May 20, 2016

7 Apps That Prove You Don’t Need Adobe Creative Suite on Linux

People have been asking Adobe to make Creative Suite available on Linux for several years now, but Adobe has been adamant about its answer: no. Why not? Most likely because the market share is too small to be worth the effort.
But the demographic is there. The overlap between “Linux users” and “creative users” is larger than many of us would expect, and many of them have been dying for a Linux Creative Suite for years.
The good news is that now, in 2016, viable options do exist.
Between all of the Adobe Creative products currently available, most of them have usable Linux alternatives. And while you won’t be able to use the Creative Cloud mobile apps with them, they’re still worth checking.

For Photoshop: GIMP or Krita

“Photoshop alternatives for Linux” is unsurprisingly one of the most common search queries among first-time Linux users. And while GIMP was the go-to answer for many years, that’s kind of changing now.


Not that there’s anything wrong with GIMP. In fact, as far as needing a “Photoshop clone” on Linux, there’s nothing better. GIMP is powerful and feature-rich straight out of the box, and can be improved with third-party plugins.
So yes, even though GIMP has its flaws — such as the fact that it isn’t as intuitive or polished — it’s definitely the closest thing to Photoshop right now.


But there’s another program out there that’s been turning heads over the past few years. It’s called Krita and users are slowly abandoning GIMP and flocking over to it instead.
Krita is primarily a tool for digital painters and artists, so it’s only a good alternative to Photoshop if that’s the kind of work you do. But for things like logos, drawings, and artwork, Krita is more user-friendly.

For Lightroom: Darktable or RawTherapee

If you’re a photographer, Photoshop may not actually be the best application for your needs — you might want to use Lightroom instead. Unfortunately, neither are available for Linux, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are two free alternatives to Lightroom that are actually quite good. Neither is objectively better than the other, so we’ll recommend both and leave it up to you to decide which one you like more.


The first is Darktable, which is the most oft-recommended program among Linux photographers. The interface is complex but it turns out good results. It’s also relatively light on resource usage, so better for older computers and weaker hardware.


The second is RawTherapee. The interface is simpler to learn and navigate, but lacks some features that you may need (such as selective editing with masks). RawTherapee is also slightly worse at managing large libraries with lots of photos.
Compare the feature set for Darktable with the feature set for RawTherapee to help make your decision a bit easier.

For Illustrator: Inkscape

Not many free applications can be considered as good as their paid counterparts, but Inkscape is one of them. In fact, it’s one of the best free alternatives to paid software out there. No need to spend money here.


Inkscape is what you should use if you want to create or edit vector graphics. Vector graphics are mathematical rather than pixel-based, so they can be printed at any resolution. They’re great for creating infographics, for example.
Although Inkscape suffers from a sub-par interface and lack of professional polish, it’s feature complete and certainly usable in a professional environment if needed.

For Premiere Pro: Lightworks or Kdenlive

Professional video editing has often been seen as an activity best suited for Macs, and only in the past decade have viable options come to light on Windows. But for Linux? Video editing can be a pain.


So if you can, we recommend paying for quality Linux software. Lightworks is very good — it was used to edit The Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction, Hugo, and more — but it’s also a bit costly at $438 (or $25 per month). However, you do get what you pay for.
Sure, Lightworks can be used for free, but there are restrictions. You can only export up to 720p and you lose a lot of quality-of-life features, such as timeline rendering, advanced project management, and Boris FX packages.
The paid version unlocks everything and can export up to 4K.


If you want a video editor that’s completely free but still as professional as possible, Kdenlive is your best option. It’s open source, actively developed, and packed full of advanced features.

For Animate: Synfig

Animate is the program formerly known as Flash Pro, the vector animation program that was used in the past to create Flash animations. Now that the web has moved from Flash to HTML5, Adobe rebranded as Animate.


Synfig has been the open source alternative to Adobe’s program since 2005, and is still the best choice for those who want to pursue 2D vector animation without handing over cash to Adobe. It’s free and in active development.
Synfig uses its own animation file format, but can export to AVI, MPG, GIF, SVG, PNG, and more. Despite the learning curve, you’ll be able to pick up the ropes quickly enough thanks to the user-contributed documentation and tutorials.

For Audition: Ardour or LMMS

Audition doesn’t get as much time in the limelight as Photoshop or Premiere Pro, but it’s a nifty piece of software that’s worthy of recognition. Formerly known as Cool Edit Pro, Audition is what you’d use to edit digital audio.
Audition is a digital audio workstation in the same line as Logic Pro on OS X. From what I know, Audition is used mainly by professional podcasters, but can be used for so much more, like recording and mixing your own music.


Audacity is the go-to audio editor for most Linux users, but when Audacity isn’t enough, you should think about either Ardour or LMMS.
Ardour is the best DAW available on Linux right now. Not only does it have a clean and usable interface, but it’s packed full of advanced features. Very good and highly recommended.
It’s available for free but only produces audio up to 10 minutes long. You can unlock the full feature set by buying the full version, which has a “pay what you want” price tag. Seriously, you can buy it for as low as $1.


