| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 242, 3 March 2008
Welcome to this year's 9th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The delayed FreeBSD 7.0 was finally released last week and there is a lot to be excited about - especially if you deploy this excellent operating system on servers. But how about the desktop users? Is this latest version ready to take over our workstations? Read our first look review to find out. In the news section, the Debian release team contemplates the inclusion of KDE 4 in "Lenny", KNOPPIX springs to life at CeBIT with a new live DVD, Mandriva continues its relentless march towards version 2008.1, and Fedora discusses improvements in NetworkManager. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch February 2008 donation is Frugalware Linux, a community distribution from Hungary. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
First look at FreeBSD 7.0
I remember well the first time I attempted to set up FreeBSD 4.x as a desktop system. After configuring the X window and launching KDE, I was greeted with something that only a computing masochist could find enjoyable - no mouse or sound, unsightly jagged fonts, lack of a graphical package manager and other configuration tools... It took hours of searching and following "geeky" documentation before I was able to load the correct kernel modules for the USB mouse, install prettier fonts and set up anti-aliasing - all by editing obscure configuration files in Vim. Needless to say, the first impressions weren't good. Despite an obviously elegant system with a large number of packages available for installation, the tedium of setting it up as a desktop system was discouraging, to say the least.
So when FreeBSD 7.0 was finally released last week, I decided to make a new attempt at installing and configuring FreeBSD for the desktop. Have things improved? Would I be able to tweak the FreeBSD of today into a desktop system without wasting hours of searching and command line configuring? These were the questions going through my mind while booting the installation CD on my test box - an older Pentium 4 1.4 GHz machine with 384 MB of RAM, two 120 GB hard disks, an NVIDIA GForce4 graphics card, a generic LCD monitor with a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 pixels, integrated sound and network chips that are recognised by most Linux distributions, a USB mouse, a DVD burner... all pretty standard if somewhat outdated hardware.
I didn't expect all that much. After all, I read the release announcement, so I knew that the FreeBSD development team had spent most of its time on such tasks as speeding up the performance of SQL databases and porting the ZFS file system from Solaris - features that are of little interest to most desktop users. In other words, FreeBSD is still predominantly a server operating system and although there is nothing that would stop a knowledgeable or determined user from setting it up as a complete and functional workstation, it is unlikely that an average computer user would find it particularly enticing.
That said, things have certainly improved since FreeBSD 4. The USB driver is now part of the kernel, so there is no need to load it manually like in the old days. Likewise, the sound card and network card worked out of the box. As for the fonts, these too looked infinitely better in the stock KDE than they used to just a few years ago. Some of these improvements are the result of the included software components (e.g. the latest X.Org 7.3 and its configuration utilities), rather than the work of the FreeBSD development team, but this won't matter to an average end user.
FreeBSD 7.0 includes no branding, but some sample wallpapers are available from the project's logo page.
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Package management is another area that has been through major changes. The old favourites, such as pkg_add, cvsup or portupgrade are still present, but the latest FreeBSD now also includes freebsd_update, a tool for keeping a FreeBSD installation up-to-date with security updates (in binary format) with minimum of fuss. For the ports, a new tool called csup, now part of the FreeBSD base system and intended as a better and faster alternative to cvsup, is also available. With over 18,000 FreeBSD ports ready for installation, these tools will surely come handy during the initial setup of that perfect workstation.
While command line package management utilities were always dime a dozen in FreeBSD, many desktop users would probably prefer a graphical tool along the lines of Synaptic or Yumex. There is some good news here too. Thanks to the efforts of the DesktopBSD project, its graphical package management utility called dbsd-pkgmgr (part of sysutils/desktopbsd-tools) is now available in the FreeBSD ports. I was familiar with this tool from my earlier explorations of DesktopBSD, so I decided to install it on the fresh FreeBSD 7.0. Apart from a few glitches (it looked for /usr/ports/INDEX-6 at start-up, but since this was FreeBSD 7, I created a symbolic link called INDEX-6 which pointed to INDEX-7 to make it work), I was able to install several packages, including GnuCash, Opera, KTorrent and others. The best part of this tool is that it supports both binary and source installs - all from the comfort of a nice GUI.
