“We rolled up our sleeves and reconsidered the heart of the Skype for Linux client,” the company say of the release, adding: “We’re very excited about the results and think that you will be too.”
‘Excited’ may be overstating it a little.
Skype 4,2 for Linux is largely a bug fix release aimed at improving the general stability of the application, its use with Microsoft Accounts (MSN merged into Skype a while back), and fixing a few well-documented faults introduced in the previous release.
These fixes range from the trivial: larger app icons; localizing prices in Skype WiFi prompts; to the much needed: crash fixes; navigation fixes; not showing features where they can’t be used.
Improvements to existing functionality also feature in the update:
- Multi-monitor screen-sharing works better, with the workspace Skype is open on being shown by default
- Microsoft Account users will see a ‘Messenger’ group listing their fellow MSA contacts
- A button for initiating conference calls has been added to the conversations window
- Voice messaging button available from Options
The latest release of Skype can be downloaded from the Skype website. Hit the link below to go there. Select the ‘Ubuntu 12.04 Multiarch’ option before downloading. Despite the ’12.04′ in the name this will also install just fine on Ubuntu 12.10.
Skype advise 64bit Ubuntu users suffering from audio issues to also install the libasound2-plugins:i386 package.
Kingsoft Office for Linux has been updated with an improved theme, new icons and improved file support.
The entire suite of applications are still in active development on Linux, but the makers, Chinese software outfit Kingsoft, are said to be pushing hard on development following the news that Ubuntu-based distro ‘Ubuntu Kylin’ was to become the ‘official OS of China’.
And this work is showing in the latest preview builds. The interface of each application has been refreshed, with a new look called ’Ongmani’ now default. Other themes are available, including the Windows Aero theme used by previous builds.
The icons have also been changed, no-longer looking like they were lifted straight from the Windows desktop. This subtle ‘de-Windows-izing’ of each application extends to various parts of the ‘Ribbon’.
A language selection prompt has been added on first-run. This fixes the biggest issue many non-Chinese users had with previous builds which required a hacky workaround to enable English.
- Sidebar has been reworked to offer more options
- Additional file support for: TXT, CSV, PRN, XML
- XLSX file encryption and decryption support
You can download the latest development release of WPS Office below. Note that the .deb installer below is for 32bit Ubuntu but it can be installed on 64bit using ia32-libs.
Google developers have today shown off Ubuntu running on …Google Glass.
In a session at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, cheekily titled “Voiding your warranty“, developers shared how to root Google Glass and install an alternative operating system on it. OS of choice for the demo being Ubuntu.
The image you see above – a laptop running Ubuntu relaying the screen of Google Glass in a window – is as sexy as it got in the demo. Yep, just a rooted Android accessing a native Ubuntu install through VNC/SSH. No eye-controlled Unity; no blink-powered GNOME.
Since it’s unlikely that anyone reading this owns or has access to Google Glass I can save myself the bother of guiding you through the install process (which is a bit of hassle).
But it’s a geekily-cool sight to see, anyway.
It’s 5 months away from release, but we already know most of the new features planned for Unity in Ubuntu 13.10.
This is, in part, due to developers putting focus on Ubuntu Touch – the mobile version of Unity aimed at mobile and tablet devices.
While this work will eventually make its way to the desktop in the form of Unity 8, it won’t be finished in time to make this release. So the current version of Ubuntu’s desktop – Unity 7 – will serve as the basis for the next release, albeit with some extra polish, a few new features, and plenty of bug-fixes.
Features planned for Unity in Saucy include:
- Smart Scopes Service/100 Scopes
- In-Dash Payments
- New ‘Unity Indicators’
- Newer Compiz with performance improvements
There was also, early on in this cycle, talk of Locally Integrated Menus being implemented. However this hold-over from Ubuntu 12.04 was not mentioned during the recent Ubuntu Developer Summit session.
For performance fans the Ubuntu development team plan to use Compiz 0.9.10. This ‘trunk’ version includes a number of patches and tweaks that add a bit more oomph to the window manager’s performance.
You can see an earlier version of the proposed In-Dash Payment Preview in the video below.
Both Unity 8 and Ubuntu’s new display server Mir will be available to try in Ubuntu 13.10.
At least, that’s the aim, anyway.
The details of precisely how both items will be available to try is currently being hammered out by developers at this weeks Ubuntu Developer Summit. But while neither Mir or Unity 8 will be installed by default, or ship as a session on the Saucy .iso, developers are extremely keen to make them as easy to install in 13.10 either through the Ubuntu Software Center or a dedicated PPA.
Unity 7 and the traditional X.org display server will continue form the default desktop experience in Saucy, which is due in October.‘Preview’ Means ‘Preview’
Regardless of how Unity 8 and Mir is made available to Ubuntu 13.10 users the most important thing for anyone to remember is that it’ll be a preview. Unity 8 – the desktop version of Ubuntu Touch – is unlikely to be in a finished, polished state by October.
There’s also a question of what applications will run under the Mir session. Whilst the final release of Mir will support running “traditional” apps reliant on X.org and GTK, it’s not a given that these will run on the preview version being planned at present. A set of Ubuntu Touch apps will be installed alongside the Unity8/Mir session by default to make up for this.
But the preview will have its uses. It’ll give designers, developers and dutiful testers the chance to play with a functional, if limited, version of the next-gen Ubuntu desktop. Stress it; test it; help shape it.
Around the same time as Ubuntu 13.10 is released more complete version of Ubuntu Touch for Phones is expected to be released.
Ubuntu 13.10 is hoping to ship with Chromium as the default web-browser in place of Mozilla Firefox.
In a discussion on the subject at the current Ubuntu Developer Summit developers expressed broad support for the change, saying that they are “leaning towards” supporting such a switch.
Ubuntu ‘s Desktop Manager, Jason Warner, who says the switch ‘feels like the right decision for the general user’, shared the main rationale behind it:
- Google Chrome has ‘leapfrogged’ Firefox in usage
- There is ‘clear demand’ for it from users; supplying Chromium would meet expectations
- Switching to webkit-based browser offers consistency across convergent platforms
Warner stressed that updated versions of Firefox will remain readily available to install from the Ubuntu Software Center.‘Concerns Addressed’
The session also saw developers tackle concerns and complaints that have prevented Chromium becoming the default browser in the past. Security, PC support, user-preferences, and methods of delivering updated packages were all touched upon.
One commonly raised ‘issue’ is that of extensions, or rather lack thereof, available the open-source browser in comparison to Firefox. Chad Miller, maintainer of Chromium in Ubuntu, explained that the Chrome Webstore offers a massive choice already, adding that “if it’s recent code, it’s almost certain someone has built it for Chrome.”
Switching to Chromium will also allow Unity Web Apps to take advantage of a proper ‘Chromeless’ state rather than the Firefox insistence on them opening in a new tab.
Sadly for those using PowerPC versions of Ubuntu Chromium’s V8 rendering engine is not available, meaning Firefox would have to ship in its place.
A final decision on whether to default to Chromium will be taken following further consultation with the Ubuntu community in the coming weeks.Key Points:
- Developers debating switch to Chromium
- Chormium ‘more popular’ than Firefox, as well as more performant
- Switch would create ‘consistency’ between Ubuntu Touch & Ubuntu desktop as both use Webkit
- Unity Web Apps will be able to use Chromium ‘Chromeless’ mode
- Stable releases of Chromium will be released as they’re available, much like Firefox
- Firefox will remain updated and available to install from Software Center
- Final decision to be taken after feedback with community
Still unsure whether Double Fine’s Humble Bundle is worth the money and bandwidth?
With only six days left to claim your copies, we go hands-on with every game to help you decide…
To recap, there are currently three games available at any price:
- Costume Quest
Eight prototype games from Double Fine were also added yesterday, but are only available for Windows.
Beating the average also nets you Brütal Legend and paying at or above $35 also gets you backer access to Broken Age. If you’re dying to throw money at your screen, paying at or above $70 will also get you a t-shirt with worldwide shipping.Psychonauts
A veteran of the highest grossing bundle yet, Humble Indie Bundle V, Psychonauts has been well-received – despite lacklustre sales – since its debut on the Xbox, Playstation 2, and PC in 2005. The protagonist, Raz, is training to be a Psychonaut and jumps his way out of danger and into the fray of summer camp politics and secret plots.
