| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 455, 7 May 2012
Welcome to this year's 19th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! There is little doubt that Ubuntu 12.04 is a major milestone and a radical departure from the established Linux distribution experiences of the past. With the improved Unity desktop, HUD menu and an increasing number of online services, Ubuntu is no longer just a "distro", it's a complete computing infrastructure ready for use by anyone. Read our review below to find out what we think about Canonical's latest and (arguably) greatest release ever. The news section expands on the Ubuntu theme with a BBC article covering the new version and it also links to an online discussion about early tentative plans for Ubuntu 12.10. Also in this issue, a Debian infographic explains the terminology and relationships between the different units of Debian GNU/Linux and an interesting experiment gauging user impressions of three Linux distribution websites. Finally, we are happy to announce that the recipient of the DistroWatch.com April 2012 donation is the Slackware Linux project. Happy reading!
Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Review of Ubuntu 12.04|
The arrival of Ubuntu 12.04 attracted a lot of attention just over a week ago, both from users and critics alike. In fact, Ubuntu's new long-term support tempted attracted so many people that I was unable to connect to the project's download servers on the day of the release and had to turn to the torrent files to get the latest version.
The new Ubuntu comes in a variety of flavours. There's the desktop edition, which is probably the most popular offering, there's a server edition, an alternative installation for people who want to build up their systems from a core set of utilities, there's also a DVD desktop edition for people who want to have more software (such as language packs and the GNU Image Manipulation Program) available in the default install. Each of these editions is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. The default desktop environment for Ubuntu is Unity and, for people who aren't comfortable with the default, the Ubuntu community provides alternative desktops, both via the project's software repositories and through separate community offerings, such as Kubuntu and Xubuntu. I opted to take the default desktop edition.
The desktop edition is provided as a 700 MB CD image which I downloaded and burned to a disc. While I was waiting for my download to complete I took a tour of the new features available in Ubuntu 12.04. The main one, which has provoked a lot of commentary leading up to its release, is the Head-Up Display (HUD). The idea behind the HUD is to make application menus searchable. Ideally, this will make it possible to find a specific menu item or bit of functionality even in large or cluttered menus. The feature tour also made mention of lenses, which provide us with a way to locate music, videos, applications and other files using Unity's Dash. We'll cover those features later.
Booting from the project's CD brings up a welcome screen which allows us to select our preferred language and offers us the option of trying the live environment or launching Ubuntu's installer. I opted to go straight to the installer. The next screen we see is a check list, letting us know if we have enough disk space to perform an install and it recommends we connect to the Internet to get the full benefit of the installation process. We're also given the choice of doing a plain install with completely free software or we can download extra packages which may be considered non-free or patent encumbered. We can also choose whether to grab all available package upgrades at install time or just do an install with local packages and apply security upgrades later. I appreciate this flexibility and another aspect of the installation I like is the upper-right corner of the screen is occupied with a system tray where we can enable accessibility options. If any of these accessibility options, such as the virtual keyboard, are used during the installation, Ubuntu will remember this and turn on the feature for the main user's account.
The next screen of the installer gives us the option of performing a guided or manual partitioning of the hard drive. I went for the manual process and found Ubuntu supports ext2, ext3, ext4, BtrFS, JFS, ReiserFS and XFS partitions. The partitioning screen is well laid out and responsive. I find it very easy to use. Once we set up our partitions Ubuntu begins formating and copying files while we finish the last few steps. We select our time zone from a map of the world and, if we're connected to the Internet, the installer will try to guess our time zone for us. Then we confirm our keyboard layout and create a user account. At this time we can opt to have our account auto-login and we can also choose whether to encrypt our home folder. The installer then passes the next few minutes showing us a slide show of various features while it finishes copying files and (optionally) downloading any additional packages we have requested.
Ubuntu 12.04 - exploring virtual desktops and launching the installer
(full image size: 646kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
The Unity desktop
When we first boot into Ubuntu we're presented with a graphical login screen where the theme makes generous use of the colour purple. Aside from the user account we created at install time there is also a guest account present. The guest account can be used without a password and, once the user signs out of the guest account, any changes to that account (and any files created) are removed. This makes it easy to hand over our computer to a friend or relative without the requirement of giving them a password or a dedicated account. On the flip side there doesn't appear to be any easy way to disable the guest account without manually digging through configuration files should security be a concern.
When logging in each user has the option of using the regular Unity desktop or a "Unity 2D" environment. The latter environment is provided for people who run video cards and drivers which do not support 3D effects. In appearance and behaviour the two Unities are virtually identical. The only difference I noticed was, on my machines at any rate, Unity 2D was a bit more responsive.
The default wallpaper is a sort of hazy purple with light filtering through and it reminds me of viewing a sunset on a cloudy day. Over on the left side of the screen is a launch bar. The bar contains large icons for opening the Unity Dash, opening the user's home folder, bringing up the settings panel and there are launchers for LibreOffice, Firefox, Ubuntu One and the Software Centre. At the top of the screen we find a menu bar and the system tray.
