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News and Editorials
Linux Distribution Use in Singapore. Last week, Distributions editor Liz Coolbaugh had her first opportunity to report first-hand from a Linux conference in Asia. As part of that, she presented her usual talk on Linux Distributions and asked the audience for information on what distributions they were using. There were a few surprises in what she learned.
First, over half of the audience indicated that they were currently using Red Hat for their distribution. Although we expected to see a strong Red Hat presence, we had not expected it to be this strong. After Red Hat, there was a respectable number of attendees using SuSE, Debian and Slackware (at least four audience members out of around 80 attendees), but the gap between them and Red Hat was very large.
The remaining surprises? There were no Caldera OpenLinux users. Is that a surprise? Caldera has never targeted the Asia market. Well, consider that the Caldera distribution has been around for as long as Red Hat and Caldera is the only other Linux distribution vendor that made it through the IPO process last year, so it should be reasonably well capitalized. Nonetheless, it had no presence at this show, in stark contrast to Red Hat. More importantly, it was also "missing" from a similar informal survey done in January at LinuxWorld New York. This same talk and similar surveys have been done at LUG meetings and at the Atlanta Linux Showcase 1999 previously and before, Caldera was always at least represented.
Another surprise: No ASPLinux users raised their hands. ASPLinux is a Singapore-based distribution, in fact, the only one. On the other hand, they just announced the release of their first stable product, so the fact that they are not being used yet has some explanation.
The bigger surprise, though, was that not a single member of the audience claimed to be using Turbolinux. Turbolinux, with main branches in both the US and Japan, claims a sizable presence in China. We had expected, as a result, to see at least some presence in Singapore.
One key thread among many of the talks at the conference was cluster technology, an area in which Turbolinux has also been hard at work. Donald Becker was present to talk about Scyld Beowulf, Dr. Putchong Uthayopas, from Kasetsart University, in Bangkok, talked about building and remotely managing clusters, and Shuvam Misra talked about a cluster implementation supporting India's National Stock Exchange. Yet still, Turbolinux did not have a booth or other presence at the conference and was not mentioned to us by any of the attendees. We don't really have any speculation on why not; this is just a data point, a piece of a puzzle that will hopefully make sense at a later date.
Of course, having shared these impressions with you, it is time to apply the caveats. None of the data above was collected as part of an official survey. The audience participation was based on interest and does not represent a random sample. The audience was not particularly large and therefore could be easily skewed. So don't draw massive conclusions from the information above. Instead, take the information as it is meant to be, a few data points that serve as good fodder for speculation, discussion and possible future research.
Red Hat News. A new test release of XFree86 4.0.3-3 and Mesa-3.4-13 has been made available. Note that this release is strongly not recommended for use on production systems.
Red Hat also released three non-security-related package updates this week, for gnorpm (to enable it to work with rpm-4.0.2), ucd-snmp (also required once rpm is updated to 4.0.2) and pam_krb5, to fix a problem with Kerberos authentication that was causing intermittent login failures.
LinuxPPC News. On March 23rd, LinuxPPC announced a contest in which the ten lucky winners would receive a copy of LinuxPPC 2000 Q4, the company's latest version of Linux for the Power Macintosh platform, along with a Linux PPC T-shirt. Contestants are asked to write a brief essay on why they use Linux on the PowerPC processor. They announced their first winner today, Jiro Fujita of Omaha, Nebraska. Here is a link to the winning essay. "After spending many hours trying to maximize the performance of the web server (my boss' desktop G3/266 running MacOS running Personal WebSharing) and many many restarts, I talked him into moving to a Linux box. ... In his mind, running on a PPC 604e at 200 MHz couldn't possibly be faster than running on a G3 at 266 MHz. What he didn't realize was that Linux runs a lot more efficiently than MacOS".
Note that the contest was started in response to the release of Apple Mac OS X.
Yellow Dog News. Apparently the release of Yellow Dog Linux 2.0 has been delayed. Terrasoft has issued an explanation, along with an apology, for the delay. "In what we hoped to be our final stress tests last week, we uncovered several new problems including a bug in the partitioning code. We are working hard this week and the next to resolve these issues. We have made our 2.0 package set (based upon Red Hat 7) available for any power users to test and provide feedback. We've already fixed several, relatively minor bugs discovered through public beta tests and appreciate this assistance".
No exact date has been given for the postponed release. Presumably it will come when the problems have been resolved and they are confident in the new package.
muLinux News. muLinux 11r11 was released last Friday and includes minor feature enhancements such as a statically linked "fdformat" command and IPv4 masquerading modules. muLinux is a single-floppy Linux distribution now gaining popularity with use in the embedded Linux arena.
Debian News. Within hours of the publication of this edition of LWN, the current Debian leader elections will be over. They end at midnight, March 28th, at the international date line. To check what date or time that matches in your own time zone, use the command:
date --date='2001-03-28 23:59:59 -1200'
Slackware News. One new addition to all three Slackware platforms this week was cdparanoia alpha9.7, a Compact Disc digital extraction program described as "really nice" and "rock-solid", despite its alpha status.
The other major update this week was the upgrade to Apache 1.3.19, which included a total restructuring of the package, moving it from the /var/lib/apache tree and placing it instead under /usr. All of the changes seem geared to bring that package in-line with the File System Hierarchy Standard. Note that the Apache upgrade has not yet been done on the Sparc platform, only the Intel and Alpha.
Specific to the Alpha platform was an upgrade to XFree86 4.0.3. All platforms also got upgrades to the tcpip2 and yptools packages, as well as new versions of fdutils and mtools.
On the userlocal.com forum, we found a link to this new article, Slackware Linux 101. It uses Slackware to demonstrate the system initialization sequence. "In particular, Slackware's init structure is more akin to the BSD UNIX structure than the System V structure, though with the latest distribution of Slackware there are some concessions for programs that want to add services to startup but expect a System V directory structure".
SuSE News. SuSE announced two new products this week, including SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, a new version of the SuSE Linux operating system that has been optimized for use on servers and SuSE Linux 7.1 Power PC Edition.
The first finishes SuSE's move from providing a single distribution product for the Intel platform to providing three tailored versions: "SuSE Linux Personal", "SuSE Linux Professional" and now "SuSE Linux Server".
The second makes the latest version of SuSE available for the PowerPC platform, bringing the number of supported platforms for SuSE Linux 7.1 up to three, including Intel, Alpha and now PowerPC. SuSE also supports the SPARC and IBM eSeries (S/390) platforms, so presumably there are more such announcements to come.
SuSE Linux 7.1 (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL released a review of SuSE 7.1 this week. "Performance is pretty good for a distribution that is optimized for the 486 based PC. There is a noticable speed difference when running the 2.4 kernel, though not enough to make a major difference. However it does have a good feel to it that makes it very acceptable for day to day productivity". Overall, they commented that SuSE 7.1 had set a new standard for other distributions to beat.
SuSE 7.1 Professional still in minor leagues (ZDNet). The review above contrasts a bit with this one from ZDNet. "As a desktop operating system, SuSE 7.1 Professional would be a good fit only for Microsoft haters and cash-strapped companies installing systems for the first time". Note that this review was specific to the Professional version of SuSE, aimed at technical desktop users, and is being compared with Windows, not other Linux distributions. They did still compliment KDE 2.0, Yast2 and the level of device detection now provided.
Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh
March 29, 2001