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Archive for August, 2010

LXer Article

The big stories this week include still more fallout from the Oracle-Google lawsuit, 10 differences between Linux and BSD, the joys of determining Linux market share, Microsoft says they love Open Source..again, and last but not least Paul Allen decides to sue just about everybody for patent infringement. Enjoy!

10 differences between Linux and BSD: How often do you hear people lumping together Linux and any of the BSDs? I’ve done it on occasion, and I hear it all the time. Of course, there are plenty of similarities between Linux and BSD: They are both based on UNIX. For the most part, both systems are developed by noncommercial organizations. And I must say that both the Linux and BSD variants have one common goal–to create the most useful, reliable operating system available. Still, there are significant differences as well. And when people overlook them, the whole BSD community shivers with anger. So I thought I would do my best to help my BSD brethren out and explain some of the ways Linux differs from BSD.

Oracle forms new ‘axis of evil’ against open source, claims Adobe: Oracle has replaced Microsoft as the FOSS community’s number one enemy, according to Adobe System’s open source boss. David McAllister, the Flash and Photoshop maker’s open source and standards director, said in a blog post yesterday that the implosion of the OpenSolaris Governing Board highlighted how “the axis of evil has shifted south about 850 miles or so”.

Linux Market Share: In the course of a normal work day I take several little breaks to check the news. On my list of news sites are Slashdot, Linux Journal, and Linux Today. Frequently I see something that gives me an idea for an article. Sometimes I even find an article on a topic that I was planning to write about myself. Such was the case today when I came across this well-written piece from the Royal Pingdom Blog referenced on Linux Today. It’s about the failure of desktop Linux to break the 1% market share barrier, and I confess that it left me a little depressed. But I decided to add my two cents on the subject anyhow.

Microsoft: ‘We love open source’: Everyone in the Linux world remembers Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s famous comment that Linux is a “cancer” that threatened Microsoft’s intellectual property. Ballmer is still CEO of Microsoft, but that comment occurred in 2001, a lifetime ago in the technology market. While Microsoft hasn’t formally rescinded its declaration that Linux violates its patents, at least one Microsoft executive admits that the company’s earlier battle stance was a mistake. Microsoft wants the world to understand, whatever its issues with Linux, it no longer has any gripe toward open source.

Apple’s Enhanced OpenGL Stack Versus Linux: While our primary focus at Phoronix is on providing Linux benchmarks, we do enjoy trying out and benchmarking other operating systems like FreeBSD, Solaris, and Mac OS X. When Apple originally launched Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” we were the first to provide detailed Mac OS X 10.6 benchmarks compared to Mac OS X 10.5 and also how Apple’s new operating system at the time compared to Linux. We have continued to monitor the performance of Snow Leopard and found that some point releases had introduced some regressions and we have compared the performance of Mac OS X 10.6 to Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Microsoft Open Source Strategy is Upside Down.: Last April (April-29-2010) there was a local event in Ecuador organized by AESoft, the Ecuadorian Software association. This event was names “Integrated Technologies” and was sponsored by Microsoft, CodePlex, Port25 and The Apache Foundation. On this conference Microsoft sent a message saying that they are Open Source friendly and they support Open Source development. I saw this even as a Microsoft response of the growing “Free Software” (as in Freedom) movement here in Ecuador. So Microsoft tried to convince the audience that they care about Open Source and there are a lot of OSS software they promote.

Pearson Education – You will NOT use Linux for Online Education: I’m starting to get the feeling that education companies dislike FOSS operating systems. Pearson’s Online education system, which is java and flash based, refuses to let you login unless you are using Internet Explorer AND Windows.

Making Ubuntu look like Windows 7: Although it won’t help Linux run Windows-specific software applications, this easy hack produces an Ubuntu desktop that looks and feels a lot like Windows 7. It’s particularly suitable for reviving older PCs or laptops on which the main activities will be web-browsing, email, document writing, and streaming music and videos from the web.

Ubuntu One taking care of Windows users … not so much users of other Linux distributions: A look at the roadmap for Ubuntu One reveals the following feature planned for Maverick — Windows file sync: Addresses the needs of the many Ubuntu users who operate in a mixed platform environment of Ubuntu + Windows … Will support syncing files between Windows desktops and your Ubuntu One personal cloud … I wonder, what about a free, open-source Ubuntu One client that could be used in any Linux distribution?

