| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 374, 4 October 2010
Welcome to this year's 40th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Following Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems, the well-known database company has ended up with a rather large number of important open-source software projects. An uncomfortable state of affairs for the open-source community, especially given the lack of clear assurances from Oracle's executives that these projects will continue their existence as free software. As a result, a group of prominent companies announced last week a fork of Oracle's OpenOffice.org and the creation of LibreOffice. Read the news section to find out more about this interesting event. In other news, Edubuntu developers prepare to launch their latest version with a number of new features, Fedora has published guidelines for upgrading to version 14 with "preupgrade", and the newly-formed Mageia project moves ahead with setting up the project's organisational and technical infrastructure. Also in this issue, a review of the Ubuntu-based, 100%-free Trisquel GNU/Linux and some advice on Linux advocacy techniques. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com September 2010 donation is the Debian Multimedia repository. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Trisquel GNU/Linux - a free distribution
It's not often I spend time with the GNU-approved free Linux distributions. There are two reasons for that; the first being that most of these 100%-free software distros are based upon other distributions with the naughty bits taken out. It doesn't interest me to try out the new Ubuntu and then try out the new Ubuntu-minus-blobs flavour. And I feel the same way about Fedora, which is already as close as it can get to being exclusively free software without stripping firmware blobs out of the kernel. So while I appreciate the ideology, making a more-free Fedora or Ubuntu sounds a bit like comparing vanilla ice cream with extra vanilla.
Trisquel GNU/Linux, I think, stands out in the otherwise tame GNU-endorsed herd. Their web site is attractive and easy to navigate. They have a growing user's manual and a small forum to help people. Their site supports five languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Galician). There are a number of download options for Trisquel. The project supplies 32-bit and 64-bit builds of a standard GNOME edition, there is a LXDE offering, and a network install image. The web site also mentions that "Pro" and "Educational" editions are available. The Trisquel project, in the spirit of openness, additionally provides a DVD image containing the project's source code on their download page. For my experiment, I elected to take the default GNOME 32-bit live CD.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 4.0 - browsing the project's web site
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The Trisquel distro has its roots in Ubuntu and that heritage is apparent from the start. The boot menu, which offers users a live environment, an installer, or a text installer, has the same basic layout and menus as Ubuntu. Booting into the CD's desktop gives us a GNOME 2.30 environment with a rainbow background. The application menu and task switcher are placed at the bottom of the screen and there are icons on the desktop for navigating the file system and running the installer. The application menu is nicely laid out with clear categories and program names. The menus have a high-contrast white text on a charcoal background which I personally find favourable.
Triquel's installer is, for all practical purposes, the Ubuntu installer. The user is asked to pick their language, confirm their time zone, and choose their keyboard layout. Partition creation is easy and the installer supports most Linux file system formats, including the ext family, JFS, XFS and ReiserFS. The user creates an account, sets the password and (optionally) selects the location of the boot loader. All of this went smoothly and my only complaint was the way the installer insists on grabbing information from the network. The current time is acquired from the Internet and, later, the installer tries to download files without asking. This may be an attempt to make sure everything is up to date upon first boot, but I found it unwelcome to have the installer pause to download items without first asking.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 4.0 - changing the settings
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Out of the box, Trisquel comes with the usual line-up of applications. There's Firefox (3.6.9), a BitTorrent client, an instant messaging client, OpenOffice.org, Evolution, GIMP, a webcam tool and a handful of games. There's an audio player, video player and Pitivi (a video editor). The application menu offers a disc burner, text editor and calculator. This being a GNOME desktop, there is a full collection of utilities to tweak settings, manage printers and create user accounts. Trisquel provides support for most common multimedia codecs out of the box, including video and MP3 files. Due to the project's commitment to free software, the distro does not have Adobe's Flash plugin. Trisquel instead includes the alternative Flash player - Gnash. I've found Gnash to be a bit hit-or-miss depending on which web site I'm on, but it usually works well enough to fill the role of the Flash player. Behind the scenes the OpenSSH secure shell server is installed and running by default. This surprised me a little as most aspects of the distro give the impression that Trisquel is aimed at beginners who aren't likely to make use of remote command-line tools.
