| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 641, 21 December 2015
Welcome to this year's 51st issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Security was a popular topic last week in the open source community, largely due to some proactive moves by various projects. For instance, we learned recently that Qubes OS, a project which isolates applications, will be shipping on Librem's security-focused laptops. The Fedora project offered users Let's Encrypt packages and a tutorial to facilitate setting up secure websites while the GRUB boot loader got patched to plug a security hole. Not all the news was security related though and the ALT Linux project unveiled a new set of images, called starter kits, for people who wish to experiment with alternative software configurations. In our Feature Story this week we explore Arch Linux, a unique project that keeps its users on the cutting edge using a rolling release model. In this issue we share thoughts on systemd and launchd in our Myths and Misunderstandings column. We also share the torrents we are seeding and provide a list of distributions released last week. In our Opinion Poll we discuss the new Let's Encrypt software and ask who is taking advantage of the free Let's Encrypt security certificates. Plus we talk about a new feature on DistroWatch, the ability to track page hit ranking trends. This will be our final issue of DistroWatch Weekly in 2015 as we are off next Monday for the holiday. The Weekly will return on January 4th, 2016 with more news, reviews and answers to your questions. We wish you all a wonderful and safe fortnight and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (25MB) and MP3 (18MB) formats
• Music credit: Clouds Fly With Me by Matti Paalanen
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Arch Linux is a project I do not talk about a lot. Part of the reason for that is due to the fact Arch is a pure rolling release distribution and, in essence, the project does not really have releases. The developers simply push out regular snapshots of the installation media. This tends to keep Arch Linux out of the news. Another reason I tend not to talk about, or review, Arch Linux often is because the distribution has a rather long and mostly manual installation process. But I will come back to that point in a bit.
Despite not talking about Arch much, I do acknowledge the project has a dedicated following and the Arch developers make some interesting choices when it comes to the design of the operating system. With that in mind, I would like to conclude this year's series of reviews with a look at the Arch Linux project.
The Arch Linux website does not have a lot to say about the distribution. The project's website describes Arch as follows:
You've reached the website for Arch Linux, a lightweight and flexible Linux distribution that tries to Keep It Simple. Currently we have official packages optimized for the i686 and x86-64 architectures. We complement our official package sets with a community-operated package repository that grows in size and quality each and every day.
The installation media for Arch Linux is a dual-architecture ISO that runs on 32-bit and 64-bit x86 computers. The ISO is 659MB in size and getting a copy of this ISO was my first challenge. At first I tried to download the ISO using the Transmission bittorrent software, but Transmission kept running into errors after downloading a few megabytes and crashing. This is the only torrent I have encountered which causes this behaviour. I switched to using a direct HTTP download and grabbed a copy of the installation media from a nearby mirror. The mirrors include checksum files so we can verify the contents of our download.
Booting from the Arch media brings up a menu asking if we would like to boot Arch Linux in 32-bit mode or 64-bit mode. There is also an option to launch a hardware detection utility. Taking one of the boot options brings up a text console where we are logged in as the root user. Arch will try to automatically detect and activate a network connection if one is available. This is just about the only thing Arch Linux does automatically.
The Arch installation media does not offer users a graphical desktop to explore and it does not include a system installer that will handle the gritty aspects of setting up a new copy of Arch Linux. Instead, the project provides us with a wiki that includes an installation guide and many pages of documentation that explore setting up the system with services and graphical desktop environments. For those who have not installed Arch Linux before, or who have not done so recently, I recommend reading the project's Beginners' Guide. It provides step-by-step command line instructions (with some examples) that explain how to perform a minimal installation of Arch Linux.
To install Arch Linux we need to manually walk through a number of steps on the command line. These steps include partitioning the hard drive (using parted, fdisk or cfdisk), formatting partitions and enabling swap space. Then we mount the partition that is to be used as our root file system and run a command that downloads and installs the base operating system. In total there are about 208MB of packages to download for the default operating system, plus about another 6MB of data if we want to install a boot loader. We then run through commands to set our time zone, enable locale information and set up a network connection. We should then create a password for the root account and un-mount the partition we have been working on. At this point we can reboot and see if the installation completed successfully.
While the above steps sound about the same as the steps performed when setting up other distributions such as Fedora or Ubuntu, those distributions provide easy to navigate point-n-click graphical installers. Arch gets us to type out commands and we need to know how to work with tools such as console partition managers and systemd and how to manually mount partitions. This makes installing Arch a rather lengthy process, even without double-checking the steps in the on-line manual.
