GParted is an excellent GNOME program for editing partitions, changing file-systems, and performing related disk tasks. However, GParted is not exactly the ideal program for new Linux users to familiarize themselves with if all they want to do is format a USB drive or external storage device. Fortunately, a new GNOME utility has come about that supersedes GFloppy and is designed to be a simple yet powerful disk formatting utility. In this article we are taking an introductory look at GNOME Format.
Last year we had looked at The Greatest Linux Innovations Of 2007, and as this year ends, we have compiled a similar list of what we believe were some of the greatest Linux innovations or achievements of 2008. Among the innovations named this year were KDE 4, NetworkManager 0.7, new hardware companies standing behind open-source support, and the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix.
The Linux 2.6.28 kernel was released this past week in time for the holidays. This quarterly update to the Linux kernel brought the stabilization of the EXT4 file-system, the Graphics Execution Manager, a host of new drivers, and a variety of other updates. For some weekend benchmarking we had tested the latest Linux 2.6.28 kernel along with other recent kernels using the Phoronix Test Suite.
Video acceleration APIs for Linux has been a hot topic recently with NVIDIA having introduced VDPAU last month (the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix) that brings PureVideo-like features to Linux with great results while it's already finding its way into MPlayer, FFmpeg, MythTV, Xine, and VLC. AMD has been working hard on XvBA (X-Video Bitstream Acceleration), but that has yet to be officially introduced. In the open-source realm there has been talk of extending XvMC to support video formats besides MPEG-2, but that hasn't yet amounted to anything. Today though another video API is now on scene with VA-API finally being implemented in MPlayer and FFmpeg.
Have you ever wondered on what operating system Java works the best? While by no means is it a conclusive multi-platform comparison, for this article we ran a number of Java benchmarks on both Windows Vista Premium and Ubuntu Linux to see how the Java Virtual Machine performance differs. In addition, when running Ubuntu we had tested Sun's official Java package as well as the OpenJDK alternative.
With the EXT4 file-system being marked as stable in the forthcoming Linux 2.6.28 kernel, and some Linux distributions potentially switching to it as an interim step until the btrfs file-system is ready, we decided it was time to benchmark this journaled file-system for ourselves. We ran a number of disk-centric Linux benchmarks along with several of our real-world tests from the Phoronix Test Suite to gauge how well the EXT4 file-system performance will be noticed by desktop users and computer gamers. We have compared these EXT4 results to the EXT3, XFS, and ReiserFS file-systems.
The KDE development community has banded together and today released an early Christmas present to those using the K Desktop Environment on Linux and other operating systems. The first beta release of KDE 4.2 is now available. KDE 4.2 Beta 1 features a large number of improvements since the release of KDE 4.1 in July.
The Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card driver for Linux from Creative Labs was awful. That's simply the nicest way to put it. The driver was home to many bugs, initially only supported 64-bit Linux, and it was arriving extremely late. The open-source drivers supporting the Creative X-Fi drivers have also been at a stand still. However, Creative Labs today has finally turned this situation around and they have open-sourced the code to this notorious driver. The source-code for the Creative X-Fi driver is now licensed under the GNU GPLv2.
It's no secret that much of the code-base that makes up the modern-day X.Org Server is old and in some places bloated. The X.Org Server continues to evolve and has received a number of major additions in recent times, but wouldn't a clean and lighter server that is designed around today's needs be ideal? Red Hat's Kristian Høgsberg has started a new project, which is currently known as Wayland, and is just that: a new lightweight X Server. Wayland isn't just a rewrite of the current X Server, but instead it's a small server that is designed around some of the latest graphics technologies such as kernel mode-setting and the Graphics Execution Manager. Wayland also has its own built-in compositing manager.
Phoronix Media has announced the immediate availability of its Q4'08 update to the Phoronix Test Suite, its extensible open-source platform for conducting automated testing and benchmarking by ISVs, IHVs, ODMs, OEMs, and end-users. Phoronix Test Suite 1.4 (codenamed "Orkdal") adds support for Apple's Mac OS X operating system, new test profiles, support for Cascading Test Profiles, enhanced software/hardware detection, WINE-based tests, and run-time capabilities for Self-Contained Test Profiles. This quarterly update to the Phoronix Test Suite has more than 200 changes since the Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 "Malvik" release in September.
Phoronix Test Suite 1.4 "Orkdal" will be released tomorrow, and while this release is coming just two months after the release of Phoronix Test Suite 1.2, there are in fact quite a few changes for this Q4'08 release. In two months time we have pushed out five development releases of Orkdal, there are over 220 official changes, and the diff output between the Malvik and Orkdal releases amount to over 20,000 lines of code. The most prominent features in Orkdal are compatibility the Mac OS X operating system, support for Cascading Test Profiles, support for Self-Contained Test Profiles, new modules being added, updates to all in-tree test profiles, WINE test coverage, and improved hardware/software detection.
