| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 307, 15 June 2009
Welcome to this year's 24th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The delayed Fedora 11 was finally released last week. Does the new version of the popular distribution live up its standards? Did the delay help to squash all the bugs? And how does it fare in comparison with other desktop Linux products? Read our first-look review to find out. This week also sees the release of a new project to create more up-to-date installation media for FreeBSD. Currently shipping a 32-bit Xfce desktop, the project hopes to expand to many other areas, as needed. Meanwhile Fedora's Leonidas release is in full swing, but some users are encountering an issue when installing via the live CD as the system cannot yet boot from the default ext4 file system. Read on to discover the simple fix! Also, Debian derivative distribution sidux has copped some heat over its decision to remove non-free firmware from its 2.6.30 kernel, while Novell gets its users to help advertise their products with an online "Custom Geeko" creation tool. Finally, don't miss the freshly posted development roadmaps for Mandriva Linux 2010 and Fedora 12. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Simon Hildenbrand)
Fedora 11 Review
Today we get to take a closer look at Fedora 11 (Leonidas). I was looking forward to trying this new release as there seemed to be a lot of good press about the new technologies and features that Fedora was implementing and it was shaping up to be a bigger release than usual. The last time I did a review for DistroWatch Weekly was when Fedora released version 8, code named Werewolf, back in November 2007. It has been a while since then and a lot has changed for Fedora and desktop Linux, although a lot has stayed the same.
Fedora 11 - the default GNOME desktop
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The three biggest new features for Fedora 11 in my view include moving to the new ext4 file system, the 20 second boot target, and MinGW. Moving to ext4 is a big update for Fedora and will soon be for all Linux distributions. It's a feature that most users will not notice right away, but a feature that provides a significant number of small enhancements that makes it feel big. Most notable improvements include improved performance, faster file deletions, larger file sizes, and faster file system checks. Most of these improvements won't be very noticeable for desktop users, but they will help get to the next new feature which is the 20 second boot-up.
Individuals are continuing to move to laptops and netbooks from desktops when purchasing new computer equipment. The 20 second boot-up goal that the Fedora team set out to accomplish, will allow users to quickly turn on an off their systems and used them only when they need them. Not only is this key for mobile devices like netbooks, but it's also better for the environment because users will be less likely to keep their systems turned on all the time. In the end, users are not interested in waiting minutes for their systems to boot and by getting the boot time to less than 20 seconds provide another reason why Linux is the optimal choice.
The last big feature is MinGW. MinGW allows system developers to cross-compile their programs for Windows without needing Windows. As with ext4, most desktop users are not going to notice this feature but it will benefit many system developers who develop applications for both Linux and Windows and this feature will provide another value add to Linux adoption. These three feature highlights are not a full list of the new and important features in Fedora 11. There are numerous other new features that are being included in this release and if you haven't already done so I recommend taking a minute to read the release notes.
Installation and configuration
I installed Fedora 11 on my laptop which is an IBM x60 with 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB memory, 200 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, an Intel on-board video chipset, and an internal Intel wireless card. I used the live CD with the GNOME desktop environment. The installation process was the same as it has been in the past and was thoroughly uneventful; just the way it should be. Linux has now matured to a point where there should be no hiccups or random crashes during the installation process and it should be easy and straightforward.
The default install on the live CD includes the basic applications (e.g. Firefox, Evolution, Pidgin, Transmission, etc.), but it does not include OpenOffice.org. I also tried installing from the DVD to make sure it didn't have any issues and OpenOffice.org was installed by default so if you need OpenOffice.org I would recommend either using the DVD install or just grabbing it from the repositories which is easy to do.
Once the installation completed I immediately installed the few software updates that were available and then headed over to RPM Fusion so that I could get the codecs and additional software that I use (mainly the VLC media player). The RPM files that RPM Fusion provides to add their repositories were easy to install and everything worked very smoothly. The next step was to head over to Adobe to install the Flash Player. It's nice that Adobe makes available an RPM file that you can use to add the Adobe software repository which provides you with the ability to install the Flash Player and also provides updates to Flash Player and any other Adobe software you've installed using its repositories. All in all, if you are going to use Fedora on the desktop, getting these two repositories added is really a requirement nowadays and is a nice addition as they both complement Fedora.
