| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 445, 27 February 2012
Welcome to this year's 9th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Without a doubt, the biggest news of the week was Canonical's high-profile announcement about Ubuntu running on mobile phones - in such a way that it can also double as a full-featured desktop operating system once connected to a keyboard and monitor. Great concept, but how soon will it become a standard offering in mobile phone shops around the world? Also in the news section, first looks at the recently announced Ubuntu Business Remix and on the current state of the Unity desktop in "Precise Pangolin", and interviews with Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron and Linux Mint's founder Clement Lefebvre. The feature story of this week's issue is a look at SalineOS 1.6, a useful little distribution based on Debian's stable branch and featuring the Xfce desktop, while the Questions and Answers section looks at how to deal with magnet links under Linux. All this and more in this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
A look at SalineOS 1.6|
SalineOS is a Linux distribution based on Debian's stable ("Squeeze") repositories. The project uses a custom installer to make setting up a desktop system quick and easy. This, combined with the distribution's Xfce environment has caused me to think of SalineOS as "Debian Desktop (Light)". I previously tried SalineOS about a year ago and my impression then was that it wasn't doing badly for a young project, but it didn't appear to have its niche carved out yet. With the arrival of the new 1.6 release I tried SalineOS again in the hopes the project had found a clear focus.
The SalineOS distribution is provided as an ISO file approximately 920 MB in size and the distro is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. Burning the image to a DVD and booting from the disc brings up an Xfce desktop featuring blue, fish-filled wallpaper. At the top of the screen we find an application menu, task switcher and system tray. At the bottom of the screen is a quick-launch bar which auto-hides when the mouse pointer isn't nearby. On the desktop we find icons for navigating the file system, launching the system installer and opening the project's manual. I found the manual to be well laid out and it contains a good deal of information. Included in the pages are notes on the available software, how to install the distribution and how to manage packages. The manual also covers command line programs, how to set up printers and other tips on using the operating system.
SalineOS 1.6 - user manual and system installer
(full image size: 513kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
The system installer is, I believe, unique to the distribution and does a nice job of presenting the user with a single, simple choice at a time and, more to the point, explains important steps in detail. Right away the installer displays a page explaining partitioning and offers to either automatically partition the disk or let us use GParted to divide up the media. Once we've handled partitioning we're asked to select our preferred language and, optionally, we can download the language pack for our selected language. We're next asked to confirm our keyboard layout and a text box is provided so we can confirm our choice is working correctly. The next screen explains non-free and patented software and gives us the option of installing popular non-free items from the repositories. Next we're asked to set the root password. Then we create a regular user account and, optionally, we can set our account to auto-login. We provide a hostname and choose where to install the boot loader. The last step is to select our time zone. The installer gives us a last chance to bail out and then goes to work copying files to the local drive. All in all I found the installer to be a very good combination of simple, informative and friendly. With the screens broken up into individual prompts getting through the process might take longer than with Fedora or Ubuntu, but everything is presented in a clear fashion and my impression is that it's one of the more novice-friendly installers I've encountered lately.
When we first boot from SalineOS we're brought to a graphical login screen with a pleasant water-themed background. Logging in brings up the same Xfce screen, complete with the installer icon on the desktop. In the system tray we find an icon for clearing Chromium's cache files and another icon for running the software updater. As it turns out, clicking the updater icon prompts us for the root password and then opens a terminal which automatically uses the apt-get command line tool to update our repository information. We're then shown a list of available updates and we can choose to install all or none of the available packages. As far as update processes are concerned this one looks a bit crude, but I admit it is fast and worked on my machines.
Adding, removing and updating software can be handled via the Synaptic package manager. This graphical interface is fast and reliable. Synaptic is showing its age in the face of more modern graphical front-ends, but again, it's effective and powerful. SalineOS draws from the Debian repositories, which provide users with over 29,000 packages.
SalineOS 1.6 - checking for updates
(full image size: 793kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Looking at what software is available on the system post-install we find the Chromium web browser, Icedove (also known as Thunderbird) for e-mail, Pidgin for instant messaging, XChat for communicating on IRC and the Transmission BitTorrent client. LibreOffice is made available to us along with Rhythmbox, a CD burner app and a multimedia player. Depending on our choices at install time we may have popular multimedia codecs and Flash installed for us. We're given the Cheese webcam utility, a document viewer, an image viewer and the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The Orage calendar app is included and we have a text editor, calculator and archive manager. There is a bulk file rename utility, a file browser and the full array of configuration tools for handling the look & feel of the Xfce desktop.
