| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 310, 6 July 2009
Welcome to this year's 27th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
The hottest debate in the Linux community right now is over whether or
not Mono, Novell's implementation of .NET, should be included by default
in Linux distributions. This week we look at decisions by Debian and Ubuntu,
and the reactions by notable members of the FOSS community. In other news,
Fedora announces their "Fit and Finish" product and Ksplice announces Uptrack
for Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope (9.04). Our feature this week is a review of
CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition, a unique multilingual mini distribution
from China. Finally, five new distributions are added to the DistroWatch
waiting list. Have a great Monday and the rest of the week!
- Review: CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition
- News: Debian and Ubuntu say Mono is no threat, rebootless updates for Jaunty, Fedora announces Fit and Finish project
- Released last week: PCLinuxOS 2009.2, Sabayon
Linux 4.2 "GNOME", Calculate Linux 9.7 "KDE", Yellow Dog Linux 6.2,
blackPanther OS 9.1
- Upcoming releases: Ubuntu 8.04.3 LTS, Pardus Linux 2009 RC2, Frugalware Linux 1.1pre2
- New distributions: Sugar on a Stick, VESTA, Milnix, Mundus OS, BSD Router Project
- Reader comments
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Feature Story (by Caitlyn Martin)
CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition Review
Five weeks ago when I wrote an overview of Debris
Linux I received a number of requests to review other mini
distributions from DistroWatch Weekly readers.
CDLinux is a minimalist distro from China which
takes a different approach to small. Rather than cram as many
application as possible onto a mini (3"/8cm) CD, the CDLinux Community
Edition aims for excellent support of half a dozen languages (Chinese,
English, French, German, Japanese and Russian), support for a wide
variety of filesystems and excellent hardware support, including
CUPS and XSane
for printers and scanners, all of which are included in the 204MB iso.
They also offer a "standard" edition, just 64MB in size, which includes
a basic Xfce desktop and almost no applications at all. CDLinux
"standard" does include popular rescue and admin tools, making it an
excellent choice for a recovery CD. Finally, the 25MB "mini" edition is
console only. I decided to take the most complete version, the
Community Edition, and put it through its paces.
CDLinux had its first public release in early 2003. Development seemed
to end in early 2005 but a new version made an appearance in April,
2008. There have been regular releases ever since. The latest version,
CDLinux 0.9.2 was released on February 27.
CDLinux is designed to be run as a live CD. A graphical installer
supports installation to a USB stick or an existing Windows C: drive.
The resulting installation is similar to a Damn
Small Linux frugal install or a Knoppix poor
man's install where the iso image is installed directly to the hard
drive and is booted read-only. You are then effectively running the Live
CD with the speed of a conventional hard drive. Installation to a
conventional hard drive partition is minimally
but it is a manual process as of the current release.
For this review I used two systems: my six month old
Netbook Meso (1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB HDD) and
my six and a half year old Toshiba Satellite 1805-S204 (1 GHz Intel
Celeron CPU, 512 MB RAM, 20 GB HDD). Both systems meet minimum
requirements for any current Linux distribution and both have hardware
which is challenging with some distributions. The Toshiba, in
particular, uses a Trident CyberBlade XPi graphics chipset which is not
VESA 2.0 compliant. A number of mini distros fail to configure X
correctly on this system. Minimum system requirements for CDLinux are an
i686 (Pentium Pro or better) processor and just 64MB of RAM.
Running As A Live CD
When booting into CDLinux you are presented with a
GRUB4DOS menu screen
which has a dozen choices: 11 language and locale choices are offered
as is MemTest86+ for testing your system's memory. Locale choices for
English speakers include Canada, Great Britain and the United States.
For this review I chose U.S. English. Editing each choice is supported
but I didn't need to pass any special kernel parameters for my systems.
CDLinux is somewhat unusual in that it does not use a display manager at
all. By default it runs an automatic video configuration, starts X,
loads the Xfce 4.4.3 desktop and
automatically logs in as a user called cdl. No alternative desktop
environments or window managers are provided. I’m pleased to say that
CDLinux gets X configuration absolutely right on both of my systems with no intervention on my
part. A dialog box opens after Xfce is loaded offering a choice of
supported video resolutions with the highest resolution chosen by default.
My personal experience with live CDs is that I just can’t use most of
them on my old Toshiba. Once upon a time I blamed the hardware. I
figured the DVD-ROM drive in the old beast was just plain slow. With a
lot of live CDs, such as Ubuntu or
Mandriva One, my old system is slower than
molasses running uphill in the wintertime. It is somewhere between
extremely painful and absolutely unusable. A few years back
Wolvix 1.0.5 taught me the problem wasn’t my
hardware. CDLinux is another live distro that runs smoothly and
responsively on my old laptop.
