Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Will Linux own the cloud?

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst thinks so: “Clouds are fundamentally new infrastructure. Why lock yourself into something proprietary?” he says in an article. Whitehurst believes that open source technology is the perfect vehicle for innovating in the cloud computing era. And in its article, “Cloud computing with Linux thin clients,” IBM spells out the reasons it believes there will be “penguins in the clouds”:

The best operating environment for a thin client designed around cloud computing has the following characteristics:

  • Highly customizable
  • An inexpensive or even free operating system
  • All necessary applications inexpensive or free
  • Networking built into the operating system core
  • Small enough to fit into tiny devices
  • Flexible and powerful enough to run full laptops
  • Miserly enough to conserve battery life to a maximum degree
  • Linux meets all of these criteria. It is taking over in the mobile space, the enterprise space, and the embedded space, including dedicated consumer devices such as book readers and set-top boxes. And with virtualization, Linux can also run applications built for the Windows®, Mac OS X, and other operating systems.

Are these just pipe dreams or is there a big shift coming? The folks at suggest that there are some high-anxiety clouds hanging over Redmond in “Microsoft worried by Linux cloud.” Somehow, Microsoft is uncomfortable with statements from the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF) like: “The CCIF will not condone any use of a particular technology for the purposes of market dominance and or advancement of any one particular vendor, industry or agenda.” Oopsie.

Of course, even the CCIF pulled out of the so-called Open Cloud Manifesto (along with big players Amazon and Google), which somewhat dampened the March 30 launch of this attempt to apply some standards to cloud computing for the purposes of interoperability of technologies. As it turns out, openness sounds like a great idea, yet many companies are still struggling with the niggling question of how to make money off it. As well, there are some pretty strong feelings in the IT community about the very idea of organizations turning over so much power to “the cloud.”

Who do you think has the most to gain in the cloud computing era? Will the philosophical goals of open source finally win out and spell the demise of behemoths like Microsoft? Or will the whole thing collapse upon itself, much like the Open Cloud Manifesto?

Source: Tech Republic

Installing Firefox in Kubuntu 8.10

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

adeptfailed_croppedI have repeatedly been unable to update Firefox to the latest version in assorted Linux distros over the course of a few years.

For the most part, I see this as poor user interface design by the developers of the assorted software update applications. For example, I don’t recall a big CHECK FOR UPDATES NOW button on any of them. Nor do I recall any of them externalizing the date/time that they last checked for updates. Plus, they use language that speaks to experienced Linux users but not to new users. 

To be clear, I’m talking about manual updates. Linux distros have auto-upate facilities that likely would have, eventually, updated an installed copy of Firefox. Updating Firefox is my test for whether a distro is newbie friendly. 

Today I downloaded and tried a new distro, Kubuntu version 8.10. 

Kubuntu doesn’t come with Firefox pre-installed so this is about installing the browser rather than updating it. The software update application in Kubuntu is Adept version 3.0 Beta 4. I don’t like that it ships with beta software, especially for such an important component.

I also found the overall user interface, KDE version 4.1.2, particularly frustrating, echoing the sentiment that Computerworld blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols expessed both about KDE version 4.1 and about KDE version 4.2.

Adept groups applications, and Firefox was not in the Internet group. I did a search within the program for “Firefox” and came up empty. I clicked on everything I could find to click on and stumbled across an option (under Adept on the menu bar) to fetch the package list. This seemed to run fine but Firefox was still not in the Internet group. However, a search for “Firefox” now returned a long list of extensions and version 3.0.5 of the browser itself.

If updating the package list is a necessary function, as it seems to be, you’d think Adept would do it automatically. At the least, it should warn the user that the update has never been done or hasn’t been done in a long while.

Firefox can install extensions all by itself, a process that works the same in Linux as it does in Windows. So it’s not clear why Adept bothers with Firefox extensions. And the list of available extensions is a very small percentage of the total available. Plus, why show the user extensions to a browser that isn’t even installed?

