| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 217, 27 August 2007
Welcome to this year's 35th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! There is little doubt about it - Ubuntu is the most popular desktop Linux distribution on the market. But the great variety of available statistics, usage surveys and web long analyses means that it's often impossible to estimate the true usage figures and switching habits of individual users. Does it all really matter? Read our editorial on the subject and comment in the forums. In the news section, we link to a handful of interesting articles covering the openSUSE package management, Gentoo overlays, and Debian boot process with initng. Finally, the KDE development team has revealed that its official KDE 4 release party will only take place some four months after the release of version 4.0. The reason? Read on to find out.
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (6.1MB) and mp3 (5.6MB) formats (many thanks to Jim Putman)
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
How popular is a distribution
No matter how futile the matter is, many of us seem obsessed with the idea of determining the popularity and market share of Linux distributions. Whether its through public polls on popular web sites, download trackers, web server log analyses, or Netcraft-style OS detection of web servers, the results continue to baffle the Linux-using population. The reason? They all give different results.
Last week's conclusion of Desktop Linux Survey 2007 was another attempt at collecting information about the usage of desktop Linux distributions and major software applications. The results were not particularly surprising - Ubuntu walked away with over 30% share of the votes, ahead of openSUSE (nearly 20%) and Debian GNU/Linux (just under 12%). All three are highly popular distributions with a broad mindshare, even among less technical computer users who don't follow the Linux distro market very closely.
But some of the DistroWatch readers might have been surprised by the poor performance of the three distributions that are fairly new and relatively small in terms of mindshare, but have been hot on the DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking (PHR) statistics: PCLinuxOS, Sabayon Linux and Linux Mint. Here is what Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols had to say on the subject while analysing the results:
"Perhaps the most surprising result of our survey was that PCLinuxOS showed so poorly. On DistroWatch, PCLinuxOS has been at the top of the site's page hit ranking for the last 30 days. Frankly, we're not sure why this popular, easy-to-use community distribution didn't do better. The site supporting it had recently had problems, but that problem's long been history. Perhaps, it's simply that unlike the other popular community distributions -- Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora -- PCLinuxOS doesn't have corporate backing. Canonical, Novell, and Red Hat all provide support and hardware partnerships for their community distributions that PCLinuxOS can't match."
Granted, the DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking doesn't mean all that much and we have been saying this for years. However, our web log analysis of DistroWatch.com visitors' user agent strings indicates that PCLinuxOS represents 6.2% of all Linux-using visitors, which makes its the third most popular Linux distribution (after Ubuntu and Debian). openSUSE, which received nearly 20% of votes in the DesktopLinux survey, is used by less than 5% of those DistroWatch visitors who visit these pages with Linux.
To make these figures more digestable, here is a tabular comparison of the three indicators mentioned above: the DesktopLinux survey, DistroWatch web log analysis and DistroWatch PHR. Bear in mind that some distributions, notably Slackware and Gentoo, do not provide custom browser strings, which makes it impossible for the web server to account for them. In case of the DistroWatch PHR, the percentage figures were calculated using the top 100 distributions only and the Ubuntu figure also includes those of Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, etc, since the DesktopLinux survey also grouped them together. The last column represents the average of these three (or two, in case of missing browser string identifiers) indicators.
No matter which indicator we take for the most representative, one thing is clear - Ubuntu is the top desktop Linux distribution at the moment. Beyond that assertion, it's anybody's guess; openSUSE and Debian seem also highly popular, but Fedora does not do particularly well in any of the statistics or surveys. Some newer and smaller distributions, such as PCLinuxOS, Linux Mint and Sabayon Linux are rising in terms of popularity, but as the DesktopLinux survey indicates, none of them has reached sufficient mindshare to penetrate into the wider market. The enterprise class products, such as CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise are probably not used much on the desktop or their users care little for either DistroWatch or Linux market surveys.
At the end of the day, we still know little about the popularity of distributions. That said, these figures aren't completely useless - they produce an endless string of entertaining discussions on various forums and deliver evidence that most of us care about these issues, even if we'll never find the correct answers.
But there is one set of figures that is perhaps more important than any of the distro market share surveys. When I started DistroWatch in 2001, 95% of the visitors used Windows and Internet Explorer to access the site. Some six years later, only 19% of you read this site with Internet Explorer. As for operating system statistics, the usage of Linux to access the site has risen from a near-zero to a whopping 36% today! While various market share surveys are entertaining and sometimes even useful (for companies like Dell in order to determine what to put on their computers), there is no denying that the usage of Linux has risen rather dramatically over the last few years. And that's all that matters.
DistroWatch in Europe
The final stop on our statistical journey of DistroWatch readership takes us to Europe (after publishing similar sets of data for Africa, Asia, the Americas and the South Pacific). The purpose of these statistical analyses was to show the year-on-year change in the number of DistroWatch visitors from different countries and territories.
Like all other continents, Europe also experienced strong growth in terms of DistroWatch visits during the past year, with the overall increase of 25%. Interestingly, the only country where the number of visitors dropped from a year ago (ignoring the tiny Andorra) is Finland, the birthplace of Linux! Luckily, this was generously compensated for by visits from all other countries, with Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Greece and Ireland in particular recording very strong growth. (The figures are courtesy of the GeoLite Country IP-to-country database from Maxmind which claims an accuracy of 98%.)
||United Kingdom (GB)
||Czech Republic (CZ)
||Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA)
||Faroe Island (FO)
||Rest of Europe
openSUSE package management, Gentoo overlays, Debian with initng, KDE 4.0
Ever since the infamous openSUSE 10.1 release (with new, but buggy and poorly tested package management backend), the openSUSE developers have been working on improving the experience of managing software for its users. The upcoming openSUSE 10.3 will be no exception as a number of major new features are being introduced into the distribution. Chief among them are improvements in zypper, a command line tool, and openSUSE updater, a software update notification applet. Duncan Mac-Vicar Prett explains the reasons behind the work in this article at openSUSE News: "For 10.3 we sat down and discussed how to improve the situation, in a reasonable time-frame. What we did was concentrate mostly on the 20% that caused 80% of the unhappiness, both for the users and for the developers. The task involved lot of profiling (with lot of help from other teams), designing and trying prototypes and proof of concepts. Then we branched and created a zypp2 library where we started to re-create all parsers, the cache engine, downloaders, etc from scratch, and unit tests for them. Later everything was integrated with the main library and zypp2 was removed. Then the next step was to port zypper and the YaST glue."
* * * * *
Last week's editorial about Gentoo Linux, while predictably generating a wide range of opinions, also produced one clear message - Gentoo is a distribution that is much appreciated by those Linux users who enjoy tailoring their operating system to their exact needs. But even with the variety of available tools and with the flexibility of Portage, there are still limitations in terms of installing some of the more cutting-edge packages on Gentoo Linux. This is where the Portage overlays come in: "One of my biggest issues with Portage is lack of support for 'new' and emerging (no pun intended) software. What do I mean by that? I mean some of the most-hyped and off-the-wall cool programs that have come out in the last year or so: Compiz Fusion, Avant-Window-Navigator, KDE4, XMMS2, amongst others. I'm not entirely sure why Gentoo developers or managers choose not to support newer software. Supporting it would give these projects more feedback, thus making them stable faster. It would be a contribution to the open source community to offer basic package support for these programs. There's an easy way around this now, without having to compile the source on your own: portage overlays."
* * * * *
Over the last year or so we have seen much effort among Linux distribution to replace the ancient init system of booting Linux/UNIX with a more modern, faster implementation of the boot process. One way of increasing the boot speed of Debian GNU/Linux (and other distributions) is by replacing its SysVinit system with initng: "The old init system loads services one after the other; initng makes booting faster by loading services in a parallel fashion. There is no reason that process X can't use the CPU while process Y is reading data from disk. Installing initng on Debian 'Lenny' was as simple as installing any other software package. Here are installation instructions for most distributions, installing initng won't mess up the old init systems and you can easily go back when initng doesn't suit you or if it doesn't work. The speed increase I got from booting wasn't that awesome but it was nice. The old init system booted my workstation to the KDM login manager in 23.9 seconds. Booting using initng took 13.2 seconds, so it's nice but nothing jaw-dropping."
