| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 218, 3 September 2007
Welcome to this year's 36th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! If you have only recently discovered this web site and the joy of testing the hundreds of different distributions and live CD available on the market, then you need to learn one essential skill: how to correct a faulty screen resolution that many of these products fail to set up correctly. Today's featured article lists the necessary steps. In the news section, Canonical has announced Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" LTS, FreeBSD has unveiled the first alpha of its all-new point-and-click system installer, Debian has updated the backend of its package database infrastructure, and the German Mandriva user community has released the first English issue of "MagDriva", a magazine dedicated to all fans and users of Mandriva Linux. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com August 2007 donation is the lighttpd project. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (4.1MB) and mp3 (4.1MB) formats (many thanks to Jim Putman)
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Tips and tricks
Correcting screen resolutions
Those of you who frequently install new distributions or test Linux/BSD live CDs will probably agree with me: one of the biggest annoyances of some of these products is their failure to detect and set up the correct screen resolution. This usually results in unsightly fonts and reduced screen real estate, both of which contribute to the negative first impressions. Since many computer users are discovering the wonderful world of open source software for the first time, I thought I'd run through the necessary steps to correct the screen resolution in case your distribution fails to do so.
The bad news is that if a distribution or live CD does not set up your monitor's screen resolution correctly, there is usually no other way to fix it than to manually edit the xorg.conf file - from the command line. The good news is that the fix does not require a degree in Information Technology and after completing this task a few times, you'll be able to do it in any Linux or BSD distribution - with your eyes closed. So let's get going.
The task of correcting the screen resolution consists of three steps: launching the terminal, logging in as root, and modifying a pair of values in xorg.conf.
- Launching the terminal. There are many ways to do this - the most logical way is to hunt down the application from the desktop menu; KDE's Konsole and GNOME's GNOME Terminal are usually easy to find, while a terminal application may also be available from a right-click context menu on certain desktops. Personally, I find that the fastest way to access a terminal session is to press Ctrl+Alt+F2, which will take you to one of the available virtual terminals. To get back to your graphical desktop, you normally press Ctrl+Alt+F7 (although some distributions place the graphical desktop into other virtual terminals; if Ctrl+Alt+F7 doesn't work, you might have to go through several of the F-keys on your keyboard to find the right one).
- Logging in as root. After launching a terminal window, you might be already logged in as a user, logged in as root (use the "whoami" command to find out) or not logged in at all. In the first case, you log in as root by typing "su -". In the third case, you will have to type "root" at the command prompt. The next step is to guess the root password; some live CDs provide passwordless root accounts, which log you in straight after typing "root", but if this is not your case and you are prompted to enter the root password, try one of the common password variations, such as "root", "toor", "linux" or the name of the distribution you are running. Some live CDs (e.g. Knoppix, Ubuntu and their derivatives) allow you to change the root password via a sudo command - simply type "sudo passwd", then type and retype a new root password. If all fails, you can, of course, visit the distribution's web site and search its documentation for hints about the root password.
- Modifying xorg.conf. After you've logged in as root, the final step is to open the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and replace a pair of incorrect values. To open the above-mentioned file you can use one of the beginner-friendly console editors, such as nano; simply type "nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf". When the file opens, look for the line containing the words "DefaultDepth". This is often set to a conservative 16 (65,536 colours), but if you have a reasonably recent monitor, it's safe to change this to a more eye-pleasing 24 (16 million colours). Edit the line so it reads as follows:
Next, you'll need to edit another line which is often just a few lines below the one you've just edited. Look for a line that says "Depth 24". Directly below it (within the same subsection delimited by the words "Subsection "Display"", you will find a line containing the word "Modes" (see the screenshot below). Edit this line so that it corresponds to the correct screen resolution for your monitor, e.g.:
When done, save and close the xorg.conf file (in nano, simply press Ctrl+O to save the file and Ctrl+X to close it). Later, once you are familiar with this procedure, you might also check that the xorg.conf file contains the correct driver for your video card (e.g. driver "ati" for ATI cards, driver "nv" for NVIDIA cards, etc.; here is a full list), rather than the general purpose "vesa" driver. These days, however, it seems that only a few Slackware-based distributions still prefer to set up your xorg.conf file with the "vesa" driver, instead of trying to detect the video card present in the system and set it up with a corresponding X.Org driver.
Modifying the xorg.conf configuration file from the command line
That's it in terms of X.Org configuration, so all that remains to be done is to restart the X window system. This can be done by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Backspace (note: this doesn't work with Knoppix and some Knoppix-based live CDs, where logging out of an X window session will automatically shut down the system). If you have set up your screen resolution correctly, you should now be able to see the login screen or the distribution's desktop in a more eye-pleasing fashion. If you don't, chances are that you've made a typo editing the xorg.conf file, in which case you should re-open it and make sure that everything is correct. For hints about possible errors you could also open the /var/log/Xorg.0.log file and look for error messages. But generally speaking, I find that in 95% of cases, the above steps are all that's needed to fix the incorrect screen resolution on today's Linux/BSD distributions and live CDs.
