| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 587, 1 December 2014
Welcome to this year's 48th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! A core component of the free and open source movement is the ability for each person to be able to use, modify and redistribute the software they install. The right to inspect code for bugs, to be able to add features and share improvements made to software is a key element of the free software movement. This week we examine a distribution which takes software freedom very seriously and attempts to make using and sharing free software as easy as possible. The distribution is Trisquel and our review of the Free Software Foundation endorsed project is our Feature this week. In our News section we share some interesting developments. The FreeBSD operating system is gaining support for 64-bit ARM processors, an architecture that is expected to gain in popularity on servers. We also share FFmpeg's return to Ubuntu and plans to create an inexpensive open hardware laptop. Following Debian's decision to adopt systemd as its default init software there has been talk of forking Debian and we discuss that too. Plus we talk about DragonFly BSD's latest release and their narrowing hardware support. This week we take a sneak peek at Plasma 5, the desktop environment which is expected to replace KDE 4 in next year's launch of Kubuntu 15.04. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the November 2014 DistroWatch.com donation is the Tails distribution. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
- Reviews: Living free with Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0
- News: Fedora presents RC1, FreeBSD runs on 64-bit ARM, FFmpeg returns to Ubuntu, Bryan Quigley discusses open hardware, the VUA group plans to fork Debian, DragonFly BSD drops support for 32-bit CPUs
- Technology preview: Kubuntu 14.10 with Plasma 5
- Released last week: Linux Mint 17.1, siduction 14.1.0, DragonFly BSD 4.0.1
- Donations: Tails receives US$350.00
- New distributions: Devuan, InvestigateIX, RLSD, UBOS
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Living free with Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0
The Trisquel distribution is one of the few operating systems endorsed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Trisquel sticks firmly to the FSF's definition of free software and the distribution makes sure to not only strip non-free elements out of its operating system, it also avoids linking to (or otherwise encouraging the use of) non-free software. The Trisquel distribution is based on Ubuntu with Trisquel 7.0 being based on Ubuntu's most recent long term support release, version 14.04.
Booting from the Trisquel media brings up a menu where we have the option of running Trisquel's live desktop, running the project's graphical system installer or running a text-mode system installer. Taking the live desktop option brings us to a GNOME 3 desktop running in fallback mode. The application menu, task switcher and system tray sit at the bottom of the screen. On the desktop we find icons for browsing the file system, exploring the local network and launching Trisquel's installer. After making sure my hardware was working properly with Trisquel I launched the project's graphical installer.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 - the default GNOME desktop
(full image size: 1,019kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Trisquel's system installer is essentially the same installer Ubuntu uses, but with a few minor changes to the appearance and some of the options. The installer asks us to select our preferred language and provides us with a link to view the distribution's release notes. Next we are given the chance to download software updates while the installer is running. The following screen asks if we would like Trisquel to automatically divide up our hard disk for us or if we would like to manually partition our hard drive. Manual partitioning is quite straight forward and I found it easy to navigate the disk partitioning screen. Trisquel gives us the option of working with Btrfs, ext2/3/4, JFS and XFS file systems. I opted to install Trisquel on a Btrfs partition. While partitioning the disk we can also choose where to install the distribution's boot loader. The following screen gets us to select our time zone from a map of the world. Then we confirm our keyboard's layout and create a user account for ourselves. We can decide to encrypt the contents of our home directory. The installer copies its files to our hard drive and then asks us to reboot the computer.
When we boot into Trisquel the distribution brings us to a graphical login screen. We can sign into the account we made during the installation process or we can sign into a guest account. The guest account is not protected by a password and is wiped clean after each use. Signing into our account brings us back to the GNOME desktop running in a customized fallback mode. I found Trisquel's desktop has a nice default theme with good contrast and a pretty background of swirling blue and green. The GNOME desktop, running in its fallback mode, was responsive and I found the controls easy to navigate. One thing I observed early on was that any notification from the system, whether I was logging in or Tab-completing something in a terminal or getting a pop-up from an application, was accompanied by a loud "plink" water dripping sound. Maybe it is aside-effect of all the rain that has fallen here this week, but I found the sharp dripping noise unpleasant. I soon turned down the volume and disabled all audio notifications. I also found Trisquel's desktop would lock itself frequently, after just five minutes of inactivity, and I ventured into the control panel to increase the screen lock delay.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 - reading the GNOME user manual
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Speaking of the control panel, or as it is called on Trisquel, System Settings, I feel this component is worth mentioning. The System Settings application acts as a central launch point for configuring the Trisquel operating system and adjusting the user interface. Using System Settings we can access configuration modules for changing the appearance of the desktop, adjusting fonts, changing power settings and tweaking notifications. The panel acts as a launch point for system administration tools including the backup manager, the Synaptic package manager, an account manager and the operating system's update manager. We can also configure software repositories through System Settings. I found all of the modules available in the configuration panel worked well and the modules are easy to navigate. Having played with Plasma 5's System Settings panel this past week, I couldn't help but compare Plasma 5's configuration panel with the GNOME panel available on Trisquel. GNOME's settings panel contains fewer options, but has less clutter. Both panels offer the ability to search for items, making them fairly easy to navigate. I think GNOME has nicer artwork and nice, big icons where Plasma features small icons and appears to use more text in its modules. I suspect newcomers will find GNOME's panel to be more friendly while Plasma's settings panel provides a great deal more flexibility and control.
I ran Trisquel in two environments, a VirtualBox virtual machine and on a physical desktop machine. When running on physical hardware the Trisquel distribution performed very well. All my hardware was detected and properly utilized. My screen was set to its maximum resolution, networking and sound both functioned as expected. The GNOME fallback desktop was responsive and all tasks ran quickly. When running in VirtualBox my experience was similar. I did find Trisquel lacked VirtualBox guest support and a search of Trisquel's repositories did not locate VirtualBox add-ons. This kept video resolution low in Trisquel until I had manually installed VirtualBox guest support. In either environment, Trisquel was fairly light on memory, requiring 320 MB of RAM to login to the GNOME 3 desktop.
The distribution also ships with the Rhythmbox audio player, the Brasero disc burning software and the Totem video player. The distribution provides users with a range of multimedia codecs allowing us to play most audio and video files out of the box. Trisquel provides users with a few small games, an archive manager, virtual calculator and a document viewer. I also found the GNOME manual, a text editor and Network Manager is available to help us get on-line. Trisquel doesn't ship with any compiler, but the GNU Compiler Collection is available in the project's software repositories. In the background we find a free-software-only edition of the Linux kernel, version 3.13.
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 - running various desktop applications
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The software which ships with Trisquel worked well for me and I didn't run into any problems. In fact, Trisquel offers a pleasantly smooth and, in my case, bug free experience. I did run into a quirk which I found interesting though. The Trisquel release notes report the distribution offers a custom version of the GNOME 3.12 desktop. However, I found different GNOME packages reported a range of version numbers. For instance, the terminal application reports version 3.6, the GNOME Details module reported I was running GNOME 3.8. Looking through the project's software repository I found the GNOME meta package carried the version number 3.8 while the GNOME Shell package and various libraries were packaged as 3.10. None of the software I queried during my trial reported the 3.12 version number listed in the project's release notes. To be fair, I haven't used GNOME much since the start of the 3.x series, so I'm not sure if this mismatch of version numbers is a reflection of upstream or an indication the packages have been compiled from a variety of GNOME releases.
Speaking of packages, Trisquel ships with two graphical package managers. One is a simple graphical front end, called Add/Remove Applications, where we can search for packages and browse software categories. Adding or removing software is as easy as clicking a check next to a package's name. The main package manager is quite streamlined and offers very few options. Add/Remove Applications, I found, only works with desktop software. To access command line packages or libraries we need to turn to the other software manager. The second package manager is Synaptic, a faster and more flexible package manager. Synaptic offers the user more options, but has a busier interface. Both package managers allowed me to locate and install or remove desktop applications without any problems. I did find the Add/Remove Applications package manager returned strange search results sometimes. Some searches would return packages with completely different names. For example, a search for "firefox" returned results to "uGet" and "gPlanarity".
Trisquel GNU/Linux 7.0 - changing desktop settings and installing packages
(full image size: 273kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Software updates are handled by the Update Manager which can be located in the System Settings panel. The Update Manager shows us a brief list of available software upgrades and allows us to check which items we want to install. The first day I was running Trisquel there were 89 updates available, totalling 37MB in size. At the end of the week there were seven updates waiting to be installed, these totalling 1MB in size. During my experiment with Trisquel all package updates installed cleanly. I found it interesting to note the Update Manager refers to Trisquel as "Ubuntu 7".
When running Trisquel GNU/Linux I find myself considering not just the distribution in front of me, but the capabilities of the free software components that make up the operating system. Free and open source software sometimes gets stigmatized as being incomplete or lacking features available in commercial products. Whenever I boot up Trisquel I find myself wondering whether the free software only distribution will be able to hold its own when it comes to hardware drivers, multimedia support and productivity software. The answer I came to when running Trisquel 7.0 is that, yes, the distribution appears to be nearly as capable as operating systems that do not stick to the FSF's definition of free software.
Some people who use hardware that requires binary blobs or non-free drivers may face problems and Flash support isn't perfect when using the free Gnash player, but otherwise Trisquel appears to be every bit as functional as other mainstream Linux distributions. The software Trisquel ships with appears to be stable, functional and user friendly. The distribution is easy to install, I found it pleasant to use and I didn't encounter any problems. People who value or wish to promote free software should definitely try running Trisquel, it's an excellent example of what can be accomplished with free software.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8 GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500 GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6 GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Fedora presents RC1, FreeBSD runs on 64-bit ARM, FFmpeg returns to Ubuntu, Bryan Quigley discusses open hardware, the VUA group plans to fork Debian, DragonFly BSD drops support for 32-bit CPUs
With the last month of 2014 finally upon us, all eyes are turning towards the last major distribution release of the year - that of Fedora 21. The unofficial first release candidate was made available on Friday, while the final release is still scheduled for 9 December. So what will the latest incarnation of Red Hat's community project be like? Last week Fedora developer Pádraig Brady published a technical review of Fedora 21: "After a week of use here is my review compared to Fedora 16. In summary, the distro is more polished and stable and I'm glad I upgraded. The good: GNOME 3 status icons are more functional and have a better layout; problematically slow yum and seapplet are much faster; the firewall is better integrated with ports auto opened upon service enablement; package updates are better integrated into the system; notifications have got some design improvement and are persistent; perfect hardware support for my laptop, including extended keys etc; boot-up is cleaner, and a better experience than I noticed with Fedora 18 and 19; Firefox 33.1, Thunderbird 31.2 and LibreOffice 4.3 are included...."
