The most recent week brought a lot of exciting news to the worlds of Linux and GNU. In this week’s article, I will shine a spotlight on my favorite 8 Linux, GNU, and FOSS news stories, and offer my opinions and insights. The 8 stories are:
- Fedora 15 will feature innovative security enhancements.
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 is released.
- The celebration of Linux’s 20th anniversary continues.
- Is GNU/Linux finally starting to arrive on the computer desktop?
- Red Hat is poised to become the first billion dollar Linux company.
- Meego Lives On.
- Parabola GNU/Linux aims to be a completely free distro.
- The Free Software Foundation makes releasing a free software alternative for Skype a top priority.
Fedora 15: Lovelock Continues the Fedora Heritage of Innovation
In the spirit of full disclosure, I absolutely love Fedora. I have used Fedora and its predecessor, Red Hat Linux, since about 2004. I run Fedora on all of my computers except for my netbook, which runs Ubuntu, and the main desktop in my household, which runs Windows 7. I run Fedora on a couple of laptops, a desktop computer, and a server computer. I have found it to be a very robust and very secure operating system. That is why I looked very favorably upon the news that the next version of Fedora, codenamed Lovelock, will be released on May 24th, 2011. Fedora 15 introduces a very innovate new security feature: dynamic firewall technology. Here is a brief description of dynamic firewalls from the Fedora website:
“This feature adds support for a dynamically managed firewall that is able to handle firewall changes without the need to rebuild the whole firewall. The firewall daemon manages the firewall and has a D-BUS interface to interact with clients or services, that request firewall changes. “
I am very excited by this development because I have always hated the inflexibility of traditional, iptables-based firewalls. I have always been very security conscious, and this normally means setting all of my firewall and SE Linux settings to the most secure values. However, this approach has occasionally led me to problems where I could not get a program to run due to my security context. This usually occurred when I was trying to run a Windows program in Wine. It is nice to know that starting with Fedora 15, I will have the ability to more dynamically change my security settings to allow software that I WANT to run do what it needs to do. Hopefully, Red Hat will work on a more dynamic SE Linux next.
Red Hat Updates RHEL to Version 6.1
I actually told a small fib in the section above: my home server actually runs CENTOS 5.5, not Fedora. It is easy to get confused because CENTOS and Fedora are close cousins. While Fedora is the community based product that eventually is refined to become Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CENTOS (Community ENTerprise Operating System) takes the opposite approach: it starts with RHEL and uses RHEL to create a community -based enterprise Linux OS. I use CENTOS on my home server because it is incredibly lightweight and incredibly stable. At one point, I had the server running for over a year with no reboots and no crashes. Since CENTOS is derived from RHEL, a release of CENTOS is usually a few months behind the equivalent release of RHEL. For example, CENTOS 6.0 is pretty much the exact same OS as RHEL 6.0, but it might be released a couple of months afterwards to give the CENTOS engineers time to digest and process all of the changes.
Since I am a user of CENTOS, I have a vested interest in the release of RHEL 6.1 since its changes will eventually make their way onto my computer. The changes from RHEL 6.0 to RHEL 6.1 can be broken up into 3 broad categories:
- Package updates
- Package additions
- Bug/security fixes
RHEL 6.1 also has other performance and technical updates such as support for more processors and computing environments:
- Greater support for NUMA servers
- Support for the upcoming Xeon E5 processors
- Updated drivers… and more
It appears that Red Hat is continuing its torrential pace of trying to make Red Hat Enterprise Linux THE open source choice for businesses. RHEL 6.1 should allow Red Hat to continue its success.
Celebrating the 20th Birthday of Linux
In 1991, Linus Torvalds posted a bulletin board message inviting his online friends to take a look at a new operating system kernel that he had developed. He hoped that this kernel would allow him to eventually build an alternative to the expensive Unix operating system, which cost much more than he could afford as a poor college student. At the time,Torvalds had no idea how big his creation was going to become. A few months of work in the spring and summer of 1991 led to one of the biggest revolutions in computing history: the birth of a viable free software operating system. Ofcourse, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, deserves just as much of the credit for this revolution because the GNU/Linux operating system would never have been born without the GNU part. In 2011, the Linux Foundation is leading a year-long celebration of the birth of the Linux kernel and the creation of the GNU/Linux operating system environment.
