| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 709, 24 April 2017
Welcome to this year's 17th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Just over a week ago Canonical released a new version of their popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu. The Ubuntu family is composed of several editions, providing potential users with many different desktop environments, a server edition and embedded flavours. This week we turn our attention to Ubuntu 17.04, the last version of the distribution to ship with the Unity desktop environment. Then, in our Tips and Tricks column, we talk about the Nix package manager. Nix is the core technology behind the NixOS distribution. Nix creates reproducible builds, performs safe, atomic updates and can rollback configuration changes. But how well does Nix work on other distributions? Read on to find out. In our News section we talk about Korora testing a new graphical software manager, Finnix streamlining its development process and Ubuntu replacing Mir with the Wayland display server. Plus we share the releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. Our Opinion Poll this week covers using modern, cross-distro packages and we look forward to hearing which, if any, portable package formats our readers use. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (96MB) and MP3 (71MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Ubuntu 17.04: Unity's swan song?
Canonical released version 17.04 of the Ubuntu operating system on April 13. This release came just a short time after Canonical announced they would cease developing the Unity desktop and related technologies such as Ubuntu Touch. In comparison to their announcement about the company's change in direction, the launch of Ubuntu 17.04 was a relatively tame event with few major changes. Ubuntu now uses a swap file by default rather than a swap partition on new installs. I will talk about this later, but it is worth noting people can still use swap partitions if they wish.
Despite the announcement that Unity will no longer be developed and the GNOME desktop will be used in future versions of Ubuntu, this release still ships with Unity 7 as the default desktop environment. Unity 8 is included too as an alternative desktop option. This release saw the dropping of 32-bit PowerPC support, though 64-bit PowerPC processors are still supported. Ubuntu is available in a number of editions for different computing environments, including Server and Desktop. For this review I will be focusing on the Desktop edition. The ISO I downloaded for the Desktop edition was 1.5GB in size.
Booting from the live Ubuntu Desktop media brings up a graphical window where we can select our preferred language from a list on the left side of the screen. We then have the option of either trying out the project's live desktop environment or launching straight into the installation process. Taking the live desktop option loads the Unity 7 desktop. The background is decorated with purple and orange wallpaper. A launch bar with a set of popular applications is displayed vertically down the left side of the screen. A button in the upper-left corner opens Unity's Dash where we can search for and open files and applications. Along the top of the screen we find a shared menu bar and the upper-right corner of the display hosts the system tray. On the desktop we find two icons, one for launching the Ubiquity system installer and the other opens the Nautilus file manager.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- Unity's Dash
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The Ubiquity system installer is a graphical application which presents us with a fairly simple series of steps for installing Ubuntu. We are asked to select our preferred language from a list and given the option of installing third-party software such as media codecs and Flash. When it comes to partitioning the hard drive, Ubiquity can take over the whole drive, take over an existing partition or we can manually divide up the disk. The manual partitioning screen presents us with a visual representation of the disk and the steps to create or alter partitions are pretty straight forward. If we take the guided partitioning option, Ubiquity will set up a partition for the operating system that uses the ext4 file system. The installer then asks us to select our time zone from a map of the world, gets us to confirm our keyboard's layout and asks us to create a user account for ourselves. On the account creation screen we have the option of encrypting our user's files. When the installer finishes its work we can either return to the live desktop environment or reboot the computer.
Booting into a fresh copy of Ubuntu, we are brought to a graphical login screen. From there we can sign into either the default Unity 7 environment or a Unity 8 session. Unity 8 has a similar desktop layout to version 7, but is designed with mobile devices in mind. There are fewer application icons on the Unity 8 launcher and they are for Ubuntu's mobile-style applications. The settings panel for Unity 8 is also geared toward mobile devices, it uses a higher contrast look and elements are usually spaced further apart to facilitate interaction on a touch screen. I also found the Unity 8 version of the Dash acts more like a drawer that gets pulled out onto the desktop. This drawer lists available applications, organized alphabetically. Unity 8 works well on mobile devices, but it does not yet have a polished look on the desktop.
Ubuntu features a guest account which people can sign into with a password. The guest account acts just like any other account, but its contents are wiped after each use.
Most of the time I was working with Ubuntu I was running the Unity 7 desktop. The environment was fairly responsive, with the exception of the Dash. Searches for applications in the Dash were always a bit slow, as was switching between the Dash's tabs (or "scopes"). Otherwise I found Unity 7 to be fairly quick to perform tasks.
Unity has some interesting characteristics which make the environment stand out. For example, window controls (the minimize, maximize and close buttons) are placed on the left side of windows rather than the right. This took a little re-training on my part for me to be comfortable with it, but the layout worked out in the long run as it meant all my launchers, window controls and most menu items were all in the upper-left corner of the screen. This greatly reduces mouse movement.
Another interesting feature is the HUD. The HUD is activated with the ALT key and allows us to type words to browse through the active application's menu. This means if I am using LibreOffice, instead of clicking the Tools menu, then Macros and then Run Macro, I can tap ALT and type "run macro" to accomplish the same result. The HUD accomplishes two things: it makes searching through an application's menu very quick and this is handy with more complex programs. The HUD also means I can browse menus using just the keyboard, I do not need to touch the mouse or memorize short-cut keys.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- Using the HUD to navigate menus
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In the past people complained that Ubuntu's Dash was used to display search results from on-line sources by default. Canonical has changed this and searches are no longer sent out over the Internet by default. People who liked the on-line search results can re-enable the feature in the settings panel under the Security & Privacy module. Ubuntu will periodically send crash reports and information on which programs and resources are being used to Canonical. This feature can also be toggled in the Security & Privacy settings.
One other feature I feel is worth mentioning is that Unity uses a shared application menu at the top of the display, similar to the way macOS's menu panel works. We can change this so each application window contains its own menu by toggling a setting in the Appearance settings module.
I ran Ubuntu 17.04 in two test environments, a desktop computer and a VirtualBox virtual machine. I started with the virtual machine and found the Unity desktop (both versions 7 and 8) were unusually sluggish. Running Unity inside VirtualBox is not really practical, even with 3-D support turned on. In the past there were plans to make it easy to enable a "low graphics mode" which would improve desktop performance in a virtual machine, but this option was not available in my settings panel. Using Ubuntu's Additional Drivers tool, I found new drivers for VirtualBox, but installing these caused Ubuntu to no longer boot and I ended up re-installing the operating system.
On my desktop computer, everything worked. Ubuntu properly set up a network connection, audio worked and the desktop was much more responsive. The distribution also detected my HP printer without any problems. In either environment, Ubuntu used between 650MB and 750MB of RAM when sitting idle at the Unity 7 desktop.
Ubuntu ships with a fairly standard set of open source software. Looking through the Dash we find the Firefox web browser with Flash support. The Thunderbird e-mail client is included along with the Transmission bittorrent software. The LibreOffice suite is installed along with a calendar application, the Evince document viewer and a scanner utility. Ubuntu ships with a few multimedia programs, including the Totem video player, the Rhythmbox audio player and the Cheese web cam manager. We can opt to install media codecs when we set up the operating system, giving us the ability to play most media formats. Ubuntu ships with a text editor, the Shotwell photo manager, a calculator and an archive manager. The Deja Dup backup utility is included along with the Nautilus file manager. Network Manager is available to help us get on-line. The distribution also features the GNU Compiler Collection, the systemd init software (version 232) and version 4.10.0 of the Linux kernel.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- Running Firefox and LibreOffice
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When we want to install new software on the operating system we have a few different methods we can use. One approach is to use Ubuntu Software (a re-branded version of GNOME Software). This software manager is divided into three tabs (All, Installed and Updates). The All tab shows categories of programs and features a search bar. We can select a category or type in a program name to see a list of suitable matches. We can click on one of the matches to bring up a full screen information page that shows us a screen shot of the program, a description and user-supplied ratings. We can then click a button to install the program. The Installed tab shows desktop software we have already installed. From the installed tab we can launch applications or remove them from the system. The Updates tab shows us new versions of installed applications.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- Browsing available packages with Ubuntu Software
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There is also a dedicated desktop application for listing and installing available software updates. This Update Manager application can be launched from the Dash. When I started using Ubuntu 17.04 there were no new software updates available and I did not receive any notification for new packages for the first five days I was running the distribution.
For people who would like to work from the command line, Ubuntu features the APT collection of package management utilities. Ubuntu Software mostly deals with desktop applications and not all packages will show up in searches. The command line APT tools will work with command line tools, games and libraries which do not show up in Ubuntu Software.
One additional way we can manage software is Snap packages. A Snap package is designed to be portable and should work on any Linux distribution that includes the snapd software. Snap support is included by default with Ubuntu 17.04. We can use the snap command line utility to locate and install Snaps. Desktop applications that are bundled as Snaps can also be installed through the Ubuntu Software application. Programs we install as Snaps, even desktop applications, do not show up in the Unity Dash, but can be run from the command line. Desktop Snaps can also be launched from inside Ubuntu Software's Installed tab.
I think it is worth mentioning that to install Snaps from Ubuntu Software, we need to have an Ubuntu One account. Sometimes, when trying to install Snaps, I would encounter authentication errors with my Ubuntu One account and I found closing Ubuntu Software and then re-opening the software manager and trying to install the Snap again would work around the issue.
I also feel it worth pointing out that Ubuntu's three software managers (Ubuntu Software, Snap and APT) each work with a subset of the available packages. Snaps, for example, cannot be managed using the APT utilities. Likewise, we cannot use Snap to manage traditional Deb packages. The Ubuntu Software application tries to bridge this gap and works with desktop applications provided by both Snaps and Deb packages. However, Ubuntu Software does not work with non-desktop software or some games, requiring a trip to the command line to manage those items. This situation may get better in the future and we may get an all-in-one software manager, but for now we need three different utilities to manage software on Ubuntu and that makes for an awkward situation.
Settings, backups and other observations
The Unity desktop features a settings panel which can be accessed from the desktop's launch bar or from the user/logout menu in the upper-right corner of the display. The settings panel features modules for adjusting the look of the desktop and the behaviour of its components. There are also modules for managing printers, working with user accounts and managing software sources. I also found configuration controls for adjusting my keyboard, mouse and privacy settings. These modules all worked well and I encountered no problems while using the settings modules.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- The Unity 7 settings panel
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One application I enjoyed using was the calendar program. I believe the desktop calendar is designed to be used on mobile devices more than desktops, but it worked well for me. The calendar has a simple layout and we can set appointments with reminders that will pop-up on the desktop. The only quirk I ran into while using the calendar application was when appointment reminders were shown the notification window had two "OK" buttons.
I also liked working with the Deja Dup backup utility. Deja Dup can be launched from the settings panel or the Dash. Using Deja Dup we can create archives of our files and select a local or remote location where archives should be saved. Backups can be automated on a schedule, making Deja Dup a set-and-forget backup solution. We can restore old archives back to their original location or place restored files in a specific directory to avoid overwriting existing files. When I first ran Deja Dup the application asked me to install some dependencies which means the first person to use Deja Dup needs to have administrator/sudo access so they can install packages. This is a minor inconvenience and otherwise Deja Dup worked very well for me.
Ubuntu 17.04 -- Working with backups and software repositories
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Earlier, I mentioned Ubuntu uses a swap file rather than the traditional swap partition. This approach has two benefits. The first is we do not need to make a swap partition and, if we want more or less swap space later, we do not need to resize our disk partitions. The swap file is located in the root directory and carries the name swapfile. In the past swap partitions could offer better performance than swap files, but these days performance should be equal. The only drawback I have found when using swap files is they can conflict with advanced file systems such as Btrfs. However, for most people, those using ext4 or XFS, a swap file should work just as well as a swap partition and the same command line tools that work with swap partitions also work with swap files.
For the most part, not much has changed on Ubuntu's Desktop edition in the past year. Unity 7 has more or less remained the same while work was progressing on the next version of the desktop, Unity 8. However, now that both desktops are being retired in favour of the GNOME desktop, running Ubuntu 17.04 feels a bit strange. This week I was running software that has probably reached the end of its life and this version of Ubuntu will only be supported for nine months. I could probably get the same desktop experience and most of the same hardware support running Ubuntu 16.04 and get security updates through to 2021 in the bargain. In short, I don't think Ubuntu 17.04 offers users anything significant over last year's 16.04 LTS release and it will be retired sooner.
That being said, I could not help but be a little wistful about using Unity 7 again. Even though it has been about a year since I last used Unity, I quickly fell back into the routine and I was once more reminded how pleasant it can be to use Unity. The desktop is geared almost perfectly to my workflow and the controls are set up in a way that reduces my mouse usage to almost nothing. I find Unity a very comfortable desktop to use, especially when application menus have been moved from the top panel to inside their own windows. While there are some projects trying to carry on development of Unity, this release of Ubuntu feels like Unity's swan song and I have greatly enjoyed using the desktop this week.
While there is not much new in Ubuntu 17.04, the release is pretty solid. Apart from the confusion that may arise from having three different package managers, I found Ubuntu to be capable, fairly newcomer friendly and stable. Everything worked well for me, at least on physical hardware. Unity is a bit slow to use in a virtual machine, but the distribution worked smoothly on my desktop computer.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual-core 2.8GHz AMD A4-3420 APU
- Storage: 500GB Hitachi hard drive
- Memory: 6GB of RAM
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111 wired network card
- Display: AMD Radeon HD 6410D video card
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Visitor supplied rating
Ubuntu has a visitor supplied average rating of: 7.6/10 from 252 review(s).
Have you used Ubuntu? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Korora tests new software manager, Finnix streamlines and Ubuntu migrates to Wayland
The Korora project develops a Fedora-based desktop distribution with a number of tweaks and extra packages to make the operating system more convenient for its users. The Korora project has, in the past, shipped with the Yum Extender (Yumex) graphical package manager, but a new software manager called Dnfdragora is being considered for future releases. A news post on the Korora website offers details: "Dnfdragora is available in the repos. It was initially released for 25 and has just been added to the repos for 24. Development has been rapid since it was released and there is often a newer version in the testing repos. Dnfdragora can be installed with 'sudo dnf --enablerepo=updates-testing install dnfdragora-gui'. It is quite simple to use with a well laid out design and the basic functions can be found on the drop-down menus. A little exploring will be all most people need to work out how to use it. That is good as the help screens aren't available yet."