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The FreeBSD Foundation reported last week that the 64-bit ARM port of FreeBSD is making rapid progress. While 32-bit ARM processors are popular in embedded devices, 64-bit ARM machines are expected to become increasingly popular in the server market as their reputation for low-energy cost savings make ARM an attractive choice for data centres. According to the FreeBSD Foundation's report, FreeBSD can now boot into single user mode on 64-bit ARM machines and more features are expected to soon follow: "The kernel bring-up portion of the project is nearing completion; FreeBSD/arm64 boots to single-user mode on ARM's reference simulator. Work is underway on the remaining kernel drivers, and on userland support. This project's overall goal is to bring FreeBSD/arm64 to a Tier-1 status, including release media and prebuilt package sets. More information about the arm64 port can be found on the FreeBSD wiki."
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A few years ago the FFmpeg suite of multimedia software was forked, giving birth to Libav. Some distributions, including Ubuntu, adopted the new Libav fork and Ubuntu has shipped with Libav exclusively for the past few releases. However, due to improvements in FFmpeg over the past three years, Ubuntu will once again be packaging the popular multimedia software. The Web Upd8 site reports: "Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet currently has FFmpeg 2.4.3 (imported from Debian) and because both Libav and FFmpeg use the same library names, the new FFmpeg package ships with renamed libraries, like "libavdevice-ffmpeg", "libavutil-ffmpeg" and so on."
Bryan Quigley put forward an interesting question last week: would the Linux community crowd-fund a US$500 open-to-the-core laptop? "Since Jolla had success with crowdfunding a tablet, it's a good time to see if we can get some mid-range Ubuntu laptops for sale to consumers in as many places as possible. I'd like to get some ideas about whether there is enough demand for a very open $500 Ubuntu laptop." While there are a number of retailers offering Linux-compatible laptops, they are typically more expensive than $500 or ship with significantly lower specifications than what Quigley is proposing. People who wish to support an open hardware laptop compatible with Linux can fill out Quigley's survey.
While on the subject of Ubuntu and crowdfunding, a new effort to develop a modern tablet with a "real" Linux distribution was announced last week. The project behind the UbuTab, as the tablet is called, seeks to raise a rather modest sum of US$36,000 to make the device reality, with the first deliveries expected in March 2015. The interesting part about the UbuTab is its massive storage - up to 2 TB. From the project's page on Indiegogo: "Our primary focus with the UbuTab is to provide a fresh and exciting take on mobile computing. We aim to bring desktop capacity storage to the tablet. Innovative advances in the hard drive market have provided us thin and power efficient hard drives that reach up to 2 TB in capacity. At only 7mm thick, these drives are 25% slimmer than a traditional laptop hard drive. These slim new drives allowed us to engineer a tablet with massive storage without becoming clunky or thick. In addition to the unique and specialized hardware, the UbuTab will come loaded with the Ubuntu OS." At the time of writing UbuTab has raised nearly a quarter of its target (in just four days), so it looks like the world's first Ubuntu tablet is destined to become a reality.
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Back in October we talked about a group called Veteran Unix Admins (VUA) who said they would consider forking the Debian distribution if Debian went forward with making systemd the default init software. Since then Debian has moved forward with adopting systemd as the default init technology and voted to allow programs packaged for Debian to depend specifically on systemd. This move prompted the VUA to announce they will go ahead with their fork of Debian: "The default init system in the next Debian "Jessie" release will be systemd, bringing along a deep web of dependencies. We need to individuate those dependencies, clean them from all packages affected and provide an alternative repository where to get them. The stability of our fork is the main priority in this phase." People wishing to support the VUA can donate to the project. More information on the Debian fork, called Devuan, can be found on the new distribution's website.
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Last week saw the release of DragonFly BSD 4.0, a new branch that offers support for more CPU cores, Haswell graphics support and concurrent packet filtering with PF. One interesting part of the release announcement is the news DragonFly BSD will no longer support the 32-bit x86 architecture. People wishing to run DragonFly BSD will need a 64-bit x86 CPU. DragonFly BSD is one of a growing number of open-source operating systems, including KaOS, Chakra GNU/Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and PC-BSD, that have dropped support for the ageing 32-bit x86 architecture.
|Technology Preview (by Jesse Smith)
Kubuntu 14.10 with Plasma 5
When Ubuntu 14.10 and its many community editions came out in October I had originally planned to review just the flag ship distribution, Ubuntu with the Unity desktop. However, looking over the release announcement for Kubuntu I noticed one interesting new feature: Plasma 5. According to the Kubuntu website, "Kubuntu Plasma 5 14.10 is a technology preview using the next generation desktop from KDE. We welcome testers but don't offer any reliability guarantee or support."
Up to this point I had only played with KDE's Plasma 5 briefly when it was still very much in its early stages. This seemed like a good opportunity to experiment with Plasma 5 on a distribution which works closely with the upstream developers. Kubuntu 14.10 with Plasma 5 is available in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds and the ISO we download is 1.2 GB in size.
Kubuntu 14.10 - the default Plasma 5 theme
(full image size: 826kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Booting from the live media gave me different results depending on whether I ran Kubuntu in a virtual machine or on physical hardware. When running on my physical desktop computer, Kubuntu's live disc booted to a text console where I was automatically logged in. Running the command "startx" launched the Plasma desktop environment and I was able to experiment with the distribution from there. Launching Kubuntu in a VirtualBox environment brought me directly to the Plasma 5 desktop. On the desktop we find a folder view widget containing a single icon. Clicking the icon launches the project's system installer. The default wallpaper looks like a pastel kaleidoscope. Along the bottom of the display we find an application menu, task switcher and a system tray. One thing I noticed straight away is the yellow "cashew" icon often associated with the KDE 4 desktop has been removed. In its place is a small, grey ball with tiny lines drawn through it. We can click on this grey ball (I began to think of it as "the dust ball") and drag it around the screen. Whenever we release the dust ball it snaps to the nearest screen edge. Clicking the dust ball brings up a menu where we can work with Plasma widgets and activities. More on those later.
Kubuntu's system installer is friendly and worked quickly for me. It acts a great deal like the Ubuntu installer though Kubuntu's installer features a different colour scheme and slightly different layout. We are walked through selecting our preferred language, optionally installing multimedia support and disk partitioning. I took the guided partitioning option and found the installer set me up with an ext4 root partition and a small swap partition. We then select our time zone from a map of the world, confirm our keyboard layout and create a user account. I found Kubuntu's installer to be very easy to navigate and it quickly finished copying its files to my computer. When the installer is finished we are asked to reboot the computer.
Kubuntu 14.10 - Plasma 5 with a darker theme
(full image size: 585kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Kubuntu boots to a graphical login screen and, when we sign in, we are presented once again with the bright, kaleidoscope style desktop. By default, the theme colours look flat and washed out. The icons have high contrast. One of the first things I did was bring up Plasma's settings so I could change the default background. There weren't any alternative wallpapers on the system, but I could connect to a repository of artwork. Browsing through this repository and attempting to download wallpapers caused the settings panel to frequently lock up or report it had lost its connection to the artwork repository. After several attempts I managed to download a handful of alternative backgrounds and apply them to my desktop.
The distribution ships with a small selection of desktop software, most of it associated with the KDE project. I didn't spend a lot of time working with the various web browsers, image manipulation applications and utilities. I wanted to focus my attention on Plasma and how it worked rather than the underlying operating system. However, I did find the Firefox web browser was installed and LibreOffice was available. There were also tools available for burning optical discs, changing the Plasma desktop's behaviour, sending e-mail and working with BitTorrent. In the background Kubuntu runs on the Linux kernel, version 3.16.
As I mentioned above, I ran Kubuntu in two environments, a VirtualBox virtual machine and on a desktop machine. Apart from the live disc booting to a text console on my desktop machine, I found the distribution ran well in both environments. The system booted quickly, the Plasma desktop responded quickly and my screen was set to its maximum resolution. Networking and sound worked as expected and, while Plasma had a few lock-ups, I didn't run into any crashes from desktop applications or the underlying operating system. Whenever Plasma glitched or my task switcher disappeared, it would usually sort itself out after about five seconds. On the rare instance when Plasma didn't right itself, I found logging out and logging back into my account would restore functionality to the desktop. During my tests Kubuntu used approximately 530 MB of RAM when logged into Plasma.
Kubuntu 14.10 - managing software with Muon Discover
(full image size: 1,129kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The Kubuntu distribution ships with two graphical applications for manipulating software packages. The first is the Muon Update Manager. This application can be launched to check for software updates in the Kubuntu repositories. Muon Update Manager shows us a list of available upgrades. We can check which items we want to download and click a button to download and install all waiting updates. I found clicking on a new package's name would bring up a brief change log for the package, showing us what has been changed for this upgrade.
The second program provided for working with software is Muon Discover. This application consists of three tabs, one for locating new software packages, another for browsing software already installed on our computer and a third tab enables us to configure software repositories. Using the first two tabs we can browse through categories of software. Packages are represented by large icons and a name. Clicking on a package's icon brings up a screen where we are shown a summary of what the package does along with user ratings and a list of related packages. We can click a button to install the package. When a new package is queued for installation a tab appears at the bottom of the Muon Discover window and we can watch a progress bar grow as the software is downloaded. We can cancel the installation by clicking on a "stop" icon.
Once the new software is installed we can launch it by clicking a "run" icon. Muon Discover lets us continue browsing the software repository while it installs new items. I experimented with adding a handful of packages and removing a few others. These actions all completed without any problems. The only complaint I had with Muon Discover was, when searching for specific packages by name, search results were slow to appear. Browsing categories of software to locate items returned results quickly in comparison to searches for items by name.
Kubuntu 14.10 - power management and window preview
(full image size: 279kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Most of my time with Kubuntu was spent playing with the desktop interface rather than focusing on any specific tasks. I was constantly poking at settings, trying to see what was similar to KDE 4 and what had changed. I found, for the most part, Plasma 5 looks and acts very much like KDE 4, but with subtle differences. The locations of some settings have changed in the System Settings panel. I think a little reorganization was done, but the ability to search for items in System Settings by name makes locating configuration modules straight forward. I got the impression some features had been rearranged to make it possible to fine tune them more easily while others appear to have been removed (or not added yet).
As an example, I didn't find any way to completely enable/disable desktop visual effects. However, there is a screen in System Settings where we can individually select which effects we want enabled. If we un-check all these effects we have essentially disabled visual effects. I couldn't find a way to switch the desktop clock between 12-hour and 24-hour displays. (Admittedly finding this feature wasn't easy under KDE 4 and I am uncertain if the feature was removed or if it just switched hiding places.) Still, the majority of features that were present in KDE 4 appear to be in Plasma 5 and they are typically in the same location. This makes the shift from KDE 4 to Plasma 5 a fairly gentle, evolutionary step. It is much easier to migrate to Plasma 5 from KDE 4 than it was adjusting from KDE 3 to KDE 4.
Another feature which stood out was the way activities and widgets are handled. While welcome features in KDE 4, I found them awkward to use under the old desktop interface. Plasma 5 does a good job of making widget management easy and clear. The way widgets are browsed and enabled feels more natural, smoother. Plasma activities are virtual workspaces set up to feature different backgrounds and different widgets or applications. Accessing activities in Plasma 5 feels about the same. However, creating and removing activities feels more natural to me now. Working with activities is a simple act of clicking the dust ball and then clicking the Activities entry.
Kubuntu 14.10 - browsing available Plasma widgets
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Finally, there is one Plasma feature I quite like and that is the "alternatives" option. Right-clicking on a widget and selecting "alternatives" brings up a list of widgets which perform approximately the same function as our current widget. For instance, we can right-click on the application menu and select "alternatives" to see a list of all available application menu widgets. Clicking an alternative widget causes the old one to be removed and the new one to be installed in its place. We can also find alternatives to items such as the clock or the task switcher. Each widget carries its own style and particular functionality and these alternative widgets make it easy to customize the desktop to match our preferences.
With regards to Kubuntu, version 14.10 appears to be a solid release. The operating system was stable, installing it was easy and Kubuntu worked well with my hardware. The distribution offers a small, capable collection of software and it is easy to install more software through the Muon Discover utility. Generally speaking, I like what Kubuntu put forward with this release.
That being said, I didn't sit down with Kubuntu to examine the operating system, I installed Kubuntu so I could play with Plasma. Plasma 5 is still in its early stages and that shows a bit. Some of the settings modules, such as the wallpaper switcher, tended to lock up. Sometimes I'd see an error indicating Plasma had crashed and all my widgets (including application menu and task switcher) would disappear for a few seconds. Usually Plasma would simply restart and I could continue where I left off, but a few times I had to logout and then login again to get Plasma working properly.
Plasma 5 does a good job of continuing KDE's legacy of being customizable. Almost everything can be configured, re-themed, moved around. KDE is possibly the most flexible open source desktop available at the moment. More to the point, finding most options and changing them is not only possible but easy. Plasma 5 ran quickly on my system, the desktop was very responsive and I like that, by default, there were not many visual effects enabled.
The Plasma 5 desktop feels less distracting than KDE 4 is. When I run KDE 4 I often see notifications popping up in the corner of the desktop. These notifications tend to be too large and too frequent in my opinion. When using Plasma I rarely saw notifications appear and the ones I observed were less distracting visually. On the subject of visuals, I have to say I am not a fan of the "flat" style of desktop we have been seeing a lot of recently. Plasma, by default, has a very flat look. The icons are simple, high contrast and everything lacks texture. This makes it difficult for me to tell what is a label and what is a button, what is simply a picture in the corner of a window and what is a control I can use. I don't like that Plasma is following this trend of flat design. I do like that almost everything about the desktop, including icons and theme, can be altered easily. Plasma makes it easy to get rid of the eyeball abusing, flat, pastel nightmare and replace it with something much more pleasing to my eyes.
Overall, I think the design of Plasma 5 is good. It is fast, flexible and doesn't appear to require any more resources than KDE 4. There are a few bugs remaining, the occasional crash and a few configuration tools locked up. However, I suspect that by the time Kubuntu 15.04 arrives Plasma 5 will be ready to take the place of default desktop environment.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8 GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500 GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6 GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Released Last Week
Ferdinand Thommes has announced the release of siduction 14.1.0, a set of Debian-based desktop Linux distributions with separate Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE, LXDE, LXQt and Xfce editions: "We are very happy to present the final release of siduction 2014.1 'Indian Summer'. siduction is a distribution based on Debian’s unstable branch and we try to release a few new snapshots over the course of each year. For 2014 it will be just this final release. siduction 2014.1 ships with six desktop environments - KDE SC, Xfce, LXDE, LXQt, GNOME and Cinnamon, all in 32-bit and 64-bit variants." Read the informative release notes for further information.
siduction 14.1.0 - the distribution's default KDE desktop
(full image size: 414kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
DragonFly BSD 4.0.1
Justin Sherrill has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 4.0.1, the first stable 4.0 build of the project's UNIX-like operating system created in 2003 by Matthew Dillon as a fork of FreeBSD 4.8: "Version 4.0.1 released 25 November 2014. Version 4 of DragonFly brings Haswell graphics support, 3D acceleration, and improved performance in extremely high-traffic networks. DragonFly now supports up to 256 CPUs, Haswell graphics (i915), concurrent pf operation, and a variety of other devices. As announced during the 3.8 release, DragonFly BSD is 64-bit only. No 32-bit installation images have been generated, and no compatibility work is being done for 32-bit systems. Changes since DragonFly 3.8: new device files /dev/upmap and /dev/kpmap have been added. These memory mappable drivers allow for a per process or common to the kernel shared memory space. The objective is to allow kernel-provided information to be directly read from memory, without having to pay the cost of a traditional system call." Read the detailed release announcement for a full list of changes.
Zbigniew Konojacki has announced the release of 4MLinux 10.1, the new stable build of the project's lightweight desktop Linux distribution running a customised JWM window manager: "4MLinux 10.1 'Allinone' edition final released. The status of the 4MLinux 10.1 series has been changed to stable. Lots of improvements, most of which are my response to various feature requests. Mozilla software (Firefox, SeaMonkey, Thunderbird) use the native Linux build of GTK+ (not via WINE any more). GNOME Parted (aka GParted) is now included, while Dropbox and Opera are available as downloadable extensions. All web browsers (Firefox, Opera, Qupzilla, SeaMonkey) have the Flash Player plugin enabled out of the box. Additionally, support for many printers and scanners has been added (there's a short guide on the 4MLinux Blog)." Here is the brief release announcement with a screenshot of the default desktop.
Linux Mint 17.1
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 17.1, un updated build of the popular distribution built on top of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 17.1 'Rebecca' MATE. Linux Mint 17.1 is a long term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop even more comfortable to use. Linux Mint 17.1 MATE edition comes with two window managers installed and configured by default: Marco (MATE's very own window manager, simple, fast and very stable); Compiz (an advanced compositing window manager which can do wonders if your hardware supports it). Among the various window managers available for Linux, Compiz is certainly the most impressive when it comes to desktop effects." Read the two release announcements (Cinnamon and MATE) for more details.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
November 2014 DistroWatch.com donation: Tails|
We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the November 2014 DistroWatch.com donation is Tails, a Debian-based live CD project that integrates Tor software with the Iceweasel web browser for unparalleled online anonymity. It receives US$350.00 in cash.
As the project's home page explains, "Tails is a live operating system, that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to: use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship; all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network; leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly; use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging." See the distribution's about page for a more detailed explanation of the tools used.
Launched in 2004, this monthly donations programme is a DistroWatch initiative to support free and open-source software projects and operating systems with cash contributions. Readers are welcome to nominate their favourite project for future donations. Those readers who wish to contribute towards these donations, please use our advertising page to make a payment (PayPal, credit cards, Yandex Money and crypto currencies are accepted). Here is the list of the projects that have received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$41,975 to various open-source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NDISwrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and Sabayon Linux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250)
- 2009: Openbox ($250), Wolvix GNU/Linux ($200), smxi ($200), Python ($300), SliTaz GNU/Linux ($200), LiVES ($300), Osmo ($300), LMMS ($250), KompoZer ($360), OpenSSH ($350), Parted Magic ($350) and Krita ($285)
- 2010: Qimo 4 Kids ($250), Squid ($250), Libre Graphics Meeting ($300), Bacula ($250), FileZilla ($300), GCompris ($352), Xiph.org ($250), Clonezilla ($250), Debian Multimedia ($280), Geany ($300), Mageia ($470), gtkpod ($300)
- 2011: CGSecurity ($300), OpenShot ($300), Imagination ($250), Calibre ($300), RIPLinuX ($300), Midori ($310), vsftpd ($300), OpenShot ($350), Trinity Desktop Environment ($300), LibreCAD ($300), LiVES ($300), Transmission ($250)
- 2012: GnuPG ($350), ImageMagick ($350), GNU ddrescue ($350), Slackware Linux ($500), MATE ($250), LibreCAD ($250), BleachBit ($350), cherrytree ($260), Zim ($335), nginx ($250), LFTP ($250), Remastersys ($300)
- 2013: MariaDB ($300), Linux From Scratch ($350), GhostBSD ($340), DHCP ($300), DOSBox ($250), awesome ($300), DVDStyler ($280), Tor ($350), Tiny Tiny RSS ($350), FreeType ($300), GNU Octave ($300), Linux Voice ($510)
- 2014: QupZilla ($250), Pitivi ($370), MediaGoblin ($350), TrueCrypt ($300), Krita ($340), SME Server ($350), OpenStreetMap ($350), iTALC ($350), KDE ($400), The Document Foundation ($400), Tails ($350)
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- Devuan. Devuan is a fork of the Debian distribution which aims to remain free of systemd components.
- InvestigateIX. InvestigateIX is a live-system for search empowering investigative journalists to setup an own open-source search engine on an encrypted external device to search in a large amount of documents, files and data.
- RLSD. RLSD is a small, "live" GNU/Linux-libre distro with retro applications for the x86 and x86_64 architectures. It revives old hardware and the way computing used to be in the late 1990s.
- UBOS. UBOS is a Linux distribution which attempts to make it easier to set up services such as ownCloud and Wordpress on home servers. UBOS runs on x86 computers and the Raspberri Pi Model B.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 8 December 2014. 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)
|• Issue 709 (2017-04-24): Ubuntu 17.04, Korora testing new software manager, Ubuntu migrates to Wayland, running Nix package manager on alternative distributions|
|• Issue 708 (2017-04-17): Maui Linux 17.03, Snaps run on Fedora, Void adopts Flatpak, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Debian elects Project Leader|
|• Issue 707 (2017-04-10): PCLinuxOS 2017.03, Canonical stops Unity development, OpenBSD on a Raspberry Pi, setting up a VPN for privacy|
|• Issue 706 (2017-04-03): Super Grub2 Disk, Snap packages of deepin applications, Subgraph OS routes network traffic for one application, announcements from Linux Mint|
|• Issue 705 (2017-03-27): Minimal Linux Live, sharing control of the operating system, new KaOS features, Uplos32 provides 32-bit fork of PCLinuxOS|
|• Issue 704 (2017-03-20): ToarusOS 1.0.4, Linux Mint's security record, Debian starts Project Leader election, Ubuntu 12.04 reaches end-of-life|
|• Issue 703 (2017-03-13): SolydXK 201701, CloudReady, Solus announces new features, KDE Connect sends text messages from desktop, openSUSE's YaST module for Let's Encrypt|
|• Issue 702 (2017-03-06): Fatdog64 Linux, elementary OS bundled with new netbook, Haiku announces new features, security and the size of a distro's development team|
|• Issue 701 (2017-02-27): OBRevenge 2017.02, Mageia 6 delays, NetBSD reproducible builds, questions about swap space, trying to steam video on a Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 700 (2017-02-20): RaspBSD, Debian replaces Icedove with Thunderbird, Fedora's licensing guidlines, tips for switching shells, finding battery charge, getting IP address and killing processes|
|• Issue 699 (2017-02-13): Clear Linux, GhostBSD network utility ported to FreeBSD, Ubuntu coming to Fairphone, elementary OS crowd funding an app store|
|• Issue 698 (2017-02-06): Solus 2017.01.01, comparing containers with portable applicatins, Tails dropping 32-bit support, Debian Stretch enters freeze|
|• Issue 697 (2017-01-30): Subgraph OS 2016.12.30, running Ubuntu on an Android phone, Arch Linux phasing out 32-bit support, Linux Mint testing updated LMDE media|
|• Issue 696 (2017-01-23): GoboLinux 016, remotely running desktop applications, Solus adopting Flatpak, KDE neon using Calamares, TrueOS tests OpenRC|
|• Issue 695 (2017-01-16): Zorin OS 12, Peppermint team fixes installer bug, Debian refreshes Jessie media, Ubuntu improves low graphics mode, Exciting things coming in 2017|
|• Issue 694 (2017-01-09): MX Linux 16, Fedora considers systemd security features, DragonFly BSD to support massive swap space, Ubuntu Touch roadmap, Puppy's newsletter, sudo's password prompt|
|• Issue 693 (2017-01-02): Comparing small distros, fig language, video driver comparsion, Debian+PIXEL, Wayland on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 692 (2016-12-19): Bodhi Linux 4.0.0, Cappsule containers, Calculate's new Utilities package, Solus and Ubuntu MATE build new application menu|
|• Issue 691 (2016-12-12): SalentOS 1.0, openSUSE improves YaST, Fedora considers slower release cycle, KDE neon gets LTS branch|
|• Issue 690 (2016-12-05): Fedora 25, Ubuntu adopts rolling HWE kernel, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Haiku working toward EFI support|
|• Issue 689 (2016-11-28): openSUSE 42.2, Fedora's upgrade path, plans for Korora 25, transitioning from PC-BSD to TrueOS, Webconverger's reproducible builds|
|• Issue 688 (2016-11-21): Endless OS 3.0.5, KDE neon fixes security hole, FreeBSD's Quarterly Status Report, Rolling release trial #2 concludes|
|• Issue 687 (2016-11-14): NAS4Free 10.3.0.3, Fedora gains MP3 playback, budgie-remix becomes Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu flavours compared, Rolling release trial #2|
|• Issue 686 (2016-11-07): FreeBSD 11.0, rolling release trial #2, Debian announces supported architectures, Simplicity switching to antiX base, farewell to Mythbuntu|
|• Issue 685 (2016-10-31): elementary OS 0.4, SUSE gains ARM support, Mint improves language support, Dirty COW explained, Rolling release trial #2|
|• Issue 684 (2016-10-24): Ubuntu 16.10, Linux popularity in different markets, Fedora runs on Raspberry Pi, Ubuntu features live kernel patching|
|• Issue 683 (2016-10-17): Refracta 8.0, making packages for distributions, Alpine switches to LibreSSL, 386BSD website publishes classic code|
|• Issue 682 (2016-10-10): KDE neon 20160915, Android-x86 6.0, Fedora warns of update bug, HandyLinux drops English translation, LXQt benchmarks|
|• Issue 681 (2016-10-03): OpenBSD 6.0, DragonFly BSD to support LibreSSL in ports, systemd denial of service bug, upgraded Mintbox Mini|
|• Issue 680 (2016-09-26): Uruk GNU/Linux 1.0, blocking applications at the firewall, Lenovo controversy, Ubuntu running on the Nextcloud Box|
|• Issue 679 (2016-09-19): OpenMandriva 3.0, 32-bit vs 64-bit performance, openSUSE updates, KaOS unveils first run wizard|
|• Issue 678 (2016-09-12): Apricity 07.2016, Mageia adopts DNF, KDE neon to use Wayland, FreeBSD updates Linux compatibility, creating cron jobs|
|• Issue 677 (2016-09-05): Peppermint OS 7, Manjaro updates leadership, TrueOS becomes rolling release, organizing files, creating torrents|
|• Issue 676 (2016-08-29): Korora 24, Fedora 25 to use Wayland by default, Linux turns 25, PC-BSD becomes TrueOS, finding software licensing information|
|• Issue 675 (2016-08-22): Gentoo LiveDVD "Choice Edition", moreutils, Ubuntu improves terminal convergence, MATE packaged for Openindiana, FreeBSD improves video support|
|• Issue 674 (2016-08-15): Zenwalk Linux 8.0, Ubuntu phone follow-up, Lubuntu transitioning to LXQt, Steam running on FreeBSD|
|• Issue 673 (2016-08-03): noop linux and EasyNAS, Debian's GnuPG switch, Fedora "Flock", using "nice"|
|• Issue 672 (2016-08-01): Ubuntu Phone 15.04, Solus embraces rolling release model, interview with Jane Silber, FreeBSD Quarterly Report|
|• Issue 671 (2016-07-25): Slackware 14.2, Point Linux 3.2, OpenBSD disables usermount, KaOS releases significant changes, Fedora 22 reaches end of life.|
|• Issue 670 (2016-07-18): Linux Lite 3.0, Bodhi team plans 4.0.0, pfSense changes licensing, running software across distributions, Linux Mint upgrade path|
|• Issue 669 (2016-07-11): Linux Mint 18, proving a system is secure, LibreSSL in FreeBSD, Ubuntu plans phasing out 32-bit, pfSense status report|
|• Issue 668 (2016-07-04): Fedora 24, Linux Mint plans for 18.1, FreeBSD and DragonFly BSD improve their file systems, comparing Flatpak, Snap and AppImage|
|• Issue 667 (2016-06-27): GeckoLinux 421, Fedora supports Flatpak, Solus unveils new features, running GNU/Linux on tablets|
|• Issue 666 (2016-06-20): Comparing more live update methods, Ubuntu's snap packages, Antergos drops 32-bit media, GeckoLinux unveils Rolling edition, learning Linux resources|
|• Issue 665 (2016-06-13): BunsenLabs Linux Hydrogen, Fedora 24 delayed, NetBSD grows in size, Clonezilla questions|
|• Issue 664 (2016-06-06): Sabayon 16.05, Debian updates install media, the cost of free software, Qubes explains secure build process|
|• Issue 663 (2016-05-30): Comparing live update methods, Ubuntu MATE's progress, distros debate systemd change, DistroWatch turns 15|
|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
|• Issue 661 (2016-05-16): FreeBSD 10.3, OpenMandriva adopts Clang, Debian adds ZFS packages, PCLinuxOS drops 32-bit and comparing CentOS with RHEL|
|• Issue 660 (2016-05-09): Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Mint's xapps, FreeBSD Quarterly Report, Debian updates 32-bit support, addressing GPL violations|
|• Issue 659 (2016-05-02): Ubuntu 16.04, compiling custom kernels, Cinnamon 3.0, Sabayon launches ARM build, Devuan ships Beta release|
|• Issue 658 (2016-04-25): Kali Linux 2016.1, elementary OS 0.3.2, Debian elects Project Leader, Fedora 24 feature preview, Nard reaches 1.0|
|• Full list of all issues|