Arch Linux 2015.11.01 -- The System Settings configuration panel
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Booting our new copy of Arch brings us to a text console where we can sign in as the root user. At this point the user gets to decide what they want to do with the operating system. All we really have to work with, by default, are the GNU command line utilities, manual pages, the pacman package manager and systemd. Any network services, window managers, desktop environments or applications need to be located in the distribution's software repositories and installed. I decided to take the path of setting up the KDE Plasma desktop environment along with some common desktop programs such as Firefox, LibreOffice and the GNU Image Manipulation Program.
I decided to install the SDDM session manager and the Plasma desktop by following the Arch wiki. Unfortunately, the wiki's page on installing KDE software was out of date at the time of writing and the packages mentioned no longer exist. I was able to search for the modern equivalents of the packages mentioned in the wiki and install them. Adding SDDM and Plasma to my system required downloading an additional 300MB of software.
With Plasma in place we can start the session manager or reboot to get a graphical login screen. However, we cannot login until we have first created a non-root user. Blocking root from logging into the desktop is actually a nice security feature and probably a good default setting to have. Once I had created a new user account, created its home directory and set the proper permissions on the new user's home from the text console I was able to switch back to the graphical login screen and sign into either the Plasma desktop or the Plasma Media Centre. Actually, as it turned out, selecting either session (Plasma or Plasma Media Centre) from the login screen brought me to the Plasma desktop.
As a side note to getting a desktop session running, while enabling the desktop on a physical computer went smoothly, I found that extra steps were required to get to a graphical login screen (and desktop environment) when running Arch in VirtualBox. Though it took me a while to find the appropriate document, there is a page in the Arch wiki which deals with running Arch in a VirtualBox instance. Following the steps on that page allowed me to run graphical sessions from within the virtual machine.
Once I had installed Plasma and got it running, I found the desktop environment to be very minimal. Plasma, by default, places the application menu, task switcher and system tray at the bottom of the screen. There are no icons on the desktop and the default wallpaper looks like a rainbow fell on a pile of triangles. Looking through the application menu we find the KDE System Settings panel which provides a method for customizing the desktop environment. The Qt Designer application is installed along with a task monitor. There is no file manager, web browser or other common desktop utilities. These can be added using the command line package manager. Looking at the lower level software I found that, at the time of my trial, Arch was running systemd 227 and version 4.2.5 of the Linux kernel. Since Arch is a rolling release distribution package versions will change frequently.
When I first got Arch Linux installed, I checked the amount of disk space that was being used before I started adding applications. Arch was consuming approximately 3GB of disk space and, prior to running a graphical session, about 70MB of RAM. Once I had installed some common applications such as the Dolphin file manager, LibreOffice and Firefox, Arch was consuming around 4.5GB of disk space. Sitting idle at the Plasma 5.4 desktop required 250MB of RAM. Earlier I mentioned I tried running Arch on a physical desktop computer and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. Arch performed well in both environments, properly detecting my hardware, setting up a network connection and, once I had installed the proper video drivers, my screen was set to its maximum resolution.
Arch Linux 2015.11.01 -- The pacman package manager
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I have mentioned working with the package manager a few times now and Arch's command line package manager, pacman, does see a lot of use. I find pacman uses an unusually terse command line syntax and its output is sparse. The package manager is very quick though and gave me no problems during my trial. This was good since I ended up installing a regular stream of software and package upgrades. Each day I found a few new package updates were waiting to be installed and this pattern will continue since Arch is a rolling release and quickly adopts new software as it becomes available from upstream projects.
Though pacman worked very well for me, it is a powerful tool and we need to be careful with it, especially given Arch's rolling release nature. I do not just mean that we need to watch for changes in dependencies or packages which need special attention when they are upgraded, but we also need to be aware of older software mixing with newer packages in the repositories. As an example, I mentioned earlier that I had set up my copy of Arch with KDE's Plasma 5 desktop. Arch's software repositories contain Plasma 5 applications, but there are also packages from KDE4 available too and some of them have similar names to the new Plasma 5 packages. A few times during the week I went to install a new Plasma application only to discover that there was a KDE4 application with a similar name and pacman was going to install the older version along with the entire set of KDE4 software libraries to support the older version. In short, it is important to pay attention to what pacman tells us and to think about what is happening before confirming an action.
Given Arch Linux's minimal nature, it should be no surprise the distribution does not ship with multimedia support, Java or Flash. The project takes the philosophy of having us build our own operating system from the ground up. Installing media players does pull in multimedia codecs as dependencies, enabling us to play media files and Adobe's Flash plug-in is available in the Arch repositories.
Arch Linux 2015.11.01 -- Running the Firefox web browser
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Earlier I mentioned one of the session options from the login screen was for the Plasma Media Centre. While this session option just logs us into the regular Plasma desktop, there is also a Media Centre launcher in the Plasma application menu. Launching the Media Centre from the application menu brought up a screen where I could browse through images and media files, but I could not find any way to quit the Media Centre interface. In the end, I had to force the termination of my login session to leave the Media Centre screen.
While Arch offers users a Spartan experience, most of the software I installed worked and ran smoothly. Despite software packages being on the cutting edge, there were very few bugs in evidence. One of the few which appeared during my trial was that, when changing the Plasma wallpaper, previews of available wallpapers were blank.
I have a lot of thoughts on Arch Linux, partially because the project is so unusual in the Linux ecosystem. One point that stands out is Arch has some of the best documentation in the Linux community. The wiki is a very valuable resource, not just for people who run Arch Linux, but for the community as a whole and the wiki is an essential read for people who wish to try Arch.
Another point is that getting up and running with Arch Linux is a bigger investment in time and effort than most other Linux distributions. With most mainstream distributions we can put in the installation media, click "Next" through some installation screens, set up a user account and we will soon have a feature-rich operating system. Arch feels less like a finished product, like openSUSE or Linux Mint, and more like a collection of components we can put together however we like. I would compare it to the difference between buying a toy car and buying a model kit where we paint the individual pieces and glue them together. Putting together the model takes a lot longer and requires some skill, but what we end up with includes just the pieces we used and in the colour we wanted.
The flip side to Arch taking a long time to set up is that, in theory, it will be possible to constantly update the distribution without re-installing. This may be of benefit to some people, especially those who like to stay on the bleeding-edge of software development. Rolling Arch forward gradually may be less work (over time) than updating to a new release of Fedora or Ubuntu every six months. However, Arch is not likely to remain as stable as Debian or CentOS over five years as some packages will almost certainly break during that time period. People looking to install-and-forget a distribution will probably be better off with a long-term-support release that will remain stable for years while people who want to keep up with the latest software changes may find Arch less work in the long run.
Another point I would like to raise is with Arch Linux's self-described "lightweight" nature. By default, when we install Arch Linux it is, indeed, lightweight. We start off with a few gigabytes of packages and the operating system consumes less than 100MB of RAM. However, on the flip side, the default OS does not do much. We have the bash shell, systemd, manual pages and a package manager, but little else. By the time we add a desktop environment, a few application and some services such as OpenSSH and CUPS, we are using around 5GB of disk space and over 300MB of RAM. In short, Arch Linux is technically lightweight at the start, but if we ask Arch to perform the same tasks as other distributions, Arch Linux will use approximately the same hardware resources other distributions require. Arch also uses more bandwidth since, after downloading the ISO, we tend end up downloading around another gigabyte or two of packages to get started. Plus we receive a regular stream of updates. I would recommend having a high-speed Internet connection for people who plan to run Arch.
Arch Linux 2015.11.01 -- Running various desktop applications
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Finally, I would like to make a more personal and subjective set of observations. Personally, I have never regarded Arch Linux as a particularly practical approach to getting things done. The distribution has a long set up time, newcomers will require access to an on-line wiki while setting up the operating system and the rolling nature of Arch is incompatible with most of my use cases. So, for me, Arch does not hold a lot of appeal today.
That being said, toward the end of the week I started to notice a fondness growing in me for Arch. One that did not line up with the amount of tinkering involved and time spent downloading yet more packages to accomplish simple tasks. And I recognized the feeling as being nostalgia. Working with Arch Linux reminded me a lot of working with my first Linux distribution, Pygmy Linux, back in the 1990s. Pygmy Linux was a trimmed down spin of Slackware which provided users with a simple command line interface only, by default. There was no compiler, no package manager, no desktop environment. Everything was done manually or with hand-written scripts. Pygmy presented a steep learning curve when I was first introduced to Linux and Unix, and it was what I needed to become familiar with the technology and pass my course in operating systems.
While I eventually moved on to other distributions for my daily computing needs, I hold a certain fondness for Pygmy Linux and its sparse, do-it-yourself approach. It taught me a lot. In a similar vein, I think of Arch much the same way. Arch Linux presents an investment in time, reading and maintenance that I do not find practical for my day-to-day needs. But I do think we could all agree running Arch Linux is an educational experience. Running Arch is something I think will appeal to people who like to build their operating systems rather than simply run them.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Qubes OS to ship pre-installed on Librem laptops, ALT offers starter kit images, Fedora provides Let's Encrypt tutorial and GRUB password protection patched
Arstechnica reported last week that Qubes OS will be offered pre-installed on Librem 13 laptops in the near future. Qubes OS separates processes from each other, allowing a user to maintain separate profiles, or containers, for their digital lives. This means if a profile used for casual web browsing is compromised it will not affect data or applications stored in the profile used for work. Finding computers that will run Qubes OS properly has been difficult, but Librem hopes to change that. "Qubes wants to lower the barrier of entry for new users, including security-conscious enterprise users who might want to buy a number of laptops for their staff. In addition to the Librem 13, Qubes plans to certify the larger Librem 15, plus other laptops that are `as diverse as possible in terms of geography, cost, and availability.' Qubes tests the laptops they certify to ensure compatibility with all the OS's features. Purism has worked closely with Qubes developers since before the laptop manufacturer's successful crowdfunding campaigns, which raised a combined total of more than $800,000 (₤530,000), to meet the demands of security-conscious Qubes users. Purism manufactures their own motherboard, and all chips are designed to run free software. The Librem also ships with hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, and wi-fi."
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The ALT Linux developers have announced a new set of downloadable images for people who would like to experiment with alternative software without installing software packages on their main operating system. The new images, called "starter kits", are described on the project's website: "Starter kits are built with ALT Linux stable repository as a base; these are intended for experienced users lending them a convenient way to have a look at a DE/WM they didn't get around yet to mess with, or to deploy another system spending reasonable amount of time to set it up accordingly. These are not complete distributions: no special docs are written for each release, the design is simple and shared by all the builds - is there any sense to paint the walls just to have them repainted by the settlers? There are not too many packages included: we've decided that it's better to install LibreOffice or PostgreSQL another time than to have to download it each time." Further information on the starter kits can be found in ALT's wiki.
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The Let's Encrypt service, which provides free security certificates for websites and other on-line services, entered public beta earlier this month. In an effort to make setting up secure services easier, projects like Fedora and FreeBSD have created packages of the Let's Encrypt software and published them in official software repositories. Fedora Magazine has an article on how to use the Let's Encrypt software to set up website certificates. "The official Let's Encrypt client can be installed in Fedora 23 or later with this command: `dnf install letsencrypt'. In the official client, there are three methods to prove ownership of your domain(s). Manual verification: The secret needs to be put in place by hand. Standalone verification: The Let's Encrypt client listens on port 80 or 443 and responds to the server itself. Web root verification: The client is pointed to the web root (e.g. /var/www/html) and writes files directly. At the time of writing, full automatic configuration of Apache and nginx are in progress." The article goes on to explore various ways users can install the free Let's Encrypt certificates.
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Also on the topic of security, we received some bad news last week when it was revealed the GRUB boot loader contained a security flaw which would allow users to bypass the boot loader's password prompt. The bug affects GRUB 1.98 through to 2.02beta and allows a malicious user to bypass the GRUB password prompt by simply pressing the backspace key several times. Fixes are already starting to appear in distributions' software repositories with patched versions of GRUB already available for Ubuntu and Debian users.
|Myths and Misunderstandings (by Jesse Smith)
Myths and misunderstandings: the spread of systemd and launchd
Two of the complaints I hear about most with regards to systemd is that it changes a lot of the GNU/Linux software stack and that it has spread across the Linux ecosystem rapidly. This combination of large and rapid change appears to have caused a bit of culture shock among users and system administrators. A side effect of this is I get weekly e-mails asking how to find open source operating systems which do not rely on systemd.
For those interested, we have a list of distributions which do not include systemd packages on our Search page. It is also worth noting that Gentoo and Linux Mint, while they make systemd packages available, do not necessarily use systemd.
With all the concern over systemd, a number of rumours and pieces of misinformation have spread about the systemd suite of software and I would like to address some of those today.
The first is that systemd has spread to virtually every Linux distribution and cannot be avoided. This is not entirely true. While systemd has been widely adopted, there are several Linux distributions which still do not package the systemd software. Options for people who do not wish to run systemd may be limited, but one of the nice things about Linux distributions is the diversity available. People can always migrate to a distribution which suits their requirements.
