| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 550, 17 March 2014
Welcome to this year's 11th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Every so often someone takes a look at the status quo and decides to try something different. While these outside-the-box concepts rarely enter into the mainstream, they do provide the community with alternatives and some outlandish ideas even get adopted, spreading innovation. This week we turn our focus to projects which are trying something different, something outside the mainstream. We start with a review of NixOS, a Linux distribution which showcases a new and powerful way of managing software packages. Then we explore Android-x86, a distribution of the popular Android mobile operating system, adjusted to work on common desktop and laptop hardware. In the News section we talk about the latest release of the Knoppix live rescue disc and a book which explores fun projects for hobbyists. Plus we link to a survey the Lubuntu project is promoting in an effort to gain community feedback. We also cover the distribution releases of the past week and look forward to fun new developments to come. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Deploying Software Sensibly with NixOS 13.10
One of the biggest problems I constantly see when using computers concerns package management, especially installing new software or upgrading existing software. I have long since lost track of the number of times I have had DOS installers fail because they incorrectly calculated available disk space or the number of times a Windows application did not install properly due to a missing DLL file or the number of times I have had Linux packages fail to install because the version of a library I had installed was not the version the software required. Then there are upgrades which can cause a system to no longer boot. Too often I have upgraded one library on a Linux system in order to satisfy one application only to discover the upgrade broke a separate program. Modern operating systems, despite advances in package management utilities, are complex creations and vulnerable to breaking. This is why I get so excited at the mention of new ways of packaging software. I really get enthusiastic when technologies such as Push Button Installer (PBI) bundles come along or, going back further in time, when technology like Java comes along and pushes ideas like "write once, run everywhere". Granted, these alternative approaches to software packaging have their own drawbacks -- PBI bundles are huge, making them inconvenient to download, and when Java came out it ran slower than a three-legged turtle. Still, I like to explore new ways of managing software, I like to see new ideas come down the pipe, because it shows people are acknowledging the drawbacks of the de facto standards and are looking for solutions. Which brings me to Nix and the NixOS project.
The NixOS project's website declares, "In existing distributions, actions such as upgrades are dangerous: upgrading a package can cause other packages to break, upgrading an entire system is much less reliable than reinstalling from scratch, you can't safely test what the results of a configuration change will be, you cannot easily undo changes to the system, and so on. We want to change that." The project's developers have put together a few interesting tools. The first is Nix, a package manager which comes with a variety of great-sounding features. Nix promises to avoid breaking things during upgrades, offers atomic actions, instant rollbacks to previous configurations and user-level package installations. (Don't worry if these concepts are not familiar, I will explore them in more detail later.) The developers have also put together a Linux distribution, called NixOS, which is designed to showcase the Nix package manager, letting us test drive the software in an ideal environment. The NixOS distribution is available in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds and an ARM port is in the works. There are two editions of the distribution from which to choose. One edition is about 735MB in size and features a live desktop environment. The other edition is a minimal installation CD with a command line interface only. I opted to try the large ISO with the graphical interface.
Booting from my selected image brought me to a text screen with a login prompt. Above the prompt is a message which lets us know we can login as the root user without a password. It goes on to mention that we can launch the graphical desktop by issuing a command and that pressing ALT+F8 will display a copy of the NixOS user manual. I thought having the user manual on one of the virtual consoles was a nice touch and I think more distributions should try this. I logged in as the root user and launched the graphical user interface which brought me to a KDE desktop with a minimal number of installed applications. Then I turned my attention toward getting NixOS installed locally.
The installation process for NixOS is mostly manual. The user must take care of disk partitioning ahead of time and set up swap space. We need to perform an initial configuration from the command line which, basically, just lets NixOS know whether to install a boot loader and, if so, where. With that done we run a script which copies all the required files into place and wait for it to complete. Doing this sort of manual, command-line installation may sound intimidating, but the project's documentation is quite clear on the handful of steps we need to perform. There is very little guess work and only about five commands to run, most of which we can copy directly from the NixOS guide. Once the installation was finished I rebooted the computer and launched my local copy of NixOS.
