| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 550, 17 March 2014
Welcome to this year's 11th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Every so often someone takes a look at the status quo and decides to try something different. While these outside-the-box concepts rarely enter into the mainstream, they do provide the community with alternatives and some outlandish ideas even get adopted, spreading innovation. This week we turn our focus to projects which are trying something different, something outside the mainstream. We start with a review of NixOS, a Linux distribution which showcases a new and powerful way of managing software packages. Then we explore Android-x86, a distribution of the popular Android mobile operating system, adjusted to work on common desktop and laptop hardware. In the News section we talk about the latest release of the Knoppix live rescue disc and a book which explores fun projects for hobbyists. Plus we link to a survey the Lubuntu project is promoting in an effort to gain community feedback. We also cover the distribution releases of the past week and look forward to fun new developments to come. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Deploying Software Sensibly with NixOS 13.10
One of the biggest problems I constantly see when using computers concerns package management, especially installing new software or upgrading existing software. I have long since lost track of the number of times I have had DOS installers fail because they incorrectly calculated available disk space or the number of times a Windows application did not install properly due to a missing DLL file or the number of times I have had Linux packages fail to install because the version of a library I had installed was not the version the software required. Then there are upgrades which can cause a system to no longer boot. Too often I have upgraded one library on a Linux system in order to satisfy one application only to discover the upgrade broke a separate program. Modern operating systems, despite advances in package management utilities, are complex creations and vulnerable to breaking. This is why I get so excited at the mention of new ways of packaging software. I really get enthusiastic when technologies such as Push Button Installer (PBI) bundles come along or, going back further in time, when technology like Java comes along and pushes ideas like "write once, run everywhere". Granted, these alternative approaches to software packaging have their own drawbacks -- PBI bundles are huge, making them inconvenient to download, and when Java came out it ran slower than a three-legged turtle. Still, I like to explore new ways of managing software, I like to see new ideas come down the pipe, because it shows people are acknowledging the drawbacks of the de facto standards and are looking for solutions. Which brings me to Nix and the NixOS project.
The NixOS project's website declares, "In existing distributions, actions such as upgrades are dangerous: upgrading a package can cause other packages to break, upgrading an entire system is much less reliable than reinstalling from scratch, you can't safely test what the results of a configuration change will be, you cannot easily undo changes to the system, and so on. We want to change that." The project's developers have put together a few interesting tools. The first is Nix, a package manager which comes with a variety of great-sounding features. Nix promises to avoid breaking things during upgrades, offers atomic actions, instant rollbacks to previous configurations and user-level package installations. (Don't worry if these concepts are not familiar, I will explore them in more detail later.) The developers have also put together a Linux distribution, called NixOS, which is designed to showcase the Nix package manager, letting us test drive the software in an ideal environment. The NixOS distribution is available in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds and an ARM port is in the works. There are two editions of the distribution from which to choose. One edition is about 735MB in size and features a live desktop environment. The other edition is a minimal installation CD with a command line interface only. I opted to try the large ISO with the graphical interface.
Booting from my selected image brought me to a text screen with a login prompt. Above the prompt is a message which lets us know we can login as the root user without a password. It goes on to mention that we can launch the graphical desktop by issuing a command and that pressing ALT+F8 will display a copy of the NixOS user manual. I thought having the user manual on one of the virtual consoles was a nice touch and I think more distributions should try this. I logged in as the root user and launched the graphical user interface which brought me to a KDE desktop with a minimal number of installed applications. Then I turned my attention toward getting NixOS installed locally.
The installation process for NixOS is mostly manual. The user must take care of disk partitioning ahead of time and set up swap space. We need to perform an initial configuration from the command line which, basically, just lets NixOS know whether to install a boot loader and, if so, where. With that done we run a script which copies all the required files into place and wait for it to complete. Doing this sort of manual, command-line installation may sound intimidating, but the project's documentation is quite clear on the handful of steps we need to perform. There is very little guess work and only about five commands to run, most of which we can copy directly from the NixOS guide. Once the installation was finished I rebooted the computer and launched my local copy of NixOS.
The operating system brings us to a text screen with a login prompt. At this point it greatly helps to have a copy of the project's documentation on hand, both for NixOS and the underlying Nix package manager. One of the first things I did was create a regular (non-root) user account and then go looking for ways to enable a desktop and various services. Here is where it becomes important to understand a few things about the Nix package manager, so let me shift focus for a moment.
NixOS 13.10 -- Desktop and project documentation
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Nix is an unusual package manager in several ways. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Nix is that can operate, essentially, in two modes. In one of these modes Nix acts very much like other Linux package managers such as YUM or APT. We can search for available packages, install, remove and upgrade software. In this way Nix will feel fairly familiar to most users. There are some great bonus features provided I will get to later, but for now just be aware Nix can operate like most other package managers you may have used before. The second way Nix can operate is quite different. Nix can utilize a configuration file which reads a bit like a C program or shell script. This configuration file defines certain services or features the operating system should have. The Nix package manager reads this file and then tries to put together the required pieces to make our system match the designs laid out in the configuration file. We might think of the configuration file as a blueprint for how our operating system should be set up. This might be hard to envision so let us look at a few examples.
Let us say we need to install a boot loader on our system. On a distribution such as Ubuntu we would probably perform a few steps to do this. First we would install GRUB, then we would edit the GRUB configuration file to let it know where everything is and then we would run GRUB's update script to make sure the configuration changes we wanted took effect. On NixOS we add two lines to the package manager's configuration file, like this:
boot.loader.grub.enable = true;
The first line tells Nix we need a boot loader to be available and the second line tells it where GRUB should be installed. We then run a command to refresh the package manager's configuration and it does its best to work out how to make the operating system match our design. This will probably involve downloading, configuring and installing the boot loader for us. As another example, imagine we want to install the KDE desktop on Ubuntu. We might run the command "apt-get install kde-desktop" and then, when the required software has been installed, we might reboot to make sure everything is working properly, or logout to make sure KDE is a session option. On NixOS we add the lines
boot.loader.grub.device = /dev/sda;
services.xserver.displayManager.kdm.enable = true;
to the Nix configuration file and run the package manager. It downloads the required files, performs the necessary configuration and brings up the graphical login screen for us. As a friendly touch, the developers have left lines to enable several popular services in the Nix configuration file. All we need to do to enable these features is uncomment the desired lines and re-run the package manager. Pre-defined services include the CUPS printing software, secure shell, the KDE desktop and wireless networking.
services.xserver.displayManager.kde4.enable = true;
Following the steps laid out in the user manual I soon had NixOS booting to a graphical login screen where I could sign into KDE. The desktop is fairly sparse, featuring just a core selection of KDE applications. The desktop is laid out in the traditional style and some minor visual effects were enabled. The desktop was very responsive and maintained a relatively low memory footprint.
NixOS 13.10 -- Managing desktop settings and searching for software packages
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One of the nice features of the Nix package manager is that, by default, it allows regular users to manipulate packages on the system independently of other users. This provides two benefits. One is that users can acquire software they need without requiring administrator access to the computer. It also means that separate users can install different versions of the same package and the applications one user installs are not available to other users on the same system. For instance, Bob might be interested in stability and install the extended support release of Firefox. Susan might be more interested in the latest features and install the most recent version of Firefox. The two users never need to worry about one version of Firefox interfering with the other. In this way users can customize their profile to a great extent. The Nix package manager can also process package actions in parallel so Susan and Bob can install or remove packages at the same time without worrying about their actions conflicting. Having regular users installing and removing software might sound like a security risk and, in some environments, it is. For this reason, the Nix package manager can be restricted to work for only specific users or, if need be, the root user only.
Since NixOS ships with a fairly bare installation by default I found myself making frequent trips to the distribution's software repository. NixOS offers a relatively small collection of software compared with most other Linux distributions. I found around 2,500 packages, a small collection compared against Debian's 30,000+, but most of the popular applications were available. I was able to install the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client, Flash support and LibreOffice. While there may be a few missing pieces, I was able to find enough software to cover my day-to-day tasks. For the most part, installing and removing software went smoothly. At one point my download was interrupted when my network connection dropped, but I was able to restart the installation process and it completed without any problems.
One issue I did run into with Nix actually also revealed another great feature. At one point I decided to install the Apache web server, which is packaged in NixOS as "httpd". There were two versions of the web server available, Apache 2.2 and Apache 2.4. I installed the 2.4 version and started working with it. Later I told the Nix package manager to check for and install any available software upgrades. The package manager identified a version of the Apache server package, version 2.2, as being an upgrade and installed it. Now, while the 2.2 version may have been, in fact, a newer package, I considered it a downgrade from my existing 2.4 version. This is where Nix can be helpful. To get back to using the 2.4 version of Apache I simply passed the Nix software the command to rollback to the previous package set. A second later I was using Apache 2.4 again. This led me to wonder what would happen if I "rolled back" a second time. Would I lose Apache entirely or would I undo my fix and end up with Apache 2.2 again? As it turned out, another rollback command un-installed Apache completely. And this is where things get more interesting. Nix maintains a sort of snapshot of each set of packages. Every time we upgrade, install or remove software a snapshot is taken of our profile. A snapshot, in Nix terms, is called a "generation". For example, installing Apache 2.4 might happen in generation 11. The "upgrade" to Apache 2.2 might be generation 12. A rollback takes me back to generation 11. Another rollback takes me further back in time, to generation 10, where Apache has not yet been installed. Nix will allow us to skip to any generation we want. This means that from generation 10, where no version of the web server exists, I can skip ahead to generation 12 where I have "upgraded" to Apache 2.2. Moving from one generation to another happens instantly.
Generations are not just for individual user profiles either. System-wide changes, introduced by the root user, also result in snapshots which can be accessed at boot time. For instance, when I first installed NixOS I had a command line only environment. I later installed the X display server and the KDE desktop. At boot time I could select which profile I wished to boot, the generation where KDE existed or the older generation where I was running a command line only. This ability to jump to alternative snapshots of the system gives the administrator great freedom to experiment. An upgrade that introduces bad behaviour can be reverted almost instantly, a new version of a package can be installed, tested and wiped out in seconds.
Apart from the Nix package manager, there are several nice aspects to NixOS. One is that the operating system boots very quickly and, while it was running, the operating system was highly responsive in my test environments. The distribution did not use much memory and running the KDE desktop required a mere 140MB of RAM, about half what I typically see in most Linux distributions shipping KDE. NixOS ships with the Linux kernel, version 3.4, which worked very well for me. When running the distribution on my physical hardware all of my devices were detected and used properly. Sound and networking functioned out of the box and my display was automatically set to its maximum resolution. I also ran NixOS in a VirtualBox virtual machine and found it performed well there too, running quickly and smoothly.
NixOS 13.10 -- Running LibreOffice on the KDE desktop
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The Nix website claims the package manager is cross-platform with binary packages available on their download page for several Linux distributions and FreeBSD. Considering the long list of impressive features provided by Nix I was curious as to whether any other distributions have picked up the promising package manager. The short answer, it seems, is "no". I did not find Nix in Debian's or Ubuntu's software repositories and Nix does not appear in FreeBSD's ports collection. This surprised me a bit as Nix offers such a powerful collection of features, ignoring the advanced package manager strikes me as equivalent to ignoring advanced file systems such as Btrfs. Some people may question the necessity of having the extra features Btrfs or ZFS offer, but once used properly people wonder how they ever got along without them. I believe the same can be said for Nix. The one project I found that made use of Nix was Guix, a relatively young distribution which is built using the Nix package manager. I checked the mailing lists and forums of a few distributions, wondering if perhaps Nix has simply been overlooked. It has not. When people have brought up the idea of introducing Nix to distributions such as Debian they are met with a strong "not invented here" response. Some developers on various mailing lists have compiled a list of potential problems Nix might introduce. Larger hard drive requirements, the possibility a user might perform denial-of-service attacks against the package manager and ugly file name paths have been common objections. These developers, while they raise good points, usually admit they have not tried using Nix themselves or tested their ideas. I have used Nix and tested some of the more common concerns and have discovered a few things. First, that Nix does not require much more hard drive space than any other modern Linux distribution. There may be a slight increase in storage space used, but not a great deal, probably no more than PC-BSD, with its PBI package format, uses. Most storage concerns can be worked around by simply running Nix's garbage collection script once a week. Second, most potential attacks can be prevented by simply not adding all users to the permission group which controls the package manager (similar to the way we do not make every user an administrator on other distributions). Third, most users do not know, nor need to know, where their packages are actually stored and so long (or ugly) file name paths are not overly relevant. I am sorry to say, based on the discussions I have followed, most distributions are likely to ignore the benefits of Nix and avoid adopting the package manager or even porting some of its nicer features into existing package managers.
The NixOS distribution may have started as a platform for showing off Nix and it may have a rather crude form of installation compared to most other distributions. However, I found NixOS to be surprisingly fast, very light on memory resources and the software repository (while small) contains enough packages to cover common tasks. The distribution handled my test environments beautifully and I highly enjoyed my time with Nix. I hope the developers behind other distributions shift their thinking and, instead of coming up with reasons why they cannot adopt Nix, begin looking at how they can patch Nix to make it better suited to other distributions.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
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A follow-up to my UCS review
Last week I posted a review of two server distributions, ClearOS and Univention Corporate Server (UCS). I had trouble getting both distributions up and running which prevented me from getting to explore all the features these projects have to offer. A few hours after the review of UCS posted I received a nice message from Univention's Online Marketing Manager, Florian Popleu. Florian kindly confirmed that UCS does indeed offer both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 builds of UCS. Florian also helped me find additional English language support. It can be found in the Univention support database by selecting English from the drop-down menu on the left side of the page. I was also informed that the web-based administrator interface which eluded me is only available for installations where UCS is set up to serve in a specific role, such as master domain controller. The basic server role I selected does not benefit from the web-based interface. As Florian explained, "UCS offers the possibility to manage several servers with a central point of administration. It is organized similar to an Active Directory Domain, which means that all information (like users, computers, networks) is stored in a directory service and available for all servers, desktops and other. To meet the different requirements of servers in larger environments, we introduced "server roles" with specific preconfigurations. In a "UCS Domain", the
first server role is always the "Domain Controller Master", which holds the initial copy of the directory service. Further servers can be of any other role, where a "base system" is the only "unmanaged" role without any kind of management system or web interface. ... We will also integrate a message in the installer that will inform about
the limitations of the basic system on short notice."
