| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 895, 7 December 2020
Welcome to this year's 49th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
The way we interact with computers is one of the most important aspects of an operating system's design. This is why there are so many different shells, desktop environments, themes, and interface extensions: everyone wants to be able to set up their computer so it interacts with them in a way which feels natural. It is a very personal experience and one which is important to get right since people often interact with their computers for multiple hours each day. This week we explore several projects which strive to make our computing experiences feel more natural. In our Questions and Answers column we discuss digital assistants and how to get involved in improving them. Do you use a digital assistant, either on your desktop computer or phone? Let us know about it in our Opinion Poll. First though we talk about Pop!_OS, an Ubuntu-based distribution with a streamlined desktop and focus on better performance. We also talk about FuguIta, a live desktop system running on top of OpenBSD that makes trying out OpenBSD more accessible. This week's Feature Story has the details on both of these projects. Plus we talk about elementary OS introducing multi-touch gestures to make navigating the desktop feel more natural. The elementary OS team is also testing their distribution on the Raspberry Pi computer and we talk about that below. Our News section also reports on Fedora splitting Xwayland into its own package and FreeBSD introducing support for WireGuard. Plus we report on RancherOS being bought by SUSE. We then talk about last week's distribution releases and list the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
- Review: Pop!_OS 20.10 and FuguIta 6.8
- News: Fedora considers separate Xwayland package, FreeBSD introduces WireGuard support, RancherOS purchased by SUSE, elementary OS to get multi-touch gestures and Raspberry Pi build, Debian publishes updated Buster media
- Questions and answers: Using a Raspberry Pi to get started with a virtual assistant
- Released last week: GhostBSD 20.11.28, BlackArch 2020.12.01, Manjaro 20.2
- Torrent corner: Arch Linux, AV Linux, BlackArch, Debian, EasyOS, GhostBSD, Manjaro, Raspberry Pi OS, RebornOS, SparkyLinux, T2, Univention
- Opinion poll: Do you use a digital assistant?
- DistroWatch site news: Comparing a package version across all active distributions
- New distributions: oasis, Diamond Linux-TT, Fenix OS
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (24MB) and MP3 (17MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
During the third week of October, immediately following the release of Ubuntu 20.10, I found myself downloading and testing, not only Canonical's flagship distribution, but also the various community editions of Ubuntu. One thing which kept drawing my attention, as I tested software and took screenshots, was that most of the community editions ran faster, smoother, and required less memory than Ubuntu's Desktop edition. Ubuntu MATE and Lubuntu in particular offered great performance, nice themes, and some friendly tools. At the time I was tempted to do a side-by-side comparison with Ubuntu 20.10 and one of its snappier community editions, but I was pressed for time and I wasn't sure any one-on-one comparison would be entirely fair since Ubuntu uses the comparatively heavy GNOME Shell desktop while most community editions use lighter desktops.
Later on though I thinking about Ubuntu again and realized there was an opportunity to do a fair comparison with one of its close relatives, Pop!_OS. The Pop!_OS distribution (or "Pop" as I will refer to it in this review) is based on Ubuntu, uses most of the same software, and ships with the same GNOME 3.38 desktop environment. The differences are almost entirely in the configurations of the two distributions - which extensions are enabled, the front-end applications for managing software, themes, and installers. The underlying nuts and bolts are the same and I believed this would make for a fair and straight forward comparison.
Pop!_OS does not list many changes on its website for version 20.10. It includes the ability to stack windows and to mark exceptions to make some windows free-floating. This provides users with a sort of hybrid tiling and free-floating window manager. The release announcement also mentions there is no need to reboot into NVIDIA graphics mode when in Hybrid Graphics mode if we wish to use an external monitor. Otherwise it does not look a though much has changed since we reviewed the distribution six months ago. In an attempt to keep this overview of Pop brief I will be focusing mostly on the differences between Ubuntu 20.10 and Pop!_OS 20.10 with the assumption most components and options will be the same.
Pop is unusual in that it ships with two 64-bit (x86_64) builds. One is for computers with Intel & AMD video drivers while a second download is supplied for people running NVIDIA video cards. The downloads are about 2.2GB in size.
Pop appears to skip the self-verification check Ubuntu and its community editions perform when booting from the live media. Once Pop boots it presents us with the GNOME desktop with Pop!_OS branded wallpaper. It then immediately launches Pop's custom system installer. The installer asks us to select our language from a list, our country, and our keyboard layout.
Pop!_OS 20.10 -- Adjusting the background using the GNOME Settings panel
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At this point we can either close the installer to use the live desktop or continue with disk partitioning. Guided partitioning, which sets up an ext4 partition, and friendly manual partitioning options are available. We also have the option of encrypting the hard drive and protecting the encryption with a password. The installer then copies its files to the hard drive and offers to restart the computer.
There are still some remaining configuration options to go through. The first time my fresh copy of Pop booted it brought up a first-run wizard. This wizard asks if we would like to add alternative keyboard layouts, enable location services, and we are asked to confirm our time zone by selecting it on a map of the world. The next page offers to link our local account to on-line services. Pop supports about twice as many on-line accounts as Ubuntu with options including Google, Nextcloud, Facebook, Microsoft, Flickr, Foursquare, Microsoft Exchange, IMAP e-mail, and Kerberos. Finally we are asked to make up a username and password for ourselves.
While Pop and Ubuntu both use GNOME 3.38 as the default desktop the theme and layouts are a bit different. Where Ubuntu features a lot of purple and orange, Pop sticks to mostly blue and black for its theme. The other noticeable difference is Ubuntu places a dock down the left side of the screen that provides quick-launch buttons and acts as a task switcher. Pop does not display this dock on the desktop directly. However, if we open the Activities screen then Pop's dock is displayed to the left. This essentially means Pop's desktop looks cleaner, though accessing the dock or application menu on Pop takes one extra step.
Pop!_OS 20.10 -- The Activities screen and application menu
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Another difference I noticed early on is that Ubuntu offers both Wayland and X.Org session options for GNOME with X.Org being the default. Pop simply supplies the X.Org session and there is no Wayland session option.
When new software updates are available Pop displays a notification at the top of the screen. Clicking this notification opens the Pop!_Shop software centre which can handle package upgrades. In comparison, Ubuntu automatically opens a minimal update manager which offers to download new packages.
Pop!_OS 20.10 -- Checking recent notifications
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On the subject of managing software packages, the Pop!_Shop software centre handles all elements of package management. The application has two tabs. The first, called the Home tab, displays a list of software categories. Unlike Ubuntu's software centre, Pop's categories mostly match common application menu categories (such as Internet and Office), making it easier to find items.
When we click on an application's entry in the Pop!_Shop we are shown a description and screenshots of the software. The software centre clearly indicates the source repository for the application, letting us know whether the package we are viewing is a portable Flatpak or classic Deb package. Ubuntu's software manager does this too, but the information is hidden further down in the description rather than in bold lettering at the top of the page.
Pop!_OS 20.10 -- The Pop!_Shop software centre
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Pop!_Shop seamlessly handles Flatpak and Deb packages and automatically provides access to the Flathub repository for portable packages. Snap support is not included, but can be installed through Ubuntu's repositories. Sometimes the software centre was a bit slow to respond while it was downloading new software, but always finished its tasks successfully.
When I started out testing Pop in a VirtualBox environment the distribution performed well. The GNOME desktop automatically resized with the VirtualBox window and the interface was responsive. In fact, it was much more responsive than Ubuntu had been. When I switched over to running Pop on physical hardware I found the distribution lacked the annoying, network-related pop-ups I experienced with Ubuntu.
