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Hacking the Xbox, Securing Distributed Computing, Un-Annoying Linux, and Signing On Just Once

by chromatic
Linux Newsletter for 09/15/2003

Good afternoon (2 p.m. -0800 GMT), everyone. This is the Linux newsletter, a brief summary of what's new on, one of a sea of web sites about open source news and development. Here's what we published in the past week:

In a famous talk called "Seven Stages of the Perl Programmer," Nat Torkington suggested that one mark of the final stage is that "you do not write games in Perl because you know that Perl is the game." Sometimes hacking for its own sake is more satisfying than just about any game. That idea describes Andrew "bunnie" Huang. In an interview with Howard Wen, bunnie explains what lead him to hack the Xbox and write about it. Read more in The Hacker Behind "Hacking the Xbox".

With distributed computing well established (whether searching for intelligent life, folding protein strands, or brute-forcing encrypted content) and grid computing growing more popular, a little paranoia would be in order. If you run distributed applications, how can you be sure they're doing only what they should? If you write distributed applications, how can you trust the results you receive? Howard Feldman, a developer behind the aformentioned protein-folding software, explores these issues in Distributed Computing Sanity Checking.

In a perfect world, we'll have perfect user interfaces. Until everyone agrees that multiple virtual desktops are beautiful and icons on the desktop are abominable, we'll have to get by with what we have (and yes, this sentence is mostly tongue in cheek). Though Linux offers myriad customization opportunities for developers, distributors, administrators, and users, it's still not perfect. Paul Weinstein wants to know what annoys you about Linux. Read on in Is Linux Annoying?. Remember, a little tough love goes a long way.

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One hot topic in the web world is "single sign-on". (Just mention that to the developers at O'Reilly and watch them twitch.) While you may present a unified front to all of your internal and external web sites, the guts of your software are more likely a twisty maze of fiefdoms, all dissimilar. While few companies would put up with this chaos for logins, it's acceptable (or, at least, normal) for web apps. "No more!", cries Jason Garman. In Single Sign-on for Your Web Applications with Apache and Kerberos, the author of Kerberos: The Definitive Guide explains how to unite your warring tribes into a single empire.

Our weblogs this week see Andy Lester suggesting we deal with error messages and warnings immediately and completely, Steve Mallett refusing to buy another CD from an RIAA member, Todd Ogasawara pointing to a Nokia N-Gage Review, and open source calendar-boy Chris DiBona's debut as an O'Reilly weblogger.

That'll do it for now. Next week, an exploration of the Unix philosophy and a look at Prelude, the IDS (or is it an IDS toolkit?).

See you then,

Technical Editor
O'Reilly Network and Linux Devcenter Top Five Articles Last Week

  1. The Hacker Behind "Hacking the XBox"
    Reverse engineering seems a mysterious and dark art, aided, perhaps, by the specter of the U.S. DMCA. Andrew "Bunnie" Huang risked penalties for his self-published "Hacking the Xbox". Howard Wen recently interviewed Huang on reverse engineering, disclosure, and the guts of the Xbox itself.

  2. Is Linux Annoying?
    Let's face it, Linux isn't perfect. While people are working night and day to improve things, you have frustrations and, hopefully, workarounds in the meantime. Paul Weinstein gives an example of RPM hell and potential solutions and calls for your Linux Annoyances!

  3. FreeBSD Jails
    A common security breach involves exploiting one application to gain access to another. Keeping separate applications separate can limit the potential damage. Mike DeGraw-Bertsch explains how FreeBSD's jails can help secure necessary applications.

  4. Installing Oracle 9iR2 on Red Hat 9
    While Oracle's understandably proud of their Linux support, Oracle 9i is unsupported on the latest and greatest Red Hat. That doesn't mean it doesn't work, just that you'll have to do a little tinkering. Roko Roic demonstrates how to install Oracle 91R2 on Red Hat 9.

  5. Five Lessons Open Source Developers Should Learn from Extreme Programming
    It may be harder to see how Extreme Programming (XP) can apply to open source projects, especially those without a formal customer. But to build a successful open source project, you must solve many of the same problems you'd face with an in-house project. Here chromatic, author ofExtreme Programming Pocket Guide, offers five lessons open source developers can learn from XP.

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