Ubuntu 8.04: Hardy Heron Review

8.04 Desktop

It’s official: Ubuntu 8.04 has gone gold. This is one of the most highly anticipated releases of Ubuntu to date, but does it hold up to the hype? We take a look at what’s new, what’s stable, what’s good and what’s not in our latest review.

Ubuntu 8.04 is a LTS release. This means that this release will receive security updates and support for three years for desktop users and five years for server users. Being an LTS, the major focus is clearly stability and building up the strength of existing features.   That doesn’t mean however that it is without its share of new features….

Features

To start, 8.04 ships with GNOME 2.22. This, to the user, may not look entirely new, but the bulk of new features are hidden below the surface. GVFS replaces the old GNOME-VFS system with an entirely new backend, allowing for applications to use any resource, such as SSH or a Samba share, in a uniform manner.GVFS provides a FUSE hook that allows applications that don’t even supportGVFS to use the services provided by it. WhileGNOME-VFS took criticism for being somewhat slow and tedious,GVFS stands to fix that image.GVFS

GNOME 2.22 also introduces other features, such as the Cheese webcam viewer, Metacity compositing, Google Calendar support in Evolution, and a new remote desktop viewer. Personally, I think that the inclusion of Cheese, while nice to GNOME, could have been replaced on the default Ubuntu setup with something else, as a webcam viewer seems a little extraneous.

BraseroA new addition to the default Ubuntu setup is the Brasero disc burning utility, which allows users to make a CD or DVD with very little effort.

Also new is Transmission, a newly popular BitTorrent client. This replaces the old standard BitTorrent utility, allowing for better torrent management with an interface similar to µTorrent.

Transmission

Introduced in 7.10, PulseAudio provides a sound system for applications to hook into. It allows the volume of individual applications to be controlled, mixed into other sound devices, and with a little work, even played out of Bluetooth headphones. 8.04 improves upon this by enabling the sound server for most, if not all, applications. There are a few gripes here and there, such as minor bugs with Flash audio, but 95% of it works very well.

Firefox 3 is included in the package, even in its beta form. It has apparently been proven to be stable enough to be included, though updates to the final release are likely to follow in June.

Security and Stability

As stated above, 8.04 is focused on improving the ground laid out, and not radically changing things. Security enhancements galore ensure this release will indeed have a long life. One major security feature of GNOME 2.22 and 8.04 is the introduction ofPolicyKit.PolicyKit allows fine-grained access control, and helps you allow or deny users access to specific parts of applications. This allows for a system to be locked down completely except to a group of trusted users.PolicyKit Editor

Another addition in the security field is ufw, or “Uncomplicated Firewall.” The firewall is an extension of iptables, and while it does not currently have a GUI, the command-line interface is dead simple:

ufw deny 80
ufw allow from 192.168.1.1 port 80

Other security additions include more strict memory protection and application rules, along with the addition of SELinux support.

Many applications have gone through the usual slew of bug fixes with any release, and the update to X.Org 7.3 is no different. 7.3 provides support for newer compositing mechanisms, though the implementation is somewhat unfinished. The end result may be a slightly slower Compiz and 3D acceleration for some, but lays yet more groundwork for a more stable display system.

Theme

The beta release of 8.04 saw yet another new theme, however the older one was reverted as the default. The theme that almost made the release is still available in Appearance properties, but it didn’t make the final cut for default status. For now, users will be greeted by the tried-and-true Human theme, with 8.10 to have a major theme overhaul.Below is a preview of the proposed default theme for 8.04, still available on the CD:

8.04 Proposed Theme

Overall

Ubuntu 8.04 is a great release that definitely lives up to the attention it received. It adds several new features and applications, while improving on a solid security base. It’s not without problems: the speed of some 3D applications may be an issue for some folks, and the use of beta software could be a potential problem, but the good features far outnumber the problems.Hardy Heron, a big release for both the home user and enterprise, is yet another milestone in the Linux cycle. Of course, more Ubuntu releases will come every six months, and we’ll be following the developments of the next version: the Intrepid Ibex. For its time though, 8.04 is a winner.

Alexa rank: A script to get the rank for any site

AlexaRank

What is Alexa rank?

Alexa collects statistics about visits by internet users to websites through the Alexa Toolbar. Based on the collected data, Alexa computes site ranking. By examining the Alexa rank of a site, you can get a rough idea of how popular the site is. Many argue that Alexa rank is misleading but it has its uses.

The Alexa rank script

You can find out the Alexa rank for any site by using this page. However, if you want to programatically get the Alexa rank, you can do it using this script.

Get the Alexa rank script

Using the script

After downloading the script, give it execute permission by doing this. You will need to have Python installed.

chmod +x get_alexa_rank.py
$ ./get_alexa_rank.py google.com
popularity rank = 2
reach_rank = 1

$ ./get_alexa_rank.py wikipedia.com
popularity rank = 7
reach_rank = 6

$ ./get_alexa_rank.py www.edziu.me
popularity rank = 557287
reach_rank = 482289

$ ./get_alexa_rank.py www.inexistantsite.com
popularity rank = -1
reach_rank = -1

How does the script work?

If you make a http request for the following url,

http://data.alexa.com/data?cli=10&dat=snbamz&url=$URL

after replacing $URL with the url of the site for which you need the Alexa rank, the following XML response is sent out. I tried with “http://www.edziu.me”.


The script parses the XML response and extracts POPULARITY/@TEXT and REACH/@RANK.

Welcome to Georgia

GA

I have just rolled into Georgia last night after a three month stay out in Dallas. I became certified in Firefighting and as an Emergency Medical Technician in Texas in 2007. My jump start in this career became derailed after some disappointing interviews, failed and unrealized promises and financial landmines.

The decision was made to be closer to family and to transition my second career to the State of Georgia. I have a hard road ahead. Finding a job is difficult, but I really have my work cut out for me. Employment in fire service is competitive and limited. But, I want this more than anything I’ve ever done in my life.