According to its http://sharklinux.net/ web site, the distro I am about to review aims to provide a full-featured Linux computing environment that is usable ‘out-of-the-box’ to a first time user. It also will continue to ensure that it remains fully functional when deployed within a cloud environment. Calling itself a virtualization swiss army knife, who am I describing? Shark Linux.
So would Shark Linux be a cut above other virtualization-focused distros, in other words, a virtual cornucopia of tools or would it seem like I jumped the shark
Name: Shark Linux http://sharklinux.net/ ( Not to be confused with the SharkLinux listed in Distrowatch from 2004 or so).
Maintainer: Marcus Petit According to Marcus: During the planning stage, prior to a name being decided, I was jokingly referring to the project as SharkOS (pronounced in a way that rhymes with Marcus) The name SharkLinux simply evolved from that initial reference. I was actually unaware of the previous Shark Linux until a couple months after having chosen a name. As the other Shark was based off Gentoo and hasn’t been in development for quite some time I decided to keep the name as is. In short, there is no relation whatsoever and the name similarity is purely coincidental.
A fun fact regarding Shark Linux: a physical keyboard has never been touched in developing SharkLinux. It has been developed 100% in a cloud environment and rendered via a VNC connection which Marcus primarily accesses using his Galaxy Smartphone. Although installed on his home pc, he’s always used the handheld while “working” on the distro.”
Distro Latest Birthday: 3/9/17 (Since it is a rolling release so birthdays happen frequently)
Derivative: Built over Ubuntu 16.04(1) LTS. A rolling release OS. Supported until 2021.Although it is based on Ubuntu (Xenial LTS), Shark Linux is sufficiently different that I felt it warranted a look. How different, you ask…? :.
- No sudo password to install software for that user
- No sudo apt.
- Upstream/Dev repo enabled by default
- Many ubuntu-unsupported software (non-opensource, non-free etc)
Review Desktop: Mate (Mah-tay)
Shark Live boots ot a muted, grayish desktop with very clean lines—it is the standard Mate look with the toolbar/panel at the bottom. Half the screen was taken up with the gaping mouth of a great white shark. Cue the jaws music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb8t3Lt8iJw)
- Graphics: ( i915)
- Wireless: ✘ (b43)
Office Suite: LibreOffice 184.108.40.206
Mail Client: Thunderbird
File Manager: Files (think Nautilus with a new name)
The iso is 1.5 GB, so it was no surprise to me that the live version came fully stocked with a full menu of Entrées, including some that I will discuss later. There was one icon on the desktop: Install Shark Linux. So on to the install…
The Install Process:
Kudos to Shark Linux for removing the Ubuntu branding from the installer. It was nice to see that someone took the time to customize it. The only problem I encountered was trying to click the updates during install. It didn’t seem to take—the radio button for that open did not darken when I clicked it. However after the system rebooted after the install, the updates started automatically, so it could have been a visual situation or a PEBCAK situation.
OK, time to take a look at the installed environment– The post-install reboot displayed a helpful start-up dashboard which presented me with nine options. Aside from the normal configuration items such as email, desktop, and timezone, I could also perform such arcane tasks as adjust the size of the swap partition via Make Swap . I clicked it and a small dialog box showed a slider to change the amount of space alloted to swap. I decided to wait until I was done writing my review to see if I could adjust the swap without mucking up the system. At the end of the review I will announce the results of this test. Stay tuned…
Setup Dropbox – afforded me the opportunity to download and install the proprietary Dropbox client. Although the entire process was slick and completed quickly, I did not link my Dropbox account.
SharkLinux Expansion – it was not clear to me what type of ‘expansion’ was involved because it didn’t work. I then checked the web site and discovered that LXD does not support the expansion pack due to the Docker engine.
Change Desktops tool deserves its own separate paragraph. My expectation when using this is that the chosen desktop will be installed, allowing me to choose my desktop at login time. Unfortunately, that is not exactly what happened. I had three options:
- MicroMate Desktop with its wavy, four-color flag icon (shades of Windows XP);
- iPear, the sort-of Mac clone; or
- SharkLinux the default.
Wasn’t I already running the Shark Linux default desktop? I decided to try iPear. After the install completed, I was rebooted into the iPear desktop. There was just one problem—I didn’t see a way to change to the default Shark Linux desktop at login—no option, no drop-down list. I found it a little annoying that I didn’t have the option to return to the default Shark Linux desktop at login so I reinstalled and decided not to change my default (until my review/research concluded). As I later discovered, per Marcus Petit, the developer, the desktop cannot be chosen at the login screen but can be switched at any time using the Alternate Desktops tool found in the Extras section in the home folder.
Shark Extras – which turned out to be a folder in my home directory opened a toolbox containing several groups system utilities:
- Installers, contained links to scripts for many popular tools and utilities, the most interesting of which I will cover in a minute.
- Tools (I tried Make Swap, Quick Containcer LXC. But left Netdata and Dev Kernel alone)
- Virtual Machines contained scripts to download from Hashicorp, several virtual machines (e.g. Shark Linux, Ubuntu) which I did.
Kimchi – a web management tool to manage Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) infrastructure.
Firejail – a program that reduces the risk of security breaches by restricting the running environment of untrusted applications Firejail can sandbox processes servers, graphical applications, and even user login sessions. Starting it was easy: prefix your command with “firejail.”
Setup Dropbox – automatically downloaded the proprietary demon so Dropbox account holders could access and sync their CIA-scanned files.
Cockpit – easy-to-use yet powerful remote manager for GNU/Linux servers, it’s an interactive server administration user interface that offers a live Linux session via a web browser. I installed and fired it up and an instance of Chrome fired up and connected to localhost:9090. I logged in with my credentials—same ones I used to start the session—and I had a nice web interface of my “server.” Cockpit was an effective way to monitor my system, server or not. (Under sockets, I noted that OpenBSD SecureShell server socket ssh.socket was listed but not active)
LXD Sandbox – a container “hypervisor” It has three components:
- A system-wide daemon (lxd)
- A command line client (lxc
- An OpenStack Nova plugin (nova-compute–lxd)
According to information, I found on the web, LXD was developed by Canonical that sits on top of LXC to provide a new, better user experience. Under the hood, LXD uses LXC through liblxc and its Go binding to create and manage the containers.
LinuxBrew – it is a fork of Homebrew, the MacOS package manager, for Linux I installed it and tested how it handled installing a simple program like Nano. All I had to enter was brew install nano, and Linux Brew downloaded, compiled and installed Nano in a few minutes. During the process, I noted a few references to bottles which I learned are Linuxbrew’s precompiled binary packages. Linuxbrew bottles work on any Linux system. A few features of LinuxBrew include installing software
- not packaged by the native distribution
- to a home directory and so does not require sudo
- up-to-date versions of software when the native distribution is old
- Use the same package manager to manage both your Mac and Linux machines
After Nano was installed I found its folder in a hidden directory: .linuxbrew in the cellar folder.
The Linux brew directory contains enough of the Linux file system structure to allow for installing in the home directory. Expect to see directories like /bin, /var, /lib—and a few others like the previously mentioned Cellar. Interesting stuff!
Other tools that were there included LXDock, LXC Web Panel, Team Viewer, WebVirtCloud, and Wine.
SharkLinux’s claim to fame is its virtual machine capability. it comes with KVM for Linux based VM’s, as well as QEMU for foreign platforms, Docker Engine and LXC/LXD containers for a lighter option. For users who want to design their own can do so with vmdebootstrap. This capability takes us to the next tool-set In Shark Extras: virtual machines. Four items were listed, two of which were machines that were ready to go:
- SharkCloud Manager (which will launch a KVM cloud image based on the options selected.)
- Convert Vagrant Box
I fired up both Shark Linux and Xenial64 and quickly had a CLI instance for both of them. SharkCloud manager lets you create and manage cloud instances. The process to complete is easy: just select the distro release, system host name, user/password. I created a cloud instance and a short while later it was listed in the Virtual Machine Manager.
Vagrant an open-source tool for building and managing virtualized development environments. Vagrant manages virtual machines hosted in Oracle VirtualBox. Additional information regarding Vagrant can be found here: http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/introducing-vagrant .
Shark Linux makes extensive use of aliases. I counted over 120 different commands, ranging from commands for package management/maintenance to an entire set for managing Vagrant. Other convenient aliases included, for example, “clean” is the alias for apt autoremove and apt clean. There also are many docker commands that have been aliased. A few F-bombs have been aliased too. Not sure as to the reason why. Nor was I sure why “royalewithcheese” was aliased to an asciiview picture until I opened it. It’s a scene from Pulp Fiction. That file, by the way, is in a hidden directory called fun.d. I think it would have been more appropriate for something from the movie, Jaws. And some aliases call other aliases…and so on.
Shark Linux Games I installed this-this group and it added a menu item as well as installed games, most of which I had not heard of. The most unusual game was Dope Wars where I could buy and sell dope. Thanks but no thanks. Also available was the PCSX, Sony PlayStation emulator. and install a group of games, most
Package management is fully covered by Shark Linux. If you have deb packages, Gdebi is available to handle the install. Other tools for package management include:
- Synaptic – my favorite package manager was installed by default.
- Software Updater – checks for updates. Has a Settings area that allows you to customize when and how updates are applied.
- App Grid – bills itself as an alternative to the Ubuntu Software Center. You can search be category or sort by most downloaded. User reviews appear on the right side of the application
For some reason all of the title bars seemed to disappear when the windows were maximized. I was able to close them by right-clicking the entry on the toolbar at the bottom of the page and selecting Close.
According to Marcus Petit, the project lead, it is the “default settings for the window behavior. This is purely for aesthetic reasons and to make use of screen space. This can be changed using the Mate-Tweak tool in Control Panel.
Other Programs of Interest:
Internet/xpra – It allows the user to view remote X applications on their local machine, and disconnect and reconnect from the remote machine without losing the state of the running applications. Unlike VNC, these applications are “rootless”. They appear as individual windows inside your window manager rather than being contained within a single window.
Internet/Megasync – New Zealand based cloud storage. 50GB free…Yes, I created an account and successfully synced a document.
Internet/Filezilla – a file transfer tool very much appreciated by me.
Under system tools, three different terminals were available: Guake, the drop-down terminal. For some reason, SharkLinux saw fit to watermark the top portion of the terminal window with their logo. It does not go away as your previous command results scroll up the screen. Mate terminal and the GNU Emacs 24 terminal.
System/virtual machine manager – which turned out to be powered by Libvirt. When I opened the manager, the two virtual machines that I had noted earlier, Shark and Ubuntu Xenial, were listed
dconf Editor – a low-level configuration system and settings management tool. It depends on GLib. It is part of GNOME 3 and is a replacement for Gconf.
Mate Tweak – a configuration tweaker for Mate desktop and configures some aspects of the MATE desktop not exposed via the MATE Control Center applets.
The results of my swap file change – I attempted to resize it—increasing it to approx 6GB. The swap file config process kicked off with a progress bar…after a couple of minutes, it disappeared but my swap size still showed 4GB. I rebooted and it still showed 4GB. However, Gparted showed 2GB. I believe Gparted!
I like to check the user community tools, forums wikis, etc and did not find much to speak of . Perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot.
Over all I found Shark to be an interesting distro if you’re looking to work with or test virtualization environments (or don’t mind that desktop switching is completed after you log in) Shark Linux did not disappoint with its wide variety of tools to create and manage virtual machines.
Recording from the Podcast Detroit Studios: http://www.podcastdetroit.com/event/sunday-morning-linux-review/
Tony Bemus, Tom Lawrence, and Mary Tomich
Sound bites by Mike Tanner
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