| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 825, 29 July 2019
Welcome to this year's 30th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
There are a lot of different Linux-based projects in the world, each with their own vision of what an operating system should be and what features it should provide. This week we talk about a wide range of distributions that fill many different roles, from mobile computing, to off-line desktop machines, to freedom-focused projects, to enterprise-level solutions. We begin with a review of Endless OS, a streamlined desktop distribution from a company that sells Linux laptops. We also share a review this week of UBports, a community-run project which has continued development of Canonical's Ubuntu Touch operating system. Read on to find out how UBports runs on a Nexus 5 Android phone. We ask you to let us know your thoughts on running GNU/Linux on mobile devices in our Opinion Poll. In our News section we link to a discussion Fedora developers are having about supporting CPU optimizations and legacy hardware support. Plus we link to a questions and answers session with Red Hat's CTO, Chris Wright. Project Trident is launching a stable branch, with a stable ABI and OpenRC, and we link to further details on the new branch. The gNewSense project has been quiet recently and is now looking for a new maintainer and we link to a mailing list discussion on the project's changing leadership. Plus we are pleased to share the releases of the past week and list the torrents we are seeding. We wish you all a fantastic week and happy reading!
- Review: Endless OS 3.6
- News: Fedora developers discuss optimizations, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Chris Wright answers questions about Red Hat, Project Trident offers stable branch, Linux can be shipped with a headers module
- Technology review: UBports 16.04 on a Nexus 5
- Released last week
- Torrent corner: Bicom, GParted, KDE neon, Robolinux, Volumio
- Opinion poll: GNU/Linux phones in 2019
- New distributions: PakOS, Delinux, TROM-Jaro
- Reader comments
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in OGG (22MB) and MP3 (16MB) formats.
|Feature Story (by Ivan Sanders)
Endless OS 3.6
It has been more than two years since we reviewed Endless OS, so we wanted to see what is new about the system. From their website: "Endless OS is a free, easy-to-use operating system preloaded with over 100 apps, making it useful from the moment you turn it on. Explore what makes Endless OS different, intuitive, and powerful."
There are two main versions of Endless OS that you can download - the Basic and Full versions. The Full version is also available in English, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Portuguese, Thai, and Vietnamese. The main difference is that the Full version of the operating system is intended for installation onto machines that have little or no Internet connection. The Full version of Endless OS comes packed with all of their own packaged informational and educational materials. These include packages for all types of subjects ranging from animals to physics; over 50,000 Wikipedia articles and other video lessons are included. I used the Basic version of Endless OS for my review.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- Browsing Wikipedia resources
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Endless OS is built from Debian, but there is not much connection to the parent distro. Endless OS utilizes OSTree, which is "an upgrade system for Linux-based operating systems that performs atomic upgrades of complete filesystem trees." As a fairly intermediate Linux user, I still don't completely understand what OSTree is, but I do understand that Endless OS utilizes Flatpaks as their primary package system and Flatpaks are intended to complement OSTree. There is no way, that I found, to use traditional APT commands or install .deb files. That being said, I was exceptionally surprised at how much software was in the Flathub repository and I was impressed at how well that software worked when I installed it and how well they integrated into Endless OS.
Installation of the distro was a breeze, but also very unorthodox as far as Linux distro installations go. Booting up the media from USB, the user has the option to try Endless OS or go straight into the installation. The installation portion only lets you erase your hard drive and your operating system and install Endless, with Endless OS taking control of your computer. I was okay with this to give the distro a proper review, but I know many users prefer to dual boot or partition their hard drives manually. The Endless OS installation process does not allow any partitioning, and the filesystem is only installed onto one disk. This is a big problem for me. I prefer to put my root partition on my SSD and my home partition on my HDD, but Endless OS only utilized my SSD. I am not sure why Endless OS does this, and I have read that OSTree allows manual partitioning, as in Fedora Silverblue, as well as dual boot, but not Endless OS. Endless OS tries to be as simple as possible to reach the widest audience, and this may have something to do with their partitioning scheme. I was able to mount my HDD after installation using gnome-disks and setting up auto-mount, but I was never able to get it to function as my home partition the way I wanted it to.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- The Endless desktop with icons
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After installation, I was pleasantly surprised to see my wi-fi worked out of the box. This is not always the case, as in when I install Debian or Manjaro. Usually I have to blacklist a module or install specific drivers, but not in the case of Endless OS. I immediately noticed how quick and seamless Endless OS operated. It is very snappy and responsive.
