Monthly Archives: March 2013

VirtualBox 4.2.10 released and ubuntu installation instructions included

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.
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© ruchi for Ubuntu Geek, 2013. |
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Hands on With New Linux Twitter App ‘Birdie’

Twitter App Birdie Explained

Twitter clients for Linux. Once upon there were a swathe of them. Like Mogwai fed after midnight, newer ones seemed to appear with crazy frequency.

But then Twitter got arrogant. It wanted to control the ‘app’ experience had by its users. It made it harder and harder for third-party developers to engage with its API, and started limiting the number of ‘calls’ – i.e. fetching tweets – third-party apps could make to it.

Apps that slid past the limits would simply stop working. For all its users.

The end result of these ‘rule changes’ has seen many Twitter app developers unable to keep pace. The swathe dried up; abandoned clients dried out; and for Linux Twitter fans the options became fewer and scarcer.

Of course, we weren’t left entirely without options. There are some great Linux apps still around – Polly and Gwibber being two of the most popular. But choices never hurt, right?

Basic Birdie

As an avid Tweeter I was pretty pleased to learn of a new desktop twitter app in development – Birdie.

While the app is still more a hungry chick than bird in full plume (i.e.: don’t expect bells and whistles) the app does show a lot of promise.

So far Birdie covers all of the basics one would expect of a twitter client. It can tweet; retweet; favourite; send/receive private messages; view profiles, and follow/unfollow accounts. It even integrates nicely into the Ubuntu desktop, supporting notifications, Unity Launcher badges and quicklists, and the Ubuntu Messaging Menu.


Birdie eschews the ‘multi-column’ layout used by other Linux Twitter apps (Gwibber, Polly, Turpial, gFeedline) in favour of a single-column view that’s more akin to the Twitter mobile website/apps. This has both it’s advantages and disadvantages. The main plus being less noise.

The Birdie Compose Box

Snaring Birdie

If you’re twitching to try the Birdie out then you can. A ‘Stable’ PPA is maintained for Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10 and 13.04. But before you add it remember that jumping on an app during early development does come with a cost: advanced features are lacking, stability is a little wayward, and it may eat your tweets.

For example, Birdie’s “stable PPA” release is missing multiple-account support, searching, and the ability to preview conversations or media in the app. All elements that help define a ‘good’ Twitter app from a ‘great’ one.

But as I said at the outset, it’s early days. So far, Birdie is worth keeping an eye out for.

Birdie in the Ubuntu Messaging Menu

Install Birdie in Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10 or 13.04

Birdie is development software. It will crash, it will have bugs, and it will eat your tweets. You install it at your own risk.

To install Birdie you’ll first need to add the following PPA to your Software Sources. The quickest way to do this in Ubuntu is to open a Terminal and enter the following code:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:birdie-team/stable

Next run the following command to update your sources and install the app:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install birdie

Once done you can launch Birdie from the Unity Dash. During first run you’ll be asked to add an account. Follow the on-screen prompts to get started. Initial sync takes a little while, so do be patient.

Think You Saw Unity In Last Night’s Doctor Who?

Hands up if you watched the return of Doctor Who yesterday, in the tech-laden episode ‘The Bells of St. John’?

That’s a lot of hands.

Now put your hands up if you think you spotted Ubuntu’s Unity desktop being used by Miss Kislet‘s shady soul-snatching organisation?

Fewer hands. But I can see why you’d think that…


Kislet’s Malevolent  OS Looks a Bit Like Unity… (image credit: BBC/Will)

Left-hand launcher, big circle at the top; items going half-way down – all Unity tropes. And, on the screen further back to the center (in the image above) we can see what looks like Ubuntu’s 4-space Workspace Switcher.

But is is actually Unity?

Between the few fleeting glimpse of the screens as a whole screen, which are often softly out of focus, there are one or two close-ups that shows that this isn’t – sadly – Unity being used:


Damn You Miss Kislet, Foiled Again

But the Doctor Who production team aren’t averse to using Ubuntu to power displays during filming. Ubuntu 8.04 cropped up on-screen during ‘The End of Time’, and Ubuntu was ised in the adult spin-off Torchwood.

Smart Scopes ‘Not Mature Enough’ to Ship in Ubuntu 13.04

smartSmart Scopes will not ship as part of the Ubuntu 13.04 desktop as originally planned. 

The feature, which powers up Unity’s Dash with data from a wide variety of online sources, has been deemed ‘not mature enough’ to be included in Ubuntu 13.04 by default.

“[Smart Scopes] does not meet the quality requirements for Ubuntu. We would prefer to delay the feature until the next release cycle to ensure that it is rock solid,” explains Olli Ries, part of the Product Strategy team at Canonical.

But the feature isn’t being abandoned. On the contrary, Ries describes the feature as being of considerable ‘benefit’ to Ubuntu users by ‘improving the search experience in the Dash, which is Unity’s weak spot’.

“We would prefer to delay the feature until the next release cycle to ensure that it is rock solid,”

Instead, the smart dash features are to be held over for the Ubuntu 13.10 release. Work on it will continue shortly after the release of Ubuntu 13.04.

Ubuntu will also be making Smart Scopes available through a PPA for 13.04 users who want it.

Smarter Dash

Plans for to make the Dash smarter more comprehensive and more relevant were first announced back in late January. Reaction to news of the feature was, at the time, generally positive – especially as Ubuntu announced additional privacy features would also ship alongside it, mitigating concerns many had had with the ‘Amazon Shopping Lens’ in the previous release.

New of this postponement comes just weeks after being given a ‘Feature Freeze Exception’ by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth to ensure that it could – should it be ready – land.

As well as not including the Smart Scopes, the previously-announced amped up privacy controls will also not be making it to Raring.

So what went wrong?

Timing, it seems. I’ve been tracking the Smart Scopes feature for the last few weeks and during that time it has matured at an exceptional rate, although is still far from being perfect.

With Ubuntu 13.04′s release date now less than a month away, and Ubuntu developers burned by shipping less-than-satisfactory code in previous releases, time and attitudes have been firmly stacked against it.

You can see a video Smart Scopes in action in the video below

Credit for Bring Cautious

I’m a massive fan of the Smart Scopes idea. The notion of putting so much data within reach of the desktop is inspired. But am I sad to hear that it won’t be arriving in Ubuntu 13.04 as planned? Not a jot.

Ubuntu deserve credit for being bold enough to plan features like this – features that are worth of the ‘disruptor’ title recently awarded to Mark Shuttleworth. They’re not universally popular, but they’re new, innovative, and, for many, incredibly useful.

So to renege on what was, to be frank, one of the key new features in the 13.04 desktop is pretty commendable. Admitting that the code isn’t up to par, being frank about its shortcomings, and wanting to ensure that the Ubuntu experience is as solid as possible are all mature, sensible approaches.

Minimal GNOME Video Player ‘Snappy’ Hits 0.3, Improves Feature Set

snappy-logoDoes Linux really need yet another video player? Probably not. But is it cool to have yet another anyway? For sure!

To be fair to Snappy, an open-source Gstreamer-powered media player designed for the GNOME desktop, it has been chomping about for several years, albeit without gaining much in the way of attention.

But with its first release in almost two years, Snappy 0.3 suddenly has a lot more bite.

The app is no longer confined to being launched through a terminal; is no longer lacking a logo (see new icon to the right); and is no longer missing key media player features like subtitles support and media queuing,

It’s also been given some much needed visual polish. And I do mean much needed. Its Clutter-based UI may have been free from visual clutter, but it it was, shall we say, a little unripened…

snappy 0.2

Snappy 0.2 – Not Quite Ripe

Two years on from that 0.2 release, Snappy has matured. A lot.

Snappy 0.3

Snappy 0.3 Playing a Video. Image: luisbg

The OSD (On Screen Display), has been refined, darkened, and sees flat monochromatic icons introduced; and a stack of new features have been added, including:

  • Drag and drop video opening
  • Subtile support
  • Desktop launcher
  • Multi-screen full-screen
  • Media queues

A raft of changes that could see Snappy start biting at the ankles of more established video players…

Getting Snappy 0.3

Snappy 0.2 is available to install through the Ubuntu Software Center in 11.10 through 13.04.

Getting this latest release, 0.3, is a little tricker. At present the only way to get it in Ubuntu is to build it from source. You’ll need to grab a stack of dependencies before attempting.

Snappy Home Page on GNOME Projects

For the more patient amongst you, I would expect to see Snappy 0.3 added to one of the various GNOME 3 PPAs in the not-so-distant future. We’ll be sure to give you a heads-up when this happens.

In the meantime, feel free to share your own video player preferences, needs and annoyances in the comment space below… 

Ubuntu Powered Promo Booth? You Bet [Ubuntu In The Wild]

Every day we walk past and interact with machines that run Linux, without ever noticing. 

But every now and then these machines go wrong, and their underlying OS is exposed for all to see.

Like, for example, this promotional pod used in a British betting shop, snapped by Lee Jarratt:


What’s semi-fascinating about this spot (to me, at least!) is that it’s not simply a case of some stock Ubuntu install powering it. No, someone has changed the wallpaper, trimmed down the launcher items, and swapped the theme from the default Ambiance to the lighter Radiance.

Someone is using Ubuntu for a purpose, whilst also using Ubuntu themselves. That’s pretty neat.

Lightworks’ Linux Beta Gets April Release Date

Longing to try the professional-grade video editor Lightworks on Linux? Well, you don’t have long to wait. 

The first public beta release of the linux build of Lightworks is scheduled for April 30th.

No obscure sign-up forms or limited time-frames to apply this time, just straight-up public availability.

Of course I should temper enthusiasm: Lightworks has a habit of promising release dates only to see them slip. Indeed, this new date of April 30th is, in fact, a readjustment to the original release schedule.

But as Lightworks is an awesome product with an awesome end-goal (being open-source) we can forgive a few slip-ups here and there.

The company do seem pleased with the results of their limited Linux Alpha program, calling it ‘very successful’.

A video demoing features of the Linux client was released by Editshare, the company behind the app, back in March.

Have you tried the Lightworks Alpha? Are you excited for its arrival on Linux? Share your enthusiasm – or curb our own – in the comments below.

Arronax – Nautilus Plugin to Create and Modify Application Launchers

Arronax is a program to create and modify starters (technically: .desktop files) for applications and locations (URLs).Arronax can be used as a standalone application or as a plugin for Nautilus, the default file manager of the Gnome and Unity desktop environments.
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Mark Shuttleworth ‘Most Disruptive Name in Computing’ Says Forbes


Shuttleworth at work

Mark Shuttleworth has been named as one American magazine Forbes‘ ’12 Most Disruptive Names in business’

The list comprises of a dozen folk across industries as diverse as healthcare and credit who, the magazine say, are ‘dramatically shaking up their fields’.

And in the category of computing Forbes give that honour to Mark Shuttleworth.

Forbes’ Karsten Strauss cites Ubuntu’s business model of ‘the basic platform for free and charging for enterprise and cloud services’ as ‘shaking things up’.

But the main reason for his listing is undoubtedly the ground swell created by Mark, Canonical and the unveiling of Ubuntu Touch earlier this year. Its ‘one OS to rule them all’ approach, Strauss says, puts it in ‘direct competition with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android and with Microsoft.’.

For more on the Disruptors list of 2013 head over to the Forbes website:

Forbes: ‘The Disruptors 2013′

GNOME 3.8 Released

GNOME 3.8, the latest version of the popular free desktop environment, has been released.

The fourth major update to the GNOME 3.x line, GNOME 3.8 brings many new features and functionality to its users, including enhanced applications and a focus on privacy.

Notable features:

  • New Settings Panes for Privacy & Notification
  • New ‘GNOME Classic’ mode
  • Revamped Search features in Activities Overview
  • New App Launching
  • Improved default apps
  • Two new ‘Preview’ Apps – Weather and Notes

We listed 10 of our favourite new features in this release earlier today – go check them out. 

For more information on the release be sure to check out the official release notes.

Better Search Results Feature in 3.8
GNOME Classic Mode in 3.8
2 New Apps - Weather and Notes

Getting GNOME 3.8 in Ubuntu

The bad news is that getting GNOME 3.8 in Ubuntu isn’t easy.

Ubuntu 13.04 ships with GNOME 3.6 by default, the same version as available in Ubuntu 12.10. The good news is that much of the desktop can be upgraded to version 3.8 by adding the additional GNOME PPAs.

But if you’re using a release prior to that it’s unlikely that GNOME 3.8 will be ported backwards.