NVIDIA Mends Open Sores? Documentation for Nouveau.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 25, 2013 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, Nouveau, linux

AMD commit numerous updates to the open source driver community, three months ago, and has otherwise assisted the Linux community in the past. The same has not been true for NVIDIA. Despite a respectable (albeit lacking compared to Windows) proprietary driver for Linux, this GPU vendor was not adored by the community. They have not been accused of malice, it would just seem to be control over both the end-user experience and, of course, their secret sauce.

Well, NVIDIA is being more cooperative.

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I, obviously, do not have a crystal ball of fortune telling (the journalist house of auction ran out and the gift shop is just too expensive) so it is anyone's guess the future extent of NVIDIA's involvement. For now, their assistance included 42 pages of Device Control Block documentation and proprietary developers answering questions on the Nouveau mailing list.

Many, from Ars Technica to our staff discussions at PC Perspective, note how the change of heart aligns with the SteamOS announcement. I do not really believe these events are related if only because I doubt NVIDIA would wait to contact developers until Valve spoke up. I would have to expect that SteamOS would not be a surprise to NVIDIA especially after Gabe Newell discussed Maxwell virtualization all the way back at CES.

You would think they would have come about while working with NVIDIA on the game streaming technology. You know, allow a single desktop to utilize multiple games across multiple devices. Even still, you would think NVIDIA would just put even more effort into their proprietary driver rather than help Nouveau.

Either way, we will keep an ear out for NVIDIA involvement with the open source community.

Tips on setting up Virtual Machines in Linux

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: virtualization, virtualbox, linux

When we talk about virtualization at PC Perspective we tend to talk about Windows, both for the host and the VMs.  For those who want a more penguin flavoured VM, Linux.com has a brief look at how to set up VirtualBox on a machine running Linux and creating and provisioning VMs.  Why should only Microsoft users benefit from the new optimizations on Intel and AMD processors?

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"VirtualBox is the excellent and user-friendly Type 2 Hypervisor that supports all the major operating systems. A Type 2 Hypervisor requires a host operating system to install on, and VirtualBox can be installed on Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, and Windows. Then you can run any of these operating systems on VirtualBox as guests in virtual machines."

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Source: Linux.com

A Linux powered laptop from System76 with all the trimmings

Subject: Mobile | August 27, 2013 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: linux, ubuntu, system76, Gazelle Pro

The component list of System76's Gazelle Professional laptop reads like a $1000+ ultrabook, a Core i7 4900MQ, 8GB of DDR3-1600, a 120GB Intel 520 SSD and 15.6-inch 1080p display.  Instead of Windows it ships with Ubuntu 13.04, part of the reason you can purchase the base model for $830.  Support for Haswell's HD Graphics 4600 is solid, with performance  far beyond the old HD Graphics 3000; the Ivy Bridge GPU can sometimes outperform Haswell but that will change as drivers improve.  Take a peek at the benchmarks in Phoronix's review.

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"System76 recently sent over their Haswell-based Gazelle Professional laptop that sports HD Graphics 4600, a fancy Intel SSD, 8GB of system memory, and a beautiful HD display. This Haswell Linux laptop has already been used for testing within a few Phoronix articles while now is a full look at this Ubuntu laptop along with some comparison performance tests."

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Source: Phoronix

Insync 1.0 For Linux Finally Out of Beta Status

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2013 - 12:57 AM |
Tagged: linux, insync, google drive, file sync

Insync, a service that enables file syncing between local machines and Google Drive cloud storage recently announced that its Linux client has been updated to version 1.0 and is officially out of beta.

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Several bug fixes and performance tweaks hve been made to the Insync Linux client, which has gone through several beta testing/feedback cycles between the Windows and Mac 1.0 release and the new Linux 1.0 release. Users can now install Insync for Linux on various Linux distributions using apt-get or yum. Insync 1.0 for Linux will further add a new right-click context menu that allows users to add files to Insync and the software takes care of adding a symlink to the Insync folder automatically. The local Insync files will then be sync to Google Drive, including your documents.

Unfortunately, the file compare update is still being worked on. This update wil enable users to update to version 1.0 from a x.9 release without re-downloading all of their data stored in Google Drive. According to Insync, this feature is slated for inclusion in the Insync 1.1 Linux client.

More information on the latest Insync for Linux application can be found at insynchq.com/linux.

Source: Insync

Could Linux 3.11 for Workgroups win the Desktop for Linux? Okay, probably not, but it's a good pun.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 17, 2013 - 03:58 AM |
Tagged: linux, Windows 3.11

Remember the time where Microsoft would only succeed on their third attempt? Did you ever wonder where Microsoft lost their way, instead stuck with some semi-regular sequence of alternating good and terrible? I cannot tell you at what point we lost the magical third version, it left unannounced about a decade ago, but Windows 3 will be its earliest popular example. Windows 3.11 for Workgroups eclipsed the then dominant Apple and helped put a computer in every office.

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Image, Linux Foundation via The H Open.

Even Linus Torvalds, the creator and lead maintainer of the Linux Kernel, referred to the notoriety of Windows 3.11 with Linux heading toward 3.11. That version of Linux is now developed under the codename, "Linux for Workgroups". Tux, the penguin mascot of Linux, can be seen waving a retro-fashioned Windows flag. Perhaps in a few decades when they reach version 6, Tux can learn to play the tuba... or some other type of... long... horn.

A little luck is what Linux requires to become adopted by the home PC market. Unlike Windows 3, Linux has been a great operating system for decades. The real problem with Linux is branding, many equate the OS with command-line inputs, or believe that it does not welcome proprietary software into its open gates. Clearly, both statements are untrue: Linux is the foundation for Android and many other popular graphical UIs, and one can easily be against selling a software's right to exist without being against selling the software itself. Otherwise, very few critiques can be justified against Linux.

Readers: What is your favorite "wait for version 3" example, with or without Microsoft?

Source: The H Open

CompuLab Launches SFF Utilite PC Powered By Quad Core ARM Processor

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 14, 2013 - 11:51 PM |
Tagged: utilite, ubuntu, silent, SFF, linux, fanless, cortex-a9, compulab, arm, Android

CompuLab has announced a new fanless, small form factor PC called the Utilite. This new PC comes from the same company that engineered the MintBox, MintBox 2, and Fit PC series. The Utilite is a low-power desktop PC powered by a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor and runs either Ubuntu Linux or Google’s Android operating system.

The upcoming Utilite measures 5.3” x 3.9” x 0.8”(135 x 100 x 21mm) and consumes anywhere between 3W and 8W of power depending on the particular hardware configuration. It is designed to be a quiet desktop replacement with plenty of IO.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC.jpg

CompuLab will provide single core, dual core, and quad core CPU SKUs. Specifically, the Utilite is powered by a Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor that is clocked at up to 1.2 GHz. Users will be able to further configure the system with up to 4GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory and a 512GB mSATA SSD. Storage can be further expanded using Micro SD-XC cards (maximum of 128GB per card). The GPU in the SoC is compatible with OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 as well as OpenVG 1.1 and OpenCL EP. It is capable of hardware decoding multi-stream 1080p video in a variety of common formats.

Wireless functionality includes an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card and Bluetooth 3.0.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC Cortex-A9 MPCore.jpg

The Utilite has a dark gray case with silver front and rear bezels.

The front of the Utilite PC features the following IO options in addition to the power button and indicator LEDs.

  • 1 x USB OTG (Micro USB)
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 1 x Micro SD card slot
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in, line out)

The rear of the PC hosts:

  • 1 x DC power input
  • 1 x Wi-Fi antenna
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 jacks
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs

According to fanless PC guru FanlessTech, CompuLab will be releasing the ARM-powered Utilite mini PC next month with a starting price of $99 and a variety of SKUs with varying amounts of CPU cores, memory, and storage. The Utilite PC is a bit on the expensive side, but this is a system for industrial and enterprise use as well as consumers, and Olivier from FanlessTech notes that build quality should be on par with those goals/industry aims.

Source: Utilite

Linux Kernel 3.10 Adds New Drivers, SSD Caching Framework, Networking Improvements, and More

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: linux, linux kernel, kernel 3.10, linus, bcache, TLP, btrfs, XFS, UVD

Earlier this week, Linus Torvalds officially released an updated Linux kernel with version 3.10. The new kernel bakes in a number of tweaks and new features, including a new SSD caching framework, new drivers and hardware support, networking improvements, and experimental file system tweaks.

Kernel 3.10 features quite a few improvements to storage. The big new feature is bcache, or Black Layer Cache, which is a framework that allows an SSD to acts as a read and write cache for a slower mechanical hard drive. The SSD will cache frequently accessed data to improve read times as well as act as a write cache that will write data bound for the hard drive to the SSD temporarily until a low usage point when the data will finally be written out to the mechanical hard drive.

Additionally, the kernel developers have made tweaks to the btrfs and XFS file systems. For example, XFS can create and store checksums of metadata to reduce errors and verify data integrity. Performance when using btrfs has also been slightly improved.

Driver and hardware support added to kernel 3.10 includes support for the UVD hardware found in AMD Radeon graphics cards from the 4000 series and beyond, and allows for hardware accelerated video decoding. The kernel also supports the GPU in Richland APUs and the acceleration hardware in NVIDIA's Tegra 2 and 3 SoCs. For Intel systems that use HD processor graphics, PCs will be able to wake from standby faster using the 3.10 kernel. There is also support for ARM's big.LITTLE processors, the IR receiver that Apple uses in its Mac computers, and other new and improved drivers with the latest kernel. 

On the networking side of things, kernel 3.10 implements the Tail Loss Probe algorithm which makes improvements to the TCP networking stack and how it deals with lost packets. The new kernel networking stack tweaks reportedly result in up to a 15% reduction in packet retransmission timeouts and 6% shorter HTTP response times.

Aside from these larger changes, kernel 3.10 has a great deal of under-the-hood fixes. For all the nitty-gritty geeky details, the H-Online has put together a detailed breakdown of all the tweaks and new features baked into the latest 3.10 Linux kernel.

For a comparison / breakdown of what the previous 3.9 kernel brought to the table, see this post.

Linux-Powered SFF MintBox 2 Coming Soon for $600

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2013 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mintbox 2, mintbox, linux mint, linux

Last year, CompuLabs and the developers behind the Linux Mint operating system put together a small form factor PC called the MintBox. It seems that the project was successful enough to warrant a updated offering, because specifications were recently posted online for the MintBox 2. The MintBox 2 is a router sized, passively cooled PC that will be available later this year for $600.

MintBox 2 Mini SFF PC With Linux Mint 15 Olivia.jpg

The new MintBox 2 reportedly offers up to four-times the performance of the original MintBox Pro. Internal specifications will include an Intel Core i5 3337U processor clocked at 1.8GHz base (2.7GHz max turbo), 4GB of RAM (8GB max), a 500GB mechanical hard drive, and a NIC with two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The fan-less system is tiny, at 7.5" x 6.3 " x 1.57" (19 x 16 x 4cm). It will be available on Amazon for $599.

Where the original MintBox Basic and MintBox Pro scored 1,077 and 1,615 in the Geekbench benchmark, the upcoming MintBox 2 scored 7,541. In addition to the extra performance, CompuLabs is also extending the warranty period from 1 year on the original MintBox PCs to 5 years for the MintBox 2.

The MintBox 2 will come pre-installed with the latest Linux Mint 15 "Olivia" operating system.

A small Linux Mint logo is surrounded by four USB 2.0 ports on the front of the device. Exact rear IO specificaitons has not yet been released, but if last year's model is any indication, users can expect more USB 2.0 ports, a couple of USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, digital display outputs, and an eSATA port.

More information can be found on the Linux Mint blog.

Source: Linux Mint

Haswell on Linux is off to a great start

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2013 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: haswell, linux

With the initial difficulties seen with Linux crossing Intel's Bridges it is nice to see decent compatibility from Haswell at launch.  While the GPU side does lag somewhat behind the performance offered by the Windows driver it is nowhere near as far behind as in the previous architectures.  For raw CPU calculations it is running at peak performance on newer Linux kernels, offering not only a decent upgrade but significantly improved power efficiency.  Phoronix have gathered their various reviews to give you a look at the current overall compatibility of Haswell as well as performance results in their latest post.

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"Since the Computex launch of Intel's much anticipated Haswell processors at the beginning of the month, there's been much Linux coverage on Phoronix concerning the compatibility and performance of these new Intel processors from both the processing and graphics sides. Here's a summary of all of our discoveries and findings over the past few weeks."

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Source: Phoronix

How well does Haswell do Ubuntu?

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: linux, haswell, ubuntu 13.04, i7-4770k

The story is familiar as you can quickly see from this quote in Phoronix's review of Haswell on Linux, "Polished Haswell support coming to an "out of the box" Linux desktop won't really be there until later in H2'2013."  However that does not mean it does not work at all, they tested several kernels and versions to find the most stable way to run Haswell and to take advantage of the internal GPU.  They successfully tested with Linux 3.10 kernel, Mesa 9.2, GCC 4.8.1, and LLVM 3.3 and found performance improvements across the board when compared to Ivy Bridge processors which could be a good reason to consider holding out on an Ivy Bridge CPU as an upgrade choice, as Intel is working to improve Haswell support and it is a much improved CPU compared to previous generations.

phoronixhaswell.jpg

"This past weekend I shared the first experiences of running Intel's new Haswell CPU on Linux. While Intel Haswell is a beast and brings many new features and innovations to the new Core CPUs succeeding Ivy Bridge, there were a few shortcomings with the initial Linux support. It still appears that the Core i7 4770K is still being finicky at times for both the processor and graphics, but in this article are the first benchmarks. Up today are benchmarks of the Intel Core i7 4770K when running Ubuntu 13.04 with the Linux 3.10 kernel."

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Source: Phoronix