| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 216, 20 August 2007
Welcome to this year's 34th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Another busy week of beta testing ahead, with Mandriva, openSUSE and Ubuntu all readying their latest development builds to be released later this week. In the news section: the Ubuntu developers worry about regressions in Compiz Fusion, Puppy Linux introduces experimental features, NimbleX delivers a world's first 100 MB live CD with KDE, and Trustix Secure Linux finds itself being slowly abandoned - both by its developers and its users. In the featured article of the week we'll take a look at the current status of Gentoo Linux and question the project's ever increasing complexity. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in mp3 (7.4MB) format (many thanks to Jim Putman)
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Gentoo Linux - power versus complexity
Those readers who follow DistroWatch Weekly know that I replace my main production distribution every six months in order to better evaluate the different products on the market. Right now I am on Sabayon Linux; more so by accident than intention, but it has been working well, so I can't complain. However, as a general rule, I prefer to stay with larger, more prominent distributions rather than these small-team development efforts. The reason? All the big ones provide security and bug-fix updates, usually through an easy-to-use online update utility integrated into their desktops.
Unfortunately, building security updates for a distribution is often seen as a boring, unglamorous task that many developers would rather avoid. As a result, most distributions with small development teams (including Sabayon) don't provide any and if you are concerned about this, you have to find your own solution. The good news is that with Sabayon you aren't completely abandoned; since it is based on Gentoo and all the usual Gentoo tools are included, ensuring that your Sabayon system is up-to-date is not that hard - even if it isn't exactly a one-click proposition.
So after running Sabayon Linux 3.3 without any updates since about April, I finally decided last week to do some security and version updates on the system. Using Gentoo's "emerge" command, things went well and I was pleased with the outcome. Encouraged by this success (bear in mind that the last time I played with Gentoo was several years ago and many things have changed since then), I even attempted to upgrade the entire system - over a thousand packages. This didn't go as smoothly - a few packages (about twenty or so) refused to compile, although the vast majority upgraded just fine.
Unfortunately, a major disaster struck at a most inopportune moment. While the emerge upgrade was going on in the background, my screen froze! This -- as I found out later -- was caused by a faulty memory module, so it had nothing to do with either Sabayon or Gentoo, but a hard reset was still the only course of action I could take. After removing the faulty RAM block from the motherboard, I was finally able to start the machine - only to be greeted with a boot failure due to a missing libpam.so library!
I am not going to bore you with all the details of what I did next, but here is a short recap: I rebooted into my Fedora 7 installation on the second hard disk and tried (and failed) to repair the Sabayon/Gentoo system, before deciding that the best course of action would be to re-install Sabayon Linux. Or more precisely, install the latest version, since the developers have since released Sabayon Linux 3.4. This went fine and soon I was running and enjoying the very latest version of the distribution. After that I reached for the "emerge" command once again in order to install a few applications which I need on my desktop, but which are not present on the 4 GB Sabayon DVD: the Apache web server, Liferea, GnuCash, Gnumeric, Mutt, SpamAssassin, gFTP, etc.
I learnt a lot about Gentoo during the past week. I admired the well-oiled machinery of thousands of software applications neatly packaged to work together flawlessly. I appreciated the power of the emerge command, I marvelled at the ingenuity of the USE variables, I enjoyed the many configuration options and system utilities. On the other hand, I was also frequently lost, like a child walking through a toy store trying to decide what to buy. Those who have used Gentoo for years would probably disagree with me, but for a new Gentoo convert, the complexity of the operating system is nothing short of overwhelming and the famous Gentoo documentation, as I was to find out, is not without its flaws either.
Here is an example. It took me a while to install Apache with PHP and SQLite support. This was done with "emerge apache", followed by "emerge php"; however, before the latter command, I had to make sure that the USE variable included "apache2" and "sqlite". Now, why "apache2" if the package itself is called "apache"? The next question was - since there are about five (if not more) different ways to enable the said USE variables, which one should I choose? Sure, the Gentoo project provides a long document explaining in detail all the different options, but did I really want to spend an hour or two studying it? In the end I just randomly picked one of the options without really knowing what would be the correct or best in my circumstances. Various other "gotchas" accompanied several other installations and I often found myself recompiling a certain piece of software several times just to enable a needed functionality.
In the end, I have to admit that I enjoyed the experience. Although I barely touched the surface of Gentoo Linux, it's clear to me why so many power users prefer to run it - its customisability and sheer power are unparalleled anywhere in the world of operating systems. The ability to tweak and tune it to one's exact needs is another attraction that many Linux power users will enjoy.
