| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 588, 8 December 2014
Welcome to this year's 49th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! While many of the open source projects we cover are Linux-based, there are plenty of open source operating systems in the world which are built on different core technologies. This week we turn our focus toward the PC-BSD project, a FreeBSD-based operating system that has been gaining popularity as a desktop operating system. We talk about PC-BSD and its many useful utilities in our Feature this week. However, despite its many promising characteristics, no operating system is without faults and we talk about problems people have been having upgrading PC-BSD and what the project is doing to fix the issues in our News section. We also discuss running Ubuntu GNOME as a rolling release platform, the differences between Debian and Ubuntu and how to get Debian running on a graphing calculator. Plus we share news of a fork of OpenBSD that plans to modernize the security oriented platform. In our Questions and Answers column this week we respond to concerns about systemd, how it is spreading and which projects are avoiding adopting the new init software. As usual, we cover the latest open source releases of the past week and look ahead to fun, new releases to come. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Experimenting with PC-BSD 10.1
PC-BSD is an operating system that uses FreeBSD as a base. The latest release of PC-BSD, version 10.1, was launched in November and carries a number of interesting features. The new version of PC-BSD features support for ZFS as the root file system, hard drive encryption, booting from UEFI and an updated version of the Lumina desktop environment. PC-BSD 10.1 also ships with an updated version of the pkg-ng package manager. This new version of PC-BSD is available in a variety of flavours, including a 3.3 GB edition that enables users to install either the desktop or server variant of the operating system. Alternatively there is a 615 MB server-only edition. Various downloadable images are available for running PC-BSD in virtual machines too. Each edition of PC-BSD is available exclusively in a 64-bit x86 build.
I decided to download the desktop edition of PC-BSD. Booting from the project's media brings up a menu asking if we would like to launch the operating system's graphical installer, run the installer in a safe graphics mode or if we would like to run a text-based installer. I took the default option, which is to run the graphical installer. The first screen of the installer asks us to select our preferred language. We are then asked if we would like to set up PC-BSD with a desktop environment or we can install the project as a server with a command line interface. This screen also gives us the option of restoring our operating system from a saved snapshot. Once I selected the Desktop option I was offered the chance to customize the installation.
By default, PC-BSD installs with the KDE desktop and a few other packages. However, we can select other desktop environments, including MATE, Xfce, Lumina and LXDE. Fans of lightweight window managers also have many options from which to choose. There are additional packages we can install such as NVIDIA video card drivers, the LibreOffice productivity suite, VirtualBox and VirtualBox guest add-ons. The installer lets us select an IRC client, remote desktop software, VPN software and we have the choice of running the Firefox or Chromium web browsers. Once we have made our software selections we are asked where we should install PC-BSD. The PC-BSD operating system uses the ZFS advanced file system and we have the opportunity to tweak the ZFS settings. For instance, we can enable or remove data compression and adjust the size of our swap space. From there the installer copies its files to our hard drive and then asks us to reboot the machine.
There are a few things I like about PC-BSD's installer. One is that most options are hidden away. We could, if we wanted, pretty much click "Next" a few times and let PC-BSD take over our entire computer with reasonable defaults. We access most features by clicking a "Customize" or "Advanced" button on each screen. This gives the user a good degree of flexibility without cluttering the interface. I also like that there are buttons placed at the bottom of each page of the installer. These buttons bring up extra features. One button lets us change our keyboard's layout, another opens a wizard to configure our network settings and a third opens a command line terminal. Other buttons let us check our hardware for compatibility issues, bring up a virtual keyboard and display helpful tips about the options displayed on our screen. I especially appreciate the hardware compatibility tool as it shows us a list of our hardware devices along with an indication of whether PC-BSD can work with the hardware.
PC-BSD 10.1 - documentation provided by the PC-BSD handbook
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The first time we boot into PC-BSD we are greeted by a configuration tool which allows us to change our video driver and, optionally, our screen resolution. Once we select a new screen resolution we are shown what our settings will look like and given the opportunity to go back and select new settings. We are then asked to confirm our time zone, create a password for the administrator account and create a user account for ourselves. With these steps completed we are brought to a graphical login screen. I had selected the Lumina desktop as my preferred graphical interface during the installation process and this meant I could login to either Lumina or the Fluxbox window manager.
The first time we login to PC-BSD a welcome window greets us. This window displays a series of tips on how to connect to wireless networks, how to launch the project's package manager to find additional software and how to access settings through the Control Panel. We are also shown where to find the Life Preserver backup utility and how to check for software updates. The last screen of the greeter displays links to the project's website and on-line documentation. Lumina, by default, places the application menu, task switcher and system tray at the top of the screen. Opening the application menu shows us an unusual arrangement. The menu shows us favourite applications on the first screen and there are tabs to browse through a complete list of applications, directories and files.
