| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 509, 27 May 2013
Welcome to this year's 21st issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Mageia might be a young distribution, but its origins and developer experience have solid and deep roots. Forked from the troubled Mandriva Linux in September 2010, the project has recently produced its third stable release. How does it compare to the other big distributions on the market? Read Susan Linton's first-look review, accompanied by a short interview with Anne Nicolas, in the lead article of this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. In the news section, GNU announces an unofficial release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2013 built from Debian's unstable packages, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth talks about Mir, Unity and developer relationships, Munich city representatives confirm the continued migration of the municipal computer systems to LiMux, and RebeccaBlackOS developer demonstrates the first "true" live CD that with the Wayland display protocol. Also in this issue, a continued debate over the usefulness of some Linux distributions, a Questions and Answers section explaining the meaning of "ports" as interpreted by various operating systems, and an introduction to the Puppy-based Simplicity Linux. Happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Susan Linton)
Mageia 3 on the loose
Mageia 3 has finally made her appearance. After several delays, Anne Nicholas recently announced the official release of the third version of their Mandriva Linux fork. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm quite enamored with this project for two probable reasons: (1) their Mandrake roots - Mandrake was the Linux that freed me from Microsoft's grip, and (2) I admire the way the project was set up and is running. It's about as open and fair as an organization can be and still be organized. Nevertheless, I've never pulled my punches when covering their work, so I'm sure I can be fair.
New features at a glance
- Revamped installer offers more options with improved looks
- Urpmi and friends also got cleaned up, new features, and GUI tweaks
- GRUB 2 - works with caveats
- Better hardware and driver auto-configuration
- Easier kernel installations
- systemd, journalctl are fully implemented
- /usr move completed
- Linux kernel 3.8.13
- X.Org Server 1.13.4
- GCC 4.7.2
- KDE 4.10.2 and GNOME 3.6.2
- Firefox 17.0.5 (ESR)
- LibreOffice 4.0.3
- Xfce 4.10, Enlightenment 17, LXDE, and more
- STEAM in repositories
I've been following the Mageia project since its inception and used version 1 for quite a while. I skipped version 2 mainly due to the lack of GRUB 2 support, but have been very excited to test Mageia 3. I downloaded and installed the live KDE DVD version for 64-bit computers. My computer is a basic desktop with a Gigabyte GA-P43-ES3G, Intel Q9400, and GeForce 9800GTX hooked up to two mismatched monitors. Obviously, I did not test UEFI (Secure Boot not supported in Mageia 3, and is, in fact, not a high priority).
While it's better to install from the install media, I, nevertheless, forgot, and used the live DVD. The install procedure was quite familiar and there were some advanced options like Btrfs, encryption, and virtualization, but not as many as the install image. I encountered a small issue at the partitioning stage when the installer identified some empty partitions as Btrfs and would not reformat them. To make things easy on myself I grabbed an empty one at the end of one of my disks, deleted it, and then the installer would re-create, format, and install upon it. Otherwise, the install proceeded as expected until the bootloader phase; not that anything happened, but there were caveats to recall. After I re-read the errata, I decided to put Mageia's GRUB 2 on the root or install partition and, in essence, chainload it.
Mageia 3 - the default KDE desktop
(full image size: 805kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The first order of business is getting my display the way I like it. I have two monitors, one digital and one analog, one with 1920 resolution and the other 1280, one's an Acer and the other an unrecognized unlisted Samsung. So, it's a challenge for every distribution and I never know what I'll get out of the box. In Mageia 3, I used the Mageia Control Center > Hardware > Set up Graphical Server to configure the graphics, but nothing was really accomplished until the end when I clicked OK - then Harddrake offered to install proprietary drivers. Next, I used NVIDIA-Settings to turn on the second monitor and extend my desktop.
After changing the legacy menu, I needed to get back to work. Konqueror, Kontact, and Kwrite are the primary tools I use. It seems another legacy Mandrake issue hanging around in Mageia is ugly fonts. It took some fiddling, but was able to improve on the defaults a bit. It was after a long day of configuration when my computer just shut off. I was confused, but restarted it. Another five minutes later it did it again. After reversing the last couple of configurations, turning off the screensaver eliminated the issue. I never did see anything in the logs about Asciiquarium, but I don't really use screensavers much anymore anyway. <shrugs>
Speaking of logs, dmesg still works, but old friend /var/log/messages has been deprecated for /var/log/journal/gobbly-gook. It was time to meet systemd and journalctl because I have a cranky tv card and the need for dnsmasq. Since SysVInit is gone, how was this going to work? Well, I found enough howtos and questions on forums to get these needed elements working (if a bit hacky right now). As an aside, I was also able to easily configure my FM radio chip in Kradio4 in Mageia. (For comparison, I haven't been able to get it working in Sabayon for several releases.) Things were really coming together. I spent the next few days just working and playing as usual and only had one little niggle still throwing cold water on my feet.
It's a weird little bug difficult to describe, but basically, something happens to Klipper in that it sometimes freezes or appears to freeze everything for a few milliseconds. I turned off desktop effects that are enabled by default and it seems to have decreased. But this bug was so bad in Mageia 1 that I fled back to Sabayon waving my arms and screaming in the night. (I use highlight and paste a lot in my work at Tuxmachines.) I didn't test Mageia 2 because of the GRUB thing, so I'd forgotten about it - until it reared up in 3. But as long as it doesn't freeze up completely, I can live with the occasional delay, maybe.
Developers had to decide what they could include in the live image and what had to be cut. So, I did have to install a lot of things that are normally just there in Sabayon. It's not a big deal, you just might run into the same situation. The new package manager tweaks make it easy enough though. Speaking of which, it was so nice just to click Apply and have the Steam client installed and working within seconds - and then to have Half-Life installed and working wonderfully in a few more. But Akregator and the dictionary plasmoid complain about missing backends when I start them, but nothing similarly named appears in the software manager. I'll have to investigate that more as time permits. Despite that, the applications appear to work just fine without them. I still can't find a decent weather applet, but that's not Mageia's fault - it's Linux-wide.
Anne Nicolas Answers a Few Questions
I wondered about several of the new technologies that are appearing in our distros even as developers continue to struggle to get them functioning properly. The systemd utility has really been taking it on the chin lately and I asked Nicolas in light of their need for more help - do they feel the pressure to adopt new technology before it or themselves are ready? She replied: "Well, it's not about [that] but rather about the capability we have for now to support our own solutions. Since the beginning Mageia packagers have worked together with other distribution maintainers to experience, debug, update... And managing boot process through systemd is part of it. Colin Guthrie is part of the upstream team working on it. Still, we always try to make the best choice for the distribution. So the decision is always a question of finding a well-balanced position between the integration of cutting-edge technologies and efficiency for our users."
I asked her what the issue in Mageia with systemd was and she replied: "Well, systemd has been integrated since Mageia 2 now. So all the big work was done there. The difference is that Mageia 3 now supports only systemd as the default. In Mageia 2, systemd was already working well and the remaining job was about migrating from old SysVInit script to proper systemd system unit script."
Next, I inquired about the greatest challenge in getting Mageia 3 out the door and she listed the three biggest issues they would like to see improved next cycle. "Generally speaking fixing bugs is much less appealing than working on new versions. So we suffered from a lack of people working on such things (packagers and QA guys). So we need to work on this so that at some point of the release, people focus on finalizing the current release. We need to explain more how a Linux distribution is driven from the specifications to the final release. We still have many critical bugs reported in the last few weeks before the final release, which is basically much too late to work properly on them. Finally, we have some specific developments included in the distribution, like the installer, all the drakxtools... We had quite a lot of issues because of /usr move, GRUB 2 integration... Very few people can work on these because they know the way it has been developed and work on them for years now. So a kind of bottleneck here. We are already planning to manage this, create a development team and add some tools to help people getting trained on it, like git and gerrit."
