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Linus Torwalds to speak at LinuxCon Europe

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July 27, 2012

If you're part of the Linux community, Linus Torvalds certainly needs no introduction. Linus took the Unix source code in the early 90s and created Linux, one of the most popular operating systems that powers about 80 percent of today's modern servers in the largest data centers on the planet.

And Torvalds holds the unquestioned authority on Linux before each new kernel can be released to the IT community.

Linus himself will be talking about the latest developments to the Linux kernel in person at the LinuxCon Europe and Embedded Linux Conference (ELCE) taking place in Barcelona, from Nov. 5 to 7 of this year.

It's an incredible line up that will also feature Intel's Linux chief Dirk Hohndel, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth (talking about how Ubuntu is advancing the user experience both on the desktop and in the cloud), Eucalyptus Systems' CEO Marten Mickos, SUSE's vice president of engineering Ralf Flaxa and Evernote's CTO Dave Engberg.

According to the Linux Foundation's official communications office, speakers will also include Open Materials co-founder Catarina Mota who will discuss her research as it relates to open hardware.

Mota is a TED Fellow, co-chair of the 2012 Open Hardware Summit and a member of NYC Resistor and OSHWA.

In other Linux news

It looks like Oracle is now trying to squeeze in on the Linux CentOS community. Larry Ellison once tried that with Red Hat and failed, so now he's trying the same trick with CentOS. But will it work this time? Probably not, but read on...

Oracle is touting a piece of code that it claims will let you convert your CentOS server into an Oracle Linux system with no strings attached. But there is one string attached-- switching actually provides little discernible advantage over CentOS, except the caveat to hand over Oracle your money for its support.

And it's a prospect that CentOS users are vehemently turning down, saying they won't switch to Oracle Linux because first, they simply don't trust Oracle and second, because of the company's poor standing as a member of the open-source community.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison launched 'Unbreakable Linux' more than six years ago at OpenWorld, with the plan to swap out Red Hat Enterprise Linux by offering binary compatibility wrapped with Oracle's support. Fast forward to July 2012 and Oracle has about 7,000 Oracle Linux customers.

Oracle has now switched its attention to CentOS, the RHEL derivative. Ellison was quoted as saying "We've created a simple script to switch your CentOS systems to Oracle Linux. We think you'll like what you find, and we'd love for you to give it a try."

This all boils down to binary compatibility with CentOS, access to Ksplice, which was acquired by Oracle in 2011, for kernel splicing, access to DTrace from Solaris to find system problems and so-called 'faster updates' to the kernel than under CentOS. And some in the Linux and open-source community think it's all a bunch of crap.

All this is totally free because Oracle Linux is free. The only cost to you? Support, the real differentiator. But what support? Most in the Linux community fully understand Unix, the platform that Linux already relies upon.

"If you're running Oracle Linux and want support, you can purchase a support contract from us and it's significantly cheaper than support from Red Hat," Oracle says.

Basic and "limited" support for Oracle Linux starts at $499 for a year on one system and goes all the way up to $2,299. On a three-year contract, Oracle starts at $1,497 and tops out at $6,897.

According to Oracle, the CentOS switch code "is not some gimmick to get you running Oracle Linux so that you buy support from us." Really?

That's not how CentOS users are seeing it on the forum for Hacker News though. Forum member Spearchucker fires back: "That support word is the thing that makes me stay as far from Oracle as I can. It's like "Dude, here's the software. Have it, it's free." But when things go wrong you get stung for exorbitant support/consulting fees, because, hey, you're tied in. With nowhere to go, except pay very high fees to Oracle for that 'support'.

The fact that it's Oracle behind Oracle Linux is the biggest sticking point. The CentOS community either doesn't trust Oracle or hate it for throwing its weight around in the open source community, hurting their friends and other projects, and trying to control open source-- the Hudson and OpenSolaris projects. And many don't like Ellison to begin with.

Others take issue with the fact that Oracle is really RHEL without the branding. Davidmer says: "You say that they've produced something useful. Can you say a little more about what Oracle has specifically produced with respect to Oracle Linux? My strong impression is that they've taken 99.9 percent of Red Hat's hard work, dumped their own 0.1 percent on top (OCFS2, some IB enhancements, etc), slapped up a huge price tag on it and then exclaim, 'look what we made just for you guys'".

CentOS users isn't buying it. No amount of Dtrace or speedy updates seems capable of erasing the memory of Oracle's heavy handling of projects such as Hudson and Open Solaris.

And Oracle's Google Android lawsuit also seems to be at the back of open-sourcers' minds as well, given all the many legal issues facing both sides, as lawyers are trying to figure out what's what.

Forum user Notatoad says "I'm not going to build a business on top of a product that might be used next week as a tool to sue me or my customers. This was the only deciding factor when I chose Postgres over MySqL earlier this year for my company.

