| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 325, 19 October 2009
Welcome to this year's 42nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The release season is finally here. With the recent second release candidate for Mandriva Linux 2010 and the upcoming final development releases of Fedora 12, Ubuntu 9.10 and openSUSE 11.2, the last-minute bug-fixing is all that is left to do for the big popular distributions. In the news section, Arch Linux releases the first printed edition of Arch Linux Handbook, Gentoo explains the recent Foundation troubles and presents exciting new features in the popular source-based distribution, and Linux Mint outlines some of the improvements in the upcoming release, version 8. Still in the news section, we refer to an article listing the twenty best features of Mandriva Linux 2010 and link to a couple of opinions expressing dissatisfaction with the current status of development at Canonical. For those readers interested in novice-friendly Linux distros, Jesse Smith takes a look at iMagic OS 2009.9, a commercial project based on Ubuntu, but enhanced with various extras that might appeal to former Windows users. All this and more in this issue of DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
- Reviews: iMagic OS 2009.9
- News: The big release season, best 20 features of Mandriva 2010, Arch Linux Handbook, Gentoo in the media, Linux Mint 8 update, Kubuntu in downward spiral?
- Released last week: OpenBSD 4.6, Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0, Puppy Linux 4.3.1
- Upcoming releases: CentOS 5.4, Fedora 12 Beta, Ubuntu 9.10 RC
- New distributions: Business Linux, JULinux, Slax Router
- Reader comments
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Review of iMagic OS 2009.9
In September, the iMagic team released iMagic OS 2009.9. The iMagic OS distribution has a lot of strong selling points. They offer a modern, easy-to-use desktop with all the common media codecs and plug-ins an end user would expect from a desktop OS. The iMagic distribution also claims the additional bonus of being able to run Microsoft Windows applications out of the box. The iMagic project leader, Carlos La Borde, was nice enough to provide a copy of the project's latest release for me to test drive.
As usual, I did my testing and evaluation on two machines. The first is a generic desktop with a 2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA graphics card. I also tried iMagic OS on my LG laptop, which has a 1.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM and an ATI video card. To round off the experience, I ran iMagic OS in Virtual Box too.
At the moment, iMagic comes as one downloadable DVD. The DVD is both installer and live media and weighs in at about 1.6 GB. The download gave me time to read up on the distro which claims to be "The Future of Linux". The iMagic web site is easy to read, pleasant to look at and covers information on the features found in the latest release. There doesn't seem to be much documentation to assist in the areas of installation or trouble-shooting, though there is a contact e-mail for technical support. The iMagic operating system is a commercial venture and customers are asked to pay US$29.99 for the product.
After confirming the checksum on the disk, I popped the DVD into my desktop and got down to business. The iMagic installer is very similar to Fedora's Anaconda and is an example in point-and-click ease. The partition manager sets up fairly good defaults and building custom partitions is very simple. I was also happy to note the installer supports most common Linux file systems, including ext3, ReiserFS and, for people creating shared space for multiple operating systems, FAT. I was also asked to set up a regular user account and set a password.
iMagic OS 2009.9 - the installer
(full image size: 36kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
While installing, I wasn't able to find any option to pick and choose which packages would be installed on the system. This means about 4.5 GB of data is copied onto the local drive at once. Then it's time to reboot. One thing I liked about the installer is that if a mistake is made or the install is aborted, iMagic will load the live desktop, rather than shutting down the machine.
On my first boot, iMagic came up fairly quickly and provided a graphical login screen. With my credentials entered, I was provided with a bright KDE desktop. (The version of KDE shipped with iMagic OS is 3.5.10, but it is themed to look similar to the current KDE 4.3 desktop.) The colours are blue and black with a few bright icons on the desktop for common tasks such as web browsing, instant messaging and exploring the file system. Right away I was presented with an end-user license agreement and a help screen. The license agreement is fairly standard for anyone who has used GPL or LGPL licensed software and there were no surprises. The help screen is directed at people new to Linux or new to computers in general. It offers brief, friendly advice on installing software, running common programs and getting further help. I'd like to see more documentation added here, but they have a good start.
iMagic OS 2009.9 - the KDE desktop and Konqueror file manager
(full image size: 84kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
My hardware was handled well. My video card was detected correctly and my desktop set to the expected resolution. My sound card worked without any tinkering and setting up my printer was completely painless. The network connection was detected and set up automatically for me. The only fault I found with hardware, on either computer, was my mobile card; the network manager wasn't able to detect it. This was a fairly common problem a year or so ago and I probably could have manually made it work through kppp if need be.
