ubermix panel at CETPA

Posted by Jim Klein On Tuesday, November 25, 2014 0 comments
Leaders in education technology from a number of U.S. States met at the California Education Technology Professionals Association (CETPA) annual conference in Sacramento, California last week to to learn about the latest tools and strategies for infusing technology into the classroom. With over 900 decision makers in attendance, the event was one of the largest CETPA has ever put on.

I was lucky enough to be able to speak on Friday, and one of my sessions was the "Ultimate ubermix Panel 2.0", which brought together an illustrious team of ubermix leaders to discuss their ubermix-based learning initiatives, including (from left to right):

  • Brad Grumbles, Coordinator of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instructional Technology, Panama-Buena Vista Union School District
  • Dr. Mike Vollmert, Director of Technology, Rio School District
  • Andrew Schwab, Chief Technology Officer, Union School District
  • Larry Rego, Director of Information Technology, Hillmar Unified School District
  • Jim Klein (me), Chief Technology Officer, Las Virgenes Unified School District

From the program:
Looking for something more from your student devices? Want a 1:1 solution without limits that is easy-to-deploy, easy-to-manage, and best of all - free? Join the conversation that features a panel of five education technology leaders from all over California as they share and discuss their experiences with deploying and using ubermix in their school classrooms, labs, and their 1:1 laptop deployments. From old-timers who have been using ubermix for years to newbies who have recently deployed as many as 6000 devices (in a single summer!), participants are sure to gain powerful ideas for learning and get all of their questions answered. Join the free software revolution for student devices that is bringing powerful tools for learning into the hands of thousands students all over the world!
 We had a great crowd and awesome conversation!
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ubermix 2.02 and 2.02 "lite": better Mac compatibility and support for older hardware

Posted by Jim Klein On Sunday, June 22, 2014 0 comments
We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of ubermix 2.02 and 2.02 "lite". The 2.02 update brings with it improved compatibility with Apple hardware. While ubermix 2.0 could always install directly on Intel-based Macintosh systems, in some cases it could be challenging to get the wireless interface configured because the latest systems not only have a custom Broadcom wireless card, but they also lack a wired network port, making it difficult to download and install the appropriate driver. Now ubermix 2.0 includes in the install package for the latest Broadcom wireless driver in the image itself, significantly easing the install process.

For those not yet ready to give up on bulky, clunky, and slow Mac OS, ubermix 2.02 makes it easy to setup a side-by-side, dual-boot installation of ubermix and Mac OS, without losing any existing data on the Mac OS side of the installation. Be sure to check out http://wiki.ubermix.org/page/Apple_Mac for details and instructions.

The version 2.02 release also introduces ubermix lite, a trimmed down version of ubermix for older hardware. First off, ubermix lite is a refactored, 32-bit version that will run on older Intel and AMD hardware that don't support 64-bit, like older Asus EeePCs, Acer Aspire netbooks, and desktop systems from the mid-2000s. It's launcher shares much of the design language of full ubermix 2.0, however does not require any sort of graphics acceleration, making it fast and light on older systems. And its memory footprint is smaller, making it a better fit for systems with 1Gb or less of internal memory.

When you are ready to get going with either ubermix on your Mac or ubermix lite on your older hardware, head over to the Download and Install page to grab the latest version.


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Add every Ubuntu desktop wallpaper ever to ubermix 2.0

Posted by Jim Klein On Saturday, June 21, 2014 0 comments
Ubuntu has always shipped with a great collection of desktop wallpaper images, selected via a wallpaper contest prior to each release. In the past, installing wallpapers from a prior version required a bit of work, but with ubermix 2.0 you can now install every wallpaper (all 177 of them) from every version with one simple command. If you would like to check them all out on your ubermix machine, simply do the following:
  1. Open a terminal by selecting "Terminal" from "Activities:Accessories" or pressing ctrl-alt-t on your keyboard
  2. Type "sudo apt-get install ubuntu-wallpapers*" (no quotes) and press the enter key.
(Note: you must be connected to the Internet for this to work.)

Once complete, close the terminal window, right click anywhere on the desktop, and choose "Change Desktop Background" to see all of your new choices.

Just a few samples are below. Enjoy!


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ubermix 2.0 Stable Release

Posted by Jim Klein On 0 comments
We are pleased to announce that ubermix 2.0 stable is now available! ubermix 2.0 brings with it two years of expertise and ideas from all over the world, and is a significant update to the ubermix platform, bringing with it a number of key features, including:

  • Built on the latest underpinnings from Ubuntu, version 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr)
  • Broad hardware support, including the latest tablet and hybrid devices
  • 64-bit kernel and applications, bringing support for larger memory configurations and applications
  • Modern, easy-to-use interface with plenty to love for novices and power-users alike
  • A larger base of more than 80 powerful applications, including greater opportunity to code and learn to code
  • Significant improvements to the installation and customization options, providing greater speed, flexibility and performance for large deployments
  • Across the board refinement of all ubermix-specific customizations, making this the most powerful, reliable ubermix ever!
For further details, have a look at our prior post about the release candidate.

