| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 495, 18 February 2013
Welcome to this year's 7th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! This week's feature article is a first-look review of SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra" edition, a lightweight distribution based on Debian's "Testing" branch. As a fairly recent addition to DistroWatch, SparkyLinux is still new and fresh and as such, its development is powered by enthusiasm and excitement, sentiments not always present in many of the more established projects. But as Jesse Smith finds out, the distro still needs a bit more testing and bug fixing before he would recommend it to a wider audience. In the news section, Debian announces the availability of the first release candidate of Debian Installer for "Wheezy", Fedora developers publish a tentative release schedule of the project's next version, Kororaa Linux changes its name to Korora Project, and Xubuntu maintainers decide to remove the CD size restriction from their upcoming releases to include more software and tools. Also in this issue, a Question and Answers section on cloud privacy and version numbering in the open-source software world, the addition of Rescatux to the DistroWatch database, and the usual regular columns, including an introduction to a Turkish distribution project called ArchMint. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (22MB) and MP3 (31MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First look at SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra" edition
I'm not sure what brought me to the SparkyLinux website. Maybe it was the promise of running a new distribution based on something other than Ubuntu (simply for variety's sake) or maybe it was the name. Maybe it was the result of browsing the DistroWatch distribution list late at night. Whatever the cause was I found myself on the project's website, looking at the download options. SparkyLinux 2.1 has just one edition, the "Ultra", code name "Eris", with Openbox providing the user interface. The distribution is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds and the download image is approximately 1.3GB in size. While downloading the project's ISO image I had a look at the website and found it to be a bit sparse. I was able to learn SparkyLinux is based on Debian, specifically the distribution is built using software from the Debian Testing repository. I also learned SparkyLinux comes with multimedia codecs on the installation media and the distribution is designed to work on machines with small amounts of memory.
Booting from the SparkyLinux media we are presented with a boot menu where we can decide whether to boot into the live desktop environment using the default graphic settings or using failsafe graphic settings. Shortly after beginning the boot process we're brought to a graphical interface powered by the Openbox window manager. At the top of the screen we find our task switcher and system tray. Down at the bottom of the display is an application launcher and over to the right-hand side is the Conky status panel. The status panel constantly updates to provide us with information on the running system, particularly resource usage statistics. The theme for SparkyLinux is grey on grey, which gives the entire interface a disabled or "greyed out" look.
SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra" - the default desktop arrangement and theme
(full image size: 614kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
SparkyLinux has a system installer which can be opened from the desktop's launch bar. The installer is comprised of a series of small pop-up windows which will ask us to confirm settings or enter information. First the installer confirms our language and keyboard layout. Then the installer launches the GParted partition manager and we are instructed to create at least two partitions, one for the root file system and one for swap space. Using GParted limits our choice of file systems a bit as the user is able to select between creating swap, ext2, ext3 and ext4 file systems only. Once we are finished partitioning the disk the installer takes over from GParted and we are asked which partition we would like to mount as our root file system and whether we would like to use a separate partition for our home directories. Next we are asked to create a password for the root account and we are also asked to create a non-root user.
The root password and the new user account information are all entered on one screen and I found entering a password the system does not think is suitable will wipe the entire form and we are asked to start over. The installer then asks if we would like to install a boot loader on our root partition or on the system's MBR and then we select our time zone. The installer takes a few minutes to copy its files to the hard drive and then we are done. The installer asks if we would like to reboot the system or continue using the live environment. The first time I installed SparkyLinux I opted to keep using the system and then found rebooting was a bit of a challenge. The graphical environment didn't offer a reboot/shutdown option; the buttons for shutting down the system were disabled. Logging out of the graphical environment would cause the system to immediately login again. I finally opened a terminal and used the command "sudo halt" to bring down the operating system.