Another nice feature in the configuration process that Fedora implemented in Fedora 9 is PackageKit. PackageKit will tell me which codecs or applications I need to install to complete the task I'm trying to do. For example, the first thing I do after enabling RPM Fusion is to try and play an MP3 file. Fedora does not play MP3 files out of the box but once I try and play it PackageKit will kick in and tell me which codec I need to install. While I do this, it will also pull in a bunch of other codecs that will enable me to play most audio and video files I need to. This, along with installing OpenOffice.org, VLC media player and Adobe Flash Player is all I need to do to have a full working desktop with everything I need.
While installing new software I noticed that the package manager feels lighter and quicker in doing simple tasks. However, simple features such as the ability to sort packages by names when searching for packages still has not been implemented. Neither has sorting the search results alphabetically. These are simple features that would improve the usability of the system and to be honest I'm not sure why they haven't been implemented yet.
Another nice feature that Fedora has developed is Presto which will make downloading and applying updates faster by downloading only the changes that are made rather than downloading the entire file. I am a little perplexed though as to why this is such a highlighted feature in Fedora's release notes as it has been in other package managers for a while. I'm also not sure why this isn't installed by default, but at least it's being implemented now.
Look and feel
Fedora 11 has impressed me up until this point of the review which is where I feel Fedora has dropped the ball. I find the technology and engineering of Fedora to be excellent, but the look and feel leaves a lot to be desired. In my past review of Fedora 7, one of the items I highlighted then was the choice to continue to use the classic icon theme that had been used for what felt like ages. It's funny that Fedora has updated some of their icons, but still continues to use portions of their classic icon set. You'll see them being used for the OpenOffice.org office suite and some of the icons in the System Preferences / Administration menu. It further disappoints because Fedora 11 now has a mixture of icon sets which lack cohesion and which detract from the user interface.
Fedora's classic icon set
The next disappointment for Fedora 11 is the desktop effects. I can understand that Fedora was hesitant to make desktop effects default as soon as other distributions did, but Fedora has still yet to make desktop effects enabled by default and has also done a poor job of integrating the desktop effects into the desktop environment. In most up-to-date distributions, such as Ubuntu or SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, you will see what seems like minor but important details such as resizing windows. In either of those distributions the mouse will stay in line with the window borders, as well as provide their users with more than just the ability to add wobbly windows and a desktop cube.
The last disappointment in the look and feel department of the Fedora 11 was the overall placement of buttons and the general appearance of the desktop. Fedora continues to use the basic gray window bars which are aesthetically a very old window style. I hope that the Linux community will move away from these soon because they were outdated three years ago and have seen little attention.
I also question some of the button placements. For example, you can get to the preferences section by clicking on the System menu, but you can also get to the same set of controls by getting into the Control Center which is accessible via the User Switcher applet. Another annoying design factor is that your name is written in bold on the User Switcher applet, but when placed next to the clock it is not in bold. Furthermore, the text on the user switcher applet and the clock applet is not lined up. Overall, the look and feel of Fedora detracts from the user experience.
Fedora is, and will most likely always remain, a Red Hat-sponsored project. As such, it is targeted to the goals of the sponsor which in this case is enterprise users; more specifically server technologies. The technology that Fedora has implemented is excellent. Fedora is a leader in engineering and in implementing new technologies for Linux and when it comes to this, Fedora (and Red Hat) is second to none. However, if you're looking for a nice desktop experience and or are looking to migrate from Windows or Mac OS X, Fedora is not an ideal option. It's good, but the desktop experience does not compare to other distributions that cater to the desktop experience; specifically Ubuntu, Mandriva and openSUSE. Now, if only we can get these camps to work closer together...
