| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 403, 2 May 2011
Welcome to this year's 18th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Ubuntu 11.04 made its appearance as scheduled last week and all the talk on many Linux forums is about upgrade experiences and the new Unity desktop. As always, opinions vary widely, but those willing to spend some time on learning the ins and outs of this desktop will be rewarded with a smooth and consistent experience that will likely make them more productive than using one of the more traditional desktop layouts. See the news section below for a link to an excellent guide to Unity. Also in the news, Lubuntu gets closer to becoming an "official" Ubuntu project, Mageia produces the first live CD images for beta testing, and Linux Journal interviews Ronald Ropp, the creator of the lightweight and energy-efficient wattOS. This week's feature story is for gamers, as Jesse Smith reviews Frozenbyte's Trine, while the Questions and Answers section talks about strategies for making the right choices when it comes to Linux distributions and software. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the April 2011 DistroWatch.com donation is the Calibre project. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (39MB) and MP3 (34MB) formats
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Gaming with Trine|
The game Trine, by Frozenbyte, has been out for a while now. It was first released in July 2009 for Windows and later became available for the PlayStation Network. In late 2010 Frozenbyte ported their game to OS X and turned Trine over to Alternative Games for porting to Linux.
What is Trine? Technically speaking, Trine is a 2-D (2.5-D if we want to be picky) side-scrolling platform game featuring physics puzzles. It has an action/adventure component and a multi-player option. Granted, that doesn't tell us much; the same description can be applied to thousands of games, many of them featuring Italian plumbers. So let's put aside the technical aspect for a moment. The story behind Trine is that three characters (a knight, a wizard and a thief) have all touched a magic item which has bound them together, effectively, in one body. At any given time just one of the characters can physically manifest themselves, while the other two disappear. The three characters aren't thrilled about being locked together and they set out to try to find a cure.
The world in which the three characters live is full of platforms, physics puzzles and angry, sword-wielding skeletons. The player's job is to guide the characters (or character, since only one is visible at any given time) through each of the levels. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, giving the player three different approaches to solving the game's puzzles.
Installing the game is straightforward. Launching the installer prompts us to supply a location for the game files. The required data is copied over and we're given the option of creating application menu short-cuts. When the game launches, we're shown a quick series of intro videos (which can be skipped) and dropped at a menu. The menu is pretty standard. We're able to start a new game, load an existing game and change the difficulty setting. There's also an options menu which allows for a good deal of customization. We can adjust the brightness of the display and the various aspects of audio (voices, effects and music). The game additionally allows for several different levels of graphics, handy for people who have lower- or higher-end video cards.
Trine - crossing moving platforms with the knight
(full image size: 488kB, screen resolution 800x500 pixels)
The game begins by walking the player through a tutorial for each character. Basically we're guided through a few rooms with no enemies and some simple puzzles which are specifically tailored to that character's strengths. The knight carries a sword and shield, making him adept at close combat and smashing through things. However, his heavy equipment makes him a poor choice for jumping and swimming. The wizard is able to summon objects into existence, such as boxes and planks. He's also able to magically levitate small items. On the other hand, the wizard has no weapons or means of defence, making him vulnerable to enemies. The thief comes armed with a bow & arrows, making her suited to long-range combat. She also carries a grappling hook, enabling her to climb to high places. Once the tutorials are completed we can quickly switch between the three characters as often as we like.
As mentioned previously, having three characters in one body gives the player a selection of different ways to approach obstacles. As an example, let's say there is a river in the player's path. The knight might find objects to throw in the water and use them as stepping stones. The thief might find a nearby tree branch to attach her grapple hook to and swing across. The wizard can create a plank to place over the water and walk across. In Trine, as with Perl, "there's more than one way to do it" and this may be my favourite aspect of the game. At first I occasionally felt as if I might be cheating. There are levels beautifully laid out with physics puzzles and hidden areas and I found myself walking through, using the wizard to stack boxes in front of any barrier so I could hop over it. However, as time went on and the levels became more challenging, the real strengths of each character came more into play and the different approaches meant not only were there different ways to solve puzzles, but the game also lent itself to different styles of play.