The Unity Dash is central to the desktop experience and I want to spend some time there. Where most desktop environments have application menus, Unity has the Dash. Clicking on the Dash button or hitting the meta key (sometimes called the Windows key) activates the Dash, bringing up a menu that covers most of the desktop. By default the Dash shows us recently used applications, but the flexibility of the Dash is in its lenses. At the bottom of the Dash page there are icons for changing the Dash's focus. One lens is for applications, clicking on it shows recently used applications at the top of the page, locally installed applications in the middle of the page and available software (from the repositories) along the bottom.
At the top of the Dash is a search bar and we can type in filters to narrow down the displayed items. For example, I can perform a search for "image editor" and the Dash will display installed image editors and additional editors which could be installed. Clicking on the icon of an item that is in the repositories will open Ubuntu's Software Centre with a description of the application and an install button, making it easy to add the item to our system.
Ubuntu 12.04 - Software Centre
(full image size: 370kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Another lens allows us to search for files and folders. Typing a word into the search box brings up matching files and folders. Clicking on a folder's icon opens that folder in the system's file browser. The next lens over lets us search for music in the Ubuntu music store and songs we have saved locally. I ran into some issues with the music lens. The first was that songs which were saved locally and present in my music library didn't always appear in the lens. It seemed there was a delay between when files would be added and when they would be indexed.
The other problem was that clicking on a song from the music store would open Rhythmbox and launch the Ubuntu music store, but I'd receive an error from the store saying the item couldn't be found. The last lens is for videos. The video lens allows us to search for videos by name and will locate matches on a variety of video streaming services, including YouTube, TED talks and other popular streaming sites. Clicking on a video's icon will open Firefox to play the media. The video lens will also locate media stored in our local video folder and clicking on a local item will open it in the Totem multimedia player.
There are a number of observations I'd like to make about the Unity interface, not so much as an overview, but as a series of separate characteristics which stood out during my trial. The first is that windows are displayed with their control buttons to the left, rather than the right, of the window. This won't surprise anyone who has used Ubuntu in the past year or so, but it's something I always have to get used to again. Though it takes a while for me to fight twenty years of habit, I will admit that having the controls on the left side does make sense. The menus and launch buttons are all over on that side, and left-sided controls do make for less mouse travel (unless we count my jerking the mouse to the right, then remembering the buttons are on the left).
Another feature I noticed is when we open an application it adds its icon to the launch bar. We can right-click on launch bar icons to pin them permanently to the side of the screen or we can right-click on the icons to remove them. When the launch bar fills up we can move our mouse to the top or bottom of the screen to scroll through the list of icons. I found this worked fairly well. Also in regards to the launch bar, it is possible to set the bar to auto-hide, freeing up its precious screen space. However, I found that when my bar was set to auto-hide, it usually would not reappear when my mouse was over the area. I had this problem on both machines and it meant I'd find myself waving the mouse back and forth over the left side of the screen trying (usually unsuccessfully) to get the bar to appear. Eventually I returned the bar to being visible full-time.
Unity presents us with a universal menu bar at the top of the screen. This means the application window which currently has focus places its menu at the top of our display rather than carrying around its menu inside the application window. Personally I don't care for this approach as it means the user must venture up to the top of the screen to interact with a program's menu, regardless of where the program's window is on our display. There are some exceptions to this rule, some applications, such as LibreOffice, still display their menus inside their own window and do not make use of the universal menu bar. Thin scrollbars are still a feature of Ubuntu. Though perhaps more attractive than standard scrollbars, I find they're harder to select and move. I suppose the new design is a matter of taste as much as functionality.
On the subject of accounts and security I've found when performing admin tasks users who are not set up as administrators will be asked for the administrator's password. For example, if Bob has an administrator's account and Susan has an unprivileged user account then when Susan attempts to install a new software package she will be prompted for Bob's password. On the surface this may seem odd, but what it does is effectively combine sudo and su so the unprivileged user (given the proper password) automatically switches to the privileged account and gains one-time access to perform their task. It's two steps in one and, for families sharing a computer, I suspect it will be a good time saver.
Software and online services
The Ubuntu One storage service and music store are present in 12.04, though I found the storage service is not enabled by default. Clicking the Ubuntu One icon on the sidebar brings up a wizard which walks us through installing the One software, creating an account and selecting which folders we want to sync with the remote server. The One service gives us 5GB of free space with the option of purchasing additional storage. The Rhythmbox music player comes with the One music store plugin which I found worked well. I had some issues with earlier versions of the One service, but now I think all the bugs have been worked out. I also found the One control panel has been improved a bit, giving us a clearer picture of what the service is doing and which folders are being synced. In addition I think it's worth noting the system's backup utility, Deja Dup, comes with the ability to save backups to the Ubuntu One storage service, along with saving to other hosts or local folders.
The Ubuntu Software Centre hasn't changed much in the last six months. When we open the Centre we're shown a list of popular packages which other people have installed and rated highly. We can then browse through categories of software or search for items by name. Search results display a package's icon, a brief description and user-supplied rating. Clicking on an item brings up a page with a more complete description of the software and a list of associated packages we might also find useful. For example, if we install a web browser we might also be offered the Flash plugin. Software can be installed or removed with a single click. When we choose to download or remove a package that action is added to a queue and our actions are processed in the background while we continue to use the Software Centre. At any time we can view the queue of waiting actions and cancel them. Though I didn't use this next feature during my trial, the Software Centre will allow us to sync installed packages across multiple machines, which makes maintaining a small group of computers easier.
