| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 510, 3 June 2013
Welcome to this year's 22nd issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
One of the great aspects of open source is that once an application or component is released into the wild anyone can come forward and help improve its performance or add new features. Sometimes people manage to do both at the same time! In this edition of DistroWatch Weekly we talk about how faster and more flexible graphics are being brought to the tiny Raspberry Pi computer. We will also look at the many improvements being added to the upcoming release of Fedora 19 and mark the closing of Ubuntu's bug #1. This week Jesse Smith gets experimental with a cutting edge distribution based on Debian's "sid" repository and reports on his experience. Does aptosid, built from "sid", manage to balance stability with new features? Read on to find out! Also in this week's publication we talk about how users can avoid losing their DNS settings. We will bring you news of exciting new releases from several distributions, including the darling of our Page Hit Ranking chart, Linux Mint. Plus we bring you all the exciting reviews, newsletters and podcasts from Around The Web. From all of us here at DistroWatch, have a wonderful week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (15MB) and MP3 (27MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First Impressions of aptosid 2013-01
After spending a peaceful week with Debian's latest Stable release I decided it was time to experiment with something a little less predictable, something a little more cutting edge. In short, I was looking for a distribution which would offer the opposite experience from Debian's dependable, conservative approach. As it happens, the opposite of Debian Stable is Debian Unstable. One of the Debian project's repositories is called "sid" and this repository provides a collection of new and ever changing software. The aptosid project tracks this sid repository and spins it into a cutting-edge distribution. The aptosid distribution is available in a variety of editions including KDE Full, KDE Lite (for people who wish to balance performance with features) and there is an Xfce spin. Each of these editions is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. For my experiment I decided to try aptosid's Xfce edition, the download for which is 530MB in size.
The developers of aptosid are quite upfront about their distribution being appropriate for more experienced Linux users. The sid repository occasionally introduces packages which cause unexpected (and unwanted) behaviour. In addition it is repeatedly recommended that users perform software upgrades from the command line and while not running a graphical interface in order to avoid problems related to X or the desktop environment. People considering aptosid, we are told, should have a comfortable familiarity with the Linux command line. As if this wasn't enough to put us on our guard the aptosid website warns that with Debian Wheezy having been released the Debian developers will likely turn their attention to introducing new packages to sid. The sid repository doesn't officially freeze, but it does slow down and speed up again depending on developer focus and release cycles. People eying aptosid right now should be prepared to perform large numbers of updates. According the project's documentation aptosid is a fairly light distribution and should run on Pentium II machines with less than 512MB of RAM.
aptosid 2013-01 -- Desktop and welcoming documentation
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Booting from the aptosid disc brings us to the Xfce desktop. A web browser opens and displays the project's website, giving us access to the distribution's documentation. Closing the web browser reveals a background image of a flower displayed in black & white. The application menu sits in the upper-left corner of the display and the Xfce task switcher sits next to it. On the desktop we find icons which will bring up the project's release notes, the aptosid user manual, a link to the distribution's IRC channel and one icon for launching the system installer.
The aptosid system installer is a graphical application with a simple layout. At the top of the installer's window are tabs allowing us to jump to any page of the installer. One of the first tasks we are given is dividing up the hard disk. The system installer does not have a built in partition manager, but it will assist us by launching a separate partition manager, such as GParted or cfdisk. Once the disk has been partitioned we can assign a mount point for our root partition and choose to format it with the ext2, ext3, ext4 or Reiser file system. Additional mount points can be assigned if we wish and these extra partitions are not formatted by default, allowing us to add a separate /home partition if we wish. We are then asked to decide where the GRUB2 boot loader should be installed and we are asked to set our local time zone. After that we are asked to create a regular user account and provide a password for the root account. The next page asks us to set a hostname for our computer and we are asked if the secure shell service should be run on our fresh installation. From there the installer asks us to confirm the settings we provided and, with our approval, the installer copies its files to the local drive. The process of formatting our disk and copying files is timed, something I don't recall seeing any other installer do. My installation of aptosid took almost exactly four minutes according to the installer's clock.
aptosid 2013-01 -- aptosid's system installer
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Booting aptosid quickly brings us to a graphical login screen. The login screen is grey and sparse, much like the desktop we see when we login. Signing in happens quickly and we are presented with the Xfce 4.8 desktop environment. This version of Xfce is a little older than the upstream version, but it holds up well. The environment is light, fast and cleanly organized. Sometimes I felt as though the interface was responding so quickly it seemed to be working ahead of me. I like Xfce as it provides a pleasant balance between features and performance. The desktop environment also comes with many configuration tools, allowing us to tweak Xfce to fit our preferences.
