| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 732, 2 October 2017
Welcome to this year's 40th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
A lot of server work these days is handled by virtual environments, either lightweight containers or virtual machines. One operating system which is trying to make working with virtual servers easier is ClonOS. The ClonOS platform is based on FreeBSD and features web-based administrative controls. We explore ClonOS further in our Feature Story. In our News section we discuss reducing the size of Snap packages for GNOME applications, Ubuntu's plans to phase out 32-bit installation media and we cover highlights from FreeBSD's Quarterly Status Report. Our Questions and Answers column this week talks about partitioning disks with ZFS. Plus we share a list of the distributions released last week and provide links for the torrents we are seeding. Our Opinion Poll this week asks how many of our readers feel comfortable running non-free web browsers verses entirely open source browsers. Finally, we are pleased to welcome the BeeFree OS distribution to our database. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
- Review: Managing virtual environments with ClonOS 12
- News: Reducing Snap size, Ubuntu Desktop to drop 32-bit media, FreeBSD's Quarterly Status Report
- Questions and answers: Partitioning disks for ZFS
- Released last week: SparkyLinux 5.1, KNOPPIX 8.1
- Torrent corner: 4MLinux, feren OS, KNOPPIX, Nitrux, Sparky, SystemRescueCd, Tails
- Upcoming releases: FreeBSD 10.4, Fedora 27 Beta
- Opinion poll: Web browsers and non-free DRM
- DistroWatch.com news: Mobile app for getting distro news
- New additions: BeeFree OS
- New distributions: eXtern, Advanced Persistent Security
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (23MB) and MP3 (28MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Managing virtual environments with ClonOS 12
ClonOS is one of the latest operating systems to be entered into the DistroWatch database. The project's website describes ClonOS as follows:
ClonOS is a free, open-source FreeBSD-based platform for virtual environment creation and management.
The operating system uses FreeBSD's development branch (12.0-CURRENT) as its base. ClonOS uses ZFS as the default file system and includes web-based administration tools for managing virtual machines and jails. The project's website also mentions the availability of templates for quickly setting up new containers and web-based VNC access to jails. Puppet, we are told, can be used for configuration management.
ClonOS can be downloaded as a disk image file (IMG) or as an optical media image (ISO). I downloaded the ISO file which is 1.6GB in size. Booting from ClonOS's media displays a text console asking us to select the type of text terminal we are using. There are four options and most people can probably safely take the default, xterm, option.
The ClonOS installer then launches. The installer presents us with simple text menus were we are tasked with configuring our network interface (providing an IP address and Internet gateway), selecting which hard drive should be used to install ClonOS and creating administrator passwords. We are asked to come up with two passwords, one for the operating system's root account and one for accessing the web-based control panel. As I found out later, it does not matter what passwords we provide during the installation. With these three sets of questions answered, the installer copies its files to our hard drive, taking over the entire disk. We are then prompted to restart the computer to begin using our new copy of ClonOS.
When the freshly installed copy of ClonOS boots, it brings us to a text console and automatically signs us in as the root user. If we log out of the command line interface, ClonOS automatically logs us back in. Presumably, it is assumed the ClonOS server will be kept in a locked room to protect the operating system from people walking by the terminal.
The operating system, on the surface, appears to be a full installation of FreeBSD 12. The usual collection of FreeBSD packages are available, including manual pages, a compiler and the typical selection of UNIX command line utilities. The operating system uses ZFS as its file system and uses approximately 3.3GB of disk space. ClonOS requires about 50MB of active memory and 143MB of wired memory before any services or jails are created.
ClonOS 12 -- Checking the task logs
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Web-based control panel
Most of the key features of ClonOS, the parts which set it apart from vanilla FreeBSD, can be accessed through a web-based control panel. When we connect to this control panel, over a plain HTTP connection, using our web browser, we are not prompted for an account name or password.
The web-based interface has a straight forward layout. Down the left side of the browser window we find categories of options and controls. Over on the right side of the window are the specific options or controls available in the selected category. At the top of the page there is a drop-down menu where we can toggle the displayed language between English and Russian, with English being the default.
ClonOS 12 -- Browsing jail templates
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There are twelve option screens we can access in the ClonOS interface and I want to quickly give a summary of each one:
- Overview - this page shows a top-level status summary. The page lists the number of jails and nodes in the system. We are also shown the number of available CPU cores and available RAM on the system.
- Jail containers - this page allows us to create and delete jails. We can also change some basic jail settings on this page, adjusting the network configuration and hostname. Plus we can click a button to open a VNC window that allows us to access the jail's command line interface.
- Template for jails - provides a list of available jail templates. Each template is listed with its name and a brief description. For example, we have a Wordpress template and a bittorrent template. We can click a listed template to create a new jail with a vanilla installation of the selected software included. We cannot download or create new templates from this page.
- Bhyve VMs - this page is very much like the Jails containers page, but concerns the creation of new virtual machines and managing them.
- Virtual Private Network - allows for the management of subnets
- Authkeys - upload security keys for something, but it is not clear for what these keys will be used.
- Storage media - upload ISO files that will be used when creating virtual machines and installing an operating system in the new virtual environment.
- FreeBSD Bases - I think this page downloads and builds source code for alternative versions of FreeBSD, but I am unsure and could not find any associated documentation for this page.
- FreeBSD Sources - download source code for various versions of FreeBSD.
- TaskLog - browse logs of events, particularly actions concerning jails.
- SQLite admin - this page says it will open an interface for managing a SQLite database. Clicking link on the page gives a file not found error.
- Settings - this page simply displays a message saying the settings page has not been implemented yet.
While playing with ClonOS, I wanted to perform a couple of simple tasks. I wanted to use the Wordpress template to set up a blog inside a jail. I wanted a generic, empty jail in which I could play and run commands without harming the rest of the operating system. I also wanted to try installing an operating system other than FreeBSD inside a Bhyve virtual environment. I thought this would give me a pretty good idea of how quick and easy ClonOS would make common tasks.
First, I tried to create a Wordpress jail using the provided template. Clicking the Wordpress template brings up a screen where we are asked to provide some configuration details. Basically, we are given the chance to select passwords for the blogging software's database and administrator login. We are then taken to the jails management page where we can see our new Wordpress instance being created. The set up process just takes a minute and then the jail automatically launches.
ClonOS 12 -- The VNC console for accessing jails
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On the surface, it looks like nothing happens as the jail runs silently in the background. We can click the VNC icon on the jail management screen to open a terminal window inside the Wordpress jail. The first hurdle I ran into was the jail was not connected to the network. I tried to bring the jail's network on-line, but kept running into “permission denied” errors. I later found jails are created in what is essentially read-only mode and deactivating this made it possible to adjust jail settings. At that point I could get on-line, but network options had to be set manually; the DHCP client software failed to acquire an address from the network.
I ran into a similar problem when I set up a generic, empty jail. The jail itself was created successfully, but it was unable to connect automatically to the network. This resulted in some fiddling to try to get the jail on-line. I have run into this issue before and it seems to be a problem with certain specific jail managers. Some jail management tools set up networking that functions automatically, while others leave us to tweak the jail manually to get a working network connection.
One last problem I ran into with jails was I had set both jails to automatically start when ClonOS booted. Despite this setting being selected, neither jail would start when the host operating system came on-line. Each jail had to be started manually.
The final task I had set for myself was to install an operating system on ClonOS using the Bhyve virtual machine manager. To make things easy on myself, I decided to install OpenBSD, which is a relatively small download of 209MB and OpenBSD has a simple system installer. I downloaded the ISO to my workstation and then tried to upload it to ClonOS using the storage management panel. The upload failed and I was shown an error saying the file I was uploading was too large. Since OpenBSD has one of the smaller ISO files available (apart from niche systems like Tiny Core Linux and a few net-install options) this limitation rules out most open source server platforms I might wish to install. This meant I didn't get to test Bhyve as most ISO files I could download would not get by ClonOS's upload size limitation.
ClonOS 12 -- Trying to upload an ISO file
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One set of features I felt was missing from the ClonOS control panel were methods for managing the underlying operating system. I found no button for rebooting the computer, checking for software updates or checking process information. We can turn to the local terminal and its command line for these features if need be. During my trial there were 753 software updates available for ClonOS's FreeBSD base system and these updates totaled 657MB in size. The updates installed cleanly using FreeBSD's pkg command line package manager and the system continued to work the same way once package update had been installed.
ClonOS appears to be in its early stages of development, more of a feature preview or proof-of-concept than a polished product. A few of the settings pages have not been finished yet, the web-based controls for jails are unable to create jails that connect to the network and I was unable to upload even small ISO files to create virtual machines.
The project's website mentions working with Puppet to handle system configuration, but I did not encounter any Puppet options. There also does not appear to be any documentation on using Puppet on the ClonOS platform.
One of the biggest concerns I had was the lack of security on ClonOS. The web-based control panel and terminal both automatically login as the root user. Passwords we create for our accounts are ignored and we cannot logout of the local terminal. This means anyone with physical access to the server automatically gains root access and, in addition, anyone on our local network gets access to the web-based admin panel. As it stands, it would not be safe to install ClonOS on a shared network.
Some of the ideas present are good ones. I like the idea of jail templates and have used them on other systems. The graphical Bhyve tools could be useful too, if the limitations of the ISO manager are sorted out. But right now, ClonOS still has a way to go before it is likely to be safe or practical to use.
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Visitor supplied rating
ClonOS has a visitor supplied average rating of: 7/10 from 1 review(s).
Have you used ClonOS? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Reducing Snap size, Ubuntu Desktop to drop 32-bit media, FreeBSD's Quarterly Status Report
Snaps are software packages which can be installed and run on any Linux distribution which supports the Snap software. The Snap packages are portable and bundle their dependencies, which reduces reliance on the operating system's default libraries. Bundling dependencies can make Snap packages quite large, but this may be changing for packaged GNOME applications. Experimenting at the Ubuntu Rally has reduced Snap packages down to less than 20% of their original size. "At Ubuntu Rally we put Snaps on a snapdiet. GNOME Calculator Snap is down from 17.4MiB to 1.6MiB. gedit is down from 26.3MiB to 3.3MiB." This will make downloading and installing new Snap packages faster and reduce disk space requirements.
With the release of Ubuntu 17.10 coming up in a few weeks it looks as though one significant change will be the removal of 32-bit installation media for Ubuntu's Desktop edition. John Ledkov wrote on the Ubuntu Release mailing list: "Please action the below and remove Ubuntu Desktop i386 daily-live
images from the release manifest for Beta and Final milestones of
17.10 and therefore do not ship ubuntu-desktop-i386.iso artifact for
17.10. As a follow-up to this thread it has been confirmed that argumentation
below is sound, and furthermore there is no longer any effective QA or
testing of the desktop product on actual i386 hardware (explicitly non
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The FreeBSD project has released their latest Quarterly Status Report detailing recent updates and improvements to the venerable operating system. New changes coming to FreeBSD include using the LLVM linker more, slowly replacing the previously used GNU tools. The GNOME and KDE ports on FreeBSD are also getting some important updates: "After the X.Org and GNOME ports teams, the KDE on FreeBSD team has moved its development repository to GitHub. This should make it easier for others to collaborate with us via pull requests, and by basing all our changes on top of the official ports tree we also hope this reduces the amount of conflicts and churn we need to deal with when landing big updates across the tree. We would like to thank iXsystems for hosting and supporting our area51 Subversion repository for many years. FreeBSD has finally joined KDE's CI (Continuous Integration) system as a tier-1 platform. KDE CI builds all the KDE sources - 70 frameworks, the KDE Plasma Desktop and a plethora of KDE Applications - continuously, straight from KDE's git repositories. There is strong commitment from upstream and the downstream KDE-FreeBSD team to reduce the amount of patching in the KDE ports to as little as possible."
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Partitioning disks for ZFS
Exploring-a-new-file-system asks: I have heard of the benefits to using ZFS and I want to put a ZFS partition on my disk. How do I format a partition for ZFS on Linux? There isn't an option for ZFS when I use GParted.
DistroWatch answers: One of the convenient characteristics of ZFS is the file system does not require you to format the partition or device where the file system will reside. When creating a ZFS storage pool, the zpool command will accept the name of any storage device, partition or even file and automatically take care of the low-level details for you, including formatting.
Should you find yourself using a partition manager that insists you format your partition with a file system, feel free to format the disk with any popular file system you like, such as FAT or ext4. When you instruct ZFS to take over the partition, ZFS will adjust the partition to suit its needs.
Once you have initialized the ZFS pool, assigning it the partitions or disks you want to use, you do not need to add ZFS entries to the operating system's fstab like you would with other file systems. ZFS automatically seeks out and mounts ZFS volumes for you when the operating system boots.
Before you get started using ZFS, I recommend reading a quick overview of its features. The FreeBSD Handbook has a great section on ZFS. Though the device names used in the guide are specific to FreeBSD, the ZFS commands shown use the same syntax and keywords across operating systems, so the same instructions will work on Linux and Solaris.
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More answers can be found in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
SparkyLinux is a Debian-based lightweight and fast Linux distribution designed to run on both old and new computers. The project's latest release, SparkyLinux 5.1, is based on Debian's Testing branch, codename Buster and offers a rolling release upgrade path. "Changes between version 5.0 and 5.1: full system upgrade from Debian testing repos as of September 25, 2017; Linux kernel 4.12.13 as default (4.13.3-sparky is available in Sparky 'unstable' repo); gcc 6 removed from the live media, the default compiler is gcc 7; - obmenu-generator updated up to version 0.80 (MinmalGUI edition), what speeded up launching the menu with SVG icons; the default system installer Calamares updated up to version 3.1.4; added new tool for installing a web browser: Sparky Web Browser Installer; new desktop environment added to Sparky repos: Manokwari; live system's memtest86+ issue has been fixed." Further information can be found in the project's release announcement.
Klaus Knopper has announced the release of KNOPPIX 8.1, the latest stable version from he project that pioneered the concept of an easy-to-use Linux live CD with complete hardware support. This release comes with LXDE (default desktop), KDE Plasma 5.8 and GNOME 3.24: "Version 8.1 of KNOPPIX is based on the usual picks from Debian stable (Stretch), testing (Buster) and unstable (Sid) for newer graphics drivers or desktop software packages. It uses Linux kernel 4.12.7 and X.Org 7.7 (Core 1.19.3) for supporting current computer hardware. New in 8.1: BFQ (Budget Fair Queue) scheduler, now included in the standard kernel within the multi-path scheduler, automatically activated for slow disks, kernel and system software (Debian Stretch + Buster) updated; LibreOffice 5.4.1, GIMP 2.8.20; Chromium 60.0.3112.78 and Firefox 55 web browser with Ublock Origin and NoScript security plugin; automatic expansion of overlay partition on USB flash without reboot after 1:1 copy of ISO hybrid image on USB flash...." Continue to the detailed release notes for a full list of changes.
KNOPPIX 8.1 -- Running the LXDE desktop
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Version 3.2 of Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System), a Debian-based live DVD/USB with the goal of providing complete Internet anonymity for the user, has been released. This is mostly a security update, although it also comes with some component upgrades, including Linux kernel 4.12: "Tails 3.2 is out. This release fixes many security issues and users should upgrade as soon as possible. New features: we added support for PPPoE and dial-up Internet connections, please tell us if this still doesn't work for you; we installed BookletImposer to convert linear PDF documents into booklets and vice-versa; we added GNOME Screen Keyboard to replace Florence, the previous virtual keyboard, which had many issues. Upgrades and changes: upgraded Linux to 4.12.12, this should improve the support for newer hardware, especially NVIDIA Maxwell graphics card; upgraded Thunderbird from 45.8 to 52.3. This version requires an 8 GB USB stick to install Tails, any 4 GB USB sticks that are already installed can still be upgraded." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information, screenshots and known issues.
* * * * *
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: 586
- Total data uploaded: 15.8TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Web browsers and non-free DRM
Last week we discussed the W3C declaring non-free DRM would become a web standard to allow compliant browsers to play DRM-protected media content. The new standard will require web browsers to include non-free modules in their code, posing a dilemma for free and open source web browsers.
We would like to find out how our readers feel about their web browsers including non-free code. Would you use a browser with non-free modules, do you require that your browser be entirely open source? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on open source desktops running on mobile devices in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Web browsers and non-free DRM
|I already use a non-free browser: ||448 (26%)|
| I will use non-free browsers: ||207 (12%)|
| I will not use non-free browsers: ||721 (42%)|
| Unsure/Other: ||334 (20%)|
Mobile app for getting distro news
For a while now DistroWatch has had a mobile-friendly website. This allows people with smaller screens to check up on the latest news, events and our Weekly newsletter.
Last week Md. Emran Hossain published an Android app which enables Android users to use a streamlined app to check on the latest distribution releases, new open source package versions and news Headlines. The app is still in its early stages and is intended to give our readers quick access to new developments while they are on the go, it's not designed to be a full replacement for the mobile edition of our website.
The Android app is called LinTree and is currently available through Google Play. If you like the app, please send feedback to its author. Md. Emran Hossain has generously offered to share any proceeds from the app with the DistroWatch team to help us keep this site running.
* * * * * *
New projects added to database
BeeFree OS is a Linux distribution based on Linux Mint. BeeFree OS features the Cinnamon desktop environment, a Unity theme and an application menu which resembles the Windows 7 Start menu. BeeFree OS features the BeeBEEP secure LAN instant messaging software and the ability to install portable, off-line applications from the CenterFree.cf store.
BeeFree OS 18.1.2 -- Running the Cinnamon desktop
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Distributions added to waiting list
- EterTICs GNU/Linux. EterTICs GNU/Linux is a libre distribution for radio stations in Latin America. It is based on Devuan.
- Advanced Persistent Security. Advanced Persistent Security is a Linux distribution designed for secure and anonymous web browsing.
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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, 9 October 2017. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews/submissions, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, donations, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (podcast)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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