Tag: mac osx

Open source exceeds Munich's expectations

The German city of Munich has been very precise at bumping off Windows PCs to give its Linux operating system Lebensraum .

Munich’s LiMux project has been going great guns and today the city announced that it had migrated 9,000 systems away from the PC and onto Linux. It only wanted to migrate 8,500 of the 12,000-15,000 PC workstations used by city officials in Munich but it turned out a bit easier than expected.

Munich which is derived from the High German word Munichen, meaning “by the monks’ place” and not the word Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, has been at the forefront of cutting edge Linux roll outs ever since the local government worked out it could save a lot of money by avoiding Microsoft.

In May 2003, Munich’s city council decided to migrate municipal workstations to Linux and open source. It developed its own LiMux client and WollMux, a template system for OpenOffice.org.

The LiMux project directors have announced that almost all copies of Microsoft Office have been banished from Bavaria and replaced with version 3.2.1 of the open source OpenOffice.org office suite. The remaining 3,000 plus systems will be switched to the LiMux client next year.

Although the rollout has done well this year, the whole project has taken a little longer than originally expected. Last year, Florian Schießl, a LiMux project director, stated that he and his team had been naïve and had underestimated the extent of minor problems. In 2006 the computer infrastructure reorganised and the project could start up again.

The delays did prevent Munich being the pin-up region for the Open Source movement. However, it has proved that Linux on the desktop is more than possible. 

NSA says no to Linux in best practice advisory

Top US spooks are advising businesses to upgrade to Vista or Windows 7, claiming that other operating systems do not cut the mustard when it comes to security.

According to a best practices sheet which the National Security Agency sends out, both Windows 7 and Vista provide substantial security enhancements over earlier Windows workstation operating systems such as XP.

Many of these security features are enabled by default and help prevent common attack vectors, it says. In addition, implementing the 64-bit mode of the OS on a 64-bit hardware platform substantially increases the effort of an adversary to attain a system or root compromise. For any Windows-based OS, verify that Windows Update is configured to provide updates automatically, the leaflet claims.

The leaflet is clearly written for those who are using old Windows XP machines and the NSA thinks should be upgrading.

However some of those older machines will not run Vista or Windows 7, and you would think that someone like the NSA would suggest something else, like Linux, which probably could manage an older machine.

It is not as if the NSA did not look at other operating systems. OS-X gets a mention in the briefing.

The paper said that businesses should configure any Mac OS X system to automatically check for updates. When notified of an available update, provide privileged credentials in order to install the update. Apple’s iPad should be kept up-to-date as well.

“A good practice is to connect the iPad to an iTunes host at least once a month or just prior to any travel where the iPad will be used,” the NSA said.

What will be a surprise is how the NSA seems to only be interested in supporting proprietary software. Linux use is not even considered in the spook’s best practices package. 

Ubuntu fast becoming Linux pariah

There are dark mutterings among Open Saucers against one of their more successful brethren and it highlights one of the main problems within the Open Sauce movement.

Over the years, Ubuntu has slid from being the champion of Linux to the level where its name is mentioned in dark whispers.

For those of use who have used the operating system for years, we have seen its users divided between those who want to actually use the software and those who like to tinker with it. There are those who believe that everything under the bonnet of Ubuntu should be a pure development of an Open Sauce religion banner, and those who feel that they would use proprietary software if they have to.

However Ubuntu’s soul has accessibility written down its spine like Brighton rock. While its founder Mark Shuttleworth might bang on about Open Sauce, it appears that he sees this as a means to an end.

This sets him at odds with those who see Open Sauce as a religion or a way of life. Accessibility is such an approach’s polarity. Ultimately it does not matter if your video codec was written by Steve Ballmer’s minion in the heart of Redmond, it does not matter if it is free if it works and it is accessible.

The Open Sauce movement is populated by a band of almost autistic software geniuses who do not really care if the product is successful, provided it is elegant and proprietary-free.

They are the sorts who insist that GIMP is an alternative to Photoshop because it is Open Sauce.

