| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 327, 2 November 2009
Welcome to this year's 44th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu.... the talk of the Internet has been revolving around all the new *buntu flavours since version 9.10 finally started showing up on download servers last Thursday. But while the choice is always good, the number of variants can be confusing, especially for those who are new to the world of Linux. To help with decision making, our feature article this week takes a look at the available editions with brief descriptions and obligatory screenshots. In the news section, Mandriva and openSUSE prepare for the final releases of their respective distributions, Lubuntu defers its first official release to April next year, Puppy Linux founder ponders his and his distribution's future, and Phoronix reveals the timeline for the upcoming release of Phoronix Test Suite live DVD. Also in this issue, the second of our series of frequently asked questions - this time proposing a best base distro for building custom solutions. All this and more in this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, happy reading!
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An overview of Ubuntu 9.10 variants
The much-awaited Ubuntu 9.10 was released as scheduled last week. For the benefit of those readers who are new to the Linux world and who might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of available options, here is a brief recap of the official release line-up.
The main product is called simply Ubuntu. This is the original Linux distribution which was launched just over five years ago and which few people at the time expected to become such an important Linux player. In the very beginning Ubuntu was the project's only variant and although it has later given birth to a variety of official derivatives, it still remains the most popular among all the *buntus. This is what most people new to the world of Linux should consider as their first attempt at installing and using - Ubuntu's GNOME user interface is easy to use and it includes a range of beginner-friendly enhancements that will require very little training.
(full image size: 474kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Besides the standard Ubuntu desktop, there is a special variant designed for netbooks, the ever popular mini-computers, such as the ASUS Eee PC, Acer Aspire One and others. Called Ubuntu Netbook Remix, this variant of Ubuntu optimises the home desktop and the screen layout to small screen sizes that most netbooks come with. It sacrifices parts of each application's title bar to show icons of open applications as well as the system tray, making the working area highly space efficient. Moreover, its home screen provides quick and easy access to all available applications. The release comes in the form of an ISO image (unlike version 9.04 which was released as an IMG file) which means that users wishing to install it from a USB drive will need to first convert the ISO with Ubuntu's own utility - the USB Startup Disk Creator.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10
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Kubuntu is probably the project's second most popular variant. Its main desktop environment is KDE, a free software project that has been in competition with GNOME for many years and which takes a different approach to desktop computing: it is much more customisable than GNOME and its most recent version upgrade was a rather radical attempt at redefining the desktop. This is perhaps where it has also found some resistance from users belonging to the old computing school, but if GNOME isn't to your liking or if you are interested in trying out something different, then Kubuntu is certainly an interesting choice.
(full image size: 531kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Kubuntu Netbook Remix is a brand new Kubuntu variant. If you expected this product to be just a Kubuntu optimised for small screens, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it's much more than that. Instead of concentrating on fitting the applications and working environment to 9 - 10-inch monitors, Kubuntu Netbook Remix has focused on adapting the distribution to what most netbook users would most likely use their hardware for: Internet, social networking, multimedia and similar leisure activities. As such, this variant of Kubuntu is unexpectedly different from its Ubuntu counterpart and a rather pleasant surprise. It's certainly worth a download - like most Ubuntu product, it can be run in a live mode, giving the user an easy way to assess the quality and suitability of the product before giving it permanent space on the netbook's internal storage medium.
Kubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10
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Xubuntu seems to be in a permanent shadow of its two more popular siblings. Originally intended as a lightweight variant of Ubuntu that uses Xfce as the default desktop, it has grown into a fairly heavy distribution that includes a variety of application built with the GNOME toolkit. Nevertheless, it's still somewhat lighter than Ubuntu while the Xfce desktop has become a very pleasant and highly usable alternative to the two popular heavyweights. Also, the Xubuntu team employs its own artwork team that keeps coming up with impressive desktop themes. Xubuntu is certainly worth a try if you dislike both GNOME and KDE - just don't expect it to fly on a machine that has seen better days.
(full image size: 478kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu Studio, a distribution for multimedia enthusiasts, is different from all other Ubuntu variants in that it doesn't offer a "live" option. The hard disk installation is done through an old-fashion text-based installer which might put off some of the potential users, but then it comes with a real-time kernel - a must for any audio production systems. This is probably the greatest value of this project; while building up a similar system from a standard Ubuntu by pulling all the required applications from repositories would be relatively easy, the integration of this special kernel functionality into a ready-made distribution can save lots of time. Worth the long DVD download if you are a professional or aspiring musician or audio/video editor.
