| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 584, 10 November 2014
Welcome to this year's 45th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Often times it is not enough that an operating system is capable and has useful features, software should also be easy for people to use. This is why most of the popular desktop distributions are those which pay attention to details and attempt to provide a friendly experience to the user. This week we focus on one such project, OpenMandriva, and we take the distribution's latest version for a spin. Plus we have several discussions lined up, including a continuation of our rolling release trial where we compare the characteristics of five different rolling release operating systems. We share a few more thoughts on systemd, Debian and boot times and we share a tip on throttling the network traffic of specific processes. Several interesting announcements were made last week and we link to these in our News section. We talk about Debian's upcoming release of "Jessie", PC-BSD's new package manager and UEFI support, we share some of the new features of Fedora 21's beta release and a peek at the new features in the latest release of openSUSE. Plus we talk about a new container technology being developed by Canonical. As usual, we share the distribution releases of the past week and look ahead to fun new developments to come. We wish you all a great week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (48MB) and MP3 (54MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Introducing OpenMandriva 2014.1
OpenMandriva is one of several distributions to crawl out of Mandriva's slow implosion. The OpenMandriva project has chosen to focus on being a user friendly, desktop oriented distribution and the project's website states, "OpenMandriva Lx is an exciting free desktop operating system that aims to cater to and interest first time and advanced users alike. It has the breadth and depth of an advanced system but is designed to be simple and straightforward in use."
The latest release of OpenMandriva, version 2014.1, contains mostly minor updates and polish over the previous release. The new offering features the KDE 4.13 desktop, changes to some default applications, the 3.15 release of the Linux kernel and systemd is now the default init software. The release notes let us know this is the first version of OpenMandriva to incorporate support for UEFI booting. We are also warned that package management might not work straight away when running from the live media: "The live media currently comes with no predefault mirrors. This means that there are currently no mirrors accessible to urpmi. The mirror list is updated/refreshed periodically."
There is just one edition of OpenMandriva, a live disc which features the KDE desktop. This edition of the distribution is available in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds. The ISO we download is about 1.5GB in size. Booting from the distribution's media offers us the choice of trying the project's live desktop environment or we can jump straight into installing the distribution. I decided to experiment with the live environment first. The operating system began by asking me a few questions such as which language I'd like to use, I was asked to accept the project's license agreement and I then selected my time zone from a list. We then confirm our keyboard's layout. With these questions answered I was presented with the KDE desktop. The background of the desktop is a soft blue colour. Icons sit on the desktop, enabling us to launch the system installer or donate to the OpenMandriva project. The KDE desktop features a traditional layout with the application menu, task switcher and system tray placed at the bottom of the display. We are soon greeted by a welcome window. This welcome screen features several tabs and I will get into the features of this welcome screen later.
OpenMandriva 2014.1 - the welcome screen
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OpenMandriva features a graphical installer. When run from the live environment, the installer asks very few questions. We are offered the chance to manually partition our hard drive or we can take an automated "guided" option. I went with manual partitioning and found OpenMandriva supports a wide range of file systems, including ext2/3/4, Btrfs, JFS, XFS, ReiserFS and LVM volumes. I decided to try working with Btrfs and also created a small swap partition. The system installer copies the operating system to our hard drive and, when it is finished, it offers to install a boot loader for us. Once the boot loader is in place we are asked to reboot the computer. The first time we boot into OpenMandriva a window appears and asks if we would like to remove unnecessary hardware drivers and language support. We are then asked to create a password for the administrator account and we are tasked with creating a regular user account for ourselves. Once our account has been created we are brought to a graphical login screen.
When we sign into our account we are brought back to the KDE desktop and the welcome screen appears. The welcome application is divided into several tabs. The first tab displays a greeting and a brief description of the OpenMandriva project. Another tab includes a list of configuration options we can access by clicking on their respective icons. A third tab provides quick links for installing popular software packages not included in the default installation. Another tab gives us access to the distribution's on-line resources such as a manual, the project's bug tracker, the OpenMandriva donation page and the mailing lists. A final tab includes licensing information and links to the project's source code. The configuration buttons in the welcome screen launch modules in the distribution's Control Centre and I will touch on those later in this review.
Clicking on icons next to software packages instructs the package manager to download the selected item. I attempted to install multimedia codecs using the welcome screen. A small window opened and indicated software was being downloaded. A short time later a message appeared saying simply "Codecs not installed". I clicked on the button for installing multimedia codecs a second time. Immediately another message appeared saying codecs were already installed on the system. A quick check with one of the distribution's media players showed that, in fact, multimedia support was available. After I closed the welcome window I noticed an icon in the system tray was displaying a message in which the software was asking to be configured. This system tray application turned out to be a weather reporting utility.
OpenMandriva 2014.1 - browsing the web and exploring the application menu
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One of the first things I did after installing OpenMandriva was to open the Control Centre and use the update manager module to check for new software. The first time I ran the update manager utility it took a few minutes to return any results. The application shows us a list of available package upgrades and we can check a box next to each item we want to download. The first day I was running OpenMandriva there were 55 waiting updates and these totalled 113MB in size. I found when I instructed the update manager to download the waiting upgrades the application's window blanked for about a minute. Eventually the update manager's window restored back to its usual appearance and I could watch a progress bar expand as the available packages were downloaded. At first it seemed all updates had been installed successfully. However, the next time I booted into OpenMandriva the distribution's boot process froze and an error message saying "sparse file not allowed" was displayed. The system then paused until I had pressed any key on the keyboard. There appeared to be no other ill effects other than this initial pause at the beginning of the boot process which persisted during the remainder of my trial.
OpenMandriva ships with a small collection of useful software. We are treated to the Firefox web browser (without Flash, by default), the KMail e-mail application, the Konversation IRC client, the Kopete instant messaging software, the KTorrent bittorrent client and the KPPP dial-up software. The LibreOffice productivity suite is installed for us along with the Okular document viewer. For drawing and image manipulation we are given the Krita application and we can utilize our webcam using the Kamoso program. OpenMandriva ships with the Amarok music player, the Plasma Media Centre and the VLC multimedia player. Multimedia codecs are not available by default, but can be easily added to the system through the package manager or via the welcome screen. The distribution also ships with a remote desktop client, text editor, calculator and the Kleopatra encryption utility. I found no sign of Java on the system and no compiler. In the background OpenMandriva runs atop the Linux kernel, version 3.15.
OpenMandriva 2014.1 - changing desktop settings
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OpenMandriva ships with a friendly package manager that gives us a good degree of flexibility without cluttering the interface. The package manager shows a list of software categories down the left side of the screen and packages in those categories over on the right. Near the top of the window we see two drop-down selectors which allow us to filter the software displayed. One control allows us to filter based on a package's status (installed/not installed) while the other control allows us to filter types of software. For instance, we can view only desktop software or only security updates or we can see all updates or all packages, including libraries and command line programs. We can choose to add or remove packages by clicking a checkbox next to a package's name.
The installation or removal of software happens as one big batch of actions and the package manager is locked while our commands are processed. Generally, the package manager worked quite well for me. I like the filtering options and the package manager is fairly responsive. I only ran into one problem during my trial. I attempted to install one package which had a dependency no longer in the OpenMandriva repositories and the package manager refused to install the software since the dependency was missing. I checked and the upstream software does not actually rely on the missing dependency anymore, which is probably why the library was missing from the repositories. Sadly, there is no override option to install the application without the missing dependency.
My favourite feature of OpenMandriva is the distribution's Control Centre. The Control Centre gives us a central panel from which to manipulate virtually every aspect of the operating system. The Control Centre is nicely organized into categories of system management such as software handling, hardware, security, networking, etc. From this central panel we can launch user friendly modules that allow us to check for updates, manage software packages, get information on our hardware, work with user accounts and set up printers. Using the Control Centre we can manage disks, adjust the system clock, manipulate background services and configure backups. We can also change our video card settings. (I feel it worth mentioning the Control Centre lets us set the range of display resolutions we can access while the KDE System Settings panel lets us select which resolution we want to see from that range. Effectively we need to adjust the screen's resolution from two locations.) From the Control Centre we can enable Internet connection sharing, configure network proxies and import settings and documents from a Windows partition.
OpenMandriva 2014.1 - working with software packages and network settings
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Two modules in the Control Centre stood out and I feel they are worth mentioning. The first is the system services panel. This module acts as a front end to systemd. It shows us the status of background services on the system and allows us to run or stop each service. Some distributions I have tried recently have not adjusted well to working with systemd and the front end tools have reflected this. While using OpenMandriva I found the system services module not only looked good, but performed well. There were no delays or errors and services responded to my commands. The other module that stood out, though in a less positive way, was the backup configuration tool. The backup utility allows us to configure what files on the system will be backed up and to where. What it does not do is allow us to schedule backups or, apparently, create a backup "now". In fact, despite configuring backups of my home directory it seems no backup was performed during my trial. There is probably a service or button somewhere to enable backups, but I have not found time to go looking for it.
During my trial I ran OpenMandriva on a physical desktop computer and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. In both environments the distribution worked well. The operating system was stable and responded quickly. When running in the virtual environment I had to adjust OpenMandriva's screen resolution, but otherwise everything worked properly. When I ran the distribution on physical hardware all my hardware was properly detected, but OpenMandriva sometimes took several minutes to boot. Not every start-up required a lot of time, but sometimes the system would appear to hang during the boot process, for up to about three minutes in one instance. In either environment, OpenMandriva required about 550MB of RAM when logged into KDE.
This version of OpenMandriva was presented mostly as a bug-fix and polish release and that shows. The operating system is stable and the interface looks friendly. For the most part, the distribution worked very well for me. OpenMandriva has a sense of polish and friendliness about it which is hard to qualify, but is certainly there. The system installer, the Control Centre and the pretty (yet traditional) desktop environment all appear to be designed to be as newcomer friendly as possible. I was especially impressed by the systemd front end. Recent experiments with Arch, openSUSE and Debian have left a bad taste in my mouth has far as systemd is concerned and OpenMandriva did a beautiful job of smoothing over the details of systemd while presenting a functional front end. During my trial I ran into two minor glitches, both with package management, but nothing that really caused me any concern.
In recent years I think it has been too easy to think of the Mandriva-based projects as "also ran" distributions. The financial troubles Mandriva faced and the user friendly efforts of projects like Ubuntu and Mint have conspired to push Mandriva out of the spotlight. OpenMandriva 2014.1 is one of the best efforts I have seen to date to take back the "beginner friendly" crown. This distribution was easy to set up, easy to use, has a great control centre and should appeal to both novice users and power users alike. I was happy and a bit impressed with OpenMandriva 2014.1 and I recommend giving it a try.
