| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 488, 24 December 2012
Welcome to this year's final issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Perhaps the biggest talking point of the year, at least among Linux fans, was the controversial Unity desktop as promoted by Ubuntu. Although, as expected, the vocal critics have dominated the forums and online blogs, it's quite possible that most Ubuntu users simply adjusted their desktop user's habits and continue focusing on their computing tasks without thinking too much about the user interface. So Unity really as bad as many claim? Jesse Smith went to investigate and came back with some interesting conclusions. In the news section, FreeBSD developers develop new virtualisation features for version 10, Linux Mint continues to dominate online polls, surveys and contests as the best Linux distro of 2012, and Free Software Foundation distributes copies of Trisquel GNU/Linux in Microsoft stores. Also in this issue, a review of Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko", an introduction to SparkyLinux, and the usual regular sections. As this is the last issue of this calendar year, we'd like to take this opportunity and wish all our readers happy festive season and an excellent start of the year 2013! Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (35MB) and MP3 (51MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Unity, what a concept!
The Unity desktop environment is something which has intrigued me a lot over the past year or so. My interest has partly been in the strong reactions, for or against the environment, from Ubuntu users. The other key point of my interest has been that I've really only used the desktop in short bursts and, as a result, I don't feel I've really got a feel for it. Once every six months I will install Ubuntu, play with Unity for a few days, not long enough to unlearn the habits I've picked up from using other desktop environments, and then I'm off to another distribution and another desktop. In these quick looks at Unity I've certainly encountered things which rubbed me the wrong way, but I've also caught sight of design features which struck me as being beneficial. Or they would be beneficial if one were to use them long enough to form new work patterns.
At any rate, I wanted to find out how I would feel about Unity if I used it long enough to unlearn old habits, behaviour learned after over fifteen years of using desktops with approaches different from Unity's. With that in mind I installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on one of my machines and tried to use Unity as much as I could while still taking time to test other Linux distributions.
Right upfront I want to say that it took about a week for the old habits to fade away and for using Unity's controls to become reflex rather than considered actions. Little things like moving the mouse pointer to the right of the window instead of the left have long been actions performed automatically and they were hard to break. This led to several days of jerking the mouse right, then back left to close windows or minimize them. There was also some trial and error at first finding the best way to handle window organization, launch applications and deal with window grouping on the launch bar. Typically, I have found I am most comfortable with setting up multiple virtual work spaces, populating them with related applications and switching between the work spaces. This allows for a small number of open windows in each space and avoids programs grouping on the task switcher. Unity, on the other hand, while it does allow for multiple work spaces, the desktop appears to be much better suited to having few windows open at a time and I slowly came around to typically using one workspace and grouping program windows together, switching between windows rather than work spaces.
Unity 12.04 - previewing multiple work spaces
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Another hurdle I jumped over, which did not take nearly as much time as I had originally feared, was the lack of configuration options. During most of my time with Linux I've tended to prefer KDE, an environment famous (or notorious) for being extremely flexible. Unity, on the other hand, takes a more one-size-fits-all approach and there are relatively few things to adjust, aside from short-cut keys and the wallpaper. Oddly enough, I found I didn't mind so much. While KDE's features and default settings practically require flexibility in order to let users mold the desktop into a desired shape, I found most of Unity's defaults were, well, sane. They weren't always my ideal, but Unity's features and controls were straight forward enough I rarely had the urge to change the environment, apart from the default colours.
Let's look at some of the features of Unity I enjoyed. The first thing I appreciated was the general layout of the desktop. Screens have been getting wider and shorter in recent years. Unity tries to compensate for this horizontal stretching by minimizing the use of features at the top & bottom of the screen and it puts the launch bar on the left side of the screen. Applications have their menus removed and (most) windows will display their window bars in the unified bar at the top of the screen. Having stretched screens has also led to increased mouse travel. On most desktops I move my mouse to the bottom-left of the screen to launch a program, to the top-left to access its menu and to the upper-right to close it. Potentially there is a lot of travel for the virtual rodent. Unity does a pretty good job of keeping most interface elements in the upper-left of the screen. The window controls, the application launcher and the program's menu all exist to the upper-left corner of the display. Once I got used to the positioning, it made for less travel and more action.
Originally I had expected the Unity Dash to be a major point either for or against Unity as a whole. A lot of focus is placed on the Dash, both by Canonical and by reviewers. However, I found I didn't use the Dash all that much. In fact, some days I'm pretty sure I didn't use it at all. The reason is simple: The Dash is primarily for searching for things, mostly applications and documents. I had most of the application launchers I used on a daily basis on the launch bar and I know where my data files are located. Since I didn't have to search for anything, I didn't need the Dash's primary function. The few times I did use the Dash it was typically to launch a program and, for that purpose, I found it worked well. I like being able to use my computer using either the mouse or the keyboard exclusively (depending on what I am doing) and I would rather not switch between input devices. The Dash was ideal for either case. It was easy to simply hit a button to bring up the Dash, type a few letters of the application name and hit Enter. Or, alternatively, click the Application lens and select my desired app.
An additional feature I enjoyed was a little thing, but it fit into my work flow really well. I get a lot of e-mail in the run of the day and, as the audio volume is generally turned down on my machine, my e-mail client can't notify me when new messages arrive via sound. When using KDE I find myself pausing, activating my Thunderbird window, glancing at the various inboxes and then minimizing the window. It just takes a second, but it adds up to many seconds over the course of the day and it breaks my focus. Unity has a nice feature in that the Thunderbird launch bar icon changes to indicate how many unread messages (if any) are present in the user's inboxes. Additionally, when new mail arrives the message notification icon in the upper-right of the screen turns from white to blue. This meant my peripheral vision would let me know when new mail arrived and I didn't have to manually check. In short, Unity let me focus on one task at a time and kept other applications from distracting me.
Unity 12.04 - new mail notification
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A feature of Unity I did not appreciate as much was the heads up display (HUD). On paper the HUD seems like a good idea. By default it is hidden and, with the tap of a button, a search box pops up and allows us to search the current application's menu bar. For example, I can tap the ALT key, type in "save as" and hit Enter. Once a person is accustomed to this it can be faster than taking one's hands off the keyboard, grabbing the mouse and browsing through the menu. The "save as" feature might not be an ideal example, but for applications with a great many menu items, the HUD makes finding things easy if we know its approximate name, but not its location in the menu tree. As I said, on paper, it has promise. In practice I ran into a few problems. The first is that the ALT key is the same key which brings up the application menu. This meant sometimes tapping ALT would highlight the menu bar and let me browse, other times it would activate the HUD. I also found that not all applications integrated with the HUD. This meant many little programs such as the text editor would let me use the HUD to navigate, but other programs would not.
Most of my issues with Unity were not concerns with the design, but rather the quality of the implementation. I ran both the regular 3-D version of Unity and the 2-D version. Both crashed frequently, almost on a daily basis and, after the environment had crashed once, it would continue to do so every few hours for the remainder of the day unless I rebooted the machine. Both the 2-D and 3-D environment worked much the same and looked about the same most of the time. The one important difference I noted was that the 3-D version would not properly handle short-cut keys, while the 2-D Unity would handled them just fine. Whenever I logged into the 3-D environment I would go into the desktop settings, enter my short-cuts and it would remember them for the remainder of the session. Once I logged out the short-cuts were forgotten and, the next day, I would have to re-enter my short-cuts again.
Another problem I had with the 3-D version of Unity was that it chewed up a lot of my CPU usage. Quite often, while my applications were sitting idle, Unity 3-D would use from 40% to 80% of my CPU resources. The Unity 2-D environment, with the same programs open, wouldn't use more than 2% of the CPU. My last technical concern with Unity was the way it handled applications with multiple windows, the best example I have being the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). When working with the GIMP I found performing almost any action on an image would cause the active window to lose focus. This greatly slowed down work and, whenever I went to save an image in GIMP, the application would crash. This bug occurred every time I tried to save an image, but would only occur when running Unity. When I switched to the KDE desktop GIMP's windows behaved as expected and I experienced no crashes.
Unity 12.04 - software crash
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This brings me to another problem, one which isn't Unity's fault, but only really shows it head when Unity is being used. Some applications take steps to manage their own window (or windows). These are generally programs not found in the distribution's repositories, they are third-party software and not under control of the Ubuntu developers. Programs such as Opera and Steam will set up their own tab or window controls. This means the window/tab controls will be on the wrong side of the window and may not always work as other applications do under Unity. This is due to the application making assumptions on how the environment usually works and, when the programs are running on Unity, the guesses aren't correct.
One last thing I would like to touch on is how easy I found Unity to explore once I managed to put aside my old habits. A few days in I started to notice my work flow was getting smoother and I was making use of little aspects of the desktop I had not previously realized existed. As an example, one day early in the experiment I had many programs open and my launch bar was quite full. I moved the mouse pointer over to the sidebar, scrolled the mouse wheel until the application I wanted slid under the mouse and then clicked on it. Afterward it occurred to me that I hadn't consciously known I could manipulate the icons on the launch bar in that fashion, I had just done it. I further discovered I could bring up previews of all grouped application windows in a similar, unconscious way. Bumping into Unity's features this way makes me think new computer users, ones without my years of ingrained habits, would probably take to Unity easier than I did.
My conclusion, after using Unity as my primary desktop for a month, is that it is a pretty good desktop. It is a bit heavier than most traditional desktops, but not overly so. On the right hardware Unity 2-D runs pretty well, though I wouldn't want to try running it on a lower-end system. The design is mostly good and the only times I felt Unity and I were not getting along (again, from a design perspective) was when I would try to juggle many windows at once. Unity seems designed with the idea most computer users will have few programs open at any given time and, as the number of windows increased navigation became proportionally more difficult. To be perfectly honest, I would probably still be using Unity 2-D after my month-long experiment if it wasn't for the technical glitches. The design, as I've said, was to my liking, but the frequent desktop crashes, the strange behaviour when an application juggled multiple windows and the GIMP crashes finally drove me away. I'm now back to using KDE most of the time and I'm in the process of unlearning the ways of Unity. It will make for a few awkward days, but the stable environment will be worth the cost of my transition.
I'm not trying to sway people toward or away from Unity. This experience grew solely out of my own curiosity and I scratched my experimental itch. Often I feel that I am guilty of making up my mind too quickly and this was my chance to really immerse myself in a technology to see if it would win me over. After my month of Unity I came around to the idea that it is probably a good environment for many people, especially people who use their computers for a few tasks (such as e-mail, web, chatting) at a time. It will probably be a good environment for me too, once the remaining bugs are fixed.
|Reviews (by Jesse Smith)
First look at Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko"
As we are coming up on the end of the year I want to take a look at a project which is unique and outside the mainstream of Linux projects. I don't think any project embodies distinct and useful technology quite as well as Puppy Linux does. Puppy's 5.4 "Slacko" edition was released recently and it struck me as an interesting and fun way to wrap up the year.
The Slacko edition of Puppy Linux is built using software packages from the Slackware Linux distribution. In this case, Puppy 5.4 uses Slackware's 14.0 repositories. This gives Puppy users a collection of software which should run on a wide range of hardware, including older machines, while providing modern versions of applications. The Slacko edition comes in three flavours: "Firefox", "Opera" and "Opera with PAE support". I opted to download the ISO labelled "Firefox". The ISO file is a mere 160MB in size, making for a quick download and the image fits easily on either a CD or small thumb drive.
Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko" - the welcome screen
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Booting from the Puppy media brings us to a desktop laid out in the traditional style. At the bottom of the screen we find our application menu and task switcher. Near the top of the display we find icons for launching many of Puppy's useful applications. It is noteworthy that it is Puppy's style to label icons based on what a program does rather than with its name. This makes it fairly easy for newcomers to find what they need. The name of a web browser or e-mail client may change from one operating system to another, but "Mail", "Web" and "Help" are fairly clear in their respective purposes.
Shortly after logging in a welcome window appears letting us set our preferred language, keyboard layout, time zone and screen resolution. Once we have made any required adjustments a second window appears explaining how we can get on-line, launch programs and find help. Following the instructions for getting on-line we can launch a wizard which walks us through selecting our network interface and it will assist us with inputting any settings needed to connect to the Internet.
Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko" - adjusting settings
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The Puppy system installer is amazingly flexible. It allows us to install the distribution to a number of different mediums, including to a USB drive, an internal disk, to a SSD card... just about anywhere with more capacity than a floppy disk. The installer next offers to launch GParted to help us adjust the layout of the disk and we're given tips as to what kind of partitions work best with Puppy. On the next screen we decide on which partition to install Puppy and then provide the location of the source files. In my case the distribution's files were on a CD and the installer was able to automatically locate them. We are then asked if we would like to perform a full installation, such as we would with other Linux distributions, or we can opt to perform a "frugal" install. This latter option copies just a few key files to the destination partition and allows Puppy to co-exist peacefully with other operating systems on the same disk partition. After the installer copies the required files over to the hard drive we are told that we may need to install a boot loader separately. We are provided with the menu location of the GRUB configuration tool which guides us through placing the boot loader on the local machine.
