The 1st stable NimbleX has done

Finnaly, the 1st stable released of NimbleX sub100 was released. NimbleX sub100 is a Slackware-based live CD that takes less than 100 MB on the CD, but still manages to fit in the KDE desktop.

As DistroWatch said for this distro's highlights:

USB installer (slightly better than the one in 2007v2); added K3b so you can burn CDs and DVDs; added support for PDF files; more than 240 webcam models are supported; remote desktop for RDP and VNC protocols; added a modified version of Quax's kweb2mod to use software from the Internet; wizard to create the file to easily save changes; added Parted, iptables, Guarddog, wget, xfsutils, dosfstools, GRUB, gawk, less, unarj and nano.

NimbleX has a special edition that is smaller than 100MB but still retains some functionality for a broad variaty of tasks.

Image The most important stuff that you can find in this edition are:

  • Kernel 2.6.21
  • KDE 3.5.7
  • XINE media player engine
  • XMMS audio player
  • GIMP image editor
  • Kopete IM client
  • Midnight Commander
  • Webcam Support
  • Wireless Support
  • Remote Desktop
  • Spellchecking
  • USB Installer
  • PDF Reader
  • K3B burner
  • and others ...

When booted of the HDD NimbleX sub100MB is most likely the fastest distro with KDE. It can boots approximately in 40 seconds!

A new and exciting feature is that, if you have a high speed connection, you can use software form the Internet. It's only a matter of a few clicks.

The new stuff that powers this version seem to be much better than they used to be so thanks everybody that worked to make Linux cooler!

You can view the approximate package list is here, and you can it here.

Hardy Heron: The Next Ubuntu 8.04

We all know that Gutsy (Ubuntu 7.10) is released, a version that everyone is waiting for, but today you'll be informed about the release dates of Ubuntu 8.04, codename Hardy Heron.

Officially announced on 29th August 2007, Ubuntu 8.04 operating system is scheduled to be released somewhere at the end of April 2008 and the important part is that it will be supported with security updates for 5 years on the server and 3 years on the desktop.

So, without any further introduction, here's the anticipated release schedule:
  • 29 November 2007 - Alpha 1 release
  • 20 December 2007 - Alpha 2 release
  • 10 January 2008 - Alpha 3 release
  • 31 January 2008 - Alpha 4 release
  • 21 February 2008 - Alpha 5 release
  • 6 March 2008 - Alpha 6 release
  • 27 March 2008 - Beta release
  • 17 April 2008 - Release Candidate
  • 24 April 2008 - Final release of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS
"Each new release gives us all an opportunity to shine, irrespective of which bricks in the project we are laying, and this is at the heart of our belief ? working together to produce an operating system that will empower its users and shape the IT industry, putting free software at the cornerstone of our direction. [...] Thousands of us get out of bed every day, united behind Ubuntu, ready to make a difference, working together to make our vision happen. Importantly, our ethos of collaboration and freedom extends to the development process as well as the end product." - says Jono Bacon about Ubuntu 8.04.

VidaLinux : Linux with Mac OS Sense

Vidalinux is a promising new GNU/Linux distribution based on Gentoo Linux and developed in Puerto Rico. It's currently in beta pending the first release -- and as such is full of bugs and problems. However, there's a bright future for this distro with its OS X-like GNOME interface and the new graphical front end for Gentoo's Portage system, Porthole.

Many people rave about OS X's interface, from the colorful Aqua theme to the layout of the menus and icons. Vidalinux does its best to mimic OS X's look and feel, even to the point of including gDesklets, an applet that adds a desktop-based quicklaunch icon bar identical to the dock in OS X.

The dock is handy in OS X because most Macintosh programs don't have a background shell like graphical programs in GNU/Linux, BSD or proprietary Unix. In Vidalinux, the gDesklets applet is only useful when you don't have programs running in front of it. Open one program and the gDesklet icons are hidden from view until you close, minimize, or hide the program with the Show Desktop button.

Here is the news from the developer:
Currently, us the VLOS Developers are developing the next release of VLOS wich is 1.3.1 RC3, this should be a out of the box working system where all you have to do is just install it and just start enjoying the amazing flexbility and features that Linux bring to the open community. We are planning on getting new computers wich will be used to compile basically most of the common software that are downloaded from a Portage tree we are going to be building soon and make binaries out of these compiled software so this way a user only has the task of just selecting wich software to install and binaries get installed instantly, this saves time and usefull for computers not fast enough for fast compilation. Remember, ever since VLOS reached 1.3 it has been avaible for free download under provided mirrors without any restriction. We are asking for donations to be able to reach this goal. Not only is this great for better productivity but also better for faster releases and usability. Wouldn't it be nice to just run the package manager in VLOS and just click the on the package you want and have it in a heartbeat in your desktop menu? Well that is precisely what we are trying to do, but we need donations for these computers to be brought to us in order to start this job. We do not intend for every single penny to be payed, we understand everyone has bills to pay, and food to put on the table, and take care of the best gift given by God, our kids.
Thats all. Btw, you can download the ISO from here.

