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December 18, 2009

» Blogrotate #11: The Weekly Roundup of News for System Administrators

Good morning. Welcome to the last issue of Blogrotate for 2009! I expect the world of IT will move on without us for the next couple of weeks , but slowly, as everyone will be out on holidays. On to the show.

Operating Systems

Mark Shuttleworth is stepping down as the CEO of Canonical. He’ll be replaced by Jane Silber, formerly the COO. Read the full release on Mark’s blog My new focus at Canonical and some information from Jane in her blog Management changes at Canonical.

Recently Microsoft released a statement that they controlled the market share for netbooks with some unusually high percentage. Slashdot has a story about this (with links confirming the previous sentence), stating ARM-Powered Laptops To Increase Linux Market Share. There’s some good links to source material in there so I will not repeat them here. Considering most Linux netbooks I have seen make up for the lack of a Windows license with extended hardware, it’s not surprising. I know several people who have preferred the Linux learning curve over paying extra for a machine with less resources (and an OS that really needs more).

Has anyone ever considered installing Windows a form of literature? Canadian Sci-Fi author Cory Doctrow reports of an attempt to define such a thing in Installing Windows considered as a literary genre.


This week the The Software Freedom Law Center has launched a lawsuit against 14 consumer electronics companies claiming violation of the Gnu Public License open licensing scheme by the companies’ use of the BusyBox embedded Linux platform. You can read more in SFLC launches GPL enforcement smackdown on 14 gadget makers. But wait! There’s more! Bruce Perens has issued a statement on the matter saying “I’d like to point out that I’m not represented in these lawsuits, and that the parties and the Software Freedom Law Center have never attempted to contact me with regard to them”. He goes even further. Read all about it in his Statement on Busybox Lawsuits.


Emil Protalinski at Ars Technica writes about the issues between Microsoft China and Plurk, the Canadian startup and microblogging site from which MS China seems to have “borrowed” much of their code. The similarities are striking to be sure, and Microsoft has since taken down the China site in response. Read all about it in Accused of plucking Plurk, Microsoft pulls microblog service. You can also check out a related story at PC Magazine called Microsoft Acknowledges Theft of Code from Plurk, then you can venture back to Ars for Plurk: Microsoft went to great lengths to steal code. I smell lawsuit!


The US Department of Justice Has issued a release about a Taiwanese LCD panel manufacturer pleading guilty to price-fixing and agreeing to pay 220 Million in fines. You can see the full statement in the DOJ press release.


I’ve mentioned in previous columns about the open source cloud Eucalyptus (available in ubuntu 9.10). Matt Asay at CNet has a Q&A session with Rich Wolski, the CTO at Eucalyptus, discussing the future of open source and the cloud. See Eucalyptus open-sources the cloud for the full story.

InfoWorld review: Desktop virtualization for Windows and Linux heats up has a nice comparison of the major virtualization players VMWare, VirtualBox, and Parallels. While VMWare scores the highest in the comparison, it’s not that much over VirtualBox (2nd place) and Parallels (3rd).


Maggie Koerth-Baker on the recent hacking of the $4.5 million Predator drone, used for surveillance by military, using $26 software. See Hacking the Predator drone: Cheaper than dinner and a movie for more. The source material is from the Wall Street Journal’s article Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones.

Just as decaffeination takes the bite out of coffee, DECAF is to COFEE. Microsoft’s Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor is intended to allow law enforcement to scour systems for encrypted data and passwords, Detect and Eliminate Computer Assisted Forensics is intended to block it’s attempts to do so. The battle between measures and countermeasures always interests me, but in this case I especially love the play on words. See Protect yourself from COFEE with some DECAF for the full story.

That’ll do it for this edition/month/year. Come back in 2010 for the sublime pleasure of reading our weekly rehash of news previously rehashed by other sites. As always your comments are welcome.

Happy Holidays everyone!

December 11, 2009

» Blogrotate #10: The Weekly Roundup of News for System Administrators

Happy Friday everyone! I’m back and can see! The laser surgery was not anywhere near as bad as my mind had made it out to be, and I would recommend it to anyone. The results are worth it. For some reason the heat and x-ray vision have not kicked in yet…

Anyways enough about me, let’s look at some news.

