| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 853, 17 February 2020
Welcome to this year's 7th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
In recent years a number of organizations have tried to launch open source or privacy focused mobile devices. Canonical published Ubuntu Touch, Mozilla had Firefox OS, Purism and Pine64 have both launched open platforms with Linux-based mobile operating systems in mind. Another organization working to introduce alternatives to the mobile landscape is eFoundation, makers of the /e/ operating system for Android phones. This week Jesse Smith takes a look at /e/ running on a Samsung phone and reports on what it is like using /e/ and its related services. Let us know what you think of the /e/ phone in our Opinion Poll. This week we also share a look at Calculate Linux, a Gentoo-based operating system with lots of custom features. Ivan Sanders takes Calculate for a test drive and reports on his experiences in our Feature Story. Plus we share improvements coming to IPFire, a new media conversion tool for SparkyLinux, and report on the Slackware Linux distribution adding PAM support. Then we share the releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. Finally we are pleased to introduce Anarchy Linux, the latest distribution to be added to our database. We wish you all a wonderful week and happy reading!
- Review: Calculate Linux 20
- News: IPFire improves DNS lookups, Slackware introducing PAM support, SparkyLinux introduces MystiQ
- Technology review: An /e/ phone in 2020
- Released last week: Ubuntu 18.04.4, SparkyLinux 2020.02, Tails 4.3
- Torrent corner: ArcoLinux, AUSTRUMI, Container, Debian, EasyOS, Endless OS, Hyperbola, KDE neon, NetBSD, Obarun, Raspberry digital Signage, Robolinux, Septor, SparkyLinux, Tails, Ubuntu
- Opinion poll: Are you planning to get an /e/ phone?
- New additions: Anarchy Linux
- New distributions: SpinelOS
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (13MB) and MP3 (10MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Ivan Sanders)
Calculate Linux 20
Calculate Linux released version 20 at the end of 2019 with major updates and is based off Gentoo. Calculate Linux Desktop (CLD) includes a wizard to configure a connection to Calculate Directory Server. According to their download page, "Calculate Linux Desktop is listed in the Russian Software Register." To sum that up, CLD is a distro from Russia, based off Gentoo, and designed to connect to a Calculate Directory Server. What is a Calculate Directory Server? Well according to their website, "Calculate Directory Server (CDS) is an advanced, LDAP-based authentication server designed to be a domain controller for business networks."
CLD utilizes a strange installation interface (GUI) I have not encountered before, even after testing numerous distros throughout the years. All the normal steps are there, but they're not standard or very usable as in most other installers (Calamares, Cnchi, Ubiquity). The features are too complex and they gave me too many errors. I did not like the installation process very much. It was riddled with weird grammatical errors that made the media seem amateur although the distro is far from amateur, in fact I would say it is a very advanced distro, not for beginners.
Calculate Linux 20 -- Running the system installer
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No matter what I tried, manually partitioning did not work for me and I had to erase the disk and do it automatically as opposed to the normal manual ways I prefer. I really could not understand the issues they were trying to give me in the installation media concerning my partitioning and it was very finicky. I had to reinstall numerous times. I will say, my wi-fi worked out of the box and my Intel video card worked out of the box (Optimus computer) but the installation of NVIDIA drivers during the installation made this system unbootable. This led to my first reinstall.
Next I tried to do a install with my Intel card and install the NVIDIA drivers after initial boot using the Optimus guide for Gentoo. This also rendered my system unusable. Second reinstall and I gave up on using NVIDIA drivers at all.
I used the KDE version of CLD because I thought it was most likely the baseline or main version they build. In addition to KDE they offer many different desktop environments that are commonly found in different distros: Cinnamon, Xfce, MATE. Upon first boot I noticed a slightly dark theme which was very pleasing. It comes with all the usual KDE accoutrements (Konsole, Kmail, Dolphin) and was easy to use. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
CLD comes with Firefox. Interestingly, their Firefox comes with uBlock (a popular ad/tracker blocker) pre-installed, which made me worry about other changes they may have made to their install of Firefox. I did some brief logging on Wireshark while using CLD and I did not notice anything out of the usual, but that doesn't mean they're in the clear.