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Finnix is a live, Debian-based distribution that is often used for rescuing data and repairing systems. It has been nearly two years since the last major release of Finnix and the project has stated there will be several changes coming to the distribution. Finnix will move to using systemd as the project's init software, start supporting UEFI environments and the distribution will be developed for 64-bit computers exclusively. "Finnix's main x86 ISO currently contains a 32-bit userland and two kernels: a 32-bit and a 64-bit kernel. This allows for the most flexibility when working on x86 systems; 32-bit CPUs/userlands are supported, and 64-bit userlands can be chrooted into by booting the 64-bit kernel, even though the CD userland is 32-bit. However, modern kernels are very large; and two built-in kernels take up a good majority of the space on a Finnix CD. AMD64 CPUs have been in consumer usage for 13 years now, and for most tasks, a single AMD64 kernel and 64-bit userland will be sufficient. For working with AMD64 systems with 32-bit userlands (which are still a common minority), this will still be supported. Of course, this means future main Finnix releases will not support CPUs released before 2004 (and even some 32-bit CPUs released after that), but for such 'classic' systems, older Finnix releases will still be usable for most tasks." Additional changes, with explanations for each new approach, are listed in a blog post on the Finnix website.
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A few weeks ago we reported that future versions of Ubuntu will be shipping with the GNOME desktop, replacing the distribution's custom Unity desktop environment. Following the move to GNOME as the default desktop for Ubuntu 17.10, the project has hinted that Ubuntu will also switch to using the Wayland display server technology. Past releases of Ubuntu used X to power the default Unity 7 desktop and Mir to run the experimental Unity 8 environment. Future releases of Ubuntu are now expected to run GNOME on Wayland as the default environment, a move which mirrors Fedora Workstation's configuration. "Ubuntu is to ship Wayland in place of X.Org server by default. Word of the display server switch won't surprise many. Mir, Canonical's home-spun alternative to Wayland, had been billed as the future of Ubuntu's convergence play. But both Unity 8 and the convergence dream were recently put out to pasture, meaning this decision was widely expected. It's highly likely that the traditional X.Org server will, as on Fedora, be included on the disc and accessible from whichever login screen Ubuntu devs opt to use in Ubuntu 17.10 onwards." OMG Ubuntu has more details.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
Nix package manager on alternative Linux distributions
In the past we have talked about portable package formats for Linux such as Flatpak, Snap and AppImage. These are approaches to packaging applications which should allow programs to run on a wide range of Linux distributions, assuming some basic tools or frameworks are in place first. Someone asked me recently if the Nix package manager could be used in a similar way. Could Nix be installed on a Linux distribution and used to install and manage third-party software?
Nix is a package manager that automatically isolates software packages from each other and its approach creates reproducible builds that should allow a package managed by Nix to work on multiple computers. In theory at least, the advanced Nix package manager should be able to work on multiple distributions. The project's website reports Nix can work across Linux distributions and macOS. For people unfamiliar with some of Nix's attractive features, here are some highlights from the Nix website:
Nix builds packages in isolation from each other. This ensures that they are reproducible and don't have undeclared dependencies, so if a package works on one machine, it will also work on another.
While the Nix package manager should be able to run on multiple Linux distributions, does it work in practice? And, for that matter, does each distribution need to build its own library of Nix-compatible packages or will one central collection of packages work on any Linux distribution with Nix installed? I could not find definite answers to these questions on the Nix website and so I decided to try an experiment.
Nix's purely functional approach ensures that installing or upgrading one package cannot break other packages. This is because it won't overwrite dependencies with newer versions that might cause breakage elsewhere. It allows you to roll back to previous versions, and ensures that no package is in an inconsistent state during an upgrade.
Nix supports multi-user package management: multiple users can share a common Nix store securely, don't need to have root privileges to install software, and can install and use different versions of a package.
I created a new virtual machine running Debian (version 8.7.1) and installed Debian with a minimal, command line only interface. I then set out to try to get Nix installed on Debian, find out what it would take to get Nix running and how well Nix packages would work on Debian.
Installing Nix turned out to be a fairly straight forward experience. The Nix documentation tells us to simply run a command that will download and automatically install the necessary components. On Debian, we first need to install the curl command line program. Then use curl to download and run the installation steps. As the root user I ran:
Then, following the Nix documentation, I ran the following command through my regular user account:
apt install curl
curl https://nixos.org/nix/install | sh
The above command failed, reporting the sudo utility could not be found. I was then asked to set up a directory for Nix using the following commands, running as the root user:
mkdir -m 0755 /nix
This time the installation of Nix completed successfully. The Nix command line tools were stored in my user's home directory under a new directory called .nix-profile/bin. With Nix installed we can then try locating, installing and removing Nix packages using the nix-env command.
