| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 693, 2 January 2017
Welcome to this year's 1st issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
We are back, after taking time off the last week of December. A lot happened over the past two weeks and our News section covers a wide range of topics, so let's dive right into them. The GNU project released updates to the Hurd and GNU Mach projects which provide a micro-kernel implementation of a Unix-like kernel. The Raspberry Pi organization launched a live distribution which runs on x86 hardware and progress was made porting Wayland to FreeBSD. Also on the topic of FreeBSD, the project has issued several end-of-life notices for older releases. The Ubuntu developers decided to drop 32-bit PowerPC support, following Debian's move to do the same, while improving printer support. The Debian project is looking at automating software updates and we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the plan below, along with OpenMediaVault choosing to focus on 64-bit computers. We were also happy to note the FreeDOS project launched a new version during the holiday season. Before we get into the details of these stories, we want to kick things off this week with a look at five small (under 100MB) Linux distributions and what sets them each apart. In our Questions and Answers column we explore the topic of video drivers and continue the discussion on video cards in our Opinion Poll. Plus we share the many distribution releases of the past two weeks and list the torrents we are seeding in the Torrent Corner. In this issue we talk about some of the improvements we have made to the DistroWatch website and welcome the RaspBSD project to our database. Finally, we are sorry to report DistroWatch contributor Robert Storey passed away recently and we wish him a fond farewell. His final submission, an article about the fig educational programming language, is featured below. We wish you all a pleasant week and happy reading.
- Reviews: Some of the smallest Linux distributions
- News: New GNU Hurd release, Raspberry Pi organization launches Debian+PIXEL, Ubuntu drops 32-bit PowerPC and improves printer support, Wayland on FreeBSD and FreeBSD EoL announcements, Debian considers automatic updates, OpenMediaVault focuses on 64-bit and FreeDOS 1.2 launched
- Questions and answers: Video drivers and Linux
- Technology review: Robert Storey and the fig programming language
- Released in the past two weeks: Alpine Linux 3.5.0, siduction 16.1.0, Parrot Security OS 3.3
- Torrent corner: Alpine Linux, GuixSD, OpenELEC, siduction
- Opinion poll: Preferred video card brand
- DistroWatch.com news: Improvements to mobile website and search
- New additions: RaspBSD
- New distributions: Parabuntu
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (75MB) and MP3 (56MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Some of the smallest Linux distributions
A lot of time and digital ink is dedicated to talking about features, new capabilities and ease of use. This week I want to go in another direction and talk about minimal Linux distributions, projects with low resource requirements and small (less than 100MB) installation media. Some people have limited Internet connections and/or lower-end equipment and this week I want to explore some of the distributions which are designed to require as few resources as possible.
* * * * *
When talking about minimal Linux distributions, I think it makes sense to begin with Tiny Core Linux. Tiny Core is about as small as a Linux distribution can get. Tiny Core 7.1 is designed to be small and fast, running in memory with either a bare bones command line interface or a very minimal desktop environment, depending on which edition we use. Persistent storage and add-on packages can be set up as needed.
Tiny Core is available in three editions. The Core edition is a 11MB download and offers users just a stripped down text console interface. Some basic UNIX utilities are included, without manual pages. The user is automatically signed into an account called tc and we can perform administrative actions through the sudo utility without a password. The Core edition uses about 9MB of RAM when running live in memory and boots almost instantly. The second edition is called TinyCore. It is a 16MB download and features a minimal desktop with a settings panel and graphical package manager. The TinyCore edition uses around 19MB of RAM and boots to a desktop environment on my computer within three seconds. There is a third version of the distribution, CorePlus, which is larger and provided as an installation image.
When running Tiny Core Linux, we can download and install extra applications and services as needed and I found there is a fairly good selection to be had in the project's repositories. Tiny Core runs in memory and this means the core system gets reset each time we boot it. Add-on packages and our data files can be stored on persistent media for long-term use. Tiny Core is somewhat unusual for a Linux distribution in that it does not feature many command line tools or services, including OpenSSH. The distribution runs on version 4.2 of the Linux kernel.
Tiny Core Linux 7.1 -- Enabling background services
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Tiny Core, as the name suggests, is very small and offers minimal features, but the project provides tools for enabling add-ons. The on-line documentation is a bit sparse, but there is an accompanying book which explores ways in which Tiny Core can be useful and utilized in building projects and services.
* * * * *
A close relation to Tiny Core Linux is Nanolinux. The Nanolinux distribution is based on Tiny Core and features more desktop applications. Nanolinux 1.3 is provided as a 18MB download and ships with version 3.16 of the Linux kernel.
When I tried to boot Nanolinux, the system displayed a handful of errors which said "permission denied", though permission to what was not immediately clear. The expected graphical session failed to launch and, instead, I was dropped to a command line interface. From the command line I was able to use the "tc" user account and the same tools that were available in the Tiny Core Linux "Core" edition. Nanolinux, when sitting at the command line, used 44MB of RAM and ran an older version of the Linux kernel. Otherwise, the experience was much the same as running the most minimal Tiny Core edition.
