Category Archives: Open Source Software

French Government Floats a Massive Tender to Maintain their Open Source Software

The French Government has published a tender request for Information and Communication Technology companies. The request involves support for open-source software, and the contract is worth two million euros, operational for three years. This contract will cover the office of the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Internal Affairs, Justice, Labor, Education and others. All the computer systems involved in this maintenance run Debian and CentOS.
open-source-logo
The contract covers ten areas as told by  Le Monde Informatique.

Ten areas are covered:  1 – Operating Systems and software associated base: Debian and CentOS, virtualization tool such as KVM  2 – Servers presentation and application: Apache, Tomcat, JOnAS, CMS  3 – languages ​​and development frameworks: Java, PHP, XML, Perl, Eclipse, Struts  4 – RDBMS: PostgreSQL, MySQL  5 – Office: OpenOffice  6 – Network tools and operation and supervision: Ethereal, Jmeter, Nagios  7 – Security Tools: Tripwire, OpenSSL  8 – Directory Services and Messaging: OpenLDAP, Sendmail  9 – portals and document management, knowledge management: Nuxeo, Ezpublish, Alfresco  10 – Indexing and search…

The deadline for application is January 9, 2012, and the awarding will be made on March 30, subsequently.

Every company that bids on the tender has to  have a contingency plan, in case the open source software is not developed anymore. This appears as some additional responsibility.

The French Government is well known for its adoption of open source software. It started a decade ago when the French Government advocated the use of open source. However, it probably gained traction back in 2004 when the French Government decided to use Mandrake on 1500 servers, which were running Windows NT earlier.

It  is a well-known fact that use of open source software can reduce operational cost of IT systems in governments, by large amounts. What these open source software lack, is support. However, with more tenders like these, it will not be late before support is no longer an issue for adoption of open source.

Linux Mint 12 Preview Appears After Weeks of Hush-hush Secrecy

Linux Mint is an elegant Linux-distro based on Ubuntu, which is in turn based on Debian. Its release usually follows Ubuntu releases. However, the release of Linux Mint 12 (following Ubuntu Oneiric) has been delayed and people have been left clueless because of no communication from the Linux Mint team. Finally, the Mint blog broke the secrecy yesterday, and has given a preview of  what is to come.

I would like to apologize to the community, the media, and the journalists who wrote to us to know more about our upcoming release. We have been extremely secretive and 3 weeks past the Ubuntu release, it is still unclear for most people exactly what the next Linux Mint will look like. The reason we have been so silent is because we did not want to promise something we could not guarantee.

The story so far

linux-mint

Linux Mint has recorded an impressive 40% increase in market share in a month. We can easily guess that these are disgruntled Ubuntu users disappointed at the poor usability factor of Unity. The Mint team deserves credit for doing it right. Sticking to an older version of Gnome was not an option, as it would have lost support very soon. Linux Mint has rightfully decided to go with Gnome 3, but with their customization on top. Their main concern has always been:

How do we make people like Gnome 3? And what do we provide as an alternative to those who still do not want to change?

Gnome 3 is facing the same struggle as any change. It is facing resistance and Linux Mint aims to make Gnome more usable. They have addressed it with elegance and have presented Gnome 3, modified into a more usable version- MGSE.

Yes, Vim Turned Twenty but Vi Turned Thirty-five Too!

Recently, all Vim lovers wished it on its twentieth year. Twenty years is a long time, but it is not long enough. Let us talk about something bigger. Vi, the predecessor to Vim, grew even older with this. Very few people use vi anymore, and using it will be CUI overkill. However, it is worth a mention. Vim is ‘Vi improved’. Bram Moolenaar did a great job by ‘improving’ Vi, but the credit goes to Bill Joy, for creating this wonderful piece of software.
vim-text-editor

Vim  is a highly configurable text editor built to enable efficient text editing. It is an improved version of the vi editor distributed with most UNIX systems.

Vim added automated scripts, plugins and other code editing features that vi lacked. Vim is the standard form of vi today, but in essence, it still is the Vi editor. While the Vi editor was influenced by the ADM-3A systems popular around the time of its birth, vim adapted to the Amiga systems. Amiga saw a slew in emerging Vi clones, and Bram Moolenaar did a great job creating vim. After a few years, vim saw its first release in November of 1991.

