Xfce 4.8 Released – Will Be Included In Natty

Xfce is a light weight desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms like Linux. It is used in many light weight Linux distributions, most notably in the Ubuntu derivative, Xubuntu.

Two years after the last stable release Xfce 4.8 has been released. Xfce 4.8 aims to improve upon the codebase of Xfce 4.6, the previous stable version, by bringing in modular and reusable components.

Thunar, the file browser in Xfce, has got a number of improvements with this release. Support for GNOME Virtual File System has been added to Thunar. This allows Thunar to browse remote shares using protocols like SFTP, SMB, FTP etc. Another improvement in Thunar is in the way it handles multiple file operations. When multiple file operations are taking place, they are all handled by one window instead of opening  separate  windows for each one. This will reduce  cluttering  of the desktop and make it easier to manage the file operations.

Another area of  major  improvement is the panel. The panel in Xfce 4.8 has been completely rewritten. The improvements introduced in this release consist of both eye-candies and productivity features. In terms of eyecandy, the main change is in the support for transparency. Users can now set the panel to be transparent if they want that look from KDE SC. The productivity improvements includes improved positioning, which allows the panels to be dragged and snapped to screen borders. The panel also features a new item editor which allows users to modify, move, add and remove items quickly.

These are just some of the visible changes in the UI. You can see the other changes in the changelog.

Xfce 4.8 has not only added new features. It has also dropped a few older pieces, like ThunarVFS and HAL with GIO, udev, ConsoleKit and PolicyKit, which are not supported in most of the new Linux distributions.

One of the major Linux distributions which ships with Xfce is Xubuntu and there is good news for Xubuntu users. Xubuntu developer, Pasi Lallinaho, has confirmed in a blog post that the next release of Xubuntu, that is Xubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal”, will ship with the new Xfce 4.8. So, expect all of these new features in three months time if you are using Xubuntu.

How To Install Unity 2D In Ubuntu 10.10 & 11.04

Yesterday, we told you that a 2D version of Unity will be available for computers which does not have hardware capable of 3D acceleration. Today a PPA containing the packages for Unity 2D has been created for early adopters to test it. The package itself is called Unity-Qt and the PPA contains packages for both Maverick and Natty.

Before you install it, keep in mind that this is an experimental package and could cause problems. So, install it only if you are willing to take that risk and cannot wait to see the new UI.

So, to install Unity 2D, open the Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal). Then add the PPA with the command below:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unity-2d-team/unity-2d-daily

After that update the software list.

$ sudo apt-get update

Finally install Unity-Qt.

$ sudo apt-get install unity-qt-default-settings

After the installation, log out from your current session. In the login screen, you will see “Unity Qt” in a drop-down menu. Pick that and login again. You should have the new UI now.

And if you run into a bug, you can report it here.

Cisco announces Linux-based IPTV STB

Cisco Systems has announced that they are building a suite of Linux-based products under the “Videoscape” brand to rival the likes of Google and Apple in their STB offerings. Very much like the Google TV or Apple TV, the Videoscape devices will have capabilities of accessing cable TV as well web video content.

The device will consist of a media gateway, an IP set top box and other Linux-based components which will enable consumers to not only access web content, but also search and manage cable TV, Internet video and video-conferencing . Furthermore, the consumer will able to watch their subscribed content from any of their devices like smartphones and tablet PCs.

Cisco plans to unveil two versions of their set-top-box. The first one, a Cisco TES301 IP Managed Services Gateway, will be an application-centric gateway that would integrate voice, high speed data, online video and routing. Other services like home monitoring and security will also be available as additional offerings.

Cisco Videoscape IPTV STB Media Gateway

The second and more advanced device , Cisco DRG 7000 Series IP Video Gateway, will be able to stream high-definition video to multiple devices through conversion of MPEG4 video from multicast to unicast. It will support industry standards like MoCA and DLNA.

Integration to social media websites will also be included enabling the user to share the content he’s watching with his friends.

Withholding the price of the device, Cisco has decided not to make these devices available off-the-shelf, for direct consumer consumption. Instead, Cisco plans to tie-up with service providers and make them available through cable operators. Currently only Australia’s Telstra has decided to offer these high-end STBs to their customers.

Ubuntu 11.04 Will Have A 2D Version Of Unity

As you may be already aware, Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal” will have Unity as the default interface. Unity in Natty is powered by Compiz and that will requires a graphics card capable of 3D acceleration. So, there were apprehensions that the new interface will not work with older hardware. It was suggested (and generally believed) that in the older hardware, it will fall back to the normal panel based interface.

This question was raised in Ask Ubuntu and none other than Mark Shuttleworth himself answered it. According to Shuttleworth, there will be a 2D version of Unity for those systems which are not capable of 3D acceleration. He also pointed to a blog post by Bill Filler, Software Engineer and Engineering Manager at Canonical, for more details.

Curiously, the blog post has been removed now. Did Filler jump the gun on this one? We do not know yet.

Anyway, according to the blog post, the 2D version of Unity is implemented using Qt/QML. Filler also noted that the 2D version is important not just for the older computers but many ARM devices as well.

This is what Bill Filler wrote:

Unity 2D’s main goal is to provide a Unity environment on hardware platforms that don’t support Unity’s Open GL requirements. Many ARM platforms fall into this category, so Unity 2D expands Unity’s goodness to a whole new set of platforms.

The software is implemented using Qt/QML for the UI portions of Unity, while utilizing the existing Unity core components, like indicators, bamf, dee, uTouch and places.

This will ensure that the Ubuntu desktops maintains uniformity and should come as good new to many.

[via: OMG!UBUNTU!]

Linux IQ Test

Are you a Linux geek ? Do you troll the IRC channels of #ubuntu and #fedora with the hopes of showing off your knowledge ? Are you proud of the fact that all your gadgets, like your Tablet, your Mobile Phone , your Laptop, etc. have Linux installed on them ?

Well if any of the answers to above questions   is a big “Hell Yeah !!” , you should test your knowledge of the OS you so love.

InfoWorld has just released it’s Round 2 of the Linux IQ test. Here’s a link to Round 1 of the test as well, just in case you missed that boat.

Linux IQ test Round 2

The Linux IQ tests are a set of 20 questions each ranging from command-line outputs to quotes from famous Linux developers to general industry knowledge about Linux. You will find a couple of funny questions paired with even funnier answer options.

I personally found the Round 2 much easier than Round 1, notwithstanding the fact that I scored 15 in both the rounds.

All in all, it’s a fun test which actually gives you a rain-check of your grip on the subject.

Do not forget to let us know your scores.

Canonical Launching A Ubuntu Developer Portal – Can It Attract Developers?

There is no doubt about the plans Mark Shuttleworth has for Ubuntu (see Bug #1), but this should come as a pleasant surprise to many – Canonical is launching a Ubuntu Developer Portal. This shows that Canonical is planning to market Ubuntu as a viable platform for application developers. They already have the Ubuntu Software Center, which supports paid applications from Ubuntu 10.10, as a platform to sell the applications.

Right now the portal is under construction. But there are already a lot of pages to explore. The Create section introduces potential developers to Ubuntu as a platform and the tools that can be used to develop. It also has an introduction to Quickly, which combines project creation, code editing, GUI editing, running and debugging, as well as packaging and sharing via Launchpad.net, all in one easy to use command line interface.

The portal also includes other sections such as Develop, Collaborate, Publish, Reference, Support and Manual. Except Reference and Manual, all the other sections have some sort of contents. Instead of me writing about them, I will leave it to you to explore them if  you want. You can see the portal at developer.ubuntu.com.

Now, this raises the question if Ubuntu can become a platform which can attract developers. The answer to that question boils down to one thing – money. If they can make money from Ubuntu, developers will come. Sure many developers contribute to Ubuntu on their own without any pay, but if there is money involved companies/developers with commercial interest will get involved as well – and that is not always a bad thing.

In the past, contrary to popular perception, Linux users have demonstrated that they are not against paying for software. For example in the Humble Indie Bundle #2, Linux users paid on an average $13.77 which is far greater than the $6.68 and $9.27 paid by Windows and Mac users. The total contribution from Linux users was almost the same as that of Mac users.

Yes, this is just one example. But it shows that Linux users do pay – and they pay well – for quality free (as in freedom, not beer) software. So, I believe the Ubuntu Developer Platform can succeed if implemented right.

[source: Ubuntu Forecast]

puddletag Is Probably The Best Audio Tagging Tool For Linux

Most Windows users would be aware of MP3tag. In Linux the choice of audio tagging tools available is huge, but none of them seem to have all the features of MP3tag.

However, with a recent release, which added a plethora of new features, puddletag seems to have finally bridged the gap with MP3tag. In fact, puddletag’s website describes it as similar to MP3tag – except for the bit that it is built for Linux and MP3tag is a Windows application.

puddletag has an interface which is very similar to MP3tag. Users of MP3tag should at home right away in puddletag. In terms of functions available too it is very similar.

puddletag supports a number of formats, including some obscure ones. The formats puddletag supports are:

  • ID3v1 and ID3v2 in MP3 files
  • MP4 in MP4 and M4A files
  • VorbisComments in OGG and FLAC files
  • Musepack in MPC files
  • Monkey’s Audio in APE files
  • WavPack in WV files

puddletag supports all the functions you would expect from a tag editor like adding/removing tags, adding removing album artworks, tagging from filenames, renaming files based on tags etc. It also supports a lot more features in the form of Functions. puddletag’s Functions take care of things that you would have to do repeatedly. It comes with a number of pre-defined functions for tasks like numbering tracks, case conversion, importing test fields, merging fields etc.

Another great feature in puddletag is the mass auto-tagging. The auto-tagging feature uses database from Amazon, MusicBrainz, FreeDB and Discogs to tag your audio collection.

How To Install in Ubuntu

Debian package for puddletag is available so installation is quite simple. But before installing puddletag, install the dependencies with the command given below:

sudo apt-get install python-qt4 python-pyparsing python-mutagen python-configobj python-musicbrainz2

After installing the  dependencies, download the .deb file by clicking on the link below. The file has been compiled in Ubuntu 10.04 but I installed it in Ubuntu 10.10 and it is working fine.

Download puddletag (.deb)

After downloading, double-click on the file to complete the rest of the installation process.

You can find puddletag at Applications > Sound & Video > puddletag.

Angry Birds May Come To The Ubuntu Software Center

Although it had a humble beginning as a game for iOS, Angry Birds has become a huge product now. It is now available for Android, Windows and recently Mac OS X. It is also coming to consoles like PS3, XBox360 and Wii.

It seems like  Ubuntu users may also have reason to cheer as well as the popular game may be heading to the Ubuntu Software Center after the consoles.

The Ubuntu Software Center is actually a GUI front end  to apt-get which allows users, who are uncomfortable command line, to browser, install or remove applications through simple mouse clicks. While most applications available in the Ubuntu Software Center are free, support for paid applications has also been added in the recent release of Ubuntu.

When asked if they have plans of bringing Angry Birds to Ubuntu, the Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, responded that they are looking into bringing it to the Ubuntu Software Center. Although this is not an outright confirmation that Ubuntu users will get Angry Birds, it is neither an outright denial which makes me hopeful.

Ubuntu already supports multi-touch on appropriate hardware and we may see Ubuntu tablets in the near future. So, maybe Ubuntu will be Rovio’s next target after the consoles.

(via: OMG!UBUNTU!)

Wary Puppy 5.0 Available For Download

Wary Puppy is a project of the Puppy Linux developer, Barry Kauler,  to develop a linux distro which provide support for older hardware. Puppy Linux is already a very light weight distro and runs well on many older systems. However, Puppy Linux is moving to a new software base and it may no longer run so well on the older hardware. To maintain the support for the older hardware Wary Puppy has been introduced.

Wary Puppy uses the older Linux kernel 2.6.31.14 because it provides better support for older hardware. Other components in Wary are a mix of old and new software. X.org which comes in Wary is quite old, Mesa is also fairly old and GTK, gcc etc. are fairly new. Wary also includes the latest releases of applications like SeaMonkey, Abiword, Gnumeric etc. and the latest drivers for printers, scanner etc.

Wary Puppy 5.0 is also an LTS release and will be supported for 2-3 years. In that  period  it will not have any major upgrades. There will be only bug fixes, incremental improvements and applications update.

As mentioned above, Wary Puppy is not meant for new powerful systems. If you have an old PC, you may want to try running Wary Puppy on it.

You can download Wary Puppy 5.0 from http://puppylinux.com/download/.

You can read more about Wary Puppy here.

[via: Linux Pro Magazine]

Skype Explains the Big December Failure

skypeOn December 22nd, millions of Skype users were left without service for roughly 24 hours. At the time, Skype was scrambling to get the system back up and didn’t offer a full explanation of what was happening. (what is Skype?)

Earlier today, Skype’s CIO, Lars Rabbe, gave a fairly detailed explanation about the system wide failure. Skype depends heavily on a world wide network of peer-to-peer nodesand supernodesthat are hosted by users running Skype’s software. This network distributes the service’s work load to each Skype user as needed.

According to Lars, a cluster of Skype servers overloaded and threw more of the load onto the peer-to-peer network. Normally, this should have only slowed the network down. Instead, a bug in some of the Windows clients running a newer Skype version, cause many to completely fail. About 50% of the peer-to-peer network stopped responding, and the entire network collapsed like a house of cards.

Skype technicians responded by creating new peers on the network called mega-supernodesto try to recover normal traffic, but the recovery still took a long time.

So what has Skype learned? Can they prevent downtime in the future? Here’s what Lars said about the future:

… we are learning the lessons we can from this incident and reviewing our processes and procedures, looking in particular for ways in which we can detect problems more quickly to potentially avoid such outages altogether, and ways to recover the system more rapidly after a failure.

Skype has become a critical communication tool for many individuals and companies. If Skype can avoid major disasters in the future, they’ll remain the king of VOIP. If not, they have plenty of competition waiting to jump in as a replacement.

Here are some of our previous posts about Skype: