| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 454, 30 April 2012
Welcome to this year's 18th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! The first stable release of Calligra (a fork of KOffice) was announced recently. As a full-featured suite of office applications for the KDE desktop, Calligra certainly merits a closer look, but will it be able to compete on a desktop already dominated by the heavyweight LibreOffice? Jesse Smith takes a first look at the new arrival in this week's feature article. In the news section, plenty of information and links related to the new stable release of Ubuntu, including two absorbing interviews with prominent Ubuntu personalities and the announcement about the next version of Ubuntu whose code name was also revealed last week. Also in the news section, we link to an analysis of the current state of Mandriva Linux, another to a blog post describing the upgrade process from Fedora 16 to Fedora 17 beta, and a third one to an interesting interview with Artyom Zorin, the founder and leader developer of Zorin OS. Also in this issue, a Questions & Answers section about the advantages of using native applications designed for a specific desktop, an additional note on OpenSSH, and the usual round-up of last week's releases with all the screenshots galore. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
The new Calligra office suite|
It has been several years since I spent any significant amount of time with the productivity suite known as KOffice. The project, designed to work hand-in-hand with the KDE desktop, has maintained a small niche over the years by being an office suite with a small foot print that features an interface designed to fit in with other KDE/Qt software.
Recently there has been a split in the productivity suite's developer community which has given birth to the new, and reworked, Calligra suite. Calligra has just hit its first stable release and I opted to take it for a test run to see how it stacked up next to other office software such as LibreOffice. What I decided to do was to try to use Calligra for all of my word processing and spreadsheet needs for a week, plus make an effort to set up a database, create diagrams and produce graphics and slide presentations. Some of these things aren't tasks I perform on a regular basis, but I've gone through the processes on both open source and proprietary office suites in the past, so I feel comfortable making a comparison.
Before getting into the details, I want to say up front that the version of Calligra I was using for my experiment was not the final stable release, but a late beta version, Beta 6 to be specific. My repository does not feature the final release at time of writing. Beta 6 was followed by Beta 7, plus a release candidate, so some of the features and bugs I bring up may not be mirrored in the final version.
The first application in the suite I tried was Words, the Calligra word processor. We start off simply enough, being able to choose between a few available templates and then we're given the typical blank page. Calligra seems to make the assumption most users will be using wide screens and the editing tools, formating buttons and layout buttons are positioned to the right of the window. Along the top of the window we find a menu bar with the standard File, Edit, View... menus and a thin toolbar featuring common file and editing options. With a little experimenting I found the large toolbox at the side of the window could be moved to the left, made to float freely around the window or be hidden, depending on the user's preference. At the bottom of the window we find a status bar where page, layout and zoom/scale information are displayed. We can also click on these indicators to manipulate them. For example, we can click where the current page number is displayed, type a new page number and Words will jump to that page.
Calligra Words 2.4 - word processing
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As far as presentation was concerned I found Words to have two things working in its favour, the first being that it was flexible. So often I hear people complain about ribbon (or the lack of) interfaces and what I suspect is really the deeper issue is programs should allow users to adjust their menus to work the way they want, rather than force one approach or the other. Words, and the Calligra suite as a whole, does a nice job of picking reasonable settings, but let's us alter them or remove items completely. We start with a toolbox, toolbar, status bar, etc, but these can be turned off if we want just a plain menu and an empty page.
As for what Words does, aside from allowing us to adjust the furniture, I found it to be a very light word processor in terms of features. For example, there doesn't appear to be any obvious way to add images into a document. We seem to be faced with a text-only environment. We can adjust fonts, format pages and paragraphs. We can adjust colours and insert tables. We have the option of exporting documents to PDF format or saving in either Open Document or HTML formats.
When using Words I was reminded of the often repeated claim that 90% of word processor users only need 10% of the features available in the big productivity suites. It seems Calligra is testing that theory, presenting a light edition of a word processor, one which makes its few items easy to find (as there is no clutter) and easy to customize. In my case the 90-10 rule is true and I found Words was almost exactly what I personally want in a word processor, my only complaint being Words will import propriety document formats, but will not export to those same formats. This means when someone sends me a document in a proprietary format I can open and edit it, but can't send it back in the same format, which can cause compatibility issues.
