| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 445, 27 February 2012
Welcome to this year's 9th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Without a doubt, the biggest news of the week was Canonical's high-profile announcement about Ubuntu running on mobile phones - in such a way that it can also double as a full-featured desktop operating system once connected to a keyboard and monitor. Great concept, but how soon will it become a standard offering in mobile phone shops around the world? Also in the news section, first looks at the recently announced Ubuntu Business Remix and on the current state of the Unity desktop in "Precise Pangolin", and interviews with Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron and Linux Mint's founder Clement Lefebvre. The feature story of this week's issue is a look at SalineOS 1.6, a useful little distribution based on Debian's stable branch and featuring the Xfce desktop, while the Questions and Answers section looks at how to deal with magnet links under Linux. All this and more in this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
A look at SalineOS 1.6|
SalineOS is a Linux distribution based on Debian's stable ("Squeeze") repositories. The project uses a custom installer to make setting up a desktop system quick and easy. This, combined with the distribution's Xfce environment has caused me to think of SalineOS as "Debian Desktop (Light)". I previously tried SalineOS about a year ago and my impression then was that it wasn't doing badly for a young project, but it didn't appear to have its niche carved out yet. With the arrival of the new 1.6 release I tried SalineOS again in the hopes the project had found a clear focus.
The SalineOS distribution is provided as an ISO file approximately 920 MB in size and the distro is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. Burning the image to a DVD and booting from the disc brings up an Xfce desktop featuring blue, fish-filled wallpaper. At the top of the screen we find an application menu, task switcher and system tray. At the bottom of the screen is a quick-launch bar which auto-hides when the mouse pointer isn't nearby. On the desktop we find icons for navigating the file system, launching the system installer and opening the project's manual. I found the manual to be well laid out and it contains a good deal of information. Included in the pages are notes on the available software, how to install the distribution and how to manage packages. The manual also covers command line programs, how to set up printers and other tips on using the operating system.
SalineOS 1.6 - user manual and system installer
(full image size: 513kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
The system installer is, I believe, unique to the distribution and does a nice job of presenting the user with a single, simple choice at a time and, more to the point, explains important steps in detail. Right away the installer displays a page explaining partitioning and offers to either automatically partition the disk or let us use GParted to divide up the media. Once we've handled partitioning we're asked to select our preferred language and, optionally, we can download the language pack for our selected language. We're next asked to confirm our keyboard layout and a text box is provided so we can confirm our choice is working correctly. The next screen explains non-free and patented software and gives us the option of installing popular non-free items from the repositories. Next we're asked to set the root password. Then we create a regular user account and, optionally, we can set our account to auto-login. We provide a hostname and choose where to install the boot loader. The last step is to select our time zone. The installer gives us a last chance to bail out and then goes to work copying files to the local drive. All in all I found the installer to be a very good combination of simple, informative and friendly. With the screens broken up into individual prompts getting through the process might take longer than with Fedora or Ubuntu, but everything is presented in a clear fashion and my impression is that it's one of the more novice-friendly installers I've encountered lately.
When we first boot from SalineOS we're brought to a graphical login screen with a pleasant water-themed background. Logging in brings up the same Xfce screen, complete with the installer icon on the desktop. In the system tray we find an icon for clearing Chromium's cache files and another icon for running the software updater. As it turns out, clicking the updater icon prompts us for the root password and then opens a terminal which automatically uses the apt-get command line tool to update our repository information. We're then shown a list of available updates and we can choose to install all or none of the available packages. As far as update processes are concerned this one looks a bit crude, but I admit it is fast and worked on my machines.
Adding, removing and updating software can be handled via the Synaptic package manager. This graphical interface is fast and reliable. Synaptic is showing its age in the face of more modern graphical front-ends, but again, it's effective and powerful. SalineOS draws from the Debian repositories, which provide users with over 29,000 packages.
SalineOS 1.6 - checking for updates
(full image size: 793kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Looking at what software is available on the system post-install we find the Chromium web browser, Icedove (also known as Thunderbird) for e-mail, Pidgin for instant messaging, XChat for communicating on IRC and the Transmission BitTorrent client. LibreOffice is made available to us along with Rhythmbox, a CD burner app and a multimedia player. Depending on our choices at install time we may have popular multimedia codecs and Flash installed for us. We're given the Cheese webcam utility, a document viewer, an image viewer and the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The Orage calendar app is included and we have a text editor, calculator and archive manager. There is a bulk file rename utility, a file browser and the full array of configuration tools for handling the look & feel of the Xfce desktop.
Digging a little further we find Java is installed, the GCC is available and a mail server is running in the background. Most of Xfce's HTML documentation is included and made available through the application menu. I write "most" because a few pages of the manual are missing. Under it all the 2.6.32 version of the Linux kernel runs the show.
I ran SalineOS on two machines, my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card) and a generic desktop box (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card). I found the distribution was able to detect all of my hardware. Generally things worked as I expected out of the box. My screen was set to a suitable resolution, audio worked with the default settings and my laptop's Intel wireless card worked straight out of the gate. I found, by default, my touchpad didn't recognize taps as clicks, but otherwise the device worked smoothly. The distribution was quick to boot and the desktop was always quick to respond. When logged in and sitting at the desktop the operating system used about 130MB of memory.
While on the subject of hardware I ran into a curious bug. During the install we're asked to select our keyboard layout, which I did and typed some characters into the text box to confirm I had the right one highlighted. However, post-install, I soon found my keyboard had changed to a French layout. I went into the Xfce settings and changed the layout to reflect my physical keyboard and everything was fine from then on.