My first unpleasant surprise was finding the Google Desktop application in my system tray. Trying to use or configure the Google Desktop software resulted in an error saying the app couldn't connection to the local machine. I shut down the Google application and moved on to other things.
The iMagic distribution comes with a huge collection of open-source software, including OpenOffice.org, a PDF viewer, WINE, several audio and video players, disk burning software, Firefox 3.0, Skype, a torrent downloader, instant messaging, digital camera managing applications, the GIMP, the usual collection of small games, system configuration tools and the GNU Compiler Collection. All of these packages worked as expected and there were no problems. Less expected was the magicScan app, which is, apparently, a front-end for ClamAV. The anti-virus is a bit slow to respond to commands, but does work. Something else I was happy to see is a very user-friendly backup system. With a few clicks, users can archive their important files and retrieve them again. This is great to see and I hope more distributions make backing up this easy for regular users without requiring extra software be installed on the system.
iMagic OS 2009.9 - the backup utility
(full image size: 84kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
A quick look at the system services show that most common daemons are disabled by default. For example, there is no secure shell server running (or even installed) on iMagic out of the box. However, the exception to this rule is a surprise: the Apache web server is running by default. I found out that stopping Apache also prevents the iMagic help system from working. I'm not sure why the iMagic team decided to run their help files through a local web server, rather than just pointing a web browser to a local folder, but that seems to be what they did. At least the system's firewall is configured to block all incoming traffic. In fact, running a web server seems to be the only thing out of place in this distribution. Everything else is set up, in my opinion, to appeal to new comers to the Linux desktop. Following that aim, iMagic ships with codecs to play most audio and video files. A Flash plug-in for Firefox is installed too.
Package management is mostly handled by APT and related tools, such as Synaptic. The package manager connects to Ubuntu servers and provides all the software and updates one would expect from Ubuntu. The system will check for new updates when a user first logs in and offer to install them. I was surprised to find that RPM and YUM are also installed on iMagic. I didn't test RPM, but did discover that YUM won't run properly – it's missing a dependency.
The iMagic web site says their distribution will run common Windows software, such as MS Office, Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer. This is due to WINE's compatibility layer and works the same on iMagic as it does on other distros. I borrowed a copy of Office 97 from a friend and tried to install it, without success. A few other Windows applications and games installed and ran without any problems. This reflects my experience with WINE in general and there doesn't seem to be anything different about iMagic's install of WINE compared to other distributions.
iMagic OS 2009.9 - installing MS Office
(full image size: 84kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
The iMagic distro appears to be based on Kubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron", which is a long-term support release. There are references to Ubuntu here and there throughout the system. In fact, booting to a text console caused an Ubuntu copyright notice to display. Whether this is relevant or not, I think, depends on whether iMagic OS is simply Kubuntu with re-branding and some extra packages or if it is an entity by itself. I was hoping magicOnline would be able to answer this question.
The magicOnline store is a software repository which is designed to allow people to download and install packages with a simple point-and-click web interface. This custom repository allows iMagic to provide access to software not included in the Ubuntu distribution. The magicOnline web site also advises that software packages can be bundled to assist in installing the same components across multiple computers. In reality, I ran into a road block. I signed up for a magicOnline account and shortly after an e-mail appeared in my inbox, confirming my username and password. I returned to the project's web site and attempted to login. I was advised my account wasn't active and I would need to follow the link provided in my confirmation e-mail to activate my account. There's just one problem: there's no link in the confirmation e-mail. At this point I could have contacted iMagic and asked to have the account activated, but I didn't want to bother their support staff when they have paying customers to assist.
The iMagic distro is a large one and I find it difficult to boil down my experience over the past week and simply give the product a thumb up or a thumb down. The operating system is fairly newbie-friendly, but lacks some polish. The non-functional Google Desktop and the magicOnline store, being the best examples of places where a little more work is needed. On the other hand, it comes with proprietary codecs and plug-ins, along with just about any other software you'll need, which is a nice plus. The operating system is a little on the heavy side. It requires nearly 5 GB of hard disk space to install and, testing in a virtual machine showed, it required around 500 - 600 MB of memory to do common tasks such as browse the web or write a document. The system is sluggish up until about 1 GB of RAM.
