| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 210, 11 July 2007
Welcome to this year's 28th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The all-new Slackware Linux 12.0 should have been the major story of the week, but it was the release of Elive 1.0 that stole some of Slackware's thunder; we will take a quick look at the Enlightenment-powered desktop distribution, link to an interesting interview with the project's founder, and explain why DistroWatch provides direct download links to the Elive CD images. In other news, Fedora's Max Spevack talks about the future and vision of the popular distribution, Kubuntu's Jonathan Ridell explains why KDE 4 will not be the default desktop in Gutsy Gibbon, and Mandriva's Adam Williamson introduces NEPOMUK, a new social semantic desktop technology for KDE. All this and more in this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
First look at Elive 1.0 (by Susan Linton)
Elive has reach its first major milestone with its release of version 1.0. I've tested several versions of Elive over the last two years (or so), publishing my findings a few times. I haven't published a report on Elive since 0.5 and things have continued to improve. I've been testing Elive 1.0 for several days and certainly agree that this release is worthy of the full first release status.
Elive is built from Debian and features the Enlightenment desktop system. Being one of the first distributions to include E17, Elive's implementation is surely showing all the dedication of the team and the refinement gone into the unique look and feel. Elive is engineered with older computers in mind, giving those machines not only extended life but extended life with the all important eye candy. In a landscape of cookie cutter distros, every aspect of Elive is distinctive. They buck the trends and follow their own vision to unparalleled results. Elive is for the user who wishes to be different. Uninitiated folks looking over the shoulder of the Elive user is bound to wonder what in the world is that operating system and probably wish they had it on their machines.
The live CD
Elive is delivered as an installable 700 MB live CD. The different look appears at the boot screen. It matches the default theme rather well and features several boot options. "Default", "acpi_disabled", "failsafe", "16_Bit", "No graphical", "qemu", or "Boot from Harddisk" are among the choices. The silent boot is an exact match for the desktop wallpaper with a wait message displayed in the center and an occasional progress bar appearing under. During boot I was asked about which X server driver and screen resolution to use and NVIDIA with 3D acceleration was two of the choices (old and new). These were not actually available causing the boot process to stop. Next boot I chose "nv."
Soon one is dropped into an all new log-in screen, also dressed-up with impressive animations. The login cube drops in from the top of the screen, the desktop choice bar drops in and moves to the left, a time/date bar drops in and finds its place towards the left, and the shutdown button drops in, moves left, moves down, then moves right. It finally comes to rest in the bottom right corner. Hovering over the shutdown button causes a reboot button to appear at the far right and it moves to the left, stops, and moves back to overlap the shutdown button. Whether this is the work of the Enlightenment team or the Elive developers is unknown and, honestly, unimportant to me and probably other end users, but this is the only distro I've seen with anything like it.
The default theme desktop is somewhat familiar, we've seen it before. That wonderful bluish-gray land/skyscape background animated with twinkling stars is still present. There's a discreet translucent pager at the top right of the screen and a panel with quick launchers at the middle-bottom. Over at the bottom right are a temperature gauge and battery monitor. The panel is a work of art as well. Hovering over the application launchers causes the icons to pulse or grow slightly in size then returning to normal while a blue highlighting bar appears over the chosen icon. The menu has a speed-blur effect as one hovers over the entries. Many of the theme's highlights have a golden-brassy plate background. The default theme is nice, but the Night theme is even better.
Elive 1.0 Night theme
(full image size: 705kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Forming a connection with Elive and the Elive default theme, the updated Night theme wallpaper has a siloquette of the upper left quadrant of the Elive sun logo in slightly lighter color than the dark blue sea/skyscape background. Again the background is decorated with twinkling stars, but our desktop hover highlighter is a golden orb. Seems backwards to me. They should put the golden orb in default theme and put the blue bar in Night. The same basic elements are present: pager in upper corner, panel at the bottom, and applets in the bottom right corner. The menu here also has some special effects as one hovers their mouse cursor over the entries. The entries change from gray to Aqua-blue with a moving background blur of color and a 3D highlight.
One can enter edit mode at the desktop to move, rearrange, or resize each desktop element. One can even add or subtract "desktop modules" as desired. In the menu one finds the Enlightenment Configuration entry that opens a configuration panel. In there are many configuration choices. One can change the background, theme, icons, the monitor resolution, and desktop behavior. The most interesting configuration is the Extensions > Module Settings. It opens a window containing the various desktop modules. I like to add a CPUfreq monitor and clock. Using 'edit mode' I move and resize them to fit in nicely with the default applets.
