News and Editorials
Power users may know how to get the software they want and build it so it runs, but the average user won't go around looking for software that is not readily available to them. The job of a distribution is, of course, to provide as much software as its users will need, sometimes changing the software so that it suits the needs of its users better.
The distribution's developers, the so-called downstream developers, have different responsibilities compared to the original software developers, the upstream developers. The former are responsible directly to their users, while the latter are usually more focused on implementing their software correctly for their own standards (which means for instance implementing a protocol exactly as described by the standard, or supporting a file format exactly as it should be).
Most of the time, these two objectives are compatible with one another, and users face an interface that hides the details of the implementation. Sometimes though there are user requests that upstream developers won't acknowledge, for instance: to parse a file that was written improperly by a commonly-used tool (maybe a proprietary tool that does not support free software). In these cases, some distributions tend to edit the source, creating a modified version for that particular distribution, with a different behaviour, interface, or what not.
It's because of cases like this, especially in the last few years, that there have been many arguments between original developers and distributions, which sometimes involved legal threats, forks or removal of software from distributions' repositories. It's not fun to watch these arguments going by, and sometimes it's all because of differences in opinion between the developers, or in how their experiences have affected their views.
Starting with the idea that everybody wants to have the software they wrote used, this article will try to explain what distributors want and why they ask the original developers to cooperate toward that goal. People who worked both as an upstream developer and as a downstream maintainer usually know what is being done with their code in a distribution and why. For people who have only seen one side, understanding of the needs or the reasons of the other side might be a very difficult task.
While one might actually expect a philosophical debate between developers on formats and how to implement a protocol, it's difficult to understand how so many arguments are caused by different technical requests. Unfortunately even the technical needs are often different between upstream projects and distributions. The only way to accommodate both is to provide choices, something that more times than not is considered bad by the upstream developers, who do not want the complication of too many choices.
I sincerely doubt there will ever be a time when all the upstream developers and the downstream maintainers will be on the same page, but it is possible to at least try to understand what the other side wants, and see if it's possible to cover their needs, without regressing. Even if that means increasing the complexity a bit. It is true that most of today's tools, in every area, are more sophisticated and complex than their equivalent years ago (tens of years for computer tools, hundreds of years for other areas).
[This ends part 1 of this article. Part 2 will look at the technical needs of distributions and the upstream developers. Finally, part 3 will cover the philosophical concerns and present some conclusions. Stay tuned for part 2, which should air in two weeks.]
New ReleasesCodenamed "Hardy Heron", 8.04 LTS continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution." Beta editions of Kubuntu, Xubuntu, UbuntuStudio, and Mythbuntu are also available. Ah, spring... when a young penguin's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of... Beta testing! Yes, spring has sprung, and so has the Beta release of Fedora 9!" With that note, the Fedora developers announce their beta release and request that anybody interested in Fedora 9 help to test it out. There's a lot of interesting stuff in this release; see the announcement for details.
FedoraI've stripped non-Free firmware bits from Fedora kernels for F8 and rawhide, starting from tools developed by the gNewSense folks and now in use by BLAG developers, and built alternate kernels that I've successfully booted up and used on my x86_64 notebook."
Slackware Linuxentire changelog.
Ubuntu familyThe supported upgrade path from Ubuntu 6.10 is via Ubuntu 7.04... Note that upgrades to version 7.10 and beyond are only supported in multiple steps, via an upgrade first to 7.04, then to 7.10. Both Ubuntu 7.04 and Ubuntu 7.10 continue to be actively supported with security updates and select high-impact bug fixes."
Other distributionsThroughout the past fifteen years, NetBSD has increased the portability and security of the 4.4BSD operating system on which NetBSD was based, and added support for new processor and system families, while enhancing the system's performance to such an extent that NetBSD has become known as the most portable operating system in the world." BLAG Linux and GNU has made available a Linux 184.108.40.206 kernel with all non-free software removed. Click below for a link.
New DistributionsSliTaz GNULinux is a very small desktop system that runs from live CD or live USB. SliTaz v1.0 is the first stable version to be released, after two years of development. This version, released March 22, 2008, weighs in at under 25Mb. This week's DistroWatch Weekly says "SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0 - at 25 MB, it has to be the smallest desktop distro ever created!"
Distribution NewslettersopenSUSE Weekly News covers openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 3, SoC Student Application Period Open, Brainshare Digest, One-Click-Install improvements, and more. DistroWatch Weekly for March 24, 2008 is out. "Debian-related happenings form the dominant topic of this issue. The feature story is an interview with Chris Hildebrandt, one of the main developers of the increasingly popular sidux distribution. How do the developers of this project test and stabilise Debian's unstable branch? And who is behind the seductive artwork and theme that graces its fast and cutting-edge desktop? Read below for answers. In the meantime, the Debian Installer team releases the first beta for Lenny, while Ubuntu unveils its own beta of the upcoming "Hardy Heron" Long-Term Support (LTS) release. But it isn't all about Debian. In the news section, Novell hints at an upcoming release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, the Fedora board votes to remove pointers to the Fluendo codecs, the PCLinuxOS community releases a GNOME edition, and NetBSD celebrates its 15th birthday. Finally, don't miss the new distribution section where you'll find SliTaz GNU/Linux - at just 25 MB, it has to be the smallest desktop live CD ever created! All this and more in this week's DistroWatch Weekly."
Interviewsintroduces Masim Sugianto. "I'm an Indonesian, 32 years old, born and live in Bekasi-West Java, a small town near Jakarta - main city of Indonesia - since 17 May 1976. I married with my beloved Renny Dear Yuniastuty and a child named Muhammad "Zeze Vavai" Rivai Alifianto. I'm a happy blogger. I have about 7 blogs :-) . I'm currently working as an IT guy in East Jakarta."
Distribution reviewslook at the Ubuntu Hardy Heron beta. "I like Ubuntu. With each incarnation Im seeing improvements and betterments that make the OS better, more robust, more user friendly and more fully-featured. In fact, Ubuntu 8.04 is the first Linux distro that Ive come across that I would consider loading onto my notebook to replace Windows. Throughout my testing Ubuntu 8.04 beta has been reliable and performed flawlessly."
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