* * * * *
RancherOS is perhaps the most unusual project on today's list of small distributions. RancherOS presents us with an operating system which has just enough components to run Docker containers. Everything on the system, including background services, then runs inside Docker containers. This makes the system highly modular.
I downloaded the 41MB ISO file for RancherOS 0.7.1. The distribution's live disc took about 15 seconds to load to a text console. The system automatically logs us in as a regular user (called rancher) and we can perform administrative tasks with sudo. The live disc uses about 100MB of RAM and automatically connects to the local network. Unlike Tiny Core and Nanolinux, Rancher ships with OpenSSH and the secure shell service runs in the background.
We can run RancherOS as a live distribution, but to explore the power of the system we will want to install the operating system. RancherOS does not have an installer in the traditional sense, but there are a series of commands we can run to install the distribution to our hard disk. The install process downloads a handful of files and takes over the local hard disk. The GRUB boot loader is installed for us too.
The installed version of RancherOS provides us with a minimal command line interface that runs OpenSSH and version 4.4 of the Linux kernel. Additional services and components can be installed in Docker containers. These installations tend to happen quickly and the RancherOS documentation lays out the steps we need to take to set up and run these add-on containers.
RancherOS feels to me to be more like a foundation on which we can build than a traditional operating system. We can build just about anything we want on top of the very minimal operating system, using Docker containers to isolate and manage the services we need.
* * * * *
For people who are looking for a desktop distribution which balances size with features, one attractive option is SliTaz GNU/Linux. The SliTaz Rolling edition is available as a 50MB download and comes equipped with an Openbox-powered desktop featuring LXDE components.
The SliTaz distribution can be run from a live CD, but it can also be installed as a regular stand-alone distribution. In addition, SliTaz can be installed on an existing Windows partition, allowing the two operating systems to co-exist. SliTaz has an unusual installer which looks and acts like web-based documentation that happens to have prompts where we can enter configuration settings. This approach may seem odd, but the steps are well explained at each turn and there are only a few places where we need to provide information.
SliTaz boots to a graphical interface by default and makes it fairly easy to set up additional user accounts. The distribution provides us with a small selection of desktop applications, including the Midori web browser, multimedia players, a document viewer, the Transmission bittorrent client, a text editor, a simple spreadsheet app and a calculator. There are also some system administration tools like the GParted partition manager. In the background, SliTaz runs version 3.2 of the Linux kernel.
SliTaz Rolling -- The default desktop
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All of the software included with SliTaz uses up about 300MB of disk space and, when sitting in an Openbox session, the distribution used about 120MB of RAM. This may seem a bit heavy compared to other distributions covered in this article, but SliTaz provides a lot of conveniences and a more familiar desktop environment with those extra megabytes.
SliTaz does feature a graphical package manager, though it looks as though most packages available to the distribution are already installed. We can manually check for future software updates through the package manager too. All in all, I think SliTaz is the most friendly desktop distribution among the ones covered in this list.
* * * * *
Alpine Linux is a distribution designed with embedded and server scenarios in mind. Alpine can run on Raspberry Pi computers as well as x86 powered desktops, servers and laptops. The download media for the x86 build of Alpine Linux 3.4.6 is 81MB in size.
The live media boots almost instantly to a text console where we can sign into the live disc as the root user without a password. As with Tiny Core Linux, Alpine provides us with the Busybox command line utilities and no manual pages. The live disc uses about 20MB of memory.
The Alpine distribution can be installed in one of three modes: diskless mode, where we run the distribution from read-only media; data mode where we run Alpine from a live disc and write data to a USB thumb drive or hard disk partitions; and "sys" mode which acts like a more traditional operating system where the system and data are written to a hard drive. I opted to experiment with the "sys" mode. The installer, called setup-alpine, uses a text interface, gathering a little data about our keyboard's layout and network settings and we are asked to provide a root password. The installer also asks which background services we would like to run. Most of the time we can simply press Enter at each prompt as the installer provides us with good default options. Something I appreciate about Alpine's installer is it warns us multiple times before it overwrites an existing partition, choosing to err on the side of caution.
While Alpine can be used with a desktop environment, by default the installed operating system boots to a text console. The system runs version 4.4 of the Linux kernel and consumes relatively little in the way of resources, using 300MB of disk space and 20MB of RAM.
Alpine has one of the nicer command line package managers available (of the distributions mentioned in this article). The package manager, called APK, is fairly straight forward in its syntax and makes it easy to set up additional services.
Perhaps my favourite characteristic of Alpine, and what made this distribution stand out during my trial, was the documentation. Alpine has a fairly detailed wiki which covers installation methods, package management, setting up desktop environments and other key tasks. I felt the wiki was well organized and I think this sort of documentation is key in a distribution with a strong focus on the command line. While SliTaz and Tiny Core have graphical environments we can discover with a few minutes of clicking the mouse, Alpine makes itself accessible through clear documentation.
