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Monthly Archives: August 2006

Propietary Software and openSUSE


August 25, 2006 3:04 am



There have been some comments on an ZDnet article including one from Linspire that was brought a few days ago to my attention which turns into advocation of their new Freespire release.

I’d like to comment especially on Kevin Carmony’s Linspire letter and explain what openSUSE is, since there seem to be some misconceptions.

Proprietary Applications

The ZDnet article rightly claims that we “have ceased distributing proprietary software modules such as 3D video drivers that plug into the Linux kernel”. From this Kevin Carmony concludes that Novell removed “proprietary software from their Linux offerings” which is plainly wrong. SUSE Linux 10.1 comes with six CDs. The first five contain only Open Source software, only the last one (if you download: the binary add-on CD) contains proprietary software. Freespire speaks about their “OSS Edition”, a term SUSE Linux 10.0 already used a year ago.

The list of commercial software on SUSE Linux 10.1 (full list available at Novell’s website) includes Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java, Opera, and RealPlayer.

To be clear, I’m mainly talking about the openSUSE distribution, but let me point out that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 also comes with proprietary software including Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java and RealPlayer, and that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 provides Java as well, for examples.

openSUSE 10.2 (the successor to SUSE Linux 10.1) will follow the same model as SUSE Linux 10.1 in distributing and supporting both Open Source and proprietary software – and leaving the user a choice.

I love open source and that’s why I’m working on openSUSE. I do also use proprietary software and consider it vital to have a good and stable platform on which both Open Source developers and proprietary software vendors can develop software. Users using this platform are free to use the software of their choice. With Linux and openSUSE, there’s such a platform. For mixed source source, I suggest reading our CTO’s blog.

The Free Standards Group with their Linux Standard Base (LSB) standardizes a application binary interface allowing application developers to build software that runs on any LSB certified platform. Recently both MySQL and RealPlayer certified their applications by the LSB.

Novell has certified all their recent distributions by the LSB, including the just announced SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 products as well as SUSE Linux 10.1. This is a clear commitment by Novell to a standard conforming base that both proprietary software vendors and open source developers can use. If you look at the other distributors certifying their products, you see there a few others as well – including Red Hat. But there is no certification for Fedora and neither for Linspire/Freespire.

Proprietary Kernel Drivers

So, what about proprietary kernel drivers? Fedora has taken an admirable stand against those (see e.g. Mike Harris’ comment). Since about half a year ago, the openSUSE project has been vocal about our position, too (e.g. my announcement in february).

There are a couple of reasons for this in my opinion. The first reason is to respect the opinion of those members of the Linux kernel community that consider binary drivers a violation of the GPL. Supporting a proprietary kernel driver is a nightmare because such a driver might change the kernel in an unpredictable way. The Linux kernel developers will not investigate bug reports if a binary-only kernel module is loaded and ask for reproduction without the loaded module (e.g. read the linux-kernel FAQ).

During the last years lots of hardware vendors have opened their specs to developers so that they could write open source kernel drivers and support their hardware since they believe this is the best way to go. I think that we as community really need to constantly encourage companies to support the development of Open Source kernel drivers – and personally support this from our wallets.

Finally, closed source drivers can sometimes block you, you might not be able to update to newer kernel versions to support e.g. another driver you need…

Personally, I agree with Pamela Jones’ column called “On Binary Drivers and Underwear” for LinuxUser & Developer: “I totally get it that folks want their computers to just work. I want that too. But would you please consider that if we pollute free-licensed open source software with secretive code, which we must with binary drivers, we lose what make GNU/Linux special – its openness and our freedom to control what happens on our computers.”

For those users really needing an external kernel driver in SUSE Linux and openSUSE, users might easily find them for most recent distributions. External kernel drivers can now be provided as kernel module packages in a better way than before.

Arjan van de Ven wrote about a Doomsday scenario if binary drivers would be allowed universally, read it yourself in the archives of lkml.


So, summying up, what is the openSUSE distribution? It’s a distribution containing open source packages including an open source Linux kernel with open source modules – and additionally some closed source user land applications in an add-on.

One of the goals of openSUSE is to create better software. I’d like to talk one day about our openSUSE buildservice and how that one will help to increase the amount of high quality open source packages. I would like to see the openSUSE distribution as platform of choice for both open source and proprietary software developers.

Freedom of Choice and Open Source

In my personal opinion you cannot talk about open source without talking about freedom of choice. I’m glad to be able to run open source software that I can change myself – both fixing and improving-, write bug reports about, discuss the source code, analyze it and check for privacy violations and security holes etc. Certain proprietary software might be in some areas more mature and I can get commercial support for it – something I wouldn’t get for openSUSE but could get with commercial enterprise distributions. It’s my choice which software to use and if both commercial and open source software can talk to each other, e.g. have standarized data formats for interchange of files, then I can do this any time. I do hate beeing forced to use exactly one tool to do my job – this is some kind of monopoly – and prefer a good competition in the market place.

I have the choice to buy proprietary software and/or help improving open source one. I would like everybody to have at least the same choice with kernel drivers – the chance to run an open source driver on all of your hardware.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Bad batteries?


August 25, 2006 2:08 am




I assume everyone within the IT industry has heard about the Dell recall action where more then four million batteries will need to be replaced. The news about laptops that could catch fire has been spread very fast.

So, what does this have to do with Novell? Well I just was looking at the enhancements that got introduced with the latest Asset Management Interim Release, I think this one is quit interesting:

Added discovery and reporting of laptop battery details. Reporting available in custom reports as component type – Other.

Is that cool enough for coolblogs 🙂

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Categories: Uncategorized

Massachusetts stays on track for ODF


August 24, 2006 5:30 pm



Massachusetts CIO Louis Gutierrez put out a statement yesterday on the Commonwealth’s progress in OpenDocument Format (ODF) implementation. It specifically addressed concerns about access for the disabled. Gutierrez states that there are a sufficient number of projects in the works that will allow access to ODF, including “translators” from Microsoft Office, and that he’s confident …

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Categories: Expert Views, General, PR Blog

How Does Novell Do It? Continued


August 24, 2006 2:16 pm



I started a series of “How does Novell do it” posts and I asked for suggestions on future topics. I am still looking for some of those by the way. What I have so far is this:

1. How to force the DSN system to fire.
2. How to force the DEFER system to fire.
3. How to make the gwia do it’s things on demand, while you watch the log screen in either verbose or diagnostic mode.
4. How about a guide to some of the more saliant points when the log is set to diagnostic mode.
5. How to make the POA show its rule processing logic when logging is set to diagnostic.

And a discussion on the best practices guide.

I am going to conveniently ignore the best practices for now, but I will cover some of that in a later post. So, I’ll start at the top of the list and cover the first two here:

How to force the DSN system to fire.

That description is a little ambiguous so I’m not really sure how to answer it.  For those that don’t know DSN is Delivery Status Notification and it allows some message tracking across the Internet.  It has to be enabled on the GWIA (ESMTP Settings | Enable DSN) and requested by the client (Tools | Options | Send | Mail | Internet Mail).

What happens, when enabled, is that the MAIL FROM and RCPT TO commands of the SMTP header are modifed and look like this:

MAIL FROM: SIZE=491 RET=HDRS ENVID=groupwise.44EDBBC0.34D:8b:34d0:N
250 2.0.0 OK
250 2.0.0 OK

The RET, ENVID, NOTIFY and ORCPT commands are all DSN related commands that tell the mailer-daemons how to handle the status tracking.

Now the question on how to make it fire?  Well, you can’t.  It’s status tracking and it’s handled automatically.  Just like you can’t make GW internal status tracking ‘fire’.

How to force the Defer system to fire 

A little ambiguous too, but it does have an answer.   You can force a mail to be deferred by sending to a mailer daemon that you know is down.  How I do this is I maintain my own DNS server, on NetWare for my test systems.  I create A and MX records for each server that I have (physical or VMWare) so that all my servers can happily mail between themselves and TO the outside world.  Replies FROM the outside world don’t work of course, because I am making up my own domain names.  So, if I just stop a GWIA on one of my servers and send a mail to that system from another system the message gets deferred.

You can probably achieve the same by creating a ROUTE.CFG in the GWIA directory and redirecting mails to a particular domain to an IP address that you know doesn’t have a listener on port 25.

That answers the question on how to force mails to be help up in DEFER, but how do you force mails in DEFER to get processed again?

Restart the GWIA is the quick answer – on startup the GWIA will process it’s defer queue.  The long, drawn out,  answer is that you can force more defer retries.  On the GWIA object there is an ‘Interval to retry a deferred message’ setting. This is a free form field that you can enter as many intervals as you like.  I am now getting Deja-vu – did I blog this bit before?

Anyway in that setting you can specify how often and how long between intervals.  So, ‘1,1,1,1,1,1,10,20,60’ would retry the message every minute for 6 iterations, then again after 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 60 minutes.  It would then retry every 60 minutes until the Maximum Defer age was reached (default of 4 days, or 96 hours – also configurable).  If you wanted to, and were a little mad, you could just let it retry every minute by just putting ‘1’ in that field.  I would not recommend that though as it will create a huge load on your GWIA.