For example, I like to slowly enter an area, look around, figure out the safest way through a region and carefully move puzzle pieces into place. Completing an entire level might take me ten minutes. I've seen videos of other players who like to charge right into the thick of things who complete the same levels in just over a minute. Trine makes itself appealing in this way to both puzzle solvers and to action/adventure gamers. The boss fights, which show up about every other level, follow this same philosophy. Brave souls can rush in, attacking these monsters head on if they choose, but it's also possible to go through most of the game never fighting a boss creature on equal terms, instead using objects, alcoves and ledges to either get around them or destroy them while maintaining a safe distance. I've found other games often pay lip service to "there is more than one way to do this" style of gaming, but they usually end up forcing the player to fight the Big Bad Boss at the end. Trine follows through nicely on the concept of doing it your own way. It's also a fairly forgiving game, providing (to start with) three levels of difficultly. The Easy setting really does make Trine a walk in the park and the Hard setting is quite challenging. The creators also added regular checkpoints throughout the levels so a player who gets stuck, or who is overwhelmed by foes, can teleport back to the last checkpoint.
In regards to graphics, the game is, in a word, beautiful. These aren't high-res, photo-realistic graphics, but the colours and detail in the level designs -- the special touches -- are quite striking. The levels vary quite a bit in appearance, taking us through an abandoned village, a dungeon, a dragon graveyard, a forge and a mine. Each level is well designed and attractive without being distracting. Trine also deserves special mention for being one of the few games I prefer to play with the sound turned on. Almost all of the games I've played in the past have been muted after ten minutes due to their short, looped music, their high-pitched sound effects and repetitive voices. This game is one of the few I've experienced where the music is not only pleasant, but enhances the mood of the environment. Further, the voice acting is sparse and doesn't repeat itself. Sound effects can also be helpful as some enemies can be heard before they are seen, giving the player an early warning. Arrows fired off screen make different noises depending on whether the missile hits a foe, a stone wall or a tree, helping the thief to map out her environment.
The controls for Trine are straight forward and, I found, intuitive. Basic character movement is handled by the W,A,S & D keys. Casting spells and using weapons is handled via the mouse. Being right handed, I found this layout natural. The only time the controls and I disagreed was when using the wizard to summon objects. Creating objects is done by drawing an outline of the desired object on the screen with the mouse. Drawing a square creates a box, a line makes a plank and a triangle makes a floating platform. Perhaps it's just me, but sometimes it seemed the game was intentionally mistaking my triangles for squares or my boxes for random hand waving. The game does not feature network play, but it does allow for multiple local players. I haven't had a chance to test this feature yet, but the video demo makes it look like a solid experience.
Trine - swinging over obstacles with the thief
(full image size: 426kB, screen resolution 800x500 pixels)
It is a game developer's curse that the closer a game comes to perfection, the more its little quirks and flaws stand out. While I didn't encounter anything I would specifically call a bug, there were some aspects to the game which caused me problems. The most noticeable, perhaps, is that when a character steps on a button or pulls a lever to open a door, the character freezes and the camera moves away to show the door being opened. This in itself is useful, but while the player is paralysed the enemies are not. A few times I found myself activating something and then standing helpless while foes chopped at my immobile avatar. The inventory and character screen puzzled me for a while. On this screen we see each of our characters, any items they have picked up and their skills. We can assign points to their skills and trade items between the characters. Early on, I found myself wondering "How do I use an item? How do I select this skill that isn't highlighted yet?"
Eventually I realized through trial and error that the items do not need to be equipped, they're automatically used by whichever character is holding the item. Unmarked skills are ones which become available automatically later in the game, we simply have to wait until we reach that point. One final thing that irked me, largely because I thought I had out-smarted the level designers, came in the form of bottomless pits. Like most platform games made in the past thirty years, Trine has some bottomless pit traps. Not many, but they're there. I thought I would be clever and use the thief's grappling hook to slowly lower myself down some holes to see if they were bottomless or just long drops to hidden locations containing treasure. I quickly discovered that lowering one's character down a bottomless pit causes the character to suddenly die upon reaching an invisible marker. (Level Designer: 1, Jesse: 0)
Trine - creating helpful objects with the wizard
(full image size: 441kB, screen resolution 800x500 pixels)
* * * * *
While playing with Trine I had a chance to exchange e-mails with Frozenbyte VP Joel Kinnunen.
DW: First, I wonder if you could comment on how much Trine cost to make? I've read rumours on the forum that its budget was in the range of one million dollars.
Well, it's no rumour - Trine cost roughly one million USD to create, give or take a bit. We have a postmortem on Gamasutra
that details it a bit more.
DW: Could you comment on how many requests you received to make a Linux port?
JK: Roughly a dozen or so, and from all over the world. The Shadowgrounds games got a similar amount of requests as well (in a longer timespan though). Overall interest in Linux gaming seems to be on the rise.
DW: Is it possible that we'll see the source code for Trine released after sales have dropped off?
JK: It's possible, but not in the near future.
DW: I understand that Trine 2 is due out sometime in 2011, could you give us a specific date and let us know what improvements we'll see over the original?
JK: Trine 2 is scheduled for a Q2 2011 release. It will be launched on Windows, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, followed closely by a Mac release. We hope that Linux won't be too far off either. Trine 2 features not only offline co-op like in the original, but also online co-op, a completely new story, absolutely stunning graphics, and plenty of new gameplay features and improvements. For example, the Wizard's levitated objects will retain their kinetic energy, so they can be hurled towards enemies, making the Wizard a lot more adept at combat, and the Thief gets a new time slow ability which will be very useful in certain puzzles. The game is built on a brand new game engine which allows us to do plenty of cool stuff on the technical side, and also lets our artists bring to life some of the most detailed and beautiful worlds ever seen in games.
DW: Thank you, Mr Kinnunen.
* * * * *
Some of you may have read this far and wondered why I'm talking about commercial, closed-source software. Doesn't that practice fly in the face of free and open source philosophies? Perhaps, for some people, it does. However, I have two reasons for encouraging people to try Trine. The first reason is that smart companies don't change their business models overnight. They test the waters, see what happens and ease into new practices. A few months ago Trine was available as closed source, commercial software on closed platforms. Now it's a closed source, commercial product on an open platform. It's a small step, but it's in the right direction. If we spurn their initial offering then the developers will see Linux as an unprofitable market and go back to what has worked for them in the past.
My second reason ties in with the first and that is: the developers have shown a willingness to listen to feedback. When Trine was first released and made available on disc, it was for closed source platforms and the physical copies which could be purchased required the disc to be in the machine to run. Later, the developers responded to customer requests and released a patch so that the disc was no longer required. Early fans of the game complained about the last level having a time limit where other levels did not and a patch was released to address that complaint. Still later, we're also seeing a willingness to expand to other, open, platforms. Frozenbyte is a company that listens and I think that's worth supporting. Further, proceeds from the sale of Frozenbyte's bundle on Humble Bundle are divided between Frozenbyte, the EFF and the Child's Play charity. We, the players, get to decide how much to pay for the game and what percentage each organization gets.
In conclusion, I think Trine is a great game. It's flexible in that a person can spend just ten minutes bashing undead foes or get lost in an hour of solving puzzles or pass the time exploring. The controls are intuitive and the difficultly curve is gradual. The levels are varied and well laid out and I've encountered no serious problems with the game play. In short, Trine is a lot of fun.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
OMG! Ubuntu! publishes Unity guide, Lubuntu nears "official" status, Mageia releases first live CDs, interview with wattOS' Ronald Ropp
The new Ubuntu's biggest desktop "feature" (some call it a "bug" thought) is undoubtedly the controversial Unity desktop. Whatever your view of this working environment, one thing is for sure - it's a very new and different way of working on a computer while accessing the preferred applications, files and utilities. As such, it requires some learning. OMG! Ubuntu! has put together an excellent guide to Unity, explaining all the major characteristics of this unique desktop: "Unity is now the default desktop experience in Ubuntu 11.04, so all users will get to experience this radical change from the traditional GNOME desktop from Ubuntu versions past. Ubuntu still uses GNOME, however, and most of what you see on the screen is still GNOME technology. Unity is just a shell running on top of the regular desktop. Founded in 2010 by Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical, The Unity Project has gone on to deliver a consistent user experience for desktop and netbook users alike. Unity and its technologies such as application indicators, system indicators, and Notify OSD, have worked hard to solve common problems in the free software desktop whilst optimizing the experience for touch, consistency, and collaboration." After doing some reading on the subject even sceptics might find that Unity isn't too bad, after all...
