Tag Archives: Featured

Free Up Some Space With Ubuntu Cleaner

ubuntu cleanerSay hello to Ubuntu Cleaner, a system utility designed to clean browser caches, removed unneeded apps, and get shot of old kernels. It might just be your new best friend! At its core Ubuntu Cleaner is a user-friendly alternative to BleachBit. Back in the summer we showed you 5 simple ways to free up space on Ubuntu. In that […]

This post, Free Up Some Space With Ubuntu Cleaner, was written by Joey-Elijah Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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This $90 Kit Converts an ODROID board into a Touchscreen Ubuntu PC

odroid-touchscreen-kitWe’ve seen what the Raspberry Pi can do when you throw in some extra hardware, and we recently heard about what the Pine64 is going to do once it’s inside a laptop casing. But what about that other popular single-board PC , the ‘ODROID‘, created by open-source hardware company HardKernel? Well the answer is here, and it has a […]

This post, This $90 Kit Converts an ODROID board into a Touchscreen Ubuntu PC, was written by Joey-Elijah Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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Nemo 3.2.0 With Unity Patches And Without Cinnamon Dependencies Available In New PPA For Ubuntu 16.04 And 16.10

Nemo 3.2.0 with Unity patches and without Cinnamon dependencies is available for Ubuntu 16.04 and 16.10. To make it easy to go back to Nemo 2.8.0 for Ubuntu 16.04 users in case something doesn’t work properly (because there were quite a few under the hood changes in Nemo), I decided to upload the latest Nemo 3.2.0 to a new PPA.

 

Nemo 3.2.0 Unity

For those not familiar with Nemo, this is the default Cinnamon file manager, forked from the old Nautilus 3.4. Nemo features include:
  • dual pane (can be enabled from the View menu or using the F3 key)
  • unified, configurable toolbar (you can show or hide the up, next, home, open in terminal, new folder, search button and more);
  • built-in actions, scripts and extensions manager;
  • treeview sidebar option;
  • re-worked statusbar with zoom controls, free space info, as well as options to toggle displaying the places sidebar, treeview or completely hide the sidebar;
  • the main toolbar, menubar, and statusbar can be hidden;
  • built-in “Open as root” and “Open in terminal” context menu items;
  • “Set as Wallpaper” context menu for images;
  • sidebar: indicators under each drive, displaying the free/used space;
  • improved the Open With dialog;
  • option to resize individual desktop icons;
  • much more.

 

Nemo 3.2.0 with two panes and plugin manager

Nemo has received quite a few improvements since version 2.8.x (which is available in the WebUpd8 Nemo PPA), such as:

  • option to choose on which monitor to show the desktop folder (icons). This can be changed via Dconf Editor (org > nemo > desktop > desktop-layout), and can be set to show desktop icons on primary monitor, on remaining monitors, or on all monitors (default is primary only).
  • fixed wrong desktop size with GTK 3.20;
  • re-enabled desktop type-to-select feature;
  • option to double-click empty area to go to parent directory (can be enabled in the Nemo Preferences, under Behavior);
  • only append .desktop to desktop files when they actually need it. Trusted desktop files (ones that typically get made and placed on the desktop) don’t show their extension, so when you try to rename them, the new name needs .desktop appended to it;
  • many other improvements and bug fixes.

For a complete Nemo changelog, see THIS page.

This PPA provides Nemo without Cinnamon dependencies (well, one is needed for translations: cinnamon-l10n, and is provided by the PPA) and with Unity patches, such as Unity Launcher quicklists and progress bar support, GNOME / Unity Control Center support, patch to draw the desktop background (wallpaper), and various other minor tweaks / fixes for Unity.
While Nemo from this PPA is patched for Unity, it should work with other desktop environments as well, like GNOME (Shell) or Xfce, although I didn’t test it.
Note that for Ubuntu 16.10, I disabled the “Recent” sidebar item, because it doesn’t work. It does work, and is enabled by default, in Ubuntu 16.04.

 

Install Nemo with Unity patches and without Cinnamon dependencies in Ubuntu 16.10 or 16.04

 

Important: do not use this PPA if you use Linux Mint or if you use the Cinnamon desktop in Ubuntu! Also, if you’ve added any Cinnamon PPAs, you’ll have to purge them before using this Nemo PPA.
To add the Nemo 3 PPA (new PPA; the old WebUpd8 Nemo PPA still has Nemo 2.8.x!) and install Nemo with Unity patches and without Cinnamon dependencies, use the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/nemo3
sudo apt update
sudo apt install nemo

 

To install Nemo extensions, you can either search for “nemo” in Synaptic, or install them via command line – you can find the available extensions HERE.

