Category Archives: Open Source Software

Nouveau Moves out of Staging, Releases Same-Day Driver for the First Time

The Nouveau project made two awesome announcements recently. While the first one was related to the latest Kepler chipset released by NVIDIA, the second one was about a long-term change in the project that will be appreciated by the entire FOSS and Linux community.

Recently, NVIDIA has released the GeForce GTX 680, the first NVIDIA GPU with the all-new Kepler architecture. As always, it was released with the official binary drivers.

Nouveau is a software project aiming to develop free software drivers for NVIDIA graphics cards, by reverse engineering NVIDIA’s current proprietary drivers for Linux.

Usually, work on Nouveau drivers starts once the binary drivers are out and available for update. This involves months of reverse engineering the binary drivers. However, to everyone’s surprise, Ben Skeggs from RedHat has managed to reverse engineer the binary driver and commit the reverse engineered code to the Nouveau DRM repository, hours after the launch of the official GPU. Effectively, this made Nouveau drivers available on the same day as the official GPU release.

Although the driver is a bit bland, it does the job nonetheless. This was a major breakthrough for the Nouveau project. Although NVIDIA does not officially support the Nouveau project, it allows this reverse engineering and the project has thrived on this very fact. However, this quick release has raised many questions and we cannot overlook the possibility of NVIDIA’s involvement in this release.

The second breakthrough is the state of the project. The Nouveau driver was a staging driver until now. It was considered stand-alone and was not merged with the mainline Linux kernel because of some technical reasons. Finally, the driver has moved out of staging. It has found a place in the mainline Linux kernel, and it will be available from Kernel version 3.4.

Linux Kernel 3.3 Released with Merge of Kernel Code from Android

The Linux Kernel has reached version 3.3 recently. The latest release of the Linux kernel includes multiple feature improvements and some major changes. The most awaited change in this new kernel is the inclusion of Android kernel code in the Linux kernel. The inclusion of Android kernel marks the first step towards a unified Android and Linux kernel, making it possible for future devices to run a mix of both. While the inclusion of Android kernel code made big news, there were other equally remarkable behind the scene changes in this release.
android-linux-kernel

Like every time, Linux Torvalds announced the availability of the latest kernel release on LKML.org. The release was pushed ahead by a week because of the surprise RC7 release last week. The RC7 was an unplanned release and Linus explained it, saying

I had been hoping that -rc6 would be the last -RC, but no such luck. Things just haven’t calmed down sufficiently for me to feel comfy doing a final 3.3 release without another -rc, so here we are: 3.3-rc7 is out.

With the latest version of Linux kernel, things are finally looking good for the btrfs file system.  In addition, GCC has been updated to include the TI C6 architecture and as always, there are new drivers and bug fixes.

The next version 3.4 of the Linux kernel will sport better power management for the Android code in kernel, which is a mess right now. Moreover, it will also improve upon Sandy Bridge performance.

(image via)

Apple Using OpenStreetMaps in iPhoto Without Due Credit

OpenStreetMaps has been in news more than once over the last few days. The de-facto name in location-based services, Foursquare switched from Google Maps to MapBox (an implementation of OpenStreetMaps) a week ago. In January this year, StreetEasy switched to OpenStreetMaps after some dissatisfaction with Google Maps and their pricing. However, these were not the only ones opting for OpenStreetMaps. OpenStreetMaps was adopted by many other services for its excellent worldwide maps. Nonetheless, all of them made this transition enthusiastically and openly.

Recently, another major tech giant started using OpenStreetMaps for one of its products. However, their adoption was hushed, with no mention or credit given to OpenStreetMaps. This has upset OpenStreetMaps slightly, and they have written a sarcastic piece saying, “don’t mention it” in essence, which Apple did literally anyway.

OpenStreetMaps writes on its blog, saying,

The desktop version of iPhoto, and indeed all of Apple’s iOS apps until now, use Google Maps. The new iPhoto for iOS, however, uses Apple’s own map tiles – made from OpenStreetMaps data (outside the US).

The OSM data that Apple is using is rather old (start of April 2010) so don’t expect to see your latest and greatest updates on there. It’s also missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap’s contributors; we look forward to working with Apple to get that on there.

On one hand, where it is good to see that more and more products are using OpenStreetMaps, it is demeaning at the same time because Apple intends to use OpenStreetMaps only as long as they are in transition from Google Maps to their own mapping service.