Ubuntu 11.04 - the Unity desktop
(full image size: 597kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
As far as lightweight Ubuntu variants go, Lubuntu, which features the LXDE desktop, seems to be among the most popular at the moment. Ever since the project's inception over a year ago, the developers have been beating on Canonical's door, trying to gain "official" status, along the lines of Kubuntu or Xubuntu. But it is only now that the developers' hard work is getting some "recognition from Canonical's highest echelons": "The next goals of the project are clear. Apart from constantly improving the distribution, the Lubuntu project aims to become an official flavour of Ubuntu. Recent comments by Mark Shuttleworth thanking the Lubuntu team add excitement in the community that this goal will be achieved in the near future. 'Thanks for the great work and progress of Lubuntu in the past two years. The fact that you are now 100% in the archive, and using PPAs and other tools effectively, makes it possible for us to consider recognising Lubuntu as an official part of the project. From my perspective, I see no problem in providing Lubuntu with the means to book sessions at UDS, and for us to call attention to Lubuntu in the project release notes. Our goal with Ubuntu is to ensure that the archive contains the full richness of free software. LXDE is definitely part of that, and with the other desktop environments making greater demands on PC resources, LXDE has a continued role to play.' (Mark Shuttleworth, April 26, 2011)."
* * * * *
The inaugural version of Mageia, a Mandriva fork created last year by many former developers and contributors to the popular French distribution, is edging closer the big release day (scheduled for 17 May). Up until last week those willing to test the distribution were limited to installing the it from a traditional installation DVD, rather than the commonly used and more user-friendly live medium. This changed last week when Mageia announced the availability of live CDs (i586 architecture only), with either KDE or GNOME, and supporting English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish languages: "It took more time than expected but here they are: live CD ISO images for Mageia 1 beta 2. You will find, for now, 2 ISO images; one each for KDE and GNOME. They include a limited set of supported languages (due to size constraints). The plan is to provide more ISO images, with each image including a specific set of supported languages." Quick download links: mageia-livecd-1-beta2-KDE4-int-cdrom-i586.iso (700MB, MD5)), mageia-livecd-1-beta2-GNOME-int-cdrom-i586.iso (700MB, MD5).
Mageia 1 beta 2 - the last chance to test and report bugs
(full image size: 949kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Finally, a link to an interview with the lead developer of a lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution called wattOS, Ronald Ropp. How did wattOS come about? "I grew frustrated with Windows 95 and the constant upgrade cycle, money required, memory, bloat, viruses, etc. I was taking old Dell Optiplex desktop machines and installing VectorLinux on them to make a fast, secure, simple platform for people to use. I would get a lot of 10 of them from a local recycler, install Vector Linux on them and sell them on eBay or simply give them to people." And what is the ethos behind wattOS? "From the beginning, my intent for wattOS (which I first released in July 2008) was to create a simple, fast desktop that can leverage the large Debian/Ubuntu knowledge base and repositories. I've tried to keep it somewhat minimal, while being as functional as possible for the average user. I don't want them to have to do a ton of command line work just to do the basics such as web, email, music, video, print, photos, word processing, chat, etc. I've also created (or included) some basic tools to help minimize power use. Additionally, there are a ton of systems sitting unused, in closets, being scrapped, etc that are perfectly functional, and people who do not have a lot of money would be thrilled to have them."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Choosing the right distribution and software
Facing-an-array-of-choices says: My opinion is that Linux has two problems for newbies. The plethora of solid options to choose from for SOHO users that are easy to install and work well out of the box can be confusing. The other is determining what packages are needed to do what they want, often they will be unfamiliar with many of the options.
DistroWatch answers: The huge selection of options can be overwhelming to newcomers. I recall when I first went looking for a copy of Linux it was a bit of a shock to discover just how many flavours there were. The choice of which one to try wasn't made any easier by the vague descriptions on the various About pages. Sometimes it feels like every new project has a description along the lines of "GNU/Noodle is a Linux operating system based on FooBar and using 100% GPLed software." (Not a helpful statement for people who aren't yet sure what GNU, GPL or FooBar are.) Fortunately members of the free and open source software community have realized that a large selection can be scary and these days doing a Google search for "choose a linux distribution" provides links to good articles on selecting a newbie-friendly project. I especially like the Linux Distribution Chooser tool, which helps people find the right distro based on their comfort level and preferences.