It is important to note that ubermix 2 might not run well (or at all) on some of your oldest hardware. For example systems with just 512Mb of RAM and/or a video card lacking acceleration will struggle. And if a system is so old that it is only 32-bit capable, ubermix 2 will not install. While an ubermix 2.0 "lite" is currently under consideration, for such applications, ubermix 1.x is still available, will continue to receive updates through version 1.6, and will be fully supported through the end of 2015.

Also, please bear with us while we update our site and documentation - there is much to go through! We should have everything up to snuff in short order.

If you are ready to give ubermix 2 a go, head on over to the Download and Install page for instructions. And if you need help, be sure to check the wiki and forums.

Thank you to the entire ubermix community for all your support and encouragement! A big thank you to Andrew Schwab, Mike Vollmert, Larry Rego, Thomas Hartley,  Bob Henderson, Urko Masse, David Hicks, Jason Ricker, Gary Hampton, and the entire Inyo County tech team for your help and support with development and testing. You're all awesome!


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Silverlight, ShockWave, Unity and other Web Plugins

Posted by Jim Klein On Thursday, June 12, 2014 0 comments
One of the best things about ubermix is its flexibility, both on and off the web. Yet there are times when a Linux plugin simply isn't available for a particular site. But have no fear, Pipelight is here!

Pipelight is a combination of WINE and a browser plugin that enables using web plugins designed for Windows directly in Firefox on ubermix. Thought you couldn't run Netflix because you can't run Silverlight? Think again! As of this writing, Pipelight supports the following plugins:

Supported standard plugins:
  •   silverlight5.1
  •   silverlight5.0
  •   silverlight4
  •   flash
  •   unity3d
  •   widevine
Additional plugins (experimental):
  •   shockwave
  •   foxitpdf
  •   grandstream
  •   adobereader
  •   hikvision
  •   npactivex
  •   roblox
  •   vizzedrgr
  •   viewright-caiway
  •   triangleplayer
  •   x64-unity3d
  •   x64-flash
Installing Pipelight on ubermix is easy. Simply open a terminal (ctrl-alt-t) and type the following commands to install:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:pipelight/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install --install-recommends pipelight-multi
sudo pipelight-plugin --update
Once complete, Pipelight will be ready to install the plugins of your choosing. To find out which plugins it supports, type:
pipelight-plugin --help
Once you know the name of the plugin you want, simply type a command similar to the following to install it:
pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight
...replacing "silverlight" with the name of the plugin you wish to install, of course, if you want to install one of the others.

A few websites, like Netflix, still need one more step to work, because they check to see what operating system you are running before sending the appropriate video. To fake them out into thinking you are running Windows, install install the UAControl or User Agent Overrider extensions and use one of the following user agents:
  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:15.0) Gecko/20120427 Firefox/15.0a1
  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:22.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/22.0
  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:23.0) Gecko/20131011 Firefox/23.0
Viola! Instant access to even more content on your favorite OS!

You may have noticed I said Firefox and not Chrome. It would be nice if plugin support was still available in Chrome, but Google in their infinite wisdom decided to disable external plugins as of version 35. Hopefully, they will come to their senses very soon.

Photo Credit: Bill Selak via Compfight cc
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ubermix 2.0 Release Candidate

Posted by Jim Klein On Saturday, May 10, 2014 1 comments
Calling all testers: the final release of ubermix 2.0 is just about ready for liftoff and, after a number of beta test rounds with key ubermixers around the world, we are pleased to pre-release ubermix 2.0rc1 (release candidate 1) to the general public. Please try it on all your devices and let us know what works and what doesn't, so that we can make the final version the best it can be in a few weeks. You can find a download link at the end of this post.

ubermix 2.0 (code name: HoneyBadger) brings with it two years of expertise and ideas from all over the world, packaged on the latest underpinnings from Ubuntu, version 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr). The interface has been updated as well, and is now based on a custom version of Cinnamon, which is modern, light, flexible, and easy to use.


You'll notice in the screenshot above that the categories are all there, just like ubermix 1.x, and that favorites are now in a column on the left. You can drag-n-drop icons from the main list to the favorites bar, or right click on any application and add to the favorites list from the options that appear.

There is also a "search" box at the top, which is active the moment the menu is open (which you can accomplish by clicking "Activities" or pressing the left Super [Windows] key.) Simply start typing and the application list will narrow to the applications that match your search. You then simply press the enter key to open the desired app.

Window snapping is another great feature. If your screen is large enough, simply drag a window to the top, bottom, left, or right edge, and ubermix will automatically resize it to fill half the screen, for side-by-side work. Or you can drag to a corner for a 4-way split.


Switching between running applications is also improved. Alt-tab switching will show you a live preview of the window in each application, and there is a new "Scale" button in the toolbar that shows all open windows, allowing you to click on the one you want.


These are but a few of the improvements - there is plenty more to discover in ubermix 2.0!

