| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 450, 2 April 2012
Welcome to this year's 14th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! In terms of public awareness PapugLinux is probably quite close to the bottom of the long list of Linux distributions available today. Yet, like any niche product, this Gentoo-based distro does have its fans and users, and as such, it deserve attention from a website dedicated to free operating systems. Today we have a pleasure to present you with what is possibly the world's first review of PapugLinux, version 11a, written by Caitlyn Martin. In the news section, Fedora developers consider making ARM one of their "primary architectures", PC-BSD founder and lead developer Kris Moore recalls his beginnings as a coder and system administrator, and the developers of Russia's AgiliaLinux talk about their work on the Slackware-inspired distribution with a number of interesting improvements. Also in this week's issue you'll find Jesse Smith's list of top ten Linux applications. And if you missed Robert Storey's parody on GNOME 4 as presented here on April 1st, you'll be pleased to know that it's included in this week's issue for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
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|Feature Story (by Caitlyn Martin)
Taking an in-depth look at PapugLinux 11.1a|
I've always been interested in small and lightweight Linux distributions. One of the nice things about following DistroWatch regularly is that I see release announcements for distros that I may have missed, ones which may have a very different take on how to fill a given niche. PapugLinux is such a distro. It's a live CD designed to work well on legacy hardware but which also can be installed and updated. To quote the project's website: "The goal of PapugLinux is to provide a minimal but functional free operating system and to be runable on most computers, from 128 MB old systems to the latest powerful configurations."
What makes PapugLinux unusual among lightweight Linux offerings is that it's a derivative of Gentoo Linux, a source-based distribution. Since source-based distros assume you're going to compile all your additional software and updates I wondered how this could possibly work well on old hardware with limited memory and processing power.
I don't have any really old hardware laying around nowadays so I decided to try PapugLinux on the least powerful system I have, my two-and-a-half-year old HP Mini 110 netbook. It sports a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 2 GB RAM, an on-board Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset, and a 16 GB SSD in lieu of a hard drive.
PapugLinux is provided as a single CD image and is just 270 MB in size. There is only a 32-bit x86 build available. PapugLinux also offers the option to run entirely cached in RAM provided you have 1 GB of memory or more.
Running as a live CD or live USB
Since my netbook doesn't have a CD-ROM drive built in I decided to try running PapugLinux as a live USB. I used UNetbootin to copy the ISO image to an old 1 GB USB stick and successfully booted from that. I was presented with six options on a graphical menu:
I decided to try the Copy2Ram option first. As you would expect this leads to a fairly long boot process. PapugLinux is somewhat unusual in that it does not use a display manager at all. By default it automatically logs in as an unprivileged user called papuglinux, starts X Window System and loads the Fluxbox desktop.
PapugLinux Safe Copy2Ram
Run Memtest Utility
PapugLinux 11.1a - the Fluxbox 1.1.1 default desktop
(full image size: 356kB, screen resolution 1024x576 pixels)
The HP netbook uses a Broadcom 4312 chipset which is used in a wide variety of laptops and netbooks. While PapugLinux loaded it appeared to recognize both Ethernet and wireless chipsets in the netbook but when the system actually came up wicd reported that no wireless chipset was detected. This was disappointing since Gentoo does package firmware for an assortment of Broadcom chips including the 4312. On a somewhat happier note, all my other hardware was correctly detected and working, including sound, video, wired networking and various forms of removable media.
Using PapugLinux 11.1a
The default PapugLinux desktop includes Fluxbox 1.1.1, ROX Filer 1.6.3, and a system status display generated by Conky. AbiWord 2.8.6, Gnumeric 1.10.1 and the Calcoo calculator are the office applications included out of the virtual box. gv is also listed in the Office menu but it isn't actually included. PapugLinux offers a nice variety of multimedia applications including GQview 2.1.5, Audacious 2.4.4, GNOME MPlayer 1.0.0, Ogle 0.9.2, Xfburn 0.4.3, ROX-iso and ROX-ripper. Codecs for most popular audio and video formats as well as everything needed to play DVDs are included.
Firefox 3.6.17, Sylpheed 3.0.3, gFTP 2.0.19 and Pidgin 2.9.0 are all included. I was a bit surprised that Firefox was chosen over any of the lightweight browsers available considering one of the goals of the distro is to run well on legacy hardware with very limited resources. I was also surprised to find that no graphics applications were present. There are a handful of games: xtris, xgalaga, scavenger, xgammon, and xmille.
PapugLinux 11.1a - desktop with menu
(full image size: 359kB, screen resolution 1024x576 pixels)
Most smaller live CD distros don't include a compiler or tools for developers. In a source-based distribution that can be installed and updated these are pretty much essential. PapugLinux does include GCC as well as three editors: ROX-edit, vim and nano. Web developers will be pleased to see that Bluefish is also included, but it's a rather dated version 1.0.7.
The System tools menu allows the ability to choose between three keyboard layouts: French, Polish and US English. There is a graphical tool to change screen resolution but that simply did not work on my netbook. A truly unusual choice for a live CD/USB distro is dvdisaster 0.7.0, an error correction system for creating fault tolerant optical media archives.