The operating system brings us to a text screen with a login prompt. At this point it greatly helps to have a copy of the project's documentation on hand, both for NixOS and the underlying Nix package manager. One of the first things I did was create a regular (non-root) user account and then go looking for ways to enable a desktop and various services. Here is where it becomes important to understand a few things about the Nix package manager, so let me shift focus for a moment.
NixOS 13.10 -- Desktop and project documentation
(full image size: 381kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Nix is an unusual package manager in several ways. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Nix is that can operate, essentially, in two modes. In one of these modes Nix acts very much like other Linux package managers such as YUM or APT. We can search for available packages, install, remove and upgrade software. In this way Nix will feel fairly familiar to most users. There are some great bonus features provided I will get to later, but for now just be aware Nix can operate like most other package managers you may have used before. The second way Nix can operate is quite different. Nix can utilize a configuration file which reads a bit like a C program or shell script. This configuration file defines certain services or features the operating system should have. The Nix package manager reads this file and then tries to put together the required pieces to make our system match the designs laid out in the configuration file. We might think of the configuration file as a blueprint for how our operating system should be set up. This might be hard to envision so let us look at a few examples.
Let us say we need to install a boot loader on our system. On a distribution such as Ubuntu we would probably perform a few steps to do this. First we would install GRUB, then we would edit the GRUB configuration file to let it know where everything is and then we would run GRUB's update script to make sure the configuration changes we wanted took effect. On NixOS we add two lines to the package manager's configuration file, like this:
boot.loader.grub.enable = true;
The first line tells Nix we need a boot loader to be available and the second line tells it where GRUB should be installed. We then run a command to refresh the package manager's configuration and it does its best to work out how to make the operating system match our design. This will probably involve downloading, configuring and installing the boot loader for us. As another example, imagine we want to install the KDE desktop on Ubuntu. We might run the command "apt-get install kde-desktop" and then, when the required software has been installed, we might reboot to make sure everything is working properly, or logout to make sure KDE is a session option. On NixOS we add the lines
boot.loader.grub.device = /dev/sda;
services.xserver.displayManager.kdm.enable = true;
to the Nix configuration file and run the package manager. It downloads the required files, performs the necessary configuration and brings up the graphical login screen for us. As a friendly touch, the developers have left lines to enable several popular services in the Nix configuration file. All we need to do to enable these features is uncomment the desired lines and re-run the package manager. Pre-defined services include the CUPS printing software, secure shell, the KDE desktop and wireless networking.
services.xserver.displayManager.kde4.enable = true;
Following the steps laid out in the user manual I soon had NixOS booting to a graphical login screen where I could sign into KDE. The desktop is fairly sparse, featuring just a core selection of KDE applications. The desktop is laid out in the traditional style and some minor visual effects were enabled. The desktop was very responsive and maintained a relatively low memory footprint.
NixOS 13.10 -- Managing desktop settings and searching for software packages
(full image size: 452kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
One of the nice features of the Nix package manager is that, by default, it allows regular users to manipulate packages on the system independently of other users. This provides two benefits. One is that users can acquire software they need without requiring administrator access to the computer. It also means that separate users can install different versions of the same package and the applications one user installs are not available to other users on the same system. For instance, Bob might be interested in stability and install the extended support release of Firefox. Susan might be more interested in the latest features and install the most recent version of Firefox. The two users never need to worry about one version of Firefox interfering with the other. In this way users can customize their profile to a great extent. The Nix package manager can also process package actions in parallel so Susan and Bob can install or remove packages at the same time without worrying about their actions conflicting. Having regular users installing and removing software might sound like a security risk and, in some environments, it is. For this reason, the Nix package manager can be restricted to work for only specific users or, if need be, the root user only.
Since NixOS ships with a fairly bare installation by default I found myself making frequent trips to the distribution's software repository. NixOS offers a relatively small collection of software compared with most other Linux distributions. I found around 2,500 packages, a small collection compared against Debian's 30,000+, but most of the popular applications were available. I was able to install the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client, Flash support and LibreOffice. While there may be a few missing pieces, I was able to find enough software to cover my day-to-day tasks. For the most part, installing and removing software went smoothly. At one point my download was interrupted when my network connection dropped, but I was able to restart the installation process and it completed without any problems.
