| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 597, 16 February 2015
Welcome to this year's 7th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Computers are not, by nature, intuitive devices to use. Using an operating system requires learning at least a few basics about how it works and how to interact with it. Different projects take different approaches to making their operating systems as easy to use as possible. Canonical, for example, tries to make its Ubuntu operating system work the same way across multiple devices, including desktops and the new Ubuntu phone. In our News section this week we talk a little about the new Ubuntu-powered phones and link to discussions on the new devices. Other projects, like PC-BSD, take pains to automate actions and keep the operating system running smoothly. This week we talk about PC-BSD's new upgrade procedure and how it avoids common problems. Another approach to making computers easy to use is to keep them consistent and familiar. The Xfce project has avoided making big changes, sticking to small improvements as opposed to the drastic changes introduced by GNOME and KDE. This week we link to a mailing list post about the Xfce project's imminent 4.12 release. Of course, often the best way to learn the ins and outs of an operating system is to read documentation. This week we share an excellent book for Linux users, Mark G. Sobell's A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux. Plus we discuss a change in how the elementary OS developers ask for donations, say a sad good-bye to m0n0wall and cover live patching coming to the Linux kernel. Our Feature this week is a review that explores the exciting and unusual MakuluLinux distribution. Also this week we list the open source torrents we are seeding and share with you the distribution releases of the past week. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
- Reviews: MakuluLinux 2.0 Cinnamon
- News: Ubuntu phones launch in Europe, PC-BSD's new upgrade process, elementary OS has a new approach to payments, Xfce plans new stable release, m0n0wall ceases development and Linux to get live updates
- Book review: A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux
- Torrent Corner: Network Security Toolkit, Rebellin, Robolinux, Univention Corporate Server
- Released last week: Network Security Toolkit 20-6535, Kali Linux 1.1.0, Univention Corporate Server 4.0-1
- Upcoming releases: Ubuntu 15.04 Beta 1
- New distributions: Arquetype, Crash Clinic Diagnostics, Pink Rabbit Linux
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
MakuluLinux 2.0 Cinnamon
MakuluLinux is a Debian-based distribution that attempts to provide an attractive, friendly desktop operating system. MakuluLinux (which I will refer to as simply Makulu for the remainder of this review) offers a number of editions featuring various desktop environments. There is a KDE edition, another for Xfce and one for Cinnamon. I decided to try the Cinnamon branch as I enjoyed my recent trial with Linux Mint's Cinnamon edition.
Makulu's Cinnamon edition is based on Debian's Testing branch and is available as a 32-bit build only. For people running computers with lots of memory, Makulu's kernel features PAE support. Looking through the project's release announcement we find a good deal of information. The latest release of Makulu's Cinnamon edition ships with the 3.16.7 version of the Linux kernel, new themes, new wallpapers, new desktop extensions, a recent release of the WPS (formally Kingsoft) productivity suite and the login screen is now powered by LightDM instead of GDM. Further, Makulu ships with the Steam gaming portal, PlayOnLinux and the WINE compatibility software. The release notes mention Makulu's build of WINE has been patched to provide users with better gaming performance: "Makulu Cinnamon offers "Patched WINE" with D3D and CSMT support. What this means is this version is specially built for gaming, with some games getting up to 800% improvement over the default version of WINE, there is also great improvement on a number of other areas including true type fonts. Users can now simply run Windows software out of the box simply by double clicking .exe or .msi files." The distribution also ships with a new device driver manager and desktop settings panel. The release notes let us know people running the distribution in a VirtualBox virtual machine should enable 3-D video acceleration and PAE support, otherwise the distribution will not run properly.
The ISO I downloaded for Makulu was 1.2GB in size and built for the i686 (32-bit x86) architecture. Booting from the project's live disc brings up a menu asking if we would like to run a live desktop environment, try Makulu in a text-only mode or launch a desktop in safe graphics mode. There is also an option for loading the distribution entirely into RAM for faster performance. Loading the project's live desktop environment brings up the Cinnamon interface. On the desktop we find wallpaper showing us a picture of a large shark, a digital clock and an inspirational quote. Icons on the desktop open the distribution's file manager and launch the project's system installer. The application menu, task panel and system tray sit at the bottom of the screen.
Makulu's system installer appears to be the same installer used by the Linux Mint Debian Edition distribution. The graphical installer walks us through selecting our language and country from a list. Then we are asked to select our time zone from a map of the world and, next, we are asked to confirm our keyboard's layout. Makulu incorrectly assumed my keyboard was French Canadian, but I was able to switch it to my actual (US English) layout. We are then asked to create a user account for ourselves. Partitioning our hard drive comes next. We can either ask the installer to create a default disk layout for us or we can click a button to launch the GParted partition manager application that will allow us to manually divide our disk. I tried the guided partitioning option and ended up with two partitions, a large swap partition and a root partition formatted with the ext4 file system. Taking the manual route was fairly straight forward and, once our partitions are created, we can click on a partition to assign it a mount point. On the next page of the installer we are asked where the GRUB boot loader should be installed. The final screen shows us a list of actions the installer will take and asks us to confirm we wish to proceed. Then the system installer copies its files to our drive and, when it is finished, we are asked to reboot the computer.
MakuluLinux 2.0 -- The application menu
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Our local copy of Makulu boots to a graphical login screen with a black background. Signing in we are presented with the Cinnamon desktop. The wallpaper changes on a regular basis. Many of the wallpapers provided are bright and colourful, making the desktop seem cheerful, but at the same time the bright colours, combined with semi-transparent components on the desktop, made it hard for me to see icons and read text on the screen. I went into the distribution's settings panel to change the wallpaper settings, but found the background continued to change and the settings panel did not have an option to stop rotating through background images. With a little looking around I found a program running in the system tray that auto-rotated background images and disabled it. This gave me a more static and customized interface.
Another icon I found in the system tray was a news feed reader. Clicking this icon brings up a list of recently posted news headlines on the Makulu website. Clicking on a headline opens our web browser to the news post. Actually, sometimes the news reader would show recent headlines, other times it would display an error saying it was unable to connect to the feed. Sometimes I had to wait a while for the reader to locate its news source. Yet another icon in the system tray indicates when software updates are available. Clicking on this icon opens the mintUpdate update manager. The update manager shows us a list of available software updates along with the version of the package currently installed, the new version of the package available in the repository and the size of the available package. Unlike the version of mintUpdate that ships with Linux Mint's main edition, Makulu's update manager does not display a safety rating for each package. During my trial I experienced a slow stream of updates. On the first day I installed 22 updates, totalling 52MB in size. As the week went on I averaged about two or three updates each day, all of them fairly small, less than 5MB each. All software updates downloaded and installed without any problems.
One of the first components of Makulu I explored was the System Settings panel. This panel allows us to control the look and feel of the desktop, our screen resolution, user accounts, desklets, applets and Cinnamon extensions. We can also adjust power management settings and change our wallpaper. I found the modules in the System Settings panel generally worked well for me. The configuration modules are easy to navigate and I found Cinnamon to be fairly flexible. The only module I had trouble with was the one controlling start-up applications. The start-up applications module shows a list of programs that will automatically run in the background and we can click a box to enable or disable each program. The problem I ran into was the field displaying the name of the program was too narrow and so the program names were not visible. Since the field width would not change, this meant enabling or disabling services became a sort of digital Russian roulette where it was impossible to tell what was being disabled. There is a second settings panel which, I found, provides links to the same configuration modules. I'm not certain why there are two configuration panels as their functions appear to be almost entirely overlapping. However, the second configuration panel has a different, and unusual, icon set, one which matches most of the rest of the distribution.
MakuluLinux 2.0 -- The System Settings panel
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Speaking of the icons, Makulu components use an unusual icon theme that makes most icons look wood-like or old-timey. For example, the icon to minimize all windows and show the desktop is not a flat picture of a monitor screen. Rather it is a 3-D drawing of a wooden desk. The panel icon looks like a stone tablet and the networking icon looks a bit like an eighteenth century globe. I'm not sure yet how I feel about this default icon theme. On the one hand I feel the purpose of icons is to be quickly recognizable and using unusual artwork slows navigation as the user is no longer immediately drawn to the proper launcher. On the other hand, the theme does have a certain charm; there's a warm feeling about it that the current design fad, involving flat-and-square icons, distinctly lacks.
Makulu uses the same software manager found in Linux Mint. This software manager shows us categories of software and we can browse through lists of applications. Each application is represented by a name and icon and we are shown a user supplied rating next to each item, making it easier to find popular applications. Clicking on an application's entry brings up an information page with a description of the application, user reviews and a screen shot. Installing or removing a package is just a button click away. The software manager installs and removes packages in the background while we can continue to browse available software. The software manager further enables us to search for software by name or description. Some modern package managers filter out command line programs and libraries, focusing exclusively on desktop applications. I was pleased to note Makulu's package manager allows us to find and install libraries, fonts and command line programs as well as desktop applications.
MakuluLinux 2.0 -- The software manager
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The distribution ships with a second package manager, Synaptic, for people who prefer a more traditional interface when it comes to dealing with software. Synaptic handles locating software, installing, removing and upgrading packages. Software is presented to us in simple alphabetical lists and Synaptic processes actions in batches, locking the user interface while it works. In the background, Makulu's package managers pull software primarily from Debian's Testing software repositories. Additional software is retrieved from third-party repositories. For example, Google Chrome and Skype packages come from separate repositories.
I tried running Makulu in a VirtualBox virtual machine and on a physical desktop computer. When running in the virtual environment, Makulu started up quickly, but the Cinnamon desktop was occasionally slow to respond. While sound and networking functioned as expected, I ran into several scenarios where the desktop would lock-up or applications would crash (more on the crashes later). When running Makulu on my physical desktop computer, everything functioned smoothly. The distribution booted quickly, the desktop was responsive and the operating system was stable. In either environment Makulu tended to use 250MB of memory when logged into the Cinnamon desktop.
The Makulu distribution ships with quite a lot of software. Digging through the application menu we find the Chrome web browser with Flash enabled, the Thunderbird e-mail client and the Pidgin instant messaging software. The Foxit PDF reader is installed for us along with the WPS (formally Kingsoft) productivity suite. The MyPaint drawing program is available along with the Nomacs image viewer and a screen recorder. The VLC multimedia player, the Rhythmbox audio player and the Brasero disc burning software are provided too. Makulu ships with a full range of multimedia codecs allowing us to play most media formats. The distribution ships with the Steam gaming portal, the WINE compatibility software for running Windows applications and the PlayOnLinux software for facilitating the installation of Windows programs. Makulu provides users with an archive manager, an ISO image mounter and the Leafpad text editor. We also have copies of Synapse, a Whatsapp registration program and the luckyBackup utility. Network Manager is available for helping us get on-line and the distribution ships with the GNU Compiler Collection. I did not find Java installed by default, though Java can be obtained via the project's software manager. In the background we find the Linux kernel, version 3.16.
There were a few aspects of Makulu which stood out while I was using it. For instance, when running the distribution in VirtualBox I found running the VLC media player would cause the desktop interface to lock-up. Forcing the VLC process to close would result in the operating system locking up and Makulu required a reboot to get back to a functioning system. While this was a consistent problem when running the distribution via VirtualBox, the same problem did not occur when running Makulu on physical hardware. On a similar note, I ran into a few problems with the Google Chrome web browser. Chrome crashed on me a few times and, on other occasions, would appear to shut down, but then report it had not closed cleanly the next time I opened the browser.
On a positive note, I very much enjoyed working with the luckyBackup utility. Using luckyBackup we can create backup tasks, then test and run these tasks. The luckyBackup tool is run as the administrative user so we can backup any part of the operating system. The luckyBackup program can schedule backups too with a good deal of flexibility. Despite its flexibility, luckyBackup has a nice interface and it carefully walks users through the steps required to make backups of our files.
Another utility I appreciated using was Synapse. Synapse looks like a simple program launcher, the kind you usually get on any Linux desktop when you press ALT-F2. However, Synapse doesn't just locate and launch applications, it can also be used to find documents, audio files and videos. When Synapse is launched we can start typing the name of a file or program we want and then filter items based on file type. Synapse is similar in functionality to Unity's Dash with scopes, but with a more compact interface.
I had mixed feelings at first about Makulu shipping the proprietary WPS productivity suite rather than an open source solution such as LibreOffice. However, WPS did win me over. While WPS does not handle ODF files (like LibreOffice does), the WPS suite does work well with Microsoft Office files and includes a word processor, spreadsheet and a slide show presenter. One feature I think many people will find handy is the on-line repository of templates WPS offers. When we open a WPS application we are shown a list of popular document templates (resumes and time sheets, for example). We can click on these templates to download them and start a new document. There are a lot of templates to choose from and they can make getting started on a form document much easier. Otherwise, WPS is generally a good office suite with the usual range of functions and a traditional menu interface.
Finally, there is the Whatapp registration program. I was not sure what to expect from this application. I thought it might be a desktop version of the popular mobile messaging software, or maybe just a sign-up application. When I tried to run it, I was told I would need Mono installed on my system. The system then downloads Mono and, once Mono was installed, a window appeared with a long list of instructions I should perform, including downloading software from a git repository. I was not sure what the end result was supposed to be, so I skipped the instructions and left the Whatapp program alone after that.
MakuluLinux 2.0 -- Running various applications (WPS, PlayOnLinux and Steam)
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I think it is easy to get excited about Makulu as the distribution offers a lot. Users are given a modern, feature rich desktop (Cinnamon), a lot of useful software, including VLC, the WPS suite, a rich settings panel and easy to use backup utility. Multimedia is well supported and the operating system (when run on a physical machine) performed well. Plus users have access to a huge supply of software in the Debian repositories. I was a little surprised at some of the choices offered. For example, offering us WPS over LibreOffice is an unusual choice for an open source operating system. It's not a bad choice necessarily, just uncommon. Likewise, the focus on gaming (providing Steam and PlayOnLinux) is an interesting choice. The theme, with its focus on rich, 3-D icons, is also strange, but a welcome breath of fresh air when compared against the stark utility of GNOME or the flat, washed out look of recent KDE releases.
I suppose what really stands out about Makulu is it is an open source operating system that does not shy away from including proprietary applications when the developers feel those are the right tools for the job. It is a philosophy that may disappoint proponents of free software, but I have to admit it seems a practical path, one which is likely to attract people transitioning from Windows to Linux.
While I did run into a few problems running Makulu in a virtual machine, the operating system performed very well on physical hardware. I greatly enjoyed using and exploring the distribution. There is so much software and functionality I don't feel I had enough time to discover it all. Most of the software worked well and there are many welcome features, such as the luckyBackup utility, that I think people will appreciate.
Makulu is, in my opinion, an unusual creation. It is a distribution which bucks current trends in visual themes, in default applications and in focus. It is a platform that is both fairly stable (thanks to its Debian base) and experimental. I am a little surprised a 64-bit build is not available, but for now a 32-bit build with PAE will probably suit the needs of most people. Makulu is, in my opinion, worth trying just because it is marching to the beat of its own drum and doing a pretty good job of being a general purpose desktop operating system too.
* * * * *
Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Ubuntu phones launch in Europe, PC-BSD's new upgrade process, elementary OS has a new approach to payments, Xfce plans new stable release, m0n0wall ceases development and Linux to get live updates
The big news for many people this past week was the arrival of mobile phones running the Ubuntu operating system. The Ubuntu phones gained a lot of attention, especially for the way in which Ubuntu's mobile operating system focuses on scopes rather than applications for accessing data. For more information on the new Ubuntu phones, which are now available in select areas across Europe, interested readers may wish to browse last week's Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter as it contains links to many articles and blog posts about the Ubuntu powered mobile device. Are you interested in running Ubuntu on your smart phone or tablet? Leave us a comment letting us know how you feel about Canonical's move into the mobile market.
* * * * *
Upgrading an operating system from one version to the next can be an experience filled with surprises and problems. In recent years several PC-BSD users have reported issues when it came time to upgrade their operating system. Fortunately, the PC-BSD developers have been working on a solution that makes operating system upgrades cleaner and atomic. In a forum post Ken Moore addresses the work being done to insure safe, successful upgrades. "The reason we put so much time and effort into a new upgrade procedure with 10.1.1+ is that it is getting harder and harder to "shield" PC-BSD users from the "pkg upgrade" and "freebsd-update" breakages. Historically, Kris [Moore] has been spending tons of time trying to patch/fix those utilities before they get pushed out on the PC-BSD repos, but recently the issues are getting too large for us to simply patch away (such as infinite pkg SAT solver loops, interactive pkg prompts when running in non-interactive mode, freebsd-update files that do/do-not exist on some systems, improper file merges from freebsd-update, leftover files/pkgs, etc...). Once you finally get updated to 10.1.1 (either through the current 10.1 update procedures which just use pkg upgrade/freebsd-update, or by doing a fresh install), then you will be able to see the power/stability of the new update systems." Ken goes on to explain how new system upgrades will use boot environments to install packages without touching the existing operating system. This should prevent broken packages and make rolling back to previous versions of the operating system as simple as rebooting the computer.
* * * * *
The elementary OS distribution is an open source project which asks users, at download time, to donate money to the project. People wishing to try elementary OS are able to download the distribution for free by offering the project $0. In the past the distribution's website included a link users could click to download the open source operating system for free. However, the project's new website (currently in beta) requires potential users who want a free copy of elementary OS to explicitly type in "$0". The project's website explains: "We want users to understand that paying for software is important and not paying for it is an active choice. We didn't exclude a $0 button to deceive you; we believe our software really is worth something. And it's not an attempt to get rich quick; currently the only people who have received money for working on elementary OS have been community members through our bounty program.
It's about asking a fair price to offset the costs of development. It's about securing the future of elementary OS to ensure we can keep making software that millions of people love and use every day." According to the blog, over two million copies of the Luna edition of elementary OS have been downloaded, with just 0.125% of the downloaders offering donations.
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It has been over two years since the Xfce project released the most recent version of the middle-weight desktop environment. Xfce is popular among desktop users who like to strike a balance between features and performance and, in recent months, some have questioned whether Xfce might be losing momentum. Fans of the Xfce desktop will be happy to know that a new release, version 4.12, is in the works and should be released within the next month. In a mailing list post, Simon Steinbeib suggested the project set a firm launch date for 4.12. "We're writing to you proposing a concrete release date for 4.12 about a
month from now, the weekend of February 28 and March 1. As we have discussed the status and progress of core components with many of you individually, we feel confident that the state of Xfce is good enough to polish some final edges and push more translations until then. We're suggesting this specific date partly for pragmatic reasons (as both of us have time that weekend to support the release process) and
to have a goal in the not-too-far-away future so that we can focus on getting things done."
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For years the m0n0wall project produced an embedded firewall solution based on the FreeBSD operating system. We are sorry to report that m0n0wall development has ceased. Manuel Kasper posted a farewell message on the project's website last Sunday: "On this day 12 years ago, I released the first version of m0n0wall to the public. In theory, one could still run that version -- pb1 it was called -- on a suitably old PC and use it to control the Internet access of a small LAN (not that it would be recommended security-wise). However, the world keeps turning, and while m0n0wall has made an effort to keep up, there are now better solutions available and under active development. Therefore, today I announce that the m0n0wall project has officially ended. No development will be done anymore, and there will be no further releases." Kasper mentions in his post that other projects, such as pfSense and OPNsense exist, offering similar technologies and solutions for people who need to migrate off m0n0wall.
* * * * *
Sometimes kernel vulnerabilities or stability fixes come along and it is not convenient to take the operating system off-line long enough to apply the patch. These scenarios do not come along often, but for the system administrator in a hurry the idea of patching a running kernel without requiring a reboot is an attractive one. In the past the Ksplice technology offered Linux administrators the ability to apply security fixes to running kernels, but Ksplice is only available to Oracle customers these days. For people not running Oracle Linux there may soon be a solution. Developers from SUSE and Red Hat are working together to introduce live patching into the Linux kernel that anybody will be able to use. This code repository comment gives more background on the technology: "Originally, there was Ksplice as a standalone project that implemented stop_machine()-based patching for the Linux kernel. This project got later acquired, and the current owner is providing live patching as a proprietary service, without any intentions to have their implementation merged. Then, due to rising user/customer demand, both Red Hat and SUSE started working on their own implementation (not knowing about each other), and announced first versions roughly at the same time." With the basic functionality for live patching being merged into the kernel, it opens the doors for Red Hat, SUSE and other Linux providers to introduce their own implementations of live kernel patching.
|Book Review (by Jesse Smith)
Book review: A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux (Fourth Edition) by Mark G. Sobell
Books describing how to work with Linux-based operating systems are many and varied. Most technical texts have a focus, perhaps on using the desktop or setting up network services, perhaps configuring a firewall or trouble-shooting common problems. Relatively few technical tomes try to cover virtually every aspect of an operating system, such books would need to be huge. However, Mark Sobell likes to take the road less travelled and he writes massive volumes that cover virtually every aspect, nook and component of Linux distributions. Around this time last year I reviewed another of Mr Sobell's books, A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (7th Edition). It's an excellent text for people wanting to know everything about everything with regards to a Fedora or Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system. But what about people who are more interested in Linux distributions based on Ubuntu, or distributions closely related to Ubuntu, like Debian and Linux Mint? For these people, Mr Sobell has written A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux (Fourth Edition).
Before I get into my impressions of this book, I want to mention two things. First, Mr Sobell is, in my opinion, one of the most talented educators writing Linux books today. I say educator because his books (particularly this one) take the form of a classroom text. Each chapter begins with a summary of what we will learn, the bulk of the chapter clearly explains the topic and provides examples and then the end of the chapter lists questions we should be able to answer once we have understood the material presented. This makes A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux as much a professor's tool as a guide for the curious. Mr Sobell has a talent for explaining complex topics. He explains concepts directly, not watering down the material, but neither does he throw in a lot of technical jargon. Technical terms in each chapter are accompanied by page numbers directing us to more detailed explanations. This means the flow of the text is not interrupted by tangent explanations and we can explore specific topics more deeply as needed.
The second point I would like to raise is, considering how massively thick some of Mr Sobell's books are, I am beginning to grow curious. I suspect Mr Sobell either has an army of writers working to complete his many mammoth books or otherwise he has robot minions that carry out all the routine tasks of his everyday life, leaving Mr Sobell to focus exclusively on his writing. Personally, I believe it is the latter.
Joking aside, A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux is a lengthy read. Amazon lists the book as having 1,416 pages of text while my e-reader claims the page count is over 3,000. Personally, I'm not going to take the time to count them manually. Either way, the table of contents for the text is over two dozen pages long. So what is included between the covers of A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux? Well, without taking up 30+ pages to list it all, I will try to sum up the book as featuring six general parts, with each part containing multiple chapters. These parts cover:
By the way, in case all of the above tasks sound very technical and server oriented, keep in mind there is an entire chapter dealing solely with how to use Ubuntu's graphical interface, including how to login, how to customize the desktop, how to find files, locating documentation and installing software through the operating system's graphical tools. Likewise, the section on installing Ubuntu includes a detailed walk through with screen shots of the project's graphical installer. This book is geared towards novice users as much as it is system administrators.
- An introduction to GNU, Linux, open source software and operating systems
- How to install Ubuntu, in its many forms and flavours
- The basics of the Ubuntu operating system, including key tools and file system layout.
- Tackling system administration tasks, including networking, security and package management
- Working with common clients and services, such as rsync, the Apache web server, FTP and Samba
- Shell and Python programming along with some database management
While it is hard to boil down the entire book into a few pages of review, there are some aspects of A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux that stand out. One characteristic I quite like is the placing of tip boxes. While the main body of the text provides us with knowledge, showing us how things work, the tip boxes provide wisdom. It's one thing to know how to use FTP to transfer files, it's another to know why using FTP might be dangerous. It's one thing to know how to configure a firewall, it's quite another to have the wisdom to create a way to access the operating system if a firewall rule locks us out. These little asides of hard won wisdom are welcome and will undoubtedly save many readers precious time as they explore Linux.
I also like how technical concepts and technologies are marked with references to other parts of the book. Some concepts, such as how a kernel interacts with processes, can get pretty complex and it is nice to have page numbers inserted into the text letting us know where we can get more detailed information on a specific topic.
Mostly though, I enjoy Mr Sobell's books for the examples. While Sobell presents topics clearly and precisely, nothing helps me learn quite like an example to follow. I like that A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux has a large number of screen shots, command line examples and shell scripts. Each example is explained and I find these examples give me the opportunity to experiment with concepts. Being told how the trailing slash (/) character in an rsync command affects the outcome is nice, but being shown how it affects the outcome and getting to verify that knowledge with an experiment is even better.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get the most out of their Linux-based operating system. While the book deals primarily with Ubuntu, the knowledge included in these pages will apply to most Linux-based distributions, especially Ubuntu's community editions, Linux Mint and Debian. The book touches on a wide variety of subjects and explores each one just deeply enough to give us the practical knowledge we need to configure and maintain our Linux distribution.
* * * * *
- Title: A Practical Guide To Ubuntu Linux
- Author: Mark G. Sobell
- Publisher: Prentice Hall
- ISBN: 0-13-392731-8
- Length: 1,416 pages
- Available from: InformIT and Amazon
Bittorrent is a great way to transfer large files, particularly open source operating system images, from one place to another. Most bittorrent clients recover from dropped connections automatically, check the integrity of files and can re-download corrupted bits of data without starting a download over from scratch. These characteristics make bittorrent well suited for distributing open source operating systems, particularly to regions where Internet connections are slow or unstable.
Many Linux and BSD projects offer bittorrent as a download option, partly for the reasons listed above and partly because bittorrent's peer-to-peer nature takes some of the strain off the project's servers. However, some projects do not offer bittorrent as a download option. There can be several reasons for excluding bittorrent as an option. Some projects do not have enough time or volunteers, some may be restricted by their web host provider's terms of service. Whatever the reason, the lack of a bittorrent option puts more strain on a distribution's bandwidth and may prevent some people from downloading their preferred open source operating system.
With this in mind, DistroWatch plans to give back to the open source community by hosting and seeding bittorrent files for distributions that do not offer a bittorrent option themselves. This is a feature we are experimenting with and we are open to feedback on how to improve upon the idea.
For now, we are hosting a small number of distribution torrents, listed below. The list of torrents offered will be updated each week and we invite readers to e-mail us with suggestions as to which distributions we should be hosting. When you message us, please place the word "Torrent" in the subject line and please make sure the project you are recommending does not already host its own torrents. We want to primarily help distributions and users who do not already have a torrent option. To help us maintain and grow this free service, please consider making a donation.
The table below provides a list of torrents we currently host. If you do not currently have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found here. All torrents we make available here are also listed on the very useful Linux Tracker website. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 20
- Total downloads completed: 2,999
- Total data uploaded: 1.3TB
|Released Last Week
Network Security Toolkit 20-6535
Ron Henderson has announced the availability of a new release of the Network Security Toolkit (NST) distribution. NST is based on Fedora and provides an extensive collection of open source network security utilities. "We are pleased to announce the latest NST release: "NST 20 SVN:6535". This is an interim release which includes all of the NST and Fedora 20 package updates since 2014-Feb-20 rolled into a fresh ISO image. This release is based on Fedora 20 using Linux Kernel: "3.18.5-101.fc20". If you are building your own NST YUM repository or have a subscription to the NST PRO YUM repository, you do not need this ISO image. You can simply "yum update" your NST system(s). A major effort was put forth in this release in the development of NST Mapping Tools to aid the end-user when working with geolocated network entities on Google Maps (See the NST Wiki article on: "NST Mapping Tools" for additional information)." The release announcement contains a full list of new features and a screenshot.
Kali Linux 1.1.0
Mati Aharoni has announced the release of Kali Linux 1.1.0, a point release of the project's Debian-based distribution with specialist software tools for penetration testing and forensic analysis: "After almost two years of public development (and another year behind the scenes), we are proud to announce our first point release of Kali Linux - version 1.1.0. This release brings with it a mix of unprecedented hardware support as well as rock-solid stability. For us, this is a real milestone as this release epitomizes the benefits of our move from BackTrack to Kali Linux over two years ago. As we look at a now mature Kali, we see a versatile, flexible Linux distribution, rich with useful security and penetration testing related features, running on all sorts of weird and wonderful ARM hardware. But enough talk, here are the goods: the new release runs a 3.18 kernel, patched for wireless injection attacks; our ISO build systems are now running off live-build 4.x..." Read the rest of the release announcement for upgrade instructions and to see a promotional video.
Kali Linux 1.1.0 -- Running the GNOME desktop
(full image size: 775kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Univention Corporate Server 4.0-1
Nico Gulden has announced the release of Univention Corporate Server 4.0-1, the first point update of the Debian-based enterprise-class Linux distribution for servers: "We are pleased to announce the availability of UCS 4.0-1 for download, the first point release of Univention Corporate Server (UCS) 4.0. It includes all errata updates issued for UCS 4.0-0 and comprises the following highlights: integration of the Debian 'Wheezy' 7.8 point update; extended the 'Free for personal Use' edition license to 50 users and 50 clients; simplified system installation and setup of cloud instances by improvements in the appliance mode; simplified join an Active Directory domain; multiple bug fixes and improvements related to Samba, e.g. in the printer support and using Microsoft Sharepoint; several enhancements and bug fixes in design and usability of the Univention Management Console." See the release announcement and release notes for more information.
Robolinux 7.8.1 "KDE"
John Martinson has announced the availability of a brand-new edition of Robolinux, a Debian-based distribution with a customised KDE desktop: "Robolinux is proud and excited to announce our newly released 'X-Treme Plasma Speed' Robolinux KDE version 7.8.1. A mind-numbing amount of time and effort went into optimizing the KDE core and boot-up speed in order to make it run faster and use less RAM so that Linux beginners and advanced users would be very pleased. We believe that Robolinux KDE 7.8.1 is the fastest and most customizable KDE operating system available today. Windows users are going to love it as it runs their Windows applications natively inside using Stealth VM. Robolinux KDE 7.8.1 does not require a video driver to run it in full plasma mode. The 32-bit 64-bit variants are based on the rock-solid Debian 7.8 kernel and source code. A brand-new comprehensive Robolinux KDE FAQ section has been created as well." Read this readme file on the project's SourceForge page for further information.
