| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 766, 4 June 2018
Welcome to this year's 23rd issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
A little over a week ago the openSUSE project released a new version of the distribution's Leap edition. The launch of openSUSE 15 Leap brings the community run openSUSE project more in line with its commercial counterpart, SUSE Linux Enterprise, and introduces some interesting new features. openSUSE 15 is the subject of our main story this week and we also discuss some of openSUSE's key features, and ask which of them appeal to you, in our Opinion Poll. Plus, in this issue, we talk about file system links, what they are and how they can be useful. In our News section we talk about Fedora 26, MX Linux 14 and Debian 7 all reaching the end of their supported life spans. We then talk about new features coming to KDE Connect, a tool which helps Android devices communicate with desktop Linux systems. The Manjaro team unveiled new features in the Pamac package manager and we provide a summary of those changes below. We also share tips on how to streamline the GNOME desktop to make it lighter, talk about Bodhi's forum gong off-line and ReactOS reaching a new milestone. Plus we share the releases of the past week and provide a list of the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
- Review: openSUSE 15
- News: Fedora 26 reaches its end of life, MX Linux 14 and Debian 7 reach end of life, KDE Connect gaining more features, trimming down GNOME, updates to the Pamac package manager, Bodhi closes forums, ReactOS can build itself
- Tips and tricks: An overview of hard and soft links
- Released last week: BlackArch 2018.06.01, Linux Lite 4.0, Q4OS 2.5
- Torrent corner: 4MLinux, Antergos, AcroLinux, ArchLabs, BlackArch, Bluestar, ExTiX, FreeNAS, Lite, Live Raizo, Q4OS, Runtu, Sparky, SwagArch
- Opinion poll: openSUSE's key features
- DistroWatch.com news: Added search option for OEM installs
- New distributions: Isotop
- Reader comments
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
openSUSE is a community run distribution with close ties to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE). The latest version of the distribution is openSUSE 15 which, oddly enough, follows version 42, which followed version 13. Part of the reason for the unusual change in version numbers is openSUSE 15 is designed to share a lot of its code with SLE 15. In fact, the release announcement mentions that there is now a supported path to migrate from openSUSE 15 to the commercially supported SLE 15, for people who want the official support of an enterprise distribution.
Other key features of this release include improved disk and partition handling in the system installer and three years of security updates. This release also offers transactional updates, a form of atomic updates while I will touch on later.
openSUSE 15 is available in four main editions for 64-bit x86 computers. There is a full sized installation DVD (3.7GB) which does not offer a live desktop environment. There is also a smaller net-install disc (120MB) for people wanting to install over the network. There are live editions for GNOME (909MB) and KDE (859MB) for people who want to test run the distribution before installing it. The GNOME edition defaults to running the desktop in a Wayland session. I tested the live KDE disc to confirm it works and provides a usable desktop environment, with the option to install the distribution. However, most of my time was spent with a copy of the distribution provided by the full installation disc.
opensuse 15 -- The Plasma desktop and application menu
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Booting from the openSUSE DVD brings up a menu giving us the options of loading an existing operating system from our hard drive, installing openSUSE or upgrading an existing copy of the distribution. openSUSE's installer is a graphical application which begins by showing us the project's license agreement. This initial screen provides drop-down menus for changing the keyboard's layout and selecting our preferred language. The next screen asks us which role the distribution should take with options including running the KDE Plasma desktop, running the GNOME desktop, setting up a server with a command line interface or setting up a transactional server. There is also an option for customizing which software gets installed. This last option brings up a screen where we can select bundles of software to, for instance, run a file server, install the Xfce desktop, run a print server or install 32-bit support.
Partitioning comes next. By default, openSUSE offers to automatically set up a Btrfs file system and swap space. We can either tweak this recommended set of defaults or manually partition our disk. openSUSE offers a lot of partitioning options and is quite flexible. I opted to stay fairly close to the default recommendation and set up a Btrfs volume. The last few screens get us to pick our time zone and enter a username and password for ourselves. Creating a new user account is an optional step.
The last screen of the installer shows us a summary of actions which will be taken and we are given a chance to click on items to change them. For example, we are shown that a firewall will be set up and that the OpenSSH service will be installed, but disabled. Clicking links next to these items lets us toggle them on/off or further customize the operating system. Once we agree to proceed, the installer installs its packages and reboots the computer, automatically booting us into openSUSE 15.
I like openSUSE's installer. It's streamlined and makes setting up the system fairly easy. Many users will probably be able to get through by clicking Next a few times and taking the defaults. That being said, if we want to, the installer gives us a lot of power to customize the system. I feel openSUSE offers a great balance by making things quick and straight forward while providing, under the surface, the ability to tweak everything from installed packages, to partitions to where the boot loader is installed.
openSUSE boots to a graphical login screen where we are presented with four different session options. The default option is to sign into the KDE Plasma desktop running on X.Org. There is also an option to run the Plasma desktop on a Wayland session. I tried the Wayland option, but it failed to load and would simply return me to the login screen. The other two session options are for the TWM and IceWM window managers. These sessions both provide very minimal, light graphical interfaces. The IceWM option is usable as a desktop, with a panel and application menu. It's not pretty, but certainly functional. The TWM option just presents us with an empty screen with a context menu to help us navigate and will not be practical for most people.
