Google Chrome OS hands on; we review Samsung’s first Chromebook

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook with Google Chrome OSt="335" />

It’s not often that a laptop fills a particular purpose gracefully, and Samsung’s first laptop running Google’s new Chrome OS does a pretty good job.

However before you read on, you should first set your expectations. Laptops running Chrome OS, or Chromebooks as they’ve come to be known, aren’t designed to replace your main laptop or desktop computer.

They’re not targeted at people who want to do everything and anything with a personal computer. They’re specifically designed for certain tasks, and they handle these very well, but sometimes you’ll be left wondering why obvious features are missing.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook with Google Chrome OS


Chrome OS really does live up to its reputation for simply being a fullscreen browser. There’s no desktop, no wallpaper, and for the most part, no windows. It makes for a very streamlined experience, although many features are missing in the current iteration which unfortunately lets the overall product down.

Most things like browsing the web, handling workspaces, extra windows, persistent windows, and wireless networks are complete and work well. But if you’d like to plug in a camera and transfer photos to the local hard drive, or watch an XVID .avi file, you’re out of luck. Chrome OS simply cannot handle things that you’d expect – even if you’re approaching it with an open mind. Thankfully the Chrome OS milestone roadmap hints that these features are just around the corner.

Chrome OS has an interesting way of handling windows. Most of the time, work will be undertaken in a single fullscreen Chrome browser window, with individual pages separated and organized using tabs. However, when creating a new window (using the shortcut Ctrl + N), Chrome OS creates a new fullscreen browser window in a new “workspace” to the right.

This makes it pretty easy to handle a lot of tabs and organize them based on category – my workflow consists of one workspace full of work tabs, one workspace full of social media tabs, and the last for just regular browsing. However, there’s currently no way to move existing tabs to a different workspace, and no option in the context menu to open links in a different workspace than the currently focused one.

Chrome OS handles non-fullscreen windows (like Google Talk) by pinning them to the bottom edge of the screen. From here, they can be minimized and hidden, as well as dragged left and right to be rearranged. They’re persistent across all tabs and workspaces. While these “sticky windows” can take focus for the keyboard and cursor, they never disappear behind the main Chrome browser window. It’s a semi-replacement for a traditional window list or dock, and I think it works very well.


The Samsung Series 5 is one of the nicest laptops I have ever used. The form factor simply exists, never frustrating, never begging for attention. It’s light, durable, good looking, has an absolutely delicious keyboard, and extraordinary battery life.

The case on the Arctic White model is matte black plastic with a glossy white lid. Although it’s glossy, the topside of the lid actually has a lot of grip which is great when carrying it around. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that it’s not scratch resistant. The laptop itself is very light and very thin, and for the most part silent unless you’re watching 1080p videos or bathing in the sun, when the small fan kicks in.

The Series 5 Chromebook has two USB ports, an SD port, a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, a small video out port (the laptop comes with a VGA adapter), and of course a plug for the charger. If you purchase the 3G version, there’s a SIM card slot too.

Screen, keyboard, and touchpad

One of the greatest features of the laptop would definitely be the gorgeous 1280 x 800 12.1″ matte screen. It’s exceptionally vibrant and has a ridiculously wide brightness range which goes from backlight off, all the way up to you’ll need sunglasses bright. There’s no doubt that it’s perfectly visible in direct sunlight, and being matte, has very little reflection. My only criticism would be the overzealous light sensor which adjusts the brightness far too often – sometimes it can feel like a strobe light party when sitting too close to a window on a partly cloudy day. Hopefully this will be tweaked in an upcoming software update.

The Series 5 easily has the nicest keyboard I’ve come across on a laptop, and probably surpasses a lot of dedicated products for the desktop. The keys are flat chiclets and respond beautifully to your fingers. The spacing is marvelous, and thanks to a lack of Windows and Function keys, the Control and Alt buttons on the left are huge. Function keys have been replaced with a series of browser-specific shortcut keys and hardware controls. Having a dedicated refresh key is possibly the coolest thing on a keyboard, and the workspace switcher key is a lovely addition allowing seamless sliding between tasks.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook with Google Chrome OS

The touchpad is very large and one huge button, similar to MacBook Pros. Unfortunately I’ve found the pressure required to depress the button a bit too much, but thankfully tap to click is an option (although not default). It supports two finger scroll which works well, but I’ve found multitouch to be a bit unreliable and certainly not as refined as Apple hardware.

Battery life and instant on

While Samsung quotes around 8 hours under regular use, in practice the Series 5 exceeds this and often gets 9, sometimes up to 10 hours – quite remarkable for a 12.1″ laptop and extremely useful when traveling.

Instant on is one of the features Google is actively marketing, and I can see why. Boot time is usually around 8-10 seconds, but most of the time it’s so quick one doesn’t notice the computer has even been off. Suspend and resume happens in under 3 seconds – usually the laptop is awake and connected to wireless by the time I finish opening the lid.

