| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 819, 17 June 2019
Welcome to this year's 24th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Every once in a while it's nice to step off the well worn path of mainstream distribution releases and look under the open source rocks and stones to find out what is happening in lesser known projects. This week we begin with a look at two projects on the DistroWatch waiting list: OS108, a desktop-oriented NetBSD-based operating system; and Venom Linux which is a CRUX-like minimal distribution. Our Feature Story offers first impressions of these two projects. In our News section we discuss Debian 10's upcoming release, due to arrive in early July. Plus we link to a tutorial and documentation for working with Fedora's Modularity feature and discuss Ubuntu replacing its Chromium package with a snap. Then we discuss how to rename multiple files all at once and the steps required to check a thumb drive's checksum. Our Opinion Poll also focuses on the topic of renaming groups of files as we would like to know what tools you use to rename and organize multiple files. As usual, we share last week's releases and we are pleased to share the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
- Review: OS108 and Venom Linux
- News: Debian 10 scheduled for release, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu packaging Chromium as a snap
- Questions and answers: Renaming multiple files and checking the integrity of a live USB drive
- Released last week: CRUX 3.5, Endless OS 3.6.0, Untangle 14.2
- Torrent corner: Backbox, Bicom, Bluestar, CRUX, Elastix, Endless, GParted, Kwort, OpenMandriva, Untangle, Volumio
- Upcoming releases: FreeBSD 11.3-RC2
- Opinion poll: Renaming groups of files
- New distributions: MathLibre
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Every so often I like to step outside of the distributions I know, the ones I tend to see and use year after year, and try something different. Sometimes trying a new project introduces me to a new way of doing things, as Bedrock Linux did earlier this year. Other times trying a project that is just getting started is a reminder of just how much infrastructure, time and resources go into the big-name projects. At any rate, this week I want to talk about two young projects that grabbed my attention for different reasons.
The first is OS108, which caught my eye because it is a desktop flavour of BSD, which is relatively rare. Specifically, the base operating system is NetBSD. OS108 reportedly wants to be a replacement for Windows and macOS and features the MATE desktop environment. The website did not offer much more information than that. I was able to learn OS108 is available for 64-bit (x86_64) machines only, which I suspect undercuts the usefulness of having a highly portable operating system, such as NetBSD, as the base.
The ISO file I downloaded for OS108 was 1.5GB in size. The file had no version number associated with it, so I assume this is the project's first release. The project's download page says we should install OS108 just as if it were regular NetBSD, then run a script to set up the MATE desktop. Optionally, there is another set of instructions we can follow to set up wireless networking.
Booting from the OS108 media brings up an installer which guides us through a series of text-based menus. We are asked to select our keyboard layout, choose whether to install a fresh copy of the operating system or upgrade, and then select which hard drive will hold OS108. We are also asked to confirm our hard drive's geometry and whether we want to manually partition the disk or let OS108 take over the whole drive. The installer recommends we set aside at least 5GB of space on the drive. Personally, I found more space was required as the default package selection, including the MATE desktop, consumes about 6GB of disk space.
We are next asked if we want a full install, a mostly full install without the X.Org display software, a minimal install, or a custom selection of packages. I went with the full option since it was the default. We can then select where the source packages are located (on the DVD, in this case) and the packages are quickly copied over to the hard drive. A minute later I was asked to perform more configuration steps. These included enabling networking, setting a root password, and turning on optional network services from a list of daemons. We can also create a regular user account and optionally download the pkgsrc ports framework. I skipped installing pkgsrc.
Once the installer finishes we can reboot the machine and I found the system loaded up a minimal graphical login screen which identified the operating system as being NetBSD. Signing into a terminal brought up another message which identified the system as being NetBSD 8.0-STABLE. Hoping things would change once the MATE desktop had been installed, I manually mounted the install disc and ran the recommended script to install MATE. The script installs MATE, the Nano text editor, LibreOffice, Transmission, the Midori web browser and the VLC media player. It also enables the background services required to run MATE. We can then reboot to truly start experiencing OS108.
OS108 -- The OS108 login screen
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
The newly set up system booted to a pretty graphical login screen that displays the OS108 logo. Logging in brings up the MATE desktop with two panels, one at the top for the Applications, Places and System menus. The second panel sits at the bottom of the display and holds the task switcher.
The MATE desktop was responsive, though it did not integrate with VirtualBox when run in a virtual machine. I was not able to resize the desktop either to make better use of my host system's screen resolution.
