Hello, World. It's been a while - much longer than I expected. A couple of weeks in Scotland, and a couple of weeks in the US, a few other issues, and before you know it autumn is here!
I haven't been completely slacking off, though. I've been following pre-release versions of some of my favorite distributions, and with the final releases now getting near, I think it's worth summarizing what I've seen so far. Presented in order of planned release date:
Makulu Linux Cinnamon Debian Edition. Whew, that's a mouthfull, isn't it? I have said before that Makulu is my favorite distribution for the pure joy of Linux. Full of great graphics, bells and whistles galore, and overflowing with pretty much every package, application or utility you can imagine. The final release of this version is due out next Monday, 27 October, barring unexpected obstacles.
This release is based on the Debian Testing distribution (Jessie), with the Cinnamon desktop. The installed system looks like this:
In my previous posts about Makulu Linux I have said that the weak point is the installer, so I am pleased to say that is looking much better in this release. In fact, there are three installers to choose from, a simple GUI, a GUI with text window logging for those who really want to see what is going on behind the curtain, and an "Advanced" Installer which opens up lots (and lots) more options and configurability. The simple GUI is comparable to many of the other distributions installers: it asks a minimum of questions and then gets on with the real task at hand. One nice touch that I noticed is in the disk partitioning screen, where it presents a list of mount points as soon as you click on a partition. I have grumbled a few times about the Mint installer being a bit obscure in this area, so it is nice to see this improvement in Makulu.
There are two somewhat negative points related to the Makulu installer. First, it doesn't support UEFI firmware, and second, installation takes a long time. I mean a really, really long time. The other two distributions I discuss below take about 15 to 20 minutes each, while MCDE (ugh, I don't like that abbreviation much) takes well over an hour.
But you only have to do it once, so my advice is to just suck it up, and think about all the good stuff you will have when the installation is finally done!
For the moment I will just include a few other details about the installed system, since it is still subject to change before the final release comes out:
- Linux Kernel 3.16.3
- Cinnamon 2.2
- Slingshot (launcher)
- Synaptic, APT and Software Manager
- Wicd (network management)
- Kingsoft Office Suite and Foxit Reader
- Google Chrome 38
- Audacious music player
- VLC media player
- Variety (wallpaper changer)
So far I have only installed this pre-release version on my little Samsung N150+ netbook. I had no problems with the installation, the installed system works very well, and performance is surprisingly good for such a limited capacity netbook.
Moving on, the next pre-release distribution I have been looking at is openSuSE 13.2 RC1. This one is scheduled for general availability on 4 November. Those who are familiar with openSuSE and have been paying attention know that this has been an unusually long release cycle; it will have been a year since 13.1 was released by the time 13.2 is available. They say that the longer cycle this time has allowed them to concentrate on "automation, tooling, infrastructure and process improvements".
I have been running the release candidate for a couple of weeks now, and it has been flawless so far. Recalling that there were some significant bumps in the road to 13.1, I would say that the extra time and the extra effort put into the process looks like it has paid off. I would also add that I have been running openSuSE factory on one of my netbooks for several months now, since they announced that it would be on a "Rolling Release Development Model", and it has been very solid as well.
Unlike the one-version (one-desktop) at-a-time development and release of Makulu, openSuSE will of course release all of their various desktops and images together. That means 32- and 64-bit versions, and a variety of desktops including KDE, Gnome, and various others. I have been concentrating on the 64-bit KDE version so far:
The default wallpaper is different, at least - I think a lot of people were getting tired of the gecko-themed wallpaper that been around at least since 11.4, and maybe earlier (I don't remember for sure). The installation process is the same as usual, download either the Live version with the desktop of your choice, or the full installer and then choose your desktop while installing. All of the images are hybrid-ISO format, so you can either burn them to DVD or dump them to a USB stick.
A few of the more important details about this release:
- Linux Kernel 3.16.x (maybe 3.17)
- KDE 4.14.1
- Network Manager / Connection Editor 0.9
- Firefox 32.0
- LibreOffice 4.3.2
- Digikam 4.3
- Shockwave Flash 11.2
If you would like a one-word summary, in my opinion the difference between openSuSE and Makulu is focus versus fun. That makes perfect sense, because openSuSE is the testbed for future releases of SuSE Enterprise Linux, so their effort goes into producing clean, solid releases based on the latest Linux technology.
The third pre-release I have been trying out is Fedora 21. It is currently still on Alpha release, although I have tried most of the beta 'test compiles'. The beta release is due out next week (28 October), and the final release is scheduled for 2 December. Again, based on what I have seen of the pre-release I think there is a good chance that they will keep this schedule - but there are no guarantees, of course, Fedora is not shy about slipping dates when necessary.
This is another distribution that has had an unusually long cycle, similar to openSuSE. Some of the reasons have been the same - concentrating on processes and quality - but there has also been a fundamental change in the distribution itself. Fedora 21 has been split into separate images for Workstation, Server and Cloud versions. I have been trying the desktop version (of course).
Also like openSuSE, Fedora has a number of different desktop versions. The "standard" desktop is Gnome, and there are also KDE, Xfce, LXDE and MATE versions. I have tried both Gnome and KDE so far; here is the standard Gnome desktop:
Fedora is always pushing the envelope with the latest versions of everything, and this release is no exception. The latest Beta TC4 has:
- Linux Kernel 3.17.1
- Gnome 3.14.1
- Firefox 32.0.2
- LibreOffice 4.3.2
- Shotwell 0.20.1
Fedora also has a FOSS-only policy for included packages, so some notable things are not included. At the top of this list is Flash, and proprietary video drivers.
Before I close I would like to also mention that Debian 7.7 was recently released, with fixes for a number of recent nasty bugs and vulnerabilities. As always with Debian updates, it is not necessary to reinstall, just pick up all the latest updates and patches. Just be sure to do it...