| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 453, 23 April 2012
Welcome to this year's 17th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! In the second part of our series on NAS solutions for home networks Jesse Smith introduces OpenMediaVault, a Debian-based operating system designed to serve as a storage solution for small networks. But despite the range of features, an excellent system installer and familiar Linux utilities, the author also finds a few rough edges that will need to be ironed out before OpenMediaVault can become a safe and reliable utility for network storage media. In the news section, early reviews find many positives in the upcoming Ubuntu 12.04 release, Slackware's frequently inaccessible website lets the community wonder about the distro's future, Clement Lefebvre hints at a dual-edition Cinnamon/MATE Linux Mint 13, and H Open Source examines the current state of Fedora and its role in the wider Linux distribution ecosystem. Also in this issue, news about the just-release OmniBoot 0.4 compilation DVD, a Q&A session on open-source application for live streaming, and an introduction to AtlasX, a Debian-based live DVD with Enlightenment 17. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First look at OpenMediaVault 0.2.5|
This week we continue our look at network attached storage (NAS) solutions. Next on my list of open source NAS platforms is OpenMediaVault, a Debian-based project. According to the project's website, OpenMediaVault is "primarily designed to be used in home environments or small home offices, but is not limited to those scenarios. It is a simple and easy to use out-of-the-box solution that will allow everyone to install and administrate a Network Attached Storage without deeper knowledge." It certainly sounds promising. Plus the website is nicely laid out and we're provided with such resources as a documentation wiki, project blog and a community forum.
The ISO images for OpenMediaVault come in 32-bit and 64-bit builds, both of them under 300MB in size. After burning the download image and booting from the disc we're presented with a menu asking if we'd like to run the text installer, run an expert install or let the system perform an automated install. I opted to go with the plain text installer. From there we're presented with a number of simple text-based menus and asked to provide our preferred language, our country/region and select our keyboard mapping. Then we wait while the installer loads additional modules. Next up we set a password for the root account and select our time zone. From there the installer announces it is going to create an ext4 partition and a swap partition and asks for confirmation before proceeding. Then we're asked (again) for our country/region and asked to manually select a package mirror in our area. We're given the option of setting up a web proxy and then the installer downloads some files. This last screen went by quickly, but it looked like repository information was being downloaded for the APT package handling tools.
The installation took a little under ten minutes and, when we reboot, the system brings us to a text console. OpenMediaVault presents us with our IP address and suggests we can perform administrative tasks using the system's web interface. We can also login locally as the root user.
Let's first look at what logging in locally gives us. OpenMediaVault comes with the basic GNU command line utilities such as grep, ls, cat, etc. However, there are no manual pages installed by default. The venerable vi editor isn't present, instead we're provided with the nano text editor for altering configuration files. There's no compiler on the system. It's a fairly clean OS to start with. That being said, OpenMediaVault provides the apt-get package manager which pulls software from Debian's Stable branch. This allows us to install, upgrade and remove software, giving a great deal of flexibility to the role our NAS will play.
The web interface, which we will look at shortly, is powered by the Apache web server and the system runs on the 2.6.32 version of the Linux kernel. One service I was pleased to find installed by default was the Watchdog daemon. Watchdog monitors the system and, if the NAS system locks up, Watchdog causes the kernel to attempt a reboot. We can alternatively put other actions in place in the event of a problem, such as forcing a shutdown or running a script. It's a nice feature to have and gives our NAS the ability to recover from minor problems. Prior to setting up additional services and managing disks I found OpenMediaVault had a very small footprint, using about 20MB of memory.
OpenMediaVault's web interface is served up over both plain HTTP and the secure HTTPS protocols. Connecting to the web server prompts us for our username and password. It's important to note here that the web admin password is different than the system's root password. We can access the web interface using the username/password combination of "admin/openmediavault". The web interface is nicely laid out with logout and shutdown buttons in the upper-right corner of the display. Down the left side of the screen we're shown categories of settings (System, Storage, Access, Services, Diagnostics and Information). Clicking on a category will expand the tree and give us access to more specific items. Most of the screen is taken up with displaying the currently selected page of options. When we first login this central space is taken up with showing us system status information such as uptime, system load and memory usage.