 

Optional: set Nemo as the default file manager

 

To set Nemo as the default file manager (including setting Nemo to manage the desktop), use the following commands:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

(the first command above disables Nautilus from handling the desktop, and the second command sets Nemo as the default app to open directories)

Then restart the session (logout/login) and you’re done!

How to revert the changes

To revert the changes, use Nautilus to draw the desktop instead of Nemo:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true

And set Nautilus back as the default file manager:

xdg-mime default nautilus.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

To remove the PPA and all the Nemo packages (including the Nemo extensions), use:

sudo apt remove nemo nemo-*
sudo rm /etc/apt/sources.list.d/webupd8team-nemo-*.list

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Things To Do After Installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus)

Ubuntu 16.04 will be available for download in a few hours and since many of you will be installing it as soon as it’s released, here are some useful things you can do right after the installation.

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

Get some Ubuntu AppIndicators

Every Unity user needs some AppIndicators – the tiny icons that sit on the top panel, next to the clock. Below you’ll find 3 such AppIndicators, two which add some missing functionality to the desktop and one for some eyecandy.

1. My Weather Indicator

My Weather Indicator Ubuntu

Probably my favorite indicator, “My Weather Indicator” displays the current weather on the Unity panel. From the Indicator menu, you can see a weather forecast and more. The application even supports adding desktop weather widgets.
To install it in Ubuntu 16.04, you’ll need to use a PPA. Add the PPA and install My Weather Indicator using the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
sudo apt update
sudo apt install my-weather-indicator

2. Caffeine

Caffeine Indicator Ubuntu

Caffeine is a tool used to temporarily prevent the activation of the screensaver / lock screen / sleep mode, when using full-screen windows. The application is useful if you’re using a video player that doesn’t do this automatically, when listening to music, etc.
To install it in Ubuntu 16.04, click the button below:

Download for Ubuntu

Or install it from the command line, using:

sudo apt install caffeine
Note: After the installation, the command-line version of Caffeine is set to start automatically on login. If you want the indicator to start automatically, you’ll have to add “caffeine-indicator” to your startup applications.

3. Variety

Variety Wallpaper Changer indicator

Spice up your desktop with Variety wallpaper changer! Variety is not just an indicator, but a whole app however, you don’t really need to open the app to use it – simply configure it once, and then you can use the AppIndicator menu to change the wallpaper.
Tip: you can scroll up/down on the Variety indicator to change to the previous / next wallpaper.
To install Variety wallpaper changer in Ubuntu 16.04, you can click the button below:

Download for Ubuntu

Or, to install it from the command line, use:

sudo apt install variety
There are many other AppIndicators that you might find useful, like one that shows the system load (like System Load Indicator or Syspeek), an indicator that displays the CPU temperature (like Psensor) and even a simple todo list indicator.
You can browse our AppIndicator tag for more Ubuntu AppIndicators.

Tweak Unity

Some Unity options are available in System Settings, some in CompizConfig Settings Manager while others are only available via Dconf Editor (or from gsettings / the command line). To avoid having to switch between so many applications to find the settings you want to change, you can use Unity Tweak Tool.
Unity Tweak Tool
Unity Tweak Tool supports new Unity features like moving the Launcher to the bottom, as well as pretty much everything else you can change about Unity.
The application can be used to set the Launcher on autohide, change Unity Launcher size, set hot corners, change the number of workspaces, enable or disable minimize to click on Unity Launcher, change the GTK and icon theme, can be used to configure the desktop fonts and much more.

