Thursday, October 19, 2006

Speed updates...

Some happenings from the Linux world over the past few days:

  • Banshee 0.11.1 was released. Check out what's new in on the release page.
  • The Ubuntu 6.10/Edgy Eft RC (Release Candidate) came out today. (Essentially Beta+1). More release notes on how things are shaping up.
  • A beta of Flash 9 for Linux was finally released. Even more release notes if you're interested. Long story short: A/V sync is fixed.
  • Ubuntu 7.04 = Feisty Fawn. From Mark Shuttleworth himself:
    The main themes for feature development in this release will be improvements to hardware support in the laptop, desktop and high-end server market, and aggressive adoption of emerging desktop technologies. Ubuntu's Feisty release will put the spotlight on multimedia enablement and desktop effects. We expect this to be a very gratifying release for both users and developers. Detailed planning will take place at the developer summit next month in Mountain View, California. Please join us there to help shape the Feisty Fawn!

  • EasyUbuntu, Automatix, and now.... AfterBirth. *sigh* I wish the Ubuntu team would just give me a button to push that installed w32codecs. I might add that w32codecs is no more illegal than any of those Windows codec packs like the Nimo one, which can be pretty handy, and nobody seems to be getting in any hot water for (yet).

Monday, October 16, 2006

NVIDIA Root Explot

The following says it all:

   The NVIDIA Binary Graphics Driver for Linux is vulnerable to a
buffer overflow that allows an attacker to run arbitrary code as
root. This bug can be exploited both locally or remotely (via
a remote X client or an X client which visits a malicious web page).
A working proof-of-concept root exploit is included with this

Yeah, so apparently we don't need Internet Explorer and Windows anymore to have malicious software silently installed on our computers - we just need NVIDIA's closed-source graphics driver. Update: Fortunately, the bug has been fixed in NVIDIA's 1.0-9625 beta driver. The thing is, you need Xorg 7.1 to run that, so everyone running Ubuntu 6.06/Dapper Drake is still vulnerable.

On that note - are there any analogous driver exploits in Windows like this? I didn't even think something like this was possible in Linux...

(Thanks Hubert...)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Portland, TC:E, GWoot, Automatix 2, Mute

First off, it's been quite a busy couple of weeks for me and I'd like to apologize for the lack of news. Luckily, the world doesn't revolve around me and so some interesting stuff happened in the last few weeks:

  • The Portland project made their first release. The Portland project is a kind of vague teaming up of various desktop environment developers with the aim of making it easier for software vendors to create Linux software that worked consistently across the various desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, etc.) out there. The first release consists of a daemon that applications can interface with through DBUS and some command line tools to perform various tasks like installing an application's icon or disabling the screensaver. The way a programmer would normally go about doing stuff like this is specific to each desktop environment (in general), and so Portland's DAPI solves that problem by offering a single unified way of going about that. I don't think there's anything in Portland right now that would convince Adobe to release a supportable version of Photoshop for Linux, but making companies like Adobe's lives easier is what Portland aims to do. I think it's a small step in the right direction, but once it reaches critical mass, it'll become a crucial part of the Linux desktop.
  • True Combat: Elite 0.49 was finally released after a long period of waiting. TC:E is a realistic combat mod for Enemy Territory that's similar to Counter-Strike. However, TC:E has plenty of unique features like the iron-sights system that make it a fun, memorable play. Several of the maps have been updated in this version, as well as new ones being added. Additionally, several of the weapons were tweaked and there are some new snazzy graphics effects as well.
True Combat: Elite 0.49

  • For any fans, someone created GWoot, which might be handy.
  • Automatix 2 for Ubuntu 6.10/Edgy Eft has been released. This thread has some extra screenshots of it, and it seems like it's come quite a ways from the cheap bash script it once was. Good job Automatix team!