OpenMediaVault 0.2.5 - enabling additional storage
(full image size: 216kB, screen resolution 1366x710 pixels)
Following the tree of options on the left side of the screen it was easy to go into the Access section to change my web admin password. I then headed over to the Storage section. Clicking on the Add button brought up a list of disks connected to the NAS, minus the disk containing the operating system. I selected an additional disk, gave it a name and chose a file system for it. The file systems ext3, ext4, JFS and XFS are supported. At this point things had been going fairly well in my experiment, but then I hit a snag.
OpenMediaVault includes a trimmed down package manager in the web interface. From it we can view available system updates, upload our own packages and apply existing updates. This struck me as a good feature to have. However, when I opted to apply all available security updates OpenMediaVault downloaded the packages and then my connection to the NAS dropped. I had lost the ability to connect to the web panel. I logged in to the local console, performed a reboot and the web server failed to come back on-line. A little digging showed APT had failed to complete the update cleanly and I had to do some work with the low-level dpkg package manager to get things up and running again. Eventually I got the upgrades in place and the web interface back, though some settings and the HTTPS protocol option had been lost. I looked around for a reset-to-factory-settings option, but it seems OpenMediaVault doesn't have this feature.
OpenMediaVault 0.2.5 - adding a new user account
(full image size: 196kB, screen resolution 1366x710 pixels)
Though the failed upgrade was the only big problem I ran into while using OpenMediaVault, there were some other minor issues. Occasionally when changing settings in the web interface I'd see a pop-up box reporting "an error has occurred" without further details when trying to save my changes. On other screens I'd find changing settings took longer than expected, giving the appearance the interface wasn't responding.
There are a few aspects of OpenMediaVault I really appreciate. The Services section of the web interface is nicely laid out. We're given quick and easy access to configure services such as OpenSSH, FTP, NFS & Samba shares and rsync. The pages are nicely arranged and I suspect people will find them easy to use. I also appreciate that the user account settings closely resemble desktop graphical account managers, which I think will make new administrators feel more at home. I was also pleased to note there are screens which direct users to where they can get further help and documentation. It looks like a lot of effort has gone into the design of the OpenMediaVault interface and, the odd glitch aside, it feels very much like navigating the configuration options on a GNOME or KDE desktop.
One last group of items I like in the admin panel is the Diagnostics section. Here we can see graphs showing resource usage, available disk space and system logs. Typically I'd expect to login to a command line interface to see the information provided here and it's nice to see these monitoring tools included in the graphical interface.
OpenMediaVault 0.2.5 - monitoring the status of the NAS
(full image size: 332kB, screen resolution 1366x710 pixels)
Despite the many good aspect of the NAS operating system, running OpenMediaVault was an uneven experience for me. Things started off well with a nice website and a simple, yet flexible, installer. The web interface looks polished and I was thrilled to find OpenMediaVault can access Debian's Stable repository and use APT to update packages and install new software. This makes the NAS operating system quite flexible. We could begin with a basic NAS and add websites or BitTorrent clients or toss in a compiler and make a dual-purpose NAS and build server if we were so inclined. I also liked that the NAS enables HTTPS out of the box. Plus, being based on Linux, OpenMediaVault supports a wide range of hardware and should run on just about anything that isn't too new or exotic.
However, with that being said, at times OpenMediaVault completely tripped over its own feet. One of the first actions I performed post-install was to apply all security updates and this not only failed, but required me to login to the NAS locally and untangle the mess. While using the web interface, changing and saving settings was quite often surprisingly slow and, at other times, completely failed. One additional minor gripe I had with the web interface was that we configure services in one section of the interface (helpfully called Services), but we enable/disable services under the Diagnostics section. This stuck me as counter-intuitive.
Since we recently looked at FreeNAS I'd like to take a moment to compare my experiences with that platform against my experiences with OpenMediaVault. At this point I'd have to say that while both projects aim to create a easy to use NAS system they have different styles. By comparison I'd say FreeNAS had less flexibility, fewer security components enabled out of the box and its web interface might not be quite as well laid out. However, I will say that what FreeNAS did, it did very well. With FreeNAS I got up and running in a few minutes, it was solid as a rock and it supports ZFS with snapshots with minimal effort on the part of the user.
OpenMediaVault has a more flexible installer, it ties into the Debian repositories with APT, it comes with HTTPS enabled in the default install and it has some nice additional features like Watchdog. But OpenMediaVault kept dropping my web connection, failed to perform updates correctly, the install took longer, and, when things went wrong, it didn't have the "reset to factory settings" feature FreeNAS did. Thus far my impression is OpenMediaVault has some good features and it will have the advantage of feeling familiar to Debian users. Despite its few rough edges, it will probably appeal to people looking for a NAS for the home.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ubuntu 12.04 release, Slackware rumour mill, Mint 13 update, Fedora health check, OmniBoot 0.4
Ubuntu 12.04 will be released this week. An event of such magnitude won't go unnoticed in the media, so expect the usual barrage of articles, reviews, analyses and, inevitably, criticisms of the project's constant evolution that seemingly doesn't allow a desktop user to settle into a usage routine before a new round of major interface redesigns. The good news is that Ubuntu 12.04 is a so-called long-term support (LTS) version, with security support extended to five years (both on desktops and servers), so anybody resistant to change can simply keep this version and not worry about Canonical's upcoming "innovations" until April 2017. Interestingly, compared to other big Ubuntu releases of the past, there is still no early press release, the code name of the next Ubuntu has yet to be announced, and instead of focusing on the big occasion, Mark Shuttleworth prefers to talk about bee-keeping. For those readers who would rather get the first impressions of Ubuntu 12.04, here are the links to a few early reviews. ZDNet Blogs: "If you want an easy-to-use Linux desktop that works well with business networks, I think you'll like Ubuntu 12.04 a lot." Lunduke: "With how spectacularly good this release is, there is no way that I won't have at least one machine running Ubuntu 12.04 on my desk." TuxGarage: "Unity's HUD (Head-Up Display) is an innovative alternative to the traditional application menus."
Ubuntu 12.04 - with improved Unity, intelligent HUD and long-term support
(full image size: 856kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
In contrast to Ubuntu, the usually quiet and unpretentious Slackware project rarely gets the attention of the Linux media. But with recent intermittent outages of the project's website, it was only a matter of time before a rumour mill started to do its work on Linux blogs and forums. Is Slackware about to close shop? Is the business side of the project in financial difficulty? Will we see another Slackware release? Tom Nardi was one of the bloggers who wrote about the situation in a post entitled "SOS: Save Our Slackware?", accompanied by an illustration of a sinking ship carrying the Slackware logo: "The last few days have seen a depressing flurry of forum topics and blog posts about the supposed death of Slackware, evidenced (primarily) by the fact that Slackware.com has been down quite a bit recently (indeed, it is down at the time of this writing). For any other modern distribution, downtime on the site might not mean anything other than some routine maintenance or a glitch, but then, Slackware isn't anything like most modern Linux distributions." The author concludes: "There is no question that Slackware has fallen on difficult times financially. With fewer and fewer people paying for Slackware subscriptions or buying merchandise, and the increasingly expensive economy we live in, corners will have to be cut somewhere. Right now, one of those corners is the server for Slackware.com. But to take this as a sign that Slackware is dying or that its team is jumping ship is simply rumor mongering."
* * * * *
A much-needed update on the Linux Mint website last week provided some (but not all) answers concerning the upcoming release of version 13. What we do know is that the code name of the new Linux Mint will be "Maya", that it should be released at the end of May, and that there will be two separate editions with either Cinnamon (a fork of GNOME Shell for GNOME 3) or MATE (a fork of GNOME 2). One thing that hasn't been decided as yet is which of the two desktops will be "default". From Clement Lefebvre's blog post: "Linux Mint 13 will be named 'Maya' and should be available at the end of May 2012. The code name was chosen a long time ago, after my daughter's name who was named Maya in reference to the Maya civilization, the fictional Maya Toitovna, Maya the Bee. In India, people might also know 'Maya' as the 'Illusion'. Note: The choice for this code name has nothing to do with the Mayan Calendar or the notorious cataclysmic interpretations for 2012 (by then we'll be looking at Linux Mint 14 and a different code name). Linux Mint 13 should feature separate editions for MATE and Cinnamon. Whether one of these and which of these two editions will be considered the 'default' wasn't decided yet."
