| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 489, 7 January 2013
Welcome to this year's first issue of DistroWatch Weekly! PC-BSD has become the premier development platform for users who enjoy the concept of running FreeBSD on a desktop OS. The project's latest version, 9.1, adds a large number of interesting improvements and features, such as Warden jails and new software management options, that make it a worthy contender among the many desktop-focused operating systems. But should you consider switching from Linux to another, less-notable desktop OS? Read the review below to find out what we think. In the news section, an Arch Linux developer takes a look at some of the popular Arch spin-offs to find an ideal alternative for less technically inclined Linux users, a Fedora proponent gives a clear an unbiased view of the rolling-release development model, Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth announces the Ubuntu mobile phone, and Mandriva finally sets up a non-profit organisation that unites the developers and contributors of the once highly popular desktop Linux distro. Also in this issue, the regular look at the movers and shakers of the free OS world through our page hit ranking statistics and a Question & Answers section on removing pre-installed applications from Ubuntu. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the recipient of the December 2012 DistroWatch.com donation is Remastersys, a project developing a useful tool that can turn any Debian or Ubuntu installation into a live CD or DVD image. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (64MB) and MP3 (68MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Making computing easier: PC-BSD 9.1
I would like to begin the new year by talking about a project which I had the chance to play with in the final weeks of 2012. This project is PC-BSD, an effort sponsored by iXsystems which places a polished desktop layer on top of the FreeBSD operating system. Though at first glance it might appear as though PC-BSD 9.1 is a simple point release over last year's 9.0 release, the project's blog paints a very different picture. Some of the key features to PC-BSD's 9.1 release include the introduction of TrueOS, a server edition of PC-BSD. Basically, TrueOS is FreeBSD with a nice graphical installer, PBI tools and various modern conveniences which we will get to later. The new release of PC-BSD includes support for ZFS pools that include swap space, this allows users to create installs that are exclusively ZFS based and we will also touch on the benefits of this later.
PC-BSD 9.1 expands on its Warden feature. The Warden is a graphical (and command line) solution for managing FreeBSD jails. This release of PC-BSD adds a feature which will let the Warden create a variety of useful jails, including Linux jails. Also in this version we find the EasyPBI utility, a graphical program which makes it easy to create PBI modules from the FreeBSD ports tree. This lowers the bar for contributing new software to PC-BSD's PBI collection. This version introduces boot environment administration (beadm), a feature which allows administrators to create snapshots of their operating system prior to applying upgrades and allows the admin to then roll back to previous OS versions if something breaks. We also see improved wireless support in this release and updates to various features and to the documentation.
Installation and first impressions
The current version of PC-BSD comes in a number of different builds. There is a large installation DVD (3.5 GB), a large USB install option (3.4 GB), a live USB image (1 GB to download, 4 GB once expanded), a light USB image (1 GB) and there are VirtualBox and VMware images. Each download option is offered in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. The live CD option from previous releases has been removed in favour of the larger live USB option. I decided to download the 32-bit build of the DVD edition.
PC-BSD 9.1 - adjusting system settings and reading the documentation
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Booting from the DVD brings up a graphical environment and automatically launches the PC-BSD graphical installer. The first thing the installer asks for is our preferred language. We can then choose what sort of installation we would like to perform and there are quite a few options. The default choice in my case was to install PC-BSD with KDE. Other options included the PC-BSD base with our choice of GNOME, Xfce or LXDE. There is another option called TrueOS which is essentially FreeBSD with the addition of some nice command line tools developed by the PC-BSD team. There is also an option to install plain FreeBSD, useful for people who want to try FreeBSD, but who wish the convenience of a graphical installer.
What I like about this selection screen is each bundle comes with a description explaining why we might want to go with that option. For instance, we're told KDE is full featured and will require more RAM. The LXDE environment is recommended for lower end machines such as netbooks. Opting to take one default bundle over another is not an exclusive choice. There is a "Customize" button on the page which allows us to declare which packages and graphical environments we want. We can use this easy to navigate tree of software to add or remove specific parts of an environment, for example I can remove the Games section of KDE. We can also add additional drivers, development tools and (officially) unsupported graphical environments such as IceWM, Openbox and Enlightenment.
The next screen of the installer covers disk partitioning. By default I found the installer would try to take over available free space on the drive and it suggested reasonable partition layouts. On lower end machines the installer will recommend we use UFS for our file system and, on machines with more RAM, the installer recommends ZFS. Should we wish to customize our partition layout we can take one of three options: beginner, intermediate or advanced. The beginner option is very simple, the installer just asks which disk partition we want to use and whether our data should be encrypted. The middle option lets us set more options including whether to use UFS or ZFS, disk encryption and RAID options. The advanced partitioning option will let us dig around the system using FreeBSD's command line partitioning utilities. I decided to go with the defaults and set up a plain ZFS-based system without encryption.
At this point we are pretty much done for a while and we can sit back, watching the progress bars as the installer copies its files to the hard drive. Something I'd like to add here is that each screen of the installer has four buttons along the bottom. One of these brings up a window which shows which hardware devices PC-BSD is able to recognize and which devices it cannot match with drivers. This allows us to check our hardware compatibility before we commit to an install. Another button brings up an on-screen keyboard and the third brings up an option to change our default keyboard map. The forth button will provide documentation for the current screen of the installer. The documentation provides helpful hints as to how to get through each step. I suspect most people won't need the documentation as many people can get through the installer by just clicking the "Next" button a few times. The "Customize" button for advanced options is on each screen, but we can ignore it and just sail through with the defaults if we like.
Once the installer finishes copying files to the hard drive we reboot the machine and are brought to another graphical screen where we are asked some configuration questions. First we are asked to test and confirm our display settings, then a quick full screen video plays letting us know whether the video and sound settings work. We're asked to confirm the system is using the correct language and then we can confirm our time zone. The last two steps in the process are setting a root password and creating a regular user account. From there we are brought to a graphical login screen.
The first time we login to PC-BSD a welcome wizard pops up and shows us how to get on-line (if we are not already) and how to find the package manager and Control Panel. The welcome wizard also provides tips for setting up backup jobs, acquiring software updates and where we can get further help. Specifically, the welcome screen mentions the PC-BSD website, Wiki and community forum as places where we can get assistance. Once we dismiss the welcome screen we find ourselves presented with a traditional desktop layout with an application menu in the lower-left corner of the screen and icons on the desktop. These icons can be used to launch PC-BSD's package manager (called AppCafe), open the Control Panel or open a PDF version of the project's Handbook. I feel the Handbook deserves special mention. It contains over 300 pages of detailed information on how to use PC-BSD and it features numerous screen shots, step-by-step instructions and, perhaps most importantly, a table of contents. I found it a very useful resource.
During my trial with PC-BSD I tended to swap between two desktop environments, namely KDE and LXDE. I hoped this would give me a general feel for what the two environments had in common and what would be presented differently. While both desktops have their unique styles, I found the overall presentation is pretty much the same. Both environments present us with convenient desktop icons, both place the application menu and task switcher at the bottom of the screen and both have similar themes and wallpaper. The KDE environment is heavier and a bit slower, at least with the default settings. I found once desktop file indexing was turned off, KDE responded smoothly. The LXDE desktop is quite light and very responsive. Since each desktop environment comes with its own bundle of applications and since the user can customize their software selection during the install process, there doesn't seem to be any reason to talk about the many possible combinations of default software. Instead I would like to cover the utilities which exist commonly across environments. What is it that comes with PC-BSD, regardless of our graphical environment?
PC-BSD 9.1 - applying software updates and the default desktop
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The first piece of software I'd like to look at is Life Preserver, the PC-BSD backup utility. This program sits idle in the system tray. Clicking on its icon brings up a graphical wizard which walks us through providing a hostname, username and password for another computer. I suppose it could be a machine anywhere on the Internet, but I chose to use a machine on my local area network. We can specify any remote machine so long as it runs an OpenSSH server and we have an account on that machine. Once we have filled in all the fields Life Preserver synchronizes our home directory with a folder on the remote machine. Should we wish to we can specify how often our local files are copied to the remote computer and we can tell Life Preserver how many of these snapshots to keep on the remote machine.
What I really like about Life Preserver's approach is it will perform its backups on a set schedule and automatically clean out older backups once it has hit its maximum number of snapshots. All of these snapshots are stored on the remote machine in a folder called "life-preserver", separating our backup data from the rest of our account on the remote machine. It's really quite straight forward and we can click on the Life Preserver icon at any time to discover when the last backup ran and whether it completed successfully. The only concern I had with using this tool arose when it came time to restore files. If we use the Life Preserver GUI we need to be able to provide the exact path name of the file to be restored. Alternatively we can login to the remote machine using any OpenSSH client, such as Filezilla, to browse for and restore our file if we do not know the file's full path name.
Package management is handled by a program called AppCafe. This application provides users with a web-like interface for browsing through applications. We can locate software either by browsing through categories of packages or by searching for software by name. Clicking on a package brings up a screen with the software's name, license, size and a brief description. We can queue a package for installation by pressing a button. Once we have selected a package to install AppCafe begins downloading the software in the background while we continue to use the package manager. AppCafe organizes software a little differently than most Linux package managers.
Where on Linux we typically use filters to see what software is installed, what is available and what can be upgraded, AppCafe is effectively split into two parts or tabs. The first tab lets us find and install software. The second tab displays software which has already been installed and, next to each package, is a status indicator letting us know if the package can be upgraded. I found this separation of packages in the repositories vs. software on the local machine to be fairly intuitive. One feature I especially like is once a package has been installed we can opt to set that package to automatically update in the future. For instance, if we always want to have the latest version of Firefox, but we want to manually update all other packages, it is possible to set Firefox to update on its own whenever a newer version enters the repository.
Speaking of updates, whenever the system detects newer versions of software in the repositories, an icon in our system tray lets us know updates are waiting. Clicking on the notification icon opens the AppCafe and displays the packages currently installed, with notices next to the packages we can upgrade. Here we can choose to update any (or all) available packages. One feature I was happy to see included in this release of PC-BSD is delta updates. The PBI packages PC-BSD uses tend to be larger than their Linux counterparts and having delta updates greatly reduces the amount of bandwidth required to install new versions. For instance, installing Firefox the first time required a download of approximately 100MB, however the following update for Firefox took a mere 2 MB.
PC-BSD 9.1 - package management and backups
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Software management and system configuration
Software management on PC-BSD is a bit different than on most other operating systems so I'd like to talk a bit about what goes on behind the scenes. There are, in effect, three categories of software PC-BSD users can access. The first group is system software, those are packages which are part of the base FreeBSD operating system or which PC-BSD comes with out of the box. This collection of software is generally handled for us behind the scenes and requires little to no effort on our part. The second group is made up of PBI packages which are handled by AppCafe. We just talked about how to access these. A PBI package is special in that it carries its dependencies with it. This allows us to run multiple versions of software and install third-party software without concern for missing dependencies or running into conflicts where package A needs one version of a library, but package B needs another version. These built in dependencies make PBI packages bigger, but it also means they are fairly atomic. The third collection of software available to us is the FreeBSD Ports Collection. This optional group of software can be added to PC-BSD using the FreeBSD package handling tools and may be convenient for users seeking greater flexibility or special configurations.
The Control Panel deserves a quick mention. Regardless of which desktop environment we install, the PC-BSD control centre is always available to us. This control centre looks quite a bit like KDE's System Settings panel and, in some ways, there is a functionality overlap. The PC-BSD Control Panel gives us the ability to configure most aspects of the operating system. From this panel we can launch the AppCafe, manage the firewall, adjust the display settings, create new PBI packages, launch the Warden (more on the Warden in a moment), change Adobe Flash settings and get information on the system's hardware. In addition we can gain access to the Life Preserver backup tool, set up printers and scanners, and set default applications. I like this unified approach which works across desktops as it makes getting help on forums and through the documentation more straight forward.
One more feature I want to touch on as I feel it brings a lot of convenience to PC-BSD users is the Warden. On FreeBSD (and derived systems) system administrators can make use of jails, a sort of virtual environment roped off from the rest of the operating system. While jails have always been powerful, they have also been a bit cumbersome to use. The Warden is a management system for jails and it makes creating and manipulating jails a simple experience. The Warden has two interfaces, the command line for server systems and a graphical interface which can be accessed through the PC-BSD Control Panel. There are three types of jails the Warden can manage, traditional jails for system and network services, ports jails which allows us to install third-party software safely while still giving those installed packages access to the desktop environment and, finally, Linux jails.
