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Updated: 3 hours 21 min ago

Poisoning Rats, Understanding Debian, and New OpenSSL Policy

Wednesday 10th of September 2014 04:07:57 AM

Today in Linux news former Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens lands on his feet. Phoronix.com points to Claudio Ferreira's amazing new Debian infographic. ZDNet's Chris Duckett covers OpenSSL's new security policy, instituted in reaction to Heartbleed. Bryan Lunduke shares his experience test driving minimalistic desktop ratpoison and "particularly scary" Outlast looks to be heading to Linux. And that's not all.

Our top story tonight is the new gig of former Red Hat CTO, who mysteriously resigned after 13 years recently. It was widely covered today that Brian Stevens landed a new job at Google. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols said at ZDNet that it isn't really officially announced, but Stevens updated his Linkin profile to include this new position as vice-president of cloud platforms. Vaughan-Nichols says this is a signal to the world that Google is serious about dominating the cloud scene. In related Red Hat news, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the Leading Platform for Top-Tier Performance.

OpenSSL has released their new security plan in light of recent widely-publicized failings. It outlines how the project will handle security and security issues going forward. Internally, security risks will be classified according to threat level; i.e. low, moderate, or high. Once a fix is on its way, Linux distributions and other interested organizations will be pre-notified a few days before the public announcement is made.

Claudio Ferreira has created a wonderful infographic depicting the lineage and development flow of the distribution Debian. Michael Larabel says, "Covered in the Understanding Debian infographic is everything from its various repositories to looking at the developer count to getting involved and the yearly Debian conferences and releases." Ferreira said his motivation "was the difficulty that the general public has to understand Debian, its areas, their numbers or their general operation."

 

 

In gaming news today: Outlast, A First Person Horror Game Looks Like It Will Come To Linux, Darksiders Is Getting Close To A Linux Release, and Puppy Games Could Be the First Studio to Stop Linux Support Due to Low Sales.

In other news:

* The Linux desktop-a-week review: ratpoison

* Torvalds Says Linux Binary Packages Are Terrible, Valve Might Save the Desktop

* Gentoo Monthly Newsletter: August 2014

* Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 382

* Linux Mint Monthly News – August 2014

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Yes, Windows Server, Ubuntu and OpenStack Can Play Nicely Together

Tuesday 9th of September 2014 03:01:43 PM

In conjunction with OpenStack Summit late last year, the OpenStack Foundation released the results of a broad user survey it did, with an accompanying infographic. One of the big surprises in the survey was that Ubuntu had emerged as the most popular platform for enterprises to deploy OpenStack on. Within the OpenStack ecosystem, users reported that they went with Ubuntu 55 percent of the time as their host operating system, a statistic that Matt Asay discussed in an interesting post.

Ubuntu's popularity with the OpenStack crowd can't be lost on Microsoft, and Microsoft has learned that it must play nicely with Linux in its virtualization and cloud product lines. Now, Canonical has reported that it has completed work with Microsoft on tools for Windows Server to run on top of OpenStack and Ubuntu. 

According to a Canonical post:

"We have been working with Microsoft to develop and certify virtio drivers, virtualised Windows drivers that allow Windows guests to run on KVM hypervisors and subsequently, on OpenStack. This allows enterprises with a large Windows Server footprint to build OpenStack clouds on Ubuntu but keep their guest OS and workloads untouched. The virtio drivers provide optimised performance for a guest running on an Ubuntu OpenStack cloud, and are available for all current Windows Server editions, including Windows 2008R2, Windows 2012, and Windows 2012R2."

For some time now, Canonical has been expanding OIL , the Ubuntu OpenStack Interoperability Lab, in which the company tests thousands of third-party solution combinations against OpenStack to ensure compatibility and high performance. Ensuring integration with Windows Server is a shrewd move, given Microsoft's footprint in enterprises, and Microsoft needs its tools to work smoothly with OpenStack and Ubuntu to serve heterogenous computing environments.

The virtio drivers are available to Canonical customers as part of the Ubuntu Advantage support program. Ubuntu issues a Hardware Enablement (HWE) kernel release every six months, and Canonical will also be supporting those kernels against the Windows Server releases, so customers should get updated Windows drivers for their guests. The drivers will run on any Ubuntu Server Long-term Support (LTS) release as well as any OpenStack version supported under that release.

Microsoft has reportedly signed off on the drivers, and has endorsed the fact that Ubuntu can run Windows guests in a stable way.

This is actually very big news from the perspective of Windows and Linux working together. At the server level, Linux has done big things, and Ubuntu's success with OpenStack users is notable. Microsoft and Canonical will both benefit from the new integration and compatibility tools.

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Citrix Cloud Leadership Changes May Be a Reaction to OpenStack's Momentum

Tuesday 9th of September 2014 02:48:28 PM

When Citrix bought Cloud.com in 2011, it became the primary sponsor of the CloudStack cloud computing platform, and Citrix has had a remarkable level of success in the cloud. It also deserves credit for contributing the CloudStack platform to the Apache Software Foundation, and in this post, I took note of the fact that Citrix officials touted CloudStack as far and away the most widely deployed open source platform in the cloud.

