| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 220, 17 September 2007
Welcome to this year's 38th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! DistroWatch has a new Number One distribution and it's called PCLinuxOS. But how is it possible that this small, little-known project, built mostly by one enthusiastic developer, has reached the height that eludes many of the more famous and better established distributions? Keep reading to find out. In the news section: Ubuntu technical team votes for CompizFusion by default, openSUSE continues to show faith in KDE 4.0, Debian looks at new features in X.Org 7.3 and 7.4, Ulteo launches new beta releases, and Linux Mint develops a new update tool - mintUpdate. Finally, don't miss our featured article that introduces MACH BOOT, a Linux live CD that boots into a graphical desktop in as little as 10 seconds! Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (7.0MB) and mp3 (6.8MB) formats (many thanks to Jim Putman)
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PCLinuxOS - the new Number One distribution
As many of you noticed, PCLinuxOS has overtaken Ubuntu in our Page Hit Ranking statistics and is currently occupying the top spot on the default 6-month view for the first time. Before contemplating on the reasons behind this "success", let me first serve the usual disclaimer. Being number one on DistroWatch does NOT mean that PCLinuxOS is the most popular distribution, nor does it mean that it is the best distribution; it simply means that during the past six months more people viewed the PCLinuxOS page on DistroWatch (on a one-IP-address-per-day basis) than pages devoted to any other distribution. Whether this translates into actual popularity or higher usage remains unclear, although it is reasonable to assume that new DistroWatch visitors are more likely to download one of the higher-ranked distributions than those occupying lower positions in the ranking.
There have been speculations and suggestions that the Page Hit Ranking statistics might have been manipulated by some overly enthusiastic PCLinuxOS fans. I don't believe so - for two reasons. Firstly, I have logged all visits to the PCLinuxOS page and analysed them for any signs of abuse, but I found none. (That's not to say that there was none, but if there was any, I couldn't find it.) Secondly, there seems to be a trend among the DistroWatch readers to visit distribution pages that are relatively high in the Page Hit Ranking statistics, but are otherwise not particularly well-known outside the scope of this web site; we have seen this not only with PCLinuxOS, but also with other similar distributions, such as Sabayon Linux and Linux Mint. Based on these two facts, everything seems fair and square and PCLinuxOS is on top simply because its page is the most visited one at the moment.
I wanted to use the occasion and publish an interview with Texstar, the founder and lead developer of PCLinuxOS, but disappointingly, he declined to talk to us. The closest thing to having him here is a quote from this thread on PCLinuxOS forum that talks about the status of PCLinuxOS as the new Number One on DistroWatch. Texstar: "What it all comes down to for me is I don't care if we are ranked #1 or #100 or even ranked at all for that matter. I will say it feels good to know that maybe I'm making a difference in helping people use their computers the way they want to use it. I just want to enjoy Linux technology and share it with friends who might like it too and try like hell to stay out of everyone else's way."
So congratulations to PCLinuxOS! If you haven't tried it yet, do give it a spin - it boots into a live CD mode with a graphical installer, it uses Mandriva's excellent Control Centre as a central configuration tool, and it is continuously updated with the latest software which can be installed via apt-get or Synaptic. All in all, a very nice distribution created by a developer who has at least 8 years of experience in building RPM packages and 4 years of experience in building a complete Linux distribution. In the world where many distros disappear after just a year or two of trying, it's nice to see this kind of persistence and never-ending effort from a guy who, perhaps apart from an occasional donation, doesn't get much more out of it than personal satisfaction. Well done, Tex!
(full image size: 157kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
MACH BOOT - a live CD that boots in 10 seconds
When Jun Okajima emailed me in April this year and asked me whether I'd be interested in beta testing his live CD, I was about to decline. I have barely enough time to keep up with 350+ distributions listed on DistroWatch, so there was no way I could possibly slot in any serious beta testing in between my normal work. But there was something in the email that suggested that MACH BOOT was unlike any other live CD I'd seen before - it was built to boot into a full graphical desktop in as little as 10 seconds!
The claim piqued my curiosity. I remember the last time I booted the KNOPPIX live DVD it took more than 5 minutes to get from the boot prompt to KDE. And although many live CDs available today boot much faster than that, none of them gets anywhere near the 10 second claim made by the developer of MACH BOOT. Needless to say, I did sign up for the (non-public) beta test, then waited with anticipation for the first live CD to download. Finally, after some 5 months of testing, the project released the first public ISO image demonstrating the new "mach boot" technology.
Although the CD never managed the promised 10 seconds on any of my test systems, the boot speeds were nevertheless impressive. On my 6-year old Pentium 4 box it takes 17 seconds to get from the GRUB boot prompt to the IceWM window manager. On the much newer Toshiba Satellite with Intel Dual Core T2300 processor the same takes 22 seconds. Mr Okajima himself has succeeded in reducing the boot speed on his test system to 10 seconds, while one of the beta testers apparently claimed that his machine was able to boot in astonishing 7.22 seconds! Besides booting, the CD also sets up the Ethernet card and xorg.conf, using the proper X driver (rather than vesa).
MACH BOOT is based on Debian and uses kernel 2.6.16. The graphical subsystem is powered by X.Org 7.0 and, as mentioned above, the window manager is IceWM (1.2.28). Besides the usual Debian tools and a handful of simple utilities, the only other software package worth mentioning is Mozilla Firefox (version 220.127.116.11).
I emailed Mr Okajima, asking him about the licence, availability of source code and status of patents (if any), but he declined to answer any of these questions: "These issues are being discussed with my business partners at this very moment. The answers will only be published after all negotiations are concluded." The developer of the MACH BOOT CD made it clear that he intended to monetise his invention in one way or another and was currently looking into various options. But aside from the business prospects of the project, one thing is clear - MACH BOOT, from a purely technological point of view, is a remarkable achievement. It is simply the fastest booting live CD by a considerable margin.
More information: http://www.machboot.com/
Direct download link: MB_20070911.ISO (241MB)
MACH BOOT - a fast-booting live CD
(full image size: 48kB, screen resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
Ubuntu shows faith in Compiz, openSUSE in KDE 4, Debian reveals X.Org plans, Ulteo and Linux Mint updates
Ubuntu has announced that the project's upcoming release, version 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon", will ship with CompizFusion enabled by default - at least on hardware that supports 3D desktop features: "The Ubuntu Technical Board voted yesterday to ship Ubuntu 7.10 with Compiz enabled by default. Compiz is a compositing window manager that includes a number of highly sophisticated visual effects like window shadows, transparency, and desktop zooming. In the Tribe pre-releases, basic visual effects are enabled by default on supported hardware, and more sophisticated visual effects—like wobbling windows—can be enabled with a configuration utility. A compositing window manager was originally planned for inclusion in Ubuntu 7.04, but it was delayed because the software wasn't considered mature enough."
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The recently released X.Org 7.3 has barely made it to download mirrors, but some distribution developers are already talking about the next major version - X.Org 7.4. This is the case with Debian GNU/Linux whose next release is tentatively scheduled for September 2008, some 6 months after the expected release of X.Org 7.4. As is often the case these days, the RandR and Composite features get all the attention: "People having Intel, ATI or recent NVIDIA boards learnt to love the RandR 1.2 extension which provides the ability to enable/disable, resize, rotate, move outputs within a single big virtual screen. More transformations should be possible with RandR 1.3. ... Compositing still gets a lot of attention. EXA (the new acceleration architecture that has been designed for compositing) got improved a lot in X server 1.4. Several drivers, including Intel and ATI r300, already work great with EXA which means Compiz works very smoothly, even when resizing windows. There are also several videos available online, like this one."
* * * * *
Another much anticipated event on the free software release calendar is KDE 4.0. Although most distributions seem to be having second thoughts on including it in their upcoming stable versions, the openSUSE project has been confidently shipping bits an pieces from KDE 4 in their recent beta releases and has stated that many of these will be included (and enabled by default) in openSUSE 10.3: "It has always been suggested that openSUSE would be among the earliest adopters of KDE 4, and the KDE team began working on this very early with a regularly updated KDE:KDE4 repository in the Build Service, allowing users to have an up-to-date development snapshot of KDE. With this repository Stephan Binner, another KDE developer at openSUSE, created the popular live CD 'KDE Four Live' using KIWI. The packages have been created so that you can seamlessly have both KDE 3 and KDE 4 applications installed and used by each user. The user's configuration files for KDE 4 applications are stored in ~/.kde4 to avoid any conflicts. The Oxygen style, though available, is not enabled by default."
* * * * *
Our last week's featured article contrasting the popularity fortunes of Ubuntu and Fedora have resulted in a few nasty comments in the forum, but Max Spevack, the Fedora project manager, was rather pragmatic on the subject: "To win a survey like the Dell or Lenovo one requires you to have lots of users, who care enough about the distribution to go and vote for it. But what does it actually MEAN to win a survey like that, from a corporate and financial point of view? Once you are talking about selling machines with a distro pre-installed on them, then someone, somewhere along the chain is getting paid something. The question is who makes the money, how much are they making, and what is the margin? By margin I mean 'how much money do you have to spend in order to make 1 dollar?' Are you spending 50 cents? 80 cents? 95 cents? And how do you make the margins tilt as far in your favor as possible?"
* * * * *
Some nine months have passed since the first public release of Ulteo, a promising, but somewhat mysterious distribution being built by the founder of Mandrake Linux, Gaël Duval. Has the project progressed since its initial release? Yes, says Gaël Duval in this blog post published last week: "Starting from now, we're going to progressively release several parts of the global Ulteo system, through closed beta, and then open beta programs. Many of the people who have subscribed will receive an invitation to test Ulteo. When we feel it's ready for production use, we will release the beta publicly. You will certainly enjoy each part as a standalone product because you will find that it delivers nice features and makes your digital life easier. But you will get the full meaning and benefits of our vision once all these components get interconnected. From now on, we will also post news about the project, on this blog." If you are interested in helping to beta test Ulteo, follow the instructions in this mailing list post.
* * * * *
Linux Mint, an increasingly popular, user-friendly distribution, is going full steam ahead with the development of its upcoming releases - Celena (3.1, based on Ubuntu "Feisty") and Daryna (4.0, based on Ubuntu "Gutsy"). One of the interesting new features in Daryna will be mintUpdate, a trouble-free software update tool that will replace Ubuntu's Update Manager: "A new tool called mintUpdate is being designed at the moment as a replacement to the Ubuntu Update Manager and its notifier. The purpose of this tool will be to give automatic security updates to users without letting them perform uneducated upgrades. In Cassandra and previous releases the Ubuntu Update Manager was bringing security updates but this could potentially break Linux Mint. In Celena, stability was improved and the Ubuntu Update Manager was removed. In Daryna we'll introduce mintUpdate and provide the best out of both worlds: stability and security."
|Released Last Week
A new version of KnoppMyth, a KNOPPIX-based distribution with the goal of simplifying the installation of GNU/Linux and MythTV, has been released: "I'm happy to announce the release of KnoppMyth R5F27. R5F27 includes the latest version of MythTV 0.20.2 fixes, in addition to other goodies that you've come to expect from KnoppMyth." From the changelog: "Changed sources to Etch; remove software suspend2 from kernel; updated V4L/DVB modules, MadWifi to 0.9.3.1, LIRC to 0.8.2-CVS, Webmin to 1.350; more updates for our Australian users; updated NVIDIA drivers (71xx, 96xx and 9755); updated NVIDIA installation scripts; updated MythWeb; added Myth2XviD and MythWebFlash; updated ffmpeg to 20070329 and xine-lib to 1.1.7; added WINE; updated MPlayer; added r8180/8187 wireless modules; added KnoppMyth Radio...." Please visit the project's home page to read the release announcement.