However, Vim turning twenty is as much of an achievement for vim as it is for its parent project Vi, which turned nearly thirty-five, implicitly! Thus, it is definitely worth a mention. The paradigm shift that vi brought into the task of text-editing, needs to be given due credit and it is best that we reflect back all the way to where things started changing, rather than where the change started getting improvements.

Fedora Goes Against the Linux Standard Base, Restructures the Filesystem

Since its early days, Linux has followed a stringent filesystem structure, one that is a tad obscure. Finally, the Fedora project has dared to step away from this arcane system and wants to get things right. The vital files in a Linux filesystem are arranged across various directories and sometimes, this gets redundant. Fedora project aims to consolidate all of this into a well-defined structure, even though this goes against the structure defined by the  Linux Standard Base.

fedora-logo

The Linux Standard base is an effort by Linux distributions to standardize the Linux system structure. It is  best explained as,

The Linux Standard Base was created to lower the overall costs of supporting the Linux platform. By reducing the differences between individual Linux distributions, the LSB greatly reduces the costs involved with porting applications to different distributions, as well as lowers the cost and effort involved in after-market support of those applications.

The Linux filesystem suffers from redundancy in naming of directories. There are four directions in Linux, /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, /usr/sbin, all with similar names. This is just for starters and there are many such directories.

A comment on Slashdot says,

Once upon a time discs were small, so that /usr would be mounted separately from the root partition. So /bin and /lib are small directories containing as much of the operating system as you need to get going before you mount /usr and get everything else.

The situation has changed today and most of the times, all these directories are put on the same partitions with the exception of the /boot directory. Perhaps, in wake of all the object-oriented concepts where systems are thought of in terms of data flow, the structuring of the Linux filesystem cannot be justified. However, it is intact and functional from a system-level.

This effort to polish the Linux filesystem will have to overcome many stumbling blocks. The filesystem has stayed for well over 30 years now. The proposal to restructure the filesystem appears on  this Fedora project page. If this change goes through, this will be the first such change in the history of Linux filesystem. It will make the  Linux Standard Base flexible and allow it to adapt to newer changes better.

Apple Open Sources its Lossless Audio Codec- ALAC

In a surprising move, Apple has released the source for its ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) codec. ALAC is a popular codec that can be used for playback in iPods and iPhones. The ALAC codec appeared for the first time in early 2004 on the Mac OS X, and it was open sourced on 26 October this year.
apple-logo

ALAC is also known as ALE (Apple lossless encoder) and can store files with almost half the file-size of an uncompressed file. The advantage here is that the compression is lossless, so there is absolutely no loss of data during the compression. The decoding operation is not resource intensive as well, and can be carried out with ease by a limited-power device, such as the iPod. Also, the compression does not enforce any DRM scheme though; DRM can still be applied to files encoded with ALAC.

Even if the codec is open sourced finally, the devices that support this codec are still closed source in essence. They do not allow any freedom. An alternative firmware-  Rockbox exists for most iPods except the iPod touch. Rockbox is released under the GNU GPL.

The announcement made by Apple appears on the  ALAC page wiki at Mac OS Forge.

Welcome to the Apple Lossless Audio Codec Project

The Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) is an audio codec developed by Apple and supported on iPhone, iPad, most iPods, Mac and iTunes. ALAC is a data compression method which reduces the size of audio files with no loss of information. A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file.

The Apple Lossless Audio Codec project contains the sources for the ALAC encoder and decoder. Also included is an example command line utility, called alacconvert, to read and write audio data to/from Core Audio Format (CAF) and WAVE files. A description of a ‘magic cookie’ for use with files based on the ISO base media file format (e.g. MP4 and M4A) is included as well.

The Apple Lossless Audio Codec sources are available under the Apache license. Details can be found here  http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.

From Warty Warthog to Oneiric Ocelot- Seven Years of Ubuntu [Editorial]

Ubuntu Linux turned seven recently, and so did an ideology that has brought Ubuntu Linux this far. The simple South-African word Ubuntu that started out as a philosophy is also an operating system today.