One issue I did run into with Nix actually also revealed another great feature. At one point I decided to install the Apache web server, which is packaged in NixOS as "httpd". There were two versions of the web server available, Apache 2.2 and Apache 2.4. I installed the 2.4 version and started working with it. Later I told the Nix package manager to check for and install any available software upgrades. The package manager identified a version of the Apache server package, version 2.2, as being an upgrade and installed it. Now, while the 2.2 version may have been, in fact, a newer package, I considered it a downgrade from my existing 2.4 version. This is where Nix can be helpful. To get back to using the 2.4 version of Apache I simply passed the Nix software the command to rollback to the previous package set. A second later I was using Apache 2.4 again. This led me to wonder what would happen if I "rolled back" a second time. Would I lose Apache entirely or would I undo my fix and end up with Apache 2.2 again? As it turned out, another rollback command un-installed Apache completely. And this is where things get more interesting. Nix maintains a sort of snapshot of each set of packages. Every time we upgrade, install or remove software a snapshot is taken of our profile. A snapshot, in Nix terms, is called a "generation". For example, installing Apache 2.4 might happen in generation 11. The "upgrade" to Apache 2.2 might be generation 12. A rollback takes me back to generation 11. Another rollback takes me further back in time, to generation 10, where Apache has not yet been installed. Nix will allow us to skip to any generation we want. This means that from generation 10, where no version of the web server exists, I can skip ahead to generation 12 where I have "upgraded" to Apache 2.2. Moving from one generation to another happens instantly.
Generations are not just for individual user profiles either. System-wide changes, introduced by the root user, also result in snapshots which can be accessed at boot time. For instance, when I first installed NixOS I had a command line only environment. I later installed the X display server and the KDE desktop. At boot time I could select which profile I wished to boot, the generation where KDE existed or the older generation where I was running a command line only. This ability to jump to alternative snapshots of the system gives the administrator great freedom to experiment. An upgrade that introduces bad behaviour can be reverted almost instantly, a new version of a package can be installed, tested and wiped out in seconds.
Apart from the Nix package manager, there are several nice aspects to NixOS. One is that the operating system boots very quickly and, while it was running, the operating system was highly responsive in my test environments. The distribution did not use much memory and running the KDE desktop required a mere 140MB of RAM, about half what I typically see in most Linux distributions shipping KDE. NixOS ships with the Linux kernel, version 3.4, which worked very well for me. When running the distribution on my physical hardware all of my devices were detected and used properly. Sound and networking functioned out of the box and my display was automatically set to its maximum resolution. I also ran NixOS in a VirtualBox virtual machine and found it performed well there too, running quickly and smoothly.
NixOS 13.10 -- Running LibreOffice on the KDE desktop
(full image size: 329kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The Nix website claims the package manager is cross-platform with binary packages available on their download page for several Linux distributions and FreeBSD. Considering the long list of impressive features provided by Nix I was curious as to whether any other distributions have picked up the promising package manager. The short answer, it seems, is "no". I did not find Nix in Debian's or Ubuntu's software repositories and Nix does not appear in FreeBSD's ports collection. This surprised me a bit as Nix offers such a powerful collection of features, ignoring the advanced package manager strikes me as equivalent to ignoring advanced file systems such as Btrfs. Some people may question the necessity of having the extra features Btrfs or ZFS offer, but once used properly people wonder how they ever got along without them. I believe the same can be said for Nix. The one project I found that made use of Nix was Guix, a relatively young distribution which is built using the Nix package manager. I checked the mailing lists and forums of a few distributions, wondering if perhaps Nix has simply been overlooked. It has not. When people have brought up the idea of introducing Nix to distributions such as Debian they are met with a strong "not invented here" response. Some developers on various mailing lists have compiled a list of potential problems Nix might introduce. Larger hard drive requirements, the possibility a user might perform denial-of-service attacks against the package manager and ugly file name paths have been common objections. These developers, while they raise good points, usually admit they have not tried using Nix themselves or tested their ideas. I have used Nix and tested some of the more common concerns and have discovered a few things. First, that Nix does not require much more hard drive space than any other modern Linux distribution. There may be a slight increase in storage space used, but not a great deal, probably no more than PC-BSD, with its PBI package format, uses. Most storage concerns can be worked around by simply running Nix's garbage collection script once a week. Second, most potential attacks can be prevented by simply not adding all users to the permission group which controls the package manager (similar to the way we do not make every user an administrator on other distributions). Third, most users do not know, nor need to know, where their packages are actually stored and so long (or ugly) file name paths are not overly relevant. I am sorry to say, based on the discussions I have followed, most distributions are likely to ignore the benefits of Nix and avoid adopting the package manager or even porting some of its nicer features into existing package managers.
