opinion

  • user warning: Table 'cache' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire FROM cache WHERE cid = 'filter:1:d1353ca4628d7b000c4b607a6c5ec351' in /home/dowdle/public_html/montanalinux/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 121.
  • user warning: Table 'cache' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache SET data = '<p>Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (Tikanga) was released on March 14, 2007 and yesterday was RHEL 5\'s 3rd birthday. Since then we have gotten 4 update releases.</p>\n<p>Given the fact that Red Hat\'s original plan was to have a new RHEL release every 18 - 24 months, one has to wonder where RHEL 6 is and why it is so late. My best guess is that RHEL 6 (which so far has had a non-public alpha release within Red Hat as witnessed in some Bugzilla reports) will come out sometime this summer... possibly in time for the <a href=\"http://www.redhat.com/promo/summit/2010/\" target=\"_rhssite\">Red Hat Summit</a> in Boston (June 22-25, 2010). For that to happen I would expect a public beta for RHEL 6 to be released in the not too distant future. We\'ll see how that pans out.</p>\n<p>While we are waiting, how about some idle discussion?</p>\n<br class=\"clear\" />', created = 1411011573, expire = 1411097973, headers = '' WHERE cid = 'filter:1:d1353ca4628d7b000c4b607a6c5ec351' in /home/dowdle/public_html/montanalinux/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 121.

Opinion: Is online privacy lost? Forever?

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I have a Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ Android-based tablet. I put a fairly recent version of CyanogenMod on it. I mainly bought it because it has fairly nice hardware specs at a fairly low price even if it is missing some features. I bought it because I felt that as an IT person that I must keep up with mobile technology and software. I sit at a computer all day at work. I have a desktop at home that I use a lot even if I'm not sitting directly in front of it. I have a netbook and I frequently use a more powerful laptop from work. I'm not really mobile very often... except when I'm either in the car or on the Streamline bus to/from work. I don't want to pay for multiple Internet access services so I don't have a data plan nor a cell phone.

What Privacy? - Another aspect of mobile devices is the software environments they run and how there is virtually no privacy offered by them. Again, I'm not really a privacy nut. No, no, really. I have my tablet that I don't use much... but I turn it on periodically so it can update a dozen or more apps. Every once in a while one or more of the apps will not auto-update because they are wanting to change their permissions. Take today for example. I charged up the tablet, turned it on... and 15 apps updated but the 16th one needed approval. It was the Google Search app... which is very much a core program provided by Google with Android. It wanted the following permissions:

1) Device and App history, 2) Identity, 3) Contacts/Calendar, 4) Location, 5) SMS, 6) Phone, 7) Photos/Media/Files, 8) Camera/Microphone, 9) Wi-Fi conneciton information, 10) Device ID and call information, and 11) Other

It turns out that Other is "Contacts data in Google accounts".

You'd think that Google would be a model citizen and an example for their third-party developers. Well they are, but in a bad way. Android created this whole permission ecosystem as a way for users to have more control over what gets shared with the software companies and their outside world. As time has passed it appears that almost no one cares what permissions an app asks for... they will grant whatever they ask for... because they want to use the application. In fact some wish the acceptance process was automated so they wouldn't even be asked.

The saying goes that some free-of-cost software (not to be confused with Free and Open Source Software) is paid for with privacy... and that is very much the truth. It is also true of much of the software people do pay for. The practical reality is that a large number of applications want access to everything just so they can have the data... not that they really need much of it to serve their application function.

Questions That Pop Into My Head - How much data is gathered on a mobile software environment user? How many overlapping, slightly different copies exist across the millions of servers around the world? How much of that data is being troved or intelligently processed for deriving additional information? How much of that is protected with reasonable use policies? How much is sold over and over again? How much of it is collected by governments either by them asking for it or them being a transmission man-in-the-middle? How many of the data collections have been hacked into by unauthorized third-parties who make their own copies or have continuous access? Yeah, lots of fairly intangible questions... that are just mind blowing and numbing at the same time.

Does I sound like I'm complaining? Does it do any good to complain? Sorry. :)

Divided and Conquered - Some people are completely oblivious to privacy concerns. Some people are somewhat aware but don't think there is anything they can do about it so they just live with it. Others think it is just the way things are and need to be if you want the benefits of intelligent software. How many don't even try to understand any of it because it is too darn complicated?

Rebels With A Cause - Yet... some... other people... are building different systems that seem to care about privacy. I saw a few blog posts on Fedora Planet today. One was entitled, Desktop Containers - The Way Forward. Another, Sandboxed applications for GNOME. And yet another, Project Atomic + Docker: A post-package world?. The main focus on those is using application containers to change how software is developed and distributed... but in the context of this blog post... how they can also provide application isolation which translates into better privacy.

Wow, someone seems to still care about privacy. Everything isn't lost... but then again... how successful will such projects be? ...and being on Linux, how much market penetration will they really get into the masses currently giving everything away with their mobile lives? I also have to wonder just how many of the developers of these projects are also mobile users giving away their own data?

Same As It Ever Was - Another sad thing about this is that the mobile world is really only following the pattern of the desktop world. Well, more precisely, the web browser world. While a web browser application on the desktop operating system may not be accessing all of the data from other programs and sharing it with the browser maker... be certain that the vast majority of web sites are trying to gather as much information about the user as possible. Tiny bits and pieces of content on each web page, most of it hosted on servers other than the one providing the main content, are analyzing the web browser environment to determine the best way to gather information. If the browser has "Do Not Track" features, then they are trying to find ways around that... and there are tons of ways. Various commercial data gathering services are busy sharing their bits with others' bits to correlate information to derive yet more information. They pretty much know what websites we visit, what files we download, what we search for... what we care about and don't care about... and some form of who we are. They don't really care about knowing us, they just want to use all the information to increase their bottom lines.

How different is desktop computing than mobile? A lot but not so much. And we just take it, don't we? Well, to some degree. There are tools out there. Some of them simple browser add-ons like AdBlock Plus, HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery, etc... that help end users get some understanding of what is going on and offer a little better control on how they are being (ab)used. Then there is Tor, The Onion Router... and a few mini-home-router projects that are trying to make anonymity somewhat possible. And of course there are some in government who think that people who care about such things and use such products might have something to hide... and need even more scrutiny.

While I don't have (much) anything to hide, I don't like the idea of being bare naked for anyone wanting to have a peek. How about you?

What is the way forward? - Is privacy already gone forever with the war being lost... or are there still some battles that may determine better outcomes for a subset of the human population? I guess I'll just have to wait and see. In the mean time, I continue to fight off the little voice in my head that says I need a smart phone... and I try to learn more about and utilize some of the desktop tools that make me look suspicious. :) Oh, and I didn't even bring up... Ocial_Say Etworks_Nay, did I?

Opinion: Desktop spin laws that need to go away

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Various distro spin makers have made two unwritten laws that I very much disagree with:

A) A distro spin of desktop blah should have only programs built with the same widget library that desktop blah uses

B) A distro spin should only ship / pre-install one program for each application category

I mention this because I'm a big KDE fan but KDE-only distro spins do not include my preferred browser (Firefox) nor my preferred office suite (LibreOffice, not that I use an office suite much) because they aren't QT-native applications. While LibreOffice does a better job of integrating with KDE than Firefox does, both drag with them quite a bit of GTK baggage... which is considered "bloat" by many spin makers.

Ok, so a spin doesn't have to fit on a CD anymore because everyone has a DVD reader, right? So why not take advantage of that and not be afraid to ship a 1.4 or a 2 GB live image?

Korora is a really nice Fedora remix and they have a KDE spin... and they break rule A by including Firefox and LibreOffice but they aren't fond of breaking rule B. And they aren't afraid of having a larger image size either.

I guess I'll have to remain happy by continuing to create my own remix with most desktops included as well as many, and often redundant, desktop applications that use a variety of widget sets.

Comments to DistroWatch's Fedora 18 Review

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DistroWatch had a review of Fedora 18 in today's Weekly Edition. I spent a little while commenting on it on their site so I thought I'd share it here too. For the context of my comments, you might want to read/skim the review first.

@12 - When I first started using the new installer (about two months ago with the Alpha release) I too was appalled with it... yes, especially the partitioning portion After doing several installs I figured it out. I'm a long time Fedora user and I was used to Anaconda... and the new installer is a lot different. The resistance to change and not actually reading the screens is what made it a bad experience for me. Once I decided to give in and actually read the screens, it started making sense. I think a lot of the issues that people perceive with the new installer has to do with the fact that it is very easy to use now. Almost too easy for us with Linux experience. As a result, too easy becomes hard... but once you do it a few times and actually read the screens, it works well. I have done various installs and I haven't had the first bit of trouble with it. One thing I haven't done though... is try to install Fedora on a system that has another Linux distro on it. Maybe it isn't well suited for that. For new Linux users, I think it is more friendly and usable than the previous installer and that was one of their goals with it. What is there isn't an accident. They did mockups and planned for quite a while... and how it turned out is exactly how they planned it except for any bugs that might have creeped in.

@Jesse Smith - I agree with most of your review. I've been fairly lucky and haven't had any problems with the video cards I've used (about a dozen) except for one. I'll grant you that if the video sub-system is not optimal, it becomes less pleasant to use.

Fedora really needs to do something with PackageKit. I understand that it is a distro-neutral package manager and is fairly easy to use... but it just plain doesn't work well... which is why I think everyone who isn't afraid of the command line (and we aren't) use yum. Hopefully they'll change that... and given the fact that they are working on an alternative to yum which will probably land in Fedora 19, I think that is likely to happen. No disrespect to Richard Hughes who I believe wrote the bulk of PackageKit.

Regarding GNOME 3 and launching applications and switching between them... there are a few ways to do that and I think you picked the slowest way with the most steps. As @vw72 pointed out, GNOME 3 has search-based launching capabilities so why not hit the logo key, start typing and select with mouse (or hit enter). That is the fastest way. Another way would be to add your most commonly used applications to the dock (drag and drop to add) and just launch applications from there.

Regarding switching between applications there are several hotkey ways to do that too. My preferred way is Alt-Tab. For any applications where you have multiple windows open, Alt-Tab is augmented with Alt-~. Another way to do it, especially if applications are on different virtual desktops, is to simply switch directly to the desktop your application is on. The hotkeys for that is Ctl+Alt+up/down arrow.

While GNOME 3 takes a little getting used to and can fail completely on unsupported hardware... and be slow on hardware that is sub-optimal... on systems where it loves the hardware, I find it to be a pleasure to use. I also use KDE, XFCE, LXDE and others... depending on my needs and the hardware I'm running on.

Regarding the "various applications have slightly different looks and everything doesn't seem to be integrated as tightly as it could be" thing. I agree... but that really isn't something I care about. I use a lot of applications from a lot of different desktop environments and there isn't really an easy way to make everything integrate with every desktop environment. All of them share way, way more than they differ so it really isn't much of a challenge to use. I'd prefer Fedora to continue doing what do and focus less on the "make everything have GNOME topbar menu entries" work. I'm a Fedora fanboy so I know I'm not typical but hey I dig what they do.

Regarding it was still released too early assessment... maybe... but in Fedora's defence... as long as it isn't a critical bug (aka a show stopper) why delay the release? That's what updates are for... and as you mentioned, they have a firehose of updates. As you are probably aware, a lot of things change and are updated during the lifecycle of a Fedora release. They can add new desktop environments. They can upgrade existing desktop environments and the kernel version. They add new packages... and they fix a lot of bugs. With tens of thousands of packages, there are always bug fixes and updates to do. It is unfortunate that Fedora doesn't refresh their install media during the lifecycle (so there are lots of updates) but that is understandable given their short release cycle and that they are usually supporting 3 releases much of the time. Some have called Fedora 18 the worst release ever... but I totally disagree with that. I find Fedora 18 where I want to be.


Opinion: What if Linux became closed source?

Bryan Lunduke wrote a piece for Networkworld... or something like that. I'm NOT going to link to it because I don't want to encourage more page hits for such lunacy. I heard the article when I listened to the latest Everyday Linux podcast. I strongly recommend that so check it out if you haven't already. One of Montana guys is one of the hosts. They don't always get it right, but they do make me think.

Anyway, I found myself hitting the "contact us" link and writing the following:

Just got around to listening to the latest episode of Everyday Linux. The article by Bryan Lunduke is moronic. That isn't to say that Bryan Lunduke is a moron... but I disagree with a lot of the stuff he says and this is another example. Posing the scenario and asking if you would still use Linux if it went closed source... is like asking Christians, would you still love Jesus if he was really Satan. Yeah, that's a lame comparison on my part but the point is that being free software (and open source) is the core of Linux. It is THE development model that lead to Linux. It is something Linux has been for more than 21 years now. Linux would not exist if it weren't for the fact that it was free / open software. It is what allows thousands of companies to sponsor the work that interests them and also what has allowed tens of thousands of volunteers to scratch their itches for the features they wanted improved or added. Simply put, if Linux were to become closed source, its development model would change and the number of outside contributions that it receives would stop. In essense, Linux would stop being Linux. Given the fact that the only way Linux could become closed source would be if tens of thousands of copyright holders all agreed to do it, that's never going to happen.

While Bryan was trying to enlighten us to the fact that many of us do compromise our free software values in those software categories where free software either doesn't exist or is significantly under-featured when compared to the closed alternatives... that really isn't a useful exercise other than to indicate the areas where free software needs more help.

Sure most of us "end user" types don't look at, read, modify and share source code changes... because most of us don't program at all... but switching something from free / open source to closed would basically be putting one of its feet into the grave. Does that sound dramatic? Well, let us consider... just how many software companies have existed during the 4 or so decades that personal computers have been around? How many of those companies are still around? How many of the top selling pieces of software from 21 years ago are still around and popular? How many companies have gone under with their closed source products dying with the company? How many companies / products have changed hands over and over... with competitor A buying out competitor B just so they can kill or co-opt their products? Now contrast that to how many pieces of FOSS from 21 years ago we still use. Yeah, the vast majority of drinking age free software has grown and evolved because of changes in the industry and user needs... so it definitely hasn't stayed frozen in time... but the fact is that the bulk of it still exists (assuming it was useful software to begin with) and is still being used. Because it is free and open... people have been able to modify it and keep it relevant... and as a result... even us end users who don't program at all can enjoy the benefits.

So, to answer the question... if Linux became closed source would we still use it? Ok, let's pretend that fire extinguishers somehow became flame throwers... I'm sure one or more people / groups would fork the last free release and give it a new name... and it would overtake the closed source Linux which would quickly fade into irrelevance. Don't believe me? There have been a number of major marketshare leaders that have made seeming tiny little changes in their license agreements... that caused them to be forked and replaced. Think Xfree86 or OpenOffice. There are certainly many more less well known examples I could mention, but I'm sure you get my point. So the answer is yeah... Linux would get dropped like a digital hot potato and we would just all move on.

Any other questions?

So to recap, Free and Open Source software's major strength is in the freedom it gives to developers... who then pass it on to users... who may or may not even notice. And of course, just being FOSS does not guarentee success. There are plenty of failed FOSS projects and Linux is really the biggest exception rather than proof of the rule.

Opinion: Red Hat and Fedora pay to secure boot?

I've seen a few articles today railing against Red Hat for their support of Fedora buying a key from Microsoft / Verisign so that in the future, Fedora will be able to boot on hardware certified for Windows 8 without having to dig into the BIOS to turn off secure boot. Some of them were just unhappy that an executive from Red Hat spoke about the situation in a somewhat positive fashion rather than being all pissed. Others are unhappy at the very idea that somehow their freedoms have been trampled on.

The issue isn't whether or not secure booting is the silver bullet for security issues... of course it isn't. Security is a multi-layer thing... and generally speaking, the more layers, the better.

The issue isn't that the key thingies cost a fortune, they don't. If I understand correctly, it's about $99 per Fedora release. That's $198 a year.

The issue is that everyone is pissed because this involves Microsoft... and Red Hat is seen as somehow giving in to Microsoft. Red Hat isn't giving in to Microsoft any more than they gave in to Akamai Technologies Inc when they bought an SSL certificate for www.redhat.com... or when they gave in to GeoTrust when they bought an SSL cert for the fedoraproject.org website. In each case a work around is available but they are just trying to spare users and customers a little bit of hassle. That's all.

Of course I'm a Red Hat fan boi, so what do you expect from me? Any questions?


Opinion: On Canonical, Red Hat, and their communities

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When I can, I try to participate in The Linux Link Tech Show when it is streaming LIVE... but even when I can't I often listen to the archived recordings. When I find something interesting I'll sometimes shoot Dann Washko an email with my thoughts. This morning I found myself writing a long email to him on a subject they covered on their June 15 episode (#407). I thought I'd post it here too.

It just so happens that several of TLLTS regulars had attended the Southeast Linuxfest the weekend prior and one of the conversations that Dann encountered there was about Canonical and Ubuntu. Dann spoke about the questions and opinions he heard raised and asked for everyone else's opinions but he didn't get a whole lot of feedback so I thought I'd provide him with some.

I'll admit yet again... I'm a big Red Hat and Fedora fan and I am biased... and I sometimes even serve as an apologist for them. While I think everything I say below is "fair and balanced"... I'm sure there are plenty of folks who disagree with me... and maybe one or two who agree... I do encourage feedback and comments from all sides. Read on at your own peril. :)


Opinion: How is Linux doing?

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Our friend Ed Dunnigan wrote saying:

It is my impression the Linux users and Distros are sitting on our hands. We seem to have arrived.

I wonder how many new Linux users are out there now? I pull down three Linux Users Groups and it has been a long long time since I saw a new user asking questions. I have been using Linux since about '95 or so, and with my aging problem (memory loss) I always learned a lot at users group meetings. Now it seems to me the recent presentations I have noted are very specialised. Not the general subject about Linux.

Have we, The Linux Community, given up trying for new users?

I'll give my response and I encourage everyone to reply with theirs too.


On success and failure of Linux companies

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Here's a LONG response I wrote to one of the comments to the previously mentioned blog posting (The GNOME war) that I wanted to share here as well.

nelson,

Novell has already been sold. There is an investigation holding up the original transfer date but it is very likely to go through. There will be changes in Novell. If the company taking it over didn't think they could turn it around, they would not have bought it. Turning it around might end up being breaking up all of the pieces and selling some of them, keeping some of them, and killing some of them. Who knows what will happen? We'll just have to wait.

I'm not sure why you seem to be so unhappy with Red Hat with your "while Red Hat is imposing their rules" comment. What rules are they imposing? Is Red Hat in decline? I have no idea. I can tell you that their quarterly reports have been quite positive since they went public... which is pretty rare for any technology company much less a Linux company.

I see some people complaining about their stock prices and valuation... but what tech company on the stock market isn't overvalued? To me the stock market is fundamentally broken but that is a completely different topic so I'll leave it at that.

Oh wait, let me bring up one example. Apple. A while back I read some report where a leading PC magazine had one of their guys dig deeply into Microsoft's yearly earnings reports. The gist of the article was that the author believed he had discovered that Microsoft had moved around various things in their financial reporting to hide the fact that they had lost 1% of the desktop marketshare. Ok, let's think about that for a second. Who did they lose it to? Let's just say all of the 1% went to Apple. Last I checked, and I haven't checked in a while, Apple was very high up on the stock market. They are seen as the darlings of the tech industry... making the cool products... having the best usability... advertising on US TV (I don't know about the rest of the world) with a budget of tens of millions of US dollars. Sure they sold a ton of iPhones but the Android army has come into being and has hit them hard. The iPad has done quite well (15 million sold(?) with the iPad 2 coming out today)... and no one else in the market seems to have an inroad to significant marketshare in the "tablet" arena (which I don't even believe is a legitimate genre although Miguel de Icaza definitely disagrees with me buying his third iPad today). How are they doing with the desktop OS marketshare? They are supposedly selling lots of laptops... but in one of their best years in recent history... they have managed to pull 1% of the marketshare away from Microsoft? 1%? That's all? Yet they are a darling of the stock market... and the envy of the GNOME and Canonical developers.

Of course if you listen to others, the desktop is dead and there is no reason to care about it anymore... and FOSS developers should start working on cloud apps before it is too late... and some say it is already too late.

Wow, I'm getting off on some tangents. In any event, you can see that the tech industry is a tangled web of twisty little passages... all different. :) (Who knows where geeky reference comes from?)

Also, I'm not sure where people keep coming up with this figure that Ubuntu has "60% of the Linux desktop marketshare". I have no idea if it does or not... but determining that is near to, if not completely, impossible. For the sake of argument, let's say it's true. Have they been able to turn a profit yet? If not, why not? How much of the marketshare will they have to gain BEFORE they can turn a profit? Stupid question. Having marketshare for something that is free doesn't make you successful. In fact, it can be a dead albatrose hanging around a company's neck. That is the situation Red Hat found itself in before it decided to go the enterprise Linux route.

Some say it is because Mr. Shuttleworth, who you obviously see as another legendary hero like many see Steve Jobs, has made it impossible for Canonical to make a profit because he has tried to focus the company in too many directions... meaning that no particular direction gets enough focus to be successful. Others might say that doing that is like throwing many things at the wall and seeing which ones stick. He keeps throwing things, and so far nothing has really stuck... nothing that will make the company profitable. I'm not saying that Canonical won't figure it out. I certainly hope they do... because the Linux market needs more FINANCIAL successes... not less.

If Red Hat and Novell falter (which I don't think is going to happen)... while it might shift some customers over to other companies... it will make Linux seem like a less stable technology platform to pay for and invest in. Red Hat has shown that it can be done by having positive financial statements quarter after quarter... all while releasing everything they do as FOSS... and you want them to be taken down? You do know how much they contribute to the Linux kernel, gcc, GNOME, x.org, etc... right?

I do know that if Novell fails or Red Hat falters... any people they have to shed will most likely be snapped up by other companies. Linux can survive the loss of Linus and Linux can survive the loss of one or more of its major distros... but we'd like to do more than survive.

If you ignore everything else I write, please realize that there is plenty of room for more than one or two successful Linux companies. We all do better, when we all do better. :)

Just because you see Arch and Ubuntu and not much else used in your neck of the woods doesn't mean that is how it is everywhere else. Red Hat and Novell are doing well in the "enterprise" space and CentOS is doing quite well too. Debian also.

I think your supposition that if someone uses distro X in high school and/or college they will refuse to work for a company that doesn't use distro X... is silly. Or maybe you were saying that the company they work for will be forced (somehow) to switch to distro X because that's what their new employee(s) use. Riiiiiiiiight. That might be true for major OSes... but not from one flavor of Linux to another. Distros are 95% the same software and switching between them is not so difficult.

Thanks for the discussion, Scott Dowdle


Death of the Desktop Take III - A Post-PC World?

Someone at work passed around the parting memo of a Microsoft technology leader... to spark a discussion on what we see as future trends in technology. I made a long reply so I thought I'd duplicate it here.


Opinion: RHEL 5 turns 3, Suggestions for Red Hat

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (Tikanga) was released on March 14, 2007 and yesterday was RHEL 5's 3rd birthday. Since then we have gotten 4 update releases.

Given the fact that Red Hat's original plan was to have a new RHEL release every 18 - 24 months, one has to wonder where RHEL 6 is and why it is so late. My best guess is that RHEL 6 (which so far has had a non-public alpha release within Red Hat as witnessed in some Bugzilla reports) will come out sometime this summer... possibly in time for the Red Hat Summit in Boston (June 22-25, 2010). For that to happen I would expect a public beta for RHEL 6 to be released in the not too distant future. We'll see how that pans out.

While we are waiting, how about some idle discussion?


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