Using the Warden we can create a jail which will bootstrap either a Gentoo or a Debian environment, handy if we want to run software that has been ported to Linux, but not to BSD. I tried setting up a Debian jail and found the required packages downloaded and installed in about ten minutes, making the jail set up faster than if I had downloaded and installed Debian GNU/Linux myself. Aside from the security and convenience of being able to run these isolated systems, the Warden will allow administrators running ZFS to make regular snapshots of jails. Let's say we installed Debian and added a LAMP service. We could take a snapshot of this jail as soon as the set up was completed and create regular snapshots in the future. This would let us roll back to a previous point in time that was known to be good in the event of the jail becoming corrupted or infected. All of this is handled by a very simple graphical interface where creating or destroying a jail happens with a few mouse clicks.
PC-BSD 9.1 - jail management using the Warden
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I tried out PC-BSD on two physical machines, my desktop and a laptop, as well as in a VirtualBox virtual machine. Things went pretty well on the laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 4 GB of RAM, Intel video card, Intel wireless card). My display was set up properly and audio worked out of the box. I did have a few moments of trial and error getting my wireless card working, but it eventually all came together. I had slightly less luck with my desktop box (dual-core 2.8 GHz CPU, 6 GB of RAM, Radeon video card and Realtek network card). Again, sound worked and I had no trouble getting on-line, but PC-BSD had trouble working with my Radeon card. I found the only way I could get the operating system to boot was to force the system to use the fallback VESA graphics driver. This worked fairly well, but it meant I could not make use of my screen's maximum resolution and video performance was a bit lacking.
When running in the virtual environment PC-BSD worked quite well. I did find that, again, video resolution wasn't optimal, but otherwise I encountered no problems. Memory wise I found PC-BSD to be a touch heavier than its Linux counterparts. When I was running KDE the system's active memory usage was approximately 330MB and when running the lighter LXDE interface the operating system used about 200MB of memory. The boot times I experienced with PC-BSD were noticeably slower than with most Linux distributions, but the performance once the system completed booting was very good. The desktop environments were always responsive and tasks completed quickly even when I was juggling several items at once.
After a couple of weeks of running PC-BSD I have to say I am impressed. In part because of the number of new features the developers have managed to stuff into this point release, but mostly because these features are so polished. People in the BSD community tend to emphasize the point that FreeBSD is a complete operating system, developed in unity, whereas Linux distributions are better described as a collection of separate parts assembled by the distributor. I believe we are seeing the benefit of centralized development in PC-BSD. Most of the tools, the package manager, the Warden, the ZFS support, the backup solutions, etc, all of these are put together by a unified team for a single platform. This gives the developers a chance at making a smooth, integrated experience. It's nice to be able to read the documentation and know that the instructions for adjusting a setting are the same for a person running KDE as they are for a person running LXDE. Having recently spent time reviewing Linux Mint, where there are multiple spins based on multiple bases it is nice to know that if I ask for help on the PC-BSD forum I don't first have to specify which platform and spin I'm using, with PC-BSD the base is always FreeBSD and the controls are all the same across spins.
Another important aspect of PC-BSD which stood out was the way it makes many administrative tasks simple and streamlined. Backups are a prime example. To set up a regularly scheduled backup of my account took all of about ten seconds, accomplished simply by providing the hostname and login credentials of another computer to which I had access. From there PC-BSD will continue to perform regular backups and rotate out stale backups from the remote machine. Package management is likewise straight forward, allowing users to find and install software with just a few clicks and software queued for installation gets processed in the background, out of the way. Having ZFS as an integrated file system option is a nice addition. In the past PC-BSD could use ZFS, but it wasn't as smooth an experience as setting up UFS partitions. Now creating ZFS pools is almost entirely automated and users will be able to quickly set up regular snapshots of the entire file system quite easily. Having ZFS as a front-and-centre option also means users will be able to quickly add new storage space to their operating systems simply by plugging in a new hard drive and adding the device to their existing ZFS pool. There are nice little touches with boot environment administration too. For example, if we create a boot snapshot, perform an upgrade and then, a week later, decide we want to roll back to a previous snapshot, beadm will let us to that. The beadm tool also knows not to roll back our data files or settings to last week's state, the rollback only affects the operating system itself.
Lastly, I want to touch on the Warden. Being able to set up FreeBSD jails with just a few clicks and make regular snapshots of them via an elegant GUI is a really great feature. It makes managing and migrating FreeBSD jails straight forward. I particularly love that I could get a Debian jail up and running in about the same amount of time as it would take to download the Debian net-install ISO. This is a welcome feature and I suspect it will be especially useful for cross-platform development.
Nothing is perfect and PC-BSD does have an Achilles' heel, specifically hardware compatibility. As much as I enjoyed the polish and the features and the wonderful ease of use, I suspect hardware support will be the make or break issue for most people. On my desktop machine I could get PC-BSD working, but only with reduced resolution and video performance. On my laptop things basically worked well, but it took a little tinkering to get my wireless card up and running. When running the operating system in a virtual machine I installed the VirtualBox guest additions, but couldn't get PC-BSD to display its desktop at full resolution. Luckily hardware support with PC-BSD is not a trial and error process, the hardware compatibility tool takes the surprises out of testing the distribution, even when running from the plain installation media.
I definitely recommend trying PC-BSD. This new release has really taken a step forward in usability and features compared to where the project was even a year ago. I would say 9.1 brings to the table a level of ease of use and trouble-free administration only found in a few of the top ranking Linux distributions. It is well worth the time to test drive this latest release.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Arch developer evaluates spin-offs, Fedora coder ponders rolling-release model, Ubuntu unveils mobile platform, Mandriva sets up non-profit organisation
The concept of the rolling-release development model, as epitomised by the ever so successful Arch Linux, has mesmerised many users in the Linux community. But what if you enjoy Arch Linux more than its idea to keep your software up-to-date? You have plenty of choices, thanks to the many Arch Linux derivatives. Alan McRae summarises some of them in the "Battle of the Arch Spin-Offs": "According to DistroWatch, there are eleven 'distributions' 'based' on Arch Linux. I use 'distributions' in quotes, because some are far less of a distribution than others and 'based' gets quotes because some are so based that they are really Arch Linux in a poor disguise... I have seen a bunch of new release announcements for several of these distributions in the last few days, so I thought I would take some for a spin and see what I am missing out on. All distributions were tested in VirtualBox with a 128 GB disk and 2 GB RAM." The article compares Chakra GNU/Linux 2012.12, Cinnarch 2012.12.21 and Manjaro Linux 0.8.3 "Xfce" edition. And which was the best? "Sadly, I do not think there were any winners today," concludes the author.
* * * * *
In a recent mailing list discussion, the developers of Fedora have touched on the concept of developing a usable rolling-release distribution for the general public to use. But as always, the idea sounds better on paper than in reality. Fedora developer Kevin Fenzi explains: "There was a discussion on the Fedora development list late last year about moving to a more rolling-release model, and I have seen people continue to suggest this in various places since then, so I thought I would write up my thoughts on rolling releases and how they can/could apply to Fedora." And the conclusion? "You probably don't want to be using a rolling-release. With a timed release, you can choose when you have time to upgrade to the newest collection of software, re-learn new applications and UI's, rebuild/fix local code to new libraries, etc. With a rolling release, you are at the mercy of the upstream projects and your distro as to when you have to accept and adjust to a change. So, if 'Rawhide' is a rolling release and some folks want Fedora to do one, why don't they just use Rawhide? I think there's a number of reasons for that, many around Rawhide being too raw for day-to-day use."
* * * * *
In recent years, the Ubuntu distribution has teen turning more and more into a mobile operating system, especially with the introduction Unity as the default desktop user interface. Or at the very least, many users suspected this. But with the end of 2012, this thinking has become official as Mark Shuttleworth, the Ubuntu founder, outlined the future of the once-popular desktop computer OS: "Unity in 2013 will be all about mobile - bringing Ubuntu to phones and tablets. Shaping Unity to provide the things we've learned are most important across all form factors, beautifully. Broadening the Ubuntu community to include mobile developers who need new tools and frameworks to create mobile software. Defining new form factors that enable new kinds of work and play altogether. Bringing clearly into focus the driving forces that have shaped our new desktop into one facet of a bigger gem. It's also why we'll push deeper into the cloud, making it even easier, faster and cost effective to scale out modern infrastructure on the cloud of your choice, or create clouds for your own consumption and commerce." As a proof, the company also unveiled the Ubuntu mobile phone last week, or more precisely, an idea that some day in the distant future, may become reality....
* * * * *
Finally, a link to the announcement about Mandriva Linux becoming a non-profit association: "2013 has started well with the news of the official incorporation of the OpenMandriva Association. The OpenMandriva Association is a France-based legal entity that has been founded by the community and for the community to further the development of the former Mandriva Linux distribution. Mandriva S.A. is pleased by this news and welcomes the OpenMandriva Association as a partner it will work with in a mutually beneficial way. The OpenMandriva Association is a French NGO ('Association de loi 1901') that will be in charge of representing the OpenMandriva community to channel and attract resources and contributors. The crucial step of incorporation is the result of six months of hard work involving several parties, including Mandriva S.A., but it also shows the commitment of Mandriva S.A. to set the community free and help it create an independent entity to continue the work on the Linux distribution. Mandriva S.A. is thus very happy about the news; it sets a landmark in the rebirth of OpenMandriva as an independent community and of Mandriva S.A. as a key player in the industry of open-source enterprise software."
|Statistics (by Ladislav Bodnar)
DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics in 2011 and 2012
Although not a reliable method for determining distribution usage by any means, the DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistic is perhaps a good indicator of trends and shifts in the world of free operating system, at least among the users who visit this website. And as always this time of the year, we once again take a brief look at the movers and shakers of the distro world in the annual comparison table. Who was up and who was down during the turbulent year of 2012, best characterised by the emergence of often controversial new desktop user interfaces?
As evident from the table below, Mageia was the distribution that made the biggest inroad into the statistical compendium of 2012. This seems to have surprised many readers. But it shouldn't have; while Mageia might be a relatively new name on the Linux distro scene, it is the logical successor of the once highly popular Mandrake Linux (later renamed to MandrakeLinux and Mandriva Linux) that dominated the ranking in the early days of DistroWatch. The distribution clearly continues to have many loyal fans and supporters. Nevertheless, its rise has probably been exaggerated by the curiosity of those casual visitors who, surprised by the presence of a lesser-known name in the table, might have visited its page to find out more about the distribution. In contrast to the growing interest in Mageia, Mandriva Linux (29th) suffered badly, dropping out of the top 25 list for the first time ever. Interestingly, another Mandriva fork, Russia's ROSA, has also risen dramatically during the past year.
Another distribution reaching new heights include Zorin OS, an interesting Ubuntu variant that keeps getting excellent marks from Linux beginners, while Snowlinux, a Debian-based distribution with a traditional desktop interface (MATE in the most recent version) and aggressive release schedule, Pear Linux, a flashy Ubuntu-based distribution with an OS X-like user interface, and Fuduntu, a fork of Fedora with a rolling-release development model, all reached the top 25 for the first time. The distributions that fell from the list include Scientific Linux (39th) which lost much of its glitter once CentOS finally returned to business, MEPIS Linux (49th), a Debian-based desktop distro with KDE, Pinguy OS (34th), an Ubuntu flavour which suffered from much reduced development activity in 2012, and PC-BSD (27th), a FreeBSD-based operating system for the desktop. Other then these movements, the rest of the list remained largely unchanged, with Linux Mint consolidated its top spot with a noticeably higher page hit count for 2012 when compared to the previous year.
As always, the disclaimer. The DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics shouldn't be taken too seriously - they are a fun way of looking at what's hot and what's not among this site's visitors, but they almost certainly do not reflect install base or distribution quality.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Removing pre-installed applications
Taking-it-apart asks: I have often heard that software not being used should be removed from the computer for security reasons. But recently I read an article which recommended against removing pre-installed applications from PCs running Ubuntu. Which is right? What's your advice?
DistroWatch answers: First, let us build some context around the advice for removing software from the operating system if that software isn't in use. Typically this is good security advice for people running network servers. If you find yourself running a web server and that server, by default, also runs a mail service you do not use, then the mail service is unnecessary "attack surface". It is a running program which is not being used, but which may be remotely exploited. For this reason it would be a good idea to disable the mail service and, optionally, remove it from the system.
