Archive for December, 2011

Five Open Source Technologies for 201212.29.11

Next year, if all goes according to plan, Red Hat will become the first open source software company to generate more than US$1 billion a year in revenue. It will be a watershed moment for the open source community, who have long seen their approach of community-based development as a viable, even superior, alternative to traditional notions of how software should be written.

“I think we’re seeing a fundamental shift in where innovation happens, going from the labs of a few software companies to these massive open source efforts,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.

Certainly, open source has left the proprietary software world in turmoil over the past few years, as Linux, the Apache Web server, Perl, Apache, Hadoop, OpenOffice, GIMP and dozens of other programs put the pinch on their commercial counterparts. But what are tomorrow’s open source heavy hitters? Here are five projects to watch closely in 2012. They may form the basis for new businesses and new industries. Or they may just capture the minds of developers and administrators with some easier, or at least less expensive, way of getting the job done.

Nginx

For the better part of the last decade, the choice for Web server software has been pretty stable. Apache has been used on the majority of Web servers while Microsoft’s IIS (Internet Information Services) is used across many of the rest. Over the past few years, however, use of a third entrant, Nginx (pronounced “engine-x”), has been on the rise, thanks to the software’s ability to easily handle high-volume traffic.

Nginx is already run on 50 million different Internet domains, or about 10 percent of the entire Internet, the developers of the software estimate. It is particularly widely used on highly trafficked Web sites, such as Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, Hulu, Dropbox, and WordPress. Not surprisingly, the software’s creator, Igor Sysoev, designed Nginx in 2004 specifically to handle a large numbers of concurrent users — up to 10,000 connections per server. “It is a very lean architecture,” said Andrew Alexeev, a co-founder of a company that offers a commercial version of the software, called Nginx.

The upcoming year promises to be a good one for Nginx. Last year, Nginx got $3 million in backing from a number of venture capital firms, including one supported by Dell CEO Michael Dell. It partnered with Jet-Stream to provide Nginx for that software vendor’s CDN (content delivery network) package. It also is working with Amazon to streamline Nginx for the AWS (Amazon Web Service) cloud service.

Beyond Nginx’s use in large Web operations, Alexeev sees wider use for Nginx in the emerging cloud computing and shared services market. “This is where we can add the most benefit,” Alexeev said. The next major release of the software, due next year, will be more pliable for shared hosting environments. It will be better able to handle DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attacks), and come with additional security features, he said.

OpenStack

The OpenStack project arrived relatively late to the cloud computing party, but it comes with one particularly indispensable feature: scalability.

“We’re not talking about [using OpenStack to run a] cloud of 100 servers or even 1,000 servers, but tens of thousands of servers. Other options out there aren’t really considering that scale,”said Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board.

Since its launch in July 2010, OpenStack quickly gained a great deal of support from IT firms interested in the cloud computing space, such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Dell. OpenStack devotees like to call their work the fastest growing open source project, with involvement from over 144 companies and 2,100 participants. Dell launched a package, called the Dell OpenStack Cloud Solution, which combines OpenStack with the company’s own servers and software. HP launched a beta public cloud service with the technology as well.

The core computational components of OpenStack were developed at NASA Ames Research Center, for an internal cloud to store large amounts of space imagery. Originally, the NASA administrators tried using the Eucalyptus software project platform, but found challenges in scaling the software to the required levels, according to Chris Kemp, who oversaw the development of the OpenStack cloud controller when he was CIO of NASA Ames.

To aid in wider adoption, OpenStack is being outfitted with a number of new features that should make it more palatable for enterprises, said John Engates, chief technology officer for managed hosting provider Rackspace. One project, called Keystone, will allow organizations to integrate OpenStack with their identity management systems, those based on Microsoft Active Directory or other LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) implementations. Also, developers are working on a front-end portal for the software as well. Rackspace, which first partnered with NASA to package OpenStack for general usage, is also spinning off the project as a fully independent stand-alone entity, in hopes that it will be an attractive option for more cloud providers.

“2011 was the year for building the base of the product, but I think 2012 is where we really start to use that base for a lot of private and public clouds,” Engates said.

Stig

The past year has seen the dramatic growth in the use of nonrelational databases, such as Cassandra, MongoDB, CouchDB and countless others. But at the NoSQL Now conference, held last September, much of the buzz surrounded a still unreleased data store called Stig. With any luck, we will see Stig in 2012.

Stig is designed for the unique workloads of social networking sites, its maintainers claim. It was created at the social networking site Tagged by software engineer Jason Lucas, who calls the technology a distributed graph database. It is designed to support heavily interactive and social Web applications. The data store’s architecture allows for inferential searching, allowing users and applications to look for connections between disparate pieces of information. Because it was written, in part, in the Haskell functional programming language, it can easily divide up its workload across multiple servers.

