5 Operating Systems Making News This Week

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1. OpenSUSE: Safe -- For the Time Being at Least

Novell announced last week that it was selling itself to Attachmate, but the deal left many questions unanswered. Perhaps the most compelling one, for OpenSUSE server OS users and developers at least, was this one: "What is going to become of our server OS?" That the announcement of the deal left many fearing for the future of OpenSUSE is understandable -- after all, the OpenSolaris project, which was responsible for the open source development version of Solaris, was killed off by Oracle just a few months after the company got control of Solaris when it bought Sun.

With OpenSUSE safe for the time being and Novell holding fast to its UNIX copyrights, many in the open source world have much to smile about this week. Ubuntu's announcement that it is not moving to a rolling release and yet another Chrome delay are also top of mind, as is some info on jailbreaking your Windows Phone 7.

So it was with much relief that the OpenSUSE community read the following statement from Jeff Hawn, chairman and CEO of Attachmate. "The OpenSUSE project is an important part of the SUSE business. As noted in the agreement announced today, Attachmate plans to operate SUSE as a stand-alone business unit after the transaction closes. ... Attachmate Corporation anticipates no change to the relationship between the SUSE business and the OpenSUSE project as a result of this transaction."


2. Microsoft's Not UNIX -- Novell Is

Another worry following the Novell-Attachmate announcement concerned what might happen to Novell's UNIX copyrights because part of the deal included Novell's sale of a number of unspecified patents to a consortium put together by Microsoft. The question was, did the sale of these patents have anything to do with Novell's UNIX rights?

There's little doubt that Microsoft Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) would love to get control of anything to do with UNIX, the better to get a measure of control over the Linux open source software distros that are eating into its server OS business. But once again Novell moved to dispel the worries, with the following, "Important Message from John Dragoon, chief marketing officer -- UNIX Copyrights: Novell will continue to own Novell's UNIX copyrights following completion of the merger as a subsidiary of Attachmate."

So no more worries on that score.

3. Ubuntu Is *Not* Moving to a Rolling Release

Some Ubuntu aficionados got very excited last week when comments made by Mark Shuttleworth, the main man behind the Linux distro, were interpreted as meaning that Ubuntu would soon be moving to a rolling release model instead of updates appearing every six months, as is now the case. This would be unusual for a mainstream Linux distro, and the rumors were scotched by Rick Spencer, Engineering Manager for Canonical's Desktop Team, on his Raving Rick blog: "Ubuntu is not changing to a rolling release. We are confident that our customers, partners and the FLOSS ecosystem are well served by our current release cadence."

Can't say clearer than that.

4. Burning Chrome -- But Not Any Time This Year

Where oh where is Chrome OS, Google's Linux-based operating system for netbooks that the company announced way back in July 2009? The OS, which is designed to run web applications on netbooks, was originally slated for release in late 2010. As yet, there is no sign of it. Since then, Google has seen the meteoric rise in popularity of its Android touchscreen handheld OS, not to mention the current craze for tablets that has left the netbook market a rather forlorn and forgotten place. The latest dope on Chrome OS, straight from the mouth of Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO and chairman, is that the launch of the lightweight operating system is still "a few months" away -- some time around February, by the sound of it.

The question really is whether anyone will still be using netbooks in 2011, or whether Android tablets, Apple's iPads and Research In Motion's PlayBook will have completely taken over the space formerly occupied by the likes of the Asus EeePC and the Acer Aspire One.

5. Jailbreaking Windows Phone 7 Won't Brick Your Device

Microsoft's OSes are not known for their security, so it's not altogether surprising that the company's newest OS, Windows Phone 7, has already been comprehensively pwned.

Like Apple with iTunes, Microsoft sees fit to prevent applications being loaded and run on a Windows Phone 7 device unless they come from Microsoft's Marketplace (or unless you have a $99 Marketplace developer account). But using Super Advanced Trickery technology, (allegedly) well known Windows hacker Rafael Rivera, along with fellow hacker Chris Walsh and anal-retentive Long Zheng, has produced a jailbreaking tool called ChevronWP7 that allows you to unlock any Windows Phone 7 device to sideload and run homebrew apps and "experimental applications that otherwise can't be published to the Marketplace, such as those which access private or native APIs."

A response from Microsoft was that "Attempting to unlock a device could void the warranty, disable phone functionality, interrupt access to Windows Phone 7 services or render the phone permanently unusable." That sounds worrying, but the Chevronwp7 team moved quickly to reassure potential Windows Phone 7 jailbreakers that Microsoft's claims are "patently false as we use the same exact procedure the official Phone Registration tool uses."

So now you know.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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This article was originally published on Dec 1, 2010
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