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KDE's the Best, Wallen Interview, and Why Linux Rules

Wednesday 23rd of July 2014 02:54:35 AM

Today in Linux news, Bruce Byfield says the best Linux desktop continues to be KDE's Plasma. Steven Ovadia at My Linux Rig snagged a short interview with Jack Wallen. eWeek has nine reasons Linux rules on supercomputers. And venture capitalist Sonatype says most companies don't audit Open Source software components they're using for vulnerabilities and security flaws.

KDE Plasma got another slap on the back today from long-time writer Bruce Byfield at Datamation.com. He says none of the others "can match its design philosophy, configurability, or its innovations on the classical desktop." He says it continues to top polls as well. He think he knows why:

I believe that one of the main reasons for this appeal is the KDE design philosophy. GNOME and Unity may offer a more aesthetic-looking default, but only at the cost of simplifying both the desktop and the utilities in the name of reducing clutter.

By contrast, KDE goes to the opposite extreme. KDE applications typically include every function you can imagine. Sometimes, they can take a version or two to organize the menus in a meaningful way, but applications like Amarok, K3B, or digiKam go far beyond the most common use cases. When you run into problems with them, they usually offer solutions.

My Linux Rig spoke to writer Jack Wallen recently about his Linux usage and habits. He says he began using Linux in 1996 because of Windows instability. His first distro was Caldera, and after using most of them at one time or another, he is now using Ubuntu and Unity. Check out the rest and a screenshot at My Linux Rig.

MakeUseOf.com today posted of five Websites you could use to learn Linux. Theirs, of course, tops the list, but then they suggest LinuxCommand.org, which I too recommend. They also suggest The Linux Foundation site and Linux4Noobs on Reddit.com. But see the full post for more.  In addition, our own Sam Dean quite often points to helpful documentation and such - like today.

In other news:

* Nine Reasons Linux Rules the Supercomputing Space

* Over 370 Organizations Report Confirmed or Suspected Open Source Breaches in Past 12 Months According to Sonatype Survey (PR)

* Frozen Endzone Gets A New Name In Time For Update

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Webcast and Easier Tools Aim to Demystify Hadoop

Tuesday 22nd of July 2014 12:37:52 PM

Hadoop is steadily making its way into many enterprises, thanks to its ability to surface unique insights from very large data sets. It power and success as an open source platform are a direct result of the fact that it can perform analytics that go beyond what traditional analytics platforms are capable of.  All of this came to the fore at the Hadoop Summit held recently in San Jose, California.

At the same time, there is a big need for more understanding of how the Hadoop platform works, and how tools in the Hadoop ecosystem work. These topics are on the agenda for a July 23 webcast from the CTOs of Cloudera and Splunk. 

You can sign up for the webcast here, and here are more details on new bridges to understanding and working with Hadoop.

In a recent announcement, Cloudera, Dell and Intel said they will launch a dedicated Dell In-Memory Appliance for Cloudera Enterprise, to be known as Dell Engineered Systems for Cloudera Enterprise. It's basically an integrated appliance solution that can make advanced Hadoop-driven analytics easy to implement in data centers.  These moves and the upcoming webcast with Splunk are part of Cloudera's effort to make Hadoop more approachable for enterprises.

“The market opportunity for companies to gain insight and build transformative applications based on Hadoop is tremendous,” said Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, in a recent statement. “Clearly, demand is accelerating and the market is poised for growth."

As GigaOM notes, regarding the upcoming webcast:

"The CTOs of Cloudera and Splunk will talk about how their companies are working together to make it easier for everyone in an organization to rapidly explore, analyze and visualize raw unstructured data in Hadoop. You don’t need a Ph.D. in math or computer science to get started and be successful in quickly turning raw big data into refined business insights."

Enterprises interested in demistifying Haddop may want to look into Splunk's Hunk offering.  According to the company:

"Whether you're using Hadoop or NoSQL data stores, getting value and insights out of your data is difficult. Traditional analytics tools aren't designed for the diversity and size of big data sets. And your data's becoming too big to move to separate in-memory analytics stores. In short, gaining meaningful insight can often take months and require specialized skills."

"Hunk goes beyond typical data analysis methods and gives you the power to explore, analyze and visualize data, all from one integrated platform that you can use in minutes, not months. With Hunk you can detect patterns and find anomalies across terabytes or petabytes of raw data in Hadoop and NoSQL data stores without specialized skills, fixed schemas or months of development.
Big data doesn't have to be a science project."

"Whether this is your first Hadoop or NoSQL cluster, or your organization runs production clusters with thousands of nodes, Hunk delivers dramatic improvements in the speed and simplicity of getting insights from big data. To find out more, visit the Hunk tutorial."

Approachable, easy front ends for working with Hadoop, which make it easier to sift large data sets, are also appearing. Talend, which offers a number of open source middleware solutions, has one, and Microsoft is making it easier to work with Hadoop from the Excel spreadsheet.

Talend Open Studio for Big Data, which provides a front end for easily working with Hadoop to mine large data sets, is available under an Apache license. Meanwhile, Hortonworks has worked with Microsoft to link the Excel spreadsheet to Hadoop, according to Computerworld.

If you or your organization have been interested in working with Hadoop, the tools for doing so are becoming more varied and more approachable. As we noted here, Hadoop skills are very highly valued in the tech job market at this point, and we have also written about Hortonworks University, which focuses on teaching Hadoop skills. You can find a class near you and register here.




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FLOSS Manuals Turns Out More Useful FOSS Documentation

Tuesday 22nd of July 2014 12:22:51 PM

Regularly here at OStatic, we're committed to compiling documentation and guidance resources for popular open source platforms and applications. After all, one of the most common critcisms of open source creations is the lack of official project documentation. One of the best ongoing projects for producing free open source-related documentation is FLOSS Manuals. It's an ongoing and ambitious effort to build online guides for open source software.

