June 2011 Archives

The Flying Penguin celebrates 20th anniversary of Linux

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Linux.com has confirmed that the winning T-shirt design for the 20th Anniversary of Linux has been selected.

The winning "Flying Penguin" design comes from Indian-born Swede Kim Blanche, who has dreamt of working as an artist all her life.

As Jon "maddog" Hall, one of the four judges put it, "It is simple, colorful, a nice design." 


Blanche told Linux.com, "When I read the terms for the competition, I thought the picture should be joyful and fit for a very happy birthday. I started with the text and I came up with the idea of making the numbers similar to the style of the Linux Foundation logo. After that, Tux came flying in my head with the balloon. And that was it. Simply joyful and suitable for a happy birthday! Then I realised how hard it must be for a penguin to actually fly. That's the connection with The Flying Penguin. The picture is clear about Tux: he's heading for a very bright future!" 


linux peng.jpg

You can view Linux.com's listing of the other finalists' designs here to give you some inspiration for the Linux Silver Jubilee in five years time!

Thunderbird 5.0 is go!

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Mozilla has this week released the 5.0 version of the Thunderbird open source news and email client.

Now being developed and deployed under a rapid release model, Thunderbird 5.0 now has an updated user interface and a rejigged account creation wizard, which Mozilla clearly hopes will increase adoption rates.

A new troubleshooting information page is also included in this release, as well as a new Add-Ons manager.

Mozila T.png

According to the release notes, other features also include:

• Tabs can now be reordered and dragged to different windows
• Attachment sizes now displayed along with attachments
• Plugins can now be loaded in RSS feeds by default
• There are several theme fixes for Windows Vista and Windows 7
• Support for Mac 32/64 bit Universal builds (Thunderbird no longer supports PowerPC on Mac)
• Over 390 platform fixes that improve speed, performance, stability and security

migration-assistant.png
Regarding the Mail Account Setup Wizard, Mozilla says that, "Prior to this feature you had to know your IMAP, SMTP, and SSL/TLS settings. Now all you need to provide is your name, email address, and password and the email account set up wizardry will check our database and find the email settings for you."

Dr. Seuss, Yahoo! and Apache Hadoop data intensive apps

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Writing on IT news website GigaOM, cloud and infrastructure journalist Derrick Harris has cited a source which has allowed him to confirm that Yahoo! will this week be spinning off a separate company focused on the development and commercialisation of the Apache Hadoop software framework that supports data-intensive distributed application

... and the name? Yahoo! HortonWorks

With this news strongly rumoured to finally break the annual Hadoop Summit this week, Yahoo! is widely-lauded as the initiator of Hadoop and its main contributor. The company itself uses the framework extensively within its own web operations.

"Yahoo!'s HortonWorks (as in the Dr. Suess book 'Horton Hears a Who,' a reference to the elephant logo that Apache Hadoop bears) will be comprised of a small team of Yahoo's Hadoop engineers and will focus on developing a production-ready product based on the Apache Hadoop project, the set of open source tools designed for processing huge amounts of unstructured data in parallel," writes GigaOM's Harris.

Harris goes on to suggest that HortonWorks will bring improvements that make Hadoop better suited for running production workloads to support data-intensive apps.

The birth of HortonWorks could and should mean that other players in the Hadoop space will have to up their game.

"Yet, HortonWorks will have to ensure it advances Hadoop development across industry lines and not just in a manner optimized for Yahoo's webscale needs if it wants to gain adoption," writes Harris.

Interesting times ahead. Watch this space -- or if you can't do that, then just watch the cartoon ok?

Horton.jpg

Acquia: "Social software is now a business imperative"

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The "suits" behind Acquia, the company that provides "commercial services" for the open-source social publishing platform Drupal, has this week released
its Commons 2.0 social business software solution.

Every aspect of software application development appears to be getting "social media collaboration style" enhancements right now, so what's so special about this announcement?

Let's do the so what test?

Commons combines rapidly evolving social web features including activity streams, social networking, blogs, wikis, badges and events with enterprise-class analytics, support and management services to create a pre-packaged open-source alternative to proprietary social business solutions.

So what?

