A short preview of Google Gadgets for Linux

About a year ago, Google released their desktop search called Google desktop for Linux. Since then they released some updates to Google Desktop adding support for 64 bit and more file fomats, but they left out one big feature of its Windows and Mac counterparts: Gadgets, mini-applications written in HTML and JavaScript.

Today Google released an open source version of the Gadgets runtime for Linux!

This is extremely cool, obviously, for two reasons: First, you don’t have  to use Google Desktop if you don’t want to, and I guess there are more people who use Beagle, Tracker or Strigi on Linux.

Second, well I already told you, it’s open source!

So my first reaction to this was to head to the official Google Gadgets for Linux site and download the tarball. I installed the dependencies and compiled it, following the HowTo in their wiki.

After the build and install finished I started Google Gadgets with the -s switch to open the sidebar. After adding some gadgets it looked like this:

Google Gadgets Sidebar As you can see, it is just a subtle, semi-transparent black bar sitting on your desktop. It uses “real transparancy” which means you should be running Compiz or some other compositing manager.

I don’t know how good the desktop integration is altogether, but the Gadgets correctly pick up the time from my system and even the network status. Sound also works using GStreamer. The signal-strength and name of my current wireless network is shown. The source for this is NetworkManager, which is used by default In Ubuntu and other well known Linux distros like Fedora and OpenSUSE, making this a smart choice.

I had to set up the weather gadget manually and it didn’t pick up my location form my weather applet in the Gnome panel.

Other gadgets I tried didn’t show up at all or looked very bad with stretched images and barely readable text, making it clear that this really is alpha quality software right now.

To add more Gadgets, there is a browser application that looks like this:

Google Gadgets Browser

You can add gadgets to the sidebar like shown above, but you can also keep them like normal applications on the desktop. To do this, just drag them out of the sidebar or run Google Gadgets without the sidebar at all.

Google Adsense Gadget On the right side you can see the Google Adsense Gadget I dragged to my desktop.
This shows the incredible wealth I have accumulated with this blog.

So what do I think about Google Gadgets?

Well right now the software quality is pre-beta as I already said, but I firmly believe this piece of software will be great for the Linux Desktop in the future.

Gadgets are not exactly a killer feature, but it’s a nice thing to have around to get information, that often changes, quickly. MacOS X has Widgets, Windows Vista has… whatever they call it, and now Linux has Google Gadgets. Yes I know, there are already other solutions for Linux like GDesklets or Screenlets, but everything I tried felt very rough around the edges and had little to no momentum behind it.

With Google Gadgets, we get the best of both worlds: A solution backed by a big company with many Gadgets already out there and something that is open source. Additionally, it’s the only product right now working on all three major platforms, which might turn out as the feature that makes this the de-facto standard. A sign that Google is serious about this is the fact that you can build this against GTK, like I did, but also against Qt, so there is integration for KDE aswell.

I will closely follow the development of Google Gadgets and I will keep you updated on it. Right now, I’m looking for a .deb file because building this from isn’t exactly nice, so if anyone has a link I will gladly update this post and include it.


There is a package available at the PPA for the Google Gadget team

The Hardy Heron has landed

After 6 months of development, the new version of Ubuntu is available. The release is named Ubuntu 8.04 LTS “Hardy Heron”. The numbers stand for the year and month of the release date while Hardy Heron is the codename. LTS stands for long-term support, which means that this release will be supported for three full yours with fixes and security updates, the server version is even supported for four years.

Check the feature tour to find out about all the exciting stuff that is new in this release, some of the higlights are

  • GNOME 2.22 with GFVS, a new file system abstraction layer that makes many file operations faste
  • Xorg 7.3 with a new screen resizing and rotating utility that makes manging mutliple monitor easier
  • Firefox 3 Beta 5
  • Wubi, a new installer that installs Ubuntu inside a file in Windows without changing the partitions
  • Transmission, a lightweight but full-featured BitTorrent client
  • Brasero, a disc-burning application
  • A firewall called UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) that makes it easier to allow or disallow connections via command-line

Ubuntu is available for download on the Ubuntu website. Alternatively, free Ubuntu CDs can be ordered through Ubuntu ShipIt.

Order free Hardy Heron CDs now

The upcoming Ubuntu release 8.04, codenamed “Hardy Heron” can be pre-ordered now.

Ubuntu ShipIt is a service sponsored by Canonical where anyone can order Ubuntu CDs free of charge. This is especially useful for people with slow internet connections or restricted transfer volumes.

So to everybody who can’t or doesn’t want to download the next release: head over to ShipIt and order Ubuntu for free.

First impressions of Adobe AIR for Linux

AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is a platform that allows the creation of web applications and run them on the desktop alongside “classic” software. The Windows and Mac OS X version of AIR has been around for a while and today, Adobe released a first alpha version for us Linux users.

The software isn’t available on the home page of Adobe directly but can be downloaded at the Adobe Labs. The installer is a binary installer that requires root privileges, which were gained after a window prompted me to enter my password. This is the standard way in Ubuntu and therefore handled correctly.

The installation itself is fast and only consists of this window:

After a few seconds, Adobe AIR is installed into /opt and a new menu entry called “Adobe AIR Application Installer” can be found in the menu. All it does is opening a file chooser where you can select and .air file to install it.

The first application I tried to install was the Adobe Media Player.  When I opened the .air file I was greated by this error:

Sorry, an error has accoured

This application requires an update to Adobe AIR but downloading that update on your system is not allowed by your administrator. Please contact your administrator.

I don’t know whether there is a workaround for this problem and I didn’t bother to search for one. Instead, I tried other applications. The next one I tried was a Google Analytics interface, which installed whithout problems. I won’t write anything about that application itself because that’s not in the scope of this review.

There are many more AIR applications on the Adobe marketplace, but they are not installable because the website claims that Air is not available for my system.

I will leave it at that for now and come to my conclusions regarding AIR on Linux:

  • Adobe AIR for Linux really is alpha software. If you don’t have strong reasons to install it, don’t
  • Adobe should settle on one way to deploy Linux software. Flash is available as rpm and tarball, Reader is also available as deb, now AIR brings its own .bin installer. The right way to do things is to offer packages for the major Linux distributions, like Skype does
  • Flash is a core part of AIR and Flash on Linux is pretty bad. For most people, Flash consumes lots of CPU power, crashes Firefox and makes fullscreen video impossible. If Adobe doesn’t fix Flash, Air won’t be any better
  • Last but not least: It’s great to see that Adobe shows interest in Linux and a runtime that works on all three major desktop operating systems will probably bring more software to Linux. If, however, Adobe continues to treat Linux as a third class citizen AIR might do more harm than good to Linux because software vendors won’t release native software but only “Airplications” that only run badly on Linux, similar to software running on Wine

Brainstorm: Submit and vote on ideas for Ubuntu

Ubuntu brainstorm is a new site for Ubuntu fans to vote on which issues should have the highest priority. Everybody is free to register and submit ideas. Then, one can vote on every entry, either adding or subtracting a vote.

The site closely resembles Dell’s IdeaStorm, which incidentally contains a fair share of Ubuntu-related entries itself.

In my opinion, Ubuntu brainstorm is a great addition to classic bug-tracking and specifications, providing a good way to measure the interest in certain features of the Ubuntu community at large. Especially users who aren’t comfortable with diving into Launchpad or other more technical ways will now have the option to make their voice heard with a convenient and easy website.

So go ahead, visit Ubuntu brainstorm, start submitting your ideas and vote on existing ones.

Long time no post

Wow, for a blog that’s called Ubuntu Daily there may have been not enough posts in the last time, maybe I should have called it Ubuntu Quarterly.

This post is just to inform everyone who is interested that I am not dead and neither is this blog.

I won’t make any promises on how often I will post, but there is one thing you can definitely look forward to: a review of Ubuntu on the Dell XPS M1330.

I ordered the notebook a week ago and according to Dell it will arrive in the fourth week of february. You can expect my review in late february or early march.

Valve hiring to port games to Linux?

A job offer for Senior Engineer that recently appeared on Valve’s website lists among other things the following responsibilty:

Port Windows-based games to the Linux platform.

If they really mean games and not game servers this might be a major breaking point for Linux gaming and Linux on the desktop in general.

Valve’s Steam platform is probably the number one way to purchase games digitally, and if it gets ported to Linux it might be a big enough incentive for other game develops to port ther games to Linux, too.

Ubuntu in a Marvel Comic

Ubuntu is featured in issue #4 of the Marvel Comic Mighty Avengers.

You can see the boot manager GRUB and the list of Kernels to choose from, along with a movie-style “Access Denied” message:

Ubuntu in a Marvel Comic

Normally this isn’t the point where you have to authorize in Ubuntu, and you could just use recovery mode to go to a root shell, but hey, it’s free software so they could have just modfied it to act like this.