| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 822, 8 July 2019
Welcome to this year's 27th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
A week ago the Mageia project, a community distribution which continues the legacy of Mandriva, published Mageia 7. The new release offers updates to many packages and desktop environments and provides better Wayland support, as well as more media codecs out of the box. In our Feature Story Jesse Smith takes Mageia 7 for a spin and reports on his experiences. Last week we covered a similar distribution, OpenMandriva, which is part of the same family of projects. Let us know which of these two distributions you prefer in the Opinion Poll. While we rarely review alpha and beta versions, preferring to focus on final releases, sometimes it is interesting to see what new technology is coming in future versions. Running pre-release software carries some risks and may introduce stability issues, but it is also a good way to test new software and report bugs. Our Technology Review column explores what it is like running the development branches of three distributions for three weeks. In the News section we cover the Mint team considering how to deal with Snap packages now that Ubuntu applications are moving toward being distributed as Snaps instead of Deb files. Plus we talk about IPFire temporarily losing the ability to accept donations and UBports reacting to Google's account changes. We also report on Ubuntu 18.10 nearing the end of its life and link to a guide for people who wish to upgrade Red Hat Enterprise Linux installations. We are then pleased to share the new releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
- Review: Mageia 7
- News: Mint team considers Snap packages, IPFire cannot accept donations, UBports works to maintain access to Google accounts, Ubuntu 18.10 nears its end of life, Red Hat offers upgrade guide
- Technology review: Running development branches
- Released last week: Debian 10, Mageia 7, NuTyX 11.1
- Torrent corner: 4MLinux, Arch, ArchBang, Archman, AUSTRUMI, Debian, IPFire, KaOS, KDE neon, Live Raizo, Mageia, NuTyX, SmartOS, Whonix
- Upcoming releases: FreeBSD 11.3, Tails 3.15
- Opinion poll: Mageia and OpenMandriva
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Mageia is a user friendly, desktop-oriented Linux distribution. The project originally grew out of the Mandriva family of distributions and is independently developed. The project's latest release is Mageia 7 which, according to the project's release notes, offers 18 months of support. Mageia 7 drops support for the ARMv5 architecture while adding support for 64-bit ARM (Aarch64) and improving support for ARMv7. While ARM packages are being built, ARM installation media is not yet featured on the project's download page. The new release includes the DNF command line package manager and features the ability to play MP3 files - MP3 support was not included by default in previous releases due to patent restrictions.
The release notes mention that GNOME users can enjoy their desktop running on a Wayland session by default with X.Org available as an alternative. KDE Plasma users will have the opposite experience with their desktop running on X.Org and a Wayland session available through a package in the distribution's repositories. The documentation also mentions that when running a GNOME on Wayland session some graphical administrator tools will not work when run through su or sudo. The user can run these tools with their regular user privileges and the system will prompt for an admin password when necessary.
Mageia is available for the 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x86_64) architectures. We can either download an install DVD with multiple desktop packages bundled or we can download live media with the Plasma, GNOME, or Xfce desktops. There are smaller net-install disc images available too. I decided to try the KDE Plasma live disc which is a 2.8GB download.
Booting from the live media brings up a menu which gives us the option of immediately loading the project's system installer or launching a live desktop environment. Choosing the live desktop brings up a series of graphical screens asking us to select our language from a list, confirm the distribution's license agreement, and we are offered a chance to read the release notes. We are then asked to select our time zone from a list and confirm our keyboard's layout.
Mageia 7 -- The welcome window
(full image size: 243kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
The Plasma desktop then loads and immediately launches a welcome screen. The welcome screen greets us to our "newly installed system", which is a bit misleading since we haven't launched the installer yet. The welcome window prompts us to go through the application's tabs in order to configure the operating system. There is no reason to do any configuration yet and we can simply close the welcome window and go through its steps after we install the distribution.
The Plasma desktop has one panel that runs along the bottom of the screen. The panel holds the application menu, some quick-launch buttons, and system tray. The application menu has a classic, tree-style layout which I like. On the desktop there are three icons which launch the system installer, open the Dolphin file manager and there is one labelled "Join the community". The last icon links us to the distribution's forum and areas of the project where people can contribute.
Mageia uses a graphical system installer which begins by asking us how we would like to partition the hard drive. We can either take over all available space on the disk of our choice or we can set up partitioning manually. I went with the manual option and found the partition manager to be very easy to use. We can operate on Btrfs, ext3, ext4, JFS, XFS, LVM and RAID volumes and Mageia supports encrypting partitions with a click.
The installer then offers to skip installing unnecessary packages, like those for hardware or languages we do not use. Software is then copied to our hard drive. Once all the packages have been transferred over we are asked to customize boot loader settings. For instance we can use GRUB2 in text or graphical mode, we can enable password protection and specify where GRUB2 is to be installed, though I found the defaults worked for me. Once the installer concludes its work, it returns us to the live desktop.
The first time we boot into our local copy of Mageia the system spends a few minutes downloading packages, or package information. The user is not told what is being done in any detail, but it looks like repository meta data is being downloaded. In my case the system eventually stopped the downloads with an error reporting a download had a checksum mismatch, but we are not told what this will mean for the user.
Then a graphical wizard appears and asks us to create a root password and to make up a new username and password for ourselves. With these steps completed we are presented with a login screen.
The login screen offers us three session options: Plasma, IceWM, and IceWM Session. Both IceWM options load the same window manager environment. Interestingly enough, IceWM is configured to look a lot like the Plasma session. The minimal window manager is set up with a panel at the bottom of the display and similar application menu. IceWM doesn't have the same colourful, polished look as Plasma, but it should look familiar to any users who need to use it to rescue their systems if Plasma stops working.
Signing into the Plasma session brings back the same welcome window we experienced in the live session. The welcome window features a series of tabs which we can use to configure the operating system, in particular enabling package repositories and installing additional software.
The first configuration tab explains the distribution's many repositories and how software is divided into groups such as "tainted", non-free, backports and 32-bit options. There look to be around 40 software repositories in total, once we account for all the testing and debugging options. The next tab in the welcome window offers to check for software updates and, in my case, the system did not find any.
The following tab offers to launch the distribution's Control Centre and I will talk more about this settings panel later. The next tab can launch the graphical software manager, RPMdrake, and I will also come back to this utility later. The next tab in the line offers to install popular software items. This tab is basically a mini software centre which lists categories of software and clicking on a category lists popular items in the category. Each item has an Install button next to it. Clicking the Install button asks for confirmation and then prompts us for the root password. The confirmation and password prompt happen for each item and we cannot queue multiple items at once, making this a tedious approach to installing extras. Some of the featured extras include media codecs, Steam, some web browsers and programming IDEs.
The welcome window's penultimate tab offers us system information, such as the release version we are using and our user identification number (UID). The final tab offers buttons to help us access Mageia's website, chat room, forum and other resources. The chat room button opens the Konversation IRC client and connects to a server. However, we cannot join the chat room until we register, through a website, so there is a hurdle in place for people seeking assistance.
I think it is worth noting that while the welcome window does offer some convenient features and is generally useful to getting us up and running with the tools we need, one drawback is almost every tab's feature or utility requires us to enter the root password. In the first 20 minutes I was using Mageia I probably entered the root password a dozen times. It's a practise that loses its charm with repetition.
Once we are done with the welcome window we are shown the Plasma desktop which looks and acts the same as it did in the live environment, except the installer icon has been removed from the desktop. In general, I liked how Plasma was laid out. The default theme is fairly easy on my eyes and I like the classic presentation with a tree-style menu and mostly empty desktop space.
Mageia 7 -- Running Firefox and LibreOffice
(full image size: 219kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
I tried running Mageia in a VirtualBox environment and on a laptop. When running in VirtualBox the distribution worked well. The distribution integrates with VirtualBox and can use the host computer's full screen resolution. Desktop performance was good with the default settings and improved to become excellent once compositing was turned off and some effects were disabled.
On the laptop, Mageia ran smoothly. All my hardware was detected and the Plasma desktop was highly responsive. I ran into no performance or stability issues. The distribution required about 490MB of RAM to sign into Plasma and a fresh install used 6.8GB of disk space.
Mageia ships with a fairly standard set of open source software, though the KDE Plasma edition naturally leans toward providing KDE/Qt applications. The application menu includes the Firefox and Konqueror browsers, the Dolphin file manager and LibreOffice. Kmail is included along with the Konversation IRC client. Okular is available for viewing PDF documents and KOrganizer helps us stay on top of our schedules. The digiKam and GNU Image Manipulation Program are available to help us access and edit images.
Mageia 7 -- Browsing the application menu and managing background services
(full image size: 265kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
The distribution ships with the Dragon Player media player, Clementine for playing audio files and the VLC multimedia player. For the most part audio codecs seem to be available by default and extra audio and video codecs can be downloaded through the welcome window. The K3b disc burning software is included. There are some smaller utilities like a text editor, archive manager and documentation that explains how to use the distribution's settings panel. The Marble virtual globe is included and Java is installed for us. Network Centre (also known as draknetcentre) is present to help us connect to networks. Behind the scenes Mageia uses systemd and runs on version 5.1.14 of the Linux kernel.
The included software generally worked well for me. Applications were stable, Firefox displayed web pages, I was able to edit documents and alter images without any problems. I could play videos and audio files too, once codecs had been installed from the welcome window.
Mageia ships with two settings panels, one for handling desktop settings and one for managing the underlying operating system. The latter is called Mageia Control Centre (MCC) and it is probably the most attractive feature of the distribution. Using the Control Centre we can manage software packages and repositories, set up printers, enable scanners, and manage background services. We can also view logs, set up new user accounts, manage network settings and set up network services such as Samba shares. Plus there are tools for setting up a firewall, and configuring the boot loader.
Mageia 7 -- The Mageia Control Centre
(full image size: 405kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
The Control Centre is organized in a very straight forward manner and the settings modules are clearly labelled, making this settings panel a pleasure to use. It's probably one of the nicer admin panels in the Linux community and no worse off for having remained mostly unchanged over the years.