The credit for the name Ubuntu goes to Mark Shuttleworth, who is a South-African entrepreneur operating out of England. He started Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. Today, Canonical is known for a multitude of products-Ubuntu,  Upstart,  Storm,  Bazaar  and  Quickly. Perhaps, it is best known for giving the world of Linux distros its Disney-queen.

ubuntu-logoAfter creating Ubuntu, he wanted to lay a strong foundation around the Ubuntu ecosystem. He wanted to make it sustainable and that is where, the Ubuntu operating system actually started following the Ubuntu philosophy. In October 2004, Mark Shuttleworth started a trust- The Ubuntu Foundation to ensure long-term support for the Linux distro Ubuntu. The trust went inactive after a few years, but it still exists today. In fact, Ubuntu has formed better wings to address the sustainability issue. However, what Ubuntu really means, was immortalized in this  interview of Nelson Mandella.

How to Create a Bootable Ubuntu 11.10 USB Disk

Ubuntu 11.10 was released a few days ago. It has vast improvements over the last version that was praised by people. The new Unity interface and behind-the-scene changes are remarkable. Moreover, when it comes to trying out Ubuntu, there are equally flexible options. You can  try it online, or as it has always been with Ubuntu, you can try it using a live CD.

Unetbootin  has been the  tool of choice for creating Ubuntu live CDs  all this long. This time, Canonical is going with a new tool call Universal USB Installer. Universal USB Installer has been around for a long time. However, it is good to see that Ubuntu allows new tools to gain from its own popularity. Unetbootin has earned its fame, and now, Universal USB Installer is on its way to fame.

To create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive installer, go to this download page for  Universal USB Installer  and download the software. It is sized at around 1 MB and it does not require any installation.

Select Ubuntu 11.10 from the drop-down list at the first screen. Subsequently, you can either download the ISO file from the application itself, or select a  downloaded Ubuntu 11.10 ISO file.

universal-usb-installer

The persistent file-size allows us to have a portable functional operating system with user-files. This makes it a wonderful choice for portability. Clicking on Create’ will create your portable USB disk. Make sure you have secured all your important files on the removable disk.

Once you have a bootable disk with this software, you can install Ubuntu using it or use it as a portable Ubuntu installation.

Screenshot Tour of The Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot was released couple of hours ago and quite a few people would have already downloaded and installed or upgraded it. If you’re one of those wondering – “How does it look?” – here’s a brief screenshot tour.

Ubuntu greets you with a nice welcome/login screen. Your account is selected by default, but there’s an option for Guest login, as well as login as any user option.

Ubuntu Login screen

You can set it to login automatically, if you wish. Accessibility option is provided for, via an onscreen keyboard, a high-contrast screen setting as well as a screen reader. The accessibility option is tucked away a little bit further away. A more prominent setting would have been much appreciated, though.

Once you login, you’re greeted with Ubuntu’s default user interface, Unity.

Ubuntu desktop

One of the complaints about Unity was that users didn’t know what to click on, besides the quick launcher icons – so Canonical has added a nice Ubuntu icon to ensure the launcher, Dash, gets more visibility. Clicking on Dash brings about a nice UI for actions which are most commonly used on a computer – Browser the Web, Listen to Music or View Photos.

 

Dash Home screen

The search bar is probably one that’s going to be used quite frequently, and is very well done. Not only the search results are very fast – it’s grouped according to the types of results. So typing a keyword will bring up the results grouped into apps, folders, files and so on. For example, clicking on More apps will bring up a list of all apps – both installed and that can be downloaded – again grouped into different types.

Dash Apps Filter

The categorization is not restricted to just apps – if you’re fanatical about, let’s say your music being well organized and tagged, Dash’s lenses feature will ensure that the music you want is available just by searching and then filtered as per the tags – for instance – by genre, release year and so on.

Lenses for your music collection

Clicking on View Photos brings up the photo viewer and manager, Shotwell. You’ll be prompted to import your photos and if required, categorize them into events.

Shotwell Photo Manager

Events in Shotwell

Moving on, clicking on Listen to Music launches the music player, Banshee. Banshee can import your existing music collection – whether from a folder, a series of folders or even from iTunes.

Bansee music player

Your music is always a click away – clicking on your user name brings a dropdown menu where you can select to play your music.

Banshee Music Player

Due to legal restrictions, Ubuntu cannot play certain types of media (such as MP3 files) out of the box. Earlier, trying to get the codecs installed often resulted in a lot of frustration for the user. This has improved quite dramatically over the past few years and Oneiric Ocelot is no exception. If you try to play a media file which cannot be played, Banshee will prompt to check for available codecs & then proceed to install them.

