Archive for the 'Tech' Category

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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.

I think I found my new phone…

…the Android “GSmart” from Gigabyte. Haha..

YouTube HTML5 beta program launched, but without Theora support

Google has created an opt-in beta program for anyone wanting to test YouTube with the HTML5 tag rather than using Flash. There are a few caveats however, with the number one being that it’s still all H.264 video. No Theora to speak of, yet, but it’s possibly a step in the right direction!

Bye Bye, SysReq

IBM/Lenovo laptops always seemed to have great Linux support. Shortly however, Lenovo products will ship without the SysReq key.

New Lenovo keyboard

Luckily, with Ext4 issues sorted out, there’s no need to use Magic Keys, right?

Windows based Internet cafés “illegal”

I never realised before, but Windows based Internet cafés violate Microsoft’s license terms, because:

Windows desktop operating system and Microsoft Office system licenses do not permit renting, leasing, or outsourcing the software to a third party.


Now however, by paying an extra licensing fee to Microsoft café owners can become legit.

Seems to me that a Linux based kiosk with is just going to become even more attractive..

Microsoft screencast shows Linux easier than Windows

In their attack on free software, Microsoft has launched a website which compares various aspects of Windows to its counterpart on Linux.

One of the latest videocasts compares getting Perl and PHP running on a webserver.

In the Windows screencast the author (who happens to be an Australian) says:

“In the past it was kinda difficult to set up Perl on Internet Information Services, now I’d actually argue it’s probably easier to set up Perl on IIS than it is to actually set it up on Linux.”

OK then, let’s watch both of his screencasts and see whether that is indeed true!

Excluding the tasks of installing Linux and Windows, installing the respective webserver, creating the Perl and PHP scripts themselves (which just print “$LANG is working”) and downloading the PHP/Perl install files (which you only have to do on Windows of course) here is the number of tasks required for each. As an aside, he is using Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, that’s SIX releases of Ubuntu ago.

Ubuntu – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 7

Open terminal
    Open "Terminal"
Install Apache Perl module
    sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-perl2
    Type "y" to proceed

Restart Apache
    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload
Copy Perl script to cgi-bin directory
    sudo cp /usr/lib/cgi-bin/
Make Perl script executable
    sudo chmod a+x /usr/lib/cgi-bin/
Use Firefox to test

Windows – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 34

Run Perl installer
    Click "Run"
    Click "Next"

Accept license agreement
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Install"
    Click "Finish

Open Command Prompt
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Command Prompt"

Make cgi-gin directory
    mkdir C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin
Copy the script
    cd Desktop
    copy *.pl C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin

Open IIS Manager
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Administrative Tools"
    Click "Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager"

Configure Perl
    Select "Perl CGI Extension" from "Web Service Extensions"
    Click "Allow"

Create Virtual Directory for cgi-bin
    Expand "Web Sites"
    Right Click "Default Web Site"
    Click "New -> Virtual Directory"
    Click "Next"
    Type name "cgi-bin"
    Click "Next"
    Set path "C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin"
    Click "OK"
    Click "Next"
    Tick "Run"
    Tick "Execute"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Finish"
    Click "Close"

Use Internet Explorer to test

Perl Conclusion
If you live on planet Microsoft, then I guess you might deduce that Windows is indeed easier than Linux. Of course in reality that’s complete bunkum.

Now, let’s have a look at PHP, where our presenter says the following:

It’s as easy to install these particular services and languages on IIS as it is, or even easier to install them on Windows than is it on Linux.

Ubuntu – install and configure PHP
Total tasks = 5

Open terminal
    Open "Terminal"
Install PHP mod for Apache
    sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5
    Enter "y" to continue

Copy the php file
    sudo cp testphp.php /var/www/
Use Firefox to test

Windows – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 23 (or 42 if configuring cgi-bin)

Run PHP installer
    Click "Run"
    Click "Next"

Accept license agreement
    Click "Next"
    Modify path to "C:\PHP"
    Click "Next"
    Select "IIS CGI"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Finish

Copy the script
    Right click on php file
    Select "Copy"
    Click "Start Menu"
    Open "My Computer"
    Browse to "C:\"
    Open "Inetpub" folder
    Right click
    Click "Paste"

Open IIS Manager
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Administrative Tools"
    Click "Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager"

Confirm PHP is active
    Select "Web Service Extensions"
    Ensure "PHP: Hypertext Processor" set to "Allow"

Use Internet Explorer to test

PHP Conclusion
Of course, he had already set up the cgi-bin virtual directory when he did Perl, so he’s getting that configuration for free. If you were configuring just PHP (or PHP first) this would take a total of 42 steps, instead of 23.

Conclusion, Conclusion
Either way, this guy sure has a funny idea of what “easy” means. I think it’s easy for him to make money from Microsoft by spreading lies about Linux.

Lenovo ARM and Linux based Smartbook looks interesting

Lenovo Skylight Smartbook

“Skylight is a sleek, stylish 10” mobile HD device with a web-optimized interface that lets you enjoy the web and rich media everywhere you go.

“Skylight is the digital solution for mobile users demanding a no-compromise, full web and media experience in a light, compact device. And since Skylight is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon™ ARM processor, 20GB storage on device with 2GB online, it’s exactly what you need to enjoy the web on the go.”

With the cloud and Web 2.0 stuff rampaging across the Internet, Mobile Internet Devices like this might actually take of this time…

IBM Linux Migration Cookbook

This 400 page book from IBM might be useful when migrating a corporate network from Windows to Linux.

Linux Client Migration Cookbook, Version 2:
A Practical Planning and Implementation Guide for Migrating to Desktop Linux

The goal of this IBM Redbook is to provide a technical planning reference for IT organizations large or small that are now considering a migration to Linux-based personal computers. For Linux, there is a tremendous amount of “how-to” information available online that addresses specific and very technical operating system configuration issues, platform-specific installation methods, user interface customizations, and so forth. This book includes some technical “how-to” as well, but the overall focus of the content in this book is to walk the reader through some of the important considerations and planning issues that you could encounter during a migration project. Within the context of a pre-existing Microsoft Windows-based environment, we attempt to present a more holistic, end-to-end view of the technical challenges and methods necessary to complete a successful migration to Linux-based clients.

Tracking Linux products in 2010

I’ve created a page for listing commercial products which use Linux for 2010.

My hope is to build up the list over the year as I come across things and see where we end up through the year.

If you have any to add, please let me know!