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Lubuntu asks for feedback, Knoppix releases new rescue disc and the Raspberry Pi Foundation promotes book of fun projects
Sometimes it can feel as though individual users do not have a say in how their operating system is put together. Developers have a lot of priorities and they rarely have time to stop and sift through the feedback from their many users. Luckily some distributions have a strong interest in finding out what their users like (and do not like). The Lubuntu distribution recently put out a call for feedback from the community. "Our fellow (and Ubuntu member) Nathan Heafner prepared the Ubuntu community survey, a simple and quick test (no more than 2 minutes, trust me) whose results will help a lot to the entire community of those (like us!) who make Ubuntu and its flavours more secure, usable and beautiful. You'll be asked about your preferred desktop (I'm sure it's LXDE for Lubuntu), web browser, if you prefer using a mail client or not, if you want a startup sound, etc." The survey for Lubuntu, Ubuntu and all community variants can be found here.
* * * * *
For years one of the best testing and rescue utilities has been Knoppix, a live Linux distribution based on Debian. The popular live distribution has just received a new update and the Knoppix team has announced Knoppix 7.3.0. The new version will be made available through the March edition of Linux Magazine and feature many software updates. Of special note is the distribution's experimental support for booting in UEFI environments. Knoppix also comes with ADRIANE, which brings text-to-speech and menu reading capability to the live distribution, making the Knoppix disc an attractive option for people who are visual impaired.
* * * * *
Do you have a Raspberry Pi computer or other small hobbyist device? Do you like playing with the Linux command line or tinkering with small coding projects? If so then you will probably be excited to hear about a new book called Raspberry Pi Projects. The book includes 16 projects that can be completed with the Raspbian distribution and a Raspberry Pi device, though some projects will, no doubt, work on other distributions. According to the Raspberry Pi website the book "covers interactive text based games in Python, graphical games with PyGame, interactive game hardware, applications with PiFace Digital, making a toy chicken send tweets, chaotic pendulum hamonographs, car racing and more -- as well as a chapter on Minecraft by Sean McManus, and Home Automation by Jonathan Evans."
|First impressions (by Jesse Smith)
Android-x86 4.4-rc1 "KitKat"
Recently the Android-x86 project was added to DistroWatch's database and a few people asked if I would be willing to try this unusual distribution. Android is typically installed on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, so running Android on a desktop machine struck me as an interesting experiment. This is not a full review of Android-x86, rather this week I simply want to answer two questions: 1. Does Android-x86 run on my hardware or, for that matter, in a virtual machine? 2. How does running Android-x86 on a desktop system compare with running Android on a smart phone?
I do own and operate an Android-powered smart phone. My phone runs Android 4.0, a relatively old release compared to Android-x86 4.4. I like the flexibility and power Android gives me on my phone. It is convenient (and a little fun) to be able to take a call from a client regarding their server, login to the server from my phone, check its status and then play a game of Plants vs Zombies -- all from the same device, possibly far away from my regular personal computer. My phone certainly is not a primary computing device for me, but it does get a fair amount of use. Still, there are aspects of my Android device I do not like. For instance, the device locks up and typically needs to be rebooted about once a week. The interface is inconsistent and, at best, awkward to use. Performance is somewhat sub-par, though that can probably be blamed on the phone's limited hardware. My overall opinion of Android, as a mobile operating system, is neutral. The system does some things well and other things poorly, so I went into this experiment without strong feelings on Android one way or the other.
Android-x86 (release candidate) is available for download in one edition. The ISO file I acquired was approximately 295MB in size. Booting from this media brought up a menu where I was asked if I would like to run Android from the media as a live desktop or, alternatively, I could start the Android installer. First I chose the live option which then brought up a series of graphical screens where I was asked to select my preferred language, whether I wanted to enable wireless networking and if I would like to connect the operating system to my Google account. We are then asked if we would like to enable location services and we are asked to confirm the current date and time along with our time zone. Then we are asked to enter our name. Navigation through these screens can be performed with both the keyboard and the mouse. From there we are brought to a home screen. Android-x86 provides three screens (effectively virtual desktops) for icons and widgets. Some icons and widgets are already on display for us. I found a music widget, a collection of icons for Google services (YouTube, a music player, GMail and Maps) and an icon for the Google Play store. The virtual desktop has a photo gallery viewer icon and an icon for accessing system settings. At the bottom of the screen are icons for launching the operating system's web browser and camera applications. Below these icons are three omnipresent buttons for bringing us to the home screen, moving back a step and showing all open applications.
Android-x86 4.4 -- Welcome screen
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I tried running Android-x86 in two environments. I fired it up on my desktop computer and found that, while Android-x86 technically worked and properly detected all of my hardware, it had some bad habits. One of these habits was to turn my screen sideways (into landscape mode) and refuse to let me return to normal display mode. This made navigation (to say nothing of reading text) difficult. So while Android-x86 properly played sound and set up a network connection and my display was set to a high resolution, I soon gave up running the operating system on physical hardware. On the other hand, Android-x86 ran better in a virtual machine powered by VirtualBox. The screen resolution was quite low, but otherwise Android-x86 ran smoothly in the virtual machine and, more importantly, the operating system did not turn the screen sideways in the VirtualBox window.
The Android-x86 system installer is a text-based affair where we navigate through options using menus. The installer gives us relatively few choices to make. We are asked to partition the location hard drive using cfdisk and then we choose which partition to use as Android-x86's root file system. After that we choose whether to install a boot loader, wait for the Android-x86 files to copy from the installation media and reboot the machine. It is all quite straight forward if we have a disk partition set aside ahead of time. The first time we boot into Android-x86 we are walked through confirming our preferred language, linking the device to our Google account (assuming we have one) and we are asked to turn on location services. At this point my first question has been answered. Yes, Android-x86 runs on physical hardware and in a virtual machine. The project gets full points for recognizing my hardware and, occasional landscape mode notwithstanding, the operating system ran quite well.
Android-x86 4.4 -- Application management
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Going into this experiment I had suspected apps I run on my Android-powered phone would not also run on my desktop installation of Android-x86. There were some notes on the project's website about getting software to run on Android-x86 and so I assumed I would have to jump through some hoops to install additional applications. As it turned out, the Google Play store worked very well for me. Since my desktop installation used the same Google account as my smart phone, the apps I usually use were listed in the Play store and I was able to click a single button to install them. Browsing more applications in the Play store, grabbing software updates and installing most apps worked. I managed to grab a few web browsers, some games, a text editor, a terminal emulator and an ownCloud client from the Play store without any problems. Getting the software to run, once installed, was a hit-or-miss experience. Some programs worked perfectly. The ownCloud client, Cloudy, worked well, but crashed a few times. The Firefox web browser would run, but refused to actually show anything in its tabs. The Opera Mini browser refused to run at all. Some games such as Frozen Front worked fine, but Plants vs Zombies 2 did not.
