May 2007


Foleo is Palm’s new device that they just announced. Not quite a full laptop, but more than a Treo… and hey, it runs Linux. What’s not to like/love?

While I’ve only seen their marketing site and a couple of articles on it, I still see a couple of things I’d like to have added. Here are a few things on my wishlist…

  • Integrated camera and video conferencing
  • ODF support – not just MS Office
  • Multimedia support – it should play videos (movies) and music
  • Touch screen would be nice, but is not essential
  • Tomboy for note taking
  • File synchronization capabilities with my “desktop”… maybe iFolder, Rsync, or something else?

What’s on your wishlist?

(Updated 6/1/07: because I can’t spell and think at the same time… Sorry, it’s Foleo. Thx Ross.)

While, not a full fledged review, this SearchEnterpriseLinux article does give you the 100,000 foot view of the major issues involved in the key options of office suite these days.

  • OpenOffice.org – open source, MS Office compatible, low-cost/”free”, Novell Edition included with SLED and NOWS
  • MS Office – proprietary, expensive, new version = new user interface = user training requirement, familiar name
  • GoogleDocs – proprietary, word-processor and spreadsheet only, MS Office compatible, low-cost/”free”

It’s worth mentioning that RossB and I did blog a few comparisons to OpenOffice.org and MS Office which you might care to review:  here, here and here.

Novell’s Market Start program works with selected application providers to bring high quality solutions to help small and medium businesses, and certified on the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform. From the website:

When you select solutions from Novell Market partners, you’re getting rock-solid applications that address real business challenges. These Novell-certified applications from proven independent software vendors provide the highest quality solutions for SUSE Linux Enterprise. First of all, they’re truly enterprise-class applications in function and capability. Secondly, they provide that functionality with easier deployments and at a fraction of the cost.

There are now TWO new Market Start Partners: Liferay and Zenoss

Liferay – is “provider of the worlds leading enterprise-class, open source portal and content management system.” More info is available at the Liferay website.
Zenoss – is “the provider of the most popular network and systems monitoring product on Sourceforge.net”. More info is available at the Zenoss website.

Got experience with either of these new applications? Why not share a few words in our comments section…

CRN recently conducted weeks of testing to compare Windows Vista and Windows XP for security features, and found interesting results.  Researchers found Vista had “marginal security advantages over XP”, and “Vista remains riddled with holes, despite its multilayer security architecture and embedded security tools.”

The tests included vulnerability comparisons for:

  • Viruses
  • Spyware/Malware
  • Trojans
  • Remote Data Exploits
  • Flaws in Images
  • Spoofing
  • Scripting

While sometimes the CRN report is a tad harsh, it does strip bare the lofty claims of Vista’s much-improved security through wizards, check-boxes and agents.   Too bad we couldn’t get a SLED ad on those pages, to give everyone hope!

The report concludes: “… both the Vista and the XP test notebooks were almost equally damaged by viruses, trojans and other malware.  And because most of the Web sites in the test were able to exploit Vista’s weaknesses, Internet users are just about equally vulnerable with both OSes”.

The CRN report can  be found here.

RossB

    ZENworks Linux Management (ZLM) has been awarded the “Best of Interop” Award for the Management, Network Software and Services category at Interop Las Vegas 2007 last week.  ZLM is the recommended tool to manage your SUSE Linux environment or your mixed SUSE Linux / Red Hat environment – both servers and desktops.

Here’s the link to the press release.

In a very interesting twist of irony, car #77 – the Linux car – crashed in the Indy 500 on Sunday.

Now here’s my take on this. Since they painted the car blue, I believe the Linux penguin gods got angry at the potential Microsoft association. Considering blue is not only their corporate color, but also one of the most common occurrences in their OS with the BSOD, I think they’ve got a virtual lock on it.

I’m thinking next year, we have to go with white & black, or a nice Novell red

 Jason G

In a world where even SSH seems like it’s not enough, enter SBD. Yeah, it’s the same initials as something that we all said as kids, but it really refers to System Back Door.

SBD is an ultra-secure service that relies on the SBD protocol, one-time pad’s and the HMAC authentication routine to verify what you’re sending to it.

Effectively, it allows you to encrypt a single command that is sent to the server based on completely random and identical files on both systems, making it easy to send a wake-up call to an SSH server or other service with an almost-unbreakable one-time encrypted command.

After using the service on demand, you can then disable it with another SBD-secured command, or have the service disable itself automatically via scripting.

Linux.com has a great article about this, including make instructions for those who find they will need this additional security measure. The SourceForge project page, while, ahem, somewhat terse, is helpful too.

Enjoy,

RossB

Often I find myself poring over data files, usually logs or large output from programs or data sets, trying to find any differrences, if they exist. Years ago the method of finding differences in similar files was to get a text editor and scroll them on the screen simultaneously if possible. Not a very accurate method and seriously hard on the eyes.

I’ll start with the most simple and prosaic of comparison tools, the diff command. Comparing two files with diff is pretty easy, the command would be:

diff file1 file2

Most people are confused about the output from a diff compare, as any differences will be shown rather cryptically with < and > arrows, sets of numbers and letters etc.. The output is not designed to be necessarily human-friendly, it’s designed to be used to patch files with the updates to those files, and the output is really a set of instructions that will be used by the patch command when the patch is applied. Explaining this in a posting of this length without putting people to sleep is not really possible, so for a more detailed view of these instructions, visit the GNU help pages for comparing and merging files.

A particularly useful module or offshoot of VIM (VI iMproved) is my favorite method for comparing files, used by executing the vimdiff command with two or more filenames as arguments. For example, if I had file1 and file2 to compare, I would execute the following command:

vimdiff file1 file2

This opens a version of VIM with two windows, vertically separated, making it easy to visually compare the two files. If I scroll the first file, it locksteps the second file, moving them both so you can see the changes in real-time. You can switch between file1 and file2 by pressing Ctrl-w and then w again, and quitting all the files is easiest by hitting ESC and then typing :qall.

More GUI-related tools abound, the most common of which seems to be Meld, which you can read more about in this Linux.com article. Other options include Diffuse, a graphical tool that does similar things to Meld. Another tool in the same type and style is Directory Synchronise.

Of course this doesn’t include tools like uniq, which will go over a file and after sorting the lines to group any exact matches, will discard all but a single unique instance of that line. The resulting output is sent to standard out, typically the console. This doesn’t tell you the differences between files, but it’s seriously useful

Got a fave tool that you use to compare files or directories? Post a comment and if we update the story with it, you’ll get a shout-out/mention and some good karma, probably.

RossB

P.S.   thehoagie commented that the Trac tool is a great way to see differences in code, see a demo here.

Check out this grass roots Linux marketing initiative to have Tux and Linux make an appearance at the annual Indy 500 race on Sunday May 27, 2007. ZOOOM!!!

(Update — 5/27/2007)  Well, about $18K was raised in donations to support this effort, Tux got included in the paint job, Linux was advertised…  And unfortunately the car Linux sponsored hit the wall and the driver ended up in the hospital.  It was a nice run though…  Here’s a picture of the car and a summary of the results.

 

The Easiest

The first and most obvious option for creating PDF’s with Open Source is the excellent OpenOffice.org suite, where creating a PDF is just a quick click on the Export to PDF icon away. You can always print from FireFox and other apps on a Linux system and convert the resulting .ps file to a PDF with the instructions on this page, or this page and for a whole suite of .ps to PDF and vice versa check out PStill. An online source for .ps to PDF conversion is located here.

An excellent source for PDF-creation tools is the Wikipedia List of PDF Software page. The sections are broken up into Multi-platform Free and Open Source and then Multi-platform Proprietary, Linux/Unix, Mac OS X and Windows. Someone wrote an informative article that you might find useful, here.

Printer Driver Capture

After OpenOffice.org, a popular method is to put in a different printer driver, one that captures print jobs to a PDF, much like the driver that Adobe Acrobat installs on Windows machines. The first option I recommend is PDF Creator, which is a direct competitor to the Acrobat printer driver, and runs only on Windows.

Another possibility in the print driver replacement side of things is CUPS (Common Unix Printing System), and in particular the CUPS-PDF module that effectively gives you a network printer that produces PDF’s on demand. Here is a link to the documentation that explains how this all works. Someone blogged about this too, nice helpful post.

Standalone Apps

Standalone apps to create PDF’s include CutePDF, which has both free and for pay editions, and is probably the most popular free PDF-creation tool for Windows users. Another standalone app option is Foxit PDF Creator which is available for free, and they have a load of other apps that look very useful, including Foxit Reader for Linux Desktop Linux, Embedded Linux and an interesting search tool called Foxit PDF Ifilter.

For-Pay PDF-creation tools include PDF-Creator, which is free to try, but costs money to unlock all the features. Another options is Vista PDF Creator, which has a reasonable set of features in comparison to others. Go2PDF is the smallest freeware tool to create PDF’s but you’ll find if you want advanced features that you’ll have to go elsewhere. PrimoPDF is an example of a great free app, good feature set, including the ability to merge and append PDF’s.

Online PDF Tools

Finally some online PDF-creation tools exist, one of which is PDF Online, which has a free PDF Creator tool online, along with a for-pay EasyPDF tool. Check out the PDF Online blog, very informative.

Hopefully this is helpful, leave a comment if you know of anything that I have missed. (Update: I missed something, a Cool Solutions article that andysp brought to my attention, thanks!)

Enjoy and Digg This Story!

RossB

Yesterday the news of a supposed StarBasic (the scripting macro language inside OpenOffice.org and StarOffice) broke, with the press trumpeting the news that a virus had been discovered that put OpenOffice.org users at risk. The ArsTechnica article (an example of the slightly alarmist press coverage) concluded that OpenOffice was as vulnerable as any other Office suite. The OpenOffice.org team released a statement that firmly assigns this situation to the oddity/curiosity/publicity stunt category.

Several customers have asked me if this is indeed an issue, and while we at Novell take security very seriously, this seems to be simply an attempt at gaining some notoriety, rather than an actual threat to OpenOffice.org users. In fact the authors of the supposed virus actually didn’t let the OpenOffice.org team know about it until after they send the virus code to the Sophos.com security team, a move considered extremely rude in security circles, the defending team needs to be told first in order to react properly and in a timely manner.

The Sophos.com team has commented on this situation in some detail, and the Director of SophosLabs puts all this into perspective by making light of the virus developer’s skills, the motivations behind the virus and puts in doubt that all of this is in good taste.

You can be certain that we are watching this situation, and as the 2nd most active contributor to OpenOffice.org next to Sun, we have engineers who understand the situation and any necessary actions will be pursued with alacrity.

If you have further questions about this, either leave a comment or email one of us, we’re listed on the contact page, or just click on my name below.

RossB

From the Press Release:

Novell and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced they are teaming up to work on reforms to software patents worldwide.

“It is increasingly obvious that software patents are not a meaningful measure of innovation,” said Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell. “As a long-time innovator in the industry and a holder of many significant patents, we understand the rationale behind the patent system in general. But we believe that software patent system reform is necessary to promote software innovation going forward.”

Novell and the EFF will work to lobby governments and national and international organizations to develop legislation and policies around patents designed to promote innovation. …

In addition, Novell will contribute significant resources to the EFF’s ongoing “Patent Busting” project.

A very cool way to have your laptop notice that you (actually your bluetooth phone) is nearby or not, and keep your system secure depending on where you are.

Essentially you pair up the laptop and phone, the MAC address of the phone is known to the laptop and when you are near, it senses the phone and lets you access the machine, but when you walk away (always a BAD idea to leave any laptop alone and logged in, right OPS Team???) it blocks access to the machine.

Article here.

Enjoy,

RossB

P.S.  Thanks to Peter S. for this link.

Here’s a Virtual Strategy Magazine article written by Novell’s Joe Wagner on how virtualization and the changing requirements of the data center can be utilized to make your data center more environmentally friendly.

This SearchServerVirtualization article talks about how Xen is coming to market first with native 64-bit support for the hypervisor itself.  While VMware ESX 3.0.1 does support 64-bit guest OS’s today, the hypervisor itself is only 32-bit.

