| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 377, 25 October 2010
Welcome to this year's 43rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Editing videos on Linux has never been an easy task due to a lack of professional applications designed to do the work. But things could be changing. PiTiVi, a relatively new open-source tool that is designed to make video editing click-and-point easy, has been slowly making its way into many Linux distributions. Jesse Smith has taken the application for a spin to find out whether it has a chance of becoming a new standard in video editing on free operating systems. In the news section, Red Hat announces the final (non-public) release candidate for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Fedora introduces OpenSCAP for maintaining system security, Debian developer Raphaël Hertzog presents the distribution's release process, and Linux Mint lead developer answers some frequently-asked questions about the upcoming release of version 10 "Julia". Also in this issue, a brief introduction to open-source virtualisation technologies and a plethora of new distributions, including an Arch Linux variant ported to GNU Hurd. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Introducing PiTiVi (version 0.13.4)|
PiTiVi isn't just what appeared in my alphabet soup last weekend, it's also the name of a video editor for Linux systems. The first time I stumbled across PiTiVi (pronounced PeeTeeVee) was when I was recently trying out the Trisquel distribution and found the application pre-installed. The program has an unusually simple layout for a video editor and I was happy to discover that PiTiVi has a very small learning curve. I quickly became hooked on shuffling clips around and dropping segments of video on the virtual cutting room floor.
The PiTiVi project, which sprung from the work of Edward Hervey, Alessandro Decina, Brandon Lewis and a handful of other volunteers, is free software released under the Lesser General Public License. According to the project's website work is rapid and on-going. The application is written in the Python programming language and relies on GStreamer for importing and processing multimedia files.
The video editor is available in the repositories of the Debian family of distributions, Fedora, Gentoo and FreeBSD. For people on other distros, there are source packages available from the PiTiVi web site. I installed the application via Synaptic on my Mint box and, when I tried to run the program, ran into a dependency problem. PiTiVi requires the GStreamer ALSA or OSS plugin to be installed and neither was automatically added to my system during the install process. The program would start, display an error requesting one of the plugins be installed and exit. Manually installing the GStreamer ALSA plugin cleared up the issue. When I tried installing PiTiVi on PC-BSD from the FreeBSD Ports Collection I ran into the same missing package issue.
PiTiVi - starting from scratch
(full image size: 40kB, resolution 1366x733 pixels)
When I first fired up PiTiVi there were four distinct sections of the program window. There is, as usual, the menu and toolbar area at the top. In the centre is a big blank area where the user is invited to drag media files to add them to the program's library. Over to the right is a mini-media player and down at the bottom is a time-line. Most of the controls begin greyed out prior to adding any media, and the Import Clips To Use button stands out on the menu bar. Clicking the Import button allowed me to grab video and audio files and add them to PiTiVi's library.
There videos appear with a small preview of their contents. GStreamer does the heavy work of handling media files in the background and the library was able to manage almost every media file I threw at it. In case you're unfortunate enough to deal with WMV files, you may find PiTiVi has trouble importing this type of video file. This results from a known problem with recent versions of the GStreamer "Ugly" package and was fixed a short time ago upstream. I tested out the WMV fix via Ubuntu's personal package archives and found the new package did correct the issue.
Once we have clips in our library, we can drag them down into the time-line area at the bottom of the window. When placed in the time-line the clip is displayed as a series of still previews (for video) and sound waves (for audio). Below the clips is a small group of buttons for "cutting" clips into two smaller pieces, deleting clips and either detaching an audio clip from video or attaching a new audio clip to video. While the buttons themselves may seem a little abstract, I found the time-line interface to be intuitive.
To arrange clips we can click and drag a piece of video to its desired place. Clicking the Cut button allows us to move a clip independently of the rest of its file. Dragging a clip next to another one causes them to stick together. Selecting a clip and clicking the Delete button removes the clip from the time-line entirely. Over to the left side of the time-line is a small slider bar. Moving this slider causes PiTiVi to stretch or shrink the time-line, allowing us to see finer segments or pull back for a big-picture view.
At the top of the time-line there is a bar showing the current location (time wise) in the clip. Clicking on this bar moves us forward or backward through the available clips and a snapshot of our location is displayed in the preview window. The preview isn't just for static snapshots, it can also be used to play forward through our clip(s).