The nix-env command has several options, some of which we cover on our package management page. The four nix-env commands most people will probably find most useful are the commands to find, install and remove programs as well as the command to bring up Nix's manual page. I will quickly cover these four commands below.
chown jesse /nix
curl https://nixos.org/nix/install | sh
The command to bring up Nix's documentation is:
To show a list of all of the available packages we can try to install with Nix we can run:
To narrow down the list of packages to find one specific software item we can specify a name after the -qa flag. The following example shows us any available packages for the Firefox web browser.
nix-env -qa firefox
To try to install a new package we can use the -i flag along with the name of a package. The following example tries to install Firefox:
nix-env -i firefox
Finally, old packages can be removed using the -e flag:
nix-env -e firefox
Starting with my bare bones, fresh copy of Debian, I tried using the Nix package manager and found it was able to locate and download pre-built binary packages for me. These packages were installed, along with all of their dependencies, in the /nix directory on my Debian system. This directory is added to our executable path, via symbolic links, when Nix is installed meaning we can run programs Nix installs for us without specifying the program's full path. I installed the zsh alternative shell and confirmed it worked. I also installed the rsync file synchronization program and confirmed it worked too. I was able to install the Clang compiler, but ran into trouble building simple programs as I had not yet installed header files on my Debian system.
A little later, I used Debian's APT package tools to install the KDE4 desktop environment and tried using Nix to fetch desktop applications. The Nix package repository has, for example, a newer copy of the GNU Image Manipulation Program compared to what Debian offers. I was able to use Nix to install this image editor and run it. In fact, desktop software installed by Nix worked just as well as software pulled in from Debian's repositories. The only issue I found was that applications installed by Nix were not automatically added to my desktop's application menu. I could edit the menu and add desktop program launchers if I wanted to, but Nix did not do this for me by default.
Running desktop software installed by Nix on Debian
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Using the Nix package manager turned out to be as effective as using Debian's native package manager and offered some advantages. Nix handles updates and other actions atomically, meaning that if the system were to lose power while Nix was running, it would not cause any problems; our packages would not be stuck in limbo. Nix automatically creates snapshots of installed packages and we can roll-back any unwanted changes. We can also move forward through Nix's snapshots. This means we could jump forward and backward through time to compare two different versions of the same application.
These Nix snapshots can take up slightly more disk space than traditional package management, though not a lot. At most, the difference will usually be a few gigabytes and we can run Nix's garbage collection tool that cleans up old or unwanted files on the system, freeing up space.
Perhaps the only downside to using Nix on Debian I encountered was that Nix's searches took longer than searches performed by Debian's APT package manager. Usually this was not a significant problem, but it did slow me down when I was trying to find what software was available.
All in all, I was very impressed with how well Nix worked on a non-native Linux distribution. I have enjoyed using Nix on its dedicated NixOS distribution in the past and wished more Linux distributions would ship with Nix. As it turns out, other distributions do not need to ship with Nix, the Nix package manager is fully capable of running on other distributions and we can install it with a single command.
If there is a package you want that is not available through the Nix repositories you can try to add it (or ask someone to add it). Instructions for getting new software into Nix's repository can be found in the Nix packages manual.
Some people might be wondering how Nix compares to other portable package managers like Snap and Flatpak. Right now, I think the big difference is maturity. When I last tried using Snaps and Flatpak packages, about nine months ago, both technologies were very young, required several steps to set up and did not yet work well. When they did work, there were not many applications yet packaged for Snap or Flatpak. The situation has changed a little since then, but it is still relatively rare to see programs specifically bundled to be used as Snaps or Flatpak packages. And adoption of these two technologies has not yet been widespread in the Linux community.
Nix, on the other hand, has been around for years, already supplies most of the key features Snap and Flatpak offer and should run and work on most GNU/Linux distributions. Nix has a respectable collection of software already built (12,860 packages at the time of writing) and, like Snap and Flatpak, allows us to install its third-party packages on our operating system without affecting the base system.
Right now, Nix is likely to work in more environments and provide more software and similar features when compared next to Flatpak and Snap. The situation may change over time as projects such as Ubuntu and Fedora are getting behind Snap and Flatpak, respectively, but Nix currently offers a more portable, polished solution in the field of portable, advanced package management.
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Additional tips can be found in our Tips and Tricks archive.
|Released Last Week
Heiko Zuecker has announced the release of Devil-Linux 1.8.0, a major update of the project's independently-developed distribution that runs directly from the live CD and is designed primarily for server, firewall and router deployments: "Devil-Linux 1.8.0 has been released. This is a major overhaul of Devil-Linux. Most programs and libraries have been updated and the unmaintained ones have been removed. The main file system has been switched to Squashfs, to further reduce the ISO image size." Here is the brief release announcement. Some of the more interesting items from the changelog include: "Build system - Python now compiles all available modules from src/python-modules; added haveged and haproxy; added Google Authenticator for PAM; added Dovecot Pigeonhole; mounting of bootcd.iso from another storage devices is not supported any more, use bootcd.squash; added a new init script post_init.local to help with some initializations scripts that need to run after everything else is up; replace Bacula with Bareos, manual migration is necessary; removed Linux-HA and moved to Corosync 2.x with Pacemaker...."