Calculate Linux 20 -- Firefox with uBlock extension
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Software, software, software... where is the software? I couldn't find any mention of a software store or any GUI based package management system in the KDE menus, so I took to the mean streets of the terminal but then I realized I have no idea how to install software on a Gentoo based system. Oh the fun of learning a new package management system, yet again! Gentoo utilizes the complex emerge package management system from Portage. According to the man pages, "emerge is the definitive command-line interface to the Portage system. It is primarily used for installing packages, and emerge can automatically handle any dependencies that the desired package has. emerge can also update the ebuild repository, making new and updated packages available. emerge gracefully handles updating installed packages to newer releases as well. It handles both source and binary packages, and it can be used to create binary packages for distribution."
I did not really ever master the emerge system, and I can't say that I liked it at all. Installing and updating packages using emerge and the built-in GUI updater for CLD took much longer than I was used to. An update after about two weeks, of only 52 packages, took way too much time to complete.
Calculate Linux 20 -- Installing updates
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Steam and Chrome are both in the standard repository for CLD, but many programs I looked for and regularly use were not in the repository. LibreOffice was pre-installed on CLD, as was Adobe Flash Player, GIMP, Clementine, SMPlayer, and many other useful software packages. The pre-installed programs did not number too many and I found most of them to be mostly practical applications usual users would need. Netflix worked well through Chrome and I did not have any issues using Firefox or Chrome during my review.
Calculate Linux 20 -- Watching Netflix in Chrome
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Steam runs great, just as well as on any other distro and better than some. The games I like to waste time on ran well too. I could run smaller, indie games as well as bigger (although somewhat older) titles such as CS:GO without a hitch. I did not test any games that require a massive graphics card (like Witcher 2) because I could not use my NVIDIA card and that would have been a waste of time to even try.
One strange rogue issue I had during my test was with the mouse/pointer and the trackpad on my laptop. Sometimes I would be scrolling down with two fingers, and then it would switch directions and start going up, and vice versa. This happened every day using Calculate Linux and was very annoying.
Calculate Linux Desktop running KDE used 688MB of RAM at startup.
Being blunt, I did not especially like CLD. I will admit, I did not use it to connect to a Calculate Directory Server, so I can't explain how good that usage would be. I don't think most users know what a CDS even is, even I still do not.
If you need to connect to a CDS, Calculate Linux is probably a good distro to choose. The KDE desktop environment is solid, and I'm sure the others are too. I would say that using Gentoo as a base seems either gimmicky, unnecessary, or overall a strange choice for any modern distro, but people have their likes and I know Gentoo has a die hard, although comparatively small, base. For any other person that uses Linux, for any other reason, I would recommend a large number of distros before Calculate.
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Hardware used in this review
- Laptop - Lenovo Legion Y530
- Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H CPU @ 2.20GHz x 6
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD Samsung and 1TB HDD
- Memory: 16GB
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411
- Display: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
- Graphics: Intel Corporation UHD Graphics 630, NVIDIA Corporation GP106M [GeForce GTX 1060 Mobile]
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Visitor supplied rating
Calculate Linux has a visitor supplied average rating of: 9/10 from 50 review(s).
Have you used Calculate Linux? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
IPFire improves DNS lookups, Slackware introducing PAM support, SparkyLinux introduces MystiQ
The IPFire team is working on improving their operating system's DNS options, making domain name lookup operations faster and more secure. "Today, we have taken some important changes on our DNS Resolver into production. Having released support for DNS-over-TLS in 2018, we have now added TCP Fast Open and TLSv1.3. Lightning Wire Labs is managing a DNS Resolver to provide an alternative to the large corporation who are trying to get the global DNS system under their control and use it for marketing purposes. To not fall behind the technical development, we have now enabled some new features on our resolver to make it ready for the new DNS changes that are going to land with IPFire 2.25 - Core Update 141 very soon." Details on the project's DNS features and improvements can be found in a blog post written by Michael Tremer.
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Most Linux distributions use software called PAM (pluggable authentication modules) to provide applications with a unified method for checking user credentials. This essentially means each program does not need to know all the ways it can sign into an account and implement those on its own. PAM can be taught each method and rule for allowing access to the operating system and then be used by applications and services on the distribution. While PAM has been around for nearly two decades, the Slackware distribution is just now introducing the technology. The Slackware changelog reads: "Hey folks! PAM has finally landed in /testing. Some here wanted it to go right into the main tree immediately, and in a more normal development cycle I'd have been inclined to agree (it is -current, after all). But it's probably better for it to appear in /testing first, to make sure we didn't miss any bugs and also to serve as a warning shot that we'll be shaking up the tree pretty good over the next few weeks. I'd like to see this merged into the main tree in a day or two, so any testing is greatly appreciated." Having PAM in Slackware should allow for authentication against more services, including Active Directory, and offer a more carefully audited code base.
