| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 191, 26 February 2007
Welcome to this year's 9th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! This week's issue starts with a first look at VectorLinux 5.8 SOHO, an enhanced edition of the Slackware-based distribution designed for small businesses and home users. The news section then covers a variety of topics, including a couple of recent "distro wars" between Ubuntu and its competitors, reasons for the longer than expected delay of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, an announcement about the upcoming Community edition of Puppy Linux, and a surprise merge between two Slackware-based projects. Information about the upcoming releases of SabayonLinux 3.3 and Pardus Linux 2007.1, followed by the usual list of new distributions, concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. Happy reading!
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First look at VectorLinux 5.8 SOHO
by Susan Linton
VectorLinux is a distro that I tested only a couple of times before, but I was very impressed with the system. Then, as now, it was a pretty, complete, and stable alternative to heavier or more complicated offerings. It dresses up Slackware and adds needed functionality, yet remains true to the Slackware tradition.
The VectorLinux installer is very Slackware-like. It's a bit simplified for users, but adds a lot more auto-detection and assisted configurations. In fact, it's very similar to what we find in Zenwalk. After one prepares their disk if needed, they choose their swap, install, and extra partitions. Choices in file systems include ext3, ReiserFS, and XFS. It seems VectorLinux defaults to ReiserFS. The one can choose any extra "bulks" they wish which include the kernel source or OpenOffice.org. After which they can choose to install some extra packages that include Firefox, XScreenSaver, and The GIMP. From there it's time to confirm by choosing one of the following:
From there one can choose to install GRUB, LILO, or cancel. After reboot (at least in my case) one moves on to the final configuration steps. These steps include keymap, time zone, network, sound, X, and passwords. One quirk I noticed with other tests that remained in this release is the reboot during the first boot of the system. This is always a bit alarming as no other system does that, at least not without warning. It tends to make one think there is a problem, until you either remember VectorLinux does this or find all is well with the second boot.
- Install - come on matey, go for it!!!
- Back - wait ... I've changed my mind!
- Abort - I'm scared my system will turn to toast.
VectorLinux is a really pretty system starting from the boot menu and continuing through the silent boot splash. It matches the KDM theme and KDE splash exactly, making for a professional first impression. The desktop itself looks great as well. With a tasteful wallpaper in place and beautiful icons, it completes the look really well. There are a few more pretty wallpapers available too. I think perhaps they should have used a more attractive window decoration than the KDE default of Plastic. The default fonts aren't very nice, but all I did was was change from DejaVu Sans Light to DejaVu Sans and enabled anti-aliasing to better that. The menus are set up conveniently and logically. It appears to be the KDE menu, but have other applications and utilities added.
VectorLinux 5.8 SOHO beta 1
(full image size: 841kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
KDE is version 3.5.6, they are using a 2.6.20 kernel, X.Org is still 6.9.0, and GCC is 3.4.6. Whereas I was quite pleased with the kernel and KDE version, I admit I was a bit disappointed to find X.Org and GCC lagging a bit behind the curve. In the menu we find many applications for daily tasks. SeaMonkey is the default browser suite, but it also comes with Konqueror. Firefox is available at install and Opera is in the repository. There are several IRC and instant messaging choices, as well as news readers and graphical downloading applications.
OpenOffice.org 2.1 is available for installation as well as The GIMP. Xara Xtreme, gtkam, digiKam, and XSane are also included. Xfce and Fluxbox are available for installation from repositories. Xfce is still not polished yet, but it does include the same icons on the desktop as found in KDE for popular application and Help. Fluxbox is very basic, but does have a nice menu ready.
Multimedia support is very good in VectorLinux. VLC and Xine are available by default and MPlayer is available during install as an extra package. I found VLC lacking in many respects, primarily because it just didn't work for me here. Xine worked on more common video formats. MPlayer however played any format requested and I had no trouble with Google videos or YouTube. I would suggest that the developers reverse this situation by making VLC and Xine available as extras and using MPlayer by default. Also included are browser Flash and Java support, graphical CD and DVD creation tools, and audio players such as Amarok.
There are plenty of games to distract one from their work. These mostly encompass the KDE games, but include a few others as well. FrozenBubble is available from the VectorLinux repository.
Gslapt and slapt-get at the command line are the primary software managers. Slackware's installpkg is still available under the hood as well, if desired. There are repositories already set up and software for these later versions is available for install. I installed several packages using the various methods and found all worked rather well. I actually encountered no problems. The new applications appeared in the menus, opened, and functioned well.
The menu contains quite a few other nice system tools and utilities for configuration and usability. The crowning jewel is perhaps the Vector Administration System and Menu. It is a container for various system configuration tools such as networking, including wireless connections, hardware set-up, Samba shares and printing configuration, start-up services, and more. Also found in the menu is KMyFirewall which is a graphical front-end for defining iptables rules and implementation. vcpufreq is included for power saving and vl-hot-config for USB and other removable media. There are plenty of other applications for monitoring system functions and net connections as well as setting up cron jobs, performing backups, and to manage printing. The only problem I encountered with this beta release was the print manager and Samba configuration. The print manager is actually a link to the CUPS web configuration utility and despite the cupsd being started and listening on port 631 with no firewall rules blocking, the browser could not connect. Clicking on the SambaWeb configuration did nothing.
Hardware detection was very good with VectorLinux and most of the basics were either auto-configured or detected and offered for confirmation. The network connection was set up during the post-install configuration after auto-detection of my Ethernet chipset. I merely input my chosen machine name and clicked on DHCP. From that point on my Internet connection is available upon boot. Sound was auto-detected during that same post-install configuration as well and I was given a confirmation box to use ALSA emu10k1 support. My scanner was auto-configured and available upon the opening of XSane. There are some configuration choices when setting up the X server, but most can use the configuration offered. On my desktop, I had no problems other than the printer problem described above.
When I saw how nice VectorLinux was and noticed all the wireless tools and utilities available when testing VectorLinux on my desktop, I decided I wanted to test it on my HP laptop as well. Things didn't go quite as smoothly on the laptop as on the desktop, but it wasn't too hard to work around most of the issues. If you've ever set up any Linux distribution on your laptop, you can probably achieve satisfactory results with VectorLinux as well.
The install went like clockwork on my laptop, but manual configuration was needed soon after. The first task was to bring the X resolution to the recommended (and desired) 1200x800. Auto-configuration used VESA, but this is only capable of the standard resolutions such as 1280x1024, 1024x768, 800x600, etc. The nv driver from X.Org 6.9.0 did not support my NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 chip. I was forced to install the proprietary drivers from NVIDIA and add my desired resolution to the xorg.conf file. Even then X wouldn't display the 1200x800 until all other choices had been taken from the mode lines. However, the hardest part of all this was restarting X several times until I got it right. The only blame I can assign to VectorLinux here is in using an old version of X.Org. They should probably upgrade to at least 7.0, and I'd like to see 7.1 myself.
The second hurdle was to get the wireless connection working. VectorLinux ships with bcmwl5 and bcm43xx for chips similar to mine, but mine won't work with those. So, NdisWrapper is needed. At first NdisWrapper wouldn't install my driver as it detected a previous bcmwl5 was present. All that was required here was removing the existing bcmwl5 and then installing mine from the Windows partition. However, it still took several minutes to accomplish a wireless connection. Devices were present, connection details were set up, and connections were said to have been made. Yet connections beyond the machine were impossible. Long story short, it took blacklisting bcm43xx for all to be well. WEP was no problem at all. After manually tracking down blockers, I could use the graphical set up and connection tools. I do not attribute these difficulties to VectorLinux or suggest something is wrong with their system here. Auto-detection did as it should and inserted the module most chips similar to mine. I just have a newer chipset that isn't supported by the included drivers (yet).
The last issue was with power saving and battery monitoring. The cpufreq utility is present as stated above and appears to work. The klaptop utility included with KDE seems to work well for changing profiles to suit the conditions of powered or not and monitors the battery life well. However, I wasn't able to track down the problem(s) with getting stand-by and suspend to work. They do work with openSUSE and PCLOS on that laptop, so I know it's possible. I obviously have some more work to do here. Nevertheless, it doesn't work out-of-the-box, at least for me.
Sound and the touchpad worked great as well as hot-plugging removable media or a USB mouse.
All in all I really like VectorLinux. I think it's a beautiful desktop system with good tools and nice selection of applications. Extra attention to the interface makes for a polished and professional appearance. It seems to work extremely well on desktop systems and can work well on newer laptops. Hardware detection is good and system performance is great. I found it to be stable, fast, and very functional. My only real complaint is with the old X.Org version. Otherwise, I found this beta quite pleasing and I look forward to the final release.
ESR's Ubuntu switch, Mandriva's "substance", further delays for Debian Etch, Puppy Linux Community, Ultima and Wolvix
There is nothing wrong with a healthy distro war every now and then. Eric Raymond's anti-Fedora tirade, which the famous author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar sent to several web sites and mailing lists last week, provided exactly that. He listed several shortcoming of Fedora Core, both technical and philosophical, and gave his reasons for switching to Ubuntu -- that's after some 13 years of being a loyal Red Hat and Fedora user. Predictably, his action created a stir among the users of both distributions and many online forums saw heated debates on the subject. But is he right? Is Fedora really on the verge of becoming a shrinking niche? And more importantly, what are the Fedora developers doing to address the criticism and to provide a better operating system for their users? As always, all opinions on the subject are welcome!
* * * * *
Eric Raymond wasn't the only person who expressed a strong opinion on a couple of distributions. Mandriva's Adam Williamson also wrote some philosophical comments on the perceived popularity of Ubuntu and its comparison with other distributions: "To me Ubuntu is, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, a triumph of style over substance - it's not that it doesn't _have_ substance, but it doesn't have any _more_ substance than anyone else (it really has less); it just uses style to give the impression that it does." He also explains his reasons for believing that Mandriva, as well as openSUSE, are better distributions than Ubuntu.
The problem with these kinds of opinions is that many people tend to compare only one aspect of Linux distributions - the code. But a "distro" is not just a CD image or three that people download from an FTP server and install on their computers. A Linux distribution is much more than that! It's a complete infrastructure, including the code, web site, support options, documentation, bug-tracking facilities, third-party community portals, software repositories, etc. Comparing two distributions should not be limited to just one aspect of it, but should include one's entire experience of using it on a daily basis.
As an example, let's take a look at the support mailing lists provided by the two distributions. Ubuntu has dozens of them, Mandriva has two - newbie and expert (if you are neither, where do you go?). The Ubuntu mailing lists receive dozens of posts every day, the Mandriva ones get just a handful of messages at most. The Ubuntu mailing list is well-attended by several Ubuntu developers and even Mark Shuttleworth is known to answer questions every now and then. In contrast, when is the last time you saw a Mandriva developer helping out on the mailing lists? Not for years! And that's before we start on the subject of the Mandriva Club web site usability or the documentation. Even worse, any criticism of some of these aspects always seem to fall on deaf ears at Mandriva. Any surprise that users are flocking to Ubuntu?
Yes, Mandriva Linux is an excellent distribution. Unfortunately, that's no longer a sufficient attraction. Without improving the entire infrastructure around the project, it will never be able to compete with Ubuntu, no matter how good its code is.
* * * * *
Why is the much-awaited release of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 Etch delayed? While some of the popular media is quick to attribute the reasons to the controversial Dunc-Tank initiative that caused a mini-uprising among some Debian developers, the simple truth is that Etch is late due to an unacceptably high number of release critical bugs. But let's leave the explanation to the expert, or more precisely to Martin Krafft, a Debian developer and the author of Debian System - Concepts and Techniques. Last week, he gave a talk at a conference which was entitled "Debian etch: does that itch scratch yet?" The slides, which include the overview of the Debian project and interesting charts of release-critical bugs over time, should give anyone an insight into the current status of Etch. And how much longer before it's declared stable? As always, nobody knows for sure, but the way things are at the moment, it still seems at least a month or two away....
* * * * *
Barry Kauler, the founder and lead developer of Puppy Linux, has announced that the project's next release will incorporate ideas from the entire Puppy developer and user community: "The next release of Puppy is going to be 2.15 Community Edition, incorporating improvements and ideas that Puppy enthusiasts want. Official releases of Puppy are created by me, and everything gets filtered through me, which is good from the point of view of maintaining a unified development of Puppy. However, now is the opportunity for users to have a more direct input to the final product. Here is a forum thread. Note, I'm still here, and will test the alphas/betas on all my hardware and also offer suggestions and contributions."