UEFI is working but considered experimental in Mageia 3. Nicolas said that Secure Boot is not required by Microsoft and would not be a priority in the near future for Mageia. On that note Nicolas said: "Regarding UEFI, the implementation is still experimental. Only booting from FAT32-formatted USB disk labeled as MGA3LIVE is supported so far. The grub2-efi package in 'Cauldron' has a README.efi file that may be useful for people willing to test it."
In what should have probably been the first question, I asked how everybody at Mageia was feeling about now (on the day of the release). She replied: "The first feelings? Probably tired and proud :). The last two weeks have been very long and we did not want to delay any more the final release. So all has been done to add the final bug fixes so that our users can have the best experience of Linux environment."
I've used Mageia 3 full time since its release and it's not perfect - but it's darn close. Nothing is perfect and that is so true for Linux. It's a matter of what bugs bug you less. I used Mageia 1 for quite a while and I'll probably hang around in Mageia 3 too. It performs well. It boots really quickly and the desktop as well as most applications are very responsive. Never underestimate the charm of instantaneous results. I have a nice fresh install of Sabayon Linux 13.04 just waiting, but it looks like I may end up not using it.
Mageia 3 - my typical working desktop
(full image size: 2,641kB, screen resolution 3200x1080 pixels)
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Debian GNU/Hurd, Mark Shuttleworth on Mir and Unity, Antergos, LiMux, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland
The seemingly endless variety of free software available on the Internet keeps providing some spectacular combinations for interested groups of coders to hack on. Last week, the developers of the GNU Hurd kernel and the Debian project announced the release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2013, an unofficial build available for the i386 architecture: "It is with huge pleasure that the Debian GNU/Hurd team announces the release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2013. This is a snapshot of Debian 'sid' at the time of the Debian 'Wheezy' release (May 2013), so it is mostly based on the same sources. It is not an official Debian release, but it is an official Debian GNU/Hurd port release. The installation ISO images can be downloaded from Debian Ports in the usual three Debian flavors: NETINST, CD, DVD. Besides the friendly Debian installer, a pre-installed disk image is also available, making it even easier to try Debian GNU/Hurd. Debian GNU/Hurd is currently available for the i386 architecture with more than 10.000 software packages available (more than 75% of the Debian archive and more to come). Please make sure to read the configuration information, the FAQ, and the translator primer to get a grasp of the great features of GNU/Hurd."
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Whatever your views of Canonical and Ubuntu, you can't deny the project's continued ability to deliver innovative (if sometimes controversial) ideas in order to increase the adoption of Linux and to also turn the project into a business success. So will we see anything exciting from the popular distribution in the coming months? Last week OMG! Ubuntu! summarised Mark Shuttleworth's recent Q&A session where the founder of Canonical talks about "Mir, Ubuntu Touch market share and mudslinging": "We'll work as closely with both GNOME and KDE as we can. We have both great relationships and terrible relationships in both cases. There are individuals in GNOME and in KDE that are, respectively, either fantastic or impossible to work with - so disregard any bland statements about how 'KDE' and 'Canonical' engage. Because, as always, it boils down to figuring out who wants to work together, and who doesn't. We will do great stuff with both and hopefully act as a central anchor for common standards like we did with indicators, with KDE. It's difficult to disregard mudslinging, but if you can't, it becomes impossible to imagine getting anything done together."
On a related note, the latest issue of Linux Format, the world's premier English-language Linux magazine, is asking what many people have been quietly (or otherwise) wondering for months: "Has Ubuntu lost it?" "With its DistroWatch ranking falling faster than Man Utd now that Sir Alex Ferguson has departed, Ubuntu is no longer the all-conquering force that it was. So what's happened? Has it, in fact, lost it, or is there a more subtle game afoot? We answer this conundrum (sort of) in the latest Linux Format." Also in this issue: "We also invite you discover the ethos that's powering Trisquel, the freest distro of all named after a Gaulish God; learn the fundamentals of programming with Scratch and Coding Concepts; and get acquainted with your ancestors without travelling through time with the excellent Gramps genealogy application. All this, plus Hotpicks, Sysadmin, tutorials and more, in Linux Format! On The DVD: Our own privacy-enhanced remix of Ubuntu and regular versions of Kubuntu and Xubuntu. Plus Manjaro, free (as in speech) books, software and more."
