| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 843, 2 December 2019
Welcome to this year's 48th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
A big benefit to using computers is they make things faster. Computers are not only good at performing a lot of calculations rapidly, but also communicating over long distances and providing lots of short-cuts in our work. This week we share some command line short-cuts in our Questions and Answers column that can make working with Linux even faster. Let us know about some of your favourite time-saving short-cuts in our Opinion Poll. First though we explore two Arch-based distributions, Obarun and Bluestar. Obarun features an alternative init software called s6 and Bluestar provides a method for installing different editions from one install disc. Read on to learn more about these two projects. In our News section we discuss improvements coming to KDE Snap applications and Fedora's plan to disallow empty passwords. We also share news on work being done in the FreeBSD project and link to tips from Red Hat for dealing with bit rot on classic Linux filesystems. Plus we are pleased to share the releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
- Review: Obarun 2019.11.02 and Bluestar Linux 5.3.6
- News: New Snapcraft extension for KDE, Fedora plans to disable empty passwords, FreeBSD's quarterly status report, Red Hat explains how to deal with bit rot
- Questions and answers: Using special shell characters on the command line
- Released last week: KNOPPIX 8.6.1, Devuan 2.1, Kali Linux 2019.4
- Torrent corner: Archman, Devuan, Kali, KDE neon, KNOPPIX, LibreELEC, Volumio
- Upcoming releases: Linux Mint 19.3 Beta
- Opinion poll: Favourite shell short-cut
- New distributions: FuryBSD, Blackhat-Global OS Lite
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (19MB) and MP3 (13MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
This week I decided to test drive a distribution I have not reviewed before and, after looking through a handful of projects, my gaze landed on Obarun. The Obarun distribution is based on Arch Linux and features the s6 init software instead of the more commonly used systemd. The projects website describes Obarun as follows:
The goal of Obarun is to provide an alternative for people looking for more simplicity and transparency in maintaining their systems. Obarun is not designed with beginners to Linux in mind.
Obarun, like its parent, is a rolling release operating system which uses pacman as its package manager. The distribution is available in two editions: Minimal (589MB) and JWM (974MB). The former offers a command line interface while the latter provides a lightweight window manager. I decided to download the JWM edition. The project's website provides the default usernames and passwords for the live media. We are also given a summary of the installation steps which let us know we will need to set up an Internet connection and a partition for the operating system prior to launching Obarun's text-based installer.
Obarun's media boots to a console interface and prompts us to login. If we login using the root account we are presented with a command line interface. However, if we sign in as the user oblive then the system loads the JWM graphical interface with a panel placed across the bottom of the screen. The network settings window then opens to make sure we know to enable an Internet connection.
The live media does not ship with a lot of software, but there are some utilities to help us get the operating set up, including the cfdisk disk partitioning tool. I like cfdisk because it can run in a terminal and is fairly easy to navigate. Using cfdisk and mkfs I created a fresh ext4 partition and mounted it prior to launching the system installer, obarun-install.
The obarun-install program runs in a text console and presents us with a menu of options we can adjust. We navigate the menu by typing the number of the item we want to change. The installer begins by asking if we would like to update it. The first time I ran the installer, as root, the update failed with a report that the makepkg command could not be run as the root user. This was followed by another message saying the installer had been successfully updated. The installer then exits.
Running the installer again brings up the options menu where we can pick our preferred language, select the directory where we have mounted a blank partition, and choose which desktop to install. The defaults are to use English, /mnt, and JWN, respectively. We are then asked if we want to perform a Quick Install or Install the operating system. The script is not clear on what the difference between these two options is. We are told the latter option can perform an install or resume a previous install attempt. The Quick Install option is described as: "Copy the ISO as it and update packages from [jwm] Desktop environment)" [sic]. There is a also sub-menu of Expert options. Exploring the Expert menu gives us a chance to fine-tune the installation, changing the default text editor, customizing AUR repository settings and making a few other adjustments.
The first time I ran the installer, I entered the Expert menu and, upon leaving it, the install script entered an endless loop, displaying the error message: "Password do not match, please retry. passwd: Cannot determine your user name." I had to terminate the script and start over.
