Category: Software

Linux developer loses case against VMware

dead linuxLinux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig has lost his case against virtualisation company VMware.

Hellwig claimed the outfit had violated version 2 of the GNU General Public Licence and says he will appeal against the verdict.

“I’m disappointed that the court didn’t even consider the actual case of reusing the Linux code written by me, and I hope the Court of Appeal will investigate this central aspect of the lawsuit,” he said in a statement.

The case claimed that VMware had been using Hellwig’s code from 2007 and not releasing source code as required. The Linux kernel, which is released under the GNU GPL version 2, stipulates that anyone who distributes it has to provide source code for the same.

However the court said that Hellwig had failed to prove which specific lines of code VMware had used, from among those over which he claimed ownership. The case revolved around the claim that the company had used a module which was released under GPLv2 with its own proprietary kernel, known as vmkernel. The central question was whether this made the module a derivative work.

Hellwig had the financial backing of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which said it had discovered in 2011 that VMware had failed to provide or offer any source code for the version of BusyBox included in VMware’s ESXi products, an enterprise-class, type-1 hypervisor.

BusyBox combines several stripped down Unix tools in a single executable.

Both the Conservancy and Hellwig claimed that VMware had combined copyrighted Linux code, licensed under the GPLv2, with their own proprietary code called “vmkernel” and distributed the entire combined work without providing or offering complete, corresponding source code.

The court was a little odd about all this.  It It did not allow expert testimony while making its decision and more or less decided on the Judge’s own expert knowledge of software.

In December last year, the SFC was forced to issue an appeal for funds, with the organisation saying a drop in donations had become noticeable after VMware was sued. This year the Linux Foundation came under scrutiny when it changed its rules to make it impossible for community representatives to be elected to its board because of the VMware case.


Intel reaches Nervana for its intelligence

In_Utero_(Nirvana)_album_coverChipzilla has decided that AI smells a bit like teen spirit and is going to write a cheque for Nervana Systems.

Intel is tsarting to see AI as the next big thing and it is buying in expertise. Nervana which has not been the same since its lead singer killed himself appears to have got itself involved with cutting edge AI reseach [are you sure that is the name Nervana? Ed].

Intel wrote in its bog that the buy out will help develop Intel’s artificial intelligence portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance of Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors.

The company is led by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao and has raised $25 million in venture funding and also has a contract to work with In-Q-tel, the U.S. intelligence community’s venture arm.

It has not said how much it paid for the company but investors in Nervana include Global Playground, CME Ventures, Lux Capital, Allen & Co and AME Cloud Ventures so it looks like a large amount of money must have changed hands. It has been rumoured that Intel had to pay $350 million,



Google’s well minging plans to kill Flash

flash_gordon_2From the end of next month Chrome will block that irritating Flash content that loads behind the scenes.

Google claims that this sort of flash rubbish accounts for more than 90 percent of the Flash on the web. In December, Chrome will make HTML5 the default experience for central content, such as games and videos, except on sites that only support Flash.

It is one of the nails in the coffin of Flash as the web slowly moves away from plugins in favor of HTML5. Since last year Chrome 45 began automatically pausing less-important Flash content (ads, animations, and anything that isn’t “central to the webpage”).

As Mozilla and Microsoft are expected to follow.  However it looks like Google is already planning to move ahead. In an email the search engine outfit said:

“The end goal for all these browser makers is to push as many sites as possible to HTML5, which is better for both performance (lowering memory and CPU usage while boosting battery life) and in terms of web standards (which makes life easier for developers). Given Flash’s various vulnerabilities, there are obvious security gains as well.”

Google plans to have Chrome serve HTML5 by default in Q4 2016. Now the timeframe has been narrowed to December.

Windows 10 anniversary edition is coming your way

live_tv_windows_10Microsoft has released the Anniversary Update, just as you finally gave up and installed the old version.

The new Windows 10 Anniversary has things which users will notice and feature updates and tweaks to the user interface.

The Start menu has been tweaked and been made into three-columns with the All Apps list always on view. This saves a click but is still not as good as the simple Windows 7 Start menu.

There are a few changes to Cortana.  Firstly, it cannot be disabled in the normal user interface and you can use it from the lock screen. Notifications can sync across devices.

When we get it installed we will see if Microsoft has fixed its biggest problem with Windows 10, namely the ability to find a file on your PC without Cortina opening Bing to find it on the web. Windows 10 search capability on cloud files is pretty good, but it has difficulty finding files on the hard-drive.  Opening Bing is just annoying.

Microsoft has also spruced up its Edge Browser. Firstly it finally gets JavaScript-based Extensions, using a similar model to that in Google Chrome.

Extensions are installed from the Windows Store, and there is AdBlock, Translator, LastPass, Evernote Web Clipper, and Office Online.

Edge also has a tree view for Favourites, a warning if you try to exit the browser when a download is in progress, default save location, tab pins to the top bar of the Edge window and new APIs including Web Notifications, Beacon interface (for asynchronous data upload), Canvas Path2D, WOFF 2 fonts, and more.

This version now scores 460 out of 555 when it comes to handling HTML 5, putting it ahead of Firefox 47 at 456 but behind Chrome which is 492.


RedMonks crown JavaScript king

8618453583_80b765a28dUK Analyst outfit RedMonk just added up the numbers and divided by its shoe size and worked out that JavaScript is the most popular programming language followed by Java and PHP.

This has been unchanged now for six months, but one of the biggest surprises is the “performance of programming languages relative to one another on GitHub and Stack Overflow”.

Here is RedMonk’s top 10

1. JavaScript

2. Java

3. PHP

4. Python

5. C#

5. C++

5. Ruby

8. CSS

9. C

10. Objective-C

Writing in his bog  [shurely cell.ed]  RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady said that the positions have solidified and it will take a serious push—or crisis—to significantly alter the dynamics of the top tier absent minor and statistically irrelevant drifts from quarter to quarter.

O’Grady thinks this is due to “a predictable period of consolidation” in development tools.  Farther down the list, though, RedMonk’s rankings do show at least a bit of movement since January. Here’s the second half of RedMonk’s top 20 (note the tie for the 20th position, which actually pushes the list to include the top 21):

11. Shell

12. R

13. Perl

14. Scala

15. Go

16. Haskell

17. Swift

18. Matlab

19. Visual Basic

20. Clojure

20. Groovy

R has jumped ahead of Perl into the 12 spot, following Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics. And Visual Basic owns the number 19 position.



Mozilla allows Firefox to rust

Red-Panda-pik-2-10alwllBig cheeses at the Mozzarella Foundation have announced that its Firefox browser will ship with a large dose of rust.

For those who came in late, Rust is a programming language developed as a safer alternative to C++ with a unique construction that reduces the chances of having dangerous memory exploits. It also never sleeps.

The first ever Rust components will arrive in Firefox 48, scheduled for release on 2 August, 2016, just two days before the anniversary of Britain entering WW1.

Memory corruption issues such as use-after-free and buffer overflows are the main source of security bugs and the reason why our editor keeps banging on the door of the Kite, even when it closed months ago.

Mozilla has been a key player behind Rust for the last seven years ago and teased a version of the browser with Rusty features last year. What we will see is a new media stack component that’s entirely coded in Rust. Media components are the most likely to execute malicious code when parsing multimedia files.

Those testing Firefox are yet to see a crash or issue in the Rust media component, a spokesMozilla said.

In mid-June, Mozilla released the first versions of Servo, a minimal browser created in Rust code alone.

Oracle asks a Judge to forget Java ruling

Consulting-the-Oracle-JWW-1884Optimistic lawyers working for Oracle have asked a Judge to set aside a landmark jury trial which prevents it screwing shedloads of cash from Google and its Android operating system.

A jury found Google rightfully helped itself to Oracle programming code to create the Android operating system.

The law allows use of copyrighted material in limited circumstances based on the scope of use, to what extent the purpose is commercial, and the effect of the use on the material’s value or market potential.

For six-years, Oracle had been seeking up to $9 billion in damages from Google. A judge already rejected a bid in May by Oracle to get the verdict thrown out. But the software and cloud company hasn’t given up.

It has filed a motion in San Francisco U.S. District Court again asking the same judge, William Alsup, to toss the verdict. It has cited case law suggesting use is not legal if the user “exclusively acquires conspicuous financial rewards” from its use of the copyrighted material. Google, said Oracle, has earned more than $42 billion from Android.

It is unlikely that Judge Alsup would agree. He had noted in rejecting Oracle’s first attempt at scuttling the verdict that the jury could have “reasonably found” that the commercial use also “served non-commercial purposes as well, i.e., as part of a free and open software platform, namely Android.”

Google has consistently argued that the Java code was free and open to all and that its use of the code was transformative. More over Sun Microsystems, which created Java in the 1990s long before it was bought by Oracle, had no problem with Google using the code without a license.

Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told the court said that Google did not pay for free and open things.

Bulgaria goes Open Source

Rila Monastery, BulgariaThe Bulgarian government has issued an edict demanding that all its software should be open sauce.

On the face of it, it is a brave move, not because of the technology involved, but because it cuts politicians from a lucrative source of income – bribes from software companies.

Under the amendments to the Electronic Governance Act, all software written for the government will have to be open-source and to be developed as such in a public repository.

Sadly, this does not mean that the whole country is moving to Linux and LibreOffice, neither does it mean the government will force Microsoft and Oracle to give the source code to their products. Existing contracts will still stand. What it means that whatever custom software the government procures will be visible and accessible to everyone.

A new government agency will enforce the law and will set up the public repository. Bozhidar Bozhanov who helped get law accepted said that the battle is not over.

“The fact that something is in the law doesn’t mean it’s a fact, though. The programming community should insist on it being enforced. At the same time some companies will surely try to circumvent it,” he wrote.

However he said that it was a good step for better government software and less abandonware.

Microsoft pays out over Windows 10 update fiasco

live_tv_windows_10Software giant Microsoft has paid out $10,000 to a woman for its aggressive Windows 10 update campaign.

Teri Goldstein’s computer started trying to download and install the new operating system when she didn’t want it and it crashed. She said it caused her travel-agency business to slow to a crawl. It would crash, she says, and be unusable for days at a time.

When outreach to Microsoft’s customer support didn’t fix the issue, Goldstein took the software giant to court, seeking compensation for lost wages and the cost of a new computer.

She won. Last month, Microsoft dropped an appeal and Goldstein collected a $10,000 judgment from the company.

Vole denies wrongdoing, and a spokeswoman said Microsoft halted its appeal to avoid the expense of further litigation. However, the case shows the level of anger users have about the forced update programme.

Forced update screens were seen on bill-boards and television news, driving users to despair and making Microsoft appear like an autocratic paternalist father who insists on getting his own way.

“We’re continuing to listen to customer feedback and evolve the upgrade experience based on their feedback,” Microsoft said in a statement. But clearly it didn’t.

The outfit was slammed for not offering users a transparent or easy choice in the matter. Absent from Microsoft’s series of upgrade prompts was a basic “no thanks” or “never update” button.

It is pretty clear that Microsoft’s game plan was to centralise users onto one operating system so it did not have to waste time patching old versions systems. Vole wanted to have a  billion devices running the software by mid-2018. There were 300 million at last count. All that Microsoft seems to have done with its campaign is hack off the other 700 million.


Apple’s open OS is a security nightmare

Safe-with-Open-Door_Silver-Trading-Company_iStock_000016460757_ExtraSmallSome security experts who inspected Apple’s new version of iOS were surprised; it appears that the security geniuses at Jobs’ Mob had forgotten to encrypt the operating system.

Suddenly crucial pieces of the code destined to power millions of iPhones and iPads were laid bare for all to see making it a doddle to find security weaknesses in Apple’s flagship software.

The Tame Apple Press insists that is all deliberate and the secretive company may have adopted a bold new strategy intended to encourage more people to report bugs in its software.  However, the smart money is on the fact that this is a cock-up.

Apple has so far said it would strengthen security and privacy features and yet here it is showing an unencrypted version of the Kernel which controls how programs can use a device’s hardware and enforces security.

The Tame Apple press insists that does not mean that the security of iOS 10 is compromised. Butit makes finding flaws easier and reduces the complexity of reverse engineering considerably.

However on the plus side opening the iOS for anyone to examine could weaken the trade in holes  market by making it harder for certain groups to hoard knowledge of vulnerabilities and make the iOS more stable.

However for that to happen it would require such a psychological change in Apple that it is nearly impossible to consider. For a start, Apple would have to admit that there is a flaw and fix it straight away. Apple’s current policy when notified if there is a flaw is to ignore it until enough people complain and then issue a patch a few months later.

Apple does not offer “bug bounty” cash payments to people that disclose flaws they have found in its products, for example. So if you reverse engineer or find a hole in the iOS you would never take it to Apple, you would flog it to the government, or one of those dodgy security outfits which help them.