Hello Slimbook Excálibur

Courtesy of MuyLinux, I’ve become aware of the Slimbook Excálibur, a 15-inch laptop with an aluminium body and backlit keyboard.

From the video, it’s a smart-looking piece of equipment.

The machine’s specification is as follows:

  • Intel i5-6200U / i7-6500U CPU
  • Dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940M 2GB GPU
  • 4GB / 8GB / 16GB DDR 3 RAM
  • 120GB / 250GB / 500GB SSD
  • Optional 500GB / 1TB / 2TB HDD

Slimbook has a selection of up to 11 Linux distributions, including Antergos, Debian, elementary OS, Fedora, KDE Neon, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE and Xubuntu, which can be pre-installed; or those desperate for their fix of proprietary can also have Windows installed instead if they pay the necessary licence fee.

Excálibur pricing starts at €799.

Debian to shut down its public FTP servers

Debian logoDebian is a mature Linux distribution that serves as the basis for many other distros, such as the Ubuntu family.

Your ‘umble scribe has been a loyal Debian user for at least a decade and has always found it to be secure, stable and reliable operating system.

Since its inception, Debian has offered downloads of its disk images by both the FTP and HTTP network protocols.

However, Debian news has now announced that its public FTP service will be closed down in November 2017.

The relevant text of the announcement is reproduced below.

After many years of serving the needs of our users, and some more of declining usage in favor of better options, all public-facing FTP services will be shut down on November 1, 2017. These are:


This decision is driven by the following considerations:

  • FTP servers have no support for caching or acceleration.
  • Most software implementations have stagnated
    and are awkward to use and configure.
  • Usage of the FTP servers is pretty low as our own installer has not offered FTP as a way to access mirrors for over ten years.
  • The protocol is inefficient and requires adding awkward kludges to firewalls and load-balancing daemons.

Information for users

The DNS names and ftp.<CC> will remain the same. The mirrors should just be accessed using HTTP instead:


Information for developers

Our developer services will not be affected. These are the upload queues for both the main and the security archive:


Goodbye to OpenOffice?

When your ‘umble scribe first started using the GNU/Linux operating system over a decade ago, the default office suite for most Linux distributions was OpenOffice.

However, it now looks as if OpenOffice just could be heading towards the software graveyard if other members of the development team concur with an email from the chairman of the OpenOffice Project Management Committee, Dennis Hamilton, as reported by

OpenOffice menu

OpenOffice 4.0. The end of the line?

A long history

To find the earliest origins of OpenOffice, one has to go back nearly 30 years to 1985 and an early office suite called Star Office. The timeline below shows the genesis of OpenOffice and other packages from StarOffice 1.0. StarOffice itself survived as a proprietary software package until discontinued by Oracle in 2011.

timeline showing Open Office and other derivatives of Star Office

Timeline showing Open Office and other derivatives of StarOffice. Click on image for the full-sized version. Timeline courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

To understand the various twists in the OpenOffice story, one also needs to know that StarDivision, the creator of StarOffice, was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999, whilst Sun Microsystems was in its turn taken over by Oracle Corporation in 2010.

After the 1999 takeover of StarDivision, Sun released a free and open source version of StarOffice as under both GNU LGPL and the SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License). supported proprietary Microsoft Office file formats (though not always perfectly), was available on many platforms (Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris) and became widely used in the open source community. had native support for the OpenDocument format (ODF).

Following Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems in 2010, some members of the project became worried about its future with Oracle. As a consequence they formed The Document Foundation and created the LibreOffice fork. The LibreOffice brand was hoped to be provisional, as Oracle had been invited to join The Document Foundation and donate the brand to the foundation.

Oracle’s response was to demand that all members of the Community Council involved with The Document Foundation step down from the Council, citing a conflict of interest. This prompted many community members decided to leave for LibreOffice, which already had the support of Red Hat, Novell, Google and Canonical. LibreOffice produced its first release in January 2011.

