| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 300, 27 April 2009
Welcome to the 300th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Naturally, the biggest news event of the week was the release of Ubuntu's latest version - 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope. Reviews have started pouring in and users are busy upgrading. How well will the latest version be received? And does the success of Ubuntu mean, as some are beginning to wonder, that Debian GNU/Linux is no longer relevant? This week's feature article provides some answers in an interesting comparison between Xubuntu 9.04 and Debian 5.0.1 with Xfce to see how well each performs. We also post links to an interview with Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, while Tux Radar takes a look at the last ten releases of the world's most popular desktop Linux distro. Of course that's not the only thing that happened this past week - Debian has announced the availability of Lenny kernels with no closed-source firmware, the Fedora community has received up-to-date images of version 10, and the openSUSE online build service looks set to receive support for a Git version control backend, thanks to a Google Summer of Code project. Happy reading!
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Xubuntu 9.04 vs Debian 5.0.1 Xfce
Yes, it's Ubuntu release week and yes, we'll be looking at Ubuntu for our feature article. Instead of a review of what everyone already knows, this week I thought we'd take a look at how the newly released Xubuntu 9.04 compares to Debian Lenny with an Xfce desktop. Xfce is a desktop environment built using the GTK+ graphical libraries, similar to GNOME. Unlike GNOME however, its focus is on being lightweight. Creator Olivier Fourdan writes: "Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for various *NIX systems. Designed for productivity, it loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources." Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu, but instead of providing a GNOME desktop, they provide Xfce. They also include much of the functionality that its larger parent offers. Debian, on the other hand, is based on, well, itself and offers a multitude of desktop offerings, one of which is Xfce. How do the two compare?
I've played with most of the Xubuntu releases which have come out, but haven't found them as lightweight as I had hoped. Xubuntu tended to include much of the GNOME desktop applications and services to provide richer functionality, at the cost of system resources. I got my hands on an old Dell Dimension 4500 desktop machine, with an Intel 2 GHz processor and 384 MB of memory. Not the most powerful machine in the world these days, but it seemed suitable for this task.
First comes Xubuntu. I downloaded the Xubuntu alternate install CD for i386 architecture and completed an installation using ext3 as the default file system. Some time later I had a full Xubuntu desktop installed and was ready to boot into it for the first time. The system looked really good. I know people hate it when reviewers discuss looks, but it really did look good. From the splash screen to the desktop, which was nicely arranged and used lovely looking icons, it felt like a classy desktop.
Xubuntu Xfce desktop
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Using the system is very straightforward, with the layout being relatively close to Ubuntu's GNOME environment. Unfortunately, I ran into a few annoying issues. Firstly, I kept having issues with the package manager. For some reason it kept throwing errors about a problem in the package database and wanted me to run apt-get -f install, which I did several times. I did a re-install and this error went away. One bug that was not solved after a re-boot was HAL crashing when rebooting the computer from Xfce. It only happened when I was also logged into /dev/tty1, but it was consistent. The system would log me out successfully, but then throw an error about being unable to perform the shut-down. Another problem I experienced was the computer freezing. The kernel would print an error about CPU lock and not being responsive for 30 seconds. After another install, it didn't come back though. Also, sound didn't work out of the box, even though the card was detected properly. It turned to be a simple fix, the mixer didn't present any controls by default, I had to manually add them. Once I selected Master, PCM and Front, un-muted them and turned them all up, sound worked. Yay.
Xubuntu package manager error
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Xubuntu would not play any files which required proprietary codecs. It did, however, prompt me to search for and download codecs through the package manager. When you try and play a file, the tool pops up and recommends a package to install, then it's as simple as selecting it and agreeing to install it. I noticed it seemed to do some files in two steps, first the audio and then when it still couldn't play, it popped up the dialogue and then searched for the video codec. All in all, this is nice and simple, and works well. The files I tested were MP3 and WMA audio files, as well as Flash, H.264/MPEG-4 AAC, WMV and DivX video files. When it came time to playing Flash in the browser, I was re-directed to the Adobe web site where I had to select and download the Flash plug-in. I selected the one for Ubuntu and told it to open with gdebi, the graphical DEB package installer. This pulled down one more dependencies and installed them without any hassles. After restarting Firefox, I was able to view Flash videos online.
