Linux, Ubuntu & Android News
28 Jan 2015, 7:57 pm | Tech Drive-in
When we laid out our featured article on things you need to do after installing Ubuntu 14.10, we shared a few little issues we have had with the latest Ubuntu release. Well things got worse, and I decided to try something else for a change. I've been using elementary OS Freya as my daily driver since then. And I have to say, I'm mighty impressed so far. And the fact that Freya is still very much in beta makes the whole affair all the more interesting. A list of reasons why I prefer elementary OS Freya over Ubuntu 14.10 at the moment.
Implementation of Workspaces
When it comes to desktop UI's, if there is one thing that I could not live without, it must be the multiple workspaces feature. Most Linux interfaces has this by default (except the recent Ubuntu Unity releases, another change which I don't like much). But the implementations varies from one distro to another. Freya has one of my favorite implementations of multiple workspaces functionality. It is simple yet very polished and sophisticated (though I have to confess that I like GNOME Shell's implementation of workspaces more).
It has to be fast and accurate. That is the only thing I expect from an application launcher. I don't care about fancy animations or blurred out eye-candiness. Catch my drift? Yes, I'm talking about you Unity. We have discussed about Unity's performance woes in detail before but things haven't changed much since. On the other hand, Freya's launcher is like a breath of fresh air. It is super-fast, nimble and very accurate. Some third-party apps I installed from outside of default repos doesn't seem to appear while searching for it even though it is there in the Launcher list, the only glitch I've faced so far, and a very isolated one at that. Probably will get fixed when final release happens. Unity desperately needs to fix its launcher though.
Actionable notifications, one of biggest advantages elementary OS has over Ubuntu in my opinion. There is a notification for everything including your Terminal actions, which is great. Implementation is just perfect and it is actionable, unlike in Unity. There is even a notifications-specific tweaking tool within the System Settings app.
Design and Performance
Though I kind of like Freya's minimalistic design language, design is nothing but a matter of taste. But consistency in design is non-negotiable. And Freya ranks highly in terms of design and consistency in my opinion. But what makes it even better is its outstanding performance. It definitely feels lighter and much faster than my Ubuntu 14.10 installations (have two of them in fact). We have been impressed by the performance of previous iterations of elementary OS as well and this one is no different. Freya offers blazing fast performance.
Desktop Zoom is one of those features I so dearly missed ever since the advent of Unity and the demise of good old Compiz config settings manager. And it is enabled by default in Freya! Just hit Super + =/- and you are good to go. And it works so smoothly without any stutter whatsoever.
A Boot Splash Screen that just works!
My favorite Ubuntu's has almost always been 04 releases, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS being one of my favorite to date. But boot splash screen is one thing that never seem to work properly even with all the tweaks I could find on the internet. In elementary OS Freya "beta" though, it just works! The glowing elementary OS splash screen has been 'glowing' without a glitch ever since I started using Freya back in Oct-Nov.
Yes, 'hotcorners' are not unique to elementary OS, Unity Tweak Tool will help you replicate the same functionality in a jiffy. But still, Freya comes with 'hotcorners' feature tucked neatly inside the Desktop settings app. Very handy.
Back in 2012, we predicted that elementary OS Luna could be the start of something big. Looks like we were right all along. Except for some stray incidents, Freya has been remarkably stable for me. But still won't recommend it on production machines owing to the fact that it is still a beta. I hope that the developers are able to iron out all the minor issues before the final release.
Unity, on the other hand, is undergoing some major rework lately and I hope Ubuntu comes out on top again by the time Ubuntu 15.04 "Vivid Vervet" is released. After all, Ubuntu has been my go-to distro since forever. But until then, I think I'll stick with elementary OS Freya. See, this is what I love about Linux, even if your favorite distro goes kaput, you have plenty of alternatives to choose from. Good luck to both the projects and thanks for reading.
5 Nov 2014, 6:17 am | Tech Drive-in
Introduction: Ubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn"
My favorite Ubuntu versions has almost always has been the LTS releases. Ubuntu 12.04 could be termed as my favorite Ubuntu to date, and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS comes a close second. On the other hand, Ubuntu 14.10 could be termed as one of my least favorite Ubuntu ever!
A lot of issues actually. First being the fact that there are no serious changes/improvements to Ubuntu 14.10, it's kind of like a token release. Secondly, for the first time in my laptop which has been running Linux-es for ages, a lot of commonplace apps like Firefox and Chrome are acting weird, like unusable-weird.