Clicking on the Firefox entry in the list opens up a checkbox option to install it. Fine. But then what? There is no Apply button, no OK button, no Next button. Adept is like a command line interface, in that the burden of knowing what to do next is on the end user.

Turns out you have to click on “Adept” on the menu bar and then on “Apply changes”.

This failed with an APT “Package download failed” error. The specific message (shown below) was “I wasn’t able to locate a file for the python-pyorbit package. This might mean you need to manually fix this package. (due to missing arch).”

“Mini” smartphone design runs Linux

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

access_alpmini_screensAccess China and NEC Electronics are developing a “price sensitive” smartphone reference design incorporating the “new” Mini version of the Access Linux Platform (ALP) mobile stack. The touch- and 3G-enabled design will use NEC’s ARM9-based MP201 system-on-chip (SoC), and a future design may use NEC’s new ARM11-based Emma Mobile 1.

Targeting Asian and emerging markets, the unnamed NEC/Access reference phone design will support 2.5G, 2.75G, and 3G CDMA2000 networks, say the companies. It will also offer touch-panel access to functions including web browsing, and ship with “a complete set of development tools,” add the partners.

The NEC/Access design will use the ALP Mini stack, described as a stripped down version of the LiMo-compliant ALP Linux mobile stack. In actuality, ALP Mini evolved from one of the first commercial Linux stacks to target mobile devices. It was originally developed by China Mobile Soft, a start-up founded by John Ostrem and Jiping Wang in 2002, and acquired by Access in 2005. (Ostrem and Wang contributed a wonderful paper to LinuxDevices detailing the advantages of Linux in the 2002 Chinese embedded Linux market.)

ALP Mini is expected to reach a new Version 3.0 release this month. The stack is said to offer a development platform and application suite designed for feature phones, low-end smartphones, portable navigation devices (PNDs), portable media players (PMPs), and set-top boxes (STBs). ALP Mini is targeted at “emerging markets,” and is being deployed in China and Taiwan on the Haier Super Smart Phone N60, which was announced in 2006, as well as on a PND device from Shanghai Novarobo Technology.

Whereas the full ALP 3.0 stack targets smartphones and other multitasking devices with 128MB or more each of RAM and Flash, ALP Mini gives the company a product offering for less sophisticated, single-function devices with as little as 32MB each of flash and RAM. In place of the LiMO-mandated GTK+ GUI toolkit, Mini uses a lightweight, custom “NGUI” toolkit (see screenshots above). Minimum processor requirements are said to be a 200MHz ARM9 processor.


The first NEC/Access phone design will use NEC’s MP201 SIP (system-in-package). Announced in July 2006, the NEC MP201 is aimed at portable devices that require video and audio processing, says NEC. The SIP packages an ARM9-based applications processor together with a DSP and an LSI (large-scale integration) for power management, thus replacing as many as three discrete chips in a low power, single 12- or 14-millimeter (mm) square package.
The MP201 is built around an ARM926EJ-STM core, clockable to 250MHz, with 256KB internal SRAM, as well as support for SDRAM. The MP201 also includes a multifunction image processor, as well as a digital signal processor (DSP) with H.264 decoding and MPEG-4 encoding and decoding, says the company. Interfaces are said to include serial, USB 2.0, SD card, ATA, cameras, LCD, and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) for terrestrial video support.

The MP201 is capable of displaying 30fps of QVGA video compressed with H.264, and about 30fps of 480 x 480 video with MPEG-4, says NEC. As a result, the SoC is said to support both the latest digital music formats, as well as terrestrial digital video.

NEC’s new Emma Mobile 1 SoC

Access and NEC also plan to explore future reference designs based on NEC’s newer, ARM11-based Emma Mobile 1 SoC, say the companies. Announced last month, the Emma Mobile 1 supports large LCD displays, and is billed as being a “system LSI chip for portable devices.” As the diagram below shows, it integrates several multimedia and display processors, a DSP, and even on-chip RAM. It reportedly supports playback of MP3, AAC, MPEG-4, and VC-1 files, and can play H.264 video on a D1 size (720 x 480) screen at 30fps, claims NEC.
The Emma SoC builds upon the MP201 design with an ARM1176JZF-S, clockable to 500MHz, plus additional multimedia processors, including a dedicated H.264 video engine. A separate 500MHz K701 DSP is said to handle MPEG-4 and other media processing tasks. The integrated LCD controller supports up to WVGA (800 x 480 dot) LCD panels, “making it possible to resize D1 size digital content on a WVGA LCD panel,” says the company.

Stated Katsu Itagaki, GM, SoC Systems Division, NEC Electronics, “ACCESS China is a leader in advanced mobile software technologies with strong technical expertise and an established track record of providing support for major operators.”

Stated Pierre Suhandinata, Chairman and CEO of Access China, “With its rich entertainment and strong web browsing functionality, we believe this reference design will further enable manufacturers to deliver highly differentiated products in today’s demanding mobile market.”


NEC Electronics and Access China did not provide a timetable for the release of the MP201-based phone design or any upcoming Emma Mobile 1-based designs.

The MP201 is shipping now in mass production, and the Emma Mobile 1 is sampling now at $30 per unit. The Emma is expected to ship in mass production in August, says NEC.

Access, which recently announced several senior management changes, will demonstrate ALP Mini, ALP 3.0, NetFront Widgets, and other technologies at the Mobile World Congress 2009 next week in Barcelona. The Access booth is located in the Courtyard Area CY10 of the show.

Red Hat Makes Real-Time Linux Real

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009


Red Hat’s Enterprise MRG 1.1 is sculpted to best carry out messaging, real-time, and grid computing workloads. The company also announced shipment of an alpha version of Fedora 11.

Hoping to counterpunch archrival Novell (NSDQ: NOVL) in the real-time Linux market, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) has shipped the second release of its Enterprise MRG Real-Time Linux.
Red Hat’s MRG product is essentially a variant of the core Red Hat Enterprise Linux stack. Instead of supporting bread-and-butter functions for database and applications serving like Enterprise Linux, MRG is sculpted to best carry out messaging, real-time, and grid computing workloads.

The new 1.1 version of Enterprise MRG, originally due to ship by Dec. 31, is intended to replace the standard generic Linux kernel with a real-time kernel based on the config_preempt_rt patch. That patch that was jointly created by IBM (NYSE: IBM), Novell, Red Hat, Silicon Graphics, and several smaller companies.
Breaking down the constituent parts of MRG, Red Hat officials note that the R is relevant mostly to financial services companies and defense contractors. The M is for those products, such as IBM’s WebSphere MQ, that tend to pass a lot of messages between applications and servers.

The G in MRG, until release 1.1, has been the missing link. Red Hat officials said it has been the case largely because its programmers have been working overtime to integrate the Condor grid into the Enterprise MRG product. They said that when MRG went into beta in late 2007, the Condor technology was yet to be stitched in because it had yet to support JBoss Enterprise stack.

Red Hat nemesis Novell is chasing this same market with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Real-Time product, a variant of its SLES 10. The two have been trying to best each other with lower levels of latency and higher throughput rates over the past year or two.

Other improvements made to version 1.1 include enhancements to the kernel to make it work more efficiently with multicore chips from both Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD). This improvement is particularly important, Red Hat officials believe, as both chip companies shift from two to four chips, and eventually to six and even eight processors on both desktops and servers.

Red Hat has also added native InfiniBand and Remote Direct Memory Access drivers designed to aid in accommodating lower-latency clustering. The drivers, which also work with Ethernet, make it possible for nodes on a cluster to transport data among nodes directly into and out of memory in those nodes.

Red Hat officials so far have not offered pricing information of Enterprise.

In related news, Red Hat also has shipped an alpha release of Fedora 11. Company officials said they’re still on schedule to deliver the beta version of the product no later than March 24, and to ship the finished version on May 26.