| 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 555 (2014-04-21): Robolinux 7.4.2, Ubuntu release day stats, Debian security, Porteus update|
|• Issue 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• Issue 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|