hping: Your Linux Network Traffic Generator

hping3 is a network tool able to send custom TCP/IP packets and to display target replies like ping program does with ICMP replies. hping3 handles fragmentation, arbitrary packets body and size and can be used in order to transfer files encapsulated under supported protocols. Using hping3 you are able to perform at least the following stuff:

  • Test firewall rules
  • Advanced port scanning
  • Test net performance using different protocols, packet size, TOS (type of service) and fragmentation.
  • Path MTU discovery
  • Transferring files between even really fascist firewall rules.
  • Traceroute-like under different protocols.
  • Firewalk-like usage.
  • Remote OS fingerprinting.
  • TCP/IP stack auditing.
  • A lot of others.

I've tried several traffic generators for Ubuntu, Fedora (and other) like scapy, NTG, Bit-Twist, but only hping meets my requirements. Recommended.

Example: to generate 100 packets per second TCP traffic to with packets containing arbitrary destinations, just execute:

sudo aptitude install hping3
sudo hping3 --rand-dest --rand-dest --faster

Linux for Professional Audio Recording and Editing

Who say the applications and systems for audio recording and editing just only can doing within Microsoft Windows or Macintosh? Bullshit! We can do that in Linux with some special Linux distros. One of them is Musix GNU+Linux, and it's opensource and absolutely free! Musix GNU+Linux is a Free Operating system intended for musicians and users in general. Musix GNU+Linux also contains an enormous collection of free programs. The system will boot from your CD/DVD drive, with no need to install anything on your hard disk. The programs currently support the Spanish and English languages.

It is based upon the Knoppix distribution. The underlying system has been enhanced with the usual optimizations, but Musix is the only system I encountered that specifically offers the user a choice between a normal kernel (2.6.16) and one optimized for realtime multimedia performance (2.6.15-rt). That's a nice touch.
Here are some key features of Musix GNU Linux:

  • Master for CD
  • Publish musical scores
  • Print musical scores
  • Create MIDI Instruments
  • Record and reproduce Audio and MIDI
  • Edit and mix Audio and MIDI tracks with Multitrack Sequencers/Editors
  • Perform noise-reduction to recover recordings
  • Use effects in real time with any device (microphone, line, etc.)
  • Connect a keyboard or another MIDI device and control the available software synthesizers
... and many more things, but Musix GNU+Linux contains applications for many other activities besides music or audio... like for example: file management, graphics design, Internet, programming, office (spreadsheet, text processor), data retrieval, multimedia, etc. You can see the complete menu of programs available by clicking in "Musix", located in the taskbar.

The IceWM window manager is the default desktop, but you can switch it to KDE if you have sufficient resources. By the way, note the row of boxes at the bottom of the screenshot in Figure 1. Each icon represents a group of applications, including a General group and others for audio/MIDI apps, Internet-related programs and utilities, tools for administrative tasks, office-oriented software, etc. Click on an icon, and the screen changes with a new background image and a new set of program icons and folders. I liked this method of organizing the system, it invited experimentation and play.
Musix does offer Fluxbox as a desktop alternative, but selecting it killed the X server. Oh well, I was quite happy with IceWM.
Okay, about soundcards and network connection. The Musix Controls dialog (in the Admin group) includes an option for installing dual cards.The M-Audio and SBLive cards were perfectly configured and ready for use. By the way, Musix's default settings for JACK were good.

Performance was excellent. Connections were easily made, recording in Rosegarden and Ardour was simple and direct, and no xruns were reported during my recording and playback tests. Every program I tried worked, and lots of example files are provided for checking out the variety of included sound and music applications. I would definitely recommend Studio To Go for a newbie's introduction to Linux and its audio/MIDI software, but experienced users should also enjoy Studio To Go's many virtues. The Fervent Software team includes some of the most talented and experienced members of the Linux audio development world, and they are devoted to improving their products. Studio To Go 2.0 is on the horizon, and Rosegarden 1.4 is available now.

It's a
100% free multimedia operating system intended for music production, graphic design, audio and video edition, and all kind of tasks. It contains an enormous collection of free (as in freedom) programs that can replace Windows.
You can download it here.

The New Damn Small

Damn Small Linux has released candidate of the upcoming DSL (Damn Small Linux) 4.0 which contains the following fixes and improvements:

  • Added taskbar buttons & click to focus in .jwmrc
  • Corrected rdesktop icon to rdesktop.lua
  • Added emelfm - dropped mc
  • Updated association for *.gz
  • Created new Standard Boot floppy & PCMCIA modules floppy.
  • Updated getman/man url
  • Restored SCSI modules - corrected cdrecord
  • Updated .torsmo_ip to fetch ethernet device from /proc
  • Updated pendrive_usbhdd script to prompt for boot options.