LMMS, formerly known as Linux MultiMedia Studio, is another good option. This one is completely free but slightly inferior to Ardour. The interface is a bit harder to grasp and the learning curve is a bit steeper, but it’s still useful.
Check out the LMMS Showcase to see examples of tracks that have been made with LMMS.

For InDesign: Scribus

I don’t know of many people who do desktop publishing on Linux, but if you need an alternative to Adobe InDesign, rest assured that such an alternative does exist. It’s called Scribus.
Scribus can be used to create brochures, newsletters, posters, and even book layouts. It can also be used to create animated and interactive PDFs — the kind of stuff you’d expect from any desktop publishing program worth its salt.
It does have a few downsides though, such as the fact it can’t import or export InDesign files. Also, it’s not entirely polished and free of bugs, which can prove frustrating for heavy users. Fortunately, the Scribus documentation is pretty good.

The Ultimate Linux Creative Suite

If you absolutely need programs that are on par with Adobe, then save yourself the headache. Run a copy of Windows alongside Linux (either in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot setup) and get the Creative Cloud applications.
But if you’re okay with a bit of sacrifice here and there, these programs make for a passable Linux Creative Suite:
  • GIMP
  • Darktable
  • Inkscape
  • Lightworks
  • Synfig
  • Ardour
  • Scribus


May 13, 2016

What Is the Best Word Processor for Linux?

Even after all these years, no one has yet dethroned Microsoft Word from its kingly position. Sure, a few alternatives have been playing a great game of catch-up and innovation, but there’s no doubt about it — Word is still the best.
But unless you use some kind of emulation or virtualization software, there’s no way to run Word on a regular Linux setup. Which leaves us with a tough question: what’s the best word processor to use on Linux?
There are a handful of worthy options out there. Let’s take a brief but thorough look at them to see all of their pros and cons. By the end, it’ll be up to you to pick the one that works best for your needs.
Note: We’ll only be exploring native desktop programs, which means no cloud-based word processors like Google Docs. Those are still valid options though, so you should look into them too if you can.

1. LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice has truly come a long way since it debuted in 2011. A lot of people wonder what the difference is between LibreOffice and OpenOffice — LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice, in case you didn’t know — and the simple answer is… not much.
Feel free to use either LibreOffice Writer or OpenOffice Writer. We just prefer LibreOffice because it has a more enthusiastic team of developers and it seems like the LibreOffice community is more active.


LibreOffice is the most notable software on this list for one reason: it’s the only desktop office suite that can really contend with Microsoft Office these days. In fact, even though Microsoft is still the clear king, LibreOffice is starting to come out on top in some aspects.
New document wizards and templates make the learning curve easy. The interface is straightforward and intuitive yet customizable for advanced users. LibreOffice can open and save to Microsoft file formats, including DOC and DOCX.
There are advanced features too, like “master documents” that group multiple documents together, built-in drawing tools, tracking changes and revisions made to documents, the ability to import and edit PDFs, and more.

2. WPS Writer

WPS Office is the set of office applications formerly known as Kingsoft Office, which you may recognize as one of the best mobile office suites for Android users. The desktop version is notable because it emulates the look and feel of Microsoft Office.
WPS Office is named as such because it contains three applications: Writer, Presentation, and Spreadsheets. All of their developmental efforts are focused on these three only, so rest assured that they aren’t wasting time on other, less important applications.
Note that WPS Office for Linux is a separate community-maintained build that’s free to use on a personal basis.


The last time we looked at WPS Writer, we were quite impressed by what it could do — and it has only gotten sharper and better since then.
If you prefer the Microsoft’s Ribbon interface, then you’ll like WPS Writer. Once you learn how to use it properly, everything is just significantly easier. And when you combine it with WPS’s ability to open multiple documents with tabs, you’ll fall in love.
WPS can do what most word processors do, including format paragraphs, autosave and back up files, create templates, and more. It also supports the main Microsoft file formats, including DOC and DOCX, but does not support the ODT file format.

3. AbiWord

AbiWord is a simple but effective word processor that’s part of the GNOME Office. It doesn’t come installed by default on Ubuntu, but you can easily install it by using the built-in Software Manager.
Do you remember Microsoft Works? It was a smaller, less expensive alternative to Microsoft Word with fewer features. In much the same way, AbiWord can be considered as the lighter, faster alternative to LibreOffice with fewer features.


This isn’t to say that AbiWord is worse than LibreOffice. Not at all! In many cases, you don’t actually need the full power of a gargantuan application and can settle for something less resource-intensive. In other words, for most home users, AbiWord is more than good enough.
AbiWord supports all industry standard file formats (including Microsoft and WordPerfect), comes with advanced document layout options, and is extensible through separate plugins.

4. Scrivener

Most people know of Scrivener as a “novel-writing tool”, and while it’s true that Scrivener is mainly used by novelists, it’s also used by researchers, bloggers, and even office workers for non-fiction writing.
In short, Scrivener is basically a run-of-the-mill word processor that’s wrapped up in a whole bunch of organizational features. It’s overkill if you’re only working on a single document, but for bigger projects it can be a lifesaver.
What a lot of people don’t know is that there is an unofficial build of Scrivener for Linux, and it’s completely free to use. However, packages are only available for Debian-based distros.


