Category Archives: Open Source Software

Google, FSF, SUSE and Red Hat Joins The LibreOffice Advisory Board

A couple of days ago, The Document Foundation announced the formation of the LibreOffice Advisory Board. The function of the LibreOffice Advisory Board will be to provide The Document Foundation with advice, guidance and proposals. The board will also have a say in the future developments and projects of The Document Foundation.

When Oracle gave away OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation, I wrote that it did not matter as LibreOffice is where all the action is at. Well, that view has been reaffirmed by four big names joining the LibreOffice Advisory Board Google, FSF, Red Hat and SUSE.

This is what Jeremy Allison, member of Google’s Open Source Programs Office, said about Google joining the Advisory board:

The creation of The Document Foundation’s Advisory board is a great step forward for the organization. Google is pleased to be a supporter of The Document Foundation, and to provide funding and advice to advance their work.

The backing of SUSE and Red Hat, the companies behind major Linux distributions such as SUSE, openSUSE, Red Hat and Fedora, means that LibreOffice will continue to be the favored office suite for these Linux distributions. Although, Canonical did not join the board, they too have pledged their support for LibreOffice.

The fact that LibreOffice has got the support of the Free Software Foundation is a big advantage for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. Recently the FSF has gone on record saying that users should use LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. This is what John Sullivan, Executive Director of the FSF said:

The Free Software Foundation is pleased to offer its advise to The Document Foundation. We applaud TDF’s demonstrated commitment to user freedom, and will do our best to help it achieve its free software goals going forward.

The other members of the LibreOffice Advisory Board are Freies Office Deutschland e.V. and Software in the Public Interest. Each of the members of the advisory board will have one representative and will serve for a term of one year.

Ambiance And Radiance Themes Ported To GTK3; Available For Ubuntu 11.10

Remember when I said that the default theme in Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 1 looks like that in Windows 95? Well, it no longer does not. The Ambiance and Radiance themes that comes by default in Ubuntu has been ported to GTK3 now and they have landed in the development version of Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”.

Overall this is just a port of the theme in GTK2 to GTK3 and, so, it does not have any new features. However, there are some minor differences:

  • The entire navigation bar in Nautilus has been removed and replaced by just the back and forward buttons.
  • The status bar in Nautilus has been replaced by a new “on-demand” status bar.

To get the newly ported themes, open the Terminal and update your system.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

There is still no easy application to change the theme yet. (GNOME 3 no longer have the Appearance application.) So you have to do it manually using the dconf-editor.

$ sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

After the installation, launch dconf-editor by pressing ALT+F2 and entering “dconf-editor” (without quotes).

Then go to org > gnome > desktop > interface > gtk-theme. Change “Adwaita” to either “Radiance” or “Ambiance” (again without quotes) and click on Set To Default.

[source]

Firefox 5.0 Available For Ubuntu In The Mozilla PPA

Note: Users of Ubuntu 11.04 no longer need to do the steps mentioned here. Please refer to this article for details if you are using Ubuntu 11.04.

A couple of days back, we reported that Firefox 5.0 was available ahead of its scheduled release date in Mozilla’s FTP server. Well, today it has landed in the firefox-next PPA that Mozilla maintains for early adopters. The firefox-next PPA was created by Mozilla recently for the beta releases of Firefox.

Those who have been using Firefox 5 Beta from the PPA can simply update their system to get the final version of Firefox 5.0. Unlike the version of Firefox available from Mozilla directly, the one from the PPA does not have auto-update. So, you have to do it manually from the Terminal.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

If you are still using Firefox 4, you need to add the firefox-next PPA first.

Note: With the following steps you will be adding a PPA generally used for unstable builds of Firefox. Remove the PPA after installation or wait for Firefox 5 to arrive at the main PPA if you do want to face any potential problems.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/firefox-next
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Although, Firefox 5.0 for Linux is also available from the Mozilla FTP server, it is recommended that you install it from the PPA if you are on Ubuntu. The version available in the PPA has been built for Ubuntu and supports Ubuntu specific features such as the application menu.