SalineOS 1.6 - the Xfce desktop and documentation
(full image size: 215kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
After a week with SalineOS I would say my experience thus far has been fairly good. The project's documentation is helpful, the installer is quite novice friendly and I encountered no problems getting set up. The distribution is light on resources, but comes with a full range of software (and Debian's large repositories). Being based on Debian Squeeze, some of the available software is a bit old (Iceweasel is still on version 3.5), but I didn't find I was missing functionality due to the age of the software. SalineOS provides a quick and easy way to get up and running with a Debian-based system. I like that we're given the choice of staying with Debian's free software policy or installing non-free extras. There were aspects of the system I'd like to see changed or fixed. For instance, having my keyboard layout change to a French setting was an unwelcome bug. The update button in the system tray works well enough, but given SalineOS' friendly approach to most things, I think it makes sense to put a graphical update tool in its place. Also a matter of taste, I think it would make sense to name items in the application menu by their purpose rather than by the application's name. "LibreOffice" is easy enough to figure out, but new users might be curious as to what "Iceweasel", "Icedove" and "Catfish" do, especially since Iceweasel and Icedove are names not typically seen outside of the Debian community.
Admittedly, these are pretty minor complaints and I think if these are the worst issues I ran into when using SalineOS that shows just how well the small project is doing. It's a light, fast distro with a good collection of software and the project makes it easy to get a Debian-based desktop installed quickly. If you don't mind using venerable packaging tools like Synaptic and apt-get then I recommend giving SalineOS a try.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ubuntu on mobile phones and business desktops, Unity 5.4, interviews with Fedora's Robyn Bergeron and Mint's Clement Lefebvre
Another week and another big Ubuntu announcement. This time it is all about the mobile phone - the kind that runs Ubuntu alongside Android and which can be used as a full-featured desktop once connected to a keyboard and monitor: "We'll show Ubuntu neatly integrated into Android at Mobile World Congress next week. Carry just the phone, and connect it to any monitor to get a full Ubuntu desktop with all the native apps you want, running on the same device at the same time as Android. Magic. Everything important is shared across the desktop and the phone in real time. It's a lightweight way to be - everything seamlessly available with the right interface for the right form factor, with no hassles syncing. It just works, the way Ubuntu should. Lots of work behind the scenes to make both systems share what they need to share, but the desktop is a no-compromise desktop. This isn't the 'Ubuntu Phone'. The phone experience here is pure Android. This announcement is playing to a different story, which is the convergence of multiple different form factors into one most-personal device. Naturally, the most personal device is the phone, so we want to get all of these different personalities - phone, tablet and desktop - into the phone." Sounds great. There is only one question that remains to be answered: when will our friendly local mobile shops carry this highly versatile piece of hardware?
The above announcement comes hot on the heels of the one presenting a new Ubuntu remix designed for business desktops. Christopher Tozzi takes a first look at Canonical's attempt to make inroads onto desktops of small and medium-size enterprises: "As most geeks know, building custom remixes of Ubuntu is pretty easy, and any large business interested in running Ubuntu on its workstations almost certainly would have the technical expertise to put together a custom spin of the operating system on its own. Because of that, I wonder how many organizations will end up using the Business Remix in production environments. Nonetheless, Canonical's offering of an official Ubuntu flavor tailored specifically at the enterprise serves as a reminder of the company's commitment to that market, a fact which may on its own help encourage confidence in Ubuntu as a corporate-desktop solution. Even if this spin doesn't see much use, it might help inspire more businesses to give Ubuntu a try. And last but not least, the package called 'ubuntu-business-defaults,' which is present in the remix, appears poised to make installing an enterprise-oriented suite in Ubuntu as easy as one click. That certainly won't hurt when it comes to bringing Ubuntu to business desktops."
Unity, Ubuntu's default desktop, has received quite some bashing in the media and many users are wondering how it is shaping up in preparation for Ubuntu 12.04, scheduled for release less than two months from now. Nekhelesh Raman has taken a sneak peak at the latest Unity, version 5.4: "It is always exciting when new versions of Unity are released since they bring along bug fixes and new features. Well, Unity 5.4 was released on Friday. Let's go through some the features and bug fixes it comes with. New Notify-Osd notifications. The notifications now behave similarly to the dash and the launcher by taking the same median color. The notifications blend in nicely done with the wallpaper just like the dash and the launcher. This increases the consistency with other Ubuntu elements like the dash and the launcher. Heads-up Display (HUD). The HUD is now present by default. You no longer need to enable a testing PPA to try out HUD. That said, it is not certain whether HUD will be available by default in the final release of 'Precise' in April. Naturally, HUD brings along many bug fixes and is better than before. However, after using HUD for few days now, I think it still has a long way to go. Intellihide (Dodge). Intellihide has been removed since it was found to confuse new users. Hence, the launcher only supports auto-hide and always show behavior."
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Robyn Bergeron, a newly-appointed leader of the Fedora project, is not a particularly well-known personality outside of the distribution's inner circles. However, now that she is at the project's helm, the interest of media will certainly grow. Linux Weekly News brings us what is probably the very first chat with Robyn Bergeron as the Fedora project leader: "Robyn Bergeron, the new Fedora project leader (FPL), described herself on the OpenStack wiki as an 'all-around untechnical person.' Given her background, the description is too modest, but it does emphasize that she brings to her new position perspectives that are different from that of her predecessors - in particular, that of a industry analyst. Although Bergeron studied economics in college, her first job combined duties on a help desk with part-time system administration. She later became a business analyst at Intel, focusing on the embedded chip vertical markets. For several years, she was a full-time mother, but 'I started missing my technical roots,' she said. 'I started getting involved with various open-sourcey things: I did the editing for papers for the Linux Symposium, and then I sort of stumbled into Fedora Marketing, mid-to-late 2009. From there, I sort of steadily progressed.' Hired in November 2010 by Red Hat as Fedora Program Manager to oversee the features of each release, she has also been the Fedora Marketing team lead, and a facilitator for the Fedora Cloud SIG."
