Tuesday, November 30, 2010

KDE SC 4.6 Beta now available!

As we wait for the soon to come KDE SC 4.5.4 update, the KDE developers have announced the immediate availability of the first Beta for KDE SC 4.6.

According to the official ANNOUNCEMENT, KDE SC 4.6 will bring many exciting new features, including better portability for mobile devices, a stronger Nepomuk integration and a more powerful implementation of Kontact.

As is always the case with projects of this magnitude, the amount of new features is linked to the amount of potential bugs resulting from development efforts. As a consequence, the KDE team are asking for help in testing and bug reporting.

The end goal is making KDE SC 4.6 as successful a release as possible, and the time to add your two cents is now. Follow the INSTRUCTIONS provided, download this Beta and help SC 4.6 be the best KDE release ever!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kubuntu 10.10 Review

A few years back, Ubuntu was my first taste of Linux. As I spent more time using it, I found there were other "flavors" available (namely Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc) Sharing many things with its big GNOME brother, it felt natural for me to get my first cup of KDE through Kubuntu.

Unfortunately, back then KDE was going through some major changes (KDE 4.0), which added to the questionable stability of Kubuntu itself made the whole experience frustrating and disappointing. Initially, I thought it could be down to my lack of understanding of KDE, or perhaps that I didn't install Kubuntu correctly. After reading many forum posts, though, I quickly realized that most people agreed that Kubuntu was not a good implementation of the KDE desktop. The average reply was recommending other alternatives, such as OpenSUSE, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, etc.

After such a disappointing first encounter, Kubuntu became a distro to forget for me, and it was not until a few days ago that I felt I should give it another try.

FIRST CONTACT

After taking a look at the OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, I have to admit I was impressed with some of the features listed there. I downloaded the ISO and proceeded to test the standard installation.

INSTALLATION

Plain and simple, Kubuntu 10.10 has one the best installation (along with Pardus and OpenSUSE) wizards I have seen in a KDE distro. There is an undeniable resemblance to the one in Ubuntu 10.10, but with a nice KDE flavor throughout. Here's a few screenshots to showcase what the Kubuntu installation process looks like.


Click on image to enlarge

As can be seen below, the Kubuntu 10.10 installation process includes many of the features that made their debut on Ubuntu 10.10, such as providing users with useful recommendations before the installation starts.


Click on image to enlarge


Click on image to enlarge

Disk partition management is clear and simple, and so are setting the time zone and selecting the keyboard layout.


Click on image to enlarge


Click on image to enlarge


Click on image to enlarge

ReKonq is the web browser of choice for Kubuntu 10.10. I believe it is will be short lived in most Kubuntu installations, though, as it simply cannot compete with some of the most popular alternatives out there, like Firefox, Google Chrome, Chromium or even Opera.


Click on image to enlarge

All in all, the Kubuntu installation process is great. Highly informational and intuitive, it should make installation a piece of cake for most users, even those with little Linux experience.

DESKTOP AND APPLICATIONS

Kubuntu 10.10 sports KDE SC 4.5.1 and up to date compilations of many KDE applications, including Amarok, Kmail, etc. Leaving all that's common to most KDE distros aside, the most notable application in Kubuntu 10.10 is probably the much improved KPackageKit, a software manager with an easy to use interface.


Click on image to enlarge

Ubuntu users will probably recognize the influence of their distro's own software center, at least visually. Unfortunately, KPackageKit is still not there in many areas, but it is a definite improvement over other software managers I have seen in other KDE distros. For example, PCLinuxOS is still using (what looks like ancient software at this stage) Synaptic.


Click on image to enlarge

Searching applications is simple and intuitive, and queuing installations is truly possible, in a way that reminds me of Synaptic. As is the case with many of the latest software managers, users can browse by category or perform a text search. Double clicking on the package entry will display a description on the panel below including a screenshot, if available. In addition, managing software sources is also simple with KPackageKit.


Click on image to enlarge

Kubuntu also includes its own "Message indicator" system tray applet, which is compatible with Kopete and Pidgin (probably compatible with other instant messaging packages, but I haven't tested any others).



BLUETOOTH AND NETWORKING

When it comes to KDE distros, I almost exclusively use PCLinuxOS, which does inherit certain elements from Mandriva. One of those elements is the network manager, which does many things very well, but it also has its share of flaws.

In my experience, the most annoying thing is that it cannot automatically connect to several wireless network connections. In other words, if a machine is connected to wireless network A and it is "moved" to wireless network B, it will not connect automatically. The user is then forced to manually manage that connection. After that, repeating connections to wireless network B will happen automatically, but the problem will happen again when "moving" back to wireless network A.

Another element that I find annoying is that the PCLinuxOS network manager is quite slow in general (starting up the application, browsing wireless connections available, rescanning, or simply connecting). Last but not least, it's interface is a complete departure from KDE's, so it feels alien and a bit obsolete.

On the other hand, Kubuntu uses the KDE network manager, which in my testing showed superb performance and very nice features. It is seamlessly integrated on the system tray and within the plasma desktop, providing all the relevant information in a quick and non intrusive way.



In addition, it allows users to drill down on the connection in use for further details. When that happens, a small chart displaying the current activity of the connection is displayed. A great feature, if you ask me.

On a different note, Kubuntu sports a fully working BlueDevil implementation, which is very much welcome. Among other things, it allowed me (for the first time in a KDE distro) to successfully configure my mobile phone, making browsing the device and sending files to it as quick and simple as is usually the case in GNOME desktops.

BUGGY AND UNSTABLE?

Unfortunately, while there are many reasons to congratulate Kubuntu developers for this latest release, there are still things that feel somewhat sloppy and buggy. For example, users who want to use Compiz and Emerald, will be forced to use a small hack that enables both at the beginning of every session.

Another thing that feels buggy is font rendering. As part of the default installation, Kubuntu uses the new Ubuntu fonts, which do look great. However, according to my testing in two different machines, font rendering starts to behave strangely as soon as size or font type is changed. Even after setting all parameters back to their original values, fonts still don't look as they did after the installation. Very very strange.

WORTH A SHOT?

Kubuntu 10.10 is a more solid and overall better version of this popular distro. There are still certain areas that require some definite polishing and I wouldn't place it up there with the best KDE distros available. Having said so, users who can live with the few workarounds required to get Kubuntu 10.10 to work 100% should enjoy a number of features that are hard to find in other KDE distros.

In my opinion, Kubuntu 10.10 is worth a shot, specially if you appreciate the Ubuntu influence. For those who couldn't care less about it and/or require top stability, it may be wise looking somewhere else.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My current "What to do after installing Ubuntu?" script

I am sure any Linux user with a minimum of experience has gone through a number of "What to do after installing distro X?" articles. In my case, I have learnt a lot from those, both in terms of understanding certain customization features available, as well as the software that most people prefer.

Inevitably, I think all of us get to a point where we know which of those customizations are interesting/useful to us and which ones we can just pass on. When a user settles down on a number of updates/changes that will remain more or less the same for a given distro, that's when automation of such customization task makes sense and comes in handy.

THE SCRIPT

WARNING: I created this script to make my life easier. Although I have not seen any during my testing, it may contain bugs, so use it at your own risk!

My goal was to put together a simple script that allowed me to easily get any new Ubuntu installation up to speed, installing the applications I like and removing those I don't really care about. Another concept I was interested in was to create a script that felt more like an application with a (somewhat) proper GUI interface. The idea was to create something that would not scare unexperienced users away.

The way I see it, the easiest and most convenient approach would be to create a launcher under Main menu > System > Administration, as shown below.


Click on image to enlarge

To achieve this, simply go to Main Menu > System > Preferences and open the Main Menu editor. Once the application is open, add a new item to the Administration menu, as shown below:


Click on image to enlarge

Once run, the script starts with a welcome message, indicating that admin privileges are required and that the list of applications to be installed/uninstalled should be modified before moving forward.


Click on image to enlarge

The script will first update sources, just to be sure all repositories and software available are taken into account.


Click on image to enlarge

The flow of the script completes the uninstallation tasks first, then proceeds to installation.

CHANGE WHAT TO INSTALL / UNINSTALL

In order to modify the script so it installs/uninstalls the applications that suit your needs, simply open the CustUbuntu.sh file and access the section displayed below:
# Customize the script to your liking
#************************************

########################################################
#        ENTER PACKAGES TO BE UNINSTALLED BELOW        # 
########################################################

# IMPORTANT!: Package names must be correct and separated by a blank space
Uninstall=(tomboy shotwell empathy gwibber pitivi rhythmbox f-spot mplayer gnome-mplayer evolution)

########################################################
#         ENTER PACKAGES TO BE INSTALLED BELOW         #
########################################################

# IMPORTANT!: Package name must be available in the current repositories.  Package names must be separated by a blank space
Install=(gimp gimp-plugin-registry chromium-browser vlc audacious pidgin geany gtk-recordMyDesktop unrar thunderbird)
You probably noticed there are two (array) variables, named Uninstall and Install. Each of them is assigned a number of package names to uninstall and install respectively. The ones in there right now are obviously my choices, so if you want to add yours, simply enter the correct package name and separate it with a blank space.

As a quick example for installation, say you want to add AMSN to the list of applications that should be installed. The resulting Install variable would then look like this:

Install=(gimp gimp-plugin-registry chromium-browser vlc audacious pidgin geany gtk-recordMyDesktop unrar thunderbird amsn)

Because apt-get will take care of all dependencies, you don't need to manually add them (unless you want to, of course).

The same logic would apply in the case of an uninstallation. Should you not want any of the packages listed to either be installed or uninstalled, simply remove them from the list.

INSTALLATION

...Of sorts, of course. Downloading the script and providing it with the correct privileges is all that is required. After that, we can enable a launcher from the main menu to ease things up a bit further.

1.- Download the script from HERE.

2.- Grant execute privileges from the GUI or from the CLI:

chmod +x CustUbuntu.sh

3.- The script can now be run, either from the CLI or from the GUI.

FEEDBACK AND/OR MODIFICATIONS WELCOME!

This script is obviously a work in progress. I already have some ideas to enhance it, but since it has already saved me significant hassle (and typing!) when installing new Ubuntu instances, I thought I'd share it.

If you'd like to see some other features or have spotted a bug, please let me know. Alternatively, if you want to modify it so it suits your own wicked ends, please feel free to do so.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Welcome home, son!

You may have noticed that I have not posted anything in the last few days. Well, what can I say? My son was born last tuesday and I have not been able to do anything, other than taking care of the millions of things that required my attention... And spend the remaining time staring at him! (Ain't he cute!?) ;-)


Click on image to enlarge

Anyways, I have some ideas and some articles in the making, but they will probably have to wait a bit longer, at least until I can get a hold of my new life as a dad!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Future of Linux Mint

In a recent ARTICLE, I went over a number of potential changes that Canonical announced for future Ubuntu releases, some of which will apply as soon as 11.04 Natty Narwhal is released. As soon as I heard that news, I wondered how the many Ubuntu based distros would go about it, specially Linux Mint. If you also wondered yourself, here are some answers from none other than Linux Mint Founder Clement Lefebvre, extracted from a recent INTERVIEW published by free software oriented news site MUKTWARE.

"We're not planning to switch to Unity but to keep our desktop as similar as it is at the moment. So it's hard to say how we'll achieve this technically but we're aiming at using Gnome without Gnome Shell :)", said Lefebvre.

On the topic of using Wayland, he said: "... it's an interesting project. Ubuntu isn't going to switch to it this year and we'll see future releases keep X for now. The backing of canonical behind this project could bring it up to speed as a really interesting alternative and a good successor to X, just as it could make it something that only suits Ubuntu itself.. the future will tell. For now we're sticking with X with no plans to change, but we'll keep an eye on the development of Wayland and see where it's going in the near future."