Scrivener can’t directly open document files, but you can import document files into a Scrivener project. Supported formats include DOC, DOCX, ODT, PDF, RTF, and several others (even Final Draft FDX). Scrivener projects can be exported to these formats as well.
In terms of actual word processing, Scrivener can do a lot: format text and paragraphs, insert tables and lists, highlight selections, track revision histories, add annotations and footnotes, and more.
Scrivener can be really efficient once you learn all of its quirks and tricks. We recommend starting with our guide to Scrivener and these power tips for Scrivener.
Note: If the build of Scrivener for Linux does not work for you and you really want to use Scrivener, you can always buy the Windows version and run it through WINE.

5. Calligra Words

Back in 2010, a bit of disagreement led to a split in the KOffice community, resulting in the inception of Calligra Suite. While most KOffice applications were brought on board, KWord was completely replaced by a new program called Words, which launched in 2012.
As is always the case with from-scratch applications, Calligra Words is still playing catch-up after all these years. It’s much better now than it was back then, but it still feels primitive and incomplete. The interface is also a bit unusual.


My main gripe about the interface is that Calligra insists on a sidebar toolbox and doesn’t provide a way to use the more traditional method of having toolbars — even though Calligra does support toolbars for other stuff. If this doesn’t bother you, great! It bothers me though.
In terms of features, Calligra is very basic. It’s not lacking anything per se, but it doesn’t offer anything interesting beyond what you’d expect from a word processor. And while it does support DOC, DOCX, and ODT, it doesn’t support many others.
All in all, I’m happy that Calligra exists — competition is always good — but it doesn’t inspire me with confidence or excitement. I’d only use it if I couldn’t use any of the above options.

Which Word Processor Do You Use?

If you’re looking for a powerful word processor that comes as part of an office suite, there’s really nothing better than LibreOffice Writer at this time. It sits in the number one spot by a huge margin. WPS Writer is close, but not that close.
However, if you’re dealing with dozens or hundreds of related documents and you need a lot of help staying organized, then I think Scrivener is a valid option to explore. It’s overkill for simple stuff, but absolutely fantastic for heavier-duty stuff.


May 6, 2016


Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the lack of updates lately! I'll try to post as often before, as long as there are interesting things to write about. Because I still have some catching up to do with various PPA packages that need updating (minor updates, not worthy of an article for the most part), I won't post old news that I didn't get to post during this inactive period, especially since you're probably already familiar with them anyway.

Now back to Audacious. The latest Audacious, which, in case you're not familiar with, is a fast, lightweight audio players, ships with various Qt interface improvements, including plugins which have been ported to Qt, such as the Winamp Classic Interface, the Playlist Manager, Search Tool and Status icon, and more.

GTK2 Interface

Qt interface

Winamp Classic interface

Here's a list of the most important changes in Audacious 3.7:
  • GTK interface only:
    • Internet streams can be recorded while playing via a simple record button;
    • the playlist export window displays supported formats in a drop-down list;
    • a new, unified window has been added for managing equalizer presets;
    • the user interface automatically adjusts to be more usable on high-resolution screens;
    • playlists can be shuffled by whole albums rather than single tracks.
  • Qt interface only:
    • the Qt interface can be customized with several new appearance settings;
    • the following plugins have been ported to Qt: Winamp Classic Interface, Playlist Manager, Search Tool and Status Icon;
    • various small fixes and improvements, such as a visualizer in the info bar, to bring the interface closer to feature-parity with the GTK+ interface;
  • an "Edit Lyrics" option has been added to the LyricWiki plugin, which opens the edit page for the current song;
  • guessing of missing tag fields can be disabled;
  • decoding and playback of standard input is possible with e.g. "cat file.mp3 | audacious -";
  • in dual GTK and Qt builds, incompatible plugins are hidden to avoid confusion;
  • most audtool commands now apply to the playlist which is playing, even if it is in the background;
  • bug fixes.

A complete changelog can be found HERE.

Install Audacious 3.7 in Ubuntu or Linux Mint

As usual, the latest Audacious is available in the main WebUpd8 PPA. The PPA provide Audacious build with GTK2 and Qt interfaces (I can't also enable the GTK3 interface because it requires separate builds).

To install Audacious 3.7 in Ubuntu 14.04, 15.04 or 15.10 / Linux Mint 17.x and derivatives, use the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install audacious

Once installed, select Audacious from the Dash / menu to launch the GTK2 interface or "Audacious Qt Interface" for the Qt interface.


Viber for Linux Rolls Out New Update, Encrypts Messages

The Viber desktop Linux app has been updated, gaining a new look and new security measures.
Part Skype, part WhatsApp, Viber combines traditional VoIP features with encrypted messaging, emoji and stickers.
As with WhatsApp, Viber uses your mobile telephone number as your ‘identity’ rather than a traditional login (which, yes, means if you don’t use a supported mobile platform — cough, Ubuntu touch, cough — you can’t create an account to use it.
Not that they’ll notice; the service claims to have an estimated 664 million users worldwide — and impressive stat.