While being powered by JWM (Joe's Window Manager), DSL 4.0 includes powerful and useful applications for daily use, like Dillo, Netrik and Firefox web browsers, the Sylpheed e-mail client, Xzgv image viewer, Xpaint photo editor and the emelFM file manager. Below is a list of more great applications you can find inside Damn Small Linux:

  • XMMS (mp3, ogg, mpeg, cd audio) and mp321 and ogg123 (that's right, you?ve got Music and Video)
  • Vim, an enhanced Vi
  • Assorted Xbase utilities (Xcalc etc.)
  • ssh, sshd
  • betaftpd, a very small FTP daemon
  • Sqlite a small and very fast SQL database engine
  • Nano, a Pico Clone
  • MS Office Viwer
  • Postscript Viewer
  • AxY FTP
  • Telnet client
  • Microcom
  • Midnight Commander
  • Bash Burn, CD Burning App
  • Fast and Light GUI Admin tools
  • Monkey web server
  • VNCviewer
  • Rdesktop
As we know, Damn Small Linux is a very small distro (just only 50 MB) and fast desktop-oriented Linux distribution. DSL can:

  • Boot from a business card CD
  • Boot from a USB pen drive
  • Run *inside* Windows
  • Run very nicely from an IDE Compact Flash drive
  • Be transformed into a Debian OS with a traditional hard drive install
  • Run light enough to power a 486DX with 16MB of Ram
  • Run fully in RAM with as little as 128MB (you will be amazed at how fast your computer can be!)
  • Highly extendable without the need of customization.
Need more info? Visit the DSL site.

CrossOver Linux

CrossOver Linux allows you to install many popular Windows productivity applications, plugins and games in Linux, without needing a Microsoft Operating System license. CrossOver includes an easy to use, single click interface, which makes installing a Windows application simple and fast. Once installed, your application integrate seamlessly with your Gnome or KDE environment. Just click and run your application, exactly as you would in Windows, but with the full freedom of Linux.

CrossOver Linux lets you use many Windows plugins directly from your Linux browser. Plugins work on any x86 based Linux distribution and will integrate with most browsers including Firefox 1.x, Netscape 6.x, Konqueror, Mozilla, and Opera. CrossOver also integrates with Gnome and KDE to let you transparently open any Word, Excel or PowerPoint file. But even better, you can open these attachment types directly from any mail client.

The author created two versions of CrossOver Linux — Standard and Professional — to serve our home-user/enthusiast and corporate markets even better. CrossOver Linux Standard provides individual users with the ability to run a wide variety of Windows software cleanly and economically. CrossOver Linux Professional provides corporate users with the enhanced deployability and manageability features their environments demand.

Though each CrossOver Linux (formerly known as CrossOver Office) release offers substantial improvements, version 6.01 is the most revolutionary release we have seen since we started reviewing this product circa version 3.0. Many important new programs are supported, but the real news is not in the number of programs supported, but also their purpose: World of Warcraft, Half Life, and iTunes now have silver (almost perfect) status along with dozens of other applications. There are nine gold applications now as well. Overall, CrossOver has again made a number of significant and upgrade-worthy improvements to an already useful product.

What’s new in 6.01

The most significant new feature in 6.01 is support for popular online Windows games, namely Half Life and World of Warcraft. The second most significant change is in the name: with the introduction of an Apple-based product, CrossOver Office has officially become two separate Office products. Therefore the new name for the traditional CrossOver Office is CrossOver Linux, and the new Apple product is CrossOver Mac.

Also added in 6.01 is improved support for Microsoft Office 2003, native connections to Microsoft Exchange Servers via MS Outlook, and Microsoft Project and Visio 2003 are now supported as well.

Full Review

Trinux? What is that?

Trinux was a ramdisk-based Linux distribution that boots from a single floppy or CD-ROM, loads it packages from an HTTP/FTP server, a FAT/NTFS/ISO filesystem, or additional floppies. Trinux contains the latest versions of popular Open Source network security tools for port scanning, packet sniffing, vulnerability scanning, sniffer detection, packet construction, active/passive OS fingerprinting, network monitoring, session-hijacking, backup/recovery, computer forensics, intrusion detection, and more. Trinux also provides support for Perl, PHP, and Python scripting languages. Remote Trinux boxes can be managed securely with OpenSSH.

Trinux gives you the power of Linux security tools without requiring a full-blown Linux install or the need to download, compile, install, and update a complete suite of security tools that are typically not found in mainstream distributions.

First released in the Spring of 1998, articles on Trinux have appeared in Infoworld, SecurityPortal, Usenix SAGE, and

Modified Trinux boot disks have even been used to Fight Code Red. The original post is available here. The latest labrea (2.2) package is available. To install Labrea type (getpkg labrea or add labrea.tgz to the pkglist file on your boot floppy. Type man labrea for documentation.

