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Friday, March 25, 2005

Open Source Friday -- On the Desktop

Posted by: Hammer / 10:26 AM

Firefox is a desktop app, so we'll start there. There's a new release available, 1.0.2. It fixes 3 known security issues. The surge if Firefox's popularity has brought increased attention from the security industry. That leads to misleading ledes like this:
The Mozilla Foundation on Wednesday pushed out a new version of Firefox to patch three vulnerabilities, just days after a major security firm said the open-source browser had 60 percent more vulnerabilities in the last half of 2004 than Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
60% sounds like a lot. But what does the number really mean? It's hard to say, when the report requires an enormous amount of personal data to access. It boils down to 21 new vulnerabilities for Firefox and 13 for IE. The report doesn't say how many of those vulnerabilities have already been addressed.

You also should remember that IE is the most exploitable program in the history of computers:

And IE still leads Firefox -- leads every Windows application, in fact -- in the total number of vulnerabilities to-date. Symantec's count has IE as having "just north of 300 known vulnerabilities," said Huger. "That's the most vulnerabilities in any [Windows] application that we're aware of. The next in line is IIS [Internet Information Services) with 116."

Mozilla's code line, which goes back as far as Netscape, which preceded IE, has "under 100," said Huger.

There's a new extension that allows you to access Yahoo search more easily. Not that I know anyone who uses Yahoo! search. More significantly, a new Extension Manager is in the works. That's good news to anyone who tries a lot of extensions.

Kevin Drum reported a problem with Firefox: "Speaking of freeware, I've noticed that Firefox has a peculiar tic. Like Internet Explorer, it remembers text you've previously typed into text boxes and then presents it to you automatically when you start typing the text again. Very handy. However, if you accidentally type in something incorrect, it seems to stay in Firefox's memory banks forever." The answer to Kevin's problem? Shift-delete. It's nice having smart people read your blog.

Linux On the Desktop

When I was young and silly, I believed that one day Linux would be a major player in the desktop market. I no longer think that will happen, but I do believe that Linux will become a niche player in the desktop arena. Adoption of the Linux desktop is hindered by the wealth of choices available. I use the GNOME desktop, because I've always used the GNOME desktop. SuperKaramba, for KDE (GNOME's main rival), sure looks pretty, though:

The big push, though, will come from government adoption, particularly in developing countries. Linux Journal has a series of articles on government migration to Linux, specifically the Novell flavor of Linux. Novell has internally been moving to Linux desktops and is set to release its new Desktop 10.


There's a new version of OpenOffice ready to roll out, too. OpenOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, and a database application. It's a huge suite: more than I need in most areas, less than I need in others. I'm sticking with AbiWord, Gnumeric, and MySQL for the time being.

The mirror

Why do you care about any of this stuff? It's not like you're ever going to use Linux, right? Maybe not -- unless you already are:
Nord's Palo Alto, Calif., company sells Qtopia. The platform makes it easier to build Linux-based gadgets.

More than 50 companies are already using Qtopia in their devices, including 20 mobile phones. Other Linux firms such as MontaVista Software and Wind River Systems report similar gains.

Linux is no newcomer to consumer technology. TiVo's line of digital video recorders has used it from day one. So have set-top cable boxes from Motorola and Panasonic. Same for Sony's PlayStation 2.

Now Linux is showing up in lots of other devices: TVs, remote controls, home theater systems and cars.

Open source wins wherever there's open competition. It's a better way to go. It's the future. Even for Google:
Google is providing developers with a look at some of its source code in an effort to establish tighter bonds with the open-source community as it fends off challenges from rivals pushing into the search-technology space.

"This is a starting point for Google in an effort to enlist open-source developers as allies in the competition against Microsoft and others moving further into search," said Goulde.

Bjorn Olstad, CTO of enterprise search technology provider Fast Search and Transfer, offered a similar take, noting that the Google code in question means little to the company's core business.

"These are generic elements with no business value," Olstad said. "Google is recruiting heavily in academia and in the open-source community, and is attempting to make it appear that they are friendly to developers, while Microsoft is the bad guy."


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