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Neon: A Wannabe Linux Distro For KDE Lovers | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jul 19, 2019 10:11 AM PT

Neon: A Wannabe Linux Distro For KDE Lovers

KDE Neon is a bit of an oddball Linux thing. Linuxland has an impressive collection of oddball things.

Neon looks and feels much like a Linux distribution, but its developers assert quite openly on their website that Neon is not a real Linux distro. It just installs and functions like one — sort of.

That can make deciding to use it a little confusing. Neon appears to be a Linux operating system. It boots your computer. It displays a full desktop environment. It runs *some* applications so you can go about your computing tasks much like using any other — ahh — real Linux distribution.

That last part is a clue to what makes KDE Neon different.

Getting somewhat technical for a minute, KDE Neon is more of a specialty offering than a fully endowed operating system. Other distros support a wide range of applications from the same software format type.

For example, Ubuntu runs .Deb formatted packages from the Debian Linux family. All .Deb packages will run on Ubuntu- and other Debian-based distros. Which desktop environment is used does not matter, be it KDE, Xfce, GNOME or whatever.

Ditto for RPM-based Linux distributions, like Fedora and Red Hat. All you need is a package management tool or knowledge of the commands for apt, yum or pacman, depending on the distribution’s Linux family. However, that is a skill set that lots of Linux users never had to learn.

Not so with KDE Neon. Neon runs only a specific category of KDE applications: the latest. Neon’s developers assert that their “pseudo” distro does not support most other software. In fact, non-KDE packages most likely will not even install on Neon.


KDE Neon default desktop view

The default desktop view is rather uninviting. You can spice up the appearance by adding desktop widgets and changing the background images.


So What Is Neon?

KDE Neon is a stable desktop posing as a Linux distro with cutting-edge features, all in an easy-to-use package. It is built on a stable Ubuntu long-term release at its core. It comes with the latest software packages from the KDE Community.

The KDE community on July 11 released the latest update to its Neon offering. It is often mistaken for the KDE Plasma desktop with a new name. Nope. KDE Plasma and KDE Neon are not one and the same. The KDE Neon project provides a rapidly evolving software repository with all the latest KDE software.

KDE and Beyond

“KDE” stands for the “K Desktop Environment.” It is also a reference to the organization sponsoring development of the K desktop and the family of software that runs on the K desktop and other desktops as well.

So KDE is an entire project that includes the K desktop environment, the applications, and the developer community. KDE itself is not a Linux distribution. That is where Neon starts to glow.

Various Linux distros are built around the KDE project. For instance, Kubuntu Linux is a version of the Ubuntu family of OSes. Kubuntu uses the K desktop just like Xubuntu is a version of Ubuntu that uses the Xfce desktop.

KDE Neon is an attempt to package the newest and brightest KDE software in a distro-like environment. Running it is much like running a Neon distro in its own right. However, some expected distribution elements are missing from KDE Neon.

Neon vs. KDE

This is where the terminology gets misleading and downright confusing. The latest version of the K desktop is called “KDE Plasma 5.”

The K desktop’s lineage is tracked by a number trail. From introduction years ago to the current release, the versions grew from K to P, as in KDE, KDE 2, KDE 3, KDE 4 and KDE Plasma 5.

The current K desktop brought radical design and functionality changes. So the KDE community focused on a rebranding the name to mark the major difference between KDE versions 4 and 5.

KDE Plasma 5 conveys the more fluid notion of the latest K desktop release. KDE Neon releases provide users with the newest KDE Plasma tweaks along with the most cutting-edge K applications.


KDE Neon Plasma 5 menu

KDE Neon has the standard configurable Plasma 5 bottom panel. The dropdown action menu is a standard KDE Plasma 5 feature.


The Rolling Distinction

Typically, most Linux distros are refreshed periodically with a relatively rigid timeline for releasing software upgrades. Some Linux distros instead follow a policy of pushing out updates as they are ready in a piecemeal fashion. This process is called “rolling releases.”

Distros such as Kubuntu and others that offer the K desktop are not rolling release communities. But the KDE community often pushes out Plasma updates as rolling releases.

KDE Neon developers strive for the best of both approaches. They make rolling releases of the latest Plasma 5 bug fixes and such. They also do not hold back KDE application packages for a distant release date.

When the KDE community releases a new version of its software, KDE Neon users get those updates immediately rather than having to wait for a new major upgrade release.

All other software included in the distro still updates with the OS releases. On KDE Neon, all the software has Ubuntu support.

The Neon Spotlight

Thus, KDE Neon functions as a suite of KDE apps in what is essentially a special desktop OS environment. It is a rock-solid “distro” with the newest KDE Plasma and K apps.

Neon has three editions. All of them are available as live session ISOs that can be installed from within the live session.

The first Neon version is the User edition. This is designed for Linux users interested in checking out the latest KDE software as it gets released. It is stable and is intended for everyday use.