The next stop on my whirlwind tour of Calligra was Flow, the suite's flowchart making application. When we first get started Flow looks a good deal like Words. Down the right side of the screen are formatting, preview and alignment tools. Over on the left we see a list of diagram categories. Here we can choose what sort of flowchart or diagram we wish to produce. Some options include logic flowcharts, electrical diagrams, optics and maps. Selecting a category expands it to show all the available shapes and, from there, it's a simple matter of dragging items onto our canvas. Components in the diagram can then be resized, text can be added and we can import images from files.
Personally, I typically read flowcharts more so than create them, but I found the whole process straight forward. Once we have our chart created we can save it in Open Document format, export it to a PDF file or or save it as an image file (most common image formats are supported). As with the Words application, I found Flow's interface was very flexible. Anything could be picked up and moved around the display, or turned off. Items could be made visible again from the program's Settings menu.
Calligra Flow 2.4 - creating a flowchart
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The next application on my list was Tables, the Calligra spreadsheet program. When we start off Tables presents us with a blank sheet. At the top of the window we see the usual menu bar and thin toolbar with file, edit and format buttons. Over on the far right there is a toolbox which is mostly taken up with a cell editor. The cell editor allows us to input text or formulas. The editor also includes a button which will open a formula wizard that will walk us through getting values, running tests and inputting values into cells. I found it to be fairly straightforward and nicely laid out.
Like most other spreadsheet applications, Tables recognizes different types of data. This allows us to auto-fill in things like days of the week, patterns of numbers, names of months and other common pieces of information. Formulas use common function names, making Tables fairly compatible with other spreadsheet programs. And I found Tables would import spreadsheets in a variety of formats, including Open Document, Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets, comma separated value documents, Gnumeric documents and HTML formatted documents. We can also save our spreadsheets in a range of formats, though only open standards are supported, proprietary file formats are not.
Most of the time Tables worked well for me. It has a familiar interface and generally functioned the way I expected. However, a few times I ran into problems. Once, when editing a spreadsheet, I noticed the changes I was making to formulas and a column of numbers weren't being reflected on the page, as though Tables was waiting for a refresh command. This hadn't happened before and didn't happen again in later sessions. Another time I saved a spreadsheet in LibreOffice, opened it in Tables, made some changes and saved it again. Then I opened it again in LibreOffice to find the changes weren't recognized and the cells altered with Tables appeared scrambled. I'm not sure how much of that was the fault of LibreOffice and how much was a problem with Tables, but it did serve as a warning that documents transferred between the two suites may not be completely compatible.
As with its sibling, I came away from using Tables feeling much the same way as I had when using Words. It appears to be a light edition of a spreadsheet application, ideal for people who are tracking home expenses, or small businesses. We have the basics, lots of formulas, some support for scripts, multiple sheets and cell protection. On the other hand we don't appear to have the ability to add charts or use plugins and the goal seek functionality is quite simple.
Next up in my experiment was Karbon14, a vector drawing application. Karbon14 may have been, for me at any rate, the least intuitive of the programs I had used thus far. Like the others, we start out with a blank page and a toolbox down the right side of the screen. Over on the left is a small block of tools for drawing and manipulating pieces of the image. Some aspects of the application I picked up easily enough, such as dragging items from the tool box to the canvas and resizing them. Selecting and moving pieces around also seemed straightforward enough.
Where I tended to run into trouble was with colours. For instance, if I started drawing free-hand the "paint" would appear blue, even if I selected red or black before hand. Eventually I realized I needed to draw first and then pick the colour I wanted and my entire doodle would change to match. Likewise I had trouble getting gradients to show up the way I expected. Part of my issue seemed to stem from there being three different colour indicators on the screen: a colour bar at the bottom, a drop-down colour/pattern selector in the upper-right and a colour indicator in the bottom-right, each of which (at first) appeared to operate independently. Eventually I got the hang of things, but I never really came around to the Karbon14 approach to graphic editing.
Stage is Calligra's slide presentation program and it's an application with which I struggled without much success. At first glance it's set up much the same way as the other Calligra programs. The menu at the top and the toolbox down the right side were becoming familiar by this point. As with other presentation programs we can see thumbnail versions of our slides to the left of the window and we can drag text boxes, images and other items into the presentation. Where I ran into trouble was with managing items once I'd added them to a slide. For instance, I added a chart to a slide, then fumbled around for a while trying to figure out how to edit its properties.
Right-clicking on items only provides an option to delete them from the slide. When I found the proper editing tool I found I could change some aspects of the chart, such as whether it was a pie chart or bar graph, but I couldn't get the chart to show more than three data points at any given time. The calculation of how it decided the size of the bars (or pie slices) didn't seem to line up with the numbers I provided it either. Another problem I ran into was that some images and charts I was able to resize, others refused to scale or even move to a different location on the slide. At one point I tried to add table and it resulted in Stage immediately crashing.
With Stage I felt all the pieces were there, but getting them to produce the result I wanted was difficult.
Calligra Stage 2.4 - creating slides
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The last program I explored during my trial was Kexi, the Calligra database application. Kexi provided my shortest experience. When I opened Kexi it asked if I wanted to create a database on a server or create a new database in a local file. I selected local file and took the default file name. At which point Kexi said it had encountered an error and couldn't create a database. Any attempt to work with the application beyond that point resulted in it crashing. I checked and found Kexi was, in fact, creating a file of zero bytes in size, demonstrating write access wasn't an issue. The error message was generic, simply stating that the database could not be created. Additional attempts to use Kexi all ended the same way, thus my experiment with Kexi started and ended quickly.
Calligra Kexi 2.4 - attempting to create a database
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Having used Calligra for a week and having tried to use it, as much as possible, for my day-to-day work I feel as though I've really just covered the top layer of what is available in the suite. With this number of applications to go through and so many features to explore I could really only get a taste of each program. Still, I was left with a strong first impression of each item in the suite. I found I very much enjoyed Words and Tables. This is probably because they're the applications I used the most as they fell into my usual work flow, but I also feel they were the most similar in design to their counterparts in other productivity suites. I especially liked that I could, once I set up my pages or spreadsheets the way I wanted them, turn off the toolbox and toolbar with a click and I'd have a distraction-free interface.
Other programs, such as Karbon14 (the drawing program) and Stage (the slide show application) didn't get as much use. And, perhaps because of that, or perhaps because of the nature of their controls, I didn't take to them. I found my work patterns did not line up with the way Karbon14 and Stage worked. Flow, the flowchart program, worked well enough for me. It isn't a program I would normally use, but I found it intuitive and, if I had to create flowcharts in the future, Flow would certainly be my go-to application. Kexi, obviously I can't really dissect, as I couldn't get it to create a database.
As I mentioned above, my over all sense of Calligra is that the developers are creating office software for the 90% of people who need 10% of the functions. This allows them to create light and pleasantly uncluttered applications. Some features may be missing and some existing features may work a bit differently than they do in other office suites, but the important thing is the core functionality is there. For people like me who, in a home setting at least, just want to type documents with the benefit of spell check and who use spreadsheets mostly for adding columns of numbers, Calligra does well. The only serious stumbling block I ran into was the inability to export documents in proprietary Microsoft formats, which have become very entrenched in the business world. This puts up a barrier for Calligra adoption as I could easily read incoming files, but if I wanted to edit them and send them back, I had to switch to a different productivity suite.
Another characteristic I found interesting is that all of the Calligra applications appear to be designed with wide screens in mind, that is the toolboxes are placed to the left and right while vertical screen space tends to be preserved by default. We can change this, moving tools to the top or bottom of the screen and we can turn them off and I very much enjoyed the flexibility.
All of this leaves me with the impression Calligra may be focused on the mobile/tablet market. With the ability to import most document formats (even if export isn't as feature complete), the flexible interface and the focus on a small, core set of features, it seems Calligra should be ideal for tablet users and people with netbooks. There were rough edges, at least in the late beta I used, but the basics are there and I think people who feel their office software is too cluttered or too heavy will appreciate the Calligra suite.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ubuntu's Quantal Quetzal, interviews with Jane Silber, Jono Bacon and Artyom Zorin, whither Mandriva, upgrading to Fedora 17, Haiku overview
Whatever your opinion about Canonical, Ubuntu and the project's current direction, you have to admit that these biannual releases provide so much excitement, talking points, analyses and opinions in every tech publication that it sometimes looks as if the Internet was all about Linux. That in itself can't be a bad thing. Last week's release of Ubuntu and all of its official derivatives created a new momentum - both for those who enjoy the Unity interface and all of its recent improvements, but also for those who prefer a more traditional desktop and who will impatiently wait for Linux Mint with its MATE or Cinnamon layers. Besides the release, last week also delivered the long-awaited code name for Ubuntu 12.10, which will be called Quantal Quetzal: "And so the stage is set for a decision: I give you the Quantal Quetzal, soon to be dressed in tessellated technicolour, now open for toolchains, kernels and other pressing preparatory packages." The development of Quantal will resemble that of Precise; there will be three alpha releases (the first of which will appear on 7 June), two beta builds and a final release on 18 October 2012. For a full roadmap please refer to the Quantal Quetzal release schedule.
Still on the subject of Ubuntu, we would like to link to two interesting interviews that are worth reading if you enjoy the distribution. The first one is with Canonical CEO Jane Silber as published by the Linux User magazine: "There are challenges when we sometimes want to do things for commercial reasons and we can't reveal it as early as the community would like. There are challenges around the fact that most enterprises would actually like some non-free software in there. We have made an exception for hardware enablement and drivers, but we have made a commitment that the applications must be free." The second interview is with Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon, brought to you by the Unixmen website: "Ubuntu 12.04 is definitely a key milestone, and I believe it will be one of the most important releases in Ubuntu's history. A few years back we made some changes that in my mind culturally changed Ubuntu from more of a 'project' (collection of parts that fit together) to a 'product' (building something that serves user experiences and problems). Ubuntu 12.04 has a quite considerable amount of design thinking involved which is a result of user testing, feedback and more. I think the result is a more integrated, consistent experience."
* * * * *
Of the many Ubuntu derivatives that attempt to "improve" on their parent by providing a more novice-friendly desktop environment for new Linux converts, Zorin OS stands out for its careful balance of community and business orientation - by promoting a free edition in the hope that users will eventually switch to the "Premium" edition (which includes technical support) or buy a Zorin OS PC. Project founder Artyom Zorin explains many of the distro's concepts in this interview with DarkDuck: "The killer feature of Zorin OS is definitely its ease to use and familiar interface. By default Zorin OS has a Windows 7-like GUI, as Windows 7 users are our biggest target audience. However we didn't want to leave other OS users out in the cold, so we catered for them by creating our unique Zorin Look Changer program which allows users to switch their desktop interface to look like Windows 7, XP and GNOME 2 as well as Windows Vista, Windows 2000 and Mac OS X in the Premium editions. We also include more of our own programs such as Zorin Browser Manager, Zorin Background Plus and Zorin Splash Screen Manager to make the customization of your system quick and easy. Another substantial feature of Zorin OS is that it's an out-of-the-box software solution. Even the Core version of Zorin OS includes all of the essential software that users want and need such as the LibreOffice suite, a video editor, as well as all the media codecs."
* * * * *
Mandriva Linux, once the most popular distribution in DistroWatch's page hit ranking statistics, has fallen out of the top 20 list for the first time ever. The negative publicity following another round of financial troubles last year combined with lack of concrete announcements about the project's status together with continued absence of any release schedule has resulted in many of Mandriva users switching to Mageia and possibly ROSA. Linux Weekly News' Jake Edge takes a look at the current status of the company and distribution in "Whither Mandriva?": "It would seem that progress on the distribution has stalled. Some developers have moved to ROSA, which is a Russia-based company that is building a desktop distribution (ROSA Marathon 2012) atop Mandriva. For a while, it seems, ROSA was working within the Mandriva community but has more recently moved on. Much of that information comes from a thread on the Mandriva Cooker mailing list. That thread was started by long-time Mandriva developer Per Øyvind Karlsen . Karlsen is concerned that the Mandriva distribution is dying because the parent company has financial problems and because there has never been a neutral foundation set up to shepherd the distribution."
* * * * *
The recent arrival of Fedora 17 beta means that we are one step closer to the final release, currently scheduled for May 22nd. This is also the time when the developers rely on public testing more than ever. If you feel adventurous or wish to help with final debugging, there is a relatively easy way to upgrade your Fedora 16 installation to the current post-beta of Fedora 17. Harish Pillay explains the steps in "Fedora 17 before it is released": "I decided to take the plunge and run Fedora 17 before it's officially launched in May. My system has been running Fedora 16 x86_64 since the launch last November and I must say that it has been solid - including the GNOME 3.x stuff. When it finally completed the pre-upgrade, I rebooted the machine, then it went through the final install and, voilà, all was good. The key apps I need to use on a daily basis - mutt, msmtp, Firefox, Chromium, XChat, Thunderbird, VLC, Twinkle, Calibre, virt-manager all worked as before. The only exception is VLC which will play OGG and MP3 but fails to play FLV and MP4 (complains that it needs h264 codecs)." If you do decide to take the plunge, heed the advice given in the first comment following the above-mentioned post and read this post-upgraded clean-up tutorial.
* * * * *
Finally, a link to an excellent article about Haiku, an open-source operating system inspired by the much-loved BeOS. Written by Ryan Leavengood for IEEE Spectrum, the story is entitled "The Dawn of Haiku OS": "It was the summer of 2001, and computer programmer Michael Phipps had a problem: His favorite operating system, BeOS, was about to go extinct. Having an emotional attachment to a piece of software may strike you as odd, but to Phipps and many others (including me), BeOS deserved it. It ran amazingly fast on the hardware of its day; it had a clean, intuitive user interface; and it offered a rich, fun, and modern programming environment. In short, we found it vastly superior to every other computer operating system available. But the company that had created BeOS couldn't cut it in the marketplace, and its assets, including BeOS, were being sold to a competitor. Worried that under a new owner BeOS would die a slow, unsupported death, Phipps did the only logical thing he could think of: He decided to re-create BeOS completely from scratch, but as open-source code. An open-source system, he reasoned, isn't owned by any one company or person, and so it can't disappear just because a business goes belly-up or key developers leave."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Using native applications, a note on OpenSSH
Mixing-and-matching asks: Is there any advantage to using, say, KDE applications in LXDE or Xfce to speed up responsiveness of the desktop environment?
DistroWatch answers: You will probably notice a few benefits to running KDE applications in LXDE or Xfce compared to running KDE/Qt applications under the KDE desktop. Both LXDE and Xfce will probably load faster when you login, but the big difference will be the amount of memory used. KDE is heavier than both Xfce and LXDE and so you may find some tasks are slower under KDE than the other environments, especially if your machine does not have much RAM. If you're using applications which require a lot of memory or if you're running several programs at once your machine will be less likely to need to swap out RAM when running the smaller desktops. In the past, when running low-specification equipment, I found I was often using KDE for day-to-day tasks and for work, but I'd switch over to Xfce to run games because they'd run faster and I'd get smoother graphic performance under Xfce. However, the more resources you have available on your computer the less of a difference in performance you're likely to see between one desktop and another since memory and CPU cycles become less in demand.
* * * * *
An additional note on OpenSSH. A few weeks ago we looked at using OpenSSH keys to allow remote logins without requiring a password. And we touched briefly on transferring keys to remote servers. Someone raised an interesting point after that column wondering if there was any way to script OpenSSH connections without keys, or a way to transfer security keys to many remote computers (such as in a computer lab) without having to babysit the process and type in passwords. On the surface it would probably seem like this would be easy, there should be a way to hand a password to the SSH client or pipe a password from a file to OpenSSH. However, such is not the case, OpenSSH seems to go out of its way to prevent accepting a password from anywhere except the user's keyboard for security reasons. This means there's no password parameter, no shell variable that can be used to hold a password and piping a password doesn't work. If you look around you can find hundreds of forums featuring the same question, wondering how to automate uploading public keys or script logins where keys haven't been set up.
There are solutions, I've found two which work fairly well. The first is to use the expect software to intercept the password request and send back a response. The expect software can be found in the repositories of most Linux distributions and a script to connect to a remote server using OpenSSH might look like the following:
It's not particularly secure to have one's password sitting in a script, but if we need to connect to a remote machine without manually typing a password and without keys in place, this will do it. Another, slightly simpler, approach is to use Sshpass. The Sshpass program accepts either a password or the location of a password and hands that over to OpenSSH. Sshpass is fairly flexible in that it can accept a password on the command line or via a shell variable or from a file. In the following example, we save our password in a shell variable and then open a secure shell session:
spawn ssh firstname.lastname@example.org
In this next example we transfer our public security key to a remote server, using our password on the command line:
sshpass -e ssh email@example.com
sshpass -pmy-password-goes-here ssh-copy-id remote-server.com
Having shared these utilities, I feel it's also important to point out OpenSSH doesn't include these features because they are a security risk. Whenever a password is stored in plain text, whether it's in a shell variable or on the command line or in a file, it's possible someone will see it. And the more often this technique is used, the more likely it is for someone to discover the password. When at all possible it's recommended people make use of security keys and interactive logins. Expect and Sshpass should only be used sparingly, if at all.
|Released Last Week
Scientific Linux 5.8
Pat Riehecky has announced the release of Scientific Linux 5.8, a distribution rebuilt from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 and enhanced with extra software and tools useful in academic environments: "We would like to announce the immediate availability of Scientific Linux 5.8." Besides upstream updates some of the changes compared to version 5.7 include: "Intel wireless firmware (ucode) updated to a more current version; Java updated to the latest security package; the 1.4.14 release of OpenAFS, this version fixes a minor locking bug; Ralink wireless firmware updated to a more current version; yum-utils updated to current version; lsb_release -a now reports the same as SL6...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Linux Mint 201204 "Debian"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 201204 "Debian" edition: "The team is proud to announce the release of LMDE 201204. This release features three of the best Linux desktops available at the moment: The traditional and functional MATE 1.2 desktop, the innovative and beautiful Cinnamon 1.4 and the lightweight and rock-solid Xfce 4.8. Both the MATE/Cinnamon and Xfce editions use the MDM display manager. MDM will look familiar to many people, as it brings back GDM 2.20 and all its features: Remote login, configuration tools, fast-user switching, theme-ability, language selection. Yahoo joins DuckDuckGo and is featured as default in the list of search engines which financially support Linux Mint." Here is the full release announcement with screenshots of the three desktop options.
Tiny Core Linux 4.5, 4.5.1
Robert Shingledecker has announced the release of Tiny Core Linux 4.5, a fast and minimalist Linux distribution for desktop use: "Team Tiny Core is proud to announce the release of Core 4.5. Change log: updated wbar to 2.3.0; Updated wbar.sh, wbar_setup and wbarconf GUI for new wbar changes; new Apps GUI replaces AppBrowser and AppsAudit; updated Apps GUI OnBoot, OnDemand and Md5Check to case-insensitive sort order; updated Apps GUI OnDemand to support ondemand noicons; updated App GUI to add descriptive title and moved URI to bottom; renamed ScmBrowser to ScmApps, added delete and descriptive title, moved URI to bottom, adjusted menu; updated tce-audit to suppress spurious messages with regard to FAT file systems; updated tce-setup added support for scm in cde tmp/builtin for remasters; updated scm-load to forward md5check results to calling GUI; updated scm-load to support scm only type systems and remasters...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a complete technical changelog.
Dragora GNU/Linux 2.2
Matias Fonzo has announced the release of Dragora GNU/Linux 2.2, a "libre" distribution built from scratch and featuring Xfce as the default desktop: "I am pleased to announce the release of Dragora GNU/Linux 2.2 (code name 'rafaela'). Dragora is a powerful and reliable GNU/Linux distribution created from scratch with the intention of providing a stable, multi-platform and multi-purpose operating system. Built with 100% free software. The development focused on stability, correction of bugs, upgrades and security updates. The improvements have occurred in the system installer, the package system, and in Runit's scheme, our init system. This version is available for the 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, along with a second CD called "plus" which contains Emacs 23.4, Gnash 0.8.10, Gtk-Gnutella 0.97, and wxWidgets 2.9.1 with their corresponding sources." See the full release announcement for a long list of highlights and new features.
Dragora GNU/Linux 2.2 - a "libre" distribution built from scratch
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ClearOS 6.2 "Community"
Peter Baldwin has announced the release of ClearOS 6.2, a distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2 and designed for small business servers and gateways: "ClearOS Community 6 has arrived. A lot of time, resources and development have gone into making ClearOS the best next generation small business server and gateway. The underlying framework was redesigned to make it easy to create new and innovative applications. The new Marketplace now provides a quick way to install both open-source and paid applications. There's also 64-bit support, a shiny new graphical installer, improved usability, better VM support, a modernized build system, and the migration to the latest upstream 6.x version. We stepped back, improved the architecture and software, and are now ready to bring you a slew of new applications in 2012." Here is the full release announcement.
Swift Linux 0.2.0
Jason Hsu has announced the release of Swift Linux 0.2.0, a lightweight desktop distribution with IceWM - now based on Linux Mint's "Debian" edition: "Welcome to the new Mint-based Swift Linux. Version 0.2.0 of Swift Linux is now available. Swift Linux is now based on Linux Mint 'Debian' edition but retains the spirit of antiX Linux. The new Minty base improves hardware and codec support and continues to provide Swift Linux a software repository consisting of over 30,000 packages. However, Swift Linux is keeping the IceWM and ROX pinboard desktop environment to provide user-friendliness without bloat. Also, the Swift Linux ISO image is still small enough to fit onto a CD. Subsequent versions of Swift Linux will be provided frequently (usually no more than a few weeks between editions) but with only modest improvements with each iteration." Visit the project's home page to read the brief release announcement.
