| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 152, 22 May 2006
Welcome to this year's 21st issue of DistroWatch Weekly. Lots of activity on the Mandriva front - the new Kiosk, public release of Mandriva One, and many Cooker updates hint at the beginning of an exciting new beta testing period for the French distribution maker. In other news, we link to a number of interesting SUSE articles, inform about a much improved new version of Debian's APT, provide an update on the Kororaa controversy, and say good-bye to both Libranet and FreeBSD's Alpha port. In the Interviews section, we talk to Miklós Vajna, the project founder and lead developer of Frugalware Linux. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (7.76MB) or mp3 (9.31MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
Mandriva updates, Fedora vs Red Hat, SUSE articles, Ubuntu ShipIt, Debian's new APT
After several months of beta testing, Mandriva has finally unveiled the first stable release of Kiosk, a web-based utility for installing software applications of Mandriva Linux. This should be welcome news by many users who found the distribution's 1-year release schedule too long and who wished there was an easy way to install updated software before the arrival of a new stable Mandriva release. At the moment, Kiosk only holds packages for the i586 edition of Mandriva Linux 2006 and Mandriva One 2006, but the most often requested software packages, such as KDE 3.5.2, GNOME 2.12.3, Firefox 188.8.131.52, OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, and new hardware drivers, including the latest proprietary graphics drivers by ATI and NVIDIA, are all ready for one-click installation. Kiosk is available to the Mandriva Club members without any additional cost, but non-members can still take advantage of the new utility for a reasonable €30 per year.
On a related note, Mandriva's development branch, received a large number of updates during the past week. These included a new kernel 2.6 16 and X.Org 7.0, which should compliment the earlier additions of KDE 3.5.2 and GNOME 2.14.1. A number of "bleeding-edge" packages are also available. Mandriva's Florent Villard (better known as Warly) has indicated that it shouldn't be long before the first alpha of Mandriva 2007 is released for testing; in the meantime take a look at this Mandriva Xgl video demonstrating various 3D effects on the GNOME desktop.
Still on the subject of Mandriva Linux, the ISO images of Mandriva One 2006 have been released to public mirrors: "Push Mandriva One final ISO on public FTP mirrors. They include all the updates and the latest kernel 2.6.12." Originally announced on the 16th of March and made available to Club members only, Mandriva One 2006 is a combined live and installation CD for Mandriva Linux 2006, containing key applications for office, Internet and multimedia use. The ISO images of the new product are now available for public download from a number of FTP and HTTP mirrors around the world and also via BitTorrent.
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Have you ever wondered about the differences between Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux? If so, the latest issue of Red Hat Magazine presents part 1 of a 4-part story outlining the primary objectives of the two distributions. Written by Tom Burke, the article explains: "Fedora is fast moving. It is for people who always want the latest and greatest. The Fedora stream is more revolutionary: Old versions of packages may be quickly cast aside for new ones. Fedora is highly receptive to experimentation. Red Hat Enterprise Linux takes a more conservative approach. Updates tend to be discrete fixes to customer problems. All changes in Red Hat Enterprise Linux have to be weighed against the possibility of introducing regressions for existing customers. From a new feature perspective, Red Hat Enterprise Linux tends to be more evolutionary than revolutionary."
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The recent release of SUSE Linux 10.1 has been followed by a huge number of reviews, articles, and tutorials on many web sites. One of the more interesting among them is Scott M. Morris's tutorial on setting up Xgl on SUSE 10.1 for GNOME and KDE with NVIDIA graphics cards. Although the instructions work for most people, there are those who report serious problems after enabling Xgl, so proceed with caution. The second article of interest to most SUSE users will be Jem Matzan's Hacking SUSE Linux 10.1. This excellent tutorial shows how to add and set up useful applications to a base SUSE 10.1 system, including Java, MP3 support, Flash, Acrobat Reader, RealPlayer and Windows media plugins, and support for playing encrypted DVDs. Finally, don't miss what is probably the most comprehensive SUSE 10.1 review to-date, written by Adam Doxtater at MadPenguin.org. Enjoy!
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Ubuntu has announced that pre-orders for the free Ubuntu 6.06 "Dapper Drake" CDs are now accepted in the distribution's ShipIt system. While in the past ShipIt only provided free CDs for Ubuntu, the good news is that with the release of "Dapper Drake", the users of Kubuntu and Edubuntu can also order free CDs of their favourite distributions. However, please beware that the production and delivery of millions of CDs to many destinations around the world might take several weeks, so you might be better off downloading the required CD images or ordering them from other sources. On a related note, the first draft of a comprehensive Ubuntu 6.06 User Guide is now available for your reading pleasure.
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The latest issue of the Debian Weekly News reports about a useful improvement to the distribution's APT utility that will considerably cut down the time it needs to update the local package database: "The new version 0.6.44 of 'apt' has been uploaded to the unstable distribution which supports incremental updates of the packages database. With this version of apt the amount of data that has to be downloaded has drastically decreased from four or five megabytes down to a few hundred kilobytes by every run of 'apt-get update'." Also of interest to Debian users, the same newsletter discusses plans to migrate the unstable branch to GCC 4.1, a version of the popular GNU C compiler that is believed to be vastly superior to version 4.0. As a result, it is now likely that the upcoming Debian 'etch', scheduled for release in December 2006, will also be compiled with GCC 4.1.
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Any hopes that the dormant Libranet GNU/Linux distribution might be resurrected were finally dashed last week. In a web log post, Tal Danzig, the son of the distribution's founder Jon Danzig who passed away last year, has confirmed that he has no plans to continue the development of the once fairly popular commercial distribution based on Debian: "I'm not going to be developing Libranet any further myself. If any one has any interesting ideas or propositions I'm open to hearing them. For now I'll keep the Libranet forum and mailing lists running (though I do need some forum moderators to keep an eye on things). I'll update the Libranet website with a more official sort of announcement in the next while."
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The hotly debated controversy about the Kororaa Project's possible GPL violations has continued to generate a range of varied opinions in the DistroWatch forum last week. As is often the case in these situations, the issue is hardly black and white and many considerations need to be taken into account before anybody can state with confidence that there has indeed been a license violation. Kororaa's Chris Smart has published an inconclusive update, based on his own research: "I would really like to see evidence of these drivers actually violating the GPL. At this stage everyone seems to just shout an opinion without backing it up with any evidence and it still seems a bit of an unknown." Despite that, the developers have decided that no more Kororaa Xgl live CDs will be released: "At this stage I will not be releasing the Kororaa Xgl live CD 0.3, but will continue to make 0.2 available. Kororaa 2006 will not be affected, as it is not a live CD and does not bundle the NVIDIA or ATI drivers."
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The FreeBSD project has announced that, starting with version 7.0, it will no longer provide builds for the Alpha architecture: "Recently the Alpha port has not had any active development or maintenance. As a result, the quality of the Alpha releases that the Project provides is not on par with other supported architectures and is in fact degrading. Unfortunately, as an architecture it has also been killed by its creator. After considering all of this, it is time to part with Alpha for 7.0 and beyond." The announcement also suggests that owners of Alpha systems might stay with the FreeBSD 6 branch or switch to NetBSD's Alpha port.
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Finally, some exciting news for those interested in cryptography and computer security. According to this Bugzilla item at Mozilla.org, the StartCom root certificate has been approved for inclusion in Mozilla and Mozilla-based software products. StartCom, perhaps better known for its Red Hat-based StartCom Enterprise Linux and Fedora-based StartCom Multimedia Edition, has been issuing SSL certificates since February 2005, but this is the first time it has been approved as a Certification Authority (CA) by a major web browser. While SSL certificates issued by major companies may cost in the region of hundreds of dollars, StartCom provides SSL certificates free of charge to individual users. For more information about how to obtain a free SSL certificate please consult the StartCom Free SSL Certification Authority page.
Interview with Miklós Vajna, Frugalware Linux
Frugalware Linux is one of those distributions that does not feature often in the news headlines. But those users who take the time give it more than just a passing glance are often surprised to find in Frugalware a clean, fast distribution with a great package manager and a few convenient system administration tools. Loosely modelled on Slackware and incorporating Arch's 'pacman' for managing installed applications, Frugalware Linux is not only a great operating system, it is also an active community project based on open source ideals. We have asked Miklós Vajna, the distribution's founder, a few questions about the history of the project and where it is heading.
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DW: Miklós, thank you very much for your time. Firstly, please tell us about yourself. How old are you? Where do you live? What do you do for living?
MV: I'm 20 years old. I live in Hungary. I'm currently studying at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.
DW: When did you start using Linux and why? What distributions did you use before launching Frugalware?
MV: It was about 1998, when my informatics teacher first told us about it. Why? Because I could see that it provided much more features than my previous operating system did, I was amazed. I started with Red Hat 5.2.
DW: How did the idea of Frugalware come about?
MV: After Red Hat I quickly switched to Slackware and used it for about 4 years. I started with small changes (i18n fixes for my language and so on) then more and more drastic ones. The critical one was the package manager. Slackware's 'pkgtools' is written in bash and it is quite slow. Removing a bigger package on my system took 15 minutes. I wanted to rewrite it in C, but I was told that it would never be accepted by Slackware. That was the first point when I thought about starting a separate distro. Then the original package manager, init scripts and build system of Slackware was completely replaced and Frugalware had born.
DW: In the Linux community we frequently hear complaints that there are too many distributions and that most Linux developers would rather launch their own distribution than join an established project. What is your answer to that? Have you ever thought about joining Arch Linux or some other, larger project?
MV: I think time tells everything, probably Frugalware would have already died if there weren't many helpful users who file bug reports, and more and more new users who say "thanks, keep up the good work!" to the developers. We are mostly motivated by seeing that people do use Frugalware and enjoy it.
About Arch, see below. The solution for this divergence problem, IMHO, is that the distros help each other. I mean, for most bigger projects (KDE, OpenOffice.org, etc) there are packager mailing lists, so that if it turns out that, for example, the newest OpenOffice.org milestone does not compile with GCC-x.y.z, then _one_ packager creates a patch and the others can use it. So that the packaging problems and solutions are shared. I think this is a great idea and this means there is _one_ place for discussing such problems.
DW: In many ways, Frugalware has a similar philosophy as Arch Linux and it even uses Arch's package manager ('pacman'). What are the main differences between Frugalware and Arch?
- Package manager. There is a complete rewrite of the package manager by Arch (it is called pacman-lib, pacman3, libpacman and several other names...) that is officially still development-only and the development stalled. We started to send patches, but as the development stalled we were forced to create our tree and from this point the differences became bigger and bigger. Nowadays our package manager has all the features the original development one had, plus much more features, like native language support, better compression (smaller packages), a much more advanced build system and so on.
- The others are not too similar since Judd [Vinet, the founder of Arch Linux] used CRUX before founding Arch and I used Slackware, so everything - except the package manager - is different, just like at Fedora vs SUSE (both use RPM), including:
- We ship documentation.
- The complete system (installer, package manager, init scripts, web page) has i18n support.
- We have easy, menu-driven configuration tools for the most common areas like 'raidconfig', 'grubconfig', 'mouseconfig', 'xconfig', 'netconfig' and so on.
Frugalware Linux 0.4 was released in late March
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DW: What kind of user is Frugalware Linux designed for?
MV: Since most of our configuration tools use curses, it is designed for intermediate users (who are not afraid of text mode).
DW: One of the attractions of clean, hardware-optimised distributions like Frugalware is that most packages are tend to be updated to their latest versions very fast, often very late in the distribution's development cycle. Yet, some users will argue that introducing less well-tested packages into a distribution is bound to create some instability or introduce new bugs. How would you respond to these kinds of criticism?
MV: We have two development trees, -stable and -current. In -current the goal is testing, so that if there is a newer version of a package available and the maintainer says "works for me," then it is uploaded to the repository so that others can test it too. There is a freeze before releases so that -stable can be really stable. In -stable, only bug and security fixes are allowed to prevent instability.
DW: Frugalware 0.4 was released in late March. What sort of feedback have you been getting so far?
MV: We got several reviews, some of them already listed on DistroWatch's Frugalware page. The two most problematic areas is the lack of graphical configuration tools and the lack of security support in the -stable tree. If everything goes fine, the later will be solved as of the 0.5 release.
Frugalware Linux 0.4 was released in late March
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DW: With only about 2 years behind it, Frugalware is a relatively young distribution. Yet, it seems that the life of most new distributions created these days can be measured in months, rather than years. What motivates you to keep going? Do you think you'll still be developing Frugalware 5 years from now?
MV: Oh, we have 4.5 months till the 2nd birthday! :-) We are motivated by the users. If people who use Frugalware send us postcards saying "Thanks!", request features, and report bugs then why stopping it? I think there is a promisting feature ahead of us and we will still develop and maintain Frugalware in 5 years.
DW: How many developers work on Frugalware? Is it easy to join the project? Are there any particular areas where you'd appreciate some help from the community?
According to this page
we have currently 17 developers. It is not hard to join, usually people start to send patches, then with time it is no longer necessary to review the patches and they get direct write access to the repositories. We call somebody a developer when he/she does some programming. Contributors are of course appreciated too. Translations, documentation or artwork improvements are welcome.
DW: Does Frugalware include non-free software and support for proprietary file formats (ATI/NVIDIA graphics drivers, Opera, Acrobat, Flash Player, Real Player, Windows media codecs, MP3 support, etc.) or is there an easy way to install them?
MV: When there is no free alternative available and the license allows this then we provide packages for non-free software. But in reality, this is very rare. We have more than 2,500 packages and only four of them are non-free. The common way to install these packages is to help users to build packages on their own machines with providing a build script. For and end-user this means that instead of 'pacman -S qemu', he/she needs to do 'repoman merge vmware'. These packages are supported by the developer team.
DW: What is your view on using non-free software in Linux? Does your main Linux workstation have any non-free applications installed?
MV: I don't like them. Fortunately, I have and Intel video and wireless card which has a GPL driver and they're already in the vanilla kernel. As for the second question, yes, it has. But I hope that one day Gnash will able to replace Flash and that gcjwebplugin will be as secure as Sun's Java plugin so that I can get rid of them.
DW: I've noticed the appearance of a Frugalware live CD on one of your project's mirrors. What is the status of the live CD edition and when can we expect an official release?
MV: There is already an initial release. It is usable but lacks networking support. It is supposed to be production-ready at the same time when we release 0.5.
DW: The first pre-release of Frugalware 0.5 is scheduled for release later this week. Can you give us some hints about any new features expected to be included in the new version?
MV: More than 3,000 changes, including new features, bug and security fixes. A changelog since 0.4 is not yet ready, but the two most important new feature will be the localised package manager and the new 'setup' tool which gives you an overview of the available configuration tools.
DW: Miklós, once again thank you for your answers and all the best with Frugalware!
|Released Last Week
Damn Small Linux 2.4
Damn Small Linux 2.4 has been released. From the changelog: "64 cloops for UCI extensions; user-less UCI now fully supported; added Tiny C compiler, tcc; added rsync; added Lua cgi library, cgi.lua with sample test.html / test.lua; new updated Ted wordprocessor with help from Ted's author; new updated Ndiswrapper 1.14.; improved dmix and sound features, dual channel and save settings; improved man program - now uses Netrik text browser for display; adjustment in .xinitrc to better support foreign language keyboards; more clean-up for space savings to accommodate upgraded software."
GParted LiveCD 0.2.5
GParted LiveCD has been updated to version 0.2.5. What's new? "Added support for shrinking HFS and HFS+ file systems; added support for copying HFS+ and Reiser4 file systems; renamed menu item 'filesystems' to 'Features' to avoid future confusion; only allow growing of a copy if there is grow support for the copied file system; creating a new partition on a BSD partition table failed, causing a segmentation fault when setting the partition type - fixed." Read the rest of the changelog for more information.
LG3D LiveCD 2.5
A new stable version of LG3D LiveCD, a SLAX-based distribution showcasing the 3D-enabled Looking Glass desktop, has been released: "LG3D-LiveCD 2.5 available. There have been some great changes to the choice of included software: LG3D LiveCD uses now LG3D version 0.8.0 RC1, Java 6, Java3D 1.5.0 and JAI 1.1.3. This sounds pretty unstable and 'testing-only', however it seems to be quite stable. Version 2.5 is the first LG3D LiveCD released in two flavours: The 'full' edition available right now includes OpenOffice.org, GIMP, Quanta+, and other often requested software, while the 'lite' edition (available in the next few days) will only contain the SLAX Popcorn selection." Read the full release announcement on the LG3D LiveCD project page.
Puppy Linux 1.0.9
With the main development of Puppy Linux now concentrating on the upcoming version 2.0, the distribution's community has released an updated version of the Puppy 1.x series. What's new? "Firefox 184.108.40.206 browser with Puppy bookmarks and start page; XDG dynamically generated menus, portable for use in multiple window managers and ready for internationalisation; Geany 0.5 text editor as a replacement for Beaver; Transmission 0.5 BitTorrent client; new graphical background setter; Leafpad 0.8.9; Sylpheed 2.2.4; improved trash utility; JWM 1.7 with Blinky 0.8 and miniXcal 1.1; improved integration of ROX2.4.1 as an optional package...." Read the release announcement for a complete list of major changes and download links.
A new version of SLAX has been released: "I'm happy to let you know that a new SLAX release is ready. This time you can use some cool new features. Added 'noload' cheatcode to disable loading of any specified modules. This affects all modules on the SLAX CD, including /base and /modules, so using 'noload=*kde*' will disable loading of all modules with 'kde' in the name. It's useful with copy2ram cheatcode, because any unused module is not copied to RAM. Added 'ramsize' cheatcode to specify maximum memory for SLAX to store changes, downloaded files, etc." Read the rest of the changelog for a detailed list of new features and changes.
Berry Linux 0.70
Yuichiro Nakada has announced the release of Berry Linux 0.70, the first Fedora-based live CD with integrated ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers, Xgl graphics subsystem and Compiz compositing manager (available as an option in the GRUB boot menu). From the changelog: "Berry Linux 0.70 released. Kernel 220.127.116.11 SMP + ndev/udev + bootsplash; KDE 3.5.2 (Fedora Core 5 stable); Xgl and X.Org 7.0 + Bold patch; GIMP 2.2.11; Firefox 18.104.22.168 and Thunderbird 22.214.171.124; WINE 0.9.13." Besides all the package updates, the new release also features a stunning new wallpaper.
The latest Berry Linux release comes with several upgraded packages, Xgl support, and a new wallpaper
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Iuri Stanchev has announced a new release of NetSecl, a Slackware-based security distribution formerly known as ISlack: "NetSecL 1.3 is out. There are some important security improvements since ISlack 1.2. There are two 'paranoia' kernels 2.6.x and 2.4.x; they are very restrictive so please be careful - it is advisable to use them as second kernels. PaX kernels are on CD 2; don't use the kernels from the 'bootme' directory on CD 1 as a second kernel. Some of the libraries were recompiled so they can not use the stack, X was also recompiled and became a little bigger." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information.
Jay Klepacs has announced the availability of aLinux 12.7, a distribution formerly known as Peanut Linux. The latest version of the multimedia-focused project comes with kernel 2.6.15, X.Org 7.0, KDE 3.5.2 with dbus and hal, and KOffice 1.5.0. Among the browsers, Mozilla has been replaced with SeaMonkey 1.0.1. aLinux 12.7 includes a number of communication and file sharing utilities (aMule P2P eDonkey, GNutella, Kopete, Ekiga, LinPhone), graphics manipulation programs (GIMP, KView, Kuickshow, GTKam, Camorama, TV-Time, xawtv, XPaint), and useful utilities (Firestarter, ClamAV, Bochs x86 emulator, GKrellM, HDBench). Please see the release notes for more details.
An updated release of aLinux (formerly Peanut Linux) was made available on Sunday
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Translate DistroWatch into your language|
The ongoing DistroWatch translation project has received much help over the last two weeks; many thanks to Luai Mukhtar (Arabic), Jamil Ahmed (Bengali), Rafael Carreras Guillén (Catalan), Zhu Wen Tao (Chinese), Per Mortensen (Danish), Edmund Laugasson (Estonian), Pasi Ruhanen (Finnish), Pierre Slamich, ReMink (French), Eddy Nigg (Hebrew), Kornél Dluhi (Hungarian), Hendra Budi (Indonesian), Massimiliano (Italian), Jovan Naumovski (Macedonian), Vegard Fiksdal (Norwegian), Alan Baghumian (Persian), Artur Szymański (Polish), Paulo Lino (Portuguese), Vladimir Bojovic (Serbian), José Manuel Pérez (Spanish) and Yuce Tekol (Turkish) for help. Great work!
However, we still need updates to files containing Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, German, Greek, Japanese, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Thai and Vietnamese, as well as any additional languages yet to be included in DistroWatch. If you can help, please send us a quick email or take a look at this file for a list of phrases that need translating. All contributors will be credited for their help on the About page.
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DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 29 May 2006. See you then :-)
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