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Slackware 13.37 is leet, not Natty and that's how I like it.

By Sean Kerner   |    April 29, 2011

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From the 'Old School' files:

I have to admit that it has been more years than I care to remember since I last installed Slackware on my desktop.

The slackware 13.37 release came out this week and due to its excellent timing, it's now on my (multi-boot, thank GRUB!) desktop. You see, I also had Ubuntu on the multi-boot, but the Natty Narwhal doesn't seem to like my graphics hardware, memory, hard-drive or CPU. So you could say that slackware 13.37 threw me a lifeline.

I moved away from slackware years ago to Red Hat (when it was Red Hat Linux), because Anaconda was easier to use as an installer and RPM was the greatest thing for packages.

Slackware 13.37 is a different animal than slackware of 10 plus years ago (but then again so is Linux), but it remains the same in a lot of ways. It's not messy, it still respects those of us that like to start the desktop with 'Start X' and use the terminal instead of some dialogue box.

Black Hat founder is new Chief Security Officer at ICANN

By Sean Kerner   |    April 29, 2011

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From the 'Hacker Inside' files:

Jeff Moss (aka Dark Tangent), founder of the Black Hat security conference, was appointed the new CSO for ICANN this week.

Congrats.

I'm not surprised at this new post though. For the last three years or so, I've seen ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom at Black Hat events, always being really chummy with Moss.

At Black Hat 2010, Moss hosted a panel and a press conference with ICANN on DNSSEC related issues, so I guess in a way Beckstrom is now returning the favor.

That said, Moss' experience stands on its own and he will be a credit to ICANN and its' security efforts, such as they are.

Reality is that ICANN is a multi-stakeholder group, which means that every decision is based on loads of input and discussion. It's not exactly the type of environment that is conducive to the quick decision making that is required in the modern world of advanced persistent threats.

Google Summer of Code 2011 accepts 1,116 students

By Sean Kerner   |    April 26, 2011

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From the 'Summer School' files:

 I've been writing about the Google Summer of Code since 2005 when the program debuted. It's a program that I've seen grow and excel every year since.

The Summer of Code is an effort to bring students into the open source world, matching them up with mentoring open source organizations. The students work on a project with the open source group, helping both the project as well as themselves.

Google chips in $5,550 per student, with $5,000 going to the student and $500 going to the mentoring organization. For 2011, Google has announced that 1,116 students that will be participating in the program, helping out 175 mentoring organizations.

So, doing the math In terms of dollars, Google's Summer of Code 2011 effort will inject $6.14 million ($5,500x1,116 = $6,138,000) in the open source ecosystem.

To the best of my knowledge the 2011 tally represents the largest amount ever that Google has provided as part of the Summer of Code. It represents a tremendous investment in technologies that go far beyond Google's walls and end up helping nearly ever corner of the open source world.

What's going on with PHP 5.4?

By Sean Kerner   |    April 25, 2011

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From the 'Don't Ask About PHP 6' files:

Back in November at ZendCon, we heard the first indications of what to expect for PHP 5.4.

It's now five months later and I'm wondering what's going on with PHP 5.4, since I personally had expected that I would be testing it by now.  So I asked Andi Gutmans, CEO of Zend and he told me that he is very much in favor of pushing out PHP 5.4.

Gutmans told me that he's not sure if PHP 5.4 will be able to go GA (General Availability) in 2011. He did say that he wanted to see a Beta, if not an RC (Release Candidate) this year.

Gutmans has also been advocating for PHP 5.4 on the [PHP-DEV] mailing list for PHP development.

"The current PHP 5.4 source tree (a.k.a. trunk) already has *major*
enhancements," Gutmans wrote. "Just look at the NEWS file.

I think it's a mistake if we don't start a release cycle. If we try and get too
much into this release it just won't happen."

LibreOffice 3.4 Beta 2 pushes OpenOffice fork forward

By Sean Kerner   |    April 22, 2011

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From the 'Fork That Beat Oracle' files:

Now that Oracle is (apparently) putting OpenOffice.org out to pasture, all eyes are focused on LibreOffice.

