News and EditorialsFedora Core 3. Based on product reviews and user experiences as expressed on various mailing lists and forums, version 3 is probably the best Fedora release to date. The distribution comes with the very latest kernel, X.Org, GNOME and KDE, the developers seem to have resolved most of the reported issues with SELinux, and the distribution feels polished and generally well-designed. Although not without its flaws, of course, but still a solid and innovative product worthy of an install, even if you prefer another distribution.
After downloading the 2.5 GB x86_64 ISO image, we burned it onto a DVD, and proceeded with installation. For the record, here are the system specifications: AMD64 3500+ processor (2.2GHz), K8N Neo2 (Socket939) mainboard from Micro-Star International, 1 GB of DDR SDRAM, 2 x 120 GB Maxtor hard disks, Plextor PX-712A DVD/CD Rewritable Drive, and NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics card. Although we chose to install a complete workstation with both GNOME and KDE, as well as all server applications, the installation completed in under 15 minutes. There are no obvious differences between installing Fedora's x86_64 port and its i386 counterpart and once you reboot into your new system, you might be wondering whether this operating system has really been optimized for your 64-bit processor.
We were wondering too, so we decided to take a look at how many of the available Fedora RPMs were compiled for x86_64 systems. Looking through the RPM directories, we found that the x86_64 branch contains a total of 1,619 "x86_64" and "noarch" RPM packages, while the i386 branch lists a total of 1,652 RPM packages. This means that over 98% of Fedora packages have been ported to the AMD64 architecture. By comparison, the Debian unstable branch for AMD64 currently holds 14,911 DEB packages, which represent nearly 96% of all DEB packages found in the i386 architecture.
The remaining packages in Fedora Core were compiled for i386 and are available for installation alongside the x86_64 packages - the most noteworthy among them are Helix Player and OpenOffice.org. Because of this likely mix of 64-bit 32-bit applications on most users' systems, many libraries come in two variants. In fact, looking through the install log, we found no fewer than 52 packages, of which both i386 and x86_64 flavors were installed; this included libgcc, glibc, perl, xorg-x11-libs, gtk2 and many others. On a Fedora system, these two sets of libraries are placed into two separate directories - /lib and /lib64. This is somewhat different from the Debian approach where /lib is just a symbolic link to /lib64, while the ia32 libraries are stored in the /emul/ia32-linux directory. Unlike Debian, Fedora doesn't offer a possibility to install the 32-bit part of the system into a separate, "chroot-ed" environment and the 32-bit and 64-bit libraries and applications coexist on the same system, only separated by the layout of system directories.
The 64-bit Fedora Core 3 has been running rather smoothly on this system. We were impressed by the hardware auto-detection and setup, as well as the overall look and feel of the GNOME 2.8 desktop. But as Fedora Core 3 is really just a base for the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and therefore lacks many popular desktop applications, we were curious about the availability of third-party RPMs to enhance the multimedia capabilities of the distribution. These are generally made for i386, but what about x86_64? We headed over to freshrpms.net to find out. This turned out to be a mixed-bag experience - there is plenty of good software compiled for i386, but not that much for x86_64. As an example, we tried to install the xmms-mp3 package, but since it was only available for i386, it wouldn't install until we "downgraded" our 64-bit xmms to 32-bit xmms. Other applications fared better and we located pre-compiled 64-bit RPMs of MPlayer, xine, Audacity, Ogle, libdvdcss and other software. Disappointingly, using "apt" to install them proved impossible as each 'apt-get install' command was immediately followed by an enormous list of unmet dependencies. We had better luck with "yum", which worked like magic, even correctly detecting the architecture and automatically downloading and installing 64-bit packages, whenever available.
Given the extra overhead in terms of disk space and memory usage while running two "editions" of the same libraries, as well as the limited number of third-party RPMs, is there a case for running a 64-bit Fedora Core? In other words, are there any advantages of running a 64-bit system on a 64-bit processor, as opposed to running a 32-bit system on a 64-bit processor? As always, it depends. Unfortunately, it seems that right now, and for the majority of users, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. While we haven't done any speed benchmarks, from what we know about the 64-bit CPUs, most users are unlikely to notice much difference. There might be cases where the 64-bit processors clearly outperform the 32-bit ones, especially in tasks which involve encoding large media files, heavy web serving with scripts and output compression, or running massive databases that require substantial amounts of memory. But users performing everyday office tasks will benefit little from the 64-bit technology.
So why run it at all? Maybe just for that feeling of satisfaction of riding on the cutting edge of consumer technology, not too dissimilar from the feeling of a mountain climber who just conquered Mt. Everest, although he could have chosen to climb a smaller mountain. But there is a second, much more legitimate reason - to avoid the upcoming Year 2038 Bug. That's because on January 19, 2038, at 03:14:07 GMT, exactly 231 seconds will have passed since the beginning of the UNIX epoch on January 1st, 1970. One second later, all 32-bit UNIX systems will revert back to the year 1970. We'll leave it to your imagination as to what will happen unless you migrate your data and applications to a 64-bit system before then.
Distribution NewsXandros Desktop 3 provides the ultimate Linux desktop experience for laptops and PCs with enhanced wireless support, drag-and-drop DVD burning, and automatic alerts to Xandros Networks updates. Employing a Xandros-enhanced KDE 3.3 and an underlying 2.6.9 Linux kernel, the new version also provides enhanced security with a Personal Firewall wizard, simple access to virtual private networks, and automatic encryption of user home folders." now available for download. There are three ISO CD images, a DVD ISO image and a mini-CD ISO image.
Here's the Cooker Weekly News, issue 14 with a look at what's been cooking at Mandrakesoft from November 15 to December 5, 2004.
JPackage 1.6 has been released. JPackage serves as the upstream of numerous FC Java packages.
New Distributionsfirst release of the Games Knoppix (St. Nicholas Day Release) is ready for download. This is a Knoppix 3.7 based CD with Castle-Combat, Globulation 2, Hatman, Kobodeluxe, Miniracer, Pingus, Rafkill, and lots of other games.
Distribution NewslettersDistroWatch Weekly for December 6, 2004 is out. "Welcome to this year's 48th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. This week we'll talk about the Knoppix live CD, feature the Damn Small Linux mini distribution, and present several upcoming distribution releases, including Mandrakelinux 10.2 and NetBSD 2.0. Happy reading!"
Minor distribution updatesreports the release of Flash Linux 0.3.2. "Hopefully this release fixes "everything" and adds some nice new features."
Newsletters and articles of interesttales of Knoppix rescues. "As a battle-hardened sysadmin, I've seen a lot of broken systems (some I broke, and some were broken for me). I've carried a number of rescue disks, including tomsrtbt and the LinuxCare Bootable Business Card, but over the past year or two, I've started to rely completely on Knoppix as an all-in-one rescue disk. Below are some real-life accounts of how I've saved some broken systems with just my Knoppix CD." presents a user's view of Xandros. "I've been using Xandros Desktop 2.0 for about a year now. It has all the features I need in a desktop to keep my business, my family, and myself happy. Xandros 2.0 has made administering my home computer easier and allowed me to move away from a dual-boot configuration." interviews Greg M. Kurtzer, the head of the Caos Foundation. "The cAos Foundation now hosts 2 major distribution projects. Today, the most popular is Centos, which is a rebuild of the freely distributable sources in Enterprise Linux. The second project is cAos Linux which is a new distribution which offers a nice cross between bleeding edge, stability, and longevity. cAos Linux was the first project of the Foundation, thus it shares the name." takes a quick look at BeatrIX Linux. "BeatrIX Linux is a live-CD containing kernel 2.6.7, Gnome 2.6, Open Office 1.1.2, Firefox, Evolution, GAIM and more. It doesn't touch your hard drive or in any way mess up your current O.S. It was designed primarily for the new breed of Via mini-ITX motherboards that are fanless, low-powered and tiny, but will run on just about any Pentium-class computer with at least 64 megs of RAM."
Distribution reviewslooks at Fedora Core 3. "If I were a movie reviewer, I would give FC3 a thumbs-up. It is a solid release with few problems, and most of those are specific to certain hardware. Its ease of installation and package management system make it an excellent choice for newbies who want to learn Linux without the horrendous learning curve associated with having to compile everything yourself. Its functional SELinux component is a powerful incentive to install it just to learn what will certainly become a standard in the near future. Indeed, SELinux alone probably takes FC3 to a whole new level."
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