| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 508, 20 May 2013
Welcome to this year's 20th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Debian GNU/Linux, the world's largest Linux distribution and the ultimate cooperative software project that extends across many countries on all continents, has recently released a new stable version. Continuing its time-tested tradition of stability and reliability over cutting-edge features, "Wheezy" represents a new milestone in the evolution of open-source software and it is the subject of this week's first-impression review by Jesse Smith; please read below about his findings. In the news section, Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval revisit the humble beginnings of their respective Linux distributions, Fedora developers manufacture a somewhat humorous controversy over password inputs during system installation, Ubuntu unveils some of the possible new features in "Saucy Salamander", and FreeBSD restores its binary package build service that was suspended six months ago following a security incident. Also in this issue, an entertaining Tips and Tricks session on interacting with graphical applications via command-line scripts, an introduction to Italy's PoliArch distribution, and the usual regular sections with release news, screenshots and everything else you expect to find here every Monday. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (27MB) and MP3 (50MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Review of Debian GNU/Linux 7.0
Debian GNU/Linux is one of the oldest surviving Linux distributions and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary later this year. The venerable project is home to hundreds of volunteers who maintain over 35,000 software packages. Debian has expanded over the years and currently supports nine hardware architectures, displaying an unusual level of flexibility for a Linux distribution. Debian isn't just a long lived Linux distro, the project also maintains ports which allow developers and users to experiment with running GNU software on top of alternative kernels, including Hurd and the FreeBSD kernel. This amazing diversity, along with Debian's reputation for stability, has caused many developers to base their own projects on Debian.
Dozens of the world's most popular and widely used open-source projects (including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and KNOPPIX) can trace their ancestry back to Debian. Apart from being one of the largest existing open-source projects Debian is also a social experiment. The project is run as a democracy, a rarity in the open-source world, where developers vote on important changes and are guided by a constitution. For the reasons given above, more so than the anticipated features, the release of a new version of Debian sends ripples through the open-source community. Debian may be a famously conservative project, but everything its developers do affect large portions of the open-source population. I was quite eager to see what Debian 7.0, code name Wheezy, would offer.
Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 comes with a relatively short list of new features in keeping with the distribution's conservative reputation. Wheezy now supports true multi-architecture support. While most distributions support mixing 32-bit and 64-bit software, Debian takes the concept a step further and provides a clean approach to supporting both running and cross-compiling software on non-native operating systems. Debian has adopted GNOME 3 as its default desktop environment and experimental support has been added for the new systemd init process. This release of Debian also adds additional security by taking advantage of the GNU compiler's security hardening features. Packages in the repositories have been built using the compiler's security features which should make it harder to exploit applications running on Debian.
Debian attempts to be "the universal operating system" with a focus on both flexibility and diversity. This is perhaps no more apparent than when we are trying to decide which ISO image to download. As previously mentioned, Debian supports nine architectures and, for some of these architectures, there are 15 possible ISO images. These include three DVD images, eight CD images, three alternative desktop spins (KDE, LXDE and Xfce) and a net-install disc. In the coming weeks there will probably be a live CD released to accompany these install discs, though at the time of my trial the live CD was not yet available. People unfamiliar with Debian may be a bit confused as to which disc (or discs) to download. Reading through the release notes and installation guide reveals that, in most cases, users will be able to get by just downloading one disc. Many people who plan to perform just a single installation over a high-speed connection will probably choose the small net-install disc. People planning to perform multiple installs or people who have slower connections can get by downloading just the first disc of the CD or DVD series. For my own experiment with Debian 7.0 I opted to download the first disc of the 32-bit x86 DVD series.
Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 - various desktop applications
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Installation and first impressions
Our buffet of options does not diminish when we boot from the Debian DVD. We have the option of running a graphical installer or a text-based installer. There is also a new installation option in Debian which supports speech synthesis. What this new option does is run the Debian text-based installer with a screen reader so people who are visually impaired can navigate the installation process. I tried this and while the words which come out of the text-to-speech process can be a little difficult to understand in places it works fairly well. I'm happy to see this accessibility option available. The Debian installation media comes with several more boot options, including a rescue mode, an automated installer, an expert install option (text-based) and an expert install option (with a graphical interface). To top it all off each of the alternative desktops gets its own collection of installers.
What this means is if we want to install Debian with the KDE desktop this isn't an opinion within the installer. Instead when we boot off the DVD we select alternative desktops from the boot menu, select KDE and then select whether we want a text-based or graphical installer. While I appreciate the flexibility presented by Debian I am curious why the developers took this approach. Most of the big name distributions get the user to select which desktop environment(s) they want from the software selection screen toward the end of the install process. Debian takes an either/or approach to giving users a desktop environment and it makes for an unusually complex boot menu.
Going through the standard installation process (as opposed to the automated or expert options) walks us through a familiar series of steps. We're asked to select which county or region we are in and we are asked to select our keyboard layout from a list. We set a hostname for our computer, input the domain name for our machine (if one is applicable) and then set the root user's password. Next up we are asked to create a regular user account and then select our time zone from a list. The partitioning process with Debian feels a little roundabout in my opinion. The installer gives us a great deal of features from which to choose and this may be the reason for the many steps involved in navigating the partitioning screens. We can set up Btrfs or LVM volumes and the ext2/3/4, XFS and JFS file systems are supported along with RAID configurations.
Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 - the graphical installer
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Once partitioning is finished the installer copies files to the hard drive and then asks if there are additional discs containing packages we would like to use. We are then asked if we would like to install newer packages from the repositories or just use the local discs. The next screen asks if we would like to take part in submitting package statistics to Debian. Then we are asked which categories of software we would like to have installed on the computer. These categories include Desktop software, a print server, web server, database packages, secure shell and a mail server. The installer copies the selected software groups to our hard drive and then offers to install the GRUB2 boot loader. While Debian's installer is flexible and worked without any problems during my installations I was surprised at how slow it was. For each of my installs I opted to install the base system and GNOME desktop software only. This process took over an hour where, by comparison, my recent installs of Fedora and Ubuntu took under half an hour.
Debian booted to a graphical login screen and signing in brought me to the GNOME 3 desktop. Depending on our machine's graphical capabilities we may be shown the GNOME Shell or, if our video card doesn't support a 3-D environment, we will be shown the GNOME fallback mode. Since Debian has been released I've read a few comments from other reviewers complaining about Debian using older versions of software such as GNOME 3.4 as opposed to newer versions like GNOME 3.8. Personally I welcomed the older version of GNOME as newer versions no longer support fallback mode and I find the fallback desktop preferable to the GNOME Shell interface. The desktop environment is fairly low key. The background is grey with the Debian logo prominently featured. No pop-ups, update notifications or welcome screens appeared. Debian appears content to stay out of the way and let us sink or swim on our own.
One of the first tasks I attempted following getting logged in was to check for updated packages in the Debian software repositories. Upon opening the graphical update utility I was immediately told the system was up to date and the application closed. The application had reported back fast enough it was apparent no check of the remote repositories had occurred. I next switched to the graphical utility for managing software sources and found my installation DVD was still listed as a package repository and this appeared to be short-circuiting the update process. I attempted to remove the Debian DVD as a source and found the utility would not permit the removal of the DVD as a package source. Whenever the checkbox was cleared it would be automatically re-enabled. At this point I dropped to a command line and manually edited the APT package sources file and set it to use the remote repositories exclusively. From then on I was able to check for updates and install new packages without any problems.
Software and package management
Debian comes with a fairly standard collection of software in the default install. Looking through the application menu we find Iceweasel (Debian's re-branded version of Firefox), the Evolution e-mail and calendar program, the Empathy chat client and LibreOffice. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is installed for us along with Inkscape and Shotwell. A document and PDF viewer is available as is the Orca screen reader. Debian comes with a handful of multimedia programs including the Totem video player, Rhythmbox for playing audio files and the Cheese webcam utility. Debian comes with popular media codecs out of the box allowing us to play mp3 files and most video formats. The distribution does not ship the closed source Flash player, but the developers have included the Gnash free software implementation of Flash. This allows us to access most Flash content such as YouTube videos, though I did find the plug-in failed to handle the content of some sites.