In the context of the server machine two important things were happening: an unwanted service was actively running and it was accessible over the network, exposing the service to remote attacks. Now, if we look at the advice given to people running Ubuntu on their PCs (I'm assuming PC is used here to mean a desktop or laptop machine and therefore the computer is probably running Ubuntu's Desktop edition) we find a different context. By default I don't believe Ubuntu's Desktop edition runs any network services, this greatly reduces the potential security risk. The operating system isn't running unwanted network services and therefore there is very little exposure to remote attacks. There may be a handful of applications included in the default installation you don't run, but in that case they aren't running and are not a security threat. Programs which aren't run are not much of a threat, they're just digital lumps taking up space on the hard drive.
The reason some people warn against removing software from a default desktop installation is that the user is more likely to damage their system by removing key software packages than they are to be attacked via those packages. When a user starts purging software form their system there is always a risk they may remove too much or that the package manager might make a mistake and remove a required dependency. This leads us to a scenario where the user is at greater risk of damaging the system by removing packages than the system faces from outside attackers.
The key is context. People want their servers to be lean, efficient and to have the fewest possible points of attack. A desktop machine typically isn't open to the same sorts of network attacks and is designed with a lot more interconnecting software. If you do plan on making your desktop operating system leaner, then I suggest experimenting with two things:
- Use a package manager which will tell you exactly what it is doing. Synaptic is good for this. Alternatively, running your distribution's command line package manager will provide the maximum amount of information. This will help you avoid accidentally deleting your entire desktop environment.
- Install your desktop distribution in a virtual machine and practice removing software from the virtual environment. This will let you have a practice run and, if anything breaks, it's no big deal because it's just a throw away virtual machine.
|Released During Last Two Weeks
Ryan Finnie has announced the release of Finnix 107, a small, self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators, based on Debian's testing branch: "Today I am pleased to announce the release of Finnix 107, only two months from the previous release, but packed with new functionality and bug fixes. Finnix 107 includes Linux kernel 3.6, and includes a fix for the (overhyped, it seems) ext4 corruption bug. Average Finnix startup times have been reduced even further by the cleanup of legacy code. In addition, the shutdown procedure, which largely has not changed in years, got a revamp and is now noticeably quicker. The x86 ISO is now being built with the isohybrid method, meaning you can now write the ISO directly to a USB flash drive at the block level to boot it." Read the release announcement and release notes for further information.
Jeff Rizzo has announced the release of NetBSD 6.0.1, the first security and bug-fix update of the project's 6.0 branch: "The NetBSD project is pleased to announce NetBSD 6.0.1, the first security and bug-fix update of the NetBSD 6.0 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons. Please note that all fixes in security and bug-fix updates (i.e., NetBSD 6.0.1, 6.0.2, etc.) are cumulative, so the latest update contains all such fixes from the corresponding minor release (in this case, 6.0). Major changes: posix_spawn() - fix processes with attributes; resolve races between vget() and vrele() resulting in vget() returning dead vnodes...." For more details please read the comprehensive release notes.
Calculate Linux 13
Alexander Tratsevskiy has announced the release of Calculate Linux 13, a Gentoo-based distribution for desktops and servers: "We are proud to announce the final release of Calculate Linux 13. Main changes and fixes: meta-packages are no longer used to manage default dependencies; Portage files will be unpacked when booting for the first time; better identification of NTFS partitions; fixed the user profile configuration for VMware; Composite enabled by default for VMware; should you want to replace main applications, their launch icons will be created correctly; in case the user modified the local Portage overlay repositories, those can now be restored; Calculate Utilities were updated to 3.1; full French translation now available...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a full list of changes.
Calculate Linux 13 - the default KDE desktop
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Toorox 01.2013 "KDE"
Jörn Lindau has announced the release of Toorox 01.2013 "KDE" edition, a Gentoo-based distribution and live CD featuring the KDE 4.9.4 desktop environment: "Toorox 01.2013 'KDE' has been finished and you can download it as 32-bit or 64-bit image. This release is based on the latest Linux kernel 3.7.1. All packages have been updated. KDE has been updated to the latest version, 4.9.4. The release also contains X.Org Server 1.13.0, LibreOffice 126.96.36.199, Chromium 24.0.1312.45, VLC 2.0.5, WINE 1.5.20, GIMP 2.8.2. With this release, Toorox makes use of UUIDs instead of simple device names in the fstab file. So a ramdisk (initramfs) is now necessary after the installation for booting the system from hard disk. The hard disk installer has been enhanced as to that. Have fun with Toorox." Here is the brief release announcement.
GParted Live 0.14.1-6
Curtis Gedak has announced the release of GParted Live version 0.14.1-6, a new version of the specialist Debian-based live CD designed for data rescue and disk partitioning tasks: "The GParted team is proud to announce a new stable release of GParted Live. The big news with this release is the added ability to boot the live image on UEFI firmware computers, while maintaining boot ability on traditional PC/BIOS computers. This means that GParted Live can now boot on newer Windows 8 computers. In addition to supporting UEFI firmware, two more GNU/Linux operating system images have been released: i686-PAE (Physical Address Extension) and AMD64 (x86_64). These new images permit addressing more than 4 gigabytes of RAM, and enable using multiple processor cores. Other items of note include: updated Linux kernel to 3.2.35-2; based on the Debian 'sid' repository as of 2012-12-23." Visit the project's news page to read the release announcement.
AgiliaLinux 8.1.1, 188.8.131.52
AgiliaLinux 8.1.1 has been released. AgiliaLinux is a Russian Slackware-derived distribution with a custom, dependency-resolving package manager and support for several pre-configured desktop environments. Changes in this release include: fixed problems with dBUS in Openbox causing nm-applet to work incorrectly; fixed dcron - now it creates pid-file and rc-service crond restart works correctly; fixed the PHP build on x86_64 architecture; fixed calculation of required space during installation; added phonon-gstreamer to KDE without which there were problems with sound; support for fbdev video driver and modesetting in live mode; fixed a problem with hostname and NetworkManager; fixed problem with "grey faces" in YouTube and updated libvdpau to 0.5; Firefox now uses the default system language, not English; the mpkg package manager now always uses "safe" mode to update packages; updated Linux kernel to 3.6.11, Qt to 4.8.4 and KDE to 4.9.4.... Read the release announcement (in Russian) for a full list of bug fixes and other changes.
FreeBSD 9.1 has been released: "The FreeBSD Release Engineering team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 9.1-RELEASE. This is the second release from the stable/9 branch, which improves on the stability of FreeBSD 9.0 and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights: new Intel GPU driver with GEM/KMS support; netmap(4) fast userspace packet I/O framework; ZFS improvements from Illumos project; CAM Target Layer, a disk and processor device emulation subsystem; optional new C++11 stack including LLVM libc++ and libcxxrt; jail devfs, nullfs, zfs mounting and configuration file support; POSIX2008 extended locale support, including compatibility with Darwin extensions; oce(4) driver for Emulex OneConnect 10Gbit Ethernet card...." Read the release announcement for highlights and the release notes for a detailed description of new features.
Parsix GNU/Linux 4.0r1
The honour of the first release announcement of 2013 goes to Parsix GNU/Linux, a distribution based on Debian's testing branch and featuring the GNOME 3 desktop: "The updated 4.0r1 version has been synchronized with Debian's testing repositories as of December 29, 2012 and brings lots of updated packages compared to Parsix 3.7 aka Raul. Parsix Gloria is project's first release with the GNOME 3 series and ships with LibreOffice productivity suite by default. Gloria has a brand-new software manager package. Highlights: GNOME 3.4.2, X.Org 7.7, GRUB 2, GNU Iceweasel 17.0.1, GParted 0.12.1, Empathy 184.108.40.206, LibreOffice 3.5.4, VirtualBox 4.1.18 and a brand-new kernel based on Linux 3.2.35 with TuxOnIce 3.3, BFS and other extra patches. The live DVD has been compressed using Squashfs and xz. Main changes are: X.Org Server 1.12.4, glibc 2.13, GIMP 2.8.2, Grisbi 0.8.9, VLC 2.0.5, xFarDic 0.11.7." See the detailed release notes for more information and upgrade instructions.
Semplice Linux 3.0.0
Eugenio Paolantonio has announced the release of Semplice Linux 3.0.0, a lightweight distribution based on Debian's unstable branch and featuring the Openbox desktop user interface: "The Semplice project is pleased to announce the immediate release of Semplice Linux 3.0.0, the first stable version of the 3.0.x 'pulse' series. Semplice Linux 3.0.0 contains: Openbox 3.5.0, the window manager used in Semplice; Linux kernel 3.2.35, bringing the latest and greatest drivers and performance; Chromium web browser 22.0.1229.94 based on the WebKit rendering engine; Exaile 3.3.1, a music manager and player for GTK+ written in Python; GNOME MPlayer 1.0.6, the power of MPlayer combined with a friendly interface; AbiWord 2.9.2 and Gnumeric 1.10.17; Pidgin Internet Messenger 2.10.6, a graphical, modular Instant Messaging client; Guake terminal 0.4.3, a GTK+ drop-down terminal...." Read the release announcement and release notes for further details.
Semplice Linux 3.0.0 - a Debian-based distribution with Openbox
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Ultimate Edition 3.5
A new version of Ultimate Edition, an Ubuntu 12.04 remix with KDE as the default desktop, was announced earlier today: "What is Ultimate Edition 3.5? Ultimate Edition 3.5 was built off Ultimate Edition 3.4 and Ubuntu 12.04 'Precise Pangolin' release. All packages fully updated and upgraded, old kernels purged, new initrd and vmlinuz rebuilt. Ultimate Edition 3.5 is everything Ultimate Edition 3.4 has plus multiple operating environments; KDE being the default. Ultimate Edition 3.5 has a new GTK+ 3 theme and a comprehensive set of software packages. Just to bring you up to date, I have Ultimate Edition 3.6 in local testing based on Ubuntu 12.10 'Quantal Quetzal'. I am currently running Ultimate Edition 3.4 Lite based on Ubuntu 12.04 'Percise Pangolin' with a solo environment of GNOME 2 which is quite responsive." See the release announcement and the brief release notes for more information.
Ultimate Edition 3.5 - an Ubuntu-based distribution with much eye candy
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Tomáš Matějíček has announced the release of Slax 7.0.3, an updated release of the project's Slackware-based live CD: "A new version of Slax is available for download. This release adds several new features and fixes a few bugs as well. Probably the most interesting feature is PXE boot support and improved X auto-detection. All modern computers nowadays support PXE, which allows booting an operating system over network interface independently of data storage devices (like hard disks). Slax fully supports PXE booting now. How to do that? One computer will act as a server, so just boot Slax on it from CD or USB and make sure to have the appropriate boot menu option 'Act as PXE server' checked. Slax on the server computer will provide DHCP, TFTP and HTTP services to enable PXE booting for other computers on the network." See the full release announcement for a list of new features and changes.
Lars Torben Kremer has announced the release of Snowlinux 4, a Debian-based distribution with MATE (a desktop environment forked from GNOME 2): "The team is proud to announce the release of Snowlinux 4 'Glacier'. Snowlinux 4 is based upon Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 'Wheezy' and uses Linux kernel 3.5. MATE 1.4 is the default desktop environment and LightDM as the new default login manager that replaces GDM 3. It includes its own greeter for LightDM. Many new features have been introduced, like snowMenu, the Snowlinux menu and snowMount, the Snowlinux mount tool for drives. The Snowlinux metal theme was colored blue and the icon set was updated with the latest Faience icons. Snowlinux now uses Pidgin as the default IM client. This release comes with Firefox 17 and Thunderbird 17, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox and Shotwell." Read the rest of the release announcement which includes a screenshot and upgrade information.
Snowlinux 4 - a Debian-based distribution with MATE
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Bodhi Linux 2.2.0
Jeff Hoogland has announced the release of Bodhi Linux 2.2.0, an Ubuntu-based distribution featuring the Enlightenment 0.17 window manager as the default desktop user interface: "The Bodhi team and I are very happy to present to you our 2.2.0 release - the first Bodhi images to feature the stable E17 desktop. This release is exciting for a number of reasons. To start with, we are introducing a few new things with this update release. With this release, we will now be maintaining two 32-bit install discs: one that is PAE enabled by default and one that is not. The kernel without PAE will be an older stable kernel (in this case 3.2) while the PAE enabled kernel will be the latest kernel - for 2.2.0 this means 3.7 kernel. Our 64-bit release also comes with the 3.7 kernel. These discs are also our first released images that are hybrid ISO images." See the release announcement for further details, relevant links and obligatory screenshots.