However, the success of OpenStack has changed things, and there are some reports going around that significant leadership changes at Citrix focused on the cloud computing group may signal trouble.

As InfoWorld reports:

"In what appears to be a huge disruption, some key Citrix cloud executives (including General Manager Sameer Dholakia) have left the company, and company veteran Klaus Oestermann will lead a newly formed cloud group. Citrix made a change last week when it combined its Cloud Platforms Group and Cloud Networking team into a single unit under the Networking, Cloud & Service Provider Group (NCSP). The company says newly combined group will 'optimize' Citrix cloud and networking delivery infrastructure for enterprise and service provider customers."

To be clear, the open source CloudStack platform that Apache now oversees is a different branch from the commercial one that Citrix oversees. The open source version from Apache is moving forward, but it's unclear what Citrix may be making of the momentum that OpenStack has.

As Forbes notes:

"There’s a few aspects to this news – the first is that, despite CloudStack actually having pretty good penetration within service providers, OpenStack has garnered the lion’s share of attention. What the long term potential for CloudStack is comes down to ones assessment of the importance of awareness versus actual enterprise usage."

OpenStack may be the reason behind the cloud leadership changes at Citrix, or we could just be seeing the inevitable departure of leaders following Citrix's acquisition of Cloud.com. With enterprises everywhere focusing on OpenStack, though, Citrix has to make its strategy very clear.

 

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Icculus on Gaming, Splitting Linux, and Terminal Colors

Tuesday 9th of September 2014 03:25:02 AM

Today in Linux news, Fedora gets a new partition manager. Tom Henderson has 10 things you should know about Mint 17. Paul Venezia says it's time to split distros into two. OpenSource.com asks, "What color is your terminal background?" Debian and FSF join forces to expand the h-node hardware database. And finally today, Michael Harrison covers recent gaming developments including an interview with Icculus.

Distrowatch.com today reported that Fedora will soon replace GParted with a new graphical partition manager. In a post to the Fedora Test-Announce mailing list Saturday morning Vratislav Podzimek announced "the next generation tool for storage management -- the **blivet-gui** tool." Blivet-gui can handle any "storage technologies" found in distributions today, or will soon, something others can't say. Podzimek explains, "Anaconda does support them all so it's only logical to take Anaconda's storage backend, combine it with a nice, intuitive and in general user-friendly frontend and build a standalone application for storage management. The GUI of blivet-gui is heavily based on GParted's UI to minimize surprise."

Debian and the Free Software Foundation today announced a joint effort to beef up the data in the h-node free-software-compatible hardware database. h-node focuses on hardware that's not just compatible with Linux, but compatible with pure Open Source Linux, or what organizers call "a fully free operating system." Lucas Nussbaum said Debian wants to help construct "a database of hardware that doesn't require anything outside the Debian main archive to work properly."

Paul Venezia is back today saying, "Maybe it's time Linux is split in two." He explains:

You can take a Linux installation of nearly any distribution and turn it into a server, then back into a workstation by installing and uninstalling various packages. The OS core remains the same, and the stability and performance will be roughly the same, assuming you tune they system along the way. Those two workloads are very different, however, and as computing power continues to increase, the workloads are diverging even more.

Venezia says it goes beyond just systemd. "The more we see Linux distributions trying to offer chimera-like operating systems that can be a server or a desktop at a whim, the more we tend to see the dilution of both." In related news, Tecmint.com explains why init needed to be replaced by systemd.

In other news:

* What color is your terminal background?

* Why we game on Linux, a chat with Icculus, and more

* 10 things you need to know about Linux Mint 17

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Chrome Team Experiments with Updated Password Manager

Monday 8th of September 2014 03:23:36 PM

Despite all the headlines generated by security breaches where hackers gain access to personal and business information and data, the biggest problem on the security front remains people. Among many careless practices that lots of people have, they often don't set strong passwords or vary their passwords.

For a long time, there have been popular password management tools, with KeePass being an example of a very strong open source password application.  Now, the Google Chrome team is experimenting with smarter ways for users to handle passwords. The latest Canary build of Chrome has an updated Password Manager tool that automatically suggests use of a strong password every time users encounter web forms requiring creation of new passwords.

The strong passwords will also be recorded, as Google's Francois Beaufort notes in a post:

"The Chrome Password Generation feature we've stumbled upon long time ago has now a brand new UI enabled behind the two experimental chrome://flags/#enable-password-generation and _chrome://flags/#enable-save-password-bubble flags in Chrome Canary."

"Give it a try and go to any 'sign up' page. As soon as you focus the password field, a nice overlay will suggest you a strong and pronounceable password that will be saved in your chrome passwords."

This is a smart move from the Chrome team. Chromium, the open source core of the Chrome browser, has had password generation features for a couple of years, but nothing as accessible as what appears to be coming to Chrome.

Occasionally, the Google team experiments with tools in Canary builds and then shelves them, but it appears that the strong password management features will arrive in the production release of the increasingly popular browser.

Chrome has moved past Firefox to take second place in desktop browser market share, according to web traffic stats from Net Applications. In March, Chrome grabbed 17.5 percent of desktop brower traffic, while Firefox sat in third place with 17.2 percent.  That marked the first time that Chrome's share surpassed Firefox's.

