A leading Chinese Linux vendor is polishing what may be the last Debian-based release, and preparing to transition to a fully independent distro with its own new package format, Linglong.
Deepin, the most internationally visible Chinese Linux distribution, has released two new versions: the latest release of the existing stable version, Deepin 20.6, and a preview of the upcoming new major release, Deepin 23.
In April we looked at Deepin 20.5, the previous release. This version is a relatively minor update with some components updated: kernel 5.15, including native NTFS support, and the option of kernel 5.17; version 510 of the Nvidia binary graphics driver; and Qt version 5.15. Problems in the Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE) and various accessory programs have been fixed and the system-wide search has been improved.
Deepin 20.06 retains its bright, colorful desktop and combines elements of Windows 7, 10 and now 11
All these things are relatively routine stuff for a small version of a Linux distribution, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The relevance is that while Deepin doesn’t get much attention in the West, it certainly shows that Deepin has remarkable traction, and that the company listens to its users and actively maintains the software.
We tried it in a VM and while it displays a message that advises against that, with some coaxing, it works, and it’s as nice as ever.
The upcoming major release version is more important, with a new packaging format and a planned move to become a fully independent distro.
Deepin has been based on Debian stable for several years after the switch from Ubuntu in 2015. That’s an important advantage in our opinion: it makes it easy to add extra software, including drivers, and the Deepin Software Store is – understandably – skewed toward Chinese apps, sites, and services, some of which are of little relevance to users in other countries.
Deepin is the free international version of UOS, a Chinese-language family of distros from Chinese supplier Tongxin UnionTech. There isn’t much information about UOS in English, as the Wikipedia page shows.
Now the company has announced that this is going to change:
In addition to taking the step to become a standalone distro, Deepin has also announced its own packaging format, Linglong. UOS has started publishing some information about the format, along with an app store.
There aren’t many details so far, but the promised benefits remind us of both Snap and Flatpak, such as app sandboxing and cross-distro compatibility. However, the announcement also talks about improved packaging convenience, incremental updates and package tiers to reduce the size of app bundles.
So far Deepin 23 doesn’t look very different, but with this version you can enable effects in a VM, for example the transparent floating panel
We installed the preview version of Deepin 23 in a VM and so far this test version is still based on Debian. For example, we were able to install DKMS, which allowed us to install VirtualBox’s guest additions.
It’s not inconceivable that a new format could surpass and replace all existing cross-distro formats, as they all have well-documented drawbacks: Snap works on both desktops and servers, but there’s only one official Snap store and the multiple loop -mounts slow system startup. If the underlying file system supports it, Flatpak has deduplication and thus uses less disk space, but it’s only for desktops. AppImage is the easiest, but it’s up to apps to manage their own updates.
It wouldn’t be trivial to overcome all these things in one tool, but it’s not impossible and it would certainly be welcome. This leaves open the question of whether Western sellers would trust such a fundamental instrument if it came from the People’s Republic. In the past, some commentators in the West have raised concerns about privacy, which the company denied. ®