| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 124, 31 October 2005
Welcome to this year's 44th issue of DistroWatch Weekly. Fans of the BSD family of projects can expect an exciting week as NetBSD 2.1, FreeBSD 6.0 and OpenBSD 3.8 are all expected to be announced and released with the next couple of days. On the Linux front, we have some interesting information regarding the Ubuntu Zero Conference, a link to guide describing the installation of Enlightenment 17 on SUSE 10.0 and news about a working graphical front-end for the Debian installer. Finally, the fans of Debian-based distributions will no doubt appreciate our review of The Debian System - Concepts And Techniques, a newly released book written by a well-known Debian developer. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (8.75MB) or mp3 (9.47MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
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A big week for BSDs
With all major Linux distribution releases of the season now safely behind us, the focus can turn to the BSD family of operating systems, with several significant new releases expected shortly. In fact, the ISO images of NetBSD 2.1 have quietly hit the NetBSD mirrors over the weekend, although they have yet to be formally announced. These are soon to be followed by an updated release of NetBSD 2.0 series, version 2.0.3 and, of course, the much awaited major new release, version 3.0, scheduled to reach a release candidate status in November. NetBSD is the most multi-platform operating system available today, supporting no fewer than 55, mostly exotic, architectures.
FreeBSD 6.0 is also expected to be released any moment now. That's according to this message by Scott Long on the FreeBSD current mailing list:
"Wanted to let everyone know that the testing on RC1 has gone well enough that we've decided to skip RC2 and go straight to 6.0-RELEASE. Everyone that we have talked to has applauded the stability and functionality of the system, so we are really pleased and really eager to wrap it up and get it out to everyone. Over the next 24 hours we will be synchronizing the RELENG_6_0 tree to get in all of the appropriate bug fixes, then we will do some test builds as a final verification. Everyone is still welcome to update their sources on the RELENG_6_0 branch and provide feedback for the next 48 hours or so. The release will likely be announced by the end of the weekend or early next week, at the latest."
The above message was published on Thursday, so it shouldn't be long before the shiny new FreeBSD 6.0-RELEASE images start appearing on FreeBSD mirrors. Besides the usual security and bug-fix updates, users can expect newly added functionality to many network cards, ACPI support for IBM, Fujitsu and SONY laptops, read support for ReiserFS 3.x file systems, and a large number of userland changes and software updates, too numerous to list them all here. On the negative side, FreeBSD 6.0 removes support for 80386 processors (the I386_CPU kernel configuration option), so those running FreeBSD on such ancient hardware should remain with FreeBSD 5.x series. Unlike upgrades from FreeBSD 4.x to FreeBSD 5.x, upgrades from FreeBSD 5.x to FreeBSD 6.x are supported and reportedly trouble-free. See the FreeBSD 6.0-RC1 release notes for a comprehensive list of changes.
Last but not least, it's release time for OpenBSD as well. The favourite operating system of many security professionals will hit version 3.8 on Tuesday as part of its usual twice-per-year release cycle. The official CD set of the new release is reportedly shipping already, but a bootable CD image designed for network installation should appear on OpenBSD mirrors within a day or two. See the OpenBSD 3.8 page for details about the new features and other enhancements.
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Miscellaneous news: Ubuntu Below Zero, E17 for SUSE, graphical installer for Debian
The Ubuntu Below Zero conference is now underway in Montreal, Canada. The 10-day gathering's main purpose is to discuss goals and finalise technical specifications of the upcoming release of Ubuntu Linux, code name "Dapper Drake". Unlike the previous three Ubuntu releases, "Dapper Drake" intends to be "enterprise-ready", with security support provided for a minimum of five years. As such, it is expected that the new version will be slightly more conservative in terms of package selection and will almost certainly undergo a more vigorous testing process. If all goes according to the preliminary plan, "Dapper Drake" should be released in April or May 2006.
Interested in trying out an alternative desktop on your SUSE Linux? If so, then you might want to check out this guide to installing Enlightenment 17 on SUSE 10.0. The steps are very simple: all it takes is to add the "Guru" installation sources to your YaST package management module, then install a few applications. After you log out, you will be able to choose Enlightenment from the Session Type menu. Just remember that E17 is still under heavy development and not everything works as expected, but it is a beautifully designed desktop with plenty of eye candy. See screenshots here.
