Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ubuntu 9.04 to be called Jaunty Jackalope

By Ryan Paul

Ubuntu overlord Mark Shuttleworth announced today that the codename for Ubuntu 9.04, which is expected to arrive in April, will be Jaunty Jackalope. Ubuntu releases are issued every six months and include the latest versions of popular open source software applications. Shuttleworth believes that Ubuntu is ready to compete with Windows and Mac OS X and he expects to see the open source Linux distribution ship on millions of devices in the coming year.

"The Warrior Rabbit is our talisman as we move into a year where we can reasonably expect Ubuntu to ship on several million devices, to consumers who can reasonably expect the software experience to be comparable to those of the traditional big OSV's—Microsoft and Apple," he wrote in a mailing list post. "The bar is set very high, and we have been given the opportunity to leap over it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine, and we want to make sure that the very best thinking across the whole open source ecosystem is reflected in Ubuntu, because many people will judge free software as a whole by what we do."

The Ubuntu development community is currently gearing up for the 8.10 release, codenamed Intrepid Ibex, which is scheduled for next month. Ibex will include GNOME 2.24 and lots of other new stuff. We took an early look at 8.10 back in June and characterized it as a nice incremental bump that will bring improved support for subnotebook devices.

Following the release of 8.10 in October, the developers will begin planning for Jaunty Jackalope. The blueprints will be assembled during the upcoming Ubuntu Developer Summit which will take place after FOSSCamp in December and will be held at Google's Mountain View headquarters. The event is a highly collaborative gathering that will bring together Canonical's developers and Ubuntu community contributors.

A big focus of the 9.04 release will be improving boot time and general performance. Shuttleworth also says that the developers also aim to bring tighter web integration to the desktop. Ubuntu 9.04 will be like a Jackalope, he claims, because it will be lightning fast and will converge desktop and web technologies to create a hybrid software experience.

"There are some specific goals that we need to meet in Jaunty. One of them is boot time. We want Ubuntu to boot as fast as possible—both in the standard case, and especially when it is being tailored to a specific device," he wrote. "Another goal is the blurring of web services and desktop applications."

Ubuntu has achieved unprecedented popularity in the desktop Linux ecosystem and is rapidly moving into the general consumer market. Canonical has high hopes for Ubuntu adoption on netbooks, budget computers that feature a small form factor and tie into the cloud. Dell is already shipping Ubuntu on its new mini 9 netbook and we expect to see more Ubuntu-based subnotebook products coming soon.

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Linux-powered LinPC desktop is a bargain

By Susan Linton

The new generation of inexpensive netbooks may be wonderful, but for my main desktop I want a real machine -- something I can open up, clean, and add to. So I was extremely tickled recently to trade for a new LinPC, an economical personal computer that features PCLinuxOS MiniMe 2008 preinstalled and ready to go.

The LinPC's motherboard is an MSI K9N6SGM-V V2 in a Micro-ATX form factor. An AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ dual-core processor powers the system, aided by a gigabyte of RAM. It has a 1GHz front side bus and supports up to 2GB of DDR2 533/667/800 RAM. Included is a Realtek RTL8201CL Ethernet chip and Realtek ALC888 7.1 High Definition Audio. It has the standard ports, including four USB ports and six-port audio. The Nvidia MCP61P GPU is equivalent to an Nvidia 6100. Expansion slots are one PCI Express x16, one PCI Express x1, and two PCI (all open upon delivery). There are two memory slots, with one open.

The LinPC box.

A lovely jet black case houses the system with lots of room for growth. It features three open external 5.25-inch bays, two external 3.5-inchers, six open 3.5-inch internal drive bays, and seven expansion card slots in the back. On the front are the power and reset switches, two USB ports, and microphone and earphone jacks. The case assembly isn't particularly heavy, but it's sturdy.

Inside is a 400-watt power supply, Optiarc DVD-RW AD-7200A optical drive, Seagate Barracuda ST3160815AS SATA 7200rpm 160GB hard drive, and motherboard assembly.

The hard drive is set up with three partitions: 41GB for / (root) using the ext3 filesystem, 4251MB used as swap, and 103GB for /home on ext2. The drive is specified by the manufacturer to read 73 MBps, but tests here revealed 74.84 MBps buffered disk reads and 741 MBps cached reads (as tested by hdparm).

The BIOS, dated April 2008, offers standard options such as boot order and which integrated peripherals to enable, but also many of the timing settings and configuration options used for overclocking. Most of these are set at Auto, meaning as detected per manufacturers' specifications. This usually results in a balance of optimum performance with stability. However, you will want to enable Cool'n'Quiet feature if you wish to use CPU scaling. The Quick Boot option is enabled, and it brings the GRUB boot screen into view only one or two seconds after you press the Start button.

The operating system

PCLinuxOS MiniMe 2008 is the operating system used on these systems. It's a lightweight distribution that offers out-of-the-box usability, stability, and newer software. The installed system occupies 1.9GB of disk space. It feels quick and agile, even with Compiz Fusion 3-D effects enabled.

