| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 233, 17 December 2007
Welcome to this year's final issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Yes, it's that time of the year when DistroWatch takes a brief look at the events that shaped the distribution world during the past 12 months. Who were the winners and losers in 2007? Which distributions impressed most? Were there any major surprises? Read more in our feature story. In the news section, Mandriva enters a new development process with Cooker Alpha 1, Max Spevack resigns as Fedora Project Leader, MEPIS updates its artwork for the upcoming release of SimplyMEPIS, Daniel Robbins announces updated "stage" tarballs, and Ulteo delivers the first of its online services. Finally, many thanks to all our loyal readers and best wishes for the festive season! See you all in 2008!
- Commentary: Distributions in 2007
- News: Mandriva enters alpha development, Fedora loses project leader, MEPIS updates desktop artwork, Ulteo announces online services, Daniel Robbins releases Gentoo "stages"
- Released last week: CentOS 4.6, LliureX 7.11, Litrix Linux 7.12
- Upcoming releases: NetBSD 4.0, FreeBSD 6.3
- New distributions: ChurchPup, DEFT Linux, EduPup, Keldix Linux
- Reader comments
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Distributions in 2007
It's that time of the year when DistroWatch looks back at the past 12 months and asks: what was it like to be part of the open source software community in 2007? Was it the year of Linux on the desktop yet? Were there any unexpected surprises? And did Linux or other open source operating systems help you accomplish your computing tasks? Or was there something that could have been done better?
Perhaps the most fitting description of 2007 would be "the year of increased polish of desktop Linux". While in previous years distributions seemed to concentrate on delivering exciting new features and grand enhancements, the last 12 months were somewhat more sedate in this department. Instead, all major distributions focused on incremental improvements of existing features, small usability enhancements, and general desktop polish. Ubuntu was the obvious trend-setter as it continued to attack the desktop, but Fedora also surprised a few people with its sudden dedication to impress users with desktop art. Most other distributions also made an effort here and the words like "beautiful desktop" are now a standard item on the feature lists of all major distributions.
Ubuntu continued its determined march towards world desktop domination. As it had promised, it published two stable releases (7.04 "Feisty Fawn" and 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon") and, towards the end of the year, it also started working on its second LTS (Long-Term Support) release, version 8.04 "Hardy Heron". Both of its 2007 releases were well received by the reviewers, although some end users still complained about various issues when trying to upgrade from one version to another. Quality control seems to have improved as well - the project has avoided the kind of bad publicity it suffered in 2006 when a simple security update rendered many computers unbootable. The popularity of Ubuntu was also reflected by an increasing number of derivative distributions.
The openSUSE project had a mixed year. It only produced one release (version 10.3), which was a definite improvement over the package management fiasco of some of the earlier 10.x releases the previous year, but the end users still reported a rather high number of bugs. Nevertheless, openSUSE remains one of the best-loved distributions on the market, which it demonstrated by finishing second (behind Ubuntu) in the annual DesktopLinux.com survey, while on DistroWatch.com it is the third most often used open source operating system (after Ubuntu and Debian).
Fedora was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year. Its two releases (versions 7 and 8) were well-received by reviewers and end users alike as it continued on its well-established, but highly innovative development path. Its new artwork team in particular deserves high marks for its work, but the effort spent merging the "core" and "extras" repositories before Fedora 7 and the growth of the volunteer developer community were equally impressive. The well-oiled Livna.org repository, maintaining a large quantity of non-free software and patent-encumbered media codecs, continued to deliver what Fedora couldn't. But despite all these positives, the distribution still fails to attract first-time Linux users who sometimes complain about the lack of a central configuration utility or the overly technical nature of the operating system.
Mandriva seems to have finally turned the page. For once, the headlines featuring the French company were less about the lay-offs and financial troubles and more about business deals and new products. Like Ubuntu and Fedora, it too published two new releases - Mandriva Linux 2007.1 was a minor update over its previous version, while its version 2008 was a brand new release. Concentrating less on features and more on polish, this latest release was a winner among the new and intermediate users, while the company continued to make advancements simplifying its web site infrastructure and product line-up. The old Mandriva Club that had split the community is all but history. Mandriva Linux, once a dominant desktop distro, made a major progress towards regaining the users' trust in 2007 and if it continues on this path, we might see some interesting distro usage shifts in the coming year.
