| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 521, 19 August 2013
Welcome to this year's 33rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
What makes a graphical interface good? That's a question that has seen many answers over the years and solutions have taken many forms. Most people will agree their interface should be easy to explore and have recognizable symbols. A good interface should be responsive and provide clear information. The exact details, the level of flexibility and the default arrangement of controls, are quite subjective and subject to much debate. In this issue of DistroWatch Weekly we will hear from projects and commentators who offer answers to these difficult interface questions. In an interview, the elementary OS team talks about how they want to empower users and a review of the latest version of FreeNAS offers some further suggestions for interface behaviour. While the debate for the ideal graphical interface rolls on, Jesse Smith shares some fun aspects of the Linux command line interface. Read on to learn how to add more fun to this fundamental component of GNU/Linux. In other news this week we look in on Haiku and find out how the project is progressing with packages and third-party ports. We also learn about a proposal for changing the way Fedora is developed. Might we soon see the return of Fedora Core? Plus we get a first impressions look at a Fedora-based project, Korora. The Korora distribution tries to lower the bar for users interested in Fedora's cutting-edge technology and we will find out how the latest version performs. In this issue we will look at distributions released over the past week and look ahead to exciting new developments. We wish you all a great week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (11MB) and MP3 (19MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Korora 19 "Bruce"
The Korora Linux distribution is a project based on the Fedora operating system. Korora takes the latest version of Fedora and tweaks the system to make it more appealing, out of the box, to desktop users. For instance, the Fedora project doesn't provide some multimedia codecs, Flash or VirtualBox. These packages are not included in the parent distribution and are not available through the default repositories. Korora ships with popular media codecs and enables third-party repositories such as Google's Chrome repository, VirtualBox's repository and the popular RPMFusion package repository. Korora also comes with a utility which makes it easy to locate third-party hardware drivers which may be useful to users. As a bonus, Korora ships with the Firefox web browser and includes several useful plugins to make surfing the web more pleasant. Korora 19 was released on the heels of Fedora 19 and shares the same base system and installer.
Korora 19 comes in two flavours, GNOME and KDE. Both of these editions are available as 32-bit and 64-bit builds. I decided to try the KDE version as I was fairly happy with the KDE spin of Fedora 19 when I tested it back in July. The download image for Korora's KDE edition is approximately 2.2GB in size, fairly heavy in comparison with the KDE spin of Fedora. Booting from the downloaded ISO brings us to a KDE desktop with an icon in the upper-left corner of the screen that will launch the system installer. At the bottom of the screen we see the application menu and task switcher. Shortly after arriving at the desktop a welcome window appears. This window offers us quick links for accessing the project's documentation, KDE's user guide and Korora's social media websites. In addition there is a button for launching the system installer.
Korora 19 -- The distributions welcome window
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I talked about the system installer Korora and Fedora use in my review of Fedora 19 and it does not look as though the Korora developers have made any changes to the installer, other than to alter the name of the distribution in the installer's text. While I have my reservations with regards to the installer's interface, I found it to be functional. We're walked through the usual steps, dividing up the disk, setting the administrator's password and creating a user account. I found some screens of the installer were slow to refresh and I suspect this was due to KDE running with visual effects enabled while I was running with a less-than-optimal video driver. I noticed that once the distribution was installed locally and visual desktop effects were disabled the graphical interface was always quite quick to respond.
Booting into the Korora distribution brings us to a graphical login screen, tastefully decorated in blue. Logging in brings us back to the KDE desktop and, shortly after signing in for the first time, the welcome screen appears. We can dismiss this welcome screen and tell it not to appear in the future. Poking around the desktop I noticed that Korora has changed a default KDE setting and configured the interface so that launching programs or opening files requires double-clicking on an item's icon. Usually KDE is set up to use a single-click approach for accessing items. I think Korora has made a good move here as, recently, I've noticed the single-click approach is one of the few features that consistently confuses new users.
