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08.07.10

Links 7/8/2010: GNU/Linux Big in South Africa, Acer Android Netbook, Thunderbird 3.1.2

Posted in News Roundup at 7:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Linux big in SA

    Windows may still be the dominant operating system but in South Africa Linux has a good showing

    We all know that Windows is the dominant operating system, around the world. But how popular is Linux?

    According to analysts StatCounter, Linux is still minuscule in comparison with the Windows family of operating systems but there are some numbers worth looking at.

  • A Tiny Little Program

    He sent me back the Windows executable. And here is the directory listing of the Linux and Windows executables:

    -rwxr-xr-x 1 brad brad 7514 2010-07-27 10:07 fixfile
    -rw-r–r– 1 brad brad 163954 2010-08-04 07:17 fixfile.exe

    It’s a 45-line C program with only two functions. It compiles to about 7 1/2 kbytes on Linux. And it compiles to almost 164 kbytes on Windows!

  • Easing the Differences Between Unix and Linux

    Recently a friend of mine needed to convert a lot of videos from AVI format to Windows Media for a client. My friend is also of the Microsoft persuasion, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money acquiring batch conversion software.

    I recommended that he get a copy of Ubuntu, load it up with some video codecs and editing software, then use ffmpeg (with the handy WinFF GUI) to batch convert the files. This is how I usually do the job, and I have had great success with Ubuntu and openSUSE in finding and installing the right software and having this particular task Just Work.

  • Kernel Space

    • Realtime Linux: academia v. reality

      The 20th Euromicro Conference on Real-Time Systems (ECRTS2010) was held in Brussels, Belgium from July 6-9, along with a series of satellite workshops which took place on July 6. One of those satellite workshops was OSPERT 2010 – the Sixth International Workshop on Operating Systems Platforms for Embedded Real-Time Applications, which was co-chaired by kernel developer Peter Zijlstra and Stefan M. Petters from the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal. Peter and Stefan invited researchers and practitioners from both industry and the Linux kernel developer community. I participated for the second year and tried, with Peter, to nurse the discussion between the academic and real worlds which started last year at OSPERT in Dublin.

  • Applications

  • Distributions

    • Red Hat Family

      • Cloud Linux Inc. Goes Global as 16 New Hosting and Data Center Partners Come Online
      • Tech Certifications Are Worthy Again

        “Red Hat is doing very well and is taking advantage of open systems business demand,” said Foote in an interview with eWEEK. “Two Red Hat certs are in the top 10 on our IT Certifications Hotlist: Red Hat Certified Technician and Red Hat Certified Security Specialist. It appears that companies still want a support base, even in open systems where you don’t have to choose a vendor. But they are, and those investing in the cloud are looking at employee skill sets in Linux and open source.”

    • Debian Family

      • Debian Squeeze frozen

        During DebConf10, currently being held in New York, the Debian developers announced that Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” has been frozen. This means that the ongoing development of the next version of Debian has moved into a new phase where the focus will be on bug-fixing and polishing the distribution ready for release at some point in the future.

      • Debian’s next release frozen

        The Debian GNU/Linux Project has announced that its next release, Squeeze, has been frozen.

        This means that no new features will be added and that work will now commence on ironing out all release-critical bugs so that Squeeze can be officially released.

        The release will be based on the 2.6.32 kernel and will have version 4.4.5 of the KDE Desktop and 2.30 of GNOME. Other desktop environments like XFCE (version 4.6.2) and LXDE (0.5.0) are also included.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu

        • Is It Time To Use Ubuntu Server?

          Despite being treated like a stepchild due to the presence of heavyweights like RHEL, CentOS, SLES and the BSD Brothers, Ubuntu Server has consistently improved over the years.

          As of version 10.04, Ubuntu Server 10.04 makes the perfect choice for running your servers in a corporate environment with low to medium loads.

        • Ubuntu Accessibility Project Seeks Help with Survey

          When Ubuntu’s software designers sit down to design software, they prefer to do so with a total picture of the end-user in mind. Their method involves creating “personas,” a compilation of characteristics that represents various types of people who use the software. For instance, Mary might be a first time Linux user who loves working with media files and images, while Chuck may be a FOSS hobbyist who enjoys working at the command line.

        • Open Source Improves Internet Access For Senior, Disabled Netizens

          The new tooling technology simplifies the way Web applications are tested for compliance with current accessibility standards and guidelines, helping to speed up delivery of new accessible Internet applications.

        • Flavours and Variants

          • Hands-on: Jolicloud 1.0 makes Web apps equal desktop citizens

            There are a lot of good ideas on display in Jolicloud 1.0, but the nascent product still feels incomplete. If the company behind Jolicloud can expand on the current implementation and fill in some of the gaps, it has the potential to be a real winner. I like where they are taking the user experience and I think that there are a lot of great things that they can do to make the launcher richer if they take full advantage of HTML’s inherent strengths.

            The real challenge will be continuing to expand the scope of Jolicloud’s differentiating features while keeping pace with Ubuntu and ensuring that Jolicloud users will benefit from Ubuntu’s steady stream of new features.

            Some of the technologies that Canonical is developing for Ubuntu’s own Unity environment (particularly the D-Bus-powered messaging indicators and application indicators) could potentially make it much easier for third parties like Jolicloud to ditch the conventional GNOME panel and integrate the underlying functionality into their own custom user experience in a more seamless way. It would be great to see the functionality of Ubuntu’s messaging indicators, for example, woven seamlessly into the Jolicloud launcher.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Linux-ready SoC brings VoIP to optical end-points

      Mindspeed announced a new member of its Comcerto family of VoIP system-on-chips (SoCs), targeting media, signaling and control processing on low-to-medium density optical networking environments. The Comcerto 300xv offers dual ARM11 processors, a 64-bit DSP, dual gigabit Ethernet interfaces, and a PCI Host controller, and is available with an OpenWRT Linux-based evaluation board.

    • Phones

      • Nokia/MeeGo

        • Questions for Nokia executive show support

          Several people who are clearly fond of their N900 phones expressed their dismay at feeling abandoned. The N900 runs Maemo, an operating system Nokia developed based on Debian Linux. Earlier this year Nokia said it would merge Maemo with Moblin, an open-source operating system that Intel developed.

      • Android

        • Android Phones bring revolution to Mobile Industry

          A lot of Mobile devices come with attractive features and fabulous designs, but when Android based phones get released in the market, everything looks pale and goes down. As if users are waiting for the glimpse of the model that is implemented by Google’s Android software.

        • Netflix: “Would Be Stupid of Us” to Ignore Android’s Continued Growth

          We knew Netflix had plans to bring an app to our beloved platform since the start of the summer (after a job posting uncovered their plans to do just that), but we didn’t get a concrete window. We still don’t have a concrete window, but at least Netflix isn’t keeping quiet. One of the company’s employees stated on Reddit that they would be stupid to ignore the Android userbase considering how much it’s blown up in the first half of the year (More on that here, here, here, here, and here.)

        • Why Android App Security Is Better Than for the iPhone

          On the Linux-based Android platform, each application runs in a separate “silo,” unable by default to read or write data or code to other applications. Associated with each isolated application is a unique identifier and a corresponding set of permissions explicitly governing what that particular application is allowed to access and to do.

          As a result, much the way Linux users typically don’t have “root” privileges with the associated power to do systemwide harm, so Android apps by default are limited in a similar way. Just as Linux minimizes the damage that could be done on the desktop by a virus affecting an individual user, in other words, so Android restricts the potential damage that could be done by a rogue application.

          In order for any data to be shared across Android applications, it must be done explicitly and in a way that informs the user. Specifically, before installation can even happen, the app must declare which of the phone’s capabilities or data it will want to use–the GPS, for example–and the user must explicitly grant permission to do so. Those wallpaper apps, it should be noted, were no exception. So, if a user sees upon installation that a simple wallpaper app is requesting access to her list of contacts, say, there’s probably reason to think twice before proceeding.

          On the iPhone, on the other hand, it’s a different story. All apps are considered equal and can access many resources by default, and without having to tell the user. So, while on Android you’ll be able to see that a malicious app is suspicious the moment you try to install it, on the iPhone iOS, you’ll have no idea–potentially until the harm is done.

        • Vodafone angers HTC Desire owners

          Vodafone has angered customers with HTC Desire mobile phones after delivering an update that added new applications which can’t be deleted.

    • Sub-notebooks

Free Software/Open Source

  • Accenture survey sees open source investment rising

    According to survey results released by Accenture, two thirds (69%) of organisations anticipate increased investment in open source, with over a third (28%) saying they expect to migrate mission critical applications to open source within the next twelve months. The survey of three hundred large public and private sector organisations in the US, UK and Ireland, found that half of them said they were fully committed to open source and almost a third said they were still experimenting with open source.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla releases Thunderbird 3.1.2

        The Mozilla developers have released version 3.1.2 of their open source Thunderbird email and news client, code named “Lanikai”. According to the developers, the latest maintenance update addresses several user experience concerns and improves the applications overall stability.

  • Databases

    • MongoDB 1.6 adds auto-sharding and replica sets

      NoSQL document store MongoDB’s new release from 10gen and the MongoDB community now offers automated horizontal scaling, high availability, automatic failover, replica sets and auto-sharding. MongoDB 1.6 is the fourth stable release of the NoSQL database.

