Arstechnica - Open Source
The Art of Technology
Updated: 12 weeks 6 days ago
Raspberry Pi Foundation
In this day and age, all major platforms must have an app store. And thus today, the Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the Pi Store to act as the one-stop shop for users of the tiny computer.
The Pi Store, built in collaboration with IndieCity and Velocix, runs as an X application on the Debian-based Raspbian operating system (no word yet on whether the Pi Store will come to more OSes). Raspbian is the recommended operating system for those just starting out with the Pi, and the latest version has the Pi Store built-in. If you're already running Raspbian, you can add the Pi Store with this command: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install pistore.
"At launch, we have 23 free titles in the store, ranging from utilities like LibreOffice and [VoIP application] Asterisk to classic games like Freeciv and OpenTTD and Raspberry Pi exclusive Iridium Rising," the announcement said. "We also have one piece of commercial content: the excellent Storm in a Teacup from Cobra Mobile." The store also hosts "despotify," an open source Spotify client.
Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Flawed, but cheap: Acer's C7 Chromebook.
When we reviewed Acer's $199 C7 Chromebook, we didn't think it was perfect, but we were willing to overlook many minor flaws in the face of its $199 asking price. Today, Slashgear unearthed an upgraded model—there's an Acer product page that lists a $299 version of the C7 with a larger battery, 4GB of RAM instead of 2GB, and a 500GB hard drive instead of a 320GB model.
Of these three upgraded specs, there's only one that really impacts the core features of a Chromebook: the battery. Indeed, the four-ish hour battery life was one of the worst things about the C7, and this boosted model promises about six hours instead. However, neither the RAM nor the hard drive will really benefit Chrome OS, which is mostly happy with 2GB of RAM and doesn't require more than a few gigabytes of disk space. Add this to the fact that the $199 C7 is extremely easy to open up and upgrade yourself and it makes even less sense, though doing so will void the laptop's warranty.
The upgraded model seems to nullify the key selling point of the C7: it takes something that is most notable for being the cheapest Chromebook Google sells and makes it the third cheapest Chromebook Google sells, after both the $199 model and Samsung's $249 ARM Chromebook. It might be useful if you'd like to install an alternate OS like ChrUbuntu without voiding your warranty by opening the $199 model up to upgrade it, but otherwise our recommendation is to stick to the cheap one.
Read on Ars Technica | Comments
For new readers just joining us, this is the fourth in a series of articles on getting your hands dirty by setting up a personal Web server and some popular Web applications. We've chosen a Linux server and Nginx as our operating system and Web server, respectively; we've given it the capability to serve encrypted pages; and we've added the capability to serve PHP content via PHP-FPM. Most popular Web apps, though, require a database to store some or all of their content, and so the next step is to get one spun up.
But which database? There are many, and every single one of them has its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately we're going to go with the MySQL-compatible replacement MariaDB, but understanding why we're selecting this is important.
To SQL or NoSQL, that is the question
In most cases these days, when someone says "database" they're talking about a relational database, which is a collection of different sets of data, organized into tables. An individual record in a database is stored as a row in a table of similar records—for example, a table in a business's database might contain all of that business's customers, with each record consisting of the customer's first name, last name, and a customer identification number. Another table in this database might contain the states where the customers live, with each row consisting of a customer's ID number and the state associated with it. A third table might contain all the items every customer has ordered in the past, with each record consisting of a unique order number, the ID of the customer who ordered it, and the date of the order. In each example, the rows of the table are the records, and the columns of the table are the fields each record is made of.
Read 61 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth.
Ubuntu phones and tablets may not be a reality yet, but Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth says Ubuntu is "close" to running on everything from smartphones to supercomputers.
"The really interesting opportunity is to unify all of these different kinds of computing," Shuttleworth said in a Q&A with Slashdot readers published today. "Let's make one OS that runs on the phone AND on your supercomputer. We're close to that now—we know Ubuntu makes a great cloud OS and a great server OS and a great desktop. So I think the next frontier is to create a seamless experience from the embedded world to the cloud. And yes, that's very much what we are focused on at Canonical."