Elive 1.0 Enlightenment configuration
(full image size: 665kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
In those hard-to-describe menus, one finds handy dandy applications for most computer tasks. Browsers include IceWeasel and eLinks; The Gimp, GQview, GTKam, Elicit, and Xsane round out the graphics; and multimedia applications include Cinelerra, MPlayer, XMMS, Rezound, Hydrogen, and Kino. The office applications are AbiWord, Gnumeric, a calculator, timer, PDF viewer, and a notepad. Thunderbird, Gaim, aMSN, XChat, and Transmission are some other communication applications. There are a few game emulators as well. Under the hood we find Linux 2.6.18, X.Org 7.1.1, and GCC 4.1.2. I had trouble with Cplay and Oxine not opening and the menu contains an orphan entry for OpenOffice.org. Other applications functioned very well. MPlayer included support for all the common video formats and IceWeasel came with all the expected plugins.
Also found in the menu is Elive's crowning jewel - the Elive Control Panel. Having the most unique appearance in the Linux world, this control panel does as most control panels do. From it one can configure their network, manage users, customize their desktops, configure hardware, and lots more. I found most modules worked really well for me including a networked printer and my inoperative sound. But it couldn't configure my wireless network, even after loading the Windows driver through NDISwrapper. It only supports WEP, and I didn't have much luck with that. Wired and natively supported wireless cards would probably work fine.
However, I could get wireless with WPA to work at the command line. Interestingly, WEP still wouldn't work at the command line. I wasn't able to ascertain why.
Another small issue was that my sound was not working upon boot or install of Elive. It appeared the correct modules were loaded, but apparently some support was missing. Using the Elive Control Panel audio configuration and selecting my soundcard from a choice list, I was prompted to confirm the installation of some additional software. After that my sound worked wonderfully.
The Installed System
I wasn't able to locate a menu entry for the installation of Elive to a hard disk. Searching around the binary directories I found
This graphical installer walks the user through the common steps needed to achieve an install: partitioning with GParted or cfdisk, target partition, file system preference, root password and user account, and bootloader options. Installation was very quick and I could even pass the time playing some offered light games such as Klondike or FreeCell.
Booting the new system on my HP Pavilion dv6105us includes the steps of picking a default theme, X.Org drivers, and screen resolution again. At first boot a window opens on the desktop stating that "fine tuning" is required. Clicking "OK" starts the process of reconfiguring packages using debconf. The output shows it is setting locales, background deamons, and updating the package database. My input was asked for time zone settings.
All live CD customizations are lost upon install, so at that point I configured my network by CLI, sound through Elive Control Panel, and set my desktop applets through the Enlightenment Configuration. Core temperature is monitored as well as battery status, but I had to once again resort to the command line to utlize CPU scaling. This involved loading the module for my processor and the CPUfreq modules I like to use. These are found at
At that point I issued the command
cpufreq-set -g ondemand
and my CPU wound down to 800 MHz. There is a GUI applet available through the Enlightenment Configuration > Extensions for monitoring that. Again, there isn't a GUI option for suspend or hibernate and I wasn't successful at the command line.
Being based on Debian and utilizing .deb packages, Elive logically includes Synaptic for its package management with software repositories pre-configured. It is found through the Elive Control Panel > System Administration. As is commonly experienced with Synaptic and high-quality distributions, it performed its tasks without issue.
Removable media is handled "automagically" and the Thunar file manager opens upon insertion. Right-clicking the media in the left-pane opens a menu of action options.
I love Elive and version 1.0 is a wonderful first full release. Just about everything works and works well. The system and applications are stable and fast performing and Elive looks exceptionally beautiful doing it. Elive comes with a well-rounded set of applications that form a fairly complete operating system. There are some great tools available for configuration of user and system options as well as package management. It stirs excitement with its beautiful look and animations. For the desktop I'd say it's complete and ready to go even for the Linux newcomer.
For the laptop user, Elive requires a bit of command line set-up and tinkering to get wireless and CPU scaling to function. WEP doesn't seem to work at all, at least in my case. Even with a moderate level of experience, I still had issues with suspend and hibernate. Elive probably wouldn't be the best choice for newcomers seeking a mobile solution.
