Friday, December 30, 2011

Bodhi Linux Release Schedule

With the recent release of Bodhi Linux 1.3.0 I've had a few questions as to what our release cycle is exactly. I'd like to take a short moment today to clarify what exactly on current release schedule looks like. Our version numbering looks something like this:

x.y.z

Where x represents a major release, y represents an update (or point) release and z represents a bug fix release.

We have a two year major release cycle. These releases will be centered around each new Ubuntu long term support (LTS) release. Our goal is to release our new major version in the July following the release of an Ubuntu LTS. Because we have such a long major release cycle, we will be releasing our "update" releases every three months. The goal of update releases is to keep the software on the LiveCD current and continue making small improvements to the default look of the system. Finally our bug fix releases will happen as needed when an issue is discovered with the default configuration.


And because people like time lines, this is what our release cycle for the next couple years looks like:


1.4.0 March 2012
1.5.0 June 2012 – Last Update release to our 10.04 base
2.0.0 July 2012 – First Stable release to our 12.04 base
2.1.0 September 2012 – First Update release to our 12.04 base
2.2.0 December 2012
2.3.0 March 2013
2.4.0 June 2013
2.5.0 September 2013
2.6.0 December 2013
2.7.0 March 2014
2.8.0 June 2014 - Last Update release to our 12.04 base
3.0.0 July 2014 - First Stable release to our 14.04 base


Pretty straight forward and obviously the only deviation from this list would be bug fix releases that may or may not be needed. Have any questions feel free to drop a comment below.




~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dear Open Source Free Loaders

This is an open letter to all the open source free loaders out there - you know who you are.

One day you heard about this awesome thing called free software. You didn't know about the difference between free as in freedom and free as in beer - nor did you care. You came here simply because you heard you could get something for nothing.

As soon as you have your something, you are content - for the moment. Then something does not behave as expected, you can't figure something out or a true issue occurs.

You don't ask for help. 

You don't report there is an issue.

You don't help fix the problem at hand.

You know what you do. We all know what you do. You proclaim loudly for all to hear that the thing you got for free doesn't work properly. You call it garbage. You call it trash. You walk away from the product, leaving it worse for wear. You won't be missed.

In fact, check your Paypal - there is a full refund sitting in your account. Don't come back.

Today, I implore you - don't be an open source free loader. Free and Open Source Software is software written by a community, for a community. Without give an take on both ends (developers and users) things will never improve. The developers have given you software to use, the least you can do is give valid feedback. Remember - if you aren't part of a solution, then you are part of the problem.

A short rant from a sometimes tired developer,
~Jeff Hoogland


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

HOWTO: Setup Comp-Scale under Enlightenment

What is Comp-Scale?

Comp-Scale is an Enlightenment module that uses compositing features to allow you to switch between active windows and your current virtual workspace in a fancy method.

Installing Comp-Scale:

If you are using Bodhi Linux comp-scale is installed by default on your system. If you are using a different base system I advise building the latest comp-scale module from the E SVN.

Loading Comp-Scale:

If you installed the module correctly you can now go to Settings->Modules->Look and load Comp-Scale:


Setting Up Comp-Scale:

There are two different methods of settings up Comp-Scale. First you can simply add click-able gadgets (Settings->Gadgets) to your desktop or shelf:


Or you can setup key bindings:


What does Comp-Scale Look Like?

The first gadget - Scale Windows - gives you a composited view of all the windows on your active work space:


The second gadget - Scale all Windows - displays all open applications running across all your work spaces:


Finally, the third gadget - Scale Pager - triggers an overview of all your virtual work spaces:


Closing:

Short Enlightenment tutorials are something I hope to start doing on a regular basis. The Enlightenment desktop is extremely flexible and there are a great number of things you can do with it. Personally I learned everything I did about the desktop largely by following the IT flow chart and I advise everyone else interested in learning the desktop to do the same. The Bodhi Guide to Enlightenment is also a great resource for learning the E17 desktop.

If there is something you are interested in learning how to do, drop a comment below and hopefully I can address it in a future post

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bodhi Linux 1.3.0 Releases

All of our Bodhi users have been good little boys and girls this year it seems! So good in fact we are giving you your present a day early. The Bodhi team and I are happy to announce our next update release - Bodhi 1.3.0. While you will not find any earth shattering new features in this release there are many minor improvements.

Most notably you will find the use of the new "itask" module in three of our profiles, it is far more flexible than our old taskbar module. Also worth noting is that our installer slide show has gotten a much needed make over, along with further updates to our on disc documentation and a pretty new installer icon:



Software wise you will find a fresh Enlightenment desktop built from SVN this week and the Midori 0.4.2 web browser. In terms of themes this release features Agust, BlingBlack, PinkBodhi and Sunshine.

You can find our high speed torrent download here or the slower direct download here. As this is just a minor release current Bodhi users can easily update their systems to these packages following the directions here (it is recommend you do a full reboot or at least X restart after these updates).

In other Bodhi related news I have been hacking happily away at Bodhi for ARM. Beyond our Genesi partner hardware I have been working at getting file systems prepared for the Nokia N900 and the HP TouchPad running Bodhi's enlightenment desktop. These file systems will be based on Debian Wheezy (The current squeeze release lacks enough ARM support to be used).

Finally have a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Great New Year Linux folks. Oh - and don't forget to vote on your favorite Christmas themed desktop this weekend!



Ho, ho, ho - Hoogland over and out!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

HOWTO: Get right to X with No Display Manager

GDM, KDM, LXDM, LightDM - so many display managers so little time! If your not sure what a "Display Manager" does on your Linux system, in short it is the piece of software that starts your graphical user interface and manages your user login.  I've been doing more and more work with ARM hardware of the late and most times with embedded devices there is little (or no) need for a display manager to be present. You want to get right to your desktop and just start using the system.

If you have a single user computer odds are you also have no need for a display manager to be cluttering your system. The solution is to simply have your desktop GUI of choice auto-start when the computer turns on. To do this we are going to use a simple, but effective, piece of software cleverly called "NoDM".

Before we begin, you first need to disable or uninstall any current display managers running on the system (look into your display manager documentation on doing this, it varies with each display manager).

Next you need to install NoDM. On a Debian/Apt based system it is as simple as running:

sudo apt-get install nodm

After your package manager works it's magic you need to edit at least two lines in the NoDM configuration file. Typically this file is located at /etc/default/nodm, to edit it open it as super user with your preferred text editor. For example:

sudo leafpad /etc/default/nodm 

The default configuration file should look something like this. The two lines we need to edit most are:

NODM_ENABLED=false

and

NODM_USER=root

The first line you simply need to change to read:

NODM_ENABLED=true

The second line you need to make equal to the username you want to be logged in with.

Finally you need to tell your system what type of session to start when X is spawned. For instance I prefer to use the Enlightenment desktop, so in my ~/.xsession file I add the following line:

enlightenment_start

To add this line to your .xsession file via the CLI simply run:

echo enlightenment_start > ~/.xsession

If you are using a desktop other than Enlightenment you will need to figure out what that desktop's start up command is. Have any questions feel free to drop a comment below and I'll do my best to help out.

Cheers,
~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Linux Desktop Environment Round Up

A year and a half ago I did an entry entitled "Overview and Explanation of Linux Desktop Environments". Anyone that is in the technology field (or knows even a little bit about it) knows that 18 months is a like a life time in the world of tech. Today I would like to re-cap my previous post with a few additions that have been added in recent months and mention a few desktops I missed last time.

I'm going to list a good deal of desktops today, so in order to keep things organized I'm going to group them based on the toolkit they are written in.

GTK Desktops

Gnome Shell -

The flagship desktop for a number of popular Linux distributions (including Red Hat's community driven Fedora). Gnome Shell has taken a good deal of flak in recent months due to the drastic changes this release implemented compared to the previous Gnome 2 version. As of this posting the latest version of Gnome Shell is 3.2 and it looks something like this:


Gnome Shell is written in C (and some Java Script) and utilizes the GTK3 toolkit.

Mate -

This is a fairly recent fork of the code base of the older Gnome 2 desktop. With the idea of "don't fix what isn't broken" the Mate desktop sticks to maintaining the a Gnome 2 desktop experience without making drastic changes. For many Linux users it will be a familiar and welcoming experience:


Since Mate is a fork of the old Gnome 2 code base it utilizes the GTK2 toolkit. Mate is still a very new project and as such no Linux distributions use it as their default desktop currently.

Unity -

The brainchild of Ubuntu's SABDFL, Unity is a desktop also written in the GTK3 toolkit. Similar to Gnome Shell, Unity brought with it drastic change to the Linux desktop experience. Whether that change is for better or worse really depends on who you ask. The Unity desktop is fairly new, but it has gone through heavy development work in the last year due to the large testing base of the Ubuntu community and the other resources Canonical has available to them. At any rate when you first load Unity your desktop will look something like:


Unity is the default desktop for the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

LXDE -

This desktop utilizes the GTK2 toolkit and has a focus on speed. Written to be lightweight LXDE will take only a small toll on your computer's resources. One of the best things about LXDE is that all of it's pieces are fully independent. This means you can use the LXDE file manager (or any other part) under any other desktop without having to install all of LXDE with it. LXDE is a more traditional desktop setup and has a similar default layout to Windows 2000/XP:


LXDE is the default desktop of the Peppermint Linux distribution.

XFCE

Slightly older and more mature than LXDE, XFCE is also a desktop written in GTK2 that is designed to be lightweight. XFCE latest version as of this posting is 4.8 and it's default layout looks something like:


The primary version of Salix OS features the XFCE desktop.

Cinnamon -

This is a very new desktop. So new in fact that if you click the above link you will see it simply goes to a GITHub page. Cinnamon is a fork of the Gnome Shell code base that is going to be maintained by the Linux Mint developers. It's goal is to utilize advanced features the GTK3 toolkit while still providing a more traditional desktop experience. An early screenshot of this desktop looks something like:


This is only speculation, but since the Linux Mint team is going to be maintaining this desktop one would guess that their distribution will be using it eventually as their default desktop.

QT Desktops

KDE -

This is one of the oldest Linux desktop environments. KDE provides a full and rich user experience. KDE is modular and provides a number of widgets you can add and remove from your desktop. KDE is also fairly flexible in appearance and offers both a traditional looking desktop layout:


And a "netbook" layout that is optimized for small/touch screens:


As of this posting KDE's latest stable release is 4.7. In my opinion Chakra Linux provides one of the best KDE experiences to date.

Trinity -

The Trinity desktop does for KDE's older 3.5 release what the Mate desktop does for Gnome's 2.x series. It's goal is to simply maintain the old desktop, fix bugs and keep it functional. The latest release as of this posting is 3.5.13 and it looks something like this:


At this current point there are not any Linux distributions that use Trinity as their default desktop.

Razor -

Sometimes called "Razor QT" is what I would call the "LXDE" of QT desktop environments. It aims to be modern and functional while still maintaining a light weight status. This is also a fairly new project as far a software goes (currently only at a 0.4 release), but it is functional. Currently it's default desktop looks fairly close to this:


As of yet there are no Linux distributions that use Razor QT as their default desktop.

EFL Desktop

Enlightenment -

E17 or Enlightenment is currently the only desktop environment based on the EFLs (Enlightenment Foundation Libraries). E17 is currently under heavy development (and thus lacking some features), but in it's current state it is fast, flexible and stable. E17 is a modular desktop that is highly customizable. It can have a more traditional desktop layout:


Or one that is more optimized for a touch screen: 


Bodhi Linux is a distribution that features Enlightenment as it's default desktop.

Window Managers

Beyond the various desktops, there are a number of Window Managers that can be used either in combination with the above desktops or on their own. I am only going to talk about one of these Window Managers today, but you can find a fairly good list of them here.

Openbox -

The Openbox Window Manager is easily the most popular Window Manager to date. It is favored due largely to how fast it is. It is recommended for use with both the LXDE and Razor QT desktops. Openbox is fairly flexible though and can be used all on it's own. If you are using pure Openbox it can look like a variety of things including:


ArchBang is a Linux distribution that utilizes just the Openbox Window Manager.

Follow Up

Which desktop is right for you will vary based on your needs. The best piece of advice I can give is try a few different ones out before settling on one. Hopefully you learned as much from reading this as I did from writing it. I believe I covered at least a small bit about each of what I believe to be all of the most important/major desktops. If I am missing anything or you would like to add something feel free to do so by adding a comment below.

Cheers,
~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, December 19, 2011

Application Spotlight: Qalculate!

Today's application is my favorite calculator on a desktop computer (and my N900). It is called Qalculate!:


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Qalculate! has all the features you expect from a calculator and has a fairly straight forward layout:



I like Qalculate! because in addition to being fairly simplistic in appearance it is also a powerful tool. Qalculate! supports creating your own functions and by default it comes with a slew of it's own:


As you may note from the menu Qalculate! also comes pre-programmed with a variety of scientific variables and various unit conversions (because the US is silly and still doesn't use the metric system!).

Beyond the functionality of Qalculate! it is also a well written tool because the calculations/tasks it performs are completed separated from the GUI front end. This means Qalculate! comes with more than one front end, currently it has both GTK and QT options (and I hope to see an EFL front end some day). If you have not yet tried Qalculate! out before I highly recommend it. You should be able to easily find and install it from your distribution's repositories (Bodhi users can also find it in the appcenter).

Cheers,
~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 10, 2011

HOWTO: Force Skype to use Alsa on Linux

Like it or not Skype is a popular piece of software. In fact it is so popular it is the only piece of voice communication software a number of my friends will use. Because of this I have an account an use it on my Bodhi system every now and then (at least it has a native - if poor - Linux client and I don't have to run it via Wine). In case you didn't know - Bodhi ships with just the Alsa sound server by default (there are a number of reasons for this - none of which I am going to get into here) and luckily Skype installs and works perfectly fine with Alsa - until pulse audio shows up that is.

It seems something I installed recently drug pulse audio in with it as a dependency - this would be fine and dandy except for the fact that my Skype audio (input and output) 100% stopped with the addition of pulse audio to my system. Apparently the authors of Skype (in their infinite wisdom) made it so that if Skype is launched while pulse audio is installed Skype will use pulse (and only pulse) without the option to change back to Alsa. As I mentioned above my Skype audio was non-functional under pulse (for whatever reason) so I sought out a method for forcing Skype to use Alsa without having to remove pulse audio from my system.

The Solution -
To start, you need to close Skype and then kill the pulse audio server. To do this in one swift command open a terminal and run

killall skype && killall pulseaudio

Next you need to tell your pulse audio server not to auto launch itself (which it does by default). To do this we simply need to add one configuration setting to a file. To do this run the command:

nano ~/.pulse/client.conf

In the text file that is opened paste the following line:

autospawn = no

Save and close the file (ctrl+x when using nano), launch Skype and you should be good to go.

Hope this saves someone the 20 minutes I spent crawling around Google to track down this information.

~Jeff Hoogland