[Sarcasm] Microsofts 10-K – some comments

Interesting stuff.

http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/789019/000119312509158735/d10k.htm#tx73014_3

“Open source commonly refers to software whose source code is subject to
a license allowing it to be modified, combined with other software and
redistributed, subject to restrictions set forth in the license. A
number of commercial firms compete with us using an open source business
model by modifying and then distributing open source software to end
users at nominal cost and earning revenue on complementary services and
products. These firms do not bear the full costs of research and
development for the software. Some of these firms may build upon
Microsoft ideas that we provide to them free or at low royalties in
connection with our interoperability initiatives.”

[Oh no. This interop thingy and the EU. They force M$ to open up stuff
that then gets implemented in Open Source. Interop steals their revenue!
How dare they!]

“We are devoting significant resources toward developing our own
competing software plus services strategies including the Windows Azure
Platform, our hosted computing platform designed to facilitate the
rapid, flexible and scalable development of cloud-based services. It is
uncertain whether these strategies will be successful. “

[Translated: We invest in the hype but we dunno if it will ever work.]

“Similarly, the absence of harmonized patent laws makes it more
difficult to ensure consistent respect for patent rights. Throughout the
world, we actively educate consumers about the benefits of licensing
genuine products and obtaining indemnification benefits for intellectual
property risks, and we educate lawmakers about the advantages of a
business climate where intellectual property rights are protected.”

[Translated: We lobby heavily for more patents and against open standards.]

“The [European] Commission’s impact on product design may limit our
ability to innovate in Windows or other products in the future, diminish
the developer appeal of the Windows platform, and increase our product
development costs. The availability of licenses related to protocols and
file formats may enable competitors to develop software products that
better mimic the functionality of our own products which could result in
decreased sales of our products.”

[Wow. So forcing M$ to respect the valid laws of competition is painted
as “impact on product design” and interoperability is painted as
competitors are now able to destroy M$ revenue? Remember – M$ was found
guilty of breaking laws.]

Using KVM in the RHEL 5.4 Beta – fixing bridges

When you use KVM in Rhel 5.4 Beta you will notice that there is no bridge setup to allow your virtual guests to directly connect to the local network.

However, it is easily fixed:

As we are using libvirt, we just need to do two steps, as outlined here:

Step 1: Create the bridge script at /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-br0

DEVICE=br0
BOOTPROTO=static
TYPE=Bridge
IPADDR=10.20.30.40
NETMASK=255.255.255.0
ONBOOT=yes
NM_CONTROLLED=no

As you can see, I use static IP config.

Step 2: hook up eth0 to the bridge and remove it’s IP config in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

DEVICE=eth0
BOOTPROTO=none
ONBOOT=yes
BRIDGE=br0
NM_CONTROLLED=no
TYPE=Ethernet

Now restart the network and done. When you now create a new virtual machine with virt-manager, you can select to have it directly hooked up to the physical network.

Asking Switzerland for more neutrality …

… sounds ironical, doesn’t it? However, it is true. So what is going on?

On the 23th of february 2009 the swiss BBL awarded Microsoft a contract for client/server licenses, applications and 3rd level support. This was published on the 1st of May here. The

The contract is worth 14 million Swiss Francs per year and as it is running for 3 years, the total amount is 42 million SFR. Now usually such investments are made after public tendering to make sure the most cost effective solution is chosen. In this case however, the BBL decided that they could use a specific article in the law to avoid the tendering process. You can look up here (in german) what the reasons are.

Let me translate that in a rough way for you:

What prerequisites are needed to call Art. 13, 1 lit.c Voeb (technical or artistic particularities of the order) into action?

It needs to be shown that due to technical or artistic particularities of this order or for reasons of protection of intellectual property only one supplier can be selected and due to this no sufficient alternative is available

(emphasis added by me)

These are the facts. BBL says there is absolutely no alternative to Microsoft, for servers, for clients, for applications. And due to this they can only select Microsoft. So no need for public tendering. Deal done. Microsoft happy.

And it doesn’t stop there. According to NZZ Ms. Lunau of BBL told NZZ that “due to the specifics of the Bundesverwaltung. competition between vendors will not exist short- and mid-term.”

Would you agree? Would you support sending 42 mio SFR to Microsoft without even evaluating alternatives? Especially when in the very same country, Switzerland, the government asks for equal treatment of Open Source? Knowing that the Kanton Solothurn and several courts are using exactly those alternatives that according to BBL simply do not exist?

Well – a lot of people in Switzerland and almost 20 companies are not really happy. Among these companies is Red Hat. So Red Hat is joining the official appeal that asks the court to stop this contract, force BBL to evaluate the alternatives that exist and are in active use, even in Switzerland in the offical way of public tendering.

Effectively the appeal asks the BBL to defend competition. In a vendor neutral way. Based on technical merits. I think it is fair to ask. Let the court decide.

And ofcourse the irony of asking Switzerland of all countries to act in a (vendor-) neutral way is quite funny.

[DISCLAIMER] This blog contains my personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Red Hat.

A short HOWTO to get laconi.ca running on Fedora 10

Simple, if you know how to do it 🙂

Prerequisites:

  • Up and running Fedora 10 with web server and mysql server installed (httpd, mysql-server RPM)

1. Get the tarball from http://www.laconi.ca

2. You need to install some RPMs, I ended up with adding these (you might already have most of them installed)

# yum install php-gd t1lib php-mbstring php-xml php-xmpphp \
php-oauth php-pear-Net-SMTP php-pear-Mail php-pear-DB-DataObject \
php-pear-Auth-SASL php-pear-MDB2 php-pear-DB \
php-pear-Net-Socket php-pear-Auth-OpenID php-pear-Net-Curl \
php-pear-Validate php-pear-Date php-pgsql php-bcmath php-pear \

3. You might also need markdown.php which unfortunately doesn’t yet exist as RPM. So get it from http://michelf.com/projects/php-markdown/ while it is hot 😉 The normal version is sufficient. Unzip the file and place markdown.php in your PHP search path (mine lives in /usr/share/php)

4. I placed my laconica installation in /var/www/html/laconica, so just untar the tarball in that directory, rename the directory if needed/wanted.

5. Create the database, database user and set the rights accordingly:

# mysql -uroot -p -e 'create database laconica';
# mysql -uroot -p -e "grant all privileges on laconica.* to laconica@localhost identified by 'PASSWORD'";

6. Now call http://localhost/laconica/install.php and finish the installation.

Done. Have fun with microblogging.

Short encrypted SD Card HOWTO for Fedora 10

Just in case you also want to use encryption and you have a SD card. Here’s what I did, step-by-step, to create a simple setup with:

  • 16 GB SD Card
  • 2 partitions, one unencrypted for simpla data exchange, one encrypted for secure storage

So here we go. Insert the SD Card. It probably is preformatted with FAT. Unmount it the usual way and open a root shell. Using fdisk, create two partitions, save the new partition table.

First thing is simple. Assuming your SD-Card is recognized as mmcblk1, format the first partition with either VFAT or ext2 – I use ext2, since I have no Microsoft boxes to exchange data with anyway:

# mke2fs /dev/mmcblk1p1

Cool. Now we need to make the second partition an encrypted block device with:

# cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/mmcblk1p2

However, this only creates the container. Next we need to open it with the password we just gave it to be able to put a filesystem in there:

# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/mmcbkl1p2 NAME

This creates a device mapper entry using NAME, so now we can finally format the encrypted partition with:

# mke2fs /dev/mapper/NAME

Now we shutdown the LUKS entry as we will take the card out:

# cryptsetup remove NAME

Done. Remove the card, insert it again. A password dialog should pop up and when you enter the correct password, you can access the device. The final step is to change the permissions on the filesystem to make sure you can always write to it.

# chmod -R 777 /media/disk-1

Happy hacking with secure storage!

Working Dual Screen for my Aspire One with Fedora 10

OK, so I wanted to use my Aspire One to do presentations. However – getting dual screen to work was quite a lot of work.

I found a simple solution, which I am going to outline step-by-step for your convenience. This is all based on Fedora 10, 32bit, fully updated.

Result will be:

  • External VGA runs with 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, good enough for most projectors out there, with a single click
  • The display of the Aspire stays fully usable
  • The GNOME panels stay on the laptop

So step by step.

First – open a root shell because we will do some evil hacks.

We need to create an xorg.conf file, which normally doesn’t exist. so type

# Xorg -configure :1

Don’t be surprised. Your screen will flicker around. After a few seconds you will find a new file in your directory called xorg.conf.new. Copy tis file to the X11 directory:

# cp xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Now we need to make a few changes. First we need to switch down to 16 bit colors, due to the limited graphic memory of my Aspire One. Second we need to create a bigger virtual screen.

