10.11.10

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Links 11/10/2010: New Ubuntu Reviews, MySQL Up-selling

Posted in News Roundup at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Blind Inventors Develop Free Software to Enable the Blind to Use Computers

    For many blind people, computers are inaccessible. It can cost upwards of $1000 to purchase “screen reader” software, but two blind computer programmers have solved this problem.

  • Biggest Genome Ever

    Now THAT’s a genome. A rare Japanese flower named Paris japonica sports an astonishing 149 billion base pairs, making it 50 times the size of a human genome—and the largest genome ever found.

  • Queensland open source firm doubles staff

    The downturn in the US economy has benefitted Queensland open source company Jentla to the extent that it has had to double its staff numbers to meet demand.

    [...]

    As a result of the demand, Jentla has taken on 20 new staff in the last quarter. The company has offices in Brisbane, its headquarters, Chennai (India) and in Romania. Most of the staff have been recruited in Chennai, at the company’s Tamil Nadu research and development office.

  • Events

    • Diversity, Freedom and Education at the Open World Forum

      This year I have been invited to present the first results of my research about Open public data at the 2010 Open World Forum. Due to the subject of my talk, I was also invited by Glyn Moody to a panel on Open Democracy (see Glyn’s comments on that panel at CWUK).

      I have to confess that I went to the Open World Forum expecting to find some pompous, self-referential, corporate driven marketing show. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and this is what I’ll try to show here. The pounding, rave-style music at the beginning of each session was really depressing. A few talks by some politicians were not among the highest moments of the Forum (Glyn already explained why and I agree with him). This said, the Forum agenda was quite balanced and diverse. Personally I found it an interesting, useful event, one I would have been glad to attend even if I had not had to present my work. The Forum explored many sides of openness, not just the commercial one of Open Source software. Here are just a couple of examples.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • 4 Ways to Supercharge Double-Click Action in Firefox

        Double-clicking (and double tapping) is one of the preferred mouse (or touch pad) actions for me. It’s quick and easy and helps to get things done faster. Sadly, double-clicking is really under-utilized in Firefox.

        The only thing you can do by double-clicking in Firefox is highlighting the word right next to the cursor. Besides that (which is a less-known behavior), if you double-click the 2-3 pixel wide bar just beneath tabs, it opens a new empty tab in the foreground.

      • Mozilla puts Firefox 4 Android beta on crash diet

        The Firefox 4 Android beta is morbidly obese. But Mozilla has a diet plan.

        Over the past twelve hours, after Mozilla released its first Firefox 4 beta for Android, multiple Reg readers have said the browser takes up far too much space on their Googly phones. “Fooking HUGE!!!” said one. “Not even going to waste my time with the beta.”

      • Mozilla upsets net world order with Bing on Firefox

        As Mozilla announced this morning with a blog post, the latest English-language version of Mozilla’s open source browser — due for release in November — will retain Google as the default search engine. But for the first time, Bing will be listed in the pull-down that lets you change the default. Google will be first on the menu. Yahoo! — now powered by Bing — will be second. And Bing will be third.

  • Oracle

    • Oracle Up-selling MySQL

      Oracle is pressuring customers to pay more for enterprise support for MySQL. Those who may make tons of money from servers may feel comfortable with this but this could be a (another) fork in the road for MySQL. To what extent will the features Oracle is plugging in be available in the Free Software versions available to distros? So far, most of the differences are in clustering, management and support which do not affect many users of MySQL as a simple server.

    • MySQL price hikes reveal depth of Oracle’s wallet love
  • BSD

    • Ten ways Linux and BSD differ

      People tend to talk about Linux and BSD in the same breath, but a number of telling differences set them apart, says Jack Wallen.

      I hear it all the time: people lumping together Linux and any of the BSDs. On occasion, I’ve even done it myself. Of course, there are plenty of similarities. Both are based on Unix and have mostly been developed by non-commercial organisations. They also share a common goal — to create the most useful, reliable operating system available. But there are also significant differences that shouldn’t be ignored, and I thought it would be worth highlighting them here.

  • Licensing

    • HTC Willfully Violates the GPL in T-Mobile’s New G2 Android Phone

      Last week, the hottest new Android-based phone arrived on the doorstep of thousands of expectant T-Mobile customers. What didn’t arrive with the G2 was the source code that runs the heart of the device — a customized Linux kernel. Android has been hailed as an open platform in the midst of other highly locked-down systems, but as it makes its way out of the Google source repository and into devices this vision has repeatedly hit speedbumps. Last year, I blogged about one such issue, and to their credit Google sorted out a solution. This has ultimately been to everyone’s benefit, because the modified versions of the OS have routinely enabled software applications that the stock versions haven’t supported (not to mention improved reliability and speed).

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Generate OpenDocument spreadsheets from DB2 (or any other) database

      DB2 pureXML is IBM software for management of XML data that eliminates much of the work typically involved in the management of XML data.The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an open international standard for office texts, presentations and spreadsheets that is very simple to process or generate automatically. This page is a short synthesis of an article published in September 2010 by N. Subrahmanyam, Using DB2 pureXML and ODF Spreadsheets, to give an idea (see my comments at the end) of how flexible ODF scripting is. Please read the original full article to know how to actually generate ODF documents from DB2 pureXML files.

Leftovers

  • AMD says it is definitely, really not for sale

    Maybe Larry Ellison’s killing of Opteron-based servers from Oracle’s Sun Fire x64 server lineup earlier this year was a love touch instead of a bitchslap for Advanced Micro Devices?

  • Ex-General Electric boss unleashes bile on HP board

    Oracle’s Larry Ellison isn’t the only CEO mouthing off at Hewlett-Packard’s decision to hire Leo Apotheker as the company’s replacement for disgraced former boss Mark Hurd. Now Jack Welch, the ex-chief of General Electric, is sticking the boot in, too.

  • Flat pay turns IT workers into job seekers

    Companies have cut salaries and training, held back on bonuses and piled more work on employees in response to the economic downturn. These tactics may well be pushing many IT professionals to go job hunting, according to Computerworld’s latest salary poll.

  • Former FTC staffer files a complaint against Google

    The complaint was filed on 6 September by Christopher Soghoian, a former technologist at the FTC’s division of privacy and identity protection. Soghoian has decided to take on Google after leaving the agency that should have done it anyway by issuing a complaint alleging that the search engine and advertising outfit shares data with third parties.

  • Former FTC Employee Files Complaint Over Google Privacy
  • Google Patent Proposes $2 Fee To Skip Commercials

    A day after Google debuted its new Google TV website, the USPTO issued U.S. Patent No. 7,806,329 to the search giant for its Targeted Video Advertising invention. Among other things, the patent proposes having viewers take 5-10 minutes to ‘fill out a consumer survey and perhaps to provide additional information such as a mailing address survey before starting the program’ to avoid having to watch 10 minutes of commercials. ‘As another alternative,’ the patent continues, ‘the broadcaster may offer the users an option to pay $2 (such as through a micro-payment system, such as GBuy) to exchange for skipping all commercials.’

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Endorses The Same Candidate It’s Suing For ‘Stealing’ From Them?
  • Science

    • Boy of 15 fitted with robotic heart

      What do you do when a 15-year-old boy is close to death and ineligible for a heart transplant? If you’re Dr Antonio Amodeo you turn to an artificial solution and transplant a robotic heart giving the boy another 20-25 years of life.

      The Italian boy in question suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy which rapidly degenerates the muscles and eventually leads to death. Having such a disease renders the boy ineligible for a heart transplant meaning almost certain death without an alternative solution.

    • Mission Complete! WMAP Fires its Thrusters for the Last Time

      The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has, quite literally, changed our view of the Universe. And after nine years of mapping the slight temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, its job is done and NASA has commanded the probe to fire itself into a “graveyard orbit” around the sun.

      Launched in 2001, this ground-breaking spacecraft set out to unravel some of the most fundamental questions in modern cosmology. How old is the Universe? What happened when the Universe was born?

    • How nitroglycerine explodes – in slow motion
    • Three scientists receive 2010 Chemistry Nobel

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010, saw the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announce the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: It went to three scientists for their work in synthesizing complex carbon molecules; specifically, “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis”.

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • The Government That Cried Wolf

      Speaking as an American who lives in Europe, I feel it is incumbent upon me to describe what people like me do when we hear warnings like the one issued on Sunday by the U.S. State Department and cited above: We do nothing.

    • iPhone app tagged as terror tool
    • US ex-spook wants ‘rogue states’ banned from Internet

      A FORMER US SPOOK wants all countries in the world to agree to do what America says or be banned from the Internet.

      It is not clear how much the views of the former chief technology officer at the US National Security Agency Dr Prescott Winter reflect those of his mates who still work there.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Solar Panels to Appear on White House in Spring 2011

      Solar panels will be installed on the White House roof a quarter of a century after they were removed by Ronald Reagan, the Obama administration said today.

      A mix of solar thermal and photovoltaic panels will be fitted in spring 2011 to generate hot water and renewable electricity, said Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and energy secretary Steven Chu at a conference on how federal government can green up.

    • Tuna Industry “Sustainability” Group Should Act to Save the Tuna!

      ISSF member companies account over 70% of the world’s tuna. The power to shift fishing practices on the water is well and truly in their hands, so Greenpeace
      challenges them to flex their considerable muscle to create positive change. If ISSF is genuinely concerned about transshipment and its role in overfishing and illegal fishing, then it should adopt conservation measures to oblige every one of its members to simply stop buying tuna from fishing companies that engage in tuna transshipment.

    • ‘Emission free’ nuclear power is more greenwash

      We’ve discussed before on Nuclear Reaction the nuclear industry’s attempts to greenwash nuclear power by rebranding it ‘clean’. It’s a description of this most contaminating of energy sources that nuclear boosters are pushing more and more in the debate about the future of nuclear power.

      Another term we’re starting to see more and more of is ‘emission free’, as in ‘nuclear power is an emission free energy source’. Take a look at this infographic where the Nuclear Energy Institute (‘the policy organization for the nuclear technologies industry’) portrays nuclear power as such. Even institutions like the BBC have bought the industry spin.

    • UPDATE: Climate negotiations from an American girl in China

      Tcktcktck’s Paul Horsman delivers a traditional Chinese stamp to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres to mark the wall in support of collective action against climate change.

  • Finance

    • China’s recent activities in eurozone to devaluate US dollar

      The market structure of the rates of foreign currencies has been thrown into question. China has become more active in the eurozone as a result of the economic conflict with the USA. The Chinese dragon starts to determine quotations on world’s basic currencies, such as the euro and the US dollar.
      Premier Wen Jiabao of China stated during the meeting with the head of the Greek government George Papandreou that China had purchased long-term bonds, issued by Greece to cover its sovereign debt. Beijing, the Chinese official said, was determined to continue purchasing the bonds if Athens needed new loans to settle its huge budget deficit. Several days before that, the lower house of the US Congress approved the bill targeted against the lowered rate of the Chinese currency vs. the US dollar.

    • Fannie Mae logic-bomb saboteur convicted

      A computer contractor has been convicted of planting a logic bomb on the servers of Fannie Mae, the financially troubled US housing and mortgage giant.

      Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, 36, responded to the termination of his two-year-long spell as a software development contractor at Fannie Mae in October 2008 by planting a malicious script designed to wipe all the data from its network on 31 January 2009. Anyone attempting to access data on the system after the logic bomb went off would have received the message “Server Graveyard”.

    • Unemployed find old jobs now require more skills

      The jobs crisis has brought an unwelcome discovery for many unemployed Americans: Job openings in their old fields exist. Yet they no longer qualify for them.

      They’re running into a trend that took root during the recession. Companies became more productive by doing more with fewer workers. Some asked staffers to take on a broader array of duties – duties that used to be spread among multiple jobs. Now, someone who hopes to get those jobs must meet the new requirements.

    • White House doubts need to halt all foreclosures

      A top White House adviser questioned the need Sunday for a blanket stoppage of all home foreclosures, even as pressure grows on the Obama administration to do something about mounting evidence that banks have used inaccurate documents to evict homeowners.

    • Financial regulators planning worldwide rules for large firms

      International bank regulators are planning a fresh wave of rules for the world’s most important financial companies in an effort to ensure that firms considered “too big to fail” are better protected from collapse – and that taxpayers are insulated from the fallout if they do.

    • Govt: No call for Social Security increase in 2011

      As if voters don’t have enough to be angry about this election year, the government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits.

      It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.