After I logged in a notification appeared in the bottom-right corner of the screen letting me know software updates were available. Korora ships with many packages, about 6.8GB worth of software in total. The day I installed the distribution 540 updates were waiting, totaling approximately 1.1GB in size, and it made for a large download. Korora, like its parent, ships with a small update widget which is attached to the system tray and this will allow us to download and process the updates. Well, normally the update widget works. The first time I attempted to download available updates the update widget got stuck in a loop waiting for PackageKit to release its lock on the package database. Killing the PackageKit process allowed updates to be downloaded and installed successfully.
Korora 19 -- Applying updates and changing desktop settings
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The distribution comes with two graphical front ends for package management. The first is Apper, which was also shipped with Fedora's KDE spin. The Apper application makes it easy to browse through categories of packages with a nice, icon-rich interface. It can also handle updates and makes the process of adding software to the system straight forward. The second package manager is YumEx and this second package manager is more focused on power, I feel, rather than providing a friendly interface. Not that YumEx is unfriendly, but it is more technically oriented, it shows us more information, gives more detailed messages while it is working and focuses more on individual packages as opposed to Apper's more application-focused approach. I think YumEx will appeal more to the technical crowd while Apper will fill the role of a simple point-n-click package manager.
As previously mentioned, the Korora distribution comes with a large collection of software and it runs the full range from user friendly desktop software through to advanced administration tools. Some of the highlights include the Firefox web browser, the Konqueror web browser, the LibreOffice productivity suite and the KMail e-mail client. The application menu includes the Calibre e-book library manager and a simple e-book reader. The distribution provides document viewers, the Inkscape vector graphics application and the GNU Image Manipulation Program. Digging in further we find the Linphone software phone along with the KTorrent bittorrent client. The Choqok micro blogger and Blogilo blogging applications are installed by default. Korora comes with the VLC multimedia player, the Kdenlive video editor and the Amarok music player. I found the Handbrake media transcoder and the Audacity audio editor in the menu too. Korora comes with popular multimedia codecs and I found players & editors worked out of the box. Korora comes with some great administrative tools, including utilities which allow us to enable/disable system services, configure the firewall and manage backups. There is also a simple utility which makes it easy to enable Samba network shares. There is a utility for adding third-party drivers to the operating system and the KDE System Settings panel lets us tweak the desktop with a great degree of detail. I was happy to find the distribution comes with several accessibility apps, including a virtual keyboard, a text-to-speech reader, screen magnifier and automatic mouse-click tool. I was also pleasantly surprised to find Korora comes with an application which synchronizes files with ownCloud servers. I usually don't see much support for file synchronizing with the cloud outside of the Ubuntu camp and I'm happy to see Korora take this initiative. Digging in deeper I found the distribution comes with Java and the GNU Compiler Collection. The Network Manager software helps us get on-line. In the background we find the Linux kernel, version 3.9.
Korora 19 -- Running various desktop applications
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While most of the software in Korora's long list of applications worked well, I did run into a few minor issues. These weren't bugs exactly, but configuration choices which I think were less than ideal. For instance, by default, whenever I ran a program in a virtual terminal a notification would appear on the screen when that program finished running. Maybe some people find the feature helpful, but as I spend a lot of time on the command line I found the constant stream of notifications distracting. The other questionable configuration choice came from opening media files. When I double-clicked on an audio or video file the Handbrake transcoder program would launch. Normally I would expect the media file to be opened in a multimedia player as I suspect that would almost always be the desired action. As previously mentioned I found PackageKit would sometimes lock the package database and the PackageKit process would have to be killed before I could download new software packages. I also noticed the upstream release notes which came with the distribution are for Fedora 18, rather than Fedora 19.
