| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 579, 6 October 2014
Welcome to this year's 40th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Modern operating systems need to be versatile to be competitive. Popular open source operating systems often fulfil many roles, from desktop to server, from hobbyist toy to developer workstation and some even end up running on super computers. This week we discuss a range of projects which are capable of filling a variety of roles. We begin with a review of the PC-BSD operating system. PC-BSD has its roots in FreeBSD, a server oriented operating system, but PC-BSD strives to work well on desktop and laptop computers. Read on to find out what PC-BSD offers. In the News section this week we discuss Debian GNU/Linux, "the universal operating system," and the project's upcoming feature freeze. We also talk about Fedora's upcoming release and some of the changes the Fedora team is going through to make Fedora better suited to a range of computing environments. We also celebrate the birthday of PCLinuxOS, a distribution with a well deserved reputation as a friendly desktop operating system. In our Questions and Answers column this week we talk about setting up a home server and some security issues to consider when running network services from home. Plus, we announce a new, ongoing experiment in which Jesse Smith tests a variety of rolling release distributions. As usual, we cover the distribution releases of the past week and look ahead to fun, new developments to come. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (37MB) and MP3 (44MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
First impressions of PC-BSD 10.0.3
The PC-BSD project releases quarterly updates to their operating system, the latest of which is version 10.0.3. This new release of PC-BSD is based on FreeBSD 10.0 and offers several new and attractive features. New to PC-BSD 10.0.3 are version 2.2.14 of the Cinnamon desktop environment, a beta release of the Lumina desktop, bulk jail creation using the Warden utility and support for full disk encryption. This release also provides a CD-sized ISO image for people who want to install the server branch of PC-BSD without a graphical user interface. Looking through the release announcement we also find the AppCafe package manager has received some updates.
The ISO for the full version of PC-BSD is 3.3 GB in size. This ISO contains all of the project's Desktop software and can also be used to install the Server edition of the operating system. Booting from the installation media we are given the chance to choose between running a graphical system installer or the project's text installer. I opted to try the graphical interface. The installer first asks us to select our preferred language from a list. At the bottom of the installer's screen we see a line of icons which add optional functionality to the installer. One icon brings up a hardware compatibility screen where we can see which of our devices are supported. Clicking another icon brings up a screen that lets us change our keyboard's layout. A third icon offers helpful tips on each screen of the installer. Another icon brings up a virtual terminal where we can run commands and check system status. One icon brings up a network configuration utility and the last icon displays an on-screen keyboard. I especially like the hardware compatibly screen as it makes it easy to confirm whether our hardware will work with PC-BSD without any trial and error.
The second screen of the system installer asks if we would like to install PC-BSD in a desktop or server role. This screen also allows us to restore a system from a backup previously created by the Life Preserver utility. If we wish to, we can customize which software packages are installed. The installer allows us to choose which desktop environment we want to use, which third-party hardware drivers to use, what web browsers to install and whether to install development tools. We can also optionally install virtualization and compatibility software such as VirtualBox and WINE. I decided to set up a fairly bare PC-BSD desktop installation with the new Lumina desktop environment.
The installer then moves on to disk partitioning. PC-BSD uses ZFS as its file system and provides three ways for us to customize our disk partitions. There is a beginner option which only gets us to confirm the most basic of settings. An Advanced option gives us a guided path through tweaking ZFS pools, mount point options and the ability to enable more advanced configurations such as mirrored disks. The third option is a command line interface for experts and offers the most flexibility (and danger). I ended up taking the Advanced wizard and found I was able to simply click the "Next" button through most screens to end up with a suitable configuration. From there the installer begins copying files to our hard drive and, when it is finished, we are asked to reboot the computer.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - the welcome screen
(full image size: 1,156kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The first time we boot into PC-BSD we are asked to confirm the operating system has correctly detected our video card and screen resolution. We can change the video driver to be used and alter the display resolution from this screen. Each time we change settings we are given the chance to preview what our screen will look like with the new settings before we proceed. Once our video settings have been set and confirmed we are asked to confirm we want to continue using the language we selected at install time. We are then asked to select our time zone from a list, set a password on our root account and create a user account for ourselves. The account creation screen gives us the chance to encrypt the files in our user's home directory. With this configuration step completed we are brought to a graphical login screen. Here I found that I had the chance to login to either the Fluxbox window manager or the Lumina desktop environment.
When we first login to Lumina we are greeted by a window that welcomes us and offers to share some tips to help us use PC-BSD. We are briefly shown how to connect to a wireless network, how to launch the AppCafe package manager to find additional software, where to go to change system settings and where to find the Life Preserver backup utility. We are also told about the notification icon we can watch for that tells us when new software updates are available. The final screen of the welcome wizard provides links to the PC-BSD website, support forum and documentation wiki.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - the Lumina menu and software update utility
(full image size: 996kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The Lumina desktop places the application menu, task switcher and system tray at the top of the screen, though I later found it is quite easy to change the location of the desktop's panel. The background contains a fiery red design and the workspace is devoid of icons. Lumina loads quickly and the interface is quite responsive. Lumina runs atop the Fluxbox window manager, providing users with good performance and flexibility.
Shortly after I logged in an icon appeared on the top panel indicating software updates were available. Clicking this icon brought up the project's update manager. This application shows us a list of available updates and we can select which items we wish to download and install. Moving the mouse pointer so that it hovers over the name of an update causes a list of all files included in the update to appear on the screen. The first day I used PC-BSD only one update was available. Once I confirmed I wished to download this update the update manager indicated it would automatically create a new boot environment (snapshot) for me prior to installing the update. This means that, should the update break our operating system in some way, we can easily rollback the changes simply by choosing to boot from the snapshot created by the update manager.
The next time we boot PC-BSD we can select which boot environment we wish to run from the boot loader. I found I could not only boot into older environments from the boot loader, but selecting an alternative snapshot would bring up a second menu, asking if I would like to boot the old snapshot normally or in single user mode or in an alternative graphics mode. This makes recovering the PC-BSD operating system quite easy in cases where an update (or user error) causes the system to stop booting properly.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - the AppCafe package manager
(full image size: 569kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
I tried running PC-BSD in two environments, on a physical desktop machine and in a VirtualBox virtual machine. When running on the desktop's hardware I found most aspects of the operating system worked well. Networking and audio worked automatically and the system was fairly responsive. Boot times were a little slower than what I typically experience with Linux distributions. The one problem I had with PC-BSD running on the desktop computer was that the operating system would not work with the default video card driver. I had to run PC-BSD in fail safe video mode which uses the VESA video driver. This makes for less than optimal graphics performance.
PC-BSD ran smoothly in the virtual environment and I experienced no problems while running PC-BSD in VirtualBox. I did find the PC-BSD virtual machine tended to use more of my host computer's CPU than would be usual for a Linux distribution. My host's CPU was often pegged at 100% and would stay that way while the PC-BSD guest downloaded software, checked for updates or performed administrative tasks. When left alone the PC-BSD virtual machine would scale back and use virtually none of my host's CPU cycles. In either test environment PC-BSD used approximately 300MB of memory when logged into the Lumina desktop environment.
The software PC-BSD ships with can vary a great deal depending on the selections we make at install time. I opted to start with a small selection of software I could add to later. Along with the Lumina desktop I found PC-BSD provided me with the Firefox web browser (with Flash plugin), the X11VNC remote desktop software and the GNU Image Manipulation Program. I was provided with the MPlayer and UMplayer media players and a full range of multimedia codecs for playing popular file formats. The new Insight file manager is available, along with a few text editors and the Clang compiler. The userland tools, documentation and kernel are provided by the project's FreeBSD 10.0 base.
The PC-BSD Control Panel is, perhaps, the central focus of the operating system. From this configuration panel we can manipulate virtually every aspect of the operating system from printers to background services, to software packages and backups, to boot environments, firewalls and jails. There are a few items in the Control Panel I believe deserve attention. The first is the Boot Environments feature I mentioned earlier. There is a tool in the Control Panel that shows us a list of existing boot environments, snapshots that we can load at boot time. Using the Boot Environments utility we can create new snapshots at any time, remove stale snapshots and select which snapshot will load by default when the computer boots.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - the control panel and boot manager
(full image size: 624kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Another handy tool is Life Preserver. This utility helps us create backups of our data and it is quite flexible. Life Preserver will create traditional backups of our home directories if we wish. However, Life Preserver's power comes from its use of ZFS snapshots. We can have Life Preserver create ZFS snapshots of our data at regular intervals and automatically clean out old snapshots on a regular basis. We can also have our data automatically backed up to a remote machine on the network via a secure connection. Additionally, Life Preserver allows us to browse through existing ZFS snapshots, locate files contained in these snapshots and restore old copies of files with the click of a button. This makes recovering from data corruption or accidental deletion virtually painless.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - the Life Preserver backup utility
(full image size: 708kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
The AppCafe is PC-BSD's package manager and it has a nice, modern interface. Using AppCafe we can browse through categories of available packages and install new items with the click of a button. Clicking on the name of a package will show us a detailed description of the software, the size of the item and related packages for comparison. AppCafe provides a unified way to deal with packages from various sources, such as PBIs and raw packages managed by pkg. The AppCafe utility also lets us switch between PC-BSD's stable Production software repository and the project's fast paced development repository, called Edge. This allows users to effectively switch, at will, between a fixed quarterly release cycle and a rolling release package model.
Finally, one powerful tool offered by PC-BSD is the Warden. The Warden is a front end manager for FreeBSD jails. Using Warden we can create jails, take file system snapshots of existing jails and manage jails. The syntax for working with jails directly can be complex and Warden does a nice job of presenting all the jail features in a nice, tidy graphical interface. I also like that AppCafe integrates with jails and we can use AppCafe to install new software directly into a jail. This makes it easy to install services inside jails from the comfort of the graphical package manager. Using Warden we can create a couple of different styles of jails, including minimal PC-BSD jails and Linux-based jails. For example, we can create a jail which runs Debian Squeeze and install services from Debian's software repositories inside our jail running on PC-BSD. Running Debian in a jail nicely combines PC-BSD's lightweight container technology and file system snapshots for data recovery with Debian's fantastic package manager and dependency resolution.
PC-BSD 10.0.3 - managing jails with Warden
(full image size: 630kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
One thing that always stands out in my mind when I experiment with PC-BSD is how much functionality the operating system offers, how much power is available straight away. On the surface, PC-BSD looks and acts like most mainstream Linux distributions. PC-BSD runs the same desktop environments, we can run the same productivity software, the same web browsers and the controls are mostly the same. Under the hood, PC-BSD may take a slightly different approach to package management, but the AppCafe should be familiar to anyone who has used Ubuntu, Fedora, Mageia or openSUSE. Where the power of PC-BSD really shows up is in the administration tools which, despite the name, are not just for system administrators, but for regular home users too.
PC-BSD comes with the same tools we can expect to find in Linux distributions -- a firewall configuration app, utilities to change the look & feel of the desktop, a services manager and so on. Unlike most Linux distributions, PC-BSD also ships with a powerful file system (ZFS) and integrates this file system with its other utilities. This means we can make frequent (and time saving) snapshots of the files in our home directory, we can almost immediately recovery from damaging software updates and we can synchronize our data to remote machines almost effortlessly. Using ZFS we can also set up RAID configurations and mirrored disks, something that is usually awkward to do in Linux distributions. Finally, there is the Warden utility. While some leading Linux distributions are just starting to support and encourage the use of Docker as a way to contain and transfer software, PC-BSD offers a great GUI front end to managing lightweight containers. Using Warden we can take snapshots of jails, transfer jails between computers and even run instances of Debian if we wish to. To top it off, PC-BSD operates as either a rolling release or a fixed release operating system, appealing to people who either want to live on the cutting edge or to those who are more conservative.
The PC-BSD operating system does have a few drawbacks compared to mainstream Linux distributions. There are several programs, open source or proprietary, which run on Linux, but not on PC-BSD. The Chrome web browser and Steam gaming portal come to mind, along with a few other smaller utilities. Most of the time PC-BSD's software repositories are close to being on par with Linux distributions, but there are some corner cases where I found I was missing certain packages. I also found PC-BSD did not play well with my desktop computer's video card. PC-BSD typically works well with NVIDIA or Intel cards, but my Radeon card did not play well with the FreeBSD-based operating system. I think it's also worth mentioning PC-BSD runs on the 64-bit x86 architecture exclusively. For most people this will not be a problem, but some quite old machines may not work with PC-BSD.
All in all, I am impressed with what the PC-BSD team has managed to deliver with their 10.0.3 release. The project has taken on additional polish with the last few releases. The graphical front ends look nicer, some bugs I spotted in previous releases (especially with Life Preserver) have been fixed and the way ZFS integrates with the other PC-BSD tools was very useful to me. There are a lot of great features in this release I would love to see ported to Linux and there were no serious problems during my trial, beyond the video driver issue I was able to work around. I definitely recommend giving PC-BSD a try, it offers a great deal of power in an attractive package.
* * * * *
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 2.8 GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500 GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6 GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar)
Debian prepares for freeze and threatens to drop kFreeBSD port, Christian Schaller shows off Fedora 21 features, PCLinuxOS turns 11
The next stable version of Debian GNU/Linux, version 8.0 and code name "Jessie", is fast approaching. The Debian team was recently reminded that any new packages destined for Jessie should soon be uploaded as Debian will be going into feature freeze on November 5th. Meanwhile, Lucas Nussabaum published a blog post in which he lets users of Debian know several packages may be dropped from Jessie if nobody steps forward to maintain them. "The start of the jessie freeze is quickly approaching, so now is a good time to ensure that packages you rely on will the part of the upcoming release. Thanks to automated removals, the number of release critical bugs has been kept low, but this was achieved by removing many packages from Jessie: 841 packages from unstable are not part of jessie, and won't be part of the release if things don't change." Nussbaum goes on to explain how users can check if their favourite packages are queued for removal and how to get involved to help maintain important packages.
With freeze less than a month away, perhaps it's a good time to start testing the upcoming Debian release. To encourage new installations, the Debian installer team released the second beta installer for "Jessie" on Sunday: "The Debian Installer team is pleased to announce the second beta release of the installer for Debian 8 "Jessie". Important changes in this release of the installer: GNOME is now the default desktop environment on Linux again; a list of desktop environments is displayed in tasksel, making it easy to install another desktop environment (or several of them), unfortunately that is currently a bit underdocumented; preliminary support for the arm64 and ppc64el architectures has been added. Other changes in this release of the installer: brltty - append the configuration inherited from d-i to the end of brltty.conf instead of overwriting it (which was thus losing the documentation for the user); BusyBox - add support for /32 subnets in udhcpc script...." As always, the new "netinst" images for supported architectures are available from the Debian Installer project page.
One of the more unusual and decidedly "geeky" among the Debian ports is Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, a distribution that uses the FreeBSD kernel instead of Linux (DistroWatch reviewed Debian GNU/kFreeBSD 7.0 in July 2011). Although probably not as widely used as the project's more popular ports, it is still an interesting concept, almost unique among Linux distributions, with only Gentoo Linux providing a similar system. Unfortunately, this Debian variant is in grave danger of being dropped from the distribution - due to concerns over its viability and quality. Adam D. Barratt reports on behalf of the Debian release team: "We remain gravely concerned about the viability of this port. Despite the reduced scope, we feel that the port is not currently of sufficient quality to feature as a fully supported release architecture in Jessie. However, we accept that our published view of the port has not been as 'clear and unambiguous' as we would wish. We therefore advise the kFreeBSD porters that the port is in danger of being dropped from Jessie, and invite any porters who are able to commit to working on the port in the long term to make themselves known *now*. The factor that gives us greatest concern is the human resources available to the port."
* * * * *
The long awaited release of Fedora 21 is expected to arrive later this year. A lot of work has gone into changing the way Fedora is presented as a product. Fedora 21 will represent the first release from the project which is divided into three editions (Server, Workstation and Cloud) and it is expected to offer a number of interesting features. Christian Schaller has a detailed blog post in which he talks about the upcoming release and he highlights items to look for. "Wayland in Fedora Workstation 21 is also an important milestone as it exemplifies the new development philosophy we are embarking on. Fedora has for a long time been known to be a Linux distribution where a lot of new pieces become available first." He goes on to report common complaints about managing packages are being addressed: "Yum used to be very slow and while it has gotten a lot better over the years it was still considered a bit of an eyesore for many. So Ales Kozumplik and others have worked writing a new set of tools to do the low level software handling over the last few years and I am happy to say that for Fedora Workstation 21 we will be using those tools to greatly improve the software installation and update experience."
* * * * *
The PCLinuxOS distribution originally grew out of the Mandrake distribution back in 2003. These days PCLinuxOS is maintained as a separate fork, an independent distribution, by Bill Reynolds (aka Texstar) and various community members. The distribution celebrates its 11th birthday this month, quite an achievement for the community based distribution. PCLinuxOS is well known for being easy to use, shipping with all the software most users will need right out of the box and for being a rolling release distribution. We wish the PCLinuxOS team all the best and wish the project a bright and happy future.
* * * * * Finally, a quick announcement from a company seeking to employ an experienced technical community manager with excellent Linux skills. Digital Ocean, a web hosting company, got into touch with DistroWatch last week, offering our readers a preferential option to apply for this full-time position based in New York: "DigitalOcean, a cloud hosting company, is looking to hire a technical community manager with a deep understanding of Linux System Administration who is passionate about informing people of best practices and helping others learn. The DigitalOcean community receives over 4 million page views each month, and the community manager would engage with the community across all platforms. Apply here: do.co/communitymanager.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Setting up a home server and an experiment with rolling releases
Working-at-home asks: I am planning on setting up a file server at home and occasionally using it as a media streaming server and maybe a web host. I am wondering if I should use virtual machines to separate functionality or if it is fine, from a security stand point, to run all services together?