* * * * *
In a world where on average 2 - 3 new Linux distributions are created every week, it's nice to see when two independent developers decide to merge their ideas and code into one. This is what happened last week when Martin Ultima, the developer of Ultima Linux, and Kenneth Granerud, the creator of Wolvix GNU/Linux joined forces: We've been so lucky as to have a new developer joining the Wolvix team. Martin Ultima from Ultima Linux. He'll be helping us develop and improve Wolvix alongside with developing Ultima. Welcome aboard, Martin, and thanks for joining us." More details about the decision can be found on the Ultima user forums and Wolvix web site.
|Released Last Week
The Vyatta project, which develops a complete, Debian-based firewall and router distribution, has announced the release of Vyatta Community Edition 2.0: "Vyatta today announced that Vyatta Community Edition 2 (VC2) is now available for download from the Vyatta web site. VC2 is the latest freely-available, community-supported release of Vyatta's open-source router/firewall product. In comparison to the previous release, VC2 delivers improved performance and hardware compatibility while enabling greater community innovation through its compatibility with Debian GNU/Linux." Read release announcement and release notes (PDF format) for more information.
Linux Mint 2.2
Clement Lefebvre has announced the stable release of Linux Mint 2.2, code name "Bianca": "Bianca is out and available for download! Many thanks to the Linux Mint community from which we managed to gather precious ideas and feedback. We've brought a lot of changes into Bianca and we hope you'll like it. Here are the main changes: Minty Artwork and a brand new desktop... We've put a lot of efforts into Bianca and started writing our own applications and our own packages. A new repository was added to Bianca for users to be able to get the latest innovations through APT upgrades. It is also possible to upgrade from Bea to Bianca." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
A new stable version of dyne:bolic, an independently developed live CD with a collection of open source tools for multimedia production, has been released: "This release improves user-friendliness introducing Xfce-4.4 as the new default desktop, customized for the scheme of interaction that is familiar to dyne:bolic users. Another important new feature is the ability to create an encrypted nest to prevent access to personal data stored in home directories. No complicated notions are required, our user-friendly set-up deals with USB and hard disk storages as usual, in case the nest is encrypted you'll see your home icon upgraded to fortress, then everything that goes in your nest is protected." Read the full release announcement for further information.
After 3 months of development, the sidux team is proud to announce the immediate availability of the sidux 2007-01, a distribution recently launched by several ex-KANOTIX developers: "This is the first official sidux release after stabilizing and largely rewriting the distribution framework, further efforts in that direction are ongoing to improve the hardware support/detection and streamline the live operations. While the first release concentrates on two KDE flavors (lite and full), special purpose releases and support for other desktop environments and window managers are planned. The ISO is completely based on Debian Sid, enriched and stabilized with sidux' own packages and scripts." Read the full release announcement for more information.
Kurumin Linux 7.0
Kurumin Linux 7.0 has been released. The latest version of the popular Brazilian distribution arrives some four years after the project's initial release and is intended as a "long-term" desktop solution with extended support. Kurumin Linux 7.0 is based on Debian Etch and offers up-to-date software, correction of problems from the previous release, and a number of new features, such as full NTFS read and write support and newly introduced kernel modules for wireless networking and Bluetooth. To read the full release announcement and to find more details about Kurumin Linux please visit the project's home page (in Portuguese).
Kurumin Linux 7.0 is the project's first release with long-term support
(full image size: 1,866kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Vine Linux 4.1
Vine Linux, a popular Japanese distribution for Intel and PowerPC computers, has been updated to version 4.1. This is a minor update consisting mainly of security and bug fixes that have surfaced since the release of version 4.0 exactly three months ago. The latest version of the distribution uses kernel 188.8.131.52 with wireless networking support and hibernate functionality. It also includes GNOME 2.14 desktop, Firefox 184.108.40.206 web browser, Anthy and SCIM Japanese input method, VL Gothic Japanese fonts, Totem and BMP media players, X.Org 6.9.0, a number of server components, and a graphical installer with hardware auto-detection and several new features. Please read the release announcement (in Japanese) and consult the release notes for further information.
