KDE SC 4.6.3 Released

Today the KDE team has released the third maintenance of KDE SC 4.6. The release – KDE SC 4.6.3 – is a minor update and brings with it only bug fixes and translation updates. KDE SC 4.6 includes updates to Plasma Desktop and Netbook workspaces, the KDE Applications and the KDE Frameworks. There are no new features included in this release though. Since there are no new features, this is considered a safe update and according to the KDE team, it is recommended that everyone running KDE 4.6 should update.

KDE SC 4.6.3 is available for users od OpenSUSE 11.3 and OpenSUSE 11.4. For Ubuntu and Kubuntu users, it is not yet available and is expected to be available this weekend. To get the update when it is available add the kubuntu-backport PPA with the command given below:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backport

To view the changes since the last release, you can refer to the changelog. However not all the changes are listed in the changelog. To see all the the changes, you will have to browse the Git or Subversion log.

The KDE team has dedicated this release to the daughter of KDE developer Daniel Nicoletti.

The 4.6.3 release is dedicated in memory of the young daughter of KDE developer Daniel Nicoletti who tragically passed away after a car crash last month. The KDE community wishes to express their deepest sympathy and support to Daniel and his family in this difficult time.

How To Change The Icon Size In The Unity Launcher

The Unity Launcher

If you have used Unity in Ubuntu 11.04, you would have noticed the large icons in the Unity launcher. The large icons are a good in larger screens since it makes it easier for the cursor to target it. But on smaller screens, like on netbooks, it could be too large and get in the way. If you want to decrease the icon size in Unity, you will be glad to know that you can do it rather easily.

Unity is basically a plugin for Compiz. So, to customize Unity, you need to install the CompizConfig Settings Manager (not that there are many  aspects of Unity that you can customize). To install CompizConfig Settings Manager, open the Terminal and execute the following commands:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

After installing, open the CompizConfig Settings Manager and look for Ubuntu Unity Plugin under Desktop.

Now go to the tab “Experimental” and you will find a slider for Launcher icon size. The default Launcher icon size is 48px. Change it to the size you desire. After changing it, close CompizConfig Settings manager. The icon size in the launcher will be the size you desire.

You can also make the panel transparent, if you want from the Experimental tab. To do it just adjust the slider – 0 means completely transparent and 1 means completely opaque. By default the panel transparency is set to 1.

Three Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu 11.04

A couple of days back, Ubuntu 11.04 was released. As expected it had the new Unity user interface. Unity has divided the Ubuntu users into two groups – those who like it and those who hate it.

In all fairness, Unity is a good concept but it does not look like it is ready for prime time. But this is Linux and open-source software that we are talking about here – there are alternatives. In this post, we will list three alternatives you can try if you do not like Unity.

1. Classic GNOME Desktop

Although Unity is the default user interface in Ubuntu 11.04, the classic GNOME desktop is still available. It comes pre-installed with Ubuntu 11.04 – but it is only used as a fall-back in case the hardware does not support 3D acceleration. If you are one of those who does not like the design principle of Unity and want to stick with the old and trusted interface of old, this is what you must use.

To use the Classic GNOME Desktop, make sure that your system is not set to log you in automatically. To do that open Login Screen and make sure that “Login as <name> automatically” is not selected.

After that log off and in the login screen, you will find Ubuntu Classic in a drop down menu. Select that and login. You will get the familiar GNOME desktop now.

2. Unity 2D

If you like the design of Unity but cannot use Unity, you might want to take a look at Unity 2D. You might be unable to use Unity because either your hardware is old (and does not support 3D acceleration) or your hardware has problems with Compiz (many ATI graphics cards has problems with Compiz).

Unity 2D has basically the same features and look as Unity. The main difference is that Unity 2D has been developed using Qt while Unity runs as a Compiz plugin. Even when the hardware supports Unity, I find that Unity 2D is much faster.

Unlike the Classic GNOME Desktop, Unity 2D is not installed by default in Ubuntu 11.04. But it is available in the Ubuntu repository. So, to install it open the Terminal and execute the commands below:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install unity-2d

Once you have installed it, log off and in the login you should see Unity 2D listed like in the case of Classic GNOME desktop above. Installing Unity 2D does not affect Unity at all and you can have both installed in the same system.

3. Another Desktop Environment

If you absolutely do not like Unity at all, both the design and the implementation, switching to another desktop environment is another thing that you have to consider. Yes, you can still use Classic GNOME desktop but by the next release, that too will not be available.

Switching to another desktop environment does not mean that your favorite Gtk applications will not work. As long as you still have GNOME installed in your system, they will run even if you are using another DE.

There are two major desktop environments that you might want to consider – KDE SC and Xfce.

While many might argue that KDE is no longer as good as it was when they made the transition to KDE SC 4.x, it cannot be denied that the latest version – KDE SC 4.6 – is a huge improvement. Long time users of GNOME might feel a bit lost in KDE SC though.

Note: KDE SC requires more system resources than GNOME.

You can install KDE SC in Ubuntu 11.04 with the following commands:

$ sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

Xfce is a desktop environment that has been becoming very popular recently. It is a very light desktop environment and should run excellently on even old systems. Xfce is a little closer to GNOME than KDE SC.

You can install Xfce in Ubuntu 11.04 with the following command:

$ sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

Android Patent Infringement on Linux Costs Google $5 Million

Google has faced a tough challenge in the form of numerous patent infringement claims coming from  Bedrock Computer Technologies, a company that is inactive as a company now. The case has been ruled in favor of Bedrock and Google will have to pay $5 million for infringement on a particular technology that is patented to Bedrock Computer Technologies.
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The ruling of the case is questionable for developers in the Linux and the Android ecosystem. Zdnet writes,

Bedrock (a company that is no longer active) sued Google over a relatively obscure patent it held on the use of linked lists with automatically expiring records.

The ruling judge charged Google with the statement,

Google failed to invalidate the patent even though a more defendant-friendly standard — the one also advocated by Microsoft [in recent suits] was used than the one preferred by the US government and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC)

Google has created an exclusive club with Android that lets people use most of its services seamlessly. The tight integration of Google services with Android is definitely one of the reasons Google is advocating this platform.

Situations like these happen when tech giants make money by using and modifying Open Source code in their products. It becomes extremely important to review these codes for any possible patent infringement and watch out for scavengers like these.

Mandriva Joins Ubuntu And Fedora In Switching Over To LibreOffice

Despite Oracle giving over OpenOffice to the community, another major Linux distribution has jumped ship from OpenOffice.org to LibreOffice. The distribution we are talking of here is Mandriva. After Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15 (both under different stages of development) dumped OpenOffice.org for LibreOffice, it was clear that most of the other distributions would follow suite as well.

Two days ago, Mandriva 2011 Beta 2 was released and in the release, the Mandriva developers have decided to go with LibreOffice rather than OpenOffice.org. Technically there is very little difference between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice right now. However, by switching over to the community developed LibreOffice rather than Oracle’s OpenOffice.org, Mandriva is putting their weight behind the open source community.

Beside LibreOffice, Mandriva 2011 beta 2 also has a new application launcher. I am not sure what to make of that launcher right now but it looks like it will be quite cumbersome to use.

Other features in Mandriva 2011 Beta 2 includes Linux 2.6.38.3, GCC 4.6, systemd 24 and Bash 4.2. The desktop environment is KDE SC 4.6.2 and Clementine is the default music player. Firefox 4.0 is the default web browser.

Announcing the release of Mandriva 2011 beta 2, Eugeni Dodonov had this to say:

For this release, most of the UI and desktop-related features should be integrated, including new login manager functionality, stack folders integration into the environment, new welcome and launcher application, new panel and overall desktop look-and-feel. It also features new default theme and artwork.

This beta release will be followed by a release candidate in May and the final release is expected in June.

If you want to test Mandriva 2011 Beta 2, you can download it using torrent from http://torrent.mandriva.com/public/

Remember that this is a development release and should not be used on a production machine.

[image credit]

Fedora 15 “Lovelock” Beta Released

Today the first beta of Fedora 15, codenamed “Lovelock” has been released. This is a very important release for the Fedora 15 development cycle because it represents the final feature list that will make it to Fedora 15, which is expected to be released in late May. From now on only bug fix updates will be released until the final release.

Fedora 15 Beta is a very significant release for the Fedora 15 development cycle in more than one way. One of the most significant changes in this release is GNOME 3. GNOME 3 was recently released and includes a completely new user interface called the GNOME Shell. With GNOME 3, Fedora 15 Beta now has a completely different user experience from earlier releases. If GNOME is not your Desktop Environment of choice, the Fedora spins with Xfce and LXDE have also been updated.

As we have mentioned earlier, Fedora 15 Beta still has LibreOffice as the default office suite instead of OpenOffice. Another new application that has been included in this release is BoxGrinder. Like LibreOffice, BoxGrinder was first included in Fedora 15 Alpha. BoxGrinder allows users to easily create appliances (virtual images) for various platforms (KVM, Xen, VMware, EC2) from simple plaintext application files. Fedora 15 Beta also includes a dynamic firewall. The dynamic firewall makes it possible to change firewall settings without restarting the firewall. This feature is particularly useful for persistent connections.

For the coders out there, the development tools that comes in Fedora 15 Beta have also been updated. It comes with GCC 4.6, Maven 3, OCaml 3.12, Python 3.2 and Rails 3.0.3. In fact Fedora 15 Beta has been built using GCC 4.6.

The users from India will also be glad to know that the new Indian Rupee symbol has now been included in Fedora 15 Beta by default.

If you want to test Fedora 15, you can download the ISO from here. However, remember that this is not a final release and bugs are expected. If you find any bugs, you can report it to make Fedora 15 better.

You can see the feature list here.

What Are Mac & Windows Users Saying About Unity?

When Ubuntu 11.04 was announced, one of the announcements which sent shockwaves was the fact that Ubuntu would no longer have Gnome as the default Desktop Environment, instead settling for Unity. Last week, Canonical’s User Experience Lead Charline Poirier  ran a user experience test of Unity.

Unity

The user test sample size was rather small ( spread over 11 people) and comprised mainly of Windows and Mac users.  Each of the users were given a  Lenovo ThinkPad T410i running Ubuntu Natty (11.04) with unity 3.8.2-0ubuntu1 and asked to perform several tasks. After analysing the results, here’s what they found:

  • Everyone understood most of the launcher items, the indicator icons, used Firefox to check their mail, launched LibreOffice Writer to write a letter and found and opened an existing document.
  • Only about half the participants could easily rearrange the items in the launcher, figured out how to change the background wallpaper and were about to find and launch a game that was not present in the launcher
  • Few participants though that LibreOffice Calc is a calculator, the Me Menu icon as the close close button.
  • Two people were asked to play MP3 songs on a USB key, but none of them were actually able to accomplish the task
  • Nobody understood what Ubuntu One was. ( Ubuntu One is Canonical’s online data storage and file sync application)

During this test, the participants found some unexpected bugs:

  • About half the participants crashed Ubunty within an hour of their testing, and on double clicking Applications/Files& Folders resulted in screen flicker with no other effects.
  • None of the participants were able to understand the Intention of the Ubuntu button

The user feedback was quite positive – most found Unity very nice, clean, easy way to get their documents. Some of the participants did wish that some settings and a way to find out their hardware info placement could be a lot more prominent.

What’re your thoughts on Unity? Do you like it? Or will you go back to classic Gnome? Do drop in a comment and let us know!