The next time through I took the default settings and tried the Quick Install options. The process of copying packages to my hard drive took a suspiciously short amount of time, but the installer reported it was successful. However, the installer also reported a fatal error, saying it could not delete the oblive user. This, along with the earlier warning about not running a helper program as root made me suspect that we should run the install script as the oblive user through sudo rather than run it as root, though the project's website indicates running the installer as root is okay.
When I restarted the computer, it refused to boot and this appeared to be due to a lack of a boot loader. I did some further reading the of the project's wiki and found a page in the documentation which shows Quick install does not set up GRUB or a valid /etc/fstab file; these need to be done manually, unless we take the full install option. Now properly educated, I used the live media again and ran the installer (this time as the oblive user). This time the installer successfully updated itself and I opted for the full install option. The installer soon ran into another endless loop, reporting its password did not match and that install.sh was crashing due to a segfault. I was forced to terminated the installer again.
I tried the installer a third time, using the same method - full install running from the oblive account. This time the installer seemed to get through its work without any problems. It copied its packages, installed GRUB, and asked me to make up a password for the root account. When I restarted the computer GRUB loaded and started the operating system. Almost immediately Obarun's start-up process reported: "unable to initiate earlier service of tree: boot".
I tried one more time, again wiping the partition and running the full install process. Once again the installed system failed to boot. So, after four install attempts, I finally gave up and moved onto another project I had not reviewed.
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Bluestar Linux 5.3.6
The next project I decided to try this week was Bluestar Linux, another Arch-based project. The Bluestar website shares the following description:
Bluestar Linux is an Arch Linux-based distribution, built with an understanding that people want and need a solid operating system that provides a breadth of functionality and ease of use without sacrificing aesthetics. Bluestar is offered in three editions - desktop, deskpro and developer - each tailored to address the needs of a variety of Linux users. Bluestar can be installed permanently as a robust and fully configurable operating system on a laptop or desktop system, or it can be run effectively as a live installer and supports the addition of persistent storage for those who choose not to perform a permanent installation.
Though the description mentions three editions, there is only one edition on the download page. This confused me at first, but I later discovered we select which edition we want at install time; the live media can install each of the available editions.
The live media is about 3GB in size and boots to a graphical environment. The desktop on the live disc is KDE Plasma 5.17. On the desktop we find a collection of icons on the left side of the screen. These all open various folders in the Dolphin file manager. A single icon over on the right side of the screen launches the system installer. Further down the desktop we find two widgets, one for displaying the temperature (in the city of Bonn) and another shows available drive storage space. At the bottom of the screen is a dock that doubles as an application launcher and task switcher.
Bluestar Linux 5.3.6 -- Exploring available themes
(full image size: 704kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Bluestar uses the Calamares graphical installer. Calamares begins by offering to let us pick our preferred language from a list. We are also given a chance to select our install type (the edition mentioned earlier). While the Bluestar website refers to three editions, there are four listed in the installer: Basic, Desktop, DesktopPro, and Developer. These options, as far as I can tell, are not summarized anywhere in the installer or on the distribution's website. I decided to try the Desktop edition as I wanted something more than a command line interface, but only a lightweight desktop. I did not want to start off with a bunch of professional tools or developer utilities.
On the first screen of the Calamares window there are buttons that offer to open a web browser to display the project's release notes, a list of known issues, and open the distribution's support page. None of these buttons work, which each one reporting Calamares cannot create a socket to start the new program. The installer also refuses to proceed if it is unable to find 20GB of free disk space - something to consider if we are dual booting.
Calamares then walks us through the usual steps of picking our time zone from a map, creating a username and password, and partitioning the hard drive. The manual partitioning screen is easy to navigate and works well. The guided partitioning option takes over the available free space for one large ext4 system partition. The final screen of the installer asks us to pick a desktop theme from a list. While the screen does include previews, the snapshots are too small to make out details and they mostly look the same apart from the desktop wallpaper. I decided to stick with the defaults.
Installing Bluestar took an unusually long time, over an hour. When the process finally completed, Calamares offered to reboot my computer.
My new copy of Bluestar Linux booted to a graphical login screen. Signing into the Plasma desktop took an unusually long time, over a minute the first time I signed in. Something I noticed early on that hadn't been obvious while using the live disc was a hidden panel at the top of the screen. This panel holds the application menu and the system tray. The panel is inconsistent about when it comes out of hiding, sometimes it appears if the mouse is near the top of the display and sometimes I had to wave the mouse back and forth a few times before the panel would appear.
