LightDM To Replace GDM And Dialog Sheets To Make An Appearance In Ubuntu 11.10

As you are probably aware, the Ubuntu Developer Summit – Oneiric is going on in Budapest to decide on the different aspects of Ubuntu 11.10. We have already had a lot of interesting news from USD such as Deja Dup being accepted and Thunderbird almost certainly replacing Evolution.

Well, the excitement has not ended. Here are some more details of the changes coming in Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”:

LightDM Will Replace GDM

The GDM (GNOME Display Manager) is the first thing that greets you when you boot into Ubuntu. It provides the login screen and the option to select different users, sessions etc. In Ubuntu 11.10, GDM will be replaced by a lighter display manager, which is rather unsurprisingly called LightDM.

LightDM provides a lot of improvements over GDM:

  • It has all the features that GDM supports.
  • It has a much smaller codebase. LightDM has 5000 lines of code while GDM is composed of 50,000. This makes LightDM easier to maintain.
  • LightDM is much faster than GDM. GDM requires the GNOME session to start, while LightDM does not have any such requirements.
  • LightDM supports more theming  capabilities  compared to GDM.
  • LightDM is independent of the desktop environment and can be used with GNOME, KDE, Xfce etc.

Here is a mockup of a login screen made using LightDM:

Dialog Sheet instead of Dialog Box

A dialog sheet is basically a dialog box which is attached to its parent window. It is used in both OS X and recently introduced in GNOME 3 as well. With Ubuntu 11.10 adopting GNOME 3, Ubuntu 11.10 will also have the dialog sheet. (Note: Ubuntu 11.10 is using GNOME 3 only, not the GNOME Shell. Unity will still be used in Ubuntu 11.10.)

The beauty of the dialog sheet is that, unlike dialog box, it cannot get lost among a number of Windows. In Ubuntu, though, it will be called Slate Style Dialog.

Here is an example of a Dialog Sheet:

[sources: Digitizor, OMG!UBUNTU!]

Thunderbird Could Become The Default Email Client In Ubuntu 11.10

Today at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, there was a discussion on which application should be shipped as the default email client with Ubuntu 11.10. So far Ubuntu has been shipping with Evolution as the default email client.  Of late, there has been a growing number of people who are not pleased with Evolution and instead asking for Ubuntu to ship with Thunderbird. So, basically the discussion was to decide between Evolution and Thunderbird.

Being a part of GNOME, Evolution integrates very well with the GNOME desktop. But it suffers from several flaws such as an outdated and confusing user interface. Evolution is also fairly slow compared to other email clients.

Thunderbird has a fairly modern tab-based  interface. It is quite fast compared to Evolution and has a lot of extensions to extend its functionalities. However, Thunderbird still has a few critical problems. Thunderbird does not have calender support (although there is an extension for that) and does not integrate well with the GNOME desktop. Another problem for Thunderbird is that it does not work with Microsoft Exchange. Microsoft Exchange support is particularly important as a lot of  businesses  uses it.

Because of these shortcomings of Thunderbird, it has been decided that Thunderbird will become the default email client in Ubuntu 11.10 if these issues are fixed. For now though, development for Ubuntu 11.10 will go ahead with Evolution.

However, work is already going on with Thunderbird to address these issues. Thunderbird is being integrated into Unity and it is getting contact sync with Ubuntu One as well.

You can view the notes from the discussion here.

Lubuntu Accepted As An Official Ubuntu Derivative

The flexibility of Ubuntu (and Linux in general) means that it not very difficult to create derivatives from it – and there a number of derivatives. Ubuntu derivatives could be created for a specific function or created with different desktop environment. To receive support from Canonical, though, the derivative has to be officially recognized by them.

Lubuntu is one such derivative. Lubuntu is based on the Ubuntu but instead of Unity/GNOME, it uses a very light weight desktop environment – LXDE. Ever since the project was started Lubuntu has been quite popular compared to the other non-official derivatives. In fact, during the Maverick Meerkat release cycle, it was considered a very strong contender to receive the official status but missed out at the end.

Today, Lubuntu has been finally accepted as an official Ubuntu derivative. Getting the official status means a lot of things for Lubuntu:

  • Lubuntu packages will be available in the main Ubuntu repository.
  • Users will be able to install Lubuntu over Ubuntu or other derivatives without adding extra repositories.
  • Lubuntu will follow the Ubuntu development cycle.
  • Most importantly, it means that Lubuntu will get more exposure as an official derivative.

The decision was taken at the Ubuntu Developer Summit but no official announcement has been made yet. You can see details of the discussion here.

The addition of Lubuntu brings the total number of official derivatives to six. The other official derivatives are Kubuntu, Xubuntu. Edubuntu, Mythbuntu and Ubuntu Studio.

[source]

Deja Dup To Be Included By Default In Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”

We had reported earlier that the backup tool, Deja Dup, has a very strong possibility of being included by default in Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. In the GNOME mailing list, Deja Dup developer, Michael Terry, has announced that it has been included by default in Ubuntu 11.10.

Michael Terry made the announcement while applying for Deja Dup to be included as part of GNOME. This is what his message said:

Here’s a quick thousand foot view:

  • Homepage here: https://launchpad.net/deja-dup
  • It’s a backup program aimed at non-technical users.
  • It’s a graphical wrapper and policy manager for the backup program duplicity.
  • It’s included by default in Fedora 13 on and will be default in Ubuntu 11.10.
  • It follows the GNOME schedule and best practices already.

The inclusion of Deja Dup in Ubuntu 11.10 is a very good move by the Ubuntu developers. With so much importance being placed on data, a simple backup tool which just works for everyone is a very essential application.  Although accepted, Deja Dup is not yet ready for Ubuntu 11.10. It will have to support Ubuntu One and the CD size issue that we had talked about extensively have to be sorted out first.

Terry also announced some details of the future direction that Deja Dup is taking.  In the next major version (20.0), Deja Dup will be redesigned to make it more invisible and to make it act and look more like a part of the operating system rather than a  separate  application.

You can view screenshots of Deja Dup here.

[source GNOME mailing list, via WebUpd8]

Is It Time For Ubuntu To Switch To A DVD ISO?

Ever since its first release, Ubuntu has always been released as a CD image. Back in 2004, the year when the first version of Ubuntu was released, CDs were the dominant medium and computers had CD drives. DVDs were just starting to take off at the time. So, back then distributing Ubuntu as a CD image made sense.

Seven years later, Ubuntu is still being distributed as a CD image. Nowadays, with every Ubuntu release the 700MB limit of a CD is becoming a major talking point. The CD size restriction has become a major factor in deciding if an application should be installed by default or not. The addition of new features with every Ubuntu release is constantly pushing the 700MB to its limit and has resulted in popular applications, such as GIMP, being dropped from the list of applications installed by default to make room for other stuffs.

In the Ubuntu Developer Summit for Ubuntu 11.10, the 700MB limit has again become a major point of consideration. The decision to have applications such as Deja Dup is currently being deferred until the CD size issue has been sorted. And in Ubuntu 11.10, a lot of new stuffs are being added – stuff such as Qt, GNOME 3, Unity 2D, Python 3 etc. The new additions being considers requires around 13-18 MB of space. The Ubuntu image has already been packed to the maximum and that much space is not available. To make the space required for these new packages, other packages will have to be dropped.

Nowadays, DVDs are very common and it will be hard to buy a new laptop which has only a CD reader and no DVD reader. A computer that supports only CD and does not support USB boot will have problems running Ubuntu anyway. So, the problem that they faced seven years ago is no longer there. So why is Ubuntu still being distributed as a CD image? Frankly, I am not sure. As I have mentioned above, the developers have managed to keep the image limited to 700MB by dropping some packages to make room for new ones. It will not be possible to keep up with this size restriction forever. Sooner or later, they have to adopt another approach.

Another approach being considered that addresses this problem without switching to a DVD image is having two CD images – a basic installer and another which contains the other extra applications. The drawback of this approach is that it is messy. Having two installation media unnecessarily complicates the installation process.

If Ubuntu were to switch to a DVD image, all these problems about deciding which packages to drop would become non-existent. It would also mean that useful applications which deserve to be installed by default, such as GIMP, Deja Dup, can be installed by default. The fact that we now have 4.2 GB does not necessarily mean that the image has to be made 4.2 GB. It simply means that the 700 MB which decides if an application can be included is no longer there.

A bigger installation media would mean that there will be less dependence on the internet to download dependencies and a better collection of useful applications from the start which translates to a better user experience. They have to switch to a DVD ISO sometime, there is no reason why it cannot be done with Ubuntu 11.10.

[image credit]

Lenovo And Canonical Collaborate To Provide Ubuntu Certified Systems

Yesterday, Canonical founder, Mark Shuttleworth, announced that Canonical is aiming for 200 million Ubuntu users in four years. When he made the announcement, many believed that such a number will not be possible unless Canonical partners with OEMs.

Today, taking a step in that direction, Canonical and Lenovo has announced a collaboration to provide Ubuntu certified Lenovo products such as laptops, desktops and servers. The collaboration between the two companies will mean that users who are buying Lenovo systems can be assured that Ubuntu will work properly on their system.

Canonical has already given the Ubuntu certification to around 30 Lenovo systems. Right now Canonical certifies systems for Ubuntu 11.04, 10.10 and 10.04. With the partnership, it is expected that the number of Ubuntu certified Lenovo systems will increase. Announcing the collaboration, Canonical made the following statement:

Having hardware certified through Canonical provides consumers and corporate user the assurance of a high quality, user-friendly, maintainable operating system on every device. The key benefits of combining Ubuntu with Lenovo Thinkpads is the hassle free operation and a fast reliable performance.

Such collaboration might be just what Ubuntu need. One of the main problem that I see with Ubuntu nowadays is that it does not work well out-of-the-box with certain hardware. For example, with my laptop, Ubuntu 11.04 does not work out-of-the-box. When a new Ubuntu installation does not work out-of-the-box, most of the normal users will not waste their time trying to get the system working and would instead shift to Windows. For this reason, Ubuntu certification might be the next best thing to buying the system with Ubuntu pre-installed. With an Ubuntu certified system, users can be assured that their hardware will work without problems when they install Ubuntu.

You can see the list of Ubuntu certified Lenovo systems here.

Linux Mint 11 Release Candidate Available For Download

Today the first release candidate of Linux Mint 11, codenamed Katya, has been released. Linux Mint 11 is based on Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” which was released late last month.

Like Ubuntu 11.04, Linux Minth 11 RC is based on GNOME 2.32. However, Linux Mint 11 does not use Unity and has the classic GNOME desktop instead. According to Linux Mint lead developer, Clement Lefebvre, they decided to stick with GNOME 2 because GNOME 3 still has compatibility issues, regression and missing features. Linux Mint 11 RC uses Linux 2.6.38 and Xorg 7.6.

New features in Linux Mint 11 includes the following:

  • Software Manager – The Software Manager in Linux Mint 11 RC has been made more polished and the main screen features bigger icons and new categories. The application screen has also been vastly improved and like the Software Manager in Ubuntu 11.04, it now supports rating and reviews.
  • Update Manager – The Update Manager has had some refactoring and code changes. Because of the changes, the Update Manager now checks for only package updates, making it much faster. The new Update Manager also handles dependencies now.

Linux Mint 11 also has some system improvements such as apt-download, which is used for downloading .deb packages with dependencies and storing them locally. An interesting feature in Linux Mint 11 is that users of the 32-bit build can install both the stable build and the unstable build and then switch between them easily.

The default applications that are included in Linux Mint 11 has also been changed slightly from that of Linux Mint 10. Gwibber is no longer installed by default. Like in Ubuntu 11.04, Rhythmbox has been removed to make way for Banshee and LibreOffice has been included in place of OpenOffice.org.

Currently, Release Candidate has a few known problems such as GNOME theme failing to load, problems with adding PPAs etc. These will be sorted out before the final release which is expected before the end of this month.

You can go through the release note and the mirrors for download from here.

FSF Embraces Bitcoin for Donations

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency. It is free of any centralized issuer and uses a decentralized distributed database to manage itself. I find Bitcoin pretty interesting because of the anonymity involved in fund ownership and transfers.

bitcoin-image

Bitcoin can be saved on a PC in a wallet and if you were wondering how big this crazy idea is, there are around 6 million Bitcoin currencies in the world right now. All you need to send or receive a Bitcoin is a bitcoin address and there is no transfer fees involved from a central authority because of the decentralized nature.

The FSF has embraced Bitcoin for donations and this will help Bitcoin achieve more value in a world of government regulated currencies. Their announcement says,

Our setup right now is very basic, so we are providing just a single address at which to direct contributions: “1PC9aZC4hNX2rmmrt7uHTfYAS3hRbph4UN”. Because of the way the system works, contributions to this address will not be fully anonymous.

If you’d like us to know who the contribution came from, and be able to acknowledge receipt of your donation, then please email [email protected] with your name and address, and contribution info.

The Bitcoin economy is worth 22 million USD and this is pretty small as compared to the well-established currency system we have otherwise. But the fact that people see it as a freedom from the government regulated currencies can pose a threat to it as it grows. Right now, the project is just out of its incubator and only time will tell where it goes.

Visit the Bitcoin project here.

UDS Update – Firefox Remains As Default Browser and Deja Dup Might Be Included As Default

Today the Ubuntu Developer Summit for Ubuntu 11.10 has kicked off in Budapest, Hungary. It will be a while till we get a clear picture of what is in store for Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. But we already have some interesting details.

Firefox will remain as the default browser

Despite all the talks in various blogs about the strong possibility of Chromium replacing Firefox as the default browser in Ubuntu 11.10, it has not happened.

One of the main advantage that Chromium has over Firefox in Ubuntu is that it is much faster than Firefox. This, coupled with the fact that Chromium has some nifty features that integrates it very well into Unity, are what prompted many to call for the inclusion of Chromium as default browser instead of Firefox.

However, Firefox still remains as the most popular web-browser (behind Internet Explorer). So, it makes sense for Ubuntu 11.10 to stick with Firefox as default. Moreover, Mozilla has recently announced that the Linux build of Firefox will be as fast as that of Windows.

Deja Dup might be included as default

This one has not been confirmed but backup tool Deja Dup is being considered for inclusion as a default application in Ubuntu 11.10. Currently Ubuntu does not ship with any backup tool and Deja Dup could be the front-runner if they do decide to have a backup tool by default.

Deja Dup can backup to the cloud and remote locations and encrypt the backups. However, the advantage that Deja Dup has over other backup tools lies in its simplicity. As Ubuntu is trying to gain widespread usage, this is a very important factor to consider.

Taking the final decision is however more complicated. Because of the CD size restriction of 700 MB, things like disks space is a very important consideration for any new application to be included as default.

[sources: 1, 2]

Apple Violates Open Source License in Cold Blood

Open Source codes are used by almost everyone in the tech industry and that is the reason why, large companies release different parts of their application with different licenses. The world would be a really bad place without Open Source software with people writing their own shitty implementations or stealing codes from others. Open Source has simplified all this at a simple cost: you have to give back to the community.

apple-webkit-lgpl

Though, as tech giants grow bigger, they seem to care lesser for this. All they want to do is suck out all that is there from Open Source codes. When it comes to giving back to the community, they go MIA.

Apple uses a mix of licenses in its iPhone, which includes BSD and LGPL codes. Clearly, these two licenses require that Apple gives back to the community. Apple makes all its Open Source releases on a website www.opensource.apple.com. Though it is interesting to see that the website has not been spotted distributing their WebKit code after iOS 4.3.0.

Apple has a process in place to do exactly this, which is appreciable. However, this negligence from Apple can cause immense agitation in the Open Source community. If Apple gets away with doing this (which they will not), it will send out a dangerous signal resulting in massive theft, violation and misuse of Open Source codes and principles.

Update: After extensive coverage and scrutiny by the FOSS community, the code is finally up for download. Congratulations Apple, this was long overdue. Next time, please be on time.