Ubuntu Studio 9.10
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As the name suggests, Mythbuntu is a specialist distribution designed for home theatre PCs. It integrates the open-source MythTV media centre software into Ubuntu and, by providing a graphical control panel, it makes it very easy to configure a computer either as a media server or as a media viewer (or both). Perhaps the most significant change in this release is the upgrade to MythTV 0.22 with improved hardware support, re-designed user interface, and a switch to the Qt 4.x library.
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With the 9.10 release, Edubuntu is once again a "distribution" in the true sense of the word. An operating system designed specifically for schools and optionally including the LTSP server, this distro has evolved into a multi-purpose tool for a variety of deployment scenarios and user targets, including children, students, teachers, parents and school server administrators. Furthermore, it now also functions as an all-in-one live and installation DVD, so users can test the product without any commitment. If you haven't tried Edubuntu since it switched to the "add-on" style of distribution, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised - this is a much more feature-full product than any of the previous releases. The Edubuntu team has done an excellent job!
(full image size: 354kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
So there you have it - eight different editions of what is essentially one product. And that's before we count the official server edition and the growing number of unofficial third-party Ubuntu "remixes" for a variety of highly specific tasks. Isn't the free and open source software world so much more flexible than the proprietary one?
Lubuntu update, upgrading openSUSE and Mandriva development releases, future of Puppy Linux, Phoronix Test Suite live DVD
One promising Ubuntu variant missing from the distribution's product line-up last week was Lubuntu - an Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop. Many users were looking forward to the official release of a truly lightweight *buntu, but it looks like the release has been deferred to April next year when Ubuntu 10.04 "Lucid Lynx" is expected to make an appearance: "For people who want a Lubuntu 9.10 ISO, don't search too much, there is no official release of Lubuntu 9.10. Instead, you can try it by installing the lubuntu-desktop package (you need the 'multiverse' repository activated). Additionally, if you want to test a minimal installation of Lubuntu then install a command-line system with an Ubuntu alternate ISO and install lubuntu-desktop. Lubuntu 9.10 is more of a prototype than a real release, more will come with Lucid Lynx - new shiny packages, new artwork, and maybe new default applications. If you want to help, all information is available on the Wiki page, and on the mailing list."
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With the second and final release candidate for openSUSE 11.2 available since last week, the attention of many openSUSE beta testers can finally turn to upgrading the "Factory" branch to the final release. This is a relatively simple task of redirecting "zypper", the distribution's package manager, to the correct repositories: "As Stephan Kulow announced recently openSUSE 11.2 is now built in a separate branch and openSUSE 'Factory' now contains changes that will not go into openSUSE 11.2. Therefore if you have followed 'Factory' via 'zypper dup' and want to switch to 11.2, you have to change the repositories that you are using. If you installed openSUSE 11.2 RC1, you have already the right repositories for 11.2 setup. To change your repositories, you can either edit the existing ones using (as root) 'yast2 repositories' or remove (with 'zypper removerepo') the Factory repositories and add the 11.2 ones with 'zypper addrepo'. Finally, just run 'zypper dup' to upgrade your openSUSE."
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According to information sent out to Mandriva mirror providers, the uploading of Mandriva Linux 2010 CD and DVD images to FTP/HTTP servers is now under way. As with openSUSE, there is an easy way to upgrade from "Cooker", Mandriva's development branch, to Mandriva 2010 final - just follow these steps after 2010 is released (it will not work before then):
The above process will likely also work for upgrading 2009.1 to 2010, but it isn't officially supported and it should only be attempted by more experienced Linux users. For what it's worth, we have been running Mandriva "Cooker" on a test machine here at the DistroWatch headquarters for several months and it has given us zero troubles. Also, there have been no "Cooker" updates since last Saturday, so if you've been following Mandriva's development branch, chances are that you are already running Mandriva Linux 2010 final. Enjoy it - it does look like a solid release!
- urpmi.removemedia -a
- urpmi.addmedia --distrib --mirrorlist 'http://api.mandriva.com/mirrors/basic.2010.0.$ARCH.list'
- urpmi.addmedia --distrib --mirrorlist 'http://plf.zarb.org/mirrors/2010.0.$ARCH.list' (optionally add the useful PLF repository)
- urpmi --auto-update
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Have you ever wandered what it's like to be a distro maintainer? With all the fame and media coverage, surely it can't be too bad, right? But there is a dark side to any such active online presence - the users of your product can be unforgiving at times. Consider the case of Barry Kauler, the founder of Puppy Linux, who has always preferred to concentrate on technical work and leave any "politics" to others. But even he couldn't help wondering last week whether all his work and the endless hours of hacking in front of a computer were worth the effort: "I sometimes wonder why I bother. In my position, I deal with criticism on a daily basis. Some of it comes direct to me in emails and PMs. Then there is negativity by some who lurk on the #puppylinux IRC channel. Then there are those who post to the forum with superficial, misinformed, nitpicking, and just plain wrong comments, like in this thread. I really don't need the aggravation. The latest contribution on the forum has prompted me to think some more about my retirement." Unfortunately, that's indeed one of the issues many Linux developers face on the Internet. But is all this negativity necessary? Isn't there a better, more human way of expressing criticism or dissatisfaction? Please think about this next time you decide to send a nasty comment to one of your distribution's developers.
* * * * *
Many of the DistroWatch readers probably know Phoronix, one of the more useful and enjoyable *NIX web sites on the Internet. Now it looks like the guys behind the site will also deliver another useful tool - an updated PTS Desktop Live, a live DVD featuring the Phoronix Test Suite (PTS) benchmarking utility: "With Phoronix Test Suite 2.2 now in beta and this update offering a nice set of features with the official release landing in late November or December, it's time to start talking about the PTS Desktop Live update. PTS Desktop Live, the Linux distribution that we designed to carry out automated Linux benchmarking from a live DVD environment that launched in conjunction with Phoronix Test Suite 2.0, will receive its first update shortly. We haven't talked much about this update yet as it's still undergoing extensive work and design, but obviously it will be shipping with Phoronix Test Suite 2.2 'Bardu' for its testing framework. This update to PTS Desktop Live is codenamed 'Loderhof' and will be formally introduced as PTS Desktop Live 2009.4 when it is introduced in the days following the PTS 2.2 release."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
The best "base" distribution
Build from the bottom asks: What is a good foundation distro? Something that will let people build just about anything on top of it from a regular desktop to a software development workstation to a multimedia centre?
DistroWatch answers: One of the things that have always appealed to me about Linux is the way a distribution is built out of small blocks or packages. Just about any GNU/Linux distro can be broken down to hundreds (or thousands) of individual parts and rebuilt the way you want. That being said, there's one system that comes to mind whenever I think about starting with a good foundation: Debian GNU/Linux. The Debian operating system is extremely flexible and it has been used as a starting point to build a large number of other distributions. Debian has a number of different installation methods depending on your needs, and it runs on about a dozen different architectures. It's also the largest Linux distribution in regards to available packages in its software repositories, so chances are they have a package for whatever you're planning to do. Debian is a leader in proper package management and this makes it extremely easy to tailor the distro to your needs. The Debian project has also been around for a while and has a huge number of developers working on the project, so it's unlikely to disappear and leave you high and dry.
|Released Last Week
Endian Firewall 2.3
Christian Graffer has announced the release of Endian Firewall 2.3, a CentOS-based specialist distribution for firewalls and gateways: "Today I am proud to announce the release of version 2.3 of Endian Firewall Community. This release includes many features that were previously available only to users of the Enterprise edition, as well as some completely new features. These new features are: backups can now be stored to and recovered from attached USB mass storage devices; the main page has been replaced by a dashboard with statistics about the system and its services; emails can be sent automatically for predefined events; it is possible to add time-based access control lists for the HTTP proxy; Snort rules can now be configured...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
Joern Lindau released Toorox 10.2009, a Gentoo-based live DVD featuring the latest KDE 4 desktop: "A new version has been finished and now it's ready for download. Content: Linux kernel 2.6.31, KDE 4.3.2, X.Org Server 1.6.5, OpenOffice.org 3.1.1, Amarok 2.2, VLC 1.0.2, IceCat 3.5.3; Portato has been added as the second software management tool (GUI for Portage) in Systemconfig, it does a good job even though it's elementary; the Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) has been added as a kernel module and will be loaded by default - if you own a graphics card with an Intel, ATI Radeon or SIS chip you can enjoy the cool desktop effects by using the free and default video driver; the LAN+WLAN script from Systemconfig has been improved; the missing Synaptics touchpad driver has been re-added and pre-configured for a handy left-click by tapping on the pad." Find more information in the release announcement.