I focused on using the default Plasma 5.12 session. The Plasma desktop features a panel at the bottom of the screen that holds our application menu, task switcher and system tray. The application menu has a classic tree-style layout, which I tend to prefer over other application launchers. There are icons on the desktop for opening the file manager. The default theme is fairly neutral in terms of colour and brightness with a minimal icon set.
I experimented with openSUSE 15 in a VirtualBox environment and on a desktop computer. When running in VirtualBox, the distribution automatically integrated with the host system and tended to run smoothly. When running on the physical desktop computer, the operating system worked well, recognizing all of my computer's hardware. In either environment, openSUSE used about 420MB of memory. A fresh install of the operating system, with the Plasma desktop, used about 6.5GB of disk space. This amount of disk usage makes openSUSE larger than most other distributions I have used recently.
opensuse 15 -- Running Firefox and LibreOffice
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The performance of openSUSE, at least when signed into the Plasma desktop, was varied. The operating system was unusually slow to start up and shut down. Booting always took over a minute, about twice as long as (for example) Debian. And shutting down almost always took around 15 to 20 seconds, which is unusually slow in my experience. Most of the time the Plasma desktop was responsive, but sometimes it would lag quite a bit. Even with file indexing and most visual effects turned off, the desktop tended to noticeably lag. The poor performance came and went, and I think it was caused by different issues. For example, sometimes I would check the system monitor and find the Snapper daemon (snapperd) was using around 25% of my CPU, though Snapper wasn't being actively used. Other times the Kwin window manager would show unusually high load. These issues tended to resolve themselves on their own after a few minutes. Another, seemingly unrelated issue I ran into was openSUSE would use a lot of my host computer's CPU when running in VirtualBox. Host CPU usage varied a lot, but it ranged anywhere from 25% to 100% even when the openSUSE guest was sitting almost entirely idle. This made running openSUSE much more pleasant on physical hardware than in VirtualBox.
openSUSE ships with a fairly standard collection of open source applications. While there seems to be a slight preference to use KDE/Qt software with the KDE Plasma desktop, there are applications built with other toolkits. This means we have such KDE-related items as KMail, the Konversation IRC client, and the Akregator feed reader, but we also start with the GNU Image Manipulation Program. openSUSE also ships with the Firefox web browser, the TigerVNC Viewer, LibreOffice and the KOrganizer personal organizer. The K3b disc burning software is available along with the Mutt console e-mail client, the Marble Globe and Dolphin file manager.
There are a few encryption and security key programs, including KGpg and Kleopatra. I also found desktop accessibility tools, the Okular document viewer and a few small games. Java is installed for us too. openSUSE uses systemd for its init implementation and runs on version 4.12 of the Linux kernel.
The distribution has a little something for just about everyone, but its one weak point for me was multimedia support. Dragon Player is the only media player and, by default, it was unable to play any media I threw at it. Unfortunately Dragon Player does not tell us why it cannot play the file (openSUSE does not ship most media codecs), it just silently fails to open media files. We can try to work around this by going into the YaST control panel and adding the Pacman community repository through the software module. I did this and then installed the VLC multimedia player. Afterwards, I still could not play videos through VLC as the player reported it was still missing the necessary codecs. I was able to track down a VLC codecs package and install it, and from then on I could play video and audio files. Other codec bundles may be required if we want to use alternative media players.
When it comes to managing software, openSUSE gives us several options. There are two graphical software managers, accessible from the application menu. One is labelled Add/Remove Software and launches the YaST package manager. The YaST tool is very flexible, offering several options for searching for items, organizing available packages by category and narrowing down options using filters. From the YaST tool we can also add or remove community repositories with a few clicks. The YaST tool is very capable and offers a lot of options, but it is geared toward administrators. The many tabs and options will probably turn away newer users who just want to browse through desktop applications.
opensuse 15 -- The Discover software manager
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For the more casual user there is the Discover software manager. Discover lets us browse through categories of applications, perform basic searches and see what items are already installed. There is a separate screen where we can check for package updates.
While Discover has the more simple, friendlier interface, I ran into two problems while using it. The first was Discover can sometimes lock up and stop responding, necessitating that we forcibly terminate the software manager. The second issue I noticed was that not all desktop applications which show up in the YaST tool would appear in Discover. Earlier I mentioned installing VLC, a common desktop program. This had to be done from within YaST as searches in Discover returned no results for VLC.
opensuse 15 -- Trying to find VLC
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Also on the topic of software management, when new updates become available, a notification appears letting us know. Clicking the update icon in Plasma's system tray opens a small widget which lists available updates. We can select the ones we want and click a button to download them. The update widget worked well for me and I like that it provides progress updates while it works.