Xubuntu codecs manager
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After using Xubuntu for a while, just for browsing the Internet and installing a few packages, it became very slow and non-responsive. It took a long time to open small applications like Terminal and Mousepad, and drawing windows became slow. It was obvious I had already run out of RAM and was starting to use swap space. Considering I wasn't doing very much, this was rather disappointing.
Debian Lenny Xfce
For Debian, I downloaded the Debian 5.0.1 Xfce+LXDE CD image for i386 architectures. I performed an installation which was similar to Xubuntu, once again choosing ext3 as the default file system. Naturally, I chose to install Xfce so as to perform a reasonable comparison. It wasn't too long before I had a Debian environment booted and ready to go. It's fair to say that Debian's environment was not as nice looking as Xubuntu. Yes, I know you readers will argue that people keep the default for less than 5 seconds before changing it, but not everyone does and first impressions can count towards a lot. Frankly, I'd probably stay with the default Xubuntu desktop, but the Debian one is horrendous by comparison. Yes, I know it's the default Xfce icons and layout, but it's just not as pleasing to view and work with. If this is something Debian wants to be able to compete with the likes of Xubuntu, it needs improvement. What's wrong with having a xfce4-desktop-default-settings package that people can install to make it more pretty?
Debian 5.0.1 Xfce desktop
(full image size: 8.5kB, screen resolution: 471x258 pixels)
The one 'issue' I had was that Debian did not install the HAL service by default. This meant that removable media was not automatically mounted. Simply installing the hal package solved this problem. I assume it was not included due to its ability to consume extra resources. When it came to the codecs, Debian was the biggest surprise. Of all the test files I tried, Lenny played every one out of the box! It also streamed YouTube in Iceweasel using the open-source Swfdec plug-in, while Xfmedia played the Flash file on the desktop. Sound also worked out of the box. Using the system itself was much more responsive than Xubuntu and although I browsed the net, edited images in GIMP and ran commands on the Terminal all at the same time, I never ran out of memory. In fact, with two instances of Iceweasel open, Terminal, Mousepad, GIMP, Xfmedia, Thunar, Xsane, Orage and Settings Manager, the system was only using 146.72 MB of RAM!
So, how did the two installs compare? I tested both systems by timing how long they took to complete the boot process, and measured the amount of RAM used at each step. These included booting to single mode, booting to the desktop login manager (GDM), loading the Xfce desktop and loading the desktop and Firefox/Iceweasel. I also mapped the boot processes with Bootchart for both the Xubuntu and Debian installs (get the results here and here, respectively).
Here are the results of the tests I ran.
Debian is certainly far from dead. The overall system feels much more stable than the Xubuntu 9.04 I installed, but the Xubuntu system provided more functionality for new users, like the ability to easily install proprietary drivers. Debian was also faster and more lightweight than Xubuntu and, as a result, ran much better on this older hardware. Compared to Debian, Xubuntu was slow and sluggish, even to the point of being frustrating. Debian, on the other hand, remained snappy and responsive. When it came to codecs, Debian played everything out of the box, while Xubuntu resorted to using their manager to install codecs as required. Debian is now superior to Xubuntu in this area. The one thing Debian didn't have is the automated tool for installing proprietary drivers. Everything is there at the command level, just not in the user interface. Part of the reason Xubuntu takes longer to load and uses more RAM is that it includes extra utilities, like the proprietary driver manager. The other thing to keep in mind is that Xubuntu 9.04 comes with a much newer kernel and includes numerous booting speed improvements, while Debian does not.
