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Red Hat Linux is Mad Money

By Sean Kerner   |    September 30, 2010

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From the 'Open Source = $$$' files:

Over the years, I've heard a lot of different people try and explain the economic proposition that open source and Linux offers. One of the best such explanations I've ever heard came on CNBC's Mad Money show this week during which host Jim Cramer was interviewing Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst.

Before Cramer got roasted by The Daily Show's John Stewart last year, I had been a fan of Mad Money. Cramer takes a hyped-up approach to investing and his show is more entertainment than it is financial education, usually.

With Red Hat, Cramer noted that it is a disruptive force and that's what makes it attractive. His view is that in tech, disruptive forces are the most valuable types of companies.

With Open Source software in particular, Cramer stressed that it is a real route to profit - especially for Red Hat.

He clearly understood that Red Hat doesn't sell software license, they sell the support and services around the software. Whitehurst explained that the Open Source business model is about providing the mission critical support and reliability that big companies need.

GNOME 2.32 is out - next stop GNOME 3?

By Sean Kerner   |    September 29, 2010

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From the 'Not Far Now' files:

I had thought that GNOME 2.30 was going to be the final GNOME 2.x release --- I was wrong.

Today the GNOME Foundation released GNOME 2.32, which is interesting in some ways, but isn't the monumental release that we're all waiting for in GNOME 3.0.

"It's a smaller release than usual, as we started this cycle with 3.0
as a target and decided to change the plans during GUADEC," GNOME developer Vincent Untz blogged. "So some
modules just have bug fixes, with their cool new features incubating for
3.0."

So what's new?

Mozilla Jetpack 0.8 gets windows boost

By Sean Kerner   |    September 29, 2010

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From the 'Pimp My Browser' files:

The Mozilla Jetpack project for next generation Firefox browser extensions got an interesting update this week.

In the new Jetpack 0.8 SDK there is a new Windows API which will give add-on developers great control over browser window and tab operations.

"The windows module provides easy access to browser windows, their tabs, and open/close related functions and event," the Jetpack SDK docs state. "browserWindows is an object

An object that contains various properties and methods to access functionality from browser windows, such as opening new windows, accessing their tabs or switching the current active window."

That's right, no longer is an add-on limited to just the adjacent window or browser tab. To me, it's still not entirely clear how a developer can actually target a specific tab since I don't see specific tab name variables in the SDK (if I'm wrong let me know). That said the ability to control tabs and windows is a critical one that will make the whole add-on experience better.

With the Windows API, Jetpack continues its march towards code completion providing add-on developers and users with a powerful new set of capabilities. Jetpack is supposed to be part of Firefox 4, but code for the new browser is not exactly locked-down (yet).

Google Serendipity is coming (maybe)

By Sean Kerner   |    September 29, 2010

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From 'Autonomous Computing' files:

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google sees a very bright future for his search company. During a webcast keynote yesterday the the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Schmidt talked briefly about where search is headed and a possible future 'Serendipity' engine.

The Serendipity engine is all about autonomous search - something that Schmidt described as searches that are occurring even while a user is not actively searching

"Tell me things that I don't know that I would be interested in," Schmidt said. "Think of it as a serendipity engine -- think of it as a new way of thinking about traditional text search where you don't even have to type."

Serendipity would be the step beyond Google's new Instant Search which requires a user to start to type a query while Google does its magic attempting to complete the query while delivering search results all at the same time.

A Serendipity engine is the stuff of SciFi  (think Minority Report and the ads that were catered to people walking by) for now, but the fact that Google is publicly thinking about it, might mean that it could be reality sooner rather than later.

Happy Birthday Google! You've grown up fast.

By Sean Kerner   |    September 27, 2010

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From the 'Where is AltaVista?' files:

Today might be Google's birthday, or at least one of several potential dates for Google's birthday.

Google itself has a birthday cake image on the main web search page today, though there is some debate (on wikipedia and elsewhere) on the date of Google's birth. Is it the date the Google domain was first registered? (September 15, 1997), the date the company was incorporated? (September 4, 1998)? Or..? Google own corporate history timeline isn't all that clear either

Founding myths and actual dates aside, what a massive run Google has had so far. Remember when Google began the world of search was very different and Google got it's real start (in my view) by being the engine inside of Yahoo.

