Many viewed the advent of netbooks as a golden opportunity for Linux to capture the popular imagination. But netbook vendors and users never really warmed up to Linux. It might have failed to grab one massive opportunity, but it has a chance at redemption in the booming market for mobile internet-enabled devices.
British chip designer ARM and five system-on-chip (SoC) vendors – IBM, Freescale Semiconductor, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments - have formed a not-for-profit company called Linaro to provide “new resources and industry alignment for open source software developers using Linux on the world’s most sophisticated semiconductor System-on-Chips (SoCs).”
Linaro will be rolling out new releases of optimized tools, kernel and middleware software every six months, making Linux-based distributions such as Android, LiMo, MeeGo, Ubuntu and webOS compatible with semiconductor offerings from different vendors. This should, in turn, help reduce time-to-market for ARM- and Linux-based devices, including smart phones, tablets, digital televisions, automotive entertainment and enterprise equipment.
"ARM and our partners have a long history of working with, and supporting, open source software development for complex SoCs based on the ARM architecture," said Warren East, ARM CEO. "As a founding member of Linaro, we are working together with the broader open source community to accelerate innovation for the next generation of computing, focusing on delivering a rich connected experience across the diversity of devices in our daily lives."
A new report from security expert Bernard Marienfeldt illustrates a fairly big security hole in the way the iPhone secures user data. When plugged into a Windows or OSX box, and iPhone will only display the DCIM pictures folder. But on the newest Lucid Lynx build of Ubuntu Linux, users can get full read access to the phone. If you think setting a security PIN will help, you're wrong - it doesn't seem to do a thing.
This doesn't require the phone to be specially configured, or compromised in any way. Part of the problem is that in order to make syncing easier, the iPhone does not need any software switches to be flipped in order to exchange data with a computer. Another problem that allows this bug is the iPHone's lack of data encryption.
Marienfeldt says that full write access may be easy to gain as well with further investigation. If this is accomplished, an unauthorized party could access phone functions like calls and text messaging. The real lesson here is that maybe enterprise users should think twice about deploying iPhones. Does this change to calculation for anyone out there?
The best thing that ever happened to Linux might have been Windows Vista. It also hasn't hurt matters that Ubuntu continues to make the open-source side of the fence more accessible to new users. While Windows 7 more than makes up for Vista's woes, there are now 12 million users rocking Ubuntu.
The upcoming Lucid release may boost those numbers even higher, but the real growth came in the pre-Windows 7 days. In 2008, Canonical estimated there were some 8 million Ubuntu users, so that means there have been about 4 million added since then. Of course, these numbers aren't exact, but they're probably pretty close.
"We have no phone home or registration process, so it's always a guesstimate. But based on the same methodology that we came up with for the 2008 number, our present belief is that it's somewhere north of 12 million users at the moment," Chris Kenyon, vice president for OEM at Canonical, told InternetNews.com.
As impressive as the numbers are, Red Hat's Fedora leads Ubuntu by a good margin with an estimated 24 million installations.
With the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) slated for release later this month, the programming team felt the time was right to release a few teaser details for version which will carry the codename Maverick Meerkat. Founder Mark Shuttleworth revealed in a blog entry today that since 10.04 was a long-term support release, the primary focus was on stability and refinement, not new features. 10.10 by comparison will be all about experimentation, and could include some "potentially radical changes".
Specifically Shuttleworth hints at a new UI for netbooks, along with improving the web experience, reducing boot times, and extending social networking integration on the desktop. It sounds to us like Shuttleworth covered off all the buzz words to peak our interest, and if he delivers on all these items, he well indeed might have a much more compelling netbook offering in the future.
"This is a time of change, and we're not afraid to surprise people with a bold move if the opportunity for dramatic improvement presents itself. We want to put Ubuntu and free software on every single consumer PC that ships from a major manufacturer, the ultimate maverick move," Shuttleworth wrote in the announcement. "Meerkats are, of course, light, fast and social-everything we want in a Perfect 10."
Ubuntu 10.10 is scheduled for release in October, but with 10.04 just around the corner I'm sure Ubuntu fans will have plenty to play with between now and then.
The Linux faithful should see quite a change when they download the next major release of the popular Ubuntu distro. Version 10.04 is expected to come with a heavily revamped default theme. Yes, gone are the days of the brown default theme that has graced Ubuntu installs since its introduction in 2004.
Canonical has evolved the look ever so slightly as the OS has gone through revisions. The look has been getting decidedly brighter as time goes on with oranges creeping into the desktop color scheme. An expected black/orange redesign back in the 8.04 days never materialized, but the idea of a visual refresh never went away.
The new theme uses “light” as the model. The iconic logo has also been refreshed slightly with a thinner font and overall reduction in size. The Canonical design document claims, “We're drawn to Light because it denotes both warmth and clarity, and intrigued by the idea that 'light' is a good value in software.” There are two different looks currently posted on the wiki page, it is unclear which will be the new default theme. Both have purple and orange elements, while one makes heavy use of slate grey, and the other uses light tans. These are still in the early stages, but it seems clear that Ubuntu will never look the same again.
An ARM-based netbook running Ubuntu could be in your future with the newest version of Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Much like Windows, the popular Linux distro did not previously have support for ARM processors. This meant you’d only see Ubuntu on Atom-based netbooks, a category dominated by Windows. With the anticipated flood of ARM packing “smartbooks” expected to materialize, the devs got to work rewriting Ubuntu.
According to Ubuntu’s Jamie Bennet, the problem was that Ubuntu Netbook Edition required 3D graphics drivers that didn’t exist for ARM chips. They got around this by employing 2D Enlightenment Foundation Libraries to fake a 3D interface. We’re hearing that you won’t be able to tell the difference in the interface. If true, that’s a big win for smartbooks and Ubuntu.
This may be the space that Ubuntu specifically, and Linux in general, can succeed in. Windows is completely locked out of the smartbook game until such time as Redmond gets around to adding ARM support. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Is an Ubuntu smartbook something you’d buy?
Never heard of Leeenux? If you're a first-gen netbook user (particularly a 7-inch Eee PC owner), it might be time to acquaint yourself with the ultra-lean Linux distro based on Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Leeenux's developers have just released version 2.0 of its open-source OS, stuffing the distro with a bunch more apps than the previous version while keeping the installed footprint down to a tidy 1.2GB.
And it's the applications that are the major draw here. The distro's small enough to be installed on a 2GB SSD, but doesn't skimp on software, installing Firefox 3.7 beta, Thunderbird and Lightning for calendar, email, and contact management, a handful of emulators for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games, an e-book reader, VLC media player, Pidgin, and more (view the entire list here).
AMD this week released the first of twelve scheduled Catalyst launches this year, the first of which brings the driver suite up to version 10.1.
The new driver package offers a pinch of performance improvements, including up to a 3 percent boost in Left for Dead 2 on ATI Radeon HD 5700 and 5800 series videocards, as well as boosts Crysis framerates by up to 3 percent on ATI Radeon HD 5700 cards and up to 4 percent on 5800 hardware.
There are a bunch of bug fixes, many of them Windows 7 specific, and all of which you can read in the release notes (PDF). But the big news for Linux fans is the introduction of production support for Ubuntu 9.10, otherwise known as Karmic Koala. Available for both x86 and x86_64 distros, the latest Catalyst package resolves a bunch of open-source issues, including:
X.Org no longer crashes on an Ubuntu 9.10 system, if multiple Xinerama-enabled X.org server generations are executed.
Switching between virtual desktops no longer breaks the OS.
Single mode is now shown properly in the "Display Manager Properties" tab of the ATI Catalyst Control Center, instead of multiple modes, if the "big desktop" mode is enabled
The system no longer crashes if an HDMI monitor is hot-plugged, or if the users toggle between HDMI and LCD.
Fixed an issue on Ret Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 32-bit systems, when the "Detect Displays" button was selected in ATI Catalyst Control Center, and an HDMI display was hot-plugged.
ATI's Linux driver supports Red Hat Enterprise, Novel SUSE Enterprise, openSUSE, and Ubuntu.
Ubuntu’s corporate backer, Canonical, is looking to raise a little scratch in a deal with Yahoo! It’s inked a deal that will make Yahoo! the default search engine on the version of Firefox shipped with Ubuntu, supplanting Google. In return, Canonical will get a piece of the ad revenue Yahoo! generates from Ubuntu users.
It’s a nifty deal that doesn’t impose any real strains on the Ubuntu user community. Firefox will act as normal, so users wanting to switch back to Google won’t have any problem doing so. The only possible loser will be Mozilla, which gets a goodly chunk of its revenue from a similar deal with Google.
The odd thing about it all, Stephen Shankland of Cnet.com says, are the relationships that may emerge from this. Yahoo! has negotiated the sale of its search business with Microsoft, a deal that’s awaiting regulatory approval. That means one of Canonical’s financial lifelines will be with Microsoft, which doesn’t hold Linux, in any of its many manifestations, in high regard.
If you're looking for an excuse to upgrade to a newer netbook running Intel's next-gen N450 Atom processor, there are plenty of surefire ways to void your warranty and convince your significant other you're out of options. Submerge it in a tub of water, for example. Or set it on fire. Take a hammer to the chassis, or intentionally drop the unit off a 20-story building. Better yet, install Linux.
Wait a tick, what was that? Believe it or not, installing Linux, while not at all fatal, is enough to void your netbook's warranty under Best Buy's Geek Squad Black Tie Protection Plan, one user claims.
"My four month-old netbook's touchpad and power adapter all stopped working," the out-of-luck user wrote on the Consumerist blog. "I took the machine into Best Buy for service under the Geek Squad's Black Tie Protection Plan on Saturday, and demonstrated its problems. The manager of the Geek Squad informed that installing Ubuntu Linux on my machine voided my warranty, and that I could only have it serviced if the original Windows installation was restored. Furthermore, he insisted that the touchpad and power adapter had been broken because I installed Linux."
Now here's the thing. Driver conflicts and other quirky behavior really can creep up when switching from Windows to Linux (or vice versa), so Best Buy has a valid point. Fair enough, just restore Windows and all is well again, right? Wrong.
After doing just that, the user alleges the store's Geek Squad manager informed him that Linux had "permanently voided" his warranty.
In the age of the Internet, we have a hunch Best Buy will have a change of heart and end up fixing or replacing the netbook in question.