* * * * *
During my whirlwind tour of these small Linux distributions, a few things stood out. One was that there is a lot of variety in the tiny end of the Linux ecosystem. Apart from Nanolinux, which was based on Tiny Core, each distribution listed here has a very distinct style. If I had extended this trial to include slightly larger (but also small) distributions like Puppy Linux and antiX, we would continue to see a surprising amount of diversity, which tends not to be reflected in the larger, more mainstream distributions.
There were some common factors though. When trimming down a distribution, it seems removing local manual (man) pages is one common way to shrink the installation media. I have mixed feelings about this. Most people using tiny distributions probably already know their way around a command line, but when dealing with a minimal interface documentation becomes an important factor. Busybox also seems to be a favourite component of small distributions, replacing the more commonly used GNU userland utilities.
Finally, I think it is worth noting that small distributions have so far avoided adopting systemd as the preferred init software. The systemd suite of utilities offers some enticing features, but at the cost of additional resource requirements. I sometimes get asked which distributions are still free of systemd, and low-resource projects are a good place to look.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
New GNU Hurd release, Raspberry Pi organization launches Debian+PIXEL, Ubuntu drops 32-bit PowerPC and improves printer support, Wayland on FreeBSD and FreeBSD EoL announcements, Debian considers automatic updates, OpenMediaVault focuses on 64-bit and FreeDOS 1.2 launched
Entering the final weeks of 2016, the GNU project announced the release of GNU Mach 1.8 and GNU Hurd 0.9. The GNU Mach project is a distribution of the Mach micro kernel which implements inter-process communication (IPC). GNU Hurd is a collection of services that implement file systems, network access and permissions that run on GNU Mach. Combined, these projects seek to implement a Unix-like kernel, with a very different design but similar purpose to the Linux kernel. The new releases implement virtual network interfaces, insure that running out of space on the file system is handled gracefully and memory management has been improved. "As usual, bugs have been fixed throughout the code, notably in libpager and ext2fs which now gracefully handles running out of space. Further compatibility fixes have been applied (for compliance to standards such as POSIX)." Details can be found in the release notes.
* * * * *
People who have run Raspbian, a build of Debian for Raspberry Pi computers, are probably familiar with the distribution's PIXEL desktop environment. PIXEL grew out of a customization of the LXDE desktop and provides Raspbian users with a snappy desktop environment that can run on the Pi's minimal ARM-based hardware. Fans of the PIXEL desktop will be happy to know the environment is now available to people running desktop and laptop computers with x86 processors. "Back in the summer, we asked ourselves one simple question: if we like PIXEL so much, why ask people to buy Raspberry Pi hardware in order to run it? There is a massive installed base of PC and Mac hardware out there, which can run x86 Debian just fine. Could we do something for the owners of those machines? So, after three months of hard work from Simon and Serge, we have a Christmas treat for you: an experimental version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms. Simply download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB stick, and boot straight into the familiar PIXEL desktop environment on your PC or Mac." The Debian+PIXEL image runs on 32-bit x86 machines and gives Pi users the option of having a consistent desktop experience across multiple devices. Additional information and screen shots can be found in the announcement.
* * * * *
Following the Debian project's announcement that the PowerPC architecture would be dropped from the upcoming release of Debian 9, Steve Langasek has reported Ubuntu will also drop support for 32-bit PowerPC processors. "Given the recent announcement that the powerpc architecture would be dropped from the upcoming Debian release, there has been a good deal of discussion about the future of this architecture in Ubuntu as well, including a session at last month's Ubuntu Online Summit and several discussions during Technical Board meetings. Unlike the ppc64el architecture, there is no longer upstream support for the 32-bit, big-endian powerpc architecture; so its continuation in Ubuntu would be dependent on identifying a community of contributors willing to invest in keeping this port in working order, to carry it forward without it negatively impacting Ubuntu development as a whole." Existing releases of Ubuntu featuring 32-bit PowerPC builds will continue to be supported for their scheduled lifetimes. Ubuntu-based distributions and community editions, such as Ubuntu MATE, are expected to also drop support for the 32-bit PowerPC architecture. Further information can be found in Langasek's mailing list post.
Ubuntu users will be happy to hear that printer support is being improved for the upcoming release of Ubuntu 17.04 "Zesty". The next Ubuntu release will feature the ability to print to network printers which use either IPP Everywhere or Apple's AirPrint technology. "Here is something nice to try out during the holidays or to save some Christmas present which you got from a not so Linux-savvy relative. Are you using Zesty and do you have a (network) printer which you never got working with Linux? It is possible that Zesty is now able to make it work. Zesty supports printing on IPP Everywhere printers and on printers supporting Apple AirPrint (these are the printers where you can print from your iPhone or iPad)." Details on how to enable the new printing support and how to submit feedback to the developers can be found in Till Kamppeter's mailing list post.
* * * * *
To date, the new Wayland display technology, which is expected to eventually replace the X display server, has generally been thought of as Linux-based software. At the moment, Fedora is one of the few operating systems shipping with Wayland as the default software for displaying a desktop environment. However, other projects are working on Wayland support, including FreeBSD. Johannes Lundberg posted a status update on the progress of Wayland running on FreeBSD. There is still some work to be done, but most of the components appear to be working.
Xin Li started 2017 by announcing some older branches of FreeBSD have reached the end of their supported lives. As of January 1, 2017, FreeBSD 9.3, 10.1 and 10.2 will no longer receive support and security updates. "As of January 1, 2017, FreeBSD 9.3, 10.1 and 10.2 have reached end-of-life and will no longer be supported by the FreeBSD Security Officers Team. Users of FreeBSD 9.3, 10.1 and 10.2 are strongly encouraged to upgrade to a newer release as soon as possible." The announcement features a chart showing FreeBSD 10.3 and 11.0 continue to be supported.
* * * * *
Keeping an operating system up to date with security patches is one of the key processes involved in preventing a computer from being compromised by an attacker. With many computers systems being set up and left to run for months or even years unattended, the idea of automated package updates is an attractive option. The Debian project is currently considering whether security updates should be applied automatically by default and, if so, what are the benefits and potential drawbacks? "The Debian project is looking at possibly making automatic minor upgrades to installed packages the default for newly installed systems. While Debian has a reliable and stable package update system that has been an inspiration for multiple operating systems (the venerable APT), upgrades are, usually, a manual process on Debian for most users. The proposal was brought up during the Debian Cloud sprint in November by longtime Debian Developer Steve McIntyre. The rationale was to make sure that users installing Debian in the cloud have a 'secure' experience by default, by installing and configuring the unattended-upgrades package within the images." This blog post talks about some of the benefits and problems which could result from automated updates.
* * * * *
A blog post on the OpenMediaVault website suggests the Debian-based distribution will be focusing exclusively on building installation media for 64-bit x86 computers. The post succinctly states: "Starting today there will be only 64-bit ISO images for OMV3 to download. If you still need a 32-bit installation, then use the Debian 32-bit net-install ISO image and install OMV3 manually."
* * * * *
Though FreeDOS is not a member of the Linux or BSDs families, the operating system is free software, licensed under the GNU General Public license. FreeDOS got its start as a Microsoft DOS clone and replacement back in the mid-1990s when Microsoft announced it was discontinuing development of its DOS platform. Since then the FreeDOS project has been used to run legacy DOS programs, been used as a platform from which to manage firmware and acted as a minimal operating system on low-end computers. The project's founder, Jim Hall, announced the release of FreeDOS 1.2 on December 25th. The new release features many applications and a few games on top of the core operating system and offers users a new system installer. "The FreeDOS 1.2 release is an updated, more modern FreeDOS. You'll see that we changed many of the packages. Some packages were replaced, deprecated by newer and better packages. We also added other packages. And we expanded what we should include in the FreeDOS distribution. Where FreeDOS 1.0 and 1.1 where fairly spartan distributions with only "core" packages and software sets, the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution includes a rich set of additional packages. We even include games. But the biggest change you are likely to notice in FreeDOS 1.2 is the updated installer. Jerome Shidel wrote an entirely new FreeDOS install program, and it looks great! We focused on keeping the new installer simple and easy to use. While many DOS users in 2016 are experienced DOS programmers and DOS power users, we often see many new users to FreeDOS, and I wanted to make the install process pleasant for them. The default mode for the installer is very straightforward, and you only have to answer a few questions to install FreeDOS on your system." Further information and a history of the project can be found in Hall's release announcement.
* * * * *
These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Video drivers and Linux
Pick-a-card-any-card asks: What is the current state of the big three video card markers with respect to Linux? Has pressure from the community and Linus's rant against NVIDIA resulted in any progress?
DistroWatch answers: The hardware market, and the drivers for existing hardware, are always evolving. However, I do not think there has been a great deal of change in the past few years. I have not observed any great leaps forward or large failures recently. Some people ran into trouble with their legacy AMD/ATI video cards not being supported in some recent distribution releases, but otherwise I have not witnessed much change in recent years.
I think the state of video drivers (and video cards) with regards to Linux varies a bit depending on whether a person runs open source drivers exclusively or if a person is willing to use closed source drivers. In my opinion it seems as though Intel and AMD/ATI have been more willing to put work into their open source drivers. Cards from either company tend to have decent, working, open source drivers and that is great. NVIDIA seems less willing to open their driver code and the Nouveau project has had to do a lot of work to get NVIDIA cards working with their open source code.
On the other hand, when we factor in closed drivers, the NVIDIA card/driver combination tends to be well supported compared to AMD/ATI cards. NVIDIA makes closed drivers which offer good performance (in my opinion) and stability (in my experience), both for Linux and FreeBSD.
Ideally, it would be great if each company fully supported Linux with open source drivers, but that goal still seems to be a long way off. For now, there is still quite a bit of work to be done on the open source drivers for AMD/ATI and NVIDIA cards. Both are fairly well supported, but there are some rough edges and corner cases to smooth out.
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For more questions and answers, visit our Questions and Answers archive.
|Technology Review (by Figosdev)
Robert Storey and the fig programming language
While we were away on holiday, the DistroWatch team received very sad news. Our friend, professional writer of travel guidebooks and occasional DistroWatch contributor, Robert Storey passed away in Decemberi. Robert was a tireless technology enthusiast and open source advocate. He regularly brought niche projects to our attention and loved discussing up-and-coming projects and community forks, like Devuan. Most recently, Robert contributed a review of the Refracta distribution, which is based on Devuan.
Robert had a wonderful sense of humour and often penned April Fools articles for us. Over the years his digital pen took aim at Windows "Hasta La" Vista and a fictional version of the GNOME 4 desktop. He also had some light fun with technology celebrities.
Robert was a passionate, friendly man who was always learning and always exploring. His energy for open source was infectious and we here at DistroWatch will miss him.
Shortly before he passed, Robert shared with us a source-to-source programming language called fig. The fig language aims to be easy for new programmers to learn and tries to simplify syntax as much as possible. Robert felt such a language would be a useful educational tool. He had the developer behind fig, who goes by the handle Figosdev, write up an article explaining his creation. Robert then forwarded the article on fig to us in the hopes DistroWatch readers might find it useful or, at least, interesting. The summary of fig is included below.
* * * * *
Issue 683 of DistroWatch Weekly featured a review of
Refracta 8, a Devuan-based live distro. After discussing the subject over email with Robert, it was suggested that I write a review of my own programming language, fig, which is included with Refracta.
I will attempt to be impartial.
Fig is a source-to-source compiler (basically a translator) written in
Python, designed around the following ideas:
The language is implemented as a single Python script, originally in
Python 2. It should work in various GNU/Linux distros that include
Python, including, but not limited to: Debian, Devuan, Trisquel,
gNewSense, antiX, ConnochaetOS, Arch and PrimTux. I have not tested it in any distros based on Red Hat though I've had success in
Windows XP & 8, ReactOS, Puppy Linux,
OS X -- either Leopard or Snow Leopard. Early versions also ran on SL4A
- Only add features and punctuation (syntax) as necessary
- "Necessary" includes saving substantial tedium and repetition
- Keep it as simple as BASIC or Logo used to be, if possible
- Use any modern feature that would have made BASIC easier
It was developed primarily on Devuan Jessie in the pre-alpha stage, and
for this article was tested successfully in Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS. Fig
should basically run where Python runs, and Python runs on practically
any distro and most hardware-- including SBC's like the Raspberry Pi,
BeagleBoard or ODROID, running GNU/Linux.
If you only have Python 3 rather than Python 2, there is a version of fig (3.1)
that is slightly more experimental -- though used frequently -- which goes
out of its way to encode and decode all the brittle Python 3 strings I
find so antithetical to Python's flexibility and simplicity. Fig was
inspired originally by BASIC, so of course it would lend itself towards
strings that had Unicode as an afterthought.
For this article, I have downloaded the package for APT or Debian-based
distros from Refracta's "extras" repo. And, for Puppy, I've downloaded the .pet package from Puppus Dogfellow's Google drive.
The commands used to install the .deb or .pet version are:
sudo dpkg -i fig29-31_1.0.deb
Non-APT and non-Puppy distros can use the following commands, as a .pet
package is basically a zipped tar archive (gz or xz) with an MD5 appended:
tar -xvf fig-2.9.pet ; mv fig-2.9/usr/local/bin/fig29 /usr/bin/fig29.py
The tar command, when used on a .pet package, will generally complain about a corrupt archive; this can be ignored. A typical line of fig can be found in the
now x hex right 1 prints colortext 7
The only required punctuation in fig is "quotes for strings" and #hashes
for comments. Other punctuation is optional, like this equals sign and
now = x ; hex ; right 1 ; prints ; colortext 7
Fig is not case-sensitive and generally ignores indentation. Commands
always have the same number of parameters, except for "function" which
is used to define a command. Introductory documentation is located under
/usr/share/doc/fig/workinprogress and a support forum can be found at http://unofficialdistros.freeforums.org.
As far as suitability for programming or education, fig needs to be
reviewed by more educators or experts. People who advocate drag-and-drop
coding will not like the fact that fig involves actual typing of
commands. People who like GUI programming will not like that fig is
mostly command-line based (a few graphics commands exist.) And above
all, people who are already comfortable with BASH or Python may wonder
why fig was even developed in the first place.
To that I can say: fig started as, and continues as, an experiment. These
days, practical languages that you can learn in their entirety are rare.
But as instruction has returned from the dark days of "application
training" to "let's teach everyone how computers work by learning to
code," I wanted to make a language that was easy enough for everyone to
learn and teach, focusing on the basic concepts of variables, I/O, basic
math, loops, conditions and functions.
I still believe fig could be useful in schools on platforms like the
Raspberry Pi, or on laptops and desktops. I use it to write small
programs, avoid Python syntax and boilerplate, and to teach computing
concepts to friends. I tried that with BASIC first, and Python and
private success -- people glaze over a lot less with fig than when I try
to demonstrate how other languages work, and that was really the idea.
|Released Last Week
BlackArch Linux 2016.12.20
BlackArch Linux 2016.12.20 has been released. BlackArch is an Arch Linux-based live distribution (in 6.2 GB!) with a substantial collection of utilities made for penetration testing and forensic analysis. This new version comes with an updated Linux kernel and base system, as well as over 100 new tools: "Today we released new BlackArch Linux ISO images. Here is the changeLog: include linux kernel 4.8.13; fix LXDM shutdown and reboot issue; userland clean-ups; added more than 100 new tools; updated all BlackArch tools; updated all system packages; updated menus for window managers (Awesome, Fluxbox, Openbox). Following newest tools have been added: Dracnmap - tool to exploit the network and gathering information with Nmap help; OpenDoor - OWASP directory access scanner; WAFNinja - tool which contains two functions to attack web application firewalls; Hoper - trace URL jumps across links to obtain the last URL...." Visit the project's news page to read the release announcement and all the recent additions to the distribution's toolkit.
Arne Exton has announced the release of a new version of the Debian- and Ubuntu-based ExTiX distribution. The new release, version 17.0, ships with the KDE desktop environment and is available in a single, 64-bit x86 build. ExTiX 17.0 KDE DVD 64-bit is based on Debian 8.6 'Jessie'/Debian 9 'Stretch' and Ubuntu 16.10. The original system includes the desktop environment Unity (Ubuntu). After removing Unity I have installed KDE Frameworks 5.26.0 with KDE 4.16. KDE Frameworks are 60 addon libraries to Qt which provide a wide variety of commonly needed functionality in mature, peer reviewed and well tested libraries with friendly licensing terms. The system language is English. My special kernel, 4.9.0-11-exton, corresponding to kernel.org's kernel 4.9 - latest as of 161221. You can download 'my' kernel if you want to use it in another Ubuntu/Debian system." Additional information on ExTiX 17.0 is available in the project's release announcement.
ExTiX 17.0 -- Running the KDE desktop
(full image size: 1.9MB, resolution: 1576x922 pixels)
IPFire 2.19 Core 108
The IPFire project has announced an update to the security-minded Linux distribution. The new release fixes some issues with the project's 2.19 series and carries the name IPFire 2.19 Core Update 108. "Just before Christmas, we are going to release the last Core Update for 2016. IPFire 2.19 - Core Update 108 brings some minor bug fixes and feature enhancements, some security fixes in ntp and various fixes in the squid web proxy. Asynchronous logging is now enabled by default and not configurable any more. This made some programs that wrote an extensive amount of log messages slow down and possible unresponsive over the network which causes various problems. This was seen on systems with very slow flash media and virtual environments." The release announcement includes further details and list of updated packages.
Alpine Linux 3.5.0
The Alpine Linux project, an independent Linux distribution developed with embedded systems and security in mind, has released Alpine Linux 3.5.0. The new release switches the distribution from using the OpenSSL security library to LibreSSL, introduces support for ZFS as the root file system and features many package upgrades. "New features and noteworthy changes: Switch from OpenSSL to LibreSSL; Support for aarch64 (uboot only for now); Support for ZFS as root; PostgreSQL update to 9.6.x - see the PostgreSQL documentation for upgrade instructions; Samba 4.5.3; GTK+3.0 3.22.5; glib 2.50.2; Support for R, JRuby and OCaml; Better Python3 support; The nodejs package was renamed to nodejs-current and moved to the community repository. The nodejs-lts package was renamed to nodejs. This means that you get the LTS version if you do 'apk add nodejs'." Further details can be found in the release announcement.
Ferdinand Thommes has announced the release of siduction 16.1.0, a set of distributions based on Debian's "unstable" branch. The release arrives in two batches, with the one made available today coming in LXDE, Xfce and KDE Plasma flavours, while a second batch, featuring GNOME, Cinnamon, MATE and LXQt, is scheduled for release in January. "Today we present the first batch of siduction 2016.1 which consists of the noX, Xorg, LXDE, Xfce and Plasma 5 flavours. We attempt to release a second batch with the GNOME, Cinnamon, MATE and LXQt flavours as soon as possible in the new year. The released images are a snapshot of Debian 'unstable' that also goes by the name of 'Sid', from 2016-12-23. They are enhanced with some useful packages and scripts, our own installer and a custom patched version of the Linux kernel 4.9, accompanied by X.Org Server 1.19.0 and systemd 232." Read the full release notes for more details.
siduction 16.1.0 -- Running LXDE
(full image size: 293kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
OpenMandriva Lx 3.01
Kate Lebedeff has announced the release of OpenMandriva Lx 3.01, an updated build of the distribution's 3.0 branch, featuring the KDE Plasma desktop, which was originally released in August: "Not long after Lx 3.0 final release we are proud to announce OpenMandriva Lx 3.01. The 3.01 release brings a number of major fixes - updated software; new drivers and kernel with better support for newer hardware; many bug fixes; stable Plasma running on Wayland. OpenMandriva Lx is a cutting-edge distribution compiled with LVM/Clang. Combined with the high level of optimisation, it gives the desktop an unbelievably crisp response to operations on KDE Plasma 5 which makes it a pleasure to use. The latest release of all the KDE applications is there to support the desktop and help give you a consistent feel. Main features: KDE Plasma 5.8.4, KDE Frameworks 5.29.0, KDE Applications 16.08.3, Qt 5.6.2, Linux kernel 4.9 with BFQ as a default CPU scheduler, systemd 232..." Here is the full release announcement.
Parrot Security OS 3.3
Lorenzo Faletra has announced the release of Parrot Security OS 3.3, a new release of the project's Debian-based, specialist distribution with a collection of utilities designed for penetration testing, computer forensics, reverse engineering, hacking, privacy and cryptography: "Parrot 3.3 released. We are sorry for all the silence behind our development process these days, but we were secretly working on two main projects, the perfect plan to conquer the world and the new Parrot 3.3 release which fixes many minor but unpleasant bugs and introduces many many updates. This release is not a definitive goal; it is just a working snapshot of the bigger work we are doing for parrot 3.4 that will be released very soon. Changelog: include Linux 4.8 kernel; fix touchpad and multitouch support; fix mismatching kernel installer; update anonsurf; fix minor MATE bugs; include GCC 6.2; update Metasploit Framework to 4.13; switch to PHP 7; upgrade most of the tools to their latest versions." See the release announcement and changelog for more details.
Guix System Distribution 0.12.0
The GNU Guix project has announced the release of an update to the Guix System Distribution (GuixSD) operating system. GuixSD is a Linux distribution built around the Guix package manager, which offers transactional upgrades and roll-backs along with reproducible builds. The new release, GuixSD 0.12.0, includes several new services, including log rotation, CUPS and the OpenSMTPD e-mail service. "We are pleased to announce the new release of GNU Guix and GuixSD, version 0.12.0! The release comes with USB installation images to install the standalone GuixSD, and with tarballs to install the package manager on top of your GNU/Linux distro, either from source or from binaries. It’s been a little over 4 months since the previous release, during which 76 people contributed code and packages. The highlights include: New GuixSD system services, including a log rotation service, a CUPS printing service, NFS related services, and an OpenSMTPD service. Guix daemon offloading support now uses Guile-SSH. GuixSD can now be installed to a LUKS-encrypted root." Additional information can be found in the release announcement.
OpenELEC is a Linux-based distribution designed to act as a media hub and, in particular, to run the Kodi media software. The project has released a new version, OpenELEC 7.0.0, which supports WeTek Core devices, includes updated AMDGPU video drivers and offers users Kodi 16.1. The project has also introduced Bluetooth and OpenVPN support. "The OpenELEC 7.0 (internal version 7.0.0) release has been published. Users running OpenELEC 6.95.1 or later with auto-update enabled will be prompted on-screen to reboot and apply the update once it has been downloaded and enabled in some hours. Users running older OpenELEC releases or with auto-update disabled will need to manually update. If you would like to update from an older OpenELEC release please read update instructions/advice on the Wiki before updating." A list of new features and changes can be found in the project's release announcement.
Porteus is a fast, portable Linux distribution based on Slackware. The project has published a new stable release, Porteus 3.2.2. The new release is available in four editions: Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, MATE and Xfce. "Porteus is on cloud nine to announce the final release of Porteus v3.2.2 and Porteus Kiosk 4.2. There have been some major changes in the desktop edition since the 3.1 release including: kernel 4.9, pulseaudio, eudev, consolekit2, more complete 000-kernel firmware. Other Slackware based changes can be found here. Four desktops are available at this point: Xfce4, MATE, Cinnamon and KDE5. The base modules are a little larger than the previous release but contain a more complete set of packages for all round compatibility." Additional information can be found in the project's release announcement for Porteus 3.2.2.
Porteus 3.2.2 -- Running the MATE desktop
(full image size: 1.2MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Warith Al Maawali has announced the release of Linux Kodachi 3.5, a new version of the project's Debian-based, privacy-oriented distribution. This release includes a new hard disk installer from the Refracta project: "Version 3.5, based on Debian 8.6 Xfce. Added Refracta installer, now you can install Kodachi permanently on your PC; added new tool - Mat Meta data anonymization tool; improved destroy Kodachi script; improved display script with new CPU and network monitor on taskbar; detect screen resolution changes and display accordingly; introduced banned message if someone misuses the bandwidth or hosts illegal torrent files using our VPN network; added Gibru engine to search bookmarks; added new version notification; added own VPN tool so now you can use your own VPN - all you need is to paste your configuration into the correct directory located on the Kodachi desktop; fixed a few bugs; updated system, Firefox, Firefox plugins, Tor, VeraCrypt, Komodo edit, Electrum Bitcoin wallet." Here is the complete changelog.
Calculate Linux 17
Alexander Tratsevskiy has announced the release of Calculate Linux 17, a major update of the project's Gentoo-based set of distributions designed for desktops (with a choice of KDE Plasma, MATE or Xfce) as well as servers: "We are happy to announce the release of Calculate Linux 17. Main changes: Timeless, a new server flavour, designed for those eager to try the development version of Calculate Utilities; GUI manager - updated appearance, including new own icons; command-line manager - one session for cl-console and cl-console-gui, so that you can switch between them freely; live USB - system startup possible without PulseAudio; numerous revisions in templates - new functions added, support provided for 'or' expressions, service launching, package linking, package version downgrade, ldif format; beta versions of the brand new Calculate Linux Desktop Cinnamon and Calculate Linux Desktop LXQt available in 'nightly' stages; up to 5000 binary packages are available in the Calculate repository...." See the release announcement for more information, upgrade instructions and screenshots.
Happy New Year 2017! The first release announcement of the year goes to the PelicanHPC project (formerly known as "ParallelKnoppix") which develops a specialist Debian-based distribution that can be easily set up as a node for a High-Performance Computing cluster network. It is maintained by Aissam Hidoussi at the University Hadj Lakhdar in Batna, Algeria. PelicanHPC 4.1 is a minor bug-fix update and it comes with a choice of two desktops - Xfce 4.10 and GNOME 3.14: "PelicanHPC 4.1 is released with two desktops (Xfce and GNOME). It is based on Debian 8.6 'Jessie' and live-build 4.x. The default login information is user 'user', password 'PelicanHPC'. For security reasons, please change your password after login. Fixes to PelicanHPC 4.0: mounting of PELHOME partition; SSH problem in PelicanHPC with Xfce desktop; Ganglia." Visit the distribution's news page to read the brief release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not 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: 268
- Total data uploaded: 41.1TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Preferred video card brand
About a year ago we ran a poll asking readers about their preferred video card and driver set up. As this week's Question and Answer column concerns the development of video card drivers over time, we would like to pose the question again. What video card do you have in your computer now and are you using an open source driver or a proprietary driver with the device?
You can see the results of our previous poll on isolating processes here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Preferred video card brand
|AMD/ATI with open driver: ||378 (19%)|
| AMD/ATI with closed driver: ||86 (4%)|
| Intel: ||477 (24%)|
| NVIDIA with open driver: ||221 (11%)|
| NVIDIA with closed driver: ||677 (34%)|
| Unsure: ||166 (8%)|
Improvements to mobile website and search
Toward the end of 2016 we launched a mobile version of DistroWatch. Following the feedback we received in December, we have added a few new pages to provide the same features for mobile visitors as our desktop visitors of the site. The first page is called Latest Releases and provides a quick summary of new distribution and package releases. This is the same information presented on the full website's front page, in the left-hand column. A second page provides a list of the podcasts, newsletters and reviews we track.
These two summary pages, while designed with mobile visitors in mind, are also accessible for desktop users. The desktop versions of our new releases page and the podcasts, newsletters and reviews page can be bookmarked for quick access or located through our sitemap.
Another feature we have added is the ability to use the Search page to find operating systems that use web-based administration panels. Many distributions, particularly NAS systems, use web-based panels instead of desktop environments to make remote administration easier. On our Search page, projects which enable a web-based panel in the default installation can be found by setting the Desktop interface field to WebUI.
* * * * *
New distributions added to database
RaspBSD is a special build of FreeBSD for small, single-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi, Banana Pi and BeagleBoard Black. The project provides a live image of FreeBSD with Openbox and the LXDE graphical desktop, along with pre-configured FreeBSD package repositories. RaspBSD is based on the -CURRENT branch of FreeBSD.
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- Parabuntu. Parabuntu is an Ubuntu-based distribution for Parallella mini computers.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 January 2017. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. 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: 2, value: US$12.46)
|• 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|
|• Issue 657 (2016-04-18): Redox, Linux Mint improves update manager, planned Fedora 24 features, Ubuntu 16.04 getting Snappy packages|
|• Issue 656 (2016-04-11): Qubes OS 3.1, Whonix offers bug bounties, Puppy's family tree, setting up disk partitions and running bash on Windows|
|• Issue 655 (2016-04-04): Parsix 8.5, Sabayon's Community repository, Red Hat offers free subscriptions, Ubuntu tablets, command line tips|
|• Issue 654 (2016-03-28): PCLinuxOS 2016.03, Using signatures to create a web of trust, Arch Linux rolls out Pacman update, GuixSD packages GNOME|
|• Issue 653 (2016-03-21): Antergos 2016.02.21, Debian prepares for election, a Unix-like OS written in Rust, watching Netflix on FreeBSD|
|• Full list of all issues|
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