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Debian fork promises no systemd, asks for donations

The Debian fork website, put together by the Veteran Unix Admins (VUA) group, has annouced the VUA has decided to fork the popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The VUA is critical of Debian's decision to adopt systemd as the distribution's default init software and to allow software packaged for Debian to depend directly on systemd. The VUA plans to create a fork of Debian using SysV Init as the default init software and is asking for donations to support the endevor.

The default init system in the next Debian v8 "Jessie" release will be systemd, bringing along a deep web of dependencies. We need to individuate those dependencies, clean them from all packages affected and provide an alternative repository where to get them. The stability of our fork is the main priority in this phase.

There has been a lot of debate over systemd in the Debian community in the past few months and it will be interesting to see if this non-systemd fork of Debian gains support.

DragonFly BSD 4.0 released

The DragonFly BSD operating system is a server oriented project. Though originally forked from FreeBSD, DragonFly BSD is an independent operating system that carries a number of unique features, foremost among them is the HammerFS file system. DragonFly BSD 4.0 was released on November 25th and offers several new features.

Version 4 of DragonFly brings Haswell graphics support, 3D acceleration, and improved performance in extremely high-traffic networks. DragonFly now supports up to 256 CPUs, Haswell graphics (i915), concurrent pf operation.

The latest version of DragonFly BSD no longer supports 32-bit x86 machines and is designed to work exclusively on the 64-bit x86 architecture.

FreeBSD improves arm64 support

The FreeBSD Foundation published a report yesterday on the status of FreeBSD running on 64-bit ARM processors. Work to port FreeBSD to the 64-bit ARM architecture has been progressing quickly and it is now possible to boot a FreeBSD installation into single user mode on the young architecture.

The kernel bring-up portion of the project is nearing completion; FreeBSD/arm64 boots to single-user mode on ARM's reference simulator. Work is underway on the remaining kernel drivers, and on userland support. This project's overall goal is to bring FreeBSD/arm64 to a Tier-1 status, including release media and prebuilt package sets. More information about the arm64 port can be found on the FreeBSD wiki.

NetBSD launches stability updates

The NetBSD project has announced two important stability updates for its highly portable operating system.

The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 5.1.5, the fifth security/bugfix update of the NetBSD 5.1 release branch, and NetBSD 5.2.3, the third security/bugfix update of the NetBSD 5.2 release branch. They represent a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, and if you are running a prior release of either branch, we strongly suggest that you update to one of these releases.

Details on the two updated branches of NetBSD can be found in the release notes for NetBSD 5.1.5 and NetBSD 5.2.3.

Mageia 3 reaches its end of life

Version 3 of the Mageia distribution reaches its end of life on November 26, 2014. The developers of this user friendly Linux distribution are turning their efforts toward working on the upcoming Mageia 5 and urge users of Mageia 3 to upgrade their installations to continue receiving security updates. The Mageia blog reports:

As you all know, we can’t maintain Mageia releases forever. And it’s time to say goodbye to Mageia 3. After Wednesday the 26th of November, this release won’t benefit from any more security or bugfix updates. This will allow QA team to give more time for polishing our coming Mageia 5. So you have only one week left to upgrade to Mageia 4 if you want to keep an up-to-date system.

People who wish to upgrade their Mageia 3 installations without performing a fresh install of the operating system can follow the upgrade instructions on Mageia's website.

Results of Debian’s Init general resolution vote posted

Starting on November 5th the Debian developers went to the polls to vote on a general resolution which would determine how init software and dependencies are handled in the venerable open source distribution. The result of the resolution will determine whether software packaged for Debian can depend on a specific implementation of init software. The init process is the first to start on Linux and UNIX operating systems and is responsible for bringing the operating system up and managing services.

The general resolution stirred up quite a bit of controversy with some developers wishing to keep software uncoupled from any specific init implementation. Others felt packages and upstream developers should be able to depend on a specific init package for the sake of simplicity or convenience. In the end, the votes were counted and it was decided no resolution would be passed addressing coupling software to init. This means, essentially, it will be up to individual packagers and upstream developers to decide whether to depend on one specific init implementation.

A power user’s guide to Yosemite Server

OS X Server's rate of improvement has slowed in recent years, though Apple is hardly ignoring it. It did get a full Yosemite-style visual overhaul, after all, which suggests that Apple cares about it enough to keep developing it in lockstep with the consumer version of OS X. The continuous addition of features and fixes over the course of the Mountain Lion and Mavericks releases of Server suggests that Yosemite Server will continue on in slow and gradual but still active development.

If we were going to worry about the state of the Mac server in 2014, our primary concern would actually be hardware. First they came for the Xserve, and I did not speak out, because Apple was clearly not going anywhere in Windows- and Linux-dominated enterprise-level server rooms. Then they came for the Mac Pro Server, and I did not speak out, for the cheese-grater Mac Pros were far too expensive to be practical for the new home-and-small-business focus of latter-day OS X Server. Then they came for the Mac Mini Server, and there was no one left to speak for it.

OS X Yosemite Server reviewed in-depth by Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham.

PC-BSD and TrueOS version 10.1 released

The PC-BSD project, a derivative of the FreeBSD operating system, has launched their 10.1 release. The new version supplies booting from UEFI support, full disk encrpytion, automated install-time ZFS tuning, a new package manager front-end that works on both Desktop and Server editions and a Linux emulation layer that works with CentOS 6.6. The PC-BSD project is available in several flavours, including a full Desktop edition, a CD-sized Server edition (called TrueOS) and there are a number of ready-made virtual machine images.

The PC-BSD operating system ships with several friendly front-ends for dealing with FreeBSD technologies, such as ZFS snapshots, backups, boot environments, package management and configuring the X display server.

FreeBSD 10.1 released

The latest version of FreeBSD has been released. The new version, 10.1, is a incremental update to the 10.x series and mostly focuses on minor updates, bug fixes and performance improvements. A few of the more interesting new features listed in the release announcement include support for booting from UEFI, the ability to utilitize SMP on multicore ARM processors, ZFS performance enhancements and the ability to automatically generate host keys for OpenSSH if keys have not already been created.

The new version of FreeBSD is an extended support release and will receive security updates through to the end of December 2016. Further details on the FreeBSD 10.1 release, along with instructions for upgrading from previous releases, are available in the project's release notes. Installation images can be downloaded from the project's mirrors.

Linux Mint to provide MATE with Compiz

Since the MATE desktop forked away from the abanndoned GNOME 2 project many users have reported problems getting the Compiz compositing manager to work properly with the MATE desktop environment. The Linux Mint distribution plans to fix this issue in their upcoming 17.1 release.

The MATE edition sports out of the box support for the Compiz window-manager (which comes pre-installed, pre-configured and which you can switch to with a click of a button).

There are also plans to bring the latest version of the Cinnamon desktop to Linux Mint's Debian Edition. The next release of Mint's Debian Edition will be based on Debian's upcoming stable release, code name "Jessie". Details on developments happening across all editions of Linux Mint can be found in the project's latest blog post.

FreeNAS tries on a new interface

The FreeNAS project, a network attached storage solution based on FreeBSD, is getting a new interface and some handy new features. The latest FreeNAS beta features a streamlined interface where tasks have been reorganized to make common functions easier to find.

A key feature of the FreeNAS 9.3 BETA release is its revamped user interface. It has been redesigned to place only the most common configuration options first in ‘Standard’ menus, moving the more esoteric options to ‘Advanced’ options, and this design pattern as has been used throughout the UI so everything is essentially more streamlined and less cluttered for novice users who essentially just want to use the defaults.

The system update utility has also gained improvements and it will be possible to roll back faulty upgrades. This will make is easier to recover from problems caused by package upgrades.

OpenBSD gets USB 3.0 support

The OpenBSD operating system, famous for its proactive approach to security, has gained support for USB 3.0 devices. A brief announcement was made on November 10th, letting OpenBSD users know USB 3.0 support had arrived.

The post said legacy USB 1.x devices would continue to work on USB 3.0 ports.

For those of you who'd been looking forward to using those blue USB ports of yours, now's the time to plug in as many 3.0 devices as you can find! Of course, just about the time we publish this story, USB1.x devices are now supported on a USB 3.x controller.

Mageia’s next release delayed by RPM

Members of the Mageia Linux community have been waiting for a few weeks now for a beta release of Mageia 5. Several delays have held back the Mageia 5 beta and the project's developers have posted an update explaining why. It seems the problems started when Mageia updated its copy of the RPM package manager.

The new RPM version introduced changes that were significant enough to break a lot of core packages during the mass rebuild, and lots of packages failed to build in a chain reaction.

Problems continued when another software update, this time the GNU C library, caused the distribution's system installer to stop functioning properly.

You may know that a Linux distribution release is basically an installer together with a set of packages. The latter were now starting to behave properly, but we were then faced with some issues in the installer regarding glibc (the GNU C library) and RPM. This delayed the beta for another week or so.

All show stopping bugs have been fixed and Mageiia has finally pushed out their beta release for people to test. The upcoming launch of Mageia 5 is expected to take place at the end of January.