Stig is still a bit of a mystery, as it hasn’t been actually released yet. But observers are predicting it could fit a niche in the social networks and other applications that keep a wide range of data. The needs of social networking services are inherently different from other types of jobs, and would benefit from a database attuned to its needs, Lucas explained. “You can’t be a relevant service in this space without being able to scale to a planetary size,” he said.

Stig is currently operating on one server at Tagged, though the company expects to expand its use to the point where it will be the sole database for the company. Originally, the developers were planning to source code by December, but moved back the release to sometime in 2012.

“What I did see looked very interesting,” said Dan McCreary, a semantic solutions architect for the Kelly-McCreary & Associates consulting firm. He praised the database’s functional language architecture, which should ease the deployment of the database across multiple servers.

Linux Mint

Despite years of advocacy on the part of open source adherents, Linux has never had a strong presence on the desktop. But usually there is always one user-friendly Linux distribution to use, as an alternative to Microsoft Windows. In recent years, Canonical’s Ubuntu has fulfilled this role, though the increasingly popular Linux Mint may trump Ubuntu by being even easier to use.

Software engineer Clement Lefebvre first crafted Linux Mint after a gig of reviewing other Linux distributions for various online forums. From this work, Lefebvre developed ideas about what features should be in the ideal distribution. Just as Canonical appropriated the Debian Linux distribution for its own massively popular Ubuntu, Lefebvre used Ubuntu as the base for Linux Mint. Today, the Linux Mint project is funded by donations, advertising revenue from its Web site, and income derived from user searches, the last through a controversial partnership with DuckDuckGo.

Linux Mint is designed specifically for people who just want a desktop OS, and who don’t wish to learn more about how Linux works (i.e. non-Linux hobbyists). This approach makes installing and running the software easy and maintenance pretty much a nonissue. Even more than Ubuntu, Mint emphasizes easy usability, at the expense of not using new features until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

For instance, Mint eschews the somewhat controversial Unity desktop interface, which Canonical adopted to more easily port Ubuntu to mobile platforms. Instead, Mint sticks with the more widely known, and more mature, Gnome interface.

Such rigorous adherence to usability may be helping Linux Mint, much to the detriment of Ubuntu, in fact. The Linux Mint project claims its OS is now the fourth most widely used desktop OS in the world, after Windows, Apple Mac and Ubuntu. Over the past year, Mint has evenusurped Ubuntu as the distribution that generates the most page views on the DistroWatch Linux news site, a metric generally thought to reflect the popularity of Linux distributions. No doubt 2012 will see only more growth for the OS.

Gluster

Could Red Hat revolutionize the world of storage software in much the same way it revolutionized the market for Unix-based OSes? In October, Red Hat purchased Gluster, which, with its GlusterFS file system, makes open source software that clusters commodity SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives and NAS (network attached storage) systems into massively scalable pools of storage. Red Hat plans to apply the method it used to dominate the market for Linux OSes for the storage space as well.

According to Red Hat’s Whitehurst, the storage software market generates $4 billion in revenue annually, though that’s not why the company was interested in the technology. Instead, Red Hat was interested in finding a storage technology that would make cloud migrations easier. “We look for places where open source would be particularly powerful as a way to innovate, and we look for areas in the stack where we think we can monetize,” he said. “There are not other solutions like that out there.”

The software has some momentum, at least in terms of administrators downloading and testing the software. Over the past year, GlusterFS downloads increased by 300 percent. In November, the software was downloaded over 37,000 times.

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How to Remove / Replace your Dell Studio 1737 Laptop Keyboard12.26.11

Black dell Studio 1737 keyboard

Prior to replacing your Dell Studio 1737 laptop keyboard, make sure to remove the battery and disconnect the ac adapter from your laptop.

The first step to replacing your laptop keyboard is to remove the screws from the back of your Dell Studio 1737. Sometimes your laptop will have a picture of a keyboard next to the screws that need to be removed. Otherwise, see your 1737 laptop manual for details.

Above your Dell 1737 laptop keyboard, you have a cover panel. If required, remove this part to easily access your Dell keyboard.

If you have screws above your Dell Studio 1737 Keyboard, remove those screws.

Now that you have removed all the screws, you are ready to remove and then replace your new Dell 1737 laptop keyboard.

To remove your 1737 Keyboard, take a thin object and pry the keyboard out between the keyboard and motherboard. Be careful when removing your Dell Studio 1737 Keyboard.

Now that your keyboard is loose, simply disconnect your Dell 1737 keyboard. In order to disconnect the keyboard, pay attention to the keyboard connector and connector cable. Unlock the connector cable device and remove your laptop keyboard. Your Dell 1737 connector cable should be easy to remove by simply sliding it out.