 

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In the OpenStack Race, Red Hat's Advantage Remains Support

Monday 8th of September 2014 03:04:32 PM

Red Hat is on track to be the big winner in the OpenStack cloud computing race, at least it is according to a report from Steve Ashley of Baird Equity Research. Its abiity to cater to datacenters and its long experience dealing with the open source community are primary reasons why, according to Ashley. Ashley sees the data center market as waiting on OpenStack to mature, after which deployments will pick up in a big way.

But there is another reason to bet on Red Hat as a possible winner in the OpenStack arena, and that reason is support.

Recently, Canonical has been expanding its presence in the OpenStack arena, and growing players like Mirantis are poised to give tech titans like HP a run for their money. However, Red Hat has years of experience offering top-notch support for open source platform software. The company is familiar with the demands of IT departments. 

Additionally, Red Hat is expanding its alliances with powerful tech partners. The company has just announced a new partnership with Cisco, for example. Cisco's  UCS Integrated Infrastructure product family is designed for private cloud built on OpenStack and is an on-ramp to Intercloud. The platform combines Cisco Unified Computing, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure and Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform.

Red Hat's new OpenStack release includes a three-year support lifecycle. There has been controversy over whether Red Hat will offer support for OpenStack distributions other than its own, but its hard to argue with the company's track record at supporting open source software. It routinely re-signs its support subscribers each year, based on their satisfaction.

In the cloud computing arena, yes, businesses and organizations want flexible solutions for their deployments, but they will demand top-notch support. History shows that. Support is a giant cost center for companies that provide it, but companies that do it well succeed. In the case of many open source projects, lack of support and complete documentation is often cited by IT administrators when asked why they don't favor this or that solution. 

Clearly, Red Hat is tying its future to cloud computing and the OpenStack platform, and it also clearly needs to continue to focus on support.

Cisco said Thursday the new Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure product family is designed for private cloud operations on OpenStack and on-ramp to Intercloud for enterprise and midmarket customers. - See more at: http://blog.executivebiz.com/2014/09/cisco-red-hat-expand-partnership-into-open-cloud-collaboration-paul-cormier-comments/#sthash.k4D9l4DU.dpuf

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Systemd Cheatsheet, This Week's Fedora Delay, Ubuntu Disparaged

Saturday 6th of September 2014 03:00:55 AM

There's a lot to talk about today in Linux news. First up, Fedora 21 is delayed again. Matthew Miller and Matthew Garrett were interviewed. Ancor Gonzalez Sosa says openSUSE says Factory installations now outnumber Tumbleweed since going rolling. Ubuntu was spotted on national television and LinOxide has a colorful Systemd to SysVinit cheatsheet.

Fedora 21 is delayed again by another week. Jaroslav Reznik posted last night that it was decided at the latest Go/No-Go meeting due to "unresolved blocker bugs. As a result, ALL MAJOR MILESTONES, and their dependent tasks, will be pushed out by one week." Most of the major blockers seem to do with Anaconda and Grubby. The Alpha is now due on September 16 with a Beta coming October 21 and, apparently, no release candidate. But the final is scheduled for November 25. In other Fedora news, Jack M. Germain interviewed new Project Leader Matthew Miller on the future of Fedora.

Ancor Gonzalez Sosa first announced that openSUSE Factory was going rolling release last July and since then Factory installs have increased substantially. Factory install numbers seemed to fluctuate right around 2500 for years, until last July when they suddenly began to skyrocket. Now they number is 6000. That's about 500 more than Tumbleweed installs, which saw its number breech 12,000 in 2012. In other openSUSE news, the beginning 13.2 Roadmap was posted today.

Ubuntu made an appearance on NBC's Today Show recently. Unfortunately, it's probably not good news. They used Ubuntu to demonstrate what a hacker might see and do while breaking computer laws. Folks around these parts seem to think it's another jab at trying to alienate Linux and Linux users and make them all look like evil hackers. Softpedia.com has more details on this.

In other news:

* Systemd vs SysVinit Linux Cheatsheet

* Matthew Garrett's Advice on Hardware, Linux Kernel, and Stuff

* Plasma 5 – Ano’er opinion

* Running Your Business on Linux

* Is cloud storage innately insecure?

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Because It Is Open, Android Wear is the Smartwatch Platform to Bet On

Friday 5th of September 2014 02:59:57 PM

For decades, users have been awaiting the fabled "Dick Tracy watch" -- a smartwatch that can perform advanced digital computing and communications tasks. The problem is, it has never really arrived. Some say that is about to change, though, as Apple is rumored to be rolling out its much discussed "iWatch" at an event on Tuesday of next week.

In all likelihood, though, if Apple does have a smartwatch to show, it's also going to base it on a proprietary business model, and that's why the real smartwatch platform to watch is Android Wear, due to the open strategy it is based on.

In July, following much talk about it coming out of the Google I/O conference, we reported on a lot of discussions arising about Android Wear and whether it will become the next big mobile platform. Some early smartwatches running the open platform have arrived, and some reviewers are really liking them.

According to a Wall Street Journal report on these early watches, they feel a bit like "shrunken smartphones," but the same report quotes David Singleton, Director of Android Engineering, who said:

"We have a few updates that are coming. For instance, the one you got on your Moto 360 that is being released this week improves voice recognition and the navigation experience."

"Before the end of the year we will have a couple of more. One will start allowing your watch to work with other pieces you wear on your body, including Bluetooth headsets. The idea is to allow the watch to work without the phone."

The thing to remember here is that Google has a successful playbook to follow with these watches, because it has already won at making Android itself a huge platform based on an open strategy.

Another big difference maker with Android Wear devices is that through "OK Google" voice recognition features, users can talk to their watches to interact with them. Singleton has confirmed that the voice recognition is going to become more sophisticated.

J.R. Raphael, writing for Computerworld, has used Android Wear watches, and notes that their ace-in-the-hole may be Google Now:

 "The heart and soul of Android Wear is Google Now, the intelligent virtual assistant Google has woven into Android and Chrome over the past couple of years. Google Now uses a combination of search data from your Google account, location data from your mobile device and cues from things like your Gmail messages to compile bite-sized tidbits of info -- known as "cards" -- that appear contextually throughout your day. You might get a card in the morning alerting you to traffic on your route to work, for instance, or a card with directions to a business you searched for earlier in the day. Some cards are as simple as the number of steps you've taken so far that day or the weather for your area -- or for an area you'll be traveling to in the near future."

Like many mobile devices in their early stages, some people are scoffing at smartwatches, but how many years did it take before we took smartphones and tablets seriously? Smartwatches will get done right, and based on what we've seen with Android itself, Android Wear is probably the platform to bet on.

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Digital Ocean Offers Docker-centric CoreOS Hosting

Friday 5th of September 2014 02:42:52 PM

Providing more evidence of the momentum that Docker has right now, cloud hosting company DigitalOcean is using CoreOS Linux to deliver Docker-powered virtual servers to its customers. The company has put a post up announcing that developers can begin using CoreOS on its cloud platform.

The central idea behind this offering from Digital Ocean is to get more developers into working with containers and container-based application delivery.

According to the announcement:

"There's been a lot of community excitement for CoreOS. This integration with the alpha channel version on Digital Ocean provides an easy and quick way for web and mobile developers interested in working with Docker to deploy applications and experiment with containers. On CoreOS, Docker containers can boot in milliseconds, providing unprecedented flexibility in managing load across a cluster of Droplets. Some additional features include automatic updates, automatic network configuration, and integration with etcd technology."

If you're unfamiliar with what the company means by "Droplets" in this context, that's actually what Digital Ocean is known for. The company calls its virtual servers Droplets, and they are explained here

Digital Ocean is not the only cloud hosting company offering CoreOS as an available distribution. Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Rackspace Cloud offer it, and Rackspace offers it with OpenStack.

According to Digital Ocean:

"Through CoreOS’s etcd technology, users can deploy a cluster of servers configured to work with one another, ensuring the resiliency of their architecture. This feature greatly reduces the impact of a possible server failure, supporting high-traffic applications. And for those looking for commercial support, CoreOS Managed Linux is delivered as an OS as a Service. We hope developers using our infrastructure are as excited as we are about the possibilities now available through CoreOS on our platform."

 

 

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New Gentoo, Just Peachy, and Tuxmachines Now

Friday 5th of September 2014 03:29:59 AM

A new Gentoo liveDVD was released last week featuring Linux 3.15 and KDE 4.13. Jack Wallen follows Jack Germain in tests of a new "fresh and juicy" Linux. The Reg test drives Ubuntu 14.10. And finally today, Christine Hall takes a look at my old Website, Tuxmachines.org, under its new management.

Tuxmachines.org. It feels so strange writing that name again after what seems like such a long time. I do miss the Website and sometimes wonder if I did the right thing for me. But according to Christine Hall at FossForce.com, it seems the decision to sell Tuxmachines was, at least, not a bad thing for it. In fact, she says, "The site’s fans are sticking around. Indeed, the site’s traffic seems to be growing. In other words, it seems as if Tux Machines is with us to stay." See her full story for a nice little summary and more on the new owners.

But the top story tonight is the release of a new Gentoo liveDVD, from which you can play or install Gentoo. This release is officially dubbed "20140826 LiveDVD - Iron Penguin Edition" and it comes "in two flavors: a hybrid x86/x86_64 version, and an x86_64 multi lib version." The short announcement said the new release features Linux 3.15.6, Xorg 1.16, KDE 4.13.3, GNOME 3.12.2, Firefox 31, LibO 4.2.5.2, and lots more. So, give that whirl (and don't read Jim Lynch's column tonight.)

There's a new distro in town, and two reviewers think it's just peachy. Jack M. Germain reviewed Peach OSI last week and said, "You will be hard-pressed to find anything unpolished or immature in this first stable release of Peach OSI. I rarely find suitable alternatives to my favored Linux Mint Cinnamon distro. Peach is a solid candidate." Peach is based on Xubuntu and features a highly customized and attractive Xfce. Jack Wallen said today, "If you're looking for a new distribution to replace that aging dinosaur on your PC or laptop (think Windows XP), burn a live image to a disk and boot up Peach OSI. You won't regret it."

