Ubuntu 20.04 LTS – Now is the time

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Linux and Ubuntu, in particular, have been on the up and up these past few years. Today marks the release of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, a major milestone in the releases for this massively favoured Linux distribution.

LTS?

LTS stands for Long Term Support in the release cycle world of software development. It marks a version that is usually safe to use and will be supported for a long time to come. You could almost equate it to a big release in the Windows (Service Packs/Red stone releases) or MacOS world (High Sierra/Mojave/Catalina etc.)

LTS releases come around every 2 years or so with the intention of a long supported development cycle that will ensure your software gets updates for the next 5 years (at least). You can read more about Ubuntu’s release history here.

Ubuntu 20.04 desktop

What’s New?

While there is a lot to go through, some of the highlights I found interesting include:

  • Desktop
  • Developer-centric improvements
    • Python3 is now the default (RIP Python 2)
    • PHP 7.4 support out the door
    • Ruby 2.7
    • Ruby on Rails 5.2.3
    • Apache, TLSv1.3, client cert auth
    • OpenSSH improvements
    • PostgreSQL 12
  • Network configuration / management improvements
  • Snap store
    • The Snap Store (snap-store) replaces ubuntu-software as the default tool for finding and installing packages and snaps.
  • Linux kernel 5.4
    • Boot speed improvements.
    • Significant power-saving improvements.
    • Numerous USB 3.2 and Type-C improvements.
    • Support for raspberry pi (Pi 2B, Pi 3B, Pi 3A+, Pi 3B+, CM3, CM3+, Pi 4B)
    • Includes support for new hardware including Intel Comet Lake CPUs and initial Tiger Lake platforms, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 & 855 SoCs, AMD Navi 12 and 14 GPUs, Arcturus and Renoir APUs along with Navi 12 + Arcturus power features.
    • Support for AMD Rome CPUs, Radeon RX Vega M and Navi GPUs, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and other ARM SoCs and Intel Cannon Lake platforms.
    • Support has been added for the exFAT filesystem
    • Built-in support for the Wireguard VPN.
  • ZFS 0.8.3 file system
    • Big improvements to the already snappy ZFS file system such as hardware-accelerated Native Encryption and performance improvements.

I personally found the previous Ubuntu LTS release (18.04) to be quite solid and but this release looks to take things to the next level in exciting new ways.

Why Ubuntu? Why now?

Ubuntu is a well established, well recognized name in the Linux community. It’s well used, well documented and is extremely stable and easy to use without compromising on more advanced features one may require.

Ubuntu is perfect for the following groups of people; open-source developers and web developers, people looking to use a free, solid operating system alternative to Windows, elderly who pretty much just want to use the internet to browse, schools looking to teach students about real-world development challenges/computers, open-source enthusiasts, people who are donating older hardware and want a non-complicated operating system, business people and over the past few years, even gamers (Steam now has over 6000+ Linux games).

The beauty of Ubuntu is that it runs well on high-end hardware, but runs extremely well on older hardware, to the point where it can breathe new life into old machines. There is a reason developers love and enjoy Ubuntu, it’s fast, stable, to the point and extremely customizable to please even the most hardcore of developers.

Uses for Ubuntu

  • Use is as a Kodi/Plex media streaming server.
  • Give back by running a [email protected] server.
  • Use it as a web development server to build/test/run web applications or if you are looking to learn web development, Python development or server management.
  • As it’s super user-friendly, install it on your parents/grandparents machines and say goodbye to viruses/malware for the most part.
    • Software compatibility includes; Chrome, VLC, Skype, Spotify, GIMP, Inkscape, Dropbox, Steam, Visual Studio Code as well as a host of other software.
  • Hassle-free – perfect for education campuses, schools, learning centres or donated hardware looking for a free operating system.

Ubuntu installable image files can be downloaded from here.

Laragon: The fastest way to setup WordPress locally

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Usually, when it comes to setting up a local dev environment you have a few options. I’m here today to share with you, the joy that is Laragon. The fastest way to set up WordPress (or any other PHP CMS really) on a local machine.

Depending on your operating system, most people would opt for a WAMP / LAMP or MAMP stack setup on their machine. Some prefer running a VM with their own web server they have set up.

Vagrant is a popular option which is essentially a Virtualbox VM in the background. Another popular option is WampServer or XAMPP, but these are quite specific to Windows (although XAMPP is cross-platform).

Recently I came across Laragon (Windows only), which is essentially XAMPP on steroids. Never before in my 15+ year career have I been able to set up a brand new WordPress (or Drupal) installation as quickly as Laragon can do it.

I was using Xampp for local development until about a year ago when I found Laragon & I haven’t looked back since. This is seriously the most powerful local development tool I have in my entire “developer toolkit”.

Laragon Forum user (Link)

You can go from having a freshly installed Windows operating system to having an entire WordPress installation in less than 30 seconds. In fact, I created a .gif to show you the magic in action. Behold;

Laragon comes with hosts file management so that means it will automatically create a neat local URL for you projectname.test – gone are the days of having to use http://localhost/projectname or http://127.0.0.1/projectname – Laragon handles this for you out the box.

There are quite a few additional benefits and features that come with Laragon;

  • 1-click PHP extensions enable/disable
  • Comes with phpMyAdmin and HeidiSQL (my preferred MySQL GUI manager)
  • HTTPS/SSL support
  • Ability to run NGINX alongside Apache
  • Extremely light-weight and blazingly fast (I can confirm)
  • Git / Redis / Memcached integration
  • Extendable – Laragon setup can be customized in nearly every way
  • Cmder integration out the box for shell access
  • Ability to install and switch between additional PHP versions
  • Symfony, Laravel and Drupal 8 1-click setups out the box
  • Additional support for Node.js/MongoDB, Python/Django/Flask/Postgres, Ruby, Java, Go once installed

Laragon comes in 3 flavours; Full (~130MB), Lite (~85 MB) and Portable (~18 MB) – I’d suggest the Full version to get you up and running fast, but that depends on your preference.

My Top 10 Recommended Brackets Extensions for 2016

Reading Time: 4 minutes

brackets ide

Brackets_Icon.svgBrackets from Adobe is one of the fastest growing used text editors for web developers. Released just over a year ago, it’s become a great free IDE to code with and I’m finding it preferable to use over Sublime and Atom.

“A modern, open source text editor that understands web design.”

Because it’s relatively new on the scene, some new users may not be aware of it’s fantastic free extensions that can be installed via the Extension Manager within the application itself.

Below is a list of my top 10 recommended extensions (in no particular order) to use for Brackets – all of which are available to install within the Extension Manager.

1. Beautify

Beautify is a useful extension that formats your HTML, CSS and JS code into a neat and clean layout. Sometimes you get so carried away coding, it’s not always easy to keep it neat and tidy. Beautify takes care of all of that and is certainly useful if you’re a neat code freak who loves ordered code like me.

Beautify

2. Brackets Icons

The default file icons in Brackets leaves a lot to be desired. They are dreary and dull.  Thankfully this nifty extension swaps out the default icons for more vibrant, easier to spot icons.  Each file extension has a different icon making your website’s folder structure much easier to digest.

Brackets Icons

3. Color Highlighter

This handy extension highlights your CSS code with the actual colour that is written adding more zest to your CSS code. Yet again, this another feature that should be stock standard in Brackets.

Color Highlighter for Brackets

4. Documents Toolbar

Documents Toolbar adds a handy tabbed toolbar with support for various tab colours. It also gives a comprehensive context menu for those tabs so that you can quickly perform a common task quickly such as saving your work.

Documents Toolbar

5. Emmet

Emmet is a well known and popular must-have extension that easily automates syntax, provides dynamic snippets and greatly improves coding speed. It has saved my butt many times in the past.

Something like this:

#page>div.logo+ul#navigation>li*5>a{Item $}

Is quickly and dynamically transformed into this:

<div id="page">
<div class="logo"></div>
<ul id="navigation">
<li><a href="">Item 1</a></li>
<li><a href="">Item 2</a></li>
<li><a href="">Item 3</a></li>
<li><a href="">Item 4</a></li>
<li><a href="">Item 5</a></li>
</ul>
</div>

Very handy indeed.

emmet

6. Image dimension extractor

This nifty little extension quickly extracts the dimensions (width and height in pixels) of an image or a CSS Background property. Handy if you’re making newsletters and coding an image-intensive HTML page.

backgroundimage

7. Interactive Linter

Of all extensions mentioned here, this would rank very very high as a necessity. Linters in text editors are nothing new, but Interactive Linter for Brackets is one of the best I’ve seen yet. It’s unobtrusive, fast and does an excellent job and watching out for coding errors.

il

8. Minimap

If you ever wanted Brackets to look and behave more like Sublime Text Editor, Minimap would be a great starting point.  The awesome minimap feature of Sublime is available to Brackets via an extension and it works just as well.

minimap

9. Right Click Extended

This basic extension doesn’t do much apart from adding a few additional, yet much needed functions to the right-click menu like the ability to Cut, Copy and Paste. Why these basic functions are missing from the core of Brackets is a little weird, but this extension makes up for that.

rightcl

10. Reasonable Comments

Commenting is a workflow process we should all be doing for easier readability of future code. This extension simpifies commenting by automating the comment block to extend dynamically as you press enter.

comments

 


Brackets 1.0 by Adobe was initially released on the 4th November 2014. It’s actively developed and is available for free on Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s open source, supports extensions and themes and has a Live Preview feature. At the time of writing Brackets version 1.5 is latest available version.