On the Desktop
Linux in the news
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See also: last week's On the Desktop page.
Netscape 6.1. Late last week, right after our Weekly edition was published, Netscape officially released another version of their popular browser. C|Net reviewed this new release, Netscape 6.1PR1, and gave it a positive, though cautious, mark.
Some of the updated features and enhancements for 6.1PR1 include:
Commentaries from various news sites have reported that the 6.1 release is just a bargaining chip for AOL in its current negotiations with Microsoft over cross-licensing deals. But Netscape President Jim Bankoff has been quoted as saying that in 6 months people won't think of Netscape as a browser company. Whether that means the company might be dropping the browser (which is unlikely) or simply relegating it to a lower priority (much more probable) remains to be seen. Most reports seem to think Bankoff's comments reflect Netscape's expected growth spurt, where they take the innards of the browser to make media tools for business.
Despite the advances, the PR1 release isn't quite ready for the masses. One of the known problems for Linux systems is that images are not displayed if they are either resized using the height or width attributes, or resized dynamically, from the actual image dimensions. Additionally, themes designed for the 6.0 release won't work with 6.1 due to changes in the XUL specification.
Wired reported that page loads were faster and entire pages loaded at once, meaning graphics and text displayed at the same time. This isn't exactly true - it depends on the site visited and connection speed, but image loading is definitely much faster. The same Wired story noted that the pull down menus at Sony.com didn't work at all, but LWN.net found that one set of menus worked and another didn't. A stock Mozilla 0.9.1 presented the same problem. Perhaps drop down menus can't be displayed over another drop down menu. What we did find was that Netscape 6.1PR1 is quite the resource hog, chewing up memory to the exclusion of all other applications on a Red Hat Linux 6.2 system, eventually forcing us to kill the application lest we lose our X session entirely.
pilot-link redux. More information on the pilot-link project came to light this week. First, as soon as the new servers are moved across the US, the new pilot-link.org site will go live. This site is currently maintained at the gnu-designs web site. Additionally, a new bug database went live (at the current site) this week for reporting problems in the pilot-link package. Finally, and most importantly, a new release of pilot-link, version 0.9.5, has hit the streets.
Autoinstalling - Ximian Debian. The usefulness of Ximian's Red Carpet installer for Red Hat based systems was discussed in the May 24th, 2001 edition of On the Desktop. After that we received word that Ximian also provides a version of Red Carpet for Debian Woody and Debian Potato. In fact, there appears to be versions of Red Carpet for LinuxPPC, Mandrake, SuSE, and Turbolinux as well. (Thanks to Mark L. Kahnt)
Open-source music format ready to play (ZDNet). ZDNet looks at the upcoming 1.0 release of Ogg Vorbis, the open source music format. "The version set for release Sunday will officially be a "release candidate"--containing essentially everything that will be in the final version but still being checked by its users for last-minute flaws."
LWN.net Book Review: The New XFree86. LWN.net senior editor Michael J. Hammel reviews Prima Tech's The New XFree86, by Bill Ball. "The meat of XFree86 is in the libraries and X server and this text simply doesn't go into detail for either of these."
GNOME Summary for June 10 - June 16. The weekly summary of the GNOME world has been posted. Highlights this week include an update on the progress of 2.0, the XFree86 technical conference, and the rebirth of the eazel-hacking automated build system.
GNOME Board meeting 12 June 2001. The minutes of the latest GNOME Board meeting have been published. The most interesting note is that the X Technical Conference appears to have been revived for this years ALS conference.
People behind KDE: Kurt Granroth. Kurt Granroth, SuSE employee and KDE core developer in the US, is interviewed in another of this long running series from KDE.org. "SuSE has me on as a full-time KDE developer. They give me nearly complete freedom to work on what's necessary and pay well. All in all, it's as close to a perfect job as anybody could realistically expect."
Kernel Cousin KDE #14. This week's KDE kernel cousin covers discussions on a new keyboard shortcut scheme, design differences between the vector drawing tools Karbon and KIllustrator, and discussions on what the KDE League really is all about.
GNUStep Weekly Update. The latest GNUStep Weekly Update showed up late last week. The big news is the upgrades to gcc which will help alleviate the problems encountered which prevented using gcc to build GNUStep in the past.
OpenOffice releases new build candidate. The OpenOffice project (aka StarOffice) released the build 632 on Tuesday this week. The release notes say that the Berkeley DB is now included with the distribution, after they reached an agreement with the authors of that open source database.
Keeping up AbiWord. The latest edition of the AbiWord Weekly News #48 came out this week.
Focus on Infusion (KDE Dot News). KDE Dot News reviews the recently uncovered office application known as Infusion. "Infusion aspires to compete with the likes of Aethera, Magellan, Evolution, and yes, Microsoft Outlook+Exchange. Is Infusion there yet? Nope. But from what I've seen, I've certainly been impressed by Citadel/UX, and once I managed to get Infusion compiled, I was able to enjoy some neat functionality."
KDE PIM Roadmap. A project to help develop a roadmap for developers interested in working on KDE PIM, culminating in a PIM developer gathering in late 2001, has been proposed to the KDE PIM mailing list.
And in other news...
XFree86 4.1.0 (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL takes an indepth look at the recently released XFree86 4.1. "4.1.0 features support for not only new cards, but also strengthens the support for some cards. It also seems that a lot of time, the Alpha platform gets ignored along with the *BSDs, but this version changes that. With 4.1.0, Linux/PPC finally has DRI support, FreeBSD has i810/i815 support, and Alpha/Linux finally has jumped on the bandwagon with support for the ATI Radeon."
December 2001 Convergence (LinuxMedNews). LinuxMedNews creator Ignacio Valdez says that the Linux Desktop is close, but world domination won't be here till December. "My wife who is as non-technical as can be uses it also for school and documents using StarOffice 5.2. Then again, she has me to admin her machine. There are some end-user experience issues which keep Linux out of the reach of the masses: 1) Installation of video and sound as well as other installation difficulties remain an issue. 2) Anti-aliased fonts are not widely available through all the distributions. 3) A browser with the familiar Netscape name is not currently competitive. 4) Some application software is either a) not ready, b) not as good as applications such as MS-Office, or c) ready and superior to its Windows equilvalents (see my recent article on scanning) but requires more effort and knowledge on the part of the user to find and use."
If desktop Linux is viable, thank some unlikely spokespeople (ZDNet). Henry Kingman, Senior Producer of ZDNet's Linux Center, says that the only real problem for Linux is it needs a stronger mainstream media presence. "PR [from RMS, Eric Raymand and Bruce Perens] can only go so far. Without proponents among the ranks of media professionals, I wonder if desktop Linux has very much of a chance." His comments are meant to entice mainstream publishers to produce more Linux pieces, to open the publics awareness to the alternatives of open source.
My plan for getting Linux on the desktop (ZDNet). The same author that gave us 9 reasons why not to use Linux on the desktop last week, now continues with 10 issues to face to get Linux onto more desktops. "The only real way I see Linux becoming anything like a common desktop operating system would be for Microsoft to endorse it. Figure out the likelihood of this and you'll have a fairly precise measure of the chances Linux has of becoming a real desktop player."
Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel
June 21, 2001