Oct
01
2009
0

Red Hat Fights Software Patents at the Supreme Court

supreme-court

Thank God, there is at least one company under the Sun willing to fight software patents.  Red Hat has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the legality of software patents.  I read about this on one of my favorite web sites: Groklaw.net. Click on the link for the full article.

Here is an excerpt:

RALEIGH, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced it has filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court. In the brief, Red Hat explains the practical problems of software patents to software developers. The brief, filed in the Bilski case, asks the Supreme Court to adopt the lower court’s machine-or-transformation test and to make clear that it excludes software from patentability.

Written code is already protected by copyright law.  Software patents cost millions of dollars in the most ridiculous litigation you can imagine.

Remember Amazons ‘one click’? Patent trolls sued for that.  Then there is the classic suit, of NTP vs. RIM over “Single Mailbox Integration” patent.

Here is brief description of the patent:

Using this patented technology, Blackberry integrates seamlessly with a user’s existing e-mail account providing a wireless extension of the user’s regular e-mail mailbox. The user can read, compose, forward, or reply to messages from their mobile device while maintaining their single, existing e-mail address and mailbox.

This is patentable???  It’s so obvious, has anyone heard of IMAP…?  How could anyone get a patent for this?  Delivery of email regardless of how many mail boxes should NOT be patentable.  Software patents are an attack on FOSS, Free Open Source Software.  United States patent law gives a distinct advantage to gigantic corporations whom can extort money from smaller companies that are less capitalized and likely to settle.  It’s bullshit and it is stifling innovation and competition.  The real losers are the citizens of the world, of whom pay a hidden tax in patents and monopolies.

May
07
2009
0

How to make USB and DVD ROM drives work on Fedora 10

Lately, I’ve been working on Asterisk PBX related articles, but today we’re going to tackle a common problem with Fedora 10: getting drives to mount to the Desktop.  If you are experiencing trouble, the likely cause is that your current user, does not have permissions to access that hardware.  The reason for this has a lot to do with the security model of Linux.

In the old days computers came on large mainframes.  It was not practical for engineers and scientist to have their very own main frame, so Unix was designed to be a multi-user operating system.  Everyone connected their own keyboard & monitor.  The permission structure was set so only certain individual accounts could do certain things.  Like say, reboot a system or delete a database.

By contrast Microsoft Windows(thru XP) is a single user operating system.  In Windows you can create extra accounts, but any of those accounts can execute arbitrary code from anywhere in the file system (c:\\ drive).  Which is a big reason for the many attacks on Windows systems.

Recently my friend got a virus that made XP unbootable and stole his World of Warcraft account login and password.  The hacker then used that information to login to his account, change his password, and his accounts valid email address.  The hacker then sold all his gear and used his character to scam other people in bad trades.  The account became banned for “economic extortion” before my friend could get his Windows XP machine back up and running.  Now he runs WoW on WINE/Fedora 10.

An appeal to Blizzard got his account back after several days and many emails. My friend requested that they check the IP address of the hacker and compare that to his previous logins.  What if the virus had collected his bank account credentials instead?  In a way he got lucky.

Goals of this Post:

– correct authorizations in Fedora 10 and allow access to USB and DVD – ROM devices

It seems odd that someone would be unable to access a USB thumb drive on any modern desktop computer, but Red Hat the maker of Fedora Linux is far more interested in their commercial offering, Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL).  They model RHEL development on previous versions of Fedora.  So desktop integration is obviously not their top priority; stability and security is.  This neglect has allowed rival Unbuntu Linux to come in and snatch up the Linux desktop market.  Big mistake Red Hat…  however with a little work we can make Fedora 10 desktop work well without them.

So to correct the permissions issue(from Gnome) start by clicking, System –> Preferences –> System –> Authorizations.  Fedora may ask you for your ‘root’ password.

fedora10-authorizations-usb

fedora10-authorizations-usb

Set access to allow anyone to mount and unmount USB and other devices!  I hope this helps.  It’s frustrating dealing with these little things, but hey, “it’s free”!  If it doesn’t take, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help.

Mar
22
2009
2

Fedora 11 will likely not include Xen Dom0 (virtualization) support

xen logo

I (like many of you) have been patiently waiting since Fedora 8 for Dom0(Domain 0) Xen support in Fedora.  Why hasn’t Red Hat or the Fedora Project made an announcement? Haven’t we been good? I mean libvirtd is great and all, but Xen PV(paravirtualized) VM’s destroy. I did some googling to get to the bottom of this. I found a fedora project page with a January 2009 status update.

Here is a snipit:

“Currently, the Fedora kernel-xen package is based on forward-porting of the XenSource patches from 2.6.18 to more recent kernel versions. This has many problems, including:

  • XenSource code has no chance of being merged upstream, in the near future, making the forward-porting work needed for all new kernel versions.
  • Lots of porting work for each new kernel version
  • Because of the above, kernel-xen has been some releases behind the non-xen kernel package, and the lag between kernel and kernel-xen has been increasing constantly”

And also:

“As of November 2007, the kernel-xen forward-porting was being finished for 2.6.22, and Linux 2.6.24 was about to be released. The effort needed for 2.6.23, 2.6.24 and later would have been even bigger with the introduction of paravirt_ops and the i386-x86_64 merge upstream. Thus, the decision was made to abandon the forward-porting effort and focus on upstream paravirt_ops.”

So where does this leave us?  Unmodified guest are old news.  Even Microsoft can do that.  Well not really, as I understand it, Microsoft’s HyperV platform contains Xensource licensed code.  But a customer of the company I work for likes HyperV a lot(incidently).  On the Xen Wiki it says that Paravirt_ops will be ported to the 2.6.30 kernel.  My prediction, Xen Dom0 support will be available toward the end of Fedora 11’s cycle or Fedora 12.

Why does Dom0 matter?  Dom0 is the specially modifed Xen-linux kernel that sits on top of the hypervisor. From Dom0 you can run fully virtualized guest and partially virtualized guest (paravirtualization).  Paravirtualized guest enjoy a method for allowing the use of a set of generic virtual device drivers provided by Dom0.  PV guest are known to have outstanding perfomance compared to their fully virtualized counterpart.  Paravirt_ops refers to Dom0 integration with the Linux kernel.