Debian also comes with the Brasero disc burner, an audio CD ripper and a small collection of games. The application menu includes an archive manager, a calculator and text editor. The graphical interface can be managed through the GNOME System Settings panel and gives us a degree of flexibility. Digging deeper we find the GNU Compiler Collection is installed and we have Java support out of the box. To help us get on-line Network Manager is provided in the default install. Under it all sits the Linux kernel, version 3.2. Of course Debian has a vast collection of additional software in the repositories and over 35,000 packages are available covering just about any requirement we may have. Which brings us to package management...
Debian comes with two graphical package managers which act as front ends to the underlying APT package handling system. The first graphical front end is Synaptic, a tried and true software manager with a focus on working with individual packages. Synaptic is fast and able to handle complex batches of actions. The second package manager is labeled "Add/Remove Software" and takes a more simplistic approach to managing software. Though this second tool puts a slightly more friendly face on software handling and provides a more application-focused view I found it was also notably slower than Synaptic, especially when performing searches. I found both front ends worked well and, when I had occasion to switch to the APT command line utilities, they also worked quickly and without any problems.
Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 - managing packages and desktop settings
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I ran Debian on a desktop machine (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) and found the distribution performed very well. Debian is amazingly fast to boot and it may be the only distribution I've used which delivers a GNOME 3 experience I would call "snappy". Sound worked out of the box and my screen was automatically set to its maximum resolution. Debian is a lightweight distribution and when logged into GNOME's fallback mode the system only used 120 MB of memory.
The reason this Debian review is coming out two weeks after the initial release is due to my desire to give the distribution a fair shake. I'm a big fan of the Debian project and, as I mentioned earlier, I believe it is hard to overstate the project's importance in the open-source community. That being said, the first impression, perhaps the first several impressions, I had of Debian 7.0 were less than stellar. I felt the documentation was a bit scattered and I found myself digging through the release notes, installation guide, release announcement and wiki looking for details on Wheezy. While I generally found what I was looking for there were times when I'd come across something vague or out of date (originally written for Squeeze) and it left a bad taste in my mouth. The oddly complex and slow installer followed by the short-circuited package manager didn't exactly improve my mood. Long story short, I wanted to have at least a week of playing with Debian post-install to really get a feel for the distribution.
With very few qualifiers I have to say Wheezy grew on me as time went on. Debian is surprisingly light for a modern distribution and it is blindingly fast, both when it is booting and when logged in. The system is quite clean, responsive and comes with a decent collection of software. The Stable branch of Debian lived up to its name and I did not encounter any lock-ups, application crashes or other frustrations after my first day with Wheezy. The distribution stays out of the way, performs quickly and comes with a huge amount of software through the repositories.
Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 - web browsing and playing multimedia files
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All of this being said, at the end of the week I was left with the impression that while Debian is highly flexible (very much the "universal operating system" it strives to be) and it is stable (quite appealing for home or small business servers), it does not make for the most appealing desktop operating system. Debian makes for a great base for desktop distributions as evidenced by my recent experience with Linux Mint Debian Edition. Linux Mint provides a nice update manager, driver assistant, modern package manager, an attractive theme and friendly installer while maintaining Debian's excellent performance and stability. Debian, perhaps in an effort to be universal, skips on these niceties and expects the user to be more involved with the underlying operating system.
One concern I had while using Debian 7.0 was with regards to the age of packages, or at least one specific package. I certainly didn't mind using an older kernel or running LibreOffice 3.5 instead of 4.0. In all likelihood most users aren't going to notice any difference and, as I mentioned above, running GNOME 3.4 might be an improvement over the 3.8 release, so sometimes using older software can be a good thing. However, I was concerned with running Iceweasel 10. Iceweasel 10 is now old even by upstream's extended support schedule. I haven't looked deeply enough into Iceweasel's change log to know how up to date the software is with security fixes, but it does concern me that a piece of software which advances so quickly and is exposed directly to the Internet is showing signs of age.