* * * * *
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
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Debian enters feature freeze, systemd-free Grml delays release over critical bug, PC-BSD introduces UEFI support, Fedora presents new features, openSUSE introduces boot environment snapshots, Canonical shares new container technology
Debian GNU/Linux, one of the Linux community's largest and most venerable distributions, has entered feature freeze preceding the release of Debian 8.0 "Jessie". Jonathan Wiltshire posted last week that Debian's Testing repository, code name "Jessie", had been frozen: "The release team is pleased to announce that Debian 8.0 "Jessie" is frozen. Further updates to this release will be restricted to bug fixes only." According to Debian's freeze policy, the Testing branch will only accept critical bug fixes from now until December 5th and updated translations through to January 5th. Debian usually does not follow a strict release schedule, instead releasing new stable versions when they are suitably ready. Based on the project's current policy document it appears as though we may see Debian 8.0 released around the end of February or beginning of March 2015.
Another post on the debian-devel-announce list worth mentioning here was by the same author, Jonathan Wiltshire, who summarised the recent release team sprint and, in the process, also announced the code names for Debian GNU/Linux 9 and 10: "Our release managers chose the following codenames for future releases: Debian 9 "Stretch", Debian 10 "Buster"." Those users who run Debian or less wide-spread processor architectures will be interested in the current state of Debian "Jessie" in terms of support for these architectures: "There remained yes/no decisions for arm64, ppc64el and kfreebsd. arm64 and ppc64el have made enough progress to be release architectures for Jessie. Britney no longer has special handling for these two. Therefore, FTBFS regressions for arm64 and ppc64el are now release critical (but non-regressions are not). We discussed kfreebsd at length, but are not satisfied that a release with Jessie will be of sufficient quality. We are dropping it as an official release architecture, though we do hope that the porters will be able to make a simultaneous unofficial release."
Many of the above-mentioned technological achievements have been largely overshadowed by the continued "political" bickering among some of the Debian developers over the Debian constitution. One disastrous result of these squabbles was the unexpected resignation of Joey Hess, one of the best-known and respected developers of the popular distribution: "It's become abundantly clear that this is no longer the project I originally joined in 1996. ... We've made some good things, and I wish everyone well, but I'm out. If I have one regret from my 18 years in Debian, it's that when the Debian constitution was originally proposed, despite seeing it as dubious, I neglected to speak out against it. It's clear to me now that it's a toxic document, that has slowly but surely led Debian in very unhealthy directions." You can read more on the subject in these blog posts by John Goerzen, Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho (who joins Joey Hess in quitting Debian), Wouter Verhelst and Martin-Éric Racine.
* * * * *
The controversy surrounding systemd as the default init system in Debian "Jessie" is probably what have triggered much of today's troubles in the Debian land - even though many systemd proponents maintain that users still have a choice to use SysVInit if they so prefer. Grml, a Debian-based live distro built by "sysadmins for sysadmins" tested this assertion, but the result was disappointing. In fact, the project has been forced to delay its upcoming release due to a release-critical bug in the udev package: "We sadly won't manage to hold the planned stable release date. Systems *without* systemd in Debian have a bug which we consider as serious regression for us. Sadly this turns out to be a show stopper for us. We need to get this issue resolved before we can announce a new release candidate or stable release. Any help in resolving this issue is more than welcome."
* * * * *
November has ushered in several new developments and advancements across multiple projects. The PC-BSD project announced last week they were launching a new release candidate in anticipation of PC-BSD 10.1. The 10.1 preview contained several updated packages and a CD spin of PC-BSD's server edition. The project also reported PC-BSD 10.1 will include UEFI support and the ability to use full disk encryption. In addition, PC-BSD will ship with a new, HTML5 based package manager that can be used to manipulate software packages on both the desktop and server editions of the operating system.
* * * * *
Exciting new technology is also coming to the Fedora project. Fedora launched a beta version of the upcoming Fedora 21 release. The beta shows off some new technologies, such as the GNOME desktop running atop a Wayland display server, a new server monitoring solution called Cockpit and Atomic Host, a minimalist platform for running containers. The beta also shows us how Fedora 21 will be organized, with three different products (Workstation, Server and Cloud) available. Fedora Magazine shares some of the details: "As part of the Fedora.next initiative, Fedora 21 will boast three products: Cloud, Server, and Workstation. We encourage you to visit the wiki pages providing the details of these individual products for more information. In addition to the new Fedora products, Fedora users also have the choice of Fedora Spins that highlight user favourites like KDE Plasma Workspaces, Xfce, LXDE, and Sugar on a Stick (SoaS)."
* * * * *
One of the big events of the past week was the launch of openSUSE 13.2. The new openSUSE release features a more streamlined installer, faster control centre and new artwork: "The new openSUSE 13.2 installer comes with several changes targeted to make the installation process easier and more welcoming to new users. Those changes include a new and more straightforward installation work flow, better and smarter automatic proposals, less cluttered configuration options and a brand new layout for the user interface." However, perhaps the biggest advancement is the way openSUSE automatically takes snapshots of the Btrfs file system and allows the user to rollback to previous configurations by rebooting the machine and selecting an old snapshot from the boot menu.
openSUSE 13.2 - the Welcome screen and KDE desktop
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* * * * *
Canonical, the organization behind Ubuntu, has announced they are working on a new type of virtualization technology that combines the lightweight nature of Linux containers with many of the features virtual machines provide. The new technology is called LXD and Canonical describes it in the following way: "Take all the speed and efficiency of Docker, and turn it into a full virtualisation experience. That's the goal of Canonical's new initiative to create the next big hypervisor around Linux container technologies." Using LXD, Canonical hopes to make it possible to run more operating system instances inside containers on a single server.