LibreOffice is ready and this week continued its development push forward with the release of LibreOffice 3.4 Beta 2.

Even at the best of times under Sun's ownership, we NEVER saw such rapid release cycles of OpenOffice. It just didn't happen.

LibreOffice hasn't just forked OpenOffice, they've accelerated it, both in terms of performance and the development timeline.

So what's new in LibreOffice 3.4? Long story short, a whole lot.

Amazon's Cloud #fail is a wakeup call

By Sean Kerner   |    April 21, 2011

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From the 'What Goes Up, Must...' files:

Amazon has been the poster child for everything that is good, right and holy about the cloud.

After today, Amazon will also be demonized for everything that is wrong with their own cloud. Amazon today suffered a major outage crippling hundreds (maybe thousands?) or sites (including a few of my favs like reddit).

For years, Amazon has been suggesting that their elastic cloud (leveraging Linux throughout as the underlying OS) had the ability to scale to meet demand. The general idea was supposed to be massive scalability without any single point of failure.

Apparently they weren't entirely accurate.

Department of Justice alters Novell CPTN patent deal

By Sean Kerner   |    April 20, 2011

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From the 'Pray I Don't Alter the Deal Further' files:

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) cares about open source.

They care about open source so much that they're forcing Novell to alter their deal with CPTN over the sale of 882 patents. CPTN is a group that includes Microsoft, Apple and EMC.

The DoJ basically saw the deal as originally constructed as a risk to the open source ecosystem.

"The parties' actions address the immediate competitive concerns
resulting from the transfer of Novell's patents,"
said Sharis A. Pozen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice
Department's Antitrust Division in a statement."To promote innovation
and competition, it is critical to balance antitrust enforcement with
allowing appropriate patent transfers and exercise of patent rights."

The adjustments that the DoJ is talking about are nothing short of shocking to me.

For one, according to the DoJ, "Microsoft
will sell back to Attachmate all of the Novell patents that Microsoft
would have otherwise acquired, but will continue to receive a license
for the use of those patents."

Really?

And Microsoft is going for this? Why would they buy patents only to sell them back? That makes no sense.

Mozilla Firefox 4.0.1 now in Beta

By Sean Kerner   |    April 19, 2011

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From the 'Security in Obscurity' files:

With all the hype and excitement around the Firefox Aurora and the upcoming Firefox 5 release, it's important not to forget that Firefox 4 has never been patched.

That's about to change.

Firefox 4.0.1 is now available to beta testers (basically people that were running Firefox 4 Betas before it hit GA).
The release notes (as they currently stand) are quite sparse:

  • Fixed several security issues.
  • Fixed several stability issues.

No, Mozilla has not disclosed what those security issues might be and nor should they. The disclosure and advisories will not come until the Firefox 4.0.1 release is generally available. Mozilla does not want to put users at risk by revealing security details for items that most users have not patched for.

On the stability front, by my count there are at least 52 fixed bugs in 4.0.1 that will improve the stability of the open source web browser.

Oracle wants OpenOffice.org to be free (as in beer)

By Sean Kerner   |    April 15, 2011

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From the 'We're Not an Evil Empire -- Really' files:

The OpenOffice.org open source office suite has long had a commercial version. Under Sun it was called StarOffice.

Now Oracle wants to end OpenOffice.org as a commercial product and turn it into a community only project. That's right, Oracle no longer plans to profit from OOo.

Now that doesn't mean that Oracle is exiting the office suite business and it doesn't necessarily mean that LibreOffice should be worried either.

"Given the breadth of interest in free personal productivity
applications and the rapid evolution of personal computing technologies,
we believe the OpenOffice.org
project would be best managed by an organization focused on serving
that broad constituency on a non-commercial basis," said Edward Screven,
Oracle's Chief Corporate Architect in a statement. "We intend to begin working
immediately with community members to further the continued success of
Open Office. Oracle will continue to strongly support the adoption of
open standards-based document formats, such as the Open Document Format
(ODF)."