    Automatix 2 for Ubuntu 6.10 looks much better than the original

  • The under-appreciated Linux Rock Star blog uncovered Mute, which is a new rewrite of the incredibly powerful Jeskola Buzz. Buzz is a Windows-only modular synth "tracker-on-steroids" whose source code was lost in 2000, but continued to be developed through clever add-on hacks. The Buzz community has been waiting for something to replace it for a while, and it looks like Mute is a good contender. (Buzztard is another one to get excited about too.) While you're at it, check out the Mute screenshots - it's a pretty impressive clone of Buzz. (I currently use Buzz under WINE for music production as a hobby, but unfortunately it has some issues.)

    Mute's user interface is almost identical to Buzz

Also, I upgraded to Edgy last week. If I told you it was easy to do, I'd be lying. Long story short: Wait until it's officially released unless you're prepared to file bug reports. It's working great now though and I've been able to play with some brand new software that wouldn't run in Dapper. I'm enjoying the built-in AIGLX now too - No more hacks to make OpenGL games run with Compiz/Beryl. :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Freespire's sketchiness and a word on DistroWatch

Linspire's sister distribution Freespire is reportedly using sketchy tactics to inflate their rank at DistroWatch... again.
I have to admit that I've seen the advertisement in question on Linux Revolution, but the URL pointed to the Freespire wiki.

DistroWatch's ranking index provides a rough sketch of the relative popularity of almost all of the various Linux distributions out there. Why would you want to be near the top? DistroWatch's 50,000 hits/day seems like a decent reason (it makes my blog look like, well, a blog). After keeping an eye on it for many years, it seems like at least the top three distributions are probably correct in their popularity with desktop users. The index is also a good way to find out what the next big Linux distribution is going to be (openSUSE has jumped quite a ways recently).

Firefox Copyright Dilemma

"I used to be cool"

There's been quite a bit of noise in the Linux community lately over this 'bug' in Debian. That's right, the Mozilla Firefox name goes under the same crappy copyright license as the artwork, so Debian isn't "allowed" to use the name. (This is why Ubuntu and Debian ship Firefox with that uninspiring blue globe icon instead of the Firefox icon.)

So what's Ubuntu going to do about it?
Well, the users clearly want the official logo in addition to keeping the name, and I don't blame them. Firefox made the transition from Windows to Linux quite a bit easier for myself, and I'm sure others have found the same thing. The matter is still up in the air, as the only official word on this has been been from Canonical's Matt Zimmerman saying he's "discussing the relevant issues with representatives from Mozilla."
In the meantime, I was shocked to discover that those crazy GNU people are now maintaining "Gnuzilla" and "IceWeasel", the latter of which I originally thought was a joke.

I think I can honestly say that I wish IceWeasel was joke, because this whole Mozilla trademark thing is ridiculous. Aren't we all playing on the same team?

OT: Fake USB Drives - I was right

In the last week, three people have come forward and posted comments on my fake USB stick article saying they're had similar experiences at Factory Direct (the retailer I bought it at). If there was any doubt in my mind that it was really false advertising and not just a faulty USB stick, this cleared it up.

The weird thing about this is that the guys who branded the USB keys in California probably didn't even know they were fake. My theory is that the original manufacturer sold these to various companies who branded them and resold them. One (sketchy) guy ended up counterfeiting them by branding the Sony logo on them, and that's why there's all these fake Sony ones around that look exactly like the one I had. Other companies, like the one who branded mine got screwed because they bought the fake keys and didn't know it until it was too late. (Do they even know it now?)

If anyone else has had a similar experience at Factory Direct, let me know here, or if you want to do something about it, contact me at linux*NoSpam*, and we'll see what our options are.

Skype 1.3 (Linux) Released

Skype 1.3 for Linux has finally been released, now with ALSA support. Still no video support, but I'll take what I can get. (More details over here)

If you've been using the 1.3 betas, not a whole lot has changed with the official release, but if you're using an older version, you'll be quite thrilled with the new version. There's a detailed changelog available for anyone who's interested in that as well.

People always rant about Skype and say "use OpenWengo instead", but the problem is that nobody uses OpenWengo (relatively speaking), so who am I going to talk to with it? The fact that it's open source means nothing if the software is useless due to a lack of users. (Plus, if you live in North America, Skype's free calling to the U.S. and Canada can't be beat.) Yeah, I might be playing devil's advocate here, but for what it's worth, Skype is a pretty good application.