Pioneer Explorer 1.1 Server
Pioneer Explorer 1.1 Server has been released: "Technalign, Inc. has announced the release of Pioneer Explorer 1.1 Server. Pioneer Explorer 1.1 Server is a community based distribution for those wishing to run a server or those learning Linux server management. Explorer Server is a live CD that allows an individual to load the CD and test the server before installation. As all Technalign operating system releases, Explorer 1.1 Server includes a KDE desktop. Those wishing to remove the desktop may do so at will. As with the new Explorer Desktop releases, Explorer Server has a minimum of a 1-year life cycle for those in the community with a planned upgrade path. The new server continues to support Webmin for a graphical interface and SSH." Read the full press release for further information.
Tilix 2.1 has been released. Tilix is a Bulgarian desktop Linux distribution based on Kubuntu and completely localised into Bulgarian. The latest release comes with the following changes and new features: based on "Feisty Fawn"; includes Linux kernel 2.6.20, X.Org 7.2, KDE 3.5.7, OpenOffice.org 2.2.0; Beryl 3D desktop; support for Zeroconf and Strigi desktop search; includes popular KDE applications, such as Digikam 0.9.1, Amarok 1.4.7, K3b 1.0.3, Kopete and KNetworkManager; support for read and write to NTFS partitions with ntfs-3g; new game - Scummvm. Please read the full release announcement (in Bulgarian) for further details (the project's web site is being redesigned and will be updated in a few days.
Tilix 2.1 - a Bulgarian distribution based on Kubuntu
(full image size: 1,620kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
JackLab Audio Distribution 1.0
The first stable release of JackLab, an openSUSE-based distribution designed for musicians, producers and media creators, was announced today: "The technical manager of the JackLab project, Oliver Bengs, released the final 1.0 version of the JackLab Audio Distribution (JAD). JAD 1.0 is based upon openSUSE 10.2, with the addition of a realtime kernel for fast audio processing and a professional audio server - JACK. JackLab 1.0 is the most comprehensive selection of open source audio and multimedia software to date. The Enlightenment D17 window manager (with 'KDE-lite' tweaks) is used by default. Unlike other existing Linux audio distributions (64 Studio, Ubuntu Studio, Musix, dyne:bolic) JAD 1.0 offers complete support for ASIO. In addition, native VST for Linux is supported by JOST, a small modular host." Read the rest of the press release for further details.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch hit by a DDoS attack|
As many of you noticed, DistroWatch was offline for much of the weekend. The reason? A crippling Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that made the site (and server) inaccessible since about 14:00 GMT on Saturday until about 12:00 GMT on Monday. The attack wasn't particularly sophisticated (it still goes on as I write this), but the large flood of packets directed at port 80, combined with the fact that it happened on a weekend, meant that it took some time to resolve the situation and to bring the site back online. Additionally, the server also became unresponsive and the operating system had to be re-installed (this is still being investigated; although there were no obvious signs of compromise, the possibility of the attacker finding a way into the server can't be ruled out).
I don't know who was behind the attack and doubt that I'll ever find out. This is the first time the site was subjected to a DDoS attack, so it caught us all by surprise (why would anybody do this to an innocent tech site?). It's a long story and I could write a detailed account of what happened and what steps were taken to fix the problem, then add some speculative thoughts on why the site was attacked. In the end, the first priority was to restore the web site, repel any remaining attacks and get everything up and running as soon as possible. There are still a few issues that need to be resolved, but the site is pretty much where it was before the weekend (except that it now runs on Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, rather than FreeBSD 6.2).
Many thanks to all concerned readers who found the time to email words of encouragement - I certainly needed them during the last four days of much work and barely any sleep!
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- LivEPICS LivEPICS is a Fedora-based Linux distribution with EPICS (a control software framework), extensions tools, introductory documents and manuals. It has a complete functionality to develop a small control system, although it is mainly intended for training classes or to monitor and supervise an EPICS network.
- Vixta.org. Vixta.org is a Fedora-based Linux distribution designed to be user-friendly and eye-catching, similar in look and feel to Windows Vista.
- Geubuntu. Geubuntu is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution featuring the Enlightenment desktop. It attempts to complete the missing parts of the Enlightenment 17 desktop shell and window manager with a certain number of tools and applications from the GNOME desktop.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 24 September 2007.
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