| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 253, 19 May 2008
Welcome to this year's 20th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Fedora 9 came out last week as expected, but the many experimental features and software packages in the distribution seem to detract some would-be users from upgrading their distribution. Do you enjoy testing the latest and greatest the Linux development world has to offer? Then Fedora 9 is for you. Otherwise look elsewhere. In the news section, Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth calls on greater release synchronisation between the major Linux vendors, Debian struggles to come to terms with a massive OpenSSL vulnerability, ComputerWold Australia interviews Ian Murdock, the Sun Microsystems' vice president in charge of OpenSolaris, and Gentoo succeeds in reinstating Gentoo Foundation in New Mexico. Also in this issue, an explanation why DistroWatch does not focus more on GPL violations and other legal topics, and an opinion piece on the subject of growing mistrust of users towards Canonical and Ubuntu. Happy reading!
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Technology versus ideology
Some of the topics that have come up in the DistroWatch Weekly discussion forum recently is the issue of violating the GPL by some distributions and the question of boycotting Novell and its products due to the company's role in legitimising the infamous Linux patent claim by Microsoft. Some readers went as far as asking us to remove certain distributions from the DistroWatch list, while others want us take a more active role in exposing Novell's patent deal and its implications on the future of Linux and open source software. Although all these readers have valid points and we welcome the diversity of opinions in the forum, don't expect DistroWatch to become another Groklaw and to cover these topics extensively here.
Why? There are several reasons. Firstly, none of us is a lawyer and none of us intends to become one. While we do agree that a GPL violation is a very serious matter indeed, just because a reader emails us alleging that a project does not comply with its terms and conditions, it doesn't make him right. Until the project is convicted in the court of law, it is innocent. Secondly, there are web sites that are better equipped (in terms of expertise) to deal with GPL violations, patent protection agreements and other lawyer's stuff. Groklaw has been covering these topics for several years, while BoycottNovell.com is another web site that continues to expose the Novell-Microsoft patent protection agreement. For smaller community projects, our friend Béranger will uncover any distribution that does not have a "source" directory on their FTP server. If you feel strongly about licence violations and patent agreements, I suggest you spend more time on the above-mentioned web sites and their forums.
The most important reason, however, is the raison d'être of DistroWatch. Since the beginnings of the web site in 2001, we have always preferred to focus more on technology and less on ideology. I agree with Linus Torvalds in this respect - personally, I care less about what license the operating system or software package is released under and more about what it can do for us, its end users. Does it save us time and money? Does it make us more productive? Does it have useful features? Are the developers accessible? Do they accept input from users? Do they have innovative ideas? Do they take software security seriously? These are the questions that we prefer to answer here at DistroWatch. That's not to say that we condone GPL violations or that we agree with Novell's way of conducting its affairs. But we don't intend to turn DistroWatch into a portal promoting ideological purity of software at the expense of technological achievements of the OSS development communities.
Hate Ubuntu? It's normal!
If you believe online forums and blogs, Ubuntu must be the most hated Linux distribution on earth. Not only is it funded by a millionaire space tourist and aggressive capitalist, it also exists (according to another Linux company's CEO) for the sole purpose of destroying all other distributions that exist on the market. It is reportedly a parasite that takes all the code from Debian without contributing much back and despite all its "software for humanity" talk, it keeps developing proprietary software solutions (e.g. Launchpad). Mark Shuttleworth's recent suggestion to synchronise distribution releases in order to coordinate bug-fixing work was greeted with a suspicion that he merely wants "to benefit from a lot of work that Novell and Red Hat are already doing in the enterprise space." So what makes people dislike and mistrust Ubuntu so much?
