Thursday, August 16, 2007

Development release galore, openSUSE updates, Daniel Robbins on Gentoo's Portage, DragonFly BSD interview

For those of you who enjoy testing development releases and filing bug reports, last week provided one of the biggest feasts on record. The first betas of openSUSE 10.3 and Mandriva Linux 2008, the first test build of Fedora 8 and the fourth alpha of Ubuntu 7.10, all these in a matter of just a couple of days - it rarely gets any better than this! On top of it, the developers of MEPIS Linux announced a new test release of their live DVD, complete with the first beta of KDE 4, while the upcoming initial beta of GNOME 2.20, scheduled for release this Wednesday and likely to be incorporated into this week's development release of Foresight Linux, will ensure that a steady string of test releases continues in the foreseeable future. Although it's still August, a month traditionally reserved for holidays in many parts of the world, it looks like the development of Linux and open source software continues at a neck-breaking speed.

Despite all this excitement, there is one worrying trend that I've been observing in recent years. With each passing year, it seems that fewer and fewer Linux users are interested in downloading and testing any development releases of distributions. Looking back at the late nineties and the early years of this century, each beta release of a major distro was accompanied by tremendous anticipation and followed by endless discussions on user forums and mailing lists. Nowadays, however, that sort of healthy exchange of ideas and suggestions is largely limited to just a few loyal users. The rest of us seem to be quite content to wait for the final release before downloading and installing the new product.

So here is a topic for this week's discussion: did you download and install any of the above-mentioned development releases during the past week? If so, did you do it merely out of curiosity or did you put it through rigorous testing in order to file bug reports? Have you ever opened a Bugzilla account at your favourite project? If not, why not? Is this a case of "too many releases, too little time"? Please discuss below.

* * * * *

openSUSE Of all the main distributions, openSUSE seems to be the busiest at the moment. Following the first beta release of openSUSE 10.3, the project's developers have announced the availability of an improved software search and installation interface, as well as a one-click installation YaST module: "The interface provides a very easy installation featuring the 1-Click Installation YaST module of Benjamin Weber. This means the installation of any package can be started by a single click. YaST will show which repositories are used and which packages will be installed; the dependency solving is also all done automatically by YaST. There is no need to do these steps manually anymore." Also announced late last week: a set of openSUSE 10.3 live CDs, with either GNOME or KDE. Although still in early testing and lacking the ability to be installed on a hard disk (correction: a new "LiveInstaller" module is available in the "Miscellaneous" section of YaST; type "linux" for root password), the new live media are a welcome addition to the growing list of openSUSE products for a variety of purposes.

* * * * *

Gentoo Another week and another link to an article at Funtoo, a blog maintained by the founder and former chief architect of Gentoo Linux, Daniel Robbins. This time it's all about Portage (the venerable Gentoo package manager) and its increasingly sluggish performance: "One challenge that Portage is facing is that it is essentially trying to achieve several divergent goals - be a ports system for a meta-distribution and also provide a good and safe user experience for Gentoo users. In some cases, Portage can't really do a good job in both areas at the same time. Here's why. As a meta-distribution, Gentoo can have very complex dependency chains. However, as a user-focused distribution, you kind of want the dependency chains in Gentoo to be as straightforward and elegant as possible, without any weird conflicts - in other words, have developers do a lot of the heavy lifting to make dependencies less-fine grained and eliminate strange corner cases and blockers. Yet this hard work impacts the ability of Gentoo developers to keep the Portage tree up-to-date." The story was prompted by the author's tests revealing that an older version of Portage performed better than a more recent one and that the Beagle search engine was partly responsible for the application's sluggishness on the latest release of Sabayon Linux. Read more in this report.

* * * * *

DragonFly BSD KernelTrap has published an interview with Matthew Dillon, the founder of DragonFly BSD: "Matthew Dillon created DragonFly BSD in June of 2003 as a fork of the FreeBSD 4.8 code base. In this interview, Matthew discusses his incentive for starting a new BSD project and briefly compares DragonFly to FreeBSD and the other BSD projects. He goes on to discuss the new features in today's DragonFly 1.10 release. He also offers an in-depth explanation of the project's cluster goals, including a thorough description of his ambitious new clustering file system. Finally, he reflects back on some of his earlier experiences with FreeBSD and Linux, and explains the importance of the BSD license." A recommended read to anybody interested in the BSD family of operating systems or to those who wonder about the differences between the BSD license and the General Public Licence (GPL).

Via (Distrowatch.)

No comments: