| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 672, 1 August 2016
Welcome to this year's 31st issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu distribution, has spent the past few years promoting the ideas of Ubuntu on mobile devices and user interfaces which can work across multiple platforms. Last year we saw the first Ubuntu mobile phones launch in Europe and Ubuntu-powered phones and tablets are now appearing in global markets. This week we begin with a review of the Meizu Pro 5, a smart phone which uses Ubuntu as its operating system. Read on to find out how the Ubuntu phone performs and how it compares to the Android platform. This week we tackle the myth that Linux requires a lot of memory and explore where the idea comes from. In our News section we discuss the Solus distribution embracing a new rolling release model and a new GUI approach to upgrading Fedora. Plus we share an interview with Jane Silber and remind our readers Ubuntu 15.10 has reached the end of its supported life. We also discuss FreeBSD's Quarterly Report. We then share the torrents we are seeding and provide a list of the releases of the past week. In our Opinion Poll we talk about gaming on Linux. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (43MB) and MP3 (60MB) formats
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Ubuntu Phone - The Meizu Pro 5
In many ways, for me, smart phones are the realization of a childhood fantasy: computers small enough to fit in a pocket and powerful enough to perform common computing tasks. There is a certain amount of wonder I feel when I look up trivia, get directions or play chess on a device that can sit in my pocket and only needs to be recharged once every day or two. However, while I greatly admire the technology that goes into a smart phone, the experience often suffers from dozens of small issues.
Over the years I have tried most of the major smart phone platforms. While each had their strengths, they also introduced frustrations which sent me on to another platform. Early Blackberry phones I found bulky and difficult to navigate. While I found more modern Blackberries much more comfortable and I enjoyed their physical keyboards, the Blackberry company seems to be killing off their classic phones in favour of touch screens and giant square devices that won't fit in my pocket. I briefly tried a few generations of the iPhone, but never felt comfortable with the interface (iOS seems to interpret my touch gestures as vague suggestions) and I found it difficult to find ways to perform common tasks. The iPhone also feels uncomfortably locked into the Apple ecosystem, making it a poor fit for me. Android is the platform I have used the longest. My first Android regularly crashed and lost its wi-fi connection. My most recent Android is much more stable, but still loses its network connection and is bundled with software I cannot remove which insists on nagging me on a regular basis. I very briefly tried a Windows phone and while I found the interface sometimes had the familiar feel of a desktop computer, the illusion of familiarity did not hold up. The Windows phone felt like a Barbie doll - a recognizable imitation of a familiar concept, but warped and stiff, ultimately something I'd be embarrassed being seen with on a date.
For the past few years I, like many other Linux enthusiasts, have been looking forward to a more pure mobile GNU/Linux experience. Ubuntu phones started appearing in Europe last year, but the models from Bq appear to work on frequencies not compatible with (or not ideal for) North American mobile networks. Meizu has launched the Meizu Pro 5 which is available in Android and Ubuntu flavours. The Meizu phone appears to offer complete compatibly with mobile networks in Canada and the United States of America and I was eager to try it. Upon request, Canonical was kind enough to send me a Pro 5 model to explore and what follows are my impressions of the device.
The Meizu Pro 5 arrived in a simple, black box with "PRO 5" written on the cover. The box contained the phone itself, a power-to-USB adapter and a USB-C cable. There was also a small piece of paper with Chinese characters on it which I believe was the warranty. There was no instruction manual. The Pro 5 is 156.7mm x 78mm x 7.5mm in size, making it almost an inch (2.5cm) taller than my existing Android Moto G device, and nearly half an inch (1cm) wider. The Pro 5 is a few millimetres thinner than my Moto G and a touch lighter, weighing in at 168 grams. This makes the Pro 5 quite a bit longer and not always as easy to slide into a pocket, but it feels nicer in my hand.
The Pro 5 has two cameras, a 20 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front camera. A USB plug is located at the bottom and a headphone jack can be found at the top of the device. The power and volume rocker are placed on the right with a SIM/microSD card tray on the left. The tray can hold two cards, enabling us to insert two SIM cards or a SIM and a microSD card for additional storage. The positioning of the volume and power buttons are reversed on the Pro 5 compared to my Android phone, placing the power button closer to the bottom of the device.
The Pro 5 runs the mobile edition of Ubuntu 15.04 and offers 3GB of physical RAM. About 1GB of memory is required to run the phone with its default scopes and settings, leaving us about 2GB of space for applications and other features. The device offers approximately 30GB of internal storage with 26GB of the space still free. The device retails for $369.99 (USD).
The Pro 5 boots in about ten seconds, briefly showing us the familiar Ubuntu loading screen fans of the Ubuntu Desktop edition will recognize. The first time we start the device, we are asked to select our preferred language from a list. We are then given the option of connecting to nearby wireless networks. The device next asks if we would like to enable the GPS. (We can enable/disable the GPS feature later through the phone's settings panel.) We are then asked to select our time zone from a list and, optionally, we can enter our name. The last two screens in the initial set up process give us the chance to lock the phone with a passcode and to optionally send crash reports to the developers. With these steps completed we are brought to a screen called the Today scope.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- The Today scope, Ubuntu's home screen
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I will come back to the concept of scopes, which are similar to desktop widgets, in a moment, but first I want to go over navigating the Ubuntu mobile operating system. Ubuntu tends to avoid using buttons or things we tap. Instead, wherever possible Ubuntu uses swiping gestures to navigate and control the interface. Short swipes to the left or right cycle us through open scopes. A swipe from left-to-right brings up the launch bar, which looks and acts much like the Unity launch bar in the Desktop edition of Ubuntu. A gesture from the bottom of the screen brings up any options the current application or scope supports. A swipe from the top of the screen downward brings up the global settings and notification area. At the bottom of the device there is a physical home button and pressing this button brings up the application launch bar on the left side of the screen. A long swiping gesture from right-to-left shows us all the open applications windows. When on the window overview screen, pushing an application window up closes the program. Moving our finger left or right cycles through the open windows. Tapping an open window gives it focus.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- Switching between app windows
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All about scopes
I have used the term scope a few times now and I feel it is a concept worth exploring. From a technical perspective, a scope acts a lot like a desktop widget, a plasmoid (for KDE users) or an Android widget. A scope is basically a small program which sits in the background and provides quick access to information. A scope (or widget) might show us the local weather forecast, a Twitter feed or our CPU's usage statistics. On most desktops, and on Android devices, a widget is usually fairly small, allowing us to fit many on the screen. With Ubuntu's mobile operating system, a scope takes up the entire screen, it is a full screen widget. On Android the user has five home screens where we can place multiple widgets and icons. Ubuntu can have a virtually limitless number of scopes, each one taking up a full page.
From a practical point of view, Ubuntu's scopes give the user quick access to weather forecasts, music and calendar information. Scopes can also provide us with news, a way to launch applications and quick access to our phone's photos.
The heart of the Ubuntu experience is the Today scope which acts as the device's home page. The Today scope, by default, shows us the current date, local weather, a summary of recent calls & messages and news from various sources around the world. The Today scope can be customized by pulling up the options tray from the bottom of the screen and can show as much or as little information as we like. When I first started using the phone I noticed the Today scope showed temperatures in the weather forecast in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. This can be adjusted by changing our selected language in the device's settings panel and restarting the phone.
Ubuntu offers us many other scopes. By default there are scopes for viewing photos, finding music, browsing (and launching) installed applications and finding videos. We can add new scopes, remove existing ones and change the order in which scopes are shown through the options tray at the bottom of the scope screen.
What about apps?
While Ubuntu does place focus on its scopes, the platform supports and includes more traditional phone applications (or apps). Applications can be launched from the Apps scope or from the launch bar. Open applications can be pinned to the launch bar for future quick access by holding the application's icon and selecting the Pin option in the menu that appears. The operating system gives us access to the Ubuntu Store where we can find over 1,000 additional apps and scopes. We do require a user account through Ubuntu One to install or update apps. Creating an account is free and can be done through the phone.
I found Ubuntu Store to be easy to navigate. The interface is similar to Google's Play store or the GNOME Software package manager. Tapping on an application's icon brings up a full screen description which includes screen shots, a link to the software's web page, licensing information and the application's size. Programs can be installed or removed with the tap of a button. Installed items can be launched from their description page.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- Finding new applications in the Ubuntu Store
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One aspect of Ubuntu I greatly appreciated was that I could remove unwanted applications, including the ones bundled with the device. On most builds of other operating systems there are programs baked into the operating system which cannot be removed and which may nag the user. Ubuntu allows us to get rid of programs we do not want.
Another feature of Ubuntu I like is the mobile operating system installs applications without giving them permission to access anything by default. When an app wants to access our contacts, Google account or camera the app must ask us for permission. This gives Ubuntu a fairly fine-grained security model that denies by default. We can revoke permissions we have already granted by visiting the Security & Privacy screen in the settings panel.
Migrating from Android to Ubuntu
For me, one of the big questions going into this review was how difficult it would be to transition from one mobile operating system to another, specifically Android to Ubuntu. I was uncertain if my contacts, calendar appointments and photos could be transferred between the two devices. I wondered if I could find similar applications and settings when switching to the new device.
As it happened, the migration was fairly straight forward. There are a few ways to copy contacts into the Ubuntu phone. People who have a Google account can simply sync their address book to Google and then link the Google account to their Ubuntu device. This can be done through the Users module in the Ubuntu settings panel. Alternatively, we can export contacts from the Android device, copy the archive to a desktop computer and then over to the Ubuntu phone. The contacts file can then be imported through Ubuntu's Contacts application. Copying the calendar is similarly straight forward for anyone with a Google account as the Ubuntu calendar can sync with Google's on-line calendar.
I like that Ubuntu provides permission control over on-line accounts. Not just any application can access a Google account that has been linked to the phone. Each application must be explicitly granted permission to access Google's address book, YouTube information and other synced items.
For the most part, settings and features on the Ubuntu device had direct parallels to settings and features on my Android device. One of the few changes I had to get used to is Android has three volume controls. One handles the ringer and messages, another adjusts alarms and a third is for media. At first it seemed as though Ubuntu had just one master volume control. However, I soon found the volume control in Ubuntu's settings panel adjusts the ringer volume and audio/media output. The alarm volume is handled separately by the Clock application and its audio volume is adjusted independently from other applications.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- The settings panel
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Calling and texting
Making and receiving phone calls works about the same on the Ubuntu phone as any other modern smart phone. The calling application can be accessed from the app launcher. We can initiate calls by dialing a number on a touchpad or by accessing the address book and tapping a phone icon next to the contact name. Incoming calls pause any other task and we can swipe left to ignore the call or right to accept. A small button near the bottom of the screen disconnects a call in progress. There are other buttons for switching on speaker phone and muting a call. The audio quality of calls was good. With Android phones I can usually clearly hear a caller from several feet away when the volume is at 40%. The Meizu Pro 5 audio levels were lower and I could hear callers from about a foot away with 60% volume. I was pleased to find the Ubuntu touchpad worked flawlessly when navigating automated answering services, while all the Android phones I have used tend to shut off the display while I am punching in a number.
Texting works on Ubuntu about the same as on other smart phones, but the way we handle past messages is a little different. Once a message has been sent, we can swipe it to the left to get meta information on the message or to copy its contents to the clipboard. Swiping to the right gives us the option of deleting the old message. Images, videos and contacts can be attached to texts, either from within the messaging app itself or by visiting the gallery or address book and tapping the share button.
One feature I grew to enjoy was the way Ubuntu offers us a short-cut for replying to text messages. When a new text comes in, the phone notifies the user and a green envelope appears in the notification tray at the top of the screen. We can pull down the notification area and read the message. We can also write a reply in a text box next to the message and send it from within the notification tray. This means we do not need to switch from our current task to the messaging app and back again. We can pop down the tray, write a quick reply and push the tray back up, returning to the task at hand.
Battery and performance
The Pro 5 offered pretty good battery performance. When the phone was in semi-active use (checking messages, watching videos, sending tweets and listening to music), the battery lost around 5% of its charge per hour. While left to sleep during the night, the battery drained 10% in ten hours (1% per hour). When recharging through a USB cable attached to my computer, the Pro 5 gained 20% of its battery charge each hour and would presumably recover from a completely drained battery in five hours.
The Pro 5 is a fast device and the interface was quite snappy. Switching between apps and scopes happens very quickly, new programs are quick to load and browsing the web was a fairly pleasant experience on the Pro 5. It did not seem to matter how many applications I loaded on the device, the interface was always responsive.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- The phone's default web browser
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The Pro 5 has two cameras, a high quality rear-facing lens takes 20 megapixel images while the front-facing camera takes 5 megapixel photographs. The picture quality was good, at least to my non-photographer eyes. The camera performed passably well in both lit and dim environments. What stood out about taking pictures was the application though. The Ubuntu camera app, like all Ubuntu apps, has an options tray at the bottom of the screen. These options are clearly labelled and easy to toggle. I found the experience pleasantly straight forward compared to Android's camera application, which involves turning dials and swiping a tray of vague icons in from the side. With Ubuntu the experience was more akin to using a simple image editor than a mock-up of a classic analogue camera and I liked that.
A common problem which plagues a lot of people on both Android and iOS is dealing with software updates, particularly to the base operating system. Friends who use iPhones often tell me horror stories about upgrading their phones through iTunes while Android users tend to suffer from a lack of upgrades as most phone providers push out updates (or not) independently of Google. It appears as though Ubuntu phones get their software updates directly from Canonical and the Ubuntu Store. Going into the phone's settings panel we can find a configuration module called Updates. Tapping the Updates button will check for software upgrades and we can choose whether to have updates installed manually or automatically. During my time with the Pro 5 there was one upgrade made available, 220MB in size. The update installed without any problems.
The Pro 5 ships with a web browser. The browser doesn't display any branding and it is a light, effective browser. There are no plugins or fancy features, just a straight forward browser with bookmarks. We can set the browser to use a variety of search engines, including Google (the default), Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and a few others. Alternative web browsers can be found in the Ubuntu Store.
For people like me who want to use a command line, there is a Terminal application in the Ubuntu Store. The phone's terminal works about the same as a virtual terminal on Ubuntu Desktop. The usual command line tools are available, with the exception of manual pages. To perform actions as the device's administrator we can use the sudo command. Ubuntu's phone uses the same directory structure as the Ubuntu Desktop and Server editions. The user has a home directory located at /home/phablet. In the home directory we find a series of folders: Downloads, Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. When an external storage card is attached to the phone, files saved to the card can be accessed under the /media directory.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- Accessing memory usage information from the terminal
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Ubuntu's mobile operating system can play media files, including mp3 audio files, by default. There is a built in media player for music and we can gain access to other media sources, such as YouTube, through scopes and web apps.
The Pro 5 has a light on the face of the device which flashes when there are notifications waiting, such as calendar events and new text messages. Notifications usually appear in small bubbles at the top of the display and are often accompanied by a brief sound. We can disable notifications from any app through the settings panel using the Notifications module. So far as I could tell, notifications from applications can only be toggled on/off for each app, I could not find a way to visually display new notices while also muting them.
I was able to pair my Ubuntu phone with other devices, such as an Android phone, over Bluetooth. However, I was unable to send or receive photos or contacts over the Bluetooth connection. If I wanted to send contacts to an Android phone from Ubuntu, I had to use Google's sync service. I could import contact archives from Android into Ubuntu, but I could not find a way to export contacts from the Ubuntu device into an archive to send back to the Android phone.
Placing a new microSD card in the phone's tray would bring up a notification letting the user know the card had been detected. A card with no suitable file system would cause Ubuntu to offer to format the card using the VFAT file system. When a storage card was inserted, applications (like the camera app) would offer to save files to the card or our home directory. We can toggle where items such as photos are saved, switching back and forth between the removable card and internal storage. When a storage card was in the phone, its extra space was not included in the phone's disk usage statistics. The phone always looked to its internal storage when calculating how much space was used and how much was still free. When accessing the command line we can see how much storage is available to us on the removable card by using the df command.
I had some trouble connecting to the Ubuntu device's internal storage from my computer at first. When the phone was plugged in via USB, it was not mounted as a storage device and the first two file managers I tried (Lumina and Dolphin) could not detect the phone. The Nautilus file manager was able to detect and access the phone's storage, giving me access to both the files stored internally and the files on the microSD card. Alternatively, we can install a file transfer app on the phone and send files over FTP and SFTP connections.
One of the few features I missed when I switched over to Ubuntu was the KDE Connect application. The KDE Connect software enables an Android phone to talk with a Linux desktop computer. Through it we can share a clipboard, transfer files over wi-fi and see phone notifications on the desktop. As far as I can tell there is no exact replacement for Ubuntu phones yet, though the Caxton app comes pretty close.
When both mobile and wi-fi network connections were enabled, the Ubuntu phone would prefer the wi-fi network, as expected. When I went out of range of the wi-fi network, the phone would automatically switch over to using my mobile data plan, again as expected. However, when I went back into range of the wi-fi network, the phone would continue to use the mobile data plan until mobile data was turned off. This is a potentially serious bug as many mobile data plans are expensive and it is not immediately apparent the phone is using mobile data since it reports a wi-fi connection is available.
The Ubuntu device provides a number of ways to lock the phone. The device can use a passcode, password or fingerprint to unlock the phone. At the time of writing I have only used the passcode method and can confirm it works.