I ran into three issues while using the Control Centre which placed a small blemish on the otherwise fantastic experience. The first was the Snapshots tool would not open. Trying to open it causes an error to be displayed saying the tool terminated abnormally. The second is that there are two separate firewall tools for handling IPv4 and IPv6 connections. I don't think I've ever encountered a distribution which used separate GUI tools for different IP versions, but it means if we switch between network types (or have a network that supports both connections) we need to set up all our firewall rules twice. It isn't a bug, but it is inconvenient. The third issue deals with software, which brings me to software management.
A handful of the modules in the Control Centre assist the user in managing software repositories, checking for updates and installing or removing packages. The update manager did not work for me. Launching it shows the manager checking for updates and it finds none. I was suspicious of this lack of updates after a few days and switched over to a command line where I ran the DNF package manager. DNF reported it did find updates and offered to install them. Downloading and applying the new software worked through DNF without any problems.
While DNF works and should be pleasantly familiar to people who have used Fedora or other members of the Red Hat family recently, I suspect most users will want to make use of the graphical package manager which can be found in the Control Centre and in the application menu. The graphical package manager is presented with two panes. On the left we are shown available categories (and sub-categories) of software. On the right we find the names and descriptions of packages in the selected category, sorted alphabetically. One neat feature of the software manager is it can filter displayed items based on the package's type (GUI, backports, meta packages) and by status (installed or not installed). We can check (or uncheck) the box next to the item we want to install or remove and click another button to process all the changes we have selected.
The software manager worked well and quickly and I had no serious complaints while using it. Sometimes I found that having sub-categories of packages slowed me down. For instance I was not sure if the GNU Image Manipulation Program would be filed under the Graphics sub-category of Photography, Editing or Utility. In these situations, where we know the name and not the location of an application, we can search for items using keywords and I found this worked well.
Mageia 7 -- Browsing software packages
(full image size: 366kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
Mageia does not ship with tools for running either Snap or Flatpak packages. A search for the Snap framework in Mageia's repositories returned no results, however Flatpak is available. I tested Flatpak using some bundles from the Flathub collection and found Flatpak worked properly.
While system settings are handled by the Mageia Control Centre, desktop settings are handled by a separate program called System Settings. The System Settings panel helps us manage the Plasma desktop by adjusting themes, search options, visual effects, fonts and screen locking options. The panel is arranged with two-panes, much like the modern GNOME settings panel. I found most of the settings I wanted quickly and there is a search function to help us narrow down where an option may be located.
Mageia 7 -- Adjusting the desktop theme
(full image size: 272kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
I found that some applications, like the Control Centre and LibreOffice, did not follow the desktop theme I had selected. When I switched to a dark theme, they remained light. To make matters worse, selecting a dark theme made the icons in LibreOffice disappear, rendering the application's toolbars useless. This could be fixed by adjusting the icons and GTK application themes, which are managed separately from the KDE/Qt themes.
I made a few other observations during my time with Mageia. One of the first being that the distribution engages its screensaver after just five minutes of inactivity. This setting is a common trend across distributions recently and one which is blissfully easy to adjust in the System Settings panel.
The desktop's application menu uses a tree-style layout by default, which I like. Though the organization is different than on most other distributions. This may require a period of adjustment if you are new to Mageia. Some categories have few (or no) applications in them, shuffling launchers down into sub-categories. This makes finding some items a longer process.
I was unable to install the Steam gaming portal due to missing dependencies. Even with the tainted and non-free repositories enabled, I could not install Steam through the graphical software manager. It was possible to install Steam through Flatpak though.
Mageia is unusual in that it does not ship with sudo enabled, or even installed. For people who prefer to use sudo over using the root account directly, sudo can be installed from the repositories. Then our user must be manually added to the /etc/sudoers file.
Overall I had a good time with Mageia 7. The distribution is easy to install, it looks nice, and its desktop performance was better than average. The system ships with most tools we will likely need and offers a variety of ways for people to find and install extra applications we might want.
I encountered two significant issues during my trial. The first being that the graphical update manager could never find updates. We can work around this by using DNF on the command line, but many users probably will not know to do this. The second was that we need to adjust themes in two different places for all applications to work with the new themes. This is not an issue specific to Mageia, but one which will impact anyone trying to adjust the look of their desktop.
These issues aside, Mageia generally presented a friendly experience that I think will appeal to most users. The distribution manages to offer modern technology and features while maintaining a classic look that I think most people will find familiar. The system has a relatively small memory footprint and the welcome window makes finding on-line resources and popular packages straight forward.
I particularly like the Control Centre, which is both powerful and easy to use. In my opinion, it would be nice if more distributions adopted the Control Centre, or something like it. Having friendly access to operating settings is a great feature projects like Mageia and PCLinuxOS offer and I always look forward to the experience.
Mageia does not appear to be doing anything big or revolutionary with this release. It feels like an evolutionary step forward from past Mageia releases - a little more modern, a little more polished. I didn't encounter any huge problems and no eye catching new features. It's just a solid, friendly platform that makes getting stuff done straight forward and pleasant.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a de-branded HP laptop with the following
- Processor: Intel i3 2.5GHz CPU
- Display: Intel integrated video
- Storage: Western Digital 700GB hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Wired network device: Realtek RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast
- Wireless network device: Realtek RTL8188EE Wireless network card
* * * * *
Visitor supplied rating
Mageia has a visitor supplied average rating of: 8.4/10 from 179 review(s).