Chrome OS sells a care-free attitude to laptop computing – simply close the lid and walk away, and the laptop will be ready whenever you come back. It removes all terminology like Shutdown, Restart, Hibernate, Suspend and simply works.


Overall, the Samsung Series 5 is a lovely piece of hardware and a perfect start to the Chromebook lineup. Samsung have been making quality hardware over the past couple of years, evident in their tablets and smartphones. Not really known for laptops, it’s nice to see Samsung continuing this trend with a gorgeous design and sturdy build quality with the entry into the Chromebook market.

However, the Series 5 as an overall product is let down by comparatively feature-poor software. While you shouldn’t expect a Chromebook to be a full replacement for a complete operating system, it should be able to handle basic things such as copy and paste in the File Manager and playback of common local formats. Thankfully, Chrome OS has a very quick release cycle of 6 weeks, and many of my gripes have been addressed and are targeted to the next couple of updates, so it can only get better.

I think 2011 is going to be an exciting year for cloud computing, but unless you’re a keen early adopter, I’d suggest holding out until later in the year before purchasing a Chromebook to let the software mature a bit more. If you’re simply after a tablet with a keyboard however, the Series 5 might just be the perfect purchase.

Of course, you’ll just have to trust Google.

Awesome cartoon courtesy of Joern Konopka

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Ubuntu 11.10 Says Goodbye to the ‘Me Menu’

The ‘Me Menu’ will no longer be installed by default in Ubuntu 11.10.

An update to the indicator menus this weekend saw the ‘Me Menu’ (‘indicator-me‘) removed and replaced with an ‘IM Status’ section in the Messaging Menu.

ntu.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Selection_002.png" >Messaging Menu in Ubuntu 11.10

Why has it gone?

Due to changes elsewhere in Ubuntu the Me Menu had become largely redundant, not least of which is the ‘System Settings’ panel now housing user account settings.

Moving the ‘Status Session’ to the Messaging Menu is also a logical move. Writing on the Messaging Menu wiki page Ubuntu’s Matthew Paul Thomas explains the rationale: -

“The messaging menu aims to make communication easier with other people. It does this first by letting you set IM status quickly and across messaging applications; and secondly by providing quick access to messages, concerning you, that you may not have seen.”

The Messaging Menu is structured to have ‘Status’ section at the top, following by ‘Application’ sections (Empathy, Gwibber, Thunderbird, etc.) followed by two new menu entries: -
  • ‘Clear Items’ – This option removes ‘attention’ from the Messaging Menu by resetting the Messaging Menu panel icons to the default look. Message counts, times, etc. remain visible in the Menu.
  • ‘Hide This Menu’ – clicking this launches an alert box “explaining the purpose of the menu, and how you can get it back if you change your mind.”


The ‘Broadcast’ field previously present in the Me Menu has been retired completely. To Tweet, dent or check Facebook the “new and improved” Gwibber is available.

And for people who think they’re going to miss seeing their name on the desktop I say relax: the Session Menu will display it. (Cheers Bilal)


Summary: Ubuntu Developer Week

Last week was eloperWeek" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://wiki.ubuntu.com']);">Ubuntu Developer Week, one week full of tutorials, workshops and presentations with the intention of explaining better what’s going on in the world of Ubuntu development, to ask, learn, get to know and enjoy. These weeks are always over much too quickly, but the good news is, 1) we have logs of all the sessions, their questions and answers (links below) and 2) there’s going to be another one next cycle!

This post got a bit longer, so grab a coffee, sit back and check out what happened last week. (Links go to the logs of the session in question.)

Monday, 11th July 2011

Getting Started with Ubuntu Development - It was my turn to hold the first session at UDW and luckily it was a double session. I just reviewed the log of the session and realised that I had answered 56 questions. We covered the big picture overview of Ubuntu, how it's developed, what to pay attention to and managed to set up our development environments together. It was a bit hectic, but I had loads of fun!

Ubuntu Desktop Q&A - When we announced this, we said there would be "Ubuntu Desktop engineers" – well, it turned out that Sébastien "seb128″ Bacher single-handedly ran the session and did a great job explaining what's planned for the Oneiric Desktop, why and how the Desktop team works.

Packaging Mono for the greater good - Jo Shields was up next and talked us through Packaging Mono. I'm glad he took the time to talk everybody through the very basics of Debian/Ubuntu packaging first and then pointed out how packaging Mono is special. I hope a lot of people got interested and will help Jo and the Debian/Ubuntu Mono team moving forward.

Python packaging with dh7 and dh_python{2,3} - Barry Warsaw had the last session of the day and explained what state-of-the-art Python packaging looks like. Debhelper 7 and the new dh_python makes this a lot easier and there's still a lot to be done to bring our existing packages up to the newest standard. (Talk to Barry to find out how to help!)