Endless OS is locked down. It is important to remember that Endless is a company. The sell their own hardware with Endless OS installed on it and they market towards communities that may not have access to modern computers, money to buy them, or very good infrastructure. They lock down the OS to prevent breakage; probably the same reason they went with OSTree. Someone at Endless may have had a bad experience with Linux and didn't want that experience to happen to their users. For people who have never used Linux or people who have nearly no access to computers, this is probably a great solution. As a Linux user who likes to manage their OS, I hated the locked down system. I was surprised they give the user access to the terminal and sudo.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- The Chrome Discover centre
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The software center is very straight forward and easy to use. Clicking on Chrome quickly installed Chrome (it did not come pre-installed but was an icon on the desktop). I had some hiccups installing Firefox, but I was able to accomplish the installation through the terminal using "sudo flatpak install firefox". The start page on Chrome is an interesting Endless OS "Discover" page that offers a number of links to educational materials, social networks, and news. To my surprise, Adblock Plus was a pre-installed extension on Chrome. Considering Google and Chrome's new fear of ad blocking software, I wonder how long that will last as a default. The Wikipedia front-end software from Endless OS is very nice and provides an exceptional educational experience across a wide variety of subjects. One frustration I had with the software center was that I had to enter my password many times for some application installations.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- The software centre
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The desktop environment on Endless OS is a customized GNOME fork and gives a simple experience. Right clicking offers no functionality and the classic "Start" style button in the corner switches between showing your last app and showing the desktop, it is not a launcher or menu. Alt-tab offers a view of your applications in a pretty standard GNOME way. The desktop environment reminded me of Android in the way the applications are seemingly laid out on the desktop. This environment may be optimized for touch screens, but I do not use a touch screen so I cannot ttell you if that is the case, but it appears this would be a good use for the desktop.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- Alt-Tab functionality
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My computer usage includes browsing the Internet and watching shows through the browser, downloading through Transmission, playing games on Steam, working with the LibreOffice suite, and editing and processing photos using darktable. I was able to do all of this on Endless OS. All of this software is either provided on the system by default (as in the case of LibreOffice) or is easily installed using Flatpaks. I was surprised at how well the Flatpaks worked.
I was also surprised to see that although the website says Endless OS does not yet work with Optimus laptops, my NVIDIA card was being utilized out of the box for operations like gaming. Endless OS has a neat tool called eos-diagnostics. This is primarily for the developers and staff at Endless so they can see what is going on with you system when you have problems. The eos-diagnostics log showed that NVIDIA was indeed being used on my laptop, and I was pleased to see this. I am not sure how to switch to the Intel card on Endless OS, for a situation where you may want to save battery, and there was no way for me to tell if they were using a fancy NVIDIA offloading feature like Ubuntu uses. The system was too locked down for me to use nvidia-smi and the GPU-Viewer front-end provided from the Flatpak store was blank, showing absolutely no information. None of this was an issue for me, because I primarily use the NVIDIA card anyway. Endless OS comes with relatively up to date NVIDIA drivers - version 418 and Linux kernel 5.0 as of writing this review. I was also able to seamlessly add a printer and print, which is pleasant to see.
Endless OS 3.6.0 -- Adjusting settings
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An operating system is more than the functionality it provides on your computer, it is also the community behind it that gives support. One hardware issue I had (a common one for me) is that audio was not playing through HDMI. I made a post on their community/support page and I received replies within 24 hours addressing my issues. The Endless team member who provided support clearly read my eos-diagnostics log output and told me where my issue was. He was unable to solve my issue but I was happy with the support and community.
Endless - the company
They sell computers, small computers, with up to 4GB of RAM, HDMI and VGA on most, and all the other usual accouterments like USB 3 and Bluetooth. They definitely aren't powerful machines, and there is no price listed, instead you need to submit a form with contact information and they will get back to you. The computers are sleek and some seem to be design pieces. With the lower end specs, they are probably able to get the price down pretty well to match their marketing agenda towards lower income audiences. One other thing the company offers is a pay-as-you-go system (which they call PAYG) that allows lower income people to more easily afford their computers. On the surface this seems like an admirable cause, but if you dig a little you can see that their system, "was designed to de-risk loans through a PC locking mechanism, built into the Endless OS, that is tied to the payment status of a loan. If a customer is not able to make their loan payment the laptop locks until payment is made. While locked the users' data, files and settings are all perfectly preserved and protected. Endless PAYG is a completely offline code based locking mechanism. Users receive unlock codes over SMS once they make a payment. These codes then unlock the PC for different time intervals (1 day, 1 week, 1 month, etc)."
In the free and open source world that we as Linux users have become accustomed to, it is hard to remember that companies exist - companies have employees and employees need to make money to feed their families and put a roof over their head. Still, this mechanism upset me a great deal. I understand Endless is a company and needs to make money, but this feels akin to hackers who hold data ransom. If a person is paying as-they-go to use a computer because they cannot afford it outright, maybe we as a society should give them a little more grace than locking up their data when they cannot afford to pay. I would recommend, personally, a more gentle approach - perhaps locking functionality to only educational purposes and LibreOffice would be more appropriate.
Overall, I am impressed with Endless OS. I would never use it because I am a tinkerer and Endless OS does not allow tinkering. Endless has a good little thing going, and if they are able to bring Linux to the whole world, I support them in their endeavors. (I do not have to approve of all the ways they go about doing that.)
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Hardware used in this review
- Laptop - Lenovo Legion Y530
- Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H CPU @ 2.20GHz x 6
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD Samsung and 1TB HDD
- Memory: 16GB
- Networking: Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411
- Display: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
- Graphics: Intel Corporation UHD Graphics 630, NVIDIA Corporation GP106M [GeForce GTX 1060 Mobile]
- At startup, Endless OS used 534MB of RAM.
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Visitor supplied rating
Endless OS has a visitor supplied average rating of: 7.2/10 from 31 review(s).
Have you used Endless OS? You can leave your own review of the project on our ratings page.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Fedora developers discuss optimizations, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Chris Wright answers questions about Red Hat, Project Trident offers stable branch, Linux can be shipped with a headers module
An interesting discussion was opened this week on the Fedora developer mailing list concerning optimizations in software builds versus backward compatibility. The discussion was launched by a proposal to rebuild Fedora packages using modern CPU architectures, essentially upgrades to the original 64-bit design. The rebuild would leverage newer hardware features to provide better performance. However, the drawback is most computers older than five years of age would no longer be able to run the distribution. Most developers have opposed the change, pointing out it would render many fairly modern machines unable to run Fedora. Others have suggested the proposal could be applied to a special, optimized Fedora edition. This would allow most people to continue using regular Fedora spins while people who wanted to take advantage of modern CPU features could run the optimized build. The mailing list has raised important questions about how long hardware should be supported and how soon new features should be adopted.
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gNewSense gNewSense is a Debian-based Linux distribution released without any proprietary or non-free components. The project has been mostly dormant for the past four years and maintainer Sam Geeraerts has indicated he plans to retire from the project. "After much consideration, I've decided to step down as the maintainer of gNewSense. It was the distro I fell in love with and it would hurt me to see it disappear. Yet I must be honest with myself and the community and face the facts. I feel like I can't give it the attention it needs to keep it in a state worthy of a distro recommended by the FSF. I'm sorry to disappoint current users and those anticipating a new release." Geeraerts has indicated he plans to leave the project's infrastructure running for now and invites interested parties to step forward to take over the distribution.
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This week Chris Wright took to Reddit to talk about Red Hat, the company's acquisition by IBM and open source technology. Wright is Red Hat's CTO and invited people to post questions about IBM, Red Hat, and the company's various projects. The questions and answers can be found in this Reddit thread.
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Project Trident is a desktop operating system based on TrueOS that features the Lumina desktop. Project Trident uses a rolling release update cycle using a "current" branch. The project has announced the availability of a new "stable" branch which also receives rolling updates, but with a static ABI. "A new update train is now available based on the FreeBSD/TrueOS STABLE branch (version 12). This version uses the TrueOS 'trueos/stable/12' branch. This train also provides rolling updates to the packages that are available in the repository. Train features: Static ABI: Self-compiled binaries continue to run as-is for the lifetime of the stable branch..." Further details can be found in the project's blog post.
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People who need to compile Linux kernel modules often run into a problem when it comes to missing or mismatched header files. When compiling a Linux kernel module, the module needs to read information from kernel header files which explain what functions are available in the kernel and how they are to be used. When these header files are missing, or are the wrong version, the kernel module will usually fail to build properly. This becomes especially challenging on distributions where the kernel version changes, or the system remains on-line after a kernel update, meaning the running kernel and the kernel headers package do not have the same version number. Joel Fernandes has written an article talking about this problem and one solution: making kernel headers available as an optional kernel module: "My solution to the problem is to embed the kernel headers within the kernel image itself and make it available through the sysfs virtual filesystem (usually mounted at /sys) as a compressed archive file (/sys/kernel/kheaders.tar.xz). This archive can be uncompressed as needed to a temporary directory. This simple change guarantees that the headers are always shipped with the running kernel." This approach has the potential to make compiling third-party video drivers and virtual machine modules easier and less prone to errors from missing dependencies.
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These and other news stories can be found on our Headlines page.
|Technology Review (by Jesse Smith)
UBports 16.04 on a Nexus 5
Three years ago I had the opportunity to try running Ubuntu Touch 15.04 on a Meizu Pro 5. While there is always a period of adjustment when switching between operating systems, on any platform, I got the hang of Ubuntu Touch's gestures after a few days and the system's use of scopes within a week. After a month I was greatly appreciating Ubuntu Touch's clean interface, short-cuts, and lack of annoying ads and nag screens. This led me to put aside my old Android phone and switch to using Ubuntu Touch full time. I have been using the same phone and platform since.
Lately I've been noticing my Meizu Pro 5 no longer offers the same good battery life span and the USB cable does not connect properly, making it impossible to transfer data directly between a PC and the phone over a wired connection. This prevents performing upgrades on the mobile device. I could live with these limitations, but the final straw gently settled onto this camel's back when Google announced it was cutting off access to my contacts and calendar from my phone. I had been holding out, hoping my Meizu Pro would survive until either the Librem 5 or PinePhone became available, but pressure was increasingly mounting to transition to a new phone, one with a fresher battery and the ability to receive updates.
UBports, the project which took over maintaining Ubuntu Touch, recommends three devices: the OnePlus One, the Fairphone 2, and the Nexus 5. The Fairphone is out of stock and I could not find any used units while the OnePlus One models in my region are both rare and oddly expensive considering the age of the model. Which left me looking at Nexus 5 devices on eBay. The Nexus 5 is quite common and relatively well priced, plus I had tried UBports 15.04 the Nexus 5 with mostly positive results.
A note on naming: Some people refer to the operating system maintained by UBports as Ubuntu Touch (the same name Canonical used) and some call it UBports. In an effort to avoid confusion I will refer to older versions of the mobile operating system that were developed and supported by Canonical as Ubuntu Touch. Versions of the operating system developed by the UBports community I will call UBports.