Swift Linux 0.2.0 - a lightweight distro based on Linux Mint "Debian"
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BackBox Linux 2.05
Raffaele Forte has announced the release of BackBox Linux 2.05, an updated version of the project's Ubuntu-based distribution designed to perform penetration tests and security assessments: "The BackBox team is proud to announce the release 2.05 of BackBox Linux. The new release includes features such as Ubuntu 11.04, Linux kernel 2.6.38 and Xfce 4.8.0. What's new: system upgrade; bug corrections; performance boost; improved start menu; improved WiFi driver (compat-wireless aircrack patched); new hacking tools - Creepy, fern-wifi-cracker, Joomscan, Pyrit, Reaver, Xplico; updated tools - Crunch, Fimap, Hydra, MagicTree, Metasploit... System requirements: 32-bit or 64-bit processor; 256 MB of system memory (RAM); 4.4 GB of disk space for installation; graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution; DVD-ROM drive or USB port." Here is the brief release announcement.
Ubuntu 12.04, the latest version of Canonical's flagship operating system featuring the Unity user interface and Head-Up Display menu system, has been released: "The Ubuntu team is very pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Long-Term Support). Code-named 'Precise Pangolin', 12.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing a few new features and improving quality control. For PC users, Ubuntu 12.04 supports laptops, desktops, and netbooks with a unified look and feel based on an updated version of the desktop shell called 'Unity', which introduces 'Head-Up Display' search capabilities." Read the release announcement and see the features page for more details.
Kubuntu 12.04, a new version of an Ubuntu variant featuring the KDE 4.8.2 desktop, is out: "The Kubuntu community is proud to announce the release of 12.04 LTS, the 'Precise Pangolin': the new Long-Term Support version of our friendly operating system. Built on Ubuntu's core and polished with KDE's applications and workspaces, Kubuntu 12.04 LTS is a grand example of friendly, fast and beautiful software. We recommend it as the perfect OS for casual users, students, Linux gamers, software developers, professionals, and anyone interested in a free, open platform that is both beautiful and useful. Highlights: KDE 4.8.2; Amarok 2.5; Rekonq and OwnCloud updates; Calligra suite...." See the release announcement and release notes for more information and screenshots.
Kubuntu 12.04 - an Ubuntu flavour with the latest KDE desktop
(full image size: 1,216kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Edubuntu 12.04, a new release of the specialist Ubuntu remix designed for schools, is ready for download: "After six months of preparation, it's with great pride that the Edubuntu development team announces today the release of Edubuntu 12.04 LTS. As the first Long-Term Support release of the Edubuntu project, this version will be supported for 5 years (April 2017). The Edubuntu development team will also provide 'point releases' in sync with Ubuntu's to offer new installation media containing all the latest bug fixes. What's new? iTalc was replaced by Epoptes, a new classroom management software; new major version of LTSP (5.3.x) including numerous bug fixes and speed improvement; fully translatable installation and post-installation environment...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Edubuntu 12.04 - an Ubuntu tailored to schools
(full image size: 1,516kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Mythbuntu 12.04, a new update of the specialist Ubuntu sub-project with a focus on setting up a standalone MythTV system, is available: "Mythbuntu 12.04 has been released. It is very important to note that this release is only compatible with MythTV 0.25 systems. The MythTV component of previous Mythbuntu releases can be upgraded to a compatible MythTV version by using the Mythbuntu repositories. Highlights: MythTV 0.25; starting with 12.04, the Mythbuntu team will only be doing LTS releases; enable MythTV and Mythbuntu Updates repositories directly from the Mythbuntu Control Centre without needing to install the mythbuntu-repos package; Mythbuntu theme fixes." Here is the release announcement with links to relevant topics.
