Friday, January 30, 2009

Why aren’t schools using open source software?

The BBC asked a similar question as they covered the British Education Training and Technology show.

With Open Source Software (OSS) freely available, covering almost every requirement in the national curriculum, a question has to be asked why schools do not back it more fully, possibly saving millions of pounds…In the education sector, OSS is promoted and used by only a handful of self-motivated technologists looking to stretch their technology budget.

Critics say Becta - the government agency that oversees the procurement of all technology for schools - has not done enough to promote OSS.

In the States, the use of open source software often feels actively discouraged; it certainly wouldn’t be encouraged or promoted by a government agency. However, Europe as a whole generally tends to be more pro-open source than the US.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Microsoft releases Web Sandbox under open source

Microsoft's technology for securing Web content is being offered under Apache license

Microsoft has made source code for its Live Labs Web Sandbox project for securing Web content through isolation available via open source under the Apache License 2.0, according to a report this week on Microsoft's Port 25 site.

Web Sandbox features technology for mashing up code while maintaining process isolation, quality of service protection, and security. It is intended to address a problem in which Web gadgets, mash up components, advertisements, and other third-party content on Web sites either will run full trust alongside content or are isolated inside of IFrames. This results in many Web applications being intrinsically insecure with unpredictable service quality.

Since announcing the technology preview at Professional Developer Conference 2008 in Los Angeles in October, Microsoft has open-sourced the Web Sandbox framework and is partnering with industry leaders to evolve Web Sandbox into an industry-wide solution, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is looking for developers to experiment with Web Sandbox, even including samples so developers can try to break the Sandbox.

"Since the initial release of Web Sandbox we have received a great deal of feedback from the Web security community. We have also been collaborating with a number of customers, partners, and the standards communities that would like to adopt the technology when it is ready. Our goal is to achieve widespread adoption of Web Sandbox and to help foster interoperability with complementary technologies like script frameworks," Microsoft Live Labs said on its Web Sandbox Web page.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mozilla gives £70k grant for open-source video

The Mozilla Foundation, which oversees Firefox and other open-source projects, has given a $100,000 (£70,000) grant towards development of the Theora open video technology.

Theora is a lossy video compression layer used in Ogg, which is an open container format used for streaming and multimedia. The most popular audio layer used in Ogg is Vorbis. Theora's main proprietary competitors are Mpeg-4 and WMV, while Vorbis competes with MP3 and others.

In a blog post on Monday, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, said Theora was "the best path available today for truly open, truly free video on the internet".

"We also believe that [Theora] can be improved in video quality, in performance, and in quality of implementation, and Mozilla is proud to be supporting the development of Theora software with a $100k grant," Shaver wrote. "Administered by the Wikimedia Foundation, this grant will be used to support development of improved Theora encoders and more powerful playback libraries."

Mozilla's director of evangelism, Christopher Blizzard, wrote in his blog on Monday: "Anyone can have an impact and anyone can affect the technology direction of the web", but said video remains an exception, as it is tied to proprietary formats.

"More often than not, [video formats] are subject to per-unit royalties, large up-front fees and creating content in those formats [is] often so expensive as to be prohibitive to all but only the deepest-pocketed corporations or well-funded start-ups," Blizzard wrote.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Open Source Software Shines in Recession's Gloom

With a tough economy forcing organizations to look for ways to cut costs—and with many open source projects reaching a maturity level that IT executives are comfortable with—the technology might be on the verge of making serious inroads into corporate IT environments

Not that long ago, open source software was regarded by many technology leaders as something to be used in a limited, even experimental way. Even today, some CIOs are skeptical about open source as a viable option for enterprise applications or to support critical business functions.

But interest in open source software is high, according to industry research. A report released by Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner Inc. in November 2008 shows that the adoption of open source software is becoming pervasive. Of the 274 worldwide companies surveyed by Gartner, 85% said they were currently using open source in their enterprises and the remaining 15% said they expect to use it in the next 12 months. Only one-third of the 1,017 technology and business professionals surveyed by Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass., in December 2007 expressed no interest in open source products.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Should federal government go open source?