I personally had been using AltaVista back in 1997/1998, but once Google jumped into the scene it become the only search for me and I've remained a loyal and satisfied user ever since.

Google's expansion beyond just web search is the story of its greatest successes and failure. Yahoo had also expanded beyond core search (to its detriment) and became a portal, Google took a different path -- adding services, Gmail, Calendar, Maps and Apps - that are seperate and not delivered via the Yahoo-style portal approach. Gmail with its awesome inbox capacity has changed the game in terms of web-based email. Google Maps changed the game in terms of how we interactively view and use maps.

Yes Google has failed too. Orkut is a marginal service that will always live in Facebook's shadow, Wave was a good idea but it's already been terminated, Blogger is neat but also pales in comparison to Wordpress.

No, Google is not infallible and they have made mistakes, but I'd argue that their successes have outweighed those errors. Happy Birthday Google - whenever you actually want to call it your birthday - you've changed the web and empowered hundreds of millions of people along with it.

FCC goes open source with Drupal

By Sean Kerner   |    September 23, 2010

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From the 'Drupal Rulz' files:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is following in the footsteps of the Whitehouse.  FCC.gov is set to embrace the same open source Drupal content management system technology that Whitehouse.gov has been using for almost a year.

" As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a
robust and active community of users, code contributors, and
evangelists,Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission blogged. "We look forward to engaging with this community to help us
innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers."

That's a pretty solid sounding endorsement and one that could help to further propel Drupal deeper into both the ranks of the government and corporate America.

The timing for the FCC is a little off - or it might be very good, depending on how you look at it. Drupal 7 is nearly done, so the FCC might be able to one of the first major websites that use Drupal 7. Then again, since Drupal 7 isn't as mature and/or stable as Drupal 6, the FCC is more likely to stick with that (almost) legacy technology.

In any event, it is the opportunity for government contributions that excites me the most. The Whitehouse has already contributed back to Drupal and the FCC in time will too.

Mozilla CTO: Why Firefox wins over Chrome

By Sean Kerner   |    September 23, 2010

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From the 'Firefox vs. Google Chrome' files:

There are some people that believe that Google's Chrome is winning the browser war for the fastest and possibly best browser -- Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich is not one of them.

Chrome is one mighty slick, minimal browser in my view and it's certainly one that gives all other browser vendors something they need to look at. Eich has looked at Chrome and he sees where Google will always be better and where Mozilla will always offer a different choice.

"Google has more engineering resources (people, money, etc.) than Mozilla," Eich wrote in a mailing list posting. "This is not something where we can hope to "win", anyway. Even if we were "fastest", there'd be some other quality that we traded off in order to be fastest.

Mozilla has stronger community than Google chromium.org or webkit.org, IMHO, but this does not equate to "fastest"."

Eich noted however that the upcoming Firefox 4 release will compete well in the speed category against Chrome. But speed and a minimal user interface alone are not what will continue to make Firefox a great browser. He added that at one point Google approached him to try and get the Chrome engine into Firefox, but that didn't work out due to both technical and philosophical reasons.

Star Wars The Old Republic loads up on Oracle Java

By Sean Kerner   |    September 21, 2010

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From the 'Force is with Oracle' files:

One of the most anticipated Star Wars games ever is nearing completion, thanks to some Oracle Java technology goodness.

It amazes me how tech that I write about for an enterprise audience is also very applicable for gaming too. During a Monday night keynote,Dave Moore lead platform developer at BioWare 
explained how his teams is using Java technologies to build a massive Star Wars online gaming universe.

"Star Wars The Old Republic is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game - that means we can have hundreds of thousands or potentially millions of gamers connected at one time playing," Moore said. "The login/authentication process that asks the central server if they're able to and entitle to play the game is all based on Java. We use Glassfish on the app server, and have multiple clusters that are kept in sync with Oracle Coherence."

