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New openSUSE, Linux leaders call for secure boot fix: News in brief

The openSUSE project releases version 12.1, which includes new Gnome Shell 3.2; Red Hat, Canonical and The Linux Foundation all concerned about Windows 8 locking-out Linux; and other open source news.

New openSUSE
The openSUSE project is releasing version 12.1 on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The newest version of the free open source operating system features many changes, including Gnome Shell 3.2, which replaces Gnome 2.x. The use of Gnome 3.2 is the  biggest visual change from openSUSE 11.4. The shell includes a new notification system, integrated messaging, a new document manager and centralized online accounts configuration.

The new operating system also includes some important functionality updates. Snapper is a new tool that will allow users to view older versions of files and revert changes. Snapper lets users take advantage of the snapshot functionality in the btrfs file system to compare and revert changes to protect against general user mistakes.

With its recent focus on the cloud environment, the next logical step for SUSE was to make its operating system more cloud friendly, and that’s what they did. Version12.1 will be the first Linux distribution shipped with OwnCloud integrated into the desktop. The latest openSUSE release also supports Linux kernel 3.1, making it more versatile and extensible to support mixed IT environments, including public and private clouds.

Windows vs. Linux
In response to concern over a feature in Windows 8 that some thought would prevent users from installing Linux, Red Hat, The Linux Foundation and Canonical joined to publish a white paper on Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).

Secure boot is a procedure for firmware in devices that is part of the UEFI specification. In the case of Windows 8, a secure boot will prevent any executable (Linux, for example) from loading unless it is signed by a Microsoft key. 

"Unfortunately, Microsoft’s recommended implementation of secure boot removes control of the system from the hardware owner, and may prevent open source operating systems from functioning. The Windows 8 requirement for secure boot will pressure [original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)] to implement secure boot in this fashion.

"We believe that restrictions that prevent users from exercising full control over their hardware is not in the best interest of those users and works against the spirit of open source software in general,"  the paper's authors wrote. The white paper goes on to present a set of recommendations that will allow users to choose their own software, while retaining the security features of the UEFI secure boot – including the option to disable secure boot.

Google offering legal support to OEMs over Android
Google has said it will help defend OEMs in Android-related legal disputes by sharing information, industry expertise and access to Google’s patents for licensing and legal purposes.

 “We tell our partners, including the ones here in Taiwan, we will support them,” said Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, while on a visit to Taipei.”For example we have been supporting HTC in its dispute with Apple because we think that the Apple thing is not correct.”

Schmidt was referencing ongoing legal disputes involving Android vendors, such as HTC, Motorola Mobility and Samsung, brought by Apple. Google itself is being sued by Oracle over claims that Android violates its Java-related patents. Though Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs has died, it seems the company’s desire to punish Google and Android lives on.

Rackspace offers OpenStack cloud support
Building off the growing support for OpenStack, the open source cloud computing project, Rackspace announced it will offer to support OpenStack-based private clouds. Rackspace’s new kit, Rackspace Cloud: Private Edition, will make it possible for organizations to launch their own private clouds and still receive support from the company. Businesses can use the kit to set up an OpenStack-based private cloud in their own data center (or even a colocation provider unaffiliated with Rackspace).

“This new approach addresses the needs of our customers looking for full control and high scalability in private, dedicated environments that can be almost anywhere—in customer-premise data centers, Rackspace data centers, or partner data centers globally,” according to the company’s website.

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