While some may be touting that Debian is obsolete now that Ubuntu rules the roost, I have to whole-heartedly disagree. Debian provides a solid, stable environment that you can really trust and rely on. Ubuntu, on the other hand, appears to have put more priority on a timely release over stability and, as a result, seem to rush out half-baked releases. There's nothing that Ubuntu can do that Debian can't - it's just a matter of how simple that task is. Certainly Debian takes a long time to release more up-to-date stable versions, but they are just that - stable. If you are looking for something more up-to-date, try Debian testing. It's still very stable, with the added benefit of being a rolling release. I can't help but feel that while Ubuntu is shouting their achievements from the rooftops, Debian is silently plugging away in the background making things work. Please Debian, don't go anywhere!
Ubuntu releases Jaunty, Debian Lenny gets free kernels, Fedora released re-spun images, openSUSE considers Git for its build service, interviews with Linus Torvalds and Mark Shuttleworth
Ready or not, here it comes. The latest version of Ubuntu has arrived, 9.04, dubbed Jaunty Jackalope. This new release does improve upon previous versions but, more importantly, it includes a USB image for Low-Power Intel Architecture Mobile Internet Devices (MID) and an official netbook version. The netbook remix is essentially a modified version of Ubuntu with an alternate interface to make better use of small screen resolutions. The MID edition is based on Moblin and therefore optimised for Intel's Atom processor. It is also optimised for 7"+ screens and is much more lightweight than the netbook remix. Will Jaunty be the version that will start cropping up on commercial netbooks? Time will tell! Certainly Canonical has put a lot of effort into getting Linux running well in this space, as revealed in a recent interview. Tux Radar also has an article which looks back at almost 5 years of Ubuntu. If you're upgrading to Jaunty, or installing for the first time, take a look at the unofficial Installation guide and cheat sheet from Make Tech Easier.
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Debian GNU/Linux often gets overlooked in the Ubuntu release week, but without it, there would have been no Ubuntu. At least, that was then. Now, people are starting to ask whether Debian is irrelevant. Leigh Dyer writes: "The release last month of Debian 5.0, code-named Lenny, has certainly been a success, but Debian has always been seen as a distribution made by geeks, for geeks, and has had trouble attracting new users. In a world where Ubuntu combines Debian's package management technology, up-to-date software and a fixed six-month release cycle, is Debian still relevant as a distribution?" In a completely separate article, Sean Kerner writes: "The great 'failure' of Debian is also its great strength. Debian hasn't been able to put out releases in a regularly scheduled format in years - something developers will commonly attribute to not making a release until it's ready. While Debian has struggled on release dates (getting better lately), Ubuntu comes out with its releases like clockwork. Though Debian has made tremendous strides since Sarge with its desktop installation, Ubuntu has become one of the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop, period."
In other Debian-related news, developers voted last year to include proprietary and closed-source firmware with release 5.0. Now, Robert Millan has posted to the developer list that images, which contain only free software, are available for Lenny. He writes: "As you probably know, back in December last year it was decided that the Linux package shipped with Debian Lenny would include non-free code in it (so-called 'blobs' of binary-only firmware). While the majority of the project supported this decision, it is still true that many of us users and developers feel strongly committed to freedom, and would rather reject the practical benefit of that code than submit ourselves to the restrictions that come with it." Is the mentality to only include completely free code in Debian a strength or a weakness in relation to the popularity of Ubuntu? Is Debian truly just a distro for geeks and those crazy about freedom? The Jaunty release of Ubuntu comes with the option to install only free software, so it seems that, on some level, it can compete on both sides of the fence.
* * * * *
It has been five months since the release of Fedora 10, known as Cambridge. Now, the Fedora Unity project has released re-spun images for i386, x86_64 and PPC architectures. Ben Williams posted this to the announce list: "The Fedora Unity Project is proud to announce the release of new ISO re-spins of Fedora 10. These re-spin ISOs are based on the officially released Fedora 10 installation media and include all updates released as of April 14th, 2009 (saving about 650 MB in updates on a default install)." He continues: "Fedora Unity has taken up the re-spin task to provide the community with the chance to install Fedora with recent updates already included. This is a community project, for and by the community. You can contribute to the community by joining our test process." The ability to install Fedora from secure, up-to-date images is a great service to the community.