At the end of the week I felt as though Debian Wheezy was very much like the previous release, Squeeze, and it held the same drawbacks and the same strengths. The distribution is fast, flexible, has a huge software repository and is rock solid. These same traits mean that it also requires a higher degree of user experience and more user interaction than many other distributions. Debian sacrifices streamlining and ease of use in favour of being universal. The distribution is a bit like a dish of vanilla ice cream, unexciting, plain, predictable and, for its fans, pleasantly familiar. People wanting something more exciting, something more newcomer friendly, will have to add their own toppings and customizations.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, Fedora and visible passwords, Ubuntu 13.10 features, FreeBSD binary package building
Among the hundreds of community Linux distributions available today only a few can rise to the top of the ranks. The spectacular success of Linux Mint over the last few years serves as a great example of how a developer with great ideas, vision and determination can achieve what many large and well-paid teams would have struggled to. Recently TechRadar has published an interview with Linux Mint founder Clement Lefebvre (a reprint from a recent issue of the Linux Format magazine). How did the project come to existence? "The surprising thing is that Mint was originally just a sideshow to some reviews its creator had written online. Clem Lefebvre explains: 'I was writing for LinuxForums.org at the time, and eventually decided to try and host my own website, so I created LinuxMint.com. Version 1.0 (of the distribution) was a quick experiment to see how some of the ideas I wrote about in my reviews could be implemented. I was surprised to see people were more interested in it than in my articles.' After a while, Clem started to get a flavour for what the people wanted, and he started to get the idea of how he would construct, and create, a distribution himself. Clem then went on to post more articles and tutorials. He saw the innovations of the time, and improved on them, adding his own ideas."
* * * * *
Speaking about visionaries and desktop Linux, a comparison between Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval (the founder of Mandrake Linux) comes to mind. Like Clement, Gaël also had excellent ideas of how to improve the most popular Linux distribution in his time (Red Hat Linux back in 1997) and customise it to the tastes and habits of conventional desktop users. Mandrake Linux (which later became Mandriva Linux) was such a success that it dominated the DistroWatch charts and many online polls for several years. The newly-formed OpenMandriva Association has recently caught up with Gaël Duval to talk about Mandrake's humble beginnings: "Mandrake Linux started as a personal project in 1997. I was an enthusiastic user of Linux on i386, and an early user of KDE in its alpha stages. I had an idea to release a new desktop Linux distribution that would focus on ease of use, be attractive and potentially compete with Windows as an alternative. Then I started to work on first implementations of such a Linux distro, starting on Slackware, then evaluating Debian and Red Hat because they had software package management. Finally I decided to go with Red Hat because it had a very active community and the core distro was good and simple."
On a related note, the OpenMandriva Association has accepted "OpenMandriva" as the new name for the project's inaugural distribution release. The first alpha build, created by Bernhard Rosenkränzer (whom some readers will remember as a former Red Hat employee and a founder of Ark Linux) is already available for download and testing.
* * * * *
With the beta release of Fedora 19 just around the corner, some Fedora users who peruse the developers' mailing lists were recently taken aback by a controversy over unmasked passwords which one inputs during the installation. This was a new behaviour and, as it turned out, it was a "feature", not a bug. LWN's Jonathan Corbet reports about the issue in "Fedora's invisible passwords and visible squabbles": "The relative quiet recently experienced on the Fedora development mailing list felt a bit like the calm before the storm. And, indeed, the storm duly arrived in the form of a heated discussion over the proper behavior of the password forms in the Anaconda installer. When the dust had settled, the status quo ante prevailed. But some interesting governance questions were raised in between. After the Fedora 19 alpha release, the installer developers decided to stop masking the passwords supplied by the user during the installation process. Passwords only remained visible for as long as the keyboard focus remained on the relevant input box; as soon as the focus moved on, the password would be masked. But that still left the password visible for an arbitrary period of time to anybody who chose to look. Some users, suffice to say, were not amused. A bug report was filed -- and promptly closed: 'This is working exactly as it is intended.'"
