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Your source for GNU/Linux news, reviews and HOWTO guides. And some K-pop news too.

Top Story

  • AV1 Hardware Video Decode Support For AMD RX 6000 Series GPUs Coming In Linux 5.10
    AMD has historically been extremely slow compared to Nvidia and Intel when it comes to providing hardware video encoding and decoding capabilities for open video standards like VP8 and VP9. New patches by AMD Open Source Laboratory developer Alex Deucher show that AMD won't be dragging their feet for years before they add AV1 video decoding support to their hardware, it is already there in the upcoming RX 6000 series GPUs. VP9 and AV1 video encoding support is still severely lacking.

Breaking News

  • AMD At The X.Org Developers Conference 2020: No-No Banking Your Graphics Card
    Linux kernel developer Rajneesh Bhardwaj from AMD's Radeon Open Compute team warned that you should absolutely not bake your graphics card at the X.Org developers conference this week. He explained the dangers and stressed "Don't try this at home!". He went on to detail the many runtime power management advancements the amdgpu kernel driver for AMD graphics cards has seen the last year.
  • Vulkan Will Soon Have A Vendor-Neutral Cross-Platform Ray-Tracing API
    Two currently provisional Vulkan extensions, VK_KHR_ray_tracing and SPV_KHR_ray_tracing, are on their way to the core Vulkan API. These new Vulkan extensions will let developers write cross-platform device-independent ray-tracing code. The new Vulkan ray-tracing extensions are not yet set in stone but they are close to being finalized. Intel, of all GPU vendors, is leading the charge towards the new Vulkan ray-tracing paradigm. Intel-employed developer Jason Ekstrand gave a long and detailed overview of the upcoming Vulkan Ray-Tracing API at the X.Org Developers Conference 2020 held earlier this week.
  • Manjaro Lomiri Alpha1 for PinePhone Is Released
    Two thirds of all web traffic comes from smartphones. Traditional desktop, laptops or notebook computers are dying. The free software community wants a piece of the pie. Manjaro Linux has ported the Lomiri desktop, formally known as "Ubuntu Touch", to Manjaro for Arm and released a complete Manjaro Lomiri distribution for the Arm-based PinePhone. It's hard to read the release notes without breaking into wild laughter.
  • Unvanquished Is Now Free Software
    The real-time strategy game Unvanquished has become fully free software with the game engine licensed under the GNU GPL v3 and the game resources licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 license. There is a Linux version of the game available for download but it doesn't actually run. Luckily, there's a Windows version, released in December 2018, and it runs perfectly on modern GNU/Linux distributions if you use Wine.
  • How the ACO Mesa Vulkan Shader Compiler For AMD GPUs Came To Be: From Prototype To Default
    The Vulkan ACO shader compiler for AMD graphics cards on Linux will be the default shader compiler when Mesa 20.2 is released later this month. Developer Timor Kristóf held a 40 minutes long and interesting talk about the development process and the efforts behind making ACO a reality at the The X.Org Developers Conference 2020. Here it is.
  • Deepin 20 Is Released
    The Chinese Wuhan deepin Technology Corporation has released a new major version their Debian-based Linux operating system featuring their custom unique deepin Desktop Environment. deepin 20 comes with a base system based on Debian 10.5 Buster with special deepin packages on top. deepin 20 offers a wide variety of user-friendly custom applications written specially for deepin in C++ using Qt and the "deepin Tool Kit" (DTK). It is available in most languages, not just Chinese. We have reviewed it and found it to be a excellent and well-polished Linux distribution.

Quote of the week

"The chances of a random photon from the sun hitting your scene is tiny"

Jason Ekstrand presenting the Vulkan ray-tracing API
at the X.Org Developers Conference 2020

Latest software reviews

  • Adriconf
    adriconf (Advanced DRI CONFigurator) is a graphical Mesa DRI configuration utility for developers, experts and even brave hobbyists who want to change Mesa settings graphics settings on Linux machines running Wayland or Xorg. It allows you to enable filters that change image quality, change debugging settings and, more importantly, change settings that impact performance.
  • Deepin
    Deepin logo.svg
    Deepin is a Debian-based Linux operating system from Chinese Wuhan Deepin Technology Corporation featuring a unique and very user-friendly desktop environment called "Deepin Desktop Environment". It comes with a wide range of easy to use applications written specially for it's Deepin Desktop Environment in C++ using Qt and the "Deepin Tool Kit" (DTK). Deepin is very easy to install, it is easy to use and it comes with everything you need to do most tasks you would want to do on a desktop or laptop computer.
  • Kontrast
    KDE Katie.png
    Kontrast is a really simple program that will show you some example text and two color selectors that let you choose a text font color and a background color. Kontrast will give the colors you have selected a "Contrast ratio" score and tell you if they are "Perfect for normal and large text" or "Bad for large and normal text". And that's it.