The Linux kernel, of course, already runs on smartphones, tablets, desktops, servers, and supercomputers. While Ubuntu is the most widely used Linux desktop, it has done nothing to stop the dominance of Windows and it only runs on mobile devices in limited ways. There is Ubuntu for Android, which aims to turn Android phones into Ubuntu desktops when connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. And Ubuntu can be installed on the Nexus 7 tablet in an experimental fashion.
Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments
With our handy guide, you too can make the C7 Chromebook do stuff it wasn't meant to do!
Maybe you think the price of Acer's new $199 C7 Chromebook is appealing and that the hardware doesn't look bad, but you're a little worried about using Chrome OS to get your work done. Or maybe you're looking for a small, cheap laptop to run Ubuntu, and you're not really interested in buying a computer running a Windows license you'll never use. If either of those sentences describe you and you aren't afraid of the command line, it's actually pretty easy to convert the cheapest Chromebook yet into a nice little Linux laptop.
Because Chromebooks use a special BIOS and bootloader that is distinct from the ones used in standard Windows laptops, you can't use them to boot just any operating system. This is where ChrUbuntu comes in—it's a version of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS modified to work with Chrome OS hardware. Once it's installed you should be able to use the C7 to do just about everything you could do with a standard laptop running Ubuntu, and the Chrome OS partition is left on the disk so you can still boot into it and use it if you're so inclined.
These instructions should technically work with any Chromebook, but of all the ones on sale today, the C7 is perhaps best-suited to run alternate operating systems. It comes with a roomy (if slow) hard drive out of the box, and can easily be upgraded with more RAM and an SSD to speed it up. The recent Samsung Chromebooks, by comparison, take a less upgrade-friendly approach.
Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman.
Julian Pardo Cepeda
Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman today called Ubuntu Linux "spyware" because the operating system sends data to Ubuntu maker Canonical when a user searches the desktop.
But his complaint is already falling on deaf ears—Canonical said today that it plans to increase use of the feature Stallman objects to in order to deliver expanded Internet search results in the next version of Ubuntu.
In Ubuntu 12.10, searching the Dash (the hub for finding stuff in the Unity desktop interface) for files and applications returns not only results from a user's desktop but also Amazon shopping results, as we reported in September before the operating system's release. If a user buys something from Amazon as a result, money is sent to Canonical in the form of affiliate payments.
Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock
A Web server that can only serve out static pages is fine for a lot of folks. If you just want a homepage with a list of your favorite links and some pictures of your cat, then a bare Web server is all you need. However, if you want to learn about doing more interesting stuff—setting up a forum or a wiki, or using popular blogging apps—then you need some way of generating dynamic content—that is, a website that can be changed or updated programmatically, rather than one made simple static files.
As with most Web server-related things, there are many paths to dynamic content. However, some of the most popular Web applications—things like phpBB, MediaWiki, WordPress, and Drupal—use a server-side scripting language called PHP. That's what we're going to install, because it's relatively easy to get PHP up and running and because having PHP available gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility in what you can do with your Web server.
One advantage Apache has over Nginx is the ease with which PHP can be enabled. Nginx, unlike Apache, has no ready-made modules to install, so there are several packages we need to pull down and several configuration files to edit to get PHP working. Never fear, though—we'll cover every detail.
Read 48 remaining paragraphs | Comments
The next annual Google I/O, one of the most hotly anticipated tech conferences each year, will take place May 15-17, 2013, the Google Developers Twitter account announced today.
You can't sign up just yet—registration information is promised in early 2013. Held since 2008 in San Francisco, Google I/O is famous in part for hosting the company's annual Oprah moment. Everybody who attends get at least one special gift, ranging from Android phones and tablets to Chromebooks (or all of the above).
It's also when Google unveils many of its most ambitious projects. They stepped it up a notch at the 2012 Google I/O when skydivers jumped from a plane over San Francisco wearing the Project Glass Android glasses.
Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments
A $100 tablet that can run both Android and Linux is on the verge of becoming a reality. We wrote about the "PengPod" last month when its creators were seeking $49,000 on a Kickstarter-like site called Indiegogo. The project's deadline expired last night, with the PengPod getting a healthy $72,707 from more than 500 contributors.
PengPod tablets are made by a company called Peacock Imports, and will be able to dual-boot Android 4.0 and a version of Linux with the touch-friendly KDE Plasma Active interface. The dual-booting scenario involves running Android from internal memory and Linux from a bootable SD card. People who pledged $99 or more are promised a tablet, with an estimated delivery date of January 2013.
These tablets aren't going to be as slick as a Nexus 7, but if you want both Android and a full desktop operating system on a touchscreen device it doesn't get any more affordable than the PengPod. At the moment, the PengPod website doesn't provide a way to order the tablet, as the company was relying on the Indiegogo campaign. But with any luck, more will be available after the Indiegogo contributors receive theirs.
Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments
From the building blocks of the Internet to the Mark of the Beast, Ars delivered more than a few exploratory articles on things that many of us find mysterious. How does carbon capture work, and how likely is it to be adopted? Got it covered. What's the state of autonomous drones? Check and check. Why isn't the Wii U's clock speed an acceptable variable upon which to judge the entire console? We have you up to date.
Naturally, some news articles are mixed in there as well, so have a gander and see if you missed anything this week, and catch up!
Read on Ars Technica | Comments
If you've followed the steps we laid out in our initial feature, you've got a safe Nginx server all set up and working. It's serving your static pages without any issue. We don't yet have a database, PHP, or anything running on it, but we are ready to take the next step: equipping your Web server with SSL/TLS so that you have the option of serving files via HTTPS.
Using HTTPS doesn't just mean that your traffic is encrypted—encryption is only half of the story and it's useless without authentication. What good is it to encrypt something between two parties if you can't be sure of the identity of the person to whom you're talking? Consequently, being able to serve HTTPS traffic means you must posses a cryptographic certificate attesting to your identity. Acquiring such a certificate requires you prove your identity to one of many Certificate Authorities, or CAs.
This has been made to sound a lot scarier than it really is, because there is money to be made in being a gatekeeper of authentication. Most of the well-known CAs charge tremendous amounts of money for even the simplest identity validation. If you're a business engaging in e-commerce, it might make sense to pay thousands of dollars for an extended validation certificate, but if you're a human being serving Web pages on a home-built server, that kind of expense is ludicrous—and, fortunately, unnecessary.
Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments
H.264 Big Buck Bunny in Firefox on Android 4.2.1.
The Firefox browser is now shipping with support for HTML5 videos compressed with the H.264 codec to users of Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and Samsung phones with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).
This is the first time the open source browser has supported the widely used video codec. Firefox's developer, Mozilla, was reluctant to support H.264 because the open standard was not available on a royalty free basis; implementers of decoders have to pay for a license to use the various patents that cover H.264. Instead, the group hoped the Google-owned VP8 codec would suffice; a hope buoyed by Google's announcement that Chrome would drop its support for H.264 and concentrate on VP8.
Google never did remove H.264 from Chrome—the browser supports it to this day—and a substantial fraction, possibly 80 percent or more, of HTML5 video on the Web uses the H.264 codec. The growth of mobile platforms made the demand for H.264 support even more acute: hardware acceleration of H.264 decompression is all but universal on mobile devices and taking advantage of this hardware support is essential for providing acceptable battery life.
Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments
In our recent ZaReason UltraLap 430 review, Ars alum Ryan Paul lamented that even though putting Linux on laptops is easier today than ever, it's still not perfect. Some things (particularly components like trackpads and Wi-Fi chips) take some fiddling to get working. Major OEMs aren't yet putting forth the same concerted effort to build and support laptops with Linux as they are their more high-margin servers.
However, Dell is changing that. Earlier this year, they announced a pilot program, "Project Sputnik," intended to produce a bona fide, developer-focused Linux laptop using their popular XPS-13 Ultrabook as base hardware. The program turned out to be a rousing success, and this morning Dell officially unveiled the results of that pilot project: the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition.