May be I will fresh-install Ubuntu 14.10 once again before doing the full review. For now, I'll do a quick things-to-do-after-installation exercise which is applicable for both Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusy Tahr.
Disclaimer: Even though I have made utmost care not to make any mistakes here, please make sure you double-check everything before executing. As they say, you don't trust a random code or command from the web. The same applies here. You've been warned.
First things first: Downloading Codecs package during Installation
- You can install restricted codecs package (which include Adobe Flash, MP3 codecs and such) during installation of OS itself. See below.
- Notice the arrows pointing to the boxes in the screenshot above. If you tick both of them during the Ubuntu installation process (make sure you are connected to the internet before doing so), restricted extras package will be installed automatically and you will be able to play mp3's, avi's, mp4's etc. and watch flash videos (YouTube videos for example) right after Ubuntu installation is done with.
- But there is a catch. If you have a slow internet connection (which is very rare these days), ticking the boxes shown in the screenshot above will unnecessarily lengthen the installation process. I for one prefer to do all that after installing Ubuntu. If you are like me, the next two steps are for you.
- After you install brand new Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04, the first thing you need to do is to update repositories and make sure you have the latest updates installed.
- Search for Software Updater in Unity Dash and launch the Software Updater app. It will automatically check for updates available. Install the updates.
- OR you could simply use the command line method. Open Terminal (Ubuntu 14.10 Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + T) and copy-paste the following command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
- Enter your password when asked and you're done. Your new Ubuntu 14.10 has been successfully updated and upgraded.
- Install the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" package. This will enable your Ubuntu to play popular file formats like mp3, avi, flash videos etc. CLICK HERE (to install directly from Ubuntu Software Center) OR simply copy-paste the following command into Terminal to install the package (You need not do this if you have ticked the 'right' boxes before).
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
- Done. [Note: The package contains some proprietary fonts and such which will not be downloaded while OS installation. Hence, you might still want to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras package even though you ticked those boxes before.]
- As in previous releases, Ubuntu 14.10 has 'Additional Drivers' functionality inside Software & Updates (previously called Software Sources).
- In my case, all the hardware drivers including graphics, sound and wireless drivers were enabled automatically. But this may not be the case for everyone.
- If you are among the not-so-lucky, open Unity dash (Ubuntu 14.10 Keyboard Shortcut: Super key) and search for 'Software & Updates' application.
- Check for additional drivers available and activate the ones you want. In majority of the cases, this will do the trick. If you're not able to get hardware drivers working yet, you'll have to do a fair amount of digging through ubuntuforums and askubuntu.
- Trivial stuff, but something I've been doing for years with each new Ubuntu release.
- By default, only time is displayed on top. By going to the Time and Date Settings, you can modify it to display both date and weekday along with time.
- Back in 2007, one of the first "feature" that attracted me to Ubuntu was the multiple workspaces thing and all the cool animations you could do with it. I know, it's kind of silly but workspaces are still very important to me.
- Even when market leaders like Microsoft is thinking about bringing multiple workspaces feature to its upcoming Windows 10 OS (or so I heard), Ubuntu 14.10 by default decides to ditch workspaces. I find it kind of amusing. May be Canonical received a different feedback from its users. Anyway, you can easily re-enable it by going to System Settings - Apperance window (see screenshot above for reference).
- A lot of apps are there in the Unity Launcher by default and this can be a problem if you're using a smaller screen device like netbooks.
- I almost never use apps such as LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Calc and even Ubuntu Software Center. Unlocking them from launcher makes the whole Unity experience a little less cluttered (Right Click - Unlock from Launcher).
- You can also re-arrange stuff in the Launcher by simple double-click and drag action.
- If you want to be a PRO Ubuntu user, you've to learn the shortcuts. There's no other way around. And there are a ton of them for Ubuntu's Unity interface.
- Press and hold the Super key (aka Windows key) and learn the basics.
- Two-finger scrolling is enabled by default. But you know what, I kind of like it now. But still, if you want to change it back to normal scrolling, here is what you need to do.
- Launch System Settings and browse to Mouse & Touchpad under Hardware.
- Unselect Two finger scroll.
- When it comes to tweaking Unity, there's no better candidate. Even the default Ubuntu Settings app is no match for Unity Tweak Tool.
- Unity Tweak Tool is available in default Ubuntu 14.10 repositories.
- Click Here to install Unity Tweak Tool in Ubuntu 14.10.
- Unity Tweak Tool has a lot of options to tinker with, about which we will discuss in detail later on in this post.
- You can now click on the apps to minimize it to the launcher, a behavior which should have been default if you ask me. Here's how you do it.
- Launch Unity Tweak Tool which you've already installed, goto Launcher sub-menu under "Unity". Rest is self-explanatory (refer screenshot above). More details and video.
- Hotcorners along with multiple-workspaces have been two of favorite features ever since I started using Ubuntu years ago. Enabling hotcorners is a pretty straight-forward affair since you have already installed Unity Tweak Tool.
- Launch Unity Tweak Tool and goto Hotcorners sub-menu under 'Window Manager'.
- CCSM is similar to Unity Tweak Tool, but more advanced, and very specific to Compiz, the default window manager. CCSM may not be as relevant as before, but it still packs the punch. We'll deal with some CCSM specific hacks later on.
- CLICK HERE to install CCSM.
- I am all for eyecandy, but it should not be at the cost of performance or responsiveness.
- Disabling Animations and Fading windows from CCSM might make your Ubuntu look less attractive. But as far as I can see, it has a significant positive impact on performance.
- Launch CCSM again, goto Ubuntu Unity Plugin under Desktop.
- Change Active Blur to Static Blur or No Blur.
- Online search results in Unity dash, sounds like a good idea on paper, but not in the real world. It unnecessarily makes Dash search slower (at least for me).
- To disable it, goto System Settings app and find Privacy category.
- Ubuntu by default will be recording your activity which is later used to refine searches in Unity and such. You can completely disable this feature by accessing Privacy category within System Settings application.
- You can optionally disable recording for a pre-defined set of files only like image, text, video etc. instead of completely disabling recording altogether (my preferred way).
- If errors like that with titles such as "system program problem detected" or "ubuntu 14.10 has experienced an internal error" are common in your Ubuntu installation, you might want to disable Apport error reporting tool altogether.
- Hit ALT + F2 and run the following command (as in the screenshot above).
gksu gedit /etc/default/apport
- Change value of "enabled" from 1 to 0 (instructions are provided in the text file itself).
- Save and exit. Now for changes to take effect, do the following in Terminal.
sudo restart apport
- OR do a system restart. Both will do. Apport is supposed to be disabled in stable releases and yet I'm finding it enabled in almost all major releases since Ubuntu 12.04. More details and discussion about Apport can be found here.
- NOTE: If you are new to Ubuntu 14.10 and Unity, you might not want to do this. Stay with default settings for the time being and find for yourself if Lenses are useful or not.
- I have never found video, music or photo lens useful. I know where exactly my files are and I would simply use Nautilus file browser instead. Never been a fan of shopping lens either. All I need is a really fast loading Dash.
- If you're like me, you might want to trade them for a faster responding Unity dash. Copy-paste the following command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get autoremove unity-lens-music unity-lens-photos unity-lens-shopping unity-lens-video
- Done. Also recommended: Fix Ubuntu.
- Jupiter used to be an easy to use hardware and power management applet for laptops and netbooks running Linux.
- I have had overheating problems in Ubuntu on several occasions. Jupiter came to the rescue every single time. Alas, Jupiter project is no more.
- TLP looks like a good alternative. Here's how you install TLP in Ubuntu 14.10.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw
- Just restart the system and you're done. There are no specific settings you need to do to make TLP work. Just install and forget.
- Preload has been mentioned a number of times here. It basically monitor applications you run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications you might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times.
- Installing Preload could drastically improve your overall Ubuntu Unity performance. To an extent, the kind of slickness you see in distros like elementary OS is because of Preload. Click Here to install Preload.
16 Oct 2014, 1:11 pm | Tech Drive-in
Whether it is the driverless cars technology or high-end robotics, Linux is becoming the preferred platform of choice in many high-tech fields. Dronecode Project by Linux Foundation is the latest attempt at creating a new unified Linux based platform to be used in Drones of the future.
Dronecode Project by Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation announced on October 13 at LinuxCon Europe the founding of the Dronecode Project. The goal of this project is to unify existing open-source drone projects and assets under a non-profit structure. Eventually, there will be a Linux based platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The project's founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, jDrones, Laser Navigation, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec. It is reported elsewhere that Qualcomm and Intel are also joining the efforts to build a truly opensource platform for UAVs.
Dronecode already has more than 1,200 developers working the project. The platform is also being adopted by many of drone companies such Skycatch, DroneDeploy, HobbyKing, Horizon Ag, PrecisionHawk, Agribotics, and Walkera.
[Further reading @ ZDNet.com]
14 Oct 2014, 10:12 am | Tech Drive-in
The ordeal is finally over folks. No need for workarounds and troubleshoots anymore, Netflix works out of the box in Ubuntu and hopefully other Linux OSes via latest Google Chrome stable.
Netflix on Ubuntu is a non-issue from now on
Netflix and Steam were high up in the wishlist for many Ubuntu users. Steam materialised about two years ago and Steam for Linux has kept on adding games ever since. Although there were workarounds to make Netflix work in Ubuntu all long, there were all just that, workarounds. Now, all you need is the latest Chrome and Netflix works out of box in Ubuntu!
The user-agent switching hack was working so well for me anyway, so this doesn't change much in my case. But it is a welcome addition no matter what. Now I could simply recommend the latest Chrome Stable to anyone who wants Netflix on Ubuntu.
The only drawback is the fact that, you have to have Google Chrome to make it work. As you all know, Ubuntu comes with Firefox by default and Netflix won't work without hacks such as pipelight and such. The latest Google Chrome stable for Linux comes with the required DRM module called Encrypted Media Extension or EME for short.
I tested this on Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn and and elementary OS Freya 0.3 which is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. In both systems, Netflix works just great using nothing but the latest Google Chrome stable. The updated libnss3 files are the only bottleneck as far as I understand. Since I already had an upgraded libnss3 package in elementary OS Freya (which was required for user-agent switching hack to work), I'm not sure if the updates have started to make it work for Ubuntu 14.04 already. Can anybody please confirm?
Latest Humble Mobile Bundle for Android introduces many blockbusters: Leo's Fortune and Out There among them
11 Oct 2014, 10:29 am | Tech Drive-in
Humble Mobile Bundle 9 for Android
Humble Bundle needs no introduction here. And the latest one come with many blockbuster games such as Leo's Fortune and Out There. Seriously, if you haven't yet played Leo's Fortune, Out There and First Strike, you really need to grab this bundle. They are that good, especially Leo's Fortune. Android Exclusive Humble Mobile Bundle 9.
BitTorrent Bleep reaches open Alpha: Secure peer-to-peer chat client (voice & text) downloadable for Android, Mac, Windows (Linux coming soon)
18 Sep 2014, 12:27 pm | Tech Drive-in
People don't take online privacy and security lightly anymore. TOX could soon become the safest Skype alternative we'll have been waiting for. There has been a barrage of WhatsApp alternatives that respects your privacy ever since its acquisition by Facebook. Bleep, a peer-to-peer chat client with voice and text messaging capabilities, takes things to a whole new level. Could Bleep be the safe and secure alternative to Viber and even WhatsApp to an extent?
BitTorrent Bleep for Android
- Bleep is currently in alpha, so it is still pretty rough around the edges.
- Bleep is a peer-to-peer chat client, meaning there’s no central server that can see your messages or metadata.
- Use it on WiFi only for the time being (consumes more data and battery than it normally should, fixes are on the way).
- Messages sent are fully encrypted and stored locally.
- Bleep is NOT open source, which makes it harder to verify their claims.
- Not available for Linux desktops yet, only Android, Mac and Windows.
12 Sep 2014, 1:54 pm | Tech Drive-in
For Linux users, there are plenty of Dropbox alternatives, MEGAsync being the latest entrant. The service was the brain child of Kim Dotcom, founder of now defunct Megaupload, and it was launched on 19 January 2013 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the seizure of his previous enterprise. MEGAsync now has a dedicated Linux client as well (unlike Google Drive).
MEGAsync's client for Linux released
The biggest and obvious attractions of MEGAsync are the massive 50 GB of free storage and its client side end-to-end encryption capabilities which makes it one of the most private and secure cloud storage services out there. Obviously one should not trust any cloud storage services with their sensitive data, but client side encryption capabilities gives MEGAsync a clear advantage.
MEGAsync also offers good Nautilus integration functionality which makes it super easy to sync any particular directory in your drive with Mega's online cloud service.
Download MEGAsync Linux Client (Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE, Debian)
If you are on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, simply download the appropriate DEB package and double click to install it OR use command-line like this:
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/megasync-xUbuntu_14.04_amd64.deb
MEGA currently provides a multi-platform software development kit, and have plans to release the source code to MEGAsync under an open-source license. Read more here.
