Heads Up for Linux
It's beginning to look a whole lot like 2012 will be the year of the Linux Desktop on the Linux Planet. Well, if not the year, then at least this past week, which saw tremendous activity on desktop efforts new and old.
1. Ubuntu HUD
Perhaps the biggest piece of desktop news was Canonical's announcement that it is building a Heads Up Display (HUD) for Ubuntu Linux. A HUD is a concept borrowed from jet fighters, where information is projected in front of the pilot so he has more rapid access to critical tactical information. Although the Ubuntu HUD is not likely to enable users to launch a sidewinder missile at an incoming bogey, it is intended to help users do what they want to do faster.
We've all struggled with help menus or online support sites to figure out how to get things done. With HUD, a master dialogue box could potentially be enabled to let users do whatever they need to do, without the need to learn new commands for different apps.
HUD is scheduled to land in Ubuntu 12.04, although Canonical isn't going to include it unless it's actually ready for prime time.
2. KDE 4.8
KDE developers haven't been resting either. This past week they pushed out the 4.8 release.
The new Linux desktop adds adaptive power management options. Additionally, there is a new password framework called KSecretService that has been implemented.
"KSecretService is a new framework for sharing saved passwords and other credentials between a wider range of applications," KDE's 4.8 release announcement states. "KSecretService uses KDE's well-known interfaces through a Freedesktop-compliant API with other password systems, transparently for the user. KSecretService improves integration of KDE applications into other workspaces and allows 3rd party applications to plug into KDE's secure password saving system. "
3. Spark -- The KDE Tablet
Sure Android is based on Linux and it runs many tablets, but soon you'll be able to buy a tablet that's running a Linux desktop that might seem a bit more familiar. KDE developer Aaron Seigo has announced a seven-inch tablet called the Spark that will run KDE Plasma Active. The device, when available, will cost only 200 Euros and has 1 Ghz ARM processor.
"This is a unique opportunity for Free software. Finally we have a device coming to market on our terms," Seigo wrote in a blog post. "It has been designed by and is usable by us on our terms. We are not waiting for some big company to give us what we desire, we're going out there and making it happen together. Just as important: The proceeds will be helping fuel the efforts that make this all possible."
4. GNOME 3.3.4
The GNOME project is also actively moving forward toward its next-generation release. GNOME 3.3.4 was released last week, providing a preview to users of what is to come in the stable 3.4 branch later this year. The GNOME 3.3.4 release continues to fine tune the GNOME Shell user interface as well improve performance for the main components of the GNOME Linux desktop.
The pace of GNOME 3.3.x development is quite rapid at this point. The next milestone, GNOME 3.3.5, is due out on February 8. The first official beta that will be tagged as GNOME 3.4 is due out during the last week of February, and the final GNOME 3.4 release should be generally available by the end of March.
5. Red Hat MRG 2.1
MRG is Red Hat's Messaging, Realtime and Grid platform. This past week, Red Hat released the 2.1 update, providing an updated kernel as well as some new security and performance monitoring capabilities.
Unlike Red Hat Enterprise Linux, MRG uses a Realtime kernel, which provides deterministic response times. Wondering when you'd use a realtime kernel? Say you're building avionics for a jet fighter HUD and you want to make sure your missiles launch in the same amount of time, every time. It's also extremely useful for high-speed trading where microseconds literally count for millions of dollars.