| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 578, 29 September 2014
Welcome to this year's 39th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! At the heart of what makes Linux distributions so fun, so flexible and so free is the open nature of the source code. Free and open source software allows anyone with the time and the talent to customize, improve and extend existing software. The freedom to modify and fix our operating systems is what drives us to create new distributions, create compelling desktop environments and fashion highly optimized solutions. In celebration of software freedom, this week we focus on open source software and source code. We begin with a review of the Calculate distribution, a project which provides a great deal of flexibility though source-based package management. We then turn to examples of collaboration and competition in our News section. Last week saw the Debian team swap out Xfce for GNOME as the project's default desktop environment. We also learned that FreeBSD was updating their Linux compatibility layer, through borrowing packages from CentOS. The Bodhi distribution may have lost its leader a few weeks ago, but the project may carry on under new management and we share more below. Finally, we discuss a nasty security bug which was discovered last week, patched and updated on users' computers within hours. This week we share some odds and ends from around the open source world, touching on significant developments with ZFS, Lumina, TrueCrypt and systemd. Plus we bring you the latest distribution releases and look ahead to more fun to come. We wish you all a marvellous week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Introducing Calculate Linux 14
Calculate Linux is a distribution based on Gentoo Linux. Calculate makes installing the Gentoo-derived operating system easy and offers several convenient system administration tools. A summary of the distribution on the Calculate Linux website states: "Calculate Linux is an optimized distribution designed for rapid deployment in corporate environments. It is based on Gentoo, but provides a number of preconfigured features. Calculate Linux comes in four main flavours: Calculate Linux Desktop for personal use, Calculate Directory Server for servers, Calculate Linux Scratch for those who want to build a customized system that works for them and Calculate Media Center for your home multimedia centre."
Calculate Linux is a rolling-release distribution and, further, it uses a source-based approach to package management. This means much of the software we install on Calculate will be compiled from source code, a lengthy process which may optimize the software on our computers. The latest version of Calculate ships with a few new features, including notification of software updates and an improved administration panel. As mentioned previously, Calculate is available in several flavours, each of which can be downloaded in 32-bit or 64-bit builds. I opted to try the Desktop edition of Calculate, the ISO file for which is 2.2GB in size. There are actually two Desktop editions of this distribution, I downloaded the KDE edition, but there is also an edition featuring the Xfce desktop environment.
Booting from the Calculate Linux media we are shown a boot menu where we are given the choice of running the Calculate live desktop environment, running the live desktop from RAM for added performance or running a live environment with a command line interface only. Taking the live desktop environment brings up the KDE desktop. Calculate, unlike most distributions shipping KDE, places the application menu, task switcher and system tray at the top of the screen. Calculate's build of KDE ships with a classic style application menu, which is both unusual and, in my case, welcome. Icons on the desktop enable us to launch the GParted partition manager, the system installer, a file manager and the Konversation IRC client. There is also an icon which brings up the distribution's installation guide. The guide lets us know that it is a good idea to partition our hard drive prior to running the system installer, along with other helpful tips. The Konversation application, when launched, automatically signs into the Calculate IRC channel where we can get assistance with using the distribution. At the bottom of the display there is a hidden quick-launch bar that pop-ups when the mouse pointer strays toward the lower edge of the screen.
Calculate Linux 14 - the installation guide
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The distribution's system installer is a graphical application which I believe is unique to Calculate. It begins by asking for our preferred language and our time zone. Next we are asked to confirm we want to install Calculate from the live media as packages may be retrieved from other sources. Calculate's installer provides a few options for partitioning the hard drive. We can take a guided option or we can use existing partitions (which we presumably set up ahead of time using GParted). The guided option takes hints from us, such as whether to use a GPT disk layout, whether certain directories should be mounted on separate partitions and whether we want to use LVM volumes. I took the manual partitioning option and the following screen asked me to assign partitions to mount points. The layout of this page was a little unusual and it took me a while to get into the flow of using the mount point feature.
During this process a warning popped up telling me my root partition needed to be larger than 7 GB. I thought this was odd as the partition I was using was 15 GB. I opted to proceed and the system installer accepted my choices. Next, the installer asks us to enable networking and to select a network time synchronization server. Then we are asked to set a password on the root account and create a regular user account for ourselves. The following page lets us select which video card driver to use and set our screen resolution, something I find most distributions do automatically these days. Though I do appreciate the extra control choosing our own driver potentially gives us. Next we are asked if the system should automatically check for software updates. After that the installer pauses to confirm we want to proceed with the installation and then copies its files to our hard drive. A short time later we are prompted to reboot the computer.
Calculate Linux 14 - downloading software updates
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Calculate Linux boots to a graphical login screen where, in the background, we see an image of a penguin parachuting from the sky. It's an adorable way to begin our time with the distribution. Something I found early on with Calculate is the distribution prevents us from logging in using the root (administrator's) account. Signing in with our regular user account brings us to the KDE desktop. Shortly after signing in an icon appeared in the system tray letting me know software updates were available. Clicking this notification icon brings up a screen where we are shown a list of available updates. The day I installed Calculate there were 12 packages available, totalling about 5MB in size. Updating these packages appeared to be an all or nothing venture as I did not see any way to select which packages to download. The process of downloading and installing updates took a while on my machine, over 20 minutes in total. I suspect this may be because each update is downloaded as source code and compiled in the background, though the update utility does not show a lot of detailed progress information to confirm or deny my assumption.
I tried running Calculate Linux in a VirtualBox virtual machine and on a physical desktop machine. I found Calculate's KDE desktop was a touch sluggish in the virtual machine, but the distribution was responsive when run on physical hardware. I found Calculate generally consumed around 500MB of memory when logged into KDE, though that number varied a bit between 480MB and 580MB on different days. In both test environments Calculate ran smoothly, automatically detected my network connection and sound worked out of the box. I selected my own video driver and screen resolution during the installation and these settings were respected by the distribution. My only hardware related complaint about Calculate was that the distribution booted slowly compared to most other Linux distributions I have used this year.
Calculate Linux 14 - KDE System Settings and Calculate Console
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Browsing through the distribution's application menu we find a wide range of useful software. Calculate provides us with the Chromium web browser and an accompanying Flash plugin. We are given the Skype voice over IP software, the KTorrent bittorrent client, the Kopete instant messaging software and the Konversation IRC client. The Choqok micro-blogging client is included along with the KMail e-mail application. There are a few applications for dealing with remote desktop and support situations, including the KRDC remote desktop client and the X11VNC Server. Calculate provides us with the LibreOffice productivity suite and the Okular document viewer. The distribution ships with the Amarok music player, the k3b optical disc burning software, the SMPlayer video player, the KsCD audio disc player and the Kdenlive video editor.
The distribution ships with popular media codecs, letting us play (and edit) most multimedia formats. Calculate offers us the GNU Image Manipulation Program, the KolourPaint drawing program and the digiKam camera manager. Plus we are given an archive manager, calculator, text editor, disk usage statistics application and the Kleopatra digital certificate manager. There are a few administrative tools as well, including the KDE System Settings panel where we can configure all aspects of our desktop environment. There is the Calculate Console where we can adjust administrative settings on our local computer or on a remote computer. I did not find Java installed, but Calculate does ship with the GNU Compiler Collection. In the background I found Calculate runs on the 3.14 release of the Linux kernel.
Calculate Linux 14 - running various desktop applications
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My time with Calculate took an unpleasant turn on my second day, mostly because of a bug related to administrative permissions. The second day of my trial I wanted to install some additional software. Calculate uses the emerge package manager and typically compiles new software from source code. Some larger packages, such as the Firefox web browser, are available as pre-built binary packages. My first approach was to run emerge via the sudo command. An error came back saying my user did not have permission to run sudo. Many distributions do not enable sudo by default and so I decided to gain administrative access using the "su" command. This also came back with a "permission denied" error. Thinking I must have typed the password incorrectly, I tried again. And again. Not being able to gain access to the root account nor sudo and not being able to login directly as root from the login screen I thought my password might have been set improperly and next tried booting the distribution in single user mode.
Single user mode prompted for my root password and accepted it, allowing me to sign in, confirming my password had been set up properly during the installation. Here, however, I ran into two problems. The first was that, after the password prompt, no text I typed in single user mode was visible. The second problem I found was that after each key I pressed the system assumed I had followed that key with pressing Enter. For example, trying to type "passwd" resulted in Calculate attempting to run the commands "p", "a", "s" and so on. After double-checking that my install media passed its integrity check I visited the forums and found I was not the only one experiencing this problem with root credentials. At the time of writing no solution has been posted. So I'm apparently not the only person to encounter this series of problems, but nor does the issue appear to affect many people.
Soon, I discovered that Calculate Linux runs a secure shell service by default. Though locally logging in as root is blocked, a clever administrator can login as root remotely. This seems like a bit of a security issue (or at least a strange design quirk), but it did provide me with a workaround. I was able to login to my root account using secure shell and run administrative tasks, including installing new software packages. As most packages are built from source code this does make installing new packages a slow process, but emerge does seem to be entirely capable and I encountered only one error when emerge failed to properly install Firefox.
Calculate Linux is an unusual distribution in the Linux community. The project is one of the few desktop distributions I can think of that is based on Gentoo and still actively developed. This gives Calculate a distinct flavour when compared against the many offspring of Fedora, Debian or Slackware. I found I had to shift my thinking a bit to get used to the way Calculate approaches administration and package management. Even the installer feels alien when compared against most other Linux installers. That's not to say Calculate is better or worse than other flavours of Linux, only that there are noticeable differences in the philosophy and approach that this distribution takes. Calculate does not have a "learning curve" so much as a "different perspective curve".
Calculate Linux appears to be mostly focused on being flexible, something which comes naturally to a source-based distribution. Most of the admin tools are flexible and have advanced options, a characteristic which is especially visible during the installation process. Calculate ships with a lot of good, capable software out of the box and I suspect most new users will not need to install additional applications, at least not many. While installing new programs can take time, much longer than on distributions offering binary packages, the emerge package manager did work well for me. Of course, emerge is also flexible and this allows users to tweak build-time options to optimize Calculate.
Right now I'm not sure what to think about Calculate Linux. My experiences this past week have been different than what I experience with most mainstream Linux distributions. Some aspects of Calculate take some getting used to. The distribution certainly seems to be flexible and capable of completing any task thrown at it. I did run into a few bugs and the distribution was slow to boot (and sluggish in a virtual machine). My overall impression of Calculate 14 was not great, but it wasn't exactly bad either. I think people who want to experiment with source-based distributions (such as Gentoo) without the steep learning curve or long initial installation will find what they want with Calculate. The distribution is easy to set up and makes experiencing a source-based approach fairly straightforward.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8 GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500 GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6 GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Debian switches default desktop to GNOME, FreeBSD updates Linux compatibility, Bodhi Linux changes hands, distributions react to Bash vulnerability, openSUSE interview, practical Tiny Core Linux
Joey Hess announced last week that the Debian GNU/Linux distribution will be changing its default desktop environment again, this time shifting back to using GNOME 3 as the default desktop. A chart showing the various positive and negative attributes of each desktop under consideration was posted on the Debian wiki and this chart helps demonstrate why GNOME won the honour. Hess lists several reasons Debian "Jessie" will ships with GNOME by default: "This is particularly based on accessibility and to some extent systemd integration. Accessibility: GNOME and MATE are ahead by a large margin. Some of the other desktops have had their accessibility integration in Debian improved, partly driven by this process, but still need significant upstream work. systemd integration: Xfce, MATE, etc are stuck paying catch-up to ongoing changes in this area. There will be time to hopefully iron these issues out during the freeze once the tech stack stops changing out from under them, so this is not a complete blocker for those desktops, but going by the current status, GNOME is ahead."
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One especially useful feature of FreeBSD is the operating system's ability to support native Linux executable files by way of a compatibility layer. In recent years FreeBSD's Linux compatibility layer, which previously used Fedora 10 packages, has been showing its age. Fedora 10 has not been supported for a few years now and so an effort has been made to upgrade FreeBSD's compatibility layer to include a more modern Linux distribution. The choice was made to use CentOS as the new base for native Linux software. CentOS features long term support making it a more stable base. The Linux emulation port is called linux-c6 and can be found in the FreeBSD ports collection.
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A few weeks ago we reported the lead developer of Bodhi Linux, Jeff Hoogland, would be stepping down. Hoogland, through the Bodhi Linux project, created one of the most polished and user friendly implementations of the Enlightenment desktop. Fans of Bodhi were understandably concerned over the future of the project and we are happy to say it looks like Bodhi Linux will be able to continue under new management. Hoogland posted on the Bodhi forums saying: "I've been talking with a number of victims, err volunteers, who intend to take over the duties I have been performing packaging software for and building the ISO images for Bodhi Linux. This had always been my hope, but I wasn't sure anyone would step up to the task - thankfully they have. Bodhi 3 will happen at some point, but they don't have any firm time lines right now."
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As widely reported last week, a security vulnerability was discovered in the Bourne Again Shell (usually referred to as Bash). The vulnerability potentially allows attackers to run any command they wish, in some cases this can even be accomplished remotely if the vulnerable machine is running a web server. As most Linux distributions ship with the Bash shell as the default command line shell, news of the vulnerability raised a lot of concern. Fortunately, most distributions have already patched Bash and made updated packages available. Detailed security advisories and patched copies of Bash have already been made available to users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, Mageia, SUSE and PC-BSD. If you have not already done so, it is a good idea to make sure your copy of Bash is up to date with your distribution's latest version.
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Two months ago, a rather low-profile change took place at the openSUSE leadership when Richard Brown took over the project's helm from Vincent Untz. So who exactly is the new chairman? The ./themukt's Swapnil Bhartiya sheds some light on Richard Brown's personality and his involvement with openSUSE in this interview published last week: "Q: Can you tell us about your involvement with open source? A: I've been using Linux since around 2003. I think my first distribution was Slackware, followed by Debian, but it wasn't very long before I discovered SUSE and since then I've been hooked. I started contributing with the great 'opening up' of the distribution that came with the launch of the openSUSE Project in 2005. In terms of 'upstream contributions', I've contributed to GNOME, ownCloud, Spacewalk, Cobbler, and a few other projects over the years, but normally through my involvement with openSUSE. I guess you could say I'm a little 'Geeko-centric' that way."
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It's always inspirational to find out that even some of the smallest and "geekiest" Linux distributions have enormous practical impact in certain situations. Last week Wilfredo Crespo wrote a detailed article for Linux Journal describing how an all-volunteer fire fighting station in Pennsylvania has switched to Tiny Core Linux, a minimalist Linux distribution, to solve a logistical problem and to save money. From "Practical Tiny Core in the Fire Service": "Being the go-to IT guy at my firehouse, I had fallen in the enviable position of making this system work for us. The trivial solution is, of course, just to fire up Windows with IE and let the monitor sit there - in fact, the vendor suggested this to me. I suppose when you're trying to sell something as easy to use, that's what you do. That solution, needless to say, was unsatisfactory. From a budgetary standpoint, I was encouraged to keep costs down. The first decision and the easiest decision was to use Linux. I just shaved off the cost of the Windows license."
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
Open-source odds and ends
There have been some interesting developments in the open source world lately. While they may not deal directly with distributions, I think some of them will have long term impacts on open source operating systems and how we used them. I'd like to share some of these developments with you.
One news item I followed with interest was the announcement by Richard Yao that the ZFS on Linux project could be considered stable. ZFS is an advanced file system which provides improved data access speeds, guards data integrity, self heals and enables storage pools across multiple devices. The ZFS on Linux project provides kernel modules that allow Linux users to make use of ZFS. Richard Yao writes: "I believe the ZoL is production ready for the following reasons: Key ZFS data integrity features work on Linux like they do on other platforms. ZFS runtime stability on Linux is comparable to other file systems, with certain exceptions that I document below. ZoL is at near feature parity with ZFS on other platforms."
As a coincidence, the announcement that ZFS on Linux could be considered stable appeared around the same time the FreeBSD project updated their Handbook to include a chapter on ZFS. Though the specific examples presented in the Handbook are for people running FreeBSD, the information provided will be useful to people running ZFS on any operating system.