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The SparkyLinux team frequently introduces and highlights new packages the distribution's users may find useful. The project's latest new utility is MystiQ, a desktop frontend for converting media files. "MystiQ is a GUI for FFmpeg, a powerful media converter. FFmpeg can read audio and video files in various formats and convert them into other formats. MystiQ features an intuitive graphical interface and a rich set of presets to help you convert media files within a few clicks. Advanced users can also adjust conversion parameters in detail." Further details can be found in the distribution's blog post.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Technology Review (by Jesse Smith)
An /e/ phone in 2020
One of the projects I have been watching with curiosity over the past year is /e/ (formerly Eelo), a mobile operating system that is based on Android, but with the pieces associated with Google's software and services removed. The project is described as follows:
/e/ is a complete, fully 'unGoogled', mobile ecosystem.
One of the big challenges any open source mobile platform faces these days is competing with the vast application stores of Android and iOS. The /e/ operating system side-steps this issue by providing what is essentially the Android operating system, but with open source technologies replacing Google apps and services. This allows /e/ to run most Android apps and therefore benefit from the Android ecosystem while providing a more open platform, less dependent on advertisements and data harvesting for revenue.
We could have just focused on an OS, but apps and on-line services are critical components of a smartphone experience, too.
/e/ consists in a mobile operating system (OS) and carefully selected applications, together forming a privacy-enabled internal environment for mobile phones.
Combined with on-line services, such as a search engine, e-mail, storage and other on-line tools, it creates a unique environment: privacy-in, privacy-out.
The /e/ Foundation was kind enough to send me a demo phone which arrived in a nondescript brown box. Inside the box was the product's box itself which declares brightly on the front: "your data is your data". The back of the box lets us know it contains a smart phone with a one-year warranty that has been unlocked and is compatible with Android apps.
The /e/ box and stickers
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Inside the box I found a little booklet which explains how to set up the phone. (Charge it, insert the SIM card and follow on-screen instructions.) The directions, while brief, are printed in five languages: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The /e/ phones, while they can be run anywhere in the world, are sold only in Europe presently. The box also contains the phone, a Samsung Galaxy S9  in my case, a set of earphones, a European outlet-to-USB adaptor, a USB cable, and a little pin that can be used to pop open the Samsung's SIM port.
The phone, booklet and USB cable
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For people who do not live in Europe, you can buy a supported model of Android phone, download /e/ and flash it to your device. In the future, the /e/ Foundation plans to make a service available where people can mail in their devices and /e/ will install their operating system on it and ship back the phone.
Getting set up
In the booklet which came with the /e/ phone there is a recommendation for visiting a website to sign up for an /e/ account. This account gives us 5GB of on-line storage (with the option to upgrade), an e-mail account, and the ability to automatically synchronize files, settings, tasks, and contacts from our phone. The on-line account appears to mostly be implemented using Nextcloud and I will talk about that later. For now I will say the on-line registration process worked smoothly and I was up and running with a new account quickly.
The phone I received arrived mostly charged and I let it sit plugged in for a while to top it off. I like that there is a light on the phone that changes colour, depending on whether it is charging, fully charged, or has a notification waiting to be read. This makes it easier to check the device's status without activating the display.
There are four buttons on the phone I received. Volume Up, Volume Down, Power, and one which does not appear to do anything. Turning on the phone brings up a mostly white logo screen. We are then walked through a few configuration steps, beginning with selecting our preferred language from a list. Before moving onto the next screen, a warning popped up and told me "calendar has stopped". This was perhaps the only error I saw during my trial, but its timing (at the beginning of the test run) was not a great early impression.
The phone's wizard continues to walk us through selecting our time zone, optionally connecting to a wi-fi network, and (again optionally) enabling location services for permitted apps. We can then choose to enable fingerprint unlocking and protecting the phone with a PIN. Finally, we have the option of putting in our on-line /e/ account credentials to synchronize the phone with our cloud account. So far things were going fairly smoothly.
