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A New Round of Asian Linux Releases

November 30, 2005

This article was contributed by Ladislav Bodnar

It would appear that, after several years of downturn during which Turbolinux and Hancom Linux nearly went out of business, the Asian Linux distribution scene is once again alive and well. The coordinated effort of Asianux has certainly given it some momentum, but even companies outside the Asianux consortium, such as Turbolinux, have reported profits in recent years. There is also much excitement about popular open source software and Firefox is now about as widespread in Asia as anywhere else - despite the fact that many Asian web sites have historically been coded for Internet Explorer only. And the arrival of SCIM, a universal input method editor for (not only) Asian languages and its convenient way of mixing characters and languages in documents, has meant that Linux is now considered a viable operating system for many companies and individuals across the Asian continent. Red Flag Software, Turbolinux and Haansoft are working hard to exploit this market.

China's Red Flag was the first company to release a new distribution based on Asianux 2.0. Its Red Flag Linux 5.0 Workstation was completed last month and made available as a free download from a number of mirrors. The product comes on four CDs of which only the first two are needed for installation, while the remaining discs contain extra software, documentation and development tools. Red Flag Linux 5 supports Chinese (both simplified and traditional), Japanese and Korean, as well as English. The installer, a slightly simplified and re-themed Anaconda, is identical to the one that ships with Asianux. The distribution is largely based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 with a few enhancements and some additional software, but most applications are now fairly outdated for a desktop system.

Red Flag 5 boots straight into a KDE 3.3.1 desktop with root as the only user (no provision for creating users is available during installation). Like all recent Red Flag releases, the new version continues in the tradition of tweaking the desktop to resemble Windows 98 as much as possible. It includes a few custom utilities, such as the "Display" dialog, that are amazingly good clones of their Windows counterparts and, as in Windows, they are launched from Konqueror's "CtrlPanel" folder rather than the KDE Control Center. The K-menu is opened by clicking on a button labeled "Start". The system's encoding defaults to UTF-8 and the SCIM input method editor is pre-configured for typing Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters using a number of popular input methods.

I was unable to locate any way to update the distribution. There is no apt, yum, up2date or any other mechanism to keep up with security and bug-fix updates and there is no icon in the system tray periodically checking for new software. Also, there seems to be no update directory on any of the Red Flag mirrors. This, together with the distribution defaulting to logging in as root, looks like a serious security omission and I would be reluctant to use a product that makes no effort to ensure that all newly discovered security vulnerabilities are dealt with. Surprisingly, Red Flag 5 comes with no office suite - a rather unusual decision for an operating system designed for workstations. Maybe Red Flag's boxed edition is better populated with useful software, while the free edition is meant as an evaluation product, with several vital components clearly missing.

Besides Red Flag, Japan's Turbolinux also announced a new release in late November. Turbolinux 11 "Fuji" is the company's first major release in over two years and, like Red Flag Linux 5, it is also designed for workstations. The company continues in its effort to develop a very user-friendly operating system to entice Windows users, but instead of focusing on cosmetic interface changes, the developers of Turbolinux have included components that many desktop Linux users will appreciate. As an example, the product ships with a licensed Linux edition of PowerDVD. It also includes a third-party emulator for Windows applications from the Philippines-based SpecOps Labs, ATOK Japanese input method editor and a Windows anti-virus tool from Kaspersky Lab. Turbolinux 11 is only available as a retail package in Japan for an equivalent of $145 (a basic edition excluding the proprietary components sells for about a third of that price), but an international edition is planned for release early next year.

Another Asian workstation product, currently in early development, is Haansoft Linux 2006. Scheduled for final release in March 2006, the first beta of the product was made available to beta testers earlier this week. Although Haansoft is a member of the Asianux consortium and its installer is just a re-themed Anaconda from Asianux 2.0, its application set is much more up-to-date than the one in Red Flag Linux 5. The first beta of version 2006 includes Linux kernel 2.6.14, KDE 3.5.0, GNOME 2.12.1, Firefox 1.5, and GCC 4.0.2. It also comes with "Haansoft Updater" in the form of a flashing system tray icon. Although the first beta is still somewhat buggy, this is an promising product that will further solidify Haansoft's position as the most prominent Linux company in Korea.

Based on the three new product releases, it is clear that the Asian Linux scene is alive and kicking. Recent reports from China indicate that adoption of Linux in business and awareness of open source software among the country's population are on the increase. In a country whose government maintains strict censorship over the Internet and prevents its citizens from viewing web sites that it deems objectionable, it is refreshing to see a growing number of technology web sites, such as the Slashdot-like Solidot.org, informing about open source software and allowing readers to exchange information freely. While Linux adoption levels in Asia might still be low, interest in open source software is very much on the rise.

Comments (1 posted)

New Releases

Announcing Fedora Core 5 Test1

Red Hat has announced the release of Fedora Core 5 Test1. Some of the new features include a modular version of X.org, better Asian language support, a 2.6.15-rc1-git3 kernel, recent versions of GCC, GNOME, and KDE, Java improvements, 1600 "Extras" packages, and installer changes.

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Distribution News

Fedora Core 3 Status Update

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Debian bug squashing can be rewarding

Open Source Press is offering a reward to the top bug squashers. "We are announcing a bug squashing period, starting now, and ending 14 Dec 2005, 11:59 CET. Squashing a bug gets you a certain number of points (depending mostly on triviality and severity). At the end of the three weeks, the 25 bug squashers with the highest score shall receive a copy of [Martin Krafft's] book, The Debian System, donated by the publisher. If this turns out to be a success, we'll lather-rinse-repeat sometime soon." Click below for the rules and procedures.

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A Graphical Installer for Debian

Frans Pop has sent out a status report for the Debian graphical installer. Volunteer help is needed. "As you may have noticed in Joey Hess' release announcement for D-I Etch-beta1, Debian at last has a graphical installer (currently in alpha release) based on gtk+-directfb. The graphical installer is currently available for Intel x86, AMD64 and PowerPC architectures; others are expected to follow. A huge amount of work has been done over the past 3 months or so to get it to its present state and we are very happy with its current stability and usability."

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Debian unstable: possible freetype transition

Steve Langasek reports that libfreetype is likely to undergo a library transition in the near future, as part of the improved library handling needed for all C/C++ packages. "There are currently 583 packages in unstable which depend on the libfreetype6 package. That means that if this transition happens today, it will be bigger than the KDE transition was; it will be bigger than the OpenSSL 0.9.8 transition was (469 binary packages in unstable depend on either libssl0.9.8 or libssl0.9.7 today)."

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Debian xlibs-dev Transition

The switch to a modular Xorg is nearly done now. During that transition the old xlibs-dev package became a metapackage that depended on all the libraries that it used to contain. "The xlibs-dev package will be going away soon though. It makes no sense to keep this package around now that sarge is out. Furthermore, this package really won't make any sense to keep around when we move to the fully modular tree, which is a major goal for the X Strike Force for the etch release."

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Ubuntu libstdc++ allocator change

The Ubuntu archive (main and universe) has been unavailable for some part of this week due to the libstdc++ allocator change. "The change will remove the *mt_alloc* symbols defined in some libraries, just by recompiling with a new compiler package. Therefore the package names of these libraries have to be changed again. The list of libraries is attached below."

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Ubuntu meeting minutes

The first Desktop Team Meeting was held on November 25, 2005. "We soon agreed, that the team needed more organisation, more publicity and more information on what we do and how it is done. 'seb128 does GNOME all alone' is the public observation we want to change. Oliver stated, that one problem is that people tend to think that main packages are "out of their reach"." Also the next meeting has been scheduled for December 16, 2005.

Matt Zimmerman has provided a summary of the November 29 meeting of the Ubuntu Technical Board. "There was a brief discussion about how to deal with candidates who had proposed themselves in Launchpad but not yet attended a meeting. Many of these candidates had not been seen in the MOTU community at all. Daniel Holbach volunteered to contact them and explain the process of joining the team."

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Debconf6 Call for Papers reminder

Debconf6 may not be until May 2006, but the deadline for submitting a proposal is December 6, 2006. "If you have a good idea for a talk but think you're not the best person to give it, please let us know and we'll try to find a qualified, able speaker for your topic. Alternatively, if you have an idea for both a topic and who'll present it for you, try to get them to register."

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Call for volunteers, Debian-Edu in France

Raphaël Hertzog has a report from the Educ@tice show in Paris. "The good news is that almost all education-specific distributions are now based on Debian. The sad news is that most of their work is not reintegrated in Debian and as such there's a bit of duplication of effort. That's why we need several (french-speaking) Debian Developers..."

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Unofficial FAQ Update: 2005-11-29

The great big Unofficial Fedora FAQ has been updated with new translations, new questions, better Java instructions, and more.

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OpenPKG Registry launched

OpenPKG has announced a shift in focus from the requirements of a single predominant sponsor towards the needs of a highly distributed and diverse community. "Everything available from the OpenPKG project is a free and open offering and remains this way, of course. Additionally, since years it was also possible to grab all of the OpenPKG offerings anonymously. In order to receive information about the community this anonymous access now is no longer provided for accessing the full range of OpenPKG offerings. From now on only the latest OpenPKG-RELEASE (without updates) is accessible anonymously."

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Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

The Debian Weekly News for November 29, 2005 covers Debconf6 CFP, bug squashing, the possible Freetype Library transition, improved binary NMU handling, configuration file handling, versioned dependencies, virtual Sarge servers, and several other topics.

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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of November 28, 2005 covers a call for comments on deprecating xsupplicant, FOSS.IN in Bangalore, Bonenkai in Yokohama and more.

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DistroWatch Weekly

The DistroWatch Weekly for November 28, 2005 is out. "The first test release of Fedora Core 5 and a final release of PCLinuxOS 0.92 were responsible for much excitement during the past week; we'll take a brief look at both these new products. Is Libranet GNU/Linux history? It would appear so, based on an informal announcement by Libranet's Tal Danzig. Also in this issue: a new "ideologically-pure" Ubuntu derivative, KNOPPIX seeks graphics artists, and a quick look at the new KDE 3.5 expected later this week. Our featured distribution of the week is DesktopBSD, a surprisingly intuitive and user-friendly FreeBSD derivative."

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Package updates

Fedora updates

Fedora Core 4 updates: file (upgrade to file-4.16), mysql (update to MySQL 4.1.15), selinux-policy-strict (bug fixes), selinux-policy-targeted (bug fixes), rsh (bug fixes), cpio (write_out_header rewritten), system-config-bind (bug fix), gcc (update from SVN), libtool (rebuilt with GCC 4.0.2), apr (rebuild for new gcc), mc (update from CVS).

Fedora Core 3 updates: logwatch (fix a bug that causes data loss), selinux-policy-targeted (bug fixes), mc (update from CVS).

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Trustix Secure Linux updates

TSL has a bug fix advisory out for samba, tftp-hpa and iptables.

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Newsletters and articles of interest

New Book Explains Debian Structure And Philosophy (News.com)

News.com reviews The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques by Martin F. Krafft. "Krafft introduces the system's concepts and analyzes the techniques that comprise the Debian Way of system administration and explains why Debian developers have chosen certain approaches to development that differ from other Linux distributions."

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Mandriva Linux Free now available for download (DesktopLinux)

DesktopLinux takes a quick look at the freely available ISOs for Mandriva Linux 2006 Free. "Mandriva Linux 2006 Free is a complete and comprehensive Linux distribution consisting entirely of free and open source software. It is freely downloadable and redistributable by anyone. The newest version of the company's flagship product merges "pioneer technologies" from Conectiva and Lycoris, as well as spanning for the first time a one-year release cycle, the company said."

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Desktop Linux for small business (ZDNet UK)

ZDNet UK compares five leading desktop Linux distributions to determine which will better serve small businesses. "We emerged from our Linux experience with a strong preference for Ubuntu Linux 5.10, with SUSE Linux 10 a close second. Both did everything we required of them, and both have very low setup costs. Ubuntu, in particular, costs absolutely nothing to purchase."

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Libranet's long goodbye (NewsForge)

NewsForge covers the probable end of Libranet. " "Basically the operation is shutting down." With these words, Tal Danzig, the owner and technical lead for the Libranet distribution, quietly announced in his blog on November 25 the news that users had been dreading ever since his announcement two months ago that the distribution was "restructuring." Danzig did not rule out the possibility of reviving the distribution after his return in February 2006 from a three-month trip to Israel. Yet, for now, the announcement seems to mark the end of one of the oldest and best-loved Debian-based distributions."

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'Deb-A-Day' is back at a new location! (DebianPlanet)

DebianPlanet introduces the new and improved Debian Package A Day site.

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Distribution reviews

Test drive: EnGarde Secure Linux (Linux.com)

Linux.com reviews EnGarde Secure Linux. "EnGarde Secure Linux is a server-based distribution developed with security in mind. It comes with a minimal set of services so that the server is not unnecessarily exposed, and no superfluous software -- including no X Window-based window manager. Even compilers, such as GCC, are not included. Yet EnGarde enables you to run any sort of Web presence, from a simple mail server to a complete e-commerce site. EnGarde's hardware requirements are modest. The developers recommend a system with at least a Pentium class processor, with 32MB of RAM or greater, a hard drive of 2GB, and one PCI network interface card."

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PCLOS .92 - It just works (TuxMachines)

TuxMachines reviews PCLinuxOS 0.92. "As PCLOS evolved, it's appearance has too. This release has a significantly different look than previously. This time we have a minimal background on the two major desktops, a pretty but understated windec and a new quad-colored logo. The cute penguins and cuddly polar bears are gone. We are now presented with a more mature, grown-up PCLOS. The new logo/theme creates an esoteric atmosphere of faint familiarity easing the transition to Linux from Windows."

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A first look at Debian's GUI installer (Linux.com)

Linux.com reviews Debian's new GUI installer. "Debian's GUI installer is a front-end for the Debian installer itself, and right now it is not available for all of Debian's platforms. Sarge, for example, is available for x86, PowerPC, Alpha, Itanium, MIPS, S/390, SPARC, and other platforms. Etch may support fewer, or different, platforms, but it's still likely to be available for more than just x86, PowerPC, and AMD64, which are the platforms that receive the most attention from other distributions, and the ones for which test images of the GUI installer are available. I tested the x86 installer."

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Linspire Review: Part two (News.com)

News.com continues a review of Linspire. "As most of you already know, Linspire uses a tool called CNR to install and uninstall software. CNR offers Linspire users the ability for ease of installation and more importantly, ease of discovery. Yes, the one thing that CNR has going for it is that it is like having Downloads.com built into your OS. For a newer computer user, this is a wonderful thing indeed. Unfortunately, uninstalling software is not nearly as intuitive as the installation."

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