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A First Look at Turbolinux 10 Desktop

October 29, 2003

This article was contributed by Ladislav Bodnar

Turbolinux, established in Japan in 1992 under the name of Pacific HiTech, is one of the oldest surviving Linux companies. Like many others, it started by publishing a monthly CD-ROM containing the latest Linux software, before creating its own RPM-based Linux distribution in 1996. The company moved its headquarters to the United States in 1999, but returned to Japan some two years later when it was sold to a Japanese software firm called Software Research Associates. Turbolinux is a founding member of the United Linux consortium.

Turbolinux 10 Desktop is the company's first desktop-oriented release in over a year. Although the product is currently only available in Japan, Turbolinux also plans to introduce its "Basic" edition to the English-language audience next month. Those readers familiar with the distribution might be surprised at the complete change of focus in this release - instead of continuing to develop a general purpose distribution for Linux enthusiasts, Turbolinux 10 Desktop is designed for complete novices to Linux. Its target market is the average Windows user who is interested in migrating to Linux with as little pain and learning curve as possible. It attempts to compete with products such as LindowsOS, Lycoris Desktop/LX or Xandros Desktop.

The most controversial aspect of Turbolinux 10 Desktop is the fact that it is the first Linux distribution to ship with a 2.6 kernel (2.6.0-test5 development kernel, to be precise). Some might question the wisdom of this decision, which seems to have been based on the desire to increase the product's marketability, rather than on solid technical reasons. Nevertheless, Turbolinux 10 had undergone two months of beta testing prior to its release and the company promises to supply a new stable kernel as soon as it becomes available. But while there are many nice new features in the 2.6 kernel series, not everyone will be happy using it at this time. As an example, NVIDIA has yet to produce a graphics driver that would compile cleanly under it. A wiser option would have been to give users a choice between a stable and a development kernel, rather than forcing everyone to the bleeding edge.

Installing Turbolinux is one of the more pleasant aspects of the product. The distribution's "Mongoose" installer is not only extremely functional, it is also aesthetically well-designed. It is loosely modeled on Red Hat's Anaconda, except that the choice of languages is limited to English, Japanese, simplified and traditional Chinese (Korean is gone from this release), while the selection of journaled file systems include ext3, JFS, ReiserFS and XFS. Raid arrays and logical volume management can also be set up during installation. The installer is able to configure Samba-based networks automatically, so that all networked computers are immediately browseable after first boot. This, together with flawless hardware detection and configuration contributed most to the overall positive experience with the installation program.

Turbolinux 10 comes with KDE 3.1.3 (default), GNOME 2.4.0 and XFce 3.8.18 as choices of desktop environments. The menus are greatly simplified and made to resemble Windows menus wherever possible, while hiding more advanced options and more obscure packages deeply inside menu structures. Some other aspects designed to make Windows converts feel right at home include the "My Documents" folder and the My Networks-style "Windows Network" icon on the desktop. The distribution also comes with CD and floppy automount support, as well as Turbolinux-specific "Dynaplug" tool for accessing USB flash memory and IEEE-1394 removable devices. 802.11b wireless network cards and advanced power management for notebooks are also supported.

What does Turbolinux supply in terms of configuration tools? A new "Turbo Update" is a graphical utility for security, bug fix and product updates directly from a remote FTP server or local file system. Other tools include package administration, language selection, daemon configuration, window manager selection and some Turbolinux-specific hardware configuration utilities. All of them are integrated into the KDE control panel, although they can also be launched independently.

It is important to note the differences between the Turbolinux 10 Desktop edition ($143) and Desktop Basic edition ($29). In terms of value, there is little comparison as the Basic edition lacks some proprietary applications as well as an office suite. On the other hand, the more expensive edition includes Sun's Star Suite 7 (the Asian equivalent of Star Office) and Acronis Partition Manager, as well as printed documentation and 3 years of free Turbo Update service (1 year for the Basic edition). It also comes with a proprietary ATOK Japanese input method.

While all of the above sounds fairly impressive, no distribution is perfect and Turbolinux 10 is no exception. The Turbo Update service came with misconfigured defaults and, while entering the correct path to system updates fixed the problem, the new configuration did not stick between sessions. Worse, the program kept reporting available package updates even after they had been updated. All errata information is only given in Japanese, and don't expect perfect English in system dialogs either. But possibly the worst aspect of Turbolinux is lack of any online documentation as well as an absence of English language support services, such as community web sites, user forums or mailing lists. Unless the company makes an effort to create a solid English documentation and support infrastructure, the product will only be really useful to those users who can read Japanese and who need good Japanese functionality in a Linux distribution.

