News and Editorials
Patrick Volkerding has announced the release of Slackware 13.0, which means that Slackware continues its record as the oldest Linux distribution to be actively maintained. Compared with release 12.2 from the end of last year, Slackware has undergone a major overhaul: X can be autoconfigured now, this is the first 64-bit release, and the desktop environment has taken the leap to the KDE 4 branch.
In particular, the 64-bit release is a big change. While many other distributions have already had x86_64 releases for years, Slackware users were forced to wait for a x86_64 port or choose an unofficial 64-bit project such as Slamd64 or Sflack. Now they can officially join their peers in 64-bit world. This is largely due to Eric Hameleers, who changed the SlackBuild scripts to support the x86_64 architecture, re-compiled everything, tested the 64-bit packages, and stayed in-sync with the 32-bit Slackware repository. His improvements of the build scripts were even imported over to the 32-bit Slackware release. Now the only difference is whether $ARCH is set to i486 or x86_64. Hameleers's build scripts are used in other ports too, such as Armedslack, the official port of Slackware to the ARM architecture, as well as Slack/390, a port for IBM S/390 G2 class systems and above. Slackware developers are already dreaming about a unified source tree for different ports.
Users should know that the x86_64 port of Slackware is a pure 64-bit operating system, but it is "multilib-ready". Hameleers explains this on his website:
Moreover, users don't have to compile all the 32-bit packages they need from scratch; they can simply take them from the 32-bit Slackware package tree. The only thing the user has to do to create a multilib Slackware64 install is to upgrade gcc and glibc to their multilib versions and install a 32-bit compatibility toolkit, compat32-tools. Detailed instructions can be found on Hameleers' website. The whole process is not as simple as it could be, but it's done "the Slack way": Slackware is multilib-ready and lets the user choose how to make use of it.
Another big change is the move from KDE 3 to KDE 4, which has been out for about a year and a half now. The always conservative Volkerding explains why the time is ripe now for the move:
However, Volkerding notes KDE 4 has still some quirks. There are reports that the CD-burning tool K3b hasn't been working as well as the KDE 3 version, and other applications have less features in the KDE 4 versions. That's why Slackware keeps some KDE 3 compatibility packages in /extra/kde3-compat/, including a KDE 3 version of K3b.
By the way, GNOME users aren't completely left out. Although the GNOME desktop environment was removed from Slackware in 2005, several community-based projects have filled the gap. For example, GNOME SlackBuild has released an up-to-date GNOME 2.26.3 for Slackware 13.
The text-mode installer has remained largely unchanged. It lets the user choose a non-US keyboard map and try out the keyboard layout before committing to it. Then the user has to prepare the disk partitions (e.g. with fdisk or cfdisk) and type setup to begin the installation process. The installer makes use of virtual consoles: the first three consoles are login consoles, while the fourth console shows informational messages such as disk formatting status and kernel messages. The login consoles come in handy during the installation, e.g. to check how full the hard drive is with df or to use the commands on the Slackware CD-ROM that is mounted on /cdrom.
The installation is straightforward: the user selects the root partition, formats it, creates the filesystem of his choice (Ext4 is selected by default), selects the source medium, and chooses the packages to install. For a full-blown KDE 4 installation, the simplest way is to choose "Full" in the KDE list. Then all packages get installed, with each showing an information window while installing. A disadvantage of the installer is that it doesn't show a progress bar, letting the user guess how long he has to wait. After that, the user gets the option to create a USB boot stick for recovery purposes, and Slackware installs the LILO boot loader. After that, the user configures the system and chooses the desktop environment.
Under the hood, the Slackware installer has implemented some changes. For example, it now uses udev to populate /dev and manage devices, including network interface cards. This means that the user no longer has to run network scripts prior to running setup. If the installer finds a DHCP server on the local network, the setup program lets the user choose between using DHCP or specifying a static IP address. For those who don't want to use udev, it's still possible to use the old Slackware hardware configuration scripts by adding the parameter noudev to the installer command line.
Slackware features Linux kernel 22.214.171.124, GNU libc 2.9, KDE 4.2.4, Xfce 4.6.1, Firefox 3.5.2, Thunderbird 126.96.36.199, Gimp 2.6.6, and a lot of other recent packages. Look at the complete list of packages or the list of changes and hints for detailed information. Slackware 13 uses X.Org X Server 1.6.3, which means that it doesn't require an /etc/X11/xorg.conf in most cases. Input devices are configured by HAL, while the X server autoconfigures the rest. With the move to HAL in Slackware 12 and the autoconfigurable X server in Slackware 13, more and more things are now working out-of-the-box.
Slackware is known for its conservative choices, and the move to KDE 4.2 signifies that even the conservative Volkerding deems the new KDE 4 branch to be good enough. However, while almost all Linux distributions are using GRUB now and some are even moving to GRUB 2, Slackware 13 is still lagging behind with its use of the LILO boot loader by default. The developers surely will have reasons for it (Slackware holds to the "tried and true" standard for what gets included in the distribution), but all in all, Slackware seems to be back on track with other recent distributions without belying its nature of a BSD-like Linux distribution.
New ReleasesSlackware 13.0 release is out. "Probably the biggest change is the addition of an official 64-bit port. While the 32-bit (x86) version continues to be developed, this release brings to you a complete port to 64-bit (x86_64). We know that many of you have been waiting eagerly for this, and once you try it you'll see it was well worth the wait." See the release notes for more information. the release notes for details.
For CentOS users: the word is that CentOS 5.4 will be available "in 2-4 weeks or so, when it's ready"announced the availability of its first test images. "The Lubuntu project started in March 2009, with the purpose of creating a lighter and less resource demanding alternative to the Xubuntu operating system, using the LXDE desktop environment. The ultimate goal of this project is to join the ranks of Kubuntu and Xubuntu and become an officially supported derivative of Ubuntu. The developers claim that, while Xubuntu is often represented as a lightweight distro, it actually fails to run on older hardware, so they are targeting their Linux distribution at older legacy computers and devices with less than 256 MB of RAM." CRK v.188.8.131.52-rh73 i386, is based upon RedHat 7.3 i386. The kernel is patched with linux-184.108.40.206-e1000e.patch.bz2, based on the Intel driver v0.5.11.2, for Intel(R) PRO/1000 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet and works with the Intel 82574L PCIe Gigabit card."
FedoraWe will continue to further expand support for IPv6 over the next several months wherever possible. Most of our self-hosted websites have already been converted, and we plan to include IPv6 GeoIP support in MirrorManager soon."
Distribution NewslettersDistroWatch Weekly for August 31, 2009 is out. "Operating systems come in many different shapes and sizes. While there is no shortage of projects seemingly wanting to test the upper limits of modern hardware requirements, it's not every day that we discover exactly the opposite. Welcome to Kolibri - a bootable operating system in under 3 MB of download, requiring just 5 MB of hard disk space and less than 10 MB of RAM! Read on to find out more about this extraordinary project. In the news section, Slackware hits the magic 13 with a plethora of new features, Fedora announces the inclusion of a Moblin subsystem into its upcoming version 12, ClarkConnect undergoes a name change and renews its commitment to open source, Arch Linux introduces a new server-oriented kernel for better long term support, and BeleniX launches an early alpha build of its OpenSolaris-based distribution featuring KDE 4. Finally, if you run FreeBSD and want to keep your installed system constantly updated, don't miss a great document describing the various options. Happy reading!" We kick off this week's issue with the latest news on the Fedora 12 Alpha release from this past Tuesday, as well as detail on the upcoming Red Hat/Fedora/JBoss conference in Brno, Czech Republic. News from the Marketing team includes logs of the recent weekly meeting, Fedora 12 talking points development, and a Fedora Insight update. In Quality Assurance news, detail from last week's Test Day, on Dracut, and the next Test Day this week on Sugar on a Stick. Also much detail on this week's QA meetings, and reporting on the ABRT Test Day. In Translation news, detail on a new version of Transifex, and coverage of some discussion of the prioritization of packages available for translation. News from the Design team includes a new Fedora 12 Alpha banner and news on a Fedora survey aimed to improve the usability of the Fedora download pages. These are just a few items from this week's FWN!" OpenSUSE Weekly News covers openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 6 Released, Jan Weber: Summary of openSUSE @ FrOSCon 2009, Linux.com/RobDay: The Kernel Newbie Corner: Kernel Debugging with proc "Sequence" Files--Part 2, Will Stephenson: Sub-menus in KDE 4 panels and desktops are back, h-online/Thorsten Leemhuis: Kernel Log - Coming in 2.6.31 - Part 4: Tracing, architecture, virtualisation, and more. In this issue we cover: Karmic: Feature Freeze in place - Alpha 5 freeze ahead, Ubuntu Pennsylvania Open Source Conference, Ubuntu Arizona Installfest, Ubuntu Mexico Podcast #1, Ubuntu Georgia UbuCon at Atlanta Linuxfest, Launchpad news, Ubuntu Forums news, Ubuntu at Parliament of Zimbabwe, Full Circle Magazine #28, Ubuntu UK podcast: Slipback, August 2009 Team Reports, and much, much more!"
Distribution reviewsreviews SAM Linux. "SAM is based on PCLOS and as such retains some of the telltale signs - some application splash screens, the PCLOS/Mandriva hard drive installer, Synaptic, and PCLOS' version of the Mandriva Control Center. These are great and probably indispensable, but it's the uniquely SAM characteristics that really seemed to shine." lengthy look at Ubuntu 8.04 LTS from a Windows user's perspective. "[This article is] first and foremost a review of Ubuntu 8.04. And with 9.04 being out, I'm sure many of you are wondering why we're reviewing anything other than the latest version of Ubuntu. The short answer is that Ubuntu subscribes to the "publish early, publish often" mantra of development, which means there are many versions, not all of which are necessarily big changes. 8.04 is a Long Term Support release; it's the most comparable kind of release to a Windows or Mac OS X release. This doesn't mean 9.04 is not important (which is why we'll get to it in Part 2), but we wanted to start with a stable release, regardless of age. We'll talk more about this when we discuss support."
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