Steam for Ubuntu is Coming Soon, This Time for Real

After years and years of rumors, Valve is finally taking the bold step of porting its Source engine to Linux. With this porting, you can also expect Linux to get steamy. Yes, the Steam client is showing its head on Linux too, and all this is happening on our favorite Linux flavor- Ubuntu. The announcement has been done in style with a blog post titled “Steam’d Penguins“, on Valves recently launched Linux Team blog.

Steam_LogoThe purpose of this blog is best explained as,

Our mission is to strengthen the gaming scene on Linux, both for players and developers. This includes Linux ports of Steam and Valve games, as well as partner games. We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers.

The first time we heard rumors of Source being ported to Linux was back in 2008, when Phoronix started reporting about it. The leaked Valve handbook showed the world how flat their management structure is. Years went by, and finally, the rumors started getting stronger this year. earlier in April, Valve’s Gabe Newell confirmed (to Phoronix, again) that there will indeed be a ported Source engine and a Steam client for Linux, and here we are!

Linux will prove to be a prospective platform for obvious reasons of openness. Although Valve is working on Steam for Ubuntu 12..04 currently, they also have plans for other Linux distros in near future. The flagship game to be ported to Linux will be Left 4 Dead 2, and it will run on OpenGL.

Finally, Linux will have its own native Valve games and its users will not have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of Wine or any other compatibility layer anymore. Last month, EA started betting big on Linux too, and their choice of distro too was ubuntu. It is good to see that Ubuntu is being seen as a platform of choice for pilot projects like these. Nonetheless, gaming on Linux too is entering a new era.

Mozilla BrowserID is Now Persona, and the Name is Justified

Mozilla wants to change the traditional ways of authentication on the web. Until now, we were habituated to enter a combination of login credentials to sign in to a website. Going further, Mozilla is working on a unique system that requires only an email ID to sign in. The system was dubbed as BrowserID earlier, though Mozilla has recently rebranded it as Persona, increasing the cool factor.

The sole aim of BrowserID, or Persona is to create a secure system for authentication, while giving users more flexibility over a cumbersome login process. Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, though, we still use decade old authentication processes. It is good to see that someone is working hard to change that, and present it as a part of the user experience.


We have seen other single sign-on mechanisms, like Oauth based login from Twitter, Facebook etc. The problem is that, these are all centralized, and the authenticating entity is sitting on a pile of personal information, and gets to know each time you login to any website. Slightly apart, OpenID is a decentralized mechanism for authentication, so it provides an experience similar to what we expect from BrowserID. However, with BrowserID, you are in control of your entire personal information and online behavioral data. Moreover, BrowserID will allow pseudonyms and multiple identities too.

With data breaches becoming the order of the day, this project will relieve enterprises of a large number of responsibilities and legal issues when it comes to storing user data. Needless to say, it will provide for a seamless browsing experience for end-users.

Sputnik Program Taking Beta Testers for the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu

Ubuntu fans are going to have a gala time ahead of them, and even more so, if you are a developer. Dell is planning to bring in the Ubuntu experience to laptops, and it wants to do things in the proper way. That is why, Dell has a beta-testing program in place for the Dell XPS 13 Ultraboook, with Ubuntu pre-installed. This beta testing program is called Sputnik, and it might send Dell sales skyrocketing through the laptop market for two reasons: cheaper prices and free software.


The page announcing the Sputnik Beta testing program reads,

Be a test pilot for the ultimate developer laptop.

Dell is now recruiting volunteers for the Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut program. A limited number of applicants will be selected to receive a discounted, beta version solution (Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04LTS).

With your help, we are confident that this new Ubuntu Linux-based laptop will become the ultimate mobile tool for developers.

The registration form can be found on this page. It takes some personal details along with company details. One promising development is that the program is open for developers all over the world, and not just for those in the US.

Dell has tried selling Linux based laptops earlier though every time, the laptops just vanished from their website without so much as a pop. However, this time, Dell seems serious about the Ultrabook, and is off to a good start. This test will help Dell estimate how well Ubuntu based laptops are received by the developer community worldwide. It might create newer range of Dell products, and give Linux the much needed consumer-market exposure it has always deserved. Nonetheless, it will strengthen the Ubuntu ecosystem, with more developers interested in being a part of this revolution.

Laughable Security Flaw in Cyberoam Packet Inspection Devices

A serious security flaw has been discovered in Cyberoam Deep packet Inspection (DPI) devices, which Cyberoam uses to intercept SSL packets. The device functions in a simple manner. It cloaks its presence by forcing users to install a fake CA in their browsers, and then using this CA to issue fake certificates for websites. The certificate contains a public key, and is quite easy to spoof. furthermore, the user’s consent to install the certificates makes the handshake possible. Cyberoam is extremely popular in corporate organizations, educational institutions and government agencies for varied reason, ranging from blocking access to websites to spying on users.

Cyberoam subverts the original CA and plants its own faux CA instead. But what are the implications of this? A TOR user in Jordan has found something interesting. Cyberoam uses the same fake CA across all devices, but the problem with their implementation, is that there is no intermediate key which the CA signs. Thus, all Cyberoam devices have the same private key and this opens a wide array of possibilities for tinkerers.


