Donate to the Black Lab Linux Project

When you donate to the Black Lab Linux Project it helps us with many things:

Domain renewals
Aging equipment replacement

How much should you donate? Any amount you wish. No matter how large or small it goes to the project. We also take hardware donations as well. Contact for details. We thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Q&A with the Black Lab Linux developers

Today we are sitting down with the main 3 developers of the Black Lab development team.  Roberto Dohnert, Layla Davidson and Simon Lincoln to discuss Black Lab Linux development, our new netOS products and what changes we can be expecting.  So thank you guys for joining me.

When did you first get involved in OSS development?

Roberto:  1994. That was my first exposure to Linux. About 1996 I started playing around with open source code. I was more of a traditional UNIX guy back in the early 90’s with NeXTStep, IBM AIX and SGI Irix.

Simon:  When I worked at DEC back in the 80’s, it wasn't called “open source” - you had either a commercial license with AT&T or you had Berkeley which required you to have an AT&T license in order to get it. I started working with”open source” and the FSF GNU offerings in 1989 or 90.  I’m old so my memory banks are failing me on the exact timeline.

Layla:  My ninth grade year in high school, 2002.  My first exposure to UNIX was through my computer teacher’s SGI Irix Octane machine.  I was using Red Hat Linux 9 at home that my boyfriend at the time helped me set up because I lost the Windows install CD’s and didn't have money to go buy a new set. So I went to CompUSA, which at the time was on Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh and they had Windows for 99 dollars, Turbolinux for 60 bucks, Corel Linux for 40 or a Red Hat boxed set for 29.99. I grabbed Red Hat. As for coding, I didn't start doing it seriously until 2006.

What's your favorite Linux desktop?

Simon: Bash or KSH

Roberto: KDE and XFCE

Layla: KDE, although now I use XFCE.

What are your jobs with Black Lab Linux?

Roberto:  Well we have anywhere from 12 to 16 contributors and I deal more with management. I do a lot less coding than I used to but I still do more than my fair share. I also deal a lot with the hardware and commercial aspect.

Layla: I do a lot of the package management work. I deal a lot with the user applications and the choices we make there. I also do a lot of work with the look and feel.

Simon: I am the kernel guy.  I do a lot of the kernel work and I am the PC/OpenSystems and Black Lab Linux liaison with the guys. Of those contributors that Roberto mentioned I deal with about 6 of them, Layla deals with about 7 who do the artwork, the useless stuff, and Roberto deals with 2 directly, Rich who does documentation and Jeff, who handles the social media end.

What are the differences, kernel wise, with the Black Lab Linux kernel and the netOS kernel?

Simon:  We try to keep the binary blobs down to a minimum with the Black Lab Linux kernel and while the driver set in Black Lab is not as robust as netOS, it's still substantial. I use Debian and Trisquel GNU/Linux a lot to model our driver set. netOS and netOS Enterprise contain a lot of the non-free drivers that RMS and other free software purists complain about and it contains a lot of driver support for hardware that you find in the Enterprise. My goal is to have Black Lab Linux in line as an FSF-certified distro by next year. That's why we re-branded the enterprise offerings to netOS.

Why was the decision made to go with primarily web based applications?

Layla:  Well it was due to customer changes in their organizations : a lot of our customers are adopting Chromebooks. But, the Chromebook is nowhere near as usable as a complete desktop for their purposes. In conversations with customers, we found that they wanted to use a mix of online apps and traditional applications. Chrome OS doesn't allow the use of traditional applications - unless you want to remote into another machine and use its apps. Which is very inefficient. So with Black Lab and netOS, you have the cloud based apps you need along with the traditional applications you know and love. Also, when we were doing certifications, web apps became a major component that we were testing against.

Right now Black Lab Linux is based on 14.04 LTS, when will we see an upgrade to 16.04 LTS and we heard 10 will be the last version based on Ubuntu, have you guys decided what distribution it will be based on?

Roberto:  Black Lab Linux 7 and 8 are based on 14.04 but with different kernels.  Black Lab 9 in 2017 will be based on Ubuntu 16.04.  Next summer we will start beta testing Black Lab 10 which will be based on Debian Linux. We can actually go any route we want since we are moving towards cloud technology - the team even discussed Gentoo, but I think we all formally agreed on Debian. If we were going to just providing hardware with software like Apple does with the Mac or like Google does with Chrome OS we would have chosen Gentoo.

What are some future plans for Black Lab Linux?  Any new architectures?

Roberto:  Well I guess I can go ahead and announce, Black Lab Linux and netOS are coming to to the Raspberry Pi, coming Winter 2016.  netOS Server and netOS Core Server are coming to the SGI UV and the SGI Ice product lines coming spring 2017.  I want to thank ARM Works and SGI for their work and for becoming partners with us.

Layla:  On the package management front we are bringing Snapd and Snap packages to Black Lab 7/8/9.  7 just made the cutoff point since the last mainstream version of 7 will be June 2017.

Simon:  With Black Lab Linux 9 and netOS 9 you will see that we won't have an installation anymore. You will boot a live session, use GNOME Disk Utility to transfer that image onto a hard drive and then reboot and it's done.  That's the approach we will be taking with the Pi and the approach we will take with the PowerPC version. But that's still in planning..

Where do you guys want to see Black Lab Linux and netOS go?

Simon: I personally want to see them grow to become mainstream players in the Linux community. We recently launched an OEM program where vendors can get netOS Standard for free and include it on any supported hardware platform they see fit. Personal computers, netbooks, notebooks, routers, embedded systems and tablets - no royalty to us.  Enterprise and Education they have to purchase, but it's a single purchase and install on as many systems as they can sell. While of course Roberto and Rich want to sell systems and prefer that they buy OURS we all recognize we live in a community and OEMs are a necessity.

Roberto:  I want to see Black Lab Linux grow and thrive as an open development product.  netOS has already matured into a great product, with broad customer acceptance and it’s doing well in the marketplace. Much better than I thought it would, to be honest.

In the vast sea of Linux why should people use Black Lab Linux or netOS?

Roberto:  Because we aim to make Black Lab Linux or netOS everyone's choice as their go-to distribution. Our user base looks for a stability and ease-of-use. Distro hoppers may find Black Lab rather boring and “old-school” our goal is for the user to plug it in, power it on and not to worry about whether it’s a deb or rpm - just get to work, fire it up, use it for what you want.

How can someone contribute to Black Lab Linux?

Roberto:  Contact and tell us what you want to do and where you wish to contribute.  Whether it is code, documentation and or artwork. We are always receptive to contributors.

What is the Black Lab Linux project in need of now?

Roberto:  Well, we need hardware and we are always taking monetary donations. Right now we are in the middle of the Summer Fundraiser for the project and we are attempting to raise money to keep the distribution afloat.  Our minimum goal is $1,000.00 USD but we are shooting for $5,000.00.

Thanks guys.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Black Lab Linux 8.0 "Onyx" Alpha 4 Released

Today the members of the Black Lab Linux team are pleased to announce the release of Black Lab Linux 8, Alpha 4, Codename “Onyx”.  Onyx brings us one step closer to the final release of Black Lab Linux 8, scheduled for December 2016.  Alpha 4 introduces several changes to the way Black Lab Linux is structured -  it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all distribution.  The development team has changed the focus of Black Lab Linux 8 toward the cloud - meaning that all primary applications are web based, full featured, apps. These are complemented with best-of-breed desktop applications installed locally, and you can add any-and-all Debian / Ubuntu packages to the default lineup. Altogether, unparalleled choice to customize your desktop experience.

Some of the benefits to this change include :

1). Smaller core OS structure.
2). Easier and less time consuming upgrade path.
3). Longer software lifespan.
4). Ability to repurpose older hardware

What changes have we made to Black Lab Linux 8 Alpha 4?

1). Linux kernel 4.2.0-36
2). Chromium 50
3). Steam
4). VLC Media Player
5). NetOS Nanny Domain Blocker
6). Ice SSB (site-specific-browsers, launching Gmail or Google Drive or Google Play like a dedicated app)
7). Transmission
8). HexChat IRC
9). Dropbox
10). gThumb

Web apps included :

1). Google Office/Contacts/Calendar
2). Google Play Music/Maps/Photos/Drive/Hangouts
3). Twitter
4). Facebook
5). Facebook Messenger
6). Outlook Mail
7). Spotify

Known issues:

1). Chromium will not work with Netflix
2). Boot will drop into text mode and when completed bring up the GUI - while this bug is infrequent it has happened, and the development team is hard at work fixing it.
3). When the new NVIDIA drivers are installed, the bottom bar goes from transparent to black - proprietary drivers disable XFCE compositing. To fix this : go to Settings -> Window Manager Tweaks -> Enable compositing.

You can download the new Alpha 4 release from Ibiblio


The Black Lab Linux Project is in need of your support.  We are accepting monetary and hardware donations to help keep the project afloat.  When you donate to the Black Lab Linux Project it helps us with many things:

Domain renewals
Aging equipment replacement

How much should you donate? Any amount you wish. No matter how large or small it goes to the project. To donate hardware. Contact for details. We thank you for your support.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Differences between Black Lab Linux and NetOS

Some people have asked me what are the differences between NetOS and Black Lab Linux.  So here we are going to answer a few questions people have regarding NetOS and Black Lab Linux. 

  1.  Are we discontinuing or stopping Black Lab Linux?  Why are we adding NetOSNo.  Black Lab Linux will continue to be developed as is as our open development distribution.  There will be no changes in the terms of development and we will continue to have milestone releases.  Black Lab Linux as a self-sustaining project will continue to sustain itself via donations from the users.  Like any other Open Source distribution or project if users donate the project will live, if we don’t get outside support the distribution will fail and will be discontinued.  The reason for this is to cut down on confusion regarding Black Lab Linux and the commercial offerings.  Black Lab Linux has always been an open development distribution, yet there was massive confusion of what was open development and commercial.  The name change of Black Lab Enterprise to NetOS Enterprise is meant to cut down the confusion of whats open development and commercial.  You will still get the same great service you get with NetOS Enteprise as you did with Black Lab Enterprise. 
  1. Will we continue to charge for Black Lab Linux?  No.  Box sets of Black Lab Linux have been discontinued and Black Lab Linux will only be available via download.  If you wish to order a boxed set of Black Lab Linux we will have boxed sets of NetOS available which is the commercial distribution of Black Lab Linux and contains non-free drivers, codecs and other software not available with Black Lab Linux and will cost the same, $19.99  We will be contacting outside distribution sources to remove all price tags from Black Lab Linux.  To support Black Lab Linux as an open development project, we only accept monetary donations, hardware donations and contributors who may want to contribute code, artwork and documentation. 
  1. What are the differences code wise between NetOS and Black Lab Linux?  NetOS is based on Black Lab Linux with the addition of proprietary multimedia codecs, drivers and other binary only applications added.  Black Lab Linux and NetOS will both be network based OS's meaning that we will also be adding Cloud based applications primarily, and local based applications when it makes sense.  NetOS is a commercial distribution meaning to get the advanced management facilities and other features you will have to purchase a support subscription.  Black Lab Linux will be offered in both 32 bit as well as 64 bit builds.  NetOS only supports 64 bit platforms with ARM support coming with Service Pack 1.  NetOS is offered in several flavors, NetOS CE, NetOS Enterprise, NetOS Education and NetOS Server.  There will be free as in beer downloads of NetOS and NetOS Core Server but they will cut down releases from Enterprise, Education and Server.  The only way to acquire NetOS Enterprise, NetOS Education and NetOS Server is to purchase a support subscription.   
  1. Will Black Lab Linux be available on hardware?  No.  NetOS will be the only distribution that we distribute on hardware going forward. 
  1. Will we make it easier to contribute code to Black Lab Linux?  September of 2016 we will be moving source code of Black Lab Linux to a GitHub repository and people who want to contribute code will be able to do so with ease.   
  1. Will NetOS have contributors?   No.  The NetOS development team will be going through Black Lab source code and adding changes to the code and building the distribution from Black Lab Linux source code. 
  1. Will we be able to watch flash based video and will we be able to play steam games on Black Lab Linux?  Yes.  flash support and Steam support on Black Lab Linux will not be going away. 
  1. Will the Black Lab SDK and other feature paks continue to be offered for Black Lab Linux?  Yes, the SDK and feature paks will be able to be installed on both distributions 
  1. Why do we include Microsoft offerings on NetOS?  NetOS is focused on enterprise and educational markets.  These markets still rely on some Microsoft offerings such as Office and Azure and we want to make it easier to access these properties.  NetOS, nor Black Lab Linux receives any  incentives or payments from Microsoft, Google or any other property holder for their inclusion in NetOS.  Black Lab Linux only contains Google properties but the user can add any web app or local based applications that they wish. 
  1. Will we still be releasing Black Lab Linux 7.7 and Black Lab Linux 8?  Yes, there are no changes to the release schedule for Black Lab Linux.  

So these are the differences between Black Lab Linux and NetOS.  If you have any questions please contact us at .

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

NetOS, NetOS Enterprise and NetOS Education Released

Today PC/OpenSystems LLC is proud to announce the release of our NetOS line of network operating systems.  The development team has been working for over a year and a half, honing our cloud based offerings to the cutting edge, bringing the very latest-and-greatest to our faithful customers.  As the computing world continues to migrate towards that model, PC/OpenSystems LLC decided that it was time for us to position ourselves in the vanguard of cloud-focused Linux.

How does NetOS work?

It contains a primary set of web-based apps, including :

Google Office/Gmail/Drive/Maps/Play Music/Search/Translate
Microsoft Office Online
Outlook Web
Apple iCloud
Pixlr Image Editor
Pixlr Express

The system contains a few best-of-breed locally-installed applications :

Google Chrome
Ice SSB from the Peppermint OS crowd
Media Player

What differentiates NetOS from the growing crowd of cloud-based operating systems is that NetOS includes the ability for users and customers to download and install any Ubuntu or Debian based software package that they want or need to. We offer the customer that flexibility to do whatever they want : run it locally, run it in the cloud, use all of the resources NetOS offers to suit your particular workflow.  For Chromebook customers, Whatever you do on Chrome OS, you can do on NetOS - we’re that flexible. And structurally we are different; NetOS can be readily installed on off-the-shelf commodity PCs, laptops, netbooks, or on older repurposed hardware.  PC/OpenSystems partners with ACER and HP but NetOS can be installed on Macbook Pro / Mini / iMac, Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft Surface products as well as certain Chromebooks. Chrome OS pairs its OS with specific hardware platforms which require new hardware with an OS upgrade.
PC/OpenSystems NetOS also offers long-term protected storage. Chrome OS treats local storage as a cache which stores and then overwrites your data on a first-come, first-serve basis, NetOS treats the filesystem as a traditional storage device and doesn’t overwrite data, regardless of the time involved - day, week, month, year. NetOS offers storage options : local or in the cloud, hard drive, Google Drive or Dropbox.

How much does it cost? NetOS can be downloaded and installed virtually free of charge (an 8 GB flash drive for the installation medium will set you back about $5.00). Download it from the web with online and forum support or purchase a boxed set for $19.99 and that gets you 30 days of installation support. OEMs can bundle NetOS for free on their hardware.

PC/OpenSystem LLC Webstore

Download NetOS 8.0

Specialized releases such as NetOS Enterprise and NetOS Education are purchased with yearly support subscriptions. Licenses are available through our webstore or you can contact; OEMs who wish to license NetOS Enterprise can contact These subscriptions are bundled with add-ons and advanced management utilities to make the admin’s life easier.  

NetOS Enterprise is bundled with the following addons:

Oracle Cloud Services integration
Microsoft Azure integration
Amazon web services integration
Slack Team collaboration
PostgreSQL Client
Glom - easy database creator
Encryption File System Manager
ACLS - control where the system can go online and what times users are allowed access.
Google Apps for Business

NetOS Education is by far the best solution for K-12 facilities;it offers full integration and interoperability with your current infrastructure : Windows, Chrome OS or Apple OS X.  Our cloudbook offering works seamlessly with Chromebook charging carts and a wide variety of standard projectors, external monitors and 4K displays. We also wanted to focus NetOS Education to target developing countries, some of which don't have wide access to broadband connections, using dialup or satellite connections. For these situations PC/OpenSystems LLC has included a modem dialer and we have also worked with many of the satellite companies in those regions to make sure that our users get the best possible experience. We have also created a special international version of NetOS Education for developing countries in Africa and Asia that come with mobile versions of these web apps and more traditional applications like Abiword, Gcompris and Gnumeric. This mix accommodates all of their needs and gives them the best possible solution to operate within their unique technological limitations. If this scenario is applicable to your situation, please order accordingly.  

NetOS Education is bundled with the following addons :

Edmodo - which is a social networking site for teacher, students and parents integration
Google classroom integration
Adesia Desktop Sketching
Calibre ebook management for textbooks and PDF files
Synergy which allows teachers to take control of input devices.
Tux Education suite.

This mix of web-based apps and local Linux packages makes NetOS a compelling choice for any educator in any situation.


PC/OpenSystems, contrary to our name, takes security very seriously.  Our customers trust that our solutions in the enterprise or school environment will be equally stable, secure and robust. This is a great responsibility that Black Lab lives up to with every release. NetOS is resistant to ransomware and other malware but since we do take our role as a responsible citizen seriously, our OS comes with an integrated antivirus solution. You can choose to encrypt your user account during installation and afterwards you can use the Encryption Filesystem Manager to encrypt specific folders. NetOS is also compatible with most biometric scanners.

These are the reasons that distinguish NetOS from the growing crowd of cloud-focused distributions and operating systems.  Whether used for personal, commercial or educational use, NetOS stands head-and-shoulders above the competition.