While I'm thinking about the application menu, something that bothered me early on is the menu is transparent. This makes it nearly impossible to read the names of the launchers if any windows are open on the desktop. The transparency can be removed through the System Settings panel. Also on the topic of the appearance of the text, the default theme uses yellow text and blue icons on a greenish background. This makes it difficult to read text and almost impossible to see the icons on buttons. Alternative themes can be enabled through the settings panel.
Bluestar Linux 5.3.6 -- Running the Dolphin file manager and checking for updates
(full image size: 1.1MB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
When I tried running Bluestar in a VirtualBox environment I ran into a few issues. The first was KDE Plasma, with the default settings, ran too slowly to be practical. Windows responded to input slowly, programs were slow to launch, and animations were jerky. Disabling a lot of the visual effects, transparency and compositing helped, but the desktop never became properly responsive. Also, any time the VirtualBox window resized the desktop would resize too (which was expected) but Bluestar then pops up a dialog asking if the desktop should be rescaled. Confirming the desire to rescale basically blanks and then reloads the desktop. Cancelling the rescaling causes Plasma to resize just as it does on every other distribution. This is the only distribution I have used that shows a pop-up every time the VirtualBox window changes size, which tends to be often.
When running on a workstation, the distribution performed a lot better. The desktop loaded faster, was more responsive (about average, neither notably fast or slow), and there were no annoying pop-ups. All of my workstation's hardware was detected and used smoothly.
Bluestar is one of the largest on-disk distributions I have used with the Desktop edition taking up a surprising 16GB of space. That's almost triple the size of most mainstream Linux distributions. Memory usage is also high, for a distribution running KDE Plasma, using 620MB when logged into the desktop.
One of the reasons Bluestar uses so much disk space is the distribution ships two or three applications for each task. I won't list all the software that is available in Bluestar's application menu because the collection is massive. I will point out some of the duplication though. For example, there are at least three web browsers (Firefox with Flash support, Chromium, and Konqueror). There are a couple of e-mail clients (Kmail and Thunderbird). There are at leas three disc burning applications (Brasero, K3b, and Xfburn). There are multiple video players (SMTube, SMPlayer, mpv, and VLC), multiple virtual terminals including Konsole and LXTerminal. The distribution even ships with multiple compilers (the GNU Compiler Collection and Clang).
Bluestar Linux 5.3.6 -- Running Firefox and FileZilla
(full image size: 378kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
There are also some common, and less duplicated, items such as the FBReader e-book reader, the Calibre e-book manager, and the Okular document viewer. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is included, and the Amarok audio player is installed for us. The distribution also ships with a wide range of media codecs and Java. In the background we find the systemd init software and version 5.3 of the Linux kernel.
One surprise was the inclusion of OpenOffice. It is so rare to see OpenOffice installed by default that, at first, I thought the launcher might be mislabelled. However, OpenOffice 4.1.7 is installed by default. I don't think there is anything wrong with using OpenOffice, it is just unusual to see it when virtually every other distribution uses LibreOffice.
Bluestar uses the Octopi software manager to manipulate packages. Octopi presents the user with a low-level look at available packages. New applications can be downloaded by adding packages to a batch of items to install. Octopi can also upgrade existing packages when new versions become available. While Octopi works quickly and I encountered no problems with it, the interface is not ideal for browsing categories of programs or discovering new items. The interface is best suited for situations where we know the names of programs we want up front.
With Bluestar we also have the option of using the pacman command line package manager. The pacman utility is terse and uses some unusual syntax, but it works very quickly.
Bluestar Linux 5.3.6 -- The application menu and software manager
(full image size: 972kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
One aspect of Bluestar which frustrated me was desktop widgets, after they had been removed, they sometimes came back. After I removed the desktop widgets showing weather and disk usage, they returned the next time I logged in. However, after I removed them a second time, they did not appear the next two times I logged into my account. They did return the next day though, and again the next time I logged in. This made the desktop randomly cluttered with features I did not want.
