Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Sunday, April 22, 2012

  • Apr 22 / 2012
  • 17

Another Hatchet Job From Michael Larabel

Weekends are somewhat slow on the web so I dig around in cold dark corners for something about which to write. I visited this hatchet-job at Phoronix. Larabel seems to have little good to say about FSF and its list of “high priority” projects. Instead of saying nothing or providing a solution, it’s all negative: Continue Reading

  • Apr 22 / 2012
  • 25

Shifting Tide of Battle

Techrights has had Novell and M$ under a microscope for the last five years but have now announced a change:
“NOVELL is no longer a company, so we officially let it go about 2 months ago. We stopped researching the subject, at least for the most part (news tracking). But what about SUSE, which Microsoft is subsidising? It has been over a month since we last researched it deeply/properly and issues like patents are the burning issues which take precedence, also at the expense of Gates Foundation watching.

As Microsoft is no longer the only company that which attacks Linux, e.g. with software patents, we also had to let it slide a bit.”

Those are true statements but the same folks are still running M$ and Apple seems less of a threat with their limited production and distribution capabilities that I will continue to concentrate on what is good in */Linux and what is bad about Wintel. Money is not the root of all evil in IT but love of money is. There’s no one on the planet more locked-in to loving money than M$ and they are the largest source of evil in IT. Oracle and Apple are like innocent children in comparison. The flush-lever has already been pushed in Oracle v Google (Android/Linux) and SCOTUS has software patents in its sights.

Despite all the good work in */Linux and efforts by government to restrain the largest excesses of M$, it is still a growing cancer in IT. The growth in the client division is radically curtailed but there’s still some. Until it quits growing, there is no hope of salvation from the cost and complexity in IT that M$ causes. I hope M$’s recent numbers are just some accountants’ tricks, but I will not declare the battle over until retail shelves are jammed with GNU/Linux everywhere.

  • Apr 22 / 2012
  • 6

Myths and Market Share and Malware

One of the myths propagated by haters of FLOSS is that GNU/Linux and other FLOSS are not targets of malware writers because there are not enough units to bother or rather that M$ offers a larger target.

There is no doubt that the existence of a target affects a shooter’s probability of shooting at it but Kaspersky is way off the mark:

  • Kaspersky claims MacOS is now on the radar of malware writers because it has reached 5% market share (units, not $), and
  • Kaspersky claims GNU/Linux is less than 2% share (units) so is not on the radar.

That’s utter nonsense:

  • GNU/Linux is on hundreds of millions of servers (virtual/real) and is a huge target for malware-writers. The malware artists have no trouble finding GNU/Linux targets but the bullets are not penetrating.
  • GNU/Linux exceeded MacOS unit share of shipments back in 2003 and has not slowed down. “According to IDC, Linux desktop shipments outstripped Macintosh shipments in 2002. By 2006, Linux will likely have a larger installed base than the Macintosh OS.” see DESKTOP LINUX TECHNOLOGY & MARKET OVERVIEW (2003)
  • In 2003, IDC reported unit sales of licences: MacOS 2.9% and GNU/Linux 2.8%. That was before the huge roll-outs at Extremadura, Spain, Munich, French national Police etc. which were in excess of “sales” of licences which IDC counts and before Brazil, Russia, India and China endorsed GNU/Linux. Is MacOS really that big of a target?

The current vulnerability in MacOS is actually about Apple’s Java virtual machine, not the UNIX architecture underneath. The UNIX system of security does work and it is better than that other OS regardless of the numbers of units installed. That’s why UNIX still lives on many servers in large enterprises. They don’t care about price. Security is paramount. The argument about size of target is almost irrelevant when thousands of times more malware are out there for that other OS. Anything else is more secure. GNU/Linux is more secure than that other OS. It’s about the law of combination of probability. The probability of a compromise is the product of the probability of encountering a malware and the probability of being susceptible. We have less of each factor with GNU/Linux or MacOS than that other OS.

See Kaspersky: Mac market share means more malware | ZDNet.

  • Apr 22 / 2012
  • 26
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Mind-sets in Software

Some personal history about software:

  • first software written by me in Fortran II-d on IBM 1620 (BCD computer made with germanium transistors and magnetic core memory), fall 1968,
  • first use of GNU/Linux by me, fall 2000, and
  • first realization that FLOSS was the right way to do IT, fall 2003.

My early career in IT was about number-crunching, using computers as programmable calculators on various data-sets related to science and technology. As a physicist, I began to write software to automate data-collection as well. I applied what I knew to personal activities like photography and ballistics and building my first house with “the little woman”.

My latest career was teaching and it was natural to use IT to collect and analyze data on the performance of students but also to use IT for teaching and later to teach students how to do IT for their lives. Before I used GNU/Linux I owned a variety of PCs, some home-built but I used DOS and Lose 3.1 on them. After a few years I was using Lose ’95 in a classroom and the damned machines were frequently crashing, just like Bill Gates’ experience (He laughed. I didn’t.). I switched to Caldera GNU/Linux and was suddenly and dramatically free of crashes.

I used GNU/Linux ever since in my classrooms wherever and whenever I could “get away” with it. That was the usual case. In 2003, however, things changed again. I was not only to teach computer-subjects to students but I had my first computer lab with 1:1 student:PC ratio. We started with Lose ’98 but I soon used my personal computer to run the whole lab by LTSP! The students and I were amazed to see 30 students running all their applications on one ordinary PC running GNU/Linux and not crashing. It was faster, too. Then, when I actually taught Computer Science, it dawned on me, that FLOSS was the right way to do IT.

Teaching/learning is identical to the FLOSS process of writing software/learning to write software. It’s the right way to do IT. Instead of having students watch, learn and write software as assignments. I gave them open-ended projects that could grow. I challenged them to explore different strategies, software designs and to share all their work with each other. Just like Metcalfe’s Law (the power of a network varies as the square of the number of nodes…) the power of a class of students using FLOSS this way is huge. Brilliant ideas emerge from classes of ordinary students. Students learn to analyze any problem into chunks of reasonable size. They learn what doesn’t work, what works better and to choose what works best in writing and using software. It’s a natural fit and brings the real world into the classroom making everything fit. The subject matter includes the students. It is not something artificial imposed on them.

We had some fun times over the years with FLOSS. Whether it was writing tic-tac-toe as a class or having contests to install LAMP quicker than the other guy, everything was easy and the students did most of the work. I lead, followed or got out of their way. Even students who were scheduled against their will to be in my class found interesting stuff to do. Nothing was sacred. We designed and built PCs, software, and networks of PCs, quicker, faster, and cheaper using FLOSS. It has been and continues to be a great adventure.

What set this off was another writer’s revelation of how he learned the exciting concept of changing things that it FLOSS. see Phil Shapiro – – “The day my mind became open sourced”
It’s a good read and conveys the message clearly. FLOSS is the right way to do IT. It’s something the trolls who comment here have not learned. They haven’t really understood or valued the process. FLOSS is not something dark and evil inside a black box. FLOSS is a living thing interacting with its environment. Non-FREE software is another thing entirely. Some of the greatest frauds of my lifetime have been perpetrated by the likes of M$, seeking to put people and their PCs into sealed boxes so they can collect money for granting people the freedom they already have to run, examine, modify and distribute software.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux. Not only is it Free Software but the organization is very open and the APT package manager allows managing any number of PCs and servers much easier.