| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 198, 16 April 2007
Welcome to this year's 16th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The new releases from CentOS and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) projects were in the centre of attention at many Linux news sites during the past week. CentOS 5, a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, is a free enterprise-class distribution with 5-year security support - perfect for any organisation with long-term operating system plans, while the first public release of OLPC -- especially its "Sugar" user interface -- also aroused much curiosity among Linux users. In the news section: Ubuntu "Feisty" gets delayed over several release-critical bugs, Linux Mint proves its growing popularity with incredible download figures, and FreeBSD gets a new file system - the excellent ZFS from Sun Microsystems. Finally, don't miss the fourth part of our overview of top ten Linux distributions covering KNOPPIX and Slackware Linux. Happy reading!
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Overview of Top Ten Distributions (Part 4)
The fourth part of our overview of Top Ten Distributions looks at KNOPPIX - a popular, Debian-based live CD, and Slackware Linux - one of the cleanest and most stable operating systems on the market.
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The first public release of KNOPPIX was made in early 2003. This event was quickly followed by an astonishing number of highly positive reviews in the Linux media; this was the first Linux live CD that required no manual configuration. The KNOPPIX CD was meant to be placed in the CD-ROM drive and a few minutes after boot, the computer would run a full-featured, graphical Linux operating system with thousands of applications - all without the need to install anything on the computer's hard disk. Although KNOPPIX certainly wasn't the first Linux live CD, its creator, Klaus Knopper, went further than any other developer before him in scripting a hardware auto-detection and auto-configuration routine that put similar scripts produced by commercial Linux companies to shame.
The Debian-based KNOPPIX became such a huge success that many Linux users found it an indispensable and portable tool for a variety of tasks. It could be used to recover files and data from hard disks, to demonstrate the capabilities of Linux to new users, to test Linux hardware compatibility of laptops and desktop computers before purchase, or to boot it in Internet Cafés and use it as a full-blown Linux operating system for every-day tasks. In fact, it became such a popular tool that within a short period of time dozens of similar projects sprouted all over the Internet, using Klaus Knopper's hardware auto-detection scripts and developing KNOPPIX-based variants ranging from full desktop systems to highly specialised forensics, testing and recovery tasks.
While KNOPPIX can be considered beginner-friendly in terms of its hands-off auto-configuration, it also includes many advanced features better suited for more technical users. Especially the recent DVD editions of the product came with a large number of software packages, including all popular desktops and many server applications pulled from Debian's unstable and testing archives. This increase in software numbers brought some problems, however; KNOPPIX has become slow (especially the DVD edition), buggy (Klaus Knopper does not seem to believe in public beta testing) and messy (in terms of menu arrangements on the different desktop systems). There is no release planning, but new KNOPPIX versions appear roughly twice a year, usually shortly after major Linux exhibitions in Germany, where new KNOPPIX versions are first unveiled to the public. It has lost some of its originally glory due to the fact that most major Linux distribution now also offer live CD/DVD editions of their product.
- Pros: Unparalleled hardware auto-detection and auto-configuration; portable operating system that can be used for rescue, demonstration and testing tasks; provides a hard-disk installation script
- Cons: Recent releases somewhat buggy; lack of polish and unification of menus across the different desktop environments; slow when run from DVD
- Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packages
- Available editions: Live CD and Live DVD editions for 32-bit (i386) processors
- Suggested Debian/KNOPPIX-based alternatives: Damn Small Linux, sidux, Xandros Desktop, Elive, Dreamlinux, Parsix GNU/Linux, grml
(full image size: 1,224kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Slackware Linux, created by Patrick Volkerding in 1992, is the oldest surviving Linux distribution. Forked from the now-discontinued SLS project, Slackware 1.0 came on 24 floppy disks and was built on top of Linux kernel version 0.99pl11-alpha. It quickly became the most popular Linux distribution, with some estimates putting its market share to as much as 80% of all Linux installations in 1995. Its popularity decreased dramatically with the arrival of Red Hat Linux and other, more user-friendly distributions, but Slackware Linux still remains a much-appreciated operating system among the more technically-oriented system administrators and desktop users.
Slackware Linux is a highly technical, clean distribution, with only a very limited number of custom utilities. It uses a simple, text-based system installer and a comparatively primitive package management system that does not resolve software dependencies. As a result, Slackware is considered one of the cleanest and least buggy distributions available today - the lack of Slackware-specific enhancements reduces the likelihood of new bugs being introduced into the system. All configuration is done by editing text files. There is a saying in the Linux community that if you learn Red Hat, you'll know Red Hat, but if you learn Slackware, you'll know Linux. This is particularly true today when many other Linux distributions keep developing heavily customised products to meet the needs of less technical Linux users.
While this philosophy of simplicity has its fans, the fact is that in today's world, Slackware Linux is increasingly becoming a "core system" upon which new, custom solutions are built, rather than a complete distribution with a wide variety of supported software. The only exception is the server market, where Slackware remains popular, though even here, the distribution's complex upgrade procedure and lack of officially supported automated tools for security updates makes it increasingly uncompetitive. Slackware's conservative attitude towards the system's base components (the latest stable Slackware release still defaults to an older 2.4 kernel) means that it requires much manual post-installation work before it can be tuned into a modern desktop system.
- Pros: Highly stable, clean and bug-free, strong adherence to UNIX principles.
- Cons: Limited number of officially supported applications; conservative in terms of base package selection; complex upgrade procedure; no official 64-bit edition
- Software package management: "pkgtools" using TGZ (TAR.GZ) packages
- Available editions: Installation CDs and DVD for 32-bit (i486) processors
- Suggested Slackware-based alternatives: Zenwalk Linux (desktop), VectorLinux (desktop), SLAX (live CD), Slamd64 Linux (64-bit), Bluewhite64 Linux (64-bit), Wolvix (desktop, live CD), GoblinX (desktop, live CD)
Slackware Linux 11.0
(full image size: 127kB, 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.
CentOS 5.0, OLPC, Linux Mint download statistics, Ubuntu "Feisty" delays, FreeBSD ZFS integration, interview with the "distro guy"
The most interesting release of the past week was undoubtedly the one delivered by the CentOS development team. CentOS 5.0, based on the recently released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, is the second project (after StartCom Enterprise Linux) that has successfully rebuilt Red Hat's latest enterprise distribution into an installable and fully-supported Red Hat clone. Although CentOS has never been able to break into the DistroWatch's top ten list, there is little doubt that this is a very popular distribution - especially on servers and business desktops. And its most important feature? Besides virtualisation, IPV6 support and other enterprise-level characteristics inherited from its famous parent, the most important one is its long-term support - CentOS 5.0 will be supported with security and bug-fix updates until at least March 2012. For more information about CentOS please visit the project's web site at CentOS.org.
The CentOS 5.0 desktop
(full image size: 117kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Another project that attracted much attention last week was the OLPC live CD. As many readers will know, OLPC, or One Laptop Per Child, is a Red Hat-sponsored initiative to develop a US$100 laptop designed for children in developing countries. Given the low-cost components of the laptop, Red Hat is also designing a heavily customised, light-weight operating system based on Fedora, but with a unique user interface called Sugar (see this review for some first impressions and screenshots). The first live CD image demonstrating the concepts of the user interface appeared on Red Hat's servers last week and the interest in it -- 122,000 download attempts were made within the first few days -- surprised the developers. Bear in mind that this is an early prototype designed for developers to demonstrate the product, so it will still undergo substantial changes before it is declared ready for deployment on the laptop.
* * * * *
Speaking about downloads, here is an interesting piece of statistics found in the latest Linux Mint weekly newsletter: "Seven mirrors were made available for [Linux Mint 2.2] Bianca. Three of them counted 592,950 downloads." Linux Mint has been climbing rather dramatically on the DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking statistics and the download figures -- nearly 600,000 (!) downloads recorded by just three of the seven available mirrors -- confirm the simple truth: many Linux users are looking for a distribution that works out of the box, without any post-install installation of device drivers, multimedia codecs and browser plugins. Linux Mint has delivered exactly that. And although the advocates of Free Software will not be pleased by this fact, there is little doubt that many computer users are attracted to Linux not because it offers the freedom to modify the source code, but because it's good, it's fun, and it's free of cost.
* * * * *
The much awaited Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn" release candidate failed to show up last week - due to several serious bugs: "The Ubuntu 7.04 release candidate has been delayed due to bugs discovered during validation testing, specifically problems with certain ATA chipsets and problems with the connection status displayed by the network-manager panel applet. There is no updated ETA yet, but the core development team is actively working on the problems and expects it to be a matter of days." The project expects the final release to take place later this week as scheduled, although a slight delay is still a possibility.
