| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 299, 20 April 2009
Welcome to this year's 16th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It's the Ubuntu release week (or Ubuntu "circus", as some prefer to call it), a major event in the calendar of many open source software enthusiasts. What will the distribution's 10th official release be like? And will the download servers cope with the expected heavy demand? We'll have to wait until Thursday to find out; in the meantime, read below for a quick tip on reverting to an older kernel under Ubuntu and visit Canonical's ShipIt service to order your free CDs. In the news section, Mandriva gains support for hardware database known as Smolt, Easy Peasy ponders a few ideas concerning the distro's default user interface, and Fedora's Ricky Zhou points out the importance of innovation in Red Hat's community distribution. Finally, don't miss our feature article which calls for an implementation of a centralised bug-tracking database for all open source software projects. Happy reading!
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FOSS needs a central bug tracker (by Jesse Smith)
It happened again today. I was using one of my favorite applications when a familiar bug popped up its head and brought my work to a screeching halt. Determined to rid all of humankind of this pest, I went to the Help menu and selected "Report A Bug". Seconds later, I was on the project's bug tracking web page. Seconds after that, I determined that the only way for me to report this bug (to the upstream project) was to create yet another bug tracking account.
Usually I consider myself among the lucky; I generally use Linux and generally use one distro. Reporting bugs is relatively easy in that I just need the one bug-tracking account with one vendor. However, there are days, dark days, when I'm required to use other operating systems with no central bug-tracking system. This becomes a problem after a while. Sure, it takes very little time to set up one bug-tracking account with one open source project. But when a person uses dozens of open source applications across multiple operating systems, the amount of time and the number of username/password combinations grow at an alarming rate. As I mentioned, I usually live a sheltered, one-distro life, but what agony distro hoppers must go through, setting up a bug-tracking account for each and every Linux distribution they test drive! And for those people on other operating systems, imagine opening bug tracking accounts for GIMP, OpenOffice.org, Firefox, FileZilla, etc, etc, in an effort to get one's voice heard!
OpenOffice.org bug tracker
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Bug-tracking software is a wonderful tool and I applaud any software project that uses one, but therein lies the problem: so many software projects have this software and they all operate separately. Fedora has one tracker, Debian another, Ubuntu another; and there are thousands of upstream projects, many with their own trackers.
Now, let us think for a moment about these thousands of bug tracking systems and consider the amount of duplicated effort. Not just in the repeated bug reports when someone reports a problem to Slackware and another person reports it to Fedora and another to Ubuntu, but also in the effort of setting up these thousands of databases. We're talking a lot of man/woman/admin hours, here!
GNOME bug tracker
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I think it would be a good idea to see a grouping of this talent and data into one place. Consider this: a project such as Debian is already a hub for reporting bugs and making feature requests for over 20,000 open source projects. In fact, as an open source developer, I often check the Debian bug tracker to see if anything has been reported against my projects. Wouldn't it be reasonable if we took this a step further and brought all of the various distributions' bug trackers under one system? Imagine if you found a problem in any open source project on any operating system and could report it in one place. Just one bug tracking account for each user and developer! When application XYZ crashes, I could go to, for example, opensourceoops.org and report the issue, regardless of whether I'm running a flavor of Linux, OS X or BSD. While the initial setup would be a large effort, the reduction in duplicated work over the long term would be fantastic. Also, it would lower the barrier to getting those pesky bugs reported by users who don't wish to register yet another username.
An all-in-one solution would also benefit the developers of open source software. As I mentioned previously, I maintain a few small, open source applications, which are packaged for various Linux distributions and BSDs. Though I certainly don't fault the busy package maintainers, problems and patches are very rarely forwarded from the distributions to our upstream developers. To try to fix everything in the upstream source, we (myself and other developers) have had to go to each distro we know of which maintains a package of our software and search their issue tracker for our package name. This is tedious work. Imagine how much easier it would be to find and integrate patches if a developer had to simply search one large issue tracker.
I would very much like to see an open source supporter, such as Red Hat, Canonical or Mozilla, for example, implement a large, inclusive issue tracker. While a large investment up front, the benefits to open source users, developers and package maintainers would be a great boon to the community. There is some precedent for this. As mentioned before, distributions, such as Debian, track issues for thousands of packages. On a similar vein, web sites such as SourceForge and Google Code already provide open source projects with a central location to save, present and contribute. A central bug tracker could work much the same way, providing open source developers and users with one location to report and work on problems.