Debian GNU/Linux had a quiet second half of the year after the release rush leading to version 4.0 "Etch" in April 2007. This was a major breakthrough for Debian as it was the project's first release defaulting to the 2.6 kernel series and the first one that included a graphical installer. On the negative side, despite the fact that all the bickering over the Dunc-Tank experiment subsided in the second half of the year, the excellent Debian Weekly News failed to return to life. Next on the project's agenda: Debian "Lenny". Scheduled for release in September 2008, talk about freezing the testing tree has already started. Will we finally see an orderly Debian release in 2008?
As for other main distributions, Slackware Linux continued its quiet existence - little changed during the 15 or so years since it was conceived. It made just one release in 2007 (version 12.0), which was reflected by the solitary(!) news update on its web site. Luckily though, the Slackware "Current" changelog keeps moving as fast as ever. In the meantime, Gentoo Linux had another disappointing year. It was the first time in the project's history that it managed just one stable release in a calendar year (assuming that no new version shows up before 31 December), while its news page offered only marginally more updates than Slackware's. The excellent Gentoo Weekly News was quietly abandoned in the second half of the year. Once a highly respected and rapidly evolving distribution, Gentoo Linux is now increasingly a niche product - technically excellent, but nowhere near as enticing as it was just a few years ago.
Which of the smaller distributions shined this year? Enough has been said already about PCLinuxOS, an unlikely distribution that ends the year 2007 on top of DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking statistics. Perhaps one distribution that arguably deserves most the "biggest mover and shaker" title of the year is Linux Mint. This unpretentious project achieved more in one year than many better established distros in several, especially in its ability to attract less technical computer users and convert them to Linux. Granted, Linux Mint is mostly Ubuntu with a new face, some desktop enhancements and a handful of administration tools, but the sheer enthusiasm of its developers and community make up for any shortcomings of the small project. The second operating system worth mentioning here is PC-BSD; like Linux Mint, it has grown by heaps and bounds in terms of work that turned an ultra-geek operating system into a real BSD desktop alternative.
And what about DistroWatch? We too had a decent year. The site kept growing, albeit at a slower pace than it used to. Despite that, it managed to break all records in October this year when it attracted 3.7 million visitors and served almost 72 million pages. The advertising revenue dropped somewhat in 2007; that however didn't stop us from setting aside US$4,200 for donations to open source projects. The readership of DistroWatch Weekly too grew rather nicely during the year, helped, no doubt, by a number of external writers who provided interesting content; many thanks to Susan Linton, Chris Smart and other contributors.
* * * * *
This is the last issue of DistroWatch Weekly in 2007. The next two Mondays fall on the 24th and 31st December - the days traditionally associated with offline feasting and festivities (at least in the Western world), rather than online activity. As such, your DistroWatch Weekly team will also take a break. The front page will be updated as normal, but DistroWatch Weekly will only return on January 7th, 2008.
Finally, let us extend our season's greetings to all our loyal readers. We thank you all for your support throughout the year and hope that you have a happy and prosperous New Year! See you all in 2008!
Mandriva enters alpha development, Fedora loses project leader, MEPIS updates desktop artwork, Ulteo announces online services, Daniel Robbins releases Gentoo "stages"
Mandriva Linux is the latest major distribution to launch a testing process leading to its next release, version 2008.1. However, unlike Mandriva's upgrade from 2007 to 2007.1 a year ago when the base system remained intact and only the more visible packages were upgraded, this time around it looks like all of its components are being pushed towards newer versions. A quick glance through the package list reveals that the first alpha of Mandriva Linux 2008.1 ships with Linux kernel 2.6.24-rc5, X.Org 7.3 and GTK+ 2.12.3. All of the major packages have been upgraded as well. Other interesting features that are being integrated into the system include new ATI and NVIDIA proprietary drivers and PulseAudio. Some early reports suggest that Mandriva's first alpha is fairly stable and relatively bug-free, which is unusual for what is essentially an early Cooker snapshot. The final release of Mandriva Linux 2008.1 is currently scheduled for release on April 2nd, 2008."