The individual software packages can be a bit more tricky. Searching Google for appropriate matches can be a frustrating trial-and-error experience and browsing sites like Linux.com will often turn up articles on obscure applications very few people use in the real world. I find the best way to find good applications is to ask people on your distribution's forum. The novice-friendly distros usually have forums where people unfamiliar with Linux can ask such questions and get suggestions from people who have recently made the switch themselves. Often times I find novice users have a better grasp on what will work for other newcomers than more experienced users.
Finding popular graphic manipulation software
(full image size: 69kB, screen resolution 760x500 pixels)
Some package managers, such as the one that comes with Linux Mint, will help you by showing software in categories and display software in a specific category with user ratings. This makes it fairly easy to find out what items have worked for other people.
|Released Last Week
Bayanihan Linux 5.4
Tracy Melissa Decena has announced the release of Bayanihan Linux 5.4, a new revision of the desktop-oriented distribution based on Debian's old stable branch, featuring the legacy KDE 3.5 desktop: "Bayanihan Linux 5 Revision 4 is now available for download. The newest 'Kalumbata' revision now features LibreOffice by The Document Foundation, an open-source office productivity suite derived from OpenOffice.org. However, OpenOffice.org 3.3, the latest version, is still bundled in the installer. Also packed in the new ISO image is the latest release of Bayanihan Linux's default web browser, Mozilla Firefox 4. Tons of security updates are also added. For old Bayanihan Linux users, software updates can be downloaded via Synaptic." See the release announcement which includes upgrade instructions for existing users.
DragonFly BSD 2.10.1
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 2.10.1, a BSD operating system originally forked from FreeBSD 4 series: "The DragonFly BSD 2.10.1 release is now available. This release sports significant compatibility and performance improvements and many new features. Big-ticket items: this release supports a much larger variety of hardware and multiprocessor systems than previous releases, thanks to updates of ACPI and APIC and ACPI interrupt routing support; Hammer volumes can now deduplicate volumes overnight in a batch process and during live operation; Packet Filter (pf) was updated to a version based upon OpenBSD 4.4; DragonFly now uses GCC 4.4 as the default system compiler, and is the first BSD to take that step; significant performance gains over previous releases...." Read the release notes for detailed information about the changes and features in this version.
Slackware Linux 13.37
Slackware Linux 13.37, a new version of the world's oldest surviving Linux-based operating system, has been released: "It's true! Slackware 13.37 has been released. Nearly a year in the making, you will appreciate the performance and stability that can only come with careful and rigorous testing. Slackware 13.37 uses the 18.104.22.168 Linux kernel and also ships with 22.214.171.124 kernels for those who want to run the latest. The long-awaited Firefox 4.0 web browser is included, the X Window System has been upgraded (and includes the open source nouveau driver for NVIDIA cards). The venerable Slackware installer has been improved as well, with support for installing to btrfs, a one-package-per-line display mode option, and an easy to set-up PXE install server that runs right off the DVD!" For full details please read the release announcement.
Slackware Linux 13.37 includes KDE 4.5.5 as the default desktop.