OS108 -- The MATE desktop and settings
(full image size: 176kB, resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
Looking through the small number of desktop applications I found some, like VLC, worked as expected, though they tended to be a few versions behind upstream. Other applications, such as the Midori web browser and the LibreOffice suite, failed to start due to missing library dependencies.
We can use the NetBSD command line package manager, pkgin, to install more software. For example, running "sudo pkgin install firefox52" installs the Firefox browser, which worked for me. Unfortunately, after playing with OS108 for a while I rebooted the computer and found the MATE desktop and its services had disappeared. My system reverted to running the minimal login screen and signing into my account brought up the minimal TWM window manager instead of MATE. The MATE desktop had disappeared as a session option.
OS108 -- Running the Firefox browser
(full image size: 342kB, resolution: 1024x768 pixels)
In general, my experiment with OS108 did not go well. The project has a lengthy setup process which requires a lot of manual work and knowledge of how to properly setup NetBSD. We also need to be able to handle mounting discs and running scripts from the command line. In the end, I found myself with a handful of desktop applications which did not work and some which did, but were out of date. And my desktop environment vanished after rebooting the system, making OS108 entirely impractical. At this point, until some important issues are worked out, or steps are automated, most fans of NetBSD will probably have an easier time setting up the parent operating system and customizing it as need be.
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Venom Linux 20190412
As I was not having much luck with OS108, I turned my sights to another open source operating system, this one in the Linux From Scratch family. This project is called Venom Linux and it has some interesting design choices along with its own, custom package manager:
Venom Linux is a source- and LFS-based distribution with multilib support targeting experienced users. This distro is inspired by CRUX. Its uses the KISS philosophy. Which uses simple tar compressed packages, ports system for packages, BSD-style initscripts and a few collection of small packages which are trimmed down by removed unused stuff like locale, doc, gtk-doc, info pages (man pages are kept). Venom Linux uses a custom package manager which is fully written in bash for installing, upgrading, removing, etc.
Venom is available in multiple editions, including a minimal Base edition, one with just X.Org support, one with the MATE desktop and two more desktop editions featuring the LXDE and Xfce desktops. The available ISO files range in size from about 490MB up to 1.4GB. The MATE edition I downloaded was 1.3GB. I found no documentation and no information indicating which hardware architectures are supported, though it seems Venom runs on 64-bit (x86_64) machines exclusively.
The Venom live media boots to a graphical login screen where we can sign into the MATE desktop using the username and password "venom". Like OS108, Venom Linux sets up MATE with a two-panel layout. Unlike OS108, Venom was able to integrate with VirtualBox and resize the desktop to suite my system's screen resolution.
Venom Linux 20190412 -- The MATE desktop and application menu
(full image size: 152kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
After exploring for a while, I failed to find a launcher for a system installer. The project's website indicates install instructions will be provided in the future, but none were available at the time of writing.
This left me to explore the live environment which was able to connect to the Internet and run many popular open source applications. The application menu offers launchers for Firefox, Transmission, HexChat, Eye of MATE and the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The Atril document viewer, VLC media player and LibreOffice are also featured. Venom uses SysV init as the default init software and runs on version 4.19 of the Linux kernel.
The live desktop only required about 260MB of RAM and I'm not sure how much disk space would be required were it to be installed on the local hard drive.
One of Venom's features is a unique package manager, called Scratch. The Scratch script accepts parameters such as "install", "remove", and "upgrade". As far as I can tell, the script cannot perform batch upgrades and must be given one package at a time to upgrade. This was a problem as I could not find a way to update the package manager's repository information and I could not find a way to list which packages were installed and which ones might be available in the repositories.
I was able to use Scratch to remove existing packages, like Firefox. However, when I tried to re-install the web browser, Scratch flooded my terminal with error messages and reported it was unable to unpack the Firefox archive. I had run Scratch using the sudo command (to gain admin access) so I suspect the access errors were due to running Scratch on live media instead of a hard drive.
My trial with Venom was short since I was unable to find a way to install the distribution. I was able to conclude the live session itself works well and Venom includes up to date software. However, without documentation, an installer or full featured package manager, it is safe to say Venom Linux has a ways to go before it will be practical on a daily basis.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Debian 10 scheduled for release, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu packaging Chromium as a snap
The Debian project does not have a firm release schedule, with the developers choosing to publish new versions when they are ready, rather than on a specific time-line. With that said, Debian 10 "Buster" is almost ready and the Debian team plans to publish the upcoming release on July 6, 2019. Niels Thykier sent out a reminder to the team to upload any last minute bug fixes and to hold off any major changes until after Debian 10 is published.
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The Fedora distribution features a concept called Modularity which enables Fedora users to install different versions of a package from the distribution's repositories. The Modularity feature has been available as an add-on option for a few releases, but is now built into the distribution's editions. Fedora Magazine has an introduction to Modularity and explains how to install alternative versions of packages. "Because having too many packages in multiple versions could feel overwhelming (and hard to manage), packages are grouped into modules that represent an application, a language runtime, or any other sensible group. Modules often come in multiple streams - usually representing a major version of the software. Available in parallel, but only one stream of each module can be installed on a given system. And not to overwhelm users with too many choices, each Fedora release comes with a set of defaults - so decisions only need to be made when desired." Further information is available in the Modularity feature's documentation.
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The Ubuntu team is looking at replacing their current Chromium deb package with a snap package. Testing a snap package of the Chromium browser is underway with plans to eventually remove the Chromium deb package from Ubuntu's repositories. "The Chromium browser has been available as a deb package for all supported Ubuntu releases and as a snap since version 60, and the time has come to start transitioning away from the debs. In a first step, the transition will be happening exclusively for Ubuntu 19.10 (Eoan Ermine) users, and once I’m confident it is rock-solid it will be rolled out to stable releases, starting with Disco and then the LTSes. How does that work? The deb packages have been updated in Eoan to install the stable snap on upgrade or new install (credit for the original implementation goes to the LXC team). Special care has been taken to not break existing workflows and to make the transition seamless." The change is expected to affect previous releases, including 18.04 LTS, as well as the upcoming 19.10 version of Ubuntu.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Renaming multiple files and checking the integrity of a live USB drive
Renaming-lots-of-files asks: I am trying to add a prefix to a bunch of image files. Is there a tool for doing this?
DistroWatch answers: Yes, there is. In fact, I am happy to report there are several tools for renaming large groups of files. The Krename desktop application is probably the easiest way to go. It has a wizard that walks you through some questions about which files to operate on and how to change their names. It even offers an undo function in case you mangle the new filenames.
You may also be able to use the command line rename program as follows:
rename 's/^/prefix-/' *.jpg
The rename command uses regular expressions to adjust the names of files, or parts of the names. The above instruction tells rename to substitute (s) the beginning of each name (^) with the word "prefix-". This will be done to all JPEG files (*.jpg). In other words, a file called 1.jpg would be renamed to prefix-1.jpg. The HowtoForge website has some simple examples showing how to get started with the rename command.
Another alternative is to use built-in shell features. Each command line shell offers the ability to rename groups of files too, though the syntax is a little tricky. In Bash, the following example would use a for loop to rename all of the JPEG files in a directory, adding the word "prefix-" to the start of each filename. It builds a new filename ($newname) out of the original filename ($myfile) and then uses the move (mv) command to perform the name change.
for myfile in *.jpeg ; do $newname="prefix-$myfile"; mv "$myfile" "$newname"; done
For most people, I suggest starting with Krename, or a similar utility like Xfce's Bulk Rename program as they offer relatively easy point-n-click interfaces.
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Double-checking-media asks: I downloaded a live distro image and confirmed the file's checksum is correct. Then I wrote it to my thumb drive so I can boot from it. When I went to verify the thumb drive has the right checksum it gave me a different answer than the file I downloaded. Is the thumb drive corrupted or am I missing something?
DistroWatch answers: What is probably happening is the image you are writing to the USB drive is smaller than the drive itself (or it should be). Let's say your distribution's image file is about 1GB and the thumb drive you wrote it to has a 4GB capacity. In this case, when you tried to get a checksum for the thumb drive it would have produced a checksum for the whole 4GB of space, not just the 1GB image you wrote to the drive. The drive may appear to be empty beyond the 1GB mark, but there is still data there, even if the data is just zeros or unallocated space.
So what can you do about this? Usually there are two things you can do next. The first is to check to see if your distribution included a self-check in their image's boot menu. Some distributions offer the option to "verify the media" or "verify disc". It basically just runs a checksum against itself to make sure it was not corrupted when the image was written to its new media.
However, if the distribution does not include a verify option, then you can copy the data you wrote to the drive back to a new file and run the checksum against it. To do this, it helps to have the original image file so we know how big it was.
In the following example, I'm going to assume we have an original image file called fedora-31.img. This is the file we downloaded and confirmed it passed its SHA256 checksum. The first thing I want to do is discover the file's size and the ls command can do this:
ls -l fedora-31.img
The ls command reports back the image is 1,134,559,232 bytes in size:
-rw-r--r-- 1 jesse jesse 1134559232 Mar 6 05:29 fedora-31.img
Then we can copy that same number of bytes from the thumb drive into a new file. This makes a copy of the image that is currently on your thumb drive. In the following example, I am going to use the dd command to copy the existing image from the thumb drive, located at /dev/sdc, to a file. This will clone the drive's data and give us something to compare. In your case, the thumb drive might have another name. If you are not sure what device name your thumb drive uses, run the lsscsi command to find out the names of the storage devices attached to your computer
Here we copy the 1.1GB of data from the thumb drive to a new file we can use to verify the checksum:
dd if=/dev/sdc of=new-image-file ibs=1 count=1134559232 status=progress
Unfortunately, copying data from the device one byte at a time is quite slow. Luckily, I noticed that in this case the original fedora-31.img file is an exact multiple of megabytes (1048576 bytes). The file is exactly 1,082MB (1,082 x 1048576). This means we can speed up the reading of the thumb drive by reading in a megabyte at a time without going over the original size of the file. Here I do the same copy and checksum again, but reading a megabyte at a time instead of just one byte at a time. We do this for all 1,082 megabytes of the original file size.
dd if=/dev/sdc of=new-image-file ibs=1048576 count=1082 status=progress
Assuming the data on our USB drive is correct, the checksum information from the above command will match the checksum of the original fedora-31.img file. Copying and checking the data from your thumb drive will likely take a while, but this is one way to confirm your media can be written to, and read from, without data corruption.
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Additional answers can be found in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
BackBox Linux 6
BackBox Linux is an Ubuntu-based distribution developed to perform penetration tests and security assessments. It is designed to be fast and easy to use and features the Xfce desktop environment. The project's latest release is BackBox Linux 6 which features an updated kernel, UEFI support, and offers several years of support through Ubuntu's long-term support (LTS) repositories. "The BackBox team is happy to announce the new major release of BackBox Linux, version 6. As usual, this major release includes many updates. These include new kernel, updated tools and some structural changes with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. What's new: updated Linux kernel 4.18; updated desktop environment; updated hacking tools; updated hybrid ISO images with UEFI support. System requirements: 32-bit or 64-bit processor; 1,024MB of system memory (RAM); 10GB of disk space for installation; graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution; DVD-ROM drive or USB port (3GB). The ISO images for both 32-bit and 64-bit processors can be downloaded from the official web site download section." Further information can be found in the distribution's release announcement.
Untangle NG Firewall 14.2
Untangle Inc. has announced the release of Untangle NG Firewall 14.2, the latest update of the company's Debian-based firewall and network gateway with pluggable modules for network applications. It is designed primarily for small to medium-sized businesses. From the release announcement: "Untangle NG Firewall 14.2 includes significant enhancements to web security and content filtering, the ability to synchronize users with Azure Active Directory, and enhancements to intrusion detection and prevention. Web security and content filtering enhancements include: flagging, blocking and alerting based on search terms for Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Bing and Ask; enforcement of safe search for YouTube - YouTube searches can be logged and usage can be locked down to show only content that meets the 'safe search' criteria; enhanced malware detection with an even greater percentage of the internet categorized to block more attacks originating from web browsing. These capabilities provide network administrators in content-sensitive environments such as schools, libraries or social services to meet compliance requirements while safeguarding users."
