ubermix 3 now avalable!

Posted by Jim Klein On Friday, June 10, 2016 8 comments
After months of testing, ubermix 3, the latest and greatest version of the popular operating system, has been released into the wild! Based on Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial Xerus), ubermix 3 brings with it a wealth of improvements and interface refinements, based on feedback from thousands of students and educators from all over the world. User experience and flexibility have been a big focus for this release, as has been support for the latest hardware and a host of new, default applications.


At first glance, the thing that jumps out is the new dock along the bottom of the screen, which offers a familiar, icon-based experience that people have become accustomed to in the UIs of modern devices. The dock offers an immediate "something to do" and a familiar location to find and switch between running applications.

At the top right is a new Power & Settings menu, that offers quick, easier access to system settings and functions.


Other things experienced users will immediately notice are that the "Activities" menu has been changed to "Applications" (now that the actions that were there have been moved to the Power/Settings menu), an attractive dark theme throughout, and smoother, more fluid transitions when interacting with the interface.

The default application list has also been updated, with the latest and greatest versions of old favorites and many new ones. New additions include:

Clementine - A new music player with support for listening to internet radio from Spotify, Jamendo, Last.fm, Magnatune, SKY.fm, SomaFM, Icecast, Digitally Imported, Soundcloud and Google Drive and possibly Google Music in the future.
Gazebo - A well-designed robot simulator makes it possible to rapidly test algorithms, design robots, and perform regression testing using realistic scenarios.
Nitroshare - A cross-platform, peer-to-peer application designed to make transferring files from one device to another extremely simple.
TypeCatcher - Google Fonts provides web developers and designers with hundreds of open-source web fonts that can be used for free. This app makes it easy to download and install them.

Shotcut -  A free, open source, cross-platform video editor. Super fast, with a sleek, intuitive design. Supports HD, wide-formats, and a variety of device and transport options.

ArduinoIDE - The Arduino Integrated Development Environment connects to popular, inexpensive Arduino and Genuino open-source hardware to upload programs and communicate with them. Includes Hummingbird robotics support and Ardublock for younger students.

Atom - Atom is a text editor that's modern, approachable, yet hackable to the core. It's extremely flexible and customizable, with a built in package manager, smart autocompletion, and multi-pane views. Ideal for scripts and code.

Darktable - Open source photography workflow application and RAW developer. A virtual light table and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable light table and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

LibreCAD - A fully comprehensive 2D CAD application. LibreCAD can read DXF and DWG files (and others). It writes DXF files, but can also export SVG, JPG, PNG, PDF and other files. It has layers, blocks, splines, polylines, ellipse tools, advanced tangent line & circle tools, transformation tools, an advanced snapping system and more.

Synfig Studio - 2D animation software, designed as powerful industrial-strength solution for creating film-quality animation using a vector and bitmap artwork. It eliminates the need to create animation frame-by frame, allowing you to produce 2D animation of a higher quality with fewer people and resources.

QT QR Code Generator - Software that let's you generate QR codes easily, scan an image file for QR codes and decode them or use your webcam to scan a printed one.

Geary - An email application that allows you to read and send email with a simple, modern interface. Supports Gmail (including labels and archive), Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com, and popular IMAP servers (Dovecot, Cyrus, Zimbra, etc.)

Getting Things Gnome - Getting Things GNOME! (GTG) is a personal tasks and TODO-list items organizer, inspired by the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.

KeepNote - With KeepNote, you can store class notes, TODO lists, research notes, journal entries, paper outlines, etc in a simple notebook hierarchy with rich-text formatting, images, and more. Using full-text search, you can retrieve any note for later reference.

Planner - An planning application with the goal to be an easy-to-use no-nonsense cross-platform project management solution. Features Definition of tasks and subtasks, resources and resource groups, dependencies between tasks, display of the critical path, calendars with working/non-working time, gantt chart and resource usage overview, HTML export of project plans, translated to over 50 languages.

BlueJ - An integrated, interactive Java development environment, featuring class structure diagrams, interactive invocation and an easy-to-use interface.

Python IDLE -IDLE (Integrated DeveLopment Environment or Integrated Development and Learning Environment) is an integrated development environment for Python, which has been bundled with the default implementation of the language.

PiTiVi - An intuitive and flexible video editor that integrates well with ubermix and can appeal to newbies and professionals alike. Pitivi has a beautiful and intuitive user interface, a clean codebase and a fantastic community.

Backups (Deja-dup) - A simple backup tool. Features support for local, remote, or cloud backup locations, such as Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files, securely encrypts and compresses your data, incrementally backs up, letting you restore from any particular backup, schedules regular backups.

