News and Editorials
SLAX-Live CD (formerly Slackware-Live and only recently renamed to SLAX, due to trademark issues over the name "Slackware") is the better known product of the two. It is developed by Tomas Matejicek in the Czech Republic. After perusing the project's web site and the final product, it becomes obvious that a lot of design effort has been expended to create an aesthetically pleasing distribution. Similarly, much thought has also gone into the selection of included applications, especially since the downloadable ISO image is less than 200MB in size. This makes SLAX useful as a multimedia distribution - on a computer with as little as 256MB of RAM, the entire CD content can be loaded into memory, freeing the CD- or DVD-ROM drive to play media disks with MPlayer (the libdvdcss library is included).
Choosing to copy SLAX into RAM is only one of the several available options at boot time. Others include loading the IDE CD-ROM drive with SCSI emulation enabled (for burning CDs), disabling probing for USB or other hotpluggable devices and passing of other hardware and screen related parameters to the kernel. The system then proceeds with a normal boot-up and hardware auto-detection routine. As a proper Slackware-based system, it boots into command line mode and awaits the user to log in. Once done, the user has a choice to run one of the two graphical user interfaces: command "gui" will start up a full KDE session (the latest version of SLAX comes with beta2 of KDE 3.2), while typing "guifast" will launch Fluxbox, suitable for machines with limited processing power.
Given the small size of the CD, the number of included applications is on the low side, although the most common KDE applications, as well as KOffice, are all present. Konqueror is the only available graphical web browser, while Kopete is the default instant messenger. You won't find OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, Emacs or Gimp on the CD. One of the more interesting aspects of SLAX is that the author provides instructions and a set of scripts to build a custom CD; these can be applied to any Linux distribution, not just Slackware. The project's web-based user forum is very active, making it the best place to seek help.
In contrast to SLAX, STUX GNU/Linux is a fairly new project, created by Giacomo Picconi in Italy. There are two live CDs on offer. The first one (called "STUX") is a full-featured 650MB CD with a complete KDE (including all of the internationalization files), GNOME, WindowMaker, OpenOffice and other major application one would expect to find in a Linux distribution. The second product (called "DINO-STUX") is a small CD reduced to 255MB of data with KDE, KOffice, Mozilla, Samba and Xine, but not much else beyond the base system. Like SLAX, the STUX project also provides tools for building a custom bootable CD image from an existing Linux installation.
An interesting point of STUX is the availability of additional packages directly from the distribution's web site. These can be downloaded from within STUX, installed on a hard disk partition and executed from the main menu. The current list of packages is not very long yet, but it should be of interest to gamers as it includes the NVIDIA driver, WINE and a number of free games or playable game demos: Quake I - III, Unreal Tournament, Doom, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The list of available packages is updated frequently and the author welcomes suggestions for package inclusion.
While talking about Slackware-based live CDs, there are two other related projects worth mentioning. The first is LinuxNetwosix, a specialist live CD designed for system recovery, forensic analysis, penetration tests and other security-related tasks. Created by a 17-year old Italian programmer Vincenzo Ciaglia, LinuxNetwosix 1.0, with kernel 2.6.1 was released and provided for free download last month. The second project is a Slackware-based live USB, called RUNT (an acronym for ResNet USB Network Tester) and designed to run from a 128MB USB pen drive. Developed by the North Carolina State University, RUNT is a complete Slackware Linux on a USB, capable of autoconfiguring networks via DHCP. A boot floppy is required to load the USB kernel modules before loading the rest of the system from the USB pen drive.
To sum up: with its good looks, relative maturity and an active user community, SLAX is probably the most likely candidate for being that perfect Slackware-based live CD to carry around in a wallet. It even fits on one of those 80mm mini CDs.
Distribution NewsDebian Weekly News for February 10, 2004 is out. This week's topics include the project UTF-8; LILO support for device mapper; KDE support in UserLinux; GCC transition status; aging of "experimental" packages; XFree86 license problems; and more.
DebConf4 registration is open. This is the 5th annual Debian Conference, to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, May 26 to June 2, 2004.announced a new release of EnGarde Secure Linux with an available 2.6 kernel and lots of other new features.
The Guardian Digital Newsletter for February 10, 2004 is out. This issue looks at some of Guardian Digital's small business solutions; the new EnGarde Secure Linux; the new Secure Mail Suite Reviewer's Guide; and more.A new schedule has been posted for Fedora Core 2. The delayed "test 1" release is now planned for February 12.
Update notices for Fedora Core 1:
New DistributionsRox OS is a Linux distribution which is being designed around bringing a simpler experience to home users. Initially Rox OS will build upon the idea of application directories (AppDirs), that allow for easy drag and drop installation of applications and system utilities, and a simplified file system hierarchy.
Minor distribution updatesBuffalo Linux has released v1.1.3 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: The changes in this version are directed towards sysadmins. It can now directly install RPM, deb, and Slackware tgz packages, and also supports bz2 and tar.gz on the fly. The kernel has been upgraded to 2.6.2. The 'newkernel' build feature has been ported to kernels 2.4.24 and 2.6.2. A new Buffalo ISO feature has been added for creating a specialized install CD incorporating both kernel and software package changes." Compact Flash Linux Project has released v0.1.3 with minor feature enhancements. "Changes: This release adds a PostgreSQL client. Some minor bugs have been fixed. Busybox 1.00-pre7 is used. Pppd with radius now accounts for traffic in 64 bits. The PCMCIA configuration method was wrong and has been fixed." KNOPPIX has released v20040209 with minor feature enhancements. Linux LiveCD has released v1.9.0 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: The Webmin Web Manager and the Shorewall Firewall were added. Linux kernel 2.4.24 is now used. A driver for BeWAN PCI ADSL is included. The documentation in /opt/doc was updated." Quantian v0.4.9.3 has been released, with lots of new packages. RIP has released v7.1 and v7.2. "Changes: The kernel and some of the software have been updated. The program captive-ntfs has been added to enable read-write mounting of NTFS WinXP partitions. The UDF filesystem support in the kernel was updated, and LVM2 device-mapper support was added to the kernel. There are also a couple of software updates." slimlinux has released v0.6.0 with minor feature enhancements. "Changes: This release adds mutt 1.0 with IMAP instead of smtpclient and fetchpop. BusyBox is updated to 1.00-pre7 and retawq to version 0.2.2." ThinTUX has released v0.11 with documentation now available in English.
Distribution reviewslooks at two small distributions, LNX-BBC and DamnSmall Linux. "These two BBCs are clearly meant for two different purposes. LNX-BBC is the power tool for experienced sysadmins involved in hardcore rescue operations, while DamnSmall is a reasonably friendly miniature general purpose system. If I had a system that required serious network diagnosis or intrusion analysis, I would choose LNX-BBC because of its superb toolkit. If I had a system that needed simple edits to files or just an alternate operating environment, I'd probably go with DamnSmall." test drives Arch Linux. "Now here's the best part of running Arch Linux, the whole frigging thing just works! Installing XFCE automatically installed everything I needed for XFree86. Fonts are anti-aliased and sized well in both Mozilla and Sylpheed, two programs which typically look hideous in most other distributions I've tried. Getting my sound card working was as simple as installing the alsa-driver with pacman, adding the sound card driver to the list of drivers to load and adding a couple permission lines to another configuration file. Which leads me to another nice feature about Arch. Most configuration only has to be done in a handful of files which are well documented in the installation instructions. No hunting through mailing list archives to get your system up and running." concludes the "Spawn of Debian faceoff" series. "One thing is certain, Debian provides the DNA for some excellent Linux distributions. Mepis emerged as the final victor with a rating of 92. LindowsOS came in second, with an 88, barely nosing out Xandros who scored 87. LibraNet rounded out the field with an 80. Another thing for certain: just looking at the score doesn't begin to do justice to the distributions. They are all very good. In that spirit, I am going to make some special awards that go above and beyond the criteria used for comparison."
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