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To conclude the news section, here is a link to another interview with another project leader - Clement Lefebvre of Linux Mint. From "Linux Mint - the taste of success" by the Linux User & Developer magazine: Q: Why do you think Mint is proving so popular with today's Linux user? A: Because it's what people want. The vast majority of features and improvements which make it to each Linux Mint release come from ideas and feedback contributed to us by the community. Linux Mint is easy to use, it's comfortable and it packs some of the most advanced features available in desktop Linux nowadays, but the main thing about it is that it brings to people what they need, what they want and what they ask for. Of course, now and then we go against popular opinions when we know it's going to work and people just need some time to get to like it. But that's very rare and when we do that we make sure we justify our choices and explain them to our users. Feedback is extremely important to us and we regard our community as our most precious asset." Read on for the interviewee's views on GNOME 3, Unity, Cinnamon and other topics.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Handling magnet links in Linux
How-do-magnets-work asks: When I click on magnet links my web browser doesn't know how to download the file. Are there open source programs that can handle magnet links?
DistroWatch answers: In case you haven't seen them before, magnet links are methods of linking to a particular resource, usually a file. Magnet links differ from traditional URLs in that the magnet link will describe characteristics of a file rather than its location. So while a regular URL usually specifies a server and file name, such as "example.com/slackeware-12.iso", a magnet link provides a description of the file, which could be located just about anywhere. This approach is particularly useful on peer-to-peer networks as the address of a peer can change and the name of a file might be altered from one day to the next. With a magnet link it doesn't matter if the file is named "slackware-12.iso" or "Slackware12.iso" or if it's located on example.com or another-example.com, the magnet provides us with the file's finger print and the proper client application will be able to find the file from that finger print.
There are a few open source applications which can process magnet links. The KTorrent program will accept a magnet link as a valid URL, the Transmission bittorrent client will handle magnet links. The FrostWire peer-to-peer client also handles magnet links. Generally to download a file described by a magnet link one instructs the web browser to copy the link (not the content pointed to by the link). Then we open the download client and choose to open a URL and paste the magnet link into the URL box. The download client will recognize the link and work out the details from there.
Though magnet links don't seem to be all that commonly used yet, I suspect the legal attacks against torrent hosting sites will make magnet links increasingly popular. In a few years we may find the download instructions for Linux distros will include "direct download" or "magnet link".
|Released Last Week
PCLinuxOS 2012-02 "Phoenix Xfce"
PCLinuxOS "Phoenix", an edition of the distribution featuring the Xfce desktop environment, has been updated to version 2012-02: "PCLinuxOS Phoenix Edition 2012-02 is now available for download. It features the following updates: Xfce 4.8.3 desktop environment; the Linux kernel was updated to version 188.8.131.52, additional kernels are available from our repositories; X.Org Server was updated to version 1.10.4, Mesa updated to 7.11.2 and libdrm to version 2.4.26 - this update brings enhancements to the PCLinuxOS desktop including speed, 3D desktop support for most Intel, NVIDIA and AMD/ATI video cards, better font rendering, black screen fixes for most NVIDIA cards, better Flash playback and more; Toolchain - the GCC software compiler was updated to version 4.5.2 and glibc updated to 2.13.4; locales were updated to version 2.13.1; theme update.... Here is the full release announcement.
Parted Magic 2012_2_19
Patrick Verner has announced the release of Parted Magic 2012_2_19, a new stable version of the project's utility live CD designed for data rescue and disk partitioning tasks: "Parted Magic 2012_2_19 updates some programs and fixes a few bugs. The most notable updates include Clonezilla 1.2.12-10, TrueCrypt 7.1, Firefox 10.0.1, and Linux 3.2.6. When Busybox was compiled for the last release dpkg and ar were mistakenly left out. When the last kernel was compiled, the bnep module was missed. Updated programs: TrueCrypt 7.1, wxGTK 2.8.12, Linux kernel 3.2.6, Clonezilla 1.2.12-10, PartClone 0.2.45, ddrescue 1.15, e2fsprogs 1.42, hdparm 9.38, pciutils 3.1.9, nilfs-utils 2.1.1, NTFS-3G 2012.1.15, pcmanfm-mod-1.2.4, UNetbootin 568, Mozilla Firefox 10.0.1. Visit the project's home page to read the brief release announcement.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8
Red Hat has announced the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8: "We're pleased to announce the general availability of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 operating system with new and improved functionality for enhanced performance, flexibility, and security. Our commitment to continuous innovation enables Red Hat Enterprise Linux to remain a scalable and trusted data center platform accommodating mission-critical enterprise workloads in physical, virtual, and cloud IT environments. And, the extension of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and 6 life cycle to 10 years means that our customers can plan IT deployments and migrations according to their business needs, not ours. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 supports new hardware platforms and includes the following enhancements. Continue to the release announcement and the comprehensive release notes for a detailed list of new features in the area of hardware support, virtualisation and security management.
François Dupoux has announced the release of SystemRescueCd 2.5.0, a new version of the project's Gentoo-based live rescue disk for administrating or repairing a system and data after a crash: "Version 2.5.0 (stable) of the SystemRescueCd project has been released. Detailed changes in version 2.5.0: updated standard kernels to long-term supported Linux 3.0.21 (rescuecd + rescue64); updated alternative kernels to latest stable linux 3.2.6 (altker32 + altker64); updated NTFS-3G to 2012.1.15 and replace ntfsprogs; updated btrfs-progs to the latest stable version from git; updated e2fsprogs to 1.42 (ext3/ext4 file system tools); updated GParted to 0.12.0 (graphical partition editor); updated system packages (glibc 2.13, GCC 4.4.6); updated firmware; added fdupes (find duplicate files); replaced Firefox with Midori to save space; updated Partclone to 0.2.38; updated TestDisk to 6.13; updated GRUB to 1.99. Here is the complete changelog.
Henry Jensen has announced the release of ConnochaetOS 0.9.1, an Arch-based Linux distribution for old computers (from i486 to Pentium MMX 166), built exclusively with "libre" software: "I am announcing the release of ConnochaetOS 0.9.1. This is a maintenance release. Since the 0.9.0 release many bugs were fixed. The default kernel was upgraded to Linux-Libre 184.108.40.206 and many other packages were upgraded and we released many security fixes. ConnochaetOS 0.9.1 provides: Linux-Libre kernel 220.127.116.11, the IceWM desktop 1.3.7; a lightweight webkit based web browser - XXXTerm; GOffice word processor and spreadsheet - AbiWord and Gnumeric; lightweight e-mail and IRC applications, multimedia player, file manager, CD burning tool and even some small games. Available as optional software: Linux-Libre kernel 3.2.7; Iceweasel-Libre in the versions 18.104.22.168 (LTS) and 10.0.2 (Current); LXDE 0.5.x. Visit the distribution's home page to read the release announcement.
DragonFly BSD 3.0.1
Matthew Dillon has announced the release of DragonFly BSD 3.0.1, a major new version of the BSD operating system forked from FreeBSD in 2003: "DragonFly 3.0.1 is now available! This release has superior multiprocessor support compared to previous versions. Speed has improved significantly. Big-ticket items: previously the majority of the VM was under a single token, the vm_token, now vm_objects (mappable entities) are each under a private token, concurrent page faults in the same object can proceed, and VM SMP scalability overall is improved; a new time domain multiplexing method has been added to balance storage operation types over long time periods; ACPI + interrupt routing have been upgraded, an SMP kernel will work on all machines and is installed by default; DragonFly now has tcplay(8), a tool for creating and managing encrypted disk volumes. Read the rest of the release notes for more details.
Dream Studio 11.10
Dick MacInnis has announced the release of Dream Studio 11.10, an Ubuntu-based distribution with focus on multimedia and creative work: "DickMacInnis.com is proud to announce the official release of Dream Studio 11.10. This exciting new version of Dream Studio has all the features that have made past releases one of the most successful multimedia software packages out there, including: multi-user, PulseAudio-integrated real-time audio via JACK, for use with programs like Ardour; the renowned Cinelerra video editor, a full graphic and web design suite; photography tools; and hundreds of assorted audio and video effects, fonts, and utilities for everything from multimedia file conversion to simple office work and web browsing. Not only that, but this latest version of Dream Studio also included hundreds of bug fixes and the following new features. Read the remainder of the release announcement to learn more.
Dream Studio 11.10 - an Ubuntu remix targeted at multimedia enthusiasts
(full image size: 624kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list
- Arduloko OS. Arduloko OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution with a collection of applications designed for students and professionals working in the field of electronics. The project's website is in Portuguese.
- Terrible Linux. Terrible Linux is a distribution featuring the Xfce desktop and a classic desktop interface. Based on Debian's testing branch.
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 March 2012.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
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|Reader Comments - Jump to last comment
1 • Stoked about the Ubuntu/Android synergy (by MIkademus on 2012-02-27 12:27:30 GMT from Sweden) |
I have never been very enthralled with Ubuntu and have viewed Canonicals obvious inroads towards mobile devices with some careful scepticism, but in this time of multi-core mobile phones the idea of concurrent symbiosis of Android/Linux where the phone will become your desktop computer when connected to a monitor and keyboard is sheer genius. It can be the move that justifies everything Canonical has done the last few years. Colour me interested and optimistic.
2 • Fedora new leader (by musty on 2012-02-27 12:59:50 GMT from France)
I hope the new leader will give more visibility to Fedora, which seemed less communicative, while at the same time, fedora made significant progress and major breakthroughs for the good of the world Linux.
good review of SalineOS ( there is also SalineOS PSE: Personal Server Edition).
3 • Magnet links (by JimB on 2012-02-27 13:04:55 GMT from United States)
I have found that Firefox does not recognize magnet links unless it is told what they are. To do so type about:config into the address bar. Click the Ill be careful button. Right click on the list and choose New then Boolean. Type in network.protocol-handler.expose.magnet in the box, click ok, then set it to true.
This will then have Firefox ask what application to use when you click on a magnet link.
4 • Feature Story (by Jesse Smith) (by Joe on 2012-02-27 13:21:41 GMT from India)
As much as i love your reviews & try out the ones you recommend i have a slight
You never seem to mention if Network-manager & Modem -manager/wicd/etc is present
I use a usb modem and after downloading find it is not working(no modem-manager & network-manager)
So please do provide the info about internet connectivity
Love your reviews
5 • ububtu unity 5.4: launcher to lose intellihide (by pazuzuthewise on 2012-02-27 13:29:40 GMT from Romania)
If intellihide (dodge windows launcher behavior) was found to be confusing for NEW users, then the logical solution would have been not to set it as default, but I don't understand why remove it altogether.