This pattern of some programs working and others not running properly was reflected in the apps which came bundled with Android-x86. Some programs, like the system settings panel, worked perfectly, while others, such as the photo viewer, failed to run at all. The built in web browser worked, but the app to change the background wallpaper did not. In all, I would say around 60-70% of the apps I tried functioned properly.
As with the smart phone edition of Android, I found Android-x86 has a pull-down menu which supplies notifications. We can access this pull-down menu with the mouse pointer. It worked fairly well and I found the notification area resized itself to fit the text it displayed. Moving between virtual desktops worked fairly well and I found I could navigate using either the keyboard's arrow keys or utilize the mouse to get around using a swiping gesture across the screen.
Android-86 4.4 -- Notification area
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To answer my second question, regarding whether Android-x86 works on the desktop in a similar way to how Android runs on my smart phone, I tentatively say the answer is yes. Several applications did not work for me and there are some glitches, but for the most part Android-x86 behaves the same way on my desktop as Android behaves on my phone. The Play store worked well and, so long as I thought of the mouse pointer as a finger moving around the screen, I could navigate fairly easily. Performance was good on my desktop hardware, though boot times were a bit long when compared against most GNU/Linux distributions.
I feel my big issue with Android-x86 is not the apps which do not work or the minor glitches, but rather than it turns my desktop computer's interface into a giant version of a tiny, mobile device. The Android interface works (sort of) for small screens that can be touched. On larger screens which are not meant for touching the swipe gestures and lack of proper window management and the giant icons feel out of place. In short, the same issues which prevent me from seriously considering Android-x86 as a desktop operating system are the same issues which prevent me from using, for example, GNOME Shell on the desktop -- the design does not make sense for the given environment. Now, in the future, if I purchase a laptop with a touch screen, then I would be inclined to install Android-x86. The laptop's smaller interface and touch capabilities would better suit Android-x86's graphical shell.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
- My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Released Last Week
Jay Flood has announced the release of Porteus 3.0, a set of Slackware-based distributions and live CDs in five desktop flavours: "The Porteus community is overjoyed to announce the release of Porteus 3.0 (Standard Desktop edition), as well as Porteus Kiosk edition 3.0. Here is our changelog of major changes from 2.1 to 3.0: replaced Porteus package manager with a new version (GUI and CLI, CLI si called 'usm'); we no longer need to maintain a Porteus module repository and the new version will pull slackware package across 5 repositories and convert to modules; upgraded kernel to linux 3.13.6; PXE server - added support for random IP from private pool when nothing is defined; configured logrotate to rotate system logs once they reach 500KB in size; upgraded to KDE 4.12.3; fixed mounting of NTFS-formatted external drivers; upgraded to MATE 1.7.1...." Read the rest of the release announcement for a full changelog.
Puppy Linux 5.7 "Slacko"
Puppy Linux 5.7 "Slacko" edition, a small and fast distribution built from and compatible with Slackware's binary packages, has been released as the "flagship" Puppy release. From the release announcement: "Slacko Puppy is built from a 'Puppy builder' system named Woof, which can build a Puppy Linux distribution from the binary packages of any other distro. There are many 'puppies' built with Woof, including Precise, Wary, Racy, and Slacko. A new release of Slacko Puppy Linux is out! Slacko Puppy is built from Slackware-14.0 binary TXZ packages, hence has binary compatibility with Slackware and access to the Slackware, Salix and Slacky package repositories. More comprehensive release notes and documentation of known issues are available. Slacko 5.7 is the first Puppy built from the woof-CE build system, forked from Barry Kauler's Woof late last year after he announced his retirement from Puppy development. It is the natural progression of Slacko 5.6 with the added features introduced to woof-CE." More links for readers to follow can be found on Barry Kauler's blog.
Proxmox 3.2 "Virtual Environment"
Martin Maurer has announced the release of Proxmox 3.2 Virtual Environment edition, a Debian-based distribution offering a complete server virtualization management solution based on KVM and containers. From the press release: "Proxmox Server Solutions GmbH, developer of the open source server virtualization platform Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE), today released version 3.2. Big enhancements in this release are the SPICE multi-monitor remote viewer for virtual servers and containers (with spiceterm), the distributed Ceph storage system and Open vSwitch. Countless updates are added like qemu 1.7, improved live backup, support for VMware(TM) pvscsi and vmxnet3, a new ZFS storage plugin, latest NIC drivers and bug fixes. Proxmox VE 3.2 includes the ability to build the Ceph storage cluster directly on Proxmox VE hosts. Ceph is a massively scalable, open source distributed object store and file system that is very popular in many cloud computing deployments. Proxmox VE 3.2 supports Ceph's RADOS Block Device to be used for VM disks...." Also check the release announcement, release notes, and the download page for further information including download links.
PC-BSD 10.0.1, the first quarterly update of the project's desktop operating system based on FreeBSD 10.0, has been released. From the announcement: "The first PC-BSD 10.0 quarterly update is upon us, and 10.0.1 is now available. This update includes a number of important bugfixes, as well as newer packages and desktops. Changes: KDE 4.12.2; Cinnamon 2.0; Samba 4.1.4; Stability improvements to PBI subsystems; Updated GRUB loader, fixing issues related to slow / hanging startup; Updated AppCafe UI; Updates to Life-Preserver, including 'Classic' backup mode and automatic snapshots; Updated control panel with desktop settings buttons... Desktop users already running 10.0 can update via Control Panel -> Package Manager -> Updates. Server users can update via the 'pc-updatemanager' utility. If package updating fails due to conflict errors, please be sure to apply all system updates first before trying again."
Tiny Core Linux 5.2.1 "piCore"
Béla Markus has announced the release of "piCore" 5.2.1, the Raspberry Pi port of Tiny Core Linux for the Raspberry Pi single-board computer: "Team Tiny Core is pleased to announce the availability of piCore 5.2.1. It is an independent system architected by Robert Shingledecker and now developed by a small team of developers with strong community support. Tiny Core Linux is not a traditional distribution but a toolkit to create your own customized system. It offers not only flexibility, small footprint but a very recent kernel and set of applications making it ideal for custom systems, appliances as well as to learn Linux, matching Raspberry Pi perfectly. It is running entirely in RAM. There is no installation in conventional terms; extensions mounted read only, after reboot the same clean system is available. Base raw SD card image with CLI version is only 21.5 MB including RPi boot loader, firmware and support files. Changes from 5.2: kernel updated to 3.13.6; updated RPi firmware; added more protection of TC scripts against bad extensions; added kernel modules required by USB 3G adapters; added kernel modules required to connect WiFi AP with SHA encryption...." Here is the full release announcement.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to waiting list|
- USU. USU is a general purpose operating system based on Ubuntu.
