| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 469, 13 August 2012
Welcome to this year's 33rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It has been an interesting week for the open source community, especially in the realm of desktop interfaces. The Common Desktop Environment was released as open source software, Debian is switching its default desktop to Xfce and the GNOME team is planning GNOME OS. To add to the excitement, the Qt framework which makes up the foundation for KDE is changing hands. It looks like the quest for the ideal desktop environment is far from over! This week we cover what the SUSE team plans to do about UEFI Secure Boot and how to stress test new hardware. Also in this week's edition Jesse Smith takes a look at the Peppermint distribution, a project aimed at marrying the cloud to the desktop. Read on to find out how well the lightweight distro performed. We will also provide tips on how to migrate your email from a proprietary format to the Thunderbird open source email client. As usual we have a look back on the releases of this past week and we look forward to scheduled releases coming down the pipe. Further, in this issue we introduce a new feature -- a lot goes on in the world of open source operating systems, more than we can cover in this space. With that in mind we hope you will enjoy a new section of the Weekly we are trying called Around The Web which will provide links to more news, more reviews and interesting podcasts. Let us know what you think of this new information digest in the comments section below. We here at DistroWatch wish you a pleasant week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (61MB) and MP3 (34MB) formats
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Hello, Peppermint Three
Peppermint OS is a project based on the lightweight Lubuntu distribution with a sprinkling of Mint utilities tossed into the mix. Peppermint's website contains three stated design goals: 1) Be easy to install and use. 2) Be lightweight and fast. 3) The developers have also expressed an interest in being mobile-friendly. Not mobile as in phones and tablets, but rather Peppermint is designed with people on the go in mind. To this end Peppermint tends to offer web-based apps and services where possible, effectively (it seems) decoupling the user's data from the operating system.
Peppermint OS comes in 32-bit and 64-bit builds and the live CDs offered by the project are about 530MB in size. The latest release of the distribution, Peppermint Three, is based on Lubuntu 12.04. According to the release notes changes to look for in this release are the inclusion of Google Web Office (GWoffice), version 2.8 of the GNU Image Manipulation Program (many distributions are still using 2.6) and Linux Mint's custom update manager.
Booting from the project's live CD brings up a menu asking if we would like to try the distribution running from the disc or if we'd rather perform an installation. Taking the option to try the live environment brings us to a LXDE interface where the background is white with red dots. The wallpaper's pattern brings to mind a red-spotted dalmatian. Along the bottom of the screen we find the application menu, a task switcher and the system tray. It's a fairly sparse and uncluttered environment.
The distribution's system installer is the same one which comes with Ubuntu and its little sibling, Lubuntu. The friendly graphical interface walks us through screens which allow us to choose our preferred language and decide whether we want to download multimedia software (such as mp3 codecs) and if we want to download and apply updates as a part of the installation process. We then get walked through partitioning, which is fairly straight forward. The last few screens get us to confirm our time zone, select our keyboard layout and create a user account. While creating a user we're able to choose whether we would like to be automatically logged in and whether we want our home folder to be encrypted. During my trial the installer completed without any problems and prompted me to reboot the machine.
Peppermint OS Three - the user guide
(full image size: 232kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
The first time Peppermint OS boots from the local drive we're brought to a graphical login screen. Here we can login with either our regular user account or we can alternatively login using a guest account. The guest account does not require a password and provides a pristine account at each login. The login page also gives us the option of logging into one of two environments, either Openbox or "Peppermint", the latter being a relabeled LXDE interface. The plain Openbox environment isn't much to look at, in fact it's just a blank, black screen. We can right-click on the empty space to use or leave the environment, but less experienced users may get the impression their machine has locked up when faced with the empty display. At any rate, I spent almost all of my time logged into LXDE. One of my first tasks was to change the background as the red on white was a bit too intense for my taste. The distro comes with a full range of apps to change the look and feel of LXDE so changing the background and theme was straight forward.