I think that covers it – anyone got questions or more suggestions for topic?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Free Stuff!!


August 24, 2006 6:58 am



Novell has a frappr thing up through which you can get some free stuff.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Taking on HSPD‑12


August 23, 2006 3:14 pm



The Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)”‘12 requires a common identity standard for all federal employees and contractors as a means to provide even tighter security controls. As a result, federal agencies are going to need highly scalable identity management systems integrated with smart cards and other security technologies. A leader in identity management, Novell has …

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Categories: Expert Views, General, PR Blog

Urban Legends, or are they?


August 23, 2006 10:30 am



When I first joined Novell, many moons ago, many of my colleagues had worked in WordPerfect application support (in fact that’s still true). The topic of ‘users’ came up (how come such an innocuous word can have such negative connotations? Like ‘interesting’ and ‘special’, but I digress). They had lots of stories from their years in support. Now, they may have been pulling the leg of the poor naive newbie but I’ll share them with you as they still make me chuckle.

There was the one where a user was asked to send in a file to – 3 weeks later an envelope turned up with written on the front – and a floppy inside.

Then there was the one where the customer sent in a 5 1/4″ floppy with a “With Compliments” note stapled to it.

And another customer was asked to send in a copy of their disks, so they sent in paper photocopies.

Then around the time that the GUI version was released there was a comment in passing from a woman that did a lot of sewing.  She complained that the ‘footpedal’ made here feet ache – she was trying to use the mouse with her foot, like a sewing machine.

And then my favourite two.  Apparently these took days of troubleshooting.  The first one was a guy complaining that every time he pressed the letter A, a Q was printed on the screen.  After much to-ing and fro-ing he admitted that he didn’t like the position of the A on a QWERTY keyboard so he had prised it off and put it where the Q was.

And the last one was a lady complaining that spaces got randomly inserted into her documents.  This ended up with someone going onsite to watch what she was doing.  After about 10 minutes of observation the fix was discovered.  Let’s just say she was a large lady, and moving the keyboard slightly further away from her chest resolved the issue.

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Categories: Uncategorized

What, me? Fanboy?


August 23, 2006 7:51 am



Don Marti seems to think I’m perhaps a bit over-the-top about SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop:

Ted Haeger (owner of a tricked-out SUSE-fanboy Dell) was in full Demo Madman mode yesterday, showing off a Novell contribution to that enables VBA macros to run (with an appropriate security warning) – then he and his team put up a brave iguana[sic]-throwing effort at Golden Penguin Bowl, narrowly losing to the Ubunteros [sic].

Point taken, Don. The effectiveness of the sad clown archetype is badly underrated and due for a comeback anyway. From now on my advocacy role models shall be Droopy Dog and recently deposed Senator Joseph Lieberman.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Teaching you to suck eggs?


August 22, 2006 3:04 pm



WinRAR Icon

This may be teaching you all to suck eggs but it’s one of those things that I just do without thinking about, and it may help a few more of you out there. When you download Novell patches (expect for the tar.gz or .rpm type of course) you need to double click them and wait an indeterminate amount of time for it to ‘Verify the security envelope’ before the extraction fails because you copied it to My Documents, or some other location with a long name.

Well WinRAR is able to open these archives and allows you to extract individual files.  Wahey, take that WinZip!  Hope that saves you all some time, especially with the big GroupWise and NetWare patches.

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Categories: Uncategorized Security and VBA Macros


August 22, 2006 12:03 pm


Score:Unrated Calc IconA comment on my recent VBA Macros update asks several questions about security for macros in

I asked Noel Power to help me out, and he graciously provided us with some brief answers to show some of what he is thinking about regarding security for macros.

  1. Are you guys going to do anything about security? is serious about security. Recently a dedicated team has been set up to respond to security issues. That team are continually evaluating the security aspects of the application, some insightful comments from one of the security experts can found here.
  2. Will you retrofit a carefully considered security model (like Java has) into VBA?
    No – it’s not sensible. Scripting in is more than just Basic. How about Python bindings, etc.?
  3. Will you support digital signatures to help users decide whether to execute a particular document/program? already supports signing of macros and you can configure the application so that only signed macros are allowed to be executed.
  4. How will you avoid importing VBA trojans and viruses to OO?
    Macro signing, querying the user before executing, macros. Enterprise-wide lock-down to manage those settings easily.

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Categories: Uncategorized


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