| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 230, 26 November 2007
Welcome to this year's 48th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! We don't often get a chance to report about the BSD part of our open source world, but last week brought an unusual number of interesting developments: a new beta release of FreeBSD 7.0, new live DVDs from RoFreeSBIE and TrueBSD, and even a promise of a real print BSD magazine! Is this increased activity among the BSD developers a sign of greater acceptance of their preferred operating system? In other news: openSUSE releases new bleeding-edge software packages for beta testing, KDE 4.0 RC1 draws mixed reaction in the developer community, sidux celebrates its first birthday, and Linux Mint branches out to develop user-friendly solutions for Debian GNU/Linux and Fedora. Finally, don't miss our lead story - a first look at the newly released Linux Mint 4.0. Happy reading!
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First look at Linux Mint 4.0 (by Susan Linton)
Linux Mint has been in development for less than 18 months, yet they have managed to create one of the most user-friendly and attractive desktop options available. With their fast-paced release cycle, it was difficult to keep up with all the changes at times and users were confronted with occasional breakage of one or more subsystems. However, developers have now stated that they will be slowing the release cycle as they have reached most of their goals. But how good is this current release?
Linux Mint is delivered as an installable live CD, allowing one to try it before they commit. Using "noapic" allowed the graphical interface to autostart, logging me into the GNOME desktop. One of the first things I noticed was the new color scheme. Replacing the usual green and blue pastels are shades of gray. This is particularly appealing during the boot process, but makes a nice desktop background as well.
My desktop resolution was optimized at 1280x800 using "nv" and my sound, touchpad, and add-on mouse worked out-of-the-box as well. CPUfreq, suspend, and hibernate worked. I didn't have a RJ45 cable attached to the Ethernet port on my test machine, an HP Pavilion DV6000, so I wasn't too surprized when no Internet connection was available. See, I have one of those wireless chips that isn't supported natively in Linux due to its proprietary nature.
NDISwrapper works for me most of the time and despite the documented drawbacks, I've always been fairly pleased with the performance. However, there are times with some Linux distributions in which it doesn't work, and more times than not I must resort to a command-line interface to configure and establish an Internet connection. It makes little difference to me personally as I'm a "command-line junkie" and find this, as well as most other tasks, much quicker and easier in a terminal emulator, but for the sake of my readers I always try to configure the Internet connection through a graphical utility first. I find this disappointing most of the time. That's why it is so exciting to run across the occasional distro that includes a graphical tool which actually works for this. Linux Mint is one such distro.
In the menu is an entry titled "Windows Wireless Drivers", which is an NDISwrapper installation tool. Click on it to open a configuration box. You'll need to click "Install New Driver" to navigate your way to your Windows driver. With the live CD you'll need to mount the Windows partition first, which can be accomplished with a mouse-click through the "Computer" listing. After install, this isn't necessary as all media are automounted upon boot or insertion. After clicking on your driver file, the installation and hardware detection is hidden in the background, but in a matter of milliseconds an entry will appear in the configuration box for your device. You can click "Configure Network" to set up things like static IP address, hostname, or DNS servers. Otherwise, you should be able to click on the networking applet in the system tray to choose your local network. If a Wireless Access Protection password is needed, it will pop open an input for that. In my case, after a few swirls of the applet indicator, the telltale connection strength bars appeared. The only caveat I must report is that I needed to put bcm43xx in the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file for the connection to be activated at boot.
Using the "Restricted Drivers" tool is another way in which many users might be able to use some devices requiring proprietary drivers. I often use this application to enable NVIDIA drivers when using an Ubuntu-based system. Its use is so easy. Just click the "Enable" checkbox and reboot. That's it.
Envy is another included method for installing proprietary graphic drivers for NVIDIA and ATI chips.
Linux Mint 4.0 - the GNOME desktop
(full image size: 478kB, screen resolution: 1280x800 pixels)
My proprietary graphic drivers were installed by yet a different means this time. As I was looking through the available options in the "Appearance" configuration, I saw the last tab was for "Visual Effects" provided by CompizFusion. At default my configuration was set to "None," as special effects aren't supported by the "nv" driver The other choices are "Normal" which provides some special effects, and "Extra" that apparently provides even more. When I clicked either of these latter options, a pop-up appeared informing me that 3D graphic drivers were needed to use those effects and offered to enable the NVIDIA accelerated graphic drivers. I was prompted to reboot the machine, but afterwards I was able to enjoy many nice visual effects with my NVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 chipset. I did experience some minor artifacting or redrawing glitches here and there within the window decorations and push buttons with some themes, but for the most part it functioned very well on my modest laptop hardware. The visual effects may be activated out-of-the-box with supported hardware, but for those requiring 3rd-party drivers, what could be easier?
Some other nice elements of the "Appearance" configuration include several nice wallpapers, about nine themes, and font and interface customizations. You can find "Appearance" either in the menu under "Preferences" or in the Control Center.
Most of the modules found in the menu under "Preferences" and "Administration" are conveniently included within the Control Center. From it you can adjust and configure about any setting available. Some of these include keyboard shortcuts, remote desktop, video settings, language, network, printing, and removable drives. You can even get hardware information, view system logs, and monitor system.
Another handy application available through the Control Center or menu is the APTonCD. This tool allows the user to save their downloaded packages onto a CD-ROM. Whether through ordinary package installation, system updates, or additional drivers, downloaded packages can be put onto a CD for use on another system or, in case of a re-install, to keep from having to download again. This is a particularly handy addition to Mint's line-up.
mintInstall is also available in the Control Center and menu. mintInstall is another handy dandy little tool reminiscent of Linspire's CNR or openSUSE's One-Click. Click on its icon to open a small window with the choices of either browsing the software portal or searching for a particular application. Either one will open a browser window at Linux Mint's software portal where you can click "Install Now" to easily install applications.
Some other smaller, more specialized tools include mintDesktop, mintAssistant, and "Main Menu". mintDesktop offers some customization of the desktop actions such as how to handle mounted partitions and media, how clicks open files, and network browsing. mintAssistant runs upon first boot of an installed system to set a root password if so desired and to disable terminal "Fortunes." It's also available in the Control Center if one wishes to change their original choices later. "Main Menu" allows one to edit mintMenu (the unique Linux Mint menu).
mintUpdate is the new software update tool. It includes an applet in the system tray that alerts the user to available updates. The update window lists the available updates and the "level" of stability. There were several updates available during my tests, and they were all Level 3. Levels run from 1 to 5 and increase as the danger of effecting system stability increases. Users can hide more risky levels if they choose. Another benefit of the new mintUpdate is that Mint developers will be thoroughly testing any updates before passing them on to users.
Synaptic is still included for basic package management. If your desired application isn't available through mintInstall, then it's likely to be listed within Synaptic.
Linux Mint still comes with a nice starter set of applications. Some of them include The GIMP, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin and OpenOffice.org. Multimedia is handled through Amarok, Totem, and MPlayer. There are some nice accessories as well such as Calculator, Dictionary, and Tracker search tool. Mint is known for their out-of-the-box codec and plugin inclusion and this is still so. I could view any format of video locally or on the web.
I think this is one terrific release of Linux Mint. I experienced very few if any real glitches. All the necessities worked really well and the new or improved tools were impressive in their design and execution. The Linux Mint team is doing some wonderful things and this release reflects their efforts. It's about as close to care-free computing as I've experienced.
I can't help but worry about how some of their future plans may effect their desktop system. These include Fedora-based, 64-bit, and enterprise editions. I hope they don't spread themselves too thin to keep up the good quality work they are beginning to epitomize. At present they are producing a fantastic and original desktop with handy tools and highly desired functionality. This is truly their best release yet. It feels like they've reached the summit.
RoFreeSBIE and TrueBSD live DVDs, new openSUSE one-click packages, KDE 4 expectations, one year of sidux, Linux Mint "Fedora" edition
Let's start this week's news section with a handful of items from the BSD world. Following the successful release of PC-BSD 1.4, it seems that a number of other BSD developers are now also focusing on creating desktop solutions built on the stability and configurability of FreeBSD. The DesktopBSD project announced last week a new release candidate for its x86_64 edition, paving the way for the upcoming stable version 1.6. In the meantime, the developers of RoFreeSBIE released their latest product - a comprehensive desktop live DVD based on the latest FreeBSD 6.x code. The good BSD weekend was rounded up by an unexpected release announcement of TrueBSD 2.0-RC1, another excellent desktop live DVD with KDE, GNOME and Xfce, based on FreeBSD 7.x. Unfortunately, the TrueBSD developers are struggling to find a fast mirror to host the 1.9 GB ISO image, so if any of our readers can help with providing the bandwidth, please contact Alexey Sokolov (sokolov at truebsd dot org).
RoFreeSBIE 1.3 - an installable live DVD with the KDE desktop
(full image size: 1,397kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Still on the subject of BSDs, another excellent piece of news has reached DistroWatch: there is a good chance that the second quarter of 2008 will see a launch of the first print magazine dedicated to the BSD family of operating systems. Dru Lavigne: "I've been approached by a publisher who will be launching a print BSD Magazine at the beginning of Q2/08. If you're interested in submitting an article, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Product Manager. The writing guidelines follow." And what will the magazine focus on? "The subject scope in general is BSD system seen from the practical point of view. This encompasses: latest distro releases; security aspects in BSD; programming BSD applications; networking; BSD multimedia; the edges of open source: what is it about, interesting projects, new concepts and ideas and more."
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The openSUSE development team has released a number of "bleeding edge" applications for the current stable version of openSUSE, including the first release candidate for KDE 4.0, the fifth alpha of KOffice 2.0, and the first beta of Firefox 3.0: "The popular web browser have just released the first beta version of their next big release. Firefox 3 Beta 1 is a developer preview release of Mozilla's next generation Firefox browser and is being made available for testing purposes only. It includes a range of new, helpful and exciting features such as: Firefox's HTML engine, Gecko, being pushed to version 1.9, improving performance, stability, and thousands of outstanding issues; one click site info; easier password management; simplified add-on installation; new download manager..." As always, all these applications are available as part of openSUSE's one-click install.
What are your expectations from KDE 4.0? As was reported last week, openSUSE's Stephan Binner released the regular KDE Four Live CD, containing the first release candidate of KDE 4.0. Unusually, the announcement hinted at the author's frustration over the state of the latest KDE 4.0 code, suggesting that KDE 4.0 will be nowhere near prime time when it gets released later this year. However, Will Stephenson, a fellow KDE and openSUSE developer, argues that there are technical reasons for certain decisions and although KDE 4.0 might seem less functional and stable than KDE 3.5, it will lay foundations for delivering a better and more innovative desktop in the years to come: "A project has to compromise. Some do it by releasing never (see above). Others are equally conservative, but choose to compromise on features and innovation. KDE chooses as a project to accept that KDE 4.0 != KDE 3.5.8 - it's better in many ways, worse in some [very visible] others. Most of us feel that this will see acceptance and create enough momentum to make KDE 4.1 and its successors exceed KDE 3 and establish the basis for the next 10* years of the free software desktop."
* * * * *
Happy birthday, sidux! With the release of sidux 2007-04 last week, this increasingly popular Debian-based distribution completed its first year of existence: "I remember well the time about 15 months ago. We were all working with and for this other distribution and we were all frustrated. Some had already left the project. No release in sight, nobody knew what was going to happen, communication between team and project leader was more or less non-existent. We all saw a basically good project going down the drain, for some of us after 3 years of work invested and we could not do much about it." And the rest, as they say, is history. The team launched sidux, a KDE live CD showcasing the latest improvements to Debian GNU/Linux. They pick the most useful applications, stabilise them, add some nice artwork, and release the product as an easy-to-install live CD. A simple, but effective idea reflected by a rapidly growing number of sidux users!
sidux 2007-04 - showcasing the latest Debian "sid"
(full image size: 450kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Finally, a link to a recent blog post at Linux Mint. Besides the standard, Ubuntu-based edition and several community ones featuring alternative desktops, the developers of Linux Mint now consider branching out to embrace other distributions, including Debian GNU/Linux and Fedora: "Here is what we'll be looking at in the near future: Debian edition, Fedora edition, 64-bit Main edition. We started with the Debian edition. The first reason was to show that the technology we develop is distinct from the upstream components it sits on top of and that, the same way we can change Evolution to Thunderbird, we can change Ubuntu to Debian or to Fedora and still make a great desktop. The second reason is simply that we did try most alternative components and that our selection was driven and justified by the tests we made." An interesting idea. But what do our readers think? Should Linux Mint branch out to cover other distributions or should it concentrate on its original goal of making Ubuntu more user-friendly? Please discuss below.
|Released Last Week
Pardus Linux 2007.3
The Pardus development team has released Pardus Linux 2007.3, the third update to the stable 2007 code base: "Pardus Linux 2007.3 codenamed 'Lynx lynx' is out. Download 2007.3 version now! What's new> NetworkManager can detect your own wireless profiles and automatically switch to one of them; package manager is more polished now, many bugs in bug tracker have been fixed; Pardus installer 'YALI' now asks questions first, and then installs the system; KDE is updated to 3.5.8; all-in-one office suite OpenOffice.org is now version 2.3. K3b CD/DVD burner application is upgraded to 1.0.4." Visit the distribution's home page to read the release announcement.
Bluewhite64 Linux 12.0 "miniLive"
The developers of Bluewhite64 Linux, a Slackware-based distribution for 64-bit processors, have announced the availability of a new "miniLive" edition of their product: "I have the joy of announcing Bluewhite64 12.0 miniLive, a 257 MB live CD including the latest stable kernel version 188.8.131.52, X.Org 7.2, KDE 3.5.8, Mozilla Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client. Key features: IA32 emulation (run 32-bit CLI and GUI programs); Mozilla Firefox 184.108.40.206 (Flash-ready) and Konqueror (Java-ready) web browsers; Pidgin 2.2.2 multi-protocol instant messaging client; GIMP 2.4.1 image editor; MPlayer 1.0.0rc2 movie player; KOffice 1.6.3; package manager - Swaret 1.6.3 (CLI) and QtSwaret 0.1.5.3 (GUI)." Read the release announcement and release notes for more details.
The sidux project has announced the release of sidux 2007-04, a KDE live and installation CD built from Debian's "sid" tree: "We are proud to announce the immediate availability of the sidux 2007-04 'Eros' release for amd64 and i686 systems, shipping in a 445 MB KDE lite and a 680 MB KDE full flavour. Our fourth release concentrates on X.Org 7.3, XRandR 1.2 and X detection related changes, and the new upstream kernel 2.6.23, combined with an updated mac80211 WLAN stack and drivers, which brought support for a number of additional WLAN cards. While the last two months have been pretty turbulent in Debian sid with X.Org 7.3 entering the scene, several library transitions and infrastructural problems, these issues seem to be mostly resolved for sidux and now allow to provide the best possible open source support for various graphics chipsets and advanced runtime configuration options." Read the comprehensive release notes for detailed information about the project's latest release.
Heiko Zuerker has announced the release of Devil-Linux 1.2.14, a live firewall and server oriented distribution. "Devil-Linux 1.2.14 is available for download. The changes include lots of program updates, added missing iptables modules, Linux kernel 220.127.116.11 and much more." Among the updated packages are Apache 2.2.6, BIND 9.4.1, Dovecot 1.0.3, OpenLDAP 2.3.38, OpenSSH 4.7p1, PHP 5.2.4, Postfix 2.4.6, PostgreSQL 8.2.4, Python 2.4.4, Samba 3.0.26a, SpamAssassin 3.2.3 and many base packages. Read the release announcement and changelog for more information.
Michael Creel has announced the release of ParallelKnoppix 2.8, a KNOPPIX-based live CD that allows setting up a cluster of machines for parallel processing using the LAM-MPI and/or MPICH implementations of MPI: "ParallelKnoppix v2.8 released." What's new? "v2.8 (64-bit only, use v2.7.1 for 32 -it CPUs); /home and /root are NFS exported, which makes it possible to add users; advanced users can mount a storage device at /home, for increased space and to save work between sessions; Linux kernel 18.104.22.168; Open MPI 1.2.4, Octave 2.9.14, SciPy 0.60, NumPy 22.214.171.124, Parallel Python 2.5rc, KDE 3.5.8; Cloop 2.0622 (thanks Klaus Knopper); Aufs cvs 17-10-07." Visit the project's home page to read the brief announcement and changelog.
Guadalinex, a project developing a localised Ubuntu-based Linux distribution for deployment in local government offices and schools in Andalucía, Spain, has announced the release of Guadalinex 4.1. Some of the most important new features include: improved compatibility with newer hardware thanks to the more up-to-date kernel; new version of OpenOffice.org (2.2) with support for electronic signatures; built-in support for 3G mobile devices from Vodafone y Movistar; improved accessibility for handicapped users thanks to Orca (2.19.4) and new voice recordings for Festival; new converter of data from Microsoft Access to OpenOffice.org Base databases; inclusion of AMIGU, a migration assistant for moving data, fonts and settings from Windows to Guadalinex; read/write support for NTFS partitions. Please read the release announcement (in Spanish) for further details.
Guadalinex 4.1 - a Spanish distribution based on Ubuntu 7.04
(full image size: 301kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
RoFreeSBIE 1.3 is a new release from the project developing an installable live DVD, based on the latest FreeBSD and designed for desktop use: "RoFreeSBIE 1.3 has been released. It is based on FreeBSD 6.3-PRERELEASE. It has improved start-up scripts, backup and restore scripts, and it also includes a unique feature - the option to activate and de-activate the NVIDIA drivers on the fly. Thanks to the DesktopBSD project, a new graphical installer has been added. The DVD includes wireless support even in live mode and all packages have been upgraded to the latest versions: X.Org 7.3, KDE 3.5.7, the latest NVIDIA drivers, and new scripts for mounting removable media. Since RoFreeSBIE 1.3RC4 many bugs have been corrected and additional features included." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
StartCom Enterprise Linux 4.0.5
StartCom has release an updated set of DVD images of StartCom Enterprise Linux 4, a distribution built from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4: "StartCom is pleased to announce the immediate availability of the updated release for the legacy AS-4.0.x series of StartCom Enterprise Linux. The sixth update release provides additionally supported and updated drivers, an updated kernel with new features (version 2.6.9-67), updated Samba (SMB file sharing), mirrored root support for Logical Volume Management (LVM) and updated GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). AS-4.0.5 supports the Xen hypervisor which allows for the running of multiple virtualized server instances on the hardware." Read the press release for further details.
Shift Linux 0.5
Shift Linux 0.5, a Debian-based live CD developed by the Neowin.net community, has been released: "Shift Linux is a Linux project that was created by the Neowin community. Based on Morphix Linux, Shift is Debian-based live CD; therefore it has access to all of the software and applications as other Debian distributions. Several editions of Shift Linux have been developed to produce for computers with lighter or more robust hardware configurations. We have produced Shift with Fluxbox as the predominant desktop manager for lower resource computers, and Shift with GNOME and KDE desktop managers, for heartier machines. Shift Linux 0.5 has all of the most commonly used packages that are available and is designed to be extremely fast as a live CD." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Shift Linux 0.5 GNOME edition - the default desktop
(full image size: 203kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
On DistroWatch release announcements|
How does a distro release get announced on DistroWatch? Last week, several readers emailed to say that we missed the latest MEPIS release candidate - SimplyMEPIS 7.0 RC1. Some of these emails were quite angry; one reader wrote: "No wonder DistroWatch is losing credibility. It doesn't even try any more!" Another added: "You have missed the latest 2 releases of MEPIS. Since your coverage and the accompanying hits are based upon your subjective evaluation, I think we can safely dismiss your page as irrelevant." So what's the deal?
It's quite simple: for a distribution release to show up in the front-page news on DistroWatch, we need a release announcement - preferably with listing of changes or links to changelogs, release notes, etc. MEPIS has failed to deliver a descriptive release announcement on the last two occasions. Just take a look at them here: Beta6 and RC1. Both of them carry just one short sentence mentioning the changes and updates, while the rest is just standard sundry that gets added to every announcement. There are no changelogs, no release notes. As such, it's very hard to turn that lone meaningful sentence into a whole paragraph of news that can be published on DistroWatch! This is not a new rule - any release without a solid release announcement will only be mentioned in the "Latest Distributions" section (front page, left column) and that has been the DistroWatch policy for years.
For all the MEPIS fans who found it outrageous that their favourite distribution didn't make it to the headlines, here is our advice: don't email DistroWatch, email MEPIS. Offer help with release announcements and release notes. Donate to the project! Warren Woodford recently remarked that "I finally had to re-enter the workforce as a consultant in order to pay the bills. I can net more in two weeks of consulting, then in a year with MEPIS." His frustration is also evident from his comment in the latest issue of Linux Format (LXF100, Christmas 2007): "I don't ever see Linux replacing Microsoft." As a result, the project suffers. It is a popular distribution so it's a shame that some members of their user community direct their energy into writing nasty emails to DistroWatch than to helping their favourite project overcome the current difficulties!
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New distributions added to waiting list
- Minibuntu. Minibuntu is an Ubuntu-based live CD containing only the minimal set of software to make the system work.
- Ultumix. Ultumix is a new desktop Linux distribution based on PCLinuxOS.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 3 December 2007.
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• Issue 738 (2017-11-13): SparkyLinux 5.1, rumours about spyware, Slax considers init software, Arch drops 32-bit packages, overview of LineageOS|
|• Issue 737 (2017-11-06): BeeFree OS 18.1.2, quick tips to fix common problems, Slax returning, Solus plans MATE and software management improvements|
|• 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|
|• Issue 733 (2017-10-09): KaOS 2017.09, 32-bit prematurely obsoleted, Qubes security features, IPFire updates Apache|
|• Issue 732 (2017-10-02): ClonOS, reducing Snap package size, Ubuntu dropping 32-bit Desktop, partitioning disks for ZFS|
|• Issue 731 (2017-09-25): BackSlash Linux Olaf, W3C adding DRM to web standards, Wayland support arrives in Mir, Debian experimenting with AppArmor|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
Featherweight Linux was an installable live CD based on Feather Linux. It was a full featured distribution with a small foot print that was light and fast, even on older machines, but still carries a knockout punch. It comes with a minimal KDE desktop and several favourite applications.