Trinux will boot on any i486 or better with at least 12-16 megabytes of RAM, depending on how many packages are loaded. Hardware support for many common Ethernet cards is provided in the default kerneli and additional NICs are supported via Linux kernel modules. Trinux 0.7x/0.8x is was developed using Slackware 7.1 and supports the latest 2.2.x kernels and glibc 2.1.x. Trinux 0.8x supports Linux kernel 2.4.x. Trinux was first released in April 1998. Versions up through 0.51 were based on Debian 1.31 binaries linked against libc5. Version 0.6x was built using RedHat Linux 5.2. Trinux utilizes Busybox to replace many common UNIX utilities.

FD Linux - Not Just for Floppy Anymore

Fd Linux is a very tiny floppy distribution of Linux, set to fit on one floppy disk (kernel and root fs are combined!). All binaries are based on Red Hat.

Fd Linux is
Adam Dosch's personal project. The intent of this floppy distribution was to be able to provide new linux users with low-end machines (e.g. 386) very useful set of networking related binaries that could be easily accessed at any time, in which you could use in almost any networked environment (libraries, colleges, offices, small home LANs, dorm rooms, etc.)

Fd Linux has been optimized, tested and is able to run on as little as a 386 with 8MB of RAM!

There is an immense collection of features embedded into Fd Linux:

  • Built-in firewall support
  • IP-Masquerading
  • Kernel and system-level logging
  • User-friendly network setup scripts
  • ext2 and vfat (Windows) file system support
  • In depth set of module loading binaries
  • Easy-to-use Interactive Network Setup script
  • LILO boot loader integration into boot process
  • Support for various popular Network Interface Cards
  • Wireless support tools for 802.11b wireless card setup
  • Add-on package support for additional utilities
  • Customization of startup scripts for personalized use

For anything you want to do, there's Fd Linux! So, please feel free to download the latest version and give it a try.

If any question about how to use and maintain FD Linux, you can visit here.

YDL: Yellow Dog Linux

What is Yellow Dog Linux?
An open source, Linux operating system for home, office, server, and cluster users. Built upon the Fedora Core, Terra Soft has since the spring of 1999 developed and maintained YDL for the Power architecture family of CPUs. This focus and dedication has lead to the world's leading Linux for Power OS.

What is included?

Yellow Dog Linux combines a no non-sense graphical installer with support for a wide range of Power hardware, leading (but not bleeding) edge kernels and stable, functional compilers for code development. And of course, the foundation applications and servers expected for web, database, email, and network services. Greater than 2000 packages are included on the Install DVD.

A history of dedication and innovation.

Proven world-wide as the preferred Linux OS for the Power architecture, YDL v5.0 brings Terra Soft into its 9th year of Power Linux operating system development and support. What's more, v5.0 introduces E17 as the default desktop environment, granting users a new kind of desktop experience.

Simplify your home theater.
Work by day, entertainment by night, the PS3 with Yellow Dog Linux provides a complete home office and entertainment system. Remove the CD changer and DVD player. Install the PLAYSTATION(R)3 instead. With HDMI or Component + Optical, your home theater will provide the visual and audio experience you expect ... but from a single source. At 1080i/p and with support for DTS 5.1 surround, it really is worth waiting for the blockbusters to come out on DVD.

Capture everything.
With either the PS3's GameOS or Yellow Dog Linux, you may rapidly capture your photos from most digital, USB cameras. Use 'gthumb' provided with Yellow Dog Linux to easily, quickly preview photos, organize into albums and folders, and give slide shows from your latest adventures.

Make it real.
The whitepaper must be ready for the engineering meeting. The English 203 critical review is due tomorrow morning! The Google map to the new restaurant needs to be printed. You've got YDL on your PS3!
Attach most any USB or ethernet printer (HP and Epson are Linux friendly) and use the industry standard "CUPS" web interface to configure, then print MS Office compatible documents, spreadsheets, even presentations.

You can get the ISO here.

Google Desktop for Linux!

It is almost three years since Google launched its Desktop search application for Microsoft Windows. The search major has now gone and done the same for Linux...

For those not-in-the-know, Google's Desktop application helps users search for information/files on their computers, which includes Gmail and Web search history. As the desktop index is stored locally on the computer, the application also helps users access their Gmail and Web history offline.

Similarly, Google's latest Desktop for Linux will also help users index and find their data in PCs as well as on the Web. Reportedly, Desktop for Linux deploys Google's own desktop search algorithms, and not those of Linux.

However the catch is that only computers with x86 processors can use the software. The newest Desktop supports the Debian 4.0, Fedora Core 6, Ubuntu 6.10, Novell Suse 10.1, and Red Flag 5 versions of Linux. And, the application uses either the KDE or Gnome graphical user interface (UI).

