Linux in the news
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When is a distribution a distribution? This question came up recently, when MacMillan repackaged Mandrake under the title The Complete Linux Operating System. This week, the announcement of Eridani Star System, which is not just based on Red Hat but is actually the Red Hat 6.0 GPL version with all updates applied, reopened the question. Can a new distribution be said to have been created if its creators/maintainers have added no new material to the distribution? We would be hard put to say yes to this.
Following up on that theme, Nicholas Petreley asked the question, "If Mandrake qualifies for an award, shouldn't Red Hat share some of the credit?" in his article on the LinuxWorld Penguin's Choice Awards.
Now Mandrake does modify and add to its Red Hat base, so it is considered a separate distribution, but the question is a good one to ask. How many hours of work did Red Hat put into the base distribution upon which Mandrake is based? Compared to how many hours from the Mandrake team? How much are the differences between Mandrake and Red Hat responsible for the award? After all, Red Hat is an older, better known distribution, so presumably there must be something strikingly different about Mandrake if it manages to win in a competition of which Red Hat is a part.
Well, Mandrake hasn't won any competition yet, so the issue might be considered moot. Of course, the Linux Mall Top 40 list places Mandrake just below Red Hat for total number of CDs shipped. The question in this case would then be, does the credit for Mandrake's sales go to the work they've done to differentiate their distribution from Red Hat's? Or does it reflect that Red Hat is so popular that Mandrake's compatibility with Red Hat is responsible for the number of people who are willing to give it a try as opposed to trying out Caldera, SuSE and Slackware, which come in only a bit further down the list? We don't currently have a way to answer this question as of yet.
Historically, Caldera was originally based on Red Hat. All of these questions probably outline most boldly why they chose to break away from Red Hat. They wanted to differentiate what they offered as much as possible to guarantee that they would receive credit for it.
DebianLinuxWorld featured an interview with Bruce Perens, who mentioned Debian a bit and seems to be planning to resume his place among the Debian developers. "After getting frustrated with the other distribution I tried, I've switched my main server to Debian's 2.2 prerelease, and it's really solid. Some of my old Debian packages need a maintainer, and I'll probably take them up again."
The design specification for version 2 of dpkg is out for review and apparently will include support for multiple package formats. " Since the free software community is at a crossroads at this point, this project will also aim to tackle the diverse package formats that have been developed over time. This is not to say that there will ever be only one format, but there should be a central way to access all the formats available as well as allow new ones to be incorporated easily, irregardless of the underlying system (or distribution)."
Linux-KheopsAnother distribution passed on to us a few weeks ago, the link we were given for Linux-Kheops dates back to September of 1997. It indicates that Linux-Kheops, a French distribution, was based on Slackware 3.3. There are no links that we could find to a permanent, maintenance location. If anyone has up-to-date information on the maintainers of Kheops, please let us know. Otherwise, we'll plan on moving our link to this distribution to an inactive state.
MandrakeA set of cryptographic packages has been released by MandrakeSoft. These are packages that cannot be distributed or redistributed from the US and several other countries. The Mandrake packages are all housed on unrestricted servers and include packages for lynx_ssl, mod_ssl for Apache, openssl, ssh and pgp.
Also check out our development summary for information on a new project sponsored by Mandrake, the DiskDrake disk partitioning tool.
SlackwareAfter a hiatus since May, the ChangeLogs for the current, stable version of Slackware (4.0) again show activity. Some minor changes related to updatedb and kde were made.
Storm LinuxThe test release of Storm Linux has been officially announced. As we've mentioned in the past, it is based on Debian GNU/Linux and aimed at both the server and desktop markets. They are actively looking for testers, investors and strategic alliances.
If you want to take a closer look at the Storm Administrative System (SAS), you can start with the SAS Development pages. Sparse, but information on downloading and building SAS apps is included.
Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh
July 22, 1999
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