| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 44, 12 April 2004
Welcome to this year's 15th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. Last week was a slow one when it comes to distribution releases with only MoviX and Danix coming up with new versions. However, the new Danix live CD could be of interest to those waiting impatiently for Knoppix 3.4, as the distribution comes with kernel 2.6.3, KDE 3.2.1 and many other up-to-date software packages. Although the main language of Danix is Czech, it can be booted into English environment by specifying 'lang=en' at the boot prompt. Happy hacking!
Which comes first - the chicken or the egg?
by Robert Storey
Lately I've been noticing some hair loss on my head. It's not because advancing age is causing premature baldness, but rather it's because frustration with Linux documentation is causing me to tear my hair out. It's enough of a problem that I might start wearing a safety helmet whenever I install a new Linux distribution (which offers the additional benefit of protection from banging one's head against the wall).
All jokes aside, my frustration is a real one. I confess to be a distro junkie, and in the past week alone I've installed four new flavours of Linux that I'd never tried before. Unfortunately, all four proved to be disappointing in one way or another, though at least one looks like it might stick around for awhile. However, even this sole survivor (if it does indeed survive) is plagued by what is becoming a recurring problem - insufficient documentation.
Rolling your own Linux distro has now become a popular pastime, and if you frequently visit Distrowatch you'll see that at least two or three new distros make their debut every week. When I say "two or three new distros," I am not counting home-brewed "Linux From Scratch" projects that aspiring geeks create for their own entertainment. Even I played with Linux From Scratch (not too successfully, I'm sorry to say). No, when I say "a new distro," I'm talking about a project that gets beyond the home hobby/education stage. That is, somebody gives their project a name, creates a downloadable iso file, puts it online and tries to take on Debian or Mandrake for market share.
The majority of these projects are but a flash in the pan - they will whither and die before anybody even notices. Occasionally, though, one of these micro brews will suddenly take the world by storm. It's probably the dream of every true Linux hacker to create the next Gentoo or Knoppix.
I mentioned above that I installed four distros this week - now I will reveal which ones: Buffalo, Slax, Adios and Arch. Each of the four had at least one unique feature that attracted me, but within minutes of installation (or attempted installation in the case of Slax - it appears to be a live CD only) I was running into problems. In desperation, I went scrambling in search of a README, HOW-TO or FAQ file for these various distros, but came up mostly empty-handed. In a fit of frustration, I fired off an email to one of the developers, and surprisingly he wrote back:
"YES DOCUMENTATION IS A PROBLEM," he wrote (all in caps). "Wish I could afford to hire a full-time tech writer!"
The sad reality is this - good developers are rarely good technical writers. And good technical writers are rarely good developers. These are two different skill sets.
A distro can make up for a lack of documentation if there happens to be a great user community waiting in the wings to answer questions. Mailing lists, forums, news groups and IRC (debatable) can make a huge difference. With some distros, such as Slackware, there is a lot of documentation but it's notoriously out-of-date, and the user community basically provides an online "update service" (Note: before you Slackware users start flaming me to a crisp, please be advised that I use Slackware and I like it, and I'm writing some updated documentation for it myself). But for many new distros, if you can't figure out your own problem, you're sunk - there is simply no place to turn for help.
I think that we now have so many distributions that any of them that fails to provide solid documentation plus mailing lists/forums is going to go nowhere. Developers who hurl out release after release are probably wasting their time until they have a more complete user infrastructure in place. On the other hand, building user infrastructure is not trivial.
Since I like happy-happy Hollywood endings, I'm going to end this article on a positive note. There are a number of web sites out there with some pretty useful general Linux/Unix information that is worth reading. So below are some practical recommendations. I'd also like to hear suggestions from the user community - do you know of any good online resources aside from what I've mentioned below?
So without further ado, a short list:
- The Linux Documentation Project. This attempts to document everything and the kitchen sink. If you don't have broadband, you can even order the entire web site on a single CD.
- Cafe Computer. Cafe Computer is a commercial outfit, but their web site has a number of useful links. Section 8 in particular has links to many other FAQs, some of which are distro-specific, some more general.
- O'Reilly ONLamp. From the folks who brought you great computer books, O'Reilly has a huge number of great online articles, HOW-TOs, etc. There's enough here to keep you reading for weeks (or months).
- Introduction to Unix. The book "Introduction to Unix" by Frank G. Fiamingo is available online as a free downloadable PDF.