The idea of a pleasant graphical installer for Debian will never go away, it seems. The latest issue of the Debian Weekly Newsletter once again reports about the latest attempt to create a graphical front-end for the "sarge" installer: "Christian Perrier reported about the graphical frontend to the debian-installer as part of the most recent minutes of the monthly Debian Installer team meeting. Davide Viti earlier announced a nearly working graphical installer and a small ISO image for trial." If you are interested in seeing the progress, you can download the installation ISO image with a GTK+-based Debian installer from this page.
New effort to develop a graphical front-end for the Debian installer is underway.
(full image size: 39.5kB)
The developers of Debian Pure, a user-friendly Debian-based distribution that has become fairly popular among the DistroWatch readers, have informed us that the project is now known as GenieOS: "I have been in contact with the Debian developers and I have agreed to remove Debian from the domain name. The new name for the distribution is GenieOS. The website can be found at genieos.toluenterprises.com." As a result of this name change, GenieOS has now been listed on DistroWatch.
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Web sites: LinuxDemos.com, AMD64 Linux Support Guide
Regular readers of Linux news sites have probably noticed the almost daily occurrence of screenshot tour news by the ever busy OSDir.com. While we agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, is there something worth a thousand pictures? Yes, videos, suggests a web site called LinuxDemos.com. The site's main purpose is to demonstrate the usability of Linux distributions in Flash-based videos. Both installation and desktop videos are available for many major distributions and live CDs, including CentOS, Damn Small Linux, Debian, Fedora, KANOTIX, KNOPPIX, Kubuntu, Libranet, Linspire, Mandriva, MEPIS, PCLinuxOS, Red Hat, Slackware, SLAX, SUSE, Ubuntu, Vector, Xandros and Yoper. If you have Flash installed on your computer, this is an interesting way of examining what is available today and to get an idea what all these different distributions offer.
For those interested in the AMD64 platform, the PCBurn web site has put together a nice collection of relevant links specific to this increasingly popular processor among Linux and BSD users. The page includes a list of distributions with support for 64-bit processors, links to white papers, documentation and reviews of the these systems, as well as a thorough listing of motherboards and chipsets designed to handle these powerful processors. For more details please see PCBurn's Guide to Linux AMD-64 Operating Systems.
|Book Review: The Debian System - Concepts And Techniques by Martin Krafft
The Debian System - Concepts And Techniques by Martin Krafft
Can you imagine a book about Debian GNU/Linux stretching to 600 pages? No, not covering any of the applications that ship with Debian, nor delving into general configuration of, say, X or Samba. Just pure Debian; that is to say, the book covers Debian-specific utilities only, in densely printed pages with hardly any screenshots. Yup, a book like that has just been published under the name of The Debian System - Concept and Techniques. Written by Martin Krafft, this is one of the most comprehensive and detailed accounts of the largest Linux distribution in existence.
First, a few words about the author. Martin Krafft has been a passionate Linux user since 1995, an ardent Debian supporter since 1997 and a prominent Debian developer since 2002. His interests lie, in his own words, in "security, support, quality assurance and public representation of Debian." Martin is currently working towards a PhD degree at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, "researching neurobiologically inspired models of learning in robots."
Now that we know the basics about the book and its author, here is the list of chapters making up the book:
2. The Debian project in a nutshell
3. Installing Debian the right way
4. Debian releases and archives
5. The Debian package management system
6. Debian system administration
7. Security of the Debian system
8. Advanced concepts
9. Creating Debian packages
10. Documentation and resources
As you can see from the above, there are four general, mostly non-technical chapters (chapters 1, 2, 4 and 10) that can be easily digested while away from a computer. Chapter 2 especially is perfect for bed-time reading, covering the history of the project, together with some interesting information about the Debian philosophy, licensing and community. I found the author's writing style somewhat academic and humourless (surely, the 10+ years of Debian have produced some amusing stories that could have spiced up this section), although I still digested the information with great interest. The topics dealing with information about becoming a Debian developer or some of the theories behind the origin of the "swirl" (nobody really knows the real meaning of the famous logo) certainly captured my interest.