Recently, the site has added useful documentation for some projects that may interest you, including the great open source graphics editing application GIMP, and an outstanding CMS system for managing video. Here is how to get the latest guides from FLOSS Manuals.

Plumi. Plumi is a free Content Management System (CMS) designed for video-sharing, based on Plone and produced by EngageMedia. Plumi enables you to create your own video sharing site; by installing Plumi on your web server your can use a wide array of functionality to facilitate video distribution and community creation. Features include video podcasting, server-side flash/ogg transcoding and embedded playback, open content licensing, a sophisticated publishing workflow and large file uploading via FTP. You can find a compete manual on FLOSS Manuals, here.

Freedom Fone. Freedom Fone is a communications tool with origins in Zimbabwe. “While the Internet in Zimbabwe has become more accessible, it is still available only to a minority, urban-based audience,” say Freedom Fone community members. “Mobile phone usage on the other hand has grown exponentially with over 50% of the population - including many who live out in remote rural areas - currently subscribed to mobile networks.” Freedom Fone allows anyone with a phone to access or contribute information on a specific issue 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A manual makes clear how it can be of use to small- and medium-sized businesses.

GIMP for Graphics. If you work with graphics, or if you want to start doing so, you may already use GIMP, one of the very best open source graphics applications, or you have it on your radar. GIMP is so powerful that it can be daunting for new users, and FLOSS Manuals has an excellent getting started guide available for it, here. Once you've mastered your GIMP basics, you can find even more guidance in the free online guide in Grokking the GIMP.

Firefox in a Nutshell.  Floss Manuals' Firefox in a Nutshell guide is available now, and is a comprehensive guide to the one of the most popular open browsers. It covers installation, of course, but delves into intelligent use of tabs and dedicates solid coverage to installing extensions--one of the big advantages Firefox offers. 
For example, the guide has a straightforward discussion of how to use FireFTP, an extension for Firefox that makes it easy to send and receive very large files.  If you use another browser and have wanted to dablle in Firefox, this guide is worth getting and totally free.

Etherpad.  Etherpad is a real-time collaborative editor for Linux that can be used for taking minutes during online or offline meetings, recording real-time or asynchronous text-based planning of projects, and more. It's popular as a quick-in, quick-out way to record thoughts. You can get FLOSS Manuals' free guide to it now.
Etherpad is basically a rewrite of a different but similar application called "EtherPad," with the newer version being more compact. The FLOSS Manuals guide covers how to create pads, how to chat about pads with other users, and delves into other collaboration features. Especially if you work with others on brainstorming, this little application is worth checking out.

Want more free guides to cool applications from FLOSS Manuals? Here are some others worth looking into:

Jubler. Do you create and work with video files, perhaps using tools such as VLC Media Player?  If so, you may be interested in Jubler, a FOSS tool for creating and translating subtitles that you can use with Linux, Windows or Mac OS X. (It uses MPlayer for playback.) FLOSS Manuals has a visual guide to getting started with Jubler, available here

BlueGriffon.  OStatic has covered tools for web developers and editors a number of times. Powered by Gecko, the rendering engine Mozilla used in Firefox for years, BlueGriffon is an open source, cross-platform web editor with outstanding WYSIWYG interface options. You can use it on Linux, Windows or Mac OS X. Because it's based on Gecko, BlueGriffon is especially good for building pages that will look great in Firefox. Check out FLOSS Manuals' visual tour of BlueGriffon, here.

Chromium. You may very well use Chromium as your browser, and if you do you're in luck. One of the newest guides on FLOSS Manuals is a complete guide to Chromium--the open source core of Google's Chrome browser. The guide walks through the differences between Chromium and Chrome, provides installation guidelines for all major operating systems, and much more.


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New Duke Beta, Debian 6 Update, and Geary Still Coming

Tuesday 22nd of July 2014 03:23:54 AM

Today in Linux news, Geary 0.7.0 was recently released despite the programmers' troubles with the IRS. Debian released an update the 6.0 branch of their old stable Linux distribution. A new Duke Nukem enhanced compilation game has hit beta. "GCC 5.0 is expected next year" and Linus is getting grumpy! And finally today, two new Mint 17 reviews round out the Linux news on this Monday July 21.

Despite being denied 501(c)(3) status, Yorba released version 0.7.0 of Geary email application primarily for the GNOME desktop. Softpedia briefly covered the release saying it got an interface redesign, lot of rewrites, and noticeable speed improvements. They also have a screenshot and a link to the Ubuntu PPA.

Several sites are covering the release of Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Beta. Fans are briefed on the major improvements and this release that was the switch from SDL to SDL2. Developers also included gamepad support as well as some fixes for rendering issues. See GamingOnLinux.com's coverage for more and a screenshot.

The Debian project released Debian 6.0.10 last Saturday for those still running the old stable version. This is said to be the final update and users are encouraged to update through the package management system. Some packages and architectures weren't updated for various reasons, so see the full announcement for more.

Arindam Sen and Gary Newell have posted reviews on Mint 17, one Cinnamon and the other Xfce. Sen said, "If you are looking for a professional, trouble free and stable lightweight distro, look no further than Linux Mint 17 XFCE. You will be amazed by its performance and functionality. I give [it] a score of 9.2/10.

Gary Newell reviewed the Cinnamon version of Mint 17 saying it is the ultimate replacement for Windows 7. (He said for Windows 8 refuges, any Linux is preferable.) After another fantastic review, Newell concludes, "Linux Mint 17 is a great choice for the everyday Linux user. It is easy to install, easy to use and has a good selection of applications. The user interface is pleasing and professional. The hardware support is extensive and the stability is incredibly good. I would recommend Linux Mint for all users."

In other news:

* GCC 5.0 Is Expected Next Year

* What is preloading?

* Torvalds releases Linux 3.16-rc6; warns that he may get grumpy if things don’t calm down

* Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert

* From Windows to Linux, Part 2: Multimedia applications

* The Linux Random Number Generator

* Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 375

* DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 568, 21 July 2014

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Netflix Keeps Open Sourcing its "Simian Army" of Useful Cloud Tools

Monday 21st of July 2014 03:20:41 PM

While cloud computing platforms make headlines every day now, including leading open source platforms such as OpenStack, it's still true that cloud computing is a young science. There is a premium on reliable, mature tools for the cloud, and a real need for tools that can usher in better security. Also, it's true that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still the 800-pound gorilla in the cloud.

Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix is one of the many companies that has been making extensive use of cloud services and tools for years, and we've reported on Netflix open sourcing a series of interesting "Monkey" cloud tools that it has deployed as satellite utilities orbiting its central cloud platform. It has released a new one of these, and all of them are worth taking note of.

Netflix has been using its own tool for staying secure as engineers with various accounts change configurations for aspects of the Netflix platform atop Amazon Web Services. The Security Monkey tool has worked well for the company, and the company has blogged about its open source availability here. According to the post:

"We  envisioned and built the first version of Security Monkey in 2011. At  that time, we used a few different AWS accounts and delivered the  service from a single AWS region. We now use several dozen AWS accounts  and leverage multiple AWS regions to deliver the Netflix service. Over  its lifetime, Security Monkey has evolved (no pun intended) to meet  our changing and growing requirements."

"Security  Monkey is relatively straightforward from an operational perspective.  Installation and AWS account setup is covered in the installation  document, and Security Monkey does not rely on other Netflix OSS  components to operate."

Netflix previously released Janitor Monkey and Chaos Monkey, other cloud tools.   Janitor Monkey is available on GitHub. According to Netflix:

"At Netflix, when we analyzed our Amazon Web Services (AWS) usage, we found a lot of unused resources and we needed a solution to rectify this problem. Diligent engineers can manualy delete unused resources via Asgard but we needed a way to automatically detect and clean them up. Our solution was Janitor Monkey."

"Janitor Monkey is a service which runs in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud looking for unused resources to clean up. Similar to Chaos Monkey, the design of Janitor Monkey is flexible enough to allow extending it to work with other cloud providers and cloud resources. The service is configured to run, by default, on non-holiday weekdays at 11 AM. The schedule can be easily re-configured to fit your business' need. Janitor Monkey determines whether a resource should be a cleanup candidate by applying a set of rules on it."

As for Chaos Monkey, what the program does is randomly kill instances within Netflix's architecture, working on the assumption that constant failures will help build robust defenses against catastrophic failure. It's an interesting fault-tolerance tool.

You can peruse Netflix's overall open source software resource center on GitHub.  The company is steadily releasing proven tools that can be quite useful for cloud administrators. Netflix has also said that it has more tools from its "Simian Army" due to be open sourced soon.

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Chrome Brings Text into Focus After Lagging Other Browsers

Monday 21st of July 2014 03:01:13 PM

If you're a regular user of the Google Chrome browser, you probably know that the nightly builds and beta channel versions often incorporate cutting-edge features that you can't get in the stable release. These features also often foreshadow what will soon arrive in the stable release.

The latest Chrome Beta channel release includes a slew of new developer features aimed at facilitating richer web content and apps, but, notably, Chrome 37 also adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering, including rendering on high DPI displays. It's an advancement beyond a decades-old Windows text scheme that Chrome has been using.

As noted on The Chromium Blog:

"Before DirectWrite, Chrome used the Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to render text. GDI dates back to the mid-80's and reflects the engineering tradeoffs of that time, particularly for slower, lower-resolution machines. The switch to DirectWrite has been a top user request for years, and required extensive re-architecting and streamlining of Chrome's font rendering engine."

"Some users should begin seeing better-looking fonts and increased rendering performance as we roll out DirectWrite, with no changes required by web developers. Assuming everything goes smoothly, all users will experience the improvements by the Chrome 37 stable release."

You can visit chromestatus.com/features for an overview of the other new features in the beta.

For now, Chrome 36, the current stable build version of Chrome, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows. Chrome is actually behind other browsers in switching to DirectWrite. Firefox has used DirectWrite for several years.

Google appears to be more and more focused on Chrome. The browser 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. 

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Slackware's 21st, Post-Open Source, and Six Lightweights

Saturday 19th of July 2014 03:13:24 AM

Today in Linux news is a belated Happy Birthday to the oldest living Linux distribution. Matt Asay says we're living in a "post-open source world." Jack Wallen says KDE Plasma 5 is "fast but not furious" and Carla Schroder shares a list of six lightweight distros.

Slackware Linux turned 21 July 16 and I feel bad I forgot. Nevertheless, several folks did remember today such as Phoronix.com and Joe Brockmeier. Willy Sudiarto Raharjo linked to a copy of the original Usenet post announcement. Happy Birthday Slackware.

Matt Asay says, "We're living in a post-open source world." He says folks are not choosing the GPL for their software these days and quote RedMonk and others as proof. But it's not that folks are running back to proprietary licenses, but instead are choosing none at all (or one that's so permissive as to amount to little more than none). He said in an article at InfoWorld.com yesterday, "Which is where we find ourselves today: in the midst of the post-open source revolution, a revolution in which software matters more than ever, but its licensing matters less and less."

