| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 109, 18 July 2005
Welcome to this year's 29th issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The developers of Mandriva Linux have released the first beta of the upcoming Mandriva Linux 2006, the much anticipated new version, which is expected to incorporate some of the best features of Conectiva and Lycoris into Mandriva Linux. Likewise, the Debian developers continued with massive updates in their unstable branch - inevitably breaking things on occasion, but still marching firmly towards introducing new updates and features into the next release, code name 'etch'. Also in this issue: Onebase Linux, as our featured distribution of the week, and a quick tip about restoring an overwritten partition table. Happy reading!
Mandriva enters 2006 beta testing phase
The first beta of the upcoming Mandriva Linux 2006 has been quietly released to mirrors over the weekend. Pending the official announcement later today, this much anticipated release is the first in Mandriva's new annual release cycle. It is expected to combine the best of Mandrakelinux, Conectiva and Lycoris as the developers of all three companies now work towards a common goal. Tuxmachines has taken a quick early look at the beta release and, although the reviewers did not notice any groundbreaking new technologies, they believed that most of the effort in the first beta had gone into package upgrades, especially the move to GCC 4.0.
If you are following Mandriva's development branch, or "cooker", be aware that many of the distribution's mirror sites stopped updating a few days ago. The culprit appears to be one of Mandriva's main mirror servers, carroll.cac.psu.edu, which has changed the name of its rsync module from "mandrakelinux" to "mandrivalinux". Unfortunately, Mandriva's rsync text file has yet to be updated to reflect the change. Also, it seems that carroll.cac.psu.edu has now stopped updating as well, so Mandriva's mirror system is in disarray at the moment. Hopefully, things will get sorted out soon, but at the time of writing, no US mirror carries the new Mandriva 2006 beta ISO images. These can, however, be obtained from a number of European mirrors, such as these ones in the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway and United Kingdom. Happy beta testing!
Debian unstable on the move
Following the recent stable release of Debian sarge, the distribution's cutting edge "unstable" ("sid") branch has been getting many interesting updates. Among the first ones were those to GCC 4.0 and apt 0.6. Especially the update to the new version of apt has been much anticipated as it introduces many security features that will help to lower the risk from updating one's system from an FTP/HTTP mirror site. Those of you who are interested in the internals of the new "secure apt" will find good information in these two documents: APT Signature checking and Migration to APT 0.6.
In line with most Linux distributions, Debian has now also replaced the XFree86 packages with those maintained by the X.Org project. It wasn't a completely trouble-free process, but that's to be expected in a development distribution, at least until everybody tests things out and reports bugs to the maintainers.
And while on the subject of Debian, here is an interesting link for those who would like to extend their sarge installation to include proprietary and non-free packages: Debian-Unofficial.org. The site provides a long list of tested packages for Debian sarge, including a multitude of multimedia codecs, wireless networking drivers, Java and various Java-based applications, Opera, Skype and many other packages. Certainly worth checking out - as long as you don't tell Richard Stallman about it!
Unofficial Ubuntu Lite
You enjoy Ubuntu Linux a lot, but there is one problem - its preference for the GNOME desktop makes it completely unsuitable for an old computer. If you are in such situation then rest assured that you are not alone - as proven by the newly launched unofficial Ubuntu Lite project. While still in early stages, this project's goal is to build an Ubuntu-based installation CD with a light desktop environment that can be effectively run on Pentium 200MHz computers with as little as 64MB of RAM. An early prototype of Ubuntu Lite is now available for download, while initial documentation can be accessed on the project's wiki pages.
|Featured distribution of the week: Onebase Linux
When the developers of Onebase Linux emailed us last week offering access to their new releases of OnebaseGo 3.0 and GamesGo 1.0, we were sceptical. A project that has always seemed somewhat immature and with a commercial twist to it, Onebase Linux has failed to generate much interest in the Linux community. But since testing Linux distributions is our job, we downloaded the OnebaseGo 3.0 ISO image and took some time to investigate it during the weekend.
Boy, were we wrong about this distribution! OnebaseGo 3.0 turned out to be an impressive live CD, booting remarkably fast into a fully configured desktop system with KDE 3.4.0. Hardware detection was flawless, the desktop well designed. We liked it so much that we decided to take up the offer to click on the "hard disk installation" desktop icon - this launched an innovative web-based (Konqueror) installation dialog, which guided us towards getting Onebase Linux into one of the available partitions. After we rebooted, we decided to take a closer look.
One of the most impressive features of Onebase Linux is its "System Management" module. This unique system administration utility is a collection of icons representing various tasks (see screenshot below). Besides the usual modules, such as user management or NVIDIA graphics driver installation, we also spotted icons for some less usual tasks. Among them, there was a "Desktop Dash" module for setting up SuperKaramba on KDE, "OL Album" for generating an online photo album, and "Privacy Cleaner" for a quick removal of Bash history, browser caches or log files. Packages are managed with a set of "Package Administration" and "Onebase Software" modules. New software can be installed either as binary packages or by compiling their source code, either which can be performed with a single click.
But we are just touching on the surface here as there are many other interesting modules to investigate. Inevitably, we found a few bugs too - for example, setting the system's time zone is done by selecting a city from a drop-down box of unsorted entries, which makes it rather difficult to locate your city or country. Also, trying to install some packages failed occasionally - Blender was one of the packages that refused to compile on our system.
Overall, however, the latest release of Onebase Linux is a great job. The OnebaseGo live CD is not available as a free download, but a US$10 expense will give you access to both OnebaseGo 3.0 and GamesGo 1.0. For those who cannot afford the fee, the project provides a freely downloadable "Net Installation CD" which can be used to install Onebase Linux on hard disk.
For more information about Onebase Linux please visit the distribution's web site at OnebaseLinux.com.
Onebase Linux - an impressive distribution with an excellent system management control cetre.
(full image size: 254kB)
|Released Last Week
Onebase Linux 2005x1, OnebaseGo 3.0, GamesGo 1.0
A new version of Onebase Linux, together with live CD editions of OnebaseGo and GamesGo have been released: "The Onebase Linux Project is proud to announce the following releases: Onebase Linux 2005x1 - Net Installer, OnebaseGo 3.0 - live CD operating system, GamesGo 1.0 - Exclusive Gaming live CD. These releases come with lots of improvements and new features like updated Onebase Portal (control center), Package manager, udev support with HAL, and improved hardware detection. Many applications have been updated, like Linux kernel, GNOME suite 2.10, KDE 3.4.1, Unionfs + SquashFS support for OnebaseGo...." See the release announcement for further information.
ClarkConnect Broadband Gateway 3.1
The final build of ClarkConnect Broadband Gateway 3.1 has been released. From the release notes: "The core packages in ClarkConnect are built on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Source RPMs. However, we have made a few changes: We decided to put aside the udev implementation, the implementation is a nice feature for desktop systems, but not important for server systems; the MySQL package was split into two different RPMs: mysql and mysql-client; the distcache feature in the Apache web server was disabled; PPTP, firewall and peer-to-peer patches were added to the kernel; legacy Megaraid support was added to the kernel."
Damn Small Linux 1.3
Damn Small Linux 1.3 has been released. Here are some excerpts from the changelog: "Created an icon layout manager for xtdesk; improved icon and menu persistence with extensions; created a GUI date/time tool; created a frugal GRUB install script; replaced rxvt with aterm and added transparency xshell options; updated naim; reduced ISO by stripping libraries of debug symbols; fixed xvesa 'leftovers' bug when choosing lower resolutions; fixed eth0 disable upon use of pon; fixed the null menu bug upon loading certain menuless extensions; new default theme...."
Kate OS 2.1 LIVE
Damn Small Linux 1.3 with a new default desktop theme
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The Kate OS project has released a live CD based on their Kate OS Linux distribution: "It's our pleasure to present you with the newest Kate OS LIVE edition! The LIVE edition is not only a demonstration of Kate OS capabilities and usefulness, it's also a marvellous distribution for travellers. We have applied an innovative Unionfs pseudo filesystem, due to which every configurable system element can be saved. The changes made to the filesystem can be stored on hard disk or any other data carrier, so as to restore the previous configuration." Read the rest of the release announcement on the project's home page.
Kate OS 2.1 LIVE - a good looking live CD with XFce
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The Mutagenix project, which builds a set of Linux live CD based on Slackware Linux and SLAX, has announced the release of version 2.6.11-1: "Mutagenix 18.104.22.168-1 live CD suite now available. Features: Rescue, Freerock GNOME, Gware GNOME, and KDE ISOs; starts automatically as a DHCP client; integrated firewall which auto starts on DHCP networks in stealth mode; slapt-get, with multiple rc files with different sources, is included; cpan2tgz for automatically downloading and installing Perl modules; script to install Mutagenix to a hard drive; simplified modem dial-up script; ClamAV antivirus program for scanning your nasty windows partitions...." Find more details in the release announcement.
Ehad is an Israeli distribution based on Mandriva Linux. The project offers a single installation CD containing a useful assortment of Mandriva-compatible applications designed for Hebrew speakers. The project's first stable version - Ehad 2005 - has been released. From the changelog: "Version Ehad 2005. Installation: changed install name to Ehad 2005. Packages: includes all official updates, released until 16 July 2005; security fixes for Firefox up to v1.0.5."