* * * * *
The Red Hat-sponsored Fedora project needs no introduction to the regular readers of this website, but an occasional Linux user might still be confused by the relationship between a billion-dollar company and a free distribution. Richard Hillesley looks at the role of this highly popular distro in the wider landscape of Linux projects in "HealthCheck Fedora: Where's the beef?": "Fedora is one of the more popular Linux distributions, and the most popular of the RPM-based distros. But, although it is sponsored by a large company in the shape of Red Hat, Fedora differs from a distribution like Ubuntu in that it has no top-down commercial imperative to please a particular segment of the community, to be 'easy-to-use' or to fit for any singular commercial purpose. Fedora is uncompromisingly free software, community-based, and innovative, and its role is to push the edges of technology and reflect the state of the art of free software. Red Hat is the most successful open source company and Fedora is its bleeding edge, hoping to bring together the best and newest free software on a six monthly release cycle, some of which might make it into the next release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and some of which may be picked up later as the software matures."
* * * * *
Finally, an update on OmniBoot, a project which develops what is probably the most impressive compilation DVD featuring a large number of free operating systems and a long list of highly useful utilities for a variety of computer troubleshooting tasks. Developer Don Manuel emailed DistroWatch to let us know about the brand-new OmniBoot 0.4: "The success that you caused with your article about OmniBoot motivated me to work hard on the next big release. It is available as of today. A lot of components have been updated, new modules include Tor-Router, CDlinux, m0n0wall, Porteus and RIP-Linux - all of them in their live variants. However, what makes OmniBoot really outstanding now is the newly included PXE server function. You can boot OmniBoot on one PC in a LAN, choose OmniBoot PXE Server from the net-boot menu in main menu and on another connected client in this LAN that has the ability to net-boot you are again offered to boot OmniBoot and one of its many components. Only three larger modules (Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS and Porteus) are not yet capable of booting like that over PXE (of course these are then not offered in the respective PXE boot menus), but everything else does. Please let your readers know! And if you have any idea how I could make OmniBoot better, please don't hesitate to tell!" Here is a download link to the OmniBoot 0.4 DVD: OmniBoot v0.4 dvd.iso (4,199MB).
OmniBoot 0.4 - a live DVD offering a dozen live operating systems and countless useful PC tools
(full image size: 407kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Open-source applications for live streaming, difference between desktop environments and window managers
Streaming-media asks: I use for my live streams and stuff this app called Wirecast, but I really want to use an open-source option because the software is so frustrating sometimes. What kind of options do we have in open source?
DistroWatch answers: I don't generally deal with streaming video or audio, but I will take a stab at some suggestions. The VLC multimedia player will stream from a file or from a webcam. The VLC player can be found in the repositories of most Linux distributions and runs on most other common operating systems as well, in case you need a cross-platform solution. Streaming can be achieved by opening the VLC player, going to the Media menu and selecting "Streaming". VLC supports a number of output formats and, while it doesn't have a lot of options for effects, it's pretty easy to get up and running.
Another option you might look at is WebcamStudio. Though I don't think it is available in most distribution package managers at this time, it should be a fairly straight forward installation as long as you have Java on your system. The developers provide deb packages for Ubuntu and instructions for compiling from source code on their website. I haven't used this software personally, but the project has instructional videos on their website demoing their software and it appears to have a wide range of features.
Do you stream audio and video? Let us know which application you prefer in the comments section below.
* * * * *
A-window-on-the-world asks: What's the difference between a desktop environment, desktop manager and window manager?
DistroWatch answers: Let's start with the window manager. A window manager is the software on your machine which handles the way application windows are displayed and how the user interacts with them. A window manager typically handles things like moving windows, resizing them, closing them, etc. Typically a window manager is one component of a desktop environment and can be swapped for a different window manger if the user so chooses. A desktop environment is a collection of components and features which, combined, gives us a full featured graphical user interface. Take a window manager, add a task switcher, application menu, a system tray, maybe a control panel and you have yourself a desktop environment. Typically a desktop environment is built using a specific toolkit. For example, the KDE desktop environment is put together using the KWin window manager and the Qt toolkit.
Sometimes the line is blurred between what qualifies as a window manager and what is a desktop environment. If we look at the Enlightenment project, just as an example, it's labeled as a window manger. But even the Enlightenment website acknowledges there is some confusion as to its definition:
"Enlightenment is the flagship and original name bearer for this project. Once it was just a humble window manager for X11 that wanted to do things differently. To do them better, but it has expanded. This can be confusing so when we refer to Enlightenment, we may mean the project as a whole or just the window manager proper. The libraries behind Enlightenment are referred to as EFL collectively, each with a specific name and purpose. The window manager is a lean, fast, modular and very extensible window manager for X11 and Linux. It is classed as a "desktop shell" providing the things you need to operate your desktop (or laptop), but is not a whole application suite. This covered launching applications, managing their windows and doing other system tasks like suspending, reboots, managing files etc."
As for defining a desktop manager, the only times I have heard that term were in reference to applications which manipulate or interact with a desktop. For example, the Blackberry Desktop Manager is an app which allows a person to work with their Blackberry device when it's plugged into their desktop or laptop. A remote desktop manager might let you interact with your desktop from another machine. In other words, "desktop manager" is usually part of a specific name, rather than a class of software.
|Released Last Week
Trisquel GNU/Linux 5.5
Rubén Rodríguez has announced the release of Trisquel GNU/Linux 5.5, a 100% "libre" distribution based on Ubuntu: "Trisquel 5.5 STS 'Brigantia' is finally here. This release is our first to be based on GNOME 3, GTK+ 3 and also Linux-libre 3.0. GNOME 3 was a big challenge, because as it is designed now, it is not usable for our community. The new default interface of GNOME 3 is GNOME Shell, a program that requires 3D acceleration to work, as it relies on graphics composition. Sadly, many graphics cards today still lack a libre driver providing acceleration, so many users who would choose free drivers will be redirected to a fallback desktop environment. This way many users could feel compelled to install non-free drivers to be able to use the new desktop, so we decided to use the fallback environment as default." Here is the full release announcement.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 5.5 - an Ubuntu variant adhering strictly to the four software freedoms
(full image size: 2,235kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Chakra GNU/Linux 2012.04
Anke Boersma has announced the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2012.04, an updated release of the project's KDE-centric distribution originally forked from Arch Linux: "This second 'Archimedes' release brings some good news and, for some, bad news. Good news - after a year of hard work by the Calligra team, we are really pleased to present the DVD image with the first-ever stable release of the Calligra office suite. Bad news for some, there is no longer a GUI for package management shipped. Appset-qt and any other Pacman GUI front-end were not able to handle more complex updates as they should, and the team felt it was not correct toward the users to ship a package that needed constant warnings. With this release we offer: KDE 4.8.2, Linux kernel 3.2.8 (3.0.22 optional), Qt 4.8.1, QtWebkit 2.2.1." Read the rest of the release announcement for additional information.
FreeBSD 8.3 has been released: "The FreeBSD Release Engineering team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 8.3-RELEASE. This is the fourth release from the 8-STABLE branch which improves on the functionality of FreeBSD 8.2 and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights: usb(4) now supports the USB packet filter; TCP/IP stack now supports the mod_cc(9) pluggable congestion control framework; graid(8) GEOM class added to support various BIOS-based software RAID controllers (replacement for ataraid(4)); ZFS subsystem updated to SPA version 28; GNOME version 2.32.1, KDE version 4.7.4. FreeBSD 8.3-RELEASE is now available for the amd64, i386, pc98, and sparc64 architectures." For further details please see the release announcement and the detailed release notes.
Lars Torben Kremer has announced the release of Snowlinux 2, a Debian-based desktop distribution and live CD with GNOME 2: "The team is proud to announce the release of Snowlinux 2 'Ice'. Due drastic changes with GNOME 3 and Unity, Snowlinux 2 'Ice' is keeping GNOME 2. It comes with a GTK+ theme and icon set called Snowlinux Metal and the system font is 'Ubuntu' by default. Also present in this version is an improved live installer which detects country, offers keyboard variants and uses UUID in fstab. It has a firewall called gufw. Apturl was ported from Ubuntu to Debian and it was made functional. To improve the difference between user and root terminal, terminal colors were introduced. To be more out-of-the-box OpenJDK 6 Java was made available in the default installation." See the remainder of the release announcement for more information and a screenshot.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 30 April 2012. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• Issue 647 (2016-02-08): Tails 2.0, KDE project launches Neon, Manjaro unveils ARM support, FreeBSD's quarterly report|
|• 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|