I tried running Korora on a desktop machine (dual-core 2.8GHz CPU, 6GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) and in a virtual machine provided by VirtualBox. In both environments I found Korora ran smoothly. My screen was set to its maximum resolution, my network connection was automatically detected and sound worked out of the box. On physical hardware Korora ran quickly with fairly short boot times and the interface was responsive. In the virtual environment I found the distribution performed well again, with only a slight performance hit. Korora was fairly light on memory, using about 230MB of RAM with KDE's file indexing and visual effects disabled.
I tend to view Korora not so much as an independent distribution, but rather as a re-imagining of Fedora where most of the work of putting everything in place has been done for the user. I have long felt that one of the biggest barriers to working with Fedora is the distribution's initial setup. When being used as a desktop system Fedora users will probably want to add third-party repositories, hunt down drivers, add codecs, download Flash and install applications not available on the Fedora disc. Korora takes care of these steps for us. The Korora ISO comes with all the software we are likely to need and a utility which makes acquiring additional drivers easy. Further, codecs and popular third-party repositories are enabled by default. This means it's pretty easy to install Korora and get right to work (or play) with a minimum of fuss. Korora takes the experimental Fedora distribution and makes it into a pretty solid, and easy to use, desktop operating system. The only notable problem I had while using Korora was PackageKit locking out the package management tools, but once PackageKit was disabled I had a pleasantly smooth experience. For people who like the cutting-edge style of Fedora and who would like a quick way to get a fully functional desktop system that is based on Fedora's modern technology, then I think Korora is an excellent choice.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
elementary OS developers talk about interfaces, Fedora project considers a return of Fedora Core, Haiku gets improved package management
This past week Linux User & Developer conducted an informative interview with three of the developers behind elementary OS. The chat, which involves developers Cassidy James, Cody Garver and Daniel Foré, covers the project's successes, challenges, goals and unique design. It's an insightful talk which deals with the trials and ideals behind the elementary OS philosophy. Daniel Foré sums up the goals of the project nicely, "I think, traditionally, power has been equated with complexity. But, for me, a piece of software is truly powerful when it's enabling users to do things they were never able to do before. So, for people like my grandparents, power means being able to send email. It's an incredibly simple task with a traditionally incredibly high barrier to entry. The more tasks that we can lower the barrier to entry on, the more powerful our users become."
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Back before we had the Fedora distribution, we had Fedora Core. The Fedora Core project provided a basic, general purpose operating system. A separate "Extras" repository was maintained with useful utilities which, for one reason or another, were not deemed suitable for inclusion in the Core distribution. Well, it looks as though, after several years of a unified Fedora, we may be seeing a return of Fedora Core. Fedora developer Matthew Miller put forward a proposal in which he suggested Fedora could be divided into a series of "rings". The centre ring would be the core operating system, a base from which to work. This would allow the developers to focus on a subset of packages, onto which additional rings (similar to the current "spins") could be added. Fedora's Project Leader, Robyn Bergeron, sees merit in the idea, "How can we make Fedora be something that is modular enough to fit into all those different environments, while still acknowledging that a one-size-fits-all approach isn't something that draws people into the project?" eWeek also reports there are plans to make ARM a primary architecture for the Fedora project, supported on equal footing with the x86 architectures.
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Following the release of FreeNAS 9.1 the FreeBSD News site posted a brief review, complimenting the FreeBSD-based network storage solution on its strengths and suggesting some possible improvements. Mostly the overview praises the technology at work behind the scenes in FreeNAS and recommends ways the project's graphical user interface could be improved. "All this makes FreeNAS a powerful network attached system (NAS), especially if you consider it is open source and free to download, but I think the web interface can still do with some TLC as it can be confusing and is not always newbie friendly." The post goes on to explore five ways in which the FreeNAS interface might be improved. Have you used FreeNAS? If so, leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought of the experience.
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Haiku, the descendant of BeOS which tries to create a modern, highly responsive operating system, has been making great strides recently. In a blog post published last Monday some of the new features and efforts were laid out for users and fellow developers. Of special note is the work being done to bring modern ports & package management to the Haiku operating system. From the blog post: "Package management isn't complete yet, but it should be reasonably usable and there are only a few smaller known issues/regressions it introduces. It would definitely benefit from wider exposure at this point. So, everyone please feel encouraged to test it already and shout (via Trac), if you find your favorite feature or use case broken." This development should make Haiku more powerful and flexible for users who do not have the time or expertise to compile their own third-party software.
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One of the oldest surviving Linux distributions, and quite probably the largest distribution in terms of developers, turned 20 this past week. On August 16th, the Debian project turned 20, a milestone which was celebrated at DebConf 13 in Vaumarcus, Switzerland. Debian, besides being a popular project on its own, with many volunteers and supporters, is also the base for many famous distributions, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Knoppix. Hundreds of people work on Debian, toiling to make it one of the most stable and flexible operating systems available. The project is a cornerstone of the open source community and we wish Debian a very happy birthday!
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
Fun on the Command Line
Quite often when we think of using the command line we think about its power and complexity. The command line is a flexible tool for serious work. Well, most times we do focus on how useful and important the command line is, but it can also be a silly place. This week I would like to briefly look at four command line utilities available in most Linux distributions which add a lighthearted air to the terminal.
The first command is called rev which is short for reverse and should be installed by default on most GNU/Linux distributions. This utility is quite simple and all it does is reverse the order of the characters in any line of text we hand it. For example, running
echo olleh | rev
Will print the word "hello" on our screen. We can also pass entire text files to the rev command, for example the following command prints out my list of things to do with all of the lines written backward.
rev < my-to-do-list.txt
There are not many cases in which we would want to do this, unless we want to know what our text files look like when printed out next to a mirror. The next amusing command I want to look at is called sl, a short hand for "steam locomotive". One of the most often typed commands on any Linux/UNIX system is ls which displays a list of files in the current directory. It is quite common for the ls command to be mistyped as sl and, rather than simply seeing an error message, wouldn't it be nice to have something fun happen? When the sl command is installed on the system, running
makes an animation of a steam locomotive drive across the screen. The sl command usually is not installed by default, but can be found in the software repositories of most distributions.
Another unproductive program that can bring a little spark to our day is the aafire command. As with the "sl" command, aafire is not typically installed by default, but should be available in your distribution's repositories. The program can use various methods to make a text-art rendering of a fire appear on the console. The aafire command can use various display drivers to make our text-fire appear in a GUI window or in various types of text consoles. When running the program in a virtual terminal we are probably best served by running aafire as follows:
aafire -driver curses
Pressing a key while the screen virtually burns causes the flames to disappear. The final fun command line program I would like to share is fortune. The fortune program, which is available in the repositories of most distributions, displays a short phrase, joke or piece of advice. To get our daily dose of fortune we can simply run
The last time I did this the computer let me know, "You're working under a slight handicap. You happen to be human." All too true. To spice things up we can pass fortune to the rev command and get our wisdom spelled backwards.
fortune | rev
The command line is very useful, but it doesn't have to be all about work and efficiency. Sometimes it feels good to be silly.
|Released Last Week
Sabayon Linux 13.08, a desktop distribution based on Gentoo following a
rolling release model and providing multiple desktops, was released today: "This is a monthly release generated, tested and published to mirrors by our build servers containing the latest and greatest collection of software available in the Entropy repositories. Linux Kernel 3.10.4 with BFQ iosched, updated external ZFS file system support, GNOME 3.8.4, KDE 4.10.5, MATE 1.6.2, Xfce 4.10, LibreOffice 4.1, UEFI SecureBoot for 64 bit images (with bundled UEFI shell), systemd as default init system, Plymouth as default splash system and new high-dpi artwork are just some of the things you will find inside the box." Read the official press release for more details including various links.