* * * * *
While some popular distributions have only just published a new release or are in the process of closing release-critical bugs, the hackers behind Ubuntu are already hard at work on "Saucy Salamander", the code name of the project's next stable release. What can we expect in version 13.10? Web Upd8 provides some answers in "Possible Changes in Ubuntu 13.10": "In Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander, Unity 7 should get the 100 scopes and smart scopes feature that was supposed to land in Ubuntu 13.04, but was postponed, along with an in-dash payment system. Further more, Compiz will probably be updated to version 0.9.10 (trunk) with the performance improvement branches merged, so users should see an even faster Unity in the upcoming Ubuntu release. Unity 8 which will be running on top of Mir might be available as an alternative session on the desktop in Ubuntu 13.10, for testing purposes. If this will happen, Unity 8 will be able to run in parallel with Unity 7 (the main shell used by default in Ubuntu 13.10). The expected minimal capabilities include accessing local content, working networking, using some phone core apps on the desktop and a good experience navigating the shell with a non-touch device such as a touchpad or mouse."
* * * * *
Finally, good news for those who have been patiently waiting for the restoration of the FreeBSD binary package build service which was suspended after a security breach some six months ago. FreeBSD Core Team Secretary announced the fact on the freebsd-announce mailing list: "Dear FreeBSD community, six months have passed since the November security incident which brought the project's binary package building capacity offline; we are pleased to announce that all services are now restored. This has followed a significant effort to review security throughout the FreeBSD project's infrastructure, and re-engineer the package-building system to support greater compartmentalization and resilience. This includes the redports.org and ports QAT, generation and update of INDEX files, publication of binary package sets, and binary-package building itself. The revised infrastructure provided binary packages for the recent release of FreeBSD 8.4. We are now glad to announce that binary packages available again for 8.x, 9.x branches on i386 and amd64 architectures at the usual locations."
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
Scripting and graphical environments
In the open-source community we have a lot of options and a lot of powerful tools at our fingertips. This makes for a good deal of (usually) friendly debate as to which utilities best suit various jobs. Are you in the KDE camp or a GNOME fan, do you prefer vi or Emacs, do you prefer to work from the command line or a graphical desktop? In the ongoing debate between command line tools and graphical user interfaces there is one point which keeps coming up in favour of the command line: scripting. It's quite easy to create scripts to perform just about any command line action we could possibly want. Graphical user interfaces, while discoverable and attractive, will trap you with their repetitive tasks without hope of passing the chore over to a script. At least that's how the argument usually goes.
Of course some applications have had a record and playback option for years. This allows us to open a program, set it to record and then perform a series of actions. We can then save this series of actions to be run later. It's not a tool which is used very often, but it can be useful for performing repetitive tasks, for example setting up a document with certain fields. Still, this limits us to scripting actions within one application and doesn't give us the flexibility of scripting the entire graphical environment, just a small subset of programs. Luckily, for Linux and BSD users, there is a utility called xdotool.
The xdotool application allows us to create scripts which can interact with our desktop environment. With xdotool we can move the mouse, trigger button presses, use keyboard short-cuts and manipulate windows. The xdotool command gives us the ability to manipulate our graphical desktop and applications using a series of commands which can be saved in a script. Let's look at a few examples.
