| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 204, 28 May 2007
Welcome to this year's 22nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Fedora 7, the latest and arguably most ambitious release from the increasingly community-friendly Fedora Project, will hit the download mirrors later this week. With its installable live CDs, merged package repositories and much improved artwork, the new Fedora should prove a major attraction on the 2nd quarter release calendar. But will it be able to regain some of the market share it lost in recent years to the more aggressive desktop Linux distributions? We'll have to wait and see. In other major news of the week, Dell has fulfilled its promise and started shipping the first desktop computers with Ubuntu pre-installed. Finally, don't miss our first look review of PCLinuxOS 2007 by Chris Smart and check out the list of four new Linux distributions that have been added to the DistroWatch database: BeaFanatIX, Granular Linux, Openfiler and Parted Magic. Happy reading!
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First look at PCLinuxOS 2007 (by Chris Smart)|
Having watched, like many others, the surge of PCLinuxOS towards the top of the DistroWatch rankings in recent months, I could not pass up the opportunity to test out their latest stable release and see what all the fuss was about. With the release of 2007, the rankings from the last 30 days show that PCLinuxOS has pipped Ubuntu from the number one spot! I downloaded the live CD and burned it to disk then proceeded to boot the operating system.
Booting from the CD presents the user with a very nice graphical boot screen, which defaults to loading the live CD after a short time-out. Knowing that my mainboard with an NVIDIA 590SLI chipset does not behave nicely with APIC, I added the 'noapic' option to the live CD kernel boot line. Instantly I was greeted with a splash screen and a booting PCLinuxOS environment that was busy loading from my DVD drive.
The live CD booted up, detecting all my hardware as it went and soon there was a GUI session up and running. I was greeted with a 'wizard' asking me to answer various questions such as the keyboard layout, time zone selection, clock settings, as well as the chance to configure my network. Annoyingly, I couldn't just cancel out of this wizard and there was no option to skip setting up my network. Once this was complete however, I was greeted with the KDE login manager and although the option to log in as 'root' was available, I chose to log on as user 'guest' (see Linux security 101). The splash screen and login manager use some black and white grill artwork that I would like to see changed as it tends to warp your brain, perhaps with something pretty and blue. Nevertheless we were in business and it was time to check out the goodies that came with the Live CD.
PCLinuxOS comes with the KDE desktop by default and it did not disappoint. The artwork for KDE was very pleasant and there was blue everywhere. As far as the eye can see, mild, soft, lovely blue. This was a nice change from the black and white grill that burned my brain previously.
PCLinuxOS 2007: the desktop
(full image size: 175kB, screen resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
The first thing I noticed was the clean desktop. The background image was pleasant to view and did not take over the desktop or distract the user, for which I add another 'tick'. The desktop had a few icons for Home, My Computer, Trash as well as installation options 'Installation Help' and 'Install PCLinuxOS'. Konsole was also included on the desktop and I don't really know why. The task bar launcher would have been a better place for it in my opinion, but there you have it. Speaking of the launcher, it was well thought out and included a button to 'show the desktop', as well as shortcuts to the user's home folder, control centre, administration centre and package manager. So far the desktop appears to have been set out in a friendly, usable and welcoming way. Nice work so far, PCLinuxOS.
Clicking on the 'PC' icon to launch the applications menu I browsed through the software they include for us on the live CD. The applications were set out in various groups such as 'Internet' and 'Multimedia' with sub-menus that helped to further narrow in on the application you were seeking. Unfortunately, for a system that promotes itself as 'radically simple', I was surprised by the lack of descriptions for the applications. Although an application like 'krfb' sits under the 'Internet, Remote access' menu, knowing what it actually does is still unknown. The simple act of turning on the descriptions feature in the KDE panel informs the user this application is for 'Desktop Sharing'. I highly suggest that the PCLinuxOS developers enable this for future releases, as it makes the system all the more friendly and appealing.
