Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2013 - 12:57 PM | Tim Verry
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 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.
Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2013 - 09:46 AM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2013 - 07:25 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, steam for linux, steam, pc gaming, linux, l4d2, beta
Users of Valve’s Steam for Linux client will be getting access to the beta version of Left 4 Dead 2 later this week. The L4D2 beta will come with the new Enhanced Mutation System (EMS), which adds advanced scripting options to the multiplayer zombie survival game.
In fact, all Left 4 Dead owners will get access to the new beta release via the Steam client (not just the Linux platform) for free. The beta will appear in the all games list as a separate download from the main Left 4 Dead 2 game. It will allow beta players to connect to beta servers and other L4D2 beta users.
The EMS system is the biggest addition to the beta currently. It gives developers access to custom script logic as well as custom spawn points and control entities. New maps, characters, and weapons are beyond the scope of the EMS, however.
Interested gamers should keep an eye on their Steam games list as well as the Left 4 Dead blog.
Subject: Systems | April 9, 2013 - 03:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu 12.04 lts, ubuntu, linux, dell, alienware x51
Dell has been one of the biggest (major OEM) supporter of the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system, and it seems the Linux love is trickling down to the company's boutique Alienware PC lineup as well. A new version of the Alienware X51, a small form factor gaming PC, is now available with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS pre-installed. Quite possibly the closest thing (so far) to a Steam Box, the Alienware X51 can run the Steam for Linux client along with all of the Linux games available on Valve's digital distribution service. Granted, the Ubuntu version cannot tap into the relatively-massive Windows game library out of the box, but it is also $100 cheaper than the X51 pre-installed with Windows due to Linux being free, and thus costing Dell less.
The Alienware X51 hardware is decent for a small form factor system, though it maxes out at a NVIDIA GTX 660 in the highest-end SKU. For $600, you can get an X51 will a dual-core Intel Core i3-3220 processor clocked at 3.3GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 645 1GB graphics card, 6GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. On the other end fo the part configuration is the highest-end $1049 option, with a quad-core Core i7-3770 CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 660 1.5GB GPU, 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive.
The Alienware X51 chassis measures 12.5" x 12.5" x 3.74" and should fit into most entertainment centers (if you can get past the significant-other approval factor, that is). The PC comes equipped with Dell's 1506 802.11g/n Wi-Fi card as well, for situations where Ethernet or Powerline Ethernet is not an option.
It is nice to see Dell continuing to support Linux in some small way. Hopefully as Valve pushes for further Steam for Linux adoption, we will see more Linux-compatible games and OEMs will take notice and support the open source OS more openly in consumer lineups (a geek can dream...)!
You can find more information on the Alienware X51 at alienware.com/ubuntu/.
Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2013 - 01:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, ubuntu 13.04, fedora 18, win7, opengl, Ivy Bridge
One major barrier to switching to Linux for many users is the graphical performance of the OS; Steam may be releasing a variety of games which will run on Linux but if the performance is awful there are not going to be many who think about making the switch. Phoronix has been a close eye on the development of OpenGL drivers for Linux, this time specifically the onboard Intel graphics present on Ivy Bridge chips. With one driver available for each OS the tests were easily set up, except for the aforementioned Steam games as there is a bug which prevents Phoronix from collecting the performance data they need. Check out the performance differences between Ubuntu 13.04, Fedora 18 and Win7 in the full article.
"Last month Phoronix published Intel OpenGL benchmarks showing Windows 8 outperforming Ubuntu 13.04 with the latest Windows and Linux drivers from Intel. I also showed that even with the KDE and Xfce desktops rather than the default Unity/Compiz desktop to Ubuntu, Windows 8 still was faster on this Intel "Ivy Bridge" platform. The new benchmarks to share today from this Intel Ultrabook are the Windows 8 and Ubuntu 13.04 results but also with performance figures added in from Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Service Pack 1 x64 and Fedora 18."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel is sampling Avoton Atom chips ahead of IDF Beijing @ The Inquirer
- HP announces low-power Moonshot system based on an Intel Atom chip @ The Inquirer
- The Surprising SUSE Linux @ Linux.com
- AMD to fully replace FM1 with FM2, AM3 with AM3+ in 2014 @ DigiTimes
- Solar powered robot mows your lawn while you chill indoors @ Hack a Day
- Microsoft to slap 9 patches on Windows junkies on Tuesday @ The Register
- ASUS AiCloud: A Fresh Face for Networking @ Bjorn3D
- Gadget Show Live 2013 – The Public Event @ Kitguru
- DIY MultiCopter - Part 1. @ Metku.net
Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2013 - 02:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nvidia, hack, GTX 690, K5000, K10, quadro, tesla, linux
It will take a bit of work with a soldering iron but Hack a Day has posted an article covering how to mod one of the GPUs on a GTX690 into thinking it is either a Quadro K5000 or Tesla K10. More people will need to apply this mod and test it to confirm that the performance of the GPU actually does match or at least compare to the professional level graphics but the ID string is definitely changed to match one of those two much more expensive GPUs. They also believe that a similar mod could be applied to the new TITAN graphics card as it is electronically similar to the GTX690. Of course, if things go bad during the modification you could kill a $1000 card so do be careful.
"If hardware manufacturers want to keep their firmware crippling a secret, perhaps they shouldn’t mess with Linux users? We figure if you’re using Linux you’re quite a bit more likely than the average Windows user to crack something open and see what’s hidden inside. And so we get to the story of how [Gnif] figured out that the NVIDIA GTX690 can be hacked to perform like the Quadro K5000. The thing is, the latter costs nearly $800 more than the former!"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 130: A series of grunts about convertible tablets
- Microsoft updates its Kinect for Windows SDK @ The Inquirer
- Asustek to launch new Intel-based smartphone in June @ DigiTimes
- The 2013 Top 7 Best Linux Distributions for You @ Linux.com
- Watch out, office bods: A backdoor daemon lurks in HP LaserJets @ The Register
Linaro Forms Linux Networking Group to Collaborate on Open Source Software for ARM Networking Hardware
Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2013 - 02:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: oss, open source, networking, linux networking group, linux, linaro, arm
Linaro, a non-profit engineering group, announced a new collaborative organization called the Linux Networking Group at the Embedded Linux Conference in San Francisco this week. The new group will work on developing open source software to be used with ARM-based hardware in cloud, mobile, and networking industry sectors. Of course, being open source, the software for ARM SoCs will be used with Linux operating systems. One of the Linux Networking Group’s purposes is to develop a new “enhanced core Linux platform” for networking equipment, for example.
The new Linux Networking Group is currently comprised of the following organizations:
- Nokia Siemens Networks
- Texas Instruments
The new cooperative has announced four main goals for 2013:
- "Virtualization support with considerations for real-time performance, I/O optimization, robustness and heterogeneous operating environments on multi-core SoCs.
- Real-time operations and the Linux kernel optimizations for the control and data plane.
- Packet processing optimizations that maximize performance and minimize latency in data flows through the network.
- Dealing with legacy software and mixed-endian issues prevalent in the networking space."
Reportedly, Linaro will have an initial software release within the first half of this year. Further, the organization will follow up with monthly software updates to improve performance and add new features. More collaboration and the furthering of ARM-compatible open source software is always a good thing. It remains to be seen how useful the Linux Networking Group will be in pushing its ARM software goals, but here’s hoping it works out for the best.
The full press release can be found below.
Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2013 - 12:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: carmack, linux, gaming, wine
John Carmack has been stirring the pot recently, from the questionable launch of the PC version of Rage, to poking at consoles remaining capped at 30fps to his disappointment in iD abandoning mobile game development. More recently he has gone on record stating that there is little to no money to be made developing games for Linux. His company has tried, Quake Arena and Quake Live both proved to be difficult to create and to have limited adoption as a test for the amount of possible sales. This does not mean he has given up on Linux users completely, instead as he told The Inquirer he sees a different solution to the difficulties involved in designing games for Linux; improve WINE. With a faster and more stable Windows (not an) Emulator for Linux iD and other companies wouldn't have to worry about parallel development, it would come closer to compile once and run anywhere. Even better for game developers, there is already a dedicated group of programmers improving WINE so they would not lose man-hours better spent designing games. You can also catch his comments about Steam appearing on Linux.
"LEGENDARY GAMES DEVELOPER John Carmack has questioned the business model of porting Windows games to Linux, saying that using Windows emulation might be a better approach."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft involvement in Dell privatization may not benefit the PC vendor, says Acer founder @ DigiTimes
- One in three PCs are infected with malware @ The Inquirer
- Rosewill RPLC-500KIT Powerline Ethernet Adapter Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Bug kills Intel gig-E controllers @ The Register
- IBM Power7+ Rollout Includes New Linux Servers, Apps @ Linux.com
- LibreOffice 4 Released @ Slashdot
- Antivirus update broke our interwebs, howl Win XP users @ The Register
- Windows Phone 8 hasn't slowed Microsoft's mobile freefall @ The Register
Subject: Systems | February 3, 2013 - 09:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mintbox, mint, linux, fitpc3, compulab
The MintBox is a small form factor, fanless computer released in summer 2012. It was developed in collaboration between CompuLab and the Linux Mint project. At launch, the base model retailed for $476, but CompuLab has cut the price by almost $100 to kick off 2013.
The MintBox basic is powered by a dual core AMD G-T40N APU clocked at 1.0 GHz, 4GB of RAM, an APU-integrated Radeon G290 GPU, and 250GB hard drive. The system has a aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It is essentially CompuLab’s fitPC3 case with a few custom tweaks to add the Linux Mint logo. Further, it comes pre-loaded with the Linux Mint 13 operating system. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 radios are included as well as two mini-PCIe cards and one mSATA connector (for an SSD).
The front of the MintBox has four USB 2.0 ports surrounding the Mint logo. The rear of the MintBox includes the following connectivity options:
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x S/PDIF
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x eSATA
- 1 x RS232 serial port
- 2 x external Wi-Fi antennas .
In many respects, the MintBox resembles a typical home wireless router, but it is actually a full PC. Before shipping and any applicatable taxes, the MintBox Basic is $379. Reportedly, 10% of the proceeds will go towards the Linux Mint project to assist with development of the open source operating system. While the hardware itself is not new, Mint and CompuLab are offering up a healthy discount which may bring it more in line with Intel’s NUC systems. It may not be as fast, but it will cost less and is pre-configured unlike the DIY NUC.
Have you been looking to get a small form factor system? What do you think about a fanless box running Linux Mint for your next PC?
Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2013 - 12:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, Ivy Bridge, ubuntu 13.04
Phoronix has released a pair of reviews focusing on the graphical performance changes we have seen recently when gaming on a Linux system. The first looks at the last seven major kernel updates and how they changed the performance of Intel's HD4000 graphics core. The news is not great, in most cases the performance remained mostly unchanged and there are a few instances where the performance gain seen by kernel 3.4 have disappeared by 3.8 and in some cases it would make sense to wait until Mesa 9.1 arrives.
Their second article looks at the upcoming Ubuntu 13.04 release and the support the OS will have for AMD's GPUs straight out of the box with no customization. From there they move onto Intel's HD3000 graphics with good results to report. The new OS will not be out until April, but from what Phoronix has seen not only will this kernel handle discrete and integral GPUs well, the performance is the best they've seen yet.
"With the Intel Haswell product launch coming up soon, here's a look at how the Intel "Ivy Bridge" HD 4000 graphics support has matured on the seven most recent Linux kernel releases. This benchmarking shows how the performance of the Intel DRM driver has changed between the Linux 3.2 kernel and the Linux 3.8 kernel that's presently under development when using the integrated graphics found on the latest-generation Core i7 CPU."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Gartner says Intel getting Cisco as a foundry customer is a good move @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft may be readying Outlook for ARM – or not @ The Register
- Microsoft acknowledges the long and winding road ahead @ The Register
- Why I'm excited about Microsoft's Surface Pro @ Tweaktown
- Ninjalane Podcast - Borderlands 2 Farming
- Win an Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe & Asus HD7970 Matrix @ Kitguru