(full image size: 803kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Chakra GNU/Linux 2011.04
Phil Miller has announced the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2011/04, an Arch-based distribution featuring the latest KDE desktop: "The Chakra development team is proud to announce the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2011.04, code-named 'Aida'. Two month have passed since Chakra 2011.02. Now it is time for Aida to impress. We added kernel 126.96.36.199 and lots of package updates. KDE got updated to 4.6.2 with our patches added, such as our hardware detection, including the latest drivers. Manuel Tortosa managed to remove all GTK+ dependencies from LibreOffice, so you can use it from our DVD edition on your KDE desktop without GTK+ installed. Also we added AppSet as our front-end for Pacman. For all our GTK+ fans we have added some popular GTK+ applications as bundles." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Chakra GNU/Linux 2011.04 - a KDE-centric distribution based on Arch Linux
(full image size: 836kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu 11.04, a new version of the popular Linux distribution for desktops and servers, has been released: "The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce Ubuntu 11.04, code-named 'Natty Narwhal'. 11.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. For PC users, Ubuntu 11.04 supports laptops, desktops and netbooks with a unified look and feel based on a new desktop shell called 'Unity'. This version supersedes Ubuntu Netbook Edition for all PC netbooks. Developer reference images are provided for select Texas Instruments (TI) ARM platforms, specifically the 'PandaBoard' and 'BeagleBoard'. Ubuntu Server 11.04 has made it easier to provision servers, and reduce power consumption." See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Kubuntu 11.04, a useful Ubuntu variant featuring the latest KDE desktop, is ready: "The Kubuntu team is proud to announce the release of 11.04 - codename 'Natty Narwhal': the latest version of our popular Linux distribution, based on Ubuntu and KDE's Plasma and Applications 4.6. With the combination of its Ubuntu backbone, the amazing KDE Software Compilation, and a few unique extras, 11.04 aims to provide the best fusion of stability, beauty, and up-to-date software. Whether working, browsing the web, playing your music, composing an email or connecting with your friends on social networks, Kubuntu brings you a powerful, innovative and attractive platform for all your desktop needs!" See the release announcement and release notes for additional details.
Edubuntu 11.04, the educational flavour of Ubuntu, has been released: "The Edubuntu development team is really proud and happy to announce that Edubuntu 11.04 has now been released. This version builds on the excellent 10.10 release, making the installation process even more flexible and improves the desktop not only by updating it but also by updating the look & feel and choosing the best available software for each use case. Here are the major changes and choices we made for this 11.04 release: Edubuntu 11.04 ships with a classic Ubuntu desktop by default; it's now possible to do fine-grained package selection so you can install only what you need; ships with Arkose installed by default...." Here is the complete release announcement.
Edubuntu 11.04 - an operating system for better education
(full image size: 458kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Mythbuntu 11.04, a new version of the Ubuntu-based distribution focusing on easy set up of a standalone MythTV system, is out today: "Mythbuntu 11.04 has been released. It is very important to note that this release is only compatible with MythTV 0.24 systems. Previous Mythbuntu releases can be upgraded to a compatible version with the builds located here. For a more detailed explanation, see here. Changes from Mythbuntu 10.10: MythTV 0.24; Mythbuntu-bare scheduling now available for backups; Android and iOS devices can now be used as remote controls; underlying Ubuntu updates; recent snapshot of the MythTV 0.24 release is included; preview of the upcoming MythNetvision plugin; Mythbuntu theme fixes." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information and known issues.
Ubuntu Studio 11.04
Scott Lavender has announced the release of Ubuntu Studio 11.04, a specialist Ubuntu variant featuring a large collection of packages for multimedia tasks: "The Ubuntu Studio team is very excited over its ninth release: 11.04 'Natty Narwhal', available as a 1.5 GB DVD ISO image. Numerous improvements have been implemented for this release, but here are some of the more notable ones. The task selections during installation have been updated; the audio tasks have been parsed into two groups: generation and recording. The 'generation' task selection is focused more on synthesizers and sequencers and the 'recording' task focuses on recording live musician performances. Currently, Ubuntu Studio is shipping the -generic kernel; we are working with the Ubuntu kernel team to get a -lowlatency kernel into the archives." Here are the full release notes.
Absolute Linux 13.2.2
Paul Sherman has announced the release of Absolute Linux 13.2.2, a lightweight, Slackware-based desktop distribution featuring the IceWM window manager: "Absolute Linux 13.2.2 released. Use of HAL has been dropped for newer ConsoleKit and udisks, as well as LXDE's newer version of PCManFM. Code changes for the Absolute customizations in libfm and PCManFM are included in /usr/doc for each package. Devmon replaces halevt to handle DVD and audio CDs. You'll notice edits to .initrc, .bashrc .bash_logout as well as the start-up file for IceWM reflecting the changes." Other major changes include switch to LibreOffice as the optional office suite, upgrade to IceWM 1.3.7, and synchronisation of packages with Slackware's current tree. See the brief release announcement and the detailed changelog for further information.