Operating Systems

This one might better be suited to a storage section but slashdot has a post about FreeNAS Switching From FreeBSD To Debian Linux. The popular and free NAS server has an active discussion about this on the sourceforge forum. While it seems that generally the community is OK with this, many fear the loss of ZFS support which is currently not available in the standard linux kernel due to licensing incompatibilities between the GPL and Sun’s CDDL.

Red Hat has released its second update this year to its MRG (Messaging, Real-Time, Grid) platform. Sean Michael Kerner has the skinny in Red Hat Speeds Up Real-Time Linux.


In what I hope to be the final update on the Microsoft USB/DVD download tool debacle, MS has finally released the open source version of the tool to comply with the GPL licensing of its “borrowed” code. Peter Galli, the Microsoft open source community manager has more in Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool Released Under GPLv2. The source for the tool can be found at the CodePlex open source site.

If you are looking at making the jump to Thunderbird 3, Ryan Paul at Ars Technica has Review: Thunderbird 3 takes flight with tabs, enhanced search. Some folk here at Pythian have already made the jump. I’ll be doing so too as soon as I find the time.

Data Centers

Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge has an interesting piece about a data center in Quebec, Canada that is built inside a huge concrete silo. From the article “The cylindrical silo, which is 65 feet high and 36 feet wide with two-foot thick concrete walls, previously housed a Van de Graaf particle accelerator. When the accelerator was decommissioned, CLUMEQ decided to convert the facility into a high-performance computing (HPC) cluster known as Colossus”. The article has more, including pretty pictures of the site and its unique cooling systems. See Wild New Design: Data Center in A Silo for the full story.

Do you have servers in the Amazon EC2 cloud? Did they go down for almost an hour on Wednesday? If so, check out Rich Miller’s article Power Outage for Amazon Data Center.

Oh Rich Miller, you were a busy boy this week. According to his article, Canada: We’ll Only Buy Energy Star Servers, Lydia Aouani of Natural Resources Canada made this claim at the DatacenterDynamics conference in Toronto. Having worked extensively in Federal government departments, I doubt this will happen quickly, but it’s nice to know their thinking about it.


Emil Protalinski at Ars has an interesting look at ad click rates for the different search engines. There’s been a lot of hype that Bing is beating Google in click-through rates, but as Emil rightly points out a higher percentage of fewer people could still mean less actual clicks. See Bing ads over 75% more likely to be clicked than Google ads for more.

After the surprising claim from the Google chief: Only miscreants worry about net privacy stating, to paraphrase, “only bad people need to be worried about privacy” we have Mozilla exec urges Firefox users ditch Google for Bing. Asa Dotzler, Mozilla’s director of community development, contends that users should move to Bing because Bing’s privacy policy is better.

That’s all we’ll have time for this week. I expect there will be one more edition next week before we break for the holidays, then we’ll be back again in early January for more newsy goodness. As always your comments or favourite news stories of the week are welcome.

December 4, 2009

» Blogrotate #9: The Weekly Roundup of News for System Administrators

Here we are again, another Friday. Only it’s actually Thursday for me. I’m writing this early because I am planning to willingly allow someone to shoot lasers into my eyes in an attempt to rid myself of these wretched glasses. Here’s hoping! On to the news so far.


Big news today as Google introduces the Google Public DNS. The service is not a DNS host or TLD, it’s a replacement for your ISP’s DNS server. Google boasts that there is no parking or search page when DNS lookups fail as many ISPs do (and as Verisign failed to do for the entire net), but I feel the looming “yet” in that statement. Get more info in Google expands plan to run own internet by Cade Metz. Iljitsch van Beijnum has more in Google Public DNS service not ideal for everyone.

In a related story, ICANN to prohibit nonexistent-domain redirect for new TLDs gives some details of a draft memorandum to prevent owners of the next batch of new TLDs from hijacking requests for non-existent domains.

Operating Systems

There’s been tremendous buzz this week about the so called “Black Screen of Death”. It appears, however, that it was much ado about nothing. Microsoft has released a statement about it and they deny everything. According to their research, the registry change that was blamed for the issue was not part of their updates at all. The full response is on technet: Reports of Issues with November Security Updates. According to Emil Protalinski, the company that first reported the problem—Prevx—has apologized. Emil’s report is Microsoft says B(lack)SODs not linked to latest patches.

In more proof that no OS is safe, Dan Goodin at Slashdot reports FreeBSD bug gives untrusted root access. The FreeBSD security officer has issues this advisory with a patch, which may not be the final version.