Firefox 5.0 looks pretty much the same as Firefox 4. Most of the changes are under the hood and performance related improvements. One important addition to Firefox 5.0 is the Do-Not-Track feature. In the Ubuntu build, you can activate it from Edit > Preferences > Privacy.

Here is a screenshot of Firefox 5 in Ubuntu:

Ubuntu To Be Distributed As A Hybrid Image

Fedora does it; OpenSUSE does it and now Ubuntu will also be distributed as a hybrid ISO. Many RPM distributions have been releasing their ISOs in the hybrid format for quite sometime now. Colin Watson of Canonical has announced yesterday that all the amd64 and i386 ISO for Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelotwill be distributed in the hybrid format starting today.

What is a hybrid image?

Ubuntu users must be aware that whenever a new version of Ubuntu is released, it is made available as an ISO file. That file can be burned to a CD directly and the CD can be used to boot into an Ubuntu live environment and to install Ubuntu to the hard disk if the user desires. However if users wanted to install using a USB flash drive, they had to rely on a special application the Start-up Disk Creator.

With a hybrid image, users do not need the Start-up Disk Creator. If they want to boot using a USB flash drive, they can simply copy the contents of the image file into the USB drive. Of course, hybrid image can still be burned directly to a CD.

Why was Ubuntu so late in adopting hybrid image?

As mentioned above, many other Linux distributions have been releasing hybrid ISOs for quite a while now. Ubuntu could not switch over to the hybrid images because, like Debian, Ubuntu was using jigdo downloads. Switching to a hybrid image will break jigdo.

Debian switched over from jigdo to xorisso in January because xorisso works with hybrid images. And now Ubuntu too has decided to switch over to xorisso and distribute hybrid images after all Ubuntu is a Debian derivative.

What does this mean for users?

For those who uses the image files by burning it to a CD, this means absolutely nothing for them. Everything will work as it has always worked.

For those who prefers USB flash drives to CDs, this means that the Ubuntu Start-up Creator is no longer needed. All that is needed to make a bootable USB drive is the dd command. Here is the syntax for the command:

dd if=<image_name> of=/dev/sdX

<image_name> is the name of the hybrid image you have downloaded and sdX is your USB drive.

Right now I do not think that there is no GUI application to do this. But before the release of Ubuntu 11.10, I expect to see one.

Adobe Drops Support for AIR on Linux Desktop

Today Adobe has announced that they will no longer support AIR on the Linux desktop. They will now focus their resource on developing AIR for iOS and Linux on mobile devices particularly Android.

According to Netmarketshare, the growth of Linux on the desktop has stagnated at around 1% and Adobe says that the download share for AIR on the Linux desktop hovers around at just 0.5%. So, it no longer make sense for Adobe to devote their resource for developing AIR on the Linux desktop.

Recently, Adobe released AIR 2.7 but they did not update their Linux client and SDK. Today’s announcement from Adobe means that AIR 2.7 for Linux will never arrive.

So, with the 2.7 release of AIR, we made a decision to prioritize our resources towards a Linux porting kit for AIR, which our Open Screen Project partners can use to complete implementations of AIR for Linux-based platforms. As such, we will be focusing on supporting partner implementations and will no longer be releasing our own versions of Adobe AIR and the AIR SDK for desktop Linux.

During the same time that growth on desktop Linux has been stagnating, the growth of Linux on mobile device has exploded mostly because of Android. According to the IDC report from March 2011, the Android market share for mobile OS is expected to reach 46% by 2015. Another mobile platform, iOS has also growing rapidly and by 2015, it is expected to have a market share of 15%.

So, it no longer is in Adobe’s interest to focus on the Linux desktop. Instead, they want to focus their development effort on the rapidly expanding mobile platforms like Android and iOS.

Do you use AIR on your Linux desktop? I do not use it and I sure will not miss it.

