GRUB Officially Graduates to Version 2.0

After a decade of development, GRUB2 has been released officially, and it brings some major improvements to GRUB. Though, it hardly caught anyone’s attention, as GRUB2 is already being used by most major distros for the last three years. Although the version used by these distros was a pre-release of GRUB2, it was more or less feature complete.


The release was announced on the GNU GRUB official mailing list:

Hello, all
I’m proud to announce the release of GNU GRUB version 2.00.
Since this version has a round number it has been paid special attention to, and hopefully, represents higher quality.
This is the first time we include an official theme (starfield).
This version also includes EHCI driver.
Support for using GRUB as firmware on Yeeloong was added in GRUB 1.99, and for 2.00 this support has been extended to Fuloong2F as well.
This is also the first time we release itanium and SGI mips port. Later is experimental due to problems encountered with its firmware.

This new release brings a new menu structure with submenus, a new theme for gfxmenu and support for new platforms. It also brings new drivers for AHCI, EHCI, EFI serial etc. Apart from these, there is support for new filesystems, performance improvements and better internationalization. However, as mentioned earlier, most of these features are already present in running versions of GRUB2.

There is an interesting discussion on Slashdot about the current state of vendor-lock in for hardware. On one hand, we have GPLv3 that restricts hardware locking, and on the other hand, there is Microsoft which is hell-bent on pushing secure boot and killing the Linux ecosystem on x86 systems. There should be fair laws safeguarding us from vendors and corporations forcing their decisions down our throat.

Skype 4.0 Arrives on Linux, Better Late Than Never

A few days ago, Skype decided to monetize its software by displaying ads in between conversations. Most people found this unsavory, but Skype tried wrapping the advertisement scheme as display of “relevant content”, and made a bold claim that it would spark conversations. It goes without saying that Skype invited everyone’s wrath with this move.

Earning back some karma, Skype did something appreciable recently. The Skype software on Linux graduated to version 4.0 which is good news for Skype users who are in the habit of waiting for Skype updates now. The 4.0 release is codenamed “Four Rooms for Improvement” and brings in lots of new features, thus making for a better Skype experience on Linux.

The post announcing the release on the Skype official blog says,

With this release, we have finally filled the gap with our other desktop clients and we are now making many of the latest Skype features, as well as a lot of UI improvements, available to our penguin lovers.

The blog post claims improvements in UX, as well as the underlying communication technology. Minor changes include fixes for crash issues, newer emoticons and new language packs. There is also a fair warning that says that the first load of the latest Skype will synchronize the chat history, and things might be a bit slow initially.

The latest version of Skype offers packages for all popular flavors of Linux, but the download page lists older versions of all distros. This was a huge turn-off for some people.


It is sad to see that Windows users can enjoy Skype 5.10 while Linux users have to make do with Skype 4.0. This second-class treatment of Skype on Linux has been criticized extensively in this blog post. Linux might have its own ninja-skills and hacker-friendly tools, but when it comes to attracting third-party developers, it clearly has not been able to catch up with Windows.

Ubuntu Sees Growing Adoption from OEMs, Will Capture 5% of the PC Market Next Year

At the ongoing Ubuntu 12.10 developer summit, Chris Kenyon, the VP of sales and business development at Canonical has unveiled Ubuntu’s ambitious expansion plans in the PC market. Ubuntu is already collaborating with OEMs to deliver Ubuntu Linux based machines. However, the good news is that the Ubuntu is looking forward to a 5% market share in the PC segment.

The advantage of buying a system with Ubuntu or any Linux flavor pre-loaded is eliminating the time spent in initial-configuration of display drivers, network components and syncing across monitors. These are common bummers, when we try to replace a new Windows box with Linux. However, Ubuntu has an extensive list of supported hardware, and this OEM deal will make the hardware support even better.

Phoronix lists some interesting points from Kenyon’s keynote speech.

Here’s some of the facts that Kenyon tossed out in his after-lunch keynote:

– Eight to ten million units shipped last year world-wide.

– Canonical will be opening their first Beijing office this year (their Taipei office right now handles most of their Asian operations since 2008).

– Last year Ubuntu shipped on 7.5 billion dollars (presumably USD) worth of hardware.

– Next year they expect to more than double these numbers to 18 million units world-wide, or what Chris says would be 5% of PCs shipping world-wide would be with Ubuntu Linux.

Finally, after years of vendor lock-in, the PC has finally been freed from its shackles. We hope to see an open hardware market, where the end-user has more choices and there are more than one prominent software development ecosystems.

The Ubuntu Developer Summit is taking place from 7th of this month and will continue until the 11th. The complete event schedule can be found here. The events to watch out for, include the one titled Next Steps for Hadoop on UbuntuApp Developer EventsUbuntu Mobile Use-cases and all events that focus on Ubuntu TV.