The software update manager also hasn't changed much in recent months. The system automatically checks for security updates and, if any are found, the manager's icon appears on our launch bar. I found this behaviour preferable to previous releases where the update manager window would pop-up when we logged in. I find the update manager easy to use, it allows us to select which updates we want to install and provides detailed progress information while it works.
Ubuntu 12.04 - applying updates and changing settings
(full image size: 339kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Though Unity blurs the line a bit between what software is installed and what is available to be downloaded, I found the following programs were included in the default installation. For web browsing we're given Firefox and for e-mail the Thunderbird client is included. LibreOffice is available and Network Manager is included to get us on-line. For playing music we're given Rhythmbox and videos can be viewed using the Totem multimedia player. We're provided with a virtual keyboard and screen reader. The Transmission BitTorrent client is included as are a document viewer, an archive manager and a calculator.
We're provided with a text editor and a control centre for managing desktop settings and backups. Should we choose to download extras at install time we find the Adobe Flash plugin and multimedia codecs on the system. In the background the Linux kernel, version 3.2, keeps things running. One additional feature I appreciated about Ubuntu 12.04 was that if an application crashed (which was quite rare in my trial) a dialog would appear and offer to send a bug report for us. The bug reporter does not require a username or e-mail address and, aside from asking our permission to send the report, it is completely automated.
After using Ubuntu for around an hour it occurred to me I hadn't seen any evidence of the much-hyped HUD. The feature tour had mentioned that the HUD could be activated by pressing a key, but it didn't mention which key. Checking the documentation showed that the HUD could be activated from any application by pressing the ALT key, which in hindsight made sense as ALT is also the key that typically activates application menus. Basically what happens when we activate the HUD is that a search box appears in the upper-left corner of the screen. We can then type words indicating what sort of function we want to perform and the HUD will search the application's menus for the corresponding item. For instance, when running Firefox we can activate the HUD, type "bookmark" and we get options such as "bookmark this page" and "manage bookmarks".
Ubuntu 12.04 - Unity HUD
(full image size: 475kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
When running the Rhythmbox music player we can manipulate the player's controls by tapping ALT and entering "play" or "next". Sometimes typing the full word isn't required and we can get into the habit of typing ALT + "ne" + Enter to move to the next song. I imagine this sort of functionality will be a great asset when using large programs with lots of features, such as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, however it's not likely most people will use the HUD when running smaller apps as there is no need to search through the menus to find what we need. The HUD is really quite handy (particularly for people who prefer to keep their hands on the keyboard). The HUD only appears when evoked and works quite quickly. My only complaint is that it doesn't work with all applications, just those which integrate their menu into the Unity menu bar. This means that the LibreOffice suite, an ideal candidate for searchable menus, can not make use of the HUD.
I ran Ubuntu on two physical machines, a 2.5 GHz desktop box with 2 GB of RAM and a NVIDIA video card. Performance on the desktop machine was fair, sound worked out of the box, my screen was set to an appropriate resolution and the OS worked well. The other machine was my HP laptop featuring a dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3GB of RAM, an Intel video card and an Intel wireless card. Again, Ubuntu detected and utilized all of my hardware. Sound worked out of the box, I was notified upon logging in that my wireless card had detected networks within range and my screen was set to its maximum resolution. On both machines I found Unity (the 3D version) would work, but desktop responsiveness lagged a little. When running Unity 2D interacting with the desktop was a smooth experience, about equivalent to using KDE or GNOME. In short, Ubuntu did its usual good job where my hardware was concerned. Memory usage on my machines varied a bit depending on which services I had running. Logging into the desktop shortly after installing Ubuntu showed about 225MB of RAM to be in use, aside from buffers and cache.
I also installed Ubuntu in a VirtualBox virtual machine and there I encountered a different story. Desktop performance, using either Unity 3D or Unity 2D, was sluggish and I found the HUD feature wouldn't respond properly to keyboard input, requiring I use the mouse to select search results. On the other hand, Ubuntu does include a nice feature for VirtualBox users. When we login Ubuntu will detect it is running in a virtual environment and offer to download and install VirtualBox guest modules, providing a more flexible, integrated experience. I tried installing the VirtualBox add-ons and found they worked well, but the desktop environment remained slow to respond in the virtual machine.
It may be worth noting the desktop edition of Ubuntu 12.04 no longer supports CPUs which do not come with physical address extension (PAE) support. After a lengthy discussion on the developer mailing lists it was decided to drop support for the older processors on the installation media as machines that old would be unlikely to be used to run the Ubuntu desktop edition. Users who need support for non-pae processors can still make use of lighter members of the Ubuntu family, such as Xubuntu. People upgrading from older Ubuntu releases will also be able to make use of non-pae kernels.
One feature I've seen offered before for Ubuntu systems, but haven't had much time to look into prior to this week, is Landscape. What is Landscape? Basically it's a service which allows us to register multiple computers (desktops and servers) under one Canonical account. We can then login to the Landscape website and manage these computers from one location. From the web portal we can monitor processes running on our machines, apply updates, install packages and add, edit or remove user accounts. There are more features, but those are the ones I had time to look at this week. The service is free to try and is offered as part of Canonical's support offerings after the free trial month. Landscape strikes me as being similar to Red Hat's Enterprise Linux management panel, but I personally find Landscape easier to navigate.