There are a number of changes under the hood as well. Now that storage is less of an issue and devices typically include at least 32Gb of space, the default size of the user changes space has been increased to 8Gb and automatic update prompts have been turned on. What this means, however, is that system updates will begin to take up the user space as they are applied. While the default settings will be fine for most users, advanced installers should consider this when selecting a size for the user changes partition while doing an advanced install.

This release will carry ubermixers well into the future, with updates through May 2019. To download, click Download and Install above.

Enjoy!
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ubermix 2.4 is out!

Posted by Jim Klein On Sunday, March 6, 2016 1 comments
ubermix 2.4 is the latest release, bringing ubermix in sync with upstream Ubuntu 14.04.4 (Trusty Tahr) and adding a number of improvements, including:

  • Updated installer key to newer kernel for better hardware support. The latest key should work with most current and near future devices, including Acer's new Travelmate B117 (tested and confirmed).
  • Better EMMC storage handling on Cloudbook-style devices.
  • Improved support of USB3 install keys - prevents overwrite when no other disks are found.
  • Major Linux kernel update to version 4.2.
  • Major xorg server update to Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) equivalent.
  • Updates to the EFI installer for UEFI devices.
  • Updated Openshot to version 2.0.
  • Added browser-check to default image, which notifies of web browser updates.
  • Cinnamon UI updated to 2.8 stable.
  • Changed the partition layout on the installer key to make it easier to increase the key size for those creating custom images.

Changes you'll notice right away include:

Improved Applets

For example, the Sound applet will now overlay track and media controls over cover art when playing music, and offers more detail for input and output options.

An improved power applet that shows battery state for all devices (like wireless mice, etc.) and offers brightness controls for screens and keyboards.


Also, the window list now shows previews of windows when you point to a window button


Improved Settings

There have been many changes to settings panels including an updated Displays panel that shows not just the device it is connected to but also the port, many new Window options for behavior and alt-tab appearance, and much, much more.

Openshot 2.0

A completely rewritten Openshot with an updated UI and better performance. More about Openshot's recent changes can be found on the Openshot blog.




Easier for Customizers

A new partition layout on the installer key makes it far easier to extend the size of the key to accommodate larger images. For further details, see the Customization page.

All of these additions make ubermix 2.4 the best ubermix yet. Click Download and Install above to get it right away, and Enjoy!
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Latest Smarter Balanced Secure Browsers

Posted by Jim Klein On Friday, January 15, 2016 0 comments
For those of you in CA looking for the latest CAASPP Secure Browser version 8.1 for State testing in California, it available for easy installation from the ubermix repository. The repositories for both ubermix 1.x and ubermix 2.x are both up-to-date as of last fall.

The secure browser is used to administer the Smarter Balanced formative and summative assessments to all students in grades 3-8 and 11 throughout the State of California, and is quite a pain to install according to the "official" instructions, so having it as part of the ubermix ecosystem makes it significantly easier for schools and districts in CA to deploy.

Installation Instructions

The CAASPP Secure Browser and its dependencies are well over 50 megabytes, so if your school is starved for bandwidth, you may want to plan accordingly.

GUI Method:
  1. Click on Activities, then select Synaptic Package Manager under Administration.
  2. When the Synaptic Package Manager window appears, click on the Reload button to update the package list for all of the online software repositories.
  3. Once the reload is complete, use the Quick filter box to search for "secure-browser-ca" for standard ubermix 2.x or "secure-browser-ca-32" for 2.xL(ite) and 1.x. Once it appears on the list, click on the checkbox next to it and choose Mark for Installation.
  4. Click on the Apply button, and Synaptic will download and install everything you need.
  5. The CASecureBrowser icon should appear under Internet in the Activities menu. If it doesn't appear immediately, don't panic - it will after a restart.
Terminal Method:
  1. Press ctrl-alt-t to open a terminal
  2. Type  sudo apt-get update to update the package list for all of the online software repositories.
  3. Type sudo apt-get install secure-browser-ca on standard ubermix 2.x or sudo apt-get install secure-browser-ca-32 on ubermix 2.xL(ite) or 1.x to install the browser.
  4. The CASecureBrowser icon should appear under Internet in the Activities menu. If it doesn't appear immediately, don't panic - it will after a restart.
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The antifragility of ubermix

Posted by Stephen Johnson On Saturday, September 19, 2015 0 comments
"Antifragility" was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile. To best explain the idea, we need to discuss fragility and robustness. 
FRAGILE
Think of an egg. You drop it on the ground, and it looks like this: 




That’s fragility. Introduce a little force or instability, and destruction soon follows. Fragility should be avoided at all costs: fragile governments, fragile investments, fragile jobs… the list goes on.

What does fragility look like in education? Intervention just for the sake of intervention. Unsustainable 1:1 deployments. Rigid adherence to curriculum. Lack of training. Implementation of (big) ‘Systems’. Teachers isolated in classrooms. Spending money on programs, training, and technology that isn’t helpful. Unneeded hierarchy and bureaucracy. A narrow understanding of how to increase student learning.
ROBUST


Think of a bowling ball. You drop it on a tile kitchen floor, and it looks like this:



That’s robustness. Introduce a little force or instability, and the object, person, organization, isn’t affected. Obviously, this is more ideal than fragility; it’s where the bumper sticker "Tough times go away; tough people don’t" comes into play.
What does robustness look like in education? A program that can keep functioning with a lack of funds. Lesson plans that are effective year to year. A 1:1 deployment the district can maintain. A well-rounded understanding of how students learn. A district that is financially stable. Quick reaction to unforeseen events.

ANTIFRAGILE

Do you remember Hydra? When you cut off one of its heads, two more sprout back in its place, like this:


That’s antifragility. Introduce a little force or instability, and the object, person, organization, etc. becomes stronger
What does antifragility look like in education? It’s a 1:1 deployment where the devices are used in new and interesting ways when the WiFi isn't working. It involves teachers who think quickly on their feet and provide engaging lesson plans, even in the midst of all the challenges schools face on a daily basis. It’s principals who implement amazing programs, activities, and training sessions on shoestring budgets. It’s districts who thrive in times of financial hardship. It’s students who enjoy fixing technology in their classrooms and view broken devices as exciting learning challenges. It’s a district or school who, like Hydra, becomes stronger, smarter, and more experienced during times when other districts and schools crumble.

Enter ubermix, which provides over 60 free applications pre-installed. This means students can continue working even if WiFi connectivity is lost. Ubermix allows for greater customization than Windows computers, Chromebooks, and iPads. There's no spyware or malware. Students and parents can download ubermix and use it on devices at home. It provides the ability to quickly recover from problems and restore the system to a default state. Updates are easy and not intrusive; in other words, students won't be forced to restart computers in the middle of a project because of an update. Oh yes--and ubermix is free. So there's no fee for licenses or management. All you need to pay for is the device. 

All school and district leaders want their organizations to be antifragile or robust. Choosing a fragile device and operating system for students is a surefire way to create frustration and negatively affect student learning. With the antifragile paradigm in mind, ubermix is a wise choice for every school and district. Even in the midst of instability--be it WiFi issues, lack of funds, or teachers who are inexperienced with technology--ubermix thrives. 
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UBERMIX: It’s Time To Upgrade!

Posted by Thomas Hartley On Tuesday, August 11, 2015 0 comments
Hi. My name is Thomas Hartley, a tech director for a K-8 district in Southeastern Wisconsin. Jim Klein asked me to be a guest blogger and I couldn’t be more excited to share my experiences and resources with the Ubermix Community. I hope you enjoy reading. If nothing else please check out the resources at the bottom of the page - in the spirit of open-source - what's mine is yours :)

My Ubermix Story:


Shortly after graduating from Beloit College five years ago, I entered my teaching career as a hybrid K-8 computer instructor and technology integration coach in a rural lake community school in southeastern Wisconsin. Last year, I was promoted to the position of district technology director, along with teaching.


The first change I made as technology director was to halt our district’s switch to Chromebooks. We had always imaged our student laptops with Windows 7 and were switching to Chromebooks to make laptop management easier. I agree with many of Jim’s reasons for sticking with a full desktop OS, as opposed to the web-based restrictive Google Chromebook model that has become popular in educational circles over the past few years. I saw Windows as a difficult OS for students to manage without administrator rights and malware was a common problem. Instead, I asked the school board to approve Ubermix 2.0 as the 1:1 operating system. Their only concern is a common one, “Can the laptops still do everything they can on Windows?”. To paraphrase my answer: “Windows cannot do everything Ubermix can!”


Our district has 3 Windows labs, a Mac lab, and iPads for classroom stations. Often times schools go with one OS and forego the great things offered by each! Obviously Linux is the best :) but applications like Kodu are a must when teaching young children programming. After a year, I can honestly say Ubermix met every student need of our district with the exception of specialized Wisconsin State testing software. Our teachers preferred testing in the labs rather than the 1:1 devices, so this was not an issue. (We did not do Smarter Balance- in which case ubermix is compatible)


After one year of using ubermix, I have no complaints. I have plenty of ideas which I send Jim’s way and often find implemented in the next ubermix changelog. This year, my tech department only had to repair hardware failure and laptop breakage rather than dealing with virus-ridden laptops needing a lengthy Windows re-imaging process. Middle school students like to sit on laptops, leave pencils when closing lids, and expertly drop them in ways to break their laptops in the most peculiar ways :) Ubermix allowed us to focus on repairing laptops swiftly without being kept busy with OS-related issues.

In my next post, I will discuss how we made the switch from a Windows only school to a 1:1 program using ubermix. After a couple years of creating custom images, I will include some tips on customizing your image. Below are a few resources that would be useful to anyone in a K-8 setting. I've also included my changelog for my 2015-16 ubermix image.

Resources:
DESKTOP & WEB RESOURCES (This is money! Credit to Rachel Ryan Hartley & Our entire Staff for using these resources & helping compile them into one place.)
WCSCOMPUTERS (My “Learning How To Learn Website”, tons of resources & a technology skills scope and sequence for a K-8 district)


Any opinions in this blog post are solely my own and not that of my employing district or administration.

Follow Me on Twitter: @hartleytek
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ubermix 2.2 Released with New Kernel/Hardware Enablement

Posted by Jim Klein On Friday, March 27, 2015 0 comments
ubermix 2.2 has been released with a new kernel, new graphics server, and support for new hardware. Additional changes include (from the changelog):
  • Added onboard on-screen keyboard (for touch devices)
  • Updated synaptics touchpad to latest upstream and patched for proper palm detection
  • Updated Inkscape to latest upstream
  • Updated Pinta to latest upstream
  • Added thermald for better battery life and thermal control on fanless devices
  • Improved disk setup on initial install on Win8 devices
ubermix 2.2 is based on Ubuntu 14.04.2 LTS, which is a Long Term Support release, expected to receive updates and security fixes through 2019.

The newly included 3.16 kernel and graphics server include a raft of features including new Kepler GPU support, improved Intel, NVidia, and Radeon graphics support, improved touchscreen and detachable keyboard support, and enhanced support for gaming controllers.

Since many new devices offer touch support, ubermix 2.2 now includes the onboard on-screen keyboard by default, as well as other enhancements to improve the experience on touch-enabled devices.

Inkscape was also updated to version 0.91, which includes an entirely new renderer and over 700 bug fixes. Expect significantly faster rendering of complex images, and new and improved measurement, text, and color tools.

Pinta gains new add-in options, redesigned shape tools, and more flexible layout tools.

Enjoy!

Photo Credit: shioshvili via Compfight cc
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CAASPP Secure Browser for Test Administration Available

Posted by Jim Klein On Friday, January 23, 2015 6 comments
The CAASPP Secure Browser version 6.5 for State testing in California is now available for installation from the ubermix repository.

The secure browser is used to administer the Smarter Balanced formative and summative assessments to all students in grades 3-8 and 11 throughout the State of California, and is quite a pain to install according to the "official" instructions, so having it as part of the ubermix ecosystem should make it significantly easier for schools and districts in CA to deploy.

Important note: at present, the installer in the ubermix repository only works with ubermix 2.x, not the "Lite" version. We'll add a special version for ubermix lite shortly. Now works with ubermix lite! And ubermix 1.x.

Installation Instructions

The CAASPP Secure Browser and its dependencies are well over 50 megabytes, so if your school is starved for bandwidth, you may want to plan accordingly.

GUI Method:
  1. Click on Activities, then select Synaptic Package Manager under Administration.
  2. When the Synaptic Package Manager window appears, click on the Reload button to update the package list for all of the online software repositories.
  3. Once the reload is complete, use the Quick filter box to search for "secure-browser-ca". Once it appears on the list, click on the checkbox next to it and choose Mark for Installation.
  4. Click on the Apply button, and Synaptic will download and install everything you need.
  5. The CASecureBrowser6.5 icon should appear under Internet in the Activities menu. If it doesn't appear immediately, don't panic - it will after a restart.
Terminal Method:
  1. Press ctrl-alt-t to open a terminal
  2. Type  sudo apt-get update to update the package list for all of the online software repositories.
  3. Type sudo apt-get install secure-browser-ca to install the browser.
  4. The CASecureBrowser6.5 icon should appear under Internet in the Activities menu. If it doesn't appear immediately, don't panic - it will after a restart.
For those who are working with large deployments using an Auto-update Script, instructions will be posted here shortly.

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