| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 249, 21 April 2008
Welcome to this year's 16th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It's that time of the year when the fans of Ubuntu rejoice over another new release, while those jealous of the project's growing success on the desktop would rather stay away from the Internet. But Ubuntu is not the only option; although delayed by two weeks, Fedora 9 will arrive in a blink of an eye, while openSUSE 11.0, one of the most technologically advanced distribution releases the Linux world has ever seen, is also making huge strides towards the planned release date in June. In other news, Red Hat and OpenSolaris take different views of the alternative desktop, Mark Shuttleworth opens a discussion over the future of Gobuntu and gNewSense, Mandriva introduces a new urpmi feature for adding third-party repositories, and sidux announces the release of sidux-seminarix, a Debian-based distribution for schools. Finally, don't miss our feature story: a first look at Draco GNU/Linux, an unusual distribution that combines Slackware's base system and NetBSD's packages into a powerful desktop Linux solution. Happy reading!
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First look at Draco GNU/Linux 0.3 (by Susan Linton)
Draco GNU/Linux is an interesting system. Once based on Slackware, it could be described as a Linux system using NetBSD package management. Version 0.3.0 was released last week and I realized I'd never tested it before, so I figured it was about time. Draco is offered in two install images: the 232 MB minimal system and a 596 MB desktop system. I chose the desktop edition.
As of this release Draco is now independently developed, but its Slackware roots are very much evident starting with the installer. The branding and coloring has changed, but little else. As with Slackware, you'll need to have a partition available before starting the setup. The cfdisk utility is included for partitioning if you need it. The rest is as easy as any other, as the install wizard will walk you through the rest of the procedure, including setting up a user account and root password. You are given a kernel choice of either 2.6.23 or 2.6.16 (that is referred to as 'legacy'), and LILO is offered if you require a bootloader.
After install, Draco boots to a graphical login, but the simplified interface doesn't include an option menu. F1 is supposed to change the session, but Fluxbox wasn't listed. If you would like to shut down, type halt with the root password. To restart, use reboot with root password. Upon log in, a nice Xfce 4 desktop is started. It's not fancy, but it does have a customized Draco red wallpaper and an adequate list of applications in the menu. Xfce 4 was stable, responsive, and performed really well. Fluxbox in Draco looks great, but I suffered a few freezes while doing very little within it.
Draco GNU/Linux 0.3.0 with Xfce 4
(image size: 155kB; screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Some of the applications shipped with Draco include Graveman, Bluefish, AbiWord, and Gnumeric. For graphics work there's Blender, the GIMP, and Inkscape. Audacious and gxine are included for audio and video playback. Some networking applications include Firefox 220.127.116.11, Pidgin, Liferea, Pan, Thunderbird, XChat, and Transmission. As you can see, it has most basic areas covered without overlap.
If you'd like to install some of your other favorite applications, then you will need to become acquainted with the primary feature that distinguishes Draco from other distributions: DracoPKG. DracoPKG is the software package manager. Reminiscent of APT, one issues easily remembered commands at a prompt. For example, one might use
dp install <package_name> to install a given application. Some other more commonly used commands might include
dp remove <package_name>,
dp replace <package_name>, or
dp info <package_name>. Unlike APT, DracoPKG can utilize the NetBSD pkgsrc sources to build an application (and its dependencies) if no binary is found. You could probably think of it as a blending of APT and Portage.
I tested DracoPKG on several packages, and I found it worked fairly well. It seems to scan Draco FTP mirrors first looking for a binary, and if found it is downloaded and installed (as well as any dependencies). If no binary package is available, DracoPKG begins scanning NetBSD mirrors looking for source packages. Small packages such as Nano and gedit installed without a hitch, but the more complicated VLC didn't work out so well. VLC and its many dependencies actually did (build and) install, but it would not run. It crashed out as soon as it started. The next boot after the VLC install, my slim.conf file was missing which left me at a terminal login. I'm not sure there's a connection; it's just an observation.
One notable drawback I experienced while using DracoPKG was excessive amounts of time required for it to complete some tasks. After the compile and install of an application, it seems it goes through the list of installed software checking to see if they require rebuilding or updating, and this process is quite time consuming. Updating the pkgsrc data took an extremely long time. All in all, using DracoPKG was fun and problems like I found with VLC would probably be rare, but it does have a little bit of a learning curve for those not familiar with pkgsrc. More information on DracoPKG can be found on Draco's Wiki, while NetBSD provides a package list.
Draco GNU/Linux 0.3.0 with Fluxbox
(full image size: 211KB; screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
System and Hardware Support
Hardware support with Draco is about what you find with Linux today. I tested it on my trusty HP Pavilion laptop, and most basic hardware was enabled automatically at boot. X started at the optimal 1280x800 resolution for my laptop and sound worked out of the box. If connected, the wired Ethernet connection was available at log in. Removable media is detected upon insertion and an icon is placed on the desktop. All of this is just what one would hope.
Advanced laptop features are not supported so well. Modules for CPU Frequency Scaling are available and you can insert the profile into the
/sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor file. There is no battery monitor available as default, but xfce4-battery-plugin is available for installation. Suspend and hibernate options aren't addressed.
My primary concerns are with CPU Scaling and the wireless Ethernet. Since my wireless chipset isn't supported by Linux, I accept that not all distros will work with it. So, I consider myself fortunate if NdisWrapper will bring the chip to life and I was fortunate in that respect with Draco. But I wasn't quite as lucky with Wpa_supplicant (WiFi Protected Access software).
One nasty little bug encountered was when trying to mount my Windows partition on NTFS. The partition did not mount and the system eventually became unresponsive.
I have to say that Draco GNU/Linux is a very interesting distribution and I had quite a bit of fun testing it this week. Draco does have its community and many satisfied users, but I think it's still a bit rough around the edges. I didn't really have any major issues, but I did have a few small problems. I enjoyed my time with Draco, but it probably won't become my main system on this laptop. However, if you like Slackware or Xfce, you might like Draco.
Fedora 9 delay, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS release, openSUSE's OBS update, Red Hat and OpenSolaris desktops, Gobuntu vs gNewSense, sidux-seminarix
The delayed "Preview" of Fedora 9 was finally released late last week. As mentioned in the announcement, this release is only available for download via BitTorrent, while the upcoming release candidate, scheduled for general availability tomorrow (Tuesday) should be also provided in the form of direct downloads from Fedora's FTP and HTTP mirrors. (Update: the Fedora 9 release schedule has been updated with a "not really public" release candidate 1 on May 1st.) Effectively, the Preview is designed as a final check for the release candidate to make sure that there are no nasty surprises later this week. But as has become customary with Red Hat's community distribution, the final release has slipped once again: "At today's regularly scheduled meeting, the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee (FESCo) decided that Fedora 9 release will be slipping by exactly two weeks. Because of other slippage, coupled with some technical difficulties during this previous week, our Preview release was unexpectedly stalled. The Preview release is where we expect to catch all manner of last-minute bugs, do very heavy QA, and otherwise perform all the final spit-and-polish. There needs to be sufficient time between the PR and the release for testers to find and report issues."
Fedora 9 Preview, released on Friday, comes with updated artwork.
(full image size: 636kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
If you've ever installed Fedora, CentOS or any of the dozens of distributions that use the Anaconda system installer, you might be curious about the current status and future plans of what is probably the most widely-used Linux installation program. Seth Vidal and Will Woods unveil a few secrets in this interview by Red Hat Magazine: "In the future we plan to better integrate pre-upgrade with the Fedora mirror system - the list of available releases will be on the mirrors, and when we do a new release you should be able to get a nice pop-up that says something like 'Fedora 10 has been released [click here to upgrade]'. Someday it should also let you pick your favorite mirror and get upgrades from 3rd party repositories as well. And, of course, we plan to do full i18n support so everyone worldwide can enjoy easier (and saner) upgrades."
* * * * *
This week belongs, of course, to Ubuntu. The world's most popular desktop Linux distribution continues to keep the promise it gave us in 2004 - to provide regular stable releases every six months. Ubuntu 8.04, code name "Hardy Heron", is the project's second version that bears the LTS (Long Term Support) badge, and although the CD images won't be available until Thursday, the official press release has already been sent out: "Canonical Ltd. announced the upcoming availability of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition for free download on Thursday 24 April. Ubuntu 8.04 LTS raises the bar on the Linux desktop experience. It includes the latest, stable version of many core products, and in that spirit is the first distribution to bring Mozilla Firefox 3 (Beta 5) to millions of users. The combination of Linux and Firefox make Ubuntu 8.04 LTS a superb web desktop, with fast browsing and greatly reduced exposure to viruses, web forgery and spyware." The announcement also notes other improvements, such as enhanced photo experience, music sharing and download, better video, productivity enhancements with clock and calendar integration, and a slick desktop with the latest GNOME.
