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Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Dies On April 30th. Long Live Lucid!

By Sean Kerner   |    March 29, 2010

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From the 'The Circle of Life' files:

The Ubuntu 8.10 Linux distribution, code named the Intrepid Ibex will reach its end-of-life on April 30th. 

The Intrepid release reaches the end after 18 months of life which began in October of 2008. The end of Intrepid in the same week that next big Ubuntu release - the Lucid Lynx is set for release. Unlike Interpid which was a regular release, the upcoming Lucid release is an LTS (Long Term Support) release and will have three years of support on the desktop and five on the server.

While I expect that some Intrepid users might decide to move to Lucid, I suspect that many of them have long since moved to a new release like the 8.10, 9.04 and 9.10 releases. If an Interpid user has moved it's a multi-step process at this point.

"Note that upgrades to version 9.10 and beyond are only supported in multiple steps, via an upgrade first to 9.04, then to 9.10," Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek  wrote in a mailing list posting. "Both Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 9.10 continue to be actively supported with security updates and select high-impact bug fix."

With regularly scheduled update cycles, Ubuntu has made it predictable for users to figure out when new releases are coming and when old ones expire. Sounds like a common sense enough idea, but don't forget, that wasn't always the case with Debian which is the root from which Ubuntu has grown.

SCO UNIX Claims Could Be Decided This Week - Or Not.

By Sean Kerner   |    March 29, 2010

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From the 'Zombie Company' files:

SCO the company that has been claiming that it owns UNIX copyrights and that Linux infringes on those rights is still alive....barely.

The company is no longer listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and they're still under bankruptcy protection. One of the only things still keeping SCO afloat is the prospect - however distant - that SCO's claims on UNIX are in fact valid.

This week a jury will decide whether or not SCO does in fact have a right to claim anything about UNIX ownership - but in my personal opinion, regardless of whatever the jury decides SCO won't be finished.

We've seen this story before haven't we? Back in 2007 when SCO entered into bankruptcy protection there were those that figured the company was dead. I wasn't one of them.

SCO has this uncanny knack for remaining afloat though it is being opposed by larger forces with deeper pockets. Yet time and again, SCO comes back.

openSUSE 11.3 Hits Milestone 4 - Only 3 More To Go

By Sean Kerner   |    March 26, 2010

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From the 'Lucky 7 Milestones' files:

Novell's openSUSE community Linux distribution is moving steadily and surely towards its 11.3 release which is scheduled for July 15th.

Sure that's still a long way off and Fedora 13 and Ubuntu's Lucid Lynx will likely grab more than their fair share of headlines before openSUSE 11.3 is out - but the structured methodical milestone method that openSUSE uses for releases makes it really interesting to follow.

In total, openSUSE developer have planned for 7 milestone releases. The first milestone came out in late January and a new milestone has been released nearly every three weeks ever since. It's a system that in my view delivers a predictable and long-view of development (maybe too long) ahead of the final release.

For Milestone 4, the big change is the swtich to 'upstart' as the init daemon for the distribution. Both Fedora and Ubuntu have been using upstart (which is faster in many respects than the legacy approach) for some time, so it's good to see the change in openSUSE.

FreeBSD 7.3 Updates BSD Legacy

By Sean Kerner   |    March 24, 2010

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From the 'Not The Bleeding Edge' files:

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team this week put out the FreeBSD 7.3
release which is   about four months after FreeBSD 8 was released.

FreeBSD is known as a solid, stable and reliable open source operating system. It should come as no surprise then that many users of FreeBSD don't jump to the next major version number right when it becomes available, but rather stay with the legacy version for a while.

But the clock is definitely now ticking on the time left for the 7.x branch.

"This is the fourth release from the 7-STABLE branch which improves
on the functionality of FreeBSD 7.2 and introduces a few new features," the FreeBSD 7.3 release announcement stated. "There will be one
more release from this branch to allow future improvements to be made
available in the
7-STABLE branch but at this point most developers are focused on
8-STABLE.
"

Open Source DNS Enters Next Gen with BIND 10 Y1

By Sean Kerner   |    March 23, 2010

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From the 'Just Call It An Alpha' files:

The first public release of the BIND 10 open source DNS server is now out. But don't rush to update your servers just yet -- it's still years away from being ready for production use.

The ISC (Internet Systems Consortium) has been talking about BIND 10 since at least 2007 when the BIND 9.4 release came out. Last year, the ISC told me that work had actually started on development of BIND 10 and now here we are a year later and the first public milestone.

BIND 10 is a major new version of the popular DNS server and will improve DNSSEC as well as making it easier to both manage and extend BIND. It's a tall order for such a stable and powerful piece of software and that's why it will still take more time until it's ready for prime-time.

"This release is not meant to replace BIND 9 yet, even for
authoritative only servers!" ISC staffer Shane Kerr wrote in a blog post. "Our plan is to have a server ready for
production environments, but that is still a couple of years away. The
current version is meant for testing, experimenting, and so on."

Considering the critical role that BIND DNS servers play in Internet infrastructure, I'm personally in no major rush to see BIND 10 completed. It'll be done, when it's done.

In the meantime, VeriSign is set to invest up to $300 million to improve its own DNS infrastructure - an infrastructure that doesn't rely on BIND. Make no mistake about it modern DNS servers work well today.  But as the world moves to an all-IP infrastructure the DNS servers of tomorrow will need to do more.

Eucalyptus Nabs Ex-MySQL CEO. Challenges Still Remain

By Sean Kerner   |    March 22, 2010

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From the 'Where Are They Now?' files:

Marten Mickos the former CEO of open source database vendor MySQL has a new job. He's now the CEO of open source cloud software vendor Eucalyptus.

It's an interesting move for both Mickos and Eucalyptus, though I personally see a number of serious and significant hurdles.

The only reason why I've ever even heard of Eucalyptus is because of Ubuntu Linux which includes the open source side of the technology as part of its distribution.

Eucalyptus went commercial in April of last year after raising over $5 million in capital.

The way I understand the Eucalytpus model is as an Open Core vendor - that is there is the open source version then there is the Enterprise version which adds extra features on top. Thanks to Ubuntu, there is a wide number of Eucalyptus downloads (as it's part of Ubuntu Server), but it's not at all clear to me how well that can translate into revenues for Eucalyptus as a corporate enterprise.

 It's a similar challenge to one that Mickos faced with MySQL in that MySQL is included in nearly ever enterprise Linux distribution, but that doesn't always translate into revenues. The added challenge for Eucalyptus here is the fact that Red Hat isn't necessarily in their corner.

Internet Explorer 9 vs Firefox 3.7 : Open beats Closed

By Sean Kerner   |    March 17, 2010

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From the 'Developer Preview' files:

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 is now out for developers to try out and test -- well kinda/sorta. You see the IE9 Test Drive Platform Preview isn't really a browser is it?

IE9 as it is currently available lacks tabs. It lacks a back button and it lacks an address bar. In my view, it's a crippled browser that does not represent the modern web browsing usage model at all. The idea for Microsoft is to show off new features without the confusion of a full fledged browser -- though why tabs, address bar and tabs would do that is beyond my comprehension.

In my experience, it is tabs, the back button and the address bar that actually help developers to determine if something works. There are plenty of security and performance issues related to having multiple tabs open at the same time. By limiting the IE 9 test drive, Microsoft if providing a pristine environment that doesn't reflect the real world.

While I understand the motivation for the limited IE9 test drive, when you compare it to how their rival Mozilla is delivering a developer preview, Microsoft's approach makes even less sense to me.

Dot Com Turns 25: How Failure Turned to Success

By Sean Kerner   |    March 15, 2010

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From the 'Significant Internet Milestones' files:

The very first dot com domain symbolics.com was registered 25 years ago today on March 15, 1985. From that event a quarter century ago, there are now over 192 million total domain name registrations, with some 96.7 million domain names that are registered as dot com or dot net.

What's important to note about the 25 year milestone in my view is not the success of dot com, but rather its failure.

Remember back in 1985 there was no such thing as the web as we know it today and there was no such thing as the web browser either. Gopher and FTP were available but neither of those services are really what makes the Internet the global phenomenon that we all know today.

Simply having a domain name system and the generic dot com top level domain (TLD) was a start to the modern Internet era but on its own delivered little value to the masses.

Firefox 3.6.2 Coming March 30th - Where is 3.6.1?

By Sean Kerner   |    March 11, 2010

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From the 'What Happened to Firefox 3.6.1?' files:

No, that's not a typo. Mozilla is currently scheduled to release its next open source Firefox browser version 3.6.2 on March 30th.

The Firefox 3.6.2 release will be joined by the 3.5.9 and 3.0.19 releases which are all now 'code frozen' in terms of development.

So what does that mean?

It means that if the current numbering system holds, there will be no Firefox 3.6.1. At first, I thought I had made a mistake and somehow missed the 3.6.1 release, but that's not the case. Firefox 3.6 came out at the end of January. So in effect, Mozilla is skipping a numbered release.

The Mozilla platform wiki provides some indication as to why Mozilla is skipping the 3.6.1 release. The Firefox 3.6.2 release is based on the Gecko 1.9.2.2 platform and the wiki notes that Mozilla may potentially be skipping the version number of Firefox 3.6.1 in
order to stay in sync with platform.

Sure that makes sense, but it will leave some users to wonder if they've missed something (I know it made me think that).

First Fedora 13 Linux Alpha Shows Promise

By Sean Kerner   |    March 10, 2010

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From the 'Next Gen Linux Features' files:

The first alpha milestone of the Fedora 13 Linux distribution is now available and it's loaded with a number of innovative features.

Among the desktop features that users will enjoy is a new automatic print driver installation. That's right plug and play printers are now here for Linux.

Fedora 13 is also including BTRFS which is a next generation filesystem that to date I haven't seen any other major Linux distribution include (though BTRFS is still in development and hasn't been in the mainline Linux kernel all that long).  Specifically Fedora 13 will enable users to do system rollbacks, which is really great thing to have in my view and not a feature available yet on other Linux distros.

For Enterprise users, the new Dogtag Certificate System is something that could represent an innovative approach to handling security credentials. According to Fedora's project description, Dogtag is an enterprise-class open source Certificate Authority (CA) supporting all aspects of certificate lifecycle management including key archival, OCSP and smartcard management.

The other item I find interesting in the Fedora 13 release cycle is the new boot.fedoraproject.org. (BFO) effort. Think of it as pxeboot on steroids for network installs.

Lots of stuff to look at, and with several month of development left before Fedora 13 is release, lots of time to check it all out too. Fedora 13 is currently schedule for release on May 11th.

Mozilla Apologies Over Jetpack Mockup Design

By Sean Kerner   |    March 10, 2010

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From the 'Coming Clean' files:

Mozilla today posted a public apology to design firm MetaLab over a design mockup for a new Jetpack feature.

Jetpack Flightdeck is an upcoming feature that is intended to make it easier for developers to build next generation extensions for Mozilla's open source Firefox web browser. The problem is that Mozilla used some design element from a third party design shop called MetaLab -- without any kind of attribution.

"While the design direction being implemented does not
utilize these design elements, we inadvertently included the early
mockups in our
blog post and video
announcing the next phase of development for
the Jetpack
SDK
," Mozilla stated in a blog post. "We've since removed all of the early mockups from our web sites, and
updated the videos and screenshots with the correct content."

Yes, Mozilla messed up and yes they did the right thing here by apologizing.

Taking a broader look at this issue though, Mozilla is all about open source code and as such using and re-using items is common place. So long of course as those elements are open source and even then attribution (in code or otherwise) is sometimes necessary.

Does Oracle Losing Sun's Open Source Chief Matter?

By Sean Kerner   |    March 09, 2010

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From the 'Human Resources' files:

I've had the good fortune to speak with Simon Phipps - now the former Chief Open Source Officer at Sun - a number of times over the last several years.

Phipps always provided insightful comments on licensing and strategic open source issues. His comments and opinion on GPLv3 in particular were very solid and his opinion was a great one to include in the stories I published. Now with Oracle buying up Sun - Phipps has decided to leave Oracle.

While I have always appreciated Phipps insight - I don't think his departure will affect Oracle in any tangible way.

Within Sun, Phipps insight was almost unique as he was able to comment on things and provide direction that no one else really could and that in my view also include his former CEO Jonathan Schwartz who is also gone now too.

Oracle is another story altogether and a very different culture in many respects.

Google Summer of Code 2010 Kicks Off

By Sean Kerner   |    March 09, 2010

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From the 'Summertime Coding Fun' files:

It's that time of year again. For the fifth year Google is running its popular Summer of Code (SoC) program which matches students with mentoring organization to develop open source code.

And oh yeah, both the mentoring organization and the student get some of Google's money too.

I've been writing about the SoC since its first year in 2005, when 410 students were in the program. The program has grown every year since with more student participating every year. This year Google is expecting to fund 1,000 students as part of SoC 2010.

The money that Google is giving students and putting into the SoC program has also grown over the years.

In 2005, Google gave each mentoring organization $500 for each student they mentored and each student that successfully completes their project received $4,500. In 2010, the mentoring organizations still get $500 per student, but the students now will receive $5,000 each.

400,000+ lines added in Linux 2.6.34-rc1 kernel

By Sean Kerner   |    March 08, 2010

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From the 'Big Numbers' files:

Linux founder Linus Torvalds has just pushed out the first Linux 2.6.34 kernel release candidate and he's included some big stats as part of the announcement.

According to Torvalds, the 2.6.34 kernel even in its rc1 stage has 400,000 new lines of code. That's a staggering number isn't it?

But wait it gets better, Torvalds noted that approximately 175,000 lines of code were deleted too. Over half of the changes were in drivers and approximately 850 developers contributed.

I've seen and reported on the Linux Foundation's studies on who writes Linux which provide broad summaries, but generally I don't notice those sorts of stats in Torvalds' kernel RC notices.

To be precise the numbers for 2.6.34-rc1 are actually a bit behind other kernels. For example, the 2.6.30 Linux kernel release had 1,150 developers contribute (but that was for the final release).

Microsoft's Linux Patent Scare Trumps SCO

By Sean Kerner   |    March 04, 2010

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From the 'Legal Linux' files:

Microsoft has a bone to pick with Linux and open source software. Since at least 2007, Microsoft has been stating that open source software somehow infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

Remember SCO? They kind of alleged the same thing (though SCO is of the opinion that they own Unix) and went after companies by way of their SCOsource licensing arrangement.

Unlike SCO though, MIcrosoft is still getting companies to buy into their argument that Linux patent protection and/or licensing is something that is needed.

Just this week, Microsoft convinced Japanese hardware vendor I-O Data to sign up for Microsoft patent licensing to protect against Linux patent issues. Over the last three years Microsoft has been successful at getting multiple vendors including Amazon, Novell, Brother International Corp, Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd, Kyocera Mita Corp., LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and TomTom International BV to buy into their argument that they need protection from Linux patent infringement.

SCO was never that successful.

Mozilla Lands Out-Of-Process Plugins in Firefox 3.7

By Sean Kerner   |    March 03, 2010

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From the 'Plugin Improvement' files:

One of the big things that Google Chrome introduced is the idea of out of process plugins. It's something that has now (finally!) landed in Mozilla -- albeit in the Alpha 2 release of Firefox 3.7 (officially called Mozilla Developer Preview 3.7 Alpha 2).

When I visited Mozilla Toronto back in January, Mike Beltzner Director of Firefox explained to me what the big deal was with out-process-plugins (read the linked story for full details).

Basically it means less browser crashing and better performance for the browser as plugin processes are isolated. Plugins are things like Flash which can often be the culprit when a browser grinds to a halt.

As part of the testing phase with the new 3.7 alpha 2, crash reports from plugin processes are now submitted
automatically. In the limited usage that I've had thus far, I haven't noticed any abnormal plugin behavior at all.

Unlike Chrome, there isn't a specific Task Manager type menu to specifically see how much memory a plugin may be using so it's difficult as a regular end-user to see the actual impact. But so far so good.

The Alpha 2 follows the alpha 1 release by just under a month. While out-of-process plugins are now in the 3.7 build, I'd also expect them to show up in the 3.6.x Lorentz branch soon too for regular users.  Mozilla's Lorentz is an effort to put new features (that don't break backwards compatibility) into the current release cycle -- as a way to expedite innovation.

Should Novell Go Private?

By Sean Kerner   |    March 03, 2010

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From the 'Time to Sell' files:

Novell is now in play.

The company received what they call an "unsolicited proposal from Elliott Associates, L.P. to acquire the Company for $5.75 per share in cash," which values the company at just under $2 billion.

In layman terms it basically means Novell is for sale and could be taken private by institutional stock holder/Hedge Fund Elliot Associates. In my personal opinion it's likely a good deal for Novell and its shareholders.

Novell has struggled this past year (but then again who hasn't?) and just recently re-organized their business around the idea of being an intelligent workload management vendor. It's an interesting idea but frankly I don't think it values all of Novell's assets properly. The idea of a big architectural play to handle all types of workloads is a neat idea but I just don't think that's the practical reality in most enterprises today.

The quarterly pressure of meeting revenue targets that a public company has just doesn't match with Novell's strategy which is more of a medium term approach in my view. Novell's intelligent workload management strategy will not deliver the short term quarterly gains that the public markets demand.

As a private company Novell will not be subject to the same quarterly scrutiny and will have more room to develop its strategy. Whether or not that strategy is a winner or loser remains to be seen.

Google Chrome 4.1.249.1021: The Universal Translator?

By Sean Kerner   |    March 02, 2010

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From the 'Babel fish' files:

Google is out this week with a new beta version of its Chrome browser (just for Windows now) that includes a new translation feature.

As a user of Google Chrome 5.x dev-channel I've seen the translation feature before, but now that it has hit beta even more users will get the chance to use it.

How it works is Chrome now hooks into Google Translate to provide users with an option for translating a web page (and yes it's likely easier than sticking a Babel fish in your ear).

Sure there have been web site based page translators for a decade dating back to the Altavista search engine (now owned by Yahoo), but this is the first fully integrated translator built directly into a browser and not as an add-on or browser toolbar.

In my own usage surfing web sites in Canada I've often found the translate function in Google Chrome 5.x to be somewhat inaccurate. For example, when I visit Walmart.ca (which is in English) I get a dialog box asking if I want to translate the page from French to English.

Still, it's an interesting idea to include as a core feature in a browser (as opposed to just being a toolbar or add-on) and it further shows how Google is integrating its broader set of online services into Chrome.

Is Open Source Software More Secure?

By Sean Kerner   |    March 01, 2010

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From the 'Fun Studies' files:

We've all heard the the cliche that more eyes lead to more secure code when it comes to open source -- but is it true?

The latest attempt to answer that question comes from code scanning vendor Veracode.

The Veracode study found that in aggregate 58 percent of all applications that they scanned did not have an acceptable security score (meaning they had some risk).

Digging deeper 39 percent of Open Source applications and 38 percent of commercial apps did have an acceptable score according to Veracode when mapped against the CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (I reported on that list a couple weeks ago).

Ok then, that's not all that impressive.

What was impressive from my perspective is the remediation time.