| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 182, 18 December 2006
Welcome to this year's final issue of DistroWatch Weekly! With the year 2006 closing down on us rapidly, this seems like a good time to take a look at the world of Linux distributions and their evolution during the past year. Who has done the best job of bringing Linux to the desktops of new users? And which distributions are the losers of the increased competition among the different projects, all vying for our attention? As always, opinions are likely to vary, but some trends aren't difficult to spot. In the news section: Fedora looks to regain control over the RPM Package Manager, KNOPPIX promises a new version of its live CD, Debian publishes a release update, and Arch Linux announces an easy-to-install CD for desktop users. Finally, warm wishes of a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all DistroWatch readers! See you again in 2007!
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Distributions in 2006|
With this being the final issue of DistroWatch Weekly in 2006, let's take a quick tour of the ever so exciting Linux distribution world as seen by your DistroWatch.com founder and web master.
Ubuntu maintained its position as the world's most popular desktop Linux distribution. The sheer number of new community web sites, the numerous HOWTOs, the excellent weekly newsletter, and the growing number of Ubuntu-derived distributions for all tastes and purposes are a testament of the acceptance this project has achieved in just two short years. Ubuntu's dramatic rise is unmatched by any other project in the history of Linux distributions and is a well deserved one.
Despite that, looking beyond all the shine and glitter, there are indications that Ubuntu's popularity has perhaps peaked. Whether this is due to conceptual reason (satisfied curiosity, sometimes annoying ubiquity of the "U" name, unsavoury way of poaching other project's developers, the proprietary kernel modules controversy, suspicion over Canonical's insistence to keep some of its other software products proprietary) or technical ones (buggy initial release of Dapper Drake, major mishap with an package update, questionable quality control), it's hard to say. Nevertheless, the project's penchant for making radical decisions and develop innovative solutions will probably keep Ubuntu on the top of the Linux distro market for another year, albeit with a less obvious lead.
Novell's openSUSE project has continued what it started in the mid-2005 when it opened the development of SUSE Linux to outside participation. This process didn't go as smoothly in 2006 as one would have expected; when the long delayed second release from openSUSE finally hit the download mirrors, many users were surprised to find that it came with a number of major bugs affecting its newly re-designed package management system. Like Ubuntu, openSUSE too was forced to release an updated version a couple of months after the initial release. This was in sharp contrast with a rather smooth, on-time and better managed development process of openSUSE 10.2 which was released earlier this month and was extremely well-received.
Unluckily, when it appeared that openSUSE was about to become the new darling of the desktop Linux world, Novell concluded a surprising and controversial patent protection agreement with Microsoft, effectively legitimising Microsoft’s intellectual property claims over Linux. The incredulity over this move was soon followed by an almost universal denunciation of the pact by the leading members of the Linux community, as well as web sites specialising in dissecting "lawyer-speak" usually found in such agreements. Despite the outcry and even calls for boycotting Novell's products, most Linux users ignored the controversy and went on to download the new product - to find in openSUSE 10.2 a highly polished, innovative and laptop-friendly Linux distribution.
Like Ubuntu and openSUSE, Red Hat's Fedora project also produced two releases during 2006. Both received good reviews and the interest in downloading Fedora Core 6 succeeded in bringing the project's web site to its knees. The growing Fedora community has also come alive with many interesting initiatives - a new set of Fedora live CDs and DVDs was published for the first time, while a large number of good, third-party repositories carrying RPM packages ranging from proprietary kernel drivers to obscure applications sprang out to satisfy even the most demanding Fedora user. Why, then, Fedora keeps lagging behind both Ubuntu and openSUSE in desktop usage?
One answer might be in that the Fedora developers have yet to come up with a way to entice new Linux users who would probably choose Ubuntu or openSUSE over Fedora for their first entry into the Linux world. The project still presents itself as a mostly technical distribution and a base for its high-end Red Hat Enterprise Linux, rather than a desktop solution that can stand on its own and compete with the best. Luckily, the developers seem to be aware of the problem and have discussed possible solutions during the recent Fedora Summit. Although the project's direction is yet to be determined, expect some major changes in the way Fedora develops its products and interacts with the user and developer communities in 2007.
Mandriva Linux has fallen hard from its position as the most popular desktop Linux distribution from a few years ago to find itself in an unenviable position of having to compete against much more aggressive, if not always better, distributions. The good news is that some of the disastrous decisions the company took in recent years have been revoked; unlike its previous two releases, the "Free" edition of Mandriva Linux 2007 was made available for free download without any delay and there is talk about the project's return to a bi-annual release cycle. Additionally, Mandriva's only release of 2006 was very good - not completely without bugs, but with many nice touches and the ever so impressive Mandriva Linux Control Centre providing new features and configuration options.
But the company needs to do more. The Mandriva Club web site is a usability disaster, with many missing features and annoying bugs. The distribution itself needs some controls that would prevent undisciplined developers from including beta versions of certain software, especially while its beta testing community is clearly lacking in numbers and desire to report bugs. And although the latest Mandriva release is technically sound, a complete lack of online documentation is a serious problem that will discourage new users, especially while Novell gives its excellent openSUSE user guides away and Ubuntu keeps populating its Wiki pages with every topic imaginable.
Debian GNU/Linux, an institution rather than a distribution, had an eventful year - despite the lack of a new stable release. "Etch" is around the corner, however, and although it might still take a few weeks before the shiny new DVD sets are available for download, there is no doubt that Debian's upcoming release will be its best ever. The association with Ubuntu, while difficult at times, has brought more benefits to the world's largest distribution than many Debian developers would like to admit - not only are the project and its excellent utilities better known and appreciated in the Linux user community, its software development also benefited directly from the more cutting-edge attitude of the Ubuntu project, as well as the numerous Ubuntu enhancements and bug fixes.
Despite the discouragingly long release cycle, Debian continues to grow. Its unstable repository now contains more than 22,000 packages, while the testing one, which will soon become Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, has more than 20,000. And unlike Ubuntu, which only provides a tiny subset of these packages in their stable, supported branch, all 20,000+ of them will receive full security attention for the duration of Etch's lifetime - i.e. at least two years. This in itself, combined with curiosity about the technical merits of this remarkable project, will likely entice many Ubuntu users into trying Debian "proper" in early 2007. Especially those users who, after having cut their Linux teeth on Ubuntu, now feel confident in being able to install and manage Debian, and users in environments where stability is preferred over features, should give Etch serious consideration. Debian will have an excellent year.
Next, Slackware Linux, the world's oldest surviving Linux distribution. It is very tempting to copy what I wrote about Slackware at the end of last year and paste it here - after all, it barely changes as the years go by. The age-old installer with limited hardware detection and no configuration options, the blinking cursor after the first reboot that gives away no secrets about what to do next, the ageing 2.4 kernel, only 544 supported packages, a web site designed in mid-nineties, the upgrade procedure that only the geekiest of geeks could possibly love.... Does anybody still use it?
And yet, Slackware is probably the most misunderstood distribution available today. Its clean and UNIX-like design is a big attraction among the more technical users, while its thorough testing process and the experience gained by its sole developer over the last 14 years of work are guarantees that any new version is rock-solid and in no need of embarrassing bug-fix updates. The 2.4 kernel makes Slackware one of the few distributions that will run on older computers while many server users will appreciate the fast security updates. And for those who like the clean concept of Slackware but find it far too user-unfriendly and hard to configure, remember that you can always run it in the form of Zenwalk Linux or VectorLinux, two excellent Slackware variants worth looking into.
The source-based Gentoo Linux didn't have a particularly exciting year. The popularity of the once highly innovative distribution continues to drop as many people who install it eventually conclude that it's simply too much work. The Gentoo Planet pages are full of it's-not-as-much-fun-as-it-once-was types of posts by disillusioned (and often very young) Gentoo developers, while the Gentoo forums tend to be filled with complaints about bugs that never get fixed. The unusually high turnover of Gentoo developers adds further worries about the ability of Gentoo leaders to nurture the initial enthusiasm of those who join the project. In a way, Gentoo has become a community of developers where everybody works on whatever catches his or her fancy, rather than pulling together towards a common and clearly defined goal.
The good news is that the uniqueness of Gentoo, together with its excellent package management utilities and many advanced configuration options are a major attraction for independent developers who want to take the Gentoo base and re-build it into an easy-to-use binary distribution. We have seen much good work and amazing ideas by VLOS and Kororaa, but it was SabayonLinux that stole the thunder and produced what turned out to be the biggest star of 2006 on the Linux distribution scene - a complete live and installation CD/DVD (using the Anaconda installer, instead of the recently developed, but rather complex Gentoo installer) with the most bleeding edge features currently emerging in the open source software world. Excellent for demonstrating the rapid advancements of Linux on the desktop!
