Libranet GNU/Linux, a commercial Linux distribution
based on Debian, has been given increasingly positive
coverage in Linux media. Its recipe for success is
simple - it attempts to remedy some of the often cited
shortcomings of Debian proper, by providing a simple
installer, user-friendly system configuration tools
and up-to-date selection of software packages. Combine
that with a friendly user community and you have a
winner. Let us investigate what Libranet is about and
why you should give it a serious thought when choosing
your Linux distribution.
The Great Divide - APT vs. RPM
One of the greatest strengths - and also one of the
greatest weaknesses - of GNU/Linux is the way that
numerous developers have taken the OS and molded it
the way they like it. Occasionally this produces a
"fork" - two (or more) camps of devout users, both
vehemently insisting that their way of doing things is
best. The most prominent example of this is probably
the great GUI debate (Is KDE or Gnome better?).
Another equally important divide exists over the
seemingly mundane issue of package management. The two
biggest contenders are the Red Hat package manager
(RPM, as it is popularly known) and Debian's Advanced
Package Tool (APT, or apt-get) system.
Until late 2002, it seemed as if the debate was all
but over - RPM was winning by a landslide. All the
major Linux distros - including but not limited to Red
Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, Caldera, and Conectiva - were RPM
based. Furthermore, the LSB (Linux Standard Base)
project endorsed RPM. To add insult to injury, the
big-three Debian-based commercial distros failed in
the marketplace - Stormix, Corel and Progeny.
Debian users had their loyalty tested when Linux
kernel 2.4 was released in January, 2000. Within four
months of the release, all the major RPM-based distros
produced sets of nicely packaged CDs based on the new
kernel. But for Debian users, the process of migrating
to the new kernel took more than two years. During
this interval, Debian was falling seriously behind the
other well-known distros in terms of features.
Of course, one could argue that by constantly
downloading the "testing" and "unstable" packages,
Debian users could in fact enjoy the latest and
greatest that the RPM-based competition had to offer.
But "testing" and "unstable" are just what the names
imply. Whether they wished to admit it or not,
Debian's loyal fans were pining for the day when the
new stable release would hit the ftp servers.
Debian 3.0 (code-named "Woody") was released on July
19, 2002. It was an occasion for much rejoicing - at
last, Debian users had an up-to-date stable distro. Or
did they? Stable, yes, but up-to-date was debatable.
Linux development moves at nearly the speed of light,
and by the time Woody was released, RPM-based distros
were offering new features that Debian still relegated
to the testing branch (now code-named "Sarge"), or the
unstable branch (known as "Sid"). Furthermore, Debian
continues to suffer from a relatively difficult-to-use
installer, mediocre hardware detection, and somewhat
complicated system administration.
None of the above should be taken as a fatal flaw of
Debian - indeed, Debian's slowness to market might
even be considered a "feature". The Debian philosophy
has always been "release when ready". As a result,
Debian has bragging rights as one of the most stable
distros around. Furthermore, Debian also can boast
about being the largest Linux distro in existence -
Woody includes 8710 packages. Creating and testing
thousands of packages is no mean feat, and made more
difficult by the fact that Debian is a non-commercial
product, created by volunteers who also need to work
day jobs to pay the bills. This is in sharp contrast
to commercial distros such as Red Hat, where full-time
programmers are employed.
Obviously, Debian's fortunes would be improved if
commercial developers decided to produce their own
Debian-based distros with cutting-edge features. And
rather suddenly, this has happened. Following fast on
the heels of Woody, there were milestone releases of
new Debian-based distros - Lindows 3.0, Xandros 1.0,
Knoppix 3.1, and Libranet 2.7. Lindows and Xandros are
both commercial distros, notable for their ease-of-use
that will help Windows users make an almost painless
transition to Linux. Knoppix is a different animal - a
unique non-commercial distro that runs entirely off a
CD-ROM. And then there is Libranet.
Libranet is Debian made easy. The product of Jon and
Tal Danzig - two programmers based in Vancouver,
Canada - Libranet is a commercial Debian-based distro
"that just works". Almost overnight, Libranet seems to
have leaped out of obscurity and is now getting
serious attention as a potential major contender in
the distro wars.
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It is to inform all of you that there will be an Open forum organaised by Open
Softwre Solutions Industrial Co-op Society, in Connection with Kerala Summit
of World Social Forum at Thiruvananthapuram. The summit will be conducted on
26-29 Dec 2002. Exact time of Open forum will be announced later. The subject
of open forum will be "The GPL'd Software, Its relevence and utilation".
