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By Howard Dyckoff

General News

Feisty Fawn Becomes Ubuntu 7, Adds Server Virtualization

Canonical set free its Feisty Fawn in April. Ubuntu 7.04 desktop edition includes a ground-breaking Windows migration assistant, excellent wireless networking support, and improved multimedia support.

Ubuntu 7.04 server edition adds support for hardware facilities that speed up the use of virtual machines, as well as other improved hardware support, making it an excellent choice as a Web, database, file and print server, the fastest growing area of Linux server use. Ubuntu's support for thin clients is boosted with advanced print and sound support.

On x86 systems with the Intel VT or AMD-V extensions[1], Kernel-based Virtual Machine support (KVM) allows users to run multiple virtual machines running unmodified Linux. Each virtual machine has private virtualized hardware: a network card, disk, graphics adapter, and so on. Ubuntu is the first Linux distribution with Para-Ops and VMI support, which provides optimized performance under VMware.

"Our users want choice and ease-of-use, so, whether as a guest or host operating system, Ubuntu 7.04 will support commercial virtualization products such as VMWare, as well as open source projects including Xen and KVM," said Jane Silber, Director of Operations, Canonical.

7.04 adds a range of new performance improvements including better performance on multicore processors, support for the Processor Data Area, and optimizations for 64-bit architectures. Secure remote network installation using a remote SSH terminal is a new admin feature. [ED: However, some early adopters suggest installing the Ndisgtk package, if your wi-fi card isn't recognized.]

Ubuntu 7.04 supports the Linux 2.6.20 kernel, the recent GNOME 2.18 desktop environment, and thousands of additional applications. Download Ubuntu from www.ubuntu.com/download .

Ubuntu and Sun Offer Java/Linux Integration

As 7.04 launched, it also offered a highly integrated Java developer stack making it easier for GNU/Linux developers to leverage the Java platform in their applications. This stack, which comprises key popular Java technologies such as GlassFish v1 (the open source Java Platform, Enterprise Edition 5 implementation), Java Platform, Standard Edition (JDK 6), Java DB 10.2 (built from Apache Derby) and NetBeans IDE 5.5 - will be available in the Multiverse component of the Ubuntu repository on April 19. These technologies will be available for Ubuntu users to install easily over the network with apt-get and other standard software management tools.

"Sun and Canonical are working together to bring the full power of the Java platform in a fully integrated and easy to install fashion to the free and open source software communities," said Ian Murdock, founder of Debian Linux and now a chief operating systems officer at Sun.

More information on the work involved in packaging these applications for inclusion in Ubuntu will be presented at this year's JavaOne(SM) Conference in San Francisco during session TS-7361, by Harpreet Singh of Sun and Jeff Bailey of Canonical entitled "Packaging Java Platform Applications into Ubuntu". Other related JavaOne events are Ian Murdock's talk on "Linux vs. Solaris?" at CommunityOne and an entire new Open Source Track that will cover Sun's Free/Open Source Java software strategy in depth, starting with Simon Phipps' talk TS-7498, "Liberating Java: Free and Open Opportunity for the Future."

Microsoft Indemnifies Samsung on Linux Patents

Redmond's biggest employer continues to cross license its patent portfolio with other companies, including NEC, Fuji-Xerox, Seiko-Epson and Nortel, as well as Novell's cross-licensing imbroglio.

The Samsung deal in April allows Samsung and its distributors to utilize Microsoft's patents in Samsung's products and gives Microsoft access to Samsung's Media patents. It also protects Samsung from unidentified software inventions MS claims are in Linux.

Samsung, the first company to introduce a Blu-ray disc player, will introduce a dual format High-Definition (HD) optical disc player in time for the holidays that will fully support both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats and their interactive technologies, HDi and BD-Java. There are unspecified monetary payments for access to the respective company's IP. Samsung and Microsoft have previously collaborated in Pocket PC and Windows Mobile designs and other media projects.

See: Samsung's press release for more details .

MS Plugin for Firefox Plays WMP Files

Now available from Port 25, the Microsoft Open Source site, this is a plug-in for Firefox 2.0 that plays media files with an embedded Windows Media Player. The plugin functions as an OCX control. Other Firefox plugins are expected from Port 25, including a CardSpace security plugin.

Commentators point out that Microsoft's new Flash-killer, the Silverlight project, will require near universal access to a WMP-compatible player in the browser. The plugin will keep WMP as a dominant Internet media format.

For a more detailed story, see this page .

Linux Foundation Updates LSB and Testing Tools

The Linux Foundation has updated the Linux Standard Base (LSB) and released a new testing toolkit. The update to LSB 3.1 introduces new automated testing toolkits for distributions and application vendors, linking development more closely to certification.

"All the moving parts are coming together to give the Linux ecosystem its first testing framework that will coordinate development of upstream code to standards and downstream implementations," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. "In order for a standard to be effective, it needs to have a powerful - and usable - testing infrastructure. Our testing framework will deliver that functionality and allow the Linux ecosystem to collaborate and test code while it's being developed....."

The LSB delivers interoperability between applications and the Linux operating system, allowing application developers to target multiple versions of Linux with only one software package. This allows Linux to compete effectively against proprietary, monolithic platforms. The LSB has marshaled the various Linux distribution vendors to certify to its standards, including Red Hat, Novell, Debian, Ubuntu, Xandros, Mandriva and more.

Even though Linux is developed in a highly decentralized manner, Linux must provide the same long-term compatibility guarantees and comprehensive compatibility testing as proprietary platforms such as Microsoft Windows. The LSB Test Framework enables interoperability for applications targeted at LSB 3.0 and higher and will provide backward compatibility so that these applications will continue to run correctly on distributions compatible with future versions of the LSB.

The Linux Foundation initiated a multi-million dollar project to build the first open source testing framework that will link upstream projects to the LSB and downstream providers. The first result of that testing partnership is available now: the LSB Distribution Testkit .

The LSB DTK introduces a Web-based front end testing process that represents the first results of the Linux Foundation's partnership with the Russian Academy of Sciences. ISV testing tools are also available from http://developer.linux-foundation.org; these include the LSB Application Testkit, a lightweight download that contains just the LSB validation tools needed for ISVs to check if their application is LSB compliant.

The Linux Foundation urges distro and package developers, as well as interested users, to use the LSB DTK. As an open source project, the testing framework needs users to get involved, provide feedback and patches for continued enhancement. LSB 3.1 is available at http://www.linux-foundation.org/en/LSB . The new testing kits can be found at http://www.linux-foundation.org/en/Downloads .


The latest stable version of the Linux kernel is: [For updates, see www.kernel.org] .

Debian 4.0 now available

The Debian Project is pleased to announce the official release of Debian GNU/Linux version 4.0, codenamed "etch", after 21 months of constant development. Debian GNU/Linux is a free operating system that supports a total of eleven processor architectures and includes the KDE, GNOME and Xfce desktop environments. It also features cryptographic software and compatibility with the FHS v2.3 and software developed for version 3.1 of the LSB.

Using a now fully integrated installation process, Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 comes with out-of-the-box support for encrypted partitions. This release introduces a newly developed graphical frontend to the installation system supporting scripts using composed characters and complex languages; the installation system for Debian GNU/Linux has now been translated to 58 languages.

Also beginning with Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, the package management system has been improved regarding security and efficiency. Secure APT allows the verification of the integrity of packages downloaded from a mirror. Updated package indices won't be downloaded in their entirety, but instead patched with smaller files containing only differences from earlier versions.

Debian GNU/Linux can be downloaded right now via bittorrent (the recommended way), jigdo or HTTP; see Debian GNU/Linux on CDs or Debian's site for further information. It will soon be available on DVD and CD-ROM from numerous vendors, too.

Announcing Fedora 7 Test 3

Fedora 7 Test 3 has been released featuring both GNOME and KDE based installable live CDs, and a spin named "Prime" that combines desktop, workstation, and server functionality.

The merge of Fedora Core and Fedora Extras repositories and infrastructure is in progress. The major components included in this release are GNOME 2.18, KDE 3.5.6 and a 2.6.21rc5 based Linux kernel.

Mandriva "2007 Spring"

Mandriva has announced the release of Mandriva Linux 2007.1, marketed as "2007 Spring".

Mandriva Linux 2007 Spring integrates the latest innovations in the fields of office suite applications, Internet, multimedia and virtualization technologies. Mandriva Linux 2007 Spring also includes special new features such as WengoPhone, Google Picasa and Google Earth.


Public Beta of Launchpad 1.0

In April, Launchpad.net started public beta testing of Launchpad 1.0, a free Web-based collaboration service that aides communication between different software projects.

Collaboration has traditionally been difficult across communities that use different tools to exchange information. Launchpad's new approach links data from a variety of project-specific sources in different communities and presents it in a unified interface, bringing those communities closer together to solve common problems such as bugs in shared code. This public beta includes a redesigned interface that allows projects to brand their presence in the system and highlights the current activity of project members to keep track of the latest changes.

The Ubuntu Linux distribution uses Launchpad to keep track of conversations across hundreds of free software communities. The service makes it possible for the Ubuntu team to coordinate work on tens of thousands of bug reports, many of which involve third-party development communities, and hundreds of feature proposals for each release.

Around 2,700 projects have been registered, and while many of those do not use Launchpad as their primary hosting infrastructure, their registration in Launchpad facilitates collaboration between other projects who depend on their code.

Launchpad helps projects collaborate via team management, bug tracking, code hosting and language tranlation facilitities. As an example, Launchpad offers automatic translation suggestions - from a library of 750,000 translated strings - and a community of 19,000 registered translators to radically cut the time required to localise a project into many languages. Launchpad also uses the Bazaar revision control system, which can link to projects using CVS or Subversion, and can allow new participants in a community to have full revision control of their own submissions using Bazaar before they have been given commit access to a project's central CVS or SVN repository.

For more information, see https://answers.launchpad.net/launchpad/ .

SWsoft Announces Turn-Key Virtualization for First-Time Users

SWsoft announced, at the end of April, a turn-key offering for businesses exploring operating system virtualization. The Virtuozzo Enterprise Starter Pack, priced at less than $1,000, enables new users to try out OS virtualization technology for a small server consolidation project or pilot deployment. The software can be downloaded, installed, and up and running in minutes.

The Virtuozzo Starter Pack for either Windows or Linux allows up to four virtual environments on a single or dual CPU, and includes a full management toolset and a one year of support and maintenance.

The Virtuozzo Enterprise Starter Pack comes with VZP2V, a Physical-to-Virtual tool that allows easy migration from a dedicated physical server to a Virtuozzo virtual server and ensures that the virtual server performs the same as the physical server.

Last year, SWsoft grew revenues from its Virtuozzo and Parallels virtualization product lines by a remarkable 734 percent. An IDC industry analyst report published last September cited SWsoft as growing fastest among all vendors in the hot overall market for virtualization technology.

SWsoft Virtuozzo dynamically partitions a single Windows or Linux operating system instance into scalable virtual environments with up to hundreds of virtual environments per physical server. For more information, see this page .

Opsware Adds New Security and Compliance Features

Opsware has added new security and compliance features along with a new Opsware community element into its Opsware Network.

The subscription service, used exclusively by Opsware customers to help mitigate vulnerabilities and proactively manage compliance, delivers vulnerability alerts and compliance policies for the Opsware Server Automation System and Network Automation System, upon which vulnerabilities and policy violations that impact the IT environment can be immediately realized. Additionally, Opsware Network Community delivers essential automation content across the Opsware product family, including security best-practices policies certified by the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and by the National Security Agency (NSA).

By making these updates available through the Opsware Network Subscription Service and establishing a direct link to customers with remediation policies for their unique environment, Opsware ensures that the vulnerable IT assets are quickly identified, users are notified, and the information is readily available. In addition, compliance reports provide an at-a-glance status of the state of the IT environment.

Launched in 2006, The Opsware Network automates identification of security vulnerabilities across the IT environment. The Opsware Network keeps IT organizations proactively informed of where security exposures exist within their environment and how to immediately act on fixing an issue to provide rapid remediation. Leveraging information captured through the Opsware Server Automation System and Network Automation System, The Opsware Network identifies all vulnerable data center assets, and provides the means required to remediate relevant servers and devices at the click of a button, to ensure an ongoing state of security and compliance.

The optional Subscription Service delivers vulnerability and compliance content to Opsware users. The compliance policies enable the administrator to immediately perform audits to measure and enforce compliance with regulatory policies. For more information, visit http://www.opsware.com .

Intel announces Penryn and Tolapai plans

At the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing in April, Intel executives detailed over 20 new products and technology innovations aimed at making computers and consumer electronics devices much more responsive and secure.

Pat Gelsinger, senior vice present and general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group, provided performance indicators for Intel's upcoming Penryn family of processors. For desktop PCs, he said to expect increases of about 15 percent for imaging-related applications; 25 percent for 3-D rendering; more than 40 percent for gaming; and more than 40 percent faster video encoding with Intel SSE4 optimized video encoders.

Gelsinger unveiled "Tolapai" plans, the first in what will be a family of enterprise-class "system-on-chip" (SoC) products that integrate several key system components into a single Intel architecture-based processor. The 2008 Tolapai product is expected to reduce the chip sizes by up to 45 percent, and power consumption by approximately 20 percent compared to a standard four-chip design.

Gelsinger also outlined product plans, including Intel's high-end multi-processor servers (codenamed "Caneland"). The quad- and dual-core Intel Xeon processor 7300 series will arrive in 3Q07 in 80- and 50-watt versions for blades. The new servers will complete the company's transition to its Core microarchitecture for Xeon processors. Sun Microsystems demonstrated its Solaris operating system running on an Intel Xeon(R) 5100 series processor based system using Intel Dynamic Power technology, a new capability focused on reducing the power required for a memory subsystem.

For PC security and manageability benefits, Intel will introduce the next-generation Intel vPro processor technology, codenamed "Weybridge," in the second half of the year and using the new Intel 3 Series Chipset family, formerly codenamed "Bear Lake."

Magical Realism

Gravity Probe B Proves General Relativity Still Valid

The GP-B satellite was launched in April 2004 and collected a year's worth of data to determine if predictions of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity are correct. The ultra-sensitive gyroscopes attempted to detect a tiny amount of precession, due to the effect the Earth would have on local space-time around it. So far, the data analysis confirms that effect and General Relativity - at least near Earth.

The experiment had to detect variances of less than 0.002 degrees. Read the full story at http://www.physorg.com/news95953845.html .

[1] Rick Moen comments: You can verify this CPU capability by booting Linux on the candidate processor, using (e.g.) a Knoppix or other live CD and examining the CPU flags section of /proc/cpuinfo. The minimal Linux kernel version for this purpose is 2.6.15 on Intel or 2.6.15 on AMD. Look for flag "vmx" on Intel CPUs, indicating presence of the Intel VT extensions. Look for flag "svm" on AMD CPUs, indicating presence of the AMD SVM (aka "AMD-V") extensions.

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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.

Copyright © 2007, 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 138 of Linux Gazette, May 2007