Five Linux distributions get a fresh boost

With several new releases and an affirmation of commitment, the outlook for the free and open source OS just got even better.

Between the launch of a new Linux kernel update and the news that open source has achieved mainstream business use at last, it's been an exciting week in the world of open source software.

At least as significant, however, have been all the many new updates and announcements made recently by several of the popular Linux distributions. Lest these important operating system advances get overlooked, here's a roundup of some of the key updates coming soon to a PC near you.

1. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1

In the distribution's first major update since RHEL 6 shipped in November, Red Hat on Thursday delivered RHEL 6.1 complete with improvements in system reliability, scalability and performance and support for a variety of upcoming system hardware. RHEL Linux 6.1 also delivers patches and security updates while maintaining application compatibility and OEM/ISV certifications.

Other updates include enhancements in virtualization, file systems, scheduler, resource management and high availability; a technology preview of Red Hat Enterprise Identity (IPA) services, based on the open source FreeIPA project; and integrated developer tools that provide the ability to write, debug, profile and deploy applications without leaving the graphical environment.

2. MeeGo 1.2

Also on Thursday, the MeeGo project announced the release of its version 1.2. "This release provides a solid baseline for device vendors and developers to start creating software for various device categories on Intel Atom* and ARMv7 architectures," the project's developers wrote.

Notable features in the new release include MeeGo Reference Kernels supporting a variety of Intel Atom and ARMv7 platforms, and the QML Application Framework and extended Qt-Mobility APIs, including additional location, system, connectivity, and sensor/haptic capabilities for rapid, rich, application development. Enhanced telephony and connectivity capabilities, meanwhile, include GSM, GPRS, and HSPA+ network support along with USB, WiFi, and BT-PAN data tethering capability.

3. SimplyMEPIS 11.0

Earlier this month saw the release of SimplyMEPIS 11.0, the latest version of the Debian-based distribution that's designed to be easy to install, use and customize. Targeting i386 and amd64 platforms, the new software comes configured with a 2.6.36.4 kernel, the KDE 4.5.1 desktop and apps including LibreOffice 3.3.2, Firefox 4.0.1, VLC 1.1.3, Amarok 2.4.0, Kdenlive 0.7.9, Digikam 1.9.0, GIMP 2.6.10, and Inkscape 0.48.1.

4. SUSE and openSUSE

Though not because of a new release, the SUSE and openSUSE Linux distributions have been the focus of considerable attention lately in the wake of Attachmate's purchase of Novell. Attachmate announced on Wednesday that its new SUSE division will be led by industry veteran Nils Brauckmann, who said he hopes to make "SUSE Linux Enterprise the preeminent Linux distribution across physical, virtual and cloud environments."

In a separate interview with The H, meanwhile, Brauckmann also affirmed the company's commitment to the community openSUSE distribution as well. "I know the special requirements of the community," he told The H. "I know we will be co-developing with the community in what I hope will be a lasting partnership with mutual benefit."

5. Fedora 15

Finally, though it's not due for official release until Tuesday, Fedora 15 -- also known as "Lovelock" -- this week was declared complete. Following the software's final beta release last month, Fedora 15 is perhaps most notable for its inclusion of the new, controversial GNOME 3 desktop rather than Ubuntu's even-more-controversial Unity. Other features we can expect to see are LibreOffice and numerous other packages. A complete feature list and release schedule can both be found on the Fedora site.

Looking to get your business off the Windows treadmill? You'd be wise to give any of these or countless other Linux distributions a try. With no commitment required, there's nothing to lose -- but plenty to gain.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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