Endless OS 3.6.0
Will Thompson has announced the release of Endless OS 3.6.0, an updated build of the project's Debian-based distribution featuring a streamlined and simplified desktop environment forked from GNOME. This release upgrades the underlying operating system to the upcoming Debian 10 "Buster", with a 5.0 Linux kernel and GNOME 3.32 desktop: "Endless OS 3.6.0 was released for existing users on June 10th, 2019. Endless OS is based on the GNOME desktop environment, the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and the Linux kernel. In this release, we have updated the base OS packages to the latest versions from Debian 'Buster' (the forthcoming stable release), most desktop components to the versions from GNOME 3.32, and Linux kernel 5.0. This brings new features, performance improvements, hardware support and bug fixes. Endless OS 3.6 includes Podman 9, a command-line tool which is broadly compatible with the Docker 2 command-line interface." Continue to the release announcement for further details. Endless OS 3.6.0 is available in "Basic" and "Full" editions; the Basic variant is multilingual but contains the base system only (new applications can be added after instalation), while the "Full" editions are built for specific languages and come with hundreds of pre-installed applications.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- The Endless OS desktop and launch screen
(full image size: 2.3MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Matt Housh has announced the release of CRUX 3.5, a new stable version of the project's lightweight, x86-64 optimised Linux distribution featuring a simple tar.gz-based package system, BSD-style init scripts, and a small collection of trimmed packages: "The CRUX team is happy to announce the release of CRUX 3.5. Notable changes include glibc 2.28, GCC 8.3.0 and Binutils 2.32. CRUX 3.5 now also ships with PAM - we've made it as transparent as possible and it will be a good stepping stone for users wanting 2-factor authentication and other fun stuff. Breaking changes include the move of dbus configuration from /usr/etc to /etc, so backup your configurations before updating. Another potential headache may be various projects' move from autotools to newer build systems - glib may cause some problems here and dependent ports will need to be rebuilt. The ISO image is processed with isohybrid and is suitable for burning on a CD and putting on a USB drive. UEFI support is available during installation with dosfstools, efibootmgr and grub2-efi added to the ISO image." See the release announcement, release notes and changelog for more information.
Kwort Linux 4.3.4
David Cortarello has announced the release of Kwort Linux 4.3.4, the latest stable version of the project's CRUX-based distribution featuring the Openbox window manager and custom package manager called kpkg: "Yes, it's that time again, Kwort 4.3.4 is out. We included PulseAudio which is now very stable and it has been working very well, including with bluez5 (which has also been included in this release for the first time). So let's jump now to the technical highlights of this release: Linux kernel 4.19.46 (sorry folks, there's no long-term relase of 5.x branch yet); new toolchain including glibc 2.28, GCC 8.3.0 and Binutils 2.32; kpkg 130; latest browsers including Google Chrome 75.0.3770.90 and Mozilla Firefox 67.0.2, Brave 0.68.50 is available from the mirror; Kwort-choosers package has been replaced with kwort-tools including the old browser and custom xdg-open and the new kwort-mixer to support both sound backends (ALSA and PulseAudio); new UI shortcuts are now fully documented; we found a good graphical music player called Museeks which is now included in the system." Visit the distribution's home page for further information. The Kwort distribution, designed for more advanced Linux users, does not come with an automated installation program or script, so users need to follow these instructions to install the system manually.
OpenMandriva Lx 4.0
OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 has been released. OpenMandriva Lx is a cutting-edge, desktop-oriented Linux distribution with KDE Plasma as the default desktop environment. This version introduces the Linux kernel 5.1.9, Plasma 15.5.5, LibreOffice 6.2.4, the latest version of the Calamares installer and many under-the-hood improvements: "OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 final release is out now. OpenMandriva Lx is a cutting-edge distribution compiled with LLVM/clang, combined with the high level of optimisation used for both code and linking (by enabling LTO, and profile guided optimizations for some key packages where reliable profile data is easy to generate) used in its building. OMLx 4.0 brings a number of major changes since 3.x release: KDE Plasma has been updated to 5.15.5 (with Frameworks 5.58 and Applications 19.04.2, Qt 5.12.3); LibreOffice is now working with complete Plasma integration...." Read the release announcement and the release notes for detailed information and screenshots.
OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 -- Running the KDE Plasma desktop
(full image size: 1.4MB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
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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: 1,453
- Total data uploaded: 26.0TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
Renaming groups of files
In this week's Questions and Answers column we covered ways in which a person can rename groups of files. There are a number of command line and graphical tools which make renaming batches of files easier and we would like to know which one you use. Do you prefer changing filenames from the command line or with a desktop utility? Let us know your preference in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on boot times in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Tool for renaming multiple files
|bash command/script (command line): ||216 (19%)|
| Bulk Rename (Xfce tool): ||128 (11%)|
| Krename (KDE tool): ||98 (9%)|
| pyrenamer (GUI): ||45 (4%)|
| rename (command line): ||87 (8%)|
| Other: ||86 (7%)|
| I do not use a bulk rename tool: ||492 (43%)|
|Website News (by Jesse Smith)
Distributions added to waiting list
- MathLibre. MathLibre is the direct descendant of KNOPPIX/Math project and strives to archive free mathematical software and free mathematical documents and offer them on Live Linux system. MathLibre is now based directly on Debian.
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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, 24 June 2019. 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)