Distributions: From Fedora 12 to openSUSE
The major Linux distributors have released kernel updates to close a critical security vulnerability, a pre-release version of Fedora 12 was made available and Debian wants more structured release cycles. There's also been commotion about a default desktop for openSUSE, while Novell announced the formation of a dedicated team for the community distribution. The CentOS project seems to have overcome its internal problems and finally released version 4.8 of the free Red Hat clone.
by Alexandra Kleijn
Linux kernel vulnerability
To fix the critical vulnerability in the Linux kernel which was reported in mid August and affects all versions 2.4 and 2.6 since 2001, the kernel developers have released kernel versions 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. This closes the security hole which allowed standard users with restricted privileges to obtain root access. Several Linux distributors have provided kernel updates for their distributions, for example for Debian 4 and 5, Fedora 10 and Fedora 11, and Ubuntu versions 6.06 LTS, 8.04 LTS, 8.10 and 9.04. Novell and the openSUSE project have released new kernels for Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), Enterprise Desktop (SLED), Open Enterprise Server and openSUSE 10.3 to 11.1. Updates for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4 and 5 and its CentOS clone (also versions 4 and 5) were also released last weekend.
The Fedora project released a first (and likely the only) alpha version of Fedora 12, codenamed "Constantine", which already contains all of the major new features from the forthcoming release. In addition to a pre-release of kernel version 2.6.31, the alpha includes a developer version of X.org 7.5 including X Server 1.7. Further improvements affect the roundly criticised audio mixer for GNOME as well as PulseAudio, which now also offers UpnP MediaServer support.
RPM packages are now compressed using the XZ format, already familiar from recent versions of LZMA. The developers also considerably tweaked Fedora's virtualisation, for example via KSM ("Kernel Shared Memory" or "Kernel Samepage Merging"). Fedora 12 is to offer a choice of graphical desktop environments including GNOME 2.28 (currently still in its beta phase) and KDE 4.3. The developers plan to release a beta version of Fedora 12 in five weeks. The final release is scheduled for the 10th of November.
On the 16th of August 1993, Ian Murdock announced the imminent release of a brand new Linux distribution. Debian, which is probably the most successful community Linux distribution of all time and the basis for other distributions such as Ubuntu, is celebrating its 16th anniversary this month. The project's release team plans to relax its previous "release when ready" principle by stipulating a fixed freeze deadline – which came as something of a surprise to many people. Although it doesn't involve a fixed release deadline for new versions, the new schedule should lead to a more predictable release cycle.
The proposal suggests a development freeze in the December of every other year. The six months after that should leave enough time to get a new version ready for release. For the forthcoming version Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 ("Squeeze"), the release team had an even more ambitious plan: after an early development freeze at the end of this year, the new release was already scheduled for spring 2010 – the current Debian 5 release, codename "Lenny", is only about six months old. Following abrasive criticism from the Debian community, however, the team scaled back its plan and will now co-operate with the respective developers to produce a release schedule for Debian 6 in September.
Ubuntu sponsor Mark Shutteworth, on the other hand, thinks that the Debian plans aren't radical enough. For quite some time, the South-African billionaire has nurtured his dream of coordinated releases of the major Linux distributions. Should the Debian developers agree to freeze the development of version 6.0 in December, he has even promised to provide a supporting team of Ubuntu developers to ensure that the release deadline can be met. Ubuntu's own feature freeze for the forthcoming version 9.10, "Karmic Koala", was scheduled for the 27th of August.