Ubuntu 12.04 - the Landscape web portal
(full image size: 174kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Over the past two years many people, myself included, have questioned Ubuntu's direction. The developers have tackled a number of projects, some of which seemed misguided at the time, Unity being chief amongst them. However, with the release of 12.04 LTS I feel that the various puzzle pieces, which may have been underwhelming individually, have come together to form a whole, clear picture. Canonical now has an almost complete software and service stack. Consider this for a moment: when planning to purchase PCs or servers we can easily find certified hardware from Ubuntu's compatibility database. The distribution provides server, desktop and alternative editions, making it easy to have a working out-of-the-box solution, regardless of our needs and each edition will receive support for the next five years.
Installation of any of these editions is often a simple matter of hitting Next repeatedly and providing an administrative password. The Landscape service and Software Centre make it easy to manage multiple machines at once and the One service allows us to seamlessly share files and backup data across any number of devices and multiple operating systems. Unity, though a step away from the traditional desktop, has several features which make it attractive, such as reducing mouse travel. The HUD means that newcomers can find application functionality with a quick search and more advanced users can use the HUD to quickly run menu commands from the keyboard. Later this year we've been told to expect Android/Ubuntu devices which will complete the picture, giving people the ability to have one big, integrated stack working across all of their devices. In short, Canonical is a hardware factory away from being the open-source version of Apple.
Not everything is roses and I did run into a few issues. As I mentioned above, the HUD doesn't work across all applications (LibreOffice being the odd program out) and performance in a virtual machine was a bit of a let-down. Unity provides very good defaults in my opinion, but they're different enough from the norm that people, such as myself, will find the new design conflicting with habit. I feel that Unity will be better received by computer novices who don't have to unlearn where controls are. Still, at the end of the week, when I left Unity and went back to KDE I found myself tapping ALT to bring up the HUD -- it's an addictive feature and I hope other desktops will soon offer it as an option.
I think that when we look at individual pieces of the Ubuntu experience we can certainly find things we'd like to improve. While I think Unity has grown to maturity, I found that its lack of flexibility bothered me. Likewise if we look at the Ubuntu One sync service and compare it to Dropbox we can see where One might come up short in features. The HUD panel and the lenses are good, though they could be polished further. Ubuntu's five years of free support are really quite good, but lose out in a one-on-one comparison with RHEL and its clones. However, if we take Canonical's latest Ubuntu release as a whole it's easy to see how putting together all of these pieces into one integrated product produces an overall experience head and shoulders above anything else in the Linux ecosystem.
The novice-oriented documentation, combined with hardware certification, combined with integrated One services, plus the music store, plus five years of support, plus Landscape, plus the HUD & lenses, the desktop and server editions, the over 38,000 packages with additional PPAs, the freedom to choose between sticking with FOSS software or installing restricted software and the price tag of $0.00 all adds up to a product virtually unparalleled in the Linux community. Granted there are projects which reshape or place their own layers on Ubuntu (Linux Mint comes readily to mind). Many of these flavours and derivatives are quite good, but I don't think I've seen any of them put together all the pieces as effectively as Ubuntu has with this release.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
BBC on Ubuntu 12.04, plans for "Quantal Quetzal", Debian infographic
The release of Ubuntu 12.04 in late April became a dominant talking point in many Linux and computing media during the past two weeks. But the distribution is no longer a niche domain as it once was and many mainstream publications have also devoted space to the popular alternative operating system and its creators. British Broadcasting Corporation was one of the many news servers covering the release in "Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth on shaking up system software": "Free of charge, free of viruses and designed to outpace its rivals on low-end systems - Ubuntu has some obvious advantages. The operating system claims 20 million people use it a day. Not an insignificant number, but still a drop in the ocean compared to Microsoft's Windows or Apple's OS X. Even so, lead designer and one-time astronaut Mark Shuttleworth hopes that last week's major upgrade to the Linux-based project will produce an outsized splash and increase the size of its somewhat divergent customer-base. 'In terms of our user, they would split into two sorts of camps,' he says. 'One, not very tech savvy, that has an old PC lying around and Windows is getting difficult because of the computer's age or viruses, and Ubuntu gives them a nice basic all-purpose PC with a great web experience.'"
Now that 12.04 is out, the focus of Ubuntu developers have turned to the next milestone - Quantal Quetzal. Although these are very early days in the development process, the OMG! Ubuntu! website has gathered some interesting information about possible features of Ubuntu 12.10 in "Mark Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 12.10 Plans": "Q: Will 12.10 see a new icon theme introduced? A: We've wanted to do a new icon theme for years! It's not hard to start drawing… But yet another icon theme, without a proper analysis of the framework that we use icons in would not make the world much better so we've pulled together some experts, both artists and interface gurus to look at the use of icons across the desktop. We'll start with proper analysis. The art part will come later." On Dash search: "Q: Where is the Dash search going? Will the Dash find exif, ID3 tags in the future? A: Dash wants to read your mind, as does the HUD. So the answer is 'whatever fits your brain best', and these will be fun conversations at UDS next week I don't have a fixed, detailed, secret roadmap for that, but the framework enables you to plug in any sort of result set you like so, it's something to invite collaboration and inspire innovation lenses and scopes are a lot of fun to work with."
* * * * *
Despite the success of Ubuntu on the desktop, let's not forget that a big part of the system comes from Debian GNU/Linux, the world's largest Linux distribution. The sheer size of the project, with hundreds of developers, tens of thousands of software packages and dozens of side activities, may make it difficult to find a way around the infrastructure and terminology. This is where Claudio Filho's Debian infographic could come handy when trying to explain the concepts to general public: "I made my first infographic on Debian GNU/Linux, which sought to put all the information (possible) I have in my lecture on this great project. What motivated me to make this stuff was the difficulty that the general public has to understand Debian, its areas, their numbers or their general operation." The author is open to comments and suggestions and even provides an online document for translating the text in the infographic into other languages. See the author's blog post to find out more and to read some interesting comments.
|Opinions (by Jesse Smith)
An experiment in looking in from the outside
Quite often people in a community get accustomed to certain rules or certain types of behaviour, various practices which, to an outsider, don't make sense. I see this a lot in the Linux community, particularly when giving advice on forums. Rarely a week goes by without seeing a post to the effect of, "It's simple, all you have to do is run sudo mount -t iso9660 youriso-version.iso your/mount/point/here." Now some of you are reading that and nodding, thinking, "Sure, so they are mounting the CD image, so what?" That's the problem. To people who have been in the community for a while, the above string of characters makes sense, the term "mounting" in the context of compact discs makes sense. However, to a vast majority of the population half of this paragraph is nothing but nonsense.
A big part of the issue I see for adoption of Linux is that developers and advocates inside the Linux community can lose sight of how to communicate with people who are still on the outside. When I'm writing reviews I generally try to approach distributions from an outside perspective, partly because so much of our readership is new to Linux and partly because I think the hardest part of growing the community isn't keeping people, but getting them in the door. I cringe a little when I see websites post installation instructions which read along the lines of, "Download the proper ISO for your architecture, then burn it to a CD using your preferred burning software," instead of presenting a list of step-by-step instructions. Again, most people outside the Linux community (who aren't part of an IT department) are already lost.
This brings me to an experiment I conducted recently. I went out and contacted ten people and, without telling them what the websites were about, asked each person to, on their own, visit the following: FedoraProject.org, Ubuntu.com and Debian.org. Each person was asked to answer the following three questions:
In case you're wondering why I picked Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu it's because those three are quite popular and were the first big three which came to mind. I didn't want to use more than three as I figured people were likely to get bored. Speaking of the people, there was a fairly wide range, at least from the point of view of computer knowledge. Most were comfortable using one or more proprietary operating systems, but hadn't used Linux before. Two had used Linux previously, though not long-term. One wasn't really comfortable with any operating system.
- What is each website about, what are they offering?
- For the websites which provide software, what are the steps to download it?
- Does the website provide instructions for using their product and were those instructions helpful?
The results were, for me at least, interesting. I don't claim they're scientific or particularly useful, but as a short exercise I enjoyed observing how non-Linux users approached Linux websites. One point I felt worthy of note was everyone, without exception, was able to positively answer all three questions with regards to the Ubuntu website. Everyone was able to understand what was being offered, found the download button and located documentation they understood. A good sign for the people over at Canonical.
The Debian website faired well, though there was a little confusion. Everyone was able to understand what was being offered, but finding the proper download among the array of options of full install, CD install, "netinstall" and the various architectures confused a minority of people participating in the test. Almost everyone was able to find the proper documentation for installing Debian, even if they had trouble understanding some of the details. The make-or-break factor with Debian seemed to correlate with the people who noticed the thin "Download Debian" box in the corner of the main page. People who went searching through the menu at the bottom of the page tended not to find what they needed.
The Fedora website provided fairly positive results. Everyone was able to find an appropriate download link for the Fedora ISOs. Likewise, people were able to find the documentation to walk them through an installation without too much trouble. What I found a bit amusing was that almost a third of the participants thought Fedora was some sort of Facebook plugin or application instead of a full operating system, due to the project's logo. This is one of those things people inside the Linux community would probably never consider, but there's a bit of a confusion over the brand (apparently) where outsiders are concerned.
I don't think we can draw any sweeping conclusions from my small sample, but the experience was good for me in that it gave me some outside perspective. I think the Linux community in general needs that from time to time so we can continue to develop and improve, pulling in ideas and views from outside sources. It's important for a community to avoid becoming an echo chamber, otherwise it can't grow.
|Released Last Week
Theo de Raadt has announced the release of OpenBSD 5.1, a BSD operating system with a focus on security: "We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 5.1. What's new? umsm(4) supports additional mobile broadband devices; non-GigE ale(4) devices can now establish link to a GigE link partner; support for Intel 82580 has been added to em(4); support for MegaRAID 9240 has been added to mfi(4); support for Nuvoton NCT6776F has been added to lm(4)... Highlights: OpenSSH 6.0, GNOME 3.2.1, KDE 3.5.10, Xfce 4.8.3, MySQL 5.1.60, PostgreSQL 9.1.2, Postfix 2.8.8, Mozilla Firefox 3.5.19, 3.6.25 and 9.0.1, LibreOffice 126.96.36.199... The system includes the following major components from outside suppliers: Xenocara (based on X.Org 7.6 with X.Org Server 1.11.4, FreeType 2.4.8, Mesa 7.10.3; GCC 4.2.1; Perl 5.12.2...." The OpenBSD 5.1 release page has a detailed list of all changes and improvements.
