BozemanLUG: Feb 2011 Meeting Report

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The meeting went pretty well last night although the attendance could have been better... but hey... it was darn cold outside so the weather wasn't co-operating.

In attendance were: Anish Bharata, Scott Dowdle, David Eder, Srinivas Gumdelli, Walter Neary, Jordan Schatz

Srinivas gave a presentation on Web-based Desktops / OSes and briefly demoed EyeOS. He also showed a short (~15 minutes?) video of Richard Stallman talking at a recent conference. I don't recall the name of the conference and I can't seem to find a copy of the speech online so if someone could provide me a link to that, I'd appreciate it. I also loaned out the books Free as in Freedom and Just for Fun to Srinivas and Anish.

I (Scott) showed GNOME 3 Shell on Fedora 15 Alpha, and Unity on Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 2. Walter helped out showing Unity. We discussed how the upcoming releases of Fedora and Ubuntu will have a radically different user interface replacing GNOME 2.x... and how users might react to the changes. We also talked a about the community response to the KDE project's transition from the KDE 3 series to the 4 series and how that might be some indicator of how the changes in GNOME might go.

I think this was Walter's first meeting but he is very active in the #ubuntu-montana channel on the Freenode IRC channel. It is hard for Walter to attend meetings because he usually works evenings.

Jordan was a first time visitor. He is an independent web developer who specializes in LAMP programming. He mentioned he is looking for an accomplished Java programmer for one or more upcoming projects... so if you know anyone, please speak up. I hope our group interested him enough to attend future meetings. I asked him if he had anything he might be interested in giving a presentation on and he said he would consider doing two if there was interest: 1) NoSQL databases, MongoDB as an example, and 2) The Lisp programming languages. I told him that I was interested in both of those topics so hopefully we can get him to present one or both of those over the next few meetings.

Below are some links to articles or videos that were mentioned during the meeting.

The eyeOS web desktop
First look at Ubuntu "Natty" and the state of Unity
Why is Ubuntu 11.04 switching to Unity?
Shuttleworth: Unity shell will be default desktop in Ubuntu 11.04
Revolution OS documentary (Flash video)

General Discussion - Topics that came up included...

Jordan passed around his current generation Amazon Kindle eBook reader so we could see the eInk display it has. I asked him if he had seen the OLPC's display (because it has a monochrome mode similar to an eInk display) and he had not. I was going to show him an OLPC but all of them were checked out.

We talked about the recent Apple laptop product announcements and the new I/O port technology from Intel that they are the first to introduce named Thunderbolt (formerly Light Peak) While Apple is the first to market, expect to see Thunderbolt from all other PC makers real soon now.

Walter showed us pictures of the computer system he pieced together and talked about his three HD displays.

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Scott Dowdle's picture

An update on Unity

I have been trying to keep up with the development of GNOME Shell and Ubuntu's Unity... by using Fedora 15 pre-alpha releases (aka nightly builds) and Ubuntu's 11.04 alpha releases. Unity in Alpha 2 was very buggy. Unity in Alpha 3 (released yesterday) seems pretty stable in the limited testing I've done thus far. Gnome Shell seems very stable too.

Between the two, Shell seems more intuitive than Unity. Unity seems more cluttered. In Unity, I do like the pager icon and the Mac OS X Spaces-like switcher that comes up when one clicks it. One thing I am NOT fond of at all is the Mac OS X style application menu-up-top rather than application's menus being in the application's window. Given the fact that some apps work with it and some don't (one notable one being Firefox)... it makes it a bit confusing... and they will never get EVERYTHING working in menu-up-top mode.

People call Red Hat the "Microsoft of Linux". I don't agree with that characterization but at in a similarly unfair comparison, I'd say that Ubuntu is the "Apple of Linux". Some people see that as a compliment and it is NOT meant to be. :)

Both GNOME Shell and Ubuntu's Unity are radically different interfaces than GNOME 2 and many long time GNOME 2 users are going to hate both. I'm not sure which a new user would prefer.

There are many things that are the similar between the two. Both abandon the traditional panel and taskbar that have been present in most desktop environments to date. Both place no icons on the desktop background although they may be possible in Unity. Both have a similar application lists and sub-groupings with quick search features. Shell completely gets rid of applets. As far as I can tell, Unity supports applet icons in its titlebar like panel on the top. Both have an app launcher doc where favorites can be pinned and running applications are shown... which kind of mixes the panel with a taskbar Mac OS X style. Both show running applications with the addition of some indicator... Shell has an illumination under the icon (like an anti-shadow) and Unity shows a triangle... which again, is borrowing from Mac OS X.

Hey, I just wanted to point

Hey, I just wanted to point out a couple extra interesting (super slick) things about thunderbolt/light peak... the type of connector it uses is the displayport that AMD/ATI has been using in their video cards for a while now, and will use the latest protocol for the displayport in addition to PCIe.

The displayport protocol allows for one port to power three screens at ~1080p max resolution with an additional hub. So videocards like the AMD radeon HD 6800 and 6900 series will be able to run at least 6 screens with 3D acceleration. Not sure about the radeon 5000 series cards, they might not have the displayport 1.1a protocol built into the hardware. Do note that the displayport used between the hub and the screen must be an "active" link, not a passive link such as a typical displayport to DVI adapter; an active link would either be an adapter from displayport to DVI with an additional USB plug, or simply using a computer screen with a displayport built into it (like the dell u2311, u2211, u2711... etc).

Now, it also supports the PCIe protocol but does not say anywhere that I can find what PCIe protocol it will support. The PCIe 3.0 protocol was recently accepted as the new and upcoming successor to the PCIe 2.1 protocol. Will tunderbolt support PCIe 3.0? I suspect so, but it seems unclear as of yet. However it seems it will support mixing and matching PCIe data with displayport data. Not sure how that will work but seems like a very promising competitor to USB with more general functionality in mind.


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