Digging a little further we find Java is installed, the GCC is available and a mail server is running in the background. Most of Xfce's HTML documentation is included and made available through the application menu. I write "most" because a few pages of the manual are missing. Under it all the 2.6.32 version of the Linux kernel runs the show.
I ran SalineOS on two machines, my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card) and a generic desktop box (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card). I found the distribution was able to detect all of my hardware. Generally things worked as I expected out of the box. My screen was set to a suitable resolution, audio worked with the default settings and my laptop's Intel wireless card worked straight out of the gate. I found, by default, my touchpad didn't recognize taps as clicks, but otherwise the device worked smoothly. The distribution was quick to boot and the desktop was always quick to respond. When logged in and sitting at the desktop the operating system used about 130MB of memory.
While on the subject of hardware I ran into a curious bug. During the install we're asked to select our keyboard layout, which I did and typed some characters into the text box to confirm I had the right one highlighted. However, post-install, I soon found my keyboard had changed to a French layout. I went into the Xfce settings and changed the layout to reflect my physical keyboard and everything was fine from then on.
SalineOS 1.6 - the Xfce desktop and documentation
(full image size: 215kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
After a week with SalineOS I would say my experience thus far has been fairly good. The project's documentation is helpful, the installer is quite novice friendly and I encountered no problems getting set up. The distribution is light on resources, but comes with a full range of software (and Debian's large repositories). Being based on Debian Squeeze, some of the available software is a bit old (Iceweasel is still on version 3.5), but I didn't find I was missing functionality due to the age of the software. SalineOS provides a quick and easy way to get up and running with a Debian-based system. I like that we're given the choice of staying with Debian's free software policy or installing non-free extras. There were aspects of the system I'd like to see changed or fixed. For instance, having my keyboard layout change to a French setting was an unwelcome bug. The update button in the system tray works well enough, but given SalineOS' friendly approach to most things, I think it makes sense to put a graphical update tool in its place. Also a matter of taste, I think it would make sense to name items in the application menu by their purpose rather than by the application's name. "LibreOffice" is easy enough to figure out, but new users might be curious as to what "Iceweasel", "Icedove" and "Catfish" do, especially since Iceweasel and Icedove are names not typically seen outside of the Debian community.
Admittedly, these are pretty minor complaints and I think if these are the worst issues I ran into when using SalineOS that shows just how well the small project is doing. It's a light, fast distro with a good collection of software and the project makes it easy to get a Debian-based desktop installed quickly. If you don't mind using venerable packaging tools like Synaptic and apt-get then I recommend giving SalineOS a try.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ubuntu on mobile phones and business desktops, Unity 5.4, interviews with Fedora's Robyn Bergeron and Mint's Clement Lefebvre
Another week and another big Ubuntu announcement. This time it is all about the mobile phone - the kind that runs Ubuntu alongside Android and which can be used as a full-featured desktop once connected to a keyboard and monitor: "We'll show Ubuntu neatly integrated into Android at Mobile World Congress next week. Carry just the phone, and connect it to any monitor to get a full Ubuntu desktop with all the native apps you want, running on the same device at the same time as Android. Magic. Everything important is shared across the desktop and the phone in real time. It's a lightweight way to be - everything seamlessly available with the right interface for the right form factor, with no hassles syncing. It just works, the way Ubuntu should. Lots of work behind the scenes to make both systems share what they need to share, but the desktop is a no-compromise desktop. This isn't the 'Ubuntu Phone'. The phone experience here is pure Android. This announcement is playing to a different story, which is the convergence of multiple different form factors into one most-personal device. Naturally, the most personal device is the phone, so we want to get all of these different personalities - phone, tablet and desktop - into the phone." Sounds great. There is only one question that remains to be answered: when will our friendly local mobile shops carry this highly versatile piece of hardware?
