| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 685, 31 October 2016
Welcome to this year's 44th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
While some Linux distributions focus on new low-level features, others focus on improving the desktop experience for end users. While some distributions strive for stability, others stay on the cutting edge of software development. This week we explore some of these polar opposites, beginning with elementary OS. The elementary OS distribution tries to provide a polished, simple interface for its users and we explore what elementary has to offer in our Feature Story this week. In our News section we discuss SUSE Linux Enterprise Server's growing support for the ARM CPU architecture, new features coming to Linux Mint 18.1 and the highly hyped Dirty COW kernel flaw. Plus we begin a new Rolling Release trial which investigates how four open source operating systems perform when continuously upgraded. In our Opinion Poll we talk about favourite window managers. Plus we share a list of torrents we are seeding and provide a list of the distributions released last week. We are pleased to announce two new distributions, 3CX and arkOS, have been added to our database and details on these projects are provided below. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (46MB) and MP3 (63MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
elementary OS 0.4 "Loki"
elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. While the project uses Ubuntu as a package base, elementary ships its own desktop environment, called Pantheon, which strives to provide a simple, easy to navigate graphical user interface. The elementary developers have also created an array of desktop applications which try to provide the functionality most users will need while maintaining a simplified interface.
Looking through the release notes for elementary OS 0.4, we can find many new and interesting changes. The distribution's 0.4 release provides users with a new software manager called AppCenter. The notification area has been overhauled and now features a button to mute notifications for when the user needs to focus without distractions. The release notes mention the distribution's calendar and appointment application recognizes natural language descriptions. The virtual terminal will auto-complete file names while ignoring case sensitivity and the e-mail client is an updated version of the Geary e-mail application. The elementary team has decided to switch to using Epiphany as the default web browser. This new release also features parental controls and a new networking configuration panel which should be easier to navigate than Network Manager's default look.
The elementary 0.4 release is available in one edition and, as far as I could tell from the download options, runs on 64-bit x86 powered computers exclusively. The ISO I downloaded was 1.2GB in size. Booting from the downloaded media brings up a graphical screen with a single window. From this window we can select our preferred language from a list. Buttons in the window prompt us to either explore elementary's live desktop environment or launch the project's system installer. There is a link in this window which will open a web browser to display an on-line copy of the release notes. At the time of writing the release notes displayed are for the second beta of elementary 0.4, but these will probably be updated to cover the final release soon.
Taking the option to try elementary's live desktop environment launches the Pantheon desktop running the Gala window manager. The layout and theme Pantheon uses brings to mind a mingling of the GNOME Shell and OS X desktop environments. In the upper-left corner of the screen we find the application menu. In the top-middle of the display is a clock and calendar widget. Over in the top-right corner we find the system tray and user menu. At the bottom of the screen is a launch bar. There are no icons on the desktop. When we launch applications the control buttons (maximize and close) are placed on opposite sides of their window. The close button is located in the upper-left corner of the window and the maximize button is located in the upper-right.
elementary uses the Ubiquity system installer, the same installer used by the other members of the Ubuntu family of distributions. Ubiquity begins by getting us to select our preferred language from a list. We then choose whether to install third-party software such as wi-fi drivers and media codecs. Next we are given the choice of whether to let the installer divide up our disk or we can choose to manually partition our hard drive. I like Ubiquity's manual partition management page, it has a nice, simple layout and it supports a wide range of file systems. Next, we are asked to select our time zone from a map of the world and then pick our keyboard's layout from a list. The final screen asks us to create a user account for ourselves. On the user creation screen we can optionally encrypt our user's home directory and decide whether to automatically have the system login to our account when the computer boots. When the system installer finishes copying files to our hard disk, we are given the option of returning to the live desktop environment or rebooting the computer.
Something I noticed while using the live disc was that some windows would display text in different languages. Most programs displayed information and menus in English, but a few (such as the About and Language & Region configuration modules) would display a different language which I think may have been Russian. This mixture of languages only lasted while I was using the elementary live disc and, once the distribution was installed, all screens displayed text in English.
elementary boots to a graphical login screen. From the login screen we can sign into the user account we created during the installation process or we can sign into a guest account. The guest account acts like a regular account while in use, but requires no password and is wiped clean after the user logs out, erasing any changes to the account. This guest account can be disabled through the distribution's control panel, which I will talk about later.
I ran into a few problems with elementary right away. When running the distribution in a VirtualBox environment, I discovered an unusual issue where about one in every three logins gave me a desktop environment where the top panel was unresponsive and short-cut keys would not work. This prevented the user from accessing the application menu, clock or user settings. In other words, there was no easy way to logout without switching from the desktop to a text console. The problem appeared to happen more or less at random and affected both my regular user accounts and the guest account. Usually, rebooting the virtual machine and signing in again would fix the issue. Other aspects of running elementary in a virtual machine were mixed. The distribution integrates seamlessly with VirtualBox, providing full screen resolution. However, the Gala window manager would frequently consume large amounts of my CPU, bringing the desktop to a crawl. These bursts of CPU usage usually lasted a few minutes and would eventually settle down, resulting in smoother operation for a while before the next spike.