Finally, we have the option of managing software using openSUSE's zypper command line utility. I find zypper to be fast and its syntax fairly easy to remember. Mostly though I focused on using the graphical front-ends for package management.
Earlier I mentioned YaST and I think it deserves more discussion. YaST is a settings panel and collection of system administration tools. The YaST panel gives us quick access to many user friendly tools which make it straight forward to control most aspects of the underlying operating system. Through YaST we can access modules for managing software packages, updates and repositories. There are other modules for adding printers and scanners to the system. There are more modules for setting up and changing network connections. We can also perform disk partitioning, manage background services, set up network shares and edit the firewall rules. There are also modules for editing user accounts and browsing hardware information.
opensuse 15 -- Managing background services
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I found all the YaST modules worked well and I encountered no problems. When I first opened the firewall module, YaST paused to download some additional packages not included by default. Adding these necessary packages was handled automatically. On the whole, I found YaST's administration modules to be easy to use and they cover such a wide range of functions that I never had to use the command line to adjust an operating system setting.
KDE System Settings
There is a second settings panel for customizing the desktop environment. The KDE System Settings panel is included to help us change the look and feel of the desktop. Unlike other distributions shipping Plasma 5.12, openSUSE has decided to stick with the classic icon grid to navigate Plasma's settings. Other projects are moving to a split-pane, sidebar view, which I find less efficient. I also appreciate that openSUSE's implementation still asks before discarding changes we have made so new settings are not lost when switching between modules. This is something other distributions have not done, to my frustration.
opensuse 15 -- YaST and KDE System Settings
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I found the desktop settings panel was easy to navigate and I had no trouble tweaking the desktop to my preferences. There are a lot of options to navigate, but the panel has a search feature to help us find the right module. The only problem I ran into was when it came to setting up a printer. The KDE panel asked for my sudo password twice, then said my access to browse/add printers was forbidden. I switched over to the YaST panel and used its printer module, which worked for me without any problem.
Snapshots and boot environments
One of the key features which sets openSUSE apart from most other distributions is the use of Btrfs and file system snapshots. Each time we make a change to the operating system via the YaST collection of tools, the system takes a snapshot. We can then see snapshots of our file system in a YaST tool called Snapper. The Snapper tool shows a list of snapshots and tries to indicate which YaST tool triggered the snapshot's creation. This means the snapshots are often listed with a comment like "yast users" or "yast software". We can select a snapshot to see which files were changed between two snapshots. We can even see a line-by-line comparison of any two text files to find out how they were changed. We can then rollback changes, either for an entire snapshot or one specific file.
opensuse 15 -- Using Snapper to compare changes between snapshots
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This ability to automatically take Btrfs snapshots and rollback any changes that caused problems is a fantastic feature. What makes it even more compelling is that when openSUSE boots we can go into the Advanced options menu and select which snapshot we want to boot. This means if an update or configuration change breaks the operating system, we can often fix it by booting an older snapshot and rolling back any problems. As far as I know, openSUSE (and SLE) are the only mainstream Linux distributions which set up snapshots and boot environments by default.
openSUSE 15 has a related feature called transactional updates (sometimes called atomic updates). On openSUSE, when we set up a server which uses transactional updates, the running root file system is not directly affected by software updates. Changes are made in a separate file system snapshot. Then, the next time the system boots, we are automatically transitioned to the new snapshot. If something goes wrong, we can switch back to the previous snapshot. This should insure that the operating system always has a working state and that anything which interrupts the update process will not harm the running system. A news post on the openSUSE blog offers more details on this process. I have not yet had a chance to try transactional updates, but I have used a similar feature on FreeBSD and found it to be useful at protecting the system during upgrades.
openSUSE is, in my opinion, one of the more interesting distributions to watch and use. The YaST administration tools are, in my opinion, second to none. I also like that openSUSE tends to offer modern software, but often with a slightly conservative style. Plasma 5.12 is a cutting edge desktop, but its application menu and settings panel reflect an older style. Personally, this combination of new technology with a conservative look is an approach I like a lot. This week it was nice to use an interface on my desktop computer that looks like it was designed to be run on a desktop and not on a tablet or smart phone.
The move to line openSUSE up with SUSE Linux Enterprise is an interesting one. I assume this was mostly done to make maintaining the two distributions easier. It also has a nice effect of making it possible migrate from openSUSE to the commercially supported SLE. This makes openSUSE's relationship to SLE an even closer parallel to CentOS's relationship to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. I suspect businesses will like this as it gives them a chance to test drive openSUSE before investing in SLE support.
I like the work that has gone into the system installer. It is getting better and more streamlined. openSUSE's installer has always been powerful, but now it is also simplified for less experienced users. I think this version is more accessible to new users than past releases have been.
I think it is worth mentioning openSUSE has a rolling release edition, called Tumbleweed. I was using openSUSE's main edition (Leap) this week, but for people who want to stay on the bleeding edge, there is a rolling release option.