Tuesday, 12th July 2011

Getting started with merging packages from debian - Bhavani Shankar kicked off the day and chose a topic which is of interest for contributors to Ubuntu development: What do I do with changes in Ubuntu that are not immediately applicable in Debian? How do I still make sure we get code updates from Debian?

Porting from pygtk to gobject introspection - Martin Pitt gave a great session which explained how to port code that still uses PyGTK to PyGI to make full use of GObject Introspection. Very informative if you want to help out porting old code to the newest state-of-the-art.

Working with bugs reported by apport - Brian Murray was up next and explained how to get the most out of all the automatic information that gets added to bug reports. Bug patterns, duplicate detection, how to get package-specific data added to the bug report and much much more. Read this if you want to make more sense of the bug reports a package you're interested is getting!

Fixing obvious bugs in Launchpad - Deryck Hodge has helped to see many Launchpad releases to the door and knows how to avoid common pitfalls when hacking on Launchpad. If you ever had small issues in Launchpad you wanted to fix, go and read this session log to make sure you get your fix through review quickly and integrated soon.

DEX – how cross-community collaboration works - Nathan Handler took the last session of the day and talked us through the DEX project, what its intention is and how to get involved to particularly get Debian and Ubuntu closer to each other. Patches, Debian Bug tracking system, future plans of DEX, everything included in the logs!

Wednesday, 13th July 2011

Getting Translations Quicker into Launchpad: Upstream Imports Sharing – David Planella kicked off day 3 by giving an interesting session about translations in Ubuntu, Launchpad and how upstream fits into the picture. He explained in detail what message sharing is, what the benefits are and how to enable it for a package/project you're interested in. To get the latest translations goodness, make sure you check out the log.

Debugging the Kernel – John Johansen was up next and talked about the Ubuntu Kernel, how to build it, how to bisect, and the general work flow of the Ubuntu Kernel Team. What was particularly useful was not only to get a first-hand look on how it all works and which commands to run, but also to get all the links to additional information on the topic.

dotdee – break a flat file into dynamically assembled snippets – dotdee helps you switch flat configuration files or simple scripts to a more dynamic setup, where new bits can be put into separate files in a .d/ directory. Dustin Kirkland did a good job of explaining how it works and you can best make use of it. This will hopefully give everyone more flexibility and make management of tools and services much much easier.

Introduction to LAVA – Zygmunt Krynicki was up next and talked about the project he is currently working on: LAVA. It's used within Linaro to organise and manage the huge efforts around QA and certification. In a world with lots of changing code and different configurations it's important to maintain an overview, get clever reporting and understand what changed where. If you're interested in using this for your project, go and have a chat with Zygmunt and read the log.

Introduction to Upstart – Mark Russel took the last slot of the day and talked with great energy about Upstart. How Upstart works, how to make use of it, and talked us in great detail through a live example. Well done, Mark!

Thursday, 14th July 2011

From idea to app in no time with QML – Olivier Tilloy started the day with an excellent session about how to use QML. He had written a small application from scratch and by going through the revisions of the code showed how small code changes immediately and very easily result in great new functionality.

Deploy your App to the cloud, Writing Ensemble formulas 101 – Next up was Ahmed Kamal who also picked a small but very powerful example to showcase the power of Ensemble. Just a few simple commands and you not only deploy Drupal but also keep it scalable very easily. Awesome!

Fixing common ARM build failures – Jani Monoses had the next slot and talked about compiling code on the ARM architecture. It was nice to see that it's sometimes only small things in the code that need to change so you make the package not only build on i386 and amd64, but also on ARM. Way to go!

nux – visual rendering in UIs made easy – Graphics mastermind Jay Taoko talked us through nux and how it is used in Unity currently to very easily render graphics without having to dive too deep into OpenGL. It's very elegant and a lot of fun. Jay was a lot of fun too and explained how Ubuntu worked for him having a Windows background.

Java library packaging with maven-debian-helper – James Page took the last slot of the day gave a very informative overview over Java library packaging. It's clear from the session that it's not really as daunting as you might think it is. Read the log and find out how you can help James with Java packages.

Friday, 15th July 2011

Fixing bugs in compiz – As Sam Spilsbury lives in Australia, he got up very very early for this session (or stayed up very long). This seemed to have no effect on his ability to give an interesting and fun session though. Apart from his love for vegetarian food we learned also learned about Compiz, how to debug it and how to get involved and fix bugs.

Helping develop the Ubuntu Websites – Michael Hall was up next and talked us through a selection of Ubuntu Websites that make use of Django and are maintained as a team effort. One example was the LoCo Directory which is very easy to get involved with.

Bug Triage Class – Carlos de-Avillez and Pedro Villavicencio are quite the double act. They're not just fun to listen to, but they also did a great job explaining how to make sense of a huge mass of bug reports, how to stay productive and how to get in touch with the team.

Lubuntu Development – Phill Whiteside works with the Lubuntu team on bringing LXDE goodness to Ubuntu. Phill put together a quick presentation that should make it easy to understand what Lubuntu is doing, what the plans are and how to get involved.