|Miscellaneous News (by Chris Smart)
Fedora posts workaround for ext4 bug, project delivers up-to-date FreeBSD images, sidux users react over removal of non-free firmware, Novell creates custom Geeko builder site
Leonidas was released last week, the latest version of popular Linux distribution Fedora. The distro is known for pushing the envelope and adopting bleeding edge technology and version 11 has been no exception. Users are no-doubt grateful for the fancy new features made available to them, but this also sometimes means that unforeseen issues can creep into the release. Leonidas ships with the new ext4 as the default file system. Although there has been lots of concern regarding the security of files, the issue is instead that Fedora cannot yet boot from ext4. This is generally not a problem as the DVD installer automatically warns about this. The way around this, of course, is to create a separate /boot partition with ext3, however installation via the live CD will want to create a single ext4 partition by default, rendering the system inoperable: "Due to a combination of factors, if installing from the live CD, you must have at least two partitions available. One will be a small (around 200 MB) /boot partition. The / (root file system) partition must be formatted as ext4 while the /boot partition must be formatted as ext3." Users must manually create a suitable partitioning scheme to by-pass this issue. The DVD install is not affected.
* * * * *
Continuing the news this week is a little project to re-spin more up-to-date images for FreeBSD. Many Linux distributions offer similar images, and now FreeBSD follows suit. Manolis Kiagias writes: "I believe this list (and probably the forums) would be the best place to announce one of my little projects, namely the building of custom FreeBSD install discs (DVD size for desktops, CD size for servers) with the latest release and updated packages." The project currently only provides an Xfce desktop image, but his experiment can be shifted to create any type of installation. As with many things in the free software world, this project was born out of the author's desire to have more up-to-date images of his own: "The purpose of this experiment (besides the educational value of it) is to allow me to build FreeBSD discs with custom and up-to-date packages. These will in turn reduce significantly the amount of time required to install new systems (especially desktops which need hundred of packages)."
* * * * *
Debian is one of the most popular Linux distributions not only for end users but also for other distributions to build upon. One such distro is sidux, which promotes itself as being a desktop-focused operating system, built on Debian's unstable branch, with a custom kernel. "Besides full compatibility with its parent, the distribution also offers a custom kernel with support for a wide variety of modern hardware devices." The distro aims to comply with Debian's Free Software guidelines, while providing support for a wide variety of modern hardware devices via their custom kernel. It seems that these two objectives may conflict from time to time, as seen with the recent release of the 2.6.30 kernel. In line with the direction Debian is taking, the distro has decided to remove all non-free firmware which has resulted in some complaints from the user community. Interestingly, however, they mostly seem to involve worse graphical performance, rather than devices not working. Perhaps this has nothing to do with the removal of firmware at all, but rather some issues with the new GEM and X.Org drivers. Whatever the reason, the take-home message might be to keep your users informed as to what impact can be expected from internal changes.
* * * * *
Just installed openSUSE or purchased Novell Enterprise Linux and want to show your love for the gecko? Novell has announced a new website which allows you to build your own lizard (which they call a geeko). Susan Salgy writes: "Now that SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 is out the door, we wanted to make it easy for SUSE enthusiasts to spread the word. Over the years, we've had tons of requests for personalized Geekos, so we've whipped up Geekobuilder.com to let SUSE and openSUSE enthusiasts show their love of the Geeko." Yours truly visited the website to take a look, half expecting to see a website built with Microsoft's Silverlight technology but was instead greeted with Flash. After successfully creating a Geeko to be called "Zorro", it was discovered that the ability to save the design did not work. The same task failed on openSUSE 11.1 (using Flash 10.0 r22) and even OS X with Firefox and Safari. Nothing worked (except presumably Windows). One would imagine that a company wanting its users to advertise their Linux distribution would make sure it worked!
Geekobuilder could be a lot of fun - if only it worked correctly...
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|Released Last Week
Red Hat has announced the release of Fedora 11, the latest version of the leading open-source Linux distribution: "The Fedora Project, a Red Hat, Inc. sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration project, today announced the availability of Fedora 11, the latest version of its free open source operating system. The community's eleventh release includes the broadest feature set to date, spotlights developments in software management and sound, improves key virtualization components and introduces Fedora Community, a portal project beta." Read the press release, release announcement and release notes for further information.