Booting into the locally installed version of SparkyLinux brings us to a grey themed login screen. When I first logged in to SparkyLinux a notification appeared in the upper-right corner of the screen informing me that new software updates were available. Clicking on the update icon in the system tray brings up a simple GUI program which shows us a list of available updates. Each package is displayed with its name and a brief description of what the package provides. I found this simple update app worked well and I had no problems applying updates. It's a good thing the update mechanism works so well because there is a steady flow of new software from the repositories. The first day I was using SparkyLinux there were 22 updates waiting for me, the following day there were an additional 49 updates. Over the following two days 18 more packages had been updated and the trend continued throughout the week. Most of these upgrades are provided by the Debian Testing repository, but SparkyLinux comes with several other repositories enabled, including the Google Chrome repository, the Opera web browser repository and repositories for PlayOnLinux and Debian Multimedia.
Package management on SparkyLinux is handled by the Synaptic graphical application which provides a nice front-end to the APT package management tools. Synaptic lets us search for software by name and by category. Software can be marked for installation or removal by clicking a box next to the package's name. Synaptic takes the approach of having us create batches of actions (installing or removing packages) which are then all processed at once. While these batches of actions are being processed the package manager is locked, preventing us from queuing additional actions. I found Synaptic worked quite well and I had no problems using it to manage my system's software. The only issue I ran into was with the Opera web browser repository. Attempting to install a package from the Opera repository resulted in an error saying the file could not be found. If I wanted to install Opera, it would have to be done by visiting the browser's website.
SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra" - managing software packages with Synaptic
(full image size: 397kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The distribution comes with an unusual combination of software, some of which is fairly standard for a modern distro. Other applications appear to have been selected specifically for their small size. On the default install we are given the Chromium web browser, the Claws e-mail client, the XChat IRC chat software and the Pidgin instant messenger. The Exaile and VLC media players are included as are the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spreadsheet program. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is installed by default as is the Xfburn disc burning software. We're treated to the Catfish file search software, the gFTP file transfer program and the Audacity audio editor. The DeVeDe video disc authoring software is included along with a desktop video recorder, text editor and archive manager.
A graphical utility is included for adjusting the system's firewall. Network Manager is included to help us get on-line and WINE is installed in case we wish to run software built for the Microsoft Windows platform. Java is available in the default install as are the GNU Compiler Collection and a weather app which defaults to showing us the environmental conditions in Warsaw. One of the background services is the real-time watchdog, used to monitor and change the scheduling policy of processes. Behind the scenes SparkyLinux comes with multimedia codecs, the Flash web browser plugin and the Linux kernel, version 3.2.
I tried running SparkyLinux on my desktop machine (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) and found the operating system performed quite well. Boot times were short, performance on the desktop was excellent and my screen was set to its maximum resolution. Sound worked out of the box and I encountered no hardware related problems. The distribution is fairly light and sitting at the desktop I found the system used approximately 100 MB of memory. That could be reduced further if the Conky status panel and dynamic application launcher were disabled. I also ran SparkyLinux in a VirtualBox virtual machine and found it performed well there too. I had no problems with the distribution in the virtual environment and performance was well above average.
SparkyLinux 2.1 "Ultra" - web browsing and multimedia applications
(full image size: 275kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
There were a few minor issues I ran into while using SparkyLinux. These weren't so many bugs as just design choices which I found irritating. For example, during the installation process I discovered the root user's password and the primary user's password could not be the same. Possible a good design choice from the point of view of security, but for a home desktop system it struck me as overkill. In a similar vein the system comes with the sudo command installed, but the primary user isn't granted sudo privileges, sudo access must be enabled manually. I also noticed that the Tux Commander file manager doesn't, by default, associate file types with applications. This means if a new user opens the file manager, sees the "readme.txt" file in their home directory and clicks on it the file will not open. Instead a configuration screen pops up asking if we would like to configure an action to match the selected file. These aren't bugs, but they are areas which could be improved.