I did not grow up as a computer geek. I was almost completely computer illiterate until the late 1990s. However, when I had my first real exposure to computers in about 1997, a love affair started that has continued to this day. I first heard of Linux around 1998 when a friend of mine was kind of tooling around with it, trying to install it on one of his computers. He had a stack of floppy disks, and he was trying to do something technical like compile drivers. I was nowhere near being ready for Linux at that point, but I stored the information in the back of my head. About a year later, around early 1999, I decided to give Linux a shot. I believe that I was running Windows 98 SE at the time. I downloaded Linux, and I had no idea where to start, even after I read the documentation. I had no idea what a man page was, nor pico, nor Emacs, nor all of these other cryptic terms. I gave up in frustration after a few days of trying to master Linux.
In mid-1999, a fateful thing happened that would change my life forever. Corel released a new Linux distribution called Corel Linux. I read about it on their website, and it sounded more user-friendly that my previous Linux experiences. I downloaded it, burned it to a cd, and tried to install it. Unlike the more complicated version of Linux that I had tried a few months earlier, Corel Linux had an easy-to-understand graphical installer. I had Corel Linux up and running within an hour or so. I ran Corel Linux on my secondary desktop computer for the next 2 years. Over that time, I learned the language and structure of Linux, and I became more and more comfortable with it.
Over the next several years, Corel Linux was discontinued, and I ended up stumbling upon Red Hat. I followed Red Hat through its transition to Fedora. In 2004, I decided that it was time for me to abandon the Windows world forever, and that is exactly what I did. I wiped my main computer clean and installed Red Hat Linux. Since then, I have never looked back.
It is amazing how fast time goes. My personal experience with Linux is now greater than 10 years, though it seems like yesterday that I first tried it. Linux is now over 20 years old, and it is a mature operating system that has taken the world by storm. One look at a sampling of the membership of the Linux Foundation is all that it takes to realize that Linux and GNU are not going anywhere:
The list goes on and on. If I were Microsoft, I would look at the list above and I would be VERY afraid. With this kind of corporate support, I believe that it is inevitable that GNU/Linux will one day be the world’s dominant operating system. The 20th anniversary celebration is just a precursor to the very bright future that Linux will enjoy. In closing on this topic, I wanted to share a great YouTube video of the 20th anniversary celebration produced by the Linux Foundation:
GNU and Linux: Making Inroads Onto the Desktop
Contrary to what some marketing companies may want you to believe, people are NOT stupid. When forces try to push the masses in one direction, people will often go out, do their research, and end up doing what THEY want to do. Android’s success was not SUPPOSED to happen. Gmail was not SUPPOSED to become such a success when Yahoo and Hotmail seemed to have online email locked up a decade ago. Now Ubuntu is not SUPPOSED to finally bring GNU/Linux to the masses. However, the new Unity interface on Ubuntu 11.04, and Google’s upcoming Chrome OS threaten to do what has been in the making since the Linux kernel was created 20 years ago: a takeover of the computer desktop. As people get more and more used to their Linux-powered Android phones, working on a Linux-powered desktop will not seem so foreign. I look for Linux and GNU-based software to make a SERIOUS push onto the desktop in 2011 and 2012.
RedHat: On Track For Its 1st Billion Dollar year
Red Hat, perhaps the most well known Linux company, is set to exceed a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in Fiscal Year 2011. Today, I went to the RedHat website, and I reviewed their revenue growth over the last two years. It has been nothing short of astounding. Quarter after quarter, they have been able to exceed their revenue from the previous quarter. (Full disclosure: I do own shares of RedHat.) The reason that I decided to invest in free software/open source software is that I deeply believe in the principles behind the free software movement. I am currently invested in three open-source related companies: Red Hat, Novell, and Geeknet. As such, I find RedHat’s success to be very encouraging, and it makes me want to invest in more open source companies. To give you a graphical representation of how well RedHat has done, I created a nice little spreadsheet in OpenOffice.org Calc to display their steady growth.
I foresee that RedHat and GNU/Linux in general will continue to grow and prosper for many decades to come.
Meego Lives On
Rumors of Meego’s demise due to Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft may have been greatly exaggerated. Though Nokia has decided to predictably cease its development of Meego following the billions of dollars that Microsoft is paying the company, Intel has invested too much time and money into Meego to simply walk away from the project. As such, Intel has pledged to continue supporting the Meego. The success of Android clearly illustrates that a mobile operating system based on Linux can be a success. I predict that Intel will really begin to push Meego as an alternative to Android in the mobile sector in the coming quarters.
Parabola GNU/Linux is Free As In Beer
In 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting the Free Software Foundation’s founder, Richard Stallman in person. We had a nice discussion about free software, and he pointed out that certain GNU/Linux distributions such as gNewSense ONLY include free software. Parabola GNU/Linux is a new distro that aims to match or surpass gNewSense. Parabola is based on ArchLinux, and it has received the full blessing of the Free Software Foundation as a fully free GNU/Linux distribution. If you are looking for a completely free software GNU/Linux, you may want to give Parabola a try: https://parabolagnulinux.org/
The Free Software Foundation: Free Software Replacement For Skype is Top Priority
It would be an understatement to say that Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation do not like Skype. They see it as yet another attempt by a large corporation to hold control over millions of people. When you put your contacts into Skype or similar software, who now owns your information? The Free Software Foundation aims to create a free software alternative to Skype that will respect the freedoms of the user. The GNU project is called GNU Telephony. I am not sure when it will be released, but the project does have an active wiki: http://www.gnutelephony.org/index.php/GNU_Telephony
True success is never contingent on a sudden burst of motivation. Rather, success is achieved through the steady commitment to something bigger than one’s self. Constant, slow progress is what wins in the long run. Linux, GNU/Linux, and the Free Software Movement in general continue to make slow and steady progress due to people like Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, and the countless volunteers who often spend their free time improving software. Organizations like Red Hat, IBM, Canonical, Google, and others contribute a lot of time, money, people, and other resources to making free software/open source software better. No matter how much the enemies of GNU/Linux and free and open source software try to destroy this movement, it is simply impossible to stop people from voluntarily doing things that are making the world a better place. This movement will not be stopped anytime soon, so I foresee that those that do not like the open direction in which software is moving will eventually have no choice but join us on the bandwagon. I’ll see you all next week!
Cloer, J. (2011, May 18). Linux goes hollywood: inspiration for your 20th anniversary video submission . Linux.com. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.linux.com/news/featured-blogs/185-jennifer-cloer/446724-linux-goes-hollywood-inspiration-for-your-20th-anniversary-video-submission
Gedda, R. (2011, May 20). Meego marches to 1.2 despite nokia defection. CIO. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.cio.com.au/article/387269/meego_marches_1_2_despite_nokia_
Kerner, S. M. (May 20, 2011). Fedora 15 boosts linux security. eSecurity Planet. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.esecurityplanet.com/features/article.php/3934151/Fedora-15-Boosts-Linux-Security.htm
Linton, S. (2011, May 12). Bye bye skype, top 3 free replacements. OSTatic. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from ostatic.com/blog/bye-bye-skype-top-3-free-replacements
Morgan, T. P. (2011, May 19). RHEL 6.1 lays foundation for future servers. The Register. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/19/redhat_rhel_6_1/
Reynolds, N. (2011, March 9). News: update on parabola development. Parabola GNU/Linux. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from https://parabolagnulinux.org/news/update-on-parabola/
Sherriff, L. (2011, May 20). Desktop linux: the final frontier. The Register. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/20/desktop_linux_market_penetration/
Stamper, J. (2011, May 19). Winning: q&a with jim whitehurst, red hat ceo . CBR Software Open Source. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://opensource.cbronline.com/features/winning-qa-with-jim-whitehurst-red-hat-ceo-190511