After booting up the default desktop without the Copy2Ram option and with no applications open my system idled at 79 MB of RAM used according to the Conky display. This confirms the claim that the distro will run in 128 MB of RAM, though depending on the applications used the system may hit swap pretty hard. PapugLinux should run very well on systems with 256 MB of RAM.
The default installation includes sudo but it hasn't been configured for the default papuglinux user. I find this more than a bit odd. In addition, no graphical front-ends to su or sudo are included. If you want to run a graphical application as root, for example the emelFM2 0.7.5 file manager, you need to open a terminal window, use su to gain root access, and invoke it from the command line.
PapugLinux 11.1a - the emelFM2 file manager
(full image size: 213kB, screen resolution 1024x576 pixels)
Except for the minor quibbles I've already noted I really didn't have any problems running PapugLinux 11.1a. There were no show-stopping bugs. Performance was very good on my netbook whether or not I loaded the full OS into RAM. I suspect the Copy2Ram option would make a bigger difference on hardware which is considerably older or more limited than my netbook.
Installation, Configuration and Updating
As the instructions on the PapugLinux website make clear, installing to a hard drive is something of a manual process. You need to create and format your partitions first; it isn't handled by the installer. While GParted doesn't appear in the menu it is included in the CD image for this purpose. You then invoke the installation script as per the instructions, specifying both the root and swap devices that hold your newly created partitions. On my system I used /dev/sda3 for swap and /dev/sda4 for root.
The installation script displayed one simple message:
PapugLinux will now be installed on /dev/sda4 and will use /dev/sda3 as swap space.
From that point forward the only visual clues were the occasional flashing of light on the USB stick and the hard drive light. Once the system copy was completed the installer displayed:
Installing PapugLinux in :/mnt/install
PapugLinux has been installed.
The instructions on the website make clear that the bootloader install script does not know about or deal with other operating systems or Linux distributions. I followed the recommendation to add PapugLinux to my existing bootloader manually.
If you need to setup your hard disk boot-record, please launch './install-boot.sh'
Once I booted into my new installation I essentially had a clone of the live CD/USB. The installation script doesn't handle setting a root password or setting up user accounts as most distribution installers do. You are still automatically logged in as papuglinux without a password and the root password is unchanged. Setting up accounts and securing the system is left up to the user after installation.
It took one command to resolve my wireless issue:
This not only downloaded the firmware but also downloaded, compiled and installed b43-fwcutter from the Gentoo portage system. At the next boot my wireless worked perfectly.
Updating the installation proved to be far less straightforward and far more time consuming. Updating Portage (the first step) required newer versions of GCC and glibc. The two packages had circular dependencies, meaning each required the other be installed first. I had to install a binary of the glibc library from the Gentoo tinderbox system and then proceed with my updates. Two and a half days later I had a full-blown, up-to-date Gentoo system with a PapugLinux look and feel. I shudder to think how long this would take on a legacy system with an old processor and far less RAM.
If you're looking for a live CD or live USB system that's fast and lightweight and have no intention of installing it or updating it then PapugLinux may be a good choice for you. The developers do meet their goal of creating a live CD distro that can run well on older and limited hardware. For anyone with a modicum of Linux experience the live CD shouldn't be difficult to use.
If you're a seasoned Gentoo user looking for a ready-to-go lightweight build then PapugLinux may also be appealing. However, for anyone else looking for a lightweight distro to install to an older or otherwise limited system there are certainly choices that are easier and less time-consuming to install, configure, update and maintain. The complexities of PapugLinux and the time required to compile all the necessary software on an older system really appear when you try and install the distro and then update it.
PapugLinux is very much a niche distro. If you fit into one of the niches the developers designed for then it may well be worth a look.
|Humour (by Robert Storey)
Special report: GNOME 4 - the future of portability|
Your future is all used up.
-- Marlene Dietrich speaking to Orson Welles in Touch of Evil
* * * * *
Almost exactly one year ago, GNOME 3 was released with much fanfare. But to the surprise of many, it was not warmly welcomed. Indeed, it has polarized the Linux community, mainly because it was such a radical departure from the familiar and popular GNOME 2. Although some praised the new interface, it seemed that many more geeks were not impressed, leading to a rather bitter war of words on various online community forums.
The main reason for all the controversy was that GNOME 3 boasted a much "cleaner" interface. By "clean," I mean that the desktop was far less cluttered. Visible menus and icons were far fewer than in GNOME 2, but the trade-off was that to access all the features of GNOME 3 it was necessary to use various esoteric keyboard combinations, including CTRL, ALT, SHIFT and even the previously-unused Windows key. In addition, right-mouse clicks and "hot corners" are crucial to making GNOME 3 functional. Many users feel that GNOME 3 is less intuitive than GNOME 2, and that productivity may suffer as a result.
The reasoning behind all this was to save screen real estate so that GNOME 3 could be run on the new generation of small-sized portable devices such as netbooks, tablets, and smart phones. With hot competition from Apple, Google and (to a lesser extent) Microsoft, GNOME developers decided that Linux could not afford to be left behind. If portability is the future, then GNOME must adapt.