* * * * *
When exactly is the long-awaited KDE 4 going to be released? And once it's out, will it be stable enough for production use? As if reading the minds of testers who have found the recently released first beta of KDE 4 barely usable, the KDE development team has come up with a new plan. Yes, they will release KDE 4 on October 23rd as planned; however, they won't really announce it until January 2008: "For quite some time the KDE team thought about having a KDE 4 release party some months after the original KDE 4.0 release. According to that plan the KDE 4.0 release in October will be official, but not press-release-official - that one will be celebrated some months later." If this goes ahead, probably the hardest part will be explaining the unusual decision to the media: "Most distributions (especially the KDE-centric ones) are not going to pick up KDE 4 as default in the 4th quarter releases. But this issue has to be explained to the industry and to the press and I wonder how these will take it. The KDE team will definitely have to work out some good explanation."
|Released Last Week
SmoothWall Express 3.0
SmoothWall Express 3.0, a free firewall distribution that includes its own security-hardened GNU/Linux operating system and an easy-to-use web interface, has been released: "Express 3.0 is our latest version of the long running and successful SmoothWall Express firewall. Headline new features relative to 2.0: supports a 4th network card for Wireless Access Points; 64-bit support; based upon Linux 2.6 kernel; new realtime traffic graph shows traffic bandwidth usage over time (AJAX); per-IP address traffic statistics collection in all traffic stats pages; Instant Messenger proxy with logging and filtering abilities; SATA and SCSI support; streamlined installer and setup; outbound filtering; new update mechanism which can download and install all pending updates with a single click...." Read the comprehensive release notes for full details.
PAIPIX is a Debian-based live DVD with focus on scientific applications. A major new version, now based on Debian 4.0 "Etch", was released yesterday: "The new PAIPIX 7 keeps its focus on scientific software but drops the emphasis on a pure live DVD to integrate installation, live and upgrade systems. The new main use cases are: LIVE - starting PAIPIX in the live mode, one has access to complete system including KDE, office and development; INSTALLATION - by starting PAIPIX in the installation mode one has access to the standard Debian installer system; UPGRADE - as part of the entire system, the DVD includes a Debian CD-ROM repository that includes all necessary packages. The PAIPIX ISO images are available in English and in bilingual editions that support both English and one of the following languages: Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German." More details in the release announcement.
PAIPIX 7.0 - a Debian-based live and installation DVD with scientific applications
(full image size: 403kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Absolute Linux 12.0.3
Paul Sherman has released an updated version of Absolute Linux, a Slackware-based distribution with the IceWM window manager and graphical configuration utilities. From the changelog: "Updated slapt-get 0.9.12, gslapt 0.3.18, GnuPG 1.4.7 (which can co-exist with the installed GnuPG 2.x); kernel source header versions corrected, compiles NVIDIA driver OK; adjusted mime handlers in ROX for WMA and WAV files and added conversion scripts in SENDTO menu - wav2mp3, wma2mp3 and flv2avi; fixed error in DevTray where data DVDs were not auto-mounting; fixed modules install to properly match custom kernel; updated to Firefox 220.127.116.11, also updated Xpdf, mkinitr, and the ati, nv and vesa X modules; developer documentation for Qt and xdialog moved to CD2 to make space; Frostwire package added; AbScreen updated to 2.2."
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch Weekly podcast returns|
Good news for all those readers who have missed the podcast edition of DistroWatch Weekly since it was discontinued a few months ago. Thanks to an effort by Jim Putman, the weekly audio (in MP3 format) that includes most of the content from each DistroWatch Weekly is now available once again. Please subscribe to the RSS feed here. If you have any comments or suggestions please email them to Jim (linuxcaster at gmail dot com). Happy listening!
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- BlackRoute. BlackRoute is a Slackware-based security and forensics analysis Linux distribution for x86-compatible architectures. The goal of the project is to create a GNU/Linux distribution for advance users, texttool enthusiasts, network and security specialist, and system administrators.
BlackRoute 0.1 RC1 - a Slackware-based distribution for forensic analysis tasks with WindowMaker
(full image size: 341kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
- Embun. Embun is a Malaysian desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu.
Embun 2.0 RC1 - a Malaysian Linux distribution based on Ubuntu
(full image size: 1,586kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
- Lapwing-Linux. Lapwing-Linux is a light-weight desktop distribution based on Slackware Linux.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 3 September 2007.
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|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
|• Issue 663 (2016-05-30): Comparing live update methods, Ubuntu MATE's progress, distros debate systemd change, DistroWatch turns 15|
|• 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|
|• Issue 660 (2016-05-09): Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Mint's xapps, FreeBSD Quarterly Report, Debian updates 32-bit support, addressing GPL violations|
|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
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|• Issue 654 (2016-03-28): PCLinuxOS 2016.03, Using signatures to create a web of trust, Arch Linux rolls out Pacman update, GuixSD packages GNOME|
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|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
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