Comments (2 posted)

Distribution News

Debian GNU/Linux

The Debian Weekly News for October 28, 2003 is available. This issue looks at a discussion by the XPde team on the legal implications of emulating aspects of proprietary desktop environments; Andreas Steinel announced a set of pictures that he took at OpenSaar and Linux-Kongress; an upcoming SPI Board election coming up; and more.

A Debian bug-squashing party is planned for Sunday November 9th 2003, in Ecublens, Switzerland. The GULL (Groupe romand des Utilisateurs de Linux et de Logiciels Libres) is organizing the effort that will be open to members and non-members.

Ian Murdock has posted this note to the debian-devel mailing list, with a status report from Progeny. Among other things, Progeny has ported Red Hat's Anaconda installer to Debian. "It is our hope that a distribution-independent Anaconda and a distribution-independent APT (plus, eventually, a distribution- independent configuration framework) will, along with a stronger LSB, help unify further the various Linux distributions."

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Gentoo Linux

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of October 27, 2003 is out. This week read about improved support for virtual hosting and web-based applications, 2.6 kernel LiveCDs available for x86 and amd64, kernel developer positions open in the Gentoo Linux Project, GWN is seeking an additional contributor, and more.

The Gentoo Linux project will be releasing updates for Apache and all web-based packages, to make it easier to use Gentoo Linux on servers that host more than one website at once.

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Mandrake Linux

The Mandrake Linux Community Newsletter for October 24, 2003 is available, with a look at the Mandrake 9.2 'FiveStar' release and more.

A number of Mandrake Linux 9.2 bug fixes are available. Issues with the default mailman install, mdkkdm problems under amd64, fixes for drakconnect, and many other bugs have been fixed in this errata.

New Mandrake Linux 9.2 kernel packages are available which address the problems with certain LG-based CD-ROM devices.

Comments (none posted)

ALT Linux Compact

A new beta of ALT Linux 2.3 is now available. Most known release bugs are fixed, and the cleanups are now rather cosmetic. Click below for more.

Full Story (comments: none)

Slackware Linux

Slackware Linux has a few items in the slackware-current changelog since last week. Check the log for details on tweaks to glibc, and upgrades to automake, gdb, gst and swaret, a new version gcc in testing, and more.

Comments (none posted)

New Distributions

GoboLinux

GoboLinux is an alternative Linux distribution that redefines the entire filesystem hierarchy. Package management is performed through the directory layout itself by storing each program in its own /Programs/[AppName]/[Version] directory. Version 007 was released on October 25, 2003.

Comments (1 posted)

Hakin9 Live

Hakin9 Live is a bootable distribution (based on Aurox Live) which contains hacking, security, and network diagnostic tools. Hakin9 joins the list at version 0.9, released October 28, 2003.

Comments (none posted)

Minor distribution updates

Astaro Security Linux

Astaro Security Linux has released v4.016 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: This new ISO includes a new kernel for supporting new hardware, extends PCMCIA card support (Prism 2/2.5/3) for WLAN, adds more ACPI functions, and has DMA support for speeding up newer hard disks. It fixes several bugs and other issues with PPTP. ASL 4.016 includes a 30 day evaluation license with all features enabled."

Comments (none posted)

Devil-Linux

Devil-Linux has announced the Halloween release of Devil-Linux 1.0. New features include kernel 2.4.22 with FreeS/WAN and Netfilter patches applied, Kernel Security through GRSecurity, almost all software compiled with the GCC stack smashing protector, new "setup" program for basic configuration, and much more.

Comments (none posted)

dyne:bolic GNU/Linux

dyne:bolic GNU/Linux has released v1.1.1 with minor bugfixes. "Changes: This release fixed a booting problem on PCs with that Award BIOS that prevented the distribution from loading from CD. There is no need to upgrade if the the previous version is already working on a system."

Comments (none posted)

Linux From Scratch

Linux From Scratch has released v5.0-pre3. "Changes: Changes from pre2 to pre3 are strictly textual changes such as spelling fixes. Other than that, the package contents and descriptions were updated."

Comments (none posted)

MoviX

MoviX has released v0.8.1pre3 with minor feature enhancements. "Changes: The supervesafb and supermount patches have been applied to the kernel. Digital audio output are now on by default. A new "Play->Dir" menu has been introduced to automagically play every audio/video file within a selected directory. MoviX is once again able to boot from Windows partitions."

Comments (none posted)

Quantian

Quantian has released (test) 0.4.9.1. "This new version been contains an updated kernel and openMosix patch, a broadcom bcm4400 network driver (required by some newer motherboards), and updated packages throughout."

Full Story (comments: none)

SmoothWall

SmoothWall has released v2.0 beta7 with minor bugfixes. "Changes: Security fixes for OpenSSH and OpenSSL from beta6. Graphs for PNG, an .htaccess bug, Snort log rotation, a DHCP problem, and a gettime.pl bug have been fixed. This release has advanced TCP networking, IP blocking, configuration backup and restore, an updated BeWAN driver, and a better, faster squid with diskd support."

Comments (none posted)

Snootix

Snootix has released v0.4.1 with minor bugfixes. "Changes: A library needed to compile LFS (libext2.so.2) was added to disk1."

Comments (none posted)

Source Mage GNU/Linux

Source Mage GNU/Linux has released v0.7.1 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: The biggest change is that devfs is now used on /dev. All the changes necessary for using devfs have been made and tested. sorcery is upgraded to version 1.4. Mount points for CDROM and floppy drive now exist by default. Drivers for several ADSL modems have been added (in source form only)."

Comments (none posted)

ttylinux

ttylinux has released v3.3 with minor bugfixes. "Changes: This release updates LILO to its latest version and fixes a few minor bugs in the init scripts."

Comments (none posted)

Warewulf

Warewulf has released v1.16 with minor bugfixes. "Changes: A bug has been fixed in wulfd with regard to large memory and use of atol(l). A bug in the nodes with dhcpd restarting with a lost return code has been fixed. Masterconf is easier to use."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution reviews

Vector Linux 4.0 (PCBurn.com)

PCBurn.com has this review of Vector Linux 4.0. "Vector Linux (download edition) bills itself as a pre-configured Slackware derivative with updated packages and all the programs you'll need for a generic desktop or file server. Basing their OS's underpinnings off of Slackware allows Vector Linux to retain the old school Unix feel of Slack while loosing some of the non essential bits accumulated up over that venerable distribution's history. Think quick Slackware installation with only the essentials."

Comments (none posted)

Learning to Walk: A Linux User Migrates to FreeBSD (OfB.biz)

Open for Business continues a review of FreeBSD. "It's still about freedom, but it's freedom for a reason. It's no good being free to do a million things I don't want if I can't do the one thing I do want. FreeBSD 5.0 is just a test release: Don't try this at home, kids. It was broken in many places and I wasn't getting much work done. So I accepted someone's offer to provide me with 4.8."

Comments (none posted)

Libranet 2.8.1 (NeoLink)

Neolink Computers reviews Libranet 2.8.1. "One thing I noticed about Libranet is that it's not flashy at all like a SuSE or Lycoris. It's strictly a well-built Linux distro that has an extremely useful tool set at your fingertips. It's a "get down to business" distro that does exactly that -- let's the user get down to business. It eliminates all of the learning that a newbie will have to painstakingly discover through "googling", posting to and scouring message boards, and reading an endless stream of documentation."

Comments (none posted)

Enterprise Linux Server Distributions (TechNewsWorld)

TechNewsWorld compares Red Hat Enterprise Linux against several flavors of UnitedLinux. "While neither SuSE UnitedLinux nor Red Hat's distribution strayed from its Linux Standards Base (a reference platform that ensures that all applications can run across Linux distributions), hardware support favored Red Hat, if only for a larger driver base and advanced hardware detection. But we found that all hardware items were discovered and configured correctly, with few mistakes made by each distribution vendor. All UnitedLinux distributions behaved identically."

Comments (none posted)

Review: SUSE 9 Professional (UnixReview.com)

UnixReview has a review of the preview release of SUSE Linux 9 Professional. "Because SUSE 9 is a major version jump (from 8.2 to 9.0), I expected the release to be significantly different from its predecessor. It definitely has some improvements, but it seems like more of a point release than a major jump. SUSE 9.0 is a modest upgrade from SUSE 8.2. There are a number of improvements, but it's not the major leap that many Linux users may be used to. The additional YaST modules may be the best reason for upgrading."

Comments (1 posted)

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