Category: Linux


Is Aliyun OS really Linux? Android? A rip-off of both?

When Acer was ready to announce a new smartphone running Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system, Google responded with force. If it were to be released, Google would end its parternship with Acer, which uses Android for 90 percent of its smartphones.

Acer swiftly cancelled the release, but clearly Acer wasn’t happy about the state of affairs. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, was even less happy.

Alibaba says it wants Aliyun OS to be the “Android of China,” claimign that they’ve spent years working on their Linux-based mobile operating system.

Google didn’t see it that way. Google thinks Alibaba is an Android rip-off.

In Google’s Android Official Blog, Andy Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile and digital content said:

“We built Android to be an open source mobile platform freely available to anyone wishing to use it. In 2008, Android was released under the Apache open source license and we continue to develop and innovate the platform under the same open source license — it is available to everyone at: http://source.android.com. This openness allows device manufacturers to customize Android and enable new user experiences, driving innovation and consumer choice.”

But: “While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), each member contributes to and builds one Android platform — not a bunch of incompatible versions.”

Android is a mobile operating system branch of Linux. While there have been disagreements between developers, Android and mainstream Linux buried the hatchet in March 2012.

So, from where Google sits, Aliyun OS is an incompatible Android fork.  John Spelich, Alibaba vice president of international corporate affairs replied oddly: “[Google] have no idea and are just speculating. Aliyun is different.”

How can Google have no idea about what Aliyun is if it is indeed, as Alibaba claims, a Linux fork? Linux is licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2 (GPLv2). Part of that license insists that if a GPLv2 program is released to general users, the source code must be made publicly available. Thus, perhaps Google doesn’t have any idea because, as Spelich indidicted and far as I’ve been able to find, Aliyun’s source code is not available anywhere. If indeed the source code isn’t open and freely available, even if Aliyun has no Android connection, this would still make it an illegal Linux fork.

Spelich went on to claim that Aliyun is “not a fork,” adding: “Ours is built on open-source Linux.” In addition, Aliyon runs “our own applications. It’s designed to run cloud apps designed in our own ecosystem. It can run some but not all Android apps.”

Rubin, in a Google+ post, replied, “We agree that the Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem and you’re under no requirement to be compatible.”

“However, ” he continued, “[t]he fact is, Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps). So there’s really no disputing that Aliyun is based on the Android platform and takes advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.”

Hands on research by Android Police, a publication dedicated to Android reporting and analysis, shows that Aliyun app store includes pirated Google apps.

Android Police found that, “Aliyun’s app store appeared to be distributing Android apps scraped from the Play Store and other websites, not only downloadable to Aliyun devices as .apk files, but also provided by third parties not involved with the apps’ or games’ development. What’s more, we’ve received independent confirmation from the original developers of some of these apps that they did not in fact give consent for their products to be distributed in Aliyun’s app store.”

Not the least of the evidence is that the Aliyun includes Google’s own Android applications such as Google Translate, Google Sky Map, Google Drive, and Google Play Books. The odds of Google giving Aliyun permission to use its own applications are somewhere zero and none.

What we seem to have in Aliyun is an illegal Android and Linux fork, which supports a pirated software ecosystem. I only wonder that Google didn’t come down even harder on Acer and I really wonder how much due diligence, if any, Acer did before signing a deal with Alibaba.

Source: ZDNet

KDE takes on Android, Apple’s iOS on smartphones and tablets

If another group was trying to take on Android and Apple’s iOS on smartphones and tablets, I’d dismiss them. RIM, BlackBerry’s parent company, is having a heck of a time getting anyone to buy into PlayBook and while HP TouchPad users loved it,HP killed the TouchPad after only a few weeks. So, why should anyone think that KDE, makers of one of the two most popular Linux desktops, should stand a chance with Plasma Active? Well, because KDE has a long history of delivering the goods with minimal resources.

So what is it? Plasma Active is not, like Android, iOS, or webOS, an operating system. It’s a KDE 4.x style interface and application programming interface (API) designed for touch devices. The Plasma Active Team states that “Plasma Active is innovative technology for an intelligent user experience (UX). It is intended for all types of tablets, smartphones and touch computing devices such as set-top boxes, smart TVs, home automation, in-vehicle infotainment. The goals for this KDE open source project are:

  • A fast embedded UX platform with minimal memory requirements
  • Customizable and modular to support different form factors
  • An interface that adapts as users change Activities.

