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.

ph_haswell.jpg

"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

Revisting support the HD4000 graphics core on Ubuntu

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2013 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, linux, ubuntu 13.04

The news might be heavily slanted towards Haswell right now but for Linux users improvements to Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge GPU drivers are still a major focus.  As there have been updates to the drivers as well as to Ubuntu, Phoronix felt it was time to revisit the performance metrics of the graphics on a Core i3 3217U.  While they did see improvements when you compare it to previous driver versions it seems that there is still some work to do as the performance still lags behind the Win7 driver.

phoronix_sbib.jpg

"After yesterday's Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Linux graphics comparison using the very latest Intel Linux graphics driver, here are new benchmarks using the latest Windows and Linux Intel OpenGL graphics driver. Facing competition this morning is Microsoft Windows 7 Pro x64 and Ubuntu 13.04 with its updated open-source stack."

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Source: Phoronix

Ubuntu bug #1 closed with a sense of humour

Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2013 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, microsoft

The first bug reported about Ubuntu has been closed, it was titled "Microsoft has a majority market share" and could be easily reproduced.

"1. Visit a local PC store
2. Attempt to buy a machine without any proprietary software"

The bug has now been updated to "Fix Released", thanks to the fact that the definition of computer has greatly increased in breadth over the past few years.  Smartphones are running predominantly non-Microsoft OSes and the availability of iOS and Android tablets have really turned the market in a new direction.  Now it is possible to pick up a computer that is good enough for casual usage which has no Microsoft software installed whatsoever.  Finding white box laptops with no installed OS is still uncommon but nowhere near as rare as it once was.  Slashdot links to his full post here.

ubiuntu.jpg

"Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu fame has closed the primal bug on Launchpad, standing since 2004 and titled 'Microsoft has a majority market share,' due to the 'changing realities' of tablets, smartphones, and wearable computing."

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Source: Slashdot

Raspberry Pi Replacing X11 With Wayland/Weston To Get GPU Acceleration

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: x11, weston, wayland, videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, linux, bcm2835, arm

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with Collabora to fund development of a Wayland display server that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi and also allows the continued use of legacy X applications.

So far, operating systems that run on the Raspberry Pi have used X as the display server and window compositor. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants to move to a window compositor that will take advantage of the Raspberry Pi's Hardware Video Scaler (HVS) and take the burden of window composition off of the relatively much slower ARM CPU. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has chosen Wayland as the display server for the task.

The Raspberry Pi Model A.

Taking advantage of the HVS and OpenGL ES compatible GPU will make the system feel much more responsive and allow for advanced effects (fading, Expose'-like window browsers, et al) for those that like a little more bling with their OS.

The Wayland/Weston display server allows for GPU acceleration and window composition using the Pi's VideoCore IV GPU and HVS (which is independent of the hardware units that run OpenGL code). The display server will feed the entire set of windows along with how they should be laid out on screen (stacking order, transparency, 2D transform, ect.) to the HVS which will hardware accelerate the process and free the ARM CPU up for other tasks.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Raspberry Pi's HVS is fairly powerful for a mobile-class SoC with 500 Megapixel/s scaling throughput and 1 Gigapixel per second blending throughput.

Wayland running on Raspberry Pi.jpg

In addition to GPU acceleration, Wayland will allow non-rectangular windows, fading and other effects, support for legacy X applications with Xwayland, and a scaled window browser.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with developers since late last year and is nearly ready to roll a technology preview into the next Raspian operating system release. The developers are still working on improving the performance and  reducing memory usage. As a result, the new Wayland/Weston display server is not expected to become the new default in the various Raspberry Pi operating systems until late 2013 at the earliest.

This is a project that is really nice to see, especially since at least a small part of the development work going into supporting the ARM-based Raspberry Pi on Wayland will help other ARM devices and Wayland in general which is becoming an increasingly popular choice in new Linux distributions and the best X alternative so far. Of course, this is primarily going to be a useful update for those Raspberry Pi users that run OSes with GUIs as the responsiveness should be a lot snappier!