- Exton|OS. Exton|OS is a Ubuntu-based desktop operating system
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 24 March 2014. 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 • Android x86 (by schultzter on 2014-03-17 14:12:27 GMT from Canada) |
I tried Android x86 as well, an older version, and came to the same conclusion: not a keyboard + mouse OS in it's current state. Owners of an Asus Transformer might disagree. Driver issues aside (I also had some video driver issues) I was also concerned by the lack of apps that run correctly and provide the same functionality as what I can do with Arch on the same laptop. Perhaps if Android x86 becomes more popular we'll see apps dedicated for this kind of platform. But then, this platform is what Chrome OS is for, right?!
2 • Android x86, an experiment? (by Garon on 2014-03-17 14:55:14 GMT from United States)
Android x86 seems to me to be more of an experiment then anything else. Chrome OS or Peppermint 4 could very well do the same things but they are not Android x86. Android x86 tries more or less to be a duplication of your Android phone. I'm sure it will improve as time goes along.
3 • Advancing distro tech (by Somewhat Reticent on 2014-03-17 14:57:44 GMT from United States)
Imagine combining the advantages of GoboLinux and NixOS ...
4 • new package management (by Carlo on 2014-03-17 15:37:01 GMT from Italy)
Oh please enough with this phantomatic "DLL missing" error in Windows... it is not happening since Win3.1 !! Truth is, it's very very difficoult for the average joe to screw software installation in Windows, at least in comparison with the PITA that is the package management in Linux.
I welcome things like this nixOS package manager, or the bundle system mentioned in the article, that at least try to fix it. This one from NixOS seems interesting enough: creating an abstraction layer for the user is a nice solution.
What I would like, though, is physical packages to be more self containing. E.g., I want to install/upgrade LibreOffice ? I should just need to download one package, not a dozen.
I could be wrong, but I also believe that the small size of the packages is highly inefficient in bandwidth use during the download, at least in the way current package management front-ends (aptitude, yum, apper) implement it.
Unfortunately for most examples it is utopic, at least in the collaborative floss world: it's very unlikely that distributions will take in charge of not only repackaging upstreams, but also to bundle several executables and shared libs.
5 • RE: #4 (by whoamI on 2014-03-17 16:15:36 GMT from United States)
@Carlo: "Oh please enough with this phantomatic "DLL missing" error in Windows... it is not happening since Win3.1 !!" Perhaps this is true for you, but please do not generalize for all users. I had the same problems in Windows 98, the last version I regularly used, nd I'm sure my wife had occasional issues in XP.
As for package management in Linux, I do not find it a PITA compared to Windows, merely different. The one thing we do agree on is that NixOS sounds interesting.
6 • What world do you live in? (by Garon on 2014-03-17 16:31:48 GMT from United States)
"Truth is, it's very very difficoult for the average joe to screw software installation in Windows, at least in comparison with the PITA that is the package management in Linux."
That is nonsense. Every day I run into people who can't get this program install or are having trouble with version numbers or architecture type. And yes you do have some not able to find .dll after installs. Not often but it does happen. So don't pretend that there are no problems at all with installing software in MS Windows. What is this PITA you speak of in linux? You will not find anything easier to use to install software than the Ubuntu Software Center or the Deepin Software Center, or whatever it's called. Even LinuxMint has a good software center. I agree that packages could or should be made more compact and self contained and updates be handled better, but that's not just relegated to Linux. You do run into the same problems with most operating systems when programs or applications are updated. Maybe there is hope with the "delta updates" people have been talking about.
7 • @6 (by Carlo on 2014-03-17 17:01:19 GMT from Italy)
Every day I run into non-computer literate people who install all kind of crap on their Win7 machines, but 99% percent of time if the software is not malicious the uninstallation is quite easy.
So you see, I have the exact opposite experience. So, what world do *you* live in?
8 • @5 (by Carlo on 2014-03-17 17:05:02 GMT from Italy)
You're joking right? Win98 was released in 1997 (17 years ago) and WinXP in 2001 (13 years ago). you don't presume that *maybe* windows' packet management has got better in the meantime?
For the records, PM in linux in those years was a *real* PITA compared to Win98 because of the "depencency hell" thing. Intelligent front-ends like apt(itude), yum or zypper had to be created yet.
9 • @4, 7 & 8 by Carlo (by GregNOIBN on 2014-03-17 17:43:28 GMT from United States)
90% of distrowatch readers already know installing programs in any modern Linux is just as simple as installing a program in Win XP or 7. Did you stop running Linux back in 2003 or 2004? Installs are now as easy and good as eating a great home-made Italian dinner.
All the default, main Linux package managers will completely and safely install programs with a simple click of the install button (or two click for some - apply and then install).
No dependency issues (I've had one dependency problem in 11 years of running Linux).
But, in Windows, a user has to watch what the installer does very closely, so you are ONLY installing the main program instead of several hidden attached spyware or similar program that modifies your browser or is just a general pain in the arzz. This is not the case with Linux installs for 99.9% of installs.
10 • dll and stuff (by Wolf on 2014-03-17 18:08:06 GMT from Germany)
Guys you are both right
I recently bought and installed a cheap IR Camera for surveillance. Not a Linux driver anywhere so null problemo I thought WIN 7 is my friend just throw the control software on and you're ready to go... since then even my rock solid WIN 7 Install with zero hiccups whatsoever turned blue from time to time (you know what I mean exception #!§$%!!!# in dll 8472852).
After that i deinstalled everything but still... only a complete System Backup did the trick.
I assume that buggy Software would've bugged my linux install the same way, if it only existed. So all in all I say I prefer the linux (community) way, if I had given any thought to the problem at hand, I would have known to search for linux compatible Hardware in the first place and paid the (higher) price!
My luck one only needs the driver for configuring the surveillance range of the camera and never again.
11 • Wow, no takers. (by Garon on 2014-03-17 18:56:27 GMT from United States)
From what I can find it seems that no one wants to adopt the delta software scheme. It just seems like maybe a good solution to large updates and not having to download the same packages or libraries again. Anyone know why not?
12 • Exton|OS and USU (by Ray on 2014-03-17 19:09:58 GMT from United States)
I will be testing both of the waiting list additions, they both look really nice tbh. Exton|OS is done by the same person/group as ExTix in case anyone uses ExTix already. Usu offers 3 versions, Desktop, Mini, and Netbook, with netbook being the one I am most interested in, since the few distros that actually made a netbook version seem to have let support etc wane.
13 • Delta upgrades (by Jeff on 2014-03-17 19:17:42 GMT from United States)
Debdelta is available in Debian, as with most things in Debian it is but one of many options.
Fedora has deltarpms (or so I have been told)
The main thing is that for some reason these are not default, why I do not know.
14 • #GregNOIBN (by Ika on 2014-03-17 19:55:06 GMT from Spain)
"But, in Windows, a user has to watch what the installer does very closely, so you are ONLY installing the main program instead of several hidden attached spyware or similar program that modifies your browser..."
+1! Not mentioning some programs never are completely un-installed even though you are cleaning the Registry. For example, just install a trial program (like say Kaspesky or Nero) and after the 30 days of trial give it a complete un-installation. Then give a regedit to open the Registry, clean it (BTW, you'll find here a lot of strange entries :D ) and then try to reinstall the trial program. Suposedly it should be now completely removed. Nevertheless, after installing again thet program it will come out that the 30 days trial period is already gone because the program was already used. So, where that spying leftover is located?