Hot News

  • YooA Bon Voyage Plymouth Theme Now Available
    South Korean pop idol YooA, from the popular group Oh My Girl, is making waves with her wonderful new Bon Voyage solo-single. YooA was born on September 17th, 1995 so we made a Bon-Voyage-themed Plymouth boot splash theme as a birthday-present. The "Yooa-BonVoyage" Plymouth theme features YooA in one of the promotional Bon Voyage pictures released by her record company.
  • The Current State Of Gamescope
    Gamescope is a bare-bones Wayland compositor that lets you up-scale or otherwise alter games and other graphical applications so they are displayed correctly, or just larger, on modern displays with higher resolutions. It is being developed by Valve-employed Pierre-Loup A Griffais who gave a interesting talk about the current state of Gamescope at the X.Org Developers Conference 2020. Gamescope will currently only work on AMD graphics cards using the RADV Vulkan driver. It can be used under both Xorg/X11 and Wayland.
  • Gentoo Linux Starts Offering Pre-Built Kernel Packages
    Gentoo Linux is a source-based distributions for ricers who want to compile and piece together their own custom Linux distribution instead of submitting to some central authority's views on how things should be compiled and packaged. Gentoo Linux was first released on July 26th, 2020. Pre-compiled binary kernel packages are now, after more than 20 years, available to Gentoo Linux users who want to cheat and fetch a ready-to-use binary Linux kernels instead of compiling them like real women do.
  • GNOME 3.38 "Orbis" Is Released
    The latest GNOME release has re-vamped application grouping and ordering in the applications overview, "intelligent" tracking prevention in the GNOME Web browser that in practice does nothing, redesigned adaptive user-interface for the GNOME Maps application and deeper systemd integration beneath the hood.
  • AV1 Hardware Video Decode Support For AMD RX 6000 Series GPUs Coming In Linux 5.10
    AMD has historically been extremely slow compared to Nvidia and Intel when it comes to providing hardware video encoding and decoding capabilities for open video standards like VP8 and VP9. New patches by AMD Open Source Laboratory developer Alex Deucher show that AMD won't be dragging their feet for years before they add AV1 video decoding support to their hardware, it is already there in the upcoming RX 6000 series GPUs. VP9 and AV1 video encoding support is still severely lacking.
  • The X.Org Developers Conference 2020 Is About To Go Live
    Xorg hml.png
    This years X.Org developers conference is, like so many other conferences, being held "virtually". The event, which is bought and paid for by Intel, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia and other multi-national corporations, will be live-streamed to YouTube. Those who are interested in all things open graphics related (X11, Mesa, the DRM layer, the kernel, Wayland etc) can tune in and see how the power that be wants to shape the future Linux graphics and display server experience.
  • AMD Reveals Picture Of RX 6000 Series GPU With 2 8-Pin PSU Connectors
    AMD has revealed a single picture of a RX 6000 series graphics card with three fans and two eight-pin power connectors. They shared no details beyond it being a "upcoming #RDNA2" card with a "brand new cooler design". What we can educationally guess from the latest Linux kernel code is that these cards will have sdma 5.2 and new a new display core called "Display Core Next 3.0".
  • Nvidia Swallows ARM For $40 Billion
    American computer giant Nvidia has announced that it will, as long rumored, be gobbling up the British chip designer Arm in a $40 billion deal with now former Arm owner SoftBank Group. Nvidia promises to build a "state-of-the-art AI supercomputer" using Arm processors.
  • Improved Lenovo Laptop Hotkey Support Coming To Linux 5.10
    The Chinese Lenovo Group promised to Linux certify their laptops and make laptops with Linux available in a big announcement back in July. They have been offering one ThinkPad X1 model with Fedora pre-installed since mid-August. Linux 5.10 will have support for four additional hotkeys on that one laptops Lenovo sells with Fedora pre-installed thanks to RedHat developer Hans de Goede.
  • Having A Hobby Will Make You Happy
    South Korean pop idol Umji from GFriend has tested the latest in South Korean artificial intelligence technology using the NAVER Wave smart-speaker. It can't answer questions in any meaningful way and it won't play music when you ask it to but it can randomly and out-of-the-blue provide useful advice like "Having A Hobby Will Make You Happy".
  • AMDVLK 2020.Q3.5 Alternative AMD Vulkan Driver Released With Four Game Specific Fixes And Sub-RADV Performance
    AMD has released a new version of their special "open source" Vulkan driver with game-specific fixes for Detroit: Become Human, Tropico 4, Doom 2016 and GTA IV. Vulkan API compliance is updated to Vulkan 1.2.152. Performance is overall slightly worse than what the latest Mesa RADV Vulkan driver provides and magnitudes worse in very specific GPU stress tests.
  • The KDE Akademy Awards Winners 2020
    KDE Katie.png
    The KDE software project held their yearly Akademy event from September 4th to 12th. They ended the event by presenting Akademy Awards to notable developers and contributors within the KDE software community. Here are this year's winners.
  • What sort of laws would give us real privacy?
    Honorary Doctor Richard Stallman argues that the surveillance imposed on us today "far exceeds that of the Soviet Union". He says laws against personal data collection is required to restore actual freedom in industrialized nations.
  • Krita Paint Program Will Get SVG Mesh Gradients, Storyboard Docker, MyPaint Brush Engine And Dynamic Fill Layers Thanks To GSoC Students
    Four students have been working hard on new functionality for the already superb Krita painting program as part of Google's Summer of Code program this summer. Support for dynamic fill layers using Disney's SeExpr expression language has made it into the Krita 4.4 branch scheduled to be released later this month. Krita 5.0, coming next year, will additionally have support for mesh gradients, storyboard and the MyPaint brush engine thanks to these students hard work.

