| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 215, 13 August 2007
Welcome to this year's 33rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It was a great week for all those who enjoy testing open source software; not only are all the major Linux distributions busy readying their upcoming releases, the two main desktop environments, GNOME and KDE, are also keeping us interested in their latest desktop innovations. The openSUSE project especially has been generating plenty of news; it has published an update to its online software installation service and has released a new openSUSE live CD set. To add to the growing presence of openSUSE in the headlines, we have asked Stephan Kulow, the new Project Manager who took over in the middle of July, a few questions about the distribution's future direction. Also in this issue: ex-Gentoo's Daniel Robbins talks about the Portage package manager and DragonFly BSD's Matthew Dillon defends the BSD licence. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in mp3 (5.9MB) format (many thanks to Jim Putman).
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Interview with Stephan Kulow, openSUSE Project Manager
On 18 July 2007, Andreas Jaeger announced that he had handed the openSUSE project management reigns over to Stephan Kulow: "I'm glad to announce that I have given over my responsibilities for the openSUSE distribution to Stephan Kulow. As from now on Stephan is project manager for the openSUSE distribution. Stephan -- known also as Coolo -- the 'born release dude', has been with Novell/SUSE for five years. Before that he worked on Linux distributions at Caldera. His wide experience in Linux includes the dinosaurs (called s390), desktop technology (KDE), several build systems (including his own at Caldera), and SUSE tools like package translation."
We contacted Stephan to ask him a few questions about his past involvement with Linux and his future plans for the openSUSE distribution.
* * * * *
DW: Stephan, thank you very much for taking a few minutes off from your busy release schedule. Andreas Jaeger's announcement mentioned that you had been with Novel/SUSE for five years prior to which you used to work at Caldera. Can you expand on that? What exactly have you been doing at Novell and what is your area of expertise/interest?
SK: Since 1997 I have been working on the KDE project, mainly hacking libraries and doing release coordination. The Linux community was still pretty small back then, so while doing KDE releases I had good contacts with quite a few Linux distributions. In the summer of 1999 I was looking for a job I could do for two months as my girlfriend went on a long-planned US trip. Caldera had just introduced a graphical installer programmed using Qt and it was a very fascinating time helping to do a second version. But I noticed one thing that might be specific to me: building a Linux distribution is terribly fascinating. Since then there was no way back.
I finished my studies on the topic on large software distributions, wrote a build server for RPMs and started working for Caldera. I spend some months on KDE-away topics, such as tool chain, glibc and kernel power management. After Caldera stopped developing its own distribution, most of the German developers, including me, started working for SUSE in 2002. I worked mainly on the KDE desktop since then, but also worked on the code affecting the desktop from below, e.g. by improving the boot time in various ways.
DW: What did your first days as openSUSE Project Manager were like?
SK: My first action as Project Manager was to release Alpha 6, which had quite a few rough edges, so I had to learn quickly how to get the best out of it. Besides that, I had to get access to about 10 different repositories and subscribe to a half a dozen notification mailing lists and they are still coming. But slowly I think I am taking control and I'm the one controlling the beast, not the other way around.
DW: Can you describe your feelings when you finally uploaded all the Alpha 6 images and announced their availability to the world? Is this process just a routine part of your work or are there any emotions involved too?
SK: It's always mixed feelings. You want to get the release out to get testing and at the same time the mirrors are fetching the images you find three new bugs. And with this very release it was of course interesting what you can forget. We have documentation on how to do it in case the release manager is out of office, but it's always the same with documentation: it's too easy to forget something.
DW: From where I sit it looks like openSUSE 10.3 is a highly anticipated release, mainly because we have had no stable openSUSE version since December last year. Where does openSUSE stand in terms of its release cycle? Will this 9-month gap between new versions stay or will you follow other popular distributions which seem to have standardised on one stable release every six months?
SK: Yes, 10.3 was a bit later than usual. As openSUSE isn't the only product SUSE releases, we'll have to be flexible with our release cycles and will stay this way. But our goal is definitely to get out a release every 7 to 9 months. With the projects in the openSUSE build service we found a great way to shorten the waiting period since you can always get the latest Xgl, GNOME, KDE or Firefox for the latest released product. So we'll continue trying to find a balance between having regular releases and giving bigger changes more time.
DW: Another reason for the great expectations from openSUSE 10.3 is the fact that it promises to come in a variety of installation media; besides the traditional CD/DVD media, it will also be available in the form of an installable live CD and single-CD installation CD (correct?). How far are the developers with delivering these new products?
SK: Yes, I very welcome the one-CD installation (one for GNOME and one for KDE) and my guess is that it will be the favourite medium for most users as you can download a small medium and then choose what you want to download additionally. No need to download another major desktop if you only need one. But the DVD will still be there for those that prefer having everything in their home. What we won't continue offering is the set of five CDs - we only leave the add-on CDs.
The installable live CD will be an experiment as something that came out of the Novell "hackweek". They kind of work, but we put way more development and testing into the one-CD installations than in the live CDs. We'll put more work in the installable part in the following release.
The first test build of openSUSE 10.3 Live CD was released last weekend
(full image size: 585kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
DW: I recently tested a number of popular distributions and found that openSUSE 10.2 was the slowest to boot by far. Will we see any improvements in this respect?
SK: Unfortunately, boot times depend a lot on the hardware setup. I did tests myself and I couldn't find a single distribution that booted faster on my machine than 10.3. That still doesn't mean that it will be the fastest on your hardware, but my hopes are high. I would be glad to hear some feedback.
DW: You are right, 10.3 alpha 7 boots much faster than 10.2, even on my hardware. What's the reason?
SK: We optimised the way we start the display managers. And we reviewed every piece of the boot process to see whether it's doing what it should do.
DW: What other interesting new features will we find in version 10.3?
Some things that cross my mind: we'll have the FTP tree available during installation, also for the DVD and the CD media; we'll include a preview version of KDE4; we're still working on improving the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, one of the 3G mobile phone technologies) experience. We'll have of course tons of new versions of open source packages since 10.2, which will bring in plenty of new features; for a detailed list see Factory/News
DW: Is the upcoming openSUSE 10.3 a distribution that will form a basis for Novell's enterprise products? I have to admit that I am not always clear on the relationship between openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server (SLES/SLED). Is there somebody at Novell who decides - hey, it's time for a new enterprise release, so we want the next openSUSE to be extremely stable and well-tested. How does this process work?
SK: It almost works as you describe. We define a release cycle for the enterprise products and then fit openSUSE releases into it. As I described above, this is the main reason we do not have a fixed release cycle for openSUSE. And 10.3 will not be the base of another enterprise release itself. We will reuse some of the developments and integrate it into the second service pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 though.
DW: openSUSE has always been a highly polished and good-looking distro, but sometimes I miss that "wow" effect that comes with a brand new artwork or theme. Fedora has been doing a great job in this respect, so will we see a new, awesome, stylish artwork in openSUSE 10.3?
SK: We integrated new artwork with openSUSE 10.3 Alpha 7 and many, many like it. I hope you do too.
DW: Will it be possible to upgrade 10.2 to 10.3 over the network, without having to download any CD/DVD images?
SK: No, we do not support that yet. You have to download a mini ISO at least, but we only support updates from out of the system. We're constantly looking into making it easier to update from one version to another. Updating from within the system (and that's what you're asking for) is a different kind of problem than updating the system itself.
DW: What is your personal stance on the issue of proprietary graphics drivers? Some distributions are making it easy for the end user to install these drivers, while others insist that adhering to the principals of software freedom is more important than attracting less technical computer users to Linux. Can you comment on this?
SK: My personal stance is that users should prefer buying hardware from companies supporting open source. Having said that, I had no problem following the instructions on opensuse.org. But I personally rather avoid 3D than breaking my system on a regular basis and that's what happened to me with the binary drivers. But I'm a special case here as I follow the development versions of openSUSE and there are usually no binary drivers provided for such versions. They work great for released products in most cases though.
DW: What will you do differently from your predecessor as openSUSE Project Manager? Do you have any personal wish list that you intend to follow and implement? In other words, will your personality, management style and interest influence the final product? If so, in what way?
SK: Andreas' background is within the glibc and GCC projects, mine is from within the KDE project. So I think there might be a different focus, but don't expect a revolution.
DW: Stephan, thank you very much for your answers and all the best with openSUSE 10.3.
DistroWatch in Asia
Continuing with the statistical analyses of visits on DistroWatch.com and evaluating the readership changes in different countries and territories, today we look at the numbers of visitors coming from the Asian continent. While Japan has been maintaining the top position since the beginning of this web site, it's interesting to note the dramatic growth of readership in the two most populous countries in the world - China and India. With a handful of exceptions, the number of readers visiting DistroWatch has been on the increase and a total number of Asian-based readers have grown by more than 20% since a year ago. Please note that only countries and territories with more than 1,000 visits during the months of January to July of 2007 are listed in the table. (The figures are obtained courtesy of the GeoLite Country IP-to-country database from Maxmind which claims an accuracy of 98%.)
||Hong Kong (HK)
||South Korea (KR)
||Saudi Arabia (SA)
||United Arab Emirates (AE)
||Sri Lanka (LK)
||Brunei Darussalam (BN)
Development release galore, openSUSE updates, Daniel Robbins on Gentoo's Portage, DragonFly BSD interview
For those of you who enjoy testing development releases and filing bug reports, last week provided one of the biggest feasts on record. The first betas of openSUSE 10.3 and Mandriva Linux 2008, the first test build of Fedora 8 and the fourth alpha of Ubuntu 7.10, all these in a matter of just a couple of days - it rarely gets any better than this! On top of it, the developers of MEPIS Linux announced a new test release of their live DVD, complete with the first beta of KDE 4, while the upcoming initial beta of GNOME 2.20, scheduled for release this Wednesday and likely to be incorporated into this week's development release of Foresight Linux, will ensure that a steady string of test releases continues in the foreseeable future. Although it's still August, a month traditionally reserved for holidays in many parts of the world, it looks like the development of Linux and open source software continues at a neck-breaking speed.
Despite all this excitement, there is one worrying trend that I've been observing in recent years. With each passing year, it seems that fewer and fewer Linux users are interested in downloading and testing any development releases of distributions. Looking back at the late nineties and the early years of this century, each beta release of a major distro was accompanied by tremendous anticipation and followed by endless discussions on user forums and mailing lists. Nowadays, however, that sort of healthy exchange of ideas and suggestions is largely limited to just a few loyal users. The rest of us seem to be quite content to wait for the final release before downloading and installing the new product.
So here is a topic for this week's discussion: did you download and install any of the above-mentioned development releases during the past week? If so, did you do it merely out of curiosity or did you put it through rigorous testing in order to file bug reports? Have you ever opened a Bugzilla account at your favourite project? If not, why not? Is this a case of "too many releases, too little time"? Please discuss below.
* * * * *
Of all the main distributions, openSUSE seems to be the busiest at the moment. Following the first beta release of openSUSE 10.3, the project's developers have announced the availability of an improved software search and installation interface, as well as a one-click installation YaST module: "The interface provides a very easy installation featuring the 1-Click Installation YaST module of Benjamin Weber. This means the installation of any package can be started by a single click. YaST will show which repositories are used and which packages will be installed; the dependency solving is also all done automatically by YaST. There is no need to do these steps manually anymore." Also announced late last week: a set of openSUSE 10.3 live CDs, with either GNOME or KDE. Although still in early testing and lacking the ability to be installed on a hard disk (correction: a new "LiveInstaller" module is available in the "Miscellaneous" section of YaST; type "linux" for root password), the new live media are a welcome addition to the growing list of openSUSE products for a variety of purposes.
* * * * *
Another week and another link to an article at Funtoo, a blog maintained by the founder and former chief architect of Gentoo Linux, Daniel Robbins. This time it's all about Portage (the venerable Gentoo package manager) and its increasingly sluggish performance: "One challenge that Portage is facing is that it is essentially trying to achieve several divergent goals - be a ports system for a meta-distribution and also provide a good and safe user experience for Gentoo users. In some cases, Portage can't really do a good job in both areas at the same time. Here's why. As a meta-distribution, Gentoo can have very complex dependency chains. However, as a user-focused distribution, you kind of want the dependency chains in Gentoo to be as straightforward and elegant as possible, without any weird conflicts - in other words, have developers do a lot of the heavy lifting to make dependencies less-fine grained and eliminate strange corner cases and blockers. Yet this hard work impacts the ability of Gentoo developers to keep the Portage tree up-to-date." The story was prompted by the author's tests revealing that an older version of Portage performed better than a more recent one and that the Beagle search engine was partly responsible for the application's sluggishness on the latest release of Sabayon Linux. Read more in this report.
* * * * *
KernelTrap has published an interview with Matthew Dillon, the founder of DragonFly BSD: "Matthew Dillon created DragonFly BSD in June of 2003 as a fork of the FreeBSD 4.8 code base. In this interview, Matthew discusses his incentive for starting a new BSD project and briefly compares DragonFly to FreeBSD and the other BSD projects. He goes on to discuss the new features in today's DragonFly 1.10 release. He also offers an in-depth explanation of the project's cluster goals, including a thorough description of his ambitious new clustering file system. Finally, he reflects back on some of his earlier experiences with FreeBSD and Linux, and explains the importance of the BSD license." A recommended read to anybody interested in the BSD family of operating systems or to those who wonder about the differences between the BSD license and the General Public Licence (GPL).
|Released Last Week
DragonFly BSD 1.10
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 1.10: "DragonFly 1.10 has been released!" From the release notes: "1.10 is our sixth major DragonFly release. Several big-ticket items are present in this release. Our default ATA driver has been switched to NATA (ported from FreeBSD). NATAs big claim to fame is support for AHCI which is the native SATA protocol standard. It is far, far better than the old ATA/IDE protocol. DragonFly now has non-booting support for GPT partitioning and 64-bit disklabels. Non-booting means we don't have boot support for these formats yet. DragonFly's Light Weight Process abstraction is now finished and working via libthread_xu but the default threading library is not quite ready to be changed from libc_r yet." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Absolute Linux 12.0.1
Paul Sherman has announced the availability of Absolute Linux 12.0.1, a light-weight modification of Slackware Linux with IceWM: "Absolute Linux 12.0.1 released." From the changelog: "Kernel recompiled to support i586 CPUs (Pentium-1 and K6-2); K3b 1.0.3 updated for bug fixes, including one device error that could prevent application start-up; Firefox 188.8.131.52 and separate Absolute custom Firefox start-up scripts; Java, JRE version 6 update 2; Sylpheed 2.4.4; Lame and FFmpeg libraries recompiled; UFRaw plugin for GIMP now included by default; NVIDIA xconfig utility now included; Mail notification setup now restarts IceWM to take effect immediately; XFS file system now an additional formatting option upon install; RAR files have a handler under ROX now; GIMP 2.2.17 updated to include font path of data extras." Here is the full release announcement.
Bluewhite64 Linux 12.0 Live DVD
A live DVD edition of Bluewhite64 Linux 12.0, a 64-bit variant of Slackware Linux, has been released: "Bluewhite64 Linux 12.0 Live DVD runs entirely from DVD and includes all packages from Bluewhite64 Linux 12.0 (except the Y and KDEi software series) and the updated packages from the patches directory. Also, in addition to this version, I have included extra packages created by the Bluewhite64 Linux community. The DVD includes the latest stable SMP Linux kernel 184.108.40.206 with advanced features. It is designed to bring a modern Linux desktop to 64-bit architectures, including the modularized X.Org 7.2 with Compiz and Beryl, the award-winning KDE 3.5.7, OpenOffice.org 2.2, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird 220.127.116.11, Swaret 1.6.3 and Qtswaret 0.1.5-3 package managers...." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Sabayon Linux 3.4e
Fabio Erculiani has announced the availability of an updated release of Sabayon Linux 3.4: "We are happy to announce Sabayon Linux 3.4 Revision E. Distribution updates: introduced a (teaser) pre-alpha release of the Entropy stack (Equo application); updated Portato to 0.8.0; updated Compiz Fusion to work with XGL and AMD/ATI cards; updated WINE to 0.9.42 and fixed Wine Doors; re-introduced sudo after install; updated Second Life to 18.104.22.168; fixed partitioning issues on some system caused by dmraid stack (disabled by default now); re-introduced old and stable ipw3945 driver; updated pommed to 1.7 (better MacBook support); re-introduced old bcm43xx wireless driver." Read the release announcement for further details.
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.16
Guardian Digital has announced the release of EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.16: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.16. This release includes many updated packages and bug fixes, some feature enhancements to Guardian Digital WebTool and the SELinux policy, and a few new features. What's New? EnGarde Secure Linux now has support for KVM, the Kernel-based Virtual Machine; limited support for the new ext4 file system; updated PCI tables and hardware detection system, which allows for much better detection of more recent hardware; several new packages such as ImageMagick (6.3.1), alsa-lib (1.0.14a), aspell (0.60.5)...; the latest stable versions of Asterisk (1.4.9), ClamAV (0.91.1), cURL (7.16.4), Dovecot (1.0.2)...." Read the release notes for detailed information about the latest version.
Linux Mint 3.0 "Xfce"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of the Xfce Community edition of Linux Mint 3.0: "This is the first Xfce release of Linux Mint. It is based on Cassandra and comes with the following mint tools: mintInstall, mintDisk, mintWifi, xfcemintConfig, xfcemintDesktop. Although similar to the main edition, the Xfce Community edition runs faster and takes fewer resources. It is ideal for older computers. The default software selection includes: OpenOffice.org 2.2.0, Firefox 22.214.171.124, Thunderbird 126.96.36.199... Notable differences with the main edition are: the presence of Exaile which replaces Amarok; the Xfce desktop replaces GNOME; Wicd replaces Network Manager." More details are available in the release notes.
Freespire 2.0 has been released: "Freespire 2.0 is immediately available; the latest version of the free desktop Linux operating system. Building on the best of open source software using Ubuntu as its baseline, Freespire 2.0 adds legally licensed proprietary drivers, codecs, and applications in its core distribution, to provide a better user experience. Freespire is able to provide improved out-of-the-box hardware, file type, and multimedia support, such as MP3, Windows Media, Real Networks, Java, Flash, ATI, NVIDIA, WiFi, and many more. Freespire is also the first desktop Linux operating system that will include a CNR plugin for the soon-to-be-released new CNR Service, providing free one-click access to thousands of open source applications." Read the full release announcement for more information.
Freespire 2.0 - a new Ubuntu-based distribution with proprietary bits
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- MidnightBSD. MidnightBSD is a FreeBSD derived operating system. A critical goal of the project is to create an easy-to-use desktop environment with graphical ports management, and system configuration using GNUstep. The vast majority of the operating system will maintain a BSD license. MidnightBSD was forked from FreeBSD 6.1 beta.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 20 August 2007.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 682 (2016-10-10): KDE neon 20160915, Android-x86 6.0, Fedora warns of update bug, HandyLinux drops English translation, LXQt benchmarks|
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|• Issue 676 (2016-08-29): Korora 24, Fedora 25 to use Wayland by default, Linux turns 25, PC-BSD becomes TrueOS, finding software licensing information|
|• Issue 675 (2016-08-22): Gentoo LiveDVD "Choice Edition", moreutils, Ubuntu improves terminal convergence, MATE packaged for Openindiana, FreeBSD improves video support|
|• Issue 674 (2016-08-15): Zenwalk Linux 8.0, Ubuntu phone follow-up, Lubuntu transitioning to LXQt, Steam running on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 673 (2016-08-03): noop linux and EasyNAS, Debian's GnuPG switch, Fedora "Flock", using "nice"|
|• Issue 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
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|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
|• Issue 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
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|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
|• Issue 658 (2016-04-25): Kali Linux 2016.1, elementary OS 0.3.2, Debian elects Project Leader, Fedora 24 feature preview, Nard reaches 1.0|
|• Issue 657 (2016-04-18): Redox, Linux Mint improves update manager, planned Fedora 24 features, Ubuntu 16.04 getting Snappy packages|
|• Issue 656 (2016-04-11): Qubes OS 3.1, Whonix offers bug bounties, Puppy's family tree, setting up disk partitions and running bash on Windows|
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|• Issue 650 (2016-02-29): Haiku in 2016, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, 30 years of MINIX, Fedora plans Atomic Workstation|
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|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
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|• Issue 646 (2016-02-01): deepin 15, Mint plans X-Apps, FreeBSD to support boot environments, logging into the desktop as root|
|• Issue 645 (2016-01-25): Linux Mint 17.3 "Xfce", Chromixium changes its name, Ubuntu tablets coming soon, Linux vs BSD comparision|
|• Issue 644 (2016-01-18): Kwort 4.3, Sabayon tests ARM images, Slackware adopts PulseAudio, running Linux without GNU software|
|• Issue 643 (2016-01-11): Solus 1.0, Mint provide upgrade path to 17.3, Fedora developers work on stability, running the LXQt desktop|
|• Full list of all issues|
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