Peppermint OS comes with a small collection of software in its application menu. We're provided with the Chromium web browser, the Transmission BitTorrent client, XChat for communication on IRC and the Dropbox file storage client. The application menu includes links to Peppermint's user guide and forum. The menu also features links to a document viewer and a number of Google services such as Google Mail, Google Calendar and GWoffice. The GNOME front-end to MPlayer is featured in the menu as are the Guayadeque music player, an archive manager, image viewer and text editor. Two package managers are included and we'll look at those later. There are links to on-line image editors and launchers for local programs that will allow us to configure the look & feel of the LXDE interface. Network Manager is featured to help us get on-line. Whether we have access to multimedia extras, such as codecs, will depend on our choices at install time. The small Peppermint ISO does not include a compiler, nor Java and I was surprised to find that the vi editor isn't included in the base system. Behind the scenes the Linux kernel, version 3.2, keeps things running quickly and smoothly.
Shortly after logging in an icon appeared in the system tray informing me software updates were available. Clicking on the icon brings up the Mint Update Manager. We're shown a list of newly available packages and each item in the list includes the current version installed, the newest version in the repositories, the size of the package and a trust level. The trust level is supposed to let us know how safe it is to install an update with one (1) being very safe and five (5) being risky. Most updates are assigned a medium three. When I installed Peppermint there was a small collection of updates waiting, just 33 items totaling 13MB in size. All of the available updates downloaded and installed without any problems.
Also on the topic of software management, Peppermint includes two package managers, Software Manager and Synaptic. Synaptic is a tried and true package manager, capable of setting up batch jobs and manipulating repository configurations. The Software Manager provides a more modern looking interface with categories of software represented by colourful icons. Browsing categories shows us lists of software complete with a description, the program's icon and a user-supplied rating. Clicking on a package brings up a full page description of the software complete with a screen shot. Packages can be installed or removed with a single click. Installations and removals happen in the background while we continue to use the package manager. Peppermint mostly draws from the Ubuntu repositories, but a handful of Peppermint-specific PPAs have been set up and the package managers pull from these custom repositories as well.
Peppermint OS Three - the software manager
(full image size: 173kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
I ran Peppermint OS Three in a VirtualBox virtual machine and on my laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 4 GB of RAM, Intel video card, Intel wireless card). While running on the physical hardware Peppermint worked quickly and smoothly. All of my hardware was properly detected, wireless networks were picked up and I experienced no hardware related problems. When running in the virtual machine the experience was almost identical. Peppermint continued to be responsive and the system was pleasantly glitch-free. LXDE is not as rich in features as other desktop environments, but what little it might lack in options, it makes up for in performance. Not only was the interface quick and a pleasure to use, but it generally used less than 110 MB of memory.
One characteristic of Peppermint OS which I believe is unique to the distribution is Ice. Peppermint's website describes Ice as a "Site Specific Browser [SSB]" which allows the user to set up links to specific websites. The site goes on to say "Using an SSB as opposed to using a tabbed browser is that only one function is assigned to the Ice SSB. In a tabbed browsing system, with several open for example, if one service or site in any given tab crashes you run the risk of losing data by crashing the other tabs and potentially the browser itself. Since an SSB is isolated and dedicated to only operating the web application of your choice, if it crashes or hangs, it does not [affect] the rest of the system." I tried Ice and I don't see the difference between this and manually creating website bookmarks which open in their own browser window. Maybe I'm missing some aspect or feature of Ice, but using it felt like putting in more work just to get a single-tab browsing experience. I mean, if I want to open a special website in its own window I can right-click on its bookmark and select "Open in a New Window", it feels like overkill to have a separate program to do that for me.
Peppermint OS Three - setting up an Ice link
(full image size: 115kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
When I first started using Peppermint OS I found there were little things that put me off, not technical problems, but a simple case of habit and user preference. For example, I like to know which application I'm launching and I might have different image editors or text editors for different tasks. Peppermint's approach of labeling items by task rather than by program name took a little adjusting. However, I have to admit newcomers to Linux will probably prefer the Peppermint way of doing things as they will not recognize specific program names. That comes with time. I also found trying to tell web services apart from locally installed applications was a trial and error process. There doesn't appear to be a clear cut way to tell them apart. Otherwise, I think I like the way Peppermint provides some basic software on a very tight platform and lets users customize from the ground up. It does make for a good deal of gathering software post-install, but the performance and lack of unwanted items in the menus more than make up for it.
The above were my personal desires compared to what I found in Peppermint and that's not really a fair way to judge an operating system. A better evaluation would compare what Peppermint does with what the project's goals are. The Peppermint website claims to offer a fast, lightweight distribution with a focus on providing web apps and services. These goals are all accomplished and both the setup of the OS and navigation of the user environment are made easy. I suspect users, especially those new to Linux, will be able to dive into Peppermint without much difficulty. This little distribution is a fairly niche product, aimed at people who want a platform for web services and/or want a low-resource base. In being focused Peppermint is able to provide a simple, polished distribution to suit its target audience.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
CDE goes open source, Qt changes hands, SUSE's view on Secure Boot, plans for GNOME OS
The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is a graphical user interface for UNIX operating systems. Originally a joint effort by technology giants IBM, Sun and others, CDE should be familiar to anyone who worked on UNIX platforms during the 1990s. Due to its closed source nature CDE never really took hold with the open source crowd and, in recent years, the aging desktop has lost mind share to KDE and GNOME. The tide may be about to turn for CDE as the desktop environment was made open source software on August 6th. The new open source version of CDE is licensed under the Lesser General Public License and their project on SourceForge already has screen shots and source code available for download. It is hoped that the Motif toolkit, the underlying software behind CDE, will also be open sourced once the remaining legal issues are resolved.
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Allan Day runs an interesting blog called "As far as I know" about GNOME development and design. In a recent posting Mr Day talks about plans in the GNOME camp to address design, development and infrastructure problems. These plans fall under the title "GNOME OS". Mr Day takes pains to clarify what GNOME OS is and what it is not: "The idea of GNOME OS has been around for a couple of years, and there has been a fair amount of confusion about what it means. Some people seem to have assumed that GNOME OS is an effort to replace distributions, so let me be clear: that is not the case. While the creation of a standalone GNOME OS install does feature as a part of our plans, this is primarily intended as a platform for testing and development." The post is a well structured read and gives insight into some of the problems the GNOME team faces and how they hope to address various challenges, including having GNOME 3 run on both traditional desktops and on touch screen devices.
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In further desktop-related news, it looks as though the default desktop environment for Debian will be changed when Debian 7.0 "Wheezy" is released. Opting to install a desktop environment in recent releases of Debian would default to GNOME 2, however it appears Wheezy will provide Xfce as the default interface. A comment from Joey Hess indicates this is because GNOME 3 has grown too large: "Switch default desktop task to Xfce. This ensures that the desktop will fit on CD#1, which GNOME currently does not. There may be other reasons to prefer Xfce as the default as well, but that is a complex and subjective topic." GNOME, along with other desktop environments, will continue to be available in the Debian repositories.
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Not to be left out, KDE was also in the news this week. More specifically the Qt framework upon which KDE is based was making headlines as Digia announced their intentions to acquire Qt from Nokia. This means Digia will likely take over product development, website hosting, repository hosting and similar duties. Digia has already approached the KDE community inviting the open source developers to sit down with the new owners of Qt as they "want to plan things together with you and other key stakeholders of the Qt community. We want to discuss and agree on the future of Qt so that we can all work efficiently together after the transaction is completed."
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It's generally accepted that it is a good idea to test certain things before they are used. We generally test drive cars before we buy them and we try on clothes before purchasing them. Some people feel computers should be treated the same way, giving the operator the chance to see how the hardware will perform under heavy load. How fast can we write to the hard drive, how hot will the CPU or video card get, will the platform remain stable under stress? To answer these questions we have StressLinux, a small distribution based on openSUSE and designed to push your computer's limits. Carla Schroder wrote a helpful blog post on how to get started with StressLinux and she suggests some tests to try to find out how robust your hardware is.
* * * * *
Over the past few months we have heard how the Fedora and Ubuntu distributions plan to deal with Secure Boot and the various hurdles facing the developers. Now it is time for the SUSE team to explain their position on Secure Boot and lay out plans for getting SUSE Linux Enterprise to work on machines with Secure Boot enabled. Olaf Kirch presents an organized and clear outline of the legal and technical problems developers are facing and some of the possible solutions: "There are two ways of getting there. One is to work with hardware vendors to have them endorse a SUSE key which we then sign the boot loader with. The other way is to go through Microsoft's Windows Logo Certification program to have the boot loader certified and have Microsoft recognize our signing key (i.e. have it signed with their KEK). We are currently evaluating both approaches, and may eventually even pursue both in parallel." Those interested in following SUSE's plans can follow Mr Kirch's postings on the SUSE Blog.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Transferring email to Linux
It-takes-more-than-a-stamp asks: I am in the process of moving from Windows to Linux and my files and bookmarks I can move over. But I can't find a way to import my Outlook emails into Thunderbird. Is there a way to do this?
DistroWatch answers: Yes, it is possible to transfer your email from Outlook to Thunderbird, though neither application goes out of its way to make the transition an easy one. The big barrier to get over is extracting your emails from Outlook's proprietary file format. The Outlook client keeps its emails in PST files, usually stored under your account's folder. Check your email account settings for the exact location of the PST file(s) under Windows. Once you find the PST file, copy it into your Linux home directory. We will work on a copy of the file to avoid corrupting the original.
The next thing we need to find is a program capable of reading the PST mail archive. For this I recommend using the ReadPST application which is available in the repositories of several distributions. Then we make a folder where we can save the emails extracted from the PST archive and copy the emails into that folder. In the following example we create a directory called PST-Data and extract all the emails from the file Outlook.pst into our new directory.
Once the ReadPST command has run you should find a directory under the PST-Data folder which contains the name of either your email account or your email address. And under that folder there will be a group of folders named Inbox, Sent Items, etc. Each of those folders will contain a file called "mbox", these mbox files contain your email. What I like to do at this point is set up my email account in Thunderbird. Once your email account has been created, close Thunderbird and then start copying the mbox files into your Thunderbird profile. I recommend renaming the mbox files to something more descriptive. For example:
readpst -u -o PST-Data Outlook.pst
cp PST-Datafirstname.lastname@example.org/Inbox/mbox ~/.thunderbird/8js32882.default/Mail/Local\ Folders/OldInbox
When you have copied all of the mbox files to their new location (and under their new names), then re-launch Thunderbird. These imported folders will show up under the Local Folders mailbox in Thunderbird. The above steps make for a long process, but I've found it works well. After you have confirmed all of your emails are showing up in Thunderbird you can delete the PST-Data directory we created early on as it was just a temporary work space. Should you run into trouble, try visiting the Mozilla support website.
cp PST-Dataemail@example.com/Sent\ Items/mbox ~/.thunderbird/8js32882.default/Mail/Local\ Folders/OldSendItems
|Released Last Week
antiX 12, a Debian-based distribution designed to run efficiently on older and low-specification computers, has been released: "15 months on from the release of antiX M11 series, we are pleased to announce the release of our antiX 12 series. Three variants available: full (697 MB) - features 5 windows managers, base (356 MB) - features Fluxbox, JWM, wmii and dwm, core (135MB) - no X, CLI installer only. All use Debian 'Testing' repositories by default and all applications upgraded via Debian 'Testing' repositories up to 6 August 2012. All variants use the present latest stable kernel (3.5) customised for antiX to allow booting with PI and AMD K5/K6 CPUs. Vast improvements in running live persistence. Booting live/frugal with persistence from an NTFS (windows) partition should work, though it is not advised. Use FAT or ext instead." Visit the distribution's news page to read the release announcement.
NetSecL OS 4.0
Yuriy Stanchev has announced the release of NetSecL 4.0, a Slackware-based Linux distribution featuring the LXDE desktop and a number of extra security features: "NetSecL OS 4.0 comes with LXDE. Grsecurity kernel is updated to 3.2.21. Here is the work we have done: name change NetSecL to NetSecL OS; ported the whole system to 64-bit architecture; updated Exploit-db repository; Metasploit with GUI; Firefox; 0install integrated; Mixer, LibreOffice, GIMP, Dia, Inkscape, Evolution, Brasero and other packages included to provide the necessary tools for your office needs; Putty, Remmina, FileZilla, Pidgin and other applications for remote access and management; obsolete penetrations tools are removed." Read the full release announcement for more details and relevant explanatory links.
ROSA 2012 "GNOME"
Denis Koryavov has announced the release of ROSA 2012 "GNOME" edition, a Mandriva-based Linux distribution featuring the GNOME 2 desktop: "After a month since RC1 I'm glad to announce ROSA Marathon 2012 GNOME edition final release. RM 2012 GE is a community-driven release with the GNOME 2.32 on the board. This release is intended for people who have not powerful machines, but do not want to use LXDE, or for people who do not want use GNOME 3. Software included: Linux kernel 3.0.38 with the latest security fixes; GNOME 2.32 software pack with the GDM 2.20 and original ROSA theme; Chromium browser 21; LibreOffice 3.4.5 LTS; ROSA Media Player 1.0; Pidgin 2.10; FBreader; GIMP 2.6; EasyTag; Cantarell font used by default." Here is the complete release announcement.
ROSA 2012 - the GNOME desktop
(full image size: 718kB, screen resolution 1600x900 pixels)
Scientific Linux 6.3
Connie Sieh has announced the release of Scientific Linux 6.3, an enterprise-class distribution built from source package for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.3: "Scientific Linux 6.3 i386/x86_64 is now available. Release notes: OpenAFS updated to version 1.6.1; yum-conf-rpmfusion has been added by popular request, end users must verify their own eligibility and license compliance before use; yum-conf-sl6x - updated GPG key list, CERN's key is now listed here too; xorg-x11-server changed to remove TUV's support URL; sl-bookmarks now includes links to useful non-SL provided resources; revisor support has been added for the upstream changes in Anaconda; sl-revisor-configs - the Kickstart files provided have been renamed for simplicity...." See the release announcement for a full list of changes.
Cecil Watson has announced the release of LinHES 7.4, an Arch-based distribution centred around MythTV and designed for Home Theatre PCs (HTPC): "It was nine years ago today that KnoppMyth R1 was first released. It was also 9 years ago when I first met R. Dale Thomas (rdt). Unfortunately, the good ones depart us all too soon. I miss my friend and so it is in his honor I release LinHES R7.4 to mark the ninth anniversary of KnoppMyth/LinHES. The changelog is sparse. This release is primarily to mark the anniversary and to remember our friend. ripD was originally written by me but he spruced it up a great deal. It originally only mirrored a DVD. Since MythTV no longer has menu entries for backup your DVD, I've added the functionality to LinHES. Also included is MythTV 0.25.2. If you are running LinHES R7.3, a simple 'pacman -Syu' will do." Here is the brief release announcement.
Untangle Gateway 9.3
Untangle, Inc. has announced the release of Untangle Gateway 9.3, a Debian-based network gateway with pluggable modules for network applications: "Untangle, Inc., a network software company, today announced the release of Untangle 9.3, the latest version of its award-winning multi-functional firewall software. The new version includes full tunnel OpenVPN, performance improvements, and enhanced reporting. Support for full tunnel OpenVPN allows administrators to force all remote client or remote site traffic through Untangle before going out to the Internet. This new feature allows an unprecedented level of control for network administrators using Untangle to protect remote offices and employees. The connected VPN clients and sites can now benefit from Untangle's full suite of features, including web content filtering, application control, anti-virus, spam blocking and more." Read the press release for more details.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Around The Web
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New distributions added to database|
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New distributions added to waiting list
- noop linux. The noop linux distribution is a new source-based project that uses its own pre-compiled package format. Currently its package manager is a shell script with plans to port it to C. It's aimed at supporting rolling releases.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 20 August 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)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
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|• Issue 702 (2017-03-06): Fatdog64 Linux, elementary OS bundled with new netbook, Haiku announces new features, security and the size of a distro's development team|
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|• Issue 695 (2017-01-16): Zorin OS 12, Peppermint team fixes installer bug, Debian refreshes Jessie media, Ubuntu improves low graphics mode, Exciting things coming in 2017|
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|• Issue 690 (2016-12-05): Fedora 25, Ubuntu adopts rolling HWE kernel, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Haiku working toward EFI support|
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|• Issue 683 (2016-10-17): Refracta 8.0, making packages for distributions, Alpine switches to LibreSSL, 386BSD website publishes classic code|
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|• Issue 657 (2016-04-18): Redox, Linux Mint improves update manager, planned Fedora 24 features, Ubuntu 16.04 getting Snappy packages|
|• Issue 656 (2016-04-11): Qubes OS 3.1, Whonix offers bug bounties, Puppy's family tree, setting up disk partitions and running bash on Windows|
|• Issue 655 (2016-04-04): Parsix 8.5, Sabayon's Community repository, Red Hat offers free subscriptions, Ubuntu tablets, command line tips|
|• Issue 654 (2016-03-28): PCLinuxOS 2016.03, Using signatures to create a web of trust, Arch Linux rolls out Pacman update, GuixSD packages GNOME|
|• Issue 653 (2016-03-21): Antergos 2016.02.21, Debian prepares for election, a Unix-like OS written in Rust, watching Netflix on FreeBSD|
|• Full list of all issues|
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