| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 261, 14 July 2008
Welcome to this year's 28th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It's been a slow distro week, but not completely dead. We've had a few releases, several developmental releases, and a bit of news. We also have a guest writer with us this morning, Maurice Lawles. You might know Maurice from his TechieMoe website and hard-hitting distro reviews. Today he shares some of his thoughts on the KDE 4 situation.
All this and more in this week's DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
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A Fork in the Road, with No Clear Direction?
(by Maurice Lawles)
There's been quite some controversy over the recent release of KDE 4, which brought with it sweeping changes to the way many very basic things work, including such fundamental elements as how icons are dealt with on the desktop (broadly speaking, they're not). Volleys have been thrown from one side and the next and casualties have been suffered, but one thing remains clear: the KDE development team is sticking to their guns. KDE 4 is here to stay.
The inclusion of KDE 4.0 in several major distribution releases (Fedora 9, openSuSE 11) has brought the new baby to unprecedented numbers of people, many of whom have noted that it's missing a few limbs here and there. 4.1 is supposed to fix that. There are those who are skeptical.
In light of this debacle, there are quite a few Linux folks out there wondering what the future may hold for their choice desktop. For those in the KDE 3.5 camp, a hard decision awaits. Do we hold on to 3.5 as long as possible and perhaps hope it will be forked? Do we embrace the new (warts and all) and trust that the KDE team knows what's best in the long run? Or do we consider jumping to another ship entirely? If you're unsure about where you might go, consider the alternatives.
Please note that I'm in no way trying to give an exhaustive overview of all the available desktop alternatives here. That would be (for lack of a better term) exhausting. I'm just hitting the more popular and feature-complete ones.
Yes, for the moment there is no "drop dead" date for KDE 3.5, so it's still a viable alternative if you're not a fan of Plasmoids. This version of KDE is still standard in Kubuntu 8.04 and comes as an option in most of the large distributions out there (openSuSE 11, Fedora 9). You will, of course, have to be okay with the idea that at some unspecified point in the future support for the 3.5.x branch will go away.
The Gnome desktop is stable and feature-rich. It is the default in several high-profile distributions such as Ubuntu and Redhat Enterprise Linux. The interface is simple (sometimes frustratingly so). It's well-maintained and hasn't changed dramatically for a while. This is both a blessing and a curse. There are many long-term Gnome users (myself included) who are simply getting bored with it. No earth-shattering improvements have shown up in the last few releases. End-users know what to expect and we get it: nothing more, nothing less. Where is an adventurous Linuxer to go?
It's not the standard desktop, or even available as a default choice in most of the major distributions out there, but it certainly can't be called boring. Enlightenment prides itself in making things interesting. There's even a LiveCD designed specifically to show off all its bells and whistles. If you're an Ubuntu fan, there's an off-shoot, OpenGEU that comes with it preinstalled and configured. In my personal experience, getting it pre-packaged is the way to go. Enlightenment is highly configurable, but the sheer number of configuration options can confuse the uninitiated.
Gnome and KDE 3.5 offer not only a desktop but a suite of applications that go with it. Not everyone buys into that, and for them I present the Lightweights. They won't tax your RAM, your CPU, or your patience, just offer the bare minimum and stay out of your way.
The desktop of choice for the Xubuntu project, XFce is somewhere between a full desktop environment and just a window manager. It can be configured to use fewer resources than KDE or Gnome, but still offers creature comforts to those used to more resource-intensive GUIs.
When I really want to shut off the world and get geeky, I tend to use Fluxbox. It's minimal, configurable, and uses an incredibly small amount of RAM (less than 5 MBs on some of my systems). It sports an impressive collection of themes as well. It has a minimal number of distractions for when I really want to dig in and get work done.
FVWM is another small-footprint window manager I've run into from time to time. It's available as a failsafe session on some distributions, but it can be quite useful in its own right. Some lightweight Linux distributions use it to offer a more traditional application menu than Fluxbox. It can even be made to imitate other operating systems.
If your aesthetic taste lies somewhere closer to 1993, you might consider GNUStep, an OSS implementation of OpenStep. I've successfully run this on an old Acer Aspire (with a whopping 4MB video device) that I was given when someone cleaned out their garage. If it can work with those limited resources, anything of the Pentium II line and above should have no issues.
History will have to determine whether the changes made in KDE 4 are the right ones. Events like this are not without precedent in the open-source community. There's a real possibility that KDE's developers will build functionality in the future to better imitate what many people grew to love about KDE 3.5. At this point it's too early to tell.
The road to the next stable version of KDE is rocky, but perhaps instead of complaining that it hurts our feet we should consider an alternate path. Unlike some other operating systems, a Linux user need never be forced to use a desktop that no longer fits their needs. There are a number of excellent choices out there for those willing to explore.
Gentoo's False Start, Debian Day 2008, openSUSE Build Service 1.0
The release of openSUSE's Build Service generated quite a bit of buzz around the Internet last week. The Build Service allows developers to create and maintain packages for openSUSE and several other Linux distributions. This 1.0 milestone expands its scope to building the entire openSUSE release and allows access to the entire distribution as the developers' full working copy is available. So, it's not just for developers anymore. Check out the full announcement on that if interested. In other news, openSUSE will be at the LinuxWorld Expo being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on August 6. If you're in the area, you might want to stop by their first openSUSE Day. Learn all about openSUSE and pick up some nice swag too. Here's the full schedule for those lucky attendees.
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Mandriva had a little oopsie with their GUADEC Spring Flash keys. If you were one of the lucky recipients, you'll have to fix it before you can install it and you might have to restart the display manager the first run. Oh well, at least it was a gift. And speaking of Mandriva and gifts, you might be able to win a Mandriva Flash (one of the fully functioning versions) if you'd like to offer some feedback. Mandriva says, "Mandriva wants to know its users better, so we're giving you the floor. We're opening a completely anonymous questionnaire for you to give your views on your favorite distribution. By giving a little of your time you can help us improve our products and services." You only have until July 17, so if you use Mandriva take the survey soon.
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Debian Day 2008 is coming August 16 to commemorate Debian's 15th birthday. Celebrations are planned all around the world. Brazil is right on ball with four planned events so far and Portugal is planning one in Aveiro. Time is running short, but I hope we see more countries celebrating one of most important projects in Open Source. Thank you Mr. Murdock, and Happy Birthday Debian!
* * * * *
Ubuntu posted their UDS Intrepid Report on their wiki summarizing some of the plans cooking for the upcoming 8.10 release. Some of the current ideas include fixing bugs in Xorg 1.5, new features for Wubi, improved Flash support, improved Firefox KDE integration, faster boot times, and OpenOffice.org 3.0. Keep an eye on the wiki page if you'd like to follow the developments.
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After the long awaited Gentoo 2008.0 release, many users were disappointed to find they weren't able to use it. The LiveCD for x86/amd64 couldn't copy the kernel when installing the system and the LiveCD for AMD64 wouldn't even fit on a standard 700 MB CD without overburning. Revisions were posted quickly, but not fast enough for some. Robbat2 posted some rough download numbers for this release. He calculates the total number of downloads to be 106450 so far.
* * * * *
Red Hat has announced a planned outage of their bugzilla.redhat.com servers on August 2nd, 2008 from 9:00 AM EST to 5:00 PM EST in order to update to the latest upstream code base. The announcement states, "During this time the web servers will be reinstalled with the latest OS updates as well as the latest Bugzilla code. Also the database servers will undergo a data migration to be made compatible with the latest Bugzilla code. The web UI, database, and all XMLRPC services will be unavailable during the migration." For those effected, please plan around that.
