| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 580, 13 October 2014
Welcome to this year's 41st issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Perhaps one of the most important, and more unnerving, things we can do in life is to step outside our comfort zone and experiment. Individuals, companies and open source projects need to try new things and branch out in order to grow and improve. With this thought firmly in mind, this week we discuss new beginnings and experiments in the open source community. We start with an experiment of our own as Jesse Smith tests a selection of five rolling-release operating systems to find out just how reliable various rolling-releases can be. We also carry a short review this week that talks about the latest MINIX release. MINIX is trying a few new things, offering support for more hardware architectures and greatly expanding the range of software that will run on the small operating system. In the News section this week we talk about several new or experimental projects. The Fedora team shows off GNOME running on the new Wayland display server, systemd adds a userland console to its expanding list of features, Ubuntu announces native Netflix support and a new Debian-based distribution has been released with a strange fork of the Linux kernel. We also hear from Linux Voice as they make an early pick for the best distribution of 2014. As usual, we bring you the hot, new distribution releases from last week and look ahead to exciting developments to come. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
As I stated last week, I recently began an experiment where I would install, run and evaluate five rolling-release operating systems to see which ones were the most reliable. I usually shy away from life on the cutting edge, preferring to stick with fixed releases with long support cycles. These days I want most of my computers to be predictable and reliable and the cutting edge does not appeal to me. However, the idea of an evolving operating system -- one that does not need to be re-installed, one that does not have a fixed end of life -- does hold an appeal. I do like playing with new features and new applications when I'm not working and so rolling-release distributions are interesting to me.
Whenever the subject of rolling-release distributions comes up, some people report having poor experiences where their systems broke after a short time. Others report running the same installation for years without serious setbacks. I decided to try running several rolling-release operating systems to see how they performed for me.
When it came to setting up this experiment, the tricky part was going through all the choices that had to be made before I even began downloading installation media. First I had to choose which projects to cover. There are many rolling-release distributions out there and I wanted to balance having a wide variety against my limited free time. Arch Linux was an obvious choice, it is a true rolling-release and the foundation for many of today's rolling-release distributions. Though Arch carries a lengthy installation process and requires a lot of manual configuration, its position in the Linux community as an important rolling-release project cannot be denied. PCLinuxOS was another easy choice. The distribution maintains a rolling-release style, but while Arch is very cutting edge, PCLinuxOS has a conservative style to it. The distribution has a reputation for being stable for long periods of time and I felt it to be an obvious addition to the list.
The openSUSE project recently announced their Factory branch would become a rolling-release distribution and I have a great deal of respect for openSUSE's stable releases. I decided to add openSUSE's Factory distribution to my list. My decision was further helped by the fact openSUSE is one of the few Linux distributions to support automated file system snapshots to aid in recovery (or rollback) of the operating system if an update goes wrong. In an effort to represent the BSDs, I added PC-BSD to the list. This operating system features an easy method for switching between stable (Production) and rolling (Edge) repositories and also features a handy rollback feature in case things go wrong. I felt PC-BSD made for a good addition to the list and it provided a way for me to explore a desktop-oriented BSD project.
Debian GNU/Linux also made my list, largely because Debian provides a base for so many distributions. Debian's many branches are used by dozens of projects and it is hard to talk about Linux without giving a nod to the Debian project. I wasn't sure right away if I wanted to run plain Debian or a distribution which used Debian as a base. However, I decided that since I was using vanilla Arch Linux (as opposed to a spin-off of Arch) that it was only fair to run plain Debian rather than an off-shoot.
I also had to choose how to set up each distribution. It was my intention to use similar desktop environments and applications as much as possible to keep the trial fair. Since PCLinuxOS defaults to using the KDE desktop and PC-BSD will run KDE by default unless we specify otherwise at install time, I decided that I would have each operating system run KDE as the graphical user interface. I also chose to run the Firefox web browser and LibreOffice as test applications. These applications are common and complex, making them good packages to use in a test environment. I decided I would update each operating system on a weekly basis and then make sure each system would boot, login to the desktop and run these applications. If something went wrong, I would see what steps could be performed to recover the system.
Finally, I wondered about installation procedures. I was dealing with five operating systems with different approaches and philosophies. Should I attempt to install each of them in a similar manner, treating each the same, or install each according to best practices as described by the distribution's documentation? I came to the conclusion that it would be best to follow each project's documentation as closely as possible, giving each project equal treatment rather than expecting them to conform to a specific approach.