Now that your 1737 keyboard has been removed, get ready to install your new Dell 1737 laptop keyboard. Look at the back of the keyboard. If you see any screw holes, you will have a good idea of where to place the screws back in at the bottom of your Dell Studio 1737 laptop.

Connect your Dell 1737 keyboard to the motherboard keyboard connection slot. Secure the 1737 keyboard cable. Now turn your keyboard in place, and align the grooves on the bottom of your keyboard with your palmrest or plastic bezel. Secure your laptop keyboard in place, make sure it fits properly and is snug. Now simply place the screws back in place.

Congratulations! You just removed and replaced your New Dell Studio 1737 Laptop Keyboard.

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Toshiba NB550D review12.25.11

Toshiba’s new NB550D netbook looks almost identical to the company’s older NB520 model, but don’t be fooled by its appearance — under the bonnet, there’s a whole new engine at work. Whereas the NB520 relied on a dual-core Intel Atom processor, the NB550D uses one of AMD’s new C-50 chips. Available for around £280 online, does this 10.1-inch netbook represent the dawn of the Atom-killing age?

Copper or boy in blue
The NB550D is available in two colours: copper and blue. The copper model is called the NB550D-109 and the blue model is the NB550D-10G.

We found our review sample’s copper colouring quite fetching, but the overall design of the netbook left us with mixed feelings. We love the soft-to-the-touch, rubberised finish on the lid, for example, but the matte black plastic employed elsewhere is pretty underwhelming.

Measuring 262 by 36 by 190mm, and weighing 1.3kg, the NB550D isn’t the slimmest or lightest netbook on the market, but it does feel like it’s built to last.

Like the NB520, this model has two fairly large Harman Kardon speakers embedded in the wrist rest, behind small metal grilles. These speakers aren’t exactly hi-fi quality, but they do produce much louder sound, with more body, than pretty much any other netbook speakers we’ve encountered. In fact, they’re better than many laptop speakers. We can see them being really useful if you like to use your computer to watch movies, but don’t always want to have to slap on a pair of headphones.

This screen has a resolution of 1,024×600 pixels, rather than the 1,366×768 pixels you get on some higher-end displays. The display is relatively bright and, although it has a glossy coating, it’s not massively reflective, so you can use it indoors under bright overhead lights without too much bother. Nevertheless, the horizontal viewing angles aren’t great, as colours go very dark when you sit at an angle to the screen. Overall, though it’s not a bad display.

The NB550D’s speakers produce much louder sound than you usually get from netbooks.
The keyboards on netbooks are always a compromise due to the limited amount of space available. However, Toshiba has done a reasonably good job here. Although the keys initially feel like they rattle too much under your fingers, you soon get used to this and start to appreciate their intelligent layout and springy, responsive action.

Toshiba hasn’t skimped on ports either. Along with the usual three USB ports, there’s an HDMI output that makes it easy to connect the NB550D up to a high-definition TV. This is because HDMI carries audio and video over the same lead.

One of the USB ports is also enabled for ’sleep and charge’, so, even when the netbook is turned off, the port can be used to charge devices like smart phones and digital cameras. The NB550D also offers support for Ethernet and Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 3.0.

Guts and glory
As with pretty much all netbooks, this model runs Windows 7 Starter. It also has just 1GB of RAM. Unusually, however, it uses AMD’s C-50 chip instead of an Intel Atom processor.

The C-50 is a dual-core chip that AMD describes as an ‘accelerated processing unit’. That’s because it combines the CPU, memory controller and Radeon HD 6250 graphics core onto a single die.

The CPU lacks hyper-threading capability and is clocked at 1GHz, as opposed to the 1.5GHz of Intel’s dual-core Atom N550. Nevertheless, the NB550D still performed better than Toshiba’s Atom-N550-equipped NB520. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, it clocked up a score of 1,885, compared to the NB520’s result of 1,667.

The chip is even better when it comes to graphics performance. It managed to rack up a result of 1,885 in 3DMark06, blowing away the NB520’s score of 146. You won’t be able to use this netbook for playing really complex games, but you will be able to use it for some lighter 3D gaming. The chip’s video decoding prowess is impressive too — it’s able to easily handle 1080p video on YouTube.

Unfortunately, the extra graphics grunt seems to have a cost in terms of shorter battery life. Although the NB520 lasted for 5 hours in the Battery Eater Classic test, the NB550D topped out at 4 hours and 7 minutes. That’s still very good battery life for a dual-core netbook, though, especially as this test is extremely intensive and you’re likely to get much longer life under real-world usage conditions.

Conclusion
Overall, the Toshiba NB550D is one of the better netbooks currently on the market, thanks largely to its C-50 processor and Harman Kardon speakers. We just wish its exterior looked more appealing.