Puppy Linux comes with a lot of configuration and system admin tools, most of which can be accessed through a control panel called PupControl. There are many tools in the control panel and sometimes there appears to be a bit of overlap, for example, there is a separate Flash player installer from the package manager. Still, it is impressive how many of these configuration apps have been included. Users are able to adjust the network connection, firewall rules, and scan network ports. There is an entire group of tools dedicated to working with local hard drives, another section for altering the look & feel of the graphical environment. Yet another section deals with hardware devices, such as printers and digital cameras. There are apps for adjusting the system time, encrypting files, gathering information on our hardware and checking the dependencies of installed software bundles. Really, the PupControl panel is our jump off point to accomplishing almost everything with Puppy and it is, luckily for us, clearly organized.
The package manager is unusual in that it pulls software from several projects' repositories and lets us filter packages based on repository, category and software type. Once we have selected a specific package we would like to download we need to manually select which mirror from which to pull the package. I have found not all mirrors contain all packages, which can cause an error and send us back to manually select a different download location. The package manager is also unusual in that we select software to download one package at a time. This can make installing multiple packages a slow process. Fortunately I found the software which comes on the Puppy CD was able to cover most of my needs.
Puppy Linux, being a small distribution, comes with a surprising amount of applications. The Slacko CD contains the Firefox web browser, the Sylpheed e-mail client, the Gnumeric spreadsheet application and AbiWord for word processing. There is a calendar and appointment app, a GNOME front-end for MPlayer, a text editor and two image editing programs. The XChat IRC client is included, along with a network configuration wizard, a CD player and disc burning software. There is a PDF viewer, multimedia converter app, backup tools, a disk manager and a program for configuring the firewall. There are also graphical tools for giving the user information on their hardware, there is an archive manager and an audio disc ripper. Underneath it all Puppy uses the 3.2 version of the Linux kernel. Many of the programs we have by default are designed to be small rather than familiar or even full featured, however they generally get the job done. People wishing additional functionality can download their preferred applications from Slackware repositories as Puppy Slacko maintains binary compatibility with Slackware 14.0.
Puppy Linux 5.4 "Slacko" - PupControl and the project's documentation
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One thing which separates Puppy Linux from most other distributions which run from live media is that Puppy defaults to giving the user root privileges. This, combined with the automatic login feature, means Puppy is effectively a single-user distribution. It also means responsibility for the safety of the machine is solely in the hands of the user. Personally I'm not interested in getting into whether this is good or bad; whether convenience should trump common security practices. I will say it is in line with the way Puppy operates, trying to give the user the most power (and responsibility) without any hurdles.
I tried running Puppy Linux on two physical machines, a desktop box (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) and my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 4 GB of RAM, Intel video and Intel wireless card). In addition I ran Puppy in a VirtualBox virtual machine. The results were quite varied. On my laptop Puppy worked perfectly. It booted quickly, the desktop was responsive, all of my hardware was properly detected and I had no problem getting on-line. My display was set to my laptop's maximum resolution and volume was set at a pleasant medium level. On the other hand, Puppy refused to boot on my desktop box. The distribution would lock up almost immediately upon starting the boot process. I've encountered other distributions which would only boot on this desktop machine when given certain kernel parameters such as "nomodeset". Puppy was not so forgiving and I never did get it running on the desktop. Running the little distro in VirtualBox worked fairly well. Again, Puppy properly set up its screen resolution, got me on-line and worked smoothly. My only complaint when running Puppy in the virtual machine was that the guest's mouse pointer constantly lost sync with my host's mouse pointer, which made interacting with graphical applications a literal "hit or miss" situation. Once installed on a machine I found Puppy used only about 90MB of memory when sitting at the desktop.
In the past I would say my experiences with Puppy have been good, but not great. The little distro has always striven to find a balance between functionality and a tiny footprint. And, in the past, I've felt the project achieved this balance, but in doing so made some tasks awkward. Puppy has a style that is very much its own and people who have used more mainstream distributions may have found Puppy a bit too different, a little too alien in the way it does things. Also in the past I found the occasional bug which put a speed bump in the experience. This time around I am happy to report my experience with Puppy has been pleasantly smooth. I don't think there have been any large changes, but perhaps a few small, evolutionary improvements. For instance, I recall in the past fighting with the package manager, constantly having trouble downloading new packages. This time around I only ran into one instance where a mirror didn't have the package I wanted and I quickly found another which did. If I recall correctly the first time I used Puppy I had trouble getting on-line using my wireless card, this time getting on-line was handled flawlessly.
What really stands out about Puppy 5.4 "Slacko" are the same two things which stand out with every release. The first is that Puppy is fast. The distribution is surprisingly small for all of the functionality it contains. Despite having an attractive desktop and plenty of applications, Puppy requires little RAM and runs very quickly. The other thing is somewhat subtle and that is the attention the developers have paid to documentation. Not on-line documentation, but local documentation built into the Puppy applications. Every step in the installation process and each screen in the configuration process explain the user's options and may even give suggestions or warnings. With just a little technical background a new user can pick up Puppy and use it without wondering what will happen next and probably without ever seeking out further documentation. As someone who generally does not use Puppy, this focus on hand holding without getting in the way is ideal and it really sets Puppy apart from other lightweight Linux solutions. This is a distribution I can recommend for people with old hardware or as a travel CD for people on the go.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
FreeBSD talks virtualisation, Linux Mint wins "best distro" awards, FSF hypes Trisquel as best Windows alternative
While most FreeBSD users are eagerly awaiting the imminent release of version 9.1, the project's current branch continues to evolve at a rapid pace. FreeBSD developer Ivan Voras even claims that version 10 will be "the most exciting release in years": "There's been a lot of maturing of technology for FreeBSD 10 - lots of new features which make this release the most exciting one in years. Here are some of my personal highlights. There's been a lot of development in the field of virtualization. FreeBSD has almost neglected 'full' virtualization technology (relying on home-brewed jails/vnet), which made it a poor choice for modern deployments, but that is about to change. New stuff which will (probably, but nothing's certain) see the light of day in FreeBSD 10 is: bhyve - the native BSD hypervisor; it will be able to run at least the FreeBSD kernel fully virtualized, and possibly (please donate, or help to make this happen) also other generic operating systems; virtio drivers - developed alongside byhve; the drivers will be in the GENERIC kernel which will make it usable out of the box with any hypervisor supporting this interface - including, but not limited to, byhve, KVM and VirtualBox...."
* * * * *
With the year 2012 drawing to an end, it's time for the usual year-end recapitulations. In the world of Linux distribution, this means finding the best release among the hundreds that were uploaded to FTP servers throughout the year. And it seems it's no coincidence that Linux Mint finds itself sitting pretty on top of DistroWatch page hit ranking charts for the second year in a row. Tux Radar: "Mint 13's MATE and Cinnamon desktops complement each other well, and have scored repeatedly for the distro throughout the tournament. The desktops, together with Mint's set of custom tools for every desktop task, including a WUBI-based Windows installer, make it a formidable opponent. There's more to Mint than pleasing new desktop users, though. Besides the codec-laden releases, the distro also produces editions without this fluff, which makes it legal for distributions in virtually every country in the world." Dedoimedo: "Linux Mint has regained its place at the top of the charts, after falling down a whole of four places, mostly because of the unholy Gnome 3 desktop. Since, the dev team has ditched this failure, and the quality and execution of the operating system have climbed up to their expected levels."
* * * * *
Software freedom is a noble concept that many of us try to adhere to as much as possible, even though we might take a shortcut or two from time to time. Still, most of us appreciate the enormous amount of good work the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has been doing to promote its goals and to protect us from commercial interests of big software monopolies. Last week FSF even gave away free copies of Trisquel GNU/Linux to the visitors of a Microsoft store: "Today, FSF activists visited a local Microsoft store during its "Tech for Tots" session to wish passersby happy holidays with copies of the Trisquel GNU/Linux operating system, a free software replacement for Windows 8. The activists were accompanied by a gnu (free software's buffalo-like mascot) and sported Santa hats in the spirit of the season. Their action drew smiles from mall-goers who had expected to see costumed people giving gifts, but not quite like this. On its campaign site, the FSF criticizes Windows 8 for restricting computer users' freedom to modify and share the software on their computers. This action follows a similar one at a Windows 8 launch event in October, when the FSF made international news announcing its campaign to ask computer users to skip Windows 8 in favor of free software."
|Released Last Week
Clonezilla Live 2.0.1-15
Steven Shiau has announced the release of Clonezilla Live 2.0.1-15, a new stable release of the distribution's live CD with specialist open-source utilities designed for disk cloning tasks: "This release of Clonezilla live (2.0.1-15) includes minor enhancements and bug fixes. Enhancements and changes: the underlying GNU/Linux operating system was upgraded, this release is based on the Debian 'sid' repository as of 2012-12-17; Linux kernel was updated to 3.2.35; module floppy was listed in the blacklist, the floppy is normally useless but if it exists, it might cause the disk detection delay, if floppy is required, a user still can run 'modprobe floppy' to load it; Catalan language was added and language files were updated. Bug fixes: force to run command 'partprobe' after local disk is inserted in prep-ocsroot; to avoid a GRUB 1 on ext4 issue, running the grub-install from the restored OS should be tried first...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a full changelog.
Kris Moore has announced the release of PC-BSD 9.1, a new version of the project's desktop-oriented operating system based on FreeBSD: "The PC-BSD team is pleased to announce that version 9.1 is now available. This release includes many exciting new features and enhancements, such as a vastly improved system installer, ZFS 'Boot Environment' support, TrueOS (a FreeBSD-based server with additional power-user utilities), and much more. Highlights: FreeBSD 9.1; new system installer, greatly simplified for desktop and server installs; support for ZFS mirror during installation; support for SWAP on ZFS, allowing entire disk ZFS installation; support for setting additional ZFS data-set options, such as compression, noexec; Warden jail management integrated into system; support for Warden to create Linux jails...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
IPFire 2.11 Core 65
Michael Tremer has announced the release of IPFire 2.11 Core 65, the latest update of the project's specialist firewall distribution: "Today, the last core update for IPFire 2.11 in this year has been released. It is the 65th of the IPFire 2 series and comes with some new features and bug fixes. Alexander Marx developed a graphical interfaces with help of which one can configure OpenVPN roadwarrior clients individually. It is possible to add routes, different DNS servers, static IP addresses to individual roadwarrior clients. One may also add networks from which IP addresses may be assigned to clients. Those subnets and static IP addresses can be used to create firewall rules and permit clients only to access certain parts of a network. More work in this area will be released in the future." More information on new features can be found in the release announcement.
Paweł Pijanowski has announced the release of SparkyLinux 2.0.1, a lightweight Debian-based distribution featuring a customised LXDE desktop and plenty of games: "SparkyLinux 2.0.1 'GameOver'. No, it's not the end of the project. It's brand new release. This idea was waiting in my Tomboy for the whole year. Finally I got back to work and three weeks later it's ready to go. It was built on the latest release of SparkyLinux 2.0 and it's designed for games players. Many applications have been removed from the system and replaced by games. The main system is based on Debian 'Wheezy' and has LXDE as the default desktop. All packages has been synchronised with Debian's 'testing' repositories as of 2012-12-12. What's under the hood: Linux kernel 3.2, LXDE, Iceweasel, VLC, Leafpad, Pidgin, Transmission, XChat, Flash, Java, multimedia codecs, VLC plugin for Iceweasel...." See the release announcement for a full list of included games and a screenshot.
ROSA 2012 "Desktop.Fresh"
Konstantin Kochereshkin has announced the release of ROSA 2012 "Desktop.Fresh" edition, a desktop-oriented Linux distribution with the latest KDE desktop and a variety of home-made applications, utilities and tweaks: "ROSA is pleased to announce a new operating system for desktops - ROSA Desktop.Fresh 2012. The product is targeted at enthusiasts who are likely to appreciate the wide choice of fresh software components. ROSA Fresh edition is a non-commercial product distributed free of charge. The name underlines the fact that the system contains 'fresh' versions of user software and system components (compared to enterprise editions of ROSA). Among the major advantages one should mention excellent state of all repositories, stable work and fast boot of the system as a whole." See the full release announcement which includes a large number of screenshots and other information.
José Antonio Calvo has announced the release of Zentyal 3.0-1, an updated build of the project's server distribution based on Ubuntu: "We are glad to let you know that a new Zentyal 3.0-1 installer is now available. This installer includes a new compilation of packages with all the bug fixes and Ubuntu system updates since the release of the first 3.0 installer. Moreover, we would like to highlight the following: this installer already includes the final Samba 4.0.0 package; it comes with improved UTF-8 support - this is specially useful for those who are not using Zentyal in English, but please note that if you are already experiencing issues with UTF-8, upgrading may not be enough and probably you need to re-install the server in order to fix them; this installer also allows to introduce your Zentyal account credentials from the beginning of the installation to automatically register your server." See the release announcement for more information and upgrade instructions.
Gentoo Linux 20121221
Robin Johnson has announced the release of Gentoo Linux 20121221, an up-to-date live DVD showcasing the current cutting-edge state of the popular source-based distribution: "Gentoo Linux is proud to announce the availability of a new live DVD to celebrate the continued collaboration between Gentoo users and developers, ready to rock the end of the world (or at least southern solstice). The live DVD features a superb list of packages: Linux kernel 3.6.8, X.Org Server 1.12.4, KDE 4.9.4, GNOME 3.4.2, Xfce 4.10, Fluxbox 1.3.2, Firefox 17.0.1, LibreOffice 3.6.4, GIMP 2.8.2, Blender 2.64a, Amarok 2.6.0, MPlayer 2.2.0, Chromium 24.0.1312.35 and much more. There is no new FAQ or artwork the 20121221 release, but you can still get the 12.0 artwork plus DVD cases and covers for the 12.0 release. Special features: ZFSOnLinux; writable file systems using Aufs so you can emerge new packages." The release announcement.