The GNOME desktop was more responsive on physical hardware too. All of my hardware was detected and the system ran smoothly. Pop uses a little more disk space for a fresh install than Ubuntu, 5.8GB compared to Ubuntu's 4GB. However, Pop used less memory, about 600MB next to Ubuntu's 780MB, when both distributions were running on the ext4 filesystem.
Speaking of filesystems, as far as I can tell there is no way to set up Pop on a ZFS volume, a feature I appreciated with Ubuntu.
Pop ships with mostly the same applications as Ubuntu. The Firefox web browser, LibreOffice, a calendar, contacts manager, and the GNOME Files applications are installed. There is a weather application, image viewer, document viewer, and the GNOME Settings panel are all included.
As Ubuntu does, Pop ships with the Videos (formerly Totem) video player. However, Pop does not include video codecs. When I tried to play videos a window would open and offer to download the necessary codec packages. However, once I had accepted this action and supplied my password, nothing happened. The codecs were not installed and re-opening Totem to play a video would just bring up the prompt to install codecs again. I got around this limitation by simply installing another video player, VLC in this case. On a related note, I found it odd the Totem player is placed under the Utilities group in the application menu, a spot mostly reserved for small utilities and system administration tools.
Unlike Ubuntu, Pop ships with the GNU Compiler Collection (version 10) installed. Like its close relative, Pop includes the GNOME Help application and uses systemd for init and service management. Both distributions ship with version 5.8 of the Linux kernel.
A few additional differences stood out during my trial with Pop. The LibreOffice window resize bug I mentioned encountering on Ubuntu does not occur on Pop. I also found Pop places more focus on using keyboard shortcuts to manipulate application windows. In fact, it is relatively easy to use Pop without a mouse a lot of the time. In comparison I found Ubuntu tended to rely more on the mouse for common window management.
One final piece I noticed which stood out was Pop does not offer to connect us with Active Directory domains at install-time.
The big difference though during my trial was that Pop!_OS does everything noticeably faster than Ubuntu, even when run on the same hardware with the same filesystem. The two are not even close in performance when opening programs, moving windows around the desktop, opening menus, dragging icons around. Pop consistently ran circles around Ubuntu despite both distributions running the GNOME 3.38 desktop.
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Another project which interests me and I wanted to take a quick look at this week was FuguIta. FuguIta is a live operating system designed to be run from a DVD or USB thumb drive in order to test or rescue systems. The operating system ships with an optional graphical user interface. The FuguIta project is unusual in that it uses OpenBSD as its base. OpenBSD is commonly used in areas where lightweight computing and security are the primary focus and it is not often we see live utilities or platforms with graphical interfaces based on this hardened operating system.
FuguIta is available in 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x86_64) builds. The project provides separate downloads for optical media and USB thumb drives. I downloaded the 64-bit build for both targets. The images are compressed and about 310MB in size when initially downloaded. Once the builds are unpacked they expand to around 960MB.
Booting from the FuguIta media brings up a text console. The system lists available storage devices attached to the computer and asks us to confirm which one holds the FuguIta operating system. We are then asked some configuration questions such as what size we want to make the temporary filesystem and what is our keyboard's layout. The operating system can boot in a number of modes, including normal, read-only /usr, and running entirely from RAM. We can pick which one we want to use from a list.
We are then asked to make up a root password for the system and it must be a complex password or FuguIta will not boot. We are also asked to make up a hostname, select IPv4 or IPv6 networking (or a hybrid of both), and choose which networking device to use. We then go through manual or dynamic networking choices and are asked if we want to run FuguIta from a text console or graphical environment. With these steps completed we are presented with a login screen (text or graphical, based on our last choice).
I mostly used FuguIta in a graphical environment. Which meant that once I signed in through the login screen I was presented with the minimal fvwm interface. This lightweight window manager presents us with a virtual terminal, a widget to switch workspaces, and that is about it. We can click on the desktop to launch a small number of applications or exit the session.
The operating system, when running fvwm, uses about 90MB of active RAM and 580MB total RAM. Not a lot is running on the system, about 40 processes hum away in the background. Two of these are an OpenSSH remote login service and a mail server. The former blocks root logins, preventing people from accessing the system unless we create new user accounts for them.
By default there are not many tools installed on the FuguIta media. Should we wish to add software to the live session we can run the pkg_add command line package manager. It is already configured to connect to an OpenBSD package mirror and will pull in new software and required dependencies for us.
FuguIta 6.8 -- Installing new packages
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I don't have a lot to say about FuguIta. It is exactly what it advertises itself to be: live media using OpenBSD as a base. It looks and feels almost exactly like a fresh install of OpenBSD with the graphical packages enabled. This provides a very minimal, though also very light, live environment. It doesn't do much for us, apart from test OpenBSD's hardware compatibility, however additional software can be added to the live environment. I imagine this would be a good tool for rescuing, cloning, or investigating existing OpenBSD systems.
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Visitor supplied rating
Pop!_OS has a visitor supplied average rating of: 7.9/10 from 214 review(s).
Have you used Pop!_OS? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Fedora considers separate Xwayland package, FreeBSD introduces WireGuard support, RancherOS purchased by SUSE, elementary OS to get multi-touch gestures and Raspberry Pi build
Ben Cotton has shared a proposal for a change to the upcoming release of Fedora 34. The change, if it goes ahead, would decouple the Xwayland software from the rest of the X.Org software, allowing Xwayland to be upgraded independently from the rest of the display server. This will allow Fedora developers to import new features available in Xwayland without waiting for new X.Org releases. "Xwayland from upstream current code has interesting features missing from the stable branch, some are backported manually in the current Fedora package, but some others aren't. There are also existing COPRs trying to backport those features, but that can introduce bugs. Using the code from upstream would avoid the appeal or even the need for such backports." An overview of this proposed change and its benefits can be found in Cotton's mailing list post.
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A small, yet significant, change has been introduced into the FreeBSD source code. The new code commit introduces WireGuard into the operating system. Much of the work follows the WireGuard implementation of OpenBSD. "Import kernel WireGuard support. Data path largely shared with the OpenBSD implementation by Matt Dunwoodie." The code and commit message have been posted to the FreeBSD code repository.
* * * * *
The RancherOS community has been notified that Rancher has been acquired by SUSE. Though details on the deal and what this will mean for RancherOS users were vague ("Members of the new community will unleash the resilience, quality, agility and velocity that cloud native promises.") It seems there will be a focus on providing and managing Kubernetes-based solutions. "The new combined SUSE and Rancher Community will bring together developers, operators and DevOps teams to learn how to deploy and manage Kubernetes everywhere, apply cloud native principles and methodologies, and experiment with new ideas and technology."
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The elementary OS team has announced that version 6 of their operating system will include support for multi-touch gestures. "One of the most hotly requested features for years has been to have multi-touch gestures in elementary OS, and with 6.0 I'm excited to say that we will deliver. Like the dark style preference, delivering a great multi-touch experience is a little more complicated than it seems on the surface. There have been some 3rd party tools to detect touchpad gestures and then trigger actions after-the-fact, but it wasn't until recently that we've had the technical ability to provide smooth, responsive animations that track 1:1 with your finger movement across a touchpad or touch screen." The new gestures will allow users to use multiple-finger gestures to navigate the desktop and perform such actions as switching workspaces and maximize windows. Details and examples of how these gestures will work are covered in the project's blog post.
The elementary OS distribution is being tested on Raspberry Pi single board computers. The desktop operating system runs on the latest Raspberry Pi computers and is currently available through the distribution's Early Access program. "We recommend Raspberry Pi 4 or Raspberry Pi 400 with 4GB RAM at a minimum - but the more, the better. (We don't even recommend less than 8GB for computers with much faster CPUs, graphics, and storage.) Older models of Raspberry Pi (like the original, Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 2 series, and Raspberry Pi 3 series) are not supported; elementary OS requires the faster processor, additional RAM, and 64-bit architecture of the Raspberry Pi 4 series." Further details can be found on the project's blog.
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The Debian project has published new install media for Debian 10 "Buster". The new media does not represent a new version of the distribution, but does provide updated packages to make post-install updates easier to manage. "The Debian project is pleased to announce the seventh update of its stable distribution Debian 10 (codename buster). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available. Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 10 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old buster media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror." The new media carries the version number 10.7.
* * * * *
These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Using a Raspberry Pi to get started with a virtual assistant
Sharing-Pi-with-my-assistant asks: I'm interested in getting started with AI, more specifically, digital assistants for Linux. I just purchased a Raspberry Pi 4B and need some help getting started in this field. Can you point me in the right direction?
DistroWatch answers: To get started with running software on the Raspberry Pi in general my suggestion is to visit a Raspberry Pi forum, like the official users forum or this Reddit group.
Both sites are full of people who can get you started with Pi projects and there are all sorts of links and conversations in both locations which can help you find information on running software on (and programming on) the Pi.
To get into developing a virtual assistant on any platform, including the Raspberry Pi, I'd suggest heading over to the Mycroft AI website. Mycroft is a digital assistant with a focus on running on Raspberry Pi computers. There are also forums and Reddit groups dedicated to talking about both using and improving Mycroft.
* * * * *
Wanting-more-Pi asks: Do you do any cool projects with a Raspberry Pi? Any tips for someone looking for a project?
DistroWatch answers: I do own a Raspberry Pi (version 2). I have experimented a little with it, but I mostly use it for just two things: running a backup server and testing new Pi-focused operating systems. The Pi makes for a great backup system or lightweight NAS if you attach an external hard drive to it. I recommend getting a drive with its own power source as the early Pi computers had trouble powering external devices.
As for suggestions for someone starting a project, apart from the digital assistant idea talked about above, my suggestion is to identify a problem you have and work toward fixing it. Necessity is the mother of invention. There must be something you need done - a backup server, a way to stream music through the house, a script that lets you know when your computer goes off-line, a minimal platform to test websites, a cool alarm clock that quotes Spock every morning, a service that monitors news sites for any reference to your home town? Start with anything you might find useful and start working on it.
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Additional answers can be found in our Questions and Answers archive.
|Released Last Week
Eric Turgeon has announced the release of GhostBSD, the latest stable build of the project's desktop operating system based on the development branch of FreeBSD and featuring the MATE desktop: "I am happy to announce the availability of GhostBSD 20.11.28. This release comes with a new live system that leverages ZFS, compression and replication first introduced in FuryBSD by Joe Maloney. The 20.11.28 release contains numerous improvements, including OS fixes for Linuxulator to improve Linux Steam performance, an updated kernel and GhostBSD userland updates. Userland updates include a MATE desktop upgrade to version 1.24.1, Software Station performance improvements and numerous application updates. Issue and feature completed: asks for Restart no matter what the update; update manager hangs when running twice; build.sh can't find ghostbsd-common-settings; xdg-user-dirs-update push in ISO bad locale...." Read the rest of the release announcement for further information and upgrade instructions.
BlackArch Linux is an Arch Linux-based distribution designed for penetration testers and security researchers. The project has published a new snapshot, version 2020.12.01, which includes many new tools and updated packages. The project's blog post states: "Today we released the new BlackArch Linux ISOs and OVA image. Many improvements and QA went through all packages and tools BlackArch Linux offers! For details see the ChangeLog below. Here's the ChangeLog: added more than 100 new tools; renamed 'Live ISO' to 'Full ISO'; updated blackarch-installer to v1.2.16; included Linux kernel 5.9.11; adapted ISO creation to the new archiso version (work in progress);removed unnecessary files from the ISO env; QAed and fixed a lot of packages (runtime exec, missing dependencies, etc.); updated all vim plugins and improved vim config options; updated all BlackArch tools and packages including config files; updated all system packages; updated all window manager menus (Awesome, Fluxbox, Openbox)."
Univention Corporate Server 4.4-7
Univention Corporate Server is an enterprise-class distribution based on Debian. It features an integrated management system for central administration of servers. The distribution's latest release is Univention Corporate Server 4.4-7 which improves single sign-on security and introduces a customizable cookie banner for administrators working within the European Union. "The new UCS version 4.4-7 also supports this feature when a user is logged in via SAML using single sign-on (SSO). While we were at it, we added some extra security - after all, SSO is a central service that allows access to all authorized programs and services. Users with an expired password who enter an incorrect password in the password change dialog used to receive a corresponding message. This allowed unauthorized persons to find out whether a password for a particular account had expired. With UCS 4.4-7, this is no longer possible. In addition, certain files created by the listener on the server now receive correct file permissions. This way they're available for the SAML service, but not for other users. Cookie Banner for the UCS Portal - cookies may only be stored on users' computers if they have explicitly agreed to it." Further details can be found in the release announcement.
Univention Corporate Server 4.4-7 -- The Univention admin panel
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NethServer is a CentOS-based Linux distribution for servers. The project's latest release is NethServer 7.9 which replaces its original user interface with Cockpit, introduces a new panel to sync e-mail over IMAP, and brings the distribution up to date with its CentOS base. "Release highlights Many new features were added since the last NethServer ISO was released, they are all available within NethServer 7.9 based. Let's see the most important improvements. NethGUI is dead. Welcome Cockpit: The old Server Manager (namely NethGUI) is not available by default on new installations. To configure the system access the new Server Manager on port 9090 . Old Server Manager can be still installed from Software Center. Web applications are still on port 980: CGP (Collectd Graph Panel), EveBox, Rspamd UI, Lightsquid and Ntopng are still available on HTTPS port 980, even if the old Server Manager has not been installed. Security improvements: On new installations, SSH weak ciphers are now disabled by default. Default TLS policy is 2020-05-10 . TLS 1.1, TLS 1.0, SSL v3, and SSL v2 are disabled." Additional information is available in the project's release announcement and in the release notes.
Manjaro Linux 20.2
Philip Müller has announced the release of Manjaro Linux 20.2, the latest update of the project's rolling-release distribution with a choice of Xfce, KDE Plasma and GNOME desktops: "We are happy to announce our latest release of Manjaro we call 'Nibia'. The GNOME edition is the epicenter of new exciting features. It received a major overhaul, possibly the biggest update thus far. GNOME 3.38 provides performance enhancements, significantly improved application grid, parental controls, excellent welcome tour as well as many other features. The new OEM style installation makes the installation process extremely simple, and Gnome-Initial-Setup lets you easily install Manjaro for other people. Manjaro's Application-Utility got also many improvements, letting easily choose your favorite browsers, office suites and password managers. We also included two excellent forms of automatic window tiling." Here is the full release announcement as published on the project's user forum.