In other news:

* Linux Gaming Round-Up: Borderlands 2, Wasteland 2 & Sanctum 2

* YES, I have ridden the UNICORN: The Ubuntu Utopic unicorn

* Total chooses SUSE Linux for its supercomputer

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Mirantis Says it Rules the Roost Facilitating OpenStack for Telcos

Thursday 4th of September 2014 03:02:41 PM

OpenStack has been on a tear recently, and is unquestionably the cloud computing platform that grabs the most headlines. However, not everyone realizes that there is heated competition on the OpenStack scene to win over telecommunications companies. Back in May, I covered the news that huge telecom player Telefonica announced that it will work with Red Hat and Intel to create a virtual infrastructure management (VIM) platform based on open source software running on Intel-based servers. Telefonica’s Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Reference Lab will be targeted to help partners and developers build telecom-grade infrastructure, and will leverage OpenStack.

Now, Mirantis has announced that strong growth in the first half of 2014 saw the company become the largest provider of OpenStack products and services for the telecommunications industry.

According to the announcement:

"Mirantis has been supporting customers in the telecommunications space since the inception of OpenStack more than 4 years ago. Such collaboration has enabled these companies to attain the production qualities that people have come to OpenStack cloud for today. Mirantis customers in the telecommunications space alone generate hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenues and employ hundreds of thousands of people worldwide."

"Mirantis supports telecommunications providers with a unique array of vendor-neutral products and services. The Mirantis OpenStack distribution is as close to the “trunk” release as possible, free of proprietary additions and backed by 24/7 enterprise-grade support. Mirantis is also the world’s largest OpenStack training provider, equipping engineers with the tools to setup and deploy production-grade OpenStack clouds of any flavor. Mirantis offers OpenStack-on-demand at the push of a button via Mirantis OpenStack Express. With just a credit card, customers can provision OpenStack clouds for as little as a day, or as long as they want, without having to sign a long-term contract."

“When you provide the phone and internet service for millions of people, like our telecommunications customers do, you can’t afford any downtime” said CEO Adrian Ionel, in a statement. “Customers like Ericsson, Orange, Huawei, Pacnet and Tata Communications turn to Mirantis OpenStack because they know that the clouds we deploy are robust enough to handle their largest workloads in-production with zero downtime. The fact that we focus exclusively on OpenStack products and services means that we have developed an unmatched level of expertise across a broad range of standards and use cases, across the ecosystem.”

“The rapid change in the global telecommunications marketplace means we need to deliver innovation and reliability to stay competitive,” added Jim Fagan, president of Managed Services at Pacnet. “We use Mirantis OpenStack as the cloud infrastructure for Pacnet Enabled Network, our Network-as-a-Service platform. Customers’ growing need for a flexible, intelligent network has served as the key driver of our PEN development which leverages both SDN and NFV to enable the deployment of the high performance and cloud-ready networks demanded by today’s ever growing hybrid cloud environment. The complementary effect of combining SDN and NFV capabilities in the PEN platform puts the control of the network into the hands of our customers.”

Meanwhile, Red Hat is already collaborating with eNovance, a leader in the open source cloud computing market, to drive Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and telecommunications features into OpenStack. The NFV Reference Lab from Telefonica will be based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform running on Intel servers. The Lab and the new partnerships could significantly shift the way telecommunications networks are built and operated. Future networks could become much less focused on vendor lock-in. You can read more about this effort in this post.

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Citrix ShareConnect Puts Desktop Applications on Android Tablets

Thursday 4th of September 2014 02:51:38 PM

Well before cloud computing became all the rage, Citrix was connecting people online--often with free tools such as GoToMeeting--and building out the infrastructure that helped give rise to the CloudStack cloud computing platform. Now the company has announced ShareConnect, an app that is targeted to deliver a desktop-like experience to Android tablets and the iPad, including access to business-critical applications, files and networks, as well as full-scale document editing.

The news comes immediately on the heels of Citrix's rollout of the new version of GoToMeeting Free, its popular online meeting tool that is accessible from a Chrome or Mozilla browser without any plug-ins required.

“Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever and they face two major challenges; not all data is stored in the cloud and many desktop apps are not fully functional through mobile apps,” said Jesse Lipson, vice president, Citrix, in a statement. “With ShareConnect, users can access and edit files, use industry-specific desktop apps critical to getting their work done and even use their business networks – all through a simple interface, optimized pixel by pixel for tablets.” 

Network access is built into the ShareConnect app allowing users to run resource-intensive desktop programs on the go. Applications are optimized for the iPad and Android OS, according to the company, opening in full screen mode and responding to pinches, swipes and other common mobile gestures.

ShareConnect also provides 1 GB of free cloud storage from Citrix ShareFile, and looks worth exploring if you use Android and desktop applications. It is a free download in the iTunes App Store and Google Play.  

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Boycott Systemd, Messy Makulu, and Top Ten

Thursday 4th of September 2014 03:36:43 AM

Systemd continues to grab headlines and today there are calls to boycott it. The Document Foundation are holding membership committee elections. Matthew Miller and Jim Whitehurst talk Fedora and Red Hat. New high-risk threats have been reported to infect Linux systems. Christine Hall says Distrowatch's Top Ten actually contains only five distros and Softpedia.com says an old Ubuntu installer bug can still wipe your hard drive.

