Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot Will have ARM Support in the Server Edition

Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot is around the corner. It is the successor to  Natty Narwhal and brings promising improvements over it. Although many people are unimpressed by the beta release of Oneiric Ocelot, it has some impressive features nonetheless.

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A new Firefox, a revamped software center and other behind the scene changes all sum up to deliver a beautifully done Linux distro. However, one of those important behind the scene changes is ARM support. Canonical has said that Ubuntu 11.10 will be the first to support both ARM and x86 processor architectures. In reality, the support for ARM devices was introduced in version 11.04, but it was only for the desktop edition. With ARM support in the server edition, Ubuntu can claim full ARM support.

Canonical CEO  Jane Silber puts this as,

I know none of you are building your cloud on ARM architecture yet, but its a very promising architecture, and we’re very proud to be working with the leaders in that part of the ecosystem to bring that new capability to the open source world first. It is a significant move.

This shows how important servers with ARM processors will become in future. Ubuntu simply wants to be ready for the day this happens. The current Linux server market is easily dominated by Red Hat but Ubuntu has enough space to compete with it, once ARM heads into the server market, full-on.

A taste of the  new Unity interface in Ubuntu 11.10  should get you warmed up for the arrival.

Keep a tab on the  Ubuntu Oneiric countdown  for the final  release on October 13.

Ubuntu 12.04 Named, The Countdown Begins

The very popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu, has received its new name. With every public frozen release of Ubuntu, a code-name is chosen which traces its roots back to when Canonical took the reigns and pushed out ‘Warty Warthog’ in 2004. Since then, each 6 month release has received a name made up of a carefully selected adjective paired to the name of an animal. From 8.10 ‘Intrepid Ibex’ to 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’,  we have now arrived at the latest iteration of Ubuntu nearing release – 12.04.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical Ltd, explains the thought process for coming up with the newly named release, Precise Pangolin.

We’re looking for something phonetic, something plausible and something peaceful too. We’ll avoid the petulant, the pestilent, the phlegmy (phooey!), the parochial, the palliative and the psychotic. We’re aiming for mildly prophetic, and somewhat potent, without wanting to be all pedantic and particular. Phew.

Let’s ask the question differently what are we trying to convey? 12.04 is an LTS. So we want it to be tough and long-lasting, reliable, solid as a rock and well defended. It’s also going to be the face of Ubuntu for large deployments for a long time, so we want it to have no loose ends, we want it to be coherent, neat.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the  Precise Pangolin.

So, what on earth is a pangolin and why is it precise?

It’s very similar to an ant-eater. It has armor to protect itself, it’s versatile and can adapt to the environment. Fitting name for an operating system that needs to be robust and reliable, yet friendly and approachable by a new user.

To anticipate the launch, the Ubuntu team has put up an online countdown timer. It’s vague and they’re purposely skimping on details to create a stir. The timer runs in real-time and will end in just over 24 hours, when everything will, hopefully, be revealed.

The Supreme Court of India Embraces Ubuntu Linux

In a bold move two months back, The Supreme Court of India decided that it should start using Ubuntu Linux as the primary Operating System across all courthouse-offices. The earlier Operating System across Indian courts was RHEL 5 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), and that is why I call this transition a bold move. The quality of support provided by RHEL is unmatched in the world of Linux. It will be interesting to see how Ubuntu performs as a replacement, now that the transition is in process.
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The Supreme Court prefers a customized version 10.04 of the Ubuntu distro for this migration. This deprives them of many new features of Ubuntu. However, Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx is the most stable one to come out after Ubuntu 8.04, so this choice is a wise one. There are over  17,000 courts in India that will be migrated over to this custom version of Ubuntu 10.04, as part of this plan.

The main problem faced by widespread adoption of Open Source software has been lack of vendor support. This issue is handled extremely well by Red Hat. However, when it comes to Ubuntu, users have to rely on documentations. Thankfully, the transition from RHEL to Ubuntu will be accompanied by user training. Additionally, a video tutorial and PDF file will be available at all times, at the Supreme Court of India website.