Check out the news archive for more news.

Recent software reviews

  • TLP
    Laptop battery.png
    TLP is a simple yet advanced power management script/utility for GNU/Linux that will adjust a lot of power-related settings when certain events like when AC power being disconnected or connected. It does not do any dynamic adjustments depending on system load or battery state or anything like that, it only applies settings on boot and when other clearly defined events take place. It does not have any GUI and it is not for novices. Power users may find it to be a useful tool.
  • MSI Kombustor
    MSI Kombustor is a GPU stress test and not really benchmarking application created by Furmark on the behest of Taiwanese Micro-Star International. MSI Kombustor can render a variety of scenes using either OpenGL or Vulkan and show how many FPS those scenes are rendered with. It may be useful as a GPU stress testing tool. It is not very useful for GPU benchmarking. There is no way to make it run through all the scenes it can render and produce a overall score.
  • Geekbench
    Benchmark icon.png
     Geekbench 5 is a cross-platform CPU benchmarking application that tests single and multi-core CPU performance. The Linux version will run in a terminal and output some information about the system and the name of the benchmarks it runs and finish off by printing a link to a web page where results can be viewed. It is not exactly exciting to watch.
  • Howdy
    Howdy is a free facial recognition package that makes GNU/Linux systems capable of "Windows Helo" style authentication by showing your face to a web camera. Howdy provides a PAM module for the Linux PAM authentication system. That allows it to be used with common login managers like SDDM for KDE Plasma and LightDM for Xfce and others. It can also be used for things like sudo and anything else using PAM authentication.
  • Flatpak
    Flatpak is a distribution-independent package management tool for Linux from Sweden which can be used in addition or as a substitute for Linux-distribution specific package managers like apt or rpm. It was created by Swedish developer Alex Larsson using the C programming language in 2015.
  • Qutebrowser
    qutebrowser is a minimalistic Vim-style keyboard-focused web browser written in Python and PyQt5. It can use either QtWebEngine or WebKit to do web page rendering. You will probably love it if you want a keyboard-navigated web browser with Vim-style keys and you will probably hate it if you want a web browser you can navigate using a mouse.
  • Speech-dispatcher
    Speech-dispatcher is a system daemon that allows programs to use one of the installed speech synthesizer programs to produce audio from text input as long as it has a special module or a configuration file for the speech synthesizer programs you want to use. It sits a a layer between programs that would like to turn text into speech and programs who actually do that.
  • KMouth
    KMouth is a simple speech synthesizer front-end built using the KDE framework libraries. It is a very simple program with an input field where you can type what you would like it to say and a fine Speak button that makes it read the text you typed in out loud.
  • Festival
    Festival is a text to speech engine developed by the British at the Centre for Speech Technology Research (CSTR) division at the University of Edinburgh. It sounds very robot-like. The speech it creates is understandable but it is not anything remotely close human-sounding. It works, and it can be used for text to speech, but it is not the best free software alternative.
  • GNU IceCat
    The GNU IceCat web browser is a re-branded Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release version with slightly different more privacy-respecting defaults, different graphics and branding, some additionally really strange bugs and a hand-full of bundled extensions meant to provide more end-user freedom. The practical result of those extensions is a close to useless browser which is not suitable for most people. IceCat can be configured to be a somewhat usable privacy-respecting web browser given some time and effort even it if by default does not provide anything remotely resembling a good user-experience.

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