Malaysian Government Uses 97% Open Source Software

A recent report at OpenSource.org has brought up an interesting fact. The Malaysian government is using 97% open source software. That  is a decisive fraction and Malaysia being way ahead of many other Asian countries in technology, sets an example for them to follow.

The state of Tamil Nadu in India has been using OSS (Open Source Software) for the last two years and it has worked wonders for them. However, a full country switching to Open Source is a welcome move. One thing to remember here is that OSS does not mean there will be no costs involved in it at all. There is live and in-place support you need to pay for.

The report reveals that 703 of 724 agencies in Malaysia have switched to Open Source Software. The Malaysian government is using OpenOffice, MySQL, Apache web server and a Linux based distro. Quoting opensource.org, this is a historic achievement and Malaysia needs thumbs up for this great achievement.

The Malaysian government is not satisfied though. It aims at a 100% conversion to Open Source Software.

Are you wondering where the US stands at Open Source adoption? Read this report.

The Pirate Bay Hacked, User Database and Admin Panel Accessible

This is exactly what the RIAA has been praying for years and today, it has finally come true. ThePirateBay, the most stubborn and still going strong torrent and file sharing website has finally been hacked by a group of Argentinian hackers.

The hackers attempted SQL injection vulnerabilities and have claimed access to the user database and admin panel. The compromised user data includes passwords, usernames, IPs and email addresses. However, the group has claimed that it intends no harm to ThePirateBay. It made this attack as a proof-of-concept only. This goes only as far as proving that there are exploitable vulnerabilities.

One of the hackers in the group, Ch Russó who also happens to be a malware researcher claims that,

As any other website, as any other system or mechanism, www.thepiratebay.org has robust parts and soft spots. We beleive that the people behind this comunity always acted with the local laws on their side, and so have we. The community caused problems to huge companies and corporations which turned into threats between this companies and them. What we have done, we did not do it with anger, or for commercial value. As always, we saw the change, the moment and decided to take it. The protocol or procedure done to achieve this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

The page following the link above also shows a video highlighting the hack process.

However, members on ThePirateBay need not worry. Ch Russó has assured that the information gathered from the hack will not be leaked to any authority by any chance.

The vulnerable component has been removed from ThePirateBay now and it is back to security. However, the homepage currently shows this message:
the-pirate-bay-hacked
Update 1: In a totally unrelated event, Demonoid.com is performing a hardware upgrade now which is confusing people even more.

(Via: Softpedia News)

Learn To Search on Bing Like a Pro Using New and Unique Operators

Bing has support for advanced queries just like Google but no one uses them because they are just lying there, unseen and unheard of! The Bing blog has recently posted a guide on searching through Bing like a pro and the options and as it turns out, the available queries are sure to turn some heads in the geek world.

A complete list of operators is available at this page on msdn. However, we have picked a few examples. Before I go into this, I would like to point out that Bing search supports combining these operators as well. However, you need to learn about their precedence at this page before that.

The ‘contains’ Operator

The ‘contains’ operator can be used to search for a particular file-type inside a web page. This can be helpful while pulling off and checking the existence of pdf documents from poorly done web pages that make it hard to find URLs in between too much of text.

Usage: “IEEE 802.11b” contains:pdf

This will return all pages with the tag IEEE 802.11b and a link to a pdf document in them.

The ‘near’ Operator

The near operator works like a proximity sensor for words and searches for a particular word within range of another word. This one is my favorite so far.

Usage: “michael jackson” near:5 moonwalk

This will search for the word moonwalk appearing within five words before or after the words “Michael Jackson”.

The ‘ip’ Operator

This searches for websites hosted on a particular IP address. It can be helpful to search for an IP address prefix as well.

Usage: ip:209.20.84.30

This will search for all websites hosted on that IP. Try out the query above. There is a surprise in store for you!

The ‘loc’ Operator

This returns pages from a particular country.

Usage: ipl loc:in

Return pages related to the IPL from India.

Try it out and give us some feedback. Do you find Bing operators at par with Google?

(Source)

How to Install and Use Add-ons in Firefox 4 Beta 1?