I had two main complaints with openSUSE 15. The first was the lack of media support. This is not a new issue, openSUSE has always shied away from providing media codecs that may be restricted by patents or licensing. What I found frustrating was the default media player does not tell the user why it cannot play a file, it simply does nothing. Also, once I had found and enabled the community repository with media support, I still had to manually track down codec packages. Now, to be fair, there are guides and options out there which will simplify adding codecs to openSUSE. Which is great, if the user knows about them. My complaint is not that codecs cannot be easily added to openSUSE, but that the user needs to know why their media player is not working before they can find the available solutions. Right now, the reason for media files failing to play is not clear unless the user is already familiar with openSUSE's policies.
My second issue was with performance. The Plasma desktop was usually responsive, but every once in a while (a couple of times per day), something would go wrong (snapperd would take up too much CPU, files would be indexed, or Kwin would get bogged down) and it would have a big impact on the desktop experience. openSUSE was also oddly slow to boot and shutdown compared to most other distributions.
Something I noticed when reading the project's release announcement is openSUSE claims to be one of the world's most tested distributions: "openSUSE Leap has become the best and most tested Linux distribution." To the project's credit, most of openSUSE does come across as being well tested and stable. I say "most" because there seems to be a divide in quality between the core openSUSE technology and third-party items. For example, the YaST package manager was fast, flexible and stable. The Discover software manager was slower, failed to find an available package and crashed a couple of times. The YaST printer manager worked with no problems while the printer tool in KDE System Settings refused to give me access to add a printer. There are other minor examples, but my point is openSUSE's in-house development seems to be producing excellent software. But, stepping outside that bubble, things are not always as rock solid.
What I think makes openSUSE stand out, and makes it more appealing than most distributions, is the excellent Btrfs support which makes use of snapshots. Being able to snapshot the file system and recover the system (or a specific configuration file) with a few clicks is a fantastic feature. Snapshots make openSUSE nearly bullet proof and, if Btrfs is used properly, they can also make it possible for users to recover files. These features alone make me inclined to recommend openSUSE to most users. There are plenty of other reasons I would recommend openSUSE: three years of support, great administration tools and a friendly installer. As a whole, I think openSUSE 15 is turning out to be one of my favourite releases of 2018.
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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
openSUSE has a visitor supplied average rating of: 8.8/10 from 270 review(s).
Have you used openSUSE? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Fedora 26 reaches its end of life, MX Linux 14 and Debian 7 reach end of life, KDE Connect gaining more features, trimming down GNOME, updates to the Pamac package manager, Bodhi closes forums, ReactOS can build itself
Paul Frields has published an announcement, reminding Fedora users that Fedora 26 reaches the end of its supported life this week. The Fedora project recommends people still running Fedora 26 upgrade to either version 27 or 28 to continue receiving security updates. "After June 1, packages in the Fedora 26 repositories no longer receive any security, bug-fix, or enhancement updates. Furthermore, at that point the community adds no new packages to the F26 collection. The Fedora Project highly recommends you upgrade all systems to Fedora 28 or Fedora 27 before the EOL date." The announcement includes some highlights from the Fedora 26 release.
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The MX Linux team has posted a reminder that MX Linux 14, which was based on Debian 7 Wheezy, has reached the end of its supported life. Debian 7 received approximately five years of security updates, which concluded at the end of May 2018. "Long Term Support for Debian Wheezy ends today. As MX-14 is based on Wheezy, its official support also ends as planned. The MX-14 repositories will remain available indefinitely (and for the near term at mxrepo.com and it.mxrepo.com) but they will soon no longer be officially mirrored elsewhere. We encourage any remaining MX-14 users to update to MX-17 so they can continue receiving regular & security updates." This means MX Linux, and other distributions still based on Debian 7, will no longer receive security updates and bug fixes.
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KDE Connect is a tool which allows an Adroid device to communicate with a Linux desktop computer over the network. Using this connection, information and commands can be easily passed back and forth between the two devices. In a development sprint last week the KDE team worked on improving sending and receiving SMS texts from the desktop side. The team also worked on a plug-in for the GNOME Nautilus file manager to allow it to communicate with Android devices the same way KDE's Dolphin file manager does. "Matthijs improved the functionality of multimedia controls - now it's possible to display the album art from your desktop on your Android devices (both on the lock screen and in the new multimedia notification). Meanwhile, Aleix and Nico started paving the way towards better integration with PulseAudio control, sharing some code between KDE Connect and the Plasma volume control. A less visible but crucial part of what makes KDE Connect so useful is its integration with the system. Albert Vaca worked on a KDE Connect plugin for Nautilus, so people who don't use Plasma and Dolphin can also have a great user experience." More information on the work done during the development sprint can be found in this blog post.
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In other desktop-related news, Evan Klitzke has published a series of steps to make GNOME more streamlined. Klitzke refers to this process as "lobotomizing GNOME", making the case that GNOME Shell has some great features, but the GNOME environment as a whole is overly large and wastes resources. "I think that GNOME Shell is the most attractive and useful window manager for any operating system out there. And GNOME has really good integration with the other parts of my system, which makes sense because it's the default desktop environment on my distro (Fedora) and most others, including Debian and Ubuntu. GNOME is also light-years ahead of everything else in terms of Wayland support. Fedora has been shipping Wayland as the default GNOME display backend since Fedora 25 (2016), and it works incredibly well. The most compelling user-visible feature that has come out of this is GNOME's 'fractional scaling' feature, which is a quantum leap in terms of how content is scaled on high-DPI screens. But I'll be honest: GNOME is huge and kind of bloated, and it's hard to disable various unwanted components. GNOME Shell is amazing, but a lot of the other components of GNOME are simply unwanted. This is what turns a lot of power users away from GNOME, which I think is a shame given all of the other amazing things about GNOME." The rest of the blog post provides instructions for removing optional GNOME features.
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The Manjaro Linux team has introduced a few changes to the distribution's graphical package manager, Pamac. The latest version, Pamac 6.4, introduces the ability to automatically download software updates and initiate searches from the command line. A tweet from the developers reads: "With Pamac v6.4 we added an option to auto download updates (disabled by default). With '--search' added to cli you can start pamac-manager with a search. Also we support Pacman v5.1 now." The tweet includes a screen shot, showing where the automatic download feature can be enabled.
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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union law which addresses the collection, processing and distribution of personal information. The law, which came into affect on May 25th, is designed to protect the personal information of European Union residents. The new law, while generally regarded as being well intendtioned, has also received criticism for its broad definition of personal information and its potential impact on open source and non-profit organizations. The Bodhi Linux project, concerned by potential fines, has shut down the distribution's forums. "From my understanding even though Bodhi and all of its services operate out of the US, Bodhi (and thus myself) could be held legally responsible for the data people in the EU provide to us. I am not willing to risk the financial security of my family over a project that effectively makes no money after operating costs. I do not have the bandwidth or legal background to understand what is needed to make us compliant with these new laws. Our user forums and all associated data with them have been deleted. We have also deleted all comments and e-mails / names associated with them on this WordPress page and disabled comments moving forward to not collect data here either." Bodhi users seeking help can visit the project's Discord and Reddit pages.
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The ReactOS project develops a open source operating system which attempts to be binary compatible with Microsoft Windows, allowing ReactOS users to run Windows programs. The ReactOS project recently updated their build insructions to indicate ReactOS is able to build itself without the aid of another operating system. This is a significant milestone for operating systems as it allows developers to work on a system while running the system. A related tweet reads: "Now, ReactOS can fully build ReactOS, even with the USB stack. Be it a LiveCD or a BootCD!"
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Tips and Tricks (by Jesse Smith)
An overview of hard and soft links
A link is a special kind of file which, in essence, points to another file or location in your computer's file system. Links are often used as short-cuts that make it easier to jump from one directory to another or to more easily access files. At first glance, a link looks like any other file or directory, but links are special and this week I want to give a quick overview on how they work.
There are two main types of links on Linux: symbolic links and regular links. Symbolic links are sometimes referred to as "soft" links while regular links are called "hard" links. I think symbolic links are easier to understand, so let's start with those.
A symbolic link is basically just a file which acts as a short-cut to another part of the file system. A symbolic link is a little like a web browser bookmark or a desktop short-cut; a quick way to get to a frequently accessed resource. It is not a copy of the resource, just a short-cut to it. You may have spotted a symbolic link in your file manager, they stand out because their icons look like regular files, but with an arrow at the bottom of the icon. When working from a command line, you can identify symbolic links by the "l" at the beginning of a line of "ls -l" output:
$ ls -l
In the above example we see two files, view.jpg and link.jpg. At the beginning of the first line you can see the lower-case L which tells us link.jpg is a symbolic link. At the end of the line we can see where our link (or short-cut) points. The link.jpg link points to a real location, the other file (view.jpg).
lrwxrwxrwx 1 jesse jesse 8 May 22 15:46 link.jpg -> view.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 jesse jesse 394847 May 22 15:46 view.jpg
The above example is not particularly useful because it is just as easy for us to access view.jpg directly as it is for us to open link.jpg. Where symbolic links come in handy is when they provide us with a short-cut to another location. Here is another example where we have a link in the current directory, called me.jpg, which points to a file in my Pictures folder.
$ ls -l
Now, without leaving the current directory, I can use the me.jpg link to access the portrait.jpg photo in another directory. Anything I do to the me.jpg image, whether that is opening it, resizing it or copying it, will actually happen to the original portrait.jpg image. The system knows that whenever I reference me.jpg, I really want to open portrait.jpg.
lrwxrwxrwx 1 jesse jesse 8 May 22 15:46 link.jpg -> view.jpg
lrwxrwxrwx 1 jesse jesse 33 May 22 15:51 me.jpg -> /home/jesse/Pictures/portrait.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 jesse jesse 394847 May 22 15:46 view.jpg
We can create a symbolic link in most file managers by right-clicking and choosing to create a new link to a file or directory. In the Dolphin file manager, for instance, I can right-click in a directory, select Create New from the pop-up menu and then select Basic link to file or directory. I then get to name the link and select the file or folder where I want the link to go.