Xubuntu 12.04, a brand-new version of the popular Ubuntu flavour featuring the Xfce 4.8 desktop, has been released: "The Xubuntu team is very proud and happy to announce the release of Xubuntu 12.04, code-named 'Precise Pangolin'. Xubuntu 12.04 is a Long-Term Support release (LTS) and will be supported for three years per the Xubuntu LTS plan. Release notes: the i386 images use a non-PAE kernel, the non-PAE kernel will not be available in future Xubuntu releases; some default shortcuts have been changed, added and deleted; pavucontrol is used instead of xfce4-mixer due to latter not supporting PulseAudio; the Alacarte menu editor is installed by default and will work with Xfce-related menu items as well; lots of appearance improvements, including new branding...." Read the release announcement and release notes for additional details.
Xubuntu 12.04 - an Ubuntu variant with Xfce 4.8
(full image size: 438kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Lubuntu 12.04, an updated version of the official Ubuntu sub-project showcasing the lightweight LXDE desktop, has been released: "Lubuntu 12.04 'Precise Pangolin' is finally here. Features: based on the lightweight LXDE desktop environment; PCManFM 0.9.10, a fast and lightweight file manager using GIO/GVFS; Openbox, the fast and extensible, default windows-manager of LXDE; LightDM, using the simple GTK+ greeter; Chromium, the open-source variant of Google Chrome; based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Improvements since Lubuntu 11.10: a new software center, optimized to be lightweight, for easy installation and removal of applications from your system; new theme; Blueman is now used for managing Bluetooth devices." See the release announcement and release notes to learn more.
Lubuntu 12.04 - a lightweight Ubuntu system with LXDE
(full image size: 269kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu Studio 12.04
Ubuntu Studio 12.04, the latest release from a project providing a large collection of audio, video and graphics software in one compact package, is ready: "Ubuntu Studio is the Ubuntu flavour designed for content creation. It's produced as a DVD image that can also be converted to an USB stick and includes support for most languages by default. Ubuntu Studio 12.04 LTS is a 3 year long-term support release and will be supported until April 2015. New features include: live DVD; GUI-based installation; low-latency kernel installed by default; i386 images use the low-latency PAE kernel; Xfce as the default desktop environment; Pulse Audio with JACK bridging enabled by default; new theme, icons and default font...." Read the detailed release notes for more information.
Ubuntu Studio 12.04 - a specialist Ubuntu for media creation
(full image size: 1,330kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Ubuntu Rescue Remix 12.04
Andrew Zajac has announced the release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix 12.04, an Ubuntu-based data recovery software toolkit: "Version 12.04 'Precise Pangolin' of the very best free and libre open-source data recovery software toolkit based on Ubuntu is out. Ubuntu Rescue Remix provides a robust yet lean system for data recovery and forensics. No graphical interface is used; the live system can boot and function normally on machines with very little memory or processor power. Following Ubuntu's six-month release schedule, all the software is up-to-date, stable and supported. Ubuntu Rescue Remix features a full command-line environment with the newest versions of the most powerful free and libre open-source data recovery software including GNU ddrescue, Photorec, The Sleuth Kit, Gnu-fdisk and ClamAV. This release features ddrutility, a new tool written by Scott Dwyer to identify files affected by unrecoverable blocks on a disk image." Here is the brief release announcement.
Proxmox 2.1 "Virtual Environment"
Martin Maurer has announced the release of Proxmox 2.1 "Virtual Environment" edition, an open-source virtualization platform for running virtual appliances and virtual machines, based on Debian GNU/Linux: "We just released Proxmox VE 2.1, including a lot of bug fixes in the new virtual machine startup and shutdown behavior. Release notes: simplified GUI for users without permissions; implemented startup and shutdown ordering; improved task logs on node start-up and shut-down; added Russian, Italian and Turkish translations; updated Corosync cluster stack to version 1.4.3; updated LVM to version 2.02.95 (fixes snapshot problems); bug fixes." Read the rest of the release announcement for upgrade instructions and other useful links.
Tails 0.11, a new version of the Debian-based live DVD designed for anonymous Internet surfing, has been released: "Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System), version 0.11, is out. All users must upgrade as soon as possible. Notable user-visible changes include: Tails Greeter, the login screen which obsoletes the language selection boot menu, Tails Greeter also adds some new options - activating persistence and setting a sudo password; Tails USB installer, this graphical user interface mostly obsoletes our old instructions of 'cat-ing' the ISO directly onto a block device; persistence can optionally be used when running Tails from a USB drive, application configurations and arbitrary directories can be made persistent; Iceweasel 10.0.4esr with search plugins, replaced Debian-provided DuckDuckGo search plugin with the "HTML SSL" one...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a complete list of changes.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 7 May 2012. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
|• 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|