6 • Saline (by hayden on 2012-02-27 13:40:22 GMT from United States)
Thanks for the review of Saline. While light versions for old hardware and heavy ones for new are established categories, there is also a need for distros that devote most of their energy to getting the job done with as little as possible wasted on decorations. This has become more important recently as more of the big dsitros switch to in-your-face and in-your-way interfaces.
7 • Reply (by RickS on 2012-02-27 14:09:34 GMT from United States)
Magnet links (by JimB on 2012-02-27 13:04:55 GMT from United States)
I have found that Firefox does not recognize magnet links unless it is told what they are. To do so type about:config into the address bar. Click the Ill be careful button. Right click on the list and choose New then Boolean. Type in network.protocol-handler.expose.magnet in the box, click ok, then set it to true.
This will then have Firefox ask what application to use when you click on a magnet link.
Thanks Very helpful
8 • Ubuntu Business Remix (by David McCann on 2012-02-27 17:30:03 GMT from United Kingdom)
I've just read the article by Christopher Tozzi. Of 7 comments, 4 are along the lines of "a complete non-starter for my firm, because of Unity". Why am I not surprised?
9 • @5 Intellihide/ Dodge Windows behavior (by DavidEF on 2012-02-27 19:18:51 GMT from United States)
I agree that this behavior should not be removed, just the default changed. I've come to rely on Dodge Window behavior on my desktop, although sometimes it is hard to get it to unhide. Maybe they'll change their minds anf find a way to include it for those of us who use it.
10 • @1 Android/Ubuntu phone (by DavidEF on 2012-02-27 19:20:42 GMT from United States)
I'm not convinced it will be powerful enough hardware to be useful as a full fledged desktop. Maybe a lightweight, tablet-style desktop. Still, I'd love to be proven wrong, cause it sounds cool!
11 • Ubuntu desktop on a phone (by Vic on 2012-02-27 19:21:27 GMT from Canada)
The concept of a desktop and phone in one has been a dream device since I first started using a smartphone. Really excited to see if and how they implement this. The details so far seem promising. I currently use and Android phone and as far as getting things done on that form factor, it's decent. But being able to launch a complete desktop with full data integration would be my new dream device (even if I was stuck adopting Unity, though I hope there is an option to sub in other DEs). Looking forward to what comes of this, that it is much better than what Motorola did with their Atrix and Firefox. Which required added expensive docks to access, and only offered the browser, no real desktop.
12 • @5,17 intelli-hide - feel the same (by Vic on 2012-02-27 19:26:16 GMT from Canada)
If I use a dock in the desktop that is my preferred setting for it. Makes little sense to remove the setting. Just change the default to auto, or persistent. Anyone that is the type to get confused by dodge behaviour probably isn't the type to spend time tweaking the dock behaviour and would probably never see the feature anyway.
13 • To whom it may concern RE: packages in review (by DavidEF on 2012-02-27 19:32:32 GMT from United States)
Reviewers can only give their impression of an O/S based on their particular hardware. Just including a note on whether a certain program related to your hardware is present or not will not tell you whether it will work for you or not. If you would like to know if your particular piece of hardware will work with a certain distro, may I suggest donating hardware to the cause. Even still, it's impractical for any one reviewer to make provision for all the hardware available in the world. I agree with what Vic initially said (post #14) about the poll to get packages on the "tracked" list.
14 • Regarding the update feature in Saline's task bar (by Vic on 2012-02-27 19:36:20 GMT from Canada)
I personally liked the implementation Saline had for updates. It was quick and effective and being the type to always run my updates from the CLI it was a nice bonus. I liked it so much I copied the idea over to my Vector Linux box to stream line my desktops. Not that I would argue the inclusion of a graphical component for those that use them...
Otherwise good review, glad you found this release of Saline favourable too. I've enjoyed trying it myself and see it as an easy way to get a Debian Xfce desktop up with little to no effort for most people.
15 • that Ubuntu thing (by meanpt on 2012-02-27 21:39:38 GMT from Portugal)
There must be a catch, cause if it was a desktop buntu, it would run also the default desktop applications that come bundle with it, which it doesn't, instead of the droid stuff ... but, it seems this is another buntu branded shell, instead of a real buntu ... I don't expect too much of this cloudy thing ...
16 • Phone with a Linux desktop (by Vic on 2012-02-27 22:52:48 GMT from Canada)
This is something that gets me really excited. Motorola sort of had the right idea when they included Firefox on the Atrix. Unfortunately the implementation left much to be desired. In order to access the browser you needed to purchase either the laptop or desktop docking devices, which were an added expense. And you really only got a very limited desktop functionality in the form of the full browser. Great for anyone who mainly spends their time on the web but useless to anyone who required anything else. I hope Canonical and whoever their hardware partners are get this device done, and done right. I hope to see it offer a full desktop experience similar to what I have on a desktop system now but that I can carry with me in my pocket. I sort of accomplish that now with my Android phone and a usb key. But that's a far from ideal solution and integration of data is a pain and the usb still requires a complete system to run on. I'd like to have one device that could really do everything in one. Not to replace my laptop, desktop, camera etc., but to be an ever ready, ever accessible device I keep on hand so I always have it on me. My current phone (original galaxy s) does a decent job at the basics but it leaves much to be desired as a full computing substitute. If Ubuntu can run on a device similar to what I carry now I'd happily adopt using it (with Unity even though I would hope the DE could be changed just like on the desktop). Here's to hoping for it to be a reality.
17 • @15 what apps will it run (by Julian on 2012-02-27 23:54:58 GMT from United States)
from the description they plan to have it be a full install of ubuntu with some technology allowing two OSes, Android and Ubuntu, to run at once. (though they may be running on top of just one kernel; that's unclear )
What this means is that ALL of the well known Ubuntu compatible open source software will be available and most of the obscure stuff too (but only things that can be compiled for ARM)
18 • Ubuntu/Android (by FSFer on 2012-02-28 02:34:34 GMT from United States)
I really only want a true Gnu/linux distribution on the smartphone. No chroot. No Android. I want Gnu (or free-software) userspace on the linux kernel, distributed in the repository model, including phone functions.
That is my dream.
19 • . (by Eric Leung on 2012-02-28 06:04:19 GMT from Hong Kong)
It is interesting to see Ubuntu move to android platform. Unlike normal desktop PC, android device are ideal instruction on the road. It has lots of features such as 3G, Wifi, GPS, light senor, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetc field senor, atomspheric pressure, ....This should open new area to explore.
20 • @18 I agree (by Vic on 2012-02-28 07:07:08 GMT from United States)
I agree. Ultimately that would be a wicked device. Openmoko got my hopes up years ago but ever since the birth of Google's Android the project seems to have gone defunct. I was so close to buying a developer device to play with back when I first discovered it but decided to hold off for a more polished device and nothing else got released. One day I imagine some one will get it right and release a real computer in a phone that is actual useful but until then I'll try to get by with what there is.
21 • @20 - realy computer in a phone (by me on 2012-02-28 10:13:58 GMT from Slovenia)
I know this is not what was ment here but i find it an interesting concept - Asus PadPhone or is it PhonePad). It's a phone you can stick into a pad and it turns into a tablet and then you can stick that tablet to keyboard and becomes a notebook.
Now if only it also had propper desktop applicaitons...
22 • @21 - about the padphone (by meanpt on 2012-02-28 12:27:58 GMT from Portugal)
I agree with you, that's a hell of a nice concept I even began thinking of about two years ago and questioning myself why apple didn't further explore that direction at the time. When HP bought palm and rumors about a tablet in the works began spreading, I thought they were going to do it. Well, they didn't and went to the market with more of the same and became a commodity. Nonetheless, pricing of these devices is still in the stupid side of the equation ... somewhere in the next galaxy ... even for a device that's three in one, the way laptops have been two in one when docked at work. Moreover, the padphone still lacks a proper OS ... peaty ...
23 • DWW Reviews (by Coffee on 2012-02-28 15:52:27 GMT from France)
Yesterday there were a number of comments here bashing Jesse's review of SalineOS. These comments have since mysteriously disappeared. But when I first read them I began to write a comment myself, then got busy elsewhere and forgot about it. I just discovered this short piece of text named "a" in my temp directory. So, here it goes ...
It's not an easy thing to come up week after week with an interesting and readable piece of prose about always the same subject. I think, so far Jesse (as before him Caitlyn) has done a great job with his reviews of GNU/Linux distributions here in DWW. The Internet is awash with such reviews and in my opinion many of them are written by less competent authors who neglect important technical aspects and concentrate on intricacies of the desktop that can be easily changed by the user.
But I'm also wondering whether a more standardized, schematic approach to such reviews would be more useful? The great advantage of this is that important aspects like hardware support, security (an absolute must!), resource consumption, power management, package management, repository etc. cannot be ignored or overlooked by the author. Another advantage is that all the findings and evaluations of the review can be seen at a glance as they're always in the same place. This makes comparisons with other distributions more easy. But there are downsides to this, too. For one: who wants to read tables? Another problem is that a schematic review like this doesn't lend itself well to suit the vast zoo of GNU/Linux distributions out there. E.g.: no one would criticize Tiny Core for not coming with an integrated office suite but Red Hat would rightfully receive some flak if they did the same thing; should Damn Vulnerable Linux be criticized for being, err... damn vulnerable?; etc. etc. I can't make up my mind about all of this. Maybe someone here has some ideas about how to simplify and improve such reviews?
24 • Reviews parts and style (by Jesse on 2012-02-28 17:19:37 GMT from Canada)
As you pointed out, having a standard form for a review would cover all the bases, but it has some serious drawbacks. For one, it would be boring to read. For another, it would be boring to write. And, as you pointed out, it wouldn't give a clear picture of niche distributions like Tiny Core or Clonezilla, Puppy, etc.
One of the things I love about the Linux ecosystem is its variety and its ability to fill niches. Linux is very flexible and I believe it's natural to adapt a flexible writing style to match. Some aspects of distros may get overlooked (previous posters rightly pointed out more information on networking tools would be nice), but I like to think the flexible style makes for a more interesting read and avoids extra information people don't want.
What post 23 describes sounds to me like QA testing rather than reviewing. And QA testing is important, vital even for large projects, but I don't think it gives a feel for running a distribution, which is what I hope I provide.
25 • Re: 34, Reviews parts and style (by Coffee on 2012-02-28 18:02:12 GMT from France)
> What post 23 describes sounds to me like QA testing rather than reviewing.
... this is a definition of "review" that has never occurred to me. I always thought the review of an os/desktop/applications bundle like a GNU/Linux distribution was all about, well ... everything, every perceivable aspect of such a complex piece of software (hardware compatibility, stability, security, functionality, user friendliness etc.) But if you're right with your definition, then this explains why I find so many reviews (elsewhere, not here) disappointing as they all too often don't address any of these important aspects and leave many questions unanswered.
26 • Fedora Project Leader + Reviews (by Landor on 2012-02-28 18:25:04 GMT from Canada)
Fedora Project Leader:
As some of you may recall, I don't really have much in the way of something nice to say about Fedora. What I can say though is that I personally believe that two of the best people currently working for RH and for Fedora are: Robyn Bergeron and Máirín Duffy. I wasn't surprised at all to read that Robyn was now the Fedora Project Leader. Hopefully her integrity and professionalism will be able to surmount the obstacles of the position where she'll be able to actually affect real change within Fedora. She has a rough road to hoe if she is going to make any real change, let alone anything lasting. Congratulations Robyn, and here's hoping you can leave an indelible mark.
I think that a standard format for a reviewing process is essential. For those that actually rely upon a review instead of following their own experiences, they need a process in which they can measure all other reviews of distributions. Now, I know that's not possible for other sites, but where the majority of reviews are written at one site, by one author, this is essential. The reason being is that each review can become a benchmark for said users, to gauge the value of each distribution based on the previous review(s). That would further help them decide if they indeed want to try either/or for their own personal use. This can be easily done without comparing distributions at all. One way would be to have a standard review process and criteria, which could be tailored to fit all distributions. Another could be to have a rating system, which later, Ladislav could easily have a new entry in his database for each distribution, and search criteria off the search page. This is something that should have been implemented years ago here.
I also believe readers here jumping to the defense of any reviewer/visible member of this community is sheer fallacy. While on one hand you have someone who does not like the review/reviewer for whatever reviews, you know have someone willing to take up arms to defend the slight simply because they feel this sort of 'digital gallantry' and almost a fanbois connection to the reviewer. The lines become easily blurred on which is the one the rest don't want to read.
27 • Styles (by Jesse on 2012-02-28 18:30:10 GMT from Canada)
The way I see it a distro review plays out a lot like a film review or a book review. If you read film reviews they don't give every details of the plot, camera angles, a list of supporting actors, production costs etc. They give an overview with impressions and observations about the film in general. People who want a deep level in-depth detail watch the director commentary and read IMDB and Wikipedia. I write my software reviews the same way I'd write a film or music album review.
I don't know of anyone who goes into fine-grained detail in their reviews in order to cover everything, nor anyone who would have the time to do so on a weekly basis.
28 • Clicked On Submit Accidently: (by Landor on 2012-02-28 18:31:12 GMT from Canada)
Continued from 26:
I also feel that reviews should have hardware stated, and all optional means of network connections.
Many who view this site are from rural areas, or countries that do not have the advantages of high speed connections at a reasonable rate (as if anyone does in all truth). To forget these individuals leaves a gap in the review process. It also can become costly for those that download distributions had a great expense, to only find that they cannot use it. It will also help those that purchase CDs/DVDs from DistroWatch partners, again knowing if these distribution do in fact, or not as the case may be, have the required applications for them to be able to make a connection to a network in some manner.
Keep your stick on the ice...
29 • Re: 26/28 DWW Reviews (by Coffee on 2012-02-28 21:14:14 GMT from France)
Landor, you can't imagine my surprise when I noticed the void at the bottom of your first comment. Could this be true? I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief and it took me a while to come to the realization ... "He doesn't do it any more. He's come to his senses. At last!" But alas, this was a little premature. What a disappointment, when it all turned out to be just a mistake.
I do hope you were not referring to me when you commented on fanbois jumping to the defense of any reviewer. I'm too bright (and too old) to be anybody's fanboi. I have criticized things Jesse has written in DWW and don't get me started on the arguments I had here with Caitlyn a long time ago. But both Caitlyn and Jesse come from a technical background which gives them a better understanding of the inner workings of a GNU/Linux distribution than the average user has. Both know how to structure an article and both express themselves clearly and fluently. All of this makes their reviews stand out from much of the stuff one finds on other web sites and on private blogs where some of the "reviewers" don't care about the engine room but write 3000 word pieces about the color of the deck chairs and the piano in the cocktail bar.
30 • SalineOS (by Andy Prough on 2012-02-29 00:44:00 GMT from United States)
My takeaway from Jesse's review is that SalineOS is Debian-Squeeze+XFCE+fish-wallpaper. And that it works pretty good.
Is this a distro for people who want an easy-to-install Debian XFCE desktop? Other than the fish (and the French keyboard layout), I'm not sure I see anything here any different than basic Debian. It's probably good, though, that Debian has some easy-to-install versions of XFCE.
31 • ubuntu phone + reviews (by JR on 2012-02-29 03:21:26 GMT from Brazil)
maybe now we can agree that Ubuntu is moving towards smartphones and tablets (people said that the new interface had nothing to do with tablets), Ubuntu may not be a phone yet, but it's coming closer!
I think that the difference between standardized reviews and free reviews or with a certain personal touch does not necessarily have to do with being better or worse for the reader, but with the style of the reviewer, some need a cake recipe as a guide to make reviews, others not, it seems to me as simple as that, the rest is personal taste .....
32 • Reviews (by TheBullDog on 2012-02-29 05:05:05 GMT from United States)
IMHO, many reviews that we read in Linux magazines and on the internet are impressions of an individual journalist's experience installing, configuring, and using a given distro. They may be sprinkled with a little information on how the release compares to the parent distribution or to another sibling of the same genre. They may give us a flavor for the direction the distribution is taking, its base and default configurations, and their impression based on their hardware, software used, and difficulties encountered.
Individuals can then download and install the distribution on their own equipment to see how it works for them. They shouldn't think that a single review, based on a limited mix of hardware and used for a limited period of time, will answer every possible problem that can arise with the myriad hardware and application combinations in use around the world.
Should I expect a review to answer all my questions? No. But, the review might just peak my interest and get me started on doing an analysis of my own.
If I'm considering the distribution I just read about to play a prominent role in my home or on my business network, either I, or a technical analyst (for a business of any size), would be responsible for doing the research and lab testing to ensure the distribution would work with the existing hardware base, determine if new hardware was required, see if software applications work as expected, see if the distribution and applications integrate seamlessly into the existing environment, and work with the vendor to resolve any problems that might be encountered. Time and monetary constraints would also need to be taken into consideration. No small task -- I assure you.
At the very least, I would hope to provide feedback to the distribution's manager(s) to let them know about any problems I encountered, with solutions if known, and provide them with a snapshot of my hardware configuration, should they ask.
Just my opinion,
33 • @29 (by Adam Williamson on 2012-02-29 05:30:39 GMT from Canada)
yeah, I nearly had an aneurysm when I saw that one. I didn't know where to put my stick any more!
34 • @33 Non-stick deadpan. (by Antony on 2012-02-29 10:25:01 GMT from United Kingdom)
Ahh.....but, alas! What of the forsaken of our brethren, having neither ice, nor stick?
Reviews: There are so many variables. A review is necessarily limited, and not normally the best resource for very detailed and specific information.
35 • MINIX (by Jesse on 2012-02-29 21:30:14 GMT from Canada)
On a different topic, is anyone else interested in the new release of MINIX? I've been considering a review. On the one hand MINIX is, to me at least, an interesting project. On the other hand it's a small project without much of a following compared to Linux or the BSDs. Is MINIX an operating system you'd like to see covered in DWW?
36 • RE: 35 (by A. Person on 2012-02-29 22:48:37 GMT from United States)
Why not -- go for it. Always interesting to learn something new.
37 • @35, Minix (by TobiSGD on 2012-02-29 22:53:00 GMT from Germany)
Well, Minix is a Unix like and listed on Distrowatch, so I would like to see a review, especially in comparison to Linux/BSD.
38 • Re: 35, MINIX (by Coffee on 2012-02-29 23:34:58 GMT from France)
The only time I ever came across MINIX was in the late 1980s when a colleague compiled and installed a copy (probably the very first release) on one of our then super luxurious 6 MHz IBM ATs. But there was no time then to play with it because we had to put DOS back onto that machine so we could get on with our work. So, yes, I'd be very interested to hear what has become of MINIX after all these years. It would also be nice if once in a while there was a short update on status of GNU Hurd, Genode and stuff like this. It doesn't have to be a feature length article ...
P.S.: there's an interesting article today about Genode over at OSNews.
39 • Minix review (by subg on 2012-02-29 23:45:33 GMT from United States)
Yes, a Minix review would be interesting. There are also several (now) well-established distros that applied but failed to make it on Distrowatch in past years that would seem worth looking at again.
40 • #35 (by Andy Prough on 2012-03-01 07:43:47 GMT from United States)
Jesse - how about reviewing Haiku - the new BeOS project? It's in Alpha 3 now, looks like it can be installed with some slight difficulty, or run in VirtualBox.
41 • SalineOS, reviews, etc. (by eco2geek on 2012-03-01 08:22:47 GMT from United States)
From the review:
> I think it would make sense to name items in the application menu by their purpose
> rather than by the application's name.
It's too bad Saline uses Xfce 4.6 then; in Xfce 4.8 you have tooltips that tell you what each menu item does.
> The update button in the system tray works well enough, but given SalineOS'
> friendly approach to most things, I think it makes sense to put a graphical
> update tool in its place.
One could use GNOME's GUI-based update manager. Then again, it doesn't delete downloaded packages after it's installed them, does it? (Besides, it's Debian. You're supposed to learn how to use the command line to update your system and install software. :-)
I think reviews (of anything) have a tendency to reflect the views and needs of the individual reviewer, to a greater or lesser extent. This is a feature, not a bug. If reviews posted here had to follow a certain rigid format every time, they'd get boring very quickly.
Keep your stick on the...wait, where is it supposed to be kept again?
42 • MINIX 3.2.0 (by zykoda on 2012-03-01 08:39:28 GMT from United Kingdom)
Version 3.1.2 had both USB and pendrive images, not for later versions! Are there other ways to achieve the same object from isos without resorting to virtual machines? dd?
43 • Haiku (by Jesse on 2012-03-01 13:28:40 GMT from Canada)
>> "Jesse - how about reviewing Haiku - the new BeOS project? It's in Alpha 3 now, looks like it can be installed with some slight difficulty, or run in VirtualBox."
I already reviewed Haiku (alpha). Probably won't look at it again until (or unless) it hits its first stable release.
44 • @ Jesse Minix, reviews... (by Vic on 2012-03-01 15:20:17 GMT from Dominican Republic)
Plus one on reviewing Minix!
Also keep up the good reviews! You are correct, your relaxed writing style is a large part of why I continue to read what you guys offer here. It is easy reading and keeps me coming back.
45 • Reviews (by Jesse on 2012-03-01 17:35:56 GMT from Canada)
@44: Thanks, Vic. I appreciate that.
And thanks to everyone for the comments and e-mails regarding MINIX. It looks like there is enough interest there for me to give the operating system a try. It won't be next week, but probably the week after.
46 • MiniX (by Neal on 2012-03-04 13:27:07 GMT from United States)
Jesse, please do a MiniX review. I have always been intrigued by it but never had the courage to try it. My understanding is its been around a good long while....
After all there are 51 DW weeks in a year available for reviews....
Number of Comments: 46