For a welcome change, the guideline message says,

The Ubuntu  Linux Operating System can be installed by the Judicial Officer on his own also as the installation process is very easy, intuitive and self-explanatory. In fact, it shall be a welcome change and a desired enablement on the part of the Judicial Officers if they become self-dependent in this aspect also.

This urges government officials to be familiar with the Ubuntu installation procedure and try it themselves. It also brings considerable cost cutting for the government.

The exact PDF document outlining the guidelines, features of Ubuntu and other technical details can be found at  this link. Video tutorials for demo guides can be found at this page.

Was it Right of RMS to Take a Pop at a Dead Steve Jobs?

Richard Matthew Stallman is the President of the Free Software Foundation. He is a well-known champion of software freedom. He shaped some of the popular open-source software licenses that we conveniently enjoy today. It would have been a bad world out there without his determinations, and we owe him that much. However, no matter how great some men are, it is not noble of them to make pejorative remarks about other great people, people whom the world holds in high esteems, especially on the event of their passing away.
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If Richard Stallman changed the world of free software,  Steve Jobs  transformed the world of personal computers and computing devices. His efforts with the PC business was so groundbreaking, it threatened giants like IBM back in 1979. From those early days, Apple has come a long way and created some of the most innovative products we find around us today.

If you ask me personally, I am torn between two worlds here. I respect Steve Jobs for everything that he did, and RMS is the very face of everything I believe in. His exact statement was,

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. However, we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

At the risk of sounding defensive, I may cite here that “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone” were not his own words. However, Stallman reveled in the death of Steve Jobs, and that was wrong of him. Nothing good will come out of this. It seems like an act of desperation, one that has brought shame to the world of FOSS.

Ubuntu 11.10 Will Bring Ubuntu Friendly- a Hardware Validation Program

The Ubuntu roadmap suggests that it will graduate to version 11.10 codenamed Oneiric Ocelot next month. With this new version of Ubuntu, we will see new features, one of them being Ubuntu Friendly. Ubuntu Friendly is a user-feedback system that determines whether Ubuntu runs smoothly on particular hardware or not.
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The  Ubuntu Friendly wiki  explains the system as,

Ubuntu Friendly is an open hardware validation programme for desktops, netbooks and laptops that will be developed during the Oneiric cycle and that will allow to validate as “Ubuntu Friendly” those systems that are known to work well with a particular release of Ubuntu, based on test results sent by Ubuntu users.

The basic aim of the system is to make lives easier for Ubuntu users and to help them decide on buying of laptops and desktops. The review system however, is not completely user-controlled. There is software that runs the review test and it is already available in  Launchpad PPA. The Ubuntu Friendly brand is owned by Canonical. However, there are no commercial criteria for a system to be Ubuntu friendly. It just needs to pass the test successfully.

The Ubuntu friendly program has two teams- the Ubuntu Friendly Squad and the Ubuntu Friendly Control. The Ubuntu Friendly Squad will collect test results, check them for completeness and sort them out. It will also maintain documentation for the program and write new tests for Ubuntu Friendly. Ubuntu Friendly Control is more about managing the Ubuntu Friendly community, as a whole .It will have rights to add and remove members from the program and manage results so that they do not bias the system.

While collecting user-reviews and system compatibility data, the Ubuntu Friendly program will also give Ubuntu users a feeling of being a part of the community. It will be interesting to see whether users take interest in this review system or not.

For more information of Ubuntu Friendly, take a look at their FAQ page.

GNOME Continues Growing Up; 3.2 Released and Ready

If you’re a casual Linux user, you’re likely to be sporting either KDE or Gnome when it comes to the desktop environment. Gnome has become the popular DE to wrap into a distribution, especially since Ubuntu has decided to forge ahead with Unity (based on Gnome Shell) in future releases.

The GNOME project has packaged and prepared their latest version, 3.2 — which is based on a 6 month release cycle. Good or bad, every 6 months there will be a version freeze and a new release of code will be shipped. Today is that day. GNOME 3.2 brings along a plethora of bug-fixes, feature additions and overall user experience enhancements.

The release highlights include;

  • It is now easier to resize a window as the area for this has been increased.
  • System Settings now includes links to related settings found in other locations. For instance, the Keyboard section now has a link to the keyboard layout.
  • Titlebars, buttons, and other controls are less tall, making it easier to use GNOME on small screens.
  • Notifications in the lower-right corner now include a counter. This makes it easier to see how many emails are waiting for you without having to open your email program, or to determine how many messages you have missed in a particular chat.
  • The highlight effect that indicates that an application is already running has been made more obvious.
  • In the user menu, notifications can be configured independently from the chat status.
  • The workspace switcher in the overview remains expanded by keeping its full width displayed when you are using more than one workspace.
  • Instead of assuming Evolution, the application for the calendar drop-down can now be customized.
  • The battery power status is now shown using a bar.
  • Focus-follows-mouse handling has improved, though more work is needed.

New applications are also bundled in the packages. The Accounts application includes support for the cloud and can sync your Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Chat and Documents.

Speaking of Documents, there is also a completely new application that provides quick and easy access to all locally and remote documents. Finding, editing and saving remote documents will be a cinch with Google Docs support built right in.

As usual, the GNOME team is looking at the future of computing, they’ve enhanced and reduced user interactions to complete tasks, they’ve integrated social features and have even added a brand new on-screen keyboard in the event that this whole Post-PC drivel comes to fruition.

As usual, the Release Notes are in the GNOME Library and provide a comprehensive look at the subtle changes that have been incorporated. Look for your favourite distribution to polish, package and push GNOME 3.2 once the repository maintainers vet the source and make their branding modifications.

Oracle Assumes MySQL is Open Core, Invites the Wrath of the Open Source Community

There has to be a day when Oracle stops disappointing the world of open source. Right after the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, everything Oracle has done took open-source projects under Sun Microsystems on a slide downhill. Recently,  many publications  are talking about  MySQL becoming open-core  but if we look closely, Oracle started out with this very outlook for MySQL! To be precise, Oracle says in  its announcement of commercial extensions  for MySQL,

Continuing the business model of MySQL, we are adding three new commercial extensions to MySQL Enterprise Edition.
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Existing commercial customers who are entitled to a  MySQL Enterprise Edition  subscription can log into My Oracle Support and download these immediately.
For others who want to try these new capabilities, we will make them available shortly, via the  30-day
free trial of MySQL Enterprise Edition
.

Tell me why that does not sound familiar. We have seen this ideology earlier. Both Eclipse and Cygwin are based on the ideology of  Open Core  and MySQL seems to be taking the same path. Something about this open-core does not seem right. At least, it does not fall in line with the four basic freedoms of free-software, namely,

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1)
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2)
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3)

Open core maintains a feeling of goodwill while taking away the aesthetic value of these freedoms. With this move, Oracle shows that it has the right to distribute MySQL components as commercial products. In other words, what would otherwise have arrived, as an enhanced version of MySQL with added features, will come as MySQL with commercial enhancements.

IIS Web Server Share at an All-time Low, Nginx Rises, Apache Rules

Apache has been the predominant web-server since the early days of the internet. It has remained so for years and there is no doubt that it will remain so for years to come. The second most popular web-server no doubt is  Microsoft’s IIS. It is quite popular and is a necessity if you are using Microsoft technologies to develop web-applications.

Around three years back, IIS was catching up and for a moment, it looked like Apache was losing ground. However, since 2007, Apache has been on a constant rise and has captured 65% of the web-server market today. This comes as a surprise, since Microsoft has worked extensively towards pushing its web technologies. ASP.NET and Silverlight are impressive enough. In spite of this, the current market share of IIS stands at 16%. This is a deva-vu from 1997 when IIS had exactly this much of share in the web-server market.

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The dip can be attributed to the fact that the IIS web-server runs only on a Windows environment. Moreover, a huge array of open-source software like Linux, BIND, and FreeBSD are popular on the web-server. On the contrary, IIS has no such supporting technology.  A holistic view of the current situation shows a dark future for Microsoft web-technologies.

