| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 256, 9 June 2008
Welcome to this year's 23rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Ever since the launch of ASUS Linux Eee PC late last year, the ultra-portable computer market has turned into a major battleground of operating systems. Who will win? Microsoft with its thick wallet and pressure tactics or Linux with its low cost and open development model? Last week's Computex in Taipei revealed surprising differences between the ways hardware manufacturers embrace this exciting market. In the news section, Debian announces upcoming freeze of "Lenny", Mandriva celebrates its 10-year birthday, Canonical releases Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and FreeBSD updates the End-of-Life dates for its current and past releases. Also in this week's issue, a good collection of search resources for CentOS and RHEL users, and a list of valuable third-party repositories for openSUSE 11.0. Finally, with the annual package database update on DistroWatch, do let us know which new packages you want us to include in the tracking process. Happy reading!
- Report: Computex 2008 - Linux ultra-portables galore
- News: Debian "Lenny" freeze, Mandriva Cooker news, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, FreeBSD EoL notice, openSUSE package repositories, CentOS search resources, Gentoo release delays, interview with Red Hat CEO
- Released last week: Damn Small Linux 4.4, Linux Mint 5, Zenwalk Linux 5.2
- Upcoming releases: Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 1
- Site news: Annual package database update
- New distributions: PING, ZevenOS
- Reader comments
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Computex 2008 - Linux ultra-portables galore
From a Linux user's perspective, Computex is hardly an exciting event. The world's second largest computer exhibition is primarily designed to showcase the latest innovations by Taiwanese hardware manufacturers and to conclude lucrative deals with a growing number of overseas buyers. But the enormous success of the originally Linux-only Eee PC from ASUS meant that even a Linux enthusiast could find something to look at during this year's event. Furthermore, the first mini-laptop has created a large number of copycats and there is hardly a major or minor notebook manufacturer in this part of the world that hasn't thought of developing its own version of an ultra-portable. For this reason, this year's Computex offered much more to a Linux user than any of the previous shows.
The most obvious booth to visit was, of course, the ASUS Eee PC stand. Continuously crowded with eager visitors, the well-known motherboard and electronics manufacturer displayed not only its old and existing Eee PC models, but also the upcoming Intel Atom-based Eee PC 901 and ASUS Eee PC 1000 (pictured on the left) series, as well as the new, Mac Mini-like Eee Box. All these products were available for testing by the visitors, with the staff on the floor allowing everyone to play with the products to their hearts' content. Besides the main products, the impressively designed stand also presented a wide range of accessories for the mini-laptops in neatly arranged display windows.
However, not all was well at the ASUS stand. As a visitor interested in Linux, I was disappointed to find just one of the products on display running the open source operating system. Even worse was the fact that the entire area was plastered with advertisements displaying large Windows and Microsoft logos. The only flyer available at the stand was a Microsoft one entitled "It's better with Windows" (see picture on the right), while the technical specifications sheet showing the various products available was spoilt by a large slogan on the top reading "ASUS recommends Windows for everyday computing". I had noticed the same slogan on flyers distributed in local computer stores, wherever ASUS products were sold.
Seeing all this was a shock, to say the least! ASUS has effectively relegated the word "Linux" to the confines of the small print. For its Eee Box, it wasn't even listed as an option. I felt cold shivers going through my body; how is it possible that Microsoft's thick wallet was able to hijack this great product, a Linux product, for its own cold-blooded propaganda and FUD? And how could ASUS do this to the Linux community after the tireless promotion it had given the Eee PC in the media? To the uninitiated visitor of the ASUS stand at Computex, the Eee PC might have easily looked like just another clever and innovative product designed and developed by Microsoft!
That said, I also felt a sense of satisfaction seeing how Microsoft had been forced to compete with Linux. Its "it's better with Windows" slogan implies that there is an alternative, the existence of which the software giant vehemently denied, even ridiculed, not long ago. Unfortunately for ASUS, it has succumbed to whatever Microsoft wanted from its next-generation Eee PC as this excellent computer is about to become big, bloated, heavy and expensive (see the picture on the left comparing the 900 and 1000 series side by side), the characteristics often associated with Microsoft's own products. Certainly a radical departure from the successful, low-cost, original Linux-based Eee PC!