Being accessible is not something that is good for such types. They have never been accessible and would always have been the last to be picked for teams in school PE.

At their heart they don’t want Linux to be accessible otherwise they will cease to be different.

In their view Linux is supposed to be on the server where it can only be seen by those who appreciate its elegance or on their own finely tuned desktops. The thought of an ordinary person touching such perfection fills them with dread.

Canonical, which makes Ubuntu, has also made a few mistakes that antagonise the Open Sauce community.

Bruce Byfield said that political manipulation of the various software projects has miffed a lot of Open Saucers. They feel that Ubuntu is choosing projects on the basis the ability to dominate the projects that dominate its software stack.

Shuttleworth got miffed at the glacial pace that Gnome was making interface improvements and he moved to beef up interface software called Unity and this meant that many Canonical developers were suddenly not supporting Gnome.

There are many in the community who did not like the way that he attempted to lead them too. “Self appointed dictator” was one of the mutterings.

CEO Jane Silber has a more business orientated approach and likes ideas like Ubuntu One, the cloud storage service, which is aimed more at corporate customers.

With its accessibility and business approach, one would think that Canonical should be making money. The problem is that it isn’t. While the likes of Red Hat have managed to squeeze a dollar out of Linux, Canonical has been unprofitable for seven years.

One of the reasons for this is that for Open Sauce business plans to work they have to be backed by a community who is writing the code and working from them. Ubuntu’s problem is that these are the very guys who don’t like this accessibility argument.

At the end of the day Canonical were the only ones who have come up with a commercially viable Linux desktop which could have taken Windows to the cleaners. The fact that it is not successful and the process of its creation managed to anger the Open Sauce community so much that the outfit has become a pariah in the story is extremely telling.

Both sides have a point in this argument. But both sides also come with heaps of baggage which makes a resolution impossible. It is the sort of baggage that will keep Linux on the server and give the desktop to Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer.

OpenOffice revolutionaries release stable product

The revolutionaries who have sought to free OpenOffice from the tyranny of King Larry Ellison’s Oracle have released their first stable version.

The Document Foundation launched a stable version of its open source LibreOffice 3.3 productivity suite.

LibreOffice was created because Open Sauce types on the OpenOffice project had no confidence in Larry Ellison to keep it free and open.

So far the product is doing well. It is set for inclusion in the next Ubuntu and OpenSUSE Linux releases.

We have been running the beta for a while. It is a bit lighter than OpenOffice and has several different features. But mostly it has nothing to do with Oracle.

Office suites are much of a muchness. They have been going for nearly 20 years and while they have added new features, they remain largely unchanged.

LibreOffice 3.3 is still not yet ready to support mobile platforms but this is rumoured to be on the way.

Most of LibreOffice 3.3 appears to be about cleaning up the code and integrating new infrastructure to make the project sustainable and independent of Oracle.

However, that is not to say that the new software has nothing interesting under the bonnet.

There are new custom properties handling, new fonts, document protection, increasing the number of allowed rows in a Calc spreadsheet to one million and an easier-to-use print interface.

There is the ability to work with SVG and Microsoft Works files and an easier way to format and number text blocks in Writer, and improved sheet and cell management in Calc. There is the ability to import PDFs, a slide-show presenter console and an improved report builder.

Generally OpenOffice users will be hard pressed to spot the difference and that is probably a good thing.

Open Saucers buying up patent insurance

Open sauce groups are frantically buying up patents to prevent being sued by proprietary companies.

KDE and The Document Foundation joined the Open Invention Network (OIN) as a licensee following the doomed Novell flogging of its patents.

The fear is that Novell has put open source companies at risk by flogging IPs to a company backed by Microsoft, Oracle and Apple.

Redmond has always claimed that Linux infringes its patents, but it has never pointed out which one. Oracle’s hamfisted use of the Open Sauce products it bought from Sun makes it appear like the outfit is not interested in propping up the concept and Apple is the most proprietary outfit on this side of the galactic Rim.