Zenwalk Linux 4.4 and 4.4.1
Jean-Philippe Guillemin has announced the release of Zenwalk Linux 4.4: "Dear community, Zenwalk 4.4 has been released. This version of Zenwalk utilizes the new Xfce 4.4 desktop and kernel 2.6.20. It introduces many new features and utilities: everything has been polished in many ways. The automount system has been enhanced to detect and handle more CD/DVD devices, including dynamic mount points management. Fusesmbtool has been updated and can now be launched from the Thunar file manager on any folder in order to browse network shares. Zenwalk 4.4 introduces the hotname system: with a few mouse clicks you can rename any USB mounted device to your preferred 'nice' name." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
BOSS GNU/Linux 1.1
The BOSS development team has announced the release of BOSS GNU/Linux 1.1, India's first operating system with an ambitious goal of supporting all official languages in the country: "BOSS Tarang v1.1 released with the following features: refined set of packages; Firefox (v2.0b2) compiled with Indic language printing support; Thunderbird replaces Evolution; update-manager added for daily system updates; Java Runtime included; read and write facility with NTFS partitions; USB webcam modules included; now we can install BOSS from Windows; graphical installer; faster system start-up and login; user-friendly GNOME desktop; simplified menu organization...." Visit the project's main Wiki page to read the full release announcement.
ParallelKnoppix 2.4 has been released: "This has kernel 220.127.116.11 with the paravirtualization support, KVM compiled in for both Intel and AMD, and QEMU with the kqemu kernel module (big thanks for GPL release). There's also a rom-o-matic boot ROM at /cdrom/kvm-pxe.iso. I'd like to get a virtual compute node running on top of PK using one of the virtualization platforms, for demonstration purposes and pure cool factor." Read the rest of the release announcement on the project's home page.
Knopperdisk is a Gentoo-based distribution designed to run from a USB storage device. After exactly one and a half years' development, a new version was just released. One particular among the many changes: "You always had to enter the USB device during the boot so the initrd would know which device to mount which would function as the real root file system. Instead of initrd now initramfs is used, and you no longer have to enter the USB device. It's taken care of automatically for you, by scanning all the available SCSI devices, trying to mount them and check whether the Knopperdisk image is present or not." Find more details on the project's news page.
GParted LiveCD 0.3.3-7
A new stable version of GParted LiveCD has been released: "We are happy to announce that GParted LiveCD 0.3.3-7 has been released. Based on Gentoo Catalyst, it is now running Fluxbox. Many video drivers have been added so it should work on most x86 computers. We tried to make it as useful as possible so it can be run under VMware and VirtualBox. Changes: hang at shutdown has been fixed by coming back to old version of baselayout; VirtualBox can now boot the ISO, if typing at prompt VESA, which will force VESA driver to be set in xorg.conf; some icons have been added." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The developers of SabayonLinux have announced that version 3.3 will be released in early March. As we have come to expect from this bleeding edge distribution, it will come with many exciting features: "SabayonLinux 3.3 release is nicely on track and will be released in the first days of March, sporting a lot of new exciting features, bug fixes and a brand new artwork. We're currently working on getting eINIT tightly integrated with SabayonLinux and we've finally completed rewriting the award winning Acceleration Manager using QT 4.2." Read the full announcement for further details.
* * * * *
Pardus Linux 2007.1
The Pardus Linux project has published an estimated release roadmap at the end of which we should see the release of an updated version 2007.1. An internal beta test has already started while a public release candidate is currently scheduled for 9 March. The final release is expected a week later. Please read this mailing list post (in Turkish) for further details.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Felinux. Felinux is an Italian desktop distribution based on Slackware Linux.
- Resulinux. Resulinux is a Brazilian desktop-oriented distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux.
- Syxoo Biznis Linux. Syxoo Biznis Linux is a Kubuntu-based distribution optimised for business use.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 March 2007. Until then,
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 736 (2017-10-30): Ubuntu 17.10, "what if" security questions, Linux Mint to support Flatpak, NetBSD kernel memory protection|
|• Issue 735 (2017-10-23): ArchLabs Minimo, building software with Ravenports, WPA security patch, Parabola creates OpenRC spin|
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Full list of all issues|
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Knoppel was a Greek distribution for the desktop, based on Debian's testing branch.