Which brings me to a second point, many people suspect that, eventually, enough software will depend on systemd that all Linux distributions will be unable to survive without it. Too many packages will link to systemd and it will be necessary to run systemd if we want to run a desktop environment, network services or common applications. This scenario is unlikely for two reasons. The first is that most components have little need to rely directly on systemd. A few low-level services and some of the big desktops may benefit from depending on systemd, but most software does not. The second is that various developers around the world are building compatibility layers for applications which rely on systemd. These compatibility layers, called shims, "emulate the systemd functions that are required to run the systemd helpers without using the init service." This means that developers who like systemd can use its features and people who do not like systemd can use the shims, which include just the features required without replacing the operating system's init software.
The "you cannot evade systemd" rumour sometimes expands to not only include Linux distributions, but also the BSDs. There seems to be this idea that systemd will either be adopted by the various BSD projects (which is highly unlikely) or the BSDs will adopt a similar technology such as launchd. I think this idea that launchd is the BSD equivalent of Linux's systemd is misplaced. While launchd is an alternative init software and service manager, the scope of launchd is much smaller than systemd's. The launchd project aims to speed up boot times and simplify service management, but little else. In comparison, systemd tackles not only init tasks and service management, but also other tasks such as date & time settings, login/authentication, hardware device management, logging and virtual terminals. It is also worth noting that while systemd was adopted relatively quickly in the Linux community, launchd has been a work in progress in the FreeBSD community for about ten years. The BSD communities rarely adopt anything quickly and they like to make sure all the bugs are shaken out before technology ships in a stable release.
In short, while a lot of people were unhappy with how quickly systemd was adopted and the changes systemd bought with it, there are still plenty of open source operating systems which do not rely on systemd. Nor are the projects which do not currently use systemd likely to adopt the technology (or something similar) in the future.
Bittorrent is a great way to transfer large files, particularly open source operating system images, from one place to another. Most bittorrent clients recover from dropped connections automatically, check the integrity of files and can re-download corrupted bits of data without starting a download over from scratch. These characteristics make bittorrent well suited for distributing open source operating systems, particularly to regions where Internet connections are slow or unstable.
Many Linux and BSD projects offer bittorrent as a download option, partly for the reasons listed above and partly because bittorrent's peer-to-peer nature takes some of the strain off the project's servers. However, some projects do not offer bittorrent as a download option. There can be several reasons for excluding bittorrent as an option. Some projects do not have enough time or volunteers, some may be restricted by their web host provider's terms of service. Whatever the reason, the lack of a bittorrent option puts more strain on a distribution's bandwidth and may prevent some people from downloading their preferred open source operating system.
With this in mind, DistroWatch plans to give back to the open source community by hosting and seeding bittorrent files. For now, we are hosting a small number of distribution torrents, listed below. The list of torrents offered will be updated each week and we invite readers to e-mail us with suggestions as to which distributions we should be hosting. When you message us, please place the word "Torrent" in the subject line, make sure to include a link to the ISO file you want us to seed. To help us maintain and grow this free service, please consider making a donation.
The table below provides a list of torrents we currently host. If you do not currently have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found here. All torrents we make available here are also listed on the very useful Linux Tracker website. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 145
- Total data uploaded: 23.0TB
|Released Last Week
Karanbir Singh has announced the launch of a new version of CentOS. The CentOS project builds an enterprise class distribution based on source code from Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The latest release, CentOS 7-1511, contains mostly minor new features and security fixes. "Since release 1503 (abrt>=2.1.11-19.el7.centos.0.1) CentOS-7 can report bugs directly to bugs.centos.org. You can find information about that feature at this page. sudo is now capable of verifying command checksums. A Kerberos HTTPS proxy is now available for identity management. NSS no longer accepts DH key parameters < 768 nor RSA/DSA certificates with key sizes < 1024 bits. NSS also now enables TLS1.1/1.2 by default. Various packages now support TLS1.1/1.2 and EC ciphers..." Singh reported CentOS developers are working to produce builds for ARM, Aarch64 and 32-bit x86 architectures. Further information can be found in the project's release announcement and in the release notes for CentOS 7-1511.
