With the GNOME 2.6 release pushed back a week due to GNOME Web Server
intrusion, we decided to take an early look at 2.6 with the 2.5.92 test
release. For this preview, GNOME 2.5.92 was built using GARNOME
on a system running
SUSE Linux 9. The GARNOME GNOME distribution is based on the GAR
; it allows a user to build bleeding-edge software
without impacting their current system setup, and without having to check
releases out of CVS. This is very handy when using a single system for
software testing and everyday work that requires a stable desktop.
GARNOME took the better part of an afternoon to build the GNOME 2.5.92
desktop and basic GNOME components on a machine with an Athlon XP 2600+ CPU
and 1 GB of RAM. The basic desktop build consumed a little more than 300 MB
The first thing that most users will notice about GNOME 2.6 is that it
seems much faster than previous releases, particularly at startup. The
Nautilus shell is also much faster than previous releases, but the default
behavior has changed for the worse. When navigating through a directory
structure using Nautilus, the default is now for Nautilus to open a new
window each time the user opens a directory. Needless to say, this behavior
rapidly results in a cluttered desktop. It is possible to override this
behavior by using the "--browser" option, but it would be preferable for
the default behavior to be the least annoying.
Epiphany 1.2 is speedy, and quite streamlined. Perhaps a little too
streamlined, in fact. Epiphany's limited feature set may be less confusing
for new users who would be overwhelmed by Mozilla's vast array of
options. However, users who have become accustomed to Mozilla may find that
Epiphany's minimal features are a bit constrictive. The absence of
site-specific pop-up blocking could be a problem for some users who have
used Mozilla and Firefox's pop-up blocking features. Epiphany also requires
that the user close each browser window individually rather than offering
the user the ability to exit all browsers. This may save a user from
accidentally closing all of their browser windows when they wish to close
only one, but it also requires quite a bit of clicking when a user wishes
to exit multiple browser windows.
A smaller annoyance is that Epiphany 1.2 does not allow the user to scroll
through recently visited sites via the location toolbar. It's unclear what
advantage there is to removing such a simple and commonplace feature. The
user is able to select from similar URLs after clicking on the location bar
and typing a few letters of the URL, but there is no button to allow the
user to simply click and highlight a recently visited URL that remains in
the location bar history.
A short while ago I tested the
Evolution 1.5 release included in the first Fedora Core 2 test release. GNOME
2.6 includes Evolution 1.5.5, which seems far more stable than it was back
in February. They are still including a dialog that warns users that 1.5.5
is test software and recommends that the user download 1.4 if they wish to
use a stable branch of Evolution. Evolution 1.5 has a few new features, and
loses a few as well. The most notable new feature in 1.5 is junk mail
filtering. Notably absent is Evolution's "Summary" panel.
GNOME 2.6 also includes the GTK+ 2.4.0 release. This release introduces a
new file browser dialog that, in this writer's opinion, is a vast
improvement over the "standard" file dialog. When the user navigates into a
directory tree, the file browser creates navigation buttons for each
directory. For example, if a user navigates into "local/mozilla/chrome"
under their home directory, the dialog will create buttons for "local,"
"mozilla," and "chrome," in addition to the ever-present "Home" button in
the dialog. When the user navigates upward in the directory tree, the
sub-directories will still be represented as long as they are in the same
hierarchy. This allows the user to navigate through the directory structure
much more quickly.
Another application included in GARNOME, though not part of the default
desktop build, is Totem
movie player based on Xine. It's a nice little media player that plays a
wide variety of media, including CDs, VCDs and DVDs (providing libdvdcss is
installed for encrypted movies), MPEG video, Ogg files and MP3s. Having
used Ogle a great deal in the past, this writer is far happier with Totem
for DVD playback. It should also be noted that this author spent more than
an adequate amount of time testing Gnometris 2.5.9, and can verify that it
is fully ready for deployment.
There are, of course, far too many useful applications in the GNOME arsenal
to mention here or to test in a reasonable amount of time. It should
suffice to say that GNOME/GARNOME 2.5.92 includes a wide array of useful
applications for desktop use, including Gnumeric, the Conglomerate XML
editor, gLabels (a handy label-making program), Sodipodi, and many others.
