| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 421, 5 September 2011
Welcome to this year's 36th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! You might be forgiven if you think of Plop as something other than a Linux distribution. But this independently-developed project has been around for more than two years - first as a utility live CD with some useful tools for data recovery and backup, and recently also as a more user-friendly graphical desktop with GNOME. Jesse Smith takes the project's latest release for a spin and reports his findings. In the news section, Red Hat involves customers and partners in the decision-making process prior to the development of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, openSUSE and other distributions drop Sun/Oracle Java packages after Oracle's licence change, Mageia sets up security updates, package fixes and backports, and Syllable's lead developer Kaj de Vos explains the rationale of developing the non-Linux Syllable Desktop and the Linux-based Syllable Server. Finally, we have a pleasure to announce that the recipient of the August 2011 DistroWatch.com donation is the OpenShot video editor project. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
A distro that goes Plop|
I usually keep a few live discs around in case I need to do data recovery, help someone hunt down a driver for their proprietary operating system or perform a password reset. Quite often any of the mainstream distributions will do for this sort of thing. A Fedora live CD is typically just as effective as an Ubuntu or KNOPPIX disc for those sorts of things. Though sometimes, when dealing with older equipment, it's nice to have access to a super light live disc. Previously I've mentioned SliTaz GNU/Linux and Finnix as possibilities for working on low-end hardware. So here's a question: On the one side we have large general purpose distributions and on the other we have small, more guru-oriented distributions. Where is the middle ground? What if I want to do data recovery or password resets and don't have an Internet connection for downloading the required software? What if I want the benefits of both a lightweight system and a nice GUI? Well, that's where the flexibility and diversity of Linux really shines because there is a distro for just those cases, it's called Plop Linux.
According to the project's website, Plop Linux is designed to be a rescue disc, a backup/restore tool, a platform for running anti-virus, a network scanner and a tool to reset Windows passwords. The latest stable release, 4.1.2, comes with two desktop environments, Fluxbox and GNOME 2.
Booting off the 643 MB ISO brings up a boot menu which allows us to load Plop normally, load Plop into memory for faster performance (and to free up the CD drive), boot from other drives or install a boot manager. By default Plop boots quickly into a text prompt and automatically logs us in as the root user. We're given instructions on how to launch a desktop environment and how to choose between GNOME and Fluxbox. Simply launching a graphical environment defaults to the GNOME 2.30 desktop.
Plop Linux 4.1.2 - getting help and tips
(full image size: 157kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
I spent most of my time with Plop running in GNOME, so let's take a quick look at that environment. As is common in other distributions, the GNOME menus are placed at the top of the screen and the task switcher sits at the bottom. There are a handful of icons on the desktop for launching a terminal window, Firefox and GParted. There are also icons for browsing the file system and opening the project's website. The background is a dark grid pattern which brings to mind classic 8-bit video games.
In case you're interested in installing Plop Linux, the distro does come with an installer.... technically. There is a simple text-based program that asks the user a few questions, such as which device should Plop install to, do we need to format the destination partition and should Plop use DHCP for networking? Then the installer says its copying files over to the local drive (though no progress is shown) and about ten minutes later the installer announces it's finished. In my case rebooting and trying to launch a local install of Plop didn't work. Your mileage may vary, but I think it's best to consider Plop to be a rescue & utility CD only, not a day-to-day operating system.
Plop Linux 4.1.2 - the project's website
(full image size: 85kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
Looking at the application menu we find a mix of software, some of it aimed at trouble shooting and other packages are typical desktop software. Firefox 5 is included, there's a network scanner and secure shell & VNC browsers. There's a hex editor, the Cheese webcam utility and a disc burner. A multimedia player is included, along with a sound recorder. GParted is available, as is htop, a system monitor and a collection of network tools (featuring traceroute, port scanning, pinging and netstat). The usual array of GNOME apps is available for changing the look and feel of the system and there are little apps for editing text and managing archives. There are accessibility applications too, including the Orca screen reader and an on-screen keyboard.
