Hands-on with the Ubuntu Touch Linux smartphone

UbuntuTouch-HPThe early and surprisingly nice version bodes well for Canonical’s Linux smartphone — but you may not want to install it yourself

Developers got their first hands-on peek yesterday of Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch OS for mobile phones, with the release of the first developer beta. So did I.

The good news: Ubuntu Touch is a more compelling mobile environment, even in the first developer version, than I expected. It borrows heavily from other mobile UIs, including BlackBerry 10, the iPad, Android, WebOS, and Windows Phone, yet manages to feel like its own OS. It’s much too soon to rate, but the OS is promising, for reasons I explain shortly.

The bad news for eager users: This is a “don’t try this at home” release, which the formal instructions do not strongly clue you in on. And you can install it on only a handful of Google devices, including the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Nexus 4 smartphone, and Nexus 7 tablet, and doing so wipes out the Android OS on them. You need to first unlock the bootloader on the Android device (easily done), run the installer from an Ubuntu Linux PC or a VM running that OS, then go to the Terminal and issue the various Linux commands to download and install the system image. That’s not so hard, but you need to make sure the Android device doesn’t fall asleep during the install — the install aborts if it does.

After the install is done, you get an opening screen that shows you how many tweets or other social media updates you got. You’ll be tempted to tap that indicator to open the relevant app, but nothing happens if you do. No amount of swiping on the main screen does anything, either. The trick — and it’s not intuitive — is to swipe from the left edge of the screen to open a scrolling list of app icons. Tap one to jump to it. Now you’re in.

Once you have an app running, you can navigate the device by swiping iPad- or WebOS- or BlackBerry-style horizontally to page through the open apps. A tray of icons appears briefly at the bottom of the screen as well, with icons for the Apps screen, the Home screen, the Music app, the People app (very much like Windows Phone’s same-named app, which lets you see the latest posts from all your contacts), and the Video app. That tray disappears too quickly, and the only way to get it back is to swipe horizontally on the screen as if you were paging to the next app.

A few icons reside at the top of the screen for search, email, sound, Wi-Fi, device (battery status and screen brightness), and date/time. As with Android, you swipe down from them to open a tray with relevant options, such as a list of available Wi-Fi networks to connect to. The icons are small and closely spaced, so it’s easy to open a different tray than expected. The Search feature didn’t seem to be working yet — I couldn’t open it, anyhow. And the network connection came and went.

If you tap the toolbar, rather than drag down from an icon, you get the Devices tray that has a bunch of settings such as Airplane Mode and volume control as well as quick access to the other trays.

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Linux Foundation Welcomes Members From Android, Embedded and Cloud Communities

Six New Members to Contribute to Advancement of Linux

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwire – Feb 19, 2013) – The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux, today announced that BORQS, Denx, Gazzang, Genymobile, Mandriva and Seneca College are joining the organization.

Linux and collaborative development have become pervasive in the mobile and enterprise computing markets. There are more than 1.3 million Linux-based Android devices activated every day, and a global ecosystem of companies is investing more than ever in Linux and embedded Linux to support the growth of Android. Many of The Linux Foundation members focused in this area will attend and participate this week at the Android Builders Summit (http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/android-builders-summit) and Embedded Linux Conference (http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/embedded-linux-conference) in San Francisco.

Linux is also providing both the foundation for the cloud and a blueprint for collaborative development that will enable an open cloud. In a recent survey conducted by IDC, 94 percent of IT users said that collaboration and a vibrant open source ecosystem are important for cloud adoption. Two of today’s new members — Gazzang and Mandriva — are joining The Linux Foundation to maximize their investments and contributions in this area.

Seneca College also joins today as an education affiliate.

More information about today’s newest Linux Foundation members:

BORQS is a leader in Android-based services and software and is one of the early members of Open Handset Alliance (OHA). It works with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to provide a complete platform solution that can be launched across Global Carrier networks, with chipset providers to build a reference platform and with carriers to create custom, Android-based solutions supported by BORQS powered cloud-based back-end platform. BORQS has offices in Beijing, Bangalore, Wuhan and Shenzhen. It will participate in the Code Aurora Forum, among other activities at The Linux Foundation.

“The Linux Foundation hosts important collaboration in the Android and embedded development space, and we’re interested in being a part of that work,” said Hareesh Ramanna, VP Engineering, BORQS. “We’re looking forward to working with other Code Aurora Forum members and increasing innovation in the area of Android development.”

Denx is a software engineering firm specializing in the area of embedded and real-time systems built with Linux and open source software. The company offers a powerful Embedded Linux Development Kit including seamless integration of the Xenomai real-time framework capable of emulating proprietary RTOS. Its co-founder, Wolfgang Denk, is a long-time contributor to the Linux and open source communities and one of the creators of U-Boot.

“Linux is driving innovation in the industrial and embedded development space, and efforts like Yocto Project are helping to share the tedious common tasks and free resources for the exciting and differentiating parts in a product,” said Detlev Zundel, Managing Director, Denx. “We know that by joining The Linux Foundation, we’re maximizing our investments in Linux and open source development for our business and that can benefit the community and our customers.”

Gazzang provides Linux data security solutions and operational diagnostics that help enterprises protect sensitive information and maintain performance in big data and cloud environments. The company’s solutions secure big data on any application or database that runs on Linux and provides high-performance monitoring, alerting and analysis of cloud environments.

“Linux supports the biggest enterprise environments with the most advanced technical requirements. Our focus is on helping these enterprises achieve regulatory compliance and protect sensitive customer information by encrypting and securing their sensitive data. A secure Linux environment is vital to enterprise adoption of big data and the cloud,” said Dustin Kirkland, chief technology officer at Gazzang.

Genymobile is the world-leading company behind professional solutions such as custom Android distributions and Android virtualization and provisioning tools. Founded in 2011 and headquartered in France, it also develops and maintains applications for Android-based systems.

“The Linux Foundation offers a variety of collaboration opportunities that will help us advance our work on Android,” said Cedric Ravalec, CEO, Genymobile. “We are looking forward to attending Android Builders Summit as silver partner and contributing to workgroups such as Code Aurora Forum.”

Mandriva is a Linux distribution originally launched in 1998. Today it offers a variety of products ranging from Mandriva Business Server to Pulse2 and CloudPulse. With a renewed focus on the enterprise user, Mandriva is poised to address new requirements for cloud and big data.

“The Linux Foundation works with the world’s largest enterprise Linux users to understand their technical requirements, and we’re looking forward to participating in those discussions and contributing to the community,” said Charles-H. Schulz, open source relations manager & marketing director, Mandriva S.A.

Seneca College is joining as The Linux Foundation’s fourth educational affiliate and first Canadian postsecondary institution. Based in Toronto, Canada, Seneca College is a world leader in open source software education and applied research.

“Linux is at the heart of several applied research projects in our Centre for Development of Open Technology, including our work on Linux on ARM computers,” said Chris Tyler, Industrial Research Chair, Open Source Technology for Emerging Platforms at Seneca College. “Our affiliation with The Linux Foundation reinforces our commitment to the advancement of this technology and to keeping our students at the forefront of software development.”

“We are inspired by these new commitments to Linux and The Linux Foundation,” said Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer services at The Linux Foundation. “It is the ongoing support of our members that helps to advance, promote and protect Linux and support collaborative development.”

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5 things about FOSS Linux virtualization you may not know

In January I attended the 10th annual Southern California Linux Expo. In addition to speaking and running the Ubuntu booth, I had an opportunity to talk to other sysadmins about everything from selection of distribution to the latest in configuration management tools and virtualization technology.

I ended up in a conversation with a fellow sysadmin who was using a proprietary virtualization technology on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Not only did he have surprising misconceptions about the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) virtualization tools available, he assumed that some of the features he was paying extra for (or not, as the case may be) wouldn’t be in the FOSS versions of the software available.

Here are five features that you might be surprised to find included in the space of FOSS virtualization tools:

1. Data replication with verification for storage in server clusters

When you consider storage for a cluster there are several things to keep in mind:

Storage is part of your cluster too, you want it to be redundant
For immediate failover, you need replication between your storage devices
For data integrity, you want a verification mechanism to confirm the replication is working

Regardless of what you use for storage (a single hard drive, a RAID array, or an iSCSI device), the open source DRBD (Distributed Replicated Block Device) offers quick replication over a network backplane and verification tools you can run at regular intervals to ensure deta integrity.

Looking to the future, the FOSS distributed object store and file system Ceph is showing great promise for more extensive data replication.

2. Automatic failover in cluster configurations

Whether you’re using KVM Kernel-based Virtual Machine or Xen, automatic failover can be handled via a couple of closely integrated FOSS tools, Pacemaker and Corosync. At the core, Pacemaker handles core configuration of the resources themselves and Corosync handles quorum and “aliveness” checks of the hosts and resources and logic to manage moving Virtual Machines.

3. Graphical interface for administration

While development of graphical interfaces for administration is an active area, many of the basic tasks (and increasingly, more complicated ones) can be made available through the Virtual Machine Manager application. This manager uses the libvirt toolkit, which can also be used to build custom interfaces for management.

The KVM website has a list of other management tools, ranging from command-line (CLI) to Web-based: www.linux-kvm.org/page/Management_Tools

As does the Xen wiki: wiki.xen.org/wiki/Xen_Management_Tools

4. Live migrations to other hosts

In virtualized environments it’s common to reboot a virtual machine to move it from one host to another, but when shared storage is used it is also possible to do live migrations on KVM and Xen. During these live migrations, the virtual machine retains state as it moves between the physical machines. Since there is no reboot, connections stay intact and sessions and services continue to run with only a short blip of unavailability during the switch over.

Documentation for KVM, including hardware and software requirements for such support, can be found here: www.linux-kvm.org/page/Migration

5. Over-allocating shared hardware

KVM has the option to take full advantage of hardware resources by over-allocating both RAM (with adequate swap space available) and CPU. Details about over-allocation and key warnings can be found here: Overcommitting with KVM.

Conclusion

Data replication with verification for storage, automatic failover, graphical interface for administration, live migrations and over-allocating shared hardware are currently available with the FOSS virtualization tools included in many modern Linux distributions. As with all moves to a more virtualized environment, deployments require diligent testing procedures and configuration but there are many on-line resources available and the friendly folks at LinuxForce to help.

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