- The 85321 System Administration Study Guide, by David Jones. An absolutely outstanding online textbook for general Unix/Linux students. You can download it as a PDF or postscript file.
Is SELinux too complex?
Users who have been testing the latest Fedora Core test release have had a chance to be exposed to SELinux and its mandatory access control mechanism that attempts to implement a radically improved security model in Fedora Core 2, and later in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Although the effort expended by the Fedora developers has to be commended, there are signs that not everybody is impressed with the complexity that SELinux brings to the table. This is a reaction by one of the readers to last week's article at LWN called First SELinux impressions (subscribers only until Thursday):
"SELinux may give administrators extra flexibility, and add some extra 'layers' of protection for critical files (depending on how the policies are set). But security pros usually consider complexity to be the enemy of good security - and this system is nothing if not complex. I suspect that for every properly configured SELinux install, there will be several that leave gaping holes because they've been misconfigured."
If you have tried the latest Fedora test release, how do you feel about its implementation of SELinux? Do you think it is worth the effort to learn about the policies and get them work to your benefit and greater security of your servers? Or do you believe that it is an unnecessarily complex system, where the negatives far outweigh the positives? Please discuss below.
Fight against European software patents
If you are anywhere near Belgium this week, do try to make it to the walking demonstration against software patents, which will be held on Wednesday, 14 April, at Square de Meeus (200m from Place du Luxembourg) in Brussels. You can find out more about the demonstration, including train schedules and accommodation, on demo.ffii.org.
|Released Last Week
A new version of MoviX is out: "MoviX 0.8.3 fixes the little boot problem that was recently found in 0.8.2. Since it seems bad to release a new version just to fix a single file, a few interesting features and fixes were also added: the 'install.pl' script is now able to install automatically MoviX on a HD partition and make it bootable (but do not use this script to install MoviX on a partition shared with another OS!); when booting from HD, most files will not be loaded in RAM but rather used from the HD, so that you'll get full MoviX features already with 64MB of RAM; Russian and French menus have been updated; a Russian version of the README has been added...." Read the rest of the announcement.
A new version of Danix, a Czech Knoppix-based live CD, has been released: "What is in the new Danix? Everything you wished for. Kernel 2.6, ALSA, KDE 3.2.1, GIMP 2.0pre, Mozilla 1.6.x, Openoffice.org 1.1.1, KOffice1.3, and over a thousand of other packages. A simple installer in our mother tongue and support for Czech on the console. What is missing? Java, which is not open source, and MPlayer until we can figure out how to modify it legally." You can find more information (in Czech) on danix.cz.
Screenshot: Danix 2004.06.04 comes with kernel 2.6.3 and KDE 3.2.1
(full image size 271kB)
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Gibraltar Firewall 2.0
The developers of Gibraltar Firewall have announced that version 2 now nears completion: "At the moment, our partners have the opportunity to test Gibraltar v2. In addition to many usability enhancements in the web interface, Gibraltar v2 will include the following new features: proxy server support in the web interface (http, SMTP, pop3, FTP); advanced Spam protection; professional virus protection; addresses and port aliases; content and URL filtering; user authentication." Find out more at gibraltar.at.
Yellow Dog Linux 4.0
As was widely reported in Linux media, Terra Soft has announced two new releases of Yellow Dog Linux: "'Yellow Dog Linux' -- Terra Soft's 32-bit offering will continue to be offered from Terra Soft pre-installed on Apple computers, from Terra Soft's on-line Store in Geek Edition and box set packaging, through retail stores world-wide, and for download from YDL.net Enhanced and the public FTP mirrors. 'Y-HPC' -- Terra Soft's new 64-bit offering will be available pre-installed on Apple, IBM, and Momentum 970-based hardware, from the Terra Soft Store, and for download from the forthcoming YDL.net Professional account." Read the Terra Soft press release for further details.
|Web Site News
Your requests fulfilled: *BSD projects now included in DistroWatch
Ladies and Gentleman, one of your most often requested additions to DistroWatch is now a reality - as of today, the three major BSD flavours of FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD are now included on these pages, and will be tracked, monitored and updated in the same fashion as Linux distributions.
