| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 112, 08 August 2005
Welcome to this year's 32nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly.
This week we're going to shake things up a little around here. Our good friend Ladislav is sitting on a sunny beach somewhere sipping a margarita and hoping you all haven't caught the server on fire yet. Before he left, he asked me to fill in for him on this DistroWatch Weekly thing. I guess he's assuming you all really want to read my nonsense :-) Even though it will be hard to fill his shoes (he works hard to bring you guys the best material), I'll do my best. First things first, we need to lay down some ground rules. It's kinda like having your parents out of town for the weekend and they trust you with the keys to the Porsche (always a bad move). We need to make sure it's parked in the garage before he gets back and all the beer cans are cleaned out of the back seat. Furthermore we've really got to do our best not to break anything expensive and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let's try not to burn the whole place down! He'll be proud of us when he returns! I promise.
Moving right along... for those of you who need constant reminding, my name is Adam Doxtater, Founder, Chief Technology Editor, and Supreme Head Cheese of Mad Penguin. Many of you probably already know who I am, but for those of you who don't I'd just like to say that it's a real pleasure to have this opportunity to write for such a great community of people. This is the first "Weekly" I've written so bear with me. A poorly written DistroWatch Weekly is no reason to start a riot. Put down that chair!! At least give me a chance before you start thowing things. Ladislav will never let me do this again if someone gets hurt in the process you know.
Lately we've been in a drought of sorts as far as distro releases go (and consequently in Las Vegas where I live and work), so there wasn't a huge amount going on this week, but I've found a few things we can take a look at to keep us busy for the next 11.5 minutes. I hope you enjoy! There's a place at the end where you can comment on how bad or good it all was, or maybe just rant endlessly about how you can't stand the feel of cotton against spandex. Either way is fine by me.
Slackware 10.2, user friendly BSD
seems the whole Red Hat/Fedora development model thing is catching on outside of Research Triangle Park, huh? The word seems to be that
SUSE is on the horizon... Tell me though.. who didn't see this coming? Seriously. The signs have been there since the last SUSE
release, and you can even argue that they've been there since Novell
started its Linux purchasing binge. In any event, the story is true. It
was verified by the Linux Marketing Director for Novell and will be
announced this week at the LinuxWorld
expo in San Francisco. They will also be handing out thousands of beta
copies of SUSE Linux 10.0 (or should I say OpenSUSE 10.0). Is this a
wise move for SUSE? Time will tell, but the same business model seems
to be working out fine for Red Hat, who did the same thing not too long
ago and produced the widely used Fedora distribution. According to
sources inside Novell, they will be launching a site at OpenSUSE.org.
WHOIS information for the domain verifies the site is registered to
Bruce Wayne (yes, Bruce Wayne) at Novell, Inc. in Provo, Utah. In other
news, IOwnOpenSUSEAndYouOweMeMoney.org is registered to Darl McBride of Lindon, Utah.
there's a reference this week to a code freeze. You know what that
means folks? A release is coming soon (after some beta releases that
is, but Slackware usually rolls right through those without incident).
From the changelog: "I
think it's time to consider this to be mostly
frozen and concentrate on beta testing in preparation for the Slackware
10.2 release, so there won't be too many more upgrades and
additions. Things are going to be pretty busy for me over the
next couple of weeks besides working on getting 10.2 finalized, but let
me know about any issues that need fixing before the release and I'll
get to them just as soon as I can. Have fun!"
Although I can't be too sure at this point, it appears that 10.2 will
still default to a 2.4.x kernel rather than the up and coming 2.6
series. The last reference to a kernel update in the changelog was on
2005/06/06... when it was pushed up to kernel 2.4.31. The Linux 2.6.x
kernel still resides in /testing in -current and is presently at
version 22.214.171.124. This has actually been a hot topic amongst Slackware
users since the release of the 2.6 kernel: is it stable
There really is no right answer at this
point. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that once Patrick
deems it ready to move out of testing, it will be ready. I suppose it
all boils down to user preference at this point. For instance I'm
running my main workstation on Slackware 10.1/kernel 2.6.11, but
my servers are still 2.4.x (heavily patched of
might argue that
everything critical should be build on 2.4, while others argue for 2.6.