Besides, Desktop for Linux sports the ability to search source codes and information contained in .pdf, .ps, .man, and .info documents. The software features a Quick Search Box, which can be summoned by pressing the control key two times. Once the search box appears, users need to only type-in their query for the results to appear almost instantaneously.

As of now, Desktop for Linux is available in 10 languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. It can be downloaded free-of-charge at here.

Fiire - Linux based Media Center

Having Linux based Media Center doesn't burn a hole in your pocket, but enables you to have a good rig to sizzle your entertainment. Fiire is a company doing just that - it sells media boxes and remotes. Their rig is based on the FiireEngine; it's a $799 box which packs an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ processor, a 1GB of RAM, 160GB HDD, RAID support for 6 eSATA drives (that would take the total capacity to 6TB), with a motherboard having an on-board the NViDIA 6200 graphics chipset. The system has DVI, VGA, S-video, but unfortunately no HDMI. The FiireEngine accesses the company's FiireStation ($499-$899) set-top box to provide entertainment to wall-mount units. The remote provided, FiireChief ($149) controls the media center. You can have a "follow" wherein you can play a video in one room, move to the next room, and continue to watch the same video on a different screen in a different room. How cool is that? But I can see those dollars summing up to a way bigger amount. Well a cool concept with a high price tag, and still no HDMI is degrading.

Free ATI Drivers

Fully-functional video drivers -- ones capable of handling 3-D acceleration -- remain one of the weak points of free software. The Free Software Foundation has declared them a high-priority project. Meanwhile, some distributions and even more users have resorted to using the proprietary drivers offered as free downloads by card manufacturers. One of the main projects attempting to provide complete, free drivers is focusing on developing the Avivo driver for the R500 and R600 cards from AMD/ATI, so-called after a specification first introduced in this line of cards. According to Jerome Glisse, who coordinates the development of the driver, progress is being made in the project, and "maybe by the end of this year, we might have some 3-D acceleration."

The community of graphics experts in free software is a small one. Like many in the community, Glisse got his start in the now-defunct R300 project, which was designed to study 3-D acceleration in ATI cards. Although the project never produced stable drivers, many of those involved in the project have gone on to related work in Mesa, the free software implementation of the OpenGL specification for delivering 3-D graphics, or DRI (Direct Rendering Infrastructure), or the Nouveau project, which is developing free drivers for Nvidia cards. Glisse himself chose to continue giving attention to ATI largely because "I didn't think there were many people working on this card."

Glisse and the three or four other people in the project (the number varies at any given time, Glisse says) began working on the Avivo driver at the start of 2007. However, serious work only began a couple of months ago, and the first official release of the driver is still in the future.

As might be expected, much of the work involves reverse-engineering the fglrx driver, the GNU/Linux binary released by ATI, and drawing on information learned in the R300 project. "What chipmakers often do," Glisse explains, "is reuse things from previous releases. So you can find things for the Avivo in the R300. The differences between them are very slight. It looks like we could save a lot of time."

Currently, the Avivo driver is in an extremely basic state, unsuitable for general use. "The driver is actually only capable of setting the mode," Glisse says. More specifically, the project's developers have learned to program hardware specifications such as DAC (digital to analog converter), LVDS (low-voltage differential signaling), and TMDS (transition minimized differential signaling) that allow a computer to communicate with a video card. This, as Glisse says, "is the basic you need to get something on the screen."

Of course, to make the driver actually useful, more is needed. Glisse is reasonably confident that the project knows enough to work in the near future upon card initialization with such functions as suspend and display, under- and over-clocking cards, and accessing on-board RAM.

Much of the remaining work, Glisse hopes, can be ported directly from work done by the R300 project, including XAA acceleration needed for the blit function for 2-D display under the X Window System. Speaking for the project, he also says that its members know enough to make "an educated guess" that the "3-D engine is very much like the one which the R400 [driver] supports. The major differences lie in the fragment shader [the function that calculates display on a pixel-by-pixel basis], and I believe that some freely available documents from AMD give a quite insightful description of this part of the graphical processing unit."

However, Glisse adds, "I am personally a bit reluctant to do that work" immediately. Glisse suggests that upcoming changes to Mesa's and DRI's architectures makes the use of OpenGL to achieve 2-D and 3-D acceleration directly within Xorg, making the work on individual drivers redundant. For this reason, he considers porting the 2-D and 3-D acceleration in its current form a "partial waste" and would prefer to focus on the card initialization features first.

Eventually, Glisse would like to see the Avivo project's work ported to other Unix-based systems, such as the BSDs and Solaris, although he worries whether their implementation of Direct Rendering Manager, which is needed for 3D acceleration, is sufficiently advanced.

In addition, although AMD acquired ATI more than a year ago and has shown no sign yet of wanting to encourage free drivers, Glisse has not yet ruled out the possibility that corporate involvement in the Avivo project might simplify its members' work methods.

"They know that we exist, because I've talked with a few people," he says. "And AMD may be wanting open source drivers."

If it does, he believes that Avivo and related projects may play an important role. "If you really want open source drivers, then you have to go outside the company. If you don't, you won't get the support of the community and everything that goes with it. I believe that AMD right now is trying to change how it works, because if you look at what it's doing on motherboards and other things like that, it's really starting to work with the community. So we're hoping that AMD will change its mind and decide that the best thing to do is work with the community. I hope it's sooner than later."

Meanwhile, while hoping for the best, the Avivo project continues preparing for the worst by inching towards the goal of traditional drivers on its own efforts. More people could help, Glisse says, but they need to be people with experience in graphic drivers and a willingness to make a long-term effort. "I think it's one of the few places left in open source where there is still plenty of room for new people."

3 MythTV Linux distros compared

My Series 1 TiVo is getting old, so I am planning an escape route based on MythTV, a free software system that turns an old computer into a personal video recorder. This week I tested three MythTV-specific Linux distributions: KnoppMyth, MythDora, and MythBuntu. I found MythDora the best overall fit for my needs -- but there are important distinctions between the three that may lead you to a different decision.

My curiosity toward MythTV-specific distros was touched off by MythBuntu's latest release earlier this month, Public Alpha 3. I run Ubuntu on my primary desktop machine, and had a relatively painless experience installing MythTV on it courtesy of the official repositories. Only while waiting for the MythBuntu ISO image to download did I decide to check out its competition.

MythBuntu Public Alpha 3 is based on development builds of Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon," and provides users with MythTV version 0.20.1. It is available as a 423MB ISO image via BitTorrent download.

MythDora 4 is built on top of Fedora Core 6, also providing MythTV 0.20.1, and is available (via direct download only) as a 1.0GB DVD ISO image or as two CD-sized ISO images.

KnoppMyth R5F1 is built from scratch using pieces of Knoppix 5.0 and Debian Sid; it comes with a slightly older version of MythTV -- a patched version of 0.20 -- and is available through BitTorrent as a 584MB ISO.

I tested all three distros on two configurations: an Intel-based test machine with both analog and digital capture cards, and a VMware virtual machine through which I captured the lovely screenshots littered about this page.

Once you burn a disc and pop it into the optical drive, all three contestants follow the same basic playbook: install the operating system, set up MythTV's back end, then launch the MythTV front end. But, as always, the devil's in the details.

The MythBuntu install started off rocky. The installer misconfigured X by attempting to use the disabled onboard video instead of the attached video card. Normally that is a fixable mistake, but when the live CD fails to start X and drops to single-user mode, you first must repair xorg.conf, then figure out how to resume the installation process. Since MythBuntu is at such a preliminary release stage, this problem will probably get fixed when upstream Gutsy Gibbon stabilizes.

Like other *buntus, MythBuntu boots into a live CD system. From the live CD desktop you have to manually start the install process. The installer itself is slick, as is typical of Ubuntu. The GTK theme, however, needs replacing -- not for the aesthetic reasons I usually complain about, but because the on and off button states are too difficult to distinguish. That is very important at install time, when a bad selection can hose your entire hard drive, and doubly so when running a live CD with its slow user interface response time.

The installer prompts you for the usual system setup preferences -- language, user name, etc. -- but also asks you for several MythTV configuration details, which at this stage of the installation you may not be expecting. You are asked whether you want to install proprietary video drivers (a normal OS installation question), then how many tuners the MythTV back end will have (a MythTV installation question), then how you want to partition your hard drives (another OS installation question).

Once you've answered all the questions, MythBuntu jumps right into the OS install, without giving you a chance to select packages. As soon as the OS install finishes, you can launch the mythtv-setup tool and configure MythTV.

MythDora by contrast is not a live CD; when you boot from the MythDora disc you head right for Fedora's Anaconda graphical installation program. Here again, the installer is straightforward on the OS-level decisions. You do have a minimal selection of packages to choose from at install time, including proprietary video drivers broken down by video card, wireless networking drivers, and some MythTV development packages.

MythDora requires a reboot after initial OS installation; upon restart you must walk through a "first boot" wizard to finalize the OS configuration, covering items like firewall settings, SELinux configuration, and sound card setup. Only after you have done this do you begin setting up your system for MythTV-specific configuration like IR Blaster and remote control devices. You can elect to start the normal MythTV front end automatically, or to start the power-saving alternate MythWelcome front end.

The Linux system installed by MythDora differs from MythBuntu's in one fundamental way: user accounts. During installation, MythBuntu prompts you to set up one regular user account; there is no root account, so you perform all system maintenance using sudo. MythDora, on the other hand, sets up a "mythtv" user account for you, and a root account for which you must set the password.

KnoppMyth can run as a live CD, and in fact it can boot directly into MythTV front-end mode, but I tested it in the most common MythTV configuration, as a combined front- and back-end box. KnoppMyth uses a text-based installer, but it walks you through OS setup just as smoothly as the flashier GUI installers in the other distros. KnoppMyth takes yet a third approach to account management: it creates a "mythtv" user, but prompts you to create a basic user account of your own, and creates a root account for which you must select the password.

After you install the basic OS, KnoppMyth reboots, automatically starts a user session, and launches a second-stage installer for detailed setup, including video drivers and sound card testing. Once finished, this second-stage installer launches the MythTV setup program for you.

Comparing the running systems

As mentioned above, all three distros ship with a 0.20.x-series MythTV setup. This is the latest stable release from the MythTV project. Although the patch levels differ between the distros, all are on equivalent ground when it comes to hardware support and critical software features like video deinterlacing.

Similarly, all three distros purport to use the same version of MythTV Plugins, the official package that enables all of the advanced "media center" features of MythTV. It includes MythArchive, MythDVD, MythFlix, MythGallery, MythGame, MythMusic, MythNews, MythPhone, MythVideo, and MythWeather. MythBuntu alone omits MythStream, a newer plugin designed to handle audio and video RSS feeds.

Conveniently for the reviewer, all three distros choose a different default MythTV theme. MythBuntu uses "G.A.N.T.," MythDora "Retro," and KnoppMyth "Titivillus." Among those, I find Retro by far the nicest and most modern, so MythDora picks up some points for taste. Of course your preference may vary wildly, but the choice of theme can be important for usability -- most MythTV setup and navigation is done with the keyboard, cursor hidden, so a theme's highlighting can make the difference between knowing where in the menu you are and guessing.

A hassle-free, click-to-start MythTV box is the dream, but from time to time MythTV users will need to administer their systems like normal Linux machines. Some consider that a shortcoming (i.e., "MythTV isn't as easy to use as TiVo"), but don't forget that it is part of the power of MythTV, too. One of the benefits of the system is the ability to make changes -- to add features with plugins; add new capture, storage, and output hardware; or connect multiple MythTV boxes together.

All three MythTV distros include only the bare minimum of nonessential packages. MythBuntu uses the slim OpenBox window manager, but it includes the graphical Synaptic package manager, through which you can install anything available through the normal Ubuntu repositories. MythDora provides a normal Fedora desktop (including its package manager), so if you are used to running GNOME, you will find it easy to work with. KnoppMyth uses Fluxbox, and provides the text-mode Aptitude package manager, but does not offer much in the way of additional software to install.

How to choose

To decide which MythTV distro is best for you, you have to determine where you want the convenience. In my tests, KnoppMyth booted and installed to hard disk the fastest, while MythDora was slowest. On the other hand, the install process itself is easiest to follow in MythDora -- the steps and the options better explained, with none of the jumping back and forth between OS and MythTV configuration so prevalent in MythBuntu's installer.

Of course the power of the running system matters more than the installation process. All three distros give you more or less equivalent builds of MythTV and its plugins. If you care about security, you should consider the three different user/root account models and pick the one with which you are most comfortable. MythDora installs the most packages out of the box (hence its long install time); if you are trying to build a slim system you might think that's bad, but it's not bloat -- some of the included apps are really useful, such as the optical disc burner utility K3b.

For regular system maintenance, KnoppMyth simply isn't in the same ballpark as MythBuntu and MythDora. The live CD heritage of Knoppix means you cannot update individual packages, which is fine if you like that, but for an always-on system like a MythTV back end, I'd prefer flexibility and configurability of a mainline distro.

When all is said and done, if I were building my TiVo replacement today, I would do it with MythDora. MythBuntu shows a lot of promise, and I will give the final 7.10 release another look (in part because I run Ubuntu on my desktop machines), but it isn't ready yet. But whichever option you choose, rest assured that setting up an up-to-date, correctly configured MythTV box has never been easier.

Source: Nathan Willis

In praise of small Linux distros

Among the hundreds of Linux distributions, only a handful get much media attention, and only a small segment of those have become household words in the Linux community. At, one of the better known Linux ranking sites, you'll see the same names week after week in the top 20 -- Ubuntu, Mepis, Fedora, Slackware, etc. So who is using the bottom 80? And why?

Of course, many distros are created for special needs. One example is SME Server, designed as a plug-and-play file server and network gateway. Another is Smoothwall, created to be a network router. But the majority of distributions that don't receive much attention aren't that different in structure or purpose than those that get the notice and popularity.

To understand why these distributions have a following, let's look at the example of Kanotix, a variant of the well-known Knoppix live CD. It was created by Jörg Schirottke, who is known by the nickname of Kano -- hence the distro's name.

Kano took the Knoppix version of Linux, optimized it for modern hardware, and added a number of scripts that assist in hardware detection, configuration, and speed. In other words, he improved upon Knoppix. Some might say that Kanotix is what Knoppix should be, while others say it's the only distro they have ever installed where everything worked right out of the box.

Since the major distros are all fast and stable, small distros have to provide more than just speed and stability. Why do so many small distros have such a loyal entourage? The answer lies in the word "community."

Popular distributions have large communities that provide support via Web boards, Usenet newsgroups, and IRC chat. Unfortunately, the popular distributions often attract a huge number of newbies who don't know what they don't know -- but they post it anyway! Thus, when you ask a question you may get five answers, some of them wrong and some of them right, and you have to guess which is which.

In a distro community like Kanotix, while there are many newcomers to Linux, they are usually not first-time newbies. They are folks who have a few months of Linux experience under their belt. They have cut their teeth on another distro, didn't like it, and ended up with Kanotix, usually by word-of-mouth recommendations. The smaller distros tend to attract a higher number of experienced users.

If you've ever visited some of the major distros' IRC channels, you know that it can be an experience, to say the least. Flame-wars, insults, vulgar language, and a general lack of decorum are often the norm. Things are different in the world of small distros. You won't find such lack of restraint in a channel like #kanotix (on Freenode). The regulars who hang out in small distro chat channels tend to enjoy helping others and like learning about Linux themselves. For the most part, the channel stays on-topic instead of vectoring off into loud, extraneous discussions.

Because the community is small and the same folks frequent the chat channels and Web boards, using a small distro is like being a member of a fraternity or sorority. These are your brothers and sisters, and everyone gets along.

A big attraction of small distros is the easy access you have to the developers. For instance, Kano, the developer of Kanotix, is on the IRC channel at least once a day, and often for hours at a time. He answers some of the more difficult questions on his board. This is invaluable, especially for someone who has only a bit of Linux experience but wants to learn more. What are the chances of you talking directly with the lead developer of Novell's SUSE or Patrick Volkerding of Slackware? I can chat with Kano every day of the week if I need to.

Don't get me wrong -- none of this is meant to knock the large and well-known Linux distributions. They are large and well-known for good reason: They give thousands of users what they need. But for others who are unhappy with the performance, support, packaging, or the overall spirit of their current platform, it could be well worth the time and effort to try a smaller distro.

By Alan N. Canton

Gentoo - Linux

Gentoo is a free operating system based on either Linux or FreeBSD that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Extreme configurability, performance and a top-notch user and developer community are all hallmarks of the Gentoo experience.

Thanks to a technology called Portage, Gentoo can become an ideal secure server, development workstation, professional desktop, gaming system, embedded solution or something else -- whatever you need it to be. Because of its near-unlimited adaptability, we call Gentoo a metadistribution.

What is Portage?

Portage is the heart of Gentoo, and performs many key functions. For one, Portage is the software distribution system for Gentoo. To get the latest software for Gentoo, you type one command: emerge --sync. This command tells Portage to update your local "Portage tree" over the Internet. Your local Portage tree contains a complete collection of scripts that can be used by Portage to create and install the latest Gentoo packages. Currently, we have more than 10000 packages in our Portage tree, with updates and new ones being added all the time.

Portage is also a package building and installation system. When you want to install a package, you type emerge packagename, at which point Portage automatically builds a custom version of the package to your exact specifications, optimizing it for your hardware and ensuring that the optional features in the package that you want are enabled -- and those you don't want aren't.

Portage also keeps your system up-to-date. Typing emerge -uD world -- one command -- will ensure that all the packages that you want on your system are updated automatically.

What is Damn Vulnerable Linux?

Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is a Linux-based tool for IT-Security. It was initiated for training tasks during university lessons by the IITAC (International Institute for Training, Assessment, and Certification) and S²e - Secure Software Engineering in cooperation with the French Reverse Engineering Team. Visit their websites at,, and . Main authors are Univ.-Doz. Dr. Thorsten Schneider [IITAC, S²e] and Kryshaam [French Reverse Enginering Team].
Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is highly integrated into the community project ( and is frequently updated with new community provided lessons. Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is your place either to get the latest Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) distribution, to get new lessons, or to submit own lessons based on the Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) training system.

The constant website for Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is located at . Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is for educational purposes only!

Actually, it is a perverted Linux distribution made to be as insecure as possible. It is collection of IT-Security tools. Additional it includes a fullscaled lesson based environment for Attack & Defense on/for IT systems for self-study or teaching activities during university lectures. It's a Live Linux Distro, which means it runs from a bootable CD in memory without changing the native operating system of the host computer. As well it can be run within virtual machine environments, such as qemu or vmware. There is no need to install a virtual machine if you use the embedded option. Its sole purpose in life is to put as many security tools at your disposal with as much training options as it can. It contains a huge ammount of lessons including lesson description - and solutions if the level has been solved by a community member at

Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is meant to be used by both novice and professional security personnel but is not ideal for the Linux uninitiated. Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) assumes you know the basics of Linux as most of your work will be done from the command line. If you are completely new to Linux, it's best you stop playing with this system.

By Dr. Thorsten Schneider

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