GCC – ‘We make free software affordable’: GCC and GNU Emacs are the two facets of the GNU operating system that have probably done more than any other to take GNU and free software from idealistic concept to a utilitarian reality. Having previously looked at GNU Emacs and the Hurd, Richard Hillesley looks at the history and progress of GCC.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen sues Google, Apple, Facebook, eight others over patents: Billionaire Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, has sued 11 major Web-based companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube and eBay, alleging they infringed internet patents he owns.

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In this week’s Roundup we have more on the Oracle – Google lawsuit, how corporate America went open source, games that transmit GPS coordinates, converting eBooks, a space elevator and a Happy 17th Birthday to Debian. Enjoy!

Google vows to fight Oracle lawsuit as Java creator speaks out: Google has vowed to fight Oracle’s patent lawsuit over use of Java patents in Android, claiming that Android’s Dalvik implementation is not covered. Meanwhile, Java creator James Gosling blogs that neither side in the lawsuit is without blame, but calls the suit a victory for “ego, money and power” at the expense of open software development, says eWEEK.

How corporate America went open-source: There was a time when open-source software was the domain of computer geeks and do-it-yourselfers with more time than money. But, as Oracle’s legal salvo against Google highlighted last week, those days are long gone. Oracle (ORCL), through its purchase of Sun Microsystems, has become one of the largest purveyors of open-source software in the world. Google (GOOG) makes the open-source and increasingly ubiquitous Android smartphone operating system.

Android game secretly transmits GPS coordinates : In a post on their Connect blog, security specialist Symantec reports on a new trojan for Android that masquerades as a free Tap Snake game, while secretly transmitting GPS coordinates to a server in the background. These coordinates can then be retrieved and displayed in Google Maps via the GPS Spy Android app sold for €5 by the same vendor, Maxicom. According to Symantec, the Tap Snake process can’t easily be killed and continues to run in the background.

Convert eBooks in Linux: Say you just bought an Amazon Kindle or a Barnes and Noble Nook. You want to convert your eBook collection to .EPUB or .MOBI format. For this, install Calibre. The application not only provides you with a graphical way to manage your eBook collection, but also comes with a set of useful command-line tools. One of these is ebook-convert. This tool can help you convert between tens of standard formats like EPUB, FB2, LIT, LRF, MOBI, OEB, PDB, PDF, PML, RB, RTF, TCR, TXT, HTML and more. Even CBR and CBZ (comic book formats) are supported.

A Space Elevator in <7: Future software advancements like cars that drive themselves will trigger a new perspective on whether we can build a space elevator, and in what timeframe.

Oracle scorns open source: How to respond?: As I’ve noted, I don’t claim to have any insight into how this lawsuit will conclude, whether it will blow up into a long and bloody battle between Oracle and Google, or whether it will be concluded by some quick and relatively amicable solution. But I do believe that whatever happens, whatever it might nominally “win”, Oracle has certainly and irrevocably lost more in terms of trust and goodwill within the free software world than it will ever understand. The message is clear: Fork all the main open source projects that Oracle owns or transfer energies to a replacement.

7 Sources of Free Sounds for Multimedia Projects: In my posts 11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year and How To Do 11 Techy Things In the New School Year I mentioned podcasting and video creation. When creating podcasts and videos adding music and other sounds can enhance your students’ presentations. Here are seven tools that your students can use find and or create sounds for their multimedia presentations.

How Oracle might kill Google’s Android and software patents all at once: In reality, Oracle is a major proponent of open software, pushing Linux and taking a stand against the notion of software patents themselves. Yes, that’s right, the company filing the year’s biggest software patent infringement case is also a major critic of the idea of software patents in general. When somebody points a gun at you, you point one back even if you don’t like the idea of guns. You might even shoot first. Oracle likes Linux so much that it funds Btrfs, a GPL licensed, futuristic and advanced new file system that supports pooling, snapshots, checksums, and other features that sound a lot like Sun’s ZFS, which Oracle now also owns. The difference is that Oracle didn’t mire Btrfs in legal quandary the way Sun did with ZFS before Oracle bought them.

Like it or Not: It is a Windows World: “If you don’t like Windows so much then don’t use it!” This is something I have been told more than once (sometimes in not those kind of words) by various people when we have been discussing operating systems. As much as I would like to take their suggestion, the fact is I can’t.

Why Oracle was right to sue Google: The tech industry loves a good vendor slugfest, and the upcoming legal battle between Google and Oracle has all the makings of a truly spectacular one. At issue is Dalvik, the unique, Java-based runtime at the heart of Google’s Android smartphone OS. Oracle, which gained stewardship of the Java platform when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2009, claims Dalvik knowingly, willfully, and deliberately infringes on Java intellectual property. According to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco last week, Oracle is seeking a halt to any further Android development, destruction of all infringing Android software, and for Google to pay damages, both actual and statutory.

Happy 17th Birthday to Debian!: It was on August 16th, 1993 that Ian Murdock started the Debian Project. Named after he and his Wife with the idea of a ‘distribution’ collaborated on openly by people all over the world. Thank You Ian, seventeen years later Debian still rocks.

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The big news this week is a double shot of Oracle both suing Google for supposed Java copyright infringement in Android and the killing of OpenSolaris. Our own Hans Kwint expounds the merits of anticipating lock-in and much more in this weeks LXWR. Enjoy!

Android 3 plans ahead: Android 3.0 is readying for an October launch. What you can expect. Most Android users are only now upgrading to version 2.2 of Google’s mobile phone operating system but with version 3.0 expected in October, it’s worth taking a look at what to expect.

Legal DVD Playback Coming to Linux?: In a country where the legal system is based on precedents, a judge’s recent decision just may make the use of Linux a whole lot easier. From nearly the beginnings of entertainment DVDs, Linux users in certain countries either had to break the law to watch their legally obtained media on their computer, boot a Windows system, or not use them. Many chose to break the law and install decryption software. Perhaps those days are over.

My first-ever Windows installation experience, a Fedora 13-Windows 7 dual-boot: I’ve done between 60 and 200 (who can remember?) installations of Linux and the various BSD operating systems over the past few years, and while there’s plenty of discussion about how hard it is to install a Linux distribution, nobody talks much about how easy/hard/frustrating it is to install Windows. I’ve never done it myself — install Windows, that is. Over the years I’ve upgraded a few boxes from Windows 98 or Me to Windows 2000, I’ve put a few Service Packs into 2000 and XP, but I’ve never done the whole thing — put Windows on a bare drive.

Linux is winning: Linux doesn’t have a CEO. Consequently, there’s no annual keynote hosted by a charismatic alpha male. But if it did, and if there were a conference covering the first half of this year, the first speech would start with three words: “Linux is winning”. Firstly, a market research firm in the US called The NPD Group revealed that sales of Google’s Android platform overtook those of Apple’s iPhone in the first quarter of 2010, propelling itself into second place behind the waning RIM.

Exit costs of lock-in: Anticipate or it’s too late!: When discussing ‘migration’ costs from one platform or piece of software to another, I noted many people fail to understand the idea of ‘exit costs’. In this article, I present my explanation of exit costs, and I hope this article may serve as a reference to exit costs in the future. Especially people involved with decision-taking in IT are encouraged to read this article!

Canonical explain the new Ubuntu census package: Canonical developer Rick Spencer has blogged about the recent discovery of a canonical-census package in the Ubuntu repositories. Although initial speculation suggested Canonical was tracking the users of pre-installed systems with Ubuntu, Spencer points out that the idea of the census package is actually to count the number of OEM installed Ubuntu system without identifying the users of those systems.

Patenting Software: The Business Responsible Thing to Do: Those who are in favor of open source frequently become near apoplectic at the thought that open source software can be, and in fact should be, patented. The reality is that forward thinking companies that operate in the open source space do make use of the patent system. A quick search of Freepatentsonline.com shows that Red Hat, Inc., one of the preeminent open source companies in the world, is named as the assignee on some 263 US patents or US patent applications. So if you are about to make an enormous mistake and listen to the “open source means free” community, ask yourself why a highly successful company like Red Hat uses the patent system and acquires patents. If patents are good for Red Hat, an open source company not at all enamored with the existence of software patents, then why are software patents bad for you? Shouldn’t you model your business off successful companies?

5 More Linux Games You Probably Haven’t Played: Linux is not known for gaming, and when most people think of Linux games, they think of a few free and open source games that are good but not numerous. Nevertheless, there is a growing pool of free and commercial independent gaming developers who are pushing the envelope by offering their games on multiple platforms, including Linux. They are available for purchase and download right over the Internet (often DRM-free), and some of them are pretty high quality. Here are five more you might not have played but are definitely worth giving a try.

Oracle sues Google for Java copyright infringement in Android: Oracle Corp. said Thursday it has filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Google Inc., alleging that the Internet search giant infringed on intellectual property related to the Java software that Oracle acquired when it purchased Sun Microsystems Inc.