In a similar fashion, the dock at the bottom of the screen would sometimes disappear for a while, then reappear. I'm not sure if it was hiding or crashing, but it always came back after a few seconds.
I really like Plasma's System Settings panel. It provides a great deal of flexibility in the look and behaviour of the desktop. However, it would sometimes crash, even when just browsing available settings.
Bluestar Linux 5.3.6 -- The settings panel
(full image size: 850kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
On the whole, I did not enjoy my time with Bluestar. Part of this was the lack of documentation and what information was available tended to be out of date. The links in the installer did not work and the available editions were not well defined.
My larger issue though was Bluestar feels like a situation where many programs and features have been included and enabled because they are available rather than because it makes sense to use them. Transparency is enabled on menus making them hard to read; there are lots of visual effects enabled that slow down the desktop; the panel auto-hides making it difficult to access the application menu or see the status information in the system tray. Many tasks have duplicate (or triplicate) application entries, which means a lot of disk space is used with very little increase in functionality.
The result is Bluestar is huge, tends to be slow, and is more difficult to navigate than most other distributions. I suppose there is something to be said for a distribution that shows off many features of its chosen desktop, but it feels as though Plasma's features are enabled just because they can be, not because it provides the user with a better experience.
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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 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card, Ralink RT5390R PCIe Wireless card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
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Visitor supplied rating
Bluestar has a visitor supplied average rating of: 7.7/10 from 27 review(s).
Have you used Bluestar? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
New Snapcraft extension for KDE, Fedora plans to disable empty passwords, FreeBSD's quarterly status report, Red Hat explains how to deal with bit rot
Creating and using Snap packages of KDE applications is getting better thanks to a new Snapcraft extension called KDE neon. The new extension makes sure Snap packages of KDE programs will have the latest KDE and Qt libraries available. It will also try to integrate the application with the desktop environment, making the packaged software look more natural. "Once you declare the KDE neon extension in your snapcraft.yaml and build the snap, the following will happen: You will have the latest Qt5 and KDE Frameworks libraries available to your application at runtime. You won't need to manually satisfy the runtime requirement, and this will also save a fair deal of disk space through the reuse of common components. The extension initialises Qt5 and the desktop environment before the application starts, so functionality like fonts, and cursor themes work correctly. This means you and the users of your snap should enjoy a smoother desktop integration and more consistent looks and behaviour. Specifically, your snap will connect to the following content snaps at run time:" A similar extension for GNOME applications is also being created.
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The Fedora team is proposing a change to the project's next release, Fedora 32, which would disable the ability to leave user accounts unprotected by a password. The change proposal explains: "Current default configuration allows users to login with an empty password by setting nullok parameter to pam_unix module. This affects only logins to local machine, it does not affect ssh logins as this must be explicitly allowed in sshd_config. We want to disallow empty password by default for local logins as well to improve system hardening. Note: It is possible to disallow empty passwords with authselect call (authselect enable-feature without-nullok) or by removing nullok manually, however it creates possible issues in other components that must be addressed." A few system components, such as the passwd command will need to be modified to handle the new default behaviour.
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The FreeBSD project has published a quarterly status update which includes a summary of work being done on and around the FreeBSD operating system. There have been a number of changes to userspace filesystem (FUSE) support, several driver updates, and the Xfce desktop port has been updated to version 4.14. There is also an ongoing effort to improve driver support on modern laptop computers: "The FreeBSD Foundation would like to ensure that running FreeBSD on contemporary hardware, including laptops, remains viable. To that end we plan to purchase the latest generation of one or more of a family of laptops preferred by members of the FreeBSD community, evaluate the existing state of hardware support, and implement missing hardware support where possible. As the first laptop for this project we have selected a 7th Generation Lenovo X1 Carbon. This project was sponsored by The FreeBSD Foundation." Additional information can be found in the project's report.
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Bit rot is the term given to a situation where data written to a storage drive, like a hard drive, gets corrupted or changed before it is read back from the disk. This can happen due to physical issues with the disk or environmental concerns. Some modern filesystems, such as Btrfs and ZFS, try to detect and, in some cases, repair bit rot automatically. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is one of the few big-named distributions which does not support either of these advanced filesystems and this raises the issue of how administrators can detect and manage bit rot. Red Hat has published an article on what bit rot is and how to deal with it on the company's blog. "By definition, with bit rot we are getting different data from the block device than we wrote. Thus, if an application like a database is using the block device directly without a filesystem layer, then it would have to deal by itself with bit rot. Let's look at bit rot on a block device with XFS, the default filesystem on RHEL 7 and RHEL 8. Instead of using a real hard disk and waiting for bit rot, we will change a single bit, to simulate bit rot."