Have you used Mageia? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Mint team considers Snap packages, IPFire cannot accept donations, UBports works to maintain access to Google accounts, Ubuntu 18.10 nears its end of life, Red Hat offers upgrade guide
The Linux Mint Monthly News post was published this week and, along with some discussion on desktop improvements, there was a lengthy commentary on Snap packages. "I've been invited to participate by the Snap developers and I'm hoping one day we'll be able to integrate snap into Linux Mint. Although I'm worried about the impact on the market, I think snap could work both as a client and a file format, if it didn't lock us into a single store. You might wonder why I'm so outspoken about this all of a sudden. There's a certain sense of urgency which demands action on our side. Ubuntu is planning to replace the Chromium repository package with an empty package which installs the Chromium snap. In other words, as you install APT updates, Snap becomes a requirement for you to continue to use Chromium and installs itself behind your back. This breaks one of the major worries many people had when Snap was announced and a promise from its developers that it would never replace APT." The newsletter goes on to compare some aspects of how Flatpak and Snap work. The topic of 32-bit support and Mint's commitment to maintaining 32-bit packages for future releases is also covered.
* * * * *
IPFire is a Linux distribution often used on firewalls and routers to help guide and filter network traffic. The project recently ran into a common problem among open source projects when they lost access to one of their primary sources of income. "This is a different kind of announcement today. Unfortunately our service provider for credit card payments has disabled our account without any further notification. That means we can no longer collect donations via credit card or direct debit. If you have a bank transfer set up, you are fine." IPFire's team is looking at alternative methods for accepting donations.
* * * * *
About a week ago some people with Google accounts received a notice informing them that their devices would no longer by able to access and synchronize with data stored on Google servers. In particular, this change would cut off the ability for some open source applications to sync calendar and contact data with Google accounts. The UBports team, which has continued development of the Ubuntu Touch operating system, has responded with a plan to implement a fix before access from Ubuntu Touch phones is shut off by Google on July 15th. "Google has sent out notices that Ubuntu apps will lose some Google account access in July if the apps do not comply with Google's new standard. That could affect calendar synchronization and things like e-mail, where we are still using some old Canonical implementations. We decided we would do some updating of those, so that the keys become our own. We expect to get the necessary changes sorted by 15 July. There is a lot of misinformation going around about this, which makes it worse. The process they are going through seems very strange but it looks for now as if we will have no difficulty complying."
* * * * *
Adam Conrad has published a notice reminding Ubuntu users that Ubuntu 18.10 is approaching the end of its supported life. "Ubuntu announced its 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish) release almost 9 months ago, on October 18, 2018. As a non-LTS release, 18.10 has a 9-month support cycle and, as such, the support period is now nearing its end and Ubuntu 18.10 will reach end of life on Thursday, July 18th. At that time, Ubuntu Security Notices will no longer include information or updated packages for Ubuntu 18.10. The supported upgrade path from Ubuntu 18.10 is via Ubuntu 19.04." Upgrade instructions are available for people who wish to upgrade to Ubuntu 19.04.
* * * * *
The Red Hat team has published a guide to upgrading from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 to version 8. The guide uses tools which help administrators take a snapshot of the existing operating system so that changes can be rolled back should a regression or other problem occur. "Red Hat Enterprise Linux was released a few weeks ago, and organizations may be considering upgrading from RHEL 7 to RHEL 8. In this post, I'll show how to carry out the upgrade process, minimize risks, and leverage the LVM snapshot feature to preserve the original root file system. Thanks to the snapshot, users should be able to go back to the RHEL 7 operating system in the event of any issues after the upgrade." The whole upgrade guide can be found on the Red Hat website.
* * * * *
These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Technology Review (by Jesse Smith)
Running development branches
Running unstable or development software on a computer intended for day-to-day tasks is generally not recommended. Most people want stable software and a somewhat predictable operating system and running bleeding-edge development packages, conventional wisdom tells us, is not a good way to achieve that.
But how rough of a ride can we expect to have when running development snapshots of popular distributions? I wanted to experiment and find out. To do this I decided to install three distributions and run their development branches for three weeks (or until they became too unstable to use) and see what the experience was like.
* * * * *
Debian has three main branches. Releases are published from the Stable branch, the Testing branch is where the distribution takes shape before turning into Stable, and the Unstable branch is where new packages get uploaded to be tested. (There is also an Experimental branch for, well, more experimental testing.) The Unstable branch, also known as Sid, is where most of the interesting new changes happen. Unfortunately, Debian does not provide install media for Sid, however we can download a snapshot of Debian's Testing branch and then switch it over to using the Unstable repositories.
I downloaded a copy of Debian Testing featuring the Xfce desktop. This disc was 641MB in size. There is also a smaller, net-install CD which is just 334MB in size, if we do not mind downloading packages over the network during the installation process.
