| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 309, 29 June 2009
Welcome to this year's 26th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Everybody knows that LinuxTag is a premier open-source exhibition and conference in Europe. But how does it feel being there? What are the people like? What takes place at the stands, conference halls, informal parties? This week's DistroWatch Weekly gives first-hand answers to these and many other questions. In the news this past week, Debian contributors release an updated kernel for "Lenny", while Fedora settles on a code name for its upcoming release, version 12. If you've ever been tempted to try the oldest surviving Linux distribution, a beginner's install guide for Slackware we link to might be just what you need. Finally, don't miss the story about the BSD Magazine which has released some great articles from its print publication for your reading pleasure. Have a great Monday and the rest of the week!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
I have had a fair share of experiences with computing conferences and trade shows. Whether as an employee of a company that hired a stand at a popular event or as a neutral visitor ready to be swayed by the exhibitors' eagerness to demonstrate their products, I have often found these fairs both educational and stimulating. Perhaps the only disappointment on these large shows was the fact that computers running a decent operating system were extremely rare, even non-existent. As a result, I longed for the day when I would attend a "real" computing exhibition, one where free software would be the dominant topic of conversations and where open-source operating systems would power every single computer on the floor.
The day finally arrived last week. LinuxTag, Europe's premier open-source event, opened in Berlin on Tuesday and continued until the closing moments late on Saturday. Imagine two large halls, equipped with stands of varied sizes, all manned by a rather informal and relaxed bunch of people -- ranging from sociable and talkative to withdrawn geeks who spent most of the week behind their computers as if they were in their usual environment, instead of a large social event. Imagine walking around the show and meeting people with T-shirts saying "No, I won't fix your Windows" or another reading "# emerge life" in front and "segmentation fault" on the back (no prizes for guessing which distribution's logo accompanied the text). Imagine meeting famous Linux personalities that you read about all the time, but never meet in person. Yes, that was LinuxTag, a 4-day even taking place last week in the German capital.
For your DistroWatch maintainer, this was a dream come true. Enter the show and the first booth belongs to no other than Gentoo Linux, a very popular place that was always busy. I spent long moments talking to Robert Buchholtz, a Gentoo developer, and Luca Barbato, a member of the Gentoo council. "Why don't you guys publish more announcements and tell us more about your innovations?" I asked. "That's not how we work," replied Luca. "We are no Ubuntu and we aren't interested in grabbing attention. We are a big group of developers, each one working on his or her itch." He also refused the idea that the council should direct the development according to the project's goals. "We will only step in if there is a conflict, otherwise we won't interfere with each individual's work."
Right next to the Gentoo stand was a group of young people, proudly displaying their affiliation with CentOS. Dag Wieers, the well-known maintainer of a once very popular RPM repository, greeted me with a big smile: "Do you know CentOS?" When I introduced myself, he looked somewhat disappointed: "Oh, so you know CentOS..." Still, we found a lot to talk about. "Yes, CentOS is often considered a server operating system," explained Dag, "but we are trying to change that. In fact, the latest release has many up-to-date desktop packages and we also have an extra repository with many application and drivers that are not officially part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)." He asserted: "CentOS can be a perfect system for those who need long-term stability and who don't want to take frequent and potentially risky upgrade paths." He is right; just consider this: although already more than two years old, RHEL 5 (and, by extension, CentOS 5) will continue to receive security updates until at least March 2014. That's mind-boggling!
A discussion at the CentOS stand.
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The topic of CentOS came up once again at the Fedora stand, right at the end of the second hall. After approaching the group of men, all wearing uniform blue T-shirts with the famous infinity symbol, my first question wasn't very flattering: "What have you guys done with Fedora 11? It's broken. At least that's what many Fedora users are saying." A long-winded explanation followed, but in the end, the conclusion was simple - it is just not possible to create a distribution that is both a leader in innovation and extremely stable at the same time. The consensus was that Fedora wasn't an operating system for everybody. Those who like to live on the cutting edge of Linux development will love it, but those who want stability should probably take a closer look at CentOS. One of the stars of this year's LinuxTag was Max Spevack, the former Fedora project leader, who also gave a speech entitled "Introduction to the Fedora Users and Developers Conference (FUDCon)".
Close to the rather smallish Fedora stand was a cluster of high-profile booths displaying the many variations of the "Linux for humanity" logo. Yes, Ubuntu was at LinuxTag too. The stands were not sponsored by Canonical, but rather organised by the local Ubuntu communities. I spoke to Julius Bloch, one of the maintainers of ubuntu-de.org who gave me some hard evidence about the rising popularity of Ubuntu in Germany - tens of thousands of registered users in the forums and more 50 local Ubuntu communities in every part of the country. Across the aisle, Alexander Kopf was eagerly demonstrating the latest advances in Kubuntu, in a large stand that the project shared with KDE and Amarok, the music player.
One Ubuntu-related stand that caught my eye belonged to a little-known live CD project called Ubuntu Privacy Remix, currently still on DistroWatch's waiting list. But as Rike Jacobs explained, this is a product that should become a lot more popular; after all, protecting one's important data from prying eyes or theft is something that every user should take extremely seriously. The live CD, available for free download from the project's web site, boots into a standard Ubuntu, but it does not access the computer's hard disks at all; instead, it saves all data to an encrypted USB storage device. An option to create a backup from the USB drive is also available, as are many other interesting features. An excellent product to keep around when you travel or when you can't take any chances with your important files!
Nearby, the joint Debian GNU/Linux and sidux stand was attracting a steady steam of visitors. The Debian half was one of the few distribution booths with female staff on duty (two young ladies were frequently seen handing out fliers and explaining the project to interested visitors), which made a pleasant change from the otherwise overly masculine appearance of the show. A regular activity at the stand was GPG keysigning, a very serious exercise which inevitably turned into a giggle as soon as the two parties exchanged their ID cards to ascertain that the person signing the key is indeed who he or she claims to be. On the other hand, the sidux part of the booth seemed like a busy computer lab, with developers constantly running between their computers as if their reason for coming to LinuxTag was to finalise the upcoming new release. But that didn't mean to be. As explained one of the sidux developers, Debian "sid", which sidux is based on, is undergoing a major transition to KDE 4, which means a rather large number of release-critical bugs at the moment.
Still in the second hall, but moving towards the entrance, one could hardly miss the greenest of all the stands - the one belonging to openSUSE. This was a large, nicely designed area with plenty of convenient sitting space for the many curious visitors who ventured inside. The stand was attended by well-known former and current openSUSE personalities, including Joe Brockmeier (the openSUSE community manager), Andreas Jaeger (the former openSUSE release manager) and Stephan Binner (a KDE developer). The last day of the show was dedicated to openSUSE, with speeches ranging from creating an openSUSE-based home theatre to what's new in the upcoming openSUSE 11.2 to using WINE on the popular distribution. Most of the talks were in German though.
Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier demonstrates the SUSE build service
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But which do you think was the largest and busiest distribution stand at the show? No, it wasn't Ubuntu's or openSUSE's; instead the overwhelmingly attractive area of linuX-gamers took the prize. Displaying a large number of computers with big screen, this place was buzzing with activity and various sound effects as visitors tried the many games on offer. It took some effort before I managed to pull over Marko Kaiser, one of the developers of the Arch Linux-based live CD and DVD (now also available as an image for USB storage drives). The new CD image with a limited number of games was only made available recently, following a heated discussion in Germany over the relationship between violent games and real-life tragic school shootings that took place in recent months. While the full DVD still contains all the popular free games available for the Linux platform, the live CD is limited to non-violent games only and suitable for children.
Of course, LinuxTag wasn't only about distributions. Many other projects took part, including the popular desktop environments (KDE, GNOME and LXDE), projects specialising in making Linux a great media platform (VLC, FFmpeg and XBMC media centre) and the usual suspects, such as Free Software Foundation Europe or Linux Professional Institute. A handful of commercial companies where also on the floor. Large conference hall above and below the trade show were reserved for talks (both in English and German), which included such exciting topics as new features in the upcoming VLC 1.0 and fun and games with Nmap. And even though this was a Linux show, other free software projects were also part of the overall experience - the joint BSD stand representing the three big ones (FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD) was there to educate users about the virtues of netpkg among others, while a German UNIX Users Group was handing out CDs with the recently released OpenSolaris 2009.06.
So how would I rate the LinuxTag exhibition overall? There were one or two disappointments, the most serious being the fact that there was no free WiFi connection at the trade floor, and I also regretted that there weren't more well-known Linux personalities at the show to act as drawcards. Nevertheless, it was nice to meet ordinary guys who simply enjoy Linux. But I think the biggest value of the show was being able to share experiences and listen to other people's views. Regular readers of DistroWatch Weekly will know that I've been critical of Gentoo's lack of PR in recent years, but after talking to the guys at the Gentoo stand I changed my view. Gentoo is Gentoo and I have to accept its way of doing things rather than trying to force it into something it doesn't want to be. I've also made one or two critical remarks about KDE 4 in the past, but seeing Luca Gugelmann's enthusiastic presentation of KDE 4 features made me want to switch to this exciting desktop straight away. These were important interactions; if somebody who disagrees with me sends me a nasty email it does nothing to change my opinion. But enthusiasm and belief in one's project is a completely different story.
Great show, excellent ambiance, and authoritative presentations - that was LinuxTag 2009. Hope you can join us next year!
|Miscellaneous News (by Chris Smart)
Updated kernel for "Lenny", Slackware install guide, Fedora 12 "Constantine", free articles by BSD Magazine
Debian is one of the most popular distributions today and one of the largest open source community projects in the world. Known for its stability (which often contributes to delayed releases), Debian's packages are often much older than those that ship with most other distros. The project is able to focus on stability more than features because it is not driven by a corporate entity like other major distributions. At times however, newer software is essential for getting the operating system working on a computer. With "Etch", Debian introduced updated kernels to help combat this but there are other kernels available. Developer Kenshi Muto has been maintaining an updated kernel for "Lenny" and released a version for 2.6.30 including firmware and support for ext4.
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The oldest surviving Linux distribution continues to plod along, minding its own business and getting on with the job. If you've ever been enticed to try the distro yourself, perhaps a beginner's guide will be helpful! As the article quotes: "Give a man Ubuntu, and he'll learn Ubuntu. Give a man SUSE, and he'll learn SUSE. But give a man Slackware, and he'll learn Linux." Slackware is a distribution for advanced users or at least those willing to learn. It has no complex package manager like Debian or Fedora to automatically handle dependencies, but instead expects the end user to know what is required and handle all that manually. Here's an interesting article on why a user prefers Slackware over Ubuntu.
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The new name for the upcoming Fedora version 12 has been announced at FUDCon in Berlin, and is to be "Constantine". As with all releases of Fedora, the new name must be linked to the name of the previous version, in this case both Constantine and Leonidas are townships in the state of Michigan, USA. If you're interested in following the movement of release 12, the accepted features list is now being updated. The current number stands at nine, but this is expected to rise dramatically over the coming months. The current release, Fedora 11, had fifty-two new features.
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Finally, BSD Magazine has released some free articles from their current issue. Among them is an article on installing NetBSD. Author Patrick Pippen writes: "NetBSD is not as difficult to install as you may think, it comes with an easy-to-use menu-driven program called sysinst to make installation quick and simple. In reality it's not that difficult if you take the time to read through the NetBSD Guide and follow the instructions within it. After some time you'll be surprised how fast you can get it up and running." Also available is an article on encrypting your data under BSD operating systems and an interview with NetBSD developers. Even an entire issue, which focuses on OpenBSD, is available. Certainly worth looking into if you're a BSD fan, or considering trying it out. Before the PDFs are accessible, you are required to register with an email address.
|Released Last Week
Guadalinex 6, a Spanish, Ubuntu-based distribution developed by the regional government of Andalucía in Spain, has been released. This version incorporates new functionality inherited from Ubuntu 9.04, with some of the most noticeable improvements being faster boot, several new programs and utilities, and the ability to run Windows applications. However, the new Guadalinex also includes features that differentiates it from Ubuntu, such as the Amigu migration assistant which can import files, settings, email and browser favourites from Windows (including Vista), and a practical user manual written specifically for this version of the distribution. Read the release announcement (in Spanish) for further details and see also this blog post by Juanje Ojeda (in English) which explains the goals of the distribution.
GoblinX 3.0 "g:Mini"
Flavio Pereira de Oliveira has announced the release of GoblinX 3.0 "g:Mini" edition, a small, Slackware-based distribution and live CD with Xfce: "The GoblinX Project is proud to announce the release of the a stable g:Mini distribution. The g:Mini, formerly known as 'GoblinX Mini' is the son of GoblinX and contains only Xfce as the windows manager and GTK+ applications. g:Mini 3.0 includes the latest Xfce 4.6 which has brought several improvements and new features. Xfce session now offers hibernate and suspend options. It has a new notification system with themes managed by Xfce 'notifyd', Xfce power manager to help laptop users set up a power profile for two different modes, Gigolo to manage connections to remote file systems, a better control center and more." See the release announcement and changelog for more information.