We can also access our desktop settings through this menu. Each application and directory shown to us has a star placed next to it and clicking this star adds the item to our favourites list for easy access. By default, our favourites list includes the project's Handbook, a link to the AppCafe package manager and the operating system's Control Panel. In the system tray, over in the upper-right corner, we see icons for launching the Life Preserver backup tool and an icon indicating software updates are available. One item I recommend looking at right away is the project's Handbook. The manual is over 300 pages long and presented to us as a PDF document. The document provides detailed documentation on how to install and use PC-BSD, it covers the operating system's features and includes screen shots with its explanations.
Shortly after I logged into PC-BSD the update notification icon in the system tray indicated there were software updates available in the project's repositories. Clicking on the notification icon brings up the project's Update Manager. The Update Manager downloads a list of available upgrades and displays them. Hovering the mouse over an upgrade provides us with a list of files that the upgrade will install on our system. We can mark which items we want to install and click a button to download the waiting upgrades. The Update Manager then creates a snapshot of our operating system in case something goes wrong, downloads and installs the waiting items. I found Update Manager worked slowly during my trial, it took several minutes just to display a list of waiting items and installing updates took a few minutes more than I had expected. However, in the end, all waiting updates were applied cleanly. Plus it was nice to have a snapshot of the file system created automatically during the update process so we can easily revert any unwanted changes. During my week with PC-BSD I downloaded a total of eight updates which came to approximately 110MB in size.
PC-BSD 10.1 - the AppCafe package manager and the Life Preserver backup utility
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Another utility for interacting with software packages is AppCafe. The AppCafe program acts as a graphical front-end to the pkg command line package manager. Using AppCafe we can search for software by name and filter items based on the type of software we are looking for. For example, we can search for desktop software or all available packages. Clicking on a package brings up a detailed summary of the software with a screen shot and user supplied rating. We can install the software with the click of a button. One thing I like about AppCafe is that it's easy to use, the interface is fairly streamlined, but it also gives us a good deal of flexibility if we want to search through the menu for extra features. As an example, we can install packages directly into a FreeBSD jail or lock packages at a specific version to prevent them being upgraded. There is also a button we can click to show us recent security notifications.
A second tab in the AppCafe shows us a list of installed items and we can use this screen to remove software or add a program's icon to our favourites list. AppCafe gives us access to approximately 23,000 packages, which reflects the growing FreeBSD ports collection. Some items AppCafe provides for us result in larger downloads than we might expect to see on a Linux distribution. As an example, the Firefox package is 83 MB in size rather than 20 MB, the Chromium web browser package is 151 MB and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is 64 MB. There is a second GIMP package that includes documentation and extra features that is a full 600 MB in size.
The desktop software we have access to out if the box can vary depending on which desktop environment and features we select during the installation process. I started out with a fairly bare bones install of the Lumina desktop. In my application menu I found the Firefox web browser, a remote desktop viewer, the SMplayer video player and the LibreOffice productivity suite. The operating system ships with codecs for playing popular audio and video formats. The VirtualBox virtual machine client was installed along with the Midnight Commander file manager and the Insight file manager. Both the Emacs and Vim text editors were installed and, in the background, I found the FreeBSD kernel (version 10.1) and the FreeBSD userland tools. Looking through PC-BSD's running services I found Fail2Ban, the proactive security software installed and enabled, though no remote login services such as OpenSSH were running. PC-BSD also comes with a firewall enabled by default, protecting us in case a network service is activated.
I tried running PC-BSD on a physical desktop machine and inside a VirtualBox virtual machine. PC-BSD refused to boot on my desktop computer. I found this odd as PC-BSD 10.0.3 ran well on this hardware earlier in the year and, since I did not get as far as a boot menu, I suspect the new UEFI support may be a factor in this problem. (FreeBSD 10.1 offers separate installation media for machines with or without UEFI support. The FreeBSD 10.1 ISO with UEFI support does not boot on my test machine, but the ISO without UEFI support boots normally. This seems backwards to what we might expect to see as my test computer is equipped with UEFI.) When running inside VirtualBox the operating system performed well. PC-BSD integrates nicely into VirtualBox and performs quickly. I did find PC-BSD uses a large amount of the host computer's CPU when running inside VirtualBox, especially when accessing the network. However, despite the guest operating system using much of my computer's CPU, PC-BSD ran smoothly. I found the operating system required approximately 300MB of RAM to login to the Lumina desktop.
One of the central features of PC-BSD is the operating system's support for ZFS, an advanced file system that makes working with multiple devices and file system snapshots quick and easy. ZFS is a key component of PC-BSD, enabling us to take snapshots of the operating system prior to running software upgrades. ZFS is also an important part of the Life Preserver backup utility. Using Life Preserver we can schedule snapshots of our home directories and, optionally, schedule backups of our data to remote computers. We can also create traditional archives of the files in our home directory. Life Preserver enables the user to browse through snapshots of files, using a slider bar to move through time and a regular file manager interface to navigate directories. We can then restore files and folders by clicking a button. If we try to restore a folder from an archive that already exists on the system a new directory is created with the suffix "-revision" to avoid overwriting the existing directory.
PC-BSD 10.1 - running Debian GNU/Linux using Warden and checking for updates
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The Warden is another interesting feature of PC-BSD. FreeBSD has a lightweight container technology, called jails, that allows the administrator to run services or other software that should not come in contact with the rest of the operating system. Essentially it is a way to isolate processes without using a full featured virtual machine. PC-BSD expands on FreeBSD jails by making the process of creating jails, updating them and configuring them a simple point-n-click experience. Users can create minimal FreeBSD jails or Linux jails (based on Debian Wheezy). I found jails to be quite helpful when I wanted to experiment with software or compile a program in an environment that could be cleaned up (destroyed) afterwards. Like the rest of the PC-BSD operating system, jails created with the Warden utility can be saved as snapshots. This means if an update breaks our jail's environment or a running service, we can simply rollback the jail to an earlier state. This makes jails even more appealing when we want to experiment with software and configuration changes.
Another tool which stands out is the boot environment manager. This utility allows us to browse, create and remove operating system snapshots. When we rename or create a boot environment PC-BSD updates our boot loader so we can select our preferred operating system snapshot at boot time. In essence this means if our operating system ceases to function properly, we can simply reboot the computer and select a different version of the operating system to boot.
PC-BSD's Control Panel is a central location for configuring the underlying operating system. Through Control Panel we can launch utilities such as the AppCafe, the Update Manager, the boot manager and the operating system's hardware compatibility checker. There is also a services manager, a firewall configuration application and a user account manager. There are tools for setting up printers, a module for launching the Warden and a network configuration utility. I also found a bug reporting tool and a remote desktop server module. These tools typically worked beautifully for me and I appreciate the power and flexibility PC-BSD's configuration modules provide. The one module which did not work was the remote desktop server module. Launching this module did not appear to do anything. The rest of the configuration modules worked well for me and I found them easy to navigate.
PC-BSD 10.1 - configuring the operating system from Control Panel
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One final feature I wish to touch on is the Lumina desktop environment. Over in the BSD communities there has been some concern that porting desktops to work on FreeBSD, OpenBSD and PC-BSD may become more work, especially with technologies like Wayland and systemd on the horizon. Lumina is a cross-platform desktop environment that is primarily developed on (and for) PC-BSD. It is fairly lightweight and I found it to be flexible in its layout. Lumina is still in the beta stages, but it was stable for me and worked well. The desktop is responsive and typically works well with the underlying Fluxbox window manager. I did run into a few instances where applications would launch without window controls or title bar, but this was rare. I'm not sure if the problem with window controls lies with Lumina itself or Fluxbox. At times it took me a little adjusting to get used to the way the Lumina menu is presented, but I do like the way the interface handles favourite applications and the Lumina configuration modules worked well for me.
I feel the PC-BSD project does a very good job of taking the FreeBSD operating system (typically considered a server oriented platform) and turning it into a user friendly desktop system. The installer is quite easy to use, there are lots of useful (and friendly) configuration tools and the operating system is very flexible with regards to what software we install and which desktop environments we can use. The way the operating system integrates ZFS and its many advanced features is also appealing as it makes backing up data and recovering from broken upgrades quick and easy. The operating system ships with a great deal of documentation, lots of system administration utilities and a friendly package manager that gives us access to a huge collection of open source software.
The one concern I had with PC-BSD is hardware support. FreeBSD, and projects derived from it, tend to lag a little behind Linux when it comes to hardware support. For instance, while NVIDIA and Intel video cards are well supported, ATI cards are less likely to work with PC-BSD. I had trouble booting PC-BSD at all on my desktop machine and I've been told by various people in the PC-BSD/FreeBSD community that suspend and resume does not always work well. However, if you do have hardware that is compatible with PC-BSD then I highly recommend giving it a try. The project makes a lot of tasks easy and the operating system performs well.
