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Linux, Ubuntu & Android News

Indic Keyboard for Android Version 2.0 Released, Supports 23 Indian Languages and 54 Layouts

Tech Drive-in 5 Jun 2015, 12:55 pm | Tech Drive-in

India is perhaps the most diverse country on earth. One size fits all model just doesn't work in India. With over 22 official languages (and a much larger unofficial count), software localization is no easy job here. That's were Indic Keyboard comes in. Indic Keyboard 2.0 has support for over 23 languages and 54 layouts helping India in its own way to limit the digital divide.
indian languages keyboard android
Indic Keyboard V2.0!
Promoted by Swathanthra Malayalam Computing (SMC), a volunteer group working on software localization in India, Indic Keyboard for Android has hit version 2.0 which brings in many new features as well as Material design language. Some new features include:
  • Addition of 7 new languages and several new layouts.
  • New Setup wizard that makes it simpler for you to get started.
  • Material design and new themes. Material white, Material dark, Holo blue and Holo white themes are available.
  • Intelligent word suggestion for transliteration.
Download Indic Keyboard from Google Play Store

Ubuntu Spotted in Google's Futuristic "Project Soli" Promo

Tech Drive-in 1 Jun 2015, 9:38 am | Tech Drive-in

Time and again, Ubuntu keeps popping up whenever there's some Google product launch. Remember Google's Project Tango or that bit of news about the use of a 'lightly custmozied Ubuntu' in Google's Driverless Car project? Given its widespread use inside Google, it's no surprise than Google is an Ubuntu Advantage Customer.

ubuntu spotted in project soli
Welcome to Project SoliGoogle I/O has always been a crucible of mesmerizing tech, and it is no different this time around as well. Take a look at Project Soli for example. They are developing a new interaction sensor using radar technology. The sensor can track sub-millimeter motions at high speed and accuracy. It fits onto a chip, can be produced at scale and built into small devices and everyday objects. Though it doesn't sound as cool as it should be, one look at the promotional video, and you're sold. Project Soli looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie. 

But what's even more interesting is the fact that, Ubuntu can be spotted several times being used for the development and testing of this amazing new technology. Ubuntu is becoming kind of a norm than an after-thought in the enterprise sector it seems. Even NASA and Merc was found using Ubuntu recently. Honda's ASIMO Robotics was another great find. All in all, looks like it is going to be a pretty interesting time for us, Linux fans. Stay subscribed. 

Ebuyer Introduces 3 New Ubuntu Powered HP Laptops

Tech Drive-in 27 May 2015, 5:14 pm | Tech Drive-in

Now this is interesting. If you are in the market of an Ubuntu pre-loaded laptop, you're in for a treat. Just last month, Dell launched Ubuntu variants of its stunning XPS 13 line of Ultrabooks. Now Ebuyer, a big UK based online Computer retailer, has introduced 3 new AMD powered HP laptops running the latest from Ubuntu. Momentum is clearly building in Ubuntu's favour. 
AMD powered hp ubuntu laptops
AMD Powered HP Laptops running Ubuntu
HP 255 G3 Quad Core, HP 355 G3 Quad Core and HP 455 G3 Quad Core. Ebuyer, an online retailer based in UK, has launched 3 brand new Ubuntu pre-loaded laptops running the latest and greatest from Ubuntu. Spec sheet and price below:
HP ubuntu laptops
Now, Ebuyer is not new to the seen either. They launched their first Ubuntu powered laptops back in April 2014 (here). Seems like they had a decent response from customers. Now they are looking to expand their Ubuntu portfolio by introducing new products.

The laptops are pre-installed with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. They are also 'Ubuntu Certified', and hence no compatibility issues whatsoever with the hardware components (that includes touch screen support and hiDPI monitors). Check out the products @ebuyer.

"We are extremely pleased to be launching Ubuntu on AMD-based HP devices with here in the UK,” said Maria Bonnefon, Global Client Sales Director at Canonical. “ has proven itself to be a stalwart force in the UK electronics retail space and we are excited to be aligning with them on offering the Ubuntu desktop OS to local customers. We are thrilled  by the growing success of this partnership and what lies ahead." [Further reading: Ubuntu Insights]

3 Relatively Unknown Open Source Web Browsers for Linux that Packs the Punch

Tech Drive-in 27 May 2015, 4:45 am | Tech Drive-in

Browser wars has been going on for more than a decade now and yet, there are no signs of a let down by any parties involved. In fact, things are only hotting up with the big three competing tooth and nail to become the leader of the pack. But that's not the entire story. A host of niche players are also in the market which are equally good and sometimes even better. Here, we'll discuss 3 superb free and open source web browsers you've probably never heard about.

Open Source Web Browsers for Linux
Slimjet: Slimjet is a web browser based on Blink engine. It is built on top of Chromium open source project and has been very fast and stable in my experience. Some salient features worth mentioning include the following: A full-featured form filler that replaces the basic password manager in Chrome, fully customisable toolbar, facebook integration, youtube video downloader (can also convert videos to mp3), and instant photo upload with automatic image compression.

download slimjet in ubuntu
But its biggest feature is being NOT Google. It doesn't send any usage statistics to Google (like Chromium). Slimjet packages for Linux (DEB and RPM). Also available on Software Center.

Open Source Web Browsers for Linux
Palemoon: Palemoon on the other hand is based on Mozilla Firefox's Gecko engine. Palemoon claims to have a carefully selected set of features and optimizations to maximize the browser speed, stability and user experience. And it does all this without breaking any compatibility with your favorite Firefox extensions. Being a big Firefox fan, this is currently my preferred choice. Unlike Slimjet though, Palemoon is not available in Ubuntu repositories. If you're using Ubuntu 14.04, 14.10 or Ubuntu 12.04, you can use the following PPA to install Palemoon. Simply copy-paste the following commands in Terminal.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:marian.kadanka/palemoon
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install palemoon

But if you're using the latest Ubuntu 15.04 'Vivid Vervet' instead, you are out of luck and would've to use the generic download option. It's a simple script anyway. Just download, extract and run the script. Download Palemoon here.

Open Source Web Browsers for Linux
QupZilla: QupZilla is a free and open-source, cross-platform web browser based on Qt and Webkit. It has a simple but familiar interface with integrated AdBlock. Probably the least distinct among the ones featured here. Started out as a 'hobby' project which later became more mainstream and popular. A fun alternative nonetheless. Lots and lots of download options.

download qupzilla in ubuntu
Hope you enjoyed the list. Some of the more obvious ones we missed out here include Midori, Epiphany and Chromium. Then there's Vivaldi, a relative new-comer developed by former Opera team with many power-user friendly features. Thank you. 

Rightful Successor to Open Moko & Nokia N900, Neo900 Open Source Phone Pre Order Starts

Tech Drive-in 22 May 2015, 11:31 am | Tech Drive-in

Sometime back in 2011, Nokia ended its Linux program (MeeGo) with Nokia N9 when Microsoft acquired its mobile division. Much before that in 2009, the last phone with Nokia's Linux based Maemo OS was released, it was called Nokia N900. Though both phones was a hit among its loyal fans, Nokia decided to ditch both the projects and went all out with Windows OS. But some people were just not ready to let go the N900 yet. 
Neo900 Open Source Phone
Neo900 Open Source Phone Project
In the land of iPhones and Androids, Nokia N900 might not have been a runaway success. But as always with Nokia, the hardware was top notch and the software based on Linux worked pretty well too. But it was just a case of too little too late. Nokia was just not willing to read the writing on the wall. But that's beside the point.

A while ago, a team of erstwhile Nokia N900 fans decided to resurrect the long forgotten device. The result is Neo900. Though the team tried their best to update the device with the latest of hardware, when you compare it with contemporaries the results are pretty average. But having said that, Neo900 is not meant for mass production and is not meant to compete. It is mainly targeted at enthusiasts. And that's part of the reason why they have opened up a web shop for Neo900 pre order so that they could raise some money for producing the device and mitigate the risk of losing money on the device (like a down payment).

Neo900 is powered by a 1 GHz TI OMAP DM3730 SoC, has 1 GB of RAM and has the same 3.5 inch TFT resistive touchscreen display. Full spec sheet here.

"The Neo900 is the spritual successor of the Nokia N900. The new circuit board can be placed into an existing N900 for better specs (faster CPU, more RAM, LTE modem) than the original device while still maintaining fremantle (maemo 5) backwards compatibility. Alternatively, a fully assembled phone can be purchased as well. The Neo900 will be fully operational without any binary blob running on the main CPU. While the modem still requires a non-free firmware, it is completely decoupled from the rest of the device (think of a LTE usb stick you put in your laptop) and can reliably be monitored or switched off by the operating system." [source:]

Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition Launched in China, Coming to Europe soon

Tech Drive-in 18 May 2015, 7:43 am | Tech Drive-in

Three months after the first Ubuntu Phone in the form of BQ's Aquaris E4.5 was unveiled, the long awaited Meizu MX4 Ubuntu edition has been launched. Unlike the BQ Aquaris though, there won't be any flash sales which helped creating a lot of hype around the phone. 
Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition Launched
Finally! Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition Unveiled
There has been a lot of talks about the Ubuntu edition of Meizu MX4, mainly because of the fact that this could the first Ubuntu powered smartphone that boasts of flagship-level specs. Rumor has it that a third Ubuntu phone is also in the making, but it seem like we'll have to wait a bit longer for that. Meizu MX4 Ubuntu edition is immediately available to developers in China while the Europe launch is scheduled to happen in the coming months. 
What's so special about Meizu MX4 you might ask. The biggest difference is the fact that, unlike BQ, Meizu is one of the top players in China, the world's biggest market for smartphones. While BQ Aquaris E4.5 was sort of a low-mid range phone that came with a mediocre MediaTek Quad Core Cortex A7 processor and 1 GB of RAM, Meizu MX4 is a 5.2-inch smartphone powered by an eight-core MediaTek MT6595 SoC, 2GB RAM and comes with 16GB of built-in flash storage (BQ had only 8GB versions). Meizu MX4 Ubuntu edition is truly a class apart.
The move kicks off Meizu’s push towards strengthening the Ubuntu ecosystem in China, ahead of launching the Chinese Edition to its user base later this year. The Ubuntu MX4 launch also coincides with the final months of the China Mobile Ubuntu Developer Contest, which is already seeing thousands of developers participating in onsite and online training as well as hackathons at various universities across China. The price of Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition is in the 300 USD range, while BQ Aquaris E 4.5 is priced at 170 Euros. Further reading @UbuntuInsights.

Dell's stunning XPS 13 laptop now comes Ubuntu preloaded

Tech Drive-in 10 Apr 2015, 12:13 am | Tech Drive-in

Dell does its magic again. Not one, but two of their iconic laptop sub-brands now comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu OS. Latest edition of Dell XPS 13 has the thinnest of bezels and its Infinity displays are regarded as the best in the market right now. 
dell xps 13 ubuntu editionDell launches two new Ubuntu developer edition Laptops
More good news for those looking for Linux offerings from hardware makers. Dell has launched two new Ubuntu based laptops targeted at developers: the Dell XPS 13 laptop and the Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation.

The Ubuntu-based Dell XPS 13 laptop developer edition is the fourth generation of its series. It boasts of an almost borderless Ultrasharp QHD+ resolution display that offers stunning clarity and colours. One of its models are touchscreen enabled even. According to official Dell website, two models of Ubuntu pre-loaded XPS 13 editions are available:
  • XPS 13 with 5th gen Intel Core i5 processor, 13.3 inch Infinity display, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5500. Price: 899 €
  • XPS 13 with 5th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 13.3 inch UltraSharp QHD+ Infinity touch display, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5500. Price: 1319 €
The limited 8 GB RAM though, can be a deal-breaker for many. Still, XPS 13 is a staggeringly beautiful device in a very compact form factor. Now, lets move to our second candidate. Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation is a brand new addition to the Dell developer edition lineup. This no-compromise Dell laptop might just be the ideal choice for developers working on Ubuntu platform. It even offers 4K Ultra HD resolution display with touch support. 
Both workstations are now available with the Precision M3800 being available globally and the XP3 13 across North America and Europe. Some useful links below.
  • Precision M3800: [UK] [US] [DE]
Announcement by Canonical here. So what do you think folks? How many among you are blown away by XPS 13's stunning display and form factor? Let us know in the comments. 

MPV - A truly lightweight Mplayer based media player for Linux

Tech Drive-in 25 Feb 2015, 11:24 pm | Tech Drive-in

For those who are in the lookout for a decent multimedia player beyond the usual suspects such as VLC, SMPlayer or GNOME Mplayer, and one that is also light as a feather, look no further, MPV has you covered.