Could the federal government be going open source? The BBC reports that President Obama has asked former Sun CEO Scott McNealy to report on the relative benefits of open source software. Imagine that: a president who has heard of open source software.

And McNealy will report just how large those benefits are.

It’s intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software. Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money.

And he wants open source mandates.

The government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability - all the benefits that come with open software.

Coming from McNealy, the opinion is hardly a neutral analysis. Sun is a vigorous proposal of open source and Unix; cofounder Bill Joy was a primary author of BSD. During his tenure as CEO, McNealy’s hallmark was his constant attacks on Microsoft and Bill Gates.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Open source survey: Mobile most lucrative

Mobile application development projects bring in more money than other types of open source software development, a study found. The survey was based on "extensive interviews" of 380 developers involved in open source Linux projects, says Dublin, Ireland, based research firm Research and Markets.

Though generally focused on enterprise and desktop Linux development, the survey also explores mobile and embedded development. Topics include languages, distributions, type and number of applications released, major obstacles to Linux and open source, development tools, security concerns, preferred chipsets, and licensing issues. A partial table of contents is listed farther below, and a link to the full contents list is found at the end of the story.

Open source distribution channels by revenue. Source: Research and Markets

Research and Markets is keeping the bulk of its Linux survey results close to the vest for now (except to paying customers, of course), but it has released a few interesting tidbits, covering distribution channels, bug fix durations, and types of open source projects. Here are some snapshots:

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

An odd choice to help government with open source strategy

In an effort to reduce rising government IT costs, the Obama administration could turn to open source software. Sun cofounder and former CEO Scott McNealy says that the Obama administration has asked him to prepare a paper that will address this topic and provide guidance on potential open source adoption strategies.

There are many ways that state and federal governments can save money by adopting open source software; large-scale Linux deployments in public schools in the United States have been highly successful, for instance. Overseas, foreign governments are bringing down IT costs by migrating technical infrastructure in government facilities. In addition to helping cut costs, open technologies also increase interoperability and give IT departments more flexibility in how they use and manage software.

Right man for the job?

Although Obama's interest in open source looks like a promising sign that the incoming government is serious about reforming federal IT procurement policies, the decision to call on Sun's eccentric cofounder is an incomprehensible twist. McNealy's long history of bizarre and contradictory positions on open source software make him a less than ideal candidate for helping to shape national policy on the subject. Asking Scott McNealy to write a paper about open source software is a bit like asking Dick Cheney to write a paper about government transparency.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sun's open source Java move gets mixed reviews

Two years later, availability is up, but Sun remains in charge of its future

In November 2006, Sun Microsystems began making all of its Java technology implementations open source, offering them under the GPL. More than two years later, reactions are mixed as to what exactly has been the impact of this momentous change.

Some, including the chief executive at Eclipse Foundation and Sun's own James Gosling, considered the father of Java, have seen little impact. "That was mostly about community relations," says Gosling, who is CTO of the client software group at Sun. "So far, I think it hasn't had too much [effect]," says Mike Milinkovich, executive director of Eclipse, which was spawned in an IBM-based effort to build Java tools.

But Sun's Jeet Kaul, senior vice president for the Java client group at Sun, sees it differently: "We have gotten a lot of people who have taken up the code and started building solutions with it. So the adoption that we have had, the adoption curve has grown dramatically ever since we did open source," he says. But he could not cite specific adoption figures.

"Sun's revenue for Java has increased ever since we did open source and has increased by double-digit numbers," Kaul says. Opportunities have increased in areas such as support, services, and solutions, and Java revenues will grow in 2009, he adds.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Open source developers take to the cloud

As many as 40 per cent of developers working on open source projects plan to offer their applications as web services hosted by cloud providers, according to the latest figures from Evans Data.

The market research firm said that its latest survey of over 360 developers proves that the cloud is becoming ever more popular, with 28 per cent of developers interviewed saying they plan to employ Google's App Engine, and 15 per cent Amazon's cloud computing services.

Microsoft, IBM and cloud services were also mentioned, but were by no means as popular as Google or Amazon.

The increasing costs of labour, datacentre resources and power are purportedly the reasons pushing firms rapidly in the direction of cloud computing.

"Many companies are using this model to not only reduce infrastructure costs, but simultaneously increase their computational capabilities," said Evans Data president and chief executive John Andrews.

