| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 702, 6 March 2017
Welcome to this year's 10th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Open source tools and distributions are available in a large variety of sizes and styles, each one tailored to a particular person's needs. This week we explore many smaller projects which are, none the less, very useful in certain circumstances. We begin with a review of Fatdog64 Linux in which Joshua Allen Holm explores this lightweight distribution and reports on how it compares to its close relative, Puppy Linux. In our News section we talk about a new line of lightweight notebook computers which run the elementary OS distribution, plus we talk about advancements in the Haiku project and share a notice detailing the conclusion of support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 5. In our Questions and Answers column we discuss whether the size of a project affects the developers' ability to provide timely security fixes. As usual, we provide a list of the distributions released last week and we share the torrents we are currently seeding. Plus we are pleased to welcome the Super Grub2 Disk project to our database. Finally, last week we introduced a new menu bar to help visitors navigate our newer resources and we ask whether you find it useful in our Opinion Poll. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
- Reviews: Fatdog64 Linux review
- News: elementary OS bundled with a new notebook, Haiku announces new features, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 approaching its end of life
- Questions and answers: Security and the size of a distribution's team, update on streaming Netflix on Raspbian
- Released last week: Zorin OS 12.1, BlackArch Linux 2017.03.01, PCLinuxOS 2017.03
- Torrent corner: 4MLinux, Alpine Linux, BackArch Linux, GeckoLinux, Greenie Linux, PCLinuxOS, Q4OS, Raspbian, Sabayon, SmartOS, SystemRescueCd
- Upcoming releases: Tails 2.11, Univention Corporate Server 4.2-MS2
- Opinion poll: New navigation menu
- DistroWatch.com news: Random distribution on front page
- New additions: Super Grub2 Disk
- New distributions: Archman GNU/Linux
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (25MB) and MP3 (37MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Joshua Allen Holm)
Fatdog64 Linux review
Do not be mislead by the use of "fat" in the name, Fatdog64 is a very lightweight Linux distribution. It is only "fat" compared to Puppy Linux, which Fatdog originally derived from. The first release of Fatdog was as an expansion package for Puppy Linux before becoming a distribution in its own right. As such, Fatdog releases ship with more pre-installed packages than Puppy Linux, so by comparison it is "fatter."
Fatter, of course, is a relative term, so Fatdog64 710, the latest release, is much, much smaller than many other distributions. The ISO is a meagre 377MB. Despite the small download size, it still comes with a decent selection of software packed into the image. It uses Openbox as the default desktop environment with JVM being an alternative option, so no weighty GNOME or KDE, which really helps trim the proverbial fat.
Fatdog64 Linux 710 -- The boot menu
(full image size: 160kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
To test Fatdog64 710, I tried it out in several different ways. I started by just running it in a virtual machine using GNOME Boxes. Right away I was impressed by the many options available in the GRUB boot menu. There is the standard boot option, which loads with no special features; an option to use a USB device for the persistence save file to save things between sessions; an option for using multi-session support when booting from a DVD+RW; an option that enables LVM and mdadm support; an option with no savefile; and an option to boot without a graphical desktop environment. In addition, there are options to deal with problematic ATI and NVIDIA graphic cards. I opted for the standard boot option the first time I tried out Fatdog64 and found that it did take a while to boot, but within a few minutes I had a working desktop environment to explore.
Fatdog64 Linux 710 -- The default desktop
(full image size: 1.5MB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
As I poked around the applications menu and tried out the various software packages that come pre-installed, I was very impressed with the selection. A lot of software can fit on a sub-400MB image. LibreOffice is installed and so is The GIMP and VLC media player. There are many other lightweight apps for image editing, note taking, and other sundry tasks. The one place where Fatdog64 takes a slightly non-traditional approach is with its choice of SeaMonkey as the default browser and e-mail client. While SeaMonkey is perfectly usable, there are menu entries for Firefox and Chrome, but these entries run wizards asking the user if they want to install those browsers, the browsers are not included by default.
Of all the software included, the only thing that really bugged me was the ROX file manager. While the file manager is perfectly usable, one of the default settings is to automatically resize the window based on the content. If you are looking at a directory with 5 items in it, there will be a window just big enough to display those items. Open a directory with 25 items and the window gets bigger. Every time you open a new directory, the size of the window changes. I am sure this works for some people, but I had to go into ROX's settings and change it to not automatically resize the window.
