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News 2.0

Taking a second look at the news so you don’t have to


Gridding for a Cure

For years, many of us have donated our spare CPU cycles to the romantic, and thus far fruitless, search for extraterrestrial life in the heavens above. Even without empirical proof, the [email protected] project gives us some sense of contributing to something larger than ourselves—and hope that the cool, 3D graphs being drawn and redrawn across our screens could be just moments away from plotting a new course for intelligent life in the universe.

Well, for those of you losing faith, or just needing a more concrete project to get behind, there is the WCG (World Community Grid). Like [email protected], the WCG uses idle computers to process data, but in this case the data is human protein structure rather than cosmic radio signals. The WCG exists alongside another grid, United Devices’, to crunch data for the Human Proteome Folding Project. Its goal is to help scientists understand the structure and function of all 30,000 proteins coded for by the human genome. What’s amazing is the sheer amount of data to be processed. It would take up to 1 million years of computing time to do the work on a single modern PC. By distributing the work across millions of computers, the project is already about 20 percent done. Once completed, the information could help scientists find cures and treatments for diseases such as cancer and AIDS.



Wanted: Windows Robots

Once the sole province of clunky desktops and servers, the front in the Windows-versus-Linux war has migrated to the embedded space. And in any war there will be battles. Case in point: the “Great Gadget SmackDown,” sponsored by the editors of and They created a list of devices that use either Windows or Linux as their embedded operating system and tallied the results. In the end there was no clear winner, with Windows edging out Linux with a grand total of 247 devices compared with Linux’s 243. Looking at the numbers for specific popular device categories such as PDAs (Windows: 88 devices, Linux: 40 devices) and mobile phones (Window: 34 devices, Linux: 14 devices) puts Microsoft on top.

But if one considers just “the geek factor,” we see a slightly different story. Take a look at by far the most geeky category on the list: robots. In this category, Linux demolishes Windows, 10 robots to 0. Don’t laugh—this could be more than just a humorous side note in the Linux story. With the steady growth of robotics in both personal and industrial applications, Linux may have gained some valuable traction in this sector. If they could just get in with those folks who make the Roomba…



Lost in Licenses

Members of OSI (Open Source Initiative) and OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) met recently to discuss the proliferation of open source licenses. The goal is to reduce the amount of licenses to a handful that would collectively span the breadth of legal provisions currently addressed. Also under review is the process of approving licenses, which, according to OSDL’s Mike Fink, is “based simply on the compliance to a specification rather than on the basis of a new license’s ability to further innovate the business model of the open source industry.”

Although the glut of licenses could stall innovation in the open source world, some companies see this confusion as a launchpad for innovation. Black Duck Software develops software that it claims helps companies mired in the complexities of software licensing management and compliance. This includes tools that track the combined use of proprietary code, open source code, and code from commercial vendors, and alerts developers and legal personnel of potential licensing conflicts. We hear its latest release includes a feature that e-mails Richard Stallman when someone runs afoul of the GPL… just kidding.

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Originally published in Queue vol. 3, no. 3
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