| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 264, 04 Aug 2008
Welcome to this year's 31st issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Things slowed back down this week, but there has been some interesting news. The Debconf8 schedule has been posted, CNET published an interview with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, and Foxconn has posted an update to the BIOS that made so much news week before last. I test drove the latest release from Parsix GNU/Linux. In Reviewed Last Week FOSSwire examined Pardus 2008 and several sites tested Linux ultraportables. All this and more in this week's DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
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First Look - Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r1
Parsix GNU/Linux is a distribution based on Debian and reminds me a lot of Ubuntu. It features a pretty GNOME interface with lots of handy applications and uses APT with Synaptic as the package manager. Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r1 was released on July 30 and I thought I'd give it a little test run.
Parsix comes as an installable live CD. At the boot screen several choices are available such as Start or Install Parsix, Start or Install Parsix in Widescreen, or Start or Install Parsix in safe graphics mode. It hails from Persia but English is the default language and it uses a US keyboard layout. It boots up with most hardware preconfigured. My Internet was available, a start-up sound greeted me, and CPU Scaling was enabled. Partitions and removable media are auto-mounted.
The installer is from Kanotix and is rather user-friendly, to a point. The interface is a bit unconventional, but easily deciphered. It begins as a list of tasks such as Configure Installation, Start Installation, Update Installation, and Partition. Choose Partition if you need to partition your drive, otherwise choose Configure Installation. It's a short sweet configuration wizard asking only for a user name and password, root password, hostname, and where to put GRUB. It finishes in short order with no problems.
At the new boot screen there were two Parsix choices with the only distinguishing characteristic between them being the word: (Default). Parsix usually detects most if not all other operating systems and adds them to the GRUB menu. I had no trouble booting and I didn't see any output to raise alarms.
The Desktop and Software
The desktop is an attractive GNOME 2.22.3 with a nice theme consisting of a green landscape, dark window colors and panels, and a green window decoration. The wallpaper is a depiction of a landscape, but it really reminded me of army fatigues. Version 1.5r1 retained the Parsix orangy icons and logo. Not to say it wasn't a nice look, because it was. In fact, I think it's an improvement over their last release. It's much easier on the eyes.
In the menu are lots of handy applications. In Accessories you'll find Bluetooth File Sharing, a calculator, dictionary, CHM Viewer, Multisync, and xFarDic (a Persian dictionary and translator). System Tools is full of utilities for managing and monitoring hardware aspects of the system. Parsix comes with some original tools to configure your printer and network if needed, found in the Parsix subdirectory of the menu. There are lots of great GNOME games too.
(full image size: 173kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
Under Graphics is Cheese, Evince, GIMP, gThumb, Inkscape, and XSane. The OpenOffice.org 2.4.1 suite is available under Office, as well as Grisbi Accounting and a fax manager. Sound & Video contains Sound Juicer, Brasero Disc Burning, GNOME CD Player, Exaile Music Player, Gnash SWF Viewer, VLC media player, and XawTV. I was able to enjoy common audio and video formats locally as well as YouTube and Google videos over the Web.
Balsa Email Client, Firestarter firewall, Gwget download manager, Liferea news reader, Pidgin instant messenger, Transmission Bittorrent client, XChat, and Iceweasel 3.0.1 are the bulk of the Internet menu. Compiz Fusion is available too for those with supported hardware. Some other extras include APTonCD and Update Manager. Under the hood is Linux 2.6.24, Xorg 7.3, and GCC 4.1.3.
As stated, most hardware is supported and auto-configured at boot. As with the live CD, sound, basic graphics, touchpad, USB mouse, CPU Scaling, battery monitoring, and the wired Ethernet were up and running.
However, Hibernation and Suspend didn't work for my NVIDIA-based system out of the box. Those features would require the proprietary drivers from NVIDIA. Fortunately, Parsix makes them available through Synaptic.
My wireless chip isn't supported by the Linux kernel or most distributions. With Parsix I could use the Windows Wireless Drivers tool found in the Preferences menu. Afterwards, I could use Parsix Network Configuration to set up my WiFi Protected Access passphrase and connect.
Parsix is a nice solid little distro, but I'm finding it difficult to list one hard compelling reason why someone should switch to it. If you prefer the Persian language and keyboard, then Parsix is definitely for you. If you'd like a nice Debian derivative with a pretty GNOME desktop that works good, comes in one CD, and uses APT/Synaptic, then perhaps give Parsix a try.
For someone with Linux experience the installer is user-friendly, but for someone coming straight from Windows it may not be. However, the system is as easy to use as any other. It has handy features and applications, and the Parsix software repositories have lots more.
Parsix's Synaptic Package Manager
(full image size: 144kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
It's just a good little distro. I think if you were looking for an alternative to Ubuntu, then Parsix is a good choice. In fact, that's the feeling I get every time I test Parsix - it's Ubuntu for folks who don't want to use Ubuntu.
Fedora 10 Codename, Interview with Red Hat's Jim Whitehurst, and Debconf8 Schedule
Recently Fedora held a vote in order to choose a codename for the upcoming Fedora 10 release. Names such as Terror, Whiskey Run, and Saltpetre were on the ballot, but Cambridge was the favorite by a slight margin. Full details can be found in this post from Nigel Jones, election coordinator.
In other Fedora news, the Unofficial Fedora FAQ has been updated for Fedora 9. In this update content has been revised for accuracy as relating to features found in Fedora 9, as well as made a bit easier to use and understand. Some topics covered include implementing Wine and Java, how to edit menus, and how to install software. The full FAQ is located here.
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The schedule for this year's Debian developer conference, Debconf8, was posted this past weekend. One of the opening keynotes will be given by Steve McIntyre as he discusses Debian's fifteen birthday and the next 15 years. Mark Shuttleworth is scheduled to appear on the third day to discuss the state of collaboration between Ubuntu and Debian, how it has improved since the last Debconf, and prospects for the future. Margarita Manterola and Joerg Jaspert will be big hits as they lead the fifteen birthday party scheduled for August 13. Luciano Bello will discuss Debian's OpenSSL debacle on August 15. The full schedule is available here.
In related news, a call for Debconf10 locations was put out as well. Some things to consider are public service facilities such as supermarkets, electronic equipment shops, event halls and cost, as well as network connectivity, food costs, hotel accommodations, free time activities, and local Debian team participation. The full checklist is located here. This year's Debconf will be held in Argentina and Debconf9 is planned for Extremadura, Spain.
* * * * *
Despite little background in software, free or otherwise, Jim Whitehurst has lead Red Hat to 6.6% profit increase for 1Q09 and stock is currently trading for around 21.50 USD per share. CNET's Stephen Shankland spoke with Whitehurst about Red Hat's position as a company both in the Open Source community and as a profit minded business and some of the their strategies for future growth. The article received quite a bit of buzz last week titled, Red Hat's new CEO aims Linux at the cloud along with the one summary quote, "The clouds will all run Linux." One quote that can sum up their business model was, "We see very little fee-to-free. We see quite a bit of free-to-fee, when customers get bigger, wake up, and say, "We probably need that support and certifications."" Whitehurst also spoke of their competition with Microsoft as well as Canonical and Novell. The interview ended with Whitehurst's thoughts on Open Source advocacy. You can read the full article here.
In other Red Hat news, Bill Nottingham posted a two-part article on what's next in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The first part outlines plans for display handling, changes in security updates, and exciting developments in power management. Part two goes into network handling, encrypted devices, Pulseaudio, virtual file systems, and virtualization. If you're a Fedora user, you've seen most of these enhancements before but it's still an interesting read.
* * * * *
Mandriva sent out a call for partnerships last week. "Mandriva is looking for companies which can officially represent Mandriva's products & services mix in their countries." We've recently seen Mandriva offered on the Gdium netbooks as well as low-cost desktops from Precedent Technologies. They have had their ups and downs over the years, but always managed to stay in the game. It's nice to see them doing so well. More on the partnership program can be found here.
* * * * *
This week we have somewhat of a resolution to the brouhaha in which a vocal Ubuntu user accused Foxconn of deliberately sabotaging the BIOS of their motherboards for Linux operating systems. It was discovered to have been an unintentional bug by AMI and present in several boards from other manufactures as well. Heart Zhang from Foxconn China posted the test results of a new BIOS update to the Ubuntu Forums this past Saturday in which he states, "Almost [all] bugs are fixed by this BIOS." See that thread for more information and links to the update.
* * * * *
The biggest newsbyte last week wasn't exactly about Linux but one of those things that make Linux much more enjoyable - the graphical interface. KDE announced the newest update, version 4.1, of their sometimes controversial new desktop. The feeling permeating throughout the web about this release seemed to characterize 4.1 as the "release 4.0 should have been" and "KDE is back." Some of the more prominent reports include KDE 4.1 rocks the desktop from Linux.com, The Rocky Road of the New KDE at Earthweb.com, and EFYtimes declares it Better Than Any Mac Or Vista. Many bloggers also expressed their thoughts as well, such as this succinctly titled post, KDE 4.1 - Wow! Of course, some reports weren't as positive. As one might expect, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, self-professed Cyber Cynic and KDE 4 critic, found KDE 4.1 still wasn't for him.
|Released Last Week
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.7
Red Hat announced the official release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4.7: "Red Hat is pleased to announce the availability of 4.7 (kernel-2.6.9-78.EL) for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 family of products. This release includes the following improvements: Virtualization Enhancements, Encryption and Security Enhancements, Tuning and Debugging: systemtap, Tools Enhancement, Networking and IPv6 Enablement, Storage Improvements, Platform Enhancements, Kernel Improvements, Laptop and Desktop Enhancements. The following Technology Preview features are new or enhanced in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.7: frysk; gcc4." Read the complete release announcement and release notes for details.
Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r1
Alan Baghumian today announced the release of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r1, a Debian-based desktop distribution and live CD with Persian support: "An updated version of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5 code name `Viola` is available now. Viola r1 is synchronized with Parsix and Debian testing repositories as of July 24, 2008. This version contains several bug fixes, updated kernel drivers, updated documentation and updated X.Org. Highlights: GNOME 2.22.3, GNU Iceweasel 3.0.1, Pidgin 2.4.3 and OpenOffice.org 2.4.1. Viola officially supports Compiz-Fusion, VirtualBox-OSE and GNU Flash Player. For more information see release notes and Viola screenshots." Read the release announcement and release notes for more information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Reviewed Last Week
It was a bit slow in the reviews department last week too, but Red Devil was at it again, this time looking at Absolute Linux 12.1.05. Avid gamers, Headshotgamer.com, took Mandriva's new 2009 Beta 1 for a test drive, and FOSSwire tested Pardus 2008.
* Absolute Linux is a Slackware derivative aimed at making installing and using Slackware a bit easier. I've tested it myself and found it to be a nice alternative to Slackware. Red Devil said,
I found Absolute to be very quick on my old machine and I have so far not encountered a single freeze-up, bug or instability - which is pretty much what you would expect from a distribution based on Slackware. I have some issues with the usability of IceWM, plus some serious concerns about Absolute's root policy. Those things aside, this is a very interesting distribution with a commendable remit - to make Slackware easier for new users - and Paul Sherman has done an extremely good job.
* * * * *
* Headshotgamers.com tests developmental releases quite often because they say gamers need the latest in kernel and software updates. This past week they tested the newest Mandriva, 2009 Beta 1. They concluded:
As for a cutting edge distro ready for gaming, it does have a huge selection of games on tap, most of which are the latest versions though it just lacks the overall polish of Ubuntu. When the dust settles, I'd still pick Ubuntu 8.10 over Mandriva 2009 - it's a close call though.
* * * * *
* FOSSwire tested the latest Pardus last week saying that it invokes one main thought - Polish. They concluded:
Pardus 2008, to a green user, is your average desktop environment. Many of the gems of the system lie under the hood in utilities like TASMA and PiSi. It's an easy system to get started with, but has some odd quirks such as PolicyKit problems and the somewhat hidden root account. In the end, it's clear that a lot of effort went into making Pardus a usable desktop for anyone.
* * * * *
In addition to the distribution reviews, several sites published reviews of Linux ultraportables.
* Digital Life gave a nice detailed review of Acer's Aspire One. Chin Wong said "It's difficult to write about the Aspire One from Acer without gushing. Out of the box, this mini-notebook is the perfect traveling companion for anyone who simply needs to surf the Web, send e-mail and perform typical office tasks such as typing up documents, working on spreadsheets or giving a presentation. The Aspire One comes with a good selection of free software, starting with the operating system, Linpus Lite, a version of Linux based on Fedora. Remarkably, the Aspire One boots up and is ready to use in less than 30 seconds."
* Laptop Mag said the ASUS "Eee PC 1000, like the 1000H, is a compelling mini-notebook with a good-size screen and a spacious keyboard. We appreciated its zippy performance and nearly 5 hours of battery life, and the Linux interface remains refreshingly simple."
* Australian PC World tested the Acer Aspire One ZG5 and concluded, "This Linux version of the Aspire One is easy to use and has a solid-state drive, but the Windows XP version has better memory and storage capacity for only $100 more. Furthermore, Acer will also release versions with built-in 3G modules. It's really a case of waiting for the new versions to arrive, unless the portability and ease of use of this unit catches your fancy."
This is our last week together here at Distrowatch Weekly as Ladislav should be back with you next week. I'm sure you join with me in welcoming him back and hoping he feels rested and refreshed. I want to thank Maurice and Steven for their contributions, Dr. W T Zhu for his invaluable assistance, and you for your continued support.|
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next installment will be published on Monday, 11 August 2008.
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