Evans Data estimates that 30 per cent of open source applications are actually distributed through open source software portals, more than by any other means. However, the report also points out that those distributing their applications on mobile app stores are more likely to make money from them.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Nokia changing open source licensing for Qt

From the "what a difference an L makes" files:

Nokia is going to change the licensing for Qt (the open source graphics toolkit) from GPL to LGPL starting in March of this year with the Qt 4.5 release.

This is a BIG deal. The GPL license is more restrictive than the LGPL (lesser GPL) in how it is enabled to integrate with other non Free software. With the LGPL, Qt might be able to be more easily integrated (from a legal point of view) with a wider range of software. Qt has been available under a commercial license as well, but that presents its own set of issues and limits Qt to commercial software.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Linux & Open Source Bridging the Server Divide

Consolidating Linux and Windows servers may not be easy, but it may be best for the business.

Over the last several years, it has become very clear that the two dominant server operating system environments are Windows and Linux. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to find both these environments running inside the same organization.

Basically, there are three ways for this situation to come about. The first way is through inheritance, which is usually the result of some merger and acquisition activity in which one side of the deal was primarily running Windows servers while the other favored Linux.

The second, more common, scenario is more ad hoc. At some point, someone on the IT staff brought in Linux servers through the back door, and the application load running on those servers grew over time.

The third and most likely scenario involves a more deliberate strategy whereby the IT leadership has decided to embrace both operating system environments for different types of application workloads.

Most IT organizations chalk up the bickering between the Windows and Linux partisans to good-natured rivalry. But as the economy has taken what looks like an extended turn for the worse, the issue of costs associated with running both operating environments is starting to raise its ugly head.

As a result, the tenor of the Windows-versus-Linux debate is becoming shriller, as advocates for each begin to view the issue as a matter of survival: Many companies must start thinking about standardizing on one environment to reduce costs. The core issue is that each environment requires its own dedicated hardware, management tools and associated specialists.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Is Web 2.0 Possible with Existing Open Source Technologies?

If you Google "AJAX Web 2.0" you'll get over eight million hits, but what technologies will you find in that mix that can truly deliver on the promises of Web 2.0 today? While there's no single definition of Web 2.0, at its heart lays the Internet acting as a platform for social networks, where information can be created and shared in a community of interest. Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) relate to Web 2.0 concepts only in that they enhance the platform by providing a more effective user interface. AJAX relates to Web 2.0 only in that it provides a lightweight approach for developing RIAs that execute through a single ubiquitous interface, the Web browser.

An examination of the interaction models for existing social networking platforms like wikis and blogs reveals that they lack the instantaneous nature of true human interaction. This is an artifact of the synchronous Web model that must be overcome when we consider next-generation platforms envisioned in the Web 2.0 spectrum. Internet-based chat is the most basic example of the near-instantaneous interaction that Web 2.0 demands, but even delivering these basic capabilities in a scalable, lightweight, browser-based mechanism is beyond the scope of most AJAX technologies. In fact, if you sift through those eight million Google hits, you'll find only a handful of open source technologies that address the problems associated with pushing content asynchronously to the user through standard browser mechanisms. We'll provide an overview of those technologies later, but first some basics.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

From the Editors: Microsoft and open source

Microsoft has long had a hate-hate relationship with open source—not only with specific open-source projects like Linux, but also with the concept of non-proprietary software.

It’s not hard to see why Microsoft execs like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have been historically vitriolic about open source. Many of Microsoft’s most profitable products have open-source competitors. To name just a few: Windows has Linux. IIS has Apache. SQL Server has MySQL. Visual Studio has Eclipse and NetBeans. Internet Explorer has Firefox. Office has OpenOffice. .NET has Java (which is sort of open source).

Some of those competitors, like Linux-based servers, represent a serious long-term threat to Microsoft’s revenue. Others, like OpenOffice, haven’t had a significant impact. Even so, Microsoft has also had a philosophical difference with the entire open-source movement. Ballmer, for example, has made public statements claiming that open-source software is a cancer and that open-source software is not trustworthy.