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The first distribution I installed was PCLinuxOS (version 2014.08). The ISO for PCLinuxOS is 1.6 GB in size. The project's main edition ships with the KDE desktop, a large collection of software and is automatically set up to be a rolling-release distribution. These features, along with the distribution's friendly graphical system installer, made PCLinuxOS the easiest of the operating systems to set up. The only potential stumbling block I ran into was the large amount of disk space PCLinuxOS requires. The project's website recommends at least 10GB of free drive space, but I soon found that I would need more space if I wanted to install applications and software updates. Once I had installed PCLinuxOS and made sure I could run LibreOffice and Firefox I followed the project's documentation and launched the Synaptic package manager in order to check for software updates. The initial update contained 159 packages and all these updates downloaded and installed without any problems.
PCLinuxOS 2014.08 - the Synaptic package manager
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Starting with PCLinuxOS got my experiment off to a smooth start. The distribution is very easy to install, the documentation is clear on requirements and recommended update procedures. The distribution automatically uses rolling software repositories so there is no additional configuration involved. My one concern with PCLinuxOS at this point is, by default, the distribution does not appear to offer any method for taking snapshots of the operating system. We are using standard partitions and I suspect if any low-level packages break during an upgrade it will be necessary to attempt to recover the operating system using live media.
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The second project I installed was PC-BSD. This FreeBSD-based operating system is offered as a large download, approximately 3.3GB in size. The installation process is quite simple and PC-BSD's graphical system installer is easy to navigate. During the install process I decided to install the lightweight Lumina desktop environment with the plan of adding KDE post-install.
I installed a bare PC-BSD system and, once the initial setup was complete, I opened the project's AppCafe software manager and, using the graphical utility, switched PC-BSD's software repository from the default (Production) to the rolling repository (Edge). When this change was completed AppCafe automatically updated its package information and offered to download the latest packages. Whenever updates are performed on PC-BSD via the update manager the operating system takes file system snapshots and updates the boot loader so we can easily load older snapshots of the operating system. This makes recovery from a broken operating system quite easy. If an upgrade breaks PC-BSD we can load an old file system snapshot and switch back to the Production repository prior to attempting another upgrade.
Once I had switched over to the Edge repository and downloaded all available updates I rebooted. At this time I found I could login to my account, but the Lumina panel containing the application menu was missing. I was able to right-click on the desktop and bring up Lumina's settings to re-add the application menu. From there I opened AppCafe with the intention of adding the KDE desktop to my system, but I found AppCafe had changed a great deal and no longer appeared to be working properly. I switched to the command line and used the pkg package manager to download KDE. I found I was able to login to KDE without any problems and, later that day, I found an update to AppCafe was available in the Edge repository which restored some of the graphical package manager's functionality.
At this point I have mixed feelings about using PC-BSD as a rolling-release operating system. The project appears to change rapidly with near-daily updates to components and AppCafe has changed a lot in just a few days. The system and most key applications are still functioning properly though. Plus, PC-BSD makes recovery very easy and I can rollback any malfunctioning updates simply by rebooting the operating system. I suspect with PC-BSD I will be in for a rough ride, but be able to recover quickly from any problems.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - switching to Edge repository
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The next distribution on my list was openSUSE. The hardest part in getting openSUSE up and running was finding the installation media for the Factory branch which is linked to from this page in the project's wiki. The Factory branch is available in a few different editions (Full DVD, KDE, GNOME and net-install). I took the KDE edition to maintain consistency and found this installation media to be 905 MB in size. The openSUSE distribution has a very friendly graphical system installer that requires almost no effort from the user. The distribution defaults to installing with the Btr file system. Using Btrfs we can manually create file system snapshots which can aid us if we need to rollback changes to the operating system. Some configuration tools that ship with openSUSE, such as YaST, can automatically create file system snapshots and this further safeguards us against broken upgrades or user error.
Once openSUSE was installed and I had all the applications I desired in place, I went into the YaST control panel and found file system snapshots were not enabled. The YaST module which handles snapshots (yast2-snapper) informed me I first had to configure snapper from the command line. This surprised me a little as openSUSE 13.1 had automatically done this work during the initial installation. After reading the openSUSE project's documentation on basic snapper usage and the snapper FAQ, I found the information I needed. From there I was able to set up snapper and make use of file system snapshots.
The first day I was running openSUSE I opened the distribution's update manager and was told no updates were available. This struck me as unusual, given the installation media I had used was a week old. A little checking showed the PackageKit service was blocking package management, preventing the update tool from seeing available updates. I switched to the command line and ran the zypper command line package manager. The command line utility detected PackageKit and helpfully offered to stop the daemon. The zypper package manager then reported one update was available and, upon receiving my permission to upgrade, downloaded and installed the new package.
From what I have read of openSUSE's documentation it seems that Btrfs will take file system snapshots, but there isn't any snapshot integration with the boot loader. This means if an update breaks my openSUSE installation I will probably need live media to access Btrfs snapshots and restore an older copy of the file system. This not as straight forward as PC-BSD makes the process, but openSUSE appears to offer the next best approach. I like that openSUSE is very easy to install and automatically provides Btrfs as the default file system. Using the Factory ISO images means that the user does not need to manually switch package repositories after the installation.
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Debian GNU/Linux "Sid"
Next up is Debian and going into this installation I had a few debates with myself. Assuming I wanted to run Debian's GNU/Linux operating system (as opposed to the Hurd or FreeBSD options), did I wish to run Debian Testing or Debian Unstable? While Debian's Testing branch would probably offer a better, more stable experience, Testing is about to enter a feature freeze and transition into Debian's next Stable release, called "Jessie". Going with Unstable would provide a more pure style of rolling-release, one that would not freeze, but Debian does not supply ISO images for Unstable. If I wanted to run Debian Unstable (often referred to as Sid) then I would first need to install Debian Stable or Debian Testing and switch to the Unstable branch. I eventually decided to install a Testing snapshot of Debian and then transition it over to Unstable.
My next issue was which ISO to download. Debian is the "universal operating system" and there are lots of download options. There is a minimal net-install disc, a few desktop editions and various sized ISO images. I also had to decide whether to install a desktop environment up front and then update it, or I could perform a minimal install of Testing, then switch over to the Unstable repository and then install a desktop environment. Debian offers, if nothing else, a lot of choice.
In the end I decided to perform a bare bones installation using Debian's net-install option. This gave me a command line environment and an installation of Debian Testing. I then manually edited APT's configuration to switch over to Debian Unstable and grabbed all available software updates. This went smoothly with just 98 MB of new packages being downloaded. I then installed the KDE desktop, the Iceweasel web browser (in place of Firefox) and the LibreOffice productivity suite.
The whole process went smoothly and I encountered no problems. I ended up with a responsive KDE desktop and a fully up to date system. I let Debian's system installer set up my partitions which gave me a root file system running on ext4. This meant I had no file system snapshots or rollback options. Debian's package manager has a well deserved reputation for being reliable and I'm counting on it to not trash my copy of Sid.
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Arch Linux 2014.09.03
The last distribution on my list was Arch Linux. Arch is well known for its philosophy of getting the user to do everything manually. This includes installing the operating system. Arch doesn't have an installer so much as a series of instructions on how to get from an ISO image of about 600 MB to a local copy of the operating system. Once we get the base layer of the operating system installed we then get to manually configure networking, install the X display server, add in such items as a display manager and add a desktop environment. This is all done from the command line, making occasional use of the nano text editor. I will admit it has been a few years since I last installed Arch and I made it a point to read through the installation guide prior to setting up the distribution.
Performing the base install of Arch involved downloading about 185 MB of packages, double checking some procedures in the project's wiki and then rebooting. Upon rebooting I found I did not have a network connection any longer and had to tinker with systemd to get back on-line. After that I downloaded about another 800 MB to enable the X display server, acquire the proper video driver and install the KDE desktop. The next time I rebooted I was brought to a graphical login screen where I was informed I could not login as the administrator, a slight problem as I had not yet created a regular user account for myself. I switched back to a command line long enough to create a new user account and then jumped back to the graphical environment in order to login. Arch provides a fairly bare bones implementation of KDE and so I went about adding a web browser and LibreOffice.
I think it is interesting to note that, technically, Arch does not really have any default settings and so whether we have an advanced file system (such as Btrfs) is largely up to the person installing Arch. The project's wiki notes Btrfs is supported in Arch's copy of the Linux kernel. However, I was not clear, having read through the documentation, if the project's boot loader would support booting from Btrfs. Further, the documentation appears to assume users will install Arch on the ext4 file system and I did so in order to keep the installation as simple as possible. This meant it was relatively straight forward for me to follow the installation instructions and achieve a running system. However, the trade-off is I will not benefit from file system snapshots and I will be somewhat at the mercy of the Arch software repositories. For the purposes of this experiment, no extra work had to be done to make Arch Linux into a rolling-release as that is the project's default configuration.