This first example searches our desktop looking for the Thunderbird e-mail client. If the program is currently open we cause Thunderbird to become the active window. This mini script has two pieces, the first part (placed inside backtick marks) tries to find the last window opened which contains the name "Thunderbird" in the title. Assuming the proper window is found we active the window, bringing it to the foreground:
xdotool windowactivate $(xdotool search -name Thunderbird | tail -n 1)
How is this helpful? Well, on its own, just activating a window isn't all that useful, but it can lead to more interesting actions. In this next example our script launches the Firefox web browser and opens a tab to the DistroWatch website:
Scripts can get more complex and possibly even useful too. This following script automates sending an e-mail message using the Thunderbird e-mail client. Let's break it down into bite-sized pieces. First we locate the Thunderbird e-mail client and bring the application's window to the foreground. Then we send the program the CTRL+N key combination to signal we want to begin a new e-mail:
xdotool windowactivate $(xdotool search -name Firefox | tail -n 1)
xdotool type distrowatch.com
xdotool key Return
xdotool windowactivate $(xdotool search -name Thunderbird | tail -n 1)
Opening a new e-mail window can take a second or two so we pause for two seconds and then make sure the new e-mail window has focus. New e-mail windows always have "Write" in the window's title:
xdotool key "ctrl+n"
We then need to fill in the To address and subject line of the e-mail. This is done using a combination of the xdotool's "type" command for inputting text and the "key" command, which allows us to specify the pressing a specific key or key combination:
xdotool windowactivate $(xdotool search -name Write | tail -n 1)
xdotool type email@example.com
At this point we have filled in the To field and the subject line and we can instruct xdotool to type out a message. In this case I'll keep it short. We then order Thunderbird to send the e-mail by sending Thunderbird the CTRL+Return shortcut key combination:
xdotool key "Tab"
xdotool type "System is running"
xdotool key "Tab"
xdotool type "The system is on-line"
There is one step left. When a new message is created very quickly Thunderbird will pop-up a window asking if we are sure the e-mail is ready to send. We wait for this pop-up box and then simulate pressing the Enter key to confirm we really do wish to send this message:
xdotool key "ctrl+Return"
Obviously this sort of tool has the ability to be used for good or evil. While it can let us know our system is running and we could opt to send all sorts of useful system statistics, it could also be used to spam (accidentally or otherwise) someone's e-mail account. The xdotool can also be used to do silly things, such as play (badly) at Tetris or other games. Every few seconds a key can be sent to the currently active window. It may be entertaining to see how well an automated player can do at some games with random input.
xdotool key Return
While bookmarks, mailing lists and document templates have largely reduced the need for an automated graphical interface scripting tool, it is nice to have options. Using xdotool we have a great deal of power over our desktop environment. It gives us the chance to automate actions, not only to cut down on repetitive tasks, but xdotool can also be used to navigate complex graphical menus we may not wish to handle manually every time.
|Released Last Week
Antergos is a new name for Cinnarch, a project that used to combine the Cinnamon desktop and Arch Linux into a complete desktop Linux distribution. As Cinnamon tends to be behind the times and not always compatible with the latest version of GNOME, the project's developers have taken a decision to switch to GNOME 3 as their default desktop and rename the project to Antergos. The first stable release of Antergos was announced today: "After a month since our last release under the name 'Cinnarch', we're glad to announce the new name of our project and our first release being out of beta. We're stable enough to make this step. We've chosen 'Antergos', a Galician word to link the past with the present. Moving forward, all our services are now working with the new name." See the release announcement for instructions on how to switch from Cinnarch to Antergos.
Antergos 2013.05.12 - combining the Arch Linux base with the GNOME 3 desktop
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OS4 4.1 "Enterprise"
Roberto Dohnert has announced the release of OS4 4.1 "Enterprise" edition, an Ubuntu-based commercial distribution for small and medium-size enterprises: "Today we are pleased to announce the release of OS4 Enterprise 4.1. With this release we bring many advancements to the world's premier enterprise Linux platform. We learned a lot from our release of Enterprise 4.0 and this release is based on customer feedback. Starting with the user interface. Many of our Enterprise customers coming from Red Hat and Oracle Linux wanted a consistent user interface that they had become accustomed to with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Oracle Linux and we believe we have achieved that and with some of the flare that OS4 is famous for. Some of these features include: Linux kernel 3.2; Jakarta Tomcat, ZFS 0.6.2 for Linux, support for Microsoft Hyper-V, Webmin...." Read the release announcement for more information.
