I’ve been installing a few new apps lately (that’s “new” in the sense of “haven’t been installed on my Eee before”), and have noticed that the versions in the Xandros repositories are—to put it moderately—a teensy bit on the elderly side.
No, forget that: they’re positively primordial.
Let’s take a couple of examples:
- Inkscape—the Eee/Xandros version is v0.44.1, which dates back to September 2006. Over three years later, the program is now up to v0.47.
- VLC—latest version (as of December 2009) is v1.0.3. The Eee/Xandros repos have v0.8.6a (which I believe dates back to November 2006).
- Conky—this is currently up to v1.7.2; Eee/Xandros offers v1.4.4 (November 2006—see a pattern developing here?).
I could keep going, but I think the point is made: the “factory” Linux OS which shipped with the Eee 701 (or more accurately, the Xandros repository which is recommended for use with it), appears not to have been updated appreciably since the machine was launched in 2007.
Much of the time, I can put up with the limitations this imposes, though some apps I like to use, are lacking features which would be welcome to have (e.g. Conky is ‘missing’ quite a few capabilities I’d like to use—e.g. a fair number of variables related to wireless networking—because the version is so old).
However, it begs the question for me: how many security issues might be outstanding with the Eee version of Xandros, because the OS isn’t keeping up with developments? (For instance, it seems the ‘openssl’ library in Eee/Xandros may be affected by the infamous Debian OpenSSL bug from a couple of years back, and hasn’t been updated. To be honest, I don’t think I should have to compile my own version of OpenSSL, to fix a problem which the distro maintainers should arguably have addressed by now as a matter of urgency. Or maybe they have—I’d better look into that… :))
I feel all this is unfortunate, because in my view Eee/Xandros has plenty going for it. The OS has been optimised and tuned for the 701’s hardware (i.e. for the most part, everything tends to “just work”), and I personally like the way I’ve been able to ‘tweak’ it with Fluxbox and other customisations.
That said, in the end there are Linux distros which are under heavy and regular development, and which can work well on the Eee 701, so in the end, if Eee/Xandros is just going to stagnate like this, I may well be forced to look at another distro (especially if it can be tweaked easily to run Fluxbox). At least 1-2Gb USB drives and SD cards are practically being given away in cereal packets these days, so installing a new OS on one for trial purposes shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.
Or maybe I’m just worrying too much about nothing?