Some of you might remember that in the past I always rejected the idea to include BSD distributions on DistroWatch, so what brought the change? Well, this is one of those never dying requests - you can reject it a thousand times, but the next day you will get the same request again. But perhaps more importantly, users somehow expect to find FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD listed on these pages, despite the fact that they are not Linux. These expectations might stem from other Linux sites, such as Linux Weekly News or Linux Today, which do publish BSD related news. Freshmeat also lists BSD projects. Like Linux, BSD distributions are open source projects, they use applications developed for Linux and UNIX, and they are extremely popular. Not to mention that, as many devoted BSD users will tell you, BSD is much better than Linux :-)
The three pages are somewhat incomplete at the moment, but they will be expanded in the next few days with the addition of historical releases, as well as their respective development trees, updated daily. Other information will also be added - if you know of any related web sites and resources, recent reviews and other useful information, please mention them in the forum below, or email me directly. I have to admit that I never really used any BSD distribution and I would welcome some information about things like multilingual support, journaled file systems and any information missing from the tables. Are there any BSD-specific packages that would be useful to track? If so, mention them and I'll do my best to include them in the tables. Other BSD projects listed on this page will also be included in due time.
New on the waiting list
- FreeBSD. FreeBSD is a UN*X-like operating system for the i386, IA-64, PC-98, Alpha/AXP, and UltraSPARC platforms based on U.C. Berkeley's "4.4BSD-Lite" release, with some "4.4BSD-Lite2" enhancements. It is also based indirectly on William Jolitz's port of U.C. Berkeley's "Net/2" to the i386, known as "386BSD", though very little of the 386BSD code remains. FreeBSD is used by companies, Internet Service Providers, researchers, computer professionals, students and home users all over the world in their work, education and recreation.
- NetBSD. NetBSD is a free, secure, and highly portable UNIX-like Open Source operating system available for many platforms, from 64-bit AlphaServers and desktop systems to handheld and embedded devices. Its clean design and advanced features make it excellent in both production and research environments, and it is user-supported with complete source. Many applications are easily available through The NetBSD Packages Collection.
- OpenBSD. The OpenBSD project produces a FREE, multi-platform 4.4BSD-based UNIX-like operating system. Our efforts emphasise portability, standardisation, correctness, proactive security and integrated cryptography. OpenBSD supports binary emulation of most programs from SVR4 (Solaris), FreeBSD, Linux, BSD/OS, SunOS and HP-UX. OpenBSD is freely available from our FTP sites, and also available in an inexpensive 3-CD set.
- Rocks Cluster Distribution. Rocks is a complete "cluster on a CD" solution for x86 and IA64 Red Hat Linux COTS clusters. Building a Rocks cluster does not require any experience in clustering, yet a cluster architect will find a flexible and programmatic way to redesign the entire software stack just below the surface (appropriately hidden from the majority of users). Although Rocks includes the tools expected from any clustering software stack (PBS, Maui, GM support, Ganglia, etc), it is unique in its simplicity of installation.
- LinVDR. LinVDR is a complete, breathing Linux system smaller than 50 MB with a complete digital Video Disk Recorder (VDR) / Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and several plugins. For easy access we installed additionally the browser frontend VDR Admin and a Samba share for uploading and downloading music or DVD images with Windows clients.
- EduMorphix. EduMorphix is a GNU/Linux live CD distribution for education containing several tools for effective curriculum transaction.
- Debix. Debix can create a live filesystem from any existing linux system or create a fresh system with debootstrap. By using the device mapper from LVM 2 the live filesystem only needs a new initial ramdisk and otherwise uses the existing system unchanged as loopback image. When creating a live filesystem from scratch Knoppix-like autodetection features and the official Debian boot-floppies and/or debian-installer can be included to make a more comfortable installation.
Does anybody have any information about the status of PHLAK? This high-profile rescue CD seems to have disappeared from the Internet - its web site has been inaccessible for weeks and its project page from Freshmeat has been removed. Is this the end of PHLAK? Does anybody know?
DistroWatch database summary
- Number of Linux distributions in the database: 280
- Number of BSD distributions in the database: 3
- Number of discontinued distributions: 32
- Number of distributions on the waiting list: 66
Jeremy H writes: "I am a big fan of DistroWatch and think you are doing a fantastic job! I was reading on the site stoppoliceware.org about proposed laws regarding policeware on new computers sold in the USA. Apparently this could affect users of alternate operating systems like Linux. Maybe you would want to have a read and provide a link on your site. Keep up the good work!"
Two SUSE user forums merge
Adam C writes: "Just to let you know the two user forums you have mentioned on your entry for SUSE have now merged together to become one forum. This is located at suseforums.com or forums.suselinuxsupport.de. You may wish to amend your entry to reflect this."