One should not blame Microsoft for speaking out against competing products and against a model for software development that’s the opposite of its own closed-source, proprietary-protocols model for customer lock-in. As a for-profit company, Microsoft’s executives have a fiduciary responsibility to consider their company’s revenues. If they honestly believe that open source is a threat to their revenue, they have no choice but to fight against it.

However, it’s clear that today Microsoft does not see open source as a complete threat like it did in the early 2000s, when it was most vocal against Linux and other open-source projects. As our interview with Sam Ramji shows, Microsoft is beginning to provide its product teams with the flexibility to work with open-source software and to consider interoperability with open-source software.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Memorable Linux moments of 2008

Ah 2008, I hardly knew ye. Actually I knew ye quite well because there were certainly some personal Linux milestone moments. Profound? Hardly. Important? Personally, sure. Will they matter to you? Maybe not, but they might, just might, make you ponder your own 2008 Linux moments, compare them, and make you realize how important Linux has become to you.

Enough with the intro. Let’s get on with the moments!

  1. Vista. I thought it apropos to begin with one of the biggest blunders to come out of Redmond in a long time. Vista. But how is Vista an important Linux moment? Glad you asked. Microsoft proclaimed that Vista would change the way you view the PC experience. The Vista tagline? “Clear, Confident, Connected.” What the Vista tagline should have read was “Vista: Trying to roll Linux, OS X, and XP into one.” For me what Vista did was solidified the Linux desktop. The Linux desktop has been very slowly marching forward and, for the most part, continuing to improve. Vista also reminded me that Linux will always have a place on the desktop as long as machines age. The hardware requirements for Vista where nearly enough to create an entire Beowulf cluster of Linux machines. And the Vista desktop was nothing more than yet another way for Microsoft to prove they have no clue what the PC desktop should be. Give me Enlightenment, GNOME, KDE, Fluxbox…heck, give me console over Vista!

  2. Return to E! I figured the above was a good segue into my usual diatribe about the Enlightenment window manager. At some point a year or so ago I was wooed over to Compiz-Fusion. It was cool, it was slick (it did 3-D effects on hardware that couldn’t even try to run Vista), and I was seduced. But at some point I grew tired of all the bells and whistles and went back to good old Enlightenment E16. I have my system resources back. I have all the familiar themes and configuration files back. I am happy. I know many would look at this as a step backwards, but when your window manager is already light years ahead of most others (in the way of ease of use, requirements, and cool-factor), it’s really a step forward. This is one 2008 Linux moment I was happy to see.

  3. A rekindled flame with Fedora. It had been a while since I was happy with the hat. But with the release of 10, Fedora has won over a soft spot in my heart again. It’s not perfect but it’s worth using again. And for all of those flaming me for using such a simplified Linux distribution, at least I can say, “There’s my Fedora install!” No, it’s not Slack or Gentoo but when everything (and I mean everything) works out of the box on a Sony Vaio you know the Fedora developers have to be doing something right.

  4. Ink, ink, and more ink. In 2008 I got my first Linux-related tattoo. The ink in question was a Tux penguin on my forearm. That naturally led to even more. Currently I am sporting Tux, a Ubuntu logo on my right shoulder, and a Red Hat Logo on my bicep. My goal is to have logos from every distribution I have used on me. Crazy? Yes. But Linux has been a rather big deal to me over the years. I dare say that I have made a living from covering the operating system and on some level feel like I owe it to the open source darling. I have always considered myself a poster-child for Linux. Now I am more a poster.

  5. Economics of Tux. I don’t want to seem like I am making light of the horrid state of the world economics. I am not. But, from my perspective, if there is anything good to come from this global-sized economic downturn in the IT industry is that Linux will prosper. IT budgets have been slashed and they are turning for much cheaper alternatives. One of the first places to turn is Linux. From personal to enterprise, people are discovering that costs can be seriously cut just by replacing costly licensing fee-based operating systems and software with open source alternatives. Because of this, when the economy turns back upward and everyone can finally breathe a sigh of relief, IT departments are going to realize their decisions to deploy Linux were very sound.

