Links 27/07/2008: New Version of Debian, VIA and Atheros Deliver Pleasant Surprise

Posted in News Roundup at 4:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Customer demand adds Linux to industrial computer line

    Adding two inherently different Linux distributions brings more flexibility to users of rugged computers. The push from customers for Linux options in this line shows significant interest that could lead to greater Linux adoption in this vertical market, according to Glacier officials.

  • Puppy Linux 4.0

    The rest of the software appears to be unchanged from my last review. Again, I like Puppy Linux and I think they continue to create a good lightweight distro with lots of programs. It seems to be very functional – unlike other lightweight distros it appears to have a program for each task you might need to do.

  • Boxee: linux version is available
  • Flashed latest Nokia OS2008 image on my N800
  • Face off part two: Windows vs Linux real world RAM and disk tests

    I believe the results are crystal clear. Linux behaves with a stability that Microsoft Windows cannot reproduce. It performs admirably under differing amounts of available RAM and it makes best use of RAM before turning to slower disk drives. The default web browser under Windows – Internet Explorer – visibly takes up ever increasing amounts of memory without releasing it. This is in sharp contrast with the default web browser under Linux – Firefox – which maintains a reasonably flat level of memory usage and then relinquishes it when terminating.

  • IRC Clients for Linux – A Review


Linux Mint

  • Linux Mint 5.0 Light Review

    This month’s Linux Format Magazine had Linux Mint as one of the Linux distros on the DVD. I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about this Ubuntu-based distro. So Mint is based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian. Why not just base Linux Mint off of Debian? Ok, so given that it’s based off of Ubuntu and Ubuntu is becoming synonymous with Linux because it’s so easy to use, why would you want to use Linux Mint?

  • Review: Linux Mint 5 Elyssa XFCE Community Edition RC1

    After spending the day tinkering with Linux Mint 5 Xfce CE, I have to say this is a GREAT Linux distro. I prefer Xfce over GNOME and KDE because in my opinion, GNOME and KDE use too much memory and CPU power, while Xfce is much lighter on resources. There are other desktop environments which are even lighter than Xfce, but they aren’t as useful or as stable as Xfce. I am a little disappointed that Exaile and Gnomebaker are installed by default; I prefer Rhythmbox over Exaile and Sound Juicer over Gnomebaker. I give this a 9.5 out of 10

  • I’m A Believer

    To the fellow diehard fans of XP, I can assure you, Linux will not disappoint. In fact, I’m writing this post in the Linux OS.



  • Aulanerk – Alpha 2 of Amarok 2.0 released!
  • KDE Commit Digest: Issue 115

    In a long-planned move, the FolderView Plasmoid also becomes a containment (which enables it to fill the desktop space). The FolderView Plasma applet gets standard folder interaction context menu items. First version of CommandWatch Plasmoid, which displays output of a given console command. Support for displaying the running state of plugins and terminating jobs, abstraction of code completion (leading to initial code completion support for Java), and the clearing out of bug reports in KDevelop 4. Integration of the Panaramio online service into Marble. Work on loading themes in Parley.

  • Website for the KDE Utilities Launched

    The family of KDE websites has got a new member, the site for the fine utilities applications from the module kdeutils. Despite being one of the first modules, kdeutils has always been without its own website. No longer. At utils.kde.org you can now find a lot of information about the KDE Utilities.


Ogg Theora

Direct link

Interesting Apache-Novell Analogy

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux, HP, Microsoft, Mono, SLES/SLED at 3:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The deal Microsoft has with Novell is hugely different from the company’s new arrangement with Apache. For starters, and perhaps most importantly, there is one main branch of Apache, whereas Novell tried getting a carte blanche for SUSE at the expense of all other distributors, of which there are plenty. This cannot ever happen with Apache.

Earlier today, this item was posted to highlight the severity of the latest situation, whereby Microsoft ‘buys’ its competition. The following comment came a little later and it’s particularly interesting.

On the surface it looks like one possible reason for going after the Apache
might be to disrupt it directly, like is being
done by the ongoing aggression versus Yahoo to rattle the
developers and teams.

However, a licensing dependency injects a control and ownership
over otherwise Free systems. What is happening to FOSS distros
like Fedora and Ubuntu have been getting infected with
Microsoft’s licensing (e.g. Mono) could be a risk for Apache.
The reminder from these HP memos from 2002 is that MS could just
be lining up its shots for a future lawsuit by using funding to
leverage injecting proprietary material into general projects
like Apache, Ubuntu, GNOME, etc., which it appears to be doing,
and then cashing in (assuming MS is still around). Think a case
like SCO but where MS has had a few years to ensure contamination
has occurred before calling in the lawyers.