Initial Thoughts on Oracle vs Google Patent Lawsuit: Today Oracle sued Google over Java patents and copyrights that they claim Google’s Android OS infringes. The lawsuit claims that Google knowingly infringed on those patents, and that the continued distribution of Google’s Android is harming Oracle’s Java Business.

The final verdict is in: OpenSolaris is no more: In what is supposedly a leaked internal memo to Oracle staff, the adoptive parent company of Sun’s OpenSolaris had announced the fate the project’s (and binary release’s) future. That is, they will support it no more outside of CDDL’d package updates for future Solaris (i.e. Solaris 11) releases.

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Negroponte offers OLPC technology for $35 tablet: One Laptop Per Child wants to join forces to help develop the Indian government’s planned US$35 tablet. In a congratulatory note to the government, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said the world needs the $35 tablet, and he offered the country full access to OLPC hardware and software technology.

The Jargon of Freedom: 60 Words and Phrases with Context: What exactly does it mean when Richard Stallman says that the Creative Commons’ Attribution-ShareAlike license has a “Weak Copyleft”? Why exactly is it that “Freeware” and “Non-Free Software” mean the same thing, while “Free Software” is something else entirely? And what is this business with “Free Beer”, and where can I get some? If you’ve asked yourself these questions, this column is for you.

Workstation Benchmarks: Windows 7 vs. Ubuntu Linux: As I alluded to recently, the second round of Windows 7 vs. Linux benchmarks — with the first round consisting of Is Windows 7 Actually Faster Than Ubuntu 10.04 and Mac OS X vs. Windows 7 vs. Ubuntu benchmarks — are currently being done atop a Lenovo ThinkPad W510 notebook that is quite popular with business professionals. With the high-end ThinkPad W510 boasting a dual quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU with Hyper-Threading plus a NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M graphics processor, we began this second round of cross-platform benchmarks by running a set of workstation tests. In this article we are mainly looking at the workstation graphics (via SPECViewPerf) performance along with some CPU/disk tests.

Android Deployments up 868%: Worldwide smartphone analysts Canalys announced that Android deployments had increased by 886 percent in Q2 2010 compared to Q2 2009. The report also showed that Nokia remained at the top of the OEM heap, selling 24 million smartphones in Q1 2010 alone.

Sun takeover latest – Oracle still painfully silent…: In the months since it completed its takeover of Sun Microsystems, Oracle has remained painfully silent over its plans for much of Sun’s treasure trove of open source assets. In the meantime, there are an increasing number of companies stepping up to shepherd Oracle’s lost sheep…

bash one-liner, Get GPS location and street Address: Combine the power of Google location services with the power of nix shell tools, and you are able to answer the age old question of “Where am I?” right from the comfort of your bash shell! This short article shows you a bash onliner that connects to Google and gets what Google thinks is your GPS location and street address. Quoting the author “If the returned information is wrong, or some kind of “unknown” .. Consider yourself lucky, very lucky! That means Google does not (yet?) know where your wifi AP is. For the rest of us .. tin-foil all the way”

Ubuntu 10.10’s New File System: btrfs, A Closer Look: Between ext3, ext4, reiserfs and others, Ubuntu has no shortage of file systems to choose from when installing a new system. And those options are set to become yet more numerous in Ubuntu 10.10, which will introduce support for btrfs. Wondering what this new file system is all about and why it might matter to you?

BCS Linux-baiting sparks flame war: An article on open source security has sparked off a furious backlash in the normally polite and businesslike world of a British Computer Society journal. Commentards have reacted furiously to a piece by Steve Smith, managing director of IT security consultancy Pentura, in the July Edition of ITNow. A lengthy first response by Luke Leighton takes the article apart paragraph by paragraph and contains a dozen expunged swearwords. The opening line of the 4,000 word rebuttal, for example, reads “the BCS is supposed to be a reputable organisation, yet this article – every paragraph – is complete [DELETED].”

Debian Developer Conference under way in New York City: The tenth annual Debian Developer Conference has opened in New York City, marking the first time the event has been held in the U.S. The event will explore the latest developments with the Debian Linux distribution, which underlies Linux distros including Ubuntu, Xandros, and Chrome OS.

Not Having Linux Skills is IT Malpractice: Some things seem so obvious I feel silly even saying them. And this is one of them: any IT staffer who only knows one operating system is not worth hiring. We see the silly Microsoft vs. Linux vs. Apple stories every day, with Ten Reasons Why This One is Better, and 7 Reasons Why That One Sucks, and Five Ways to Make Headlines With Lists. The ones that crack me up are the “10 Scary Hurdles to Migrating to Linux.” Ever notice how every single time they mention “You’ll need Linux skills!” Oh dear, no! Linux skills? Well there’s a dealbreaker! Because it is completely unreasonable to expect your current batch of delicate Windows admins to have any Linux skills. Sigh.

11 free open-source apps your small business can use now: Despite the wealth of free applications out there, many small business owners continue to spend an inordinate amount of their all-too-scarce resources on software. Microsoft Office 2010? That’ll be $499.99 — or $279.99 if you can do without the Professional version. QuickBooks 2010? $159.95 or more. Adobe PhotoShop CS5? A whopping $699. The good news is that there are free and open-source alternatives for virtually every package a small business might need, and most of them are excellent. Whether or not you’ve already made the switch to Linux — there are, after all, myriad security and other reasons for doing so — these free apps can be just what any small business needs to succeed.

Digg, dug, buried: Linux: A liberal blogger has uncovered that a “group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com has just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, up-vote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives.” The blogger, Ole Ole Olson, infiltrated a group that called itself Digg Patriots. His proof is quite damning.

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Smitten with Xfce 4: If you’ve read me long enough, you know I am a desktop junkie. Much to Jaqui’s chagrin, I do love my desktops. So much so I could have a different desktop every day and still not be completely happy. During my trials and tribulations with the Linux desktop I have, surprisingly, missed the whole Xfce train. Why? I have no idea. I’ve known of it, I’ve used it briefly, and never really thought much more about it. That is, until recently.

Benchmarking ZFS On FreeBSD vs. EXT4 & Btrfs On Linux: ZFS is often looked upon as an advanced, superior file-system and one of the strong points of the Solaris/OpenSolaris platform while most feel that only recently has Linux been able to catch-up on the file-system front with EXT4 and the still-experimental Btrfs. ZFS is copy-on-write, self-healing with 256-bit checksums, supports compression, online pool growth, scales much better than the UFS file-system commonly used on BSD operating systems, supports snapshots, supports deduplication, and the list goes on for the features of this file-system developed by Sun Microsystems. In this article we are seeing how well the performance of the ZFS file-system under PC-BSD/FreeBSD 8.1 stacks up to UFS (including UFS+J and UFS+S) and on the Linux side with EXT4 and Btrfs.

No Operating System is Replaceable: So many people out there just love to talk about how Linux is now a “drop in replacement” for Microsoft Windows or Macintosh OSX. This isn’t the case. The sad truth is that there are no “drop in replacements” for most software, and especially so for operating systems.

Emulating an Amiga in Linux: The Amiga was one of the most powerful PC’s of it’s time, easily trumping the emerging IBM PC’s in the 80’s. You can relive this classic PC on your Linux desktop thanks to a number of emulators that are available.

What’s the Latest in the Psystar Appeal?: Let’s catch up quickly in the Psystar/Apple situation, so we don’t miss any of the action. When I read the new DMCA exemptions EFF won, I immediately started to think about Psystar, so I wanted to see what’s new. Maybe you did too. So here’s the latest I could find. The appeal is going forward. Presumably the next step in the appeal will be oral argument, although I can’t swear to it, since Psystar filed its brief under seal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals back in May, so we can’t read it, and that’s when they would have made the request or not. I can’t believe the entire document needed to be sealed, but that is what happened. Perhaps they’d prefer we not get a chance to analyze it?

Interview with Richard Stallman: Richard Stallman answers the top 25 questions from reddit readers.

Linux Mint 9 KDE Review and Screenshots: In my opinion Linux Mint is one of the top 3 distributions out today for basic desktop usage. It features incredibly useful Mint-specific tools that make it the perfect distro for beginners. All flavors of Linux Mint usually come with a jaw dropping look and feel. I decided to look at both of these while using the recent release of Linux Mint 9 KDE and take some screenshots along the way.

Ubuntu Empire Strikes Back: The old “Ubuntu doesn’t contribute back” argument cropped up again when Dave Neary released a report of the talk he gave at GUADEC on the contributions made to the GNOME desktop environment. He found that Red Hat and Novell contributed the most and that Ubuntu and Mandriva (primarily a KDE distribution) was among the lowest. A firestorm of debate ensued and Shuttleworth was accused of name calling and guilt to try to win the argument.

Ubuntu, the Bad Selfish Linux: In my grumpier moments their relentlessly positive, cult-like Kumbaya-or-else approach makes me want to turn the hose on them. But I don’t remember them attacking anyone else the way they’ve been attacked.

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