* * * * *
With the birth of Antergos, a new name for the Arch-based Cinnarch distribution, the developers have been able to free up their arms from the original Cinnamon shackles and expand to include several other desktops on top of Arch Linux. But is Antergos really needed? The opinions vary, but seem to be on the negative side, as LinuxInsider's Katherine Noyes discovered last week while reading some online discussion forums: "Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, wasn't sure how to react to the news. 'A distribution I never heard of has changed its default desktop, stopped supporting Cinnamon (though it is still included) and changed its name,' he explained. 'To me, it really is of little significance.'" Others, like Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, have voiced their sentiments even more strongly: "'C'mon guys, there really is no need for this. All you are doing is re-inventing the wheel, and what is worse, you are hurting the ecosystem by spreading what little resources Linux has waaay too thin. All you are really doing is slapping a new coat of paint on the same old problems instead of doing something new and innovative. If at the end of the day all you can say to describe it is 'it's (insert Linux base) with (insert DE),' then frankly the thing doesn't even need to exist, it really doesn't.'"
* * * * *
The German city of Munich created an enormous stir in the Linux community when it announced, back in 2003, a plan to switch thousands of its computer systems from Windows to Linux. Although this brought much joy to Linux fans worldwide, the move also irked Microsoft and the software company didn't take too long to launch its usual FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) campaign through sponsored studies and other means, citing high cost of migration. Luckily, all the nasty rumours about the demise of LiMux, a custom Linux distribution used in Munich, have been greatly exaggerated. The H Open reports: "Peter Hofmann, the leader of Munich's Linux migration project, has denied rumours that the LiMux client will be 'decommissioned' when the initiative runs out at the end of the year. 'The City of Munich has no intention to switch', he said at the LinuxTag conference in Berlin on Wednesday. The basic instruction given by Munich's City Council in 2003 was to create more independence and autonomy for Munich's IT, said Hofmann. This task won't be completed when the project runs out in October. According to the project leader, the scheduled migration of 80% of Munich city administration's around 15,000 workplaces was completed last November, and 14,200 computers now use the LiMux client and OpenOffice.org."
* * * * *
Finally, something of interest to the fans of Wayland, an ambitious display server protocol that could, some day, replace the standard X Server, at least on certain specialist devices. We've been hearing about Wayland for some time now, but few of us have had a chance to experience its features in an operating system. That finally changed last weekend, courtesy of a little-known Kubuntu-based distribution called RebeccaBlackOS. From the project's name one could easily dismiss the distro as just a little vanity project, but on closer examination in turns out that the developer behind it has been actively integrating the Wayland display server into the distribution. This effort has finally reached a point where it can be experienced by anybody with a computer and a DVD drive: "ANNOUNCE: Wayland Live CD that starts directly to Wayland. Today I pushed out a new ISO of my Wayland Live CD project, which is named for my favorite celebrity. For this new Wayland CD, I wrote a new login manager with Bash and Zenity and Expect (and Script) that fully runs on a Wayland server (Weston)." Despite all the great effort, this is still more of a concept than a usable distribution. Still, it's a fun toy for developers and geeks who'd like to try something new. Get it from SourceForge: RebeccaBlackLinux_i386.iso (1,718MB).
RebeccaBlackOS 2013-05-24 - the first "true" Wayland live DVD
(taken in VirtualBox, full image size: 746kB, screen resolution 1024x768 pixels)
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Working with ports
Working-with-ports asks: What is a Debian port versus a Gentoo port? They seem to be two completely different technologies with the same name.
DistroWatch answers: When software developers talk about ports they can mean a variety of different things and it does vary a little from one community to the next. Generally speaking a software port refers to a piece of software being adapted to work in a different environment from which it was originally intended. As an example, GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) was initially developed to work on GNU/Linux operating systems. However, as the project expanded some people made adjustments to the software so it could be made to work on other operating systems, such as Windows. We say the application was ported from Linux to Windows.