What’s New in Viber 6.0.1

End-to-end encryption

Viber 6.0.x brings end-to-end encryption, letting you communicate securely while using the service.
“Our users can confidently use Viber without fear of their messages being intercepted – whether it is in a one-to-one or group message, on a call, on desktop, mobile or tablet,” the company say.
“Additionally, we’ve ensured each user has an individual cryptography key associated with his or her device.”
To chat securely you need to be running the latest version of Viber (which you’re reading about). Look for the grey padlock to confirm that the chit-chat is taking place securely. If you don’t see the icon it’s probable that the person you’re talking to has yet to update their version of the app.
You can read more about Viber’s security policy on their website.

Share Contacts

Know someone who wants to know someone that you know? If so you’ll be stoked to learn about that Viber has added, quote, the: “exciting ability to simply share contacts, file messages, and media between chats!”

Drag and Drop

Lastly, and rather belatedly, you can finally drag & drop pictures, videos, and files into a chat to share stuff with your Viber buddies.

Download Viber for Linux

The Viber Linux app ‘officially’ supports Ubuntu 64-bit and Fedora 64-bit. Be aware that it lacks basic system integration, like a tray icon and chat notifications.


May 2, 2016

ClassicMenu Indicator brings back the old school cool from GNOME2 in Ubuntu 16.04

Anyone here remember the massive community back clash when Unity was first introduced? A lot of that had to do with the replacement of GNOME2's rather straight forward menu system with a more modern Unity Launcher that we see today. ClassicMenu Indicator is a small plugin that could bring back some of that old glory.

gnome ClassicMenu Indicator ubuntu

ClassicMenu Indicator for Ubuntu 16.04

Every now and then, you stumble upon interesting little applications in Ubuntu Software Center. ClassicMenu Indicator is a lesser known plugin which I'm sure a lot of people here will appreciate. ClassicMenu Indicator was featured in USC's Editor's Pick category.  
ClassicMenu Indicator
As you can see, USC has went through some serious make-over in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS about which you can read here in detail. ClassicMenu Indicator lets you experience some of that old school awesomeness of GNOME Classic in your brand new Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (works on previous releases as well). ClassicMenu Indicator sits on the top menu as an indicator applet and houses GNOME2's classic menu system. Installation is just a click away. 


Why Microsoft needed to make Windows run Linux software

And how it could leapfrog Apple as the dev platform of choice.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to come from Microsoft's Build developer conference last week was the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).
The system will ship as part of this summer's Anniversary Update for Windows 10. WSL has two parts; there's the core subsystem, which is already included in Insider Preview builds of the operating system, and then a package of software that Canonical will provide. The core subsystem is what provides the Linux API on Windows, including the ability to natively load Linux executables and libraries. Canonical will provide bash and all the other command-line tools that are expected in a Linux environment.

Microsoft is positioning WSL strictly as a tool for developers, with a particular view to supporting Web developers and the open source software stacks that they depend on. Many developers are very familiar with the bash shell, with building software using make and gcc, and editing text in vi or emacs. WSL will give these developers versions of these tools that are equal in just about every regard to the ones you get on Linux, because they'll be the ones you get on Linux running unmodified on Windows.
With that developer focus, Microsoft isn't supporting WSL as a deployment platform. It might be possible to run, for example, the Apache Web server under WSL, and it might even be useful to do so for development, but the intent is not that applications would ever be run in production with this configuration.

Making lemonade

WSL was derived from Project Astoria, the effort to enable Android apps to run on Windows 10 Mobile; we'd expect that, initially at least, its support is strongest for those APIs that Android needed and that it will be weaker in other areas. This means that while application support should be extensive, Windows won't be able to run every Linux program under the sun. There's no Linux kernel here, so this won't bring support for filesystems such as ZFS or btrfs to Windows. Applications demanding low-level access to hardware devices, such as Wireshark, seem similarly unlikely to run and will continue to need Windows ports. WSL also doesn't include X Windows or any other graphical subsystem; it's strictly for command-line applications only.

Microsoft deciding to support Linux software on Windows is a surprising move, and the obvious question is, why? Superficially, the answer is easy—developers like these tools, so supporting them makes developers happy—but the story runs a little deeper than that. Supporting Linux apps in Windows is a significant move for a company that has spent decades promoting its own APIs and application platform, and it's unlikely that the company would make such a move just to provide a few creature comforts to developers. The need goes deeper than that.
Wind the clock back 15 years and Windows was the only serious platform for software developers. Linux was already an important consideration for servers, but on the desktop was even less of a concern than it is today, reserved only for the most hardcore fans. OS X was in its infancy, and only ran on weird, expensive, underpowered PowerPC hardware. This made Windows the development platform of choice by default. There simply wasn't any good alternative.