  6. Android. The release of an Android-based phone was big. It finally showed the industry that Linux can and will make a huge splash on the phone market. On top of that it could herald the day when Apple can wipe the smug “We’re the only player in the game” grin off their faces. The Android mobile OS is big…dare I say, huge! Although I am still currently stuck with an AT&T iPhone plan, as soon as I am able, I will be switching from the ever-closed Apple product to something a little more in line with me. It would be perfect if AT&T would pick up an Android-based phone, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I am sure Apple had a nice clause written into their deal that won’t allow AT&T to sell competitors phones.

  7. Eee PC. I bought one. Why? It only made sense. To have a book-sized PC to carry around and not fear it failing for one reason or another is perfect for the media writer on the go. And the fact that the PC is running a version of Linux seals the deal. But this is not really why this is a high point. The reason the Eee PC is a highpoint is that it is yet another reason why Linux will soon step closer to it’s age-old war cry of “World Domination.” I will also take this moment to say: If you plan on purchasing a netbook, do yourself a favor and purchase one running the Linux OS. That way you won’t be carrying around a mobile virus magnet that isn’t nearly as easy to re-install Windows on (when it’s BSoD’ing every 10 minutes) as your desktop.

  8. Spreading the word. For some reason 2008 was a good year for spreading the word of Linux. Be it here, clients, friends, or strangers, I managed to convince a lot of people to give either Linux or open source a try. I managed to convert over twenty people to the Linux operating system, countless people to Firefox, and even more to OpenOffice. Honorable mention would have to go to: Scribus, The Gimp, Thunderbird, Gnucash, and Songbird. Each of these applications have found at least one new fan.

  9. Nolapro. Okay, I have to add this one even though it isn’t an open source application. It is a free application that runs on a Linux LAMP server though, and it is one of the most extensive Point of Sale applications I have ever used (especially at that price range.) I have rolled Nolapro out a number of times and it never ceases to please. I do wish that Noguska would open up the source code of this application. I have a feeling if they would do that, they would find themselves with a lot more installations across the globe. By opening up their source, the open source community would see this as a very viable solution to a problem that comes up more and more often.I don’t think opening up their source would damage their profit as they make no profit off the application in the first place. Nolapro saved my skin a few times in 2008. They deserve a big nod!

  10. Techrepublic. I know this is going to sound a bit “shmaltzy” but being able to soapbox for the Linux operating system here on Techrepublic has been the highlight of my technical writing career. And in 2008 I was able to not only continue that trend but make some new friends as well. There are some good people on this site who have a lot of knowledge to share and are passionate about Linux and open source. I hope 2009 will bring even more of that passion and interest to the open source blog.
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Monday, January 12, 2009

How Open Source could save the Media Industry

Youtube was a brilliant idea. Allow users to sign up for accounts and upload video after video after video. Without dolling out so much as a penny Youtube managed to gather millions of user-created videos that other users could watch and enjoy (or not). It was content created by the masses at no charge to the owner.
But if you read the licensing close enough you realize that basically once you upload a video you can not modify said video (or any aspect of the youtube experience). You can not redistribute user videos on Youtube even though the user may have no copyright on the video.

I would like to see the Youtube experience taken a step farther. I would like videos, as long as the creators of said videos would agree, to be modified. Say, for instance, someone makes a short movie but wants to know how to improve the movie. The creator could upload the movie and ask other users to help to finish the creation. Open Source!

Where I am going with this is simple: the media industry (especially the recording industry) is severely broken. And because of the greed at the top of that particular food chain is so strong, it’s going to take a miracle to fix it. I think open source might very well be the solution.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

How secure is open source disk-encryption?

When it comes to IT security, my recommendation is to always choose the device or software that you deem provides the most effective product for the threat that you are trying to mitigate. When appraising potential devices, the cost of buying, installing and then maintaining them will nearly always be an important consideration. In the unlikely situation of having an unlimited budget, you would obviously choose the best tool available.

In the real world, however, it's important to weigh potential benefits of different options against their costs to ensure that you get the most out of a limited budget. Obviously, an open source product seems attractive if there's a restricted amount of money available to spend. Although if it doesn't meet the evaluation criteria, then the product probably isn't the correct choice. Also, if it is likely to lead to onerous support or administration issues, then these costs need to be taken into account as well. Let's look then at whether open source disk encryption software can provide an effective alternative to shrink-wrapped vendorware.

