05-15-2012, 04:30 AM
Open-source media player VLC tops a billion downloads
Tom Cheredar May 14, 2012
Open-source staple VLC has reached over a billion downloads, the VideoLAN Organization announced Sunday.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols. VLC works on Mac OS X, Windows, and most popular Linux distros, and has support for iOS. It’s kind of like a Swiss Army knife for video and audio in the sense that you can play virtually anything with it by downloading the proper codecs.
The official number of downloads was 1,005,143,569 from late February 2005 through the current day. The stats show a large uptick in downloads across all platforms with the launch of Version 2.0.1.
I’d imagine VLC will probably become the media player of choice for Windows 8 users after Microsoft finally launches the forthcoming operating system. The company recently announced that Windows 8 won’t have built-in DVD-playback because of declining DVD usage.
05-15-2012, 04:35 AM
GIMP 2.8 Review – Who needs Photoshop?
The premier open source image manipulation tool has been upgraded with some new and updated features. Was it worth the development time?
It has been a long time since GIMP 2.6 came out, the last version of the powerful image manipulation program, launching as a viable alternative to Adobe’s offering. With this pedigree, the latest version of GIMP has a lot to live up to, and the three years of development certainly seem to have helped its cause.
There have been a lot of major changes made to the way GIMP works, and the developers have been keen to promote the new single window mode especially. It’s been a feature requested by the community for a long time, being able to integrate the dockable toolbars into the main GIMP window. While the floating windows were created originally to emulate the look of Photoshop, they never really worked the same way, and there was plenty of times when we just lost the bars as they suddenly moved off screen during start up. The new, completely optional, mode smartly places the tool bars in the main window, allowing you to drag them around and modify completely as you see fit, with multiple columns and different tools. It works great once you get used to the little quirks.
In general a lot of the tools and interface have been overhauled, with the ability to group layers a godsend for those doing some heavy layer work. The text tool now allows you to type directly onto the canvas, and the selection and boundary limited tools have greatly improved with some smarter anti-aliasing. It does feel like a genuine upgrade, with even the smallest gripes or concerns about the previous version properly addressed.
Then there’s all the cool little extras we never even thought about, like the ability to do some basic maths in size value boxes, which is great if you’ve ever got out a calculator when you need to do some image resizing but want to keep the same ratio. You can also now rotate paint brushes, which is probably quite useful if you’re having to “paint” an image from the clipboard.
So GIMP 2.8 definitely shows that the extended development time has been put to good use. Everything seems like an improvement, with some of the previous limitations or time consuming tasks either fixed or better enough that they’re not a problem. An essential upgrade.
This new version of GIMP is vastly upgraded over its predecessor, with a mixture of community requested tool and UI overhauls complete with cool extra additions that all generally aid the workflow. If you’ve been on the fence in the past, the best free and open-source image editor just got a lot better.
05-15-2012, 04:47 AM
Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth on shaking up system software
Leo Kelion Technology reporter, BBC News 3 May 2012
Ubuntu says it aims to offer users both a stylish interface and the benefits of being part of the open-source community
Free of charge, free of viruses and designed to outpace its rivals on low-end systems - Ubuntu has some obvious advantages.
The operating system claims 20 million people use it a day. Not an insignificant number, but still a drop in the ocean compared to Microsoft's Windows or Apple's OS X.
Even so, lead designer and one-time astronaut Mark Shuttleworth hopes that last week's major upgrade to the Linux-based project will produce an outsized splash and increase the size of its somewhat divergent customer-base.
"In terms of our user, they would split into two sorts of camps," he says.
"One, not very tech savvy, that has an old PC lying around and Windows is getting difficult because of the computer's age or viruses, and Ubuntu gives them a nice basic all-purpose PC with a great web experience.
"The other group tends to be the next generation of tech entrepreneurs - people who are passionate about technology and want to do amazing things with it."
Mr Shuttleworth counts Wikipedia and Facebook's Instagram photo app among his clients.
A third class of users is also attracted to the system - public bodies looking to cut their IT bills. The Dutch ministry of defence, part of France's police force and schools across the south of Spain have all opted to switch thousands of their PCs to the software.
Type to control
Ubuntu is able to offer itself as a free download thanks to coders across the world volunteering to develop the open-source project.
Mr Shuttleworth's London-based company, Canonical, manages and funds the endeavour and makes money back by offering support, training and online storage.
The system may remain niche so long as it lacks native versions of big name software like Photoshop, iTunes and Microsoft Office - despite alternative products - but it may still shake up the wider industry thanks to efforts to incorporate innovative technologies.
The adoption of a head-up display (HUD) in the upgrade is a case in point.
It aims to replace increasingly overloaded point-and-click menu systems with a panel into which users type what they want the computer to do. The computer then tries to offer up a list of functions that match their request.
"The core idea is that instead of hunting for some functionality in a menu you can simply express what you want," Mr Shuttleworth says.
"You can say I want to send that to grandma, or I want to back this up.
"It's driven by the idea that search or expressing your intent has become really powerful. If Google can turn the whole internet into one page of likely results just based on the one sentence you give it, why can't we do that with your email or graphics application?"
For now the innovation remains optional. The software designer admits it still needs "a great deal of work", but he adds that it is only one of many steps he hopes to take towards a more intuitive, multi-sensory experience.
"You could imagine having the device track your eyeballs so it knows what you are looking at - so you could look at a movie and say 'I want to watch that.'
"You can get away from the designer of the application having to provide a cumbersome way to express all the things you can do which you have to navigate, and just let you just say what you want to get done - whether that's by talking, pointing or by touch interface - all of these things have to come together to make it feel more human."
Delivering these ambitions will take years, perhaps decades.
In the shorter term, Ubuntu's fans have been excited by a job posting which discussed creating a Ubuntu smartphone system.
Mr Shuttleworth refuses to reveal any details, beyond hinting that it will be a closer relation to the firm's core product than some of its rivals' mobile systems are to their desktop equivalents.
"You know you wouldn't want to run Mac OS X nor Windows 8 on a phone," he says.
"Those companies have quite different sorts of interfaces. We think we have found a way to have a more harmonious portfolio... we will be judged on what we ship."
The firm's smartphone efforts are also concentrated on "Ubuntu for Android" - an app that makes high-end phones act like a PC when docked with a monitor and keyboard, which is due out later this year.
The firm suggests businesses could ultimately cut costs by only having to buy a single device for each of their employees.
It is a radical proposition, and also a bit of a philosophical challenge.
"There are two counter-balancing forces - one force saying everyone should have fewer CPUs [central processing units] as their phone can replace other devices," says Mr Shuttleworth.
"But then you have exactly the opposite trend which is saying that anything that could have a screen can also have a brain, a memory and a personality - printers with touch-screens, desk phones that deliver your mail. And those are two completely contradictory forces.
"Holding those two opposing ideas in our head at the same time is what's really exciting."
Other ambitions include the roll-out of the first Ubuntu powered television sets and perhaps support for mark two of the Raspberry Pi stripped-back computer, whenever it launches.
"We just couldn't connect all the dots in the first version... I'd be delighted if a future version worked with us," Mr Shuttleworth adds.
But as his firm rushes to release new innovations, one major cloud looms: the threat of a patent dispute.
Although Canonical has avoided becoming involved in one of the rising number of lawsuits sucking up time and brainpower at its competitors, it is an ever-present concern.
"We know that we are sort of dancing naked through a minefield and there are much bigger institutions driving tanks through," Mr Shuttleworth says.
"It's basically impossible to ship any kind of working software without potentially trampling on some patent somewhere in the world, and it's completely impossible to do anything to prevent that.
"The patents system is being used to slow down a lot of healthy competition and that's a real problem. I think that the countries that have essentially figured that out and put hard limits on what you can patent will in fact do better."
05-15-2012, 04:50 AM
Ubuntu 12.04: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade
jun auza 5/13/2012
Ubuntu’s latest release called Precise Pangolin has managed to please its many admirers and silence the naysayers. Unity, the most contentious part of Ubuntu so far has turned out to be a dark horse in Canonical’s race for desktop domination. With new features like the HUD, video lens and more, Ubuntu 12.04 has even had the BBC waxing eloquent about its charm. That said, not everyone is happy with the latest release. There are, as always, some criticisms regarding the lack of a new icon theme and the absence of any major game-changing feature. Of course, the overall outlook towards Ubuntu 12.04 'Precise Pangolin' is positive and there is absolutely no doubt that this is the best release by Canonical so far.
As with every new release, many users are kind of on the fence about upgrading their operating system to the latest version. Fears, doubts, and stability affinity are some roadblocks that a new Linux user faces when he or she hears about the word upgrade. If you too are undecided whether to upgrade or not to, here’s a list of the reasons which will help you pick a side.
Reasons Why You Should Upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04
1. You get the latest of all apps: Yes, the latest Firefox, Nautilus, and Thunderbird are enough reasons to make you choose the Pangolin. With the latest kernel, you have faster boot times, better driver support and more. Also, Ubuntu’s Software Center has been upgraded to the latest version making it much faster than its earlier version.
2. Improved Unity: Unity in 11.10 was, to an extent, a half-baked desktop experience. Applications were not integrated properly, nor was the launcher completely done. With Ubuntu 12.04, you’ll find most of the default applications support quick lists, thus making the desktop much more usable.
3. The Video Lens: Whether you want to explore your huge movie collection or want to discover some cool online videos, the Video Lens on the Unity desktop makes every videophile happy. You can easily browse through or search videos from your own videos collection (files from your Videos folder) and open them up using the default media player.
4. Improved Privacy: For many users, the Dash is more of an embarrassing history reminder than an intelligent desktop search engine. For those who worry about their privacy a lot, the settings let you delete your entire track record or history from a limited time frame.
5. HUD: Replacing the traditional menubar comes HUD, an intelligent and adaptive tool that allows you to perform important application-related tasks without clicking the mouse. Simply press the Alt key and key in the command you want.
6. A Great Set of Wallpapers: Admit it, who doesn't love to dress up their computer? If the aforementioned features don’t interest you much, then at least upgrade for the amazing set of community wallpapers that come with Precise. And yeah, change the wallpaper and you’ll see the login screen adapt it as its skin instantly.
7. Improved Multi-Monitor Support: Work with 2 or more monitors like a boss with Ubuntu’s latest offering.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04
1. You hate Unity: If you’re using the pre-Unity Ubuntu, then chances are that the new incarnation of the Canonical marvel doesn't appeal to you much. No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't really manage to like the whole Unity thing. In that case, it’s okay; it’s better to stay with your current version. Gnome 2 isn't that bad after all.
2. Your upgrade experience hasn't been good so far: Admit it, the upgrade experience isn't the smoothest of all. There are some small issues here and there usually; however, there are rare cases when the upgrade messes things up real bad. If your computer has been a victim of such circumstances a lot of times, then it’s better to stay with the earlier version rather than upgrade. Also, if you’re on a computer that demands a lot of uptime then it’s better to stick with the older version.
3. You don’t need awesome features: Okay, no matter how much you hate Unity, Ubuntu 12.04 is something that will make you change your mind. It’s stable, fast, and comes with a lot of amazing features that neither Linux Mint nor any other distro have at this moment. So, if you’re on the fence about upgrading, we’d say by all means go to ubuntu.com right now and upgrade!
05-15-2012, 04:57 AM
The Magic of Editable PDFs
Stop sending .DOC files as mail attachments! There is a better way!
Simon Phipps 27 March 12
One of the scourges of e-mail is file attachments, and particularly those from people sending files made by their new word-processor or presentation program that half the people receiving it can't open. While proprietary software vendors love this errant behaviour (it keeps up the pressure for people to re-purchase software they don't really need so they can read other people's work - AKA "upgrades"), it's really anti-social behaviour.
To start with, most of us don't need the source file for a document or presentation. Usually we just want to read it or review it. Then many of us have mobile devices which may not support the file format you are using. Finally, if we actually do need to collaborate, it would be better to use a collaborative editor than to circulate files and then have the problem of dealing with all the different ways people can comment on them afterwards
For the vast majority of us, a document we can read is sufficient. A PDF, for example - the name itself tells the story, "Portable Document Format". While it was started by Adobe many years ago, today PDF is a standard and there are many ways to read PDF files. Even better, most smartphones and tablets can read PDFs out-of-the-box.
So if you have to send a document attachment, please please please send a PDF so the rest of us can read it. If the file isn't confidential, you might even put it into a "locker" on the internet - say on DropBox - and let people collect the file from there. But make sure that's a PDF too, please, and remember mobile devices may not easily be able to access it!
Portable But Editable
Of course, some people will need to edit the document you are sending. Did you know you can send a final document as a PDF attachment that everyone will be able to open and view, but which people who need to will also be able to open and edit?
The document that can do this magic is called a "Hybrid PDF", and anyone can make one using open source software. LibreOffice (and related packages like OpenOffice.org) have been able to make these editable PDFs for quite some time. A Hybrid PDF is a normal PDF file that any PDF reader can display, but with the added benefit that the original source document is also embedded in the file. Any suitably advanced office suite, such as LibreOffice, is able to retrieve the source and allow you to edit it.
To show how they work, I have prepared a PDF that provides instructions on how to create a hybrid PDF with LibreOffice. Feel free to download it and take a look at the instructions. Naturally, the PDF is itself a hybrid, so try dragging and dropping it onto your office suite and see if it can be opened. If not - well, you need to get a modern, innovative office suite instead of the one you're using! It also works for presentations - I've prepared a sample presentation about OSI for you to try.
If you like this idea, send the file to your colleagues and friends and tell them all attachments from you in future will be these editable PDFs. Let's start a wave of change!
Last edited by Joe MacCarthy; 05-15-2012 at 05:04 AM.
05-15-2012, 05:03 AM
This is cool, you have to try this - JM
Making an editable PDF using LibreOffice
May 7, 2012
Simon Phipps has made a how-to video about making hybrid (editable) PDFs, demonstrating the feature described in his ComputerWorld UK article The Magic of Editable PDFs.
Making Hybrid PDFs
Simon Phipps May 7, 2012
It’s easy with LibreOffice. Send people attachments you can be sure they can view, but which can also be edited with free, open source software.
Here’s a how-to video that explains how to make Hybrid PDF files – that’s a normal PDF file, but with the ODF source of the document embedded so that anyone with LibreOffice is also able to open and edit it. Both ODF and PDF are open standards, so you can be sure that there’s a choice of free and open source software for editing and viewing them and that they will remain accessible in perpetuity.
The instruction sheet I edit in the video is available for download. Naturally, it’s an editable PDF!
05-17-2012, 02:44 AM
Whatever You Want, Miro Finds It, Gets It, Plays It
Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider 05/16/12
Miro is an aggregator and viewing app that does it all. It's a BitTorrent client and a fully-featured podcast catcher. It's handy at finding and downloading many types of online media. Its built-in HD video player handles a large variety of file types. Miro Guide helps you find content, and the app can help sync media on multiple computers. Miro seems to have a bit of an issue with Flash Player, though.
The Internet is a hub for acquiring music, video and a just about any other form of content. Miro is one of the most capable player apps that I have seen for all of this media.
Keeping up with the various forms of content the Web has to offer can be a daunting task. The process is similar to what people do in the non-Internet world. For instance, we have TVs for watching broadcasts, radios for listening to local stations, VCRs for stored playback, DVD players for movies.
Similarly, we can litter our desktops with a bevy of separate apps to play back all of our preferred audio and video content. But why tolerate that hassle of jumping from app to app as we access our different content sources? Miro is an aggregator and viewing app that does it all.
Miro is a BitTorrent client with pause/resume and the ability to throttle bandwidth. It is also a fully-featured audio and video podcast catcher that automatically downloads the latest podcasts in a feed and marks them as unread.
Miro is also handy at finding and downloading many types of online media. Its built-in HD video player and an impressive feature. Unlike other more limited viewing apps, Miro handles a large variety of file types.
Another really nifty feature is the Miro Guide. This is a lot more than just an index of online audio and video content. It is a searchable catalog of Internet television shows and channels divided by genre.
And Miro is handy for syncing your audio and video files on multiple computers connected to the same network. This makes sharing content a breeze with other Miro users.
TV Set Replacement
Doing manual searches of video sites wears thin very quickly. Miro eliminates that chore. Its search feature scours numerous libraries of popular online video sites. These include YouTube, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Video, Hulu and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) Video. It downloads selected found shows with ease.
This search and save feature lets me bypass my conventional cable-fed TV system with its on-demand and catch-up programming access. Instead, Miro lets me watch Internet videos and TV series much like I would if I remembered to find and record the shows on the cable DVR.
The obvious added benefit is that I am not restricted to accessing my viewing fare from one set tethered to cable box and the DVR. Miro lets me watch anywhere I have an Internet connection.
Mostly Easy Set Up
Miro is available in many distros' package management systems. This makes installing it a one-click procedure. But depending on your computer's configuration, you might have to do a little fiddling to use all of Miro's features.
For example, on first run I got an option to install Bonjour. This added software allows me to stream my media library with other Miro users and access their collections as well.
In my case, that message included reference to a missing Avahi mDNSResponder compatibility library. Miro did not offer a solution other than checking my system's documentation on how to install this library. A little bit of searching solved the missing file snafu.
A bigger problem involved configuring the Hulu connection. When I tried to access the Hulu channel, Miro told me that I needed the latest version of Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash Player. However, it was already installed on my system.
This seems to be a recurring problem with Miro on some systems. I found a number of support forums with conversations about this problem. An unresolved technical glitch sometimes prevents Miro from using Adobe Flash Player.
On my system, the installed current version of flash player worked fine with my various web browsers. But Miro refused to access flash. The screen message about the flash problem includes a link to the Adobe Flash Player download site.
There I found options for YUM, Tarball and RPM. That required a manual installation from the tarball for my Ubuntu 12.04 and Linux Mint 12 distros. The manual installation was futile, however. The error message persisted. This is a strange anomaly in that videos on other channels played just fine.
The Miro Interface
Miro's user interface is very similar to other audio and video player apps. It is functional and orderly but not particularly innovative. So you have nothing new to learn.
The menu bar at the top of the app window is very Linux traditional. The menu categories are File, Sidebar, Playlists, Playback, Sorts, Convert and Help. Each of these categories contains access to key features and settings.
Of particular importance is the Convert menu. Here you can select from among 25 file formats and device-specific formats.
Glance down the left pane to quickly surmise the amount of flexibility Miro offers. Click on any channel to see the corresponding screen view in the main window.
The left pane includes lists of your feeds in separate categories for audio and video. You can see a list of the number of downloaded podcasts per feed in a blue bubble and the number of active downloads in orange. You can also see the number of unplayed feeds in a green bubble next to the feed.
Typically, a player aggregator app offers access to a song or video or app store associated with the developers of the open source project. Miro betters that tradition times three.
Included in the left pane is access the The Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) MP3 Store, the Amazon Android Store and the Google Android Store. Miro also lets you add other store websites by adding them as sources in the Preferences menu.
The File/Preferences panel provides extensive setup flexibility. This lets you use Miro to suit your own purposes.
For instance, you can select how often Miro checks for new content and how to handle auto-download options. Similarly, You can adjust more than a half dozen parameters for other downloads.
Other preferences let you select folders to monitor for new content, assign disk space conditions and set playback/sharing conditions. The Sharing tab gives you the option to install Bonjour if you did not opt to do that on the first use.
Miro is a very useful app for cataloging and playing your assortment of audio and video files. It is easy to use and very flexible.
But Miro's developers must solve the problem related to accessing the installed Adobe Flash Player. Until then Miro will be less useful for watching YouTube and Hulu videos.
05-24-2012, 12:37 PM
Lightworks for Windows: it’s nearly here
When we started the Lightworks Beta program, we had no idea how many people would download the software. What has happened since has taken everyone by surprise. Over a quarter of a million people have registered and downloaded Lightworks, and we’re still getting 15,000 new registrations every month.
That’s an incredible number, and unprecedented for a full-strength NLE. And now, it’s time for the next part of the story.
On 28th May 2012, Lightworks comes back to the future
It’s time to take Lightworks to the next stage in its evolution. Starting with the Windows release on 28th May 2012, over the next year we will rock the world of video editing, because never before has such power been available for so little cost - and on so many platforms (Lightworks for Linux and OS X are Works In Progress).
For the first time, you’ll be able to download the Free and Pro versions of Lightworks for Windows, which have been completely re-engineered to run on modern, multicore hardware. You’ll be able to use the same software that Hollywood editors use to craft films like The King’s Speech and Hugo.
To download Lightworks for Windows, visit www.lwks.com, which will replace this site completely - but not until 28th May. It will also be the home of the new Lightworks Community and it’s where you’ll find the new Web Shop, for items like the Lightworks Keyboard and Console.
Free and Pro versions
There will always be free versions of Lightworks. We want it to be available for to everyone. But we encourage you to upgrade to the Pro version for $60/€50/£40 per year. You’ll get the codecs you need to work with all common camcorder and DSLRs, the Lightworks real-time title tool, and Network Project Sharing.
If you upgrade, you’ll be supporting the whole Lightworks project - and you’ll get access to the extra features in the Lightworks Pro Community: specialist groups, events, professional profiles, a job board and a video showcase. There’s even messaging and chat between members, with real-time inter-language translation.
We’re committed to Lightworks for the long term, but the more Pro upgrades are bought, the faster Lightworks is developed. It’s already one of the best, most up-to-date NLEs on the Planet: just think where it could be in a few years time! Lightworks Pro members can directly influence the future development of this amazing tool.
05-31-2012, 04:00 AM
The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 3.5.4
Up to 100% performance improvements thanks to the efforts of a diverse and growing developer and QA community
May 30, 2012
Berlin – The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 3.5.4, the fifth version of the free office suite’s 3.5 family. LibreOffice 3.5.4 offers significant performance improvements over the previous versions of the product, which are the combined result of the many code optimizations executed during the last months and the bug and regression chasing activity performed regularly by volunteers and developers. As a result, LibreOffice 3.5.4 is the fastest version of the best free office suite ever, with up to 100% performance gains when opening large files (depending on operating system, hardware configuration and file contents).
The Document Foundation suggests all users to upgrade from previous versions to LibreOffice 3.5.4.
LibreOffice 3.5.4 is available for immediate download from the following link: http://www.libreoffice.org/download/.
Change logs are available at http://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Releases/3.5.4/RC1 and http://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Releases/3.5.4/RC2.
The worldwide LibreOffice Conference will take place in Berlin, Germany, from October 17th to 19th, 2012. Details on the program and a call for papers will be available soon at http://conference.libreoffice.org.
05-31-2012, 05:39 AM
^The LibreOffice applications definitely open quicker (and I'm not using the QuickStarter utility)