| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 466, 23 July 2012
Welcome to this year's 30th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! It has been a busy and exciting time in the open source community. This past week we heard that Valve is moving forward with their plans to bring mainstream gaming to Linux, PC-BSD rolled out an interesting new jail feature and there was talk of Fedora getting the Unity desktop. Perhaps best of all, Dell is talking about increasing their support for machines with Linux pre-installed. You can get all the details on these stories and more in our News section. Also in this issue we touch on how Ubuntu plans to support older hardware once secure boot gets rolled out later this year and Jesse Smith takes the latest release of Fuduntu, a rolling release distribution originally forked from Fedora, for a spin. Find out how the Fuduntu project is doing now that it has cut ties with its parent distro. Plus we will look at all the distributions released over the past week and bring you a list of upcoming versions. Last, but not least, be sure to check out the new distributions submitted to our waiting list because you never know where the next useful project will come from. From all of us here at DistroWatch, we wish you a pleasant week and happy reading!
- Reviews: An independent Fuduntu 2012.3
- News: Linux in PC-BSD jails, Fedora gains Unity, custom Debian images for Raspberry Pi, gaming coming to Linux users
- Questions and answers: Getting older machines to boot once secure boot becomes standard
- Released last week: Linux Mint 13 "Xfce", Arch Linux 2012.07.15, Linux Deepin 12.06
- New distributions: AEROS, Airinux, Alien Section OS, LPinguy, Mandragora Linux, RayOS, webLinux OS
- Reader comments
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Join us at irc.freenode.net #distrowatch
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
An independent Fuduntu 2012.3
In the past when I have played with the Fuduntu distribution it has generally been for a short time. Fuduntu started as an independent re-spin of the Fedora distribution, adding multimedia support and tweaking the base distro to extend battery life. This relationship between the two projects has caused me to look upon Fuduntu as more of re-spin of Fedora rather than a full fledged distribution. However, in the time since I last downloaded Fuduntu the project has forked away from its Fedora base, begun maintaining its own packages and assumed a rolling release approach to software management. Given this change, this donning of a new identity, I decided it was time to give Fuduntu a full length review.
As I just mentioned, Fuduntu aims to provide a complete multimedia experience out of the box and attempts to woo laptop users with promises of better battery life. It also tries to be user friendly and efficient. Fuduntu provides one edition which comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds. The ISO image we download to acquire the distribution is approximately 930MB in size and features the GNOME 2 desktop environment. Booting from the live DVD brings us straight to the classic GNOME desktop where we find the application menu at the top of the screen and an OS X style application launcher at the bottom of the display. The wallpaper is dark and features the Fuduntu logo.
Fuduntu uses the Anaconda installer, the same one used by its parent distribution. The graphical installer walks us through the steps of selecting a keyboard layout, setting our hostname and confirming our time zone. We then create a password for the root account and get into disk partitioning. Anaconda supports a lot of options, including disk encryption, LVM and RAID systems. We can choose between ext2, ext3, ext4 and XFS file systems. There are a few restrictions when dealing with partitions, specifically Fuduntu requires a BIOS Boot partition be created, which only takes a few megabytes of space. Additionally, we must format the partition holding the root file system with the ext4 file system. The last screen of the installer asks us if we need a boot loader and, if so, where it should be installed. (Fuduntu uses GRUB 2 as its boot loader.) Anaconda copies its files over to the local disk and we are then prompted to reboot the machine.
The first time we boot into Fuduntu a configuration wizard appears and walks us through a quick series of screens. The first screen displays licensing information and, following that, we're asked to create a regular user account for ourselves. The third page gets us to either set the current date & time or enable network time synchronization. With these steps completed the wizard closes and we are handed over to a graphical login screen.
Fuduntu 2012.3 - exploring the desktop
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The distribution comes with a fairly simple graphical interface for applying security updates. As is usually the case, launching the update manager displays a list of new packages available in the repositories. We can check (or uncheck) which items we want and the update manager takes care of the rest, downloading and installing the most recent packages. Fuduntu is a rolling release project which means updates are likely to be frequent, though during my week with the distribution I certainly didn't feel overwhelmed by the number of packages awaiting my attention. One thing I did find odd about the update manager was the first time it finished installing updated packages it displayed a message letting me know all pending changes had been applied, quickly followed by a warning that all activities had been cancelled, then another pop-up appeared saying all selected packages had been updated. This seemed an odd series of messages to see in quick succession and I went back to confirm my system was up to date. The YUM package manager assured me I was up to date with the repositories and I did not see any similar conflicting messages as the week went on.