If you simply can't wait until later this year, it is possible to install the technology preview (beta) of Wayland/Weston onto the current version of Raspbian Linux by cloning the git project or installing a Raspbian package of Weston 1.0. Blogger Daniel Stone has all the details for installing the display server onto your Pi under the section titled "sounds great; how do i get it?" on this post.

See a video of Wayland technology preview in action on the Raspberry Pi on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's blog.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

Insync Releases 1.0 RC for Linux

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: insync, google drive, cloud storage, linux

Insyc has released a new release candidate for its Google Drive companion software that adds a few new features and bug fixes to the Linux client.

According to Insync, the 1.0 RC implements an improved syncing core build from scratch. It also allows users to selectively sync files and folders between local storage and their Google Drive cloud storage. It is no longer all or nothing, and you can choose to only store what you need locally rather than the entire document archive now. The release candidate software also allows customized account folders that can be renamed and moved to other locations on the drive. Symlink support, headless installs, and a CLI (command line interface) client are also included in the Insync 1.0 RC.

Insync has also made changes to the management user interface to make configuring the syncing options easier. Finally, Insync has also coded in a notification function that will notify users of changes to files on Google Drive which will be handy for collaborative documents and spreadsheets.

Insync has put together Debian packages for OSes like Ubuntu (Nautilus) and Mint (Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce desktop environments). Additionally, support for KDE and RPM packages is “coming soon.” You can grab the new beta 1.0 RC client here.

Source: Insync

Mageia 3, a new flavour of Linux to try

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2013 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: linux, mageia

If you've been looking around for a different OS for a laptop or PC that doesn't spend all of its time gaming you have probably taken a look at some of the more famous Linux distros but one may have escaped your attention.  Mageia 3 has just arrived, the successor to the Mandriva project and as it offers both Gnome and KDE desktop versions you can chose the interface which you are most comfortable with.  As it comes as a Live DVD you can boot to  it on a current machine without having to go through the process of a full install and can leave your current OS intact.  Perhaps you have a family member or friend that spends their time browsing that you support and are looking for an alternative to Microsoft or are even just looking to avoid the cost of a new license on an inexpensive mobile device; if so drop by The Inquirer for the links to download Mageia 3.

mageia.jpg

"LINUX DISTRIBUTION Mageia launched its third and latest release Mageia 3 a few days ago, and that's now available to download directly from the Mageia website and many of the well known mirrors like kernel.org and many university supported mirrors via either Bittorrent, http or ftp."

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Source: The Inquirer

New Ubuntu 13.04 Release Upgrades Unity, Ditches Wubi, and Updates Applications

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2013 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: wubi, Unity, ubuntu 13.04, ubuntu, openstack, linux, canonical

Canonical released its the Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail” Linux distribution earlier this week. The updated operating system incorporates a new Linux kernel, newer pre-installed applications, and a tweaked Unity desktop environment. Enterprise and server users also have updated server software stacks to look forward to, including the latest juju and OpenStack (Grizzly) releases.

Ubuntu Logo.jpg

Ubuntu 13.04 continues in the direction of convergence set in motion by Canonical and its founder Mark Shuttleworth. It is the first step towards Ubuntu running on many types of devices (including mobile) as it includes an updated Unity interface. The 13.04 release still uses the X window system, but Canonical has made tweaks to Unity and is offering up an optional download of the new Mir display backend that users can install. Mir is the display server that Ubuntu will be switching to with its next LTS release and that will reportedly enable a cross-platform Ubuntu/Unity experience. The Unity tweaks include disabling Workspaces and the “show desktop” button on the desktop (though they can be re-enabled in settings). There have also been tweaks to Ubuntu’s Dash UI, including a typo-tolerant search function and new result sorting options. It will not be until the next release that users will really start to see Ubuntu’s plans of convergence come together (heh), but even with the small changes present in 13.04, the traditional desktop OS is making considerations for mobile devices.