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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)
PC-BSD upgrade woes, Ubuntu GNOME as rolling-release distro, comparing Ubuntu and Debian, Debian on graphing calculator, Bitrig, interview with Mageia's David Walser
Last month the PC-BSD project released version 10.1 of their FreeBSD based operating system. Some PC-BSD users reported problems upgrading from the 10.0 to the 10.1 release and the PC-BSD team has responded to these issues. In a blog post the PC-BSD developers report they are looking into the issue and taking steps to avoid upgrade problems in the future: "We are working on a new upgrade patch that will hopefully solve the upgrade problem for some of you who have still not been able to successfully upgrade to 10.1. What we are planning on doing is incorporating just freebsd-update to handle this upgrade for the kernel and let the packages be installed separately after the kernel has been upgraded. Going forward we have some ideas on how we can improve the updating process to give a better end user experience for PC-BSD. Just one idea we've been thinking about is giving ourselves a little more time before letting RELEASE updates become available to the public."
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People who enjoy the GNOME desktop environment and would like to experience the thrill of running a rolling release distribution can find what they are looking for with the Ubuntu GNOME project. Though Ubuntu GNOME usually is not thought of as a rolling release, the developers have created a brief tutorial on how to turn their distribution into a rolling platform. To summarize, people who install daily test images will automatically find themselves running a development/rolling distribution.
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When searching for a distribution to try, people are often torn between similar platforms. While there are many small differences between, for example, Linux Mint and Ubuntu or Ubuntu and Debian, the similar technical bases are likely to seem much the same to an outsider. The Datamation website has a side-by-side comparison which contrasts Debian and Ubuntu. People who are unsure of which distribution best suits their needs can get a list of differences between these two projects that share a lot of common ground from a technical perspective: "No matter how you decide, you can hardly go too far wrong. For all their differences, Debian and Ubuntu did not become the leading distributions in free software by chance. Their joint dominance suggests that either is a valid choice, so long as you understand your priorities."
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Debian GNU/Linux is a very flexible project and the operating system runs in a lot of different environments on different types of hardware. Eric Evenchick posted a short guide to getting Debian running on a graphing calculator: "The root file system is built on a PC using debootstrap and the QEMU ARM emulator. This allows you to install whatever packages are needed via apt, before transitioning to the calculator itself."
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OpenBSD is a conservative operating system that focuses on maintaining clean, secure code and accurate documentation. The OpenBSD operating system is often deployed as a firewall or server where security is a top priority. However, the project's conservative nature means OpenBSD users often do not get access to new or useful features. The Bitrig project has forked OpenBSD with plans to modernize the platform: "OpenBSD is an amazing project and has some of the best code around, but some of us are of the opinion that it could use a bit of modernization. OpenBSD is a very security-conscious project and, correspondingly, has to be more conservative with features. We want to be less restrictive with the code base when it comes to experimenting with features." Bitrig supports modern architectures exclusively, specifically 64-bit x86 and ARMv7, an optimized tool chain and FUSE support. Bitrig also plans to add virtualization support to future releases.
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Finally, a quick link to an interview with David Walser, a Mageia developer responsible for the highly unglamorous task of providing security updates for the distribution: "Security has always been important to me. It is something I always took seriously in setting up Linux systems for myself and my family in the early years, as well as Linux and Solaris systems that I administered for my college department in 2002. In fact, my very first contribution to Mandrake was a patch to a script in their CUPS package, whose purpose was to automatically generate cupsd.conf, to make it not listen on a network interface connected to your WAN). I stumbled into my current role at Mageia completely by accident. I had upgraded my sister's laptop from Mandriva 2010.2 to Mageia 1, and noticed one Mandriva package left on the system because it had a newer release tag than the Mageia package."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
The adoption of systemd
Concerned-about-systemd asks: I write to you in hopes that you can do a bit of digging and reporting on what is going on over in Debian-land in regards to systemd becoming the default init system for their next stable release. Also in light of Ian [Jackson]'s GR getting side-stepped. I think one does not have to look far to see the controversy over systemd, and I think it's important that you please spend more time covering it. I really want to know why the heavy handed push for systemd? Why the need to subvert Debian with moving away from their bedrock conservatism? There is much more going on beneath the surface on this one that a good journalist won't have to dig far to strike gold. Thanks for all you have covered thus far. I hope you pick up the torch and see what the light sheds.
DistroWatch answers: One of the nice things about Debian is that everything the project does is out in the open. Mailing list discussions, bug reports, packaging, source code and votes are all done in full public view. Anyone can visit the Debian mailing lists, bug tracker or wiki and read up on what the project is doing. Just about anything you might want to know about the project with regards to systemd is available for everyone to see. The debates on technical merit, the general resolution proposal and vote on init coupling are all viewable by the public. For this reason it doesn't take much digging to find what each developer in the Debian community thinks about systemd and why.
As for systemd, what it is, its wide adoption and the heated debates surrounding it, I think we have covered that pretty thoroughly. Our coverage of systemd, its adoption and controversy, goes back a full three years. I'm not sure there is much more to be said about the systemd project. At least not in any objective sense. If you're looking for subjective opinion, well, I shared my personal thoughts on systemd elsewhere.
Since the whole discussion and the votes concerning systemd and Debian have been made out in the open, I don't think there is any "heavy-handed push" involved in Debian adopting systemd. I think there are probably a few reasons Debian is making systemd its default init software. One reason is that systemd, despite its faults, does do some things well. Some things previous init systems either did not do or did not do well. Clean dependency resolution, small and readable configuration files, process monitoring and fairly good backward compatibility all spring readily to mind. While systemd does have issues (compatibility with some existing daemons, binary logging by default, creeping scope, lack of cross-platform support and large size), some developers obviously feel the benefits outweigh the problems.
I would also point out that since most other Linux distributions have already adopted systemd, Debian is left in a strange position. Either they can remain conservative and possibly struggle to patch software and find ways to make systemd dependent programs work with SysV init, or they can jump on the bandwagon and do what other distributions are doing. There is a line between being functionally conservative and being stuck in the past. I suspect Debian's developers want to avoid the latter.
Finally, of course, there is the tendency of Linux developers to adopt new technology, even when it does not yet work as smoothly as the software it is replacing. KDE 4, GNOME Shell, PulseAudio and GRUB 2 are all fine examples of software projects that were adopted early and while they still had growing pains. Trying new software is more exciting than maintaining old software. I suspect some Linux distributions, perhaps Debian included, are enabling systemd while there are still wrinkles to iron out partly because systemd is new and interesting.
I think any of the above are possible reasons for Linux developers, including Debian's team, to adopt systemd as the default init technology. I do not think there is a deeper reason or a plot to subvert Debian involved. Partly because it is hard to imagine who would benefit from such a plot. The systemd project is entirely open source, so hiding a backdoor or intentional bug would be difficult. The systemd software is free to use, so there isn't any money to be made by expanding its adoption. I may personally not like systemd or its expanding scope, but I suspect those aspects of the project are motivated by developers' visions of what a Linux operating system should be. There does not appear to be any heinous plot afoot.
I'd further like to point out that any underhanded efforts to force Debian into using systemd would require quietly corrupting hundreds of people (many of whom voted during the init coupling general resolution). That idea strikes me as being both unlikely and, since I happen to know a few of the Debian developers, somewhat offensive. Whether you like systemd and whether you agree with the choice to make systemd the default init software in Debian, the debates, decisions, votes and source code were all open to examination. It would be difficult to shine any more light on the process than the Debian project has already done. I personally do not agree with Debian's decision, but I do have respect for their methods.
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Avoiding-systemd asks: Maybe do a story about which distros and desktop environments are resisting systemd or staying compatibility neutral? An accompanying list would be great too.
Jesse Smith answers: For those who missed it, back in September I put together a short list of Linux distributions and open source operating systems which have not adopted systemd. I'm going to expand on that list a little, breaking it down into three parts.
First, let's look at distributions which are adopting systemd, but still have long term support releases that feature other init software. This list includes: Debian Wheezy which should be supported for a few more years. The upcoming Debian Jessie release will ship with systemd as the default init software, but systemd can be swapped out for another init technology post-installation. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS along with the many community spins of Ubuntu, such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Linux Mint, are supported through to 2019 and run Upstart as their default init software. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 distribution and its clones, including CentOS 6 and Scientific Linux 6, are free of systemd and will continue to be supported until 2020. Keep in mind the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its clones do feature systemd and Ubuntu has stated they will move to systemd sometime in the near future, following Debian's lead.
Next, let us look at Linux distributions which have not adopted systemd and probably will not, at least in the near future. These include Slackware and Slackware's many community distributions. The Void Linux distribution uses runit by default with systemd as an optional component. The PCLinuxOS distribution appears to be avoiding systemd as is CRUX. Gentoo and its children have avoided adopting systemd as the default init software.
Finally, I feel it is worth mentioning that systemd is designed to run on Linux distributions only and other operating systems are not adopting the new init software. Instead, many other open source operating systems are creating systemd compatibility layers that will allow software depending on systemd to run without actually having systemd running as init. Such operating systems include PC-BSD, FreeBSD, GhostBSD, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly BSD, OpenIndiana, Haiku OS and MINIX. (Admittedly the last few items on this list are unlikely to be practical alternatives for most people.)