The systemd debate is definitely not going away quietly and now there are calls to boycott it. A new Website serving as "a rundown and a wake-up call to take a stand against the widespread proliferation of systemd, to detail why it is harmful, and to persuade users to reject its use." They say systemd is "a monumental increase in complexity, an abhorrent and violent slap in the face to the Unix philosophy, and its inherent domineering and viral nature turns it into something akin to a "second kernel" that is spreading all across the Linux ecosystem."

Just some of the problems with it are:

1. systemd flies in the face of the Unix philosophy. Its responsibilities grossly exceed that of an init system.
2. systemd's journal files (handled by journald) are stored in a complicated binary format, and must be queried using journalctl.
3. systemd is very tightly welded with the Linux kernel API, this also makes different systemd versions incompatible with different kernel versions and serves as an obstacle to software portability.
4. udev and dbus are forced dependencies.
5. systemd saves core dumps to the journal, instead of the file system.
6. systemd's size makes it a single point of failure. Its essential and overbearing nature will make it a juicy target for crackers.

One of the main problems with systemd and several other examples before it are as BoycottSystemd.org says, "Ultimately, systemd's parasitism is symbolic of something more than systemd itself. It shows a radical shift in thinking by the Linux community. Not necessarily a positive one, either. One that is vehemently postmodern, monolithic, heavily desktop-oriented, choice-limiting, isolationist, reinvents the flat tire, and just a huge anti-pattern in general."

This is the point Robert Pogson is making in his blog post "Overturning the Distro." In that Pogson says, "The systemd folks have an agenda, changing everything. They seem to want to turn the GNU/Linux PC into something more like Android so that developers will have a standard target and more control over the run-time environment. Ewww!" Then he encapsulated the core issue when he said, "Imagine the fluff that will replace our solid, dense, reliable distros like Debian GNU/Linux. Imagine how little control the end-user will have over anything. Imagine how complex an installation will become for ordinary folks. Imagine how much expertise will be required to fiddle anything on a GNU/Linux system. Will such systems even be GNU/Linux any longer?"

In other news, Christine Hall noticed that the Top Ten systems on the Distrowatch Page Hit Ranking list are actually just five distros. See, five the ten are based on Debian and two (or three) others are derived from Red Hat. That just leaves Arch and openSUSE. So, she concludes, "In the desktop Linux world, it’s all family."

Elsewhere:

* MakuluLinux 6.0 KDE - Super messy

* Red Hat Technical Support Engineer Intern Story
* Jim Whitehurst: We're Ready to Dominate the Cloud
* Fedora's New Project Leader Plots What's Next

* Old Ubuntu Installer Bug Can Still Delete Your Drive

* Akamai Warns of IptabLes and IptabLex Infection on Linux, DDoS attacks

* Document Foundation Membership Committee Elections – List Of Candidates

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Firefox 32 Delivers Ramped-Up Security, New HTTP Cache

Wednesday 3rd of September 2014 03:02:22 PM

Mozilla has built a notable security system into the new Firefox version 32 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new security scheme is targeted to keep  hackers from intercepting data, including data aimed at online services. The browser incorporates public key pinning, which can ensure that users are connecting to the sites they mean to connect with. Pinning allows greater control over which site certificates are deemed valid. 

Firefox 32 also adds a new HTTP cache back end. You can get the browser here, and find much more about it.

According to Mozilla's advisory on public key pinning:

"Public Key Pinning helps ensure that people are connecting to the sites they intend. It allows site operators to specify which CAs issue valid certificates for them, rather than accepting any one of the hundreds of built-in root certificates that ship with Firefox. If any certificate in the verified certificate chain corresponds to one of the known good (pinned) certificates, Firefox displays the lock icon as normal. When the root cert for a pinned site does not match one of the known good CAs, Firefox will reject the connection with a pinning error. This type of error can also occur if a CA mis-issues a certificate. In this way, key pinning can be used by sites to add another layer of trust to their servers’ deployment of TLS."

Firefox's new HTTP cache provides improved performance including crash recovery, according to the company. And, Firefox 32 also offers easier back, forward, reload, and bookmarking through the context menu.

As Mozilla has increased its focus on the Firefox OS mobile platform, Firefox has been losing market share to Google Chrome. According to web traffic stats from Net Applications, in March, Chrome grabbed 17.5 percent of desktop brower traffic, while Firefox sat in third place with 17.2 percent. This was a first for Chrome.

Still, many of us use both Chrome and Firefox, and it will be good to kick the tires on the new version of Mozilla's venerable browser.

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Canonical is Testing a Big New OpenStack Cloud Play: BootStack

Wednesday 3rd of September 2014 02:49:36 PM

Canonical has a new spin on its OpenStack plans. The company is rolling out BootStack, which is a managed service offering currently in private beta testing. Through BootStack, Canonical wants to help customers build, support and manage OpenStack-centric clouds for a fee of $15 per server per day.