Unusual for today's distributions, my sound didn't work out of the box and the graphics needed user input to be configured. The inclusion of an NVIDIA option in the graphics setup is a minor annoyance if chosen as the system just stops and the computer requires a hard reset. All in all, Elive is a very exciting system, but it still has a few areas in which it could improve.
Elive and Fedora interviews, Kubuntu and KDE 4, Mandriva's semantic desktop, Gentoo 2007.0 review
Contrary to what some readers might think, Elive is not just a Debian-based live CD with Enlightenment as the default desktop. According to this interview with Samuel "Thanatermesis" F. Baggen, the founder of this interesting project, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye: "Elive started as a live CD, but actually it's more a complete system than a live CD. This is why I have moved from Knoppix to Morphix, and after that to DSS (Debased Scripts Set). Elive has a very good installer with nice internal features, and its own repository with more than 400 packages." And of course, there is also the Elpanel: "I wrote Elpanel as a central control center for managing the entire Elive system. Elpanel has menus and icons to control the look and feel of the system, do some user configurations and general administration. The icons launch a separate but integrated Elpanel menu, with animations that tempt the eye. I have written many tools for Elive, some are visible applications, but most are shell scripts for auto-configuration." Read the full interview here.
* * * * *
Speaking about interviews, Fedora's Max Spevack has spoken to Technetra about the future of the distribution. One of the questions that came up was the reason for the relatively low rank (currently 4th) of Fedora on DistroWatch's page hit statistics. Max Spevack: "You know, I don't like the competition to see who has loudest fanboys. I have wanted to make Fedora cool, to make it work and make it good. This aligns with Red Hat's larger marketing belief that we're just going to make this software and eventually people will notice it's the best out there on merit. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about where we rank on DistroWatch or whatever. We collect and publish the statistics of how many IP addresses come back to yum looking for updates. We have a page that talks about those results and how reliable they are and where potential fudge factors are. I don't see any other big distribution trying to be that transparent." The full interview is available here.
* * * * *
The much-anticipated KDE 4 is scheduled for release on October 23rd, 2007, so it isn't unreasonable to expect most KDE-oriented distributions to include the new version with their forthcoming releases later this year. And indeed, openSUSE, Mandriva, Kubuntu and Fedora have all hinted that their next releases will come with KDE 4. At the same time, however, they also seem to lack confidence in making what could be a relatively unstable and poorly tested code the default desktop. As explained by Jonathan Riddell during the recent aKademy meeting, Kubuntu won't include KDE 4 as the default desktop for at least two releases: "This is due to the fact that the next version of Kubuntu (7.10 'Gutsy Gibbon'), will not include KDE 4 because it will not be ready by then. The version after Gutsy would be totally perfect for KDE 4, however, this version will be a Long Term Support (LTS) version. These specific Ubuntu versions are released every 18 - 24 months and aim at long term stability. Therefore they only include packages which are already in a pretty stable and reliable state. And Jonathan Riddell mentioned that he does not believe that KDE 4 will reach that state." Read the rest of the article here.
* * * * *
Still on the subject of KDE 4, Mandriva has sent out a press release announcing Mandriva's intention to integrate KDE 4 with NEPOMUK, a new semantic desktop technology: "What this means for KDE 4 is really a desktop-wide metadata layer: you can add metadata, like a description and a rating, to any object (objects can be files, of course, but also many other things), and the whole desktop is able to take advantage of it in whichever way is most appropriate for what you're doing at the time. It's a great technology and we're happy to be playing a leading role in developing it." If it all sounds a bit abstract and not quite clear what "semantic desktop" will mean for the end user, here are some resources that might help explain the term: Adam Williamson's blog post, the full press release with a subsequent discussion at Linux Weekly News, and a video illustrating NEPOMUK's capabilities.
* * * * *
DistroWatch is sometimes accused of focusing solely on negative news about Gentoo Linux, so here is something to balance that perception. In a full-page review of Gentoo Linux 2007.0 in the August 2007 issue of Linux Format, the reviewer, Neil Bothwick, was so impressed with the new release that he awarded the distribution 9 points out of ten. From the article: "The upside is that you have great control over what is installed. It is this control, rather than the ability to use insane compiler flags govern which features are enabled in the software you install, and by disabling features you don't need, you can save space, reduce dependencies, shorten program load times and even lessen your susceptibility to security holes. Building your own kernel is also made easy by the 'genkernel' tool used by the installer, or you can use this to configure your kernel manually. Portage contains almost 12,000 packages, so you won't be short of software." The author concludes: "If you want more control over your system and are prepared to make the extra effort, Gentoo could be just what you are looking for."
|Released Last Week
A new version of GeeXboX, a Linux-based movie player, has been released: "GeeXboX 1.1. Although development never stopped, more than a year has passed without any new official GeeXboX release. This new one is a really good candidate for your HTPC multimedia distribution choice. It comes with an improved hardware support, providing dozens of new drivers (a lot of new WiFi controllers, DVB card chipsets and new remote controls). It also comes with a massively upgraded and more stable MPlayer, which features native decoding of various audio and video formats that used to be available through non-free Win32 DLLs only. Also, GeeXboX now has some decoding speed improvements and the OSD menu has been completely rewritten to provide a lot of new attractive features." More details in the release announcement.
Slackware Linux 12.0
Slackware Linux 12.0 has been released: "Well folks, it's that time to announce a new stable Slackware release again. So, without further ado, announcing Slackware version 12.0! Since we've moved to supporting the 2.6 kernel series exclusively (and fine-tuned the system to get the most out of it), we feel that Slackware 12.0 has many improvements over our last release and is a must-have upgrade for any Slackware user. Here are some of the advanced features of Slackware 12.0: runs the 220.127.116.11 version of the Linux kernel; system binaries are linked with the GNU C Library, version 2.5; X11 7.2.0; Apache 2.2.4 web server with Dynamic Shared Object support, SSL, and PHP 5.2.3; the udev dynamic device management system; updated versions of the Slackware package management tools...." Read the rest of the release announcement for full details.
Damn Small Linux 3.4
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Damn Small Linux 3.4: "Damn Small Linux 3.4 is now released. Final change log: updated MurgaLua to v0.4.1; added libXft.so.2; added acpid, Use boot option 'acpid'; added bcrypt, dropped des; improved emelfm for better CLI support; fixed user umount Debian Woody bug; updated webdata to use bcrypt; updated file backup and restore to use bcrypt via 'protect' boot option; new image has been added: dsl-3.4-initrd.iso. I took a little side trip while working on 4.0 to make a much asked-for version of DSL. The initrd.iso version has the KNOPPIX image packed in the initial ramdisk. This means it is very easy to setup a PXE DSL server. It also means the entire system always loads into RAM. You will need 128MB RAM for this edition." Here is the full release announcement.
Granular Linux 0.90
Anurag Bhandari has announced the release of Granular Linux 0.90, a user-friendly desktop distribution based on PCLinuxOS: "I am pleased to announce the availability of Granular 0.90. Granular is a Linux operating system that is easy to use, user-friendly and filled with fun. For newbies in the world of Linux who want to explore and play around with Linux, Granular is a must try. At the same time, it is well suited to the regular Linux users. Through the various applications included in Granular, you can surf the Internet, write articles, make presentations, chat with friends, listen to music, play games, manage images and much more. Another notable feature of Granular is that it unites the KDE and the Xfce desktop environments onto one CD." Read the release announcement and release notes for further information.
Samuel Baggen has announced the release of Elive 1.0, a Debian-based distribution featuring the Enlightenment desktop: "After a long wait, the first official stable version of Elive, 1.0, has finally been released. This version is ready for the end users and not just hard core testers. It is a more intuitive, efficient and easy-to-use system. It has better integration of the file manager and the mime types, a nice kernel especially for multimedia and big process loads, a light-weight foot print, much better compatibility with Windows system, more hardware supported, better graphical recognition, and many more things that you can find in the complete changelog." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Rocks Cluster Distribution 4.3
Version 4.3 of Rocks Cluster, a specialist distribution based on CentOS, has been released: "Rocks v4.3 is released for i386 and x86_64 CPU architectures. New features: Rocks command line - initial release of the Rocks command line which facilitates non-SQL administrative access to the database; PXE First - hosts can now be configured in BIOS with a boot order of CD, PXE, hard disk. Enhancements: based on CentOS 4.5 and all updates as of July 4, 2007; Anaconda installer updated to 10.1.1.63; performance improvement when building torrent files for the Avalanche Installer; database indirects, more flexibility with Rocks variables; Globus updated to gt4.0.4 with web services...." See the release announcement for a full list of changes and enhancements.