Or try to completely uninstall Norton. One of its components - Norton Identity Safe - will NEVER - be uninstalled (OK, I'm using Norton though in my Windows as it is, IMO the best).
And the list is large...
I had isuues with .dlls in Win Vista and 7 too.
And I agree with GregNOIBN: "Did you stop running Linux back in 2003 or 2004?"
I started looking at Linux back in 2009-2010 and, after some distro-hoping, I settled in PCLinuxOS. Jusy give it a try and see how install/remove software is working - but there are many other distros like Debian, Manjaro, *buntu (though I shy away to infect my machines with *buntus).
Sounds really interesting and very nice and useful. Hoping Nix will have the power to evolve and get acceptayion and implementation in Linux.
Hmmm... My question is: isn't it another spyware system? Don't Linux ecosystem have enough with this Linux Windows named Ub----? (can't even write the name ;D ). Or Google OS?
All the best.
15 • Delta rpms (by greentea on 2014-03-17 19:58:08 GMT from France)
In my experience, delta rpms take the same amount of time to install as normal packages. The only benefit is saving a little bandwidth which does not matter to me.
16 • @10 re: IR cam (by SilverBear on 2014-03-17 22:44:40 GMT from United States)
I realize this doesn't help you. But my son was on a military training gig in the Mojave desert a couple years ago. I have no idea what brand/make/model hardware was used, but he said the perimeter security system they set up for their "camp" was running on Red Hat Linux to manage all the IR cams.
Apparently coyotes and wild donkeys were the major threats detected.
17 • @15 Delta rpms (by Jeff on 2014-03-18 00:23:04 GMT from United States)
After reading the earlier comments and posting I did some more research, what time you may save downloading is often countered by the time used rebuilding the packages.
So deltas are probably best for those with very limited internet.
18 • NixOS (by cflow on 2014-03-18 02:06:40 GMT from United States)
I must say... I looked at this project's website many months before it was added to Distrowatch's database, and thought is package management features sounded really clever and useful. I skipped trying it, though, for many reasons:
1: If the Nix package manager worked as good as they said, I'd have assumed other major distributions would have picked up on it by placing it in their repositories. It made me think of it as still super experimental and unstable.
2: The screenshots on their website were - and still are - of KDE 4.2, which made me wonder how dated the OS really was in actual development.
3. When reading the installation instructions, the fact that you had to type terminal commands really scared me. I can do basic command line tasks, but to install the entire operating system, and right beside another one... I felt it would be too risky for me to do.
However, after reading this review, I think many of my concerns were addressed - especially the first one. I think I might try an installation some time to see how it works. That is, however, if I can ever remove my fear of manual installation...
Thanks for the review!
19 • Software Installation (by Peter Besenbruch on 2014-03-18 02:35:01 GMT from United States)
I ran into DLL hell last week, when I installed Turbotax 2013. OK, it was a lukewarm hell, because I can DuckDuckGo with the best of them, and I found a relatively simple fix.
As far as Nix is concerned, the "generations" feature looks interesting. The bug encountered makes Nix look less so for a production system. I tend to run Debian Stable, and don't want surprises. Still, Nix might be good for people who want a snapshot feature while not running on a virtual machine, or with a fancy file system. Nix is something to watch.
20 • @18 NixOS (by Anonymous Coward on 2014-03-18 02:46:28 GMT from United States)
In my experience, with one-off systems like this, installation is only half the battle. What you really have to watch out for is hardware compatibility, especially on laptops.
But since this system uses the Linux kernel, that probably would be less of a concern.
As you said, if the ideas in NixOS turn out to be revolutionary, you'll begin to see more of its methods used in other systems. Even the best ideas need time to work out their kinks and reach a decent level of maturity.
Experimenting can easily lead to a bricked system. Some, like BSD's, can be downright destructive in the way they aggressively format hard disks and boot loaders. So generally I prefer to just watch the progress, or if I really need to test it out, use a virtual machine.
21 • This 'n' that (by eco2geek on 2014-03-18 03:17:31 GMT from United States)
@11: openSUSE currently uses delta rpms to do upgrades.
Regarding package management in Linux: I remember trying to upgrade pan, the newsreader, on Red Hat Linux 6.something, using the newer rpm from pan's website and the "rpmfind" database, over a dial-up connection. It turned into a process of "install this rpm...which requires this rpm....which needs this rpm", to the point where I decided to stop and just go and buy and install a newer version of Red Hat Linux from CD. (Those were the days before Fedora and before "yum".)
Broadband Internet connections and package managers which do dependency checking have largely made that kind of experience a thing of the past.
As a longtime user of Windows, I've never had much of a problem with so-called "dll hell". As noted above, it's usually much harder to completely uninstall software than it is to install it.
22 • @11: I believe yum also uses delta rpms... (by eco2geek on 2014-03-18 03:19:19 GMT from United States)
...to do upgrades.
23 • @21 - Windows (un)install (by Anonymous Coward on 2014-03-18 03:37:40 GMT from United States)
"As a longtime user of Windows, I've never had much of a problem with so-called "dll hell". As noted above, it's usually much harder to completely uninstall software than it is to install it."
There are few things I hate worse than a Windows registry....
24 • last line of comment 21 (by jz on 2014-03-18 03:50:22 GMT from Brazil)
By Murphy's law : Almost everything is easy to put in than to take off!!!!!
25 • @Carlo (#4, #8 (by Angel on 2014-03-18 10:39:25 GMT from Philippines)
Funny thing, I got a call today ( No, not 12 years ago.) from a customer who was concerned about his memory usage on Windows 7. Trying to duplicate his setup and his perceived problem, I downloaded and installed Google Chrome. It started up as a black window, unusable. Bad install, so went to uninstall. The uninstaller would not work. A couple of tries and it was time to get trusty old Revo. After some false tries and two or three restarts, It finally decided to leave in peace.
I maintain and repair Windows PCs. Don't give me this canard about no problems with installing or uninstalling. Happens all the time. Main reason I use Linux on my own PCs is that have little time to spend fudging around with them
Turns out the customer was worried needlessly. His memory usage was right on the money. So not so bad after all.:-)
26 • The Real World. (by Garon on 2014-03-18 13:18:09 GMT from United States)
I live in the real world Carlo.This statement, "the uninstallation is quite easy." that you made is not indicative of a Windows uninstall. I'm sure your customers would be shocked to see the remains of programs that was so called "uninstalled." I've worked with these things since the CP/M days. I speak from experience.
Come on Ika. You talk about Android, and the Ubuntu's and their derivatives and say they have spyware installed or they are a spyware system, when it is nothing of the sort, and in the same comment you talk about your Win system along with super "Norton". LOL That is wrong on so many levels. Also I believe you mean Chrome OS instead of Google OS. :D
27 • @26 (by Ika on 2014-03-18 15:22:16 GMT from Spain)
"I believe you mean Chrome OS instead of Google OS. :D"
Yes, you're right... :)
As for my Windows installation... Yes, for one reason or another I have to use this OS (maybe will consider in the future to use a virtual machine for that purpose, but I don't like VMs...) so I have enough with one Windows, no need another one(s). ;D
28 • User-level installs available by default? AWESOME (by James on 2014-03-18 16:00:48 GMT from United States)
I'm not easily impressed, but this is something I've wanted built-in to a distribution for a long time. It's important from both a security and a usability perspective. I'm definitely going to have to check this one out.