BootStack will be available in two forms, and for the hosted version, IBM's SoftLayer cloud division is partnering with Canonical. Notably, IBM SoftLayer already has an OpenStack-as-a-Service partnership with Mirantis.

There is a datasheet from Canonical that says Bootstack is "a true end to end offer including the design, implementation and ongoing management of an OpenStack cloud on Ubuntu, followed by an optional transfer of the management function to the customer if desired."

In other words, Canonical can reap revenues from its BootStack initiative by hosting and managing cloud deployments, or launching and transferring a cloud deployment to a customer.

The BootStack datasheet notes that 55 percent of production OpenStack deployments run on Ubuntu.

Many people don't realize how married Ubuntu and OpenStack already are to each other, but it's still clear that Canonical is going to need to compete with players like HP, Mirantis and Red Hat to fullly support OpenStack-focused customers. Support matters a lot to IT departments.

According to Canonical's BootStack announcement:

"Canonical support teams will monitor and manage the entire cloud infrastructure, including Ubuntu OpenStack and the underlying hypervisor, providing the customer with all the benefits of a private cloud and taking away the pain of day to day infrastructure management. The SLA for operation will cover cloud availability at the scale desired by the customer, as well as uptime and responsiveness metrics that apply as long as Canonical is operating it."

 

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Systemd Controversy Not Going Away Quietly

Wednesday 3rd of September 2014 03:15:49 AM

If you thought the systemd argument was settled, I'm not sure you'd be correct. Paul Venezia is back on the case today saying folks are continuing to blog, thread, mailing list, and forum about their problems with systemd. Katherine Noyes noted the trend in her Blog Safari today as well. Her first example says Linux is being turned into "OS X or even Windows."

Paul Venezia said today that although the systemd controversy seems to be settled, "the exceedingly loud protests on message boards, forums, and the posts I wrote over the past two weeks would indicate otherwise." systemd has been a part of popular distros for a couple of years now and users complained to deaf ears about the lack of control and usable logs.  But Venezia says it's still "not too late to speak out." He noticed some saying that "BSD is looking better and better." But he hit upon the wide-reaching trend that's been disturbing most old-school Linux users:

A larger trend toward users who appear to believe that reading manuals and learning OS internals is bad, and we should plaster over all of that mumbo-jumbo with a nice, sleek -- and completely opaque -- management layer. This "learning is hard" mentality is very damaging for Linux as a service platform.

Venezia is primarily concerned with the server side of Linux, but many desktop users would have never left Windows if Linux had just been a different horse of the same color. He says developers are trying to "reinvent Windows" and concludes, "It's not pretty."

Katherine Noyes set out on a similar course recently and found not just server users having issues with systemd. She said one blogger says he feels "stuck" and he doesn't like feeling "stuck" with Linux. That was the whole point of moving to Linux for many of us. Another said, "I really like the idea of text file configurations, of simple tools that do one thing well and can be combined. And binary blobs? Seriously?" Another blogger Noyes quotes said, "Ultimately it throws away everything that worked and offers very little in return." He added, "When something goes wrong, it is far harder to troubleshoot."

In other news, Linux kernel developer arrested in Russia, For 50 percent of developers, open source is a 9-to-5 job, and Rebooting on Mars.

 

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Mozilla's $33 Firefox OS Phone Draws Notice in India

Tuesday 2nd of September 2014 03:23:28 PM

Mozilla recently announced that the first smartphone running its Firefox OS mobile operating system is now on sale in India, following earlier reports that a low-cost phone would arrive there in July. One of the big surprises with the Cloud FX phones is that, while the rumor mill had set the price at $50, these phones are actually priced at a rock-bottom $33. In India's fast-growing mobile market, that could put phones in the hands of many new users and help Firefox OS become entrenched.

Around the web, there is much discussion of the promise of Mozilla's strategy in India.

Handset maker Intex Technologies is Mozilla's hardware partner, and deserves credit for helping to usher in the Cloud FX phone, which is seen in the photo above.

As The Motley Fool notes:

"The Cloud FX has all the basic features which are required for a smartphone -- a 3.5-inch 320x480 screen, a 2-megapixel camera, a 1GHz processor, and 128MB of RAM. Intex is one of two Indian companies, with Spice being the other, which have developed low-end smartphones through partnerships with Mozilla and Spreadtrum, a fabless chipmaker in China. Spice's upcoming Firefox phone, the Fire One Mi-FX, which launch on Aug. 29 for 2,299 rupees ($38)."

Mozilla has also made clear that it has its sights set on Asia with Firefox OS phones.

"It is exciting to see the Intex Cloud FX now available as the first Firefox OS device in India and Asia. The positive consumer feedback from other markets tells us that people like the unique user experience and openness we’re building with Firefox OS. With support from Intex, Firefox OS smartphones in the ultra-low-cost category will redefine the entry-level smartphone and create strong momentum in Asia,” said Dr. Li Gong, President of Mozilla.

“The launch of Intex Cloud FX marks the beginning of a new era of the Indian smartphone market and Intex is proud to be the first Indian company to understand and deliver on market needs. With the launch of Intex Cloud FX, we aim to enable the masses to get smartphone experience at the cost of a feature phone. We are delighted to partner with Snapdeal.com, the partnership allows us to offer the smartphone pan-India at a revolutionary cost,” said Keshav Bansal, Director, Marketing, Intex Technologies.

