Saturday, December 13, 2008

Firefox's Spellchecker Has Four Words for "Gizmodo"

By Wilson Rothman

Last night I noticed Firefox didn't yet have "Gizmodo" in its dictionary. Curiosity led me to right-click over the red line to see what words it suggested I use instead. All four were awesome:

Yes, Firefox thinks that, instead of typing the name of our beloved publication, I should instead choose from Gizzard, Quasimodo, Commodore and Sodomize. While they're not necessarily the four words I would immediately choose to sum up the wild, at times off-color yet always authoritative spirit that exudes from these pages, I couldn't help but be impressed at what may have been the Firefox dictionary AI's first successful attempt at humor. Gizmodo: Is it a chicken part, a tragic hunchback, a top-ranking naval officer or a sex act named after a damned Biblical town? Can't it be all of these things, Firefox?

Original here

LimeWire Adds Private File Sharing


File sharing doesn't have to be about indiscriminate trading with anonymous strangers. LimeWire served up a major upgrade to its file sharing client Wednesday with a simpler interface and powerful private sharing features.

Using the new version, you could potentially share music with your friends, download NSFW videos from wherever and share photos with your family — all without anyone being the wiser.

This may sound risky, but LimeWire's new sharing features allow a level of control over what you're sharing with whom that makes it a feasible scenario. You can still use it just like the old version, to share and download from strangers, but the socially networked sharing feature could become the main way many people use the program.

The alpha version of LimeWire was made public for Windows, Mac and Linux on Wednesday at around noon. The program installs easily, importing files from your library and letting you search and download music, video, images, documents and other files from the gnutella P2P network. It can also act as your bit torrent client. But the main improvement here is the way it lets you set up easy, private file sharing networks on a file-by-file, user-by-user basis.

"I have a 65-year-old mother in Scotland, and the idea of asking her to sign up with Snapfish and to log in, and the upload process, it's still a very complicated thing for ordinary people," said LimeWire COO Kevin Bradshaw when he first told us of the plan. "Imagine a situation where she would have an installation of LimeWire ... I could just drop pictures into a folder on my hard drive and they would automatically appear on her drive."

Indeed, the free private sharing feature (instructions below) is the strongest selling point of the new LimeWire. But you can also use it as before to download stuff from strangers and share content with the gnutella network at large. But in it's default mode, LimeWire is only set to share files you downloaded from the network; all other content in the library must be intentionally shared, either with specific users or the network in general.

Here's how it works. The first thing you'll notice after you upgrade is the new, super clean interface. If you can't figure out how to search for files with this interface, you might want to get yourself checked. Note: some of these screenshots are of the private alpha version.


The search results start rolling in. As with the previous version, each search query spawns a new tab:


Double-clicking on a search result brings up the download screen. LimeWire can automatically import all downloaded music into your iTunes library:


Now we get to this new private sharing feature. After you enter your Gmail user name and password (or other Jabber log-in), your friends show up in a list to the left. LimeWire product manager said they're working to add the ability to import friends from Facebook and other sites. Friends who are online appear in a chat window so you can ask them to download and install it. Once they do, you'll be able to decide which files to share with them and view the files they're sharing with you. Names of friends have been obscured (in other examples, we cropped them out):

Again, in LimeWire's default setting, only files downloaded from LimeWire are shared, as opposed to most other file sharing clients, which share everything in your library by default. However, you can activate network-wide sharing for files by clicking the Share link next to each one or by right-clicking multiple files. Note that files can be unshared at any time:


The other way to share files in the new LimeWire is to choose a specific person in your friend list and then designate files or entire file types to be shared with them. You can do this for music, videos, images, documents, programs and other file types:


LimeWire product manager Nathan Lovejoy told us that the company intentionally left out a way to add friends from the community at large to your friend list, as one could with the original Napster (although you can download whatever they're sharing publicly). That way, he said, people really have to know those they're sharing with. Not only does this discourage RIAA snoops, but it should also result in a more personal experience when using the software, because people will actually have to know their friends. What a concept!

In addition to file-by-file private sharing, the other main way to share files with a friend is to share all of a certain type of media — audio, video, documents and/or images. To do this, you select the media type in your library and then hit the share button. In this case, I'm going to share all of my audio files with a specific friend. This feature could work great for sharing all your photos with family, while keeping your music and videos to yourself:


Then you enter the friend's name:


Click on any of your friends to see what they're sharing with you, categorized by file type:


The LimeWire music store is available within the application, so you can purchase MP3s for $1 a piece, or cheaper if you buy in bulk:


The LimeWire alpha version is already relatively stable, and already offers a solid way for users to move beyond vanilla file sharing towards a personalized social media network for friends and family. Whenever you share files on a file sharing network (with a few exceptions), you expose your IP address to other users of the network, which is how the RIAA picks people to sue. LimeWire's simple-to-use private sharing features will help file sharers avoid legal scrutiny, but they also represent a substantial, non-infringing use for the program that will be of great benefit to users. And you can forget about the file size limitations of e-mail, online file-sending services and the like. LimeWire lets you share files of any size for free, because it transfers content directly from computer to computer.

You can download the new LimeWire as of Wednesday. Lovejoy tells us that the beta version should be ready in a couple of weeks.

By Eliot Van Buskirk

Original here

McCain Campaign Sells Info-Loaded Blackberry to FOX 5 Reporter

by Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough

When we charged them up in the newsroom, we found one of the $20 Blackberry phones contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night.
FOX 5 Investigative Unit

ARLINGTON, Va. - Private information at bargain prices. It was a high-tech flub at the McCain-Palin campaign headquarters in Arlington when Fox 5’s Investigative Reporter Tisha Thompson bought a Blackberry device containing confidential campaign information.

It started with a snippet we read on page A23 in Thursday’s Washington Post. The McCain-Palin campaign was going to sell its used office inventory at low prices.

But when we got there, it didn’t look like we were going to get much. It was lunchtime and most of the good stuff was gone, picked over by early birds looking for deals on file cabinets, white boards, sofas-- anything headquarters could sell to get back some of their campaign dough.

We saw laptops ranging between $400 and $600 with logins like “WARROOM08.” We couldn’t log on without a password, but staffers assured us the hard drive would be zapped before it was sold, and the computer would probably work.

The hottest item? Blackberry phones at $20 a piece. There were only 10 left. All of the batteries had died. There were no chargers for sale. But people were snatching them up. So, we bought a couple.

And ended up with a lot more than we bargained for.

When we charged them up in the newsroom, we found one of the $20 Blackberry phones contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night.

We traced the Blackberry back to a staffer who worked for “Citizens for McCain,” a group of democrats who threw their support behind the Republican nominee. The emails contain an insider’s look at how grassroots operations work, full of scheduling questions and rallying cries for support.

But most of the numbers were private cell phones for campaign leaders, politicians, lobbyists and journalists.

We called some of the numbers.

“Somebody made a mistake,” one owner told us. “People’s numbers and addresses were supposed to be erased.”

“They should have wiped that stuff out,” another said. But he added, “Given the way the campaign was run, this is not a surprise.”

We called the McCain-Palin campaign, who says, “it was an unfortunate staff error and procedures are being put in place to ensure all information is secure.”

But we wonder-- Did we get the only Blackberry with personal campaign information in it? Or did you get one too?

Let us know by dropping an email to or calling our Fox 5 News Desk at (202) 895-3280.

Original here

Should cybersecurity be managed from the White House?

In a report released Monday, the nonpartisan Center for Strategic & International Studies served up dozens of recommendations for improving American cybersecurity—but by far the most headline friendly was the call for a new National Office for Cyberspace within the White House, headed by an "assistant to the president for cyberspace," or cybersecurity czar.

Of course, the U.S. arguably has a "cybersecurity czar" already: Rod Beckstrom, who heads the National Cyber Security Center within the Department of Homeland Security. But the experts on CSIS' Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency argue that DHS is the wrong agency to take the lead on cybersecurity, which should be coordinated by a White House office with a direct line to the president. "Securing cyberspace," they argue, "is no longer an issue defined by homeland security or critical infrastructure protection" but rather "an issue of international security in which the primary actors are the intelligence and military forces of other nations." Under their plan, the existing NCSC would be fused with the Joint Inter-Agency Cyber Task Force to form the NOC. Similarly, a new Cybersecurity Directorate within the National Security Council would absorb relevant functions of the Homeland Security Council.

Cybersecurity Panel at the Heritage Foundation The cybersecurity effort within DHS has, perhaps understandably, focused on hardening the .gov domain against attacks, an approach that the report worries "skilled opponents will be able to outflank." And indeed, on the day of the report's release, Estonian defense advisor Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar gave a talk at the conservative Heritage Foundation, in which she stressed that when her country became perhaps the first victim of large-scale cyberwafare last year, only about 30 percent of the targets of attack were on official government networks. Rather, said Tiirmaa-Klaar, cyberwarriors target elements of the civilian-run critical infrastructure as part of broad-based "destabilization operations."

As everyone now seems to agree, that means effective cybersecurity requires bringing together a dizzying number of players, from the IT heads of government agencies and major private firms to software and hardware manufacturers to diplomats. Because large-scale attacks are often carried out by transnational botnets, Tiirmaa-Klaar argued, a coordinated international legal response will be necessary to prevent them.That might mean, inter alia, developing model legislation for developing nations where low-tech law enforcement allows cybercriminals to thrive.

As far as CSIS is concerned, that means cybersecurity efforts require the sort of bird's-eye view available only from a perch at the White House—and the kind of authority to yoke together disparate actors that only a presidential imprimatur will provide. Yet at the same Heritage event, Frank Garcia, a career staffer with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, voiced doubts about proposals to shift primary responsibility for cybersecurity away from DHS. "Any new organization or bureaucracy takes a while to get their culture established," said Garcia. "Fix the problems as they may exist at DHS. Don't try to create some supra-group somewhere else that rises above all the other organizations in the executive branch. Because you're still going to have the same problem. Nobody's going to want to give up budget authority to that group; it doesn't matter where you put it."

From Garcia's perspective, the important thing is "top cover"—the sense that whoever is taking the lead on cybersecurity has the backing of the president, and the power to move dollars.

In comments to reporters last week, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff conceded the need for a "White House mechanism" to harmonize cybersecurity efforts across agencies, but also sounded a preemptive skeptical note. "We've heard you have to have a cyberczar," said Chertoff. "You have to have a czar for this and a czar for that. Just remember — all these things add extra layers."

Extra layers, and in the case of the incoming Obama administration, extra moving parts to track simultaneously. Obama, after all, has already pledged to appoint a cabinet-level Chief Technology Officer, whose admittedly vague job description clearly overlaps with that of the "assistant for cyberspace" envisioned by the CSIS report. In one sense, the proposed CTO's responsibilities are much broader: he or she would be tasked with ensuring that a hodgepodge of government agencies are following best practices for IT, and with promoting greater transparency in government by pushing ever more information online. In other ways, though, they're probably narrower: The NOC envisioned in the report spearheads an effort that involves not only internal standards-setting and procurement decisions, but the deployment of economic and diplomatic pressure on foreign countries, and coordination with the private sector via three new public-private advisory groups envisioned by CSIS.

All of which is to say, the White House post proposed by CSIS is clearly distinct from the CTO that Obama intends to appoint. Yet it is hard to imagine how both new offices could be introduced simultaneously without creating a too-many-cooks problem. At the same time, it may be too much to ask that a CTO take on the sort of big-picture, public-private, international cybersecurity effort CSIS advocates while also transforming government's use of IT.

While big-picture proposals for reorganizing US cybersecurity efforts tend to grab headlines, it's likely to be easier to establish consensus around some of the more specific proposals cooked up by the CSIS commission, such as merging "national security" and "homeland security" advisory functions that bear on network security. Especially while the scope of the new CTO's responsibilities is still being established, it may make sense to focus on these less sexy reforms first.

Original here

The hovering Multiple Kill Vehicle is simply a waking nightmare

Are you ready for a vision of your inevitable end at the hands of a hovering murderbot? Feast your eyes, then, on this video of the Missile Defense Agency's MKV-L -- or as we like to call it, the Multiple Kill Vehicle. The device -- meant to be used in a bundle of missile interceptors deployed by a larger "carrier" -- has apparently just completed its first flight test, so... you've been warned, resistance is futile, he'll be back, and in space no one can hear you scream. [Warning: read link is a PDF]

[Thanks, Jason]

Microsoft Launches Thumbtack; It’s a Google Notebook Competitor

by Adam Ostrow

Microsoft Live Labs has just released Thumbtack, a new online notebook service of sorts, allowing you to create different collections where you can store links and content and share it with friends. Microsoft offers a few examples of how you might want to use this: finding a new apartment with your roommate, creating a list of your favorite restaurants, or storing data on different cars if you’re in the market for one.

The most comparable competitor is probably Google Notebook, which lets you create an unlimited number of lists that can be shared with your contacts. Just like Notebook, Thumbtack offers a bookmarklet so you can add to your collections as you browse the Web. Here’s a demo of Thumbtack from the Live Labs team:

<a href="" target="_new" title="Thumbtack Introduction">Video: Thumbtack Introduction</a>

I could see this being somewhat useful for very specific tasks, but generally speaking, simple bookmarking and tagging of Web pages works just fine for organizing links I’d like to remember. Do you think Thumbtack is something you’d use? Or, are you using any online notebook tool for that matter?

Original here

Microsoft approaches an open-source epiphany

Posted by Matt Asay

I read with interest this account of the Microsoft Platform Strategy Group's efforts to steer the Redmond giant toward a more conciliatory approach to open source. One paragraph, in particular, struck me (emphasis added):

[Microsoft senior director Bob Duffner] stressed that Microsoft by no means wants to promote the use of open-source software to its customers, and still thinks its own software is superior. However, embracing open source is about giving customers and developers the chance to make their own decisions about which software to buy, and making sure both Microsoft and open-source software can be part of the same buying decision, Duffner said.

Perhaps someone should remind Duffner that by promoting its own software to customers, Microsoft already is promoting open-source software, since open source has long been included in its proprietary offerings, a trend that is increasing. (Duffner knows this, of course - he has a deep background in open source. I suspect his comment was designed to placate internal Microsoft factions more than to convey any information to customers.)

Not that customers are fooled. Forrester Research recently surveyed a range of enterprises and uncovered an overwhelming understanding among IT buyers that proprietary offerings have open source inside. So, to Duffner's point, Microsoft and open-source software already are part of the same buying decision, both in terms of separate products and in terms of Microsoft's own products.

Kudos to Duffer, Sam Ramji, and others on the Microsoft open-source team that are preaching this open-source gospel to the Microsofties. It seems to be sinking in.

Matt Asay is general manager of the Americas and vice president of business development at Alfresco, and has nearly a decade of operational experience with commercial open source and regularly speaks and publishes on open-source business strategy. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

Original here

6 Ways to Get Much More Out of GIMP

by Sam Dean

GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a long-standing and hugely respected open source graphics program, and many readers probably already use it. Originally created at U.C. Berkeley its interface and feature set run neck-and-neck with expensive proprietary alternatives such as Photoshop, and it has a thriving community of developers and plug-in creators. The GIMP site has many useful resources for the application, and there are also a lot of other places to visit for turning yourself into a power user of this excellent cross-platform application that always leaves new users bewildered that it is free. Here are six good choices.

Many GIMP users who use or have previously used Photoshop swear by GIMPshop, which is essentially a hack of GIMP that gives it an interface equivalent to Photoshop's, right down to individual menu choices and terminology used. In fact, it's so close in interface to Photoshop that, using it, you can follow the thousands of Photoshop tutorials available online in GIMP. Mac, Windows and Linux users can install GIMPshop.

There are many good books on GIMP, but you may very well find everything you need in the way of instruction in Grokking the GIMP. The book is available in a free HTML tarball in addition to a printed copy that you can buy. I highly recommend looking at the links in the contents. This free, online book takes you through layers, filters, resizing tips, masks, blending colors, case studies and way more than that. The screenshots and instructions are from an older version of GIMP, but many of the tutorials will still give you what you need to perform advanced tasks.

One of the best aspects of GIMP is that it has a thriving community of plug-in developers. There are plug-ins for granular tasks such as new ways to edit images, plug-ins for more flexible graphics printing options, and more. The registry of plug-ins is here.

Keyboard shortcuts always come in handy with graphics programs, and many Photoshop users employ them. In the link at the bottom of this page, you'll find useful shortcuts for GIMP.

On GIMP's own site, you'll find many tutorials. With them, you can create floating logos, learn how to do red eye removal in photos, make vignettes out of photos, and more. There are lots more community-driven and video tutorials at Many of the tutorials there are complemented by useful comments and tips from readers.

Of course, don't forget about GIMP documentation. There's plenty of it, and you'll find it available in many languages.

Original here

Unboxing the CherryPal: It’s alive!

By Samantha Rose Hunt

First Look - After much skepticism due to poor company communication, I can admit I was extremely pleased to have the small CherryPal box hit my doorstep. So, I can confirm that the CherryPal does exist, well sorta. In fact I’m writing this article about my first impressions from the cloud computer. But I still wonder if this device is really shipping in volume.

Clearly, after so many delays, I was interested in how the $250 CherryPal box would look and feel. Unboxing an entirely new product, especially if you are one of the first to receive it, is always a fascinating experience. Here are my first impressions on what I found, how the CherryPal feels like and what it can do.


I opened my new CherryPal PC box and expected to find the single sheet of instructions promised by the company. However, the only thing my box contained was a CherryPal t-shirt, the PC itself, and an AC adapter. There were no instructions. Your only instruction, if you can consider it an instruction, is an email that was sent to me – it notified me of my CherryPal login.

Aesthetically, the CherryPal PC leaves much to be desired. It is a plain black box. The computer is tiny: It isn’t much larger than my iPod, if that gives you an idea of the size. The company claims that the PC weighs about 2 lbs, which includes the AC adapter. The CherryPal alone weighs about 1 lb.

Subjectively, it has a flimsy feel to it and does not provide an impression of a solid build quality. The product design isn’t exactly flushed out, either: For example, the connection ports are on the front and there is no way to hide any cables.


Consisting of two USB ports, a monitor port, Ethernet interface and a headphone/speaker output, you don’t get any extras. You can’t use a microphone, there is no CD/DVD drive, etc, and if you want to use a printer or an external hard drive, you will have to pull the plug on either your mouse or your keyboard. But of course, you always have an option of a USB HUB to connect more than just two USB devices.

In short: The CherryPal feels like a beta product that still needs some work. What is truly impressive, however, is its small size.

Booting up

When I booted the system, I was greeted with an extremely unattractive login prompt. The provided login worked right away and revealed a basic Linux desktop. The CherryPal is based on a Xubuntu distribution, which utilizes the simple Xfce desktop.


One of the first impressions when running the CherryPal is that it is a fanless device, which means that the PC is silent - and by silent I mean it makes absolutely no noise. The PC has no moving parts, thus making it inaudible.

The computer comes with a great amount of preinstalled software, among which are programs such as Firefox, a few games, OpenOffice, and an independent word processor.

One of the things that instantly worked on the PC was the Wi-Fi connection. My wireless network was instantaneously recognized and I was connected quickly and simply. I have had major issues on other Linux PCs trying to get the wireless connection to work correctly, so this was a great feat.

Unfortunately, the performance of the PC began to decline from there.

When utilizing Firefox to navigate the web, I noticed that Firefox runs extremely slow. Don’t expect Firefox to zip along like in your multicore PC – in this case, the software is driven by a Freescale 400 MHz processor that is much more appropriate for simple embedded applications than an actual PC.

I also noticed that my Firefox came with a history of websites, which means someone else had used this device before me. Someone may have tested the CherryPal before it was sent to me, but it clearly looks like a device from someone’s desk and not like a full production unit.

While navigating the web, it was painfully obvious that Firefox was struggling to load. Firefox is handicapped on some Linux PCs anyway, so the solution to the browser issue could simply come with the installation of a different browser. Additional software can be installed via the Synaptic Package manager.

Thankfully, the performance of cloud computing applications does not depend so much on the processor in the CherryPal. But cloud computing does rely on a fast browser – and we have seen such improvements in Firefox 3.1 beta - in order to allow for a convenient web browsing and content creation experience. We will be taking the system through its paces and follow up with a more detailed review soon.

For now, I have to say that the CherryPal PC in fact does exist. But the company got off on the wrong foot and I still believe the company may not be prepared for the task and seems to be rather unstable. I cannot confirm that CherryPals are manufactured in large quantities.

So, if you’re willing to risk a wait and you are interested in this highly touted environmentally friendly PC, the website appears to be taking orders again. And as far as usage is concerned, the CherryPal PC is an interesting system for basic desktop computing and simple applications such as word processing. Personally, it isn’t something that I can utilize as my everyday PC. I need the bells and whistles, but if you’re looking for a compact cloud computing device, this might just work.

Original here

The Big Push 2009 -- Free Software Foundation Appeal

Dear Free Software Supporter,

Peter T. Brown, Executive Director, Free Software Foundation

Our community has made enormous progress in creating tools that enhance communication and freedom — with profound effect on people's lives. Free software has become a model for how our society can progress collaboratively, and members of our community are at the forefront in expressing these ideals.

End Software Patents

Advocacy, diplomacy, and education are a vital part of the work the Free Software Foundation does for the free software community — but to clear a path for free software adoption, our work has to also reach beyond this community. We reach a wider audience with important campaigns on related ethical issues, such as Defective By Design — our campaign to eliminate DRM, which has had a profound effect on the way people look at digital restrictions on music, games, electronic books and video. And as web applications and other network services become increasingly popular and convenient, we are working to ensure that computer users are not asked to give up their freedom in order to use them. Our release of the GNU Affero General Public License and ongoing discussions with the group represent a solid foundation to tackle this issue and help our community further develop free software alternatives for the benefit of society.

Today, there are many questions that the free software community needs to tackle — Does your employer or school require you to use Microsoft software? Are you required to use proprietary formats to interact with your bank or local government? Are your children being trained to use Microsoft or Apple rather than learning how to be in control of the computers they use?

As advocates for free software, we can challenge the status quo and so-called convenience of using the invasive tools of proprietary software companies, because the opportunities for change have never been better:

End Software Patents

The Free Software Foundation through its End Software Patents (ESP) campaign filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in their en banc hearing of in re Bilski — the Bilski ruling gutted, if not technically overturned, the State Street ruling that in 1998 opened the floodgates to the patenting of business methods and software. The vast bulk of software patents that have been used to threaten developers writing software for GNU/Linux distributions running on general purpose computers has in theory been swept away. The Bilski ruling undoubtedly represents a breakthrough for free software and a success for our campaign, and with this ruling we are on the path to lowering the threats that institutions face when considering adopting free software.


Completely free distributions like the FSF-sponsored gNewSense are now viable, something that just a few years ago seemed far out of reach. Our work with SGI earlier this year means that 3D graphics acceleration can finally be achieved with free software and gNewSense.

The relaunch of our High Priority Projects list highlights that the proprietary software for which there is currently no free alternative and that users feel forced to use is dwindling and being tackled aggressively.

Neo Freerunner

Hardware manufacturers friendly to free software have given us the first free software smartphone, the Neo FreeRunner. The OLPC project gave us the first free software laptop, the XO, that has quickly established the low-cost subnotebook marketplace — where the economics have made GNU/Linux a popular choice. And for the past few months, FSF systems administrators have been working on the forthcoming free software friendly Lemote laptop, which Richard Stallman is using and that we hope will be widely commercially available. The availability of free software friendly hardware has never been greater.


The FSF has been campaigning for free and open formats and standards. Our free audio and video codecs campaign has been winning hearts and minds, and Mozilla's Firefox web browser will soon carry native support for Ogg, giving us an unprecedented opportunity to promote free codecs. Our campaign alongside many partners for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and against Microsoft's OOXML has been successful, with many countries adopting pro-ODF policies.

Stephen Fry in 'Happy Birthday to GNU'

We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the GNU Project this year with a breakthrough film from the English comedian Stephen Fry, who gave us an important reminder of the alternative vision for the technology we use, a vision where people don't trade freedom for convenience but instead support development of tools that create a better society. More than 1 million people have watched the film and it has been translated into 32 languages.

Combined, these breakthroughs are important because they give us an opportunity to put aside the claims of convenience that are used to promote the monopolists' pervasive tools, and ask important questions of our employer. Why are we using this proprietary software that locks us to this vendor when we could be using free software that would give us control? It gives us the chance to demand open government. Why is it, that my local government is forcing me to purchase one vendor's software to access public records, when there are free formats that we can use that work with free software? And why does this school accept corporate donations of proprietary software that come with handcuffs on my child's education, rather than use free software that will give my child the opportunity to be in control of the technology she learning to use?

Support us now in our big push to move these questions and more to the forefront in 2009 — become a member or make a donation.


Peter T. Brown

Executive Director, Free Software Foundation

Original here

Apple’s take on mobile Unix

Posted by David Morgenstern

Apple’s take on mobile UnixThe Mac community was buzzing in late November when the director of Apple’s Unix group showed a slide at the LISA (Large System Adminstration) conference that predicted that the Snow Leopard version of Mac OS X would ship in the first quarter of 2009. However, there were more than 100 other slides in the presentation, and they offered some interesting bits of their own.

The talk was by Jordan Hubbard the director of Apple’s Unix Technology Group. From the PDF of the talk (confirmed by some LISA blog postings), he discussed a number of Mac OS X security features and several open source software projects that Apple is supporting, including Apple Syslog (a rewrite of the BSD syslog), MacPorts (an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading either command-line, X11 or Aqua based open-source software), MacRuby (a version of Ruby 1.9, ported to run directly on top of Mac OS X core technologies), and WebKit (the Web engine behind Safari).

Here are some of the 117 slides that caught my eye:

Mobility questions. Hubbard said that “ubiquitous computing is not ‘coming,’ it is already here! He suggested that developers start thinking of ever-smaller devices, meaning power budgets in the milliwatt range.

He offered a number of “lessons” from Apple’s iPhone experience. He said programmers need to avoid making assumptions about power and performance when dealing with a small, mobile platform.

•“Enterprise” features (like code signing) can also be substantially leveraged on mobile devices.
•Mobile device features (like CoreAnimation) can also encourage innovation in “bigger” devices.
•You can actually can run a full Unix on a phone now.
•It’s all about the power, and all resources (memory, flash, CPU) take power. We need to challenge our “Unix assumptions” about power being plentiful.
•Stability is key for something this critical (it can’t crash while dialing emergency services). You just can’t run everything you want to.

Multiple core computing. Pointing to the roadmaps from Intel, Hubbard said we can expect more than 32 cores arriving in “commodity hardware” in 2010. This will create problems for programmers, he said.

One problem with multi-core computers is that processors can run faster than they can fetch data from memory (don’t even talk about retrieving data from the disk!). The processor is said to be “starved,” while waiting around for the data. There are different schemes for improving this performance issue, some under the subject heading of NUMA (non-uniform memory access). NUMA is a cache that can help each processor core hold data that it might need.

Now, AMD’s high-performance group uses ccNUMA (cache coherent non-uniform memory access), which uses a technology that lets the processors better keep track of the cached information.

Of course, Apple chose Intel. Hubbard appears to warn developers that processor developers (or in this case, Intel) won’t spending the money to develop coherency cache engines and that software makers (and OS vendors) would have to figure out ways to do this better. He calls this an “incoming meteor.”

•It means that hardware folks are out of headroom on pure clock speed and must go lateral.
•The hardware folks are also probably tired of paying for the Software people’s sins. ccNUMA is likely to eventually yield (back) to NUMA. Good for them, bad for us!
•Memory access, already very expensive, will become substantially more so.
•Forget everything you thought you knew about multi-threaded programming (and, as it turns out, most developers didn’t know much anyway).
•The kernel is the only one who really knows the right mix of cores and power states to use at any given time - this can’t be a pure app-driven decision.
•We need new APIs and mechanisms for dealing with this incoming meteor.

Original here

The Most Popular Linux Posts of 2008

By Kevin Purdy

Only around five percent of Lifehacker's visitors are using the open-source Linux operating system when they stop by, according to our traffic charts, and only one of our editors (ahem) is regularly using it every day.

Having said that, when we get to write about great Linux-based tweaks or downloads, we get pretty excited—and, apparently, so do our readers and visitors linked in from across the web. Today we're looking back at the Linux-related posts that got the most attention in 2008, so read on to see what you might have missed, and what the open-source crowd is down with. Photo by Ypsy.

Fedora 9 Puts Your Desktop on a USB Drive

There are many tools one can use to create live-booting Linux desktops on a USB drive, including the multi-distro UNetbootin. Back when Fedora 9 was officially released, though, the Red Hat spin-off made a splash by giving us an easy-to-grasp, Windows-based tool for automatically downloading the latest Fedora release and putting it on a USB stick, along with allowing for extra space for storing changes you made to your system and documents you worked on . The Live USB Creator still works with Fedora 10, and very well might have inspired Ubuntu's 8.10 release to include a similar tool.

Seamlessly Run Linux Apps on Your Windows Desktop

There's probably a few Windows-only apps that make living in Linux pretty hard for even those intrigued at the idea—but there's also some Linux apps that would be great to have on your Windows system. Adam detailed how you can put what's basically a full Ubuntu installation onto your desktop with andLinux, using it to enable and launch apps like Amarok, the Akregator RSS reader, or whatever else you're into. For the flip side of that Win/Linux coin, see our guide to using Virtualbox to run Windows apps seamlessly inside Linux

Hardy Heron Makes Linux Worth Another Look

Looking at everything newly available in the popular Ubuntu distribution's 8.04 release, your humble editor jumped on the soapbox and made a case for it being a great reason to give Linux a shot. You could actually install it only as a Windows boot option without messing with your system's boot record, or easily access both Windows and Linux-formatted drives from either system. You could share settings between open-source apps like Firefox, Pidgin, and Thunderbird, and your ability to customize your desktop was pretty boundless. We try not to rant too often here, but sometimes it's worth letting fly with the links and inline pictures.

First Look at Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex Beta

There wasn't half as much new in October's 8.10 release of Ubuntu as there had been in the majorly re-spun 8.04, but a bunch of seriously helpful usability tweaks made it worth the upgrade. Much-improved network and wireless management (including baked-in 3G card support), a graphical indicator for the installation partition editor, and hardware and dual-monitor managers that explained more of what was happening. Ubuntu-savvy author Keir Thomas also gave us a more in-depth, user-focused look at 8.10.

Lifehacker Faceoffs: Battles of the Thumb Drive Linux Systems and Linux Distros

We describe, you decide. We couldn't pretend to cover every desktop Linux operating system or live-boot-able, portable-minded distro out there, so we offered up a few popular, prime examples and polled our reader for their preference. As of this morning, Ubuntu held a commanding 49 percent in the desktop poll, followed by Ubuntu variants like Kubuntu/Xubuntu, then PC Linux OS (surprising!) and Fedora. In the thumb drive wars, Ubuntu still rules the roost at 29 percent, followed closely by Puppy Linux at 24 percent, then Fedora and Damn Small Linux at 13 and 12 percent, respectively.

Five more popular Linux posts

  • Five Tweaks for Your New Ubuntu Desktop—Taken from the first things your editor always finds himself doing upon a new install. Switching to mirror servers, disabling or throttling index services, and setting up automatic home folder backups.
  • Make Your Linux Desktop More Productive—Windows and Mac fans thinking about making the switch can benefit from checking out how to give their desktops a familiar, quick-task-switching feel, using dock programs like Avant Window Navigator, quick-launchers Gnome-DO or Launchy, and system tray indicators galore.
  • Ask the Readers: Would a Prettier Linux Make You Switch?—Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said he wanted to take an Apple-like focus on creating an elegant, eye-pleasing desktop for Linux distributions, and we wondered if that was a big missing link in Linux adoption. Readers seemed to agree it was important, but, well, another Mac trait—usually seamless hardware compatibility—was more key to your minds.
  • Ubuntu 8.10 Gets Optional DarkRoom Theme—Looks like a lot of Ubuntu users are getting a bit tired of the orange/brown theme, and like the eye-relaxing looks of darker-hued desktops.
  • Linux Desktops Dressed Up as Macs—For those who don't mind the mental schism between an ultra-proprietary desktop look and open-source guts, there are plenty of tools and tutorials for getting a strikingly Apple-like look on your Linux deck.

What was your favorite Linux app, tweak, or discovery from 2008 (or, if you're not calendar-minded, in recent memory)? Tell us about it in the comments.

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