| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 658, 25 April 2016
Welcome to this year's 17th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Last week we witnessed the release of Ubuntu 16.04 and the distribution's community editions. The many Ubuntu variations stampeded into the wild, giving a lot of people their first glimpse of Snappy package management and a new package manager front-end along with other new features. At the moment we are still reviewing the latest Ubuntu version so this week we are going to focus on other interesting topics. We begin with a look at Kali Linux, a penetration testing distribution which often shows up in unusual circumstances. Plus we have a guest review this week which explores the look and feel of elementary OS. In our News section we welcome Debian's new Project Leader, talk about OpenMandriva's new build farm and look at the features coming to Fedora 24. We also acknowledge a milestone for the Nard SDK project. In our Torrent Corner we share the media we are seeding and then we provide a list of the distributions released last week. In our Opinion Poll we discuss using secure (HTTPS) connections while web browsing. We are pleased to share that we have added more Linux-friendly retailers to our Hardware Resources page and we have cleaned up our article archives. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (29MB) and MP3 (40MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Kali Linux 2016.1
Kali Linux, which was formally known as BackTrack, is a forensic and security-focused distribution based on Debian's Testing branch. Kali Linux is designed with penetration testing, data recovery and threat detection in mind. The project switched over to a rolling release model earlier this year in an effort to provide more up to date security utilities to the distribution's users.
I have been finding a lot of posts about Kali Linux from Linux newcomers on various forums and social media recently and this surprised me. Kali Linux is not marketed toward novice users, in fact the distribution has a fairly narrow focus (security, forensics and penetration testing) so I was eager to experiment with the distribution and see if I could find out why so many newcomers to Linux have been installing Kali as their first GNU/Linux distribution.
Kali Linux is available in two editions, with each edition available in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds. The main (or full) edition ships with the GNOME desktop and a large suite of security tools. The Light edition features fewer tools and the Xfce desktop. There is also an ARM port of Kali Linux. The 64-bit build of the main edition is 2.7GB in size and this is the ISO I downloaded for the purposes of my trial.
Booting from the Kali media brings up a menu where we can decide to launch a live desktop environment, launch a graphical installer or run a text installer. There are additional menu items for running a live desktop with persistent storage, either with or without the benefit of encryption. Selecting one of the live desktop options brings us to the GNOME Shell desktop. I found GNOME Shell worked well enough, but tended to be a bit sluggish when running from the live media. I was not able to find a system installer in the GNOME environment and so I rebooted and took the graphical installer option from the boot menu.
Kali Linux 2016.1 -- The application menu
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Kali Linux uses Debian's system installer with its own custom branding. The installer walks us through its many screens, getting our preferred language, location, time zone and a password for the root account. Disk partitioning can be mostly automated via a guided partition option or we can manually partition our disk. I found the manual approach to be somewhat more complicated and involving more steps than what we would normally experience with other system installers. However, I was pleased to see Kali offers support for many file systems, including ext2/3/4, Btrfs, JFS and XFS. The system installer offers to connect to a software repository server to download fresh packages for the installation. I attempted this at first, but the repository mirrors my system tried to contact timed out and so I switched to simply making use of software available locally on Kali's DVD. Once Kali has been installed on our hard drive the installer offers to install the GRUB boot loader and we get to decide on which device GRUB will be placed. After that the system reboots and we can explore our local copy of Kali.
When our local copy of Kali boots, it brings us to a plain grey graphical login screen. From here we can start a GNOME Shell session. Though the login menu lists three sessions (GNOME, GNOME Classic and GNOME on Wayland), the GNOME on Wayland option returned me to the login screen and both the GNOME and GNOME Classic options presented me with very similar desktop environments. The Classic desktop featured an application menu and Activities menu while the GNOME Shell simply provided the Activities menu. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, the two GNOME sessions were identical.
Kali Linux 2016.1 -- Changing desktop settings
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Since we only have a root user account upon installing Kali, one of the first things I did was venture into the GNOME control panel and open the account manager. This configuration module allowed me to set up a new user account and it insisted that I make an unusually long and complex password (without providing any tips on just how long or complex the password should be). This struck me as all the more frustrating as the account manager demands secure passwords while the operating system as a whole encourages the user to operate as the root user most of the time. I will come back to this design quirk later.
GNOME's application menu is divided into many categories of software. Actually, the menu is nested with multiple levels. At the top level we have categories of security-related software. For example, there is a Database Assessment category along with Password Attacks, Wireless Attacks, Forensics and so on. At the bottom of the menu is a category called Usual Applications. Most of the application launchers run command line applications which have short, cryptic names. This is made all the more frustrating as the application menu does not provide any description next to each application name to explain what the tool does. This means we are left to try to figure out what "dradis", "hamster" or "binwalk" might do, based on their executable names alone.
Kali Linux 2016.1 -- Running Metasploit
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Under the Usual Applications section we find another menu tree with the usual categories and launchers one might find on any other Linux distribution running the GNOME desktop. The Usual Applications menu features the Iceweasel web browser, text editors and an image viewer. We also find the VLC and Totem media players. There is a launcher for configuring printers, but the printer configuration module does not work as there is no printing service enabled on the system. If we explore the system further we find Kali runs systemd 228 and version 4.3.0 of the Linux kernel.
Kali ships with a giant collection of utilities for cracking passwords, scanning networks, sniffing cookies from the network, scanning and testing databases, and deploying exploits. The majority of these tools are command line utilities and launching them from the application menu opens a terminal window in which the tool's help text is dumped to the screen. This approach is frustrating for two reasons. First, each tool usually has several pages of usage text which means we need to scroll back through it to find useful flags. Second, there are no examples or tips in the help text of these tools. In other words, if we haven't used the tool before there isn't anything to explain what the tool does or how it works. Kali's on-line documentation does point us toward some third-party resources, but for the most part we need to locate the websites of the utilities and hope they have useful documentation. There are a few utilities included with Kali Linux which feature nice, graphical interfaces. I used one for sniffing network packets and another for exploiting network connections and gathering cookies. The latter, a program called Fern, tended to lock up, but I was able to collect some web cookies on my network that were being passed over insecure connections.
Earlier I mentioned that when Kali's installer tried to contact a package mirror, it timed out, leaving me to install packages which were available locally on the Kali Linux DVD. This did not seem to be a problem at first, but it did mean that, post-install, the distribution's package manager was unable to install new software as it did not feature any default repositories. Kali's repositories then had to be manually added to the APT package manager's configuration.
Once I had set up repositories for Kali, I was able to use the GNOME Packages graphical package management front-end. GNOME Packages lists categories of software down the left side of its window and there is a search box in the upper-left corner we can use to find specific software by name. On the right side of the GNOME Packages window we find a list of software that has been found in the selected category or that has matched our search terms. We can click a box next to each package's entry to mark the software for installation or removal. I ran into several issues while trying to use GNOME Packages. The first and most obvious was that the interface was slow to respond and often sluggish when processing input. When installing new software, the Packages interface does not lock, but it will not perform any additional actions either. This means I tended to be left with an unresponsive interface while Packages was working and I was trying to search for a new application. Perhaps my biggest issue though was that sometimes, when I marked a package for installation, Packages would claim it had successfully installed the package, but the item could not be found on the system. Checking with the APT command line package management utilities would show the item had not been installed as the graphical utility had indicated. It also appears as though GNOME Packages does not process software upgrades and so I ended up using the command line APT utility almost exclusively for handling software packages.
Kali Linux 2016.1 -- Scanning for infected files
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I tried running Kali on a desktop computer and in a VirtualBox virtual environment. Kali ran fairly well on the desktop machine. My screen's maximum resolution was detected and used, sound worked out of the box and Kali had no problem automatically setting up a network connection. Desktop performance was not great, but certainly usable. When running in VirtualBox, the distribution would run and was stable, but would not integrate with VirtualBox and Kali could not use my screen's full resolution. Adding the VirtualBox guest packages from the Kali repository fixed this and provided a much nicer (though often sluggish) experience. In either test environment, Kali Linux used approximately 580MB of memory when sitting idle at the GNOME desktop.
While Kali ships with an impressive arsenal of penetration testing software, there were a number of issues I ran into while using the distribution. Primary among them was the way the GNOME desktop kept getting in my way. Kali's GNOME Classic desktop has two application menus (the tree-style menu at the top of the screen and the Activities menu). Sometimes selecting the Activities menu would cause both menus to appear, competing for attention and making it difficult to select the application I wanted. I also found that moving my mouse over to the edge of the screen (particularly the top of the display) when I wanted to get the pointer out of the way or select something, would cause the Activities overview to engage. This basically stopped whatever I was doing in its tracks and required I switch back to the regular desktop view. Combined with GNOME's less than impressive responsiveness, it soon became frustrating trying to use Kali. I tried switching to GNOME Shell for a while, but since the forensics tools Kali ships with have cryptic names, the Activities menu, with its lack of tree-style categories, was nearly useless when it came to locating and launching Kali's utilities.
Another interesting quirk of Kali was that the distribution is designed to be run with root access all the time. This is quite unusual and an odd design choice for a distribution that is security oriented. I tried running Kali for a while with a non-root account and found most of the forensics and penetration testing tools would not run at all (or, if they did run, would not work properly) unless they were launched with root credentials.
Finally, Kali does not enable most background services by default and some of these, such as the PostgreSQL database, are required if we want to run some of distribution's key utilities. The Kali documentation helps us deal with this and get the necessary services up and running.
By the time I was finished my trial with Kali Linux I was more puzzled than when I started as to why I keep hearing about new Linux users installing the distribution. Nothing on the project's website suggests it is a good distribution for beginners or, in fact, anyone other than security researches. In fact, the Kali website specifically warns people about its nature.
That is not to say Kali isn't a good distribution. The project has a very precise mission: provide a wide variety of security tools in a live (and installable) package. As a live disc a professional can take with them to jobs and use from any computer, Kali does quite well. The catch is we need to already be familiar with the security tools Kali provides. Friendly and discoverable graphical applications are few and far between with Kali and almost everything is done from the command line.
Kali also presents us with an interesting situation where we can install the distribution on a hard drive, but it seems as though Kali Linux is designed to be used almost exclusively from a live USB/DVD medium. The distribution's focus on running tools as root and the nature of the packages it includes certainly make it a better live distribution than a day-to-day workstation operating system.
What I am dancing around is that what Kali is designed to do -- offer a huge buffet of security and penetration tools in a live environment -- the distribution does quite well. However, Kali is not designed to step outside of that niche. It is not a multi-purpose distribution, nor should it be, and I hope newcomers are discouraged from trying to use it as a regular desktop operating system.
Finally, I would like to mention something that using Kali Linux highlighted for me this week. Kali Linux is good at what it does: acting as a platform for up to date security utilities. But in using Kali, it became painfully clear that there is a lack of friendly open source security tools and an even greater lack of good documentation for these tools. Some of the tools Kali ships I had used before and some I had not. And, being exposed to the new tools, I was struck by just how unfriendly their help pages and documentation were for learning what each tool was and how it was to be used. This is not a fault of Kali Linux, but certainly a fault many upstream software projects share. I think we, as developers, need to be reminded that everyone uses our software for the first time once, and they're not likely to use it a second time if we do a poor job of making our software easy to learn.
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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 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Debian elects new leader, OpenMandriva launches build farm, Fedora 24 feature preview and Nard reaches 1.0
The election for the next Debian Project Leader has concluded with Mehdi Dogguy winning the election. Admittedly, Dogguy was running unopposed, but it was likely nice for him to see over 250 Debian developers (about a quarter of the total Debian developers) turn out to vote him into office anyway. The statistics of the vote can be found on Debian's website. Dogguy will maintain the position of Debian Project Leader for one year, with his term concluding in April 2017. Congratulations to Mehdi Dogguy!
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The OpenMandriva team has announced a new component of their infrastructure: an automated build farm (ABF). The new build farm will assist developers in creating and distributing open source packages as well as track tasks. "Personal repository provides you with an easy way to distribute your software among [a] great number of Linux users by means of standard ways of software delivery. ABF will take care of package dependencies from both main repositories or extra and personal ones. Published a new package version? Users will be automatically notified about available update." Further details on the new automated build farm can be found in the project's announcement.
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The Fedora team may still be polishing Fedora 24 (due to launch in June), but it is not too soon to look ahead to the next release. The release schedule for Fedora 25 has been posted with plans to release Fedora 25 around the start of November 2016. "We're currently planning on a beta release for Fedora 24 in two weeks, on May 3rd. This is running with a slightly tighter beta time frame than usual, with the aim of shipping the final release on June 7th. Remember that we always work to balance testing and quality with a predictable schedule. The first part of that means Fedora 24 may very well end up slipping another week, but the second means you can still expect Fedora 25 in early November - and then back on track for Fedora 26 in May, 2017."
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The Nard SDK project is not exactly a Linux distribution in the usual sense. Nard is "a software development kit (SDK) for Raspberry Pi. Unlike 'ordinary' Linux distributions Nard is intended entirely for the development of MOTSicon pcb embedded systems running day and night for years in remote locations." The Nard project, which sits on our list of embedded Linux projects, hit a milestone last week, reaching version 1.0 after over two years of development. The project's lead developer, Ronny Nilsson, made the 1.0 release announcement and quickly outlined some of the project's features.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Guest Review (by Ivan D. Sanders)
elementary OS 0.3.2 "Freya" review
The most recent version of elementary OS, codenamed Freya, was released in December 2015 and is based on Ubuntu's 14.04 Long Term Support distribution. I downloaded the distro's ISO from their website, for a paltry fee of $0.00, and loaded it onto a USB using Unetbootin. After the quick Unetbootin boot-up screen, I found a familiar install process. elementary's installation process is beautiful, simple, and works. This is because the installation software, much like everything else in this distro, is based off of Ubuntu. Using the Ubuntu installer is very easy, but elementary turns it into an exercise in beauty as well. The install was quick, taking only about ten minutes to complete.
The first thing I noticed about elementary was the dock. The dock is located at the bottom of the screen and includes the applications that the elementary team thinks you will use most. Initially included on the dock are applications for music, pictures, videos, mail, the calendar, the web browser, and the settings panel.
The desktop environment on elementary is called Pantheon. Pantheon includes the dock at the bottom and the panel at the top. The panel at the top is a picture of sheer beauty, and I mean sheer. Where previously the panel was a solid bar at the top of the screen with text in it, it is now completely transparent. This gives the effect that the words are part of the screen. The panel includes the applications on the left, a clock in the middle, and the indicators on the right to show wi-fi, alerts, and battery life, among other things. Pantheon was overall a big hit for me, and I would love to see this desktop environment get ported over into other big distros. Unfortunately, Pantheon crashed many times during my use. Each time it automatically restarted and prompted me to send a bug report; I am disappointed by this instability.
elementary OS 0.3.2 -- An unexpected crash
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Out of the box, elementary OS is stunning, beautiful, and simple. Clicking on the applications portion of the panel to peer deeper into the system, I was very surprised. elementary does not come pre-loaded with a lot of software. This is a reassurance that in the world of computing, a beautiful OS can be created but still give the user freedom to decide what packages they want. Unfortunately, elementary takes this too far. The distro comes with no office software, one text editor called Scratch, and almost no extras.
The file manager is simple. Fitting with elementary's theme, it is very straight forward. The music and video programs are also very simple. The music program reminded me very much of an old, preferred, and easier version of Apple's iTunes.
elementary OS 0.3.2 -- Ubuntu Software Centre
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The package manager is APT/apt-get driven. Aptitude is not included in the install, but I was able to add it through the terminal without a problem. The Ubuntu Software Centre is standard on elementary OS. The search option on the Software Centre is easy to use, but I feel that the Software Centre is clunky. It is not my first choice when installing and searching for software. 90% of the time I still find myself skipping the Software Centre all together, I will search for the software I want on the Internet and use the terminal to install it with APT or Aptitude.
Typically on Linux I use Thunderbird as my mail client because it comes pre-loaded on many distros. elementary OS comes with Geary as its e-mail client. Though I had previously verified with Google and set my security exceptions for Thunderbird, Geary did not inherit these exceptions on my newly installed OS (which is correct). Had it automatically logged into Gmail when I put in my credentials, I would have been somewhat scared! There is some security built into Geary and there is a simple method to get your e-mail service provider to accept Geary as your mail handling client. Also, Geary supports many e-mail providers (Yahoo, Google, etc). I found that Geary was easy to use and simple, much like the rest of the OS overall. I did, however, find myself generally using my web browser as my mail client. Though Geary may not have the same features as Thunderbird, it is lightweight and elegant. For those who do not need all of Thunderbird's features, Geary may be the fast and usable e-mail software for you. I was so happy with Geary that I may be making the switch to Geary myself.
elementary OS 0.3.2 -- The settings panel
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Let's dive into Midori, the elementary OS web browser. Where elementary cultivates a refined, elegant look, Midori is one step back. It is simple and usable, but it is not pretty and it doesn't work with everything I use on the web. Simple meets clunky with Midori and I don't see anyone using this as their default browser past the time it requires them to search for "download Google Chrome" or to install Firefox. Midori does enable the user to search using the address bar and utilizes Google as its default search engine. Downloads are called "transfers" (only slightly confusing) and feature a bright red stop sign alongside the download's progress bar. The Midori icon is a Ying-Yang style blue globe on the left (Ying?) side and a green swoosh on the right (Yang?) side. As with the rest of Midori, I didn't even feel like the program's icon did any justice to elementary's graceful brand. Of the three big video providers (Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube), Midori was only able to stream videos from YouTube. Midori is an unrefined product overall; through my use of Midori it crashed to the bug report screen five times. Time to move on.
Like many modern Linux users, I use Steam to manage and supply me with all my gaming needs. When I say all, I mean all. It isn't because I have fully subscribed to some brand of Valve, but it is because Steam is organized, easy, and they have amazing sales. Also, I have been using Steam for eight years. It is established. I was able to download a Steam .deb file from their website (just by clicking Install Steam) and it again opened the Software Centre. The Software Centre, in turn, installed the Steam Launcher package and opened that program up. This program then downloaded the most recent Steam update, around 250-300MB worth of data (again, nothing strange here). But this is where I ran into trouble.
I never had any issues running Steam on any other Linux OS so far, but elementary gave me too many hiccups. My 32-bit libraries were not up to date, so I tried to install them. elementary had issues with the packages through APT, apt-get, and Aptitude, and they couldn't solve the issues without me removing tens of packages that appeared to be core to Pantheon and elementary. It took me about 30 minutes before I realized that this was going to be too much of an issue for a basic elementary user. elementary is supposed to be simple, easy to use, and chic; I am surprised by these software/desktop environment/driver integration issues.
elementary OS 0.3.2 -- Package management errors
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elementary OS is pretty, but the distro's software integration and usability are not refined enough for an intermediate or advanced user. elementary is great if you want something lightweight, easy to use, and it is very intuitive, but don't expect to get a complicated and customizable distro out of it. The lack of pre-loaded software is a breath of fresh air, but does elementary take it too far?
Pros: Beautiful. Built off of Ubuntu and uses their repositories. Less pre-loaded software. Fewer settings to mess with. Did I mention it is very pretty? The panel in elementary is the most elegant interpretation of a panel I have seen. The dock is simple and works (that's saying a lot for docks right now).
Cons: Software and driver integration for some systems. Lack of pre-loaded software. Installing .deb files takes users to the (Ubuntu) Software Centre. Was unable to install and use Steam without removing approximately 50 elementary or Pantheon packages, and potentially breaking the beauty of Pantheon. Poor pre-installed web browser (Midori). Desktop environment (Pantheon) crashes were somewhat common and more annoying than I have seen on any of the big distros.
The bottom line: elementary OS Freya (0.3.2) is pretty, but it lacks refinement. If you're looking for an OS that is easy to use, you're not looking for heavy customization, and you don't want much out of the box, elementary is a beautiful option. If you need an OS with more capabilities, integration, software, and support, you may want to look elsewhere.
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Summary of hardware used for this review:
Memory (RAM) elementary OS used from my machine at rest after boot-up:
- ASUS Laptop K53E-BBR19-B1
- Intel Core i5-2450M CPU @ 2.50GHz (Sandy Bridge)
- Seagate Momentus 5400.6 ST9500325AS 500GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 2.5" Internal Notebook Hard Drive
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Shared system memory Integrated Card
- 8 GB (2x 4 GB) DDR3 RAM
- Internal SATA DVD±R/RW
- Qualcomm Atheros AR9485 Wireless Network Adapter
- Qualcomm Atheros AR8151 v2.0 Gigabit Ethernet
- HDA Intel PCH Internal Soundcard
Used: 710MB; Free: 7051MB; Total: 7761MB
Bittorrent is a great way to transfer large files, particularly open source operating system images, from one place to another. Most bittorrent clients recover from dropped connections automatically, check the integrity of files and can re-download corrupted bits of data without starting a download over from scratch. These characteristics make bittorrent well suited for distributing open source operating systems, particularly to regions where Internet connections are slow or unstable.
Many Linux and BSD projects offer bittorrent as a download option, partly for the reasons listed above and partly because bittorrent's peer-to-peer nature takes some of the strain off the project's servers. However, some projects do not offer bittorrent as a download option. There can be several reasons for excluding bittorrent as an option. Some projects do not have enough time or volunteers, some may be restricted by their web host provider's terms of service. Whatever the reason, the lack of a bittorrent option puts more strain on a distribution's bandwidth and may prevent some people from downloading their preferred open source operating system.
With this in mind, DistroWatch plans to give back to the open source community by hosting and seeding bittorrent files. For now, we are hosting a small number of distribution torrents, listed below. The list of torrents offered will be updated each week and we invite readers to e-mail us with suggestions as to which distributions we should be hosting. When you message us, please place the word "Torrent" in the subject line, make sure to include a link to the ISO file you want us to seed. To help us maintain and grow this free service, please consider making a donation.
The table below provides a list of torrents we currently host. If you do not currently have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found here. All torrents we make available here are also listed on the very useful Linux Tracker website. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 187
- Total data uploaded: 34.8TB
|Released Last Week
TurnKey Linux 14.1
The TurnKey Linux project has announced the release of a new version of the project's many server appliances. The new version, TurnKey Linux 14.1, is based on Debian's Stable branch and features many bug fixes. "The v14.1 release sees a massive amount of bugs squashed and features added (43 and 20 respectively; plus some other more generic issues). It's fantastic to squash so many bugs this release. One of the bugs we've finally fixed was reported all the way back in 2012! It's a bit embarrassing to have a bug hang around that long; but it's a massive relief to finally close it! All v14.1 appliances are built on Debian 8.4 and include all the latest Debian security fixes and package updates, as well as the latest TurnKey software updates. TurnKey updates include TKLBAM, confconsole, inithooks (including significant improvements to the fence - relevant to headless builds only) and deck (TKLDev only). All appliances have more strict password complexity requirements now too. They require minimum 8 characters with at least one of each: uppercase, lowercase and number(s)." Additional information and can be found in the project's release announcement. There are approximately 100 downloadable appliances in all.
Quirky Linux 8.0
Barry Kauler has announced the launch of Quirky 8.0. The new release of the Quirky distribution is binary compatible with Ubuntu 16.04 and can install Deb packages from the Ubuntu software repositories. The new version of Quirky includes support for booting on UEFI-enabled computers and features version 4.4.7 of the Linux kernel. "8.0 has Linux kernel 4.4.7, SeaMonkey 2.40, and a host of applications to fill every need. As per inheritance from Puppy Linux, Quirky includes the 'kitchen sink' in a very small download. Significant new features for 8.0, in no particular order, are BluePup GUI management for Bluetooth, the ISO now boots on UEFI-firmware machines, YASSM GUI to manage Samba, YouTubeDL GUI YouTube downloader, and many applications updated. And, as usual, a multitude of bug fixes and little improvements." Additional details can be found in the release announcement and in the project's release notes.
Canonical has announced the availability of Ubuntu 16.04. The new version of Ubuntu is a long term support release, meaning it will receive security updates for the next five years. Some of the big changes in this release include support for the "snap" package format; Snappy packages can be installed alongside traditional Deb packages. Python 2 is no longer installed by default, but can be found in the distribution's software repositories. This release is the first to feature built-in ZFS support. "Ubuntu 16.04 LTS introduces a new application format, the 'snap', which can be installed alongside traditional Deb packages. These two packaging formats live quite comfortably next to one another and enable Ubuntu to maintain its existing processes for development and updates." Further details can be found in the Ubuntu 16.04 release notes and on the features page.
Ubuntu MATE 16.04
Martin Wimpress has announced the launch of Ubuntu MATE 16.04. The new version marks Ubuntu MATE's first long term support release and features an up to date MATE desktop environment as well as support for Ubuntu's Snappy command line package manager. "Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS has not just been in development for 6 months. Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS has been in development for nearly 2 years. Since the project started in June 2014 this release, this our first official LTS, is what we've been working towards. This was the goal we had firmly in our sights every step of the way. I extend my sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed to Ubuntu MATE over the last 22 months. None of this would have been possible without the countless contributions from the amazing Ubuntu MATE community. I can't thank you all enough for what you've helped create. I only hope this release makes you all proud." A list of changes and known issues can be found in the distribution's release announcement.
Ubuntu MATE 16.04 -- Welcome screen
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The Xubuntu team has announced the release of Xubuntu 16.04. The new version carries the code name Xenial Xerus and will receive three years of security updates. One of the bigger changes in this release is the package manager front-end, Ubuntu Software Centre, has been replaced by GNOME Software. "The Xubuntu team is pleased to announce the immediate release of Xubuntu 16.04. Xubuntu 16.04 is an LTS (Long-Term Support) release and will be supported for 3 years. The final release images are available as Torrents and direct downloads from http://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/. As the main server will be very busy in the first few days after release, we recommend using the Torrents wherever possible." Additional information on the Xubuntu 16.04 release can be found in the project's release announcement and in the technical release notes.
The Kubuntu team has announced the launch of Kubuntu 16.04. The new version of Kubuntu is a long term support release and features the KDE Plasma desktop environment. "What can you expect from this latest release? Our new software centre: Plasma Discover brim-full of software to choose from. The latest KDE PIM with lots of features and fixes Including the latest Akonadi support and integration with MySQL 5.7. Plasma 5, the next generation of KDE's desktop, has been rewritten to make it smoother to use while retaining the familiar setup. Kubuntu 16.04 comes with KDE Applications 15.12 containing all your favourite apps from KDE, including Dolphin. Even more applications have been ported to KDE Frameworks 5 but those which aren't, should fit in seamlessly. For a complete desktop suite of applications we've included some non-KDE applications such as LibreOffice 5.1 and Firefox 45." Additional details can be found in the project's release announcement and in the release notes.
Kubuntu 16.04 -- Running the Plasma 5 desktop
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Ubuntu Studio 16.04
The Ubuntu Studio project has announced the launch of Ubuntu Studio 16.04, a long term support release which will be supported for three years. The project had another change to talk about as well: "In January 2016 we had an election for a new project lead, and the winner was Set Hallström, who will be taking over the project lead position right after this release. He will be continuing for another two years until the next election in 2018. The team of developers has also seen a positive increase lately, which bodes well for the future. So, all in all, this release marks a new page in the history of Ubuntu Studio and makes the distribution as strong as it has ever been. 16.04 Xenial Xerus Released! We're happy to announce our latest LTS release. Ubuntu Studio 16.04 will be supported for three years. Since it's just out, you may experience some problems." The new features in this release and a list of potential problems can be found in the release notes. Further details can be found in the release announcement.
The KaOS team has released a new snapshot of the project's rolling release distribution. KaOS 2016.04 features a major update to the Qupzilla web browser, KDE's Plasma 5.6 desktop environment and version 4.4.5 of the Linux kernel. "Not the customary bi-monthly release this time, but celebrating the three-year anniversary of KaOS by releasing 2016.04. Reason for this earlier release is the move to Qt 5.6 and with that an update and/or rebuild of the complete Desktop. QtWebengine has now replaced QtWebkit as the base for the default web-browser Qupzilla. You will find a much better multimedia experience, were full-screen video is now supported, sites like Vimeo just work and there is no longer a need to use the unmaintained since 2012 Flash plugin. Pepperflash is fully compatible with new Qupzilla 2.0. The Plasma Desktop includes Frameworks 5.21.0, Plasma 5.6.2 and KDE Applications 16.04.0." The release announcement has further details.
The OpenIndiana project, which is a continuation of OpenSolaris, has released a new version of the community-maintained operating system. The new release offers a number of improvements to package management and includes several package updates to such desktop applications as Firefox, Thunderbird and VLC. "New nlipkg zone brand was introduced, which behaves like old ipkg brand (i.e. it doesn't check child and parent images for consistency). It's possible to convert ipkg zone to nlipkg one. To do so, install system/zones/brand/nlipkg, change zone's brand to nlipkg and remove /var/pkg/linked inside zone. Closed sysidtool which could be used to set initial system parameters on first boot and initialize zone's configuration was replaced with sysding. All other packages from closed admin incorporation were also removed..." This release will be the last OpenIndiana to fully support running on the 32-bit x86 architecture, according to the release notes.
Ubuntu Kylin 16.04
The Ubuntu Kylin project, which provides a Chinese language community edition of Ubuntu, has released Ubuntu Kylin 16.04. The new release includes long term support for security updates as well as a number of key changes. The English translation of the project's release announcement reads, in part: "Using the latest 4.4 kernel, upgrade to the Unity 7.4 desktop environment. Added a more concise and friendly login / lock screen and moves the application launcher to the lower part of the screen. The first boot of the system runs the setup wizard. Ubuntu Kylin Software Center becomes the default software manager front-end." This release also features a new version of the WPS productivity suite.
Thomas Mashos has announced the launch of Mythbuntu 16.04, a community edition of Ubuntu which facilitates setting up a MythTV system. This release is a long term support release with security updates and support for just over two years. Mythbuntu is compatible with MythTV 0.28. "Mythbuntu 16.04 has been released. This is a point release on our 14.04 LTS release. If you are already on 14.04, you can get these same updates via the normal update process. This is our third LTS release and will be supported until shortly after the 18.04 release. The Mythbuntu team would like to thank our ISO testers for helping find critical bugs before release. You guys rock! With this release, we are providing torrents only. It is very important to note that this release is only compatible with MythTV 0.28 systems." Details and a list of known issues can be found in the release announcement.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Are you using HTTPS on DistroWatch?
At the start of the year we enabled secure web (HTTPS) connections for the DistroWatch website. Our security certificate is kindly provided by the Let's Encrypt project free of charge.
While we do not deal with any sensitive information such as credit card data, login credentials or ISO downloads, using HTTPS allows people to browse our website and know they are communicating with the correct web server. This week we would like to know how many of our readers are using the secure connection and, if not, then why? Are readers not using the secure connection unaware that it exists, on slow connections where HTTPS results in noticeably slower page loads, or simply unconcerned regarding potential risks? We hope you will share your point of view in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on voting for projects on our waiting list here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Are you using HTTPS on DistroWatch?
|I am using the HTTPS connection: ||725 (46%)|
| I was not but will now start: ||524 (33%)|
| I am not using HTTPS due to lack of security concerns: ||202 (13%)|
| I am not using HTTPS due to performance limitations: ||35 (2%)|
| Other: ||104 (7%)|
More hardware retailers and tidier tips
Last week we launched a new page which lists retailers which sell computers with Linux and/or BSD pre-installed. Several people wrote in to mention Linux-friendly retailers we had not been aware of and we have expanded our Hardware Resources page with the new suggestions.
Some of the suggestions we received were not added to the list because they either did not have a strong focus on Linux/BSD or did not support the Linux computers they offered for sale. In other cases suggestions were not added to the list due to a lack of information on their available products which made it difficult to confirm the company supported Linux/BSD.
Since last week we have added six new Linux-friendly retailers: Los Alamos Computers, Tuxedo Computers (for German speakers), EmperorLinux, Entroware, Slimbook (for Spanish speakers) and (with an ominous feeling) the Ministry of Freedom. The full list can be found on the Hardware Resources page.
On another topic, we went through our Tips, Tricks and Myths archive and noticed that some articles were titled with generic names like "Command line tips" or "More command line magic". The archive has been cleaned up and the titles are now more reflective of the specific content of each article. A smaller, but similar clean-up was performed on the Questions and Answers archive. We hope this makes it easier to find the tips, tricks and command line tools you want to use.
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Distributions added to waiting list
- KDE Neon. KDE Neon is a combination of the Ubuntu LTS distribution with the latest versions of KDE software running on top of it. Neon provides a way for users to test new KDE features while maintaining a stable base operating system.
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DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 2 May 2016. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews/submissions, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, donations, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (podcast)
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|