Unity Tweak Tool

To install Unity Tweak Tool, you can click on the button below:

Download for Ubuntu

Or install it from the command line, by using:

sudo apt install unity-tweak-tool

Install codecs, Java, and encrypted DVD playback

1. To be able to play most audio and video formats, install Ubuntu Restricted Extras by clicking the button below:
Download for Ubuntu

Or install it using the following command:

sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extras

2. I suggest to also install the unrestricted version of libavcodec so you don’t encounter issues with missing codecs when trying to use some video editors or transcoders – install them by clicking the button below:
Download for Ubuntu

Or by using the following command:

sudo apt install libavcodec-extra

3. You may also need Java, but you must figure out what you need. Most users will only need OpenJRE and the Java browser plugin which you can install by clicking the button below:

Download for Ubuntu

Or by using the following command:

sudo apt install icedtea-8-plugin openjdk-8-jre

For development, you’ll also want OpenJDK which you can install by using the button below:

Download for Ubuntu

Or by using the following command:

sudo apt install openjdk-8-jdk

If for various reasons, you need Oracle Java (the package includes JDK, JRE and the browser plugin), you can install Oracle Java 8 from the WebUpd8 Oracle Java PPA, by using the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
sudo apt update
sudo apt install oracle-java8-installer
4. Encrypted DVD playback can be enabled by installing the “libdvd-pkg” package.

I recommend installing this package from the command line, as it’s an installer that automatically downloads and installs libdvdcss2, and you may want to see if something goes wrong. To install it, use the following command:

sudo apt install libdvd-pkg

Setup Cloud Sync (Dropbox or Google Drive), Skype, Telegram Desktop and Facebook Chat in Pidgin

1. Dropbox

Dropbox Ubuntu

Dropbox, one of the most popular tools for storing and synchronizing files in the could, is available in the Ubuntu repositories. If you use Ubuntu with Unity and Nautilus, you can install nautilus-dropbox, either by clicking the button below:
Download for Ubuntu

Or from the command line:

sudo apt install nautilus-dropbox

Then simply launch Dropbox from Unity Dash and follow the instructions.

2. Google Drive

If you prefer Google Driver over Dropbox, there are multiple ways of using it in Ubuntu 16.04.
There’s no native Google Drive client for Linux, but the there is a native application that’s as close to it as it gets: Insync.
Insync is not free though, but there’s a 15-day trial. Check it out @ insynchq.com.

Google Drive Nautilus

Another way of accessing your Google Drive files in Ubuntu 16.04 is by using the new GNOME 3.18 feature that allows integrating Google Drive with Nautilus (Files) – or whatever file manager you’re using -, via GNOME Online accounts. Check out our article about setting this up, HERE.

3. Skype

Like Dropbox, Skype can installed from the official Ubuntu repositories however, you’ll firstly need to enable the Canonical Partners repository.
Skype Ubuntu

To enable the Canonical Partners repository, open System Settings > Software & Updates and on the “Other Software” tab, click the box next to “Canonical Partners”:
Ubuntu Canonical Partners repository

… and make sure you click “Reload” when asked about reloading the information about available software.

Then, you can click the button below to install Skype:

Download for Ubuntu

Or, to install it from the command line, use:

sudo apt install skype

While we’re at it, let’s also fix Skype on 64bit not using the correct theme, by installing the missing dependencies using the following command:
sudo apt install gtk2-engines-murrine:i386 gtk2-engines-pixbuf:i386

4. Telegram

Telegram is another popular messaging tool that’s available for Ubuntu.

Telegram Desktop Ubuntu

The official Linux Telegram desktop app is available to download on its website (but it’s not offered as .deb). You can also a PPA to install the latest Telegram Desktop app in Ubuntu.

Add the PPA and install Telegram using the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/telegram
sudo apt update
sudo apt install telegram

You may also need: Telegram plugin for Pidgin

5. Add Facebook Chat to Pidgin

Facebook shut down their XMPP service in 2015 and because of this, Pidgin/libpurple no longer supports Facebook Chat. For those of you who want to use Facebook Chat in Pidgin, there’s a new plugin which makes this possible, called purple-facebook.
Facebook Chat Pidgin

The plugin has its own Ubuntu repository, but it wasn’t updated to work with the latest Ubuntu 16.04. Until the repository is updated, you can download the deb files from here:

The deb files are for Ubuntu 15.10 but they should work with Pidgin in Ubuntu 16.04.

Once installed, add a new account in Pidgin (Accounts > Manage Accounts > Add) and in the Protocol dropdown, select “Facebook” (important: NOT “Facebook (XMPP)”). In the username field you can enter either your email, your Facebook username or phone number associated with your Facebook account.

Install GDebi GTK and Synaptic

GNOME Software (which is called “Ubuntu Software” in the final Ubuntu 16.04 release) is nice, but it doesn’t display command line tools. And that’s ok if you know the name of the tool you want to install, because you can simply open a terminal and type “sudo apt install APP-NAME”, but if you don’t know the exact app name, you’re out of luck.

Furthermore, the application has two pretty important bugs:

  • right now it can’t install deb files – bug HERE;
  • if you remove an application with GNOME Software, its dependencies are not removed- bug HERE.
Synaptic Package Manager

That’s why I recommend the good old Synaptic Package Manager (and GDebi for installing deb files – see below), which you can install by clicking on the button below:
Download for Ubuntu

Or by using the following command:

sudo apt install synaptic

To install deb files, you can use GDebi GTK, which displays details information about the packages, including their dependency, deb contents and so on.
Gdebi GTK

To install GDebi GTK in Ubuntu 16.04, you can click the following button:

Download for Ubuntu

Or install it from the command line:

sudo apt install gdebi

Then, to open a deb with GDebi, right click it and select Open With > GDebi Package Installer.
To open / install deb files with GDebi GTK by default, right click a .deb file, select Properties and on the “Open With” tab, select “GDebi Package Installer” and click the “Set as default” button.

Enable working PPAs from previous Ubuntu releases

When upgrading to a new Ubuntu version, all PPAs are disabled. Y PPA manager comes with a feature, called “Re-enable working PPAs after Ubuntu upgrade”, which re-enables all those disabled PPAs, but only if they are working for the current Ubuntu version.
Y PPA Manager

For those who upgrade in other ways or want to migrate PPAs, Y PPA Manager provides another feature, called “Update release name in working PPAs”, which lets you replace the Ubuntu version used in the PPA .list file with your current Ubuntu version, but only if the PPA supports your current Ubuntu version.
To use these, along with other PPA-related features, like searching for packages in Launchpad PPAs, you’ll need Y PPA Manager, which you can install by using the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/y-ppa-manager
sudo apt update
sudo apt install y-ppa-manager

[Dev tool] Install Ubuntu Make

Ubuntu Make is an official Ubuntu command line tool created for developers, to make it easy to install the latest version of various IDEs, like IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, Android Studio, etc., as well as other developer tools.
Ubuntu Make

Even tough Ubuntu Make is available in the official repositories, it’s recommended to use its PPA so you always have the latest release. To add the PPA and install Ubuntu Make, use the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-desktop/ubuntu-make
sudo apt update
sudo apt install ubuntu-make

Then run “umake –help” in a terminal to see all the available options.

More

A few other things I personally do after each fresh Ubuntu installation:

You can discover new and interesting software in Ubuntu 16.04 by using the new Software app. For any questions regarding Ubuntu, you can use AskUbuntu.
WebUpd8 is also a source of new and updated applications and tweaks for Ubuntu, so you may want to subscribe to get all the new articles (via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+).
What do you install and tweak after a new Ubuntu installation?

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GNOME 3.16 Released With New Notification System, Updated Visuals [Video, Screenshots]

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 was released today and it includes some important changes, like a new notification system, updated visuals, 3 new preview applications and much more. Read on to find out what’s new!

GNOME 3.16 video

Below you can watch a video which presents some of the changes in the latest GNOME 3.16:

(direct video link; for more videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel)
Note that I used VirtualBox for the video, that’s why you might notice some lag at times. Also, Maps is not present in the video because it crashes in VirtualBox.

Changes in GNOME 3.16

GNOME 3.16 brings a long-awaited change: a new notification system, which has replaced the old Message Tray. The notification history can now be accessed from the date/time menu (Top Bar):

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

Furthermore, the date/time menu was redesigned and besides displaying the notifications history, the calendar can now also show world times, as you can see in the screenshot above.
Since the notification history is now displayed at the top, the notification popups (called “banners”) were also moved and are now displayed at the top of the screen:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

As for legacy “tray” icons, they can still be accessed in GNOME 3.16 and they are displayed in a “drawer” that uses autohide in the bottom left corner of the screen:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

To see the new legacy tray in action, see the video above.

Also, the new notifications, the media player controls were removed but they may be reintroduced with GNOME 3.18.
Another important change in GNOME 3.16 is related to the visuals: the Activities Overview, login/lock screen, system menus and others have received an updated design (including monochrome icons for the applications menu):

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots
With GNOME 3.16, the scrollbars were tweaked and instead of being displayed all the time, like in the previous GNOME versions, the new GNOME 3.16 scrollbars are displayed only when needed:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

The latest GTK+ 3.16 has received quite a few improvements, such as:

  • OpenGL support;
  • GTK+ now includes a display system backend for the Mir display server;
  • themes can now simultaneously support multiple GTK+ versions, by including version-specific CSS;
  • a new widget called GtkPopoverMenu was added and it can be used for creating menus contained with popovers;
  • many GTK+ Inspector changes including a much improved user interface.

Other changes include:

  • the initial setup assistant now includes a section on privacy controls;
  • updated high contrast accessible theme;
  • search has been added to the standard file chooser dialog;
  • Wayland improvements, such as support for input configuration and pointer barries – with these changes, the Wayland port is “approaching its final stages”;
  • many other minor improvements and tweaks.

GNOME applications

With this release, GNOME’s Image Viewer has been redesigned and it now uses header bars (client-side decorations):

GNOME 3.16 screenshots
Files (Nautilus) 3.16 comes with bigger icons/thumbnails by default, reorganized menus, improved grid and list views as well as a new popover for changing between views, zoom level and sort order:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

Also, with the latest Files app, users can now move files and folders to the trash using the Delete key instead of Ctrl + Delete, like in previous versions (in Ubuntu for instance, Nautilus was patched to allow this in previous versions). To accompany this change, a new, easy to discover undo feature was added:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots
Another application that has received special attention for this release is Maps, which can now display information bubbles which can display the address, wheelchair accessibility along with links to Wikipedia articles. Also, the latest GNOME Maps comes with built-in Foursquare support, which allows you to check-in (to be able to use it, you must add your Foursquare account to Online Accounts).

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

Other changes in Maps include:
  • contact search: if contacts have address information associated with them, you can search for them directly from Maps
  • improved state handling: Maps now gracefully responds when there is no network connection, or when location services are turned off
  • route drag and drop: it is now possible to adjust routes by dragging them on the map

Changes in other GNOME apps:
  • Calculator now displays previous calculations so you can easily copy previous figures;
  • Boxes comes with an updated properties interface, a new menu makes it possible to send keyboard shortcuts that cannot be entered directly into a box and more;
  • smart playlists have been added to Music, so you can view frequently played and recently added tracks. It is now also possible to star your favorite tracks;
  • Photos and Music have received performance improvements;
  • improved GNOME Document Viewer sidebar;
  • in Contacts, maps are now shown for contact addresses;
  • automatic codecs installation has been integrated into Software;
  • two new games were added: a sliding blocks game called Taquin and 2048.
With GNOME 3.16, there are three new preview applications: Calendar (which already comes with Google Calendar sync), Characters (character map application) and Books (e-book viewer):

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

Furthermore, as a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign, a new IDE for GNOME, called “Builder”, is now available as an early preview, and it already features split view, snippets, auto-indentation and a VIM engine but many more features should be added in the future, like project management, debugging, version tracking, Glade integration and others:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

And finally, this GNOME release includes a new application, called MultiWriter, which can be used for writing image files to multiple USB devices:

GNOME 3.16 screenshots

Getting GNOME 3.16

GNOME 3.16 should be available by default in Fedora 22 (currently in alpha) and the next openSUSE release (scheduled for 2015).
Arch Linux users can find the latest GNOME 3.16 in the GNOME unstable repository.
Ubuntu (GNOME) 15.04, which will be released next month, won’t include GNOME 3.16 but GNOME 3.14. However, GNOME 3.16 will probably be available with Ubuntu 15.10. The GNOME 3 Staging PPA is in the process of being updated to GNOME 3.16 for Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet, but it’s nowhere near ready yet.
GNOME 3.16 isn’t yet available in Debian, with 3.14 being available in both jessie (testing) and sid (unstable).
If you want to try GNOME 3.16, you can do it already by using the official GNOME promo ISO (based on openSUSE):

 info and the Maps and MultiWriter screenshots via GNOME release notes

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Ubuntu Phone Review (BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition): Great OS, Average Hardware

After years of development, the first Ubuntu phone is finally here (Europe only) and while the hardware is average at best, the OS is a breath of fresh air, bringing innovations like scopes and “magic edges”, designed not just to be different, but in many ways, better than the current trends.

Ubuntu Phone BQ

Before proceeding, note that the phone targets early adopters and if you just want WhatsApp or Skype, Ubuntu phone isn’t for you just yet, as these services aren’t yet available.

Hardware

Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition is the first Ubuntu phone and it was made in partnership with BQ, a Spanish producer of smartphones, tablets, electronic readers, and 3d printers.
Ubuntu Phone BQ

Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition specs:

  • Screen: 4.5”, 540×960 resolution
  • Dimensions: 137 x 67 x 9 mm / 123 g weight
  • CPU: Quad Core Cortex A7 up to 1.3 GHz MediaTek
  • GPU: Mali 400 up to 500 MHz
  • Camera: 8 Mpx rear interpolated (Dual-flash and autofocus), 5 Mpx front
  • Internal memory: 8 GB
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Battery: LiPo 2150 mAh
  • Dual micro-SIM
  • MicroSD slot, up to 32 GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth® 4.0
  • 2G GSM (850/900/1800/1900)
  • 3G HSPA+ (900/2100)
  • GPS and A-GPS
  • LED notification, Dolby® sound technology, FM radio, microphone, noise canceller

Hardware-wise, the phone doesn’t come with anything special: from the plastic case and average screen (4.5” 540×960 resolution) to the CPU (1.3 GHz MediaTek Quad Core Cortex A7), internal memory (8 GB) and battery (2150 mAh), everything’s basically unremarkable however, at €169.90, it’s a pretty good deal.
For someone who cares more about the OS / Ubuntu, like me, the mid-range hardware is not a deal-breaker, not even close, but what does frustrate me hardware-related is the camera: the pictures are decent but could be better and furthermore, pictures taken with the flash are too bright and basically unusable (here’s an example), which is kind of a major inconvenience. And that’s a bit weird, considering the phone has an 8 Mpx rear interpolated (Dual-flash and autofocus) camera, so I’m not sure if this is hardware or software-related.
Ubuntu Phone BQ

The plastic case and the ~2cm bezel underneath the display (Aquaris E4.5 was initially an Android phone and this space served for Android’s home/back buttons) are more reasons why the phone itself is a bit disappointing. But Canonical had to start somewhere and while not perfect, Aquaris E4.5 is a decent phone overall – it doesn’t lag, comes with dual sim, the speakers are good and it’s the perfect size, at least for me.

Scopes

Ubuntu Phone BQ

What makes the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition special is of course the OS, which can run HTML5 web apps as well as native QML apps.
You’ll find apps in any mobile OS but Canonical also implemented scopes, an innovative (and this is to be appreciated, because innovations nowadays are Android copying iOS, iOS copying Windows Phone and so on – well, more or less anyway) feature thanks to which the content from multiple sources can be displayed in one place – you basically have the content that interests you in one place, when you need it.
Ubuntu Phone

For instance, the main screen consists of Today’s scope which includes the date with the sunrise and sunset information, weather, upcoming holidays, upcoming events, recent calls, messages, headlines from various sources and more. Each of these can be enabled or disabled, so Today’s scope will only display the information you need, which is pretty cool.
The same goes for other scopes – for instance, the Music scope includes sources such as 7digital, Grooveshark, SoundCloud, YouTube and Songkick, but if you only use YouTube, you can disable the others. Or, you can completely disable the Music scope if you don’t plan on using it.
I must confess that the scopes are actually my favorite Ubuntu Phone feature, even though I wasn’t a fan of it on the desktop, at first because it was slow and then because some pretty important sources like YouTube were missing. But that’s not the case with the phone and on top of that, the scopes are actually more customizable on the phone than on the desktop.

Apps

Ubuntu Phone BQ

While the phone is scope-centric, it does run apps as well and by default, it ships with native browser, music, camera, gallery, media player, calculator (along with phone/messaging/contacts apps of course) apps and so on, with more available via Ubuntu Store (which can be used to install both scopes and apps):

For services like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Google Maps, Ubuntu Phone uses web apps, which even though integrate with the OS, are not as nice as the official applications for Android or iOS (for instance, in my opinion, the Facebook mobile website is not exactly pretty).
Ubuntu Phone

Of course, the apps are as beautiful and featureful as those services’ mobile website and until Facebook, Google, etc. build their own applications for Ubuntu Phone, that’s not going to change. That’s why I’m not a big fan of web apps and while I understand their utility, I really hope they will be replaced by real apps at some point.
Unfortunately, there are also some services that are missing from the Ubuntu Store, like Whatsapp (but Telegram, a nice alternative to Whatsapp, is available), Skype, Instagram (there is an Instagram scope that displays the Instagram feed though) and that’s going to be a major downside for some, but then again, right now, Ubuntu Phone isn’t targeted at the masses, but at early adopters / Ubuntu enthusiasts and I don’t know about you, but I can live without them (well, I don’t have Whatsapp, Skype and Instagram installed on my Android phone either). For now.

”Magic edges”

Ubuntu Phone BQ

Unlike other mobile OSes, Ubuntu Phone doesn’t make use of any hardware buttons and instead, it uses all four screen edges for navigation, app switching, settings and indicators, this being yet another feature which feels natural and most importantly, very useful.
Ubuntu Phone

Using the left Ubuntu desktop-like launcher, you can easily launch your favorite applications, pin and unpin apps and see what’s running. With a swipe to the right, you can see a preview of all running apps, switch or close them:

Ubuntu Phone

The bottom edge holds the settings: when you’re in the the scopes for instance, a swipe from the bottom allows configuring which scopes to display, or in Contacts, swipe to add a new contact.
Ubuntu Phone

Quick access indicators are at the top and if you don’t fully open the drawer, you can navigate between the Time & Date, Battery, Sound, Network, Notifications and so on, with a left or right swipe, this being yet another feature which I really like and if I were to guess, I’d say we’re likely to see it in other mobile operating systems at some point.

Conclusions and how to get your own Ubuntu Phone

There’s much more to say about this very first Ubuntu phone and especially about the OS, like click packages and the fast, secure transactional updates, the cool default browser and other default apps and so on, but I don’t want to bore you with all the details.
Overall, Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition is a decent phone with a very interesting and innovative OS which I really hope will succeed. Not with this device of course, it’s too rough and not for the average consumer, but the potential is there and while it’s risky, in a market dominated by giants like Apple and Google, if Canonical does everything right, this could be the beginning of something big.
To get a better idea on what I’m talking about in this article, I’ve recorded a video showing some of the phone’s features:

(direct video link; for more videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel)

Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be available in the coming days on BQ.com, through a series of “flash sales” and it will cost 169.90 Euros (~ $193 / £127). The exact date, time and URL of the flash sales will be announced on the Ubuntu and BQ Twitter accounts as well as the Ubuntu Facebook and Google+ pages starting this week, so keep an eye on them if you want to be among the first to get an Ubuntu phone.

Update: the first flash sale was announced:

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Ubuntu 14.10 Available For Download

Ubuntu 14.10 is now available for download. This release doesn’t ship with any new Unity features and it includes mostly bug fixes. Still, there are some under the hood changes and of course, updated applications.

Unity 7

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

As you probably already know if you’ve been following WebUpd8 or basically any Ubuntu-related blogs, Ubuntu 14.10 ships with almost no noticeable visual changes: there are no new Unity (Unity 7) features, the default applications, even though some were updated, look the same and so on. There’s not even a new default wallpaper.
Even though there are no new Unity features, the default Ubuntu desktop shell did receive various improvements, especially on the HiDPI front: the lockscreen, Dash filters and previews and other bits were updated with proper UI scaling based on current monitor scaling:

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

Also, Unity can now suspend, shutdown, hibernate or start the screensaver when the screen is locked, using the Suspend, Sleep, Hibernate and PowerOff hardware keys.
And of course, Unity also received quite a few bug fixes – see THIS page for a complete changelog.

systemd status in Ubuntu 14.10

Back in February, Mark Shuttleworth announced that Ubuntu will be switching to systemd (a system management daemon for Linux). Mark’s blog article on Ubuntu switching to systemd, called “losing graciously“, denotes that he wasn’t very happy with this, and systemd will made it in Ubuntu mostly because Debian switched to it.
With this release, systemd is available in the repositories and Ubuntu can boot with systemd. However, systemd is not used by default in Ubuntu 14.10 because the transition from upstart is a pretty tedious task: many packages only have upstart jobs and they need to be updated to provide corresponding systemd units. That’s why it’s not yet known when Ubuntu will switch to systemd by default.

Linux Kernel changes

Ubuntu 14.10 uses the Ubuntu Kernel 3.16.0-23, based on the upstream 3.16.4 Linux Kernel. Here are the major changes since Linux Kernel 3.13, which is used in the previous Ubuntu release (14.04):

  • zram is considered stable with Linux 3.14; zram received LZ4 compression support;
  • stable support for Intel Broadwell CPU graphics (3.14);
  • the SCHED_DEADLINE scheduling class was added to the Linux scheduler in version 3.14 of the Linux kernel mainline;
  • faster resume from suspend;
  • EFI mixed mode support: 64-bit kernels can be booted from 32-bit firmware (with Linux 3.15);
  • various Nouveau improvements, including initial NVIDIA Maxwell GPU support, initial GK20A and GK110B GPU support as well as support for allowing to change the frequency of the GPU from the BIOS predefined values for nv40, nvaa, and nve0 clock types;
  • Radeon performance improvements through improved APU power management have been enabled in some APUs;
  • Intel Cherryview graphics support;
  • NVIDIA Tegra PRIME support;
  • Broadwell support for the Intel P-State driver (3.16);
  • various other improvements to audio and sound, btrfs and ext4 improvements, better support for newer laptops and much more.
You can read more about all the important Linux kernel changes here: Linux 3.14 | Linux 3.15 | Linux 3.16

Applications / packages

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) ships with Firefox 33, Thunderbird 31.2.0, LibreOffice 4.3.2, Nautilus 3.10.1, Totem 3.10.1, Gedit 3.10.4, Brasero 3.10.0, Eye of GNOME 3.12.2, Empathy 3.8.6, Rhythmbox 3.0.3, Transmission 2.84 and Shotwell 0.20.1. Also, Ubuntu 14.10 includes Mesa 10.3.0 and Xorg server 1.16.0.
Also, since the final Ubuntu 14.10 beta, GTK was updated from version 3.10 to 3.12 (3.12.2).
Why GTK 3.12 and not the latest 3.14? Well, that’s because GNOME 3.14 was released after Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn had its feature freeze. As for the GNOME applications like Nautilus, Totem and Gedit, they are still at version 3.10 because they need to be patched to properly support Unity and with the work required to get Ubuntu for Phones ready, the developers didn’t have time to update them for this release.

Other changes

Other notable changes in Ubuntu 14.10 include:

  • Improved hybrid graphics support:
    • nvidia-prime and gpu-manager now support GDM (these changes were backported to older Ubuntu versions, but without the GDM patch that allows this);
    • added support for “gpumanager_uxa” and “gpumanager_modesetting” boot parameters, so that there is an option to force NVIDIA Optimus systems (that don’t work well with Intel/SNA) to use either Intel/UXA or modesetting);
    • allow RandR offloading even without bbswitch;
  • Netflix now works without any extra plugins in Ubuntu 14.10 (the changes were backported to Ubuntu 14.04), the only requirement being Google Chrome;
  • Pidgin comes with Unity support thanks to a new Unity integration plugin (can be enabled from the Pidgin Plugins > Unity Integration) – this includes (both are optional) Messaging Menu integration and Unity Launcher unread messages/conversations
  • Applications using client side decorations (header bars) look better under Unity with Ubuntu 14.10, but they are still not fully supported: for instance, CSD applications have no shadow, but at least the header bar looks as it should now and the windows can be resized.
Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots
Client side decoration apps (not installed by default) under Unity in Ubuntu 14.10
Also, with Ubuntu 14.10, an Unity 8 ISO called Ubuntu Desktop Next is available a preview for “the adventurous and curious [who] want to get a preview of what’s coming on their desktops soon“. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Ubuntu Desktop Next 14.10 to work and I’ve tried it on two different computers – there’s a bug with the password but that’s easily fixable as explained on the Ubuntu wiki however, upon logging in, the desktop didn’t load in my test.
If you want to give Ubuntu Desktop Next a try, you can download it from HERE.

Download Ubuntu 14.10

Overall, Ubuntu 14.10 looks (and on a side note, it’s also basically just as stable) pretty much the same as Ubuntu 14.04 LTS so if you only care about that, there’s no reason to upgrade. 
Ubuntu 14.10 is for you only if you want to take advantage of the latest under-the-hood improvements and/or you can’t live without the latest version of your favorite applications (non-GNOME core apps – because most of those are still not the latest version, though some were updated) and you don’t want to use PPAs.
However, keep in mind that Ubuntu 14.10 is only supported for 9 months and after it reaches end of life, you’ll have to upgrade to Ubuntu 15.04.


Download Ubuntu 14.10 (includes the official release notes – make sure you read them before installing -, and download links for all Ubuntu flavors)

Are you using Ubuntu 14.10 already (what’s your experience with it so far?) or do you plan to upgrade?

Also check out our article on the latest Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Lubuntu and Kubuntu 14.10.

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