The Xfce edition of aptosid comes with a small collection of software and most of the applications appear to have been chosen with an eye toward performance rather than features or ease of use. In the application menu we find the Iceweasel web browser (version 10), the ELinks console web browser and the Transmission bittorrent client. The XChat IRC client is installed for us and the Ceni network configuration tool helps us get on-line. The AbiWord and Gnumeric applications fill the roles of word processor and spreadsheet productivity software. We are also given the Orage calendar app and a PDF viewer. The distribution does not come with Flash, but we are given the gxine multimedia player which is backed by multimedia codecs for most popular media formats. The Brasero disc burner is included in the menu along with an image viewer. The aptosid distribution comes with a small collection of administration tools such as a bulk file renaming utility, the Midnight Commander file browser and a hardware sensor viewer. There is a program which will remove extra kernels from our system and the GParted partition manager is installed for us. I found an archive manager and text editor in the application menu and the GNU Compiler Collection was available out of the box. Behind the scenes we find the Linux kernel, version 3.9. I found it interesting aptosid ships with a new kernel, but provides an old web browser as usually distributions are more conservative with the kernel than with end user applications. However, since aptosid is a rolling release distribution I'm sure all of the available packages will soon be upgraded to newer versions. For the most part all applications ran smoothly and I had little reason to complain. The only program which gave me trouble was the gxine media player. Sometimes when this program was running it would stutter or leave behind artifacts on the screen when being moved or re-sized. All of the other programs worked smoothly and without error.
On the aptosid website we are repeatedly warned that package management (or at least package upgrades) should be performed from the command line while X is not running. Instructions are provided that walk the user through switching the operating system into command-line only mode, applying upgrades and then switching back to the desktop. The distribution uses Debian's APT command line tools for package management and no graphical front-end is provided. Should we wish to tempt fate users can download graphical package managers, such as Synaptic, from the Debian repositories. During my week with aptosid I downloaded around 250MB of software updates, all of which applied cleanly and I encountered no problems. At various points in the week I followed aptosid's instructions for applying updates and, on other days, I threw caution to the wind and installed updates using Synaptic. I didn't run into any issues with this mixed approach, but then again I don't think many low level packages, such as X, were upgraded during my brief time with aptosid. Most packages are pulled in from the Debian Unstable repositories with a few custom packages provided by a separate aptosid repository.
aptosid 2013-01 -- running various applications
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I ran aptosid on my desktop computer (2.8GHz CPU, 6GB of RAM, Radeon video card, Realtek network card) and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. In both environments aptosid performed well. My screen was set to its maximum resolution, sound worked out of the box and the distribution booted quickly. I found aptosid, combined with the Xfce desktop, ran very quickly. The desktop environment was responsive and light on memory. I found logging into Xfce only required approximately 70MB of memory, which makes for a surprisingly light operating system.
