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
Buy a Box Set or Download?. There seems to be a new trend among the major Linux companies to not let people download a new version of its distribution until the box sets are ready to go. It will usually take several weeks between the time that a version is finalized until the box sets are manufactured and ready for sale, and many Linux users would like to be checking out the new version during that time. Only a few years ago most major Linux companies would make the distribution available for ftp as soon as it was finalized, well in advance of the box sets. Now most of them require downloaders and buyers to wait.
There is a fairly simple economic reason, of course. The company makes some money on a box set and none on a download. That's why they try to make box sets more attractive by adding extra programs and utilities that are not part of the basic Linux distribution. Generally users could get all the extras, but it does take extra time to download and configure them. The box puts it all together and makes it simple to install.
Some users appreciate the convenience of a box set. They like getting the OS and extras, and they have a backup right there in the box. Others would rather download what they want and put together the "perfect combination" of OS and extras for themselves. If the distribution is available before the boxes, some might download the distribution first, just to see how they like, and then buy the box later to get all extras. For the most part, though, people who prefer the convenience of a box set will wait for the box set, and those who prefer the more hands on approach will download whether the box set is available yet or not. In short, making a distribution available for ftp before the boxes is a courtesy to the users and will generally have little impact on a company's profit (or lack thereof). That's why we applaud MandrakeSoft's release of Mandrake Linux 8.1 for ftp, even though the box sets are still a month away. If you do download, consider making a donation to MandrakeSoft to show your support.
Mandrake Linux 8.1 and beyond. Here is the announcement for Mandrake Linux 8.1. As we mentioned above, it can be downloaded now, or you can pre-order a box set. New features, include the "MandrakeOnline" update service, improved configuration tools, and several journaling filesystems.
The Mandrake Linux Community News, issue 15, provides discussion on the use of devfs in Mandrake 8.1, funny math over at Yahoo when computing Mandrake stock prices, and using Squid to block the Nimda worm.
SuSE Linux 7.3. SuSE Linux 7.3 is coming soon. One announcement says October 12 while another says October 18. Either way, it will be out soon, and it looks good. SuSE Linux 7.3 offers new features, improved security and stability, the SuSE YOU (YaST Online Update) makes sure that your system stays up-to-date and, of course, several journaling filesystems are available. SuSE Linux 7.3 will be available in two box sets, Personal and Professional.
MaxOS and BearOps. The MaxOS Linux distribution rated an LWN feature article in March 2000. At that time a beta version was expected the following May. MaxOS was released, and then frozen September 1, 2000. Since then Alta Terra Ventures, Inc., the parent company of MaxOS, has announced a new line of products, based around BearOps Linux. The BearOps Linux Desktop OS was the first product available, and the Handheld Linx for Linux was recently launched. Other products, such as a server package and firewall package are still in the works.
ZDNet gives a brief overview of the BearOps Handheld Linx for Linux. "Alta Terra says that BearOps Handheld Linx for Linux has been tested on Mandrake 8.0 and Red Hat 7.1, as well as the company's own BearOps Linux Desktop OS distribution. It comes with three desktop applications, jpilot, kpilot, and gpilot, as well as 100 games, utilities and applications for the Palm OS."
A quick check of the BearOps web site finds pointers to a full FTP download for their packages. The Palm/Handspring support appears to come from the standard pilot-link package and tools which use it.
Debian Weekly News. The Debian Weekly News for October 3 is out. Topics covered include new languages on the Debian web site, boot floppy work, a possible Debian package of the NSA's Security Enhanced Linux, and several others.
Wajig is a simplified command line interface to many of the typical Debian administration tasks, including package management and configuration, and daemon control. It is not an official package, but some Debian users might like to give it a try and see if it's useful.
Minor Distribution updates
2-Disk Xwindow System. The 2-Disk Xwindow System is a very small Linux/xwindows distribution, that provides net browsing in a lush GUI. The source tree is compiled on debian and the /lib/ files taken directly from the debian2.2.3 distribution. Several versions have been released in the last week, providing minor feature enhancements and bug fixes. Version 1.0rc034 was released on September 30, 2001.
floppyfw. If you are looking for a small Linux firewall that fits on a single floppy disk, floppyfw may be just what you are looking for. floppyfw-1.9.9 was released September 29, 2001, now with kernel 2.4.10 and Math emulation removed. See the Changelog for details.
NSA Security Enhanced Linux. NSA Security Enhanced Linux is a set of patches to the Linux kernel and some utilities to incorporate a strong, flexible mandatory access control architecture into the major subsystems of the kernel. Version 200109261436 was released on September 28, 2001, with bug fixes and minor feature enhancements.
ttylinux. This seems to be a good week for tiny distributions. In the spirit of frequent releases ttylinux has jumped from version 1.10 to version 1.13 in the past week. This is a minimalistic Linux distribution that can run in as little as 2.88 megabytes of space.
Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL presents a detailed review of Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1. "This latest release is built around KDE 2.1, and as such, contains a good many KDE development tools and the accompanying documentation. Some of the benefits being touted by Caldera include: software integration, default configurations, self hosting, secure software, system testing, and even OEM testing. Essentially this means that Caldera has tested each piece of software included in their distribution to make sure there are no software conflicts. Every piece has been tested for proper functionality and that any OEM that bundles OpenLinux has been tested for hardware compatibility."
Mandrake revamps Linux distro (Register). This review of Mandrake 8 is not as detailed, but it does give a good overview. "Things we liked about version 8.0 of Mandrake were its choice of ReiserFS as the default file system - yum - and the Software Manager, which makes the business of installing new software look pretty straightforward."
French Linux marketing mirrors Red Hat (ZDNet). ZDNet looks at Mandrake's latest offering now available with MandrakeOnline, a subscription service that gives members notification of security patches and other software updates, discounted technical support and an e-mail account. "Mandrake version 8.1 includes several new features. Among them is the new version 2.2.1 of the KDE desktop interface, released Sept. 19. KDE 3.0 is scheduled to be released in beta version in December and in final form in February. "
SuSE grabs Best-Business-Linux gong (Register). The Register looks the recent report by DH Brown Associates, beginning with SuSE's position at the top of the list. "SuSE wins in the scalability, the system management and the directory/security services categories."
SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional (Duke of URL). SuSE 7.3 is almost here. In the meantime here's a review of SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional. "In the world of commercial Linux distributions, SuSE is a leader and is certainly the preference of many European users. They have also maintained many ties with the open source world and have contributed greatly to projects such as KDE, XFree86 and ReiserFS. They have been and will likely always be a culture of engineers. This is part of what makes SuSE fun to work with. If anything, SuSE Linux is very much a product of solid engineering."
Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol
October 4, 2001