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After many beta test releases, Wary Puppy 5.0 was released on December 29, 2010, the first official public release. This is the first of my "Wary5" series of Puppy Linux, a "fifth generation" Puppy.

Why?

There are two main reasons for this project:

1 Old hardware support
It has been argued that the Puppy 4.x series is the high-point of Puppy development, one reason being that it runs well on a very wide range of hardware. I wanted to move to a new software base (new libraries, compiler, kernel, drivers, applications) yet retain that hardware support.

2 Long term support
Just as the 4.x series is still in use, even though I originally compiled the base packages from source in November 2007, I would like to position Wary as the next long-term supported Puppy. Unlike most major distros that tend to be at the bleeding edge, Wary 5.x will stay as it is for the next 2 - 3 years with only bug fixes, incremental improvements and application upgrades when needed.

What is "different" about Wary?

I compiled Wary from source in T2, and chose a very odd combination of old and new packages. The previous Wary (<=0.7) was compiled with Xorg 7.3+, using X.org package versions about the same as used in Debian Lenny. However, I found even this was a step too far for some video hardware. So, I went back to the exact same X.org packages as used in Puppy 4.x, the original 7.3 versions, with xorg-server 1.3.0.0 (Lenny uses 1.4.2).

So, very old X.org, old Mesa, pixman, etc., yet very recent GTK (2.20.1) and most other base packages and libraries are recent. The compiler gcc and C library glibc are fairly recent (4.3.4 and 2.10.1) but not bleeding-edge.

The latest versions of many applications, such as SeaMonkey, Abiword, Gnumeric, and I do intend that many applications will be upgraded in future releases of Wary. Also the very latest media players and drivers -- video/audio, scanners, printers.

In fact, I one of the goals for Wary is that media playing will be "the best", handling just about every media format.

Minimal daemons, so that Wary runs light on old hardware. Wary does not have Dbus! Technosaurus is doing some excellent work that can be applied to some of the daemons in Wary to run lighter, and this will be one of the on-going areas of Wary development.

But, X.org 7.3 means recent video hardware won't work?

Yes, or rather, perhaps. One area that we can investigate is to upgrade X.org drivers, find the latest versions that will work with the xorg-server 1.3.0.0. The latest Intel driver for example (package xf86-video-intel) does not work with this server.

I do expect that Wary will run fine on PCs a couple of years old, say built in 2008 or earlier.

Wary also retains the Xvesa video driver, which is a fallback that should work on just about everything, including the most recent computers. Xvesa is an abandoned project -- the X.org developers stopped supporting it after X.org 7.3 and then dropped it entirely.

Also, the generic X.org 'vesa' driver should work on very recent hardware.

An interesting point: we have been disappointed that Mplayer (video/audio media player) displays only black windows when video is set to 16-bit color depth. We have this problem with some recent puppies, and it is a show-stopper, yet, surprise surprise, Mplayer runs fine in Wary at both 16-bit and 24-bit color depths. So yes, some applications are also happier with the older X.org. Note, Wary is built with the very latest ffmpeg and mplayer.

Which kernel?

This is a problem area of course, as sometimes an older kernel works on certain older hardware, and a newer kernel doesn't.

Also, we have some drivers, in particular for analog dialup modems, that we cannot compile with recent kernels.

However, apart from the problem of analog soft-modem drivers, I have been testing the 2.6.35.7 kernel on a variety of old hardware and it works nicely.

So, I see no problem with the "main" wary release to be built with a recent kernel, and a variant of Wary will probably be released with a very recent kernel.

However, Wary 5.0 is built with the 2.6.31.14 kernel as this is the latest with which I am able to compile my complete collection of analog modem drivers. This kernel will remain the main recommended kernel for Wary, if or until we are able to compile the full suite of modem drivers on a later kernel.

Who will coordinate Wary?

This is my baby and I will continue to coordinate it and bring out new releases. Basically, I have identified this niche area, support for older hardware, where I can "keep my hand in" as a Puppy coordinator.

There will of course be leading-edge, some may say "bleeding edge" puppies based on recent code bases. Our primary leading-edge Puppy is Lucid 5.1.x, which is based in binary packages from Ubuntu, Lucid Lynx release.

The leading-edge puppies will not be coordinated by me, I "only" provide the Woof Puppy-builder. These puppies may have all kinds of innovations, including what is referred to as "bling".

Note, my intention is to keep Wary fairly spartan, minimal "bling".

Video Upgrade Wizard

Curiously, although Wary targets older hardware, I have created a Video Upgrade Wizard that can upgrade Wary to run with very new or specialised video hardware (click 'Setup' button on desktop, or see 'Setup' menu).

Currently, the Wizard offers an upgrade PET package for Intel video, with the 1.6.0 X.org server. I was able to get the 'intel' X.org driver running for my Acer netbook (purchased Jan. 2010).

Upgrade PETs are also available for nVidia hardware. I do have an ATI PET but it is currently not offered by the Wizard as it appears to be not quite right (and I don't have appropriate video card to test it).

Upgrades for other hardware could be offered in the future. This is interesting, as it enables Wary to kind of pull itself up to be "not so wary" and to work with the proper hardware-accelerated X driver on recent video hardware (and not just 'vesa' or 'Xvesa').

Find out more

To find out about releases and development of Wary, please monitor my blog:

http://bkhome.org/blog/?viewCat=Wary

Regards,
Barry Kauler
December 2010


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