All posts by Dawn

This Week in Open Source News Mar 13 – Mar 19

Red Hat’s Virtualization Plans

Red Hat announced plans this week to include virtualization capabilities in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, version 5, set to be released later this year. The virtualization capabilities will be based on the open source Xen virtualization engine with a goal of helping enterprise customers get better performance from their servers. Virtualization will provide better workload management, increased server CPU utilization, better server availability, and the ability to run multiple operating systems on the same server simultaneously.

Red Hat has admitted to difficulty in getting the virtualization capabilities added to the main Linux kernel. This means that Red Hat will have to sustain their new virtualization features separately, which will increase the amount of work required to maintain and support this effort. When they are finally incorporated into the main Linux kernel, Red Hat will be able to use the virtualization capabilities within the kernel, rather than having to reincorporate these capabilities for each new Red Hat release.

Red Hat has been increasingly focused on serving enterprise customers, and these improved virtualization capabilities help to support this strategy by providing more features required by enterprise IT.

IBM Becomes an Authorized Supplier of Open Source Solutions to the New South Wales Government

Last week, Novell became an authorized open source supplier to the New South Wales (NSW) government in Australia, and this week a spokesperson for the NSW government confirmed IBM’s participation in this effort. They are also believed to be negotiating with Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. IBM has been embracing open source software for quite a few years, so it is not surprising to see them continue to be involved in open source government efforts.

The Economist Special Report on Open Source Business

The Economist had a great article this week on Open Source; however, the tagline was a bit misleading, “As ‘open-source’ models move beyond software into other businesses, their limitations are becoming apparent.” This refers to the ability of anyone to contribute to open source software, which can cause disruption to projects that are not effectively self-policed. The reality is that the well-run projects have management structures and close-knit development communities that regulate contributions based on meritocracy. This was described in the article, and the article is well balanced despite the misleading tagline.

This is a great overview article of open source software that does a great job of explaining how open source communities differ along with the strengths and challenges associated with open source. I encourage everyone to read it.

Oracle FAQ runs MySQL

While reading Zach Urlocker’s blog, I ran across this link to an Oracle FAQ forum that runs MySQL as the database. Here is a quick snippet from the forum:

“I’m ashamed to admit, but most of the site is using MySQL. Now that Oracle XE is available, I hope we could port some sections to Oracle. However, database replacements are never easy. So, don’t expect it too soon.Every penny we make goes back into running and developing this site. There is no way we would be able to raise the money required to buy a commercial Oracle license.” (OraFAQ Forum)

More and more popular sites are moving to MySQL: Yahoo, Google, Craigslist, Travelocity, etc. This open source database has certainly moved into wide acceptance within mission critical business environments.

Open Source Applications on Windows

Too many people associate open source with Linux and make the assumption that you have to run the Linux operating system if you want to run open source software. The popularity of Firefox is starting to change that perception, and here is a simple list of other open source software that people can run on Windows. Most of these are obvious to those of us who have been using open source; however, it is an excellent resource for people who are new to open source and are ready to move beyond Firefox.

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Firefox Memory Leak Resource

I previously mentioned that my only issue with Firefox relates to excessive memory usage. I love Firefox, and I have been willing to put up with the occasional memory leak.

However, here is a great resource that provides details about the Firefox memory leaks along with some solutions and workarounds.

For example, one of my favorite extensions, Forecastfox, which displays a mini weather report in my toolbar, is a “known leaky extension” that may be the source of some of my problems. A number of tweaks are also available that allow you customize how Firefox uses memory. I encourage anyone experiencing memory issues to read this thread.

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Bill Gates Mocks MIT’s $100 laptop project

The One Laptop per Child initiative launched by MIT plans to provide laptops to children in developing countries in partnership with governments and other organizations at a cost of $100 per laptop. These laptops run Red Hat’s Fedora Linux distribution and are currently in the development stage.

This week Bill Gates had the following comments about this initiative:

“The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk … and with a tiny little screen.”

“If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type,” (Reuters).

I have a number of issues with these comments. First, these systems were never intended to be shared computers; the goal is to provide each child with a computer. Second, the target markets for these computers are developing nations and other areas where computer usage is not widespread. In general, areas like rural Africa and other locations cannot be expected to have broadband connections to every village (I have not even been able to get broadband for my parents who live in rural Ohio).

I am really just not sure what Gates was thinking when he made these comments. This is an ambitious project designed to get computers into the hands of children who otherwise would not have access to this technology. This effort should be applauded, not ridiculed.

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Texas Hospital Embraces Open Source

Midland Memorial Hospital is implementing an electronic health record system from Medsphere based on open source software. The healthcare industry has historically been very careful about IT decisions and unwilling to take many risks. The use of open source software within the healthcare industry provides some evidence that open source is moving out of the early adopter fringes and into the mainstream IT market. I suspect that we will begin seeing more and more adoption of open source software within the healthcare industry over the next few years, and Medsphere will be a company to watch.

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Ubuntu Password Bug Fixed in a Few Hours

A critical bug exposing the root (administrator) password on Ubuntu systems was found and then fixed within a few hours. Open source communities tend to respond more quickly than proprietary companies; however, this response was truly amazing. The quick response shows how open source communities can take action to fix issues and support their users.

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This Week in Open Source News Mar 6 – Mar 12

Mozilla Confirms Making Millions of Dollars from Firefox

Earlier this week, I blogged about this story, and now Mozilla has officially confirmed that they have made millions of dollars from Firefox. The $72 million figure reported on Digg was not correct, but it was not off by much. As I mentioned earlier this week, being able to generate this kind of revenue will help Mozilla increase the resources available to make Firefox even more popular.

Novell Unveils More on Upcoming Linux Desktop and Appoints New Linux Executive

The new Linux desktop is designed for general office workers and has an animated user interface, desktop search, support for Excel macros and pivot tables in OpenOffice.org, and better plug and play support for devices.

“We have made a big investment taking the Linux desktop past everybody. The usability work we’ve done is not to reinvent Windows, but to reinvent a better desktop,” Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, Novell’s director of marketing for Linux and open source, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

“When Microsoft Vista ships it will catch up to us in a number of areas, but we’ll enjoy six months where Novell’s Linux desktop is in the lead,” he said (CNet).

The innovative approach that Novell has used with this new Linux desktop is what makes it so interesting. Too many people think of Linux as a Microsoft clone or technology follower; however, in this case, Novell is innovating ahead of Microsoft in a manner similar to how Firefox has innovated ahead of Internet Explorer.

In other news, Novell hired Roger Levy, previously from Lucent, to replace David Patrick as the general manager of the Open Platform Solutions business unit.

IBM Uses Linux and Windows on the Desktop

Earlier this week, there were rumors that IBM was moving all of their employees to Linux on the desktop and was not planning to renew their contract with Microsoft. While IBM is moving some users to Linux desktops, they are not planning to get rid of Microsoft Windows. Software developers and designers who need to use Linux as part of their jobs will be moving to Linux; however, the general population of IBM will not be switching to Linux on the desktop.

Australia Interested in Open Source Software

The New South Wales Department of Commerce signed an agreement this week with Novell that will provide government agencies with access to Linux and open source solutions. Security, cost, scalability, and access to open solutions were all factors in the decision to allow government departments to use Linux and open source. This is just one more example of how governments are considering open source, not just for cost reasons, but because it offers more choices, security, and other benefits.

Linus Torvalds Talks to Forbes about GPLv3

In this interview with Forbes on March 9, 2006, Linus describes his current issues with the latest version of the GPL; however, the GPLv3 is still a draft, and Linus is not making any firm judgments until the final version is released. Here are a few snippets from the interview:

Forbes: Where do you stand on the GPLv3?

Torvalds: Well, the thing is, there currently is no final GPLv3, there’s just a first draft. That first draft is unacceptable to me, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come to some agreement. …

So you are leaving the door open?

Hey, I’m flexible. Some people call it being indecisive, but personally, I think it’s a sign of intelligence when a person is able to change his mind when circumstances change. …

What changes would have to be made for you to adopt GPLv3?

Just to explain the fundamental issue: To me, the GPL really boils down to “I give out code, I want you to do the same.” The thing that makes me not want to use the GPLv3 in its current form is that it really tries to move more toward the “software freedom” goals. For example, the GPLv2 in no way limits your use of the software.

This is where the GPLv3 diverges. It limits how you can use the software. … And that’s my gripe. From where I’m standing, [the GPLv3] says that you suddenly can’t use the software in certain “evil ways” (where evil is defined by the FSF–it doesn’t actually cover the James Bond kind of evil, but if you can see Richard Stallman as a less dashing James Bond, it would be that kind of evil) (Forbes).

I encourage people to read this interview. Linus has quite a bit of insight, and he delivers it in an engaging and humorous manner. If the GPLv3 is not your cup of tea, Forbes also interviewed Linus to get his views on Tivo.

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Open Source at NASA

It does not surprise me that an organization like NASA would embrace open source, but I appreciate the reasons that they cite for using open source:

“The motivations for NASA to distribute software codes Open Source are:

  • to increase NASA software quality via community peer review
  • to accelerate software development via community contributions
  • to maximize the awareness and impact of NASA research
  • to increase dissemination of NASA software in support of NASA’s education mission” (NASA)

NASA is embracing the community elements of open source: peer review, contributions, and open sharing of information.

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