Firstly, I would never consider any software that uses a proprietary encryption algorithm. At the core of any product with cryptographic services will be its cryptographic module. A cryptographic module using a proprietary encryption algorithm will not have had adequate testing and validation against established standards to provide the necessary security assurance. Obviously with open source software, the cryptographic module is never going to be proprietary and can and will be pored over by security experts.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Vietnam Pushes Open-source Software for Government Use

The Vietnamese government will move to several open-source applications by the end of next year as the country also tries to reduce the use of pirated software.

Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications has mandated that applications such as the productivity suite, Firefox browser, Thunderbird e-mail client and UniKey Vietnamese keyboard client be installed at government agencies by the end of June, according to a report by Wednesday VietnamNet, a government-owned news agency. The ministry published the original order on Dec. 30.

At least half of the employees at those agencies should be able to use the programs by the June deadline, VietnamNet reported. By the end of 2009, 70 percent of the workstations in local state agencies should have the software installed, with 40 percent of employees proficient in their use. Vietnam is aiming for all employees to be trained to use the applications by the end of 2010.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Will More iPhone Apps go Open Source?

Ever since Apple finally lifted the NDA covering the iPhone SDK, a small number of developers have started to open source their native iPhone apps. Today, Freshbooks, a popular online time-tracking and invoicing service, joined this group by open sourcing its native iPhone application. Other open source iPhone apps include Wordpress, the applications from Apps Amuck's 31 Days of iPhone Apps, and a collection of source code for handling the iPhone's touch controls.

Building a Community

As Freshbook's Sunir Shah rightly points out, an open source ecosystem can only thrive when enough developers decide to join the community. Right now, the open source iPhone apps that are available are quite good, but there are also very few of them. Apple itself puts too many road blocks in front of potential developers, which, as Shah argues, will lead most of these collaborative projects to develop web apps instead of native apps. However, given the limitations of the web apps platform compared to the native iPhone platform, these applications won't be able to really harness the power of these devices.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

10 predictions for Linux and open source in 2009

2009 is here. And for people like me, that means it’s time to put together not a “year in review” but a “year in preview.” I don’t like to look back; I like to look ahead. So I offer you this list of what I see in the year to come for the Linux operating system and open source software.

#1: Android

I think 2009 is going to see the Android mobile operating system finally showing Apple and the iPhone that there is, indeed, another game in town. So far, we really only have the T-Mobile G1. But waiting in the wings are the Motorola Android phone, the Asus Eee Phone, the OpenMoko GTA02, and an LG Android phone. These are all rumored to be arriving some time in 2009. When they do hit the shelves, things are going to be interesting for the iPhone.

Think about it — an iPhone-like piece of hardware with open source software that anyone can develop for. No more App Store headaches. No more wondering if anyone might ever develop that killer app you need (or waiting for Apple to approve that killer app you need). Add to that the fact that the operating system itself is open, which means when problems arise they will be fixed. Oh, and need I say “copy/paste”? I didn’t think so. 2009 will bring an end to the idea that the iPhone is the only smart phone to own.

#2: GNOME vs. KDE

I think 2009 will finally see GNOME rise above KDE as the better Linux desktop. For a long time, GNOME has been suffocated by the presence of KDE 3.x and with good reason — KDE 3.x was an outstanding desktop. KDE 3.x had everything a good Linux desktop should have: user friendliness, stability, flexibility, eye candy. GNOME was trying too hard to be a bad copy of OS X. With the advent of KDE 4 the tables have turned.

This is not just a situation where KDE 4.x is so bad that GNOME, as bad as it is, is better. GNOME 2.24 is good, really good. GNOME has gone a little ways to restoring its roots and allowing a bit more flexibility with the desktop. But more important, GNOME 2.24 has finally found some solid footing. GNOME is now as stable as KDE 3.x ever was. And now that KDE has obviously decided to go down a much less popular route with KDE 4, it is going to have a hard year. More and more people and distributions will drop KDE in favor of GNOME. I realize there is no going back for KDE, but going forward better bring much more promise than this Linux desktop has shown thus far.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The smallest threat to open source in 2009

On the first of the month — also the first of the year — Dana Blankenhorn published the sensationally titled The biggest threat to open source in 2009. His thesis is simple: that, because open source software usually lacks any mechanisms for easily updating to the latest security patched version, the growing popularity of open source software will render it more vulnerable to problems than its closed source counterparts.

As a lead-in to his main point, he said:

There is no longer any doubt that hackers and malware writers are going after open source projects as they once went after Windows. Vulnerabilities are being found, discovered, created, exchanged.

There seems to be a common malady amongst opinionated tech writers — that of never quite getting it when it comes to the fundamental principles of security. A particular favorite for being ignored is that of security through obscurity. Many many moons ago, I wrote what I think is a decent treatment of the subject as it applies to open source software, Security through visibility. While it makes a pretty strong case for ignoring the bleatings of “popularity is insecurity” doomsayers, it’s really only the first step toward full understanding of all the problems with the assumption that the only thing “secure” about open source software is obscurity.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Should open source boycott Microsoft?

I don’t think so, but then I read headlines like this, from the Manila Bulletin in the Philippines, and I wonder if such a boycott does not already exist.

Pinoy open source firm, MS ink unholy alliance.

Unholy, Sparky? Really? The story describes a deal between Winston Demarillo’s Exist Global and Microsoft to “enable the creation of more interoperable programs.”

The story adds that Microsoft is building two, not one but two, software labs in the country — in Quezon City and at the University of the Philippines.

Still, I couldn’t get that word out of my head. Unholy. Is open source really a holy business model, a holy contract? Is any company standing against it unclean, to be shunned?

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Microsoft Keeps Embracing Open Source, Digs PHP

Microsoft, the commercial software behemoth from Redmond, Washington, continues to dip its toes into the open source pool. Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center (OSTC) is home to the software vendor's relationships with a few open source products such as MySQL and SugarCRM. The OSTC has been hard at work lately -- especially, in the web application space.

After releasing their own open source CMS and making it easy to install open source applications on Windows Server, what else has Redmond been up to?
Forging New Partnerships

The standard web programming language on the Internet is PHP. The scripting language part of what is known as the LAMP stack which includes the Linux operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database engine and PHP as the final component of the host platform for many well known web sites and web applications.

Microsoft has been contributing to the PHP framework in a number of ways, as CNET reports. Most notably, Microsoft has been funding work that has led to enhancements in the PHP run-time engine and PHP application projects.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

A look back at the open source victories of 2008

The past year brought some exciting advancements for the Linux operating system and open source software. Open technology continues to become more pervasive and the Linux kernel is now widely used in a multitude of mainstream products ranging from set-top boxes to mobile phones. With 2008 coming to a close, we wanted to take a minute to look at some events of significance to the open source software community.

Mozilla releases Firefox 3

Mozilla's Firefox web browser is one of the most successful and widely-known open source software applications. The popular browser continued its ascent this year with the official launch of Firefox 3, which attracted a record-setting 8 million downloads in the first 24 hours. The release was widely reported in the mainstream press and even got the coveted Colbert Bump.

Google releases Chrome

Google also dropped a browser bombshell this year with the launch of Chrome, its own open source WebKit-based browser for Windows. Chrome delivered some excellent innovations, including a process isolation system and a built-in task manager that allows users to view the resource consumption of individual tabs. Google has pushed Chrome forward at a rapid pace and has closed some of the remaining feature gaps by introducing a complete bookmark manager and other capabilities. The browser exited beta earlier this month and could soon land preinstalled on hardware from major manufacturers.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

The biggest threat to open source in 2009

Security and updates, which are often the same thing.

There is no longer any doubt that hackers and malware writers are going after open source projects as they once went after Windows. Vulnerabilities are being found, discovered, created, exchanged.

The best protection against vulnerabilities is to keep software updated, but most open source lacks update services. That’s one part of the Windows license that is worth paying for, and there does not seem to be an open source equivalent.

An exception is Firefox (above, from SecurityMike). But how many take advantage of this? And how tied is Firefox to updating for security purposes? Remember we’re talking about pushing updates, not asking users to pull them.

In any case, the enterprise market is more important here. Servers hold more secrets than clients.

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