On the Desktop
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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
217 Distributions and Counting. Since we are being so widely-quoted these days in reference to the number of Linux distributions (see today's Front Page), it seems about time to update some of our statistics about the number of Linux distributions. To review past statistics, here are some general numbers that we've quoted in talks over the past year or so and to which we've added our current total. After all, if we're going to be quoted in the wider media and even as a reference in Microsoft materials, we need to keep our data up-to-date.
Simultaneously, however, we've stuck out our neck far enough to lightly reorganize our distributions list yet again. This time, we've done some small changes to the right-hand column. At the top, in alphabetical order, we've placed the seven general-purpose distributions that we have consistently found used by audience members when we've talked at various Linux conferences and user group meetings.
After that, we've listed seven more general-purpose distributions that, while their audience segment is still unknown, have had a high presence from a news perspective in these pages over the past couple of years.
These two lists are intended to represent the Linux distributions most likely to be considered for usage on a general-purpose server or workstation. Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome.
Compare the number of distributions on these lists (14) with the overall total (217). This illustrates one of the points of the full talk on Linux distributions that Liz Coolbaugh updates and gives to various conferences and LUGs on an infrequent basis: although there are a multitude of Linux distributions, most of those are very specific, highly tailored tools. Only a fraction of them are competing for space on retail shelves or for the mindshare of Linux users.
Only a small fraction need to be considered and compared before choosing a Linux distribution with which to work.
The Linux distributions space is haunted, in general, by an absence of absolute statistics. Witness, as a result, this week's battle between Gartner and IDC about how many Linux server systems there really are. We would guess this is why the statistics from Liz's talk ended up first within a TechWeb article in January and now within Microsoft's own documents.
Numbers aren't biased inherently; the conclusions drawn from them will always be biased in some manner or another.
Linux/MNIS. Linux/MNIS is a distribution out of France with a bit of a split personality. It could also be considered two separate distributions, but since only one name is given to describe both of them, we'll keep them together. The two variants of Linux/MNIS come based on either Slackware or Debian. The website comments that both were chosen for their stability and their ease of administration, while Debian was also chosen for the large amount of software provided with it. Intel, Alpha, Sparc and Motorola platforms are supported.
MNIS appears to be a French-based technical support company, among other pursuits. They provide technical support for Solaris, SunOS, Linux, BSD, HP-UX, AIX, SCO-UNIX, and OSF-1. The Linux/MNIS distributions, therefore, are created primarily for their customers and to attract new customers that want local (to France) support available. [Thanks to Fred Mobach].
Red Hat News. The Linux 2.4.x kernel series is a bit stricter than earlier versions of the kernel in the manner in which vfat (Windows) partitions are handled. As a result, applications happily using files on a vfat partition under earlier versions of the kernel may fail under Red Hat 7.1. This unfortunately includes StarOffice 5.2. The actual bug is in the application, but getting a correction into StarOffice 5.2 is not likely to happen any time soon, if ever. All the end user can do is remember transfer files off a vfat partition to another partition before attempting to edit them with StarOffice 5.2.
Red Hat released updated ypbind packages this week to fix an error where an NIS client fails to bind to an NIS server at boot time, but reports success.
Caldera Previews 64-bit Linux for Itanium. Caldera has announced the availability of a preview version of OpenLinux for the Itanium processor.
Linux-Mandrake News. MandrakeSoft has released the first beta of Mandrake Linux PPC which is based on Linux-Mandrake 8.0. Some of the current problems, screenshots and other user comments can be found on MandrakeForum.
Solutions for some CUPS printing problems are now available.
And a Spanish version of the Linux-Mandrake Demo & Tutorial Center is now online, thanks to volunteers from the Grupo de Usuarios Linux de Jaén. Note that this is still a work-in-progress; not all chapters have been translated.
Debian News. The latest issue of the Debian Weekly News (text version) has been published. Discussions include the recent downtime for master.debian.org and the 100,000th bug to pass through Debian's bug tracking system. Note also that .debs for Mozilla 0.9.1 became available this week.
From the Hurd side of Debian, the Kernel Cousin Debian Hurd reports problems with autoconf 2.50 (apparently also impacting general Debian GNU/Linux development),
Slackware News. Activity in preparation for the upcoming release has been heavy under the Intel port. Updated versions of svgalib, ispell, epic, isdn4k-utils, screen, automake, binutils and more were installed. Major updates include mozilla-0.9.1 (reported to contain nice improvements and no visible new bugs), galeon 0.11.0 and mysql-3.23.39.
gdm was upgraded to 126.96.36.199, which was marked as a security fix. So the Slackware changelogs provided us with information about a security problem that hadn't shown up in the security mailing lists yet. Also on the security front, sudo was updated to 1.6.3p7 (which had not hit freshmeat yet, when we checked), because it was rumored to fix a security problem, though the sudo Changelog gives no description of the changes in sudo 1.6.3p7. Slackware had already upgraded to 1.6.3p6 to fix a buffer overflow problem reported in early March.
Red Hat Linux 7.1 Deluxe Workstation (ZDNet). ZDNet says that this edition of Red Hat Linux carries superb installation help but complex partitioning and modem setup remain difficult. "The installation procedure remains difficult for beginners and even mid-level Windows users, but Red Hat helps considerably by including well-written and highly informative explanations in the onscreen windows during the many steps of the installation wizard."
Minor Distribution updates
Editor's noteLiz Coolbaugh's favorite forum for giving her talk on "Linux Distributions, why are there so many and what are they?" is at local Linux User Group meetings or other informal venues. If your group is interested in hearing her speak and can provide basic travel costs and a place to stay, drop her a note.
Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh
June 14, 2001