Archive for May, 2010

LXer Article

Some of the big stories this week included the secret identities of Linux distributions, a new flash filesystem, Phoronix tests the speed of Arch against Ubuntu, Android gets an OnStar application, how Linux saved a fast food giant and last but not least a story entitled ‘I could license you to use this software, but then I’d have to kill you’. Enjoy!

The end of the (Linux) desktop as we know it: What if the Linux desktop as we know it was a thing from the past ? Major players like Asus, Google, Canonical decided to create their own desktop in order to provide a Zen, very fast environment for millions of users. What are the consequences for the “legacy” windows managers; Gnome, KDE, etc.?

The Secret Identities of Linux Distributions : In the embedded space, there’s been a lot of talk about whether Android is fragmented, and if that fragmentation will ultimately hurt Android, because developers won’t know what version to code for and users won’t know which one to use.

Linux gains flash filesystem: Linus Torvalds announced the release of Linux 2.6.34, which is notable for adding two filesystems: Ceph for distributed and cloud-based applications, and LogFS, which is optimized for flash-memory based devices. Other new features include a faster KVM virtualization driver based on Vhost.net technology, says LinuxPlanet.com.

Is Arch Linux Really Faster Than Ubuntu?: Often when we are preparing for cross-distribution comparisons or benchmarks of different operating systems (like our recent Mac OS X 10.6 vs. Windows 7 vs. Ubuntu 10.04 benchmarks) we are often asked to include Arch Linux in the mix. This is usually on the basis of including a rolling-release distribution to provide a performance look at a constantly evolving distribution with many of the most recent open-source packages rather than a traditional distribution with packages that may be months older. Many of those requesting Arch be included in our testing mix also claim that Arch performs significantly faster than Ubuntu and our usual test candidates.

I could license you to use this software, but then I’d have to kill you: Just shy of 2000 different licenses cover the 230,000+ projects in the Black Duck Knowledgebase. It’s important to note that the top 10 licenses cover 93% of all projects and the top 20 almost 97%. Well over 60% are GPL. So, the vast bulk of projects are under a small number of well-known licenses, and that’s a good thing. But the other 3% of projects and 1980-odd licenses (and there are some odd ones!) clearly constitute a “long tail.” Join me, won’t you, for a journey to the outer reaches of that tail.

GM and Google integrate Android app with OnStar: General Motors (GM) announced that version 2.0 of the Android version of its OnStar Mobile app for the Chevrolet Volt will feature Google Maps integration. The voice-enabled feature, which shows a Volt’s location on Google Maps, may only be the first step in Android integration with OnStar, say reports.

How to Convert Your Facebook Superfans Into Brand Ambassadors: Last week, I explored the birth of the “superfan” in social media, drawing from the superfan concept at sporting events and pointing out some fan qualities that my company has observed on our clients’ Facebook Pages. This week, I’m going to discuss how to harness the passion of the superfan in order to convert them into an ambassador for your brand.

The Cost Of Running Compiz: Earlier this week we published benchmarks comparing Arch Linux and Ubuntu. There were only a few areas where the two Linux distributions actually performed differently with many of their core packages being similar, but one of the areas where the results were vastly different was with the OpenGL performance as Ubuntu uses Compiz by default (when a supported GPU driver is detected) where as Arch does not. This had surprised many within our forums so we decided to carry out a number of tests with different hardware and drivers to show off what the real performance cost is of running Compiz as a desktop compositing manager in different configurations.

How Linux Saved A Fast Food Giant: I am a Windows guy. I have always used Windows at home, work, school, everywhere with the exception of my phone (iPhone now Nexus One) and one Linux class at FIU. I have an A+ and MCTS in Windows Vista. Soon I will have my MCITP. I drink the kool-aid. But Linux saved me and the company I sub contract to, a large fast food giant, from near-total disaster. Last month McAfee posted a virus definition update that flagged SVCHOST.EXE as a virus. This is my story of what happened.

How to Watch Hulu.com in the UK: For those not familiar, Hulu is a popular video playback site from NBC that streams many mainstream television shows right to your browser. The biggest problem with the site is that it blocks access for users outside the continental United States. Hulu isn’t the only site in the world that does this either. Many sites restrict access based on the IP Address that you are currently connected with.

Why Can’t We All Use Chromium Instead of Google Chrome?: This is something I always asked myself. How is Google Chrome different from Chromium. Apart from the logo, there is hardly any difference visually between the two. So I decided to dig further. Here are some of the interesting facts you should know.


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In this week’s LXWR we have Jim Zemlin commenting on Linux fragmentation, making the Linux desktop look better, Chrome usage rises and copiers have hard drives? Enjoy!

Sprucing up the Linux desktop: Gnome 3.0 is coming to give the Linux desktop a boost. Gnome, the desktop environment favoured by the likes of Ubuntu Linux, is getting an overhaul. For users this means a number of things, including a new way of interacting with files and a new way of launching and managing applications.

One-Handed Workarounds — The Programmers Guide to Typing With a Broken Thumb: This week’s column has been written a little more slowly than normal because on Wednesday, I tripped over the dog and broke my left thumb. Under strict instructions to keep it elevated, and concerned not to put too much strain on the remaining good hand, I went looking for resources for one-handed keyboard operation. Here are a few useful links in case you are ever in the same position!

Fragmentation is Good and Bad for Linux: Lately I have been hearing criticism about embedded Linux and how fragmentation, as represented by the many flourishing Linux projects such as Meego, Android and webOS, is bad and dangerous for Linux; these critics suggest that fragmentation will hinder Linux’ ability to compete with companies like Microsoft and Apple. I disagree, which is not surprising. But the market and marketing strategists also disagree. Citing the familiar ogre of fragmentation shows a limited view of the Linux economy. The Linux platform is both fragmented and unified.

Copiers have Hard Drives?: I don’t think much about copying machines. I just make my copies, print what I need to print, fax what I need to fax, and scan what I need to scan. What I didn’t realize is that since about 2002, commercial copying machines have been built with hard drives that store as images everything you have ever copied on your machine.

I lightened up my Ubuntu Lucid desktop appearance: Ubuntu was famous for being brown, even though it was probably half-orange for most of its storied existence. Mark Shuttleworth and Co. mostly blew that notion out of the water in Lucid Lynx (10.04 LTS), which is purplish and dark. I’m pretty simple about these things, so I looked at what came with the Lucid install and ditched the default Ambiance theme in favor of Radiance. I also dumped the purple wallpaper by clicking on the Background tab and selecting the Cosmos slide-show background, which not only presents a nice outer-space view but periodically changes the image (hence the “slide-show” portion of the name).

Chrome rising fast: Google’s Chrome browser is gaining ground fast while Internet Explorer slides. Google’s Chrome browser is now well established as the third most popular browser and its ascendency hasn’t stopped yet. Internet Explorer, on the other hand, is clearly in decline.

Ubuntu (w/ GNOME) Switching To Single Click For Opening Files And Folders?: A new big change is being discussed on the Ayatana mailing list: single click for opening files and folders in Ubuntu (not Kubuntu – which already uses single click for opening files and folders). In fact there are 2 separate threads: one about defaulting to single click for opening file and folders and another to use a single-click mode for all GNOME applications – but only the first one seems to be seriously taken into consideration.

Btrfs May Be The Default File-System In Ubuntu 10.10: Earlier this week we reported that Ubuntu has plans for the Btrfs file-system in 2011 and 2012 by providing support for installing Ubuntu Linux to a Btrfs file-system. This information was based upon documents coming out of the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Brussels, but it turns out that Canonical may actually deploy Btrfs this year. Not only to provide an installation option within the installer for Btrfs, but to make it the default file-system.

What Jon Stewart Said, I Say Too. A lot: I boycott all abusive proprietary software companies, and I am finally learning to program, because if we don’t take matters in our own hands we’ll always be at the mercy of merciless interests who have nothing but contempt for us. (Hey, then we’re even, because I have greater contempt for them.)

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In the Roundup this week we have a Faster and better Chrome 5 as well as 5 things you didn’t know VLC could do, Why rejecting Microsoft’s OSS contributions is counter-productive, Upgrading your distro should come with a warning and more. Enjoy!

No More Cheap Supercomputers? Sony Blocks Linux on PS3: Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) faces a class action lawsuit following a recent an update to its PlayStation 3 console that removes the ability to put alternate operating systems on the console. The late March update for the PlayStation 3 restricts the installation of an alternative operating system to the console’s native OS. The feature, called ‘Install Other OS,’ has been removed, three years after the console’s introduction, “due to security concerns,” the company said in a blog post.