Project Lightning Talks – Continuing our good tradition of Project Lightning Talks we had great fun again and had quick presentations of devscripts and ubuntu-dev-tools, Melia, tomboy-pastebinit and ibid. Also the idea of reverse lightning talks was discussed, so watch this space to find out what we're going to come up with next time.


The Commodore 64 is back – and it’s running Ubuntu

If you’re old enough (and might I say cool enough) to remember the original Commodore 64 home computer then prepare to get stoked: not only is the device back rocking the same retro look, but it’s back running Ubuntu as well.

The original Commodore 64 was released back in 1982, and went on to become one of the most popular and well-known home computers of all time. The reborn Commodore 64 heeds to the mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix” by keeping the same ‘look’ as the original.

You do need to bring your own mouse and monitor, but you do get a keyboard.

Boy do you get a keyboard: -

The outside might look ancient but the inside is more than capable as a general purpose home computer.

A dual core Atom processor is teamed with a Nvidia Ion2 to make 1080p video playback a smooth affair. 2GB RAM comes as standard, although the C64 supports up to 4GB.

There’s the usual smattering of USB, Audio in/out and VGA ports. A card reader is thrown in for good measure, too.


Somewhat annoyingly the “basic” model ships without a DVD drive or WiFi! The meagre 160GB HDD included hardly cushions this oversight, either.

The ‘new’ Commodore 64 costs $595 – the same price as the original Commodore 64 back in the early 80s. For this price you could undoubtedly find better value for money elsewhere, but you’d lack the Commodore look and the Commodore brand.

“Extras”, such as a larger HDD, WiFi and a Blu-Ray drive can be added, but will bump the price. The OS provided is Ubuntu 10.10.

Fancy biting one of these beauties? Nab them @ the Commodore 64 Website

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Find your place in the Ubuntu community – hit up Ubuntu Community Week happening now

Half the battle of wanting to contribute to open source is knowing where to start. I remember when I first started contributing to Ubuntu I found it difficult to discover a project to contribute to, especially since I’m not a developer.

The Ubuntu community are aware of this, and as such, they’ve brainstormed a new event that’s happening right now.

It’s called the Ubuntu Community Week and it’s running from yesterday (Monday, 18th July) to Friday (22 July). We probably should have given you a heads up a bit earlier… but we were too busy wrestling bears and fighting off the byte-toads that hang around our server.

But how does it work, Benjamin!?

The structure is broken down into five different areas which make up the process of contributing to Ubuntu. Targeted at fresh newbies who aren’t part of a project, or are floating on the edge of the Ubuntu universe looking for a way to get in, the week should be useful for people of all shapes and sizes.

The five areas are Find, Create, Grow, Nuture, Govern and are each given a dedicated day.

The whole event takes place on IRC and in this case, in the channel #ubuntu-classroom on irc.freenode.net.

Don’t know what IRC is? Check out this page.

What should I see?

Some of the more interesting sessions include:
  • Podcast your way to a bigger community! with the venerable Alan Pope
  • Working with other groups in your community with the lovely Elizabeth Krumbach
  • Community Manager Q+A with none other than Mr Bacon himself
  • and Haters Gonna Hate: Grow your community with less negativity with Joe Liau

Of course there’s much more than simply these sessions, so if you’ve got a bit of time kicking around and are interested in spreading the Ubuntu word or contributing back to the operating system you love, click through to the official Wiki page for more information as well as a handy dandy schedule.

And if you’ve got any questions, raise them in the comments and I’ll make sure the community team is floating around to answer them. Enjoy!

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Ubuntu Download of the Week: Neverputt

It’s been a month or so since my last Download of the Week update, so I’ve had some time to contemplate the next entry: Neverputt

Neverputt is a 3D miniature golf game for 1-4 players.  You are in the first-person hot-seat and must control the direction and velocity of the ball in order to be successful.

Whether you’d like to just relax and play a little putt-putt in peace, or challenge yourself with a bizarre combination of holes, Neverputt will not disappoint.  It ships with seven different courses by default, ranging from easy to insanely difficult.

Many of the holes are similar to those you would see at a real miniature golf course, but some of the more complex holes provide pitfalls such as moving tiles and teleportation.

Neverputt is free software available for all currently supported versions of Ubuntu. For more information, please visit the project’s website on icculus. Please note that most of the information you find there will pertain to Neverputt’s better known big brother, Neverball.


Google+/Picasa Image Uploader For Ubuntu’s Unity Launcher

As the momentum behind Google+ continues to gather pace its users are longing for desktop integration.

To help tide us over until Google release official Google+ tools for developers to play with reader Tom LeJeune has added ‘drag n’ drop’ Picasa image uploading to theHow to] Add a Google+ Quicklist to the Unity Launcher in Ubuntu" href="http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2011/07/google-unity-launcher/" target="_blank"> Google+ Unity Launcher Quicklist we featured recently.

If it sounds like something you’d use, here’s how…

Installing GoogleCL in Ubuntu

The first step is to install ‘googlecl‘ – a set of neat command line tools provided by Google for accessing their various services. GoogleCL is available through the Ubuntu Software Centre, so either search for it manually or hit the button below to launch and proceed.
install googlecl in ubuntu by pressing this buttonAfter installing GoogleCL you’ll need to authorize your Picasa account with it.
  • Open terminal
  • Type ‘google picasa list
  • Enter your username (sallysue@gmail.com)
  • Your browser will launch, taking you to an authorization page.
  • Agree/accept/allow access to GoogleCL
  • Return to the Terminal window and be patient: it can sometimes take a good few minutes for GoogleCL to receive instructions.

Adding Google+ Picasa Uploader to Unity Launcher

With the preparation out of the way we can move on to adding and installing the Google+ launcher.

Download the Google+ Unity Launcher package by pressing the button below.

Once downloaded move this package to your Home folder, extract then press CTRL+H to reveal “hidden” files.

Find the folder named ‘.googleplus‘. (Note the period proceeding the name.)

Double-click on the folder icon to enter it.

Inside, open the file named ‘googleplus.desktop’ in Text Edit/Gedit. Change the username of the lines starting ‘Exec’ and ‘Icon’ to yours. (Highlighted in yellow in the image below)

Save and close the file.

The next step is to get it able to ‘run’. To do this you need to right click on  the file (googleplus.desktop) and choose ‘Properties‘ from the resulting menu.

Once the ‘File Properties‘ window has opened choose the ‘Permissions‘ tab, and check the box next to ‘Allow Executing File as Program‘.

If you’ve done everything correctly you should now see a small Google+ icon with ‘Google+‘ written underneath it. This is the file we’ll be adding to the Unity Launcher.

Drag and drop the file over to the Unity Launcher.

And you’re done! You can now drag and drop a picture or image file for instant upload to your Picasa web albums, and depending on your settings will appear in your Google+ Stream/Photos tab.

One draw back to TLJ’s app is that you can’t choose which album to add a photo to. As such you’ll be prompted to create a new album with each upload.

Once successfully uploaded the Picasa album will auto-open in your browser, ready for you to edit.


Dark Toolbars Set For Ubuntu 11.10 Default Theme

Dark Toolbars and a new panel gradient are amongst the ‘work in progress’ changes to Ubuntu’s default theme for Ubuntu 11.10.

Ubuntu Design team legend Andrea Cimitan has showed off ‘work in progress’ on the changes with this screenshot: -

wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2011-07-19-150134_1366x768_scrot-1.png" >light theme changes potentially due for Ubuntu 11.10

I’m not told on the little ‘divider’ between controls and toolbar, but I’m told that is not set in stone and could yet change.

Unity in looks

The Ubuntu One Control Panel in Ubuntu 11.04 was first to feature a wholly dark toolbar. Its striking design led us to ask whether it had raised the deign bar for the rest of the Ambiance theme.

Community designers answered in their own way by creating Dark Toolbar GTK+ themes and hacks for Ambiance.

Your thoughts? Do you hope this sticks?


New Look Ubuntu Software Centre Delayed Until 12.04?

The design overhaul of the Ubuntu Software Centre many had hoped would land in Ubuntu 11.10 is seeming unlikely.
One of several Ubuntu Software Centre Designs proposed for 5.0
One of Several Ubuntu Software Centre Designs Proposed for version 5.0

In a recent Ubuntu Desktop Team meeting, where aspects, changes and progess on the Ubuntu desktop are discussed by developers, Software Centre developer Gary Lasker was asked if the new USC design would be ready in time for the release of Ubuntu Alpha 3.

Lasker responded:

“Nope, Mainly trying to catch up some work items this week [so it's] still to early to tell for sure, but I would tend to think it won’t as default, I mean.”

He was then asked if the design changes will instead be aimed for inclusion in Ubuntu 12.04. Lasker replied: -

“Heh, well, it’s not ruled out yet for [Ubuntu 11.10], but it’s a lot of changes. Probably perky, I guess I’m saying”

The good news is that the USC in Ubuntu 11.10 will be getting new feature, if not a new look.

The “incumbent” Software Centre is said to work well under GNOME 3.



Robots for Humanity, Powered by Open Source

A new collaborative robotics project is ripping the idea of autonomous assistance for the disabled out from the land of science-fiction and planting it firmly in the real world – and all using the power of Open Source.

‘Robots for Humanity’ is the result of a team up between Willow Garage, developers of personal robotics hardware and software, ‘Healthcare Robotics Lab’ at Georgia Tech and disabled user Henry Evans and his wife Jane.

Henry Evans was left paralysed by a brain stem stroke at the age of 40. He is unable to move, speak or care fully for himself.

But the Robots for Humanity project is giving him back a small chip of independence.


Using Ubuntu and a webcam Henry is already able to control his computer, surf the web, write e-mail etc, using simple head movements. Regardless of the OS that is great of itself.

The ‘Robots for Humanity’ project simply extends this idea outwards, letting henry manipulate the world around him via a robot called a PR2.

The Pr2 uses a head-mounted Kinect sensor to monitor Henry’s head movements, and feeds the data back to Henry’s computer to allow him to control the robot, via various interfaces, in real time. Henry can move the robot’s body, arms and head – allowing him to shave, scratch and itch – or use autonomous actions – such as navigating a room or reaching out for an object.

A project such as this should be championed regardless of its nature. But, you know, the fact it’s being built as open-source software, making use of open-source software (all of the promotional videos for Willow Garage show software in use on Ubuntu, no less) is pretty awesome.

You can find out more on the project in the short promotional video below: -


Ubuntu ARM Netbook Boasts 13 Hours of Battery Life, Costs £179

So the long heralded ‘flood’ of ARM netbooks on to the shelves barely even materialised as a drop, with a drop in demand for netbooks and massive growth spurt in touch-screen Tablet devices seemingly diverting attention elsewhere.

PC company Hercules are pinning their hopes on a ‘better late than never’ approach with the launch of a new ARM powered netbook series dubbed the ‘eCafé’.

The eCafé comes in two 10″ flavours: -
  • A slim white model weighing just 880g
  • A heavier black model with 13 hours battery life and HDMI out

Both sport the same internal configuration of: -
  • 800Mhz ARM Cortex A8 (Freescale i.MX515)
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB Flash Storage

A chiclet keyboard, 8GB of flash storage, HDMI out, 3 USB ports an, card reader, Headphone/Microphone ports, integrated WiFi, Ethernet port and bizarre touch-controls on the ‘arms’ of the device for controlling media playback round out the specs.

The operating system appears to be a slightly modified version of Ubuntu 10.07 (yes, 10.07) for ARM devices, running the EFL Netbook Launcher.

The eCafe models start from £179 on Amazon UK. (Pre-order)

Promotional video ahoy


Without a device in my hands to put through its paces I can’t attest to the actual performance or power of the eCafé netbooks.

The choice of the relatively antiquated i.MX515 processor – launched in 2009 – would make me hesitant before purchasing, particularly as reviews of Toshiba’s AC100-AU, which shipped with Android, were lukewarm at best – and that came with a dual core 1Ghz Tegra A9 chip!

We’ve certainly seen more powerful ARM portables hinted shown off before – such as this 2GHz 14″ beauty shown off at CES earlier this year.

But the eCafé’s, as small and meek as they seem, are said to handle 1080p video playback, web browsing, office documents and other everyday tasks with ease. And that’s without mentioning the long battery life, claimed 14 day standby, lightweight build and general portability.

The question is: would you buy one? 


Ubuntu 10.04.3 Released

The third maintenance update to Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS has been released. 

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, released in April of 2010, will continue to be supported with updates and security fixes until April 2013 on desktops and April 2015 on servers.

In announcing the release of 10.04.3 Canonical’s Kate Stewart explained what the update contains:

Numerous updates have been integrated, and updated installation media have been provided so that fewer updates will need to be downloaded after installation. These include security updates and corrections for other high-impact bugs, with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

A list of bugs and changes making up this release can be found online @ ubuntu.com/LucidLynx/ReleaseNotes/ChangeSummary/10.04.3

Download | ubuntu.com


Linus Torvalds announces stable release of Linux kernel 3.0

Linus Torvalds has announced the release of Linux kernel 3.0 on his Google+ profile after a short delay earlier this week.

So what’s new? Well, not a lot really. The new release sees a few new patches as well as a bit of old cruft removed, but as Linus explains in his announcement to the Linux kernel mailing list in May, 3.0 won’t feature a bunch of new stuff.

So what are the big changes?

NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Sure, we have the usual two thirds driver changes, and a lot of random fixes, but the point is that 3.0 is *just* about renumbering, we are very much *not* doing a KDE-4 or a Gnome-3 here.

No breakage, no special scary new features, nothing at all like that. We’ve been doing time-based releases for many years now, this is in no way about features. If you want an excuse for the renumbering, you really should look at the time-based one (“20 years”) instead.


There are however a few interesting new tidbits such as a Microsoft Kinect driver, Cleancache support, open source graphics driver improvements including initial support for Intel’s Ivy Bridge, and a lot of changes for the open source Intel, Radeon, and Nouveau drivers.

The new kernel pulls support for a few older, rarely used features such as the Reiser4 file system, and according to Michael Larabel over at Phoronix, unfortunately doesn’t fix the power regressions that were found in Ubuntu 11.04.

Of course Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot will indeed ship with kernel 3.0 stable, but Ubuntu’s Desktop Manager Jason Warner couldn’t say when:

 “I don’t know exactly when 3.0 final will get into Oneiric, but it will.”

Why the jump to 3.0, then?

Linus explains:

I decided to just bite the bullet, and call the next version 3.0. It will get released close enough to the 20-year mark, which is excuse enough for me, although honestly, the real reason is just that I can no longer comfortably count as high as 40.

The whole renumbering was discussed at last years Kernel Summit, and there was a plan to take it up this year too. But let’s face it – what’s the point of being in charge if you can’t pick the bike shed color without holding a referendum on it? So I’m just going all alpha-male, and just renumbering it. You’ll like it.

As usual, Linus provides some rather funny commentary in his emails to the mailing list so be sure to check out the full email from him. And why you’re at it, get your full Friday Linus Torvalds fix and check out our exclusive interview with him earlier this year where we ask him what he thinks about Ubuntu.

via Linus Torvalds on Google+


RTS game 0 A.D. releases Alpha 6 with new textures, sounds, and funky flight demo

ong>The developers behind highly anticipated open source RTS game 0 A.D. have announced another update, Alpha 6 “Fortuna” which brings with it a bunch of bug fixes, new textures, map overhauls, sounds, new unit stances, and even a flight mode as a proof of concept for the versatility engine.

Wildfire Games says of the release:

Wildfire Games, an international group of volunteer game developers, proudly announces the release of “0 A.D. Alpha 6 Fortuna”, the sixth alpha version of 0 A.D., a free, open-source game of ancient warfare.

We have added hundreds of terrain textures and dozens of sounds, redrawn and added Hellenic units and buildings, implemented unit stances and put in some WW2 fighter planes just to show that the game engine can support flight.

What’s new?

Top features:
  • New unit stances, including Violent, Aggressive, Defensive, Stand Ground, and Avoid
  • 250 new terrain textures
  • 43 new sound effects.
  • New Greek houses
  • New Greek siege tower
  • Updated shield patterns for Greek hoplites
  • Art released for all of the remaining Champion units
  • Thracian Mercenary unit
  • New movement animations for giraffes and lions.
New maps:
  • Cycladic Archipelago III, a huge Greek islands map
  • Southern Greece real-world map
  • Updated Belgian Bog
  • Cantabrian Highlands random map now uses the Temperate biome terrain set
  • Gambia River map, using the new Tropic biome terrain set
  • Mediterranean Coves.
  • Delay in carrying out unit instructions eliminated
  • Units less likely to get stuck
  • Various improvements to the text input boxes in the game
  • Unit selection limit matches population cap (200 units).
The Atlas scenario editor:
  • Player settings editing panel: Set teams, colors, default AI behavior, starting resources etc
  • Entity filter: Enter part of the name of an object/objects you want to add to your map to filter them out from among the rest.
Just for fun:
  • Flight demo: A brand new P-51 Mustang can fly around the map, and attack targets on the ground and in the air.

Download and install

0 A.D. of course cross platform, and they’ve provided download instructions for all three Operating Systems. They’ve even got neat shiny buttons, too.

via email, Wildfire Games | Full announcement


Update Manager Indicator puts Ubuntu updates in your panel

Ubuntu user and Python developer Jonas Frei sent us an email with a new project he’s working on that’s aimed at making Ubuntu updates easier to access, and consistinify (new word, do you like it?) Update Manager’s presence in the panel.

It notifies you of new updates and gives quick access to the most common commands in Update Manager, including the ability to refresh and install new updates. There’s also a nifty preferences dialog for a bit of customization.

Jonas says of his project:

It’s an indicator which informs the user about available updates (see screenshots). Also, there are some settings that can be made. The applications progress is in a very early stage, though it’s basically functional (at least for me). Some features don’t work yet, like the Autostart function, but work is in progress ;-)

My main motivation to write this program was, that i always found the update-management in Ubuntu rather unsatisfying with the manager just popping up. I preferred how it was done when there was just an icon in the gnome-panel in earlier Ubuntu versions, or like e.g. in Linux Mint. The language I used is C# (I wanted to get into C# and Mono).

Jonas has created a Launchpad project which hosts his indicator where you can report bugs and view the code. There’s no PPA so you’ll need to build it from source for now.

If you’re a Python developer looking to help out, why not start with something fun and simple like Jonas’ indicator?
via email, Jonas Frei


Google Music Manager Finally Launches On Linux

Google have announced the release of Google Music Manager for Linux. 

Google Music Beta, which was launched back in May, lets users upload as many as 20,000 tracks for free access and streaming through the web and mobile devices – wherever they are in the world.

Music is cached for offline play on both the desktop and mobile devices.

At the time of Music Beta’s launch Google only provided Windows and Mac version of ‘Google Music Manager’ – their desktop client for adding and seamlessly syncing your music folder with Google Music Beta. With the release of Google Music Manager for Linux, everyone* is now free to take advantage of the cloud-music-storage service.

Those of you already signed up/using the service can grab the linux installer – provided as both 32bit and 64bit .deb packages – by hitting the ‘Add Music’ button to the top of the player window.

Download | Google Music Manager for Linux (32bit, 64bit .deb)

*Although Google Music Beta is ‘restricted’ to US users, requesting an invite form your Google account via a US proxy ‘gets you in’. Just head to ‘music.google.com’ via a US proxy and request an invite. You only need to use the proxy to request the invite; all other steps, such as using the service, work wherever you are.

Thanks to all who sent this in


Gnome Screencasts Episode 6 – How To Make a Web Browser

The sixth instalment of wannabe-developer orientated web series ‘Gnome Screencasts’ is now online.

Episode 6 sees Daniel talk through creating, in his own words, a “bonny, exquisite, invaluable, amiable, sightly web browser using GTK+, WebKit and Python.”

If you enjoyed this episode you can ‘flattr’ Daniel via flattr.com/​thing/​349188/​GNOME-Screencasts-06-Creating-a-slinky-web-browser

The Previous 5 entries in this series – which range from creating a photo app to a guitar tuner – can be found using our ‘screencasts‘ tag.


‘Glimpse’ for Linux Offers Safe Sandbox Testing of Unstable Apps

We all want the latest features and changes an app has to offer, and for many of us that means using unstable, beta or sometimes even alpha quality software.

This ‘bite of the beta pie’ approach has drawbacks: application performance may not be ideal and you risk files being trashed by buggy new features.

Enter Glimpse which lets ‘unstable’ applications run alongside stable applications in a ‘sandbox’, making the testing of alpha software (for curiosity’s sake or more) a relatively fear-free experience.

Glimpse application sandbox for Linux

The developer of Glimpse, , explains: -

“Applications run in Glimpse are allowed to read your real data, but when they write to it or modify it in any other way, all the changes stay within their sandbox. Your real files on your system are left intact.”

Sergey then gives an example Glimpse in use with an unstable music player…

Without Glimpse: First, you spend lots of time on setting up the build environment (again?! how do those guys manage to change it so quickly?!), including unstable version of compiler that breaks all other builds in the system. Then, when you finally manage to try the player for 10 minutes, you realize that the "improved writing metadata to files" has just broken half of your music library. You're out of luck or have to restore a manual backup (if one exists).

With Glimpse: You open Glimpse, click "Update sandbox", and the latest version of the player arrives in a few minutes, not hours. And if you find that all the music files in the sandbox are broken, you think "thanks to Glimpse, my files are safe," click the "Purge sandbox files" button, and your original music is available in the sandbox again.

Download Glimpse

Glimpse works with Ubuntu 10.10 onwards. Just add the following PPA to your Software Sources:
  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:glimpse-hackers/stable
Next step is to run an update and install both glimpse and a profile for your Apps to use:
  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install glimpse glimpse-profile-elementary glimpse-profile-ubuntu

Once download launch ‘Glimpse’ from the Dash. In the window that opens click on the ‘Profile’ you wish to use. Depdning on the profile chosen you may need to download or locate an .iso for Glimpse to use.

From there you just hit the ‘Launch Apps’ button to launch an app in Sandboxed mode (such as the ‘Software Centre’ for adding some Unstable PPAs to play with).

Trying elementary OS Luna

If you choose to try the development build of elementary OS ‘Luna’ you will be prompted to download an .iso of the latest Ubuntu 11.10 Daily Build. Once completed, and elementary sandbox launched, you will need to open ‘Cerbere’ from the apps list to launch the “full blown” Pantheon Desktop Shell (Slingshot, Wingpanel, etc.) on your desktop.

Tip: Log in to a “classic” GNOME session with the latest elementary GTK theme selected before doing this as it gets in the way of Unity ;)

For more information, including on some of the technical caveats in using Glimpse,  head over to Sergey’s blog

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Linux 4 Hope takes old computers, installs Ubuntu, gives them to people in need

Garron Haun wrote in to us yesterday to let us know about a project he founded called Linux 4 Hope which aims at rejuvenating donated computers by installing Ubuntu, and then giving them to people in need around his local community.

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They’re a non-for-profit organization based in Manassas, Virginia and are always looking for more donated computers and volunteers to help install Ubuntu and then help provide support for the community once the computers are delivered.

“I believe that people should have the opportunity in life to succeed. In today's lifestyle, computers are everywhere, and people almost always use them for more than entertainment. Almost all schools require papers to be typed and research to be done on the internet.

With Linux based computers, we can make this task easier for people by using almost virus free systems, and systems that are generally more stable than Microsoft.”

Their three main goals are:
  1. Provide computers for those in need, powered by Linux Operating Systems
  2. Provide free computer repairs for people in need, along with free installations of Linux
  3. Promote Linux and show the world the benefits of using Linux.

How can you help?

If you live near or in Virginia, USA and have old computers lying around then the best way would be to donate them to Linux 4 Hope or to help out.

Otherwise, they’re looking for a web developer/designer to give their website a bit of much-needed love. If you’re neither of these, simply spread the message and become a fan of them on Facebook!

via email, Garron Haun