Another way to view the situation: GNOME 2 was "desktop-centric" while GNOME 3 is "application-centric." That is to say, when you're in GNOME 3, the application takes over the screen and the rest of the desktop basically disappears. That can be a useful feature when screen real estate is scarce, but it makes it harder to get an overview of the many other important functions that a desktop computer can perform.
The previous solution to this dilemma was to simply run two totally different Linux interfaces: one interface for a desktop computer (i.e. GNOME 2) and something else (i.e. Android) for a portable device. By trying to be both, GNOME 3 may be guilty of overreach, trying to do too many things at once. The result is a compromise that satisfies no one. One of the critics of this approach includes Linus Torvalds, who wrote to GNOME developers in a now famous Google+ post: "I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is GNOME_3!"
Seeing the lack of love being heaped on GNOME 3, several projects were born to preserve GNOME 2. Examples include MATÉ (a GNOME 2 fork by Argentine hacker Perberos), Cinnamon (GNOME 3 extensions to make it resemble GNOME 2), and Ubuntu's Unity which ditches GNOME altogether.
GNOME 4 - the Swiss Army knife
Despite the backlash, not everyone agrees that GNOME 3 was overambitious. Indeed, one experienced GNOME developer assured me that the opposite was true. "The real problem with GNOME 3," he said, "is that it wasn't ambitious enough. We made too many compromises to suit desktop users. In fact, computers that do useful work are so 20th century - we've moved on."
Thus, rather than compromise with GNOME 4, developers have doubled-down. While GNOME 3 sought to bridge the gap between desktop and portable devices, GNOME 4 goes one step further - it's meant to power ALL computing devices, even those which don't have a keyboard, mouse or screen. As such, it offers a refreshing break from the rigid, specialized operating systems of the past. Thus, we have one interface which can run anywhere. Think of it as a Swiss Army knife - one device that does everything, none of them well.
Figure 1 - the Swiss Army Knife
No doubt that after its final release, GNOME 4 will be bundled as the default desktop in many distros. For the beta version that I tested, you've got to download and install it as a separate package which you can find on SourceForge. As an Ubuntu user, I had to install GNOME 4 from a DEB file, but RPM packages are also available. After installing, I did a reboot and then, at the login screen, selected GNOME 4 as my desktop manager. I was soon greeted by the cheerful GNOME 4 default screen which, I can confidentially say, has the cleanest interface I've ever seen on my monitor except when it's turned off.
One glance at the following screenshot and I think that all will agree that the GNOME developers have really outdone themselves this time. It's obvious that they've given the whole "desktop" metaphor a complete rethink. Gone are menus, icons, task bars, minimize and maximize buttons, the archaic Start button, wallpapers or even a command prompt. Rather, we are presented with a pleasant default blue screen (note that the color is non-configurable). It is the bold simplicity of this approach that makes GNOME 4 so powerful.
Figure 2 - the GNOME 4 desktop
The great advantage of this uncluttered screen design is that it allows GNOME 4 to be configured for numerous devices besides desktop computers, tablets or cell phones. For example, developers have already ported GNOME 4 to other useful devices such GPSs, headless servers, digital rectal thermometers, water meters, garage door openers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Thus, the official GNOME 4 motto is "One interface, run anywhere!" Advocates for disability rights are particularly enthused by GNOME 4, believing that it could be the first GUI system that puts seeing and totally blind users on an equal footing.
Although newbies might at first be put off by the seemingly blank GNOME 4 screen, more experienced users should have no trouble learning the simple keystroke combinations that allow one access to thousands of powerful Linux applications. For example, if you want to start Firefox, Chrome, or any other web browser, all you've got to do is hold down the CTRL-ALT-F12-SysReq-Scroll_Lock keys simultaneously while typing "browser", which will pop up a menu displaying all the browsers currently available on your system, inviting you to choose one by hitting ESC and typing the browser's name. If you want to start an editor, just do the same key combination and type "editor." What could be simpler?
Actually, I need to backtrack and point out in the above example that I am talking about the left CTRL-ALT keys. In GNOME 4, the left and right CTRL-ALT and Windows keys serve different functions. In fact, if you use the right keys in the CTRL-ALT-F12-SysReq-Scroll_Lock example, rather than start your browser you will instead take a screenshot. And instead of hitting ESC, if you hit the TAB key, your machine will automatically burn a CD. Now all this might at first sound complicated, but I'm happy to report that after a few dozen attempts, I got the hang of it. The learning curve of GNOME 4 is short and sweet, and in no time at all you'll be able to start applications, print and even connect to the Internet. Everything you need to do on your computer is no more than a few hundred key strokes away.
Shutting down can be a bit tricky. As yet, there is no icon, menu or keystroke combination to turn off the machine. However, this does not mean that shutting down is difficult. Indeed, on a desktop computer, all you need to shut down is pull out the power cord from the wall socket. Sadly, the on/off button is disabled in GNOME 4, but the good news is that the developers have promised to add this feature to GNOME 5. Meanwhile, if you're running GNOME 4 on a portable device with a battery (i.e. laptop, netbook, tablet or smart phone), pulling out the power cord (if any) won't shut down, so you'll have to remove the battery as well, though in most cases this is pretty easy. If using an iPad or similar device (where the battery is internal and cannot be removed by the user), you must return the device to the manufacturer to shut it off.
Naysayers be damned, full speed ahead!
One of the first and most surprising issues to pop up soon after the first preview of the GNOME 4 desktop was made available came in the form of a Cease and Desist letter from Microsoft's lawyers. "The design of the GNOME 4 default screen bears an uncanny resemblance to a patented design that Microsoft has used since at least 1995," the letter stated. "Microsoft will vigorously defend its intellectual property against infringement." Attached was a photo showing the patented design that was the default desktop from Windows 95 on through XP:
Figure 3 - Windows 95-to-XP desktop
Starting from Windows Vista, the default screen was changed to simply read: "STOP 0x0000007B INACCESSABLE_BOOT_DEVICE" or something similar. Thankfully, the new screen is no longer blue.
The letter did set off a bit of a panic among GNOME developers. However, after volunteer attorneys working for the Free Software Foundation did some fact checking, it was determined that the patent in question was indeed granted in 1995. Since patents are granted for 20 years - and given the pace of GNOME development - the relevant patent is expected to expire before the final GNOME 4 release.
Criticism from Microsoft is perhaps to be expected. However, as a devout Linux geek I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that there are some in the free and open-source community who have also harshly criticized GNOME 4, even at this early stage of development. Although one would think that advocates of free software ("free" as in "freedom") would embrace change, the fact is that there are many computer users who are quite conservative and resist pointless change. Among the troglodytes is Linus Torvalds (again!), who made the following post in a heated Google+ discussion: "I just tried GNOME 4, and all I can say is 'WTF?' I mean, 'WTFF?'"
Also among the whiners is a mysterious Australian coder called Sorebrep, who has immediately begun work on a fork of GNOME 3 which he has named MATÉY. Although his declaration to preserve all the goodness of GNOME 3 has won widespread praise in various online forums, this approach is actually quite risky and is unlikely to succeed in the long term. The problem is that the GNOME 3 and 4 GTK+ libraries have the same names but are incompatible, so this will almost certainly lead to naming conflicts, resulting in dependency errors, lock-ups, crashes and other instabilities. Trying to maintain both the GTK+ 3 and GTK+ 4 libraries on the same machine would be a nightmare and is likely to prove futile - it is far too big a job for a single unpaid hacker.
For this reason, developer Clement Lefebvre (of Linux Mint fame) is resigned to the inevitability of GNOME 4, but plans to work around it. "We need to listen to our users," Clem wrote in the Mint forum, "and what our users are telling us is that they want GNOME 3. But since they can't have that, I intend to give them the next best thing - I'm beginning work on Nutmeg, which is basically a set of extensions to the GNOME 4 shell so that it appears almost identical to GNOME 3." Almost immediately after the announcement, the DistroWatch page hits for Linux Mint doubled - since Mint was already at number 1 in the page hit rankings, we may have to invent a new category, possibly number zero, but it hasn't been decided.
Despite the initial burst of enthusiasm for Nutmeg, another of the perennial dissidents, Mark Shuttleworth, remains unconvinced that any version of GNOME really represents the future direction of the Linux desktop. "Although I respect what the GNOME developers are trying to do, their coding base is a mess," Mark blogged. "Therefore, we will not be including GNOME 4 in the current or any future releases of Ubuntu. However, I am pleased to announce today that we are beginning work on the greatest desktop environment ever, which we have named Inanity. Our plan now is to have Inanity ready to be the default desktop for Ubuntu 12.10, and with luck it should be stable within the next five years."
At the present time, Inanity is not available for download, and reviewing it is beyond the scope of today's article. However, you can rest assured that I will have more to say about this promising project in the near future.
Linux is all about choice. With GNOME 4, MATÉY, Nutmeg and Inanity, we in the open source community are spoiled for choice! Personally, I'm very excited to see this competition for the hearts and minds of Linux desktop users... not to mention users of water coolers, refrigerators, sewing machines and hair dryers. Thanks to the highly flexible and intuitive interface of GNOME 4, I don't doubt for a minute that at long last we will see Linux running on every consumer appliance on the market. Users of closed-source operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X will be green with envy as we run LibreOffice or Firefox on a microwave oven or electric can opener!
So watch out world! Without a doubt, 2012 will be the year of the Linux desktop!