From the command line a symbolic link can be created using the ln program and passing it the -s parameter. For example, here is how I created the me.jpg short-cut to an image in my Pictures folder:
ln -s /home/jesse/Pictures/portrait.jpg me.jpg
After the -s flag, we just need to specify the original location of the file and the name of the link.
A symbolic link can also point to a directory. This can be helpful if we frequently want to access a folder that is buried deep in the file system. For example, in my home directory I could create a short-cut to where my Apache log files are stored:
ln -s /var/log/apache2 logs
Then, whenever I want to access log files, I don't need to browse from my home folder, up to the top level of the file system and then down into /var/log/apache2. I can just click on the logs short-cut in my home directory and I'm instantly in the directory where I need to be.
When we remove a symbolic link, either in a file manager or from the command line, it only destroys the link, not the original file or folder. This makes deleting symbolic links fairly safe.
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A hard link also makes it possible to quickly access a resource from an alternative location, or under a different name. However, a hard link is a little different. A hard link to a file acts just like the file itself. A hard link makes it possible to have the same file in multiple locations.
This may sound a little strange, but a hard link means we have access to the same file in two (or more) locations. A link is not a separate copy of a file, it is the same file which shows up in two different places.
One important thing which separates hard links from symbolic links is that, with a symbolic link, if the original file is deleted, then the file is gone. The symbolic link will still exist, but it will not point to anything. The link is then broken and trying to access it will result in an error because the original file or directory has been removed. This is different from a hard link. If we were to create a hard link to a file and then delete the original, the file still exists in the link's location.
This might make hard links seems a little confusing, so let's look at some ways we can play with links. I am going to set up a directory containing a file called original containing the words "Hello World!". Then I will create a symbolic link and a hard link to the text file.
echo "Hello World!" > original
At this point we have an original text file, with a hard link and a symbolic link pointing to it. The output of "ls -l" looks like this:
ln original hard-link
ln -s original soft-link
-rw-r--r-- 2 jesse jesse 14 May 22 18:59 hard-link
Note the number just to the left of my username. Here it says "2", which means there are two instances of the original file. Both original and hard-link have the number 2 in their listing because they are each a link or instance of the same file. If I add a new hard link to original, then the count will rise to 3. The file will remain on the disk so long as there are links to it. When the instance counter gets down to 0 then the file is removed.
-rw-r--r-- 2 jesse jesse 14 May 22 18:59 original
lrwxrwxrwx 1 jesse jesse 8 May 22 18:59 soft-link -> original
Right now, with these three files and links, if I print the contents of any of them, I will get the same output: "Hello World!". I could do this by running "cat soft-link" or "cat hard-link", the result will be the same.
Next, let's look at what happens if I remove the original file and then try to access both the soft-link and the hard-link instances:
$ rm original
The symbolic link, soft-link, is now broken because it was just pointing to where the original file was. The hard-link file continues to work because it is the original file, just under a different name.
$ cat soft-link
cat: soft-link: No such file or directory
$ cat hard-link
As you might imagine, this makes hard links very useful because they give us direct, redundant access to a file. However, hard links have some limitations. A hard link must point to a file, we cannot hard link a directory. A soft link can point to a directory or a file, it works either way because it is only a bookmark. Another limitation of a hard link is it cannot point to a file on another device, or partition. This means if I try to make a hard link between a file on my root partition and on my /home partition, the action will fail. Since a hard link is just the same file under a different name, and not a copy, it cannot span across physical devices. For cross-device linking we can use a symbolic link.
Links, hard and soft, are typically used to provide quick access to commonly used resources. They act much like a web bookmark or short-cuts from one part of the file system to another. Hard links are especially useful when we want a file to appear in two different places without taking up additional disk space the way an extra copy would.
* * * * *
More tips can be found in our Tips and Tricks archive.
|Released Last Week
Linux Lite 4.0
Jerry Bezencon has announced the release of Linux Lite, an Ubuntu-based distribution featuring the Xfce desktop environment. Some key changes in the newly launched Linux Lite 4.0 include a new backup utility, replacing home directory encryption with full disk encryption and dropping 32-bit support. "The main changes in Linux Lite Series 4.x include a new icon and system theme, Timeshift for system backups, Shotwell to manage and perform basic edits on images, MenuLibre to manage menu entries, new Lite applications including Lite Desktop that manages common icons on the desktop, Lite Sounds to manage system wide sounds, and many of our existing applications have been updated. See below for all the changes: Minimum recommended specs have been raised slightly to more realistic levels (RAM, CPU). There are no more 32-bit ISO releases. If you still require a 32-bit OS due to hardware limitations, series 3.x is supported through to April 2021. Xfce PulseAudio plugin, has been added to the system tray for highly customizable options regarding volume management. Full disk encryption now replaces home encryption in the installer (an Ubuntu implementation). The new boot splash also shows you the password field in GUI for encrypted partitions. Ubuntu no longer offers an opportunity to set a swap partition. A swap file is now automatically created for you which is a maximum of 2GB or 5% of free disk space (an Ubuntu implementation). Compositing is now enabled out-of-the-box." Further details and screen shots can be found in the project's release announcement.