Rebellin Linux 2.5
Utkarsh Sevekar has announced the release of Rebellin Linux 2.5, a set of distributions with a choice of MATE or GNOME desktop environments - based on Debian 7 (the "Synergy" edition) or Debian "Sid" (the "Adrenalin" edition): "We're proud to announce the release of Rebellin Linux 2.5. Plenty of great news from the Rebellin project: you can now download Rebellin Linux 100% free of cost; Rebellin now features the MATE desktop environment along with GNOME Shell; the entire site has undergone massive overhaul. We're committed to making this project better and better in every way possible. Live chat module, new forum, SSL security, pro-active site scanning have been added to the Rebellin website. Rebellin 'Synergy' updates: now available in MATE and GNOME; Linux kernel upgraded to 3.16; SMXI script integrated; various package and driver updates..." Read the full release announcement for further information.
Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0r1
Alan Baghumian has announced the availability of the first revision release of Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0, a desktop distribution based on the stable Debian GNU/Linux 7 but featuring the GNOME desktop with GNOME Shell 3.12: "We are happy to announce that the first revision of Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0, also known as 'Nestor', is available now. Parsix GNU/Linux 7.0r1 ships with GNOME Shell 3.12.2 and an updated kernel based on Linux 3.14.32. This version merges all security and bug-fix updates into an updated ISO image. Key features of version 7.0: modernized kernel build system, enhanced live boot system and installer to support UEFI based environments, built on top of the rock-solid Debian GNU/Linux 'Wheezy' (7.0) platform. Highlights: X.Org Server 1.14.7, GRUB 2, GNU Iceweasel (Firefox) 35.0.1, GParted 0.12.1, Empathy 3.12.7, LibreOffice 3.5.4, VirtualBox 4.3.18..." Here is the brief release announcement, with technical specifications available in the more detailed release notes.
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Distributions added to waiting list|
- Pink Rabbit Linux. Pink Rabbit Linux is a Linux Distribution which facilitates making your own Linux Distribution. Pink Rabbit Linux is a collection of shell-scripts based on Linux From Scratch with an example ISO featuring a command line only interface.
- Crash Clinic Diagnostics. Crash Clinic Diagnostics is a Xubuntu-based distribution developed specifically for modern laptop and desktop diagnosis.
- Arquetype. Arquetype is a Fedora-based Linux distribution featuring additional developer utilities and 32-bit libraries in the default installation.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 23 February 2015. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 841 (2019-11-18): Emmabuntus DE3-1.00, changing keys in a 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 a 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 the 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 the 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 the disk, Ubuntu works on ZFS, Haiku improves performance, OSDisc shutting down|
|• Issue 826 (2019-08-05): Quick looks at Resilient, PrimeOS, and BlueLight, flagship distros for desktops,Manjaro introduces new package manager|
|• Issue 825 (2019-07-29): Endless OS 3.6, UBports 16.04, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Fedora developrs discuss optimizations, Project Trident launches stable branch|
|• Issue 824 (2019-07-22): Hexagon OS 1.0, Mageia publishes updated media, Fedora unveils Fedora CoreOS, managing disk usage with quotas|
|• Issue 823 (2019-07-15): Debian 10, finding 32-bit packages on a 64-bit system, Will Cooke discusses Ubuntu's desktop, IBM finalizes purchase of Red Hat|
|• Issue 822 (2019-07-08): Mageia 7, running development branches of distros, Mint team considers Snap, UBports to address Google account access|
|• Issue 821 (2019-07-01): OpenMandriva 4.0, Ubuntu's plan for 32-bit packages, Fedora Workstation improvements, DragonFly BSD's smaller kernel memory|
|• Issue 820 (2019-06-24): Clear Linux and Guix System 1.0.1, running Android applications using Anbox, Zorin partners with Star Labs, Red Hat explains networking bug, Ubuntu considers no longer updating 32-bit packages|
|• Issue 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, the meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make the desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Issue 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Issue 790 (2018-11-19): NetBSD 8.0, Bash tips and short-cuts, Fedora's networking benchmarked with FreeBSD, Ubuntu 18.04 to get ten years of support|
|• Issue 789 (2018-11-12): Fedora 29 Workstation and Silverblue, Haiku recovering from server outage, Fedora turns 15, Debian publishes updated media|
|• Full list of all issues|
Star Labs - Laptops built for Linux.
View our range including the Star Lite, Star LabTop and more. Available with a choice of Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS pre-installed with many more distributions supported. Visit Star Labs for information, to buy and get support.
|Random Distribution |
BackBox Linux is an Ubuntu-based distribution developed to perform penetration tests and security assessments. It is designed to be fast and easy to use. It provides a minimal yet complete desktop environment, thanks to its own software repositories, which are always updated to the latest stable versions of the most often used and best-known ethical hacking tools.