Running elementary on a desktop computer presented its own challenges. The distribution, upon booting, would turn off my computer's monitor. The system would still run and function, but I was unable to see anything. This has been a semi-common issue with distributions based on Ubuntu 16.04. Editing the GRUB boot menu and adding the kernel parameter "nomodeset" corrected the issue. After that, elementary ran on the desktop computer without further hardware-related difficulties. In either test environment, the distribution required about 430MB of memory to sign into the Pantheon desktop.
elementary OS 0.4 -- The AppCenter software manager
(full image size: 633kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Shortly after signing into the Pantheon desktop a notification appeared in the upper-right corner of the screen letting me know software updates were available. Accessing the notification or launching the distribution's AppCenter software manager will bring up a screen where we can see available software updates. Each available update is presented with an icon, the package's name and an update button. This makes is easy to install individual updates while skipping others. There is also a button at the top of the page which will cause all available updates to download and install. I noticed low-level packages are all bundled into one meta package called "Operating System Updates". This does a nice job of reducing clutter in the interface. The first day I was using elementary there were two updates available, 80kB in size. Over the week a few more updates trickled in, most of them similarly tiny.
The AppCenter handles more than just updates. The application features two tabs, one for updates and another for browsing available software provided by elementary's repositories. In the available software tab we are first presented with a grid of categories. These categories divide software into groups such as Audio, Education, Games and Video. Clicking on a category brings up a list of available applications, sorted alphabetically by name. Each application is listed with its name, an icon and a one-line description. We can click an Install button next to the entry to download the package. Clicking on the entry itself brings up a full page description of the application with a screen shot. The description page features an Install/Remove button.
Browsing the AppCenter for new software was a fairly straight forward experience. The software manager has a nice layout. In fact, I think newcomers will find AppCenter particularly easy to navigate because the way information is arranged reminds me of mobile app stores such as Google's Play Store. I did run into a few minor issues while working with AppCenter. The first time I used the software manager, the interface locked up while an application was being downloaded. The download and install process still completed successfully, but the AppCenter window was unresponsive and I had to kill its process. This bug only happened once during the week. There is a search box in AppCenter where we can locate packages by name and description. However, I found two problems with the search feature. One was that it only works when on the initial categories page. Once we select a category, the search box is disabled. If we are browsing and wish to perform a search, we need to back out to the initial screen. The second problem was searches would return a lot of unrelated results. Searches for "word" or "paint" would return perhaps one good result like AbiWord or a drawing program, but these would be mixed in with a few dozen unrelated programs, games and anything else with "word" or "paint" in the full length description. My final concern was that each time I installed a new package I had to enter my password. When we only need one or two new programs, this is a fine security feature, but it becomes tedious if we want to install ten new applications.
elementary OS 0.4 -- The application menu and calendar
(full image size: 710kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
On the subject of software, I found elementary uses a flexible application menu. The Pantheon application menu has two possible views. The first one presents us with one large area with a grid of 15 icons. When we have lots of applications installed, the menu breaks the available icons into separate pages. The second view we can toggle to shows us a list of software categories down the left side of the menu and a list of applications in the highlighted category on the right. This lets us switch between a modern app grid and a traditional tree view, depending on our preference.
elementary ships with a fairly small collection of desktop applications. The Epiphany web browser is present and features Flash support. There is an e-mail client that's a modified version of Geany. We are given a calendar and appointment application, a photo viewer and an image scanner. There is an application called Camera for handling web cams. elementary ships with a custom audio player and video player. The audio player is called Music in the application menu and noise on the command line while the video player is called Videos in the application menu and audience on the command line. The distribution supplies a full range of multimedia codecs we can enable during the installation process, allowing us to play media files. There is a file manager called Pantheon Files which looks like it might share heritage with the Caja file manager as it has a similarly clean interface. The GNU Compiler Collection is installed for us along with systemd 229. Network Manager is present to connect us to the Internet. In the background we find version 4.4.0 of the Linux kernel. I was a little surprised not to find any productivity suite installed by default, but office software such as LibreOffice and AbiWord are available in the distribution's repositories.
After the first round of software updates were installed, I found the Epiphany web browser would no longer launch. A little investigation revealed that Epiphany was crashing immediately with a segfault upon loading the application. To work around this I installed the Firefox web browser and found it worked well. The following day, without performing any trouble shooting, I clicked on the Epiphany icon again and the browser opened. Epiphany continued to work for the remainder of my trial.
One of the new elementary features I was curious to try was the natural language calendar entries. According to the release notes, a person can type in an appointment like, "Meet Mark tomorrow at the office at 2pm" and the calendar will fill in the necessary fields. Perhaps this feature is present, but I was unable to find a way to make it work. The release notes do not give details and typing similar sentences into the calendar's comments and event descriptions did not produce any results. There may be a setting that needs to be toggled I have not found.
elementary OS 0.4 -- The settings panel
(full image size: 809kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The distribution ships with a settings panel which closely resembles the settings panels one usually finds when using the MATE or Cinnamon desktop environments. Most of the control modules deal with changing the look of the desktop, adjusting the screensaver, changing privacy settings and setting up a printer. There are also modules for setting up network shares, creating user accounts and working with accessibility options. I generally found the modules were easy to navigate and worked well. I like that the privacy settings panel has an option to clear out files which might be used to track our activity. There was one quirk I found with the firewall module. When a regular user goes into the firewall configuration tool, any rules enabled on the system are hidden. The user needs to elevate their access to system administrator in order to see the firewall rules. This might be a security feature, but it makes it look (at first glance) as though there are no firewall rules enabled. When I first noticed this I had been worried the firewall was not working properly, but once I unlocked the module I could see the rules and confirm they were working.
Parental controls are present in elementary OS 0.4. These controls give the administrator the ability to limit logins and Internet access to specific times. Each account can be given its own set of limits. This may be useful not only for parents, but any administrator who needs to ration access. The controls work, but I noticed when a blocked user tried to login outside of their set time, the login screen merely returned them to the login prompt. This is the same behaviour we get when the user enters an incorrect password. Either issue (being locked out or entering an incorrect password) produces no error message so the user may not know why they cannot login.
elementary OS 0.4 -- Creating firewall rules
(full image size: 321kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
I had very mixed impressions of elementary OS 0.4 and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the distribution after a week of use. Early on I encountered a lot of little issues. The distribution did not play particularly well with either of my test environments, giving me video issues on the desktop and both performance issues and interface problems in VirtualBox. The software manager locked up on me and prompted for my password a lot during the first few days I was using the distribution while I added extra applications. The Pantheon desktop does offer some flexibility, but not the level of customization I'm used to from Plasma, Lumina or MATE and I missed that sometimes. Earlier I mentioned when a user cannot login (whether from an incorrect password, parental blocks or locked account) there is no visible error message which I suspect will aggravate some users. Having the Epiphany browser segfault for a day only to resume working the following day fed the impression that elementary was unpolished.
While the above aspects of the distribution bothered me, I have to give a good deal of credit to the developers for doing a lot of things well. elementary really does have an unusual desktop design compared with most other Linux distributions and I think the developers are doing a great job of designing a newcomer friendly interface. There is a strong sense that this desktop was designed with former OS X users or current Android users in mind. Looking at the application menu grid and the AppCenter in particular, there is a very mobile-like familiarity. The control panel is fairly similar to what we might find when running the MATE or Cinnamon desktops, but again there is a style present which I think will feel familiar to anyone who uses a smart phone.
The elementary application menu is pleasantly uncluttered and this is probably a good thing. The developers seem to be relying on the AppCenter to deliver additional applications and I think it is an approach which will work for them.
Right now my overall opinion of elementary OS 0.4 is that there are some great design ideas at work, but a lot of rough edges in the implementation. Looking at the desktop, its layout and especially when looking at the well organized (and mute-able) notification area, it's clear a lot of thought has gone into the design. However, I ran into several lock-ups or glitches which would probably turn away the newcomers this efficient design is going to attract. Hopefully the problems I ran into will be worked out in time for the next release, because I like the style and approach elementary OS is taking.
* * * * *
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)
SUSE grows ARM support, Mint improves add-on language support, Linux hit by Dirty COW flaw
ARM processors have become quite popular in environments where low-energy consumption is considered more important than raw performance. Mobile devices, such as smart phones, tend to run on ARM processors and ARM has increasingly been used in servers where power savings offer significant cost advantages. SUSE has announced that ARM support has landed in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and the distribution will support running all of SUSE's core packages on ARM-powered devices. "SLES for ARM is part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 common code base. This means that the versions, and thereby the source code, of all core packages of the SUSE Linux Enterprise product family are the same - from the desktop to the mainframe. The tool chain, like compilers and libraries are the same across the supported hardware architectures. The common code base guarantees product consistency and a persistent look and feel, which lets you leverage the skills of your IT staff. It also provides for the highest code quality, better supportability and preemptive code maintenance. SLES for ARM will become available later this year and initially will support SOCs from AMD, Applied Micro, Cavium, NXP, and Xilinx. A number of solution vendors will exploit SLES for ARM to deliver servers to support a wide range of workloads." Further details can be found in the SUSE blog post.
* * * * *
The next release of Linux Mint, version 18.1, is expected to arrive by the end of 2016. The upcoming release will likely feature the MATE 1.16 and Cinnamon 3.2 desktop environments. One new feature which will appear in Linux Mint 18.1 is improved language support: "Support for languages was also improved. Language pack detection now checks for spell checkers, fonts and a variety of other packages. The selection and installation of input methods was also completely redesigned. You now choose which language you're interested in, and this installs support for typing in this language and recommends methods to select." A list of new features and accompanying screen shots can be found on the Linux Mint blog.
* * * * *
Last week many news sites featured stories about a flaw in the Linux kernel which has been given the name Dirty COW. The bug in the kernel, which was quickly fixed with patches being rolled out to most GNU/Linux distributions, has existed for several years and was present in most Linux-based desktop, server and mobile operating systems, including Android. A skilled attacker can use the bug to elevate their access to that of the root user, giving them control of the operating system. Though the issue was wide spread, fixes are available for most distributions. The Linux.com website has an article which does a great job of explaining what Dirty COW is and how it works. "The race condition described above allows the attacker to bypass this permissions framework by tricking the COW mechanism to modify the original read-only objects instead of their copies. In other words, a carefully crafted attack can indeed replace "/bin/bash" with a malicious version by an unprivileged user." The author also points out that for the Dirty COW exploit to work, the attacker needs to be already in a position to run code on an unpatched operating system in order to trigger the bug. For people who do not yet have access to the proper fix, Red Hat's Bugzilla database has workarounds which will prevent the bug from being exploited.
* * * * *
These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Rolling release trial #2 (by Jesse Smith)
Rolling release trial #2: Week one
Two years ago I began an experiment in which I installed several rolling release distributions and compared them. I explored the installation processes of each operating system, the steps required to upgrade the packages on the system and the pitfalls I ran into. I also kept track of how up to date key packages on each system were. Finally, I kept updating each distribution until one finally broke, which only took about five weeks.
Several people asked me to do another rolling release trial and, last month, I put out an invitation to nominate the projects which should be included in the new rolling release trial. Four projects were suggested: Arch Linux, openSUSE's Tumbleweed edition, Sabayon and TrueOS. This week I installed the four operating systems and installed all waiting package upgrades to see how the systems would perform.
* * * * *
My trial began with Arch Linux, perhaps the most famous of the rolling release distributions. Arch has a reputation for leaving installation and system maintenance up to the user. The Arch distribution avoids automation and choosing defaults for the user. In place of a system installer, the user is given an installation guide and documentation on how to set up networking, graphical software and other services.
The Arch installation media is 792MB in size and features dual 32-bit and 64-bit support for x86 processors. Booting from the installation media brings us to a text console where we are signed in as the system administrator. Since there is no installer, we set up Arch by typing in a series of commands and editing configuration files. We can set up a partition for Arch using the fdisk or cfdisk commands. Then we run a few commands to download the necessary packages and perform a few more steps to set up the base system.
The first time I went through the install process and rebooted, Arch failed to load, reporting the kernel could not be found. A little exploring revealed that the installation script for the GRUB boot loader had incorrectly detected the drive identifier (UUID) on my hard disk. I swapped out the bad identifier in my GRUB configuration file with the ones reported by Arch's blkid program and rebooted and, this time, my copy of Arch Linux booted to a text console.
I then set about manually enabling networking, installing a display manager and installing a desktop environment, along with the proper video drivers. Here, I once again ran into a problem as the LightDM display manager I had selected for handling logins installed, but failed to load. LightDM would crash on start-up and the log entries it provided were of no help in trouble-shooting. I removed LightDM and installed SDDM in its place, which worked as expected. I could then boot the system and log into my selected desktop environment. For my time with Arch I decided to use LXQt as my graphical environment. LXQt ran without any problems and I found the desktop to be pleasantly light and responsive.
Arch Linux 2016.10.01 -- Running the LXQt desktop
(full image size: 145kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Arch uses the Pacman package manager to install software and keep packages up to date. Since Arch downloads packages from on-line repositories at install time, there were no updates available to me on the first day of my trial. Later in the week, a total of nine new packages downloaded, totalling about 5MB in size.
One issue I noticed with Arch, beyond the setup problems with UUIDs and the LightDM login manager, was that the boot process was unusually slow. While booting, at least one service would be unresponsive, leaving systemd to wait. This meant booting Arch took a little over two minutes with the default configuration.
* * * * *
The openSUSE project has two main editions: Leap and Tumbleweed. While Leap strives to be stable and conservative, Tumbleweed is a rolling release and features up to date packages. We can download Tumbleweed as a full DVD ISO (4.3GB in size) or as a small net-install ISO. I opted to use the full DVD.
Booting from the DVD launches the project's graphical installer. Setting up openSUSE is a quick and easy process. We can pretty much zip through the installer, clicking the "Next" button a handful of times if we are in a hurry. By default openSUSE wants to install the root file system on a Btrfs volume and our user's files on XFS. I changed this to use Btrfs everywhere. The installer offers to set us up with a text console interface or either the GNOME or KDE desktop environments. I kept the default option which was KDE's Plasma desktop. The installer then shows us a summary of changes it plans to make to our system and gives us the opportunity to change its settings.
When we first boot openSUSE the boot menu gives us the chance to switch to an older snapshot of the operating system. This means if we break the operating system with a configuration change or package update we can roll back the operating system to a previous snapshot, undoing the damage.
openSUSE Tumbleweed -- Running the KDE Plasma desktop
(full image size: 473kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Much like Arch, openSUSE took an unusually long time to load, requiring over a minute to bring the system to a graphical login screen. On this same hardware, Linux Mint recently showed it would boot in about twenty seconds.
openSUSE uses the Zypper package manager which acts as a higher level front end for the project's RPM package manager. The first day of my trial, openSUSE's update manager reported there were 130 new packages available to download. These upgrades downloaded and appeared to install properly. However, the next time I booted openSUSE the system was only able to load as far as a text console. I was unable to get openSUSE to load to a graphical login screen and X would crash if I tried to launch my desktop from the command line. I was able to reboot the system and roll back to my initial Btrfs snapshot of the operating system, but this was of limited use since from there installing the upgrades would again place my system in a damaged state. This effectively took Tumbleweed out of the running on my first day with the distribution.
Luckily, about two days later, a second wave of about 250 updates arrived. This second group of updates fixed the graphical login service and allowed me to return to using the Plasma desktop environment. This second group of updates, while several hundred megabytes in size, restored openSUSE to a fully working state and I decided to keep the distribution in the trial.
* * * * *
Sabayon is a Gentoo-based distribution which offers lots of software pre-installed and lots of desktop editions. I decided to download the project's MATE edition which is available via a 1.7GB ISO.
Booting from the installation media brings up a boot menu asking if we would like to run a live desktop environment or launch the system installer. At first I tried launching the installer and this option brought me to a text console. On the console was a message which read "Text installation unfortunately it's not available. To run the installation start installer-text.sh". Running this provided command resulted in a "command not found" error.
Slightly discouraged, I rebooted and loaded Sabayon's live desktop environment. This brought up the MATE desktop with a two-panel layout. On the desktop there is an icon which will launch the project's system installer. Sabayon uses the Anaconda graphical system installer which is also the installer used by Fedora. When running on Sabayon, the Anaconda installer was slow to respond to input and took several seconds to refresh the display when switching between screens. Partitioning the hard drive with Anaconda was an awkward experience. Originally, I had decided to use a guided partitioning option, but this brought me to a page where I had to manually set up all of my partitions. I opted to set up Sabayon with a /boot partition formatted with ext4 and a root partition formatted with Btrfs.
Though the installer was sluggish, it did eventually complete successfully. I was able to boot into my fresh copy of Sabayon and sign into my account to explore the distribution's MATE desktop.
Sabayon 16.07 -- Running the MATE desktop
(full image size: 149kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Sabayon uses Rigo as the graphical front end for managing software. Personally, I found using Rigo required extra steps for each task I wished to perform and I found it hard to navigate the application's many tools, but the software does work. When I ran Rigo it reported there was one package upgrade available. This one package turned out to be the distribution's Portage software system and it resulted in a lengthy download. Eventually, the package manager finished its work and I was able to successfully reboot and continue using the distribution.
For people who do not wish to use the Rigo graphical front end, we can either use Portage or the Equo command line package manager. Equo is unusual in that it shows its output in a variety of colours and the package manager is verbose. However, Equo worked well for me and I found it worked fairly quickly.
One quirk I noticed while using Sabayon is that this distribution is the only one I can remember using in a long time which does not include the vi text editor by default. In its place, Sabayon uses the more user friendly nano editor.
* * * * *
TrueOS (formally PC-BSD) is a FreeBSD-based operating system which uses a rolling release model to supply newer features and hardware support compared to its parent operating system. TrueOS is available in Desktop and Server editions and I decided to download the 1.8GB Desktop media.
Booting from the TrueOS ISO shows us a menu where we can select to run a text-based installer or a graphical installer. I launched the graphical installer which asked if I wanted to set up a Desktop or Server system. I selected the Desktop option and then was given a chance to tweak the operating system's ZFS and swap settings. The installer then copies its files to the hard drive and we can reboot to load our new operating system.
The first time TrueOS starts up we are walked through a few configuration options. We are asked to supply our time zone, set a password for the root account and create a normal user account. We can also enable encryption on removable media at this stage to provide secure storage for our user account.
TrueOS then presents us with a graphical login screen where we can sign into the Lumina desktop environment. When we sign in a desktop widget appears and displays news from the Lumina, TrueOS and FreeBSD projects. Clicking on any of the news headlines caused an error to display reporting the Firefox web browser was missing. A few seconds later, Firefox opened and displayed the relevant news item.
TrueOS 2016-10-14 -- Running the Lumina desktop
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
I checked TrueOS's update manager and, on my first day with the operating system, it reported there were no software updates available. The command line package manager, pkg, confirmed there were no third-party updates available, but the core update program, freebsd-update, reported an error saying it was unable to fetch data from the TrueOS server. Later in the week, a large collection of 655 updates appeared in the TrueOS repositories, totalling about 432MB in size.
* * * * *
I only used each of the operating systems in my trial briefly this week, but there were clearly issues with each one. Arch set up my boot loader with incorrect UUIDs and the first display manager I tried failed to load. It was possible to work around these issues, but it made for a poor first impression. Sabayon's installer option, accessible from the boot menu, failed as did the fall back option provided. I had to work around this by booting into live mode and using an unusually slow Anaconda installer to get the system up and running. The openSUSE distribution had the worst showing of the group, failing to even display a login screen after the first wave of software updates. If I had simply made a mistake configuring openSUSE, I could have rolled back to an earlier snapshot and fixed the issue, but with updates I was stuck for three days where I had to choose between having up to date security fixes or a system with no graphical interface. TrueOS did fairly well, but threw errors about missing Firefox and the core system update program fails when checking for updates. I later discovered freebsd-update fails because the pkg package manager now handles updates to the base system as well as third-party packages, making freebsd-update obsolete.