But the worst part is yet to come. The key from one device can be extracted, and can be used to intercept traffic from any other Cyberoam client. This is embarrasing for Cyberoam, and it has not responded publicly on this matter yet.

The Tor media page reports this, saying,

It is therefore possible to intercept traffic from any victim of a Cyberoam device with any other Cyberoam device – or, indeed, to extract the key from the device and import it into other DPI devices, and use those for interception. Perhaps ones from more competent vendors.

NAVSOP: A GPS Alternative in the Making

BAE Systems, a major worldwide Defense and Security Firm is working on a GPS alternative NAVSOP, which will use a totally different methodology for getting a position fix. The new system uses the ether of transmission waves from Wi Fi, mobile phones, televisions, radio and alike, to get position details just about anybody. This is a considerable improvement over current positioning systems like GPS and GLONASS, which use satellites to get data on latitude and longitude. The new positioning system is dubbed NAVSOP, which stands for Navigation via Signals of Opportunity.


Check out the infographic in its full glory here.

The most promising thing about NAVSOP is that it does not require a multi-billion dollar satellite cluster hovering over the sky. All the infrastructure required to run NAVSOP is already present in the form of various household and hand-held equipment that emit identifiable waves. We have already seen Android phones using A-GPS to retrieve approximate location, with help from a data network. Not only does NAVSOP use all this existing infrastructure, the model of operation makes it possible for NAVSOP work in areas with poor reception of GPS (think indoors or the subway).

Another advantage of NAVSOP is put up on their official blog, saying,

NAVSOP is resistant to hostile interference such as jamming (a particular weakness of GPS) and spoofing, where a bogus signal tricks a device into misidentifying its location. The new system can learn from signals that are initially unidentified to build an ever more accurate and reliable fix on its location.

From the way I see it, this technology relies heavily on other people who will be used as a constant source of location information. This might alert privacy watchdogs and wreak havoc about wireless footprints of device and their traceability.

GRUB Officially Graduates to Version 2.0

After a decade of development, GRUB2 has been released officially, and it brings some major improvements to GRUB. Though, it hardly caught anyone’s attention, as GRUB2 is already being used by most major distros for the last three years. Although the version used by these distros was a pre-release of GRUB2, it was more or less feature complete.


The release was announced on the GNU GRUB official mailing list:

Hello, all
I’m proud to announce the release of GNU GRUB version 2.00.
Since this version has a round number it has been paid special attention to, and hopefully, represents higher quality.
This is the first time we include an official theme (starfield).
This version also includes EHCI driver.
Support for using GRUB as firmware on Yeeloong was added in GRUB 1.99, and for 2.00 this support has been extended to Fuloong2F as well.
This is also the first time we release itanium and SGI mips port. Later is experimental due to problems encountered with its firmware.

This new release brings a new menu structure with submenus, a new theme for gfxmenu and support for new platforms. It also brings new drivers for AHCI, EHCI, EFI serial etc. Apart from these, there is support for new filesystems, performance improvements and better internationalization. However, as mentioned earlier, most of these features are already present in running versions of GRUB2.

There is an interesting discussion on Slashdot about the current state of vendor-lock in for hardware. On one hand, we have GPLv3 that restricts hardware locking, and on the other hand, there is Microsoft which is hell-bent on pushing secure boot and killing the Linux ecosystem on x86 systems. There should be fair laws safeguarding us from vendors and corporations forcing their decisions down our throat.

A Reddit Clone from the US Military, Coming Next Month

For years, the Pentagon has used a suite of applications called the milSuite that consists of Facebook, Wikipedia, WordPress and YouTube knockoffs. These clone websites serve as internal collaborative platforms for the military, and are managed by MilTech Solutions, an office of the US Army. The milSuite has four applications, namely milBook, milWiki, milBlog and milTube, though a fifth one is in the making. This new application will be a Reddit clone, and will host ideas from soldiers that will be voted up/down by other soldiers.


Enter Eureka, the Military Reddit Clone

This new knockoff in the MilSuite breaks away from the mil* naming convention and will simply be called Eureka. It will follow the same content model as Reddit, and will have user-generated content that will be created and voted on, by soldiers. Given the fact that the Reddit application is open source, it will save MilTech the trouble of developing things from scratch. From the screenshot, we get a glimpse of what Eureka can offer. There are categories for what we call subreddits in Reddit, and the homepage lists five top ideas and five new ideas. This seems like a work-in-progress and some more sections and features might be added to Eureka before its release.

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin commented on this news, saying,

The Reddit format and the military both love acronyms. I can actually imagine a decent military version of TIL (Today I Learned), IAMA (Ask Me Anything), and ELIF (Explain It Like I’m Five), but the military version of MLP (My Little Pony) gives me nightmares. I do have high hopes for RAOMRE (Random Acts of MRE).

When we think of Reddit, we get this idea of a flamboyant, carefree, unrestricted and highly engaging group of users. Reddit has a rich history of organized activism, good deeds, investigations and much more. In Mimicking Reddit, Eureka might recreate the same physical environment, but the same level of engagement? According to Defense News, the project will go live mid-July and will be offered as part of MilBook.

HTC One X Review: Taming the Beast

Earlier this year, HTC unveiled its flagship Android phone, the HTC One X. The One X is part of a bigger change at HTC and represents its new focus on the mobile market with its One series. The One is the next step in HTC’s innovative product design and philosophy, and clearly, the One X will be one of the most powerful devices to have come out this year. I got my hands on a One X almost a fortnight ago, and it continues to amaze me. This is an HTC One X review post, and I am going to share my experience with this beast of a phone.


The One series


The One series has three phones under its banner- the HTC One X, the One S and the One V. The One X has two more variants, the North-American version, and the One XL, which sports LTE and a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chipset. With the One Series, HTC has dedicated itself to creating a few awesome devices under one banner instead of pushing out varied devices all year round. Along with this new product lineup, the One also represents HTC’s new philosophy.

The One V is the first phone in the One series, with a 1 GHz processor, a 3.7-inch screen and Android 4.0. The One V sports the looks of the HTC Legend, and is aimed at the entry-level Android-phone market. The next phone, the One S has an aluminum unibody. It is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and has a 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540) display. The One X is the flagship device in the One series and it a set of killer features leading up to pure awesomeness.



The One X boasts of a gigantic 4.7-inch 720p HD display with a 1.5 GHz quad-core NVidia Tegra 3 SoC infernal machine running inside it. The device is codenamed Endeavor, and was carrying that name until February, when HTC dropped the Endeavor moniker and branded it as the One X. At 5.3-inches long and 2.7-inches wide, the phone will seem gigantic in your hand on first use. The all-new HTC Sense 4.0 is a step away from the disappointing earlier version 3.6 and the visual improvements will bring smiles to the faces of HTC fans like me.


The One X is available in grey and white versions. I went for the white version because it looks classy, with the black screen augmenting the elegance. This phone is feature packed all throughout and every nook and corner screams “attention to detail”. Let us take an in-depth look at what the One X has to offer.

Skype 4.0 Arrives on Linux, Better Late Than Never

A few days ago, Skype decided to monetize its software by displaying ads in between conversations. Most people found this unsavory, but Skype tried wrapping the advertisement scheme as display of “relevant content”, and made a bold claim that it would spark conversations. It goes without saying that Skype invited everyone’s wrath with this move.

Earning back some karma, Skype did something appreciable recently. The Skype software on Linux graduated to version 4.0 which is good news for Skype users who are in the habit of waiting for Skype updates now. The 4.0 release is codenamed “Four Rooms for Improvement” and brings in lots of new features, thus making for a better Skype experience on Linux.

The post announcing the release on the Skype official blog says,

With this release, we have finally filled the gap with our other desktop clients and we are now making many of the latest Skype features, as well as a lot of UI improvements, available to our penguin lovers.

The blog post claims improvements in UX, as well as the underlying communication technology. Minor changes include fixes for crash issues, newer emoticons and new language packs. There is also a fair warning that says that the first load of the latest Skype will synchronize the chat history, and things might be a bit slow initially.

The latest version of Skype offers packages for all popular flavors of Linux, but the download page lists older versions of all distros. This was a huge turn-off for some people.


It is sad to see that Windows users can enjoy Skype 5.10 while Linux users have to make do with Skype 4.0. This second-class treatment of Skype on Linux has been criticized extensively in this blog post. Linux might have its own ninja-skills and hacker-friendly tools, but when it comes to attracting third-party developers, it clearly has not been able to catch up with Windows.

Linaro Brings Drastic Performance Improvements to Android

The awesome hackers behind Linaro have successfully optimized Google Android using the GCC 4.7 toolchain. With this optimization, the Linaro team claims that Android can perform task 30 to 100 percent faster. Looking at the figures, this is no match for the Android optimization that XobotOS claimed, though it retains the same technology stack and has a better chance of being considered. While this optimization will not bring visible improvements to high-end smartphones, it will surely come as a boon to low-power devices and will probably let them run ICS too.

This video at Linaro Connect Q2.2012 demonstrates the oxBench benchmark on two pandaboards, one running Android AOSP and another running Linaro optimization over AOSP.  Linaro manages nearly 60 fps in all benchmarks whereas AOSP struggles at 30 fps. Currently, Linaro is aiming at CPU optimization only, because the GPU gives them compiled binary objects.

Linaro is a not-for-profit effort backed by IBM, Freescale and ARM aimed at reducing the time-to-market for various mobile Linux variants. It was first announced in June 2010, though there has not been a single device that uses Linaro’s optimization. In February this year, canonical used Linaro to run Ubuntu on ARM.

For now, Linaro’s Android optimization is only engaging other enthusiasts, but no device manufacturer has picked up Linaro to improve its Android offering. A thread over at XDA forum suggests that Linaro is coming to CM9. This might give CM9 a head start in Linaro optimization, given that CyanogenMod already performs better than stock Android. The Linaro team is making good progress and we hope to see more optimization coming out of their foundry in near future.