SimplyMEPIS and PCLinuxOS continue to get positive vibe in the Linux media for their user-friendly features and complete range of software, media codecs, drivers and plugins that are often missing from other distributions. On the negative side, both projects lack clear roadmaps, while the continued absence of the latest technologies, such as 3D desktop effects, make them less appealing for their original target market that might consider migrating to more innovative distributions. Whether they continue to thrive in 2007 will largely depend on their adaptability, but chances are that at least one of them won't be around this time next year.
Of course, there are many other projects that have striven to produce quality releases throughout the year. At the risk of unintentionally leaving out a few favourites, here is a brief list of distributions that your DistroWatch maintainer was most impressed by in 2006: SabayonLinux (due to its bleeding edge nature), Pardus Linux (thanks to unique package management ideas, innovative start-up sequence and general desktop polish), Parsix GNU/Linux (because of the project developer's undying enthusiasm for all things Linux and open source), PC-BSD and Nexenta (for attempting to deliver FreeBSD and Solaris to the desktop), and AUSTRUMI (for squeezing so much quality software into a 50MB live CD). In short, innovation, enthusiasm, and courage to try something that had not been done before were, in my books, the winning traits of 2006.
Now for the topic of this week's discussion: have you found your ideal distribution? Or do you intend to continue distro-hopping in the quest to unearth that perfect one? Do you intend to continue trying out new releases as they come or have you settled into a routine and no amount of excitement about a new version will make you give it a partition? Any interesting predictions for 2007? Who do you think will be on the top of our Page Hit Ranking statistics in 12 months from now? Please comment below.
Fedora revamps RPM, KNOPPIX 5.1, Debian release update, Arch Linux Office Install CD, Dreamlinux interview
The Fedora Project has announced a major initiative to restart the development of the RPM Package Manager, a utility used not only by Red Hat and Fedora, but also SUSE Linux/openSUSE, Mandriva Linux and a number of other distributions: "The Fedora Project is leading the creation of a new community around RPM. One in which the leaders can come from Fedora, from Red Hat, from Novell, from Mandriva, or from anywhere. Job #1 is to take the current RPM code base and clean it up, and in doing so work with all the other people and groups who rely on RPM to build a first-rate upstream project." For more information please read this announcement at FedoraNews.org.
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Although the days of twice-per-week KNOPPIX live CD releases seem to be a thing of the past, it doesn't mean that the project has been abandoned. In fact, we might be in for Christmas surprise soon. Klaus Knopper in Knoppix 5.1 Mini-Announcement: "To give you a brief overview about what we have done recently, and what's still pending, here is a short list." The founder of the popular live CD then explains that KNOPPIX 5.1 will likely come with a little-known new file system called Aufs (instead of the reportedly buggy Unionfs), kernel 2.6.19, KDE 3.5.5, OpenOffice.org 2.1.0 and most other software synchronised with Debian Etch, ntfs-3g, and a number of new or improved scripts. When will it be out, you ask? "I'm not giving a release date, but hopefully (no promises) we'll get it ready before the year is over."
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Andreas Barth has published a release update regarding the upcoming release of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0. Although it does not provide any information about the probable release date of the much awaited Etch, it does hint at what many suspected was one of the reasons for the current delay - the go slow strike of some of those Debian developers who strongly objected to the Dunc-Tank experiment to fund the work of two release managers with generous salaries: "There was a large disadvantage of the whole experiment: Some people who used to do good work reduced their involvement drastically. There was nothing I could do about it, and that happened way before I started full-time on release, but on the global picture that still counts. So, as a first summary, I am happy with my own involvement, but that doesn't necessarily apply to the full experiment." Read all about it in Release update and more.
* * * * *
If you've ever wanted to try Arch Linux, but were discouraged by its awkward installation program and the complex task to convert the base system into a usable desktop, here is a new option for you - Arch Linux Office Install CD (ALOI-CD): "This CD installs a complete setup of Arch Linux distribution. No 'configure' is needed except to prepare hard disk, set mount points, and install the LILO boot loader. Also no post configure. Once installed, you can start working with popular Linux programs for office, Internet, and web development. If you are new to Linux, this installer is a good starting place to begin." The latest version of ALOI-CD was released over the weekend; it comes with Linux kernel 220.127.116.11, X.Org 7.0, KDE 3.5.5, Firefox 2.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4 and the usual open source software applications. Download the CD image from here: arch-office-install-0.7.2.6.iso (695MB, MD5).
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Dreamlinux, an excellent graphics- and multimedia-oriented distribution with a Mac OS X theme has been gaining popularity among the DistroWatch readers in recent months. But who is behind this Brazilian beauty? LinuxSoft has all the answers in this interesting interview with João Batista Esteves, the project leader of Dreamlinux. The author talks about the ideas that led to the creation of the project, touches on various aspects of the development of Dreamlinux, gives his opinion on the current state of desktop Linux, weighs on some of the topics affecting the Linux community, and comments on the state of Linux deployment in Brazil. Not quite in fluent English, but nevertheless worth a read if you are interested in this promising project.
|Released Last Week
EnGarde Secure Linux 3.0.11
EnGarde Secure Linux has been updated to version 3.0.11: "Guardian Digital is happy to announce the release of EnGarde Secure Community 3.0.11. This release includes several bug fixes and feature enhancements to the SELinux policy and several updated packages. The following reported bugs from bugs.engardelinux.org are fixed in this release: SELinux stops ntpd from creating drift file; SELinux stops ntpq and ntpdc from access to NTP; ntpd cannot find time servers; aide log filter wrong again. Other bugs are fixed in this release as well. New features include: the latest stable versions of BIND, OpenSSH, PHP, Postfix, Samba, Snort, Squid." Read the full release announcement for more information.
SabayonLinux 3.2 "miniEdition"
A new version of the single-CD edition of SabayonLinux has been released. From the changelog: "Linux kernel 18.104.22.168 with Intel Pro wireless 3945 out-of-the-box support; improved and production-ready GPU automatic detection; OpenGL sub-system wrong auto-detection and user error detector (will greatly improve the number of NVIDIA and ATI supported cards); new HAL 0.5.8.1, supports full NTFS read and write out-of-the-box through FUSE and in general much more powerful; NVIDIA drivers 1.0-9631 (fixes bug on GeForce3/4 video cards); ATI drivers 8.31.5; KOffice 1.6.1; fixed nohdparm boot option; improved NetworkManager; fixed installation from USB CD/DVD media." The release announcement.
Linux-EduCD is a Polish live DVD based on KANOTIX, with focus on education, graphics, office, multimedia and software development. Version 0.7 was released yesterday; some of the more important new features include: addition of the Compiz desktop; integration of GParted into the hard disk installer; new boot options; Linux kernel 2.6.18 with extra drivers and modules; KDE 3.5.5; OpenOffice.org 2.0.4; a range of educational software (Celestia, OpenDX, PyMOL, Rasmol, DrGeo, Yacas); multimedia applications (GIMP 2.2.13, Blender 2.42, Amarok, Audacity, Xine); network and system administration software (Wireshark, Nessus, Iptraf, EtherApe, Cheops); new development packages (DrScheme, Ruby, VisualPython, GPS, GNAT, Glade). Read the release announcement (in Polish) for further details and download links.
Iuri Stanchev has announced the release of NetSecl 2.0, a security-focused distribution based on Slackware Linux: "NetSecL 2.0 is out! This release has packages for i486 machines up to 64 bit, it includes the NetSecL firewall that has the ability to work with Snort Inline, more than 200 updates! The security was improved thanks to the new Binutils supporting PT_PAX_FLAGS - all i486_64 packages are compiled with it. Also I have included Tork and with it you can use tor to anonymize yourself on the web. Most hardened distros still go with the X.Org 6.8.2, well guess what - we have Xorg 6.9.0. I have finally fixed most problems with the PAX permissions and we now use a generic 2.6.x kernel which is also a paranoia kernel. The hardware recognition was also improved with the new version of Discover and some additional modules." Here is the brief release announcement.
VectorLinux 5.8 has been released: "The VectorLinux development team is proud to announce the release of VectorLinux 5.8 Standard, code named 'Santa' (Merry Christmas!). This is the fruit that has resulted from several months of coding, debugging and testing by the core development team and the VectorLinux community. This release follows our legendary tradition of stability (inherited from Slackware 11.0), blazing speed on even modest hardware, and simplicity of design and function. The release features fully-working browser plugins, including Flash 9, Java, mp3, Real and Windows media, and DVD playback. Additional features include: Linux kernel 22.214.171.124, fully customized Xfce 126.96.36.199, SeaMonkey 1.0.6, Firefox 2.0 and Opera 9.10, the GIMP and Xara LX for your graphic needs, AbiWord and Gnumeric for your office tasks...." More details in the release announcement.
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Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Kuliax. Kuliax is an Indonesian distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux. It is promoted among the Information Technology students in Indonesia as a possible replacement for proprietary operating systems and software.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes our latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 1 January 2007. Until then,
|• 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|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Full list of all issues|
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