GNOME Continues Growing Up; 3.2 Released and Ready

If you’re a casual Linux user, you’re likely to be sporting either KDE or Gnome when it comes to the desktop environment. Gnome has become the popular DE to wrap into a distribution, especially since Ubuntu has decided to forge ahead with Unity (based on Gnome Shell) in future releases.

The GNOME project has packaged and prepared their latest version, 3.2 — which is based on a 6 month release cycle. Good or bad, every 6 months there will be a version freeze and a new release of code will be shipped. Today is that day. GNOME 3.2 brings along a plethora of bug-fixes, feature additions and overall user experience enhancements.

The release highlights include;

  • It is now easier to resize a window as the area for this has been increased.
  • System Settings now includes links to related settings found in other locations. For instance, the Keyboard section now has a link to the keyboard layout.
  • Titlebars, buttons, and other controls are less tall, making it easier to use GNOME on small screens.
  • Notifications in the lower-right corner now include a counter. This makes it easier to see how many emails are waiting for you without having to open your email program, or to determine how many messages you have missed in a particular chat.
  • The highlight effect that indicates that an application is already running has been made more obvious.
  • In the user menu, notifications can be configured independently from the chat status.
  • The workspace switcher in the overview remains expanded by keeping its full width displayed when you are using more than one workspace.
  • Instead of assuming Evolution, the application for the calendar drop-down can now be customized.
  • The battery power status is now shown using a bar.
  • Focus-follows-mouse handling has improved, though more work is needed.

New applications are also bundled in the packages. The Accounts application includes support for the cloud and can sync your Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Chat and Documents.

Speaking of Documents, there is also a completely new application that provides quick and easy access to all locally and remote documents. Finding, editing and saving remote documents will be a cinch with Google Docs support built right in.

As usual, the GNOME team is looking at the future of computing, they’ve enhanced and reduced user interactions to complete tasks, they’ve integrated social features and have even added a brand new on-screen keyboard in the event that this whole Post-PC drivel comes to fruition.

As usual, the Release Notes are in the GNOME Library and provide a comprehensive look at the subtle changes that have been incorporated. Look for your favourite distribution to polish, package and push GNOME 3.2 once the repository maintainers vet the source and make their branding modifications.

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:

Linux Mint 11 KDE To Be Based On Debian Not Kubuntu

Linux Mint is an easy to use Linux distribution that is based on Ubuntu. One of the main advantage of Linux Mint has been its polish and ease of use. Recently with Ubuntu adopting the Unity UI, many Ubuntu users have migrated to Linux Mint.

linux-mint-logo Yesterday, the Linux Mint developers have announced that they will not base Linux Mint 11 KDE on Kubuntu. Instead, it will be based on Debian. It is worth remembering here that Ubuntu itself is based on Debian. By going to Debian directly, Linux Mint is cutting out the polish and features that Ubuntu brings.

Then why are they moving to Debian? Simple, the Kubuntu base needed too much resource and lacked performance. Kubuntu has never enjoyed a good reputed among KDE SC users. Most users of KDE SC will tell you that Kubuntu is one of the worst distributions for KDE.

Another issue that the Linux Mint developers have found is that the installer in Kubuntu has had a regression and cannot detect other operating systems. This will cause a big problem for new users and a big annoyance for more advance users.

Because of these issues, it has been decided that the next version Linux Mint 11 KDE will be based on Linux Mint Debian Edition (or LMDE as it is more commonly known).

No definite date for the release of Linux Minth 11 KDE has been set yet.


Gwibber Gets Revamped For Ubuntu 11.10 – Much Lighter And Faster Now

Gwibber is the default micro-blogging application that comes with Ubuntu. Ever since it has been included as a default application in Ubuntu, I have complained about it in every review I had done. It is so sluggish and consumes so much system resource that using it is never possible while doing any intensive task.


Well, things are about to change in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. Ubuntu 11.10 will have a fully revamped version of Gwibber Gwibber 3.1. While the earlier version of Gwibber was made using Python and Webkit, Gwibber 3.1 is made using Vala and GTK3.

What the change from Python/Webkit to Vala/GTK3 does is that it makes the application much lighter and faster. That has also allowed for the addition of some fancy animations to make the application better looking.

According to Gwibber developer Ken VanDine, the improvement in performance in Gwibber 3.1 is huge. This is what he told OMG!Ubuntu!:

The old client limited the stream to the latest 50 posts and would use about 150MB of RAM. The new client doesn’t limit the posts, in my test with 3000 posts in the stream it used about 42MB RAM.

Not only is that 3000 posts in a stream, we keep all the streams hotfor fast switching between them. So we actually have them all created and hidden.

Gwibber 3.1 also has a new user interface designed by Neil Patel. The new UI uses plenty of animations to make Gwibber comparable to the other Twitter clients available for Mac OS X and Windows. It also supports sorting of streams according to the oldest/newest post.

There is no plan as such to make Gwibber 3.1 available for Ubuntu 11.04. However, Jorge Castro of Canonical said that it might be available once it makes its way into Ubuntu 11.10.

[image credit]

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 Released For Testing

After the delay. Canonical has released the second alpha of Ubuntu 11.10. Meant for development purposes, this release has a number of new features that will finally make it to the final release in October.

The most visible changes will be the change from GDM to LightDM. LightDM has not been themed yet, unfortunately. So, when user starts up Ubuntu 11.10, they will not see the sleek-looking login. However, LightDM is extremely customizable and we should see some awesome themes soon. Another thing about LightDM is that it is very light weight and much faster than GDM.

Another change that testers will notice is Deja Dup. Deja Dup is a very easy-to-use backup tool that also supports backup to your Ubuntu One account. Users will find this a very useful application indeed.

Because of the restriction of the CD size limit, the addition of the new application Deja Dup meant that some other application has to be dropped. They application they decided to drop is Synaptic Package Manager. For new users, Synaptic is too difficult and they generally prefer the Ubuntu Software Center. As for the experienced users who find Synaptic much better, they can always install it through the command line.

The last change in applications is the email client.In Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2, Evolution has been replaced by Thunderbird 5. The decision to replace Evolution is not yet final though. If Thunderbird is found lacking during the testing, Evolution will be brought back.

The not-so-visible changes includes Linux 3.0-rc5 and GTK 3.

Kate Stewart, who made the announcement, warned that this is a release meant for testing and is not recommended for normal users.

Pre-releases of Oneiric Ocelot are *not* encouraged for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu developers and those who want to help in testing, reporting, and fixing bugs.

If you want to test it, you can download Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 from here.

You can check out the release schedule here.

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 To Be Released On 7th June

According to the original release schedule, Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 was supposed to be released on 30th June. The release date was missed and now, it has been revealed that the second alpha of Ubuntu 11.10 will be released on 7th July. The other release date remains unchanged.

Now, here is the updated release schedule of Ubuntu 11.10:

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 1 2nd June

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 7th July

Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 3 4th August

Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 1 1st September

Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 23rd September

Ubuntu 11.10 Release Candidate 6th October

Ubuntu 11.10 Final Version 13th October

While the first Alpha was fairly mundane, the second Alpha will see many new features that will finally make it to the final release in October. Here is a list of the changes you will see in Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2:

  • GNOME 3 Finally, Ubuntu has made the transition from GNOME 2.32 to GNOME 3. By now, most the theme problems has been fixed. The default Ubuntu themes Ambiance and Radiance have been ported to GTK3.
  • Hybrid Image The ISO of Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 will be a hybrid image. This means that users no longer need the USB Startup Application to create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive.
  • No Synaptic Package Manager The Synaptic Package Manager will be no longer installed by default in Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2.
  • Thunderbird as default email client Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 will not have Evolution as the default email client. Thunderbird will be installed as the default email client instead.
  • Linux 3.0 Ubuntu 11.10 will be based on the newly released Linux 3.0.
  • Deja Dup The backup tool, Deja Dup, will be installed by default in Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2.
  • Firefox 5 – Firefox – the default web browser in Ubuntu 11.10 – will be updated to the latest version.

Thunderbird Becomes Default Email Client In Ubuntu 11.10

During the Ubuntu Developer Summit at Budapest, we reported that Thunderbird is being considered for replacing Evolution as the default email client for Ubuntu 11.10. The development for Ubuntu 11.10, though, started with Evolution as the default client since Thunderbird did not integrate into GNOME as well.

Well, it seems like Thunderbird has been pushed to replace Evolution in the latest daily build. According to the changelogs, noticed by Andrew of WebUpd8, evolution has been removed from desktop-recommends and Thunderbird has been added in its place. This means that in the next daily build of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, Thunderbird will be installed as the default email client.

This will be a welcome change for many users. I personally do not use desktop email clients, but I know many who do and most of them installs Thunderbird. Another advantage of having Thunderbird by default could be familiarity. Thunderbird is widely used in Windows as well. So, when a user switches to Ubuntu, it will be a pleasant experience to find the same application.

However, the change is not yet final. There is still the slight chance that things may not turn out well and developers decides to keep Evolution.

One critical feature that users will miss after the switch to Thunderbird is the calendar. Unlike Evolution, Thunderbird does not have an integrated calendar. However, it is easy to add one using add-on.

Do you want to see Thunderbird finally replacing Evolution? Or do you want think they should keep Evolution?

Synaptic Package Manager Removed From The Ubuntu 11.10 ISO

When Canonical started developing the Ubuntu Software Center, I knew that a time will come when it will completely replace Synaptic. The Software Center is a noob-friendly replacement for Synaptic where users can discover new applications more easily.

The Software Center had already taken over the function of Gdebi in Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat and Gdebi is no longer included in the Ubuntu ISO. Unexpectedly, Canonical has decided that it is time for the Software Center to replace Synaptic as well. So, in the next daily build of Ubuntu 11.10, Synaptic will no longer be installed by default.

The decision to remove Synaptic is a very unexpected one. Yes, the Ubuntu Software Center looks prettier and new users are more likely to use it, but it does not have nearly as much feature as Synaptic does. Many of the features that are missing in the Ubuntu Software Center right now are very crucial features. Here is a list of some of the features that Synaptic has but are still absent in the Ubuntu Software Center:

  • Fix broken packages
  • Upgrade or downgrade a single or multiple packages
  • Lock packages to a specific version
  • Force install of a specific version of a package

There is still four months left till Ubuntu 11.10 gets released. I hope that is enough time for Canonical to add these missing features.

Synaptic will continue to be available in the repository, though, and can be installed with

$ sudo apt-get install synaptic

source: WebUpd8

Firefox 5 Available In The Ubuntu 11.04 Main Repository

Well, that did not take long! Firefox 5 was officially released only yesterday and today the Ubuntu 11.04 repository has been updated with Firefox 5.

Generally the major releases of Firefox (or any software for that matter) are not included in the main repository (except for than the LTS) and if they do gets included, it takes a lot of time. Firefox 5 is not very different from Firefox 4, which is already there in the repository. That might be the reason for Firefox 5 being available so quickly.

Firefox 5 in Ubuntu 11.04


So, users of Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” do not need to add any extra repository to install Firefox. All that you need to do is update your system as usual.

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

If you do not like the command line interface, you can also update using the Update Manager. Click on Check and after it has finished checking, click on the Install Updates button.

Firefox 5 is available in the main repository only for Ubuntu 11.04. So, those who are still using previous versions of Ubuntu will have to add the extra repository to upgrade to Firefox 5 as we have mentioned here.

The jump from Firefox 4 to Firefox 5 is very small compared to, say, that from Firefox 3.6 to Firefox 4. So, those who are already using Firefox 4 should not face any problem after upgrading. Firefox 5 brings some new feature such as Do-Not-Track and has better performance and handling of CSS animations. You can read our review of Firefox 5 here.

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.