Scientific Linux 6.9
Pat Riehecky has announced the release of Scientific Linux 6.9, the latest build of the distribution's legacy branch, compiled from source package for the recently-released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6.9. As is the case with the upstream distribution, this branch of Scientific Linux will be supported until November 2020. "Scientific Linux 6.9 i386/x86_64. Scientific Linux 6.x users please run 'yum clean expire-cache'. Major differences from Scientific Linux 6.8: sl-release - there is a new Scientific Linux End User License Agreement (EULA), the EULA now contains information about the U.S. Government contract under which Fermilab produces Scientific Linux; sl-release-notes - updated for Scientific Linux 6.9. Along with the changes noted in the upstream release notes." Here is the brief release announcement, with much more details, including a complete list of changes compared to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.9, provided in the release notes.
Joshua Strobl has announced the availability of an updated release of Solus, an independent, desktop-focused Linux distribution. Besides the standard edition featuring the Budgie desktop (developed in house), this version also comes in a MATE variant as well as a brand-new GNOME 3.24 flavour: "We're proud to announce our second ISO image snapshot, 2017.04.18.0, across our Budgie and MATE editions, as well as our new GNOME edition. This snapshot is the culmination of months of work across nearly every aspect of our operating system, ranging from multiple under-the-hood upgrades and changes to improvements to our desktop experiences. This snapshot is the first to deliver bulletproof boot management out-of-the-box, leveraging clr-boot-manager to enable the maintenance and garbage collection of kernels, as well as configuration of the bootloader. Furthermore, clr-boot-manager enables the retention of known-working kernels, so you can always roll back to a prior kernel." Read the rest of the release announcement for more information and screenshots.
Solus 2017.04.18.0 -- Running the Budgie desktop
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The deepin project, which develops a Debian-based Linux distribution with a custom desktop environment and several applications developed in-house, has announced the release of deepin 15.4. Despite a minor increment in the version number (from 15.3 to 15.4), this is a major release with many improvements and package upgrades: "deepin 15.4 has brand new design for Control Center and desktop. It adopted new blur and transparent style, new interactions for hot corner and window manager, along with selective wallpapers, full-screen installation interface, latest stable kernel version and original Deepin applications. It has added traditional Chinese (Hong Kong) and Amharic language support. The Control Center has brand-new design and interactions; the homepage shows quick-access icons for common settings to make the operation easier and faster. The newly designed installer has full-screen interface, fuzzy background, smart detection, friendly reminder and 'scan QR code for feedback'; you can experience the incredible pleasure of deepin just after drinking a cup of coffee." See the release announcement for more information and screenshots.
The Amnesic Incognito Live System (better known as Tails) is a Debian-based live DVD/USB with the goal of providing complete Internet anonymity for the user. The Tails project has announced the release of Tails 2.12 which features the GNOME Sound Recorder application and version 4.9.13 of the Linux kernel. Tails uses the Tor network to redirect network traffic and this release saw the project remove the alternative I2P anonymity network from the distribution. "We installed again GNOME Sound Recorder to provide a very simple application for recording sound in addition to the more complex Audacity. Sound clips recorded using GNOME Sound Recorder are saved to the Recordings folder. We removed I2P, an alternative anonymity network, because we unfortunately have failed to find a developer to maintain I2P in Tails. Maintaining software like I2P well-integrated in Tails takes time and effort and our team is too busy with other priorities. Upgrade Linux to 4.9.13. This should improve the support for newer hardware (graphics, Wi-Fi, etc.)." Additional information can be found in the project's release announcement.
Vladimir Potapov has announced the release of ROSA R9, a major update of the distribution which started as a fork of Mandriva Linux and which retains many of Mandriva's tools. The new version comes in two desktop variants - KDE 4 or Plasma Desktop 5.9: "ROSA R9 is the first release based on the new package platform 2016.1. The distribution is targeted mainly at Linux advocates eager to try new software. According to the updates policy, the R9 version of the ROSA distribution will have 4 years of technical support. Technical changes compared to ROSA R8: most of the system libraries, compilers and system/user software were updated to their new and latest versions (glibc, boost, GCC, Clang); a new additions to the repositories were made, e.g. LDC (the D language compiler), Meson (a powerful open-source build system); added a glibc patch, drastically boosting the load speed of the dynamic shared objects (DSO)...." Here is the brief release announcement, with additional technical details and changelog provided in the release notes.
ROSA R9 -- running the KDE desktop
(full image size: 180kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found in our Torrent Archive. We also maintain a Torrents RSS feed for people who wish to have open source torrents delivered to them. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 379
- Total data uploaded: 62.7TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Modern package managers and formats
There has been a good deal of talk in recent months about universal software packages for Linux with Flatpak and Snap being popular contenders. This week we talked about another advanced and cross-distro package manager, called Nix. There are other cross-platform package formats too, including AppImage archives. While these cross-distro package handling technologies exist and some have been around for several years, none of them have really been widely adopted by developers or by users. This week we would like to know if you use a cross-distro package technology such as AppImage, Flatpak, Snap or Nix. Or do you prefer to use the traditional package formats of your distribution? Leave us a comment with your thoughts on universal package formats and their package managers.
You can see the results of our previous poll on sources for installing software in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Modern package managers and formats
|I use a universal format (AppImage/Flatpak/Nix/Snap): ||132 (9%)|
| I do not use a universal package format but will in the future: ||709 (47%)|
| I do not use a universal package format and will not in the future: ||672 (44%)|
New projects added to database
MorpheusArch Linux is a distribution based on Arch Linux. The MorpheusArch disc provides users with a live recovery disc which comes with Photorec, ddrescue and other recovery tools pre-installed. This offers users with a very lightweight environment from which to rescue data or an operating system. MorpheusArch requires less than 50MB of RAM to boot and provides up to date hardware support.
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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, 1 May 2017. 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)
If you've enjoyed this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly, please consider sending us a tip.
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|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 754 (2018-03-12): Reviewing Sabayon and Antergos, the growing Linux kernel, BSDs getting CPU bug fixes, Manjaro builds for ARM devices|
|• Issue 753 (2018-03-05): Enso OS 0.2, KDE Plasma 5.12 features, MX Linux prepares new features, interview with MidnightBSD's founder|
|• Issue 752 (2018-02-26): OviOS 2.31, performing off-line upgrades, elementary OS's new installer, UBports gets test devices, Redcore team improves security|
|• Issue 751 (2018-02-19): DietPi 6.1, testing KDE's Plasma Mobile, Nitrux packages AppImage in default install, Solus experiments with Wayland|
|• Issue 750 (2018-02-12): Solus 3, getting Deb packages upstream to Debian, NetBSD security update, elementary OS explores AppCentre changes|
|• Issue 749 (2018-02-05): Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0, misunderstandings about Wayland, Xorg and Mir, Korora slows release schedule, Red Hat purchases CoreOS|
|• Issue 748 (2018-01-29): siduction 2018.1.0, SolydXK 32-bit editions, building an Ubuntu robot, desktop-friendly Debian options|
|• Issue 747 (2018-01-22): Ubuntu MATE 17.10, recovering open files, creating a new distribution, KDE focusing on Wayland features|
|• Issue 746 (2018-01-15): deepin 15.5, openSUSE's YaST improvements, new Ubuntu 17.10 media, details on Spectre and Meltdown bugs|
|• Issue 745 (2018-01-08): GhostBSD 11.1, Linspire and Freespire return, wide-spread CPU bugs patched, adding AppImage launchers to the application menu|
|• Issue 744 (2018-01-01): MX Linux 17, Ubuntu pulls media over BIOS bug, PureOS gets endorsed by the FSF, openSUSE plays with kernel boot splash screens|
|• Issue 743 (2017-12-18): Daphile 17.09, tools for rescuing files, Fedora Modular Server delayed, Sparky adds ARM support, Slax to better support wireless networking|
|• Issue 742 (2017-12-11): heads 0.3.1, improvements coming to Tails, Void tutorials, Ubuntu phasing out Python 2, manipulating images from the command line|
|• Issue 741 (2017-12-04): Pop!_OS 17.10, openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots, installing Q4OS on a Windows partition, using the at command|
|• Issue 740 (2017-11-27): Artix Linux, Unity spin of Ubuntu, Nitrux swaps Snaps for AppImage, getting better battery life on Linux|
|• Issue 739 (2017-11-20): Fedora 27, cross-distro software ports, Ubuntu on Samsung phones, Red Hat supports ARM, Parabola continues 32-bit support|
|• Issue 738 (2017-11-13): SparkyLinux 5.1, rumours about spyware, Slax considers init software, Arch drops 32-bit packages, overview of LineageOS|
|• Issue 737 (2017-11-06): BeeFree OS 18.1.2, quick tips to fix common problems, Slax returning, Solus plans MATE and software management improvements|
|• Issue 736 (2017-10-30): Ubuntu 17.10, "what if" security questions, Linux Mint to support Flatpak, NetBSD kernel memory protection|
|• Issue 735 (2017-10-23): ArchLabs Minimo, building software with Ravenports, WPA security patch, Parabola creates OpenRC spin|
|• Issue 734 (2017-10-16): Star 1.0.1, running the Linux-libre kernel, Ubuntu MATE experiments with snaps, Debian releases new install media, Purism reaches funding goal|
|• Issue 733 (2017-10-09): KaOS 2017.09, 32-bit prematurely obsoleted, Qubes security features, IPFire updates Apache|
|• Issue 732 (2017-10-02): ClonOS, reducing Snap package size, Ubuntu dropping 32-bit Desktop, partitioning disks for ZFS|
|• Issue 731 (2017-09-25): BackSlash Linux Olaf, W3C adding DRM to web standards, Wayland support arrives in Mir, Debian experimenting with AppArmor|