One aspect I very much appreciate about the Fedora distribution is its ability to use delta updates to make small changes to installed software. This makes for much smaller downloads when applying updates and delta update use, in my experience, a mere 20%-50% of the bandwidth required by regular updates. Fuduntu comes with the delta update plugin enabled, but the project does not appear to make use of the feature.
Fuduntu 2012.3 - getting software updates
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Adding or removing software from the operating system is handled, appropriately enough, by an application called "Add/Remove Software". The graphical front-end to YUM pulls available software from Fuduntu and Dropbox repositories and features a fairly simple, attractive layout. Software categories are clearly displayed down the left side of the window and lists of packages are displayed on the right with a brief description. Users can search for specific software bundles using key words instead of categories if they wish. I found the package manager and I did not get along well. Partly because the interface was a bit sluggish on my system and, when performing searches, I sometimes wondered if the manger had failed to find results or if it was merely still searching. I also found most of the category filters (the icons displayed down the left side of the window) wouldn't work. Any attempt to filter software would result in zero matches found for that category. As a result of these problems I performed most of my package management using the YUM command line utility.
Looking in Fuduntu's application menu we find a number of popular applications and a few surprises. The distro comes with the Chromium web browser, Dropbox and the Pidgin messenger client. Shotwell is included for managing photos and we also find a disc burner, a text editor, an archive manager and a calculator app. For playing media files we're given the Banshee audio player and the VLC multimedia player. The default install comes with Deja Dup for performing backups, Shutter for taking screen shots and the Jupiter display control app. Tomboy notes is available out of the box as are Flash and most popular media codecs. Fuduntu comes with a wide array of configuration and administration programs, including helpful (and easy to use) utilities for managing the firewall, user authentication, system services and network connections. Speaking of network connections, Fuduntu uses Network Manager to get us connected to the rest of the Internet.
There are several applications for altering the look and feel of the desktop, including a program which switches the OS X style dock into a GNOME style panel (and back again). I didn't find Java or WINE in the default install, but Fuduntu does come with the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). In an unusual move the developers have opted not to place an office suite or e-mail client in the default install and, instead, have provided links to Google Docs and Google Mail in the application menu. In the background we find the Linux kernel, version 3.4. My general impression of the software installed from the DVD was that the distribution comes with a lot of tools for adjusting the environment, but not many applications to be used in said environment. Instead we're given an uncluttered application menu and we can add things as we need them from the repositories.
Fuduntu 2012.3 - adjusting system settings
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I ran Fuduntu on my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel graphics, Intel wireless). The distribution performed smoothly, the desktop was responsive (above average, even) and all of my hardware was detected automatically. Wireless networks were detected, my audio volume was set to a medium level and my screen was set to a reasonable resolution. I found my touchpad was less sensitive under Fuduntu than with most other distributions, but it was easy enough to adjust this in the Preferences menu. Running the distribution in a virtual machine also went smoothly and I was impressed with how quickly GNOME 2 responded, a nice treat after some of the heavier projects I've been reviewing lately. The classic desktop uses about 150 MB of RAM when we first login, pleasantly light compared to most other full featured desktop environments.
As Fuduntu originally grew out of the Fedora distribution I found most of the time I was comparing my experiences from this week with my past experiences with Fedora. For better or worse the two are connected in my mind. In some ways I feel Fuduntu is on the right track. The distro supports multimedia in the default installation, they have stayed with GNOME 2 rather than adopting the heavier GNOME 3 which makes for a responsive system, even on low-end video cards. One week isn't really enough time to evaluate the rolling release nature of the distro, but I do like the idea of being able to run a Fedora-like operating system without the requirement of upgrading to a new release once a year. So Fuduntu, in its independence, does bring good characteristics to the table.
However, there is a flip side. In the past when I ran into problems with Fuduntu I tended to shrug them off as problems with the parent distribution. Malfunctioning package managers and issues with the installer which existed in both systems I could write off as upstream problems. With this release Fuduntu is standing on its own feet and, being independent, the project isn't benefiting from improvements in Fedora. For example, in my most recent review of Fedora I noted various fixes to the Anaconda installer. Fuduntu is on an older version of Anaconda and still has GPT and file system related problems. A few packages available in Fedora aren't present in the Fuduntu repositories and the last time I used Fedora it seemed improvements had been made to the package manager, but the graphical front-end shipping with Fuduntu is still on an older and, frankly, terribly flaky version.