Overwhelming Response Crashes Raspberry Pi Website

Raspberry Pi is a revolutionary idea from the Raspberry Foundation in the UK. The idea started in 2006 and has been under development for six years. The hardware for Raspberry Pi is open source and its plans can be downloaded online. Like the FXI Cotton Candy we covered a few hours ago, the Raspberry Pi too supports both USB and HDMI. However, the Raspberry Pi device costs pretty low, and the closest competitor from the One Laptop per Child project is priced at $100.
raspberry-pi

Yesterday, the foundation launched two Raspberry Pi devices, one priced at $25 and another for $35. The tech specs reads as a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC that includes a 700 MHz ARM 11 processor, 256 MB RAM and a VideoCore IV GPU. Although there is no built-in storage, it requires an SD card for storage and booting. The device supports Python, C and Perl. It is designed to run flavors of Linux.

After a wait period of six years, the response was so overwhelming that the Raspberry Pi website crashed under heavy load. They came back with an announcement, saying,

We’ve temporarily changed to a static site, while we’re experiencing a very high level of traffic for the launch of the Raspberry Pi. The full site will return once traffic levels have subsided, hopefully later on today. For up-to-the-minute news on what’s happening, follow @Raspberry_Pi on Twitter.

Raspberry Pi had 10,000 devices for the first sale lot. They identified two sellers Premier Farnell and RS Components out of which, Premier Farnell have sold out and RS Components will ship only in the UK.

Free Software Foundation Europe Launches “Free Your Android” Campaign

The European chapter of the Free Software Foundation has decided to help people liberate their Android devices from various lock-ins created by handset manufacturers and apps. The idea of this liberation superimposes with various free software ideologies and this is the first formal step taken by any organization to make the Android platform free as in free speech, and not free beer.
The Free Software foundation Europe announced this wonderful campaign on their website.
android-liberate

Android is a mostly free operating system mainly developed by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the “market” are not free (as in free speech, not free beer). They frequently work against the interest of the users, spy on them and sometimes cannot even be removed. This campaign can help you to regain control of your Android device and your data. It collects information about running an Android system as free as possible and tries to coordinate the efforts in this area.

The campaign wants to liberate our phone on two levels. For the Android OS, the campaign recommends us to use Replicant OS, which is based on Android and is completely free. However, Replicant OS has minimal device support. Alternatively, we can use CyanogenMod, which is supported by many more devices.

To liberate our apps, the campaign points us to the F-Droid project, which is a repository for free apps without any proprietary code. The Android project has been touted as being open-source and free. However, the ground reality is that handset manufacturers do not give back their codes on time, and many proprietary apps run on Android without people knowing their inner technicalities and operations. It is only when someone looks for the pin in the haystack, that apps like CarrierIQ are discovered.

Even if this campaign does not succeed in “liberating” Android initially, it will create some awareness about the limited amount of control that Android users enjoy on their mobile devices. Nonetheless, this is a good beginning.

FXI Demonstrates Cotton Candy, Sports Android with the Dimensional Form Factor of a USB Stick

FXI, a Norwegian startup is working on Cotton Candy, an Android based system with USB connectivity to boot your PC or tablet, and HDMI connectivity to connect to your TV. This is a revolutionary concept, as it is independent of the device you run it on. The processing units present inside Cotton Candy let it run standalone on a TV, and the USB stick allows it to boot up on any display device with USB connectivity.
fxi-cotton-candy
Cotton Candy will sport a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor with a 1 GB RAM. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. HD video playback has been made possible, thanks to the powerful Mali 400 Quad Core GPU packed inside it.

The demonstration announcement of Cotton Candy say,

The vision for Cotton Candy is to allow users a single, secure point of access to all personal Cloud services and apps through their favorite operating system, while delivering a consistent experience on any screen.  The device will serve as a companion to smartphones, tablets, notebook PC and Macs, as well add smart capabilities to existing displays, TVs, set top boxes and game consoles.

The idea of an OS on a pluggable stick is not new. However, what is definitely new, is a full-fledged processing unit with a dedicated GPU packed into a USB + HDMI stick. This stick leverages the screen real estate of any device with a USB port or an HDMI port, and takes portability to a new level. This reminds me of the Mac Mini, but we see how obviously this is better than an idea from 2005.

Cotton Candy is available for pre-order at USD 199, and it will start shipping in March. The product specification [link to PDF] can be found here.

Canonical Shows Off Ubuntu for Android at MWC

Just last week, we reported Canonical’s announcement of Ubuntu for Android. MWC has recently showcased Ubuntu for Android at MWC, and it is impressive with some great tricks up its sleeves. Initially, it might look like a desktop remote control for your Android phone, but there are innumerable features and behind-the-scene events that will change this outlook soon.
ubuntu-for-android
Ubuntu for Android shows all our Android applications, contacts and calls in a Unity style application dashboard. It also lets us read and write text messages remotely, from the desktop. All this is facilitated with a custom Linux kernel, and this custom kernel will let us run Android and Ubuntu in parallel. Once we plug our computer into the dock, it will automatically switch to Ubuntu. However, the part that impressed me was where Phil from Android Central tells us that we can use this phone as a thin-client to connect to an application server and demoed it by launching MS PowerPoint from a Windows 7 server.

