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An early look at FreeBSD 6

July 20, 2005

This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier.

FreeBSD 6 is on its way. The announcement went out on Friday for FreeBSD 6 Beta1. The FreeBSD announcement indicates that FreeBSD 6 will be "a much less dramatic step from the FreeBSD 5 branch than the FreeBSD 5 branch was from FreeBSD 4." Still, there are a number of improvements and new features in FreeBSD 6 that are worth looking into.

One thing that hasn't changed greatly is the FreeBSD installation process. It's still the same no-frills menu-based installer that FreeBSD has used for some time. (Slackware Linux users will find it quite familiar.) We downloaded the FreeBSD 6 ISOs (though it turned out we only needed disc 1 for the install) and installed FreeBSD in about 20 minutes on a 1.6 GHz Celeron laptop with 512 MB of RAM. For the most part, there's not a great deal of difference from the user's perspective with this release.

Most of the packages included with FreeBSD 6 Beta1, or its Ports tree, are the same versions as what you'd find in FreeBSD 5.4. DistroWatch has a table listing the versions of the most popular open source packages found in FreeBSD 6 and earlier versions. A quick glance shows that the FreeBSD 6 Beta1 doesn't vary a great deal from FreeBSD Stable or the FreeBSD 5.4 release.

There have been a fair number of changes behind the scenes, however. As the release announcement points out, there are improvements to the UFS/VFS filesystem layer, improvements to ACPI power management and other goodies. The ACPI features may still need a little improvement, however. We noted that using acpiconf on the test Toshiba laptop resulted in a power-down of the system rather than just putting it to sleep. Of course, the issue may lie with Toshiba's ACPI implementation rather any problem with the FreeBSD code.

Wireless users may be happy to know that there are a number of changes to the wlan framework, which includes support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). There is also increased support for wireless chipsets in FreeBSD 6.

The cross-pollination between BSDs continues in this release. This release includes OpenBSD's dhclient. Brooks Davis announced the switch in June, and noted that this provides privilege separation and support for WPA.

One feature that isn't in FreeBSD 6, at least not yet, is UFS Journaling. It is, however one of the Summer of Code projects sponsored by Google. FreeBSD developer Scott Long says that it should be ready for FreeBSD 7, and possibly available as a patch for later 6.x releases. If FreeBSD 7 sounds too distant, it's worth noting that the FreeBSD project is already working on FreeBSD 7.

The open issues page lists a few show stoppers and other open issues that must be corrected for FreeBSD 6.0. The release schedule calls for 6.0-RELEASE sometime in mid-August.

For those using FreeBSD 5.x, there is still development there as well. Scott Long writes that there will be a 5.5 release in the fall and quite possibly a 5.6 release after that. According to Long, the 5.x series will continue to be supported until at least late 2007, so there's still plenty of life left in the 5.x series. Long also says that users should feel comfortable deploying FreeBSD 5.x and FreeBSD 6.x side-by-side.

6.x is really just an evolutionary step from 5.x, not the life-altering revolutionary step that 4.x->5.x was. It should be quite easy to deploy and maintain 5.x and 6.x machines side-by-side and migrate them as the need arises. We don't want people to be stranded on RELENG_5 like they were with RELENG_4. 6.x offers everything of 5.x, but with better performance and (hopefully) better stability.

Users who are thinking about upgrading to FreeBSD 6.0 directly from a FreeBSD 5.4 install, might find this post by Dru Lavigne useful. From our limited testing of FreeBSD 6.0 Beta1, it looks to be fairly stable and nearly ready for production use.

FreeBSD 6.0 Beta1 is available for x86, AMD64, Alpha, and IA64. Users who want the PowerPC version, however, may need to wait as there are some issues with the release on PowerPC.

There are, of course, far too many changes to cover here. Interested users should read through the release notes to see all of the changes in this release. Overall, it looks like FreeBSD 6 is shaping up to be a very solid OS.

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Distribution News

The Fedora BugZappers Triage Team launched

The Fedora Project has launched the Fedora BugZappers Triage Team. "The BugZappers are the official triage team of the Fedora Project. The main goal of the team is to triage, or do a first pass, of bugs in Bugzilla and ensure that a number of parameters are satisfactorily met. Basically what that means is that the BugZappers will go through bugs as they come in and try and make sure the bugs are valid (i.e. not a duplicate), sane and contain enough information to be escalated to developers."

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Debian GNU/Linux news

The release team is seeking new release assistants. "the development cycle for etch just started off. We would like to bring new people into the loop for etch now to better distribute the workload, and look out for new release assistants."

Bits from the Debian GNU/Hurd porters provides a status update for the Debian GNU/Hurd port. "While the port was limping along for a couple of years, it has picked up speed again. The current state is still far from being on par with Debian's established Linux ports, but it is mostly up to date and reasonably usable."