When talking about Gentoo or the various BSD projects the term port (or ports) refers to software which is not part of the core operating system. The BSD projects maintain a base operating system with a kernel, installer and core utilities. Anything outside of that core, anything developed outside of the central project, is considered a port. These ports are usually tracked or collected in one place and this collection of ports is referred to as a ports tree. Users of Gentoo or one of the BSDs can install third-party software by using their project's ports tree, much the same way users of most Linux distributions use a package repository.
Moving on to the Debian project, the Debian developers refer to any pieces of software which run on different architectures as ports. They also refer to GNU software running on alternative kernels, such as Hurd, as a port. This can get a little confusing, but generally a Debian port refers to a combination of one kernel and one hardware architecture. For instance, the Linux kernel running on ARM processors could be considered a port, the Hurd kernel running on an x86 machine is another port. All of these different variations on the term "port" can get a little confusing, but the bottom line is a port is typically a piece of software running outside of its original environment.
|Released Last Week
ZevenOS 3.1 "Neptune"
Leszek Lesner has announced the release of ZevenOS 3.1 "Neptune" edition, a Debian-based desktop Linux distribution for 64-bit computers featuring the latest version of the KDE desktop environment: "The Neptune team is proud to announce the release of Neptune 3.1. We worked hard and spend a lot of effort in creating this service release for Neptune 3.0. This release features the Linux kernel 3.9.2 and is exclusively meant to run on 64-bit CPUs. The Debian base system was updated to the released version 7.0 to provide a stable user experience. The KDE Plasma Desktop ships with version 4.10.3. Chromium was updated to version 26, Kdenlive 0.9.6, Amarok 2.7.1 and LibreOffice to version 4.0.3. We ship with the latest and greatest multimedia codecs pre-installed, as well as the Flash player." See the full release announcement for a full changelog and a video introduction.
Puppy Linux 5.6 "Precise"
Bary Kauler has announced the release of Puppy Linux 5.6 "Precise" edition, a minimalist distribution and live CD featuring the JWM window manager and built from Ubuntu 12.04 binary packages: "It's out! Our latest and greatest Puppy. Relative to Precise Puppy 5.5, this latest pup brings some exciting new features, including a new X.Org video wizard (with forced-reboot recovery mechanism), new non-PAE 3.2.44 kernel with lots of analog modem drivers (making this an excellent pup for those still on dial-up Internet), many more applications internationalized, many applications upgraded, lots of bug fixes, and so on. Plus, a huge number of fixes and improvements at the infrastructure/system level. In all, a great new version of the Precise series." Read the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Ferdinand Thommes has announced the release of siduction 13.1.0, a Linux distribution based on Debian's (once again unfrozen) "Unstable" branch. This is the project's first release that also includes an edition with GNOME 3. From the release notes: "We are very happy to present to you the final release of siduction 2013.1 'Firestarter'. Siduction is a distribution based on Debian's unstable branch and we try to release snapshots quarterly. Version 2013.1 ships with five desktop environments - KDE SC, Xfce, LXDE, GNOME, and Razor-qt, all in 32-bit and 64-bit variants. New in this release cycle is GNOME 3, that we are happy to officially present. Also officially shipped for the first time is 'noX', a variant without an X server."
siduction 13.1.0 - the default KDE desktop
(full image size: 325kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
BackBox Linux 3.05
Raffaele Forte has announced the release of BackBox Linux 3.05, an updated version of the project's Ubuntu-based specialist distribution designed for penetration testing and security assessments: "The BackBox team is pleased to announce the updated release of BackBox Linux, version 3.05. This release includes features such as Linux kernel 3.2, compat-wireless 3.8 (with Aircrack-ng patch) and Xfce 4.8. What's new? System improvements; upstream components bug corrections; performance boost; improved Update menu; improved Wi-Fi dirvers (compat-wireless 3.8 with Aircrack-NG patch); full support for Linux kernel 3.5 and 3.8 (install it with apt-get or Synaptic); predisposition to ARM architecture (new armhf.iso coming soon); new and updated hacking tools (Automater, inundator, Ettercap, Wireshark, SE Toolkit, Metasploit, sqlmap, BeEF, Recon-ng, zaproxy, Weevely, THC-IPV6, truecrack, Hashcat)." Here is the full release announcement with system requirements.
