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SuSE and RedHat are at it again: preparing to parachute a new drop of their distros. SuSE said yesterday it will release 7.0 this month, and RedHat has made a beta of what it calls the Pinstripe release of Red Hat Linux 7.0 available for download.

SuSE has a thrice-yearly schedule, and RedHat updates every six months or so, and this time round they're roughly in sync. Both produce versions for Alpha, PowerPC and Sparc alongside Intel x86.

Whether these releases matters much to anyone other than SuSE or RedHat - or the other folk who use one of these as the basis for their own distros, such as Mandrake or SGI - we're not quite sure. As Linux systems are typically used for a specific function - for example web serving, mail serving, graphics or as development systems - then the big events in the calendar are releases of Apache, the webserver and its allied caching or clustering add-ins, or Sendmail, or XFree86, or Perl and Python, respectively.

Some project milestones impact everyone of course, such as the kernel itself, and the glib libraries, but since both the big distros offer auto update features to roll these in as you go along, then it's obvious that the SuSE and RedHat milestones have more to do with visibility and an indication of taste as much as anything.

But for the record, here's what's made it and what hasn't, in a nutshell. SuSE will offer the big upgrade to XFree86 (no surprise there, given the ties between the two), StarOffice and the ReiserFS journaled file system. It's also spruced up its Yast installation and configuration tool.

RedHat also include XFree86 but taking a more conservative approach, doesn't think ReiserFS is quite ready for prime time yet, so that's a download rather than an install-time option. RedHat thinks the new sendmail will be ready for the full 7.0 release, but that the big Apache revamp will sneak into a subsequent point upgrade after that.

You can't complain about any lack of transparency here, as in open source land everyone can find out exactly what's going on, and how late or how crummy it is.

But we'd love to know if these marketing distros matter that much to you. Given that the very flexible Debian distribution continues to thrive - both with end-users and "derivative" distros such as Corel Linux - even though it lags behind in the packaging race, suggests that this marketing point-release race is a bit of a sideshow. Is it? Feel free to sound off.

Lucy Sherriff writes Red Hat's ftp site is here. Be prepared for a long wait. Alternatively, hang loose for a couple of days, when the distro hits the mirror sites.

If you get to the site and it asks for a username and password, then in case you get stuck there, the username is anonymous and the password is your mail ID. ®

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