| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 753, 5 March 2018
Welcome to this year's 10th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
It is fun to see different technologies come together to make something new. Sometimes toolkits, desktop environments or distributions will come together and their cross-pollination of ideas creates something new and special. This week we begin with a look at Enso OS, a young distribution that is based on Xubuntu. Enso borrows the Gala window manager and mixes it with the Xfce desktop to create something new and visually appealing. Then, in our News section, we talk about MX Linux working on updates and fixes for a fresh set of installation images. We also discuss a minimal install option for Ubuntu Budgie and link to an interview with the creator of MidnightBSD. Plus we take a look at the new features introduced in KDE's Plasma 5.12 desktop environment. Plasma's new features are the subject of this week's Opinion Poll and we hope you will tell us what, if any, new components caught your attention. As usual, we share the distribution releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. Last, but not least, we have added the ability to search through past news headlines on our Article Search page and the details are included below. We wish you all a terrific week and happy reading!
- Review: Enso OS 0.2
- News: MX Linux works on ISO update, Ubuntu Budgie plans minimal install option, interview with MidnightBSD founder
- Technology review: KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS
- Released last week: Ubuntu 16.04.4, ArchLabs 2018.02 Pardus 17.2
- Torrent corner: 4MLinux, Antergos, ArchLabs, AUSTRUMI, Endian Firewall, Pardus, Sabayon, SwagArch, Ubuntu
- Opinion poll: New Plasma features
- DistroWatch.com news: Searching for past Headlines
- New distributions: Emmi Linux, Exton|OS, Sortix
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Enso OS 0.2
Enso is a young distribution based on Xubuntu. Enso features the Xfce desktop environment running on the Gala window manager; Gala has been used with good effect on the elementary OS distribution. Enso also features the Panther application menu and the Plank dock. The Enso website mentions the project is trying to have a positive environmental impact: "Help plant trees while you search the web with Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees with it's ad revenue, included in Enso."
The project's latest release, Enso OS 0.2, is based on Xubuntu 16.04 and is available in just one edition for 64-bit x86 computers. The ISO we download is approximately 1.5GB in size. The downloaded media boots to a graphical screen where a window appears and asks if we would like to try Enso's live desktop environment or immediately begin the installation process. This window also lets us select our preferred language from a list.
While the live desktop uses Xfce components running on the Gala window manager, the desktop has a certain GNOME-like appearance. There is a thin top panel which includes an application menu, clock and system tray. At the bottom-left corner of the screen there is a dock (powered by Plank) which acts as both a quick-launch bar and task switcher. Enso uses bright colours for the window control buttons and the minimize, maximize and close buttons are presented in blue, green and yellow. The busy mouse cursor is shown as the macOS-style beach ball.
Enso OS 0.2 -- The application menu
(full image size: 529kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Enso's system installer can be launched from the dock at the bottom of the display. The distribution uses the Ubiquity graphical installer which is used by Ubuntu and its many community editions. The installer begins by giving us a chance to read the project's release notes. Clicking the link to the release notes opens the Firefox browser and connects to a page on the Ubuntu website which shows a list of past releases rather than showing us any information specific to Enso or any one release. The installer then gives us the option of installing third-party media support and downloading software updates. We can then choose automated or manual disk partitioning. Manual partitioning is, I found, fairly streamlined and we can see a visual overview of how our disk partitions are arranged. We are then asked to select our time zone, confirm the keyboard's layout and create a username and password for ourselves. The user creation screen gives us the option of encrypting our home directory. The installer worked quickly and concluded by offering to restart the computer.
Enso boots to a graphical login screen where we can sign into our account. Signing in loads up the Xfce 4.12 desktop. I found the desktop was pleasantly responsive when running on my desktop computer, but tended to lag a bit when running in a virtual machine. Given my recent experiences with Xfce, I suspect the extra window effects offered by Gala are probably the cause of the desktop's sluggishness in the virtual environment. One of the few other issues I ran into was the Plank dock at the bottom of the screen tended to appear above open windows, which got in the way when I was using large or maximized windows. The dock can be removed by disabling the Plank service in Enso's settings panel.
Speaking of changing settings, there are two ways to access Enso's settings modules. There is a settings panel which can be launched from the application menu. The panel provides a simple grid of modules which will help us tweak the desktop's appearance and behaviour. Alternatively, the application menu contains an entire sub-menu dedicated to listing the available settings modules. When I first started using Enso the sub-menu containing settings modules was simply labelled "Other", but after installing the first large batch of updates the sub-menu's name changed to "Preferences".
Enso OS 0.2 -- Changing wallpaper with a settings module
(full image size: 528kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Most of the modules worked for me, but a few did not. Trying to launch either the window manager settings module or the window manager tweaks tool would cause Enso to display the busy, beach ball mouse cursor for a few seconds and nothing would open. The behaviour was the same whether trying to open these tools from the application menu or the settings panel. I suspect these modules were originally put in place to manage Xfce's default window manager and were not updated when Gala was swapped in as the new window manager.
While I was running Enso I virtually never encountered any distractions. There was no welcome window when I first set up the distribution, no messages about background services and no mention of software updates. The desktop is a mostly-empty workspace. We can manually check for new software packages by running the distribution's update manager. This small application simply lists the package upgrades available and we mark which items we want to download or ignore. The first day I was running Enso there were several new packages available, totalling 310MB in size. A few more updates trickled in through the week, around one every day or so.
While the updates all installed cleanly, there were side effects. Earlier I mentioned an application sub-menu changed its name. I also noticed the next day that when I booted Enso the login page had changed. Originally Enso presented me with a simple login page with wallpaper featuring a purple flower. On the screen there was one account icon I could select to sign in. After installing the first big batch of updates the wallpaper disappeared and there were three account icons. One for my user, one for a guest session and a third for signing into other accounts. The new guest account session worked, I could sign in without a password and anything I did would be discarded when I logged out. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any option to disable the guest session. While guest accounts are convenient, having one created post-install without warning and without a clear way to disable it is, in my opinion, a security issue.
Another change I noticed during the week was some icons changed appearance. The Thunar file manager, in particular, got a new and quite different icon. I suspect changing icons on users like this without warning is likely to confuse people.
Enso OS 0.2 -- GNOME Software showing Snap and Deb packages
(full image size: 586kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Also on the subject of software packages, installing and removing applications is handled by GNOME Software, a modern package manager divided into three tabs. One tab displays software categories and guides us through browsing categories or searching for items based on key words. The second tab displays a list of installed applications and we can click a button next to each program to remove it. The third tab displays a list of available software upgrades.
GNOME Software generally worked well for me. I was able to find programs I wanted fairly easily. I do wish there was a search box to find or filter items while we are browsing a category, the search box is only visible at the top-level of the available software tab. Otherwise, finding items and removing old items was pretty easy. Installing upgrades worked as well.
I ran into two minor issues while using GNOME Software. One was that performing searches was slow, compared to searching with other software managers. It's a minor problem, but one which mintInstall and Synaptic do not have. The other concern I had was GNOME Software sometimes displayed duplicate entries. For example, searches for VLC or GIMP displayed two entries for the same program. As it turned out, what I was seeing was one entry for the Deb package and another for a Snap package. There is very little to distinguish one format from the other. Snaps don't have user ratings and tend to be much larger (VLC's Deb is 5MB while its Snap is 202MB), but otherwise there is no flag to set them apart. On the one hand new users might appreciate package format transparency, but on the other this may confuse people and result in them downloading much larger versions (and new, development versions) of software by accident. Both Snaps and Deb packages add launchers to the application menu when they are installed.
Enso ships with a fairly standard collection of applications. Firefox is included along with the Pidgin messaging software and the Thunderbird e-mail client. For some reason there are extra launchers in the application menu for Firefox and Thunderbird, apart from their standard launchers. These extra launchers are called "Web Browser" and "Mail Reader", respectively. The distribution provides us with LibreOffice and the Orage Calendar application and the Ristretto image viewer. There are other handy tools such as a desktop dictionary application, bulk file rename utility and the Thunar file manager. The distribution also ships with the Xfburn disc burning application, the GNOME Music player and the Parole media player. Enso ships with the systemd init software and version 4.4.0 of the Linux kernel.
Enso OS 0.2 -- The LibreOffice suite and a dictionary application
(full image size: 224kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
One application I used quite a lot this week was Gigolo, an application which makes it easy to connect to remote computers, typically working through the OpenSSH service. Gigolo makes it easy to set up bookmarks to resources on remote computers and, with a few clicks, we can open a terminal on the remote machine or mount a remote directory and open it in our file manager. For me, having Gigolo installed by default largely replaced my usual tools of Filezilla and Yakuake for working on remote machines.
Enso OS 0.2 -- Connecting to remote computers using Gigolo
(full image size: 201kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
One launcher in the application menu, called Learn Enso, opens the Firefox browser and displays some basic steps for navigating the desktop environment. There are also tips provided on the topics of finding desktop settings and installing new applications.
While using Firefox I looked for evidence of the Ecosia search engine mentioned on the distribution's website and did not find any. Google is Enso's default search engine. I could find no mention of Ecosia in Firefox's extensions or alternative search engines.
Enso OS 0.2 -- Browsing Enso's website with Firefox
(full image size: 197kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
I found that while the GNOME Music player worked without any problems, the Parole media player was unable to play either audio or video files when run in VirtualBox. An error would be displayed indicating a driver was missing. Parole did work flawlessly when run on my physical desktop computer. I also found alternative media players, such as VLC, ran smoothly in the virtual environment so the playback issue was limited to Parole.
One final quirk I ran into while playing media is Enso does not display any volume controls on the desktop. When using a keyboard with media keys we can use the keyboard's volume up/down keys, but on keyboards without media controls the user has no convenient method of adjusting audio volume. There is a PulseAudio mixer launcher in the application menu, but it is a cumbersome and slow method for making minor volume changes.
I experimented with Enso in two test environments, a VirtualBox virtual machine and a desktop computer. In both situations, Enso performed fairly well. My hardware was detected, sound and networking worked and Enso integrated smoothly with VirtualBox. I found the Xfce desktop was quite a bit more responsive on the physical desktop computer than when running in the virtual environment. I suspect this is because of Gala's visual effects. I had hoped to disable the extra effects, but the window manager control settings were inaccessible through the control panel. The system was stable in either environment and used about 440MB of RAM when signed into the desktop. A fresh install of Enso used about 4.5GB of hard drive space.
On the surface at least, running Enso feels a lot like running Xubuntu. The two distributions use the same core software and the differences, beyond desktop theme, seem minor. Both projects run the Xfce desktop and offer some of the same applications. The main difference I noticed was Enso uses Gala as the window manager. This seems to offer more eye candy, but on low-end hardware or in virtual environments, may cause reduced desktop performance.
Most of the time I enjoyed using Enso, the system was stable and provided the tools I wanted to use to work. GNOME Software's transparent mixture of Deb and Snap packages will probably appeal to people, especially users who want to run cutting edge packages on a stable, long term support platform.
My main issues with Enso tended to involve little rough edges. Nothing really showstopping happened during my week, but there were little quirks like the "release notes" link going to a generic Ubuntu page, or the window manager settings modules not opening. Having the default media player, Parole, fail to function in a virtual environment was a minor problem and worked around by using VLC. Having updates change program icons and the functionality of the login screen will probably unsettle new users.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment was the missing Ecosia search engine. The website had talked about Enso striving to be environmentally friendly, but I found no evidence of this feature. I'm not certain if the search engine was removed in version 0.2 or I just missed something. In the end, using Enso was a pretty good experience for me, but the little missing bits and changes introduced through software updates made me think I might have been better off with the distribution's parent, Xubuntu.
* * * * *
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
* * * * *
Visitor supplied rating
enso OS has a visitor supplied average rating of: 8.3/10 from 4 review(s).
Have you used enso OS? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
MX Linux works on ISO update, Ubuntu Budgie plans minimal install option, interview with MidnightBSD founder
The MX Linux team is working on a number of new features which will appear in the upcoming release of MX Linux 17.1. The new version will feature mostly bug fixes since the release of version 17, including patches for the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws. Other improvements include new translations and accessibility options: "There have been a lot of updates lately to several packages while we get ready to build the new MX-17.1 ISO. mx-installer - updated to address an issue with boot flags that affected some PCs when using legacy MBR boots. mx-packageinstaller - recently updated with a better and faster interface. Tons of new translations for most of the MX Tool apps. lightdm-gtk-greeter-mx17 - This will enable the selection of an on-screen keyboard from the accessibility menu of the LightDM login screen. This will be the default on the MX 17.1 ISO, but the change only takes place for existing installations if the user resets the LightDM configuration using the new Config Options tab in mx-tweak. Any auto-login settings in place will not be affected by the change." A list of additional improvements can be found in the project's blog post.