As a platformer, Psychonauts’ gameplay is rather straightforward. No need to awkwardly grip a ladder or trapeze – Raz will latch onto whatever he can when you’re close enough.
Though this works well enough when you’re hopping around the camp and spacious areas, the finicky camera angles in claustrophobic settings left me replaying multiple stages as I overshot tightropes and trapezes repeatedly or Raz overeagerly grabbed onto another object in the environment. Regardless, the gameplay is downright fun even if it can frustrating at times.
The dialogue is humorous – though certainly not as smart as some of the titles below – and the sound design holds up well for an eight year old title. The graphics tend to show their age when you crank up the resolution to 1920×1080, but this doesn’t detract from the gameplay nor should it.
Psychonauts has lived on with a strong following despite its initial stumble in sales and some niggling gameplay issues and rightly so. It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s deserving of its second Humble Bundle showing.Stacking
Ever wondered what a world of matroyoshka dolls would be like? Look no further! Stacking is an adventure game that introduces a unique stacking mechanic into the standard fare of puzzle-solving challenges.
You play as little Charlie Blackmore searching for his brothers and sisters across the fantastical world of stacking dolls. With his suspenders and flat cap, Charlie can sneak up behind other dolls, stack with them, and use their unique abilities to build up in-game achievements and solve puzzles in a multitude of ways.
The sepia-toned cutscenes and sustained humour throughout the game complement the fluid stacking mechanic and the developers’ vision of this charming world.
The music is particularly well-suited to the game’s atmosphere. The soundtrack available from the Humble Bundle only includes two tracks from the game’s classical repertoire, but the full list can be found here. Though the cutscenes are only silent films with title cards, the action and music blend perfectly to set the tone for the endearing adventures Charlie encounters.
Ironic when set against hilarious situations and adorable when Charlie finds another one of his siblings, the music makes up for dolls that don’t always say or do much outside their special abilities. Aside from growling, the bear doesn’t move any differently than the pirate or the mime. Though the game’s sounds can leave the atmosphere feeling rather sparse at times, the music is perfectly curated and little Charlie Blackmore always leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.Costume Quest
The premise is as cute as the name and artwork makes Costume Quest out to be: you and your brother or sister (depending on whom you choose to play as) go trick or treating and a goblin takes your other sibling.
Whilst the concept is charming, the actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Candy acts as currency in the game, allowing you to buy “battle stamps” that can increase stats during battle. You can find candy from going door-to-door, bashing pumpkins, and – alarmingly – rummaging through rubbish bins.
Combat itself is rather lackluster. The quick time events that scream at you to “Press <key> now!” in all caps take away from what could otherwise be a rather adorable vision of a child in shining cardboard armour transformed into a goblin-fighting knight.
Stacking’s well-suited classical soundtrack fits perfectly with the silent film aesthetic of the cutscenes and the lack of dialogue wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately, Costume Quest’s dialogue feels interminable against a lukewarm soundtrack, lack of voiceovers, and sparse aural experience when the music dies down.
Though this cel-shaded adventure RPG will please some, others – including me – will have a much better experience with Stacking.Brütal Legend
If you’ve finished your trick-or-treating, reassembled the matroyoshka doll, jumped your way out of psychic trouble, and paid above the average, you can hit the road as a heavy metal roadie in Brütal Legend.
Transported into an alternate, oddly heavy metal-laden world by mysterious circumstances, Eddie Riggs – the Jack Black-voiced protagonist – quickly joins to free the human race from their enslavement.
The massive open world is filled with odd creatures and post-apocalyptic ruins that are immediately open to exploration on foot or in your hot rod.
But don’t let the open world deceive you. This is a real-time strategy game more than an RPG, so you won’t be spending time creating potions and hoarding wooden bowls in your inventory. Aside from the main storyline, you’ll only find secondary missions scattered across the map.
The combat mechanics are a mix of simple hack-and-slash fun and seemingly tacked-on RTS elements. It’s difficult to focus on attacking enemies in front of you whilst needing to manoeuvre a horde of troops across the battle ground. These frustrating moments are unfortunate, but the rest of the action-adventure elements of the gameplay are fun and accompanied by satisfying sound design.
Though many of us may not be metal fans, the soundtrack and aural experience in general mesh extremely well with the rest of the game. Jack Black’s performance isn’t as grating as I imagined it to be from past encounters with his work and the game’s atmosphere hasn’t worn thin on me yet.
The often tongue-in-cheek, sometimes irreverent, but always good-natured dialogue and storyline make up for some of the oddities in the hybrid combat system. If you’re a metal fan too, this is definitely a title you shouldn’t miss.Broken Age Backer Access
Though Broken Age née Double Fine Adventure has yet to be released, a purchase at or above the fixed tier at $35 nets you backer access to the project and beta whilst the game is still in development and the final game when it’s released. If you missed out on the original Kickstarter, this may be a fantastic opportunity to jump on board. Though Double Fine offers the same backer access for $30, you won’t get the four other titles with it.Get the Humble Double Fine Bundle
All four currently available titles can be downloaded from the Humble Bundle site. The Bundle comes with Steam keys and copies in the Ubuntu Software Center, though Brütal Legend is currently unavailable in USC.
If you decide to purchase Broken Age, you will also receive a key that will let you register on the Broken Age site for exclusive backer-only updates, private forums, and the beta when available.
Unity 8 – the next major version of the Unity desktop – has been demoed running atop of Mir, Ubuntu’s custom display server.
Both Unity 8 and Mir are still in active development, so to see them running as well as they are in the video below, taken by Michael Zanetti, is exciting stuff.
Unity 8, formerly known as ‘Unity Next’ is expected to arrive as the default desktop in Ubuntu 14.04. The version of Unity 8 demoed above is not the finished article; so expect something more desktop-like when it arrives.
Ubuntu 13.10, due October this year, is likely to include an option to try both Unity 8 and Mir, though neither will be default.
Want to add some Google Now-style to your Ubuntu desktop? You do? Then read on…
DeviantArt user satya164 has knocked together a Google Now-inspired theme for Conky, the popular Linux system monitor (and a whole heap more).
Unlike many Conky themes this one is light on information displayed, only showing weather and network usage.
But like most Conky themes it is a faff to set up.How to Install Conky Google Now
The instructions below are for Ubuntu, but also apply to its flavours and other Ubuntu-based distributions like Linux Mint.
Before you do anything you first have to install Conky itself. If you’re reading this article on Ubuntu you can hit the button below to open an install prompt.
Installed? Great. Next step is to download the Google Now Conky theme from DeviantArt.
Once you have fully downloaded the .Zip you need to extract it, and move the files inside to your home folder:
That’s all that’s needed to install the Conky theme. But you’ll need to edit the weather location to match that of your own:
- Go to weather.yahoo.com
- Search for your location in the weather search box (underneath forecast)
- Copy the numerical string in the URL
- Open .conkyrc in your Home folder
- Find the number: ’2294941′
- Replace it with the numerical string you copied from the Yahoo! Weather URL
If you like the font used in the screenshot, you can grab it from Font Squirrel (for free) - but install it before launching Conky from a Terminal with the command ‘conky’.
Want Conky to open when you login to Ubuntu? You’ll need to add it to Startup Applications.
- Open ‘startup applications’ from the Dash
- Click ‘Add’
- In both name and command fields enter ‘conky‘ (without quote marks)
Finally, to complete the look check out these Google Now themed wallpapers.
Have you used Ubuntu Brainstorm recently? Chances are you haven’t.
Usage of the once-popular feedback service is in decline. Terminal decline, according to Ubuntu developers. So much so the question of whether to ‘sunset’ the project has now been raised.
Ubuntu Brainstorm was created as a way to help build sonance between users and developers. The brief was simple: people submit ideas of what they’d like to see in Ubuntu, users vote and comment on those ideas, then developers respond to the more popular ones.
But there has been fewer ideas, fewer votes, and even fewer answers from developers over the last few years.
It’s easy to see why: Ubuntu’s design and development teams now more open, interactive and approachable than ever before, and Launchpad, used to report bugs against Ubuntu, has also replaced much of Brainstorm’s remit.
As it is today, the best way to promote ideas, give feedback or affect change in Ubuntu is to get involved directly. While Brainstorm may have once been part of that, it’s perhaps best left to fade quietly into memory.
Would you be sad to see Ubuntu Brainstorm go?
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