* * * * *
The online build service from openSUSE has gained a lot of attention recently with the ability to build packages for ARM processors and for the support gained from the Linux Foundation. Now, Peter Libic is developing support for the Git source code manager, as part of Google's Summer of Code. He writes: "Currently OBS (openSUSE Build Service) uses a custom MD5-based relational database called BSDB for storing project revisions. It works well for OBS but using a Git backend could improve the entire service. Git is one of the best revision control systems currently available. Present OBS makes extensive pressure on the backend when using basic revision control commands, like diff or log. Git can move these actions to the client which may lower the server load." The project will be mentored by openSUSE developer Pavol Rusnak. In other news, the latest openSUSE newsletter interviews community member Jan Engelhardt, who is responsible for making a real-time Linux kernel available to users.
* * * * *
Finally, here is a link to an interesting interview with Linus Torvalds, conducted by Linux Magazine: "Linus Torvalds has led the development of the Linux operating system since its inception nearly 20 years ago. In that time Torvalds has had the opportunity not only to witness the positive cultural and economic changes brought about by Linux but has also been a direct participant in making those changes a reality. And though many things have changed greatly since 1991, one thing remains constant: Linus is still at the helm. In this interview Torvalds looks back on the operating system he created, the impact of new hardware, and the ubiquitous OS on everything from cellphones to desktops to supercomputers."
|Released Last Week
Easy Peasy 1.1
Jon Ramvi has announced the release of Easy Peasy 1.1, an Ubuntu-based distribution optimised for the ASUS Eee PC and other netbooks: "We are proud to announce Easy Peasy 1.1! This is how the first Easy Peasy release really should be: No stupid bugs, no Ubuntu logos. You will be able to upgrade from tomorrow, but you can get the full ISO image today. A brand new look: new icon theme, a modified version of Victor Castillejos's GNOME Colors; new wallpaper which is part of the new visual profile (i.e. on Twitter); new splash screen and login screen. Fixed bugs: lots of bugs fixed; many upgrades, like Songbird and Flash." Here is the brief release announcement with a screenshot of the home desktop.
Ubuntu 9.04 has been released: "The Ubuntu team is happy to bring you the latest and greatest software the Open Source community has to offer. This is their latest result, the Ubuntu 9.04 release, which brings a host of excellent new features. New features: Ubuntu 9.04 RC includes the latest GNOME 2.26 desktop environment with a number of great new features, including Brasero 2.26.0, an all-in-one CD burning application and the default disc burning utility in Nautilus, and improved handling of multiple monitors; X.Org server 1.6; Wacom tablet hotplugging; new style for notifications and notification preferences; significantly improved boot performance; Linux kernel 2.6.28; optional ext4 files system support...." Read the release announcement, release notes and feature overview for further information.
Ubuntu 9.04 - the project's 10th official release
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Jonathan Riddell has announced the release of Kubuntu 9.04, an Ubuntu variant featuring the latest KDE 4 desktop environment: "The Kubuntu team is proud to announce the release of Kubuntu 9.04, the Jaunty Jackalope! Kubuntu 9.04 includes an upgraded desktop containing many bug fixes, new configuration options, as well as many new and updated applications: KDE 4.2, containing many new features, including significant refinements of Plasma and KWin, the KDE workspace, many new and updated Plasma widgets, new and improved desktop effects (enabled by default), the return of the optional 'Classic Desktop' motif as an option; new in System Settings are tools for managing software and printer configuration; Quassel, a new IRC client; Amarok 2.0.2, KTorrent 3.2, Digikam 0.10.0...." See the rest of the release announcement for a more detailed overview of the release.
Mythbuntu 9.04, a distribution designed for home theatre systems and featuring MythTV, has been released: "After a long and exciting development cycle the Mythbuntu team is proud to introduce Mythbuntu 9.04. Features: Mythbuntu Log Grabber - this application grabs specific log files into a single area and can upload them to pastebin for easy troubleshooting; auto-partitioner creates separate partitions for root, recordings, and swap (ext3 and XFS); Mythbuntu Control Centre - used to modify settings on a Mythbuntu system that are not necessarily MythTV specific; MythTV 0.21-fixes20403 included; MythNetTV 7 (and GUI) are now packaged and available in the official repositories." Read the release announcement and release notes for further information, system requirements and known issues.
Next, it's the turn of Xubuntu 9.04, an Ubuntu variant featuring the Xfce desktop, which was also released today: "Xubuntu 9.04, code-named the 'Jaunty Jackalope', is the latest and greatest version of Xubuntu. It integrates the latest Xfce (4.6.0) desktop with the high-quality and feature-rich core of Ubuntu, resulting in a light-weight and easy-to-use Linux distribution. Highlights: faster boot times; a new Xfce Settings Manager dialog with better integration of each of the settings modules; a new configuration system - Xconf; a new desktop menu that follows the freedesktop.org menu standards; an upgraded notification-area; Gigolo, a new application to allow access to remote file systems; new Xubuntu artwork...." See the release announcement and release notes for upgrade instructions and other information.
Ubuntu Studio 9.04
Luis de Bethencourt has announced the release of Ubuntu Studio 9.04, a multimedia variant of Ubuntu built for the GNU/Linux audio, video, and graphics enthusiast: "The Ubuntu Studio team is proud to announce its fifth release - Ubuntu Studio 9.04. With this release, Ubuntu Studio offers a pre-made selection of packages, targeted at audio, video and graphics users. Ubuntu Studio greatly simplifies the creation of Linux-based multimedia workstations. For Ubuntu Studio 9.04 we have continued to update packages and fix critical bugs to improve the Ubuntu Studio user experience. Features, fixes and improvements: heavily-tested 2.6.28 real-time kernel for low-latency audio work; Jack Connection Kit upgraded to 0.116.1 (a major improvement); Ardour upgraded to 2.7.1; fresh Ubuntu Studio looks improvements; addition to Ubuntu Studio Controls to allow users to maintain Ctr+Alt+Backspace behavior." Read the rest of the release notes for additional details.
Ubuntu Studio 9.04 - a distribution for audio, video and graphics enthusiasts
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iMagic OS 2009.5
Carlos La Borde has announced the release of iMagic OS 2009.5, a commercial desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu: "The new iMagic OS has arrived. With a newly retouched interface, intuitive first-run wizard, multiple problems patched, much better integration with magicOnline (a new tool that allows you to install hundreds of programs with just one click) v2, included MP3 decoding, upgraded programs, enhanced multimedia programs including Exaile and Cinelerra, instant desktop search with Google Desktop, better Photo management with magicPhoto and Picasa, better Microsoft compatibility, magicEssentials (a suite of six desktop applications created by iMagic OS), and magicGuide (created with the beginning Linux user in mind), to give your computer the power it needs to do what you want it to do and a whole lot more." Read the complete release announcement for further details.
Kai Hendry has announced the release of Webconverger 4.7, a live, Debian-based web kiosk designed for deployments in places like offices or Internet cafés where only web applications are used. What's new? "Added iptables firewall; fixed UA string for Hotmail; file:/// disabled in the latest kiosk extension; removed previous wireless default to join any open network; Iceweasel 3.0.9; CUPS printing support re-instated with a firewall rule to allow for printer sharing broadcasts; Linux kernel 2.6.29 backport, which means even better hardware support; Xpdf dropped in favour of a working printing dialog with Acrobat Reader - there are some embedding issues when you first run it, [Ctrl+q] is needed to close the PDF viewer. Known issues: spelling language has to be manually chosen and doesn't respect chosen locale boot options; the Debian installer which only worked on the ISO version is temporarily disabled until the Debian installer uses 2.6.29 which supports Squashfs 4...." See the full release notes for more information.
