| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 284, 5 January 2009
Happy New Year and welcome to this year's first issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Perhaps a good way of starting the year is with a look at the 17-year old history of Linux and Linux distributions - from the modest first release of "it won't be as big as GNU" to today's dominance of the free operating system in server rooms, if not yet on the desktop. In the news section, Debian votes to clear the firmware issue prior to the release of "Lenny", Ubuntu proposes a new system-wide notification agent for the desktop, and openSUSE announces preliminary plans for the release of version 11.2. The end of 2008 gives us a good opportunity at taking a look at which were the most visited distribution pages during the past 12 months, while the beginning of the new year means a new donation - US$250 go to the LXDE project. See below for more. Enjoy the read!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (17MB) and MP3 (15MB) formats (many thanks to Russ Wenner)
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Linux & Distributions through the Years (by Muhammad Fahd Waseem)
The end of 2008 brought to a close a very productive year for Linux and Linux distributions. Ranging from a new kernel release to an onset of some of the best distributions yet, Linux desktops and server distributions are making headway at the cost of all other operating systems. As an ode to all that Linux, distributions, open source software and developers have achieved over the years, this is perhaps a good time to take a trip down memory lane.
The long road to now
Linux has come a long way since Linus Torvalds released his source code in 1991 for the kernel he had developed. In the beginning, even the naming was not so certain ('Linux' acquired its name only when the systems administrator responsible for the distribution of the first code release via FTP named the directory 'Linux'; 'Freax' was the name originally thought up by Torvalds). But now, Linux is a well-known operating system kernel, and distributions running Linux as their core are the de-facto standard in server environments, and becoming increasingly common in home and office user desktop environments.
Initially released under its own license that restricted commercial activity, it was soon re-released in 1992 under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This allowed Linux and GNU developers to work together to release a complete operating system based on the Linux kernel - because a kernel itself gets you nowhere. Linux is now over 17 years old. Its free nature meant that it developed fast, and even less than a year after it was released, there were related newsgroups springing up and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) expressing interest in releasing a GNU system alongside Linux.
In February 1992 came the first Linux distribution - MCC Interim Linux. Soon afterwards, the Linux version 0.95 became capable of working with the X Window System, and thus acquired the graphical windowing abilities so necessary to succeed in the operating system market. This was followed by the Softlanding Linux System (SLS) distribution and although it did not last very long, it led to the development of Slackware Linux, from which some of the most popular distributions of today were originally derived. In 1993, Ian Murdoch released Debian Linux, while the following year marked the release of Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux (as it was then spelt).
By now, Linux distros had acquired full operating system capabilities, such as graphical systems, networking tools and multi-architecture support. The four major distros (SuSE, Red Hat, Debian, and Slackware) would go on to become the base for most of the Linux distributions that followed. Linux pulled a publicity stunt in 1996 with the introduction of Tux, the plump penguin mascot that we have come to associate so lovingly with Linux.
1998 marked the release of the Kool Desktop Environment (KDE) and, for the first time, a Linux distro would be able to gain Graphical User Interface (GUI) properties. Prior to this, all Linux work was done on the command line. This release was, perhaps, the first time Linux could be applicable to the home user and desktop. Do remember that at this time, Microsoft Windows was already into its Windows 98 iteration, which had a very powerful GUI - so complete that the command line had practically become redundant. On the distribution side, another popular project arrived in 1998: Mandrake Linux. After a few mergers and renames, this would later be known as Mandriva Linux.
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The GNOME project had its first release in 1999. Contrary to the completeness and option-driven configurability of KDE, GNOME aimed at power through simplicity. In many ways, this kind of thing put Linux distributions at an advantage against other proprietary operating systems: users now had a choice of a GUI, and that too for free. Even though the level of complexity KDE and GNOME had reached by that stage was nothing compared to what Microsoft had developed, it was, nevertheless, the humble beginning that has led to the brilliant desktops that we are familiar with on today's Linux distributions.
Red Hat Linux with customised GNOME from 1999
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OpenOffice.org was released in late 2002, as was the first free sound codec, Ogg Vorbis. By now, Linux distributions were beginning to match Windows, capability for capability. 2003 was the year Red Hat announced its Fedora derivative, then called 'Fedora Core'. Many people then criticised it for being a test bed for Red Hat's main commercial product - Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Finally, in 2004 arrived the distribution that would win over the greatest number of desktop users in the Linux world due to its user friendliness: Ubuntu.
Ubuntu 4.10 "Warty Warthog"
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By that time, Linux distributions were becoming common, and no longer the domain of the specialised. Linux desktops were becoming more and more sophisticated, and the very nature of Linux meant that the more people used it, the faster it developed. In November 2006, Novell signed an 'agreement' with Microsoft that safeguarded it from being sued over 'possible patent infringements'. The Linux community did not take kindly to this - most were of the opinion that this was an acknowledgement of Microsoft's long-standing claims of patent infringements. This led to a temporary sidelining of Novell's SUSE distribution by the Linux community. openSUSE's popularity would also suffer due to this development.
Where Linux stands today
Today, Linux distributions power most of the demanding server market: Google, Wikipedia, IBM, NASA, etc. There are hundreds of distributions to choose from, for all purposes. Many of the major ones feature delightful GUIs and easy installations. Linux distributions offer alternatives to nearly every feature other proprietary operating systems offer. Linux is becoming increasingly easier to use. As features are added, and more developers actively work with the Linux distributions, or with the companies behind the distributions, Linux is getting better by the day.
Today, Linux is beginning to rival Microsoft Windows, the dominant desktop operating system. And in doing so absolutely free of cost to the average, non-commercial user, it is carving out a portion of the market for itself. And the GNU GPL nature of Linux and its distributions ensures that Linux will gather steam at an exponential rate: more popularity leading to even more development, and so in a cycle. The open-source model is doing Linux a world of good.
Where you may find the Linux distributions of the 'morrow'
Linux is flexible. That lends it to uses where other operating system kernels may not venture without much manipulation. We can see expansive feature capabilities: touch hardware features or support for specialised hardware. Linux distributions could provide system-wide voice recognition, interface with other non-computer household electronics, offer personal task management or artificial intelligence. It is all dependent on where the programmer is willing to take it. We may see Linux distributions being placed in embedded and mobile systems (for example, the Google Android is a Linux 'distro' of sorts) and electronics around us. And obviously, the PC.
A document showing a timeline of major distributions up to 2007
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DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics in 2007 and 2008
The star distribution of 2008 was undoubtedly Linux Mint, a project which has been successful in enhancing a standard Ubuntu and GNOME with a variety of user-friendly tools and features. Other operating systems rising noticeably in the ranking were Dreamlinux, Puppy Linux, FreeBSD, gOS and PC-BSD. On the other hand, severals distributions have fallen over the past year, most noticeably Freespire, KNOPPIX, Zenwalk Linux, Gentoo Linux and MEPIS Linux. Overall though, it's the same old story - the Ubuntu, openSUSE and Fedora pages continue getting most hits year after year, with only an occasional "outsider" upsetting the dominant trio.
As always, the DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics shouldn't be taken too seriously - they are a fun way of looking at what's hot among this site's visitors, but they certainly do not correlate to install base or distribution quality.
Debian clears Lenny firmware issue, Ubuntu proposes new notification agent, openSUSE discusses roadmap for 11.2, Xubuntu and Bayanihan Linux updates|
One of the biggest disappointments of 2008 was the non-arrival of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0, code name "Lenny". But according to this article by Heise Open Source, chances are that we won't have to wait for too much longer since one of the main obstacles -- the dispute over the inclusion of proprietary firmware -- has been cleared through a general resolution: "The Debian developers have decided to release the upcoming Debian 5 (Lenny) with proprietary firmware files to expedite the completion of the Linux distribution's next release. The vote itself had several options for dealing with proprietary firmware, from a complete elimination of it, even if it meant more delays for Lenny, to an explicit waiver of the source code requirement for firmware files. The winning option was 'assume blobs comply with the GPL unless proven otherwise', a principle which declares proprietary firmware as undesirable, but allows for the earlier release of Debian 5 to take priority over the removal of questionable firmware."