The package manager developed by DesktopBSD is now available in FreeBSD ports
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I spent much of the weekend installing binary applications that I normally use on my workstation - that includes Apache with PHP and SQLite support, OpenOffice.org, Firefox, GIMP, Liferea, gFTP, KTorrent, Kaffeine and others. All seemed to work fine and I have yet to see any of them crash. I haven't had a chance to install any of the proprietary graphics drivers or browser plugins and I haven't tested the extent of support for popular multimedia formats - this is one area which will be of interest to desktop users. If I get the time, I will report about these in next week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly.
Security in FreeBSD is handled in accordance with UNIX principles. The project has a security team which issues GPG-signed security advisories and distributes them via a dedicated security mailing list. This, however, is limited to security issues found in the FreeBSD kernel and userland, not in ports - hence the reason why the project rarely issues more than a dozen security advisories per year. With the ports, the situation is different - as a general rule, FreeBSD users are expected to upgrade the installed ports to the latest versions in regular intervals and there are also tools that alert the user to security problems in installed ports.
So would FreeBSD 7.0 make a decent desktop system? I haven't run it long enough to be able to answer the question, but from my initial testing I would be perfectly happy to give it a more intensive try. It certainly looks like a nicely crafted system, with extreme attention to detail - at least when it comes to the kernel and userland. The new package management utilities and improvements in security handling are also impressive. But don't expect to insert the FreeBSD CD and boot into a gorgeous graphical environment - that's not what the FreeBSD development team had set out to achieve. Luckily, with projects like PC-BSD or DesktopBSD, one can have the best of both worlds - the speed, stability and reliability of BSD, combined with an intuitive installer, package management and system configuration tools of the Linux world. If you don't fall into the "geek" category of computer users, you can always trust the two above-mentioned projects to deliver the goods.
Debian 5.0 "Lenny" updates, KNOPPIX 5.3 CeBIT edition, what's new in FreeBSD 7.0, Cooker vs Rawhide, RHEL risk report
We'll start this week's news round-up with an update from the Debian Release team. As announced on Sunday by Marc Brockschmidt, the upcoming version of Debian GNU/Linux (code name "Lenny"), will bear the version number 5.0: "For reading this far, you receive the small reward of the knowledge that Lenny will be shipped as Debian 5.0." Also of interest (especially to KDE fans) is the status of KDE 4 and its possible inclusion into Lenny: "There may be a possibility to include KDE 4 in Lenny. The efforts on KDE 4.1 have been quite promising and seem to be leading to a desktop environment which can fully replace KDE 3. The KDE team will provide betas and release candidates of the 4.1 release in experimental. In the event that KDE 4.1 is on time, and there are no major issues, an upload to unstable in order to include it in Lenny is possible." Otherwise the development of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 appears to be progressing smoothly and the final release is still expected in September 2008. See the Debian Release Management page for more information.
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New versions of the popular KNOPPIX live CD may not come out as fast as they once used to, but that doesn't mean that the project is no longer active. In an announcement that will surely please all the fans of the distribution that started the Linux live CD revolution back in 2002, Klaus Knopper revealed that a brand new version would make its appearance during this week's CeBIT exhibition in Hannover, Germany: "The first edition of KNOPPIX 5.3.0 is included in c't magazine 06/2008 published during CeBIT 2008. After CeBIT, it will be available on the KNOPPIX mirrors for download, mostly unchanged." What can we look forward to? "Linux kernel 2.6.24; KDE 3.5.8 with Compiz Fusion as the 3D window manager; updates - cloop 2.624 realtime decompression with threads and experimental 'suspend' feature; Debian Etch + testing, Iceweasel and Icedove updates; OpenOffice.org 2.3.1; VirtualBox OSE; special accessibility features - ADRIANE Audio Desktop and Orca graphical screen reader." And if you can't wait for the public release, we have more good news: LinuxTracker has the torrent. Get it from here: KNOPPIX_V5.3.0DVD-2008-02-12-DE.iso (4,334MB).