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Using special shell characters on the command line
Interpreting-shell-characters asks: Can you please explain to me what special characters in the shell do? Like what is the difference between "ls", "ls *", and "ls *foo*"? Why do some command lines have words starting with "$" in them? Thanks!
DistroWatch answers: Typing commands in a shell can be time consuming, especially if we need to write out every single filename and value. For this reason there are a lot of short-cuts built into modern shells. For instance, in most shells if we start typing the name of a command, or a filename in the local directory and press Tab then the shell will try to fill in the rest of the name for us. Symbols like "*" and "?" are also used as short-cuts to save us from typing out really long filenames, or long lists of files. The "$" indicates a variable or substitution which will often save us time.
Let's look at some examples of these symbols in use. The "*" symbol takes the place of zero or more characters in a filename. For instance, if I want to list all of the files in the current directory whose names begin with the word "distro" I can run this command:
Because the "*" symbol can substitute any number of characters the above would match any of the following filenames:
However, it would not match either of these two examples because "ls distro*" only matches with words beginning with "distro", not ending with "distro":
If we want to find all filenames with the term "distro" included anywhere, we can tell the shell to look for filenames that start with any text, include the word "distro", and then end with anything. We can do this with the following command:
The above command will match with all of the above examples because they all include "distro" somewhere in the name.
Since the "*" symbol can match with any number of characters, using it on its own ("ls *") will match with all visible entries in a directory. As it happens, running the ls command without any parameters also lists all visible files in the current directory. This means "ls" and "ls *" do mostly the same thing.
The reason I say "mostly the same" is there is a slightly different outcome from running "ls" versus "ls *". The ls command on its own displays a listing of all files and directories in the current folder. Running "ls *" goes through a translation step where the shell works out all matching entries in the directory (all visible files and folders in this case) and then passes those to the "ls" command.
For the sake of example, let's say I have a directory with three files: A, B, and C. It also contains a directory called D. Running "ls *" gets translated by the shell into the command "ls A B C D". As a result, the "ls *" command will display the files A, B, and C. It will also display the contents of the sub-directory D. In other words, running "ls" on its own shows us the contents of the current directory while "ls *" shows us the contents of the current directory and the sub-directories immediately beneath it.
The "ls *foo*" command will, as we learned above, show all files and folders in the current directory which contain, in some way, the word "foo". These would include "my-foo", "foo-bar", and just "foo".
Earlier I mentioned the "?" symbol. The "?" works a lot like the "*" for matching filenames, but it only substitutes one character at a time. For instance, if I have the files "abc", "def", and "dif" then running:
will match with the latter two, but not "abc". The "?" symbol gets substituted in for both the "e" and the "i" in the latter two filenames.
Moving on to the "$" symbol. The "$" is used in a few instances. It can signify the start of a variable name. For instance, I can save information in a shell variable and access it later as follows:
The above example will print the word "Monday" in the terminal.
Shells tend to include a lot of built-in variables they remember which can be used at any time by prefixing their name with a "$". If you want to see all the variables your Bash shell knows, run the following to get a list:
set | less
For example, on most machines, the name of your user's home directory is available through $HOME. The number of lines of text which can be displayed in your terminal at one time is stored in $LINES. Your default text editor is $EDITOR. These can come in handy when you want to know more about your shell's environment.
We can also use the shell to do math and the "$" symbol comes in handy there too. Mathematical operations are placed inside double-parentheses, prefixed by a "$". Here we assign two values to variables and add them together, printing the result:
The above example prints "11" in the terminal.
Another common usage for "$" is when we are going to collect the output of one command and pass it to another command. Imagine I have a text file full of package names that I want to install on my system. I could open the text file, copy all the package names, and then paste them onto the command line. However, we can also tell the shell to read the contents of the file with the cat command and then pass it to the package manager. Here I use cat and dnf to install all the packages listed in a file called package-listing.txt:
dnf install $(cat package-listing.txt)
These are just some of the shortcuts the Bash shell provides. There are more and I recommend reading the Bash manual page to learn about all the options.