So find the section called

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device     "Card0"
Monitor    "Monitor0"

Right there add a line with

Default Depth 16

This forces X to use 16bit colors, making sure the extended display will fit in the 8 MB of graphic memory.

Now go down in xorg.conf and find the section

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16
EndSubSection

And add a line with

Virtual 2048 2048

so the whole section looks like this:

SubSection "Display"
Viewport   0 0
Depth     16
Virtual 2048 2048
EndSubSection

OK. Done with that part. Now the next part. We want to make sure that we can switch the layout in a very simple way. I am pragmatic. So no fancy GUI or stuff. What I need is to be able to present. So when I hook up a projector, I want to switch the VGA to a fixed 1024×768 resolution at 60 Hertz. This is compatible with most projectors. So I wrote a little shellscript that also makes sure that the top and bottom panels are at the right place – on my laptop.

I stored this under /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch:

#!/bin/sh
/usr/bin/xrandr | grep "VGA connected"
if [ $? = 0 ] ; then
echo "VGA connected, setting VGA to 1024x768 @ 60 Hz"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --mode 1024x768 --rate 60 --right-of LVDS
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "1"
else
echo "No VGA connected, back to single screen"
/usr/bin/xrandr --output LVDS --auto --output VGA --off
# Now move the panels back to the laptop screen
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"
gconftool-2 --set "/apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/monitor" --type integer "0"
fi

Make the script executable with a chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/vgaswitch

The final step is to add a new panel launcher that calls the script. Done.

So now when I hook up a projector, I click on the icon that calls the script and – TADAAA! Remove the VGA cable, click it again, all back to normal. I am happy now 🙂

NetworkManager “Connection Established” annoyance SOLVED

So when you are running a GNOME Desktop and you frequently change locations/network connections, you might get annoyed by the “Connection Established” popup/balloon tip.

I did 🙂

So I solved it. At least with Fedora 10. Shoudl work the same with Ubuntu etc.

For the graphical guys:

  • Start Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor (which really is gconf-editor)
  • Find the Entry /apps/nm-applet/
  • Add a new key called  disable-connected-notifications, type boolean and set it to TRUE
  • Restart NetworkManager (open a root shell, type service NetworkManager restart)
  • DONE

Whenever your network changes, the applet will show its cool anomations but will not bother you with popups.

Me, Fedora 10 and my Acer Aspire One A110L – Happy

So I did it. I took 199 € and got myself a Netbook. I went shopping in the Munich Bermuda Triangle, where you find something like 10 shops, all fighting with eachother over the lowest price.

Walking thorugh all shops, comparing price, performance, design, I finally settled on the Acer Aspire One A110L – 512 MB RAM, 1024×600 screen, 8 GB of SSD, in white.

It gets delivered with Linpus, a Fedora derivative. Ofcourse I didn’t like it. So I put a standard Fedora 10 on the box. With the help of some pages across the internet, some studying and some use of my own knowledge, I am now quite happy with the setup.

Suspend/resume is a snap out of the box. Close the lid – sleep. Open the lid, press the power button, login after three seconds. I like it. I tweaked the font size and some other stuff, but in fact I did nothing special.

Upcoming mods:

  • RAM upgrade to 1.5 GB
  • Bigger battery
  • Find a cool sleeve
  • Mythtv and Totem, so I can watch my recordings

I am happy, finally a cool netbook that is mine and I can take everywhere 🙂

Friday Rant: Viruses, Malware – what happened to due diligence?

Every friday I will try to post a rant on a specific topic. Today I’m venting on journalism on the Failboat.

Dear journalists.

Let’s take the current Conficker Mania. Now I know that Microsoft Windows has a huge marketshare on desktops. However – not everyone is using Windows. Still, you journalists ignore this fact over and over again.

Dear journalist, could you start warning the *right* people by adding “Windows-PCs” to your articles? All of these viruses, malware, trojans are aiming at Windows machines. People using Linux are usually safe.

Same goes for all these “warnings” on keyloggers etc. I am NOT saying that Linux is secure, I am NOT saying that Microsoft is bad (although I have a personal opinion on that) – I am ONLY asking to state the correct facts. And the fact is that 99% of your warnings and horror stories affect Windows-PCs ONLY.

I know the world has accepted the fact that Windows can only be used with virus scanners etc that eat up your CPU ressources, slow down your browsing and file opening.

But PLEASE stop shouting that everyone is at risk when in fact it is a Windows only thing. I don’t ask you to start bashing on Microsoft. I only ask you to write your articles in a way that make them factually correct.

Hrmpf.