| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 237, 28 January 2008
Welcome to this year's 4th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Mobile workers no longer have to carry bulky laptops in order to do their work; with the emergence of free software and live operating systems, a bootable USB Flash drive with Linux is often all that's needed to complete one's task while on the road. In this week's issue we'll take a quick look at Mandriva Flash 2008, a useful "pocket" OS with thousands of applications and several gigabytes of free space for storing your data. In the news section, Gentoo Linux works hard to improve the interaction between the developers and its users, Debian embarks on a major switch to GCC 4.3 as the default compiler, Fedora announces more changes to the project leadership prior to the upcoming release of Fedora 9, and ISP-Planet talks to m0n0wall's Manual Kasper about the importance of small, configurable firewalls. Finally, don't miss the usual bunch of new Linux distributions submitted to DistroWatch, including the promising openmamba GNU/Linux. Happy reading!
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First Look at Mandriva Flash 2008
Mobile computing is an essential activity for many people who frequently move between different work places. Traditionally, carrying a laptop (and maybe a spare battery) was the most common way to make sure that a job was being done even while away from the office, but with the emergence of modern technologies and free software, some people have replaced the bulky notebook with a tiny USB device. With Linux, especially since KNOPPIX and other live operating systems revolutionised the way we boot our computers, many projects have embarked on building bootable Linux systems on USB devices - complete with full operating systems and enough space to store one's data. Of the big Linux distributions, Mandriva -- with its Mandriva Flash, a 4 GB USB storage device carrying the latest version of its distribution -- has always been at the forefront of the development of these "pocket" operating systems.
I started my testing of the 4 GB Mandriva Flash 2008 on a Toshiba Satellite laptop. Although the laptop supports booting from USB devices and its BIOS was set up with the USB drive as the first boot device, it still failed to boot the Flash drive. No problem. Since Mandriva's USB key comes with a tiny bootable ISO image, I inserted the Flash drive to a USB port of my main computer, copied the 4.8 MB ISO image to the hard disk and then burnt it onto a CD. Even if Mandriva Flash boots fine on your system, it is always advisable to create this boot CD for those computers that don't support booting from USB devices. With its small size, it even fits on one of those business card-size CDs that one can conveniently carry in a wallet!
With the freshly burnt CD in the DVD drive, the Toshiba laptop finally booted into Mandriva Flash 2008. The first boot somewhat resembled the installation process - although the system detected and configured all hardware correctly, it required some user input, such as specifying the keyboard, time zone and root password, and creating a user account. This was followed by a screen allowing the user to resize the live system in order to create space for system settings and data. This got me stumped; with the default set to just 400 MB, but with the total available space of 2,640 MB, why not use the entire free space for data? And if I accept the default and allocate just 400 MB for data, what will the remaining space be used for? Other user accounts? Or system updates? This, I felt, wasn't explained clearly by the on-screen wizard. Eventually I settled on allocating about two thirds of the available space to data and left the rest to whatever the system needed it for.
The optimal monitor resolution of 1280x800 pixels was set up correctly. Interestingly, the system automatically loaded a proprietary NVIDIA driver and asked whether to turn on any 3D desktop effects - the default was none, but one could choose between Metisse and CompizFusion. I opted for CompizFusion just to see how well it would perform while running the OS from a USB Flash drive, but later I turned it off because I found it a bit flaky (the default Mandriva slide show screensaver would sometimes only cover one part of the screen and I had X.Org crash on me on one occasion). The hardware detection system correctly configured and brought up both the wireless network card (Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG) and the Ethernet card (Intel PRO/100). One other glitch I noticed after entering the desktop was the duplication of some menus (Find and Recent Documents, see the screenshot below).
Mandriva Flash 2008 - the default desktop
(full image size: 618kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Mandriva Linux 2008 was released more than four months ago, so I wasn't surprised to see that, after launching the package update tool, there were 171 packages waiting to be updated. This proceeded without a hitch. Next, I was curious to find out more about the available "disk" space on the USB Flash drive, so I reached for the "df" utility. This gave me an interesting output: the total space was 3.1 GB (with 1.5 GB used and 1.6 GB free), which meant that the roughly 900 MB of space which I left "unresized" during the initial resizing wizard was unrecognised. This made me wonder even more about the unusually small space set out by default for user data - just 400 MB. Had I opted for that, full 2 GB of the Flash drive would have been "lost" to whatever the designers of Mandriva Flash intended it for!
One other thing I wanted to test was the speed of the system and applications, but I found these to be excellent; in fact, I hardly noticed that the operating system wasn't running from the hard disk. It booted up in 110 seconds (from the moment it detected the boot CD to the full KDE desktop), while OpenOffice.org Writer started in 11 seconds (first launch) and 3 seconds (second launch). Other than the fact that the system ran from a USB Flash device, it was very much the same as the Powerpack edition of Mandriva Linux 2008, complete with some proprietary components (kernel drivers, media codecs) and non-free software (Skype, Flash plugin, RealPlayer), but there was one important difference - GNOME was not present. The only alternative to the KDE desktop was the light-weight IceWM. On the other hand, Mandriva Flash 2008 supports a large number of languages, which can be configured during the first boot.
After spending a few days running Mandriva Flash 2008, I was pleased with the system. It's hard not to appreciate its versatility - you can easily move any data between the device and another computer without having to boot it first and the operating system itself seemed to be very stable (once you overcome the temptation to turn on CompizFusion) and bug-free. Its hardware detection was excellent and performance rather better than I expected. This should be a perfect companion for the road - provided that you have a remote server to back-up your work; after all, the USB key is so small that there is a real danger that it could get misplaced or lost. The only other negative: Mandriva Flash isn't particularly cheap, but as always with these products, you get what you pay for.
Mandriva Flash 2008 4GB is available from Mandriva Store (€59.00, free shipping) or Amazon.com (US$93.99). For more information please visit the product page at Mandriva.com.
Gentoo rejects Robbins's offer, Debian switches to GCC 4.3, Fedora announces more personnel changes, ISP-Planet interviews m0n0wall's Manuel Kasper
The Gentoo Linux project has seemingly recovered from its recent leadership crisis. Following the outcry of the Gentoo user community over the revocation of the Gentoo Foundation's charter and further demands for better interaction between the project's developers and its users, the Board of Trustees has introduced a number of changes. Those who missed the old glory days of Gentoo Linux will be pleased with the frequent updates on the project's home page, including news about the upcoming release of Gentoo Linux 2008.0, tentatively scheduled for 17 March 2008. In a related development, the Board of Trustees has rejected the offer of help from Daniel Robbins and has decided to continue managing Gentoo under the current leadership. The project's founder welcomed the changes and dismissed suggestions that he fork Gentoo into a new distribution. He was later seen joining the developers' mailing list at Sabayon Linux, a Gentoo-based desktop distribution.
All is well that ends well? Let's hope that the newly introduced changes will not be just temporary and that we will continue seeing regular updates and frequent stable release of what is one of the most innovative and powerful Linux distributions available today!
* * * * *
Judging by the confidence with which many Debian-based distributions release their new builds based on Debian's two non-stable branches, the development of the upcoming release of the world's largest Linux distribution, code name "Lenny", is going well. However, as announced on the Debian developers' list over the weekend, a critical part of the process - a switch to GCC 4.3 as the default compiler, is only now getting under way: "Over the last year many test rebuilds of the archive were made using new compiler versions taken from the upstream repositories. The results of these re-builds look promising so we will make GCC 4.3 the default compiler for at least these architectures with good test results soon after the creation of the GCC 4.3 release branch. ... Among some new features and bug fixes, the C++ compiler is now more strict, plus libstdc++ did see a reorganisation of header include files, which both lead to a large number of build failures, which will turn into release critical bugs once the first architecture changes to g++ 4.3 as the default C++ compiler. While a large number of packages is already fixed and prepared to build with 4.3, we still have more than 500 packages which do not build with g++ 4.3."
* * * * *
Preparations for the upcoming first alpha release of Fedora 9 Alpha, due later this week, continue unabated - despite several personnel reshuffles the project has been through since its last stable release. The latest round of changes includes a "promotion" for Tom "Spot" Callaway to the newly created Fedora Engineering Manager post: "The paperwork went through earlier this week, so it is official now: I'm now the Fedora Engineering Manager inside Red Hat. This is a new role, it was created as part of the understanding that Max Spevack is actually a super-powered alien from outer space, and that no mere mortal can do all the things that his job entails. Paul Frields is the Fedora Leader, he is the decision maker, the big kahuna, the wise man, and the last best hope for peace. Jack Aboutboul is the Fedora marketing lead, community builder, and ambassador to the known the universe. I'm filling the technical portion of the tri-force, leading the Red Hat engineering efforts towards making Fedora even better, and getting good ideas wherever I can find them."
On a related note, the code name for Fedora 9, scheduled for release on 29 April 2008, will be Sulphur.
* * * * *
Small firewall distributions lack the glamour and attention the big desktop-oriented releases get in the Linux media, but they form an essential part of the Internet infrastructure. One such project is m0n0wall, a light-weight firewall based on FreeBSD and complete with an excellent, web-based configuration tool. ISP-Planet has talked to Manuel Kasper, the project's founder and lead developer: "Manuel Kasper developed the embedded firewall software package m0n0wall back in 2002, he says, while experimenting with embedded x86-based computers. 'Having just succeeded at stripping down FreeBSD enough to make it run on a Soekris net4501 board... and deploying it for use as a home firewall/NAT router, I wanted to go one step further,' he says. 'I wanted a nice, web-based interface to configure it, just like the commercial firewall boxes.'".
|Released Last Week
Canonical has announced the release of Ubuntu 6.06.2 LTS, the second update to its "Long Term Support" release from June 2006: "Canonical, the commercial sponsors of the Ubuntu project, announced today the second maintenance release of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, which continues to be supported with maintenance updates and security fixes until June 2009 on desktops and June 2011 on servers. Over 600 post-release updates have been integrated, so that fewer updates will need to be downloaded after installation, and the installation system has been improved. These include security updates and corrections, with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 6.06 LTS. Some particularly notable updates in Ubuntu 6.06.2 LTS include: Users can configure LVM using RAID partitions as physical volumes; detection of the DAC960 RAID controller...." Read the rest of the press release for further details.
GoblinX 2.6 "Micro"
Flavio Pereira de Oliveira has announced the release of GoblinX 2.6 "Micro" edition, a minimalist live CD based on Slackware Linux: "GoblinX Micro 2.6 is released. The GoblinX Micro edition is the smallest version of our distribution and contains only Fluxbox as windows manager and GTK+-based applications. The main upgrades since the release candidate: added SLAX firewall; added more options to ISOLINUX menu; rebuilt GtkDialog interfaces to not allow resize action; corrected several errors and bugs; added ghdcpd and xrefresh; upgraded some libraries and packages including xorg-server; replaced z.Goblinx with z.Micro; replaced z.User with z.Muser; corrected some sudo issues; removed X.Org default resolution; recompiled Fluxbox against Imlib2." Visit the distribution's news page to read the full release announcement.
Parsix GNU/Linux 1.0r0
Alan Baghumian has announced the release of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.0r0, a desktop distribution based on Debian's testing branch: "We are proud to announce that the final version of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.0r0, code name 'Ramon', is available now. The main highlights are: Improved live system with new start-up and shut-down scripts, new live structure, new Squashfs + LZMA compression system, updated installer system, new 18.104.22.168 kernel with CFS 24.1, CK, TuxOnIce 3.0-RC5, Iwlwifi and other patches, GNOME 2.20.3, lots of updated packages including OpenOffice.org 2.2.1, GNU Iceweasel 22.214.171.124, GIMP 2.4.3, glibc 2.7, Pidgin 2.3.1, all packages have been synchronized with Debian testing repository as of January 24, 2008, new GUI X.Org configuration tool ported from Ubuntu, new attractive look and feel." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Parsix GNU/Linux 1.0r0 - showcasing the latest from Debian's testing branch
(full image size: 355kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
SchilliX 0.6, a non-graphical distribution featuring the latest OpenSolaris technologies, has been released. What's new? "Updated to use OpenSolaris Nevada Build 80; now using a non-DEBUG build of the OS; new keyboard layout recognition and setup method, if you do not use a German keyboard, boot one of the 'Ask KBD Layout' boot entries and wait for being asked for the keyboard layout; thanks to a new mkisofs and to a new 'hsfs' driver, installing the DVD to a hard disk will now correctly hard link all hard linked files in the copy; all /opt/schily programs updated to a recent release; SCCS has been updated to the recent Schily release that adds some new features and fixes some bugs. Warning: this release does not fit on a CD any more, you need to write the image to a DVD to be able to boot it." Here is the full release announcement.
Shift Linux 0.6.2
Barney Tormey has announced the release of Shift Linux 0.6.2, an Ubuntu-based distribution developed by the Neowin.net community: "Shift Linux 0.6 released today. There are three editions released at this time: Shift Linux 0.6 GNOME, Shift Linux 0.6 KDE4, and Shift Linux 0.6 Lite (for older computers). Shift Linux Lite contains two less resource hogging window managers (Xfce and Fluxbox), but will have a full compliment of packages and utilities. All three versions of Shift Linux 0.6 are fully installable (tested and verified). Shift Linux has moved away from its Morphix base and is now based on Ubuntu. This version incorporates Firefox 3 (GranParadiso), OpenOffice.org, new themes, and a tested installer. We've also updated to KDE4. This is a transition version as we move away from Morphix and port over our previous versions to Ubuntu." Here is the complete release announcement.
Shift Linux 0.6.2 GNOME edition - now based on Ubuntu and featuring Firefox 3.0
(full image size: 200kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Gentoo Linux 2008.0
The Gentoo Release Engineering team has published a roadmap leading to the release of Gentoo Linux 2008.0: " Public beta releases play a major role in the Release Engineering team's revamped plans for 2008.0. Releng lead Chris Gianelloni said he hoped beta releases would increase community participation as well as the quality of the final release. These feature-complete public betas will require the earlier development of release materials, another component of the 2008.0 changes. To ensure sufficient time for beta testing, a mandatory 2-week testing period will follow the beta release." Gentoo Linux 2008.0 Beta is scheduled for release on March 3rd, with the final release coming on March 17th, 2008. Read the full announcement for further details.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
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, 4 February 2008.
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|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
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|• 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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