For those users who aren't able to download the CD images or those who prefer the official media, Ubuntu's ShipIt service has started accepting requests for Ubuntu 8.04 desktop and server editions. And if you are in a festive mood, don't forget to check out the Hardy Release Parties page in the Ubuntu Wiki for information about Ubuntu release parties in your area.
* * * * *
Many people expect the upcoming release of openSUSE, version 11.0, to be possibly the most important breakthrough in terms of desktop Linux usability enhancements and user interface updates. One of the magic tools that helps the developers accomplish their goals is openSUSE Build Service (OBS), an infrastructure for building openSUSE packages. A major update to OBS was announced last week: "The 0.9 release will help grow a world-wide network of build service instances. OBS instances can automatically interact with each other and reuse projects residing on other OBS instances. New installations of OBS are automatically configured to work with the main openSUSE Build Service, which makes it easy to set up new instances and minimize network traffic while keeping data in sync automatically. Developers now have the ability to build all packages from the openSUSE Factory (development) distribution. The 0.9 release also adds the ability to automatically create multilib packages using baselib for processor architectures that support 32- and 64-bit binaries."
* * * * *
There is a new package management feature in the recently released Mandriva Linux 2008.1 that will make it much easier to add third-party package repositories to Mandriva Linux. How does it work, you ask? Simple as a pie: "This is maybe one of the most useful features in the new Mandriva 2008.1. Indeed, previously users were using web sites like easyurpmi to add official Mandriva mirrors, but also to add third-party mirrors, such as PLF. While the Mandriva Media manager allowed adding official Mandriva repositories, it was impossible to add any third-party ones. Since Mandriva 2008.1, a new option allows adding mirrors from a list. With this option, urpmi.addmedia will try to add the nearest mirror. The only thing needed is a server giving the list of mirrors in a format compatible with urpmi.addmedia. A new option --mirrorlist, and a new special variable $MIRRORLIST have been introduced."
* * * * *
A topic that always stirs heated debates in the Linux community is the suitability of Linux as a desktop operating system. Last week, Red Hat published a press release entitled What's Going On With Red Hat Desktop Systems?, arguing that while it was true that desktop Linux had made huge strides over the last few years, nevertheless it was still very hard to build a sustainable business model around it: "As a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers. The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today's Linux desktops simply don't provide a practical alternative. Of course, a growing number of technically savvy users and companies have discovered that today's Linux desktop is indeed a practical alternative. Nevertheless, building a sustainable business around the Linux desktop is tough, and history is littered with example efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled or are run as charities." The press release also touches on the subjects of the Red Hat Global Desktop (RHGD) and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) projects.
* * * * *
Speaking about alternative operating systems for the desktop, here is an interesting update on Project Indiana, which intends to bring OpenSolaris into much wider use than ever before: "The first steps towards this goal have been realized in the latest developer preview release of OpenSolaris which offers a complete GNOME desktop environment as well as a package system and an installer. The final release will take place in May and the distribution will adhere to a six-month release cycle, just like Fedora and Ubuntu." A new OpenSolaris release every six months? That sounds exciting enough, but a lot will depend on the ability of Sun Microsystems to generate revenue from the project: "The point of creating a distribution, says Murdock, is to promote widespread adoption so that Sun can reach the open source community through massive volume and then reap the rewards later when some of those adopters decide that they want commercial support services and help building out bigger infrastructure."
* * * * *
Free software is another topic that often comes up in debates between Linux enthusiasts. Should we adhere strictly to the four software freedoms as advocated by Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation (FSF) or do we compromise occasionally in order to bring more users to Linux? For those who believe in the former there is an interesting development with regards to Gobuntu (Ubuntu's "libre" distribution) and gNewSense (an Ubuntu-based project sponsored by FSF). Mark Shuttleworth: "The 'current and future' thread on this list has got me thinking. Perhaps we really are on the wrong track, that the only way to meet the needs of the gNewSense folks is to have completely different source packages to Ubuntu. If that is the case, then I think it would be better to channel the energy from Gobuntu into gNewSense. ... I'm not sure that the current level of activity in Gobuntu warrants the division of attention it creates, either for folks who are dedicated to Ubuntu primarily, or to folks who are interested in gNewSense. I would like us to have a good relationship with the gNewSense folks, because I do think that their values and views are important and I would like Ubuntu to be a useful starting point for them. But perhaps Gobuntu isn't the best way to achieve that."
* * * * *
Finally, sidux e.V has announced the release of sidux-seminarix 2008-01: "sidux e.V. is pleased to present to you with the first version of sidux-seminarix. This is an educational project that merges Seminarix with the base of sidux. Seminarix is aimed at schooling teachers as well as pupils with free and open software to make computer training in schools less costly and more effective. The project was initiated in March 2007 by Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann, who works in the education of students for a teaching credential. First based upon Kubuntu, sidux e.V. started to port it to sidux with the help of teachers and interested users. With sidux as a powerful free and open Linux distribution the Seminarix project now has a fast, easy to maintain and always current base. sidux-seminarix is enriched with a comprehensive amount of learning software from the realms of education, culture and science." The sidux-seminarix CD image is available for download from here: sidux-2008-01-nyx-kde-seminarix-i386-200804120045.iso (689MB, MD5).
|Released Last Week
BeleniX 0.7, a live CD based on OpenSolaris, has been released: "We are pleased to announce the availability of BeleniX 0.7. This release marks a considerable change in the evolution of BeleniX. As of 0.7, BeleniX is a source level derivative of Project Indiana. As such, it has most of the Indiana features except for image packaging which is still in the works. Version 0.7 is installable to the hard disk and supports ZFS root. Following are the highlights of the release: re-branded Caiman installer installs BeleniX to ZFS root; the distro constructor is adapted as the BeleniX constructor; fully packaged, all software is delivered via SVR4 packages; includes the full 64-bit kernel and libraries; properly integrated and themed KDE 3.5.8..." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
BeleniX 0.7 with the default Xfce desktop, KDE 3.5 is also available
(full image size: 571kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.19
Guardian Digital has announced the release of EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.19: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.19. This release includes many updated packages and bug fixes and some feature enhancements to the EnGarde Secure Linux installer and the SELinux policy. New features include: several enhancements were made to einstall, the EnGarde Secure Linux Installer; the 'Language Selection' screen now works and will complete the installation in the language (and with the associated keymap) you select; network configuration information is also carried over from the live CD configuration, if present, into the installer; several new packages such as Alpine, Netcat, Nikto (2.02), pam_userpass, watchdogd (0.90), and SmokePing; the latest stable versions of MySQL (5.0.51a), Apache (2.2.8), Asterisk (1.4.18), BIND (9.4.2)...." Read the complete release notes for more information.
Draco GNU/Linux 0.3.0
Draco GNU/Linux is a distribution based on Slackware Linux and "pkgsrc", a package management system developed by NetBSD. A new version, 0.3, was released a few days ago: "Introducing Draco GNU/Linux 0.3.0. Featuring kernel 2.6.23 (with optional 2.6.16), glibc 2.6.1, GCC 4.1.2, and OSS 4.0. Selected packages from pkgsrc are available through the repository and on an ISO image. This release also introduces Draco Desktop. Draco Desktop contains the latest stable Draco release, bundled with software from the latest pkgsrc branch. Draco Desktop defaults to Xfce, with Fluxbox as an option." Here is the brief release announcement. Draco GNU/Linux 0.3.0 is available for download either as a minimal base system or a "Desktop" edition, an installation CD with Xfce and Fluxbox window managers.
DragonFly BSD 1.12.2
Matthew Dillon has announced the availability of an updated release of DragonFly BSD, version 1.12.2: "DragonFly BSD 1.12.2 released. A significant number of bug and security fixes have been merged from current to the 1.12 branch over the last two months and we have rolled a new sub-release, 1.12.2, for the benefit of our users. We recommend that 1.12 users upgrade. In addition there is a known issue related to building pkgsrc packages from source which is addressed in the above release notes. Basically the M4 package sources needs to be patched. This applies to HEAD users as well." Changes: "Fix wide symbols (wstring, wint_t etc) support in gcc41 (libstdc++); add libc support for gcc41 stack protector; update bzip2 to 1.0.5...." See the release announcement and release notes for further details and errata issues.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Turtle Kevux. Turtle Kevux is an operating system based mainly on the Linux kernel and GNU, all compiled with uclibc. It is a fully functional desktop system.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 28 April 2008.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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