This in turn had consequences for software, where solid Windows support could drive server-side usage. A prime example of this is the MySQL database server. While it is better today than it once was, MySQL has always been regarded as second-best when it comes to important considerations such as technical capabilities and data integrity, with PostgreSQL generally held to be the much better database. In spite of this, MySQL won considerable market- and mind-share because it was a much better development platform. It had an easy Windows installer, it had good Windows software for managing databases and writing queries, and it had good ODBC drivers. PostgreSQL's developers, on the other hand, didn't appear to prioritize any of these things, and while it wasn't impossible to run the database on Windows, doing so meant forfeiting the creature comforts that MySQL offered.

It's no great surprise, then, that MySQL proliferated in a way that PostgreSQL didn't.
But things don't work that way any more. Setting up a Ruby development environment on Windows is a wretched experience. Getting Ruby running well is awkward on any platform, but Windows is arguably the worst. The popular node.js environment was born on OS X and Linux, and for a long time could not be effectively run on Windows. Salvatore Sanfilippo, developer of top NoSQL data store redis, has refused to accept patches to make the software run on Windows, not out of any particular hostility towards Microsoft, but because he saw no need for it. He supported the idea of forks of the software that supported Windows, but nothing that would impede development of the core product.

It's still not the year, but it's also not not the year

Windows certainly hasn't disappeared completely from view, but it's no longer the essential, must-have platform that it once was. Why not? Because those two non-contenders in 2000 are more or less viable today. Linux for various reasons still may not be the most comfortable desktop platform (especially for anyone wanting to use it on a brand-new laptop), but it's much more livable than it used to be. And OS X, thanks to a combination of the switch to x86 and Apple's fine hardware design, has become an appealing option for a great many developers.
Indeed, for a number of years, it wasn't a huge exaggeration to say that Apple made the only x86 laptops that were both reasonably affordable and pleasant to use. The MacBook Air, in particular, set a new standard for size and weight, and while the initial release was expensive, subsequent iterations were much less so. The traditional PC world had little that could match, and even when PC OEMs did build good systems—as Lenovo often did—they tended to be high-priced "corporate" machines. Apple truly led the way when it came to offering that mix of price, power, and portability, and it did so with an operating system that just happened to use a large portion of FreeBSD's code. There are still, of course, differences between OS X's FreeBSD and Linux running on a server, but they're a great deal smaller than the differences between either of those and Windows.

What Apple did was to give every computer science and software engineering student a three-pound Unix workstation for not very much money, and unsurprisingly, they proliferated. This effect was compounded further by Apple's enduring popularity in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and, related, the growth of iOS as an application platform. Smart kids fresh out of university (whether they dropped out or otherwise) weren't thrust into the Windows-centric world of corporate America. They could instead thrive in a culture that revered Apple and equipped them all with shiny new MacBook Pros. Windows wasn't reviled the way that the die-hard open source advocates reviled it; it just wasn't part of their life.

This is a problem that Microsoft has been slow to recognize. Microsoft is generally good at addressing the needs of Microsoft's own existing development community, but this came with a kind of myopia. Anything outside this constituency was ignored. The Visual Studio C and C++ compiler, for example, still lacks full support for C99, the version of the C language that was standardized about 17 years ago. In spite of repeated requests to the company that it add C99 support, there was always pushback. The rationale I was given more than once was that since Windows developers weren't writing C99 code, there was no reason for C99 support.
That Windows developers couldn't write C99 code because the main Windows C and C++ compiler couldn't compile it was apparently beside the point. And that the open source world had embraced C99, and was now producing code that simply couldn't be compiled on Windows—code that Windows developers might well want to use, if only it would work—was similarly ignored. The people writing this code weren't part of the Windows development constituency, and so addressing their needs wasn't a priority. In the last couple of years, there does seem to have been something of a realization within Redmond that it's missing out, and adherence to the newest iterations of the C++ specification has been made a priority, but full C99 support still hasn't been implemented, and it's not clear it ever will be.

The same is broadly true of Unix compatibility in general, and the Unix shell environment and workspace in particular. A hot young developer coming out of a top university is going to be comfortable with bash and make and all those other tools. Visual Studio may be great—Visual Studio is great—but it's irrelevant to this way of working. Microsoft was not completely blind to this problem—I've heard from a few people inside the company that there has to be a not insignificant education effort for new hires, because coming to Microsoft is literally the first time they're exposed to the Windows way of software development—but until last week's announcement, it seems that little was being done to address it in a systematic way.
What we had instead was individual porting efforts. And it's important not to discount these; Microsoft contributed money and developer time to node.js to help port it to Windows. The software was rearchitected to accommodate this—node.js relies heavily on asynchronous I/O, and the optimal approach for this is different on every platform—and I think most people would agree that the result is that node.js has become better software (it also turns out that Windows' approach to asynchronous I/O is really good). The asynchronous I/O parts were broken out into their own library, libuv, which is useful in its own right, and node.js is a client of that library. Microsoft has similarly developed a port of redis that runs natively on Windows.
These efforts were valuable, but it's not an effort that scales well. Microsoft can't port every project, and while Ryan Dahl, creator of node.js, recognized that supporting Windows was valuable and was willing to make considerable changes to node.js to support Windows, that's not true of every developer.

Better hardware calls for broader horizons


The hardware gap that Apple once enjoyed has largely gone away. Devices like the HP Spectre x360 and Dell XPS 13 are fine systems; there's a range of diverse, high quality, affordable PC hardware options that really didn't exist five years ago. There's also an interesting degree of diversity; you can get traditional laptops, or laptops with 360 degree hinges, or convertibles like the Surface Pro 4, or exotica such as the Surface Book. These are all solid choices. But the hardware alone isn't enough any more; Windows doesn't offer the development user experience that is now so commonplace. Microsoft needs to do something to appeal to this developer community, and maybe even win it over to Windows.

Windows Subsystem for Linux fixes that by bringing a large part of that user experience to Windows. Redis, for example, will work on WSL. Not a forked port of redis that's been altered to work around the differences between Windows and Unix systems; real redis. The Ruby experience, well, it won't ever be good, because it's a pain on every platform. But it will be better. The same is broadly true for most of the open source stack that powers a huge proportion of Web and cloud development these days. It'll work on Windows, just the same as it already does on Linux. Microsoft is working with Canonical initially, so all of these things will be an apt-get away just like they are on Ubuntu. It wouldn't be tremendously surprising to one day see other Linux flavors, too.

As WSL matures, it doesn't feel beyond the realm of possibility that there will be pressure on Microsoft to treat it as something more than just a development tool and address the desire to deploy onto WSL on Windows Server. Especially for small deployments, the ability to run redis within an otherwise Windows-based deployment without spinning up a virtual machine feels obviously desirable.

But even aside from this, WSL turns Windows into a remarkably strong development platform. The recent Xamarin acquisition and the announcement last week that Xamarin would be free with Visual Studio and released as open source to boot makes Windows a strong candidate for all kinds of software development. Visual Studio includes a high quality Android emulator and all the tools for developing on Android.

The iOS emulator on OS X doesn't support touch. But you can remote control it from a Windows box.
Genuine OS X systems are still required for building iOS software, as iOS applications must be compiled with Apple's toolchain and the iOS simulator only runs on OS X, but with Visual Studio and Xamarin the development can all be done in Windows, and this even offers some advantages that developing on OS X does not: Xamarin offers remote control of the iOS simulator from Windows, and that remote control supports multitouch. On a touchscreen PC you can use a finger or multiple fingers with the iOS simulator. Macs, with Apple's reluctance to add touchscreens to Macs, can't do that.

Developers writing for Apple's systems might even enjoy hardware that isn't tied to Apple's often awkward release schedules. Mac users are being left behind when it comes to virtual reality, because Apple refuses to build systems with fast, modern desktop GPUs. Its desktop machines are either laptops with massive screens, in the case of the iMacs, or languishing unloved and un-updated, in the case of the Mac Pro. A Windows development system that can handle VR—and development for Windows (a category that reaches as far as HoloLens and Xbox, Linux, iOS, and Android)—can be had for under a grand.

Microsoft's eye may be on Web developers right now. But what it's building won't just appeal to Web developers. It should make Windows into the developer platform for everyone.


April 26, 2016

How Ubuntu 16.04’s New Package Format Makes Installing Software A Snap

Ubuntu’s long-term support releases come with a trade off. New versions come every two years. During that time, your system stays consistent and receives the latest security updates. Unlike regular releases, you don’t have to update them every nine months.
But don’t try installing the latest version of software. Chances are your libraries will be out of date.

This isn’t a problem limited to LTS releases or Ubuntu in general. Even distributions running cutting edge code start looking dated before the next release. And some software never makes it into the repositories, regardless of age.
In version 16.04, Ubuntu is hoping to strike a balance between having stability and staying up-to-date. You won’t just have the option to install applications via debs. You will also be able to use snaps.

What are Snaps?

Snap packages can contain application binaries and any dependencies needed to run. They stem from click packages, which Canonical developed to package apps for Ubuntu Touch.
Snap packages are coming to Ubuntu 16.04 as a technology preview. Debs will continue to form the core of the classic desktop and its Unity7 interface. Click packages will remain the default in Unity8 (which is also a technology preview for now). Consider 16.04 a chance to meet snaps before developing a more intimate relationship in the future.

What are the Benefits?

Canonical views snaps as the next generation of apps for all Ubuntu devices. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to get excited.

1. Faster and Easier Access to Software

With snaps, developers will no longer have to supply a PPA for Ubuntu users to get an application and its dependencies. Instead, people can download a single package and know it will run on their system. This saves them from having to copy and paste lines of code into a terminal that they may not understand.
This doesn’t just apply to applications. Snaps could improve access to new versions of desktop environments like GNOME or KDE.

2. Long-Term Reliability

Linux desktop environments and libraries tend to change rapidly. As a result, software that worked in 2012 may not run on the same computer four years later. Don’t even bother trying to install an old version of Firefox, for example.
This is a pain for developers and discourages some of them from creating software for Linux. After creating an application once, they have to modify it regularly to keep working in a year or two. And that’s not even considering all the variations between different distributions.
Since a snap package provides its own dependencies, the application should have what it needs to run today, tomorrow, and a couple of years from now.