The NixOS distribution may have started as a platform for showing off Nix and it may have a rather crude form of installation compared to most other distributions. However, I found NixOS to be surprisingly fast, very light on memory resources and the software repository (while small) contains enough packages to cover common tasks. The distribution handled my test environments beautifully and I highly enjoyed my time with Nix. I hope the developers behind other distributions shift their thinking and, instead of coming up with reasons why they cannot adopt Nix, begin looking at how they can patch Nix to make it better suited to other distributions.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
* * * * *
A follow-up to my UCS review
Last week I posted a review of two server distributions, ClearOS and Univention Corporate Server (UCS). I had trouble getting both distributions up and running which prevented me from getting to explore all the features these projects have to offer. A few hours after the review of UCS posted I received a nice message from Univention's Online Marketing Manager, Florian Popleu. Florian kindly confirmed that UCS does indeed offer both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds of UCS. Florian also helped me find additional English language support. It can be found in the Univention support database by selecting English from the drop-down menu on the left side of the page. I was also informed that the web-based administrator interface which eluded me is only available for installations where UCS is set up to serve in a specific role, such as master domain controller. The basic server role I selected does not benefit from the web-based interface. As Florian explained, "UCS offers the possibility to manage several servers with a central point of administration. It is organized similar to an Active Directory Domain, which means that all information (like users, computers, networks) is stored in a directory service and available for all servers, desktops and other. To meet the different requirements of servers in larger environments, we introduced "server roles" with specific preconfigurations. In a "UCS Domain", the
first server role is always the "Domain Controller Master", which holds the initial copy of the directory service. Further servers can be of any other role, where a "base system" is the only "unmanaged" role without any kind of management system or web interface. ... We will also integrate a message in the installer that will inform about
the limitations of the basic system on short notice."
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Lubuntu asks for feedback, Knoppix releases new rescue disc and the Raspberry Pi Foundation promotes book of fun projects
Sometimes it can feel as though individual users do not have a say in how their operating system is put together. Developers have a lot of priorities and they rarely have time to stop and sift through the feedback from their many users. Luckily some distributions have a strong interest in finding out what their users like (and do not like). The Lubuntu distribution recently put out a call for feedback from the community. "Our fellow (and Ubuntu member) Nathan Heafner prepared the Ubuntu community survey, a simple and quick test (no more than 2 minutes, trust me) whose results will help a lot to the entire community of those (like us!) who make Ubuntu and its flavours more secure, usable and beautiful. You'll be asked about your preferred desktop (I'm sure it's LXDE for Lubuntu), web browser, if you prefer using a mail client or not, if you want a startup sound, etc." The survey for Lubuntu, Ubuntu and all community variants can be found here.
* * * * *
For years one of the best testing and rescue utilities has been Knoppix, a live Linux distribution based on Debian. The popular live distribution has just received a new update and the Knoppix team has announced Knoppix 7.3.0. The new version will be made available through the March edition of Linux Magazine and feature many software updates. Of special note is the distribution's experimental support for booting in UEFI environments. Knoppix also comes with ADRIANE, which brings text-to-speech and menu reading capability to the live distribution, making the Knoppix disc an attractive option for people who are visual impaired.
* * * * *
Do you have a Raspberry Pi computer or other small hobbyist device? Do you like playing with the Linux command line or tinkering with small coding projects? If so then you will probably be excited to hear about a new book called Raspberry Pi Projects. The book includes 16 projects that can be completed with the Raspbian distribution and a Raspberry Pi device, though some projects will, no doubt, work on other distributions. According to the Raspberry Pi website the book "covers interactive text based games in Python, graphical games with PyGame, interactive game hardware, applications with PiFace Digital, making a toy chicken send tweets, chaotic pendulum hamonographs, car racing and more -- as well as a chapter on Minecraft by Sean McManus, and Home Automation by Jonathan Evans."
|First impressions (by Jesse Smith)
Android-x86 4.4-rc1 "KitKat"
Recently the Android-x86 project was added to DistroWatch's database and a few people asked if I would be willing to try this unusual distribution. Android is typically installed on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, so running Android on a desktop machine struck me as an interesting experiment. This is not a full review of Android-x86, rather this week I simply want to answer two questions: 1. Does Android-x86 run on my hardware or, for that matter, in a virtual machine? 2. How does running Android-x86 on a desktop system compare with running Android on a smart phone?