The real power of Plop lies on the command line where we find a strong collection of programs for aiding in system recovery. There is a copy of the ext3grep file recovery tool. Also for file recovery, we're provided with the versatile photorec program and its companion app, TestDisk. There are file system check (fsck) programs. There's even a Btrfs file system checker, though I found trying to run it would cause the program to immediately crash. The chntpw app is included for resetting Windows passwords. Also available are the lynx text-based web browser, the Midnight Commander text-based file manager. For network scanning there's a copy of Nmap. In case you want to get rid of files rather than restore them, a copy of wipe is included. The rsync command is available for making backups. Though the GNU Compiler Collection isn't available, people who need to make their own tools can do so with awk and Perl. The mutt e-mail client is included, as is the nano text editor. For people working remotely the full range of secure shell, secure FTP and secure copy commands are installed, as is the screen command for people needing to take breaks while working remotely. Really, there's just about everything here you could want for responding to those panicked "I think I just lost everything!" calls. A copy of WINE is included in case the user needs to run Windows software and PartImage is available for backing up and restoring partitions.
The distro includes codecs for playing common multimedia formats, including mp3 and some types of videos. Despite these codecs I wasn't able to get any sound from the speakers. Any attempt to turn up the volume control resulted in errors. So the copy of MPlayer lost some of its usefulness on my systems. Plop doesn't have Flash, nor Java. It does come with a modern Linux kernel, version 3.0.1, and several network services. Enabled out of the box are a secure shell server, FTP server and Samba. Remote users are able to login anonymously to Plop via FTP and send/receive files. The FTP account is limited to using the space under the /home directory which is, by default, empty. These settings keep the lines of communication open without posing a large risk to system files. During my trial I found there aren't any man(ual) pages and there doesn't appear to be any package manager. This makes Plop Linux a what you see is what you get distribution.
I ran Plop Linux on two machine, my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card) and a desktop box (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card). Plop ran fairly well on both machines. Boot times were short, both the Fluxbox and GNOME desktops were responsive and my screens were set to reasonable resolutions. There were a few problems. Sound didn't work on either machine. It's not a big deal for a rescue disc, but it was unfortunate the CD includes a multimedia player and no sound support. My laptop's wireless card wasn't picked up, again not a big deal in most cases, but slightly inconvenient.
Plop Linux 4.1.2 - checking network ports
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For the most part my experiences with Plop were good. The backup/restore tools, rescue programs and network applications all worked as expected. Plop fills an important niche in that it's both lightweight, but also includes lots of rescue software. Most live CDs are geared toward showing off a distribution and testing hardware compatibility and it's nice to have a distribution that's small, focused and easy to use. Further, I liked that Plop didn't try to automatically mount local hard drives, taking a safe "hands off" approach. I did have a few complaints. For instance the website and help documentation mention being able to use the anti-virus software suites AVG, F-prot and Avast. Trying to run the setup programs for each of these applications gave me errors and no anti-virus.
The system installer didn't work for me and Plop probably doesn't need an installer anyway since it's a rescue disc. Most importantly, I think Plop should include the man pages for its software, or at least for key items like Nmap, ext3grep, PartImage and PhotoRec. These aren't the sort of programs a person wants to use by trial and error. Even with these problems, Plop is one of the best rescue utilities I've used. It's flexible, it's got the important software a person needs without relying on repositories, it gives the user the option of running in a bare bones text environment or in a GUI and it typically offers one application per task, avoiding the clutter of some other rescue discs. If you haven't already, I recommend adding Plop to your collection; you never know when it will come in handy.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Red Hat asks for customer input before RHEL 7, openSUSE and others bin non-free Java, Mageia sets up security updates, Syllable for desktops and servers
Over the years Red Hat, Inc. has established itself as a leading enterprise Linux vendor. Perhaps one of the reasons behind this success is the company's customer oriented approach - it was once rated as the number one enterprise software vendor in terms of customer value. Extending this recognition, the world's largest Linux company and the maker of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) has now launched an interesting initiative - expanded customer involvement in the development of RHEL 7: "Red Hat, Inc., the world's leading provider of open source solutions, today invites Red Hat Enterprise Linux users to help discuss features for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, the next major planned release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux enterprise operating system. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Ideas discussion group on the Red Hat Customer Portal is now open to all Red Hat subscribers to share use cases and discuss features. 'Having a formal process that allows customers to influence new features and overall product direction can be beneficial for vendors and customers alike,' said Elaina Stergiades, research manager, Software Support Services, at IDC.'"