Ubuntu's bug tracker, Launchpad
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The greatest hurdle I see to adopting a central system is that people tend to stick with what they have. For a mega issue tracker to really be effective, most of the smaller, single-project and distribution-specific trackers would probably have to be phased out. People would have to be encouraged to adopt the single location method. As an alternative, perhaps the central tracker could be set up in such a way that it would pull issues from other sources. Distributions and upstream projects might see the benefit of having their trouble tickets uploaded to a central location where everyone could see them. This would also centralize issue tracking, without the problems of forcing people to use The One method. Change is often difficult, especially when we're looking at so many people spread out over the world. However, I think something needs to be done; we have hundreds of distributions and thousands of open source projects. Encouraging users to maintain separate accounts for each one is cumbersome and inefficient for everyone.
|Tips and Tricks
Reverting to older kernel under Ubuntu (by Ladislav Bodnar)
As many regular DistroWatch Weekly readers will know, over the past year I've been experimenting with various Linux distributions on my ASUS Eee PC 900. This is one of the most popular netbooks on the market and many distributions have made efforts to provide out-of-the-box support for the little laptop and its hardware. Mandriva Linux was probably the first distribution offering full support for the Eee PC, but others soon followed. The recent release of Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 RC as an *.img file, a format easily transferable to any USB storage media, has quickly become my preferred operating system on the Eee PC and it has now replaced the original Xandros-built distribution on its internal solid state drives (SSD).
The primary reason for my preference for Ubuntu Netbook Remix over other options is its extremely efficient use of the available screen real estate. While most other distributions provide more of the same interface as designed for desktops and laptops with large monitors, Ubuntu Netbook Remix goes out of its way to reduce the unnecessary clutter to a minimum. Gone are the taskbars and other such "luxuries"; instead, the distribution sacrifices parts of the applications' title bars to display icons of open applications (on the left) and important system information, such as date or network and battery status (on the right). This is a very clever way of fitting a working environment to a small, 9-inch screen, thus making Ubuntu Netbook Remix and excellent operating system for any small-screen device.
The efficient use of the screen real estate is the primary advantage of Ubuntu Netbook Remix.
Now for the bad news. The release candidate for Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 doesn't work well on most Eee PC models. This is the result of a kernel bug that makes the distribution's home desktop barely usable due to the presence of "mouse-over" effects that temporarily freeze the cursor for a few seconds before jumping to a new position. While this erratic mouse movement can't be classified as a show-stopper bug, it is highly annoying, making the first impression of the distribution extremely negative. Additionally, there is no obvious way to disable the mouse-over effects and restore normal mouse operation. It also seems that this bug, reported on Launchpad as number 349314, won't be fixed before the final release of Ubuntu 9.04.
Fortunately, there is a workaround. Those of you who followed the development of Ubuntu 9.04 on an Eee PC since the beta release have probably noticed that, at one point, the "jerky mouse" problem disappeared, only to re-appear once again after the next kernel update. The patch which fixed the issue in kernel 2.6.28-11.40 was reverted in kernel 2.6.28-11.41 because it caused other problems. The short-lived happiness lasted only a couple of days and it resulted in some users asking how to restore a known working kernel under Ubuntu. If you don't mind opening the terminal and passing a few commands, the fix is actually fairly simple. Here you go:
Finally, a quick reminder for those who are about to install Ubuntu Netbook Remix (or any other Linux distribution) on a netbook with solid state drives. Since these drives have a limited life span that depends on the frequency of write access to the drives, you can greatly prolong their life span if you follow these two rules while installing your preferred distribution (here is the source of this information, although there are those who dispute this):
- First, download the working kernel files:
- Next, install the three downloaded DEB files with dpkg:
sudo dpkg -i linux-*
- Now, reboot your computer. Once booted up, you should see your mouse-over effects on the desktop working correctly, with smooth movements of the spinning icons when launching an application and nice notifications.
- The final step is to put your current kernel on hold (otherwise it would be upgraded once again during your next "aptitude update && aptitude safe-upgrade" routine):
sudo aptitude hold linux-image-2.6.28-11-generic linux-headers-2.6.28-11-generic linux-headers-2.6.28-11
The release candidate for Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 can be downloaded from here: ubuntu-9.04-rc-netbook-remix-i386.img (846MB, MD5). Installation instructions can be found here.
- choose a non-journalling file system (e.g. ext2)
- don't create a swap partition
Ubuntu takes pre-orders for Jaunty, Mandriva supports Smolt, Easy Peasy focuses on interface improvements, interview with Fedora developer
The latest version of Ubuntu is almost upon us. Version 9.04 is dubbed Jaunty Jackalope and scheduled for release on 23rd April. The Ubuntu web site provides information on what this new version will bring over the previous release. The list includes GNOME 2.26, a new notification system, improved multi-display support, an upgrade to X.Org server 1.6, Linux kernel 2.6.28 and support for the ext4 file system and cloud computing. If you are happy to wait and don't have a fast Internet connection, the good news is that you can now pre-order CDs from Canonical's ShipIt service: Ubuntu is available free of charge and we can send you a CD of the latest version (9.04 Jaunty Jackalope) with no extra cost, but the delivery may take up to ten weeks, so you should consider downloading the CD image if you have a fast Internet connection. Ubuntu is, of course, free to distribute.
