Why you might want to skip Ubuntu 17.04 (or not)

Linux users have one thing that often sets them apart from their Windows and Mac-using colleagues: They often spend a lot more time fixing things or finding out how to fix things. While this is great for hobbyists and enthusiasts, it’s not great for productivity. For people who need to get stuff done on their laptops and desktops, stability will often take precedence over new features.

Every two years, Canonical offers up a long-term support (LTS) version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. This year (2017) is an odd year, meaning that while there will be a new version of Ubuntu coming in April, not everyone will want to upgrade. And some will be chomping at the bit. And that’s A-OK.

Why long-term support matters

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How WebAssembly can transform how we use apps and the web

In case you haven’t heard, the Mozilla Firefox team recently released Firefox 52. The release includes the typical list of bug fixes and optimizations, but a big addition is the inclusion of WebAssembly support. The ambitions set by the WebAssembly community have the potential to change how people use devices and the web.

Sounds impressive, right?

Right now, most of the documentation around WebAssembly is meant for developers, which can make end users feel like they’re reading in the Peanuts adult voice.

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Kernel 4.10 gives Linux support for AMD Ryzen multithreading

With the release of its Ryzen 7 series CPUs, AMD came out swinging at Intel’s high-end Core i7 line. As I noted in a previous column, version 4.10 of the Linux kernel corrects an issue that kept Intel CPUs from reaching their turbo speeds, but there’s also something in the new kernel for Team Red.

The top-end Ryzen 7 1800X boasts eight cores and 16 threads just like Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i7-6900K, but in a 95W package that costs half the price of Intel’s octo-core offering. And when it comes to multithreaded applications, Ryzen is giving enthusiast Core i7s a fight. As Team Red gets back into the high-end CPU game, that’s good news for consumers.

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Kaby Lake is unleashed with Linux kernel 4.10

The guy behind the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, has built version 4.10 of the mainline kernel—nicknamed “Fearless Coyote.” Like any new kernel, version 4.10 has a slew of improvements for compatibility with a wide range of hardware. As I was digging through the commit log to see what’s new (a lot, actually), an entry on Kaby Lake caught my eye.

Turns out, if you’ve been running a desktop Intel Kaby Lake CPU with Linux, there’s a chance you haven’t been getting your money’s worth. Kernel (4.10) patches a little bug that may yield extra performance in some desktop systems.

What’s a mainline kernel?

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How to easily keep your cloud files private with Rclone

When cloud storage services first came on the scene, personal data security wasn’t a common feature. Even now, as concern over data privacy has grown, many cloud storage services don’t encrypt the user’s data by default. It’s largely up to the user to take the initiative and enable settings that ensure files are encrypted and private, which can be tedious. Believe it or not, a little command-line program called Rclone simplifies things. It’s available for Linux and other open-source OSes, as well as Windows and OS X.

There are several ways to encrypt your data before you send it to the cloud, but if you simply want to back up or sync your data while keeping it private, Rclone has you covered. Rclone is a bit like the command-line tool rsync, a staple for developers and other advanced users. However, Rclone is designed to work with established cloud services, no need to set up rsync services on remote machines. Rclone can work with Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, Amazon Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Hubic, and Backblaze B2, just to name a few.

Setting up Rclone Alex Campbell

Even though Rclone is a command-line tool, setup is easy with the guided menus.

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Ubuntu Touch finds a home on a conflict-free, fair-trade, user-maintainable handset

Handset maker Fairphone is teaming up with the community project UBports, which seeks to get Ubuntu Touch on mobile devices. They will be showing off Ubuntu Touch running on the Fairphone 2 during Mobile World Congress, which starts February 27 in Barcelona. While Ubuntu is probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think of mobile devices, the phone in question offers some compelling features.

“UBports Foundation will be showcasing its work at the Canonical booth, the company behind Ubuntu. Canonical is planning to tell about the latest developments around the convergence of its devices and UBports Foundation will share its mission ‘Ubuntu On Every Device’ with the visitors,” UBports said in a February 8 press release.

Currently, UBports’ website lists three devices as “fully working as daily drivers:” The OnePlus One, Nexus 5, and the Fairphone 2, with the latter showing all parts as functioning with Ubuntu Touch, save the GPS radio. (Interestingly, the UBports project website for the Fairphone 2 still lists the GSM radio [in addition to the GPS] as a work in progress. However there is a video of two people talking with the handset, so it’s likely the Fairphone 2 project website is out of date.) The website also has instructions for flashing Ubuntu to the Fairphone 2.

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Arch Linux pulls the plug on 32-bit

If you’re reading this article on a PC, it’s quite likely the processor under the hood is 64-bit. Most computers these days run 64-bit CPUs, and most computers run 64-bit operating systems. Arch Linux is acknowledging that fact by making February the last month the distribution will include an i686 (32-bit) download option.

“Due to the decreasing popularity of i686 among the developers and the community, we have decided to phase out the support of this architecture,” Bartłomiej Piotrowski said in a January 25 announcement on the Arch Linux website.

“The decision means the February ISO will be the last that allows [installation of] 32-bit Arch Linux,” Piotrowski continued. The announcement goes on to say that i686 installs will continue to receive upgraded packages for a nine-month “deprecation period.” But starting November 2017, i686 will be effectively unsupported.  

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