Indian Govt. adopts open source

opensource_compIn a historic decision, the Indian Government has adopted open source for its public offices. With acclaimed Indian organizations like C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing) and IIT Chennai working on Debian based distro BOSS Linux and states like Tamil Nadu already advocating open source for a while, this was inevitable. The policy has been published by the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology today. Continue reading Indian Govt. adopts open source

Self-repairing software for the next Shellshock

Eric Eide stands in the “Machine Room” where A3 was tested

Researchers at the University of Utah ahve developed a software (A3) that can not only detect new malwares and viruses, but can also repair the damage done. And then it seals the system against such attacks again. It has demonstrated its abilities in military grade applicaitons as well. A3 is designed to protect servers or similar business-grade computers running Linux. And it does its job without taking the server down.

The software has been named A3 (Advanced Adaptive Applications). The project was done by the university’s A3 team under Eric Eide, University of Utah research assistant professor of computer science with computer science associate professor John Regehr. The project completed in last September, co-developed by Massachusetts-based defense contractor, Raytheon BBN, and was funded by Clean-Slate Design of Resilient, Adaptive, Secure Hosts, a program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

A3 runs on virtual machines and was tested against the notorious Shellshock vulnerability which it countered in minutes, including the repair time. The team tested A3 successfully on another half-dozen pieces of malware too.

With the Proof of Concept phase over, the team would like to build on A3 and find its applicaitons in cloud computing. A3 will not be available for consumer grade devices like home computers and laptops right now. But in future it can find applications in the consumer space, such as in web services like Amazon. The A3 software is open source, but Eide believes many of the A3 technologies could be incorporated into commercial products.

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How to play Windows games on Linux

Historically Windows users have always enjoyed the best games ever developed while other platforms were lagging. There’s no denying that Windows is still the platform of choice for die-hard gamers.

Linux is fast closing the gap with Windows gaming. Are you geared for the action?

However, things are moving fast in Linuxland and so is the support for games. Each day new state of the art Windows games are being ported to or enabled on Linux bridging the gap between Windows and Linux gaming experience. Ubuntu is the de facto Linux distro of choice for most Linux gamers. There are multiple ways you can play Windows games on Linux and many of those reportedly perform well on Linux than on Windows. Let’s explore the best options to play Windows games on Linux.

Steam

Steam is a platform from Valve just for playing games. You can either install Steam on Linux or choose Steam OS. Steam is multiplatform and can run on Windows and Mac as well. Let’s just say Steam binds gamers from different operating systems together. And as it claims, Steam is the ultimate online game platform. Some games which you can play on Steam are: Amnesia, Battle for Wesnoth, Nexuiz, Quake. Find latest updates on supported games here.

PlayOnLinux

Supports games as well as software. PlayOnLinux allows you to easily install and play numerous games and apps designed to run with Windows. Download, install and start playing. Some of the supported games are World Of Warplanes, Wolfenstein 3D, The Matrix: Path of Neo Update 2 etc.

Desura

Desura is a digital distribution platform developed by Bad Juju Games for the Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X platforms. The service distributes games and related media online, with a primary focus on small independent game developers rather than larger companies. Desura contains automated game updates, community features, and developer resources. The client allows users to create and distribute game mods as well.

Unlike Steam, the Desura client is heavily tied to its website through the use of the Chromium Embedded Framework. Most of its services are provided through its online interface, with the exception of the game launcher, installer, and update features. This provides Desura with an interface that does not vary much from system to system.

CrossOver

CrossOver is a well known name among Linux users who want to run Windows software like Microsoft Office. However, CrossOver supports many games too: Civilization V, Diablo III, Team Fortress 2 etc.

Wine

There is something common among all the options listed above: all of them use Wine in the background. In reality, many games run directly on Wine. For example, I have finished Castle of Wolfenstein on Linux using Wine.

If you are a serious gamer, Linux has plenty of choices for you!

Tamil Nadu Govt. goes open source with BOSS Linux

opensource_compThe government of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, led by Ms. Jayalalithaa has decided to go open source with BOSS (Bharat Operating System Solutions) Linux, an indigenously developed port of Linux by C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing). It is a huge step for Linux, already a well known OS in India to get the official approval from one of the states of the largest democracy in the world. India being a major software hub, Linux has been around in India over a long time through software engineers and hackivists but the government offices by and large still depend on closed source software and Microsoft solutions. However, the Tamil Nadu government’s attitude towards Linux had always been different. BOSS Linux was the pre-loaded OS on the free laptops provided to students in the state around 2.5 years back. But moving to Linux at a government level is definitely a significant step. The state department of Tamil Nadu has considered the amount of savings that comes with the use of Linux and given its nod to the switch.

BOSS is a Debian derivative featuring the GNOME Desktop and supporting many Indian languages. It is free to download and use.

Regular Expressions which has always been vocal about governments moving to open source welcomes the decision of the TN government. Our readers might remember one of our past articles where we strongly advocated the use of open source solutions by governments not only for cost reduction but also for several other reasons.

Consumer Electronics: is open source in store for the next generation?

opensource_compWith high performance quad-core smartphones and tablets dominating the market, more and more of our data getting stored in the cloud each second, the number of users carrying laptops and running desktop OS-es is diminishing each day. Continue reading Consumer Electronics: is open source in store for the next generation?

Why some open source projects fail: a case study in Slitaz

slitazSince I booted it the first time Slitaz has been my most favourite mini distro. However, since the release of Slitaz 4.0 (in April 2012), development has been very slow and there is no clear release schedule in the near future. To push a new release I put my efforts and cleared one of the major standstills: the new kernel configuration and an IDE related issue that was inherently a part of the new configuration and some reported bugs but clearly that wasn’t enough. A proposed beta is in a standstill due to a CDROM eject related issue (check here if you are interested in working on it) and it doesn’t seem like this is going anywhere. While I think that this should not be the reason why a beta release can’t be done (because USB is eventually going to seal the fate of CDs the same way the latter have done to floppies), officially I am not in a position to drive these decisions. However, from this experience I identified some probable reasons why an open source project might fail:

  • The project didn’t remain interesting enough for developers. I think Slitaz has lost its relevance due to strong competition from mini distros like Porteus. Though it isn’t as small as Slitaz, it is newer, more promising and being actively developed.
  • Reluctance to embrace the bleeding edge in fear of losing the backward compatibility. The kernel configuration I did for Slitaz was on 3.2 though their were later stable versions available. Maybe a fork with an older kernel could have been considered. In addition, there was not much interest in supporting newer technologies like UEFI.
  • Loss of visibility due to long absence from the news. I saw far too many users asking the status of the project in the forums but there was no concrete answer for that other than a lot of NULL talk on the reasons why there is no path. That leads to loss of interest in users; specially when alternatives like ArchBang, Linux Lite, Porteus are available.
  • The original developer(s) are gone and the new developers, even if interested need to start understanding things from the scratch. The completion path is too long to hold them.
  • What interested me more in Slitaz was the fact that it was developed independently on top of the kernel. However, now it seems that this was also its weakness. It did not have enough developers to backup and it never grew big enough to draw the attention as it would if it were an equally light and fast fork of any major distro like Arch Linux or Mandriva or Ubuntu.

Despite these I wish Slitaz all the best and hope that someone adds momentum to the release cycle and we see a Slitaz 5.0 someday.

Governments and open source

opensource_compWith the current LinuxCon on its last day and an enthusiastic as well as overwhelming participation by the largest of the tech giants (Intel, IBM, Cisco, Samsung, HP, to name a few), it’s quite clear that the latest surge in the open source development is not going to decline any soon. Open source has never been this powerful before and it is continuing to grow. While historically Microsoft has dominated the desktop market, right now, it doesn’t have any strong answer to open source alternatives. While there was a time when you could get away with hiding your source code and users were happy just using just the service, today more and more users are getting aware of the concerns of using something that they can’t control; for which they always need to go back to the vendor when they face problems. They are realizing that they are paying for something which they themselves could have handled if they knew how it works or they could have got help from others who know how it works… for free! Today, hardware companies like Intel, NVIDIA are weighing options like which one to support – Wayland or Mir (both open source) as a part of their business strategy. Things did change!

This brings forth a vital question on growth in individual consumer adoption vs. mass adoption of organizations like governments. The latter is slow though there is a recent change in the trend. Germany, Argentina, many countries in Africa etc. are changing it. The respective governments have started recognizing open source as a viable and better alternative to closed source software. There are many reasons behind that:

  • open source has many more alternatives today, if you don’t like one, use another
  • you don’t just use it, at some point you start contributing and making it suit your needs better
  • you don’t pay fortunes in support, you get help from active and strong communities
  • your IT experts can verify that your data is not being sniffed at
  • the hardware vendors are supporting open source more actively than they ever did

However, exceptions are many more. While one reason is that governments, just like many individuals out there, are used to closed source products, the second reason is that government money is actually money from the taxes. No one cares about the expenditure as long as the supply is there.

In the developing and third world countries, if a government actually wants to change the state of affairs when it comes to information technology and reaping its benefits, they should head for open source. It can cut costs in the government administrative offices, schools, hospitals, military to a great extent. It can ensure that even the remote schools can have internet facility and at least a few computers with the money saved from not using commercial closed source software.

Find open source projects

opensource_compIf you are interested in open source projects or would like to join one of your liking, you can try searching for such a project in Antepedia. It is a open source project search engine and searches multiple project hosts for you. Antepedia indexes most popular project hosting sites like:

  • SourceForge
  • GitHub
  • CodePlex
  • Antepedia
  • and many more…

If you are overwhelmed by the number of choices and not sure where to begin you can always get help from

  • Ohloh
  • OpenHatch

Why did I choose Linux?

tux_compI am using Linux for around 13 years now starting from my final school years when I got my first PC. The first Linux based OS I installed was Red Hat Linux 6.1. The reasons behind choosing Linux for personal use were some excellent features of the Linux based Operating Systems:

  1. Free and open
    I don’t have to pay for use and if I want I can know how it works and change it as I wish.
  2. Choice
    The major Linux desktop operating systems come complete with everything from compilers to debuggers to excellent all-encompassing media players. Just install from the distro specific package manager! And on the other hand so many full-fledged or streamlined distros out there for different purposes! Just grab what you need.
  3. Software
    Some of the softwares (some of which are also ported later to other Operating Systems) are best of the lot. For example – Handbrake, MPlayer and SMPlayer combo, the powerful Terminal, vim and innumerable small utilities like grep, find etc.
  4. Flexible and hackable
    If I want to run any task when the computer resumes from suspend I can just write a small script, if I want a re-usable one-shot alarm with a customizable pop-up message I can make it in half an hour with a little help from Google, I can change my system performance by changing the type of kernel scheduler without installing any extra software.
  5. Learning
    The scope of learning and application of knowledge is much more in Linux than in any other OS because of the amount of free information and support available. Whether you like Linux or not, if you use it you will learn something.