The second Neon edition is the Testing edition. It is intended as a platform for previewing cutting-edge KDE applications. It features prerelease KDE software built the same day from bugfix branches. Expect some bugs.

The third Neon edition is the Unstable Edition. It features prerelease KDE software built the same day from new feature branches. Expect lots of bugs.

More Inside

Using KDE Neon gives you Plasma and KDE applications that are updated continuously, unlike with other KDE varieties. There is no more waiting for updates.

Neon has its own package archive — but remember, unlike full Linux distributions, it comes only with KDE software. Only the KDE software will be updated continuously.

One attractive point about using KDE Neon is that users get more up-to-date packages of Qt and cutting-edge KDE software. That is an important difference from running other K desktop distros.

Qt (pronounced as “cute”) is now in version 5. It is a cross-platform application and graphical user interface toolkit used for developing software that can be run on different hardware platforms and operating systems.

Another key selling point for using KDE Neon is the KDE community’s use of Ubuntu as a “distro” base. The developers see Ubuntu as the best technology for a stable release and the best third-party support.

Always a Downside

A major drawback, as I noted earlier, is that you get a minimal software system with KDE Neon. The software available by design is KDE only. You will not have the other applications typically found in Kubuntu, for example, despite having an Ubuntu base.

KDE Neon is not otherwise related to the Ubuntu project or Ubuntu Linux’s parent company, Canonical. Also, KDE Neon is not compatible with Kubuntu.

You cannot use both systems at the same time. Installing KDE Neon will simply replace Kubuntu once you venture beyond the live session.

Look and Feel

For all intents and purposes, KDE Neon bears an identical appearance to the Plasma 5 desktop. Use of the menus and system tools is no different than what you experience in a standard KDE Plasma environment.

For example, you update Neon using Plasma Discover’s updater tool. Discover is KDE Neon’s go-to GUI for package management.


KDE Neon Discover software installer

KDE Neon uses the Discover software installer, the same as the standard KDE Plasma 5 desktop.


It appears in the bottom panel as an up-facing arrow in a circle. You also can use the command line via the pkcon command:

& pkcon refresh
& pkcon update

Those two commands install all new packages. Neo also uses the same PackageKit code as Plasma Discover.

Avoid using apt. It does not install new packages on Neon.

Bottom Line

If you are familiar with the KDE environment and tend to favor its approach to software applications, KDE Neon can be a fresh experience. You also can try out KD#E Neon for a quick tour of what the KDE Plasma 5 desktop is all about.

However, be prepared to tinker with settings. KDE is a handy way to control most aspects of your computing experience.

Neon gives you a stark, stock KDE experience. It comes with just a handful of installed software. You need to download most of it after installing your distro.

The bright spot, however, is that you can install only what you need. You will not find many, if any, K applications to uninstall. You will use what you find already there.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Debian Linux 10 ‘Buster’ Places Stability Ahead of Excitement | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jul 12, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Debian Linux 10 'Buster' Places Stability Ahead of Excitement

After 25 months of development, the makers of the granddaddy of the Linux OSes released an upgrade that updates many of the software packages and plays general catch-up with modern Linux trends.

However,
Debian Linux 10 Buster, released July 9, is a boring upgrade. It does little to draw attention to its merits.

For serious Linux users, though, boring can be endearing. It reinforces Debian’s reliability and ultimate stability. Debian by design is more conservative in upgrading application packages and venturing into new technologies.


Debian 10 Buster Xfce desktop layout

Debian 10 Buster does the basics on a traditional Xfce desktop layout.

– click image to enlarge –


Debian is the foundation of dozens of offshoot Linux distros, but it lags behind other distros in pushing cutting-edge features.

For instance, Buster ships with Linux kernel 4.19, released last October. The latest version of the Linux kernel is version 5.1, which other Linux distros will include long before Debian 11 arrives.

Debian Linux is the base for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and countless other distros. It has been around since 1993. It is one of the first operating systems to use a Linux kernel.

Debian 10 Buster includes thousands of new software packages, a new display manager enabled by default, support for UEFI Secure Boot and many other changes.

Case in Point

I last reviewed a Debian Linux release.in June 2013 when
Debian 7 Wheezy arrived. My first disappointment was that it did not have enough hardware support to recognize the Broadcom wireless in my not-so-old laptop.

That was a sore spot then and nixed any personal consideration for using it as my daily driver. That release was three years in the making.

I have not looked at a major Debian upgrade since then. Guess what?

I still have that now-aging laptop on my test bench. It was a high-end model when new. Even today it out-powers many of the economy models on store shelves.

Debian 10 still does not work with the Broadcom wireless. A number of my other test rigs, several of them much newer, also present the same dilemma.

Good With the Bad

Debian Buster has much going for it, nonetheless. Despite the conservative nature of the Debian community, the latest release has numerous positives.

A big trend in Linux land is developers dropping support for some older hardware technologies. Debian 10 continues to support a wide variety of chip architectures, including 32-bit and 64-bit x86, ARM and MIPS processors.