Over on the Debian forums there is an ongoing discussion about operating systems that do not use systemd by default. Contributors to the discussion have put together a fairly complete list of alternatives to operating systems running systemd.
As for desktop environments, to my knowledge GNOME is the only desktop that is forming ties to systemd. Even in the case of GNOME the dependency appears to be optional up to this point. There has been talk of KDE adding systemd as an optional dependency, but KDE developers are trying to maintain compatibility with operating systems not running systemd. Most open source projects, including desktop environments, do not stand to benefit from forming ties to any one init technology and so systemd is unlikely to become a hard dependency for most desktop environments.
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Following the Questions and Answers column where we talked about application-aware firewalls for Linux, one of our readers shared an interesting project. Douane is, according to the project's website, "a personal firewall that protects a user's privacy by allowing a user to control which applications can connect to the Internet from their GNU/Linux computer." The firewall project's website claims it will block all network traffic by default and allows applications to access the Internet only after the user has granted access. The Douane software is designed to run on modern Linux kernels (version 3.0 and newer) and is available as a source code download. At the time of writing I do not believe any distributions have included Douane in their software repositories.
|Released Last Week
Manjaro GNU/Linux 0.8.11
Phil Müller has announced the release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.11, the latest update of the Arch Linux-based distribution featuring the Xfce and KDE desktops: "We are happy to announce the final release of Manjaro Linux 0.8.11. The Xfce edition remains our flagship offering and has received the attention it deserves. Few can claim to offer such a polished, integrated and leading-edge Xfce experience. We ship components from the Xfce 4.11 series after having tested them in-house, ensuring suitability for everyday use. This edition now uses LightDM for login management, display locking and user switching, including custom integration for Xfce. Spearheaded by the Turkish Manjaro community, our KDE edition continues to deliver this powerful, mature and feature-rich desktop environment with a unique look-and-feel and with the perks of Manjaro's latest tools." Here is the release announcement with screenshots.
Linux Lite 2.2
Jerry Bezencon has announced the release of Linux Lite 2.2, an updated build of the project's lightweight distribution based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and featuring the Xfce desktop: "Linux Lite 2.2 final is now available for download. This release is a product of the incredible contributions from both the community and the developers. We've added Backups, a very simple to use backup utility, Date & Time, File Search, and our newest members to the Linux Lite software family - Lite Cleaner, an easy-to-use point and click system cleaner and Lite Welcome which greets you on first boot, gives useful information about Linux Lite including updates, support and development. We've also added Light Locker as the new default screen locker. There are also improvements to Install Additional Software, allowing you to choose multiple programs at once to install. There is also Check Install Media that has been added to the live boot menu." Read the rest of the release announcement which includes screenshots and hardware requirements.
antiX 14.3 "MX"
antiX 14.3 "MX" edition is a bug-fix update of the earlier release, an antiX flavour developed in collaboration with the MEPIS Community and featuring the Xfce desktop: "Upgraded bug-fix versions (PAE and non-PAE) of MX-14 are now available. This version has fixed some bugs found in MX-14.2 and Debian upstream. Major applications have been upgraded. We have added some new features, e.g. MX-Tools. MX-14.3 is based on Debian 'Wheezy' and therefore uses sysVinit. Now that Debian has frozen 'Jessie' and has moved to systemd, MX-14.3 offers a rock-solid systemd-free experience for those that would prefer to stick with sysVinit. MX-14 series will be supported until the end of life of Debian 'Wheezy'. Features and changes since MX-14.2: in order to fit on a CD, Java has been removed; upgraded to Linux kernel 3.14; new MX-findshares; new libparted2; galculator upgraded to version 2.1.3; Iceweasel upgraded to version 31.2.0esr...." See the project's home page to read the full release announcement.
MakuluLinux 7.0 "Xfce"
Jacque Raymer has announced the release of MakuluLinux 7.0 "Xfce" edition, an Ubuntu-based distribution with a custom Xfce desktop: "Here is it, ladies and gentleman, this is what you have been waiting for, the fastest and most beautiful Xfce on the whole planet. Thought only true love could make you weak in the knees? Wait till you fire up this baby. There is a reason this version is code-named 'the concorde' or 'the bullet' as I have come to know it. I have drawn on all my experience and instinct as a Linux developer and pushed the limits and boundaries on this edition. This build has even surpassed my own expectations when I started working on it. So let’s get into the release notes and look what's inside the box: MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 was built from the ground up; based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS PAE 3.13 i686 Linux kernel, 5 year support life; a blend of Xfce 4.10 and 4.11 packages." Read the rest of the release notes for a more details.
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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|
- Pearl Linux MATE. Pearl Linux MATE is a distribution designed for novice Linux users and featuring a desktop with a layout similar to OS X.
