Archive for July, 2007

LXer Article

This week we have some details about the Linspire-MS deal, a great article by Danijel Orsolic, Open Source in Outer Space, my Interview with Dave Wreski, a short list of good command line tools and much more.

What Linspire Agreed To: We can read the Linspire-Microsoft patent agreement now, and I thought it would be worthwhile to give it a close, line-by-line reading. I’ll explain it as best I can, but ask your lawyer if it matters to you in a real-world sense. For our purposes here, let’s just have fun with the worst deal I’ve seen yet in this category.

Ubuntu’s best move ever: Olivier Cleynen writes, “Was it the Dell laptops deal? The costless CD shipping from Shipit? The launch of the fully-free Gobuntu? Or will it be the liberation of the proprietary Launchpad platform? No, good people. Ubuntu’s best move ever has happened quietly, and it’s on its homepage.”

E17 as a Desktop — don’t try this at home!: E17 is a still being developed version of a graphical environment called Enlightenment. E17 has been developed for a long time already. Updates have been appearing often, but they used to become obsolete in a few weeks after releases. Has anything changed suddenly? No, nothing really. Stable release of the environment is not planned anytime soon, but this of course isn’t a problem for us to have a glance at what Enlightenment has to offer at the moment.

Study: Red Hat Benefiting from MS-Novell Deal Fallout: A global survey of open-source enterprise users of Alfresco software has found that deployments of Red Hat Linux have grown twice as fast as those for Novell SUSE Linux since Novell signed its controversial patent and interoperability agreement with Microsoft in November 2006.

The LXer Interview: Dave Wreski of EnGarde Secure Linux: An interview with Dave Wreski CEO of Guardian Digital, makers of EnGarde Secure Linux. I ask him how EnGarde came about, what makes EnGarde different and the effect if any, of the GPLv3 on the software in EnGarde. He answers all these questions and more, in The LXer Interview of Dave Wreski.

Linux: Unified x86 Architecture: Thomas Gleixner described an effort to create a unified x86 architecture tree, “the core idea behind our project is simple to describe: we introduce a new arch/x86/ and include/asm-x86/ file hierarchy that includes all the existing 32-bit and 64-bit x86 code and allows the building of either a 32-bit (i386) kernel or a 64-bit (x86_64) kernel.”

Pyro: Fire up your desktop with web apps: Pyro is a new desktop environment for Linux which utilizes Firefox to run web applications alongside native desktop applications.

Eben Moglen challenges Tim O’Reilly to “join the conversation”: At the O’Reilly Open Source Convention today, Software Freedom Law Center director Eben Moglen threw down the gauntlet to O’Reilly founder and CEO Tim O’Reilly. Saying that O’Reilly had spent 10 years making money and building the O’Reilly name, Moglen invited O’Reilly to stop being “frivolous” and to join the conversation about software freedom.

Why Linux has failed on the desktop: kernel developer Con Kolivas: Prominent Linux kernel developer Con Kolivas recently quit and left it all behind. According to Kolivas, Linux is burdened with “enterprise crap” and the kernel developers are oblivious to the performance problems of Linux on the desktop. In this interview, he talks about what pushed him to quit and how Microsoft has succeeded in crushing innovation in personal computing.

Learn the Linux command line: Its never to late to help someone learn a few commands that can make the shell useful for someone new to Linux. Here are eight must-know Linux commands that will turn any Linux novice into an apparent command line guru. Go on. Impress your friends and family.

Fork a kernel, kill an “OS” and revolutionize the desktop: Danijel Orsolic writes, “The news of Con Kolivas, a Linux kernel developer, quitting that role, along with an interview in which he explains why, could and should make loud noises around the Free Software community which is often touting GNU/Linux as the best operating system one could use, and not just because of freedom you have with it. In the interview he says certain things which should cause tectonic shifts in the mindset that we have all been having. Why didn’t we realize these things before?”

Rocket scientist: Outer space exploration should be open: Space enthusiast and engineer Paul Wooster wants to open the source code for outer space, because, he says, it should be easier for everyone who wants to contribute to human activities in space to do so, not just people with advanced degrees in rocketry.

Spread the word, share this ODF artwork.: Red Hat graphic designers are no strangers to the pains of proprietary formats. Over the years, many have lost photographs, archived projects, and important portfolio work when formats have been changed. They’ve been forced to upgrade before they’re ready, too. That’s why they’re interested in open source design tools, like Inkscape and Scribus, which are becoming more popular and widely used. And when Red Hat offered to create a logo, t-shirt, and poster to raise awareness for ODF, it wasn’t hard to motivate Red Hat designers to get involved.

ODF: The inevitable format: In 1999, a scientist wanted to look at some data from soil samples collected on Mars in 1975 by the Viking lander. He wanted to test a theory about detecting the existence of Martian bacteria and microbes–in other words, finding life on Mars. The scientist thought he would find what he needed on a NASA website somewhere, but it wasn’t that easy.

Linspire Joins Interop Vendor Alliance Program: “Linspire has always been about choice and this alliance fits into that key philosophy,” said Kevin Carmony CEO, Linspire, Inc. “By broadening our relationships through participation in the Interop Vendor Alliance, we’re able to make our products interoperate better with a wider variety of software and hardware, which benefits our customers.”

Linux Companies That Didn’t Deserve to Die: SJVN writes, “A recent story entitled, “Dearly Departed: Companies and Products That Didn’t Deserve to Die” didn’t cover Linux or open-source companies. That got me to thinking. So here, without further adieu, is my list of five Linux companies that died before their time.”

T-Dose (International) Dutch Open Source Event 2007: In the weekend of 13th and 14th October 2007 the free Open Source Event T-DOSE (Technical Dutch Open Source Event) will take place at the Fontys College of Applied Science in Eindhoven, ,The Netherlands (GoogleMaps) . During this event there are 2 central tracks an open source market and several developer or community rooms. There is still room for more Open Source projects and Talks.

The envelope, please . . .: In our dual purpose, its about FUD and could be FUD at the same time article.. We have The Oscars. The Emmys. The Grammys. And the award for excellence in promoting FUD? The Elmers, of course. Larry the Open Source Guy makes his nominations, and more are requested.

Why Microsoft Should buy Red Hat: In another of our “Lost Touch with Reality” articles we have an author who really, really tries to make a case for Microsoft buying Red Hat a good idea, for the market and Microsoft. Whew! and I thought I was living in my own little world..:-)


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LXer Article


We always seem to hear about the companies that treat their customers like thieves or take away their rights, just for the sake of money. What about the companies that don’t do that? What about the companies that respect their customers? What about the companies who want to make money and not take away their customers rights at the same time?

Well companies like that do exist, and if I get my way you are going to start hearing more about them. One of those good companies is Guardian Digital, the makers of EnGarde Secure Linux. Dave Wreski, the CEO of Guardian Digital was kind enough to speak with me recently. I asked him, among other things about how his company does the right thing and still makes money.

The Interview

What is your position with EnGarde and what are your responsibilities?

I founded the company in 1999 and have been very excited to take it from its origins into its current position in providing comprehensive solutions for enterprise environments. As such, I am currently involved in the major strategic aspects of the company. This includes all aspects of the business including development, product engineering and strategic planning.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, when your interest in computers and software started?

Initially, I had gotten interested in computers very early on, and was introduced to Linux since its inception in the early 90s, and quickly became involved in learning about open source and what I believed to be the future of Internet technology. I had worked at a large international company called Ascom Timeplex, a provider of services for integrated voice, data communications and network based security solutions.

After leaving Timeplex, I moved on to work at United Parcel Service (UPS) as a senior architect for UPS Worldwide, managing the security architecture of the company’s worldwide data centers, the secure design of partner communications with internal UPS systems and the security staff. This was a time of extraordinary growth for the company, where I also managed and directed the Internet Systems security policy.

For those who may not be familiar with your company, can give us a brief history of how EnGarde Secure Linux got started and how you became involved?

After I had been at UPS for some time, I recognized that we had a significant opportunity to increase the capability of our security, and that Linux provided this opportunity much better than other solutions. I had seen this need, and felt that other companies would value this focus on securing business-critical information from
unauthorized users or any attacks that could harm the network. I felt that open source was a tremendous vehicle to achieve this and started laying the foundation for starting Guardian Digital in late 1998.

We started operations in early 1999, leveraging open source to solve critical business problems. After some evolving, we started writing and developing our own platform, EnGarde Secure Linux, seeing that our own security-focused platform was superior to the options that were available at the time.

What is it that makes EnGarde different and/or better than other distributions that claim to focus on security?

First, I’d just like to say our competition would include the complete market of security providers, both proprietary and open-source alike, specifically ones that address enterprise-level solutions and services. We have been utilizing open source security since 1999, and have used this expertise with the Linux OS to integrate and embed security into every aspect of the computing infrastructure. As far as the open source realm is concerned, unlike many solutions that bolt-on security, ours is explicitly designed with security in mind from the outset.

To understand what the differences are, it’s important to recognize that security is often a comprehensive process of engineering and maintenance. Simply adding spamasssassin (for example) to a distribution doesn’t make it effective and enterprise capable – not by a long shot. Part of a secure posture requires engineering these multiple applications, in such a way that each one is secure through its use and scalability, in that specific environment.

This is what EnGarde Secure Linux provides, along with our portfolio of secure applications and managed services: A comprehensive and complete solution for all aspects of enterprise network security, in a manageable interface for proxy cache filtering, Content and Policy Enforcement, Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam, Anti-Phishing protection, Web and DNS services, Intrusion Detection and Prevention, secure remote monitoring and more.

Along with WebTool and Guardian Digital Secure Network (GDSN) providing automated updates and patches, Guardian Digital is one of the oldest firms in the industry to utilize open source to establish this kind of overall security. Because of this, many of the advantages that EnGarde provide are realized over time in the day-to-day process of maintaining and scaling security in a dynamic environment, not merely just installing
some applications.

What are the main differences between the community and enterprise editions of EnGarde?

The primary differences are few, but important. EnGarde Professional provides a much greater degree of scalability. Also, our commercial offerings involve a complete array of managed services and support that the community version isn’t provided with. The more important applications that enterprises require, our VPN
Suite or WorkGroup applications for example, aren’t available for the community as well. Largely, though, the Community version shares the same secure infrastructure as the professional platform and the basic server capability including Web, DNS and Email. So for a home user, EnGarde Community is a commercial-grade platform and is one of the most robust solutions freely available to the open source community.

What kind of graphic user interface does EnGarde Use?

Since we deployed EnGarde in 2001, we knew we wanted to demystify the often complex process of security for the average administrator, especially if they were coming from a proprietary source. WebTool, our secure remote management tool, allows for “touch-free” maintenance and configuration in a web browser. All the administering needed is accomplished through an intuitive, point-and-click graphic interface. This is especially useful when combined with the strength of SELinux deployed through a simplified interface like WebTool. It ensures not only that administration is done securely and effectively, but that the possibility of introducing insecure applications and configurations are minimized, without requiring an advanced degree in security by the administrator.

Has EnGarde benefited from making the community edition freely available?

Absolutely. In fact, that has been the staple of the company throughout our history. Part of what makes EnGarde so secure is the outstanding community that we have fostered over time, and offering the Community Edition really serves two purposes, actually. One, it provides a substantial service to the community, and two, allows us to test new changes/updates, as well as draw on the knowledge and insight of our users. Many of the changes that get implemented into EnGarde Professional get their first test with our community of users. So, yes, EnGarde benefits from this structure.

How many people do you estimate use the Community Edition of EnGarde?

As with any open source project, it’s incredibly hard to gauge. We’ve recorded hundreds of thousands of downloads since we began in 2000, and seeing thousands of new visits each month. We recently upgraded our
datacenter again to support the increased demand we’re seeing after the introduction of new features including enhanced intrusion detection and the addition of numerous new open source projects.

How are sales of the enterprise edition doing and who are your target customers?

The sales of EnGarde Professional are continually growing, as we currently have over 500 customers worldwide, including Sony, Piedmont Natural Gas, divisions of AT&T, domestic and international governments, and more. Our target customers include mid-level to enterprise businesses and include an organization that wants to provide the most comprehensive security possible, in a way that isn’t cost prohibitive. Open source
is one of the reasons we are able to keep our costs to our enterprise-level clients lower than most of our competition.

Do you have any plans, or are you interested in signing a cross licensing deal with Microsoft?

Absolutely not. Guardian Digital will always be a completely open source business. Changing our strategy in this way would not only renege on our pioneering role in open source security, but would also dilute the quality of our development, as our community is one of our greatest assets. But, what would happen if we did seek a deal? Let’s use Linspire’s recent decision as an example. Seeking such an arrangement would, in effect, force Guardian Digital to relinquish its existence as an open source company. Not explicitly, but as far as I’m concerned, when you prohibit modifications or distribution of software in order to maintain licensing protection, you cease to be open source. That’s just out of the question for us.

Furthermore, such “protection” is completely shrouded in ambiguity and uncertainty. The perceived advantages aren’t even guaranteed if you make the required concessions. By not explicitly restricting what Microsoft can do, it gives them near-complete power in determining what software warrants protection, in what manner it’s labeled as such, and when. In other words, the loopholes are so extreme they are practically a caricature of themselves. These deals are a joke. In theory, everything’s safe, but in practice nothing is protected if Microsoft says it isn’t. And with their track record, it’s not worth taking that chance, even IF there were benefits.

Has the GPLv3 affected EnGarde Linux licensing one way or the other?

No, not really. GPLv3 took a rise after the Novell deal, and since our strategy doesn’t involve this possibility, it hasn’t really changed anything. Next year, we may consider readdressing licensing, but for now, GPLv2 is what we are dealing with. As open source projects continue to adopt the GPLv3, we will continue to incorporate these versions into Guardian Digital’s offerings.

Are there any new features coming down the pipe for EnGarde that you can tell us about?

We are always in the process of streamlining our functionality, usability and security. One such example is the incorporation of AJAX into EnGarde Community for an enhanced Intrusion Detection interface. We are committed to keeping not only our professional platform on the cutting edge, but also our community version as well. We have a few major enhancements coming up in the future, and which are currently in the internal beta test phase. We are looking for a fall deployment, but we’ll make sure to keep you posted. 🙂

What do you see for the future of EnGarde Secure Linux?

Open source has slowly but surely shed its skin only as an “alternative” and is now considered a primary solution. As more and more organizations realize the capability open source provides in maintaining a secure posture, especially in the burgeoning overseas markets in South America, Europe and obviously India and China, Guardian Digital will continue to lead the way and bring the inherent advantages of open source to communities and businesses worldwide.

Follow Up

My thanks to Dave Wreski for agreeing to be interviewed and Ryan Berens for his help in facilitating it. Unfortunately I have not had the time to do more than give it a cursory glance. But then again a review of EnGarde Secure Linux deserves more than a sentence or two at the end of an interview. Look for more on “Secure Linux” from LXer in the near future.

I told you there were companies (well, at least one) that do right by their users and customers, and Guardian Digital is one of them. See? There just might be hope for the Human species after all. 🙂 On the EnGarde website they provide an easy to find Wiki and Forum for users to find information, share ideas, ask questions and get help if they need it. They actually engage the users of their software in open communication, to the benefit of both the users and their business.

What a novel idea.

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LXer Article

This week we have the launching of a new Linux Hardware site, cool videos of PhotoSynth and SeaDragon and MPX or Multi-Pointer X being demonstrated and a Firefox user bangs his head against a wall. All these and more plus I have to create a FUD article section just to contain them all.

A Patent Is Worth Having, Right? Well, Maybe Not: Patents are supposed to give inventors an incentive to create things that spur economic growth. For some companies, especially in the pharmaceutical business, patents do just that by allowing them to pull in billions in profits from brand-name, blockbuster drugs. But for most public companies, patents don’t pay off, say a couple of researchers who have crunched the numbers.

Windows Guy Tries Ubuntu 7.04: Tom Baker writes, “Every attempt I have ever made at using Linux has left me disappointed. I am a geek, but I do not relish spending 3 days to get a wireless card working when I can do it in 5 minutes in Windows.”

PhotoSynth and SeaDragon: LXer reader, TracyAnne brought this cool piece of technology to our attention. Photosyth takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next. Microsoft purchased the technology but it’s impressive never the less.

Hardware4Linux Launches: hardware4linux.info is a new web site about hardware for Linux. The site allows to browse systems and components to find the ones that work or don’t work with Linux. The initial list is good but I hope that it grows for the site to be useful.

Linux’s answer to Microsoft’s Surface: Although still in the early days of development, MPX or Multi-Pointer X, is a modification of the X Windows Server that allows multiple input devices to be used at the same time. I’m still swaying to the great techno music in the video.

Are there inconvenient truths about Linux?: Michael J. Jordan writes, “A recent blog post entitled “Confessions of a Linux Fan” has provoked some discussion in the Linux community. In it, the author lists 10 things (10 seems to be the preferred number of these kinds of posts) that new Linux users should be aware of. Though the author claims to be a Linux enthusiast, the 10 observations are actually just re-wordings of many of the classic arguments against using Linux. What I find most damaging about this blog post is, however, that his underlying premise seems to be that we’re not being honest with potential Linux users.”

One openSource interviews Linus Torvalds: Orazio Tassone from One Open Source—an italian open source hub— interviews Linus Torvalds, grandfather of the Linux kernel. Orazio asks Linus about the GPLv3, Microsoft and it’s patent deals with Novell, the Dell and Ubuntu cooperation, Google and much more.

Menhir, the distribution of four free operating systems, is started: Gueven Bay announces the availability of Menhir. “Menhir was started to grow the publicity of FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenSolaris side by side with Slackware. And to widen the skills of the users to all four operating systems.”

Newbie flunks firefox update: Murry Shohat asks, “OK, Desktop Linux heads, I’m a confessed newbie trying to switch to Linux from XP. My simplyMEPIS install from an ISO went well, but now, on day two, my attempts to install the just-released Firefox update have failed.” Its gotta hurt when you keep beating your head on the wall like that.

Living with a Computer–in 1982: James Fallows takes us on a trip down memory lane, to the year 1982.

The future of Windows should be open source: All I can say to the author Don Reisinger is, your heart is in the right place but its never going to happen.

Confessions of a distro hopper: Steven Rosenberg states, “After years of sticking with Windows, once I discovered that you could download an ISO file, burn it to a bootable CD and run a whole new operating system, easy as that, I’ve been distro hopping. It all began with Knoppix, went from Puppy and Damn Small Linux, through Ubuntu to Debian, with many a stop in between.”