DistroWatch answers: People who are very concerned with security would probably tell you that, when in doubt, you should place all of your network services into separate virtual machines. This would not only protect your services (and the host operating system) from interfering with each other, it would prevent an attacker from taking over the entire machine by exploiting one service. That being said, I think whether you decide to divide your server's services into separate virtual machines should depend on to whom you plan to grant access to these services.
Assuming your files, media and web host will be accessed only by yourself and perhaps by your family and close friends who visit your home, then I would suggest taking a simple approach and placing all services directly on the server without creating any virtual machines. Assuming the people who use your server are people who have access to your local network, presumably people you trust, then your server is probably not at high risk. Make sure your server and router have firewalls enabled that block access from computers outside your local network and you should be fine.
However, if you plan to allow people outside your local network (or people you do not trust) to access to your server, then creating virtual machines for added security makes sense. The inclusion of a web host in your list of services makes me think you might be opening up your server to connections from the entire Internet. If that is the case, then I think it would be a good idea to put, at minimum, the web service in a virtual machine. That way if someone manages to find a weakness in your web service's security, the attacker will only gain access to your virtual machine and not to the rest of the server and your files.
* * * * *
Whenever the subject of rolling release distributions comes up on DistroWatch there is some debate in the comments section as to whether rolling releases can be considered reliable. Some people report their rolling installations break after a few short days or weeks, others report running rolling distributions for years without serious issues. Personally, I tend to avoid rolling release distributions as their design, their policy of regularly updating, is at odds with the way I want my computers to work. I very much desire a system where applications and services run the same tomorrow as they did today, my work requires it. Not only do I need a system that continues to work, but applications which behave predictably. For the past decade I have been running fixed release distributions and have experienced virtually no serious problems, at least nothing that prevented me from completing tasks. As a result, the experiences I have had with rolling release distributions have been limited to short trials, usually a week in length, when I am writing a review.
Given some recent developments, specifically the Mint distribution switching its "Debian" edition branch from a rolling release to a fixed release and the openSUSE project turning Factory into a proper rolling release distribution, I have become increasing curious: just how stable are rolling release operating systems these days? I am of the opinion the best way to find out is to experiment. With that in mind I have begun a simple trial in which I will run several rolling release distributions in parallel and see which (if any) of the operating systems break and how long each operating system can be upgraded while still allowing the user to accomplish common tasks.
Last week I downloaded and installed five open source rolling release operating systems. Specifically, I set up installations of Arch Linux, PCLinuxOS, openSUSE, Debian Sid and PC-BSD. In the coming weeks I will be sharing my initial impressions, describing any broken software that comes about following package updates and I will be evaluating available recovery utilities. My initial experiences will appear in next week's DistroWatch Weekly and I will post regular bulletins on my Twitter feed in the spirit of rolling updates. I hope you will follow along and send me suggestions and feedback as my experiment progresses.
|Released Last Week
Johnny Hughes has announced the release of CentOS 5.11, the distribution's final release in the 5.x branch: "We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 5.11 for i386 and x86_64 architectures. CentOS 5.11 is based on source code released by Red Hat, Inc. and it includes packages from all variants, including Server and Client." The release announcement includes a note on the Bash "shellshock" vulnerability: "The Bash version included on the CentOS 5.11 ISO images is a version that contains the shellshock vulnerability. When we create CentOS ISO images, we try to mirror the same package versions that are on the upstream ISO images from Red Hat, whose ISO images also contain that vulnerability. An updated Bash is available as a zero day update in the 5.11 updates repository now. Please run 'yum update bash' after install." See also the release notes.
Chakra GNU/Linux 2014.09
Neophytos Kolokotronis has announced the release of Chakra GNU/Linux 2014.09, a desktop Linux distribution that uses the Pacman package manager and features the latest KDE 4.14 desktop: "The Chakra team is happy to announce the first release of the Chakra Euler series, which will follow the 4.14 KDE releases. A noticeable change in this release is the major face-lift of Kapudan, which now gives the option to users to enable the [extra] repository during first boot so they can easily install the most popular GTK+-based applications. As always, many updates to packages are available after installation. KDE Software Compilation: Chakra provides the latest stable version released by KDE, 4.14.1; dhcpcd has been replaced by dhclient as a dependency for NetworkManager. Core packages: Linux kernel 3.15.15, X.Org Server 1.15.2, systemd 216." Continue to the release announcement for more details and a screenshot.
Chakra GNU/Linux 2014.09 - the default KDE desktop
(full image size: 499kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
Klaus Knopper has released KNOPPIX 7.4.2, a security and bug-fix update which corrects the Shellshock vulnerability in Bash and several other security issues: "Version 7.4.2 of KNOPPIX is based on the usual picks from Debian 'Wheezy' and newer desktop packages from Debian 'testing' and Debian 'unstable'. It uses Linux kernel 3.16.3 and X.Org Server 1.16.1 for supporting current computer hardware. Changes: security fixes in Firefox (Iceweasel 32.0.3), Chromium (37.0.2062.120); GNOME desktop starts again using boot option 'knoppix desktop=gnome', if supported by graphics card; patch for the Bash shell against the 'Shellshock' bug in the environment variable parser; updated udev (215) and dBUS (1.8.8) for automatic hardware management and autostart of systemd components, updated LibreOffice (4.3.2), GIMP (2.8.14), KDE libraries (4.8.4)...." Here are the release notes.
Eric Turgeon has announced the release of GhostBSD 4.0, a major new version of the project's FreeBSD-based operating system for the desktop, with MATE as the preferred desktop environment: "The GhostBSD team is pleased to announce the availability of GhostBSD 4.0 'Karine'. This is the first release of the 4.x branch, which is based on FreeBSD 10 and which introduces some new features. Highlights: GCC is no longer installed by default, Clang is the default compiler; make(1) has been replaced with bmake(1) obtained from the NetBSD Project; pkg(7) is now the default package management utility; pkg_add(1), pkg_delete(1), bxpkg and related tools have been removed; Networkmgr is the default network manager; MATE is the default desktop; three workstation to choose from. GhostBSD 4.0-RELEASE is now available for the amd64 and i386 architectures, it can be installed from bootable ISO images or from USB memory sticks." Here is the full release announcement with screenshots.
GhostBSD 4.0 - a major new release featuring the MATE desktop
(full image size: 175kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Distributions added to waiting list|
- Qlustar. Qlustar is an operating system based on Debian and Ubuntu and designed to run on clusters.
- RockStor. RockStor is a network attached storage solution based on CentOS and featuring the advanced Btr file system.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 13 October 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 • PC-BSD (by KI on 2014-10-06 09:20:06 GMT from Belgium) |
PC-BSD is a great operating system and probably the best Linux desktop alternative out there.
It feels a bit clumsier as compared to Linux distros and, even if you choose an alternative DE you will still end up with a lot of KDE stuff installed (plus a less polished experience as compared to KDE).
I found it to run very well in hardware that was not well supported by Linux. In fact, ins spite of BSD's reputation, my sound cards, wireless network adapters and Nvidia GPUs tend to provide a better out-of-the-box experience with PC-BSD than with Linux. This is particularly true for laptops.
The one reason I am not using PC-BSD in those troublesome systems is the lack of CUDA support.
2 • PC-BSD/FreeBSD (by Reuben on 2014-10-06 10:00:24 GMT from United States)
Chromium is available as a port. It's missing pepper flash, but other than that it's mostly similar to Chrome.
In my mind the biggest missing feature is UEFI support. I've tried to get 10.0 to install using the CSM on my system, but it never seems to boot up after installation. 10.1 is supposed to have EFI support, but it hasn't worked for me in any of the BETAs.
3 • PC Linux (by Zlatko NIkolic on 2014-10-06 10:12:19 GMT from Serbia)
PC Linux is my OS after years using Ubuntu Linux OS, Ubuntu try to copy Mac and I do not like that, my choice is KDE and its real deal for PC user with 27 inch LCD. After any update PCL do not request restart, is stable very fast, on my PC is 64bit version with KDE on SSD, its fast for everything I need to do on my PC.
I donate every month 1 dollar for this distro. Happy 11th birthday to PC Linux team, best regards from Serbia.
4 • Debian GNU/kFreeBSD will NOT be dropped from Debian (by Slackeee on 2014-10-06 10:25:02 GMT from Germany)
I wonder why so many people get this wrong.
A port being dropped from Jessie does only mean that it will not get an official release this time, but not that will be dropped from Debian. There are indeed several ports that are still part of Debian, but don't get an official release because they don't meet the release criteria.
So please don't get that mixed up.
5 • RE @4 Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (by KI on 2014-10-06 11:02:53 GMT from Belgium)
I guess that adopting systemd (which is Linux-specific) and using Gnome (which depends on systemd and therefore is also Linux-specific) will make ports not using the Linux kernel harder to develop and maintain.
6 • Rolling release testing (by rufovillosum on 2014-10-06 12:43:20 GMT from )
Jesse should consider his update schedule for the rolling release tests. My anecdotal experience with Arch, which has no distribution-enforced schedule, is that version conflicts sometimes happened when I updated monthly, but I've never had a problem since I switched to weekly.
7 • Rolling releases (by musty on 2014-10-06 13:08:38 GMT from France)
Hello, I am using Fedora since Fedora Core 4 and each time I was doing a full install.
Since Fedora 17, I do an upgrade or a pre-up and it is true that this always breaks something (F17-> F18-> F19). Then for Fedora 20, I did a full install again.
It's unfortunate to recognize it but the longest rolling release for me was Windows XP (2001 -> 2014) on one of my many laptops...
8 • PCLinuxOS Ccongrats on 11th birthday (by Tony on 2014-10-06 13:50:57 GMT from United Kingdom)
It was your distro that enabled me to get away from propitiatory systems many years ago. Long may you continue.
9 • Rolling releases (by linuxista on 2014-10-06 15:19:29 GMT from United States)
@7 I think there is some misunderstanding regarding rolling releases (RR). Fedora is a release upgrade model, not RR. Windows XP had various SP updates, but was never RR. If it had been there never would have been Vista, 7, 8, etc. Linux RR would include Arch, Manjaro, OpenSuse Factory, Gentoo, PCLinuxOS, Chakra, Debian Testing or Unstable, etc. I'm sure I'm omitting some.
10 • Thanks Distrowatch for HandyLinux review (by hotdiggettydog on 2014-10-06 16:14:31 GMT from Canada)
I was able to resurrect an old Acer laptop that originally ran Xp (poorly) with HandyLinux.
Sis graphics are problematic with almost any other distro but Debian still supports it in the newer kernels.
My only complaint with Handy is they include Skype but not PulseAudio. New versions of Skype will not work without pulseaudio.
Xfce is my desktop manager of choice now but with one complaint on laptops. The display will not reopen once the lid is closed. Hope the Xfce people fix that. Yes, I've searched for answers and tried all the settings.
11 • PCLinuxOS (by kc1di on 2014-10-06 16:59:41 GMT from United States)
Happy 11th may you Live Long and Prosper :)
This is one of my go Distros for a long time.
12 • Knoppix... ORCA and ADRIANE (by Baltazar on 2014-10-06 18:33:11 GMT from Puerto Rico)
Well... I have been trying for some time to get some OS capable for a blind person to use and... damn am I so let down.
Knoppix's ADRIANE seems to be one step in the right direction but I will be damn by its unforgiving stiff structure, it sort of works but not quite... and I am no t visually limited (unlike my friend)...
And then there is ORCA... or just the "Graphical Programs" > "Full X Session" from within ADRIANE, with its not to useful "compiz" and all... which can be a nightmare to navigate... I tried using it, still trying, by taking off my glasses and using the keyboard... just nasty! It is not user friendly nor is it logically structured to facilitate use by a blind person...
Thought I must add that many web pages are not friendly to visually handicapped people... which is sad.
Then there is the language difference (ie, system needing to be in Spanish but stumbling on English sections and having this hard to fallow mix...)...
LXDE is not good for this type of needs... and... damn trying to use KDE with ORCA is a fun experience in German... from an English version of Knoppix! Uhn selected uhn selected uhn selected...
And then ORCA stops all of the sudden... just imagine someone who is not only visually impaired but also a total noob at computers...
Am trying to help my friend and others, but this area is incredibly lacking in Linux...
Am short of starting from scratch to solve this but I don't have 2 or 3 decades to learn and implement... must try and find something more capable and customize-able....
Adriane seems nice but is lacking serviceability... I think maybe am not been able to convey my troubles clearly enough. Forgive me for my, not so good communication skills.
Any thoughts about this...???
13 • Orca on Manjaro Sonar (by linuxista on 2014-10-06 18:38:19 GMT from United States)
Manjaro has an accessibility project called Sonar. I can't vouch for it personally, but they do a good job generally. You may want to look into it. http://manjaro.org/2014/07/30/sonar-gnome-2014-1-is-out/
14 • Thanks linuxista! (by Baltazar on 2014-10-06 19:01:17 GMT from Puerto Rico)
Looks promising, am downloading right now to test!!! ... Hopefully it will work better than what I have tested so far... and on an not to new of a PC... will see!
15 • @12 Try Vinux (by Todd on 2014-10-06 19:32:37 GMT from United States)
I have turned a Visually impaired friend of mine onto Vinux (http://vinuxproject.org/downloads).
He says it has a couple minor flaws, but overall is able to be used.
16 • @10 (by jaws222 on 2014-10-06 19:34:19 GMT from United States)
"Xfce is my desktop manager of choice now but with one complaint on laptops. The display will not reopen once the lid is closed. Hope the Xfce people fix that. Yes, I've searched for answers and tried all the settings."
Yes, I just noticed this when I hooked up my Linux Lite with 2 external monitors. I do a multi-boot with grub installed in LL and have to lift the lid to see the boot menu. I haven't really poked around the power manager yet but there may be an option to set the laptop to "Do Nothing" when lid is closed similar to Windows. I've seen it in other Linux DE's, just not sure if it is in XFCE. It's a minor inconvenience, but still would be nice to fix it.
17 • Rolling releases (by Barnabyh on 2014-10-06 20:12:34 GMT from United Kingdom)
That sounds like one of the more interesting projects, Jesse. Thanks, can't wait to hear. Incidentally, I've just had my first minor problem on Debian Jessie. The update to Chromium 37 segfaults while Chrome 39 (dev) works fine.
18 • Rolling releases (by Goetz on 2014-10-06 20:21:03 GMT from Germany)
I liked and like arch. But after not updating it for 6 weeks due to a stay in a hospital, I recovered, but my Arch installation was almost dead.
19 • Rolling releases (by linuxista on 2014-10-06 20:32:24 GMT from United States)
Glad you recovered. Could you be more specific about the problem with near death update?
20 • re: 10, 16 xfce laptop screen closed (by Jimbo on 2014-10-06 22:04:28 GMT from New Zealand)
Re: xfce laptop screen closed; this is a defect in Light locker settings. Remove light locker and install xscreensaver. I think the defect may have been fixed now but not sure if it's in the Ubuntu repositories.
21 • More Sonar info (by mikef90000 on 2014-10-06 22:16:46 GMT from United States)
@12(Baltazar), here is the direct link to the Sonar GNU/LInux project:
A recent Linux Luddites podcast had an interview with the Sonar project founder Jonathan Nadeau:
IIRC the Sonar desktop uses MATE technology (in turn coming from GNOME 2/3) that Mr. Nadeau found to have the most up-to-date assistive technology compared to other DEs.
22 • Rolling releases experiment (by Robert Schiele on 2014-10-06 23:05:22 GMT from United States)
I'd like to quickly point out that Debian Sid is NOT a rolling release. It isn't a release, rolling or otherwise, which is intended to be run by normal users at all, and certainly not in a production machine. Absolutely no attempt is made to prevent breakages, which are both frequent and expected. Therefore including it in the experiment, the results of which I await with interest, amounts to expecting to be (and perform like) something it was never intended to be in the first place. Surely there must be some true rolling release distro out there which could be substituted.
23 • @21,Rolling Release Sid (by doctorordinaire on 2014-10-07 00:26:44 GMT from United States)
You're spot on re: Sid. That just won't fly. Aptosid is said to work. I've been using Sparky Linux for 2 years now. It's Debian Testing with some bells, whistles, & care for the seams one experiences in trying to run Testing as a rolling release. It's exactly what I want in a distro (except for the visual aesthetic, which anyone can change in 5 minutes anyway.)
24 • PCLOS anniversary. (by Kubelik on 2014-10-07 01:52:43 GMT from Denmark)
PCLOS 11 years? Texstar started with making extra packages to Mandrake/Mandriva. And later PCLOS started as an independant distro. A rolling distro so you don't have to reinstall or upgrade every now and then. Not with the latest under the hood, but the most used programs up to date, and printerdrivers, java etc installed so you have a ready to go machine. Good for older and newer PCs and noobs.
A usefull monthly magazine you also overcome to make. And there is a very competent Forum. - Thanks Texstar, Pinoc, Old Polack and the rest of the gang. You certainly deserve your part of the Linux landscape. - I am currently running the MATE edition side by side with some other distros. It just works.
25 • @22. References, facts and FUD? (by Kubelik on 2014-10-07 02:18:22 GMT from Denmark)
Did you see anyone from Debian pretend "that Debian Sid...is intended to be run by normal users... and ...in a production machine"?
26 • ... on the blinding proyect... (by Baltazar on 2014-10-07 02:28:52 GMT from Puerto Rico)
I have tried and will keep on trying to find a system for my friend...
So far, Knoppix's implementation of orca is not as easy as I would like and Majaros Sonar is somewhat useful... but it is not that user friendly... and I mean it is not noob friendly. Sure I can use it and it has many tools and features that prove to be helpful but there is this thing about it that makes it not that manageable with keyboard... yea I can hear the screams from some Gnome user about now on how Gnome has keyboard shortcuts and all...
It is just that I end up needing to use the mouse to point to item in menus and such... this is unpractical for the totally blind, even some partially blind might have a hard time up and running... though there is potential there...
I have been looking at some projects and will go on to download Vinux as well... I understand the difficulties in sustaining systems and programs for this kind of users. It is not easy...
I want to find something that I can give support to and that I fully understand... or at least as much as possible to be able to assist the user better. Understanding their needs helps me better assign the tools to them...
So far my problem with what i have tried comes from the fact that the user in question knows nothing of computers... which can be a good thing in a way, no bad habits. But this been the case I am trying to go about it like they would... learning by using the system and this is where its user-friendliness falls...
I can't just give them the disk and assume they will know what to do. In knoppix that would be futile since they need to write the correct boot argument to just boot to the Adriane interface... sure this can be set for the USB install by editing the boot argument but... that is something they wont be able to do. In Sonar this is a bit better... but I see them having trouble with the keyboard not been able to manage all aspects of the system in a graphical environment... or even a command line one. Sure I could go on to teach the arcane command and shortcuts with the abbreviated arcane names given to functions and programs that not even I can handle... and things get frustrating really fast, even for me...
Not to mention the horrible WWW and its massive pitfalls... Configuration of hardware an all those things they will need assistance in... How can they get something easy and self explanatory? Adrine seems like good in this regard, to some extend and Sonar is shooting for completeness which I appreciate... but I really don't see Gnome been a good fit in its current form for this.
I will see what I can do and keep on looking. I would like a review here on DW about this... just to share the frustration with all and attract attention to this area...
27 • PC-BSD (by Will B on 2014-10-07 02:52:09 GMT from United States)
PC-BSD is an excellent FreeBSD-derived system. It has lots of very helpful utilities (as noted in the review) and things that take forever in other OS's are a snap in PC-BSD. The folks behind PC-BSD are also very helpful and friendly, and don't kick you to the ground when you make small grammar or spelling errors. ;-)
My problem with PC-BSD is the quality of some of the ports (which I presume are from FreeBSD) as well as a hardware compatibility issue that has caused instability and several system freezes per minute. These issues aren't PC-BSD's fault as I experience the same thing on fresh FreeBSD, but it keeps me from using it. I really cannot wait for the day the system pausing and ports quality issues are much better, so I can make PC-BSD my main OS for good. :-)
28 • blind arch + PC-BSD (by bffs on 2014-10-07 03:35:30 GMT from Australia)
#26: try talking arch http://talkingarch.tk/
review - PC-BSD seems to be implementing cutting edge software more than other distros.
29 • ArchBSD (by msx on 2014-10-07 05:17:22 GMT from )
"Although probably not as widely used as the project's more popular ports, it is still an interesting concept, almost unique among Linux distributions, with only Gentoo Linux providing a similar system."
Hello Jesse, you might want to check ArchBSD.net
Sure, still experimental but already doing it very well.
30 • Rolling releases (by Niko Z. on 2014-10-07 08:17:25 GMT from Myanmar)
I thing this test is a great idea, I have always wanted to see a long-term comparative test of this nature.
It would be interesting to see Gentoo or one of it's derivatives included.
31 • @22 re:Debian Sid (by Reuben on 2014-10-07 08:53:59 GMT from United States)
I've used Debian Sid in the past as my desktop. It seemed fine. I can't remember any breakages. The only hitch is the freezes when approaching a new Stable release. I think Debian collected some statistics that show only a fraction of their users are using Stable.
As I've said in the past, the biggest source of problems for me in terms of updates breaking things is Fedora.
32 • @22 - Debian Sid as rolling release (by Hoos on 2014-10-07 11:25:03 GMT from Singapore)
Perhaps Sid was not meant to be a rolling release, but Semplice is a well-put together and coherent rolling release distro based on Sid and using Openbox as the window manager.
My installation has been ticking along since version 3 came out in Jan 2013. I update every 1 or 2 weeks, depending on whether I'm free. It's now at version 6.
Do I put a lot of effort into the updates? Not really. I merely check the Semplice forum for news of major update bugs, but there are hardly any serious issues posted there, either because it's not a busy forum, or it's generally trouble-free.
If, as is usual, there's nothing big posted, I dist-upgrade. I don't bother to check any bigger site or forum (e.g. siduction) for Debian Sid update news. Hasn't been a problem.
You don't get the usual barebones, manual config Openbox. You get an auto-generating/updating right-click Applications Menu, and with a graphical tool, you can pin programs to the panel for quick launch. There are also tools for various other settings so the user need not manually edit text config files (unless you want to).
All in all, it's a good looking, more colourful, bells and whistles implementation of Openbox, but it's still lightweight and very fast, even on old machines.
33 • Debian Sid (by linuxista on 2014-10-07 13:26:45 GMT from United States)
@31 I thought your comment was interesting, so I googled it. I came up with the following based on "popcon." These numbers show 73% using stable or old stable. I don't know how fair a statistical sample it is, and it's from 2010. Maybe someone else can find something better.
1.41 (etch) : 10781 11.4%
1.46 (lenny/stable) : 57983 61.3%
1.48 (testing) : 19776 20.9%
1.49 (unstable) : 4056 4.3%
34 • Debian Sid again (by linuxista on 2014-10-07 13:39:49 GMT from United States)
Here are current numbers from popcon http://popcon.debian.org/:
1.46 (lenny) : 6,948 : 4.17%
1.49 (squeeze) : 29,477 : 17.70%
1.56 (wheezy/stable) : 106,127 : 63.75%
1.61 (testing/unstable) : 23902 : 14.36%
total (excluding fringe) : 166454
These show Debian usage as even more conservative.
35 • Manjaro for the rolling releases test (by AnklefaceWroughtlandmire on 2014-10-07 15:24:20 GMT from Ecuador)
Your rolling releases test sounds fascinating, and I'm interested in seeing your results. I think you should also add Manjaro to the mix, since their way of doing things purportedly adds a buffer to any bugs coming out of Arch.
36 • Debian Sid (by Jesse on 2014-10-07 16:15:32 GMT from Canada)
>> "I'd like to quickly point out that Debian Sid is NOT a rolling release. It isn't a release, rolling or otherwise, which is intended to be run by normal users at all, and certainly not in a production machine. Absolutely no attempt is made to prevent breakages, which are both frequent and expected. "
I'd like to counter-point that most of the projects I will be reviewing do not have releases in the normal sense. Debian Sid, Arch and openSUSE Factory do not release in the usual sense. So your arguement excluding Debian doesn't really make sense.
Second, most rolling releases are not meant to be used by regular users. In fact, of the projects on my list only PCLinuxOS targets the general Linux population.
Third: No rolling releases are ever recommended for production use. Rolling is the opposite of what admins look for in a production environment. There isn't anything special about Debian Sid in that regard, so why pick on Debian? It's not really any different than any of the other projects in the trial.
37 • Rolling releases (by Götz on 2014-10-07 19:20:34 GMT from Germany)
re: "19 • Rolling releases (by linuxista on 2014-10-06 20:32:24 GMT from United States) ... Could you be more specific about the problem with near death update?"
It happened more than 2 years ago. I don't memorize the details anymore. During the time I was away, updates which required quite some additional manual work took place. I didn't have the time to catch up with that and switched to Mint.
38 • Jesse: Rolling Release Test (by linuxista on 2014-10-07 22:06:23 GMT from United States)
The rolling release test is an interesting idea. I also think that Manjaro is a significant omission, and I wonder if Jesse would entertain respectful requests to try to include it. It installs easily and is ready to go with all the codecs. In certain respects it is a more appropriate test subject than Arch. I don't think Arch is unstable at all, and many people do use it for a production environment. But if one builds it oneself from the core install image problems resulting from errors or omissions by a builder not fluent in the system could skew the test. (I've used Arch for years, but never built it from a core install.)
@37 It sounds like a flood of .pacnew files. While these require some manual work as you point out, I have found I can (not recommended) neglect them for long periods without any problem. If this was indeed the problem, however, "almost dead" would not be a fair characterization.
39 • Thanks to PC-LOS (by tinkerer on 2014-10-07 22:10:03 GMT from United States)
PCLOS was the first "real" distro that installed without issue, properly setup Xorg, and was usable from the start for a linux noob like me. Amazingly, a live PCLOS disk with KDE3 booted on a pentium laptop with 128kb of memory!! It was alway the attention to the little details that impressed me the most. Thank you Texstar.
40 • PCLOS anniversary (by Hombre-Loco on 2014-10-07 23:09:17 GMT from Nicaragua)
Congratulations to Pclos and thanks for good quality distros for 11 yrs..it's has always been one that has never caused any issues when i used it..
and while we are discussing RR linux ....PCLOS must be one of the most stable of those available..along with Manjaro which I have used for 2yrs all day every day..and have had no issues I rarely read of any major problems on the forums any issues that come up are usually are pretty much covered before stable updates...
I run Calculate (gentoo) and that hasn't broken on me at all yet....
PC BSD was a project i was trying out of curiosity after having a torrid time with Free bsd .... sadly it never really ever ran good...always something not right...then they up and changed to 64 bit only and pretty much just said to 32 bit users ...tough luck to you guys........I have tried Ghost BSD a few time and that has always ran better than PC BSD ever did...
41 • RR experiment (by Short Giant on 2014-10-07 23:17:14 GMT from United States)
Decades of linux and now here in 2014 we get the premier distro site announcing an experiment of comparisons to non-rr distros. Love it.
Okay but there's a better list of rr stuff to run with (as pointed out above the SID version of Deb seems strange to include in the study).
But feh ok.. meanwhile we have reports from many many rr users and non-rr users over the years. Good to have some info now amalgamated by the boss of this site. Thank you!
I predict a PCLOS win, btw. ;)
42 • @38,22--Debian Sid as rolling release (by Ralph on 2014-10-08 00:29:00 GMT from Canada)
It seems to me there is a critical difference between Sid and the other rolling releases. Sid is best viewed as a testing bed for the more stable versions of Debian (so one is likely to find devlopers and bug-testers running it), whereas distros like Arch, Chakra, and PCLOS are not really testing/developing for anyone else and are intended to be run by a small, but knowledgeable, segment of the Linux-using population as their main distro. More analogous distros for this comparison, I think, would be Aptosid (the old Sidux) or Siduction. These distros are intended to be run (at least potentially) as one's main distro and bring user-friendly strategies to the plate to accomplish this -- special scripts, for instance, or warnings about potential breakages towards which they will publish instructions to circumvent them, maybe even security updates. But with Sid you don't get security updates (you get a few critical ones with Testing though not from the Security Team) and you are left to more or less sink or swim on your own.
43 • Rolling Sid (by Somewhat Reticent on 2014-10-08 01:27:34 GMT from United States)
VSidO - be productive, with support.
Though not everyone is up to driving in a lean mean racing machine ...
44 • rolling release testing (by sunny on 2014-10-08 09:15:07 GMT from Ireland)
The right way of updating sid is to use apt-listbugs and pacmatic for arch. It will list the latest news in case manual intervention is needed before performing the actual update. It's meaningless to launch an update blindly, have it break the system, and then blame the rr distro when there was info available beforehand on required manual intervention.
There may be similar tools for the other proposed distro in the rr test.
45 • Rolling releases review (by Kazlu on 2014-10-08 11:02:05 GMT from France)
Great project Jesse. I think your choice of distros to review is nice, since you picked projects that are very different from each other and which are bases for many other distros, so information gathered on a distro on your test may be useful for several distros.
@38 linuxista: "In certain respects [Manjaro] is a more appropriate test subject than Arch."
Although reviewing Manjaro in itself makes sense, then why not review dozens of other rolling release distros out there? Aiming to keep the number of reviewed distros reasonable, the advantage of reviewing Arch over Manjaro is that the base code is used in the review. Information is thus relevant for distros based on Arch, which include Manjaro and distros based on Manjaro. Even if the management of updates by Manjaro implies that all information concerning Arch updates will not be applicable to Manjaro, some will.
Continuing: "But if one builds [Arch] oneself from the core install image problems resulting from errors or omissions by a builder not fluent in the system could skew the test."
Fair point. I don't know if Arch proposes live isos that would be installable, I don't think so, but it's the point of Bridge Linux, so maybe Bridge Linux would be a good starting base? Debian Sid has the same problem and, as #42 Ralph points out, it may be swapped for Siduction or Aptosid? But then we go back to my previous point in favor of using the base distro instead of a distro that is based on it...
46 • Install Arch efficiently (by Somewhat Reticent on 2014-10-08 13:14:33 GMT from United States)
Wouldn't the EvolutionLinux project at SourceForge facilitate this?
47 • Rolling Releases review (by linuxista on 2014-10-08 15:11:05 GMT from United States)
@45 : Your argument re Arch is the base code is a reasonable point. My experience and understanding is that aside from holding updates back a few weeks and occasionally holding some packages back, there is very little difference between Manjaro and Arch. The differences are in installation, hardware detection, some GUI tools, and a BFQ kernel. Your idea of using Bridge Linux would be ideal, it's just that, while I have used Manjaro, I've never installed from a Bridge Linux image and don't know myself their quality control. (I installed from ArchBang 5 or 6 years ago and it's been running ever since.) One could argue that Manjaro is becoming a significant player in its own right and anyone looking to dip their toes into an Arch based RR would do well to start with Manjaro in any case. But there are trade-offs with all the choices. Hopefully Jesse did an adequate installation.
48 • Another rolling release distro - Pisi (by Hoos on 2014-10-08 16:54:55 GMT from Singapore)
A unique rolling distro Jesse might want to try is Pisi Linux, with the pisi package manager. The original Pardus Linux used to use pisi, but the new Pardus is Debian-based. AFAIK, only Pisi Linux and Ikey's still-alpha Evolve OS presently use pisi-style package management. Evolve's is a forked version but the commands and syntax are more or less the same.
I think it's an interesting project, since pisi only downloads and installs the parts of packages that are different, when updating. That cuts down the size of updates.
Version 1.0 was only just released so it's pretty new. I installed it and am currently testing it on my laptop. I've only updated a few times but it's been smooth so far.
Seems a nice implementation of KDE with a good selection of useful applications pre-installed. I installed old Pardus long ago, and Pisi has a similar feel (installer, the first-use Kaptan program, KDE). You may disagree with the tons of cat wallpapers and the liberal use of dark pink and maroon in its default look but it's not ugly, and with Kaptan you can switch right away to a more sober theme.
I'm not sure how large their repository is if you want something other than the more common programs, but if your needs aren't very complicated I think it's worth trying if you have a 64-bit machine.
49 • @47 (by mandog on 2014-10-08 17:25:17 GMT from Peru)
There are a lot of differences between Arch and Manjaro the later uses different locations for some configuration files the BFQ kernel and multiple kernels is really just a gimmick and causes a lot of compatibility problems as does the nvidia config files that they have moved, xorg and xserver are different versions and of course Manjaro is using a lot patches as did Chakra, it is slowly moving away from arch compatibility
50 • More rolling releases (by Jesse on 2014-10-08 19:02:25 GMT from Canada)
In response to the people asking if I'll add distro X to the list, the answer is (sadly) no. There are a few reasons:
1. I have limited time/resources so five distributions is about the most I can realistically handle right now while also reviewing other distributions and keeping up with work, home life, etc.
2. Manjaro, Chakra, etc are typically based on Arch, which I am already covering. I specifially chose Debian and Arch because they form the base for so many other distributions.
3. Many of the projects people are suggesting I look at are more semi-rolling than full on rolling distributions. One of the reasons I am going with Arch and Debian Sid instead of Manjaro and Debian Testing is I want to get the full rolling experience rather than a semi-rolling experience.
4. I may do a similar trial next year in which I cover semi-rolling releases and compare my experiences with full rolling releases to semi-rolling distributions. Depending on how popular the idea is.
51 • jessie installer release (by chris h on 2014-10-09 01:07:09 GMT from United States)
I've installed jessie gnome on a couple of computers, using the net install version. The installs went well, using the expert install option. I don't want debian formatting my swap file. I can add the swap file to the fstab later.
The second install didn't recognize the root password that I thought I had entered. Fortunately, there is the Advanced Options, Rescue Mode on the cd. I got a root shell on my install and did a sudo passwd to set the root password.
I've been dist-upgrading aptosid and siduction based versions of jessie gnome every day for a long time now. It's nice to have a pure debian version.
52 • More hardware info needed from distros (by Ben Myers on 2014-10-09 04:44:01 GMT from United States)
I have one Linux box that I use regularly and I use several live distros to test hardware that I intend to sell. It is the latter where Linux is problematic for me. I know now that many leading and contemporary distros won't run at all (or well) on a laptop with an Intel Banias CPU. That's easy. I even put a newer Dothan CPU in a Thinkpad R51 and then coaxed it to boot Linux Mint. But it took two tries. Mint 17 Cinnamon kept crashing, but the less demanding Mint 17 XFCE booted up and ran OK. So whether it is Mint or another distro, here is the challenge: Why can't you simply state on the web pages for your distros the minimum hardware on which it will run successfully? Gee, Microsoft does it, but then they fib and give hardware requirements on which their Windows runs like a slug. For Mint, or any other distro with multiple desktops, say how much hardware EACH desktop requires, and state it clearly so people do not have to hunt through a web site for this nugget of info, or, worse yet, find out through trail and error that a distro won't run on their oldish computer. I am fairly sure that the ancient ATI Mobility RADEON 7500 with only 32MB of graphics memory was the reason why Cinnamon crashed, but I do not know for sure. So what is the minimum graphics memory needed to run Mint Cinnamon? Mint XFCE? Ubuntu? Lubuntu? Kubuntu? Fedora? and on and on. And system memory, too? And hard drive space? It would be nice to tell people the hardware needed, to save them some rude shocks. And, BTW, to keep from scaring them away from your distro.
