| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 276, 27 October 2008
Welcome to this year's 43rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! One of the busiest and most exciting periods of the year for most Linux distribution watchers is here. Yes, it's the Ubuntu release week! For many, this will likely mean unreachable web sites, busy download servers, overworked BitTorrent clients, and hundreds of first-look reviews and screenshot tours all over the Internet. Stay tuned as we bring you all the exciting announcements. In the news section, Fedora finalises the feature list for the upcoming release of version 10, openSUSE explains the complexities of its distribution's release process, Mandriva announces plans for a worldwide install party, and DesktopBSD ponders an upgrade to KDE 4. And speaking about KDE 4, what is your opinion about the quality, stability and features of the popular desktop's latest version? Some people love it, while others can't stand it, but one thing is sure - thanks to the variety of distributions on the market, we can always find that perfect solution for our needs. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (12MB) and mp3 (12MB) formats (many thanks to Russ Wenner)
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Three versus Four (or how to decide on your next KDE desktop version)
How do you feel about the current status, usability and stability of KDE 4? If the opinions of bloggers around the Internet are anything to go by, there are three groups of KDE users. The first is a small, though growing number of people who find KDE 4 an excellent and highly usable desktop. In the second group are those users who are aware of the new desktop's limitations and bugs, but continue to use it in the hope that the problems and bugs will eventually be fixed. And then there is the third group - the one that absolutely refuses to go beyond the excellent, stable and feature-rich KDE 3.5. Which group do you belong to? And how long will it still take before the majority of KDE users finally move to the first group of highly satisfied KDE 4 users?
One way of arriving at some answers is to put ourselves into the shoes of the three different decision makers in the software development chain - the KDE project, the distributions and the users. Let's start with KDE. Version 4.0 of the popular desktop was released in January 2008 and, although it was numbered as "stable", it felt more like a very early alpha release - buggy, unstable and seriously lacking in features. A quick succession of point releases followed before the arrival of KDE 4.1 in July 2008. While progress was obvious, it still barely qualified as a beta release. If we continue the correlation between version numbers and stability, KDE 4.2 (currently scheduled for release in January 2009) might roughly correlate to a release candidate, KDE 4.3 could be seen as the first stable release, and KDE 4.4 would be something roughly equivalent to KDE 3.5 in terms of stability and usability. With KDE's releases coming in roughly 6-month intervals, it could be January 2010 before we have a KDE 4 that is as good as or better than KDE 3.5!
Despite clearly not being ready for the prime time, it's hard to blame KDE for deciding to release an alpha code with a stable version number. Firstly, there is always the pressure of users and the media that want the latest and greatest and the continuous delays would almost certainly cause friction in many quarters. Secondly, by releasing alpha code under a stable version number, the distributions are more likely to include it in their releases than if it was called, say, 3.9.90 or 4.0.0-alpha1. This way more users would try the latest release, the argument goes, which should contribute to faster bug reporting and fixing. What the KDE 4 development team has done was a dangerous precedent, perhaps an experiment, so let's hope that this kind of release mechanism will be an exception rather than a rule in the open source software world.
When it comes to distributions, the picture is very different. Now they have to make a decision whether to stay with KDE 3 or move to KDE 4. Since no distribution is in a position to be able to double the number of developers on its KDE team, it is unreasonable to expect them to provide both versions 3 and 4 - at least not without putting an enormous strain on the existing KDE maintainers. As if migrating to a completely new toolkit and code base wasn't already stressful enough! And yet, they surely want to please all their users, whatever their KDE preference might be. In an ideal world, the KDE teams of each distribution would also provide updates to the latest KDE point releases throughout the lifespan of their distributions, but, of course, that would be the equivalent of tripling the amount of work the KDE maintainers used to do before the arrival of version 4!
