Linux Mint 10 Julia released!

Today the Linux Mint team has released a new version of Linux Mint. Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu it brings many of the nice things Ubuntu released with earlier this fall.

Looking further than Ubuntu, Linux Mint also brings its own new theme along with improvements for their own tools (MintMenu, MintInstall and more).

What makes Mint an interesting Ubuntu derivative is that they’ve done more than just change the default set of packages. They’ve actually made their own tools for improving user-friendliness. These tools are often the reason people choose Mint over Ubuntu.

The Linux Mint Team is also working on a Debian based Linux Mint called LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition). This version works to provide the best of Mint combined with the best of Debian. It is a rolling release version of Linux Mint and although they’re not compatible they have a lot of the same user-friendly Mint tools bundled.

To read more about Linux Mint 10 look here: http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1581

For more info on LMDE check out this older blog post of theirs: http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1527

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Firefox 4 beta 7 released!

Wednesday Mozilla released a new version of the upcoming Firefox. This new beta adds hardware acceleration on Windows and Mac OS X. It also speeds up JavaScript performance by adding the new JägerMonkey just in time compiler. Firefox 4 beta 7 also improves the support HTML5 forms.

For those of you that haven’t followed the development of Firefox 4 it also brings a tab grouping feature called Panorama, a bookmarks et al. synchronization tool called Firefox Sync and App Tabs for having unclosable tabs that contains web applications right at hand.

To read more about the latest Firefox 4 beta see The Mozilla Blog: http://blog.mozilla.com/blog/2010/11/10/fasten-your-seatbelts-latest-firefox-4-beta-boosts-speed-in-the-browser/

Xfce 4.8pre1 released

November 7 The Xfce Development Team announced a preview release of what will become Xfce 4.8. Amongst the things that have changed since 4.6 is that Xfce has been ported to use GIO instead of ThunarVFS and that the dependency of HAL has been replaced with more modern technologies like udev, PolicyKit and ConsoleKit. The Xfce panel has also been rewritten from scratch to provide better support for multiple monitors amongst other things.

Some of the things still waiting to be implemented is gridless placement of icons on the desktop and a netbook friendly settings dialog.

The final Xfce 4.8 is set to be released on January 16 2011.

To read more about this preview release of Xfce 4.8 or download the release tarballs see http://www.xfce.org/about/news?id=24

Unity Switching to Wayland

On November 4 Mark Shuttleworth announced that Unity will switch from using X to using the Wayland display server.

Wayland is a display server relying on DRM (Direct Rendering Manager), GEM (Graphics Execution Manager) and KMS (kernel mode-setting) for rendering. This allows Wayland to stay lightweight and provide lag and tear free rendering.

Wayland is currently not stable enough for everyday use and Mark Shuttleworth said that it will probably take a year or so before we’ll see something useful.

The fact that Wayland relies on DRM, GEM and KMS for rendering shuts out the proprietary drivers from being used. This might become a problem for some users since some of the open source drivers lacks supports for the latest hardware and sometimes, when there is support, the experience isn’t all that stable.

The need for DRM, GEM, and KMS also leaves out some older hardware that doesn’t support one or more of the above.

Another thing that might pose a problem for older hardware is that Wayland uses OpenGL and OpenGL ES for compositing.

So where Wayland may be revolutionary and lightweight, it may draw a line in the sand separating the old hardware from the new.

Below the Surface of Fedora 14

On November 2 the Fedora team chose to release the latest Fedora. I’ve decided to take a look at what Fedora looks like in its newest incarnation.

Fedora is a project based around free (libre) software so things like Adobe Flash and MP3 support doesn’t come as part of the package. On the other side this dedication to the open source world shows us the best of what is going on upstream.

When first opening up Fedora we’re greeted by a log in screen with automatic log in enabled. After that we’re taken to a beautiful desktop powered by GNOME. The artwork is as always lovely and bluish, this time with an electric feel.

The Fedora live desktop

The Fedora live desktop

The installer begins by showing us the Fedora logo and pressing next brings us to the choice of keyboard layout. After that we get to choose between installing to “basic” or “specialized” storage devices. This seems a little confusing at first but after reading the accompanying text making a choice is easy for even the Linux newcomer. Then we get to set a host name and timezone. Now comes the time to set the root password. This is something I like about Fedora. Having one password for administering the computer and one password for using it seems like a good idea to me. The screen for choosing partition layout gives a lot of predefined options including the possibility to encrypt your system. The installer takes some time to finish and it feels like it’s taking longer than when I installed Ubuntu.

Fedora - install complete

Fedora - install complete

After a reboot we’re presented a welcome screen with a Fedora logo asking us to do some basic configuration. This includes agreeing to the license, creating a user and setting date and time. At last we’re asked if we care to send a hardware profile to the Fedora Project. They apparently use this to put focus on the most used hardware and improve hardware compatibility where most needed.

When done with the basic configuration the newly installed Fedora system is ready to use. Amongst the things I noticed when I first logged in was that in the top panel there is a small icon telling the user about the weather in a set location (mine was for some reason set to Boston by default but changing it to Copenhagen was nice and easy).

The calendar, weather, time and date widget in Fedora

The calendar, weather, time and date widget in Fedora

Another small thing I like is the fact that Fedora tells you what each update is for. Next to each update there is an icon indicating ether bug fix, enhancement or security update. This can be a real time saver when you have to decide what updates are essential for your system and what updates can wait if you’re in a hurry.

The Fedora update system

The Fedora update system

Installing applications in Fedora isn’t as straight forward as in Ubuntu. There are no screenshots with the apps and if you just search for an application, documentation and development libraries also turn up in the search. This might be a little confusing for a first-time Linux user but then again for developers it’s nice to have all the libraries right at hand.

Software management in Fedora

Software management in Fedora

Adding repositories for Adobe Flash, mp3 support and other goodies takes you into the world of third-party repositories. For mp3 support and other “non-free” software Fedora decided not to bundle, a repository from RPM Fusion is necessary. For Adobe Flash a repository from Adobe is needed. It is possible to run Flash applications with more or less success through one of the open-source flash solutions available in Fedora. These include Gnash and Lightspark.

Summing it up Fedora 14 is a nice release that is able to compete in the big universe of Linux distributions. Comparing it to Ubuntu, many users will probably find that Flash and other “proprietary” items are missing but I’m thinking that it probably won’t take long till we will see the current alternatives evolving into full-blown competitors.

For more information about Fedora see http://fedoraproject.org/.

Fedora 14 released!

Fedora 14 codenamed Laughlin was released today. This new release of Fedora packs lots of new features for developers and sysadmins including support for programming language D and improved support for the latest virtual machines.

For more information about this latest release of Fedora see the release announcement here: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Fedora_14_announcement

A look at Ubuntu 10.10

As you might have heard Ubuntu 10.10 was released today. I’ve chosen to take a look at it and judge its usability and features.

Please note I’m running Ubuntu 10.10 inside a virtual machine and therefore can’t judge hardware compatibility.

After the boot sequence you’re greeted with a screen asking you if you want to install or try Ubuntu. I choose to install it and take a look at the features later.

 

The initial screen shown when booting the Ubuntu 10.10 live cd

The initial screen shown when booting the Ubuntu 10.10 live cd

 

The initial install screen shows the best conditions for installing Ubuntu and also offers you the chance to download any updates that may have been released since the release of Ubuntu. You’re also given a choice to install third-party software (flash, mp3 support and other nice stuff I believe). I check both boxes and move forward.

 

Preparing to install Ubuntu - optimal conditions

Preparing to install Ubuntu - optimal conditions

 

Next up is partitioning. Here I’m given the choice between using the entire disk or manually specifying the partitions. I assume that if I had Windows installed on the same disk I would be offered to install them side by side as I have with earlier versions of Ubuntu. I choose to use the entire disk and proceed to the next screen where I select my drive and click install now.

 

Chose between using the entire disk or manual partitioning

Chose between using the entire disk or manual partitioning

 

From there it gives me a chance to set my timezone, keyboard layout and make a user. It’s very nice that Ubuntu starts installing itself and then prompts you for the necessary information. This saves some time and makes it feel like the install isn’t taking that long. After entering your information a slide show appears giving you a look into the features of Ubuntu.

 

The first slide in the Ubuntu installer slide show

The first slide in the Ubuntu installer slide show

 

When the install completes you’re asked to restart your machine and then you can use your new Ubuntu installation.

Once Ubuntu is done rebooting you’re shown a grey login screen with a colorful background in Ubuntu colors.

 

The Ubuntu login screen

The Ubuntu login screen

 

When the desktop appears you have two panels available. At 800×600 the upper panel is almost filled with menus and indicators. It looks a little confusing with all the icons at first but I guess at higher resolutions it won’t look as filled.

 

The standard Ubuntu desktop

The standard Ubuntu desktop

 

Amongst the indicators on the top panel we have a battery monitor, the sound menu, a mail and chat menu and a calendar/time and date menu.

As the default browser Ubuntu comes with Mozilla Firefox but for those wishing to use Chrome/ium it is easily found in the Ubuntu Software Center.

 

Chromium the base for Google Chrome is available in the Ubuntu Software Center

Chromium the base for Google Chrome is available in the Ubuntu Software Center

 

Something I believe is new in the Ubuntu Software Center is the new and featured applications on the front page. So if you have some time to spare and you don’t know what to do then trying out some of the new or featured applications might be a good way to spend some time.

 

The featured and new applications in Ubuntu Software Center

The featured and new applications in Ubuntu Software Center

 

Flash is already installed if you ticked the box with third-party applications during the install. In case you didn’t then you can easily install it in the Ubuntu Software Center along with Java, mp3 support and other goodies.

As a bonus Ubuntu comes with a movie editor (PiTiVi), an office suite (OpenOffice), some games (Mines, Mahjongg, Sudoku etc.) and much more.

For instant messaging Ubuntu settled on Empathy that handles multiple protocols including MSN, GTalk, AIM, Yahoo! etc. If you’re not happy with Empathy you can always install Pidgin, another excellent piece of IM software.

 

Empathy supports many different IM protocols

Empathy supports many different IM protocols

 

Taking a look at the update manager, it looks nice and simple. You click install updates, type your password, wait a few seconds (or minutes if you haven’t updated for a while) and voila the job is done. It doesn’t get any simpler than that (at least not in my mind).

 

The Ubuntu update manager

The Ubuntu update manager

 

To sum it up: Ubuntu 10.10 is a very neat package, with everything needed for web surfing, basic office work (writing documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc.) and the occasional gaming. I believe once the major software vendors start showing a little love then we’ll have a complete solution that outperforms Windows in most areas.

For those interested you can find more information about Ubuntu on http://www.ubuntu.com/