[via Phoronix]

 

Apache Traffic Server Announces v3.0.0 with Vast Performance Improvements

Apache Traffic Server is one of the most admired services to have come under the Apache Server Foundation project. Traffic Server is essentially a caching and load balancing server that manages your traffic in an effective manner. It has been used for a variety of caching purposes and serves as an effective CDN.

apache-traffic-server

Traffic Server project is a long running project and after nearly a year of development, it reached the status of an Apache Top Level Project or TLP on April last year. Just a few days afterwards in May, it reached version 2.0 and this transition to version 3.0.0 has taken merely a year.

The ASF page on Traffic Server says this.

Apache Traffic Serverâ„¢ is fast, scalable and extensible HTTP/1.1 compliant caching proxy server. Formerly a commercial product, Yahoo! donated it to the Apache Foundation, and it is now an Apache TLP.

At Yahoo, Traffic Server claims to have handled 400TB of data per day and this ensures that it has a very high tolerance.

The Wikipedia page on Traffic Server further says,

In the context of cloud computing, TS would sit conceptually at the edge of the cloud, routing requests as they come in. It could be described as a highway into and out of the cloud. In Yahoo!, it is used for the edge services shown in thegraphic distributed at the 2009 Cloud Computing Expo depicting Yahoo!’s private cloud architecture. In practical terms, a typical server configuration might use TS to serve static content, such as images and JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files, and route requests for dynamic content to a web server such as Apache HTTP Server.

However, some lesser-known facts about the capabilities of the new release are that it can withstand 200,000 requests per second, which is a 277% improvement on the earlier v2.0. Visit their FAQ page to learn more about Apache Traffic Server.

Mark Shuttleworth: “Real Possibility of Google Chrome Replacing Firefox In Future Ubuntu Release”

During the Ubuntu Developer Summit Oneiric, we reported that there were discussions about Chrome (or rather, its open source version, Chromium) replacing Firefox as the default browser in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. That did not happen and Firefox remained as the default browser for Oneiric.

In an interview with Network World, Mark Shuttleworth confirmed that Canonical is looking to replace Firefox with Chrome in Ubuntu. Shuttleworth said that he is a big fan of the browser from Google and confirmed that there was discussion on the feasibility of Chrome (or Chromium) replacing Firefox in Ubuntu 11.10. That did not happen and the switch will, in all  probability,  not happen in Ubuntu 12.04 as well because it is a Long term Support (LTS) Release.

MarkShuttleworth460x276

So, it may take one year for Chrome to replace Firefox, but Shuttleworth said that it is a real possibility that we may see Firefox being replaced in Ubuntu 12.10. However with the pace of Chrome’s development and Mozilla adopting an accelerated development cycle for Firefox recently, thing could change a lot in a year.

Shuttleworth said that one of the best thing to have happened for Chrome on Linux has been Chrome OS. Because Chrome OS is basically Chrome running on a Linux, Google has invested a lot in optimizing the performance of Chrome on Linux. That has resulted in Chrome on Linux outperforming the other platforms Mac and Windows.

Whatever the default browser is, users are free to install the browser that suits their need, just like Chrome users do today. So, in essence choosing Chrome/Chromium as the default browser will not affect anything. It will simply be an acknowledgement of the progress that Google Chrome (or Chromium) has made in the last two years.

Which browser do you prefer? Firefox or Chrome/Chromium?

[image credit]

Canonical Builds A 42-Core Ubuntu ARM Build Machine

With the low power ARM processors becoming very popular because of smartphones and tablets, Canonical is trying to expand the architectures which Ubuntu supports by including ARM as well. Technically, Ubuntu can be run on ARM machines as well but the Canonical servers does not build ARM packages. So, anyone who wants to use Ubuntu on ARM have to manually build them.

With Ubuntu planning to officially support ARM, they need to build packages for the ARM architecture as well. The job of building an Ubuntu ARM build machine was given to David Mandalla.