    • White House Aide Doubts Need to Halt Foreclosures

      A top White House adviser questioned the need on Sunday for a blanket halt to home foreclosures, even as pressure grows on the Obama administration to do something about growing evidence that banks have used inaccurate documents to evict homeowners.

    • Foreclosure freeze could undermine housing market

      Karl Case, the co-creator of a widely watched housing market index, was upbeat three weeks ago. Mulling the economy while at a meeting at a resort near the Berkshires, Case thought the makings of a recovery were finally falling into place.

      “I’m a 60-40 optimist,” he said at the time.

    • Why are so many Goldman/Sachs guys working for Obama?

      Goldman Sachs partner Gary Gensler is Obama’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission head. He was confirmed despite heated congressional grilling over his role, as Reuters described it, “as a high-level Treasury official in a 2000 law that exempted the $58 trillion credit default swap market from oversight. The financial instruments have been blamed for amplifying global financial turmoil.” Gensler said he was sorry — hey, it worked for tax cheat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner — and was quickly installed to guard the henhouse.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • Corrupt Akamai worker charged after secrets sting

      An Akamai accounts worker has been arrested for alleged wire fraud. This follows a sting operation during which the man was led to believe he was handing over confidential information to an agent of a unnamed foreign power.

    • Hacking the D.C. Internet Voting Pilot

      We found a vulnerability in the way the system processes uploaded ballots. We confirmed the problem using our own test installation of the web application, and found that we could gain the same access privileges as the server application program itself, including read and write access to the encrypted ballots and database.

      The problem, which geeks classify as a “shell-injection vulnerability,” has to do with the ballot upload procedure. When a voter follows the instructions and uploads a completed ballot as a PDF file, the server saves it as a temporary file and encrypts it using a command-line tool called GnuPG. Internally, the server executes the command gpg with the name of this temporary file as a parameter: gpg […] /tmp/stream,28957,0.pdf.

      We realized that although the server replaces the filename with an automatically generated name (“stream,28957,0” in this example), it keeps whatever file extension the voter provided. Instead of a file ending in “.pdf,” we could upload a file with a name that ended in almost any string we wanted, and this string would become part of the command the server executed. By formatting the string in a particular way, we could cause the server to execute commands on our behalf. For example, the filename “ballot.$(sleep 10)pdf” would cause the server to pause for ten seconds (executing the “sleep 10” command) before responding. In effect, this vulnerability allowed us to remotely log in to the server as a privileged user.

    • Hackers hijack internet voting system in Washington DC

      An internet voting system designed to allow District of Columbia residents to cast absentee ballots has been put on hold after computer scientists exploited vulnerabilities that would have allowed them to rig elections and view secret data.

      The system, which was paid for in part by a $300,000 federal grant, was hijacked just 36 hours after Washington DC elections officials began testing it ahead of live elections scheduled for next month. Scientists from the University of Michigan pulled off the hack to demonstrate the inherent insecurity of net-based voting.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • A Library Without Walls

        Can we create a National Digital Library? That is, a comprehensive library of digitized books that will be easily accessible to the general public. Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it.

      • On CBC podcasts and CC-licensed music available for commercial use

        On Friday, Michael Geist broke the story that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had apparently banned use of CC-licensed music in its podcasts. This seemed odd, given that the CBC’s Spark podcast has long used, promoted, and done interesting projects with CC-licensed music.

      • Record labels fail to get ‘three strikes’ rule enforced in Ireland

        Four of the world’s largest record companies have failed in an attempt to get the “three strikes” rule enforced against illegal filesharers in Ireland.

        Warner Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and EMI brought the case against UPC, one of Ireland’s largest broadband providers, in order to establish a legal precedent that would force internet service providers to cut off illegal filesharers’ internet connections.

      • ACTA

        • ACTA is worthless without Chinese involvement

          But apparently those behind ACTA thought that they might have been able to get China on board. The fact that they have not has stymied ACTA negotiations, according to people familiar with the situation.

          “Critics say the omission of China from the list – the main source of the world’s counterfeit goods – makes the deal almost worthless, an argument strong refuted by the EU”, reports the EU Observer website.

Clip of the Day

Andrew Tanenbaum @ FOSDEM 2010: MINIX 3: a Modular, Self-Healing POSIX-compatible Operating System


Credit: TinyOgg

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