One feature of the Ubuntu phone that took me a while to notice was the lack of advertisements. Over the past year and a half I have become accustomed to the idea that I get to run free applications on my phone in exchange for being shown semi-frequent ads. This tended not to bother me most of the time, except when Android apps would suddenly show me full screen videos at high volume. After two days of using Ubuntu I realized I had not see any advertisements, there had been no interruptions while playing games, no banners at the bottom of my text editor, no nagging notifications ironically telling me how I could remove distractions from my life. This lack of distractions gives Ubuntu an overall more smooth, less jarring user experience.
Sometimes the phone's display would turn on without apparent reason and remain on, despite attempts to turn it off. This happened about once every two or three days. This is a common issue across phone types, but can usually be traced back to a faulty plug, magnetic interference or vibrations. None of these elements were present when the Ubuntu phone turned on its display. The display would usually remain on for about twenty minutes to an hour, then turn off again. The issue is minor as the only side effect is slightly faster battery drain, but I was unable to locate a cause. My best guess is the phone is long and thin, possibly subject to warping when handled, which could trigger the physical home button to activate.
Ubuntu Phone 15.04 -- Browsing installed programs from the Apps scope
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Prior to receiving the Ubuntu phone, I looked up a handful of reviews (six in total) and demonstration videos to see what other people thought of the Meizu Pro 5. All the reviews I read focused on four things: camera quality, interface performance, number of applications and battery life. None talked about how well the phone worked as a phone and I started to wonder if any of the reviewers had placed a call or used their device for texting. Few talked about how scopes compare to applications. This is one of the reasons I wanted to test the Ubuntu-powered phone for myself. I mostly use my phone for communication, and occasionally looking up information in a web browser. I'm not a heavy app user*; I have a desktop computer for applications and a phone for communications. Each Android phone I have used for calls, especially to businesses, has offered an unpleasant experience because the number pad rarely works properly. This makes it hard to navigate computer-run answering services. Half the time my Android devices have been unable to hang-up properly. My biggest issue with Android is it feels like an app platform rather than a communications tool. If Ubuntu could solve that problem, I would be willing to overlook a lot of other issues.
As it turned out, Ubuntu running on the Pro 5 offered me a pleasant phone and communications experience. Using the phone and the touchpad to navigate automated services worked very well. Texting worked well too and I found I liked typing on the Ubuntu keyboard a little more than the Android keyboard. After two days with Ubuntu I was making fewer typos than I did after 18 months with the Android on-screen keyboard. I was a little concerned at first with the size of the Pro 5, it is taller than any phone I have owned in the past. However, the Pro 5 is also lighter. This made it a squeeze to get it into my pocket, but pleasant to hold in my hand.
It took me a while to get used to the difference between using scopes and running applications. Scopes are a slightly unusual concept in the smart phone market, but I grew to appreciate the idea. What eventually gave me the "a-ha" moment when it came to scopes was when I realized scopes are for looking at information and apps for doing things. Scopes are always on, always waiting in the background to provide us with small bits of data. Applications are for performing tasks. A scope will tell me what is on my calendar for the day, an application will create new appointments. A scope will tell me who called me recently while an app will place a new call.
Speaking of apps, I would like to address two common observations reviewers tend to raise about the Ubuntu mobile operating system. The first is that Ubuntu phones do not have access to many apps; the Ubuntu Store is a lot smaller than the Android and iOS market places. This is valid, but there are three key things to keep in mind when looking at the situation. It is true Ubuntu's phone has a lot fewer applications. While I do not miss the hundreds of flashlight apps and the dozen knock-offs of Flappy Birds, I do appreciate choice and I do hope Ubuntu is able to attract more developers to its app store. However, a second component of the fewer apps concern is, in my opinion, a result of Ubuntu offering different apps.
When users migrate from Windows to desktop Linux they often notice Linux does not run Microsoft Office, Photoshop or Need For Speed and they conclude Linux doesn't run many applications. However, if they stick around they soon find Linux runs LibreOffice, the GNU Image Manipulation Program and SuperTuxKart. These programs may or may not suit their needs, but my point is there are often workable alternatives to familiar applications. I think the same concept applies, to an extent, on Ubuntu's phone platform. The Ubuntu Store does not have Firefox, VLC or Plants vs Zombies. Ubuntu does have a web browser, music player and Machines vs Machines though. Ubuntu could use some more applications, especially recognized brands like Firefox, but I was able to find working alternatives to almost every Android app I use.
A third point I would like to raise is I have noticed the Ubuntu phone takes a user-oriented or, perhaps more accurately, an information-oriented approach while Android and iOS take an application-focused approach. People who use Android or iOS are probably familiar with the phrase, "There's an app for that." When I wake up in the morning and look at my Android phone I go through a series of apps. I want to reply to texts, so I go to the messaging app. When I want to check my schedule for the day, I open the calendar app. If I want to see what the weather will be for the next two days, I open another app. With Ubuntu the phone gathers the information I want and presents it to me in one location. In the morning I check my Ubuntu phone and the Today scope (the default screen) shows my calendar appointments for the day, a weather forecast and text messages all on one page. I can reply to messages by tapping the text bubble and replying to it right in the notification area. If I want to look at my Twitter feed, it's a swipe to the left, I don't need to open another application. My point is, Android and iOS users need lots of applications to perform tasks while Ubuntu does its best to bring the information we want to us in one place. Ubuntu may not have as many apps, but it tends not to require them as much either.
One last thought I would like to share is several reviewers before me have suggested Ubuntu phones are really only suitable for technology enthusiasts and Linux fans. The platform is too young, too geek-oriented they suggest. I wanted to put this idea to the test and so I showed the Pro 5 to a few other people. One who I would qualify as having an intermediate comfort with technology (comfortable using desktop Linux, but doesn't touch a command line) and others who I would qualify as having a low level of technical knowledge. The Ubuntu phone received only positive comments with scopes being praised as a "cool" concept. People adjusted to the swiping gestures quickly, generally faster than I had. The ability to reply to a text message from within the notification area was welcomed with enthusiasm. One user quickly asked where they could sign up to get a similar device. Granted, these people are not heavy app users, they primarily want to text, check Facebook and place calls. But they each took to the device and its swipe style of navigation quickly.
Ubuntu's mobile operating system does indeed offer features Linux enthusiasts will like such as regular software updates, easy to manage application permissions and a powerful command line. However, the phone's appeal to non-Linux users should not be overlooked. Ubuntu is ad-free, the devices are generally well priced for the hardware, the interface is pleasantly responsive and scopes are an idea which seems to appeal to a range of people. I am quite pleased with the device and I plan to make my next mobile device one that is powered by Ubuntu.
* * * * *
I started wondering, while reading other reviews, just how many of the thousands of Android apps I actually use on my phone and, of those, how many are specific brand names like Spotify or Skype? As it turns out, I am not all that wedded to any one specific application which is probably why I have generally been able to switch platforms in the past with a minimal amount of effort. The list of apps I use on my Android phone is as follows: A phone app for making/receiving calls; a SMS texting app; a web browser; an address book; a calendar; a call filtering app for blocking telemarketers; an OpenSSH client; a camera app; Google Maps; Twitter; KDE Connect; and YouTube. The rest are casual, time wasting games or items bundled with the phone I'd rather remove. Twelve apps in total, with four being specific brands or tied to a particular service. While using Ubuntu I was able to find suitable replacements for all except KDE Connect and the call blocking application. Had I been willing to download applications from third-parties, the F-Call program probably would have solved my call filtering needs.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Solus embraces a rolling release model, upgrading Fedora from the desktop, an interview with Jane Silber, Ubuntu 15.10 reaches its end of life and FreeBSD's Quarterly Report
The Solus project is moving away from the concept of fixed point releases and is embracing a rolling release model. This means the upcoming scheduled releases will be dropped in favour of periodic snapshots. "In the not so distant past, Solus followed a static point release model. Our most current release at this time is 1.2, with a 1.2.1 planned to drop in the near future. However, we also recently announced our move to a rolling release model. As such, these two schools of thought are in contradiction of one another. Going forward, the old release schedule is officially, entirely dropped, and the branching pattern of a point-release-system is also shed." The project's announcement reports the distribution is in the process of shifting to using version 6 of the GNU Compiler Collection and will soon release version 10.2.7 of the Budgie desktop.
* * * * *
One of the exciting new features to be introduced with Fedora 24 was the ability to upgrade previous versions of the distribution using the graphical front-end package manager. This change allows people running Fedora 23 to upgrade to the latest Fedora release from the comfort of their desktop environment. A ZDNet article walks through the new upgrade process step-by-step: "There is no doubt that some users will find this is easier than the traditional Fedora CLI upgrade process, which is done via the CLI using the DNF utility. That process is described in detail in the Fedora Magazine article Upgrading Fedora 23 Workstation to Fedora 24. However, if you are an experienced Linux user, and you are not reluctant to use CLI utilities, the upgrade using DNF is not difficult, it is well documented in the Fedora Magazine article, and it was available at the time of the Fedora 24 release, about a month sooner than this GUI upgrade process."
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Tom's Hardware has shared an interview with Jane Silber, the CEO of Canonical. Silber has been with Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, almost from the beginning. In the interview, she talks about the company's early days, some of the technologies Canonical is working on, AI and women in technology. She also comments on the growing acceptance of open source: "When I look back at where we started with Ubuntu as a desktop operating system (and then we added in the server around 2006), versus the type of opportunities and issues that we're facing today around the cloud and connected devices, and what we think of as the re-emergence of a converged, personal computing experience, it's really a very different world. Even in terms of the mindset around the technology and open source in general has shifted dramatically around this time period. I remember when we started, we would start many customer meetings explaining what open source was and talking about licenses, and allaying fears of customers around open source--and none of that happens anymore. There is such broad acceptance that open source is not just the credible way, but a better way of writing and procuring software." The full interview has all the details.
Adam Conrad has posted a notice reminding people running Ubuntu 15.10 (code name "Wily Werewolf") that this version of the distribution has reached its end of life. "This is a follow-up to the End of Life warning sent earlier this month to confirm that as of today (July 28, 2016), Ubuntu 15.10 is no longer supported. No more package updates will be accepted to 15.10, and it will be archived to old-releases.ubuntu.com in the coming weeks. The original End of Life warning follows, with upgrade instructions: Ubuntu announced its 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) release almost 9 months ago, on October 22, 2015. As a non-LTS release, 15.10 has a 9-month month support cycle and, as such, the support period is now nearing its end and Ubuntu 15.10 will reach end of life on Thursday, July
28th. At that time, Ubuntu Security Notices will no longer include information or updated packages for Ubuntu 15.10." Upgrade instructions are available for people who wish to upgrade from Ubuntu 15.10 to 16.04.
* * * * *
The FreeBSD developers have been hard at work these past three months and the project's Quarterly Report highlights their progress. "This quarter brings several exciting improvements over previous models. We have enhancements from different teams, new features like robust mutexes and support for full disk encryption with GELI. You'll find expanded graphics support, both at the chipset and window manager levels, and ongoing development in many pending features." Some significant work has been done toward making reproducible builds possible on FreeBSD, GitLab has been ported to FreeBSD and more ports are now retrievable over IPv6 connections. The report has a comprehensive list of changes.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Myths and Misunderstandings (by Jesse Smith)
The massive memory myth
One common complaint new Linux users tend to have is that Linux uses a lot more of their computer's memory than other operating systems. Newcomers tend to ask why Linux requires more RAM than their previous operating system and why memory usage balloons so quickly after they sign into their desktop session. Linux has a reputation of working on older computers and this leads people to wonder how that can be true when a massive amount of their RAM is being used.
What new Linux users are experiencing is usually not a difference in how their computer's RAM is being used, but how that usage is being reported to them. Most modern operating systems use memory in similar ways, but Windows, Linux and the BSDs will report on how memory is being used quite differently.
When we open a document or launch an application that data is loaded from our computer's disk into memory. While the application or file is open, the data is considered to be in active use. When we close the document or application, the operating system will usually keep the data in memory for quick access later. Reading information stored in RAM is a lot faster than re-loading the same information from the hard disk, and so it makes our computer faster if information is kept in RAM. Information that is still in RAM, but not being actively used, is considered to be cached or inactive data.
Cached data will usually be stored in RAM until the operating system needs to use that space for something else, like a new image or document we are trying to open. At that point, the cached data is over-written by the new file we are accessing. This new data will also stick around in RAM until the space is needed by yet another program or document.
Modern operating systems view any unused RAM as being a wasted resource. Ideally, as much information should be copied into RAM as possible for quick access. The cached data is not preventing us from loading new information into memory as the cached information will simply be replaced as needed.
While most operating systems work this way, different operating systems report their memory usage differently. Linux, for example, will usually report how much RAM is being used in total, combining both the actively used memory and cache. When we run a process monitor such as top we usually see the combined active and cached memory statistics. This makes Linux's memory usage look unusually high. Some tools, like the free command, will show both combined memory usage and break down active and cached data into separate statistics.
The BSDs feature utilities which generally break memory usage down further. When running the top command on FreeBSD, for example, we see actively used memory, inactive memory, cached memory, "wired" memory which is usually data reserved by the kernel and drivers, and free memory which is not being used for anything.
Memory monitoring tools on other operating systems may simplify things a bit by focusing on the amount of memory actively in use, which is relatively small. This makes sense as actively used memory is usually the statistic we see as being the most important. But in focusing on active memory, memory which is being used and cannot be overwritten, we gloss over the other data being held in RAM for future use. Linux does not hide cached data in its statistics, making the operating system appear more memory hungry than it really is.
In short, we need to focus more on actively used memory and remember to ignored cached data as the cache is not being actively used and may be overwritten as needed. Having a lot of cached data in RAM is a good thing as it allows files and applications to be loaded more quickly.
* * * * *
Additional Myth and Misunderstandings articles can be found in our archive.
Bittorrent is a great way to transfer large files, particularly open source operating system images, from one place to another. Most bittorrent clients recover from dropped connections automatically, check the integrity of files and can re-download corrupted bits of data without starting a download over from scratch. These characteristics make bittorrent well suited for distributing open source operating systems, particularly to regions where Internet connections are slow or unstable.
Many Linux and BSD projects offer bittorrent as a download option, partly for the reasons listed above and partly because bittorrent's peer-to-peer nature takes some of the strain off the project's servers. However, some projects do not offer bittorrent as a download option. There can be several reasons for excluding bittorrent as an option. Some projects do not have enough time or volunteers, some may be restricted by their web host provider's terms of service. Whatever the reason, the lack of a bittorrent option puts more strain on a distribution's bandwidth and may prevent some people from downloading their preferred open source operating system.
With this in mind, DistroWatch plans to give back to the open source community by hosting and seeding bittorrent files. For now, we are hosting a small number of distribution torrents, listed below. The list of torrents offered will be updated each week and we invite readers to e-mail us with suggestions as to which distributions we should be hosting. When you message us, please place the word "Torrent" in the subject line, make sure to include a link to the ISO file you want us to seed. To help us maintain and grow this free service, please consider making a donation.
The table below provides a list of torrents we currently host. If you do not currently have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found here. All torrents we make available here are also listed on the very useful Linux Tracker website. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 220
- Total data uploaded: 41.0TB
|Released Last Week
Chris Buechler has announced the release of pfSense 2.3.2, a new stable version in the 2.3 branch of the project's FreeBSD-based operating system for firewalls and routers: "We are happy to announce the release of pfSense software version 2.3.2. This is a maintenance release in the 2.3.x series, bringing a number of bug fixes. It includes fixes for 60 bugs, 8 features and 2 to-do items completed. As always, you can upgrade from any prior version directly to 2.3.2. While nearly all of the common regressions between 2.2.6 and 2.3-RELEASE have been fixed in subsequent releases, the following still exist: IPsec IPComp does not work and is disabled by default, however in 2.3.1 it is automatically not enabled to avoid encountering this problem; IGMP Proxy does not work with VLAN interfaces and possibly other edge cases, this is a little-used component; those using IPsec and OpenBGPD may have non-functional IPsec unless OpenBGPD is removed." Here is the full release announcement, with further information available on the features and changes page.
Jos Schellevis has announced the release of OPNsense 16.7, a FreeBSD-based specialist operating system designed for firewalls and routers: "It is time for the next major iteration in open-source security. After 6 months and 20 minor releases we hereby declare the general availability of OPNsense 16.7, nick-named 'Dancing Dolphin'. The highlights of this major release include: Suricata 3.1.1 with Intel Hyperscan support; NetFlow-based reporting and export; traffic shaping using CoDel / FQ-CoDel; two-factor authentication based on RFC 6238 (TOTP); HTTPS and ICAP support in the proxy server; FreeBSD 10.3 with full integration of HardenedBSD ASLR; UEFI boot and installation modes; substantial updates to our language packs: Japanese, Russian, German, French, Chinese. Attention: an incompatibility in Chrome may prevent the firmware update from running. Try a different browser to upgrade to 16.7 where a workaround has been added to avoid the problem in the future." Read the complete release announcement which includes a list of all the recent changes.
OPNsense 16.7 -- Getting status information from the dashboard
(full image size: 1.4MB, resolution: 1538x1205 pixels)
André Fabian Silva Delgado has announced the release of a new version of Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, a distribution built from Arch Linux, but repackaged to include "libre" software only. The new release, version 2016.07.27, comes in three variants - "Main" (CLI-only installation medium), "MATE desktop" (a live DVD featuring the MATE desktop environment) and "TalkingParabola" (installation CD adapted for visually impaired users). From the release announcement: "New install medium 2016.07.27. ChangeLog: fixed read and write permissions in $HOME folder; added instant messaging and video calling applications mate-extra, linphone, qtox; added octopi-cachecleaner, octopi-notifier and octopi-repoeditor since it is needed for octopi that is our powerful Pacman frontend by default; added lightdm as default display manager; added sudo by default to allow members of group wheel to execute any command...."