When the Nexus 5 arrived in the mail, with a full battery charge, it had a fresh copy of Android installed, ready to go through the initial setup process. I skipped through most of the configuration steps just so I would be able to access the phone's settings panel. I then downloaded the AppImage version of the UBports Installer from the project's website. Making the AppImage file executable and running it opens a graphical wizard that guides us through installing UBports on the mobile device.
UBports Installer 0.2.2 -- Selecting a version to install
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The first screen of the installer asks us to put the phone into developer mode. There is a button we can click in the installer which lists the specific steps required to do this on an Android device and there is even an animation to show the steps being demonstrated. Once the phone is in developer mode and plugged into the computer, the installer identifies the phone and asks which version of UBports we would like to install. At the moment, UBports 15.04 and 16.04 are available, in Development, Release Candidate and Stable editions. I opted for 16.04 Stable.
With the version selected, the installer reboots the phone for us, puts it in recovery mode, downloads the necessary files, and installs them on the phone. During this process the installer displays progress information. After a few minutes the installer reports it is finished and advises us the phone will complete the install process and automatically reboot within five minutes.
A few minutes later the phone restarted and showed me the Ubuntu Touch splash screen, followed by a first-run wizard. The wizard walks us through picking our language from a list, connecting to a wireless network, and picking a time zone. We can then optionally set a password (or passcode) on the lock screen.
UBports 16.04 -- The Apps scope and home screen
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How UBports works
The design of the UBports interface and how we navigate it requires a shift in the way we approach mobile devices. While other operating systems, such as Android, tend to rely on tapping buttons, with UBports we mostly use swiping gestures with our fingers.
For instance, dragging a finger from the left edge of the screen towards the middle causes the panel to appear. The panel acts as a launcher for commonly used applications and a task switcher, showing which programs are currently running.
Running a finger down from the top of the screen opens the settings panel. A status bar at the top of the screen shows new notifications, network connections, battery status, volume and a clock. Pulling down from any one of these icons opens a related drawer of settings and status information. Pulling down the network part of the status bar shows available networks and allows us to toggle mobile data, wi-fi, and hotspots on/off. Pulling down the battery icon shows screen brightness and links to the power settings module. This gives us quick access to most commonly used settings.
Swiping a finger from the right side of the display brings up a list of all currently running applications with previews of what each program is displaying. Tapping a window's preview switches to it, making it the active window. Sliding a finger left or right across the screen scrolls through the list of open windows, which is handy if we have a lot of them open.
UBports 16.04 -- Browsing open windows
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Pulling up from the bottom of the screen performs different actions, depending on which application is currently open. Typically, this rising gesture creates a new item. In the calendar app it makes a new appointment, in the note taking app it creates a new note, in the web browser it displays tabs and offers to create a new tab.
At all times there is always one window open, which we can think of as the Home screen or Scope application. By default, on UBports 16.04, this screen shows us installed applications we can tap to launch. Optionally, if we add more scopes, they are placed in this default window as pages we can swipe through with short left-or-right gestures across the screen.
For the most part, UBports 16.04 is very similar to Ubuntu Touch 15.04 which I tried three years ago. With this in mind, I will mostly focus on the differences which I was able to observe. The first is that when I last tried UBports 15.04 on a Nexus 5, the screen never seemed to remain completely asleep, it would frequently wake up or display a very faint background glow. Version 16.04 seems to have fixed this issue and saves a little bit of battery power as a result.
One of the big features of Ubuntu Touch 15.04 was scopes. Scopes are essentially pages of widgets which are all contained in one application. Scopes are always running and are typically used for displaying information or summaries, such as what the weather is, upcoming appointments, and links to recent news stories. With 16.04, UBports appears to have mostly phased out scopes. The Apps scope, used for launching apps, is still present, but other scopes are not installed by default. The Today scope, for instance, which showed a summary of upcoming events, recently received messages, and the weather is no longer present. The only scope I could find in the phone's software centre was for reading RSS feeds.
At first I thought this would slow me down, especially in the mornings when I wanted to see what was on my schedule and what was happening in the news. However, I found out a summary of appointments can be viewed quickly by dragging down the date/time settings panel from the top of the screen. This let me see what was on my calendar in just a few seconds without opening a new application. For most other news and events I was able to set up RSS feeds once I had installed the RSS scope.
UBports 16.04 -- Checking events on the calendar pull-down
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Canonical's original application store for Ubuntu Touch has been replaced by a new software centre (and infrastructure) provided by UBports. The new software centre is called OpenStore and can be launched from the phone's main page (or Apps scope). OpenStore offers three ways to find new applications. The main screen shows new and recently updated programs, along with highlighted apps (a sort of "editor's picks" section). Another tab shows us categories of applications we can browse. The third option is to type in searches for programs, using descriptive words.
UBports 16.04 -- Browsing apps in OpenStore
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I tend not to use many applications in the run of a day, and UBports pre-installs most of the functionality (camera, note-taking application, file manager, terminal, calendar, web browser) I want. However, I did grab a few items such as the RSS feed scope, a QR code reader, and a few games. Each of these downloaded and worked well. OpenStore includes a tab which displays available updates for installed programs. Alternatively, we can install updates through the operating system's settings panel, under the Updates module. Either approach seems to work equally well.
Ubuntu Touch Tweak Tool
One application I especially liked having was the Ubuntu Touch Tweak Tool (sometimes abbreviated UTTT). The Tweak Tool can adjust all sorts of aspects of the phone and its interface. Some examples include changing the size of the panel, adjusting how sensitive the phone's swipe gestures are, scaling fonts, and switching themes. (UBports 16.04 offers light and dark mode themes.) There are some other neat features, such as installing third-party Click packages we have downloaded and making the operating system's filesystem writable (which is dangerous, but useful sometimes). If you are the sort of person who likes to tinker with your desktop interface, I highly recommend the Tweak Tool.
UBports 16.04 -- Scaling text and images in Tweak Tool
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Some other observations
In the past, on both Android and Ubuntu Touch, I have eventually installed a flashlight application. It is a handy way to navigate in dark corners or when the lights go out. UBports allows us to skip this and we can turn the camera's flash on/off by simply pulling down the battery settings module and tapping a button to toggle the light. This saves time and means we do not end up searching for a flashlight app after the power goes out.
UBports 16.04 -- Accessing the flashlight from the battery pull-down
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The classic web browser that shipped with Unity 8 has been traded out for a new browser called Morph. Morph appears to offer most of the same settings and bookmark options. Morph defaults to using DuckDuckGo as its start page, includes tabs and seems to work well. One feature it offers that the old browser did not was the ability to request desktop-style pages from websites. The old browser would not work properly on some websites, particularly those which demanded we install a site-specific Android app when visiting a mobile site and would block access from mobile browsers. The ability to request desktop-style pages gets around those traps and limitations.
I connected the Nexus 5 to my Google account and it automatically synchronized my calendar and contacts from my old phone. One aspect of UBports I appreciate is we can place fine-grained permissions on applications. We can control which apps can connect with on-line accounts. We can also limit which programs can access certain features, such as GPS. For example, even when GPS is turned on the Weather app cannot access our location until it is specifically granted permission to do so.
On a related topic, notifications can likewise be finely tuned for each application. We can determine whether an application is allowed to notify us using an audio signal, vibration, or pop-up bubble. I find this very handy if, for instance, I want my calendar to make a noise when it is time for me to go to an appointment, but never want Twitter to be able to make a sound and only display a pop-up if someone messages me. This ensures I know when calendar events are coming up, but never worry about social media waking me up at 3:00am.
UBports 16.04 -- The virtual terminal
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One thing I appreciate about UBports is that is has a fully functional GNU/Linux virtual terminal. The display is a little squeezed on the Nexus 5's small screen, but I am still able to run commands like top, free, secure shell, and rsync. In fact, I transferred files from my old phone to the new one using rsync to move files through my desktop PC. For people like me who like the command line's flexibility and occasionally run scripts or use shell variables, it is an excellent tool to have.
Unfortunately UBports does not work on many devices. However, the devices it does run on seem to be well supported. The Nexus 5 is listed as being supported with no serious issues and I can confirm this is the case. Everything from phone calls to wireless networking to GPS all work as expected. The phone performs well and the operating system only takes up about half the available RAM (1GB of 2GB total). The Nexus 5 provides about 32GB of storage space and UBports 16.04 leaves about 24GB left for user data.
When I tell people I am running an operating system that is not Android or iOS, I tend to end up answering the same questions. I would like to cover a handful of them here.
How is the battery life? In my experience it has been good and roughly on par with Android running on the same or similar devices. My Nexus 5 is used so I cannot state how fresh the battery was when I acquired it. When sitting idle, the Nexus 5 running UBports draws 2% of its battery per hour. In theory it would need to recharge every two days with minimal usage. Light usage (my usual pattern of checking my calendar, looking up information on the web, and sending texts) consumed about 5% of the battery per hour. This means I can typically get through a day with about half the battery's charge remaining. Heavy usage, such as watching videos, more web browsing, and taking pictures can use around 10% of the battery per hour. I have not done much testing with recharging the device, but it seems to recharge at a rate of about 1% per minute.
What about apps? Does it run app-name? UBports 16.04 can access OpenStore which has about 950 applications at the time of writing. There are lots of games, news trackers, a word processor, multimedia players, calendars, a Dropbox client, password managers, and so on. In other words, many tasks you might want to perform are covered.
With that said, if you are looking for a specific utility or game that you used on Android or iOS, it probably has not been ported to OpenStore. The way I tend to describe it to people is that if you want a word processor, OpenStore has that. If you specifically want Microsoft Word, then UBports is not the platform for you. If you want a Twitter client you are in luck, but if you want the official Twitter client, then it is not available.
How long did it take you to get used to the new interface? It took roughly three or four days for me to unlearn my old Android habits. After about a week I was starting to think in terms of the UBports interface. After two weeks I was comfortable enough with UBports I did not want to go back to Android.
What is the advantage of UBports over Android? There are a few advantages. One is privacy and security. Every week there is a new story about apps stealing data from Android users, or programs breaking out of their permission restrictions, or apps containing backdoors. UBports is not much of a target for large companies and malware authors. The platform is small and has relatively good security, partly thanks to fine-grained permissions and partly due to AppArmor support built into the operating system. My phone still leaks some information with the wi-fi enabled (as all phones do), but I'm less worried about my applications tracking what I do on a day to day basis.
Another factor is the lack of ads and nag screens. Android regularly demanded updates be installed, or a new version be downloaded. Several apps included ad banners with no way to disable them (within the app, there are third-party ad blockers). When I use Android I feel like I'm using an ad platform that is constantly demanding my attention. UBports doesn't show me ads, it doesn't nag me to install upgrades, it doesn't ask me to install new services. It displays what I ask it to show me. It feels more like a tool for me to use rather than a platform a company is using to sell me things.
Finally, one thing I like about UBports is it appears to be designed to provide me with information I want without requiring as many steps. If someone sends me a short text, I can drag down my notification area and tap the message to type a response without opening my SMS app. When I want to turn on the flashlight function, I drag down the status bar and tap a button, without opening an app. When I want to see my appointments for the next 48 hours, I pull down the calendar rather than opening yet another app. When I want to see RSS feed updates, I make a little swipe to the right from the home screen and the information is just there in a scope, again without needing an app.
When I was running Android (and using Blackberry before that) I always felt like I had to open a new program to do anything. I was always switching between windows. With UBports much of the information I want is a short swipe away and I don't need to open anything or switch to a new window. It is a little thing, but it adds up over time.
What don't you like about it? There are two things which I have noticed. The first is that UBports, at least version 15.04, tended to leak memory. After a week I'd usually need to either restart the desktop process (essentially a logout/login) or reboot the phone. So far, with UBports 16.04, I have not had to do that. I'm not sure if the leaks have been fixed or I just haven't been using it long enough to require a reboot. However, after coming from Android where the phone might run for months without restarting or killing a process, it was frustrating.
The other thing is that, while I don't use many apps, I do sometimes miss having a specific tool. If I wanted to play Ingress or Plants vs Zombies I wouldn't be able to with this phone. At least not until Anbox becomes more mature. Sometimes my friends want to send me invites or files over a specific service and I need to either use the associated company's web portal (usually an awkward experience) or ask them to send me information another way. This is a rare event, but many people are accustomed to everyone being on either iOS or Android, and are surprised when asked to use e-mail instead of Skype, or are told I don't have Facebook Messenger.
Can you run GNU/Linux desktop applications? Not really, no. At least not with the default settings. I have read that it is possible to run GNU/Linux desktop programs which have been ported to ARM, with some tinkering. This approach uses a technology called Libertine. And I suspect if I mounted my root filesystem with read-write permissions (rather than the default read-only) I could install command line programs using the APT package manager, which is included with UBports 16.04. I have not tried using APT yet though as it means taking some risks with the filesystem. In theory though, you can install and use command line tools that have ARM ports.
Can I run other Linux distributions on the phone? In short: no. Porting a Linux distribution to a new mobile device is a lot of work. Phone vendors tend not to make this process easy and you need to use a distribution image specifically matched to the device. Hopefully, in the near future, devices like the PinePhone will help change this limitation.
Can you use UBports with any network? I think this question comes up as often as it does because some early phones which were sold with Ubuntu Touch did not work with North American networks. Whether a mobile device works with your carrier's network is a function of the phone's hardware rather than its operating system. In other words, if you have a Nexus 5, a FairPhone 2, or OnePlus One that runs Android and works with your phone company's network, it will also work if the device is running UBports.
* * * * *
All in all, I'm very happy with UBports on the Nexus 5. I think it's a solid operating system that has been offering me a smooth experience thus far. There are some shortcomings in terms of applications if you need a specific program, but otherwise I think the phone offers all the capabilities people expect from their mobile devices. I am particularly impressed with the UBports Installer program. This is the easiest experience I have ever had installing any operating system on a mobile device and it greatly lowers the bar for people who wish to give UBports a try. I am very much looking forward to seeing this distribution ported to more devices, especially hardware like the Librem 5 and PinePhone.
|Released Last Week
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: 1,522
- Total data uploaded: 26.9TB
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
|Opinion Poll (by Jesse Smith)
GNU/Linux phones in 2019
In our Technology Review column we talked about running UBports on an Android phone, along with some other mobile devices that are scheduled to launch this year with GNU/Linux installed. The PinePhone, which should be able to run a variety of Linux-based operating systems, and the Librem 5 running PureOS should both be available toward the end of 2019.
We would like to know if you already own a mobile device running GNU/Linux, or if you plan to purchase one later this year. Let us know your thoughts on the current GNU/Linux mobile options in the comments.
You can see the results of our previous poll on limiting disk usage in last week's edition. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
GNU/Linux phones in 2019
|I have an Android phone running UBports: ||58 (5%)|
| I plan to get an Android phone and install UBports: ||78 (7%)|
| I plan to get a PinePhone: ||121 (11%)|
| I plan to get a Librem 5: ||177 (16%)|
| I run another flavour of GNU/Linux on my phone: ||39 (3%)|
| I plan to use another GNU/Linux on mobile option: ||106 (9%)|
| I do not plan to run GNU/Linux on my phone: ||557 (49%)|
|Website News (by Jesse Smith)
Distributions added to waiting list
- PakOS. PakOS is a Debian-based distribution featuring the LXQt desktop environment. PakOS tries to maintain low minimal resource requirements and is developed with the people of Pakistan and their needs in mind.
- Delinux. Delinux is a Brazilian distribution for use on older computers, particularly those used in schools. Delinux is based on Lubuntu.
TROM-Jaro. TROM-Jaro is a distribution based on Manjaro Linux. The project avoids distributing any software which requires user tracking, payments, or ads to be displayed in order for the software to work. The project refers to its software as "trade-free". The distribution uses the GNOME desktop and customizes Firefox to block browsing elements considered to not be trade-free.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 August 2019. Past articles and reviews can be found through our Article Search page. To contact the authors please send e-mail to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews/submissions, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, donations, comments)
- Bruce Patterson (podcast)
|Linux Foundation Training
|• Issue 843 (2019-12-02): Obarun 2019.11.02, Bluestar 5.3.6, using special characters on the command line, Fedora plans to disable empty passwords, FreeBSD's quarterly status report|
|• Issue 842 (2019-11-25): SolydXK 10, System Adminstration Ethics book review, Debian continues init diversity debate, Google upstreaming Android kernel patches|
|• Issue 841 (2019-11-18): Emmabuntus DE3-1.00, changing keys in a keyboard layout, Debian phasing out Python 2 and voting on init diversity, Slackware gets unofficial updated live media|
|• Issue 840 (2019-11-11): Fedora 31, monitoring user activity, Fedora working to improve Python performance, FreeBSD gets faster networking|
|• Issue 839 (2019-11-04): MX 19, manipulating PDFs, Ubuntu plans features for 20.04, Fedora 29 nears EOL, Netrunner drops Manjaro-based edition|
|• Issue 838 (2019-10-28): Xubuntu 19.10, how init and service managers work together, DragonFly BSD provides emergency mode for HAMMER, Xfce team plans 4.16|
|• Issue 837 (2019-10-21): CentOS 8.0-1905, Trident finds a new base, Debian plans firewall changes, 15 years of Fedora, how to merge directories|
|• Issue 836 (2019-10-14): Archman 2019.09, Haiku improves ARM support, Project Trident shifting base OS, Unix turns 50|
|• Issue 835 (2019-10-07): Isotop, Mazon OS and, KduxOS, examples of using the find command, Mint's System Reports becomes proactive, Solus updates its desktops|
|• Issue 834 (2019-09-30): FreedomBox "Buster", CentOS gains a rolling release, Librem 5 phones shipping, Redcore updates its package manager|
|• Issue 833 (2019-09-23): Redcore Linux 1908, why Linux distros are free, Ubuntu making list of 32-bit software to keep, Richard M Stallman steps down from FSF leadership|
|• Issue 832 (2019-09-16): BlackWeb 1.2, checking for Wayland session and applications, Fedora to use nftables in firewalld, OpenBSD disables DoH in Firefox|
|• Issue 831 (2019-09-09): Adélie Linux 1.0 beta, using ffmpeg, awk and renice, Mint and elementary improvements, PureOS and Manjaro updates|
|• Issue 930 (2019-09-02): deepin 15.11, working with AppArmor profiles, elementary OS gets new greeter, exFAT support coming to Linux kernel|
|• Issue 829 (2019-08-26): EndeavourOS 2019.07.15, Drauger OS 7.4.1, finding the licenses of kernel modules, NetBSD gets Wayland application, GhostBSD changes base repo|
|• Issue 828 (2019-08-19): AcademiX 2.2, concerns with non-free firmware, UBports working on Unity8, Fedora unveils new EPEL channel, FreeBSD phasing out GCC|
|• Issue 827 (2019-08-12): Q4OS, finding files on the disk, Ubuntu works on ZFS, Haiku improves performance, OSDisc shutting down|
|• Issue 826 (2019-08-05): Quick looks at Resilient, PrimeOS, and BlueLight, flagship distros for desktops,Manjaro introduces new package manager|
|• Issue 825 (2019-07-29): Endless OS 3.6, UBports 16.04, gNewSense maintainer stepping down, Fedora developrs discuss optimizations, Project Trident launches stable branch|
|• Issue 824 (2019-07-22): Hexagon OS 1.0, Mageia publishes updated media, Fedora unveils Fedora CoreOS, managing disk usage with quotas|
|• Issue 823 (2019-07-15): Debian 10, finding 32-bit packages on a 64-bit system, Will Cooke discusses Ubuntu's desktop, IBM finalizes purchase of Red Hat|
|• Issue 822 (2019-07-08): Mageia 7, running development branches of distros, Mint team considers Snap, UBports to address Google account access|
|• Issue 821 (2019-07-01): OpenMandriva 4.0, Ubuntu's plan for 32-bit packages, Fedora Workstation improvements, DragonFly BSD's smaller kernel memory|
|• Issue 820 (2019-06-24): Clear Linux and Guix System 1.0.1, running Android applications using Anbox, Zorin partners with Star Labs, Red Hat explains networking bug, Ubuntu considers no longer updating 32-bit packages|
|• Issue 819 (2019-06-17): OS108 and Venom, renaming multiple files, checking live USB integrity, working with Fedora's Modularity, Ubuntu replacing Chromium package with snap|
|• Issue 818 (2019-06-10): openSUSE 15.1, improving boot times, FreeBSD's status report, DragonFly BSD reduces install media size|
|• Issue 817 (2019-06-03): Manjaro 18.0.4, Ubuntu Security Podcast, new Linux laptops from Dell and System76, Entroware Apollo|
|• Issue 816 (2019-05-27): Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.0, creating firewall rules, Antergos shuts down, Matthew Miller answers questions about Fedora|
|• Issue 815 (2019-05-20): Sabayon 19.03, Clear Linux's developer features, Red Hat explains MDS flaws, an overview of mobile distro options|
|• Issue 814 (2019-05-13): Fedora 30, distributions publish Firefox fixes, CentOS publishes roadmap to 8.0, Debian plans to use Wayland by default|
|• Issue 813 (2019-05-06): ROSA R11, MX seeks help with systemd-shim, FreeBSD tests unified package management, interview with Gael Duval|
|• Issue 812 (2019-04-29): Ubuntu MATE 19.04, setting up a SOCKS web proxy, Scientific Linux discontinued, Red Hat takes over Java LTS support|
|• Issue 811 (2019-04-22): Alpine 3.9.2, rsync examples, Ubuntu working on ZFS support, Debian elects new Project Leader, Obarun releases S6 tools|
|• Issue 810 (2019-04-15): SolydXK 201902, Bedrock Linux 0.7.2, Fedora phasing out Python 2, NetBSD gets virtual machine monitor|
|• Issue 809 (2019-04-08): PCLinuxOS 2019.02, installing Falkon and problems with portable packages, Mint offers daily build previews, Ubuntu speeds up Snap packages|
|• Issue 808 (2019-04-01): Solus 4.0, security benefits and drawbacks to using a live distro, Gentoo gets GNOME ports working without systemd, Redox OS update|
|• Issue 807 (2019-03-25): Pardus 17.5, finding out which user changed a file, new Budgie features, a tool for browsing FreeBSD's sysctl values|
|• Issue 806 (2019-03-18): Kubuntu vs KDE neon, Nitrux's znx, notes on Debian's election, SUSE becomes an independent entity|
|• Issue 805 (2019-03-11): EasyOS 1.0, managing background services, Devuan team debates machine ID file, Ubuntu Studio works to remain an Ubuntu Community Edition|
|• Issue 804 (2019-03-04): Condres OS 19.02, securely erasing hard drives, new UBports devices coming in 2019, Devuan to host first conference|
|• Issue 803 (2019-02-25): Septor 2019, preventing windows from stealing focus, NetBSD and Nitrux experiment with virtual machines, pfSense upgrading to FreeBSD 12 base|
|• Issue 802 (2019-02-18): Slontoo 18.07.1, NetBSD tests newer compiler, Fedora packaging Deepin desktop, changes in Ubuntu Studio|
|• Issue 801 (2019-02-11): Project Trident 18.12, the meaning of status symbols in top, FreeBSD Foundation lists ongoing projects, Plasma Mobile team answers questions|
|• Issue 800 (2019-02-04): FreeNAS 11.2, using Ubuntu Studio software as an add-on, Nitrux developing znx, matching operating systems to file systems|
|• Issue 799 (2019-01-28): KaOS 2018.12, Linux Basics For Hackers, Debian 10 enters freeze, Ubuntu publishes new version for IoT devices|
|• Issue 798 (2019-01-21): Sculpt OS 18.09, picking a location for swap space, Solus team plans ahead, Fedora trying to get a better user count|
|• Issue 797 (2019-01-14): Reborn OS 2018.11.28, TinyPaw-Linux 1.3, dealing with processes which make the desktop unresponsive, Debian testing Secure Boot support|
|• Issue 796 (2019-01-07): FreeBSD 12.0, Peppermint releases ISO update, picking the best distro of 2018, roundtable interview with Debian, Fedora and elementary developers|
|• Issue 795 (2018-12-24): Running a Pinebook, interview with Bedrock founder, Alpine being ported to RISC-V, Librem 5 dev-kits shipped|
|• Issue 794 (2018-12-17): Void 20181111, avoiding software bloat, improvements to HAMMER2, getting application overview in GNOME Shell|
|• Issue 793 (2018-12-10): openSUSE Tumbleweed, finding non-free packages, Debian migrates to usrmerge, Hyperbola gets FSF approval|
|• Issue 792 (2018-1203): GhostBSD 18.10, when to use swap space, DragonFly BSD's wireless support, Fedora planning to pause development schedule|
|• Issue 791 (2018-11-26): Haiku R1 Beta1, default passwords on live media, Slax and Kodachi update their media, dual booting DragonFly BSD on EFI|
|• Full list of all issues|
Star Labs - Laptops built for Linux.
View our range including the Star Lite, Star LabTop and more. Available with a choice of Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Zorin OS pre-installed with many more distributions supported. Visit Star Labs for information, to buy and get support.
|Random Distribution |
T2 is an open source system development environment (or distribution build kit if you are more familiar with that term). T2 allows the creation of custom distributions with bleeding edge technology. Currently, the Linux kernel is normally used - but we are expanding to Hurd, OpenDarwin and OpenBSD; more to come. T2 started as a community driven fork from the ROCK Linux Project with the aim to create a decentralised development and a clean framework for spin-off projects and customised distributions.