While on the subject of screen resolution, here is one more note: some distributions and live CDs (e.g. Knoppix and most Knoppix-based ones) provide an easy way to set a resolution at the boot prompt, usually by typing something like "knoppix screen=1280x1024" at the boot prompt (these distributions usually provide a help screen, accessible by pressing one of the F-keys, with hints on what exactly to type).
If some of our readers have their own tips and tricks on how to set up the screen resolution or other related topics, feel free to share them in the forum below.
Ubuntu's Hardy Heron, FreeBSD's graphical "finstall", Debian's new packages database, MagDriva
The week that marked the beginning of September was exceedingly quiet in terms of distribution releases, but certainly eventful on the open source software front. The issue of the OOXML (Office Open XML) standard, developed and presented by Microsoft, appears to be doomed in many parts of the world - thanks to the continuous lobbying by the open source community; visit Groklaw.net for extensive coverage. In the meantime, the BSD and Linux kernel developers engaged in a verbal exchange concerning certain device driver code released under a dual BSD/GPL licence. On the desktop, both X.Org and KDE announced delays in their upcoming releases; while X.Org 7.3, originally scheduled for release last week, will be postponed by just a few days (September 5th), the highly-anticipated KDE 4.0 has now been delayed by two months (December 20th). As a result, many distributions are revising their plans to include KDE 4.0 in their upcoming releases; the Fedora project has already indicated that it would not ship the new KDE in Fedora 8 and other distributions are expected to follow suit. Nevertheless, those users who are interested in beta testing KDE 4.0 might be offered an option to install one of the preview releases, with Kubuntu and openSUSE the most likely candidates for such an arrangement.
* * * * *
Although Ubuntu's upcoming release, version 7.10 and code name "Gutsy Gibbon", is still in alpha testing, Canonical has already announced details about the next version of the popular distribution. Scheduled for release in April 2008 and code-named "Hardy Heron", this will be Ubuntu's second release carrying the LTS (Long Term Support) label. Jono Bacon: "I am delighted to have the pleasure of announcing the Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04), the next version of Ubuntu that will succeed Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu 7.10, due for release in October 2007). Not only will the Ubuntu community continue to do what it does best, produce an easy-to-use, reliable, free software platform, but this release will proudly wear the badge of Long Term Support (LTS) and be supported with security updates for five years on the server and three years on the desktop. We look forward to releasing the Hardy Heron in April 2008."
* * * * *
Xubuntu, one of Ubuntu's official sub-project that features the increasingly popular Xfce desktop, seems to be going through an identity search. While clearly an excellent alternative for those users who prefer a less bloated desktop environment, some users believe that Xubuntu's growing preference for GTK+ applications will eventually marginalise the distribution: "If this 'Gnomeward' trend is followed, then the only difference between Ubuntu and Xubuntu is going to be the desktop manager. Even the layout is already the same. Everything else -- the session manager, the utilities, the applications and so on -- are probably going to be borrowed from the GNOME edition. ... So in total, we have a complete and full distro which has a slim following, that is almost indistinguishable from the most popular edition, contains the same software as its bigger brother, and incurs some sort of expense -- bandwidth, server space, whatever -- to somebody somewhere, probably in an office on the Isle of Man."
* * * * *
Following Debian's introduction of a point-and-click system installer into "Etch", the project's most recent stable release, it seems that FreeBSD is the next major open source operating system that will incorporate a graphical installer, alongside its tried and tested "sysinstall". Scheduled for inclusion in FreeBSD 7.0, the first alpha release of "finstall", the FreeBSD installer, was announced last week: "I've created an ISO image with the installer embedded in it that can be used primarily for testing. The live CD is a fully working FreeBSD 7-CURRENT installation (i386) with X.Org 7.0, Xfce 4.2 desktop environment, Firefox, Thunderbird and a couple of supporting utilities. The installer version included in this live CD is a test version, more like a technology preview than a usable application. It can only install the system on a blank, unpartitioned drive and has only been tested on VMware so far." Interested alpha testers can download the live CD image with "finstall" from here: freebsd7-finstall-alpha.iso.bz2 (427MB). Now, any chance that Slackware might also be persuaded to include a graphical system installer into its next release?