Absolute Linux 13.2.2 - an updated build of the lightweight Slackware derivative
(full image size: 216kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
ZevenOS 1.9.9 "Neptune"
Leszek Lesner has announced the release of ZevenOS 1.9.9 "Neptune" edition, a Debian-based Linux distribution featuring the KDE 4.6.2 desktop: "The ZevenOS Neptune team is pleased to announce the release of ZevenOS 'Neptune' 1.9.9. This release comes with a couple of changes and new features. We updated the Linux kernel to version 188.8.131.52 which comes with neat little features, like better hardware support for wireless network cards and the famous cgroups patch which brings more speed under heavy load. The underlying Debian 'Squeeze' system was upgraded to Debian 'Testing' which will provide newer applications through the life cycle of Neptune 1.9.9. KDE SC 4.6.2 makes it début with lots of updates and the typical Neptune look & feel and a new default font, the Ubuntu Font. For the sake of consistency we replaced Synaptic and Software Center with their KDE/Qt-based counterparts - Muon and KPackageKit." The release announcement contains more information and a screenshot.
Mario Behling has announced the release of Lubuntu 11.04, an unofficial Ubuntu variant that showcases the lightweight, but full-featured LXDE desktop: "Julien Lavergne has released Lubuntu 11.04. Features: based on the lightweight LXDE desktop environment; PCManFM 0.9.8, a fast and lightweight file manager using GIO/GVFS; LXDE, a lightweight GTK+ display manager; Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome; based on Ubuntu 11.04. Improvements since Lubuntu 10.10: new automatic way to build the ISO images; switch from Aqualung to Audacious for the music player; switch from Xarchiver to File Roller for the archives; switch from Cheese to GTK+ UVC Viewer for using webcams; new added applications - gucharmap, LXKeymap, documentation; Lubuntu is now HAL free; new theme." Read the full release announcement for a full list of improvements.
Lubuntu 11.04 - a lighter "buntu" with LXDE as the preferred desktop
(full image size: 290kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Xubuntu 11.04, an official Ubuntu flavour featuring the Xfce desktop, has been released: "Xubuntu 11.04, code-named the 'Natty Narwhal', is the latest and greatest version of Xubuntu." What's new? "Xubuntu wallpaper has been updated for this release. The wallpaper is designed to integrate well with the new graybird theme. The installation slideshow has been updated, and really displays the best of Xubuntu. The Elementary Xubuntu icon theme has been updated. Xubuntu is using the Droid font by default, since it is a lightweight, good visibility font. The newly released Xfce 4.8 is included. The menus in Xfce 4.8 are now editable with any menu editor that meets the freedesktop.org standards." See the release announcement and release notes for a list of major changes.
Ubuntu Rescue Remix 11.04
Andrew Zajac has announced the release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix 11.04, an Ubuntu-based live medium which provides the data recovery specialist with a command-line interface environment equipped useful free and open-source data recovery and forensics tools: "Version 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' of the very best libre open-source data recovery software toolkit based on Ubuntu is out. This version features and up-to-date infrastructure and several new packages, including Dump, a backup and restore solution as well as ClamAV, the best in libre anti-virus software. Ubuntu-Rescue-Remix features a full command-line environment with the newsest versions of the most powerful libre open-source data recovery software including GNU ddrescue, Photorec, The Sleuth Kit and Gnu-fdisk." Here is the brief release announcement.
Superb Mini Server 1.6.0
A new version of Superb Mini Server (SMS), a Slackware-based distribution for servers, was announced earlier today: "Superb Mini Server version 1.6.0 released. SMS 1.6.0 is based on Slackware Linux 13.37 and ships with Linux kernel 184.108.40.206 to honor our compatibility with the new Slackware release; the 220.127.116.11 kernels are available for anyone wishing to run a newer kernel. SMS 1.6.0 brings new optional features in the extra CD, such as DLNA support either with fuppes or mediatomb and computational clustering. SMS installer now offers Btrfs support and GPT partitioning, and also a PXE server for network installations right off the install CD, but don't activate the PXE Boot Server if you are not going to use it. New packages in this release are btrfs-progs, lrzip, gDisk for GPT partitions scheme...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
Tiny Core Linux 3.6
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Tiny Core Linux 3.6, a new version of the world's smallest desktop Linux distribution: "Team Tiny Core is pleased to announce the release of Tiny Core Linux 3.6. Change log: new tc-install.sh replaces usbinstall - added frugal install to partition with formatting options; New tc-install FLTK GUI front end to tc-install.sh callable from cpanel; new tcemirror.sh to present select list of both local and remote mirrors; new mydata= boot code to support alternate name for backup; updated squashfs modules with latest patches; updated fluff to 0.95, fixes reported segmentation faults and better handling of large files; updated mousetool to support left-handed 2-button serial mouse; updated flrun - added input search capability; updated cpanel change to tc-install for HD/USB Install...." Continue reading the changelog if you want to learn about all the detailed technical changes in this version.