 

Ubuntu Loses the Free CD Program, Download Works Better Anyway

Canonical is pushing one game changing update after another from the last month. First, we heard of the Unity desktop and now, Canonical is ending the free CD program from Shipit. You can still order a CD if you want, but you have to pay for it. Canonical has been providing free CDs to people all over the world until now. However, with advancements in Internet speeds and the penetration of Internet, the free CD program based on snail-mail has lost its need.

ubuntu-shipit-free-cd

Five years of free CD distribution ends with the next release of Ubuntu and this can save Canonical considerable costs of shipping. Moreover, there were people who collected Ubuntu CDs as trophies abused the free shipment system. However, their actual purpose was to make Ubuntu accessible to people with slow Internet connections. Network World announces this as,

All good things must come to an end, including free Ubuntu CDs via Canonical’s ShipIt program. Though a major factor in Ubuntu’s success, Canonical is cutting costs and closing the doors on the free CD program it has sponsored since 2005.

For those using Linux for daily home purposes, Ubuntu is the easiest to use Linux distro and has been forked off to other simpler distros like Mint. Ubuntu is already a winner and it does not need the free CD program it once used to get attention of people. Sun Microsystems also started a free CD program for their OpenSolaris distro and it ended soon.

Ubuntu 11.10 Will Not Have The GNOME Classic Desktop

As the date for the final release of Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal” is approaching, there are still a lots of questions about the new UI – Unity – that it will come with. However, the good thing is that users who do not like Unity or whose hardware does not support Unity (right now there are reports of problems with ATI graphics card) can fall back to the classic GNOME desktop.

However, six months later when it is time for Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”, that may not be the case. Replying to a bug report, Mark Shuttleworth has mentioned that classic GNOME desktop fallback will not be available in Ubuntu 11.10.

This is what he wrote:

We made very good progress on a11y in Natty, but will miss the goal of  perfect a11y. We’ll nail it in Oneiric. That’s OK, because we have the  Classic desktop fallback in Natty, but will not in Oneiric.

This decision will most likely be met with mixed reaction from users and a lot will depend on how Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 feels like. Having used Unity from the  development  version of Ubuntu 11.04, I feel that it still has a lot rough edges that needs some more works. That is however not a very big concern in Natty since I can revert to the classic desktop. However, since the classic desktop will be removed in Ubuntu 11.10, Canonical has to make sure that the Unity experience is as smooth as possible.

Since a lot of people use Ubuntu on older hardware, there is also the problem of if Unity will run on them or not. Unity requires Compiz and, so, not all the old hardware will be able to run it. In such cases, I think Unity 2D will be used as  fall-back, although nothing has been  said  officialy. Unity 2D is based on Qt and does not require  hardware  acceleration. This means that it should run on hardware which cannot run the normal Unity (Unity 3D). Mark Shuttleworth has recently mentioned that they plan to include Qt applications in future  release  of Ubuntu, this might be it.

[via Novatillasku]

Tor Project: Project of Social Benefit Winner at FSF

The legendary Tor Project has bagged the Project of Social Benefit at FSF and it is the most deserving candidate for this award. Every net-neutrality enthusiast has the utmost respect for the Tor project as it forms the backbone for an intervention free browsing experience. Google is also working on a similar project and the sudden wake against government censorships will be fueled by the awarding.
tor-logo
The FSF has announced the award with,

The Award for Projects of Social Benefit recognizes a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.

This year, the award went to the Tor Project. Using free software, Tor has enabled roughly 36 million people around the world to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity. Its network has proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt.

Executive director Andrew Lewman from the Tor Project received the award. The Tor Project has played a key role in the Egypt protests. It is based on the ideology of privacy and anonymity.

There, is a clear division of the Internet into two factions. There are people who are more into social networks and other forms of networking. Thus, they are more open to discussion, contact and conversation. On the other hand, there are people who like to stay anonymous and want to protect their privacy at any cost.

Tor has brought anonymity into the limelight with its network and it is worthy of much more than this award. This award, will help spread the word about Tor and bring it more users.