This is interesting, not only as far as Mint 11 is concerned, but also because it sounds as if Clement had a bit of an insider view on the subject. Mark Shuttleworth suggested that Wayland could be part of Ubuntu 11.04 (although he did hint at the possibility that it could take longer than that), but Lefebvre clearly states that Wayland is not to be used any time soon. It will be interesting to see what happens eventually, but I have to say Clement's point of view sounds more realistic.

As a final comment, Lefebvre stated: "Anyway, it's too soon to talk about this. Mint 10 is about to be released, and Mint 11 will come with the same desktop and the same X server in about 6 months time."

It's interesting to see Mint deviating more and more from Ubuntu's path. On the one hand, it is great news because it should bring further diversity to the Linux user community. On the other hand, it brings some question marks around the feasibility of Canonical future plans for Ubuntu.

Will future changes play in favor or against Ubuntu and its user community? We will have to wait and see.

Monday, November 8, 2010

KDE versus GNOME

In all honesty, I have never truly made up my mind on which of the two most famous Linux desktop managers I liked the most. That aside, the inevitable comparison between the two is always there, though, subconsciously. In fact, considering the latest releases from both GNOME and KDE bring outstanding features and improvements, I thought it was the perfect time to put together an article on the subject and find out which gets first to the checkered flag.

Before I actually sat down and compared, I opened up a poll to get a better understanding of the community opinion on the subject.


Click on image to enlarge

As can be seen from the chart above, it seems GNOME is still a community favorite, but KDE seems to be catching up somehow.

Anyways, let's just jump straight into it: let the battle begin.

KDE SC 4.5.2 versus GNOME 2.32.0

I will break this comparison into categories, as follows:

1.- Look & Feel
2.- User friendly/Intuitive
3.- Application Catalog
4.- Connectivity
5.- Performance
6.- Energy Management


LOOK & FEEL

Most comments I read comparing both GNOME and KDE show a clear tendency to find the latter more visually attractive. Not surprisingly, KDE provides endless different ways to tweak colors and style, including a more polished default Look&Feel. There are some strange limitations to KDE in this area, though. For example, changing icon themes is still somewhat buggy and very few icon themes, if any, can substitute Oxygen properly. In addition, control themes are very limited and changing them from the GUI is anything but intuitive. Last but not least, font rendering, even if apparently more flexible that GNOME's, is not as sharp and fonts never look as good in comparison.

It almost "makes sense" that KDE should get this one, but scratching beneath the surface shows that it is still not fully ready to win the crown. Even if not offering the same level of flexibility or good looks out of the box, GNOME provides a solid set of features, all of which work as expected. I am sure KDE will get there eventually, but for now they are matched.

Result: DRAW

USER 'FRIENDLINESS'

If we agree that most Linux users have previously used some way, shape or form of a misoperating system put together in Redmond, we should also agree that KDE probably feels closer to home to the average Linux newbie. A single lower panel, the menu on the left and a somewhat Windows reminiscent system tray should feel less alien than a double panel setup with an upper system menu split in three main categories. There are other similarities, like the KDE System Settings tool, which is also adamant of the concept of keeping all things configuration in one big spot, just like the Windows control center does.

Unfortunately, once past those subtle similarities, KDE no longer feels that intuitive and requires more time to get used to. As a simple example, GNOME users only need to right click on their desktop to access a wide array of appearance settings. Anything from icon themes to window decoration, fonts or wallpapers can be controlled from a single applet. Not only that, but installation of pretty much any kind of theme happens on that same window, so even if users didn't know about it, they would very quickly grasp the concept. A similar action for a user new to KDE would probably take longer as s/he finds which of the KDE System settings categories provide the functionality s/he is looking for.

Another area that plays against KDE is its unpredictability. In other words, some concepts follow a certain logic that is unfortunately not fully consistent throughout. As a simple example, a KDE user would go to System Settings in order to change an icon theme. Similarly, s/he would again go to System Settings in order to modify system keyboard shortcuts, color schemes, fonts or desktop themes. How about changing an application icon or adding a new custom keyboard shortcut? KDE System Settings again, right? Not so, users will need some luck to find those options as part of the main menu editor.