That said, one has to ask the old question: is it all worth the time and effort? You can easily spend weeks learning Gentoo, but you still won't know everything. Worse, much of this knowledge is useless outside of Gentoo - if one day you find yourself in a situation where you have to run a different distribution, all those specialist Gentoo commands and the location of the Gentoo configuration files will mean nothing. Sure, this is also true -- to an extent -- of other distributions, but Gentoo has probably taken this specialisation further than any other operating system. And that's before we start talking about all the alternative, less often used tools that also exist in the Portage tree...
Gentoo hasn't always been this complex. But the nature of the distribution and its attractiveness to the more technical users and developers means that it is unlikely to regain its original simplicity again. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I do feel that the ever growing complexity, together with the increasing number of packages and features, are bound to introduce new bugs and incompatibilities. This in turn might discourage its wider adoption, especially beyond the developer and power user circles. The ever steeper learning curve is another factor that could drag Gentoo Linux further down in terms of deployment figures.
What do you think? Has Gentoo gone too far in making itself powerful? Has its complexity discouraged you from running it? If you run Gentoo Linux on your desktop, can you truly say that you know all there is to know about it? Has the famous Gentoo documentation ever let you down? Or do you enjoy its power so much that you would never consider another distribution? Please discuss below.
DistroWatch in Africa
Africa can hardly be considered a power house when it comes to interest in DistroWatch. The total number of visitors from this continent during the first seven months of 2007 barely surpassed 100,000 visitors, which is less than the number of visitors coming from Bulgaria or the Czech Republic. Furthermore, three quarters of all African readers of DistroWatch arrive here from just three countries - South Africa (42.6%), Egypt (20.2%) and Morocco (11.3%). The good news is that compared to the same period of the previous year, the readership has increased in almost all African countries, with the overall growth at 23.4%. More details below. (The figures are courtesy of the GeoLite Country IP-to-country database from Maxmind which claims an accuracy of 98%.)
||South Africa (ZA)
||Côte d'Ivoire (CI)
||Cape Verde (CV)
||Rest of Africa
Ubuntu on Compiz Fusion, Puppy goes experimental, NimbleX delivers a 100 MB live CD with KDE, Trustix in danger
The upcoming release of Ubuntu 7.10 is less than two months away, but the developers have yet to decide whether to enable by default one interesting and controversial feature: the 3D desktop with Compiz Fusion. As Michael Vogt explains in this mailing list post, Compiz Fusion is not quite free of known issues and although none of them are critical, they can detract from the enjoyment of the distribution. Among the known regressions, he cites issues with video playback, window rendering artifacts, and performance problems with certain video cards and older processors. The author's suggestion? "What we need to do is to raise awareness to the users about this feature. If we decide to enable it by default, we should pop up something that explains that certain things may not work quite well. If we decide that we should not enable it, we should have a check that tests if it is likely that the system is able to run Compiz and if so, pop up a notification that tells them what to do to enable desktop effects."
In related news, Ubuntu 7.10 will reportedly include a graphical tool for configuring X.Org.
* * * * *
Barry Kauler, the founder and lead developer of Puppy Linux, has announced that he is working on a new, experimental version of Puppy with a number of enhancements. Among them, Puppy Linux users will soon be able to enjoy faster boot times, optimised init scripts, faster searching for Puppy files at boot, better memory management with initramfs, and other improvements. The author concludes: "I have been testing booting from a USB pen drive, works nice, but quite a few things to work on still. I hope to upload v2.20experiment1 soon. Note, I have also started work on Puppy v3.00, but very premature to say anything about it." This is a highly technical document, but it is followed by a good discussion in the forum bellow the post, with further suggestions and explanations. If you enjoy this fast, light-weight and unique Linux distribution, read Experimental new puppy under development for more details.
* * * * *
Bogdan Radulescu, the creator of the Slackware-based NimbleX mini live CD, has emailed to tell us about a new breakthrough: a fast-booting, 100 MB live CD with KDE: "It was just released - the smallest live CD in the world with KDE. It's just under 100 MB and gathers together Linux kernel 2.6.21, KDE 3.5.7, xine media player, XMMS, GIMP and other software. NimbleX sub100 is most likely the fastest distro to boot in KDE and from the tests that where performed so far the fastest boot time was 35 seconds. You can get it from nimblex.net and use it as your portable OS. ... This is not a new version of NimbleX; it's just a different edition that has the technology that will be at the base of the next version." More information can be found on this page. Download: NimbleX-sub100.iso (100MB).
NimbleX sub100 - a fast-booting 100 MB live CD with KDE
(full image size: 206kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Is Trustix Secure Linux in danger of being abandoned? It appears so, at least judging by this message from Christian Haugan Toldnes, a former developer of this excellent server distribution: "The main problem with Trustix Secure Linux is not that it's vulnerable to whatever the Comodo management decides, although this is also true. The main problem is that it's a distribution developed by one person, with an active community of about 15 people." Replying to the question of whether anybody is still reading the Trustix mailing list, he replied: "No, almost nobody is still reading tsl-discuss, and yes, the vast majority of the community has moved away to other distributions. Both Ubuntu and CentOS are decent alternatives to Trustix." Trustix, a server distribution launched in 2000 by a small Norwegian company, was acquired by Comodo some three years later. After releasing version 3.0 in 2005, all the original members of the development team left the project, which now finds itself in the hands of less experienced developers. Is this a sad end of a great server distro?
* * * * *
It was a slow week in terms of news, so let's close this section with a link to a light-hearted article entitled What Your Linux Distro Says About You: "The huge number of Linux distros is a familiar target of complaint from some who see it as a barrier to Linux adoption. But if you think about it as having a specific distro out there that's just right for you, it all makes something like sense. Consider the personalities who gravitate to these distros..." The author covers Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, Debian, Mandriva, Slackware, Gentoo and Puppy - in other words, something for everyone. Enjoy!
|Released Last Week
Pioneer Explorer 1.0
Technalign, Inc. has announced the release of Pioneer Explorer 1.0: "Technalign, Inc., developers of both the community and commercial Pioneer Linux operating systems, announced today the release of Pioneer Explorer 1.0 and the Programs Folder. The final release of Pioneer Explorer includes a rebuilt X.Org file and rebuilt Firefox coupled with additional changes. Pioneer Explorer 1.0 is available for download immediately and includes the final additions to the Programs folder including virtualization tools. Pioneer Explorer 1.0 includes a pleasant experience with additional hardware support including unprecedented wireless and WinModem support out of the box. Pioneer Explorer now has KDE 4.0 beta in the repositories and those wanting to test may do so. Pioneer Explorer includes the Programs folder that allows for individuals to open a simple folder, install what they want when they want it easily." Read the rest of the press release for full details.
Linux Mint 3.0 "KDE"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 3.0 "KDE Community" edition: "The KDE Community Edition of Cassandra is finally out! This release is based on Bianca KDE and compatible with all Feisty repositories. It comes with KDE 3.5.6 and a Linux kernel 2.6.20. OpenOffice.org, Thunderbird and Sunbird replaced KOffice and Kontact. Beryl 0.2.1 is included with Beryl-Manager. The default software selection includes: Dolphin 0.8.1, Tasty Menu 0.8.2, Amarok 1.4.6, K3B 1.0, Scribus 1.2.5, KMyMoney 0.8.5, Sun Java 6, Digikam, GIMP.... This desktop-ready KDE Mint has all the usual Minty goodness for the web and media applications. I have made the choice to make the Mint KDE Community edition more pro-desktop and to mirror the main edition closer with respect to the main applications." Read the complete release notes for further details.
A KDE flavour of Linux Mint 3.0 was released last week.
(full image size: 224kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The developers of sidux, a live CD tracking the Debian unstable branch, have announced the release of sidux version 2007-03: "After less than three months of development, we are proud to announce the immediate availability of sidux 2007-03 'Gaia' for amd64 and i686 systems, shipping in a 440 MB lite KDE and a 700 MB full KDE flavors. Our third official sidux release concentrates on overhauling the SysV init sequence of the live CD, refactoring the installer backend, and laying the foundation for proper gettext localisations of our toolset, with additional efforts regarding general clean up and obsoleting the GTK+ 1.2 tools, while shipping kernel 220.127.116.11-rc1, using libata for most PATA chipsets, additional support for Intel IPW3945/4965, Realtek RTL8187 and RT2x00 wireless LAN devices has been added." Read the comprehensive release notes for more information.
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0r1
The Debian project has announced the availability of the first revision of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, code name "Etch": "The Debian project has updated the stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (code name Etch). This update adds security updates to the stable release, together with a few corrections to serious problems. As always, the first point release also corrects a few issues that have been noticed too late in the release process to stop the release, but still should be fixed. This point release for Etch also includes an updated release of the installer, which includes the following changes: kernels used in the installer have been updated to ABI 2.6.18-5; updated mirror list; support added for certain USB CD drives that were not being detected; incorrect setup of GKSu fixed when user chooses to install with the root account disabled...." Read the full release announcement for more details.