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Nothing stirs the interest of the desktop Linux user community as much as a blog post by Mark Shuttleworth, especially if it deals with a major desktop feature. Such was the case on the eve of last year's year-end holidays when the Ubuntu founder wrote a lengthy article entitled Notifications, indicators and alerts. With over 200 comments, there is little doubt that the issue around the proposed new desktop notification agent does interest the wider community: "Why a completely new notification display agent? We are designing it to be built with Qt on KDE, and GTK+ on GNOME. The idea is to have as much code in common as we can, but still take advantage of the appropriate text display framework on Ubuntu and Kubuntu. We hope to deliver both simultaneously, and have discussed this with both Ubuntu and Kubuntu community members. At the moment, there is some disagreement about the status of the FD.o specification between GNOME and KDE, and we hope our efforts will help build a bridge there. In Ubuntu 9.04, we would likely continue to package and publish the existing notification daemon in addition, to offer both options for users that have a particular preference."
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Xubuntu might not be the most talked-about Ubuntu derivative out there, but there is no denying that the distribution has attracted a fair amount of users who prefer the lighter Xfce desktop. Here is an excellent overview of the project as published by Linuxlandit, complete with screenshots: "The default desktop environment for Xubuntu is Xfce, one of the top three UNIX and Linux desktop and development platforms. In the words of Olivier Fourdan, the creator of the Xfce desktop environment, 'Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for various *NIX systems. Designed for productivity, it loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources.' Because of this emphasis on conserving system resources, Xubuntu is an ideal candidate for old or low-end machines, thin-client networks, or for those who would like to get more performance out of their hardware."
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openSUSE 11.1 was the last major distribution release of the past year. As a result, while all other major projects have already started working towards their next stable releases, the development team around the green lizard has only now initiated a discussion over the schedule of openSUSE 11.2: "First we talked about July 2009 release to come close to an 8-month release cycle. But KDE 4.3 is scheduled for release on June 30th and probably an OpenOffice.org release will be out end of June as well - neither of them would make it into a July openSUSE 11.2. Therefore we're now thinking about a September release. Besides getting the most current OpenOffice.org and KDE in, this would even have one additional upside. It probably would be just before our openSUSE conference. So the conference could be used for a focused openSUSE 11.3 planning. But it has its downside as well. Finalization of the release would happen during the summer holiday season. To address this, we added one beta to stretch the development time a bit.
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Bayanihan Linux is one of those distributions whose development is financed by a government, in this case the government of the Philippines. Disappointingly, the project appears in a limbo as the current stable release is nearly two years old and the new one, promised to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2008, has yet to arrive. Tech Source from Bohol reports: "In May 2008, Manilatimes.net reported that the latest version of Bayanihan Linux was about to be released. According to the report, 'Software programmers at the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology are now putting the finishing touches to the latest version of Bayanihan Linux.' In addition, a leading member of the Bayanihan Linux team said, 'Bayanihan Linux version 5 is slated for release by early 4th quarter, possibly on the first or second week of October, with the possibility of an offline edition of Wikipedia bundled with the upcoming academic edition.' With the year coming to an end, I'm left wondering where the heck Bayanihan Linux 5.0 is." Time to place Bayanihan Linux on the discontinued distributions list?
|Released during Last Two Weeks
Stefan Lippers-Hollmann has announced the release of sidux 2008-04, a desktop distribution with KDE 3.5 or Xfce based on Debian's unstable branch: "After fixing the problem with multiple optical disc drives, which occurred in our first preview, and quite some infrastructural changes, we now have the pleasure to announce the immediate availability of sidux 2008-04 'Pontos'. Pontos concentrates on integrating the changes caused by kernel 2.6.27, init optimisations accomplished by insserv and, in particular, overhauling the installer. Features: based on Debian 'sid' as of 2008-12-22; Linux kernel 220.127.116.11 (SMP, hard pre-emption); X.Org 7.3; KDE 3.5.10; new SVG-based, art theme; offline manual for English and German directly on the disc, online manuals for more languages online; support for Intel P4x, G4x and Q4x chipsets...." Read the detailed release notes for further information and a list of supported hardware.
Sabayon Linux 4, 4-r1
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon Linux 4: "On the behalf of the Sabayon Linux team, we're pleased to announce the immediate availability of Sabayon Linux 4. Bringing a more accessible, easy-to-use and fast way of doing business and home computing in a web 2.0 flavour is what we are going to achieve by the beginning of the new year. Sabayon Linux 4 offers an easy-to-use and attractive desktop coming with thousands of tools and applications, such as effortless connections to any kind of wireless network, web and multimedia applications (Java, Flash player, Google Earth, Picasa), browsers (Firefox, Opera, Konqueror), instant messaging clients (Pidgin, Kopete, aMsn), multimedia and playback tools (Elisa media centre, GeeXboX, VLC, SMPlayer), productivity tools (OpenOffice.org, AbiWord, GNU Calc, Kontact, Adobe Reader). Technically, Sabayon Linux 4 has been completely rebuilt on top of GCC 4.3, for i686 (32-bit) and x86_64 (64-bit) architecture." Here is the full release announcement.
Sabayon Linux 4 - a Gentoo-based distribution "with a Web 2.0 flavour"
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pfSense 1.2.1, a maintenance and bug-fix update of the FreeBSD-based mini-firewall system, has been released: "The pfSense team has a Christmas present for you all - the 1.2.1 final release. The only changes since RC4: fixed problem preventing RIP from starting; fixed broken link in VLAN reboot notification; fixed problem with SSL certificate generation. This is a strictly a maintenance release, meaning it contains only bug fixes in the pfSense code, no new features. Though we also upgraded the base operating system from FreeBSD 6.2 to 7.0, which necessitated numerous changes in how things were configured. The change to FreeBSD 7.0 brings improved performance and more hardware support." Read the complete release announcement for further information.
Lunar Linux 1.6.4
Stefan Wold has announced the release of Lunar Linux 1.6.4, a source-based distribution designed for advanced Linux users: "The Lunar team proudly announce the final release of Lunar Linux 1.6.4, code name 'Lacus Autumni'. It is our most polished release to date. New features: working software RAID configuration; improved language selection; installation from a USB stick or other media; ships with kernel 18.104.22.168; ReiserFS, XFS and JFS file systems are now also built-in with the precompiled kernels. Summary of changes since beta 1: isolinux updated; all modules refreshed; installer will now skip the 'swap file' step if a swap partition has been added; USB modems in the precompiled kernel have been disabled since they require firmware images that we don't supply; added lsb-release." Refer to the full release announcement for more details.
Berry Linux 0.94
Yuichiro Nakada has announced the release of Berry Linux 0.94, a Fedora-based live CD with KDE 4 as the default desktop: "Berry Linux 0.94 released." This is the project's first version based on the stable Fedora 10, with Linux kernel 22.214.171.124, glibc 2.9, GCC 4.3.2, X.Org Server 1.5.3 and KDE 4.1.3 as the default desktop. Besides the kernel and toolchain, other major packages were also upgraded to their latest versions; these include Mozilla Firefox 3.0.5, OpenOffice.org 3.0.0, Flash Player 10, Samba 3.2.5, WINE 1.1.9, Digikam 0.10.0 and Inkscape 0.46. The distribution, which promotes itself as "the most beautiful OS in the world", comes with support for both English and Japanese (selectable from the boot menu), a control centre for configuring network interfaces and update features, and a simple graphical hard disk installer. For further information please refer to the full changelog.