Peter Baldwin has announced the release of ClearOS 6.7.0, the latest stable version of CentOS-based distribution's legacy branch - a product designed primarily for servers and gateways: "ClearOS 6.7.0 has been released for both Community and Professional editions. Now that ClearOS 7 is available, the ClearOS 6 release series has entered maintenance mode. Security and bug fixes will continue to be released. This version features improvements and bug fixes. ClearOS 6.7 enters extended support and no further features for this version are anticipated. To upgrade an existing system to ClearOS 6.7.0, you can run the following command: 'yum upgrade'. For a full list of improvements that have been added, please review the changelogs." See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Tails 1.8 has been released. Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) is a live Linux distribution, based on Debian's latest stable release, designed for secure and anonymous web browsing. The main change in this release is the switch to Icedove (Thunderbird) as the default email client: Tails 1.8 is out. This release fixes numerous security issues. All users must upgrade as soon as possible. New features: Icedove, a re-branded variant of Mozilla Thunderbird is now the official email client in Tails, replacing Claws Mail. Claws Mail will be removed from Tails in version 2.0 (2016-01-26). If you have been using Claws Mail and activated its persistence feature, follow our instructions to migrate your data to Icedove. Upgrades and changes: Electrum Bitcoin wallet from 1.9.8 to 2.5.4, now Electrum should work again in Tails; Tor Browser to 5.0.5; Tor to 0.2.7.6; I2P to 0.9.23; Icedove from 31.8 to 38.4; Enigmail from 1.7.2 to 1.8.2." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information and known issues.
Tails 1.8 -- Connected to the Tor network
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Alpine Linux 3.3.0
Natanael Copa has announced a new release of the Alpine Linux distribution. Alpine Linux is a minimal, independently developed Linux distribution, designed to run on firewalls, VPN services and low-resource devices like the Raspberry Pi. The latest release, Alpine Linux 3.3.0, ships with version 4.1 of the Linux kernel, GCC 5.3, LibreOffice 5.0 and version 1.12 of the MATE desktop environment. This release is available in several flavours: "We are pleased to announce Alpine Linux 3.3.0, the first release in v3.3 stable series. The ISO images have been renamed. Current images are now: alpine (previously ‘alpine-mini’). Minimalist boot media for network access. alpine-vanilla (same as before). Same as ‘alpine’ but with vanilla kernel. alpine-extended (previously ‘alpine’). Same as ‘alpine’ but with slightly more packages available in the repository. Handy where network access is limited. alpine-xen (same as before). Boot media for Xen Dom 0. alpine-rpi (same as before). alpine-uboot (same as before). General ARM image." Further information on Alpine Linux 3.3.0 can be found in the project's release announcement.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
The Let's Encrypt organization strives to make Internet security easier and less expensive to set up. The organization does this by providing free security certificates for websites and other on-line services. These certificates can be downloaded and installed quickly using simple client software.
Let's Encrypt recently shifted from a closed beta trial to being publicly available to anyone who wants to try their free certificate service. In just a few weeks, the organization has provided over 100,000 certificates for websites around the world.
This week we would like to know who among our readers have experimented with Let's Encrypt's certificates and software. How was your experience? Please leave us a comment with your impressions of this free certificate service.
You can see the results of last week's poll on source-based distributions here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
|I have used Let's Encrypt: ||95 (9%)|
| I plan to use Let's Encrypt later: ||364 (33%)|
| I have no plans to use Let's Encrypt: ||366 (33%)|
| I plan to wait before deciding: ||270 (25%)|
Tracking page hit trends
Our page hit ranking tracks the number of times a distribution's information page is visited in the course of a day. This gives a rough indication of how many people who visit DistroWatch are interested in a particular project. We provide tables which rank distributions based on the number of visit to their page and show the average number of visits each page gets over the span of one, three, six and twelve month spans.
Some of our readers asked us to provide a way to see which distributions are receiving more or less attention over a span of time. Which distributions are more popular this month than last month, for example, and by how much?
We now provide a new set of tables which show trends over periods of time. This allows DistroWatch visitors to see how many page hits a project is receiving now, compared to one, six or twelve months ago. These numbers tend to spike a lot following a project's release announcement, but otherwise can indicate growing or reduced interest in a distribution among DistroWatch readers.
On our front page we provide a Page Hit Ranking chart down the right side of the page. By default, this chart shows the average number of visits a distribution's information page receives over a six month span. Using the Page Hit Ranking drop-down menu, it is possible to see page hit rankings for longer or shorter periods of time. It is also possible to see trends for intervals of one week, one month, three months, six months and twelve months.
While the page hit ranking and trend information may indicate a level of interest in a particular project, these charts do not reflect installation base or the quality of a distribution. They are fun to explore, but we should not read too much into these trends.
On another note, we would like to thank Marshal Webb for volunteering his time and kind assistance in helping us track down a scripting bug.
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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, 4 January 2016. 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)
- Michael DeGuzis of Libre Geek (podcast)
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