The real value of this book, however, lies in the six technical chapters. The one covering the new sarge installer could be useful for those who don't find the installation intuitive enough. Otherwise the chapter is safe to skip - unless you are interested in learning to set up logical volumes or have troubles configuring some hardware.
Chapter 5 deals with Debian's venerable package management system. This is possibly the most valuable chapter where even many experienced Debian users will find something new and interesting. How many times I wished I knew how to widen the columns of the "dpkg -l" output! Now I know: all it takes to is to set the COLUMN variable to a reasonably large value before running the above command and bingo - even the longest package name is longer hidden from view. Or did you know that using "apt-get upgrade" is an unwise way of tracking the "unstable" branch as you are running a relatively high risk of ending up with a broken box? To prevent potential breakages and to obtain more information prior to an update, the recommended way of keeping up with sid is "apt-get --show-upgraded dist-upgrade". Memorise it for your next update!
The above are just two interesting snippets of the 140-page chapter dealing with Debian's package management utilities. Besides APT and dpkg, Aptitude and Synaptic are also covered, together with thousands of other vital pieces of information. What do you do if an upgrade goes wrong and you are stuck in a loop that does not let you install anything until you solve the problem? Or how do you use such useful utilities as "apt-listchanges" or "apt-listbugs" to keep on the top of your system? And how about information on auto-updates with "cron-apt", using "alien" and "checkinstall", or configuring installed applications with "debconf"? These and many other excellent topics are described in amazingly thorough detail with practical examples and useful tips.
The package management chapter is further extended in the 80-page chapter 9 which deals with creating Debian packages. As one would expect, this is a more technical topic, written for software developers rather than users. But even if you never intend to build a Debian package, it is a great chapter to read through. It enables you not only to understand the process of creating Debian packages, but also to appreciate the care that goes into the process, together with some great concepts that make the entire 15,000+ package Debian system so remarkably stable and bug-free!
The 85-page chapter 6 discussing system administration in Debian is another invaluable section of the book. Starting with easy basics on configuration files, permissions and the "alternatives" system, it then delves deeply into user management and authentication, before discussing backups, device management, network configuration and "inetd". The chapter concludes with "wajig" and "feta", two integrated system administration tool that combine the plethora of Debian commands into two convenient utilities.
The chapter on security is rather short, dealing mostly with general overview of security in Debian and restricting itself to package updates. The new "Secure APT" with signature checking and other security features are also discussed. This is followed by a chapter presenting three advanced topics: a useful section explaining the concept of building a Debian kernel, the option of mixing packages from different releases by pinning and wider implications of such actions, and a discussion about alternative methods of installing Debian.
All technical aspects of this distribution are explained with remarkable clarity of a person who is rather familiar with the system. Interestingly, Martin Krafft admits that during the year he spent on writing the book, he exchanged a large number of email, as well as opinions on IRC channels, and learnt a lot in the process. Yet, he does not come through as a person strongly advocating his preferred operating system - in fact, he freely admits that Debian might not be for everyone and other Linux distributions (or even other operating systems) might sometimes be more suitable for certain users and tasks.
So who is this book for? I have no problem recommending it to anyone who has settled on Debian or one of the Debian-based distributions as his or her preferred operating system. No matter how skilled you are in administrating a Debian box and irrespective of how confident you are running the multitude of Debian commands at 4 o'clock in the morning, you are bound to learn something new. There is so much amazing information packed in this book that it is impossible for any one person to know it all. A great reference material and also a great read for all who enjoy the gift the Debian project keeps giving us year after year.
This is, of course, the first edition of what is one of the most comprehensive Debian-related book ever written. As such, it is not quite perfect yet. There are grammatical errors that make for a slightly less enjoyable reading. I didn't find the excessive annotations at the bottom of most pages particularly pleasant - I would much rather see the notes integrated into the main text, instead of having to interrupt the reading by shifting my eyes and attention to the bottom of the pages. There are some notable omissions too; as an example, one of the appendices provides a list of the main Debian-derived distributions on the market, but it completely omits the two commercial and arguably most user-friendly among them - Linspire and Xandros.
But these are comparatively tiny annoyances when considering the book's technical merits. I have always enjoyed computer books and have a sizeable collection that I accumulated over the years. However, The Debian System - Concepts And Techniques will go down as one of the greatest of them all - the one that I will certainly keep on the table for a long time before I put it up on the shelf, but even then, it will never be far from reach. An absolute must for all users of Debian and Debian derivatives, and a proud addition to any Linux user's book collection. Highly recommended.
Title: The Debian System - Concepts And Techniques
Author: Martin Krafft
Publisher: No Starch Press
|Released Last Week
Distribution Release: Càtix 1.2
A new version of Càtix, a Debian-based live DVD designed for speakers of the Catalan language, has been released. Version 1.2 is a major update with many new features; the most important among them are: switch to the Unionfs file system which allows modification of files and installation of applications while in "live" mode; switch to X.Org for a better support of 3D accelerated graphics drivers; OpenOffice.org in Catalan, Spanish, English and French; KDE 3.4.2 and GNOME 2.10.2 desktops with many other package upgrades from Debian 'sid'. See the product information page (in Catalan) for further details and download locations.
Remember Finnix? One of the oldest live CDs ever created but discontinued after 2000, the developers of this minimalistic distribution for system administrators are back with a new release. Based on Debian GNU/Linux and complete with LVM2 or dm-crypt packages, Finnix 86.0 is now ready: "Nearly 6 years ago, Finnix 0.03 made history as one of the first bootable CD Linux distributions. It may have taken a while, but Finnix is back as a small (less than 100MB), fully-featured live CD for system administrators." Visit the project's home page and read the release notes to learn more about the new Finnix live CD.
Nonux CD 1.6
Nonux is a Dutch live and installation CD based on Slackware Linux. Incorporating the Dropline GNOME desktop with several key applications localised into Dutch, the product is designed specifically for business use in the Netherlands. Version 1.6 was released earlier today with the following changes and improvements: upgrade to kernel 18.104.22.168; upgrade to OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 with support for the open document format; interface changes to the Nautilus file manager; minor interface updates to the Nonux hard disk installer. Read the complete release announcement on the project's home page (in Dutch) for further details.
Tao Linux 4 Update 2 And 1.0 U6
Tao Linux is the latest RHEL-based distribution with updated releases of both its versions 1.0 (rebuilt from RHEL 3) and 4 (rebuilt from RHEL 4). Tao 1.0 U6 updated ISOs: "Yesterday I pushed a new set of ISOs to the main site; by today, all the mirrors should have them. This respin is current with all security updates through yesterday." Tao 4 Update 2 respin: "I pushed out the new Tao 4 ISOs yesterday, and they should be available on all the mirrors today. It'll probably be tomorrow before I push the remaining updated packages out to the yum repositories for pre-u2 systems. Other than the updated yum packages which are already available in the testing repo, there's nothing exciting here."
A new version of Devil-Linux, an independently developed live CD firewall and server, has been released: "I'm proud to announce v1.2.7 of Devil-Linux. A lot of updates have been done, including many security fixes." Excerpts from the changelog: "Added cyrus-sasl configdir patch; added rar3 and 7-zip support for ClamAV; increase syslog-ng max_connections to 1000; fixed Perl extension dependencies and added a bunch more modules; fixed missing man-pages; added samba smbldap-tools; enhanced the setup program to configure a basic NTP service...." Find more details in the release announcement and changelog.
BeleniX is the first live CD based on the OpenSolaris source base that boots into a full graphical desktop (with XFce). Developed at the India Engineering Centre of Sun Microsystems in Bangalore, BeleniX is trying to popularise OpenSolaris in the growing open source user and developer community in India and abroad. The project's latest version is 0.2, released on Saturday: "Announcing BeleniX version 0.2. Version 0.2 of BeleniX has been released and it is now a live CD that can boot into a graphical XFce 4 desktop and provides a bunch of useful applications. Following are some of the new features: the major feature of this release is the option to boot into a graphical XFce 4 desktop as well as the option to boot into a command line login." See the full release announcement on the project's home page.
Annvix (formerly OpenSLS) is a secure Linux server operating system based on Mandriva Linux. The project's second stable release, version 1.1, is out: "Annvix 1.1-RELEASE is now available. 'Netinstall' ISO images are available for x86 and x86_64 on the mirror sites. Using the netinstall method, when you perform your install, your system will be 100% up to date. This is a personal project that I am embarking on as I have a strong interest in a secure Linux-based OS that is easy to use and maintain ('urpmi' has spoiled me). Unfortunately, this type of product is not on Mandriva's radar at the moment so I'm essentially scratching my own itch." See the release announcement and visit the distribution's home page for more information.
Slackintosh, the project building a Slackware-based distribution for the Macintosh computers, has released version 10.2, the most complete and up-to-date release to date: "Slackintosh 10.2-final released! It's done, our 2nd Slackintosh release is ready: version 10.2. Slackintosh 10.2 contains all security-fixes for Slackware 10.2 up to SSA:2005-286-01 (OpenSSL). Upgrading Slackintosh 10.1 to 10.2 works the same as upgrading Slackware, so you can follow Pat's instructions. Using Slapt-Get may also work." Read the full release announcement and check out this screenshot for a taste of running a fresh Slack on your Apple hardware.
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The developers of Elive have announced version 0.4, scheduled for release at around Christmas: "Elive 0.4 (X.Org) is slated to be released around Christmas. It will include a much improved Elpanel control panel, an improved version of e17 and an accelerated startup. In the mean time, updates are published and made available to the users via the Synaptic package manager." See the project's roadmap page for more information.
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Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
On Tompkins County, Kirux Kuadra, SUSE "edge"|
Our sarcastic comment and link to Tompkins County's guide to Internet security in last week's issue of DWW caused quite a stir among our readers with the result that the incriminating page didn't survive beyond just a few hours after we published the story. We hope that all who emailed to the relevant authorities did so in a civil way. However, let's make one thing clear about the issue. The sarcasm was NOT directed at the fact that the Tompkins County government uses and recommends Internet Explorer - in fact, we believe that every organisation has a right to choose whichever software they find most suitable for their needs. The reason we published the screenshot was simple: it clearly advised that, in order to prevent virus infections, users should remove Firefox and any other non-IE browser from their computers. We thought that this advice was ridiculous and deserved our sarcasm.
Several readers have expressed outrage at our inclusion of Kirux Kuadra Enterprise Server on the waiting list of distributions to be included on DistroWatch. Apparently, the developers of SME Server believe that the Kirux Kuadra project is breaking the General Public License (GPL) by using the SME Server code base for creating a commercial product without releasing the source code of their modifications. While we do sympathise with the developers of SME Server, we also believe that their concerns should be directed to the relevant authorities dealing with GPL violations, such as the appropriately named GPL Violations web site, rather than to DistroWatch. As a side note, it seems that a community edition of Kirux Kuadra Enterprise Server has now been released for free download and is currently available from Ibiblio.org's incoming directory here: kes-community.iso (620MB).
The SUSE Linux page has now bee updated to include the SUSE development branch called "edge" (although we are told that the name might still change). Similar to Mandriva, Ubuntu, Fedora and any other distribution with an open development model, the SUSE page is now also updated daily with listings of the latest packages from the "edge" repository.
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New distribution additions
- BeleniX. BeleniX is a *NIX distribution that is built using the OpenSolaris source base. It is currently a live CD but is intended to grow into a complete distribution that can be installed to hard disk. BeleniX is developed at the India Engineering Centre of Sun Microsystems in Bangalore, the silicon capital of India.
- Finnix. Finnix is a small, self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators, based on Debian GNU/Linux. You can use it to mount and manipulate hard drives and partitions, monitor networks, rebuild boot records, install other operating systems, and much more.
- GenieOS. GenieOS (formerly Debian Pure) is a desktop-oriented Linux distribution based on the stable Debian GNU/Linux at the time of release. However, GenieOS attempts to be more user-friendly by limiting the system to a selected number of packages and enhancing it with many useful, but non-free applications and plugins, such as those required for viewing encrypted DVDs, Flash and Java browser plugins, and MPlayer with support for many popular audio formats. GenieOS includes the GNOME and KDE desktop environments.
- SchilliX. SchilliX is an OpenSolaris-based distribution which runs from CD and can be optionally installed on a hard disk or a USB memory stick.
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New on the waiting list
- WifiWare. WifiWare is a Slackware-based mini distribution designed for WiFi routers, VPN servers and file servers.
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DistroWatch database summary
And with this we'll say good-bye until next Monday. We hope you've enjoyed this issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
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