Buster supports 10. This extends the shelf life of aging legacy computers. Still supported are 64-bit PC; Intel EM64T; x86-64 (amd64) and 32-bit PC; and Intel IA-32 (i386) processors. The list includes 64-bit Motorola; IBM PowerPC (ppc64el); 64-bit IBM S/390 (s390x); and ARM, armel and armhf for older and more recent 32-bit hardware.

Also on the support list are arm64 for the 64-bit AArch64 architecture. For MIPS there’s support for mips and mipsel architectures for 32-bit hardware, and mips64el architecture for 64-bit little-endian hardware.

Buster also supports devices with Allwinner processors. That hardware includes Olimex and Pine64 single-board computers and laptops from FriendlyARM, which makes the NanoPi line of devices.

Software Titles Make Upgrade

Debian Linux is not known for pushing the latest versions of popular applications into its repositories. Buster tries to improve that score with some essential titles.

The developers claim that more than 62 percent of all software packages in Buster are updated from the previous release. However, that does not mean the upgrades are the newest versions. Some are just newer.

More than 59,000 other ready-to-use software packages are available from the Debian repository, which are built from nearly 29,000 source packages, according to the developers.

Compared to other Linux family software stores, Debian Linux tends to be smaller and less up-to-date. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you crave safety and stability from well-worn, proven code.

Debian tends to prefer skimpy over shoddy. Fewer things break if devs shy away from cutting-edge versions. Debian Linux prefers stability over cutting-edge features.

To that end, Debian Linux releases fall into three categories: a stable version, an unstable version and a testing version.

Why Use Buster?

Reliability from stability is a starting point for choosing Buster. A second reason is better security, partly from being a few steps away from cutting-edge.

Debian 10 has a special focus on security. AppArmor, a mandatory access control framework for restricting programs’ capabilities, is installed and enabled by default. The UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) support continues to be greatly improved in Debian 10 Buster as well.

Secure Boot support is included in this release for amd64, i386 and arm64 architectures. It should work out of the box on most Secure Boot-enabled machines, according to developers. Users should not need to disable Secure Boot support in the firmware configuration.

Another reason for using Debian 10 is the added convenience from driverless printing. Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) and cups-filters packages are installed by default in Debian 10 Buster.

This gives you everything needed to take advantage of driverless printing. Network print queues and IPP printers automatically set up and manage the process. You can forget about the hassle of using non-free vendor printing drivers and plugins.

What You Get

Buster 10 defaults to the Wayland display server instead of Xorg. Wayland, with its simpler and more modern design, has security advantages. Yet the Xorg display server remains installed by default. The default display manager lets you choose Xorg as the display server for the next session.

Debian 10 Buster ships with seven major desktop applications and environments. The choices — Cinnamon 3.8, GNOME 3.30, KDE Plasma 5.14, LXDE 0.99.2, LXQt 0.14, MATE 1.20 and Xfce 4.12 — reinforce the notion that Debian maintains the traditional Linux OS model.


Debian 10 GNOME 3.30 display

A pure GNOME 3.30 display makes Debian 10 a comfortable computing experience.

– click image to enlarge –


LXQt is perhaps the newest “old school Linux desktop” in the mix. Cinnamon, developed by Linux Mint devs, is the newest well-established desktop option. Still, its version number is what you would expect from Debian: several release versions behind.

The other available desktop options are in line with the Debian philosophy of putting reliability and nothing cutting-edge into the OS. That approach is likely to appeal to veteran Linux users, but it also gives Linux newbies the assurance of dependability and ease-of-use processes.

Testing Familiarity

If you are a regular Linux Picks and Pans reader, you no doubt know that I have a preference for the Cinnamon desktop. Its plethora of features and productivity tools are concentrated on the panel.

That affinity used to extend to the Linux Mint distro that developed the Cinnamon desktop as well. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian Linux.

My growing dissatisfaction with Linux Mint performance prompted my quest for other distros that offer the Cinnamon desktop. My test list includes even the Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE).

So it made sense to see how well the Debian Buster Cinnamon edition performs. Space does not permit a rundown on all seven desktop options. Rather, the scope of this Debian 10 buster review is to highlight how this latest Debian release fits into the overall Linux landscape as one of the oldest distros.

That said, Debian Buster in concert with the Cinnamon desktop showed solid worth as a longtime Linux performer. Of course, that assessment is tempered by the drawbacks detailed above.


Debian 10 Cinnamon 3.8 desktop

The latest Debian release includes an unadulterated integration of the Cinnamon 3.8 desktop.

– click image to enlarge –


The balancing act between software upgrades and maintaining stability, plus the wireless connectivity fail, hold this Debian upgrade back from qualifying as a must-have computing platform for all users.

Bottom Line

If you are relatively new to using Linux, Debian’s design decisions will not pose obstacles to using it. If you insist on speedier application updates, you might spend excessive time grabbing newer versions from .deb repositories that are outside Buster’s reach.

Get Debian 10 Buster ISO downloads
here.

You will have plenty of time to resolve those issues. The developers have a long slog to the release of Debian 11, aka “Bullseye.”

I can only hope that the next Debian upgrade comes a lot closer to hitting an improved bull’s-eye that is less boring.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Can You Hear Me Now? Staying Connected During a Cybersecurity Incident | Cybersecurity


We all know that communication is important. Anyone who’s ever been married, had a friend, or held a job knows that’s true. While good communication is pretty much universally beneficial, there are times when it’s more so than others. One such time? During a cybersecurity incident.

Incident responders know that communication is paramount. Even a few minutes might mean the difference between closing an issue (thereby minimizing damage) vs. allowing a risky situation to persist longer than it needs to. In fact, communication — both within the team and externally with different groups — is one of the most important tools at the disposal of the response team.

This is obvious within the response team itself. After all, there is a diversity of knowledge, perspective and background on the team, so the more eyes on the data and information you have, the more likely someone will find and highlight pivotal information. It’s also true with external groups.

For example, outside teams can help gather important data to assist in resolution: either technical information about the issue or information about business impacts. Likewise, a clear communication path with decision makers can help “clear the road” when additional budget, access to environments/personnel, or other intervention is required.

What happens when something goes wrong? That is, when communication is impacted during an incident? Things can get hairy very quickly. If you don’t think this is worrisome, consider the past few weeks: two large-scale
disruptions impacting Cloudflare (rendering numerous sites inaccessible) and a
disruption in Slack just occurred. If your team makes use of either cloud-based correspondence tools dependent on Cloudflare (of which there are a few) or Slack itself, the communication challenges are probably still fresh in your mind.

Now imagine that every communication channel you use for normative operations is unavailable. How effective do you think your communication would be under those circumstances?

Alternate Communication Streams

Keep in mind that the middle of an incident is exactly when communications are needed most — but it also is (not coincidentally) the point when they are most likely to be disrupted. A targeted event might render critical resources like email servers or ticketing applications unavailable. A wide-scale malware event might leave the network itself overburdened with traffic (impacting potentially both VoIP and other networked communications), etc.

The point? If you want to be effective, plan ahead for this. Plan for communication failure during an incident just like you would put time into preparedness for the business itself in response to something like a natural disaster. Think through how your incident response team will communicate with other geographic regions, distributed team members, and key resources if an incident should render normal channels nonviable.

In fact, it’s often a good idea to have a few different options for “alternate communication channels” that will allow team members to communicate with each other depending on what is impacted and to what degree.

The specifics of how and what you’ll do will obviously vary depending on the type of organization, your requirements, cultural factors, etc. However, a good way to approach the planning is to think through each of the mechanisms your team uses and come up with at least one backup plan for each.

If your team uses email to communicate, you might investigate external services that are not reliant on internal resources but maintain a reasonable security baseline. For example, you might consider external cloud-based providers like ProtonMail or Hushmail.

If you use VoIP normally, think through whether it makes sense to issue prepaid cellular or satellite phones to team members (or to at least have a few on hand) in the event that voice communications become impacted. In fact, an approach like supplementing voice services with external cellular or satellite in some cases can help provide an alternate network connectivity path at the same time, which could be useful in the event network connectivity is slow or unavailable.

Planning Routes to Resources and Key External Players

The next thing to think through is how responders will gain access to procedures, tools and data in the event of a disruption. For example, if you maintain documented response procedures and put them all on the network where everyone can find them in a pinch, that’s a great start… but what happens if the network is unavailable or the server its stored on is down? If it’s in the cloud, what happens if the cloud provider is impacted by the same problem or otherwise can’t be reached?

Just as you thought through and planned alternatives for how responders need to communicate during an event, so too think through what they’ll need to communicate and how they’ll get to important resources they’ll need.

In the case of documents, this might mean maintaining a printed book somewhere that they can physically access — in the case of software tools, it might mean keeping copies stored on physical media (a USB drive, CD, etc.) that they can get to should they need it. The specifics will vary, but think it through systematically and prepare a backup plan.

Extend this to key external resources and personnel your team members may need access to as well. This is particularly important when it comes to three things: access to key decision-makers, external PR, and legal.

In the first case, there are situations where you might need to bring in an external resources to help support you (for example, law enforcement or forensic specialists). In doing that, waiting for approval from someone who is unavailable because of the outage or otherwise difficult to reach puts the organization at risk.

The approver either needs to be immediately reachable (potentially via an alternate communication pathway as described above) or, barring that, have provided approval in advance (for example, preapproval to spend money up to a given spending threshold) so that you’re not stuck waiting around during an event.

The same is true for external communications. You don’t want to find your key contact points and liaisons (for example to the press) to be MIA when you need them most. Lastly, it is very important to have access to legal counsel, so make sure that your alternative communication strategy includes a mechanism to access internal or external resources should you require their input.