* * * * *
Here is something of interest to the users of the FreeBSD operating system. As announced by Pawel Jakub Dawidek on the FreeBSD current mailing list, the ZFS file system, originally developed by Sun Microsystems, has been integrated into FreeBSD: "I'm happy to inform that the ZFS file system is now part of the FreeBSD operating system. ZFS is available in the HEAD branch and will be available in FreeBSD 7.0-RELEASE as an experimental feature. Currently ZFS is only compiled as kernel module and is only available for i386 architecture. AMD64 should be available very soon, the other architectures will come later, as we implement needed atomic operations." And while on the subject of the BSD operating systems, the OpenBSD project has released the song that will accompany the upcoming release of OpenBSD 4.1. It is entitled Puffy Baba and the 40 Vendors.
* * * * *
Packt Publishing has published an interview with yours truly, the founder and maintainer of DistroWatch.com: "There's no dearth of Linux distributions. This isn't the first time I've said this. Neither will it be the last. But why the chaos? Why are there more failed distributions than successful ones? Ask the distro guy, Ladislav Bodnar, maintainer of DistroWatch.com. Excuse me if the above sounds like those 15-second commercials during super bowl. As a Linux journalist, DistroWatch is an important tool of my trade. For over half a decade the website has been keeping track of every distribution related activity. And like the many distros it lists, DistroWatch is a one-man show. From its humble beginnings, Bodnar has turned DistroWatch into the most comprehensive, and respected, directory of Linux distributions, it is today." Read more in Meet the Distro Guy.
|Released Last Week
GoblinX 2.0 "Mini"
The GoblinX project has announced the release of GoblinX 2.0 "Mini" edition: "GoblinX Mini 2.0.0 is released. The GoblinX Mini Edition is the son of GoblinX and contains only the Xfce windows manager and GTK+-based applications. This release follows Premium 2007.1 edition and starts the second generation of the distribution. All new features and upgrades prepared for the Premium edition are included, including a new functional Magic Center which works with Xfce and all graphical user interfaces." Please visit the distribution's news page to read the release announcement.
Foresight Linux 1.2
Ken VanDine has announced the release of Foresight Linux 1.2, an rPath-based distribution featuring the very latest GNOME desktop technologies: "We are pleased to announce the latest stable release, Foresight Linux 1.2. It includes the latest 2.18.1 GNOME desktop. Highlights from Release 1.2: GNOME 2.18.1; Linux kernel 126.96.36.199; better wireless driver and overall hardware support; fixes for some digital cameras and scanners to allow importing and scanning of images; added Japanese support (fonts and keyboards); a new GNOME display manager theme; new Epiphany extensions: Greasemonkey, Tab States and Push Scroll; OpenOffice.org 2.2; Thunderbird 2 RC1." Visit the distribution's news page to read the complete release announcement.
Karanbir Singh has announced the immediate availability of CentOS 5.0, a Linux distribution built by recompiling source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5: "We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 5 for the i386 and x86_64 architectures. CentOS 5 is based on the upstream release 5, and includes packages from all variants including Server and Client. All upstream repositories have been combined into one, to make it easier for end users to work with. Major changes in CentOS 5 compared to CentOS 4 include: updated software versions; better desktop support with Compiz and AIGLX; virtualization provided by the Xen hypervisor with Virtual Machine Manager and libvirt; Sabayon to simplify the construction of user profiles." See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Topologilinux, a project developing a Slackware-based Linux distribution that can be installed and run from within Windows (as well as installed on a separate partition), has announced an updated release, version 6.1.0: "Topologilinux has now released version 6.1.0. This new version contains about 6 GB of software, including Linux kernel 188.8.131.52, GNOME 2.16.3, KDE 3.5.4, X.Org 6.9.0, OpenOffice.org 2.1, GCC, Xfce, coLinux 0.6.4, 3D games, ALSA sound system and many other applications. This version should be working on Windows Vista. Another great thing is that you can also run it in 'real' Linux mode, like the traditional distributions. Topologilinux is very easy to install and does not require any partitioning at all." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
GParted LiveCD 0.3.4-6
GParted LiveCD has been updated to version 0.3.4-6: "GParted LiveCD 0.3.4-6 has been released. Changes: we now use Squashfs LZMA witch allows best compression and reduces the file size to 45 MB; upgrade to X.Org 7.2 offers better support and auto-detection for video and resolution, but old mkxf86config is still available as an option in GRUB, if needed; the new 'Macbook' option fixes the double keystroke issue with Mac; two new scripts are born to help users to build GParted LiveUSB - first one can be used to mount a USB key and also offers the possibility to run the second one, which copies needed files to the freshly attached USB stick and apply syslinux to make it bootable; kernel has been updated to 184.108.40.206." Read the rest of the changelog for further details.