Theo de Raadt has announced the release of OpenBSD 4.9, a BSD-based operating system specialising in high-security solutions through thorough code review. What's new? "OpenBSD amd64 and i386 - enabled NTFS by default (read-only) on GENERIC kernels; enabled the vmt driver by default for VMware tools support as a guest; SMP kernels can now boot on machines with up to 64 cores; maximum allocation size for i386 bumped to 2 GB; handle >16 disks when searching for kernel boot device; added support for AES-NI instructions found in recent Intel processors; further improvements in suspend and resume; processes are now switched to TSS per CPU on the amd64 platform, resulting in removal of the old limit of 4,000 processes. Improved hardware support, including: new vte driver for RDC R6040 10/100 Ethernet devices...." Visit the OpenBSD 4.9 release page to read a detailed, technical overview of the product.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
April 2011 DistroWatch.com donation: Calibre|
We are happy to announce that the recipient of the April 2011 DistroWatch.com donation is the Calibre project, a free and open-source e-book reader. It receives US$300.00 in cash.
Developed by Kovid Goyal since 2006, Calibre has an interesting history: "Calibre started life on 31 October, 2006, soon after the release of the SONY PRS-500, the first e-ink based reader to be sold commercially in the US. At the time, I was a graduate student, with a lot of time on my hands. The PRS-500 did not work at all with Linux, my operating system of choice, so I decided to reverse engineer the USB protocol that it used, to get it working on Linux. This was accomplished with the help of the fine folks over at mobileread.com and calibre was born, albeit named libprs500. At the time there were no satisfactory tools to convert content into the LRF format, used by the SONY reader, so I decided to implement a converter to convert the most popular e-book formats to LRF. This converter proved to be wildly popular and far better than the (mostly non-existent) offerings from SONY."
For more information about the project please see Calibre's history page. A long, categorised list of features is available here.
Launched in 2004, this monthly donations programme is a DistroWatch initiative to support free and open-source software projects and operating systems with cash contributions. Readers are welcome to nominate their favourite project for future donations. Those readers who wish to contribute towards these donations, please use our advertising page to make a payment (PayPal and credit cards are accepted). Here is the list of the projects that have received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$27,780 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 Sabayon Linux ($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), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250)
- 2009: Openbox ($250), Wolvix GNU/Linux ($200), smxi ($200), Python ($300), SliTaz GNU/Linux ($200), LiVES ($300), Osmo ($300), LMMS ($250), KompoZer ($360), OpenSSH ($350), Parted Magic ($350) and Krita ($285)
- 2010: Qimo 4 Kids ($250), Squid ($250), Libre Graphics Meeting ($300), Bacula ($250), FileZilla ($300), GCompris ($352), Xiph.org ($250), Clonezilla ($250), Debian Multimedia ($280), Geany ($300), Mageia ($470), gtkpod ($300)
- 2011: CGSecurity ($300), OpenShot ($300), Imagination ($250), Calibre ($300)
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Icefeast Linux. Icefeast Linux is an Ubuntu-based distribution. Some of the features include Windows "Autorun" icon, album art, running windows software using Wine, playing Windows games using PlayOnLinux, XBMC Media Center, the Alien package converter, and Miro Internet TV.
- Remix_OS. Remix_OS is a fast, lightweight, Debian-based distribution that can run live from a DVD or a USB stick or can be installed onto a hard disk or a USB Flash drive. It includes all media codecs needed for a good multimedia experience and a selection of the best applications for daily needs, including audio, video and image editors, an office suite, network applications, Sun Java, and an easy-to-use backup tool.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 May 2011.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
|• Issue 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• Issue 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Full list of all issues|