In the end, there is only so much the distributions can do. Fedora was the first one which completely abandoned KDE 3.5 and switched to KDE 4 in Fedora 9. openSUSE almost followed suite, but in the last minute, just before the final release of version 11.0, it added KDE 3.5 as an alternative KDE desktop. The same will be true for the upcoming openSUSE 11.1. Mandriva was somewhat more conservative in this respect - the distribution still defaulted to KDE 3.5 in Mandriva 2008.1 and only switched to KDE 4.1 in the recently released version 2009 (KDE 3.5 is still available from its FTP servers). Kubuntu too has waited until the appearance of KDE 4.1 before making the switch for the upcoming release of version 8.10. It's interesting to note that while the top four distributions have all switched to KDE 4, the more conservative Debian GNU/Linux is staying with KDE 3.5 as their default KDE desktop for the upcoming release of "Lenny". As for Slackware, Patrick Volkerding has hinted at a possibility of shipping KDE 4 in the next stable release, but for the time being its current tree is still on KDE 3.5, with KDE 4.1.2 lurking in the /testing directory.
What does all this mean for us, the end users of the KDE desktop? If you've followed the reasoning so far, the distro scene is fairly clear. For a fearless KDE user, eager to try new technologies, happy to help with bug reporting, and not overly concerned with occasional instability and inevitable loss of features, then Fedora 10 and Kubuntu 8.10 are probably the best choices. For the second group of users, i.e. those who won't mind trying the new code every now and then, but would feel happier with an option to switch back to KDE 3.5 if necessary, then the just-released Mandriva Linux 2009 and the upcoming openSUSE 11.1 might be better options. And for the third group, i.e. those users who absolutely cannot stand KDE 4 in its present state, the obvious solution is to use the forthcoming Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 or (possibly) the next stable release of Slackware Linux.
Finally, if you care about the personal (and no doubt controversial) opinion of your DistroWatch maintainer who has been evaluating many distributions over the last couple of months, then here is his advice: install Debian "Lenny". Although you won't be running the bleeding-edge Qt 4/KDE 4 combination, you'll be pleased to know that you can still enjoy a feature-full, lightning-fast and rock-solid KDE 3.5.9, which will be supported well into 2011. By which time, KDE 4 might be just as good as KDE 3.5 is today.
Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 will ship with the rock-solid and feature-full KDE 3.5.9.
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Ubuntu unveils Intrepid Ibex, Fedora finalises feature list, Mandriva coordinates worldwide install fest, openSUSE explains beta release process, DesktopBSD moves to KDE 4
Welcome to the big Ubuntu release week! The landing of any new version of the world's most popular desktop Linux distribution is the biggest event on many user's Linux calendars and if history repeats itself, we should brace ourselves for another week of unreachable Ubuntu web sites, frantic search for download servers, and generally clogged fibre-optics pipes around the world. Yes, Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex" is about to arrive! Of course, those users who have been through a few releases know better than waiting until Thursday -- firing up "update-manager -d" and performing an online update magic before the big day is always a smart thing to do. For those who are relatively new to the Linux and Ubuntu worlds or those who consider dipping their toes in these uncharted territories for the first time, here is a nice overview of Intrepid, complete with an overview of Ubuntu's history and a list of available editions. But if you prefer to celebrate the event in a group of like-minded individuals, check out the Intrepid Release Parties page to see whether there is anything happening in your city. Finally, for those users who don't have fast Internet connection or who would like to convert a few friends to Ubuntu, don't forget to order your free Ubuntu CDs from ShipIt.
Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex" is about to start hitting the download mirrors
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Another big distribution preparing for a stable release is Fedora. Although the project's upcoming version 10 isn't due for another month, this detailed list of 13 prime features reveals a great deal about the release: "With the success of Fedora in Linux distributions, Fedora 10 is perhaps the most anticipated operating system from their library. A faster and advanced distribution is what is proposed by them. Fedora 10, code-named 'Cambridge', is set for release on November 25, 2008. So before you go on and download this new Fedora version, let me give you a detailed idea about what benefits and changes are going to be there in this new Fedora 10." The list includes a variety of goodies, such as faster start-up, improved printing and audio, an automated recovery tool called First Aid Kit, and security audit features.
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Continuing its excellent tradition of coordinating worldwide install fests, Mandriva has announced that its next "party", celebrating the recent release of Mandriva Linux 2009, will take place on Saturday, 22 November. Mandriva's community manager Adam Williamson has sent this message to DistroWatch: "Mandriva is coordinating an international install fest for the new Mandriva Linux 2009 release, on November 22nd, 2008. If you are involved with a Linux User Group (LUG) or other community group and would be interested in running a local event as part of the install fest, Mandriva will provide professionally pressed One CDs and other material. Please visit this Wiki page for details of how to organize an event in your area, and for a list of already confirmed events."
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Last week's delay of the third beta of openSUSE 11.1 has prompted Andreas Jaeger to write up a detailed account of the openSUSE release process. Entitled Why do we release openSUSE on Thursdays - or why do we slip?, the post provides an interesting insight into the complexities of coordinating work of dozens of developers: "During the pre-release testing and the internal testing, many bugs are found. We do not fix all of them directly - instead they are reported via Bugzilla and also noted as 'most annoying bugs' so that other testers know about them. Only if we hit real blockers or ship stoppers, we will fix them and then might not even fix the 'annoying' ones to not introduce further bugs. If we would fix every bug we find internally, we would never release ;). We really concentrate on fixing bugs that block further development or testing on a majority of machines (or for a majority of users)."
For many users, openSUSE is already a perfect distribution, but few would argue that it has one serious defect - its excellent YaST configuration utility lacks a mascot: "YaST (Your awesome Setup Tool) is a impressive and useful tool for administering a Linux system, but it's missing one crucial feature -- a mascot! The YaST team wants to close this bug, so they're putting out a call to the community to help create a mascot that reflects the power of YaST." The YaST mascot competition is open to all; please see the Marketing Team/YaST Contest page for more details and the first submissions. Of course, the contest winners and runner-ups can expect rewards for their work: "There will be a prize for the winning mascot, the winning mascot name, and two runners-up, and of course all contestants will bask in the everlasting glow of accomplishment from having submitted an entry."
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Finally, here is an interesting piece of news from the developer's blog at DesktopBSD, a user-friendly desktop operating system based on FreeBSD. From the Making DesktopBSD ready for KDE 4 blog post: "KDE 4 has been around for some time now and, while many still feel it has not matured enough, it will undoubtedly be the future of the K Desktop Environment. Therefore, it is important to adapt DesktopBSD, which currently uses KDE 3 as its desktop environment, to this new major release. This is rather difficult because of some of the technological changes in KDE 4, in particular that KDE 4 now uses the Qt 4 development framework instead of its predecessor Qt 3 used in KDE 3 and the DesktopBSD Tools. Since Qt 4 is not backwards-compatible, the DesktopBSD Tools would have to be ported to Qt 4 first in order to be able to utilize KDE 4 functionality, a process involving a lot of effort and very few gains. As an alternative, the decision was made to stick with Qt 3 as framework for now and replace all of the KDE functionality in DesktopBSD code so it still works fine under KDE 4 without requiring users to have KDE 3 installed."
|Released Last Week
Kris Moore has announced the release of PC-BSD 7.0.1, the first bug-fix upgrade of the new 7.0 series: "After much hard work and testing the PC-BSD Team is happy to announce the availability of PC-BSD 7.0.1, the first upgrade in the 7 series, with FreeBSD 7.0 under the hood. Version 7.0.1 contains a number of bug fixes and improvements. Some of the changes are: KDE 4.1.2; AMD64 edition; NTFS write support; Adobe Flash 9 support (Linux -flashplugin9); better WiFi support; updates to the System Updater. This version of PC-BSD can be downloaded and installed as a fresh install or, alternatively, it can be updated to from PC-BSD 7.0 via the System Update tool." Read the release announcement and changelog for further information.