Booting from the disc brings up a boot menu asking if we would like to use a graphical or text-based installer. Debian has an unusually long install process (in terms of screens we need to go through) and the installer tends to alternate between asking questions and doing work, while most other installers ask all of their questions up front so we can go do something else while packages are being installed. For those who are curious, Debian's installer presented me with 20 configuration screens and there were 6 places where it stopped to load modules, check repository information, or install packages.
In the end though Debian Testing installed successfully and the newly installed system booted to a graphical login screen. From there I could sign into the Xfce desktop and get to work converting my Testing system into Unstable.
The Debian documentation says to convert an existing system into Sid, we should update APT's sources, changing them from the existing Testing (currently called Buster) repository to Unstable. However, the documentation is not explicit as to how this is to be done. Simply changing the existing APT repository names in the /etc/apt/sources.list file will not work as it includes links to security updates which will not be valid URLs if we do a simple find and replace. In the end, I selected a server from Debian's list of official mirrors and entered the new address manually.
Then I was able to run the upgrade (and dist-upgrade) commands to install new packages and reboot. Once the system came back on-line lsb_release still identified the system as being Debian 10 Buster, but the package version numbers matched Debian's Sid branch.
Debian Sid -- Running Xfce
(full image size: 168kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Debian Sid, running Xfce with no new packages installed, used up just 2GB of disk space and used 214MB of RAM when signed into the desktop. This puts Debian Sid well into the lightweight end of mainstream Linux distributions.
Performance with the Xfce 4.12 desktop was good and, despite the distribution's plain grey default theme, the desktop was pleasant to use. Everything seemed to be working well. I could browse the web edit documents and generally play around with the operating system without any problems. I did miss having a volume control on the desktop, but otherwise I had no reason to complain. Debian Sid was definitely the distribution in this trial which required the most work to get up and running and convert over to the Unstable repository. However, it also offered the best performance and smallest resource requirements in my trial.
Over the next few weeks I continued to run Debian Unstable occasionally. I found that I had to check for new software updates manually as the system does not inform when new packages become available. I had expected there to be very few updates during my trial since I started this experiment right before Debian 10 "Buster" went into its freeze. However, even after the freeze was announced, the Unstable branch continued to provide a regular collection of updates. Generally a few dozen new packages became available each week.
Each week I downloaded a new batch of updates, typically through the Synaptic package manager. Each time the update process went smoothly and I did not encounter any regressions in the operating system or applications during my three week trial. Debian Sid may have had the longest and trickiest install process of the group, but it also offered the smoothest experience and the best performance of the three distributions. Debian Unstable was, for me, a smoother experience than what some fixed releases of other distributions offer.
* * * * *
Fedora, in line with its reputation for being on the cutting-edge, makes things a little easier for people who want to risk their systems by running the distribution's development branch. Fedora's development branch is called Rawhide and the project's documentation tells us that we can either upgrade to Rawhide from an existing, fixed version of Fedora, or install Rawhide directly from a dedicated ISO. I went with the option to download Rawhide's ISO and jumped straight into the experience.
Fedora's media boots to the GNOME 3.32 desktop where a window appears asking if we would like to launch the distribution's Anaconda installer or try the live environment. At first I opted to immediately open the installer, but after a few minutes it did not appear and I decided to explore the live environment. Later, I tried launching Anaconda from the GNOME Activities screen and the installer opened, however it began by displaying a warning saying that Anaconda was already running and should be closed before we did anything else. I checked and confirmed no other Anaconda processes were active before proceeding with the installer.
Anaconda warns us that we are about to install pre-release software, which I appreciated. Then we are presented with a hub screen where we can select modules to configure. One of the few items we need to address is disk partitioning, otherwise I could mostly stick with the defaults. This meant I only had to go through four screens of options to get the distribution installed.
Once Fedora has been placed on the hard drive and we reboot the computer, we are walked through five more screens of settings where we are asked to create a username/password for ourselves, choose whether to automatically submit bug reports to the developers, choose whether to keep location services on, and optionally connect to personal on-line accounts.
With those steps completed, we are presented with the GNOME desktop. GNOME Shell has a clean, empty layout and worked well. I found GNOME to be a bit slow to respond, probably in part because the PackageKit process was often using up half of my available CPU resources in the background.
A fresh install of Fedora Workstation took up 5.7GB of disk space and, when running GNOME Shell, the distribution consumed 755MB of RAM.
Fedora Rawhide -- GNOME's application menu
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Something I noticed early on is that Fedora has more up to date X.Org packages than either of the other distributions I ran in this trial, but Fedora defaults to running a GNOME on Wayland session. One issue I ran into early on was that the system would always boot to a blank, grey screen. At first it looked as though the operating system was freezing just before reaching the login screen. However, I found if I switched to a text console (Ctrl-Alt-F2) and then switched back to the graphical session (Ctrl-Alt-F1) then the login prompt would appear. So this seems to be a graphical glitch rather than the login screen freezing.
Apart from the graphical glitch and some sluggish moments when using the desktop, Fedora managed to be useful and ran smoothly, despite its bleeding-edge software packages.
During my trial Fedora did not inform me when new packages were available. In fact, every time I went into the GNOME Software application and checked for new updates, Software reported no new packages were available. Switching to a terminal and running "dnf update" though would reveal new packages were available.
The second week I was running Fedora's Rawhide branch DNF reported that it did find new packages, but the package manager also ran into dependency conflicts and this prevented me from downloading the new software.
The following week GNOME Software still reported no new packages were available, but DNF did. There were 415 new packages, 525MB in size. The DNF package manager crashed during the update process the first time through. I re-ran "dnf update" without making any changes and the second time through DNF completed successfully.
Fedora, on the whole, provided a mostly good install process and its applications and desktop worked well during my trial. But the package management and graphics sometimes ran into problems. Fedora is right on the cutting-edge and sometimes this can prove interesting, but it also meant sometimes things don't work, or we need to wait for dependency issues to get worked out.
* * * * *
Ubuntu Daily Snapshot
I had trouble finding information on running a development branch of Ubuntu, but I was able to locate the distribution's daily ISO snapshot which, despite the name, appears to be updated about once a week at the time of writing. This ISO allows us to install the project's latest development packages just as we would install a stable version of Ubuntu.
As with Fedora, Ubuntu's media boots to a graphical environment where we are offered a chance to launch the Ubiquity system installer or try out the GNOME desktop. I leaped right into the installer, quickly stepping through its five option screens, which generally picked good defaults for my situation.
The new copy of Ubuntu boots to a graphical login screen where we can sign into the GNOME Shell 3.32 desktop. The first time I logged into the desktop I was asked if I wanted to connect to any on-line accounts. I was then asked if it was okay for the distribution to send system information to Canonical. With these windows dismissed, a new window appeared and reported new updates were available and offered to install them.
Ubuntu Daily Snapshot -- Checking for updates
(full image size: 1.9MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Unlike Fedora, Ubuntu's GNOME desktop defaulted to running on an X.Org session. GNOME Shell is highly customized on Ubuntu with a theme and layout which make it look like Canonical's Unity 7 desktop. The included applications worked well and I found Ubuntu's GNOME-based desktop offered better performance than Fedora's, though naturally it was not as snappy as Debian's lightweight Xfce desktop.
A fresh install of the distribution took up 5.6GB of disk space, about the same as Fedora, but memory usage was quite a bit lower at 550MB.
Ubuntu was the only distribution in my trial to let me know when new package updates became available. Each week the update manager let me know there were updates available with an average of a dozen updates per week, totalling anywhere from 130MB up to 290MB. During the second week of operations Ubuntu continued to work smoothly without any notable issues. However, during the third week the distribution failed to boot about half the time. The system would get stuck starting services and fail to respond to keyboard input. Usually forcing a reboot once or twice would fix the issue and get the system back to normal.
When Ubuntu did boot everything else (web browsing, LibreOffice, the media player) all worked too. But failing to start around 50% of the time did not provide the level of reliability I had hoped for.
* * * * *
Someone suggested I also try openSUSE's Tumbleweed edition during this trial. However, I was more interested in the off-the-beaten track development branches of projects, rather than editions recommended to end users. I did look into trying openSUSE's Factory branch, where the nitty-gritty development happens, but could not find any documentation on how to download a snapshot of the Factory branch.
What stood out for me during this experience is that each of these three distributions have some key strengths and weaknesses. Debian was, by far, the longest and most complex to set up. Even having done a Testing-to-Unstable transition in the past, it still felt like an overly complicated process with gaps in the documentation. Once it was up and running through, Debian gave the best performance. It was stable and it ran quickly. I had wondered if comparing Debian to the other two projects right around the time of Debian 10's freeze date might be unfair, but as it turned out, Debian Unstable received almost as many package updates as the other two projects, so things were still moving at a comparable rate in Sid.
Fedora Rawhide was pretty straight forward to set up. The documentation for Fedora was probably the best of the three distributions. However, Fedora definitely offered the worst performance and had some of the most obvious glitches, such as not displaying the login screen. I also found GNOME Software reporting all packages were up to date while DNF showed new updates were available was frustrating. DNF also crashed on me once and ran into dependency conflicts on another occasion. Fedora offers the most up to date packages and an easy install process and good documentation. However, it also had the most bugs and problems once the system was up and running. Rawhide is not a system I would want to use on a regular basis.
Ubuntu offered a sort of middle ground. It was fairly straight forward to install a development snapshot of Ubuntu and this distribution was the only one which let me know when new packages became available. Ubuntu started out working smoothly, but ran into issues later in the trial when it frequently failed to boot. Ubuntu's development branch was like a big friendly dog which wants to make everything easy for us, but also isn't house trained yet.
Personally, I would not recommend trying any of these three development branches unless you have a good deal of Linux experience and want to help trouble-shoot issues during the development process. Fedora and Ubuntu would probably not be good day-to-day operating systems, in my opinion. Debian ran smoothly making it a reasonable day-to-day distribution, but it needed more knowledge to get running. For the brave or the curious, these development branches do provide an interesting way to see what is being worked on before the rest of the world sees it.
* * * * *
When I started my trial, these were versions of packages which were available in each distribution:
During my three-week trial, almost all key packages remained the same in their version numbers. The exception was Firefox, which was updated in Debian and Ubuntu to keep up with new upstream releases.
|Released Last Week
Donald Stewart has announced the release of Mageia 7, the new stable version from a community project that forked the defunct Mandriva Linux distribution back in 2010: "Everyone at Mageia is very happy to announce the release of Mageia 7. There are lots of new features, exciting updates and new versions of your favorite programs, as well as support for very recent hardware. There are classical installer images for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, as well as live DVDs for 64-bit Plasma, GNOME, Xfce and 32-bit Xfce. Mageia 7 comes with a huge variety of desktops and window managers, improved support for Wayland and hybrid graphics cards. On a more fun note, an effort was made to enhance gaming in Mageia, so there are many new upgrades and additions to the game collection. Here are the versions of some of the major packages that ship with Mageia 7: Linux kernel 5.1.14, rpm 4.14.2, dnf 4.2.6, MESA 19.1, Plasma Desktop 5.15.4, GNOME 3.32, Xfce 4.13.4, Firefox 67, Chromium 73, LibreOffice 6.2.3." See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Mageia 7 -- Running the Plasma desktop
(full image size: 551kB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
NuTyX is a French Linux distribution (with multi-language support) built from Linux From Scratch and Beyond Linux From Scratch, with a custom package manager called "cards". The project's latest release is NuTyX 11.1 which updates over 1,000 packages and provides 32-bit install media. "I'm very please to announce the new NuTyX 11.1 release. This new version contains more than 1,000 package upgrades. A 32-bit edition of NuTyX 11.1 is now available as well. The base of NuTyX comes with the new Linux kernel 4.19.56 LTS (4.9.183 for the 32-bit edition) and the very new Linux kernel 5.1.15 (in 64-bit only). The GNU compiler is now GCC 9.1.0. The graphical server is X.Org Server 1.20.5, MESA 18.3.6, GTK 3.24.9, Qt 5.12.4. Python 3.7.3 and 2.7.16 are updated as well. The MATE desktop environment comes in 1.22.1, the very latest version as well. The KDE Plasma desktop is 5.16.2, Framework is version 5.59.0 and applications are 19.04.2. Firefox is version 67.0.4 and Chromium is 74.0.3729.169 (build by the Arch Linux team and only in 64-bit edition)." Additional information can be found on the project's news page.
Patrick Schleizer has announced the release of Whonix 15, a major new version of the project's Debian-distribution designed for secure and anonymous internet browsing. Whonix deploys the Tor network on top of a heavily configured Debian system which is run inside multiple virtual machines, thus providing a substantial layer of protection from malware and IP address leaks. The new release is based on the upcoming Debian 10 "Buster": "After approximately one year of development, the Whonix project is proud to announce the release of Whonix 15. Whonix 15 is based on the Debian 10 'Buster' distribution. This means that users have access to many new software packages in concert with existing packages, such as a modern branch of GnuPG. Major changes and new features: kernel hardening; blacklist uncommon network protocols; systemd unit sandboxing; improve entropy collection through extensive research and installation by default of jitterentropy-rngd; research implications of Spectre, Meltdown, Retpoline and L1 Terminal Fault (L1TF) versus Whonix...." Read the release announcement and the changelog for further details.
The Debian project has announced the release of Debian 10 (code-named "buster"), the latest stable version from the popular community project and the world's largest Linux distribution whose beginnings date back to 1993: "After 25 months of development the Debian project is proud to present its new stable version 10, which will be supported for the next 5 years. This new release of Debian comes with a lot more software than its predecessor; the distribution includes over 13,370 new packages, for a total of over 57,703 packages. Most of the software in the distribution has been updated. Debian again ships with several desktop applications and environments. Among others it now includes GNOME 3.30, KDE Plasma 5.14, LXDE 10, LXQt 0.14, MATE 1.20 and Xfce 4.12. With buster, Debian brings a mandatory access control framework enabled by default. New installations of Debian buster will have AppArmor installed and enabled." See the release announcement and the detailed release notes for more information. As with the previous release, Debian 10 is available as a standard installation DVD set, as well as a separate set of live DVD images with popular desktop environments, including a newly added LXQt edition.
Debian 10 -- Running the GNOME desktop
(full image size: 332kB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found in our Torrent Archive. We also maintain a Torrents RSS feed for people who wish to have open source torrents delivered to them. To share your own open source torrents of Linux and BSD projects, please visit our Upload Torrents page.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 1,487
- Total data uploaded: 26.4TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
Mageia and OpenMandriva
Last week we talked about the latest release of OpenMandriva and this week we took a look at Mageia. Both of these community distributions grew from the code and community left behind when Mandriva was shut down. While both Mageia and OpenMandriva share a lot of features in common, they have gradually diverged over time, each offering a slightly different vision of what a user-friendly distribution can look like.
We would like to know if our readers have a preference for one of these Mandriva descendants over the other. Let us know what you think of these two distributions in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on using 32-bit applications in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Mageia and OpenMandriva
|I like both distros: ||102 (7%)|
| I prefer Mageia: ||351 (23%)|
| I prefer OpenMandriva: ||61 (4%)|
| I do not like either: ||215 (14%)|
| I have not used these distros: ||829 (53%)|
|Website News (by Jesse Smith)
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 15 July 2019. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews/submissions, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, donations, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (podcast)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 841 (2019-11-18): Emmabuntus DE3-1.00, changing keys in a keyboard layout, Debian phasing out Python 2 and voting on init diversity, Slackware gets unofficial updated live media|
|• Issue 840 (2019-11-11): Fedora 31, monitoring user activity, Fedora working to improve Python performance, FreeBSD gets faster networking|
|• Issue 839 (2019-11-04): MX 19, manipulating PDFs, Ubuntu plans features for 20.04, Fedora 29 nears EOL, Netrunner drops Manjaro-based edition|
|• Issue 838 (2019-10-28): Xubuntu 19.10, how init and service managers work together, DragonFly BSD provides emergency mode for HAMMER, Xfce team plans 4.16|
|• Issue 837 (2019-10-21): CentOS 8.0-1905, Trident finds a new base, Debian plans firewall changes, 15 years of Fedora, how to merge directories|
|• Issue 836 (2019-10-14): Archman 2019.09, Haiku improves ARM support, Project Trident shifting base OS, Unix turns 50|
|• Issue 835 (2019-10-07): Isotop, Mazon OS and, KduxOS, examples of using the find command, Mint's System Reports becomes proactive, Solus updates its desktops|
|• Issue 834 (2019-09-30): FreedomBox "Buster", CentOS gains a rolling release, Librem 5 phones shipping, Redcore updates its package manager|
|• Issue 833 (2019-09-23): Redcore Linux 1908, why Linux distros are free, Ubuntu making list of 32-bit software to keep, Richard M Stallman steps down from FSF leadership|
|• Issue 832 (2019-09-16): BlackWeb 1.2, checking for Wayland session and applications, Fedora to use nftables in firewalld, OpenBSD disables DoH in Firefox|
|• Issue 831 (2019-09-09): Adélie Linux 1.0 beta, using ffmpeg, awk and renice, Mint and elementary improvements, PureOS and Manjaro updates|
|• Issue 930 (2019-09-02): deepin 15.11, working with AppArmor profiles, elementary OS gets new greeter, exFAT support coming to Linux kernel|
|• Issue 829 (2019-08-26): EndeavourOS 2019.07.15, Drauger OS 7.4.1, finding the licenses of kernel modules, NetBSD gets Wayland application, GhostBSD changes base repo|
|• Issue 828 (2019-08-19): AcademiX 2.2, concerns with non-free firmware, UBports working on Unity8, Fedora unveils new EPEL channel, FreeBSD phasing out GCC|
|• Issue 827 (2019-08-12): Q4OS, finding files on the disk, Ubuntu works on ZFS, Haiku improves performance, OSDisc shutting down|
|• Issue 826 (2019-08-05): Quick looks at Resilient, PrimeOS, and BlueLight, flagship distros for desktops,Manjaro introduces new package manager|
|• Issue 825 (2019-07-29): Endless OS 3.6, UBports 16.04, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Fedora developrs discuss optimizations, Project Trident launches stable branch|
|• Issue 824 (2019-07-22): Hexagon OS 1.0, Mageia publishes updated media, Fedora unveils Fedora CoreOS, managing disk usage with quotas|
|• Issue 823 (2019-07-15): Debian 10, finding 32-bit packages on a 64-bit system, Will Cooke discusses Ubuntu's desktop, IBM finalizes purchase of Red Hat|
|• Issue 822 (2019-07-08): Mageia 7, running development branches of distros, Mint team considers Snap, UBports to address Google account access|
|• Issue 821 (2019-07-01): OpenMandriva 4.0, Ubuntu's plan for 32-bit packages, Fedora Workstation improvements, DragonFly BSD's smaller kernel memory|
|• Issue 820 (2019-06-24): Clear Linux and Guix System 1.0.1, running Android applications using Anbox, Zorin partners with Star Labs, Red Hat explains networking bug, Ubuntu considers no longer updating 32-bit packages|
|• Issue 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, the meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make the desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Issue 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Issue 790 (2018-11-19): NetBSD 8.0, Bash tips and short-cuts, Fedora's networking benchmarked with FreeBSD, Ubuntu 18.04 to get ten years of support|
|• Issue 789 (2018-11-12): Fedora 29 Workstation and Silverblue, Haiku recovering from server outage, Fedora turns 15, Debian publishes updated media|
|• Full list of all issues|
Star Labs - Laptops built for Linux.
View our range including the Star Lite, Star LabTop and more. Available with a choice of Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS pre-installed with many more distributions supported. Visit Star Labs for information, to buy and get support.
|Random Distribution |
VortexBox is a Fedora-based Linux distribution that turns an unused computer into an easy-to-use music server or jukebox. Once VortexBox has been loaded it will automatically rip CDs to FLAC and MP3 files, ID3-tag the files, and download the cover art. VortexBox will then serve the files to network media player. The file can also be streamed to a Windows or Mac OS X system.