Despite the small ISO image size, Fatdog64 does come with a few games. Users looking for some entertainment can play Armagetron Advanced, Pipe Panic, Xinvaders 3D, or gtktetris without having to install any additional packages. I found that these games played well and are fun, but I do wonder why these particular games were included instead of certain other choices, e.g., a solitaire card game.
Fatdog64 Linux 710 -- The control panel and Gslapt package manager
(full image size: 702kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
Installing additional packages and configuring the system's settings are both easy tasks to perform. Additional packages can be installed using Gslapt for traditional packages, or SFS (SquashFS) packages can be merged into the system using the SFS Manager in the Fatdog64 Control Panel. In addition to various utilities to install software and update packages, the Fatdog64 Control Panel is full of configuration utilities for just about every setting available. Changing localization options, changing the system's look and feel, and many other options are all there and sorted into easy to understand categories.
Having explored enough in a virtual environment, I was ready to try out Fatdog64 using a LiveUSB drive, so I selected the shutdown option for my virtual machine. It was at this point that Fatdog64 popped up a dialog box for its best usability feature; it warned me that I did not have a persistence savefile setup and that my settings would be lost if I did not set one up. I did not really need to set one up, but I selected the option to set one up just to see what would happen next. The wizard that popped up to walk me through the process was very thorough and well designed. I thought it was very nice that the system was designed to make sure I could not lose my changes and files and made it easy to set things up so my session was saved.
I wish I could say my experience booting Fatdog64 from a flash drive was as easy, but I did run into a few problems. My first attempt to boot the flash drive was on a system using EFI with Secure Boot enabled. The first boot attempt actually made it super easy to install the Secure Boot keys for Fatdog64, which made it so subsequent boot attempts loaded a nice rEFInd boot screen without any problems. However, I could never get the boot process to work all the way. After selecting the boot option on the initial screen, the system transitions to a GRUB screen that wants to detect grub.cfg in various locations. Letting it do that loads another GRUB screen, which looks just like the one loaded on non-EFI/legacy BIOS systems, but selecting any of the boot options resulted in an error and a kernel panic. Once I set the system BIOS to "Legacy Boot" mode, Fatdog64 booted up just fine. I was able to reproduce this experience in VirtualBox using the "Enable EFI" setting and, when it was enabled, I could not get Fatdog64 to boot.
Fatdog64 Linux 710 -- The system installer
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
After sorting out the boot problems, I was able to use Fatdog64 just fine from my flash drive. I even ran the installer to see how that worked. Honestly, it was a more pleasant experience than I expected, given the fact that it does not do much more than dump a copy of the Fatdog64 image onto a hard drive partition. The installer is not as polished as, for example, Ubuntu's Ubiquity, but it does allow the user to partition a hard drive, select boot loader options, and select a source file to install from. Pretty basic, but it gets the job done.
One last thing to note before I get into my final thoughts: It should be mentioned that Fatdog64 does take a rather unorthodox approach to user accounts. Normally, best practices are to run everything as a normal user and use the root account as sparingly as possible. Fatdog64 uses root for everything (users are automatically logged in to the root account), except for a few sandboxed Internet applications that run as the spot user. The Fatdog64 help documentation has an interesting and informative explanation for why this is. Their reasoning makes sense to me, at least in the context of Fatdog64, but users should read the Fatdog64 help file for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
Fatdog64 710 is a good choice for someone looking for a distribution to put on a flash drive to use on multiple computers. The distribution's savefile persistence feature is really easy to set up and use. Even if not using a savefile to keep changes between sessions, Fatdog64 ships with enough software to be able to do most general computing tasks. Document editing, browsing the web, e-mail, even playing a few games can be accomplished using this super small distribution. While I personally would have opted for a few different packages here and there, Fatdog64 has a good collection of software and should prove useful for many users.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a Lenovo Ideapad 100-15IBD laptop with the following specifications:
- Processor: 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-5020U CPU
- Storage: Seagate 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive
- Memory: 4GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8723BE 802.11n Wireless Network Adapter
- Display: Intel HD Graphics 5500
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
elementary OS bundled with a new notebook, Haiku announces new features, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 approaching its end of life
People who are interested in purchasing a notebook computer with a Linux distribution pre-installed just gained a new option: Litebook. The Litebook is a relatively low-end notebook computer (the project's website compares Litebook with an ASUS Chromebook) that ships with the elementary OS distribution. "elementary OS, the operating system used by Litebook, follows a security first philosophy and shares its codebase with the majority of web servers and many other mission critical applications. Litebooks will not attempt to invade your privacy and sell your data like our competitors, nor will they come with annoying and insecure bloatware. The source code for elementary OS is available to the public, and is reviewed by the eyes of thousands of developers around the world who rapidly identify flaws before they can be exploited." The Litebook devices range in cost from $249 to $269 USD. The company claims a portion of their profits will be given to the elementary OS team to further improve their software.