The ARM cluster server that Mandalla is building makes use of the relatively cheap PandaBoard. Each PandaBoard software development platform has a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processors running at 1GHz and a low power 1 GB DDR2 RAM.

The ARM build machine that Mandalla is developing has 21 PandaBoards with each board connected to a 300GB hard drive. This brings final specifications of the machine to 42-core ARM processor, 42 GB DDR2 RAM and 6.3 TB of storage.

Out of the 21 boards, 20 will be used to build Ubuntu packages. One board will be used as the master board to allocate the build requests received from users to the other 20 boards.

Mandalla is documenting the build on his blog. You can read more at his blog.

img_20110519_0722261

[via: Geek.com]

Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman Talks About 20 Years Of Linux at LinuxCon 2011

From the dorm room of a geeky Finnish Computer Science student 20 years ago to powering a majority of all the web servers and more than 90% of the fastest supercomputers today, Linux has come a very long way.

This year marks the start of the third decade of Linux development and to mark the third decade, Linux 3.0 is coming in about seven weeks. At the LinuxCon 2011, which took place in Japan, Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman sat down to talk about Linux how much it has achieved in the last two decades, the kernel development process, Linux on desktop etc.

Linus Torvalds is the person who started Linux 20 years ago and Greg Kroah-Hartman is the developer who currently maintains the stable branch of the Linux kernel.

At 47 minutes, the video is a bit long but it is certainly worth watching for any Linux enthusiasts. (Click here if the embedded video does not work.)

Here are some interesting things Linus Torvalds said:

We are doing really well on the low-end and we are doing very well on the high-end. The desktop is … we have all the applications now. It is just a difficult market to get into.

– Linus Torvalds on Linux on desktop

2.6 has been there for eight years and it’s become kind of meaningless.

– Linus Torvalds on why he ended Linux 2.6

It speeded up enormously. We’ve had 40% performance increase. That is unheard of. But there is no new feature. There is no new interface for users. There is nothing new going on. It is doing the same old thing that everybody does millions of time a second.

– Linus Torvalds on his favorite feature (file system management)

How To Upgrade To KDE SC 4.6.4 In Kubuntu 11.04

kubuntu_logotype_black On June 10, the fourth maintenance release of the KDE Software compilation was released to the users. Being a maintenance release, KDE SC 4.6.4 does not bring any new features but has a lot of bug fixes from KDE 4.6.3.

What has changed in KDE SC 4.6.4?

Before we get on to the how-to-upgrade part, let us take a look at some of the important changes in KDE SC 4.6.4:

  • Do not allow invalid file names while renaming a file using Dolphin.
  • Better password handling for accessing remote servers using Dolphin.
  • The Folderview Plasmoid works correctly when dragging a file from Ark.
  • The KDE music player JuK has also received a number of bugfixes including better tag editor, better handling of the column width etc.
  • A bug which causes the notification window to slide out of screen instead of creating a new one has been fixed.

For all the bugs fixed in KDE SC 4.6.4, you can take a look at the changelog.

Upgrade To KDE SC 4.6.4

KDE Software Compilation 4.6.4 is now available for Kubuntu users. It is a safe upgrade for anyone using KDE SC 4.6.x and it is recommended that users upgrade their KDE installation to this version.

Right now it is available only for Natty (Kubuntu 11.04) users. So, Natty users can upgrade to KDE SC 4.6.4 by following the steps given below.

Open the Konsole and add the Kubuntu Updates PPA.

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

Then update the software list and upgrade your system.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

 

The Free Software Foundation Recommends LibreOffice Over OpenOffice.org

After moving to the Apache Software Foundation, OpenOffice.org has changed its license from the GNU Lesser Public License to the Apache License. The ramification of changing the license from the copyleft license, LGPL, to the non-copyleft, the Apache License, will be that the corporations involved (Oracle and IBM, in this case) find it easier to distribute OpenOffice.org and its components as a non-free software.

According to the Free Software Foundation, freedom of the software cannot be guaranteed with the Apache License. Unlike the LGPL, the Apache License does not make it mandatory for the distributor to distribute the source code of the software.

All Apache projects are distributed under the terms of the Apache License. This is a non-copyleft free software license; anybody who receives the software can distribute it to others under nonfree terms. Such a licensing strategy represents a significant policy change for OpenOffice.org.

However, users and contributors should be aware that, as part of this transition, it will become easier for proprietary software developers to distribute OpenOffice.org as nonfree software.

The fact that the Apache License will make it possible for Oracle or other corporations to distribute OpenOffice.org and its derivatives as a non-free software is probably the only reason Oracle decided to give OpenOffice.org to the Apache Software Foundation and not The Document Foundation.

The fork of OpenOffice.org – LibreOffice – is now being recommended by the Free Software Foundation to both users and developers who want to contribute something. Unlike OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice is under The Document Foundation and they are committed to keeping LibreOffice under LGPL.

Fortunately, there’s a ready alternative for people who want to work with a productivity suite that does more to protect their freedom: LibreOffice. Anybody who’s comfortable with OpenOffice.org will find a familiar interface and feature set in LibreOffice, because it was originally based on the same source code. Since September 2010, numerous contributors have been working to improve the software, and the project’s legal steward, The Document Foundation, is committed to keeping it licensed under the LGPL.

Even though the Free Software Foundation is coming out with its support for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org just now, OpenOffice.org has been practically dead for some time. After LibreOffice was released, all the major Linux distributions ditched it in favor of LibreOffice. Not only that, almost all of the OpenOffice.org contributors from the pre-Oracle era have already left it to contribute to LibreOffice. So, while LibreOffice has been releasing some very impressive applications, OpenOffice.org has been stagnating for some time now.

Bitcoin Faces Government Crackdown for Illegal Drug Purchase

This was to happen sooner or later. How can any government allow a currency that claims to be decentralized, is totally unregulated and is not under its direct control? On top of that, the EFF started accepting donations in Bitcoin a few days ago and the crackdown was going to come sooner or later once Bitcoin started gaining credibility like this.

bitcoin

Two US senators are encouraging federal authorities to crack down on Bitcoin, the reason being its use in illegal and anonymous drug purchase. Reuters reports,

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart in a letter that expressed concerns about the underground website “Silk Road” and the use of Bitcoins to make purchases there.

The nature of Bitcoin makes it extremely hard for authorities to track down these drug abusers and this can prove to be a fatal blow to the currency system that could have shaken things up in the online world.

In further investigations, it has been found that a majority of the bank accounts being used in this drug abuse are based outside of the US. The decentralized nature combined with offshore bank accounts leaves very little in the hand of federal authorities to act upon. Decentralize ideas are hard to track, but they are equally hard to manage and operate. Bitcoin is facing the same problem of rogue users that any decentralized body without a central control will face sooner or later.

How To Install Thunderbird 5 Beta 1 in Ubuntu (11.04, 10.10 & 10.04)

Last week, Mozilla released Thunderbird 5 Beta 1. Thunderbird is a very popular email client from Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox browser. Mozilla has decided to skip Thunderbird 4 so as to keep up with the versioning of the Gecko engine.

Features

Before we get on to how to install it, let us look at the main new features in Thunderbird 5 Beta 1.

  • Thunderbird 5 Beta 1 has a new add-on and extension management API.
  • Like in Firefox and other web browsers, tabs in Thunderbird can be reordered and rearranged across different windows.
  • The account creation wizard has been improved to make it a better and easier experience.

The user interface of Thunderbird 5 Beta 1 is the same as that of the previous release. But before the final release, it will get an updated user interface.

Install Thunderbird 5 Beta 1

Thunderbird 5 Beta 1 is now available in the the Mozilla Team’s PPA for Ubuntu. So, installation is very simple. Right now packages are available for Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkatand Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.

Note: Before installing please be aware that this is not a stable release and might break. If you are already using a previous version of Thunderbird, this will upgrade it.

Open the Terminal and execute the command given below:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-next

After the PPA has been added, update your software list:

$ sudo apt-get update

Finally install Thunderbird 5 Beta 1.

$ sudo apt-get install thunderbird

Screenshots

thunderbird5-1
Thunderbird 5 in Unity Dash
thunderbird5-2
Thunderbird 5 Beta 1

 

 

 

The Document Foundation Releases LibreOffice 3.4

Undaunted by OpenOffice.org going to the Apache Foundation, The Document Foundation has kept their promise by releasing a new version of LibreOffice. The new release – LibreOffice 3.4 – has a lot of improvements which easily makes it by far the best open-source office application suite available.

Features/Improvements

 

Unity integration in LibreOffice 3.4

Unity Integration: Users of Ubuntu 11.04 will be glad that LibreOffice 3.4 finally supports the global menu. In the earlier release, LibreOffice stood out glaringly as the only default application which does not follow the system settings.

 

Improvements in Calc: Calc, the spreadsheet application in LibreOffice, has recieved a major update in this release. Calc now has better compatibility with Microsoft Exel documents. It also supports unlimited numbers of fields and named range as data source now.

Faster startup: The LibreOffice codes has been cleaned up and the application data are read after the LibreOffice splash screen. These changes give this version of LibreOffice a faster and smoother startup.

Less memory consumption: An issue with the font cache which resulted in memory leaks has been fixed. Text encoding conversions which are not used frequently have also been moved to a separate library. This two changes will result in LibreOffice 3.4 consuming less than the earlier version.

User Interface updates: There are some updates in the user interface of LibreOffice. While, there are no drastic changes, LibreOffice now has tighter integration with the Gtk+ theme – making it look like a native application. The text rendering has also been improved to make the text appear like that in the rest of the system. For non-Ubuntu users, an option for hiding the toolbar has been added.

Download

LibreOffice is available for Linux (Debian & RPM), Windows and Mac OS X. To download, it click on the link given below.

Download LibreOffice 3.4

Ubuntu users who prefer to download from the repository should wait as it is not available yet. If you want to install it manually, you can follow the instructions given here.

FOSS Friday: Ubuntu Coming To Asus Eee PC, OpenOffice.org Goes To Apache Foundation and More

This week, the main talking point in the world of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is Oracle giving OpenOffice.org to the Apache foundation. There has been interesting developments for Ubuntu as well. Let us take a look at some of the most the important FOSS news of the week.

Oracle Gives OpenOffice.org To Apache; The Document Foundation Not Happy About It

After alienating all the contributors in the OpenOffice.org community, Oracle has finally decided to call it a day and have ceded control of the OpenOffice.org codebase to the Apache Software Foundation. OpenOffice.org will now be developed as an Apache Incubator Project. You can read more about this story here.

Meanwhile, The Document Foundation is not happy with Oracle’s decision to ignore them and give control of OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation. Since the beginning, TDF has been asking Oracle to join them and donate OpenOffice.org to them. Read more about it here.

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 1 Released

The first alpha of Ubuntu 11.10 was released a few days back. Being the first development release, not much has changed from Ubuntu 11.04 which was released around a month back. The GNOME stack has been updated to GNOME 3, though. Find out more about it here.

Asus To Release Eee PC Netbooks with Ubuntu Pre-installed

Asus has announced that they are planning to release three Eee PC netbook models with Ubuntu installed. They also said that they plan to make more models available with Ubuntu by the end of the year. The Asus Eee PC will come with Ubuntu 10.10 and with Flash and other media codecs installed. More here.

Linus Torvalds Released Linux 3.0 RC

Ending the speculation as to whether the version number will be 2.8 or 3.0, Linus Torvalds has released the first release candidate of Linux 3.0. Despite the major bump in the version number, there are no big changes in Linux 3.0. Linus said that he does not want to break anything and that development will go ahead in the same manner they have been doing for Linux 2.6.x. Read more here.

Debian Wheezy, which is currently in development, has already decided to switch to Linux 3.0.