I also found it somewhat cumbersome to navigate the menu system and to find what I was looking for. The beryl-manager shortcut for example was under 'System, Configuration, Other' while the desire to change fonts caused me to navigate to 'System, Configuration, Other, KDE, Appearance & Themes, Fonts'. I am sure that after using PCLinuxOS for a while it would become second nature, but perhaps for the ease of new users there is some way it can be reorganised to make it more easily accessible.
Opening the GIMP, there was a short delay of 20 seconds while it loaded from the CD. Similarly, OpenOffice.org took considerable time to load, although this is to be expected on a live CD. As for standard packages that were missing, I couldn't think of any. The every-day packages I would expect for browsing the web, checking email, chatting, creating documents, playing multimedia and even watching TV were all included.
In an age where Linux distributions seem to be bowing to pressure and including non-free and potentially license violating drivers and programs by default it was nice to see PCLinuxOS claim on their website to leave out such packages as win32codecs, libdvdcss and the 3D video drivers from NVIDIA and ATI. Indeed these drivers were not included on the system and according to apt neither was libdvdcss or win32codecs. Unfortunately I was unable to confirm the lack of DVD playback, but PCLinuxOS did play (out-of-the-box) all the files that I could throw at it, including; WMV, DIVX, XVID, MOV, ASF and MP3. If you do require the above packages do not despair, as PCLinuxOS does make it easy to install them if the end user so desires. A simple 'apt-get install libdvdcss2 win32-codecs nvidia-_97xx ati' will do the trick.
I did find a few annoyances, however, which should be fixed in future versions. The very handy tool 'sudo' was not configured to allow my every-day user to become root. Also, opening 'My Computer' from the Desktop did not show the location bar. A small annoyance certainly, but it made it hard to easily switch to other locations, execute kioslaves and to even just get a feel for where I was. There was also no power management configured out of the box, so users with laptops will need to set this up manually. Likewise both suspend and hibernate were no-where to be seen.
PCLinuxOS 2007: the control centre
(full image size: 167kB, screen resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
Having browsed through the system for a while it was time to install PCLinuxOS to my hard drive. Kicking up the 'Install PCLinuxOS' shortcut left me quickly disappointed as it did not appear to support RAID or LVM. I booted PCLinuxOS on my MacBook instead and running the installer again showed it had detected my LVM system in the partitioning screen, which was great. Clicking on the empty region and making a new device did work, even if it spat up an error or two.
The installation process itself is quite painless and it asks very few questions. I simply nominated a partition to install the system to and then away it went! Radically simple. Later the installer asked me to reset the root password and create a new user. The install was also quite quick, taking only about 20 minutes on my MacBook after which time it asked me which boot loader I wanted to use and where to install it. Being a MacBook I actually didn't want to install a boot loader anywhere as I would use the one I already had installed. But there was no option to not install a boot loader so I hit 'Cancel' instead. This immediately kicked me out of the installer without so much as an 'Are you sure?' dialogue and upon inspection of 'df' I noticed my install partition was still mounted. I guess that wasn't supposed to happen. I also didn't have a populated grub.conf (obviously), so I took the configuration from the CD's isolinux configuration file and added it to the GRUB already on the system. A few minor setbacks but now it was installed and I was ready to boot into it from the hard drive and see what else I could do.
Booting the MacBook was trouble-free and although it did not detect my correct screen resolution I did get 3D support out of the box, yippee! I enabled the '3D Desktop' from within the control centre and chose to use Beryl. Logging out and back in as directed, I was playing with the very familiar Beryl running on AIGLX. Smooth, very smooth.
I have to say that overall I was quite impressed with this distribution. I was not blown away, but I was impressed by its clean feel and its simplistic approach to Linux computing. Some live CDs are fun to play with, but lose their charm when they don't follow up with a back-end system that makes the distribution usable every day. PCLinuxOS is different. It is nice to have a system that both looks and plays nice, with the added bonus of a fine package management system that won't leave you high and dry when you need that other piece of essential software.
While they are not quite there yet, PCLinuxOS are certainly on the right track to achieving their goal of being 'radically simple'. Currently the system feels like a bit of a mixed bag, but if they can start to make their own path a little more independent there will be no stopping them. The default package management is handled by Synaptic to APT to RPM, the control centre and installer both come from Mandriva, and the loading cursor reminds me of Fedora. Not that there's anything wrong with that, in fact that might be part of the reason for the success of PCLinuxOS. Perhaps they've taken proven components from various distributions, put them together and made it simple to use. Now who could argue with that?
7 out of 10 'Smarties'.
About the author: Chris Smart is the founder of Kororaa, a Gentoo-based Linux distribution, and the maintainer of Make The Move, a Linux advocacy web site. He lives in Canberra, Australia.
Fedora 7 final testing, Dell PCs with Ubuntu
The final day of May will be marked by a brand new release from the Fedora Project: Fedora 7. This is the first time that the popular distribution will arrive without the word "Core" in its name; after merging what the developers used to call the "core" and "extras" package repositories, the distribution has now become simply Fedora. The merge should simplify both the package management part of the distribution (there won't be a need for two different repositories in the yum configuration file) and the ability of the project provide up-to-date, well-maintained packages from contributing developers - all in one central repository. No wonder that some have labelled Fedora 7 as the project's most ambitious release to-date!
How will these changes work out? In a surprising move, the merge between the two repositories was only completed after the final test release of Fedora 7, making the merge impossible to test on a wider scale. Perhaps the developers had underestimated the challenge; while the i386 merge was reasonably trouble-free, there were reports about problems with compiling and debugging some of the less frequently-used "extras" packages on other architectures. But despite lack of testing, the release will still go ahead as planned and this is perhaps a slight gamble on the part of the Fedora 7 developers.
For those who are interested in helping to squash any last-minute bugs, an unofficial release candidate of Fedora 7 was quietly made available on the Fedora test mailing list last Friday. Full DVD images for three architectures, as well as GNOME and KDE live CDs, can be had from torrent.fedoraproject.org; these are very close to what the final images will look like, so those Fedora users who are too impatient to wait until Thursday, might consider installing the new version from these CD/DVD sets. As always, don't be surprised by the Package Updater errors - since the Fedora 7 directories have not yet been created, the utility will keep failing at least until the official release of the new version on May 31st.
Fedora 7 is the project's most ambitious release ever
(full image size: 916kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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The story that has kept many Linux news sites on their toes for the past few weeks has been successfully concluded and the brand new Ubuntu computers from Dell are now available online. The news is presently relevant to the residents of the United States only, since Dell has yet to start offering these products in other countries. Nevertheless, the world's largest computer maker has to be praised for having moved with an astonishing speed; it was only a few weeks ago that the "Dellinux" skeptics outnumbered those who believed otherwise by a considerable margin, but a few short weeks later one can indeed buy a Linux computer from Dell. Let's hope that this ambitious experiment will turn out to be a success and that one day we will start seeing many more Linux computers available in retails stores across the world.
Has any of the DistroWatch readers ordered one of these Ubuntu-based boxes from Dell? If so, what were your experiences? Do you think the sole laptop model is a good choice for an average (i.e. fairly technical) Linux user? And has your perception of Dell changed/improved since its ambitious drive to deliver computers with an alternative operating system to end users? Please discuss below.
|Released Last Week
Moinak Ghosh has announced a new version of BeleniX, a desktop live CD based on OpenSolaris: "BeleniX 0.6 released. After some gap due to a busy few months for many of the BeleniX folks, a new release is now available. Lots of changes have happened and here is a summary: based on OpenSolaris Build 60; full modular X.Org 7.2 based on the Solaris X consolidation sources; Compiz 0.5.0 3D manager integrated into Xfce and KDE; added the GNU Parted port to OpenSolaris and also added GParted (experimental) with the ability to resize NTFS, FAT, ext2 partitions; Usbdump integrated into the live CD; updates to various software packages, like Xfce 4.4.1, GTK+, Cairo, Pango, KOffice 0.6.2...." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
A new, enhanced version of MCNLive, a Mandriva-based live CD distribution, has been released: "I am glad to announce MCNLive, code name 'Toronto'. What's the difference to 'Delft'? VirtualBox OSE, KOffice suite, GIMP, gThumb, gxine, gFTP, Bluefish, Quanta, KAudioCreator, Kopete, KDE Bluetooth, a bunch of networking tools and printer packages added. English only edition. Improved isolinux bootsplash, with keyboard navigation to select a boot option, different wallpapers, fixed (non-critical) error messages when shutting down the system in live CD persist mode." Visit the project's home page to read the release announcement.
Pioneer Linux 2.1
An updated version of Pioneer Linux Basic, now based on the latest Kubuntu 7.04, has been released: "Technalign, Inc. has released Pioneer Basic 2.1 of its base Linux operating system. Pioneer Basic 2.1 is being released on DVD. Technalign will continue to ship Pioneer Basic 2.0 for those users who do not wish to purchase a DVD drive for their systems. Pioneer Basic 2.1 is similar to Basic 2.0 with several exceptions. The biggest exception is that Pioneer 2.1 is based on Feisty and not Edgy while it continues to be based on Kubuntu. Adept is no longer incorporated as the update manager, but is now replaced with Synaptic per the business and consumer communities. Also notable are the Guarddog Firewall as well as the KlamAV anti-virus utilities that have been added and OpenOffice.org 2.2." Read the full press release for further details.
Scientific Linux 5.0 Live CD
Urs Beyerle has announced the availability of a live CD edition of Scientific Linux 5.0: "Scientific Linux Live CD 5.0 has been released for i386 and x86_64 architectures. The Scientific Linux Live CD is a bootable CD that runs Scientific Linux directly from CD without installing. New feature: Live CD can be installed to local hard disk. Major software updates compared to Scientific Linux 4 Live CD: Linux kernel 2.6.18, OpenAFS client 1.4.4, X.Org 7.1, 3D desktop with Compiz and AIGLX, GNOME 2.16.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, Firefox 1.5. Additional features: can be installed on USB key; can be mounted over NFS (as diskless client)." Read the full release announcement and visit the live CD project page for further information.
VectorLinux 5.8 Live CD
Robert Lange has announced the final release of the live CD edition of VectorLinux 5.8 "Standard", as well as the first alpha of the live CD/DVD edition of VectorLinux 5.8 "SOHO": "The VectorLinux team is proud to announce the release of VectorLinux 5.8 Live CD and the first SOHO 5.8 alpha live CD and DVD. This is the final release for 5.8 standard GOLD live. The hard drive installer that has been problematic is fixed and should work well. The SOHO 5.8 alpha live comes in either CD or DVD editions. The DVD edition includes all that is in the SOHO 5.8 install release plus 62 additional language packs for KDE. The CD version has lost some functionality due to size constraints. The development tool chain and OpenOffice.org were removed." See the release announcement for full details.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Translations of the Top Ten Distributions page|
Many thanks to Vincent Rogister and Gilles Wallon who have translated the Top Ten Distributions page into French. The article is now available in 7 languages; besides English and French, you can also read it in Dutch, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish. Translations to other languages are most welcome - if you'd like to help, please email your work to distro at distrowatch dot com (preferably in plain text format using UTF-8 encoding).
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- BeaFanatIX. BeaFanatIX is an Ubuntu-based mini live CD with utilities borrowed from KNOPPIX. It is developed by a small group of developers who have forked the successful, but discontinued BeatrIX distribution and added new features and scripts. The main purpose of BeaFanatIX is to provide a small, installable live CD, with good documentation and easy-to-use applications for a variety of desktop tasks.
BeaFanatIX 2006.2 - an easy-to-use, Ubuntu-based mini live CD
(full image size: 913kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
- Granular Linux. Granular Linux is an easy-to-use, desktop Linux distribution based on PCLinuxOS. Its main features are a carefully selected set of applications for common tasks, the ability to customise the distribution, and the inclusion of two popular desktop environments - the flexible KDE and the lightweight Xfce.
Granular 0.25 is a new desktop distribution made in India
(full image size: 247kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
- Openfiler. Openfiler is a storage management operating system based on rPath Linux. It is powered by the Linux kernel and open source applications such as Apache, Samba, Linux Volume Management, ext3, Linux NFS and iSCSI enterprise target. Openfiler combines these ubiquitous technologies into a small, easy-to-manage solution fronted by a powerful web-based management interface. Openfiler allows building a Network Attached Storage (NAS) and/or Storage Area Network (SAN) appliance, using industry-standard hardware, in less than 10 minutes of installation time.
- Parted Magic. Parted Magic is a 30 MB live CD/USB/PXE with its elemental purpose being to partition hard drives. Although GParted and Parted are the main programs, the CD/USB also offers other applications, such as Partition Image, TestDisk, fdisk, sfdisk, dd, ddrescue, etc.
Parted Magic 1.7 uses the Xfce desktop
(full image size: 199kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 4 June 2007. Until then,
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 505 (2013-04-29): First look at PCLinuxOS 2013.04, Saucy Salamander, Remastersys and System Imager, Linux containers|
|• Issue 504 (2013-04-22): Look at Bodhi 2.3.0, Ubuntu 13.04 features, building OpenBSD ports, opening large files|
|• Issue 503 (2013-04-15): CentOS versus Scientific Linux, PCLinuxOS 64, Lucas Nussbaum, ZFS/Btrfs versus ext4|
|• Issue 502 (2013-04-08): Look at Mint 201303 "Debian", Ubuntu versus openSUSE, comparing ZFS and Btrfs file systems|
|• Issue 501 (2013-04-01): KANOTIX 2013 and GhostBSD 3.0, openSUSE Rescue-CD, Haiku package management, computer forensics|
|• Issue 500 (2013-03-25): Look at openSUSE 12.3, Ubuntu release changes, Debian backports, growing divide|
|• Issue 499 (2013-03-18): MINIX 3.2.1, openSUSE 12.3 on desktop, Ubuntu GNOME and UbuntuKylin, distros for musicians, KolibriOS|
|• Issue 498 (2013-03-11): Sabayon Linux 11, Ubuntu's Mir, Linux malware|
|• Issue 497 (2013-03-04): Rebellin Linux 1.00 "Adrenaline", rolling-release Ubuntu, Arch vs spin-offs, justification and diversity|
|• Issue 496 (2013-02-25): Review of Chakra 2013.02, The Book of GIMP, Ubuntu and privacy, FreeNAS vs NAS4Free|
|• Issue 495 (2013-02-18): SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra", Fedora 19 schedule, Xubuntu on DVD, cloud privacy|
|• Issue 494 (2013-02-11): FreeBSD 9.1, web server stats, Anaconda, rolling-release PC-BSD, fixing broken packages in Arch|
|• Issue 493 (2013-02-04): UberStudent 2.0, OmniBoot 1.0, MariaDB, Enlightenment 0.17|
|• Issue 492 (2013-01-28): Fedora 18 review, systemd, Kali Linux, Ubuntu Unleashed|
|• Issue 491 (2013-01-21): Fuduntu 2013.1, Fedora 18 desktop choices, Consort, accessing encrypted drive|
|• Issue 490 (2013-01-14): Look at Manjaro Linux 0.8.3, openSUSE on Chromebook, Able2Extract 8.0|
|• Issue 489 (2013-01-07): PC-BSD 9.1, Arch spin-offs, rolling-releases, year-end PHR stats, removing applications|
|• Issue 488 (2012-12-24): Reviews of Unity and Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko", FreeBSD 10|
|• Issue 487 (2012-12-17): Cinnarch 2012.11.22, OpenMandriva, Fedora Magazine, Tumbleweed, OpenJDK vs Oracle Java|
|• Issue 486 (2012-12-10): Linux Mint 14 review, Ubuntu "spyware" controversy, Haiku overview, troubleshooting Linux servers|
|• Issue 485 (2012-12-03): Kwort Linux 3.5, Mint bug-fix update, Fedora's new Anaconda, defining a distribution|
|• Issue 484 (2012-11-26): Look at SMS 2.0.1, Fedora pre-beta report, Illumos, Secure Boot update|
|• Issue 483 (2012-11-19): DragonFly BSD 3.2.1 and Xubuntu 12.10, Gentoo and udev, switching file systems|
|• Issue 482 (2012-11-12): Review of Zenwalk 7.2, Clang in FreeBSD, Omniboot 0.5, priorities on external drives|
|• Issue 481 (2012-11-05): Look at Tails 0.13, EFF on Ubuntu and privacy, Debian installer changes, ext4 data corruption bug|
|• Issue 480 (2012-10-29): Review of Ubuntu 12.10, Wayland 1.0, FreeBSD's pkgng|
|• Issue 479 (2012-10-22): Look at Zentyal 3.0, Debian bug reporting, initiating a halt|
|• Issue 478 (2012-10-15): Slackware 14.0 review, Ubuntu donations, connecting to multiple machines behind router|
|• Issue 477 (2012-10-08): Review of ODROID-X, OpenBSD's anti-Linux song, interview with Vincent Untz, Linux as operating system|
|• Issue 476 (2012-10-01): Review of openSUSE 12.2, Slackware 14.0 features, accessing home computer with SSH|
|• Issue 475 (2012-09-24): Look at PCLinuxOS 2012.08, Ubuntu and Amazon, SolusOS and PiSi, ownCloud|
|• Issue 474 (2012-09-17): Bodhi Linux 2.0.1, OpenIndiana interview, Frugalware history, update notifications|
|• Issue 473 (2012-09-10): The Linux Command Line, Slackware documentation project, Debian's new primary arch, Goobuntu|
|• Issue 472 (2012-09-03): Kororaa Linux 17, OpenIndiana and SchilliX, Ubuntu GNOME remix, home server tip|
|• Issue 471 (2012-08-27): Linux Mint 13 "KDE", Ubuntu 12.10 features, Slax update, folder quotas|
|• Issue 470 (2012-08-20): Liberté Linux 2012.2, Arch and systemd, NetBSD's sysbuild and sysupgrade, 19 years of Debian|
|• Issue 469 (2012-08-13): Peppermint OS Three, SUSE on Secure Boot, GNOME OS, moving email to Linux|
|• Issue 468 (2012-08-06): First look at CentOS 6.3, Debian installer beta, Fedora and MATE, Libtrash|
|• Issue 467 (2012-07-30): Ubuntu Made Easy, Debian "Jessie", OpenBSD on Secure Boot, Rawhide troubles|
|• Issue 466 (2012-07-23): Fuduntu 2012.3, Linux in PC-BSD jails, secure boot on older computers|
|• Issue 465 (2012-07-16): Netrunner 4.2, Mandriva's two codebases, firewalls and window frames|
|• Issue 464 (2012-07-09): Zorin OS 6, FSF's views on secure boot, Virtual PDF Printer|
|• Issue 463 (2012-07-02): TurnKey Linux 11.3, Red Hat and Btrfs, Sabayon's MATE spin, ZFS on Linux|
|• Issue 462 (2012-06-25): Sabayon 9, "Wheezy" freeze, Zorin OS overview, Vinux interview, mounting network shares|
|• Issue 461 (2012-06-18): Linux Mint 13, openSUSE 12. delays, Debian Multimedia, Mageia 3 roadmap|
|• Issue 460 (2012-06-11): Look at Fedora 17, PC-BSD and Slackware interviews, Openfiler and FuguIta|
|• Issue 459 (2012-06-04): Impressions of Mageia 2, Fedora updates, Debian or Raspberry Pie, improving software performance|
|• Issue 458 (2012-05-28): Impressions of SolusOS 1, Linux kernel 3.4, encrypting home folder|
|• Issue 457 (2012-05-21): Linux accessibility, Fedora 17 overview, MultiSystem, launching tasks|
|• Issue 456 (2012-05-14): Look at OpenBSD 5.1, Debian Installer 7.0 alpha, UDS news round-up|
|• Issue 455 (2012-05-07): Review of Ubuntu 12.04, "Quantal Quetzal" plans, Debian infographic|
|• Full list of all issues|