May 28 2010

New Version of Linux for Netbooks Released

The Linux Foundation released a new version of its open-source OS, MeeGo, this week. MeeGo is for netbooks with Intel Atom processors.

MeeGo v1.0 is more for developers than regular users. It is comprised of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo operating systems. It has applications for email, calendars, recently used files, and social networking updates, among other things. It also has support for multiple languages.

MeeGo has been tested on Atom netbooks from Asus, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, and HP. People have generally liked MeeGo, though some have reported problems with getting its WiFi to work properly.

Before MeeGo, many versions of Linux were either for desktops or smartphones. The director of the Linux Foundation said that he thinks the foundation should focus on developing a platform that can be used on a wide variety of devices. Intel and Nokia have said they can see MeeGo being used on more devices beyond netbooks.

Via InformationWeek, image via MeeGo.

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May 17 2010

Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 May Feature Chrome Instead of Firefox

At the most recent Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), part of the discussion revolved around the changes that would be coming to the default applications released with the Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 software package.

One item on the list of changes is in regards to the default browser that comes with the Ubuntu software.  Instead of using Mozilla Firefox as the default web browser, Google Chrome might serve as its replacement.  Whether or not this change will happen will depend on if there is enough storage space available.

The proposition is that Chromium will be used until the software’s Alpha 3 stage, at which point further decisions regarding which will be the default browser as part of Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE) will be announced.

Via UbuntuHQ.

May 10 2010

Use Ubuntu Light and Boot Up Your Netbook in 7 Seconds

If you want to be able to boot up your netbook at a super fast pace, you should try Ubuntu Light.  This version of Ubuntu will allow you to boot up your computers in 7 seconds flat.  Even though the naming convention of the platform may be misleading, this Linux distribution is by no means light on performance.  It still offers all the relevant tools that come with any standard desktop operating system, including access to a web browser and office suite, security features, and compatibility with lots of third party applications.

The tried and tested hardware that allowed Ubuntu Light to boot up in 7 seconds was a Dell Inspiron Mini 10v netbook with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor.  Given that the processor is a bit dated, I’m sure the newer netbooks would have equal if not better performance in terms of boot up times.

Via UberGizmo.

Apr 4 2010

The Classic Netbook Returns For Business: Simmtronics Simmbook

When Asus brought out the Eee PC in 2007, it had a promise of providing a stripped down laptop with a low cost.  That original vision has all but disappeared in many modern netbooks, as the phrase has become ubiquitous with a portable PC with somewhere between 9-12 inches of screen space. It is not surprising to see $500 netbooks now, competing against budget-friendly 15″ notebooks.

Fortunately for businesses in the developing world, IBM, Canonical, and Simmtronics are working to reverse this trend.  The new Simmbook provides a very spartan last-generation netbook configuration.  You know the drill: Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz, 10″ LCD with 1024×600 resolution, the essentials.  More notably, they will run Ubuntu, presumably to save cost and are being paired up with IBMs productivity suite Lotus, pre-installed.  They are designed to work with IBM’s cloud solutions and are obviously very work-centric.  The most important point, of course, is the price:  starting at $190.  That is  old-school Eee PC cheap.

These are business machines and probably will not be used by many home consumers. Still, it would be nice to see this trend continue back into the general netbook market and keep the netbook from becoming a novelty “toy” computer for those who can afford it.

Via Engadget, image via Simmtronics

Mar 24 2010

Firefox Releases Update to Fix Security Issue

Mozilla released its latest Firefox update yesterday, about one month ahead of schedule. The update fixed stability issues and security flaws, including a bug that could allow a hacker to execute a malicious code on a user’s system.

Firefox is a popular alternative browser to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and, in light of the attacks on Internet Explorer in the past few months, has been recommended as a replacement browser in some EU countries, most notably Germany and France. However, the German government recently recommended that users stop using Firefox due to the recent security flaw.

The recent security flaw only affects Firefox 3.6 running on Windows XP or Windows Vista—Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows 7 users are unaffected. Mozilla probably released the update early in order to prevent users from abandoning Firefox, and it also probably wants the browser to be updated in the time leading up to the CanSecWest security conference.

Via PC World, image via Firefox.

Mar 21 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 1 Released

Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 1 is finally out, a month before the version’s final release.  Lucid Lynx, as it is codenamed, is a major release which will replace 8.04 for long-term support (LTS).  That means Canonical will support the desktop version for three years and the server version for five.  The most noticeable difference come in a sudden shift of theme and coloring.  Gone is the famous (or infamous) brown theme we had grown up with, and replaced with a theme that is distinctly purple.  This represents the beginning of a potentially different philosophy of Ubuntu Linux in general.

Aside from the surface changes, the focus of Ubuntu 10.04 is the social world. The MeMenu is supposed to integrate social networking into the operating system.  Gwibber plays a much more dominate role now, providing the micro-blogging interface. Firefox now has Yahoo! as its primary search engine and homepage, GIMP has been dropped, but Pitivi, a simple video-editor, has been added.  Also, the nVidia-restricted drivers have been updated, but not selected by default.  Instead, Canonical is encouraging usage of the open-source nouveau drivers.

Expect the final release to be out in April, but feel free to download an ISO or upgrade your current version of 9.10.

Via Ars Technica

Mar 15 2010

Qi Hardware’s Ben Nanonote Hobbyist Toy


In the world of small and portable computers, there are netbooks. Then there are smartbooks.  And then there is the Ben Nanonote.  This little “handheld laptop” is a class on its own.  Looking like a cross between a Nintendo DS and an electronic dictionary, the device is supposed to be an easily hackable Linux computer.  The goal: developers will turn it into some sort of media player, offline dictionary/encyclopedia, or some other random device.  Here are the specs:

  • 3″ 320×240 Resolution LCD
  • 336 MHz XBurst JZ4720 CPU
  • 32 MB RAM
  • 2 GB Flash Memory
  • Expandable MicroSD Card Slot
  • No Wi-Fi
  • One Massive Bevel

There really is not that much incentive for people to buy these, except for the $99 price tag. But even that can quickly be overshadowed by the fact that the Nanonote is easily outperformed by a smartphone.  Still if tinkering is your thing, it might be worth a look.

Via Engadget

Mar 11 2010

MeeGo To Have Public Code By March

It was announced last month that Nokia and Intel were going on a joint venture to create an open-source Linux based mobile platform.  This effort, dubbed “MeeGo”, would be a combination of Intel’s Moblin OS, shipped on various netbooks, and Nokia’s Maemo platform, at the heart of the N900 Phone.  It is to be used on all sorts of products with both ARM and x86 architectures. By the end of this month, the companies hope to be able to release the source code to the public.

MeeGo is arguably the first truly open developed mobile OS.  Intel and Nokia are asking the Linux Foundation to watch over the development process, in order to dispel worries of corporatism and encourage 3rd-party involvement.  The first step will be to reconcile the differences between Moblin and Maemo.  Fortunately, they both have the same technical core, but ideological differences on direction and methodology will need to be addressed before MeeGo has a shot of becoming a coherent platform.

Nokia plans on supporting N900 users to MeeGo, at least initially.  This will allow a bounty of Linux enthusiasts to jump into the development cycle at the early stage. MeeGo will also stay in line with the fundamental Linux kernel build cycle, meaning it will eventually stand in stark contrast to Google’s Android platform.  Android uses a heavily modified Linux kernel, and is showing signs of diverging from the development tree entirely.

There are other major differences between Android and MeeGo.  Google, while making Android’s source code public, had a tightly closed development cycle, dumping onto developers massive amount of code with every release.  Intel and Nokia seem to be taking the more traditional route of Linux development; like Canonical’s methodology with Ubuntu, they will try to get 3rd party involvement from Linux and MeeGo users to help direct efforts.  Google now has real competition for the open source community’s blessing.