Manjaro Linux 0.8.5.2 "KDE", "Cinnamon", "MATE"
Yusuf Faruk Doğan has announced the release of three community editions of the Arch-based Manjaro Linux 0.8.5.2 - with KDE, Cinnamon and MATE desktops: "We are happy to announce three new Manjaro Community Editions featuring Mate 1.6, Cinnamon 1.7, Gnome 3.8 and KDE 4.10.2. “Community Editions” of Manjaro Linux are released as bonus flavours in addition to those officially supported and maintained by the Manjaro Team, provided that the time and resources necessary are available to do so. We hope you like these releases." The release announcement includes a detailed list of changes and new features for each of the three editions, as well as screenshots and notes on the graphical system installer and the distribution's unique package management utility.
Sophos UTM 9.1
Angelo Comazzetto has announced the release of Sophos UTM 9.1, a Linux-based operating system for firewalls formerly known as Astaro Security Gateway: "I am pleased to inform you that today, after months of research, development (and public testing), we have released Sophos UTM 9.1. This major update to our UTM line introduces dozens of new features, offers vastly increased performance in throughput and reporting which makes UTM an even more formidable solution. You will find an amazing new system for enforcing your web security settings on clients anywhere they are in the world using our UTM endpoint offering, wireless repeating and bridging using a mesh network option for our wireless AP50, and SSL VPN for iOS and Android mobiles." Read the full release announcement for a long list of new features and bug fixes.
Zorin OS 6.3 "Core"
Artyom Zorin has announced the release of Zorin OS 6.3 "Core" edition, an easy-to-use desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu's latest LTS (long-term support) release and enhanced with a custom start menu and other user-friendly utilities: "The Zorin OS team is pleased to announce the release of Zorin OS 6.3 Core, our operating system designed for Windows users. Zorin OS 6.3 builds on top of our popular previous release of Zorin OS 6.2 with newly updated software and a newer kernel out of the box. As Zorin OS 6.3 is based on Ubuntu 12.04, it is an LTS (long-term support) release, provided with software updates until April 2017. Users who already have Zorin OS 6, 6.1 or 6.2 Core installed can update their system using the Update Manager to avail of the aforementioned updates and improvements in 6.3." Here is the brief release announcement.
Alpine Linux 2.6.0
Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 2.6.0, a security-oriented, lightweight Linux distribution for servers, based on uClibc and BusyBox: "We are pleased to announce Alpine Linux 2.6.0. Since 2.5, among the various bug fixes, several packages have been upgraded: Linux kernel upgraded to 3.9.2 with the grsecurity patch; Ruby 2.0; PHP 5.4.5; Kamailio 4.0; QEMU 1.4; Squid 3.3. Other things that might be worth noting: LXC support; support for NFS with Kerberos; the initramfs script has initial support for PXE; VServer kernel got reverted to the 3.4.y LTS and slimmed down configuration; Quagga got multi-path support. Known issue: DMVPN does not work. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this release." Here is the brief release announcement with a link to a complete changelog.
Slackel 3.1 "Live Openbox"
Dimitris Tzemos has announced the release of Slackel 3.1 "Live Openbox" edition, a lightweight Linux distribution based on Slackware Linux and Salix: "Slackel Live 3.1 Openbox has been released. Includes the live kernel 3.8.8 and lots of updates from Slackware's 'Current' tree. Slackel Live 3.1 Openbox includes the Midori 0.4.9 web browser, Claws-Mail 3.8.1, Transmission, SpaceFM, OpenJRE 7u9, Rhino, IcedTea-Web, Pidgin, gFTP, wicd. AbiWord, Gnumeric and ePDFviewer office applications are included. Whaaw! Media Player is the default movie player, Exaile 3.3.0 is the application to use for managing your music collection, Asunder CD ripper, Bracero for writing CD/DVDs and more. In the graphics section Viewnior 1.3, GIMP 2.8.4 and Scrot the snapshot utility. It is very easy to put Slackel Live 3.1 Openbox in a USB thumb drive." Read the full release announcement for further details.
NetBSD 6.1, 6.0.2
Jeff Rizzo has announced the release of NetBSD 6.1, a new stable version of the highly portable UNIX-like operating system available for a wide range of platforms: "The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 6.1, the first feature update of the NetBSD 6 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, as well as new features and enhancements. Major changes between 6.0 and 6.1: posix_spawn() - fix processes with attributes; resolve races between vget() and vrele() resulting in vget() returning dead vnodes; prevent crash when unsupported fd's are used with kevent; fix a bug where kmem_alloc() could be called from interrupt context; WAPBL - coalesce writes to the journal to speed up wapbl_flush() on raid5 by a factor of 3 to 4...." Read the rest of the release notes for a detailed list of changes and related links.
