Skype 4.0 for Linux available for download

After like forever, Skype version 4.0 code named Four Rooms for Improvement for Linux is available for now for download. This version comes with four main changes:

  • Conversations View for tracking chats in a unified window
  • Improved audio quality
  • New Call View
  • Improved video quality and support for more cameras

There are a host of other improvements and bug fixes in this new version of the ubiquitous voip app. 

Lenovo Sucks- Never buy this box

Being both a student and worker means having a lot to carry around. One of the things I did not have to let weigh me down is my laptop since I carry it around pretty much everywhere. Looking for a much lighter laptop with reasonable specs, I settled on this Lenovo Ideapad S205 netbook. 

It’s a nice notebook packed with reasonably powerful specs, but unless you want to run with Windows as your OS, avoid this box like the plague. It ships with a faulty bios that cannot boot any Linux distro that ships with GRUB2 as the default bootloader. I’ve read GRUB2 itself is not fully done yet, but so far every box I’ve tried installing a GRUB2 distro on has simply worked. Since virtually all the Linux distros out there ship with GRUB2, it effectively means running Linux on this notebook is nigh impossible.

I’ve seen tedious workarounds that involve chrooting and other long winded methods. Unless you’re a masochist or have enough time to spare, you’re better off shopping for another box than buying this. So far I’ve not seen any bios update from Lenovo to correct this anomaly even though their forums are flooded with similar complaints. 

This was my first Lenovo purchase and with this experience, they can sure count it as my last, not just purchase but will also not recommend it to anybody. Get a better brand that you can install 

Desktop – Android’s Next Frontier

                     Android, soon in a desktop near you

The Android operating system is an indisputable success. A few weeks ago, it was with an average of 400,000 activations per week.

But not only that: Tablets, E-readers, portable gaming devices, everything seems to go in the direction of Android (and ARM).

And as a natural evolution, the ARM architecture is slowly entering the server room.

And, it  seems inevitable.

ARM on the server? What a joke …
Yeah, all the critics cite that the ARM architecture is only 32 bits, can not do mult threads effectively, and besides, what operating system would run on this architecture?
Even more as a server …

But several factors are driving the development of servers with ARM architecture: ARM chips  are much cheaper than Intel ones, and much more efficient in terms of power consumption and heat dissipation, the so-called Green Computing

So, after this information, is not  surprising the announcement that ARM would be working to launch 64-bit versions of their processors, targeting the server’s market

But what does the expansion of ARM processors and their journey towards the server’s room has to do with the Android desktop? Many things, since the expansion of the ARM chips is forcing Intel to move…

Android on the desktop – Increasingly close …

The growth of the ARM architecture, and therefore, the entire Android ecosystem is pressuring Intel to do something.

After years and years making  more powerful processors (and therefore) more expensive and energy hungry, Intel is trying to leapfrog in the mobile sector , feeling the pressure of the ARM chips  closer and closer, and watching its influence being undermined. Not that Intel has not tried, it tried, with Meego (thanks to the Nokia / MS deal, it went down the drain) and now with a new attempt, the Tizen. But these efforts are still timid.

The power of x86 fades…

Even Microsoft, Intel partner for many years, is failing to become relevant in this new mobile market (phones, tablets, netbooks), and their new systems are greeted with yawns (at the best).

Intel is cornered, feeling that the legacy software (which always helped Microsoft & Intel) no longer has so much importance (nor relevance). And Microsoft’s attempt at the ARM architecture  begins already flawed
The new ARM platform, however, already has Linux as one of its traditional operating systems (Debian Arm has existed for a considerable time).

If you build it they will come

Exactly, and since Intel can not depend anymore on its largest  partner (Microsoft is also going to the ARM side of the force – has become a licensee, to produce its own ARM processors), it is working to improve Android in the x86, and of course, making mobile x86 chips to compete with ARM ones.

So, Intel is pushing Android to run on x86 architecture very well, even releasing  SoC x86 chips, that rival  ARM chips capabilities.

And some say that Intel will dismantle the reign of ARM in the mobile

And there’s more: The Android kernel is being inserted back in the Linux mainline kernel.

What this might mean?

As Mr. Pogson wrote, this means a whole ecosystem now quite mature (all Android Apps) becoming available for Linux, yes, that common Linux (Ubuntu, Debian., etc…) could run Android applications. And thus, the Android would go the opposite way of what Microsoft intends with windows 8, making a mobile operating system run on the desktop.

But, What About Chrome OS?
Despite being a radical concept, having an operating system that only works “in the cloud” is something that is not ready to happen yet. Not now, we do not have the infrastructure that such a system requires. And besides, who will rely on storing files in the “cloud”? Sensitive files ? Webmail services(a cloudy example) have already given many evidences that they may fail, and fail badly.

What to expect …?

The strengthening of the Android platform on the desktop will be a great evolution for Linux. The operating system that was received with contempt by some IT companies, as a hobbyist’s toy. It will bring more applications to the Linux ecosystem (that are now exclusive to the Android platform) and  will certainly make Linux very popular.

However, two companies, Microsoft and Apple are not being able to compete with Android in the market, and are resorting to lawsuits to stop the growth of the platform, how will they  react when  Android begins to appear on the desktop?

Secure Boot and your choice for Linux

Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu together with Red Hat, have weighed into the controversy surrounding the so called Secure Boot setup that requires OEMs to lock down your BIOS allowing only “approved” software to boot from it. This is of course being pushed by Microsoft.

The two companies today issued a white paper that seeks to educate Linux users about what the Secure Boot is and what it means for them. The paper also makes recommendations as to how to implement the Secure Boot to achieve its original goal of prevent security breaches while maintaining user freedom at the same time.

Any new Windows 8 PC will have Secure Boot switched “ON” when it leaves the shop and will be able to boot Microsoft approved software only. However, you will most likely find that your new PC has no option for you to add your own list of approved software. So to install Linux (or any other operating system), you will need to turn Secure Boot “OFF”…This is why we recommend that systems manufacturers include a mechanism for configuring your own list of approved software. This will allow you to run Windows 8 and Linux at the same time in your PC with Secure Boot “ON”. This should also include you being able to try new software from a USB stick or DVD.

This goes without say about the real motive behind why Microsoft is actively pushing for the Secure Boot. With a lot of people happily conceding ownership of their devices to the very manufacturers they bought the device from, a lot of education needs to be undertaken by Free Software companies to create awareness about the danger of this move.

Dennis Ritchie – A roundup of tributes to an unsung hero

Dennis Ritchie passed away over the weekend after battling an unspecified illness for a long time. He was 70. For those who knew him, or bothered to read about the history of modern technology, Dennis Ritchie, developer of the C programming language and one of the founding fathers of Unix was truly a remarkable man who deserves to be celebrated.

As part of showing our last and final respect to this incredibly humble man who contributed immensely to changing the world, we’ve combed the web for some of the best tributes to him and summed them up below. You can also grab a number of papers written by DMR from here.

DMR- standing. 1941-2011

The world of computing owes a great debt of gratitude to Dennis Ritchie, without whom there might have been no Unix as we know it today, and thus no Mac OS X or GNU/Linux. In fact the computing landscape might have been very different indeed, given that most of the world’s software is written in C. For any man to make such a contribution is a magnificent achievement, but Richie was also a kind and humble man, worthy of praise purely by virtue of his character. It’s difficult to imagine a man more radically different to Steve Jobs, for example, than Dennis Ritchie. Slated

Hope people will realize that without Dennis Ritchies work on Unix back in the 70′, there won’t be any iPhone today, nor iMac.
CgPage

So this young upstart whippersnapper comes along and decides to try to specify a language that will let people write programs that are: (a) high-level, with structures and functions; (b) portable to just about any kind of hardware; and (c) efficient on that hardware so that they’re competitive with handcrafted nonportable custom assembler code on that hardware. A high-level, portable, efficient systems programming language.
Sutter’s Mill

I am very fond of the C programming language. Despite all its flaws, I love the simplicity of C, and the raw power it gives me. And his book “The C Programming Language” (co-authored with Brian Kernighan) truly set a standard for excellence.
Tagxedo

Linus Torvalds once said, in reference to the development of Linux, that he “had hoisted [himself] up on the shoulders of giants.” Among those giants, Dennis Ritchie (aka dmr) was likely the tallest. Ritchie, the creator of the C programming language and co-developer of the Unix operating system passed away on October 8 at the age of 70, leaving a legacy that casts a very long shadow.
Ars Technica

There are several billion people using many billions of devices every day. From the code in your microwave to massive computing clusters, virtually all of our software can trace its ancestry back to this man’s intellectual output. I’m eternally grateful for his life and contributions to humanity.
SSIMS

We here at Ghabuntu would like to say a big thank you to Dennis Ritchie for his remarkable contribution to technology. RIP DMR, we will never C the like of you again. 

Tag cloud image courtesy Tagxedo

5 Reasons why Microsoft Windows users should definitely avoid Linux

Last Saturday I got myself an Acer Aspire One netbook (bought it on impulse, really) from a friend who had it gifted to him but said he had no use for it. It came preloaded as usual with Windows 7 and as a nay sayer to that OS, I opted to install the beta release of Ubuntu 11.10 on it.