Via Ars Technica

Feb 15 2010

Linux’s Tablet Answer: Notion Ink ADAM

ADAM
The iPad has yet to hit shelves, and yet it has already become clear that a tablet war will likely consume much consumer attention in 2010.  Apple, to much applause, has announced its champion, and Windows will likely respond with an arsenal of 3rd party devices. But who will carry the open source community’s banner into the fray?  Joojoo Tablet has fallen from favor once it became clear it would run a browser-based OS, and the other Android tablets have failed to garner much attention.

Notion Ink’s ADAM appears to be standing ready to fill this hole. It’s a Linux-based tablet that already has set its eye on defeating the iPad, and the spec list does not seem to betray it in that regard:

  • 10″ Transflective LCD, Pixel Qi Screen 1024 x 600 with low power mode
  • Multitouch capacitive screen
  • Dual Core ARM Cortex A9 with NVidia Tegra 2
  • HDMI 1080p Out
  • 3 USB Ports
  • Battery life: 160 hours backlight off, 16 hours video playback
  • Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth
  • Multitasking
  • Rear trackpad
  • Adobe Flash Support
  • Camera
  • SD Card Slot

The truly revolutionary component on this tablet is its screen, which incorporates Pixel Qi technology to give a similar experience as e-Ink when the backlight is off. This gives the tablet its godly battery life,  and allows it to directly challenge the reading experience of eReaders.  It is a powerful tablet, and the device’s multitasking with Flash support is undoubtedly a response to the iPad’s inability to do either.

Still, this thing comes with some weird quirks. It is unclear what the OS shall be on this tablet, as three are listed in the spec sheet (Android, Ubuntu, Chromium). Pricing is  highly variable, $327-800, but still easily competitive with Apple.  All that remains is to see how well Notion Ink will market this and get public support behind it.  For now, it seems like Linux’s best shot to take the mainstream.

Via Gizmodo, image via Notion Ink.

Feb 14 2010

The XP Patch Nightmare: Why We Should Move On

October 25, 2001 – A Microsoft operating system was released as the Internet revolution entered the everyman’s home.  Only one year after the absolute fiasco known as Windows ME (in a time before Vista was known as possibly the worst operating system of all time), Windows XP was released, and with it came hopes of a new stable Windows OS. Combining the new technologies of ME with the stability of Windows 2000, XP became the world’s number one OS, and sits on that throne to this day. It heralded the modern internet era, and until recently was the OS of choice for OEMs.

Now, we can finally see what a horrible, horrible mistake keeping it alive was.  Since the appearance of a 17-year old DOS exploit, followed by an update that has created countless BSODs and endless reboots, Windows XP looks unlikely to be able to weather the coming years.  Microsoft believes they have discovered the primary cause of the current maladies:

“In our continuing investigation in to the restart issues related to MS10-015 that a limited number of customers are experiencing, we have determined that malware on the system can cause the behavior. We are not yet ruling out other potential causes at this time and are still investigating.” (emphasis added)

People attacked Windows Vista for performance flaws and pricing, but at least Microsoft began to clean up its act regarding internet security with Internet Explorer 7 and the improved Windows Firewall.  User Account Control, a feature Unix systems have had for quite a while, was a step in the right direction (despite its dreadful implementation).  And Windows 7 finally comes with performance improvements and most modern hardware is capable of handling it.

The only market that really had any justification in using XP was netbooks, but even they have moved on to Windows 7 Starter Edition.  While XP may have extended support till 2014, users should realize that they need to upgrade far before that.

There are essentially three routes. If you have anything with higher performance than a netbook, it is safe to move on to Windows 7.  “Vista-capable” PCs should not still have Windows XP on them. It is an insult to their hardware, and these recent episodes have shown that it is no longer safe.

If for some reason you are still using a 800 MHz Celeron with 128 MB RAM, then it is either time to get a new computer (anything from any brand with any operating system circa 2010) or to install Linux.  For the majority of users, the latter seems like too difficult of an option, but Ubuntu is a usable and user-friendly introduction to Linux.

As for netbooks, which is the only platform where new machines still have this abomination,  please get Windows 7 or Linux or even a Hackintosh.  Microsoft has directions for those of you who don’t know how to set up an ISO to install from a USB. And while I am sure there will be many of those hesitant to move forward from XP, I beseech you: at least take this as a wake up call.

Via Engadget.

Feb 14 2010

KDE 4.4 Released With Netbooks In Mind

KDE Plasma Netbook
Since my dad taught me how to dual-boot Mandrake Linux 7 with Windows ME in my early pre-teen years, I have not owned a single computer that hasn’t had a Linux distribution on it.  And for many years, KDE was my desktop manager of choice.   Sometime around KDE 3.4, I deemed KDE too clunky and left it to experiment with other desktop managers.

Still, I never forgot about my roots in the Linux world, and indeed KDE 4 brought KDE significantly forward towards modern desktops.  Now, KDE seems to be turning towards everyone’s favorite rising PC market: netbooks. KDE 4.4 is a massive version release touting 7293 bug fixes and 1433 new feature implementations. The  result is a promised new, cleaner experience, with the majority of the changes relating to the actual Plasma desktop.

Specifically for netbooks, KDE has made this particular announcement:

Plasma Netbook debuts in 4.4.0. Plasma Netbook is an alternative interface to the Plasma Desktop, specifically designed for ergonomic use on netbooks and smaller notebooks. The Plasma framework has been built from the beginning with non-desktop target devices in mind as well. Plasma Netbook shares many components with the Plasma Desktop, but is specifically designed to make good use of the small space, and to be more suitable also for touchscreen input. The Plasma Netbook shell features a full-screen application launcher and search interface, and a Newspaper which offers many widgets to display content from the web and small utilities already known from Plasma Netbook’s sibling.

This means KDE is stepping up to the plate for a true netbook experience.  I tried KDE 4.4 on my laptop, but haven’t used it enough to consider switching away from GNOME.  Still, it is good to see that the Linux community is viewing netbooks as a legitimate shot to enter the mainstream market. And KDE is arguably the most Windows-esque desktop manager providing an easier transition for first time users. If you want to give it a spin, go download any KDE based Linux distribution (i.e. Kubuntu, openSUSE).

Via KDE.

Feb 8 2010

Ubuntu Axes OpenOffice From Netbook Edition 10.04

OpenOffice.org Logo

Ubuntu Netbook Edition probably is the best shot for a layman’s attempt at Linux on a netbook.  Surprisingly, Ubuntu now appears to be making strange software decisions left and right.  Canonical has announced that UNE 10.04 will not come with OpenOffice, long deemed the open-source Microsoft Office challenger, and will change the default office service to Google Docs.

Now, while the premise and case for Web 3.0 and Cloud Computing seems strong, Google Docs has oft been criticized as an incomplete suite, with limited functionality at best. It does not have the same richness which makes OpenOffice at least comparable to Microsoft Office. Also, this decision comes in stark contrast to Canonical’s move to ditch Google as the primary search engine for Firefox.

Other software changes include the fact that Gimp has been removed from Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 and graphics programs in general from UNE, Tomboy Notes removed from UNE, and gbrainy (a brain teaser game) has been added.  While it’s understood that developers are trying to optimize application selection for netbook users, they run the risk of alienating Linux newcomers by limiting their options.

Via Slashdot.

Feb 4 2010

Leeenux Netbook OS Upgrades to Version 2.0

A new version of Leeenux, a Linux distribution for netbooks, has come out. Version 2.0, upgraded from 1.3, includes the Firefox 3.7 beta, Thunderbird for email/calendar management, and multiple emulators for SNES and Sega Genesis. Installation takes up only 1.2 GB, and best of all, you can download it for free. If you are wondering about other reasons why you should install Leeenux for your netbook, take a look at this list taken from the Leeenux website:

Why Leeenux?

  • Because it’s fast.
  • Stable.
  • Works Out of the Box.
  • Free.
  • Installation takes only 1.2GB.
  • It is the best linux distribution for Asus eee with 7″ screens.
  • Uses Ubuntu Netbook Remix menu, adjusted for netbooks with small screens.
  • Battery life is much longer with eee-control.
  • Honestly, I’m just excited about the SNES emulator!

    Get your free version of Leeenux here.

    Via Liliputing

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    Feb 2 2010

    Linux Foundation Chief Admits Linux Lacks Apple iPad “Magic”

    Tux

    Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, identified the inhibiting factor to mobile Linux’s growth on his blog last week, in response to the iPad’s launch.  It was not a specific hardware or  software defect he mentioned, but instead the culture of the Linux product world.  Quite simply, he said, “Apple’s consistent user experience is far closer to magical than most things currently running Linux”.  It is a sobering but honest point that he makes regarding one of the iPad’s indisputable advantages.

    The iPad, despite its lack of features and questionable pricing scheme, is fairly immune to attacks regarding its UI.  If staying true to the iPhone formula, it will likely capture the attention of  general market and garner acclaim for its smoothness and user experience.  This elegant performance that Apple boasts is something that has eluded Linux interfaces for decades now.  Only recently have its desktop platforms attained the level of consistency that people expect from an Apple OS.

    Does this mean Linux already is forced to sit out in the free-for-all that is the tablet market? Far from it, argues Zemlin.  Future Linux products will be spared from the oft-called “Apple Tax” that prevents the iPad from entering impulse-buy territory.  Furthermore, even if Linux lacks the oh-so-important “magic”, it does offer something most computer users take for granted: freedom.  As stated by Zemlin:

    “Apple is the most locked down closed system imaginable, from the software ladened with DRM, all the way down to the custom silicon they use for their Apple A4 chip. Commercial success is important, but freedom is also important.  “

    Ultimately, what can be taken from this is that the Linux does have its sights set on cornering the mobile market, and it is not afraid to improve itself in order to get there.  Undoubtedly, it does not plan on being pushed into oblivion as it was for much of the desktop market and sees the tablet field as a chance for redemption.

    Via Ars Technica.

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    Jan 31 2010

    Yahoo and Ubuntu: An Odd Couple

    A peculiar announcement came from Ubuntu’s development staff earlier this week.  On Tuesday, Rick Spencer of Canonical posted that it planned on making several minor and ultimately cosmetic changes to Firefox on Ubuntu’s next release.  The first is relatively benign, making the default Firefox homepage be the selected default search engine for Firefox’s search bar. However, the interesting part is that the new default search engine for Ubuntu will no longer be Google, but instead Yahoo!. This also effectively makes Yahoo! the new default home page.

    So what’s Canonical’s explanation for this sudden and strange shift? It seems to be that the company has established a new revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! in order to help fund the Ubuntu project.  However, this will undoubtedly be unsavory to much of the original Ubuntu base for a number of reasons.

    First of all, it arguably shows  that Canonical is caving into corporatism and losing the puritanical openness it’s known for.  Secondly, Yahoo! is now powered by Bing, which means this effectively becomes a revenue sharing deal between Canonical and Microsoft.

    Google already has two distributions of Linux (albeit each is far from traditional distros) in the works –  Android and Chrome OS – and Microsoft has ownership over one of the most major players of Linux, Novell’s SUSE.  Whether or not Microsoft has some sort of interest in Ubuntu is unsure at best, and is probably unlikely.  However one thing is evident: major corporations will play a role in shaping Linux and open-source’s fate, regardless of what its users and adherents would wish.

    Via Canonical Development Boards, image via Yahoo!.

    Jan 16 2010

    MSI To Ship U135 Netbook With Moblin Linux 2.1

    MSI is planning to ship the MSI U135 netbook with Moblin, a version of Linux, according to a recent press release.

    Moblin, like Android, was originally intended for mobile phones but netbooks have benefitted from its expansion into a netbook and tablet OS. Version 2.1 is the one we’ll be seeing in the MSI U135, the version that Intel and Novell optimized for netbooks.

    Intel Business Director of Open Source Software Ram Peddibhotla says that “The Moblin project has the potential to become an accessible and widely used computing platform,” and we can’t help but agree, considering the wide variety of excellent features found in the OS.

    The MSI U130 has a 10.1-inch screen and the Intel Atom N450 Pine Trail CPU, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM and a 250 gig HDD.

    Shipping in February 2010, the MSI U135 running Moblin should cost less than its Windows counterpart.

    Via Nexus404.

    Dec 28 2009

    How Jolicloud Plans To Compete With The Google Chrome OS

    Jolicloud has racked up $4.2 million in venture capital, and a lot of hopes are riding on its success. But how will it look once Google’s Chrome OS hits the netbook world?

    Tariq Krim, the operating system’s mastermind, says he doesn’t know for sure how everything will play out but knows Jolicloud will be able to compete. While Google will rely mostly or entirely on Google Apps for the Chrome OS, Jolicloud will be making use of third-party partner services like Dropbox to customize the user experience.

    Furthermore, Jolicloud netbooks will be able to run high definition video, which is hard to do on netbook browsers today. Chrome OS will be based mostly in the cloud, but with Jolicloud users will be able to store files locally and then sync with the cloud at their discretion.

    Even so, Jolicloud doesn’t have the market in the bag just yet. Krim says that hardware is becoming less and less important, and consumers’ rising spending on cloud services could lead to unanticipated restructurings of the tech industry. In other words – we’re going to have to wait and see how it plays out for Jolicloud.

    Via The Washington Post.

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    Dec 19 2009

    Why VMware Fusion 3 is a Smart Choice for Mac Users

    I’m a Mac user, so I know how we Mac users can be sometimes: we love our Macs, and we go on and on extolling the virtues and amazing features of our Macs, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. But inevitably, there is always some program that’s available for Windows and isn’t available for Mac. That’s where VMware Fusion 3 comes in.

    VMware Fusion 3 is a very clever piece of software that allows you to run programs on your Mac that are not yet available for the Mac operating system. It also allows for virtualization: you can run the entire Windows operating system on your Mac, if you want.

    To install Windows on your Mac, you can import it across a network, from a Microsoft installation disk, or from Boot Camp. Once this is done, you can run both Mac and Windows simultaneously. This is VMware Fusion’s major advantage over Boot Camp: not having to restart the computer to use the other operating system. Since the Mac OS and Windows OS run simultaneously, you can even drag files between the two systems.

    VMware Fusion 3 can also be used to install Linux on a Mac, though the Windows scenario seems more common due to the ubiquitousness of Windows.

    VMware Fusion 3 is an excellent choice for Mac users who want to run Windows without the hassle of having a Windows computer.

    Via PC Magazine.

    Dec 9 2009

    Chrome Betas for Mac and Linux

    Google has answered Mac and Linux user’s prayers this Tuesday by announcing that it has made betas for Chrome that will be compatible with both OSes. These are not final perfected versions of Chrome, but due to the open-source nature of Chrome they should quickly grow to become bigger and better.  Mac OS X 10.5 or later is necessary for the Chrome’s Mac beta, while the Linux beta runs on Gnome and KDE.

    Chrome delivers ultra high-speed web browsing with loads of cool features. Now Mac and Linux users have a chance to judge for themselves if they will abandon their current reliable browsers for  this lightning speed (but possibly quirk-riddled) creation.

    Via WebMonkey.

    Nov 23 2009

    LG Partners with AT&T to Launch Its First U.S. Netbook

    LG introduced the X120 netbook earlier this year. It’ll finally soon be available in the States, and more specifically at RadioShack retailers. This 10.1″ netbook will have a screen resolution of 1024×576, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, Windows XP, Wi-Fi, and a 1.3 megapixel webcam.

    Users will be able to quickly access applications through LG’s Linux-based SmartOn interface without waiting for the system to boot. The LG X120 netbook will also be equipped with a built-in 3G modem and service will be provided by AT&T.

    LG‘s netbook will come in white with blue trim and feature a 6-cell battery that is rumored to last for roughly seven hours. The price tag on the netbook will be $180 when purchased with a two-year AT&T data plan contract valued at $35 (or more) per month.

    Via Electronista.

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