Parsix GNU/Linux 0.90r1
Alan Baghumian has announced the availability of an updated release of Parsix GNU/Linux 0.90: "An updated version of Parsix GNU/Linux 0.90, code name Barry, has been released. Barry r1 introduces the project's first ever 64-bit edition, both 32-bit and 64-bit editions have been built from scratch using debootstrap, several fixes have been made, and merged all published updates from Parsix and Debian testing repositories as of Aug 15, 2007. Highlights: GNOME 2.18.3, Linux kernel 18.104.22.168 with CK and Suspend2 patches, read/write mode is the default for NTFS partitions, improved hardware detection system and hard disk installer, VLC replaces Totem." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Ark Linux 2007.1
Ark Linux 2007.1 has been released: "The Ark Linux team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Ark Linux 2007.1, the latest version of its multi-purpose desktop operating system. Ark Linux can be used for office/school work, desktop publishing, graphics, multimedia entertainment, editing, gaming, software development, and more. There have been many changes since the 2006.1 release - all components have been updated to current versions. For example, Ark Linux 2007.1 includes the KDE 3.5.7 desktop, the OpenOffice.org 2.2.1 office suite and the Amarok music player 1.4.7. It also includes the latest underlying technologies such as Linux kernel 22.214.171.124, glibc 2.6.1, and has been built completely with GCC 4.2.1, resulting in a faster system and quicker response times." See the full release announcement for further details.
Dan Barber has announced the release of an updated version of Mutagenix, a Slackware-based live CD: "I'm happy to finally announce the release of Mutagenix 126.96.36.199-2. This release includes a rescue disk (without X) and a KDE disk. This is mostly a bug-fix release to address problems discovered in the installer, but there are several new options available. Of note are the USB installer and a re-worked remastering utility. Mutagenix Features: Slackware 11.0; rescue and KDE 3.5 versions; kernel 188.8.131.52; automatic hardware detection using libdiscover; supports SATA, SCSI and IDE drives; detects and mounts EXT2, EXT3, ReiserFS, XFS, JFS, VFAT and NTFS formatted partitions; customize CD with remastering script; slapt-get, with multiple rc files with different sources, is included; Gslapt, the GTK+ front-end for slapt-get; OpenOffice.org application suite; Mutagenix themes...." Here is the full release announcement.
Momonga Linux 4
The Momonga Linux development team has announced the release of Momonga Linux 4, a Japanese community distribution loosely modelled after the Fedora project. Code named "Izumi", the new version is the first Momonga release to introduce DVD spins with either the GNOME or the KDE desktop, as well as a minimal installation CD and a 2-DVD "Everything" set. New features of Momonga Linux 4 include: ability to create custom live and installation CDs with livecd-tool and Pungi; OpenVZ kernel for server virtualisation; Linux kernel 2.6.21, X.Org 7.3, GNOME 2.18.3, KDE 3.5.7, Compiz-Fusion 0.5.2; up-to-date Japanese language support and software localisation. Please read the release announcement and release notes (both links in Japanese) for further details.
Momonga Linux 4 - a Japanese community distribution based on Fedora
(full image size: 315kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Pioneer Basic 3.0, Pioneer Explorer 1.0 Server Community, Pioneer MigrationSERVER, Pioneer StageCoach, Pioneer Renegade 1.0, Pioneer Explorer 1.1
Technalign has published a detailed release schedule for all its upcoming products that are due later this month and in September. Among them, Pioneer Basic 3.0, Pioneer Explorer 1.0 Server Community, Pioneer MigrationSERVER and Pioneer StageCoach are expected later this week, while Pioneer Renegade 1.0 will enter a beta testing stage in late August and Pioneer Explorer 1.1 in the middle of September. Please visit the distribution's release schedule page for a complete list.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Translations of Top Ten Distributions page|
Many thanks to Michael Eickenboom who has translated the Top Ten Distributions page into German. The article is now available in 14 languages: Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish and Swedish. 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
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- AMA Desktop Linux. AMA Desktop Linux is an Ubuntu-based distribution developed by AMA Computer University in the Philippines. It aims to provide an interface that is comfortable to existing Microsoft Windows users and to deliver the most innovative Linux Desktop available today.
- NicE Desktop. NicE Desktop is a Debian-based, live Linux distribution. It comes with many programs for both recreational and administrative purposes. Its main goals are to be useful and entertaining while maintaining user-friendliness, as well as to provide a "complete" temporary operating system for any PC user.
- Ratkaisu.net LiveCD. Ratkaisu.net LiveCD is a Finnish distribution based on Zenwalk Linux.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 27 August 2007.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
|• Full list of all issues|
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