January was a busy month for open source software, with numerous packages receiving key updates and improvements. Since so many have been released in rapid-fire succession, now is a good time to take stock of what we've seen so far.
Wondering which open source packages have gotten better since you last looked? Then read on for an overview of some of the key upgrades.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux--which is based on the No. 3 ranking Fedora Linux--received a milestone upgrade to version 6 last fall, but the distribution's version 5 series is still alive and well. Last month Red Hat rolled out version 5.6 of RHEL with a number of improvements, including features borrowed from version 6. Enhanced device drivers, virtualization updates, support for the Ext4 file system and a kernel with "several hundred" bug fixes and enhancements are among RHEL 5.6's most notable features, according to Red Hat's release notes. Version 5.5 was released last March.
Sabayon Linux, now eighth in popularity on Distrowatch, also received an upgrade last month. Italian Sabayon is essentially a live DVD version of Gentoo Linux, and can also be installed on a hard disk. The new update, which upgrades both the GNOME and KDE versions of the software, adds version 2.6.37 of the Linux kernel along with either GNOME 2.32 or KDE 4.5.5. (The newly released KDE 4.6, discussed below, will be available through updates, the Sabayon team notes.) More than 1000 packages have been updated since Sabayon 5.4 and more than 100 bugs have been fixed, improving stability, usability and performance.
ArchBang Linux 2011.01
Based on Arch Linux, ArchBang is a lightweight distribution featuring the Openbox window manager. Released last month as well, the 2011.01 edition of ArchBang features a new look, is "lighter than before," and includes the 2.6.36 Linux kernel. Arch and ArchBang are both aimed primarily at experienced users interested in tweaking and optimizing their systems.
Version 4.6 of the KDE desktop environment made its debut last month, featuring major updates to the KDE Plasma workspaces, KDE Applications and the KDE Platform. In addition to introducing new technology, the new version improves the performance and stability of the underlying pillars of the platform, its developers say.
The popular Joomla content management system, meanwhile, got upgraded to version 1.6 last month. Built from the ground up in many areas, Joomla 1.6 features finer access controls, a user-defined category structure, easier installation, extended language support, fresh new templates and semantic markup, among numerous other features.
Targeting RHEL 6, meanwhile, the EPEL project -- short for "Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux" -- last month announced that its repository of add-on packages for RHEL 6 is now available. Included in the repository are the Trac project management system, the RT3 request tracker, the free ClamAV and SpamAssassin security software packages, backup software including BackupPC and rdiff-backup, and monitoring tools such as Munin, Nagios and Cacti. New Perl modules, Ruby packages and security scanners are included as well.
Coming Soon: Debian 6.0
Last but not least, it's worth mentioning that the next release of Debian Linux could take place as soon as this coming weekend.The last Debian release, known also as "Lenny," debuted on February 14, 2009, but there are now apparently more than 40 release parties planned for Feb. 5.
With so many updates in a single month, it will be interesting to see what February brings. Open source software already offers myriad advantages for businesses, and lately it gets more compelling every day.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.