CLI on the Web: ..ECMA CLI would have given the web both strongly typed and loosely typed programming languages. It would have given developers a choice between performance and scriptability. A programming language choice (use the right tool for the right job) and would have in general made web pages faster just by moving performance sensitive code to strongly typed languages.

Chrome 5: Faster and Better: The first thing you’ll notice with Google’s new beta of its Chrome Web browser is that it’s faster, much faster, than the last version. You don’t need any fancy tests to see that. All you have to do is use it and you’ll see that it blows other browsers away.

4.4.3 Is Upon Us: KDE today released the 3rd monthly update to the 4.4 series, bringing a slew of bugfixes and translation updates to our users. Konsole has seen some love, so has Okular. Check out the changelog to get to know more about it. This release, as all our x.y.z releases (where z > 0) does not contain new features but concentrates on stabilizing the existing codebase. As such, the upgrade should be safe and painless, so we recommend updating to everyone running previous KDE SC versions.

5 Things You Didn’t Know VLC Could Do: There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with VLC, the high quality audio and video player for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Its speed, portability, and built-in support for most common codecs make VLC an extremely popular choice for playing video. While that’s all well and good, VLC can do a lot more than basic video playback, including things like video encoding, DVD ripping, volume normalization and more. Today we’ll look at some of VLC’s most interesting and little-known features that help make this an indispensable application for nearly all desktop platforms.

Upgrading your distro should come with a warning: It’s that time of year again when a lot of the major distros are putting out new releases, and people are clambering to get the new versions installed. But there are two camps of people in this rush to get the latest and greatest. The upgraders, who prefer to leave their computer as is, and hit the “upgrade” button, hoping to come back to their computers in a couple hours and revel in their shiny new OS. Then their are those who prefer the “clean install” by backing up any important stuff, wiping the drive, and starting from scratch. But is the upgrade method really worth it?

Tilting at Windows. Why rejecting Microsoft’s OSS contributions is counter-productive: Yesterday I had a look at the response of the Joomla! community to the news that Microsoft had signed the Joomla! Contributor Agreement and was contributing code to the content management project. You probably won’t be surprised to find that some people don’t like the idea. The speed and vehemence of their rejection of Microsoft’s involvement in the project is entirely predictable, but none the less depressing for that.

Linux needs to do more for programmers: Much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft does some things better, much better, than Linux. Number one with a bullet is how Microsoft helps programmers and ISVs (independent software vendors). MSDN (Microsoft Software Developer Network) is a wonderful online developer resource. Linux has had nothing to compare. True, there is the Linux Developer Network, which, when it began, looked like it would be the Linux equivalent of MSDN, but it hasn’t lived up to its promise. And, I can’t overlook the Linux Foundation’s Linux training classes. But, if I’m an ISV and I want to write software for Linux, I’m still going to need to piece together a lot of it by myself.

I had an epiphany (about Epiphany): The GNOME Web browser Epiphany — formerly based on Mozilla’s Gecko engine and now based on Webkit — doesn’t ship with Ubuntu (though it does with Debian and most GNOME-based distros/projects). But if you’re running GNOME, I recommend you add it via your favorite package manager. What Epiphany offers is a streamlined, faster, less-resource-intensive browsing experience.


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The big news this week was Ubuntu 10.04 being released and all the hoopla surrounding it, but not to be missed was HTC’s settlement with Microsoft over a Android patent deal, the challenges of Linux netbook design, Sony starts to feel the heat for blocking Linux installs on its PS3 and put windows to its most appropriate use, make a bootable Linux USB stick with it. Enjoy!

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Windows Security: is Microsoft innocent?: How many times have you read about a worm spreading through an enterprise network, or some malware or other compromising personal data, or computers being used to build a DDoS or spammer botnet and either shouted BLOODY WINDOWS at the screen or seen someone else lay the blame squarely on Microsoft? Chances are, rather a lot I would imagine

EasyPeasy and the Challenges of Linux Netbook Design: Netbook desktops in free and open source software (FOSS) are in a state of rapid development. Should a netbook be treated as more as a mobile device than as a laptop? Should developers assume that netbooks are used for light computing such as social networking, rather than for productivity? These are just two of the questions whose answers affect the design of any netbook desktop.

Legalizing Linux DVD Playback: Why Bother?: I just finished writing that new book about Fedora 13 last night, so I’m feeling pretty good right now. It’s nice to have a project like that put to bed. Of course, when writing any beginner’s Linux book, invariably the topic of DVD playback comes up, and I always wrestle with what to tell new Linux users about the convoluted legal mess that watching a DVD on a Linux machine has become. For those who are unfamiliar, DVDs are encrypted with a content scrambling system (CSS) that is designed to prevent unauthorized machines from playing DVDs. What it’s really for, of course, is to prevent unauthorized machines from copying the content of a DVD, so illicit copies of Did You Hear About the Morgans? won’t be distributed freely across the Internet.

My Ubuntu 10.04 strategy: OK, so I had a not-so-great night running Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx — in release-candidate stage at this writing — and wondered what exactly made things so sluggish during a 2+ hour production session hacking away at Dailynews.com. Was it Firefox 3.6.x swallowing CPU and memory? All the social-networking and cloud-integration stuff running in the background? Xorg issues (which come and go with every kernel and Xorg update)? At this point I really don’t know.

Apple: Worse for open source than Microsoft?: Things need to change and Apple needs to be seen for what it really is: a threat to innovation and freedom. For as long as anyone can remember Microsoft has been seen as the primary enemy of free and open source software (FOSS). Free software advocates over the years have held Microsoft up as the pre-eminent example of how software should not be produced and distributed; an example of how they did not want it to be.

Question: Why switch to Linux or a Mac?: I’m no friend to Windows. I know the operating system too well to trust it. But, I did think that even though Windows is defective by design, you could keep it relatively safe by installing patches quickly and using anti-virus software religiously. I was wrong. First, it turns out that one of Microsoft’s latest Windows patches just flat out didn’t work. Whoops! This isn’t the first time that this has happened. But, what really caught my attention this go-around was that at just about the same time the news broke that a flawed McAfee Antivirus update knocked out millions of Windows XP computers. Talk about sloppy quality assurance! How the heck can a Windows anti-virus company release an update that locks XP computers into an endless reboot cycle?

HTC settles with Microsoft in Android patent deal: Microsoft and HTC have signed a patent agreement protecting the handset maker from Microsoft patent lawsuits over its industry-leading Android smartphones. HTC will pay royalties to Microsoft, which for the first time is enforcing its alleged Linux-related patents on an Android-based product — yet the agreement may help HTC defend against Apple’s Android-related lawsuit.

Ubuntu 10.04 is Released: Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx is released out into the world.

The Top 12 Native Linux System Monitoring Tools: System Administrators (SAs) have a tough job: Dealing with users and user accounts, security, patching, updates, upgrades, disk space, performance and other miscellaneous tasks often known as “other duties as assigned.” For some SAs, the day never ends. Despite the challenges, pitfalls and occasional irate user; system administration is a fulfilling job with intangible rewards like no other position in IT. To assist those weary SAs in their quest to conquer their Linux systems, I’ve devised this list of 12 native Linux system monitoring tools that are always at my fingertips.

Sony faces legal challenge over Linux block: Sony has been hit with a lawsuit over its recent decision to block the installation of Linux on its Playstation 3 console. The suit, filed in a San Francisco district court, accused the company of breaching its sales contract with users of older Playstation 3 systems when, in a recent firmware update, it disabled the ability to run a Linux partition on the console.

Put Windows to the Most Appropriate Use: Create a Bootable USB Stick with Ubuntu 10.04: The following steps provide two methods of putting the fresh new release of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) on a USB stick. The first method will create a bootable USB stick with a live version and the second process will create a live version with persistence. Both methods are an excellent way to always have your favorite Ubuntu system and software with you at all times and it makes for one of the simplest ways to conduct an install to a hard drive.

Pot, meet kettle: a response to Steve Jobs’ letter on Flash: Watching two proprietary software companies deeply opposed to computer user freedom lob accusations back and forth about who is more opposed to freedom has been surreal, to say the least. But what’s been crystal clear is that the freedom these companies are arguing about is their own, not that of their users. And what they are calling freedom isn’t freedom at all—it is the ability to control those users. Adobe is mad at Apple for not letting Adobe control iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users via Flash, and Apple is mad at Adobe for suggesting that Apple is arbitrarily abusing its control over Application Store users.

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