Luckily for Linux, the vacuum left behind by ASUS is quickly being filled with alternatives. The Acer Inspire One, also displayed at the show, is a product that will no doubt find accord quickly with the Linux community. Acer has been selling Linux laptops in certain markets for some months and last week's widely reported anti-Microsoft quote by a high-ranking Acer representative, together with the company's promised large-scale promotion of Linux-based laptops, will no doubt make Acer a new darling of the Linux community. (Let's just hope that the company won't make another ASUS-like turnaround as soon as a Microsoft's sales manager shows up with his cheque book!)
I had a chance to play with Acer Aspire One (see picture on the right) for a few minutes at the Acer stand. It's a sleek, well-designed mini-laptop, reportedly running Linpus Linux "Lite", a product created by Taiwan's Linpus Technologies. But according to /etc/system-release, the operating system installed on Aspire One was "Fedora 8 (Werewolf)", suggesting that Linpus Lite is really just a hacked-version of Fedora, rather than a completely independent product. This is another reason the Linux developer community is likely to embrace Aspire One - the Fedora/Linpus distribution will always be a more welcome product than Eee PC's Xandros Desktop, after Xandros' history of developing proprietary components for its products and the unpopular baggage in the form of the infamous Microsoft patent protection agreement. Linpus Technologies has not (yet) signed any such deal.
According to the Acer stand representative, the Atom-based Aspire One laptops will be officially launched before the end of June 2008, with the Linux edition likely to cost just under US$400.
But the real shock at the Computex exhibition came at the booth run by VIA, another major Taiwanese hardware manufacturer, perhaps best-known for its low-cost, low-requirements processors. The company had an entire wall of its stand devoted to VIA-powered mini-laptops, manufactured by the growing number of both well-known brands and minor start-ups. To my amazement, I counted no fewer than 24 different ultra-portable models! Although most of them were running Windows, a handful offered a choice between Linux and Windows, while three of them displayed Linux editions. These were HP Mini-Note with SUSE Linux Enterprise, Everex Cloudbook with gOS and a previously unseen Quanta ILI Mini-Note (pictured on the left) running Linpus Linux.
As for Linpus Technologies, besides being present on mini-laptops around the show, it also had a stand of its own. It displayed several Acer Aspire One laptops, as well as a number of other ultra-portables, including the HP Mini-Note and a couple of "no-name" ones, all running Linpus Linux Lite. It seems that the company is well-positioned to take advantage of the vast manufacturer base here in Taiwan, as it is able to react fast to any new product announcements coming from local companies. If the current explosion of mini-laptops continues, we could see a rapidly growing market share of Linpus Linux on these types of products.
As for the newly announced Ubuntu Netbook Remix, I had no luck finding it on display at Computex. Granted, the exhibition was huge, spread over many buildings in two different parts of the city, but if the new software package was there, it certainly wasn't something that would hit the visitor into his face.
In conclusion, a big thumbs-down to ASUS for turning its successful Linux product into just another Microsoft propaganda tool, for its bloated, heavy and overpriced Eee PC 901/1000 range, and for dropping Linux completely from the Eee Box. A huge thumbs up to Acer and its courage to place a massive bet on Linux. If you are on the market for a new mini-laptop, I recommend that you wait just a few more weeks and spend your cash on Acer's Aspire One, instead of the ASUS "screw-the-Linux-community" Eee PC. And if Aspire One doesn't fit your taste for some reason, don't despair. Very soon, your local computer store will carry a considerable number of mini-laptops from well-known manufacturers and from never-heard-of-before ones, with prices almost certainly being pushed into new record lows.
Whatever you do, give ASUS Eee PC a miss.
Debian "Lenny" freeze, Mandriva Cooker news, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, FreeBSD EoL notice, openSUSE package repositories, CentOS search resources, Gentoo release delays, interview with Red Hat CEO
Debian GNU/Linux has published a new release update, outlining the current status and upcoming goals of the project before the expected September release of version 5.0 "Lenny". Some of the more interesting release goals include: "Transition to Perl 5.10; GCC 4.3 as the default compiler on all architectures; switch /bin/sh to dash; prepare init.d scripts for dependency-based init systems; support for Python 2.5; transition to XULRunner." Also, a freeze of non-essential toolchains and libraries is now under way, with a full freeze expected to take effect in July. As for the packages, expect to see Lenny shipping with GNOME 2.22, but the status of KDE has yet to be decided: "The KDE team is continuing to prepare packages for KDE 4.1 development releases. The first beta has just been uploaded to experimental and user are encouraged to test it. Please note that we haven't decided yet on the inclusion of KDE 4.1 in Lenny, but plan to do so in the near future."