While the visual changes are minimal on Ubuntu 13.04 compared to 12.10, the new release does update a lot of the underlying software.At least on the outside, Ubuntu 13.04 has not changed much from its 12.10 predecessor. Ubuntu 13.04 is based on the upstream 3.8.8 Linux kernel, and incorporates a number of updates to the pre-installed applications and core software. The updates include Unity 7, LibreOffice 4, and Python 3.3 (future versions of Ubuntu will remove Python 2 completely, though it will still be available as a downloadable package). Gwibber has also been replaced with a new service called “Friends” that takes all of your social networking accounts and combines them under your Ubuntu Online account.

Additionally, Ubuntu 13.04 also no longer includes the Wubi installer, which allowed users to install Ubuntu as a program within Windows and got around the need to mess with partitioning. Although there was a bit of overhead in doing the install this way, it was noticeably easier for new users than other methods. Canonical suggests that users interested in trying out the new operating system should simply use the live media, but installing it in a VM such as VirtualBox or VMWare may be more appropriate as some of the functionality is missing from the Live DVD environment in my experience (at least if you also want to try out functionality or other Linux software that would require a restart). Canonical has also cut the support time in half for Ubuntu 13.04 (and all future interim releases) from 18 months to 9 months. Hopefully the development team puts the reduced support workload to good use by investing the time in quick and stable releases.

So far, Ubuntu 13.04 has been getting positive reviews, though some users have run into issues running the operating system on their particular hardware (a bit of instability is expected with a new release, however).

If you are interested in Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail,” you can read more about the changes in the official release notes and grab a download of the OS from the Ubuntu website or the updater if you are currently running Ubuntu 12.10.

Source: Ubuntu

New Linux Kernel 3.9 Adds New Features Including KVM on ARM and SSD Caching Support

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2013 - 09:46 AM |
Tagged: ssd caching, operating system, linux, kernel 3.9, kernel, arm, 802.11ac

Linus Torvalds recently released a new version of the Linux kernel -- version 3.9 -- that advances the core of the GNU/Linux operating system with a number of new features. Among other tweaks, the new kernel rolls in new drivers, improves virtualization support, adds new hardware sleep modes, and tweaks file system and storage support.

The new kernel has added quite a few new experimental features, but developers/enthusiasts will no longer have to employ the CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL flag when compiling the kernel in order to enable them. The kernel development team has decided to remove that option, enable the features by default, and merely tag those experimental features in the documentation. One of the experimental features is SSD caching that allows a solid state drive to cache both reads and writes. The SSD can cache frequently accessed data on the faster solid state drive as well as take the write cached data and write it to the hard drive when the IO subsystem isn’t being heavily utilized. The feature is not new to Linux distributions, but the caching support has now been moved to the kernel. Furthermore, the kernel is now RAID-aware when using the btrfs file system and RAID 5 or RAID 6.

Tux.jpg

On the driver front, Linux Kernel 3.9 now supports Intel’s upcoming 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapters, improved HD audio codec, AMD’s Oland (8500/8600) and Richland GPUs, and additional NVIDIA GPU support. The new kernel also rolls in a power-optimized driver for Intel’s Haswell GPU and several more track pads.

Kernel 3.9 also adds a new suspend/sleep mode. It will use more power than the traditional S3 (suspend to memory) sleep mode because components are not completely powered down (merely at their lowest sleep mode), but the system will be almost-instantly accessible upon exiting the new suspend mode as a result. According to H-Online, this "lightweight suspend" mode would be ideal for mobile devices or hardware used in network appliances. Also interesting is support for a KVM hypervisor on ARM Cortex A15 SoCs as well as some software tweaks to the kernel to improve web server workloads by allowing multiple networking sockets (and associated CPU processes) to listen on the same network port.

In all, version 3.9 looks to be a worthy upgrade, and one that I hope Linux distro makers will opt for in upcoming releases. I think the new drivers and the SSD caching being rolled into the kernel are the most important features for desktop users, though the networking stack improvements also sound interesting.

For more details, Thorsten Leemhuis has written up an extensive article on the new kernel.

Source: H-Online