The upshot of it is that the natural human tendency is to overlook the fragility of dependencies unless we examine them systematically. Incident responders need to be able to continue to operate effectively and share information even under challenging conditions.

Putting the time into thinking these things through and coming up with workarounds is important to support these folks in doing their job in the midst of a cybersecurity event.


Ed Moyle is general manager and chief content officer at Prelude Institute. He has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2007. His extensive background in computer security includes experience in forensics, application penetration testing, information security audit and secure solutions development. Ed is co-author of Cryptographic Libraries for Developers and a frequent contributor to the information security industry as author, public speaker and analyst.





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Mageia 7 Pushes Linux Desktop Boundaries | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jul 8, 2019 11:51 AM PT

Mageia 7 redefines the concept of traditional Linux.

It is a solid operating system well suited to both newcomers and seasoned Linux users alike. The Mageia distro is a powerhouse Linux OS filled with features and options unmatched in other Linux versions.

Mageia Linux is a fork of the now-defunct Mandriva Linux. It was developed by a team of former employees of the France-based commercial software company that folded Mandriva. The first Mageia version was released in September 2010.

Since then, the developers have released one major upgrade each year with support for 18 months. Mageia does not have a long-term support release. Security and bug fixes are available for each new release and the immediately preceding release from the Mageia Control Center.

Based on that schedule, Mageia 7 will be supported until December 30, 2020. Mageia 6 will be supported until September 30th, 2019.

Images for version 7 are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, as well as live DVDs for 64-bit Plasma, GNOME, Xfce and 32-bit Xfce.


Mageia Xfce desktop

The Xfce desktop is one of the most recognizable platforms. It combines a traditional Linux look and feel with modern speed and functionality.


This latest version, released July 1, is a serious contender to replace whatever OS is on your hard drive now. It provides something that most Linux distros fail to achieve.

Mageia is packed with the newest application versions. It also has lots of new features and support for very recent hardware.

Developers made an effort to enhance gaming in Mageia 7. This release has many new upgrades and additions to the game collection.

Popular Go-To distro

I receive a regular influx of reader comments recommending favorite distros to use. Many of the volunteered comments describe Linux distros that are good bets to try because they present little or no hassle.

Mageia is one name that is frequently mentioned. Several writers have shared that they tried Mageia Linux as a replacement for a current distro that was not living up to expectations. Once tried, Mageia became a favorite choice.

I initially tested Mageia when version 2 arrived in 2012. It was surprisingly impressive then for such a newcomer. However, its developer roots grew from Mandriva veterans, so the forked OS started as more than a new distro.

Mageia has a lot going for it. It has lived up to its potential. One reason for Mageia’s solid reputation is its independent status. It is not based on one specific Linux family such as Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora or Arch.

Packaging Provisions

Mageia uses urpmi, a command line tool for managing packages and repositories. It is an ideal method for installing, updating or removing software packages without a graphical user interface, or GUI. It is much like the apt-get tool in Debian-based distros.

Urpmi handles dependencies automatically. For Linux beginners, the included graphical tool rpmdrake is a better option. Drake, a carry over from Mandriva Linux, is also included in Mageia.

The rpmdrake package management system is used by Linux Standard Base (LSB)-compliant distributions for the low-level handling of packages. It can query, install, verify, upgrade and remove software packages.

If you have used Fedora-based distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or CentOS, you no doubt are familiar with RPM packages and the companion YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified) high-level tool that works with RPM repositories.

You also can use the alternative package manager, DNF (Dandified Yum). The community introduced DNF as an alternative to urpmi since Mageia 6. DNF was forked from YUM several years ago.

DNF has an enhanced problem-reporting feature and advanced tracking of weak dependencies. It also has support for rich dependencies and more detailed transaction information while performing actions.

Independence Plus Choice

The Mageia project is community-based and is maintained by a nonprofit organization (Mageia.org). Its goal is to develop a free Linux-based operating system.

That goal pushes the Paris-based organization toward goals beyond delivering a secure, stable and sustainable operating system. It strives to become a credible and recognized community in the free software world.

Toward that end, the installation process gives users several options in selecting software. Mageia draws from three different repositories or media types. These depend on the type of license applied to each package.

The Core repository includes packages licensed under a free and open source license. The set of the “Core” media along with “Core Release” and “Core Updates” are enabled by default.

The Nonfree repository includes packages that are free-of-charge and free to redistribute. These contain closed-source software.

For example, this repository includes Nvidia and AMD/ATI proprietary graphics card drivers, firmware for various WiFi cards. The Nonfree media set is enabled by default. You can disable it during the installation.

The Tainted repository includes packages released under a free license. Software packages in this repository may infringe on patents and copyright laws in some countries. Examples include multimedia codecs needed to play various audio/video files and packages needed to play a commercial video DVD.

While added by default, the Tainted repository is not enabled by default. You must opt-in during the installation process.

What’s Inside

The Mageia release comes with a variety of desktops and window managers not easily found in other Linux OSes. Included is improved support for
Wayland and hybrid graphics cards.

Wayland is a display protocol slowly replacing X11 video. It enables each program to use the Wayland protocol on its own.


Mageia main menu, Wayland integration

The latest KDE Plasma release displays a modern and clean main menu. Mageia 7’s default Plasma installation is the Wayland integration.


Mageia is a reliable OS for most hardware, including most i586 and x86_64 computer systems. It runs on a reasonably low-powered set of requirements.

It is processor-agnostic. It runs on any AMD, Intel or VIA processor. It will run on a scant 512 MB RAM, although 2 GB is recommended. It has a minimum storage (HDD or SSD) requirement of 5 GB, although 20 GB is ideal.

Mageia is equally forgiving on other hardware configurations. It handles any AMD/ATI, Intel, Matrox, Nvidia, SiS or VIA graphic card. It accepts any AC97, HDA or Sound Blaster sound card.

For some kinds of hardware to work properly, such as WiFi chipsets and 3D graphics cards, specific firmware or software may be needed. You can solve that need by selecting the Nonfree online repository.

Some of the major packages that ship with Mageia 7:

  • kernel 5.1.14
  • Mesa 19.1
  • Plasma 5.15.4
  • GNOME 3.32
  • Xfce 4.14pre
  • Firefox 67
  • Chromium 73
  • LibreOffice 6.2.3

Click here to see the full list of included software.

Welcome Wagon Approach

The Mageia distro comes with something many Linux distros ignore. It has a detailed, updated user guide that eliminates all the confusion and frustration of learning a new operating system. Meet the Mageia Welcome application.


Mageia's Welcome Application, shown in the GNOME desktop edition

Mageia’s Welcome Application, shown in the GNOME desktop edition, eliminates all the confusion and frustration of learning a new operating system.


By default, this Welcome Screen runs at each subsequent boot. You can change that by disabling the auto-run option.

When you need help using Mageia, invoke the application from the main menu.

Choose Your Desktop Flavor

Mageia Linux does not strap you with a take-it-or-leave-it desktop mandate. It comes with a variety of desktops and window managers. This lets you create a computing environment that suits your preferred style.

Three primary desktops are available with their own ISO files. GNOME 3.32, Xfce 4.13 and KDE Plasma 5.15 are among the most popular and productive desktop options in the Linux world.

Pick the KDE Plasma option if you want something a little extra. If you like computing on the edge, install plasma-workspace-wayland to try out the Wayland display manager integration.

If you download the GNOME ISO installation, by default you get the version running on Wayland — but you can opt to install an alternative “GNOME on Xorg” session.

You can opt for the GNOME 2 look and feel, or GNOME 3, which provides a Gnome Classic session.

Xfce 4.13 comes with GTK+3 instead of GTK+2, used in version 4.12. If version 4.14 becomes available in the lifecycle of Mageia 7, it will be updated to 4.14.

Have It Your Way

Beyond those choices, you can install other desktops from a list of alternatives. They are available in Mageia’s online repositories as fully integrated desktop add-ons.

LXDE is a very lightweight GTK+2-based desktop environment. This an interesting option to try, as it is still updated with ongoing improvements from upstream and the Mageia maintainer.

Otherwise, the LX community has refocused in part on the merged LXQt desktop.
LXQt 0.14.1 also is provided as a desktop option in Mageia 7.

MATE 1.22.0 is a classic GNOME 2 integration that provides an old school Linux look and feel. For a full MATE Desktop experience, install the task-mate package after initial installation.

Cinnamon 4.0 is a full-featured desktop alternative popularized by the developers of Linux Mint. It offers a GNOME 2 style environment with an expanded feature set and a look and feel that rivals MATE.

The Enlightenment task package comes with E22.4 and Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL). The Enlightenment desktop in Mageia does not install all the specialized Enlightenment-branded applications, but the desktop Enlightenment shell is a nice start. You can add additional application packages.

Light Window Managers Galore

Another option is to keep the Mageia 7 installation very lightweight by using small and efficient window managers instead of a dedicated desktop environment. Install your preferred window manager and enable it in the login menu of your display manager.

Having this collection all in one place is a unique offering. I have not seen such a wide range of options in any other distro.

The choices include afterstep, awesome, dwm, fluxbox, fvwm2, fvwm-crystal, i3, icewm, jwm, matchbox, openbox, pekwm, sugar, swm and windowmaker. Each one of these window manager options brings a unique computing perspective.

Bottom Line

Linux dispels the notion that one universal computing platform must define the features and functionality for all users. That is why so many distributions exist.

The Mageia distro is a prime example of how freedom and choice are the hallmarks of open source operating systems. Mageia 7 pushes the limits of personal choice and usability definitions.

What gives Mageia Linux its edge is its independence. Mageia 7 is not based on a predefined Linux family of distributions.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

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email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

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Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
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Escuelas Linux Is Much More Than an Enlightened Linux Retread | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jun 28, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Escuelas Linux Is Much More Than an Enlightened Linux Retread

Escuelas Linux caught me by surprise.

This Linux distro is a prime example of how a programmer can take an open source operating system that matches his own developmental strategy and turn it into a much different product with an identical look and feel.

What makes the surprise so appealing is how effectively one distro becomes another while both continue to coexist equally. Developer Alejandro Daz integrated his own features to create a new distro without rebranding what he borrowed.

Linux distros share a lot of give and take. New distros are formed from established operating system families. Modifying the base distro by changing design features and including new concepts is perhaps more common than outright forking an essential software component or an entire OS.

However, Diaz did something very clever. His choice of a foundation for Escuelas Linux is a rarity. He took a minimalist OS design built around a radical user interface. He stuffed it with very targeted software that makes the new stepchild distro more productive and helpful to his specialized users.

Escuelas Linux is based on
Bodhi Linux with its forked version of the Enlightenment desktop,
Moksha.


Escuelas Linux desktop screenshot

Escuelas Linux is a near clone of Bodhi Linux and its Moksha desktop. Installed software and user interface tweaks giveEscuelas Linux its own footprint.

– click image to enlarge –


Reaching Out

Escuelas Linux, which roughly translates as “School Linux,” is based in Mexico. This distro is well-known in Spanish-language countries, particularly in the regions where it is used by ten of thousands of students and teachers, according to the developer.

The distro is relatively unknown in English-language countries despite having added support via a custom pack years ago, according to Diaz. He wants to change that.

“It is kind of sad for us to have such little presence in English-language countries,” he told LinxInsider.

The distro’s 6.x series provides both 32-bit and 64-bit English-language editions. Version 6.4 was released on June 15.

The 32-bit versions are key to expanding Escuelas Linux’s user base. It supports the supply of legacy computers. Even the 64-bit version is less demanding on hardware.

Moksha’s low-memory desktop environment is an ideal fit for keeping legacy computers and cash-strapped schools and families learning and working, using the computer as a productive educational tool and all-purpose computing platform at home.

Long Academic Reach

The Bodhi Linux base, though an unusual computing foundation for students and the education community, is a workable vehicle. It comes with lots of educational apps from preschool to college levels. It also has in-house apps that are very useful to teachers or media classroom admins.

Bodhi Linux is very minimalist. Yet the Escuelas Linux release is stuffed with productivity and educational software that caters to students, teachers and administrators.

That is one of the major elements that sets Escuelas Linux apart from Bodhi Linux and other lightweight distros. Instead of providing users with a bare bones, soulless desktop as default, the Escuelas team offers a highly functional and beautiful desktop that makes “fiddling with the controls unnecessary,” Diaz said.

“Our reach is not limited to the stuff we make on the desktop environment. Escuelas Linux is one of the few distros in the world — if not the only one — in which most of the included apps also receive a lot of care to offer them highly curated and beautiful, ready to be used out of the box on all its potential,” he boasted.

Craftsmanship Counts

Another aspect of Escuelas Linux that sets it apart from Bodhi Linux and other distros is the level of craftsmanship in the included tweaked software, according to Diaz.

For example, his distro comes with the LibreOffice suite. By default, it opens with a tabbed interface paired with what the developer considers the most elegant icon set. A custom rendering of fonts enhances the working experience on the suite.

Escuelas Linux includes hundreds of additional pre-made images in its Gallery. Other extras include lots of additional templates for Impress, its presentations program.

Diaz acknowledges a sad market reality: LibreOffice comes configured to save by default in the MS Office format.

“This same level of embellishment found in LibreOffice using Escuelas Linux can be found across most of the apps included in our distro,” he said.

Distro Primer

Bodhi Linux — and by extension Escuelas Linux — are on a very short list of Linux distros using the forked version of the Enlightenment desktop. In fact, few distros offer Enlightenment, a compositing window manager and desktop shell.

Enlightenment/Moksha are radically different from other lightweight interface shells such as Xfce and LXDE. Its roots grow back to 1996 as a project to build a Window Manager for X11. That project has since started to transition to
Wayland.

The Bodhi community forked Enlightenment 17 several years ago in response to the lack of developmental progress from the
Enlightenment project. The E19 (Enlightenment 19) release is relatively heavy and not suitable for older hardware, according to Bodhi developers. That gave rise to Moksha, which is maintained and updated with the latest Enlightenment libraries.


Moksha desktop in EscuelasLinux, desktop gadgets and modules

The Moksha desktop inEscuelas Linux has desktop gadgets and modules that provide a very different user experience compared to more traditional Linux OSes.

– click image to enlarge –


The Moksha variant of the Enlightenment environment is very customizable. It has many features that contribute to its futuristic design and its innovative desktop UI’s many options.

This gives the Moksha desktop an advantage over traditional Lightweight Linux desktops compared to choices such as GNOME, Cinnamon and KDE Plasma. While the Moksha desktop is light on resources, it has a modern look.