I don't think it's specifically Ubuntu that many people have a problem with. Throughout the history of our coverage of distributions here at DistroWatch, it was always the top one that some readers appeared to dislike most. If you've been around in the early parts of this decade, you might remember that Mandrake Linux went through similar pains - it kept getting a high number of reviews, but it also attracted more than its fair share of negativity on user forums. Interestingly, now that it acts from the position of an underdog, it has suddenly become the darling of the distro world, with excellent products and barely any criticism - but also hardly any reviews. It is the same as when a group of unbiased spectators watches a sporting contest between a clear favourite and an unfancied underdog - they will undoubtedly support the latter with all their might! It's the human nature.
The fact that many people dislike the top distribution is not really a problem. The problem is that many of these folks are extremely vocal on the Internet to express their opinions. While no intelligent reader will ever take them seriously, they do give the Linux community a bad name and discourage potential Linux users from joining us. Can anything be done about this? Not much, it seems. Until people start reading their own posts and realise that senseless negativity towards the most popular distribution is counter-productive, we will have to live with the unfortunate fact that the top dog will always be the most hated one too - at least in the more immature and destructive circles on the Internet.
Bleeding-edge Fedora, Shuttleworth on release synchronisation, Debian's OpenSSL vulnerability, interview with Ian Murdock, Gentoo Foundation status update
Fedora 9 was released last week. As many users have discovered since then, the latest version of Red Hat's community distribution is a rather adventurous mix of bleeding-edge packages and experimental features. The development version of X.Org 1.5 does not work well with any of the proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers, which were promptly left out from the stable Livna.org repositories. Similarly, Firefox 3.0b5 is a beta build, lacking support for many popular add-ons. And there is KDE 4.0.3, another experimental, buggy and feature-lacking desktop package that is forced onto Fedora's KDE users without an alternative. No wonder that many users are unhappy about some of the choices Fedora developers made prior to the release. But as is always the case with this popular distribution, things are bound to improve in the coming weeks. The first major batch of package updates has already entered the testing directory, so it shouldn't be long before they are pushed on to the end users. If you are a Fedora fan, but would prefer your Linux desktop to have fewer experimental software packages, you might want to postpone the upgrade for a month or two, or investigate one of the distributions with a policy of shipping stable and well-tested software only.
Fedora 9 - too bleeding-edge?
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One of the most popular discussion topics of the past week was the long blog post by Mark Shuttleworth, Discussing free software synchronicity. In it, the Ubuntu founder suggested that it could be better for the entire free software community if major distribution releases were synchronised in order to share code, bug-fix patches and other work of common interest: "It's clear that there's a slower rhythm of 'enterprise', 'LTS' or 'major' releases. These are the ones that people end up supporting for years and years. They are also the ones that hardware vendors want to write drivers for, more often than not. And a big problem for them is still 'which version of X, kernel, libC, GCC' etc should we support? If the distributions can articulate, both to upstreams and to the rest of the ecosystem, some clear guidance in that regard then I have every reason to believe people would respond to it appropriates. I've talked with kernel developers who have said they would LOVE to know which kernel version is going to turn into RHEL or an Ubuntu LTS release, and ideally, they would LOVE it if those were the same versions, because it would enable them to plan their own work accordingly. So let's do it!"
* * * * *
Debian GNU/Linux has had a rough week. Thanks to the predictable randomness vulnerability in its OpenSSL package, many Debian and Debian-based servers that allow login using authorised keys were vulnerable to a brute-force attack. Erich Schubert: "Apparently, there are only about 2^15 different keys generated by the SSH versions shipped with Debian for 2 years. Hackers have already generated all these 32,767 different keys, for two key lengths and types." Russel Cocker: "It should also be possible to make up to 2^15 attempts to login to a session remotely if an attacker believes that an authorized key was being used - that would take less than an hour at a rate of 10 attempts per second (which is possible with modern net connections) and could be done in a day if the server was connected to the net by a modem." The reaction of the Debian developer community varied; some went as far as to call for firing the developer responsible for the error, but eventually reasons prevailed over emotions. John Goerzen: "I happen to know that the Debian programmer that made this patch is a very sharp individual. I have worked with him on several occasions and I would say that kicking him out of maintaining OpenSSL would be a quite stupid thing to do. He is, like the rest of us, human. We might find that other people are considerably less perfect than he."
* * * * *
Here is a good, 3-page interview with Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian GNU/Linux and the vice president of Sun Microsystems responsible for the recent launch of OpenSolaris 2008.05: "Q: What do you do at Sun? I see the OpenSolaris project seems to fall onto your plate. A: Initially I was working on OpenSolaris and started Project Indiana, which culminated this week [with] the first version of the OpenSolaris binary distribution. These days I am running the developer and community marketing organization, so I am responsible for marketing Sun's developer tools, the developer programs like Sun Developer Network and Tech Days Events, our open-source projects and communities. [Also, I do marketing for] StarOffice, OpenOffice, Network.com. So basically anything that relates to the developer community in some way, I run the marketing piece of that."
* * * * *
Finally, the Gentoo project has announced that the Gentoo Foundation was officially reinstated last week: "If you're interested in the legal standing of Gentoo, you can relax because in the past week, the State of New Mexico declared that the Gentoo Foundation Inc has returned to good standing and is free to do business. This accomplishment allows other aspects of the foundation's work to proceed again. The foundation takes care of Gentoo's intellectual property (copyrights, trademarks) and money. It ensures that nobody violates our copyrights and trademarks, serves as a place to hold money, and decides where to devote that money."
|Released Last Week
Fedora 9 has been released: "The Fedora Project, a Red Hat sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration, today announced the availability of Fedora 9, the latest version of its open source operating system distribution. Highlights: PackageKit, a cross-distribution package management solution; GNOME 2.22; KDE desktop 4.0.3 featuring upgrades to core components such as the port to Qt 4; NetworkManager improvements; Firefox 3 Beta 5; SELinux confined web browser; OpenJDK6, the release of Sun Java SDK under a free and open source license; X.Org updates; consolidated dictionary support; Bluetooth enhancements; persistent live USB support; Upstart init daemon; ext4 file system support...." See the formal press release and read the comprehensive release notes for more information.
Ark Linux 2008.1
Bernhard Rosenkraenzer has announced the release of Ark Linux 2008.1, an easy-to-use desktop Linux distribution with KDE and a selection of highly up-to-date applications: "The Ark Linux team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of Ark Linux 2008.1, a new version of its easy-to-use, easy-to-learn operating system. Contrary to our original plan for this release, we have decided to make one more release based on KDE 3.x, to provide a stable state-of-art system that fixes all known problems with earlier versions before the big move to KDE 4.x. Major changes from the last release include updates to KDE 3.5.9, kernel 22.214.171.124, glibc 2.8 and wine 1.0-rc1, building everything with GCC 4.3 for improved performance, greatly extended hardware support, and the addition of Gnash, a free player for Flash animations." Here is the brief release announcement.
MEPIS antiX 7.2
MEPIS has announced the release of MEPIS antiX 7.2, a lightweight, community variant of MEPIS Linux designed for older computers: "MEPIS has announced the release of antiX 7.2, 'Vetëvendosje.' Built using the MEPIS Linux 7.0 core including the MEPIS 2.6.22 kernel and utilities, along with selected additions from Debian Lenny, this lightweight operating system is especially appropriate for older hardware and users who like a very fast functional system. Pre-configured window managers Fluxbox and IceWM, as well as Conky and ROX Desktop, come ready to use. The search tool Catfish and the video player gxine have been added. New features based on community contributions include revised customized menus for better usability, a detailed set of FAQs for the new user, original wallpapers, and scripts for easy configuration of user and system files." Read the release announcement and check out the list of installed application for further details.
MEPIS antiX - a light-weight distribution designed to run efficiently on older computers
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rPath Linux 2.0
Michael K. Johnson has announced the release of rPath Linux 2.0, a highly customisable appliance operating system featuring the Conary package management utility: "rPath is pleased to announce that rPath Linux 2 is now available and recommended for general use as an appliance platform. What's new? rPath Linux 2 is the next step in the evolution of the rPath Linux platform. In addition to a technology refresh (new versions of included packages), rPath Linux 2 is better tuned as a platform to show off your work. Just enough OS - rPath Linux 2 is smaller than rPath Linux 1. Boot splash branding - rPath Linux 2 implements a graphical boot process which is easy to customize to look the way you want. Additional security mechanisms: - several additional runtime security measures have been added to most packages. More robust system boot - the syslinux bootloader is now the default bootloader....." Read the complete release announcement for more information.
Ubuntu Muslim Edition 8.04
Ubuntu Muslim Edition (UbuntuME) 8.04, an Ubuntu-based distribution featuring Islamic software, a Quran study tool and a web content filtering utility, has been released: "The Ubuntu Muslim Edition team is proud to announce the final version of UbuntuME 8.04. It includes an installable live desktop CD, a second CD with additional software (OpenOffice.org, Arabic language packs, Quran recitations, etc.), an installable DVD (with more Quran recitations), and a script to convert standard Ubuntu installations to UbuntuME. Highlights: WebStrict (parental control tool) enabled by default; Zekr 0.7.0 (Quran study tool) installed and configured to play Quran recitations; Minbar and Firefox 'Pray Times' add-on installed; Monajat (display Islamic prayers); Thwab (encyclopedia); UbuntuME artworks: usplash, login screen, Islamic wallpapers, theme etc." See the complete release announcement for more information.
Ubuntu Muslim Edition 8.04 provides a variety of Islamic software.
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- Linux Mint 5.0-beta1, the release announcement
- Beyond LFS 6.3-rc1, 6.3-rc2, the release notes
- Elive 1.7.2, the release announcement
- Frugalware Linux 0.9-pre1, the release announcement
- Endian Firewall 2.2-rc1, the release announcement
- Litrix Linux 8.5-rc1, the release announcement
- Sabayon Linux 3.5-beta3, the release announcement
- openSUSE 11.0-beta3, the release announcement
- Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r0-test2, the release announcement
- PC-BSD 7.0-alpha3
- Clonezilla Live 1.0.11-19
- B2D Linux 20080513
- Big Linux 4-rc
- RIPLinuX 5.4, 5.5
- Berry Linux 0.90
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The Fedora project has published a draft release schedule leading towards the distribution's next stable release - Fedora 10. The development will start with the initial alpha release at the end of July and should culminate with a stable version on 28 October 2008. As always with Fedora, these dates are merely estimates and, judging by the project's previous development periods, they are more than likely to change. For more information please see the Fedora 10 Release Schedule page on FedoraProject.org.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Statistics - note on user agent string in Ubuntu 8.04|
Those of you who follow the DistroWatch web server statistics might have been surprised to see a big drop in the number of visitors using Ubuntu - from over 11% last month to less than 4% this month. Upon closer investigation, it turned out that the reason is simple - the Firefox web browser in the recently released Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" does not come with a custom user agent string, causing all visitors using Ubuntu 8.04 to fall into the "unknown OS" category. Hopefully, this "bug" will be updated in due course. In the meantime, Ubuntu still remains the most often-used distribution among the DistroWatch readers with 10.5% of all Linux-using visitors, followed by Debian GNU/Linux (9.2%), openSUSE (5.5%) and Fedora (5.3%).
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Ubuntu Rescue Mix. Ubuntu Rescue Mix is a GNU/Linux live system which runs from CD or USB flash device. It provides the data recovery specialist with a command-line interface environment equipped with the best free and open source data recovery and forensics tools available.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 26 May 2008.
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|• Issue 674 (2016-08-15): Zenwalk Linux 8.0, Ubuntu phone follow-up, Lubuntu transitioning to LXQt, Steam running on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 673 (2016-08-03): noop linux and EasyNAS, Debian's GnuPG switch, Fedora "Flock", using "nice"|
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