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
ARM as "primary architecture" in Fedora, developer corner with PC-BSD's Kris Moore, interview with AgiliaLinux
With the soaring popularity of computing systems based on the ARM architecture, it's surprising there are so few Linux distribution that have embraced the low-powered processor. Things may be changing, however. As reported by Linux Weekly News recently, the Fedora development team is now considering the possibility of making ARM a "primary architecture": "The subject came up at a meeting of the Fedora engineering steering committee (FESCo) on March 19. Adding ARM as a primary architecture for Fedora 18 was a late addition to the agenda, which annoyed some, but the discussion was largely to 'start the ball rolling and collect feedback from everyone', as Kevin Fenzi put it. There will be many other opportunities to discuss the idea, he said. The meeting log bears that out as the only vote taken (or even proposed) was to ask for input from various teams (QA, release engineering, kernel, and infrastructure) about the impact of a change like that. The difference between primary and secondary architectures for Fedora is rather large. Releases cannot be made without all of the packages building and working for each primary architecture, whereas secondary architecture packages can languish."
On a related note, if you are expecting to be able to test the beta release of Fedora 17 later this week, you'll be disappointed; as announced by Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron, the release has slipped by one week: "At the go/no-go meeting it was decided to slip the beta by one week. Despite valiant efforts by many awesome people, two new blockers appeared between RC1 and RC2, for which fixes are still incoming and will require the creation of an RC3. As a result, ALL MAJOR MILESTONES, and their dependent tasks, will be pushed out by one week. Beta will now be looking at an expected release of 2012-04-10, and F17 GA is now scheduled for 2012-05-15. The adjustments to the full F17 schedule will be done (very late) tonight, and published to the Schedule wiki page. Please note that the high-level milestones shown on the wiki page have already been updated to reflect the beta slip. Thanks for your patience. We will be meeting again next Wednesday for another go/no-go meeting." The list of current beta release blockers and their status can by found on this page.
* * * * *
It's always interesting to read about software developers who have turned a far-fetched dream into reality. With Kris Moore, the founder of PC-BSD, the reverie was to develop an easy-to-install and beginner-friendly desktop variant of FreeBSD. Last week iXsystems (the sponsor of PC-BSD) published an article introducing the lead developer of the most popular desktop BSD system: "Kris started learning about open source at his first job with a dial-up ISP in the 90s. The platform they used for their web services was a very early version of FreeBSD. From that experience, he learned the basics of shell interface and how to check his e-mail without a GUI by using the 'pine' command, which according to him, 'was very uber-l33t' at the time. During his college years, Kris played around with other UNIX and Linux platforms (Caldera Linux, SuSE); however, when he needed to do serious work, such as setting up a web or file server, he always fell back to his FreeBSD roots. To this day, he still prefers FreeBSD because it offers a greater degree of stability than other operating systems. At the moment Kris is doing an overhaul of "The Warden" for PC-BSD 9.1. It will become an integral part of the PC-BSD desktop and includes a number of new features to make it easier to setup and deploy services in a jail."
* * * * *
To conclude this week's news section, here is a link to an interview with developers of one of the lesser-known Linux distributions - Russia's AgiliaLinux (formerly MOPSLinux). AgiliaLinux is an community distro inspired by Slackware, although it now has its own system installer developed in-house and an advanced package manager called mpkg. From "AgiliaLinux: No More Interviews!" by DarkDuck: "In its current state, Agilia 8 is pretty much MOPS++, that is, it evolved from MOPS, it has a lot in common with MOPS and it suffers from many problems that were carried over from MOPS and Slackware. Agilia 9.0 will be something completely fresh. We're rebuilding the system from scratch and it'll be more awesome than ever. It's hard to explain stuff we had to deal with, but I'll just try to give an example. Many packages actually depended on kdewebdev for a really long time, and no one bothered figuring out why. It turned out that libtidy (that's a library for pretty printing and verifying HTML) was INSIDE kdewebdev, as Slackware maintainers thought it wasn't used anywhere else. But now it's used in Plasma, and I think even kdelibs, which means kdelibs depends on kdewebdev. Awesome. We fixed that one for 4.8, though." Sadly, shortly after the interview the development team dissolved, with some of them promising to start a new distribution soon.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Top ten killer applications
In-the-top-ten asks: I think you should have a segment on killer apps for an issue. It would be terrific to promote many of these products that don't get a lot of fanfare.
DistroWatch answers: Killer apps, like a "best of" list? I think most of the killer apps probably get a fair amount of spotlight already, but I'll riff off a list of applications I think are top notch. (Please feel free to chime in with your favourite apps, especially the obscure ones, in the comments section.)
First up, I think Firefox deserves the top spot on this list. It's a good, solid web browser, it's largely responsible for bringing the web (kicking and screaming) into standards compliance after many years of IE-only websites and it's recognized outside of the open source community. Though its popularity has waned somewhat in Chrome's shadow, Firefox remains the most complete, powerful open source browser available.
Number two on my list has to be LibreOffice. It's also well known, widely used and comes standard on most Linux distributions. Both LibreOffice and the project it forked from, OpenOffice.org, are largely responsible for making Linux a suitable alternative to Microsoft products on business desktops. LibreOffice is a huge project with around 400 contributors working on top notch productivity software. It's easily the most feature complete, easy to use office software out there.
The VLC multimedia player takes my number three spot. This media player will handle just about any codec, it has a nice interface and is amazingly versatile. It plays, converts, adjusts, scales and it supports subtitles. Yet for all of its flexibility VLC remains surprisingly easy to use and the basic controls are intuitive.