In June 2011 Oracle donated the trade marks and source code to the Apache Software Foundation, which Apache then re-licensed under its own open source licence. IBM donated the Lotus Symphony codebase to the Apache Software Foundation in 2012. The developer pool for the Apache project was seeded by IBM employees and the Symphony codebase was incorporated into Apache OpenOffice.

However, Apache OpenOffice has not flourished, whilst LibreOffice has gone from strength to strength, OpenOffice has languished. LibreOffice releases updates every few months, whereas the last major update to Apache OpenOffice was in September 2015. Furthermore, a hotfix released at the end of August to remedy a memory problem has still not been announced by the project on its home page.

Apache applies pressure

In the meantime the Apache Software Foundation has been applying increasing pressure due to security concerns and has since demanded monthly reports (instead of the previous quarterly reports. Ed.) as to how problems can be solved.

In his email Hamilton describes in detail what the retirement of the OpenOffice project could look like and what consequences will be involved for the source code, downloads, website, mailing lists and other matters. For the time being Hamilton only wants to start a discussion. A decision to end the OpenOffice project has still not been taken, although it is already being suggested that the project should consider donating the OpenOffice trade mark registration to the LibreOffice project.

GNOME & KDE join TDF Advisory Board

Yesterday The Document Foundation, the organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice suite, announced that GNOME Foundation and KDE e.v. have joined the Advisory Board of The Document Foundation (TDF).

TDF logo

In a reciprocal move to consolidate their relationships, TDF also acquired seats on the boards of both the GNOME Foundation and KDE.

These reciprocal arrangement with the GNOME Foundation is intended to create stronger ties between the two communities and to foster the integration between LibreOffice and one of the most popular desktop environments for Linux.

Gnome logoGNOME is a desktop environment that is composed entirely of free and open source software, targeting Linux but also supported on most derivatives of the BSD operating system. Since the release of GNOME 3.0, the GNOME Project has focused on the development of a set of programs known as the GNOME Core Applications, for the adherence to the current GNOME HUD guidelines and the tight integration with underlying GNOME layers.

The GNOME Foundation is a non-profit organisation that furthers the goals of the GNOME Project, helping it to create a free software computing platform for the general public that is designed to be elegant, efficient and easy to use.

KDE logoKDE has been creating free software since 1996 and shares a lot of values in respect of free software and open document formats with The Document Foundation. In addition, it brings the experience of running a free software organization for almost two decades to the TDF advisory board.

Both TDF and KDE are involved in the OASIS technical committee for the Open Document format (ODF), as well as collaborating on common aspects of development of office software, such as usability and visual design. The affiliation of KDE and The Document Foundation at an organizational level will help progress the shared goal of giving end users control of their computing needs through free software.

LibreOffice 5.1.3 available for download

The Document Foundation (TDF) has today announced the immediate availability of LibreOffice 5.1.3, the third minor release of the LibreOffice 5.1 family, which now supports Google Drive remote connectivity on GNU/Linux and MacOS X operating systems.

LibreOffice 5.1.3 is targeted at technology enthusiasts, early adopters and power users. For more conservative users and for enterprise deployments, TDF recommends the “still” version – LibreOffice 5.0.6. For enterprise deployments, The Document Foundation also recommends professional support by certified people.

For those users interested in helping to test forthcoming releases, there are also development versions and nightly builds available. However, these are not recommended for use in a production environment, where stability and reliability are required.

LibreOffice Impress presentation software

LibreOffice Impress presentation software

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 5.1.3 is available for immediate download.

LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can also support The Document Foundation with a donation.

LibreOffice Conference 2016

In 2016 the annual LibreOffice Conference will be hosted by the Faculty of Information Technology at Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic from 7th to 9th September.

The Call for Papers is open until 15th July 2016 and registration for the conference is now open.

Love free software on Valentine’s Day

It’s 14th February, better known to the world as St. Valentine’s Day. It’s therefore also time to say “thank you” to all free software users and developers on what’s also become the “I love FreeSoftware Day“, according to the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

I Love Free Software banner

The FSFE is asking all free software users to use the traditional day of love to think of the hard-working people contributing to the free software we all depend on.

Free software drives a huge number of devices in our everyday life. It ensures our freedom, our security, civil rights, and privacy. It enables everyone to participate in a fair society. However, everyone is different and people have different reasons to love free software.

Your ‘umble scribe relies on free software to play an active part in society and do his work. He’d therefore like to pay thanks to the following people:

If you use free software too, why don’t you support this annual campaign, which can be followed on social media with the #ilovefs hashtag.

19 years of KDE

KDE, one of the two best-used Linux desktop environments along with GNOME, will be celebrating 20 years since its first release.

In anticipation of this, here’s a recent video from autumn 2015 charting KDE’s progress to date.

The Document Foundation seeks boost to LibreOffice developer numbers

The Document Foundation has announced a new drive to increase its developer community beyond the level of 1,000 reached in October 2015.

The growth of the LibreOffice developer community has been extraordinary, with a monthly average of over 16 new hackers contributing to the code since September 2010. This is due in the main to mentoring by the project’s founders. After five years and 1,000 new developers, though, the complexity has changed, and the project needs to invest on mentoring a new generation of coders.

LibreOffice has always been available on multiple operating systems – Linux, Mac OSX and Windows – and is now on the verge of being available on multiple platforms: desktop, mobile and cloud. Consequently, the project needs a wider range of developer skills, which can be achieved only with a renewed effort targeted to attract new contributors.

graph showing growth in LibreOffice developer numbers

“When LibreOffice started, the codebase we inherited was known for being extremely hard to contribute to, for both technical reasons and a lack of mentors reaching out to new hackers,” says Bjoern Michaelsen, a member of LibreOffice engineering steering committee and a director of The Document Foundation. “Today, the LibreOffice project is known for its welcoming atmosphere, and for the fun. We strive to continue on this path for the next 1,000 code contributors.”

A World Without Linux – episode 4

The Linux Foundation has released episode 4 of its A World Without Linux video series.

Called “Avatar Reimagined”, this latest video sees characters Sam and Annie going to the pictures (as we used to call them when I was a lad. Ed.) to watch a film with really bad special effects to make the point that the effects in many blockbuster movies are made on Linux supercomputers.

The Linux Foundation commissioned six episodes for the series, leaving one left before the final episode featuring Mr Linux Kernel himself, Linus Torvalds.

Trusty Tahr brought down by cat

Ubuntu logoLinux distribution bug reports are not a place one expects to find stuff to make one smile: they’re normally places where the faults and failings of software are described in normally boring detail.

However, today proved an exception to the rule, courtesy of one filed a short while ago for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, codenamed “Trusty Tahr, which has just come to prominence.

14.04, locked screen to go to lunch, upon return from lunch cat was sitting on keyboard, login screen was frozen & unresponsive.

To replicate: In unity hit ctrl-alt-l, place keyboard on chair. Sit on keyboard.

Resolution: Switched to virtual terminal, restarted lightdm, lost all open windows in X session.

What should have happened: lightdm not becoming unresponsive.

Ubuntu fans are now trying to reproduce this bug, including some who want to try and reproduce it with other pets, as per the latest comment on the bug report page reproduced below.

will it also work with a small dog, please some one with a small size dogs test it!

LightDM is the display manager running in Ubuntu. According to the Ubuntu Wiki, it starts the X servers, user sessions and greeter (login screen).

What’s a tahr? Wikipedia informs us that tahrs form a family of three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat. The three species are the Himalayan tahr, Nilgiri tahr and Arabian tahr.

Finally, there are millions of pictures of cats and kittens all over the internet. Indeed, there’s even a Firefox add-on called Kitten Block that steps in whenever the user who has it installed attempts to access the right-wing Daily Mail and Daily Express websites. However, there are far fewer pictures of tahrs. Let’s remedy that with a fine picture of a male Himalayan tahr courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

male Himalayan tahr

Hat tip: Softpedia

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