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At the time of writing each operating system in my trial has been up and running for a few days. About once a week I will update each system and take note of what does or does not work. At the moment I plan to focus on whether each system is still able to boot after an update, whether I will be able to login to a graphical desktop and browse the web using Firefox and edit documents using LibreOffice. I am open to suggestions as to other tests readers may want me to perform. During this trial I will be posting observations on events as they happen on my Twitter feed as regular updates seem appropriate for a trial involving rolling-release distributions. I will also post updates on the experience here on weeks when something of significance happens.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Arch wins Best Distro of 2014, Fedora demonstrates GNOME on Wayland, systemd adds text console feature, Netflix comes to Linux users and the Linux kernel re-imagined
Which Linux distribution is best for your needs and why is an area of much debate. There are a lot of variables to consider when selecting an operating system and people will argue over the best approaches for distributions to take. The Linux Voice recently put forward their views on what makes a good Linux distribution, what to look for and how to measure a project's merit. Their conclusion, which may be a bit premature given the months remaining in 2014, is that Arch is the best distribution of 2014: "Just as a mountain climber becomes one with the raw mountain in order to climb it without technical assistance, and a surfer needs just a carved plank to harness the power of a wave, so a computer user needs just the basic tools that Arch Linux provides to get the most out of their system. The community keeps the documentation up to date, and builds the Arch User Repository -- one of the largest collections of software in the world. All this doesn't mean that we think everyone should stop here while they go and install Arch on every computer they have. While we think it's the best Linux distro currently available, it's not perfect for every situation." Which distribution is your favourite so far in 2014? Leave us a comment with your selection below.
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Wayland is an exciting new display server technology which is expected to replace the X display software in the near future. Fedora is a cutting edge distribution and the project is pleased to show off the GNOME desktop running on Wayland. Fedora Magazine has a post on working with GNOME and Wayland and the author's experiences have so far been positive: "How does GNOME run on Wayland in Fedora 21? I must say that I was surprised how far the GNOME developers had gotten with the Wayland support. Almost all standard desktop functionality is already there. I'm also impressed by its stability. I ran GNOME on Wayland for several days and it never crashed. Almost all GNOME apps already support Wayland." The post includes instructions for people wishing to try out GNOME Shell running atop Wayland.
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People using the systemd init software just gained access to a new utility. Upcoming releases of systemd will include a text console daemon. As Michael Larabel reports: "Back in August I wrote about systemd working to create a new user-space VT [virtual terminal] solution that could eventually succeed the Linux kernel's VT support. With the upcoming systemd 217 release, the terminal is present. David Herrmann has been landing a lot of changes into systemd over the past few weeks working on the project's terminal." The new terminal software is still considered experimental, but may eventually replace the existing, ageing virtual terminal code in the Linux kernel.
With recent high-profile vulnerabilities found in popular open-source software (OpenSSL, Bash), one might wonder about the process the major distributions take in fixing these critical errors in a timely manner. Firstly, how does a project learn about a problem? And what is the next step in fixing the millions of vulnerable computer systems? Red Hat's Mark J Cox has published an interesting article answering these questions: "One metric we've not written about since 2009 is the source of the vulnerabilities we fix. We want to answer the question of how did Red Hat Product Security first hear about each vulnerability? Every vulnerability that affects a Red Hat product is given a master tracking bug in Red Hat bugzilla. This bug contains a whiteboard field with a comma separated list of metadata including the dates we found out about the issue, and the source. You can get a file containing all this information already gathered for every CVE. A few months ago we updated our 'daysofrisk' command line tool to parse the source information allowing anyone to quickly create reports like this one."
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Netflix is a service which allows clients to stream television and film to their computers and hand held devices. Over the years the Netflix client software has been ported to several platforms, but GNU/Linux users have largely been ignored. In the past some workarounds were put together, mostly using WINE to get Netflix streaming to Linux desktop machines. Finally, a native solution for watching Netflix on Linux desktops and laptops has been made available. As the Ubuntu Insights website reports: "Thanks to recent efforts at Netflix and Canonical, Ubuntu now supports watching Netflix with Chrome version 37. Chrome is available to all Ubuntu users with up-to-date installations of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, 14.04 LTS and later. Netflix subscribers who already use Ubuntu can now watch simply by installing the Chrome browser."
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From its earliest days, the Linux kernel has been written in the C language, with bits of assembly thrown in where needed. The C language is fast and offers a great deal of low-level control making it a popular language for writing operating system kernels. However, one group believes the Linux kernel could benefit from some adjustments and we would be better off in the long run if Linux were written in C++. This thinking has led to the development of the Minimalistic Object Oriented Linux (MOOL) kernel and the Bharat Operating System Solution (BOSS) operating system: "MOOL (Minimalistic Object Oriented Linux) aims at redesigning the Linux kernel to reduce coupling and increase maintainability by means of OO (Object Oriented) abstractions. Excessive common coupling prevails in [the] existing kernel. Studies have shown that common coupling is increasing in successive versions of Linux. This will make maintainability of Linux difficult in coming years." The developers have created a Debian-based distribution called BOSS-MOOL which demonstrates the object oriented Linux kernel running a Debian-like operating system. The new distribution can be downloaded from the project's website.
