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September 19 was an interesting day for the open source community

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September 21, 2012

Wednesday of this week was an interesting day for the Linux and open source community. While Apple was launching yet another iteraton of its iOS to loyal customers, the long-anticipated OpenStack Foundation was officially launched Sep. 19. The OpenStack Foundation is one of the best examples of how a transition from commercially owned and controlled project should transition to a community-based initiative.

At only one other time has this even come close to happening, and that is with IBM and the Eclipse Foundation. And even then, there is still a perception that IBM is holding those reins pretty tightly.

However, with OpenStack, Rackspace seems prepared to follow up on its original idea-- to completely release OpenStack to the open source movement. And of course the Linux community will also benefit from it.

As can be expected, there are still some ties here and there, such as from former Rackspace employee Jonathan Bryce who is now the Executive Director of the new Foundation.

And there's no denying that Rackspace will have a strong voice in the direction of OpenStack. But at the end of the day, OpenStack is now something bigger than Rackspace, and that's what all that matters here in the first place.

To some, it may seem like a non-event, and maybe it is. But to others, when code truly becomes really open, either as part of a Foundation or other community concept, it's a real time to pause and celebrate.

Nevertheless, and with or without the help of Rackspace or any other hosting company for that matter, it will still be interesting to see just how the 'new' OpenStack Foundation peters out, and what it will accomplish in the next twelve months for the open source development segment as well as the Linux community at large.

In other Linux and open source community news

Dice Holdings, a company that manages and runs a number of job-listing sites including Dice.com, has acquired open source code repository SourceForge, software index site Freecode, and tech-news discussion site Slashdot from parent company Geeknet, in a transaction valued at $20 million. And the deal has the blogosphere talking a lot in the past few days.

"The acquisition of these popular technology sites fits well into our initial strategy of providing IT content and services that are vital to the Linux community and tech professionals in their everyday work lives," said Dice Holdings president and CEO Scot Melland.

Initially, the transaction caused some head-scratching from observers at first. Some were asking "why would a recruiting site want to acquire media and code-hosting businesses?" But according to Melland, adding the three Geeknet sites to Dice's portfolio will allow its employer-customers to reach more tech professionals on a regular basis.

In addition to job listings, Dice already publishes its own news site that emphasizes IT and various tech topics. By acquiring the three former Geeknet properties, Dice not only gains new sources of tech content, but also adds three communities of engaged tech professionals, many of them programmers and IT system admins.

Of the three sites, SourceForge is the biggest, drawing about 40 million unique visitors each month. That could mean a significant traffic boost for Dice if it plays its cards right.

Currently, Dice.com itself only gets about 2.3 million unique visitors per month. According to Melland, around 80 percent of SourceForge users are based outside the U.S., which suggests Dice may be hoping to strengthen its presence in overseas markets.

By comparison, FreeCode is a relatively smaller site, netting a mere 500,000 unique visitors per month. A kind of Yahoo for code, it collects links to software packages grouped by category, most of them open source.

Under Geeknet, the three sites have enjoyed modest success, with all three generating around $20 million in combined revenues for 2011, Dice's statement said.

The deal leaves Geeknet with just one web property remaining: ThinkGeek, an online shop that sells tech culture–related gadgets and gifts. Geeknet chair Ken Langone said the ThinkGeek division would now get the company's full attention.

Predictably, news of the deal has sparked a lively discussion on Slashdot itself, with many longtime members worrying that Dice would water down the community's hardcore geek content, or bombard it with countless ads that probably won't even be relevant.

A Slashdot staffer with the handle "SoulSkill" did his best to answer some concerns, but even he had little information: "Put simply, I haven't even heard anything about changing Slashdot. I would guess (and this is only a wild guess) that some links that already exist in the header and footer will change, and that some of our regular ads will be swapped out for Dice ads. Which would have no effect on you if you ignore the ads anyway. As far as I can tell, Dice is mainly just interested in owning a tech news portal."

Others remarked that Slashdot has already strayed far from its roots as founder Rob Malda's personal blog. Where once the site consisted solely of freewheeling, user-generated posts, under Geeknet it began adding "channels" of sponsored content with a much more canned feel.

Malda himself has issued no comment on the sale, other than to note it on his Google+ page, but he likely has no stake in it. He quit Slashdot in 2011 to pursue other interests.

In other Linux and open source community news

System admins and IT professionals can now celebrate: openSUSE 12.2 is finally here at long last. The release, due more than two months ago, has been plagued with countless delays and technical issues.

Normally, a few delays here and there wouldn't be a big deal under usual circumstances. After all, software bugs happen all the time and most users would agree a late but stable release is better than a permanent buggy one.

But with this new development cycle, the openSUSE delays were bad enough to cause some soul-searching among the development team. OpenSUSE release manager Stephan Kulow writes that the distribution needs to "use the delay of 12.2 as a reason to challenge our current development model and look at new methods."

But for now, it's still unclear what those new methods may mean for the future of openSUSE releases, but at least now you have your openSUSE 12.2 up and running.

And the good news is that it was well worth the wait. This release is noticeably faster than version 12.1 and quite a bit snappier than Kubuntu and other KDE distros we've tested lately.