It appears that the open saucers feel that OIN, which was was founded as a way to help defend the Linux ecosystem, gives them some protection.

Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System, creating an umbrella of protection for its members.

Adriaan de Groot, vice president of KDE said OIN provides an additional safety net for KDE when it comes to the risks Free Software is facing from such patents today.

“We are committed to freedom of action in Linux, and in taking a license we help to address the threat from companies that support proprietary platforms to the exclusion of open source initiatives, and whose behaviors reflect a disdain for inventiveness and collaboration.”

Ironically it means that the Open Sauce community has had to embrace the patent system, which it traditionally hates. It is a bit like hiring a vampire to stop yourself being bitten by another bloodsucker.

Still there is a saying that you always become your own worst enemy.

Optimist tries to flog open sauce Apple software

In a last minute bid to be ranked as the world’s most optimistic man for 2010, open saucer Jay Freeman wants to set up an open sauce version of the Apple App Store.

Freeman wants to allow Cydia to be used for the Mac OS X. Cydia is previously available only for iOS devices iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

The big idea is that developers who do not want to waste time going through a complicated process of approval of submitting apps in the App Store have a place to go.

Submitting software to Jobs’ Mob is not only difficult there is a high chance that your app will be refused on the grounds that it might offend someone, like right wing born again Christians who get all hot under the collar when they see a woman’s ankle. They might also upset Steve Jobs who has to be right on everything even when he is wrong about popular applications like Flash.

Cydia is software for iOS that allows users to browse and download apps for a jailbroken iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The software has been created by Jay Freeman. There is an associated Cydia Store which contains jailbroken apps and iOS users can find apps using Cydia software.

There is no doubt a market for Cydia, particularly among the more technology literate Apple users. Cydia is used by about 10 percent of all the iPhone users.

While jailbreaking the iPhone is necessary if you want to have the phone service you want, it’s less than clear how open sauce software will work on a Mac.

Mac users tend actually believe that only Jobs’ Mob approved software will work on their machine. Trying to flog open sauce software to Apple fanboys is like selling painkillers to a member of Opus Dei, even if it is free.

Apple's Safari extensions API is “the most limited”

A developer of browser extensions has built a nice comparison chart of the three most popular open source web browser families  – Mozilla´s, Google´s and Apple´s and their respective extension APIs, concluding that Apple´s  browser is much more restrictive than Mozilla about what a browser add-on can do, and that even Google´s Chrome trumps it.

Google´s Chrome web browser started supporting extensions for all platforms -Windows, Linux and Mac OSX – in its developer builds earlier this year, and the company began heavily promoting its extensions feature three months ago, which pundits say contributed to its rise in its market share.

Suffering from Google-envy, the Church of Cupertino -which promises salvation in the form of trade secrets and control of its users, and worships round borders and the white colour-, headed by His Holiness Steve Jobs didn´t want to be left out of the browser extensions game.  Thus, days ago it unveiled version 5.01 of its Safari web browser, sporting extensions.

But what about the software programmer´s point of view?. Which browser delivers a more palatable and powerful environment for extensions development?. We wondered that ourselves. And that´s when we came across Davide Ficano, a developer of  browser extensions from Italy, who tackled exactly that question.

In his blog here, Ficano, who goes by the nickname ´dafizilla´ in open source programming circles built a nice table comparing the capabilities offered to extension developers by Mozilla.org´s Firefox, Google´s Chrome, and Apple´s Safari. His conclusion? in a nutshell, “Safari is less extensible than Chrome” he writes, and Firefox trumps both. “Firefox is a platform, Safari and Chrome are applications with minimal support for pluggable code” he says.

Titled “A survey on Safari 5, Chrome and Firefox extensions API” the post explains that “Safari and Chrome are applications with minimal support for pluggable code. Minimal support doesn’t mean you can’t create great extensions but it means you are very limited in advanced topics like web page listeners, clipboard, file and network system access and many other programming areas.”

He apparently decided to write that post -which was before the v5.01 release, it should be noted-after he got several emails from Mac users asking him to port his extensions to Apple´s browser: “A couple of hours after (the)  Safari 5 release I’ve received an email asking me to port Table2Clipboard to Safari, after two days I’ve received five emails asking to port on Safari both Table2Clipboard and ViewSourceWith. The same happens with Google Chrome, people asks to migrate extensions to their new favourite browsers but this is in many cases very difficult or impossible.”

He thinks Safari is the most limited  – oh boy are we not surprised of the words “Apple” and “limited” in the same sentence- but seems to think that´s in part due to the early age of this feature´s development: “Safari extension API set at this time is very limited also when compared with Chrome, as mentioned above this doesn’t mean all extensions are toys but the user experience can be limited and the developer creativity is seriously damaged” he concludes.

Davide is not a newbie. Although he refers to his creations as “bonsai extensions”, he wrote plenty of extensions for the Firefox and SeaMonkey Mozilla-based browsers, with “ViewSourceWith” and “Table2Clipboard” being his two most popular. He has also written code for the Komodo development environment, and in the past has released utilities for Windows.

In his blog, Giorgio Maone, another Italian software developer and author of the popular Flashgot  and NoScript extensions, agrees: “Firefox exposes almost everything of its internals as a full-fledged cross-platform development frameworkm while Chrome/Safari extensions offer a very limited and shielded subset to extensions developers.”

What´s your extension number?
Perusing each browser´s extensions directory reveals that the current King of Extensions continues to be Firefox, having popularized the concept years ago and definitely giving it an edge at a time when IE was stale and rotting while people were getting increasingly fed up with IE´s insecurity track record.

Chrome  – which has only made at best moderate inroads into the browser market- brought extensions with the goal of winning more market share. It seems to have worked a little. The Chrome extensions gallery now boasts over six thousand extensions and you can see them ranked by user rating, here.

Safari  – despite its name – has been unable to catch and bring any prey home to its dining table, with less than five per cent of the desktop browser market, and it seems destined to be last. While version 5 supports extensions as well, the number of extensions listed at Apple´s on-line catalog y pales in comparison with Chrome´s over six thousand and the impressive 13,000+ number you get by adding up all categories shown at the Firefox add-ons site. -although there´s chance some might be repeat entries in that number, we guess.

In any case, our Editorial Review Board says we are all wrong for highlighting this, and that the limits imposed by Safari are surely A Good Thing, because Apple always does everything for The Common Good. Yet, we don´t note this to avoid hordes of Apple zealots who could surely discipline us all for being infidels. Finally, here´s a picture of another Safari gone wrong. That might help dis
tract the lynching mob while this scribbler runs for cover. ☼

Apple has the most insecure software in the world

Fruity Toymaker Steve Jobs can now add the title of pedaller of the most insecure software in the world to his list of titles.

It will make a change from the “maker of broken phones” and “stealer of disabled car parks” which is what we usually dub him with.

Just before you say we are biased, we should point out that the title comes from the insecurity outfit Secunia which normally awards it to Oracle.

It said that over the first half of 2010, Apple had more reported flaws than any other vendor. Microsoft only manages third-place although we suspect it is happy to yield that sort of crown to Oracle and Apple.

Apple fanboys will rush to tell us that in real life they are invulnerable to “viruses” and tell us to name a virus that has hit a Mac. Of course this sort of defence is bizzare as we have not seen many viruses for at least a five years. Most attacks are conducted by malware which aims at those very vulnerabilities that Apple software is so chock full of.

The report says that it does not take into account the severity of the flaws either. Many of Apple’s flaws are not in the Mac OS X, but rather in software like Safari, QuickTime, and iTunes.

Of course these still make Apple a peddler of dangerous software, but the OS is not the main problem.

Still your average Apple fanboy can be secure in the knowledge that most of the time thieves are not really interested in breaking into their computer and stealing their Coldplay collection. It is fair more interesting to try and get into a Windows system which is more likely being used for something useful.