Warren Woodford has announced the release of SimplyMEPIS 8.0.06, a minor update of the project's recently released version 8 "MEPIS LLC has released SimplyMEPIS 8.0.06, an update to the community edition of MEPIS 8.0. SimplyMEPIS 8.0 uses a Debian Lenny stable foundation enhanced with a long-term support kernel, key package upgrades, and the MEPIS Assistant applications to create an up-to-date, ready to use desktop computer system. The updated components on the SimplyMEPIS ISOs include recent updates from the Debian 'Lenny' pool and also Linux kernel 18.104.22.168, Firefox 3.0.9, JBidwatcher 2.0.1 and Gutenprint 5.2.3. In addition, some minor tweaks have been applied to the MEPIS installer and the MEPIS utilities. Recently, the MEPIS package pool has received new updates for Thunderbird 22.214.171.124, Shorewall 4.2.6, TightVNC 1.3.9, Openswan 2.6.20, QEMU 0.10.2 and Webmin 1.460." Read the brief release announcement for further details.
Tiny Core Linux 1.4
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Tiny Core Linux 1.4, a minimalist desktop Linux distribution in 10 MB: "Team Tiny Core is pleased to announce the release of Tiny Core Linux 1.4. Changelog: new virtual disk support; updated watcher, now supports no swap option; replaced Busybox losetup with GNU, for cryptohome support; moved start-up script processing to occur before restore; fl_picsee replaces imlib2_view; update .jwmrc screenshot menu option; update appbrowser loads .list and .dep upon demand; update .xsession for easier use of other X start-up utilities; update mousetool now makes output script executeable. Files that have changed and are likely in your backup or other persistent store: .jwmrc, .xsession." Visit the project's user forum to read the release announcement.
Joern Lindau has released a new version of Toorox, an i686-optimised, Gentoo-based live DVD which boots into a KDE desktop using KNOPPIX hardware auto-detection and auto-configuration technologies: "A new release of Toorox is done and available in the download section. Now you can simply make a live USB pen drive with it. The KDE was updated to 4.2.2 and OpenOffice.org speaks German and English. There are no significant changes to the prior version except package updates and small bug fixes. Changes: contains Iceweasel 3.0.9 web browser; the Windows emulator WINE was updated to 1.1.19; VLC media player 0.99a; Clam antivirus 0.95.1." Here is the brief release announcement.
Toorox 04.2009 - a Gentoo-based live DVD featuring the latest KDE 4.2.2
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
The openSUSE project has published a roadmap leading to the upcoming release of openSUSE 11.2. The development kicked off last week with the first "Milestone" release (previously these early snapshots were called "Alpha"), with regular development releases scheduled for the upcoming months. If everything goes according to the plan, there will be a total of eight milestones, followed by two release candidates and the final release on 12 November 2009. This means that more than 11 months will have passed between openSUSE 11.1 and 11.2. For further information and some development goals please consult the Roadmap/11.2 page on the openSUSE Wiki.
* * * * *
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 4 May 2009.
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|• Issue 639 (2015-12-07): OpenBSD 5.8, openSUSE gathers Summer of Code proposals, running WINE on a live disc, Enlightenment adds Wayland support|
|• Issue 638 (2015-11-30): Qubes OS 3.0, KaOS with Plasma, NetBSD 7.0, Fedora seeks Wayland testers, scheduling tasks|
|• Issue 637 (2015-11-23): NixOS 15.09, Antergos introduces ZFS support, MINIX shares new features, copying an OS to a new computer|
|• Issue 636 (2015-11-16): openSUSE 42.1, Fedora uses Wayland by default, Debian replaces live CD project, Steam consoles launch|
|• Issue 635 (2015-11-09): Fedora 23, Cinnamon 2.8 released, a Fedora KDE packager quits, Red Hat signs deal with Microsoft|
|• Issue 634 (2015-11-02): Ubuntu 15.10, Chakra upgrades to Plasma 5, OpenMandriva plans new editions, MINIX plans conference|
|• Issue 633 (2015-10-26): GhostBSD 10.1, Bodhi Linux to get new settings panel, Fedora 23 delayed, creating live image of existing OS|
|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Issue 627 (2015-09-14): Mageia 5, Snappy co-exists with Debian packages, creating PDF/A documents, Antergos previews Poodle|
|• Full list of all issues|