PiTiVi - mixing sounds and visuals
(full image size: 197kB, resolution 1366x733 pixels)
A feature I had a lot of fun with is the uncoupling of sound from the video. Typically when we move a video clip around in PiTiVi, the corresponding audio track moves with it. So if we have a segment of Julie Andrews singing "The hills are alive..." and we cut that out of the rest of the film, the audio gets dragged along with the image frames. However, with the click of a button, we can uncouple the audio from the video. This allows us to mix and match various audio and visual pieces -- handy if you're creating a music video, adding commentary or making a parody.
Once all the pieces are in the right place we will want to save our new creation. On PiTiVi's toolbar there is a Render button which brings up a dialogue box with two options. The first option is the name under which we want to save our latest creation. The other concerns the format of our output file. Diving into the format options there are a wide selection of choices on hand. We can select the resolution and frame rate using pre-defined DVD encoding for PAL and NTSC, 720 and 1080 hi-def, VGA and SVGA. If these choices aren't appealing we can also input custom video resolution and frame rates.
Likewise there are different levels of quality for sound output and a huge array of available containers and codecs. During my testing of PiTiVi, I rendered four projects of varying lengths and with different input/output formats. For the most part I found the end result was what I wanted, taking into account my extremely amateur editing skills. Again, the exception to this was when dealing with WMV files. Output which resulted from using WMV files would sometimes run longer than expected, missing their cut-off points.
There were some problems with output formats too. Videos when rendered using all the default settings would switch between being in colour (as intended) and being shown in either black & white or a washed out brown, such as found in old photographs. Adjusting the program settings to use different containers/codecs results in a better quality video. Times to render a final product varied a little, but generally I found the process would take about one to four times longer than the running time of the video. That is, a five minute, low-resolution video might take five minutes to create. A ten minute video at DVD quality took me just under forty minutes to render.
PiTiVi - rendering the video
(full image size: 117kB, resolution 1366x733 pixels)
During my trial with the program, there were some stability issues. PiTiVi locked up on me several times, twice while copying a clip from the library into the time-line, a few times during rendering operations and once when removing a clip from my library. I'm hoping the project fixes these bugs and, perhaps, adds an auto-save/recover function. Aside from these interruptions the application worked smoothly and virtually without lag.
What impresses me about PiTiVi isn't so much that it's a flexible multimedia editor -- we have a handful of those already in the Linux community. What I think sets PiTiVi apart is that it makes video editing intuitive. I don't generally create or edit video files, but I was able to jump right in with this application. I didn't have any need for a manual or tutorial (though there is a short tutorial on the project's website). PiTiVi has an interface which allows people to learn by doing without a bunch of scary options or jargon. Almost everything is drag-n-drop with this editor and I feel it lowers the bar for people interested in putting together their own videos.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
RHEL hits release candidate status, Fedora 14 features, understanding Debian release process, Linux Mint 10 look and feel
The long-awaited release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 is nearing the finishing line. Last week, the world's biggest Linux vendor announced a non-public availability of a release candidate build, hinting that the final release should be out before the end of the year: "Today, we take a large step forward toward Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 with the delivery of the release candidate for the product, marking our entrance into the final stages of product delivery for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. The release candidate is available to a small set of strategic testing partners, including our OEM partners, and Red Hat's independent software vendor (ISV) partners. We encourage all of our ISV partners to enable our joint customers to experience the significant enhancements in performance, reliability and security offered in this version of what is intended to become our new flagship platform by accelerating testing and final certification of ISV offerings on the release candidate. We expect no further changes to the ABI or API that might otherwise affect application compatibility as we finalize Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and make it generally available later this year." Among the popular RHEL clones only Scientific Linux has built an early alpha version (based on the last public beta of RHEL 6), which can be downloaded from the project's FTP server.
* * * * *
With the upcoming release of Fedora 14 just around the corner (scheduled for 2 November, pending the usual go/no-go review), Red Hat has published a series of articles detailing some of the new features in the new version. Among them, the Get Mobile with Fedora 14 and Keeping Secure with OpenSCAP should be of interest to those who are already having upgrade itches: "Staying true to its motto of 'Freedom, Friends, Features, First,' the Fedora Project always looks to implement the latest open-source technologies. The release of Fedora 14 is expected to mark a 'first' with inclusion of support for the SCAP (Security Content Automation Protocol) 1.0 standard -- a first across all distributions. SCAP is a line of standards managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It provides a standardized approach to maintaining the security of systems, such as automatically verifying the presence of patches, checking system security configuration settings, and examining systems for signs of compromise. With OpenSCAP, the open source community is leveraging many different components from the security standards ecosystem." More Fedora 14-related articles can be expected in the coming weeks.