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
Limiting network transfer speeds
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you wanted to be downloading (or uploading) a large file and you also wanted to either browse the web or stream a video at the same time? Quite often, unless we have a wonderfully high bandwidth Internet connection, downloading a file will interfere with other transfers over the network. As someone who is regularly torrenting new Linux images while also browsing the web or trying to find some entertainment on YouTube, I find it very useful to have some way of limiting the amount of bandwidth an application is using.
While some applications will self regulate themselves, others are not so polite. The trickle command is a utility which will help us enforce bandwidth restrictions on specific applications. This means I can limit a download I'm performing with wget while I allow other applications to use as much of the remaining bandwidth as they like. The trickle command can generally be found in the software repositories of Linux distributions and is also available for the BSD family of operating systems.
Running trickle is fairly straight forward. On the command line we run trickle, followed by the maximum rate we want to allow a program to transfer data. Then we finish the command by supplying the program we wish to run. Here is an example of running trickle and limiting the amount of bandwidth the wget command can use to 50kB/s:
trickle -d 50 wget http://example.org/download-this-file.iso
The above example only limits data being downloaded (note the -d flag near the start of the line). Should we wish to limit both upload and download rates we can do that too. In this next example we launch the Transmission bittorrent program and limit it to uploading at 100kB/s and downloading at 50kB/s:
trickle -d 50 -u 100 transmission
The trickle application is especially useful when scheduling backups over the network. We usually do not care how quickly a backup is completed, but we can be fairly sure we do not want the backup interfering with other tasks. Placing trickle in our backup script will prevent our routine network traffic from interfering with other downloads, web browsing or media streaming.
|Rolling-Release Trial (by Jesse Smith)
Rolling-release trial - week 5
Getting back to my experiment with rolling release distributions, things continue to be interesting (at least for me). For example, someone messaged me and correctly pointed out that it is possible to manually add multimedia repositories to openSUSE's Factory branch. I followed the instructions they sent me, running:
zypper ar -f -n packman http://packman.inode.at/suse/Factory/ packman
This did indeed add the required repository. After that I was able to play audio files in various media formats. However, I was still not able to play any video files. The system offered to hunt down video codecs for me, but all automated searches failed. I manually installed a video player and all the video codecs I could find and, still, none of my media players on openSUSE would play a video.
Moving on, I tried searching for updates with openSUSE's graphical update manager. The application claimed it had found updates and then crashed. Switching over to the command line package manager, zypper, revealed no new updates available. Perhaps openSUSE is too close to a new release (at time of writing) for any new packages to be flowing into Factory.
Upgrading software on PCLinuxOS went smoothly, as usual. Checking for updates in the Synaptic package manager turned up 32 new items. I then checked for updates to LibreOffice using the separate LibreOffice Manager application and found no new copies of the productivity suite. Someone reminded me last week that PCLinuxOS does not automatically upgrade the Linux kernel. Instead, we need to hunt through Synaptic to find new versions of the kernel (four or five are available in the repository to give people a range of options). I installed the latest kernel and it ran well for me. This bumps up PCLinuxOS's lagging kernel version in my chart of version numbers below.
My installation of PC-BSD threw a few new things my way this week. First, using the project's update manager told me no new upgrades were available. However, turning to the command line pkg package manager revealed 232 new packages were waiting in the Edge repository. The pkg utility failed about halfway through the upgrade saying it couldn't download all the waiting software. I was able to resume the upgrade process and it completed cleanly. This week I also ran the freebsd-update utility which checks for low-level updates to the operating system. This tool found a new FreeBSD kernel update. This update downloaded and installed without any problems. My only complaint with the kernel upgrade is I do not know how big it was.
A few days after writing the bulk of this column, it was time for me to launch into another series of upgrades. PC-BSD was the first on my list to update. The project's update manager properly detected a new upgrade to the base system. This upgrade appeared to install cleanly, but the next time I booted PC-BSD the operating system locked up before it could reach the login screen. The system was frozen and I had to force a reboot. Though the latest version of PC-BSD Edge would not boot, the most recent snapshot, from the previous week, still worked and I was able to get PC-BSD up and running again simply by booting into this week-old snapshot.
I was happy to find that both Debian GNU/Linux and Arch Linux worked smoothly for me again this week. Both distributions provided big updates (327 packages from Arch, 214 from Debian) and I encountered no problems with either distribution. I did notice Debian's update took a long time and the distribution appeared to be stuck thrashing my hard drive for about five minutes, but the upgrade eventually finished. Both distributions continued to work well afterwards.
Here is a table with the number of new packages from each project last week, along with the size of the package manager's download.
Here is a table of each operating system and the version numbers of key packages in each project.
* * * * *
I have been running the operating systems in my rolling release trial for over five weeks now and I feel some distinct patterns and characteristics are beginning to emerge. For instance, the Arch Linux distribution appears to consistently have the most up-to-date software packages. Arch may not always have the newest version of every package, but on the whole Arch seems to be leading the pack as far as getting new software versions out quickly. This idea appears to be supported by OS Watershed which tracks the package versions in multiple distributions. Arch is typically the least "obsolete" distribution in their list. During my trial Arch has, so far, remained stable and no serious problems have shown themselves. There was a Java update that required manual attention, but no critical packages have required user intervention. However, the flip side to this is Arch, while up to date, is probably the most difficult distribution in the trial to get up and running. To install Arch one should first read through the documentation, have a pretty good idea of how to set up X and a display manager and be willing to manually handle things like networking configurations and formatting hard drive partitions. Of all the projects in my trial, Arch took the longest to set up, due in large part to the amount of reading and typing involved.
Debian stands out in a few ways. Like Arch, setting up Debian Sid takes a relatively long time. One must manually configure the Sid software repositories and be prepared for a long installation process. However, once up and running Debian has probably caused me the least number of headaches. Debian may be the only distribution in my trial where everything worked as advertised and nothing broke or developed quirks. Debian is probably also the fastest, most responsive distribution in my trial and Debian Sid requires the least amount of disk space.
The PCLinuxOS distribution is almost certainly the most user-friendly distribution in the rolling release trial. It has a nice installer, is easy to set up and has a nice interface. PCLinuxOS performs quickly and comes with a huge pile of applications installed by default. PCLinuxOS is the most conservative of the distributions I tested, so much so that LibreOffice and the Linux kernel are not upgraded automatically through Synaptic like other packages are. PCLinuxOS may be, by default, slower moving than the other rolling release distributions, but it is never far behind and it is probably the most newcomer friendly project in the trial. I feel it is also worth mentioning PCLinuxOS is the only operating system in my trial where managing software upgrades is handled by default through a graphical package manager and (in my trial) that graphical package manager actually worked.
PC-BSD is typically used as a stable release with regular upgrades every three months, but it works passably well as a rolling release operating system. PC-BSD is fairly easy to set up and it comes with some great administration tools. A few minor things broke during my trial (like the AppCafe and Lumina's launch bar). At the start of week six PC-BSD failed to boot, but recovering the system was as easy as rebooting and launching the last good snapshot. PC-BSD's application versions often lag a little behind when compared to other projects, like Arch, but not by a significant amount. What makes PC-BSD stand out is that the project's update manager (when it detects updates) will automatically create file system snapshots and add these snapshots to the boot menu. This means that when an upgrade breaks the operating system, fixing the issue is as simple as rebooting the computer and selecting the previous snapshot. PC-BSD will probably continue to work until our hardware gives out. The operating system even automatically cleans up old file system snapshots so we do not need to worry about running out of disk space.
During my trial openSUSE gave me the most trouble. Even finding the proper ISO to download took some searching. Installing openSUSE went smoothly, but I constantly ran into trouble with the distribution's PackageKit service, with the YaST update module, with the snapper utility not being configured properly and systemd incorrectly handling services. Multimedia support never really worked properly on openSUSE and the documentation provided concerning multimedia was either incorrect or out of date. The openSUSE distribution required the most disk space of any project in my trial and sometimes pushed out massive updates with one weekly upgrade reaching 1.25 GB in size.
The openSUSE project's one redeeming feature when it came to my rolling release trial was Btrfs. The advanced file system allowed me to add a second virtual disk to my openSUSE installation and merge it into my storage pool with no fuss. In the latter weeks of my trial openSUSE's zypper package manager has automatically taken snapshots of the file system and allowed me to recover old snapshots by rebooting. This means openSUSE, like PC-BSD, is effectively immune from upgrades causing a problem. The openSUSE tools for working with snapshots are not quite as refined as PC-BSD's, but they are close. Having openSUSE use Btrfs by default and snapshot the file system automatically makes up for a lot of other problems in my mind as it provides a good deal of security against broken packages and flexibility where storage space is concerned.
At this point I believe it is time to bring my rolling release trial to a close. It has been (for me, at least) an interesting and fun experiment with rolling releases. I hope it has been informative and I have greatly appreciated all the feedback people sent in. Originally, I planned to run these five operating systems until one broke and one finally did, or at least PC-BSD failed to boot and required rebooting into an existing snapshot. I was happy to find PCLinuxOS, PC-BSD and openSUSE all have guards against upgrades breaking the system. Realistically, Arch users and Debian users can, assuming they use Btrfs as their root file system, make themselves immune to broken packages too.
From a practical point of view, I feel this trial has demonstrated the real danger of running a rolling release is not running into situations where the operating system won't boot. While that can (and did) happen, there are other concerns one needs to watch out for such as the amount of time and resources (especially bandwidth) that go into maintaining a rolling release. A single operating system in my trial easily required ten times more bandwidth and upgrade time than most fixed release systems I use. Plus, most of the projects in my trial required more disk space than I would usually allocate. There is also the rare case where an application's configuration changes, causing a problem with our settings, but that is rarely a critical concern.
Each project in my trial had strengths and weaknesses and I suspect each operating system will appeal to different people. Hopefully this experiment has been informative and helped those of you considering rolling release distributions. Starting in early 2015 I hope to run a similar trial with another set of either rolling or development repository projects. If you would like to e-mail me with your suggestions I will accept the five most popular or interesting ideas.
|Opinion (by Jesse Smith)
More on systemd and boot times
Two weeks ago I made some statements with regards to systemd and SysV init. Specifically, I tested how quickly an installation of Debian Testing "Jessie" would boot using systemd and then compared that boot time against Debian booting using SysV init scripts. I also timed Arch Linux booting using systemd for comparison with Debian booting with systemd. In my tests I found, in environments as identical as I could make them, it did not matter which init technology was used, Debian would boot to a graphical login screen in 30 seconds running either SysV or systemd. Arch Linux, running systemd, booted to a graphical login screen in 40 seconds.