In emerging markets, several languages are supported on the Cloud FX phones, including Hindi and Tamil.

Higher cost Firefox OS phones have been selling in Hungary, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Greece.  They have even sold in limited quantities on eBay in other regions, including the U.S., illustrating that there are interested users around the world. However, it's clear that Mozilla is aiming at emerging markets and keeping prices very, very low.

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Some Mac Users to Be Boxed Out By Chrome

Tuesday 2nd of September 2014 03:11:29 PM

As we've been reporting, Google is embracing the 64-bit future with its Chrome browser, having just elevated the 64-bit version of Chrome for Windows to its stable Beta distribution channel, while also elevating Chrome for Mac OS X's 64-bit version to Canary and Dev builds. In some ways, 64-bit versions of Chrome represent a game of catch-up for Google, because Mozilla has offered 64-bit versions of Firefox for Mac OS X and Linux for a long time.

However, Mark Mentovai, a software engineer who works on Chrome, has said in a blog post that owners of the earliest Intel-based Macs may be left behind by Chrome.

According to the post:

"On the heels of Tuesday’s release of 64-bit Chrome for Windows, all Mac Chrome users on the beta channel will be updated to a new 64-bit version of Chrome 38. Previously, Chrome was a 32-bit app on Macs. While doubling the number of bits won’t make things twice as good, it does allow us to make a number of speed and security improvements."

"Because of this change, Chrome for Mac will no longer support 32-bit NPAPI plugins, although their 64-bit counterparts are supported. Users shouldn’t notice any changes, because most major plugins are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit form, and many major websites have been switching from NPAPI towards more modern HTML5 APIs. This is also a good time to remind everyone that NPAPI support will be removed from Chrome later this year...Nearly every Mac user has a computer capable of running this 64-bit version, so we’re automatically updating all Mac Chrome beta channel users. Those few users with first-generation Intel Macs will miss out on the fun, but as we bid them farewell, we’ll remind them that they’ll still be able to run the latest version on the stable channel, Chrome 37."

Chrome, unlike some browsers, runs each tab as a separate processor, which consumes memory and system resources. Overall, users will find the 64-bit versions of Chrome to run faster and be more stable, but there still are bound to be some users of early Macs who are going to be put out.

You can check to see if your version of Chrome is a 64-bit version by checking Chrome’s About page (chrome://help) and looking next to the version number. You should see a "64-bit" citation if you're running one of the new versions.

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Mozilla Marches Ahead with Ads for Firefox

Friday 29th of August 2014 02:59:42 PM

This November, Mozilla is up for renegotiation with Google for placement of Google search as the default search in Firefox and for the related subsidies that Google pays Mozilla, which reached almost $300 million last year. That comprised the majority of Mozilla's income.  With Chrome establishing itself as a leader in the browser wars, its unclear what relationship Google will continue to pursue with Mozilla.

However, Mozilla seems to be pressing forward with its plans to reap revenues from advertising. Mozilla has begun displaying sponsored tiles along with websites you've visited in its Nightly Firefox builds, only months after the organization announced plans to do.

As Engadget reports:

"When you first launch the browser, you'll get a pop-up notification that says some of the tiles will feature sponsored content, and that it'll clearly mark which ones are ads...According to Firefox Product Manager Bryan Clark, though, only those companies that paid for the spot are marked, while popular websites like Facebook, YouTube and Amazon will sometimes be automatically featured even if they didn't pay to be advertised."

Mozilla even has a support page that discusses the sponsored tiles. They won't arrive in Firefox's official version right away, but it looks like we will see these.

Mozilla had posted an announcement months ago about putting "Directory Tiles" in front of Firefox users, which sounded a lot like ads. According to that announcement of the tile scheme:

"Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy."

 

The Next Web has posted a screenshot of what all this will look like, taken from the current Nightly build of Firefox:

 

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OneDrive Cloud App for Android Merges Personal, Business Storage

Friday 29th of August 2014 02:40:45 PM

Microsoft has integrated the consumer and enterprise versions of OneDrive into a single Android app, and plans to repeat the move on all the platforms that the cloud storage service runs on. "You want the ability to view those photos from that trip to Hawaii as well as work on your sales proposal – all from one device," notes the OneDrive blog.

The Android cloud app will provide users with access to their OneDrive and OneDrive for Business accounts, giving them personal and work files in one location. However, files will be kept separate under work and personal categories in the app.

According to the announcement:

"This is the first example of how we’re creating a single, unified OneDrive experience that holistically addresses what people, businesses, and IT managers need. Because people are increasingly using the same devices and apps to get things done at work and at home, the ability to store and share files in the cloud is essential on both fronts."

Additionally, the Android app also now supports setting up a PIN, for security purposes. Create a 4-digit code, and you can limit access to the app and your files. The new version of the Android app also includes improvements to camera backup speed and reliability and lets users open files directly from OneDrive in other apps.

Below are a couple of screenshots illustrating the integration of personal and work cloud storage, and use of a PIN for security:

 

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