Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Want to run web applications on your desktop without a browser? Adobe’s Integrated Runtime (AIR) does exactly that and now an alpha release for Linux is available. Adobe has already released AIR 1.0 for Windows and Mac but apparently the Linux version has been delayed while Adobe waited for Flash for Linux to be finalized.
Air makes it possible to run a range of applications (usually web applications) on Windows, Linux and Mac using the runtime environment. Think Java’s ‘write once, run anywhere’ mantra made easier.
Already there are a good handful of AIR applications available, although not all of them run on the alpha version on Linux without a little tweaking. Many of those that do run on Linux are listed on Adobe’s site, including a mapping application using Yahoo! Maps web services, a desktop ruler and a decent RSS browser called Pixel Perfect. We also tested some of the suggested applications here and with a few exceptions, most worked well on Ubuntu 8.04. A more comprehensive list of AIR applications is available on Adobe’s AIR showcase.
Installing AIR on Linux
Adobe Air alpha for Linux only runs on systems using the .deb or .rpm packaging system. Officially AIR also only runs on RedHat Desktop Linux 4, RedHat Enterprise Linux v5, Novell Desktop Linux 9, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and Ubuntu 6.06 but we successfully installed it on Ubuntu 8.04.
To install AIR for Linux, download the Linux installer (around 15MB). You will need to make the installer executable:
chmod +x adobeair_linux_a1_033108.binYou can then run the installer by double-clicking the file or running it from a command line.
Once you have AIR installed you’ll need some sample applications. Start with the suggested ones on the Adobe Air for Linux site which will work if you have AIR running.
One of the applications not listed on the Adobe sample site but which reader Bradley Wells suggests is feedalizr, which aggregates Twitter and FriendFeeds among others.
Download the Feedalizr file which will be called feedalizr.air. Double-clicking this file will open it in the Adobe Air installer. Follow the instructions and Feedalizr will be installed.
Uninstalling AIR is down through the normal package management system because AIR is installed as a regular Debian or RPM package. The package is called AdobeAIR_enu on .rpm systems and adobeair-enu for Debian systems.
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More people are converting to Linux platform and it seems that they are not regretting the conversion. It was after the church service when there was a tap on my shoulder.
"Hey Neil, just letting you know that you converted me" said the voice.
I turned around. There before me was Gary (not his real name), a member of our church. Before I had the brainpower to wonder why it was that a Christian in our church had just announced that I had converted him, he continued.
"I'm using Linux"
Gary continued the story. A month or so ago our two families had lunch after church together and we got talking about operating systems. Gary, a doctor, had an Mac Laptop running Leopard and a desktop running Windows XP. I remember him complaining about how difficult XP was getting for him, how frustrated he was at how slow it was running, how annoyed he was at certain programs.
At this point I naturally began talking about Linux and my own experiences. Gary listened and asked questions - he had heard about Linux and had considered running it in the past - but had never gotten around to doing it because he didn't have much information.
Having both a Mac and a Windows PC meant that he could see the massive problems with Windows XP in comparison with his Mac. He wasn't about to go off and buy himself a Mac desktop and replace his Windows machine just yet.
After that lunch I didn't give it another thought, but Gary obviously did. The other day he upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04, the most popular Linux distro.
"I'm loving it" he said to me at church, "it does exactly what I want it to do with a minimum of fuss. Actually, the person who seems to enjoy it more is Larissa (wife)."
Another person joined us in our Linux conversation. He mentioned just how hard it would be for him to stop using Windows and to use something else. Gary and I both agreed that any move to Linux requires a re-learning and settling in period, but once you have gotten over that hump, you never look back.
While talking to Gary I mentioned what a unique position he was in - he had experience in both Mac and Windows before removing Windows and replacing it with Linux. Here is a man who can use three different operating systems - and who waxes lyrical about Linux.
Gary, of course, is not about to ditch his Mac laptop. He's very happy with the Mac software and knows enough about it to realize how similar it is to Linux (both are based upon Unix). He also knows that there are things that Macs do which Linux can't do yet... which is another reason why he is happy to keep both computers running different operating systems.
Of course, Gary is still new to the Linux world and is bound to experience some ups and downs. Nevertheless I am reasonably confident that he, like me, won't regret the move at all.
Source: One Salient Oversight
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (long-term support) launched on April 24th for desktops and servers. There is something for everyone in this version, but the LTS release will have particular appeal to enterprises. As one corporate user said to me, "I have been waiting for the release of Ubuntu 8.04, because I am using Ubuntu 6.06 on my company laptop and we have to install exclusively long term support releases." The LTS release assures a reliable upgrade paths twice a year with security updates maintained for a full five years.
This newest version was developed under the codename "Hardy Heron". The previous version, 7.10 (once known by the code name of "Gutsy Gibbon") was a rock-solid release that launched in October 2007. Numerous incremental improvements have appeared since – with all the updates freely available and automatically installable. Ubuntu has continued to develop momentum as a reliable, fun to use operating system.
For new users or existing users considering an upgrade, it's easy to try Ubuntu 8.04. Simply download the software from ubuntu.com and burn it onto a CD. From there, you have three options to try it out. If you have an old, unused PC, dust it off and install Ubuntu. This is a great way to bring new life to old computers.
Another approach is to use the Ubuntu "Live" CD without installing onto your computer – simply boot off the CD. Select the startup option that says "Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer". You should be running Ubuntu in no time without reconfiguring your system.
A third trial option is to run Ubuntu on an existing Windows PC using a feature called Wubi. This installs Ubuntu as a Windows application without taking over or reconfiguring the PC. It takes a while to install, but I was surprised by how good the performance was once it got running. Wubi can be easily uninstalled.
For existing Ubuntu users, the 8.04 release looks better than ever and is a logical step forward as an upgrade path. To insure you have no installation incompatibilities with this release (I encountered several), I suggest downloading the full CD from ubuntu.com first. Try the "Live CD" approach prior to upgrading your production configuration. Another practical tip is to maintain your data files on a separate physical or logical drive from your installed operating system, thus reducing your risks and giving you more options during any upgrade installation.