CDLinux correctly detected all of my hardware on both systems.
Everything worked. Both wired and wireless networking were correctly configured
by wicd. Getting wireless up
and running was just a matter of clicking the little arrow next to the
network name and entering the passphrase for my WPA encrypted network.
Sound worked fine right out of the virtual box. Removable media, whether
a USB stick, an SD card or a compact flash card in a PCMCIA-CF adapter,
were detected correctly and an icon popped up on the desktop when they
were inserted. The icon did not disappear when the removable media was
unmounted as you might expect. Physically removing the media did
result in the icon disappearing.
Using CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition
The selection of internet applications in CDLinux Community
Edition include the
3.0.6 and Opera 10.00.4102 (beta) web
browsers, Sylpheed 2.6.0, a
lightweight mail client, and the
BitTorrent client. For instant messaging
Pidgin 2.5.4 is provided.
Skype 188.8.131.52 is also included on
the iso. Recent versions of
FileZilla are also included.
Office applications included in the latest version of CDLinux are
limited to Gnumeric
1.8.4 and ePDFviewer. Instead of including a locally installed word
processor, a menu item for
Writer, an online word processor, is included and it opens in
Firefox. I personally prefer to do my writing on my own system
independent of a network connection so I found this choice rather
Since CDLinux comes from China neither software patents nor the DMCA is
an issue to the developers. mp3 files play perfectly in either
Win32 codecs and libdvdcss are included and multimedia files I tried
just worked. There is no quick and easy tool for removing offending
codecs to make CDLinux DMCA-compliant, nor is there an easy way to add
any missing codecs. CD burning is handled by the rather minimal
xfburn. DVD writing
tools are not included. Google's gmlive tool for watching live video
is the only other multimedia app on the CDLinux iso. I had problems
with gmlive, which generally had difficulty connecting to video servers.
Two items normally excluded from mini distros but which did make it into
CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition are WINE
and Sun's Java Runtime Environment (JRE).
Graphics applications include GIMP
2.6.5 and gpicview. No software for directly interfacing to a digital
camera is included. A few lightweight games, the Mousepad text editor,
Midnight Commander CLI file manager, and galculator round out the
software selection. The multilingual, Unicode aware, and lightweight
both Xfce Terminal and xterm.
If you’re looking for gee whiz 3D desktop effects then CDLinux is not
the distribution for you. Compiz-fusion is not included. Under the
hood CDLinux 0.9.2 sports a 2.6.28 kernel. The X.org implementation is
just old enough to avoid the Intel graphics regressions seen in some
recent distribution releases. The Intel driver included is version
I’ve used CDLinux 0.9.2 Community Edition fairly extensively and I
honestly have no significant bugs to report other than the
aforementioned problems with desktop icons for removable media and with
gmlive when the distro is run as a live CD. CDLinux gives you a vanilla
Xfce desktop with no frills. It is as user friendly as any Xfce based
distro with only one caveat: in order to keep the distro small most of
the man pages and help files have been removed from pretty much all the
applications. Someone with questions will have to rely on online help.
0.9.2 Community Edition with the default Xfce desktop
(full image size: 141kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
Installation and Configuration: Hard Drive or USB Stick
CDLinux 0.9.2 features a graphical installer which supports installation
to either an existing Windows C: drive or to a USB stick. While I don't
have Windows on any of my personal systems I have a nice supply of USB
sticks. Unfortunately CDLinux didn't recognize any of them, with the
error message claiming that "no proper device was
detected in your system." This problem occurred on both of my
systems regardless of which USB stick I used.
The only remaining alternative was to extract the kernel and initrd
files as documented
adding them to the /boot/grub/menu.lst file from another distro
installation. That did work but it is probably not something someone
new to Linux would be comfortable with. If you look at the linked
documentation you'll see that it is rather minimal and assumes you know
what you are doing.
The end result was a frugal install to my hard drive. Everything worked
and the system ran very fast indeed. It’s clear that hard drive
installation in CDLinux was an afterthought. CDLinux does not offer
security updates or notifications nor does it have its own package
repository. There are also no package management tools. A compiler is
also not included so you can't build from source with CDLinux. The
statement on the website: "It can be extended to run
as your desktop OS" is technically true but it certainly isn't
easy to accomplish. For most desktop users who want a secure and up to
date system CDLinux probably isn’t the best choice to install to the
For a desktop or laptop user who speaks one of the six supported
languages with even a minimal amount of previous Linux experience CDLinux
is a very capable live CD. Users who need more than one of these
languages in a small distro will be absolutely thrilled with CDLinux.
Performance is excellent, particularly on older, slower hardware. This
distro, when run as a live CD, has very few bugs. It’s well thought out
and generally user friendly. The selection of applications should give
most casual users much of what they need and the inclusion of codecs and
a nice suite of Internet apps is a plus. The downside of using CDLinux
is typical of smaller, lightweight distros: a lack of help files/man
pages and a somewhat limited set of applications. I also found the lack
of a word processor unfortunate.
Hard drive installation is doable but the graphical installer just
didn't work for me. In general installation is, at best, a work in
process which currently requires a significant knowledge of Linux.
Installing CDLinux to a hard drive or USB stick, either in a full or
frugal installation, isn’t for newcomers. Once installed and configured
CDLinux performs brilliantly but lacks the tools for systems
administration and routine maintenance that most distributions have.
Hard drive installation is really an afterthought but an experienced
user who really likes CDLinux can certainly consider it.
Generally, if you use CDLinux for what it was designed to be: a
multilingual mini live CD which will run on most any hardware, the results
are generally quite good.
|Miscellaneous News (by Chris Smart)
Debian and Ubuntu say Mono is no threat, rebootless updates for
Jaunty, Fedora announces Fit and Finish project
has been a hot topic lately - whether Novell's open source
implementation of the heavily patented and Microsoft controlled .NET
programming framework should be included by default in Linux
distributions. The Debian GNU/Linux project recently
announced that notetaking program, Tomboy, would be
by default in the package selection for next release, Squeeze. In
reply to this announcement, the father of free software Richard Stallman, warned against including Mono by default. He wrote: "Debian's decision to include Mono in its principal way of installing GNOME, for the sake of Tomboy which is an application written in C#, leads the community in a risky direction." He continued: "The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents...This is a serious danger, and only fools would ignore it until the day it actually happens. We need to take precautions now to protect ourselves from this future danger." Official Debian developer Alexander Reichle-Schmehl wrote a reply in his blog, saying:"So, when installing Lenny, and when using the GNOME installation media (not the KDE, Xfce or LXDE one), and when you have either a complete set of discs (including DVD or BlueRay installation) or internet access during installation time, tomboy (and therefore mono) will already be installed automatically. When using other installation media or only use the first CD (which doesn't contain tomboy) neither tomboy nor mono will be installed." So for now at least, Mono is still not quite included in the default GNOME desktop, but will things change? And does anyone care?
* * * * *
Also related to Mono, the Ubuntu community has been putting pressure on the project to make an official announcement as to their position on Mono in the popular operating system. This week the Ubuntu Techncal Board granted their wish, although it might not have been the one many were hoping for. In the announcement, the team writes: "The Ubuntu Project takes patent issues seriously, and the Ubuntu Technical Board is the governance body that handles allegations of patent infringement...The Ubuntu Technical Board has received no claims of infringement against the Mono stack, and is not aware of any such claims having been received by other similar projects." Finally they conclude: "Given the above, the Ubuntu Technical Board sees no reason to exclude Mono or applications based upon it from the archive, or from the default installation set." In short, Ubuntu approves of Mono and will continue to include .NET applications as part of their default install. Indeed, with the upcoming release they will be increasing the number of these applications by replacing music player Rhythmbox with Banshee.
In other Ubuntu related news, the team behind Ksplice has announced a
free service for Ubuntu Jaunty users called
Uptrack. Ksplice can
apply kernel patches directly into the running kernel, without
requiring a reboot. Linux Magazine has an
interesting article about
the technology. "Ksplice is a suite of tools which can apply patches directly into a running kernel resulting in an instantly patched system without a single interruption. No need to reboot the system or restart any services!" But would any desktop users really care? "Certainly most desktop users will probably feel that their system is secure enough and not feel the need for such a service. After all, most desktops rarely face the Internet directly like a server might. Even so, the more layers of security and protection one can have on their system the better. Finally, the Ksplice team really has done a first class job at implementing the technology. It’s just so easy for end users to install and use." The service is available free of charge and users can take advantage of it by downloading and installing the package from their website.
* * * * *
the Ubuntu project announced their "One Hundred Paper Cuts" project, to
fix niggling issues which negatively impact the user experience on the
operating system. Perhaps partially inspired by this project,
Fedora has announced their own called
Finish". The projects page begins: "Fedora is well-known as the premier showcase for the latest open source technology on Linux. Unfortunately, it has also been perceived as being a bit rough around the edges. The Fedora Fit and Finish initiative intends to change this. We will focus on getting the details right and improving the user experience by removing obstacles and annoyances from everyday tasks." It then goes on to provide a list of examples, including things such as: plugging in a projector and starting a presentation; inserting blank media and getting it formatted; interacting with portable media players, and; sharing files with others on the network. The project aims to work on these for the upcoming release 12. It differs from Ubuntu's by casting the net much wider, instead of limiting it to problems with existing features. Improvements in Linux distributions, whatever they might be, are always a good thing!
|Released Last Week
Bill Reynolds has announced the release of
PCLinuxOS 2009.2, a beginner-friendly
distribution and live CD for the desktop: "The
quarterly ISO image updates of PCLinuxOS 2009.2 and PCLinuxOS GNOME
2009.2 are now available, featuring a fully updated ISO image with the
latest applications from the PCLinuxOS repositories. Additional
features include a notification updater to let you know when there are
updates available for your installation. 'Addlocale' will localize your
PCLinuxOS into one of the many languages. 'GetOpenOffice' allows you to
install OpenOffice.org 3.1 in any of the 104 languages available."
Here is the brief
announcement with a couple of screenshots.
Sabayon Linux 4.2 "GNOME"
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon
Linux 4.2 "GNOME" edition, a Gentoo-based desktop distribution and live
DVD: "On the behalf of the Sabayon Linux team, we
are happy to announce the immediate availability of Sabayon Linux 4.2
GNOME. Features: based on Sabayon 4.1 GNOME, containing hundreds of bug
fixes and performance improvements; less than 2 GB ISO footprint; custom
Linux kernel 2.6.29; ext4 as default file system; complete GNOME 2.26.2;
OpenOffice.org 3.1. Changes since Sabayon 4.1: environment in sync with
latest available Entropy updates; featuring Entropy framework 0.96.26,
improved performance, reduced hardware requirements; featuring the new
user-friendly Entropy graphical interface...." Find more
information in the detailed
Calculate Linux 9.7 "KDE"
Calculate Linux Desktop (CLD) is a Gentoo-based
operating system for PCs and notebooks. Alexander Tratsevskiy has just
announced a new version of its KDE edition, 9.7. Main changes:
"Support for Italian and Polish has been added.
System installation on USB Flash cards has been added. Setting up of a
new user account in KDE has been accelerated 2.5 times. Setting up sound
card has been added. The identification of PCs and notebooks with two
video cards has been added. Option of booting the live DVD image into
the cache has been added. File README.html with description of
installation has been added to the live CD desktop. Calculate Linux
Desktop KDE is 100% compatible with Gentoo." More information in
Yellow Dog Linux 6.2
Fixstars has announced the release of Yellow Dog
Linux 6.2, a CentOS-based distribution designed for the Apple PowerPC
and Sony PlayStation machines: "Fixstars today
announced the immediate availability of Yellow Dog Linux 6.2, delivering
several updates and improvements making it simpler to install, faster,
and easier to use. This release offers an updated kernel 2.6.29 for
64-bit systems, OpenOffice.org 3.0, Firefox 3.0.6 and IBM Cell SDK
184.108.40.206, as well as the next generation of ps3vram for fast, temporary
file storage or swap using PS3 video RAM. With this release, ps3vram is
up to 50% faster than in Yellow Dog Linux 6.1 and is automatically
enabled as swap. With Yellow Dog Linux 6.2, Fixstars has added a fourth
alternative for the desktop environment: Xfce." Read the full
announcement for further details.
blackPanther OS 9.1
blackPanther OS is a Hungarian desktop Linux
distribution with RPM package management. The just released version
9.1 is a major update, featuring many new technologies, Linux kernel
220.127.116.11, KDE 4.2.0 and OxygenOffice 3.1. Besides the live CD, the
distribution provides a total of eight software repositories containing
over 4,800 extra packages, including a good selection of games and a
variety of kernel drivers. There is also a seeker repository with over
2,000 untested packages. Although blackPanther OS is a free
distribution, the developers have included some blackPanther ads and
sponsored links into the distribution in order to earn revenue - these
can be removed by users. For more information please see the
announcement (in Hungarian).
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Sugar on a Stick.
Sugar on a Stick is a USB implementation of the Fedora-based Sugar
Learning Platform, a distribution for children originally developed for
the One Laptop per Child XO-1 netbook. It is designed to be installed on
a single USB memory stick (minimum size 1GB).
- VESTA. VESTA is a specialist
live Linux distribution designed for work with Java.
- Milnix. Milnix is a new built from
scratch distribution in the early stages of development. The project
includes a source based package management system.
- Mundus OS.
Mundus OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution designed to ease the
transition to Linux for new users. Mundus OS can install Windows
programs, mount Macintosh dmg's and install the packages of other
non-Debian Linux distributions.
- BSD Router Project. BSD Router
Project is an open source customized distribution of FreeBSD dedicated
to offer IP routing services for small ISPs. It is not intended for
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 13 July 2009.
Caitlyn Martin and Chris Smart
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|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
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|• Issue 633 (2015-10-26): GhostBSD 10.1, Bodhi Linux to get new settings panel, Fedora 23 delayed, creating live image of existing OS|
|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Full list of all issues|
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