OK, ya got a challenge there. Go for it. It's not rocket science.
53 • @52 hardware info (by Kazlu on 2014-10-09 15:07:37 GMT from France)
I supposed you missed that: Go to the Linux Mint website, pick the version with the desktop you want, you're driven to a blog post of the latest version that went out - the *very same place* to get the download links for the ISOs, so I suppose you already got there - with a "system requirements" paragraph. Granted, these are only minimal system requirements, meaning that below that, the OS won't run. If you have at least that, the OS should run, but not necessarily be fast. That's why they say, for example, "512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage)". Is it not at least as much informative as Microsoft, since you mentioned it? But even after that, it's true that it's just basic information and not a guarantee. In your example the OS with Cinnamon started but then crashes, so I suppose you fulfilled the minimum system requirements but did not have much higher specs. And if it is related to graphics card... Well there is no magical solution there. A distro may eventually say "use a graphic card with X MB of video memory minimum", but that still won't be enough, because everything depends on how well your hardware is supported. And that depends on how much effort the manufacturer has put into building a Linux proprietary driver or how much information it has given to allow people to build a FLOSS driver (hint: often the answers are "not much" and "none", respectively). Almost all existing harware elements have been build to run Windows and it's not possible to test every configuration and every hardware combination on GNU/Linux. The *only* way to know if a distro will work on a PC is to try it. That's why several websites report every computer or piece of hardware on which X or Y distro has been tested, be it successfully or not. Just duckduckgo it, you should find some information. I tried "linux hardware compatibility" and got some interesting results (as well as broken links I have to admit :) ). If someone already tried your hardware, good, if not, or if you don't find anything useful enough, well, do like every one else do because it's the only way: try it. Live OS or installed OS, try it. It's not rocket science.
54 • @53 Hardware Info (by Ben Myers on 2014-10-10 00:39:22 GMT from United States)
Incomplete. How much graphics memory? Capable of 800x600 is not quite good enough. Ancient ISA cards with as little as 512MB of memory are capable of 800x600, too. But if one was ever silly enough to use 512MB graphics with Mint (or any other mainstream distro), I would expect either failure to boot or failure all but the most simple desktop to fail. Also, if these were my requirements, I think I would say PAE CPU HIGHLY recommended. Yes, I know you can run a non-PAE Banias laptop, but it's a PITA, not a positive "out of box" experience. Finally, I would promote the hardware requirements to more readily visible pages on the web site.
But then, I've done a lot of selling, anathema to many Linux people, and the requirements are part of selling. If the unwashed try a Linux distro on whatever random hardware they have and the distro craps out, that ain't selling. Right now, there are too many impediments to get many of the unwashed GUI-using people to try a desktop Linux. Maybe that's the way many people want it.
Please understand that I am trying to figure why desktop Linux is not so widely accepted. Incomplete statements of requirements are part of the problem. With this Windows mess that Microsoft has on its hands, there is maybe an 18-month window of opportunity to promote desktop Linux, and then Windows 10 hits the streets and the Microsoft hegemony is again unchallenged.
55 • @54 Windows 10 (by Rev_Don on 2014-10-10 03:09:00 GMT from United States)
" there is maybe an 18-month window of opportunity to promote desktop Linux, and then Windows 10 hits the streets and the Microsoft hegemony is again unchallenged."
More like 9 months. Win 10 should be out by the middle of 2015. At most it will be 13 months as they will make sure it's out prior to the Christmas selling season next year.
But that is neither here nor there. Windows 10 is and will fix the majority of things that people disliked about 8/8.1 so the time has already passed. If folks haven't already moved from Windows to Linux the vast majority of them aren't going to now. They'll wait for Win 10 instead.
56 • @55 18 or 9, what's the diff? (by Ben Myers on 2014-10-10 06:12:18 GMT from United States)
Mid-2015 is the optimistic date for the general release of Windows 10. Will Microsoft hit its mid-2015 target? When released, will it be reliable, stable and more secure? What is the selling price point, or will it follow a subscription model? How many Windows 10 versions will there be? The previews tell us it reverts back more or less to a Windows 7-like UI. But there is a long way to go before it is available in shrink wrap in the stores, so you can download it from the Microsoft borg mother ship, and many unanswered questions.
Whatever the Windows of opportunity is, there is some time to take advantage of it with a little spit and polish and some marketing orientation.
57 • @54 Of Linux and Windows and hardware compatibility (by KI on 2014-10-10 09:00:20 GMT from Belgium)
As I and many others have already pointed out a thousand times: The popularity of a given operating system depends mostly on in how many devices it comes pre-installed. Period.
We are seeing that very clearly with Android, which is based on Linux and yet it is the most popular OS in mobile devices. Is it intrinsically better or worse than similar products from Microsoft or Apple or any other company? It does not matter. It comes pre-installed in more devices than any other OS nowadays because it is sponsored by Google and therefore it is the most popular one.
Apple switched to Unix some years ago and that risky move helped it to survive and even to become competitive again. But they are selling their own hardware so the issue for them is mainly with peripherals (where they, as Linux, depend on the good will of manufacturers).
Of course, if we speak of the desktop the situation is a bit different, because one may say "hey, you can install Windows in any computer". Yes, but that is because in the desktop market no manufacturer would dare to produce a computer, a component or a peripheral that is not compatible with Windows. So Microsoft itself does not need to do the huge effort to ensure compatibility with every single piece of hardware on Earth. Manufacturers do that.
The free operating systems, and namely Linux, are the only OSs that need to do a pro-active effort to be compatible with all existing hardware. That is an endeavor of titanic proportions and one that it is impossible to fulfill unless Linux's share on the market is large enough to force manufactures to ensure compatibility (as they do for Microsoft and Apple).
The problem there is the heterogeneity of the free software ecosystem (Linux as an OS does not exist, even if we tend to speak as it did). The manufactures who actually care about Linux tend to produce drivers for either RHEL or Ubuntu. RHEL is fine but Ubuntu is released too often and therefore it is almost impossible for manufactures to keep producing drivers at the same pace. In addition quality control in Canonical is pathetic (release schedule the priority) and assuring backwards compatibility is not even on the agenda (bling-bling is the priority)...
58 • @54 hardware requirements, Windows (by Kazlu on 2014-10-10 09:05:52 GMT from France)
And now I agree with you. Maybe those requirements are outdated. I admit it's odd that Cinnamon is told to requide as much RAM as Xfce whereas KDE requires 4 times as much! The point is, it's easy to find. If you can find your way to the download spot (and it's ONE click away from the home page), you already are on the "hardware requirements" location.
I tried a couple of months ago to run Linux Mint 13 MATE live on a 512MB machine. It worked, but it was very, very slow. Yet I suppose it would have allowed me to install it, if I wanted to. Would it have given me a good impression on Linux if I was a newbie? No. But the live system worked, so there is a good chance the installation would have worked (I can't know for sure), and that's why the hardware requirements are for. The installed sustem would have been faster than the live one, but I don't know how usable it would have been. I tried to run Mageia live DVD with KDE on the same machine, for the sake of experience, aaaaand it didn't went well :) I couln't even load the live desktop.
I think it's clever from Mint to add the "1GB recommended for a comfortable usage". That's a fair warning for people wanting to try it on a computer with 512MB to 1GB of RAM. Still, you can always add more information, and you ideas are not bad, but you also want to avoid flooding people with information, that is discouraging. Just write the minimum... Even if everyone does not have the same definition of "minimum", so you cannot find something that suits everyone!
"Please understand that I am trying to figure why desktop Linux is not so widely accepted."
I don't think the lack of hardware requirements information is a significant reason for that. Not when you compare it to the fact that almost all PCs are build to run Windows and almost every PC you buy in a store is sold with Windows installed. This is a much, much bigger problem. Many people won't go looking for hardware requirements anyway, they won't try to install an OS. They won't use GNU/Linux unless they buy a computer with GNU/Linux preinstalled.
59 • PCLinuxOS birthday (by cykodrone on 2014-10-10 11:27:00 GMT from Canada)
Congrats, happy 11th, glad it and Texstar (Bill) is still around. I have fond memories of PCLinuxOS, I built a Core2 Duo E6700 around the middle 00s, when they were 'cutting edge' (and pricey, sheesh), I solely ran PCLinuxOS with the Nvidia driver, dual monitors, a 4:3 and a 16:9, both LCDs, I spread the workspace across both, back then it was no walk in the GUI park to get that to work (especially with diff aspect ratios), lol, lotta fun, good times. I would go back to it from Debian but sadly there's still on Raid 0 support OOTB. I'm kinda addicted to Debian Xfce now anyway.
60 • @57, Almost correct. (by Garon on 2014-10-10 11:43:42 GMT from United States)
Your comment has a lot of truth in it and I agree with most of it but you kind of fell off in the last few sentences. You said, "RHEL is fine but Ubuntu is released too often and therefore it is almost impossible for manufactures to keep producing drivers at the same pace. In addition quality control in Canonical is pathetic (release schedule the priority) and assuring backwards compatibility is not even on the agenda (bling-bling is the priority)..." is completely incorrect. The release schedules you speak of are not the stable versions. The LTS versions, which stands for Long Term Support, are the versions that are recommended for production machines and stable systems. The others are just test beds. Manufactures are smart enough to know that and you would think that by now most people in the Linux world would realize that. For my stable systems I only run a LTS version. I only install the in between versions to help with bug hunts and for fun. Quality control on LTS versions is nice indeed and I appreciate the stability. To judge a company by their test releases is foolish and gives a lot of false impressions. False impressions like that are one of the biggest dangers to the Linux ecosystem. On a side note, you can always get the latest applications for LTS versions so that is not a problem as some contend.
61 • @60 LTS (by KI on 2014-10-10 17:15:02 GMT from Belgium)
First of all, Canonical does not label non-LTS releases as "test releases". Not at all. They are normal releases. LTS releases tend to be more stable, but not initially, when they are still warm from the oven. You normally have to wait until the first or second major update (.1 or .2 versions) in order to install a reliable OS. Backwards compatibility issues are not considered at all from one LTS to the next. In addition, most people using Ubuntu are not running LTS releases, in part because Canonical seems to prefer having beta-testers (even if they are not called like that because they are running normal releases) than having professional users. This narrows the share of LTS releases making them less attractive targets for professional developers. If Canonical wants to be a serious company they need to adopt the RetHat model, where LTS are the only releases (with longer support spam) and the test releases are calling something completely different (Fedora).
62 • Continuation of conversation from #60 & #61 (by :wq on 2014-10-10 21:52:49 GMT from United States)
"The LTS versions, which stands for Long Term Support, are the versions that are recommended for production machines and stable systems . . . Manufactures are smart enough to know that and you would think that by now most people in the Linux world would realize that."
I'm not disagreeing with you in principle, but many (most?) pre-installed systems I've seen include the latest release of Ubuntu, regardless of whether or not it is an LTS release, and the upgrade instructions, where provided, are for the latest release of Ubuntu, regardless of whether or not it is an LTS release.
The latest release of Ubuntu at the moment also happens to be an LTS release, so I've had to use Internet Archive to provide a couple of examples.
1) https://web.archive.org/web/20140104122539/http://zareason.com/shop/Alto-4335.html (if you scroll down you will see that the setup defaulted to the latest release of Ubuntu at the time, which was 13.10)
2) https://web.archive.org/web/20131029033405/http://knowledge76.com/index.php/Version_Upgrade (no emphasis was placed on the latest LTS release, just the latest release period, which at the time was 13.10)
With the switch from 18 mos to 9 mos of support for non-LTS releases (starting with 13.04), and with the improvements of LTS point releases, perhaps less computer manufacturers will/do chase after the latest Ubuntu releases, and instead will/do stick with LTS releases; I have no definitive numbers, just previous observation which I noted. Perhaps Canonical isn't making it clear to manufacturers how it intends Ubuntu releases should be marketed.
I do question if cadence at any cost is a better approach than release-when-ready. I think there are downsides to being inflexibly adherent to either approach; a release can be pushed out before it is quite up to snuff, or a release can be delayed to a point where it is either outdated at launch, or the public grew bored with waiting and moved on to other offerings, and no longer cares about the bells and whistles this new release brings. I personally have enjoyed the extended primacy of Fedora 20, and the lengthened development of Fedora 21 has actually been refreshing. I know the Fedora Project has been toying with amending its scheduling strategy (https://fedorahosted.org/fesco/ticket/1349), though I'm not sold on it being a productive or incisive measure in Fedora's particular case, at least not without addressing other issues. But it is clear that concrete release scheduling matters to some (particular commercial and institutional) users, such as Spotify (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7078824 & https://lists.debian.org/debian-publicity/2014/06/msg00014.html).
63 • testing/nonlts (by ben on 2014-10-10 23:02:03 GMT from United States)
I find it interesting people think that old stable versions have vastly better support. I built 12 new computers for work with AMD quad cores and installed wheezy(this was about a year ago) I had to add back ports for quite a few things, simply because the old 3.2 kernel that came with wheezy and the open graphics drivers did not support any of the computers.
honestly I net install Debian and immediately jump to testing, but only for my personal rigs. My boss wants the stable versions of things( I understand) so that was the only choice.
To sum up, I think depending on your hardware, a newer version my do better, I know this was the case with Ubuntu 13.10 over 13.04 for several of my sysytems in the past.
64 • Distro specific or generic Linux? (by M.Z. on 2014-10-10 23:05:36 GMT from United States)
@57 & 60
I was under the impression that most hardware was handled at a more generic level & the developers aimed for 'generic Linux', and the generic Linux drivers were then packaged by the various distributions. All Ubuntu drivers are pulled from Debian testing like the rest of the distro, right? I think the differences in hardware support most come down to what the various disros do with the drivers that are available from the manufactures who hopefully do some work with the upstream kernel folks. I might be wrong, but I think that is how it works. I would also guess that there is also work done by manufactures who want their hardware to work with certain versions of RHEL or Debian, but I would guess that there are more generic versions of such drivers. If I'm wrong I'd like to know, but that is how I thought it worked.
65 • Rolling PCLinuxOS (by linuxista on 2014-10-11 20:26:09 GMT from United States)
Regarding Jesse's full-rolling test, I'm having a hard time figuring out whether PCLinuxOS is considered full-rolling or part/semi-rolling. Generally it seems like it's classified as part-rolling (non-rolling core with rolling apps), but then there seems some mention of being able to set it up as full rolling. Anybody able to clarify?
66 • 65 • Rolling PCLinuxOS (by linuxista) (by Ika on 2014-10-12 17:49:21 GMT from Spain)
PCLinuxOS is a full rolling release.
The only thing it has to be manually upgraded is the Kernel, for obvious reasons.
67 • @64 • Purist distros and not (by Ben Myers on 2014-10-12 22:24:47 GMT from United States)
My perception is that Linux distros are divided into two camps with regard to drivers. There are purists who insist that if source code is not available for a driver, it does not get incorporated into the distro, period. An example of this is the absence of Broadcom wifi drivers from some distros, because Broadcom is unwilling to release driver source code. Then there are distros that incorporate proprietary drivers as long as they are stable, predictable and free of serious defects.
In some cases, you can still install the proprietary driver, but that's extra work for we who are unwashed. I like mine to plug and play with whatever hardware I happen to have.
But that's just me talking an outsider who is not part of the Linux developer community. Maybe someone closer to the code can elaborate.
68 • Hardware info (by frodopogo on 2014-10-13 06:30:05 GMT from United States)
When people buy Windows, they either get it installed in a computer, or it comes in a package with the hardware requirements on package in an obvious place. They either don't have to look for the requirements, or already know where to look.
LINUX on the other hand, commonly comes two ways.... either as a downloadable ISO, or on a DVD, CD or thumb drive available. The downloadable ISO is not really a newbie friendly thing, because you have to install an obscure program to burn it to disk... I remember having had to install it on Windows for my first Linux Mint install. Yes,there IS that hardware requirements paragraph, but that's easy to miss compared to having the info on the outside of a box. There needs to be some way of streamlining that process like:
1. Having the Windows ISO burning program available on the same page as the
2. Hardware requirements in LARGE PRINT
3. the button to download the ISO.
I can already hear some of you cringing at the idea of having a Windows program available on a Linux distro's site, but if they've got to hunt it down.... only people thoroughly ticked off at Microsoft (or the antivirus companies McAFEE!!!! GRRRRRR!!!!) like I was will have the drive to hunt everything down.
That's still really too many steps for the typical Windows user.... if there was a way to click on a button, and have the ISO burning software installed, download the ISO, check the MD5 sum, and even prompt them to put the right blank disk (or thumb drive) in the right drive. And it would help if it put an icon on the Windows desktop "Burn Linux Mint image to DVD" or somesuch.... the ISO burning program I got for Windows puts a menu item in Tools or something where you could easily miss it.
Another possibility is to have some kind of diagnostics run while booting a Live DVD that tests for minimum requirements and if they are not met, there should be a clear warning that problems will probably arise, and it's not the distro's fault.
The other possibility is that the hardware requirements could be printed on the DVD disk itself, if the disk with the distro is purchased.
Actually.... what there needs to be is a complete site for Windows refugees/Linux noobs that features ONLY noob-friendly distros, either has the ISOS stored there or links to download servers in an easy way, has the iso burning software for Windows, basically everything in one place. Sort of a Noob-friendly Distrowatch with no RC's, no Arch, no firewall or specialty distros, no ads for hacking secrets, etc. A Linux for Complete Dunces website!!! ;^D
In summary, even as friendly as Linux Mint is, so many of the ways of doing things are still based on ways of doing things that are common in the Linux world... there really isn't a recognition of just how different the Windows world is... it's a completely different culture.
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