In their GrandMaster Plan, the developers go into more detail about how they’ll do this: “Plasma Active runs on the proven Linux desktop stack, including the Linux kernel, Qt and KDE’s Plasma Framework. The user interface is designed using Plasma Quick, a declarative markup language allowing for organic user interface design based on Qt Quick. Plasma Active uses existing free desktop technology and brings it to a spectrum of devices through a device-specific user interface. Classical Plasma Widgets can be used on Plasma Active as well as newly created ones. The key driver for the development of Plasma Active is the user experience. Collaboration is made easy through high-level development tools and a well defined process. ”

“The first release of Plasma Active fully focuses on tablet computers. Plasma Active Tablet’s user experience is designed around the web, social networks and multimedia content.” Today, Plasma Active runs on MeeGo and the openSUSE-based Balsam Professional (German language site). There are also OS images for Intel-based tablets, and package builds for ARM and x86 platforms. The group is working flashable images for ARM platforms. The interface will also run on Oracle’s VirtualBox virtual machine. If you want to try it you can find downloads and instructions at the Plasma Active Installation page.

According to Sebastian Kügler, one of Plasma Active’s leading developers Plasma Active is “certainly meant as a replacement for iOS and Android, a completely open, community-driven project with strong backing by a group of (SMB-sized) businesses. We hope this appeals to many hardware vendors, and have in fact already started talking with some. The feedback so far was very good, and the concepts seem to appeal with potential partners. There is definitely demand for an open system without lock-in in the market for devices.”

Kügler also told me that they “have started investigating Tizen, [Intel and the Linux Foundations’ proposed replacement for MeeGo] but at this point, there is too little information out, and too many unknowns. We do see Tizen as a potential and likely target platform, but before Intel and Samsung release an SDK, our hands are tied. It’s not stopping us, since in the meantime, we can still run our stuff on MeeGo and Balsam, and we are investigating, together with the Mer team [Another mobile Linux operating system] how to get Plasma Active onto Mer.

That’s all well and good but does KDE have any industry support for this? Kügler replied, “My employer, open-slx backs this project, and we are actively working towards creating a wider ecosystem of companies around Plasma Active, to make good commercial support available, next to the community resources. This includes OEMs, ODMs and companies that can deliver support around Plasma Active, for example integration with new hardware platforms, support for custom-build OS images, 3rd party software, end-user support, etc.”

To that, I might add that unlike other such mobile projects, KDE starts with a large number of open-source applications that already run with it. That’s an advantage that neither RIM nor HP had. Personally, it’s hard for me to see a competitor to Android or iOS getting traction, but I’ve learned over the years not to bet against the KDE team.

Source: ZDNet

Samsung joins forces with Intel and Microsoft

Samsung has quickly become one of the largest smartphone makers globally, helped by its strong offering of devices using Google’s Android platform.

Analysts said Wednesday’s deals signaled Samsung’s aim to lower its exposure to Android following Google’s $12.5 billion August acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

“The Google Motorola deal certainly gives Samsung some motivation to lessen the dependence on Android,” said Matthew Thornton, analyst at Avian Securities.

Microsoft and Samsung signed on Wednesday a new deal for development and marketing of Windows phones, while also agreeing on a wide patent cross-licensing deal. Samsung has also used Microsoft’s software in the past.

Earlier on Wednesday two Linux software groups, one backed by Samsung, another by Intel, said they have joined forces to develop a new operating system for cellphones and other devices.

Under the deal, the LiMo Foundation and Linux Foundation are effectively merging their LiMo and Meego mobile operating systems and hope to gain wider industry and consumer support, but analysts said the new Tizen platform is likely to struggle.

It would have to attract wide support from developers and manufacturers to compete with the dozen or so other mobile operating systems available in a smartphone market currently dominated by Apple’s in-house software and Google’s Linux-based Android.

“The best hope for them is that big operators get worried by Android … and decide to consciously switch their allegiances to rival platforms to restrict Google’s huge influence over the mobile market,” said analyst Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics.

Earlier this year Nokia, the biggest phone maker by volume, ditched its own Symbian operating system in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone software.

Currently Windows Phone has a smartphone market share of 2-3 percent, according to industry analysts, and LiMo and Meego have less than 1 percent apiece, while Android’s share is almost 50 percent and still growing.

“This (Tizen) is driven by necessity. Linux rivals to Android have failed to gain traction and Samsung needs to reduce its dependence on Google,” said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at London-based telecoms industry consultancy CCS Insight.

The world’s second-biggest cellphone maker behind Nokia, Samsung is the leading user of the Android platform, which has been one of the reasons for its escalating court-room fight over patents with Apple.

Microsoft said the definitive agreement with Samsung to cross-license the patent portfolios of both companies, provides

broad coverage for each company’s products, and it will get royalties for Samsung’s devices running the Android platform.

“It’s probably a win-win. Microsoft is leveraging its patents to get customers while Samsung is looking for ways to lessen its dependence on Android,” said Avian’s Matthew Thornton.

2012 LINUX STORY

LiMo Foundation and the Linux Foundation said the new Tizen platform is an open-source, standards-based software platform that supports multiple devices including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle ‘infotainment’ systems.

A spokesman for Samsung said: “We’ve been a core Linux partner … and this is in line with our strategy of supporting many platforms.”

The initial release is planned for the first quarter of 2012, enabling the first devices using Tizen to come to market in mid-2012, the two groups said.

The world’s largest semiconductor firm Intel and Samsung Electronics, the second biggest maker of cell phones and one of the key contributors to LiMo, will head the technical steering committee developing Tizen.

Earlier this month Intel and Google launched a development partnership to adapt Android for Intel’s Atom processor chips, with a view to having the first Anroid phones featuring Intel chips in the first half of next year.

Linux is the most popular type of free, or open-source, computer operating system which allows the public to use, revise and share. Linux suppliers earn money selling improvements and technical services.

Source: Reuters

Will Windows 8 block users from dual-booting Linux? Microsoft won’t say

There’s a report circulating — originating with a Red Hat employee — that says Microsoft’s new secure-boot functionality in Windows 8 could preclude users from running both Windows and Linux on their PCs.

True or false? Well-grounded or unfounded? Microsoft execs will not comment — which is leading many to assume it’s true.

Matthew Garrett, a power management and mobile Linux developer at Red Hat, blogged about the possible lock-out scenario on September 20. He explained how the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) technology and Microsoft’s  secure-boot plans — outlined in a new blog post on the “Building Windows 8″ blog this week — potentially could thwart those who want to dual boot Linux and Windows 8 on their Windows 8 machines.

Garrett’s conclusion: “It’s probably not worth panicking yet. But it is worth being concerned.”

Microsoft officials have said — via a UEFI session at the company’s recent Build conference, along with the aforementioned blog post — all that they are going to say on the topic.

Here’s what Microsoft has said, re: its secure boot plans for Windows 8. These tidbits are from the previously mentioned Build session on UEFI:

  • All firmware and software in the boot process must be signed by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA)
  • Required for Windows 8 client
  • Does not require a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
  • Reduces the likelihood of bootkits, rootkits and ransomware

Update: Microsoft officials have posted more on UEFI and secure boot. After reading it, I still don’t know whether anything about Windows 8’s implementation of secure boot will block Linux. Anyone out there able to tell more from the September 22 post on the Building Windows 8 blog?

Source: ZDNet

Red Hat CEO thinks the desktop is becoming a legacy application

A running joke at this years LinuxCon is that “X is the year of the Linux desktop.” Jim Zemlin, head of the conference’s sponsoring organization, The Linux Foundation, started it with his keynote in noting how often he’d made that prediction and how often he’s been wrong. The current prediction, which I believe Linus Torvalds made last night was : “2031! The year of the Linux desktop.” Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, has another year in mind for the Linux desktop though: Never. Oh, and the Windows and Mac desktops? Get ready to say good-bye to them soon.

In an interview with me, Whitehurst told me that he believes that the “Fat client operating system [the traditional desktop] is becoming a legacy application.” What he meant by that isn’t that your desktops are suddenly going to vaporize into puffs of smoke in 2016 like from some really lame disaster movie. No, his point is that the cost of maintaining and securing a desktop operating system is growing increasingly higher.

So, what he sees happening is that everyone, and it’s not just Linux, “writing their functionality for the back engine. Why would anyone with all the different platforms—smartphones, tablets, etc.—and the costs of securing all of them want to spend money on that? The cost to manage and secure a fat client is ridiculous.”

So what will replace it? He sees several possibilities. In the short run, for businesses he sees Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) becoming increasing more important. Here, he sees Citrix, which has long provided Windows desktops via its VDI platform, continuing to be the major player. “It’s Citrix’s market to lose,” said Whitehurst.

Red Hat will also play a role in VDI as well. In 2012, Red Hat will be reintroducing ts Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments (SPICE)-based VDI. On the server side, SPICE depends on KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) for its horsepower. Don’t think though that Red Hat plans on head-to-head competition with Citrix for tomorrow’s VDI desktop. They don’t.

Instead, Whitehurst said, “SPICE will be part of a packaged offering for those who want it.” He sees its market as being primary users who are already using Linux desktops, terminal applications, or Linux-based thin-clients. It’s a great offerings, but as for using it to run say “20,000 Windows desktops?” No, that’s Citrix’s market.”

So what kind of desktop does he see the enterprise user moving to, since after all, there’s only so much you can do with any tablet or smartphone? Whitehurst thinks it will probably be based on a KVM-based cloud and using a Web browser as its primary interface.

He added that he thinks Google’s Chrome operating system looks promising and that he plans on trying out the Samsung Chromebook himself sometime soon. You see, unlike many CEO’s, Whitehurst is also a techie. His first exposure to Linux was running Slackware on his own. Today, he runs Fedora 15 as his desktop. He knows Linux. As Red Hat gets ready to become the first billion-dollar open-source company, it’s clear he knows business. He knows the desktop. If he says the fat-client desktop is getting ready to become yesterday’s news, I’m inclined to listen to him.

Source: ZDNet

Men build small flying spy drone that cracks Wi-Fi and cell data

Built by Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform (otherwise known as the WASP) is a flying drone that has a 6-foot wingspan, a 6-foot length and weighs in at 14 pounds. The small form factor of the unmanned aerial vehicle allows it to drop under radar and is often mistaken for a large bird. It was built from an Army target drone and converted to run on electric batteries rather than gasoline. It can also be loaded with GPS information and fly a predetermined course without need for an operator. Taking off and landing have to be done manually with the help of a mounted HD camera. However, the most interesting aspect of the drone is that it can crack Wi-Fi networks and GSM networks as well as collect the data from them.

It can accomplish this feat with a Linux computer on-board that’s no bigger than a deck of cards. The computer accesses 32GB of storage to house all that stolen data. It uses a variety of networking hacking tools including the BackTrack toolset as well as a 340 million word dictionary to guess passwords. In order to access cell phone data, the WASP impersonates AT&T and T-Mobile cell phone towers and fools phones into connecting to one of the eleven antenna on-board. The drone can then record conversations to the storage card and avoids dropping the call due to the 4G T-mobile card routing communications through VoIP.

Amazingly, this was accomplished with breaking a single FCC regulation. The drone relies on the frequency band used for Ham radios to operate. Not wanting to get into legal trouble with AT&T and T-Mobile, they tested the technology in isolated areas to avoid recording phone conversations other than their own. The duo play to discuss how to build the WASP at the DEFCON 19 hacking conference.

Source: Digital Trends / Yahoo! News

Adobe scraps AIR for Linux, focuses on mobile

Concluding that its priorities should be on iOS and Android, Adobe Systems has stopped releasing its own version of its AIR programming foundation for Linux.

AIR combines Flash and a Web browser to let programmers build standalone software that runs on any system with the underlying AIR “runtime” that executes the software. It’s cross-platform technology, meaning for example that separate versions of TweetDeck–a prominent AIR app–don’t need to be rewritten for Mac OS and Windows.

But starting with AIR 2.7, released this week, Adobe won’t build a Linux version of AIR anymore, making the cross-platform technology a bit less cross-platform. Instead, it’s relying on partners to do so on their own.

“We will no longer be releasing our own versions of Adobe AIR and the AIR SDK for desktop Linux, but expect that one or more of our partners will do so,” Adobe said in a blog post.

The move contrasts sharply with Adobe’s bitter and public fight last year objecting to an Apple move that barred AIR-based apps from iOS devices. Apple eventually relented for AIR-derived apps, though it still won’t let Flash Player itself onto iOS devices.

In an FAQ (a PDF file no good reason that I can imagine), Adobe said Linux just isn’t where the AIR action is taking place now.

“Our customers are focusing on creating applications for smartphones and tablets, and we are aligning our investment towards new features and platform support for the device market,” Adobe said.

One of the main features of AIR 2.7 is better performance on iOS devices–four times faster in some cases, according to Adobe developer evangelist Renaun Erickson. Also in 2.7 are several features from Flash Player 10.3, such as microphone noise cancelation, and the ability to move the AIR runtime to the SD card on Android.

Linux on PCs has failed to take off widely, and only 1 in 200 AIR downloads are for Linux, added Dave McAllister, who spearheads Adobe’s open-source work.

“With desktop Linux, we see a basically flat growth curve hovering around 1 percent,” citing Net Applications’ NetMarketshare statistics. “And since the release of AIR, we’ve seen only a 0.5 percent download share for desktop Linux.”

Adobe is putting a priority on work that will let those partners port AIR to Linux, it said. “Source code for the Adobe runtimes is available to qualified partners under the terms of the Open Screen Project,” the company said.

Source: CNET

Adobe warns of new Flash Player zero-day attack

Hackers are embedding malicious Flash Player files in Microsoft Word documents to launch targeted attacks against select businesses, according to a warning from Adobe.

This latest Flash Player zero-day attack comes just weeks after EMC’s RSA Division was hit with a malware attack that used a rigged Flash (.swf) file embedded in a Microsoft Excel document.

In both cases, the attacks are being used to steal corporate secrets.

Here’s the gist of the latest Flash Player zero-day:

A critical vulnerability exists in Flash Player 10.2.153.1 and earlier versions (Adobe Flash Player 10.2.154.25 and earlier for Chrome users) for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris, Adobe Flash Player 10.2.156.12 and earlier versions for Android, and the Authplay.dll component that ships with Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

This vulnerability (CVE-2011-0611) could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. There are reports that this vulnerability is being exploited in the wild in targeted attacks via a Flash (.swf) file embedded in a Microsoft Word (.doc) file delivered as an email attachment, targeting the Windows platform. At this time, Adobe is not aware of any attacks via PDF targeting Adobe Reader and Acrobat. Adobe Reader X Protected Mode mitigations would prevent an exploit of this kind from executing.

Adobe says it is in the process of finalizing a schedule for delivering patches for Flash Player 10.2.x and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris and Android, Adobe Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh, Adobe Reader X (10.0.2) for Macintosh, and Adobe Reader 9.4.3 and earlier 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh.

Because Adobe Reader X Protected Mode would prevent an exploit of this kind from executing, Adobe plans to fix this issue in Adobe Reader X for Windows with the next quarterly security update for Adobe Reader, currently scheduled for June 14, 2011.

AFFECTED SOFTWARE VERSIONS

  • Adobe Flash Player 10.2.153.1 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris operating systems
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.2.154.25 and earlier for Chrome users
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.2.156.12 and earlier for Android
  • The Authplay.dll component that ships with Adobe Reader and Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh operating systems

NOTE: Adobe Reader 9.x for UNIX, Adobe Reader for Android, and Adobe Reader and Acrobat 8.x are not affected by this issue.

Source: ZDNet

Ubuntu splits from GNOME UI

Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth on Monday detailed how Ubuntu will split from the GNOME user interface for Unity, which is its Netbook approach. Simply put, Ubuntu will have a custom user interface.

The reaction to various press reports from Computerworld, Ars Technica, and others has gone to extremes:

  • First, Canonical could be portrayed as evil because it’s flipping its middle finger to the open-source community.
  • Others say that GNOME was hard to work with.
  • And then you get your Unity sniping.

Source: CNET

Firefox, Thunderbird security fixes released

Mozilla published security repairs for Firefox and Thunderbird on Tuesday, which included updates for the legacy versions of both.

Firefox 3.6.7 for Windows, Mac, and Linux fixes 14 security bugs, including eight listed as critical, two high-level bugs, and four moderate ones. The critical bugs addressed problems such as DOM attribute cloning and remote and arbitrary code execution vulnerabilities in plug-in parameters, dangling pointers, and other miscellaneous memory safety hazards. Several stability repairs were also made. Full release notes for Firefox 3.6.7 are available.

Firefox 3.5.11 fixes the same bugs that were addressed in Firefox 3.6.7, although note that Mozilla encourages users to upgrade to Firefox 3.6.7.

Thunderbird 3.1.1 for Windows, Mac, and Linux repairs one critical bug that would crash the e-mail client, and five other bugs across the three platforms. The legacy version of Thunderbird was also upgraded to version 3.0.6, and addresses several critical-level bugs. As with Firefox, Mozilla advises users to upgrade to Thunderbird 3.1.1.

Source: CNET

Linux To Dominate Mobile Market By 2015

A recent study has predicted that by 2015, Linux-based operating systems will power the majority of mobile handsets except for high-end smartphones.

According to a report from market analyst ABI Research, entitled “Linux For Mobile Devices”, leading Linux-based platforms such as Google’s Android and Chrome OS platforms, as well as Nokia and Intel’s joint venture, MeeGo, and Palm’s webOS will be installed on 62 per cent of non-smartphone devices by 2015.

In a statement, Victoria Fodale, a senior analyst with ABI, said: “The number of Linux-oriented initiatives recently seen in the mobile industry indicates that Linux will be a key technology in the next generation of netbooks, media tablets, and other mobile devices.”

“Despite the growing number of Linux distributions in the mobile market, Linux has a unified base of upstream components, notably the Linux kernel.”

ABI explained that the mobile phone market may seem scattered, but as most products are based around the Linux kernel, the platform unifies the market.

Source: ITProPortal