* * * * *
Mandriva Linux is another one of those distributions which has greatly improved over the last couple of years. Since getting back to its roots, it has provided a mature and stable operating system. One area in which Linux is constantly improving is hardware support and recently, contributor Frederick Himpe has built packages for Smolt and uploaded them to Cooker, Mandriva's testing branch. He writes: "Smolt is a tool developed for Fedora which collects information about all your hardware and submits it to a central database. On the smolts.org web site, people can view all hardware entries and indicate which one is working OK for them. The database is also coupled with a Wiki, where extra instructions can be written to get the hardware working. Smolt is used by default already for some time in Fedora and also in openSUSE." Hopefully the inclusion of Smolt will help Mandriva solve issues within the distribution and increase the overall quality and stability.
* * * * *
The upcoming release of Ubuntu will officially support netbooks for the first time, but that hasn't deterred derivatives of the operating system from maintaining their own approach. Easy Peasy (formerly Ubuntu Eee) is one such distribution. Lead developer Jon Ramci wrote on his blog about working on improvements to the default interface: "Just as we've made the Linux kernel and Easy Peasy as a whole, a thoroughly optimized operating system for netbooks, we want to take the netbook interface one step further. We want to move web down to the desktop, as you're using Easy Peasy on a netbook you shouldn't have to start Firefox to start surfing. We add an Easy Peasy profile on the top right. The desktop will be open and module-based, so anyone will be able to write the next great module. Default modules should include Facebook, Twitter, email, chat and RSS feeds."
* * * * *
The Fedora project has been gaining a lot of steam and positive reviews of their recent releases. The upcoming version 11, dubbed Leonidas, is set to continue the strong tradition of bleeding-edge technology on a solid foundation. This week we are including an interview with infrastructure team member Ricky Zhou, conducted by How Software is Built. In the interview they discuss: "identity of the Fedora community and its relationship with Red Hat, relationship between Fedora and other distributions, upstream projects as they relate to Fedora, public opinion about the Fedora project, open source involvement in the software industry and university sphere." When asked whether he feels that Fedora gets credit for pushing new technology, Zhou replies: "I think that Fedora definitely gets credit for that. If you look at some news sites, you'll see that a lot of people are fairly aware of how and where things have come from." He continues: "Overall, Fedora does have a good reputation for being an early adopter of many useful features. I've seen people mention in a few places that a lot of software has improved and stabilized a lot after being included in Fedora."
|Released Last Week
Sabayon Linux 4.1 "GNOME"
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon Linux 4.1 "GNOME" edition: "Dedicated to those who like order over chaos, to those who like simplicity over complexity, to those who think that less is more, to those that just want more for less. Sabayon 4.1, based on Sabayon 4 LiteMCE, represents the best of the out-of-the-box, GNOME, multimedia applications, and what you need for your daily tasks. Features: based on Sabayon Linux 4 LiteMCE; custom Linux kernel 126.96.36.199; ext4 is the default file system; complete GNOME 2.24 (2.26 available through Entropy); OpenOffice.org 3.0.1; Compiz and Compiz Fusion 0.8.2; X.Org 7.4 supporting the latest AMD and NVIDIA video cards; multimedia applications (audio, video, DVD ripping, file sharing); media center mode, transforming Sabayon into a complete multimedia platform thanks to XBMC...." Read the full release announcement for more details.
Karl Goetz has announced the release of gNewSense 2.2, an Ubuntu-based, 100% free GNU/Linux distribution as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF): "The gNewSense project is pleased to announce version 2.2 of its 100% FSF Free GNU/Linux distribution. This is the second point update to the release code-named 'deltah'. This release introduces GLX back into the default install. This enables hardware acceleration by default, meaning Compiz and 3D games will work once again. Short list of changes: installer now supports two more file systems; GLX re-introduced; changed description of -updates and -backports in Software Sources; lsb_release output corrected; GNU Icecat repository available via Software Sources; Builder - substantial code restructuring...." See the rest of the release announcement for more information.
gNewSense 2.2 - the "freeest" of all distributions
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SliTaz GNU/Linux 2.0
Christophe Lincoln has released SliTaz GNU/Linux 2.0, a fast, independent mini-distribution and live CD: "SliTaz GNU/Linux 2.0 is released after a year of hard work. Based on version 1.0, SliTaz comprises of 1400 software packages easily installable via the 'tazpkg' package manager. The live CD can be fully configured to taste to easily create a custom distribution specifically for tasks such as multimedia, graphics or development. Some of the new features in this release include: better hardware support for WiFi, Windows drivers, NTFS and low memory systems; easier customization to roll your own distro; web boot support; Openbox replaces JWM as the window manager; more tiny graphical utilities for administration, setting preferences, system upgrade, etc. The distribution is available in English, German, French and Portuguese." Read the detailed release notes for further information.