* * * * *
The Ubuntu Budgie team has reported their distribution will feature a minimal desktop installation option. This will allow users to set up a new copy of the distribution with the Budgie desktop and very few applications or additional packages. The project tweeted: "For 18.04 Ubuntu Budgie - will now have a minimal installation option. Get ready to customise your desktop in any way you want!" A screen shot of the installer with the new Minimal Installation check box is attached to the tweet.
* * * * *
What is MidnightBSD? Why does it exist? What are the project's goals? These are some of the topics John Paul explores in his It's FOSS interview with Lucas Holt, the founder and lead developer of a flavour of BSD which is not often talked about. "It's FOSS: Please explain MidnightBSD in a nutshell. How is it different than other BSDs? Lucas Holt: MidnightBSD is a desktop focused operating system. When it's considered stable, it will provide a full desktop experience. This differs from other efforts such as TrueOS or GhostBSD in that it's not a distro of FreeBSD, but rather a fork. MidnightBSD has its own package manager, mport, as well as unique package cluster software and several features built into user land such as mDNSresponder, libdispatch, and customizations throughout the system." The It's FOSS website has the rest of the interview.
* * * * *
These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Technology Review (by Jesse Smith)
KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS
In early February the KDE team announced the release of a new version of their Plasma desktop. Plasma 5.12 is a long term support (LTS) release and introduces several new features. Some of these features sounded quite appealing and so I downloaded a copy of KDE neon which runs the latest Plasma packages on top of an Ubuntu 16.04 LTS base.
What follows is a quick overview of the new KDE Plasma features in version 5.12 rather than a complete look at the desktop or the KDE neon platform.
The first improvement mentioned in the Plasma 5.12 release announcement is that Plasma is now faster and requires less memory. "Speed and memory improvements are the focus of this long-term release. The new Plasma LTS uses less CPU and less memory than previous versions. The process of starting the Plasma desktop is now significantly faster."
I did not notice an improvement in desktop loading time. (I don't think loading times got longer either.) Applications did open fairly quickly though not fast enough for me to notice a difference over previous versions of Plasma. When I checked my memory usage, I found signing into Plasma 5.12 required about 380MB of RAM. When I disabled file indexing and compositing I was able to get memory usage down to 340MB. For comparison's sake, when I used KDE neon in October 2016 I noted then that the platform used 340MB of RAM. In my case at least, memory usage has not improved in the past 15 months.
The release announcement mentions Plasma now features better Wayland support and includes a colour adjustment tool which should make it easier to stare at the screen at night. The Wayland session reportedly also supports screen rotation and touch screen support. I wanted to test this, but my Plasma session was limited to running on X.Org. I could not find a way to enable a Wayland session, whether running KDE neon in a virtual machine or on a laptop, both of which have run Wayland sessions in the past. (After finishing this review I found out Plasma's Wayland session is available as an add-on package, through plasma-workspace-wayland, and not included by default as a part of KDE neon.)
In Plasma 5.12 we are told the Discover software manager's interface has been cleaned up, the headers are smaller and both Snaps and Flatpak packages are supported. Visually, I definitely agree that Discover looks nicer than it has in the past. The layout has remained consistent, but space is used more economically.
Plasma 5.12 -- Browsing packages with Discover
(full image size: 632kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
I tried searching for portable packages (Snaps and Flatpaks), but none were showing up. I could confirm Snap support was installed and the command line Snap tool was available. With a little poking around I found there are entries for enabling Flatpak and Snap repositories on the Discover application's Settings page. However, the buttons for enabling these package formats are hidden under the window's scroll bar and cannot be clicked. I was able to access the buttons with the keyboard, but tapping/activating them did nothing.
The release announcement mentions: "The notification system gained support for interactive previews that allow you to quickly take a screenshot and drag it into a chat window, an e-mail composer, or a web browser form. This way you never have to leave the application you're currently working with."
At first I had trouble finding out how this features works. The Spectacle screen shot utility already lets us drag-n-drop new screen shots as well as copy screen shots to the clipboard. These are pretty useful features to have, but do not involve the notification widget. I also found saving new images in my Pictures directory did not affect the notification widget.
Eventually I found that if I simply saved a new screen shot without giving it a name or copying it to the clipboard, the screen shot would appear in a notification. If I was quick, I could then drag-and-drop the screen shot to another window. This is a very roundabout way of dealing with screen shots and less convenient that simply copying an image to the clipboard or dragging it from the Spectacle window. Some people might use this feature, but it is more cumbersome to use than the existing options available for accessing a screen shot.
The Plasma website tells us: "Due to popular demand, we implemented switching between windows in Task Manager using Meta + number short-cuts for heavy multi-tasking."
This may be my favourite new feature in Plasma. I often have around nine or ten application windows open. Being able to tap the Meta key followed by a number is much faster than holding Alt and tapping the Tab key eight times. Window numbers appear to be assigned based on their position on the Task Manager widget, meaning the first window on the left is #1, the next window over is #2 and so on. Depending on how our Task Manager is sorted, this may cause windows to change numbers as new applications are opened. Still, this is a big time saver for me and a feature I welcome with open arms and previously sore fingers.
Another attractive new feature is the audio indicator in the Task Manager: "Is some app making noise in the background while you are trying to focus on one task? Applications currently playing audio are now marked with an icon, similar to how it's done in modern web browsers."
This is, in my opinion, a very welcome feature. If I have several windows open, especially if a few of them are web browsers, then I would like to be able to identify which window is making noise. With Plasma we can now right-click on a window's Task Manager button and select Mute from the context menu to stop audio from playing. I really like this feature as I found it faster than opening PulseAudio, selecting a specific application and lowering its volume. At the moment this feature has its limitations. For instance, while media players like VLC will display an audio indicator when they are playing music, Firefox did not. Going to YouTube and playing a video did not cause the audio icon to appear when I tried it.
Plasma 5.12 -- Muting a media application
(full image size: 585kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Plasma's documentation tells us: "Global Menus have returned. KDE's pioneering feature to separate the menu bar from the application window allows for a new user interface paradigm, with either a Plasma Widget showing the menu, or with the menu neatly tucked away in the window title bar."
The global menu is not enabled by default, it is available as a widget which can be added to the desktop. I'm not going to sugarcoat this: the widget looks terrible. It changes in size depending on which window is active and looks like an awkward, gray rectangle which cannot be resized. The widget does not work with all windows and, worse, gets hidden behind windows if one is moved over the widget.
I looked into switching the menu into the application title bar, but all the global menu widget's options were grayed out when I opened the widget's settings. I also could not find an option in the settings panel to enable titlebar menus.
Plasma 5.12 -- The Global Menu widget
(full image size: 432kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Spring Loading is an interesting looking feature. Spring Loading displays the contents of a folder when we drag a file over the folder's icon. Now that Plasma is defaulting to putting folders on the desktop again, I can see the benefit of being able to drag files onto a folder's icon and having that folder open right on the desktop. Spring Loading files into a folder works, and I like the concept. My only complaint is the folder display is very twitchy. Getting the dragged file to drop into the correct folder or to get the right folder to open was tricky. Taking this screen shot, for example, took nine tries to get the file lined up with the right folder without an unwanted folder opening to cover up what I was doing:
Plasma 5.12 -- Moving a file into a Spring Loaded folder
(full image size: 561kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
The release announcement has some news about media controls and the lock screen: "Media controls have been added to the lock screen. For added privacy, they can be disabled in Plasma 5.12. Moreover, music will automatically pause when the system suspends."
The media controls do indeed appear on the lock screen, which is convenient. I can especially see the benefit to having lock screen media controls at a party. We can start music playing, lock the computer and leave people to skip through songs, pause or play as they like. On the other hand, I could not find a way to disable the media controls on the lock screen. Under the settings panel I checked the modules for media and screen locking and performed a search for both "media" and "lock screen". None of my searches turned up any way to hide the media controls when my screen was locked.
Speaking of the settings panel, the Plasma team tells us: "We introduced a new System Settings user interface for easy access to commonly used settings. It is the first step in making this often-used and complex application easier to navigate and more user-friendly. The new design is added as an option, so users who prefer the older icon or tree views can move back to their preferred way of navigation."
The new layout tries to imitate the new GNOME settings panel, but seems to miss what made the new GNOME two-pane layout work. The benefit to the two-pane arrangement in GNOME is that we can quickly switch between modules without diving into and out of a module's screen. On GNOME we can browse through tabs without changing the menu displayed on the left side of the window and this makes browsing faster and less jarring. The KDE version has the same two-pane layout, but when we click on a module it takes us into the module which is further divided into multiple tabs These tabs overwrite the menu on the left, meaning that we need to back up a level to enter another module. KDE's Plasma settings give us the drawbacks of both approaches, cluttering the screen and forcing us to enter into and exit out of modules rather than making it a smooth transition between tabs.
Plasma 5.12 -- The new settings panel layout
(full image size: 600kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Security is also addressed in this release: "For users who often deal with sensitive, confidential and private information, the new Plasma Vault feature offers strong encryption options presented in a user-friendly way."
This sounded like a great feature, though at first I had trouble finding out how to use it. I searched the application menu and settings panel for mentions of "vault" and did not find anything on enabling the feature. I then found the Vault settings can be configured by clicking the lock icon in the system tray.
Plasma Vault works really well. We can create a new vault (encrypted folder) with a few clicks which gives us the chance to choose where our encrypted files will be saved and where they will be mounted when the vault is open. We also create a password to protect our vault. Once a vault has been created we can click the lock icon in the system tray to access or close the vault. (Accessing the vault requires our password.) While the vault is open our files are accessible just like they would be in any other folder, but when the vault closes only encrypted data is visible in our files.
Plasma 5.12 -- Opening a vault
(full image size: 578kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Last year I experimented with an equivalent GNOME privacy utility when I reviewed SwagArch GNU/Linux. GNOME Encfs Manager is a very friendly tool for doing the same task Plasma Vault is performing. There are two aspects of Plasma Vault which, I think, make it the more convenient tool. The first is the system tray icon which, at least in KDE neon, is present by default. We do not need to open a new application to set up or access vaults. The second benefit to Plasma Vault is we can access multiple vaults with just a click of the lock icon. We can open as many or few vaults as we like at a time and the Vault widget includes a short-cut to opening the file manager to show the files in a newly opened vault. It is a surprisingly convenient way to work with encrypted files.
While that covers all the new features which caught my eye, there is one other aspect of Plasma 5.12 I will mention: not all programs were stable on my systems. Dolphin and the settings panel tended to crash frequently. The other programs and widgets were stable, but these two tended to crash a few times per day. Which makes me want to hold off on upgrading until a few more bugs are worked out.
There are some really great ideas present in Plasma 5.12. I love the new vault system and the Meta + number short-cut to switch between windows. I definitely like the audio indicator on the Task Manager and hope it will be improved to monitor (and mute) all applications in the future. Some of the other new features need some work still, in my opinion. I could not access Discover's portable package support and the global menu widget has a long way to go. These items feel more like previews of features to come right now than a finished product.
My biggest concern right now is it is difficult to find Plasma's new features. Wayland's package was not included in KDE neon by default, I had trouble finding how to access Plasma Vault, I could not find the option to disable media controls on the lock screen, it took me several tries to find out how to get screen shots to show up in the notification tray. I could not get Snap and Flatpak packages to show up in Discover, even after I found the settings to enable portable packages. Plasma 5.12 has a lot of interesting features, but even though I knew they were there I still struggled to find and use them. Plasma includes a lot of cool technology, but finding it is an uphill battle, even when reading the release notes and using the search features on the settings panel and application menu.
|Released Last Week
ArchLabs is a rolling release distribution based on Arch Linux and featuring the Openbox window manager as the primary desktop interface. The project's latest release, ArchLabs 2018.02, features several small changes which streamline and improve the user experience. "Introducing ArchLabs Linux 2018.02. As usual we have a few improvements and changes. Firstly we removed GoRice, the addition of GoRice was more of a novelty than anything and as a result has been removed as it served no purpose other than a bit of fun. AL-Hello has again undergone a major overhaul, one of the best changes is that the additional installation options is now a multi-choice screen rather than a paginated multi- screen affair. Another major change is to how obmenu looks after your menus. Pipemenus now control the content of your standard obmenu." Further information and screen shots can be found in the project's release announcement. Download (MD5): archlabs-2018-02.iso (919MB, torrent, pkglist).
ArchLabs 2018.02 -- Running the Openbox window manager
(full image size: 343kB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
Endian Firewall 3.2.5
Endian Firewall is a Unified Threat Management (UTM) Appliance based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux that protects networks. The Endiana team has announced an update to the distribution's 3.2 series. The latest version, Endian Firewall 3.2.5, fixes a number of bugs, including one which prevented OpenVPN from starting following a reboot of the system. The release announcement reads: "Here's a short list of changes compared to the latest version: Improvement UTM-1722 - add option for load custom TLS ciphers. Improvement CORE-2143 - add CLI notification when a reboot is required. Bug UTM-1813 - OpenVPN job does not start after reboot. Bug CORE-1416 - Snort doesn't work when HTTP proxy is On. Bug UTM-270 - Squid terminates with an error if an entire domain and its subdomains are used in the same access policy. No need to say, this new image includes a lot of improvements and bug fixes as well. For more details, please see the changelog."
SwagArch GNU/Linux 18.03
Mike Krüger has announced the release of SwagArch GNU/Linux 18.03. SwagArch is a rolling release distribution based on Arch Linux and featuring the Xfce desktop environment. The project's latest snapshot features mostly bug fixes, addressing Intel microcode updating errors, correcting keyboard shortcuts and making sure the notifyd daemon works. The brief changelog for this snapshot reads: "[BugFix] Non working keyboard shortcuts. [BugFix] Change entries in mimeapps.list from "firefox.desktop" to "exo-web-browser.desktop". Whisker menu "Switch Users" option grayed out. [BugFix] Intel microcode won't set by default. [BugFix] notifyd sometimes doesn't work. Feature] xfce4-windowck-plugin - Xfce panel plugin which allows to put the maximized window title on the panel. Reworked Panel Layout." Additional information and screenshots can be found on the distribution's home page.
Lukasz Zemczak has announced the launch of updated installation media for version 16.04 of Ubuntu, which is a long term support (LTS) release. Ubuntu, and its official community editions, have published version 16.04.4 which includes security updates and patches for bugs. "The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support. Like previous LTS series, 16.04.4 includes hardware enablement stacks for use on newer hardware. This support is offered on all architectures except for 32-bit PowerPC, and is installed by default when using one of the desktop images. Ubuntu Server defaults to installing the GA kernel, however you may select the HWE kernel from the installer bootloader." Further details can be found in the release announcement and in the release notes.
The Pardus project, which develops a Debian-based distribution for desktops and servers, has announced the release of Pardus 17.2. This updated build comes in two desktop variants featuring either Xfce or DDE (Deepin Desktop Environment) desktops, and there is as a separate edition for servers. The release notes are provided in Turkish only, but the distribution itself can be booted in installed in both Turkish and English. Some of the changes in Pardus 17.2 include: LibreOffice updated to version 6.0.1; fix to the navigation rectangle in the Start menu not following the mouse cursor; updated the most Xfce components to their latest versions; fixed incorrect Turkish translations in some Xfce components; miscellaneous package updates, including security patches; various improvements to DDE's dock, such as new functionality to hide plugins, network list refresh button, new 'Forced Quit' in the context menu, improved auto-hide function, improved Window preview.
Linux From Scratch 8.2
Bruce Dubbs has announced the release of version 8.2 of Linux From Scratch (LFS) and Beyond Linux From Scratch (BLFS). LFS is a book that provides step-by-step instructions on how to build a base Linux system from scratch. BLFS expands on the LFS book by giving further lessons on compiling several desktop environments, as well as many popular desktop and server packages. From the release announcement: "The Linux From Scratch community is pleased to announce the release of LFS version 8.2, LFS version 8.2 (systemd), BLFS version 8.2 and BLFS version 8.2 (systemd). This release is a major update to both LFS and BLFS. The LFS release includes updates to glibc 2.27, Binutils 2.30 and GCC 7.3.0. In addition, five new packages have been moved to the base LFS book from BLFS - libffi, OpenSSL, Python 3, ninja, and meson. Changes to text have been made throughout the book. The Linux kernel has also been updated to version 4.15.3. The BLFS version includes approximately 900 packages beyond the base Linux From Scratch Version 8.2 book."
4MLinux is a lightweight Linux distribution focusing on such capabilities as maintenance (as a system rescue live CD), multimedia (for playing video DVDs and other multimedia files), and miniserver (using the inetd daemon). The project's latest release is 4MLinux 24.0 which is available in desktop and server editions. The status of the 4MLinux 24.0 series has been changed to STABLE. Edit your documents with LibreOffice 18.104.22.168 and GNOME Office (AbiWord 3.0.2, GIMP 2.8.22, Gnumeric 1.12.38), share your files using DropBox 43.4.49, surf the Internet with Firefox 58.0.2 and Chromium 64.0.3282.119, stay in touch with your friends via Thunderbird 52.6.0 and Skype for Web, enjoy your music collection with Audacious 3.9, watch your favorite videos with VLC 3.0.0 and MPlayer SVN-r37946, play games powered by Mesa 17.1.4 and WINE 3.1. You can also setup the 4MLinux LAMP Server (Linux 4.14.18, Apache 2.4.29, MariaDB 10.2.12, PHP 5.6.33 and PHP 7.2.2). Perl 5.26.0 and Python 2.7.13 are also available." Further information can be found in the project's release announcement.
4MLinux 24.0 -- Running JWM
(full image size: 732kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
The table below provides a list of torrents DistroWatch is currently seeding. If you do not have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found in our Torrent Archive. We also maintain a Torrents RSS feed for people who wish to have open source torrents delivered to them. To share your own open source torrents of Linux and BSD projects, please visit our Upload Torrents page.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 755
- Total data uploaded: 18.2TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New Plasma features
In this week's Technology Review we talked about KDE's Plasma 5.12 desktop environment and Plasma's new features. This week we would like to find out which of the features we covered you find the most appealing. Are you more interested in the security features, performance improvements, Wayland support, Spring Loading folders or something else? Let us know what feature you think is the most useful in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on finding helpful documentation in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
New Plasma features
|Performance improvements: ||460 (47%)|
| Better Wayland support: ||167 (17%)|
| Discover improvements: ||67 (7%)|
| Notification screen shots: ||16 (2%)|
| Task Manager Meta shortcuts: ||25 (3%)|
| Task Manager audio icon: ||16 (2%)|
| Global Menu: ||70 (7%)|
| Spring Loading: ||27 (3%)|
| Lock screen media controls: ||27 (3%)|
| New System Settings layout: ||15 (2%)|
| Plasma Vault: ||84 (9%)|
Searching for past Headlines
Our Article Search page presents our readers with an easy way to find old articles, reviews, tips and Questions & Answers columns. This past week we extended our Article Search page to also find past news headlines. Our Headlines search feature finds past news stories which previously appeared in our Headlines feed.
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- Emmi Linux. Emmi Linux is a Linux distribution of Brazilian origin focused on flexibility, stability (inherited from its Debian base), lightness, beauty and ease of use.
- Exton|OS. Exton|OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution featuring the Budgie desktop environment.
- Sortix. Sortix is a hobbyist operating system and not a distribution of Linux. Sortix was recently written from scratch and strives to be POSIX compliant. Though hardware support is limited, it is self-hosting.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 12 March 2018. 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.
(Tips this week: 0, value: US$0.00)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 760 (2018-04-23): Chakra 2017.10, using systemd to hide files, Netrunner's ARM edition, Debian 10 roadmap, Microsoft develops Linux-based OS|
|• Issue 759 (2018-04-16): Neptune 5.0, building containers with Red Hat, antiX introduces Sid edition, fixing filenames on the command line|
|• Issue 758 (2018-04-09): Sortix 1.0, openSUSE's Transactional Updates, Fedora phasing out Python 2, locating portable packages|
|• Issue 757 (2018-04-02): Gatter Linux 0.8, the UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, Red Hat turns 25, super long term support kernels|
|• Issue 756 (2018-03-26): NuTyX 10.0, Neptune supplies Debian users with Plasma 5.12, SolydXK on a Raspberry Pi, SysV init development|
|• Issue 755 (2018-03-19): Learning with ArchMerge and Linux Academy, Librem 5 runs Plasma Mobile, Cinnamon gets performance boost|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
SwagArch is a GNU/Linux desktop distribution based on Arch Linux. The SwagArch distribution features a live DVD that runs the Xfce desktop and uses the Calamares graphical system installer. SwagArch offers popular FOSS applications pre-installed, including Firefox and the VLC multimedia player.