Mark Shuttleworth announced the plan of Ubuntu for Android, saying,

We’ll show Ubuntu neatly integrated into Android at Mobile World Congress next week. Carry just the phone, and connect it to any monitor to get a full Ubuntu desktop with all the native apps you want, running on the same device at the same time as Android. Magic. Everything important is shared across the desktop and the phone in real time.

Although the feature was showcased at MWC, it is not ready for a public release yet. The release declaration of this year-end still holds. There is a long wait before we can go ahead and use Ubuntu for Android. Until then, this hands-on review from Android Central will keep us interested.

Mozilla and Telefonica Team Up to Create Open Web Device

Mozilla has plans for a device that can boot and go online, without requiring a middle app platform like Android or iOS. This is an excellent thought, although there are many initial challenges. The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce the cost of cellphones by allowing them to have less processing powers and compensate local apps with HTML5 based web-apps.

Boot to Gecko wants to create an open platform, that will let developers and users get on the web to use apps, without depending on platform specific technologies. Undoubtedly, in theory, this is as good as any other open idea. However, in my opinion, the ground realities will not permit this project to have a smooth take-off. The mobile space is saturated beyond comparison. While Android has managed to show its head after an aggressive push by Google, it is doubtful whether there is room for another platform in the mobile room.

The Mozilla Blog announced the MWC unveiling, saying,

In a joint press conference, Telefónica revealed their intention to work with us to deliver the very first open Web devices in 2012. These devices, architected entirely on the Web and built based on an HTML5 stack with powerful Web APIs, will mean significant advances in speed and cost reduction for mobile devices in
the future.

The target hardware platform for these devices is a Qualcomm chipset. The plans for this Open Web Device will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.

Here is a proof-of-concept video of Open Web Device from YouTube. It clearly shows the Gaia UI from Boot to Gecko.

Intel Joins The Document Foundation Advisory Board

Intel has recently joined The Document Foundation. The Document Foundation is a German organization that works for the promotion of open source software. It was specifically created by OpenOffice.org members to manage the LibreOffice fork. LibreOffice aimed to create a truly Open Source office suite, in contrast to OpenOffice.org, which required copyright assignment to Oracle.
libreoffice

LibreOffice is the power-packed free, libre and open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs.

The Document Foundation was announced in September 2010, and its identity was laid down formally only recently, on February 17, after clearing all legal hurdles. One of the primary aims of TDF is

to eliminate the digital divide in society by giving everyone access to office productivity tools free of charge to enable them to participate as full citizens in the 21st century.

The Document Foundation (TDF) has an advisory board, which was formed back in June last year. The initial members of this foundation included Google, SUSE, Red Hat and the FSF. Although Canonical is missing from the advisory board, Intel will be a valuable addition to it. It is important to remember that although Advisory Board is not a formal body of the foundation, it helps the Board of Directors to further various TDF projects.

LibreOffice is Available for Download at this page.

Canonical to Reveal Its Ambitious Plan of Ubuntu for Android at MWC Next Week

Canonical has been aggressive about Ubuntu lately, and wants to push it to every upcoming platform. Currently, Ubuntu can be found on desktops, servers and as recently showcased Ubuntu TV. However, Ubuntu can reach out to a potentially unexplored customer base as a true Linux experience provider in a new avenue. The mobile space has been untouched by Ubuntu, and it is finally planning to step in to this platform.
canonical-ubuntu-android
Canonical teases us with this message on the Ubuntu for Android page.

In every dual-core
phone, there’s
a PC trying
to get out.

From the page, it looks you can simply put your Android phone in a dock, and connect it to a television. Certified business apps from Adobe and Cirtix make this product ready for the enterprise sector too. Moreover, Android and Ubuntu share the same Linux kernel, allowing users to switch between the world’s most popular Linux distro, and the world’s most popular open mobile platform. Canonical has worked extensively with ARM support and this integration of Android and Ubuntu will result in a wonderful synergy.

Mark Shuttleworth announces the plan on his blog writing,

We’ll show Ubuntu neatly integrated into Android at Mobile World Congress next week. Carry just the phone, and connect it to any monitor to get a full Ubuntu desktop with all the native apps you want, running on the same device at the same time as Android. Magic. Everything important is shared across the desktop and the phone in real time.

This product is targeted at high-end mobiles HDMI and USB support. Ubuntu One allows for synchronization across devices and all these great features might create what Canonical calls a “new peripheral ecosystem”.