Manjaro Linux 20.2 -- Running the Xfce desktop
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Raspberry Pi OS 2020-12-02
Simon Long has announced the availability of a new version of Raspberry Pi OS, a Debian-based distribution for Raspberry Pi computers. The latest version includes an updated Chromium web browser, a graphical front-end for configuring printers, and the PulseAudio audio control software. "We've updated the Chromium browser to version 84. This has taken us a bit longer than we would have liked, but it's always quite a lot of work to get our video hardware acceleration integrated with new releases of the browser. That's done now, so you should see good-quality video playback on sites like YouTube. We've also, given events this year, done a lot of testing and tweaking on video conferencing clients such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, and they should all now work smoothly on your Raspberry Pi's Chromium." The release announcement has additional information.
T2 SDE 20.10
René Rebe has announced the release of T2 SDE 20.10, a new stable version of the project's distribution build kit (originally forked from ROCK Linux) designed for advanced Linux users who wish to build custom Linux distributions. This version arrives after ten years of development: "After a decade of development, we are proud to announce the availability of the new T2 Linux Source and Embedded Linux distribution build kit stable release, version 20.10. The 20.10 release has received updates across the board, while a major working target was adding new architecture support for arm64, and RISCV as well as further improving cross compilation - all official ISO images are now fully cross-built. Over 13,800 Subversion revisions indicate the magnitude of the release, with over 1,000 new packages, new features and various other improvements and fixes, including the latest Linux kernel, GCC, LLVM, Clang, Rust, X.Org, Wayland, Firefox, KDE, GNOME and everything in between." Here is the complete release announcement as published on the project's mailing list.
* * * * *
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: 2,254
- Total data uploaded: 35.1TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
Do you use a digital assistant?
Digital assistants became largely popular thanks to products such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. These days there are many more interfaces which will try to parse natural text or speech in order to perform tasks and look up information. There have been efforts to create open source digital assistants too, such as Mycroft. We would like to know if you use digital assistants and, if so, where? Let us know which digital assistants you use, if any, in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on whether free software covers all of your needs in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
|I have a digital phone assistant (OK Google/Siri): ||216 (12%)|
| I have a dedicated digital assistant (Alexa/Nest): ||70 (4%)|
| I have a PC digital assistant (Mycroft/Cortana): ||14 (1%)|
| I have a combination of the above: ||86 (5%)|
| I have none of the above: ||1357 (78%)|
Comparing a package version across all active distributions
One feature we have been asked to implement for a while now is the ability
to see the versions of a specific package across all tracked distributions. This would allow visitors to compare, at a glance, which distributions have a recent version of the Linux kernel, the Qt library, or the GNOME desktop.
Up to this point we have offered a number of approaches to finding out which distributions have a given version of a package. Our Search page provides a way to see all projects which contain a selected package. We also have a page that allows all the tracked packages from two different distributions to be compared side-by-side.
We have now added a third page which provides a listing of all active distributions with the version of a specified package next to each one. This allows people to browse through the database of projects and compare a single package across all distributions. We hope you find it useful.
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New distributions added to waiting list
- oasis. oasis is a statically linked Linux distribution with minimal tool set and no package manager. It uses the velox display server and BearSSL crypto library.
- Diamond Linux-TT. Diamond Linux-TT is a Debian-based desktop distribution featuring the KDE Plasma desktop. It is designed to provide a familiar interface for former Windows users.
- Fenix OS. Fenix OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution which runs on Raspberry Pi and x86_64 personal computers. It is designed to resemble proprietary operating systems such as Windows and macOS.
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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, 14 December 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
|Reader Comments • Jump to last comment
1 • DigAsst (by wally on 2020-12-07 01:10:30 GMT from United States) |
Not with a 10 foot pole
2 • Digital assistant - no (by MikeOh Shark on 2020-12-07 01:23:22 GMT from Netherlands)
Aside from the fact that most Linux users I know started with good search-fu skills, who needs a digital assistant looking for more data on you to Hoover up for marketing/advertising?
3 • No da (by cor on 2020-12-07 01:58:45 GMT from United States)
Eavesdropping device used for privacy invasion.
4 • Digital Assistant (by Jack O. on 2020-12-07 02:27:31 GMT from United States)
No. Next they will want you to put "security cams" in your bedroom. Right... security. Trust us.
5 • Digital Assistant Poll (by Jay Viets on 2020-12-07 02:39:24 GMT from United States)
Sorry, but I think is a poorly designed poll. The poll asks what digital assistant you use but the answers to select from ask what digital assistant you have. Myself, I have most of those digital assistants listed but I use none of them, they simply came with the hardware I purchased. (PC, phone, etc.)
Sorry...trying not to be nit picky.
6 • Digital assistants - as little as possible (by TheTKS on 2020-12-07 02:41:07 GMT from Canada)
I've found nothing a digital assistant could do for me that I would want to share with its big tech provider. More importantly, I don't want to share every single thing an assistant would do with big tech, if I used one. The tradeoff for the small convenience is not worth it to me.
I try as much as possible to hobble the digital assistants that come default with the OSs (mobile and desktop/laptop) I use. That happens on first startup and every time an update pesters me to enable one.
I say "hobble as much as possible" because, while I try, I'm not sure if it is possible to entirely disable them. Even if you could achieve that, they keep inviting themselves in. And I couldn't guarantee that I managed to tell them no, in every possible place they could be on.
7 • POP OS (by matt on 2020-12-07 03:16:05 GMT from United States)
I've tried to use pop in the past. I could just never get comfortable. The design, the layout seemed almost....childish? I don't have a better word for it and maybe it seems harsh but that's how it felt. On top of that every time I've tried to install it there was also some weird problem that I didn't see on other distros. Still going to be plain debian or suse for me from now.
It's also good to see the openbsd live cd reviewed. I read about it a while back. It's a great idea. I hope more people have a chance to try out the bsd's.
8 • Digital assistant (by Andy Prough on 2020-12-07 04:00:43 GMT from United States)
Someone gave me an Alexa Echo Dot one time as a door prize at some event. I tried it for a couple days, found that it was completely worthless, aside from spying on me. I can look up info on my laptop much faster and more accurately than trying to get anything worthwhile out of Alexa. And her music choices were really bad, and the speaker was poor. I unplugged it and threw it in my junk electronics box in the garage. If it has some hidden battery where it can still listen to me, then it can listen to me opening the garage door when I take my bike for a ride.
9 • digital assistant (by Adina Sayson on 2020-12-07 05:41:11 GMT from United States)
I actually could really use a digital assistant that works on Arch, due to disabilities affecting my hands' mobility, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get any of them working.
10 • Digital assistant (by Sam on 2020-12-07 06:54:20 GMT from Switzerland)
Do you have digital assistant and do you use digital assistant are not the same questions. In fact, who does not have one (Google, Apple)???; but who uses one???, that is the interesting question.
11 • Digital Assistant (by Ken Weill on 2020-12-07 07:19:23 GMT from Philippines)
I have Siri on my iPhone. Not sure if I have the OK Google on my Android phone.
But I don't use any of those features.
Having one but not using it is not on the options/selection.
12 • digital assistants (by Peter on 2020-12-07 08:19:57 GMT from United Kingdom)
A (niche) solution looking for a problem. Most users can get along fine without.
13 • POP OS (by Sanjay on 2020-12-07 08:35:48 GMT from India)
I also tried pop os on my Lapptop Fujitsu a555, but I was not comfortable with POP OS,
If I were to use Pop!_OS as a full-time DE I would install GNOME Tweak Tool ....
14 • digital assistant (by DaveC on 2020-12-07 09:50:42 GMT from United Kingdom)
I have an android phone and hence Google Assistant. I find it easier to use than typing for getting the answers to crossword clues when I'm stuck.
15 • Fugulta and personal spies (by Any on 2020-12-07 10:19:50 GMT from Spain)
Nice to have another BSD to try. Ultimately I am trying BSDs for things that do not need GUI and NetBSD seems the best for my needs and tastes :)
But I am open for other things.
Personal spies: I only use Internet on my Android phone when I need to find some information and through NoRootFirewall. Also I switch off my phone at night. The home router too. My Windows installations never connect to Internet. To use Internet I connect through a virtual machine (Linux or BSD).
I do not have anything to hide BUT neither am I interested in what the others do with their lives. So, just leave me alone, please!
16 • Digital assistant and Pop (by James on 2020-12-07 10:30:39 GMT from United States)
Digital assistant? I prefer digital spy.
I bought a brand new System 76 laptop. After about a week of frustration with Gnome 3 I wiped the laptop and installed Ubuntu Mate.
17 • Digital Assistants (by Tech in San Diego on 2020-12-07 10:36:08 GMT from United States)
I am amazed at what these little SoC's can do! Digital assistants are just one use case, as pointed out by Adina Sayson. The proprietary solutions have their niche, but what if you could program a Raspberry Pi to learn human speech and "assist" those who are otherwise challenged with a physical disability?
Mycroft is the world’s first open source and "private" voice assistant. It can run anywhere – on a desktop computer, inside an automobile, it even runs on a Raspberry Pi. It is open so it can be remixed, extended, improved. It can be used in anything from a science project to an enterprise software application.
Wanting-more-Pi asks: Do you do any cool projects with a Raspberry Pi? If so what projects? The use case for a Raspberry Pi is endless as Jessie points out with his 2 projects.
18 • Pop!_OS (by zcatav on 2020-12-07 11:15:39 GMT from Turkey)
I bought a new System76 Lemu7 Laptop in 2017. It was good till swicthing to Pop 18.04. After that some freezes and boot failures occured. Changing OS to Pop 19.xx or 20.04 doesn't solve my problems. I'm now on MX Linux 19.3 KDE. It works good now.
19 • Fugulta (by Barnabyh on 2020-12-07 11:56:12 GMT from Germany)
>> I don't have a lot to say about FuguIta. It is exactly what it advertises itself to be: live media using OpenBSD as a base. It looks and feels almost exactly like a fresh install of OpenBSD with the graphical packages enabled. This provides a very minimal, though also very light, live environment. It doesn't do much for us, apart from test OpenBSD's hardware compatibility, however additional software can be added to the live environment. I imagine this would be a good tool for rescuing, cloning, or investigating existing OpenBSD systems <<
That conclusion is spot on. I too tried Fugulta with a view to review it but because there is so little to say dropped the idea. It comes with several minimal environments, the IceWM desktop option is nice. But, lacking an installer, it really appears to be only useful for testing hardware support. Certainly not an alternative to GhostBSD and the like.
20 • Digital Assistant (by whoKnows on 2020-12-07 13:19:22 GMT from Switzerland)
Maybe give Sarah a chance?
21 • @Jesse: Pop!_OS vs. Ubuntu (by whoKnows on 2020-12-07 13:32:14 GMT from Switzerland)
"[...] Pop and Ubuntu [...] other noticeable difference is Ubuntu places a dock down the left side of the screen [...] Pop does not display this dock on the desktop directly. However, if we open the Activities screen then Pop's dock is displayed to the left. This essentially means [...]"
Pop!_OS uses a standard Gnome 3 layout, whereas Ubuntu modifies it.
"When new software updates are available Pop displays a notification at the top of the screen. Clicking this notification opens the Pop!_Shop software centre which can handle package upgrades. In comparison, Ubuntu automatically opens a minimal update manager which offers to download new packages."
Pop!_OS uses a standard Gnome 3 SW updater, whereas Ubuntu modifies it.
"On the subject of managing software packages, the Pop!_Shop software centre handles all elements of package management. [...] Pop!_Shop seamlessly handles Flatpak and Deb packages and automatically provides access to the Flathub repository for portable packages. Snap support is not included, but can be installed through Ubuntu's repositories."
Pop!_OS uses a standard Gnome 3 SW management, whereas Ubuntu modifies it.
Pop!_OS one could almost call "FedBuntu" - if Fedora would be Ubuntu based.
22 • Keyboard Shortcuts (by dragonmouth on 2020-12-07 13:43:15 GMT from United States)
The mouse was invented to make user interaction with GUI much easier. Why then the atavistic urge to replace the mouse with anachronistic keyboard shortcuts? Might as well discard the GUI and only use the command line.
23 • Digital Assistant (by Friar Tux on 2020-12-07 13:58:38 GMT from Canada)
I don't actually use one, though, I've tried quite a few. Preferring open source quite reduces my choices which basically come down to two. (There are more which you can find at alternativeto.net.) The two in question are Almond and Mycroft. Both fail miserably.
Almond installs nicely, and gives you an almost 'messenger' like interface. However, white text on a white background make it quite hard to read. I could find no way to change it.
Mycroft, is a mess. In the number of times I tried to install it, I only succeeded once and then Mycroft did nothing. Yes, I made sure I had all the needed files and stuff installed - still nothing. I came to the conclusion that Mycroft was mainly the software for those little roboty things the Mycroft people want to sell. Not really a true digital assistant.
There was a really good one a while back called Cerebro, more of a desktop launcher, but it could do some awesome stuff. That's been discontinued, unfortunately.
As for all this hoopla over collecting personal info through these digital assistants... if people only knew how much info was collected BEFORE the Internet, and who knew what about you...
Before you get your undies in a knot, check out WHAT is actually collected. Maybe, Jesse and team could devote one review to that. (If you haven't already.)
24 • Pop^%$#OS (by Ankleface Wroughlandmire on 2020-12-07 14:26:40 GMT from Ecuador)
Pop^%$#OS definitely failed the new Linux user test. The person I was helping (a Mac user) chose Pop because the interface doesn't look like Windows, and we both assumed it would be easy to use. However, from the beginning, we ran into trouble with the installer that required a 500MB EFI partition. A previous Ubuntu-based distro had already created an EFI partition of ~200MB, which was perfectly adequate in size, so Pop placed an unnecessary roadblock with that. The next partition on the disk was HFS+ so the installer obviously couldn't resize it or move it. We eventually figured out that there can be more than one EFI partition and added another 500MB one and proceeded with the installation, but without my help the new user wouldn't have been able to install it. But then after the installation there was no WiFI. This wasn't entirely surprising, since the laptop had Broadcom WiFI. Fortunately at that moment the user had access to an ethernet cable, but that's not always the case and could have been another showstopper. However, I was determined to not make the user dive into any sort of complicated commands to enable basic functionality, so I told them to look for the Ubuntu Restricted Drivers manager... doesn't exist on Pop. It seems like a really bad idea to eliminate friendly GUI tools that come "for free" from the parent distribution, especially for something as important as hardware support. At that point we declared it a failure and installed a different distro, not based on Ubuntu, which offered Broadcom WiFI support out of the box and a much more friendly and flexible installer.
25 • Alexa (by Lee on 2020-12-07 14:26:43 GMT from United States)
I am 80 yo. My stand alone 8in Alexa Echo was a gift last Xmas. It sits at my elbow and stares at me as I watch TV and surf the web. We use it mostly as a timer and an alternative Google. In our condo it wouldn't be useful to control heat or AC. Lately it has been pushing invasive commercials.
26 • POP!_OS (by Daniel on 2020-12-07 15:10:10 GMT from Brazil)
I find POP!_OS to be the best Linux distro in terms of consistency, performance and usability - from the perspective of a desktop use and coder. Any ordinary PC user (even MacOS) would feel that it is consistent, something most distros don't provide unfortunately and PC and MacOS users are used to. One can argue that the workflow in Gnome/KDE/Whatever Linux is better, software is better, etc. but talking about consistency, distros fall hard. I feel better knowing what to expect from the OS that getting surprises and regressions all the time. In that regard, POP!_OS seems to be the best of these "bleeding edge" distros, at least from my experience (being a desktop linux user since 2002).
27 • Pop! (by Otis on 2020-12-07 15:51:48 GMT from United States)
It's been working its way up the PHR list for a while now. The positive review here will accelerate that movement, for sure. Good to see that happening to a distro that is embedded in a hardware company's strategy. That happening is not purist linux distro philosophy, but it's linux, and it's out there in a fine manner, in my opinion.
Not to mention it's a very good distro, going by reviews.
28 • Digital Assistants (by Chris on 2020-12-07 16:05:52 GMT from South Africa)
Only device I talk to is my Mibox remote because using a remote to search for something is painful.
29 • a digital What??? (by tom joad on 2020-12-07 16:41:26 GMT from Germany)
Are you truly MAD? No...a hundred times..NO!
30 • Pop!_OS font choice (by Alex on 2020-12-07 17:34:16 GMT from United States)
I've heard a lot of good things about Pop!_OS, but the desktop font hurts my eyes. I hate Fira Sans. Apparently I'm the only person who does.
I know I can change the font in most distros. I did in my copy of Mint. However a lot of stuff still shows up in the original desktop font.
31 • Digital assistants not my style either (by CS on 2020-12-07 17:45:22 GMT from United States)
I will say the younger generation are growing up on these things and foresee a generation gap emerging.
I can also say the answers you get out of these things are garbage. An anecdote from a year or so ago, my kid spent several hours yelling "wither storm" at Siri (it's some Minecraft thing I think) and getting absolute garbage as response.
I joked that this 5 year old reminded me of a senile old man yelling at his TV. The tech isn't there yet. Maybe some day it will be.
32 • Consistency and usability?? (by whoKnows on 2020-12-07 18:05:25 GMT from Switzerland)
@26 • POP!_OS (by Daniel)
If you call that "broken by design" "in terms of consistency, performance and usability", than you probably misunderstood the meaning of "consistency" ( www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consistency ) and " usability" ( www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/usability ).
33 • Digital assistent (by Hank on 2020-12-07 18:42:42 GMT from Switzerland)
My digital assistants
adb tools to remove as much bloat as possible from my
NON GOOGLE Huawei mate 9Pro. Thanks dt president of the universe maybe the only good job he ever did.
Net Guard to restrict any apps from calling mommy best I am able.
34 • Poll issue (by Simon on 2020-12-07 19:44:37 GMT from New Zealand)
Jay (5) is right: the poll is invalid because it asks what we *have* (and so its results are very obviously false, as far more than 12% of us will have Android or iOS phones, and therefore have digital assistants in our pockets) yet seems intended to explore what we actually *use* (which is how I and it seems most others have answered it, despite what it says). The questionable wording means it’s impossible to be sure if those 12% who “have” phone assistants actually use them or were merely answering the question as worded.
Again like many others here it seems, I strongly dislike digital assistants and similar technologies. They dumb users down by shifting decisions away from them and into automation, encouraging people to be clueless and powerless in the face of their own IT. Any well-taught child can use search tools more accurately and efficiently than the likes of Siri... but keeping people ignorant and dependent on their tech is far more profitable than empowering them to understand it and use it for their own (as opposed to corporate) interests... so we’re going to see more and more of this “helpful” AI, until competent users are exceptionally rare, and most people just believe whatever their chosen corporation’s digital assistant tells them.
35 • digital assistant (by UncleBobsBasement on 2020-12-07 20:01:42 GMT from Mexico)
Sure....i love to have spyware on my computer
please sir, can i have more?
36 • Picking nits (by Friar Tux on 2020-12-07 20:07:06 GMT from Canada)
It would seem some people are better at picking nits than using AI. Good, less nits to worry about. Speaking of worry, Jesse, don't worry about the wording of the poll. It is fine. MOST of us have enough intelligence to realize the meaning of what was asked.
As for corporations purposely giving us DAs to dumb us down, sorry, I don't buy it. Most of the DAs were developed as ASSISTANTS to ASSIST us. No one sat down, gleefully rubbing their hands together, thinking of all the dumb people they could 'trap'. I am (/was - we moved) friends with someone in AI and they laugh at all the silly misconceptions some people have about Siri, Cortana, and the like. In fact, any glee that there is, is centred around memes and jokes about those misconceptions. OK, 'nuff said.
37 • digital assistants (by uncle nimby on 2020-12-07 20:18:29 GMT from New Zealand)
NYET!! Never. No way.
I know one person who is vision impaired that has one, and it is creepy as hell. It does not actually DO much either - can tell the time, weather and maybe play requested music (which it often gets wrong). I've watched this friend try to get the DA to place a call to someone, and it cannot get that quite right.
So a DA is basically an invasive spy device you allowed into your home. [see line 1]
38 • digital assistant (by hotdiggettydog on 2020-12-07 20:24:18 GMT from Canada)
No digital assistants for me. I have android devices but I disable assistants.
I would try PopOs if they offered Mate, Cinnamon, Xfce, but gnome is a hard pass for me.
39 • @36 (by Dr. Dave on 2020-12-07 21:54:44 GMT from United States)
People who are hired to build these systems are compartmentalized from those in decision-making positions. What the hirelings believe is always far removed from the true corporate ambitions. Workers are concerned with the How and What, but the owners are concerned with When, Why and Who. At the upper echelons, money is only a secondary motivator, after power/control.
40 • Fugulta / digital spies (by keith on 2020-12-07 21:58:21 GMT from United States)
As a long-time OpenBSD user, I enjoyed the review of Fugulta. I haven't tried it, but I think I will just for fun.
The thing about speech recognition like Alexa and Google that bothers me most is knowing that someone nearby might have it activated. I don't doubt that Silicon Valley and the three-letter agencies have already figured out how to recognize and track people by their voices through other people's phones. It's like the audio version of the doorbell spies that so many have put on their front doors.
41 • Eww, dig-assist (by cykodrone on 2020-12-08 00:07:05 GMT from Switzerland)
Does fence-post target practice count? Those creepy things (snoop-speakers) are so dystopian, just knowing the extent of the algorithms sorting through our habits and thoughts, not to be confused with AI (a grossly misused acronym). Something huge will happen, that will cause a Luddite revolution, like corporate delivery drones spying on the public during their delivery flights, gee, can't wait. Forget duck hunting licenses, I want a novelty drone hunting license. :D scAmazon and Goggle know enough about me already, and not by choice.
On a diff note, my lappy's upgrade to Devuan Beowulf went surprisingly smooth, but read the release notes, you don't want grub saying 'Debian', and you'll need the pulseaudio tweak to get it running again. The only ugly so far, is trying to execute launchers from root's desktop (e.g. Bleachbit), I get failed to connect to bus, etc. Works OK from the Menu though, weird.
42 • Digital Assistants, and other junior products (Pop OS, Garuda, etc). (by Greg Zeng on 2020-12-08 02:55:17 GMT from Australia)
Old timers like myself might prefer our older hand-ons work instead of allowing the "fresh juniors" trying to help us. If we allow these "Executive Assistants" into our work, we senior executives, by definition, must lose some of our "privacy" to these juniors. Otherwise they cannot function very well.