A new major version of Guadalinex, an Ubuntu-based distribution developed by the regional government of Andalucía in Spain, has been released. Guadalinex is a general-purpose operating system for the desktop; the latest version uses the Linux kernel 2.6.17 and includes X.Org 7.1, GNOME 2.16, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, Firefox 2.0 and other popular open source applications for the home and office. Please read the release announcement (in Spanish) for further information.
The Guadalinex 4 desktop
(full image size: 277kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Ryan Finnie has announced the release of Finnix 89.1, a small, Debian-based Linux distribution for system administrators: "Finnix is a small, self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators, based on Debian testing. Today marks the release of version 89.1 for the x86/AMD64, PowerPC, and UML/Xen platforms. Finnix 89.1 is a maintenance and bug-fix release. The base system has been dist-upgraded to Debian's 2007-04-03, the day 'etch' was marked stable. The 'testcd' boot option has been fixed on the PowerPC platform. The ipcalc package has been added, and the finnix-3ware-install package has been upgraded to 9.4.1. SSH agent is now started at boot-time, and is shared among all virtual terminals." Please see the release announcement and release notes for further details.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon"
Mark Shuttleworth has announced the release dates for the next stable release of Ubuntu - version 7.10 and code name "Gutsy Gibbon": "Folks, allow me to introduce the Gutsy Gibbon, who will be succeeding the Feisty Fawn as the focus of our development love in a few short weeks, for release in October 2007." The development cycle for "Gutsy Gibbon" will start with an alpha release (called "Tribe CD") in early June and it will conclude with the final release on 18 October 2007. For a detailed breakdown of the release process please visit the Gutsy Release Schedule page.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Direct links to DVD images|
Due to several requests by distribution release managers and mirror site maintainers, DistroWatch will no longer provide direct links to large DVD images in its front-page release announcements. The ever-growing interest in Linux has resulted in refusal of many FTP mirrors to carry large DVD images of popular distributions in fear that their networks get saturated by thousands of connections and download attempts. Similarly, some distributions (e.g. openSUSE) do not provide direct downloads of DVD images, relying on the BitTorrent protocol to distribute the large files instead. In order to relieve these free mirror services from bandwidth pressures, DistroWatch will from now on link to BitTorrent files (wherever available), rather than DVD images.
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- OLPC. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an initiative to build a low-cost laptop computer with a pre-installed operating system and applications designed for children in developing countries. The operating system is a Linux-based solution, a heavily customised edition of Fedora Core with a special graphical user interface called Sugar. Among applications, the system includes a web browser built on Xulrunner, a simple document viewer based on Evince; the AbiWord word processor, an RSS reader, email, chat and VOIP clients, a multimedia authoring and playback environment, a music composition toolkit, graphics toolkits, games, a shell, and a debugger.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Jihbed. Jihbed is a desktop-oriented live CD based on NetBSD. It is built from the latest NetBSD sources (HEAD); the third-party software packages provided on the CD are the latest versions, including experimental packages from wip-pkgsrc.
- Lemix. Lemix is a new Ubuntu-based distribution developed by a group of university students in Rabat, Morocco. Compared to Ubuntu, Lemix offers extra scientific and engineering applications, pre-configured multimedia codecs, and support for USB DSL modems in common use in Morocco. The project's web site is in French only, but the distribution offers out-of-the-box support for three languages: Arabic, English and French.
Lemix, a new Ubuntu-based distribution from Morocco
(full image size: 1,926kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
- sllcd. slccd is GeeXboX-based Linux distribution intended for file servers. The project's primary goal is to provide an easy-to-install operating system for sharing data on a mixed local network.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 23 April 2007. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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