If you’re a desktop Linux user… and let’s face it, there are .86 of you for every 100 people who read this blog (hello one armed man!)… then this week was a good one. Let’s go through some of the news!

Elementary OS Luna Beta 1

One of the most watched Linux distros for some time has been Elementary. A number of GTK themes have come out of the work on the OS that have been some of the most well received in the Linux community.

This week Luna Beta 1 came out, and it’s had a surprisingly positive number of reviews. Mine can be included in that. I have only installed it this weekend, but am already quite impressed with the polish and performance it has in comparison to Ubuntu 12.10.

Since Elementary is built on top of the Ubuntu platform, it benefits from the significant amount of packaging and community work that Ubuntu benefits from, and then there is simply an additional layer of polish and smart bundling of software that simply makes it feel like a much more complete and comfortable OS.

Now, that’s not to say it’s without bugs. I’ve had a few myself, including Noise (the custom media app) being unable to sync my music folder properly without crashing, and a number of system crash dialogs - but they have been relatively sparse so far. Overall, apps I’m used to having problems with in Linux (like Skype), have just worked; quite surprisingly.

Monday will be the first real test, as I will be entering the workforce with it full-time. So far, however, color me impressed!

A Variety of Steam News

Steam was officially launched to 1000 lucky folks on 11/06, and is starting to really pick up some… pressurized evaporated water. On Friday, the Valve folks announced 500 additional slots in their BETA, slowly but surely expanding the test base.

It should be noted that 60,000 people signed up for the initial BETA, which is not a paltry number. It’s an encouraging sign that there is at least some viability there.

In addition to 500 people being in the list, Friday also saw the official unveiling of Big Picture mode on the Linux client, which some have seen as an opportunity for console-like gaming from Linux (assuming, of course, that ‘if you build it, the games will come’ holds true).

As I mentioned previously, the initial release had about 25 games, most of which were indie games that for one reason or another were already cross-platform and available through other channels, like Humble Indie Bundle. That list has been gradually expanding over the last week, with a variety of other indie games and greenlight games coming alive. Which leads into the next topic…

Unity 3D 4.0 - Now Runs on Linux

One of the single most popular game engines right now is Unity (not to be confused with Ubuntu Unity). My company works with a ton of clients using this as their gaming platform, and there are a number of good reasons why; not the least of which is the huge number of platforms it supports out of the box.

The 4.0 release includes preview support for generating Linux binaries, which is a huge boon for Linux, as it effectively brings the porting effort down to zero. Since most Unity games don’t have any platform-specific code, it’s very easy to just generate the Linux distro to get the extra coverage.

Skype 4.1

Microsoft released Skype 4.1 this week for Linux, bringing with it support for integration with the Messenger IM service.

This isn’t particularly notable as an individual release, but it does seem to further solidify the commitment (from Microsoft nonetheless!) to deliver a consistent, and hopefully quality, Skype client for Linux. Something those of us who use it for our jobs will appreciate.

Netflix (Kinda!)

Finally, folks finally got Netflix (in all its Silverlight DRM glory) running on Linux via use of Firefox running through Wine. It apparently was quite a chore to get working; but you’ve gotta love the ingenuity of people.

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