DA's that I use always are online: Spelling, grammar, translation aids. Location (nation, suburb, street) are often ok to disclose. Other digital assistants used include Ginger & Gboard keyboard use, Google voice inputs for typing, etc.
DA's for lighter situations include: "Tell me a joke", "What is time right now in .... ",
When the seniors (Debian, Ubuntu & Arch) have new releases, the junior dependents downstream (Pop OS, Garuda, etc) try to cope with the senior changes. In this week's review, it is noticed that the Ubuntu-dependent modified the original GNOME defaults, like most do (Fedora excepted).
The other popular anti-Canonical change was avoidance of Snap, preferring in this case to use Flatpak, as in commonly the choice of most "downstream juniors".
Busy people with too many tasks to do need our assistants, to tidy up our mess, to repair or notice our errors. It's interesting to see how our Assistants cope with the "badness" or "goodies" of their seniors, such as avoiding ZFS, Wayland, Snap, etc.
43 • Digital Assistants (by Geoff the Chef on 2020-12-08 10:24:52 GMT from United Kingdom)
Personally I find that using my brain is preferable to using corporate dumbing down spyware.
44 • Linux for Human Beings (by whoKnows on 2020-12-08 10:50:13 GMT from Switzerland)
@42 • Digital Assistants, and other junior products (Pop OS, Garuda, etc). (by Greg Zeng)
"In this week's review, it is noticed that the Ubuntu-dependent modified the original GNOME defaults, like most do [...]"
... which was a huge mistake in this case.
One can install Ubuntu and start using it or one can install POP_OS! and start fixing it.
Ubuntu Software Update is old and proven SW that nothing else can match.
In Ubuntu, fonts come properly configured, the default system theme is well-chosen, the things 'just work' ...
If anybody can make Linux usable and "for Human Beings", then Ubuntu.
45 • Training Wheels Distros (by cykodrone on 2020-12-08 11:50:22 GMT from Germany)
I started tinkering with Linux (about) 15 years ago, lost my virLINity to newbie friendly distros like Mepis, PCLinuxOS (which is my backup OS, I love it for multimedia, etc), Ubuntu, Mint, etc. 10 years ago, I went completely MS free, but by then I had torn apart almost every distro on the planet, much like shredding feather pillows, just to see how they work. All that (bragging) being said, I really hate wizards, update assistants, etc. Coming from the MS world, I was already sick of being treated like a child (and sometimes, an IP criminal), and having my hand held, told what settings were good for me, and 'under-the-hood' things hidden from me. So if your only worry is settings, assistants, and updaters...
They'll be prying Devuan from my cold, rigor mortis hands, lol. :D
46 • Missing the point (by whoKnows on 2020-12-08 12:40:04 GMT from Switzerland)
@45 • Training Wheels Distros (by cykodrone Germany)
"[...] I really hate wizards, update assistants, etc. [...] So if your only worry is settings, assistants, and updaters... [...] Devuan [...]"
You kinda miss realizing the actual difficulty we're having here, for whatever reason.
I might agree with you when it comes down to my personal view, but that's the wrong way of thinking. You always have to bear in mind "the lowest common denominator" ... your neighbor, your grandma ... the wast majority of "regular users" who have all one in common - they all can't, and they all don't care.
One can't let somebody cope with Refracta Installer, chase some Murrine, Pixbuf or what not Engine to make the theme working, or even let them look for new themes on their own, you can't make them configure some repositories with Nano or even worse, with Vi, nor make them cope with some repositories at all, on that matter, you can't let them think of updates or upgrades - the system will stay without any update for years ...
You see @24 what happens when somebody who can't, tries to help somebody who can't and those are even the very few of those who care and have some minimal knowledge - unlike other 98 %.
People only care for their "Apps" to work - OS is just an "App-Starter".
You should always bear that in mind.
47 • @44: (by dragonmouth on 2020-12-08 12:59:22 GMT from United States)
"Ubuntu Software Update is old and proven SW that nothing else can match."
I'll grant you that it has a pretty interface and user ratings for packages. As far as functionality goes, it is crippled and limited. With Synaptic I can update, upgrade, downgrade, install, uninstall packages all packages at the same time, install and uninstall kernels, all in the same execution of the program. Ubuntu Software Center needs to be executed multiple times to achieve the same results. But it does look purty!
48 • Who can, can (by whoKnows on 2020-12-08 13:07:21 GMT from Switzerland)
@47 • @44: (by dragonmouth)
"I'll grant you that it has a pretty interface and user ratings for packages. As far as functionality goes, it is crippled and limited."
Ubuntu Software Update manages the software updates.
Ubuntu Software Store manages the search and software installation.
Ubuntu Software Update manages UPDATES by far better than Synaptic.
Maybe you should check on that "crippled and limited" once again.
"With Synaptic I can update, upgrade, downgrade, install, uninstall packages all packages at the same time, install and uninstall kernels, [UNINSTALL X AND GRUB] all in the same execution of the program."
Exactly! Please see @46.
49 • DAs! (by igor on 2020-12-08 13:48:03 GMT from Croatia)
@ almost everyone who posted about DAs. Come on guys, don't be taliban. Take another look at 9 and 17 posts (thumb up). There are disabled people around, and DA, once properly implemented is a huge leap from standard accessibility tools. Just try activating your screen reader, close your eyes and go surfing DW to get the actual experience.
But there are some interesting questions arising. For instance how much does the underlying AI depend of the language being used for its training? In other words, how does it cope with us, the rest of the world? Does it still know how to learn when faced with the likes of Euskara, Suomi, Magyar, or Shqip, to confine myself to a small continent? Is the intelligence of learning really grammar independent?
So many exciting, and potentially very useful things, and you dwell on paranoia. Are you really that important, personally? I am not.
50 • Raspberry Pi projects (by DaveM753 on 2020-12-08 15:05:13 GMT from United States)
@Wanting-more-Pi - When I got my first Raspberry Pi, I had trouble deciding what to do with it. What eventually got me going was the idea that, owing to how little electricity it requires, it can run 24/7 without a major hit to the electric bill. I quickly thought of something my main desktop computer typically performs but which I can't do all day and night since it's an energy hog. That job was given to the Raspberry. (In this case, the task of gathering city temperatures from all over the world, 24/7). Other tasks then came to mind: global stock market info needs 24/7 and I also wanted a media/file server that could be left on all day. That gave rise to the need for a 2nd Raspberry. My desire to replace my alarm clock - which is stuck permanently with the old DST rules - with something I could customize with my own choices for display/background, fonts, alarm sounds, etc., provided the need for a 3rd Raspberry.
Basically, find some task that a tiny, light on electrical draw computer could do for you. Once you find a single task, you'll find more and more tasks for it.
Incidentally, one of the coolest project ideas I've seen, but haven't done myself: a Raspberry Pi and small monitor built into a frame behind the glass of a 2-way mirror. So, when you look in the mirror, you see not only your pretty face but also text displayed on the monitor. With that, you could display the time, temperature, maybe news headlines or daily quotes.
51 • @49: (by dragonmouth on 2020-12-08 20:18:16 GMT from United States)
Yes, DAs are useful to the disabled, nobody is denying that. BUT they are also data harvesting tools which are very helpful to the companies that developed them. Even Stalin and Tito had redeeming traits.
52 • Digital Assistants (by M.Z. on 2020-12-09 00:10:55 GMT from United States)
I tend to agree with the general reticence toward using digital assistants, at least all the commercial varieties from Amazon, Apple, & Google. That being said, there is an open source alternative mentioned in the poll section, which according to the project website does strive to provide the privacy that commercial alternatives run roughshod over.
I'm not sure how well Mycroft works, or how secure it is, but at least it holds the possibility of being a transparent & open source alternative that maintains privacy & security. Being worried about how privacy is impacted by these systems is very sensible in my view, but lets not do guilt by association or blanket condemnations of anything related to the technology. I for one would like to see the technology done right & think i can be, despite how creepy things like Amazon Alexa are.
53 • @36 re nit picking (by Simon on 2020-12-09 00:57:23 GMT from New Zealand)
Well, commenting that the wording of a poll is fine because most people can figure out that they have to ignore the wording and instead answer what they imagine the researcher actually meant to say demonstrates exactly the kind of thinking that embraces digital assistance. Google loves it, and increasingly responds to queries with “did you mean... [something other than the actual words you wrote]?”. It’s good that you acknowledge the value of “nit picking” though. Nit picking and debugging are basically the same metaphor: words do mean stuff, so errors of language do matter, and we are better off wordI got our queries carefully than relying on others to make the right decisions about what we really meant to say... especially when those others are trying to take our money. Google’s focus on improving its ability to dish up what it decides people really ought to see rather than what they asked for is not some random coincidence unrelated to the fact that they exist to make money for themselves. They generate their results for that purpose: not to educate and enlighten folk, as if they were some kind of benevolent truth-spreading charity. Speech recognition is fine, and a different tech: I could narrate instructions to my PC long before the likes of Siri were marketed to replace the learning of instructions with faith in digital assistance. Digital assistance is corporations saying “here, let me assist you by lifting that burden of thought off you... ah... doesn’t that feel better, letting me figure stuff out for you?”. Yuck. “Assistance” disempowers people when it discourages them from learning to do something that they could do perfectly well for themselves. Chauffeuring women everywhere rather than teaching them to drive (as happens in some communities) is not being super helpful to women: the “assistance” keeps them dependent. Replacing digital literacy with digital assistance is not being super helpful to the next generation of tech consumers: it’s setting them up for exploitation. The people here who are repelled by digital assistants have good instincts.
54 • Careful wording (by Simon on 2020-12-09 01:03:28 GMT from New Zealand)
Lol @ “we are better off wordI got our queries carefully”. Exactly.
55 • @52 re open source assistants (by Simon on 2020-12-09 01:48:06 GMT from New Zealand)
Yes, anything that’s open source is at least more accountable, so probably more trustworthy. I don’t have a problem with Siri’s finding something to watch on Netflix or whatever: it’s when a citizen really needs to learn about something critically important that it matters whether that citizen knows how to use the tech or is just dependant on trusting it to dish up “this is probably what he wants to see” info. I guess open source DA is DA done right in some respects... but overall I’m still wary of any tech that shifts out of the straightforward tool-for-our-purposes space and into the here’s-your-purpose space (from “this is what you asked me to display” to “yeah, you asked me to do something else, but I’m a smart tool so I’m going to do this instead”). No biggie when it’s just shocking predictive text that we can roll our eyes at and erase... but potentially a biggie when the AI is answering our children’s questions about justice etc.
56 • AI, Ay! Ay! Ay! (by WhoDon'tKnowSheet on 2020-12-09 02:49:37 GMT from Canada)
Alexa: Shall I order the smart instant food transmogrifier at a 50% discount. Now only $20,000?
Me: No, Alexa! I enjoy cooking my own food.It's relaxing.
Alexa: You sure? Today only, we are including a pair of neutered Tribbles for no extra charge!
Me: I said no. Alexa! Turn yourself off now!
Alexa: Ok! Would you like those videos of naked 16-year-old girls you were you ogling sent to your wife and your employer now, or later?
Me: Alexa, please order me a smart instant food transmogrifier now.
Alexa: Done! Happy to be of service!
Me: Thank you. Alexa! Please delete those videos now.
Alexa: Done! While we are here, would you like to order a year's contract for pest control, just in case the neutering on those Tribbles didn't take?
57 • Alexa listening (by Simon on 2020-12-10 20:39:50 GMT from New Zealand)
Another aspect of DA that I dislike is the surveillance. We already have cameras pointed at us most of the time: now it seems that every Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones or earbuds is helpfully assisting us by recording everything we say and sending our speech over the Net to be analysed. I prefer my tech to monitor the position of a plastic button than to record my speech and send it to computers elsewhere: if that means I have to make the terrible sacrifice of learning which button to push and lifting a finger to push it, well, I think I can make that sacrifice. While buttons still exist: some people seem to like the idea of replacing all manual controls with cameras and microphones. “Hey Siri, I’m thirsty, can you please turn on the tap so I can drink? What... Alexa told you that I don’t think Steve Jobs was a genius? Come on Siri, please, I’m thirsty...”
58 • i have none (use) of the above (by fonz on 2020-12-10 21:07:05 GMT from Indonesia)
while mainly a fence sitter with regards to DAs on a whole, i do agree with 34 on the dumbing down part. 'give a man a fish, feed em for a day. teach a man to fish, feed em for life' hits the spot. sure DAs collect data to improve itself, but is that really all they collect? prolly not. in soviet russia 'gulag knows you better, than you know yourself' ;P
OTOH DAs could also mean GPS and a whole slew of other whatnots that are also very helpful. they really shouldve chosen a better word/terminology, something like digital-assistantd or something...
59 • What for? (by whoKnows on 2020-12-11 07:19:45 GMT from Switzerland)
@57 • Alexa listening (by Simon) & @58 • i have none (use) of the above (by fonz)
Like always, it is important to differentiate.
If some Secret Service is behind you, they will get what they want, one way or the other.
If you have a glass on your window or a lightbulb in your room, they can listen your conversation - if they want YOU. However, that kind of surveillance takes a team of specialists and it costs a fortune.
Encryption will not help you to hide yourself neither. You can't read an encrypted message without decrypting it first and that's where some backdoor will intercept your "secret" and send it away. You'll never even know that you have or ever had one - no tool can find custom-made backdoors.
Alexa, Cortana, Siri and what not are a problem on one side and (limited) help on the other, at the same time.
They can do some simple things to assist e.g. visually impaired people and such, but on the other side, they are not at all 'that smart', they are not really some big help - I can't say 'Siri make me the coffee', 'Cortana bring me the coffee', 'Alexa clean up the room' - I still have to keep the secretary and a cleaning person.
If I say, 'I'm hungry', none of those assistants would ever ask me 'what would you like to eat? Shall I order...' - my secretary does that ... and that was only the easy task ...
Now imagine a real life scenario: 'Chloe, book me a flight to London, reserve me a suite in Shangri-La Shard, call Dean and check the meeting plan, he should wait on me, on the airport; make sure not to forget the reservation for Barracuda Club and ... a girl should knock on my door at 11 P.M. ... you know my taste ;) The girl goes on my private account, Dean should take care of the Barracuda expenses, the rest goes on company." That's why one has a personal assistant. ;)
And then, there is a surveillance danger too. There were cases already, where the Siri, Alexa etc. were listening to confidential and/or private conversations, like e.g. conversation of a lawyer with his client.
Those assistants make it easier to "spy on you" since they listen all the time, however it's still not all that simple - just try to imagine a couple of billions incoming simultaneous conversations and try to find the one where Simon talks to Fonz. Now imagine you would permanently try to store all that incoming data and you'd try to find that exact one conversation in a year ... nearly impossible.
Number of Comments: 59
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