The 64-bit support in Xen will be available as part of Xen 3.1.  Benefits to running the 64-bit version include native support for 64-bit applications (such as Oracle, SAP, MS Exchange 2007, and MS SQL Server 2007) as well as greater addressable memory (the 64-bit version raises the bar to a substantially higher 16 TB of memory, whereas 32-bit versions are limited to 16 GB).

Inaugurating this new category is something I found that I just can’t explain better than the link to it does, I actually know people who have these or when shown this product said: “Oh cool, how much is it?”, which in my world nearly always precedes a shopping cart and checkout…

San Diego Unified School District has selected SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop from Novell as the standard platform for its Always-On Learning Initiative, a one-to-one mobile computing initiative designed to give students access to laptop computers with software tools and resources to help them achieve academic success and prepare them to learn, live and work in the 21st century. San Diego Unified School District is the second-largest school district in California, serving more than 130,000 students, 100,000 of whom are in grades three through 12 and are targeted by the Always-On Learning Initiative.

Press Release

…well, we’ll probably never know – because the source code for these Microsoft products is not available to be checked against. In a sort-of mental experiment, ZDNet’s Ed Burnette describes in his blog entry a possible scenario of the “shoe being on the other foot”… where MS is actually in violation of some other companies’s patents — 532 is the number he’s using. Then he asks,

“Would that make you any less likely to use Microsoft software?”

He then concludes with what I think is the real question at hand here…

“So the question really becomes, what are you going to let guide your open source decisions? Threats and numbers picked out of the air, or the real business benefits that come from using and contributing to open source?”

Based on my own personal experiences – I can tell you that in almost all of my customer discussions the topic rarely comes up.

Red Hat has announced they’ve partnered with Ascender Corp to create some fonts that are “metrically equivalent to the leading Microsoft fonts”. You can read their press release here. This is of course a good thing for the community because it will help make sure that documents created in MS Office with MS fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New…) will look the same on OpenOffice.org on Linux with such fonts. This will generally help remove barriers to adoption for the Linux Desktop.

You know, I wish Novell had thought of this months – no, YEARs ago… Oh, wait… WE DID! SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 has been in GA release since July 2006. Because of our focus on the desktop product, we actually have been removing barriers to things like OpenOffice.org adoption and including and supporting those features in our product for nearly a year now.  Among those features are things like support for VB Macros, performance upgrades, and oh yes – special fonts which are (as was said) “metrically equivalent”.

Still, it’s nice to see Red Hat validating a part of our Linux desktop strategy… IMHO, this scenario reminds me of another company we all know (who shall remain nameless, but their name rhymes with Nikrokoft) who has a history of taking an existing idea, adopting it, and then marketing it as if it were their own. C’est la vie! I don’t know about you, but I really prefer to stick with a distro that tends to lead in innovation, rather than follow to be the “also-ran”… That’s why it’s SLED 10 for me!

But like I said earlier, this is a good thing for everyone.

  • Novell Technical Support Wins Industry, Customer Praise
  • Customer survey rates Novell Linux support better than Red Hat, Oracle Novell wins awards for web and call center support

Novell technical support has recently been recognized by both customers and leading industry groups for its quality, scope, and timeliness. The Association of Support Professionals has just named Novell as a “Best Web Support” winner for 2007, while the Help Desk Institute has honored Novell with its “Team Excellence Award for External Support.” In addition, an independent customer study indicates that Novell support for Linux bests Red Hat and Oracle in overall quality, timeliness, and addressing the needs of mixed-source IT environments. As a result, Novell customers know they can deploy Novell solutions with the confidence they are backed by one of the leading support organizations in the industry.

“Support is an increasingly important competitive differentiator as the software industry moves to an open source and services-based model,” said Colleen O’Keefe, senior vice president of services for Novell. “Industry validation like these awards for our web and call center support give us the confidence that we’re delivering best-in-class service to our customers. Even more significant, customers, our most important audience, rank us tops in the Linux support business, so we’re succeeding where it really matters the most.”

The full report, with methodology and detailed results, is available here.

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