PC-BSD introduces roles

The PC-BSD project has announced a new plan to introduce desktop and server roles into the installation process. A role is essentially a group of pre-defined packages which will be included in a new installation of the operating system.

Roles would be a installation experience for PC-BSD that would allow more flexibility and a more focused package installation based on what you need or want for your role. If you are a web developer maybe you need an IDE or packages specifically focused on that. If you are wanting the best desktop workstation experience maybe you would get an installation with LibreOffice and some other productivity apps.

Roles are not just for desktop users, server administrators will be able to select roles too, enabling web server and ownCloud confiigurations out of the box. People who have suggestions for pre-defined roles or who would like to ask questions about th new feature can join the discussion on the PC-BSD forums.

DenyHost adds support for PF firewall

One common method attackers use when attempting to compromise a server is brute forcing login credentials. Given enough time, automated tools can guess a person's username and password, granting the attacker access to an unprotected server. To counter these sorts of attacks, where passwords are guessed by trial and error, several tools have been created. Utilities such as Fail2Ban and DenyHost monitor login attempts and automatically block the computers performing these types of attacks.

Last week the DenyHost project added a feature which allows the utility to block attacks by using the PF firewall. PF is typically used on the OpenBSD and FreeBSD operating systems to block or forward network traffic. The project's website reports:

DenyHost 2.9 adds one new feature, the ability to work with the PF packet filter, popular on BSD systems such as FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, PC-BSD and TrueOS. The DenyHost daemon will now work with existing PF tables in real time, allowing administrators to block incoming secure shell connections at the firewall level. Examples of how to set up the appropriate PF rules and enable DenyHost to work with PF are available in the DenyHost configuration file (denyhosts.conf).

Debian 8.0 “Jessie” enters feature freeze

Debian is one of the largest and longest lived GNU/Linux distributions. The project forms the foundation of many other popular Linux-based operating systems, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Raspbian. The Debian project announced this week that the distribution's Testing repository, called "Jessie", has entered a feature freeze. This means Debian's Jessie branch will not receive any new features nor any significant software upgrades. From now until Debian's upcoming stable release is launched, the Jessie repository will accept only important bug fixes and updated translations. Based on the time-line presented by Debian's freeze policy it seems as though Debian 8.0 will be released in late February.

FSF Endorsed Trisquel 7.0 Released

The Free Software Foundation endorses few operating systems, directing interested parties to just a handful of GNU/Linux projects that follow a strict definition of supporting and distributing free software. The Trisquel operating system is one of the few projects on the FSF's list of endorsed operating systems. The latest version of Trisquel is a long term support release, based on Ubuntu 14.04, and will be supported through to 2019. Trisquel strives to be as user friendly as possible while sticking firmly to the philosophy of free software. The distribution ships with a version of the Linux kernel that has been stripped of non-free components and is available in GNOME and LXDE flavours. Details of Trisquel's latest version can be found in the project's release announcement.

openSUSE 13.2 gets the green light

The openSUSE project released openSUSE 13.2 on Tuesday. The latest version of the big, green distro ships with updated desktop software, including KDE 4.14 and GNOME 3.14. The new release also features new artwork, a streamlined installer and faster YaST modules. Perhaps most importantly, openSUSE ships with the advanced Btrfs file system by default and will automatically take snapshots of the operating system whenever configuration changes are made. This allows administrators to roll back disruptive changes quickly and without using backups. Further details of the new openSUSE release can be found in the project's release announcement and in the release notes.

Editorial: Thoughts on Systemd and the Freedom to Choose

Over the past year I've been reading a lot of opinions on the new init technology, systemd. Some people think systemd is wonderful, the bee's knees. Others claim that systemd is broken by design. Some see systemd as a unifying force, a way to unite the majority of the Linux distributions. Others see systemd as a growing blob that is slowly becoming an overly large portion of the operating system. One thing that has surprised me a little is just how much people care about systemd, whether their opinion of the technology is good or bad. People in favour faithfully (and sometimes falsely) make wonderful claims about what systemd is and what it can supposedly do. Opponents claim systemd will divide the Linux community and drive many technical users to other operating systems. There is a lot of hype and surprisingly few people presenting facts.

Debian switches back to Gnome as default desktop environment

Debian switched to Xfce as the default desktop environment back in November 2013. But that didn't last long because a few days ago, Debian restored GNOME as the default desktop, based on preliminary results from the Debian Desktop Requalification for Jessie.

According to Joey Hess, the Debian developer who performed this change, the main reasons for Debian switching back to GNOME as the default desktop are related to accessibility and systemd integration.