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The great tradition of interviews with BSD developers which ONLamp.com started a few years ago continued last week - after the much-anticipated release of FreeBSD 7.0. "The day has come... FreeBSD is back to its incredible performance and now can take advantage of multi-core/CPUs systems very well... so well that some benchmarks on both Intel and AMD systems showed release 7.0 being faster than Linux 2.6 when running PostgreSQL or MySQL. Federico Biancuzzi interviewed two dozen developers to discuss all the cool details of FreeBSD 7.0: networking and SMP performance, SCTP support, the new IPSEC stack, virtualization, monitoring frameworks, ports, storage limits and a new journaling facility, what changed in the accounting file format, jemalloc(), ULE, and more." Better performance, faster networking, improved hardware support, top-notch security and more - read all about it in the highly technical 4-page interview entitled What's New in FreeBSD 7.0.
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If everything goes according to the plan, Mandriva Linux will be the first major distribution to make a new release during the upcoming "release season". Version 2008.1, scheduled for public release on April 9th, reached release candidate status last Saturday, with all the major pieces now in place. Besides major improvements to package management and wireless networking, upgrade to KDE 3.5.9 and new default GNOME applications for certain tasks (Brassero for CD burning, Transmission for BitTorrent downloads and HomeBank for personal finance management), one noticeable feature of this release candidate is the new artwork (see screenshot below). The only thing that remains to be done between now and the end of March is to fix any remaining bugs. Mandriva Linux 2008.1 seems to be poised to continue what the company started with version 2008 - to regain its reputation as one of the most user-friendly and polished desktop Linux distributions available today.
Mandriva Linux 2008.1 RC1 includes updated desktop theme and artwork
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Cooker, Current, Factory, Rawhide, Sid... the publicly accessible development branches of the main distributions continue to evolve at a rapid pace. But how do they compare? Austin Acton, a long-time DistroWatch reader, has decided to give some of them a little test by installing and running Mandriva's Cooker and Fedora's Rawhide. The result? "The experiment was far more surprising than I had originally expected. Notably, there is no clear 'winner'. Each has very notable strengths and weaknesses - in fact, I'm even not sure which one I will end up using. Additionally, while Mandriva is often referred to as a 'derivative' of Red Hat, there's clearly very little similarity remaining. So I spent a few hours jotting down my findings in hope that other people (read: geeks) will find them interesting. If I'm lucky, developers for each will note some of the problems and make my decision even harder."
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The Fedora Project web site continues to publish regular interviews with the project's developers and contributors. Last week it was the turn of Dan Williams, the developer of NetworkManager, to appear in the spotlight: "GNU/Linux systems have often come under attack for the difficulty involved with setting-up and configuring various wireless devices. Thanks to NetworkManager we now have a system that allows us to quickly and easily connect to different networks. As a result of improvements made to NetworkManager during the Fedora 8 release cycle the developers are ready to deliver some incredible new features, including ad-hoc networking, multiple active devices and internet connection sharing. To find out more we talked with Dan Williams, Fedora project member and NetworkManager developer."
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Finally, something for the users of enterprise Linux distributions. Red Hat Magazine has published an interesting article entitled Risk report: Three years of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Its goal? To measure the overall risk of running Red Hat Enterprise Linux in terms of vulnerabilities and threats: "The aim of this report was to get a measure of the security risk to users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 during the first three years since release. We've shown that although on the surface it looks like Red Hat released a large number of security advisories, many of them do not apply to usual or default installations, and only a very small subset are a high risk. It would be foolish to draw conclusions about the future state of security in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 solely on the basis of this analysis of the past, however what we've tried to do is to enumerate the level of vulnerability and threat and hence overall platform risk."
|Released Last Week
Michael Prokop has announced the release of grml 1.1, a Debian-based distribution with a large collection of GNU/Linux software especially for users of text tools and system administrators: "grml 1.1 with codename 'Skunk' is available." What's new? "Several improved, updated and extended configuration files; new grml-scripts: arename.pl - rename audio files by looking at a file's tagging information, grml-live - build framework based on FAI for generating a grml and Debian-based Linux live system, grml-paste - command line interface for paste.grml.org, grml-vnet - create persistent tun/tap devices with bridge handling; new boot parameters: micvol - configure mixer / volume settings of microphone channel, lvm - activate present logical volumes (LVM), nolvm - completely disable LVM code/checks...." Please see the release announcement and release notes for more details.