Endian Firewall 3.2.1
Endian has announced the release of Endian Firewall 3.2.1, the first stable build in the 3.2 series of the project's CentOS-based Linux distribution designed for firewall and routers. Besides improvements in hardware support and, the new release also brings a number of security updates: "The Endian team is proud to announce the Endian Firewall Community 3.2.1 'countdown' release. Check out the new release today by downloading the ISO image. If you have a 3.2.0beta1 you can just register and run the updates (upgrade from 2.5 or 3.0 is not supported). The registration procedure is much easier now: follow the initial wizard and just with an e-mail address you can keep the system updated. Here's a short list of the newly implemented features: 64-bit CPU support; new 4.1 kernel; Python updated to version 2.7; extended hardware support through updated drivers; extended 3G modem support; security fixes." Read the rest of the release announcement for more details.
Parrot Security OS 3.1
Lorenzo Faletra has announced the release of Parrot Security OS 3.1, an updated version of the Debian-based distribution featuring a set of utilities for penetration testing, computer forensics, reverse engineering, hacking, privacy and cryptography. This new version, released barely six weeks after the 3.0 build, comes with the following changes: "many tools updates; switch from MySQL to MariaDB; include PHP 7 support; include stability improvements; update parrot-core, parrot-menu; update parrot tools selection to include new tools; fix systemd workarounds; fix icon theme; upgrade to Linux kernel 4.6; update support for GCC 4.8.5, 4.9.3, 5.4.0 and 6.1.1; update support for CLANG 3.6 and 3.8; update driver support; include QT-Creator 4.0.2; include Qt framework 5.6.1; fix apt-parrot mirror selection system; modify tasksel to include Parrot flavours; upgrade to zuluCrypt 5.0; upgrade to Anonsurf 2.1; include Tor Browser launcher; fix noscript plugin and Firefox launchers; Conky removed (waiting to fix the theme)."
Ronnie Whisler has announced the availability of LXLE 16.04.1, a new major release from the distribution project that builds a lightweight Ubuntu-based variant with LXDE as the default desktop. This is the distribution's first stable release based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS: "LXLE 16.04.1 'Eclectica' released. LXLE is built upon Ubuntu Mini LTS releases. Lubuntu core is used as a starting point. This version is based on 16.04.1. All software has been updated to their latest stable versions available for Ubuntu 16.04.1. Added PPAs ensure up-to-date applications of some of the most popular software, such as LibreOffice. Overall the applications have been streamlined and slimmed down, even with the inclusion of three small Assistive Technology programs, like a magnifier and onscreen keyboard. This version of LXLE was pretty difficult. A number of GNOME applications had to be replaced with their MATE twin applications to maintain a consistent user interface. Programs and solutions had to come from many different sources. A very eclectic OS, hence the name, Eclectica." See the complete release announcement for more information and screenshots.
LXLE 16.04.1 -- Running the LXDE desktop
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Parsix GNU/Linux 8.10
Alan Baghumian has announced the release of Parsix GNU/Linux 8.10. This new version is still based on Debian's current stable branch, but it comes the very latest GNOME 3.20 desktop, as well as a specially compiled Linux kernel 4.4. From the release announcement: "Hello everybody, we are pleased to announce that the final version of Parsix GNU/Linux 8.10, code name 'Erik', is available now. This version ships with GNOME 3.20.3, a new kernel based on Linux 4.4.16 and tons of updated and upgraded packages. Parsix 8.10 has been built on top of the rock-solid Debian 8.0 'Jessie' platform and all base packages have been synchronized with Debian 'Jessie' repositories as of July 30, 2016. Parsix 'Erik' ships with the LibreOffice 4.3.3 productivity suit by default. Highlights: GNOME Shell 3.20.3, GRUB 2, Firefox 47.0.1, GParted 0.19.0, Empathy 3.12.12, LibreOffice 4.3.3, VirtualBox 4.3.36 and a brand new kernel based on Linux 4.4.16 with TuxOnIce, BFS and other extra patches. The live DVD has been compressed using SquashFS and xz." See also the release notes for further details.
Simplicity Linux 16.07
The Simplicity Linux project is based on LXPup and antiX and ships with LXDE as the default desktop environment. The project has announced a new release, Simplicity Linux 16.07. The new version is available in three editions: Desktop, Mini and X. "We are pleased to announce the release of Simplicity Linux 16.07. As with recent versions of Simplicity, Mini and Desktop are based on the excellent LXPup and uses LXDE as the desktop environment. However, as an experiment, X is based on Debian via the fantastic antiX distro. It uses LXDE as the desktop environment like Mini and Desktop, but as far as features go, it is closer to Mini." This new experiment with Debian based packages may spread to the rest of the editions in the future: "As mentioned earlier, you can test our most experimental version of Simplicity Linux to date, X 16.07. This version is still in the very early stages of development. It is based on the excellent antiX, which in turn is Debian based. Whilst we still have a lot of love for Puppy Linux and all its derivatives, sometimes it's hard to make certain packages work, especially newer packages." The release announcement has further details.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Status of gaming on Linux
Gaming on Linux has come a long way in the past few years. Increased support from Valve, cross-platform gaming libraries and improved driver support have made Linux a more appealing platform for gamers and game developers. However, Linux still lags behind in market share and tends not to receive ports of AAA games from large studios.
This week we would like to know how you view the gaming options on Linux. Do you like how things stand right now, do you think a bit more work needs to be done or are you disappointed with the available games on Linux?
You can see the results of our previous poll on our first distributions here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Status of gaming on Linux
|I am happy using Linux for all my gaming needs: ||269 (10%)|
| I use Linux for all my gaming but want more/better selection: ||589 (22%)|
| I do some gaming on Linux and some on other platforms: ||604 (22%)|
| I use other platforms for gaming: ||426 (16%)|
| I am not a gamer: ||839 (31%)|
Distributions added to waiting list
- KODI-ICE Linux. KODI-ICE is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu MATE. The distribution ships with the Kodi media player, turning the computer into a media centre.
- ArchStrike. ArchStrike is an Arch Linux based distribution which features the Openbox window manager.
- medaid. medaid is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu GNOME 16.04. The operating system ships with scientific software, particularly biology-related programs.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 8 August 2016. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews/submissions, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, donations, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (podcast)
|Linux Foundation Training
|Reader Comments • Jump to last comment
1 • Gaming on Linux (by seacat on 2016-08-01 00:49:57 GMT from South America) |
I only play War Thunder (FPS 3D WWII simulator) on Internet with my Debian 7.11
2 • Gaming on Linux (by bigdealz86 on 2016-08-01 00:55:26 GMT from North America)
Games I play in Linux are CS:GO, Quake 2, and WoW. More support for games needed, but has come along way in the past few years.
3 • Gaming on Linux (by slick on 2016-08-01 01:36:14 GMT from North America)
Not a Gamer! But have plenty of friends and family that use Linux for their gaming needs, some say absolutely great while others simply state it could be better. Regardless very happy and proud of the fact that Linux steadily improves over time for everyone's daily needs and wants.
Others have commented that they simply modified their gaming experience to suit Linux versus Windows and just accept the limitations.
Just wanted to say thank you and salute to those developers who strive to improve Linux for all users.
Thanks! : )
4 • Jesse Smith please describe walking into phone store (by woodsmoke on 2016-08-01 01:36:42 GMT from North America)
Thank you very much for the THOROUGH article on the Ubuntu phone!
However, one salient point. You said that the "phone system" worked which is great!
But I would like to ask you to please describe just what happened, in relatively good detail, when you actually went to the "telephone provider store" and asked them to enable the phone system, such as AT&T in the U.S. on the phone.
Again, thank you VERY MUCH for the fine article! :)
5 • Games on Linux (by WTY on 2016-08-01 01:53:07 GMT from Oceania)
Sadly games are probably the biggest thing still tying me to Windows (7). I've played games native to Linux and more recently cross-platform Steam games on Linux. The unfortunate fact is that there are still many games which are DirectX-only and so are Windows-only or at least not available to Linux. And of the ones which are, there is still a divide in the performance between games on Windows and Linux.
I'm not a super-duper-latest-game-only kind of player, in fact I still play a lot of older games where a poorer-performing Linux platform can still deliver a good experience. And yes, I know there is the possibility that Wine can provide some Windows-based functionality but it really is a hit-and-miss affair. I really like that Valve has done much to promote Linux-based games and I hope that the future of games on the PC continues in that direction, particularly with the adoption of Vulkan vs DirectX 12 (the latter is tied to Windows 10).
If anything good has come of my time playing games on Linux, it was my introduction to The Battle for Wesnoth. It might be viewed as rather simplistic by today's standards but I love story-based games and its background lore is quite in-depth. Disclaimer: I joined its development team about a year ago but was a player for many years before that.
6 • Activating phone (by Jesse on 2016-08-01 01:53:31 GMT from North America)
@4: >> "I would like to ask you to please describe just what happened, in relatively good detail, when you actually went to the "telephone provider store" and asked them to enable the phone system"
We don't have to do that in Canada. When the Ubuntu phone arrived, I could just take the SIM card out of my Android phone and pop it into the Ubuntu phone. Then log into my provider's website and click a button to indicate I had upgraded the phone. I didn't have to visit a store or talk to a mobile carrier representative.
If you don't have a phone with a SIM card, or have an older, larger SIM card, then you can visit any mobile carrier store and buy a new SIM card. A new card costs $10. Pop it into the Ubuntu phone and you're done. The rep will activate the SIM card on your account and the phone will start working. They do not need to touch the phone or know what OS it is running.
7 • Game Performance on Linux and Windows (by WTY on 2016-08-01 01:56:48 GMT from Oceania)
Further to my remark on game performance, I am referring to both the game itself as well as the graphical drivers which support them. I'm looking forward to seeing how AMD's amdgpu driver performs compared to radeon, fglrx and DirectX. I know NVIDIA's proprietary driver, while terribly closed, often does better than AMD's Linux offerings, but I hope the direction taken by AMD is progress for the better, even if they are still maintaining a closed-source component of their Linux driver platform.
8 • Linux and memory usage (by Gustavo on 2016-08-01 02:02:44 GMT from South America)
The problem with Linux is its swapping is very slow. Once the free memory is scarse and kernel starts swapping you´re back to 386 performance.
9 • Thank You for the Ubuntu Phone Review (by Greycoat on 2016-08-01 03:48:52 GMT from North America)
Thank you Jesse for the Ubuntu Phone review. I love it that permissions are by default off and there are no advertisements. I don't own a smartphone, but do own a cheap Android tablet that does not have phone capability. I hate installing an app being told all the permissions that are required, none of which can individually be turned off, and feeling like said app is going way overboard asking for permissions one would think it does not need to run. I love the way you pointed out that Ubuntu takes a different approach.
10 • Gaming on Linux (by A van der Tweel on 2016-08-01 05:45:15 GMT from Europe)
Virtual box is useful for playing older Dos games and some windows games (via ReactOs). I only use Wine for puzzleMaster. Somehow there is, in my view, no good jigsaw puzzler native to Linux. (and I tried quite a few). Vassal is to me the most important piece of gamers software, and it runs better on Linux than on any other platform.
11 • Meizu pro 5 (by Thom on 2016-08-01 05:56:24 GMT from Europe)
Nice review. Made me curious. I am SO annoyed at the Android/Google's app pushing (down-the-throat-ramming, actually). Went to Meizu's page... no mention of OS. Went to Amazon (UK). All Pro 5 models listed came with Android Lollipop, which sort of defeated the purpose. Oh, and the price quoted was around £ 480 - rather a bit more than the $ 399 mentioned ($ 400 = £ 360).
They sure aren't making it easy. This does not take anything away from the review. It just make you wonder
12 • Memory usage (by a on 2016-08-01 06:40:50 GMT from Europe)
Not sure where the high memory usage story is coming from; I have never seen a tool that reported only total RAM usage including caches by default. And most people don’t even think of looking at RAM usage.
13 • Linux and gaming (by Andy Mender on 2016-08-01 07:38:23 GMT from Europe)
I don't really game on either GNU/Linux or FreeBSD (my main OS). However, some leisure is nice from time to time. OpenTTD and a couple of other games have been ported successfully and work well :). For major gaming titles I use Steam via WINE.
14 • kudos_and_much_thanks_to_DistroWatch_Jesse_and_Canonical (by k on 2016-08-01 08:11:15 GMT from Europe)
Excellently written and presented review of more "pure" Linux phablet(?),
AND overview of most established other mobile phone(s) -- operating systems --.
Jesse, the care really shows.
Still too expensive for this pauper's purse, but most promising overall so far.
15 • Great Weekly (by AT on 2016-08-01 09:15:31 GMT from Europe)
This week's DIstrowatch weekly was superb. A really informative look on a good quality Ubuntu phone. I hope, that the software keeps on improving, and I am sure people will prefer a hacker friendly phone. In Gaming, unfortunately, I still use VGA-passthrough to windows for all my gaming, as lack of good titles on Linux still is a huge problem.
16 • How much? (by Billyboy on 2016-08-01 09:19:59 GMT from Europe)
So, these large phone companies are now providing FREE operating systems, including linux and windows BUT their prices for such are still very expensive. They appear to be creaming off the fact these os's are free instead of offering affordable phones. OK, they are not apple prices but for how often the modern human being changes or needs to change their phone, the prices need to drop by quite some way.
I do not understand how you can buy a great android tablet very cheaply now but phones are still being touted at such high premiums. This is NOT a way to get the public involved in any ubuntu phone, in fact, the exact opposite. Totally bad planning and management in my opinion by ubuntu's people, get your act together.
17 • Ubuntu Phone (by Linux Apocalypsis on 2016-08-01 10:15:32 GMT from Europe)
I have never owned or used a smart phone (other than helping my wife to understand her Samsung with Android, which she hates and so do I). In addition to all the spyware, I feel that both Android and iOS are extremely intrusive and clearly stay on the user's way rather than helping you to carry out your tasks. They direct you to wherever they want you to be rather than allowing you to get to where you would like to be. Truth be told, even answering a call can be challenging for both of us.
I would like to know how Ubuntu compares to other mobile OS on such respects. Furthermore I would also like to know how it compares performance-wise (the reviews tend to suggest it is worse) and whether or not the technology is mature enough for everyday use (reviewers tend to think it is not).
The one other problem I see is the lack of applications. For instance, I need an application to activate the roaming, another one for banking, another one for buying myself a coffee, yet another one to find out the real-time bus schedule, etc. Those could be reasons to finally succumb to the temptation of wasting my money on such an expensive toy as it is a smart phone. However, none of those useful applications that make your life a bit easier would be available for my Ubuntu phone.
18 • @8 (by Jeffrey on 2016-08-01 10:32:41 GMT from Europe)
You can adjust the swappiness to fit your needs, why don't you just do that?
19 • Ubunte Phones (by silent on 2016-08-01 10:43:50 GMT from Europe)
So, actually how many serious games are available in the store? What about software development for the phone? Is there some sort of publicly available SDK?
20 • Gaming (by OhioJoe on 2016-08-01 11:11:45 GMT from North America)
I answered "I am not a gamer." I do play a game of pysol or aisleriot (both solitaire games) when waiting for a slow update.
21 • Gaming (by Kry on 2016-08-01 11:48:39 GMT from Europe)
I'm an avid gamer, used to play all AAA games when I was younger. Since then I play a bit less, but still consider myself a gamer. A bit more than a year ago I switched to Linux, and started using Steam for starters. (I switched for a completely different reason. I needed some important work to do, and the Windows 7 was constantly updating for a long time. I got fed up, and deleted it.) Now I use openSUSE 42.1 with LXDE (I started with Ubuntu, but used only a bit less resources compared to Win7).
Some AAA games I play and I can recommend: CS:GO (obviously, uses a bit older Source engine), Dota2 (flagship, now with Vulkan support, on my gaming PC it always had capped framerates, but word is it's still getting better), Europa Universalis 4 (uses way too much RAM at later dates, with LXDE it takes a bit longer to run out of free space), Life is Strange (Not so high graphics, played it on maximum, but regardless, the game is awesome.), Pillars of Eternity (Loading for eternity, but it's the same for Windows. With Linux, you can alt+tab out of the game, and do something else, last time I played on Windows it wasn't working, maybe they patched it already), Stellaris (borders can't be seen, but otherwise works normally.), World of Warcraft (also constantly capped framerates, so I can't comper it to Windows. Should be somewhat slower because of Wine.), StarCraft 2 (Not on max graphics, but still runs smoothly).
There are of course a lot more games, ARK is receiving good reviews, but not really my kind of game. I'm planning to buy a Steam Controller, was told to lobby by the packagers to implement native support to openSUSE, but I already know how to do it. There are currently no VRs that would work normally, but should have drivers for Linux this year.
(Which reminds me, is there BSD gaming?)