The new version of VirtualBox has been released. This is a big one with new features such as teleportation (live migration to everyone else), advanced snapshot-ing, and improved video acceleration. While I tend to shy away from VirtualBox on servers, I use it constantly on the desktop, However, it sounds like it might become a viable solution on servers, especially with the teleportation feature. Being prudent, I’ll likely wait a couple more versions for the kinks to be worked out. You can read more about this release in VirtualBox 3.1 adds live migration and branched snapshots.

That’s about all we have time for this week. Join us next week and find out if I can see! I hope they have the machine that goes ‘ping’. It’s my favourite.

November 27, 2009

» Blogrotate #8: The Weekly Roundup of News for System Administrators

Good morning and happy Friday to all. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends, family, acquaintances, and well-wishers in the US. Enjoy the turkey and the football. As always, there’s not shortage of news stories, though the week seemed a bit slow because of the holiday. Here are some things we thought were interesting this week.

Operating Systems

Lately it seems like every week a new OS comes out. Windows 7 led the pack, then Ubuntu, then Red Hat. This week’s release? FreeBSD 8.0. There are a lot of changes in this release, so check out the FreeBSD 8.0-RELEASE Announcement.

KDE (The “K” Desktop Environment) is Repositioning the KDE Brand. This does not change the functionality, it’s a change to make a distinction between the community and the desktop itself. This probably will not interest most, but since I use KDE and write this blog I get to tell you about it anyway.


In a follow-up to last week’s article about GPL code being found in a new Microsoft USB/DVD download tool found in Windows 7, Microsoft has delayed opening the source for the tool. This appears to be because they want to remove proprietary code from the release. Emil Protalinski has more in his article, Microsoft delays open sourcing Windows 7 tool. More details can be found on the Port25 blog at MS tech net in, Update on the Windows 7 USB/DVD Tool.


There’s yet another browser vulnerability for IE6 and IE7. Emil Protalinski at Ars Technica has the details in, IE6 and IE7 vulnerable to latest flaw; IE8 immune.

Not to be outdone, a major IE8 flaw makes ’safe’ sites unsafe, as The Register tells us about XSS issues in IE8.

Science Daily has an article about how Search Engines Are Source of Learning. The article discusses a report from Penn state about their research into how and why people use search engines. Among other things, “They found that search engines are primarily used for fact checking users’ own internal knowledge, meaning that they are part of the learning process rather than simply a source for information”. Hey! That’s how I use them!.

Have you ever wondered how much the internet weighs? Chris Stevens at CNET UK does some math in How heavy is the Internet?


Since we covered VMWare Fusion a couple weeks ago, check out The counter-punch: a review of Parallels Desktop 5 by Dave Girard.

Networking Datacenter

Virginia IT Systems Lack Network Redundancy is a scary little number. According to the article, “…in just five weeks this fall, the Virginia DMV suffered 12 computer system outages, putting individual offices out of business for a total of more than 100 hours”.

Did you ever wonder what the magic was behind World of Warcraft? Data Center Knowledge says WoW’s Back End: 10 Data Centers, 75,000 Cores, 13,000 blades and over 100TB of RAM.


Have you ever needed to have a massive amount of storage on a budget? If so, this one may be for you. The folks over at BackBlaze offer a service allowing you to backup your PC for just $5 per month, and they do all of their storage in the cloud. Their solution to the storage problem was to build their own, and they have put all the plans and schematics for doing this on their site so you can too. Check out Petabytes on a budget: How to build cheap cloud storage. Caution: your mind may be blown.

Smoking could be hazardous to your Apple warranty by Jeff Smykil is an interesting read. Apple is refusing warranty service due to potential health hazards from second hand smoke transferred to laptops. Hey, Apple, if I’m sending my laptop in for repair, I expect it to be done by technicians with masks, goggles and rubber gloves (and anti-static straps of course). One would think this should be enough to protect your employees.

Networks Innnnnnnnn Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

This one is really really cool. On Nov 23rd Cisco launched what I think might be the worlds largest router into space. Layer8 at Network World has the details in, Internet routing blasts into space. There is an official news release: Cisco Router Sent Into Space Aboard Intelsat Satellite.

Well, that will do it for another week. Be sure to leave some comments with your own top stories this week. I checked the logs, I know people are reading. Let’s start some chatter.