Desktop Design

The Moksha Desktop uses system tray icons and a collection of gadgets and modules. It lacks the traditional layout that allows users to place application icons directly on the desktop screen.

Gadgets are small applications that either provide system information or perform a specific action. Gadgets are highly configurable by right-clicking the gadget on the screen.

Modules are traditional icons. Gadgets are more of a mini control center. You can monitor a lot of things like screen brightness, system temperature, CPU speed, etc.

Shelves house gadgets. You can have more than one shelf on a desktop. You can have different shelves on different virtual desktops, too. You can locate shelves at the middle or a corner of any screen edge. This lets you get better use out of different size display screens.

To configure shelves, right-click on the desktop and choose Shelf > Settings from the context menu. You can set stacking, Position, Size and more. You can locate shelves on a specific virtual desktop or on all desktops.

Panel Bar Begone

The iBar in the center bottom edge of the screen replaces the traditional Linux panel bar. It combines a quick launch tool with a dock for running applications.

The iBar also houses launchers for frequently used applications. A change from Bodhi Linux’s design places icons for open apps in an expanding box on the right half of the bar. Bodhi’s approach is to show running applications with an orange dot under the iBar app icon.

This also serves as a convenient app switcher. It is an alternative to the Alt-Tab. You can still use the Alt-Tab key combination to cycle among open applications via a display box that pops up in the center of the screen.

Bodhi’s iBar does what a traditional panel bar does plus a bit more. It serves as a dock for running applications. It also can be a very useful tool that auto-hides if you select that option.

The iBar is heavily animated. Hover the mouse over one of the marked icons to reveal its launch menu. Hovering over the iBar icons causes them to rise from the bar and pulse.

Escuelas Highlights

One of the more useful user interface traits is the left-click feature that pops up the menu anywhere on the desktop. It is very convenient. Unlike Bodhi Linux, no main menu button is on the iBar.

I am a fan of the traditional workspace switcher applet available in most of the regular distros on my machines. I divide my workspace among numerous virtual desktops. The UI interface in Escuelas Linux, just like its Bodhi Linux base, uses a 16-square grid in the upper right corner of the screen to view thumbnail contents of each workspace.

You can click in a square to jump to a new location. You also can drag thumbnails from one workspace square to another, Right-click on the top frame of any running application window to open a menu of workspaces where you can place that application.

Picking Your ISO Download

Escuelas Linux has two editions each for Spanish and for English. In each language, one ISO file is for 32-bit machines. A second ISO file is for 64-bit computers. A legacy edition is available for computers with minimal resources.

Install the 32-bit edition on computers with at least 700 MB of RAM and 40 GB of free hard disk space. Install the Legacy edition on computers having 512-700 MB of RAM with 40 GB of free hard disk space.

Install the 64-bit edition on computers with 4 GB or more of RAM. This is the edition to install as a dual-boot option or to replace Windows 8 or Windows 10 preinstalled at the factory on UEFI systems.

Because the ISO files are very large and the Sourceforge repository imposes bandwidth limits on projects stored there, you must download three folders. These folders are special ZIP-compressed files.

Download them and unzip ONLY the file with the .zip extension to obtain the ISO image of Escuelas Linux. The unzipping process will grab the additional two files from the downloaded folders and stitch them together into one 6+ GB ISO installation file.

Here is
the download link.

DVD, VM No Good

The ISO file exceeds the 4.7 GB capacity limit on DVDs. So you must use a USB image writing tool to transfer the installation files to a bootable USB drive of at least 8 GB capacity.

The live session runs fine from the USB drive for testing and installation to a hard drive, but avoid running the ISO as a live session in Virtualbox.

The performance is not good. I also had trouble installing it to a VirtualBox hard drive.

So far, the developer has not done much to rebrand the signage in Escuelas Linux. The system boots through several splash screens clearly identifying the loading OS as “Bodhi Linux.”

The integral craftsmanship of the software that Diaz mentioned and the refinements to the OS itself are lost to most users. I can not recall a single instance within the OS that displayed the name of the distro as “Escuelas Linux” and not “Bodhi Linux.”


Escuelas Linux wallpaper settings

Escuelas Linux suffers from an identity crisis. It lacks its own signage and other unique branding. This screenshot of wallpaper options is a vivid example.

– click image to enlarge –


Bottom Line

Escuelas Linux is a surprisingly good all-purpose distro despite its emphasis on education-specific software. However, its universal appeal is critically hampered by its Spanish- and English-only editions. You can always uninstall educational packages not to your liking or need.

Expect to take some time getting familiar with the Moksha desktop. That is my primary concern for younger students and others not familiar with any computer system.

I spent many years as an educator pushing computer technology in the classroom. Students’ computing skills (with the exception of gaming) were often greatly lacking.

Moksha is not difficult to master. Yet I cringe at the thought of students and other users getting up to speed on the Moksha UI for hands-on productivity in the classroom and at home. Many of the specialty features built into Escuelas Linux will help teachers and system admins reduce the UI distractions.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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