10 Sep 2014, 7:46 pm | Tech Drive-in
This is a dream come true. Though there are ways to make Netflix work in Ubuntu 14.04 (like using Pipelight for example), this must be the easiest. All you need is the latest Google Chrome from dev channel and an extension called User Agent Switcher. That's it! Let's get started.
[How to] Get Netflix to work in Ubuntu 14.04 using Google Chrome!
Thanks to Nathan VanCamp and his "prying" eyes, it is now possible to watch Netflix movies in Linux using Google Chrome and a simple User Agent Switcher extension. Here's how it works.
- Download following dependencies first (not needed if you're on Ubuntu 14.10 Alpha and other Linux distros like Fedora 20 or Manjaro Linux, just skip to Step 6 instead).
- EDIT: Add Ubuntu GNOME 14.04, elementary OS Freya to the list of supported distros!
Doing this will also result in "broken-packages" error (nothing serious as far as I'm concerned). If you don't want that error appearing, skip the installation completely.
- EDIT: The packages to download are (choose btw 32 and 64 bit versions):
- libnss3 (64 bit) OR libnss3 (32 bit)
- libnss3-1d (64 bit) OR libnss3-1d (32 bit)
- libnss3-nssdb (this fixes the broken packages error, thanks to Rob's comment below)
- Install the packages using the following commands* (a simple double click on the just downloaded DEB packages will also do the same, but I prefer command line).
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/libnss3_3.16.3-1ubuntu1_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/libnss3-1d_3.16.3-1ubuntu1_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/libnss3-nssdb_3.16.3-1ubuntu1_all.deb
- *Change the paths depending on your download destination. Done.
- Get the latest Google Chrome from Dev channel. Mine is Version 38.0.2114.2 dev (64-bit)
- Download and Install the User Agent Switcher extension for Chrome.
- Right Click on the extension - go to "Options" page. Fill in the following details.
New User-Agent String: (Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.3; Win 64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/38.0.2114.2 Safari/537.36)
Replace or Append: Append
Indicator Flag: NFX
Note: "New User-Agent String" is the most important part here. Rest of the text can be anything. Use them for your own ease of use. Resulting screen will look like this.
- Done. Now switch to this new user-agent in your Chrome browser: Click on the User Agent Switcher extension icon on top and goto Chrome - Netflix. (see image below)
- Done. Now login to Netflix and you'll see the change. I have been watching movies non-stop since. Here's another screenshot.
Note: I have used Nathan VanCamp's instructions with some modifications to make Netflix work in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. For example, he was using Chrome v37 from beta channel while I was using Chrome v38 from dev channel. See Nathan's instructions and comments for further clarifications. I give no guarantee that this will work for everyone (though I hope it does!).
Canonical, Raspberry Pi among the chosen few for Technology Pioneers 2015 Award by World Economic Forum (WEF)
4 Sep 2014, 2:54 pm | Tech Drive-in
Canonical group, along with four other companies which include Raspberry Pi Foundation, has been bestowed with Pioneers of Technology 2015 award by World Economic Forum (WEF). The award was given to Canonical in the Digital Networks and Computing category, which recognises organisations involved in computer hardware, software and networks, as well as their applications for social, security, payment or learning purposes.
Canonical recognised as Tech Pioneer by WEF
Canonical has been selected as one of the 2015 World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers. The four others who were also recognised by WEF in the Computing space include Couchbase, Raspberry Pi Foundation, LearnUp and Ionic Security.
The World Economic Forum says its Technology Pioneers programme recognises companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies, and are set to have a significant impact on business and society. Technology Pioneers must demonstrate visionary leadership and show signs of being long-standing market leaders – their technology must be proven. Read more
Operating System U: A new Linux based OS with a firm focus on you the user and functionality over UI overhauls, hits KickStarter
3 Sep 2014, 12:10 pm | Tech Drive-in
There's isn't probably a piece of software that is as hated as Windows 8's Metro UI. Some seasoned Windows enthusiasts like it, but most of the normal day-to-day user had a hard time getting used to it. Operating System U is being readied with the regular user in mind, and is based on Manjaro Linux. A quick overview of the project.
Operating System U: How is it different?
Everything looks good on paper. But the important question is, how is Operating System U any different from the plethora of alternatives we already have?
Operating System U vs. Ubuntu:
Operating System U vs. Windows 8:
Interested? Head to KickStarter for more details and funding.
Source: Operating System U: The User's Operating System