For instance, the Dolphin file manager in particular feels much faster. In fact if KDE is your desktop of choice, you really owe it to yourself to take openSUSE 12.2 for a test drive. Not only is it fast, it's the best-looking default KDE desktop you're likely to find in the Linux community.

If you heavily customize your desktop that may not matter much, but if you prefer to leave things as they are and just want a nice looking theme while you work, openSUSE is a good choice.

Some might be disappointed to learn that openSUSE sticks with KDE 4.8 rather than making the leap to 4.9, but openSUSE has always been a conservative distribution that prefers the stable and tested to the bleeding edge, especially when it comes to the desktop environment. And 12.2 certainly continues in that tradition in more ways than one.

Of course, there are repos available for those that would like to upgrade to KDE 4.9. That conservative approach to new software means that openSUSE is just now embracing GRUB 2, which is welcome if only to ease the pain of dual booting with other distros - most of which long since made the leap to GRUB 2.

But to go along with GRUB 2, openSUSE is now using Plymouth to create a very slick start-up screen. In fact, combined with GRUB 2, Plymouth's openSUSE-themed graphics and the very slick KDE desktop theme and a whole new visual experience of booting into openSUSE puts even Ubuntu to shame.

Of course, if you prefer the boot sequence to use black-on-white text that says "I'm a nerd; hear me roar", just remember to hit escape during the boot process.

For Linux applications, openSUSE takes a more pragmatic approach than the default KDE suite, installing apps like Firefox and LibreOffice alongside KDE's somewhat less impressive offerings in the same categories.

And openSUSE again applies the shoe polish, offering tight integration between outside KDE apps like Firefox and LibreOffice and the Plasma desktop theme.

Installing openSUSE from the DVD will also get you some extras like GIMP for photo editing and the Tomahawk social music player, which can pull music from a variety of online sources.

But while openSUSE 12.2 has much to love - significant speed boosts, a well-polished desktop and a solid suite of software - there are still a few rough spots to be aware of here and there, namely the YaST package management tools.

It used to be that the first thing you did with a new openSUSE install was to head first to YaST and start configuring everything. In fact, much of openSUSE's appeal revolved around YaST, which offered graphical configuration tools simply not found anywhere else. But these days, the competition's tools have improved and YaST feels less necessary.

While there are still some nice graphical tools in YaST, most of them are aimed at system admins. Configuration tools for stuff like X.org have moved off to the desktop environment and for the home user, YaST is primarily about the Software Manager, which is quite frankly looking long in the making when compared to what you'll find in Ubuntu or Fedora.

It's mostly functional but bare bones in its own way. Contrast that with the slick one-click web-based package installation process, and YaST's package management system feels neglected.

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There are some very good tools in openSUSE 12.2 for system admins, but it can't really compete with CentOS or Red Hat in the server market. There's a very slick desktop and lots of nice software aimed at home users, but much of that is built on top of older, often awkward and confusing tools that feel more enterprise-oriented.

And that's where openSUSE seems poised, at least for now, sort of one foot still in the enterprise segment and one foot on the desktop for home users.

In order to really stand out next to more popular distributions like RedHat, CentOS and Ubuntu, openSUSE needs to polish its rough edges in a way.

But still, while there's more work left to be done, openSUSE 12.2 is a good release that is faster than 12.1 and well worth checking out whether you're new to openSUSE or just haven't taken it for a test drive yet.

In other Linux news

Intel has confirmed earlier this morning that it will not provide support for the Linux operating system on its Clover Trail Atom CPUs. Intel's Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops and the company provided a lot of architectural details on the processor, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states.

But Intel added that Clover Trail is a Windows 8 chip and that the chip cannot run Linux. As the semiconductor giant is pushing Clover Trail into tablets, a category of various devices that is dominated by Linux-based Android and the Unix BSD-based iOS, Intel said that it will not support Linux on Clover Trail.

Given that the company said Clover Trail takes a lot of technology from its Medfield Atom processor, which runs Android on a number of smartphones, it seems that Chipzilla is putting up an artificial barrier to try to help Microsoft and its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

While Intel's claim that Clover Trail won't run Linux isn't quite true, at least not exactly. After all, it is an x86 instruction set so there is no major reason why the Linux kernel will not run. Given that the company will not support it, device makers are unlikely to produce Linux Clover Trail devices for their own support reasons.

Intel didn't detail why it won't support Linux but instead merely mumbled murkily that "there's a lot of software work that has to go into a chip to support it in an operating system".

Intel went to great lengths to highlight the new P-states and C-states in which it can completely shut down the clock of a core. The chip maker said the operating system needs to provide "hints" to the processor in order to make use of power states and it seems likely that such 'hints' are presently not provided by the Linux kernel in order to properly make use of Clover Trail.

Intel's decision to support only Windows 8 on Clover Trail might work for laptops but seems very risky for tablets, where x86 tablets running Windows 8 look to be priced close to Apple's iPad and significantly higher than Google's Nexus 7 and even Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.

When the PC market speaks, Intel and Microsoft might well find that Clover Trail is a dead end, although the Linux community still hasn't made its views heard on this yet, and we can safely bet that not everyone will be happy with Intel's last minute decision.

Source: The OpenStack Foundation.

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