Skype Sees a Major Network Overhaul, Moves to Linux Supernodes

Microsoft has replaced a major part of Skype’s network by replacing its 48,000 P2P supernodes with a set of centralized Linux boxes. This change was done over two months ago as a security measure. The Linux boxes are being hosted by Microsoft itself and this is the first such network change inside Skype, since it started operating in 2003.

The change has been analyzed by Kostya Kortchinsky over at Immunity Security. Microsoft is yet to confirm the research’s findings, but it has released a statement to Ars Technica saying,


As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes, which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacenters. This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community.

Microsoft has probably made this move to prevent outages like these. Currently, there are little over 10,000 supernodes, all hosted centrally by Microsoft. Unlike earlier, when users with sufficient bandwidth were upgraded to supernode status, the new strategy does not make supernodes out of users.

Seven months into ownership of Skype, and Microsoft is already making changes to it. Although it is not trying to port any existing infrastructure to its own technology stack immediately, there is a fair chance of that happening and when that happens, undoubtedly, Azure will be the way to go for Skype.

Read Kortchinsky’s report here.

The Long Awaited Ubuntu 12.04 is Here Finally

We have been hearing about Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin and how awesome it is going to be, for quite some time now. The wait is finally over, and Ubuntu 12.04 has been released. It sports some bold features, and the fact that this is a long-term release (LTS) makes Ubuntu 12.04 even more special.

This release will be supported with updates and fixes for the next five years, and this will call for an upgrade across many Ubuntu installations that are still on the previous LTS release. Moreover, Ubuntu also supports Hyper-V for virtualization on a Widows server.
The Fridge writes on this release, saying,

The Ubuntu team is very pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) for Desktop, Server, Cloud, and Core products. Codenamed “Precise Pangolin”, 12.04 continues Ubuntu’s proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing a few new features and improving quality control.

Ubuntu is known for bringing new UX features to the table. With a significant growth in the server business, it has managed to register another win. Recently, HUD and Ubuntu for Android turned quite a few heads and this release of Ubuntu 12.04 lives up to the hype that was built over the last few months.

You can find different versions of Ubuntu at the release page. A tour of Ubuntu is also available online, at this page. However, if you are looking for direct download links for the English desktop version, you can download the 32 bit desktop CD or the 64-bit desktop CD ISO image.

Steam May Come to Linux!

According to a huge scoop from Phoronix, Steam might just come to Linux. That’s right, Valve’s insanely popular video game digital distribution platform will finally see the light of day on /etc/Steam (Linux users please note that I am a newbie and as such am just throwing around filesystem names to appear “cool”)

For those that have doubted the exclusive Phoronix claims for quite a while now that the Steam client and Source Engine are in fact being ported to Linux, the doubts can be nearly laid to rest. Even I began to wonder how long it would take before the clients for their popular games would be publicly released under Linux. However, after confirming the information perhaps a bit too soon, their level of Linux interest is much more clear after spending a day at their offices.

After years of denying Steam on Linux it seems that Gabe Newell has finally let slip the codes of Linux into the fiery pit of an Internet guy. Michael Larabel, the founder of Linux focused website Phoronix had been personally contacted by Newell and subsequently he flew down to Valve’s headquarters and has apparently seen the build in person. How awesome is that? He also says that he will be posting the Linux screenies soon on his twitter feed. Soon, he says. Soon. Which translates to “not soon enough!”

Since the announcement, a barrage of followers and users have pretty much taken down the site where he promised a video will soon be uploaded.

Excellent news? You bet. It is thoroughly welcome after Desura’s Linux-specific game search as well as Steam’s own SteamPlay Mac support. Cannot wait for the video!

Linus Torvalds Nominated for the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize

Linus Torvalds has been nominated for the Millennium Technology prize for 2012, besides Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. Dr. Yamanaka is an eminent stem-cell researcher and Torvalds is the creator of the Linux kernel. The award is given out every two years. Put in a single line, this is the most befitting description of the award.

The prize seeks to highlight innovations that assist and enrich our everyday lives today as well as in the future.

Linus Torvalds has been nominated for the award for his efforts with the legendary Linux kernel.

In recognition of his creation of a new open source operating system for computers leading to the widely used Linux kernel. The free availability of Linux on the Web swiftly caused a chain-reaction leading to further development and fine-tuning worth the equivalent of 73,000 man-years. Today millions use computers, smartphones and digital video recorders like Tivo run on Linux. Linus Torvald’s achievements have had a great impact on shared software development, networking and the openness of the web, making it accessible for millions, if not billions.

