| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 730, 18 September 2017
Welcome to this year's 38th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Earlier this year, after several delays in its development, Mageia 6 was released. Mageia is one of the community forks of the now-discontinued Mandriva operating system. Mageia is well known for its user friendly configuration tools and, in this week's Feature Story, Joshua Allen Holm test drives Mageia 6 to see what else the distribution offers. In our News section we discuss Manjaro Linux being bundled with laptop hardware, KDE's Plasma Mobile on Purism's open phone and DragonFly BSD allowing people to set up HAMMER2 volumes from inside the project's system installer. Then, in our Questions and Answers column, we discuss the practical benefits and drawbacks of completely free operating systems. Plus we are happy to share last week's releases and provide a list of the torrents we are seeding. In our Opinion Poll we ask if our readers prefer to adjust settings from a control panel or by setting parameters directly in text files. Finally, we are pleased to welcome the Star distribution to our database. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
- Review: Mageia 6
- News: Manjaro coming pre-installed on laptops, KDE's Plasma on Purism's phone, HAMMER2 coming to DragonFly BSD's installer
- Questions and answers: Benefits and drawbacks of using completely free operating systems
- Released last week: CentOS 7-1708, Parrot Security 3.8, Univention 4.2-2
- Torrent corner: ArchLabs, AUSTRUMI, CentOS, Manjaro, NuTyX, Parrot Security, Q4OS, SmartOS, Univention
- Upcoming releases: Fedora 27 Beta
- Opinion poll: Graphical control panel vs text files
- New additions: Star
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Joshua Allen Holm)
Mageia is one of the many forks of the now defunct Mandriva Linux. The latest release, Mageia 6, ships with version 4.9 of the Linux kernel, KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS, GNOME 3.24, and a wide selection of other up-to-date software. Like many distributions, it ships most of the common open source packages and supports all the common desktop environments, so what, if anything, sets Mageia apart from its competitors? To find out, I tried out Mageia 6 for a couple of weeks and I share my thoughts about the experience below.
Installing Mageia 6
Mageia offers a wide selection of installation media. There are Live images for KDE's Plasma desktop, GNOME, and Xfce. There is also an image that Mageia refers to as the classical installer, which is a traditional non-live install image. The classical installer is much larger than the live images, but comes with a wider selection of software and has a custom install option that lets the user pick what they want to install. The classical installer is 3.9GB, the KDE Plasma live image is 2.6GB, GNOME live is 2.2GB, and the Xfce live image is 2.0GB. For this review, I used the classical installer.
Booting the USB drive brings up a GRUB menu with options to install Mageia or to boot into a basic rescue mode. The rescue mode can re-install Mageia's boot loader, restore Windows' boot loader, mount the hard drive's partitions, or start a console interface. The console interface provides a handy list of commands for installing modules, listing partitions, and getting the system logs from the last 24 hours. Not the most advanced rescue tool available, but handy enough.
Mageia's installer, known as DrakeX, asks for the same information and provides the same functions as just about every other Linux installer out there. There are really no surprises. Walk through the prompts, make choices, and enter information when prompted. Using the classical installer gives the option of installing KDE's Plasma desktop or GNOME as the primary options. Using the custom options provides more desktop environments and lets the user tweak their package selection. For this review, I selected Plasma and let Mageia install its default selection of software.
Mageia's implementation of Plasma 5 is pretty standard, but does come with a few minor tweaks. Widgets are locked by default, there is a tiny lock and logout widget to the right of the clock in the bottom panel, and the application menu is organized to put more common categories and applications at the top, instead of alphabetizing everything. Other than those things, Mageia's KDE desktop is pretty standard and comes with all the typical software. Firefox 52 ESR, LibreOffice 5.3, GIMP, VLC media player, and the standard selection of KDE software come installed by default. Pretty typical, really, but still very nice. I did not need to add much to the system to get things customized to my liking. Most non-developer users could probably get by with using Mageia as-is with the possible exception of needing to install patent-encumbered codecs for media playback.