SliTaz GNU/Linux 2.0 - a 30 MB mini-distribution featuring the Openbox window manager
(full image size: 91kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Volker Theile has announced the release of FreeNAS 0.69.1, an updated version of the FreeBSD-based operating system providing free Network-Attached Storage (NAS) services: "FreeNAS 0.69.1 (Omnius). Changes: upgrade Samba to 3.0.34, ProFTPD to 1.3.2, mDNSResponder to 1.08.6, lighttpd to 1.4.22, cdialog to 1.1.20080819, e2fsprogs to 1.41.4, nut to 2.4.1, Transmission to 1.51, Upgrade NTFS-3G to 2009.2.1, Bash to 4.0.10; upgrade 3Ware serial ATA RAID controller driver to 9.5.1; add 'SSL/TLS only' on 'Services, FTP' page to allow TLS/SSL connections only; add 'Reverse DNS lookup' on 'Services, FTP' page; add 'Authentication' checkbox on 'Services, BitTorrent' page to enable and disable authentication for TransmissionBT WebGUI...." Read the remainder of the release announcement for further details.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Desktop Paraná. Desktop Paraná is a Debian-based desktop distribution created for the regional government of Paraná in Brazil.
- Lihuen. Lihuen is a Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution developed by the Faculty of Information at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 27 April 2009.
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 505 (2013-04-29): First look at PCLinuxOS 2013.04, Saucy Salamander, Remastersys and System Imager, Linux containers|
|• Issue 504 (2013-04-22): Look at Bodhi 2.3.0, Ubuntu 13.04 features, building OpenBSD ports, opening large files|
|• Issue 503 (2013-04-15): CentOS versus Scientific Linux, PCLinuxOS 64, Lucas Nussbaum, ZFS/Btrfs versus ext4|
|• Issue 502 (2013-04-08): Look at Mint 201303 "Debian", Ubuntu versus openSUSE, comparing ZFS and Btrfs file systems|
|• Issue 501 (2013-04-01): KANOTIX 2013 and GhostBSD 3.0, openSUSE Rescue-CD, Haiku package management, computer forensics|
|• Issue 500 (2013-03-25): Look at openSUSE 12.3, Ubuntu release changes, Debian backports, growing divide|
|• Issue 499 (2013-03-18): MINIX 3.2.1, openSUSE 12.3 on desktop, Ubuntu GNOME and UbuntuKylin, distros for musicians, KolibriOS|
|• Issue 498 (2013-03-11): Sabayon Linux 11, Ubuntu's Mir, Linux malware|
|• Issue 497 (2013-03-04): Rebellin Linux 1.00 "Adrenaline", rolling-release Ubuntu, Arch vs spin-offs, justification and diversity|
|• Issue 496 (2013-02-25): Review of Chakra 2013.02, The Book of GIMP, Ubuntu and privacy, FreeNAS vs NAS4Free|
|• Issue 495 (2013-02-18): SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra", Fedora 19 schedule, Xubuntu on DVD, cloud privacy|
|• Issue 494 (2013-02-11): FreeBSD 9.1, web server stats, Anaconda, rolling-release PC-BSD, fixing broken packages in Arch|
|• Issue 493 (2013-02-04): UberStudent 2.0, OmniBoot 1.0, MariaDB, Enlightenment 0.17|
|• Issue 492 (2013-01-28): Fedora 18 review, systemd, Kali Linux, Ubuntu Unleashed|
|• Issue 491 (2013-01-21): Fuduntu 2013.1, Fedora 18 desktop choices, Consort, accessing encrypted drive|
|• Issue 490 (2013-01-14): Look at Manjaro Linux 0.8.3, openSUSE on Chromebook, Able2Extract 8.0|
|• Issue 489 (2013-01-07): PC-BSD 9.1, Arch spin-offs, rolling-releases, year-end PHR stats, removing applications|
|• Issue 488 (2012-12-24): Reviews of Unity and Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko", FreeBSD 10|
|• Issue 487 (2012-12-17): Cinnarch 2012.11.22, OpenMandriva, Fedora Magazine, Tumbleweed, OpenJDK vs Oracle Java|
