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

L4D2 Beta Coming to Steam For Linux This Week

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2013 - 07:25 AM |
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.

L4D2 Beta with EMS.jpg

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.

Source: L4D.com

Dell Launches Cheaper Alienware X51 With Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

Subject: Systems | April 9, 2013 - 03:37 AM |
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.

gallery-shot_desktops_x51_01.jpg

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/.

Does the inclusion of Ubuntu sway you towards the Alienware X51 (at least it's cheaper than the PISTON...), or will you be building your own custom Steam Box?

Source: Dell

Windows versus Linux in an OpenGL free for al

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2013 - 01:59 PM |
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.

Ubuntu_Raring_Ringtail_Wallpapers_01.jpg

"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."

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Source: Phoronix

Turn half your GTX 690 into a Quadro or Tesla?

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2013 - 02:23 PM |
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.

eevblog_quatro.png

"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:

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Source: Hack a Day

Linaro Forms Linux Networking Group to Collaborate on Open Source Software for ARM Networking Hardware

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2013 - 02:16 AM |
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.

linaro-logo.png

The new Linux Networking Group is currently comprised of the following organizations:

  • AppliedMicro
  • ARM
  • Enea
  • Freescale
  • LSI
  • MontaVista
  • Nokia Siemens Networks
  • Texas Instruments

The new cooperative has announced four main goals for 2013:

  1. "Virtualization support with considerations for real-time performance, I/O optimization, robustness and heterogeneous operating environments on multi-core SoCs.
  2. Real-time operations and the Linux kernel optimizations for the control and data plane.
  3. Packet processing optimizations that maximize performance and minimize latency in data flows through the network.
  4. 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.

Source: Linaro

WINEing about the profitability of selling games for Linux

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2013 - 12:43 PM |
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.

QuakeArena.jpg

"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."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fanless MintBox PC Receives Price Cut, Makes It More-Competitive Intel NUC Alternative

Subject: Systems | February 3, 2013 - 09:32 AM |
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.

 

mintbox_front.png

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).

mintbox.png

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?

Recent gains in gaming on Linux

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2013 - 12:42 PM |
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.

PX_mesa.jpg

"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."

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Source: Phoronix

CES 2013: Canonical Shows Off Ubuntu OS For Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu for phones, ubuntu, linux, ces 2013, CES, canonical

Ubuntu_Scopes.jpg

Earlier this month Canonical showed off a new version of its Ubuntu operating system intended for mobile phones. The Ubuntu for smartphones operating system is meant to extend the Ubuntu UI and UX to the smartphone screen. Canonical wants its OS to span from servers to phones and Ubuntu for phones is the latest step in that plan.

While there is no official hardware yet, the new operating system will be aimed at both low-end and high-end smartphones alike. It will support the standard array of smartphone functions–phone, sms, email, web browsing, and apps–along with the familiar Ubuntu user interface that is navigated by touch gestures. Ubuntu for phones will run on x86 and ARM hardware and is compatible with the Android Board Suppot Package. That means that users can actually run Ubuntu on many existing smartphones which are currently running Google's Android OS. Unlike Android, there is no Java VM, and the Ubuntu for phones operating system can run both HTML5 and native applications. At CES, Canonical demonstrated the OS using a Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

Ubuntu OS for Smartphones_launcher.jpg

Ubuntu smartphones will feature a familiar Unity-like user interface with a number of tweaks to make it easier to navigate using a touchscreen. The OS will use a feature called Edge Magic, which includes swipe gestures inwards from each side of the phone to open applications, read notifications, change settings, and return to the home screen. Users can also use voice and text commands to control the smartphone. For example, users can swipe left to open the application launcher, drag from the left side to the right side of the screen to display all currently running apps, and drag up from the bottom to open application-specific settings. Swiping from the right acts as the 'back' function while dragging down from teh top opens the notifications and device-wide settings. There are no hardware buttons with Ubuntu for smartphones, and Canonical founder Mark Shuttlework has stated that keeping UI elements hidden until needed was a priority with Ubuntu for phones.

Ubuntu OS for Smartphones_keyboard.jpg

Ubuntu for phones is aimed at a wide range of smartphone hardware. On the low end, Ubuntu needs at least a dual-core ARM Cortex A9, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. The budget smartphones will run native apps (ideally) faster than similar code on Android due to the apps being closer to the hardware. Multitouch will be supported but the destkop functionality when the phone is docked is not available. On the other hand, high end smartphones will be able to access a full Ubuntu desktop when the phone is docked along with a mouse and keyboard. 

Additional features of Ubuntu for smartphones include global search of applications, content, and products, Deep Content Immersion, and personalized artwork on the welcome (lock) screen. Further, Ubuntu One cloud storage, enterprise management tool compatibility, and regular updates are also rolled into the operating system. Ubuntu does include scopes which are similar in function and aesthetics to desktop Ubuntu. The scopes include a list of applications, contacts, videos, and music (among others).

The following chart lists the recommended/referrence specifications for budget and premium smartphones running the Ubuntu mobile OS.

  Entry Level High End
SoC dual core Cortex A9 quad core Cortex A9 or better
RAM 1GB preferred minimum of 1GB
Storage 4-8GB eMMC + SD card min 32GB eMMC + SD card
Display Resolution WVGA 800x400 720p or 1080p
Multi-Touch Yes Yes
Desktop No Yes
Convergence No Yes

Interestingly, users of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone will be able to test drive Ubuntu for smartphones later this year by flashing their device with the new OS. As far as retail hardware with Ubuntu pre-installed, Canonical is reportedly working on developing partnerships with handset makers. Canonical hopes to being shipping devices begining in Q4'13 or Q1'14.

From the various video demonstrations of the Ubuntu for smartphones operating system, it appears extremely slick and user friendly. Curiously, Canoncial was not willing to let CES attendees go hands-on with the reference phone, which may mean that the operating system is not quite ready for prime time. Despite that hesitation, I do think that Ubuntu for smartphones shows a lot of promise as a mobile, touchscreen-controlled operating system.

It is certainly a project that I will be following closely. With the untimely hardware failure of my Nokia N900, I am in need of a new power user-friendly smartphone. And an Ubuntu-powered mobile sounds like the perfect upgrade for me!

What do you think about Canonical's latest venture?

ModdEverything checks out Ubuntu running on a smartphone at CES 2013.

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Source: Canonical