Alex Filgueira has announced the release of Cinnarch 2012.12.21, a desktop Linux distribution that combines Arch Linux with Cinnamon (a fork of GNOME Shell): "Cinnarch 2012.12.21 released. This is a minor release with minor changes, including: automatic selection of fastest mirror; launch GParted from the CLI installer; removed deprecated hooks in mkinitcpio; fixed wrong behaviour with keymap selection on installed system; removed some packages that aren't necessary - Eye of GNOME image viewer (Shotwell already does that), Totem video player (Xnoise already does that and also people tend to use other video player solutions), Cheese (not necessary); fixed touchpad configuration to have vertical scroll from the start. Packages in Live medium updated to: Linux kernel 3.6.10; X.Org Server 1.13.1, GNOME 3.6.2, Cinnamon 1.6.7, Nemo 1.1.2, pacmanXG 4.13.9." Here is the release announcement with screenshots.
Linux Mint 14 "Xfce"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 14 "Xfce" edition: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 14 Xfce. Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment which aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly. This edition features all the improvements from the latest Linux Mint release on top of an Xfce 4.10 desktop. It comes with some of the popular applications found in other Linux Mint editions such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, Banshee, Pidgin and XChat, but it also replaces many aspects of the desktop with more lightweight Xfce alternatives: Thunar is the default file browser; Xfce Terminal is the default terminal application; Xfburn is the default CD/DVD burner application; Ristretto is the default image viewer; Blueman is used by default for Bluetooth support." Read the release announcement and visit the what's new page for further information.
Chris Buechler has announced the release of pfSense 2.0.2, an updated version of the project's specialist FreeBSD-based operating system for firewalls: "pfSense 2.0.2 is a maintenance release with some bug and security fixes since the 2.0.1 release. You can upgrade from any previous release to 2.0.2. Base OS updated to 8.1-RELEASE-p13 to address FreeBSD security advisories. Added a warning to PPTP VPN configuration page - PPTP is no longer considered a secure VPN technology because it relies upon MS-CHAPv2 which has been compromised. If you continue to use PPTP be aware that intercepted traffic can be decrypted by a third party, so it should be considered unencrypted. We advise migrating to another VPN type such as OpenVPN or IPsec. Fix reference to PPTP secondary RADIUS server shared secret. PPTP 1.x to 2.x configuration upgrade fixes." See the detailed release announcement for a complete list of security and bug fixes.
Clemens Toennies has announced the release of Netrunner 12.12, a new version of the Kubuntu-based desktop Linux distribution featuring the KDE desktop with integrated GNOME applications: "Netrunner 'Dryland' third edition (version 12.12) has arrived. It is based on Kubuntu 12.10 and comes with the following features: GNU/Linux OS kernel 3.5, KDE 4.9.3, Mozilla Firefox 17 with KDE integration, Mozilla Thunderbird 17, VLC 2.0.4, LibreOffice 3.6.2, GIMP 2.8, Krita 2.5.3, Gwenview 4.9.3, Skype 4.1, Kdenlive 0.9.2, Telepathy Messenger, Samba Mounter (easy NAS setup), Webaccounts (social accounts integration), Runners-ID (free and libre cloud storage and music streaming), Muon Discover 1.4, VirtualBox 4.1.18, WINE 1.5.19, and much more. If you have any questions or need further help, please use our forums." Here is the brief release announcement.
Netrunner - a Kubuntu-based desktop Linux distribution
(full image size: 1,401kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Klaus Knopper has announced the release of KNOPPIX 7.0.5, the final update of the KNOPPIX 7.0 line: "Version 7.0.5 of KNOPPIX is based on the usual picks from Debian stable and newer desktop packages from Debian testing and Debian unstable. It uses Linux kernel 3.6.11 and X.Org 7.7 (Core 1.12.4) for supporting current computer hardware. Optional 64-bit kernel via boot option 'knoppix64', supporting systems with more than 4 GB of RAM and chroot to 64-bit installations for system rescue tasks (DVD edition only). LibreOffice 3.6.4, GIMP 2.8, Chromium 22.0.1229.94 and Iceweasel 10.0.11, LXDE (default) with the PCManFM 1.0 file manager, KDE 4.8 (boot option 'knoppix desktop=kde'), GNOME 3.4 (boot option 'knoppix desktop=gnome'). Wine version 1.5 for integration of Windows-based programs...." Read the rest of the release notes for boot options, re-mastering notes and other details.