|• Issue 486 (2012-12-10): Linux Mint 14 review, Ubuntu "spyware" controversy, Haiku overview, troubleshooting Linux servers|
|• Issue 485 (2012-12-03): Kwort Linux 3.5, Mint bug-fix update, Fedora's new Anaconda, defining a distribution|
|• Issue 484 (2012-11-26): Look at SMS 2.0.1, Fedora pre-beta report, Illumos, Secure Boot update|
|• Issue 483 (2012-11-19): DragonFly BSD 3.2.1 and Xubuntu 12.10, Gentoo and udev, switching file systems|
|• Issue 482 (2012-11-12): Review of Zenwalk 7.2, Clang in FreeBSD, Omniboot 0.5, priorities on external drives|
|• Issue 481 (2012-11-05): Look at Tails 0.13, EFF on Ubuntu and privacy, Debian installer changes, ext4 data corruption bug|
|• Issue 480 (2012-10-29): Review of Ubuntu 12.10, Wayland 1.0, FreeBSD's pkgng|
|• Issue 479 (2012-10-22): Look at Zentyal 3.0, Debian bug reporting, initiating a halt|
|• Issue 478 (2012-10-15): Slackware 14.0 review, Ubuntu donations, connecting to multiple machines behind router|
|• Issue 477 (2012-10-08): Review of ODROID-X, OpenBSD's anti-Linux song, interview with Vincent Untz, Linux as operating system|
|• Issue 476 (2012-10-01): Review of openSUSE 12.2, Slackware 14.0 features, accessing home computer with SSH|
|• Issue 475 (2012-09-24): Look at PCLinuxOS 2012.08, Ubuntu and Amazon, SolusOS and PiSi, ownCloud|
|• Issue 474 (2012-09-17): Bodhi Linux 2.0.1, OpenIndiana interview, Frugalware history, update notifications|
|• Issue 473 (2012-09-10): The Linux Command Line, Slackware documentation project, Debian's new primary arch, Goobuntu|
|• Issue 472 (2012-09-03): Kororaa Linux 17, OpenIndiana and SchilliX, Ubuntu GNOME remix, home server tip|
|• Issue 471 (2012-08-27): Linux Mint 13 "KDE", Ubuntu 12.10 features, Slax update, folder quotas|
|• Issue 470 (2012-08-20): Liberté Linux 2012.2, Arch and systemd, NetBSD's sysbuild and sysupgrade, 19 years of Debian|
|• Issue 469 (2012-08-13): Peppermint OS Three, SUSE on Secure Boot, GNOME OS, moving email to Linux|
|• Issue 468 (2012-08-06): First look at CentOS 6.3, Debian installer beta, Fedora and MATE, Libtrash|
|• Issue 467 (2012-07-30): Ubuntu Made Easy, Debian "Jessie", OpenBSD on Secure Boot, Rawhide troubles|
|• Issue 466 (2012-07-23): Fuduntu 2012.3, Linux in PC-BSD jails, secure boot on older computers|
|• Issue 465 (2012-07-16): Netrunner 4.2, Mandriva's two codebases, firewalls and window frames|
|• Issue 464 (2012-07-09): Zorin OS 6, FSF's views on secure boot, Virtual PDF Printer|
|• Issue 463 (2012-07-02): TurnKey Linux 11.3, Red Hat and Btrfs, Sabayon's MATE spin, ZFS on Linux|
|• Issue 462 (2012-06-25): Sabayon 9, "Wheezy" freeze, Zorin OS overview, Vinux interview, mounting network shares|
|• Issue 461 (2012-06-18): Linux Mint 13, openSUSE 12. delays, Debian Multimedia, Mageia 3 roadmap|
|• Issue 460 (2012-06-11): Look at Fedora 17, PC-BSD and Slackware interviews, Openfiler and FuguIta|
|• Issue 459 (2012-06-04): Impressions of Mageia 2, Fedora updates, Debian or Raspberry Pie, improving software performance|
|• Issue 458 (2012-05-28): Impressions of SolusOS 1, Linux kernel 3.4, encrypting home folder|
|• Issue 457 (2012-05-21): Linux accessibility, Fedora 17 overview, MultiSystem, launching tasks|
|• Issue 456 (2012-05-14): Look at OpenBSD 5.1, Debian Installer 7.0 alpha, UDS news round-up|
|• Issue 455 (2012-05-07): Review of Ubuntu 12.04, "Quantal Quetzal" plans, Debian infographic|
|• Full list of all issues|