The XPS 13 used in the Developer Edition features a number of upgrades over the pilot Project Sputnik hardware, including an Intel i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge CPU and 8GB of RAM (the pilot hardware used Sandy Bridge CPUs and had 4GB of RAM). The Developer Edition also comes with a 256 GB SATA III SSD, and retains the pilot version's 1366x768 display resolution. The launch hardware costs $1,549 and includes one year of Dell's "ProSupport." Additional phone support options aren't yet available.
Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Fifteen years ago, you weren't a participant in the digital age unless you had your own homepage. Even in the late 1990s, services abounded to make personal pages easy to build and deploy—the most famous is the now-defunct GeoCities, but there were many others (remember Angelfire and Tripod?). These were the days before the "social" Web, before MySpace and Facebook. Instant messaging was in its infancy and creating an online presence required no small familiarity with HTML (though automated Web design programs did exist).
Things are certainly different now, but there's still a tremendous amount of value in controlling an actual honest-to-God website rather than relying solely on the social Web to provide your online presence. The flexibility of being able to set up and run anything at all, be it a wiki or a blog with a tipjar or a photo hosting site, is awesome. Further, the freedom to tinker with both the operating system and the Web server side of the system is an excellent learning opportunity.
The author's closet. Servers tend to multiply, like rabbits. Lee Hutchinson
It's super-easy to open an account at a Web hosting company and start fiddling around there—two excellent Ars reader-recommended Web hosts are A Small Orange and Lithium Hosting—but where's the fun in that? If you want to set up something to learn how it works, the journey is just as important as the destination. Having a ready-made Web or application server cuts out half of the work and thus half of the journey. In this guide, we're going to walk you through everything you need to set up your own Web server, from operating system choice to specific configuration options.
Read 89 remaining paragraphs | Comments
The Red Hat-sponsored Fedora Project today released the beta version of Fedora version 18, nicknamed "Spherical Cow." The Linux desktop operating system continues its use of the GNOME desktop as the default user interface, but for the first time it adds the MATE desktop as an officially supported alternative.
Or at least, it almost does. A Red Hat press release today says, "The MATE desktop is available for the first time in Fedora," and points to a download link for the Fedora 18 beta. But upon my installing Fedora 18 in a VMware virtual machine there was no option in the login screen to switch from GNOME to MATE.
There are separate installers for versions of Fedora with the KDE, XFCE, and LXDE desktops, but none for MATE. So I took the Fedora Project's advice and ran the "yum install @mate-desktop" command in the Fedora 18 terminal only to find that I am missing something called the "libmate-panel-applet-2.so.1()(64bit)."
Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Decoded code included in a compromised version of Piwik. It was available on Piwik.org for about eight hours on Monday.
Hackers inserted malicious code into the open-source Piwik analytics software after compromising the Web server used for downloads.
Piwik boasts more than 1.2 million downloads and the program's maintainers are warning those who installed Piwik 1.9.2 during an eight-hour window on Monday that their Web servers may be running malicious code. The backdoor, which was included in versions downloaded from 15:45 UTC to 23:59 UTC, causes servers to send data to prostoivse.com, according to people participating in this Piwik user forum. The IP address connecting that domain name to the Internet has reportedly been used by online scammers in the past.
The attackers compromised Piwik.org by exploiting a security vulnerability in an undisclosed plugin for WordPress, another popular open-source program. The Piwik advisory said maintainers aren't aware of any "exploitable security issues" in the program itself. Piwik is used to deliver detailed analytics that track in real time the traffic hitting a website.
Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments
The release of Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal last month was a big deal, since Ubuntu has for some time now been regarded as the "friendliest" Linux distribution. It is certainly the most well-publicized in the consumer space. Its Debian-based roots give it access to a thriving and well-maintained set of package repositories. Its breadth of supported hardware and easy (well, usually easy) installer means it works just about anywhere. Canonical has put a tremendous amount of effort (both in programming and branding!) into making Ubuntu a powerful and full-featured desktop operating system.