The Thunderbird e-mail client should probably be placed along side Firefox as they're both Mozilla projects, but I felt Thunderbird deserved its own entry. It's a rock solid, no-nonsense e-mail client which supplies a great deal of functionality without the bloat or external dependencies of other e-mail programs. As an added bonus, Thunderbird supports a wide range of plugins which add more functionality like e-mail encryption and calendar support. It's probably the nicest and most stable e-mail program I've used to date.
Whenever I want to move a lot of files from one place to another it's a good bet I'll be using Filezilla to do it. The Filezilla FTP client supports not just the FTP protocol, but also transfers using OpenSSH (SFTP) and FTP secured with TLS. Filezilla provides a local view and a remote server view at the same time, supports resuming transfers, can over-write or not based on time stamps and will move or delete entire directory trees. I consider it a must have for website developers.
Number six on my list is the K3b disc burner. The K3b application not only supports burning data to CDs and DVDs, but it can also copy discs, burn ISO images, convert MP3s into audio CDs and burn video DVDs. The program provides an all-in-one optical disc solution, it comes with good defaults and makes working with discs a simple point-n-click experience.
Next up is the GNU Image Manipulation Program, better known as "GIMP". Though this application gets some flak for its interface and for not having some high-end professional features, it provides more than enough functionality for most users. The GIMP is capable of handling a wide range of image formats, it is extensible and GIMP makes it easy to create images, manipulate photos and work with multiple layers. A must-have program for the amateur photographer or web designer.
The eighth item on my list is the Ubuntu Software Centre. Honestly, package managers in general would fit in here, the ability to easily handle (and update) thousands of programs is one of Linux's greatest features. Almost any Linux package manager puts application and patch management on other operating systems to shame and the Ubuntu Software Centre is the master of the game. It features an easy, point-n-click interface, the ability to queue multiple actions while the user continues to browse available items, it suggests related software packages and can be used to synchronize packages across multiple machines.
The OpenShot video editor lands in my ninth slot. The editor makes editing multiple video and audio clips amazingly simple, it comes with a library of special effects and it can import and export a wide range of multimedia formats. Though it doesn't have higher-end features, OpenShot is ideal for people working on their home videos.
Rounding out the list at number ten is Rhythmbox. What I love about this application isn't so much what it does (play music and manage play lists), but what it doesn't do. Almost every audio player eventually becomes a disc burner, video player, store and track editor. They get big and bulky, taking too much time to start up and too much memory gets gobbled up. Rhythmbox has managed to keep focused on doing one thing and doing it well and that's why it's my go-to audio player. People wishing more functionality can install plugins to extend Rhythmbox, but like the Firefox and Thunderbird entries further up this list, Rhythmbox itself just organizes and plays music without sucking up CPU or thrashing the hard disk.
Those are what I'd consider the big ten most people would find useful. There are some less widely used programs I think deserve honourable mention. For example, the GNU Compiler Collection turned 25 recently. The GNU compiler tools are almost universally used in open source circles and GCC is a great project. The KGpg front end for security keys and file encryption deserves some respect for making security such a simple process. I think most Linux archive managers deserve respect, and especially the Ark application. I had forgotten how much I take it for granted until a friend on a proprietary OS recently asked me how to go about extracting files from an ISO image. Lastly, I feel GParted, the versatile partition manager, deserves a salute. It copies, resizes, deletes and creates just about every popular file system, provides a clean interface and uses very few resources.
Please tell us about your favourite open source software below.
|Released Last Week
Webconverger 12.0, 12.1
Kai Hendry has announced the release of Webconverger 12.0, a Debian-based browser-only distribution designed for deployment on web kiosks: "Webconverger 12 is the biggest leap forward this project has ever made. Highlights: operating system innovation, entire operating system is now maintained under git; new configuration and subscription service at making it much easier to customise your kiosk; new boot menu, with the ability to boot in a selection of different locales; Firefox 10 Extended Support Release; a new about: page that shows the running version of Webconverger; even better browser lock down and no more search bar; much better network handling; re-engineering of boot APIs like i18n; kioskresetstation works with blanking; numerous bug fixes." Read the rest of the release notes for notes on new configuration services offered by the distribution.
Clonezilla Live 1.2.12-37
Steven Shiau has announced that a new stable release of Clonezilla Live, a specialist Debian-based live CD designed for cloning disks, has been released: "This release of Clonezilla Live (1.2.12-37) includes major enhancements and major bug fixes: the underlying GNU/Linux operating system was upgraded, this release is based on the Debian 'Sid' repository as of 2012-03-25; Linux kernel was updated to 3.2.12; Partclone-utils was updated to 0.1.3; Gdisk was updated to 0.8.2; the image of a partition saved by dd is no longer treated as a broken one in ocs-chkimg; GRUB on ext4 warning will be shown again if GRUB is not run successfully; an option was added to start over while keeping the mounted image repository; an option -fsck-src-part-y was added so that fsck can be run automatically when saving and image...." The full list of changes and new features can be found in the release announcement.
Proxmox 2.0 "Virtual Environment"
Gentoo Linux 12.1
Robin Johnson has announced the release of Gentoo Linux 12.1, a live DVD demonstrating the latest Gentoo technologies and open-source software applications: "Gentoo Linux is proud to announce the availability of a new live DVD to celebrate the continued collaboration between Gentoo users and developers. The live DVD features a superb list of packages, including Linux kernel 3.3, X.Org 1.12.0, KDE 4.8.1, GNOME 3.2.1, Xfce 4.8, Fluxbox 1.3.2, Firefox 11.0, LibreOffice 220.127.116.11, GIMP 2.6.12, Blender 2.60, Amarok 2.5 , VLC 2.0.1 and much more. Special Features: Gentoo install wizard; writable file systems using Aufs so you can emerge new packages!; persistence for $HOME is available, press F9 for more info. The live DVD is available in two flavors: a hybrid x86/x86_64 edition, and an x86_64 multi-lib edition." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Gentoo Linux 12.1 - the "install wizard" is an April fool's joke linking to the standard Gentoo installation document
(full image size: 1,862kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Andrew Wyatt has announced the release of Fuduntu 2012.2, the latest of the regular quarterly release updates of the project's rolling-release distribution previously forked from Fedora: "The second Fuduntu quarterly ISO image, Fuduntu 2012.2, is now available for immediate download. As with all Fuduntu releases, this release continues our tradition of small incremental improvements. It is important to note that existing Fuduntu users have already rolled up to this version through the normal update process, and do not need to download or reinstall from this media to benefit from this release. Major package updates this release: Linux kernel 3.2.13, Chromium 17, Firefox 11, Thunderbird 11, Pidgin 2.10.2, LibreOffice 3.5.1. During this cycle, the Fuduntu team has made many changes to improve the overall experience with the distribution. The largest, and most welcomed change is the shift from SourceForge as our package host to a new infrastructure." Here is the complete release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
- DoudouLinux 2012-03, the release announcement
- AriOS 4.0-beta, the release announcement
- Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Mythbuntu 12.04-beta2, the release announcement
- Open Xange 2012.04
- FreeBSD 8.3-RC2, the release announcement
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- RapidDisk LX. RapidDisk LX is a custom ARM-based Linux distribution built entirely out of source and inspired by the Cross Linux From Scratch project. Its main and only purpose is to provide RapidDisk functionality as a SCSI Target over a Storage Area Network (SAN).
- Regata. Regata is a Brazilian desktop Linux distribution based on openSUSE and featuring the latest KDE desktop. The project's website is in Portuguese.
- ServOS. ServOS is a Spanish Linux distribution for desktops and servers. The project's website is in Spanish.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 April 2012.
Caitlyn Martin, Robert Storey, Ladislav Bodnar and Jesse Smith
|• 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|
|• Issue 505 (2013-04-29): First look at PCLinuxOS 2013.04, Saucy Salamander, Remastersys and System Imager, Linux containers|
|• Issue 504 (2013-04-22): Look at Bodhi 2.3.0, Ubuntu 13.04 features, building OpenBSD ports, opening large files|
|• Issue 503 (2013-04-15): CentOS versus Scientific Linux, PCLinuxOS 64, Lucas Nussbaum, ZFS/Btrfs versus ext4|
|• Issue 502 (2013-04-08): Look at Mint 201303 "Debian", Ubuntu versus openSUSE, comparing ZFS and Btrfs file systems|
|• Issue 501 (2013-04-01): KANOTIX 2013 and GhostBSD 3.0, openSUSE Rescue-CD, Haiku package management, computer forensics|
|• Issue 500 (2013-03-25): Look at openSUSE 12.3, Ubuntu release changes, Debian backports, growing divide|
|• Issue 499 (2013-03-18): MINIX 3.2.1, openSUSE 12.3 on desktop, Ubuntu GNOME and UbuntuKylin, distros for musicians, KolibriOS|
|• Issue 498 (2013-03-11): Sabayon Linux 11, Ubuntu's Mir, Linux malware|
|• Issue 497 (2013-03-04): Rebellin Linux 1.00 "Adrenaline", rolling-release Ubuntu, Arch vs spin-offs, justification and diversity|
|• Issue 496 (2013-02-25): Review of Chakra 2013.02, The Book of GIMP, Ubuntu and privacy, FreeNAS vs NAS4Free|
