Apple, Microsoft and the Malware Wayback Machine

Last month’s cluster of “Mac Defender” malware flareups felt like a flashback to 2001, with the role of Microsoft being played by Apple. The malware, which took advantage of poisoned Google images search results to trick users into installing fake anti-virus software, first appeared in variants that required an administrator password for installation.

Soon, though, later versions appeared that didn’t require a password for installation, provided that the user being fooled was running with administrator rights–the default for the first user account set up on a Mac.

While much is made of how the root account is disabled by default on OS X, administrator accounts on today’s OS X are less tightly controlled than administrator accounts on Windows 7–a result of the decade that Microsoft spent dealing with security issues, delaying its efforts building a strong successor to XP.

However, the big difference between Apple 2011 and Microsoft 2001 is that the way forward for Apple needn’t involve bolting on potentially confusing new security layers to its desktop OS. Instead, Apple has a second, and significantly more secure platform to offer its users: iOS.

Where OS X relies on a fairly standard Unix permissions structure based on a admin/user divide that home and corporate users alike find challenging or annoying to abide by, iOS provides a mix of application control, isolation, and resource constraint that’s proving both palatable and secure.

Rather than figure out a way to enable every user to fiddle with their machines like a hobbyist while preserving the security and stability of a well-managed desktop, Apple’s managed to convince its mobile users that less can be more. Smartphones, which we got to know as a constrained and underperforming platform for computing, offered an apt proving ground for these ideas.

A retirement party for OS X may still be a little way off, but given the growth of iOS, and the iOS-ward course that Apple has charted for Lion, there’s no way that Apple’s primary OS of 2021 will as closely resemble OS X as Windows 7 does XP.

Stacking Up OpenStack Distributions

I‘m taking OpenStack for a spin in our lab, with an eye toward kicking off some reviews coverage of the much-talked-about open source project, and, perhaps, to put the cloud operating system into service running eWEEK Labs’ test infrastructure.

I started off my exploration by installing Ubuntu 10.04.2 on a six-core AMD 4000-series server and running the DevInstallScript offered up on the project’s wiki. All went more or less smoothly, until my first instance refused to respond to my ssh connection attempts. Rather than chase down the various networking error messages I found scattered through my server’s several screen sessions, I went looking for an OpenStack distribution to ease the testing process.

I found a few distributions right away:

  • StackOps, an Ubuntu-based distribution with a handy Web-based deployment interface.
  • OpenStack Compute appliance, from rPath, an informal project that offers the company an opportunity to show off its component-wrangling meddle.
  • Project Olympus, which Citrix announced at its recent Synergy conference.

So far, I’ve only just installed the StackOps distro in that single-node configuration. I’m considering booting my test server from a handful of iSCSI root volumes to swap around between the different distros.

I’m sure there are quite a few other fledgling OpenStack distros out there — let me know which ones I should add to my eval list.

rPath Is on the Right Track with X6

rPath X6 sports a Flash-based UI, which manages to pack a good deal of system administration detail into its series of tabs and collapsible menu lists.

rPath X6 expands on the company’s software appliance assembly and deployment ambitions with powerful configuration management capabilities and a spruced-up user interface that’s much improved compared with the Version 5.2 release that eWEEK Labs tested in 2009. Also much improved is the product’s support for deploying software images to VMware, EC2 and other virtualization hosts. In our tests of rPath X6, we had no trouble assembling and deploying CentOS-based virtual appliances, but found the product’s configuration management processes more difficult to master, and the product documentation for these tasks sparser than I’d have liked.

For a look at rPath X6 in action, check out the gallery below, and be sure to read our full review here.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Support Expansion Should Serve Red Hat Well

This week, Microsoft announced that it would support CentOS as a guest operating system on Hyper-V, citing CentOS support as the number one interoperability requirement among Web hosting providers weighting whether to consolidate their system virtualization on Microsoft’s hypervisor.

When I read the news, my thoughts turned immediately to Red Hat and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system on which CentOS is directly based. Continue reading “Microsoft’s Hyper-V Support Expansion Should Serve Red Hat Well”

New Horizons for Mono, and for Silverlight

Xamarin, FTW

I’ve just returned from Atlanta, where Cameron and I attended a Microsoft Server and Tools reviewer workshop packed with cool product presentations, such as those for Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing services, and for the LightSwitch non-developer development platform.

However, I found my my enthusiasm for Azure and for LightSwitch somewhat stunted upon finding that neither the Azure admin console nor the apps built with LightSwitch will work with my Ubuntu computers. Continue reading “New Horizons for Mono, and for Silverlight”

When ChromeOS Arrives, Will Offline Support Arrive With It?

This week at its Google I/O conference, the Web giant announced that Chrome OS, its long-awaited, “nothing but the Web” operating system, will soon be available for purchase, powering a pair of Samsung and Acer “Chromebooks.”

A month from launch, offline support remains MIA in much of ChromeOS.