Sabayon 13.08 -- Default KDE desktop
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Kwheezy is a distribution which claims one hundred percent compatibility with Debian 7.1 and which features a pre-configured KDE desktop. About half a month after its initial release, version 1.1 became available today: "The new version is geared towards better locale/language support. Changes in version 1.1: minor improvements to the installer including the hardware clock to local-time fix; keyboard selection before and after installation; new app called 'Kwheezy Keyboard Selector'; locale (language) support; new app called 'Kwheezy Localizer'; Firefox/Thunderbird language extensions; Firefox now supports magnet links out-of-the-box and Flashgot add-on enabled with Kget as download manager; KDE Touchpad configuration now installed by default; no login sound in live session (speeds it up a bit); a few other minor stuff. As usual, you can upgrade to Kwheezy 1.1 from the Kwheezy repository via Apper or apt-get." Read the release announcement and also check the feature list on the project's home page.
Puppy Linux 5.6 "Slacko"
Puppy Linux 5.6 "Slacko" edition, a small and fast distribution built from and compatible with Slackware's binary packages, has been released: "This is an improved version of the successful Slacko 5.5. The biggest enhancement in this version is full support of the f2fs filesystem. Slacko 5.6 has many improvements due to the heavy development of the Woof build system and the many bugfixes to the Slacko base packages (independent from Woof). Lots of packages have been updated for the 5.6 series including but not limited to the following: improved SFS Manager, Updates Manager, improved graphics support, updated ffmpeg-2.0 and supporting programs including Pmusic and Mplayer, Abiword-2.9.4 and geany-1.23.1, Sylpheed-3.3.0, Firefox ESR, plus many other updated programs. Slacko 5.6 is available with a choice of kernels, 3.4.52 (with f2fs patch) compiled for processors that do not support PAE, and 3.10.5 for processors that do." Read the whole release announcement and find more on the homepage of Slacko Puppy.
ZevenOS 3.2 "Neptune"
ZevenOS 3.2 "Neptune" edition, a desktop Linux distribution based on Debian "wheezy" built for 64-bit computers featuring a newer kernel and some drivers, has been released: "The Neptune team is proud to announce the release of Neptune 3.2 (Codename 'Brotkasten on Speed'). This release features the Linux kernel 3.10.5 and is exclusively meant to run on 64bit CPUs. The Debian base system was updated to the released version 7.1 wheezy to provide a stable user experience. The KDE Plasma Desktop ships with version 4.10.5. Chromium was updated to version 28, Icedove to version 17 and LibreOffice to version 188.8.131.52. We ship with the latest and greatest multimedia codecs preinstalled as well as the flash player. For wireless diagnosis we ship Wireshark, Aircrack-ng and kismon." See the complete release announcement for more information including the upgrade notice
Parsix GNU/Linux 5.0
Alan Baghumian has announced the final version of Parsix GNU/Linux 5.0, a live and installation DVD based on Debian: "Our goal is to provide a ready to use and easy to install desktop and laptop optimized operating system based on Debian's testing branch and the latest stable release of GNOME desktop environment. We have our own software repositories and build servers to build and provide all the necessary updates and missing features in Debian testing branch. Parsix GNU/Linux 5.0 (code name Lombardo) brings lots of updated packages, improved installer system, systemd init system and other quality new features. This version has been synchronized with Debian Wheezy repositories as of August 7, 2013. Parsix Lombardo ships with GNOME 3.8 and LibreOffice productivity suit by default." Find the detailed release notes for further information.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list|
- OvercastOS. OvercastOS is an elemenetary OS based Linux distro with added features applications.
- Void Linux. Void Linux is an independent distribution which focuses on providing speed, reliability, and flexibility.
- Milux. Milux is a general purpose Linux distribution with Persian language support.
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 26 August 2013. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, the meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make the desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Issue 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Issue 790 (2018-11-19): NetBSD 8.0, Bash tips and short-cuts, Fedora's networking benchmarked with FreeBSD, Ubuntu 18.04 to get ten years of support|
|• Issue 789 (2018-11-12): Fedora 29 Workstation and Sil|