  • Oracle

  • Government

  • Licensing

    • Court orders GPL compliance

      A court in the US has ordered a company not complying with the terms of the GNU General Public Licence ver 2.0 to stop distributing the software which was putting it in non-compliance and awarded damages to the plaintiffs.

      The Software Freedom Conservancy and Erik Anderson, the developer of Busybox, filed the suit against Westinghouse Digital Electronics and 13 others over the distribution of the Busybox utility in HDTV products.

    • The GPL Wins Again

      In December 2009, the Software Freedom Conservancy filed lawsuits against 14 consumer electronics vendors alleging that they were not in compliance with the GPL license. Of those 14 vendors, 13 have now either settled amicably or are in productive discussions toward a settlement.

      In one case, consumer electronics vendor Westinghouse failed to comply, and a U.S. District Court has now ruled in a default judgment against it.

    • BusyBox takes out bankrupt opponent in GPL lawsuit

      Basically, Westinghouse gets off easy in comparison with those who have shared music on P2P sites ($675,000 and $1.92 million, in the first two cases to go to trial) because it only shipped a single software package, even though it was done for commercial gain.

Leftovers

  • A tale of two prosecutions: Same facts, different result

    Two cases in which DAG has played a prominent advisory role were those of Paul Clarke, who was found guilty of possessing a shotgun which he had handed in to the police (at one point he was facing an automatic five year prison sentence, though thankfully the judge was able to find “exceptional circumstances”) and the ongoing case of Paul Chambers, whose Twitter joke about Nottingham airport led to his conviction for communicating a “bomb hoax”.

    In both cases, the letter of the law was used as a pretext for bringing charges despite the lack of any real public interest in doing so. Part of the problem may lie in the narrow way in which “public interest” is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service. CPS guidelines assume that once the evidence is strong enough to suggest a likelihood of conviction, a prosecution will always be in the public interest unless there are “clear” reasons suggesting otherwise. “A prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor is sure that there are public interest factors tending against prosecution which outweigh those tending in favour” says the latest edition of the CPS code (pdf). I guess that because they are dealing with criminal cases day in, day out, CPS lawyers easily overlook the devastating effect that prosecution often has on an individual’s life.

  • Judge trounces Register.com in Baidu.com hijacking case

    As a result, Baidu — the world’s number-three search engine and the biggest in China — lost control of the baidu.com domain name for more than five hours. Register.com employees refused assistance when legitimate Baidu representatives appealed for help by phone and online chat, and didn’t begin to address the problem until two hours after first being told of the snafu.

  • Science

    • SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Vehicle Plan

      The U.S. government should lead development of a nuclear thermal propulsion system for a future Mars mission and leave new heavy-lift launchers to commercial entities, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) says.

  • Security/Aggression

    • Defense Department message to Wikileaks

      All this may appear stupid or even funny (“returning electronic documents”) but the communication is a very professional way to deal with classic news agencies, given how they operate. Also the concept of “stolen property” looks pretty compelling from a media communication perspective, though US government documents are generally in the public domain (irrespective of disclosure).

    • Experiments in Torture: Physicians group alleges US conducted illegal research on detainees
    • Tom Ridge Joins the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Natural Gas Gold Rush

      Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has, for the most part, been out of the spotlight for the past year since he wrote his book titled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again, which came out in September of 2009. In that book, Ridge confessed that, although unsurprising to anyone who understood the rampant fear-mongering and propaganda that took place in the post-9/11 Bush era, he was pressured by others in the Bush Administration to purposely manipulate the infamous color-coded National Security Alerts for political reasons, and in particular, during the run-up to former President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Massive ice island 4x size of Manhattan separates from Greenland glacier

      Andreas Muenchow, an oceanographic researcher from the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, reports that an “ice island” four times larger than Manhattan has separated from the Petermann Glacier in Greenland (shown in the photo above from 2009).

    • BP oil spill mostly cleaned up, says US

      The US government said today that most of the oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up as BP reported that a “static kill” blocking procedure was stopping more crude pouring into the gulf.

      The White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, said a new assessment had found that about 75% of the oil had been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf.

    • Fossil fuel subsidies are 10 times those of renewables, figures show

      Despite repeated pledges to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and criticism from some quarters that government support for renewable energy technologies is too generous, global subsidies provided to renewable energy and biofuels are dwarfed by those enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry.

    • Ecuador signs $3.6bn deal not to exploit oil-rich Amazon reserve

      How much would you pay for the most biologically rich patch of land on Earth – some 675 sq miles of pristine Amazon, home to several barely contacted indigenous tribes, thousands of species of trees and nearly 1bn barrels of crude oil?