3. Isolation and Security




Snap packages run independently of the rest of the system. This means you don’t have to worry about installation impacting the rest of your setup. A developer can also patch a vulnerability and immediately send the fix out to users.
This is a double-edged sword. Since snap packages can make you run multiple copies of the same dependencies, you have to update each one when an issue is disclosed. If one developer doesn’t update an application, you’re left with a compromised version. Traditionally that would have been fixed when your distribution sent out security updates.

4. Paid Software Support

When you pay for an application, you expect it to work. This makes maintaining software for Linux especially unappealing to people selling software. Users expect you to support multiple distributions, with each changing in unpredictable ways every six months or so.
By using a snap package, a developer knows they have a version that works. It’s also easier to troubleshoot issues when each copy is the same.
For these reasons, Canonical plans to migrate paid applications to snaps by autumn of this year.

5. Familiar Development Experience




The mobile market has changed expectations around how software gets developed and distributed. The specifics may vary between working with Google Play, the Apple App Store, the Windows Store, and other marketplaces, but you’re still developing a package and uploading to a distribution center for review. Snapcraft, Canonical’s tool for building and packaging snaps, brings a similar experience to Ubuntu developers.

6. You Can Rollback

Not every upgrade goes as planned. Sometimes newer software introduces bugs that hamper the experience. In some instances, applications no longer launch at all. In these cases, developers can undo an update, and users have the option to re-install an old snap that worked.

How Will This Impact Other Distros?

Snap developers have built the format to work with Unity. Technically, this means the software can work on other distributions. But like Unity itself, snaps probably won’t see much adoption outside of the Ubuntu ecosystem.
This could stir interest in alternative but similar package formats. One example is AppImage, which you can already install on your Linux desktop today. A number of apps are available, such as Atom, Blender, Chromium, Firefox, and VLC.


AppImage is a continuation of Klik, which released back in 2006. It’s not the only one. PortableLinuxApps descended from Klik to create software you can boot from a flash drive.
Regardless of whether snaps appear elsewhere, they could encourage developers to distribute apps in a package format that works across distributions and regardless of dependencies. That’s the dream, anyway. What form reality takes remains to be seen.

Oh Snap, This Could Be Good

Installing software on Linux can be a pain. If it’s in the repositories, great! If not, you’re left hoping the developer provided a way to install software on your distribution. Each project has its own preferred method of managing applications and updates. It’s challenging to support them all. However at present, we have to be aware that the snap system could represent a security risk.

Image Credit: conveyor belt by Vivi-o via Shutterstock


April 17, 2016

Clementine Music Player Scores Juicy New Update

Can you believe that it’s been over 2 years since the last stable release of Clementine?
It’s also been over 4 years since we last mentioned the popular open-source music player on this site!

New Features in Clementine 1.3

Ripened for release this weekend, Clementine 1.3 brings a punnet’s worth of improvements, features and bug fixes to the cross-platform Qt-based music player.
It is also the first release of the app to formally support Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, which is due for release next week.
More than 150 changes are present in all, with some of the more notable being:
  • Support for
  • Seafile support (server >= 4.4.1)
  • Ampache compatibility (via Subsonic service)
  • New “Rainbow Dash” analyser
  • “Psychedelic Colour” mode added to all analysers
  • Various now playing widget tweaks, including option to hide song details
  • New & improved icons in various menus/dialogs
  • Option to remove missing/unavailable tracks from playlist
  • Various improvements to Spotify integration
  • Faster startup
  • Additional sources for lyrics
Podcast management also sees a selection of improvements:
  • Option to set podcast as listened sending to a device.
  • Order podcasts by age
  • Support for multiple podcast downloads
  • Cancel active podcast download
  • Option to hide listened podcast episodes
The app has also been updated to support GStreamer 1.0 and version 1.10.0 of the Taglib meta-data editor.
But it’s not all spit and polish. Some features are removed as part of the update, including integration with Canonical’s defunct Ubuntu One service and the recently retired Grooveshark music streaming service. Online music database Discogs is no longer used to fetch missing album artwork.
The full change-log for this release is available view on GitHub and gives a thorough overview of all the changes to ship in this update.

Download Clementine 1.3

Clementine .5
The official Clementine website hosts installer downloads for a number of Linux distributions, including .deb packages for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and up.
As a cross-platform app you can also download a Windows installers (including a portable version) and a Mac OS X disk image.

Clementine PPA for Ubuntu Users

Prepare to use PPAs?
Add the official Clementine PPA to get this latest version, plus automatically receive any subsequent releases as and when they’re made.
To add install Clementine from PPA run the following commands in a new terminal window:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:me-davidsansome/clementine

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install clementine
Once install has completed you will be able to open Clementine from the Unity Dash (or an equivalent app launcher).


April 10, 2016

How to Install Rhythmbox Plugins in Ubuntu

This quick tutorial is going to show you how to install a list of plugins for Ubuntu’s default music player Rhythmbox in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and later.

The plugins currently include:
  • rhythmbox-plugin-artdisplay – display art covers as per v2.96 rhythmbox
  • rhythmbox-plugin-countdown-playlist – Countdown Playlist
  • rhythmbox-plugin-close-on-hide – really exit rhythmbox when click close button
  • rhythmbox-plugin-coverart-browser – Browse your cover-art albums in Rhythmbox
  • rhythmbox-plugin-desktopart – show cover art on desktop
  • rhythmbox-plugin-equalizer – rhythmbox sound equalizer
  • rhythmbox-plugin-fileorganizer – Intelligently move files to folders according to track tags
  • rhythmbox-plugin-fullscreen – This python plugin gives you a stylish full screen window
  • rhythmbox-plugin-hide – rhythmbox_hide
  • rhythmbox-plugin-jumptowindow – JumpToWindow
  • rhythmbox-plugin-llyrics – rhythmbox alternative lyrics plugin
  • rhythmbox-plugin-looper – Loop part of the song in Rhythmbox.
  • rhythmbox-plugin-opencontainingfolder – open containing folder
  • rhythmbox-plugin-parametriceq – parametric equalizer with up to 64 Bands
  • rhythmbox-plugin-playlist-import-export
  • rhythmbox-plugin-randomalbumplayer – Random Album Player
  • rhythmbox-plugin-rating-filters – Rating filters for the library browser.
  • rhythmbox-plugin-remembertherhythm – Remember the rhythm
All these plugins are developed by fossfreedom and available in his PPA. As some plugins were developed for old Rhythmbox 2.9x, it may or may not work on Ubuntu 14.04 with Rhythmbox 3.0.2.

Press Ctrl+Alt+T on keyboad to open the terminal. When it opens, run the
command below to add the plugins PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:fossfreedom/rhythmbox-plugins
After that, you can install each plugin after checking for updates. Or install all of them by:
sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install rhythmbox-plugin-complete
Once installed, open Rhythmbox and go to Tools -> Plugins. Enable plugins you want from the list.


April 2, 2016

Where to download Chrome 32 bit since it has been discontinued by Google?

Many users have been looking for the last 32 bit build of Google Chrome browser. It is version 48. It came as part of Ubuntu Mate 15.10 recommended software from the Welcome Center. Below is a link where you can still find it.

I am using Chromium, which is still being updated and is at version 49 currently. However, Chromium does not support the Adobe Flash Player and Google Chrome does. So that is one reason a lot of folks like it.

If you are looking for the open source Google Chrome equivalent called Chromium, in both 32 and 64 bit versions, they are available still. You can also find the Chrome "Canary" developer beta builds in both 32 and 64 bit versions for Windows and Linux there. You can find them below. Enjoy.

And to install Chrome 64-Bit  via PPA try the following:

1. We use Google’s official Linux software repository (PPA) that will automatically install and configure settings needed to keep your chrome browser up-to-date.

Before installing repository, we need to download and install Google’s Linux package signing Key that will automatically configure your package manager to verify the integrity of packages before downloading and installing on the system.
On an Debian based systems (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc.), use the following command to download the key and then use ‘apt-key‘ to add it to the system.

$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -

After adding the key, run the following command to add chrome repository to your system sources.

$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'

After adding chrome repository, you must do a system update to update the newly added chrome repository, using the following command.

$ sudo apt-get update

4. Now, here Google PPA provides three chrome versions (stable, beta and unstable), so install whatever version you prefer.
Install Chrome Stable Version
$ sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

Installing Google Chrome Browser Using .Deb Package

1. Go to Google Chrome download page and select your package or you can use following ‘wget‘ command to download and install the latest version.

Note: Google Chrome ends support for all 32-bit Linux distributions from March, 2016.

$ wget $ sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb 

2. Once it’s installed, launch Google Chrome Browser with normal user.

$ google-chrome-stable


March 6, 2016

Record Streaming Audio with Audio Recorder

I just became aware of this great program for recording streaming audio. It comes bundled in Ubuntu Mate 16.04 Beta 1.

Audio Recorder is an amazing audio recording program, this small tool allows user to record audio from microphones, webcams, system sound card, media player or web browser & etc. It can save recording in various formats listed: Ogg, Mp3, Flac, Wav (22khz), Wav (44khz) and Spx.

It allows to use sound source system card, microphone, audio/video player, any application (like: Skype calls with any user interaction) and user defined program for recording. It also can be configured to stop recording if output file limit is reached to user requirement. Audio threshold is supported by this program, which can record audio on sound/voice and stop/pause when silence (user can set up threshold and delay as per requirements). Additionally you can setup an timer manually within the audio recorder program to schedule recordings and the program will start/stop/pause recording at given time. Panel indicator support for Ubuntu, from where user can easily access some options like: show/hide window, start/stop recording and open recording location.

audio recorder audio recorder

audio recorder audio recorder

To install Audio-Recorder in Ubuntu/Linux Mint open Terminal (Press Ctrl+Alt+T) and copy the following commands in the Terminal:

To Install Audio Recorder use the Terminal

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:osmoma/audio-recorder
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install audio-recorder

Install additional codecs with this command: