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Sunday, February 10th, 2008, 11:55 am

Quickies: Miscellaneous Thoughts

NSA

The role of the NSA in computing cannot be denied. Homeland Security finds itself needing to adapt to an era of digitisation.

I once (or twice) read about the NSA putting its code in assembly form inside SELinux. Security gurus inform their readers about algorithms with back doors being deliberately inserted into Windows (and possibly OS X as well, for they too collaborate with the NSA, for ‘security’ reasons,). To some, there’s no doubt here but fact. But it’s a taboo. If you talk about it, they’ll call you a conspirator. Never mind all those reports in the press about Trojan horses being planted. They try to bury and make such stories vanish.

What’s to hide? Given their almost obvious work on back doors in Mac OS X and Windows (since older versions), I wouldn’t personally approach the NSALinux, aka SELinux aka National Security-enhanced Linux, where security means eavesdropping, not privacy. It’s security to the nation, not to the computer user.

Open Source Business

The value of open source companies has more to do with userbase (control) than revenue. The same goes for Web sites, including blogs. Take JBoss for example — a company whose revenue was only about $17 million per annum and yet it was sold for 20 times that amount.

The founder of JBoss claims to have undersold his company to Red Hat. He later left, but then again, he was never too happy at Red Hat for various reasons (other than lack of money/budget allocated to his division). The lesson to be learned here is that selling overpriced software is not necessarily the way to gain status in today’s industry.

Open Source is Not What It Used to Be

I wrote about this in this blog just over a month ago. “Open source” (as a term) died not just because of the OSI’s ‘openness’ (to CPAL, Microsoft, etc.), but also because abuse through jacking of terms. Examples include open source sex, wine and journalism. Where is the source code to these? Where is the code?

NVIDIA Going Open Source?

There appears to be some brilliant news (or unabated rumours) about NVIDIA planning an open source strategy. NVIDIA would have a lot to gain if it went open source. It would receive patches from the users, not to mention goodwill value.

I truly hope the rumours are true. Intel and AMD already do some open source in this one particular area (graphics card). NVIDIA remains the black sheep and the black box — for now. It should truly look for alternative routes at this stage.

KDE4

I wrote about this just before the release of 4.0.0. One should consider running the two versions — the stable and the unstable (3.5 and 4.0, respectively) — in tandem. One can get the best of both worlds. People can trivially install both 3.5.x and 4.0.0. This might prove handy in case of ‘emergencies’. That’s what I do at home and KDE 4 is a masterpiece (with a few tolerable quirks, no cracks).

KDE4 has bugs. It has many bugs. This is true and it’s pretty much the same with Leopard and (arguably) Vista. Fortunately, KDE 3.5 is already a fantastic desktop and it’s possible to run KDE 4.0.0 applications on it until 4.1 arrives later this year, based on at least one estimate.

“4.0.0″ indicates that it’s an early release, but it possibly would have been better had the KDE developers labeled it something like “KDE 4 Preview Release” or “KDE pre4″. That would affect perspective of reviewers. This is just my humble opinion though, not a complaint.

I’ve always found KDE quite elegant and it just worked. Sometimes, especially in the early days, the huge amount of functionality was daunting, but in a very good way which always leaves you curious and opens the door to increased productivity. To make good use of space, it’s worth using KasBar and putting favourite icons in a peripheral (external) panel to make a nifty ‘dock’ (Apple terminology).

Some say that KDE is complicated and heavy. Assuming that simplicity improves usability, this may be a barrier to adaption. But KDE adopts a different approach. That’s the importance of choice and KDE shouldn’t just be warped to be “more like X” (where X can be GNOME, Xfce, Mac OS X, etc.). KDE is possibly better than counterparts provided that the user drives to improve productivity over time, once new features are mastered.

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