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Mandriva Linux is 10-years old! Completing the bumpy first decade of its existence, the Paris-based company celebrated its birthday in style - with a party in the Gustave Eiffel hall on the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower: "On Friday, May 30th, we were invited to Mandriva's 10th anniversary celebration at the Eiffel Tower. This French company, which specializes in producing Linux distributions, was born in 1998. Previously named Mandrake (the famous 'magician'), it changed its name after the takeover of Conectiva in 2006. In these 10 years, the company has introduced several innovations in the world of free software and its distribution is one of the world's most popular (although currently in the shadow of Ubuntu). We saw several interesting sights at the event, including two machines side by side: one new system running Mandriva Linux 2008 Spring, the second (a Pentium) equipped with the first version of Mandrake. The difference is striking and shows that Linux has made great progress in 10 years."
Still on the subject of Mandriva Linux, Fabrice Facorat has published a quick update on the current status of Cooker, Mandriva's development branch. Banshee 1.0, Google Gadgets, KDE 4.0.81 and much more; here is a brief list of some of the improvements: "Banshee 1.0 is available; on user requests, Wallpapoz has been packaged, with a large panel of options to configure the wallpaper of the GNOME desktop, notably the ability to define a wallpaper for each virtual desktop; Google Gadgets for Linux has been packaged; the Oxygen theme support for Firefox has been packaged; KDE 4.0.81 is in Cooker since at least a week; Firefox 3.0 RC2 is available in testing; Cooker is now using kernel 2.6.26-rc4-git5, the NVIDIA drivers have been updated to support this kernel; Mandriva have switched to TCB (from OpenWall) to store password instead of the old shadow; Olivier Blin is on fire and have added many new features and bug fixes to Mandriva network tools, notably concerning 3G connections."
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Canonical has announced the release of Ubuntu Netbook Remix, a specialist distribution designed for ultra-portable Internet devices: "Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, today announced that it will be demonstrating a reworked desktop image of Ubuntu built specifically for a new category of portable Internet-centric devices -- netbooks. These affordable, power-efficient, small screen devices, based on the ground breaking low-power micro-architecture of the Intel Atom processor, and Ubuntu allow consumers to enjoy email, instant messaging, Internet surfing and on-line access to photos, videos or music with an affordable, reliable device. Ubuntu Netbook Remix is based on the standard Ubuntu Desktop edition but with a launcher that allows users to get on-line more quickly and have faster access to their favourite applications. Ubuntu Netbook Remix will enable device manufacturers to get to market rapidly with a compelling software solution on netbooks." See also Mark Shuttleworth's blog post entitled Netbooks pre-loaded with Ubuntu.
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The FreeBSD security team has published an update on the status of security support in FreeBSD. Users still running FreeBSD 5.5, 6.1 and 6.2 should note that, as of 1 June 2008, these versions are no longer supported: "The branches supported by the FreeBSD Security Officer have been updated to reflect recent EoL (end-of-life) events. FreeBSD 5.5, FreeBSD 6.1, and FreeBSD 6.2 have 'expired' and are no longer supported effective June 1, 2008. Users of these releases are advised to upgrade promptly to FreeBSD 6.3 or FreeBSD 7.0, either by downloading an updated source tree and building updates manually, or (for i386 and amd64 systems) using the FreeBSD Update utility as described in the FreeBSD 6.3 and FreeBSD 7.0 release announcements. This marks the end of support by the FreeBSD Security Team for the FreeBSD 5-STABLE branch." As for the current stable version for the 6.x and 7.x branches, the estimated EoL is 31 January 2010 for FreeBSD 6.3 and 28 February 2009 for FreeBSD 7.0.