/e/ -- The home screen with app launchers
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Once the setup process was complete, /e/ displays a user interface that is made up of two screens and we can use a swipe gesture to move between them. The main screen has launcher icons for installed applications. Toward the bottom of this screen are four icons set aside (fixed in place) which provide access to the Phone app, a texting application, the camera, and the web browser. The second screen featured two widgets, one showing the local weather and another which showed recommended (typically recently used) applications I might want to launch again. Along the top of both screens is a status bar that can be pulled down to see notifications and access some settings. At the very bottom of the display are three buttons which should be familiar to Android users, the Back, Home, and Open Windows buttons. The default wallpaper for /e/ is bright and mostly orange, which reminds me of a close-up view of the Firefox logo.
The /e/ phone arrived with several apps already installed for me. The line-up included a calculator, calendar, the Chromium browser (re-branded as the /e/ browser). The device also features a clock, file manager, photo gallery, camera, mail client, music player, and note taking app. There is an audio recorder, a task tracker, the Magic Earth GPS/maps application, and a weather application. There is also a phone call making application and texting app to round out the experience.
Playing around with the included software, I generally found things worked well and as expected. It has been about three years since I last used an Android phone for any extended period of time, but it was fairly easy for me to get back into the habit of using the Android-style applications. The phone running /e/ was very responsive and I liked how snappy it was and how smoothly the user interface performed.
One of the few problems I had when using the Samsung phone was getting accurate location information. For instance, when I was using the Maps app, at first my perceived location was off by several kilometres. After a reboot, the GPS managed to place my position closer, but still off by several blocks. I tried the Maps app a few times and it never got more accurate than a few blocks away from my actual position. If I manually entered my current location, the GPS functions would work and provide directions to where I wanted to go, but it did require that I tell the phone where it was and prepare to slightly adjust my expectations of the directions given.
/e/ -- The Settings panel
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The other GPS-related quirk I ran into came from the Weather app. There is a default widget on the second screen which shows the current weather forecast and, as far as I could tell, it accurately displayed both my location and the local weather. Tapping the weather widget opened the full Weather app. By default the Weather app showed my position as being in London, England rather than Canada. I went into the app's settings and tried to enable location data, but this failed with an error reporting I needed to grant the app permission to access the GPS data. This seemed like a good idea, but it was not immediately clear if I could do this from within the app. I found that clicking the app's Update Location button did bring up a prompt to get access to location data, but the lookup failed. I had to close the app and re-open it before it would update its position. Then it did show weather data for a town in my province in Canada, just not the town I was in. I chalked this up to being "close enough" for all practical purposes.
Though the phone's hardware was not my focus during my trial, the platform always plays a role in how well an operating system works. The detailed specifications of the Samsung device list it has having an octa-core CPU running at up to 3GHz. My device shipped with 64GB of storage, 8.3GB of which was used for the operating system. The phone offered 3.5GB of RAM and I generally used about 1.9GB of memory when the phone first booted.
The Samsung offers two cameras, a 12 megapixel camera in the back and an 8 megapixel view in the front. The interface was very responsive and smooth during my trial. Apps opened quickly and gestures responded immediately to my touch.
The phone's hardware all worked smoothly, including wireless networking, the microphone, camera, and (with some quirks) GPS. I did not have any cause to test Bluetooth connections, but the phone enables Bluetooth by default.
Adding new apps
Downloading new applications on /e/ is quite straight forward. There is an icon labelled Apps on the main screen and tapping it opens the phone's software centre. The centre is arranged much the same way as the Google Play store or the Linux Mint software centre. The front page of the store shows popular items we can scroll through and new programs can be installed with the tap of a button. Tabs at the bottom of the store's page allow us to browse through categories of software or search for apps by name. The store can also handle updates to programs we have already installed.
/e/ -- The Apps software centre
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My experience with the Apps store was entirely painless and I found it easy to navigate. The interface was snappy and smooth. If I had any complaint it might be that the store's main page looks a little crowded on the Samsung's screen, but it is a small concern. Functionally and visually the store is quite good and I had no problems hunting down new applications.
I went looking for quite a few programs and found lots of popular Android apps, including Spotify, Firefox, Telegram, WhatsApp Messenger, the F-Droid open software centre, Facebook, Plants vs Zombies 2, KDE Connect, and so on. In short, there seems to be no shortage of applications. However, not all programs available in Google's Play store are available through the /e/ store. If you need an application which is currently missing there is an option in the Apps store to request the app be added.
The one issue I did have was at one point the /e/ phone popped up a notification that let me know there was an app update waiting to be installed. Tapping the notification opened the Apps store and I tapped the Updates tab. The Updates tab showed there were no new downloads available. The next day I checked back and there was one update listed (for KDE Connect), which updated without any problems.
Earlier I mentioned signing up for an account which provides on-line storage and synchronization options. There is an on-line portal we can sign into that is basically Nextcloud with modules set up for handling e-mail, contacts, tasks, and a calendar. The web-based service is quite useful and I think its ability to sync data, especially calendar appointments and contacts, will do nicely to fill in for Google's equivalents. The only problem I potentially see is sharing these features with other users. I know several families who coordinate through Google Calendar and I don't think most people are going to be prepared to switch or coordinate with someone who insists on using the Nextcloud calendar instead.
/e/ -- On-line file storage provided by Nextcloud
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That being said, the on-line storage works very well. Photos, appointments, and contacts all sync automatically when we enable our account on the /e/ phone. Sometimes it takes a while for items to sync and it looks like the on-line Documents folder does not sync down to the phone, but the other folders do sync in both directions and it all works transparently.
Observations and other features
The /e/ phone allows users to apply permissions or restrictions dealing with a wide variety of access for each app. We can adjust access to contacts, our calendar, local storage, the microphone, and so on. Things tend to be pretty locked down by default. This is good for security, though sometimes inconvenient. For example, I had to grant the web browser permission to save files to my phone, then grant permission to open the file I had just saved. This sort of fine-grained permission is a careful balancing act between providing safe defaults and not inadvertently training the user to simply tap through permission prompts. For the most part I think /e/ does a good job in this arena, keeping things locked down, but usually not too much.
It took me a while to find software updates for the base operating system. These updates can be found in the Settings panel, under the "About phone" screen. Specifically, the item we need to look at is called "LineageOS Updates". When I began using the phone there were two updates available. I installed the latest, which rebooted my phone, installed the update cleanly and caused the older update to be hidden. The update, which was 719MB in size, went smoothly.
However, when I installed the update, I discovered vibration feedback (when typing) was turned on. I had disabled vibration feedback when I first started using the phone. The setting was still off under the vibrations and notifications settings so I had to spend a while hunting down where else I had to disable the physical feedback. I eventually found it tucked away under Settings->System->Languages & Input-> Keyboard & Inputs->Virtual Keyboard. It was a long dig down, but it allowed me to keep my phone from vibrating whenever I was typing.
/e/ -- The phone's many identities
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Earlier I mentioned updates to the /e/ operating system can be found under a section of the Settings panel under the heading of LineageOS Updates. This highlights an interesting issue of identification I kept seeing. On the surface everything is branded as "e" or "/e/". But scratch the surface and we see the phone refer to itself as being "Powered by Android", or as running LineageOS, or running Linux. For example, the "About phone" screen identifies the phone as Android 8.1.0 and LineageOS 0.7, running Linux 4.9.133 with SELinux enabled. The on-line cloud storage, on the surface, refers to itself as "e" and copyrighted by the "e Foundation", but digging into some screens causes the portal to refer to itself as Nextcloud.
For people who never peek beneath the surface, these quirks of identity probably don't matter. However, it is one of those little things that can confuse people when they are poking around or trying to get support. Hopefully the rebranding will become more complete over time.
On a separate topic, I could not get my desktop computer, running GNU/Linux, to talk over USB with the /e/ phone. Even after confirming the phone's MTP protocol was enabled, and after trying multiple file managers on the desktop (including Dolphin and Thunar) I was unable to directly access pictures or files on the phone from my desktop.
Luckily, the /e/ phone's software centre includes the KDE Connect service. This allows the phone to share files, notifications, and some other features with a desktop computer. KDE Connect is probably the one important tool I miss when I'm not running Android on my phone, and it was nice to see this service is available.
One of the tricky aspects of evaluating /e/, especially at this early stage, was trying to decide on what my perspective should be going into this review. Should I view /e/ from the point of view of a UBports user looking at alternatives? A former Android user interested in an un-Googled alternative? A relative novice to technology looking at phone options and comparing /e/ against iOS and Android? A privacy enthusiastic looking for a more locked down device? A person can try to wear a lot of different hats when looking at a new piece of technology and I was not sure the best angle to use when approaching /e/.
For the most part I tried to view /e/ through two lenses: 1. Would it function as a good alternative for me personally when compared to UBports? 2. Could I hand this phone over to non-technology enthusiasts (like a parent or friend) and have them use it instead of iOS or Android?
Looking at /e/ as an alternative to UBports, I see some immediate benefits to /e/. It has a much larger and more mainstream application ecosystem. The /e/ platform runs more programs other people are likely to be using and this makes it easier to coordinate with other people. The /e/ phone has more settings and fine-tuning options. This makes for a much more cluttered Settings panel, but it also offers more control. Perhaps the best feature though is the on-line storage and sync options. UBports doesn't really have a competitor to Google services, like calendar and contact synchronization, and it is a feature I miss. The Nextcloud web interface is quite good and I see it as not only better than anything in the UBports ecosystem, I'd argue that it beats Google's services in terms of friendliness and accessibility. The only problem is getting people you coordinate with on-line to use Nextcloud instead of Google Calendar or Google Docs.
Personally, I think UBports does have a few benefits. It offers a full GNU/Linux platform, compared to Android's (or /e/'s) somewhat bare bones underpinnings. UBports also streamlines its settings more and has a much more flexible and powerful status bar compared to /e/.
On the whole, I feel UBports provides the better base operating system while /e/ is providing a better and more powerful ecosystem around the phone. The apps and services /e/ offers are far and away richer than anything UBports supplies, but I like the UBports interface and low-level features better.
As to whether I could hand this phone over to a non-technical user, I experimented by doing just that. I met with a current iOS/iPhone user and asked her to play around with my new phone. She had no trouble setting up tasks, appointments, browsing the web, and installing and accessing Spotify. While the interface was slightly unfamiliar, as it was from the Android family rather than the Apple family of operating systems, she had no trouble getting used to the experience. In fact, since she was accustomed to tapping buttons instead of swiping (which is the common interaction on UBports) she adjusted faster to the new phone than I did.
The /e/ phone does not offer all the apps Android does, and it might not be entirely polished yet in the re-branding experience. However, it does provide a very solid, mostly Android compatible experience without the Google bits. The /e/ team offers a wider range of hardware support than most other iOS and Android competitors, it offers most of the popular Android apps people will probably want to use (I only discovered a few missing items I wanted), and the on-line cloud services are better than those of any other phone I've used (including Ubuntu One and Google).
I'd certainly recommend /e/ for more technical users who can work around minor rough edges and who won't get confused by the unusual branding and semi-frequent permission prompts. I'm not sure if I'd hand one of these phones over to an Android power-user who uses a lot of niche apps, but this phone would certainly do well in the hands of, for instance, my parents or other users who tend to interact with their phones for texting, phone calls, and the calendar without using many exotic applications.
This phone feels like a good first version from the /e/ team and, as the web portal firms up and more Android apps are imported into the project's software centre, I feel I will be comfortable recommending this platform to just about anyone who doesn't specifically need (or want) Google services.
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1. Sometimes the phone identified itself as a Galaxy S8, though usually as an S9, depending on the screen or service I was using. Memory was also reported differently in various areas. The command line reports 3.5GB of RAM, the "About phone" screen lists 3.3GB, and the on-line specifications claim the phone offers 4GB of RAM. There is no practical difference in either case, but I find the little variations interesting.
As I still have the /e/ phone and am continuing to play with it, I will be happy to answer questions about the device's software and services. Should you have a question about the /e/ phone, please leave a comment below or e-mail me. I will publish my answers in a future issue of DistroWatch Weekly.
|Released Last Week
The SparkyLinux team has published a new snapshot of the distribution's rolling release platform. The new media is based on Debian's Testing branch and features several key package updates. "Sparky 2020.02 'Po Tolo' of the (semi-)rolling line is out. It is based on the testing branch of Debian 'Bullseye'. Changes: system upgraded from Debian Testing 'Bullseye' repos as of February 9, 2020. Calamares installer 3.2.18. Linux kernel 5.4.13 as default (5.5.2 & 5.6-rc1 in Sparky unstable repos). Firefox 72.0.2. Thunderbird 68.4.2. LibreOffice 6.4.0. VLC 3.0.8. Exaile 4.0.2. Added the new Sparky public key." The release announcement warns that the distribution's Calamares installer may fail in some situations: " Calamares installer fails if you install Sparky in full auto mode with full disk encryption and a swap partiton; it works fine without a swap partition."