* * * * *
Max Spevack, the Fedora Project Leader since February 2006, has announced his resignation from the post: "After two years and four releases of Fedora, I would like to be able to do some other things related to Fedora and/or Red Hat while allowing someone else to assume the 'Fedora Project Leader' responsibilities. ... I also want to make it absolutely clear that all of this is completely voluntary - it is my idea, it is initiated by me, and I have brought the Fedora Board and other Red Hat VIPs into the discussion because a decision like this requires their input. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as the Fedora Project Leader. I am not going anywhere for a while, but I wanted to let the community know what is going on, and what to expect in the next few months."
* * * * *
It can't be long before the final release of SimplyMEPIS 7.0 shows up on download mirrors. As part of adding that last-minute polish, the MEPIS developer community has updated the look and feel of this user-friendly distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux: "Thanks to some very inspired and dedicated work by the MEPIS community, the look of MEPIS 7.0 has been updated. This is a whole new coordinated look for grub, splashy, and the desktop. To install the new look, just update from the MEPIS 7.0 pool. This update is not available for earlier releases of MEPIS." Also updated were a number of popular packages, including Mozilla Firefox (18.104.22.168), Digikam, KMPlayer and xine-lib. Will SimplyMEPIS 7.0 arrive just in time for Christmas?
SimplyMEPIS 7.0 - the new artwork
(full image size: 374kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Ulteo, a Linux distribution project led by Mandrake founder Gaël Duval, has announced the incorporation of an online edition of OpenOffice.org into the upcoming release of Ulteo: "The latest version of OpenOffice.org is now available using a browser with a single click of a mouse, with no download or installation process ('no install') of the productivity suite required. ... Ulteo's service also provides OpenOffice.org users with instant collaboration capabilities. A user working with OpenOffice.org on the Ulteo server can invite other people to work with him or her on a shared document in real time. Invitations are sent via email and allow access in either read-only or full edit mode, simply by clicking on a link in the email." The new service is part of Ulteo's philosophy of "connected desktops", where software and services are often delivered across the network, rather than through locally installed applications. Besides OpenOffice.org, Ulteo promises to provide similar services in the future, along with a few surprises.
* * * * *
Speaking about distro founders, here is a useful note from Daniel Robbins, the original creator of Gentoo Linux. With the distribution's upcoming release (version 2007.1) seemingly nowhere in sight, Robbins has released a set of fresh Gentoo "stages" for those users who want to install the latest Gentoo Linux without having to do to much post-install compiling: "Yes, even more fresh stages for amd64, i686 and x86 are available here. A new amd64 stage is building right now and will have a timestamp of 2007-12-10 when uploaded. Barring any build issues from upstream, I plan to offer fresh Gentoo stages that are no more than a week old, so the next time you need a fresh stage tarball, please give one of mine a try. It will save you quite a bit of 'emerge -u world' time." The Gentoo "stage" tarballs are designed primarily for advanced Linux users (or those who would like to become advanced in as little time as possible), to perform a highly optimised, custom Gentoo installation from scratch.
Still on the subject of Gentoo, Obsethryl's Lab has published and interview with Ciaran McCreesh, the chief developer of Paludius (an alternative to Gentoo's Portage package management infrastructure): "A lot of seasoned GNU/Linux users prefer using Gentoo in production, mainly because of Portage. Despite that, Portage does have a series of issues that hinder its further development; one solution that can substitute Portage and offer a viable and far more robust alternative is Paludis. ... Instead of presenting Paludis myself and why it is preferable to use it in a Gentoo system instead of Portage, I took the liberty of asking Ciaran McCreesh, chief developer among the Paludis team about a relatively gentle introduction to the Paludis world, why it became a necessity, its design and goals."
* * * * *
With the KDE 4 release date approaching fast, the developers of Kubuntu have joined openSUSE and Debian GNU/Linux in providing a live CD featuring the latest release candidates of the popular desktop environment: "The second release candidate of KDE 4 has been released and packages are available for Kubuntu 7.10. If you want to test KDE 4 without installing packages download the live CD (466MB). This CD includes a preview of the Konqueror Webkit engine." The latest KDE 4.0 release candidate looks considerably more polished than the betas; if you'd like to take a peek, you can download the Kubuntu live CD from here: kubuntu-kde4-rc2.iso (466MB, MD5). KDE 4.0 is scheduled for release on January 11th, 2008.
* * * * *
Finally, FreeBSD's Ivan Voras has announced the availability of a new FreeBSD live CD. Based on FreeBSD 7.0-BETA4, the live CD boots into an Xfce desktop and features a graphical system installer: "I've created a new livecd + finstall ISO image containing FreeBSD 7.0-BETA4. This release of finstall fixes most of the bugs present in earlier versions, and introduces only one new feature: file systems are created on glabel devices. It looks like I can now create a realistic schedule for 7.0-RELEASE. It will probably contain the following new features (i.e. in addition to those already in alpha2): ZFS; installing on already partitioned drives; some kind of rudimentary remote install." While the new release is still labelled as alpha, this is currently the easiest way to take an early look at the upcoming FreeBSD 7.0. Download the live CD image from here: freebsd7-finstall-alpha2.iso.bz2 (286MB). FreeBSD 7.0-STABLE is scheduled for release on January 14th, 2008.
|Released Last Week
LliureX is an Edubuntu-based live DVD developed by the Council of Culture, Education and Sport at the Municipality of Valencia in Spain, designed for deployment in schools throughout the region. A new version, based on Edubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn", was announced yesterday. New features include: full support for Valencian and Spanish, with additional language modules for other regional languages of Spain, as well as English, French, German, Arabic, Russian and Romanian; improved hardware support and up-to-date software with two years of guaranteed security updates; GNOME 2.18 desktop, OpenOffice.org 2.2 office suite, Firefox 2.0 web browser and Linux kernel 2.6.20; new and more robust system of auto-configuration with a transparent installation of configuration files. Read the full release announcement (in Spanish) for further details.
LliureX 7.11 - a Spanish Linux distribution based on Edubuntu
(full image size: 1,591kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Litrix Linux 7.12
A new stable version of Litrix Linux, a Brazilian desktop distribution based on Gentoo Linux, has been released. According to the brief release announcement (in Portuguese) on the distribution's web site, Litrix 7.12 uses Linux kernel 2.6.22 and includes KDE 3.5.8 desktop, OpenOffice.org 2.3.0 office suite (called BrOffice in Brazil), GCC 4.1.2 compiler suite, Picasa image viewer, XSane scanner frontend, NVIDIA 100.14.19 proprietary graphics driver, and native support for symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems. The distribution is optimised for i586 processors (Intel Pentium III and newer).
Litrix 7.12 - a Brazilian distribution based on Gentoo Linux
(full image size: 809kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Johnny Hughes has announced the release of CentOS 4.6, a newly updated version of the distribution's legacy 4.x branch: "The CentOS development team is pleased to announce the release of CentOS 4.6 for i386, x86_64, s390, s390x and ia64. This release corresponds to the upstream vendor 4.6 release. Also released in the updates repository for CentOS 4.6 are all updates through December 15th, 2007. Major changes for this version are: Samba has been updated to version 3.0.25b; Autofs5 is included in this release as a Technology Preview, it resolves several long-standing interoperability issues in multi-vendor environments; there is a technology preview of OpenOffice.org 2.0 included in the updates directory; a new yum included in CentOS 4.6 requires the installation of a metadata parser for yum." See the complete release announcement for additional information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- ChurchPup. ChurchPup is a Puppy Linux derivative for Christians. It focuses on Bible study, office applications, Internet, and email, but also includes applications for multimedia presentation, audio and video editing, and musical notation.
- DEFT Linux. DEFT (acronym of Digital Evidence & Forensic Toolkit) is a customised distribution of the Xubuntu live Linux CD. It is an easy-to-use system that includes excellent hardware detection and some of the best open source applications dedicated to incident response and computer forensics.
- EduPup. EduPup, a light GNU/Linux distribution based on Puppy Linux, is dedicated to children and their teachers and parents. It includes the following educational programs: TuxType2, TuxMath, ChildsPlay, TuxPuck and TuxPaint.
- Keldix Linux. Keldix Linux is a distribution designed primarily for the Small business Office and Home Office (SOHO) market. It is a live DVD built on PCLinuxOS. Keldix Linux has the following features: Danish translation, Skype, Shorewall firewall automatically activated, automatic setting of synchronised time, login by password or SSH passphrase, dr.dk TV.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 7 January 2008.
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