Greenie Linux 5j
Stanislav Hoferek has announced the release of Greenie Linux 5j, an Ubuntu-based distribution and live CD optimised for Slovak and Czech speakers. What's new? Based on Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope" (Linux kernel 2.6.28, OpenOffice.org 3.0.1), actualised with all recent security updates; new keyboard shortcuts for launching Firefox, calculator or any other application; availability of a meta package that can turn a standard Ubuntu install into Greenie Linux; new documentation; inclusion of Greenshot - a utility that takes a screenshot and uploads into to ImageShack in three seconds; availability of extra applications, including Skype, VLC and Opera via Greenport; new desktop theme.... Read the full release announcement (in Slovak) for more details.
Greenie Linux 5j - an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution for Slovaks and Czechs
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Volker Theile has announced the release of FreeNAS 0.69.2, a maintenance update of the FreeBSD-based operating system providing free Network-Attached Storage (NAS) services: "FreeNAS 0.69.2 released. Changes: add another WOL patch, it is tested for nfe(4) und xl(4); add switch in 'System|Advanced' WebGUI to enable the console screensaver; upgrade Adaptec SCSI RAID administration tool to 6.10.18359; add ability to enable or disable rc.conf variables; add Danish WebGUI translation; add kernel patches to get ARTiGO A2000 hardware working; add ability to use %d (date) and %h (hostname) in email subjects; add 'MaxLoginAttempts' event to FTP ban list rules; add 'ClientConnectRate' event to FTP ban list rules; allow selecting the key length of the cryptographic algorithm used to encrypt a disk...." Here is the complete release announcement.
TEENpup Linux 2009
John Van Gaans has announced the release of TEENpup Linux 2009 "Legacy", a general-purpose desktop distribution for older computers based on Puppy Linux: "Today sees the fifth release of TEENpup and once again it's based on Puppy 2.14. This time the ISO image has grown to just under 700 MB so that it will fit on a CD. As the focus for TEENpup has shifted to a modern operating system for older PCs which most likely only came with a CD drive, it was felt that a 700MB size limit should be adhered to. To attract users from Windows, TEENpup's default color scheme has been modeled on some of Vista's coloring. Also, there's something I created called 'Magic Scripts', which is a drag & drop arrangement - all you do is drag & drop, say, an audio or video file and it will allow you to convert it to another format." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Linux-EduCD is a Polish distribution and live DVD based on Mandriva Linux, designed for deployment in Polish educational establishments. The project released version 1.0 (code name "Valis") yesterday. Besides educational programs, the distribution also includes a variety of multimedia, office and development software. It ships with Linux kernel 18.104.22.168, with support for SATA drives and many popular Intel and Atheros wireless network cards. Other features and applications include improved administration centre, a live USB creator, Firefox 3.0.10, OpenOffice.org 3.0.1, GIMP 2.6.6, MySQL 5.0.45, Apache 2.2, pre-configured WordPress 2.7.1, SciLab 4.1.1, Celestia 1.4.1, Xephem 3.7.2, OpenDX 4.4, GenChemLab and others. Please see the release announcement (in Polish) for further information and screenshots.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Mandriva Linux 2010
The Mandriva Linux development team has published a preliminary roadmap leading to the distribution's next major release, version 2010: "Antoine Ginies will be the release engineer for all Mandriva Linux 2010 editions. The following editions are planned for each pre-release: Free (x86_32 and x86_64 DVDs, dual x86_32 / x86_64 mini CDs - 100% free / open source software); One (KDE and GNOME x86_32 CDs, including proprietary drivers)." The development should kick off later this week with the first alpha build, while the final release is scheduled for 15 October 2009. For more details please see the development section of the Mandriva Wiki.
Also published last week was the release schedule for Fedora 12. The most interesting part is that the customary public alpha release has been dropped from the scheduled, leaving testers with just two public development builds to try. The first one (beta) is scheduled for the second half of August, while the second one (preview) is expected in early October. The final release of Fedora 12 is scheduled for release on 3 November 2009, but as always with Fedora, some delay can be expected. For further information please consult the Fedora 12 release schedule.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Eden Live. Eden Live is a RIPLinuX-based live CD designed to retrieve passwords and other sensitive information from Windows and UNIX partitions.
- LinuxAdvanced. LinuxAdvanced is an Austrian distribution with Xfce as the default desktop. The project's web site is in German.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 22 June 2009.
Simon Hildenbrand, Chris Smart and Ladislav Bodnar
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