ArchBang Linux 2012.05
Stan McLaren has announced the release of ArchBang Linux 2012.05, a lightweight Arch-based desktop distribution featuring the Openbox window manager: "ArchBang 2012.05 is out in the wild. If you are already running ArchBang smoothly on your system you don't need to install the new release. Some changes for this release: QDarkStudio4 default GTK+ theme; Shotwell picture viewer; improved Conky; Epdfview replaces zathura; simple clean tint2 panel; Broadcom wireless added; VirtulaBox Arch Linux additions; mobile broadband modem capability added to NetworkManager. ArchBang will now be released four times per year to provide users with more regularly updated versions. Due to upgrades and improvements to the Arch Linux system, ArchBang may release unofficial updates between official releases to prevent excessive workarounds in installing and updating newly installed systems." Here is the brief release announcement.
ArchBang Linux 2012.05 - the project's first release under Stan MacLaren's leadership
(full image size: 282kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Lightweight Portable Security 1.3.4
Software Protection Initiative (SPI) has announced the release of Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) 1.3.4, an updated version of the project's security live CD designed for secure and anonymous use of web-based applications: "Changes: updated Firefox to 10.0.4 ESR; added Firefox extension HTTPS Everywhere 2.0.3; added Firefox extension NoScript 2.3.9; updated Thunderbird to 10.0.4 ESR; downgraded Flash to 188.8.131.52 due to incompatibilities in new Adobe libraries, Flash will be updated with our next kernel update release (LPS 1.4), if running an old version of Flash poses a problem, use the NoScript add-on within Firefox to disable it; updated Encryption Wizard application to 3.3.3; updated OpenSSL to 0.9.8w; updated OpenSSH to 6.0p1; updated Java to 6u32; updated the Citrix client to 184.108.40.206066; fixed SameTime support in Pidgin, it was left out of 1.3.3 by accident; added MultiPing 0.1.2 under the Connectivity menu." See the complete release notes for more details.
Puppy Linux 5.3.3 "Slacko"
Barry Kauler has announced the release of Puppy Linux 5.3.3 "Slacko" edition, an updated version of the lightweight distribution compatible with Slackware Linux 13.37: "Puppy Linux 5.3.3 'Slacko' is an updated release of the recent 5.3.1. It has binary compatibility with Slackware Linux 13.37, which simply means that it is a Puppy built with packages from the Slackware, Salix and Slacky repositories. The main variant has been upgraded with Linux kernel 3.1.10 compiled with Aufs layered file system support, in the typical Puppy manner. There is also a PAE variant to cater for machines with large amounts of RAM. Both ISO images have SCSI boot support. The SeaMonkey 2.9.1 suite is the default browser and email suite but Firefox, Chromium, Opera, Netsurf, Iron, Dillo and Links are only a few clicks away." Here is the full release announcement.
Mohit Mehta has announced the release of Vyatta 6.4, a Debian-based specialist distribution for firewalls and routers: "I'm pleased to announce that Vyatta Core (VC) release 6.4 is now available for download. Release 6.4 of the Vyatta Network OS adds significant enhancements in areas of GUI, upgradability and virtual deployments, and numerous improvements in areas of firewall, NAT, connection tracking, connection syncing along with CLI and op-mode enhancements. These include: a graphical dashboard - a central point for managing single Vyatta system and panelled overview of resource usage, system info, interfaces, routing, security, services, management; a graphical statistics tab - real-time statistics for interfaces, memory, CPU; upgrade improvements for bare-metal and virtual installations - single command for system upgrade...." Read the release announcement and release notes (PDF) for a detailed list of all changes and new features.
Dimitris Tzemos has announced the release of an updated version of Slackel, a Slackware-based distribution tracking Slackware's "Current" branch and providing extra software in its own repositories: "Would you like to have a Slackware-based distro which informs about updates happened to Slackware 'Current' and update your system with one click? In the end you will end up with Slackware stable. The latest Slackel has been synchronized with the Slackware repositories and has become 'rolling-release'. Some new programs added or updated in the Slackel repositories include Firefox 12.0, Pidgin, VLC 2.0.1 and Calligra. A collection of four KDE ISO images are immediately available, including 32-bit and 64-bit installation images as well as 32-bit and 64-bit live images." See the complete release announcement for further information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
April 2012 DistroWatch.com donation: Slackware Linux|
We are happy to announce that the recipient of the April 2012 DistroWatch.com donation is Slackware Linux, a Linux distribution. It receives US$500.00 in cash.
Few people in the Linux community would need an introduction to the world's oldest surviving Linux distro project. As a result, instead of repeating what has been said many times and what hasn't changed much in many years, perhaps it would be more interesting to introduce Patrick Volkerding (pictured on the right, photo courtesy of Erik Niklas), the project's founder and maintainer who has been working on Slackware Linux for nearly 20 years. From Slackware.org: "Patrick Volkerding, 46, grew up in Minnesota, USA, and graduated from Minnesota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. He is the founder and present CEO of Slackware Linux. Volkerding is a connoisseur of beer and enjoys brewing his own beers. When he first developed software, he would ask admirers of his work to reward him with beer. He is also an avid fan of the Grateful Dead band. Volkerding created Slackware in 1993. Slackware is the oldest Linux distribution that is being used today."
Launched in 2004, this monthly donations programme is a DistroWatch initiative to support free and open-source software projects and operating systems with cash contributions. Readers are welcome to nominate their favourite project for future donations. Those readers who wish to contribute towards these donations, please use our advertising page to make a payment (PayPal and credit cards are accepted). Here is the list of the projects that have received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$31,740 to various open-source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NDISwrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and Sabayon Linux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250)
- 2009: Openbox ($250), Wolvix GNU/Linux ($200), smxi ($200), Python ($300), SliTaz GNU/Linux ($200), LiVES ($300), Osmo ($300), LMMS ($250), KompoZer ($360), OpenSSH ($350), Parted Magic ($350) and Krita ($285)
- 2010: Qimo 4 Kids ($250), Squid ($250), Libre Graphics Meeting ($300), Bacula ($250), FileZilla ($300), GCompris ($352), Xiph.org ($250), Clonezilla ($250), Debian Multimedia ($280), Geany ($300), Mageia ($470), gtkpod ($300)
- 2011: CGSecurity ($300), OpenShot ($300), Imagination ($250), Calibre ($300), RIPLinuX ($300), Midori ($310), vsftpd ($300), OpenShot ($350), Trinity Desktop Environment ($300), LibreCAD ($300), LiVES ($300), Transmission ($250)
- 2012: GnuPG ($350), ImageMagick ($350), GNU ddrescue ($350), Slackware Linux ($500)
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Anthon. Anthon is an openSUSE-based Chinese Linux distribution created by three junior high school students. It features the GNOME 3 desktop with a custom interface.
- NAS4Free. NAS4Free is an embedded open-source storage NAS (Network-Attached Storage) distribution based on FreeBSD. It supports sharing across Windows, Mac OS X, and UNIX-like systems, and includes ZFS, Software RAID, disk encryption, S.M.A.R.T / email reports with CIFS (Samba), FTP, NFS, TFTP, AFP, RSYNC, Unison, iSCSI, UPnP, and BitTorrent protocols. The system is highly configurable via a web-based interface. NAS4Free can be installed on Flash storage media and hard disks or booted from a live CD.
- OSGeo-Live. OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB thumb drive or virtual machine based on Xubuntu, featuring a variety of open-source geospatial software. It is composed entirely of free software, allowing it to be freely distributed, duplicated and passed around.
- SprezzOS. SprezzOS is a Debian-derived operating system, pairing the GNU environment with either a Linux or FreeBSD kernel. It is designed as a distribution for HPC professionals, cluster architects, and anyone for whom Debian "Unstable" is less than sufficiently hardcore.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 14 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 638 (2015-11-30): Qubes OS 3.0, KaOS with Plasma, NetBSD 7.0, Fedora seeks Wayland testers, scheduling tasks|
|• Issue 637 (2015-11-23): NixOS 15.09, Antergos introduces ZFS support, MINIX shares new features, copying an OS to a new computer|
|• Issue 636 (2015-11-16): openSUSE 42.1, Fedora uses Wayland by default, Debian replaces live CD project, Steam consoles launch|
|• Issue 635 (2015-11-09): Fedora 23, Cinnamon 2.8 released, a Fedora KDE packager quits, Red Hat signs deal with Microsoft|
|• Issue 634 (2015-11-02): Ubuntu 15.10, Chakra upgrades to Plasma 5, OpenMandriva plans new editions, MINIX plans conference|
|• Issue 633 (2015-10-26): GhostBSD 10.1, Bodhi Linux to get new settings panel, Fedora 23 delayed, creating live image of existing OS|
|• Issue 632 (2015-10-19): Linux Lite 2.6, 32-bit build of CentOS, OpenBSD turns 20, Bodhi Linux releases AppPack|
|• Issue 631 (2015-10-12): Parsix 8.0, Manjaro seeks new artwork, sending commands to multiple servers, Debian drops LSB support|