Moore also explained that the entire back-end ecommerce suite for the game is 100 percent Java.

So apparently if you want to be a Jedi Master you have some Java Masters to thank.

Does Mageia spell the end for Mandriva Linux?

By Sean Kerner   |    September 20, 2010

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From the 'Where Are They Now?' files:

It's been a tough couple of years for Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) Linux. The company has been on the edge of financial ruin, changed CEO's more time than I can count and oh yeah they unceremoniously fired their founder Gael Duval.

Sure Duval has been gone more than four years at this point, but in my humble opinion, it was his departure that started the long, slow tailspin that is the current decline of Mandriva.

Now with ownership concerns, a group of core Mandriva developers have finally decided that enough is enough and they've forked off to create the Mageia Linux distro.

"We do not trust the plans of Mandriva SA anymore and we don't think the
company (or any company) is a safe host for such a project," The Mageia Linux project website states.

Mandriva for its part has responded in a blog post, noting that they have
 27 developers on staff with 4 subcontractors in addition to community contributions.

"Mandriva is alive and will always be alive for its stakeholders (community, employees. Customers, suppliers etc)," Mandriva stated.

It takes a lot of time/effort and yes money to build the support infrastructure needed for an enterprise Linux distribution. I don't think that Mageia without a financial backer will be a replacement for Mandriva's enterprise support in the near term. Over time though, as Mageia and Mandriva diverge and the value proposition between one and the other changes, so too could the position of Mageia.

Mandrake (now Mandriva) was once one of the leading Linux distributions, but now seems to lag behind Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu. To challenge those big three vendors is no small task at this stage, but perhaps the Mageia community is up to that task, time will tell.

Who will buy SCO Unix?

By Sean Kerner   |    September 17, 2010

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From the 'Fire Sale' files:

No surprise, but SCO has now officially (again) put its UNIX business on the auction block.

No, this isn't SCO selling its various claims on UNIX vs. Linux, this is SCO attempting to shed its UNIX products business unit, which produces the operating system software and related services. The way I understand it, SCO would still retain its intellectual property claims (and whatever parts of its mobile division still exist).

"This asset sale is an important step forward in ensuring business
continuity for our customers around the world," said Ken Nielsen, chief
financial officer, The SCO Group in  a statement. "Our goal is to ensure continued
viability for SCO, its customers, employees and the UNIX technology."

What? How can SCO be viable without its core operating system unit? That doesn't make sense. The message about business continuity though does make sense. All legal issues aside, there are still businesses that rely on SCO's UNIX. For them, having a non-bankrupt entity to manage the business is critical.

So who should buy SCO?

Here's my short list:

Mozilla Zaphod Brings Narcissus JavaScript to Firefox 4(2)

By Sean Kerner   |    September 17, 2010

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From the 'Beeblebrox' files:

How many JavaScript engines does a browser need?  For Mozilla (with Spider/Jaeger Monkey) apparently they need one more.

The Narcissus engine is a testing engine of sorts that is supposed to enable developers to modify the engine in ways that Spider/Jaeger Monkey can not.  Zaphod (named I suppose after the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy character Zaphod Beeblebrox, former president of the universe) is the add-on for Firefox 4 that enable Narcissus to run as a seperate JavaScript engine on the browser.

"With the Zaphod addon, you can also integrate Narcissus into the
browser as your JS engine in order to do some real meaningful tests," Mozilla developer Tom Austin blogged. "Also, since your changes will be separate from the browser code base,
you can more easily share your ideas with others.
Zaphod will process any script tag with a type of "application/narcissus" using the Narcissus engine." 

An interesting idea, though I'm not sure how practically useful it will be for non-browser developers. In my (very) limited view, it is the specific default JavaScript engine in a given browser that is the key and yes performance does matter. That said, I've never before seen a browser vendor open up this kind of choice and with choice comes the opportunity for unforeseen innovation.