An alpha release of a graphical installer for FreeBSD 7.0 is now available for testing (see here for more screenshots)
(full image size: 115kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
The Debian GNU/Linux project has announced a major upgrade to its package database infrastructure at packages.debian.org, with dynamically generated content and improved search features. Highlights: "Almost all pages are generated dynamically now instead of creating them all statically in one run; this code also finally replaces grep as the tool for full text search with a real search engine (Xapian) which should speed up these searches considerably; most searches now allow more than one keyword; improved, more compact page layout; includes information about packages from the following archives: ftp.debian.org, security.debian.org, volatile.debian.org, amd64.debian.net (sarge), gnuab.org (kfreebsd, armel), backports.org; basic debtags support (display of tag information and backend use to improve search results for full text search and 'similar packages')."
* * * * *
Finally, Karsten Kurze has sent us a quick email to announce a new issue of MagDriva, a community magazine designed for the users and fans of Mandriva Linux: "We have completed our first international issue of MagDriva in English. Wolfgang Bornath, the administrator of MandrivaUser.de made the following release announcement: MagDriva is the community magazine of the German user community at MandrivaUser.de. For a long time we had requests about an international issue (more so because the international Mandriva magazine, Inside Mandriva, went belly-up after Gaël Duval left the company). MandrivaUser.de proudly presents the first international issue of their community magazine MagDriva. For a start, it features some articles translated from the current German issue, including a nice report of our time at LinuxTag (with pictures). Hopefully we get enough feedback to encourage us to go on with the next issue." The first English issue of the MagDriva magazine is available (in PDF format) for download from here: MagDriva_Int_1.2007.pdf (8.2MB). Happy reading!
|Released Last Week
ALT Linux 4.0 "Personal Desktop"
The ALT Linux development team has announced the release of ALT Linux 4.0 Personal Desktop edition, a Russian desktop Linux distribution. ALT Linux 4.0 Personal Desktop is designed for home and office use, providing the user with a convenient environment for undertaking common computing tasks. The product includes ALTerator - an intuitive system setup and configuration utility, OpenOffice.org - an office suite with support for popular office formats, WINE - an emulator designed to run Windows applications under Linux, and a variety of software packages for vector and raster graphics, multimedia, dictionaries and educational applications. One of the strong points of ALT Linux 4.0 is support for the latest hardware and technologies from the world's leading manufacturers, including wireless networking. For further details please read the full press release (in Russian).
ALT Linux 4.0 "Personal Desktop"
(full image size: 188kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Linux From Scratch 6.3
Bruce Dubbs has announced the release of Linux From Scratch 6.3, a book whose purpose is to teach the steps necessary to build a basic Linux-based operating system: "The Linux From Scratch community is pleased to announce the release of Linux From Scratch (LFS) Version 6.3. This release includes numerous changes to LFS 6.2 (including update to Linux kernel 18.104.22.168, GCC 4.1.2, glibc 2.5) and security fixes. It also includes a large amount of editorial work on the explanatory material throughout the book, improving both the clarity and accuracy of the text. You can read the book online, or download to read locally." Visit the project's news page to read the brief release announcement.
An updated version of Vyatta, a Debian-based firewall distribution, has been released: "Vyatta is pleased to announce that Vyatta Community Edition 2.2 (code name Camarillo) has been released to the main repository. This release adds the following enhancements: Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) enhancements - Per-peer BGP routing policies and MD5 authentication for BGP; NAT usability enhancements - the 'type' and 'translation-type' options have been consolidated into a single attribute for ease of configuration and the Configuration Guide has been enhanced with a greater number and variety of examples for NAT; improvements to DHCP server and DHCP relay; new options for 'show version', enhanced to provide additional information about packages; bug fixes - over 100 issues (bugs and enhancements) have been resolved with this update." Read the rest of the release announcement for a more detailed list of new features.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
August 2007 donation: lighttpd receives €290.00|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the August 2007 DistroWatch.com donation is the lighttpd project. It receives €290.00 in cash.
Although not nearly as famous as its large cousin, the Apache web server, lighttpd is nevertheless growing in stature as an alternative, fast and light-weight application for serving web pages. From the project's description: "lighttpd is a secure, fast, compliant, and very flexible web server which has been optimised for high-performance environments. It has a very low memory footprint compared to other web servers, and it takes care of CPU load. It has an advanced feature set that includes FastCGI (load balanced), CGI, Auth, Output-Compression, URL-Rewriting, SSL, and much more." Currently in version 1.4.17, lighttpd is developed by Jan Kneschke in Germany.
As always, this monthly donations programme is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and two online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org and OSDisc.com. These vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to lighttpd.
Here is the list of projects that received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Programme in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$14,490 to various open source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NdisWrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a PowerPack competition), digiKam ($408) and SabayonLinux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400)
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
- Draco GNU/Linux. Draco GNU/Linux is a distribution based on Slackware Linux and pkgsrc, a package management system developed by NetBSD. It is distributed in the form of a minimal base system, but a range of additional software packages is available for installation from the project's FTP server.
* * * * *
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, 10 September 2007.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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