For the most part, the 2.5.92 release is ready for widespread use. There
were a few glitches here and there, but it's likely they will be ironed out
by the final 2.6 release. One also wishes that it were possible to change
certain GNOME settings without having to resort to using the GConf
editor. One is unpleasantly reminded of the Windows Registry when tinkering
Aside from small glitches and minor annoyances, GNOME 2.5.92 was extremely
stable and pleasant to use. Pleasant enough, in fact, to cause this writer
to seriously consider switching from XFce to GNOME on a permanent
basis. Though one may not agree with all of the interface decisions made by
GNOME's developers, it is obvious that the GNOME developers have been
working hard to make GNOME a useful and user-friendly desktop environment.
Comments (18 posted)
The Aberdeen Group has put together an "analyst report" on free databases,
as typified by MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Berkeley DB. The report is available
for download, in PDF format, from the SleepyCat site
, but one
must get through a moderately obnoxious registration screen first. For
those who don't want to do that, here's a quick summary.
The report starts with a set of reasons why free databases are of interest;
they include control over maintenance and support, source availability,
cost, flexibility, and reliability. A quick summary of the three covered
systems follows, with the "key features" which are supported or missing.
The report summarizes the situation in this way:
All of today's open source databases are seen today as lacking
especially in scalability, and to a lesser extent in robustness,
flexibility, and programmer support. Therefore, they are not
classified as "enterprise." Many are clearly deficient in at least
the first three aforementioned technologies - they do not offer (or
offer limited) stored procedures, do not offer two-phase commit,
and do not offer exceptional multiprocessing support.
The free database systems have reached "enterprise" levels of scalability
and robustness, however.
The free database market, says Aberdeen, is currently worth about
$100 million per year - compared to $10.5 billion for the
proprietary variety. Free databases have mostly been making inroads at the
low end of the market (the report doesn't say this, but that is how
disruptive technologies usually get their start). Aberdeen mentions
several times in particular that free databases on Linux are displacing SCO
installations. The biggest area for free databases, however, is "new
in-house applications." Displacing entrenched systems in other
applications is currently too hard, but new applications typically do not
have legacy issues to deal with. The best markets for free databases have
been in retail and telecommunications.
As for the future:
Over the next two years, the market will reach a "tipping point" at
which a larger range of vertical application and line-of-business
programmers will find open source databases' low cost and
association with other open source software such as Linux a good
reason to include open source databases in their plans. At that
point, open source databases will begin to have a significant impact
on the overall database market, on database pricing, and on the
readiness of the market for an "enterprise-scale open source
The authors of the report talked with free database users, and found that
those users are well pleased with the level of programming help and support
available for the software. If you use a free database system, you can
actually talk with the engineers who wrote it, which is not possible with
large, proprietary systems. Thus, notes the report, if you're using a free
database, you should expect to communicate with the development community,
and not just with a vendor.
The talk of licensing is remarkably FUD-free:
Users should also note that open source licenses are different from
proprietary ones. Users should understand the differences and then
rejoice in the ease of maintenance of open source licenses, which
do not require extensive administration.
The report concludes by saying that free database adoption will stay slow
for the next couple of years before beginning to ramp up. The authors
state the the lower-level programming tools offered with free database
systems will slow down adoption somewhat. Over time, however, the
advantages of free databases will lead to those systems having a
"moderately bright" future.
Comments (13 posted)
for the second Fedora
Core 2 test release went out right on schedule
hope to have a review of this release done in the near future. In the mean
time, it's worth noting that the interest in this release appears to be
relatively high, and that some testers are encountering significant
difficulties with this release.
Some of the problems being encountered are not surprising to anybody.
FC2t2 is the first test release which has SELinux enabled. The
incorporation of SELinux into a multipurpose distribution like Fedora is
simply guaranteed to generate a fair number of surprises. Working with
SELinux in the test release is, in fact, likely to be relatively obnoxious;
it is, after all, a fundamentally different security model. There will be
a lot of glitches to shake out. Anybody who is even thinking about going
near Fedora SELinux in the near future should have a good look at the FC2
SELinux FAQ first. Then read it a second time.
Adding SELinux is certain to be disruptive. Some users will no doubt be
unhappy about the fact that they are, in some sense, helping Red Hat debug
this feature so that it can be incorporated (with less pain) into the
products. Bringing in SELinux is an important thing to do, however; we
have to improve the security of our systems, and SELinux has the
potential to help in the containment of compromises. The Fedora Project is
doing us all a favor by blazing this particular trail.
The FC2t2 installation disk has also surprised a number of testers by
refusing to boot on their systems. The workaround is fairly
straightforward: boot from an earlier Fedora disk, then swap CDs at the
boot prompt. But this failure, combined with some other difficulties, has
led some potential testers to criticize Red Hat in a loud and public way.
The claim is that insufficient quality control on Red Hat's part led to
them wasting a bunch of time and bandwidth downloading a release that they
cannot even install, much less test.
What may be happening here is that Fedora is bringing in some new users who
are unaccustomed to testing bleeding-edge software. New participants in
the development process are more than welcome, but they do need to realize
that they are exactly that: participants in the development process. No
product as complicated as a Linux distribution is going to reach a steady
state without a great many testers giving it a try and shaking out the
bugs; this is true even of distribution releases which do not include little
novelties like the 2.6 kernel and SELinux. If you install (or attempt to
install) a test release, you have to be prepared for surprises. When a
surprise finds you, it's time to pick up the pieces and help the developers
figure out what's going on. But it helps nobody if testers criticize those
developers when the test
release they have provided (for free) has problems.
Comments (4 posted)
There has been action in a couple of the SCO Group's legal cases, so it's
time for an update.
IBM has amended
its counterclaims in response to SCO's second amended complaint. One
of the patent claims has been dropped, and quite a bit of strong language
has been added. For example, paragraph 60:
SCO further persisted in maintaining for nearly a year the unsound
claim that IBM had misappropriated its trade secrets. Yet when
pressed to identify a single trade secret that IBM allegedly
misappropriated, SCO could not, even after being ordered to do so
by the Court. SCO finally (and properly) abandoned this claim, upon
which SCO's entire lawsuit was initially premised, in its Second
Several paragraphs describing Novell's claims and actions, including the
claims to have retained the Unix copyrights, have been added. Some new
claim language states:
IBM is entitled to a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U. C. 9
2201 that IBM does not infringe, induce the infringement of, or
contribute to the infringement of any SCO copyright through its
Linux activities, including its use, reproduction and improvement
of Linux, and that some or all of SCO' s purported copyrights in
UNIX are invalid and unenforceable.
If IBM obtains such a judgment, SCO's case is essentially over; all that
will be left is SCO's defense against IBM's counterclaims.
SCO, meanwhile, has filed a motion
to bifurcate the IBM trial. SCO would like to split IBM's patent
charges into a separate, trial with its own schedule. SCO's claims that
the patent case is unrelated to the Linux-related charges are not entirely
without merit; this motion might just be granted.
In the Novell case, SCO has been trying to get the trial moved back to
Utah state court where, one assumes, it believes it will get a more
favorable hearing. Novell has filed a memorandum in opposition of this
motion (available in PDF format)
that minces no words; from the opening paragraph:
This Court has jurisdiction over SCO's slander of title action
because in order for SCO to prevail, it must prove it owns the
copyrights at issue, and its claim of ownership turns on an issue
of federal law. SCO claims it owns these copyrights through
assignment from Novell. Therefore, in order to prove its case, SCO
must point to documents that transferred the copyrights from
Novell. Federal copyright law determines the adequacy or
inadequacy of documents as a legal instrument to transfer
Novell then dedicates several pages of legalese to the destruction of SCO's
arguments. From an outside point of view, Novell's arguments look hard to
In the Red Hat case: nothing has happened, as usual.
Finally, SCO has announced
that SCO Forum 2004 will be held August 1 to 3 in Las Vegas.
Even here, the company is rather economical with the truth:
"SCO Forum 2004 will highlight the company's 25th anniversary in
bringing powerful UNIX software solutions to businesses around the
world." The SCO Group, originally Caldera, has been incorporated
since 1998 (though Caldera, in a different form, had been around since the
early 1990's). This company will not be celebrating its 25th anniversary
In any case, the event could be amusing; one can well imagine that, by
August, the tone will not be particularly upbeat. Mark your calendars.
Comments (9 posted)
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