Why VMware should buy Novell (or at least just SUSE)

By Sean Kerner   |    September 16, 2010

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From the 'Pure Speculation' files:

Lots of rumors floating around this week that Novell is set to broken up and/or acquired. While I don't know exactly what is going on behind closed boardroom doors - we do know that Novell's Board of Directors has been tasked with evaluating all options for increasing shareholder value.

That said, among the multiple vendors that could be bidding for Novell is VMware. In my view, it is VMware that would benefit greatly from certain Novell assets, in particular SUSE Linux.

For the better part of the last two years, VMware has been on a software acquisition curve, acquiring SpringSource and Zimbra among others. Adding in Novell's SUSE Linux would underpin both of those buys as well as bolster VMware's core virtualization offerings.

Linux vendor Red Hat often claims that it is one of only two vendors that can offer a complete virtualization solutions from operating system on up (the other being Microsoft). With SUSE in-house, VMware could potentially change the playing field.

Canonical gets physical with Ubuntu Linux

By Sean Kerner   |    September 15, 2010

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From the 'Desktop Control' files:

All of us are used to controlling our desktops with a mouse - but what if you could control your desktop with your body?

It's an idea that Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu Linux has been thinking about recently. The general idea is that a 'user-aware' desktop could respond to physical actions - yeaah we're talking real gestures here. So say for example if the desktop detects that you are farther (or closer) from the screen, you'd get fullscreen (or normal screen).

"During a small exploration we did internally few months ago, we thought about how Ubuntu could behave if it was more aware of its physical context," Canonical developer Christian Giordano blogged."Not only detecting the tilt of the device (like iPhone apps) but also analysing the user's presence. I reckon there is a value on adapting the content of the screen based on the distance with who is watching it."

No, we shouldn't expect to see this show up in the October Meerkat release, but it is a really interesting idea.

When a desktop is aware of its user, I can imagine all kinds of interesting scenarios. It could mean displays that are always in the proper focus to simple stuff like better screensavers.  It could also lead to true 'Minority Report ' type displays where computer mice are obsolete and all you need to control and access your data is your body. Welcome to the future my friends.

Google Code expands open source license policy

By Sean Kerner   |    September 13, 2010

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From the 'License Proliferation' files:

At long last, Google is opening up its Google Code project hosting site to all open source licenses.

Since the official launch of Google Code , Google has limited developers and project to a specific number of open source licenses. As of late last week, that restriction has been lifted and any Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved open source license is now welcome on that site.

Google's Chris DiBona offers up a number of reasons in a blog post, as to why after so many years Google is now changing its tune. One reason he offers is that Google has already made its point that license proliferation is a bad thing. The other reason he offers is more practical.

"The longer form of the reason why is that we never really liked turning away projects that were under real, compatible licenses like the zlib or other permissive licenses, nor did we really like turning away projects under licenses that serve a truly new function, like the AGPL," DiBona wrote. "We also think that there were inconsistencies in how we handled multi-licensed projects (for instance: a project that is under an Apache license, but has a zlib component.)"

Mozilla Skywriter leaves cloud city

By Sean Kerner   |    September 07, 2010

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From the 'Lando Calrissian' files:

Mozilla's open source effort to build an online code editor is gearing up for its 1.0 release. As tends to be common for Mozilla, the 1.0 release marker also is when there is often a name change too (think Weave/Sync, Phoenix/Firefox etc.).

Mozilla Bespin has been in development at Mozilla Labs since at least February of 2009 and as of late last week, the project is now called 'Skywriter'.

"As we approach a 1.0 release, it was clear that it was time to shed
Bespin's code name and give it a real, lasting project name," Mozilla developer Kevin Dangoor blogged. "We're happy
to announce that that name is Mozilla Skywriter. I think that Mozilla Skywriter fits the "coding in the cloud" theme very well indeed."

Personally, I liked the name Bespin (a reference to Cloud City in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) and the name Skywriter sounds remarkably close to 'Skywalker' -- another Star Wars reference.

While Bespin/Skywriter was originally an idea to build a coding system for cloud-based development, it's moving toward become an online/offline tool as well. Dangoor noted in his blog post that a desktop version of Skywriter is on the roadmap.