I found I enjoyed my time with aptosid and I think a lot of my pleasure sprung from knowing exactly what I was getting into. The distribution's website is quite clear as to what aptosid is (a platform based upon Debian Unstable with a fast upgrade cycle) and it is also clear what aptosid is not (newcomer friendly). This distribution is not, nor does it try to be, friendly or pretty. There is no hand holding, no frills and no implied stability. What aptosid does provide is a functional installer, a portal to Debian's sid repository and a lightning fast desktop environment with all the expected features of Xfce. At first I found the system to be a bit bare bones, but once I had added the software I wanted for my day-to-day use, it was smooth sailing. There were a lot of updates to apply during the week, but that was expected. I didn't run into any broken software, but again, I used aptosid for one week only. This distribution isn't one I would recommend for a wide audience. It is specifically targeting experienced users who don't mind a degree of unpredictability and who like spending most of their time on the cutting edge of open source software. If you feel your computer has been too boring of late, introduce it to aptosid, just remember to make a backup of your data first.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Wayland comes to the Raspberry Pi, a preview of improvements coming to Fedora and Ubuntu closes bug #1
The Raspberry Pi is a small, inexpensive computer popular with hobbyists and educational institutions. The Pi is a very minimalist machine and, as a result, the video performance of the small computer is less than ideal. Recent efforts have attempted to address this problem and the answer lies in Wayland, a display server which is a modern alternative to X11. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has funded development work which brings Wayland to the small Pi computer and the popular Raspbian distribution. From the Raspberry Pi blogs: "In comparison to our current X11 desktop environment, Wayland frees the ARM from the burden of stitching together the top level of the composition hierarchy, and allows us to provide some neat features, including non-rectangular windows, fades for windows which don't have input focus and an Exposé-like scaled window browser (the sort of thing that Mac users will be familiar with). Legacy X applications can still be supported using XWayland." Owners of Pi computers can install this new technology by following the instructions on Daniel Stone's blog.
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One of the more exciting announcements from the past week came from the Fedora project. The experimental distribution posted a beta of their upcoming Fedora 19 release. While Fedora 18 contained several on-the-surface changes which contributed to delaying the project, Fedora 19 is proceeding on schedule and features many under-the-hood improvements. The Fedora beta showcases features that will appear in the next major release, including improvements to systemd and virtualization technologies. Open source developers will be pleased to know Fedora 19 will include the latest and greatest development tools. Fedora's Project Leader, Robyn Bergeron, told Server Watch, "We want to make sure that we're getting developers and that the applications we have inside Fedora have the latest stacks to build against. It's also very important we reach a good developer audience; we want to make sure people are using Fedora and we're giving them new features to take advantage of."
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Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu distribution, caused some raised eyebrows and commentary last week when he closed Ubuntu's bug #1. The bug was originally opened to address Microsoft's market dominance. Back in 2004 it was very difficult to purchase a new personal computer that either came with an open source operating system or no operating system at all. But times have changed. Linux-based operating systems are now common on phones and tablets, companies such as Dell are selling computers with Linux pre-installed and it's easier to find hardware which is supported by the Linux kernel. The closing of Ubuntu's #1 bug celebrates the changing market and the increasing level of support and choice available to computer users. Shuttleworth added a comment to the bug report in which he stated, "Even though we have only played a small part in that shift, I think it's important for us to recognize that the shift has taken place. So from Ubuntu's perspective, this bug is now closed. There is a social element to this bug report as well, of course. It served for many as a sort of declaration of intent. But it's better for us to focus our intent on excellence in our own right, rather than our impact on someone else's product."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Maintaining DNS Settings
Losing my DNS asks: When my laptop wakes up from sleep my DNS server settings are lost. How can I fix this so I do not have to re-add my settings each time I resume?
Your system losing its DNS name server settings each time it wakes up from a suspend is likely a sign the resolvconf program (or similar application) is overwriting your /etc/resolv.conf configuration file. While annoying, this is fairly straight forward to fix. One way to deal with this problem is to place your DNS settings inside resolvconf's configuration file so that it uses your custom settings as its default. To do this open the file /etc/resolvconf/resolv.conf.d/base in a text editor. Place your DNS information inside the file and save it. As an example, when I'm on the road with my laptop, I place the following two lines in my /etc/resolvconf/resolv.conf.d/base file in case the networks I attach to have slow or faulty DNS settings:
The two IP addresses presented above are for Google's free DNS service and I have found them to be reliable.
An alternative method for dealing with disappearing DNS settings is to manually configure your network interface in a more direct manner. This is especially useful if you are using a static IP address. Opening the file /etc/network/interfaces will show you the configuration entries for some or all of your network interfaces. At the very least there should be an entry for what is called a loopback device which looks like this:
We can add a second entry under the loopback interface which will give us a static IP address on our local network and set up permanent DNS servers.