It may not be nice to say so, but I found I was enjoying Fuduntu more when it was taking Fedora and tweaking the distribution to be more novice-friendly and more desktop oriented. In separating themselves from upstream the Fuduntu developers have also apparently cut themselves off from improvements introduced in Fedora. Perhaps the development team felt they had to sever the connection to maintain a classic GNOME interface, but in doing so I wonder if they might have sacrificed too much. Fuduntu isn't doing badly, but I think I would have been happier if either more applications had been included in the default install or a different package manager had been used. As it was, Fuduntu provided a good platform, but getting it up and running with all the software I wanted took longer than expected.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Linux in PC-BSD jails, Fedora gains Unity, custom Debian images for the Raspberry Pi and gaming coming to Linux users
The term might strike fear into the hearts of some Linux users, but PC-BSD's new Linux Jail feature is designed to help, not capture, Linux users. The PC-BSD operating system, like its parent, FreeBSD, has long had the ability to run services in a fenced off portion of the system called a jail. These jails offer an extra layer of security, keeping compromised services and user accounts away from the rest of the operating system. Starting with PC-BSD 9.1, administrators will be able to use a graphical utility to create jails and install Linux inside them. (Debian and Gentoo are currently supported.) The jailed Linux installation can then be snapshot, rolled back and otherwise treated like an extension of the host PC-BSD system. Curious people who don't want to wait for the final release can test drive the new jail feature using PC-BSD's latest Beta.
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The Unity Linux project came about with the intention "to create a core distribution from which other branch distributions are built". You might think of Unity as being a smaller cousin to the Debian project in that respect, a base of many packages from which developers can build their visions. Well, the Unity project is making some changes. This past week the team behind Unity Linux announced they would be shifting their code base from the troubled Mandriva project to ROSA. This move was made because the Unity team feels there "is no Mandriva release in sight right now."
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Up to this point the Unity desktop environment (not to be confused with the previously mentioned Unity Linux distribution) has been used almost exclusively by people running Ubuntu. This is about to change as a group of developers have ported the Unity desktop to the Fedora distribution. This in itself would be interesting enough, but what really stands out about this porting effort is the method of getting Unity packages to Fedora users. The developers working on the port are using the build servers of a third distribution, openSUSE, to create and host their software packages. It may be that by the time Fedora 18 arrives users will have the option of a Unity spin.
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Many people out there have been thrilled with the tiny Raspberry Pi computer. The educational device has found its way into the homes and hearts of developers and classrooms. With all this attention it makes sense custom distribution spins have appeared, optimized to work on the Pi. The Raspbian project provides just such a re-spin which takes Debian and customizes it to work with the little Pi computer. Raspbian, which now carries an official recommendation from the Raspberry Pi project, provides better hardware support and improved speed when compared to running plain Debian on the Pi's limited hardware. The new Raspbian image can be downloaded from the Raspberry Pi's website.
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Over the past five years Dell has had an ongoing, though rough, relationship with Ubuntu. Dell, one of the world's largest personal computer providers, has varied their Linux strategy, sometimes offering laptop models in the United States, other times in the United Kingdom and often next to a banner recommending Windows. Dell's new Sputnik project aims to get Ubuntu and Dell back together in a way which will appeal to Linux users. Sputnik in an effort to "develop a laptop for developers working on mobile and web apps. It is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Dell's XPS13 laptop" which should be available later this year. At the moment exact pricing and availability are vague, however interested users can keep an eye on the Dell Community website as more information is sure to be provided in over the next two months.
Gaming is one area where Linux users often feel left out. While there are many quality games available for Linux, people wishing to run big-name titles often have to use Wine or dual-boot in order to get their entertainment. Valve, the company behind the popular Steam service, may soon change the way mainstream publishers approach Linux. On their newly created blog, Steam'd Penguins, Valve writes: "Our mission is to strengthen the gaming scene on Linux, both for players and developers. This includes Linux ports of Steam and Valve games, as well as partner games. We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers." Right now efforts are focused on getting the Steam client working on Ubuntu, though once a port is ready it should be easy to get Steam running on other Linux distributions. Valve has been a big player in the gaming industry in recent years and it will be interesting to see where their initiative leads.
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Linus Torvalds, founder and benevolent dictator of the Linux kernel, announced the availability of a new kernel release this past weekend. The new kernel version, 3.5, features a number of important improvements including meta-data checksumming for the ext4 file system which should improve file system integrity, improvements to the "secure computing" sandbox for better security; and several tweaks to networking, which should improve reliability and performance. Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the introduction of Android-style aggressive suspend which would allow the operating system to put the machine to sleep when nothing important is happening. Readers interested in all the details of the Linux 3.5 release can check out the full change log.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Getting older machines to boot once secure boot becomes standard
Getting the boot asks: If Canonical drops GRUB 2, how will older PC's without UEFI be dealt with? Not at all?
DistroWatch answers: A few weeks back Canonical decided, on legal advice from the Software Freedom Law Center, to adopt the efilinux boot loader for use on new computers which support secure boot technology. This move should allow Ubuntu to boot on computers which implement the secure boot feature without requiring Canonical or OEMs to give up their signing keys. This news resulted in a lot of talk about Ubuntu dropping its current boot loader, GRUB 2, and there is some concern the efilinux boot loader will not be able to do everything GRUB 2 did, like work on computers which have pre-EFI BIOSs.
Well, as it turns out, efilinux does not work on older computers. As its name implies, efilinux is designed to work on modern, EFI-enabled machines only. Matt Fleming, efilinux's author and a member of Intel's Open Source Technology Center, had this to say: "efilinux is not compatible with BIOS machines, it is only designed to work with EFI hardware. I certainly don't speak on behalf of Canonical or Ubuntu, but as far as I understood their plans, they will only be deploying efilinux for EFI installs and will continue to use GRUB 2 for BIOS machines." Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek also suggested Canonical intends to keep GRUB 2 around for machines which do not require secure boot support. In a post to the Ubuntu development list Mr Langasek wrote, "We hope that we'll also be able to make the first stage loader detect whether Secure Boot is enabled and otherwise chain to GRUB 2."
I contacted Canonical to confirm their strategy with regards to older computers and, at time of writing, have not received a reply. Also this week I downloaded the latest development snapshot of Ubuntu 12.10 and found it would install and utilize GRUB 2 on machines which do not support EFI features. It seems people running older hardware have nothing to worry about with regards to Ubuntu's boot loader.
|Released Last Week
Sophos UTM 9
Angelo Comazzetto has announced the release of Sophos UTM 9, a network security solution previously known as Astaro Security Gateway and now called Sophos Unified Threat Management: "UTM 9 is a major new version that offers over 60 new features and abilities. We now offer the ability to manage antivirus and device control on your desktops with the same finesse that has made our RED branch office product and integrated wireless management offerings so popular. There is a new captive portal system, allowing you to create wireless hotspots for guests in your company, hotels, coffee shops, or other public places. The Antivirus system has been bolstered with the addition of Sophos' enterprise-class scanner, while UTM 9 remains one of the only products to offer dual scanning engines in parallel to give you extra security and choice. We yet again lead the way with a totally new HTML5 VPN system that is a true clientless system for accessing desktops and servers remotely." Read the full release announcement and the 15-page release notes.
Linux Deepin 12.06
Linux Deepin, one of the most active community distributions in China, today released its version 12.06 that was originally scheduled for the end of last month. This project employs a half-year release cycle and is highly attractive to Chinese university students. The desktop environment in this release is Deepin GNOME Shell, which is the GNOME Shell adapted to the way users prefer to manage the desktop. Three extensions for Hide Message Tray, Kimpanel, and Panel Settings are introduced for better GUI experience. This release incorporates a number of device drivers, particularly for printers. More fonts were included and thus CJK rendering is better supported. This release can even be installed by running a special DeepWin.exe in a Windows operating system. Featured applications are Deepin Music Player, Deepin Media Player, and Deepin Software Center. Read the complete release announcement (in Chinese).
SystemRescueCd 2.8.1, a Gentoo-based live CD with specialist utilities for data rescue and disk management tasks, has been released. From the changelog: "Updated standard kernels to Long-Term-Supported linux-3.2.23 (rescuecd + rescue64); updated alternative kernels to latest stable: linux-3.4.5 (altker32 + altker64); updated X.Org graphical environment and drivers to xorg-server-1.12.3; updated Grub2 bootloader to 2.00 (grub-0.97-r12 is also provided); updated Super-Grub2-Disk to version 2.00-beta1 (based on GRUB-2.00); updated lvm2 to 2.02.93, e2fsprogs to 1.42.4; updated GParted to 0.13.0, partclone to 0.2.49; removed Ranish floppy disk image; added spacefm-0.7.8 file manager."
After four beta versions and one release candidate, FreeNAS 8.2.0 is available for download, which is a free, open-source, Network-Attached Storage (NAS) operating system based on FreeBSD. From the release announcement: "The FreeNAS development team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of FreeNAS 8.2.0-RELEASE. FreeNAS 8.2.0-RELEASE is the first release on new branch of code that incorporates tighter integration between the ZFS command line and the FreeNAS GUI. This release also features the ability to run arbitrary services and interact with them through the FreeNAS GUI in a FreeBSD jail. This jail allows a wide range of third party software to be run on top of FreeNAS, using the PBI format from PC-BSD or FreeBSD packages or ports, as well as official FreeNAS plugins. Additional features include: support for iSCSI target reload; GUI support for SAS and FC multipath hardware; WebShell accessible from the FreeNAS web interface; ZFS scrubs are configurable from the GUI; a newer web toolkit is used in the GUI, enabling use of mobile browsers...." Read the press release, the release notes, and an important update to 8.2.0-RELEASE-p1.
Linux Mint 13 "Xfce"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the availability of the Xfce edition of Linux Mint 13, codename Maya. From the what's new page: "The highlight of this edition is the latest Xfce 4.10 desktop, which features the following improvements: online documentation; application finder; multiple rows and deskbar mode in the panel; actions plugin; MIME type editor; single-click operation, automated background image cycling and thumbnail rendering on the desktop; edge-tiling in the window manager. In the past, the xfapplet plugin made it possible for Xfce users to run GNOME applets within the Xfce panel. After talking to the MATE and Xfce developers, we updated this plugin and it now supports MATE applets. Among the many MATE applets that can now run in Xfce, mintMenu is probably the most popular. Improvements were made to mintMenu so that it could support Thunar, the Xfce Settings Manager and other aspects of the Xfce desktop...." See the release announcement including upgrade instructions, and check the release notes for known issues.
Arch Linux 2012.07.15
Pierre Schmitz has announced the release of Arch Linux 2012.07.15 "netinstall" CD image. Since Arch Linux is a strictly rolling-release distribution, this release merely provides an updated system installer and it does not represent a new Arch Linux "version" in the traditional sense of the word. From the announcement: "New CD images containing a current Arch Linux snapshot have been released. Most notable change is that AIF (the Arch Installation Framework) is no longer included but instead some simple install scripts are provided to aid in the installation process. This means that a menu driven installer is no longer available and we rely more on documentation to guide new users. Instead of six different images we only provide a single one which can be booted into an i686 and x86_64 live system to install Arch Linux over the network."
openmamba GNU/Linux 18.104.22.168
Silvan Calarco has announced the release of openmamba GNU/Linux 22.214.171.124, an updated version of the project's independently developed distribution featuring the KDE desktop and using the RPM package management format: "The openmamba maintainer is happy to announce the immediate availability of the milestone2 126.96.36.199 release of the openmamba distribution. Features: KDE-based live desktop system for standard personal computers (Intel x86 compatible hardware); top applications include LibreOffice, Chromium, Amarok, Kaffeine, WINE, GIMP, Kopete, Audacity and K3b; 3D graphical desktop support with open and proprietary drivers; automatic hardware detection and configuration; NTFS read and write support using NTFS-3G; fixed disk installation interface." Read the rest of the release announcement for a detailed description of the product and system requirements."
openmamba GNU/Linux 188.8.131.52 - a desktop distribution featuring KDE 4.7.4
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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|
- AEROS. AEROS is a hybrid distribution of AROS and Linux (at the moment Debian 6.0 is used) available for ARM and x86 systems.
- Airinux. Unique because it looks complicated MATE converted into easy with GNOME 2 view. Airinux is a derivative of Ubuntu, that supports all the services from Ubuntu. Airinux comes from Indonesia.
- Alien Section OS. Alien Section OS is an Openbox operating system based on Crunchbang/Debian, Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
- Cinnarch. An elegant desktop as Cinnamon running over an Arch Linux flavoured distribution.
- LPinguy. (Light Pinguy) 12.04 is based on Ubuntu 12.04. LPinguy has both preconfigured GNOME Classic and Enlightenment desktop.
- Mandragora Linux. A hardened Linux desktop for use in Digital Forensics-Incident Response (DFIR) and Vulnerability Assessments. Mandragora leverages AppArmor security profiles and auditing, LXC Container Sandboxing (Arkose) and Tor and I2P for enhanced privacy. Mandragora is built upon Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and uses the GNOME3 Classic desktop environment.
- RayOS. RayOS is a desktop Linux distribution that is fully optimized to work perfectly with the Atomic mini PC.
- webLinux OS. webLinux OS is a modern cloud setup, designed to run on old or new hardware.
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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, 30 July 2012. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
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