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Additional answers can be found in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
Klaus Knopper has announced the release of KNOPPIX 8.6.1, an updated build of the distribution's Debian-based live DVD image with a choice of LXDE (default desktop), KDE Plasma 5.14 and GNOME 3.30, and without the systemd software suite. It also includes the recent Linux 5.3.5 kernel. "KNOPPIX 8.6.1 public release. Overview: updated Linux kernel and system software (Debian 'buster' + 'sid'); LXDE - the lightweight standard desktop including PCManFM 1.3.1 file manager; GNOME 3 (boot option 'knoppix64 desktop=gnome'); KDE 5 ('knoppix64 desktop=kde'); accessible - Adriane audio desktop; WINE 4.0 pre-release for directly installing and running Windows applications on Linux, also Windows 10; QEMU-KVM 3.1 as a scriptable virtualization solution; privacy-enhanced Tor web browser; web browsers - Chromium 76.0.3809.100, Firefox 69.0.2 with the Ublock ad blocker and 'noscript' plugin; LibreOffice 6.3.3-rc1, GIMP 2.10.8; maths and algebra software for teachers - Maxima 5.42.1 with direct integration of Maxima sessions into Texmacs and the ability to create documentation directly during live lessions...." Read the rest of the release notes for further details.
Devuan is a Linux distribution which forked from Debian in order to provide alternative init software to systemd, and alternative dependencies to functions and libraries systemd offers. The project's latest release is Devuan 2.1 which make it easier to choose between SysV init and OpenRC at install time. The distribution no longer offers ARM or virtual machine images, and the option to exclude non-free firmware is now available in the Expert installer. "Devuan ASCII 2.1 point release installer ISOs, desktop-live, and minimal-live ISOs are now available. No ARM or virtual images are included in this release. What's new in this point release: Installation: The option to choose OpenRC in the installer ISOs is more prominent, and no longer requires an Expert install. You can't miss it. If you would like to select an alternate boot loader (lilo) or exclude non-free firmware, you must select one of the Expert install options. The recommended default mirror is now deb.devuan.org. If you would like to use a country code mirror, please check mirror list to see if there is one suitable for your needs." Further details may be found in the project's release announcement and in the release notes.
LibreELEC is a minimal, Linux-based operating system which acts as a platform for the Kodi media centre. LibreELEC runs on multiple hardware architectures and is able to run on consumer desktop computers as well as single-board, ARM-powered machines. LibreELEC 9.2.0 improves driver support for web cameras, runs on the Raspberry Pi 4, and adds more firmware support. "LibreELEC 9.2.0 (Leia) the final version has arrived based upon Kodi v18.5, the 9.2 release contains many changes and refinements to user experience and a complete overhaul of the underlying OS core to improve stability and extend hardware support compared to the LE 9.0 release. Changes since last beta: driver support for Webcams; improvements for the RPi4; added firmware updater for RPi4. Change for Raspberry Pi 4: With LE 9.1.002 and later you need to add 'hdmi_enable_4kp60=1' to your config.txt if you want to use 4k output at the RPi4. Before you needed 'hdmi_enable_4k=1' that is now deprecated. In this initial release 1080p playback behaviour and performance on the Raspberry Pi 4B are broadly on-par with the previous 3B/3B+ model, except for HEVC media which is now hardware-decoded and massively improved." Further details can be found in the project's release announcement.
Kali Linux 2019.4
Kali Linux is a Debian-based distribution that ships with a collection of security and forensics tools. The project's latest version is Kali Linux 2019.4. The new release features Btrfs support during setup, a new theme, and a "Kali Undercover" mode which makes the distribution's desktop resemble the Windows desktop. "With the change to the environment, we thought we would take a side step and do something fun. Thanks to Robert, who leads our penetration testing team, for suggesting a Kali theme that looks like Windows to the casual view, we have created the Kali Undercover theme. Say you are working in a public place, hacking away, and you might not want the distinctive Kali dragon for everyone to see and wonder what it is you are doing. So, we made a little script that will change your Kali theme to look like a default Windows installation. That way, you can work a bit more incognito. After you are done and in a more private place, run the script again and you switch back to your Kali theme." Additional details can be found in the project's release announcement.