SparkyLinux 2020.02 -- Running the MATE desktop
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A new version of Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) has been released. This Debian-based distribution strives to help users communicate securely and browse the web anonymously. The project's latest release, Tails 4.3, includes several key package upgrades along with fixes to the upgrade process interface. "Tails 4.3 is out. This release fixes many security vulnerabilities. You should upgrade as soon as possible. New features: we included the trezor package, which provides a command line tool to use a Trezor hardware wallet for cryptocurrencies. Changes and updates: update Tor Browser to 9.0.5; update Thunderbird to 68.4.1; update Linux kernel to 5.4.13 - this should improve the support for newer hardware (graphics, Wi-Fi); update Tor to 0.4.2.6; update VirtualBox Guest Additions to 6.1.2. Fixed problems: fix the progress bar and prevent closing the window while an upgrade is being applied. Known issues: None specific to this release. Automatic upgrades are available from 4.2 and 4.2.2 to 4.3. Tails 4.4 is scheduled for March 10." Additional details can be found in the distribution's release announcement.
The Ubuntu team has published updated media for the distribution's 18.04 LTS series. Version 18.04.4 of the distribution, along with its Community Editions, provide optional updated hardware support and security updates for supported packages. "The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support. Like previous LTS series, 18.04.4 includes hardware enablement stacks for use on newer hardware. This support is offered on all architectures and is installed by default when using one of the desktop images. Ubuntu Server defaults to installing the GA kernel; however you may select the HWE kernel from the installer bootloader.Kubuntu 18.04.4 LTS, Ubuntu Budgie 18.04.4 LTS, Ubuntu MATE 18.04.4 LTS, Lubuntu 18.04.4 LTS, Ubuntu Kylin 18.04.4 LTS, and Xubuntu 18.04.4 LTS are also now available." Further information can be found in the release announcement and in the release notes.
Project Trident 20.02
Project Trident has completed its initial move from being based on TrueOS to adopting the Void Linux distribution as its foundation. The Project Trident team have published their first stable version, 20.02: "Project Trident is pleased to announce the first official release image based on Void Linux, available on the Project Trident download page. Please note the Project Trident installer supports four different installation levels: Void: Only the base-system from Void Linux and ZFS-related bootloader packages are installed. Server: A CLI-based system with additional services and utilities installed from Project Trident (firewall, cron, autofs, wireguard, additional shells) Lite Desktop: Everything needed for a graphical desktop install using Lumina. No extra fluff. Full Desktop: The Lite install with quite a few additional end-user utilities (office suite, Telegram, multimedia apps). Note: These installation levels provide pre-defined lists of packages to install for user convenience. The installed system can be easily be changed afterwards using the built-in package system." Further details can be found in the project's release announcement.
The developers of NetBSD, a highly portable operating system that runs across over two dozen CPU architectures, have published a new release. The new version, NetBSD 9.0, improves support for 64-bit ARM processors, introduces kernel ASLR, and improves ZFS support. "Sixth months after the start of the release engineering process, NetBSD 9.0 is now available. Since the start of the release process a lot of improvements went into the branch - over 700 pullups were processed! This includes usbnet (a common framework for USB Ethernet drivers), aarch64 stability enhancements and lots of new hardware support, installer/sysinst fixes and changes to the NVMM (hardware virtualization) interface. We hope this will lead to the best NetBSD release ever (only to be topped by NetBSD 10 - hopefully later this year). Here are a few highlights of the new release: Support for Arm AArch64 (64-bit Armv8-A) machines, including "Arm ServerReady" compliant machines (SBBR+SBSA). Enhanced hardware support for Armv7-A. Updated GPU drivers (e.g. support for Intel Kabylake). Enhanced virtualization support." Further details can be found in the project's release announcement.
MX Linux 19.1
MX Linux, an increasingly popular desktop Linux distribution based on Debian and antiX, has been updated to version 19.1. Besides standard bug fixes and package updates, this version features a special build designed for current hardware: "MX Linux 19.1 now available. MX Linux 19.1 is a refresh of our MX 19 release, consisting of bug fixes and application updates since our original release of MX 19. If you are already running MX 19, there is no need to reinstall. Packages are all available thru the regular update channel. Due to the increasing presence of users with newer hardware (particularly newer AMD or Intel hardware), with this release, in addition to the standard 32-bit and 64-bit ISO images with 4.19 LTS kernels, we have produced a third ISO image that we call 'Advanced Hardware Support' or AHS (pronounced Oz) for short. AHS is 64-bit and ships with a Debian 5.4 kernel, MESA 19.2 as well as newer X.Org drivers and various recompiled applications that will use the newer graphics stack." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details.
MX Linux 19.1 -- Running the Xfce desktop
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not 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 in our Torrent Archive. We also maintain a Torrents RSS feed for people who wish to have open source torrents delivered to them. To share your own open source torrents of Linux and BSD projects, please visit our Upload Torrents page.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 1,829
- Total data uploaded: 30.3TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
Are you planning to get an /e/ phone?
This week we talked about the /e/ phone and its related services, including on-line storage and account synchronization options. The /e/ phone supplies users with an experience very similar to Android, but with the Google pieces swapped out for open source components. We would like to hear what you think of the /e/ phone and whether you plan to get one.
You can see the results of our previous poll on tools used to clone hard drives in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Are you planning to get an /e/ phone?
|I do plan to purchase an /e/ phone: ||102 (8%)|
| I plan to install the /e/ OS on an existing phone: ||195 (15%)|
| I do not plan to use /e/ OS: ||579 (45%)|
| I have not decided yet: ||399 (31%)|
|Website News (by Jesse Smith)
New projects added to database
Anarchy Linux provides a text-based installer to help set up and customize an Arch Linux based operating system. The installer provides quick access to multiple desktop environments and custom configurations.
Anarchy Linux -- Running the Xfce desktop
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Distributions added to waiting list
- SpinelOS. SpinelOS is an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution featuring the Xfce desktop environment.
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 24 February 2020. 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 859 (2020-03-30): Project Trident 20.02, donating computing cycles, migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, UBports status update, Ubuntu's testing week|
|• Issue 858 (2020-03-23): Anarchy Linux 1.0.10, performance impact from installing dependencies, IPFire signing kernel modules, Qubes plans new GUI domain|
|• Issue 857 (2020-03-16): Manjaro Linux 19.0, UBports on a Raspberry Pi, Debian testing packages builds with Clang, Ubuntu to get automated ZFS snapshots|
|• Issue 856 (2020-03-09): OpenMandriva 4.1, sharing a home directory between distros, FreeNAS uniting with TrueNAS, Kali updates install media|
|• Issue 855 (2020-03-02): Solus 4.1, finding the right software, Arch Linux picks new leader, openSUSE nears new stable release, Ubuntu swapping Snaps for Deb packages|
|• Issue 854 (2020-02-24): Void 20191109, answering questions about the /e/ phone, Manjaro launches web-based software portal, Fedora on a PinePhone|
|• Issue 853 (2020-02-17): Calculate Linux 20, the /e/ phone in 2020, IPFire improves DNS features, Slackware introduces PAM, SparkyLinux introduces MystiQ|
|• Issue 852 (2020-02-10): EasyOS 2.2, cloning one disk to another, overview of new elementary OS features, Container Linux nears its end of life, Unity8 on Debian|
|• Issue 851 (2020-02-03): KaOS 2020.01, dealing with low-memory performance, Linux Mint plans for LMDE4, WireGuard merged into Linux kernel|
|• Issue 850 (2020-01-27): FuryBSD 12.0, Fedora's CoreOS, Kubuntu's official laptop, Ubuntu dropping Amazon launcher, live distro performance|
|• Issue 849 (2020-01-20): Zorin OS 15.1, elementary OS team plans future features, PhinePhone now shipping, Peppermint team says good-bye to Mark Greaves|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Free Tech Guides
NEW! Tar Command Cheat Sheet
NEW! This FREE cheatsheat will teach you how to create, extract and compress an archive, the difference between .tar, tar.gz, and .tgz files, how to use gzip and gunzip, bonus command line tips to speed up working with tar.
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 |
NeoShine Linux was a Red Hat-based Linux distribution developed by Chinasoft Network Technology Company in Beijing, China.
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.