Weekly news wrap-up: All kinds of UnitedLinux news, study knocks Open Source security

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By Grant Gross

It was hard to swing a dead cat this week without hitting news about the UnitedLinux consortium, four Linux companies joining together to market an enterprise-focused Linux OS. Caldera, Turbolinux, Conectiva and SuSE tried to keep the announcement secret until a press conference Thursday but there were all kinds of leaks by Wednesday morning.
UnitedLinux’s game plan is for the four companies to work together on the enterprise Linux product, and several companies have already committed to supporting the new distribution, including IBM, HP, Intel and AMD. The announcement got attention from all over the tech media, and from mainstream press such as USAToday.

Almost as soon as lengthy press conference ended, the analysis started. DesktopLinux.com weighed in with a mostly positive report. ZDNet UK interviewed Caldera’s CEO, who said the competition isn’t U.S. market leader Red Hat. LinuxandMain.com decried the group’s lack of attention to the desktop and even tried a little humor with “The Tuxfather.”

NewsForge contributor Russell Pavlicek took issue with UnitedLinux’s plans not to release free binaries. Free Software Foundation leader Richard Stallman took issue a rumored per-seat licensing fee for the UnitedLinux distro.

Defending patents

Red Hat caused a stir a few days ago when it was reported that the company had applied for patents on a couple of pieces of Linux-related software. This week, the company explained that the patents were “defensive,” designed to keep other companies from patenting the software. Red Hat says it’ll allow projects using some Open Source licenses to use the patented software without fees or legal threats.

Who paid for that study?

Conservative think tank Alexis de Tocqueville Institution released a study claiming Open Source software can create a security risk. The study’s authors, who seem to confuse open code with open holes, says terrorists can exploit Open Source software on government computers, supposedly easier than closed source software. And closed code is such a sterling example of great security — Microsoft can’t even get its patches right sometimes. Maybe the study’s authors didn’t read the recent Gartner Group report suggesting perpetually compromised Microsoft products could benefit from Open Source review of their code. Maybe the study’s authors don’t realize that the U.S. National Security Agency has chosen Linux to create a super secure operating system.

Odds ‘n’ ends

  • We knew it was coming, but there were reports of Sun dropping its free downloads of StarOffice.

  • A Mozilla 1.0 release party locator has been published. Check out a site near you — as of this writing, there were more than 110 parties planned around the world.

    Success story of the week

    ComputerWorld.nz notes a couple of big Linux adoptions in New Zealand, including MasterTrade, now running 300 desktops on Linux.

    Newly released

  • The GNU Mach Kernel 1.3 was released this week.

  • Phat Linux 4.0 hit the download sites this week.

    Newly reviewed

  • TomsHardware.com reviews Linux gaming in WineX and finds some problems, but a mostly workable solution.

  • ServerWatch.internet.com looks at Caldera OpenLinux 3.1.1 and the only bad thing it can find is that it might not be as supported as much as it has been after UnitedLinux debuts.

  • Russell reviews VMware 3.1.1 and finds some problems, but a generally useable product.

  • Not really a review, but a Linux desktop poll at LinuxDesktop.com gave Mandrake the highest number of users. ELX was close behind.

    New at NewsForge/Linux.com

    Among the other stories we reported first this week:

  • Robin “Roblimo” Miller causes quite the debate when he describes his problems with installing Linux on the same machine as Windows XP.

  • Jack Bryar suggests the Linux vs. Windows debate is improving as companies pitch better information on the total cost of ownership.

    Stock news

    The Nasdaq fell from 1,661.49 to 1,615.73 this past week, continuing a general downward trend since March. On March 8, the Nasdaq had a short-lived peak at 1,929.67. Except for five days in mid-May, the tech-heavy market has been in the 1,600s or lower since April 26.

    Of our 11 Open Source related stocks, six lost ground for the week. Caldera, one of the four companies joining in the UnitedLinux consortium, was up from .67 to .84 this week. But Red Hat, seen by many as the main competitor of UnitedLinux, also rose, from 4.59 to 4.81.

    Here’s how Open Source and related stocks ended this past week:

    Company Name Symbol 5/24 Close 5/31 Close
    Apple AAPL 24.15 23.30
    Borland Software Int’l BORL 9.80 9.57
    Caldera International CALD 0.67 0.84
    Hewlett-Packard HPQ 18.69 19.09
    IBM IBM 83.10 80.45
    MandrakeSoft 4477.PA e2.25 e2.20
    Red Hat RHAT 4.59 4.81
    Sun Microsystems SUNW 6.86 6.89
    TiVo TIVO 3.95 4.37
    VA Software LNUX .97 .87
    Wind River Systems WIND 6.88 6.72