Ubuntu Software Center Adds PayPal Support to Payment Options

For any software center or app marketplace, integrating a payment mechanism involves managing fraud recognition and geographical tax constrains. Once these hurdles are crossed, it is merely a matter of technical integration. Ubuntu Software Center showcases some non-free games like Braid, that are extremely popular on other platforms. However, payment for purchase of paid games and apps has been a long-standing issue, for Ubuntu, because it supported only credit cards.

Following a discussion on AskUbuntu, I arrived at a page  on Ubuntu Brainstorm  a few months ago. It was a discussion on possible payment methods for Ubuntu Software Center with an ongoing voting. After almost six months, during which a tough battle ensued, support for PayPal payments beat third-party payment solutions by a small margin. PayPal support grabbed 127 votes, with bank plugins lagging behind at 120 votes. The idea has finally been implemented, and this brings in support for PayPal Payments in the Ubuntu Software Center, beside the regular Credit Card payment method.

All payments for app purchase are directed through “Ubuntu Pay”, a feature in the Ubuntu Software Center. After Ubuntu integrates  PayPal into the Software Center fully, users will be allowed to choose between Credit Card and PayPal payments before they proceed with the actual payment.

Canonical announced the integration saying,

It’s been a long time in development, but we’re finally drawing close to releasing Paypal support in Ubuntu Pay, the payment service behind Ubuntu Software Centre.  We’re aiming to launch this new feature before Christmas.

Not everyone might welcome this move, give the fact that it brings Ubuntu closer to closed-source and proprietary software. Moreover, PayPal’s shady business practices and steep exchange rates are not  appreciable  either. However, this PayPal integration will let Ubuntu application developers earn from worldwide app-sales in a hassle free way, and will attract new talents and developers to the Ubuntu app ecosystem.

Ubuntu Unveils Web Music Streaming Service

It’s official, Ubuntu has rolled out a Web Music addition to their Ubuntu One service.

An addition to the Ubuntu One “cloud service” now allows all users with a paid subscription to save, store and stream music directly from a web browser. After logging into your  UbuntuOne  control panel, there is a new tab showing off the features, which include offline listening, access to the vast Ubuntu One Music Store and 20GB of storage, with a monthly subscription. Of course there is also a 30 day free trial for the service should you want to try before you buy.

Previous to today, the service was only available from a mobile device running iOS or Android. A free app, available in both the Apple App Store and the Android Market, provided mobile users with a way to stream and access all the content stored in their cloud. Although users have access to the iTunes Cloud and Google Music on their respective handsets, many use alternatives that provide “personalized  radio” based on recommendations, tag matching and “crowdsourced” content such as Spotify and Pandora. Unfortunately UbuntuOne Web Music does not include this, but playlist creation, queue management and shuffle might be enough for you.

It really does seem as if Ubuntu is laying the framework and infrastructure for eventually providing a mobile operating system or partnering with an OEM for shipping U1 services directly on devices. They have a niche market with Ubuntu installations on many personal computers, they have cross-platform sync through a proven cloud service that allows file storage, contact and note sync, and now completely cross-platform music streaming.

Ubuntu says they will continue building out their One service and 2012 will be a big year. The mobile space has been heating up for a long time, and although there might not be any room for a new platform, providing tightly integrated services could be a real differentiating factor for many OEMs. Hopefully Canonical sees this opportunity and can seize it, truly bringing Ubuntu to the masses.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Codename Precise Pangolin Releases Its First Alpha

This quarter of the year has been very busy for Ubuntu lovers.  Ubuntu 11.10 was released  a few months ago,  Linux Mint 12  saw its release last month and Distrowatch placed Linux Mint above Ubuntu in popularity ranking. There are two distinct schools of thought on Ubuntu’s new desktop experience. While one believes in adapting to the new Unity desktop, the other just cannot get enough of Gnome.
In the midst of this geek war, Ubuntu has released  Ubuntu 12.04 Alpha 1, only seven weeks into the release cycle. The release is meant to be a sneak-peek into the upcoming LTS release. Extensive work was done in this version, to include Intel’s  Sandy Bridge  support. Do not intend to use it on your regular work machine, but do give it a trial run.

New Features

  • Ubuntu 12.04 includes the new Linux kernel  3.2 instead of the earlier kernel version 3.0. Although this new Linux kernel is a release candidate 3, its final version will be included in the final release of Ubuntu 12.04. The new kernel includes support for Nvidia Fermi chipsets and a brand new  Samsung Exynos DRM driver for ARM devices.
  • The default music player reverted to Rythmbox from Banshee.
  • Changes in software packages include Firefox 9 and Thunderbird 9, both in beta stage.
  • Tomboy is missing from the software collection.

Ubuntu 12.04 will see a final release in April. Until then, you can  download and try Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Alpha 1.

Quick Link:  Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Alpha 1 for Intel x86  [Direct file-download link]

Linux Mint 12 with GNOME 3 and MGSE Released

After beta testing for three weeks, the Linux Mint team has released the final stable build of Mint 12 (codenamed Lisa). Mint initially gained popularity thanks to its clever mixture of beauty and productivity. With Lisa, the Mint team is trying to pull off another delicate balancing act. Mint 12 adopts the new GNOME 3 desktop environment, but slaps its own MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions) layer on top of it to retain the familiarity and power of the GNOME 2 desktop environment.

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, which uses its own Unity desktop environment that, in some ways, differs radically from the traditional desktop paradigm. Both GNOME 3 and Unity has proved to be controversial as they often break the traditional task based workflow. In fact, the backlash against GNOME 3 and Unity has helped boost Mint’s popularity in a big way. According to Distrowatch, Mint is now the most popular desktop Linux distribution, ahead of Fedora, OpenSUSE, and Ubuntu.


Lisa also includes MATE, which is a fork of GNOME 2 that is compatible with GNOME 3. However, MATE is still a work in progress and isn’t entirely stable.

Mint 12 features DuckDuckGo, which is my favorite search engine, as the default search provider. The Mint team has decided to exclude search engines with which it couldn’t reach a revenue sharing agreement. However, it has also made installation of additional search engines easier than ever before, in case you are not comfortable with default providers. Other changes to Mint include new artwork and theme.

You can grab Linux Mint 12 from any of the mirrors listed here.

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.


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.

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!













Canonical Releases First Beta of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

Ubuntu 11.10Canonical has released the first beta of the next version of Ubuntu, the Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. The release falls in line with the Ubuntu release calendar, with the next beta release scheduled for 22nd September and the final release on 13th October, 2011.

The first beta of Ubuntu 11.10 features 3.0 branch of the Linux kernel, an updated Unity desktop interface serving as the UI shell. The Ubuntu Software Center gets an update with the addition of a top rated apps view.

Ubuntu 11.10 Software Center


New Features And Updated Packages

Some of the new features in this beta release include:

  • Multiarch support: This is a big boon for users who still rely on certain 32-bit applications such as Skype and Adobe Flash Player. Multiarch makes it possible to use the 32-bit packages present in 32-bit editions of Ubuntu without the need for ia32-libs compatibility package.
  • Updated kernel: The kernel is now based on the 3.0 branch of the Linux kernel. While the jump from the 2.6.x series to the 3.0 series is result of a change in the version naming convention rather than any major changes, the updated kernel has received numerous bug fixes and driver updates
  • Updated DVD contents:  The DVD release now stands at 1.5GB, with the available packages  consisting of all the language packs, some useful applications such as Inkscape, GIMP, Pitivi, and a more complete  LibreOffice  suite.
  • New packages: Some of the new packages include Mozilla Thunderbird as the default email client and  Déjà Dup  as the default backup tool. Firefox 7.0 beta is included as the default web browser.
  • Updated packages:  The updated packages  include Python 3.2, GCC 4.6.1, CUPS 1.5.0, Shotwell 0.11, and LibreOffice 3.4.2
  • UI Updates: The beta release features some UI tweaks – including a new Alt+Tab switcher, updated visual indicators and Lenses replacing erstwhile Places, with  support for multiple sources and filtering based on categories for instance.
Filtering feature in Ubuntu 11.10's "Lenses"

Being still in beta I encountered quite a few crashes while using Ubuntu 11.10. I’ve reported most of them and hopefully these should be fixed by the next beta release. You can read  more information about this release over at the Ubuntu Wiki.

Download Links

For those interested in trying out the beta, here are the download links:

Oracle Changes its JDK Licensing, Oracle JDK No More Available for Linux Distros

As part of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle also acquired the Java technology. Oracle has the enterprise sector in its grip now (Java and Oracle database). However, we cannot forget how erratic it has been in handling delicate issues like the  OpenSolaris project  or the ongoing infringement case against Android. It has repeatedly failed to earn the trust of the Open Source community, something that Sun Microsystems had in abundant.


Java is a wonderful technology. This video from 2006 will tell you why.

The Java development kit comes in two flavors. While Oracle JDK (earlier Sun JDK) is under the Binary Code License (earlier Sun License), OpenJDK is under GPL with a linking exception. From JDK version 7, Oracle has planned to support OpenJDK and  withdraw the Operating System Distributor License  for Java. This has resulted in a withdrawal of OracleJDK from the repositories of Linux distributions. Putting further restrictions, you cannot even download Oracle Java for any Linux distributions anymore.

OpenJDK has always suffered because of the unfair nature of the competition and it is said to have some serious bugs. These pitfalls never allowed it a rise to fame but now, things are looking better for OpenJDK. Oracle itself has taken interests in OpenJDK development. Perhaps for uniformity, it has declared OpenJDK as the official Java SE reference from JDK 7 onwards.

This is the second game changing event in the world of Java since May 2007, when it went completely open-source and the Java code was released under GPL. With IBM, Oracle, Apple, SAP, RedHat and other big names working on the OpenJDK project, we will surely see the best of Java in future.

Do you want to know how OpenJDK fares against Oracle JDK? Read  this Stack Overflow question.

Fedora 16 “Verne” Alpha Released – Includes GNOME 3.1, GRUB 2

After a one week delay from the scheduled release date, the Fedora Project has released the first alpha version of Fedora 16, codenamed “Verne”, earlier today. This alpha release is expected to be the only alpha release of Fedora 16. According to the release schedule, this release will be followed by a beta on September 27th and the final release on November 1st.

Fedora 16 Alpha brings a number of new features/updates. One of the main updates is the long overdue upgrade to GRUB 2. Although GRUB 2 is not officially considered stable yet, many other Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, Linux Mint etc., have been using it for some time, and it has been stable enough for normal use. With the transition to GRUB 2, users who dual boot Fedora with another distribution that uses GRUB 2 will not have to manually add the OS in the GRUB menu.

Fedora 16 Wallpaper

In Fedora 16 Alpha, two choices of desktop environments are available by default as always. For those who prefer GNOME, Fedora 16 Alpha comes with GNOME 3.1.5. This version of GNOME is not considered stable and it is expected that it will be updated to GNOME 3.2 before the final release. GNOME 3.2 will fix many of the quirks and annoyances from GNOME 3. For those of you who prefer KDE SC, Fedora 16 Alpha also has a KDE version that comes with KDE SC 4.7 alpha. Like the GNOME version, it is expected to be upgraded to KDE SC 4.7 before the final release.

Fedora 16 Alpha runs on the Linux kernel 3.0. With the release of Linux 3.1 expected in a month or two, the kernel is likely to be updated to Linux 3.1 before the final release.

One feature that did not make it is the switch to Btrfs. Btrfs is a new filesystem that is currently under development. Initially, there was plan to use Btrfs by default in Fedora 16. However the plan was scrapped because Btrfs is nowhere ready for such use. Btrfs will probably be used in Fedora 17 or Fedora 18.

You can view the feature list that is being planned for Fedora 16 and the progress here.

If you want to install Fedora 16 Alpha, you can download it from here. (This is not an unstable release and is meant for testing. Do not install it on production machines.)

Linus Torvalds Announces The Release Of Linux 3.0

Yesterday, Linus Torvalds announced the release of the final stable version Linux 3.0. With the release of Linux 3.0, Torvalds has finally brought Linux out of the 2.6.x series, which had been in development for more than seven years.

tuxLinux 3.0 was actually planned for release in the second week of July, but a bug with the RCU meant that he had to release another RC instead. This is what Linus Torvalds wrote announcing the release:

As already mentioned several times, there are no special land mark features or incompatibilities related to the version number change,it’s simply a way to drop an inconvenient numbering system in honor of twenty years of Linux. In fact, the 3.0 merge window was calmer than most, and apart from some excitement from RCU I’d have called it really smooth. Which is not to say that there may not be bugs, but if anything, there are hopefully fewer than usual, rather than the normal”.0″ problems.

The change in the major version number does not mean new big features. When Linux 3.0 RC1 was announced, Torvalds famously described it as having absolutely no big changes.

However, that does not mean there are no new features/changes with this release. Linux 3.0 brings only incremental changes. Here are some of the new features in Linux 3.0:

  • Automatic defragmentation, scrubbing and performance improvements in Btrfs
  • Wake on WLAN This feature allows the device to go into a low power state while the wireless NIC remains active.
  • Cleancache Cleancache is a feature that uses a memcached-like system to increase the performance of cache memory pages.
  • Support for many new hardware such as the Microsoft Kinect, AMD Llano Fusion APUs, Apple iSight webcam has been added.

You get a more detailed description of the changes here.

With Linux 3.0 released, the merge window for Linux 3.1 has started and it will remain open for two weeks.