* * * * *
Unlike many mainstream distributions, the Debian project has always maintained its released-when-ready release policy. This is a great approach that ensures that the product is only made available once it passes the strict quality control tests, but the lack of deadlines and target dates means that a new release can take years to reach "stable" status. How does a complex operating like that take shape? Raphaël Hertzog explains the finer details of the routine in an article entitled "Understanding Debian's release process": "Currently, the main product of the Debian project is its stable release. Those release come out approximately every 18-24 months. This article gives a short overview of the process leading to the next stable release. Immediately after a stable release, a new distribution is created in the Debian archive. Its initial content is a copy of the (just released) stable distribution. Its code name is decided by the release managers and there's a tradition of picking a character's name from the Toy Story movie. As an example, the 'wheezy' distribution will be created once 'squeeze' (aka Debian 6.0) is out. For simplicity there's a generic name to refer to the distribution used to prepare the next stable release: it's 'testing'. In the Debian archive, 'testing' is just a symbolic link pointing to the right directory ('squeeze' currently)."
Debian is famous for producing more installation media than any other distribution out there. But that's not the only product form available. The Debian Live team has been building live CD images for several years now and, according to this article by Steven Rosenberg, they are getting better all the time: "Nobody writes much about the Debian Live project, which went from a bunch of stable images for Intel architectures to offering stable and testing images not just for i386 and amd64 but also for PowerPC, the latter in a time when many distributions (Fedora, Ubuntu) have abandoned the Power architecture almost entirely. Users of i386 and amd64 can also choose from monthly, weekly and daily builds of Debian Live with GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE or the standard install, and there's also a web-based utility to build a custom 'Lenny', 'Squeeze' or 'Sid' image.Aside from the usual ISO images, there are also .img files for USB drives. There is a manual for Debian Live. It's pretty geeky, but I have a feeling I'll be able to drop a live, bootable image on a USB flash drive without taking the interim step of burning an ISO to a DVD-RW and using it to install Debian Live to the Flash drive, which is the way I've been doing it until now."
* * * * *
Hot on the heels of Ubuntu's latest version comes the release candidate for Linux Mint 10, announced last week. Based on the initial impressions of those who tried the new release and who reported about it on their web sites and blogs, it's going to be yet-another-great Linux Mint, full of clever improvements and user-friendly features. Clement Lefebvre has put together a quick list of frequently asked questions and answers related to the projects latest version, including comments on the desktop's new look and feel: "There's a trend out there towards the glossy and the minimalist/slick looking... and to say that Mac OS hasn't had an influence on this would be ridiculous. With products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and even with the lines of the iMac, and the glossiness of their operating system, they're setting the tone and acting as pioneers in IT. But that trend is also followed by Ubuntu (I think that's quite established by now) and Microsoft Windows, it simply reflects the demand and the popularity of that kind of look, and it's not only there in IT, it's everywhere. Look at Web 2.0. Didn't that start it all on our screens even before Mac changed their look? Look at modern kitchens, with their glossy black and chrome appliances, plastic corrian tops... it's there as well and it's popular. The computer is becoming an appliance and its look needs to follow the trend that's popular at the moment. Mint 10 is a step forward in that direction, and whether the influence comes from Mac or not, it doesn't really matter. We believe it's the right way to go."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Virtual Machine options
Looking-at-virtual-machine-options asks: I am setting up my first virtual machine. I am aware of the status of VirtualBox and have decided that the future is too murky for me to choose this software at the moment. I am aware of VMware, but if possible would like to choose an open source solution. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
DistroWatch answers: You mentioned VirtualBox, so let's take a look at that first. While I agree that the future of some projects recently acquired by Oracle have question marks over them, VirtualBox is still receiving attention from its developers. And it's an open-source project, so chances are it will be able to carry on (perhaps under a different name) if Oracle decides to remove its support. I mention this because the question said that this was your first virtual machine and I believe VirtualBox is an excellent learning tool. A novice to virtual environments can point and click their way though a VirtualBox setup in a few minutes and feel secure in taking the defaults offered. So even if you decide to branch out and settle on a different virtual machine later, I recommend starting on VirtualBox to get a feel for the technology.