The above announcement comes hot on the heels of the one presenting a new Ubuntu remix designed for business desktops. Christopher Tozzi takes a first look at Canonical's attempt to make inroads onto desktops of small and medium-size enterprises: "As most geeks know, building custom remixes of Ubuntu is pretty easy, and any large business interested in running Ubuntu on its workstations almost certainly would have the technical expertise to put together a custom spin of the operating system on its own. Because of that, I wonder how many organizations will end up using the Business Remix in production environments. Nonetheless, Canonical's offering of an official Ubuntu flavor tailored specifically at the enterprise serves as a reminder of the company's commitment to that market, a fact which may on its own help encourage confidence in Ubuntu as a corporate-desktop solution. Even if this spin doesn't see much use, it might help inspire more businesses to give Ubuntu a try. And last but not least, the package called 'ubuntu-business-defaults,' which is present in the remix, appears poised to make installing an enterprise-oriented suite in Ubuntu as easy as one click. That certainly won't hurt when it comes to bringing Ubuntu to business desktops."
Unity, Ubuntu's default desktop, has received quite some bashing in the media and many users are wondering how it is shaping up in preparation for Ubuntu 12.04, scheduled for release less than two months from now. Nekhelesh Raman has taken a sneak peak at the latest Unity, version 5.4: "It is always exciting when new versions of Unity are released since they bring along bug fixes and new features. Well, Unity 5.4 was released on Friday. Let's go through some the features and bug fixes it comes with. New Notify-Osd notifications. The notifications now behave similarly to the dash and the launcher by taking the same median color. The notifications blend in nicely done with the wallpaper just like the dash and the launcher. This increases the consistency with other Ubuntu elements like the dash and the launcher. Heads-up Display (HUD). The HUD is now present by default. You no longer need to enable a testing PPA to try out HUD. That said, it is not certain whether HUD will be available by default in the final release of 'Precise' in April. Naturally, HUD brings along many bug fixes and is better than before. However, after using HUD for few days now, I think it still has a long way to go. Intellihide (Dodge). Intellihide has been removed since it was found to confuse new users. Hence, the launcher only supports auto-hide and always show behavior."
* * * * *
Robyn Bergeron, a newly-appointed leader of the Fedora project, is not a particularly well-known personality outside of the distribution's inner circles. However, now that she is at the project's helm, the interest of media will certainly grow. Linux Weekly News brings us what is probably the very first chat with Robyn Bergeron as the Fedora project leader: "Robyn Bergeron, the new Fedora project leader (FPL), described herself on the OpenStack wiki as an 'all-around untechnical person.' Given her background, the description is too modest, but it does emphasize that she brings to her new position perspectives that are different from that of her predecessors - in particular, that of a industry analyst. Although Bergeron studied economics in college, her first job combined duties on a help desk with part-time system administration. She later became a business analyst at Intel, focusing on the embedded chip vertical markets. For several years, she was a full-time mother, but 'I started missing my technical roots,' she said. 'I started getting involved with various open-sourcey things: I did the editing for papers for the Linux Symposium, and then I sort of stumbled into Fedora Marketing, mid-to-late 2009. From there, I sort of steadily progressed.' Hired in November 2010 by Red Hat as Fedora Program Manager to oversee the features of each release, she has also been the Fedora Marketing team lead, and a facilitator for the Fedora Cloud SIG."
* * * * *
To conclude the news section, here is a link to another interview with another project leader - Clement Lefebvre of Linux Mint. From "Linux Mint - the taste of success" by the Linux User & Developer magazine: Q: Why do you think Mint is proving so popular with today's Linux user? A: Because it's what people want. The vast majority of features and improvements which make it to each Linux Mint release come from ideas and feedback contributed to us by the community. Linux Mint is easy to use, it's comfortable and it packs some of the most advanced features available in desktop Linux nowadays, but the main thing about it is that it brings to people what they need, what they want and what they ask for. Of course, now and then we go against popular opinions when we know it's going to work and people just need some time to get to like it. But that's very rare and when we do that we make sure we justify our choices and explain them to our users. Feedback is extremely important to us and we regard our community as our most precious asset." Read on for the interviewee's views on GNOME 3, Unity, Cinnamon and other topics.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Handling magnet links in Linux
How-do-magnets-work asks: When I click on magnet links my web browser doesn't know how to download the file. Are there open source programs that can handle magnet links?
DistroWatch answers: In case you haven't seen them before, magnet links are methods of linking to a particular resource, usually a file. Magnet links differ from traditional URLs in that the magnet link will describe characteristics of a file rather than its location. So while a regular URL usually specifies a server and file name, such as "example.com/slackeware-12.iso", a magnet link provides a description of the file, which could be located just about anywhere. This approach is particularly useful on peer-to-peer networks as the address of a peer can change and the name of a file might be altered from one day to the next. With a magnet link it doesn't matter if the file is named "slackware-12.iso" or "Slackware12.iso" or if it's located on example.com or another-example.com, the magnet provides us with the file's finger print and the proper client application will be able to find the file from that finger print.
There are a few open source applications which can process magnet links. The KTorrent program will accept a magnet link as a valid URL, the Transmission bittorrent client will handle magnet links. The FrostWire peer-to-peer client also handles magnet links. Generally to download a file described by a magnet link one instructs the web browser to copy the link (not the content pointed to by the link). Then we open the download client and choose to open a URL and paste the magnet link into the URL box. The download client will recognize the link and work out the details from there.
Though magnet links don't seem to be all that commonly used yet, I suspect the legal attacks against torrent hosting sites will make magnet links increasingly popular. In a few years we may find the download instructions for Linux distros will include "direct download" or "magnet link".
|Released Last Week
PCLinuxOS 2012-02 "Phoenix Xfce"
PCLinuxOS "Phoenix", an edition of the distribution featuring the Xfce desktop environment, has been updated to version 2012-02: "PCLinuxOS Phoenix Edition 2012-02 is now available for download. It features the following updates: Xfce 4.8.3 desktop environment; the Linux kernel was updated to version 22.214.171.124, additional kernels are available from our repositories; X.Org Server was updated to version 1.10.4, Mesa updated to 7.11.2 and libdrm to version 2.4.26 - this update brings enhancements to the PCLinuxOS desktop including speed, 3D desktop support for most Intel, NVIDIA and AMD/ATI video cards, better font rendering, black screen fixes for most NVIDIA cards, better Flash playback and more; Toolchain - the GCC software compiler was updated to version 4.5.2 and glibc updated to 2.13.4; locales were updated to version 2.13.1; theme update.... Here is the full release announcement.
Parted Magic 2012_2_19
Patrick Verner has announced the release of Parted Magic 2012_2_19, a new stable version of the project's utility live CD designed for data rescue and disk partitioning tasks: "Parted Magic 2012_2_19 updates some programs and fixes a few bugs. The most notable updates include Clonezilla 1.2.12-10, TrueCrypt 7.1, Firefox 10.0.1, and Linux 3.2.6. When Busybox was compiled for the last release dpkg and ar were mistakenly left out. When the last kernel was compiled, the bnep module was missed. Updated programs: TrueCrypt 7.1, wxGTK 2.8.12, Linux kernel 3.2.6, Clonezilla 1.2.12-10, PartClone 0.2.45, ddrescue 1.15, e2fsprogs 1.42, hdparm 9.38, pciutils 3.1.9, nilfs-utils 2.1.1, NTFS-3G 2012.1.15, pcmanfm-mod-1.2.4, UNetbootin 568, Mozilla Firefox 10.0.1. Visit the project's home page to read the brief release announcement.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8
Red Hat has announced the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8: "We're pleased to announce the general availability of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 operating system with new and improved functionality for enhanced performance, flexibility, and security. Our commitment to continuous innovation enables Red Hat Enterprise Linux to remain a scalable and trusted data center platform accommodating mission-critical enterprise workloads in physical, virtual, and cloud IT environments. And, the extension of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and 6 life cycle to 10 years means that our customers can plan IT deployments and migrations according to their business needs, not ours. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 supports new hardware platforms and includes the following enhancements. Continue to the release announcement and the comprehensive release notes for a detailed list of new features in the area of hardware support, virtualisation and security management.