LinPC screenshot. Click to enlarge.

PCLinuxOS MiniMe uses the Linux-2.6.22 kernel for newer hardware support, Xorg 7.2.0, GCC 4.1.1, and a slimmed-down KDE 3.5.9. Eric Keeler, the owner of, says that when the full version of PCLinuxOS 2008 is released, the company will probably offer users a choice between it and MiniMe.

The LinPC MiniMe ships with the PCLinuxOS splashes and screens, but has a customized wallpaper (with several others available) and utilizes a nice window decoration and theme. Compiz Fusion isn't standard, but can be installed and activated upon request. Users get the Mandriva/PCLinuxOS Control Center to configure and tweak the system, as well as the KDE Control Center for the desktop. Synaptic is the APT package manager front end for installing additional software and applying system upgrades.

The version of KDE 3.5.9 in LinPC MiniMe is trimmed down to include only a few applications, while some alternatives to KDE components have been added. For example, Firefox and Thunderbird are available for browsing, email, and news reading, but Kmail and Knode are absent. The full office suite is included, as is MPlayer, Tunapie (for streaming radio and TV programs), and XMMS. Many games have been retained and a few others added, such as blinKen and Frozen Bubble. With this starter system in place, Synaptic can assist users in customizing the system to their requirements. The included Make live CD can help them create a new remaster of the system.

As delivered the system comes with root and guest accounts. One of the first things you should do is change the root password and set up at least one user account.


I tested the new PC with the Phoronix Test Suite (PTS). Many of the tests don't mean a lot without a valid comparison, and I didn't find a box in their database with a similar CPU and amount of RAM that ran the same version of the PTS. Instead I used the data on an AMD Turion 64 X2 running at 1.90GHz, with 1454MB RAM and GeForce 7000M / nForce 610. It's a bit better on graphics and RAM but uses a bit slower processor. Both machines had Compiz running during testing.

PTS comes with 32 individual tests, and using the Universe option runs them all in one huge test. Using this option I found that despite the economical motherboard and graphics, the LinPC held its own pretty well.

For example, the MP3 encoding test converts a Waveform audio format (WAV) file into MP3. The LinPC encoded the 78MB file in 43.71 seconds, compared to the 57.09 seconds of the Turion machine. Another interesting test is the Linux kernel compilation test. The LinPC compiled the 2.6.25 kernel in 31.96 minutes, while the Turon machine finished in 33.86 minutes.

In testing the memory I found my LinPC ran the Ramspeed test (Integer Batch run, which tests the system memory performance) at 2074Mbps while the Turion machine with half again as much memory did 1992Mbps. In a test that benchmarks the memory and CPU Level 2 cache performance, the Bandwidth test, the LinPC read 1370Mbps and the Turion read 2165Mbps.

The most fun tests involved obtaining frame rates for popular 3-D games such as Nexuiz, Tremulous, and Open Arena. The framerates of the LinPC while playing Nexuiz 2.4.2 averaged 17fps, while the Turion averaged 13fps at the same resolution. When comparing Tremulous 1.1.0, the LinPC acheived 68.06fps to the Turion's 57.36. On Enemy Territory the LinPC framerates were 33.8fps and the Turion's were 42.7.

You can see the full results of the PTS Universe test of this machine at the PTS Global database.

As you can see, the LinPC won some and lost some, but overall its performance is respectable. In everyday usage, the Compiz effects ran smooth as silk without any glitches, hesitation, or artifacting. Applications opened quickly and performed well.


Overall, I'm happy with my recent acquisition. The case is sturdy with lots of room for growth. The power supply is sufficient to run a mid-level add-on graphics card that requires an additional power source. The motherboard is respectable for its price point. The processor is ample for today's applications, and the graphics is powerful enough for most of the 3-D games available for Linux today.

The only complaint I had was that no restore disk or copy of the OS was included. I mentioned this to Keeler and he stated that that was an excellent idea that would implemented immediately.

LinPC is not a dream gaming machine, but in a world where the price of everything is uncomfortably high, a $309 computer with these specs and these capabilities is a bargain.

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Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time

For more than 200 years, matters of local and national significance have been conveyed in newsprint -- from revolutions and politics to fashion to local weather or high school football scores. Around the globe, we estimate that there are billions of news pages containing every story ever written. And it's our goal to help readers find all of them, from the smallest local weekly paper up to the largest national daily.

The problem is that most of these newspapers are not available online. We want to change that.

Today, we're launching an initiative to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives. Let's say you want to learn more about the landing on the Moon. Try a search for [Americans walk on moon], and you'll be able to find and read an original article from a 1969 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Not only will you be able to search these newspapers, you'll also be able to browse through them exactly as they were printed -- photographs, headlines, articles, advertisements and all.

This effort expands on the contributions of others who've already begun digitizing historical newspapers. In 2006, we started working with publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post to index existing digital archives and make them searchable via the Google News Archive. Now, this effort will enable us to help you find an even greater range of material from newspapers large and small, in conjunction with partners such as ProQuest and Heritage, who've joined in this initiative. One of our partners, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, is actually the oldest newspaper in North America—history buffs, take note: it has been publishing continuously for more than 244 years.