* * * * *
Installing third-party software is a popular way of enhancing a Linux distribution beyond its stock status. But where does one find good lists of extra package repositories? If you are an openSUSE user you are in luck - last week Ben Kevan and James Ogley published a useful list of repositories, designed to extend openSUSE 11.0: "With the openSUSE 11.0 release coming around the corner, I felt it was about time that we talked about some of the most useful repositories to make the best of your openSUSE experience (which will be great with or without the additions of the repositories I have included). Here is a Wiki page I have written to show some of the most useful repositories. They include KDE4, KDE3, education (for Bluefish mainly), Compiz Fusion and many more." Also included are several GNOME repositories for the latest stable version of the popular desktop, as well as a few other packages built by the openSUSE GNOME user community.
* * * * *
For users wanting stability and free long-term support, one of the best options is to install CentOS, a distribution created by recompiling the source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The question is, what happens if you run into a problem and need help? Here is a list of excellent Firefox search add-ons specifically related to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS, courtesy of Dag Wieers: "If you use RHEL or CentOS a lot and you often find yourself looking for good information on the web about either CentOS or RHEL, you might find the following Firefox search add-ons very useful. I would like to have them on the Firefox add-on web site, but in the meantime you can install them directly from this blog article. Also remember that the solutions you find for CentOS are equally suited on RHEL and vice versa. So you might want to have both the RHEL and CentOS Knowledge Base search added to your Firefox. Important: only supported by Firefox 2 and higher! So ironically this will not work for CentOS 5.1, but RHEL 5.2 should be fine."
* * * * *
The Gentoo Linux release engineering page still maintains that the project's upcoming version will be released in March 2008, which obviously won't happen. So what's the hold-up? Tobias Klausmann explains: "In 2008, we first aimed for a release sometime in April. Again, the dates kept slipping and we're now quickly heading for 2008 half-time and there still has been no release. If things go well, there will soon be one, but I (just like the rest of the releng team) refuse to give any date. Now, the question is why a release is slipping time and again. There are (as usual) a variety of reasons this is the case. The following list isn't complete, I'm quite sure. Still, those are the most prominent reasons from my perspective - it's an opinion piece." The author's list of reasons include complexity associated with building release media, events affecting developers' personal lives, general aversion towards repetitive tasks, and difficulties accompanying any testing and bug reproduction. The author concludes: "As for the solutions to these problems, I suspect more policy, more process and all that might spring to mind first. But at the core of them lies a two-fold reason that is the source of most of it: release building isn't an easy job and people are lazy."
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Finally, a good interview with Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, Inc.: "Q: Which distros were you using? A: Fedora! Many years ago I used Slackware and I have to admit that I played around with Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS, but I've mainly been a Fedora user for a long time. When I first got the call about the Red Hat job, it was the first time my wife truly saw me light up in a long, long time. It's an incredibly powerful economic model but I guess from my personal perspective it is an extraordinary opportunity because it's so new. We have an opportunity to redefine major chunks of the way software is developed and the opportunity to play a lead role in that is extraordinary. I wake up every day and it's a thrill just to come to work. I certainly understood the power of the open source model and the opportunity for us to really change the way software is developed, but I don't think I fully conceptualised that before joining."
|Released Last Week
Resulinux is a Brazilian desktop distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux. A new version 2.9, code name "Chesed", was released yesterday. From the changelog: added option to choose one of the four available desktop themes; KDE 3.5.9 with Compiz; new configuration and package installation panels; security improvements; major applications - OpenOffice.org 2.4.0, Firefox 3.0; Linux kernel 126.96.36.199 enhanced for performance; bug fixes in Kaffeine and scripts for installing the ATI and NVIDIA proprietary video drivers; new script for configuring wireless networking and miscellaneous other networking improvements. Please visit the distribution's download page (in Portuguese) to read the complete changelog.
Resulinux - a Brazilian desktop distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux
(full image size: 430kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Absolute Linux 12.1.01
Paul Sherman has announced the release of Absolute Linux 12.1.01, the first minor update to the light-weight, Slackware-based desktop distribution. From the changelog: "wicd updated (version 1.4.2), includes changes to daemon.py and networking.py to accommodate Slackware's networking scripts without altering them; 5ball gets a new high-contrast theme (requested by a visually-impaired user); absServices.py updated (utility to set start-up daemons); changed from wxGTK to pyGTK + code clean-up; flv2avi re-introduced, added desktop file and dialog if ffmpeg is not installed; K3B updated to 1.0.5, includes plugin support for ffmpeg use; multimedia installer updated; fixed ffmpeg not installing properly; couple of performance tweaks." Here is the release announcement with a full changelog.