Despite the fact iMagic is commercial and even though it has some rough edges, I find myself liking this operating system. With its anti-virus protection and out-of-the-box Windows compatibility, it strikes me as a good entry point for Windows users thinking about trying Linux. It's something that people coming from Windows will likely find safe and fairly familiar, while providing all the benefits of a wide range of open source software. I often run into computer uses who won't try Linux because it's free. They assume "you get what you pay for". Having an inexpensive, newbie-friendly distro is a great selling point to these people. For Ubuntu users who want all of their software in one quick install and who like KDE, iMagic is also a good option. I would not recommend it to people who like small Linux distributions, or folks who have low-specification hardware or those who are avidly against proprietary software -- they're not the target audience for this product.
I would like to add that though iMagic advertises on DistroWatch, I was not asked to do this review. Nor was there any expectation that I would cut iMagic any breaks. I approached Mr La Borde and asked if I could have a copy of iMagic OS. He kindly provided a download link to the DVD with no strings attached and offered to answer any and all questions I had regarding iMagic OS.
The big release season, best 20 features of Mandriva 2010, Arch Linux Handbook, Gentoo in the media, Linux Mint 8 update, Kubuntu in downward spiral?
For many Linux users this is perhaps the most exciting time of the year. All the popular distributions are in their final stages of preparing for the big release day, with Mandriva Linux already having completed their development cycle, while Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE have just one final public release each planned for the next two weeks. After the seemingly endless bombardment of the Linux user community with alphas, betas, milestones and release candidates, it's a relief to know that shortly we'll be able to download the end result of these massive development efforts. This year it will be Ubuntu's turn to be the first with a final release (the project's ShipIt service has already started accepting orders for free delivery of Ubuntu 9.10), with Mandriva Linux 2010 following shortly afterwards, while openSUSE 11.2 and Fedora 12 are scheduled for final releases in around the middle of November. As such, within just three short weeks all that developers' labour of updating software and fixing bugs will finally bear fruit in the form of fresh CD and DVD images available on your local FTP server!
So to give this week's discussion a kick-start, here are some questions for our readers. Of the big four forthcoming releases, which one do you look forward to most? Are you likely to stay with your current distro or are you thinking of switching to something different? If so, why? Which of these four releases will you test? Are you confident that they will provide trouble-free upgrade paths or do you dread the upgrade day? If you wish to comment on these and related topics please scroll down to the comments section and tell us what you think!
* * * * *
Mandriva Linux is one of those desktop distributions that many users have mixed feelings about - some great ideas and excellent desktop integration get sometimes spoilt by poor quality control. Will the upcoming release be better in this respect? It's still a bit too early to say, but if you are wondering about what's new in this version, here is a nice summary of the 20 most exciting features of Mandriva 2010, courtesy of LinuxCrunch: "Mandriva Linux 2010 is aimed at improving the user experience for daily tasks. Let's have a look at what's new. 1. New installer. To improve the user experience of installation, the Mandriva developers thought that the installer design was quite old now and needed to be refreshed to stay ahead of the competition. The next screenshot shows. 2. Live upgrade. Mandriva Online will be able to notify the user about a new version of the distribution and suggest a system upgrade without using the installer. 3. Moblin desktop. Mandriva 2010 will include the Moblin 2.0 environment designed for mobile desktop platforms...."
* * * * *
Arch Linux has been rising steadily in the DistroWatch's Page Hit Ranking statistics over the past couple of years, indicating a growing popularity of the rolling-release distribution designed for intermediate users. Now, for the first time ever, users can install the distribution with the help of an official, dead-tree copy of Arch Linux Handbook by Dusty Phillips, released earlier this month: "I'd like to announce the first edition of the Arch Linux Handbook, available in print. You can purchase it through CreateSpace immediately. It should also be showing up in Amazon.com searches within two weeks, so you can tell your family to get it for you for Christmas. The Arch Linux Handbook is distilled from the Beginner's Guide in the Wiki. Purchases help support Arch Linux development." And what does the book cover? "The Arch Linux Beginner's guide, has been a help to thousands of new users installing this popular keep-it-simple Linux distribution. Now in print for the first time, this simple lightweight Linux handbook is all you need to get started with Arch Linux."