|• Issue 630 (2015-10-05): Android-x86 4.4-r3, Ubuntu's new installer, Raspbian defaults to GUI interface, cleaning out dot files|
|• Issue 629 (2015-09-28): Open source desktops and touch interfaces, locking down user accounts, OpenMandriva opens gaming documentation|
|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Issue 627 (2015-09-14): Mageia 5, Snappy co-exists with Debian packages, creating PDF/A documents, Antergos previews Poodle|
|• Issue 626 (2015-09-07): Status of Wayland and Mir, Cinnamon improvements, an OpenBSD hypervisor, HAMMER2 gets deduplication|
|• Issue 625 (2015-08-31): OpenELEC 5.0.8, Fedora's new Wayland features, Tails releases update, the LILO boot loader|
|• Issue 624 (2015-08-24): Zorin OS 10, Sabayon's new features, Solus seeks funding, Debian turns 22, new PC-BSD repository|
|• Issue 623 (2015-08-17): VectorLinux 7.1, Ubuntu One source released, Moksha Desktop ships in Bodhi, Fedora developers debate Chromium|
|• Issue 622 (2015-08-10): antiX 15, Fedora tests kdbus, Debian tracks UEFI issues, word processors for the CLI|
|• Issue 621 (2015-08-03): Point Linux 3.0, Debian drops Sparc, Fedora package stats, VirtualBox 5.0|
|• Issue 620 (2015-07-27): Debian GNU/Hurd 2015, Linux Bible, Ubuntu MATE gets new Welcome app, Telegram on Fedora, Plasma Mobile|
|• Issue 619 (2015-07-20): SolydXK 201506, Tanglu's new bug tracker, FSF and Canonical negotiate licensing, Haiku unveils new init system|
|• Issue 618 (2015-07-13): Semplice Linux 7, openSUSE derivatives, Debian adopts GCC 5, Docker ported to FreeBSD|
|• Issue 617 (2015-07-06): Alpine linux 3.2.0, Fedora on MIPS CPUs, Solus offers daily builds, Ubuntu migrating to Snappy|
|• Issue 616 (2015-06-29): MidnightBSD 0.6, openSUSE's "42", encryption added to the ext4 file system, FreeBSD on a Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 615 (2015-06-22): Raspbian 2015, Fedora works around Intel driver issue, openSUSE adopts GCC 5, frozen desktop while copying files|
|• Issue 614 (2015-06-15): Chromixium OS 1.0, Debian 8.1 released, OpenBSD running in the cloud, sudo myths|
|• Issue 613 (2015-06-08): Fedora 22, Cinnamon 2.6 released, FreeBSD's history, working around Secure Boot|
|• Issue 612 (2015-06-01): Manjaro OpenRC, Debian, Devuan and systemd, Fedora 22 released, Mandriva closes its doors|
|• Issue 611 (2015-05-25): Kubuntu 15.04, openSUSE adopts Plasma 5, Ubuntu's Snappy, words from Debian's Neil McGovern|
|• Issue 610 (2015-05-18): NethServer 6.6, interview with Neil McGovern, CentOS supports AArach64, Foresight discontinued|
|• Issue 609 (2015-05-11): OpenIndiana 2015.03, LXLE 14.04, PC-BSD Current, creating ISO images, Ask A Leader with Peter Ganten|
|• Issue 608 (2015-05-04): Debian 8.0, Bodhi forks Enlightenment, new Debian GNU/Hurd release, distribution release frequency|
|• Issue 607 (2015-04-27): Ubuntu 15.04, Chapeau 21, Debian 8.0 features, Fedora 22 Beta details|
|• Issue 606 (2015-04-20): Linux Mint 2 "LMDE", Matthew Miller, Debian's new Project Leader, Evolve OS name change|
|• Issue 605 (2015-04-13): SuperX 3.0, HAMMER2 features, Linux 4.0, Vince Pooley, Google Code closing|
|• Issue 604 (2015-04-06): Void 20150221, Haiku's commercial partners, Debian release date, Tumbleweed features|
|• Issue 603 (2015-03-30): Tails 1.3, LibreOffice Online, Linux Firewalls book review, Kubuntu with Plasma 5|
|• Issue 602 (2015-03-23): Bodhi Linux 3.0.0, distro popularity, OpenBSD's new web server, GNU Manifesto turns 30|
|• Issue 601 (2015-03-16): Ubuntu MATE 14.10, modern distros for old hardware, AppArmor in Debian, Fedora 22 Alpha|
|• Issue 600 (2015-03-09): Korora 21, distro diversity, Ubuntu gets systemd, PC-BSD security features|
|• Issue 599 (2015-03-02): Sabayon 15.02, creating good passwords, new YaST modules, LMDE preview
|• Issue 598 (2015-02-23): Netrunner 14.1, Vivaldi web browser, Debian election, Cinnamon improvements|
|• Issue 597 (2015-02-16): MakuluLinux MCDE 2.0, Ubuntu phones launch, m0n0wall ceases development, live Linux updates|
|• Issue 596 (2015-02-09): ArchBSD 2014.09.04, encrypted e-mail, Fedora upgrade stats, FreeBSD's support policy|
|• Issue 595 (2015-02-02): ExTiX 15.1, Destroying encrypted data, openSUSE election, OSDisc statistics|
|• Issue 594 (2015-01-26): KaOS 2014.12, Commercial distros, Snappy Ubuntu, PackageKit fixes|
|• Issue 593 (2015-01-19): ReactOS 0.3.17, Unity on Mir, Bluetooth support, openSUSE election|
|• Issue 592 (2015-01-12): Mint 17.1, load averages, binary logs, GNOME Software|
|• Issue 591 (2015-01-05): Manjaro 0.8.11, systemd, Devuan, Torrent Corner|
|• Issue 590 (2014-12-22): Fedora 21, Ubuntu phone, expanding ZFS storage, Able2Extract|
|• Issue 589 (2014-12-15): Parsix 7.0, Ubuntu "Snappy", PC-BSD upgrades, How Linux Works|
|• Issue 588 (2014-12-08): PC-BSD 10.2, rolling-release Ubuntu GNOME, Bitrig, systemd|
|• Full list of all issues|