Foresight Linux 2.0.5
Paul Cutler has announced the release of Foresight Linux 2.0.5, the first stable distribution featuring the recently released GNOME 2.24: "Foresight Linux 2.0.5 released. It features the latest GNOME 2.24 desktop environment, OpenOffice.org 3.0, and the latest X.Org server release, version 1.5.1." Some of the other new features in the distribution include a new time tracker applet, the Ekiga audio and video conferencing client 3.0, miscellaneous file manager improvements, an improved GNOME deskbar with new plugins, new screen resolution controls, Compiz Fusion 0.7.8 with new effects and translation updates, PulseAudio 0.9.12 with numerous bug fixes, and many other features. For more information please see the release announcement and release notes.
Linux Mint 5 "Fluxbox"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the final release of Linux Mint 5 "Fluxbox" edition: "Linux Mint is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 5 'Elyssa' Fluxbox Community edition. This edition, maintained by Shane Joe Lazar, brings you the best and most essential tools from the Main and Xfce editions on top of an extremely thin desktop and the lightweight Fluxbox window manager. New features: auto-generated and auto-updating Fluxbox menu, multimedia compatibility with all available codecs and plugins pre-installed, Thunar custom actions, better language and localization support, and attractive themes with a predominant green bias." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Linux Mint 5 "Fluxbox" edition - an excellent alternative for underpowered and older computers
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Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r2
Alan Baghumian has announced the availability of the second revision of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5, a desktop distribution and live CD based on Debian's testing branch: "The second maintenance release of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5, code name 'Viola', is available now. Viola r2 is synchronized with Debian testing repositories as of July 24, 2008. This version contains several bug fixes, several updated packages and updated kernel drivers. Highlights: GNOME 2.22.3, GNU Iceweasel 3.0.3, Pidgin 2.4.3 and OpenOffice.org 2.4.1. Viola officially supports Compiz Fusion, VirtualBox-OSE and GNU Flash Player." Read the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0r5
Alexander Reichle-Schmehl has announced the availability of the fifth revision of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 "Etch", a security and critical bug-fix update of the project's current stable release: "The Debian project is pleased to announce the fifth update of its stable distribution Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (code name 'Etch'). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments to serious problems. Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away 4.0 CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated. Upgrading to this revision online is usually done by pointing the Aptitude (or APT) package tool to one of Debian's many FTP or HTTP mirrors." Read the full release announcement for a detailed list of changes and upgrade instructions.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- AsteriskNOW. AsteriskNOW is a software appliance, a customized Linux distribution that includes Asterisk, the AsteriskGUI, and all other software needed for an Asterisk system. The world's leading open source telephony engine and toolkit, Asterisk can now be easily configured with a graphical interface. AsteriskNOW includes all the Linux components necessary to run, debug and build Asterisk. Since version 1.5, AsteriskNOW is based on CentOS (earlier versions were based on rPath Linux).
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DistroWatch database summary
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And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 3 November 2008. Until next week,
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|• Issue 679 (2016-09-19): OpenMandriva 3.0, 32-bit vs 64-bit performance, openSUSE updates, KaOS unveils first run wizard|
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|• Issue 677 (2016-09-05): Peppermint OS 7, Manjaro updates leadership, TrueOS becomes rolling release, organizing files, creating torrents|
|• Issue 676 (2016-08-29): Korora 24, Fedora 25 to use Wayland by default, Linux turns 25, PC-BSD becomes TrueOS, finding software licensing information|
|• Issue 675 (2016-08-22): Gentoo LiveDVD "Choice Edition", moreutils, Ubuntu improves terminal convergence, MATE packaged for Openindiana, FreeBSD improves video support|
|• 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"|
|• Issue 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
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|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
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|• Issue 644 (2016-01-18): Kwort 4.3, Sabayon tests ARM images, Slackware adopts PulseAudio, running Linux without GNU software|
|• Full list of all issues|
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