|• Issue 495 (2013-02-18): SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra", Fedora 19 schedule, Xubuntu on DVD, cloud privacy|
|• Issue 494 (2013-02-11): FreeBSD 9.1, web server stats, Anaconda, rolling-release PC-BSD, fixing broken packages in Arch|
|• Issue 493 (2013-02-04): UberStudent 2.0, OmniBoot 1.0, MariaDB, Enlightenment 0.17|
|• Issue 492 (2013-01-28): Fedora 18 review, systemd, Kali Linux, Ubuntu Unleashed|
|• Issue 491 (2013-01-21): Fuduntu 2013.1, Fedora 18 desktop choices, Consort, accessing encrypted drive|
|• Issue 490 (2013-01-14): Look at Manjaro Linux 0.8.3, openSUSE on Chromebook, Able2Extract 8.0|
|• Issue 489 (2013-01-07): PC-BSD 9.1, Arch spin-offs, rolling-releases, year-end PHR stats, removing applications|
|• Issue 488 (2012-12-24): Reviews of Unity and Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko", FreeBSD 10|
|• Issue 487 (2012-12-17): Cinnarch 2012.11.22, OpenMandriva, Fedora Magazine, Tumbleweed, OpenJDK vs Oracle Java|
|• Issue 486 (2012-12-10): Linux Mint 14 review, Ubuntu "spyware" controversy, Haiku overview, troubleshooting Linux servers|
|• Issue 485 (2012-12-03): Kwort Linux 3.5, Mint bug-fix update, Fedora's new Anaconda, defining a distribution|
|• Issue 484 (2012-11-26): Look at SMS 2.0.1, Fedora pre-beta report, Illumos, Secure Boot update|
|• Issue 483 (2012-11-19): DragonFly BSD 3.2.1 and Xubuntu 12.10, Gentoo and udev, switching file systems|
|• Issue 482 (2012-11-12): Review of Zenwalk 7.2, Clang in FreeBSD, Omniboot 0.5, priorities on external drives|
|• Issue 481 (2012-11-05): Look at Tails 0.13, EFF on Ubuntu and privacy, Debian installer changes, ext4 data corruption bug|
|• Issue 480 (2012-10-29): Review of Ubuntu 12.10, Wayland 1.0, FreeBSD's pkgng|
|• Issue 479 (2012-10-22): Look at Zentyal 3.0, Debian bug reporting, initiating a halt|
|• Issue 478 (2012-10-15): Slackware 14.0 review, Ubuntu donations, connecting to multiple machines behind router|
|• Issue 477 (2012-10-08): Review of ODROID-X, OpenBSD's anti-Linux song, interview with Vincent Untz, Linux as operating system|
|• Issue 476 (2012-10-01): Review of openSUSE 12.2, Slackware 14.0 features, accessing home computer with SSH|
|• Issue 475 (2012-09-24): Look at PCLinuxOS 2012.08, Ubuntu and Amazon, SolusOS and PiSi, ownCloud|
|• Issue 474 (2012-09-17): Bodhi Linux 2.0.1, OpenIndiana interview, Frugalware history, update notifications|
|• Issue 473 (2012-09-10): The Linux Command Line, Slackware documentation project, Debian's new primary arch, Goobuntu|
|• Issue 472 (2012-09-03): Kororaa Linux 17, OpenIndiana and SchilliX, Ubuntu GNOME remix, home server tip|
|• Issue 471 (2012-08-27): Linux Mint 13 "KDE", Ubuntu 12.10 features, Slax update, folder quotas|
|• Issue 470 (2012-08-20): Liberté Linux 2012.2, Arch and systemd, NetBSD's sysbuild and sysupgrade, 19 years of Debian|
|• Issue 469 (2012-08-13): Peppermint OS Three, SUSE on Secure Boot, GNOME OS, moving email to Linux|
|• Issue 468 (2012-08-06): First look at CentOS 6.3, Debian installer beta, Fedora and MATE, Libtrash|
|• Issue 467 (2012-07-30): Ubuntu Made Easy, Debian "Jessie", OpenBSD on Secure Boot, Rawhide troubles|
|• Issue 466 (2012-07-23): Fuduntu 2012.3, Linux in PC-BSD jails, secure boot on older computers|
|• Issue 465 (2012-07-16): Netrunner 4.2, Mandriva's two codebases, firewalls and window frames|
|• Issue 464 (2012-07-09): Zorin OS 6, FSF's views on secure boot, Virtual PDF Printer|
|• Issue 463 (2012-07-02): TurnKey Linux 11.3, Red Hat and Btrfs, Sabayon's MATE spin, ZFS on Linux|
|• Issue 462 (2012-06-25): Sabayon 9, "Wheezy" freeze, Zorin OS overview, Vinux interview, mounting network shares|
|• Issue 461 (2012-06-18): Linux Mint 13, openSUSE 12. delays, Debian Multimedia, Mageia 3 roadmap|
|• Issue 460 (2012-06-11): Look at Fedora 17, PC-BSD and Slackware interviews, Openfiler and FuguIta|
|• Issue 459 (2012-06-04): Impressions of Mageia 2, Fedora updates, Debian or Raspberry Pie, improving software performance|
|• Issue 458 (2012-05-28): Impressions of SolusOS 1, Linux kernel 3.4, encrypting home folder|
|• Issue 457 (2012-05-21): Linux accessibility, Fedora 17 overview, MultiSystem, launching tasks|
|• Issue 456 (2012-05-14): Look at OpenBSD 5.1, Debian Installer 7.0 alpha, UDS news round-up|
|• Issue 455 (2012-05-07): Review of Ubuntu 12.04, "Quantal Quetzal" plans, Debian infographic|
|• Full list of all issues|