mpv media player ubuntu
MPV - Clean and simple media player for Linux
MPV is a free, open source, and cross-platform media player based on mplayer2 and MPlayer. Though heavily sharing characteristics with its parent projects, MPV further extended their functionalities and added more features while getting nimbler at the same time. MPV is a command line based tool and can be launched from Terminal only, but you can always make it your default media player for different media file formats.
mpv media player ubuntu
  • Powerful command-line based media player with wide range of functionalities.
  • High quality video output, supports video scaling with popular high quality algorithms, color management etc.
  • While MPV has no official GUI, it has a small controller that is triggered by mouse movement. Good enough trade-off when you consider the nimbleness of MPV.
How to install MPV in Ubuntu 14.04, Ubuntu 14.10, elementary Freya?
  • Add the following PPA, update your repositories, and you are good to go. Open Terminal and copy-paste the following commands.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mc3man/mpv-tests
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mpv
  • Done.
mpv media player linux
  • Select your media, right click on it and choose "open in mpv" option. I have set mpv as my default media player for a host of file types. Honestly, I'm really impressed by it so far. 
  • MPV is not just an ordinary media player either. It is a powerful command line tool with capabilities for capturing audio/video output, format conversion, content streaming etc. See mpv manpages for more details. And MPV is being actively developed too. More download options for other platforms can be found here

University Paris 8 ditches Adobe's Photoshop for Krita, Blender and Natron

Tech Drive-in 21 Feb 2015, 8:13 am | Tech Drive-in

Opensource tools in the professional software space are really taking off, be it Blender or GIMP or even the humble LibreOffice. Krita on the other hand is generally accepted as an user-friendly GIMP alternative which is also cross-platform. Krita, which was launched about 9 years ago, is now considered to be as reliable as the best industry has to offer. 

University Paris 8 adopts Krita, ditches Photoshop
The ATI (Art and Technology of Image) department at University Paris 8 is switching over to Krita this year, primary reason being the immense cost benefits that Krita has over costly proprietary alternatives such as Adobe's Photoshop.

This department has the double aim to train students both to use graphic software (2D,3D,VFX and Compositing) and to code their own (Python, C#, C++). Until recently the classes used only Adobe Photoshop, but because of inadequate support from the company the department decided to replace that, according to Krita.

In an interview with Libre Graphics World, University Paris 8's François Grassard, the man behind the department's switch-over to Krita, confirms that their budget is indeed the primary reason for choosing Krita over Photoshop.

"Our university is among public schools that are mostly free in France, except registration fees that are pretty acceptable in comparison to fees in some other countries. To acquire all licenses of software that we teach, we have to rely on our own budget only. And our budget is ridiculously low. So we always have to talk to software vendors about the price of licenses."

"Some companies are pretty fair with us, and we can, for instance, buy all Maya licenses we need. In other cases, companies can't lower the price of their products. That was the case for Adobe. We asked for a discount, they said they can't do that. End of the story." So instead of simply using a cracked version of Adobe Photoshop, the team decides to give Krita a chance.

Enter Krita, the power-packed opensource Photoshop alternative
After being introduced to Krita by an industry expert, students at ATI were mostly impressed by the capabilities of the software, says Grassard. Of course, it's not so easy to learn new software when you have used Photoshop for such a long time. But they decides to give it a go anyway.
"As the result, we switched from Photoshop to Krita. We didn't do it for some kind of revolutionary ideology, we did it to continue using high quality software, and Krita was the best option. I think it's going to be a pretty good experience for everybody at ATI. And we know that a lot of other animation schools in France are watching us."

Story behind Blender and Natron
Blender is a well-know free and opensource 3D modelling & graphics software widely used for making animated movies while Natron is an opensource compositing software. Unlike Krita, the most students at ATI were already quite familiar with Blender. So the choice of this software came naturally from our students, says Grassard. He himself being an ardent user of Blender 3D graphics software, the choice of Blender was pretty straight forward.
After Effects was the primary software of choice for introducing compositing to students at ATI. But after the switch from Photoshop to Krita, they had to find a new one. Then they came to know about open source compositing software named Natron, which apparently was built by a French team at INRIA lab. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Commendable courage and determination shown here by the students as well as their mentor at ATI. We wish them the very best. Read his full interview at Libre Graphics World.

VLC 3.0 to come up with Chromecast support

Tech Drive-in 19 Feb 2015, 7:37 pm | Tech Drive-in

Recent changelog published by VLC confirms once and for all the fact that the next important version of VLC is indeed going to come up with Chromecast support across multiple devices. 

Chromecast support and VLC 3.0
A changelog posted by VLC has confirmed that support for the Google Chromecast, the mighty popular TV dongle, is soon to be added to one of the most loved open source media player out there. That means users will be able to stream just about any media file through VLC media player to the connected Chromecast TV dongle.

Still, it is not entirely clear whether the changes are applicable to VLC player across platforms, but there are indications. VLC had previously revealed that it was looking to add Chromecast support for its entire suite of apps. Let the release happen and then we'll know for sure.
[Source: pocket-lint]

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