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For many years the TrueCrypt project was one of the most popular resources for people who wanted to encrypt data or create encrypted hard drive partitions. TrueCrypt was well known as being easy to use, flexible and cross-platform. Sadly, the TrueCrypt project came to an end and the developers dropped maintenance of the application. TrueCrypt was open source software and so it was no surprise when another group of developers offered to continue the project under a new name. CipherShed is a fork of TrueCrypt which will soon be available to people on Linux, Windows and OS X. The CipherShed team is encouraging people to try out the software and review the code for potential problems.
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The Lumina desktop environment began development as a new graphical interface for the PC-BSD operating system. Most desktop environments available for the BSD family of operating systems are created on Linux distributions first and then ported to the BSDs. Sometimes the porting efforts can take weeks or even months as some Linux-oriented desktops contain code or features that are difficult to transition to the BSDs. With new technologies such as Wayland and systemd making their way into the Linux software stack, some BSD developers believe porting software (like desktop environments) will become more difficult. Lumina, a desktop developed primarily for FreeBSD/PC-BSD, gives the BSD community a home grown solution that is future proof against changes in the Linux ecosystem.
However, technology flows both ways and Lumina has already been ported from PC-BSD and FreeBSD to Debian GNU/Linux, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, Ubuntu and Mint with a Fedora port in the works. Lumina may soon become a popular desktop environment for conservative Linux distributions that wish to hold off adoption of disruptive technologies such as Wayland and systemd.
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Previously, we discussed the systemd init software, what it is and the debate over whether it makes a good replacement for exiting init technology. Some people believe that systemd does offer improvements over other init technologies, but feel there are problems with the way systemd approaches certain tasks. For example, systemd is not cross platform, it only works with the GNU C library and systemd has expanded to include a lot of functionality normally outside the scope of init.
People who like the concept of systemd, but have concerns with its growing scope and lack of cross platform support will be interested to know there is a fork of systemd, called uselessd, which addresses these concerns. According to the project's website: "Basically, it's systemd with the superfluous stuff cut out, a (relatively) coherent idea of what it wants to be, support for non-glibc platforms and an approach that aims to minimize complicated design." The site goes on to say uselessd is almost to the point where it can act as a drop-in replacement to systemd and may soon work across multiple operating systems. "uselessd is not just a political protest. We aim to make it usable and as a solid alternative for people who want the features the systemd core provides (socket activation, parallel execution, resource limiting, cgroups, the declarative configuration syntax, etc) without the unnecessarily intrusive features, as well as maintaining a conservative development philosophy that prioritizes conciseness and focus over an ever-rolling gargantuan for system-critical software like this."
|Released Last Week
Salix 14.1 "Fluxbox"
George Vlahavas has announced the release of Salix 14.1 "Fluxbox" edition, a lightweight distribution based on Slackware Linux: "Salix Fluxbox is back for 14.1! Our Fluxbox edition is designed to bring a minimalist environment to your desktop. The default desktop layout is comprised only of the Fluxbox panel and the right click menu will bring up the Fluxbox menu, so it should be really light on resources. The file manager that is used is PCManFM. The default browser in this release is Firefox. The office applications that are included are AbiWord and Gnumeric. Whaawmp is the default video player and Exaile is the audio media library application. Of course, Salix Codecs Installer is also there to install all kinds of restricted codecs that you might need. mtPaint is installed as the default picture editor and it fits perfectly with the lightweight feel of the desktop. Other applications included are the usual stuff that goes in Salix releases, like the Transmission torrent client, the Claws-mail email client...." Read the release announcement for additional details.
Linux From Scratch 7.6
Bruce Dubbs has announced the release of Linux From Scratch (LFS) 7.6, a book of step-by-step instructions on how to build a base Linux system from scratch. Beyond Linux From Scratch (BLFS) 7.6, a separate book that extends the base system with additional packages, was also released today. From the announcement: "The Linux From Scratch community is pleased to announce the release of LFS version 7.6, BLFS version 7.6, LFS systemd version 7.6, and BLFS systemd version 7.6. This release is a major update to both LFS and BLFS and now includes separate editions for systemd. The LFS releases include toolchain updates to glibc 2.20 and GCC 4.9.1. In total, 26 packages were updated and 8 packages added from LFS 7.5. The BLFS edition includes approximately 750 packages beyond the base Linux From Scratch version 7.6 book. It has over 880 updates from the previous version including numerous text and formatting changes. In addition, we would like to introduce for the first time a BLFS variant based on systemd."
SparkyLinux 3.5 "MATE", "Xfce", "Openbox", "JWM"
Paweł Pijanowski has announced the availability of several new editions of SparkyLinux 3.5, a set of lightweight Debian-based distributions for the desktop: "SparkyLinux 3.5 'Annagerman' MATE, Xfce, Openbox and JWM is out. The new live/install ISO images provide package updates and a few changes. All packages have been synchronized with Debian's 'Testing' repository as of 2014-09-22. The Base edition is now available in two separated flavours - Openbox and JWM. The JWM edition offers traditional desktop look and a minimal set of applications. JWM uses even less power than Openbox and can be used on old machines. Sparky JWM 32-bit consumes less that 90 MB of RAM after installation. All multimedia packages have been removed from the Base editions. The system runs on Linux kernel 3.14.15 and offers MATE 1.8.1, Xfce 4.10.1, Openbox 3.2.5 and JWM 2.1.0." Here is the full release announcement.
