Category Archives: Open Source Software

Apache HTTP Server 2.4.1 Released

Apache Software Foundation announced the release of 2.4.1 version of the Apache HTTP server. This release brings in several new enhancements, features and bug fixes. Apache is known to be the most popular web server, powering about 58% of the web’s active sites. Some of the new features in 2.4 release include:

  • Loadable Multi-Processing Modules(MPM) allows for modules to be configured as loadable modules at compile time
  • Event MPM is no longer an experimental module
  • Better async support
  • Per-module and per-directory LogLevel configuration allows for more in-depth log capture and analysis
  • KeepAlive timeouts can now be configured in milliseconds
  • Reduced memory footprint

The 2.4 release also comes with some new modules, including

  • mod_proxy_fcgi which is a FastCGI Protocol backend for mod_proxy
  • mod_proxy_scgi which is a SCGI Protocol backend for mod_proxy
  • mod_proxy_html which supports fixing of HTML links in a reverse proxy situation
  • mod_auth_form allows for form-based authentication
  • mod_lua allows for embedding Lua into httpd

Some of the existing modules have been enhanced, including mod_ssl, mod_proxy, mod_rewrite amongst others. For developers, a full listing of API changes in 2.4 is available over here. A summary of vulnerabilities that have been fixed is available over here. While Apache Software Foundation encourages users of prior versions to upgrade, they do mention that modules written for Apache 2.2 may require recompilation and/or minimal source code changes. The announcement has an advisory mentioning that Apache 2.4.1 might not be suitable for all Windows servers, due to interoperability issues with mod_ssl and the server’s AcceptFilter feature. As of now, there is no binary package of Apache available and it should be made available as soon as the dependent components graduate out of their current beta state. For the rest, the release can be downloaded from here.

Oracle Takes Another Blow in the Android Patent Infringement Case

Oracle sued Google back in August 2010, expecting to walk away with big spoils of war. Instead, Google wrote to the patent and trademark office asking them to re-examine all patents in connection with the case, and this has caused Oracle to lose many patents it acquired from Sun Microsystems. Clearly, this case costed Oracle considerably in monetary and reputation damages. However, it continues pursuing the case hoping to have a positive turnout.

google-oracle

In December last year, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), on request for a re-examination by Google, invalidated a major Oracle patent. A few days back, Oracle received another blow in this case, when the PTO voided one more of its patents. Finally, Oracle regained some sense and decided to withdraw the claim 14 on the patent ‘467, but we can see that the damage has been done! This makes the entire ‘467 patent out of the scope of this lawsuit.

Moreover, for the third time in a row, Oracle has come up with inflated damage reports claiming more than the applicable reasonable amount. The initial claim from Oracle was a ridiculous 6 billion USD, which has come down to 52.4 – 169 million USD. Google is still not satisfied with these estimates, and has filed a motion to cut this damage list and hence the claim amount, shorter.

Groklaw mocks this whole case with this interesting argument.

Oracle bought Sun, everything Sun had, for what Oracle said was a transaction valued at “approximately $7.4 billion, or $5.6 billion net of Sun’s cash and debt”. That’s hardware, MySQL, Solaris, many things beyond just Java. So how could just six, now five, Java patents out of Sun’s more than 500 Java patents alone, add up to $6 billion? Why did anyone ever think this was a realistic figure instead of just hype?

At present, the PTO has confirmed only four of twenty-six Oracle claims. Oracle walked into the case without proper preparation, and is facing the consequences now. I just have one advice for Oracle. Stop already, and leave with the patents you can still call yours.

How to Install VLC 2.0 in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot


The VideoLAN Project released version 2 of their popular media player, VLC,  couple of days ago. And for most operating systems, the updated version is already available. The Ubuntu Store, however, is yet to feature the updated package. If you can’t wait for VLC to be updated, you can get the latest version easily by following the below steps.

First, open the terminal by summoning Unity dash. You can do that by clicking on the Ubuntu icon on the top-left corner of your screen. For the keyboard inclined, pressing Super(aka the Windows key) should summon Unity dash.

Unity Dash

Now, type in Terminal and click on the Terminal to launch it

Unity terminal

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:videolan/stable-daily

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install vlc

The first command creates an apt repo pointing to VLC’s stable builds. The second commands instructs apt-get to fetch the latest set of packages. The last command will install VLC. If all goes well, you should be seeing VLC under Media Apps in Unity.

VLC Entry in Unity Dash

Do drop a comment if you need some help in installing VLC in Ubuntu.

VLC Gets Updated to 2.0

VideoLan Project’s very popular media player, VLC, just received a major release. The new version, VLC 2.0, comes with loads of new features, bug fixes and support for pretty much any OS – Windows, Mac OS X, Android & iOS. Heck, the 2.0 release even features a OS/2 video output renderer. VLC is known to play anything that you throw at it, kitchen sink included.

Codenamed “Twoflower”, some of the features of the 2.0 release include

  • Faster decoding on multi-core, GPU, and mobile hardware
  • Ability to open more formats, notably professional, HD and 10bits codecs
  • New rendering pipeline for video, with higher quality subtitles, and new video filters to enhance the videos.
  • Experimental BluRay Disc support
  • Completely reworked Mac and Web interfaces
  • Several hundreds of bug fixes spanning over 7000 commits from 160 volunteers.

The Windows version of VLC gets some subtle UI changes.

VLC Windows UI

And the Mac version has got a complete redesign as well. Some of the things that I don’t like about the new version:

  • VLC still cannot remember the last playback position.
  • VLC’s got support for Lua extensions. However, there isn’t a push for these extensions. With the 2.0 even the sample extensions have been removed
Having said that, VLC’s still a great player. You can download the latest version using the below links:
For Linux users, the package managers should have the updated versions in the respective repos soon.

Craigslist Charitable Fund Donates $100,000 to the Perl Foundation

The Perl Foundation has received its seemingly largest donation of $100,000 from the Craigslist Charitable Fund. This donation will be used towards the maintenance of Perl 5. Craigslist is built mostly using Perl, and it uses many other open-source technologies.

perl-foundation

Craigslist is so popular in its niche that it was mentioned on this episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon wants to buy Uranium, online.

The President of the Perl Foundation, Karen Pauley, expressed his gratitude to the Craigslist Charitable Fund, saying,

This generous donation will allow us to improve the Perl 5 Core and the work done with the Core Maintenance Fund, as well as sponsor a range of Perl 5 related activities through grants and initiatives already in existence and in the community.

The Perl Foundation has received heft donations earlier. Booking.com donated $50,000 to the Perl Foundation in 2008, and Liquid Web, a web hosting company donated $10,000 to the Perl Foundation in September last year. However, development of Perl has slowed down considerably over the last decade, with new versions primarily resolving bug fixes, and including minor syntax changes. This donation should be a boost for the Perl Foundation, and should help it revamp the development of the “duct tape of the Internet”.

Perl is released under the GNU GPL and the Artistic License. It is an extremely dynamic, flexible and (perhaps the most) powerful programming language. It truly deserves these donations, and much more love.

Wayland is Heading Towards its First Stable Release

If you have not heard of Wayland until today, it is because Wayland has not had any public release of their display protocol. Wayland has been available at its Git repository for anyone to try it out, though finally, it will get the public release of its first version 1.0, after four years of development.

Wayland has been of special interest for many Linux enthusiasts, as it is a perfect replacement for the X Window System. The Wikipedia article on Wayland explains it in simpler language.

Wayland provides a method for compositing window managers to communicate directly with applications and to communicate directly with video and input hardware. Applications render graphics to their own buffers, and the window manager becomes the display server, compositing those buffers to form the on-screen display of application windows. This is a simpler and more efficient approach than using a compositing window manager with the X Window System.

Wayland will provide an excellent alternative for those who loath the X Window System. Fedora and Ubuntu are the two major Linux distros, which have always been interested in Wayland, and they will replace X with Wayland at the first chance. The Tizen project is also looking forward to using Wayland.


Kristian Høgsberg is the founder of Wayland, which is released under the MIT license. You can read this interview of Kristian Høgsberg for this coming FOSDEM. Wayland will be announced and released at this FOSDEM 2012, to be held in a few days.

KDE Enthusiast, Aaron Seigo, Builds Spark, the First Tablet with Plasma Active Pre-installed

Apple’s iPad has dominated the tablet market for quite a few years now. Nonetheless, many Android tablets have taken a shot at the iPad, and according to recent stats, they are succeeding. The tablet space is finally seeing some fair competition, now that Android tablets have captured 20% of the tablet market. Now, a new player has entered the tablet space. Aaron Seigo has revealed a new tablet called Spark, based on the KDE Plasma Active interface.

The biggest complain that open-source advocates have against Android, is that all the Android development done by handset manufacturers happens behind closed doors. This goes against the true philosophy of Open Source. This Plasma Active based tablet, developed by Aaron Seigo and team, aims to change this scenario. This tablet will be unlocked, and will sport a Linux stack, making it open in every possible form. The hardware specs of Spark are given as

The hardware is modest but compelling: 1 GHz AMLogic ARM processor, Mali-400 GPU, 512 MB RAM, 4GB internal storage plus SD card slot, a 7″ capacitive multi-touch screen and wifi connectivity.

Moreover, the price of the tablet is 200 euros or a decent $260, which is acceptable for the features it has to offer. The Spark tablet has big ambitions for the future.

The people who get to use these tablets will have in their hands a device that is more than an application bucket that sees them as a consumer. They will have a device that places value on who they are and what they are doing. This lies at the heart of Activities in Plasma Active and the open software stack will drive that trend further.

Let us see if it is able to capture the interest of the regular tablet consumer and the open source enthusiast.

Linux Mint Team Releases the First Stable Version of Cinnamon

Linux Mint has been trying to move away from Gnome 3 and did not even consider Unity as an option, when it comes to the desktop environment. About a month ago, we came to know that Clement Lefebvre at Linux Mint is trying to create a custom desktop environment for Linux Mint, called Cinnamon. The latest word is that the first version of Cinnamon has been released officially.
linux-mint-logo

Linux Mint has made earlier attempts at a decent desktop environment by improving on Gnome 3. They created Mint Gnome Shell Extension (MGSE), and it was shipped with Linux Mint 12. However, Clement was not satisfied with MGSE, and wrote on the Linux Mint forum saying:

I am not going to argue whether Gnome Shell is a good or a bad desktop. It’s just not what we’re looking for. The user experience the Gnome team is trying to create isn’t the one we’re interested in providing to our users. There are core features and components we absolutely need, and because they are not there in Gnome Shell, we had to add them using extensions with MGSE.

Thus came Cinnamon version 1.2, the first stable release on Cinnamon. With this release of Cinnamon, the API and the desktop are fully stable. However, it is not the only product that the Mint team has in plan. They want to build a complete desktop-environment ecosystem with themes, applets, extensions, user ratings and comments.

Now that Cinnamon is out, it is definite that this will be the default desktop environment on Linux Mint 13. Linux Mint has overtaken Ubuntu as the most popular Linux distro, and the war is clearly between these two Debian flavors. With further development, we will see a tough competition between the HUD enabled Unity and the feature rich Cinnamon.

Google’s SPDY Invited to be a Part of HTTP 2.0 Standard

Google’s vision of a faster web just got real. SPDY is Google’s internet protocol replacement for HTTP, which has some interesting features to speed up the internet. It was revealed for the first time back in 2009, around the time I joined Techie-buzz as a staff writer. Two years later, now, Mark Nottinghamthe chairman of the HTTP working group has invited SPDY to be included in the HTTP 2.0 standard.

The Chromium blog defined SPDY as,

SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over the web. It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization and HTTP header compression.

The test results were impressive, with up to 55% speed improvement, over traditional HTTP. This was tested by developing top 25 websites using SPDY and HTTP. You can read all about it at this post. SPDY is also Open Source, allowing community-based development. The primary improvements in SPDY are

  • A slash of 50% in page load time
  • Communication from server end if the client needs resources and server can provide them
  • Use of SSL as the underlying protocol, providing a secure web
  • Use of header compression
  • Allowing concurrent HTTP requests in a single TCP session

HTTP is an old protocol, and the web has improved by leaps and bounds since then. There could not have been a better time for a new application layer protocol.

The next step for Google is travelling further down the protocol stack, and it is already proposing an alternative for TCP. Besides SPDY, Google also proposed increasing the initial congestion window from three to ten, which has already been hacked by them internally as part of the TCP Slow start hack, and incorporated into their Google.com domain. If you have been wondering, this is one of the reasons why the Google.com website loads so fast.

Europe Sees Another Mass Migration of Government IT to FOSS, This Time in Spain

At a time when Europe is facing a hard time in a financial crisis and Apple is worth more than Greece, price cuts of any form are always welcome. Perhaps for this reason, a slew of European countries have moved to FOSS technologies for use in their internal operations. France, Germany and many prominent European economies have started using FOSS technologies, and have benefited hugely in saved IT costs. This time, Spain’s autonomous region Extremadura wants to move to open-source solutions in place of their current proprietary desktop software.

The IT department of the region has estimated that about 40,000 computers will be migrated to open source technologies, as part of this move. If the project proceeds as planned, it will be Europe’s second largest desktop migration project. The largest was of course the one at Gendarmerie, France, for which the French government floated a huge maintenance tender a few months ago. The city of Munich in Germany recorded the third high, with 14,000 computers migrated to open-source technologies.

Extremadura has chosen to use a Debian based system. The region’s CIO, Cayetano López, claims that the Debian system will be ready in three months. The next one year will be spent deploying it across various regional government offices.

That version gives us a good starting point to adapt Debian to the needs of a standard user, offer a light, and secure desktop, compliant with the requirements of ISO and IEC 27001 IT security standards.

This migration will unify all desktops across offices making them free from security problems and viruses. Nevertheless, the best advantage of using FOSS is unanimously decided as immense cost savings.