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Finally, if you are a FreeBSD user and are wondering about all the new commands to update your operating system, here is a great FreeBSD cheatsheet that will help you to install FreeBSD binary packages (using pkg) or compile the FreeBSD ports (with portsnap): "Here are some notes on how to bootstrap a FreeBSD workstation and keep it up-to-date using binary packages and/or the ports collection." There is more - from adjusting the time zone to setting xterm's background colour, this page is certainly worth a bookmark.
|Mini Review (by Jesse Smith)
Test driving MINIX 3.3.0
The MINIX operating system began its life as an educational tool designed to demonstrate a basic UNIX-like operating system to computer science students. MINIX is well known for running on a microkernel, a small kernel that separates low-level tasks into separate processes so that one malfunctioning driver or process will not cause the system to crash. Instead, when a piece of the MINIX kernel misbehaves or crashes MINIX is usually able to simply restart the malfunctioning module and continue working. While MINIX is often talked about in Linux circles as simply being the inspiration for the creation of the Linux kernel, the MINIX project has continued to grow and develop, making some interesting strides in recent years as the developers attempt to make the lightweight operating system more practical in real world scenarios.
The most recent release of MINIX, version 3.3.0, includes a few interesting features. One is that MINIX can now be run on some hobbyist ARM boards such as the BeagleBone computers. The latest release also features improved compatibility with NetBSD. This means most NetBSD userland utilities have been made to run on MINIX and many of the applications in the NetBSD ports collection can be built on MINIX. While the current version of MINIX does not support running graphical software (via the X display server), the small operating system does present itself as an practical educational tool and, in some situations, it may be useful, especially on low-resource machines.
I downloaded the compressed MINIX image which is 288 MB in size. Once this image file is restored to its full size it takes up approximately 575 MB of space. Booting from the MINIX media quickly brings up a text console and login prompt. Here we can login using the user name "root" without a password. At this point we are running the MINIX operating system and can explore the live environment, but to really get the complete experience we will probably want to install the operating system locally. To install MINIX we can run the "setup" command. This launches the project's text-based system installer. Most of the installation process involves MINIX asking us a question, providing a default answer and giving us a chance to either take the default or offer an alternative response. For the most part I was able to simply keep pressing Enter to take defaults throughout the installation process.
The MINIX system installer asks us to confirm our keyboard's layout and select which hard drive we want to use to hold MINIX. We can then select which partition of the disk we want to set aside for MINIX. The next prompt asks us how much of the partition should be reserved to hold our home directory. The installer then copies its files to our hard drive. Once the files have been successfully copied, the installer asks us to confirm it has properly detected our network card. We can then either manually configure our network interface or accept automated network settings via DHCP. With those steps completed we can restart the computer and boot into our fresh copy of MINIX.
The first time we boot into MINIX we are brought back to the text console and login prompt. Here we can, once again, login using the root (administrator) account without a password. At this point it is a good idea to read through the post-install guide which covers setting a root password, creating user accounts and installing new software packages. The guide, with its links to other parts of the MINIX wiki, provides a good way for new users to get familiar with the new operating system.
Right away I found MINIX shipped with a good collection of command line software. Manual pages and common UNIX-like utilities are provided. I found there was no compiler installed by default, but the Clang compiler and many other utilities can be installed via the pkgin package manager. I found MINIX provides two methods for obtaining additional software. The first is pkgin, a package manager that handles pre-built binary packages. Using pkgin is similar to using APT on Debian-based Linux distributions or YUM on Fedora, the syntax will be fairly familiar to people coming from a Linux background. Through pkgin I was able to hunt down a handful of utilities, a compiler and the OpenSSH secure shell software. I found pkgin worked quickly and I encountered no problems while using this package manager.
The other way to approach installing software is to use the pkgsrc ports collection. To use pkgsrc we need to checkout the ports tree, install the Clang compiler and the bmake command. From there we can browse a directory tree of software and run bmake in the directory of software we want to download and compile from source code. This can be a lengthy process with some components, especially when the applications we wish to install have multiple dependencies. I found some items in the ports tree wouldn't run once they were installed and some wouldn't build at all. Not all software in the tree can be counted on to work, but the developers report a few thousand packages can be installed using this collection of ports.
One problem I ran into immediately after installing MINIX was that the operating system was unable to look up the IP addresses of remote servers. I had a working connection to the Internet, but DNS look ups were failing. Editing the /etc/resolv.conf file and adding some known name servers fixed this problem. Once I had a working connection I was able to start installing software from the MINIX package repository. Since MINIX does not have a working desktop environment at the moment I installed a few text-based web browsers so I could visit remote websites. I also added some services, such as the OpenSSH secure shell. This allowed me to remotely access my MINIX box and use MINIX as a file server. I also got a FTP server running and downloaded a few text-based games.
