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Everyday Linux Gripes

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Linux

I've sometimes been labeled a cheerleader for Free Software. This doesn't bother me too much; there's no doubt that I am a lot more gung-ho on Linux and related technologies than most of my colleagues. But lest I seem like a full-time penguin apologist who can't fairly critique his platform of choice, I'm using this month's Free Agent to revel in that oldest pastime of tech columnists: I'm going to gripe.

As loyal Free Agent readers know, if I have to sit down in front of a computer, I want it to be running the Gnome desktop on Linux. I've been using Gnome for years; and I've watched it mature from a downright ugly, needlessly complex playground for geeks to an attractive, simple interface that holds its own against commercial alternatives. I've watched so many rough edges disappear, it's sometimes hard to believe how much progress has been made, and in how short a time. And yet, every day I still encounter rough edges that make me think there aren't nearly enough folks out there hacking away at this stuff.

I'd Like to Watch

Take, for instance, the fact that I still have troubles playing any sort of rich media (usually video) in my Web browser. It doesn't matter whether I use Mozilla Firefox or one of the two native Gnome browsers, Epiphany and Galeon, both of which use Firefox's rendering engine. Much of the time, if a Web page wants to serve me a video, I'm out of luck.

I Want My Cacophony, and I Want It Now!

Equally maddening is the state of sound on most Linux desktops. Explaining this mess requires a brief, oversimplified history lesson.

Once upon a time, Linux sound drivers fell under the umbrella of OSS, the Open Sound System. OSS's capabilities were pretty limited; configuration could be a real pain; and there was no support for what's known as "software mixing," which lets cheap sound cards play sounds from different apps simultaneously. (That's very important if you want to hear your beloved "new instant message" sound while you're watching a trailer at Apple's site.)

You Can't Do That

Also in the "Is it my mistake?" department: I recently added a new launcher button to my Gnome panel. (In Gnome, you have as many panels as you want on the screen; they're multipurpose bars akin to the Windows taskbar or OS X's dock and menu bar.) The button I added launches Gaim, a fantastic instant messaging app.

I suppose all computing environments have their pitfalls; I'll take this set of annoyances over adware and spyware issues any day. And there is no doubt that Gnome and Linux itself have come a very long way in the past few years: I no longer have to manually "mount" removable media devices when I plug 'em in; font installation has become easy as pie; and I can rip, mix, and burn with the best of 'em. But right now, as I sit out on my back porch, my trusty IBM Thinkpad on my lap showing me the day's work e-mail, I just wish I could open a new message and paste this column into it for delivery to my editor.

Full Article.

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today's leftovers

  • Free live-booting distro DVD with LU&D #162
    A brand new issue of Linux User & Developer hits the high street and the app stores today – we’ve done something a little different for you this time.
  • Russian government to switch to desktop Linux?
    The Russian government is reported to be contemplating dropping Microsoft Windows and adopting Linux as the operating system for agency PCs according to its internet czar, German Klimenko.
  • The Linux Foundation's big plan to speed up storage, networking
    The Linux Foundation continues to think big. It became a hub for containers by spearheading the Open Container Project and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and it has pushed to make APIs self-standardizing. Now, it's kicked off yet another industry-wide open source initiative: the Fast Data Project (Fd.io). The idea of "an I/O services framework for the next wave of network and storage software" (per the Foundation) may not sound as vital as protecting core Internet infrastructure or making it simpler for Web server admins to support HTTPS. But on closer inspection, FD.io is in line with the Foundation's ambitions to nurture the future Web.
  • ownCloud Desktop Client Updated with HiDPI Improvements, Better Syncing
    Today, February 10, 2016, ownCloud Inc. was proud to announce the release and general availability of new versions for its ownCloud Desktop and ownCloud Android clients.
  • LibreOffice 5.1 Released with Boatload of Changes
  • Ubuntu Core Now Supports Intel NUC Mini PC
    Canonical has this week announced that the Ubuntu Core now supports the Intel NUC DE3815TY mini PC after working together with Intel the company has now created a standard platform for developers to test and create x86-based IOT solutions using snappy Ubuntu Core.
  • 6 reasons to blog in Markdown with Jekyll
    GitHub pages is a free offering that can host your Jekyll blog for free. It also takes care of generating static HTML files from your Markdown text files, so there's no need to install anything on your computer. You can also use Jekyll with your own domain name (if you have one).

Education and Open Access

  • UNICEF Seeks World-Changing Open Source Technologies
    United Nations to fund startups to develop open source tech to improve the lives of vulnerable children and civilians
  • UCLA just open-sourced a powerful new image-detection algorithm
    Image recognition has become increasingly critical in applications ranging from smartphones to driverless cars, and on Wednesday UCLA opened up to the public a new algorithm that promises big gains. The Phase Stretch Transform algorithm is a physics-inspired computational approach to processing images and information that can help computers "see" features of objects that aren't visible using standard imaging techniques. It could be used to detect an LED lamp's internal structure, for example -- something that would be obscured to conventional techniques by the brightness of its light. It can also distinguish distant stars that would normally be invisible in astronomical images, UCLA said.
  • Open-source textbooks gain in push for college affordability [Ed: same as below]
  • Open-Source Textbooks Gain in Push for College Affordability
    The standard textbook for Fundamentals of General Chemistry I at the University of Connecticut has a list price of $303. For students who use the version professor Edward Neth is preparing for the fall semester, the cost will be zero. An early adopter of open source textbooks, Neth said he turned to the new technology out of frustration with spiraling prices of commercial textbooks. "It's seeing the costs go up every semester and almost feeling powerless," Neth said.
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    Nature, the Lancet and many other medical publishers and researchers have announced that all Zika-related scientific articles will be published freely in the wake of the recent outbreak.