Along the way, I made the following observations that I strongly believe, should help inform current Windows users, prospective Linux users and anybody else out there about why they should seriously not consider switching to Linux and Open Source software in general.

1. Linux turns you into a gadget control freak
No really, this is serious. After using Linux for sometime, it turns you into  a sort of gadget megalomaniac. You want to have absolute control over every part of your computer. I came to this realization when the Windows install that came with the machine, in its infinite wisdom, decided I did not need access to the BIOS and thus simply denied me access. Imagine a gadget megalomaniac being denied access to a part of his box. It was not a great feeling I’d like to recount. So yes, stay away from Linux since it will simply ingrain in your mind the need to have total control over gadgets you buy with your hard earned cash. Come on now, why would you want to exercise such control over just a gadget?

2. Linux does not encourage thinking and experimenting
Yes you read right. When you choose to use Linux, you just will end up being lazy and not so much as experimental as you’d be with Windows. Heck, you don’t learn so many lessons using Linux. Example? OK. So I downloaded the ISO image of Ubuntu 11.10, created a USB startup disk, booted it up, installed…done. Wireless, webcam, everything- check. Useful apps? Check. What? Yup. Done. Where’s the learning and experimenting when I have over 20000 programs just a few clicks away?

With Windows, after a fresh install, you’d now need to start thinking how to replace those apps. If you have the CDs available, bless you. Else, you’d have to think of how to fork up some $$$. If you have no means of paying for items online like me, you’d have to start thinking of how to get replacements, or make do with pirated ones (illegality!) and make sure it does not contain any malicious stuff. It’s really tough after every Windows install and this seriously encourages thinking and experimenting. Not so Linux!

3. Linux turns you into a spoiled, pampered child
Bear with me, I know you’re not a child, but when you choose to use Linux, be prepared to become a spoiled child. Huh? Yea you read every word right. There’s just way too many choices to make when it comes to Linux and Open Source software. Want to try out Linux? Yes? OK so you’ve probably heard of Distrowatch, you head there and suddenly feel intimidated by the sheer number of Linux distributions listed and only a download away. How the heck do you navigate such a world of plenty without feeling spoiled and pampered when each distro is a full fledged OS?

Windows simply has just- guess, guess, guess- Windows. Only one Windows. No fuss. Of course there’s the starter, home, business and those other “grades” but hey, they’re all one Windows right? The netbook came with the barebones starter edition, but it was still Windows. As we say in my part of the world, having less makes you appreciate even more the very little you have. Well Linux and Open Source do not encourage that thinking!

4. Windows knows better what’s good for you
No seriously, Windows simply has you at heart and makes decisions that are in your ultimate interest. Not by your machine downloading updates that may require a restart? Don’t worry, Windows will simply do that for you as it did a colleague this afternoon at the office. Bought a license for the starter edition? Windows knows you probably don’t have much of anything since you chose to buy that license so it denies you the luxury of changing the wallpaper and other tiny bits. Come on, what more can you ask from an OS? What of Linux? Forget it. You’d have to do virtually everything above manually.

5. You don’t contribute to any cause when you use Linux and Open Source software
Seriously, when you use Windows, you contribute to a lot of worthy and commendable causes like Microsoft aiding the Tunisian government spy on its people, helping Gates back agri giants like Monsanto to supply wholesome and healthy food to a starving Africa among a host of others. So yes, your license fee is being put to good use right? Now show me what cause you support when you use the freely available Linux and Open Source software? I can’t think of any right now…

There you have them! These observations, I believe, should help inform anybody who out there who is thinking of using Linux and other Free and Open Source software. Carefully peruse the list and be sure you really want to live with all the downsides of Linux and FOSS before jumping aboard for there’s no turning back once you do!

[INFOGRAPHIC] Linux then and now

From Android, to Amazon, to Google to Twitter, Linux has come a long way since the first bulletin board posting by Linus Torvalds some 20 years ago. The infographic below paints a summarized picture of this monumental journey from a hobbyist project to a global, pervasive platform.

Linux, 20 years later.

Image courtesy GigaOM.

Finally, Flash on Linux as it should be!

Adobe Flash has always been a disappointment on Linux. Poorly ported , poorly programmed, a confusion that loads the processor and, often, makes the machine hang.
But this is the way that certain companies provide support to Linux. Very dubious quality.

The community, once again, saves the day
But what if the company that created the Flash does not provide a decent service to Linux?
The very community solves the problem. And that’s what the developer lovinglinux did: solved the problem of Flash on Linux, creating Flash Video Replacer.

What is it ?
It is an addon (complement) to Firefox, as the name says, changes the default Flash Player on Linux by Mplayer, which is a much better video player than Adobe’s one.
It works best  in conjunction with Flash Blocker, as it prevents any flash player to load, and allows only the media (Flash video, flv,mp4) to run.
Basically,  Flash Video Replacer  identifies  famous video hosting services (YouTube, Meta Cafe, Daily Motion, etc …) and replaces the  Flash player by Mplayer.
Mplayer plays videos in a much more efficient way, and it’s lightweight, and allows  to choose the type of video it will play, if FLV, MP4 or even WebM.
And can easily download  the video being played.

Features:

– no flash required
– works with Flashblock
– play videos embedded on site, on a new tab, new window or using an external standalone player
– option to select replace method on a video basis
– easy video download, accessed via toolbar menu
– configurable download directory
– compatibility with DownThemAll
– detection of YouTube and Vimeo videos embedded on third-party sites (links only)
– automatic redirection to WebM player on YouTube when available (no plugin required)
– video quality control on YouTube
– video quality feedback via alerts
– option to prioritize mp4 format over flv when possible
– option to force mime-type, in order to launch videos with different plugins or bypass incompatibilities

Link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/flashvideoreplacer/

2 Reasons Why Google Should Buy Ubuntu

In its apocalyptic battle with both Microsoft and Apple, there is one thing that both companies have that Google does not: a desktop OS. Chrome OS at best, is just a bridge OS. No matter how one looks at things today, there are hundreds of millions of machines out there powered by Windows or Mac OSX. 
I’m not sure we’ll all wake up one day and suddenly realise we’re living in the “cloud”. Google needs to equally have a traditional desktop OS, and I strongly suggest the purchase of Ubuntu Linux. Here’s why
Better competition with Microsoft
So Google’s Chrome OS is out. And it’s aimed at so called thin clients. That’s cool. But what about the “fat clients” that are in the majority today? Windows is Microsoft’s cash cow. To be able to compete with Redmond head on, Google would need to bring to the table not what it thinks people will be using in the future, but also a better alternative to what they are using today, until that elusive future is reached. 
Living in a part of the world where the cost of bandwidth is still on the high, it’s very difficult to see value in a cloud based OS other than the traditional one. There are also people and businesses that use Windows because either the Windows applications they depend on have no Linux alternatives or where there are, those alternatives don’t meet their requirements.
Google with its clout can get ISVs to port their applications to Linux. If the application my employer uses has a version for the Linux OS, why would I not evangelise it (Linux) to my bosses? Also, what’s the value in having Android/Chrome OS power smartphones/tablets/netbooks and when it comes to the desktop where more heavy lifting of internet activities take place, there’s suddenly no Google backed Linux presence? 
The Android Magic
Given the fact that there are millions of people that use Android without having the foggiest idea it’s Linux, one would expect that Google would have tried to replicate such a feat on the desktop first before going very futuristic with Chrome OS. 
Properly packaging Linux for the masses will again give Google the exact success its enjoying with Android in that given its price point (free definitely), array of commercial grade applications available and polish, more and more OEMs will be more than likely to give shipping their boxes with Linux some thought.
And how does Google gain I hear you ask? Simple. First it could ship the OS with its Chrome browser (I personally would not mind Ubuntu shipping with Chrome, really). Secondly, owning the OS will give it a better insight into developing seamless syncing with its other platforms for the myriad form factors those platforms support.  Also, it would help them tightly integrate their vast array of services into their OS platforms and thereby replicate the Apple “Garden of Eden” experience, but in an open environment.
There is a lot of space in the desktop market that currently only Microsoft and to a lesser extent Apple are making use of. There is still a lot of money to be made in that part of the market. Also Chrome OS, no matter what Google would want us to believe, cannot be a serious substitute to Microsoft Windows. Grab an already popular brand of OS and throw in the gauntlet more fully Google!

Ubuntu To Support Hybrid CD / USB Images

Ubuntu ISO images used to require the USB startup disk creator utility to be able to write the ISO image to USB (flash) sticks.

However, this morning, Colin Watson wrote on the Ubuntu mailing lists that “[A]s of tomorrow’s daily builds, all Oneiric amd64 and i386 CD images on cdimage.ubuntu.com can also be written directly to a USB device [example through the use of the dd command].  You can still use usb-creator if you need to enable persistent storage on the USB stick, but if all you need is to install from the stick then this simplifies the process.”

Other major distros like Fedora have long had hybrid ISO images, but Ubuntu’s delay in supporting the feature was because “…we couldn’t simply use isohybrid [since] that would break jigdo downloads, so we had to switch to xorriso as the CD image generator on these architectures for its new JTE support, and by the time all that landed in Debian I didn’t really want to cram it into 11.04.”