I don't think Oracle was making any real money from OpenOffice, and with the challenge of LibreOffice it would have tough justifying the continued investment.

Flock browser fails to fly at Zynga

By Sean Kerner   |    April 12, 2011

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From the 'Bad Ideas' files:

I've never been a fan of Flock, the 'social' web browser. Personally, I've long argued that Flock is little more than an overlay.

At first Flock was an overlay of social add-ons to Firefox, then it moved to Chrome.

Now it's moving to the graveyard of bad ideas.

Zynga acquired Flock at the beginning of this year. What was the point of acquiring Flock to only shut it down 100 days later?

"Support for Flock browsers will be discontinued as of April 26th,
2011," The Flock site states. "We would like to thank our loyal users around the world for their
support, and we encourage the Flock community to migrate in the coming
weeks to one of the recommended web browsers."

So wait, why is Flock being shut down?

"The Flock team joined Zynga in January, 2011 and is
now working to assist Zynga in achieving their goal of building the
most fun, social games available to anyone, anytime -- on any platform," a Flock FAQ states.

So does that mean we should expect a Farmville browser? I don't know, this doesn't make sense to me. Sure I never though Flock had a sustainable future, but why do you buy a company only to kill its only product.

Now the talent behind Flock, certainly can be used to build other great stuff, but couldn't you just hire those people?

The conspiracy theorist in me sees this almost as some kind of money laundering effort to help Flock's investor get an Exit. I personally don't doubt that Flock would have failed, eventually. It didn't have much of a revenue model. Chrome moves too fast and oh yeah, it now has a direct competitor with RockMelt (another browser doomed to fail) too.

Fedora 16 will not be a Beefy Miracle

By Sean Kerner   |    April 12, 2011

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From the 'No Nattys Here' files:

The Fedora community has voted on the name for the next major release of this Linux distribution.

There were some 2,204 votes cast for the winner...

Verne

Yes, Verne.

I personally had thought that, Beefy Miracle would win, but that name only ended up with 1,662 votes. Beefy Miracle had been making a name for itself with an active Twitter feed that I have enjoyed following.

There is also a project page supporting the campaign for Beefy Miracle. I've never seen so much effort and marketing going behind a potential name.

It's a real shame that it didn't win.

But why didn't it win? Is it a question of Fedora voters not wanting to 'relish' in the Beefy Miracle name? Or am I missing something and is Verne cooler?

Maybe the idea is to go, Around the World in 80 days with Linux?

Winklevoss Twins lose (again). Facebook Wins (again).

By Sean Kerner   |    April 11, 2011

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From the 'This is Not Hollywood, It's Real Life' files:

Thanks to the movie, The Social Network, most of us are familiar with story of how the Winklevoss twins feel that Mark Zuckerberg swindled them.

Now we all know that Facebook is built on open source technologies, but it's not the tech that the Winklevoss' have issue with, it's Zuckerberg.

The U.S. Court of Appeals today upheld the original judgement which awarded the Winklevoss twins shares in Facebook valued at approximately $8.88. The Winklevoss twins argued that their shares should be worth more.

The Judge disagreed.

"At some point, litigation must come to an end," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote.

Isn't that a brilliant statement?

Think of how many tech lawsuits (open source or otherwise) have gone on for years without end on a never-ending bender of appeals. SCO for example has lost more court cases that I can count, yet they keep on appealing and are still kinda/sorta out there (somewhere).

Mozilla moves Firefox to Chrome-like Versioning

By Sean Kerner   |    April 07, 2011

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From the 'No More Beta 12s' files:

We've known for months that Mozilla was planning on moving to a more aggressive release cycle. Now Mozilla has posted a draft of how that release cycle might look.

Instead of having the nightly builds, then alpha, beta and release milestones - Mozilla is looking to have :

  • Nightly - with up to 100,000 users
  • Aurora - up to 1 million users, updated nightly, but not clear the difference vs current nightly
  • Beta - -up to 10 million users
  • Release - over 100 million users

So, no not much is really changing in terms of 'channels' except for the Aurora-wildcard, which is kinda/sorta/maybe a nightly replacement.