Chakra GNU/Linux 2013.01
Anke Boersma has announced the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2013.01, the fifth update of the project's "Claire" series featuring the new KDE 4.9.5 desktop: "The Chakra project team is proud to announce the fifth 'Claire' release, (a code name that follows the KDE SC 4.9 series). The day the 2012.12 release was announced as the final ISO image in the 'Claire' series, KDE announced there was going to be a KDE 4.9.5. That fact combined with KDE 4.10 release being pushed back 2 - 3 weeks and many base packages updated, the team decided to have one more 'Claire' release. Among updates in this release are KDE 4.9.5, OpenSSL and krb5 stack, sound group, KDE telepathy 0.5.2 to name a few. ISOlinux (the start-up of the live session) received a face-lift, plus booting into existing operating system and Memtest86+ options were added." See the complete release announcement for more information.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
December 2012 DistroWatch.com donation: Remastersys|
We are happy to announce that the recipient of the December 2012 DistroWatch.com donation is Remastersys, a unique tool that creates a live image from an installed Debian or Ubuntu system. It receives US$300.00 in cash.
Developed by Tony Brijeski, Remastersys is described as "a tool that can be used to do two things with an existing Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu or derivative installation: 1. It can make a full system backup including personal data to a live CD or DVD that you can use anywhere and that can be installed. 2. It can make a distributable copy you can share with friends. This will not have any of your personal user data in it. The resulting ISO image file can be used on any other PC that still meets the original minimum requirements of Ubuntu or Debian. Things like the graphics card and other hardware will be configured and set up automatically and you do not have to use identical hardware. Ubuntu's live boot tool, Casper, currently blacklists NVIDIA and AMD proprietary drivers so they will not be available on the live system and will need to be re-installed after installation of your custom system." Visit the project's website to learn more.
Tony Brijeski has sent DistroWatch a thank-you note: "Thanks very much for the donation. It is an honour to be given such a large donation from DistroWatch and I thank you very much once again for it. Regards, Tony."
Launched in 2004, this monthly donations programme is a DistroWatch initiative to support free and open-source software projects and operating systems with cash contributions. Readers are welcome to nominate their favourite project for future donations. Those readers who wish to contribute towards these donations, please use our advertising page to make a payment (PayPal and credit cards are accepted). Here is the list of the projects that have received a DistroWatch donation since the launch of the programme (figures in US dollars):
Since the launch of the Donations Program in March 2004, DistroWatch has donated a total of US$33,985 to various open-source software projects.
- 2004: GnuCash ($250), Quanta Plus ($200), PCLinuxOS ($300), The GIMP ($300), Vidalinux ($200), Fluxbox ($200), K3b ($350), Arch Linux ($300), Kile KDE LaTeX Editor ($100) and UNICEF - Tsunami Relief Operation ($340)
- 2005: Vim ($250), AbiWord ($220), BitTorrent ($300), NDISwrapper ($250), Audacity ($250), Debian GNU/Linux ($420), GNOME ($425), Enlightenment ($250), MPlayer ($400), Amarok ($300), KANOTIX ($250) and Cacti ($375)
- 2006: Gambas ($250), Krusader ($250), FreeBSD Foundation ($450), GParted ($360), Doxygen ($260), LilyPond ($250), Lua ($250), Gentoo Linux ($500), Blender ($500), Puppy Linux ($350), Inkscape ($350), Cape Linux Users Group ($130), Mandriva Linux ($405, a Powerpack competition), Digikam ($408) and Sabayon Linux ($450)
- 2007: GQview ($250), Kaffeine ($250), sidux ($350), CentOS ($400), LyX ($350), VectorLinux ($350), KTorrent ($400), FreeNAS ($350), lighttpd ($400), Damn Small Linux ($350), NimbleX ($450), MEPIS Linux ($300), Zenwalk Linux ($300)
- 2008: VLC ($350), Frugalware Linux ($340), cURL ($300), GSPCA ($400), FileZilla ($400), MythDora ($500), Linux Mint ($400), Parsix GNU/Linux ($300), Miro ($300), GoblinX ($250), Dillo ($150), LXDE ($250)
- 2009: Openbox ($250), Wolvix GNU/Linux ($200), smxi ($200), Python ($300), SliTaz GNU/Linux ($200), LiVES ($300), Osmo ($300), LMMS ($250), KompoZer ($360), OpenSSH ($350), Parted Magic ($350) and Krita ($285)
- 2010: Qimo 4 Kids ($250), Squid ($250), Libre Graphics Meeting ($300), Bacula ($250), FileZilla ($300), GCompris ($352), Xiph.org ($250), Clonezilla ($250), Debian Multimedia ($280), Geany ($300), Mageia ($470), gtkpod ($300)
- 2011: CGSecurity ($300), OpenShot ($300), Imagination ($250), Calibre ($300), RIPLinuX ($300), Midori ($310), vsftpd ($300), OpenShot ($350), Trinity Desktop Environment ($300), LibreCAD ($300), LiVES ($300), Transmission ($250)
- 2012: GnuPG ($350), ImageMagick ($350), GNU ddrescue ($350), Slackware Linux ($500), MATE ($250), LibreCAD ($250), BleachBit ($350), cherrytree ($260), Zim ($335), nginx ($250), LFTP ($250), Remastersys ($300)
* * * * *
Change in ISO image linking in release announcements
As many readers have noticed, since 1 January 2013 the release announcements on the front page of DistroWatch contain links to 64-bit ISO images only. This is in line with the recent trend where the x86_64 architecture has clearly become the most popular and most downloaded even with relatively conservative distributions, such as Debian GNU/Linux. As such, the ix86 links will no longer be listed, except in obvious situations, e.g. when the announcement is from a project which does not provide images compiled for the x86_64 architecture or when the project's focus is developing a distribution for older computers. This arrangement will also free up space for linking to ISO images of the various editions that some projects might choose to provide. As always, the release announcement will continue to carry a direct link to the distribution's download page so that those readers who need ISO images for one of the alternative architectures might easily reach it. As always, reader opinion is welcome so feel free to discuss this topic in the comments section below.
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
- DidJiX. DidJiX is an Arch-based Linux distribution featuring Mixxx, an advanced software applications for disc jockeys.
- GnomerOS. GnomerOS is an openSUSE-based Linux distribution with Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) software - a free and open-source terminal server for Linux that allows many people to simultaneously use the same computer.
- Mega Linux. Mega Linux is an openSUSE-based Linux distribution for everyday work. It includes the GNOME 3 desktop and many useful programs, such as the Firefox web browser, Skype, and the Banshee audio player.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 14 January 2013. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (feedback and suggestions: podcast edition)
|Linux Foundation Training
|Reader Comments • Jump to last comment
1 • Removing pre-installed apllications (by Didier Spaier on 2013-01-07 10:41:06 GMT from France) |
reminder for Slackware users: just make a full installation and keep it so, you will save yourself a lot of hassle.
The only good reasons not do so so IMHO are an embedded system and/or shortage of disk space.
2 • ... and there were no missing hits for bodhi either (by meanpt on 2013-01-07 11:00:55 GMT from Portugal)
... which keeps being fast, as distros used to be, and better, profiting on the E17 maturing an on the best the buntu base is providing. Congratulations to the founder, developing team and to the community.
3 • PC-BSD (by kc1di on 2013-01-07 12:11:13 GMT from United States)
Thanks Jesse for the review this week. I haven't not tried PC-BSD in a couple years but gave up on it last time because it was so difficult to dual boot with. has that changed any? I may have to give it a try again.
Cheers and Happy New Year!
4 • pc-bsd (by greg on 2013-01-07 12:12:32 GMT from Slovenia)
it seems to me that pc bsd is on the right track concerning system usability. i think linux can learn a lot from them. even single distribution. the PBI is what it got me to download their manual. haven't downloaded the OS. it would seem to me that main issue is hardware compatibility and probably also software (as there might not be so many prepackaged stuff for BSD. i could be wrong though. i would certianly liek to see more of such tools in linux. and make them polished and make them work (bugs, bugs, and more old bugs...)
5 • suggestion: install on USB (by AliasMarlowe on 2013-01-07 12:45:12 GMT from Finland)
I have a suggestion for evaluating distributions of Linux or BSD. Can it be easily installed on a USB stick? How well (or how fast) does it run when the USB stick is booted?
Note that this is NOT running a live install image from USB, as these generally do not support persistence of installed applications, user accounts, or other settings across boots. Obviously, installing on USB precludes use of a swap partition on the USB stick (or on the fixed disk of the PC, in many cases).
For example, I have installed Kubuntu onto a 8GB USB stick, and it runs tolerably well once it has booted. The boot time is definitely slower than from a live USB or live CD, but I have been able to install a few non-default applications, and can save settings and files between boots. One reason for doing this is so I can use my work laptop for private internet access when traveling, without needing to boot its Windows partition or otherwise access its encrypted fixed disk (this use has been approved by IT department).
6 • 64-bit ISO images (by Jon Wright on 2013-01-07 13:03:59 GMT from Vietnam)
Having never downloaded a 64-bit image before, I suddenly feel quite behind the times. And yet Jesse is still installing exclusively by means of spinning plastic discs.
7 • @6 (by Nobody Special on 2013-01-07 13:26:07 GMT from Canada)
"And yet Jesse is still installing exclusively by means of spinning plastic discs."
Same here, dunno, just can't be bothered fiddling in the BIOS, etc, and if I like what I test, I have a good PERMANENT copy. I still back up pics and docs to optical, I trust it the most.
64-bit is better and faster, older formats get less and less attention and support, I see no point running 32-bit when my machine is 64-bit capable.
8 • Removing pre-installed apps (by dragonmouth on 2013-01-07 13:48:46 GMT from United States)
The ease and danger level of removing pre-installed apps depends on the distro. Since Ubuntu and all its derivatives integrate most of the default apps into the system, it is very hard to get rid of the. It is also very easy to make the system unusable by inadvertently removing "ubuntu-minimal" or some other vital package. OTOH, in antiX and siduction, application packages, for the most part, do not have system related packages as dependencies. This makes the removal of pre-installed packages much easier and much harder to disable the system inadvertently.
9 • Re # 1 - Slackware reference (by Huh? on 2013-01-07 14:18:51 GMT from Canada)
Re #1 - Suggestion to just do a complete Slackware installation:
Did I Miss something - perhaps in the PCBSD review? I have been using Slackware for years, always doing a custom installation where I choose what packages to install. Never had any trouble using this approach, so only occasionally need to upgrade a package because of a security update. So not clear why the suggestion? Looked over the article again to see if I missed something. Maybe it's just because it's Monday morning/ Clarification would be appreciated.
The review on PCBSD was greatly appreciated. Have thought about tinkering with FreeBSD. Using PCBSD seems to be an easy way to do so. I usually work at the command line, where Slackware excels, but having such a well thought out desktop approach might be useful on some spare office PCs for users coming over from the Windows world. One of the complaints I frequently hear about Linux is what a mashup approach it takes. While I am happy with that, the comment about the BSDs having a single unified approach certainly has merit in many cases. So again, thanks for the review.
BTW - for those confortable working at the command line, you should definitely have a look at Finnix 107 released this past week. It joins Systemrescue, Puppy, Backtrack, and UBCD as part of my "must have" toolkit.
10 • Re #7 — spinning disks DO require maintanance (by Jeff Dickey on 2013-01-07 14:30:10 GMT from Singapore)
I have (the remains of) a 6250bpi 9-track tape reel next to my optical-media storage as a reminder: media instability + technological change = inability to read backups, sooner than you think.
While a single DVD can hold well over thirty times the data of that now-comically-outsized tape, optical media (particularly -R and -RW discs) don't last forever. This is even more true when the discs are not in ideal storage, as is the case in homes and most small businesses. I have some barely ten-year-old DVD-R (and older CD-R) media that can no longer be read reliably by any of my current drives. Two of the computers I use on a daily basis have no optical drive at all, a trend that is becoming more, rather than less prevalent.
THe few dozen images and other documents I care about are kept in an airtight box with several silica-gel desiccant packets, replaced periodically. Barring a fire, I expect them to last for decades. But DVDs don't react particularly well to fire, either. My downloaded "test data" discs, of course, don't rate that level of protection. :-P
tl:dr; If fire doesn't eliminate your backups, technology eventually will. What will you want to access a decade from now, and how sure are you that you'll be able to?
11 • 64-bit question (by Bewbies on 2013-01-07 14:59:50 GMT from United States)
I have an old 2008 model Acer laptop with 64-bit capabilities but the drawback to its hardware specs is that its maximum RAM capacity upgrade is 2GB. It originally came with 1GB when I bought it but I did upgrade it to 2GB.
I've read that if you're going to run 64-bit OSes, that you should have no less than 3GB (preferably 4GB) of RAM. Apparently 64-bit uses a bit more RAM than its 32-bit counterparts? I'd be willing to use 64-bit OSes, but don't want to experience these so called performance drawbacks. Anyone else here with this same predicament? Suggestions?
12 • PC-BSD (by Koro on 2013-01-07 15:34:42 GMT from Belgium)
IMHO, PC-BSD is one of the best desktop operating systems out there. With some financial support and increasing popularity (required to get more drivers and applications ported), it would pulverise any Linux distribution, including the most popular ones. And who says this is a happy Debian user.
13 • PCBSD (by mikew777 on 2013-01-07 15:40:23 GMT from United States)
I've always liked PCBSD but for the last several versions starting around the 8 series I've had an issue with their not working with the network cards in my desktop machines. I run and test several Linux machines and am currently running and have run Linux Mint for years now and never have networking issues or driver issues in Linux. I'm not sure why there is always a problem with the BSD's and networking and video driver issues. At this time and with all the driver development everything should work with BSD as it does with Linux. I would like to try it again but until they get their driver issues resolved they aren't going to get a lot of people using the BSD's.
14 • Installation method (by Jesse on 2013-01-07 15:49:42 GMT from Canada)
>> "And yet Jesse is still installing exclusively by means of spinning plastic discs."
I'm not sure why you would think that. I moved last year to doing almost all of my installs and testing via a USB thumb drive. The review of PC-BSD was a rare exception where I decided to use a DVD. The only other time I've used a optical disc in the past several months was while testing Puppy, which I planned to run on older hardware which did not support booting from USB.
15 • @Bewbies (by DSMan195276 on 2013-01-07 16:21:49 GMT from United States)
Whether or not you could run a 64-bit version of an OS with 2 GB of RAM depends much more on what distro you want to use and not that it's 64-bit vs. 32-bit. 64-bit provides a speed-up by doubling the amount of data that can get to the CPU (As well as from the CPU to memory, etc.). Thanks to that, the distro should experience a speed boot (though in my experience, I've never really noticed a difference. It could just be me though, I've only had 1 64-bit PC). 64-bit PC's do end-up using more RAM because programs will use 64-bit values by default instead of 32-bit, so most of your programs will experience some more RAM usage.
But let's look at it this way. Windows recommends 1 GB of RAM for Win 7 32-bit and 2 GB of RAM for Win 7 64-bit. That's expecting a 100% double in RAM usage by programs (Which is never going to happen, there is lots of data stored in RAM that's the same regardless of your CPU size). And now if we look at Ubuntu (12.04), for me when I boot Ubuntu and log-in, I'm usually around 500 MB of RAM used. So even if we saw a complete double, 64-bit Ubuntu would still only use 1 GB when you log-in, which is still only half of what you have. In reality, the amount wouldn't completely double. So using 2 GB of RAM for a 64-bit Linux distro should be perfectly fine for normal usage. You'd have to decide for yourself if you'll have enough RAM for what you intend to do though, because I don't know all of what you use your computer for. If you have a 64-bit CPU, it's worth at least trying the 64-bit version of your distro and seeing how it compares, in general you should see at least a slight speed increase.
16 • RE 5 : usb installations: (by dbrion on 2013-01-07 16:45:13 GMT from France)
Well, I installed successfully FC13 up to FC 17 on USB sticks (and installed Mageia 1 and 2 ) The main issue is with package management (writing is slow on such flash based sticks. If one has an external rotating disk (sometimes I make one of them with an universal (S)ATA-USB adapter), this is much cheaper and faster in writing....
With Mageia 1, I was happy enough to give an USB mechanical disk to my nephew (he has the same laptop than me), and there were no issues.
I prefer **today** Fedoras to mageias : what was interesting with Mandriva was some complicated to compute software, such as Scilab and they were not kept in mageia....
17 • @DSMan195276 (by Bewbies on 2013-01-07 16:54:45 GMT from United States)
Thanks for your thoughts. Since this laptop is not my main rig, I'll likely bite the bullet and give a 64-bit distro a spin. It's currently running 32-bit Mint. For no more than I use this laptop, it can't hurt to experiment with it a bit.
18 • #7 (by zykoda on 2013-01-07 17:38:27 GMT from United Kingdom)
"64-bit is better and faster, older formats get less and less attention and support, I see no point running 32-bit when my machine is 64-bit capable."
If your results are required to 10 places of decimals, then I would agree. If three decimal places is good enough, why waste the extra resources computing 10?
If you need intermediate results at a higher precision than the final answer, then you probably need to use a more stable method. Some methods are notoriously prone to numerical instability. Of course calculating "pi" to millions of decimal places requires specialist methods, just as fast code cracking needs quantum computers. But encryption is a little less safe than it was last year with recent new insights. Of course most CPU cores are relatively lightly used unless openmp (or similar) is used. Then again there is much wastage in the Graphics Processor which can easily outstrip a CPU 10 fold on selected problems with its hundreds of cores! Why use General Relativity and space-time curvature tensors when Dynamic Universe provides more simplistic methods? The velocity of light is not constant. Just a few revelations. YMMV.
19 • @11 (by Nobody Special on 2013-01-07 17:39:52 GMT from Canada)
Meh, even a distro with KDE only has a 200-300MB memory footprint after booting, my machine has 8GB RAM and I have never seen it exceed 2GB even under the heaviest of loads (lots of 'multi-tasking'). What might help is scaling back the swap area usage, swapping is totally unnecessary when there is plenty of physical RAM free still.
The default value is 60, I set mine to 0 but some people feel 10 is 'safe'. I run Kubuntu so this is for Ubuntu based systems, this may differ with other distros.
sudo <default text editor name here> /etc/sysctl.conf
Search for this line and adjust the value, add it if not present:
You can also research unnecessary processes running and shut them off permanently, for example, Blue Tooth, I own none and don't use it.
IMHO, 'feature rich' modern distros should be run on at least a dual core with a decent GPU.
20 • @9 Slackware reference (by Didier Spaier on 2013-01-07 18:43:21 GMT from France)
I agree that there is no problem in doing a custom installation of Slackware for someone experienced. In fact, Slackware's installer even provides a smart way of making a custom installation (and then clone it if needed) through the use of tagfiles.
But for newbies, doing that not knowing the dependencies too often results in help requests on http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/slackware-14/ that could have been easily avoided, that's why I recommend to make a full install - at least to newcomers on Slackware.
To anybody wanting to know in which respect Slackware's packages management system differ from the ones found in many other Linux distribution, I recommend reading following blog post from Ruarí Ødegaard: http://my.opera.com/ruario/blog/2011/09/26/slackware-package-and-dependency-management.
21 • PC-BSD 9.1 (by Dave Postles on 2013-01-07 20:20:07 GMT from United Kingdom)
I've used PC-BSD in the past and quite liked it. The installation process is long (like all BSDs, including Ghost-BSD which used to have a nice Gnome 2 desktop in previous incarnations), so do have the cup of tea to hand.
22 • PCBSD - Pear - PCLinuxOS (by Sam on 2013-01-07 20:30:28 GMT from United States)
I too wonder how PC-BSD's dual-boot is doing these days. Last time I tried it (think in the 8.x release) it borked my Thinkpad's MBR. While I loathe a certain company in Redmond, I need its software for work. Without a true "testing" laptop in the house currently, I'd be very hesitant to try out PC-BSD again even though this is a pretty glowing and interesting review.
Pear - when is Pear going to catch the attention of Apple for pretty blatantly copying Apple's desktop icons? I don't know if Apple copied these from someone else, but given that company's tendency these days to sue, sue, sue, and sue anyone with even the most remote resemblance to Apple's design... I sort of see "Lindows" all over again.
PCLinuxOS - would it be fair to include this distro in a list of "Most likely to drop out of the Top 50 in 2013"?
23 • plastic disks (by Ron on 2013-01-07 21:11:33 GMT from United States)
"And yet Jesse is still installing exclusively by means of spinning plastic discs."
Awh shucks, one of my desktops has a mouse with a tail!
My eyeglasses are three years old!
I did get rid of the cassette audio tapes.
Thanks Jesse for the great start of 2013.
24 • x86 are still around (by RayRay on 2013-01-07 23:16:54 GMT from United States)
You are kidding, I can understand why a distro might decide to only produce a 64 bit version (that requires a certain amount of effort), but if a 32 bit version is available why can't you provide the link to it. Believe it or not there are readers that only have access to 32 bit machines. There are still people who need distros for legacy machines perhaps you'll stop covering distros like Puppy Linux or DSL.
25 • PCBSD (by Anonymous Coward on 2013-01-08 00:12:05 GMT from United States)
Clearly someone at Distrowatch is on the take from someone on the PCBSD team. That system is terrible for a modern laptop experience. You want to use one of those exotic features like..... your laptop's touchpad? Hahahahah good luck with that.
And have fun recovering from the train wreck it is likely to make of your existing boot configuration.
This system makes it easier to get a desktop environment on BSD. But it's a pyrrhic victory since it offers nothing in terms of usability or hardware support, in case by some miracle you succeed in booting it.
Just go to their forums and look at the long line of problems posted with (usually) no answers, or (sometimes) answers proclaiming BSD's superiority to Linux.
What a joke.
26 • PC-BSD (by Pierre on 2013-01-08 01:03:04 GMT from Germany)
As I recently posted all my machines are running openSUSE 12.2 (64bit) at the moment... or at least were running.
But because I tinkered around a little too much on my laptop I decided it was time for a clean reinstall.
Although I was very happy with my openSUSE 12.2 install I further decided that I want to use this opportunity to test drive the newly released PC-BSD 9.1 or 'clean' FreeBSD 9.1.
Disappointingly I ended up with errors on both, PC-BSD and FreeBSD. This might be due to my lack of experience with BSDs because I am using Linux exclusively and never really tried BSDs until last week.
With PC-BSD my DVD-iso was not able even load the kernel and my thumb drive image of PC-BSD finally was not able to deal with my old Radeon X1400 which is my laptop's graphics adapter. Poor for a newly released operating system not to be able to support a more than 6 years old hardware.
I was - like Jesse - very excited about the features, but not a single feature is of any use if the system is not able to run properly on an 5 year old machine which is not having any hardware that were out of the ordinary.
So I finally ended up really disappointed about the latest PC-BSD release. The FreeBSD what so ever was not able to properly install a healthy system, too.
Very sad because I had loved to use a FreeBSD or PC-BSD because of many features that are actually not available in Linux at the moment.
ZFS for example is one of these that really made me think about using BSDs for quite some time when I first discovered the power of ZFS while dealing with a Solaris server.
Another very nice feature is the jails system which I was really excited to test drive, too.
Whatsoever. Finally I was once again installing Linux on the laptop, Arch Linux this time. It must be at least 2 years that I last installed Arch and was quite surprised to see that the install process got even more complicated than it already as been before.
Sure, as you see me writing this comment now on my Arch powered laptop I had no problems getting Arch installed and running. But nevertheless it was quite some shock to see the install process getting more complicated than user friendly. It's a clear that this gives you a little more power of the overall process. But to which costs!
Now that I am running Arch, I am quite curious to see if I will end up having issues like I had the last time with Arch. It was running really rock solid and smooth until an update messed it up although nothing was mentioned in the news on the Arch website.
Additionally I am curious to see how it will go on with my two Btrfs partitions I set up for my root and home. I did so because it is sounding promising to finally bring the ZFS functionality to Linux it is said to be the future standard Linux filesystem.
So this are my 2 cents until now. :)
Greetings from Germany.
27 • Re #25/26 PC-BSD (by jadecat09 on 2013-01-08 03:45:05 GMT from United Kingdom)
I run PC-BSD exclusively on my refurbed HP/Compaq DC7700p SFF PC. There are no issues whatsoever.
The problem with the AMD/ATI graphics cards are down to the aforementioned company not willing to support any of the BSDs, rather than any reluctance from Free/PC-BSD to support AMD/ATI gear.
You do have to do some research into hardware compatibility, but generally Free/PC-BSD are fine on most machines, including laptops.
Keep rockin' in the free world.
28 • Plastic discs; credit to PC-BSD where due (by Fossilizing Dinosaur on 2013-01-08 04:18:21 GMT from United States)
These can still be useful. Hung label-to-label they make beautiful mobiles, turning light into rainbows. They hold archives of legally-required storage. Even small ones can also hold bootloaders for chaining to otherwise unsupported hardware, for those who don't "mod" new drivers into their BIOS.
For try-before-you-buy, I prefer multi-boot-ing portable dynamic-storage devices (like flash sticks), instead of wasting storage space or materials.
The BSD community should be commended for their progress (carrot), and gently challenged where applicable. They are part of us.
29 • Drawback to PC-BSD (by impossiblescissors on 2013-01-08 04:55:29 GMT from United States)
I've tried PC-BSD 8.2 and 9.0 in the past, and generally found them to be pleasant to use and stable. Admittedly I dorked a system update to 9.0 once and had to reinstall from scratch on one setup.
All of the PC-BSD software I used was installed from PBI's. This seemed like a cool idea when I was a n00b who broke Linux systems by adding incompatible repositories to my list of sources. However, it seemed like the PBI's take up a ton on hard disk space. Firefox is a ~22 MB download under Windows and Linux, but >200 MB under PC-BSD! Am I correct in saying that PBIs take up a lot more disk space than software installed from Linux repos?
Disk utilization was the reason why I replaced PC-BSD with Debian 6 on an ancient Dell Latitude C400. With only 10 GB of hard drive space, there was no way I'd fit a useful PC-BSD system on it. After messing around with Fedora, OpenSuSE and various flavors of Ubuntu/Mint, Debian proved to be the most stable and easy-to-reconfigure distro for running on outdated hardware.
30 • Why all the BSD hate? (by MarkT on 2013-01-08 06:38:34 GMT from United States)
Ah yes, the neverending debate.
From BSD vs. Sys V to BSD vs. Linux.
BSD was there at the start, and BSD will still be there at the end.
BTW, much kudos to the PC-BSD team. You have taken BSD to the next level. I admit, I did have a couple minor glitches getting it set up, but nothing major, and nothing more than I've experienced on any other Linux distro.
Anyways, PC-BSD has come along in a huge, huge way since just 9.0. I'm astounded at how much this team has accomplished in just a short amount of time. I think I just might be able to finally quit my Linux distro-hopping addiction and realize my dream of setting up that VLAN with OpenBSD as the guard, PC-BSD as the workstation and NetBSD as the cross-architecture/low-level subsystem interface. I am geeking out.
Thank you, PC-BSD.
One last word, to the guy who took a shot at PCLinuxOS...are you kiddng me? IMHO (and I don't care if I'm alone in this), PCLinuxOS is the "best" all-around distro out there, and pretty much the only one I really use and actually do work on. For production systems, the only one, again IMHO, would be CentOS.
31 • Shooting in the feet (by Davide on 2013-01-08 07:42:02 GMT from Italy)
@26: are you kidding? replacing the best linux desktop distro with something else? opensuse 12.2 is perfect, fast, reliable, rock solid, if you want to stay on the bleeding edge you can ... and you replace it with something without yast ... Nooo, you've made a joke :-)
@30 you were right about pclinux os but I think it's no longer acceptable the lack of a 64bit version. And about centos, it's the best server operating system ever made. Have you tried the minimal installation? you can tailor it to your need in every aspect ... think that neither wget is installed by default :-)
32 • PCLinuxOS no 64-bit (by MarkT on 2013-01-08 08:10:51 GMT from United States)
@31, true, regarding no 64-bit. I haven't had that requirement yet (maybe need to do more serious work) and when I do, if PCLinuxOS doesn't have 64-bit yet, then well, I guess I'd have to move on.
Regarding OpenSUSE, I thought it was pretty solid when I was messing with it, but at the time I was on this trip about fastest boot time and PCLinuxOS has the fastest boot time to a fully usable KDE desktop, hands down. Even beats the "minimal" distros like Puppy, AntiX, SliTaz, NetBSD, Arch, Swift, etc, etc. That, and it has all my apps, does everything out of the box and just plain runs all the time with no performance hookups, etc, etc. Sorry, I'll stop.
33 • BSD (by Johannes on 2013-01-08 09:21:17 GMT from Germany)
Thank you for this very interesting BSD review. I wish more mainstream medias would write about BSD, which deserves it. Maybe the day will come, now that Linux has reached this stage :-)
34 • Re: 64 vs 32 bit performance, #18 & #7 (by Leo on 2013-01-08 14:08:22 GMT from United States)
I don't know how this is even a debate issue. There is no question that 64 bit can either be faster (for programs optimized for it), or as fast (for other programs) as 32 bit:
This is because the wider pipe that 64 bits gives you, allows you (as a developer) to do low level optimizations, of this sort (consider running a loop TWICE as fast):
As programs get progressively optimized for 64 bit, the advantage of running a 64 bit applications continues to widen, and the phoronix reviews over the last few years are a testament to this.
35 • Accessibility (by jeffrx on 2013-01-08 14:29:00 GMT from United States)
Props to Zorin OS for making accessibility a priority, just like Ubuntu did before Unity came along. 10 years ago, after my injury accessibility was a big reason I chose Ubuntu, only to be left behind after Unity.
36 • PC-BSD (by hayden on 2013-01-08 14:32:39 GMT from United States)
Thanks for the review. Like some others I wish some mention had been made of how this handles the MBR and multi-booting. In fact, I would like to see that discussed for EVERY OS tested. After having trial distros mangle my MBR without comment, followed by a full day of recovery, I now rarely try ANY new OS. Puppy is one distro that is very polite about what it is going to do and that sets up GRUB to boot multiple OTHER OSs, not rudely assuming (a la MS) that their own is so fabulous that you would just as soon delete all others. Maybe the Surgeon General could prescribe a system health warning for the boot screen of these egocentric distros?-)
37 • intel graphics (by Colin on 2013-01-08 14:50:30 GMT from United Kingdom)
why does linux still have very poor intel graphics support. Linux always bangs on about ATI & NVIDIA , but intel graphics hardly ever get mentioned. Very strange when Intel graphics are widely used on laptops.
38 • Re: #37 - intel graphics (by Leo on 2013-01-08 15:22:50 GMT from United States)
Intel actually produces high quality open source drivers:
They are comparable (though in some games slower) than windows, and typically on par with OS-X:
This is in contrast with NVIDIA which doesn't even produce open source drivers (so you need to hope they build it for your OS), and AMD which produces both binary and open source, with the open source orders of magnitud (typically a factor 3!!!!) slower than the windows driver.
Having said that, Intel's integrated _used_ to suck. But this has been vastly improved by Sandy Bridge processors, and pushed even further by Ivy bridge.
In short, you might have crappy drivers. My intel based (Linux) chromebook has an ivy bridge IGP and it streams 740p video beautifully, even with a low end celeron dual processor at 1.1Ghz
39 • Size of PBIs (by Jesse on 2013-01-08 16:00:21 GMT from Canada)
>> " Am I correct in saying that PBIs take up a lot more disk space than software installed from Linux repos?"
You would have been correct in assuming PBIs take up more space during the PC-BSD 8.x series. For the 9.x releases I believe the PBI system checks for duplications in dependencies and removes those which are not needed. Let's say, for example, you install Firefox and it comes with all of its dependencies for X and various toolkits. If these libraries are already installed then the system should remove the duplications so that the Firefox package, as it is stored on the disk, isn't any bigger than it needs to be. So, for the 9.x releases of PC-BSD the disk space used by PBI packages should be about the same as disk space used by Linux repository packages.
40 • PC-BSD & PCLOS (by mz on 2013-01-08 17:44:16 GMT from United States)
I too have suffered hardware compatibility issues with PC-BSD. Unfortunately I think this may be an issue for many potential users for some time. On the bright side pfSense makes an excellent & extremely stable FreeBSD based firewall, so those with old hardware & an extra NIC can still get good stuff out of the BSD family fairly easy.
Regarding PCLOS, well it's my daily system on both my main machines. I love the fact that I've run it longer than any non-LTS Ubuntu can with out a reinstall/upgrade & I still have up to date software. I've also found the hardware detection to be better than on the Ubuntu family. I think what few rough edges PCLOS has are a lot smoother than some other top 25 distros like FreeBSD, Gentoo, & Slackware. The lack of a fully 64-bit version may be less than ideal, but there is a 64-bit kernel in the repos. I'll admit that part of the reason I tried Mint initially instead of PCLOS was for the full 64-bit support, but having used both I find PCLOS a much better fit for what I want out of an OS. YMMV, but it's a good distro that's worth a try.
41 • Disk place (re 39) + USB booting issues (re 5) (by dbrion on 2013-01-08 19:00:52 GMT from France)
Is disk space still an issue on modern computers (at least if one does not install on USB sticks, which remain expensive: but connectics (an USB on the laptop+a hub+ the USB stick connector are cascaded) are a bigger issue on the long term....
Perhaps IT connections remain a bottleneck (and shipping DVDs will remain useful).
42 • @ #27, #31 (by Pierre on 2013-01-08 19:34:41 GMT from Germany)
So the problem, as you name it, is the BSD community is not willing to support common hardware like AMD/Ati graphics adaptors. Ati was for many years THE build in solution for many workstations and home pcs with a little more need of graphcs power than Intel is able to deliver.
So what? You want to use BSD? With an Ati graphics card? Kiddoh, buy a new device! Or what?
No, thanks a lot. Additionally: in PC-BSD there are Radeon drivers offered but do not support a 5 year old chipset? Come on, if that is the case, just leave it out completely.
And another addition: NetBSD in comparison to PC-BSD was able to handle my X1400 Ati card properly. Can PC-BSD make an even poorer impression?
In my opinion: no!
It's just disappointing because PC-BSD really has a lot of potential which no one with Ati cards is able to use - at least not me. Maybe there are some lucky people out there where the Radeon driver was of any use?
No, not kidding. ;) I agree, openSUSE 12.2 is fast, stable, rock solid and has Yast, one of the very best configuration tools out there in the wild.
Nevertheless I just wanted something more vanilla. And Arch was always a quite clean distro with BSD-like configuration. Now with systemd it changed a lot but it still is clean and flexible and I can build the system I want from the very beginning.
I know one can do that with openSUSE, too. But it still runs on my workstation and home server, so it is not gone at all. :)
43 • Re #36 PC-BSD multi-booting (by jadecat09 on 2013-01-08 19:40:08 GMT from United Kingdom)
I have dual-booted PC-BSD with Slackware and found that if you load PC-BSD secondly there should be no problem.
Keep rockin in the free world.
44 • PCLOS (by Ika on 2013-01-08 19:54:56 GMT from Spain)
I tried a lot of distros in my search of a default one for my machine (all of top rated, leaving out the "based on" re-spins) and none of them gave me the stability PCLOS is offering.
So, that's my beloved. :)
45 • 22 PCBSD - Pear - PCLinuxOS (by Sam (by Chanath on 2013-01-08 22:54:08 GMT from Sri Lanka)
"Pear - when is Pear going to catch the attention of Apple for pretty blatantly copying Apple's desktop icons?"
Could you elaborate, which Apple's desktop icons, Pear had copied? Are you talking about the icons you get spread over the whole screnn, when you click the "Launcher?"
If those are the icons, then they are not Apple's, but most probably Faenza. If you are talking about the "spread" across the screen, that's the "old" Slingshot and that's open source. I have that in many Debian and Ubuntu based distros.
46 • PC-BSD Dual Boot (by OSnoob on 2013-01-08 23:50:54 GMT from United States)
I installed PC-BSD 9.1 on a Windows 7 desktop machine this weekend and the dual boot works perfectly. This from someone with virtually no modern experience in Linux or Unix prior to late 2012.
47 • @ 30 RE: PCBSD (by Anonymous Coward on 2013-01-08 23:58:26 GMT from United States)
My post (#25) was not meant as a blanket slam against FreeBSD. Indeed it is a respectable system for it's intended purpose, which clearly is not aimed at laptops with somewhat recent hardware.
Also, my stating that PC-BSD has failed on multiple levels in my experience doesn't indicate any particular animosity toward the project.
However - PC-BSD's claim seems somewhat misleading. Where FreeBSD falls short in terms of common PC-oriented hardware support, PC-BSD is virtually guaranteed to have the exact same shortcomings. It would be different if additional modules & drivers were developed and/or added to the exiting BSD kernel, rather than just adding a graphical desktop environment selection tool. At a basic level that seems to be the only significant difference.
48 • PC-BSD/FreeBSD Hardware Shortcomings (by MarkT on 2013-01-09 05:32:23 GMT from United States)
Fair enough, regarding lack of hardware support, especially regarding laptop chipsets and devices. I suspect that many of the device driver developers for FreeBSD mainly own non-laptop hardware, otherwise I'm sure you'd see the exact same quantity/quality as compared to the offering that Linux has.
Moreover, regarding your comment that PC-BSD just added "a graphical desktop environment selection tool...at a basic level that seems to be the only significant difference": actually I'd say that's the only significant difference at a high level. ;)
49 • BSD's and Laptop support (by David L on 2013-01-09 14:03:05 GMT from United States)
If you are looking for a BSD derivative that has good if not great laptop support. Look no further than OpenBSD. A lot of the development is done via laptop. I currently run 5.2 on an old Dell Inspiron 9100, a Toshiba A105-4284, and a newer Dell 14R. All work flawlessly. Wireless is a cinch if your not afraid of the command line.
Reference : http://www.openbsd.org/faq/faq1.html#Desktop
" It might be worth noting that a large amount of OpenBSD development is done on laptops. "
PS, Newbies be ready to lift the hood and get your hands dirty.
50 • BSD's and Laptop support (by David L on 2013-01-09 14:05:52 GMT from United States)
I did forget to mention that my sdcard reader fails to work on the Toshiba. But a workaround was simple by just plugging my camera directly into my usb port and issuing the correct command.
51 • off topic Fuduntu (by Nobody Special on 2013-01-09 14:08:21 GMT from Canada)
First of all, I love the name, I can't decide on funny or genius, lol, maybe both. Anyway, it's an interesting distro hybrid concept, it's getting my attention, I hope it's around for a while.
52 • re: x86 are still around (by Peter Besenbruch on 2013-01-09 23:58:25 GMT from Austria)
"Believe it or not there are readers that only have access to 32 bit machines."
Believe it, or not, this reader tends to install 32 bit Linux on 64 bit capable machines. I simply don't need the extra memory. All of what I do works fine with 1 gig. of RAM, even Windows virtual machines. "1 gig. ought to be enough for anybody." ;)
53 • pc bsd (by William L. on 2013-01-10 03:13:12 GMT from United States)
As for PcBsd Ive tried to install/use it about a year ago. that is when i started tinkering with Linux distros after( in my opinion ) micro-softs blunders in there win 7 - 8 os's. At that time it was time to try to use Linux. well the first one i tried was PcBsd on which didn't go well and i gave up on it and went with Ubuntu. as a newbie in Linux i think the new users coming from windows to Linux or BSD as in my case it is hard in trying to lean a new OS as in just install and run like they do for windows. In my case im getting there learning this stuff. With the help from the different forums and the people on here in the learning curve of a new os that you as the user have to do some things to make it work. i might try PcBsd again and see if its any better to install now i know some of the stuff so will try it again. and as for puppy,openSUSE and the likes they seem to be very good os's. as of me typing this ive been using Mint13 for 2 months now and i like it. So to all of the teams working on these distros keep up the good work.
54 • Backlight problems for Linux when Windows not installed (by gnomic on 2013-01-10 05:10:39 GMT from New Zealand)
Looking through the manual for Manjaro Linux recently I came upon the following passage. "Some people - particularly those using laptops- are encountering a problem where the screen brightness is too dim upon replacing MS Windows with a Linux distribution as their main OS. Although it affects all Linux distros, the problem is actually due to the computer's BIOS settings. Certain hardware manufacturers have set it up so that if Windows is not detected running on their systems, the backlight is automatically disabled."
As it happens I have an HP DV4 machine which has no Windows as it has no hard disk. This laptop always starts up with a blank dark screen using Linux live media, but certain distros manage to turn on the backlight during boot. These include Fuduntu 2013.1, Fedora, Solus, and Toorox.
Has anybody seen anything like this, or does anyone know of such a problem? Have the Manjaro people got this right? I mentioned this last year on Distrowatch but had not seen this particular suggestion at that time.
55 • 64-bit ONLY! (by RollMeAway on 2013-01-10 06:10:28 GMT from United States)
Sounds elitist to me.
I have 8 old computers in my home office for my hobby: linux. Most bios dates are 2004 - 2006. Fastest is a 2.8 Ghz, P4 with 2 GB ram, and nvidia 6200 video card.
I maintain and use 11 at my work, only one is a 64 bit. That one is a sales guy wanting to impress.
I could afford a NEW computer, my work certainly could too, but WHY?
These OLD computers perform their tasks quite well, or they would be replaced.
Like the car analogies: Some people must have a new car every year. Why?
Bragging rights I suppose. I can go anywhere the brand new car can, in my old car.
56 • 52 • re: x86 are still around (by Leo on 2013-01-10 13:25:18 GMT from United States)
Keep in mind that you can actually address more than 3gb of memory in the systems with PAE processors (and kernels), so the benefit of 64 bit is not so much access to a lot of memory, as it is faster computing (see my comment above).
I definitely think that distributions should support non-pae 32 bit for older hardware. Like RollMeAway says, for many uses/users, old computers do just fine. And old processors are non-pae.
Kudos to Bodhi to reinstate support for non-pae processors!
For more on PAE:
57 • re 55 New car. (by willi,amp on 2013-01-10 13:48:11 GMT from United Kingdom)
I drive a Honda, proven over the last 10 to 15 years to be the most reliable car on the planet. It's not the fastest, overstyled, expensive car available but it's the one most likely to get me there. That's also the reason I use PCLinuxOS.
58 • PC-BSD installation (by LLO on 2013-01-10 18:29:56 GMT from Hungary)
Jesse you are really a lucky person, because not everyone can just play with PC-BSD as one wishes.
Since 7.x, I have tried to look at it without success. It is uninstallable on my machine due to failure of the installer. It generates an infinite loop something like:
“ATA IDENTIFY. ABC: e c 00 00 00 00 40 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
CAM Status: Unconditionally Re-queue Request
Error 5, Reentry was blocked”
This looks to me complete nonsense. Some other mode, the system just hangs, or flashes the word panic.
It is impossible to systematically check it, because the installer has the imaginable worst menu: no highlighted area, no cursor, no cursor movement, no explanation on the menu entries, and no apparent clue how to stop the running cloak timed something like 8 seconds.
This is not a hardware problem. A system with core 2 duo processor and Gigabyte GA-EG45M-DS2H motherboard is quite ordinary. Installing Desktop BSD presented no problems at all. The real problem that Desktop BSD ceased to exist soon after its installation. However, I still can recommend to the FreeBSD and PC-BSD developers to look at the installation script of Desktop BSD that generated the best installation experience of any BSD and Linux system I have ever installed.
Other aggravating factor of the lock of permanent record of the start-up messages. 60 years ago, every word of the system operator and system response was recorded on the console log. Should not we have a dedicated area on a floppy, or a thumb drive for that purpose. Would not be simpler and far more effective to send that file to the developers than try to explain the problem based on the run-off screen messages?
PC-BSD has a highly desirable feature of some applications that are stored with all the necessary dependencies. As I know it now, no corresponding feature is in the existing Linux world. While existed, GOBO Linux allowed to store various generations of the same library avoiding clashes between between applications with such dependencies, or undesirable forced updates. In nowadays word, formal homogeneity seems to be more important than content. That is plain wrong. Not all applications can, or desire to follow the trend of formal decorative changes. In some academic and professional fields, there is no budget for such changes. Unfortunately the developer seem to the least concern of those eras. If we wanted to measure the usage rate of Linux in percentage instead of part per million they should!
59 • @54 Laptop backlight (by Sam Graf on 2013-01-11 01:26:12 GMT from United States)
The only computer I've experienced something like that on is a Gateway NV79, and that was during installation or live operation under Debian or Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distributions. To work around it I would attach an external monitor. After installation, the computer would boot normally.
60 • Re: 5 usb stick based distributions (by Shankar on 2013-01-11 09:29:18 GMT from India)
My workhorse 'computer' has been a flash drive for the past seven years (from late 2005 or so). For the first four years I ran Puppy Linux on it and then switched to Debian Live persistent (by far the easiest mainstream (i.e. not Puppy) distro to put on a flash drive, incidentally, since it is very predictable and it's easy to, for instance, divine the correct GRUB stanza). I have only recently started experiencing speed issues related to writing to the flash drive, but I think that's because I probably have an unusually slow flash drive at the moment. Otherwise it' just like an ordinary system. Using Debian's Web Image Builder allows you to build a minimalist image (in my case with just the basics plus X11) and everything else yo ucan then install on the flash drive just like a normal system, and it is all (aside from the stuff in that initial live image) upgradeable at any time.
Try it, it's worth it. It really amazes me that more people don't take advantage of this functionality in so many distros. I have a desktop at home and a small netbook, but anywhere I go I just plug my flash drive into any available computer and in thirty seconds am up and into in my system. Provides security, stability, ease of use (no worries about sync'ing files etc.) and power all rolled into one. Backup scripts take care of the rare loss / failure of flash drive situations.
61 • re 55 and those 'old' computers (by gnomic on 2013-01-11 10:06:48 GMT from New Zealand)
Call me out of date, but I'm just getting round to calling those PIII machines 'old'. That's just about round turn of the century stuff if I'm not mistaken. If it still turns on and boots . . . . However I suppose that's not the way the world works, and just as live CDs are now mostly live DVDs, looks like 64-bit is gradually supplanting 32-bit round about now. As usual it all depends on what the function is; if it's a typewriter that maybe plays an MP3 on the side or even a music CD those fossils will do. However, am I right in thinking there are no 32-bit chips being made any more aside from some specialised purposes perhaps? It's the progress thing. Maybe the rot set in when Linus jettisoned the 386? In my own little sphere things have just recently gone 64-bitwise as to the hardware on hand, and I find myself often downloading 64-bit images albeit with a sense of regret.
62 • Re: 61 (32 bit processors) (by Leo on 2013-01-11 14:21:22 GMT from United States)
I think you are right, gnomic. Nobody is producing 386 processors. The answer is here:
"Some 64-bit architectures, such as x86-64, support more general-purpose registers than their 32-bit counterparts (although this is not due specifically to the word length). This leads to a significant speed increase for tight loops since the processor does not have to fetch data from the cache or main memory if the data can fit in the available registers."
Low level *86 processor both from AMD and Intel (Atom) are 64 bit.
The exception would be the very low power ARM architecture (mostly smart-phones), which is still 32 bit, but starting plans to move to 64 bit
63 • @62 (by Patrick on 2013-01-11 14:37:43 GMT from United States)
32-bit is a very important segment for Linux, but maybe not on desktops and laptops. But the Linux kernel is going very strong in phones, routers, embedded systems etc. and all those will stay 32-bit for quite a while longer. In my world (embedded systems), 8-bit is still widely used and 32-bit is just now starting to threaten that position in large volumes. But then we're talking mostly about 32-bit bare metal or with a small RTOS, most of them don't have enough memory to boot Linux let alone run Linux programs. It will be a while before your microwave or stove will be running Linux...
64 • Re: 62 (Patrick) (by Leo on 2013-01-11 15:37:18 GMT from United States)
Sure Patrick, this is what I meant to say at the end of the post, and you gave a lot more and useful details, thank you!
When people say 'Linux will never be popular' I laugh. Nothing is more pervasive: a lot of embedded devices, as you said (very strong there). Servers (#1 I believe). Smartphones (#1 market share). Tablets (also via Android, prob #2 after iOS). Chromebooks are selling like hotcakes now at the right price point.
Oh, and Linux runs, perhaps, your fridge:
Where is my KDE toaster? :)
65 • @57/ old hardware (by mz on 2013-01-11 17:37:49 GMT from United States)
Well my fathers '85 Camero was over 20 years old with over 380,000 miles on it when he got rid of it, but this is about your favorite old rust bucket car, it's about Linux!
I've got to say though that keeping an eye out for old hardware can pay dividends. 3/4ths of my computer hardware is second hand stuff that may well have been scrapped if I haden't gotten it. I really don't see my 433 Mhz IBM as good for much other than firewall duty, but my 1.7 Ghz laptop has been good for daily use up till now & has help me work on my college classes. I've also got a 2.5 Ghz back up machine that is sitting around in case everything else intended for desktop use fails. All 3 are old 32-bit single core machines, but they are nice to have around. Keep on the look out, one man's PC junk could be another's treasure.
66 • PC-BSD wild ride first notes (by Fossilizing Dinosaur on 2013-01-11 17:45:40 GMT from United States)
From Windblows, unpack all 5Gb and win32imagediskimager to ~8Gb stick. Plug, boot, wait on truly minimal animation, then wonder which to choose from a long list which evaporates in seconds to scrolling text, during which it asks to grow its partition to take over the entire stick.
This may be stressful for someone who doesn't know what to expect.
67 • Usb installed vs LiveUSb, re: #5 (by Tom on 2013-01-11 19:14:23 GMT from United Kingdom)
I was interested to hear AliasMarlowe say that he/she found a full proper install on a Usb-stick was slower than a LiveUsb session. I assumed it was the other way around.
Do other people find the same?
68 • hating the haters (by Tom on 2013-01-11 19:36:15 GMT from United Kingdom)
Yes, i hate all the haters too. The hats are ok. Surely it's all just friendly rivalry and a bit of angst about things that are annoyingly nearly perfect but just not quite there in whoever'the individual's opinion?
I tend to find each distro i try has a good niche that possibly no other distro covers or covers it in a different way to suit different folks. Almost all cover vast swathes of the middle-ground really well too, sometimes under certain differing conditions.
There is plenty of room for all, at least until Microsquish usage is down to around 30-40%. Until then we can be fairly certain that none have really fulfilled their potential and been taken up by as many users as they deserve.
69 • Usb installed vs LiveUSb (by anticapitalista on 2013-01-12 01:22:06 GMT from Greece)
#67 I can well believe it to be the case. In fact in my tests running antiX live or frugal from a hard disk, is definitely faster than booting an installed version either from hard disk or usb (not that an installed antiX is slow).
It might be because I have an old computer compared to what is now available (It is over 5 years old)
70 • Debian only for Desktops now (no more Redhat) (by gregzeng on 2013-01-12 08:52:47 GMT from Australia)
Many noobs think that all 'Linux' systems are alike", without knowing that toasters, servers, smartphones & desktop computers require very different operating systems, even if they happen to use a Linux-derived brand-named operating system.
Distrowatch is plagued by suicide bombers, obsessing to keep server-only operating systems (Redhat mainly) alive in non-server markets.
Lets all admit it - RPM-type desktop systems (PCLinuxOS, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Mageia, ... ) have apps that cannot be interchanged reliably with each other. Only Deb apps will auto-install & uninstall, without dependency hassles, between ALL Debian-based distros, whether they be 'buntu-based (the most popular), or not.
The Synaptic Package Manager don't automatically allow this, so every new system should be altered from the default: "Ask for confirmation changes that affect other packages". To bypass this stupidity, a few 'tricks' are needed to try to maintain parity with Windows & IOS; nothing that a few reboots cannot solve.
Linux's suicide bombers destroy its mass usage, so that third-party app makers cannot program for the two mainstream Linux distros (Redhat or Debian). Not every 3rd-party works well in Java (LOL !).
Let the small-minded flaming begin - as long as the current Linux users can continue their elitist minority status. The global free market seems to defeat this petty dictators.
Populist opinions on Youtube tend to agree with me:
youtube.com/watch?v=MjbXSbaMwV0, /watch?v=q3DnIMUtI_o, /watch?v=QyLTdUSlb8w, /watch?v=LHdS2P3qpMk
BTW: My 1st workable Linux distro was PCLinuxOS, decades ago. And I'm unhappy with the suicidal RPM-distro creators too.
71 • pclinuxos 2012.2 lxde mini - distro without a desktop? (by gnomic on 2013-01-12 10:38:05 GMT from New Zealand)
Lately tried out a December 2012 version of PCLinuxOS with LXDE desktop, the 'mini' version. However the desktop never appeared, no screens found. There seemed to be some problem with parsing a file on the way to running X window. Tried all the options including frame buffer on three machines - still no desktop. Anyone had any success with any versions of this latest release in live CD mode? A bit disappointing as the 2012.06 edition did manage to run X, even on the aberrant HP laptop mentioned previously. This distro often seemed to be on the quirky side back in the day, but it seemed they had got it together in mid-2012.
72 • USB installed vs live USB (by AliasMarlowe on 2013-01-12 14:32:11 GMT from Finland)
Actually, the Kubuntu installed on USB runs about as well as a live Kubuntu USB - once both have fully booted. I have not done any benchmarks, of course, and likely will not, so I cannot quantify this assertion.
What is noticeably slower is the boot time for the system installed on USB compared to the live USB of the same distribution. It takes longer to reach the login screen on the installed system compared to the live USB reaching its desktop. If one logs into the installed system as soon as its login screen appears, one must still wait at least half a minute before applications can be launched from the KDE menu. By contrast, applications can be launched on the live USB immediately after its desktop comes up.
73 • USB proper installs vs liveUSB (by dbrion on 2013-01-12 14:33:18 GMT from France)
If you are satisfied with the default options, liveUSB is almost a copy (adding a boot sector?) , and proper install is sometimes a copy too (removes unused hardware drives) : both are slow on flash+USB.
If you want non default packages,
* USB install uses the package manager to **write** binaries on the USB stick : as writing is slow, if you need many packages and are in a hurry , you can .... use an external rotating disk (the price per byte remains interesting) , and this works with little lags in writing (unless you share your USB bus with many other devices).
* OTOH, live USB , once it has been written, cannot add packages (like a CD/DVD) without tricks (mounting another disk|partition as /usr/local is the easiest I found out) . Therefore, they are seen as fast... but it is not the only thing which might interest you .
I use 32 GB USB sticks (they are not too expensive now, and I have got some data) with Fedora and sometimes Mageia, but packages were added during night,-I know it needs time, so I managed not to be annoyed with that-.
74 • For Troll Greg Zeng (by Fossilizing Dinosaur on 2013-01-12 15:27:06 GMT from United States)
Several distros have tools for adding deb, rpm and other package forms. Perhaps you should encourage development of such tools, instead of whining?
Even versions of closed systems are challenged to run apps designed for earlier/other versions of their own systems. But yes, updating by default is dependency cultivation. Some users do, some don't,even with the closed systems.
After all, even for closed systems, we all start out as noobs.
75 • @70, @71 (by Ika on 2013-01-12 21:08:12 GMT from Spain)
”Only Deb apps will auto-install & uninstall, without dependency hassles, between ALL Debian-based distros, whether they be 'buntu-based (the most popular), or not.”
Really? If you’re looking just inside Mint releases you’ll see it’s not quite true.
I’m running the latest PCLOS 2012.12 KDE and all is working fine. Did you check the md5sum? Maybe the download is corrupted... Enter the forum and ask them; you’ll find help there.
76 • beware BODHI--automatic mount of all partitions (by Roland on 2013-01-12 23:41:46 GMT from United States)
Installed bodhi 2.2 from thumbdrive to sdb1, w/sdb2 as home. I discovered that it automatically mounted all my data partitions without my permission and without entries in /etc/fstab. I put entries in /etc/fstab for my data partitions as 'noauto,user' and the OS hung during boot. This is dirty pool. OS developers: these are not your computers, they are the property of the owners. DO NOT mess with other peoples' hardware. DO NOT mount every partition on the machine just because you think it's a good idea. It isn't. Today's boxes often have big partitions. They can take a long time to fsck. Every mount increases the mountcount causing long fsck's. What's worse, today's OSes don't give any feedback when a long fsck is occurring. This is dumb.
77 • re #75 pclinuxos lxde-mini failing to start X (by gnomic on 2013-01-13 00:53:42 GMT from New Zealand)
The iso image came from a usually reliable mirror and matched the checksum provided. The first CD was burned at 10x speed, as there was a problem I tried again at 4x. Still no X Window. Could be a case of a duff iso that somehow got released, happens sometimes. Guess you have the full KDE release weighing in at 1.3G, but am unable to d/l that due to a data cap. Maybe I'll just try the full LXDE release and see if that works for me.
78 • re #71, 77 pclinuxos lxde mini problem (by gnomic on 2013-01-13 01:23:05 GMT from New Zealand)
Hmmm, had a look at the PCLinuxOS forum and I see someone else has the no X Window problem also - but no fix suggested. Was registered with forums in the past, but that seems to have gone west. Waiting to be informed whether I'm approved for registration.
79 • PCLinuxOS 64 bit is there....if you know where to look (by TonyA on 2013-01-13 01:26:20 GMT from Thailand)
Contrary to the believe that PCLinuxOS has no 64bit version, I would like to tell you that I am running the 64 bit version for over 6 months now on a 'daily' base.
It is true that there is no << official >> 64bit distro, as not "all" applications are successfully ported to 64bit yet.
But on my hardware it is stable, fast, elegant and a pleasure to work with.
And with work, I mean that the CPU is asking me for overtime pay :-)
Of course, a few things are going to depend on which appz you need.
However, the update to current state is....long, big, ,,,grrr
80 • non-X86 Linux Cloning (by Russell E. Jenney on 2013-01-13 02:26:47 GMT from United States)
I current run Debian 6.0.5 on a Mac G5 PPC quad at 2.5Ghz. I can clone my operational drives on x86 machines with "Clonezilla," but this will not work on the PPC achitecture. Apple's OSX "Tiger" and "Leopard" installation discs have a cloning capability in the "Disc Utiltiy" Restore Process; however, neither system's Disc Utlity recognises ext4 or any other files system other than HPFS+. Is there a program or command line code it can Use to clone a Debian disc on a non-x86 architecture machine?
81 • No more downloadng Debian and Ubuntu based distros (by Chanath on 2013-01-13 07:23:06 GMT from Sri Lanka)
I shall be reading the distrowatch every week, but I won't be downloading any Debian or Ubuntu based distros, until Debian 7 and Ubuntu 14.04 arrives. As for the Debian based, it would be the SlousOS 2. As for Ubuntu 14.04, the time to start looking at it would be around October, November this year.
I find that there is no use in downloading and testing any Ubuntu release until the first daily of 14.04. In this "development" fervour Ubuntu had shot in the foot by releasing Quantal and the daily version sof Raring. Ubuntu uses Compiz 0.9.x as its engine, but that Compiz it uses with the newly "developed" base, cannot work with Compiz in its full capacity, which means the Quantal and the upcoming Raring is a bug in its own. In other words, the Quantal is a bug, and not a real distro. Theh raring would be a bug, when its released.
If Precise can use the same Compiz and have that Compiz work in full, and the Quantal cannot, then Quantal is a buggy release, and the Quantal's bas is buggy. Ubuntu had faild in its "development" fervour!
Thw Quantal's base cannot work also with the already working, and very well working so-called Unity 2D in Precise, so Quantal is inferior to Precise. The raring release would be inferior to Precise. In this "development" fervour., Cannonical had shot in the foot!
82 • pclinuxos 2012.02 lxde - bad iso problem (by gnomic on 2013-01-13 11:14:24 GMT from New Zealand)
Fresh news to hand it seems that a bad iso image may have escaped into the world for the full lxde version at least. Watch this space.
83 • PCLinuxOS (by SkepticalReticent on 2013-01-13 18:46:26 GMT from United States)
Latest LXDE was 2012.12 last time I checked; 2012.02 wasn't 'bad'. But they recently restructured their mirrors structure.
84 • gnomic (by Ika on 2013-01-13 22:52:56 GMT from Spain)
Actually I'm running the MiniMe edition 2012.12 (about 500 MB), not the full one.
85 • @83 (by TonyA on 2013-01-14 01:21:43 GMT from Thailand)
How is the quality of the .ISO related to the mirror structure ?
Number of Comments: 85
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