Linux Lite 4.0 -- Running the Xfce desktop
(full image size: 183kB, resolution: 1920x1200 pixels)
BlackArch Linux 2018.06.01
BlackArch Linux is an Arch Linux-based distribution designed for penetration testers and security researchers. The project's latest snapshot, BlackArch 2018.06.01, introduces many new tools, replaces the Midori web browser with Chromium and includes several bug fixes. "Today we released the new BlackArch Linux ISOs and OVA image. This is a high quality release! For details see the ChangeLog below. Here's the ChangeLog: added more than 60 new tools; added config files for i3-wm (BlackArch compatible); network stack tunings (sysctl + tuning.sh); added system/pacman clean-up script (consistency++); switched to terminus font (console, LXDM, WMs, x-terminals); replaced second browser Midori with Chromium; really, a lot of clean-ups and many tweaks!" Further information can be found on the project's blog page.
Q4OS is a lightweight, Debian-based distribution which features the Trinity desktop (a continuation of the KDE 3 desktop environment). The project's latest release, Q4OS 2.5, introduces several package updates and also makes it possible to install the KDE Plasma 5 desktop alongside Trinity. "A significant update to the Q4OS 2 Scorpion stable LTS is immediately available for download. The new 2.5 series brings an essential change adding KDE Plasma to be an equal option to the Trinity desktop, as Q4OS is now pre-configured for both desktops to coexist alongside each other. System installer configures the system the usual way, but decides afterwards to offer additional installation of the KDE Plasma desktop, if sufficient hardware resources are detected. So a user can login and switch forth and back between lightweight efficient Trinity desktop and more advanced KDE Plasma desktop environment according to his choice. Other changes include PulseAudio with better system integration for easier audio management, Q4OS installer improvements, Firefox 60 and LibreOffice 6 installers, important security and bug fixes as well as cumulative upgrade covering all changes since the previous Q4OS 2 Scorpion stable release." Further details can be found on the project's blog.
4MLinux is a small, 32-bit Linux distribution focusing on four capabilities: maintenance (as a system rescue live CD), multimedia (for playing video DVDs and other multimedia files), miniserver (using the inetd daemon), and mystery (providing several small Linux games). The project's latest release, 4MLinux 25.0, smooths out handling CA certificates, offers an option to disable the login screen and uses mpv as the default media player. The release announcement reads: "As always, a new major release comes with some new features: better handling of CA certificates (no need to accept them manually), full support for Zstandard data compression algorithm (4MLinux Backup Scripts), login screen can now be disabled (it's a response to user requests), GIMP 2.10 with full support for scanners and digital cameras, Python3 with Meson and Ninja (this is now, de facto, the main build system in GNOME/GTK+ ecosystem). The default media player in 4MLinux is now mpv (with GNOME MPV). Other players (MPlayer, SMPlayer, Xine and VLC) are available as downloadable extensions. Good news for modern computers: all these applications are now able to make use of hardware video acceleration (via VA-API and VDPAU). Good news for old computers: MPlayer, Xine and VLC can play videos without X Window System (use Midnight Commander to select files to play)."
* * * * *
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: 878
- Total data uploaded: 19.9TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
openSUSE's key features
In this week's review of openSUSE we touched on several of the distribution's key features. Some of these includes three years of security updates, the ability to migrate to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE), Btrfs snapshots, transactional updates and the YaST control centre. This week we would like to find out which of openSUSE's key features most appeals to you. If it is not listed here, let us know what feature you find most useful in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on OEMs bundling their own distributions with new computers in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Favourite feature of openSUSE
|3 years of support: ||108 (12%)|
| Migration path to SLE: ||14 (2%)|
| Btrfs snapshots/boot environments: ||168 (18%)|
| Transactional updates: ||21 (2%)|
| YaST control centre: ||232 (25%)|
| Choice of fixed or rolling release: ||136 (15%)|
| Flexible installer: ||38 (4%)|
| Another feature not listed here: ||24 (3%)|
| None of the above: ||183 (20%)|
Added search option for OEM installs
Based on requests we have received, a new option has been added to our Search page. It is now possible to search for distributions which offer an OEM install option. The OEM option can be selected under the Install method field.
Right now the list of distributions in our database which support OEM style installs is fairly short, mostly limited to Ubuntu and its community editions. If you are aware of projects not on our OEM list, please let us know.
* * * * *
Distributions added to waiting list
- Isotop. Isotop is a customized version of OpenBSD which is designed to simplify setting up OpenBSD as a desktop operating system. French and English translations are available.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 11 June 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 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Issue 790 (2018-11-19): NetBSD 8.0, Bash tips and short-cuts, Fedora's networking benchmarked with FreeBSD, Ubuntu 18.04 to get ten years of support|
|• Issue 789 (2018-11-12): Fedora 29 Workstation and Silverblue, Haiku recovering from server outage, Fedora turns 15, Debian publishes updated media|
|• Issue 788 (2018-11-05): Clu Linux Live 6.0, examining RAM consumpion, finding support for older CPUs, more Steam support for running Windows games on Linux, update from Solus team|
|• Issue 787 (2018-10-29): Lubuntu 18.10, limiting application access to specific users, Haiku hardware compatibility list, IBM purchasing Red Hat|
|• Issue 786 (2018-10-22): elementary OS 5.0, why init keeps running, DragonFly BSD enables virtual machine memory resizing, KDE neon plans to drop older base|
|• Issue 785 (2018-10-15): Reborn OS 2018.09, Nitrux 1.0.15, swapping hard drives between computers, feren OS tries KDE spin, power savings coming to Linux|
|• Issue 784 (2018-10-08): Hamara 2.1, improving manual pages, UBports gets VoIP app, Fedora testing power saving feature|
|• Issue 783 (2018-10-01): Quirky 8.6, setting up dual booting with Ubuntu and FreeBSD, Lubuntu switching to LXQt, Mint works on performance improvements|
|• Issue 782 (2018-09-24): Bodhi Linux 5.0.0, Elive 3.0.0, Solus publishes ISO refresh, UBports invites feedback, Linux Torvalds plans temporary vacation|
|• Issue 781 (2018-09-17): Linux Mint 3 "Debian Edition", file systems for SSDs, MX makes installing Flatpaks easier, Arch team answers questions, Mageia reaches EOL|
|• Issue 780 (2018-09-10): Netrunner 2018.08 Rolling, Fedora improves language support, how to customize Kali Linux, finding the right video drivers|
|• Issue 779 (2018-09-03): Redcore 1806, keeping ISO downloads safe from tampering, Lubuntu makes Calamares more flexible, Ubuntu improves GNOME performance|
|• Issue 778 (2018-08-27): GuixSD 0.15.0, ReactOS 0.4.9, Steam supports Windows games on Linux, Haiku plans for beta, merging disk partitions|
|• Issue 777 (2018-08-20): YunoHost 188.8.131.52, limiting process resource usage, converting file systems on Fedora, Debian turns 25, Lubuntu migrating to Wayland|
|• Issue 776 (2018-08-13): NomadBSD 1.1, Maximum storage limits on Linux, openSUSE extends life for 42.3, updates to the Librem 5 phone interface|
|• Issue 775 (2018-08-06): Secure-K OS 18.5, Linux is about choice, Korora tests community spin, elementary OS hires developer, ReactOS boots on Btrfs|
|• Issue 774 (2018-07-30): Ubuntu MATE & Ubuntu Budgie 18.04, upgrading software from source, Lubuntu shifts focus, NetBSD changes support policy|
|• Issue 773 (2018-07-23): Peppermint OS 9, types of security used by different projects, Mint reacts to bugs in core packages, Slackware turns 25|
|• Issue 772 (2018-07-16): Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre 0.2.4, UBports running desktop applications, OpenBSD auto-joins wi-fi networks, boot environments and zedenv|
|• Issue 771 (2018-07-09): Linux Lite 4.0, checking CPUs for bugs, configuring GRUB, Mint upgrade instructions, SUSE acquired by EQT|
|• Issue 770 (2018-07-02): Linux Mint 19, Solus polishes desktop experience, MintBox Mini 2, changes to Fedora's installer|
|• Issue 769 (2018-06-25): BunsenLabs Helium, counting Ubuntu users, UBports upgrading to 16.04, Fedora CoreOS, FreeBSD turns 25|
|• Issue 768 (2018-06-18): Devuan 2.0.0, using pkgsrc to manage software, the NOVA filesystem, OpenBSD handles successful cron output|
|• Issue 767 (2018-06-11): Android-x86 7.1-r1, transferring files over OpenSSH with pipes, LFS with Debian package management, Haiku ports LibreOffice|
|• Issue 766 (2018-06-04): openSUSE 15, overview of file system links, Manjaro updates Pamac, ReactOS builds itself, Bodhi closes forums|
|• Issue 765 (2018-05-28): Pop!_OS 18.04, gathering system information, Haiku unifying ARM builds, Solus resumes control of Budgie|
|• Issue 764 (2018-05-21): DragonFly BSD 5.2.0, Tails works on persistent packages, Ubuntu plans new features, finding services affected by an update|
|• Issue 763 (2018-05-14): Fedora 28, Debian compatibility coming to Chrome OS, malware found in some Snaps, Debian's many flavours|
|• Issue 762 (2018-05-07): TrueOS 18.03, live upgrading Raspbian, Mint plans future releases, HardenedBSD to switch back to OpenSSL|
|• Issue 761 (2018-04-30): Ubuntu 18.04, accessing ZFS snapshots, UBports to run on Librem 5 phones, Slackware makes PulseAudio optional|
|• 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|
|• Full list of all issues|
|Random Distribution |
NimbleX was a Slackware-based live CD which was able to boot from a CD, USB storage device or from another computer on the Local Area Network. Its main features are small size, a varied selection of software packages, and good hardware support.