Dr. Achuth Sankar of CDiT, Thiruvananthapuram,
Mr. Arun M of FSF-India,
Mr. P. Rajeev of Democratic Youth Federation of India,
Mr Joseph Thomas of Appropriate Technology Promotion Society (ATPS-Kochi)
will be pesenting the subject.
ATPS-Kochi will be coducting a workshop on E-governance at 2.30 PM on 27th Dec
2002. in connection with Kerala Summit. This workshop will emphasis the need
of GPL'd Software for E-governance.
ATPC-Kochi is publishing a occassional publication to propagate the use of
GPL'd Software. This publication is named "Vivara vicharam" and will
published in Malayalam. Its first issue will be released in next week.
Anil kumar K V.
After a talk with the Madras Christian College I realise they are very
confused with commercial free software and gratis non-free software.
I made this image for explaining things more clearly in the future. I
thought this might help FS advocates here:
| He is free from faults, yet my beloveds separation |
| is mystic; his feigned sulk has undefined pleasure |
| (the delight of boudiere - 5), Thirukkural |
For those of you reading this in Goa, don't miss Dr Anil Seth's article
in Gomantak Times (Goa, 13 Dec 2002 Page 5) titled 'Learning from an
alternative role model'.
Quote: It was very inspiring to listen to Richard M Stallman
(RMS) at Goa Engineering College recently....
We may not be able to emulate RMS, we can still do a lot
for free software. Free software is extremely important for
India given the low usage of software technology in our
country. Not to mention, we can change the rules from
"how much money has been lost by the software industry by
sharing" to "how much money society has saved by sharing
For people not convinced by that idea, I would like them
to think about water. We see a lot of ads of mineral water.
The mineral water industry pays a lot of taxes and provides
a lot of employment. The more our municipalities are unable
to provide safe clean water, the more the mineral water
industry flourishes. Hence, it is economically undesirable
to have free, safe drinking water flowing from our taps!
Are the municipalities actually helping the society by
not providing drinking water? There is nothing wrong about
selling mineral water, though most of us would agree that it
is unethical to bottle tap water and lable it as
This article is interesting. It should be circulated in full. Dr Seth,
could you please send me the plain-text version? Thanks.
For those who don't know him (if you're reading this outside Goa), Dr Seth
is a veteran member of our GNU/Linux group in Goa, and a US-educated
scientist of an early generation which went there in the 'sixties and
'seventies and then returned to work out of India.
Dr Seth, could you also agree to join our Project Resource Centre network,
a list that aims to link up young programmers and students with
technical gurus who can guide them to take up challenging and
socially-useful IT projects?
It is at:
prc mailing list
An Article in OSOpinion.com ....
The Linux Desktop Needs To Be Easier
Send this Article
Print this Article Talkback
Contributed by James Maguire
December 12, 2002
Installing a new program, or the OS itself, proves cumbersome for some
users. Creating a home network or developing individualized settings can be
confusing or frustrating.
I was talking with a friend recently, a truly techie-geeky kind of fellow,
and he told me a familiar story.
He talked about a recent experience of his, working on a Linux desktop
system. No matter what he did -- and he did quite a bit -- he could not get
the system to connect to the Internet. He switched over to a nearby Windows
system, and -- bingo -- he was connected.
His experience points to a problem that may be reality or merely perception.
But either way, it's a widespread attitude: The Linux desktop just ain't
easy to use.
A Pocketful of Promise
Clearly, Linux has the potential to devour the desktop market. It is dirt
cheap in comparison to Windows. And that's not counting those pricey Windows
upgrades that are called for on a regular basis (ouch!).
With Linux, you can install the OS on all your machines without feeling like
a fugitive. And if you're lucky enough to have a geeky friend, he or she can
get underneath the hood and modify your software, customizing it for your
needs (try doing that with Microsoft).
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Linux desktop is that many Linux
packages are fully equipped with not only an OS, but also a full suite of
programs. For example, the Lindows 3.0 release bundles the core OS with
access to a library of free software.
Compare this with Windows' a la carte "each program costs more," which gets
Add it all up, and Linux's potential is bigger than Bill Gates' bank
account. (Well, maybe not that big, but you get the idea.)
So, What's the Deal?
With all these advantages, why does Linux have a tiny 2 percent share of the
desktop market, with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) commanding a mammoth 93
Part of this disparity stems from Microsoft's marketing muscle. It's hard to
beat an effort with that many ad dollars behind it.
However, it is also undeniable that Linux is not easy to use for the average
desktop user. Installing a new program, or the OS itself, proves cumbersome
for some users. Creating a home network or developing individualized
settings can be confusing or frustrating.
Linux' reputation for being difficult to use is "a [negative] rap that's
going to take it a while to live down," Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio
However, she said, "I think we're getting closer." The open source system's
biggest problem in gaining desktop share is simple lack of familiarity, she
said. "Linux hasn't been a desktop phenomenon until recently, in the last 12
to 15 months.
"Clearly, Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) , SCO, the Lindows people -- they are all
aware of the fact that you have to make this stuff easy or nobody will use
it," she added, pointing to the Lindows OS as a "major step forward" in
terms of ease of use.
Although Microsoft essentially owns the OS desktop market at this point,
there is ample incentive for Linux developers to create distributions whose
ease of use makes the open source OS compelling.
As DiDio pointed out, the market is not just U.S.-based, but global. And
whereas the U.S. PC market is mature, the global market is in its infancy.
"As you see Linux gaining market share, it's not that people will defect
from Windows, it's that new users are going to Linux on the desktop," she
said, explaining that European and South American users, among others,
welcome open source alternatives. "The pie is not finite."
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An Article in Linux Today ....
The pros and cons of open source computing
12/5/2002 3:23:26 PM -
by Liam Lahey
The great misconception about open source computing is it doesn't truly
exist in the IT industry, according to Russell McOrmand, an Ottawa-based
Internet and Linux consultant.
McOrmand is a member of GOSLING (Getting Open Source Logic Into
Governments), a software lobby group that aims to change
how Canadian governments purchase and use proprietary software.
"Linux is often seen as the open source poster child, which is ironic, since
it's not the most visible in its domain," McOrmand says, adding that
government should take a leadership position on open standards.
McOrmand also takes issue with the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft
(CAAST) and its annual studies on North American software piracy.
McOrmand says the methodology employed by CAAST and its international
partner the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to determine the rate of
software theft in Canada is critically flawed. For one thing, he says,
CAAST's methodology does not make any allowance that systems shipped without
CAAST-member software could be using open source software instead.
"CAAST is wanting open source to disappear," says McOrmand. "Its studies are
based on the premise that open source doesn't exist," McOrmand says.
McOrmand says users that switch to Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS)
are not differentiated from illegal copying of CAAST member software. He
says a computer that is shipped without any CAAST or BSA member software
could be equipped by the home or business user with a full set of FLOSS
tools. Free software encourages a more direct, customer needs-driven
relationship, McOrmand contends, treating software as a service rather than
a "one-size-fits-all" product.
Jackie Famulak, spokesperson and a member of the board of directors for
CAAST, says McOrmand makes some interesting points with regard to software.
However, she says CAAST's studies are intended to track its members'
software only and the studies don't include following operating system
distribution or non-member company software proliferation.
"First, a large percentage of free, open source software out there is
Linux-based; it's not products such as a photo management software suites,"
Famulak says. "If you look at the users of software, there's not a lot of
people out there that are ready to begin programming their own software.
Companies don't always have the resources (to develop software) and they
can't afford the downtime or provide the necessary support that a
manufacturer can give them 24/7. When you consider it in that regard, we
already are providing a service."
Many established industry players have set sail into open source waters over
the last few years. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Oracle, SAP and many others
support Linux. In mid-November, Sun Microsystems Inc. announced a new Linux
strategy in conjunction with its 32-bit LX50 server. Sun is giving its
customers what they're asking for, says one Sun manager.
"If we go back to why Linux is evolving, people want to take the benefit of
industry-standard hardware," says Robert ffoulkes, strategy group manager,
volume systems products for Sun. "The open source mechanism is also really
important as it enables the focusing of a huge amount of software
development. Therefore it accelerates the development of things."
But questions arose from developers and industry analysts during the LX50
press conference in Toronto about how Sun would support Linux.
"We have a lot of our own technology that we're putting into the open source
community," ffoulkes says. "The limitation we see with open source is not
with the development process or with participation. But if you want to have
systems you can guarantee you're going to run a business on, somebody has to
do quality assurance."
Sun, says ffoulkes, sees itself in this quality assurance role, having the
muscle, as a long-established industry player, to bring Linux into the
"If things work well, as Linux proliferates and becomes more of a mainstream
environment in business, the development of a software ecosystem will happen
much more quickly," says ffoulkes.
Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president, system software for IDC Corp. in Framingham,
Mass., says Sun's attitude may result in a backlash from customers.
"Sun is basically saying to these people, 'we are not going to make our
supported software available to you. You will have to buy a machine to get
that software'. That . . . will upset the people who are otherwise loyal Sun
buyers," he says.
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An Article in Linux Today ....
Brazilian Citizen Petitions President-elect for Free Software
Dec 14, 2002, 04 :00 UTC (0 Talkback[s]) (78 reads)
A Brazilian citizen has started up his own online petition to persuade
Brazillan President-elect Luis Inacio Lula da Silva to end government
funding of foreign proprietary software firms and instead turn government
software spending towards free and open-source software.
The petition, which is being hosted at PetitionsOnline.com, is a brief
missive to President-elect Lula urging him to divert funding from purchasing
software from companies such as Microsoft and use the savings to facilitate
the transition to free software.
The arguments made by the petition are relatively straightforward: shifting
the government to using only free software would not only save funds right
off the top, but ideally would seed citizen's use of similar technology.
This is a familiar argument, having been used in Israel and other nations to
promote the use of government free software use.
The petition specifically highlights the Brazilian government's relationship
with Microsoft--a government the petition cites as providing 80 percent of
all of Microsoft's sales in Brazil.
The author of the survey is Renato Siqueira, who describes himself as "a
Brazilian how cares how the public administration and people spend money in
Siqueira plans to have the petition online until it has acquired 500,000
signatures. While not a member of any free software of Linux group,
Siqueira, a self-proclaimed "GNU/Linux lover" would certainly weclome
assistance from "any free software group wants to help me with marketing or
training in GNU/Linux..."
The petition is only valid to Brazilian citizens, though Siqueira indicated
that any comments on his efforts would be welcomed and most likely posted on
his own personal weblog.
How President-elect Lula would react to this petition should be interesting,
particularly is the requistite half million signatures are gathered.
As a member of the Workers' Party in Brazil, Lula has in the past been very
left on the political spectrum. Some have described him as socialist. Even
though he turned to more centrist views during this current successful
presidential campaign, Lula has always maintained very strong ties with
Brazilian labor groups. Not surprising given his backgound of 20 years as a
Given his leanings away from big business, Lula may be a powerful ally in
shifting government software use towards a free or open source environment.
With Brazil currently having the eighth largest economy in the world, that
will mean big stakes for proprietary software vendors.
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Abhas is a friend in Bangalore who is doing some good work in mentoring
youngsters. I'd like to introduce his work to this list. It came up on the
Project Resource Centre list earlier. FN
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Hi Fred and others...
On (11/12/02 23:33), Frederick Noronha wrote:
> Hi Rajeev, Great to hear from you. I already know Abhas and have long
> admired his work. DeepRoot's mentoring plans in PES IT need to be
> replicated by the Free Software and Open Source communities elsewhere.
> Permit me to share this note with friends on the PRC mailing list.
> Maybe you could share with us some of your experiences in mentoring
> youngsters. What is the help that they need most? At which point do
> bottlenecks come up? What could *really* make a difference to their
> Thanks again for getting in touch, FN
Here are my views on this issue...
Actually we have been working with students for more than a year and a
half before we started our PESIT lab. Working with students has taught
us a lot about project management and most importantly, about how to
work with students. In fact, today we continue to get project requests
from students all over India - Pune, Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Lucknow,
Srinagar, Bangalore, lots of colleges in Karanataka and a whole lot of
cities in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. So at any point of time, there has
always been an exciting group of students working with us - either at
our development center or remotely over email.
Genearlly, we've met three types of students:
a. Those who have a good knowledge of Linux and are prepared to
start off working on projects right away. Here again they are some
who have a some specific interests and want to work in a specific
field and those who are not yet focused into something specific.
b. Those who are just starters getting initiated into Linux through
friends, books and Internet
c. Those who have are looking at Linux as a way of expressing some
of their ideas. Their ideas are not Linux specific but then they
somehow understand that working on them in Linux could be the best
way to do it.
We have different approaches to handling each type of student.
Whenever a group of students approach us we try to guage a couple of
things about them:
a. Their seriousness for the project
b. The amount of passion they have for their work/project
c. Things they know and have worked with and which are not a part
of their curriculum
d. The amount and work they are willing to put into their project
e. Their motivations and drive
Its really important for us to guage this as this will tell us if its
worthwhile for us to spend productive time guiding them on their
projects. Guiding them on projects can be an enormous sag in our energy
and time if the students can't contribute equally in terms of what they
are supposed to be doing. Most of the times, we give them something in
which we have more than an academic or passing interest. Giving out
practical projects that can help achieve something specific is a part of
our committment to anyone who applies to us for projects.
We then go about analysing what sort of project the students could do.
Our project lists is divided into three parts:
* A research and testing list
* A development and programming list
* A documentation list
Most projects go through all these three types of tasks. Students first
spend time research and test some software and understand basic
technology concepts. Then some of them go on to use this knowledge to
program while others use this basic knowledge to design and setup more
advanced systems and setups which are then tested for things such as
stability, performance and so on depending upon what the project is
We always make it a point to explain that you can't start programming
from day one. And that you have to spend some time experimenting with
different things so that you can use them later on to program.
At, PESIT since we were working in a more formal setting and with a
larger number students (around 60 now), we held formal introductory
classes for them. These started at the usual discources about Free
Software, Softwar Freedom, GNU/GPL, Linux, history and other such
elements and went on to make them capable enough to install, configure
and manage their own desktops and computers.
Our approach was to use very basic and bare-bones utilities (no GUIs or
abstraction layers here) to explain how the system boots up and how
networking and other stuff work on Linux. Debian GNU/Linux is the
distribution of choice in our Lab at PESIT and all students have to do
their own installations and configurations.
Anyway, there are a couple of things we have learnt about leading
students on these projects:
* Students don't want a formal setting at all (which is why we are
very friendly with them with specific limits) - formality would
limit their exploration and growth
* Students are mostly very capable and hard-working - their energies
just need to be drawn in the correct direction.
* Moulding them in any way is up to the people guiding them - you
can get them to write ground-breaking software if you could motive
and guide them enough.
* They just need guidance - we've found that most of them can find
their own way around technology. We just show them the basic tools
and how to use them (Internet, Mailing lists).
* Its important to have an atmosphere congenial to information
sharing - all of us share more than information; we also share
code and experience. These values of sharing have to be imbibed in
students as well otherwise there is no growth at all!
* They need to understand the larger picture about what they are
doing - so that they know what they are aiming at with their
project. Which is why it is important to give out practical
projects that can achieve something in the short run as well.
(They have 3-6 months for their project work.)
* They need to be introduced to FLOSS traditions - that is the only
way they will ever remain active developers in the Linux community
contributing a lot over the period of many years to come.
Another thing we have understood is that sometimes it is difficult to
hold them accountable. So there are times when you can't do anything
because a student chooses not to do some work on time. At least, this is
important for us if we give them a project on which we are also
Well - these are somethings that came to my mind and I thought that I
should write them down. They are a lot more things of course...
All I'd like to add is that students can be very powerful force if
they can be guided properly and professionally. Now its all up to all
PS. Please mark a copy of your replies to me as I am not subscribed to
the PRC mailing list.
Abhas Abhinav | Free Software at its product-ive best.
CEO, DeepRoot Linux
http://www.deeproot.co.in ---- Server Appliances ----
Ph: +91 (80) 856 5624 ---- Linux Support and Services ----
Knowlege is power... share it equitably!
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URL : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnunify/
Description Category: Computer Science
[GNUnify.jpg?grLDu.9Ac4EPunI9] Unify is the annual fest of SICSR,
which has various cultural and academic activities. This year we are
introducing an all India Free Software Festival - GNUnify, our own way
of contributing to the upcoming use of FREE SOFTWARES &; LINUX. Here
we establish a footage for future IT students of the country to be
aware of the advantages and use of free softwares.
The future of our country pirates or programmers lies in our own
hands!! So today, we stand up for ourselves and for all the others who
are not even aware of what might be a big leap for the professionals
and the whole education system of our country.
The event thus organized is devoted to a united effort to promote the
use &; knowledge of free softwares among the budding coders. Various
academic institutes from across the country are invited to be a part
of this first ever event being held. It includes various contests and
paper-presentations. More to come sooooon
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