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News and Editorials

Yellow Dog Linux 4.0.1 and Y-HPC

July 6, 2005

This article was contributed by Ryan Paul

A conspicuous banner at the Terra Soft Solutions web site informs viewers that "PowerPC is not dead". This resonant affirmation of PPC's capacity to endure is meant to address the concerns of consumers that doubt the value PowerPC software in the wake of Apple's stunning x86 about-face.

Those that follow the issue know that the perpetuation of the PowerPC architecture is not really in dispute. With robust POWER processors in all the next generation gaming systems, it is likely that the architecture will be around for years to come. While we will soon see PowerPC consoles on top of our televisions, Apple's migration to x86 creates some questions about the relevance of PowerPC on the desktop.

With POWER supercomputers topping the list and IBM aggressively promoting Linux on POWER, it looks like the Linux PPC server market is starting to heat up. Kai Staats, CEO of Terra Soft Solutions (TSS) and a familiar face in the PPC Linux community believes that there is more than enough demand for PPC server solutions to keep him in business despite Apple's hasty retreat from the market.

TSS is an Apple reseller, best known for Yellow Dog Linux (YDL), it's popular GNU/Linux distribution for the PowerPC platform. Based on Fedora, YDL 4.0.1 is a flexible and intuitive distribution that supports a wide variety of hardware from Apple and IBM.

While broader package selection and community driven development models make non-commercial alternatives like Debian and Gentoo a superior choice for many developers and home consumers, availability of quality services and support as well as pre-installation make YDL a popular pick for schools, government agencies and corporations that utilize PowerPC technology.

The 4.0.1 release features a number of important updates and adds support for the iMac G5 and the Mac mini. I put it to the test to see how it compares to some of my favorite non-commercial distributions. Aside from the excellent hardware support and virtually flawless automated configuration, YDL is relatively unremarkable. Those who are comfortable with Fedora and RPM package management will feel right at home with it. It performs relatively well and it is relatively stable.

The limited availability of YDL RPMs is probably the most prodigious defect. While four CDs may seem like a lot, there are a lot of holes. Firefox is only available via the 'Extras' repository, and libglade for Ruby (which I use heavily for rapid application development) doesn't appear to be available at all. Developers who don't use mainstream languages are out of luck: YDL doesn't come with compilers for Eiffel, C#, Ocaml or Haskell. If you want to use GHC or Mono, for instance, you are probably better of with Debian or Gentoo. While my esoteric development needs may not be indicative of general user needs, it is likely that the needs of most users will not be adequately met by what is available within the limited YDL package ecosystem.You can use TSS's web-based repository interface to find out if YDL has the packages you need.

The boxed set comes with four installation CDs, four source CDs, a 10 page installation quickstart, a cute frisbee-esque thing bearing the YDL logo, and a comprehensive 180 page guide that contains a thorough introduction to KDE, a relatively effective introduction to the command line, and a concise introduction to Linux administration. The guide contains expository comparisons to OS X and Windows that will help users of other operating systems understand the significance of various KDE/Linux features. The most notable deficiency of the user guide is the severe KDE bias and the absence of Gnome documentation. Aside from that, the guide provides good coverage of relevant features.

The distribution comes with YUM for package management. Though YUM has become a standard part of the RedHat Linux distribution, it was originally designed by TSS (and then modified by Duke University) specifically for YDL. YUM has a smaller code base than apt4rpm and features superior dependency handling.

YDL 4.0.1 comes with a few intriguing PowerPC extras, including Mac-On-Linux (MOL), which allows users to run an entire mac environment at near-native speed inside of a window. I was looking forward to trying out MOL with OS X. Unfortunately, MOL doesn't support OS X 10.4, so I was unable to see it in action. Apparently, it doesn't support macs with G5 processors either. It's still worth looking at, and probably quite impressive when it works. Check out this spooky screenshot from the MOL web site. With any luck, MOL support for Tiger will be added soon.

TSS provides a number of services for customers. Enhanced members get a pop/imap accessible e-mail account, early access to YDL ISOs and web hosting. Updates appear to be free via YUM.

Also of interest is Terra Soft's Y-HPC, a 64-bit PowerPC GNU/Linux distribution and "cluster construction-management suite" compatible with a wide variety of PowerPC systems, including Apple's Xserve and IBM's JS20. Y-HPC provides users with a complete 64-bit development environment that features IBM's XLF and XLC compilers. Y-HPC natively supports double-precision as well as up to 16GB of RAM and contains complete 32 and 64-bit development tool chains.

Y-HPC comes with a PowerPC port of SystemImager and TSS's unique, user-friendly image management interface called Y-Imager that facilitates visual, node-based cluster construction. Y-HPC also features PPC-64 builds of many popular open source applications.

I still prefer Debian on my desktop, but YDL presents a few compelling benefits, particularly for those who already have extensive experience with RedHat or Fedora. There are also definitely contexts in which Terra Soft's high performance computing solutions are optimal. TSS designed a YDL-based Xserve imaging cluster for deployment on US Navy submarines and provided Boeing with specialized G5 computers for Weapons Systems Officers training programs. Despite the imminent extinction of Apple PPC hardware, we may see renewed interest in TSS as demand for Linux on POWER escalates.

Comments (2 posted)

New Releases

Trustix Secure Linux 3.0

Trustix Secure Linux 3.0 has been released. "Other additions to the system include X11 libraries, FreeRadius support, easy PXE installs, Mini CD and Net CD versions of the OS, enhanced hardware detection, installation on RAID and logical volumes and a range of kernel upgrades including the shift to Linux 2.6 kernel and BASH 3." Click below for the announcement.

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Ubuntu "Breezy Badger" Colony CD 2

Ubuntu has the Colony CD 2 ready. This is the second in a series of milestone CD images that will be released throughout the Breezy development cycle, as images that are known to be reasonably free of showstopper CD-build or installer bugs, while representing very current snapshots of Breezy. You can download it here or click below for the full announcement.

Full Story (comments: 2)

Distribution News

Debian GNU/Linux news

Matthias Klose reports that GCC 4.0 is the default GCC in etch as part of the C++ ABI change.

The Sixth Annual Debian Conference begins July 9, 2005 at the Computer Science department of the Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, Finland This editor plans to arrive in HEL on Saturday afternoon.

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FC4 CD/DVD Installer Syslinux Crash Workaround

Those installing Fedora Core 4 may have a problem with certain motherboard chipsets that may be affected by the syslinux crash bug. For those having trouble with FC4 installs, Warren Togami presents a workaround (click below).

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Slackware Linux

Slackware Linux reports that a new package browser is being tested at "Everyone is invited to give a look over there, and report any kind of problem you may find. The plan is to backport the new package browser here on the .com if everything goes well, and maybe some of the other new features from too (depending on how well they scale.)"

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New Distributions

grml-small 0.1 released

GRML is a live CD based on Knoppix and Debian with a collection of GNU/Linux software for system administrators. It provides automatic hardware detection and can be used for system rescue, for analyzing systems/networks or as a working environment. grml-small fits on a business card CD-ROM or USB device with 50MB. The initial version of grml-small, 0.1 (codename zugschlus), was released July 5, 2005.

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Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

The Debian Weekly News for July 5, 2005 looks at Debian packages for X.Org, minutes of the release team meeting, ongoing installer development, ongoing Firefox Trademark problems, a GLADE transition, and more.

Full Story (comments: none)

Fedora Weekly News Issue 3

The Fedora Weekly News for July 4, 2005 is out. Topics in this issue include Status of Livna Repository, JPackage Java for FC4, Bluetooth Dialup Networking for FC4, Caveats and Known Bugs on FC4, FC3 to FC4 Upgrade Process Question, More Fedora Core 4 Reviews, Up2date Issue on FC4, and more.

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Ubuntu MOTU report - issue 5

In this edition of the MOTU report you'll meet two new Masters of the Universe and find out more about the C++ transition, REVU - a next-generation package review tool, and more.

Full Story (comments: none)

DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 107

The DistroWatch Weekly for July 4, 2005 is out. "Last week's release of SUSE LINUX 9.3 ISO images provided much excitement during the otherwise dull week and many users are now discovering the joys of computing with one of the oldest and best-known Linux operating systems around. In the meantime, the Debian Project ended up with a tarnished reputation for being unable to provide timely security updates for sarge - will this fiasco bring radical changes to the project's security infrastructure? Also in this issue: comment on the recent merger of Mandriva and Lycoris, and an interesting change in the release policy of Fedora Core."

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Minor distribution updates

WHoppix becomes WHAX

WHoppix was a Knoppix-based live CD designed to be a standalone penetration testing toolkit. The focus remains the same, but WHAX is now SLAX/Slackware based. WHAX v.3.0 Beta2 was released July 5, 2005.

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Package updates

Fedora Core updates

Fedora Core 4 updates: totem-1.0.4-1 (upgrade to version 1.0.4), rgmanager-1.9.34-5 (upgrade), magma-plugins-1.0.0-2 (upgrade), iddev-2.0.0-1 (upgrade), magma-1.0.0-1 (upgrade), gulm-1.0.0-2 (upgrade), fence-1.32.1-1 (upgrade), dlm-1.0.0-3 (upgrade), cman-1.0.0-1 (upgrade), ccs-1.0.0-1 (upgrade), GFS-6.1.0-3 (upgrade), mod_perl-2.0.1-1.fc4 (upgrade), qt-3.3.4-15.1 (patches and bug fixes), gnbd-1.0.0-1 (upgrade), netpbm-10.27-4.FC4.2 (bug fixes), cryptsetup-luks-1.0.1-0.fc4 (fix twp incompatibilities), kdevelop-3.2.1-0.fc4.2 (fix undefined symbol issue), kdeartwork-3.4.1-0.fc4.2 (look at the right xscreensaver dirs), gjdoc-0.7.5-3 (FC4 update), javacc-3.2-1jpp_2fc (FC4 update), lucene-1.4.3-1jpp_3fc (FC4 update).

Fedora Core 3 updates: netpbm-10.27-4.FC3.1 (bug fixes), selinux-policy-targeted-1.17.30-3.16 (allow unconfined_t to execmod file_type), kdenetwork-3.3.1-3.1 (fix Kopete MSN login).

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Trustix Secure Linux updates

Trustix bug fix advisories: #2005-0031 updates (clamav, cpplus, dev, imagemagick, kerberos5, kernel, openldap, pam_ldap, perl-net-server, php, php4, sqlgrey, swup) and notes end of life for Trustix Secure Linux 1.5 and 2.1, #2005-0032 updates (iproute, kernel, sqlgrey).

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Newsletters and articles of interest

Comodo-Trustix announce Trustix Secure Linux 3.0 release (IT Observer)

IT Observer covers the release of Trustix Secure Linux 3.0. "TSL’s rapidly expanding new user base has identified a wide range of possible improvements which have now been implemented and made available in this release. Foremost amongst these is the new installer "Viper". Apart from the added ease of use and many new features "Viper" boasts the ability to poll the latest updates during the installation process. This ensures that servers deploying TSL will be up to date and secure right from the first installation – effectively closing the insecurity window that exists between first installation and the time it takes to locate, download and implement upgrades."

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LiveLAMP Available: $10,000 Server Software Solution Free (Groklaw)

Groklaw looks at LiveLAMP, a bootable CD project from Australia's Open Source Victoria. "According to OSV, LiveLAMP can turn any PC into an instant server capable of supporting up to 1,000 students doing work on over a dozen programming languages and hundreds of development tools. Technologies covered include PHP, Python, Perl, MySQL, Ruby, PostgreSQL, C++, C, Pascal, Fortran, CVS, Apache, Lex/Yacc, text editing, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, XML and many more. LiveLAMP will fully integrate with their existing Windows, Apple or Linux systems. OSV estimates that purchasing proprietary versions of this software for 1000 students and teachers would cost each school over $10,000 if they had to pay for it."

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My Workstation OS: Puppy Linux (NewsForge)

NewsForge looks at Puppy Linux. "The Puppy Linux distribution was started by Barry Kauler independently of any other distro. Barry went back to basics and reinvented a much better wheel. Puppy has an informed, diverse, and active support forum, a wiki (with news), and great developers who actually listen. The distribution is regularly updated."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution reviews

FreeSBIE: A FreeBSD live CD (NewsForge)

NewsForge reviews FreeSBIE, a FreeBSD-based live CD. "The current version 1.1 is based on FreeBSD version 5.3. It works directly from the CD without altering any data on your hard disk, but version 1.1 also offers the option of a hard disk installation using a feature borrowed with permission from the BSDinstaller team. FreeSBIE support several types of desktop environments. You can use it as a shell only, or as a full desktop with all the applications you expect in a desktop system."

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Bleeding-Edge Linux Desktop: SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 (eWeek)

eWeek reviews Novell's SuSE Linux Professional 9.3. "What it all adds up to in the end is that if you need an advanced Linux desktop, SLP is an excellent choice. It's also great for people who need to look right over the bleeding edge of Linux technology to see what tomorrow will bring. However, for beginners or general desktop users, there are better choices."

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Linux to the rescue: A review of three system rescue CDs (NewsForge)

This NewsForge article looks at three open source rescue CDs. "I tested the three for basic rescue features: mounting partitions to read and write data, disk management (format, partition, etc.), network access, CD/DVD writing, and virus scanning. These are the most important rescue disk features, and if they work well, you are well on your way to getting your machine working again."

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