"If you want to market to Linux afficionados, you need to change the perception of the company, because that's what matters most right now. Stop being evil, and then we'll give your products a chance. But this has to be done first, not last."

Forum user Runjake sums up the feeling "The issue with Oracle Linux is that it's from Oracle! And I just don't trust them at all. Nor do I trust Larry Ellison. I know I can revert back to CentOS or SL or whatever, but that's a pain. Trust is the core of the problem, and for me, trust is everything."

Whenever we run into Oracle people at Linux and open-source events, they complain that Oracle doesn't get the credit or attention it deserves for its work on Linux. Here is something they can take back to Oracle's Ellison.

In other Linux and Unix news

Robert Fontana, one of the main original authors of version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPL), has come out with his own version of the same license but without the participation of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), in a bold move that could shock some people in the Linux and open source software community.

Fontana's version of the new license has been called Eben Moglen and Richard Stallman helped Fontana to draft the GPLv3, which debuted in 2007.

However, Fontana's free software credentials are solid, nevertheless. He currently serves as the open source and patent licensing counsel for Red Hat, though he says the Linux vendor isn't involved or affiliated in any way with the effort.

Previously, he was legal counsel to the Software Freedom Law Center. Fontana has launched as a project on GitHub, a collaboration website popular with open source software developers, and development of the new license will be a collaborative effort.

In the welcome text of the project, Fontana writes "Contributions of security patches, ideas, and even criticism are welcome. Forks in the GitHub sense are encouraged. The goal of this initiative is to develop an improved and strong copyleft software license."

The term 'copyleft' refers to a type of free software license that requires all modified and extended versions of the software to also be free. The GNU GPL is the most prominent example of such a license. Non-copyleft software licenses, such as the Apache and BSD licenses allow open source developers to make their modified versions of the software proprietary, if they so choose.

Fontana is quick to point out that isn't really a new version of the GNU GPL, though it is derived from it. Although the FSF discourages modified versions of the GPL, they are actually permitted, provided they meet certain conditions. One condition is that they go by a different name hence, and no reference to GNU.

Still not clear however, is just what Fontana hopes to accomplish with this new license, or why he decided that an end-run around the FSF was the best way to achieve his goals. Neither Fontana nor the FSF responded to requests for comment on this story.

A speech Fontana gave at the Fosdem free and open source developer conference in Brussels in February of this year may offer some clues, however. He titled "The decline of the GPL and what do do about it" he then said that "strong copyleft is vitally important," but he described the GPLv3 as "a lost opportunity to stem anti-copyleft shift."

Among the issues with the GNU GPL that Fontana identified in his presentation were the length and complexity of the license, the "collapse" of the authority of the FSF, and the shift toward cloud-based applications, which are incompatible with traditional open source licenses.

And whether a newer, more independent software license is the answer to these problems, however, is still debatable. The Open Source Initiative currently lists no less than sixty-nine different free and open source licenses for developers to choose from.

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So from the outset, there are still some in the Linux and open source community that are not exactly certain what (if anything) Fontana is strying to accomplish with this and how it could really benefit software developers going forward. Only time will tell. We will keep you posted.

In other Linux news

Ubuntu CEO Mark Shuttleworth has explained Canonicalís decision to not cooperate with Microsoft's Windows 8 security policy that could stop unauthorized Linux builds from booting on new PCs and tablets with Windows 8 installed.

PC system integrators must now enable a feature called Secure Boot in their products' UEFI firmware in order to be officially labelled Windows 8 compatible. This new mechanism will only start operating systems that have been signed with a digital key recognized by the motherboard's firmware.

Changing the computer's boot up process, such as installing a completely new operating system or updating the existing kernel core will invalidate this signature and cause the firmware to reject the software until it is signed again by a trusted secret key.

The concept is to prevent viruses or other malware from tampering with the boot process and injecting themselves into a system before they can be detected. But difficulties arise when convincing the firmware that your custom Linux build, BSD kernel or whatever else you want to run on your own hardware is legit, and this is exactly what Ubuntu is trying to prevent.

Canonical chose to generate its own private key for signing the code that loads Ubuntu and provide instructions to manually program a new PC's firmware to recognize the key or the user's own private signing key if desired.

But rather than use the popular GRUB 2 boot loader, which is distributed under the strict GPL v3 licence and is a project of the Free Software Foundation, the Ubuntu team opted to use Intelís more liberally licensed 'EFI Linux' loader to boot the Ubuntu operating system.

According to Canonical, the decision was taken because there is too much uncertainty surrounding the terms of the FSF's GPL v3 and its implications for Ubuntu's secret signing key.

Canonical believes it could be forced to publish its private key if it is used to sign a build of GRUB 2. Once in the public domain, its key could be used by anyone to sign and install malicious boot-time software on machines that trusted it. The disclosure could eventually lead to the revocation of Ubuntu's private key.

Source: The Linux Foundation.

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