Linux Mint 7 "x86_64"
Clement Lefebvre has announced that the 64-bit edition of Linux Mint 7 is now available: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 7 'x86_64'. This edition of Linux Mint 7 is almost identical to the main edition but, compiled for 64-bit processors (Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Core 2 Quad, AMD Athlon X2 64 and all x86_64 compliant processors). It comes with all the improvements featured in Linux Mint 7 main edition. Known issues: the root password is now the same as the one chosen during the installation, a blog post will follow to explain why and how this was implemented; if you’re using Mint tools in other distributions, make sure to turn off the adjustment system by editing mintSystem.conf." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
MoLinux 5.0, a Spanish, Ubuntu-based distribution developed by the regional government of Castilla la Mancha in Spain, has been released. Code-named "Dorotea", in reference to a pretty girl in Cervantes' Don Quijote de la Mancha, MoLinux 5.0 is distributed as an installable live DVD. New features: improved hardware support and boot speed; optional ext4 file system support; connectivity improvements with the latest version of NetworkManager; newest versions of most of the included applications. New software: GNOME Control Centre for configuring the system; CompizConfig, a utility for setting up 3D desktop effects; Tucan, a download manager; Gru, a tool for restoring the bootloader in case it has been accidentally overwritten or damaged.... Please refer to the release announcement and release notes (both links in Spanish) for further details about the release.
Rocks Cluster Distribution 5.2
Greg Bruno has announced the release of Rocks Cluster Distribution 5.2, a specialist, CentOS-based distribution designed to make it simple to build high-performance computer clusters: "Rocks 5.2 is released for Linux on the i386 and x86_64 CPU architectures and Solaris for the x86_64 architecture. New features: with the new JumpStart roll one can now install and configure a Linux-based Rocks front-end to 'JumpStart' Solaris-based back-end machines; can assign 'attributes' to nodes at four levels - global, appliance type, OS (e.g., Linux or SunOS), and host; Anaconda installer updated to version 188.8.131.52; isolated MySQL for the Rocks database under /opt/rocks; fix for software RAID partitioning...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
linuX-gamers Live 0.9.5
Marko Kaiser has announced the release of linuX-gamers Live 0.9.5, a set of Arch-based live media (on CD, DVD and USB drives) featuring a variety of popular 3D games: "We are proud to announce a new version of our live DVD at LinuxTag 2009 in Berlin. We now have different versions of our distribution: 'Lite ISO' - a small CD image containing a limited selection of games suitable for children and older computers; 'Lite USB' - the same selection of games as 'Lite ISO' but for USB keys; 'Big ISO' - a big DVD image (4.7 GB) containing the full selection of games for adults and more recent computers; 'Big USB' - contains full selection of fames, but is meant for USB sticks with the capacity of at least 5 GB capacity." Here is the complete release announcement.
Calculate Linux 9.7 "Directory Server"
Calculate Directory Server is a Gentoo-based LDAP server providing a centralised storage of application settings, user accounts and access privileges. A new version of the product was announced yesterday. Some of the main changes include: "Support for Italian and Polish languages; support for the proxy service with user authorization in LDAP; support for Samba group settings in the LDAP server; support for setting of some Jabber service hosts; isolinux has been used for booting; when booting from CD user can now select a keyboard layout; support from loading the CD into memory; improved hardware compatibility when booting from a USB DVD...." More information in the release announcement.
Joern Lindau has announced the release of Toorox 06.2009, a Gentoo-based live DVD featuring the latest KDE 4: "Toorox 06.2009 is finished now. As always, the KDE was updated to the latest version 4.2.4. The recent CVS snapshot of the lancelot_part plasmoid was included because Qt was updated to 4.5.1 and the old version of the plasmoid had some trouble with it. The USB stick creator script was optimised; now there are three options - static, personal and encrypted. For the last two options the home folder will be stored and with the remaining option even password-encrypted when shut down. Now two partitions will be created - ext2 for Toorox and FAT32 for regular data storage on the pen drive. Some users had kernel panics after installation and booting from an USB hard disk - this has been fixed." Here is the brief release announcement.
Tiny Core Linux 2.1
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Tiny Core Linux 2.1, a minimalist desktop distribution in 11 MB: "The Tiny Core team is pleased to announce version 2.1 of Tiny Core and Micro Core Linux. Changelog: new modutils results in much space savings; new changed from using initramfs to tmpfs for better support of df and mount bind option; new Squashfs module to prevent spurious Squashfs errors upon boot; new aterm for better interaction with Appbrowser; new waitforX eliminates WM timing issues; new BusyBox 1.13.4 - command line history set to 150; new usbinstall, a command line tool to install to pen drive, USB hard disk drive, USB zip, or USB ext; new upgrade_tce.sh command line script, an extremely conservative batch upgrade script; new added modules hwmon and rfkill for better support of laptops; updated virtual hard drive to support persistent home on a virtual hard drive...." Read the rest of the release announcement for more changes.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- openArtist. openArtist is an Ubuntu-based distribution designed for artists. It ships with nearly every relevant software applications available in the free software world, including 2D and 3D image manipulation tools, audio and video packages, software for hardware interfacing and collaboration, etc.
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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, 6 July 2009.
Ladislav Bodnar and Chris Smart
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Full list of all issues|