Shortly after my results were posted I received an e-mail entitled "systemd has way more features than faster booting" with links to a couple of Red Hat presentations on the many features of systemd. The kind soul who e-mailed me is quite correct, systemd has many features and I encourage people to read up on them. The reason I focused on boot times is that in every forum conversation, e-mail exchange and nearly every blog post I've encountered that talks about systemd and its benefits over SysV, the main point that gets talked about is systemd's faster boot times. As I quoted in my previous post, both Debian's team and Fedora's claim systemd is faster at booting a Linux distribution than SysV or Upstart. The idea that systemd is faster than other init technologies has become so ingrained in open source culture that it is routinely considered common knowledge.
I believe in verifying the things we think are true to see if they hold up to observation. For example, I have heard many people claim the Z file system (ZFS) requires at least 8GB of RAM to operate. However, I have been running ZFS on multiple machines with less than 2GB of RAM for several years. I've heard people claim either the GNU C compiler or the Clang compiler perform better, or produce better results, and I test those ideas to see if they have merit. Sometimes "common knowledge" does turn out to be true, often times is can be proven false with a little testing.
Following my limited testing of systemd and SysV, someone e-mailed me to ask if I would duplicate the tests, this time booting to a command line environment rather than a graphical login screen. I was happy to do so. Once again, I ran Debian Testing with systemd and SysV init systems. Using either init system the boot times varied by a second in either direction from one boot to the next. When the times were averaged out, both init systems brought Debian to a text console prompt in 17 seconds. For comparison, I booted Arch Linux with systemd three times. To get to a text console login prompt on Arch took an average of 22 seconds.
|Released Last Week
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0
Rubén Rodríguez Pérez has announced the release of Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0, a new version of the Ubuntu-based distribution with focus on software freedom as defined by Free Software Foundation: "Version 7 of the Trisquel GNU/Linux distribution, code-named Belenos after a Celtic sun god, has been released. Belenos is a long-term support release that will be maintained until 2019. Relevant new packages and features include: kernel Linux-libre 3.13 with lowlatency and bfq scheduling by default; custom desktop based on GNOME 3.12 fallback; Abrowser 33 (a free Firefox derivative) as default browser; GNU IceCat 31 available as single-click optional install from Abrowser's homepage, complete with many extra privacy features; Electrum Bitcoin wallet pre-installed; moved to DVD format, now with 50+ languages and extra applications; improved accessibility by default." Here is the brief release announcement.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 - the default desktop uses GNOME's "Fallback" mode
(full image size: 1,028kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ancor Gonzalez Sosa has announced the release of openSUSE 13.2, a major new version of the popular open-source operating system for desktops, laptops and servers: "Dear contributors, friends and fans: openSUSE 13.2 is out! After one year on continuous improvement in the tools and procedures and many hours of developing, packaging, testing and fixing issues, a new stable release is here, providing the best that free and open source has to offer with our special green touch: stable, innovative and fun. Green light to freedom. This is the first release after the change in the openSUSE development mode, with a much shorter stabilization phase thanks to the extensive testing done in a daily basis in the rolling distribution used now as a base for openSUSE stable releases." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information and screenshots.
Salix 14.1 "Live Xfce"
George Vlahavas has announced the release of Salix 14.1 "Live Xfce" edition, a Slackware-based live distribution featuring the Xfce desktop environment: "The Salix Live team is proud to announce the immediate release of Salix Live Xfce 14.1. We haven't had a live release for quite a while, this being our first official live release in more than two years. During the last few months there has been a lot of action behind the scenes to get this ready. The live system creation scripts that we were using up to the 13.37 release (called SaLT), while originally created with the idea to become a one-stop solution for creating our live releases without much trouble, had become a burden to use. After a lot of trying to get them work with newer releases, we decided that we should switch to a better, easier to use system. This is based on the Slackware Live Scripts, which is also what powers other Slackware-based live systems as well." Continue to the release announcement for further details.
Pisi Linux 1.1
Pisi Linux is an independent distribution built by many of the former developers of Pardus Linux - complete with custom package management and system installer, as well as several home-made utilities. It is also one of the few remaining Linux distributions (besides Slackware and Gentoo-based ones) that haven't switched to systemd as their default init system. The second stable release of Pisi Linux, version 1.1, was announced yesterday on the project's website: "Pisi Linux continued its activities after 1.0 and we have reached our second stable version - 1.1. This version resulted from intensive studies - it is strong, stable, comfortable to use, safe and fast. This release includes, along with many innovations, the following main packages: Linux kernel 3.17.1, KDE 4.14.2, MATE 1.8.0, Firefox 32.0.3, LibreOffice 4.3.2, GIMP 2.8.10, Calligra 2.8.5, Clementine 1.2.3, Qt 4.8.6, glibc 2.20, Binutils 2.24, Coreutils 8.22." Here is the full release announcement.
Pisi Linux 1.1 - one of the few remaining non-systemd Linux distributions
(full image size: 662kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
AV Linux 6.0.4
Glen MacArthur has announced the release of AV Linux 6.0.4, a new update of the project's Debian-based distribution with a collection of audio and video production software: "A new AV Linux 6.0.4 ISO image with important security updates and a lengthy changelog of updates and improvements has been released. For the best experience it is highly recommended to update to 6.0.4 by installing the new live DVD image. As a second option there is also a new updater script to update existing AV Linux 6.0.2 and 6.0.3 systems with the core updates and security fixes provided by 6.0.4. This release features the diehard4 theme, I'm sure folks will either love it or hate it, don't worry the complete former AVLinux Blue theme is still there." Read the release announcement for further details.
Anke Boersma has announced the release of KaOS 2014.11, an Arch-inspired, rolling-release desktop Linux distribution with KDE 4.14.2 as the default desktop: "KaOS is proud to announce the availability of the November release of a new stable ISO image. Since August updates were done to a good 1,200 packages and to stay with the policy that a first 'pacman -Syu' should be an uncomplicated one for new users means a new ISO image is needed. Testing this ISO image took longer then usual, due to the fact that getting ready for an UEFI capable ISO image is a must. For that, the interim installer is not a good option, so a lot of work was done to try and get the new Qt 5-based installer ready, but it is just too early to use on a stable ISO image. So this is one last time a BIOS-only ISO image. At the base of the system some of the updates this ISO image has include: Linux kernel 3.16.7, GCC 4.8.3, LLVM 3.5.0, Qt 5.3.2, OpenSSL 1.0.1.j, MESA 10.3.2, Bash 4.3.030, Poppler 0.26.1, systemd 216 and X.Org Server 1.16.1." Read the full release announcement for more details.
Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0
Alan Baghumian has announced the release of Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0, a desktop distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux 7, but featuring the GNOME 3.12 desktop: "We are proud to announce that the final version of Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0 a.k.a 'Nestor' is available for immediate download. Parsix Nestor ships with GNOME Shell 3.12.2 and a brand-new kernel based on Linux 3.14.23. Other features: modernized kernel build system, enhanced live boot system and installer to support UEFI-based environments, built on top of the rock solid Debian 'Wheezy' (7.0) platform. This version has been synchronized with Debian Wheezy repositories as of November 6, 2014. Parsix Nestor ships with GNOME 3.12 and LibreOffice productivity suit by default. Highlights: X.Org 7.7, GRUB 2, GNU Iceweasel (Firefox) 33.0, GParted 0.12.1, Empathy 3.12.7, LibreOffice 3.5.4, VirtualBox 4.3.10." See the release announcement and release notes for further information.
Parsix GNU/Linux - a Debian "Wheezy"-based distribution with GNOME 3.12
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
October 2014 DistroWatch.com donation: The Document Foundation|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the October 2014 DistroWatch.com donation is The Document Foundation, the organisation behind the development of LibreOffice. It receives US$400.00 in cash.
There is no need to introduce LibreOffice, but what exactly is The Document Foundation? Here is the answer: "The Document Foundation is a charitable foundation under German law, founded on February 17th, 2012. Its objective, as defined in the statutes, is to nurture and develop office software that is free to use by everyone. The foundation furthers a sustainable, independent and meritocratic community which develops free, libre and open-source software based on open standards through international collaboration. We are driven by thousands of volunteers as well as paid contributors worldwide, and with joint forces, provide the best free office suite, LibreOffice, which is available in over 110 languages, for any major platform." Please visit the above page if you wish to offer support to the foundation and its excellent suite of office applications.
Launched in 2004, this monthly donations programme is a DistroWatch initiative to support free and open-source software projects and operating systems with cash contributions. Readers are welcome to nominate their favourite project for future donations. Those readers who wish to contribute towards these donations, please use our advertising page to make a payment (PayPal, credit cards, Yandex Money and Bitcoins are accepted). Here is the list of the projects that have received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$41,625 to various open-source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NDISwrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and Sabayon Linux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250)
- 2009: Openbox ($250), Wolvix GNU/Linux ($200), smxi ($200), Python ($300), SliTaz GNU/Linux ($200), LiVES ($300), Osmo ($300), LMMS ($250), KompoZer ($360), OpenSSH ($350), Parted Magic ($350) and Krita ($285)
- 2010: Qimo 4 Kids ($250), Squid ($250), Libre Graphics Meeting ($300), Bacula ($250), FileZilla ($300), GCompris ($352), Xiph.org ($250), Clonezilla ($250), Debian Multimedia ($280), Geany ($300), Mageia ($470), gtkpod ($300)
- 2011: CGSecurity ($300), OpenShot ($300), Imagination ($250), Calibre ($300), RIPLinuX ($300), Midori ($310), vsftpd ($300), OpenShot ($350), Trinity Desktop Environment ($300), LibreCAD ($300), LiVES ($300), Transmission ($250)
- 2012: GnuPG ($350), ImageMagick ($350), GNU ddrescue ($350), Slackware Linux ($500), MATE ($250), LibreCAD ($250), BleachBit ($350), cherrytree ($260), Zim ($335), nginx ($250), LFTP ($250), Remastersys ($300)
- 2013: MariaDB ($300), Linux From Scratch ($350), GhostBSD ($340), DHCP ($300), DOSBox ($250), awesome ($300), DVDStyler ($280), Tor ($350), Tiny Tiny RSS ($350), FreeType ($300), GNU Octave ($300), Linux Voice ($510)
- 2014: QupZilla ($250), Pitivi ($370), MediaGoblin ($350), TrueCrypt ($300), Krita ($340), SME Server ($350), OpenStreetMap ($350), iTALC ($350), KDE ($400), The Document Foundation ($400)