* * * * *
The arrival of openSUSE 12.1, the next major version of the popular Linux distribution, is scheduled for just over two months from now (10 November). This can only mean the upcoming months will be characterised by accelerated development, intensive testing, urgent bug-fixing and all the usual pre-release activities. Andreas Jaeger reports about the current status of "Factory", the openSUSE development branch, including a note about the removal of the Sun/Oracle Java packages which are no longer distributable due to a recent change of licence by Oracle: "Up to now, openSUSE users had the choice of using OpenJDK (GPL with classpath exceptions) or Sun/Oracle's Java. The Sun/Oracle Java was licensed under the 'Distributor's License for Java (DLJ)', which allowed Linux distributors to package and redistribute Sun/Oracle Java. Recently, Oracle announced that OpenJDK 7 is the new official reference implementation for Java SE7. They no longer see the need for the DLJ-licensed Java implementation and so have retired that license. openSUSE chooses to proceed with distributing the GPL-licensed official reference implementation, OpenJDK. We will no longer distribute newer versions or updates of the now proprietary Sun/Oracle JDK." Similar notices have been recently published by Debian GNU/Linux (see sun-java6 packages removed soon from Debian/Ubuntu) and Arch Linux (see Removal of jre/jdk and jre6/jdk6).
* * * * *
Mageia is still a comparatively new distribution, at least in terms of its development and support infrastructure which had to be set up from scratch after the project was established last year. Now, with the first stable release out of the way, the developers finally have the time to focus on other important issues, such as security updates, post-release bug fixing, backports, and other relevant tasks. Stew Benedict reports: "If you've been using Mageia 1, you may have been wondering where all the updates are. It's customary to get quite a few updated packages in the first month or so of a new distribution to correct bugs and address security issues. Don't worry, we've been working on that too. As a new organization, and a community-driven one, we first had to work out how to do the updates. While some of us have experience from previous lives, we weren't entirely satisfied with the old process and wanted to make sure our new community of users and packagers had an input into how we'll do things. So, after discussion and some work behind the scenes for the mechanics of issuing an update, we have now have a process where the security team, the QA team, and the packager maintainer will all work together to build, test, and issue new updates."
* * * * *
Many readers following this website are probably familiar with some of the alternative free operating systems available on the Internet. One of them is Syllable Desktop, a free and open-source system forked in 2002 from AtheOS. But perhaps some readers are unaware that the Syllable project also provides a Linux-based distribution called Syllable Server. Syllable lead developer Kaj de Vos explains the differences and the rationale in an interview with Australia's TechWorld: "There are currently two flavours of Syllable. The original version is Syllable Desktop, an end-user OS intended to offer 'best practices in desktop system design'. 'It is meant to improve on mainstream user-oriented systems, that we feel are failing to meet these goals,' de Vos says. There is also Syllable Server; however, unlike the desktop version it is a Linux-based system. 'Part of the reason for the creation of the desktop system is our criticisms of user-oriented Linux systems, but Linux server systems are often superior to others.' Despite this difference between the two versions, there is some synergy: 'We routinely develop a component first on Syllable Server, because third-party projects already make sure it works on Linux. When that integration work is done, we can continue by making it work on Syllable Desktop, which is often a greater challenge due to its unique characteristics.'"
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Building live CDs and compiling source code
Live-and-on-the-CD asks: Is there a reason that some distros do not publish live CDs? If so, is it technical, in that their configuration simply won't allow it; or is it administrative, in that they simply do not have the volunteer developers to do it?
DistroWatch answers: Usually projects not providing live CDs is a matter of resources. It's not difficult, technically, to take a distribution and put it on a live disc, but it takes time and effort. Some projects just don't have enough volunteers to put out additional editions. With other projects, having a disc with a full desktop environment on it may just be outside of their goals. Slackware Linux and OpenBSD come to mind as projects which have the resources to create a live disc with a graphical environment, but it may not be something they think will benefit their users.
* * * * *
On a different topic, I'd like to bring up something that's been bothering me the past few weeks. I've been working on a project recently that has required me to download and install several other projects from their source code. With one exception, each of these installs has been a frustrating disaster. The configure and build systems have been flaky, the documentation typically doesn't include a complete list of dependencies and one project doesn't include any build & install instructions. Another developer and I have spent hours patching and recompiling just to get the software installed. Why has this been such a trial? I think the answer is that developers don't move around enough.
Almost all of the errors we've been working to correct appear to have sprung from the same issue, the developer(s) wrote their software to work on one platform. One was written for Ubuntu and assumed certain packages and structures were in place, another assumed a specific compiler, yet another relied on other software programs being in place. All easy assumptions to make, especially if the developer isn't testing their software on different platforms.
At this point in time there really isn't an excuse for not occasionally testing software on different distributions or even different operating systems. Virtual machines are easy to configure and most distributions are available free of charge. And testing on other platforms isn't just good for users and other developers, it can also uncover bugs in the software making it more resilient. I've noticed since I started testing my own projects in a FreeBSD virtual environment I've managed to make my software more flexible and I'm catching more issues before the software reaches end-users.
Which is why when I read about developers like Lennart Poettering say, "I don't think BSD is really too relevant any more, and I think that this implied requirement for compatibility with those systems when somebody hacks software for the free desktop or ecosystem is a burden, and holds us back for little benefit," it makes me cringe. Writing software to standards and making sure it runs on multiple systems is a good way to keep the code in a correct, healthy and (relatively) bugless state. It also opens up development to people on other distros and platforms. Open source projects are more attractive when the developers don't fall back on the "it works for me" attitude.
But it's more than that, more than the questionable benefit of more eyes on the code and happy developers. There's also a principle at stake in this issue. For years Linux users (and users of other open source operating systems) have been driving the idea that it shouldn't matter what web browser a person uses, web sites should be coded to standards. Likewise, it shouldn't matter what operating system a person runs, networks should use standard protocols so the OS is irrelevant. And open source users around the world have said it shouldn't matter what document viewer they utilize, governments should release papers in open formats. Now that some projects and distributions are gaining traction we're seeing posts like this and this and this. I think developers are losing sight of the open standards and "one for all" attitude which helped get us this far. We're seeing more software being written specifically for Ubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva and less being created for GNU/Linux. We are being divided and conquered by our own community.
|Released Last Week
ALT Linux 6.0.0
ALT Linux 6.0.0, an independently-developed Russian Linux distribution, has been released. The new version comes in two editions - "Simply Linux", which is an installable live medium featuring the Xfce 4.8 desktop environment, and KDesktop, which is a live and installation DVD image centred around the KDE 4.6.5 desktop. Both editions are built on top of the Linux kernel 3.0.3 and include X.Org Server 1.10.3 and LibreOffice 3.4.2. Other features of this release include hybrid ISO image that can be used either as a DVD image or transferred to a bootable USB drive, GRUB 2 as the default bootloader, simplified installation of third-party applications, and seamless integration with the Dropbox cloud storage system. Read the full press release (in Russian) for more information.