29 • @26 Do you own an Android phone? (by GNUday on 2014-03-18 19:30:21 GMT from Canada)
I do, and my carrier INGRAINED Facebook so much so, I have to root the phone (voiding the warranty) to shut it off or uninstall it, you do realize Facebook is FOURTH PARTY to me, my carrier and Google (the Android author), of which I did not agree to any EULA for mega corporation Facebook to be present and/or running on my phone at any time, especially when I enable packet data, besides the insane list of permissions the Facebook app has, none of which I agreed to. It doesn't stop there, there are other apps that want to guzzle my packet data bandwidth in the name of demographics ad revenue snooping, location pinpointing, etc, so when you say there is "no spyware" on a carrier installed default Android phone, YOU are "wrong on so many levels".
I agree with you on the Ubuntu derivatives, it's pretty much only Ubuntu themselves that have the desktop search data leaving the local machine so Amazon can 'tailor' ads and send to you, on YOUR bandwidth.
30 • Android x86 (by doug on 2014-03-18 19:58:40 GMT from United States)
I setup my old Acer 9" netbook to multiboot Crunchbang Linux, Android x86 4.0 (eeepc spin) and Windows XP. I mostly use Linux, but I find Android quite usable on the netbook and use it frequently. I tend to prefer to use the mouse, but the trackpad works fine. Both WiFi and wired Ethernet work. Performace is fine, despite having a single-core Atom N270 with 1 GB DDR2. I've installed apps from the Play Store and the Amazon app store.
A key advantage to having Android is the number of apps. I used to have to use Windows for some things that I could not do on Linux. I now find that I can usually use Android to supplement Linux and never need to boot Windows at all.
I tried 4.4-rc1 via USB boot and was pleasantly surprised that the driver support seemed complete, eliminating the need for the eeepc spin. All devices worked. For me, the youtube app did not work, but youtube worked properly in the browser. I did not spend too much with the rc1 because it was clear that they were swatting a number of bugs, as one would expect.
I will install and use 4.4 when the bugs are cleaned up.
31 • Android X86 (by William Barath on 2014-03-19 07:56:21 GMT from Canada)
Jesse: did you try tipping your device to change the screen orientation? You probably have an accelerometer in your hard-drive which it used to (incorrectly) determine the orientation of the device, however that doesn't mean that you can't give it a nudge to flip it the right way around, so long as it thinks that the device is laying flat.
For example, my laptop screen rotates clockwise when I tip it up in my lap (annoying)
32 • accelerometer (by William Barath on 2014-03-19 08:11:08 GMT from Canada)
I should mention that the accelerometer shows up as a joystick as well and causes me some grief in some games which think I'm using the stick... Bard's Tale from the Humble Bundle is one example... unplayable unless I unload the kernel module or run jscal to center the joystick when I have it tipped up at a comfortable typing angle... but I definitely have to sudo rmmod analog; sudo rmmod joydev, unless I want to try steering a driving game by tipping my laptop... (which I have done to impress my friends, lol) None of that will help you with Android unless you root it.
33 • Android x86 (by OJTimpson on 2014-03-19 11:07:31 GMT from United Kingdom)
I got the same annoying problem of screen rotation when I was testing Android x86 on a laptop. The best bet is to turn screen rotation off before running any apps, but there are still some apps that only run in portrait mode. In this case, a quick press of the 'home' button should return you to landscape and you'll have to remove or never use that app again. Having said this, some have a portrait 'welcome' screen and will then run happily in landscape once that is navigated through once - Dolphin browser being one example.
I too found quite a few apps that crashed or just didn't run, and as most games are designed for touch screens with an accelerometer, mileage will most certainly vary as to how playable they are eg Angry Birds can be played using the touchpad, but you can't zoom in/out (this is done by pinching the screen).
BBC iPlayer installed, but the BBC Media Player back-end locked up.
Unless the devs start putting a lot more drivers into the kernel, don't assume that a touch screen laptop will work with Android x86 unless it was one of those previously tested (eg eeepc) - the touchscreen on anHP Mini 5102 for example, doesn't work, though the webcam does. It would be interesting to see if Skype works.
All in all, an interesting concept and much improved since I last tested it. If you do gmail and google calendars then the integration is nice, but otherwise, it is probably limited to web browsing (without flash) and some game play.
34 • Puppy is alive! (by Hugo Masse on 2014-03-19 14:59:23 GMT from Mexico)
It was great news to see that Barry's leaving Puppy development to devote himself to other projects has not affected Puppy. I've tried out Slacko 5.7 and it's refreshing to see new tools and ideas. I've also realized now that there is a large community of Puppy enthusiasts developing all sorts of things. Hooray for this lovely project!
35 • Software management (by M.Z. on 2014-03-20 07:49:03 GMT from United States)
Like others I've also had problems with dll hell long after windows 3.1. In fact I'm young enough that I don't even think I ever used windows 3.1, but I sure do remember a huge amount of frustration over at least a couple of messages about dll errors. I'd also say that I think software management is a genuine strength of all the versions of Linux that I use. When I was mostly using vista & booting into Linux some of the time I could keep Linux updated very easily with the package manager, but trying to do the reverse eventually became an exercise in frustration given how many programs I wanted to keep updated. Running manual checks for updates on lots of programs can be a real pain, which is one reason why I don't remember the last time I booted up vista.
Anyway, thanks to the folks at the Nix project for trying to further improve package management, it sounds like a useful & interesting project.
36 • updates& packages & @35 (by greg on 2014-03-20 09:11:01 GMT from Slovenia)
well in windows update is usually made when you startup the program. though lately they started to include some updates in their regular updates.
anyway it would be good to have something like DOS in linux. i mean everything a program needs is contained in one folder. to remove the program just delete the folder. instead windows and linux .have shared libraries and the OS just get bigger and bigger leaving garbage behind after uninstall (windows a lot more than linux). it's a mess in the disk.
37 • @36 (by M.Z. on 2014-03-20 17:49:14 GMT from United States)
Yes that's what I'm saying, you have to at very least open every program that you think should be updated manually, which is okay if it's a computer that you use regularly but otherwise it gets to be a pain. This is especially true if you have several internet facing programs that you want to be able to feel secure just running & you don't boot into the OS that they're on regularly. It's a lot simpler to just open one package/update manager every so often & use a few clicks to check for & apply all updates at once. For instance I have a backup computer with Debian on it that I don't use very often, but I can open Apper & check all updates in a fraction of the time it would take to try & update everything on windows. It's just a lot easier on Linux.
38 • Updating many; one kudo for Mark (by Fossilizing Dinosaur on 2014-03-20 18:25:03 GMT from United States)
Updating what isn't running may be controllable, but updating what's running is a bit dicey, especially drivers (kernel), thus I rarely appreciate blindly mixing all updates in one procedure.
On another topic, I applaud bumping the discussion of un-audited software drivers, and suggesting separation executables from declaratives. It' would be a change long overdue. Of course, there's rarely agreement on who should provide authoritative validation, and in these litigious times few dare volunteer.
39 • Nix (by Kazlu on 2014-03-21 12:19:44 GMT from France)
I fail to see how the Nix package manager avoids "dependancy hell". Maybe I need some explanation. I mean, first, I did never meet that "depency hell" personnally: using GNU/Linux since 2007, I have never had a *single* dependancy problem during installation or upgrade. Zero problem. Nada. I had trouble finding the correct dependancies only when I tried to compile software myself. Even with Ubuntu's network upgrades, I have had only one problem: Ubuntu 12.10's Linux kernel did not support my video card although 12.04's kernel did. I knew it was risky, I knew the live CD didn't bring me the desktop but it was a testing environment and I upgraded anyway just to see if I could do something. But that does not have anything to do with dependancy problems. So, no problem myself, but I admit it could happen one day, it happens to others, and I want to be ready when (if) the time comes.
Now, if I get this right, basically Nix reads a config file and uses what is in it to download and install programs... with their dependancies. How does it make installation and dependancy management any different from the usual package managers we know? It's just a layer above command line installation. I agree user independance reduces the risk of conflict on a multi-user system, but on a single-user machine it seems to me that it does not bring much. As far as rollbacks are concerned, that's precisely one of the points of Btrfs, so why add this functionnality in the package manager?
The only clear new and good point I see here is that is makes distro reinstallation - and, eventually, distro upgrade - much easier. Indeed, just copy the config file, do a fresh installation, put in place your backed up config file, have the package manager doing a barrel roll and you're good to go. A /home backup would also help of course :)
That backup ease in itself could be a sufficient reason to be interested in Nix, but since a lot of you talk about others aspects of Nix I am a little confused. Did I miss something?
40 • nix (by mandog on 2014-03-21 13:45:31 GMT from Peru)
The only clear new and good point I see here is that is makes distro reinstallation - and, eventually, distro upgrade - much easier. Indeed, just copy the config file, do a fresh installation, put in place your backed up config file, have the package manager doing a barrel roll and you're good to go. A /home backup would also help of course :)
Its not new pacman arch /synaptic Debian and possibly others do this just most people don't bother to find out this, is why arch reinstalls are fast copy the text file into your new home directory. call up pacman and it downloads all the packages and installs them
41 • @40 (by Kazlu on 2014-03-21 15:34:08 GMT from France)
For an simple reinstallation, it is true indeed. At least I knew it for Debian, not for Arch, but I did not look for it. However, this method cannot be used in Debian for upgrades, since packages may change from one release to the other. One has to do manual editing of the list of installed packages in order to reinstall its packages after fresh installation of the newer release. Where the Nix way is interesting is that the config file may contain services instead of packages. This way, even if the set of packages has changed in the newer release, one can install the same set of services without editing the config file: the package manager will get the proper package selection for the indicated services in the newer release.
42 • @39 (by Somewhat Reticent on 2014-03-21 18:46:11 GMT from United States)
Kazlu: Perhaps for a distro with a carefully-managed repository, dependency-hell is a common developer challenge, and rarely an end-user conundrum. As you noted, not during an update/upgrade, but when compiling from (incomplete/not-fully-documented?) source.
43 • dependency hell/ broken apps (by M.Z. on 2014-03-21 21:41:02 GMT from United States)
I actually have run into a few problems with a specific application that I think were dependency related. I do some occasional work with GIS (which is stuff with data on maps like census numbers, pollution in a given area, etc.), and for me the best seeming opensource program is QGIS. Unfortunately I've had failures with this program loading in both Mint & PCLOS. Mint seems to have switched back to the version used in Debian stable on their current release & all is well there, but I haven't been able to get QGIS to load in PCLOS for a while. Given the rolling nature of the distro I'm guessing that there is some sort of conflict between the version numbers of some dependency needed for QGIS & some other application, but I'm not sure and there seem to be no recent updates on previous dependency issues mentioned in the forums.
Anyway there are still some apparent problems even on Ubuntu based distros like Mint. I'd guess that any application that seems 'obscure' for most users of a distro would be at some degree of risk for dependency problems if you’re on anything less tested than something like Debian stable. It seems like troubleshooting the problem or finding a workaround would be easier with Nix than other package managers given the ability to roll back software and/or have different user profiles, which makes this new package manager sounds fairly useful to me.
44 • @43- broken apps (by Tony on 2014-03-22 10:43:37 GMT from Thailand)
I have just installed QGIS 2.01 on PCLinuxOS.
It had 33 dependencies, but it installed without a glitch.
32bit hardware-32bit software -- PCLinuxOS-KDE-Minime, fully updated
Hope this helps.
45 • Step forward, but... (by Knacker on 2014-03-23 02:21:14 GMT from Canada)
Yes NIx package manager is a step forward but...
1) it would be interesting how would it pan out in a long run- whether system won't become bloated just because of all those old "recovery files"
2) problem with WIndows or a lot of Linuxes is that many times after installing something it doesn't apparently break the system and you realize that something is wrong weeks/months later when you would like to use some program which doesn't work anymore. With NixOS there is a "roll back" solution (aka Windows' system restore), but the problem is that it wipes out everything (all instalations and upgrades) what happened beteween current state and faulty program instalation in the past... Not the best approach :(
46 • Nix (by Kazlu on 2014-03-23 14:31:13 GMT from France)
I read a little of the Nix's manual page Jesse has linked in his review (http://nixos.org/nix/manual/). I got what I missed: Nix installs programs in bundles with all their required dependencies in separate folders. My bad, I didn't look for the information, I recognize it. Now that I see the point, I find this indeed very interesting. It's very much like PC-BSD's PBI bundles. What I find particularly interesting here is that we can install Nix on any GNU/Linux distro (or theoreticaly any Unix system) alongside our regular package manager. That allows us to choose between the two ways: either the smaller packages (to downoad and to load in RAM) of the regular package manager, with the potential risk of breakage, or the big bundles from Nix without any dependency conflict. I would be glad to have the ability to use my regular package manager by default and also be able to use Nix occasionally for a risky or badly packaged piece of software. I think that the two ways are complementary and I am looking forward to seeing this project grow.
47 • @46 (by tony on 2014-03-24 00:56:23 GMT from Thailand)
>>>I think that the two ways are complementary and I am looking forward to seeing this project grow.
Maybe you would be interested in GoboLinux which shows simularites.
They have an old iso available and a new one in the make.
48 • Android 4.4 (by Michael Leones on 2014-03-24 05:13:18 GMT from United States)
I installed this distro on a AMD Quad core 8150 PC with 16g memory
with an AMD GPU video card. Also 2.4 wireless (Logitech) keyboard/mouse. Everything works except the keyboard. I installed a USB KB and it fixed the issue. WI-FI and ethernet cards work out of the box. When it goes to screen saver, it locks. I had to disable the screen saver
Number of Comments: 48
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