What is changing is how the development process will feed the channels.

The plan is that changes are first staged in the Mozilla-central repository for 6 weeks, I see this as the 'merge window' that as a Linux user, I'm very familiar with. This step is followed by 6 weeks in Mozilla aurora, followed by 6 weeks in beta and then it's off to release.

So the whole process is 18 weeks in total - or from a user facing view, 12 weeks from the time an aurora user sees a release until it becomes a final release.

Personally, I don't think that's enough time to bake major changes.

GNOME 3 finally released

By Sean Kerner   |    April 06, 2011

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From the 'This is Not KDE 4' files:

For most of my life as Linux desktop user, I ran KDE. Then along came KDE 4 and I freaked out and migrated to GNOME.

GNOME 3 -- officially released today is a similar kind of 'big break' for the GNOME project, but it's not in my opinion the same nightmare the KDE 4 unleashed on its users.

The big ticked item that should define GNOME 3 is the GNOME Shell interface.

"The new GNOME Shell
is an entire new user experience that was designed from the ground up to
improve the usability of the desktop and giving both designers and
developers a quick way to improve the desktop and adapt the user
interface to new needs," Miguel de Icaza, one of GNOME's founders said in a statement. "By tightly integrating Javascript with the GNOME

platform, designers were able to create and quickly iterate on creating
an interface that is both pleasant and exciting to use. I could not be
happier with the results."

Ubuntu doesn't use GNOME Shell, though Red Hat, Novell and likely every other Linux distro that include GNOME likely will. Personally, I like GNOME Shell and am looking forward to seeing it as the default in the upcoming Fedora 15 release.

Google Chrome 11 debuts web navigation API

By Sean Kerner   |    April 05, 2011

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From the 'Experimental API' files:

Google Chrome 11 is now in Beta and with it is coming two new interesting experimental APIs.

The Web Navigation and Proxy Extension APIs are both for extension developers and could help to enable a new generation of capabilities for extension developers on Chrome.

"The Web Navigation Extension API
allows extension developers to observe browser navigation events," Google Software Engineers These
events fire both for top-level navigation and in-page navigation."

That's a neat feature that goes beyond the basic capabilities that an HTTP header might provide to an extension developer. Personally I can see this being used for some kind of guided navigation (customer service) type of technology.

Google sees use for the Web Navigation API as a way to get statistical or benchmarking data.

Going a level deeper the API adds some new listeners for devs to take advantage of including:

  • onBeforeNavigate which kicks in when a navigation is about to occur
  • onBeforeRetarget, which activates when a new window, or a new tab in an existing window, is about to be created to host a navigation.

Mozilla Messaging folds into Mozilla Labs

By Sean Kerner   |    April 04, 2011

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From the 'open source #Fail' files:

Back in 2008, Mozilla announced the formation of Mozilla Messaging.

It was supposed to be an effort that was going to propel Mozilla's Thunderbird email client to the same level of adoption and interest as Firefox.

It failed.

Three years later, Thunderbird and Mozilla Messaging have not lived up to the initial hope of Mozilla Messaging. I don't think that Mozilla Messaging ever achieved the market adoption they hoped for and I don't think they ever figured out a revenue model either.

So now, Mozilla is merging Mozilla Messaging with the Mozilla Labs effort, which has been a wonderful incubator for marvelous ideas like Weave (now Sync), Tab Candy (now Firefox Panorama) and other solid projects (including Prism which is now part of Chromeless).

"Mozilla has been exploring new ways to put people in control of
their online communications and social interactions for a couple of
years now," Mozilla's Chief Lizard Wrangler Mitchell Baker blogged. " We currently have two teams.  One is the team at Mozilla
Messaging, which produces Thunderbird and messaging innovations such as Raindrop and F1.  The second team is within Mozilla Labs, and has been working on identity, contacts and related topics. We intend to combine the two teams to increase our effectiveness.
 Practically this means we'll be integrating Mozilla Messaging with 

Mozilla Labs."

I'm not surprised that Mozilla has given up on making a business out of Messaging as a standalone. Though Thunderbird is a decent application, the reality of the modern web is that many messaging is a more complex and in some cases commoditized business.

After all, Cisco gave up on its own Mail product, Cisco Mail (which was based on the Linux powered PostPath app) this year too.

The other thing that never quite emerged with Thunderbird is the same kind of exciting feature sets that Firefox has been working on. Firefox 4 for example debuts a long list of innovative new features and takes advantage of the latest in web standards. Thunderbird on the other hand, well....I haven't even been able to get anyone at Mozilla Messaging to give me a comment on other there releases.

I don't think that email is necessarily boring, it's just that the web has shifted to the browser and to native mobile apps as the direction for innovation.

Ubuntu Natty Narwhal hits Beta 1

By Sean Kerner   |    April 01, 2011

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From the 'It's April 1st, But This Is No Joke' files:

Ubuntu 11.04 aka - the Natty Narwhal is now available as a beta release. Why Ubuntu devs chose April 1st is beyond me, but rest assured this distro is no joke.

For starters Natty has the uber cool Linux 2.6.38 kernel, you know the one that makes everything faster. This will be the first of the big distros to include 2.6.38 and it will make the Natty experience for even current Ubuntu 10.10 users better.

For desktop users, the new Unity interface (think Gnome Shell, only better) is now
the default Ubuntu Desktop session. This is likely to be the biggest user experience issue that existing Ubuntu users will either like or dislike.

If you're already a die-hard Fedora, openSUSE, Debian GNOME desktop user, this sort of change isn't likely for you (then again you're not running Ubuntu anyways for other reasons, so Unity is just one more reason..). Red Hat's Fedora Project Leader at the time told me that he wasn't worried about Unity and would be sticking with GNOME Shell.

Ubuntu announced back in October of 2010, that they would be moving to Unity, instead of GNOME 3 and the GNOME Shell approach. At the time of the Unity announcement, Mark Shuttleworth stressed that existing GNOME apps would still work in Unity.

Apache Lucene and Solr updated to version 3.1

By Sean Kerner   |    April 01, 2011

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From the 'Open Source Search' files:

Apache Lucene is a critical Apache project used by many to integrate search features into their applications.  Solr is a search server based on the Lucene Java search library.

Both project are now being updated to version 3.1 providing users with multiple improvements.

For Lucene, the improvements include numerous performance improvements as well as improved Analysis capabilities

On the Solr side there is now a new Auto Suggest component, the ability to sort by functions, JSON document indexing, CSV response format and Apache UIMA integration for metadata extraction.

As well, Solr 3.1 is able to benefit from the improvements made in Lucene 3.1 for bug fixes as well as stability and performance.

I personally have always found Lucene to be a bit cumbersome, hopefully the new performance improvements will make a measurable difference. On the other hand, Solr is a project that has tremendous potential with the 3.1 release. For enterprise search, I'm not aware of any other open source platform that now has the momentum that the Lucene/Solr combination now has behind it.

Mozilla Firefox 4's Do Not Track adopted by the AP

By Sean Kerner   |    April 01, 2011

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From the 'AP Style' files:

For journalists, following AP style is a matter of religion. AP is now getting religion of its own by adopting Mozilla's Do Not Track (DNT) approach.

Mozilla's DNT is a binary expression of interest, (either a 1 or 0 in the header) that is setup by a Firefox user to let advertisers know that they want (or don't want) to be tracked.

The catch with the system is that it also relies on advertisers to support the approach. According to Mozilla, the AP News Registry
service, run by the Associated Press has implemented the DNT header across
800 news sites servicing 175 million unique visitors each month.

"The Associated Press (AP) is the first company to deploy DNT on a large
scale, and it only took a few hours for one engineer to implement," Mozilla's Alex Fowler wrote in a blog post. "When consumers send a DNT preference via the browser while
viewing a story at one of its publisher's sites, the AP News Registry
no longer sets any cookies."

That's a huge deal, BUT there is still more work to  be done.