Jack Wallen, who said KDE was stagnating, today said of KDE Plasma 5, "It's impressive." Others had mentioned the speed improvements in Plasma 5 but Wallen lead with that saying it's thanks to QT5. It's as fast as Xfce says Wallen. But beyond that, he's not so impressed. He says it's just KDE 4 all nitro'd up. "If you strip away the idea of convergence from KDE Plasma 5," he says you are left with:

* It's fast (really fast)
* It's a clean, familiar interface
* It's already amazingly stable
* It has a nice new lock screen

In other KDE news, Martin Grasslin today posted some thoughts on the "road ahead" for Plasma 5 KDecoration2. The old KDecoration is "showing its age" and is cumbersome and difficult to use according to Grasslin. The KDE guys have been working on a solution for a while and Grasslin gives us a preview. So, be sure to check that out.

Carla Schroder today featured "6 Excellent Lightweight Linux Distros for x86 and ARM." These included Elementary OS, LXLE, and newcomer Point Linux. Check out her full post for the rest and why she chose them.

In Linux gaming news today two links: Quake Live Coming To Steam Very Soon and Nothing You Do Matters in This Game, But You’ll Still Obsess Over It.

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Mozilla Reveals Far Reaching Global Push for Firefox OS

Friday 18th of July 2014 03:04:08 PM

Firefox OS has "unlocked the mobile ecosystem" and is quickly expanding across a broad range of devices and product categories in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific, according to a new post from Mozilla. There are those who have questioned whether Firefox OS is finding an enthusiastic audience, but many people questioned Android when it first arrived, too.

According to Mozilla, which has already announced that it will help usher in $50 Firefox OS phone in India this summer, Firefox OS is now available on seven smartphones offered by five major operators in 15 countries. That's nothing to shake a stick at.

Mozilla has broken down the latest news on Firefox OS by region, discussing Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region:


 Deutsche Telekom will be the first operator to sell the new ALCATEL ONETOUCH Fire E phones, available in Germany this week through congstar. In the coming months, Deutsche Telekom will also launch Firefox OS devices in four new markets – Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro.

Telefónica just announced that Germany has become the ninth country where they offer Firefox OS phones, as O2 started pre-sales of ALCATEL ONETOUCH Fire E phones.

ZTE will launch the Open C as the first Firefox OS device available in France later this month.

Latin America

Telefónica will offer Firefox OS phones across all of their Latin American markets by the end of the year, expanding to Central America in the next few months and followed by Argentina and Ecuador. Telefónica is also expanding its Firefox OS portfolio, having recently launched ZTE Open C and Open II devices in the region and soon offering the Alcatel ONETOUCH Fire C phones, all running the latest version of Firefox OS.

América Móvil, which launched Firefox OS phones in Mexico earlier this summer, is committed to expanding its offering in Latin America by the end of the year.

 Asia Pacific

Spice and Intex will soon launch the first Firefox OS devices in the ultra-low-cost category in India.

Telenor confirmed they will offer Firefox OS phones in Asia by the end of the year.

Chunghwa Telecom, the largest operator in Taiwan, recently announced that they have joined the more than 20 operators committed to delivering Firefox OS in their markets.

To purportedly accelerate the development and testing of the Firefox OS ecosystem, Mozilla has also partnered with Thundersoft to manufacture and distribute the Firefox OS Flame reference phone, which is now on sale. The Flame is representative of the mid-tier phone hardware that Mozilla and its partners will focus on over the coming year.

Mozilla has made clear that it is not focused on the high-end smartphone market but is more interested in putting phones in the hands of people in emerging markets who haven't had them before.

TIME has called Mozilla's low end strategy "a brilliant game-changer," but let's remember that mobile phones are all about the apps, and even Mozilla officials have stopped short of calling Firefox OS phones "smartphones" in the sense that they run the robust apps that iOS and Android phones do. 

According to DigiTimes, the first phones in India, due in July, will be more in the range of $50:

"With low-cost chip solutions developed by China-based Spreadtrum Communications and cooperation with smartphone ODMs, Mozilla has succeeded in keeping production cost down to US$25 for models carrying retail prices of up to US$50, Gong indicated."

"There have been 10 hardware makers and more than 20 mobile telecom carriers supporting Firefox OS platform, Gong said. LG Electronics and China-based vendors Alcatel OneTouch, Huawei Device and ZTE have launched Firefox smartphones in 15 countries, Gong indicated."

 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.

As we've noted, Mozilla is also shifting its entire company strategy to focus on its new mobile platform.

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As the Web Grows, Do Browser Makers Wield Too Much Power?

Friday 18th of July 2014 02:45:15 PM

Do you ever take a step back and look at how central the web is to your life? For some people, it's an always connected, ever present adjunct to their actual consciousness. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil even predict that we will eventually effectively merge with the web and other technology tools, giving us almost superhuman abilities to instantly access information.

At this year's Great Wide Open conference, Steven Klabnik delivered an interesting talk on how the web evolves, and his talk was titled "Browsers are Eating the World." You can view the whole address on YouTube. Essentially, Klabnik has argued that browser makers have a disproportionate impact on how the web evolves, relative to developers and standards bodies, who--he says--ought to swing bigger sticks. 

OpenSource.com has a good summary of Klabnik's position:

"Currently, browser vendors dictate the features they'd like to become standards. They argue and debate the merits of implementing a feature in a particular way, and eventually (in weeks, months, even years) reach an agreement about a standard way to handle that feature. Then they inform web standards bodies (like the W3C) of the new rules; these bodies, in turn, tell web developers how to incorporate those standards into tools like browsers."

That does seem like kind of a backward model, doesn't it? It's been good to see browsers with open source roots come to the fore, but it's still true that commercial interests are behind the top browsers. Why should the commercial interests behind browsers have so much clout in advancing the web?

"The web is something that is very human," Klabnik said in his address. "It's not owned by a company. It's not controlled by a particular corporate interest. The web is something that we have all built for humanity."

The truth is, we are in the middle of a sea change when it comes to truly open development of technology. In an InfoWorld story, Matt Asay notes that we now live in a "post-open source world," where things like licenses have faded in importance. He writes:

"Open source' doesn't really matter anymore. Not as some countercultural raging against the corporate software machine, anyway. Open source, after all, powers the most important software today, driving big trends like cloud computing, big data, and mobile. It's no longer the challenger. It's not an underdog. Open source today is simply how we write software."

How we write software has undergone more change in the last 10 years than it did in the 20 years previous to that, and how we agree on standards has changed too. 

As ar as Klabnik is concerned, he seems to feel that developers should be at the control wheel when it comes to the web, and vendors should take dication from them. That assumes, of course, that developers will take a holistic view of the web and its importance to all of us. 

Democratically-minded folks might argue that neither developers nor vendors should have disproportionate control over the web's advancement. Let's not forget that the last word in "World Wide Web Consortium" is consortium. But do we really have a democratic development model? Some argue that we still haven't decided who should be in charge.


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Fedora 21 Alpha, Project Mayhem, and Linus' Office

Friday 18th of July 2014 03:10:44 AM

There is so much news today I'm not sure which to highlight first. Linux.com has a look at Linus Torvalds' home office and a new paper describes fresh malware "Mayhem." X.Org Server 1.16 and GCC 4.9.1 have been released and the Plasma 5.1 development cycle has been officially kicked off. All this and some openSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora tidbits here in tonight's Linux news.

Linus Torvalds is featured in a new video over at Linux.com giving a tour of his home / home office and speaking about some of his likes and dislikes and how he does things. He has a treadmill in front of his computer screen and keyboard yet later admits to being lazy.  I have stacks of hard drives all over the place too just like Linus, I guess that makes me lazy too. Don't miss it.

Two foundational package saw new releases today. First, Phoronix.com covers the release of X.Org Server 1.16 by release manager Keith Packard today. It features Wayland and systemd support as well as other new features and lots of clean up. In other news, Jakub Jelinek announced the release of GCC 4.9.1, a bug-fix release.

In KDE news today, Martin Grasslin today wrote why Breeze isn't the default decoration in KDE 5, err I mean Plasma 5, and Oxygen is. It has 23 comments so far too. Elsewhere, Jonathan Riddell officially kicked off the Plasma 5.1 development season. A new todo list appeared in the ether today and already has 30 items, Riddell wrote.

In other news today, José Antonio Rey announced Ubuntu 13.10's end of life. It was taken off life support today and all mourners are urged to move on to 14.04 LTS.

Fedora folks are working hard to try and get out next week's alpha on time. Adam Williamson said yesterday that Fedora.next is making it difficult to crank out new ISOs. He said they were trying to knock out some of the blocker bugs in hopes to have some test images up soon. But then today, some test images appeared as spotted and reported by Phoronix.com.

And finally, Vincent Untz today wrote he was stepping down as chairman of the openSUSE Board. He says he'll still around to contribute to the project, but he needs to free up some time for other projects. Have no fear, Nenad Latinović today announced that position will be taken over by current board member Richard Brown.

In other news:

* Paper: Mayhem - a hidden threat for *nix web servers

* About my switch to Linux (from Mac)

* Faults in Linux 2.6

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Nokia Devices Dumping Android, as Microsoft's CEO Brings More Change

Thursday 17th of July 2014 02:58:04 PM

You have to hand it to incoming Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: He is not afraid to stir the pot, and seems well aware that it needs stirring. In a company-wide email, Nadella announced that it will cut its employee base by up to 18,000 jobs, or 14 percent in the next year, and one of the big reasons is to accommodate the acquisition of Nokia.

Another big issue with the acquisitiion of Nokia is that Nokia makes Android phones, which puts Microsoft in the Android business. Back in February, I put up a post which asked, "Are Nokia's Android Phones Going to Get Axed By Microsoft?"  Now, Nadella has firmly answered that question, and the answer is yes.

“In addition, we plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows," Nadella wrote. "This builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space and aligns with our focus on Windows Universal Apps.” 

Microsoft is looking to target the low end of the phone business with Lumia phones, but that is a hotly contested market. Mozilla is delivering $50 smartphones in India, for example.

The problem with Microsoft's phone strategy is that the Windows app ecosystem is not anywhere near as robust as the one for iOS and Android devices. That's why it may have been a better choice for Microsoft to keep Nokia's Android business going. 

In another letter to employees recently, Nadella drove home his focus on Windows Universal Applications:

"Windows will create a broad developer opportunity by enabling Universal Windows Applications to run across all device targets. Windows will evolve to include new input/output methods like speech, pen and gesture and ultimately power more personal computing experiences."

 Nadella's has said that he wants Microsoft to be the "productivity and platform company for the mobile first and cloud first world." He puts mobile before the cloud in that sentence.

One thing's for sure: Nadella stands to be judged on his decisions in the mobile arena. His predecessor Steve Ballmer was perceived to have dropped the ball in mobile, and Nadella is expected to correct that problem and increase Microsoft's focus on the cloud and innovation. Dropping Android and sticking with the Windows app ecosystem may not be the shrewdest move given those expectations.

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Mirantis OpenStack Integrates with Oracle Linux, Oracle VM

Thursday 17th of July 2014 02:39:36 PM

Mirantis, which has been expanding its bets on the OpenStack cloud computing platform throughout 2014, is also deepening its bets on the enteprise. The company, which is already a member of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN), has announced that Oracle Linux and Oracle VM have been integrated Mirantis' own OpenStack distribution, which will keep Mirantis and Oracle serving and supporting joint customers.

The news comes just after Mirantis announced the availability of Mirantis OpenStack Express, an on-demand private Cloud-as-a-Service for enterprises.

Until recently, most people thought of Mirantis as an OpenStack consultancy and training company, but it is quickly expanding into the service provider and enterprise vendor space.