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet static
The above example sets our primary network card, eth0, to identify with the IP address 192.168.0.10, our gateway to the Internet (probably our router) is identified by the IP address 192.168.0.1 and we provide Google's two DNS servers for hostname lookup. This should allow us to suspend and resume the computer without losing our nameserver information.
dns-nameservers 188.8.131.52 184.108.40.206
|Released Last Week
Elive 2.1.42 (Unstable)
Samuel Baggen has released an updated development build of Elive, version 2.1.42, a Debian-based distribution with a highly customised Enlightenment 0.17 window manager: "The Elive team is proud to announce the release of development version 2.1.42. This version includes some miscellaneous features like: bug fixes in the automatic date and time configuration; if you move to another country it is automatically detected and your time is updated to the new location; updated firmwares to support a wider range of WiFi and other devices; automatic detection of LVM devices inside encrypted file systems; fixed a bug with thumblerd process which can sometimes block devices from unmounting. ... We would appreciate feedback about Composite enabled or disabled in old computers, suggestions for better performances and memory usage." Here is the brief release announcement.
Superb Mini Server 2.0.4
Version 2.0.4 of Superb Mini Server (SMS), an updated release of the Slackware-based distribution for servers with Webmin, is out and ready for production use: "Superb Mini Server version 2.0.4 released (Linux kernel 3.4.47). SMS-2.0.4 comes with the latest LTS Linux kernel version 3.4.47, and it brings minor fixes and several updates to server packages, such as Postfix 2.10.0, Dovecot 2.2.2, OpenLDAP 2.4.35, Samba 4.0.6, PHP 5.3.25, httpd 2.2.24. Although it has been a year since httpd 2.4 and PHP 5.4 were released, we decided to keep them out from the stable tree once more, since stability and compatibility is our main goal. New packages in this release are lm_sensors hardware monitor tools; gnu-efi EFI development files and loudmouth XMPP (Jabber) C programming library. Another interesting new feature is a Sendmail build with LDAP support. Although many distributions, including Slackware, have switched to MariaDB, SMS stays with MySQL for now." Read the complete release announcement for further details.
Linux Mint 15
Clement Lefebvre has announced the final release of Linux Mint 15, code name "Olivia": "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 15 'Olivia'. Linux Mint 15 is the most ambitious release since the start of the project. MATE 1.6 is greatly improved and Cinnamon 1.8 offers a ton of new features, including a screensaver and a unified control center. The login screen can now be themed in HTML 5 and two new tools, 'Software Sources' and 'Driver Manager', make their first appearance in Linux Mint. MDM now features 3 greeters (i.e. login screen applications): a GTK+ greeter, a themeable GDM greeter for which hundreds of themes are available, and a brand-new HTML greeter, also themeable which supports a new generation of animated and interactive themes." Read the brief release announcement and also the what's new page and release notes for further details.
Linux Mint 15 with the MATE desktop
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Chakra GNU/Linux 2013.05
Anke Boersma has announced the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2013.05, an updated release of the project's desktop Linux distribution for 64-bit computers: "The Chakra project team is very happy to announce the third release of Chakra 'Benz'. Benz is the name of a series of Chakra releases that follow the KDE 4.10 series. This new release includes some existing new features: Oktopi, a promising graphical interface for Pacman which has recently reached the stable repositories, is now installed by default; kio-mtp, which brings support for mobile devices in Dolphin; Konversation replaces Quassel as the default IRC client in Chakra; Fcitx is now the default input method (for Asian languages); bundles are no longer available, they have been replaced by actual packages installed to a path of their own." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information and a screenshot.
Rob Whyte has announced the release of Vinux 4.0, an Ubuntu-based distribution for visually impaired users, offering text-to-speech and Braille support right from the boot-up: "The Vinux team is pleased to announce the availability of Vinux 4.0 CD and DVD images. This is the first Vinux release featuring the Unity-2D Desktop which improves on transition to Vinux and introduces newer and increasingly stable accessibility features. We now recommend that when possible users perform updates on a regular basis. This will enable the Vinux team to update packages, and introduce new features. Some of the highlights in Vinux 4.0: brand new build process - Vinux now uses the same method to produce our images as Canonical produces Ubuntu; Console speech just works; Voxin is easy to set-up...." Read the full release announcement for further details.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Around The Web
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DistroWatch database summary|
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 10 June 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 555 (2014-04-21): Robolinux 7.4.2, Ubuntu release day stats, Debian security, Porteus update|
|• Issue 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|