      Ecuador, home of the Galapagos Islands, the Andes mountain range and vast tracts of oil-rich rainforest, yesterday asked the world for $3.6bn not to exploit the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil block in the Yasuni national park. A knockdown price, it said, considering the oil alone is worth more than $7bn at today’s prices. The 407m tonnes of CO2 that would be generated by burning it could sell for over $5bn in the global carbon markets.

    • Deadly fungus threat to insect-eating US bats

      A North American bat regarded as one of the most voracious insect-eaters in the world faces extinction in parts of the continent within the next 16 years, scientists say.

      The little brown myotis bat is one of the most abundant in the US and Canada, but the population is threatened by a fungus that causes a lethal disease known as white-nose syndrome.

      The fungus, Geomyces destructans, causes a loss of body fat and disrupts the usual hibernation behaviour of the bats, causing them to wake early and leave their roosts during the daytime. In affected areas up to 99% of bats will die out.

    • A Real Mess in Orbit: Space Junk to Hang Around Longer Than Expected

      Space junk continues to clutter the friendly cosmic skies, posing threats to satellites and spacecraft, with scientists working to identify which bits of orbital rubbish to pluck from the heavens first. But a new study suggests they’re fighting an uphill battle.

      New research on changes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere suggests space debris could remain in orbit for longer than expected.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • TalkTalk becomes StalkStalk

      A little over 3 weeks ago, an observant UK TalkTalk customer discovered their ISP was stalking their web surfing. (Read more on the Phoenix Broadband forum).

      For a period of approximately two months, TalkTalk have been covertly monitoring the web pages requested by their customers. Then, moments later, replaying exactly the same requests, to obtain the same page content that their customers had been reading for analysis. Even TalkTalk staffers seem surprised that consent was not sought for this process.

    • Private browsing modes in four biggest browsers often fail

      Features in the four major browsers designed to cloak users’ browser history often don’t work as billed, according to a research paper that warns that users may get a false sense of security when using the built-in privacy settings.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • GM crop escapes into the American wild

      A genetically modified (GM) crop has been found thriving in the wild for the first time in the United States. Transgenic canola is growing freely in parts of North Dakota, researchers told the Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, today.

      The scientists behind the discovery say this highlights a lack of proper monitoring and control of GM crops in the United States.

      US farmers have dramatically increased their use of GM crops since the plants were introduced in the early 1990s. Last year, nearly half the world’s transgenic crops were grown in US soil — Brazil, the world’s second heaviest user, grew just 16%. GM crops have broken free from cultivated land in several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan, but they have not previously been found in uncultivated land in the United States.

      “The extent of the escape is unprecedented,” says Cynthia Sagers, an ecologist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, who led the research team that found the canola (Brassica napus, also known as rapeseed).

      Sagers and her team found two varieties of transgenic canola in the wild — one modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (glyphosate), and one resistant to Bayer Crop Science’s Liberty herbicide (gluphosinate). They also found some plants that were resistant to both herbicides, showing that the different GM plants had bred to produce a plant with a new trait that did not exist anywhere else.

      [...]

      Sagers agrees that feral populations could have become established after trucks carrying cultivated GM seeds spilled some of their load during transportation. She notes that the frequency and population density of GM canola that they found may be biased as they only sampled along roadsides.

    • “Taco Tuesday” out at downtown restaurant due to challenge by Taco John’s chain, but promotion lives on

      Taco John’s — a chain that has seen at least three efforts to expand into Oklahoma fail over the past 25 years — is ordering owners of downtown’s Iguana Mexican Grill to quit using the phrase “Taco Tuesday” to promote its weekly $1 dollar taco nights.

    • Copyrights

      • Making A High Quality Film On The Cheap With A Digital SLR

        A few years back at a Cato Institute conference on copyright, a guy from NBC Universal challenged me with the question of “how will we make $200 million movies?” if content is freely shared. As I noted at the time, that’s really the wrong question. No one watching a movie cares about how much the movie costs. They just want to see a good movie. The question for a good filmmaker or producer or a studio should be “how do I make the best movie I can that will still be profitable?” Starting out with a “cost” means that you don’t focus on ways to save money or contain costs. You focus on ways to spend up to those costs. That’s backwards, and it’s how you fail as a business.

      • Marking and Tagging the Public Domain: An Invitation to Comment

        Almost 1½ years have passed since we launched CC0 v1.0, our public domain waiver that allows rights holders to place a work as nearly as possible into the public domain, worldwide, prior to the expiration of copyright. CC0 has proven a valuable tool for governments, scientists, data providers, providers of bibliographic data, and many others throughout world. At the time we published CC0, we made note of a second public domain tool under development — a tool that would make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain.

Clip of the Day

Google CEO Eric Schmidt on privacy


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