Other than the obvious dip in IIS share and the dominant rise in Apache share, some other interesting results appear in the above graph. We see a period from June 2009 to December 2009 when both Apache and IIS registered a dip and there was a remarkable rise in unconventional web-servers.

Interestingly, the second most popular open-source web-server, Nginx has registered a continuous rise in market share since 2008. It is indeed sad to see how the once dominant Sun server disappears in this graph.

(Via: Pingdom, Source: Netcraft)

How Were the Names on the World Trade Center Memorial Arranged?

It has been ten years since the September 11 attack at the World Trade Center. Thousands of lives were lost in the attack that shook the world and the frightful images from the attack are still fresh in my mind.

A bronze memorial engraved with names of all victims has been laid out to commemorate all the lives lost at the attack. It names all those who lost their lives and there are 2,983 names in there. However, you will be surprised to know that these names are not arranged in alphabetical order or any other common order known to man. The arrangement is in a particular fashion, where these names are placed as nodes in a network of their relations to one another.

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The relating factors are both professional and social. The work of sorting out those thousands of names and placing them in this complex network is attributed to  Jer Thorp, who is a Data Artist at the New York Times and has a long-standing experience in visualizations.

The arrangement of names on the memorial makes use of “meaningful  adjacency”, the data for which was collected by asking the families of victims. Some of the adjacency is also based on the place of accident. With over 2900 names as nodes and over 1200 relations as edges, the result would have been an  enormous  graph. The handling of this huge dataset was done using an open-source language called Processing.

Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions. Initially developed to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing also has evolved into a tool for generating finished professional work. Today, there are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning, prototyping, and production.

The use of Processing brought significant elegance to the work, and as CNET says,

This led to about 99 percent of the requested adjacencies being honored. In addition, the system tackled problems such as name length, spacing between lines and potential interference between letters, and other aesthetic challenges–such as the fact that 12 panels are irregularly shaped. The designers worked with the output to produce the tribute.

Processing has also been used for other visualization work as exhibited here in this gallery.

(Image via: Scientific American)

Canonical Releases First Beta of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

Ubuntu 11.10Canonical has released the first beta of the next version of Ubuntu, the Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. The release falls in line with the Ubuntu release calendar, with the next beta release scheduled for 22nd September and the final release on 13th October, 2011.

The first beta of Ubuntu 11.10 features 3.0 branch of the Linux kernel, an updated Unity desktop interface serving as the UI shell. The Ubuntu Software Center gets an update with the addition of a top rated apps view.

Ubuntu 11.10 Software Center

 

New Features And Updated Packages

Some of the new features in this beta release include:

  • Multiarch support: This is a big boon for users who still rely on certain 32-bit applications such as Skype and Adobe Flash Player. Multiarch makes it possible to use the 32-bit packages present in 32-bit editions of Ubuntu without the need for ia32-libs compatibility package.
  • Updated kernel: The kernel is now based on the 3.0 branch of the Linux kernel. While the jump from the 2.6.x series to the 3.0 series is result of a change in the version naming convention rather than any major changes, the updated kernel has received numerous bug fixes and driver updates
  • Updated DVD contents:  The DVD release now stands at 1.5GB, with the available packages  consisting of all the language packs, some useful applications such as Inkscape, GIMP, Pitivi, and a more complete  LibreOffice  suite.
  • New packages: Some of the new packages include Mozilla Thunderbird as the default email client and  Déjà Dup  as the default backup tool. Firefox 7.0 beta is included as the default web browser.
  • Updated packages:  The updated packages  include Python 3.2, GCC 4.6.1, CUPS 1.5.0, Shotwell 0.11, and LibreOffice 3.4.2
  • UI Updates: The beta release features some UI tweaks – including a new Alt+Tab switcher, updated visual indicators and Lenses replacing erstwhile Places, with  support for multiple sources and filtering based on categories for instance.
Filtering feature in Ubuntu 11.10's "Lenses"

Being still in beta I encountered quite a few crashes while using Ubuntu 11.10. I’ve reported most of them and hopefully these should be fixed by the next beta release. You can read  more information about this release over at the Ubuntu Wiki.

Download Links

For those interested in trying out the beta, here are the download links: