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See also: last week's Distributions page.
Lists of Distributions
Please note that security updates from the various distributions are covered in the security section.
News and Editorials
Criteria for the LWN Distributions List. Occasionally we get asked about the criteria we use for adding or removing distributions from the Distributions Lists that you see in the left and right-hand columns of this page. Usually, the request comes from someone who has a distribution that they would like to see listed. So far, we haven't turned anyone down.
The criteria for the LWN Distributions list have evolved organically over the years. This is our first attempt to codify those criteria and likely will be a bit buggy in its first draft.
Besides, the analogy of Linux to a pizza is a fun way to explain the proliferation of Linux distributions. "Does anyone ever fret about pizza recipes 'forking' because some new restaurant does it a little differently? Does the existence of well-known national brands like Pizza Hut and Domino's affect the popularity of Pizzeria Uno -- or of my personal favorite, Pendeli's in Montreal? Of course not." Note that the Linux/Pizza analogy had its source in this LinuxToday commentary by Brandioch Conner.
Tying in well with our discussion last week, Dominic Mitchell pointed out that Tim O'Reilly's Linux Anatomy poster does a much more complete job of describing the structure of Linux than the simple one we used last week. Now to get a poster or two of our own ...
Midori Linux from Transmeta. Midori Linux is a new embedded Linux distribution added to our list this week. This announcement made a slightly bigger splash than usual because Midori is Transmeta's Linux distribution, in use for some time, but formally announced this week. Any time Transmeta is mentioned, the press generally leap forward to drag in the fact that Linus works for Transmeta. This time was no exception, with Wired News commenting almost immediately on the potential conflict of interest.
What conflict of interest? Linus originally chose his job at Transmeta, according to wide report, partially in order to not choose sides amongst the early pioneers, Linux companies that based their revenue on packaging and shipping Linux. Of course, he also chose the job because he was interested in the work, liked the company, was willing to move, his wife said it was okay, and all the other hundreds of reasons that are involved when anyone chooses a new job.
Now the company he is working for is releasing a Linux distribution. Does that mean that Linus has finally chosen a side? Will this bias his work on the Linux kernel in favor of Midori and against other established Linux companies? Not at all. The landscape has changed since then. When there were only a few players in the field, the possible association of Linus with any one of them could have caused an instant branding, making the Linux distribution from that company the "real" Linux, the "only" Linux, etc. Now that we've got hundreds of them, the announcement of Midori is simply that, the announcement of a new embedded Linux distribution, bring our total of Linux embedded distributions to 27.
In addition, Midori Linux is aimed at a very small niche, doesn't run on your average PC or server and just is not designed to become "The Linux". So it made a good sound bite, but it's just the usual media frenzy. Meanwhile, you're encouraged to check out the site -- they did an excellent job and we like the artwork.
FlightLinux. FlightLinux is another new embedded distribution, this time based on Blue Cat Linux. The goal of FlightLinux is to develop a real-time based version of Linux for use aboard spacecraft. Newsforge put out an excellent article about FlightLinux, including interview material from talking with Pat Stakem, originator of the FlightLinux project and "senior staff engineer for the QSS Group, a high-tech contractor that counts NASA and other government agencies as its biggest clients."
Note that we're grabbing our distributions very young these days -- FlightLinux has not yet made it to its 0.1 release. Looks like a lot of fun, though.
WinSlack. WinSlack 1.0 was announced on March 2. Based on Slackware, WinSlack provides a GUI environment meant to duplicate the basic functionality found on Microsoft desktops. The project originated from the need to provide a workable operating system for computers donated to charity. The computers are reconfigured and, due to licensing issues, the original operating system is removed and replaced with WinSlack.
At that point, they are ready to be used by underprivileged and low income families. Kudos to the WinSlack team for their work in this area. Note that the modifications they've made, from their experience of what was necessary to make the systems more useable for their end customers, should be reviewed by any distribution trying to make Linux more user-friendly.
Scyld Beowulf. We've covered news about Scyld Beowulf several times in the past, on our front page and commerce page, but somehow we managed not to cover it on the distributions page until now. Thanks to Ray Jones for writing and pointing out the omission.
Scyld Beowulf is the Linux distribution put out by Scyld Computing, the company started by Donald Becker. Donald is the guy who first strung together a rack full of Linux systems and called it "Beowulf." He is also, incidentally, the author of a vast number of network drivers in the kernel.
Telemetry Box Distribution. We mentioned the Telemetry Box Distribution back in January, just after their announcement of the Telemetry Box Distribution 1.0. Dirk Manske pointed out, however, that we failed to include it in our list. Sorry for the oversight - it has been added.
For those that missed the original report, the Telemetry Box distribution bundles Open Source diagnostic software with Debian GNU/Linux to provide a distribution tailored for use in telemetry projects; that is, projects that "gather information from servers, preprocesses the information and then either directly displays or forwards the information via a secure link for further processing".
Caldera News. Caldera Systems has announced that its latest OpenLinux server release has gone into an open beta test period. It's called "Project 42," and it features things like the 2.4 kernel and a full set of server software.
Debian News. Debian 2.2r3 is in the works. This is a minor "point" release for Debian 2.2. Debian's point releases include all security updates since the previous release, making it possible to provide a stable and secure set of packages from which to burn new Debian CDs.
The next Debian Bug-Squashing Party will be held this weekend, March 16th through the 18th.
This week's Debian Weekly News focuses on security enhancements to Debian's package system, notably improved package signature handling and support for signed releases.
RedBlue Linux News. LinuxDevices reported this week on the Chinese Linux PDA solution based on the RedBlue embedded Linux distribution, which will be demonstrated at CeBit. "The Chinese Linux-based iPAQ solution includes: RedBlue embedded Linux operating system, RedBlue/Palmlike windows launcher, FLTK GUI application framework, PIM applications, power management, Internet access, an MP3 and MPEG player, picture viewer, fax, email, Chinese handwriting recognition, synchronization from IrDA and USB, ViewML web browser, games, and a file manager based on the RedBlue/Palmlike environment".
NIC Linux News. NIC Linux Version 2.0, a new version of the Linux distribution that runs on Larry Ellison's ThinkNIC Internet appliance, was announced this week. Enhancements in the new version include support for the latest Real Player and Macromedia Flash players, improved support for broadband and dial-up ISP connections, improved performance and reliability (translation: bugfixes), a new graphical boot-up and Netscape 4.76.
Virtual Linux News. Virtual Linux, the Linux-Mandrake-based distribution tailored to run off of a CD, has found at home at Sourceforge, so it has been officially added back onto our list. They also released Virtual Linux 0.8 Rc0, which tests out a new KDE, and includes performance enhancements, vfat swap file support and more.
SuSE Linux 7.1 -- 2.4.0 Kernel And More (Byte). Byte reviews SuSE 7.1. "I decided to install this SuSE distribution to ensure that my Internet server had access to all the latest security fixes, especially a bug-free version of Bind. I wanted a 2.4 kernel, with the journaling and without the previous 2-gigabyte file-size limit. What I ended up with was a development environment par excellence." (Thanks to Robert Graziani).
Review: Turbolinux Workstation Pro 6.1 (DukeOfUrl). The Duke of URL reviews Turbolinux Workstation Pro 6.1. "Installing TurboLinux is a snap. Like Slackware and Debian, it uses a text-based install routine, bucking the trend of the graphical installion tools found in many Linux distributions. Although it can be perceived by many to be behind the times, it did get the job done very effectively and with a minimum of mouse clicks."
Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh
March 15, 2001