Search for plugin

Installing the plugins

As I had mentioned in my earlier post on Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot beta, Ubuntu Software Center has been updated to include a top rated apps and featured apps view. This makes app discovery a lot easier.

Ubuntu Software Center

Both free and paid apps are listed – with all the details about them.

Software Center

The Unity Launcher is where you can configure your mostly frequently applications to be pinned so that you can launch them right away. Adding or removing an application is another click away.

Add to Launcher

Some of the launcher actions are context-senstive too – for instance, right-clicking on the Word Processor ( LibreOffice’s Writer is the default, in case you’re wondering) provides an option to create a new document. Right-clicking on the Screenshot application allows you to take a full-screen or partial window screenshot and this is just a (right) click away!

Context senstive actions

Wrapping up the tour, Workspaces( aka virtual desktops) are also available by default on the Launcher, and allows you to move all related apps to a workspace – I’ve used this feature since my early Linux days, and is a immense productivity booster.

Workspace Switcher

I’ve been playing with Ubuntu 11.10 for a few hours now since launch ( and the beta as well) – and I’ve found it to be really nice, with no major bugs – except for small niggles.

If you’re itching to try out Ubuntu – you can always download the ISO and boot it off the DVD/CD drive. Also, Wubi allows you to try it out along with your Windows install with no partitioning required. There’s also a really nice web-based tour that you can try out, if you don’t want to bother with the download. Do drop in your comments about the new release!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ubuntu Online Demo- Try Ubuntu Online Before Download

Live CDs have always been an  USP  (Unique Selling Proposition) for Linux. Since live CDs appeared for the first time, there was a sharp increase in the number of users trying out different Linux flavors, just to get a taste of it. You did not need to install it anywhere on your hard disk and that was awesome.

Ubuntu has taken this flexibility to the next level. This time, the user-experience of Ubuntu 11.10 is available on the web and you can actually try it even before you download any CD or DVD image. The idea of having an online demo of Ubuntu was proposed  in a conversation  that said,

As a result of hearing a lot of my friends complain about their  experiences with Vista I have been pondering ways to make things easy  for them when it comes to test driving Ubuntu. Our live CD is  absolutely amazing, it is not only useful but it is a great test drive  experience. What if we could make things a little MORE easier though,  like provide a live demo of the desktop via the web. I am thinking of  something that can be accessed through a webpage (probably via a  plugin)  that allows the person to interact with the Ubuntu desktop without having to reboot their machine or burn something to a CD. My first question is do we have anything like that already out there that is not  commercial? Also it is important that it is locally run, I want to  customize it and tweak it.

The idea has come to fruition and we have a demo tour of Ubuntu 11.10 that can be  accessed at this page.

null

Are you impressed with the demo?
download-ubuntu
Head over to this post for a comprehensive list of Ubuntu downloads.

Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot is Here, Welcome to a Whole New World!

Following the regular six-month release cycle, Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot is here to impress everyone. This new release of Ubuntu brings vast improvements and many awaited features. The UX changes that were introduced in Ubuntu 11.04 have been perfected in version 11.10 and the new version comes with a bold claim- “Welcome to a whole new world”.

ubuntu-11-10

Ubuntu 11.10 comes with the new Linux kernel version 3.0, which has automatic defragmentation, support for new hardware and new drivers. Gnome has been upgraded to version 3.2. However, what may come as a visible change to users is the improved Unity interface. The Unity application launcher has been revamped and it looks much slicker now.

The Ubuntu announce mailing list made the release announcement saying,

The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce Ubuntu 11.10, code-named “Oneiric Ocelot”. 11.10 continues Ubuntu’s proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution.

Existing users can upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu.  As usual, Ubuntu comes in two flavors this time too. There is a desktop edition and a server edition, which  recently got ARM support. You can  head over to the download page  to download the version of Ubuntu Oneiric suitable for you.

[Direct Download link]  Download Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop Edition  (x86 version)

[Direct Download link]  Download Ubuntu 11.10 Server Edition  (x86 version)

[Direct Download link]  Download Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop Edition  (x64 version)

[Direct Download link]  Download Ubuntu 11.10 Server Edition  (x64 version)