* * * * *
The recent 10-year anniversary celebrations and special live DVD releases have given Gentoo Linux some space in mainstream media. It was a welcome change from the usually subdued Gentoo public relations effort. More of a group of command-line hackers than a big PR machine, Gentoo Linux continues to provide subtle innovations and up-to-date packages for their users without trying to attract too much attention. In the last couple of weeks, Linux Magazine has published two articles on the most popular source-based distribution. The first one, Gentoo: Ten Years Emerge, explains the benefits of compiling everything from source code over using a pre-compiled (binary) distribution, while the second one, Gentoo: "We're Not Dead", features an interview with Matthew Summers, a Gentoo developer and member on the board of trustees touching on the recent trouble with Gentoo Foundation and the project's current status: "On the desktop environment front both the KDE and GNOME teams have been hard at work with the new major releases from upstream. In fact I'm using KDE 4.3.1 as I write this. Gentoo supports just about every window manager and desktop environment under the sun, with thousands of available applications and libraries. Python, Perl, PHP, and Ruby support is superb, Erlang rocks on Gentoo. Really, I could go on and on, but I would encourage the reader to take a look themselves, so as to avoid any further wind-baggery from me."
* * * * *
Linux Mint, an Ubuntu-derived distribution that many novice Linux users find perfect for their needs, has had a few quieter weeks, but with the forthcoming release of Ubuntu 9.10, expect to see much more activity on the developers' blogs. Clement Lefebvre, the founder of the distribution, has published a brief development update, announcing, among other things, that he has now become a full-time Linux Mint developer and no longer "hindered" by other duties: "I resigned and left the company I used to work for. To compliment the income generated by Linux Mint I also take part in contracting work based on the distribution itself. So in other words, I'm now working full time on Linux Mint and on projects based on or related to it." As for the new features in the Linux Mint 8, there are a number of interesting hints worth quoting here: "Many new features and improvements have been made for mintUpdate and mintInstall. Among other things, mintUpdate now comes with better error handling and the ability for the user to block particular updates based on the name of the package. The graphical interface has been enhanced." However, the bad news is that the LXDE and Fluxbox editions of Linux Mint 7 have been cancelled.
* * * * *
Although the immense amount of work that the individual distributions have been able to complete in recent week is staggering, not everybody is happy with the current state of certain projects. A good example is this article entitled "Is Kubuntu Caught in a Downward Spiral?" by IT News Today, which has some harsh words for Kubuntu, Canonical's KDE distribution: "Unfortunately, each subsequent Kubuntu release from that point forward changed from having beautiful custom themes, wallpapers, and a login screen to having virtually no polish whatsoever. Sure, themes aren't normally that crucial, but to Kubuntu it kind of is, as the reputation is already tarnished by the lack of feature parity with Ubuntu and no current LTS release, so having less polish certainly won't help sway that opinion. The default themes in the KDE 4 series are all great, though you can get the default anywhere. Kubuntu needs to stand on its own, like it used to." This comes hot on the heels of another critical Ubuntu comment, this time from Andrew Wyatt, the developer of Eeebuntu: "Much of Wyatt's ire is aimed specifically at the Intel display drivers being used and he warns his faithful followers that come Karmic Koala's release later this month Eeebuntu users will be left with nothing but a blank screen at startup."
|Released Last Week
Caos Linux 1.0.25
Greg Kurtzer has announced the availability of Caos Linux 1.0.25, and updated release of the independently developed, light-weight, secure distribution of Linux for servers, compute nodes and network appliances: "The Caos team of developers and contributors from Infiscale are proud to announce the public release of Caos Linux NSA (Node Server Appliance) version 1.0.25, an updated release to the NSA-1.0 operating system and new Live Media installer disk. This Caos NSA 1.0 release includes all known security updates, the latest supported packages, configuration tools, better support for private and public clouds, and enhanced hardware and compatibility support from some of our supporters including Intel, SuperMicro and HP all wrapped up into a brand new Live Media installer." Here is the brief release announcement."
Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0
Alan Baghumian has announced the release of Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0, a desktop distribution and live CD based on Debian's testing branch: "We proudly announce the immediate availability of Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0 aka 'Kev'. Parsix Kev brings a vast amount of new features like GNOME 2.26.3, brand new kernel based on Linux 188.8.131.52 with extra patches and drivers, updated installer system that supports separate /home partition, ext4 file system and GRUB 2, NetworkManager is finally the default networking stack, Aufs and Unionfs support, Squashfs + LZMA compression for live CD and lots of updated packages - GNU Iceweasel 3.5.3, GParted 0.4.6, Pidgin 2.6.2 and OpenOffice.org 3.1.1. Due to a vast amount of changes and new default features in this version, it is highly recommended to do a CD-ROM update-mode installation." Read the release announcement and release notes for additional details.
Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0 features the older GNOME desktop version 2.26.3
(full image size: 197kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Yann Le Doare has announced the release of LinuxConsole 1.0.2009, an independently developed, easy-to-use desktop Linux distribution with multimedia support and games: "LinuxConsole 1.0.2009 is available in four formats: Multimedia (200 MB ISO image, for old computers and system with little disk space, Linux kernel 184.108.40.206, IceWM + Idesk + ROX-Filer, Firefox 3.5.3 + Flash 10 + MPlayer Firefox plugin, MPlayer SVN, X.Org 7.4); CD (Multimedia modules, GNOME, CUPS, GIMP, GCompris, FooBillard, Frozen Bubble); DVD (CD modules, ATI Catalyst 9.9, NVIDIA 185.18.36, 3D Games, VirtualBox 3.0.6, PlayOnLinux); Jukebox (build your personal ISO image, for example if you want to play OpenArena on a recent ATI card, select OpenArena and ATI Catalyst modules, then click to build ISO)." See the complete release announcement for further information and BitTorrent download links.
Puppy Linux 4.3.1
Barry Kauler has announced the release of Puppy Linux 4.3.1, a bug-fix update of the recently released version 4.3. Some of the fixes and changes include: "New modem drivers and improved modem detection and dial-up; fixes for CD remaster script; Asunder CD ripper replaces Ripoff; Cdparanoia upgraded to latest; You2pup, fix for spaces in paths; Ayttm multi-protocol chat client upgraded to 0.6.0-9; DidiWiki personal Wiki upgraded to 0.8; JWM window manager upgraded to revision 457; NicoEdit, our secondary text editor, upgraded to 2.4; Pburn upgraded to 3.1.1; 'resolv.conf' circular symlinks maybe fixed; JWM Configure tool bug fix; 'man' and Help page fixed when search on linux.die.net; frequency scaling fix for 'small' ISO (modules were missing); shut-down problem when upgrade 'pupsave' (shutdown scripts in wrong place)...." Here is the release announcement with a full changelog.
Theo de Raadt has announced the release of OpenBSD 4.6. The release arrives earlier than expected; as many of the project's paying customers have already received their CDs, the 4.6 tree of the OpenBSD FTP server has been opened to allow full access to any extra packages. From the announcement: "We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 4.6. This is our 26th release on CD-ROM (and 27th via FTP). As in our previous releases, 4.6 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system: new or extended platforms - MVME141 and MVME165 boards are now supported, SGI Octane, SGI Origin 200 and SGI Fuel systems are now supported, several bugs in interrupt handling have been fixed...." Read the detailed release notes for further information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Business Linux. Business Linux is a Debian-based Russian distribution offering full support for the Russian language, automatic software and firewall setup, pre-configured technical support client, and additional tools for Russian speakers.
- JULinux. JULinux is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that fits on a single CD, but includes media codecs, games, utilities, players, and commonly-used applications. It also ships with the most recent version of PlayOnLinux for installing Windows games and programs.
- Slax Router. Slax Router is a Slax-based Linux distribution designed for routers, bridges and access points. It provides an easy way to make usable network device from an old PC and share network connection by configure routing, bridging and/or access point. There are also available services, such as firewall, NAT, VLAN, DHCP, DNS, VPN, PPTP, IPsec, Proxy, FTP. Remote access is available via SSH or Webmin, a web-based administration tool.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next installment will be published on Monday, 26 October 2009.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
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|• Issue 739 (2017-11-20): Fedora 27, cross-distro software ports, Ubuntu on Samsung phones, Red Hat supports ARM, Parabola continues 32-bit support|
|• Issue 738 (2017-11-13): SparkyLinux 5.1, rumours about spyware, Slax considers init software, Arch drops 32-bit packages, overview of LineageOS|
|• Issue 737 (2017-11-06): BeeFree OS 18.1.2, quick tips to fix common problems, Slax returning, Solus plans MATE and software management improvements|
|• Issue 736 (2017-10-30): Ubuntu 17.10, "what if" security questions, Linux Mint to support Flatpak, NetBSD kernel memory protection|
|• Issue 735 (2017-10-23): ArchLabs Minimo, building software with Ravenports, WPA security patch, Parabola creates OpenRC spin|
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Full list of all issues|
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ArchLabs is a distribution based on Arch Linux and featuring the Openbox window manager as the primary desktop interface. ArchLabs is a 64-bit, rolling release distribution which provides a live DVD. The distribution can be installed using the AL-Installer system installer.