Welcome to the Ubuntu release day! The first of several expected announcement comes courtesy of the Kubuntu project: "Kubuntu 9.10: stable, social and beautiful. Kubuntu is built with the latest KDE desktop on top of a solid Ubuntu core. We believe this combination delivers a fantastic all-round home desktop experience. Our selection of tools and applications will provide you with all that you need for most of your tasks, with many more available just a few clicks away! Whether browsing the web, playing your music, composing an e-mail or connecting with your friends on social networks, Kubuntu 9.10 brings you an innovative and attractive platform for all your desktop needs." Read the full release announcement which includes a detailed overview of the new version.
Canonical has announced the release of Ubuntu 9.10, the latest version of the project's flagship operating system for desktops, laptops and servers: "Ubuntu 9.10 brings changes small and large that all have a common purpose - to make Ubuntu the most user-friendly operating system available. Ubuntu 9.10 features a redesigned, faster boot and login experience, a revamped audio framework, and improved 3G broadband connectivity, all of which contribute to a first-class user experience. Furthermore, the innovative '100 Paper Cuts' initiative organised with the Ubuntu Community allowed users to nominate minor annoyances that impacted their enjoyment of the platform. So far over 50 fixes have been committed, removing minor irritants such as inconsistent naming or poorly organised application choices." See the press release, release notes and feature overview for more information.
Xubuntu 9.10, an Ubuntu variant featuring the latest Xfce desktop, is now also available: "Xubuntu 9.10, code-named the 'Karmic Koala', is the latest and greatest version of Xubuntu. It integrates the latest Xfce desktop release with the high-quality and feature-rich core of Ubuntu, resulting in a light-weight and easy-to-use Linux distribution. New features: Xfce 4.6.1; includes the Exaile 0.3.0.x music player to make enjoying podcasts, streaming radio, audio books, and music library easier than ever before; Xfce power manager provides a more integrated power management experience; improved notify-osd integration with the Xfce desktop; faster application load times and reduced memory footprint for a number of your favorite Xfce applications...." See the release announcement and release notes for more details and upgrade notes.
Ubuntu Studio 9.10
Ubuntu Studio 9.10, an Ubuntu sub-project a featuring a real-time kernel and a large variety of audio, video and graphics editing applications, has been released: "The Ubuntu Studio team is proud to announce its sixth release: Ubuntu Studio 9.10 'Karmic Koala'. With this release, which you can download in a 1.4 GB DVD, Ubuntu Studio offers a pre-made selection of packages, targeted at audio producers, video producers and graphic designers. Ubuntu Studio greatly simplifies the Linux-based multimedia workstation. Features: official upstream real-time kernel; font meta package added to the graphics meta, which installs hundreds of free fonts; Xwax and a2jmidid packaged and added to the audio meta-package; Xjadeo added to the video meta; Firewire libraries are now upgraded to 2.0...." Read the release notes for additional information.
Mythbuntu 9.10, a distribution designed for home theatre systems and featuring MythTV, has been released: "Mythbuntu is built upon the base of Ubuntu and thus has all the features of Ubuntu. Features: Mythbuntu Control Centre - used to modify settings on a Mythbuntu system that are not necessarily MythTV specific; Mythbuntu Log Grabber - grabs specific log files into a single area and can upload them to pastebin for easy troubleshooting; partitioner creates one large partition (ext4); auto-builds are now easily enabled/disabled via an installable package; MythTV 0.22.0-zrc1 included; MythTV backend now uses upstart, this allows automatic restarting of the backend in the event of a failure. New features in MythTV 0.22: MythUI support allowing fancier themes; support for VDPAU; MythVideo storage groups...." More information is available in the release notes.
Edubuntu has been labelled as "discontinued" ever since it became just an add-on to Ubuntu rather than a complete, installable operating system. As of yesterday, its status is once again "active": "For the past few releases, it has been an add-on CD to Ubuntu. Our users have made overwhelming requests for a full-blown installation CD again and we have listened. Edubuntu 9.10 is now a DVD that contains a full Ubuntu installation plus the Edubuntu packages and the LTSP server packages." Other new features include: "Ubuntu users can install Edubuntu's age-appropriate educational application bundles by searching for 'Edubuntu' in the Ubuntu Software Center; Sabayon, the GNOME user profile manager, has been fixed; LTSP Cluster, available from the Ubuntu repositories in 9.10, provides an easy to use load-balancing solution for LTSP servers." Here is the release announcement.
ALT Linux 5.0 "Ark" and "School"
Alexey Rusakov has announced the release of ALT Linux 5.0 "Ark" and "School" editions: "ALT Linux announces public availability of two products based on Platform Five: ALT Linux 5.0 Ark, a suite designed for making integrated solutions, and ALT Linux 5.0 School, a suite that is targeted at secondary and high schools. The most prominent features of the server distributions are: enterprise-class network organization; host-based authorization of users and services; connecting distributed systems together via VPN; host-based updates of servers and workstations throughout your LAN.... Desktop distributions sport the following features: Graphical desktops: GNOME (Ark Desktop, School Junior), Xfce (School Lite), KDE 4 (School Master); improved interaction with server distributions...." For further information please read through the release announcement.
ALT Linux 5.0 "Ark" features the latest GNOME as the distribution's default desktop
(full image size: 630kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu Rescue Remix 9.10
Ubuntu Rescue Remix is a small live CD that provides some of the best free and open-source data recovery and forensics tools available. Today Andrew Zajac announced the release of a new version: "Version 9.10 of the very best free/libre open-source data recovery software toolkit based on Ubuntu is out. This release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix features up-to-date versions of the most powerful free/libre open-source data recovery software, including GNU ddrescue 1.11, Photorec, LVM2, and GNU fdisk. The ISO image is compatible with the excellent USB Startup Disk Creator that is included with Ubuntu since 8.04. The live environment has a very low minimum requirement due to the fact that there is no graphical interface (powerful command line only)." Here is the complete release announcement.
Michael Prokop has announced the release of 2009.10, a bootable, Debian-based live CD featuring a collection of GNU/Linux software especially for system administrators and users of text tools: "The new stable version 2009.10 was just released. New features: 'vesamenu' bootsplash - provides an easy-to-use boot selection menu; the ISO can be installed to a device directly using dd; integration of Etherboot/gPXE; integration of GRUB; boot option 'nostartx' - if using startx as default boot option the bootoption 'nostartx' disables automatic startup of X; boot option 'ethdevice' - use specified network device for network booting (PXE) instead of default; boot option 'netscript' - use this parameter to download and run a script from a specific location...." Read the detailed release notes for a full list of new features.
grml 2009.10 - a new version of the live CD designed to make a system administrator's live easier
(full image size: 358kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
CAINE (Computer Aided INvestigative Environment) is an Ubuntu-based live CD offering a complete forensic environment in a friendly graphical user interface. The project released its 1.0 version earlier this week. Some of the main features of the new release include: "WinTaylor - a forensic front-end for Windows environments; HTML page IE-compatible to run the forensic tools in Windows; NTFS-3G updated to 2009.1.1 (resolve a NTFS-3G bug); new boot option - text mode; Ubuntu 8.04 packages updated; Firefox 3.0.14; GtkHash - a front-end for hashing files; new reporting features - investigators and case name added; multi-language report - Italian, English, German, French and Portuguese; Firefox starts with the list of tools and a brief user manual; many tools added; computer forensics patches." Visit the project's home page to read the release announcement and to learn more about this specialist distribution.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Phoenix OS. Phoenix OS is a beginner-friendly, Kubuntu-based distribution for the desktop, featuring a web-based software installation system, easy availability of non-free applications, out-of-the-box support for proprietary drivers and media codecs, as well as support for installing some Windows software through WINE.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 November 2009.
Ladislav Bodnar and Jesse Smith
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|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
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