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Stick a Fork in It: Mageia Releases as Ubuntu Preloads on ASUS

Stick a Fork in It: Mageia Releases as Ubuntu Preloads on ASUS

June 7, 2011

On the Linux Planet, forks aren't for eating, forks are for driving software projects forward. This past week, we saw the Mageia fork of Mandrake Linux issue its first major release. We also saw LibreOffice, the fork of OpenOffice.org, issue a major release as OpenOffice itself headed to Apache.

1. Mageia 1.0 Released

Years ago, Mandrake Linux was a reasonably popular distribution in North America and around the world. Mandrake then became Mandriva after buying out Connectiva Linux in 2005. Over the years, Mandriva parted ways with Mandrake founder, Gael Duval, and had some ownership troubles. During that same period, other Linux distros, most notably Ubuntu, began to build larger mindshare, and not everyone has been thrilled with what has been going on at Mandriva.

Against that historical backdrop, the new Mageia Linux distro was forked from Mandriva in late 2010; this past week it issued its 1.0 release.

Mageia 1.0 is loaded with the latest and greatest from the open source world, including a 2.6.38.7 Linux kernel and KDE 4.6.3 desktop. Unlike Fedora or Ubuntu, Mageia has not elected to try out some new form of GNOME interface with either GNOME Shell or Unity.

Whether or not Mageia will be widely adopted by current or former Mandriva/Mandrake users remains to be seen. Having a 1.0 release out is a good start though. If the project is able to keep to a regular release cycle, it could have a very bright future.

2. LibreOffice 3.4

At the beginning of a fork, it's never really clear how long it will last. A key measure is whether or not the fork is able to release regularly and keep its initial momentum going.

LibreOffice is one such fork that has been able to keep up the momentum. This past week, the fork of the OpenOffice.org open source office suite released LibreOffice 3.4. Key improvements with the new release include continued bug, footprint and performance gains in the code base.

Since its inception, LibreOffice has been strongly backed by most major Linux distros. It is now included in the latest Fedora, Ubuntu and openSUSE releases.

3. OpenOffice Heads to Apache

While LibreOffice has pushed forward, Oracle hasn't been quiet either. This past week, Oracle announced that it was donating the OpenOffice.org project to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

The move already has the support of IBM, which uses OpenOffice as the base for its Lotus Symphony application.

With the move to Apache, there could potentially one day be a reconciliation between OpenOffice and LibreOffice. There would, however, be multiple challenges for the two projects to overcome first. Not the least of these is a licensing issue, as the Apache-driven project is set to be available under an Apache license while LibreOffice is GPL. Additionally, the LibreOffice project has already moved beyond OpenOffice in a number of areas, including code cleanup.

For the immediate short term, it is likely the two projects will continue to coexist. Apache OpenOffice, with the support of IBM, will go one way and LibreOffice, with the support of all the major Linux distros, is likely to continue to follow its own path.

4. ASUS Preloads Ubuntu

One of the most talked about topics in any given year is how to get the Linux desktop more widely deployed. A key strategy for that is getting hardware vendors to pre-load Linux in the same way Windows is already pre-loaded on most consumer PCs.

This past week, Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu Linux, announced a deal with hardware vendor ASUS.

The ASUS 1001PXD, 1011PX and 1015PX models will be preloaded with Ubuntu, making access to Linux notebooks easier for consumers. Sure, anyone can download and install Ubuntu on nearly any piece of hardware they want, but there is an entire group of consumers that just won't do that.

Having Ubuntu available as a pre-load option for a retail notebook will hopefully help raise the visibility of Ubuntu as well as Linux. It's not yet clear whether or not the Ubuntu Linux ASUS notebooks will be less expensive than comparable Windows ones or what sort of advertising and marketing support they'll receive.

Canonical has however stated that it will be taking a number of steps to ensure customer satisfaction. They'll be including Adobe's Flash and multimedia codec support so users will be able to play their media files.

Linux pre-loads have never really been a mass consumer market success on home computers. If ASUS and Canonical can get it right this time, it might be the beginning of broader consumer use of Linux overall.

5. Linux 2.6.39.1 release

With all the excitement around the news that Linux is moving to version number 3.0 for the next kernel, it's important to remember that work still continues on pre-3.0 kernels.

This past week, the first update to the 2.6.39 kernel was released with Linux 2.6.39.1. The 2.6.39 kernel initially came out in May.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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