| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 491, 21 January 2013
Welcome to this year's third issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Fuduntu is an unusual distribution in that it uses a fairly outdated base system and desktop (GNOME 2), but keeps many of the more visible applications continuously updated. It's still a young project, but it continues to evolve and it will be interesting to see how it copes with the package update process in the future. Jesse Smith installed version 2013.1 to take a look at the latest release from a project that seems to have found a good compromise between the much-loved old and the intriguingly new desktop and software. In the news section, Fedora 18 was finally released and it comes with a most extensive choice of desktop user interfaces to date, SolusOS announces a fork of GNOME 3 Fallback mode that will ship with its upcoming release, and OS4 attempts to build a distribution that focuses on satisfying a general desktop user in terms of features and desktop layout. Also in this issue, a quick Questions and Answers section on accessing encrypted disk drives from a live CD, an introduction to a Debian-based distribution with Trinity (a KDE 3 fork) as its default desktop, and the usual regular sections. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (19MB) and MP3 (30MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First look at Fuduntu 2013.1
The Fuduntu distribution was originally based on Fedora and took steps to make the popular Red Hat-sponsored distro friendlier to desktop users. Recently the Fuduntu project has branched away from Fedora and now maintains its own package repositories and introduces its own independent changes. Fuduntu is now a rolling release project and posts new ISO snapshots about four times a year. The first snapshot of 2013 was announced earlier this month and it carried a number of new features I found interesting.
One of the new features in Fuduntu is the Jockey utility, a program which probes the system for hardware which can make use of third-party or non-free drivers. The Jockey application then offers to download these proprietary bits and install them. The Jockey tool has been popular in the Ubuntu community and I am happy to see it spread to other desktop oriented projects. Fuduntu is also the only Linux distribution of which I am aware which has included both the Netflix desktop software and Valve's Steam client. The Steam client is native Linux software designed to assist users in purchasing and downloading games. The Netflix desktop package is, in fact, Windows software that has been bundled with WINE to allow users to watch videos from the Netflix catalog.
The Fuduntu distribution can be downloaded as a DVD ISO in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds. The downloaded ISO is approximately 960MB in size. Booting from the image brings up the GNOME 2 desktop. A welcome screen appears on the desktop providing us with links to the project's documentation, forum, blog, social network websites and IRC channel. Should we run into problems there are certainly many avenues by which we can seek assistance. Dismissing this helpful window we find a classic desktop environment with the application menu at the top of the screen and a launcher at the bottom of the display. A single icon for launching the system installer sits on the desktop. The desktop's wallpaper shows a tiger. My first impression of the graphical environment, with its dynamic launcher and big cat image, is that Fuduntu is trying to make users of OS X feel at home.
Fuduntu 2013.1 - the default GNOME 2 desktop
(full image size: 1,574kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Fuduntu, following its Fedora origins, uses the Anaconda system installer. The graphical installer walks us through confirming our keyboard layout, setting a hostname, providing our time zone and creating a root password. The partitioning section is fairly powerful, letting us set up LVM volumes, RAID or regular partitions. Encryption of partitions is supported. The version of Anaconda that comes with Fuduntu has a few issues. For example, the root partition we set up must use the ext4 file system and the installer demands an additional partition be created for GPT. The last screen of the installer allows us to configure and install the boot loader, GRUB2 in this case.
The first time we boot into Fuduntu a graphical wizard appears and walks us through some final configuration steps. We are shown the project's licensing information and then we are asked to create a regular user account. The following screen lets us either set the system's clock with the current time or enable clock synchronization using time servers. With these tasks completed we are brought to a graphical login screen.
When I first logged into Fuduntu one of the first things I noticed was an icon for Jockey which appeared in the upper-right corner of the screen. Clicking this icon allowed me to install non-free drivers for my video card if I so desired. Shortly following the appearance of the Jockey icon I also noticed another icon in the system tray which indicated software updates were available in the repositories. This is where I ran into my one serious issue while using Fuduntu. This distribution uses PackageKit, as do many other distributions. PackageKit has a bad habit of locking the package database and not letting go, occasionally for a long time. The first day I was using Fuduntu any time I tried to install third-party drivers, run the software updater or make use of the package manager whichever program I was using would sit idle, waiting for the package database to become available. PackageKit would never release its lock and so I was left waiting. Eventually I solved this problem by disabling the PackageKit service and, from then on, managing software was smooth sailing.
On the subject of package management Fuduntu provides a regular graphical application for package management referred to as Add/Remove Software. This program provides a simplified interface which allows people to search for packages and add or remove software. Other than being a touch slow at times, this graphical front-end to YUM worked quite well. There is a second program in the application menu called Ailurus which can also be used for basic package management. Ailurus is part package manager, part system settings tool and part repository manager. Despite the fact Ailurus takes on several tasks, it has a nice interface with clearly labelled buttons and I found it a useful program to have, especially when it came to customizing the desktop environment.
Fuduntu 2013.1 - managing desktop packages and settings with Ailurus
(full image size: 285kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Fuduntu comes with a nice collection of desktop software. The developers appear to have stuck to a one-app-per-task philosophy, trying to select the best (or perhaps the most popular) application for each category. We are treated to the Chromium web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client and the LibreOffice suite. The Dropbox client software is available to us as is the Pidgin instant messaging client. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is installed by default alongside the Shotwell photo manager. We find the VLC multimedia player installed, the cheese webcam app, the Brasero disc burner and Deja Dup for performing backups. Fuduntu comes with a system monitor, the GParted disk manager and Network Manager to help us get on-line. Like its parent, Fuduntu has a great collection of programs for performing system administration tasks and this makes working with the firewall, user accounts, printers and system services a breeze. We also have a full range of GNOME configuration tools to help us adjust the look & feel of the desktop. In the background we find a full range of codecs for playing multimedia, the Adobe Flash plugin, Java and the GNU Compiler Collection. As it uses a rolling release model Fuduntu regularly updates its software, but at the time of writing the distribution supplies the 3.6 version of the Linux kernel.
I have mentioned Fuduntu uses the GNOME 2 desktop environment by default and this raised some questions in my mind. I know a lot of people are fond of GNOME 2, but it is no longer maintained upstream and most distributions producing new releases have moved on to using GNOME Shell, Cinnamon or the MATE desktop. I e-mailed Fuduntu's lead developer, Andrew Wyatt, to ask about this unusual choice. He indicated the Fuduntu team is maintaining the GNOME 2 packages and keeping up to date with security fixes. GNOME 2 still has a large following in the Debian and Red Hat communities and so the legacy desktop is still being widely maintained by various downstream developers. This allows Fuduntu to continue using GNOME 2 while the developers examine various migration options.
Fuduntu 2013.1 - system administration tools
(full image size: 410kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The two features of Fuduntu I was most interested in trying were the Netflix and Steam packages. I found the native Linux Steam client in the Fuduntu repositories and installed it without any problems. I was able to get it up and running, sign in and browse games available through the Steam store. Netflix, a program which allows for the renting and streaming of videos, wasn't quite as straight forward. Installing the Netflix package installs WINE, the Microsoft .NET framework and other packages required by the software. Trying to run Netflix from its application menu entry didn't produce any results. Running it from the command line revealed that the Firefox web browser dependency was missing. It isn't the Linux Firefox package which is required, but rather the Windows build of Firefox which is needed. I manually installed Firefox using WINE and, from that point on, Netflix worked. I'm pleased to see development in this area as games and entertainment are generally the few remaining reasons many people continue to dual-boot. Having software, like Netflix, even if it requires a compatibility layer, will be a welcome addition for many users.
I ran Fuduntu on a physical machine (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card and Realtek network card) and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. In both environments Fuduntu performed well and I encountered no serious problems. Sound and networking worked out of the box and my screen was set to its maximum resolution. I found that when running on physical hardware with the default video drivers parts of my desktop wouldn't always refresh in a timely manner, leaving behind little artefacts (bits of windows or blank areas), but performance remained good. Fuduntu combined with GNOME 2 makes for a fairly light operating system and I found the system would only use approximately 140 MB of RAM when logged into the desktop.
After playing with Fuduntu for a week I have some mixed feelings about the distribution which I will try to break down into a handful of pros and cons. In the negative column we find the Anaconda installer. While it works, Anaconda is showing its age and some of the issues in Fuduntu's version have been corrected in more recent versions of Fedora. Fuduntu, in forking away from its base has managed to maintain a more stable and (in my opinion, appealing) desktop environment, but it comes at the price of missing the improvements Fedora has introduced elsewhere. This shows up in a few places, but mostly in the installer. Having PackageKit running on the default install made any software management impossible until PackageKit was disabled. The YUM package manager is a great tool and the graphical front-ends are good and it's a shame they are attached to the ball and chain which is PackageKit. I'm not sure if sticking with GNOME 2 should fall into the "pro" or "con" column. It's familiar and lighter than most of the environments which have sprung up to replace it. I suppose this is very much a personal preference issue. Is using GNOME 2 a sign of stability and maturity as options are evaluated? It certainly appeals more than having Fuduntu jump ship to whatever unstable alternative comes along. On the other hand, some may see using software which is no longer supported upstream as a losing battle against time.
On the positive side of things I have to say I'm pleased with the direction the Fuduntu team has taken with regards to the end user experience. Once the system is up and running we get a pleasant desktop experience with an uncluttered menu. I like that the distribution takes the approach of one-app-per-task and chooses the best program for each job rather than programs which match the desktop environment. It means users are getting good, powerful programs and it is obviously more important that these programs work rather than having them conform to some idea of toolkit purity. As I mentioned before Fuduntu provides Valve's Steam client and a Netflix package and it is the first distribution I know of which includes both in its repositories. I think this will appeal to a lot of users. Fuduntu is unusual in that it appears to be a conservative distribution and yet it maintains a rolling release model, constantly (if slowly) updating. At this point I haven't used Fuduntu long enough to determine how well this approach works. Balancing stability with upgrades is a hard line to walk and I wish I had more time to discover how well Fuduntu's repositories hold up to long term use. Overall, my impression of Fuduntu has been that it is a little rough during the initial setup phase. After that initial hump, it is pretty smooth sailing. The distribution is clean, quick and seems well suited to home desktop and laptop computers.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Fedora 18 with "mobile" and "classic" desktops, SolusOS forks GNOME 3 Fallback, OS4 in spotlight
So Fedora 18 was finally release last week, exactly ten weeks later than originally planned. The brand-new system installer is the main new feature and the principal reason for the extended delay in the development process. But there is more, as PCWorld's Katherine Noyes notes in "Five notable new features in Fedora Linux 18", including the presence of the GNOME 3-like MATE desktop in Fedora's official repositories: "The introduction of a mobile-style paradigm in the world of Linux desktops has been just as controversial as it has in Windows 8, causing no end of debate over the merits of modern contenders such as Ubuntu's Unity and GNOME 3. The enduring popularity of GNOME 2 has been striking in contrast, and we've already seen numerous examples of efforts to preserve the classic desktop. Now, Fedora is offering a like-minded option in the form of MATE. 'This desktop is perfect for users who have been running GNOME Classic or other window managers like Xfce as an alternative to GNOME 3,' the Fedora team notes in the software's release announcement."
For those who enjoy "mobile" interfaces on their desktop and laptop computers, GNOME 3.6, as shipped with Fedora 18, offers many interesting improvements. David Rice investigates them in this Linux Library article entitled "GNOME 3.6 User Interface Improvements for Fedora 18": "With this release the GNOME team has decided to focus on aesthetics and accessibility for the maximum number of users. The user interface has been upgraded with several small but significant changes. Fedora 18 is the first distribution to feature the GNOME 3.6 desktop. The active workspace inside the activities overview will now appear with clearer highlighting. One of the most notable changes to the GNOME Shell is how applications are launched. The applications tab was removed and incorporated into the activities overview. The grid button located inside the GNOME 3 dash can now be used to locate additional application launchers. The dash will appear when the activities overview being displayed. This change is meant to draw more attention to the activities overview search bar which is actually quite powerful."
* * * * *
But let's get back to the classic desktop. Last week, the developers of SolusOS, a well-received new distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux, announced a fork of GNOME 3's fallback mode. Its name is Consort desktop environment and it will be part of the upcoming SolusOS 2 when it's launched. The project's lead developer, Ikey Doherty, explains the reasons behind creating Consort: "We've forked GNOME Classic (fallback) and the fork will be called Consort. The reasoning for the name is very simple, the desktop always accompanies you. Why did we fork it? Mainly to protect the users of our desktop components. Pinning patched packages higher than underlying packages proves far too tricky. The amount of patches in each mentioned component qualifies fork-status anyway, so it was time to admit it. Some projects are well under way, such as Athena and Consort Panel, and some are brand new, such as the Consortium window manager. With our forks, we can maintain an experience virtually identical to GNOME 2, but vastly improve it with no need for hardware acceleration such as with GNOME Shell or Cinnamon." Visit the above link for screenshots.
* * * * *
Another up-and-coming Linux distro project with an aggressive release schedule is OS4, a Xubuntu-based distribution with a highly customised Xfce desktop. ComputerWorld's Rohan Pearce takes a detailed look at the project in Linux distro spotlight: OS4 OpenDesktop: "Desktop Linux has come a long way from the good old days when getting a window manager working required opening an XFree86 configuration file in vim and figuring out why the fsck X wouldn't load. However, while modern Linux distributions may outshine their predecessors they still frequently leave much to be desired when it comes to usability, especially for non-technical people, says Roberto Dohnert. Since its creation in 2006, he has been working on OS4, a Linux distro squarely targeted at users who just want to know three things about an OS, according to Dohnert: 'One: Does it work well? Two: Does it run the apps I need it to run? Three: Can I watch YouTube and listen to music?' OS4 is derived from Ubuntu. 'We strip out everything and then start to recompile it adding multimedia codecs, device drivers and applications,' explains Dohnert. 'We also add support for devices not supported by vanilla Ubuntu, such as support for WebOS-based devices.'"
|Questions And Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Accessing encrypted drive from a live CD
Protected-during-travel asks: Is it possible to access my data on an encrypted drive from a live CD/USB, in the event the host system will no longer boot? I've been in the habit recently of encrypting the entire drive of my travel laptop during the install process if the option is available.
DistroWatch answers: Assuming the reason behind the system no longer booting is a problem with the operating system (a software issue) and not a matter of hardware failure then it is possible to access data from an encrypted partition. Typically there are two important steps involved. First we need to let the operating system (running from our live CD) know where our encrypted volume is and then we need to mount it. Let's look at an example where we have an encrypted file system on partition /dev/sda2. We can perform the following steps from a live CD assuming that the cryptsetup software package is available to us.
First we inform the system that /dev/sda2 is our encrypted partition and we assign a name to this partition. For the purposes of this example I have decided to name the partition "encrypteddrive". Once we run the following command we will be asked to enter our encryption password:
cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 encrypteddrive
Next we create a mount point where we will access the data:
Finally we tell the operating system to take the encryption partition (identified by the name we assigned it earlier) and attach the partition to our MyDrive directory:
mount /dev/mapper/encrypteddrive MyDrive
Our data will now be available, unencrypted, in the MyDrive directory. We can access, copy or edit the files as required. When we are done recovering our data it is important we clean up after ourselves. To do this we first unmount the encrypted partition and then remove its record from the system:
People using recent releases of Ubuntu and derived distributions will have an easier time accessing their encrypted home folders. Once the user has booted from the Ubuntu live CD they can mount the disk partition containing their home folder. The data in the home folder can be accessed by running the command:
cryptsetup luksClose /dev/mapper/encrypteddrive
This command will search for encrypted folders on the drive and, assuming it finds one, will prompt for the user's password. The unencrypted data is temporarily made available in the operating system's /tmp directory.
The above solutions make certain assumptions: you have a live CD or USB device, you can recall your password, the hard drive is not physically damaged and you can install cryptsetup over a network connection if necessary. To handle cases where those assumptions do not hold, I recommend having backups. I try to remember to make copies of my data prior to traveling and I leave the copy at home. In the event my laptop is damaged or goes missing it is good to know a recent copy of my files is available somewhere.
|Released Last Week
Manjaro Linux 0.8.3 "Openbox"
Carl Duff has announced the release of a new Manjaro Linux edition featuring the lightweight Openbox user interface and the Synapse semantic launcher: "Manjaro welcomes another addition to the family in the form of our brand-new Openbox flavour. Designed and built exclusively by the Manjaro team, this lightweight, sleek, and super-fast flavour comes with a unique twist - traditional menus are not used to find and launch applications. Instead, the heart of the desktop is Synapse. At first glance comparable to a typical menu search bar, Synapse is in fact a very powerful and versatile tool that boasts a wide range of useful features, particularly due to the optional plugins available. Some of these features include: locating and launching applications faster than menus; accessing specific file types such as documents, pictures and movies...." Read the full release announcement for further information and a screenshot.
Fedora 18, the latest stable version of the Red Hat-sponsored community distribution of Linux, has finally arrived: "The Fedora project is incredibly delighted to announce the release of Fedora 18. What's new? The user interface for Fedora's installation software, Anaconda, has been completely re-written from the ground up. Making its debut in Fedora 18, the new UI introduces major improvements to the installation experience. It uses a hub-and-spoke model that makes installation easier for new users, offering them concise explanations about their choices. Advanced users and system administrators are of course still able to take advantage of more complex options. The general look and feel of the installation experience has been vastly upgraded, providing modern, clean, and comprehensible visuals during the process." See the release announcement and release notes for a detailed description of new features.
Tomáš Matějíček has announced the release of Slax 7.0.4, the latest update of the project's Slackware-based live CD with KDE: "A new version of the Slax pocket operating system has been released. Improvements and fixes include: added 'load=' and 'noload=' boot parameter support to filter loaded modules; better bootinst.sh compatibility with Ubuntu and its clones; PXE now tries to get Slax data over TFTP (from the same server) if HTTP connection to port 7529 fails; fixed a bug which appeared when using from=... to load Slax from a path which included a directory with two letters; fixed URL open in KDE, so clicking a link in Pidgin for example opens it in Firefox instead of downloading the URL by KDE kioslave; support for special files in Slax bundles; the autobuild system now adds a file /run/requires to all modules which require other modules...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a complete list of bug fixes.
Karanbir Singh has announced the release of CentOS 5.9, a Linux distribution built from the source code of the recently-released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.9: "We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 5.9 for i386 and x86_64 architectures. New features: the UOP added native MySQL support to Postfix, you might consider moving from the postfix-mysql package from the centosplus repo to this package if you are using the centosplus package only for MySQL support; java-1.7.0-openjdk (Java 7) support has been added in CentOS-5.9, java-1.6.0-openjdk (Java 6) is also still available and most things java in the distribution still use Java 6; ant17 (Ant 1.7.0) has been added to CentOS-5.9, the older ant (Ant 1.6.5) is also still available; Microsoft Hyper-V drivers have been added to allow CentOS to be more efficient as a virtual machine when installed on Microsoft Hyper-V server...." For more information please consult the release announcement and the detailed release notes.
Juergen Daubert has announced the release of CRUX 3.0, a lightweight, x86-64 optimized Linux distribution targeted at experienced Linux users: "More than 11 years after the release of CRUX 0.5 for i686, CRUX 3.0 is the first release for the x86-64 architecture. At the time Per Liden had created CRUX, the i686 processor on base of the 32-bit Intel IA-32 architecture was state-of-the-art and therefore chosen by him as the default optimization for CRUX. But nowadays the i686 architecture is more or less obsolete, at least for desktop machines, and superseded by the x86-64 architecture. Toolchain updates: CRUX 3.0 comes with a multilib toolchain which includes glibc 2.16.0, GCC 4.7.2 and Binutils 2.23.1. Kernel: Linux 3.6.11. CRUX 3.0 ships with X.Org 7.7 and X.Org Server 1.13.0." Read the release notes for additional important notes.
UberStudent 2.0 "Lightweight"
Stephen Ewen has announced the release of UberStudent 2.0 "Lightweight" edition, an Ubuntu-based educational distribution designed for learning and teaching academic computing at the higher education and advanced secondary levels: "I'm very pleased to announce the release of UberStudent 2.0 Lightweight edition. It is designed to reinvigorate older or slower computers, and for netbooks, as well as for anyone who simply prefers a lightweight Linux distribution. Great care and testing has gone into aiming this release as the most feature-filled, polished, and stable lightweight Linux distribution available for education. It features a synergy of smartly chosen installed applications and web apps. The result is a remarkably full-featured desktop that enables you to be productive even if you lack Internet access." Read the rest of the release announcement which includes known issues and a screenshot.
* * * * *
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
- ArchPup. ArchPup is minimalistic Puppy Linux variant built using Arch Linux packages, with Pacman installed and configured as the default package manager. Combining speed and low-resource requirements from Puppy Linux with this powerful and efficient package manager, ArchPup provides a light-weight, portable operating system and gives full control to the end user.
- Colorwheel OS. Colorwheel OS is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution with a goal of making it painless to switch from Windows to Linux.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 28 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)
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 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
|• Issue 660 (2016-05-09): Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Mint's xapps, FreeBSD Quarterly Report, Debian updates 32-bit support, addressing GPL violations|
|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
|• Issue 658 (2016-04-25): Kali Linux 2016.1, elementary OS 0.3.2, Debian elects Project Leader, Fedora 24 feature preview, Nard reaches 1.0|
|• 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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