"Social software is now a business imperative, as companies build communities to improve brand loyalty, reduce customer support costs, and increase employee efficiency," says Bryan House, Acquia's VP of marketing. "Commons offers enterprises a more flexible, better way to create social community sites at a dramatically lower cost."

Well, I suppose this is it. This is the USP. This is the way all software development is going. I don't hear anybody disagreeing.

Commons 2.0 gives organisations flexibility to choose their social interaction style for their community site. They can build a community focused on activity streams and microblogging, create a Q&A environment, or launch a complete social network.

"Adoption of social business software in the enterprise is rapidly increasing. Open-source solutions have a place in the conversation about social business applications," states Nikos Drakos, Research Director for Gartner. "They should be considered when flexibility and brand control are key requirements, especially when coupled with commercial support."


Pentaho pushes business intelligence outward to business users

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Pentaho is aiming for a bigger slice of the global Business Intelligence (BI) pie with the release of its new "user-driven" Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition.

There's a lot of BI about these days, so how do we cut through the BI BS and identify new products for their true worth?

Open source at its heart, Pentaho says that this release provides interactive reporting, rich data discovery capabilities and a completely redesigned user interface.

So, nothing new there then so far right?

Pentaho says that it has delivered "dramatic progress" in the ability for business users to access, report and analyse data from more sources, more easily.

No need to get dramatic about it though please.

Chief among the products is a new web-based report designer, which provides report building for non-technical business users to serve their own reporting requirements without relying on IT.

"This builds upon Pentaho's strong operational reporting capabilities and complements the company's data analysis, data integration and data mining capabilities, all with the benefit of low-cost, subscription-based pricing," said the company, in a press statement.

pw2usr-bi4-dashboards.jpg

Pentaho BI 4 includes a new visual interface designed to make BI more appealing and consumable by all users from developers, to power users, to non-technical business users. The new visual interface is also re-designed for ease of customisation, so that direct customers and OEM partners can easily re-skin the application to conform to their own standards or existing applications.

"With new tools like interactive reporting, richer interactive visualisations and its new user interface, Pentaho BI 4 is making user-driven, self-service BI a reality. It enables business users to access, report and analyse data from more sources more easily than ever before with the continuing benefit of the most affordable subscription-based pricing," said Richard Daley, CEO, Pentaho Corporation

So is this BI BS? I suggest that it's not.

I recently met with Pentaho chief technology evangelist, Ian Fyfe. This guy is ex-Jaspersoft, ex-Business Objects, ex-PeopleSoft so he probably knows a thing or two about BI. If his company punts out a new version and says that it's genuinely new, then to a sensibly sceptical degree, I have some trust in this suggestion.

Import PDFs with Open Office extensions and more

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So I bought a new machine last week to add to my Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7, Apple OS X plus mobile devices cross-platform collection. It was a 27-inch iMac if you have an interest.

The interesting part of this tale is not my new machine, but what I put on it. Being fresh out of spending money and having an ear tuned (hopefully) for open source software, I opted to install Open Office for Mac.

Open Office Extend.png

Once again, the standard install of Open Office for Mac is not the interesting part of this story, but please stay with me, we're almost there.

Once I had installed the main program successfully, my idle mouse clicks set me off looking at the amazing array of Open Office extensions -- there are just SO many of them.

This link http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/en/project/pdfimport will take you to a PDF Import Extension by Oracle, which allows you to import and modify PDF documents.

"Best results with 100% layout accuracy can be achieved with the "PDF/ODF hybrid file" format, which this extension also enables. The PDF Import Extension also allows you to import and modify PDF documents for non-hybrid PDF/ODF files. PDF documents are imported in Draw to preserve the layout and to allow basic editing," says the supporting documentation.

PDFimport_150.jpg

However, Oracle also warns users to use this extension cautiously as editing PDF files is not a trivial task.

Here's a list of some of the other slight more "way out there" extensions which you can embellish your copy of Open Office with if you so wish:

  • Afrikaans spellchecker
  • Akan spelling dictionary - I believe this to be a language used in Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire
  • French Spacing (espace insécable)
  • Alternative dialog Find & Replace for Writer
  • Ukrainian dictionary
  • Enhanced export options for bitmap files
I couldn't accurately count them all, but there appears to be 30 pages of these extensions with around five per page so that's roughly 150. What more can I say? Get stuck in.