|• Issue 730 (2017-09-18): Mageia 6, running a completely free OS, HAMMER2 file system in DragonFly BSD's installer, Manjaro to ship pre-installed on laptops|
|• Issue 729 (2017-09-11): Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, running Plex Media Server on a Raspberry Pi, Tails feature roadmap, a cross-platform ports build system|
|• Issue 728 (2017-09-04): Nitrux 1.0.2, SUSE creates new community repository, remote desktop tools for GNOME on Wayland, using Void source packages|
|• Issue 727 (2017-08-28): Cucumber Linux 1.0, using Flatpak vs Snap, GNOME previews Settings panel, SUSE reaffirms commitment to Btrfs|
|• Issue 726 (2017-08-21): Redcore Linux 1706, Solus adds Snap support, KaOS getting hardened kernel, rolling releases and BSD|
|• Issue 725 (2017-08-14): openSUSE 42.3, Debian considers Flatpak for backports, changes coming to Ubuntu 17.10, the state of gaming on Linux|
|• Issue 724 (2017-08-07): SwagArch 2017.06, Myths about Unity, Mir and Ubuntu Touch, Manjaro OpenRC becomes its own distro, Debian debates future of live ISOs|
|• Issue 723 (2017-07-31): UBOS 11, transferring packages between systems, Ubuntu MATE's HUD, GNUstep releases first update in seven years|
|• Issue 722 (2017-07-24): Calculate Linux 17.6, logging sudo usage, Remix OS discontinued, interview with Chris Lamb, Debian 9.1 released|
|• Issue 721 (2017-07-17): Fedora 26, finding source based distributions, installing DragonFly BSD using Orca, Yunit packages ported to Ubuntu 16.04|
|• Issue 720 (2017-07-10): Peppermint OS 8, gathering system information with osquery, new features coming to openSUSE, Tails fixes networking bug|
|• Issue 719 (2017-07-03): Manjaro 17.0.2, tracking ISO files, Ubuntu MATE unveils new features, Qubes tests Admin API, Fedora's Atomic Host gets new life cycle|
|• Issue 718 (2017-06-26): Debian 9, support for older hardware, Debian updates live media, Ubuntu's new networking tool, openSUSE gains MP3 support|
|• Issue 717 (2017-06-19): SharkLinux, combining commands in the shell, Debian 9 flavours released, OpenBSD improving kernel security, UBports releases first OTA update|
|• Issue 716 (2017-06-12): Slackel 7.0, Ubuntu working with GNOME on HiDPI, openSUSE 42.3 using rolling development model, exploring kernel blobs|
|• Issue 715 (2017-06-05): Devuan 1.0.0, answering questions on systemd, Linux Mint plans 18.2 beta, Yunit/Unity 8 ported to Debian|
|• Issue 714 (2017-05-29): Void, enabling Wake-on-LAN, Solus packages KDE, Debian 9 release date, Ubuntu automated bug reports|
|• Issue 713 (2017-05-22): ROSA Fresh R9, Fedora's new networking features, FreeBSD's Quarterly Report, UBports opens app store, Parsix to shut down, SELinux overview|
|• Issue 712 (2017-05-15): NixOS 17.03, Alpha Litebook running elementary OS, Canonical considers going public, Solus improves Bluetooth support|
|• Issue 711 (2017-05-08): 4MLinux 21.0, checking file system fragmentation, new Mint and Haiku features, pfSense roadmap, OpenBSD offers first syspatch updates|
|• Issue 710 (2017-05-01): TrueOS 2017-02-22, Debian ported to RISC-V, Halium to unify mobile GNU/Linux, Anbox runs Android apps on GNU/Linux, using ZFS on the root file system|
|• Issue 709 (2017-04-24): Ubuntu 17.04, Korora testing new software manager, Ubuntu migrates to Wayland, running Nix package manager on alternative distributions|
|• Issue 708 (2017-04-17): Maui Linux 17.03, Snaps run on Fedora, Void adopts Flatpak, running Android apps on GNU/Linux, Debian elects Project Leader|
|• Issue 707 (2017-04-10): PCLinuxOS 2017.03, Canonical stops Unity development, OpenBSD on a Raspberry Pi, setting up a VPN for privacy|
|• Issue 706 (2017-04-03): Super Grub2 Disk, Snap packages of deepin applications, Subgraph OS routes network traffic for one application, announcements from Linux Mint|
|• Issue 705 (2017-03-27): Minimal Linux Live, sharing control of the operating system, new KaOS features, Uplos32 provides 32-bit fork of PCLinuxOS|
|• Issue 704 (2017-03-20): ToarusOS 1.0.4, Linux Mint's security record, Debian starts Project Leader election, Ubuntu 12.04 reaches end-of-life|
|• Issue 703 (2017-03-13): SolydXK 201701, CloudReady, Solus announces new features, KDE Connect sends text messages from desktop, openSUSE's YaST module for Let's Encrypt|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
Freespire was once a community-run Linux distribution sponsored by Linspire. Freespire was discontinued in 2008. Starting in 2017 Freespire became a free operating system based on Ubuntu and run by PC/OpenSystems LLC. Freespire features the Xfce desktop environment.