As a final thought, KDE is more actively evolving right now. Evolution implies change, and change always ends up bringing early confusion and requiring extra effort from users to adjust and learn new features. For instance, KDE SC 4.5 series brought changes in many areas, such as the KDE System Settings tool, which was rearranged a bit.

Due to its superior stability and a more intuitive design, GNOME still maintains a comfortable lead in this area. KDE must standardize its concepts so they consistently apply across the whole environment, as well as ensure that certain basic elements, such as icon theme management, work perfectly out of the box.

Result: GNOME WINS

APPLICATION CATALOG

Both KDE and GNOME provide great applications as part of the default installation. Different distros usually decide which ones to keep and which ones to substitute, so it is sometimes becomes difficult to know which application catalog is best. For the purpose of this comparison, I will narrow things down to a bunch of common application categories that belong in the GNOME and KDE projects respectively:

CategoryContendersWinner
Internet browserEpiphany vs KonquerorKDE
Audio playerRhythmbox vs AmarokKDE
ArchiverFile Roller vs ArkGNOME
Video playerTotem vs DragonGNOME
Text editorGedit vs KwriteGNOME
File ManagerNautilus vs DolphinKDE
eMail clientEvolution vs KmailKDE
Instant messagingEmpathy vs KopeteGNOME

Indeed, things are pretty even, both application catalogs are fabulous. Only personal preference can tilt the balance either way.

Result: DRAW

CONNECTIVITY

In this case, I will focus on how each desktop manager provides access to the most common connection media, such as Ethernet, Wireless, Bluetooth and 3G.

One interesting fact about the KDE network manager is that it is not that simple to test it in most popular distros. Some, like Fedora, include the GNOME network manager, while others like PCLinuxOS stick to the Mandriva one. Kubuntu is one of the few shipping with the default KDE network manager, but it is not unusual to see people recommending its substitution by GNOME network manager or WiCD. I believe this is already a relevant sign that KDE is not there yet, perhaps not mature or solid enough.

Ethernet: Both KDE and GNOME network managers work straight away as long as the hardware is recognized, not much to say here.

Wireless: A different beast altogether, user experience will depend directly on their hardware and how well their OS copes with it. I must say, though, that I LOVED the network manager in Kubuntu 10.10. In my experience, it works faster and just as reliably as its GNOME counterpart. In fact the KDE panel networking applet is a great piece of work with an easy to use interface that does provide lots of information, such as a small network traffic monitoring chart. The network manager applet in GNOME is a very solid and thoroughly tested application, and even if it may provide superior stability, it still lacks some pretty basic features (wireless network list manual refresh, anyone?) and its design could be improved to deliver more information and in a clearer way.

Internet Everywhere/3G: The GNOME network manager has supported this kind of devices for some time now, which makes it the more reliable and better working option.

Bluetooth: Similarly, bluetooth support is and has been more stable in GNOME for some time now. KDE is a bit of hit and miss, and configuring/managing devices can be a pain. Kubuntu 10.10 sports a correctly configured instance of BlueDevil, which does feel more robust. Having said so, I still experienced frequent issues when browsing external devices.

All in all, even if KDE is catching up quickly, it still lacks the stability that is key in such a critical area. The OS paradigm is quickly changing following the cloud revolution, and rock solid connectivity features are a must now more than ever.

Result: GNOME WINS

PERFORMANCE

I believe that performance benchmarks are very difficult in this case because desktop managers always sit on top of a particular Linux distro and Kernel combination, both of which do have an influence on performance. Even if we compared Kubuntu and Ubuntu, benchmarks wouldn't be 100% fair, for there are slight differences in how they are built and the number of features each offers.

In any case, based on my experience and even if KDE has vastly improved lately, this one still goes to GNOME. Startup times are generally faster, and so are standard actions, such as opening applications, browsing devices, loading icons, etc.

With all the above in mind, it is important to keep an eye on the evolution of the technology behind both GNOME and KDE. For example, QT 4.7 release was announced recently, stressing significant performance gains which should cascade down by the time KDE SC 4.6 goes live. It wouldn't surprise me if KDE matched or maybe even surpassed GNOME in terms of performance soon.

Result: GNOME WINS

ENERGY MANAGEMENT

While desktop users will probably not consider this a key element, I believe it is for those using portable devices. Moreover, I believe it only makes sense that open software is not only conscious about freedom and other noble causes, but also about leading responsible and efficient use of energy.

The latest GNOME updates have brought some improvements to energy saving. Surprisingly, I have come to enjoy 15%-20% longer battery life since I installed Ubuntu 10.10. Naturally, that much improvement does not come from GNOME alone, the Kernel is also very much a part of it, but that should not demean what the GNOME developers have achieved.

KDE has also improved in this area, but even more importantly, its approach is much more flexible and powerful. The ability to configure the different energy saving profiles to the smallest detail is simply incredible. Once you get used to it, it really feels like you are missing something when you are on a different desktop manager. In my opinion, KDE is ahead of the game on this one.

Result: KDE WINS

GNOME SLIGHTLY AHEAD

Judging by the analysis above, it may look as if GNOME was a much better desktop manager than KDE, but that's really not the case. Both are evenly matched on most areas, but there are still some elements making a difference, specially in terms of reliability and ease of use.

The GNOME development community has lately invested many of its resources on the upcoming GNOME shell release. Because of that, the current GNOME desktop has not been experiencing the aggressive evolution that KDE is enjoying (and sometimes suffering from). As a result, GNOME has become more and more solid with each recent release, which I believe has played to its advantage. On the other hand, KDE is relentlessly evolving, and even if that aggressive development is risky at times, it is already bringing tangible results. I believe it just needs a small effort to rationalize all concepts and settle down a few features to more stable levels.

If I had to say which one is best today, I would have to go with GNOME, if only because I consider its superior reliability a critical element. Looking forward, though, the picture is anything but clear. The GNOME shell has been heavily criticized and suffers from never ending delays (which may explain why Ubuntu has decided to drop its use and go with Unity). The latest KDE releases are achieving the exact opposite, getting users excited with recent releases and the vast improvements that came with them. I believe that the final release of the GNOME shell and KDE SC 5.0 (which may coincide in the second half of 2011) will be the decisive point that may tilt the balance one way or the other.

I have to admit, my vote goes to KDE SC 5.0.

Thanks for reading

Friday, November 5, 2010

Huge Ubuntu Changes to Come (Unity review)

The last Ubuntu news have made quite some noise lately. Rightly so, for the Canonical supported distro is about to make some very aggressive (and potentially risky) changes.

In case you didn't know, they have decided that Ubuntu 11.04 will use Unity as the default GUI, thus leaving long time favorite GNOME behind. Anybody using Ubuntu for some time was aware that the switch to GNOME shell was going to be anything but smooth. It came to a point where it was somewhat clear that Ubuntu could end up looking for an alternative, specially in the light of all the criticism behind GNOME3 pre-releases. I have to admit, though, that it has been a surprise to find that Ubuntu would switch to Unity as soon as 11.04, less than 6 months from now.

TESTING UNITY

Given that Unity is available for download in Maverick Meerkat, I couldn't resist and went on and tested it. Before I go into my review, I have to say that I am aware (and Ubuntu developers admit the same) that Unity is not 100% solid yet.

Downloading and installing Unity in Ubuntu 10.10 is quite simple. Once installed, Unity becomes the default session manager, but it is possible to go back to GNOME anytime. Therefore, if you want to see what's coming, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Open a virtual terminal
  2. Install Ubuntu netbook
  3. sudo apt-get install ubuntu-netbook
  4. Install Unity
  5. sudo apt-get install unity
  6. In order to test Unity, simply logout and log back in

Those who have not seen Unity (or GNOME shell) before will probably choke a bit when using Unity for the first time. The look and feel is not a drastic departure from GNOME's, but the way things work is.


Click on Image to enlarge

Having said so, the interface is very intuitive and it is very simple to get a hold of it in just a few minutes. Working on several workspaces is possible, but the effect is similar to Compiz's Expo, no sign of any 3D effects here. Word from developers is that they will make it to the final release, though.


Click on Image to enlarge

I have the feeling that installing Unity on top of Ubuntu 10.10 producess a "hybrid" setup that falls somewhat in between both, because the former is "boss". After all, the way places are organised, default applications and administration sections all follow the GNOME approach. In fact, it looks like Nautilus will still be there for Ubuntu 11.04, even if the plan is to no longer use it after then. In any case, I am not sure that testing Unity this way really conveys an accurate portrait of how it will eventually look like when it is released for good.


Click on Image to enlarge

Even if the GNOME influence is undeniable, it is still easy to see different concepts in Unity. For example, the main workspace view doesn't use old categories anymore, but splits areas into tasks. It's not so much about splitting applications into categories, but about presenting the user functionality areas and ask What do you want to do?.


Click on Image to enlarge

As I mentioned before, there is an overall vibe to Unity that conveys this is not a final product, which is to be expected at this stage. It feels more like an early prototype with many areas and concepts still lacking maturity. I won't go into detail, but I found performance far from current standards and a significant lack of flexibility over the current GNOME Ubuntu desktop.

IS UNITY READY?

Based on my testing, I am not sure moving to Unity at this stage is such a good idea. I believe it is far from being mature enough to take over from GNOME, too far to close the gap in six months. I understand, though, that sometimes the best way to mature a piece of technology is to jump straight into using it, even if that involves certain risks and lack of overall stability and functionality at first. In fact, this is particularly the case in open source projects, which usually lack proper Alpha and Beta testing.

Aside from issues that are common in any kind of early development, I have found that Unity is not even close to GNOME in terms of flexibility. Its interface is bounded by too many limitations, most of which probably make sense if the target device was a tablet (is Mark Shuttleworth trying to position Ubuntu as a potential iOS competitor?), but not so much in a standard PC. I think that lack of options could prove a decision maker for many in the Linux community, so I hope Ubuntu developers work hard to improve it.

Taking everything into account, my opinion is that it is too early to set Unity as the default Ubuntu desktop manager. I obviously have huge respect for Ubuntu developers and am more than ready to be surprised, but I truly think they have raised the bar way too high this time.

If you try Unity, or after reading this brief review, I am sure lots of questions will come to mind. Here's a (particularly) brief FAQ attempt, which does provide some very relevant answers.

IS THAT IT?

If changing the default desktop manager was not enough, Ubuntu 11.04 is set to undergo some other major changes, the departure from X to embrace the Wayland display server being the most notorious. It seems Ubuntu developers feel the current video server technology is too old and cumbersome (probably about right), so they decided to switch to Wayland, a very young project apparently full of potential.

Once again, this is a major departure from what has been core at Ubuntu, perhaps even more radical a change than a new desktop manager. On the one hand, I applaud the braveness behind all these decisions, specially considering they showcase the very top value at the heart of Linux: Freedom. On the other hand, I wonder it they are trying to take on too much too soon.

For more details, you can read Mark Shuttleworth's own blog ENTRY on the subject.

WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

Yes, there is still room for more changes! Banshee has been designated the default Ubuntu Media Player and will be part of the LiveCD when 11.04 goes live. Banshee developers have embraced the opportunity and have already stated their interest in making an effort to provide the best integration possible, which incidentally will be part of the development of Banshee 2.0.

CAN'T WAIT!

Ubuntu 11.04 is quickly positioning itself as the most ambitious release to date, incorporating changes that can very much redefine the way we understand the formerly brown Linux distro. I am sure it won't be an easy ride at first, but even if Natty Narwhal is not an example of reliability, it may be the first step towards an even brighter future.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Yes! Even if it doesn't feel like it, I started this blog one year ago.

During those 365 days I have had the opportunity to interact with lots of interesting readers and have hopefully provided something worth reading.