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The Haiku developers have been working on a number of new features and upgrades to the spiritual successor of BeOS. Some of the new changes which were reported in the project's monthly news letter include the ability to use FUSE to connect to Windows network shares, patches to make Haiku compile using version 6 of the GNU compiler and work has started on sub-pixel rendering. "waddlesplash worked on enabling real sub-pixel rendering in Haiku. This used to be protected by Microsoft patents, but they are all expired or will expire really soon. So, it is time to start experimenting with this and getting ready for enabling it. waddlesplash also reworked the JSON API, and fixed several bugs found by the 'JSON Minefield' tests. This makes our parser more compatible with all kinds of JSON data, and also easier to use. humdinger added localization support to the package daemon and solver, allowing for pkgman and HaikuDepot to be fully translated. More patches from mt were merged, in order to make it possible to build Haiku with GCC 6. This is still a work in progress, as GCC 6 finds several new warnings also in 3rd-party code that was imported into Haiku. This code should be at least updated to a newer version, and at best, moved to packages." Additional information can be found in the Haiku blog post.
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The Red Hat team has published a reminder that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and its clones, such as CentOS, will reach the end of their supported life cycles at the end of March 2017. "In accordance with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Errata Support Policy, support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 will be retired on March 31, 2017, at the end of Production Phase 3. Until that date, customers will continue to receive Critical impact security patches and selected Urgent priority bug fixes for RHEL 5.11 (the final RHEL 5 release). On that date, active support included with your RHEL Premium or Standard subscription will conclude. This means that customers will continue to have access to all previously released content." Red Hat customers who wish to continue running version 5 of their operating system have the option of purchasing Extended Life Cycle Support to extend support though to November 30, 2020. The Red Hat errata notes have further details.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Security and the size of a distribution's team, update on streaming Netflix on Raspbian
Counting-the-cooks-in-the-kitchen asks: Are smaller distributions able to provide the same level of security as bigger projects? I'm wondering if one-man projects have the resources to be up to date with security patches?
DistroWatch answers: It can depend a lot on how the small project is set up. In particular, a distribution might have relatively few packages or a lot of packages to maintain. The project might be independent or it might pull in most of its packages (and patches) from an upstream distribution. We might also consider whether the small distribution relies on the original software developer to provide new versions and patches, or if the distribution provides its own fixes. With just these three variables, we have eight potential combinations which are likely to indicate better or worse software security.
Let's look at a few hypothetical examples. In one instance we could have a one-person project which has a lot of packages, is maintained independently and tries to keep up to date with security fixes without help from the original, upstream project. This situation is a recipe for disaster as it is unlikely one developer will be able to keep up with backporting fixes and patching thousands of packages. Moving along the spectrum a little, an independent distribution with lots of software that maintains a rolling release approach and pulls in new upstream versions & fixes automatically will have an easier time of keeping their users' software patched. A third project, which is based on a larger distribution and pulls in security fixes from the upstream distribution, needs to do very little work to keep up with security patches as the parent project does most of the work.
I suspect these variables are a big factor in why a lot of smaller, independent projects tend to either have few packages in their repositories or they tend to provide rolling releases (or both). It means less work for the developers. Small projects which are based off another distribution and can pull in software from the parent's repositories tend to have much larger collections of software in their repositories and they seem to be less likely to be rolling releases. When you have an upstream project like Debian or openSUSE doing the heavy work of packaging and patching software, it frees up a lot of time.
In short, I think the size of the project is less important than where the team gets their packages, how many branches/versions of each package they try to maintain and how many packages they need to track. A tiny project which pulls in software from Ubuntu's repositories is automatically about as secure as Ubuntu because it has access to the same fixes. But a tiny project which tries to maintain all of its own packages and patches has a lot more work to do and will be more likely to lag behind in fixes.
My recommendation is to look at where a project's software is coming from and see how quickly they respond to vulnerabilities. The time it takes to get things fixed and the project's approach to informing their users about potential problems will give a better indicator of how secure the distribution is than the number of people working on it.
If you visit our Security Advisories page you can see reports of when most of the major, upstream Linux distributions (which publish advisories) release bug fixes. They tend to be within a day or two of each other. Any smaller projects which pull in patched packages from these upstream distributions will likely be up to date with security fixes.
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Last week I raised the question as to whether the ARM-powered Raspberry Pi computer could be used to stream video and, in particular, used to watch Netflix videos. After reading many tutorials and trying a few methods of enabling Netflix on a fresh installation of Raspbian, I eventually gave up. However, one of our readers e-mailed me with a link to a discussion on the Raspberry Pi forums which provided a potential solution. Someone called "thatguruguy" had put together a Deb package which would add the necessary libraries to Chromium and add an application launcher to the Pi's desktop menu. The special launcher would enable streaming videos from Netflix through the Chromium web browser. At least that was the idea put forward on the forum. The person who sent me the link, Isaac, said he had tried the Deb package and it had worked on his Raspberry Pi 3 computer.
I downloaded the latest version of Raspbian (2017-02-16), enabled HDMI audio and installed the Deb package, netflix-launcher_1.0-1.deb. I had less luck than Isaac did and Netflix failed to play on my Pi. Each time I tried to access a video an error would appear saying the video player was missing. Perhaps I lacked a dependency or perhaps the issue stemmed from my device being a Raspberry Pi 2 while others were using the newer Pi 3. At any rate, the method provided on the forums did not work for me. If you own a Pi computer, please let us know if the provided Deb file works for you in the comments.
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We have more answered questions in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
Zorin OS 12.1
The Zorin OS team has announced a new release of the project's Ubuntu-based desktop distribution. Zorin OS is designed to provide a familiar interface for people transitioning from a Windows environment. The newest version, Zorin OS 12.1, is a minor update to the project's 12 series and includes mostly bug fixes and improved hardware support: "We are pleased to announce the release of Zorin OS 12.1. This new release brings together the latest software updates, bug fixes, new desktop features, performance enhancements and hardware support. Zorin OS 12.1 introduces an updated hardware enablement stack. The newly-included Linux kernel 4.8 as well as an updated X server graphics stack adds compatibility for newer computers and hardware in Zorin OS. One of the new desktop features is an easy way to add app icons to the desktop. Simply open the Zorin menu and right-click on an app to view the option to add it to the Desktop or to Favorites." People who are already running Zorin OS 12 can update to version 12.1 using the distribution's Software Updater application. Further information can be found in the project's release announcement. Zorin OS 12.1 is available in three editions (Core, Business and Ultimate). The Core edition is free to download while the other two are commercial products.
BlackArch Linux 2017.03.01
Gaurov Soni has announced a release of BlackArch Linux 2017.03.01, an updated build of the project's Arch Linux-based live distribution featuring a collection of over 1,700 penetration testing and forensic analysis tools: "Today we released new BlackArch Linux ISO images. Here's the changelog: add more than 50 new tools; update BlackArch installer to 0.3.3 (bug fixes); fix several tools (dependencies, installs); include Linux kernel 4.9.11; updated all system packages; updated all BlackArch tools; updated menu entries for window managers (Awesome, Fluxbox, Openbox). New tools include: backdoorppt - transform your payload.exe into one fake word doc (.ppt); hercules-payload - a special payload generator that can bypass all antivirus software; insanity - generate payloads and control remote machines; snuck - automatic XSS filter bypass...." Visit the distribution's news page to read the release announcement. As usual, BlackArch Linux is available in two variants - a full 6.6GB image for USB devices or double-sided DVDs, or a much smaller network installation (netinst) image.
The PCLinuxOS development team has released a new version of the project's rolling-release distribution for the desktop. Featuring a modified Plasma 5 user interface, PCLinuxOS 2017.03 comes with Plasma Desktop 5.8.6 (which is part of the long-term support branch), Linux kernel 4.9.13, updated software packages, and several new applications: "The KDE Plasma 5 ISO image has been updated to version 2017.03. The image includes all of the updates and bug fixes from the past month. The kernel was updated to 4.9.13. KDE components were updated to Plasma 5.8.6 LTS, Frameworks to 5.31.0 and Applications to 16.12.2. Bug fixes include the menu editor, net applet in the system tray, Konsole profile and better defaults for Dolphin and System Tray icons. Applications added to ISO image include GParted, NixNote2 and Dropbox." Here is the brief release announcement. This version is available for 64-bit Intel/AMD architectures only.
Greenie Linux 16.04
Stanislav Hoferek has announced the release of Greenie Linux 16.04, a Lubuntu-based desktop distribution optimised primarily for Slovak and Czech users, but also supporting English, Hungarian and Polish languages: "Greenie Linux 16.04 is here. There are two editions. "Lite" is a useful system for everyday use with only the most important packages included, while "Desktop" has many more useful applications. For example, the newest WINE, LibreOffice, GIMP and many others. Greenie is based on Lubuntu, so it works fast even on older hardware. Specific Greenie applications are included, as well as applications for Windows that might be very useful for dual-boot setups. Greenie 16.04 is provided as an installable live medium, especially made for users in Slovakia and Czech Republic." Read the rest of the release announcement (in Slovak, scroll down for an introduction in English) for further details and MD5 checksums.
Greenie Linux 16.04 -- Running the LXDE desktop
(full image size: 1.2MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Maui Linux 17.03
Leszek Lesner has announced the release of Maui Linux 17.03, a new version of the project's desktop Linux distribution featuring the latest KDE Plasma desktop. It is based on KDEneon. This release comes with updated packages, an improved Calamares system installer, and various desktop enhancements: "The Maui team is happy to announce the release of Maui Linux 17.03, code name 'Cuba Libre'. This release comes with plenty new package updates and KDE Plasma 5.9.3. It also ships Frameworks 5.31, Qt 5.7.1 and LTS Linux kernel 4.4. Firefox has been updated to version 51 and Thunderbird to version 45. Calamares has been updated to its latest version 3.1. Instead of the standard volume applet, this release ships the volume applet from 'Zren' found in the KDE Store. This release restores the 'Minimize All' functionality as a hot corner trigger (instead of the default 'Show Desktop'). Touching the lower right corner once with your mouse cursor minimizes all windows, while doing it right again brings them all up in the previous order." Continue to the release announcement for further information and screenshots.
Kwort Linux 4.3.2
Kwort Linux 4.3.2 has been released. Kwort Linux is a minimalist distribution with a desktop built around the Openbox window manager and its own package manager called kpkg. It is based on CRUX and is designed for advanced Linux users. "Kwort 4.3.2 is available for download. Clean system, as always, allows us to remain simple and fast. You'll see that this release is a little bit bigger as we include the linux-firmware package as in the previous release and also LLVM to allow a few X.Org drivers to work properly. Most significant technical aspects are: Linux kernel 4.8.15 and glibc 2.24; new kpkg version provides support for checking available upgrades before fetching and upgrading (diff option); GTK+ 3 is now included as part of the distribution; look & feel has been improved and both, GTK+ 2 and GTK+ 3, are themed to make both toolkits work together in a seamlessly way; Chromium 56.0.2924.28 which supports latest glibc (previous versions of Chromium break with glibc 2.24)." Visit the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found in our Torrent Archive. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 319
- Total data uploaded: 58.1TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New navigation menu
About a week ago we introduced a new navigation menu near the top of each page on DistroWatch. The menu, housed in the green bar just under the old navigation menu, was created in the hopes of making resources on DistroWatch easier to find. We have introduced a lot of new features over the past few years and the new menu makes those easier to find without digging through sub-menus or our sitemap.
You can see the results of our previous poll on owning hobbyist and single board computers here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
New navigation menu
|Keep the new menu: ||461 (47%)|
| Remove the new menu: ||96 (10%)|
| No preference: ||431 (44%)|
Random distribution on front page
On of the fun things about exploring Linux is the wide range of available projects. There are hundreds of Linux distributions, presenting us with many approaches to computing. To make it easier to find new and interesting projects we have added a Random Distribution widget to the left sidebar of our front page, near the bottom. Each visit to DistroWatch will display a different project, along with its current status, description and a screen shot.
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New projects added to database
Super Grub2 Disk
Super Grub2 Disk is a live CD that helps the user to boot into almost any operating system even if the system cannot boot into it by normal means. This allows a user to boot into an installed operating system if their GRUB installation has been overwritten, erased or otherwise corrupted. Super Grub2 Disk can detect installed operating systems and provide a boot menu which allows the user to boot into their desired operating system. Super Grub2 Disk is not an operating system itself, but a live boot loader which can be run from a CD or USB thumb drive.
Super Grub2 Disk -- The boot menu
(full image size: 7kB, resolution: 640x480 pixels)
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Distributions added to waiting list
- Archman GNU/Linux. Archman GNU/Linux is a Turkish distribution based on Arch Linux and features the Xfce desktop environment. The project maintains a custom package repository, but pulls most of its software from the Arch Linux software repositories.
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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, 13 March 2017. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
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