| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 346, 22 March 2010
Welcome to this year's 12th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Protecting one's computer against malware in our interconnected, heterogeneous and (largely) anonymous world is a complex task. Luckily, there are free tools that help save plenty of time and effort; this week we'll take a brisk tour of Dr.Web LiveCD, a Linux-based system that offers free tools for system rescue, virus scanning, and data recovery errands. In the news section, Ubuntu stirs emotions over its unexpected placement of window control buttons, CrunchBang Linux announces a switch to Debian base for its upcoming release, Debian prepares for its annual project leader election with a woman on the candidates list, and the deputy head of LiMux explains the difficulties encountered while migrating tens of thousands of Munich's computers to Linux. Also in this issue, the Questions and Answers section provides hope and suggests tools for recovering files that were deleted by accident. Finally, two interesting distributions have been added to the DistroWatch database this week - a FreeBSD-based desktop live CD with GNOME and yet another XP look-a-like, this time from China. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Bernard Hoffmann)
System rescue and virus scanning with Dr.Web LiveCD
There are several Live CD's for system rescue, forensics, network security and other tasks available, but perhaps less known is a live CD from Dr.Web, a Russian IT-security solutions vendor. The CD allows for attempting the rescue of Windows and UNIX systems and provides a file manager and editor combined with anti-virus (AV) scanning with a proprietary solution that is in this case free to use, as in beer. Given that there have been instances where a virus has managed to inhibit or even destroy parts of an anti-virus software, a solution running from CD seems a good idea.
One can also download a trial of the AV software for Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Mac OS X, Novell Netware, UNIX and Kerio mail servers. The product has several independent databases for virus and malware detection, for spyware, dialers and what is called joke programs. The databases update incrementally with often only a few kilobytes to download, and new add-ons are often issued several times a day. I find the incremental updating particularly useful. Last time I used them on Windows -- which is admittedly years ago -- several of the big-name vendors still made me download the entire database of 4 MB once a week.
Dr.Web LiveCD - the default desktop
(full image size: 209kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
Dr.Web LiveCD is based on Linux and uses Openbox and LXPanel for its graphical environment. On top of this, Firefox and Sylpheed are included to make it possible to work on downed systems and fire off a quick email if necessary or perhaps get some troubleshooting advice on the web or log on to the Intranet. Midnight Commander and Leafpad complete the small collection of applications. On boot one can opt to load into a standard GUI mode or into a safe mode with the command-line interface, leading to advanced features such as the console scanner or the creation of a USB Flash drive to boot from. Other options are to boot from hard drive or memory test.
Dr.Web LiveCD - text interface menu
The creation of a USB stick is rather easy: After booting into safe mode, another menu pops up from where one can shut down, start the graphical environment, update the databases if connected, or start the shell which will drop you to a Bash prompt. Then simply type create_usb sdb1 (adjust according to where your drive is, of course). This, according to the manual, leaves files already on the drive intact. If the connected Flash drive has several partitions, files will be written to the bootable one. After some playing around I remembered that there was a shortcut on the desktop to create a live USB as well, and some digging around in the manual confirmed that this can be done automatically as well. Perhaps there are instances where this does not work, so it's always nice to also have the command-line option.
By default all partitions on the hard drive are selected for scanning. In the graphical environment there are tabs through which the checking mode (fast, full or advanced) and actions to be taken on detection can be selected. Under 'Checking' the full scan is selected by default. This enables deep scanning of archives, symbolic links and the heuristic analyzer which are disabled in the fast check mode. The advanced mode allows to further customize file types and formats and to set the degree of compression and nesting levels for archives to be scanned. Here you can also set the length of log files and if you want to keep any around in the first place. The 'Actions' tab allows for setting whether to report, quarantine or attempt to cure infected mail, archives and files. Here you can also set what is to happen to detected adware, riskware, jokes and so on.
Dr.Web LiveCD - scanning options dialog
(full image size: 109kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
If you go for the Console Scanner the options and switches available allow for a seemingly endless combination, giving more flexibility. However, the average user will rarely need more than what is available through the GUI. Professional system administrators may appreciate the options on occasion though. The general format of the scan start command is as follows:
/opt/drweb/drweb -path=<path> [options]
where <path> is the path to the directory or file to be scanned. If no options are specified after the path the default settings are used. Thankfully a manual is included on the CD so you won't have to learn all this beforehand.
Dr.Web LiveCD - select actions dialog
(full image size: 101kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
Of course we already have ClamAV and in terms of the scanner interface and incremental updates both appear quite similar; however, I am not aware of a ClamAV live CD. On top of this, security-conscious people do not like to put all their eggs in one basket and it is recommended in some settings, even at home, to periodically scan and re-check with different products. I have had anti-virus software in the past detect Trojans that another (free) one did not detect. This was on a different operating system, but you don't have to use this rescue CD exclusively on your UNIX/Linux systems.
Dr.Web LiveCD - updating the virus database
(full image size: 117kB, screen resolution 800x600 pixels)
I personally don't run any real-time AV protection and do not feel like installing ClamAV or any other solution on my boxes - it reminds me too much of that other operating system and days long gone. I do however load this CD into my tray from time to time and give the system a good scan after an update without bogging it down day-in-day-out with needless scanning tasks. It all depends on your habits, though, and practicing good internet and computer hygiene goes a long way already. I have yet to encounter a virus or functional malware downloaded in a drive-by situation on my Linux PCs, but it is just as much to protect the users of other operating systems and not to forward infected files to friends and colleagues. A mail server should probably rather be running a real-time solution, as should a file server if you have a lot of document exchange going on and have other operating systems on the network.
Although this is proprietary software I have found it quite useful, and hope bringing it to attention here on DistroWatch will contribute to making our computing a little bit cleaner and safer.
Minimum requirements: an i386 processor, 128 MB of RAM or 64 MB in text mode; a drive to run from or a virtual machine with access to the USB ports to create a live stick. Dr.Web also provide a free link checker in the form of an add-on for Firefox and Opera (and Internet Explorer), which integrates into the shell menu when hovering over a link. Quick download link to the live CD image (the latest version at the time of writing): minDrWebLiveCD-5.0.2.iso (84.5MB, MD5). A 58-page user manual is available from here (PDF format).
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ubuntu stirs debates over button placement, CrunchBang switches base, Debian presents DPL candidates, LiMux explains migration status, state of four distributions
The fallout resulting from the change in the position of window controls in the upcoming Ubuntu 10.04 dominated the headlines on many Linux web sites. As the first beta with the new button arrangement (see screenshot below) hit the download servers, most Ubuntu users were rather negative in their opinions about the usefulness of such a change. What's the point of making an intrusive modification that breaks many years of established habits? And shouldn't there be an easy way to restore the old arrangement? But as Mark Shuttleworth explains in this Launchpad post, this is an experiment that might still be reverted, although the Ubuntu founder is clearly in favour of keeping the new design - and for some practical reasons: "Moving everything to the left opens up the space on the right nicely, and I would like to experiment in 10.10 with some innovative options there. It's much easier to do that if we make this change now." We'll have to wait until well after "Lucid Lynx" is released to find out what "innovative" ideas will fill the empty space on the right of the application titlebars. But as with every major change, it will take time before most users warm up to this obtrusive concept. And for those who just cannot accept the button revolution in Ubuntu, well, you are on the right web site to find an alternative ;-)
Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 1 - controversy rages on over the position of window control buttons
(full image size: 309kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
CrunchBang Linux started as a rather light-hearted, low-profile project that attempted to create a light flavour of Ubuntu with Openbox as the default window manager. But as the popularity of the distribution grew, the founder, Philip Newborough, started looking more seriously into ways to improve the quality of the distribution and to offer a solution that would run on any low-resource computer. As a result, he has now decided to switch the base of CrunchBang Linux from Ubuntu to Debian: "Unlike the Ubuntu project, Debian does not have a commercial sponsor with any commercial interests. This was never an issue for myself, until recently when Canonical seems to have become less of a sponsor and more of a governing party; I know this is debatable, but I believe that some of their recent decisions might not necessarily have been made with the best interest of their users/community at heart. From a less political perspective, the Ubuntu project is geared towards producing a polished end-user system. The Ubuntu developers make changes to Debian packages to achieve this goal. These changes often cause problems for derivative projects such CrunchBang. Therefore, the obvious thing to do to negate these problems was to make the switch to Debian."
* * * * *
Speaking about Debian GNU/Linux, the world's largest Linux distribution with decidedly well-established democratic structures, a final call for nominations for the position of the Debian Project Leader (DPL) was circulated last week. But this year's DPL elections will be somewhat different. As noted in this ITwire report, this will be the first Debian Project Leader election with a woman on the list of candidates: "For the first time in its 16-year history, the Debian GNU/Linux project has a woman in the running to become leader of the project when voting for the post takes place between April 2 and April 15. Margarita Manterola, a software developer from Argentina, mostly Python, teaches programming at a university. She has been involved with Debian since 2003, became a developer in 2005 and has been part of the Debian Women project since it kicked off in 2004. Manterola, who submitted her nomination just before the deadline, will have to defeat three others if she is to win." For more information about Margarita Manterola please visit her personal blog and read this interview by Linux Magazine.
One other Debian-related note: the first live CD images of the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 "Squeeze" were released last week. They are available for i386, amd64 and PowerPC architectures and come in the usual flavours - desktop images with GNOME, KDE, LXDE or Xfce, as well as "rescue" and "standard" alternatives. They are available for download from live.debian.net.
* * * * *
Migrating a large number of computers from Windows to Linux is never an easy task, but if it involves an entire computer "fleet" of a large European city, it's bound to raise a few eyebrows. Florian Schießl, the deputy head of the team moving Munich's computers to LiMux (a Debian-based Linux distribution developed for this purpose), publishes a blog on the status of the migration. Recently he had to dispel a few nasty rumours: "There are again some rumours about LiMux being dead here in Munich. I don't want to comment on the origin of them, but to the responsible company: This doesn't work. LiMux is more alive than ever." That said, he admits that the migration takes longer than expected and provides a few reasons: "Munich's IT history is very heterogeneous. Munich's IT as faced by LiMux in 2003 consisted of 21 independent IT units, every single one responsible for its IT operation. Different grown -- and locally quite optimized -- processes, tools and specific trained staff. 51 IT operating locations (small and big date centres), about 1.000 IT staff for 33.000 employees." But Schießl concludes his most recent blog post on a positive note: "Digital sustainability is a long-term effort and not only a matter of Linux versus Windows. It's not a matter of for or against Microsoft. There are many vendors trying to lock you in. We learned it and did our homework. We will never ever be happy slaves again."
* * * * *
Finally, a quick look at the current state of four popular Linux distributions, Mandriva Linux, Fedora, Ubuntu and openSUSE, as published last week by Kernel News. This lengthy comparative review looks at various aspects of the four distros, including their installation routines, administration options, hardware support, software availability and desktop environments. From the article: "There are all types of distributions available, from ones that are very user friendly to advanced ones that allow you to build your system from the source code. This article covers the four most popular Linux distributions available today; Mandriva Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE. There is usually no distribution that will perfectly fit everyone's needs. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses which will vary from person to person. This article covers all the major advantages (and disadvantages) each of these distributions have to offer and will hopefully give you enough information to help guide you in choosing which Linux Distribution is right for your computer."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Restoring deleted files
Didn't-mean-to-remove asks: How can I get a file back I deleted on an ext3/ext4 drive?
DistroWatch answers: Most of us have been there at one point. We're getting ready to move some files from one place to another and end up making a typo:
rm ~/temp/Wedding_Photos/* ~/Photos/Wedding
Of course you meant to use the "mv" command to move those files, not the "rm" command to remove them. "Why did the UNIX developers name those commands so similarly?" you'll wonder.
But now that it has happened, what are your chances of getting your documents back?
According to the ext3 FAQ page, you can't restore files that have been deleted from an ext3 file system: "In order to ensure that ext3 can safely resume an unlink after a crash, it actually zeros out the block pointers in the inode, whereas ext2 just marks these blocks as unused in the block bitmaps and marks the inode as 'deleted' and leaves the block pointers alone. Your only hope is to 'grep' for parts of your files that have been deleted and hope for the best."
Which isn't very encouraging.
However, enough people have accidentally destroyed enough data that some solutions have appeared over the years. The first thing to consider when you've removed a file you didn't mean to is to see if the file might still be in use by a program. For example, if you're watching "my_childs_first_birthday.mpg" using MPlayer and the file gets wiped out, MPlayer still has a link to the file. The following command will search for open files and report back to you any matches:
lsof | grep my_childs_first_birthday.mpg
This will return the name of the program which has the file open (MPlayer, in this case), the process ID of the program using the file, the username of the person accessing the file and a file descriptor number. My output looked like this:
mplayer 11297 jesse 3r REG 8,3 4552773 16793772 my_childs_first_birthday.mpg
We're really just concerned with the process ID (11297) and the file descriptor number (3r). From here, we can make a copy of the file fairly easily. You'll notice in the command below we have removed the "r" from the file descriptor number.
cp /proc/11297/fd/3 my_restored_file.mpg
This will make a copy of the original file and all is well with the world. But what if you've removed some files which are not currently in use? In that case, you'll want to stop using the file system where the file was located right away. Once the file has been deleted, unmount the partition. In my case, the partition is called "/dev/sda3", so I'll run the command:
Then you'll want to grab a copy of ext3grep (often available in distro repositories) or extundelete. Both programs use similar options and come with useful documentation. For my example, I'll be using ext3grep.
The next step is to try to find and restore your missing file(s). If there is just one file, this can be done using the "--restore-file" option. In my example, I'm passing ext3grep the name of the file I lost and the device/partition the file was on.
ext3grep --restore-file jesse/Video/my_childs_first_birthday.mpg /dev/sda3
In this case, ext3grep found the file and saved it in a directory called "RESTORED_FILES". It takes quite some time, generally a few hours on a modern hard drive, to search through all the data. Now, what if you lost a collection of files and/or can't remember the name? You can use "--restore-all", which will attempt to retrieve all deleted files.
ext3grep --restore-all /dev/sda3
When trying to restore a large group of files, it's usually a good idea to limit the time frame. Otherwise, you may end up with a large collection of undeleted garbage, which you didn't really want to get back. For example, to restore files lost after January 1, you could use
ext3grep --restore-all --after `date -d "Jan 1 00:00" +%s` /dev/sda3
I experimented with ext3grep and found it was able to restore files I'd deleted a little better than two thirds of the time. Not ideal, but better than not getting back any files at all. Another useful tool is PhotoRec, which will attempt to search the hard drive for lost files. I've only used PhotoRec once, but it did an excellent job at recovering lost data in that instance. A complete step-by-step guide to using PhotoRec can be found here.
|Released Last Week
Mandriva Enterprise Server 5.1
Mandriva has announced the release of Mandriva Enterprise Server 5.1, a commercial Linux distribution with 5-year maintenance support: "The first update of Mandriva Enterprise Server (MES) 5, the simple and innovative Linux server, is available today. Coming with plenty of technology enhancements, hardware support scope and software list have been increased. Mandriva Enterprise Server 5 aims to be innovative in order to make infrastructure management even easier. The main focus of MES 5.1 is on virtualization. MES 5.1 improves integration of KVM technology (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) together with an administration tool for a simple management. MES 5.1 also includes an installation wizard and Mandriva Directory Server (MDS)." See the release announcement and visit the product page for further information.
Berry Linux 1.01
Yuichiro Nakada has announced the release of Berry Linux 1.01, a Fedora-based Japanese distribution and live CD (with support for English) for the desktop, featuring the KDE 4 desktop environment. This is the project's first release based on Fedora 12. From the changelog: "Berry Linux 1.01 released. Based on Fedora 12; Linux kernel 184.108.40.206 SMP + ndev/udev + bootsplash, glibc 2.11.1, GCC 4.4.3, BusyBox 1.15.3; KDE 4.4.0 (Fedora 12 stable); AIGLX/X.Org 1.7.5; SLiM login manager 1.3.1; SRWare Iron 4.0.275.2 (based on Google Chrome); Mozilla Firefox 3.6 (Japanese and English); Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0.3 (Japanese and English); Samba 3.4.7; WINE 1.1.38; LXTerminal 0.1.6; removed Sylpheed 2.5.0 (Japanese and English); removed rxvt-unicode 9.06." Read the complete changelog for additional information.
SystemRescueCd 1.5.0, a Gentoo-based live CD with a collection of data rescue and disk partitioning utilities, has been released. From the changelog: "initramfs - udevd used to load kernel modules that corresponds to the hardware; initramfs - /init bootscript rewritten; initramfs - added firmware required for Ethernet and disk controller devices; initramfs - ability to boot systems with SELinux enabled using root=/dev/xxx; initramfs - kernel modules are gzipped to save memory used by the initramfs; initramfs - print error when chrooting to a 64-bit system from a 32-bit kernel; updated the standard kernels (rescuecd and rescue64) to Linux kernel 220.127.116.11; updated util-linux to 2.17.1 (adds support of hard drives with 4K blocks); updated parted to version 2.2 (standard text based partitioning tool); updated GParted to version 0.5.2 (graphical partitioning tool); updated NTFS-3G to 2010.3.6 (driver that provides read-write access to NTFS)...."
Parted Magic 4.9
Patrick Verner has announced the release of Parted Magic 4.9, a small Linux-based live CD/USB with a collection of hard disk partitioning and data rescue utilities: "Parted Magic 4.9. Although this is mostly a bug-fix release, some other major changes were made. People didn't like that we were using Chrome, so we switched to Chromium. All the old IDE drivers were removed from the kernel and only the new framework is used now. The major difference most people will notice is that devices that used to be labeled /dev/hd* will now be /dev/sd* and all CDROMs will be /dev/sr*. Three new programs were added - mhdd, elinks, and zsync. Some changes were made to the kernel configuration and initramfs so Virtio hard disks could be used to boot Parted Magic. The fstab daemon was also fixed to support Virtio hard disks. Many other small fixes were made to the network scripts and the system in general." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
Tiny Core Linux 2.10
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Tiny Core Linux 2.10, a minimalist graphical distribution in 10 MB: "Tiny Core v2.10 is now posted. Changelog: updated Appbrowser / tce-load - recursion now fully supported; updated Appbrowser, no pop-ups, GUI redesign, dropped menu for buttons, added status area; updated flwm_topside moved location and look of iconize button; updated appsaudit, added wait cursor during selective updates; updated cpanel cursor support and removed full paths; updated flwm ondemand, now fully automatic; updated tc-functions for additive home setup support; new hsetroot replaces Esetroot for logo PNG support; updated Backgrounds / wallpaper for hsetroot support; updated exittc to not call exitcheck, backup occurs within exittc; added missing rule for mmc support; added directory indicator for improved appsaudit 'On Boot' selection...." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- openSUSE 11.3-milestone 3, the release announcement
- PCLinuxOS 2010-beta2, the release announcement
- SimplyMEPIS 8.5-rc3, the release announcement
- Parsix GNU/Linux 3.5-test1, the release announcement
- MOPSLinux 7.0-rc1, the release announcement (in Russian)
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Mythbuntu, Ubuntu Studio 10.04-beta1, the release announcement
- CrunchBang Linux 10-alpha1, the release announcement
- Lubuntu 10.04-beta1, the release announcement
- MoLinux 2.0 (Zero)
- Tiny Core Linux 2.10-rc2
- Clonezilla Live 1.2.4-28
- Absolute Linux 13.1.0
- GParted LiveCD 0.5.2-1
- MCNLive Kris-beta2
- 64 Studio 3.3-alpha1
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
- GhostBSD. GhostBSD it is a user-friendly, GNOME-based FreeBSD distribution in the form of a live CD (not installable to hard disk yet). Besides developing the live CD, the project's other goal is to improve the GNOME desktop experience on a FreeBSD system.
GhostBSD 1.0 - a live CD based on FreeBSD 8.0 and the latest GNOME desktop
(full image size: 444kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
- Ylmf OS. Ylmf OS is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution with the GNOME desktop tweaked to resemble Microsoft Windows XP. The project releases separate Chinese and English editions of the product.
Ylmf 2.0 - a Chinese distribution with Windows XP-like desktop theme
(full image size: 576kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- infinityOS. infinityOS is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution geared towards the retrieval and playback of multimedia.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 29 March 2010.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
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|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
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|• Issue 646 (2016-02-01): deepin 15, Mint plans X-Apps, FreeBSD to support boot environments, logging into the desktop as root|
|• Issue 645 (2016-01-25): Linux Mint 17.3 "Xfce", Chromixium changes its name, Ubuntu tablets coming soon, Linux vs BSD comparision|
|• Issue 644 (2016-01-18): Kwort 4.3, Sabayon tests ARM images, Slackware adopts PulseAudio, running Linux without GNU software|
|• Issue 643 (2016-01-11): Solus 1.0, Mint provide upgrade path to 17.3, Fedora developers work on stability, running the LXQt desktop|
|• Issue 642 (2016-01-04): paldo GNU/Linux, vetting distro repositories, Fedora plans to adopt GCC 6, Ian Murdock passes|
|• Issue 641 (2015-12-21): Arch Linux, Qubes OS to ship on Librem laptops, ALT offers start kit images, the spread of systemd and launchd|
|• Issue 640 (2015-12-14): Chakra GNU/Linux 2015.11, removing meta-data from files, Ubuntu to remove on-line dash searches|
|• Issue 639 (2015-12-07): OpenBSD 5.8, openSUSE gathers Summer of Code proposals, running WINE on a live disc, Enlightenment adds Wayland support|
|• Issue 638 (2015-11-30): Qubes OS 3.0, KaOS with Plasma, NetBSD 7.0, Fedora seeks Wayland testers, scheduling tasks|
|• Full list of all issues|