The Mirantis OpenStack software subscription will now offer deployment and management capabilities with support for running OpenStack clouds on Oracle Linux and Oracle VM. These are platform choices made primarily by existing users of Oracle applications.

For its part, Oracle seemingly took a shot at Red Hat in announcing the partnership with Mirantis. Red Hat has been under fire for what is perceived as an unwillingness to support users of OpenStack distributions other than its own.

We are happy to collaborate with Mirantis on this effort," said Oracle Chief Corporate Architect, Edward Screven, in a statement. "While Oracle ships its own OpenStack distribution with Oracle Linux and Oracle VM, we also want to offer customers choice. We are providing the same high quality Linux support to every customer, no matter which OpenStack distribution they choose."  

The key leg up that Mirantis may get out of its deal with Oracle is that Oracle will share support duties for subscription users. Mirantis and Oracle will integrate support operations "to provide a consistent service level agreement and a virtually seamless support escalation path for customers," according to the companies.

Support is the key differentiator for companies focused on OpenStack, and small companies like Mirantis must be nimble and shrewd in forming partnerships that can bring enterprise-grade support into the fold.

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No Chaos KaOS, LibreSSL Fixed, and More KDE 5

Thursday 17th of July 2014 03:41:26 AM

Today in Linux news, LinuxInsider said "KaOS calms down" that unruly KDE desktop. Several places are reporting that the "catastrophic" flaw in LibreSSL has been patched. Mutkware.com has a look at KDE Plasma 5 and Jos Poortvliet tries to clear up some of the naming confusion. Robert Pogson says his Linux desktop isn't broken, and there's more in tonight's Linux news review.

With KDE 5 still making headlines, it seems the right time for Jack Germain's story on KaOS, a Linux distribution featuring the KDE desktop. He says, "The KDE integration is much more controlled in KaOS than in other Linux choices." This original Linux uses Pacman and the Octopi front-end for package management, but Germain says there's only 2000 packages available for KaOS. That's intentional, they want to tightly control the quality of packages. Germain says KaOS "is built around a strictly enforced focus: the best software that runs on Qt." After a review, Germain concludes, "The KaOS distro is attractive to two types of users. One is already flustered with poor user experiences with other Linux distros. The other is looking for a better and more controlled KDE desktop environment."

Speaking of KDE 5, The Mukt today posted a review of the newly released desktop environment. They run down the new and improved features again, with the help of Aaron Seigo, before giving it a go. And give it a go they did. The Mukt says, "I have been using KDE Desktop/Plasma Desktop since 2011 and I found Plasma 5 to be a smooth transition."

In related news, lost in all the hubbub, KDE Plasma Workspaces 4.11.11 was released the same day as Plasma 5. Additionally, Jos Poortvliet today wrote:

There is no more need for the 'Software Compilation' term, which was invented to solve the confusion of 'KDE releases three separate things but all at once'. We no longer release the Applications, Desktop and Libraries at once...

Several sites, such as TechWeekeurope.co.uk, are reporting that LibreSSL, that was said to be unsafe for Linux users, is now fixed. They quote Andrew Ayer, original hacker who found the flaw, saying of the fix, it's "a step in the right direction, but said the solution could be improved."

In other news, Leslie Hawthorn has some Linux resume tips, Robert Pogson says, My Debian GNU/Linux Desktop Is Not Broken, and Grim Fandango Comes to PC, Mac and Linux in a REMASTERED Version.

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Mozilla and Facebook Work to Put Web Images on a Diet

Wednesday 16th of July 2014 03:08:31 PM

All these years after we first started using it, and the JPEG file format is still dominant on the web and throughout the world of graphics. Send someone a .PNG or .GIF file and you can't always be sure there won't be a compatibility problem, but JPEG is lingua franca for graphics.

Big tech companies focused on the web and its standards know this, and now Facebook and Mozilla have announced a far reaching effort to improve JPEG encoders, and shrink the size of JPEG images, even as Facebook adopts version two of Mozilla's own JPEG encoder mozjpeg.

Why work on snipping JPEG file sizes down and improving the state of encoders? The answer is that images have a heavy impact on overall bandwidth for online users. 

Mozilla's Mozjpeg arrived this year, and is a JPEG encoder that shrinks image sizes by as much as 10 to 15 percent. According to Mozilla:

"We’re pleased to announce the release of mozjpeg 2.0. Early this year, we explained that we started this project to provide a production-quality JPEG encoder that improves compression while maintaining compatibility with the vast majority of deployed decoders. The end goal is to reduce page load times and ultimately create an enhanced user experience for sites hosting images."

"Facebook announced today that they are testing mozjpeg 2.0 to improve the compression of images on facebook.com. It has also donated $60,000 to contribute to the ongoing development of the technology, including the next iteration, mozjpeg 3.0."

“Facebook supports the work Mozilla has done in building a JPEG encoder that can create smaller JPEGs without compromising the visual quality of photos,” said Stacy Kerkela, software engineering manager at Facebook, in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the potential benefits mozjpeg 2.0 might bring in optimizing images and creating an improved experience for people to share and connect on Facebook.”

 Mozilla has set up a thread on Google Groups in order to discuss the new efforts, and you can join the conversation.

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As Chromeboks Sell Well, Microsoft Takes Notice

Wednesday 16th of July 2014 02:56:08 PM

As this year began, we covered the fact that analysts were at odds over just how well Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's Chrome OS platform--were selling. Part of what drove so many year-end stories in the media about how well Chromebooks were doing was that they were consistenly among the top selling portable computers on sites like Amazon. But some reporters extrapolated that into pronouncements that Chromebooks are threatening Windows laptops for market share, doing so in businesses, etc.

Well, now there is concrete evidence that Microsoft is very aware of the competition that low-cost Chromebooks are creating in the portable computer market. Here are the details.

As this year began, we covered the fact that analysts were at odds over just how well Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's Chrome OS platform--were selling. Part of what drove so many year-end stories in the media about how well Chromebooks were doing was that they were consistenly among the top selling portable computers on sites like Amazon. But some reporters extrapolated that into pronouncements that Chromebooks are threatening Windows laptops for market share, doing so in businesses, etc.

Microsoft held its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) as this week began, and Chief Operations Officer Kevin Turner, who is responsible for driving standard as well as partner network sales, said that Microsoft would "redefine the value category" with notebooks as affordable as $199.

Microsoft has traditionally stayed away from the ultra-low cost end of the portable computing market, which is part of why Chromebooks found early markets with users attracted to low prices, as is true in many school systems.

While Microsoft isn't making a lot of noise about Chromebooks specifically, it's obvious that that's where the Redmond giant sees competition that is increasingly of concern.

The Verge has posted a graphic, promoting "six things a Chromebook can't do," which touts these things as well within the capabilities of Windows laptops. 

In the business market, Windows-based systems continue to have overwhelmingly dominant market share. As we've reported, Chromebooks are doing especially well in schools.  As reported by Mashable, noted Silicon Valley analyst Tim Bajarin said: "There are no governments or IT departments running out to buy these products — they would be underwhelmed. Instead, this growth is being driven by education."

Still, the holiday numbers and other metrics point to the fact that Chromebooks are also being welcomed by consumers, especially ones interested in low prices.  In fact, Dell's Chromebooks have been selling so well that they've temporarily been pulled from the sales channel while Dell catches up to demand. Dell, of course, is a longtime partner of Microsoft's in the portable computing market.

These trends may cause us to see unprecedented prices on Windows portables, and they should arrive soon.

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KDE 5 is Here, LibreSSL Unsafe, and Debian 7.6 Released

Wednesday 16th of July 2014 02:54:54 AM

It looks like the big news today is the release of KDE Plasma 5. Arstechnica.com is reporting that 'OpenSSL fork LibreSSL is declared "unsafe for Linux."' Debian 7.6 was released over the weekend and a new developmental version of Opera for Linux was announced. And finally today, Amanda Dyar reports that Vanish, horror puzzle/adventure game, is available for Linux.

KDE 5 is here. With the memories of the months following the KDE 4 initial announcement still quite vivid, the news of Plasma 5 brings mixed emotions. Today's announcement read:

KDE proudly announces the immediate availability of Plasma 5.0, providing a visually updated core desktop experience that is easy to use and familiar to the user. Plasma 5.0 introduces a new major version of KDE's workspace offering. The new Breeze artwork concept introduces cleaner visuals and improved readability. Central work-flows have been streamlined, while well-known overarching interaction patterns are left intact.

Many of the major news outlets have picked up on the story, but Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols makes about as much sense out of all the confusion as anyone could and even test drove it already. He said, "I found this new KDE Plasma 5 to be a good, solid desktop. Unlike GNOME 3, KDE users will be pleased with this new model KDE." I hope so. Perhaps Jonathan Riddell cleared it up some when he wrote, "Plasma is KDE's desktop."

Arstechnica.com was reporting that LibreSSL was unsafe for Linux users because a "catastrophic failure" in the pseudo random number generator. An expert in these things found under the right conditions it produced identical number sequences two or more times. In an update, Arstechnica quotes Theo de Raadt saying those right conditions "will never happen in real code." But see their full story for all the details.

Debian 7.6 was quietly released over the weekend - I almost missed it! For folks keeping up with the updates, no action is required; but new images are available for new users or fresh installs. There were no new features, just important bug and security fixes. See the full announcement for more.

In other news:

* Step Into Your Very Own Nightmares With Vanish On PC, Mac and Linux

* Opera Developer 24: Important fixes for H.264, tab previews and HiDPI

* How to use public PCs safely with Linux

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Chrome OS Moves Away from Legacy Packaged Apps, Welcomes Offline Model

Tuesday 15th of July 2014 03:02:29 PM

In recent weeks, Google has been reengineering a key aspect of the app ecosystem surrounding its Chrome OS platform and Chromebooks based on it: It is calling loudly for all local Chrome OS apps to be able to work offline. This is a major shift from the company's original strategy of making Chrome OS a nearly entirely cloud-centric operating system, and opens up new possibilities for enterprise users and consumers.

In 2010, Google created packaged apps to fill a missing link between extensions and hosted apps.  In a recent post, the company mandated that "no new legacy packaged apps can be published in the Chrome Web Store."

Apps that don’t work offline are still going to be supported, but they’ll become known as “hosted apps” — programs that run within a Chrome browser window.

Google recently finally gave Chromebook users a way to watch Google Play Movies and TV offline, and an increasing number of apps for Chrome OS work offline. This is just the latest in a series of moves Google has made to be a little less two-fisted about keeping Chrome OS totally cloud-centric. The company has added automatic offline Drive document syncing in Chrome and Google Keep for online or offline notetaking. Many Chrome apps work online or offline, including games, video editors, and more. And, Google has provided Gmail and Google Calendar offline features for several years. For a comprehensive look at Chrome OS' offline capabilities, see ZDNet's story

Chromebooks have been doing better and better in the market, finding a market in school systems and some enterprises. Reportedly, Dell's Chromebooks have been selling so well that they've temporarily been pulled from the sales channel while Dell catches up to demand. 


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Firefox OS Phones Reported Due in India in July, in $50 Range

Tuesday 15th of July 2014 02:47:08 PM

It looks like India may be the next global market where Mozilla tests demand for ultra-low cost smartphones based on its Firefox OS mobile platform. The phones will be available for prices of up to $50, DigiTimes has reported, quoting company COO and Mozilla Taiwan CEO Gong Li, but Mozilla has also been making noise about delivering $25 phones. Because India remains a hugely fast-growing market for mobile phones and apps, the region could be a proving ground for Mozilla.

Mozilla has been making much noise about the Firefox OS mobile platform, and new $25 phones that it wants to bring to emerging markets.  The company already announced its plans to deliver a $25 smartphone by the end of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported recently. 

TIME has pronounced the move "a brilliant game-changer," but let's remember that mobile phones are all about the apps, and even Mozilla officials have stopped short of calling Firefox OS phones "smartphones" in the sense that they run the robust apps that iOS and Android phones do.

According to DigiTimes, the first phones in India, due in July, will be more in the range of $50:

"With low-cost chip solutions developed by China-based Spreadtrum Communications and cooperation with smartphone ODMs, Mozilla has succeeded in keeping production cost down to US$25 for models carrying retail prices of up to US$50, Gong indicated."

"There have been 10 hardware makers and more than 20 mobile telecom carriers supporting Firefox OS platform, Gong said. LG Electronics and China-based vendors Alcatel OneTouch, Huawei Device and ZTE have launched Firefox smartphones in 15 countries, Gong indicated."

Mozilla's goal is clearly to create new smartphone owners, and bring apps to people who have never used them.

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.

Meanwhile, Mozilla needs to find success with its Firefox OS strategy, as the Firefox desktop browser has been falling, while Google Chrome's has been rising. 




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Best Linux Desktop, FreeDOS Still Matters, and Darksiders

Tuesday 15th of July 2014 02:55:24 AM

In today's Linux news, Matt Hartley looks at 10 Linux distributions he likes and recommends. Arstechnica.com says DOS still matters and speaks with those still working on FreeDOS. Chin Wong rediscovers Opera and Jim Whitehurst discusses Red Hat. Raspberry Pi introduces a new board and Darksiders is rumored to heading to Linux. This and more awaits inside.

Matt Hartley is back this week with an article looking at 10 Linux desktop distributions he likes and recommends the most for various segments of the user base. Beginning with newcomers, he mostly recommends the Ubuntu and derivatives, but also included SolydX and PCLinuxOS. For the more experienced he suggests Sabayon or Antergos and the more enthusiastic Gentoo or Arch. But see his full article for more.

Arstechnica.com says that although FreeDOS is "barely an operating system" the developers have found plenty of reason to keep on working on it. The FreeDOS project is 20 years old but developers like it because it allows them "to get very, very close to the hardware." It lends itself to virtualization and allows developers "to build monolithic applications that use all of the computing power of the machine they run on without the overhead of more complex operating systems." It also runs those old 20 year old DOS games says one of the guys interviewed. You'd might be surprised at some of the places still running *DOS. See the full story for lots more.

Two alternative browsers got attention in the news today. First up, Chin Wong, syndicated at Manila Standard, today wrote, "I recently rediscovered Opera." Opera shunned Linux for over a year but recently released a developmental version that runs on Linux. He says he likes what he sees so far, but he'll be writing more in the coming weeks on Opera.

In other browser news, Engadget.com recently featured Breach, a new Open Source web browser that includes support for Linux. It's described as "an open source modular web browser designed to allow anybody to tweak and modify it on a whim." It's still early in development, but an alpha is available.

Distrowatch.com today explained in a bit more detail of their connectivity issues last weekend. The fault lay with their domain registrar, of which has since been relieved of their duties. In other areas of today's Distrowatch Weekly, Jesse Smith reviews Manjaro Linux 0.8.10 (Xfce edition) and also discusses Opera in a look at alternative applications. Be sure to check out the news section where I first read of the new Raspberry Pi B+ board. Betanews.com also has a wee peek at the B+ as well.

Darksiders may be coming to Linux according to these posts at Polygon.com and SegmentNext.com. They both feature a screenshot leaked out on the game's Facebook page that says "Darksiders Linux" in the window title. Polygon.com spoke with Nordic Games who confirmed a Linux version is being developed. In other gaming news, Michael Harrison is reporting that Epic Games is contributing to Blender and other Open Source projects.

In other news, Tom Henderson reviews Ubuntu 14.04 and ZDNet.com speaks with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst about CentOS and stuff.

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Internet Titans Defend Net Neutrality in an FCC Missive

Monday 14th of July 2014 03:18:39 PM

In recent weeks, there have been several notable developments related to the future of Internet freedom and access. Now, The Internet Association, a consortium that includes Facebook, Google, Twitter and Netflix, has a comment filed  with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission demanding better enforceable net neutrality rules for boh wired and mobile networks.

Debates over net neutrality have been ongoing for years. These debates are central to whether information gets to you quickly and without a third party getting in the way of the content. They are also central to making sure that more people have Internet access.

The FCC has been crafting a new proposal to regulate net neutrality after a U.S. appeals court threw out its original regulations in January. The FCC has also angered many people by acknowledging so-called “commercially reasonable” traffic management and prioritization policies from broadband providers.

As PC World notes:

"The comment from The Internet Association, filed as the official comment period draws to a close, says the FCC should enforce a strong net neutrality by adopting 'simple, light-touch rules to ensure that the Internet remains open, dynamic, and spontaneous.' These rules should help the Internet be free from censorship, discrimination and anticompetitive behavior, and give consumers equal access to the content they want."

The New York Times also has a notable Op-Ed piece on the topic, which notes:

"While the concept of net neutrality seems complex, the solution is simple: We should classify broadband access as a utility. Internet providers should be considered common carriers, just as cellphone companies are for voice access, which they are not allowed to block or degrade. The Internet should be a level playing field."

It's worth reading The Internet Association's full comment document. For its part, the F.C.C. has asked citizens to give thoughts on the proposed new rules. More than 200,000 people have responded, and you can provide your input as well.

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