Berry Linux 0.94 - a Fedora-based live CD with KDE 4.1.3
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MoLinux 4.2, an Ubuntu-based, general-purpose distribution developed by the regional government of Castilla La Mancha in Spain, has been released. Code named Toboso, the new release of MoLinux is based on Ubuntu 8.10, which means that most of the included applications have been upgraded to their latest versions; these include Linux kernel 2.6.27, X.Org Server 1.5.2, GNOME 2.24.1, Firefox 3.0.5 and OpenOffice 3.0.0. The distribution's artistic team has delivered new desktop backgrounds depicting images from the autonomous community and some abstract designs, as well as brand new icons for the panels, menus and desktop. An interesting new feature is a new backup manager that automates backing up of data to external devices or over the local network. There is more - please see the full release announcement (in Spanish) for further details.
MoLinux 4.2 - now based on Ubuntu "Intrepid Ibex"
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The first big release of the new year is FreeBSD 7.1, announced today: "The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 7.1-RELEASE. This is the second release from the 7-STABLE branch which improves on the functionality of FreeBSD 7.0 and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights: The ULE scheduler is now the default in GENERIC kernels for amd64 and i386 architectures; support for using DTrace inside the kernel has been imported from OpenSolaris; a new and much-improved NFS Lock Manager (NLM) client; boot loader changes allow, among other things, booting from USB devices and booting from GPT-labeled devices; the cpuset(2) system call and cpuset(1) command have been added, providing an API for thread to CPU binding and CPU resource grouping and assignment; KDE updated to 3.5.10, GNOME updated to 2.22.3; DVD-sized media for the amd64 and i386 architectures." See the release announcement and release notes for further details.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Pardus Linux 2008.2
The developers of Pardus Linux have published a release schedule for the upcoming version 2008.2: "We are happy to announce the second update to Pardus 2008 series, Pardus 2008.2. It will contain all the new features of our tools, bug fixes and updates to packages since the release of Pardus 2008.1. As always, existing Pardus 2008 users will be able to update their systems to Pardus 2008.2 just by updating via package manager or PiSi command-line tool." The final release of Pardus Linux 2008.2 is expected 30 January 2009; for more details please see the announcement.
Summary of expected upcoming releases
December 2008 donation: LXDE receives US$250.00|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the December 2008 DistroWatch.com donation is LXDE, a free and open source desktop environment.
According to the project's web site, "Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE), is an extremely fast, energy-saving desktop environment maintained by an international community of developers. It comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard shortcuts and additional features, such as tabbed file browsing. It is especially designed for computers with low hardware specifications like netbooks, mobile internet devices (MIDs) or older computers. The source code of LXDE is licensed partly under the terms of the General Public License and partly under the LGPL." Although unlikely to compete with the big boys of the open source desktop world, the popularity of LXDE is clearly on the rise. Some of the distributions that use LXDE as their default desktop include VectorLinux and Hiweed Linux.
As always, this monthly donations program is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and two online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org and OSDisc.com. These vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to LXDE. (Please note that the donation was not yet effected at the time of writing. We are waiting for a reply from the LXDE Foundation with the details of how to make the payment since their donation page does not provide the information.)
Here is the list of projects that received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the program (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$19,833 to various open source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NdisWrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and SabayonLinux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250).
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New distributions added to waiting list
- Chakra LiveCD. Chakra LiveCD is a user-friendly and extremely powerful live CD and operating system based on the GNU/Linux distribution for connoisseurs: Arch Linux. It features a graphical installer, automatic hardware detection and configuration, tools and extras.
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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, 12 January 2009.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
|• Issue 647 (2016-02-08): Tails 2.0, KDE project launches Neon, Manjaro unveils ARM support, FreeBSD's quarterly report|
|• Issue 646 (2016-02-01): deepin 15, Mint plans X-Apps, FreeBSD to support boot environments, logging into the desktop as root|
|• Issue 645 (2016-01-25): Linux Mint 17.3 "Xfce", Chromixium changes its name, Ubuntu tablets coming soon, Linux vs BSD comparision|
|• Issue 644 (2016-01-18): Kwort 4.3, Sabayon tests ARM images, Slackware adopts PulseAudio, running Linux without GNU software|
|• Issue 643 (2016-01-11): Solus 1.0, Mint provide upgrade path to 17.3, Fedora developers work on stability, running the LXQt desktop|
|• Full list of all issues|
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