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 15 December 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)
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(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 776 (2018-08-13): NomadBSD 1.1, Maximum storage limits on Linux, openSUSE extends life for 42.3, updates to the Librem 5 phone interface|
|• Issue 775 (2018-08-06): Secure-K OS 18.5, Linux is about choice, Korora tests community spin, elementary OS hires developer, ReactOS boots on Btrfs|
|• Issue 774 (2018-07-30): Ubuntu MATE & Ubuntu Budgie 18.04, upgrading software from source, Lubuntu shifts focus, NetBSD changes support policy|
|• Issue 773 (2018-07-23): Peppermint OS 9, types of security used by different projects, Mint reacts to bugs in core packages, Slackware turns 25|
|• Issue 772 (2018-07-16): Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre 0.2.4, UBports running desktop applications, OpenBSD auto-joins wi-fi networks, boot environments and zedenv|
|• Issue 771 (2018-07-09): Linux Lite 4.0, checking CPUs for bugs, configuring GRUB, Mint upgrade instructions, SUSE acquired by EQT|
|• Issue 770 (2018-07-02): Linux Mint 19, Solus polishes desktop experience, MintBox Mini 2, changes to Fedora's installer|
|• Issue 769 (2018-06-25): BunsenLabs Helium, counting Ubuntu users, UBports upgrading to 16.04, Fedora CoreOS, FreeBSD turns 25|
|• Issue 768 (2018-06-18): Devuan 2.0.0, using pkgsrc to manage software, the NOVA filesystem, OpenBSD handles successful cron output|
|• Issue 767 (2018-06-11): Android-x86 7.1-r1, transferring files over OpenSSH with pipes, LFS with Debian package management, Haiku ports LibreOffice|
|• Issue 766 (2018-06-04): openSUSE 15, overview of file system links, Manjaro updates Pamac, ReactOS builds itself, Bodhi closes forums|
|• Issue 765 (2018-05-28): Pop!_OS 18.04, gathering system information, Haiku unifying ARM builds, Solus resumes control of Budgie|
|• Issue 764 (2018-05-21): DragonFly BSD 5.2.0, Tails works on persistent packages, Ubuntu plans new features, finding services affected by an update|
|• Issue 763 (2018-05-14): Fedora 28, Debian compatibility coming to Chrome OS, malware found in some Snaps, Debian's many flavours|
|• Issue 762 (2018-05-07): TrueOS 18.03, live upgrading Raspbian, Mint plans future releases, HardenedBSD to switch back to OpenSSL|
|• Issue 761 (2018-04-30): Ubuntu 18.04, accessing ZFS snapshots, UBports to run on Librem 5 phones, Slackware makes PulseAudio optional|
|• Issue 760 (2018-04-23): Chakra 2017.10, using systemd to hide files, Netrunner's ARM edition, Debian 10 roadmap, Microsoft develops Linux-based OS|
|• Issue 759 (2018-04-16): Neptune 5.0, building containers with Red Hat, antiX introduces Sid edition, fixing filenames on the command line|
|• Issue 758 (2018-04-09): Sortix 1.0, openSUSE's Transactional Updates, Fedora phasing out Python 2, locating portable packages|
|• Issue 757 (2018-04-02): Gatter Linux 0.8, the UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, Red Hat turns 25, super long term support kernels|
|• Issue 756 (2018-03-26): NuTyX 10.0, Neptune supplies Debian users with Plasma 5.12, SolydXK on a Raspberry Pi, SysV init development|
|• Issue 755 (2018-03-19): Learning with ArchMerge and Linux Academy, Librem 5 runs Plasma Mobile, Cinnamon gets performance boost|
|• Issue 754 (2018-03-12): Reviewing Sabayon and Antergos, the growing Linux kernel, BSDs getting CPU bug fixes, Manjaro builds for ARM devices|
|• Issue 753 (2018-03-05): Enso OS 0.2, KDE Plasma 5.12 features, MX Linux prepares new features, interview with MidnightBSD's founder|
|• Issue 752 (2018-02-26): OviOS 2.31, performing off-line upgrades, elementary OS's new installer, UBports gets test devices, Redcore team improves security|
|• Issue 751 (2018-02-19): DietPi 6.1, testing KDE's Plasma Mobile, Nitrux packages AppImage in default install, Solus experiments with Wayland|
|• Issue 750 (2018-02-12): Solus 3, getting Deb packages upstream to Debian, NetBSD security update, elementary OS explores AppCentre changes|
|• Issue 749 (2018-02-05): Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0, misunderstandings about Wayland, Xorg and Mir, Korora slows release schedule, Red Hat purchases CoreOS|
|• Issue 748 (2018-01-29): siduction 2018.1.0, SolydXK 32-bit editions, building an Ubuntu robot, desktop-friendly Debian options|
