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By Aditya Nag and Samuel Kotel Bisbee-vonKaufmann



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News in General

thunderboltNovell and Microsoft sign agreement... and then agree to disagree

The biggest news this month is undoubtedly the Microsoft-Novell deal that sees the two companies improve compatibility in key areas, as well as containing a "do-not-sue" clause. The key points of the agreement are improving interoperability between Windows and SUSE Enterprise Linux Server (SLES) on virtualization, Microsoft's Active Directory and Novell's eDirectory, and Microsoft Office and OpenOffice XML formats on the desktop.

Besides this, Microsoft will also promote SLES where customers pick Windows over Linux or decide to run Linux alongside Windows. While the idea of Microsoft promoting anything Linux related may come as a shock to many, no one will be more concerned than Red Hat. After already facing Oracle's assault on their service business, Red Hat must now face the galling fact of the largest proprietary software company in the world promoting a rival Distribution. Microsoft announced that their sales staff will distribute 70,000 coupons for SLES.

Microsoft has also undertaken not to prosecute developers and users of SLES over possible infringements of its intellectual property (IP) in SLES. A special Microsoft covenant will cover non-commercial developers and those contributing code to SLES. However, it is to be noted that this covenant does not cover Novell itself! This slightly bizarre situation is explained by the fact that doing so would mean that Novell would violate the GNU Public License.

The financial details of the deal were quickly disclosed, and the upshot is that Microsoft is paying Novell close to $400 million. Microsoft is to pay Novell $240m for 350,000 subscription coupons of SLES, to be released in annual batches of 70,000. Another $94 million will be spent on sales and marketing through the five years of the deal. A patent co-operation agreement will see Microsoft paying another $108 million, while Novell pays Microsoft a minimum of $40 million.

The reaction from the Free Software community was prompt, and furious, with Bruce Perens calling Novell the new SCO. Across the board criticism led to Novell putting up a FAQ that tries to answer some of the most important issues. Not all are convinced, however. The Samba team criticized the deal, saying that "the agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement. It deals with users and creators of free software differently depending on their "commercial" versus "non-commercial" status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or from someone else."

Shortly afterwards, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer further raised the hackles of the Free Software community by claiming that every Linux customer had an "undisclosed balance sheet liability", because Linux uses Microsoft's Intellectual Property. He also implied that the Novell-Microsoft deal happened because of this. Novell was quick to refute this, stating that they did not at any point admit to any infringement of Microsoft IP. Microsoft then released a statement, the gist of which is that while they agree that Novell did not admit to any patent problems, Microsoft still believes that there may be issues... and so the matter rests for the moment.

Legal issues on the horizon may force a rethink of the deal, with the Free Software Foundation offering hints of its strategy to fight the deal in an interview with The Register.

thunderboltOracle Announces Support for Red Hat Customers

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison shook up the Enterprise Linux space by announcing three-tiered support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions 3 and 4 starting at $99 per system per year. It's not necessary for Red Hat customers to be running Oracle products.

Ellison claimed Oracle would undercut Red Hat by up to 60 per cent. Oracle middleware and application users on Red Hat who switched within 90 days of the news get Oracle's support for an additional 50 per cent off.

Speaking at the Oracle Openworld conference, he also confirmed that Oracle would deliver a complete open source stack, comprising the entire gamut from operating systems to applications. He denied Oracle would fork Linux, as it will return bug fixes to the community and make fixes available to Red Hat. "Each time Red Hat comes out with new code we'll synchronize with that version. We will add our bug fixes to current, future and back releases. Your application will run unchanged. We are going to stay synchronized with the Red Hat version. We are not trying to fragment the Linux market."

Red Hat shares took a tumble the next day, dropping 25% as investors reacted to the news. Red Hat reacted by refusing to change it's pricing strategy, and criticizing Oracle's move. Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik stated that Oracle's changes would result in a different code base than Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Red Hat also claimed that the changes made by Oracle might result in "material differences in the code that will result in application failures."

The long term effects of this move still remain to be seen.

Conferences and Events

==> All LinuxWorld Expos <==

Chaos Communications Congress
December 27th - 30th, Berlin, Germany (http://events.ccc.de/congress/2006/Home)
January 24th, Brussels (http://www.eupaco.org/eupaco1)

Distro News

thunderboltFedora Core 6 "Zod" Released

"Zod", also known as Fedora Core 6, was released late last month. Zod is packed with shiny new features, including the Compiz window manager running on the AIGLX framework. Zod also features GNOME 2.16 and KDE 3.5.4, a brand new "DNA" theme, and much better printing support. Users with multi-core/processor systems will be pleased to know that the new unified kernel 2.6.18 autodetects the number of processors, and automagically enables the corresponding bits. The days of separate kernels are finally over.

Zod has also added a GUI tool for managing Xen virtual machines, a revamped Anaconda that allows the user to select third-party repositories at the time of installation, and a graphical troubleshooting tool for SELinux. Other changes are the removal of Helix Player in favor of GNOME's Totem, inclusion of Dogtail, ext3 file-system performance improvements, and DT_GNU_HASH performance improvements with Fedora Core applications. Additional packages comprising Fedora Core 6 are the Linux 2.6.18 kernel and X.Org 7.1. Pirut and Pup also have minor updates to the interface since their premiere with Bordeaux.

Reviews for Zod have been largely positive. Most reviewers found the new version to be fast, and stable, and appreciated the changes. Proprietary programs and multimedia codecs are missing of course, in line with the Fedora philosophy, and some reviewers have asked for easier ways to get everything working.

Download Zod at http://fedoraproject.org

thunderboltSlackware 11.0 out

Another one of the old-school distributions, Slackware 11.0 released after spending more than a year in developement. Slack 11.0 ships with Xfce and KDE 3.5.4, the latest version of the award-winning K Desktop Environment. Slackware uses the kernel with features such as the ReiserFS journaling filesystem, SCSI and ATA RAID volume support, SATA support, and kernel support for X DRI (the Direct Rendering Interface)

Slack 11.0 also fully supports the 2.6 kernel series, using either the well-tested kernel or the recently released 2.6.18 kernel. Unix veterans will appreciate the simplicity and stability of Slackware. Slackware 11.0 comes with everything needed to run a powerful server or workstation, but new users might be taken aback at the lack of GUI configuration tools.

The list of mirrors will help you get your Slack on.

thunderboltLinux Mint combines Ubuntu and Mulitmedia

Linux Mint is a distro that attempts to overcome the lack of Proprietary Multimedia codecs and plug-in's in Ubuntu. The Ireland based Linux Mint team released version 2.0, based on Ubuntu 6.10 "Edgy Eft". It uses the Ubuntu installer, and comes standard with Flash 9, Java and Real Player 10.

MP3, Windows media and other codecs, along with DVD support is also enabled. The rest of it is mostly Ubuntu, so all the usual bits and pieces are present.

Download here.

thunderboltXandros 4 for Thanksgiving

Xandros Inc. will be giving business Linux users yet another reason to give thanks: Xandros Desktop Professional version 4.0 is slated for release the day after Thanksgiving.

The new version of Xandros is designed to work well in both Linux- and Windows-based office networks. It comes ready for use on NT domain, AD (Active Directory), and Linux/Unix NIS (Network Information Service)-based LANs.

The Xandros team has taken great care to provide seamless integration into existing Windows-centric networks by supporting group policy profiles, logon scripts and domain and AD authentication. Read/write support for NTFS is standard.

The Xandros UI is customized to look a great deal like Windows XP, and includes Crossover Office that allows you to run selected Windows applications on Linux. Don't expect every application to work, but Microsoft Office is reasonably well supported.

All this comes at a price, however. Pricing information has not released yet, but is expected to be similar to the last version, at $129 for a single license.

Get the latest information at http://www.xandros.com

thunderboltMark Shuttleworth attempts to lure OpenSUSE developers

Just a few weeks after the Novell-Microsoft deal, Ubuntu head honcho Mark Shuttleworth sent an email out to the OpenSUSE Mailing list, in which he speaks of the wickedness of Novell, and pitches Ubuntu's way of development. "If you have an interest in being part of a vibrant community that cares about keeping free software widely available and protecting the rights of people to get it free of charge, free to modify, free of murky encumbrances and 'undisclosed balance sheet liabilities', then please do join us."

Reaction to this has not been very positive, so far, with people on both sides of the fence claiming that Mark should not have been quite so eager. However, as of this writing, there has been no official comment from either Novell or Ubuntu.

Software and Product News

thunderboltSony Playstation 3 Launches, and Linux is quickly installed on it

November saw the launch of Sony's next-generation console. There were the usual reports of long lines, of crazy prices on Ebay, and the not-so-usual reports of people getting shot for it! Linux fans will be more interested to learn that Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) actively encourages installation of Linux on their new baby.

The necessary files can be downloaded from the Open Platform website. You will need to follow instructions, but Fedora Core 6 is fairly easy to install, and supports most of the PS3's hardware. A few tutorials are available. Linux enthusiast's have already managed to get Quake 3 running on PS3. If you are one of the lucky few who managed to get their mitts on a PS3, and you are reading this, you know what you want to do.

Tech specs for the PS3 include the much talked about Cell Processor which has eight identical Synergistic Processor Elements running at 3.2 Ghz each, seven of which are actually used. The graphics are handled by Nvidia's RSX (Reality Synthesizer). This is based on the G70 Architecture, the same as used in the 7800 series GPU. 256 MB of on-GPU memory and 256 MB of system memory round off the system.

thunderboltSMART Releases Updated Linux Client

On October 30th SMART Technologies Inc. announced v9.5 of their SMART Board(tm) client for the Linux operating system. Building on v9.5 of their Mac and Windows clients, this release will allow for simultaneous development for all three platforms.The initial release will be targeted at Fedora Core 3, Red Hat Enterprise 4, and SUSE 10, all of which use the RPM package management system. The client supports multiple-languages and can be used with SMART's Sympodium(r) interactive pen displays and AirLiner(tm) wireless slates. The client is downloadable free of charge to all current owners of a SMART Board(tm) and the Linux client will be shipped with all future SMART Boards(tm).

The full press release can be read online: http://www2.smarttech.com/st/en-US/About+Us/News+Room/Media+Releases/default.htm?guid={86163DD8-0520-4BF3-87BF-977591BEE00E}.

thunderboltFirst Integrated Open Source Mobile Platform Launched

On November 7th OpenMoko announced their release of the first fully integrated open source mobile communications platform in parternship with First International Computer (FIC). FIC simultaneously announced that their Neo1973 smart phone will utilize the entire platform. Basing their platform on OpenEmbedded, one of the largest selling points is the ease of adding and removing software through "OpenMoko Certified" and third party feeds. This will allow end users to access an already existing large base of applications. Meanwhile developers will be made happy by the ease of writing applications, utilizing the open libraries and standards.

OpenMoko has partnered with Funambol, a mobile open source software company. This partnership will allow seamless and transparent integration between applications and services (push email, PIM synchronization, corporate servers, etc.). Wireless technology will allow applications to be added and updated "virtually anywhere."

thunderboltFirebird 2.0 Announced

On November 12th at the fourth annual Firebird conference in Prague, version 2.0 was announced. Firebird is a SQL relational database system that has been developed under various names since 1981. The change log for 2.0 includes a reworked indexing system, removal of legacy limitations, 64-bit platform support, further SQL support, and more. Binaries are available on the project's download page for Win32 and Linux (x86 and 64-bit), including source code.

The full press release is online at: http://www.firebirdsql.org/index.php?op=devel&sub=engine&id=fb20_release.

thunderboltDigital Filing Cabinet Now Available

On November 14th ArchivistaBox 2006/X1, "the first digital filing cabinet", was released. Available as embedded or cluster software, the package is a document management system and archiving utility available on both Linux and Windows. Using a web interface, there is no additional software needed to access the database. One can attach I/O devices (printers, scanners, etc.) to ArchivistaBox, which will automatically add the documents to its database. One neat feature is the integrated printing system (CUPS), which will automatically convert and add files from the printer spool to the document database.

Demo site (no password): www.archivista.ch/appenzell
ArchivistaBox free download: www.archivista.ch/avbox/archivista_cd1.iso
Full press release: http://www.archivista.ch/index.pl/archivistabox_2006/xi3

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Aditya Nag


Aditya was bored one day in 1997 and decided to take a look at this "linux thing". After installing Red Hat 5, and looking at the blinking cursor, he promptly removed it and went back to Windows. And then reinstalled a few days later, determined to figure it out. So far, he's figured some stuff out, but he's still trying, and he's still having fun.

Samuel Kotel Bisbee-vonKaufmann


Samuel Kotel Bisbee-vonKaufmann was born ('87) and raised in the Boston, MA area. His interest in all things electronics was established early as his father was an electrician. Teaching himself HTML and web design at the age of 10, Sam has spiraled deeper into the confusion that is computer science and the FOSS community, running his first distro, Red Hat, when he was approximately 13 years old. Entering boarding high school in 2002, Northfield Mount Hermon, he found his way into the school's computer club, GEECS for Electronics, Engineering, Computers, and Science (a recursive acronym), which would allow him to share in and teach the Linux experience to future generations. Also during high school Sam was abducted into the Open and Free Technology Community (http://www.oftc.org), had his first article published, and became more involved in various communities and projects.

Sam is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science at Boston University and continues to be involved in the FOSS community. Other hobbies include martial arts, writing, buildering, working, chess, and crossword puzzles. Then there is something about Linux, algorithms, programing, etc., but who makes money doing that?

Sam prefers programming in C++ and Bash, is fluent in Java and PHP, and while he can work in Perl, he hates it. If you would like to know more then feel free to ask.

Copyright © 2006, Aditya Nag and Samuel Kotel Bisbee-vonKaufmann. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 133 of Linux Gazette, December 2006

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