François Dupoux has announced the release of SystemRescueCd 2.5.0, a new version of the project's Gentoo-based live rescue disk for administrating or repairing a system and data after a crash: "Version 2.5.0 (stable) of the SystemRescueCd project has been released. Detailed changes in version 2.5.0: updated standard kernels to long-term supported Linux 3.0.21 (rescuecd + rescue64); updated alternative kernels to latest stable linux 3.2.6 (altker32 + altker64); updated NTFS-3G to 2012.1.15 and replace ntfsprogs; updated btrfs-progs to the latest stable version from git; updated e2fsprogs to 1.42 (ext3/ext4 file system tools); updated GParted to 0.12.0 (graphical partition editor); updated system packages (glibc 2.13, GCC 4.4.6); updated firmware; added fdupes (find duplicate files); replaced Firefox with Midori to save space; updated Partclone to 0.2.38; updated TestDisk to 6.13; updated GRUB to 1.99. Here is the complete changelog.
Henry Jensen has announced the release of ConnochaetOS 0.9.1, an Arch-based Linux distribution for old computers (from i486 to Pentium MMX 166), built exclusively with "libre" software: "I am announcing the release of ConnochaetOS 0.9.1. This is a maintenance release. Since the 0.9.0 release many bugs were fixed. The default kernel was upgraded to Linux-Libre 126.96.36.199 and many other packages were upgraded and we released many security fixes. ConnochaetOS 0.9.1 provides: Linux-Libre kernel 188.8.131.52, the IceWM desktop 1.3.7; a lightweight webkit based web browser - XXXTerm; GOffice word processor and spreadsheet - AbiWord and Gnumeric; lightweight e-mail and IRC applications, multimedia player, file manager, CD burning tool and even some small games. Available as optional software: Linux-Libre kernel 3.2.7; Iceweasel-Libre in the versions 184.108.40.206 (LTS) and 10.0.2 (Current); LXDE 0.5.x. Visit the distribution's home page to read the release announcement.
DragonFly BSD 3.0.1
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 3.0.1, a major new version of the BSD operating system forked from FreeBSD in 2003: "DragonFly 3.0.1 is now available! This release has superior multiprocessor support compared to previous versions. Speed has improved significantly. Big-ticket items: previously the majority of the VM was under a single token, the vm_token, now vm_objects (mappable entities) are each under a private token, concurrent page faults in the same object can proceed, and VM SMP scalability overall is improved; a new time domain multiplexing method has been added to balance storage operation types over long time periods; ACPI + interrupt routing have been upgraded, an SMP kernel will work on all machines and is installed by default; DragonFly now has tcplay(8), a tool for creating and managing encrypted disk volumes. Read the rest of the release notes for more details.
Dream Studio 11.10
Dick MacInnis has announced the release of Dream Studio 11.10, an Ubuntu-based distribution with focus on multimedia and creative work: "DickMacInnis.com is proud to announce the official release of Dream Studio 11.10. This exciting new version of Dream Studio has all the features that have made past releases one of the most successful multimedia software packages out there, including: multi-user, PulseAudio-integrated real-time audio via JACK, for use with programs like Ardour; the renowned Cinelerra video editor, a full graphic and web design suite; photography tools; and hundreds of assorted audio and video effects, fonts, and utilities for everything from multimedia file conversion to simple office work and web browsing. Not only that, but this latest version of Dream Studio also included hundreds of bug fixes and the following new features. Read the remainder of the release announcement to learn more.
Dream Studio 11.10 - an Ubuntu remix targeted at multimedia enthusiasts
(full image size: 624kB, screen 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
- Arduloko OS. Arduloko OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution with a collection of applications designed for students and professionals working in the field of electronics. The project's website is in Portuguese.
- Terrible Linux. Terrible Linux is a distribution featuring the Xfce desktop and a classic desktop interface. Based on Debian's testing branch.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 March 2012.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
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|• Issue 653 (2016-03-21): Antergos 2016.02.21, Debian prepares for election, a Unix-like OS written in Rust, watching Netflix on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 652 (2016-03-14): ReactOS 0.4.0, Debian swaps Iceweasel for Firefox, Fedora moving forward with Wayland, Verifying ISO files|
|• Issue 651 (2016-03-07): Korora 23, Linux Mint improves security, Ubuntu MATE on Raspberry Pi 3 computers, trying different file systems|
|• Issue 650 (2016-02-29): Haiku in 2016, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, 30 years of MINIX, Fedora plans Atomic Workstation|
|• Issue 649 (2016-02-22): Zorin OS 11, openSUSE launches new editions, Linux Mint website compromised, sandboxing applications using Firejail|
|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
|• Full list of all issues|