22 • Is there BSD gaming? (by Andy Mender on 2016-08-01 12:15:48 GMT from Europe)
While neither of the BSDs is a gaming platform, some games can be run, similarly to GNU/Linux. The most prominent older open-source projects like openTTD have a native port, while others, like Enemy Territory use the Linux compatibility layer. Of course, Windows games can be run through WINE and FreeBSD has an additional safety layer via jails to separate the pesky MS ecosystem from your data. I personally run Steam only via WINE, though there is a new effort to port Steam to FreeBSD via a more recent Linux compat library set (still CentOS based).
23 • linux phones (by Bob Anderson on 2016-08-01 12:47:45 GMT from Europe)
Personally went from an N900 to a Jolla phone, good to see more pure linux devices coming out
24 • Linux gaming (by Hank on 2016-08-01 13:40:58 GMT from North America)
I assume "other platforms" includes consoles. You should include a "console-only" category to see how many of us have given up on computer games entirely, or have always preferred consoles, as the case may be.
25 • Memory usage (by cykodrone on 2016-08-01 13:46:16 GMT from North America)
For starters, if your computer or device is so old and has such a tiny amount of memory that you have to worry about its usage, time to get a new one. This is laughable, proprietary operating systems come with tons of unnecessary processes and bloatware that load in the background, just so their apps or utilities don't seem slow when called upon to do their meager tasks (most of it amounts to corporate 'desktop presence', like a virtual billboard for the company and its product). My experience has been any Linux distro loads very little extra processes in the background, which can be easily shut off.
I am so sick and tired of this myth, AAMOF, the more your computer loads in to memory, the faster it responds and runs, especially for those still using spinning rust HDDs. If you want to speed it up, do some research and trim it down.
This discussion is so 20 years ago, it's 2016 for crying out load.
26 • Linux Gaming Poll (by SharkJumper on 2016-08-01 13:52:29 GMT from North America)
I use Linux for all my gaming but want more/better selection. Much better support of different brands of graphics cards is needed, that said I have NO intentions of going back to Windows, as long as Linux stays free, open source and no spyware (Looking at you Windows 10.) If proper support is not there for a certain game, I move on to the next one, or save the cash. ;)
27 • Meizu Pro 5 (by Jesse on 2016-08-01 13:59:46 GMT from North America)
@11: The Meizu Pro 5 is hard to find as far as making a purchase. I've linked to the Ubuntu version of the phone on Meizu's website in the review. The Joy Buy website has the item listed, but it is currently out of stock. I suspect they are keeping stocks low as the Pro 6 is expected out later this year, which should offer a similar experience with slightly updated hardware.
@19: There are games in the Ubuntu Store. Mostly small ones. I mean, you're not likely to find big name titles in there like Plants vs Zombies or Heroes of the Galaxy or Pokemon Go. There are some fun ones though. I particularly like 0h n0, Dotty and Monster Wars. If you visit the on-line store (link in the article) you can search for available games.
As for the phone's SDK, there is one. It's called Ubuntu SDK and it's available for free through a PPA. It's fairly young, but I suspect it'll be ported to other distros in the near future.
28 • I've seen the ram complaints (by dmacleo on 2016-08-01 14:56:56 GMT from North America)
even though people have said the unit is operating fast they were confused as to why it reports like that.
so, in my case(s), not really a complaint but more like a puzzlement they wanted to find the answer for.
29 • Ubuntu Phone (by Fronton on 2016-08-01 14:58:34 GMT from Europe)
> "One aspect of Ubuntu I greatly appreciated was that I could remove unwanted applications, including the ones bundled with the device. On most builds of other operating systems there are programs baked into the operating system which cannot be removed and which may nag the user. Ubuntu allows us to get rid of programs we do not want."
You can make the same thing with Windows... But not with Android, except if you root your phone.
30 • Ubuntu phone on Verizon? (by bigbenaugust on 2016-08-01 15:29:20 GMT from North America)
You said "The Meizu phone appears to offer complete compatibly with mobile networks in Canada and the United States of America"... so just GSM or CDMA as well?
31 • Phone and Games (by Jesky on 2016-08-01 15:52:48 GMT from North America)
I'd love to buy an Ubuntu phone here in the US. I read several notes saying that they may not be banded properly and that Meizu may not sell to the US because they are not FCC certified (FYI, carriers like ATT are shutting down their GSM networks this year, so you need 3G/4G bands). I don't like Android, and it's hard to swallow overpriced Apple. This phone sounded like it would be better, and I'm willing to (try to) live with the limitations.
Does anyone know how long the OS is supported? If it's running 15.04, isn't that already EOL? Why not use an LTS release? Is it possible to upgrade?
For games, I basically just gave up playing them. Once or twice I've busted out my old XP machine to play something that doesn't work on Linux (always graphics problems). I've gone back to board games and books.
32 • Ubuntu phone (by Jesse on 2016-08-01 16:15:23 GMT from North America)
@30: Whether the phone is comparible with your provider's network will depend on the frequencies used. The bands and speeds provided by the Pro 5 can be found on this page: http://m.gsmarena.com/meizu_pro_5-7573.php
When in doubt, compre them to your carrier's options.
@31: >> " If it's running 15.04, isn't that already EOL?"
You are thinking of the Desktop edition of Ubuntu. This is the mobile edition which follows a different release cycle. It is still receiving updates. See the link to the update process in the article for more information.
33 • Meizu+GPS (by Grzegorz W on 2016-08-01 16:30:43 GMT from North America)
I miss test of GPS Navigation in review. This is my main concern about new phone systems. For me it is very important feature and Goggle Maps works great for me. I wonder if open-street maps based navi could be up to task (espacially out of "main locations" - e.g. in coutry-side in Poland).
Anybody knows good open-street based Navation app for Android (which I could test in my neighbouhood)?
34 • GPS on Ubuntu (by Jesse on 2016-08-01 16:44:16 GMT from North America)
>> "I miss test of GPS Navigation in review.
I did not do much with GPS on the Ubuntu phone, other than to confirm GPS works. There are a few navigation apps in the Ubuntu Store and they were able to pin-point my location and at least one of them will provide directions the same way Google Maps does. Check out Here Maps and uNav if you want to navigate using GPS on an Ubuntu phone. I have not used it in the car, but Here Maps will give directions for when I'm walking on foot around town. Actually, while I found its interface wasn't quite as friendly as Google Maps, the directions Here Maps gave were more clear.
35 • assorted (by shar on 2016-08-01 16:53:03 GMT from North America)
Hmm, seems inaccurate to generically state "linux swap is slow", especially if one considers that the swap may reside on SSD.
"So, these large phone companies are now providing FREE operating systems, including linux and windows BUT their prices for such are still very expensive."
Agree, and it's not just true for phones. BQ Aquaris tablet, with preinstalled ubuntu, was priced at a $50 (fifty euro) premium compared to same device with android preinstalled. What are they thinking?!?
36 • gamer poll (by Jordan on 2016-08-01 17:58:39 GMT from North America)
I guess I'm a "lame gamer," in that I only play neverball/neverputt and knights chess. lol
So, I checked, "not a gamer."
37 • gps (by denflen on 2016-08-01 19:04:14 GMT from North America)
I can confirm that Here maps is truly an awesome map that can be downloaded,(using no data usage). It has always got me where I wanted to go. Google Maps is great also, but it uses your data.....
38 • Meizu Pro 5 Phone Availability (by Willie on 2016-08-01 19:06:52 GMT from North America)
When and where can I get a Meizu Pro 5 in the US? The link in the article says out of stock. I'm tired of these apps and systems spying and doing what they want.
I want control back.
39 • Ubuntu phone (by Risto Alanko on 2016-08-01 19:49:52 GMT from Europe)
A mobile phone with a TERMINAL? Why, why?
One-finger-tapping commands from a tiny keyboard... please, not in 2010s!
40 • Linux and gaming... (by tom joad on 2016-08-01 20:54:41 GMT from North America)
I don't game as much as I used to but I do some...mostly Doom. And I play some chess too using Pychess which is pretty ok. But chess doesn't make a lot of demands for a computer to deal with. Mostly it is about the engine and that is it. But Doom makes a lot more emands on a computer.
And I have played Doom in both Linux and Windows XP. I can tell you that Doom is a lot more fun to play in Windows.
But then I don't play many games these days. Maybe at some point in time Linux will become a more robust game environment. If and when that happens the result will be that Linux will spread wider and faster. That will benefit most all of us and Linux will be more fun too.
41 • U'bu phone (by Kragle von Schnitzelbank on 2016-08-01 21:17:44 GMT from North America)
"One-finger-tapping commands from a tiny keyboard" … would adding a keyboard be difficult? (wired? bluez-toothy?) (and a mouse?) (and a second screen? full-size?)
42 • Root Access on Ubuntu Phone? (by Matt on 2016-08-01 22:10:11 GMT from North America)
What happens if you type "sudo su" in your terminal on the Ubuntu phone?
I have a rooted Android phone, but it is a pain to get root access on new phones. Even with root access, it is difficult to remove things you may not want. Canonical seems like a less evil company than Google, but I'd still like to be able to delete whatever I want from the phone.
On a related topic: How easy is it to install Ubuntu phone OS if you need to wipe your device? If you have root access, it is always possible to make your phone broken. Installing a new ROM might be the only fix in some cases.
43 • Measuring memory usage (by mikef90000 on 2016-08-01 22:19:24 GMT from North America)
The LXDE task manager (lxtask) gives you the option of showing memory used by cache as free, and this appears to be the (hidden) default in Xfce's task manager. Yes, it IS confusing if you don't know about it. Some well known podcasters keep overlooking cache behavior as they obsess on whether MATE, Xfce or LXDE use less memory. Sheesh. At any rate I can't tell the practical difference on my ten y/o laptop with 2MB.
Kudo to Jesse for the very thorough Ubuntu Phone review. Canonical needs to try harder to get it on a more available and popular smart phone.
Not a gamer, but what's wrong with dual booting? No one has 30 seconds to spare? Flight Simulator works just fine on XP :-) .......
44 • ubuntu Phone (by Jesse on 2016-08-01 22:25:31 GMT from North America)
>> "What happens if you type "sudo su" in your terminal on the Ubuntu phone?"
Typing "sudo su" gives you root shell, just like on other flavorus of Ubuntu.
>> " If you have root access, it is always possible to make your phone broken."
It is possible, but with Ubuntu Touch you really have to try to mess up the device. While you can have root access, by default critical parts of the file system are mounted read-only. For example, /etc and /usr are read-only file systems, by default. This means you would have to re-mount the file system in write mode, switch to the root shell and then do something to mess up the system. If you manage to go through all that, then recovery should be relatively simple. There are instructions for performing a fresh install here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/767323/how-to-install-ubuntu-on-meizu-pro-5-that-was-originally-with-android
45 • Linux gaming (by Rich on 2016-08-01 23:02:28 GMT from North America)
Most of my games are from Steam. Out of 131 in my library, 66 run on linux. That's not bad.
46 • ubuntu phone (by Tim Dowd on 2016-08-02 02:10:42 GMT from North America)
I really wish these were more available. I'm at the end of life of my current phone, and this review makes me think I need to go for a Ubuntu phone, but I can't believe how hard they are to find. Is the pro 6 going to get any wider release?
47 • good question! (by marta on 2016-08-02 06:18:37 GMT from North America)
Q: What happens if you type "sudo su" in your terminal on the Ubuntu phone?
A: doG kills a kitten.
48 • Ubuntu_promise_vs_"extremely_intrusive_Android_and_iOS" (by k on 2016-08-02 06:31:00 GMT from Europe)
@17 • Ubuntu Phone by Linux Apocalypsis
Too true what you wrote, and many of similar "feelings" (mind), including
-- it seems -- Wikipedia:
Many question marks under the Ubuntu Touch does not seem to express
open-source philosophy or transparency.
Nevertheless, after Stephen Elop "turned" on Nokia and MeeGo, and
Jolla "abandoned" :) trying to market an affordable secure mobile phone
with Sailfish, it is really hard to know the truth, and decide. All the best.
49 • @#4 (by Glenn Condrey on 2016-08-02 10:54:18 GMT from North America)
EarthBoundMisfit from Xandros forums.
Got it to run firefox 17.0 8-)
50 • Ubuntu Phone (by Fronton on 2016-08-02 13:50:40 GMT from Europe)
No thanks. No real apps.
And Ubuntu... But it's me.
51 • Ubuntu Phone (by G. Savage on 2016-08-02 15:39:07 GMT from North America)
Sounds great, but the price point is too high for this phone, It should cost more than a week's minimum wage (~$7.25US/1h typ) for a phone for which you seek wide adoption.
This phone costs 9 days labor (before taxes). That's too much for a phone to learn/experiment on, and that you might not like. I think the price point is a marketing mistake, especially given the hardware design and development costs were amortized into the Android version.
If they drop the price 50%, I'll order one. If I get it to work properly. I'll buy more for my family, and promote it to others. The ball's in your court Meizu; What'cha goonna do?
52 • Gaming (by Brian on 2016-08-03 03:53:32 GMT from North America)
I firmly believe gaming drove PC growth. Two things required to make Linux explode in popularity: Office and Gaming.
53 • Games on Linux? Giggle Giggle. (by imnotrich on 2016-08-03 04:02:18 GMT from North America)
I primarily use my Linux box for work, but when it's time to play games I have options:
3. Virtual Box
When it's time to work, I have options:
1. Wine for Microsoft Office
2. Acroread (old, vulnerable version)
3. Virtual Box
I have experimented with some games written specifically for Linux, but just like the old MS Office vs. Open and now Libre Office conversation, for the most part games written for Linux just are not the same. Which is OK, because I have a dual boot system plus run multiple OS's from 16 bit on up in emulation.
I'd rather run Babas Chess in WINE than eboard, exboard or raptor. Babas (last version written in the XP days) still stomps the Linux alternatives.
54 • Games on Linux (by mark on 2016-08-03 09:32:43 GMT from Asia)
@53 sincerly disagree about babschess. Jin is written in java and works great in linux
On the plus side of linux are simple games such as SDL games. Lbreakout2 is my favorite. And it does not work well - last time i tried not at all - on windows.
Yes I am not a heavy gamer and what i need I usually find on linux.
55 • *that* phone and distro (by Jordan on 2016-08-03 12:24:44 GMT from North America)
Well I look at the bright side wrt *that* rather prolific distro with so many versions, forks, siblings, children and copy-cats; it brings other OS users to linux and distrowatch, where they'll see all that's offered in the linux world.
Perhaps a few will run across Arch based distros (or Arch itself), Slackware based distros (or Slackware itself), or PCLinuxOS or you name it. *That* distro can be a gateway to better things, even if it's just a damned phone this time.
56 • Ubuntu phone notifications insecure (by Fructose Free on 2016-08-03 14:08:42 GMT from Oceania)
The only gripe that seems to be with replying to text messages from being notified is that you get asked if you want to reply before you enter your passcode. If someone steals your device, or annoys you by looking over your shoulder if you just want to know the time or the weather but you get a text, your done for.
57 • Sorry (by email@example.com on 2016-08-03 19:25:52 GMT from North America)
"I firmly believe gaming drove PC growth. Two things required to make Linux explode in popularity: Office and Gaming."
Sorry, perhaps its just me, but I consider gaming on any device a truly aimless activity!
58 • @56 "sorry" / aimless or not, gaming is influential (by Julian on 2016-08-03 20:58:54 GMT from North America)
A lot of tech and its supporting infrastructure was created or improved just so that people can play games and look at naughty videos/images.
Whether the activities are aimless themselves (and i tend to agree that they are) they have a lot of impact on technology -- people figure new things out so that they'll work!
59 • gaming on linux-kernel based OS (by Julian on 2016-08-03 21:00:40 GMT from North America)
okay so lately I do roughly 100% of my gaming on a Linux kernel based OS, and that OS is the not very opensource Android that came with my Google Nexus device & my Samsung device
60 • @30 @31 - Answering my own question (by bigbenaugust on 2016-08-04 14:54:44 GMT from North America)
says CDMA, so I will eagerly await this to hit the used market. :)
61 • @60 • Meizu Pro 5 (by bigbenaugust - from North America) (by Kragle on 2016-08-04 15:45:37 GMT from North America)
Does China's CDMA tech work with that used in North America?
3G WCDMA/TD-CDMA western patents
62 • Games on Linux (by nobake on 2016-08-04 21:02:12 GMT from North America)
I do some gaming on Linux, primarily via console emulators. Occasionally there's a game I want with a Linux port, but not often.
Gaming is the main, maybe even only, thing that still ties me to Windows. This used to be a big hassle - reboot to play some games, then reboot again to do anything else. It sucked, and WINE is just not a good enough substitute in my experience. I'm so much happier now that GPU passthrough is a thing and I can just boot up a Windows VM to play games while keeping Linux easily accessible.
63 • Gaming on Linux (by Linux Apocalypsis on 2016-08-06 14:54:25 GMT from Europe)
I installed an Android emulator once so that my nephew could play FIFA16 on Linux.
64 • Linux gaming (by Trooper on 2016-08-06 18:35:55 GMT from Europe)
As for gaming on Linux, I try and do as much of my gaming via Linux as possible. I seek out compatible games, or at the very least, run them through WINE, trying to avoid using Windows as much as possible. I'm more of a retro gamer, and play a lot of games via emulation, though do venture into native strategy (resource management) games where possible.
DosEmu is a great alternative to Dosbox, and so much less of a recource hog (especially on older hardware), because it runs compatible games directly on the hardware, and not via emulation, as Dosbox does.
Number of Comments: 64
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