You’ll be able to explore this historical treasure trove by searching the Google News Archive or by using the timeline feature after searching Google News. Not every search will trigger this new content, but you can start by trying queries like [Nixon space shuttle] or [Titanic located]. Stories we've scanned under this initiative will appear alongside already-digitized material from publications like the New York Times as well as from archive aggregators, and are marked "Google News Archive." Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we'll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search, you'll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well.

This effort is just the beginning. As we work with more and more publishers, we'll move closer towards our goal of making those billions of pages of newsprint from around the world searchable, discoverable, and accessible online.

Demystifying anti-script tools

jen by jen

Hey All,

A few folks have been discussing the use of scripts on Digg recently, so I wanted to jump into the conversations that happened this weekend. Scripts/bots place additional load on Digg servers (slowing things down for everyone), so using them is a Terms of Use violation that will result in losing access to your Digg account. We are currently looking deeper into recent script activity.

Digg monitors for script/bot activity globally across all our site pages. In addition to that, our development team has completed some improvements that will be rolled out this week. These changes will be more transparent by warning and preventing the users from using these scripts/bots. This will only affect a very small group of people, and the overwhelming majority of the Digg community won’t notice these changes. As always, all content on Digg is subjected to the Digg promotion algorithm, which requires a unique diverse pool of Diggers before promoting content to the homepage.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at support at Digg with questions or feedback. We’re continuously researching and investigating these topics, so don’t be shy and let us know what you think.

Have a good one,

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Halloween Bubble Fogger Delivers Targeted Strikes of Fog-Filled Bubbles to Your Eyes

Halloween fog machines? Been there, inhaled that. Bubble machines? Still pretty cool, soap in the eye or not. But what if humanity had created a machine that combined the venerable fog machine with bubbles? Interest piqued? Consider it done!

According to the Bubble Fogger's Amazon listing, this marvelous contraption creates fog solution-filled bubbles and casts them out into the Halloween kitsch-filled ether that is your home in October. When the bubbles pop, most likely in your eyes or on stain prone furniture, they become fog. The kit includes both the bubble and fog solution, and will set you back $40. As far as over-priced, short-lived Halloween crap goes, that's kind of a bargain. [Amazon via Random Good Stuff]

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Tuning in to Apple TV 3.0

Does Steve Jobs have a surprise in store for the analysts and reporters gathering in San Francisco for Let’s Rock — the dog-and-pony show Tuesday at which Apple (AAPL) is widely expected to unveil the next generation of iPods?

Peter S. Magnusson hopes he does — and what he’s wishing for is a new Apple TV.

The Swedish-born entrepreneur (and founder of Virtutech) points out in a thoughtful post that the upcoming holiday buying season is a perfect opportunity for Apple to overhaul the set-top box that even Jobs admits has been less than a runaway hit — and Tuesday would be a perfect opportunity to unveil the new device.

Why now?

Because on Feb. 17, 2009, by Congressional mandate, all full-power analog TV broadcasts in the United States will cease. That means that not long after Christmas, tens of millions of American TVs will go dark unless they are connected to cable, satellite or an analog-to-digital converter box.

The U.S. government is offering every household two $40 credit card-type coupons to pay for these boxes and has set aside enough money to fund more than 22 million of them — with an option to increase that number to more than 33 million.* See here.

This is expected to create a huge market for converter boxes, most of which will do no more than bring that dead TV back to life and offer a new remote to replace the one that no longer works.

But it could also create a huge opportunity for Apple TV to stage a fresh assault on the living room — especially if Apple throws in a few more goodies that Magnusson spelled out in a wish list posted on Sunday:

  • Blu-ray disc player; of course one that can also play DVDs and CDs.
  • ATSC tuner. That’s a fancy way of saying over-the-air digital TV.
  • 500G hard drive (1T optional).
  • WiFi.
  • DVR capability added to iTunes 8.0.
  • Time Capsule functionality, in other words, Time Machine backup.
  • Full Safari browser and support for (optional) keyboard.
  • Various new and improved options for Internet video.
  • Support for using the iPhone or the iPod touch as smart remotes. (link)

Magnusson wouldn’t mind if the new box played games, but that’s not a deal breaker. He also suggests that it would be nice if Apple’s re-fashioned set-top box were seemlessly integrated with the iPhone, which would enable what he calls the “coolest thing of all”:

“If I’m watching a movie with the sound turned way up, it would gently pause when my cell phone rings.” (link)

Now that’s a feature I can imagine Steve Jobs showing off on stage on Tuesday — and having a lot of fun doing it.

The timing is certainly right. The DTV era begins Monday Sept. 8 at noon in Wilmington, NC, when all the major networks except the local PBS afiliate turn off their analog broadcasts in a trial run before the nationwide shutoff.

The original Apple TV was announced two years ago and started shipping in March 2007. The device got a major overhaul in January 2008 with the release of a software update that Apple dubbed “Take 2.”

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