Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Software Foundation

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During iPad’s announcement earlier this year Free Software Foundation hired a Steve Jobs look-alike (attempted) actor outside the event to express what they think about Apple’s closed platform model. At that time, most of us might have laughed it off. But in light of recent Apple announcement, rules putting more restrictions on an already heavily controlled platform, this seems very appropriate.


Free Software Foundation was right | Geek Technica

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ubuntu 10.10 to be codenamed Maverick Meerkat

Ubuntu 10.04, codenamed Lucid Lynx, is scheduled for release this month. The developers at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution, have already started the process of planning for the next major release. Founder Mark Shuttleworth revealed today in a blog entry that Ubuntu 10.10, which is scheduled to arrive in October, will be codenamed Moribund Moth Maverick Meerkat.

Ubuntu 10.04 is a long-term support release, which means that the focus during the current development cycle has largely been on stabilization and refining the existing technology. Shuttleworth says that we can expect to see a return to experimentation in the 10.10 release, with the potential for some radical changes.

Some of the most important goals include delivering a new Ubuntu Netbook Edition user interface, improving the Web experience, boosting startup performance, and extending social network integration on the desktop. Shuttleworth also hopes to advance Ubuntu's cloud support by simplifying deployment and making it easier to manage cloud computing workloads.

The meerkat was chosen as the mascot for the new version because the creature embodies some of the key values that will influence the coming development cycle.

"This is a time of change, and we're not afraid to surprise people with a bold move if the opportunity for dramatic improvement presents itself. We want to put Ubuntu and free software on every single consumer PC that ships from a major manufacturer, the ultimate maverick move," Shuttleworth wrote in the announcement. "Meerkats are, of course, light, fast and social—everything we want in a Perfect 10."

Canonical's staff, Ubuntu contributors, third-party application developers, and members of various upstream communities will gather in Belgium next month for the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), an event that takes place near the beginning of each new Ubuntu development cycle. This event provides a venue for planning the details of the next major version of the distribution. More specific details about the Maverick roadmap will be available after the event.

Ubuntu 10.10 will coincide with the launch of GNOME 3, a major overhaul of the open source desktop environment that provides significant parts of the Ubuntu user experience. Shuttleworth's statements about bold moves and opportunities for dramatic improvement suggest that we could potentially see Ubuntu adopt the new GNOME Shell if it proves suitable. It's possible that we could also see the new default theme evolve and benefit from experimental features that were deferred during this cycle, such as RGBA colormaps and client-side window decorations.

The upcoming 10.04 release is looking really impressieve. Users can expect to see even more progress as the Malodorous Mongoose Maverick Meerkat begins to take shape. As usual, we invite our readers to share their most humorous alternate codename suggestions in the discussion thread.


Ubuntu 10.10 to be codenamed Maverick Meerkat

The short life and hard times of a Linux virus

Why aren't the existing Linux viruses[1] anything more than a topic for conversation? Why don't they affect you in your daily computing in the way that MS viruses affect Windows users?

There are several reasons for the non-issue of the Linux virus. Most of those reasons a Linux user would already be familiar with, but there is one, all important, reason that a student of evolution or zoology would also appreciate.

First, let's take a look at the way Linux has stacked the deck against the virus.

For a Linux binary virus to infect executables, those executables must be writable by the user activating the virus. That is not likely to be the case. Chances are, the programs are owned by root and the user is running from a non-privileged account. Further, the less experienced the user, the lower the likelihood that he actually owns any executable programs. Therefore, the users who are the least savvy about such hazards are also the ones with the least fertile home directories for viruses.

Even if the virus successfully infects a program owned by the user, its task of propagation is made much more difficult by the limited privileges of the user account. [For neophyte Linux users running a single-user system, of course, this argument may not apply. Such a user might be careless with the root account.]

Linux networking programs are conservatively constructed, without the high-level macro facilities that have enabled the recent Windows viruses to propagate so rapidly. This is not an inherent feature of Linux; it is simply a reflection of the differences between the two user bases and the resulting differences between the products that are successful in those markets. The lessons learned from observing these problems will also serve as an innoculation for future Linux products as well.

Linux applications and system software is almost all open source. Because so much of the Linux market is accustomed to the availability of source code, binary-only products are rare and have a harder time achieving a substantial market presence. This has two effects on the virus. First, open source code is a tough place for a virus to hide. Second, for the binary-only virus, a newly compiled installation cuts off a prime propagation vector.

Each one of these obstacles represents a significant impediment to the success of a virus. It is when they are considered together, however, that the basic problem emerges.

A computer virus, like a biological virus, must have a reproduction rate that exceeds its death (eradication) rate in order to spread. Each of the above obstacles significantly reduces the reproduction rate of the Linux virus. If the reproduction rate falls below the threshold necessary to replace the existing population, the virus is doomed from the beginning -- even before news reports start to raise the awareness level of potential victims.

The reason that we have not seen a real Linux virus epidemic in the wild is simply that none of the existing Linux viruses can thrive in the hostile environment that Linux provides. The Linux viruses that exist today are nothing more than technical curiosities; the reality is that there is no viable Linux virus.

Of course this doesn't mean that there can never be a Linux virus epidemic.[2] It does mean, however, that a successful Linux virus must be well-crafted and innovative to succeed in the inhospitable Linux ecosystem.


[1] Bliss is the only Linux-compatible virus seen in the wild. Staog is the first known Linux virus.

[2] For another perspective on this issue, try this article on freshmeat.net.

The short life and hard times of a Linux virus