Kali Linux 2019.4 -- The Lite edition desktop and application menu
(full image size: 1.9MB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
Proxmox 6.1 "Mail Gateway"
Proxmox is a commercial company which offers specialized products based on Debian. The company has launched Proxmox Mail Gateway version 6.1 which is based on Debian 10.2 "Buster". The release announcement covers the highlights of the new version: "We are excited to announce the availability of Proxmox Mail Gateway 6.1. The new version comes with some interesting new features. We have updated the Mail Gateway to Debian 10.2 (Buster) and a 5.3 kernel with ZFS included. The new version 6.1 brings support for DomainKeys Identified Mail signatures (DKIM), a new attachment quarantine, adjustable SpamAssassin scores via GUI, and improved handling of Configuration and Rule changes in a cluster. As an experimental feature, the support for Before Queue filtering can be enabled. DKIM-Signing: support for adding DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Signatures (RFC 6376) to outbound emails; configuration via GUI; signing happens after processing the email with the rule system, thus ensuring that it leaves the Proxmox Mail Gateway with a valid signature. Flexible control of which domains should get signed with sensible defaults...." Additional details can be found in the company's release notes.
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
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|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
Favourite shell short-cut
In this week's Questions and Answers column we talked about useful shell short-cuts. There are a lot of quick ways to access information and groups of files in the shell. These can include wild-card characters, variables, navigation short-cuts, tab completion, and nested output. We would like to hear about your favourit short-cuts. Let us know what shell features speed up your command line work in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on teaching ethics in IT classes in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Favourite shell short-cut
|Wild cards in filenames: ||67 (6%)|
| Shell variables: ||17 (1%)|
| Nested output/values: ||1 (0%)|
| Ctrl key navigation: ||38 (3%)|
| Tab completion: ||306 (25%)|
| Shell history: ||129 (11%)|
| All of the above: ||169 (14%)|
| Some of the above: ||282 (23%)|
| I do not use short-cuts: ||122 (10%)|
| I do not use a command line shell: ||83 (7%)|
|Website News (by Jesse Smith)
Distributions added to waiting list
- Virage GNU/Linux. Virage is a Devuan-based disribution optimized for working with audio. The distribution features a custom real-time version of the Linux kernel.
- FuryBSD. FuryBSD is a desktop-oriented operating system based on FreeBSD 12. The project ships with the Xfce desktop enabled by default and offers a live DVD/USB image for hardware testing.
- Blackhat-Global OS Lite. Blackhat-Global OS Lite is a Debian-based distribution for penetration testers. It features the Xfce desktop and can be used as a live disc or installed locally.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 9 December 2019. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. 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
|• Issue 848 (2020-01-13): elementary OS 5.1, accessing USB ports directly, NetBSD expanding Wayland support, Fedora phasing out old Python packages|
|• Issue 847 (2020-01-06): Android-x86 9.0, Hypberbola switching to BSD base, Debian votes on init diversity, slow adoption of Wayland and delta packages|
|• Issue 846 (2019-12-23): NomadBSD 1.3, Tails publishes boot fix, Arch update requires intervention, Purism launches server lineup, password protecting files|
|• Issue 845 (2019-12-16): OpenIndiana 2019.10, BunsenLabs' "Lithium" preview, MX-Fluxbox, 10 years of Tails, installing local packages|
|• Issue 844 (2019-12-09): Project Trident Void alpha, alpha installer for "Bullseye", SparkyLinux portable edition, dealing with large log files|
|• Issue 843 (2019-12-02): Obarun 2019.11.02, Bluestar 5.3.6, using special characters on command line, Fedora plans to disable empty passwords, FreeBSD's quarterly status report|
|• Issue 842 (2019-11-25): SolydXK 10, System Adminstration Ethics book review, Debian continues init diversity debate, Google upstreaming Android kernel patches|
|• Issue 841 (2019-11-18): Emmabuntus DE3-1.00, changing keys in keyboard layout, Debian phasing out Python 2 and voting on init diversity, Slackware gets unofficial updated live media|
|• Issue 840 (2019-11-11): Fedora 31, monitoring user activity, Fedora working to improve Python performance, FreeBSD gets faster networking|
|• Issue 839 (2019-11-04): MX 19, manipulating PDFs, Ubuntu plans features for 20.04, Fedora 29 nears EOL, Netrunner drops Manjaro-based edition|
|• Issue 838 (2019-10-28): Xubuntu 19.10, how init and service managers work together, DragonFly BSD provides emergency mode for HAMMER, Xfce team plans 4.16|
|• Issue 837 (2019-10-21): CentOS 8.0-1905, Trident finds new base, Debian plans firewall changes, 15 years of Fedora, how to merge directories|
|• Issue 836 (2019-10-14): Archman 2019.09, Haiku improves ARM support, Project Trident shifting base OS, Unix turns 50|
|• Issue 835 (2019-10-07): Isotop, Mazon OS and, KduxOS, examples of using find command, Mint's System Reports becomes proactive, Solus updates its desktops|
|• Issue 834 (2019-09-30): FreedomBox "Buster", CentOS gains a rolling release, Librem 5 phones shipping, Redcore updates its package manager|
|• Issue 833 (2019-09-23): Redcore Linux 1908, why Linux distros are free, Ubuntu making list of 32-bit software to keep, Richard M Stallman steps down from FSF leadership|
|• Issue 832 (2019-09-16): BlackWeb 1.2, checking for Wayland session and applications, Fedora to use nftables in firewalld, OpenBSD disables DoH in Firefox|
|• Issue 831 (2019-09-09): Adélie Linux 1.0 beta, using ffmpeg, awk and renice, Mint and elementary improvements, PureOS and Manjaro updates|
|• Issue 930 (2019-09-02): deepin 15.11, working with AppArmor profiles, elementary OS gets new greeter, exFAT support coming to Linux kernel|
|• Issue 829 (2019-08-26): EndeavourOS 2019.07.15, Drauger OS 7.4.1, finding licenses of kernel modules, NetBSD gets Wayland application, GhostBSD changes base repo|
|• Issue 828 (2019-08-19): AcademiX 2.2, concerns with non-free firmware, UBports working on Unity8, Fedora unveils new EPEL channel, FreeBSD phasing out GCC|
|• Issue 827 (2019-08-12): Q4OS, finding files on disk, Ubuntu works on ZFS, Haiku improves performance, OSDisc shutting down|
|• Issue 826 (2019-08-05): Quick looks at Resilient, PrimeOS, and BlueLight, flagship distros for desktops,Manjaro introduces new package manager|
|• Issue 825 (2019-07-29): Endless OS 3.6, UBports 16.04, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Fedora developrs discuss optimizations, Project Trident launches stable branch|
|• Issue 824 (2019-07-22): Hexagon OS 1.0, Mageia publishes updated media, Fedora unveils Fedora CoreOS, managing disk usage with quotas|
|• Issue 823 (2019-07-15): Debian 10, finding 32-bit packages on a 64-bit system, Will Cooke discusses Ubuntu's desktop, IBM finalizes purchase of Red Hat|
|• Issue 822 (2019-07-08): Mageia 7, running development branches of distros, Mint team considers Snap, UBports to address Google account access|
|• Issue 821 (2019-07-01): OpenMandriva 4.0, Ubuntu's plan for 32-bit packages, Fedora Workstation improvements, DragonFly BSD's smaller kernel memory|
|• Issue 820 (2019-06-24): Clear Linux and Guix System 1.0.1, running Android applications using Anbox, Zorin partners with Star Labs, Red Hat explains networking bug, Ubuntu considers no longer updating 32-bit packages|
|• Issue 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Full list of all issues|
Star Labs - Laptops built for Linux.
View our range including the Star Lite, Star LabTop and more. Available with a choice of Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS pre-installed with many more distributions supported. Visit Star Labs for information, to buy and get support.
|Random Distribution |
RebeccaBlackOS is a Debian-based live distribution which can be used to run Wayland desktop sessions. RebeccaBlackOS can run a number of popular open source desktop environments on top of a Wayland graphical session. The distribution was (and remains) one of the only Linux distributions to run a Wayland session from live media. The distribution is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds for the x86 architecture.