However, many of Canonical's choices have rankled the broader Linux community, particularly its decision to go with Unity as the main graphical shell over a traditional Linux shell like GNOME. It has also included Amazon.com-powered store listings in search results, leading to comical awfulness like this:
In Ubuntu 12.10, searching for "updates" yields this. Wrong on so many levels.
Canonical shows no intention of changing course, so alternatives to Ubuntu are becoming increasingly popular. The most mature at this point is Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu, keeping its parent's flexibility and compatibility while taking a more traditional direction with its interface choices. The Mint developers have just released their latest version, Linux Mint 14, codenamed "Nadia," and it has a lot of nice things going for it.
Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Despite running a campaign with about twice the money and twice the staff of Governor Mitt Romney's presidential bid, President Barack Obama's campaign under-spent Romney's on IT products and services by $14.5 million, putting the money instead into building an internal tech team. Based on an Ars analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, the Obama campaign, all-inclusive, spent $9.3 million on technology services and consulting and under $2 million on internal technology-related payroll.
The bottom line is that the Obama campaign's emphasis on people over capital and use of open-source tools to develop and operate its sophisticated cloud-based infrastructure ended up actually saving the campaign money. As Scott VanDenPlas, lead DevOps for Obama for America put it in an e-mail interview with Ars, "A lesson which we took to heart from 2008 [was that] operational efficiency is an enormous strategic advantage."
As we revealed in our recent analysis of the Romney team's tech strategy, the Romney campaign spent $23.6 million on outside technology services—most of it on outside "digital media" consulting and data management. It outsourced most of its basic IT operations, while the Obama campaign did the opposite—buying hardware and software licenses, and hiring its own IT department. Just how much emphasis the Obama campaign put on IT is demonstrated by the fact that the campaign's most highly paid staff member was its Chief Integration and Innovation Officer, Michael Slaby, with an annualized salary of about $130,000.
Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Tux shares a perch with Ubuntu 12.10's namesake bird
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock
Write this down: Ubuntu 12.10, the late-year arrival from Canonical's six-month standard release factory, marks the first new release within the company's current long-term support cycle. Got it? Good, because it may be the best takeaway from the latest Ubuntu release, codenamed Quantal Quetzal. After that, it's a bit of a rocky ride.
The product's development lineage is important to note from more of a business/adoption side perspective. The release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS in April was Canonical's fourth long-term support product and signaled the end of one full two-year development cycle. Quantal Quetzal is the first standard release on the road to pushing out Ubuntu 14.04 LTS in Spring 2014 (undoubtedly to be codenamed "Uber-rocking Unicorn" if the pattern holds), and it sets up themes and directions which will mature over the next two years.
Standard releases aren't terribly different from the bi-annual LTS products, though they tend to be slightly less conservative in code offerings. The Ubuntu development community lets off the brakes a little and sticks some shiny back in.
Read 63 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Philips LED-powered Hue lights are awesome. Even after a couple of weeks of almost non-stop fiddling, the programmable multicolored bulbs continue to surprise me, though probably not in the ways that Philips originally intended. It's taken an alarmingly short amount of time for me to grow to consider them an indispensable component of my home office. I'm even starting to incorporate them around the rest of the house too. Being able to control the color, brightness, and timing of your lights from your phone or computer—and tying the lights together with your own on/off schedule—is addictive.
The fancy wirelessly controlled devices launched just before Halloween this year and are currently sold only at Apple Stores. They're available as both individual bulbs and in a three-bulb starter kit. The starter kit also contains the wireless bridge you need in order to actually use the lights as anything other than plain old on-off lights. The starter kit retails for an unfortunately steep $199.95; the individual lights are $59.99 apiece.
/ The front of the Hue box, with its wheel. OMG IT SPINS. Lee Hutchinson
The starter kit, pictured above, features a picture of a Hue bulb on the front backed by a color wheel, which you can slide around to make the bulb change colors. It's a neat way to show the functionality of what's inside.
Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments