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Archive for October, 2006

KDE Celebrates a Fine Decade

K Desktop Environment

OHE KDE project celebrated its 10th anniversary last night. The wonderful work done by its contributers and volunteers has greatly enriched my life in the past few years, so I would really like to thank them.

Productivity-wise, KDE appears to be best bar none. As one example of its cutting-edge features, KDE offers tabbed shells and file managers. It has incorporated this functionality for several years. These increase productivity and should become popular for the same reason that Midnight Commander became popular many years ago (and continues to be used by a visible minority of users).

At times I was pondering a move from SUSE to the more brittle Kubuntu. SUSE is becoming more GNOME-inclined while package management over at the Canonical/Ubuntu camp seems tempting. In any event, my experience with GNOME was a satisfactory one, but long-time dependence on advanced KDE features could not be ignored. KDE has that special touch and it is trivial to use once familiarity is gained.

Browser Diversity and Security

Firefox in the dock

There has been a great deal of talk about browser statistics recently. Market share has become a measure of diversity, which ensures that Web developers tailor their site according to standards rather than for one particular application. Security remains at the heart of this debate, but it’s clear that the complexity of this problem is high.

All Web browsers are insecure to some degree, because they all must work with flawed code in the operating systems. There are some indications of progress, such as frequent patches from Microsoft and Mozilla to close security holes. Still, these actions may be too little too late if a zero-day exploit is the attack weapon.

It all comes down to patching speed, then number of flaws, as well as their severity (e.g. privilege escalation can be catastrophic).

Related article from the same day (and same Web site):

    Will Security Worries Dull Ajax’s Cutting Edge?

Prophetic Prediction in 2001: Open Source Monopoly

Crystal ball

CNET presented the following perspective just 5 years ago.

It’s not hard to understand why open-source software, such as the Linux operating system and the Apache HTTP server, is growing in popularity among corporate IT departments. When source code is open, any developer is free to read, redistribute and modify it. This leads to faster bug fixes, improved software and lower development costs.

This appears to be gradually becoming a reality. The ideas and principles are more openly accepted as valid.

X-Face – Your Face Compacted in Binary Form

OVER the weekend I expored the possiblity of adding an X-header to my outgoing messages. This particular one, known as X-Face, is a 48×48 pixel binary representation of one’s face. Here is mine:

.dYWu:H1\3ib`=T*Zoi9{>C].hHmdJ#z~":dJ5pFYAC`jJ6I~pf</F~#Sp(\[J6OgtEBO"[
@'u^%Ia#bVQhL%Cw#^nUFCIAEjS=M(B6B'>OUrp)Y"ZY}Z\Y~`g#I,JSw?7"3&Fctfk^)\]8{j[7)M
Nj%-#0a}S+*8oFlP^l,>&Y^1yhEYGz7>sv*'OuW}a9Oq}:<Ra*`;',OG@O=wj0mp'{Q|hbDm&yS-#r
m;DM)4S$!IX22Ou)-Y^lh[pu6VX8Dh0dG&Fv[54aJZeX*LAV]2w9wSR15

To view this short sequence as an actual image, use this Web-based tool. You may also create your own X-Face, which can be bound to your E-mail as a succinct header. I wonder if a fetch key can be created for X-Faces in the same way that PGP keys can be replaced by a shorter identifier. I suppose a URL can be specified in the header instead.

Open Source Goes for the Endgame

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

FOR the past few years I have been advocating Open Source technologies, which I confidently argue will pummel proprietary equivalents. Packages mature in a layered fashion (thanks, GPL!), which makes them too hard to beat over time. They strengthen at a high pace owing to parallel development while the costs of code are minimal or non-existent. Their complexity is high and level of functionality breathtaking.

Take PHP-Nuke for example. Sure, I have this (software) package installed in a couple of places, but it doesn’t make me a prick (pardon the subtle pun). It makes me efficient and it makes any projects economically viable. So, why is it that such projects mature so nicely? I guess one can always harness some PHP skills by looking at that transparent (non-binary) code and rely on ‘heredity’ from prior project. When a project contains some of people’s ‘DNA ‘footprint’, there is individuality, creativity and self-expression involved. This leads to greater dedication, a sense of responsibility, and ownership. And money can by all means be made in this process of self-expressions. Take for instance the Linux patchmaster/janitor, Andrew Morton, who left to join Google while working on the kernel, still.

Open Source software is bound to be the sole winner. Give Open Source a few more years and find out for yourself. Check it out, mate. Checkmate!

Wikipedia and Research Papers

WIKIS and research are a funny dou. As I recently pointed out, Wikis are an excellent tools for improving researched-on, peer-reviewed content. On the other hand, as this new article with some general background and criticism suggests, a Wiki is susceptible to abuse if it’s too open to a wide audience.

Brent Freccia, a social studies teacher at Newark High School in Delaware and a self-proclaimed “avid wiki-person,” created an entry for his school on Wikipedia, the oft-visited online encyclopedia and go-to source for students writing research papers.

An example where things can go terribly wrong:

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as pope last year, some Internet users who logged onto Wikipedia to see what he looked like found a rather different image: that of the evil emperor from “Star Wars.”

Monopolies Go Global

Out from afar I continue to observe an American domination that expands through integration, acquisitions, and a worrisome process of ‘innovation’ takeover. Here is an example from yesterday’s technology section.

Yahoo!’s shopping spree is showing no signs of letup. During the past 18 months, the online media and search giant has acquired photo sharing startup Flickr, social bookmarking site Del.icio.us, and Upcoming, a user-generated social events calendar. It has also tried to acquire social networking site Facebook for upwards of $1 billion.

Map of EuropeMicrosoft, Oracle, and Google (among a few others) are no exception. Microsoft in particular has been buying plenty of startups in order to penetrate the Web. Larry Ellison eliminated Open Source threats by buying them off (this includes an attempt to snatch MySQL, having led PeopleSoft to their demise). And while Oracle uses Linux very heavily and has seen a sharp rise in profits, it all makes you wonder where the global industry is headed. Technology is not the only sector affected. Giants such as MacDonald’s or Wal-Mart are there to remind us that they can go global and eliminate mom-and-pop stores in the process. Ultimately we may all find ourselves enslaved to few powerful players whose leaders accumulate billions.

This is made worse when large players liaise in order to squash any emerging threats (disruptive technologies such as Open Source software). Essentially, they promote their own agendas using seemingly-infinite powers and resources. As an example:

Why the world needs openness, not interoperability

This NAC/NAP lovefest would be laughable if it weren’t such a kick-in-the-teeth to the rest of the industry, enterprise IT, and all Internet users. A Cisco/Microsoft oligopoly stalls implementation, stifles innovation, and makes the network less secure. In this way, Cisco and Microsoft are standing in the way of progress.

Unless legistlation changes, only the universe is the limit. Corruption, lobbying, and shilling do not help either.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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