The question also mentioned VMware and it's a solid product too. Granted, their virtual environment isn't open-source, but VMware is friendly toward the open source community and their software runs on Linux and FreeBSD. So if you're comfortable mixing open source and proprietary solutions, I find VMware to be user-friendly.
But since you wish to stick to open source solutions (aside from VirtualBox), I recommend using Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) with Virtual Machine Manager (often packaged as virt-manager) as the graphical interface. Some of the terminology will take time getting accustomed to, but it's a solid technology with backing from Red Hat. I find KVM to be efficient, it has a reliable company behind it and it's open-source software.
|Released Last Week
Ultimate Edition 2.8
Glenn Cady has announced the release of Ultimate Edition 2.8, an Ubuntu-based distribution on a DVD with extra applications, media codecs and hardware drivers: "Ultimate Edition 2.8 was built off Ubuntu 10.10. All packages upgraded. The software you have come to love with previous editions of Ultimate Edition have been also pre-installed along with 12 new ones. At time of build Cinelerra and Wine-Doors were broken and did not make the cut. I also want to apologise for the delay and at the same time thank my admin for the delay of the Ultimate Edition 2.8 s release. Many issues have been squashed in 2.8 because of the delay. Cowboy's handiwork at the theme has won the poll and will be deemed 'Cowboy Blue'. Don't like the blue theme? There are 107 themes to choose from, it does not have to be dark. I have included a now enhanced, color and font selectable Conky script I wrote that will generate as per computer." Here is the brief release announcement.
Ultimate Edition 2.8 - an extended build of the latest Ubuntu on a DVD
(full image size: 1,934kB, resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu Rescue Remix 10.10
Andrew Zajac has announced the release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix 10.10, an Ubuntu-based live medium which provides the data recovery specialist with a command-line interface environment equipped with some of the best free and open source data recovery and forensics tools available: "Version 10.10 of the very best free-libre open-source data recovery software toolkit based on Ubuntu is out. This release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix features a full command-line environment with up-to-date versions of the most powerful free/libre open-source data recovery software, including GNU ddrescue, PhotoRec, The Sleuth Kit and GNU fdisk. The live environment has a very low minimum requirement due to the fact that there is no graphical interface. If you prefer to work in a graphical environment, a metapackage is available which will install the data recovery and forensics toolkit onto your current Ubuntu desktop system." See the release announcement for full details.
LinEx 2010, a Spanish, "libre", Debian-based distribution and live DVD whose development is sponsored by the Spanish regional government of Extremadura, has been released. New features in this version include: both installation and live modes are provided on the DVD; faster than ever; based on Debian 5.0.4 "Lenny"; Linux kernel 2.6.32 with support for recent wireless network adapters; GNOME desktop version 2.20; GRUB 2 bootloader; OpenOffice.org 3.2 office suite in Spanish with dictionaries included; Firefox web browser version 3.6.10, upgradable; fast access to social networks; multimedia software - Totem and MPlayer video players, Audacious and Rhythmbox audio players, OpenShot video editor, gThumb and F-Spot image viewers; games - Frozen Bubble and Crack-Attack, among others.... Please read the rest of the release announcement (in Spanish) for further details.
LinEx 2010 - a Spanish distribution based on Debian 5.0 "Lenny"
(full image size: 524kB, resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- 4MLinux. 4MLinux is a minimalist distribution in 25 MB designed primarily for basic rescue and maintenance tasks. It also includes utilities for organising music files, connecting to 3G networks and even some games.
- Arch Hurd. Arch Hurd is a derivative work of Arch Linux porting it to the GNU Hurd system with packages optimised for the i686 architecture. The goal is to provide an Arch-like user environment (BSD-style init scripts, i686-optimised packages, use of the Pacman package manager, rolling-release, and a KISS set up) on the Hurd which is stable enough for use, if not as a primary OS, at least as something to consider as a dual-boot option.
- MarBSD. MarBSD is an OpenBSD live CD. MarBSD exists in three variations: MarBSD-light, MarBSD-X and MarBSD-serial. MarBSD-X is the biggest variation. MarBSD-X includes all file sets from base, except comp and some other packages like Mutt, Fetchmail, Wget, cURL, unzip, GQview and Firefox.
- OpenHost OS. OpenHost OS is a Slackware-based distribution with focus on gaming with WINE.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 1 November 2010.
Ladislav Bodnar and Jesse Smith
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