In short, while some projects did fairly well, for the most part each of the rolling release projects in this trial got off to a rocky start and I spent more time trouble-shooting the initial configurations than should have been necessary.
* * * * *
||Bandwidth required (MB)
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: 251
- Total data uploaded: 46.0TB
|Released Last Week
Black Lab Enterprise Linux 8.0 SP1
The Black Lab Linux team has announced the launch of a service pack update to the project's enterprise product line. The updated release, Black Lab Enterprise Linux 8 Service Pack 1, is a commercial release and uses software available in the Ubuntu LTS repositories. Black Lab Enterprise 8 offers the ability to boot on UEFI-enabled computers and will be supported through to the year 2021. "Today the Black Lab Linux Development team is pleased to announce the release of Black Lab Enterprise Linux 8.0 SP1. Service Pack 1 is jam packed full of new innovations and features. Black Lab Enterprise Linux is the fastest growing Enterprise desktop Linux offering on the market today. Black Lab Enterprise Linux 8.0 SP1 is a hybrid operating system meaning you can deploy local applications that you need as well as the cloud based applications that you want." The release announcement has further details and purchasing options."
Clonezilla Live 2.4.9-17
Steven Shiau has announced the release of Clonezilla Live 2.4.9-17, the latest stable version of the project's specialist Debian-based distribution designed for disk cloning and backups: "This release of Clonezilla Live (2.4.9-17) includes major enhancements and bug fixes. Enhancements and changes: the underlying GNU/Linux operating system has been upgraded, this release is based on the Debian 'Sid' repository as of 2016-10-21; Linux kernel has been updated to 4.7.8; removed 'nodmraid' from boot parameters in drbl-ocs.conf, fakeraid and firmware raid are supported now; updated language files hu_HU, ja_JP.UTF-8, de_DE, fr_FR, it_IT and es_ES; the drbl Clonezilla Live version information will be in /etc/ocs/ocs-live.conf and when an image is saved, the information will be saved in Info-packages.txt; applied patches from Aaron Burling, so now when mounting image repository, it is able to browse the directories recursively; force dhclient timeout at 60 seconds...." Continue to the release announcement to read the long list of enhancements and bug fixes.
Barry Kauler has announced the release of Quirky 8.1. Quirky is a sister project to Puppy Linux and offers a lightweight, user friendly desktop experience. The latest version, Quirky 8.1, diverges from past Quirky releases by supplying download images for Raspberry Pi 2 & 3 computers and not x86-powered computers. "All Quirkies prior to 8.1 have been built for x86 and x86_64 PCs. Version 8.1 is the first to be built for the ARM platform, specifically the Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3. Note that Quirky will not work on a Pi 1. It is expected a build for the Odroid XU4 is coming soon. The functionality is much as you have come to expect with a Puppy-derivative -- you get 'the kitchen sink' in a very small package. That is, an application for just about everything and utilities to setup and configure just about anything. A difference though, with the Raspberry Pi build, is that it includes LibreOffice and Inkscape, whereas Puppy-derivatives usually have light-weight choices, such as Gnumeric, Abiword and InkscapeLite. This decision was made so as to provide the same functionality out-of-the-box as Raspbian, and in fact a whole lot more." The release announcement has more information.
Klaus Knopper has announced the release KNOPPIX 7.7.1, the latest stable version of the project's Debian-based live CD/DVD with a choice of LXDE, KDE Plasma 5.7 and GNOME Shell 3.22 desktops, together with a special edition (ADRIANE) with an audio desktop: "Version 7.7.1 of KNOPPIX is based on the usual picks from Debian stable 'Jessie', testing 'Stretch' and unstable 'Sid' for newer graphics drivers or desktop software packages. It uses Linux kernel 4.7.9 (not affected by the 'Dirty Cow Bug') and X.Org 7.7 (Core 1.18.1) for supporting current computer hardware. New in 7.7.1: kernel and system software updated; new, experimental version of 3D window manager - Compiz 0.9.12.2, LXDE (default) with PCManFM 1.2.4 file manager, KDE Plasma 5.7.4 (boot option 'knoppix desktop=kde'), GNOME 3.22 (boot option 'knoppix desktop=gnome'), WINE version 1.9.20...." See the detailed release notes for a complete list of changes and other information.
KNOPPIX 7.7.1 -- Running the LXDE desktop
(full image size: 1.5MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The NetBSD project has announced a second security update to the highly portable operating system's 7.0.x branch. The new release, NetBSD 7.0.2, mostly fixes bugs and potential crashes in the operating system's core components. "The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 7.0.2, the second security/bugfix update of the NetBSD 7.0 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons. If you are running an earlier release of NetBSD, we strongly suggest updating to 7.0.2." In addition, the OpenSSL, ntp and BIND components have updated: "Update OpenSSL to 1.0.1u. Update ntp to 4.2.8p8. Update BIND to 9.10.4-P3. Fix several protocol handling issues in X Window System client libraries. libsa getpass: check bounds on input." The project's release announcement, the release notes for NetBSD 7.0.2 and the detailed changes file have further information on the new update.
Maui Linux 2
Clemens Toennies has announced a new release of the Maui Linux distribution. Maui Linux is a continuation of Netrunner's Kubuntu-based edition, but Maui Linux has been re-based on the KDE neon project. The new version, Maui Linux 2, includes many package upgrades and cloned package repositories for increased flexibility. The distribution has also switched to using the Calamares system installer. "We decided to move our repositories to a new infrastructure and cloned the Neon-based repo so we have control over when to push new updates to the user and let the users themselves decide when they want to move to a new Plasma version or KDE Frameworks 5 version. That way we provide a very stable KDE Plasma user experience without losing the option to have the latest and greatest of KDE Plasma. In order to streamline the installation process we decided to switch to the distribution independent installer Calamares. This one installs automatically all language packs for the default applications shipped with Maui and the language you choose during installation. In order to use this feature please have network access configured in the live environment. This should also support more UEFI installations than with the prior version of Maui." Further details on the new version can be found in the project's release announcement.
PrimTux is a French distribution for use in education settings. The project is based on Debian and uses Fluxbox as the default window manager. PrimTux runs on 32-bit x86 processors and is suitable for use on lower end computers. The latest release of PrimTux, version 2, further separates free and open source components from non-free items, reducing licensing and sharing restrictions. The non-free items are packaged in a separate ISO file which can be mounted and the extra packages can be installed from the add-on ISO. The new version features new artwork and a "Public" folder where student and teacher users can share documents. The HandyMenu, which acts as an an easy to navigate application menu, has been cleaned up and no longer displays old programs which are not installed. Additional information on the new version of PrimTux, along with several screen shots, can be found in the project's release announcement (in French).
PrimTux 2 -- Default desktop with application menu
(full image size: 624kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Ettore Di Giacinto has announced the release of new installation media for the Sabayon distribution. Sabayon is a rolling release distribution based on Gentoo and the project offers many different editions and flavours. The new snapshot, Sabayon 16.11, offers users version 4.8 of the Linux kernel, an update to the Anaconda system installer and the latest KDE Plasma desktop packages. "This Sabayon release is the result of team work, time and care, to provide you with a stable, solid and bleeding edge release. There are a lot of exciting changes in this release, here are a few: new Anaconda installer, with tons of bug fixes; latest Linux kernel 4.8; latest KDE Plasma; renewed artwork; new greeter; improvements and fixes to Entropy...." The project has also revamped its website with this new release. Further details on the project's release cycle, features and website design can be found in the release announcement.
Bodhi Linux 4.0.0
Bodhi Linux 4.0.0 has been released. Bodhi is an Ubuntu-based distribution featuring a custom-built variant of the Enlightenment desktop named "Moksha", with some usability tweaks and other enhancements. This release is based on Ubuntu 16.04 which is supported until April 2021. From the release announcement: "Hot on the heels of the Moksha 0.2.1 desktop release, I am happy to announce the stable release of Bodhi 4.0.0. The highlights of this release are: Ubuntu 16.04.1 core; Moksha 0.2.1 desktop; Linux 4.4 kernel; EFL 1.18.1; new and updated Moksha modules. Ultimately, our end users should be pleased to see the same stable operating system they have grown accustomed to in the past years, with newer application versions the updated Ubuntu LTS brings with it. I would like to take this time to remind users that we do not support a direct upgrade path from 3.2.1 to 4.0.0." The Bodhi release is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours, and it provides two specialist editions - "AppPack" with a large number of pre-installed applications and "Legacy" for older computers.
Bodhi Linux 4.0.0 -- Running the Moksha desktop
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Favourite window managers
The very first poll we ran on DistroWatch asked our readers which desktop environment was their favourite. One reader pointed out that more than 1-in-20 people selected "Other" in that poll, suggesting many were probably using minimal graphical environments and window managers.
This week we would like to hear from users who run window managers instead of full desktop environments. Please let us know what your favourite window manager is. If we missed your preferred window manager, let us know in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on methods of governing Linux distributions here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Favourite window manager
|awesome: ||43 (3%)|
| Blackbox: ||31 (2%)|
| Enlightenment: ||119 (8%)|
| Fluxbox: ||147 (9%)|
| i3: ||147 (9%)|
| IceWM: ||84 (5%)|
| JWM: ||83 (5%)|
| Openbox: ||431 (27%)|
| Ratpoison: ||11 (1%)|
| twm: ||13 (1%)|
| Other: ||459 (29%)|
New distributions added to database
3CX Phone System
3CX Phone System is a specialist, Debian-based Linux distribution designed to run a complete unified communications platform. The 3CX client, included in the distribution, can also be installed separately on most hardware as well as the cloud. It provides a complete open standards-based IP PBX and phone system that works with popular SIP trunks and IP phones. It will automatically configure all supported peripherals and it also comes with clients for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android. The ISO image includes a free license for the 3CX PBX edition. The ISO images contains the standard Debian installer which installs a minimal system with the nginx web server, PostgreSQL database, iptables firewall and Secure Shell. Options not relevant to 3CX have been removed form the distribution.
3CX -- Status page
(full image size: 989kB, resolution: 2071x1271 pixels)
arkOS is a flavour of Arch Linux ARM, a lightweight Linux-based operating system, that runs on embedded devices and standalone servers. arkOS allows you to run websites, email accounts, social networking profiles from its graphical interface.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 7 November 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: 1, value: US$5.54)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Issue 733 (2017-10-09): KaOS 2017.09, 32-bit prematurely obsoleted, Qubes security features, IPFire updates Apache|
|• Issue 732 (2017-10-02): ClonOS, reducing Snap package size, Ubuntu dropping 32-bit Desktop, partitioning disks for ZFS|
|• Issue 731 (2017-09-25): BackSlash Linux Olaf, W3C adding DRM to web standards, Wayland support arrives in Mir, Debian experimenting with AppArmor|
|• Issue 730 (2017-09-18): Mageia 6, running a completely free OS, HAMMER2 file system in DragonFly BSD's installer, Manjaro to ship pre-installed on laptops|
|• Issue 729 (2017-09-11): Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, running Plex Media Server on a Raspberry Pi, Tails feature roadmap, a cross-platform ports build system|
|• Issue 728 (2017-09-04): Nitrux 1.0.2, SUSE creates new community repository, remote desktop tools for GNOME on Wayland, using Void source packages|
|• Issue 727 (2017-08-28): Cucumber Linux 1.0, using Flatpak vs Snap, GNOME previews Settings panel, SUSE reaffirms commitment to Btrfs|
|• Issue 726 (2017-08-21): Redcore Linux 1706, Solus adds Snap support, KaOS getting hardened kernel, rolling releases and BSD|
|• Issue 725 (2017-08-14): openSUSE 42.3, Debian considers Flatpak for backports, changes coming to Ubuntu 17.10, the state of gaming on Linux|
|• Issue 724 (2017-08-07): SwagArch 2017.06, Myths about Unity, Mir and Ubuntu Touch, Manjaro OpenRC becomes its own distro, Debian debates future of live ISOs|
|• Issue 723 (2017-07-31): UBOS 11, transferring packages between systems, Ubuntu MATE's HUD, GNUstep releases first update in seven years|
|• Issue 722 (2017-07-24): Calculate Linux 17.6, logging sudo usage, Remix OS discontinued, interview with Chris Lamb, Debian 9.1 released|
|• Issue 721 (2017-07-17): Fedora 26, finding source based distributions, installing DragonFly BSD using Orca, Yunit packages ported to Ubuntu 16.04|
|• Issue 720 (2017-07-10): Peppermint OS 8, gathering system information with osquery, new features coming to openSUSE, Tails fixes networking bug|
|• Issue 719 (2017-07-03): Manjaro 17.0.2, tracking ISO files, Ubuntu MATE unveils new features, Qubes tests Admin API, Fedora's Atomic Host gets new life cycle|
|• Issue 718 (2017-06-26): Debian 9, support for older hardware, Debian updates live media, Ubuntu's new networking tool, openSUSE gains MP3 support|
|• Issue 717 (2017-06-19): SharkLinux, combining commands in the shell, Debian 9 flavours released, OpenBSD improving kernel security, UBports releases first OTA update|
|• Issue 716 (2017-06-12): Slackel 7.0, Ubuntu working with GNOME on HiDPI, openSUSE 42.3 using rolling development model, exploring kernel blobs|
|• Issue 715 (2017-06-05): Devuan 1.0.0, answering questions on systemd, Linux Mint plans 18.2 beta, Yunit/Unity 8 ported to Debian|
|• Issue 714 (2017-05-29): Void, enabling Wake-on-LAN, Solus packages KDE, Debian 9 release date, Ubuntu automated bug reports|
|• Issue 713 (2017-05-22): ROSA Fresh R9, Fedora's new networking features, FreeBSD's Quarterly Report, UBports opens app store, Parsix to shut down, SELinux overview|
|• Issue 712 (2017-05-15): NixOS 17.03, Alpha Litebook running elementary OS, Canonical considers going public, Solus improves Bluetooth support|
|• Issue 711 (2017-05-08): 4MLinux 21.0, checking file system fragmentation, new Mint and Haiku features, pfSense roadmap, OpenBSD offers first syspatch updates|
|• Issue 710 (2017-05-01): TrueOS 2017-02-22, Debian ported to RISC-V, Halium to unify mobile GNU/Linux, Anbox runs Android apps on GNU/Linux, using ZFS on the root file system|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
Dragora GNU/Linux-Libre is a distribution created from scratch with the intention of providing a stable, multi-platform and multi-purpose operating system. It is built upon 100% free software. It has a very simple packaging system that allows installing, removing, upgrading and creating packages. Dragora can be an ideal distribution for those who wish to learn how a distribution works on the inside.