* * * * *
Speaking of KDE 4, Sebastian Kügler of the KDE e.V. Board of Directors addressed many of the concerns so loudly voiced last few months. Publishing an extensive article on Groklaw Friday, Kügler answers such criticisms as releasing 4.0 was a mistake, KDE needs to drop Plasma, and KDE needs a fork. See that full article for answers to these concerns and much more.
|Released Last Week
Absolute Linux 12.1.02
Paul Sherman has announced the release of Absolute Linux 12.1.02, the second bug-fix and security update of the stable 12.1 series: "Absolute Linux 12.1.02. Changes: Firefox updated to 3.0, this necessitated installation of XULRunner 1.9, which can also subsequently be used to build Firebird and other applications; MPlayer plugin on Firefox 3 is a wash - had to go with gecko-mplayer; updated PCMan File Manager with much more robust handling of file types; added isomaster for working with CD image files; added KFileReplace; added a few games (Monsterz, LBreakout2, Njam and BumpRace); added scripts and desktop files to convert FLV and OGG video to AVI; added lshw, along with script (run_lshw) that outputs in HTML format and opens the results in Links; updated to xorg-server 1.4.2; Fox (toolkit) and Fluxbox moved to CD2." Read the rest of the changelog for further details.
Absolute Linux 12.1.02 Desktop
(full image size: 51kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Flavio Pereira de Oliveira announced the availability of GoblinX 2.7 Standard, a Slackware-based desktop distribution and live CD: "After more than four months of development, as GoblinX 2.6 was released at February 18, we are pleased to announce the availability of the new stable edition... It includes five Windows Managers: KDE, Fluxbox, Xfce, Enlightenment and WindowMaker. Main upgrades since rc01 edition: Corrected some small errors and bugs. Upgraded some packages and libraries, including some security fixes. Added extra folders to be used as package repository. Added media package repository to Slapt-getrc. Added interface to build module with Slapt-get help. Added GUI for deactivate script to let anyone remove modules of the livecd. Added directly autologin to Xorg as user for the installed system. Added package upgrade check to Xfce panel with Xfce4-smartpm-plugin." Visit the project's news page for the full announcement.
Yann Le Doarè announced a new release of LinuxConsole, an independently developed, modular Linux live CD: "This '1.0.2008' release has been built from a new toolchain based on gcc 4.2.2 and glibc 2.7. The 2.4 kernel is not available for that release, but you can continue using 2007 ISOs if you have to install linuxconsole on very old computers. The kernel is 184.108.40.206, patched with squashfs (module format for linuxconsole) and aufs (can write on modules). Since bootsplash is obsolete, usplash replaces it. GNOME is available in 2.20 release, since it's very stable; an update to 2.22 will be available soon. KDE is in 3.5.9 release, but not present on CD (not enough disk space). You can install it with modules manager or wait the 'DVD' release... DVD release will be ready in September." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Reviewed Last Week
Among the reviews noted last week Linux.com concentrated on two small flexible distributions that have gained a lot of respect in Linux circles. CodingExperiments.com looked at Foresight Linux 220.127.116.11 and PlanetOSS reviewed SabayonLinux 3.5. And not surprisingly, the new Mandriva 2009.0 Alpha 2 got tested as well.
* On SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0 Linux.com concludes:
The SliTaz developers have redefined what a micro GNU/Linux distribution can and should be, even if the developer's goals for the distribution may not be the same as the goals of a normal desktop or laptop user, who might expect wireless support, as well as video, office, and email applications by default. Not everything works perfectly -- for example, the Tazpkg package manager file dependencies and the Flash plugin for Firefox. However, Slitaz 1.0 does provide a fast, responsive, stable, and workable GNU/Linux system usable on older PCs. It also seems to be a great distribution to use as a rescue CD or to use as a baseline GNU/Linux system where you choose what additional packages you want to include. (It even includes a tool called Tazlito to create your own distribution.) The good impressions left by this first release guarantee that I'll be following further releases with keen interest.
* On Puppy Linux 4.00 they said:
Puppy seems to have an application for just about every need already included. There are also hundreds of additional programs available for download via the Petget utility. The new Puppy 4.00 release is the cat's meow. Puppy Linux 4.00 is fast, reliable (on my systems it ran for days with no issue), has good wireless support, new scanner tools that work well, all the necessary multimedia codecs, and has a minimalistic yet usable approach that allows older computers to be functional machines again. Puppy also excels as a rescue CD or OS. Puppy also has good documentation.
* CodingExperiments.com wasn't very impressed with Foresight Linux 18.104.22.168. They had trouble with the installer as well as disappointment in the GUI:
The installation process was fairly linear and simple, with an attractive theme. However, I am not happy with the partitioning system. I also specified to use the GRUB bootloader instead of the default EXTLINUX. I rebooted, and got, instead of a bootloader? "err3err4". Huh? I tried the installation again. This time, I left the bootloader with EXTLINUX, and everything worked fine.
* PlanetOSS reviewed the Gentoo-based SabayonLinux 3.5. They had this to say:
Post-installation I briefly had a sense of relief, as things appeared only gone uphill from there, especially compared to the nightmares that I endured with 2.0. I had a window manager after the installation (metacity), and the package manager was a little bit better in terms of telling me what?s going on. So, yeah. That illusion was partially shattered when I rebooted.
The live DVD booting is a lot faster than the previous versions. This version also sports a new boot/installation/desktop themes. I was able to get the 3D effects running with just a single click.
Within hours of Mandriva's 2009 Alpha 2 release, three sites posted initial looks. Softpedia.com gave us lots of nice screenshots and a run-down of expected features while Blogbeebe dug a bit deeper to dredge up some early shortcomings. Lxer posted a first impression.
Sabayon team developed a unique binary package management which makes it easy to install updates and applications. Entropy has a cursor based front-end "equo" and a GUI based front end "Spritz". The Spritz simplifies adding, removing and updating packages. The update notifier helps the users to update the system with three mouse clicks.
SabayonLinux 3.5 provides a truly "out of the box" experience. Sabayon brings the highly technical Gentoo to the masses. Though Sabayon may not be best suited for a first time Linux user, I highly recommend Sabayon for the users with some Linux experience.
* Softpedia.com said:
Mandriva 2009 brings KDE4 (default desktop), GNOME 2.23.4, and support for the newest NVIDIA and ATI/AMD video cards. Some of the interesting features that will be introduced [are] Linux kernel 2.6.26, GCC 4.3, Firefox 3.0, OpenOffice.org 3.0, revamped installer, and improved boot speed. There are also some rumors that X.org 7.4 and GRUB2 will be included.
* Blogbeebe wrote:
Nobody seems to really dig in and use the distribution. If they did, they might discover that many of the latest distributions aren't just pretty, but pretty useless. Alpha 2 is also supposed to ship with the latest video drivers for both ATI and nVidia, which means that it should also support Compiz. Unfortunately alpha 2 did not, even though the current [stable] version of Mandriva does, and quite well. The first problem with this release is that I can't see /home directories. I then brought up Firefox and discovered that at least for KDE alpha 2 is still at version 22.214.171.124. And finally there's System Settings which I offer as but one example of the lack of polish in the KDE 4/4.1 desktop. Who knows when the situation will improve.
* Lxer posted:
All in all I'm impressed, both with Mandriva 2009.0, and it's only an Alpha release, and KDE4. Never thought I'd say that.
As you probably noticed, Ladislav is on his much needed vacation this week and I'm filling in. Some of you might remember me from last year. I'm Susan Linton and I'll be with you doing the weekly newsletter for the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience and continued support while Ladislav is away. If you'd like to share any good distro news in the next few weeks, you may email me at srlinuxx at gmail dot com.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next installment will be published on Monday, 21 July 2008.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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