Linux Format

Getting to Gnome you.

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Are you enjoying the Bionic Beaver yet? After two years of a faultless 16.04 LTS install, my work PC sailed smoothly along with an error-free upgrade to 18.04 LTS. So long Unity, hello Gnome.

Was it Gnome sweet Gnome for you, or more a case of here today, Gnome tomorrow? Ok, Gnome more bad puns… But that’s one of the points of choosing Linux and open source: you have a choice. Don’t like the desktop? Then dump it for something you do like or why not enhance it, so it is something you like. In certain quarters there certainly seems to be a underlying distaste for the Gnome project. It’s not one we agree with, but if you don’t like those design choices, there’s no lack of alternatives to choose from, but I guess we all like a good whinge online, right?

As a prime example, this very issue we have a DVD that offers three full-fat desktops: Gnome, Budgie and Cinnamon. Just fire it up and select the desktop of your choice to try. If you want to take things much further, follow our main feature this issue on how you can tweak, customise or build your own desktop (almost) from scratch. It’s just one of the many ways you can make Linux feel like home, ensure that it’s more fun to use and generally boost your productivity.

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Paint the town orange!

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I for one am genuinely excited by the latest release of Ubuntu. Canonical is no stranger to controversial decisions, but it feels recent moves – switching back to Gnome, abandoning convergence devices – have enabled it to focus on the core job of making Ubuntu as good as possible.

Despite its comical Bionic Beaver codename, Ubuntu 18.04 will stand as the foundational basis for a plethora of Linux distros with support reaching out for five years. An untold number of servers will rely on its stability and support, while this release delivers the smallest footprint yet from its minimal install.

On Linux Format’s own Bionic Bidwell will guide you through a smooth upgrade from older versions, a smooth install from scratch and a smooth guide around the all-important new features. In the background the kernel moves to 4.15 (so including the essential Spectre and Meltdown patches), the new Gnome desktop is now the default new look, Wayland is an experimental option and there’s a host of updated programs. The rest of 2018 will see all the Ubuntu- based distro updated in turn: we’re expecting Linux Mint 19 to be the next big update and as you’d expect, we’ll be covering that in-depth when it happens.

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Pi-mageddon!

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After 152 issues and almost 12 years (October 2006) Linux Format Towers has finally been able to afford a fresh lick of paint, but don’t panic! All your favourite sections remain intact and as they were. They’re hopefully just easier to read for everyone!

And the good news keeps on coming, because we have a double whammy of Raspberry Pi content this issue. First there’s the lowdown on the new Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Then there’s our lead feature on building, much like the Pi itself, all-conquering Pi robots! It feels like the Raspberry Pi Foundation has got into the swing of releasing these Pi boards, which is great. We now have a major board release and then an enhance update, so this latest B+ offers a minor processor speed boost, a significant drop in operating temperatures and a large boost in its networking prowess.

No matter if you have a Raspberry Pi old or new, have one gathering dust or are simply looking for something fun to do this weekend, then have we got something for you… a complete guide to building and coding robots! We’re going to look at the parts, the code and how you can put a kit together to make a fun, affordable Pibot.

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Stop them spying!

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The UK’s “Snooper’s Charter” was described as “the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy” by the Open Rights Group. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) has been ruled unlawful three times now: in the UK High Court, in the European Court of Justice and most recently by the UK Court of Appeal.

It turns out the UK government simply has no right and is breaking the law by collecting the entire nation’s internet activity and phone records, and enabling public bodies to grant themselves access to these personal details when there’s been no crime or even suspicious activity, without incredibly any independent oversight whatsoever.

So we have no qualms wielding our open source privacy toolkit, to mask our browsing, send encrypted messages to our friends and keep files locked privately away.

Many of the noises coming from the UK government make it feel like it could even be lurching towards outlawing strong encryption, a much-derided position, but one that will put open source users in a difficult situation. Back in the late ‘90s the US banned exporting encryption stronger than 40-bits, later 56-bit with backdoors, which was largely futile and stifled innovation at the time.

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