Back in July we shared Red Hat's intentions to replace RHGB with Plymouth, a new graphical boot process that is able to benefit from the latest Linux graphics capabilities. Red Hat engineers had primarily designed Plymouth around a forthcoming feature we've talked about quite a bit known as kernel mode-setting, which provides end-users with a cleaner and flicker-free boot experience. In September in The State of Kernel Mode-Setting we then shared more information on Plymouth along with a brief video. Most recently we published another video of Plymouth that shows the tighter integration between the boot process and starting the GNOME Display Manager. Today though we are looking at Plymouth and its different plug-ins along with providing a few more videos.
Ubuntu 8.10 is shipping next week with a horde of updated packages including the Linux 2.6.27 kernel, X.Org 7.4, Pidgin 2.5, GIMP 2.6, and many other packages that have experienced significant milestones since the April release of Ubuntu 8.04. On top of these updated packages from the community, Canonical has been working on a few desktop Linux innovations of their own. For instance, arriving late into the Intrepid Ibex release cycle is a USB start-up disk creator. In this article we are providing a quick look at this utility to easily spin your own USB disk images.
In the Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 "Malvik" release our flagship Linux benchmarking software was brought to OpenSolaris and FreeBSD. With Phoronix Test Suite 1.4 "Orkdal", to be officially released later this year, we are now extending our test support to include Apple's Mac OS X operating system. In Phoronix Test Suite 1.4 Alpha 2 that was released this morning there is full support for Mac OS X within this open-source benchmarking framework and there are about three dozen tests that will run "out of the box" in this environment. We believe this is now the most comprehensive benchmarking platform for Mac OS X and it allows real-world test results to be compared from Linux, OpenSolaris, and FreeBSD.
It's been a hell of a time getting X.Org 7.4 out the door, but this afternoon Adam Jackson has released this long-delayed update to this X system. X.Org 7.4 is arriving after the release of X Server 1.5.1 earlier in the day. Yes, it's finally here! In this article we have information on the features that make up this release along with what it's taken to get X.Org 7.4 primed for release.
Introduced in Ubuntu 7.10 was a feature known as BulletProofX, which provides a fail-safe mode that is by default used when the X server fails to properly initialize. In this original implementation, it would default back to using the VESA display driver with 256 colors and then proceed to run the displayconfig-gtk utility. While this is nice for the end-user as it keeps them from touching a terminal to debug an X server problem, for experienced users it inhibits them from easily debugging the problem. This Canonical implementation also had frustrated other users. However, with the forthcoming Ubuntu 8.10 release, it has received some much-needed improvements while making BulletProofX more simple.
The final release of the Xfce 4.6 desktop environment was supposed to come this month, but instead the first alpha release has finally come about. Xfce 4.4 was originally released in January of 2007, so it has been quite a while since this lightweight desktop environment has received a major update. This release though does introduce a fair number of changes, which we have covered in this article.
Back in August we shared some of what we are doing to drive new graphics benchmarks on Linux through the Phoronix Test Suite. With that, we showcased Lightsmark 2008, which was ported to Linux for integration with the Phoronix Test Suite, and Unigine Sanctuary. Unigine Sanctuary showcased the latest work from Unigine Corp, which is a Russian development studio focused on creating cross-platform middleware for virtual 3D worlds. The Unigine Sanctuary demo was stunning, but introduced with the Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 "Malvik" release last week was their latest technology benchmark. Unigine Tropics is an absolutely stunning test with impressive graphics capabilities and it really sets a new precedence for Linux graphics capabilities through its OpenGL renderer.
It has been one year and four days since X.Org 7.3 was released and a number of months since X.Org 7.4 was supposed to be released, but today X.Org 7.4 is scheduled to finally make it out the door! This release is shipping quite late and with a slimmed down set of features, but in this article we have more details on what this release holds in store for the Linux desktop community and why it may be a short-lived release.
Phoronix Media has announced the release of Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 (codenamed "Malvik"), an update to its leading and award-winning benchmarking software, during the 2008 X Developers' Summit. This update incorporates support for new operating systems and features to better aid ISVs, IHVs, ODMs, and OEMs in profiling their hardware and software for optimal performance and compatibility. In total there are more than 250 official changes with many new test profiles and suites since the release of Phoronix Test Suite 1.0 in June of 2008.
Earlier this year prior to the release of GNOME 2.22 we had shared eight interesting improvements in GNOME 2.22. Some of these improvements included Epiphany with the WebKit back-end (if built with the proper argument), Evince Document Viewing improvements, Cheese web-camera software, Mousetweaks, the Vinagre VNC client, and Totem enhancements. Now with the official GNOME 2.24 release due out next month, this time around we're sharing a few of the interesting highlights for this GNOME update.