|• Issue 747 (2018-01-22): Ubuntu MATE 17.10, recovering open files, creating a new distribution, KDE focusing on Wayland features|
|• Issue 746 (2018-01-15): deepin 15.5, openSUSE's YaST improvements, new Ubuntu 17.10 media, details on Spectre and Meltdown bugs|
|• Issue 745 (2018-01-08): GhostBSD 11.1, Linspire and Freespire return, wide-spread CPU bugs patched, adding AppImage launchers to the application menu|
|• Issue 744 (2018-01-01): MX Linux 17, Ubuntu pulls media over BIOS bug, PureOS gets endorsed by the FSF, openSUSE plays with kernel boot splash screens|
|• Issue 743 (2017-12-18): Daphile 17.09, tools for rescuing files, Fedora Modular Server delayed, Sparky adds ARM support, Slax to better support wireless networking|
|• Issue 742 (2017-12-11): heads 0.3.1, improvements coming to Tails, Void tutorials, Ubuntu phasing out Python 2, manipulating images from the command line|
|• Issue 741 (2017-12-04): Pop!_OS 17.10, openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots, installing Q4OS on a Windows partition, using the at command|
|• Issue 740 (2017-11-27): Artix Linux, Unity spin of Ubuntu, Nitrux swaps Snaps for AppImage, getting better battery life on Linux|
|• Issue 739 (2017-11-20): Fedora 27, cross-distro software ports, Ubuntu on Samsung phones, Red Hat supports ARM, Parabola continues 32-bit support|
|• Issue 738 (2017-11-13): SparkyLinux 5.1, rumours about spyware, Slax considers init software, Arch drops 32-bit packages, overview of LineageOS|
|• Issue 737 (2017-11-06): BeeFree OS 18.1.2, quick tips to fix common problems, Slax returning, Solus plans MATE and software management improvements|
|• Issue 736 (2017-10-30): Ubuntu 17.10, "what if" security questions, Linux Mint to support Flatpak, NetBSD kernel memory protection|
|• Issue 735 (2017-10-23): ArchLabs Minimo, building software with Ravenports, WPA security patch, Parabola creates OpenRC spin|
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Issue 733 (2017-10-09): KaOS 2017.09, 32-bit prematurely obsoleted, Qubes security features, IPFire updates Apache|
|• Issue 732 (2017-10-02): ClonOS, reducing Snap package size, Ubuntu dropping 32-bit Desktop, partitioning disks for ZFS|
|• Issue 731 (2017-09-25): BackSlash Linux Olaf, W3C adding DRM to web standards, Wayland support arrives in Mir, Debian experimenting with AppArmor|
|• Issue 730 (2017-09-18): Mageia 6, running a completely free OS, HAMMER2 file system in DragonFly BSD's installer, Manjaro to ship pre-installed on laptops|
|• Issue 729 (2017-09-11): Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, running Plex Media Server on a Raspberry Pi, Tails feature roadmap, a cross-platform ports build system|
|• Issue 728 (2017-09-04): Nitrux 1.0.2, SUSE creates new community repository, remote desktop tools for GNOME on Wayland, using Void source packages|
|• Issue 727 (2017-08-28): Cucumber Linux 1.0, using Flatpak vs Snap, GNOME previews Settings panel, SUSE reaffirms commitment to Btrfs|
|• Issue 726 (2017-08-21): Redcore Linux 1706, Solus adds Snap support, KaOS getting hardened kernel, rolling releases and BSD|
|• Issue 725 (2017-08-14): openSUSE 42.3, Debian considers Flatpak for backports, changes coming to Ubuntu 17.10, the state of gaming on Linux|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
White Box Enterprise Linux
What was the goal for White Box Linux? To provide an unencumbered RPM-based Linux distribution that retains enough compatibility with Red Hat Linux to allow easy upgrades and to retain compatibility with their errata SRPMs. Being based off of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3.0 means that a machine should be able to avoid the upgrade treadmill until October 2008 since RHEL promises errata availability for 5 years from date of initial release. Or more briefly, to fill the gap between Fedora and RHEL. Why was White Box Linux created? Its initial creation was sponsored by the Beauregard Parish Public Library in DeRidder, USA out of self interest. We have several servers and over 50 workstations running Red Hat Linux and were left high and dry by Red Hat's recent shift in business plan. Our choices were a difficult migration to another distribution or paying Red Hat an annual fee greater than the amortized value of our hardware. So we chose a third path, made possible by the power of open source.... White Box Linux.