Tails 0.18, a new version of the specialist live CD whose goal is to preserve the user's privacy and anonymity while surfing the world wide web, has been released: "Tails, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, version 0.18, is out. All users must upgrade as soon as possible. Notable user-visible changes include: Support obfs3 bridges; automatically install a custom list of additional packages chosen by the user at the beginning of every working session, and upgrade them once a network connection is established; upgrade to Iceweasel 17.0.5esr; update Torbrowser patches to current maint-2.4 branch; Torbutton 1.5.2, and various prefs hacks to fix breakage; HTTPS Everywhere 3.2; NoScript 18.104.22.168; isolate DOM storage to first party URI and enable DOM storage; isolate the image cache per url bar domain; update preferences to match the TBBs, fix bugs, and take advantage of the latest Torbrowser patches...." See the release announcement for a complete changelog and a known issue.
Trish Fraser has announced the release of Mageia 3, the third official release of the community distribution that was created by former developers and contributors of the once highly popular Mandriva Linux in late 2010: "All grown up and ready to go dancing - Mageia 3 is out. We still can't believe how much fun it is to make Mageia together, and we've been doing it for two and a half years. Major new features: updates to RPM (4.11) and urpmi, which has been given a good turnout and cleanup; Linux kernel 3.8; systemd 195; GRUB is the default boot loader; GRUB 2 is available; revamped package groupings for installation and rpmdrake; KDE 4.10.2, GNOME 3.6, Xfce 4.10; LibreOffice 4.0.3; Steam for Linux...." Read the release announcement and check out the detailed release notes for further information.
Mageia 3 - the default KDE desktop
(full image size: 1,652kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Hybryde Linux 13.04
Olivier Larrieu has announced the release of Hybryde Linux 13.04, a rather unusual distribution which ships with 11 desktop user interfaces (Enlightenment, GNOME 2, GNOME 3, KDE, LXDE, Openbox, Unity, FVWM, Xfce, MATE and Cinnamon) and which provides a way to seamlessly switch between them without a need to restart the X window system. This it does so via a default home-made desktop called HY-D-V1: "After more than five months, we have a new concept: HY-D-V1 which is a new paradigm for the desktop. It works with web technologies. This new version, Hybryde 'Fusion', includes HY-D-V1 which has been created for artists and users who want to transform their desktop into an artistic tool and for those who want to play with graphic effects. That's because Linux users are not merely professionals and because computers are not reserved to business use alone." Visit the project's home page to learn more about the ideas behind the Ubuntu-based Hybryde Linux.
Hybryde Linux 13.04 - an Ubuntu-based distribution and live DVD with 11 desktops
(full image size: 1,798kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Wifislax 4.4, a new version of the Slackware-based live CD with a good collection of useful security and forensic tools, has been released. This release represents five months of development work, not only on the live CD, but also on additional modules for various specialist purposes that can be downloaded and installed separately. The distribution comes with Linux kernel 3.7.10 (both "normal" and PAE variants), default KDE desktop version 4.10.3, and Xfce desktop as a lightweight alternative. Many programs and libraries have been updated to newer versions and a number of new tools have been added for the first time. Another useful new feature is the addition of an English boot menu, inclusive of second-level menus containing additional boot options. And last but not least, the default desktop wallpaper has also been updated. Please read the complete release announcement (in Spanish) for further information.
Wifislax 4.4 - a Slackware-based live CD with security and forensic tools
(full image size: 1,662kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
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
- FreePBX. FreePBX is a CentOS-based Linux distribution with an easy-to-use graphical user interface that controls and manages Asterisk, the world's most popular open-source telephony engine software. FreePBX has been developed and hardened by thousands of volunteers over tens of thousands man hours.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 27 May 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 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
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