That's all for this week, see you next Monday :-)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 828 (2019-08-19): AcademiX 2.2, concerns with non-free firmware, UBports working on Unity8, Fedora unveils new EPEL channel, FreeBSD phasing out GCC|
|• Issue 827 (2019-08-12): Q4OS, finding files on the disk, Ubuntu works on ZFS, Haiku improves performance, OSDisc shutting down|
|• Issue 826 (2019-08-05): Quick looks at Resilient, PrimeOS, and BlueLight, flagship distros for desktops,Manjaro introduces new package manager|
|• Issue 825 (2019-07-29): Endless OS 3.6, UBports 16.04, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Fedora developrs discuss optimizations, Project Trident launches stable branch|
|• Issue 824 (2019-07-22): Hexagon OS 1.0, Mageia publishes updated media, Fedora unveils Fedora CoreOS, managing disk usage with quotas|
|• Issue 823 (2019-07-15): Debian 10, finding 32-bit packages on a 64-bit system, Will Cooke discusses Ubuntu's desktop, IBM finalizes purchase of Red Hat|
|• Issue 822 (2019-07-08): Mageia 7, running development branches of distros, Mint team considers Snap, UBports to address Google account access|
|• Issue 821 (2019-07-01): OpenMandriva 4.0, Ubuntu's plan for 32-bit packages, Fedora Workstation improvements, DragonFly BSD's smaller kernel memory|
|• Issue 820 (2019-06-24): Clear Linux and Guix System 1.0.1, running Android applications using Anbox, Zorin partners with Star Labs, Red Hat explains networking bug, Ubuntu considers no longer updating 32-bit packages|
|• Issue 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, the meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make the desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Issue 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Issue 790 (2018-11-19): NetBSD 8.0, Bash tips and short-cuts, Fedora's networking benchmarked with FreeBSD, Ubuntu 18.04 to get ten years of support|
|• Issue 789 (2018-11-12): Fedora 29 Workstation and Silverblue, Haiku recovering from server outage, Fedora turns 15, Debian publishes updated media|
|• Issue 788 (2018-11-05): Clu Linux Live 6.0, examining RAM consumpion, finding support for older CPUs, more Steam support for running Windows games on Linux, update from Solus team|
|• Issue 787 (2018-10-29): Lubuntu 18.10, limiting application access to specific users, Haiku hardware compatibility list, IBM purchasing Red Hat|
|• Issue 786 (2018-10-22): elementary OS 5.0, why init keeps running, DragonFly BSD enables virtual machine memory resizing, KDE neon plans to drop older base|
|• Issue 785 (2018-10-15): Reborn OS 2018.09, Nitrux 1.0.15, swapping hard drives between computers, feren OS tries KDE spin, power savings coming to Linux|
|• Issue 784 (2018-10-08): Hamara 2.1, improving manual pages, UBports gets VoIP app, Fedora testing power saving feature|
|• Issue 783 (2018-10-01): Quirky 8.6, setting up dual booting with Ubuntu and FreeBSD, Lubuntu switching to LXQt, Mint works on performance improvements|
|• Issue 782 (2018-09-24): Bodhi Linux 5.0.0, Elive 3.0.0, Solus publishes ISO refresh, UBports invites feedback, Linux Torvalds plans temporary vacation|
|• Issue 781 (2018-09-17): Linux Mint 3 "Debian Edition", file systems for SSDs, MX makes installing Flatpaks easier, Arch team answers questions, Mageia reaches EOL|
|• Issue 780 (2018-09-10): Netrunner 2018.08 Rolling, Fedora improves language support, how to customize Kali Linux, finding the right video drivers|
|• Issue 779 (2018-09-03): Redcore 1806, keeping ISO downloads safe from tampering, Lubuntu makes Calamares more flexible, Ubuntu improves GNOME performance|
|• Issue 778 (2018-08-27): GuixSD 0.15.0, ReactOS 0.4.9, Steam supports Windows games on Linux, Haiku plans for beta, merging disk partitions|
|• Issue 777 (2018-08-20): YunoHost 220.127.116.11, limiting process resource usage, converting file systems on Fedora, Debian turns 25, Lubuntu migrating to Wayland|
|• Full list of all issues|
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|Random Distribution |
Buffalo Linux was a derivative distribution based on Vector and Slackware. It was targeted at the small business workstation market. This was the free base version; enhanced versions with pre-installed database access (DB2 and Oracle) and Microsoft product execution using CodeWeavers products are available at US$25 over licensing costs.