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09.08.08

Links 08/09/2008: Linux Mint 5 XFCE Released; Dell and OLPC Laptops

Posted in News Roundup at 3:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Dell

OLPC

  • Hacking the OLPC

    Getting the software side of things right took a little more effort. Sugar, the XO’s pre­installed version of Linux, may be a uniquely great operating ­ system for kids, but it really doesn’t cut it if you’re trying to do work‑work. Luckily, plenty of XO owners before me seem to have felt the same way. I quickly found some great step-by-step instructions for installing alternative ­versions of Linux, including Ubuntu, my choice for this project.

  • OLPC’s Amazon Notebook Linux Only

    “Contrary to some media reports, it will be a Linux-based XO Laptop that will be offered as part of the global initiative and not a dual-boot machine running both Windows and Linux,” OLPC said in a statement.

GNU/Linux

Linux RTOS

Multimedia

  • Weekend Project: Boxee, Part 2
  • Songbird 0.7.0, finally a functional player for linux!
  • MythTV Distro Roundup – Part 3: MythDora

    Overall I loved the system. It’s dead easy to setup, easy to use, and very flexible and expandable. If you ask which of the three distros I liked best, that would depend on what kind of person was using them (ie, newbie vs. experienced user) and how much they wanted to tinker. For the new user, MythDora is the king all the way. For hackability, tweakability, and just plain old uber geeky fiddling, I’d say MythBuntu. And if you’re a pioneer who likes to work with young distros or projects that are just getting off the ground, KnoppMyth would be the one for you.

    And that brings us to the end of our roundup, since these are really the only mainstream MythTV distros available right now. There are others, but given none that are classified as actual “distros” just yet, we’ll be stopping here. In the future, we’ll keep looking at more as soon as they become available.

F/OSS

Awards

VoIP

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Larry Augustin, GNU Linux business visionary 05 (2005)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Stock Market.NET: Fail

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, UNIX, Windows at 10:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From airline crashes to stock market crashes

Last week we used the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an example of the unsuitability of Microsoft software for mission-critical operations. Today we witness another disastrous case study. It takes place in London where the stock market has crashed. [Hat tip benJIman for the pointer]

Trading on the London Stock Exchange has been halted after a computer system failed on one of the most frantic days of trading so far this year.

FTSE 100: trading on the London Stock Exchange halted after computer systems failed

In an embarrassment for the LSE, the exchange said that no orders can be entered or executions of those trades occur. The LSE plans to bring back trading in a “controlled way’’, but couldn’t say how long that will take.

Who is to blame? “Everything Microsoft” CIOs like Richard Steel immediately spring to mind [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] because they are very prevalent in the UK.

This London Stock Exchange (LSE) deployment is Microsoft’s wannabe ‘poster child’[1] , for which Microsoft claims “One hundred per cent reliable on high-volume trading days.” Can this ambitious statement be true given those previous outages [2]? LSE is also rumored to have excessive redundancy/backup, which raises costs considerably.

There are a variety of ‘peripheral’ ways in ways in which Microsoft software harms trading. For example, those hundreds of millions of Windows zombies enable stocks to be played [3]. This has already affected both the European [4] and the American market [5].

Reliability is not a strong point for Windows and other layers of the Microsoft stack. The Diebold fiasco is proof of this [6,7]. Meanwhile, wiser officers in the US market [8] and other international markets [9] are choosing GNU/Linux. It’s very pervasive [10, 11, 13] and even Free software has found its way in [12, 14]. GNU/Linux is said to be ready for mission-critical applications [15, 16, 17] and other bits of Free software are getting there too [18].

___

[1] London Stock Exchange Cuts Information Dissemination Time from 30 to 2 Milliseconds [DOC] [HTML]

Working with Microsoft and Accenture, the London Stock Exchange replaced its London Market Information Link (LMIL®) system with Infolect®. It used the Microsoft® .NET Framework, the Microsoft Visual C#® .NET development tool, and the Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000 database

[2] London Stock Exchange blames outage on Infolect

The outage hit shortly before close of trading and forced the exchange to extend its closing auction by a hour and a half, from 4.30pm until 6pm. Even so it was reported that that some traders left for the day with trades unexecuted

Infolect was launched two years ago in place of the exchange’s London Market Information Link platform. It uses Microsoft .net technology and a SQL Server database

[3] Microsoft is the world’s biggest cause of zombie remailers

In China, it would take about one and one-half years wages (for the average Chinese) to buy a legitimate copy of Windows Vista. If you could find it here.

Microsoft is the biggest cause of zombie remailers in the world, because they make noises, but do not do anything to address the real digital inequities in the world.

[4] Pump and dump spam comes to Europe

Earlier this month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had suspended trading in 35 companies that were found to be commonly referenced in pump-and-dump stock email campaigns.

[5] SEC goes after stock spammers, hackers

The SEC action to freeze the assets is the third filed in as many months involving market manipulation schemes conducted through online account intrusions. In the past the SEC has also taken action against individuals who allegedly broke into financial news Web sites or news release services.

[...]

“When spam clogs our mailboxes, it’s annoying. When it rips off investors, it’s illegal and destructive,” SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said in a statement.

[6] Ohio Audit Says Diebold Vote Database May Have Been Corrupted

Problems found in an audit of Diebold tabulation records from an Ohio November 2006 election raise questions about whether the database got corrupted during the tabulation of election results…

[...]

The database is built from Microsoft’s Jet database engine. The engine, according to Microsoft, is vulnerable to corruption when a lot of concurrent activity is happening with the database, such as what occurs on an election night…

[...]

The report mentions that election staff had trouble with the server crashing and freezing on election night.

[...]

The report notes that with punch card machines election officials used to be able to determine definitively if all ballots had been counted in the results.

[7] Diebold’s Problems Worse Than Reported, Tests Find

Nineteen machines had 21 screen freezes or system crashes, producing a blue screen and messages about an “illegal operation” or a “fatal exception error.” A Diebold technician had to restart the machine for voting to resume. Ten machines had a total of 11 printer jams. Almost one-third of all machines in the mock election had a problem.

[...]

“Especially with this blue-screen problem, you don’t know whether it’s the printer drivers, you don’t know whether it’s Diebold’s own code or whether it’s Windows, or where the problem is,” he said. “It brings into question the entire system.”

[8] NYSE Euronext banks on Red Hat

If anyone out there persists in believing that Linux isn’t ready for serious prime time, NYSE Euronext’s dependence on Red Hat should finally lay that silly notion to rest. As announced, the New York Stock Exchange Euronext dumped its proprietary UNIX heritage (AIX, HP UX, Solaris) for the freedom, flexibility, and performance of Linux.

[9] Linux steps up to power NZ Stock Exchange

The New Zealand Stock Exchange is moving to a Linux platform for its settlement and clearing system, replacing its existing HP NonStop platform and applications in order to reduce cost and increase flexibility.

[10] HP Linux servers bolster NYSE trading app

“We favor Linux for what we do. We don’t want to be beholden to any one [hardware or software] supplier, even if it is very good. We want the freedom to be vendor-independent, so Linux was a good choice,” said Rubinow.

[11] Mainframe Linux at SHARE

Everyone is already using Linux somewhere, Elliott said, but there are still people who are afraid to put their mission-critical applications on it for fear that it is not robust enough.

[12] Open Source Slowly Gains Momentum on Wall Street

Customers may be comfortable using Linux for infrastructure-type systems but less so for business software, said Monica Kumar, senior director of product manager for Linux and open-source software at Oracle.

[13] Linux goes to Wall Street, puts on a show

“The Financial Services firms are leading the enterprise adoption of open source technology, including Linux,” says Zachary. “By watching the consumption patterns of these firms, open source vendors can gain a good understanding of the types of products and services that are commercially viable.

[...]

“We see a growing role for open source software beyond Linux in financial services companies and that’s why many companies are expanding the governance policies and procedures around using open source software.”

[14] Open source and mission critical: The Linux application server landscape

In 2005, Michael Dortch, executive editor and director of IT infrastructure management strategies at the Robert Frances Group, penned a report comparing Linux application server total cost of ownership (TCO) with Microsoft’s Windows and Sun Microsystems’ Solaris. In that report, Linux won handily, prompting Dortch to recommend that all IT managers at least give the Linux application server a serious look for mission-critical data center tasks.

[...]

What a lot of our clients are finding today, however, is that, with Linux and open source application servers, the wisdom of the crowd has solved those standards-based problems. And because the management tools are freely available and malleable, they find that the big sell was “cheap and free” but is now “What will complete my processes faster?” Open source used to be inexpensive and free, but now IT is finding value [in it] because it’s more responsive and responsive.

[15] Linux Crossing Threshold to Real Mission Critical Computing

…Linux developers are steadily chipping away at the most significant functional gaps that limited its suitability for these workloads in the past, allowing it to progress far beyond the “edge of network” domain where it has traditionally thrived. The impressive wins by Novell and Red Hat prove that user perceptions about Linux’s limitations are gradually crumbling as well.

[16] Next Gen, Mission-Critical Apps To Be Deployed on Linux Says Report

By now it should be obvious to even the most casual industry observers that Linux operating systems – and open source-based software in general – have reached critical marketplace mass. Recent Linux deals and announcements by Oracle and Microsoft have only reinforced the “open source is enterprise-grade” message that IBM, Unisys and other “Master Brand” hardware, software and services vendors have been preaching for years. In short, open source, especially Linux, is becoming “legitimized” by the major vendors for enterprise environments, and user executives are more than happy to believe them.

[17] CIO study finds Linux ready for prime-time

The company predicts a steep rise: only 18 percent of businesses will be using Linux in business-critical roles by the end of 2007.

“Linux operating systems – and open source-based software in general – have reached critical marketplace mass,” said the study’s authors, Bruce Guptill and Bill McNee of Saugatuck Research.

[18] Forrester: Open source is everywhere, and increasingly used for mission-critical applications

Forrester just issued an insightful report on the increasing adoption of open source in the enterprise. The verdict? Open source is everywhere, and taking an ever-increasing piece of the enterprise pie

Eye on Microsoft: Failures on the Desktop, Server, Console, and Mobile

Posted in Hardware, Interview, Microsoft, Security, Servers, Steve Ballmer, Videos, Vista, Windows at 6:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There are heaps of material covering this particular broad topic, but included below are only news articles. The first one is the essay “Windows Vista: The OS About Nothing,” which talks about the latest Vista advertisement (last mentioned 2 days ago).

Microsoft’s new Windows ad, featuring Jerry Seinfeld, is outdated and not very funny — but it’s highly revealing of all that’s wrong out there in Redmond.

The background: Windows is losing market share to Apple’s Mac OS and even Linux. And Vista, the latest version, has been a big fat dud. Businesses have shunned it outright, and many consumers find it unintuitive and difficult to use.

Pamela Jones wrote in Groklaw: “I’m absolutely serious that this video of Steve Ballmer being interviewed by Guy Kawasaki at Microsft’s MIX08 conference in Las Vegas about Vista makes a much better ad for it than the Seinfeld shoe store ad, for my money. What makes it is the input from Kawasaki, who provides the antifluff that results in a more complete answer at the end of the video.”

Here it is as an Ogg Theora file and embedded Flash. We’ll refrain from commenting on the behaviour of Microsoft’s CEO.

Ogg Theora

Mr. Ballmer claims that Windows Vista is the most secure operating system, but the illusion of security in Vista is quickly wearing off as the software does not stand up to expectations and new critical flaws emerge that do not even affect Vista’s predecessors. This may mean that Vista and Server 2008 are even less secure than their predecessors. It agrees with everything that a recent study argued. Here is the latest new example:

Microsoft announces another critical Tuesday times four

The Windows Media Player update is rated critical for WMP 11 on Windows XP, Vista and Server 2008 (including the x64 versions). It is not applicable to Windows 2000, Server 2003 or Server 2008 for Itanium-based systems.

Recent articles on this subject include:

Failure at a software level might be recoverable (not that it justifies sloppiness), but what happens when defective hardware burns houses down, arguably kills a baby, and ultimately turns out to have a failure rate of sixty-eight percent?

In-depth exposé reveals Microsoft’s Xbox 360 failure rate was 68%

The dreaded high failure rate issue with the Xbox 360, otherwise known as the Red Ring of Death, has received some in-depth coverage. We are talking about some serious coverage here with insider interviews with the original engineers that worked on the Xbox 360 all the way up to the high ranks of Microsoft.

[...]

Microsoft’s attitude of “release now and patch later” with the Xbox 360 has ended up costing billions of dollars as well as leaving many gamers angry. It is also speculated the reason for Microsoft’s decline in worldwide sales is directly attributed to the Red Ring of Death issue.

This is also covered here, but the figures remain negotiable.

Report: Xbox 360 Failure Rate Was as High as 68%

Dean Takahashi has published an incredible report that finally goes into great detail on Microsoft’s RROD hardware saga.

Microsoft has already lost about $7 billion on its XBox business.

Another lesser-known failure is Windows Mobile, which is discussed in this new post.

Yesterday’s Microsoft Watch had an incisive article about Microsoft’s failure to compete in the mobile phone marketplace.

[...]

What do you bet that Microsoft comes up with a new “improved” release of XP Home that has features deliberately designed to block Chrome? This is, after all, what they did against Netscape in 1996, with Windows NT Workstation allowing no more than 10 TCP/IP connections so that it couldn’t be used with Netscape web servers.

But this kind of backward-looking, defensive competition doesn’t do more than buy you time. Yes, Microsoft killed Netscape, but they missed the deeper, stronger competition that would come from true web applications like Google. The future is not like the past, and any strategy that is designed to protect the past will eventually fail.

Related to this:

The real effect of the losses may remain a mystery, but for how long? Is exploiting competitors (milking them for money) all that’s left?

Microsoft ZUN

Caldera-Microsoft Exposé Begins

Posted in Antitrust, Courtroom, Law, Microsoft, Novell, SCO, SUN at 6:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yesterday we wrote about the Caldera settlement because Groklaw had obtained the details of a mysterious settlements. It now proceeds to further details and pinpoints a site that we mentioned here before. A lot of legal material is available out there, so although Microsoft tried to destroy it, it can be resurrected. Pamela seems up to the task.

The Caldera v. Microsoft Docket – All the Documents To Be Found, So Far

[...]

There is also a web site I’ve linked to before, where they have a collection of some more of the missing documents. And in the previous article I did on it, I told the rest of the story regarding the destruction of the documents by Canopy, and Sun’s intervention to save some of them. Perhaps they’ll get dragged into this mess too.

The web site is MaxFrame Corporation’s, where you can also find some materials about Digital Research, Dr. Gary Kildall, and a History of MS-DOS. Scroll down on the home page to the link for “The Full Story” and you’ll find all the documents they have. For example, here’s the Complaint, the Amended Complaint, a Caldera January 10, 2000 press release announcing that Microsoft had decided to settle, and a Joe Barr January 2000 LinuxWorld article, Details are scarce, but the settlement looks to be a humbling defeat for Microsoft.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what Microsoft desperately tried to hide, paying Novell tens of millions of dollars in the process.

At Microsoft, Cloning-Then-Patenting is “Innovation”

Posted in Apple, Asia, Microsoft at 6:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Hey, Steve [Jobs], just because you broke into Xerox’s store before I did and took the TV doesn’t mean I can’t go in later and steal the stereo.”

Bill Gates, Microsoft

Mac-oriented Web sites seem to be complaining about Microsoft at the moment. The company from Redmond is once again imitating things from Apple.

Microsoft should just stop going to toe to toe with Apple. Each time they go and “copy” a Cupertino idea it fails miserably. Microsoft can’t compete on the commercial front, even though the Mac vs PC ads are starting to get stale. Now Microsoft is looking to combat the Apple Genius’ with some Microsoft Gurus. This sounds like a good idea, but then you have to consider that there are no Microsoft stores.

Examples of technical imitations exist as well, so it’s hardly surprising that in 2006 Steve Jobs said: “our friends up north spend over five billion dollars on research and development and all they seem to do is copy Google and Apple.”

The problem is not necessarily imitation, which some might consider to be “sharing” (of ideas). The problem is that Microsoft soon claims ownership of ideas it 'stole' from other people. It then tried to lock them out of use of their own inventions.

Moreover, Microsoft appears to be breaking the law in India, just as it does in South Africa. According to the news, Microsoft is pursuing patents on software in India where this is not permitted [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

World’s largest software firm Microsoft Corp is seeking an exclusive patent in India for an electronic data snapshot generator, which has been co-invented by an Indian associated with the company.

[...]

However, the static snapshot is generated by saving only static data associated with the file, Microsoft added.

Microsoft should not be permitted to circumvent the law and then justify new laws based on law-breaking precedence. This is not the first example of Microsoft’s software patents in India.


Photo from the public domain

At Novell, Software Development is Microsoft Cloning (MicroFOSS)

Posted in Asia, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Interoperability, Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, Windows at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft a  bad ride

The issues of copyrights in .NET and of downstreaming from Microsoft were both raised before. There are also technical and legal (patent) issues, which matter a lot because of the holder the technology.

Some of these issues are beginning to be raised not in any other Web site than Miguel’s own.

The rule obviously applies to any new APIs that are built for .NET as they are not immediately available for Mono. But unlike the binary-only APIs, these half-open source code releases pose additional problems for the open source CLI:

* More people are exposed to the source code, preventing them from working on a fully open source implementation of it.
* There is a smaller desire from the community to reimplement the code, as it is relatively easy to just use the existing implementation or ignore the issue for the time being.
* Some folks might not care about the license restriction, and ignore it altogether. A practice I do not endorse.

Miguel de Icaza is not only playing with fire (only Novell is draped with Mono asbestos), but he also helps Microsoft’s long-going goal of muscling Java out of the game. Novell is helping its partner in duopoly (Microsoft) ‘reverse’ a court’s decision by demoting Java [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Sun Microsystems scored a major legal victory Monday when a federal judge ordered rival Microsoft to include Sun’s Java programming language in its Windows operating system.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz issued a preliminary injunction that will force Microsoft to distribute an up-to-date version of Java while Sun pursues its antitrust case against Microsoft. Motz, in a 42-page opinion, said Microsoft “leveraged its PC monopoly to create market conditions in which it is unfairly advantaged.”

For Microsoft it would be too risky to discriminate against Java. Partners like Novell are more suited for the job.

The latest conversation about Mono contains some iffy considerations of Microsoft’s CodePlex, which already has established some 'hooks' with SourceForge. The increasingly Windows/Microsoft-leaning SourceForge is a known issue and this new blog post from Ross Turk suggests that he is a good friend of a prominent Novell employee, Joe Brockmeier.

Our good friend Joe Brockmeier, community manager for openSUSE, has just started blogging for ZDnet.

This may not matter much, but it could — just could — explain why SourceForge is as blind (or careless) as Novell about the threats against GNU/Linux. Larry Augustin has already responded with a “put up or shut up” disclaimer to Microsoft, but he was too polite. There seems to be some indifference inside SourceForge to software which is being abducted to be made dependent on non-Free software and subjected to mistreatment by a convicted monopoly abuser.

This type of indifference is becoming prevalent. Melvin Calimag, for example, has been publishing pro-Microsoft articles and something about GNU/Linux failures after that free trip to Redmond [1, 2] (Microsoft invited him). Maybe it’s just a coincidence (the statistic sample is admittedly too small), but either way, he has just posted another Microsoft-serving piece that portrays Microsoft as an open source player.

Microsoft, once an ardent proponent of proprietary software, is no longer fighting the growing army of open source developers worldwide and in the Philippines. In fact, it will soon open in the country its first interoperability lab in Asia.

[...]

Contrary to popular notion, Microsoft claimed it had collaborated before with companies identified with the open source community. The company said it started its Linux Interoperability Lab in 2004 and opened the Open Source Software Lab in 2006.

It’s only the illusion that Microsoft no longer fights what it only recently called a greater threat than Google.

The real intent is soon expressed:

“These four principles include: one, ensuring open connections to our high-volume products such as Vista, Office, and Windows Server; second, promoting data portability; third, enhancing support for industry standards; and lastly, foster more open engagement with our customers and the community.”

So, it’s all about “open source” becoming dependent on the proprietary software stack from Microsoft.

Also in the news, following the latest cash infusion, a marriage of patents between Novell and Microsoft is briefly mentioned here.

More recently Hauser played a strategic role on Microsoft’s Law and Corporate Affairs, Intellectual Property Leadership team where she worked on Microsoft’s relationship with Novell and its efforts on interoperability. She was instrumental role in developing Microsoft’s first Interop Executive Customer Council with 45 worldwide CIO’s across commercial and public sector customers, added Scott.

Susan Hauser has already used the dealings in China as an opportunity to spread GNU/Linux FUD. She even stole the voices of Novell customers and misrepresented them. The team which is called “Intellectual Property Leadership” pretty much sums up what the Novell deal involved, but then again, even Novell has begun admitting that it’s about patents now [1, 2].

“I’ve heard from Novell sales representatives that Microsoft sales executives have started calling the Suse Linux Enterprise Server coupons “royalty payments”"

Matt Asay, April 21st, 2008

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: September 7th, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Enter the IRC channel now

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