We have been covering the Linux benchmarking scene since 2004, but one area we have never really been satisfied with have been the OpenGL tests that are available. There are now plenty of free software games that are available for benchmarking, but with most of them being based around the open-source Quake 3 engine, they aren't that demanding upon the graphics processor. The ones generally good with stressing the graphics capabilities of the system are the id Software games (Doom 3, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) with native Linux clients. Under the workstation umbrella, there is just SPECViewPerf. On the Windows side though there are a number of OpenGL and DirectX games, tech demos, and other benchmarks. Thanks in part to the Phoronix Test Suite, however, we are starting to see a new era of OpenGL benchmarking that are able to stress the graphics card and are visually pleasing.
For years MythTV has been regarded as the best media center application for the Linux platform and is extremely popular with HTPC enthusiasts. MythTV is open-source and serves as a digital video recorder with support for reading TV listings and it supports a variety of TV tuners. In addition, through various modules the functionality of MythTV can be extended to be an online photo gallery manager, serve as a music player, RSS newsreader, fetch weather forecasts, and provide quite a bit of other functionality. However, MythTV now has a new competitor and that is Boxee. Boxee is a "social media center" that is based upon the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) with versions for Linux, Windows, and MacOS X. What the Boxee developers have added, however, is a social media aspect to media playback. Whenever you are watching something through Boxee, it will record that information and share it with your friends using Boxee and the user also has the ability to recommend the media they are listening to or watching with their friends. Oh yes, it is also open-source.
Last October we were the first to deliver a full-review of DeviceVM's SplashTop which was an instant-on embedded Linux distribution at the time found on a lone ASUS motherboard. Since then there has been a commitment to SplashTop on all ASUS motherboards and even on ASUS notebooks. While ASUS has been the primary partner with DeviceVM up to this point, other manufacturers are exploring this market. One of our few gripes about SplashTop is that it's limited in the current applications available and doesn't allow for much tweaking with no terminal access. However, members of the Phoronix Forums have hacked SplashTop. They have been able to run SplashTop from a USB stick on non-ASUS motherboards, boot SplashTop within a virtual machine, run custom applications, and launch a terminal within this proprietary Linux environment.
We're in the middle of the development cycle right now for Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 "Malvik", but we expect to wrap up this first major post-1.0 release in September. Phoronix Test Suite 1.2 -- which is licensed under the GNU GPLv3 -- will ship with full support for a module/plug-in architecture, advanced analytical features, enhanced hardware/software detection support, and support for other UNIX operating systems. In this article we will be sharing some of the features for this new release, which has been codenamed Malvik.
Over the weekend the Linux 2.6.26 kernel was released. This quarterly update to the Linux kernel introduced Kernel-based Virtual Machine improvements, new One Laptop Per Child support, a new video web camera driver, updates to the Direct Rendering Manager, and other improvements. In this article we have done some quick benchmarks of this new kernel from within the Phoronix Test Suite.
Since our article yesterday entitled X Server 1.4.1 Is Released, No Joke where we shared that the X.Org server update -- a critical part of the Linux desktop -- was released albeit significantly late and the blocker bug list wasn't even cleared, it's sparked discussions on our forums and other online communities on how the X.Org release management can be improved and how new developers can become involved. One of the most common recommendations has been to get more software (distribution) vendors involved, seeing as they are the ones shipping X.Org to many of the desktop users around the world. However, as there hasn't been a list (or at least not in some time) that looks at each of the commits to the X server in regards to each of the companies and the developers involved, we've provided one in this article that covers all X Server activity going back nine years.
Banshee, the Linux media player backed by Novell that's built upon Mono and uses the GStreamer framework, has today reached the version 1.0 milestone. While there are plenty of people not fond of Mono or even Novell, Banshee has turned into a fairly feature-rich media player with support for synchronizing against the Apple iPod, Creative Zen, and other devices. Through Banshee's plug-in architecture, it also supports Podcasting, DAAP music sharing, and Internet radio support, just to name a few of these extensions.
Today -- just 212 days after the planned November launch date -- X Server 1.4.1 is finally released! Daniel Stone announced its release this morning on the xorg mailing list. X Server 1.4.1 has had 62 changes to it since the 1.4.1 pre-release, and that release had 46 changes, which brings the change total for this release up to 108. Even though X Server 1.4.1 has more than 100 changes, it wasn't enough to clear out the blocker bug, which still has two open bugs.
You have likely already read the Phoronix Test Suite 1.0 press release, but today -- on the fourth anniversary of Phoronix -- we have reached the version 1.0 milestone for this Linux testing platform. It's been a lot of work -- over the past few months especially -- though we've reached our initial goal in formalizing and releasing our internal test tools and at the same time developing a feature-rich platform. Plans are already being made for charting the future of the Phoronix Test Suite and the features we will be rolling out over the coming months, but in this article we'll highlight some of what is already possible with Phoronix Test Suite 1.0.
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