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LG P300 Review12.24.11

The LG P300 Express Dual Series notebook is a super light, high performance 13.3″ notebook. This notebook packs a massive punch with its T8300 Penryn processor, NVIDIA 8600m GS graphics card, and high-gloss 13.3″ LCD in a package that weighs roughly 3.6 pounds.

This notebook has the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 (2.40GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 3MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • 2GB DDR2-667 dual-channel RAM (2 x 1GB)
  • 13.3″ WXGA (1280×800) Glossy
  • Nvidia GeForce 8600M-GS graphics card with 256MB dedicated memory
  • 250GB Fujitsu 5400rpm Hard Drive
  • No Internal Optical Drive, External USB DVD-RW Drive included
  • Intel Wireless WiFi 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
  • Ports: 3 USB, Kensington Lock Slot, LAN, Headphone/Mic, S-Link, HDMI, VGA, SD Card Reader, ExpressCard/34
  • Size: 12.4 x 9.4 x 0.87/1.38″
  • Weight:
    • Notebook 3lbs 8.6oz
    • AC Adapter 1lb 1.1oz
    • USB DVD/RW 12.5oz
  • 90w AC Adapter
  • Warranty: 1 Year standard
  • Price: $1,799 CDN available at Future Shop (approximately $1,800 US)

Build and Design

The LG P300 is a slim and compact design that could fit very well with the MacBook Air and Thinkpad X300. The notebook is very thin, and has no bloated plastic to round out edges or even out parts of the chassis. The screen bezel is very thin, with the overall LCD section being no more than a few millimeters thick. In terms of design it looks and feels a lot like a Fujitsu business grade notebook, not counting the colorful “red wine” lid design which looks a bit like a violet zebra.

Build quality is nothing short of top notch. The chassis feels extremely rugged, with no flex or sagging anywhere but the thin LCD lid. The main body and keyboard surround is metal alloy, and the LCD frame is sturdy black plastic. One thing some advanced users will notice from the pictures is this notebook lacks any panels on the bottom for RAM, CPU, or HD access, which is instead located under the keyboard. In some ways the solid bottom section does reduce flex and creaking which might come from separate panels rubbing against each other when carrying the notebook around.

Below are side-by-side comparison images of the LG P300 next to the Lenovo ThinkPad X300.

Display

The display is very bright, with clear whites and vibrant colors. Black levels are solid, with only mild backlight bleed at the highest backlight setting. Viewing angles are about average with colors inverting and washing when you start to change your vertical viewing angle. Horizontal angles are much better, without much color distortion until extreme angles.

My personal backlight preference on this notebook was setting it to 50-60 percent brightness for average use, and 100 percent when gaming in bright rooms. Below are images showing how the screen looks at maximum brightness from straight on as well as all viewing angles.

Keyboard and Touchpad

This notebook had a slight culture clash during the review, as it had a different keyboard layout that I was used to. This specific model had a target market of Canada, and a few keys are located in other positions, or shaped in different ways. The keyboard itself though was excellent, having solid support and did not feel cramped at all when typing. The overall width of the keyboard is similar my ThinkPad, and key size was perfect.

The touchpad is above average, with a decent touch surface and enough space for easy movement. Sensitivity was perfect, leaving nothing to be adjusted from factory defaults during the review. Still, you do have access to the Synaptics control panel if adjustments are needed. The touchpad button has soft and shallow feedback, and is a single rocker bar design. The touchpad has a right and left clicker, but both share the same bar.


Speakers

The speakers on this notebook were more than adequate for listening to music, watching a movie, or playing video games. Treble and midrange was clear, and like the majority of notebooks bass was completely lacking.

The headphone jack provided clear and hiss free audio, making it a perfect alternative for private listening.

Performance and Gaming

The power of this 3.6 pound notebook was nothing short of phenomenal. With a 2.4GHz Penryn processor and NVIDIA 8600M GS this thing screamed compared to anything else in this weight range. I could play Portal at native resolution and at medium settings and have enjoyable framerates. One performance enhancing item I did not see on this notebook was a 7200rpm drive, but the system performed well enough where that downside was glossed over.

Battery and Power

The stock configuration has a six-cell battery, without an option for any extended life battery. With screen brightness at 70 percent, and the notebook set to the “balanced” power profile, the system managed a bit more than 3 hours and 40 minutes. I found this to be more than acceptable given the notebooks crunching capabilities.

External Drive

To cut down on weight, the LG P300 opted to remove the optical drive from the notebook, and include a free external drive instead. The drive they give you is very nice. In fact, this drive is better than anything we can find on the US market. It is a slim drive, black glossy colored, and has a retractable USB cable built into the case. This means no wires to worry about when traveling, and the total package is easy to store. For consumers worried about this notebook having no internal drive, unless you frequently watch DVD movies on a plane, I would personaly rather game or use digital movie files than worry about DVDs.

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