Wifislax 4.3 has been released. Wifislax is a Slackware-based live CD containing a variety of security and forensics tools. The current release has been in development for six months, during which time the product underwent significant improvements in terms of system scripts, clean-up and hard disk installation. Wifislax also boasts an impressive range of WiFi utilities and drivers. The live system offers a choice of three different desktops - KDE 4 (the default), Xfce and Openbox, and it provides a choice between standard and PAE kernels. The Linux kernel is at version 3.5.7, well tested for support of the included wireless network card drivers. Additionally, the project develops a number of extra modules (in XZM format) that can extend the system capabilities as desired. For more information please see the full release announcement (in Spanish only) with useful links and screenshots.
Wifislax 4.3 - a Slackware-based distribution with security and forensics tools
(full image size: 1,086kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Zafer Aydogan has announced the release of Jibbed 6.0, a live CD built from the recently-released NetBSD 6.0: "Announcing Jibbed 6.0. The new version of the live CD is ready for download. A novelty is that this release contains only an image for 64-bit systems (amd64). Everything else remains the same. Jibbed is a bootable live CD based on the NetBSD operating system that works directly from a CD without the need for a hard drive. Automatic hardware detection provides support for a wide variety of graphics cards, sound cards, network interfaces, and USB devices. This live CD showcases a complete NetBSD environment, including compiler sets, and provides features like tmpfs to simulate read-write access on read-only media. The capabilities range from use by experts as a rescue environment to first-time users learning UNIX. The live CD runs fine in VirtualBox, VMware or QEMU." Here is the brief release announcement.
Jibbed 6.0 - a NetBSD-based live CD with Xfce
(full image size: 1,030kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Linux Mint 14 "KDE"
Following the recent release of the "Xfce" flavour of Linux Mint 14, the project's latest "KDE" edition is now also available: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 14 KDE. KDE is a vibrant, innovative, advanced, modern looking and full-featured desktop environment. This edition features all the improvements from the latest Linux Mint release on top of KDE 4.9 which features many improvements. Dolphin: back and forward buttons; ability to show metadata such as ratings, tags, image and file sizes, author, date; grouping and sorting by metadata properties; better Places panel; improved search support; synchronization with terminal location. Konsole: ability to search for a text selection using KDE web shortcuts; new 'Change Directory To' feature when a folder is dropped on the Konsole window...." Read the release announcement and visit the what's new page for additional details.
Tomáš Matějíček has announced the release of Slax 7.0.1, a bug-fix update of the Slackware-based live CD: "For those who can't leave their computers even during Christmas (as I am apparently one of them), here is an update for Slax, version 7.0.1. Changes include mostly bug fixes, kernel upgrade, Broadcom SoftMac support, and textmode support for keyboard mapping and fonts. Raw changelog: Fixed double-click on location bar in Firefox; fixed Slax buildscript download, it was not working in a subdirectory with spaces; introduced bashrc with colors for Konsole; Xterm no longer needs helper in xterm.bin,; allow underscore and plus sign characters in buildscript names; fixed deactivation of modules which were activated automatically during boot; upgraded to Linux Kernel 3.6.11...." Read the brief release announcement for a complete changelog.
Manjaro Linux 0.8.3
Carl Duff has announced the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.3, an Arch-based distribution with a choice of Cinnamon 1.6.7, KDE 4.9.4, MATE 1.4.2 and Xfce 4.10 desktops: "Manjaro Linux 0.8.3 has been unleashed. The core system has been upgraded to boost performance and responsiveness, resulting in even faster start-up, shut-down, and operational speeds. The official Manjaro repositories have been transformed with an abundance of updated and brand-new packages. Many software packages themselves have been exclusively patched by the Manjaro team for stability. Accessibility has also been enhanced. New user-friendly desktop tools have been added to easily manage user accounts and to configure the system. A full and comprehensive 66-page user guide has been produced." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database|
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- Broletto GNU/Linux. Broletto GNU/Linux is an Italian Debian-based distribution featuring the LXDE desktop. The project's website is in Italian.
- ESCLinux. ESCLinux is a Debian-based Linux live CD. It features a modern GNOME desktop, with everything needed to play and create interactive fiction games (Inform, Tads, Hugo, Alan, JACL), and also to read, listen to and create ABC music. It can also be used as a server for accessing those resources from other computers on the network (through the X display, VNC or Samba shares).
- mateu. Mateu is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution featuring the MATE desktop.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 7 January 2013. 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|