Mageia 6 -- The Plasma desktop
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As I have noted in past reviews, I am a GNOME user. I use GNOME shell without any extra tweaks and I like it. However, I have to admit that KDE's Plasma desktop is really growing on me. This review is the second time that I have really had the chance to use a current version of Plasma for all of my daily tasks for a couple of weeks. (The first time was for my recent openSUSE Leap 42.3 review.) I doubt I will be switching desktop environments on my own computers, but I will be recommending Plasma to people switching from Microsoft Windows. It is familiar enough and polished enough (though, like most open source software, not entirely free from rough edges) that anyone looking for a traditional style of desktop could use it comfortably. Mageia's implementation, in particular, is very nice.
Mageia's welcome screen
The first thing that really sets Mageia apart from many of its competitors is its really nice welcome screen. The window appears the first time the user logs in (and every time thereafter, if the user doesn't uncheck the “show this window at startup” checkbox) and gives the user an excellent overview of the distribution. It provides quick access to documentation and support, explains how to use Mageia's Control Center to configure the system, and describes how to install and upgrade software.
Mageia 6 -- The welcome screen
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The welcome screen also provides an applications page that helps the user add common packages to the system without having to use the more robust/complicated tools for package management. Many of the most common packages are included in the list, so a novice user who just wants to add a few common packages could easily do so using just the welcome screen. Simply check a few boxes, click on “Install selected” and wait for the process to finish.
Mageia 6 -- The welcome screen's application list
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Mageia Control Center
Mageia's Control Center is the core of what sets Mageia apart from other distributions. Much like openSUSE's YaST, Mageia's Control Center provides a centralized location for configuring a wide variety of options. Control Center can be used to update and install software, configure hardware, change system and network settings, and it can even be used to import documents and settings from Microsoft Windows. Sadly (or not so sadly, depending on your perspective) I was not able to test out that last option, but being able to copy documents and settings from Windows would be very, very useful for users taking their first foray into Linux.
Mageia 6 -- The Control Center
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In addition to accessing it using the Control Center, the graphic tool for installing software, known as Rpmdrake, can be run directly, or packages can be installed from the command line using either urpmi or dnf. Like many distributions, Mageia splits free (in the Free Software Foundation's sense of the word) and non-free packages into separate repositories. The non-free repository contains proprietary drivers for video cards and firmware for various wireless cards. The firmware for my wireless card is in Mageia's non-free repository, so I had made sure that I enabled that repository when I installed the distribution. The most common non-free packages are included on the install image, so there was no problem with getting my system working, networking and all. (The sole exception was my laptop's built-in webcam, which does not work correctly on any distribution.) In addition, Mageia has a repository named Tainted that has packages with patent issues. Enabling the Tainted repository is a requirement if various media codecs are required, though even without the Tainted repository, many media codecs are included by default. Honestly, the process of getting non-free and patent encumbered packages with Mageia is much, much easier than it is for Fedora or openSUSE. While I fully understand why it has to be the way it is for those distributions (and I fully agree with the decisions made by Fedora and openSUSE to not ship various packages), I have to admit Mageia's approach is easier and more user friendly.
Mageia 6 -- The Rpmdrake software manager
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Mageia 6 is very nice. While not much different from many of the other modern distributions, it comes with enough polish and extra features to make it worth checking out. The Welcome to Mageia application and Control Center make the distribution very friendly for new Linux users. Similarly, the ease of enabling non-free and tainted packages also makes it a good choice for anyone looking to quickly set up a fully functional system. While I cannot personally attest to their usefulness, users switching from Windows might find the various importing tools helpful for making their transition to Linux. If you are looking for a new distribution to try out, or want to take your first foray into the world of Linux, give Mageia 6 a try, you will not be disappointed.
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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
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Visitor supplied rating
Mageia has a visitor supplied average rating of: 8.5/10 from 110 review(s).
Have you used Mageia? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Manjaro coming pre-installed on laptops, KDE's Plasma on Purism's phone, HAMMER2 coming to DragonFly BSD's installer
The developers of Manjaro Linux are the latest Linux team to partner with a hardware seller to provide Linux pre-installed on laptop computers. "OK, community - we have now worked on this for months, and the results are simply astounding. In association with Station X the Manjaro Team is very proud to announce our first Laptop, together with a hardware manufacturer especially designed for our beloved community. If you're looking for the sleekest Linux laptop in existence, then look no further. The Spitfire is a head turner - with lots and lots of muscle. Powered with 7th Generation Intel Core Processors, up to 32GB RAM and dual drive bays, the Spitfire can take whatever you can throw at it. And keep going." Specifications for the product are listed on Manjaro's website. Ordering will be available starting in October.
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Back in August we reported that the Purism organization is working to develop a mobile phone which features both open hardware and open source software. The phone is intended to run Linux distributions and, if the project is completed, there are plans to have the device run KDE's Plasma Mobile user interface. A post on the KDE website states: "It is true that Purism has not committed to any given platform yet. What they have done is agreed to help KDE adapt Plasma Mobile to their device, and for that they are committing resources, human and otherwise. This is a win on both sides. KDE gets to try out Plasma Mobile on a device without having to go through all the guesswork of reverse engineering undocumented hardware. Purism gets to test-run Plasma Mobile on their device and help steer its development so it is fully supported. This gives Plasma Mobile a good chance of becoming the default interface for the Librem 5, although that decision is ultimately one Purism has to take." Purism is running a campaign in order to raise funds to complete the project.
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In August we reported DragonFly BSD was making it possible for users to test the new HAMMER2 advanced file system. At the time, it was possible for DragonFly BSD users to create and explore HAMMER2 storage volumes, but the new file system was not available as an install-time option. This is changing and the next version of DragonFly BSD will feature the ability to create HAMMER2 volumes during the installation process. Matthew Dillon posted an update, reporting: "HAMMER2 can now be selected as a file system in the installer. Note that we still, for /boot, use UFS. The boot loader can access a HAMMER2 /boot, but the small size of the file system makes it too easy to fill up when doing installkernel or installworld."
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Benefits and drawbacks of using completely free operating systems
Exploring-freedom asks: I am interested in exploring purely free Linux distributions, like Parabola. Is there any practical drawback or benefit to running one of the GNU-supported Linux distributions?
DistroWatch answers: For people interested in seeing which Linux distributions the GNU project views as respecting users' freedoms, the project maintains a list. We also maintain a list of projects which strive to use free software exclusively on our Search page. These are distributions which ship with no proprietary software and do not provide a method for users to install non-free packages. The Debian distribution, I feel it is worth noting, is not on GNU's list. While Debian ships only free and open source software by default, the Debian project maintains a non-free repository its users can enable, which excludes the distribution from GNU's list of completely free operating systems. Fedora is another distribution with a firm stance in favour of software freedom, but Fedora ships some non-free firmware, excluding it from GNU's list. I believe it is worth keeping in mind that several distributions do a lot to respect users' freedoms, but may not make GNU's list.
From a practical point of view, there are a few benefits to running a completely free operating system. One benefit to having a completely free system means you can audit the entire operating system's source code to look for flaws, security issues and potential back doors into the system. The other benefit is, with a completely free software system, it is possible for developers to fix any problems they discover in the operating system, given the required time and skills.
Again, from a practical point of view, there are probably just two drawbacks when running a completely free operating system. The first is that some hardware will not be supported. A completely free system will not feature closed firmware and closed drivers. A lot of the time this is not an issue, but some hardware still requires non-free components. Often times video cards will work with open source drivers, but may require non-free drivers for high performance tasks like gaming. The other potential drawback is non-free applications will not be easily available. If you wish to use closed source components such as the Chrome web browser, Skype, or the Steam gaming client then these will not be easily available. It will still be possible to find and install these items, but they will not be in your distribution's repositories when you are running a exclusively free software distribution.
There are other reasons, apart from strictly practical ones, to run free software distributions. Some people are ethically opposed to non-free software, some want to encourage hardware vendors to write open drivers, others want to showcase how powerful a completely free operating system can be. If you are interested in running a purely free Linux distribution, I would recommend starting with Trisquel as it is probably the most friendly, desktop oriented distribution dedicated to free software.
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More answers can be found in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
Univention Corporate Server 4.2-2
Nico Gulden has announced the release of Univention Corporate Server (UCS) 4.2-2, a new build of the Debian-based server distribution featuring a web-based management system for central administration of servers. "We are pleased to announce the availability of UCS 4.2-2 for download, the second point release of Univention Corporate Server (UCS) 4.2. It includes all errata updates issued for UCS 4.2-1 and provides various improvements and bug fixes especially in the following areas: The portal is now also easily usable in cloud setups. The services installed on UCS, for example, are directly accessible without further configuration steps. For this purpose, the portal converts existing links into relative links. For portal entries with multiple links, heuristic procedures are used to determine the best link. The usability of the management system has been further improved. This allows users and groups to be copied, the error handling has been improved in several places, as did the performance." There have also been improvements to help app providers quickly create UCS appliances. Additional information can be found in the release announcement and in the release notes.
Parrot Security OS 3.8
Parrot Security OS is a Debian-based, security-oriented distribution featuring a collection of utilities designed for penetration testing and computer forensics. The project's latest release, 3.8, is based on Debian's Testing branch ("Buster") and includes support for working with ZFS storage volumes. "I am proud to announce the official release of Parrot 3.8, that introduces many new features and updates. A quick look at our changelog will immediately spot the most important changes: First of all, the new Parrot 3.8 is now based on Debian 10 Buster (current Debian Testing release) with Linux 4.12, ZFS support, better wireless drivers support and the introduction of the new MATE 1.18, GCC 6.4 and 7.2, Java 9 and so on, and all the Parrot flavors now include Electrum, a lightweight bitcoin client. We have not only fixed the previous DNS resolution issues, but also introduced a new round-robin model between both the default DNS servers provided by DHCP and our new OpenNIC DNS nodes hosted on our servers to prevent DNS censorship. Our OpenNIC nodes were not yet added to the OpenNIC server list but we would love to add them in the future." Additional information can be found in the project's release notes.
CentOS is a distribution built from the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The CentOS project has announced the availability of a new update to the distribution, releasing CentOS 7-1708 which is derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4. The list of changes in this update to version 7 is fairly conservative: "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. Various new packages include among others: python-gssapi, python-netifaces, mod_auth_openidc, pidgin and Qt5. SSH1-support has been removed from the SSH-server. Along with this move, all cryptographic protocols and algorithms which are considered insecure have been deprecated. OpenSSL now supports DTLS (TLS via UDP) and ALPN. NVMe Over Fabric is now supported in the NVM-Express kernel driver. There have been various changes/enhancements to cryptographic abilities of various packages. I.e. sendmail now supports ECDHE, OpenSSH now using SHA2 for public key signatures, among others. All changes are too numerous to mention here, so please take a look at the upstream release notes..." The release announcement and release notes contain further information.
ArchLabs is an Arch-based Linux distribution featuring the Openbox window manager. The project's latest snapshot, ArchLabs 2017.09, introduces several new changes, including a welcome script which runs when the user first logs in: "Mínimo has under-gone some fine tuning, mainly with the addition of a brilliant Hello/Welcome script written by Nate. Known as AL-Hello, this script will aid in (for those of you who are in a hurry, or just can't be bothered installing one by one) the addition of extra software that we don't include out of the box. You can install up to 60 different apps and utilities, including image and video apps, web browsers, editors office apps and many more. As well as installing apps with the new AL-Hello script you can choose your default panel, be it Tint2 or Polybar. Install NVIDIA or Bumblebee drivers as well. Super easy." A detailed list of changes, along with screen shots showing off new features, can be found in the project's release announcement.
ArchLabs 2017.09 -- Default desktop interface
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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. We also maintain a Torrents RSS feed for people who wish to have open source torrents delivered to them. To share your own open source torrents of Linux and BSD projects, please visit our Upload Torrents page.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 571
- Total data uploaded: 15.6TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Graphical control panel vs text files
Most modern operating systems provide convenient, point-n-click control panels to help us adjust the desktop environment, background services and printers. However, these flashy, graphical tools are often front-ends for text files which we can edit from the command line or in any text editor.
This week we would like to find out if our readers prefer to adjust their system settings from a graphical user interface or by editing text files.
You can see the results of our previous poll on streaming home media in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Graphical control panel vs text files
|I prefer to use a control panel: ||988 (44%)|
| I prefer to edit text files: ||253 (11%)|
| I use both methods: ||1011 (45%)|
| I do not change any settings: ||11 (0%)|
New projects added to database
Star is a desktop-oriented Linux distribution based on Devuan GNU/Linux. Star is available in a range of editions, each featuring a lightweight desktop environment. Star is small enough to fit on a CD and uses SysV init software.
Star 1.0.1 -- Running the JWM environment
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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, 25 September 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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