Category Archives: Open Source Software

Oracle Changes its JDK Licensing, Oracle JDK No More Available for Linux Distros

As part of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle also acquired the Java technology. Oracle has the enterprise sector in its grip now (Java and Oracle database). However, we cannot forget how erratic it has been in handling delicate issues like the  OpenSolaris project  or the ongoing infringement case against Android. It has repeatedly failed to earn the trust of the Open Source community, something that Sun Microsystems had in abundant.

oracle-java

Java is a wonderful technology. This video from 2006 will tell you why.

The Java development kit comes in two flavors. While Oracle JDK (earlier Sun JDK) is under the Binary Code License (earlier Sun License), OpenJDK is under GPL with a linking exception. From JDK version 7, Oracle has planned to support OpenJDK and  withdraw the Operating System Distributor License  for Java. This has resulted in a withdrawal of OracleJDK from the repositories of Linux distributions. Putting further restrictions, you cannot even download Oracle Java for any Linux distributions anymore.

OpenJDK has always suffered because of the unfair nature of the competition and it is said to have some serious bugs. These pitfalls never allowed it a rise to fame but now, things are looking better for OpenJDK. Oracle itself has taken interests in OpenJDK development. Perhaps for uniformity, it has declared OpenJDK as the official Java SE reference from JDK 7 onwards.

This is the second game changing event in the world of Java since May 2007, when it went completely open-source and the Java code was released under GPL. With IBM, Oracle, Apple, SAP, RedHat and other big names working on the OpenJDK project, we will surely see the best of Java in future.

Do you want to know how OpenJDK fares against Oracle JDK? Read  this Stack Overflow question.

Fedora 16 “Verne” Alpha Released – Includes GNOME 3.1, GRUB 2

After a one week delay from the scheduled release date, the Fedora Project has released the first alpha version of Fedora 16, codenamed “Verne”, earlier today. This alpha release is expected to be the only alpha release of Fedora 16. According to the release schedule, this release will be followed by a beta on September 27th and the final release on November 1st.

Fedora 16 Alpha brings a number of new features/updates. One of the main updates is the long overdue upgrade to GRUB 2. Although GRUB 2 is not officially considered stable yet, many other Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, Linux Mint etc., have been using it for some time, and it has been stable enough for normal use. With the transition to GRUB 2, users who dual boot Fedora with another distribution that uses GRUB 2 will not have to manually add the OS in the GRUB menu.

Fedora 16 Wallpaper

In Fedora 16 Alpha, two choices of desktop environments are available by default as always. For those who prefer GNOME, Fedora 16 Alpha comes with GNOME 3.1.5. This version of GNOME is not considered stable and it is expected that it will be updated to GNOME 3.2 before the final release. GNOME 3.2 will fix many of the quirks and annoyances from GNOME 3. For those of you who prefer KDE SC, Fedora 16 Alpha also has a KDE version that comes with KDE SC 4.7 alpha. Like the GNOME version, it is expected to be upgraded to KDE SC 4.7 before the final release.

Fedora 16 Alpha runs on the Linux kernel 3.0. With the release of Linux 3.1 expected in a month or two, the kernel is likely to be updated to Linux 3.1 before the final release.

One feature that did not make it is the switch to Btrfs. Btrfs is a new filesystem that is currently under development. Initially, there was plan to use Btrfs by default in Fedora 16. However the plan was scrapped because Btrfs is nowhere ready for such use. Btrfs will probably be used in Fedora 17 or Fedora 18.

You can view the feature list that is being planned for Fedora 16 and the progress here.

If you want to install Fedora 16 Alpha, you can download it from here. (This is not an unstable release and is meant for testing. Do not install it on production machines.)

Linus Torvalds Announces The Release Of Linux 3.0

Yesterday, Linus Torvalds announced the release of the final stable version Linux 3.0. With the release of Linux 3.0, Torvalds has finally brought Linux out of the 2.6.x series, which had been in development for more than seven years.

tuxLinux 3.0 was actually planned for release in the second week of July, but a bug with the RCU meant that he had to release another RC instead. This is what Linus Torvalds wrote announcing the release:

As already mentioned several times, there are no special land mark features or incompatibilities related to the version number change,it’s simply a way to drop an inconvenient numbering system in honor of twenty years of Linux. In fact, the 3.0 merge window was calmer than most, and apart from some excitement from RCU I’d have called it really smooth. Which is not to say that there may not be bugs, but if anything, there are hopefully fewer than usual, rather than the normal”.0″ problems.

The change in the major version number does not mean new big features. When Linux 3.0 RC1 was announced, Torvalds famously described it as having absolutely no big changes.

However, that does not mean there are no new features/changes with this release. Linux 3.0 brings only incremental changes. Here are some of the new features in Linux 3.0:

  • Automatic defragmentation, scrubbing and performance improvements in Btrfs
  • Wake on WLAN This feature allows the device to go into a low power state while the wireless NIC remains active.
  • Cleancache Cleancache is a feature that uses a memcached-like system to increase the performance of cache memory pages.
  • Support for many new hardware such as the Microsoft Kinect, AMD Llano Fusion APUs, Apple iSight webcam has been added.

You get a more detailed description of the changes here.

With Linux 3.0 released, the merge window for Linux 3.1 has started and it will remain open for two weeks.

Nginx Becomes a Company, Brings in More Process and Ensures a Better Product

Nginx is an HTTP and reverse proxy server famous for its slick performance. A few days back, the people behind the Nginx project decided to form a company and thus set standards for all their operations. Nginx is not as popular as Apache but it is indeed a better option than Apache if you want peak performance and can manage the correct setup. The  servers at Techie-buzz  are also powered by Nginx because it is lightweight and uses lesser memory than traditional Apache servers.
nginx-server

Nginx  (pronounced engine-x) is a lightweight, high-performance  Web server/reverse proxy  and  e-mail  (IMAP/POP3) proxy, licensed under a  BSD-like license and written by  Igor Sysoev. It has been running for more than five years on many heavily loaded Russian sites including  Rambler(RamblerMedia.com). According to Netcraft Nginx served or proxied  4.70% busiest sites in April 2010. Here are some of success stories:  FastMail.FM,  Wordpress.com.

Nginx is fast and efficient. The statistics above prove that it is suitable for high loads and can handle them efficiently because of its built-in features. A recent announcement on the official Nginx website says;

Recently it became very clear for me that because of increasing popularity of Nginx and the volume of work required to develop the code and doing support, I really need to put it at another level.

So, I have decided to focus even more on Nginx and established Nginx as a company to fully dedicate myself to the project.

The open-source community welcomes this news. Very few companies in this world deal exclusively in Open Source software. Out of those, fewer have made it big in the tech-industry. People are already comparing the business model of Nginx to that of RedHat, which deals in support and consulting. RedHat has formed a profitable business out of OSS with this model. It is expected that the Nginx project will go into the support business with this model and earn good revenue.

A company brings a lot of bureaucracy along with it. However, as time goes by, people learn to appreciate the processes within a company. At the end of the day, this allows seamless operations and provides a platform over which the business can grow, irrespective of the scale of business at a later stage. For Nginx, this move will provide an authoritative branding and attract more enterprise customers.

The Truth Behind Microsoft’s Contributions To Linux 3.0

A few days back, LWN.net published an article listing the different contributors to the changes in the source code of Linux kernel 3.0. One name on that list that surprised everyone was none other than Microsoft.

According to the article, Microsoft has contributed 361 changes/patches to the Linux kernel 3.0, which makes it the seventh largest contributor to the kernel and fifth largest corporate contributor. Naturally this raises the question as to what it going on here. Microsoft has never liked Linux and has always been insisting that Linux violates their patents (although they have never named the patents.) In 2001, Steve Ballmer, who is currently their CEO, described Linux as a cancer.

Has Microsoft turned a page? Are they embracing Linux and open source software? Well, no they have not turned a page. They are still the same old Microsoft. All their contributions are patches for the Microsoft Hyper-V driver.

In 2009, Microsoft submitted around 20,000 lines of code to Linux. These codes make it possible to run Linux on Windows Server using its Hyper-V technology. However, the Linux developers found a lot of problems with Microsoft’s contribution .

In December 2010, Greg Kroah-Hartman, wrote that the Hyper-V drivers that Microsoft had submitted risk getting removed from the kernel because all the Microsoft developers had disappeared.

“Over 200 patches make up the massive cleanup effort needed to just get this code into a semi-sane kernel coding style (someone owes me a bit bottle of rum for that work!) Unfortunately the Microsoft developers seem to have disappeared, and no one is answering my emails. If they do not show back up to claim this driver soon, it will be removed in the 2.6.33 release. So sad…”

All of the 361 patches that Microsoft has contributed towards Linux 3.0 are simply patches for the Hyper-V driver. They are there only to make it possible for Linux to run on Windows Servers. This contribution should not be interpreted as a change in Microsoft’s attitude towards Free and Open Source Software, and Linux in general.

If we look at the contributions not through the number of changes but through the lines of code changed, Microsoft’s contributions become very small. All of their 361 changes are very small changes and account for a mere 1.3% of the total lines of code changed in Linux 3.0. If the line of code changed is used to measure the contributions, Microsoft comes in at 15th position with Intel, which is responsible for 18% of the changes, taking the top spot.

Scammers Are Using VLC Media Player To Spread Malware

One of the greatest things about an open source project is sharing the source code with everyone, and fixing bugs and adding new features as a community. However some time it gets abused.

largeVLCIn a recent blog post, VLC developer Ludovic Fauvet said that scammers are taking advantage of the availability of the VLC source code to trick users. The scammers are adding malware and adware to VLC and releasing them as the original product.

This is how the scammers work:

  • They get the VLC code and add adware or malware.
  • They release their version of VLC as the original.
  • They buy advertisements using Google AdWords.
  • They earn more money through the malware and adware bundled with their version of VLC.
  • They buy more advertisements.

This is a direct violation of the GPL under which the VLC source code is being distributed. (Obviously the scammers do not care about license violation.) And more importantly, this tarnishes the VLC brand in the eyes of unsuspecting users.

This is what Ludovic Fauvet wrote:

What bothers us the most is that many of them are bundling VLC with various crapware to monetize it in ways that mislead our users by thinking they’re downloading an original version. This is not acceptable. The result is a poor product that doesn’t work as intended, that can’t be uninstalled and that clearly abuses its users and their privacy. Not to mention that it also discredits our work as volunteers and that it’s time-consuming, time that is not invested in the development.

Remember to download VLC only from the official repositories or the official website to be safe.

For obvious reasons, we will not link to those scammers’ websites here. However, this is not the first time that a popular open source project has been abused by scammers. Last year, Blender reported that scammers are rebranding their application and selling them.

Linux Mint 11 KDE To Be Based On Debian Not Kubuntu

Linux Mint is an easy to use Linux distribution that is based on Ubuntu. One of the main advantage of Linux Mint has been its polish and ease of use. Recently with Ubuntu adopting the Unity UI, many Ubuntu users have migrated to Linux Mint.

linux-mint-logo Yesterday, the Linux Mint developers have announced that they will not base Linux Mint 11 KDE on Kubuntu. Instead, it will be based on Debian. It is worth remembering here that Ubuntu itself is based on Debian. By going to Debian directly, Linux Mint is cutting out the polish and features that Ubuntu brings.

Then why are they moving to Debian? Simple, the Kubuntu base needed too much resource and lacked performance. Kubuntu has never enjoyed a good reputed among KDE SC users. Most users of KDE SC will tell you that Kubuntu is one of the worst distributions for KDE.

Another issue that the Linux Mint developers have found is that the installer in Kubuntu has had a regression and cannot detect other operating systems. This will cause a big problem for new users and a big annoyance for more advance users.

Because of these issues, it has been decided that the next version Linux Mint 11 KDE will be based on Linux Mint Debian Edition (or LMDE as it is more commonly known).

No definite date for the release of Linux Minth 11 KDE has been set yet.

 

Debian Offers Help in a Messy World of Software Patents

We have already seen how Microsoft is ramming its 18,000 patents into all Android device manufactures and making them pay for technologies that Microsoft does not deal with even remotely. Microsoft is nowhere in the Android game and this is a questionable action from Microsoft. Owning a lobby of patents to raise hue and cry on every other Android related technology is not really an ethical business practice. If you want to know how exactly Microsoft is earning more from Android than its own Windows Phone 7 platform, read  this  coverage  by  Joel Fernandes.

us-patents

The world of software patents is getting ugly and the competition is extremely high. In such a world, it is extremely important to have a fair understanding of the technologies you are dealing with and the patent infringement it can cause. Generally, Open Source projects are not claimed against patent infringements because they are community efforts mostly and because they do not have the funding to pay hefty sums. However, prevention is always better than cure.

The Debian project has created an FAQ with some heavy legal aid that can give people an idea of patent liabilities pertaining to Community Distribution of Free and Open Source Software. It starts with the very basics of patents and explains the difference between patents and copyrights. Then, it goes on to explain infringements and the risk of patents to FOSS community projects and limitations of geographical boundaries on patents. If you are a developer working on a community project, you should absolutely know the risks and liabilities involved and  this FAQ  can offer good help to get started.

Gwibber Gets Revamped For Ubuntu 11.10 – Much Lighter And Faster Now

Gwibber is the default micro-blogging application that comes with Ubuntu. Ever since it has been included as a default application in Ubuntu, I have complained about it in every review I had done. It is so sluggish and consumes so much system resource that using it is never possible while doing any intensive task.

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Well, things are about to change in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. Ubuntu 11.10 will have a fully revamped version of Gwibber Gwibber 3.1. While the earlier version of Gwibber was made using Python and Webkit, Gwibber 3.1 is made using Vala and GTK3.

What the change from Python/Webkit to Vala/GTK3 does is that it makes the application much lighter and faster. That has also allowed for the addition of some fancy animations to make the application better looking.

According to Gwibber developer Ken VanDine, the improvement in performance in Gwibber 3.1 is huge. This is what he told OMG!Ubuntu!:

The old client limited the stream to the latest 50 posts and would use about 150MB of RAM. The new client doesn’t limit the posts, in my test with 3000 posts in the stream it used about 42MB RAM.

Not only is that 3000 posts in a stream, we keep all the streams hotfor fast switching between them. So we actually have them all created and hidden.

Gwibber 3.1 also has a new user interface designed by Neil Patel. The new UI uses plenty of animations to make Gwibber comparable to the other Twitter clients available for Mac OS X and Windows. It also supports sorting of streams according to the oldest/newest post.

There is no plan as such to make Gwibber 3.1 available for Ubuntu 11.04. However, Jorge Castro of Canonical said that it might be available once it makes its way into Ubuntu 11.10.

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Linux 3.0 Gets Yet Another Release Candidate

tux As you are probably aware, Linus Torvalds had decided to bump the version number of the upcoming Linux kernel to 3.0. The development for Linux 3.0 has been going on for a while with the first release candidate being released on May 30th.

The sixth release candidate was supposed to be the last one. However, Torvalds has decided to have one more release candidate Linux 3.0 rc7 mainly because some testers have found the RCU (Read-Copy-Update) to hang at boot time.

This is what Torvalds wrote to the mailing list announcing the seventh release candidate of Linux 3.0:

I think I said -rc6 might be the last -rc. I lied.

Things have been pretty quiet, but there’s enough new stuff here that I wanted to do another -rc, and we still have some issues with the RCU changes causing problems when RCU events happen before the scheduler has been fully initialized etc. So -rc7 is out there, although it might not have mirrored out to the public sites quite yet.

As with all the previous releases of the Linux kernel, Linux 3.0 will not have any new big features. It will have only incremental improvements. If you are interested, you can check out the changelog for Linux 3.0 rc7 here. At least one more release candidate is expected before Torvalds announces the stable Linux 3.0.

Linux 3.0 has already been adopted by the development versions of many Linux distributions. Debian Wheezy has already been moved from Linux 2.6 to Linux 3.0. The latest development release of Ubuntu 11.10 too was based on Linux 3.0.