News and Editorials
Red Hat Linux and Fedora Core. The year 2003 turned out to be a year of transition for the world's most popular Linux distribution, with Red Hat Linux as we knew it, finally ceasing to exist. It was replaced by Fedora Core, a supposedly community-driven project for Linux enthusiasts, while the name Red Hat is now exclusively reserved for use in "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" (RHEL). The decision has left a gap between what is often perceived as Red Hat's experimental product (Fedora Core) and what is beyond financial reach of many small businesses (RHEL). It also resulted in confusion of some long-term Red Hat users and supporters who felt deceived by the policy change. For others though, Fedora Core is more than an adequate replacement: perhaps lacking Red Hat's traditional attention to quality control and slightly rough around the edges during the transitional period, but still a great product for those willing to share their experiences and solutions on the developers' mailing list. Fedora Core 2 is scheduled to enter a new testing phase in early February, with the final release expected on April 5th. The two critical features of this release are the inclusion of the 2.6 kernel and SELinux functionality.
Mandrake Linux. MandrakeSoft seems to have just about recovered from the financial troubles that were made public just over a year ago. The company released Mandrake Linux versions 9.1 and 9.2, with the ISO images of the latter version being made available exclusively to the MandrakeClub subscribers weeks before general release. The reviews have been mixed; some reviewers found the 9.2 version rather buggy, with a large number of post-release bug fixes by Mandrake confirming these observations. Still, Mandrake Linux has retained its reputation as a home users' favorite distribution by providing freely downloadable ISO images, by including excellent graphical configuration tools and by maintaining a highly active user and developer community. Mandrake Linux 10.0 with kernel 2.6 is scheduled to be released in March next year, with the first beta expected on January 1st.
Debian GNU/Linux. Not many people will be surprised to hear that the Debian project has gone through 2003 without producing a new stable version. Debian Sarge was originally scheduled for release in early December, but the release manager's optimistic prediction turned out to be way off the mark. The unfortunate compromise last month of several servers hosting the Debian project has further delayed the release. As the critical bug count still remains unacceptably high, don't be surprised if we don't see a stable Debian Sarge until well into the second half of 2004. Despite the setbacks, Debian has been one of the winners after the policy changes at Red Hat, with many users clearly finding the non-commercial nature of Debian more re-assuring and a lot more resistant to unpopular policy shifts than its commercial competitors. And although the latest stable release, Debian Woody, is badly outdated with its default kernel now two generations old, the Debian developers continue to support it with timely security patches.
SUSE LINUX. This was a big year for the German Linux company. Besides a name change (from SuSE Linux to SUSE LINUX), several new product releases and partnership announcements, SUSE's main presence in the media was triggered by two big events: one was the decision of the City of Munich to switch 14,000 servers and workstations to SUSE LINUX, while the other was the acquisition of SUSE by Novell. Like Red Hat, SUSE also appears to be focusing on large enterprises and volume customers. However, it is likely to continue with a twice-a-year release cycle of Personal and Professional editions of SUSE LINUX, of which the Professional edition will serve as a base for the company's less frequent enterprise-class products. We can expect a new version of SUSE LINUX, likely shipping with the 2.6 kernel, early in the second quarter of 2004.
Gentoo Linux. After the exponential growth of the increasingly popular source-based Gentoo Linux earlier this year, the distribution is entering a period of stabilization with more planning and predictability than before. This is already reflected in the updated release schedule for 2004, in which the Gentoo versions will change to a year-based scheme. Each quarter will see one new stable release with version 2004 expected in January, 2004.1 in April, and so on. Gentoo Linux 2004 will also incorporate the new 2.6 kernel, which will possibly make Gentoo the first distribution shipping with the new kernel. Besides general releases, other exciting development efforts abound at Gentoo; these include a new portage-ng, the successor of the Portage package management, as well as catalyst, a tool for building customized stage tarballs and live CDs.
Slackware Linux. Uncharacteristically, Slackware produced two stable releases this year - versions 9.0 and 9.1. The latter was declared "kernel 2.6 ready" and we can expect a new Slackware release soon after XFree86 4.4 and KDE 3.2 are declared stable. In July, Slackware also celebrated a 10-year anniversary since the initial release of Slackware Linux 1.0; this makes Slackware the oldest surviving Linux distribution available today. And despite the absence of any official dependency resolution package management tools and graphical configuration utilities (or perhaps because of it), Slackware remains one of the most popular, best loved and widely used Linux distributions on the market, especially on servers.
Knoppix. It would be wrong to conclude this story without mentioning Knoppix. As a truly innovative product, the Knoppix live CD has had an enormous impact on the distribution market in terms of Linux advocacy and adoption among users who had never tried Linux before. Besides being a great demonstration and rescue tool, Knoppix has also caused an explosion in other live CD projects, as evidenced by the Knoppix Customizations page at knoppix.net, which now lists no fewer than 70(!) Knoppix-based distributions and related projects. The success of the Debian-based Knoppix has also alerted developers and fans of other main distributions, with several Red Hat, Mandrake and Slackware-based live CDs all competing for our attention. Year 2003 can safely be declared as the "Year of the Linux live CD"!
Finally, a personal note. It has been a great privilege, as well as an interesting experience, to write these weekly articles for LWN.net. I would like to use this opportunity and express my gratitude to all readers who have contributed corrections, suggested improvements and provided feedback in the form of comments or personal emails here and at distrowatch.com. I will use them to gauge readers' interests, keep the pulse on happenings at popular distributions and perhaps uncover a hidden gem or a unique idea among the many interesting projects out there. Thank you all and happy holidays!
Distribution Newssummarized its product-life policy and Open Source commitment. "At a time when some of the established Linux companies are turning away from their Open Source roots and progressively abandoning full-time commitment to Open Source Software, many people have asked MandrakeSoft to clarify its position regarding product-lifetimes and its Open Source development model."
As per the policy mentioned above, here is a reminder that Mandrake Linux 9.0 has entered it's last phase of support and as a result will only be receiving critical updates to the base OS. It's time to upgrade.
Mandrake Linux 9.2 bug fixes:
New DistributionsLormaLINUX is Lorma Colleges' very own Linux Distribution that has been optimized and customized to meet the needs of educational institutions and its students. It is a full-featured Operating System specifically created for ease of installation, ease-of-use and functionality. LORMALinux 4, based on Fedora, was released December 9, 2003.
Minor distribution updatesCollege Linux has released v2.5 (ObiWan). "One of the innovations is our CollegeLinux server robot which install & configure automatically (almost no question asked) Apache, PHP, MySQL, SQLite, Webmin and Phpmyadmin (mysql front end) and SQLiteManager (sqlite frontend) your complete server & development environment. It is the easiest tool ever seen on linux to build your very own server up and running at the end of the installation." Devil-Linux has released v1.0.3 with major security fixes. "Changes: Some source has been updated because of vulnerabilities and some minor bugs have been fixed. Kernel MPPE support is working again." KnoppiXMAME has released v1.1 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: This release uses the 2.6 kernel. It supports more joysticks, and ALSA ISA cards. The CD is more modular now, allowing the replacement of the kernel or xmame executable. Because xmame development is very rapid, this should be a welcome addition." Linux LiveCD Router has released v1.8.3 with minor feature enhancements. "Changes: This release adds new linux-wlan-ng-0.2.1-pre16 drivers for Prism2 wifi cards and a new acx100-0.2.0pre6 driver for some DLink wifi cards in /opt/drivers. The documentation in /opt/doc has been updated." Openwall GNU/Linux has released Owl 1.1, currently available for purchase on a CD and will also be available for download after January 7, 2004. Click below for more information. SmoothWall has released Smoothwall Express 2.0 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: SmoothWall GPL is now SmoothWall Express. SPI using Linux 2.4 kernel with iptables and netfilter. The installer, the Web user interface, VPN, graphs, and proxy performance were improved. Connectivity device support was improved, including USB/PCI ADSL and USB BT HH ISDN. uPnP support was added for Microsoft Windows XP users. Static DHCP assignments are now possible. The time can be synced with an internal or external NTP server. The configuration can be backed up or restored to a floppy disk. Simpler port forwarding was added. An external IP blocking feature was added. A new Java SSH client was added." Source Mage GNU/Linux has released v0.8.0 "Mending". Among the changes; sorcery 1.6 is used (no more lockexec), latest stable grimoire, kernel 2.4.23 with XFS patches, JFS support added while installing, and more.
Distribution reviewsreviews LormaLinux and its parent Fedora Core 1. "Although I was going to review only Lorma Linux I thought it would be impossible to do it without bringing Fedora into the equation. This is because Lorma is the first derivative of Fedora Core to be released. Lorma Linux is developed by the MIS Department of Lorma College in the Philippines. It is a recompiled and optimized version of Fedora for i686 computers, so it should be faster and more responsive. Instead of Fedora's 3 CDs it only occupies 1, but also integrates software from the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) for setting up disk-less workstations. Although Fedora is a Gnome centric release and the session list contains gnome in gdm, it uses KDE. In contrast Fedora has both KDE and Gnome but is really gnome centric and their implementation of it truly is slick." compares Fedora Core 1 to SuSE Linux 9.0. "While Linux still has a long way to go in the arena of security, both distros have done some very good things that deserve mentioning. In both cases unnecessary services are initially turned off, a firewall is installed by default, and patch management is handled with intelligence and grace. SuSE has a slight edge over Fedora in their firewall tool, and Fedora has a slight edge in patch management."
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