Zenwalk Live 4.6
Michael Verret has announced the release of Zenwalk Live 4.6, the live CD edition of Zenwalk Linux: "We are pleased to announce the release of Zenwalk Live 4.6. This version is based on Zenwalk Linux 4.6 and compliments the security, speed and stability you've come to expect from Zenwalk. In addition to the selection of software and tools provided by the standard edition of Zenwalk, included in this Live edition are the GParted graphical hard disc partitioning software, system recovery tools and much more. On the desktop, Xfce 4.4.1 is provided complete with notification support to let systems like udev notify the user about auto-mounted devices such as USB keys, DVD, etc. The Thunar file manager now handles video thumbnails and many new panel plugins have been added or updated." Here is the complete release announcement.
Zenwalk Live 4.6 - a Slackware-based live CD featuring the latest Xfce
(full image size: 755kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Ultima Linux 8.2
Martin Ultima has announced the release of Ultima Linux 8.2, a desktop Linux distribution based on Slackware: "After over a year and a half of intensive development, the Ultima Linux developers are pleased to announce the Ultima Linux 8.2 (codename 'Godot') release. This is our first major new version since the 8.1 Beta release last year, and the first stable release since all the way back in January 2006. Among other features included in this release: first stable release with full AMD64 support; improved live CD with integrated, easy-to-use live CD installer; Linux kernel 18.104.22.168 with built-in SMP support; X.Org R7.2 (pre-release) with ATI/NVIDIA proprietary drivers; KDE 3.5.7 desktop with full auto-mounting (HAL/D-Bus); beautifully redesigned default desktop; play MP3s, CDs, DVDs, and more right 'out of the box'...." Read the complete release announcement for more information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Parsix GNU/Linux 0.90r1
Alan Baghumian has published the release schedule of the upcoming first revision of Parsix GNU/Linux 0.90. Expected on August 3rd, Parsix 0.90r1 will be the distribution's first release with native support for AMD64 processors.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
"Shame on you, DistroWatch!"|
The above is the title of a recent blog post by Thom Holwerda from OSNews. The author found it "uncourteous" and "ungentlemanly" that DistroWatch had published a direct download link to Elive 1.0 CD images in its news item last week - that's despite the fact that the developers of the distribution did not provide any direct download links on their download page. He also asserted that "this is a very lame thing to do" and that he "will be sure to not link to any DistroWatch story until this situation is resolved."
First, a couple of corrections from the post:
Is it disrespectful of DistroWatch to provide direct download links to the Elive CD images? Yes, absolutely - and I agree with Mr Holwerda on this point. However, I don't believe it is any more disrespectful than twisting the meaning of the word "donation" or providing non-existent links to a slow download server which, oops, is down and has been down for weeks. I have no problem with the Elive developer wanting to make money out of his hard work, but then he should be straightforward about it and go commercial, instead of playing these ridiculous "you must donate" and "feel guilty if I starve to death" games. Or he should come up with a better way of distributing his work than "hiding" it in randomly named "dot" directories on public FTP servers. That's my view anyway, but of course you are welcome to disagree with it.
- Thanatermesis has never asked DistroWatch not to post direct download links to the stable Elive CD images. I am in regular contact with the Elive developer and I've just checked all his recent emails (just to be sure), but I couldn't find a single one (let alone "numerous requests") where he would ask me not to post these links. So either he is lying to Mr Holwerda, or Mr Holwerda is lying in his blog. Also, I have explained Thanatermesis why his compulsory donations scheme was a bad idea, but he dismissed it on the basis that there was always a slow server for those who can't or don't want to donate. Of course, now the slow server is gone, but the compulsory donation system is still in place...
- In six years of its existence, DistroWatch has never hosted any ISO images of any distribution, including Elive. Again, somebody is making things up.
Finally -- since Mr Holwerda portrays DistroWatch as a backstabbing organisation with little respect for other people's work while picturing OSNews as a moral-high-ground holding bastion of purity and innocence, here is a question to the author of the blog post: DistroWatch has donated close to US$14,000 to open source software projects over the last three years. How about OSNews, Mr Holwerda?
* * * * *
It's that time of the year when your DistroWatch maintainer likes to take a break from his work to enjoy some white sandy beaches and picture postcard sunsets in the South Pacific. This means that, starting from this Wednesday, July 11th, until Saturday, July 29th, DistroWatch will be in the capable and experienced hands of Dr W T Zhu and Susan Linton. Enjoy the ride!
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 16 July 2007. Until then,
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|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|