eAR OS 1.09
Peter Thomsen has announced the release of eAR OS 1.09, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution designed for the multimedia enthusiast: "After a small delay, a new eAR OS, version 1.09b, can be downloaded. The most important features of this release: navigate the eAR Media Center with a mouse, a touch pad or a touch screen; Windows Media Center remote controls (new version with a Philips ID) now work out-of-the-box; update of the 2.6.24 Real-Time Linux kernel and update of almost all applications to the very newest stable releases, the excellent Exaile audio player with iPod support has been added too; new features in the MORE menu; Firefox with support for QuickTime content and DivX movie playback; firewall to prevent incoming traffic." Visit the project's news page to read the release announcement.
Zenwalk Linux 5.2
Jean-Philippe Guillemin has announced the release of Zenwalk Linux 5.2: "The long awaited Zenwalk Linux 5.2 is now available. What's new? The new release includes nearly 500 changes to software packages including a number of updates, bug fixes and enhanced replacements for some software. Notable updates include the Linux kernel version 188.8.131.52 and the Xfce desktop 4.4.2. An improved package manager; Netpkg 'new generation' is now at version 4, introducing many improvements: better layout, tree-like view of packages, many help pop-ups, ultra-intuitive user interface, automatic colorization of icons; full internationalization of the user interface; real-time recursive dependency computing, and full-text search. Improved multimedia support; refined system power usage; the beautiful and well-polished Xfce desktop refreshed with new artwork...." Read the complete release announcement for more information.
Zenwalk Linux 5.2 features new artwork and an improved graphical package management tool.
(full image size: 169kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Linux Mint 5
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 5.0, an enhanced and user-friendly desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 8.04: "It is with great pleasure that I officially announce the release of Linux Mint 5 Elyssa." Among the many new characteristics of this release the most notable are: miscellaneous improvements to mintMenu, mintUpdate and mintInstall; various feature enhancements on the GNOME desktop; performance improvements through reduced memory usage; improved usability compliant with the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines; more available software and better localisation; changes in default software selection (Transmission, Rhythmbox, Brasero...); upstream improvements, including the PulseAudio sound server and a new command-line firewall configuration tool. Read the brief release announcement and check out the comprehensive release notes for further information.
Linux Mint has been rated as one of the friendliest Linux distribution on the market.
(full image size: 553kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Damn Small Linux 4.4
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Damn Small Linux 4.4, a Debian-based mini-distribution for the desktop. What's new? "New Lua/Fltk re-factored for enhanced performance; new Fltk library now available for C/C++ programs; new fldiff - a file diff GUI viewer; update to rsync 3.0.2; updated mydslBrowser - new feature 'Download Only'; modified 'X Window Snapshot' to save image file with date; added dfm association for easy display of 'X Window Snapshot' images; restored Firefox default search engines; new low resource background and theme; new font added, smoothansi, used in JWM menu; new .luafltkrc for Lua/Fltk theme and defaults; updated dmix; modified nfs-common to also start Portmap when needed; patched kbdconfig to properly select keymaps; modified .bash_profile to eliminate an extra login shell...." See the full changelog for further details.
Damn Small Linux 4.4 - the default desktop
(full image size: 124kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Annual package database update|
It's June again, which means another annual package database update on DistroWatch. Unlike the past years, we haven't received too many requests for package tracking, with only a few strong candidates for inclusion (HAL and PulseAudio). Several packages could be removed - these include Beryl (merged with Compiz), gFTP and GQview (these two packages seem to have fallen out of favour with many users who prefer more modern and feature-full applications). But as always, no final decision has been made, so if you want a package added or if you want to keep any, speak now (you can comment in the forum below or email us directly, see the bottom of this page for the email address). Those packages that receive most votes will be included, but if yours doesn't make the cut, please remember that it's impossible to please everybody. Happy voting!
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- PING. PING (Partimage Is Not Ghost) is a Linux live CD designed to make it easy to backup and restore hard disk partitions. It is based on Linux From Scratch.
- ZevenOS. ZevenOS is a new Linux distribution with software optimised for slower computers and with elements of BeOS. Web site in German only.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 16 June 2008.
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|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Full list of all issues|