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News Bytes

By Deividson Luiz Okopnik and Howard Dyckoff

News Bytes


Selected and Edited by Deividson Okopnik

Please submit your News Bytes items in plain text; other formats may be rejected without reading. [You have been warned!] A one- or two-paragraph summary plus a URL has a much higher chance of being published than an entire press release. Submit items to bytes@linuxgazette.net. Deividson can also be reached via twitter.

News in General

lightning boltRussia's Prime Minister Signs Order to Move to Open Source

As reported in Glyn Moody's Open blog, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian government agencies to switch to open source software by 2015. The transition is due to begin during the second quarter of 2011. The Russian government also plans to build a unified national repository for open source software.

According to Moody, previous attempts to move parts of the Russian government to open source software had experienced a lukewarm reception due to a lack of political support. However, he writes, "if Putin says: 'make it so,' I suspect that a lot of people will jump pretty fast to make sure that it *is* so. [...] once that happens, other plans to roll out free software might well suddenly look rather more attractive."

The order mandates a broad set of related changes in education at all levels, including professional training for federal and civilian employees. It also covers a number of specific directives for the ministries of health, science, and communications, and specifies the implementation of "open source operating systems, hardware drivers, and programs for servers and desktop use."

The Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing large U.S. software vendors, estimates that 67 percent of software used in Russia in 2009 was pirated.

[ Given that the net effect of "pirated" software is, and has always been, a positive benefit to the members of the Alliance - no actual cost for the software distribution, and a large pool of IT people trained in the use of their platforms and products - it's interesting to speculate on the eventual result of these changes with regard to those members. It seems that trading on that particular "pity bait" is coming to an abrupt end...
-- Ben Okopnik ]

lightning boltLinux Foundation's Annual 'Who Writes Linux' Study Released

The Linux Foundation has published its annual report on Linux kernel development, detailing who does the work, who sponsors it and how fast the Linux kernel is growing.

As Amanda McPherson states in her blog, this paper documents how hard at work the Linux community has been. There have been 1.5 million lines of code added to the kernel since the 2009 update. Since the last paper, additions and changes translate to an amazing 9,058 lines added, 4,495 lines removed, and 1,978 lines changed every day, weekends and holidays included.

A significant change this year was the increasing contributions by companies and developers working in the mobile and embedded computing space. For more information on the study, see the blog entry here: http://www.linuxfoundation.org/news-media/blogs/browse/2010/12/our-annual-kernel-development-report-new-and-old-faces.

lightning boltNovell Agrees to be Acquired by Attachmate Corporation

In November, Novell entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Attachmate Corporation would acquire Novell for $6.10 per share in cash, which was valued at approximately $2.2 billion. Attachmate Corporation is owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Bravo. Novell also entered into a definitive agreement for the concurrent sale of certain intellectual property assets to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft Corporation, for $450 million in cash. That sale of IP assets has raised some concerns in the Open Source community.

Attachmate Corporation plans to operate Novell as two business units: Novell and SUSE; and will join them with its other holdings, Attachmate and NetIQ.

The $6.10 per share consideration represents a premium of 28% to Novell's closing share price on March 2, 2010, and a 9% premium to Novell's closing stock price on November 19, 2010. Since the merger was announced, 2 shareholder suits have been filed questioning the deal.

"After a thorough review of a broad range of alternatives to enhance stockholder value, our Board of Directors concluded that the best available alternative was the combination of a merger with Attachmate Corporation and a sale of certain intellectual property assets to the consortium," said Ron Hovsepian, president and CEO of Novell. "We are pleased that these transactions appropriately recognize the value of Novell's relationships, technology and solutions, while providing our stockholders with an attractive cash premium for their investment."

There was some concern in the blogosphere that this patent portfolio might strengthen Microsoft's hand with regard to Linux. However, many are expected to reflect on Novell's Office and collaboration products.

Groklaw's November post Novell Sells Some IP to a MS-Organized Consortium asks "...so what goes to Microsoft's consortium? No doubt we'll find out in time. It is being reported that what it will get is 882 patents. Blech. How many does Novell own? Is that all of them? If so, will we get to watch Son of SCO, but with patents this time? But keep in mind that the WordPerfect litigation could be in this picture, and I wonder if this could be a kind of deal to tactfully settle it out, with Microsoft paying to end it this way?"

Groklaw also notes that prior contracts and promises made by Novell will probably remain in force: "As for the question of what happens to prior promises Novell made, if they are contractual, you go by the contract. In a stock for stock merger, I'm told by a lawyer, all obligations remain in force. In an asset sale, the two negotiate who gets what. But if the buyer *takes over* a contract, then they have to honor all of the terms of the contract, such as a patent license or cross license."

Attachmate Corporation's acquisition of Novell is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011.

Conferences and Events

CES 2011
Jan 6-9, Las Vegas, NV.
MacWorld Expo and Conference
Jan 25-29, Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA
20th RSA Conference - 2011
Feb 14-18, Moscone Center, San Francisco
Save $400, register by January 14, 2011
FAST '11 USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies
Sponsored by USENIX in cooperation with ACM SIGOPS
Feb 15-18, 2011, San Jose, Ca
SCALE 9x - 2011 Southern California Linux Expo
Feb 25-27 , Airport Hilton, Los Angeles, Ca
Enterprise Connect (formerly VoiceCon)
Feb 28-Mar 3, 2011, Orlando, FL
NSDI '11 USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation
Sponsored by USENIX with ACM SIGCOMM and SIGOPS
March 30-April 1, 2011, Boston, MA
Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit 2011
April 6-8, Hotel Kabuki, San Francisco, CA
MySQL Conference & Expo
April 11-14, Santa Clara, CA
Ethernet Europe 2011
April 12-13, London, UK
O'Reilly Where 2.0 Conference
April 19-21, 2011, Santa Clara, CA

Distro News

lightning boltRed Releases RHEL 6

In mid-November, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 was delivered with over three years' worth of customer-focused product innovation for advancing data-center efficiency.

In a blog post, Tim Burke, Vice President, Linux Development at Red Hat stated:

"In my development team we feel a tremendous sense of pride in that we have the privilege of being at a confluence point of technology innovation and customer need fulfillment. This gives us a full life-cycle of gratification in that we get to build it, test it, harden it and learn from this where the next iteration of technology advancement may flow. Red Hat is well positioned to provide the 10-year support life-cycle for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 - nobody can support something better than the team that leads the technology building and integration. From our perspective, there's no greater praise than to see the releases harnessed by customers - that's a win-win situation."

Some notable enhancements among the literally several thousand comprising Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6:


- up to 2X improvement in network rates;
- 2X to 5X improvement in multi-user file-system workloads;
- Virtualization I/O enhancements allowing increased consolidation (more guests per host) while at the same time reducing I/O overhead significantly in comparison to bare metal.

Datacenter Operational Flexibility

- Control groups - enables the system administrator to control resource consumption - for network & disk I/O, memory consumption and CPU utilization.

- Svirt - refers to SELinux-based security enhancements for virtualization - enabling policy to constrain each virtualized guest's ability to access resources like files, network ports and applications. This forms a two-layer check and balance system whereby in a multi-tenancy environment if one guest were able to exploit a vulnerability in the virtualization layer, the enhanced policy is designed to block that guest from accessing resources of other virtualized guests or the host platform.

- More Efficient IT - from a power consumption perspective, the most efficient CPU is the one that is powered off - especially important for large systems - ie: 64 CPUs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 combines a new system scheduler with more intimate knowledge of the low-level hardware topology to yield a 25 percent reduction in power consumption versus Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 for a lightly loaded system - by intelligently placing underutilized CPUs (and other peripherals) into low power states.


- Enhanced resilience and isolation of hardware failures with fine-grained error reporting to mark faulty memory pages as unusable, plus hardware based memory mirroring and failing peripheral isolation. Integration of hardware-based data check-summing at the storage level for improved end-to-end data integrity.

- A new automated bug reporting utility that captures the state of applications and system service crashes and can aggregate this information either centrally on premise or to automatically log incidents with Red Hat support.

Open source collaborative development

The KVM-based virtualization scalability benefits from work with component providers and several peripheral vendors to optimize hardware I/O accelerators. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 kernel is based on the upstream 2.6.32 kernel (of which Red Hat is independently recognized as the leading contributor).

A Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 example of openness is libvirt - a Red Hat initiative delivering a high-level management interface to virtualization. This abstraction layer is designed to insulate customers from system specific quirks in configuration and management. Providing choice at the hardware level, Deltacloud provides an abstraction layer aimed at insulating customers from lock-in at the cloud provider layer. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 contains what will be a growing foundation of Deltacloud platform enablers.

lightning boltFreeBSD 8.2-BETA1, 7.4-BETA1 Development Releases

Now available: first beta releases of FreeBSD 8.2 and 7.4, new upcoming versions in the the production (version 8) and the legacy production (version 7) series. The first of the test builds for the 8.2/7.4 release cycle is available for amd64, i386, ia64, pc98, and sparc64 architectures. Files suitable for creating installation media or doing FTP-based installs through the network should be on most of the FreeBSD mirror sites. The ISO images for this build do not include any packages other than the docs. For amd64 and i386, 'memstick' images can be copied to a USB 'memory stick' and used for installs on machines that support booting from that type of media.

The freebsd-update(8) utility supports binary upgrades of i386 and amd64 systems running earlier FreeBSD releases. Systems running 8.0-RELEASE or 8.1-RELEASE can upgrade simply by running

# freebsd-update upgrade -r 8.2-BETA1

Users of earlier FreeBSD releases (FreeBSD 7.x) can also use freebsd-update to upgrade to FreeBSD 8.2-BETA1, but will be prompted to rebuild all third-party applications (e.g., anything installed from the ports tree) after the second invocation of "freebsd-update install", in order to handle differences in the system libraries between FreeBSD 7.x and FreeBSD 8.x. Substitute "7.4-BETA1" for "8.2-BETA1" in the above instructions if you are targeting 7.4-BETA1 instead.

Software and Product News

lightning boltMySQL 5.5 Features New Performance and Scalability Enhancements

Showing its commitment to MySQL users, Oracle announced in December the general availability of MySQL 5.5, which delivers significant enhancements in performance and the scalability of web applications across multiple operating environments, including Linux, Solaris, Windows, and Mac OS X.

The MySQL 5.5 Community Edition, which is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and is available for free download, includes InnoDB as the default storage engine. This release benefited from substantial user community participation and feedback on the MySQL 5.5 Release Candidate, helping to provide a more broadly tested product.

With MySQL 5.5, users benefit from:
- Improved performance and scalability: Both the MySQL Database and InnoDB storage engine provide optimum performance and scalability on the latest multi-CPU and multi-core hardware and operating systems. In addition, with release 5.5, InnoDB is now the default storage engine for the MySQL Database, delivering ACID transactions, referential integrity and crash recovery.
- Higher availability: New semi-synchronous replication and Replication Heart Beat improve fail-over speed and reliability.
- Improved usability: Improved index and table partitioning, SIGNAL/RESIGNAL support and enhanced diagnostics, including a new PERFORMANCE_SCHEMA, improve the manageability of MySQL 5.5.

In recent benchmarks, the MySQL 5.5 release candidate delivered significant performance improvements compared to MySQL 5.1, including:
- On Windows: Up to 1,500 percent performance gains for Read/Write operations and up to 500 percent gain for Read Only.
- On Linux: Up to 360 percent performance gain in Read/Write operations and up to 200 percent improvement in Read Only.

For more details, replay the MySQL Technology Update web-cast from Dec. 15th: http://bit.ly/eS99uo.

lightning boltSPARC M-Series Servers with New CPU for Mission-Critical Computing

Continuing a 20-year partnership in mission-critical computing, Oracle and Fujitsu announced in December the enhanced SPARC Enterprise M-Series server product line with a new processor SPARC64 VII+. Oracle and Fujitsu also unveiled the unified enclosure design of the Oracle and Fujitsu SPARC Enterprise M-series servers which are jointly designed and manufactured by Oracle and Fujitsu.

The new SPARC64 VII+ processor provides faster memory access and increased compute power, including:
- Increased clock speed of up to 3.0 GHz and double the size of the L2 cache up to 12MB, delivering up to 20 percent more performance.
- SPARC hardware and Oracle Solaris jointly engineered for maximum performance.

The SPARC Enterprise M-series servers with Oracle Solaris provide mission-critical reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) for applications that need to be "always on" including:
- Predictive self-healing, component redundancy and hot-swap, memory mirroring and fault containment with Dynamic Domains and Solaris Containers.
- Extensive combined hardware, operating system and application testing to improve reliability and performance of the servers.

The recently announced Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g OpsCenter has new SPARC Enterprise M-series-specific management capabilities, including:
- Simplified management for the entire integrated hardware and software stack.
- The ability to create, manage, provision and configure Dynamic Domains and Solaris Containers, making the SPARC Enterprise M-Series servers a better consolidation platform.

The SPARC Enterprise M-Series servers are Oracle and Fujitsu's comprehensive line of SPARC Solaris servers, ranging from the single-socket M3000 to the 64-socket M9000. This announcement completes a full refresh of Oracle and Fujitsu's entire line of SPARC servers.

lightning boltGoogle releases Chrome OS and netbook for Xmas

In early December, with the announcement of a Chrome 8 browser update and its Chrome-OS beta, Google also opened a pilot program for diverse users. Unlike the social engineering emails of the 1990s that falsely lured responders with offers of a Microsoft laptop, there really is a Google netbook and many folks got one before the Xmas holiday.

The browser update includes 800 bug fixes, better HTML 5 support, a built-in PDF reader, and integration of graphics acceleration. At its press event at a San Francisco art gallery, engineers displayed a 3D aquarium app that could be scaled up to thousands of fish with correct perspective. The message was that the Chrome browser offers significantly improved performance. In a demo, engineers loaded all 1990 pages of the recent health care law in seconds and smoothly scrolled through it. Google also said that the new Chrome 8 browser would be released for all major platforms, including Linux and Mac.

The star of the event was the much anticipated beta of the Chrome OS. This is actually a very stripped down version of Debian Linux supporting only the web browsing app. It ties into security hardware, like TPMs [trusted programming modules], and is designed to boot in seconds. What wasn't expected was the CR-48 beta test platform and the fact that these netbooks were shipping immediately. Even more unexpected was the fact that the public was invited to participate in the beta by receiving a free CR-48 after applying on-line.

Google is looking for diverse and even unusual web browsing activity to collect info on how the Chrome OS handles all web browsing requirements. There may be a preference for users of on-line applications and SaaS. You can apply for the Pilot program here: http://google.com/chromenotebook.

According to press reports, Google has 60,000 CR-48s on order from Taiwanese manufacturer Inventec and that about 15,000-20,000 had arrived by the announcement date. Some of these were immediately made available to trade press and technical publications, as well as Google staff.

The CR-48 is a cool black Linux netbook with running a tightly coupled version of the Chrome Browser. Its a web machine, designed as a web top without the option of a desktop - unless you put it in the secret developer mode where the underlying Linux OS is available for testing or hacking. It is designed to live in the Cloud, storing only some user info and preferences locally.

Google has called it a laptop, mostly due to its 12 inch display and full size key pad. But it weighs in at just under 4 pounds with 2 GB of RAM and an N455 Atom processor. Many newer netbooks already use the dual core 500 series of Atom CPUs, but the real performance hit is in the slow links to the graphics sub-system. AMD has recently released a dual-core Atom-class processor with an integrated graphics core and such a chip should greatly outperform the current Atom family in the rendering and multi-media area. (see the Product section below).

The low power Atom CPU and Mac-like Lithium polymer battery yield a claimed 8 hours of use and 8 days of standby. (Our experience at LG with a test machine was more like 6 hours plus and about 6 days of standby, but the battery may have been short of a full charge.) The CR-48 looks like an older 13 inch MacBook and is frequently mistaken for one.

The Google netbook supports WiFi, Bluetooth, and a 3G cellular adapter with 100 MB/month Verizon service for free as a standby when WiFi is not available. Larger data plans are available from Verizon starting at $10 per month.

These specifications should be expected when Chrome OS powered devices from Acer and Samsung start making their debut some time next year. It is also very likely that we will begin to see demo's of such devices during CES in January.

Some press reports note the over-sized touchpad is over-sensitive and the Adobe Flash plug-in for Linux has had awful performance, but both Adobe and Google engineers are working on it.

To see what's inside the CR-48, go here: http://chromeossite.com/2010/12/11/google-cr-48-notebook-dissected-pictures/.

There is also an open source project and community around the code base, http://chromiumOS.org.

From the FAQ page: "Chromium OS is the open source project, used primarily by developers, with code that is available for anyone to checkout, modify and build their own version with. Meanwhile, Google Chrome OS is the Google product that OEMs will ship on Netbooks this year."

For more info, see: http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/chromium-os-faq.

Here is an initial list of netbooks that were tested with the open source Chromium OS: http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/getting-dev-hardware/dev-hardware-list.

lightning boltAMD Gears up for its Fusion Family of APUs

In December, AMD announced a new lineup of motherboard products for AMD's 2011 low-power mobile platform (code-named "Brazos") and the AMD Embedded G-Series platform for embedded systems (code-named "eBrazos"), both based on the first AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Units (APUs). The 2011 low-power mobile platforms feature the new 18-watt AMD E-Series APU (code-named "Zacate") or the 9-watt AMD C-Series APU (code-named "Ontario").

"AMD is ushering in a new era of personal computing, and our industry partners are ready to take advantage of the first ever AMD Fusion APU," said Chris Cloran, Corp. VP and GM, Computing Solutions Group, Client Division, AMD. "By combining the processing of the CPU with the GPU on a single energy efficient chip, we believe their customers can take advantage of better price/performance, superior 1080p HD playback and small form factors for innovative designs."

During Intel's Developer Forum, AMD held preview sessions showing low-power Zacate netbook chips matching or besting a 35-watt commercial laptop running an Intel Core I-5 CPU and standard Intel GPU. In a recent Taiwan computer fair, MSI showed off an 11.6 inch netbook that will shown at CES that is based on the Zacated APU with 4 GBs of RAM.

Numerous motherboard designs based on the AMD E-Series APU are planned for retail channels and system builders from leading original design manufacturers (ODMs), including ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI and SAPPHIRE. Additional motherboard designs based on the AMD Embedded G- Series platform for embedded systems are scheduled for Q1 2011 availability to enable the next generation of embedded computing devices from digital signage and medical imaging to casino gaming machines and point-of-sale kiosks.

"With the new AMD E-Series APU, we can provide our customers the cost-effective solutions they're looking for to build PCs with unrivalled image quality," said Joe Hsieh, Vice President of ASUS. "Our AMD E-Series APU-based motherboards redefine the low-power, small PC experience to go beyond basic Internet browsing for today's digital lifestyle."


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Deividson Luiz Okopnik


Deividson was born in União da Vitória, PR, Brazil, on 14/04/1984. He became interested in computing when he was still a kid, and started to code when he was 12 years old. He is a graduate in Information Systems and is finishing his specialization in Networks and Web Development. He codes in several languages, including C/C++/C#, PHP, Visual Basic, Object Pascal and others.

Deividson works in Porto União's Town Hall as a Computer Technician, and specializes in Web and Desktop system development, and Database/Network Maintenance.

Howard Dyckoff

Bio picture

Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Howard maintains the Technology-Events blog at blogspot.com from which he contributes the Events listing for Linux Gazette. Visit the blog to preview some of the next month's NewsBytes Events.

Copyright © 2011, Deividson Luiz Okopnik and Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 182 of Linux Gazette, January 2011