Version tracking has been added to bug tracking system. "A frequently requested feature for the bug tracking system in recent years has been the ability to track which bugs apply to which distributions, so that, eg, maintainers and others can tell which bugs that have been fixed in unstable still apply to packages in testing or stable. This has now been implemented."

Joachim Breitner has announced the formation of the Utnubu team and a a newly formatted repository of Ubuntu patches.

The Quality Assurance group is holding a Debian-QA-MiniConf at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, from September 9 - 11, 2005.

Here are some reminders on the procedure for updating a lib package for a C++ ABI change. "Also, for those who aren't aware, the new xorg packages now in unstable are also implicated in the C++ transition, because libGLU is implemented in C++. Particularly if you have packages that are involved in other transitions that are happening right now, it may not necessarily be a good idea to rebuild against xorg just yet unless you're already part of the C++ transition."

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Distribution Newsletters

Fedora Weekly News

The fifth issue of the Fedora Weekly News has articles such as 'Join Fedora at LinuxWorld in San Francisco', 'Regarding Recent Kernel Update on FC4', 'ATrpms for FC4/i386 and FC4/x86_64', 'Creating a Fedora Core 4 LiveCD', 'Thomas Guide: RealPlayer', 'Review: Fedora Core 4', 'Firefox 1.0.5 Released', 'FUDCon in London?' and more.

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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of July 18, 2005 is out. This issue covers the possibility that the Gentoo kernel maintainers will discontinue the gentoo-sources-2.4 kernel series, new hardware donations, an IA64 LiveCD is planned to be released with Gentoo 2005.1, a bugzilla upgrade, developer of the week Sven Wegener, and several other topics.

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Package updates

Fedora Core updates

Fedora Core 4 updates: openssh-4.1p1-3.1 (upgrade to 4.1p1 for bug fixes), pam-0.79-9.1 (fix a regression in XAUTHORITY handling), logwatch-6.1.2-1.fc4 (upgrade to 6.1.2 for bug fixes), kernel-2.6.12-1.1398_FC4 (include a number of patches likely to show up in, system-config-bind-4.0.0-18_FC4 (bug fixes), selinux-policy-targeted-1.25.2-4 (bug fixes and isakmp port added), system-config-bind-4.0.0-19_FC4 (no info), java-1.4.2-gcj-compat- (cope with impending libgcj and eclipse-ecj updates), diskdumputils-1.1.7-4 (update source package to 1.1.7), radvd-0.8-1.FC4 (upgrade to upstream version 0.8), bind-9.3.1-8.FC4 (fix named.init script bugs), radvd-0.8-2.FC4 (no info), freeradius-1.0.4-1.FC4.1 (fix missing ldap plugin).

Fedora Core 3 updates: octave-2.1.57-7.fc3 (fix several bugs and dependencies), kernel-2.6.12-1.1372_FC3 (include some patches likely to show up in, system-config-bind-4.0.0-18 (bug fixes), system-config-bind-4.0.0-19 (no info), diskdumputils-1.1.7-3 (update source package to 1.1.7), radvd-0.8-1.FC3 (upgrade to upstream version 0.8), bind-9.2.5-3 (fix named.init script bugs), radvd-0.8-2.FC3 (no info).

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Slackware updates

Slackware has new GCC 3.4.4 packages in testing, along with some Linux kernel packages, and more. See the slackware-current changelog for complete details.

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Trustix TSL-2005-0035 - multi

Trustix Secure Linux has a bug fix advisory for cyrus-imapd, glibc, samba, sqlgrey, squid and tcpdump.

Full Story (comments: none)

Distribution reviews

Review: Fedora Core 4 (NewsForge)

Here's a review of Fedora Core 4, on NewsForge. "Fedora Core 4 gets low marks for multimedia. I encountered an overwhelming number of bugs in this area. There is no support for proprietary formats such as Windows Media, DVD, and MP3, though having used past Red Hat/Fedora releases, I would expect nothing more. Previously, enabling these multimedia types was not a hard task, but this time, it's daunting."

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Reviewer heaps praise on SuSE Linux 9.3 Pro (Desktop Linux)

Desktop Linux has a review of SuSE Linux 9.3 Pro. "[This] is a distribution for someone who wants to push the limits of what you can do with a Linux desktop today. In short, if you're a developer, a power user's power user, or someone who needs to see what 2006's corporate Linux desktop is going to look like, this is the distribution for you."

Comments (none posted)

Run GNU/Linux from a USB pen drive (NewsForge)

NewsForge reviews the Slax distribution, which can be installed on a USB pen drive. "Slax is a powerful and complete bootable distro based on Slackware, equipped with kernel 2.6, ALSA sound drivers, Wi-Fi card support, X11-6.8.2 with support for many GFX cards and wheel mice, and KDE 3.4. Slax uses the Unification File System (also known as unionfs), which enables you to write whatever you want into the pen drive. Bundled software includes KDE, the KOffice office suite, GAIM for chat, the Thunderbird email client, and the Firefox Web browser."

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