I do own and operate an Android-powered smart phone. My phone runs Android 4.0, a relatively old release compared to Android-x86 4.4. I like the flexibility and power Android gives me on my phone. It is convenient (and a little fun) to be able to take a call from a client regarding their server, login to the server from my phone, check its status and then play a game of Plants vs Zombies -- all from the same device, possibly far away from my regular personal computer. My phone certainly is not a primary computing device for me, but it does get a fair amount of use. Still, there are aspects of my Android device I do not like. For instance, the device locks up and typically needs to be rebooted about once a week. The interface is inconsistent and, at best, awkward to use. Performance is somewhat sub-par, though that can probably be blamed on the phone's limited hardware. My overall opinion of Android, as a mobile operating system, is neutral. The system does some things well and other things poorly, so I went into this experiment without strong feelings on Android one way or the other.
Android-x86 (release candidate) is available for download in one edition. The ISO file I acquired was approximately 295MB in size. Booting from this media brought up a menu where I was asked if I would like to run Android from the media as a live desktop or, alternatively, I could start the Android installer. First I chose the live option which then brought up a series of graphical screens where I was asked to select my preferred language, whether I wanted to enable wireless networking and if I would like to connect the operating system to my Google account. We are then asked if we would like to enable location services and we are asked to confirm the current date and time along with our time zone. Then we are asked to enter our name. Navigation through these screens can be performed with both the keyboard and the mouse. From there we are brought to a home screen. Android-x86 provides three screens (effectively virtual desktops) for icons and widgets. Some icons and widgets are already on display for us. I found a music widget, a collection of icons for Google services (YouTube, a music player, GMail and Maps) and an icon for the Google Play store. The virtual desktop has a photo gallery viewer icon and an icon for accessing system settings. At the bottom of the screen are icons for launching the operating system's web browser and camera applications. Below these icons are three omnipresent buttons for bringing us to the home screen, moving back a step and showing all open applications.
Android-x86 4.4 -- Welcome screen
(full image size: 186kB, resolution: 800x600 pixels)
I tried running Android-x86 in two environments. I fired it up on my desktop computer and found that, while Android-x86 technically worked and properly detected all of my hardware, it had some bad habits. One of these habits was to turn my screen sideways (into landscape mode) and refuse to let me return to normal display mode. This made navigation (to say nothing of reading text) difficult. So while Android-x86 properly played sound and set up a network connection and my display was set to a high resolution, I soon gave up running the operating system on physical hardware. On the other hand, Android-x86 ran better in a virtual machine powered by VirtualBox. The screen resolution was quite low, but otherwise Android-x86 ran smoothly in the virtual machine and, more importantly, the operating system did not turn the screen sideways in the VirtualBox window.
The Android-x86 system installer is a text-based affair where we navigate through options using menus. The installer gives us relatively few choices to make. We are asked to partition the location hard drive using cfdisk and then we choose which partition to use as Android-x86's root file system. After that we choose whether to install a boot loader, wait for the Android-x86 files to copy from the installation media and reboot the machine. It is all quite straight forward if we have a disk partition set aside ahead of time. The first time we boot into Android-x86 we are walked through confirming our preferred language, linking the device to our Google account (assuming we have one) and we are asked to turn on location services. At this point my first question has been answered. Yes, Android-x86 runs on physical hardware and in a virtual machine. The project gets full points for recognizing my hardware and, occasional landscape mode notwithstanding, the operating system ran quite well.
Android-x86 4.4 -- Application management
(full image size: 61kB, resolution: 800x600 pixels)
Going into this experiment I had suspected apps I run on my Android-powered phone would not also run on my desktop installation of Android-x86. There were some notes on the project's website about getting software to run on Android-x86 and so I assumed I would have to jump through some hoops to install additional applications. As it turned out, the Google Play store worked very well for me. Since my desktop installation used the same Google account as my smart phone, the apps I usually use were listed in the Play store and I was able to click a single button to install them. Browsing more applications in the Play store, grabbing software updates and installing most apps worked. I managed to grab a few web browsers, some games, a text editor, a terminal emulator and an ownCloud client from the Play store without any problems. Getting the software to run, once installed, was a hit-or-miss experience. Some programs worked perfectly. The ownCloud client, Cloudy, worked well, but crashed a few times. The Firefox web browser would run, but refused to actually show anything in its tabs. The Opera Mini browser refused to run at all. Some games such as Frozen Front worked fine, but Plants vs Zombies 2 did not.
This pattern of some programs working and others not running properly was reflected in the apps which came bundled with Android-x86. Some programs, like the system settings panel, worked perfectly, while others, such as the photo viewer, failed to run at all. The built in web browser worked, but the app to change the background wallpaper did not. In all, I would say around 60-70% of the apps I tried functioned properly.
As with the smart phone edition of Android, I found Android-x86 has a pull-down menu which supplies notifications. We can access this pull-down menu with the mouse pointer. It worked fairly well and I found the notification area resized itself to fit the text it displayed. Moving between virtual desktops worked fairly well and I found I could navigate using either the keyboard's arrow keys or utilize the mouse to get around using a swiping gesture across the screen.
Android-86 4.4 -- Notification area
(full image size: 115kB, resolution: 800x600 pixels)
To answer my second question, regarding whether Android-x86 works on the desktop in a similar way to how Android runs on my smart phone, I tentatively say the answer is yes. Several applications did not work for me and there are some glitches, but for the most part Android-x86 behaves the same way on my desktop as Android behaves on my phone. The Play store worked well and, so long as I thought of the mouse pointer as a finger moving around the screen, I could navigate fairly easily. Performance was good on my desktop hardware, though boot times were a bit long when compared against most GNU/Linux distributions.
I feel my big issue with Android-x86 is not the apps which do not work or the minor glitches, but rather than it turns my desktop computer's interface into a giant version of a tiny, mobile device. The Android interface works (sort of) for small screens that can be touched. On larger screens which are not meant for touching the swipe gestures and lack of proper window management and the giant icons feel out of place. In short, the same issues which prevent me from seriously considering Android-x86 as a desktop operating system are the same issues which prevent me from using, for example, GNOME Shell on the desktop -- the design does not make sense for the given environment. Now, in the future, if I purchase a laptop with a touch screen, then I would be inclined to install Android-x86. The laptop's smaller interface and touch capabilities would better suit Android-x86's graphical shell.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
- My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Released Last Week
Jay Flood has announced the release of Porteus 3.0, a set of Slackware-based distributions and live CDs in five desktop flavours: "The Porteus community is overjoyed to announce the release of Porteus 3.0 (Standard Desktop edition), as well as Porteus Kiosk edition 3.0. Here is our changelog of major changes from 2.1 to 3.0: replaced Porteus package manager with a new version (GUI and CLI, CLI si called 'usm'); we no longer need to maintain a Porteus module repository and the new version will pull slackware package across 5 repositories and convert to modules; upgraded kernel to linux 3.13.6; PXE server - added support for random IP from private pool when nothing is defined; configured logrotate to rotate system logs once they reach 500KB in size; upgraded to KDE 4.12.3; fixed mounting of NTFS-formatted external drivers; upgraded to MATE 1.7.1...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a full changelog.
Puppy Linux 5.7 "Slacko"
Puppy Linux 5.7 "Slacko" edition, a small and fast distribution built from and compatible with Slackware's binary packages, has been released as the "flagship" Puppy release. From the release announcement: "Slacko Puppy is built from a 'Puppy builder' system named Woof, which can build a Puppy Linux distribution from the binary packages of any other distro. There are many 'puppies' built with Woof, including Precise, Wary, Racy, and Slacko. A new release of Slacko Puppy Linux is out! Slacko Puppy is built from Slackware-14.0 binary TXZ packages, hence has binary compatibility with Slackware and access to the Slackware, Salix and Slacky package repositories. More comprehensive release notes and documentation of known issues are available. Slacko 5.7 is the first Puppy built from the woof-CE build system, forked from Barry Kauler's Woof late last year after he announced his retirement from Puppy development. It is the natural progression of Slacko 5.6 with the added features introduced to woof-CE." More links for readers to follow can be found on Barry Kauler's blog.
Proxmox 3.2 "Virtual Environment"
Martin Maurer has announced the release of Proxmox 3.2 Virtual Environment edition, a Debian-based distribution offering a complete server virtualization management solution based on KVM and containers. From the press release: "Proxmox Server Solutions GmbH, developer of the open source server virtualization platform Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE), today released version 3.2. Big enhancements in this release are the SPICE multi-monitor remote viewer for virtual servers and containers (with spiceterm), the distributed Ceph storage system and Open vSwitch. Countless updates are added like qemu 1.7, improved live backup, support for VMware(TM) pvscsi and vmxnet3, a new ZFS storage plugin, latest NIC drivers and bug fixes. Proxmox VE 3.2 includes the ability to build the Ceph storage cluster directly on Proxmox VE hosts. Ceph is a massively scalable, open source distributed object store and file system that is very popular in many cloud computing deployments. Proxmox VE 3.2 supports Ceph's RADOS Block Device to be used for VM disks...." Also check the release announcement, release notes, and the download page for further information including download links.
PC-BSD 10.0.1, the first quarterly update of the project's desktop operating system based on FreeBSD 10.0, has been released. From the announcement: "The first PC-BSD 10.0 quarterly update is upon us, and 10.0.1 is now available. This update includes a number of important bugfixes, as well as newer packages and desktops. Changes: KDE 4.12.2; Cinnamon 2.0; Samba 4.1.4; Stability improvements to PBI subsystems; Updated GRUB loader, fixing issues related to slow / hanging startup; Updated AppCafe UI; Updates to Life-Preserver, including 'Classic' backup mode and automatic snapshots; Updated control panel with desktop settings buttons... Desktop users already running 10.0 can update via Control Panel -> Package Manager -> Updates. Server users can update via the 'pc-updatemanager' utility. If package updating fails due to conflict errors, please be sure to apply all system updates first before trying again."
Tiny Core Linux 5.2.1 "piCore"
Béla Markus has announced the release of "piCore" 5.2.1, the Raspberry Pi port of Tiny Core Linux for the Raspberry Pi single-board computer: "Team Tiny Core is pleased to announce the availability of piCore 5.2.1. It is an independent system architected by Robert Shingledecker and now developed by a small team of developers with strong community support. Tiny Core Linux is not a traditional distribution but a toolkit to create your own customized system. It offers not only flexibility, small footprint but a very recent kernel and set of applications making it ideal for custom systems, appliances as well as to learn Linux, matching Raspberry Pi perfectly. It is running entirely in RAM. There is no installation in conventional terms; extensions mounted read only, after reboot the same clean system is available. Base raw SD card image with CLI version is only 21.5 MB including RPi boot loader, firmware and support files. Changes from 5.2: kernel updated to 3.13.6; updated RPi firmware; added more protection of TC scripts against bad extensions; added kernel modules required by USB 3G adapters; added kernel modules required to connect WiFi AP with SHA encryption...." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list|
- USU. USU is a general purpose operating system based on Ubuntu.
- Exton|OS. Exton|OS is a Ubuntu-based desktop operating system
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 24 March 2014. 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 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• 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 Silverblue, Haiku recovering from server outage, Fedora turns 15, Debian publishes updated media|
|• Issue 788 (2018-11-05): Clu Linux Live 6.0, examining RAM consumpion, finding support for older CPUs, more Steam support for running Windows games on Linux, update from Solus team|
|• Issue 787 (2018-10-29): Lubuntu 18.10, limiting application access to specific users, Haiku hardware compatibility list, IBM purchasing Red Hat|
|• Issue 786 (2018-10-22): elementary OS 5.0, why init keeps running, DragonFly BSD enables virtual machine memory resizing, KDE neon plans to drop older base|
|• Issue 785 (2018-10-15): Reborn OS 2018.09, Nitrux 1.0.15, swapping hard drives between computers, feren OS tries KDE spin, power savings coming to Linux|
|• Issue 784 (2018-10-08): Hamara 2.1, improving manual pages, UBports gets VoIP app, Fedora testing power saving feature|
|• Issue 783 (2018-10-01): Quirky 8.6, setting up dual booting with Ubuntu and FreeBSD, Lubuntu switching to LXQt, Mint works on performance improvements|
|• Issue 782 (2018-09-24): Bodhi Linux 5.0.0, Elive 3.0.0, Solus publishes ISO refresh, UBports invites feedback, Linux Torvalds plans temporary vacation|
|• Issue 781 (2018-09-17): Linux Mint 3 "Debian Edition", file systems for SSDs, MX makes installing Flatpaks easier, Arch team answers questions, Mageia reaches EOL|
|• Issue 780 (2018-09-10): Netrunner 2018.08 Rolling, Fedora improves language support, how to customize Kali Linux, finding the right video drivers|
|• Issue 779 (2018-09-03): Redcore 1806, keeping ISO downloads safe from tampering, Lubuntu makes Calamares more flexible, Ubuntu improves GNOME performance|
|• Issue 778 (2018-08-27): GuixSD 0.15.0, ReactOS 0.4.9, Steam supports Windows games on Linux, Haiku plans for beta, merging disk partitions|
|• Issue 777 (2018-08-20): YunoHost 126.96.36.199, limiting process resource usage, converting file systems on Fedora, Debian turns 25, Lubuntu migrating to Wayland|
|• Issue 776 (2018-08-13): NomadBSD 1.1, Maximum storage limits on Linux, openSUSE extends life for 42.3, updates to the Librem 5 phone interface|
|• Issue 775 (2018-08-06): Secure-K OS 18.5, Linux is about choice, Korora tests community spin, elementary OS hires developer, ReactOS boots on Btrfs|
|• Issue 774 (2018-07-30): Ubuntu MATE & Ubuntu Budgie 18.04, upgrading software from source, Lubuntu shifts focus, NetBSD changes support policy|
|• Issue 773 (2018-07-23): Peppermint OS 9, types of security used by different projects, Mint reacts to bugs in core packages, Slackware turns 25|
|• Issue 772 (2018-07-16): Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre 0.2.4, UBports running desktop applications, OpenBSD auto-joins wi-fi networks, boot environments and zedenv|
|• Issue 771 (2018-07-09): Linux Lite 4.0, checking CPUs for bugs, configuring GRUB, Mint upgrade instructions, SUSE acquired by EQT|
|• Issue 770 (2018-07-02): Linux Mint 19, Solus polishes desktop experience, MintBox Mini 2, changes to Fedora's installer|
|• Issue 769 (2018-06-25): BunsenLabs Helium, counting Ubuntu users, UBports upgrading to 16.04, Fedora CoreOS, FreeBSD turns 25|
|• Issue 768 (2018-06-18): Devuan 2.0.0, using pkgsrc to manage software, the NOVA filesystem, OpenBSD handles successful cron output|
|• Full list of all issues|
Star Labs - Laptops built for Linux.
View our range including the Star Lite, Star LabTop and more. Available with a choice of Ubuntu or Linux Mint pre-installed with many more distributions supported. Visit Star Labs for information, to buy and get support.
|Random Distribution |
BEERnix was a lightweight Linux live CD based on KNOPPIX.
|Tips, Tricks, Myths and Q&As |
|Questions and answers: Tracking down the user who changed a file|
|Tips and tricks: Running openSUSE "Factory"|
|Tips and tricks: Bash command line short-cuts and tips|
|Questions and answers: Working with Bash completion|
|Myths and misunderstandings: Unity, Mir and Ubuntu Touch|
|Questions and answers: Tweaking X.Org drivers for better Intel graphics support|
|Questions and answers: Using noexec to prevent social engineering attacks|
|Questions and answers: Defining a distribution|
|Tips and tricks: Command line weather, ionice, rename files, video preview snapshot, calednar, ls colour settings|
|Tips and tricks: Basename, for loop, dirname, aliases, bash history, xsel clipboard|
|More Tips & Tricks and Questions & Answers|