Personally, I've found the 2.6 kernel to be pretty solid as of late.
How do you feel about this topic? How do you build your systems?
In DistroWatch Weekly Issue 110, Ladislav asked "Why
FreeBSD?" in reference to an
article published by IBM
developerWorks. In that article, IBM did an excellent job describing
BSD in a way that everyone could grasp, and in a way that was
entertaining to read at the same time. With the release of FreeBSD 6.0
just over the horizon and the sudden flood of friendly "live" FreeBSD
desktop variants, it appears that our "other" favorite
operating system might be gaining some inroad to the desktop world. We've been
seeing more and more references to BSD on the desktop, and to tell you
the truth, there's a reason for that. BSD performs just as well as
Linux on the desktop. Some might argue that it performs better, but we
won't get into all that. I'll leave that topic for the discussion
section of this newsletter.
I will say that of all the testing I've done
with FreeBSD on the desktop it's been a very positive experience. It's
a well-known fact that many highly trafficked sites are
powered by FreeBSD (including DistroWatch
and Mad Penguin), but many people are now learning that it's just as solid on the
desktop... thanks to up and coming distributions such as FreeSBIE
and PC-BSD, DesktopBSD, and I'm sure there are more to come if the trend persists. Why not? FreeBSD is a great operating system. It really is. As I stated before it makes a great server OS as well as a fast and efficient desktop. Will it creep up on Linux? Only time will tell I suppose, but I guess I could see it happening. I don't mind either way but I'm sure it fits somehow into our sysadmin's plan to take over the world. Good Open Source development is good for everyone involved so I'm not picking any sides. At least I know I'm on the right side. Personally, I'm holding back from using BSD on the desktop until proper ReiserFS support is provided. I know it's not high on the list of priorities, but for my setup it would be rather difficult to change file systems on some of my drives.
In the comments section of this newsletter, let's discuss this topic in more depth. I will be interesting to hear everyone's take on the topic.
distribution of the week: Vidalinux
| Vidalinux 1.2
After quite some time and, for many of its users, a waiting period that
lasted far too long, the Vidalinux team has released VLOS 1.2 to a
receptive audience... and why not? Vidalinux 1.1 blew the socks off
most people who tried it. Including myself. When I reviewed version 1.1
I had heard nothing more than it was Gentoo with an easy installer (Red
Hat's Anaconda for those of you who aren't familiar with it). Gentoo is
a great distro but to some I presume the installation might seem
daunting. Don't get me wrong, the Gentoo installation is
and the documentation is far superior to most anything I've ever come
across online, but there are still people who prefer their distros
install with minimal fuss. Enter Vidalinux.
- Linux kernel 2.6.12-rc3
- X.org 6.8.2
- GCC 3.4.3
- GNOME 2.10.1
- KDE 3.4.1
- OpenOffice 1.9.104 (2.0 beta3 release)
- Novell Evolution 2.2.3
- Yukiyu (frontend to Portage)
- See the Vidalinux site for more
Basically, Vidalinux is a Gentoo stage 3 installation, so those looking
for a highly optimized Gentoo variant should look elsewhere, but I have
to say that 1.1
proved to be one of the best performing distros I've ever used. So much
so that I gave
it a glowing review and actually ran it, up until very recently, on my
desktop at work. It was that good. Since then I've been
patiently waiting for 1.2 to be released, so needless to say I was
first in line when it came out this past week... and although I hate to
say it, I was disappointed to find a distro that did not live up to the
standards it set for itself in the previous version. Let me explain
The "paid for" version of Vidalinux comes in the form of a two CD ISO set.
After booting to the first disc and answering a few configuration
questions regarding partitioning, video setup, package selection (I
chose to install everything), locale, etc. it stared partitioning and
copying files to the hard drive. Less than 10 minutes later, it was
asking for the second CD, which I fed to the machine. It started
copying files and I walked away to do some other things. After about
1/2 hour or so I returned and found it was still installing files so I
left again... to return an hour later to the same thing. It seemed to
be stuck on one file according to the installer, but the hard drive was
as active as ever. A switch over to the first console showed that the system was
indeed still humming along. This was strange considering it was soooo much of a change. Even though I noted
version 1.1 was slower than most distros during installation, it didn't
take near the time version 1.2 seemed to be taking. I stepped away again and
got busy doing something else, returning about 1.5hrs later. The
installer was still in process. At this point I decided to leave and
come back in the morning. It was late and there was no telling how much
longer this was going to take since there wasn't any form of progress
indication anywhere to be found.
The next morning I returned and found the machine sitting there with
the CD tray spitting out CD2. Sure enough, the install had completed
during the night. I can't give you a real estimate on install time, but
it was extensive... to the tune of over 3hrs at a minimum. It must be
noted this was on an Athlon 2400+ system with 1GBRAM and a 120GB
UDMA100 hard drive. While it's not top of the line, it's no slouch.
Vidalinux is just that slow to install, so if you've got some serious
time to burn staring at your screen or half a day of errands to run
this installer is for you.
My frustration didn't stop there. Once I was booted into the Vidalinux
desktop (I tested both GNOME and KDE), I found it to be very sluggish.
Once the GNOME splash screen displayed, for instance, I wasn't able to
do anything on the desktop for at least 15-20 seconds. It might not
seem like much, but when you're used to the same system being much more
responsive with other distros it can become pretty irritating in a
hurry. Application launch time with everything I ran was sluggish as
well. Apps seemed to hiccup before launching, and even while working
inside programs there would seem to be moments where the system would
simply stop for a second or two and then continue on. Their Portage
front end, Yukiyu, took a full 32 seconds to launch (and that didn't
include the time it took to refresh the package database). We're
talking a full minute (plus) to a functional application here folks. I know this machine performs better than that.
This was such a
drastic change from what I had been used to while running Vidalinux 1.1
I thought I should visit their
forums to see if anyone else was having any problems with
this brand new release. It was an enlightening trip I must say. I was
surprised at what I found.
While browsing through their forums I found quite a few people having
issues with the new release but nothing specific to what I was
witnessing here. I found others that did in fact
the same view of 1.2 as I did: it was a far cry from the excellent
release that 1.1 was. The enlightening part about this trip to the
Vidalinux forums was to see how their admins and moderators were
treating users. I'm a firm believer that end users (or in Vida's case customers
and/or potential customers)
should always be treated with respect... no matter how irritating their
comments might seem. In one case, someone had posted his thoughts on
the new release. He was saying 1.1 was better and "here's why". While I
found nothing really nasty about the comment (here's
the link if you'd like to see it for yourself) apparently the
administrator did. This was the response the user got (this is a direct quote, so please no email from people correcting spelling!):
"Too bad if you don't like this release, but we always
do a download
edition not only our purchase, I think that's the important thing. If
you own a project you will see all the stuff that we have to do,
maintain and pay: bandwith, artists, devs and lot of stuff, no one
donates nothing to us and we work a lot to enchance this OS, of course
the most features will be for the purchase version because that version
is the reason why we still alive."
This type of thing will ensure that Vidalinux doesn't last long.
Shortly after that was said, you'll note the same admin stated "I
recommend this guy
to read first and then talk". This was followed by a moderator spouting
that wonderful RTFM acronym that newbies love so much. Can customers
expect to put up with this
type of abuse? I'd say no. Still, some might stick around for a
while... but not for long. These comments are just an example. I saw
plenty of this same behavior in their forums so it's not unique by a
long shot. In this case, the customer was simply giving an honest
opinion of the distro he saw failing his expectations. I didn't see
anything to take offense to, but obviously they did.
Even though this software might have serious potential (and I assure
you it does), I have to say that I was
disappointed in this release. My overall view of it was that it had a
bad performance problem, and when I went seeking some guidance I
found user support that was seriously lacking... in many cases
blatantly disrespectful and ultimately useless. Why ask a question in a
forum where you're likely to be put down for it? No thanks.
If you're interested in Gentoo, but want a kinder gentler variety,
stick with Vidalinux 1.1 or just suck it in and go with Gentoo proper.
It's really a great distro and I'm sure anyone who has the patience to
learn it can do it with minimal issues. Vidalinux has potential as
well, but this release (and
their current support) is a blemish on their record. Let's hope that
they clean up their act for version 1.3. I for one will be glad to take
a look because I know they can do much better than this. At this point
we can only hope.
If you'd like more information about Vidalinux, you
page. CD ISO images are available for free download via BitTorrent only.
Vidalinux VLOS 1.2
(full image size: 211kB)
Exactly as scheduled, Vidalinux labs today are proud to announce the
ability of their VLOS
version 1.2: "VLOS
1.2 is a
full-featured and powerful Linux operating system, it was designed
based on the best projects of the open source community. With VLOS 1.2
you will be safe from crashes, viruses, spyware, hackers, popup ads,
and all the other dangers computer users face today. It features an
easy-to-install Linux operating system that lets you make
all the things you need, like browse the Web safely, receive and send
e-mails, chat with friends, organize digital photos, play dvd movies
and songs, and create documents, presentations and spreadsheets."
Read the full release
notes and find more
specifications in their product
info page. ISO images for AMD64,
i686 and PPC platforms are
now available for download
via BitTorrent, and will soon be available on FTP mirrors.
Alternatively, you can order the CD from the project's online store.
Lunar Linux 1.5.1 RC1
A new Lunar
ISO RC, named 1.5.1 - "Gallium Arsenide", has been released: "If
no objections exist, RC1 will integrally become 1.5.1-i686-final. This
version fixes a few bugs with missing files in /etc/, and adds support
for displaying normal device names (/dev/sda, /dev/hda3 etc) in the
entire installer. Also, there are now proper default choices in the
language, font, charmap etc. menus to guide you. The network now starts
by default after installation... The final release will include the
i386 ISO as well and (no promises) should be out within 2 weeks."
Find more details in the release
Lunar Linux is a source-based distribution originally forked from the
Damn Small Linux 1.4
Small Linux 1.4
has been released. Here are some excerpts from the changelog:
boot option - will use
Minimal theme; added "Upgrade to GNU
Utilities" to the menu tools section; upgraded the dpkg-restore script
to now md5sum check the download before proceeding with the
installation; new "install" boot command; re-organized "tools" section
of fluxbox menu; added new Wallpaper/Background selector GUI; enhanced
"frugal" installs giving dsl user write access to /cdrom; updated
"Getting Started"." Download:
Scientific Linux 4.1
DamnSmallLinux 1.4 - a "live CD" that weighs in at
48.4MB in size was released last week
(full image size: 129kB)
Scientific Linux 4.1
for i386 is now available: "Scientific
Linux 4.1 was officially released amid much fanfare and applause. The
development team want to thank all the testers, all those that
gavepatches and suggestions, all those that contributed RPM's and
packages, and everyone for their encouragement. All that support really
keeps us going. Scientific Linux release 4.1 is based on...Enterprise 4
AS, including Update 1. Its biggest improvement over 4.0 is centrino
wireless support, GFS and the cluster suite." The
announcement is here.
Scientific Linux 4.1 is available for download from the distribution's FTP
(350MB). Read the release note
and check releases for other architectures on the mailing
A new version of ParallelKnoppix,
a remastered edition of Knoppix that allows setting up a cluster of
machines for parallel processing, was released a few days ago. From the
page: "NTFS curse cured, you
can now use a USB key drive for the working space if your entire HD is
occupied by NTFS partitions; MPI and PVM both working; removed pgapack,
too many compile problems; added links to MPI tutorials; DMA on by
default; other minor bugs fixed, and general beautification."
Download the new release from here: parallelknoppix-2005-08-02.iso
* * * * *
| Summary of expected
Interview with Robert Lange of
short chat with the man who brought us Slackware "diet pill edition" :-)
Don't be fooled, Slackware has never (I repeat: never)
been a bloated distribution by any stretch of the imagination. While
all of the other desktop distros have been battling to keep on top of
the stack and adding feature upon feature upon feature, Slackware has
maintained a very slim two-disc CD set. As a matter of fact, you don't
really even need the second disc for a full on Slack installation. Some
might say the second disc is for sissies ;-) Who needs KDE and/or GNOME
(recently pulled from the distro as a matter of fact)? Real men worship
at the altar of the command prompt, right? Right? Well, for some of you
that might be the case, but for the rest of us... well, we've gotta
have our GUI fix. In any event, Slackware has always delivered this to
us in a slimmed down format.
Enter VectorLinux. The ultimate goal of VectorLinux was always to
create a version of Slackware that would allow the world to run Linux on equipment that might otherwise be heading fort he dump (or a site
like DIYParts.org of course) and they've accomplished that goal over and over. Vector Linux is one of the best Slackware-derivs I've ever used to date. Sure, there are plenty of other distributions available that can run on older hardware, but Vector is just a well executed distro... and it's Slackware. What more can you ask for? Anyway, on with the show...
DistroWatch: Hi Robert.
Thanks for taking to the time to talk to us. Can you tell our readers
what your title and role at Vector Linux is?
Robert Lange: Hi Adam. I really
haven't given myself a title, but if it must be done then I would be
the founder, chief, and head administrator to our project.
DW: Can you tell our
readers a little about what Vector Linux is and what it strives to
RL: Vector Linux started as
my project to make a Linux version that worked on (then) an old P133
with 32 megs of RAM and a 500MB hard drive. It ran Windows 95 nicely
with disk space left over. My concern was that Windows just crashed too
much and always had to reboot just when I was in the middle of
something that, of course, could not be saved. So my quest began for
something more stable and perhaps a learning experience for me in the
process. Linux was just hitting the news as a possible successor to the
Microsoft dominance that was then mostly Windows 98. I was anxious to
try and did my teething on Red Hat, Mandrake, and Debian... none of
which worked well for me, probably as all new to Linux I was just
missing something. Then on a whim I tried FreeBSD and it was in many
ways more demanding than Linux, but for some reason it clicked and made
more sense to me. I stayed with FreeBSD for a few months but it seemed
that all the heavy duty development was happening in Linux. New stuff
like KDE was starting to happen and I wanted to be a part of the future
of Linux, so I found my BSD in Slackware and eventually started Vector
Linux. I give you a brief history because that is the root of Vector:
to run well on minimalistic hardware and yet scale well to all.
The second part of your question is simple: bring a Linux distro to the
masses that scales to hardware that may be considered ancient in North
American terms but is still the norm in many parts of the world, yet
has all the features to support the very latest the Linux kernel
DW: How many full time
developers are working on the project?
RL: Besides myself we have
four full time contributors and several dozen that contribute as their
DW: Why did you choose
Slackware Linux as your base for development?
RL: This goes back to my
BSD roots. Slackware is elegant, simple, and fast. Because of its
simplicity, it's probably the most stable distro to work from.
DW: I see you've included
the development version of Enlightenment
17 (covered in DistroWatch
Weekly Issue 111). As far as I'm
aware Vector Linux is the first distro to ship with a functional
RL: Enlightenment is going
to give the Linux desktop something new and something different that
people have never experienced before. We just wanted the users to get a
preview of some of the creative genius that is happening that is
DW: I have to say I
really can't agree with you more there. A few of us at Mad Penguin have
been doing some testing with dr17 and we're honestly blown away by what
we've seen. The latest Enlightenment must be seen to be believed... and
it's capable of running without serious hardware acceleration. A
perfect match for Vector if you ask me. On the topic of desktop
environments, can you tell us a why you chose to include Freerock GNOME
with this release of Vector Linux. Is there any reason it was chosen
over the other Slackware GNOME alternatives such as Dropline?
RL: Since Slackware proper
has decided that GNOME is no longer to be maintained there have been a
few efforts to keep a slack installable version of GNOME
available. I felt that Freerock GNOME best represented Slackware and
worked best with our system without compromising the other desktop
environments we have in place.
DW: What do you feel sets
Vector Linux apart from the rest?
RL: Speed, simplicity, ease
of use, and a familiar desktop to make the transition from Windows. I
think that without a doubt our community of members that help one
another give so much back with their successes.
DW: What's in store for
the next version of Vector Linux?
RL: We have many projects
brewing some more brewed than others I guarantee you as long as Linux
grows we will be there every step of the way to offer up the fastest
distro on the planet that really works.
DW: Thanks so much for your
RL: Thanks Adam. Enjoyed
make an excellent remote admin team... and a killer casserole
There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of tools available for
remotely administering Linux/UNIX machines and I've used
them, as I'm sure the rest of you have. While I haven't found the
"killer app" as they say, I have found a pair of tools that are
literally indispensable to me when remotely administering and/or
crashing our servers (sometimes I prefer a little of both. It helps
build character): The Konqueror
browser and Kate
text editor. Both are
part of the K Desktop
Environment (KDE) and have enough functionality
built in that I rarely need anything more for common tasks.
To be absolutely fair, I do most of my work in a completely "web"
environment, meaning everything I do is based around a webserver and
the services it provides. I know what you're thinking... "I don't do
any work on web servers". Well, no worries my friends. Even though you
might not work with web servers, it doesn't mean these apps are useless
to you. They might just be able to help you in your day to day work as
well. Unless, of course, your main function is doing tuneups on
vehicles at the local Firestone or Jiffy Lube. I will
not endorse these apps to make changing the oil in a
'79 Corvette Stingray go smoothly.
First things first. Let's look at Konqueror. On the exterior it looks
pretty much like any other file system/Internet browser... but I assure
you it is much more. There are features built into Konqueror that I've
wished for on other platforms for years. Until now I haven't found them
and it's really too bad. Love it or hate it, KDE has redefined how we
look at the browser from a functional standpoint. I even use it when
I'm in GNOME or
other desktop environments when I do my work just because it speeds
things up nicely. Konqueror is capable of browsing web pages, your
local file system, as well as remote file systems via FTP (ftp://), SCP
(fish://), Samba/SMB (smb://), and WebDAV (webdav://). It can
browse and format Linux/UNIX man pages just by browsing to man:/command
in the address bar, as well as info pages using info:/command
If you need to view an application's handbook, help:/application
will do the trick. See what I mean? It does everything.
My favorite use for Konqueror is its ability to utilize the split
window view. These views are available under Window
in the main
menu, and give you the ability to split the browser window horizontally
and vertically... and you can do this multiple times. Sure, Konqueror
is a tabbed browser and you have the ability to drag/drop between tabs,
but splitting the window is so much more intuitive. For instance, when
I'm working on the Mad Penguin site, I split the window horizontally
(Ctrl+Shift+T) where the top pane is my local file system and the
pane is the remote file system. From this view I can move files back
and forth with ease. Alternately you can split vertically either from
menu or using the Ctrl+Shift+L key combination. It's all up to the
individual I suppose, but I prefer the top to bottom approach. It
should also be noted that you can split a window just as many times as
you can stand to view. For instance, if you split the window in half
top to bottom, you can split either pane again top to bottom or left to
right... and so on. Eventually you'll end up with a bunch of useless 1x1
but you get the idea.
Now let's look at Kate. The beauty of Kate is that it's such a Swiss
Army knife editor. I suppose some might argue that Emacs
smokes it, but I can't stomach Emacs for my day to day work. Call it
what you will. Anyway, Kate is not only capable of editing pretty much
every file type in existence, it also has a built in console,
it can edit/save remote files on the fly, keep track of several files
at one time, group them into projects, has a handy "find in file"
search tool, can pipe data from your files to the console, does syntax
highlighting, and even has a built in file system browser in the side
panel. There are other things, but I'd be going on forever and you'd
probably pass out from boredom. I don't want to do that, and I'm not
paying for damage to keyboards that have been head-butted. In any
event, Kate ties in nicely with Konqueror. I use it mostly for editing
remote documents because I can use Konqueror to open the remote
location, right click the file I need to edit, and open it with Kate.
When I click save, Kate saves it right back to the remote location and not to some temp
folder like so many other editors do when working on remote documents.
It also doesn't throw any odd formatting at the documents I edit so I
can preserve their original state. That's another annoyance I've found
with other editors. When I'm not editing files from a shell prompt, I'm
Konqueror and Kate in action
(full image size: 249kB)
That's all for this week, folks! Many thanks to DistroWatch for giving me the opportunity to author this issue for you all. It's been a pleasure! Until next time, take care of each
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