It’s up to regular users to look ahead at the development
versions and not be chumps about accepting proprietary licensing
in FOSS projects, especially from recidivist organizations.

This probably sums up the risk of accepting the lizards. More thoughts on this would be welcome.

Microsoft SUSE

Visibility is Not FUD

Posted in Boycott Novell, FUD, Site News at 3:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The difference between fighting FUD and spreading FUD

The term “FUD” is being overused and misused these days. What’s also forgotten (or misunderstood) is its actual meaning and original purpose.

Similarly, people have developed an affinity for the use of words like “SPAM” and “terrorism” as assignments to just about everything they do not like, no matter what the words actually mean and how strong — in terms of severity or even legality — their meaning can be. This leads to term dilution (like brand erosion) and it’s deceiving.

Anonymous posters sometimes have us faced with an accusation that this site takes an alarmist approach. Some go as far as calling it or comparing it to “FUD”.

This is totally wrong. Here is a simple explanation.

“Knowledge and understanding reduce uncertainty, alleviate doubt and thus reduce fear.”There’s a big different between “bad it happened” and “bad to know about”. There’s a huge difference between sabotaging FOSS adoption and telling about this (reporting) to a wider audience. There oughtn’t be an informational barrier because knowledge is power. Only by understanding these vicious attacks can we respond accordingly.

Would you rather someone hurt you and you didn’t know about it? To use an analogy, is a cheating spouse that’s never caught any better? And in the same vein, had Groklaw not covered the SCO case (and the case then treated in the media as justified yet low-profile), would Linux be better off?

We make special efforts to keep things gentle and polite (no incitation, aggravation and provocation), but sometimes it is hard not to make implicit or subtle accusations against those who you know are stealing from you, assaulting you, or trying to turn the law against you.

FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty and doubt.” Knowledge and understanding reduce uncertainty, alleviate doubt and thus reduce fear. Equipped with knowledge we can defeat the movement that stifles Free software. This site is not FUD; it strives to put an end to it.

ASUS Express Gate: Could Microsoft Stand in the Way?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft at 2:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The following message was posted a few hours ago by an embedded Linux engineer.

   Message-ID: <tq3jk.33761$E41.1551@text.news.virginmedia.com>
   From: 7 <website_has_email@www.enemygadgets.com>
   Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
   Subject: Are Micoshaftees interfering with Express Gate sales?
   Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2008 18:48:57 GMT
   User-Agent: KNode/0.7.2

Several web sites you can search for Asus Express Gate (Spashtop Instant ON Linux which takes only 5 seconds to boot built into the BIOS) motherboard and come up empty.

“…[W]ill this require another EU anti-trust investigation?”But these companies are selling Asus Express Gate featured motherboards with Express Gate feature written all over the web page.

Short of indexing program failing (which doubt because these sites are big and need keen search facilities) I can’t understand why so many sites (e.g. www.ebuyer.com ) don’t show results for Express Gate, but do stock say the Asus P5Q Pro motherboard (with Express Gate written all over its specifications).

Asus shipping 1 million Linux motherboards a month and I’m just wondering if some anti-trust way micoshaft is interfering with Asus sales by intercepting them at the seller end.

And will this require another EU anti-trust investigation?

Watch what was found a couple of days ago: Microsoft seems to have grabbed ASUS into a close relationship after some affairs with GNU/Linux, which bypasses Windows in this case (on over a million boards per month).

Prior to this, Microsoft tried to use its EULA, which many people must accept blindly, to fight Express Gate (essentially through restriction on hypervisors). Anti-trust issues that were raised and invoked by Phoenix forced Microsoft to retract such dirty tricks. Phoenix is taking a route similar to that of ASUS, but would Microsoft stand aside watching?

The mythical monopolist has lost $90 billion in value so far this year. Expect it to be aggressive. Drop us a tip if you spot something suspicious.

Microsoft Open Sores (May Contain Patents)

Posted in Asia, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 5:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


o demonstrate the generality of software patents, consider this new find which relates to the description of a hierarchical (i.e. tree-based) filesystem structure as — wait for it — a tree! Yes, that’s a patent in the United States and it’s owned by Microsoft Corporation, the ‘innovative’ powerhouse that thought about representing a filing system as a tree, never mind prior art like Norton Commander which I personally used long before Windows 3.1 even debuted.

Remember the Tree-View mode in many file management applications? It’s shocking to know that this omnipresent feature was patented by Microsoft back in 1995 (granted in 1997). I’m not very sure about the implications, though. The patent is so general that it can be related to many things from tree-mode to virtual filesystems. Check out claim no. 3 of the patent for the most clear part.

If this is representative of the quality of Microsoft’s patents, then it’s clear that they should be trivial to have re-examined and then trashed. According to an article published at OSCON, Microsoft is not worried about open source patents, but let’s take a closer look at the context in which this was claimed.

One of the funniest exchanges between Ramji and the OSCON audience was the following:

“Do you feel like you’re screwing a porcupine and you’re one prick against thousands?” the OSCON audience member asked Ramji.

Ramji politely replied:

“It takes time to change and I knew that I’d be unpopular when I took this job…”

In other words, software patents are not his concern, but he was merely assigned to stand up there and smile in order for Microsoft to enter open source conferences, mitigate criticism in this way, and make preparations for future legal action, if not just some more threats and extortion.

“To Microsoft, it’s nothing but a strategic marketing ploy.”In essence, Ramji is the equivalent of a dunce entertaining an evil emperor and acting innocent because never personally issues an order to attack. He believes (or wants to believe) that it’ll keep conscience clear while he’s making lots of money and by all means helping Microsoft’s fight against Free software. Bill Hilf has already run away from this position and so did Martin Taylor. You can’t buy forgiveness and remorse by just swapping heads forever. They all inherit the same burden and guilt.

Ramji too should realise that obeying commands “from above” makes his equally guilty and after last year’s unsubstantiated smears against tens of thousands of developers, his hands are equally red. To Microsoft, it’s nothing but a strategic marketing ploy [1, 2, 3].

Having already surrendered to Microsoft, the OSI has to be more polite. It’s skeptical nonetheless.

As to the DMCA and so-called Trusted Computing, I think that the SE Linux project has made it pretty clear that one can build a secure operating system without resorting to secrets at the implementation or interoperability level.

In this new post, the OSI is asking Microsoft to help abolish software patents and also fight the DMCA. Are they dreaming? Tim, who wrote this post, works at Red Hat, which was attacked by what turns out to be a Microsoft-connected patent troll (at least one of them). Red Hat has posted this update on the situation.

Since the settlement of the Firestar lawsuit last month, we’ve been asked to explain why Red Hat settled the case, rather than fighting to invalidate the patent at issue in the lawsuit. The news some days back that the Patent Office had issued an initial, non-final action rejecting the claims in a re-examination of the same patent has inspired similar questions. Here are our thoughts.


But as Groklaw reported last week, the ‘502 patent “isn’t knocked out yet.” This office action is just an initial step in a proceeding that is far from final. The patent holder will probably argue to the examiner that the patent is valid over the prior art, a process that may repeat itself many times during the course of the re-exam.

For Microsoft to give up patent plot against FOSS, the solution needs to come (be imposed) from above. Having recently recognised some serious questions, the USPTO seems just a tad wobbly on software patents. To use its own words:

Computer programs are often recited as part of a claim. USPTO personnel should determine whether the computer program is being claimed as part of an otherwise statutory manufacture or machine. In such a case, the claim remains statutory irrespective of the fact that a computer program is included in the claim. The same result occurs when a computer program is used in a computerized process where the computer executes the instructions set forth in the computer program. Only when the claimed invention taken as a whole is directed to a mere program listing, i.e., to only its description or expression, is it descriptive material per se and hence nonstatutory.

Since a computer program is merely a set of instructions capable of being executed by a computer, the computer program itself is not a process and USPTO personnel should treat a claim for a computer program, without the computer-readable medium needed to realize the computer program’s functionality, as nonstatutory functional descriptive material. When a computer program is claimed in a process where the computer is executing the computer program’s instructions, USPTO personnel should treat the claim as a process claim. ** When a computer program is recited in conjunction with a physical structure, such as a computer memory, USPTO personnel should treat the claim as a product claim. **

Europe should be careful too, not just India. The patent trolls and their junk/software patents gradually cross the Atlantic. Seen a few days ago: [via Digital Majority]

A firm tries to patent online wish lists in Europe. Shall we stop them?

The patent No. 6,917,941, appears to cover the invention of creating a list of things in a database. It was issued in July 2005 (sometime after wish lists were invented on the Internet I believe) and defendants include a long list of startups like On My List, Remember The Milk, WishList and Zlio. Channel Intelligence is not suing Amazon or Ebay, probably because these are large companies which would send Channel Intelligence packing.

Making a living using pieces of paper is not the same thing is making a living writing programs. Some selfish people try to change the rules.

“There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.”

Bill Gates

Microsoft is Watching

Posted in Asia at 4:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

A good place to start this would be one news item from the Indian press. It shows how aggressively Microsoft is trying to steal employees from Adobe. It’s espionage.

Head hunters may like to call this intelligence gathering. Microsoft is in the process of engaging several executive search firms to conduct extensive talent mapping exercises focused on Adobe’s development centers in Bangalore and Noida. These two centers collectively employ close to 700 people primarily constituting product development specialists at various levels of seniority.

They tried this against Yahoo and perhaps Borland too. Inside interventions were explained here very recently. It’s vicious and brutal. We will probably come back to this in the near future. Until then, consider this older post about Microsoft’s dossiers on reporters.

How Microsoft Exploits, Then Insults Developing Countries

Posted in Africa, Asia, Microsoft, Open XML, Patents at 3:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML protests in India
From the Campaign for Document Freedom

Microsoft, along with its close business allies in India, are once again trying to loot the nation. This time they work together not on the fight against ODF (which was fruitful to an extent) but on the fight for anti-Free software laws. They want software patents, despite the fact that their universal legality is in a bit of a limbo at the moment (more on that shortly).

IT majors like Infosys Technologies Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are opposing the open-source community’s demand that the government drop a clause in the draft patent examination manual as it gives scope for software patenting under the Indian Patent Act of 2003.

The IT majors made their opposition clear at a meeting in Delhi, called by the government’s department of industrial policy & promotion on Thursday. The dispute has been sparked by the draft manual that will guide patent examiners in their interpretation of the Indian Patent (Amendment) Act for software. Section 3(K) of the Act clearly says: “A mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms are not patentable.”

As a gentle reminder, these are the 'puppet voters' that tried to stuff the committees to promote Microsoft OOXML, despite it being a gross discriminant against the Indian people. This happened around the same time that charities across the country were seemingly bribed by Microsoft to pressure the government. There Indian businesses are, in essence, accomplices in Microsoft’s OOXML scandal and they truly deserve to be treated as multi-nationals that are enemies of their country.

“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”

Professor Deepak Phatak

South Africa knew far too well that OOXML and software patents were only intended to hand sovereignty to other countries. This angered Microsoft, which got even more aggressive. A Microsoft executives resorted to insulting South Africans, suggesting or at least insinuating they are stupid for not buying Microsoft.

Those in India who wish to fight this neo-colonialism/modern digital imperialism are asked to join forces and battle Microsoft’s latest attempt to change (bend) Indian law to its own advantage.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry hosted a “Stakeholders Meeting on the Draft Patent Manual.” Around 70 people attended this meeting. The audience was a mix of lawyers, industry associations like CII, FICCI etc, civil society organizations and industry.


At this point, the discussion became pretty heated and the chair of the meeting decided to call for a separate meeting on software patents. I’ll keep you updated.

There will be future meetings with plenty of opportunity to shoot down spurious intellectual monopolies. The Indian market is critical to Microsoft because of its scale and, having established a network of partners, Microsoft can — by proxy — represent other countries, trying to loot those countries using its US-based monopolies. Inability to stand up against this amounts to irreversible loss of freedom, liberty.

It’s important to point out that Infosys is already applying for software patents in the United States. Such intellectual monopolies, if/once granted, can be used to call other software vendors “criminals”, “thieves”, “pirates”. If the criminals can engage in crime to change the law (illegally), then they can call others “criminals”, using the very same laws they’ve just illegally created. It may be a tricky idea to get one’s head around. but it’s true.

“Such intellectual monopolies, if/once granted, can be used to call other software vendors “criminals”, “thieves”, “pirates”.”Speaking of corrupting one’s localised laws (with semi-legalised bribery and political manipulation), here is some food for thought. Using counterfeiters (not “pirates” because it’s always better not to parrot Hollywood’s daemonisation and propaganda terms), companies like Microsoft spread their software and have people dependent on it. At the same time, Microsoft insults developing countries for ‘stealing’ its software and, having neglected to stop this, it then describes it as goodwill, even 'charity'. To put this different , Microsoft punishes the very same people that popularise its software, perpetuate myths, and solidify the network effect.

Surely enough, many older examples exist. Consider, for instance, more recent incidents like the sabotage of a Fedora-based OLPC.

Then, consider the motives for dumping software on South African schools where not many students even have a computer. Microsoft has already endorsed so-called ‘piracy’ of its proprietary software as means of defeating Free software. Watch what it’s doing in Asia to prove that the biggest sufferer from so-called ‘piracy’ is Free/open source software.

Recall the impact of memoranda of understanding in various part of the world [1, 2], the cyber slavery in India [**] , the misuse of charities (see above), and control of the press. The list seems endless. Those who do not understand the negative impact of Microsoft just don’t know enough.

[**] Wipro Microsoft alliance is a shame for all Indians – alliance or slavery?

The alliance uses Microsoft technologies instead of challenging Gates in his own game. Wipro is just a servant of Microsoft facilitating Indian cyber slavery under the American corporate banners.

Microsoft Hates Apache, Wanted to Sue It, Now Wants to Ruin It

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, SCO, Security, Vista, Windows at 2:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EEE theory

Yesterday we presented various possible explanations for Microsoft's investment in its direct competitor, Apache. It would be unnatural to believe that a commercial entity did this for goodwill alone. There is surely something to be gained; an expectation, condition, an opportunity. It is important to understand motive.

As expected, the discussion about this subject resumes, most notably in Technocrat (Bruce Perens’ site). He has been pursuing this for quite some time as he hawked Apache. His immediate instinct was negative and he now shares the story about Microsoft planning to sue Apache. As a high-level official, he knew something confidential.

And then I got stuck with keeping the secret of Microsoft’s plans to bring suit against Open Source developers, for years. All of that time, I felt that I was being disloyal to my own community. This finally came out after I was long gone from HP.

Microsoft backed SCO’s lawsuit after releasing this information to HP.

For information about Microsoft’s connection with SCO, start here. More recent developments are covered in [1, 2, 3].

The incident that Perens refers to was properly documented by Joe Barr, who was never shy to expose Microsoft’s bad behaviour [1, 2, 3].

The memo — its full text is provided later in the story, along with HP’s response — briefly explains a patent cross-licensing deal between HP and Microsoft. By itself, that’s not a big deal, especially since it was sent two years ago. But the memo asserts that “Microsoft will soon be launching a patent-based legal offensive against Linux and other free software projects.” Leaders in the open source community have been warning of such attacks for some time. The memo reveals there may be very good reason for the worry.

That’s the same HP that now has some level of influence/control over GNOME, engages in collusion schemes with Microsoft, spreads Silverlight (i.e. poisons the open Web), promotes Microsoft Web services, and lobbies for Microsoft's OOXML, essentially intervening with a process it should stay out of.

Here comes the interesting part.

Yesterday it was argued by some people that Microsoft could or would ‘extend’ Apache to better suit Microsoft’s business goals. Here is one newer speculation.

Ladies & Gentlemen I give you Web 2.0, the new and improved thin client cum cloud computing model where all you need to do anything is a browser and a fat pipe.

And what do browsers send GET requests to?

Penny dropping yet?

So Microsoft 7 ships with what used to be once the Berkeley TCP/IP stack for network communications and with what used to be once the Apache web server for Web 2.0, in EXACTLY the same way that Internet Explorer was bundled in the past, Web 2.0 requires a browser to be bundled with the OS and integrated into it.

When I say “Microsoft 7″ I mean of course every version from Microsoft 7 Embedded to Microsoft 7 Godzilla Enterprise Server, they will all ship with the default, ooh, let’s pick a catchy name, MicroSoft Internet Foundry, so default MSIE and MSIF neatly complementing each other.

By 2011 we can have MS in Court facing anti trust charges, but as with MSIE by then the damage will be done, and maybe Mitchell Baker will be doing a Marc Andressen and praising MS for embracing a Open Source code and making the net a better place.

To be fair, if MS had not embraced and extended the Berkeley TCP/IP stack the internet as we know it today would be a very different place, and that includes the Apache web server as we know it today.

In the meantime…

All your Web 2.0 are belong to us.

signed, MicroSoft.

One person who was in touch with us a few months ago predicted that Microsoft would ‘extend’ TCP/IP with DRM (or TPM). The DRM infrastructure and the wholly-new stack that come in Vista may only be a preparation for this. See this old article:

Researchers with Symantec’s advanced threat team poked through Vista’s new network stack in several recent builds of the still-under-construction operating system, and found several bugs — some of which have been fixed, including a few in Monday’s release — as well as broader evidence that the rewrite of the networking code could easily lead to problems.

If it’s not broken, why ‘fix’ it? Why does Microsoft rewrite the stack from scratch, possibly under the guise of “security”, where security means control?

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