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- FUZIX. FUZIX is a fusion of technologies drawn from many sources, including UZI, V7 and POSIX.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 17 November 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)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• 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|
|• Issue 749 (2018-02-05): Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0, misunderstandings about Wayland, Xorg and Mir, Korora slows release schedule, Red Hat purchases CoreOS|
|• Issue 748 (2018-01-29): siduction 2018.1.0, SolydXK 32-bit editions, building an Ubuntu robot, desktop-friendly Debian options|
|• Issue 747 (2018-01-22): Ubuntu MATE 17.10, recovering open files, creating a new distribution, KDE focusing on Wayland features|
|• Issue 746 (2018-01-15): deepin 15.5, openSUSE's YaST improvements, new Ubuntu 17.10 media, details on Spectre and Meltdown bugs|
|• Issue 745 (2018-01-08): GhostBSD 11.1, Linspire and Freespire return, wide-spread CPU bugs patched, adding AppImage launchers to the application menu|
|• Issue 744 (2018-01-01): MX Linux 17, Ubuntu pulls media over BIOS bug, PureOS gets endorsed by the FSF, openSUSE plays with kernel boot splash screens|
|• Issue 743 (2017-12-18): Daphile 17.09, tools for rescuing files, Fedora Modular Server delayed, Sparky adds ARM support, Slax to better support wireless networking|
|• Issue 742 (2017-12-11): heads 0.3.1, improvements coming to Tails, Void tutorials, Ubuntu phasing out Python 2, manipulating images from the command line|
|• Issue 741 (2017-12-04): Pop!_OS 17.10, openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots, installing Q4OS on a Windows partition, using the at command|
|• Issue 740 (2017-11-27): Artix Linux, Unity spin of Ubuntu, Nitrux swaps Snaps for AppImage, getting better battery life on Linux|
|• Issue 739 (2017-11-20): Fedora 27, cross-distro software ports, Ubuntu on Samsung phones, Red Hat supports ARM, Parabola continues 32-bit support|
|• Issue 738 (2017-11-13): SparkyLinux 5.1, rumours about spyware, Slax considers init software, Arch drops 32-bit packages, overview of LineageOS|
|• Issue 737 (2017-11-06): BeeFree OS 18.1.2, quick tips to fix common problems, Slax returning, Solus plans MATE and software management improvements|
|• Issue 736 (2017-10-30): Ubuntu 17.10, "what if" security questions, Linux Mint to support Flatpak, NetBSD kernel memory protection|
|• Issue 735 (2017-10-23): ArchLabs Minimo, building software with Ravenports, WPA security patch, Parabola creates OpenRC spin|
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Issue 733 (2017-10-09): KaOS 2017.09, 32-bit prematurely obsoleted, Qubes security features, IPFire updates Apache|
|• Issue 732 (2017-10-02): ClonOS, reducing Snap package size, Ubuntu dropping 32-bit Desktop, partitioning disks for ZFS|
|• Issue 731 (2017-09-25): BackSlash Linux Olaf, W3C adding DRM to web standards, Wayland support arrives in Mir, Debian experimenting with AppArmor|
|• Issue 730 (2017-09-18): Mageia 6, running a completely free OS, HAMMER2 file system in DragonFly BSD's installer, Manjaro to ship pre-installed on laptops|
|• Issue 729 (2017-09-11): Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, running Plex Media Server on a Raspberry Pi, Tails feature roadmap, a cross-platform ports build system|
|• Issue 728 (2017-09-04): Nitrux 1.0.2, SUSE creates new community repository, remote desktop tools for GNOME on Wayland, using Void source packages|
|• Issue 727 (2017-08-28): Cucumber Linux 1.0, using Flatpak vs Snap, GNOME previews Settings panel, SUSE reaffirms commitment to Btrfs|
|• Issue 726 (2017-08-21): Redcore Linux 1706, Solus adds Snap support, KaOS getting hardened kernel, rolling releases and BSD|
|• Issue 725 (2017-08-14): openSUSE 42.3, Debian considers Flatpak for backports, changes coming to Ubuntu 17.10, the state of gaming on Linux|
|• Issue 724 (2017-08-07): SwagArch 2017.06, Myths about Unity, Mir and Ubuntu Touch, Manjaro OpenRC becomes its own distro, Debian debates future of live ISOs|
|• Issue 723 (2017-07-31): UBOS 11, transferring packages between systems, Ubuntu MATE's HUD, GNUstep releases first update in seven years|
|• Issue 722 (2017-07-24): Calculate Linux 17.6, logging sudo usage, Remix OS discontinued, interview with Chris Lamb, Debian 9.1 released|
|• Issue 721 (2017-07-17): Fedora 26, finding source based distributions, installing DragonFly BSD using Orca, Yunit packages ported to Ubuntu 16.04|
|• Issue 720 (2017-07-10): Peppermint OS 8, gathering system information with osquery, new features coming to openSUSE, Tails fixes networking bug|
|• Issue 719 (2017-07-03): Manjaro 17.0.2, tracking ISO files, Ubuntu MATE unveils new features, Qubes tests Admin API, Fedora's Atomic Host gets new life cycle|
|• Issue 718 (2017-06-26): Debian 9, support for older hardware, Debian updates live media, Ubuntu's new networking tool, openSUSE gains MP3 support|
|• Issue 717 (2017-06-19): SharkLinux, combining commands in the shell, Debian 9 flavours released, OpenBSD improving kernel security, UBports releases first OTA update|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
Gnoppix was a Linux live CD based on Ubuntu Linux. It can be compared to Knoppix, but Gnoppix uses GNOME as the desktop environment.