I attempted to run MINIX on a desktop computer, but the operating system failed to boot. Hardware drivers for MINIX are somewhat limited and this narrows down the number of devices which can be counted on to run MINIX smoothly. I did find MINIX ran flawlessly in a VirtualBox virtual machine. In the virtual environment MINIX ran very quickly, booting in seconds and rapidly completing tasks put to it. The operating system requires few resources. My initial installation of MINIX required around 1GB of hard drive space and only used around 4 MB of RAM, even with the OpenSSH service running and a few users logged in.
In my opinion, MINIX is a very interesting project. The operating system is small and clean, making it ideal for educational situations. MINIX is perhaps still best suited to a role in the classroom where its uncomplicated directory structure and utilities can be studied with relative ease. MINIX is also a fine example of a working microkernel and people who are interested in kernel design will likely find the MINIX kernel easier to examine and tweak than most other kernels, due to its relatively tiny size and clean style.
I am happy to see MINIX expand a little, moving into the realm of ARM hobbyist devices. The predictable hardware environments and limited resources are perfectly suited to MINIX. While MINIX may not have the large software repositories of projects like Debian GNU/Linux, MINIX will still make a capable file server or test platform for people running BeagleBone computers.
For most people MINIX is still not a practical choice for day-to-day computing. Its limited list of supported hardware and lack of a graphical desktop will turn away most people. But for folks like myself, who like to poke at our operating systems with a stick and peek at the source code, MINIX is still a great learning experience.
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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 2.8 GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500 GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6 GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Released Last Week
Untangle NG Firewall 11.0
Untangle has announced the release of Untangle NG Firewall 11.0, a major new version of the project's Debian-based specialist distribution for firewalls and gateways: "Untangle, Inc., a network software and appliance company, today launched version 11 of its Next Generation Firewall software, featuring industry-leading protection with its refreshed Virus Blocker and Spam Blocker applications. Untangle makes an integrated suite of security software and appliances with enterprise-grade capabilities and consumer-oriented simplicity. With this release, Untangle NG Firewall offers improved performance via technology transfer from Untangle's IC Control product. Combined with a new kernel, NG Firewall also brings enhancements to both HTTPS processing and Captive Portal from the IC Control product. Additionally, Untangle NG Firewall version 11 offers: event logs for search queries on Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask; improved license management; new Application Control signatures." See the press release and the changelog for further information and a list of new features.
Nanni Bassetti has announced the release of CAINE 6.0, a new version of the project's Ubuntu-based distribution and live DVD with an extensive selection of utilities for forensic analysis and penetration testing: "CAINE 6.0 'Dark Matter' is out. CAINE (Computer Aided INvestigative Environment) is an Italian GNU/Linux live distribution created as a project of digital forensics. CAINE offers a complete forensic environment that is organized to integrate existing software tools as software modules and to provide a friendly graphical interface. Changelog: Linux kernel 3.16; based on Ubuntu 14.04.1 64-bit edition, UEFI and Secure Boot ready; SystemBack is the new installer; fixed password request in polkit; fixed password request in text mode; ShellShock Bash bug fixed; mount policy always in read-only and loop mode; fstrim disabled; autopsy patched by Maxim Suhanov; HFS directories handling fixed; Sun VTOC volume system handling fixed...." Visit the project's home page for more information, full changelog and screenshots.
CAINE 6.0 - a "pentest" distro based on the latest Ubuntu
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NetBSD 6.1.5, 6.0.6
Soren Jacobsen has announced the release of NetBSD 6.1.5, the latest stable version of NetBSD incorporating fixes to all recent security vulnerabilities: "The NetBSD project is pleased to announce NetBSD 6.1.5, the fifth security and bug-fix update of the NetBSD 6.1 release branch, and NetBSD 6.0.6, the sixth security and bug-fix update of the NetBSD 6.0 release branch. They represent a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, and if you are running a prior release of either branch, we strongly suggest that you update to one of these releases." Some of the critical security advisory fixes include: "libXfont multiple vulnerabilities; multiple OpenSSL vulnerabilities; bozohttpd basic http authentication bypass; multiple vulnerabilities in the execve system call; multiple vulnerabilities in the compatibility layers; user-controlled memory allocation in the modctl system call...." See the release announcement and release notes for further details.
ROSA R4 "Desktop Fresh"
Ekaterina Lopukhova has announced the release of ROSA R4 "Desktop Fresh" edition, a desktop Linux distribution featuring a customised and user-friendly KDE 4.13.3 desktop: "The ROSA company is happy to present the long-awaited ROSA Desktop Fresh R4, the number 4 in the "R" lineup of the free ROSA distros with the KDE desktop as the main graphical environment. The distro presents a vast collection of games and emulators, as well as the Steam platform package along with standard suite of audio and video communications software, including the newest version of Skype. All modern video formats are supported. The distribution includes the fresh LibreOffice 4.3.1, the full TeX suite for true nerds, along with the best Linux desktop publishing, text editing and polygraphy WYSISYG software. The LAMP/C++/ development environments are waiting to be installed by true hackers." Continue to the release announcement for a list of changes and major components.
VyOS is a community fork of Vyatta, a Debian-based distribution for firewalls and routers discontinued in 2013. The project's latest stable release is version 1.1.0, announced yesterday: "VyOS 1.1.0 is now available for download. Release highlights include: unmanaged L2TPv3; dummy interfaces (functionally identical to multiple loopbacks in IOS); 802.1ad QinQ; event handler that executes something when it finds a pattern in logs or command output; IGMP proxy (pulled from EdgeOS); commands conf mode filter that converts config output to set commands; strip-private filter that removes private information from the config for pasting and the like; ability to administratively disable PPPoE sessions; ability to specify required authentication protocol for remote access VPN; ability to reject OpenVPN clients for which no explicit configuration exists; configurable ARP filter settings; persistent tunnel (—persist-tun) option for OpenVPN; TWA hazards protection settings...." See the release announcement and release notes for more details.
Zbigniew Konojacki has announced the release of 4MLinux 10.0, the latest stable version of the project's minimalist and lightweight desktop Linux distribution featuring a highly customised JWM window manager: "4MLinux 10.0 'Allinone' edition final released. The status of the 4MLinux 10.0 series has been changed to stable. The final release has all the features included in 4MLinux 10.0 'Rescue', 'Media', 'Server' and 'Game' editions. Two major changes in user space: support for touchscreens has been added (they can be calibrated via the xinput calibrator) and support for webcams has been improved (more info available on the 4MLinux blog). The size of the final ISO image is now much bigger because it includes optional software (drivers and development packages)." Here is the brief release announcement.
4MLinux 10.0 - a minimalist independent distribution with JWM
(full image size: 1,299kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
BackBox Linux 4.0
Raffaele Forte has announced the release of BackBox Linux 4.0, a major new version of the distribution designed for penetration testing - now based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: "The BackBox team is pleased to announce the updated release of BackBox Linux, version 4.0. This release includes features such as Linux kernel 3.13, EFI mode, anonymous mode, LVM + disk encryption installer, privacy additions and armhf Debian packages. What's new? New Ubuntu 14.04 base; handy Thunar custom actions; RAM wipe at shutdown and reboot; system improvements; upstream components; bug corrections; performance boost; improved anonymous mode; predisposition to ARM architecture (armhf Debian packages); predisposition to BackBox Cloud platform; new and updated hacking tools." Read the complete release announcement for system requirements and other information.
BackBox Linux 4.0 - another "pentest" distro based on the latest Ubuntu
(full image size: 1,010kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
GALPon MiniNo 2014 "PicarOS"
Antonio Sánchez has announced the release of GALPon MiniNo 2014 "PicarOS" edition, a Debian-based distributions designed for 3 - 12 year-old children: "Once again we have prepared for you a new PicarOS release with features that will please everyone. This year we have focused on making life a little more comfortable for our colleagues, K12 teachers, in addition to adjusting programs to this level and prepare them for using in the classroom or at home. We have prepared some extremely easy scripts (Menu - Minino Tools - Computer Room) used to install PicarOS in a computer room. They configure the network (computer name, give a static IP, Internet), Epoptes (to control all PCs in the class), a shared folder (Samba) and set up a program that synchronizes all the classrooms with a pair of clicks. No system administration knowledge is needed for do this. New desktop environment (Menu - Minino Tools - Desktop Style) designed specifically for interactive whiteboards." Visit the distribution's news page to read the full release announcement.
Lunar Linux 1.7.0
Stefan Wold has announced the release of Lunar Linux 1.7.0, a source-based distribution with a complete application management system: "You better believe it, the day you all have been waiting for has finally arrived. The Lunar team proudly announces the final release of Lunar Linux 1.7.0, code name 'Sinus Successus'. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes Lunar Linux is back with a vengeance; a lot of overhauling has been done all over the core tools, packages, installer and the ISO builder. Even though our journey to reach this milestone has been a long one we hope that the changes and quality improvements we've made was worth the wait. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy of Lunar Linux while it is hot! New features in 1.7.0: out with sysvinit and in with systemd; Linux kernel 3.16.3, GCC 4.9.1 and glibc 2.19; added support for the Btrfs file system; GRUB 2 or LILO, pick your poison; improved installer; now with initrd support; a bunch of updated modules." Here is the brief release announcement.
Smoothwall Express 3.1
Following six release candidates spanned over 16 months, today Neal Murphy announced the final release of Smoothwall Express 3.1. This is an updated version of the project's specialist distribution for firewalls. From the release announcement: "The Smoothwall community is pleased to announce the release of the long-awaited Smoothwall Express 3.1 firewall. This release is a refresh of the Smoothwall Express 3.0 foundation and a culmination of five years of effort that began with the Roadster Test Vehicle. The build system has been thoroughly worked over, and the user interface has been freshened with several presentation improvements. The vast majority of the work was done 'under the hood'. Here are just a few of the software upgrades: Linux kernel 3.4.104, glibc 2.18, GCC 4.7.3, Perl 5.14.4, Squid 3.3.13, httpd 2.2.27, iptables 1.4.14, and OpenSwan 2.6.41. Some of these updates are ready to enable new features such as HTTPS proxying in Squid. In addition to these updates, numerous bugs present in 3.0."
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Distributions added to database|
- VyOS. VyOS is a community fork of Vyatta, a distribution discontinued in 2013. It is a network operating system that provides software-based network routing, firewall and VPN functionality. VyOS is based on Debian GNU/Linux and is completely free and open-source. Its features include the ability to run on both physical and virtual platforms, and support for para-virtual drivers and integration packages for virtual platforms.
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- Cotton x64. Cotton x64 is an Ubuntu-based distribution which ships with PlayOnLinux to assist people in transitioning from Windows to Linux.
- ToriOS. ToriOS is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and attempts to provide a stable, low-resource operating system for older processors and graphics cards.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 20 October 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 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 184.108.40.206, 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|
|• Issue 767 (2018-06-11): Android-x86 7.1-r1, transferring files over OpenSSH with pipes, LFS with Debian package management, Haiku ports LibreOffice|
|• Issue 766 (2018-06-04): openSUSE 15, overview of file system links, Manjaro updates Pamac, ReactOS builds itself, Bodhi closes forums|
|• Issue 765 (2018-05-28): Pop!_OS 18.04, gathering system information, Haiku unifying ARM builds, Solus resumes control of Budgie|
|• Issue 764 (2018-05-21): DragonFly BSD 5.2.0, Tails works on persistent packages, Ubuntu plans new features, finding services affected by an update|
|• Issue 763 (2018-05-14): Fedora 28, Debian compatibility coming to Chrome OS, malware found in some Snaps, Debian's many flavours|
|• Issue 762 (2018-05-07): TrueOS 18.03, live upgrading Raspbian, Mint plans future releases, HardenedBSD to switch back to OpenSSL|
|• Issue 761 (2018-04-30): Ubuntu 18.04, accessing ZFS snapshots, UBports to run on Librem 5 phones, Slackware makes PulseAudio optional|
|• Issue 760 (2018-04-23): Chakra 2017.10, using systemd to hide files, Netrunner's ARM edition, Debian 10 roadmap, Microsoft develops Linux-based OS|
|• Issue 759 (2018-04-16): Neptune 5.0, building containers with Red Hat, antiX introduces Sid edition, fixing filenames on the command line|
|• Issue 758 (2018-04-09): Sortix 1.0, openSUSE's Transactional Updates, Fedora phasing out Python 2, locating portable packages|
|• Issue 757 (2018-04-02): Gatter Linux 0.8, the UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, Red Hat turns 25, super long term support kernels|
|• Issue 756 (2018-03-26): NuTyX 10.0, Neptune supplies Debian users with Plasma 5.12, SolydXK on a Raspberry Pi, SysV init development|
|• Issue 755 (2018-03-19): Learning with ArchMerge and Linux Academy, Librem 5 runs Plasma Mobile, Cinnamon gets performance boost|
|• Issue 754 (2018-03-12): Reviewing Sabayon and Antergos, the growing Linux kernel, BSDs getting CPU bug fixes, Manjaro builds for ARM devices|
|• Issue 753 (2018-03-05): Enso OS 0.2, KDE Plasma 5.12 features, MX Linux prepares new features, interview with MidnightBSD's founder|
|• Issue 752 (2018-02-26): OviOS 2.31, performing off-line upgrades, elementary OS's new installer, UBports gets test devices, Redcore team improves security|
|• Issue 751 (2018-02-19): DietPi 6.1, testing KDE's Plasma Mobile, Nitrux packages AppImage in default install, Solus experiments with Wayland|
|• Issue 750 (2018-02-12): Solus 3, getting Deb packages upstream to Debian, NetBSD security update, elementary OS explores AppCentre changes|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
Stella is a CentOS-based Linux distribution with focus on user-friendly desktop computing with GNOME 2 and out-of-the-box support for many popular multimedia formats. Besides standard upstream software, the project also maintains its own repository containing LibreOffice and a variety of useful desktop applications.