Has open source content management come of age?

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I posted a news blog earlier this month concerning some high profile adoption of the Drupal open source Content Management System (CMS) -- or to use Drupal's preferred description, "The free and open source software package for publishing, managing and organising a variety of content on a website."

With Drupalcon London coming up this August and with the interest that story received I feel it is justified if we revisit the topic with some comment from the commercially-backed spiral arm of the Drupal galaxy.

... and the name you are looking for here is Acquia.

Jim Shaw, who was recently appointed as Acquia's general manager for Europe spoke exclusively to Computer Weekly's Open Source Insider blog to say the following:

"With economic turmoil forcing businesses to cut costs, reduce headcounts and make unprecedented savings, the days of relying on overhead-intensive legacy systems for content management are quickly coming to an end. In this context, it's hardly surprising that we've seen the explosion of open source publishing packages like Drupal, which has clearly caught the eye of many CIOs by offering both huge cost savings (it's free) while vastly expanding the capabilities and innovation possible with such a platform. The question is not why maintain that spend, it is why not get more, faster and for less?"

"Poor engagement through a web site is not just an opportunity wasted, it hands the opportunity to a competitor who can better engage your market. It compounds the issue when organisations continue to pour time and money into an old and out of date CMS to create that poor experience."

Drupalcon.png

Does a commercial open source release = success?

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I have a question for you. To what extent does the "commercial release" of a piece of open source software represent its "success"..?

After Googling: "commercial release of open source equal success" -- all I got was Wikipedia, so no joy there.

So I guess there will always be some software that will remain open source forever. I installed Open Office on my new iMac this weekend and noticed the huge array of extensions that are available: http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/

I doubt that some of the special character tools, language dictionaries or character spacing extensions will find their way to commercial release -- or am I wrong in that kind of assumption?

OpenBSD.png

Anyhoo (as they say in Canada) -- the reason I ramble thusly is that open source CMS company Jahia has just unveiled the commercial release of its Jahia 6.5 Content Management System.

The company is hedging its bets on the chance to differentiate its new release on the basis of its ability to bridge web, portal, social media, search, mobile user experiences and content management with a single composite platform.

Jahia 6.5 combines the modular ease of PHP on top of the latest powerful Java frameworks to give developers the chance to build user-centric, content-rich applications combining any type of enterprise and web content.

"Jahia 6.5 makes module creation easier than ever before -- more like a PHP solution such as Drupal -- which is unheard of among Java platforms," said Emmanuel Garcin, VP of Jahia Solutions Group. "Our new release supports the smooth delivery of data from any source, and our new Jahia Studio enables users to compose composite content applications with zero coding."

Do you agree or disagree with any of the above?

"Cloud Coupling" [kuhp-ling] - noun: connecting one cloud to another

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I'd like to coin a new industry term: "cloud coupling". This noun (and also a verb) describes the conjoining of two or more (generally large) data sets across various applications, cloud services and social media streams.

So, "cloud coupling", say it with us now ☺

This term was thrown up after reading up on a company called SnapLogic this weekend. Describing itself as a 'cloud connection' company, SnapLogic recently released SnapReduce -- a product designed to connect large data integration between business applications, cloud services, social media and the open source Hadoop software framework that supports data-intensive distributed applications.

See the connection yet?

Picture the scene --

1) A modern company has massive streams and repositories of both structured and unstructured data.

2) Our company not only use Hadoop, but also uses MapReduce, a technology developed by Google almost a decade ago to support distributed computing on large data sets held on computing clusters.

3) Mix the complexity of Hadoop's computational model, the need to integrate with MapReduce and a combined lack of universal connectivity -- and suddenly it becomes really hard for the company to reap business benefits from its so-called "big-data" operation.

Enter cloud coupling, or as SnapLogic would call it, SnapReduce.

Snap.png

"Businesses hungry to mine big data using Hadoop are hitting a wall when it comes to connectivity with business applications. Current solutions for big data integration require strong parallel programming skills and are thus complex and time-consuming to create, often requiring several technologies to get and use big data with Hadoop," said Gaurav Dhillon, CEO, SnapLogic.

"As companies add cloud applications to their stable of enterprise applications, they need an easy solution for connecting to Hadoop that can reliably handle both the volume and complexity of big data."

Dhillon continued, "SnapLogic's approach to application and data integration, applying web principles rather than last century's rigid adapter approaches, allows us to naturally unleash the power of big data for enterprise applications. SnapReduce is a vivid example of the power of SnapLogic's approach -- providing an easy on-ramp to large-scale data analysis projects carried out in Hadoop."

SnapReduce transforms SnapLogic data integration pipelines directly into MapReduce tasks, making (so says SnapLogic) Hadoop processing much more accessible and resulting in optimal Hadoop cluster utilisation.

Interesting stuff? Hopefully yes. Has the company borrowed my "cloud coupling" term? Not yet. Am I showing my age with awareness of train coupling link? Almost certainly yes.

coupling.jpg

uberSVN: Facebook and Twitter social comms for developers

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There's a lot of chatter right now over a subject that seems to be called the "consumerization of IT". I leave the Z in, as I don't think this is a real word in the Queen's English.

The "consumerization of IT" is in fact a neologism (or a newly coined term if you prefer), to describe the current phenomenon that we see in technology circles; consumer usage of technology is impacting the way the business market adapts to change.

Let me put it more plainly.

Companies don't use tablet PCs. Consumers buy iPads and love them. They use them for diary management, email and even productivity applications. Companies see this. Companies start to implement tablet PC usage policies and start buying in this new form factor. Companies now use tablet PCs.

This "phenomenon" (and I use the term with a sprinkle of tongue-in-cheek) also extends to the developer zone.

Attempting to reflect the communication channels popularised by social networking services including Twitter and Facebook, WANdisco has launched Subversion's first-ever social coding environment as a new tool known inside uberSVN itself.

This is social networking for developers and WANdisco says that uberSVN is organised around development teams.

Uber.png

Each team has its own home page that profiles the team members, lists the projects they're working on, repositories they're using and their latest activity and status. Team members can then see each other's real-time progress by subscribing to Twitter-like feeds.

WANdisco claims to have the highest number of active Subversion project developers on its staff. The company further claims that "thousands" of developers have downloaded its product and used it to combine their favourite open and closed source ALM applications into a single integrated platform with its repository and user management tools.

Seems like a good idea? Yes, I'd say so. This is a company that has come under fire from critics at various points for being quite 'commercial' in the Subversion space; but that is an open source knee-jerk that needs a bit of balance in my opinion. This looks like a good tool and one that developers will actually use.

New cloud requirements standards laid down

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The Open Data Center Alliance has announced what it calls a "major milestone" in its mission to drive open, interoperable cloud solutions. With 280 member companies in tow, the group has formed workgroups and aligned with key industry standards bodies.

Yes yes, well done, but so what?

The organisation has just published its initial cloud requirements documents -- that's what. This is the first user-driven requirements documentation for the cloud based on member prioritisation of the most pressing challenges facing IT.

open data.png

"This release will shape member purchasing and outline requests to vendors and solutions providers to deliver leading cloud and next-generation data center solutions," said the organisation, in a statement.

"The speed at which the organization formed and delivered the initial usage models sends a clear message to the cloud industry on how IT is planning to prioritise its data center and cloud planning along with the organization's commitment to solve real challenges," said Matthew Eastwood, group vice president, Enterprise Platform Research at IDC.

The first publicly-available documents published by the Open Data Center Alliance include eight Open Data Center Usage Models which define:

  • IT requirements for cloud adoption and,
  • An Open Data Center Vision for Cloud Computing.
These lay out a plan to enable federation, agility and efficiency across cloud computing while identifying the specific innovations in secure federation, automation, common management and policy and solution transparency required for widespread adoption of cloud services.

"I would have to agree with the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) report released this week and say that automation is definitely a fundamental requirement for those looking to adopt cloud computing. In fact, I would argue that to move to the cloud but still rely on manual processes to provide management is a little like buying a Superbike and then pushing it everywhere -- the manual intervention will always be the bottleneck preventing full exploitation of the benefits," said Terry Walby, UK managing director, IPsoft

"Automation services can help set parameters to provision and resource those processes that are important to an organisation; whether that be reduction in latency issues, managing server overloads or the allocation of bandwidth to those who need it most. It is through automation that businesses will be able to unlock the full benefits and elasticity which cloud provides."


Big media brands using open source Drupal to publish

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Rumour has it that several well known publishing brands have moved from their traditional print versions into online-only entities in recent times. For these reasons I ended up surfing for open source publishing topics this week.

Maverick new players in this space might be interested in checking out http://theopensourcenewspaper.org/ and its ancillary references to Drupal, the free and open source software package for publishing, managing and organising a variety of content on a website.

At its heart, Drupal tries to create a "user-centric" platform for news, debate and sharing. Well, newspapers have always provided news, debate traditionally came via letters to the editor -- but OK, online sharing is new for sure!

Drupal can be used to build everything from personal blogs to enterprise applications. Its developers have also provided thousands of add-on modules and designs to allow users to build publishing-styled websites.

If you thought that it was just the Dingley Dell Gazette that might use Drupal, then think again. There are several big media brands that use Drupal.

Celebrated journal The Economist is using Drupal 6 to serve the vast majority of content pages to its flagship web site, economist.com. The homepage is Drupal powered, along with all articles, channels and comments.

The publisher's case study reads as follows, "The Economist evaluated several open source CMS and proprietary solutions aimed at media publishers. In the end, The Economist chose Drupal for its vibrant community, and the ecosystem of modules that it produces."

Some front-page examples are shown below:

economist.jpg

The Economist, UK

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Rue 89, France

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The New York Observer, USA

IBM to contribute to OpenOffice.org

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Continuing what it likes to describe as its "long-standing commitment to open source," IBM has this week confirmed that it will now take an active role in the new
OpenOffice.org code base submitted to The Apache Software Foundation
Incubator.

IBM and open source you say? Should that be unusual?

Not necessarily, IBM did initiate the Eclipse project after all. Also - In 2007, IBM introduced Lotus Symphony, IBM's no charge, on premise, office
productivity suite based on the Open Document Format standard.

But much of IBM's open source work in recent times appears to have been centred on establishing standards and laying down principles for best practice.

Perhaps IBM (currently celebrating its centennial no less) feels it should use its rich heritage to "sit back" and give the industry the breadth of its experience in this way?

Either way - this is a rather more "user at the keyboard" focused development for the company as it now commits staff resources to collaborate with the Apache community during the project's incubation period to further the Open Document Format standard.

Ah, OK - so there was that "standards" words again. But IBM is (it appears) being quite practical here too.

IBM key.jpg

The company is highlighting the current progress being made with the Open Document Format. IBM says that that these advancements combined with alternative forms of communication (email, IM, tweets, blogs), cloud delivery models for business applications, growth in smart, mobile devices and economic pressures -- are all converging to apply pressure to the status quo of documents.

"As these industry factors converge, IBM is helping organisations move towards a model that offers low-cost acquisition of document tools, coupled with high value and high collaboration solutions around a document. This news strengthens IBM's ability to continue to offer our own distributions based on the OpenOffice code base and make our own contributions to reinforce the overall community," said the company in a press statement.

Pizza Hut "topping" Android download charts

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Android news website Appolicious Android news has reported that Pizza Hut's latest toppings include Reggae Reggae chicken, double pepperoni surprise and a number #1 position at the top of the Android App of The Week chart.

Beating medical app webMD, LinkedIn, PriceGrabber and even Firefox to gain the top slot, the now 53-year old brand has finally made it to the smartphone with an app that provides complete access to the restaurant menu -- featuring as it does specialty pizzas, pasta, wings, drinks and desserts.

Pizza Hut.jpg

Pizza connoisseurs can create their own account for frequent reordering and there are special deals too for users that want to embrace this new purchasing channel.

Pizza Huts developer notes hasten to warn that this version of the Pizza Hut app is not yet supported on Android Honeycomb. The company also says that because the Pizza Hut App is "large", it is best to download it from Android Market or a Wi-Fi network.

Did they mean "large", or extra large with a stuffed crust?

Ordering functionality is for U.S. residents only to start with, but it is only a matter of time before this app is rolled out globally.

As for that garlicky, olive oil aroma that you get when you walk in through the door of a Pizza Hut? You'll have to supply that yourself!

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