ALT Linux 6.0.0 - a major new release from Russia's leading distributions
(full image size: 699kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
BackBox Linux 2
Raffaele Forte has announced the release of BackBox Linux 2, an Ubuntu-based distribution developed to perform penetration tests and security assessments, and containing some of the best and most widely-used ethical hacking tools: "The BackBox team is proud to announce the release of BackBox Linux 2. BackBox 2 features the following upstream components: Ubuntu 11.04, Linux kernel 2.6.38 and Xfce 4.8.0. What's new: system upgrade, performance boost, new look and feel, improved start menu, Bug fixes, hacking tools new or updated. Three new section: vulnerability assessment, forensic analysis and VoIP analysis. System requirements: 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 256 MB of system memory (RAM), 2 GB of disk space for installation, graphics card capable of 800x600 resolution, DVD-ROM drive or USB port." For more details please see the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- LFS 7.0-rc1, the release announcement
- FreeNAS 8.0.1-rc1, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Mythbuntu 11.10-beta1, the release announcement
- openSUSE 12.1-milestone5, the release announcement
- Puppy Linux 22.214.171.124 (Wary)
- Alpine Linux 2.2.3
- Tiny Core Linux 3.8.4
- Scientific Linux 5.7-rc1
- Clonezilla Live 1.2.10-9
- Zorin OS 5.1
- AriOS 3.0.1
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
August 2011 DistroWatch.com donation: OpenShot|
We are happy to announce that the recipient of the August 2011 DistroWatch.com donation is OpenShot, an open-source video editor for Linux, built with Python, GTK+, and the MLT framework.
Developed by Jonathan Thomas and licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), OpenShot was started in August 2008 with the objective to provide a stable, free, and easy-to-use video editor. The list of features and supported video formats is rather long so if you are interested take a look at the project's features page. Some descriptive screenshots can be seen here, while a large number of excellent videos illustrating the application's power and capabilities are 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$29,040 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), RIPLinuX ($300), Midori ($310), vsftpd ($300), OpenShot ($350)
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Estobuntu. Estobuntu is an Estonian Ubuntu-based desktop distribution. The project's website is in Estonian.
- EveryDesk. EveryDesk is an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution that is designed to run from a 4 GB USB storage device. As a special feature, EveryDesk allows the execution of native Windows applications (through the integrated VDI layer).
- Likinux. Likinux is a Greek Ubuntu-based desktop distribution. The project's website is in Greek.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 12 September 2011.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• Issue 681 (2016-10-03): OpenBSD 6.0, DragonFly BSD to support LibreSSL in ports, systemd denial of service bug, upgraded Mintbox Mini|
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|• Issue 679 (2016-09-19): OpenMandriva 3.0, 32-bit vs 64-bit performance, openSUSE updates, KaOS unveils first run wizard|
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|• Issue 673 (2016-08-03): noop linux and EasyNAS, Debian's GnuPG switch, Fedora "Flock", using "nice"|
|• Issue 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
|• Issue 670 (2016-07-18): Linux Lite 3.0, Bodhi team plans 4.0.0, pfSense changes licensing, running software across distributions, Linux Mint upgrade path|
|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
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|• Issue 667 (2016-06-27): GeckoLinux 421, Fedora supports Flatpak, Solus unveils new features, running GNU/Linux on tablets|
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|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
|• Issue 663 (2016-05-30): Comparing live update methods, Ubuntu MATE's progress, distros debate systemd change, DistroWatch turns 15|
|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
|• Issue 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
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|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
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|• Issue 637 (2015-11-23): NixOS 15.09, Antergos introduces ZFS support, MINIX shares new features, copying an OS to a new computer|
|• Issue 636 (2015-11-16): openSUSE 42.1, Fedora uses Wayland by default, Debian replaces live CD project, Steam consoles launch|
|• Issue 635 (2015-11-09): Fedora 23, Cinnamon 2.8 released, a Fedora KDE packager quits, Red Hat signs deal with Microsoft|
|• Issue 634 (2015-11-02): Ubuntu 15.10, Chakra upgrades to Plasma 5, OpenMandriva plans new editions, MINIX plans conference|
|• Issue 633 (2015-10-26): GhostBSD 10.1, Bodhi Linux to get new settings panel, Fedora 23 delayed, creating live image of existing OS|
|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Full list of all issues|