Monthly Archive for January, 2010

openSUSE 11.2 web links don’t work in Thunderbird under KDE fix

My mum’s machine runs openSUSE 11.2, with KDE 4. She continues to use Thunderbird as her mail client as it is familiar. Naturally she also uses Firefox for web browsing.

Unfortunately, web links don’t seem to work which is rather annoying. Firefox is set as the default web client, as is thunderbird for email. My guess is that Thunderbird is looking for some GNOME configuration on what to do. I tried adding some custom handler arguements in Thunderbird’s config (like about:config in Firefox), but that didn’t work.

In the end, the simple fix was to use gconftool to set the appropriate parameters:
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/http/command
'/usr/bin/firefox %s' --type String

gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/https/command
'/usr/bin/firefox %s' --type String

Restart Thunderbird and all is good!

Malaysian government touts 95% FOSS adoption

Malaysia started looking into FOSS for government back in 2004. Now, it appears they have reached 95% adoption across the government.

Some 95 percent of Malaysia’s government agencies have adopted open source software (OSS), but the remaining 5 percent have not warmed to the concept–and is unlikely to anytime soon, according to a government official.

United Kingdom government heading for the cloud?

There are plans afoot to replace the UK government’s computer systems with a “cloud” and free software.

The government will also push for “open source” software to be used more widely among central and local government’s 4m desktop computers. That poses an immediate threat to Microsoft, whose Windows operating system and Office applications suite is at present firmly embedded as the standard on PCs in government..

I doubt that Microsoft would sit idly by and let this happen, though.

Discover RAM info without opening your case

Who says you can’t find anything useful on Digg? Not me that’s for sure. I just discovered an ever so handy Linux command to find out what kind of RAM you have.

It’s easy enough, just run
sudo dmidecode --type memory

And you’ll get something back, like:
# dmidecode 2.10
SMBIOS 2.5 present.

Handle 0x1100, DMI type 17, 27 bytes
Memory Device
Array Handle: 0x1000
Error Information Handle: Not Provided
Total Width: 64 bits
Data Width: 64 bits
Size: 2048 MB
Form Factor: DIMM
Set: None
Locator: DIMM_1
Bank Locator: Not Specified
Type: DDR2
Type Detail: Synchronous
Speed: 800 MHz
Manufacturer: AD00000000000000
Serial Number: 0000100B
Asset Tag: 010807
Part Number: HYMP125U64CP8-S6

Pretty cool, huh?

It doesn’t stop there, however.

Valid type keywords are:
bios
system
baseboard
chassis
processor
memory
cache
connector
slot

Go crazy.

The Importance of Fitting In

Is the success of Linux directly proportional to its ability to integrate with existing proprietary systems like Windows? If so, should free software developers be spending more time integrating with it instead of building better software for free platforms?

Ogm != Ogg

I just discovered that the Ogg Media format (OGM) is not a specification supported by Xiph Foundation. That’s right, OGM is not Ogg. OGM is an extension of Ogg which goes outside of the specification by adding support for DirectShow filters.

We get a lot of E-mail from people, demanding support for OGM. Of course they come to us, it’s called ‘Ogg.’ We’re the ‘Ogg People.’ We don’t support OGM. We didn’t write it, and we don’t have the resources to help people with it…

Ogg Vs Ogm file format are the same, the main difference is the first header in each stream. OGM uses several standardised header formats, audio, video and text, in order to make identifying unknown codecs easier in directshow (and subsequently other frameworks). ie with those three headers you can use any audio or video format you choose without have to write custom header parsing routines for each codec in the demuxer.

In other words ogmtools provides the standard du jeur for encapsulating various common-in-avi codecs in an Ogg bitstream, like ‘divx’, ‘mp3′ and so on.

The Ogg specification supports video (.ogv extension) and use of Ogm is discouraged.

Yahoo! pays Canonical to switch Firefox away from Google

While I’m not convinced that Google is our friend, this latest move from Canonical is interesting.

Microsoft has been paying companies to move their sites from Google to Bing and the Mozilla’s director of community development, Aza Dotzler, recommends that users switch Firefox’s default search engine from Google to Bing.

Now, Canonical has struck a revenue deal with Yahoo! and will change the default search engine away from Google (for new installs).

Canonical has negotiated a revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! and this revenue will help Canonical to provide developers and resources to continue the open development of Ubuntu and the Ubuntu Platform.

Yes, Google currently has the largest share of web marketing, but if more and more companies start switching to alternatives like Yahoo! and Bing, then things could change dramatically.

New Zealand school goes totally open source

Albany Senior High School in Auckland New Zealand is a new school, set up just last year in 2009. Most education institutions are “Microsoft shops” but this school has bucked the trend by going the free software route.

Applications used within the school include OpenOffice, Google Docs, Moodle for managing education content, and Mahara for student portfolios. The Koha software used by the school library was also customised to integrate more closely with the LDAP security system and to allow book recommendations.

Go my Kiwi cousins, go!

Christopher Blizzard: HTML5 video and H.264 – what history tells us and why we’re standing with the web

Christopher Blizzard has a great article about H.264 and what it might mean if it becomes the de-facto standard for video on the web.

Remember, this is still very early in H.264’s history so the licensing is very friendly, just like it used to be for MP3. The companies who own the IP in these large patent pools aren’t in this for the fun of it – this is what they do. They patent and they enforce and then enjoy the royalties. If they are in a position to charge more, they will. We can expect that if we allow H.264 to become a fundamental web technology that we’ll see license requirements get more onerous and more expensive over time, with little recourse.

Are all browsers equally vulnerable?

With all these Internet Explorer insecurity issues coming to light, a common argument is:

“All browsers are insecure, just practice safer browsing by not clicking on links in unsolicited mail.”

Sure, that’s a important part of being safe on the net, but it’s only half of the picture. Of course all browsers will have security holes at particular points in time, no software is perfect.

However, what we should be looking at is a vendor’s response to security vulnerabilities. It’s how quickly a vendor can patch a hole and distribute the fix which is most important. (Of course, security by design and underlying operating system are also important factors.)

To which end, I came across an entry in Wikipedia which provides a comparison of unpatched publicly known vulnerabilities in the latest stable versions of major browsers. It is based on vulnerabilities reports by SecurityFocus and Secunia.

From the list, you can see that all version of Internet Explorer have dozens of unpatched security holes, while most other browsers have none (Safari and Chrome have only one unpatched vulnerability, which is classified as “less critical”).

According to the latest information, security research firm SecurityFocus reports that IE6 has 396 known unpatched vulnerabilities, IE7 has 15, and IE8 has 32. The oldest known unpatched vulnerabilities for IE6, IE7, and IE8 date from November 20, 2000, May 17, 2007, and April 11, 2009 respectively.

How many does Firefox have? Zero. That’s right. NONE.

So yes, you should practise safe surfing, but the browser you choose will have a MAJOR impact on overall security of your system (so does the operating system). Anyone who claims that Internet Explorer is just as secure as the other major browsers is either insane or stupid.