My overall take on ChromeOS hasn’t much changed since early developer builds of the platform first turned up nearly two years ago: I’m a fan of open platforms, and the Web is an open platform. An operating system centered on the Web stands to advance the state of the platform, which will benefit us all, so, hooray for ChromeOS.

Yesterday I loaded up a ChromeOS build from onto a Dell netbook, a Latitude 2120 with a dual-core Atom processor, and took Google’s latest bits for a spin. I must say, when I wrote about ChromeOS in July of 2009, I expected Google’s endeavor to have been further along than its is now. After all, the biggest hurdle for the platform remains in place… Continue reading “When ChromeOS Arrives, Will Offline Support Arrive With It?”

What’s Next for SUSE?

What's Next for SUSE?

Late last month, The Attachmate Group completed its acquisition of Novell. Moving forward, Novell and SUSE Linux will operate, alongside NetIQ and Attachmate, as four separate business units—a reorganization that unravels the 2003 SUSE acquisition that had established Novell as a Linux and open source player.

In the years following its SUSE pickup, Novell trumpeted its new, open source direction so loudly that it’s tough to imagine exactly what a SUSE-free Novell will look like moving forward. Continue reading “What’s Next for SUSE?”

Adventures with Amazon EC2

This week we re-launched labs.eweek.com to serve as a home base eWEEK Labs team, and as a place to test out some of the products and services we cover in more “real world” setting than what we get within the confines of our San Francisco lab.

To that end, we’ve set up shop in the cloud. We intend to move around among cloud services from time to time, but, as with so many of the products we encounter, we’ve begun our cloudy adventures at Amazon’s EC2 service. Continue reading “Adventures with Amazon EC2”

Copycats, Ideas and Execution

It’s been a week of copycat allegations, with Google accusing Microsoft of cribbing Google search engine results by monitoring and acting on the browsing habits of Bing toolbar users.

To my mind, it’s a fairly boring flareup, but one which, when combined with the Salesforce.com Chatter tests that my fellow labsman Cameron Sturdevant has been conducting this week, perfectly set the stage for this copycat allegation video from enterprise social collaboration vendor Yammer, which CIO Insight’s Susan Nunziata called to my attention (via Chatter, no less):

Yammer is poking fun here are Salesforce.com for copying its Twitter, but in an enterprise, idea–the situation is a bit different than the Google/Bing dustup, since Google is not claiming that Microsoft has copied the search engine idea, but rather its specific search engine index results.

What the two cases have in common, however, is the alleged copying can’t, in either case, be enough to win the day–ideas are cheap, it’s execution that’s important. I suppose I judge a search engine on the quality of its results–if the results were terrible, I guess I wouldn’t use it–but it wasn’t Google’s results that led me to start using that search engine back when Google was breaking into the business. I used Google because of its spartan interface, and its unobtrusive text advertising. Never have I been invited to punch the monkey over at google.com, and I value that.

Of course, UI isn’t all that matters, particularly in case of a product like Chatter or Yammer, where the capacity for drawing a community of users is most important. Over the past few months, I’ve tried out three private Twitter clones: Status.net, Yammer, and Chatter. Right out of the box, Status.net has most appealed to me–it has great features and I value its open source licensing, but it’s also the service that drew the least sign-up interest from others in the company. For a communication tool, that’s a problem.

Yammer fared better, and offered a nice set of features, but the uptake edge so far goes to Chatter. It’s probable that the Salesforce brand name has a lot of do with this–Google, at this point, has a similar advantage–gravitating toward the big name seems like the way to go, and when a big network matters, that’s a powerful advantage.

You can argue that Salesforce has earned this advantage, even if, when it comes to Chatter, they’re a copycat. Salesforce has established itself as a bedrock enterprise cloud application vendor, and for a potential user base uninterested in signing up for yet another short-lived social network, the brand name matters.

Linux Distro Releases I’m Watching This Year

linux-penguin.jpg

Back around the turn of the millennium, I had the great fortune of watching the Windows XP, aka Whistler, development cycle unfold. I had so much fun tracking the procession of development releases topped by the shiny gold master copy of Windows XP, that I sought after, and found, an operating system to track that was in perpetual development: Linux!

Over at eWEEK’s main site, I’ve compiled a short gallery of Linux distribution releases set for the first half of 2011 that have caught my eye. Check out the gallery for a peek at the releases and for what it is in each that’s gotten my attention, or simply consult the list below, and let me know which ones I’m missing.

  1. Ubuntu 11.04: Natty Narwhal :: Expected release date: 2011-04-28.
  2. Fedora 15 :: Expected release date: 2011-05-10.
  3. OpenSUSE 11.4 :: Expected release date: 2011-05-10.
  4. CentOS 6 :: Expected release: imminent.
  5. Debian Squeeze :: Expected release date: 2011-02-06.
  6. ChromeOS :: Expected release date: mid-2011.
  7. Android 3.0 :: Expected release date: February or March, 2011.
  8. MeeGo 1.2 :: Expected release date: April 2011.