I was greeted the other morning by a coworker grinning from ear to ear. “I love Vista!” he proclaimed and proceeded to tell me of a great discovery.
As it happened, he had been working on a personal project the night before and had inserted a blank CD in the drive. What did he see? A dialogue box asking him if he would like to burn an audio CD or a music CD. How convenient is that?! The best part is, he didn’t have to buy any third-party software!
He seemed so happy, so full of glee. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’ve enjoyed the same luxury with Ubuntu (Nautilus, to be more pecise) for almost three years now…well, I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him.
In the fifth installment of my Top 10 List of Linux FUD patterns, I discussed various security measures used in Linux distros. Last week, the CanSecWest security conference invited hackers to circumvent security on three fully-patched computers running different operating systems: OS X, Windows Vista & Ubuntu 7.10. The OS X machine reportedly fell first, requiring only two minutes to exploit a vulnerability in the Safari browser! Vista fared well on its own, but an attack on Adobe Flash in the last day marked the end for Windows. At the end of the three-day contest, The Ubuntu machine was the only one left standing! This is good news indeed!
I’d like to note that while this is a great PR victory for Linux, please bear in mind that the parameters of the contest were controlled. Given the right circumstances and/or enough time, the outcome may have been different, and in the real world, windows of opportunity are left wide open all the time – so, protect yourself. It was also interesting to me that the Mac fell first because it was an ‘easy target’ and that the exploit that took out Vista could easily be tweaked to work on any platform.
An article from the Business Standard entitled “Cheap laptop price tags can mislead users” (by D’Monte & Shinde, Mumbai, India, January 24, 2008) warns consumers about the pitfalls of buying a cheap laptop in today’s market. It doesn’t focus on suboptimal hardware offerings, or limited expandability, or the defect-rate of cheap components, or even the impact of pre-loaded bloatware on the unit’s usefulness. I expected any or all of these when I first clicked on the link. Instead, it focuses on the OS cost component and how Linux is being used to bait customers on price point.
The authors (almost) immediately write Linux off in the fourth paragraph, citing the general lack of support for the OS (FUD Pattern #2), commercial offerings of Red Hat and Novell excepted. Once again, the business-centric concept of “good support” – evidenced by a toll-free phone number and a paid staff – is reinforced in the mind of the reader. This simple statement effectively obscures the wealth of online Linux support information and gives the OS a second-rate appearance at best. It also sets the stage for the remainder of the article, a discussion of the popularity of Microsoft’s products in India and the unfortunate piracy rate. The only disparaging remark about Linux after the fourth paragraph is that the affordable Vista Starter Edition has successfully displaced Linux on most new cheap-laptop orders.
On a side note, essentially all of the initial comments support Linux, several even calling FUD. I was impressed with these fourteen opinions…so strong and impassioned, so consistent in thought… so written by only five distinct users. I get the impression that the comment input-box was too small and that two comments had to be spread over eleven submissions. Still, many good points were made in these rants.
I saw this article summarized on Slashdot this morning. Headline: Microsoft Claims ‘Vista Has Fewer Flaws Than Other First-Year OSes.’ According to the article, Vista released 17 security bulletins and fixed 36 vulnerabilities in the first year, which is a big improvement over XP’s hit counts of 30 and 65 respectively. The article continues by comparing these figures to the first-year vulnerability numbers for Red Hat (360), Ubuntu (224) and Mac OS X (116). One security specialist is quoted, stating that these numbers “prove that [Vista] is quantitatively more secure.” He then chastises other OS vendors for their negligence in QA and security testing.
When you read this article, does it make you doubt the security of Linux and OS X? That’s the intended message, no?
I find this article misleading for a few reasons:
- Vista numbers are based on actions Microsoft decided to take: release bulletins and fix vulnerabilities. There is an element of subjectivity here.
- The article discloses that 30 Vista vulnerabilities remain, which brings the number of known vulnerabilities to 66. Sometimes, ‘known’ translates into ‘disclosed’.
- An assumption is made that the writing of Vista and the compilation of a Linux distro are comparable activities. They are not, and the vulnerabilities associated with these activities likely have different statistical distributions.
- The scope and risk of the vulnerabilities fixed are not discussed. Microsoft may have fixed 17 big problems, where as Ubuntu fixed 224 small ones. For all we know, the cumulative effect could be equal.
The security specialist states that Vista underwent more testing than the other OSes. He makes no reference to the relative quality of that testing. “More” doesn’t mean “better.” And what does “more” mean anyway? Was the testing measured in dollars spent? Number of testers? Number of test cases?
An analysis of the actual report would probably provide more clarity. Moreover, independent verification of the numbers would boost the integrity of the conclusions drawn. The validity of the actual results, however, does not change the intent of those who report on them. FUD, I say!
Well, here is my new Ubuntu Linux desktop. I’ve worked quite a bit on it, I am proud of it, and comfortable with it. What makes it complete is also what you cannot see in the screenshots. Read on to find out more…
I changed from this theme to the darker theme below when I finally replaced my CRT monitor for an LCD monitor. My CRT would never have made this theme usable; it would have been too dark to read anything. Therefore, if you have a CRT monitor and look at my screenshots and think that they’re too dark for you, it’s time you replace your monitor, cause holy smokes LCDs are WAY better! I even spent a lot of time customizing my Windows XP to a darker theme. I’ll post a screenshot of that desktop soon.
I also find that my new theme goes really well with the new Linux FUD WordPress theme called Freshy. Which brings me to names. I don’t know what to call this Desktop, though. It’s kinda Vista-y and Fresh. Maybe Freshta? Hehe… Freshta. I’ll have to sleep on that. 😉
Let me know what you think:
UPDATE (2007.03.08): You can rate this Desktop on the Ubuntu Forums Gallery HERE.
Here are the details of, er, Freshta.
- Wallpaper: “My Very Own Vista“
- Gnome Controls and Window Borders: Neutronium
- Icon Theme: Amaranth (not sure if this came with Ubuntu/Gnome or if I installed it myself)
- Dock Bar: gDesklets StarterBar with the background taken from the Neutronium theme.
- Other icons used for the StarterBar, my gnome panels, and the desktop were gathered mainly at deviantArt and doing Google Image searches for icons.
- Font: Segoe UI from Microsoft Vista and Office 2007
- CPU temperatures and fan speeds: gkrellm
- Analog clock: gDesklets FTB-clock
- Network information: FTB-net-gauge
- Amarok and Kopete: color schemes were changed by manually changing the color theme in my KDE desktop
What you don’t see also makes a big difference in the overall theme flow that makes it comfortable to use. For example, I use the Avio-GDM GDM Theme (sometimes the DarkCleanLinux GDM) and the DarkCleanLinux Splash theme. For the desktop background color, I use a Vertical Gradient with the following colors in Hex: #373737 and #000000 (Black), respectively; they go well with the splash when Ubuntu is loading. Other GTK colors were manually changed.