100 Open Source Downloads: Cynthia Harvey puts together a list of 100 “downloads to consider”. The problem with these kinds of lists is that even with a hundred, you still can’t make everyone happy.

The Linus Files, Part Two: Torvalds Says GPLv3 Backers Full Of “Hot Air”: Paul McDougall responds to criticism, or should we say, tries to save face from the attempt to put words in Linus Torvalds mouth.

I never thought that I would need a FUD Section for the Weekly Roundup but this week saw the high water mark for FUD articles on the newswire. It seems to me that Open Source and Linux has gotten someones attention with the ramping up of FUD articles recently. So be it, I will always answer the call, “Once More unto the Breach..”

Why Open Source and Linux Are Losing Momentum: Rob Enderle decides that Linux and open Source are not as popular as they really are and that the demand for them is lessening as well. Now if only he could only convince someone besides himself of all this..

The pen is mightier than the FUD: I put this article here because you needed to read the previous article first. Contributing Editor Sander Marechal felt compelled to post this rebuttal to the Rob Enderle article previously mentioned. Sander cuts through the chaff and makes several astute observations about Rob and why he writes what he does.

Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess: Here is another “Too many distros, Too many choices” article. The author thinks that if Linux was as good as Windows, there would be only one distro, not many. A Forking mess? No, compare this and this and tell me which one is a mess.

5 Things Windows Does Better Than Linux (Or Apple!): I had to save this one for last. This is one of those quintessential Windows fanboy articles. A blog created days ago and this article is the very first post? Hmm..I smell FUD.

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LXer Article

In the latest LXer Weekly Roundup we have, Mark Shuttleworth announcing that Gobuntu is a go, Confessions of a Linux Fan, a review of Siag Office, Turbolinux signs a deal with Microsoft, IBM Pledges Free Access to Patents for use in Open Standards, my interview with Sebastian Kügler of KDE, 16,000 Linux computers delivered for free and Paul McDougall tries to put words in Linus Torvalds mouth. All this and more, plus the FUD article of the week.

Dell’s Linux desktop line keeps expanding: SJVN catches us up on Dell’s announced expansion of their Linux line of offerings and where outside of the U.S. they plan ro expand to first.

15 minutes to using your existing Windows install & apps in Ubuntu: Here’s a simple guide to using your existing Windows install inside Ubuntu – and still being able to start it from your hard disk if you need. Unlike previous guides, it takes around 15 minutes and doesn’t require any terminal use.

Confessions of a Linux Fan: 10 Things You Might Want To Know Before Switching Over To Linux: The author states “Linux fans (myself included) love to argue to Windows users how much better the Linux’s are than Microsoft Windows. However (and there’s always a however) we tend to be very selective on what we tell you when it comes to the minor details. Take this as a confession, as an admission of those details you might not necessarily like about Linux.”

Puppy, Damn Small Linux don’t let me down: Steven Rosenberg tells us his trials and tribulations in trying to get, FreeBSD, DesktopBSD, Xubuntu, OpenSUSE, Scientific, DeLi, Puppy and Damn Small Linux to install on his laptop. Not all at once I hope. 🙂

Siag Office is far from pathetic: The self-effacing name for the Siag Office Word Processor, Pathetic Writer, might leave you thinking that this office suite is a mere plaything, a university student’s cobbled-together programming assignment. But don’t be fooled by first impressions. Siag Office is a lightweight suite of applications which might be just the right set of office tools for you, especially if you have older hardware.

Gobuntu is… go: In an announcement on his blog, Mark Shuttleworth states “This is a call for developers who are interested in pushing the limits of content and code freedom – including firmware, content, and authoring infrastructure, to join the team and help identify places where we must separate out pieces that don’t belong in Gobuntu from the standard Ubuntu builds.”

Microsoft Makes Another Linux Friend: Turbolinux: Microsoft announced that Asian Linux distributor Turbolinux is the latest Linux company to join its Ecma Open XML-Open Document Format Translator Project. Unlike the earlier Microsoft/Linux partnerships—Novell, Xandros and Linspire—there’s no patent agreement or any other technical partnerships.

NoMachine NX 3.0 improves remote access to Linux boxes: Nathan Willis reviews NoMachine’s NX 3.0, “As a whole, I found NX 3.0 to be very capable software, and faster than VNC, which for a free solution is reason enough to earn a place on my network.”

IBM Pledges Free Access to Patents Involved in Implementing 150+ Software Standards: IBM announced that it is granting universal and perpetual access to Patents that would be needed to implement more than 150 standards designed to make software interoperable. The commitment not only applies to the distributors, developers or manufacturers that are implementing the specifications involved, but also extends to their users or customers. It is valid as long as adopters are not suing any party, not just IBM.

The LXer Interview: Sebastian Kügler of KDE: If you ever want a glimpse of how much Sebastian Kügler does around KDE just subscribe to the kde-promo e-mail list which is as busy as it is effective, and that is just one of the many tasks that he is charged with. In his time with KDE, Sebastian has witnessed and helped facilitate some of the most sweeping changes the organization has ever seen. In our Interview we talk about those changes and more.

16,000 Linux computers delivered – for free: James Burgett is a great guy. He is collecting old computers from companies and individuals, checks and in some cases repairs them, and then gives them away to those who cannot afford to buy. He does it since 12 years, and each system is delivered with a free OS.

Linux Creator Calls GPLv3 Authors ‘Hypocrites’ As Open Source Debate Turns Nasty: In our “let’s try to create a controversy” story, Information Week tries to put these words into Linus’s mouth, “Linux creator Linus Torvalds said the authors of a new software license expected to be used by thousands of open source programmers are a bunch of hypocrites and likened them to religious fanatics..”

Misleading InformationWeek GPLv3 article: A lobbyist for FSF Europe, Ciaran O’Riordan picks apart the Linux Creator Calls GPLv3 Authors ‘Hypocrites’ As Open Source Debate Turns Nasty article piece by inaccurate piece.

Linspire releases Open XML translator: In our “empty” article of the week we have the Linspire announcement that the new “Open” XML bi-directional translator is now available for use in its latest Freespire and Linspire distributions. Besides being told this before, just where is this translator that you and Microsoft are so proud of anyway?

The Apple way and the Linux way: Jem Matzan goes off on “the Apple way” vs. “the Linux way” and makes a valid point or two but did not do his homework on some configuration basics that really hurt his argument.

Why Most Businesses Still Use Windows: In our FUD article of the week we have all the usual suspects in a nice list to help make you feel insecure about whether Linux is right for you and your small to medium sized business. The main thread throughout comes down to this, Windows is a known, your employees won’t like change and that’s all that is really important.

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LXer Article

If you ever want a glimpse of how much Sebastian Kügler does around KDE just subscribe to the kde-promo e-mail list which is as busy as it is effective, and that is just one of the many tasks that he is charged with. In his time with KDE, Sebastian has witnessed and helped facilitate some of the most sweeping changes the organization has ever seen. In our Interview we talk about those changes and more.

The Interview

Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, when your interest in computers and software started?

I started programming at the age of 9, finding the games for the Commodore 64 that I owned at that time boring. The machine was sold with a manual for Commodore 64 BASIC. I started exploring it, wrote small games together with a friend of mine. Eventually, I ran into errors I wasn’t able to understand (probably, I ran out of memory). For about 10 years, I did pretty much ignore computers apart from playing a game once in a while and returned back to them when I started studying in 1998. I quickly took up programming again, got a job as
webmaster at the university and was introduced to Linux. “We want this website to run on Linux, can you install that?” So I tried, and got hooked.

How did you become involved with KDE?

I sent an email to Simon Edwards, asking him for the source code of the Guidance tools. While it was still in Alpha state, I played around with it a bit, ported it to Debian and fixed various bugs. After some time, we started using a shared SVN repo which I hosted on my server at home. At aKademy 2005 in Malaga, it was suggested that I imported Guidance into KDE SVN. My non-coding career in KDE also started in Malaga, when Matthias Ettrich approached me with the question if I had ideas on improved marketing for KDE. I organized a BoF, got some people together and we started the KDE Marketing Working Group. I was proposed as a new member to the KDE e.V. and got accepted short after aKademy.

What is your position with KDE and what are your responsibilities?

During aKademy 2006, I got elected as member of the Board of Directors of the KDE e.V.. I am working on developing the Supporting Membership Programme, a programme that offers companies (and at a later point also individuals) a unique way of ensuring the health of the KDE community by contributing some
money. My current efforts also concentrate on a Corporate Partnership Programme for KDE. Such a program aims at a collaborative approach to marketing, building a network of companies to jointly market and KDE desktop and software. I’m also still coordinating parts of the work of the Marketing Team. I also try to help out where it’s necessary. When I find time, I enjoy writing code, although that is probably not the most important contribution to KDE, given my limited skills.

With all that I have read it seems that KDE has begun a complete transformation as an organization. What facilitated this change in philosophy and the need for KDE to “reinvent” itself?

Starting roughly three years ago, some people within KDE realized that software developers alone cannot bring the Free Desktop to its full potential. Since then, KDE has shifted from a pure Free Software community to a Free Culture community. The core values of Freedom and Community are still the same, of course, but we are actively reaching out to other communities with the same values. Creative Commons, Wikipedia organization such as OpenStreetmap are one part of this puzzle. Another part is on the inside. We need experts in all different areas in order to push KDE and the Free Desktop in the mainstream market. This shift can be seen in sub-communities that are integrated under the KDE umbrella.

Usability engineering has become integral part of our development process, we have a team of excellent artists currently working on the visual appearance of what’s to become KDE4. But there’s a lot of other people in the community that are filling in gaps in our project, think documentation teams, translators, people organizing event attendance and showing KDE to the world at fairs, people that spend endless hours helping out users and communicating a friendly and helpful attitude to the users. Our aim is to show that KDE is a Free Culture community that is appealing to people with various areas of interest, and to make it attractive for people to become part of the KDE community, either as user or as contributor.

How far along in the process are you, or is this something that will never really stop?

The process is coming along quite well. The diversity of teams within KDE shows this. Currently, we need to work on sustainability of those teams. Sometimes we are dependent on two or three people being available, but having a constant influx of new people is very important to not have those efforts die out.

I have been trying to keep up with everything going on with KDE4. You have really set the bar high for this next release, how is it going and what is your biggest worry?

It’s going really well. We took quite a risk with KDE4, not simply porting all of our software to Qt4, but fixing a lot of structural problems and providing efficient and integrated ways of solving problems such as multimedia and hardware integration, and much more. A lot of people were afraid of drying out the community by a very long release cycle and indeed, it has been quite a challenge. Software developers might run away if they know that their work won’t be released for another 2 years, making the release cycle even longer.

A big challenge was when our coolo, our release manager said that he was probably not able to keep being release manager for the 4.x cycle. We had to invent new ways of governance. First, we created the Technical Working Group, a group of core developers in our community to deal with release management
and as a group who solves conflicts within the community. Due to time constraints of those people (the people in this group were also the busiest people in other areas), this didn’t work out. At the end of 2006, KDE lacked
direction in that respect and we asked the community to step up and solve this problem.

A group of people feeling responsible stepped up, and without much formality, the Release Team formed. Quickly, a release schedule was worked out, and this team has done an excellent piece of work in listening to the contributors and making decisions based on their findings. Now KDE has a more sustainable structure, is not dependent on two people anymore and there is a clear way to address various technical issues.

Now we’ve released the first Alphas of KDE4.0, the situation is quite different. Last week’s aKademy showed that we’re doing extremely well. KDE has a constant inflow of new, excellent and enthusiast contributors. Having a shared vision for KDE4 is extremely important in that respect. Developers are excited about what’s possible in KDE4 and value the freedom they have when implementing it. The diversity in the community makes for innovative, usable and beautiful software, different teams are working together really well. Part of this is caused by the excitement we were able to create within the community about our new technologies.

Letting the world (inside and outside of KDE) know what we’re doing is extremely important, both to grow our user base and our contributor community. KDE4 is being developed at a tremendous speed right now, and it will, in itself grow our community and its diversity even further. Approaches such as the one Plasma takes (making it easy to extend KDE for artists, programmers and other creative minds) will have great effect on what the user will actually be able to do with the desktop. While KDE 4.0 will not be the perfect desktop, it will provide all the possibilities to make it a huge success, and to fully utilize the creative potential within a growing community.

What do you see for KDE in the future?

For the future, I don’t worry too much. We have a huge potential, and if we keep doing our job well, we have a good chance to actually change the world, to make Free Software ubiquitous. An important milestone will be when the Free Desktop reaches 10% market share. This is the point where most vendors can’t ignore us anymore. Hardware vendors will make sure their drivers work equally well on Linux and other Free Software platforms, software and service vendors will support our software in the same way, taking away the last
hurdles for wide-spread adoption. If we’re not able to change the world, then I really don’t know who is.

Follow Up

My answer to you Sebastian, KDE is changing the world. KDE has taken on a important role in the Open Source Community and its success ripples out in all directions. They have essentially re-written the book on how to manage a large Open Source project and come out on top. KDE has embraced change and I believe it will flourish for a long time to come because of it.

There are many Open Source projects that could learn from what KDE is doing. How KDE is organized and how well it is run is as innovative as the software they create. With things starting to ramp up for the KDE4 release, I want to Thank Sebastian for taking the time out of his schedule to talk with me.

Take notice everyone because KDE is trying to change the world, and its working.

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LXer Article

The big stories this week include Microsoft’s attempts to distance itself from the effects of the GPLv3, Part 2 of Carla Schroder’s Adventures in Digital Photography, using Live Linux distro’s for online banking, Massachusetts decides that XML is ok and the BSA ups the ante on getting people to “Blow The Whistle”. All this and more await you in this weeks LXer Roundup.

Linspire Joins Microsoft in Developing and Deploying Open Source Translators between Document Formats: In the deal that came as no surprise to anyone, Linspire announced that they would be working with Microsoft on providing translators for ODF and XML. What amazed me was that this didn’t happen a lot sooner. Linspire has always been at the forefront of providing the necessary codecs and such in their distributions. I wonder what took them so long?

Permission for home!: In an article contributed to LXer, the author describes how he somehow got locked out of, and his ordeal in fixing the permissions to be able to enter his home directory on his computer again.

Adventures in Digital Photography With Linux, part 2: In the second part of her series, Carla Schroder covers why DSLR cameras may be good or bad depending on your needs and wants, Lenses, Focal Length, Sun Filters and much more. If your into Digital photography this is a must read.

Mass. Embraces MS’ Open XML Document Format: In what we all saw coming, Massachusetts has reversed its policy and will support both Microsoft’s Office Open XML format and the OASIS Open Document Format. After “helping” to remove one Director and biding their time patiently, Microsoft finally got what they wanted.

BSA Raise Reward Up to $1 Million for Qualified Reports of Software Piracy: The Business Software Alliance, otherwise known as Microsoft’s “Piracy Police” have raised the reward for reports of software piracy up to $1 Million dollars. They have also launched the “Blow the Whistle” campaign that encourages employees to report software piracy to the BSA. That kind of money almost makes it worth screwing the company you work for, losing your job and ruining your reputation for. It will take most of that money to move to another state and change your name just to get another job and do it all over again.

French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Choose Mandriva: The French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries chose to migrate its local servers (about 400 machines) from Windows NT Server to Mandriva Corporate Server 4.0, within the next two years.

The ticking time bomb of old file formats.: The National Archive in the UK has issued a statement expressing concern over the amount of data locked up in proprietary file formats. Microsoft have stepped up to the plate to take advantage of the situation, created largely by their own policy.

Joint releases to jolt open source: Shuttleworth: Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth has declared more publicity would be generated for open source software if the three large desktop projects of KDE, GNOME, and OpenOffice.org agreed on a common and regular release cycle. Now if only Ubuntu could just stick to their own regular release cycles Mark might be able to convince others to do the same.

KDE 4.0 Alpha 2 is out: In this LXer Press Release we announced that KDE Alpha 2 is out. There is a lot of info and screenshots available for you to check out.

The politics of open source: The author responds to Rob Enderle’s article in which he suggested that Cuba’s adoption of Linux would make it a political issue and that no US politician could now dare be associated with open source software. Why is it that when Rob says things, everyone doesn’t just take him on his word?

Secure web browsing through Live Linux distros: In this article the author expounds on the virtues of using a Live Linux distribution to keep ones online banking experience as safe as possible.

Microsoft Says It Is Not Bound by GPLv3: Microsoft attempted to “clear the air” July 5 concerning its obligations to GNU General Public License Version 3 support, declaring it will not provide support or updates for GPLv3 under the deal it penned in November with Novell to administer certificates for the Linux distribution. Whew! I’m sure glad they cleared that up for me.

Microsoft Tries to Spit Out the GPLv3 Hook: SJVN states “Microsoft wants everyone to understand that GPLv3 has nothing to do with the company, its Linux partnerships or anything else Redmond-based. In other words, Microsoft is doing its best not be caught on the hook of GPLv3. Ah, Microsoft you’d love to be able to do that, wouldn’t you?”

Microsoft’s Plot To Kill Linux Busted: A great spoof cartoon that speaks to the ever increasing war of operating systems between Microsoft and Linux.

Bill Gates creates perfect accessory for Linux tablets: In this very amusing article by Fernando Cassia, he shows how Bill Gates came to the rescue in providing him with the perfect accessory for his Nokia N800.

Linux Less Secure Than Vista: In our “its got some FUD in it” article of the week Matt Hartley successfully propagates some old Linux security myths and chastises Microsoft a little, but not too much.

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With aKademy taking place in Glaskow, Scotland and hundreds of KDE developers hunting bugs and working on features as we speak progress is moving forward at an amazing pace. Some of the most exiting work is being done on Plasma, KDE 4’s new shell for the desktop.

Screenshot 1

Plasma provides krunner, an application to directly launch programs and start other tasks. Plasmoids are applets that display information such as the time, information about hardware devices and also provide access to online resources, for example showing RSS feeds, images or providing dictionary lookup.

Screenshot 2

System Settings, the replacement for KControl is an improved user interface hosting various modules for configuring the desktop and other aspects of the system is another addition worth mentioning.

Screenshot 3

Work on the new Dolphin File Manager continues as well and as they get closer to the release date it gets more and more polished.

Screenshot 4

For those who want to try KDE 4.0 Alpha2, please refer to this page to find ways to have a peak at the current status yourself. As the pace of development would outdate screenshots very quickly, please refer to KDE Dot News for updated information on all things KDE.

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