Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Closed Source Software is More Secure

One of the things open source advocates often pride themselves on is their software of choice being more secure than the closed source alternatives. I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't though. You see I got into a discussion with a Windows system administrator the other day and it got me thinking. I've come to realize there are a number of ways closed source software is more secure than open source alternatives.

It secures a safer code base, ensuring that the software cannot be exploited.

A small team with limited resources can easily find and resolve issues faster than a limitless number of people are able to. With this in mind having a code base that only a small development team has access to is clearly safer than having an open project.

It secures a proprietary market lock for the company making said software.

Having a lock on your given market is important. If market locks didn't exist companies wouldn't be able to charge outrageous prices for their inventions. If software was open it would lead to standardized protocols. Standardized protocols would force market leaders to continue to be innovative and provide the overall best product to maintain their standing.

With closed source software a company needs to simply be the first to provide a decent piece of software for a given task. Once they capture a majority of the market, the software is able to degrade without losing many users.

It secures more money every update release for the company making said software.

It's clear that a company with an open source business model could never succeed. Once you lock your users into using your product you can charge them whatever you want each time you release a new version. This is OK though, big cooperations would never want to hurt their users! I mean it's not like anyone would ever charge thousands of dollars for a new version of their software right?

While it seems there might be some argument for closed source software being more secure, I'm not sure that this Linux advocate is fully convinced as of yet. What is your take on the subject?

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lessons Learned: Linux + Sony Vaio F Series

My old sager laptop is still great for gaming with it's nVidia 265m GTX, but in terms of processing power it is no longer up to snuff in 2011. Earlier this week I finally made the move and picked up something that had an Intel i7 processor in it. I favor laptops for the mobility they offer and I was lucky enough to get a good price on a Sony Vaio VPCF115FM

The system screams with its i7 Q720, 6 gig of DDR3 RAM, nVidia 330m and a 500 gig 7200RPM hard drive.

The first thing I do with any new computer that comes into my possession is boot Linux on it of course. I just so happen to keep Bodhi 1.1.0 on my flash drive and soon enough I was booted into my live environment (the live CD booted faster on the system than Windows 7 could shutdown - no surprise there I guess). The 2.6.39 kernel detected all the hardware and the system booted to it's beautiful 1920x1080 resolution. The install went without a hitch and I was soon enjoying Bodhi on my new build system (which compiles packages much quicker than my old Core 2 Duo).

I bought this particular laptop not only for it's processor, but also because of the dedicated graphics card it has. After installation the next step was naturally to try and install the closed source graphics driver nVidia provides. First I tried installing the 275 driver we provide in the Bodhi repository. It seemed to install A-OK, but upon rebooting I was greeted by simply a black screen.

Not a big deal, I've been around the block a few times when it comes to nVidia and Linux. I promptly uninstalled the 275 driver and then proceeded to try the latest beta driver from the nVidia FTP. Install seems A-OK again, but once more I was greeted by only a black screen. I figured maybe it was a kernel issue. Having just recently added the 3.0 kernel to the Bodhi repo, I tried both drivers again with this different kernel - same results.

Next stop? The Linux Answer Machine of course. Which lead me to a Google Code page for Linux on the Sony F Series laptops. Then I made a critical mistake that cost me a good deal of time - I jumped into trying to fix the problem without reading the entire solution. When you come across information such as the nVidia install directions always remember the comments are valuable.

After a little over an hour of playing around with edids on my Vaio with no luck I started surfing through the comments and found a useful one. It mentioned that this setup was no longer needed with Ubuntu 10.10. After racking my brain for what the difference might be between Ubuntu 10.10 and Bodhi 1.1.0 I realized the largest difference was the kernel version. On a whim I installed the 2.6.35 kernel, installed the nvidia drivers from the Bodhi repo and poof! I was good to go (guess my first hunch about a kernel issue was correct).

Now, what exactly is different between the 35 kernel and the 39 and 3.0 kernels that caused the nVidia driver to no longer work properly on my Vaio is a bit outside my areas of expertise. At any rate though I am happy to have a fully working Sony Vaio with Linux! I am still a bit over joyed at all the processing power it has.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Losing work because I use Linux

I am starting graduate school this fall. New school, new town and this means I am looking for a new job. My girlfriend saw a mention of the website They offer a web based tutoring service for high school students. I have a fair bit of tutoring experience (and I am a certified high school teacher for mathematics in Illinois) so I figured I was more than qualified for their online tutoring position.

While I was filling out their online application I met all of the requirements except for one:

Their online application was three pages long. Even though I saw the above block on the first page I had a small hope it wasn't a strict requirement because after I checked "no" to having Windows I was able to select that I used "Linux" from a drop down menu. then proceeded to waste another ten minutes of my time while I filled out the next two pages. Immediately after hitting the "submit" button I was informed that my application had failed.

I understand they have certain system requirements, but why they felt it was necessary to waste my time filling out the last two pages after I already marked that I did not use Windows is beyond me. What is also beyond me is why they choose to develop their browser based software for the Windows only Internet Explorer instead of any of the cross platform browsers that exist. Oh and did I mention that they opted to support iOS before they added support for non-Windows desktop operating systems?

I guess I should be used to this by now. I mean it is far from the first time educational software has rejected my operating system of choice. I thought about simply dual booting so I could apply successfully, but then I realized that sticking to my software values is more important than some crummy part time job. If you are a free software supporter I would recommend strongly against using and spreading that same advice to others that you know.

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seven Great Enlightenment (DR17) Themes

If you have been by my blog before then odds are you know I am a large fan of the Enlightenment desktop. While there are a number of reasons DR17 is my desktop of choice, one of them is the wonderful selection of themes that exist for it. In the past I have done round ups of my favorite icon sets and gtk themes. Today I would like to do the same for Enlightenment themes. The following are seven of my favorites:

If you use the Enlightenment desktop as well what are some of your favorite themes? If you are looking for more themes to choose from check out the Bodhi Linux Art Page and

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lots of Support for One Percent!

Market share, market share, market share... Truly a technology argument for the ages.

I was reading an article in Information Week cleverly titled "The OS Mess". The article raises the issue of the technology world becoming flooded with a plethora of different operating systems. I think having a variety of different platforms available is a good thing. Competition stimulates innovation and market growth.

The issue in all of this comes in when you need to obtain support for this variety of operating systems. Having to support more than one platform raises the bar on the level of service needed from IT support staff. Many IT companies appear to be adapting to these changes though. In the same Information Week article they posted a survey of 441 technology professionals from May of this year, asking which platforms they support:

While I don't think it is any surprise that 99% of them offer support for Windows, what I did find interesting is that 35% offer support for an operating system that supposedly has a less than 2% market share. Perhaps Linux users are simply more willing to pay for support? At any rate I found it to be an interesting statistic and I wanted to share.

Why do you think so many offer support for a platform that is supposed to be so under used?

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Six Signs Android really isn't Linux

Many people argue that Android has put Linux into the hands of millions of users. While there is no doubting that Android has been a raging success, I would argue that Google has put Android into the hands of millions of people - not Linux. The following are my reasons for claiming such:

1.) Android's kernel is a Fork

Thats right, Android doesn't run on a mainline Linux kernel any longer. Their source code is maintained in a separate git repository because it was not accepted back into the main line kernel in it's current state and Google has not made any action towards improving the code so it can be accepted.

2.) Where is the brand name?

I did a post late last year titled "Keep the 'Linux' out of it Please", which asked whether using Linux in your brand name is deadly. Google seems to think so. Go do some digging on Android's homepage - I challenge you to find the word Linux on there anywhere. Even after digging through their development documents for some time I was unable to locate the word.

3.) Companies that don't support Linux support Android

Be it a game like Plants vs Zombies that Linux users are forced to run via Wine or a product such as Netflix streaming that does not run on Linux machines at all - there are lots of companies that refuse to support the penguin yet still produce Android applications. At the very extreme there is Adobe who has actually dropped support for Linux while continuing to write software for Android.

4.) All Java Applications

Android has piles of applications that are written for it. Unlike applications that are written for Linux though - they are not easily portable to other distributions. For instance applications written for WebOS are able to be run on the Maemo platform. Android applications however are all java based, meaning you need an emulator like Alien Dalvik to get them to run on other platforms.

5.) Microsoft doesn't make money off of Linux pre-installed Machines

There are plenty of vendors that sell systems pre-installed with Linux (such as BluSphere). Dedicated Linux users opt to purchase such systems (or system with no OS on it) in order to avoid the Microsoft Tax. When purchasing an Android handset there is no such avoidance. Up to 15$ per Android handset sold is going to Microsoft. Sure, this is the result of paten trolling - but I don't see anyone rising up to fight it.

6.) Where is the source code?

Yes there are closed source version of Linux. You know what is fairly unique to Android though? Claiming to be open source and then only releasing your source code to a select few hardware makers for a long while. Is it a solid business plan? Sure. Just don't claim to be free and open though and then pull something like this!

In my opinion at this point Android is just as much Linux based as OSX is BSD based. Now - don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Android is a bad operating system. In fact I'm glad it has taken away market share away from extremely closed operating systems such as iOS and Windows Mobile. I'm just saying lets stop calling it what it is not! Yes Android is Linux based it is not however Linux any longer.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seven Months of Bodhi Linux in Pictures

Bodhi Linux is still a fairly young project. We gained a good bit of recognition for providing a usable Enlightenment desktop while many others still do not (if they offer one at all). We started back in just November of last year, but the project has matured a good deal in just this short bit of time. The following are screen shots (and some history) from the nine developmental and two stable releases we have had during the last seven months.

Bodhi 0.1.0 - Alpha 1

There is no doubting the look of our first alpha release was fairly bland (bad? awkward?). White on black on green on purple... What where we thinking?

This first Bodhi release happened on November 17th 2010. It was our latest release for four whole days and saw 539 downloads in that time.

Bodhi 0.1.1 and 0.1.2 - Alphas 2 and 3

Our look didn't change much here. In fact can you spot the only subtle difference between this image and the one above it?

Alpha 2 was our main release for 7 days and during this time it saw 1470 downloads. Alpha 3 had a shorter lifespan of just two days during which time it saw 423 downloads.

Bodhi 0.1.21 - Alpha 3.1

By our third alpha Bodhi had started getting some press. This "hot fix" release was designed to combat the number one issue most people had with our distro - it's look! Our default theme changed to a slightly more consistent looking black on green.

Alpha 3.1 served as our latest release for two weeks and snagged 1590 downloads during this time.

Bodhi 0.1.3 - Alpha 4

During our fourth alpha release Bodhi's look took a drastic 180. We went from a dark green to natural brown and wood tones. The default icon set also jumped from the default Gnome icons to the much over used Faenza icons.

This wooden Bodhi served as our latest release for twenty five days and saw 2,262 downloads in this time.

Bodhi 0.1.4 - Beta 1

Reviewers didn't like our dark green look and they didn't like our wood tone... What are we to do? Give the user a choice obviously! The theme wasn't the only thing we start giving the user a choice about though. Beta 1 was the first time we introduced the profile selection at startup. Each profile was offered with a "light" and "dark" option.

It seems while many people are wary of "alpha" software, "beta" does not scare so many away. Bodhi 0.1.4 received 5,090 downloads during the three weeks it was our main release.

Bodhi 0.1.5 - Release Candidate 1

The most notable change in our first release candidate is that two new profiles where added. One that had Ecomorph (compiz) enabled by default and one that was optimized for tablets/netbooks.

The download stats for the RC1 release where fairly close to the beta. 5,635 downloads in just nineteen days.

Bodhi 0.1.6 - Release Candidate 2

Our release candidate did away with having each profile offered in two different colors. This time around you simply had two screens to click through. The first offered you a choice of profiles and the second a choice of themes. The Luxe theme from the previous two releases stayed around and four other new themes (Beauty, Greyish, Mariad and Sky) appeared on the default disc. The default icon set also changed to the MaXo ReMix.

In twenty two days our first release candidate saw over double the downloads of our first beta. Bodhi 0.1.6 snagged 11,062 downloads while it was our main release.

Bodhi 0.1.7 - Release Candidate 3

Initially 0.1.7 was suppose to be our first "stable" release, but some unforeseen development issues lead to it simply being a second release candidate. The most notable changes here are the introduction of the ELFE launcher in the netbook profiles and the replacement of the Beauty theme with Brownish.

Our second release candidate saw 8,599 downloads in just two weeks time.

Bodhi 1.0.0 - Stable Release

Our stable release didn't bring any drastic changes with it. In fact from an end user stand point the only major change was the "Desktop" profile layout.

This was the big time though. All "developmental" tags where off of the distro and all bets where off. Our first stable release was our main version for two months, during which time it saw 25,136 downloads.

Bodhi 1.1.0 - Update Release 1

In between major releases Bodhi will be releasing "update" releases to keep software on the live CD current. The first of these is our current release and it brought with it some minor changes to the tablet interface and four new default themes (Ambient, Boox, Elegant and Moonlight).

This latest release is still racking up downloads as I type this - but it is well into the tens of thousands!

If you would like to see for yourself just how much our Bodhi releases have improved since past releases you can find an archive of all of our old releases on source forge. If you have ideas for further improvement we are always looking for user feedback and I welcome you to leave a comment below or sign up on our forums.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bodhi Linux for ArchOS Gen8 Alpha

If you have used Bodhi before then you may be aware that one of the profiles we offer by default is one that is optimized for touch screen devices.

Over the past couple of months since we added this layout we have had many requests from users to get Bodhi running on embedded touch screen devices. Today I am happy to announce the first availability of an Alpha version of Bodhi Linux for ARM devices. The ARM version of Bodhi is built on top of a Debian base, which provides stability on top of the speed the Enlightenment desktop provides.

The first target device Bodhi Linux plans to "officially" support are the ArchOS Gen8 tablet computers. If you own one of these devices you can find the 1.5gb rootfs as a high speed torrent download here or as a slower direct download (via source forge) here. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words - so a video must be worth much more than that. Here is a short demo video I shot of the Bodhi alpha in action on my ArchOS 70 internet tablet:

For those interested in getting Bodhi running on their own ArchOS Gen 8 devices (please keep in mind this is an alpha image, not ready for production tablets) the install instructions are the same as for putting any other Debian image on your Gen 8 device. I'll post detailed instructions on how I setup my own tablet some time next week.

If you have another piece of ARM hardware you are interested in getting Bodhi Linux running on, first install Debian Squeeze or Wheezy and then add the following line to your sources.list

deb squeeze stable

And then install the following package list:


Have any questions or comments feel free to drop a comment below or make a post in the ARM section on our forums.

~Jeff Hoogland