There’s nothing like a little smack talk to light the fire under certain derrieres. It’s been a few months since Linus Torvalds got verbal about NVIDIA’s support for the semi-eponymous OS, prompting the chip-maker to say “supporting Linux is important to us.” Proving that its word is good, NVIDIA will be releasing programming documentation for its Tegra architecture graphics core. The news comes from a talk given by Lucas Stach of the Nouveau project (who develops free drivers for the NVIDIA platform) at the XDC2012 conference. The focus will initially be on Tegra’s 2D rendering engine, but it’s hopes the 3D will soon follow. So, while Torvalds’ approach might have been a little bit brusque, you can’t fault its effectiveness. Video of the XDC talk after the break.
Admittedly, the headline is designed to get your dander up. You’re in no immediate danger of a technologically-gifted thief plugging a couple of wires into your hotel door and making off with your sack of souvenirs from the Mall of America. But that’s not to say it’s impossible. Cody Brocious, who was recently brought on by Mozilla to work on Boot to Gecko, is giving a presentation at the annual Black Hat conference in Vegas where he demonstrates a method for cracking open keycard locks with a homemade $50 device. The hack only works on locks made by Onity at the moment, and real life testing with a reporter from Forbes only succeeded in opening one of three hotel doors. Still, with between four and five million Onity locks installed across the country (according to the company), that is a lot of vulnerable rooms. The attack is possible thanks to a DC jack on the underside of the lock that’s used to reprogram the doors. This provides direct access to the lock’s memory, which is also home to the numeric key required to release the latch — a key that is protected by what Brocious described as “weak encryption.” Ultimately the source code and design for the Arduino-based unlocker will be published online alongside a research paper explaining how these locks work and why they’re inherently insecure. The hope is that manufacturers will take notice and improve the security of their wares before the world’s ne’er-do-wells perfect Brocious’ technique.
Soon enough, Chrome OS won’t be the only game in town when it comes to tightly integrated web apps running on a Linux core. Today Canonical announced Ubuntu WebApps, a new feature that will be integrated into version 12.10 of the open-source OS, Quantal Queztal. In its simplest form this means being able to place an icon in the launcher and open your favorite sites and services as standalone windows. When you visit a compatible page in the browser an alert pops up asking if you want to “install” it as a WebApp.
So far, most of the engineers’ efforts have focused on Firefox, but Pete Goodall (a product manager at Canonical) said Chrome and Chromium support is also in the works. The really fun starts, though, when devs start playing with the new APIs and Greasemonkey-like extensibility offered. WebApps will be able to access many of Unity’s finer features like progress bars in the launcher, the sound menu and messaging menu as well. So now you can get desktop alerts from Gmail without installing some wonky app or setting up Thunderbird. WebApps can even tap into the HUD, though, it’ll be up to the devs to expose the appropriate actions to the search-as-you-type menu system.
Of course, this is all just the first step. More APIs will eventually expose additional features, and high on that list is hardware access — an essential feature for video and voice chat. Another key plan is integrating web credentials with desktop apps. So, if you log into Facebook in the browser, Shotwell will recognize that and upload imported photos to your profile. The initial list of recognized apps is small, but impressive, including Twitter, Last.FM, GMail, Google+, Facebook and YouTube. And, while the feature is set to debut in October with Quantal, Pangolin devotees will also be able to take advantage simply by adding a repository to their software sources.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds didn’t mince any words with his criticism of NVIDIA earlier this week — calling it, among other things, the “single worst company we’ve ever dealt with.” That unsurprisingly didn’t go unnoticed by NVIDIA, which has today issued a statement that attempts clarify its position on the open source OS.
It leads off by flatly stating that “supporting Linux is important to NVIDIA,” before addressing some of the criticisms that have been leveled at it from Torvalds’ and others. That includes its lack of Linux support for its Optimus laptop graphics, to which NVIDIA points to its support of the Bumblebee open source project, and its decision to not provide detailed documentation on all of its GPU internals — on that, it says that it’s “made a decision to support Linux on our GPUs by leveraging NVIDIA common code, rather than the Linux common infrastructure.”
The company goes on to note that it supports a variety of GPUs on Linux and is an active participant in the ARM Linux kernel, but acknowledges that its position “may not please everyone.” We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that includes Torvalds. Hit the source link below for the full statement.
While you impatiently await the release of Precise Pangolin this Thursday, we’ve got some news to hold your little aubergine-loving heart over. Canonical’s own Mark Shuttleworth took to the web to announce Ubuntu 12.10, codenamed Quantal Quetzal. If you were hoping the Linux distro would take the tongue-twisting titles down a notch with the next release, well, you’re out of luck. We don’t have too many details to share release, but Shuttleworth does say that Unity will continue to be tweaked and improved. A visual overhaul is expected to get underway starting with Quetzal, to work out all the bugs in time for the next LTS release, 14.04. Now all you have to do is wait till October 18th for its proper release. (For the more impatient and daring, the first alpha is scheduled to land on June 7th and the first beta on September 6th.) Thankfully, there should be enough new stuff to play with in 12.04 to distract you for at least a little while.
Mozilla’s HTML5-based mobile OS, Boot to Gecko is a promising platform, but one that wasn’t ready for prime-time. However, it appears that Brazilians on Telefonica will get the first crack at buying BtG phones, and the handsets are set to go on sale by the end of this year or in early 2013. The good news — for our South American readers, at least — came from Gary Kovacs, Mozilla’s CEO, who made the announcement in São Paulo today. Unfortunately, Kovacs failed to say what kind of hardware will run the web-based OS, but Pablo Larrieux, the chief innovation officer of Telefonica Vivo, indicated that the handsets will be unlocked and priced to move: they’ll cost as much as a featurephone.
Crawling the job posting boards over at Canonical turns up a pretty interesting position, one for a Business Development Manager (Ubuntu Phone OS). Now, we’re not quite ready to jump to any conclusions here, but the wording of the listing is quite intriguing. The group is looking for a “business development lead to engage and develop strong relationships with industry partners in the run up to the launch of Ubuntu as a smartphone operating system,” with the goal of “establish[ing] a commercial ecosystem around Ubuntu as a smartphone OS.” Does this mean that Ubuntu is preparing to take on Android and iOS in the battle for smartphone supremacy (or, more likely, take on Windows Phone in a competition of also rans)? Honestly, we’re not sure. The wording is quite vague, and it could simply be the company is referring to Ubuntu for Android.
Developer Dmitry Grinberg may have come close to the minimum requirements of booting the Ubuntu Linux shell. It appears that, with some effort, you do not need more than an 8-bit chip – despite the 32-bit requirement – 25-year old RAM and half a gigabyte of storage. It’s not what you would call a particularly fast system, but it is astonishing that Grinberg got it to work at all.
He used an Atmel ATmega1284p RISC-based microcontroller with 128 KB ISP flash memory, 4 KB EEPROM, and 16 KB SRAM that runs at 20 MHz off-the shelf, but was overclocked to 24 MHz in Grinberg’s case. The chip delivers a total of about 24 MIPS. To support the booting process and store Ubuntu, the developer added a 1 GB SD card as well as a 30-pin SDRAM SIMM that was common in 286-computers in the late 1980s and delivers a data throughput of about 300 KB/s.
Grinberg programmed an ARM emulator for the ATmega1284p to boot Linux (kernel 2.6.34), which decreased the effective emulated clock speed of the chip dramatically and ended up at about 6.5 KHz. The boot process took about two hours. The developer noted that the system is “somewhat usable”. Typed commands deliver replies within a minute, he said. The overall result is the “cheapest, slowest, simplest to hand assemble, lowest part count, and lowest-end Linux PC,” he wrote in a post detailing the system.
The latest refresh of the Linux kernel, 3.3, is now available, and the second release of 2012 brings with it the long-awaited merging of code from Google’s little side project. While that is particularly interesting to developers looking to boot Android or run apps on the stock Linux kernel (FYI: optimized power management and other infrastructure that didn’t make it this time will arrive in the next release, 3.4) and represents a resolution to the issues that kept the two apart for so long it’s not the only new feature included. There are improvements to file systems like Btrfs, memory management, networking, security and much, much more. Hit the source link below for the full changelog or grab the code and from the usual locations and get your compile on directly.
Canonical has just released the first beta of Ubuntu 12.04 “Precise Pangolin,” and will follow up with beta 2 next month and the final release possibly within the next eight weeks. Ubuntu 12.04 Beta 1 is a long-term support release (LTS) that introduces a new set of images for the ARMv7 “hard float” ABI, denoted as armhf, among other new features.
“12.04 continues Ubuntu’s proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution,” the Ubuntu team reports in a blog. “The team has been hard at work throughout this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs.”
Some of the listed changes in Ubuntu include an updated LibreOffice (3.5 beta 2) and a switch to Rhythmbox as the default music player (which includes the UbuntuOne music store). Users also have access to a new HUD which provides a context-sensitive menu and search interface for Unity applications. Actual Unity settings can now be configured by the System Settings panel, and Nautilus support has been added to the Unity launcher.
The new version of Ubuntu also provides enhanced support for ClickPad devices. Now when a button is pressed on the trackpad surface, a second finger may be used to drag the cursor. Canonical’s Ubuntu Core has also been updated to include ARM hard float (armhf) images. Developers can use Ubuntu Core as the basis for their application demonstrations, constrained environment deployments, device support packages, and other goals.
“The technology that allows GPUs to go into a very low power consumption state when the GPU is idle (RC6) is now enabled by default for Sandy Bridge systems, which should result in considerable power savings when this stage is activated,” the blog states.