Chris Buechler has announced the final release of pfSense 1.2, a small firewall based on FreeBSD: "The pfSense development team is proud to bring you the 1.2 release! This brings the features and bug fixes from more than 16 months of development since the 1.0 release. Already widely tested and deployed throughout the release candidate phase, this release provides the finishing touches on releases already proven in a wide range of network environments. The changes since RC4: Improve CARP input validation; clarify text and fix typos on several screens; revert DHCP client to default timeout of 60 seconds; reload static routes when an interface IP address is changed by an administrator; fix a few areas allowing potential cross site scripting; fix a couple issues with package uninstalls...." More info in the release announcement.
DragonFly BSD 1.12
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 1.12, a BSD operating system originally forked from FreeBSD 4 in order to develop a radically different approach to concurrency, SMP, and most other kernel sub-systems. "We are happy to say that the 1.12 release is now available! This release is primarily a maintenance update. A lot of work has been done all over the kernel and userland. There are no new big-ticket items though we have pushed the MP lock further into the kernel. The 2.0 release is scheduled for mid-year. Of the current big-ticket item work, the new HAMMER file system is almost at the alpha stage of development and is expected to be production ready by the mid-year 2.0 release." Read the release announcement and check out the detailed release notes for a complete list of changes.
FreeBSD 7.0 has been released: "The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 7.0-RELEASE. This is the first release from the 7-STABLE branch which introduces many new features along with many improvements to functionality present in the earlier branches. Some of the highlights: dramatic improvements in performance and SMP scalability shown by various database and other benchmarks; the ULE scheduler is vastly improved, providing improved performance and interactive response; experimental support for Sun's ZFS file system; gjournal can be used to set up journaled file systems, gvirstor can be used as a virtualized storage provider; read-only support for the XFS file system; the Unionfs file system has been fixed...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Tomáš Matějíček has announced the availability of an updated version of the recently released Slax 6. What's new? "Module manager will display correct info about 'slik' modules; activate refused to insert a module which was activated last time (before reboot) because of some empty mount points left- fixed; slax-version now shows correct version number; trash bin was not empty; swap partitions were not auto-activated due to a bug in linux-live scripts; raise sound volume for 'front', 'center' and 'side' channels; kdeglobals set to force Konqueror to follow 'slik' addresses without asking; a stripped version of vi in Slax, symlinked vi from busybox; disabled Flash plugin in Konqueror; added MadWifi wireless drivers version 0.9.4; added Memtest86 2.1; delete some unneeded C++ files in the 'devel' module." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information.
Momonga Linux 4.1
The Momonga Project has announced the release of Momonga Linux 4.1, a Fedora-based distribution made in Japan. This release represents a revision, or a security and bug-fix update, with most of the base system remaining unchanged from version 4. However, the kernel has been updated to version 2.6.23 and so were a few more visible desktop and server applications. Other changes include the addition of Fastladder (an open source edition of the Livedoor RSS Reader), FALF Player (a music player for KDE), Tasty Menu for KDE, Drupal, LZMA compression support and other features. Please read the release announcement (in Japanese) for more details.
Parted Magic 2.1
Patrick Verner has announced the release of Parted Magic 2.1, a specialist Linux distribution designed for hard disk partitioning tasks: "Parted Magic 2.1. This is mostly a bug-fix release. The only major improvement is support for ext4 in VisParted and Linux kernel 126.96.36.199." From the changelog: "Updated to linux kernel 188.8.131.52, NTFS-3G 1.2216; VisParted now creates ext4 file systems; fixed PXE booting; fixed multi-boot CD problem; merged 'List Partition Tables' into VisParted; added Netcat and some other networking programs to Busybox; Added Squashfs LZMA kernel drivers; added all upstream changes from GParted CVS; removed the GTK+ H20 theme and replaced it with Clearlooks; fixed xxd and dd placement; fixed missing pmodules directory in the make USB program; fixed the desktop files getting deleted bug." See the complete changelog for a detailed list of all changes.