Firefox 4 beta 1 has arrived and the beta 2 is also available for download unofficially from the FTP server. It has some awesome new features like tabs on top, a unified menu and many behind the scene changes. However, there is a word of caution before you jump into using it. The latest Firefox beta has add-on support disabled by default.

firefox-4-addon

This move ensures that users are not facing trouble because of unsupported add-ons. However, that can be an issue at times and here is an easy workaround to install add-ons.

To install older add-ons,

  • First, you need to install an add-on named “Add-on compatibility reporter”.
  • Then, restart Firefox as prompted. This will enable the add-on.
  • Next, you need to restart Firefox once more. Finally, this allows you to install add-ons.
  • In the browser address bar type in “about:addons” to get the Add-on Manager.

Now you can install any older add-on as you could earlier.

The add-on compatibility reporter is used to report add-on compatibility. So, if you are using the Compatibility Reporter add-on to enable older add-ons, please report their compatibility. This will help Mozilla improve your user experience in return.

Google Now Shows Flight Results in Search

It was just a few days ago that Google acquired ITA software. Keith Dsouza covered this news earlier stating,

Google just got into the travel industry by acquiring a Boston based company called ITA, which specializes in organizing airline data, flight times, availability and prices. With this acquisition Google might be looking to build a more robust and useful travel search engine where they could also possibly make more money through the medium.

It did not take long for his predictions to come true and within a week of the acquisition, Google has started showing flight results data in search.

To search for any flight for a day, you need to use the abbreviation for the airlines and the flight number. The result is shown as:

google-search-flight

This might be the first step to a series of changes that are yet to come. Google might start displaying and providing comparative analysis of airfares as well.

Update: This feature competes directly with Live.com Search for Flight Status.

Yahoo News Finally Switching to an Algorithm from Human Editors

Yahoo news is respected for the fact that it has human editors. News on Yahoo is always of higher quality and relevance. On the other hand, Google uses an algorithm to add content to its News service and as we know, the algorithm does not care much about the quality and relevance of the news.

This is the exact reason why Yahoo News has been acclaimed more often that Google News. However, the task of manually picking up news is tedious in itself and this is why Yahoo has finally decided to switch to an automated system for this tasks.

JEREMY W. PETERS at NY Times writes,

For as long as hot lead has been used to make metal type, the model for generating news has been top-down: editors determined what information was important and then shared it with the masses.

However, with the advent of technology that allows media companies to identify what kind of content readers want, that model is becoming inverted.

The new algorithm Yahoo will use will be based on search queries. People all over the Internet will monitor these search terms and send them to the editors when they are on a rise. Yahoo is using a considerable amount of crowdsourcing here to generate its news. The participation on users in this process will help make the content more appealing to readers. This makes for a perfect combination of human and computers aiming to achieve a unified goal.

NY Times calls this a “democratic style” of reporting news where the content is of the people, for the people and by the people. The idea looks promising on paper. However, how it fares against other news services cannot be predicted.

The Cost of Switching Over to SSL, How Hard Was it for Google?

Google has made some decisive changes to its services over the last few months. We have seen a redesigned Search, a redesigned YouTube, Google News, changes in Google Apps and the the addition of an Encrypted Search for enhanced security.

google-logo

Google has provided HTTPS access from a long time on Gmail now. However, the latest decision to add SSL on other services in future and providing a separate encrypted page maintains the mojo Google is enjoying with the head-start this year.

HTTPS is a SSL encrypted HTTP which provides security. However we have not seen it appear on mainstream websites yet. SSL security has been an issue for too long. Most websites do not provide it because it is expected to be something of a high standard and is believed to require powerful servers. On the contrary, the truth is that HTTPS is not at all as resource intensive on the server as it is believed to be.

A Chrome Engineer at Google, Adam Langley writes at the Imperial Violet stating,

all of our users use HTTPS to secure their email between their browsers and Google, all the time. In order to do this we had to deploy no additional machines and no special hardware. On our production frontend machines, SSL/TLS accounts for less than 1% of the CPU load, less than 10KB of memory per connection and less than 2% of network overhead. Many people believe that SSL takes a lot of CPU time and we hope the above numbers (public for the first time) will help to dispel that.

However, the downside with SSL is that it includes a considerable latency in connection. This research reveals that there is a latency of 3.5x on SSL handshakes, the method of initializing a connection to  server. Basically, using SSL connections slows down connection establishment to a server. So did Google just compromise speed for security? Definitely not.

Google is using several mechanisms to reduce this latency. See this excerpt from the post at Langley’s blog.

OpenSSL tends to allocate about 50KB of memory for each connection. We have patched OpenSSL to reduce this to about 5KB.

Moreover Google also caches most HTTPS requests which allows it to serve them faster in subsequent queries. Google claims that this resume behavior takes place 50% of the time. SSL has been optimized at its best at Google.

These facts prove that SSL is not as resource intensive as it is blamed to be. The fact of it being more expensive is just a commercial aspect and a business policy.

However, for services that are not being served through SSL, they can fall prey to critical attacks like these.

Fennec 2.0: Future Plans, New Features and Hopefully a Release Announcement

I am so tired of hearing all about Fennec and seeing it MIA on Android. We have heard so much about the Firefox experience on mobile and Fennec has not yet been able to release the final version 1.1 for Maemo. This project seems to be moving extremely slow. Moreover, the last time I tried Fennec for Android, the user interface was lagging extremely on my HTC Legend.

fennec-android-firefox

Though, the project itself seems to be making some progress and has released plans for its version 2.0. Readers must take note here that these are not release plans. These are just plans for features to be present in Fennec 2.0. Two important changes laid out by Mark Finnacle, in his blog are,

  • The introduction of out of process plugins (The Electrolysis project)
  • The  increase in rendering speed of pages (The Layers Project)

The Mozilla Platform Evangelist has also written that,

Significant amounts of platform work have been done on both projects. Fennec 2.0 will integrate both Electrolysis and Layers.

However, my question is when will we see an actual release of Fennec? Developers are working on Fennec 1.1 at an extremely fast rate according to the developers and Fennec 2.0 alpha is coming soon. Therefore, we will still be using unfinished builds until Fennec 1.1 makes a final release. Godspeed Fennec.

Are Developers Catching up with all the Multicore Hype?

Are Developers Catching up with all the Multicore Hype

Multi-core is the way of the world nowadays. Every computer and high-end handset is being equipped with a multi-core processor with Single core processors on the verge of becoming obsolete. However,  how far has the average developer lived up to this?

IEEE Spectrum puts it in the best possible way with the words,

The semiconductor industry threw the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass when it switched from making microprocessors run faster to putting more of them on a chip doing so without any clear notion of how such devices would in general be programmed. The hope is that someone will be able to figure out how to do that, but now, the ball is still in the air.

However, the idea sounds good on paper and is not that easy to implement. A multi-core environments and multitasking programs needs us to maintain IPC (inter process communication) at large with the help of which, processes synchronize their operation. Apart from that, we also need to implement effective thread management. Threads, as we know are again slaves of the thread API we use to create these programs and then there are CPU hit and miss factors and load balancing. All this combines into a notorious little world of endless problems and possibilities and the programmer is solely responsible to make that world a better place much like the Batman of Gotham City.

There have been many ideas talking about alternative solutions like creating languages that would automatically multitask and reuse per-calculated results. These are again, full of flaws and exploits. So, what do we have here overall?

No doubt, the processors are rolling out with more cores than ever. They are going from two to four to sixteen (the AMD Bulldozer for instance). However, what have not changed are the awareness and the level of expertise amongst programmers to make effective use of these processors. Let us see how the developers live up to this in the next few years.

Google Introduces Suspicious Login Protection Across all Accounts

Gmail has a service that checks if a login is made from a geographically different location by checking the IP address of the user. Google has extended this feature to all its services and is providing them by default. The Google public policy blog unveils this feature saying,

A few months back we launched a feature in Gmail that notifies you when our servers automatically detect suspicious log in activity on your account. Since this has been effective in helping people identify improper access, we decided to extend it to all our Google Account users, not just Gmail.

Now, if a suspicious login takes place at any of the Google service, a warning will be displayed on your Google account dashboard.  The same page has an option to change your password immediately. However, many users have opinionated that the feature should display messages right into Google services instead of displaying it on a separate dashboard page.

Another feature that was added was a reporting system that could report for problems in the dashboard. This will go a long way in keeping Google users secure. Given the number of hack attempts Google accounts have been having, this will go a long way in keeping Google users secure.