IPFire 2.13 Core 68
Michael Tremer has announced the release of IPFire 2.13 Core 68, a minor bug-fix update of the specialist distribution for firewalls and routers: "Today the IPFire development team released the 68th Core update for IPFire 2. This update brings various bug fixes and minor enhancements. The strongSwan team released version 5.0.4 which fixes an authentication bypass for certificates that use Elliptic Curves. As we don't use them in IPFire by default, this is not too serious an issue, but we still updated the strongSwan package. The update also contains some changes that fix unstable IPsec connections, a minority of users was experiencing. Since Core Update 65, disabling OpenVPN roadwarrior connections had no effect, so that users could still connect. This has also been fixed with this release. The web user interface comes with a new status bar which now has a cleaner design and provides more information." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
KANOTIX 2013 "LinuxTag"
Directly from the LinuxTag 2013 conference and exhibition in Berlin comes a new version of KANOTIX, a Debian-based distribution (with KDE or LXDE) on a live DVD: "I am proud to announce the release of KANOTIX Dragonfire from LinuxTag 2013 in Berlin. Kanotix Dragonfire is based on the recently released Debian 7.0. Besides KDE as the default desktop environment, beginning with this release there exists a lightweight alternative with LXDE. Additionally, we offer a special image similar to the CeBIT special. The main difference is that it has a pre-installed Steam client, a newer MESA version (9.1.1), gfxdetect and a newer glibc 2.17, KDE SC 4.8.4 and LXDE, Iceweasel 21.0, Linux kernel 3.9; LibreOffice 4.0.3...." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Wrishiraj Kaushik has announced the release of SuperX 2.0, an Ubuntu-based desktop Linux distribution with KDE 4.10.2: "This is SuperX 2.0, code-named 'Darwin'. It comes with Linux kernel 3.2 and KDE 4.10.2 by default. For those who want newer kernels, they are available in the repository. SuperX 2.0 is a whole new release of SuperX which differs fundamentally from the 1.x releases. Starting from SuperX 2.0 we are going our own way, making a diversion from our upstream distribution. We still use the Ubuntu code base but from this release we only use the LTS versions and development is done on its solid foundation. But unlike other solid, stability-concerned Linux operating systems, we provide the latest userland software like LibreOffice 4 and KDE 4.10. Starting from Darwin, we are keeping our core stable but will provide latest and greatest applications." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information, screenshots and known issues.
SuperX 2.0 - an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution with KDE
(full image size: 585kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Proxmox 3.0 "Virtual Environment"
Martin Maurer has announced the release of Proxmox 3.0 "Virtual Environment" edition, a Debian-based distribution offering a complete server virtualisation management solution based on KVM and containers: "We just released Proxmox VE 3.0. Its based on the great Debian 7.0 release and introduces a great new feature set - VM Templates and Clones. Under the hood, many improvements and optimizations are done, most important is the replacement of Apache 2 by our own event-driven API server. Changelog: update the Ceph packages to 0.61.2; pve-cluster 3.0 - depend on fuse (seems most utilities moved from fuse-utils to fuse), remove dependency on fuse-utils (this package is no longer required), fix warning about uninitialized value, fix bug 383 - restart pveproxy instead of apache2; pve-manager 3.0-20 - fix login problem when http_proxy is set, updated Chinese, German and French translation, allow to upload files with spaces in file name...." See the release announcement, release notes and download page for technical details and download links.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database|
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New distributions added to waiting list
- ToOpPy Linux. ToOpPy Linux is a lightweight distribution based on Puppy Linux and localised into a number of European languages. The project's website is in French.
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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, 6 June 2013. 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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