PelicanHPC GNU Linux 1.3
PelicanHPC GNU Linux is a new name of what used to be known as ParallelKnoppix, a live CD project with a goal to make it simple to set up a high performance computing cluster. Now based on Debian GNU/Linux (rather than KNOPPIX), the project has announced the release of PelicanHPC 1.3. From the changelog: "make_pelican allows a password to be specified, the default is still 'live'; make_pelican allows you to specify a storage device to mount as /home, the default is still to use a ramdisk; the setup routine has been greatly improved. At this point, I think that Pelican is in good shape. I am not planning on making more releases until several months from now, unless some important bug surfaces." Visit the project's home page to read the release announcement.
SystemRescueCd 1.0.0, a Gentoo-based distribution with a collection of hard disk partitioning and data rescue tools, has been released. From the changelog: "Programs are now compiled for i486; added Xvesa to fix problems with the graphical environment on some hardware; added a 64-bit alternative kernel (altker64); merged all the old initramfs files into a single initram.igz file; the PXE boot can now download the sysrcd.dat file using the TFTP protocol; rewrote autorun with support of the HTTP source; fixed problems with the network configuration boot options; updated the default kernel to Linux 184.108.40.206 with Reiser4; updated the alternative kernel to Linux 220.127.116.11; updated GParted to 0.3.5, NTFS-3G to 1.2216; improved the wireless network support (drivers and firmware); updated the Memtest86+ floppy disk image to 2.00...." See the rest of the changelog for more details.
SystemRescueCd offers a handful of graphical applications, including GParted, Dillo and Firefox.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
February 2008 donation: Frugalware Linux receives US$340.00|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the January 2008 DistroWatch.com donation is Frugalware Linux. The project receives US$340.00 in cash.
Frugalware Linux is an independent distribution developed by Miklós Vajna and a small developer community. It was originally inspired by the simplicity of Slackware Linux, but the developers also included Pacman, the excellent package manager from Arch Linux. Pacman, and its graphical front-end, now form an integral part of Frugalware Linux. The project also prides itself on providing the very latest software packages in the repositories, on having a regular 6-month release cycle, and on providing complete security support for the distribution during its lifespan. Frugalware Linux might not be a particularly widely-used distro, but the dedication of the development team is exemplary and they continue to deliver improved releases every few months.
As always, this monthly donations programme is a joint initiative between DistroWatch and two online shops selling low-cost CDs and DVDs with Linux, BSD and other open source software - LinuxCD.org and OSDisc.com. These vendors contributed US$50.00 each towards this month's donation to Frugalware Linux.
Here is the list of projects that received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Programme in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$16,583 to various open source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NdisWrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and SabayonLinux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340)
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New distributions added to database
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New distributions added to waiting list
- Russix. Russix is a specialist, Slax-based live CD with a collection of software tools designed for auditing wireless networks.
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DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 10 March 2008.
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 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
|• Issue 670 (2016-07-18): Linux Lite 3.0, Bodhi team plans 4.0.0, pfSense changes licensing, running software across distributions, Linux Mint upgrade path|
|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
|• Issue 668 (2016-07-04): Fedora 24, Linux Mint plans for 18.1, FreeBSD and DragonFly BSD improve their file systems, comparing Flatpak, Snap and AppImage|
|• Issue 667 (2016-06-27): GeckoLinux 421, Fedora supports Flatpak, Solus unveils new features, running GNU/Linux on tablets|
|• Issue 666 (2016-06-20): Comparing more live update methods, Ubuntu's snap packages, Antergos drops 32-bit media, GeckoLinux unveils Rolling edition, learning Linux resources|
|• Issue 665 (2016-06-13): BunsenLabs Linux Hydrogen, Fedora 24 delayed, NetBSD grows in size, Clonezilla questions|
|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
|• Issue 663 (2016-05-30): Comparing live update methods, Ubuntu MATE's progress, distros debate systemd change, DistroWatch turns 15|
|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
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|• 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|