WHAX 3.0 has been released: "Finally! WHAX is stable enough to leave the beta stage and go public. Several fixes and additions have been implemented, to name a few: Prism54 firmware finally put in place; wireless scripts functioning, including Kismet autoconfiguration; beta fluxbox menu has been introduced; downgraded to aircrack 2.2b6; updated to Firefox 1.05 due to the recent vulnerabilities; added RSS feeds defaults; added Firefox plugins, Flash; Snort startup scripts fixed. Don't forget, WHAX is easily installed on a USB pen drive, so updating is a breeze!" Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Mandriva Linux 2006
The Mandriva Linux 2006 release schedule has been updated. The first beta (labelled as Mandriva Linux 2005.1) has been released to mirrors on 15 July; this will be followed by three more betas or release candidates before the final release of Mandriva Linux 2006 on 15 September. The pages no longer mention the "Community" and "Official" releases, only "2006.0".
Symphony OS Alpha 4
The developers of Symphony OS have published information and a list of features that will likely make it into the upcoming Alpha 4 development release, scheduled for later this month: "We are currently hard at work on Symphony OS Alpha 4 which we hope to release in July. Alpha 4 will be a leap forward in our development process and will be the first Symphony OS release complete enough to be used as a daily desktop. While this release will still be an alpha release and as such will be buggy, we are doing our best to make it as stable and complete as possible." Find more information on the Symphony OS Alpha 4 page.
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Web Site News
New distribution additions|
New on the waiting list
- 64 Studio. 64 Studio is developing a collection of software for digital content creation on x86_64 hardware (that's AMD's 64-bit CPUs and Intel's EM64T chips). It's based on the pure 64 port of Debian GNU/Linux, but with a specialised package selection and lots of other customisations.
- BlankOn Linux. BlankOn Linux is an Indonesian Linux distribution based on Fedora Core.
- Edubuntu. Edubuntu aims to be an Ubuntu Linux edition suitable for classroom use. The aim is to deliver a turnkey solution that enables time-poor educators with mid-range technical skills to set up a computer lab and/or establish an online learning environment with as few clicks as humanly possible, then administer that environment without having to significantly expand their technical skills. Centralized management of configuration, users, and processes together with facilities for working collaboratively in a classroom setting are its principal design goals.
DistroWatch database summary
|Tips and tricks
Restoring partition table|
Since many of our readers enjoy trying out new Linux distributions, I thought I'd share a tip which I accidentally discovered last week and which can be useful in saving one's data, or even one's neck.
My test computer's 120GB first hard disk is divided into 24 Linux partitions of 5GB each + a swap file. This machine serves as a testing ground for the myriad of Linux (and BSD) distributions that I test every week. I leave the second hard disk unpartitioned for those distributions that insists on taking over the entire disk during installation.
With a never-ending process of installing and replacing distributions, it is almost inevitable that sooner or later something goes wrong and the disk gets repartitioned - either due to a bug in an installation program, or because some distribution's developers believe that giving users choice is a bad idea. This happened last week when I attempted to install Asterisk@Home. This CentOS-based distribution boots into a standard Anaconda installer, but then, as I found out to my horror, it proceeds to repartition your entire hard disk without any warning whatsoever!
Although the installation of Asterisk@Home 1.3 eventually failed, I wasn't able to boot into any of the installed distributions. As this was a test machine, I wasn't overly concerned, although I was certainly annoyed by the lack of any warning, and by the fact that I had to repartition my hard disk.
I booted from a KNOPPIX live CD and used the cfdisk utility to re-create the exact partition setup that I had on the disk previously. Then I rebooted back into KNOPPIX. To my surprise, I found that all of the 25 Linux partitions were present on the system once again! I chroot-ed into one of the partitions, restored the Master Boot Record and rebooted again, but this time without the KNOPPIX CD in the DVD drive. Now I was able to boot into any of the previously installed Linux distribution on the hard disk!
The moral of the story is that you should keep a record of your partition layout and partition sizes on your hard disk(s). Then, when a disaster strikes, just refer to the record to recreate the partition table and you should be able to boot into most of the distributions on your hard disk (except probably the ones at the beginning of the hard disk, since the data there might have been overwritten). But if you keep the important data on a separate partition further down the hard disk, you should be able to recover them easily.
One distribution that might help with this task is R.I.P. (Recovery Is Possible). This live CD includes a program called Partimage which can save your partition table layout into a floppy disk and restore it later, if necessary.
That's all for today. We hope that you enjoyed this week's DistroWatch Weekly!
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|Random Distribution |
BrlSpeak was a Braille and speech mini-distribution of GNU/Linux based on Debian. Characteristics: installable on a FAT partition without having to repartition the hard disk; no longer UMSDOS as in the past but in a loopback; available in 3 versions: basic (mini), braille and vocal (braille + some speech applications).