The World of Linux keeps growing and getting more and more interesting. It was already a leader in the server OS arena, but in the last few years it is growing stronger in many other areas that few believed in. Linux has taken over the smart phone world, and judging by the growth of Android, it will only get better. In fact, Android 3.0 is right around the corner and rumor says it's going to take over the tablet World as well. On the other hand, Android is finding its way across to many other devices, like TV sets.

Home desktops are still the final frontier left for Linux to conquer. Windows and MacOS have led the way for now, but that may change with Google Chrome OS and the amazing late developments in most of the major distros, led by Ubuntu.

All in all, things are looking even more exciting that just one year ago, so I will continue to bring my experiences and all that I find interesting about Linux in years to come.

I want to thank everyone who have checked out my blog. Special thanks go to those 67 (and growing) followers!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FEDORA 14 "Laughlin" is now available

The latest Fedora release went live yesterday and is now available for download in a number of different architectures and desktop environments. Codenamed "Laughlin", release 14 brings a list of new features that are certainly not for everyone. Click on this
LINK
to read the official announcement.

Fedora 14 continues a trend started in recent releases, where focus is apparently vanishing from standard desktop features while concentrating on concepts that IT professionals surely will appreciate. Some of Fedora 14 most relevant new features include:

  • Programming software updates including QT4.7, NetBeans 6.9, Python 2.7, Perl 5.12, GCC 4.5 and Eclipse Helios.
  • Support for D programming language.
  • Latest 2.6.35 Kernel series.
  • Up to date desktop environments including GNOME, KDE, XFCE and others.
  • Repository updates for the most popular desktop applications including Amarok, Inkscape, GIMP, Clementine, etc.

Most of these features/updates will be of little relevancy for the average desktop user. I have tried Fedora 14 myself and haven't found much that would justify an update/installation. Considering Fedora usually keeps repositories very much up to date (Fedora 13 users enjoy most of those software updates already), there are not many elements making Laughlin that attractive. Unless you are a programmer in need for very specific pieces of software, the only driver I can think of would be enjoying the latest Kernel and desktop manager releases, which would be fair enough, but certainly speaks volumes about this Fedora release.

All in all, I don't find Fedora 14 features and updates worth putting together a review. I am sure the relevancy is there, but not so much for the average user. I have the feeling that Fedora will slowly become a specialist distro, losing part of its user base, which will inevitably migrate to other more user friendly alternatives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Install Dropbox on KDE desktops

Dropbox is a popular and great cloud based application, which allows you to synchronize files across different computers. I use it extensively, not only because it allows me to work with a single version of each file, but also because those files are always available, secure and they are virtually impossible to lose in a potential computer crash

As you may imagine, I spend quite some time installing new distros for my own tests or reviews. I have learnt that Dropbox is extremely handy for such activity. I use it to store my scripts, icon themes, wallpapers, emerald themes, etc., so I just need to synch the computer with Dropbox, as opposed to searching for files, downloading them, etc.

INSTALLATION ON KDE

Unfortunately for KDE users, Dropbox is only available for Ubuntu and Fedora (GNOME), with a somewhat heavy Nautilus dependency. As a result, installing the application on KDE may prove tricky and frustrating. After researching a bit on the matter (and overcoming a few challenges), I decided to put together a brief article about it.

DOWNLOAD

Let's start by downloading and extracting files. First, pick your architecture and click on the corresponding link below.


If you are using one of the popular browsers available, chances are the file will be downloaded under ~/Downloads/. Once the download is complete, double click on the tar file and extract all files to your home folder. (Note that the folder extracted is hidden by default, so don't worry if you don't see right away!)

START DROPBOX

To start Dropbox, open Dolphin and browse to the ~/.dropbox-dist folder (use alt + '.' without the quotes to view hidden files and folders). Right click on the file dropbox and change its properties so that it becomes executable. Double click on it and the application will start .

Now, that's all cool, but it's only good for one use. In order to get Dropbox to start every time we start a new session, open KDE system settings > System Administration > Startup and Shutdown and then enter the Autostart section. Click on Add Program and select ~/.dropbox-dist/dropbox.

You should now get dropbox running every time you start a new session.


Dropbox on Kubuntu 10.10!

Happy Dropboxing!