Besides interface improvements, ubermix 2.0 comes with a bunch of new applications to go with your old favorites, including:
  • Shutter: The ultimate screenshot tool that allows you to edit and annotate your screenshots with all the circles, arrows, and text you want immediately after capturing the screen, a window, or a selected area.
  • Anki Memory Trainer: Powerful, intelligent, modern flashcard-style memory trainer (replaces iGnuIt)
  • Kojo: A learning environment with many different features that enable play, exploration, creation, and learning in the areas of Computer Programming, Math and Science, Systematic and Computational Thinking, Art, Music, and Creative Thinking.
  • WriteType: A word processor that helps students experience success in writing. It features Word Completion, Reading Back the Document, Highlighting, Grammar Checking, Auto-correction, and multiple languages.
  • Blender: Free and open 3D creation software. Incredible design, engineering, animation, movie and game making software for advanced users.
  • Fotowall: Creative tool that lets you organize photos and videos. Make the perfect arrangement with your photos, add text, live video from your webcam and the best internet pictures into amazing collages.
  • Calibre:  e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. Features extensive creation and annotation features, broad format support, and the ability to search for new e-books from a variety of free and paid sources.
  • FocusWriter: FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work.
  • Geany: Geany is a small and lightweight Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for programming. I supports a wide-variety of languages, Syntax highlighting, Code folding, auto-completion, and auto-closing of HTML/XML tags.
  • Google Web Designer: Create engaging, interactive HTML5-based designs and motion graphics that can run on any device.
  • Ninja IDE: NINJA-IDE (from the recursive acronym: "Ninja-IDE Is Not Just Another IDE"), is a cross-platform integrated development environment (IDE) for Python programming. It features a Powerful Code Editor, Amazing Code Locator, simple Project Management, and is Highly Extensible.
  • Kazam: Kazam provides a well designed and easy to use interface for capturing screencasts and screenshots. It can record desktop video and multiple audio streams simultaneously with control over audio levels and the screen region being captured.
  • MuseScore: Create, play back and print beautiful sheet music with free and easy to use music notation software.
For techies, ubermix 2.0 brings a number of key improvements, including the following:
  • ubermix 2.0 is now running the latest 64bit Linux kernel from Ubuntu, bringing significantly improved device support, support for larger memory configurations, and more efficient use of hardware, which brings noticeable improvements in overall performance. With that, there is something of a drawback: While ubermix 2.0 will run fine on most systems, particularly ancient devices may be unable to run it due to lack of 64bit support. For those systems I would recommend sticking with 1.x, which will continue to receive updates through May 2015 and maintenance through 2017. 
  • There is a new "Advanced Install" option that will allow you to set the base system and user changes partition sizes during the installation process, making it far easier to customize the install to your liking.
  • ubermix 2.0 is no longer tied to fixed partition sizes on the disk, so there is little cost to having a large base partition. Rather than taking an image of the entire partition when updating a key, it instead shrinks the partition down to the smallest possible size first, prior to copying the image to the key. Conversely, when upgrading from one version to a newer one, rather than looking to see that the disk is configured identically, the installer instead looks to see if the base system partition is big enough to hold the update and, if so, offers to upgrade. All this means smaller keys, greater flexibility, and quicker installs.
  • ubermix now supports the latest UEFI hardware, which includes most newer devices that come with Windows 8 by default, including higher end tablets.
There's plenty more to check out in ubermix 2.0. If you'd like to get to know ubermix 2.0 right away, download ubermix-key2.0rc2.img and follow the "Creating a USB key" instruction on the ubermix.org web site to create your install key today!

Update 5/14/14: The link above now reflects Release Candidate 2. 
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ubermix 1.4 Released

Posted by Jim Klein On Tuesday, February 11, 2014 0 comments
We are pleased to announce that ubermix 1.4 has been released, and is available for download at http://ubermix.org/files.html . Version 1.4 bring ubermix in line with the recently released Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS, and is largely a "hardware enablement" and basic update release. In particular, ubermix 1.4 features a new version of the Ubuntu kernel, version 3.11, and matching X.org (user interface/graphics) stack, aimed at providing improved support for a wider variety of hardware.

Other changes include new versions of Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice.

Because this release includes newer/bigger versions of a variety of apps, the overall install size of the base image has (by necessity) been increased to 5 Gb (see http://ubermix.org/customization.html for a better understanding of the base image.) While all prior 1.x versions have had the ability to be updated in-place, without reformatting the disk or losing user data, the increased size of the ubermix 1.4 image will require a reformat of the disk. Please bear this in mind when installing on top of an existing install, and be sure to backup any data as necessary prior to installing.

Also, due to the increased size, a 2 Gb USB install key is no longer sufficient to hold the image. Therefore, the next logical size (4Gb) is recommended for USB keys.

Support for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS stretches into 2017 and as such, so does ubermix. ubermix 2.0 will be based on the next LTS release, Ubuntu 14.04, which is due this April. Expect ubermix 2.0 (codename: honeybadger) beta releases shortly after that.
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