, you would all see a 200704 ISO sitting here."
|Released Last Week
ArtistX is a Debian-based bootable DVD containing many free multimedia software packages for audio, 2D and 3D graphics, and video production. Version 0.3 was announced earlier today. What's new? "All the ArtistX infrastructure and software were updated to the new Debian Live code. Software that is not packaged for Debian or not in the official archive (especially for video and 3D production) is included. The look and feel were revamped using suggestions from media professionals. KDE and GNOME applications now look nearly the same and dark, relaxing colors are used. Main features: kernel 2.6.18, X.Org 7.1, Beryl 0.2.0; 2D graphics software: Gimp 2.3.15, Inkscape, Nip2, Krita, Cinepaint...." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
Damn Small Linux 3.3
Damn Small Linux 3.3 has been released. Some excerpts from the changelog: "New gettime.lua to set clock from a time server; restored menu item 'Enable Apt' and dpkg-restore download script; updated pen drive installation scripts to be device-independent; fixed mount tool for CD-ROM and floppy devices; added mouse configuration persistence via .mouse_configuration; ALSA sound auto-configuration improvement via conflicting audio module; added auto-start of GTK+ when GTK+ extension is in mydsl search path at boot; more install options on 'dslinstall' menu; updated bootfloppy.img to fix the 16MB memory bug; added declobber.sh to remove troublesome extraneous system directories in MyDSL extensions; fixed man script to support hard drive installations...."
After three months of intensive development, Warren Woodford has announced the final release of SimplyMEPIS 6.5: "SimplyMEPIS 6.5 for 32 and 64 bit Intel and AMD based PCs and MacTels has been released by MEPIS. 6.5 started as a minor update to the Ubuntu pool compatible 6.0 release of SimplyMEPIS but the project quickly expanded to add the 7.1 X window manager, newer display and wireless drivers, Mac Intel support, Amarok music player with music store and MTP support, and the experimental Beryl 3D desktop." SimplyMEPIS 6.5 ships with Linux kernel 2.6.15, X.Org 7.1, KDE 3.5.3, Firefox 2.0, the latest NVIDIA and ATI graphics drivers, and Beryl 0.2.0. See the complete press release for further information.
Puppy Linux 2.15 "Community"
Puppy Linux 2.15, built by the Puppy Linux developer community and incorporating packages and features not found in the standard Puppy Linux, has been released: "Puppy Linux 2.15CE (Community Edition) is the result of collaboration between a team of Puppy Linux enthusiasts. It is built upon version 2.14, but includes many enhancements. In particular, the guys have worked on an improved user interface and a nice out-of-the-box first impression. They have also developed some SFS files that add OpenOffice.org, web and graphics applications; SFS files are 'combo packs' of applications that can be installed and uninstalled with a few clicks." For more information please read the complete release announcement.
Debian GNU/Linux 3.1r6
Alexander Schmehl has announced the release of a new revision of Debian GNU/Linux 3.1: "The Debian project has updated the stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (codename 'Sarge'). This update mainly adds security updates to the stable release, along with a few corrections to serious problems. In preparation for the upcoming release of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (codename 'Etch'), Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 will be moved to the 'oldstable' part of the archive. Users who would like to continue using Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 are advised to update their sources.list network sources to refer to 'sarge' instead of 'stable'. Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 but only updates some of the packages included." Read the full update announcement for more details.
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0
The long-awaited Debian "Etch" has arrived: "The Debian Project is pleased to announce the official release of Debian GNU/Linux version 4.0, code-named 'etch'. Debian GNU/Linux is a free operating system which supports a total of eleven processor architectures and includes the KDE, GNOME and Xfce desktop environments. It also features cryptographic software and compatibility with the FHS v2.3 and software developed for version 3.1 of the LSB. Using a fully integrated installation process, Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 comes with out-of-the-box support for encrypted partitions." Read the rest of the release announcement and release notes for a more detailed overview of Debian Etch.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- Absolute Linux. Absolute Linux is a light-weight modification of Slackware Linux. It includes several utilities that make configuration and maintenance easier and it has many common desktop and Internet applications installed and configured with tight integration of menus, applications and MIME types. Absolute Linux uses IceWM and ROX for its window and file managers.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- KcPenTrix. KcPenTrix is a Slackware-based distribution designed to be a standalone penetration testing toolkit for security analysts and system administrators.
- Webconverger. Webconverger is a live, Debian-based web kiosk. It is designed for deployments in places like offices or Internet cafés where only web applications are used.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 16 April 2007. Until then,
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Ubuntu Mini PC
Intel H87 with Intel Pentium Dual Core G3220 3.0Ghz CPU HDMI VGA Dual Display