Torvalds is one of the most respected men in the world of software. He has made considerable efforts to build and maintain an OS kernel that changed the way software is done. He has created a new storyline in the world of software development, and we all are parts of that story. Over two decades have passed since the first release of the Linux kernel and it has improved vastly, with timely support for new hardware.

Although some may argue that the Linux kernel is a one-man show, it really is a community effort. Linus truly deserves this award for bringing together an awesome group of selfless people and creating a better world for us all.

(Via: The Verge)

Linux Foundation Predicts a Rocking Year for Linux in the Enterprise Sector

Linux has tried gaining a respectable position (by market-share) in the desktop world, and has failed for years. Apparently, not many people want to use Linux until they have something specific to do with Linux. Linux is not the first choice for many and this second-class status is going to stay as long as OEMs keep choosing Windows to be shipped with their laptops and desktops.


However, nothing beats Linux when it comes to the enterprise sector. The enterprise sector is the playground of Linux, and its adoption has been on a constant rise in this sector. Recently, the Linux Foundation revealed some trends, gathered from a survey conducted among enterprise users. There has been a rapid growth for data handled by the enterprise sector, and Linux is their first choice for handling big data requirements.

In the survey, over 80% of the enterprise users have expected an increase in the number of Linux-based over the next five years. However, a welcome change is the survey on perceived technical-barriers in these deployments, which has dropped to 12.2% from 20.3% last year. As always, more than 2/3rd of the participants considered Linux safer than other operating systems. The top three reasons for adopting Linux were:

  • Lower cost
  • More features
  • Security
  • In-house talent pool
  • No vendor lock-in
  • Openness

The 428 participants in the survey were employees of companies with $500 million in sales, or an employee-strength of over 500. It would be wonderful if this survey result translates into market-penetration.

You can get a copy of the survey result, at Linux Foundation. vulnerability allows for locked screen to be bypassed by pressing key combination

An enterprising user has reported to mailing list a very easy way to bypass a screen locked by a user – by merely hitting few keystrokes.

The user, going by pseudonym Gu1, has reported that by pressing Control + Alt + * (the asterisk key on the numpad) instantly kills most lock screen programs including gnome-screensaver, kscreenlocker, slock and slimlock, amongst others. Further discussion on the mailing list confirms the vulnerability and has been given a CVE id of CVE-2012-0064 by the Red Hat security team.

Further digging from the git sources indicates that all server versions upwards of seem to be affected. To test whether or not you’re affected, just lock your screen and press Ctrl + Alt + * (note: you’ll have to hit the * key on the Numeric keypad, not on numbers on top of the QWERTY row.)

If you’re on Ubuntu Oneric Ocelot, i.e, Ubuntu 11.10, then this won’t affect you since Ubuntu 11.10 runs on version 1.10.4.

As a temporary workaround, commenting

interpret XF86_Ungrab {
action = Private(type=0x86, data=”Ungrab”);
interpret XF86_ClearGrab {
action = Private(type=0x86, data=”ClsGrb”);

lines from your xfree86 file ( typically found in /usr/share/X11/xkb/compat/ directory) and then running

setxkbmap $(setxkbmap -query | grep layout | awk '{print$2}')

should fix this for now.

Android Mainlining Project Takes Android Back to the Source

Just in case you didn’t know, Android is built atop the Linux kernel. A few patches here, a few branches there, pepper in some code, and Android was created. Unfortunately a lot of the patches were never sent upstream, this means some of the hard work done by the engineers at Google never made it out of the phones and into desktop or server hardware. The Android Mainlining Project aims to solve this.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, head of the Linux Driver Project, has created a new project with 3 major goals in mind.

  1.  To allow a developer to use the latest released version of the Linux kernel to run an Android system, without requiring patches to their kernel.
  2. To make it possible to develop drivers and board support features against either an Android kernel release or a kernel release, with little or no modifications or conditional code.
  3. To reduce or eliminate the burden of maintaining independent patches from release to release for Android kernel developers.

This means all the Android-specific code that was purposely left out of kernel releases, will now be easier to implement and merge with the development branch of the 3.3 kernel. Systems like Android’s  logging, low memory kills  and wakelock power management will be branched-in, allowing for more hardware access to third party boards and systems with memory or power restraints.

In an e-mail to the Embedded Linux Kernel mailing-list, Tim Bird,  Architecture Group Chair, CE Workgroup of the Linux Foundation, states that the project was born after discussion and re-evaluation code from Android. With a current stable kernel of 3.19, mainline at 3.2-rc7, there are only a few dot-releases before the project aims to be completed.

Numerous volunteers have signed up for the project, and many have started to contribute patches and code for smooth integration. Without support from Google and AOSP, it’s highly unlikely that both kernels will ever reach parity, but this is quite an excellent start in order to bridge the gap and create a unified kernel that will benefit all users.