There are two graphical package managers, one called Add/Remove Applications and the familiar Synaptic. For regular updates the system also provides a small Update Manager utility. Package management via Synaptic isn't anything new and the veteran software performs well, as usual. It is, however, placed in a secondary role. The Add/Remove Applications software manager is front and centre on Trisquel. It has a simplified layout with categories down the left side of the window. A list of packages and their ratings are displayed down the right side. A description of a selected package is shown at the bottom of the window. Adding new software is as easy as clicking a checkbox and hitting the Apply button. The "Remove" part of Add/Remove didn't work so well. I found the manager would generally remove programs I had added manually, but it would not remove packages which were pre-installed by Trisquel. I think this is due to a conflict with meta packages which define what is placed on the system at install time. At any rate, when the manager runs into these conflicts it recommends the user switch over to Synaptic to remove the offending package. As mentioned previously, Trisquel is developed using Ubuntu as a base, but the project has its own repositories which have been stripped of proprietary components.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 4.0 - managing software packages
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The Ubuntu family of distributions generally handles my hardware well and Trisquel was no exception. Everything worked on my desktop machine (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card) and most things worked on my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card). The only area in which I had trouble was with my Intel wireless card. Ubuntu detects and uses my wireless hardware out of the box, but Trisquel was unable to handle it. Otherwise, I was happy to find that sound worked properly, my desktop was set to an appropriate resolution and my touchpad worked as expected. In a virtual machine, I found that Trisquel would run with as little as 256 MB of memory, though at that point performance suffered. When running with 512 MB and higher, the distro performed gracefully. Trisquel additionally features integration with VirtualBox, making the experience more pleasant.
Overall, Trisquel comes across as a solid operating system. It's fairly polished and has a large repository. I like the layout and I found that performance was nicely balanced with eye candy. Being based on the most recent Ubuntu release, Trisquel 4.0 is a long-term support distro, giving users nearly three years of security updates. My only real complaint was the way Add/Remove Applications would fail to handle removing existing software. It does provide a clear workaround, but removing software strikes me as something an tool called "Add/Remove Applications" should handle.
Earlier in this review I mentioned that there were two reasons I usually don't use the 100%-free (as defined by the Free Software Foundation) distros. The second reason is that I believe there is a line between being in favour of one thing and being opposed to another. For instance, I am pro open-source software. Given the choice between a FOSS solution and a proprietary alternative, I would rather use the FOSS option. But in preferring libre solutions, I don't have anything against closed-source programs, their developers and users. Some FOSS-only distributions strike me as being more anti-proprietary than pro-free. The BLAG project's web site states the distro is working "to overthrow corporate control of information and technology". The dyne:bolic web site states their "software is one step in the struggle for redemption and freedom from proprietary, closed-source and resource intensive software." Frankly, I'm less interested in a revolution to over-throw something than I am in promoting open source and using FOSS wherever possible.
I bring this up because Trisquel feels, to me, to be more about promoting free and open source technology and showing people what can be done with FOSS than it is about ripping out the proprietary blobs. The project is more like a display of positive accomplishment, not a stand against something, and I like that. The Trisquel team has put together a solid distribution which manages to provide a good working platform without removing much functionality.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Document Foundation forks OpenOffice.org into LibreOffice, new features in Edubuntu 10.10, upgrading to Fedora 14 with "preupgrade", Mageia infrastructure updates
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the unexpected announcement about a fork of OpenOffice.org, a popular multi-platform productivity suite. Originally maintained by Sun Microsystems, the software has passed into the hands of Oracle following its recent takeover of the troubled technology giant. But the open-source development community, suspicious of Oracle's motives, especially after it has halted the development of OpenSolaris and the general lack of communication regarding the open-source technologies now in Oracle's possession, has had enough. Early last week, a group of companies that include Red Hat, Novell and Google, set up Open Document Foundation, an organisation whose primary objective is to maintain and develop LibreOffice: "The Document Foundation is a newly founded organisation with a mission - to make an office suite available as truly free software, developed within the wider community. Supported by companies like Google, Novell and Red Hat, the Foundation has forked the Oracle-owned OpenOffice.org software and created LibreOffice. Worries about Oracle's commitment to OpenOffice have persisted within the OpenOffice.org community since the company's acquisition of Sun Microsystems." Several distributions, including Fedora and Ubuntu, have already indicated that their future releases will ship with LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice.org.
* * * * *
The end of this week (Sunday, the highly auspicious 10-10-10, to be precise) will see the arrival of a new version of Ubuntu and all of the official Ubuntu flavours. One of the more low-profile among them is Edubuntu, an Ubuntu variant specifically designed for deployment in schools. Luckily, unlike the developers of some other Ubuntu sub-projects, the Edubuntu folks has always been very vocal about their work, and the distribution's web site and blogs are always full of fresh information about the project's activities. Last week Jonathan Carter published another excellent blog post (with screenshots) detailing many the new features in Edubuntu 10.10: "This release wasn't as big a shake-up as the last one, but it's still a very good release for Edubuntu that builds on the work we did in the previous release. For 'Lucid' we moved completely to a graphical installation. After installation a user could choose from the live CD to install LTSP and the Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface. It worked great but it wasn't very intuitive. Many users who meant to install LTSP didn't quite know about it and hit the reboot button at the end of the installation and completely missed it. We decided to do it properly for 'Maverick' and have it integrated right there in the installer. GNOME Nanny is a relatively new addition in the GNOME family of tools. It works good for home or small classroom use, but it doesn't support groups yet so it's not particularly useful for large deployments yet. It has some good potential though and I hope it will just keep on getting better!"
Edubuntu 10.10 RC - the meerkat is out!
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Less than a month from now a new stable version of Fedora will become available from a download mirror near you. As always, the next few weeks will be crucial in fixing the remaining bugs and making sure that the product is released in a best possible shape. Those readers who are still running Fedora 13, but would like to help with last-minute debugging could consider upgrading their system with PreUpgrade. Fedora developer Masami Ichikawa tried the process over the weekend and found it to be rather straightforward and painless: "When the preupgrade command is finished, you need to reboot your system. By the way, if you reboot your machine, it take some time to see boot messages, so you'll see just a black screen for a while but don't worry. It'll start Anaconda soon. Then anaconda starts installing packages. When anaconda finishes package installation and the upgrade process, it'll reboot your machine; then you'll be able to login new Fedora Linux. When I logged in, I needed to upgrade packages. I had about 200 packages to update. During the upgrade process, I didn't see any problems; also I haven't seen critical problems in casual use e.g. use WiFi connection by WPA2, run Firefox, watch YouTube, writing Japanese, send and receive email by Thunderbird, run command from GNOME terminal and so forth."
* * * * *
Anne Nicolas, the former Director of Engineering at Mandriva and now (presumably) the main PR person at the newly-formed Mageia, has published an update on the status of the project. It seems that everything is moving forward at a rapid pace and it won't be long before the world is presented with a Cooker-like package repository called "Cauldron". In the meantime, the Mageia non-profit association is being registered today (Monday) in Paris: "The Mageia association is going to be registered on Monday with an official publication in about a month (once reviewed by the French administration). A Mageia manifesto is in progress. We provided a list of items to help Graham Lauder and some marketing and communication guys to work on a first draft." In terms of technical progress, here is the latest (from the same article): "For the hardware infrastructure, we received proposals for servers and hosting. We now have the hardware to be able to setup a build system and host the main services. We already started setting up a virtual machine offered by gandi.net which we will use soon to host the web sites and blog. Regarding the hosting of the other servers, we have a proposal for one year and are already working on a longer-term solution."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Advocating Linux and free software
Spreading-the-love asks:How do you advocate Linux (or FOSS in general) to people?
DistroWatch answers: For starters, I almost never use terms like "free" and "open source". I've also found conversations involving "community supported" tend to conclude poorly. Those points may seem important to members of the Linux community, but they tend to give the impression that Linux is a hobbyist creation that shouldn't be taken seriously. (Mentioning that something is free brings up the "you get what you pay for" issue.) Personally, I think the hardest thing to overcome when pitching open source software to someone is to forget why you like the software.
The persons you are advocating to aren't interested in why you use the software, they're interested in why they might like the software. And that will vary from person to person. It's important to find out what the other person is interested in and appeal to that. As an example, I got a fellow hooked on Linux who was always downloading things. Anything, really. Once I pointed out he could download just about anything on GNU/Linux without worrying about malware. He was interested. With a friend of mine, who is a casual computer user, it was the games which come with most distros (Frozen Bubble and Same Game) that won them over. I've interested quite a few people in Firefox by demonstrating it alongside other browsers and comparing performance, stability and features. One of the few pieces of software I've managed to advocate primarily on its price is OpenOffice.org. Being free is a nice touch when other big-name office suites have a hefty price tag.
The important thing to remember is that most people aren't going to switch their applications or operating system out of ideology. Most people need to see a practical benefit. Being free (as in beer) usually isn't helpful because the other person already has their software. Keeping it rarely costs anything. Switching, even if it comes without a price tag, takes time and effort. So it's important to find what they will see as a benefit and match that with appropriate software.
I got one person interested in Linux in a way which surprised me. The fellow scanned a lot of documents for his job and, when I demonstrated Linux for him, we found his scanner worked about five times faster using the Linux software. Obviously the extra speed was a huge asset to his work flow. So the best advice I can give for advocating software is to sit down with a person, find out what they do and what they need. Then offer to take some time walking through the tasks using open-source software and see if it appeals to them. When people are interested in the product and ask about the price, I usually tell them it's a demo they can keep. People are more familiar with free samples than with free finished products.
|Released Last Week
Sabayon Linux 5.4
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon Linux 5.4: "On the behalf of the Sabayon Linux team, we are happy to announce the immediate availability of Sabayon Linux 5.4 KDE and GNOME editions. Features: more than 1,000 updated packages since Sabayon 5.3 and more than 100 bugs (stability, usability and performance) fixed; shipped with desktop-optimized Linux kernel 2.6.35; providing extra server-optimized, OpenVZ-enabled and VServer-enabled kernels in repositories; installable in 10 minutes; fast boot time and lightweight default system; ext4 file system as default; official Btrfs file system support; encrypted file system support; featuring X.Org 7.5 and up-to-date open-source, NVIDIA and AMD video drivers; containing GNOME 2.30 (with GNOME Shell) and KDE 4.5.1...." The complete release announcement can be found on the project's user forum.
Tilman Sauerbeck has announced the release of CRUX 2.7, a minimalist Linux distribution designed for intermediate and advanced users: "I'm announcing the release of CRUX 2.7. Release notes: toolchain updates - CRUX 2.7 includes glibc 2.12.1, GCC 4.5.1 and Binutils 2.20.1; Linux kernel 220.127.116.11; X.Org 7.5 and X.Org Server 1.9.0; to save space, all packages shipped with the image are compressed with xz, which requires a new version of pkgutils, a gz compressed package of pkgutils has been placed the /tools subdirectory; besides the usual ISO image, an image suitable for USB thumb drives is available from our download mirrors. New features in pkgutils: in addition to gzip, pkgmk has been enhanced to optionally compress newly built packages with bzip2 or xz; pkgutils can read packages that have been compressed with bzip2 and xz in addition to gzip...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further information.
Carlos La Borde has announced the release of iMagicOS 10, a commercial desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu, but featuring the KDE 3 desktop: "Welcome to iMagic OS 10. Intuitive, fast, and smart. Based on the latest Linux technology, with upgraded software, a faster boot time, parental web filtering, and loaded with codecs and innovations, iMagic OS 10 sports an improved KDE 3.5 interface with easier file management and better magicOnline support. Features: magicOnline - improved and running smoother than ever, iMagic OS users can head over to magicOnline and browse from an extensive online catalog of hundreds of free, commercial and proprietary programs, games and drivers; Windows Software - iMagic OS 10 comes with an updated Windows application installer based on WINE framework...." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Peppermint OS Ice-10012010
Shane Remington has announced the availability of a new respin of Peppermint OS Ice, a lightweight, user-friendly distribution with built-in cloud technologies: "We are proud to announce the release of Peppermint OS Ice-10012010, the first respin of our 'Ice' release. It offers a fully updated system as of October 1st, 2010 and comes with a number of bug fixes, some new features, and some other miscellaneous goodies. The default Linux kernel has been updated to version 2.6.35. In an effort to continually try to offer the best possible hardware support, we felt this was a good move for the Ice release. A number of lower-level updates, such as Grep 2.7.0, Samba 3.5.5, File 5.04, FreeType 2.4.2 and others have been implemented in order to offer a more up-to-date system while remaining on the Ubuntu LTS code base." Read the complete release announcement for further information.
Peppermint OS Ice-10012010 - a lightweight distribution with Openbox based on Ubuntu
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
September 2010 DistroWatch.com donation: Debian Multimedia repository|
We are happy to announce that the recipient of the September 2010 DistroWatch.com donation is the Debian Multimedia repository. It receives €200.00 in cash.
The Debian Multimedia repository is a project of Christian Marillat, a well-known Debian developer. It is described as an "unofficial repository of media utilities that cannot be included in main, contrib, or nonfree due to patents and other problems." In other words, Christian's repository is an essential addition to every desktop Debian user's apt.sources list as it contains essential media codecs, various media players with support for popular formats, and even some non-free utilities, such as Acrobat Reader, Flash Player or w32codecs. This is a well-tested repository for all available Debian releases from "oldstable" to "unstable" and for a number of processor architectures. For more information please read the FAQs on the project's web site.
After receiving the donation, Christian emailed DistroWatch with a brief thank-you message: "As I've received a donation from DistroWatch for the Debian Multimedia repository, I just want to said thank you. Ordinary words, but I'm very happy."
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 and credit cards 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$25,610 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)
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Quelitu. Quelitu is a fast, lightweight, and user-friendly Linux operating system based on Lubuntu and designed for use in older computers or for lightning speed in more recent models. It is released by Waves of the Future as part of a global environmental project aiming to increase the worldwide recycling and reuse of older computers by refurbishing them to the fastest and latest standards. Like many Linux distributions, Quelitu is multilingual but has a special focus on English, French and Spanish.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 11 October 2010.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|• 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|
|• Issue 637 (2015-11-23): NixOS 15.09, Antergos introduces ZFS support, MINIX shares new features, copying an OS to a new computer|
|• Full list of all issues|