While I was getting accustomed to SparkyLinux and the way it does things I ran into a few problems as I have mentioned above, but I was also impressed with the distribution's performance. The lightweight graphical interface manages to provide a snappy desktop experience and I found I had a good deal of functionality out of the box. Still, throughout the week I found myself faced with a bit of a puzzle and that was I didn't know who SparkyLinux was targeting. The project's website gives us a rough idea of what the distribution is, but not why it is designed the way it is. There are plenty of other low-resource, Debian-based distributions providing multimedia out of the box and some of them have been around long enough to work out the quirks with which SparkyLinux is wrestling.
Now I quite like distro diversity and I'm not one to complain about being spoiled for choice. Yet the fact remains, I couldn't figure out exactly what SparkyLinux is trying to accomplish. The installer, configuration tools and default menu aren't particularly user-friendly. The system is quite light on resources, but then enables a dynamic launcher and superfluous tools like the Conky status panel. The distribution finds a thin niche between being conservative and being a rolling release as it is based on Debian's Testing repository. We get a constant stream of updates every day, yet we're generally using older software. In short, I'm not quite sure how to rate my experience as I don't have a firm idea of what this distribution is trying to accomplish. It's pretty quick and, with a little polishing, could make for a good desktop distribution for older computers (at least older computers which have a DVD drive). For the time being I think SparkyLinux needs some time to grow into itself.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Debian Installer 7.0 RC1, Fedora 19 schedule, Kororaa name change, Xubuntu 13.04 on DVD
The stable release of Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 is getting closer. Yesterday (Sunday) Cyril Brulebois announced the availability of the first release candidate of the Debian Installer for "Wheezy": "The Debian Installer team is pleased to announce the first release candidate of the installer for Debian 7.0 'Wheezy'. Improvements in this release of the installer: brltty - fix support for the theme=dark accessibility option and enable Orca in GNOME 3 sessions too; cdebconf - fix display of info messages (e.g. 'Rescue mode' in the banner) and improve speech synthesis support; debconf - fix misleading man-db title for GRUB prompt; debian-cd - improve GRUB menus used when booting in UEFI mode so they match up better with the equivalent syslinux menus and change the default UEFI display resolution to 800x600 for maximum compatibility; GRUB 2 - improve support for EFI installs and fix infinite recursion in gettext when translation fails...." Interested testers can download the new Debian Installer images from here.
* * * * *
The unusually long development period preceding the release of Fedora 18 last month has resulted in further delays in the planning of the project's next version. After a long discussion, the developers have settled on 25 June as the target day for the arrival of Fedora 19. Given that, historically, Fedora release schedules were only met on very rare occasions, one should not have very high expectations, but at least there is a goal and a proposed feature set: "The Fedora developers have specified a release date for the upcoming Fedora 19. Initially, the developers had rather vaguely said the next version of the distribution would be released at the end of May, but the project has now specified 25 June to give the developers some breathing room after the Fedora 18 delays. As part of the development of Fedora 19, the developers are discussing which features should be included in the release. A switch to MariaDB has already been decided on and the developers have also accepted a proposal to make Policy Kit solely responsible for privilege escalation in several use cases. Usermode/consolehelper, which was used for many of these tasks before, would be retired as part of the process."
* * * * *
Kororaa Linux, which started its exciting life back in 2005 as a rather unusual Gentoo-based live distribution with out-of-the box Xgl support before becoming a user-friendly Fedora-based distro, has changed its name to Korora. Project founder Chris Smart explains: "It's with great pleasure that I announce that Kororaa Linux is changing to Korora Project. We haven't just been super busy working on the new 18 release, but also setting up this new project and everything that goes with that. The motivation for this was not only the dropping of an excess letter ‘a', but it's also a reflection of the community which is starting to grow nicely and I wanted something people could better associate with and belong to. The new website has been set up at kororaproject.org and feedback is welcome (although be gentle, we're still ironing out any kinks)." The first release under the new name is due shortly: "The new Korora 18 images really are just around the corner; we've delayed to add some exciting new features, such as out-of-the-box support for Adobe Flash and inclusion of Valve's Steam client. Stay tuned!"
* * * * *
Finally, an interesting announcement published last week by the developers of Xubuntu. Like its parent project, the Ubuntu's Xfce desktop variant too will no longer fit on a CD image and will thereafter come in a 1 GB DVD image instead: "The Xubuntu team had an extra meeting on Monday to discuss and decide a possible move to a bigger ISO image size and other important issues for 'Raring'. After a thorough discussion, which included the obvious drawback that will no longer fit on a CD and the amount of developer time currently spent keeping the ISO image small enough to fit on a CD, the team decided that Xubuntu will have a 1 GB ISO image by clear vote of 8-0. The bigger ISO image size will be featured starting from 'Raring', which is due to be released in April. With this extra 300 MB of space, the team has decided to reintroduce both the Gnumeric spreadsheet application and the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) image editor, both of which were dropped for the 12.10 release due to space constraints. Discussion about reintroduction of more of the most popular language packs and extra artwork will continue on the IRC channel #xubuntu-devel and on the Xubuntu development mailing list in the following weeks."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
On cloud privacy, version numbering
Public-cloud-private-data asks: I've heard that some cloud servers are (or can be) accessed by government agencies. Are there any cloud providers that are safe, i.e. private?
DistroWatch answers: Any time you place your data on a machine outside of your control there is an element of risk. It is entirely possible that an on-line storage provider may have their security compromised. It is also possible local law agencies may acquire warrants to monitor data stored on a company's servers. This means it is always possible data stored on someone else's servers may be taken off-line or viewed by third-parties. Really, we are looking at two separate problems here, the first being we want to keep our data private and the other is we want our data to always be available to us.
In order to keep our data private we should encrypt files locally before they leave our computer. That way it doesn't matter if a third-party gains access to our cloud storage; they won't be able to read our files. We have covered some simple encryption techniques before in DistroWatch Weekly. In order to insure our files are available to us at all times we should look at making backups of our data to multiple locations. Storing data in an on-line cloud gives us a single copy of our data, one which can disappear if our Internet connection goes down or the service is taken off-line. We should have at least one other backup stored somewhere off-line, perhaps on an external drive. This gives us an additional layer of protection against data loss.
* * * * *
That-does-not-add-up asks: I know that KDE 4.10 is in development. Why are they calling it 4.10? Do you think it seems they are cycling their versions back through the 4.x again? 4.10 is just like a 4.1 to me and while I am not sure about KDE having a 4.1 before, I know there have been 4.3 and 4.4 and so on. I would have started with a 5.0 if I were KDE, I think. Any ideas?
DistroWatch answers: The version numbers assigned to software projects are generally not intended to be read as decimal numbers. In most cases the version number of a software product is designed to be read as a series of numbers separated by decimal points, each number providing a separate piece of information. It's a form of short hand which often just happens to look like a mathematical number. Looking at KDE, for example, 4.10 is read as "four point ten". With the KDE project the first number tells us which version of the Qt framework was used to build this release. At the moment KDE is using version 4 of the Qt framework. We are using version 10 of the KDE desktop built using Qt 4. Should the KDE 4.10 release require security updates we may see a new release called KDE 4.10.1, which would indicate the package was built using Qt 4, this is version 10 of that series and there has been 1 minor update. In the near future the KDE project will move to using the Qt 5 framework and, at that time, we will see KDE 5.0 released, followed by 5.1.
Looking around at other large software projects we see similar naming conventions. For example, the Linux kernel was recently in what was called the 2.6.x series. In that case the trailing number was increased with each release so we had versions 2.6.9, 2.6.10, 2.6.11 and so on. Ubuntu releases are named based on the date, with the first number indicating the year of release and the second number indicating the month. Which is why we saw 12.04 come out in April of 2012 and 12.10 come out in October of 2012.
|Released Last Week
ROSA 2012 "Desktop Fresh GNOME"
Konstantin Kochereshkin has announced the release of ROSA 2012 "Desktop Fresh GNOME" edition, a desktop-oriented Linux distribution with GNOME 3.6.2: "ROSA community members have prepared a variation of the ROSA Desktop Fresh 2012 operating system with the GNOME desktop environment. Traditionally, original versions of ROSA Desktop operating system are provided with the KDE desktop environment which includes a lot of design modifications and functionality enhancements. A nice-looking ROSA theme and a set of brand-name applications highly integrated with KDE have already become recognizable ROSA features and made ROSA familiar to Linux users. However, some ROSA users prefer another desktop environment - GNOME. This desktop environment suggests its own approach to graphical environment and wider possibilities of integration with existing IT infrastructure." Here is the full release announcement with screenshots.
OS4 4.0 "Enterprise"
Roberto Dohnert has announced the release of OS4 4.0 "Enterprise" edition, an Ubuntu-based distribution for desktops and servers with special enterprise features: "Today we are pleased to release OS4 Enterprise 4.0 for the general public. What is OS4 Enterprise 4.0 vs OS4 OpenDesktop 13? OS4 Enterprise is built with enterprise customers in mind. OS4 Enterprise 4.0 is built on LTS technologies and the release schedule is a little more spread out than our community-driven distribution, OS4 OpenDesktop. With OS4 Enterprise 4.0 customers get a full Microsoft-compatible office suite, a groupware suite as well as complete development environments. In OS4 Enterprise 4.0, we are delivering a system that uses Roles. Roles are what specific task you want your OS to perform. Right now we have two, desktop and server." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
Colin Watson has announced the release of Ubuntu 12.04.2, the latest update of the distribution's current long-term support version: "The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop, Server, Cloud, and Core products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support. To help support a broader range of hardware, the 12.04.2 release adds an updated kernel and X stack for new installations on x86 architectures, and matches the ability of 12.10 to install on systems using UEFI firmware with Secure Boot enabled. As usual, this point release includes many updates, and updated installation media has been provided so that fewer updates will need to be downloaded after installation." See the full release announcement and release notes for further information.
Dick MacInnis has announced the release of DreamStudio 12.04.2, an updated build of the project's multimedia distribution based on Ubuntu's latest long-term support (LTS) release: "We're proud to announce the official release of DreamStudio Unity 12.04.2. Here are just some of the newest features: audio indicator - the second version of DreamStudio's exclusive audio indicator features quick access to ALSA controls, JACK utilities, and software synths; new name - DreamStudio OS is now DreamStudio Unity; hardware support - for those of you with Ivy Bridge processors, we now feature a dedicated install image with the 3.5 Linux kernel; updates - many of DreamStudio's major software packages, such as Blender, GIMP, and Inkscape have been updated to the latest stable versions, and hundreds of security updates to the base system are included." Here is the brief release announcement with a screenshot.
Sabayon Linux 11
Fabio Erculiani has announced the release of Sabayon Linux 11, a Gentoo-based distribution available in GNOME 3, KDE, MATE and Xfce flavours: "We're here once again to announce the immediate availability of Sabayon 11 in all of its tier 1 flavours. If you really enjoyed Sabayon 10, this is a release you cannot miss! There you have it, a shiny distro for your home computer, your laptop and your servers, virtualized or not. Linux Kernel 3.7 with BFQ iosched, GNOME 3.6.2, KDE 4.9.5 (upgraded to 4.10.1 as soon as it is available), Xfce 4.10, LibreOffice 3.6.3 are just some of the things you will find inside the box. Complete EFI/UEFI and UEFI SecureBoot support, greatly improved NVIDIA Optimus support through Bumblebee, MATE 1.4 for those missing GNOME 2.x...." Read the full release announcement for more details.
Sabayon Linux 11 - a new updated of the Gentoo-based distribution
(full image size: 391kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Zorin OS 6.2 "Lite"
Artyom Zorin has announced the release of Zorin OS 6.2 "Lite" edition, an updated release of the project's Ubuntu-based lightweight distribution (with LXDE) designed for new Linux users: "The Zorin OS team has released Zorin OS 6.2 Lite, the latest evolution of the Zorin OS Lite series of operating systems, designed specifically for Windows users using old or low-powered hardware. This release is based on Lubuntu 12.04.2 and uses the LXDE desktop environment to provide one of the fastest and most feature-packed interfaces for low-spec machines. This new release includes newly updated software out of the box. We also include our innovative Zorin Look Changer, Zorin Internet Browser Manager, Zorin OS Lite Extra Software and other programs from our earlier versions in Zorin OS 6.2 Lite." Here is the brief release announcement.
Manjaro Linux 0.8 "MATE"
Carl Duff has announced the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8 "MATE", the project's brand-new new community edition which features the increasingly popular fork of the GNOME 2 desktop: "Community editions of Manjaro Linux are released as bonus flavours in addition to those officially supported and maintained by the Manjaro team. Due to popular demand from members of the Manjaro community, this now includes a special new release of the MATE flavour for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. Subject to a complete overhaul, this version also provides early access to some brand-new features yet to be seen in the upcoming official Manjaro 0.8.4 releases: new graphical boot screen; Linux kernel version 3.7; Pamac - a user user-friendly graphical interface to easily update the system and manage software...." See the release announcement for further details and screenshots.
* * * * *
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
- ArchMint. ArchMint is a Turkish Linux distribution that attempts to combine the robustness of Arch Linux with Linux Mint's ease of use. The project's website is in Turkish.
- LSD Linux. LSD (less systemd) Linux is a distribution featuring the Pacman package manager from Arch Linux, packages compiled in the fashion similar to those in Linux From Scratch, initscripts and SysVinit for system initialization, Linux kernel compiled from latest Zen sources, rolling release development model, and stability and quality rather "bleeding edge".
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 25 February 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 649 (2016-02-22): Zorin OS 11, openSUSE launches new editions, Linux Mint website compromised, sandboxing applications using Firejail|
|• Issue 648 (2016-02-15): XStream Desktop 153, Raspbian unveils OpenGL feature, free hardware, Ikey Doherty talks desktop design|
|• Issue 647 (2016-02-08): Tails 2.0, KDE project launches Neon, Manjaro unveils ARM support, FreeBSD's quarterly report|
|• Issue 646 (2016-02-01): deepin 15, Mint plans X-Apps, FreeBSD to support boot environments, logging into the desktop as root|
|• Issue 645 (2016-01-25): Linux Mint 17.3 "Xfce", Chromixium changes its name, Ubuntu tablets coming soon, Linux vs BSD comparision|
|• Issue 644 (2016-01-18): Kwort 4.3, Sabayon tests ARM images, Slackware adopts PulseAudio, running Linux without GNU software|
|• Issue 643 (2016-01-11): Solus 1.0, Mint provide upgrade path to 17.3, Fedora developers work on stability, running the LXQt desktop|
|• Issue 642 (2016-01-04): paldo GNU/Linux, vetting distro repositories, Fedora plans to adopt GCC 6, Ian Murdock passes|
|• Issue 641 (2015-12-21): Arch Linux, Qubes OS to ship on Librem laptops, ALT offers start kit images, the spread of systemd and launchd|
|• Issue 640 (2015-12-14): Chakra GNU/Linux 2015.11, removing meta-data from files, Ubuntu to remove on-line dash searches|
|• Issue 639 (2015-12-07): OpenBSD 5.8, openSUSE gathers Summer of Code proposals, running WINE on a live disc, Enlightenment adds Wayland support|
|• Issue 638 (2015-11-30): Qubes OS 3.0, KaOS with Plasma, NetBSD 7.0, Fedora seeks Wayland testers, scheduling tasks|
|• Full list of all issues|