SparkyLinux 3.5 - the MATE desktop environment
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Oracle Linux 5.11
Oracle has announced the release of Oracle Linux 5.11, a distribution rebuilt from source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.11, but shipping with a custom "unbreakable" kernel: "We're happy to announce the availability of Oracle Linux 5.11, the eleventh and final update release for Oracle Linux 5. ISO images are available from the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud and the individual RPM packages have already been published to our public yum repository. This release includes the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel Release 2 (2.6.39-400), Oracle's recommended kernel for Oracle Linux. Oracle Linux can be downloaded, used and distributed free of charge and updates and errata are freely available. For support, you are free to decide which of your systems you want to obtain a support subscription for, and at what level each system should be supported." Read the brief release announcement and the detailed release notes for further information.
Lucas Holt has announced the release of MidnightBSD 0.5, a FreeBSD-derived operating system for desktop deployments: "MidnightBSD 0.5 has been released. Enhancements: jails now run shutdown scripts; support for username with length 32, previous limit was 16; imported FreeBSD 9.2 USB stack (plus z87 patches from stable); updated em(4), igb(4) and ixgbe(4); MidnightBSD now works with Z87 Intel chipsets; rarpd supports vlan(4) and has a pid flag (from FreeBSD); support for 65,536 routing tables was added (up from 16); added Subversion to base (as svnlite); virtio(4) imported from FreeBSD 9, SCSI support not included. New software versions: File 5.19, MKSH R50, less 458, Perl 5.18.2, Sendmail 8.14.7 (plus AAAA record patch), Subversion 1.8.1, zlib 1.2.7. Package builds for the release are not yet complete. KDE was removed from mports due to lack of a maintainer for our ports. Currently, we're recommending Xfce 4.x as a desktop environment." Read the rest of the release notes for further details.
OpenMandriva Lx 2014.1
João Patrício has announced the release of OpenMandriva Lx 2014.1, an updated version of the project's desktop Linux distribution that features a customised and intuitive KDE desktop: "OpenMandriva is proud to announce the release of OpenMandriva Lx 2014.1, that fixes lots of bugs and improves the overall performance of the distro. We would like to thank everybody that helped us make this possible - testers, bug submitters, developers and the community. Inside you can find: Linux kernel 3.15.10 with a new nrjQL patchset, KDE 4.13.3, Firefox 32.0.3, X.Org Server 1.15.2, MESA 10.2.6; an updated Bash with the latest security fixes; many updates for drivers and other software. Most of our effort focused on system boot up time, which is around 17 seconds now (and if you have an SSD that comes to about 12 seconds) and also to reduce memory footprint significantly." See the release announcement and release notes for further information.
Stephan Raue has announced the release of OpenELEC 4.2, a an updated build of the distribution designed for media centres, with separate editions built for Raspberry Pi and Apple TV: "The OpenELEC team is proud to announce OpenELEC 4.2.0. OpenELEC 4.2 is the new stable release, which is a feature release and the successor of OpenELEC 4.0. Since OpenELEC 4.0 we have reworked many parts of the underlying operating system. This release is the result of 6 months of development and testing and will be the basis for the upcoming OpenELEC 5.0 series which is planned to release with Kodi-14 later this year. OpenELEC 4.2 is now based on Linux kernel 3.16, MESA 10.3, LLVM 3.5 and X.Org Server 1.16. We updated the NVIDIA graphic drivers in the 64-bit image to 340.x (32-bit remains on 304.123), systemd to 216 and XBMC to XBMC Gotham 13.2." Read the rest of the release announcement for a full list of changes.
Netrunner 2014.09.1 "Rolling"
Clemens Toennies has announced the availability of Netrunner 2014.09.1 "Rolling" edition, a Manjaro-based distribution featuring the KDE 4.14 desktop: "This is the release announcement of Netrunner Rolling 2014.09.1. We are releasing this maintenance shortly after our initial 2014.09 release to fix problems with the NVIDIA driver, and to include a first fix for the Bash shell vulnerability. We also updated Samba file sharing, Kontact accounts and language pack installation. Laptop Mode Tools was replaced by the new TLP to give you better control of your power consumption and achieve a longer battery life with your laptop. With the 2014.09 version we updated Netrunner Rolling to the latest software updates from Manjaro, including Linux kernel 3.14.18 with lots of bugs fixed and new driver support. KDE SC was updated to version 4.14." See the full release announcement for more information and screenshots.
Qubes OS 2
Joanna Rutkowska has announced the release of Qubes OS 2, a Fedora-based, security-oriented desktop Linux distribution with integrated Xen virtualisation: "Today we're releasing Qubes OS R2! I'm not going to write about all the cool features in this release because you can find all this in our Wiki and previous announcements. Suffice to say that we've come a long way over those 4+ years from a primitive proof of concept to a powerful desktop OS which, I believe, it is today. One of the biggest difficulties we have been facing with Qubes since the very beginning, has been the amount of this extra, not-so-exciting, not directly security-related work, but so much needed to ensure things actually work. Yet, the line between what is, and what is not-security related, is sometimes very thin and one can easily cross it if not being careful." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- openSUSE 13.2-beta1, the release announcement
- Fedora 21-alpha, the release announcement
- Liquid Lemur 2.0-alpha1, the release notes
- Elive 2.3.6, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu Studio and Xubuntu 14.10-beta2, the release announcement
- Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0-test2, the release announcement
- FreeBSD 10.1-BETA3, the release announcement
- Clonezilla Live 2.2.4-14
- Salix 14.1-beta1 "Xfce Live"
- Tails 1.1.2
- CoreOS 410.1.0
- Scientific Linux 7.0-rc1 and 5.11-beta1
- IPFire 2.15-core83
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
DistroWatch database summary|
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 6 October 2014. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
1 • Calculate linux (by hadrons123 on 2014-09-29 12:39:25 GMT from United States) |
Good review on calculate Linux. I am going to try this week!
2 • KDE accessibility (by massysett on 2014-09-29 13:29:39 GMT from United States)
I'm surprised KDE fared so poorly in the Debian table. It was ranked as being not accessible to those with disabilities, while GNOME 3 got a plus mark in this area. Is KDE that far behind GNONE in this regard?
3 • Calculate (by Comp-tech on 2014-09-29 13:37:16 GMT from Nicaragua)
I have been trying Calculate linux for almost 2 weeks..and I have been very suprised and pleased with it.. to the extent that I may start using t as my sole OS.
It worked good as a Live DVD and Installed easy and everything so far has worked ..it seems very stable. as you would expect from Gentoo
Admittingly Emerge can be a bit time consuming..though it's not an issue and i find it more "Fun" in a way...i am still trying to understand some of the USE options etc..but it is'nt as bad and as complicated as I expected.
I used Sabayon many years back and that seemed like a nice Distro...but since then it slipped down the Pan.....Calculate so far seems like the Best Gentoo experience after Gentoo itself ..if you can understand it install ...?? and have enough time to waste to actually do the install...
4 • openSUSE (by doubleplus_ungood on 2014-09-29 13:38:55 GMT from United States)
For a long time my primary distribution was Fedora. It works for the most part, but the constant shifting got a little annoying at times. The closest in structure seems to be openSUSE, considering that it's RPM based and targets the same general purpose, being the proving ground for enterprise features.
After giving openSuse a serious shot, I find it more well-rounded than Fedora. It's less volatile and therefore has fewer quirks, it's flexible in the sense that you can set a stable base (i.e., kernel) and have updated applications. The KDE repos are a great example of this. You have 3 options -
1. keep the LTS version of KDE that shipped with 13.1
2. update to the latest stable release of KDE 4
3. switch over to KDE 5
In some cases, you can customize these options, like the latest KDE 4 with the Breeze widget set from KDE 5.
And version 13.1 will be supported for another 2 years after the 13.2 release.
5 • Bodhi (by Lwo on 2014-09-29 15:42:05 GMT from United States)
I always thought that Bodhi would have been much better off providing a bodhi-desktop meta-package in Universe, and sure, a separate installer. But mostly leverage on Ubuntu main, and also make it easier for people to switch. I think the transition would be easier right now. Frankly, this could be an opportunity to do it. It feels like it might be easier to maintain (even they would lose some of the flexibility of keeping their own schedule).
Anyways, very many thanks to Jeff for all his working on Bodhi, it's quite beautiful.
6 • Debian Desktop Changed from What? (by Reed on 2014-09-29 16:33:01 GMT from United States)
The default desktop on Debian is being switched to Gnome? I thought it always was Gnome. Am I missing something?
7 • "Debian Desktop Changed from What?" (by Charles on 2014-09-29 16:59:49 GMT from United Kingdom)
GNOME has always been the default for Debian. What happened here is that Debian contemplated making Xfce the default so they gave it a trial run in the (as yet) unreleased Debian Jessie, subject to a re-evaluation closer to the point where Jessie is frozen. The re-evaluation has taken now place and GNOME has been restored as the default.
8 • Gnome and Debian (by corneliu on 2014-09-29 17:03:31 GMT from Canada)
The fact that Gnome is the worst ever desktop environment (OK, Unity is just as bad, so they share the last place) but is good at accessibility, does that make it the best choice? Wow, really dumb decision by Debian. Luckily Debian makes it fairly easy to switch to a more sane desktop environment so default means nothing.
9 • Re 8: Gnome Shell 3 is worse desktop ever but Gnome 2 was best (by hobbitland on 2014-09-29 17:26:01 GMT from United Kingdom)
Hi, I agree Gnome Shell 3.x is the worse desktop environment ever. Gnome 2.x was the best but they keep dropping features.
Xfce is way better than Gnome 3.x. Gnome requires multiple configuration tools and command line to configure the desktop. All Xfce configurations can be done using GUI and its so much more configurable than Gnome 3.x and even Gnome 2.x
Gnome should have kept Gnome 2.x on maintenance and launch 3.x as experimental until it is stable. A good desktop environment should be stable and not keep changing. Removing configurability is a real pain in Gnome 2.x and so much more is not even confuigurable in Gnome 3.x.
Debian is making a mistake.
10 • re 9 (by corneliu on 2014-09-29 18:29:08 GMT from Canada)
Yes, I meant Gnome 3. I don't think Gnome 2 was the best but was not far from that.
The lack of configuration options is the worst of all of Gnome's "features". It is only made worse by the reason given for it: simplicity. I guess the Gnome devs never seen LXDE. That's simple and yet, a much, much more sane desktop.
The other annoying feature of Gnome 3 is that a lot of tasks can only be achieved by using esoteric key combinations. What's wrong with using the mouse?
11 • GNOME Shell (by Charles on 2014-09-29 18:58:30 GMT from United Kingdom)
I quite GNOME Shell to be honest. I use it on Arch. It's slick, visually appealing and it's actually quite an efficient environment if you get used to it. In terms of customisation - yes, GNOME 3 is not as configurable through GNOME Control Center and other such tools but you'll find that an awful lot of the options that you want to tweak can still be tweaked using GSettings/dconf. You've also got tools like the GNOME Tweak Tool which provide a handy frontend to many of those options. And that's not even getting into extensions.
I think one issue with Xfce is that it's not particularly reliable as a project. Xfce 4.12 was supposed to be released 18 months ago. There hasn't been an explanation for the delay, indications on when the next release might be ready or anything much in the way of communication at all. Sure, you can look at Xfce's git to see what's happening but it's not quite the same thing as communication for the team. Compare this to GNOME - it has two releases a year, regular communication from the team, blogs, World of GNOME, press releases etc etc. I think that the big distributions would rather have a 'guaranteed sure thing' like GNOME as the default than a smaller and more uncertain project like Xfce.
12 • KDE vs Gnome (by M.Z. on 2014-09-29 19:59:21 GMT from United States)
I have the impression that Gnome has always had a focus on accessibility/ differently abled users; however, there are options for such things in KDE under both accessibility & desktop effects. I don't know how the two really compare in that department, but I'll never be satisfied with how useful Gnome 3 is to users in general. The current Gnome really is a terrible design & I'm surprised that no one at Debian found some way to smooth the rough edges off another DE so something else could be used.
13 • uselessd (by Paraquat on 2014-09-29 21:18:06 GMT from Taiwan)
As someone who has gradually evolved from being originally neutral on systemd to an outright opponent, I view this uselessd project with great interest.
An init system really shouldn't be such a controversial thing. The idea of starting boot services in parallel (and thus rebooting boot time) is not a bad one. Sadly, systemd has quickly moved away from being just an init system to becoming the operating system itself. This is so against the Unix philosophy (do one thing and do it well), and so like Windows (monolithic binary blobs that humans cannot understand). As systemd becomes ever more complex, it will be a picnic for blackhats and NSA spooks - say goodbye to security.
I don't know if/when a major distro will have uselessd packaged and ready for use, but I am looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'm going to give Slackware (or its spinoff, Salix) a try. Right now I'm on Ubuntu, but when it abandons upstart for systemd, I'm going elsewhere.
14 • GNOME 3.x (by Microlinux on 2014-09-29 21:29:33 GMT from France)
The Debian developers made me realize I'm only having a hard time with GNOME 3.x because I'm not handicapped.
15 • Opensuse 13.1 (by CED on 2014-09-29 21:35:56 GMT from United States)
@4 Sorry Opensuse 13.1 is a mess. I installed it twice only to have the OS self destruct. They released that pig way before it was ready. The updates alone make it hardly a worthy choice at this point.
What is up with fonts? That is the ugliest looking kde distro out there (I have tried them all).
16 • KDE vs Gnome (by jack on 2014-09-29 22:12:38 GMT from Poland)
Gnome3 vs KDE4 is like a night to a day. I hope that Plasma 5 will make KDE even better! I do not know why nobody write anything about LXDE?
17 • It's mostly about GTK3 (by MikeF on 2014-09-29 22:35:21 GMT from United States)
@11, I would substitute 'conservative' in place of your use of 'reliable'. The small size of the XFCE dev team makes for slow progress, but more than compounding the issues is the GNOME dev team's hostility to the needs of 'lesser' applications and DEs. I read that the GTK3 apis and abis are still not stable enough and often don't contain functionality needed by these 'lesser' apps. Hence, migrating to an alternate toolkit (QT or ???) is a more frequent occurrence these days.
I suspect that the XFCE project is waiting for one of the 'big guns' (Libreoffice, Firefox and especially GIMP) to successfully complete a GTK3 / Wayland migration. Correct me if I've overlooked some big success story.
18 • Gnome3 (by Smellyman on 2014-09-30 00:38:51 GMT from Taiwan)
Count me in as one of the non Gnome3 fans. Not configurable, ugly Windows, awkward workflow.....It seems like it should be cool and could be slick (which it is to some extent),but after a few days using it I need to blow it up and go back to something I control.
19 • Debian Gnome and systemd (by cykodrone on 2014-09-30 00:42:11 GMT from Canada)
It looks like Gnome won out because of systemd "integration"...and fan-bot whining. If Debian's support for Xfce starts to suck, that'll be a deal killer for me (back to distro hopping, *sigh*). I can swallow the systemd bitter pill, but no Xfce, nah ah, not gunna happen.
20 • Calculate Linux (by dhinds on 2014-09-30 01:41:27 GMT from Mexico)
I was sorry to read about the problems Jesse had with Calculate Linux 14, which I haven't tried. I did install the previous version (3.19) of Calculate Linux Desktop XFCE and had none of the problems mention in the review and installed a large number of additional programs (including wine) following the instructions available on:
A wealth of information can be found at:
And I consider Calculate to the best Gentoo derivitave available, at present - it's stable and fast. (I'm not a kde user, however and intend to wait until a 3.15 or 3.16 kernel has been integrated before installing it on other computers due to a glitch in the 3.14 kernel, which I am also doing with the Debian derivatives I use, as well as openSUSE).
Calculate's Forums aren't very active but Gentoo's are and are applicable.
I found Calculate-Linux Desktop XFCE to be a highly polished distro that was surprisingly easy to install and expand.
21 • keyboard shortcuts are the new keyboard shortcuts (by :wq on 2014-09-30 02:14:05 GMT from United States)
To each her or his own, but a suggestion to and request of GNOME 3 and Unity fans- please don't tout keyboard shortcuts as some revolutionary thing. That's like a car salesperson feeling the need to mention that windshield wipers are included. But wait, they're intermittent too!
Perhaps it is simply a lackluster explanation, and what is meant is that there are some nifty features, which can be accessed via keyboard shortcuts. Invariably, however, how this is conveyed is an utterance to the effect of 'GNOME 3/Unity has keyboard shortcuts!'
22 • openSUSE 13.1 (by dhinds on 2014-09-30 02:47:00 GMT from Mexico)
To CED: Your problem may be KDE. I have both openSUSE 13.1 Gnome & XFCE installed on a Lenovo ThinkPad W520 and both perform very well. (I tried putting together an Openbox version and although it's very fast I couldn't get WiFi to work (although it may be the Realtek WiFi Adaptor).
With v. 13.1 (which I upgraded from 12.3 using zypper dup on another computer) openSUSE has proved to be a fine system, with no more sluggish behavior.
23 • addendum to #21 (by :wq on 2014-09-30 02:47:23 GMT from United States)
Also, when someone complains about mouse-centric annoyances, please don't mention keyboard shortcuts as a permanent user experience replacement. If my meal includes an orange, but the orange is rotten, someone telling me to instead have an apple doesn't change the circumstance regarding the orange. Both the orange and the apple are fruit, and are processable by the human body, but they are different. Some people like oranges, some people like apples, some people like them both. But nobody likes them rotten, which in the context of this analogy is a degraded user experience.
24 • Lumina on Linux (by bison on 2014-09-30 03:42:41 GMT from United States)
Are there any links for this? I couldn't find much...
25 • Default DE doesn't mean you're stuck using it (by EdKed on 2014-09-30 04:43:47 GMT from Canada)
I've installed Debian on various systems, often for friends, and I've never installed GNOME 3, whether it was the default or not, or had any problems with the other DEs (usually KDE or XFCE) that are still always available as options (and as official alternatives, not just "community editions" that they've just sort of allowed to happen).
I've never seen the whole "default" thing with Debian meaning much more than it just being at the top of the list of available versions when you go to download the ISO. The versions with the other DEs aren't going anywhere. Is it really that big a deal?
26 • Bash update (by John Coleman on 2014-09-30 04:57:42 GMT from United States)
Slackware / Salix pushed out updates very quickly. Wasn't listed and folks should know.
Good stuff - thanks
Number of Comments: 26
|• Issue 578 (2014-09-29): Calculate 14, Debian's default desktop, Shellshock vulnerability, practical Tiny Core|
|• Issue 577 (2014-09-22): SymphonyOS 14.1, FreeBSD drops pkg_add, MINIX on ARM, GNU screen|
|• Issue 576 (2014-09-15): PCLinuxOS 2014.08, Mint's documentation, Debian's hardware database, CDE|
|• Issue 575 (2014-09-08): Porteus 3.0.1, Fedora's blivet-gui, Red Hat's Docker, systemd|
|• Issue 574 (2014-09-01): Ubuntu Kylin 14.04, Haiku and Linux kernel, Wayland support, Lumina, Bash completion|
|• Issue 573 (2014-08-25): SolydXK 201407, VPN gateway with FreeBSD, Ubuntu MATE, Raspbian, trusting binary packages|
|• Issue 572 (2014-08-18): ZFSguru 10.1, Fedora's Flock, beta installer for "Jessie", Ubuntu Core, rolling releases|
|• Issue 571 (2014-08-11): HandyLinux 1.6, LMDE update, default desktop in "Jessie", running out of disk space|
|• Issue 570 (2014-08-04): Neptune 4, Kubuntu's KDE Plasma 5, FreeBSD and UEFI, Linux servers|
|• Issue 569 (2014-07-28): Deepin 2014, Ask Fedora, Gentoo and LibreSSL, encrypted package downloads|
|• Issue 568 (2014-07-21): Antergos 2014.06.24, Mint based on Debian stable, upgrading CentOS, BinaryTides|
|• Issue 567 (2014-07-14): Manjaro 0.8.10, PC-BSD jails, Debian and glibc, Fedora's DNF, Xiki and Opera 24|
|• Issue 566 (2014-07-07): LXLE 14.04, OpenBSD's SimpleDE, openSUSE artwork, home security basics|
|• Issue 565 (2014-06-30): Chakra 2014.05, Fedora on BeagleBone, Matthew Miller interview, e-book readers|
|• Issue 564 (2014-06-23): Antergos 2014.05.26 and Q4OS 0.5.11, Debian LTS and glibc, Fedora DNF|
|• Issue 563 (2014-06-16): Mint 17, CentOS 7 pre-release, Debian MATE, accessing encrypted content|
|• Issue 562 (2014-06-09): GoboLinux 015, Gentoo interview, Fedora leader change, climagic tricks|
|• Issue 561 (2014-06-02): OpenMandriva 2014.0, Debian GNU/Hurd, Lubuntu and LXQt, Final Term, TrueCrypt|
|• Issue 560 (2014-05-26): KaOS 2014.04, Wayland and KDE 5 on Fedora, distros with commercial support, DenyHosts|
|• Issue 559 (2014-05-19): VortexBox 2.3, LTS-only Linux Mint, FreeBSD 11 ambitions, KDE 5 beta|
|• Issue 558 (2014-05-12): RHEL 7 Workstation impressions, LXQt and Lumina, Haiku interview|
|• Issue 557 (2014-05-05): Xubuntu 14.04, Ubuntu 14.10 roadmap, Fedora Workstation, ownCloud|
|• Issue 556 (2014-04-28): Ubuntu 14.04, LibreSSL, Lumina desktop, Deepin interview|
|• Issue 555 (2014-04-21): Robolinux 7.4.2, Ubuntu release day stats, Debian security, Porteus update|
|• Issue 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• Issue 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Full list of all issues|
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