Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Note to new Linux users: No antivirus needed

Note to new Linux users: No antivirus needed

From Linux.com

Monday February 26, 2007 (03:01 PM GMT)

By: Joe Barr

One of the most common questions I hear new Linux users ask is "What program should I use for virus protection?" Many of them lose faith in me as a source of security information when I reply, "None." But you really don't need to fear malware on your new platform, thanks to the way Linux is built.

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Savvy Windows users have to watch their virus checkers as closely as the head nurse in the ICU keeps an eye on patient monitors. Often, the buzz in the Windows security world is about which protection-for-profit firm was the first to discover and offer protection for the malware du jour -- or should I say malware de l'heure? The only thing better than having backed the winning Super Bowl team come Monday morning at the office coffeepot is having the virus checker you use be the one winning the malware sweepstakes that weekend.

If a rogue program finds a crack in your Windows armor, paying $200 per infection to have your machine scrubbed and sanitized by the local goon^H^H^H^H geek squad not only helps to reinforce the notion that you have to have malware protection, but that it has to be the right protection, too. The malware firms are aware of this, and all of their advertising plays upon the insecurity fears of Windows users and the paranoia that results. Chronic exposure and vulnerability to malware has conditioned Windows users to accept this security tax.

It's no wonder, then, that when Windows users are finally able to break their chains and experience freedom on a Linux desktop, they stare at me in disbelief when I tell them to lay that burden down. They are reluctant to stop totin' that load. They have come to expect to pay a toll for a modicum of security.

I try to explain that permissions on Linux make such tribute unnecessary. Without quibbling over the definitions of viruses and trojans, I tell them that neither can execute on your machine unless you explicitly give them permission to do so.

Permissions on Linux are universal. They cover three things you can do with files: read, write, and execute. Not only that, they come in three levels: for the root user, for the individual user who is signed in, and for the rest of the world. Typically, software that can impact the system as a whole requires root privileges to run.

Microsoft designed Windows to enable outsiders to execute software on your system. The company justifies that design by saying it enriches the user experience if a Web site can do "cool" things on your desktop. It should be clear by now that the only people being enriched by that design decision are those who make a buck providing additional security or repairing the damage to systems caused by it.

Malware in Windows Land is usually spread by email clients, browser bits, or IM clients, which graciously accept the poisoned fruit from others, then neatly deposit it on their masters' systems, where malware authors know it will likely be executed and do their bidding -- without ever asking permission.

Some malware programs require that you open an attachment. Others don't even require that user error. By hook or by crook, malware on Windows often gets executed, infecting the local system first, then spreading itself to others. What a terrible neighborhood. I'm glad I don't live there.

On Linux, there is built-in protection against such craft. Newly deposited files from your email client or Web browser are not given execute privileges. Cleverly renaming executable files as something else doesn't matter, because Linux and its applications don't depend on file extensions to identify the properties of a file, so they won't mistakenly execute malware as they interact with it.

Whether newcomers grok permissions or not, I try to explain the bottom line to them: that because they have chosen Linux, they are now free of having to pay either a security tax up front to protect themselves from malware, or one after the fact to have their systems sterilized after having been infected.

So Linux is bulletproof? No. Bulletproof is one of the last stages of drunkenness, not a state of security. Linux users, like users on every operating system, must always be aware of security issues. They must act intelligently to keep their systems safe and secure. They should not run programs with root privileges when they are not required, and they should apply security patches regularly.

Misleading claims and false advertising by virus protection rackets to the contrary, you simply don't need antivirus products to keep your Linux box free of malware.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Redirection by Seymour Hersh

Here's another article from Seymour Hersh, one of the best known journalists in the US.

Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?
Issue of 2007-03-05
Posted 2007-02-25


In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”

The Administration’s new policy for containing Iran seems to complicate its strategy for winning the war in Iraq. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued, however, that closer ties between the United States and moderate or even radical Sunnis could put “fear” into the government of Prime Minister Maliki and “make him worry that the Sunnis could actually win” the civil war there. Clawson said that this might give Maliki an incentive to coöperate with the United States in suppressing radical Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

Even so, for the moment, the U.S. remains dependent on the coöperation of Iraqi Shiite leaders. The Mahdi Army may be openly hostile to American interests, but other Shiite militias are counted as U.S. allies. Both Moqtada al-Sadr and the White House back Maliki. A memorandum written late last year by Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser, suggested that the Administration try to separate Maliki from his more radical Shiite allies by building his base among moderate Sunnis and Kurds, but so far the trends have been in the opposite direction. As the Iraqi Army continues to founder in its confrontations with insurgents, the power of the Shiite militias has steadily increased.

Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”

President George W. Bush, in a speech on January 10th, partially spelled out this approach. “These two regimes”—Iran and Syria—“are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

In the following weeks, there was a wave of allegations from the Administration about Iranian involvement in the Iraq war. On February 11th, reporters were shown sophisticated explosive devices, captured in Iraq, that the Administration claimed had come from Iran. The Administration’s message was, in essence, that the bleak situation in Iraq was the result not of its own failures of planning and execution but of Iran’s interference.

The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. “They had five hundred locked up at one time. We’re working these guys and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they’ve been doing it all along—that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.” The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time,” after they have been interrogated.

“We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, announced on February 2nd, and yet the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened. According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran. American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

At Rice’s Senate appearance in January, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, of Delaware, pointedly asked her whether the U.S. planned to cross the Iranian or the Syrian border in the course of a pursuit. “Obviously, the President isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,” Rice said, adding, “I do think that everyone will understand that—the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.”

The ambiguity of Rice’s reply prompted a response from Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, who has been critical of the Administration:

Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said, “We didn’t cross the border going into Cambodia,” in fact we did.
I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee. So, Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the President is talking about here, it’s very, very dangerous.

The Administration’s concern about Iran’s role in Iraq is coupled with its long-standing alarm over Iran’s nuclear program. On Fox News on January 14th, Cheney warned of the possibility, in a few years, “of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world’s supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world.” He also said, “If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk with the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried. . . . The threat Iran represents is growing.”

The Administration is now examining a wave of new intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs. Current and former American officials told me that the intelligence, which came from Israeli agents operating in Iran, includes a claim that Iran has developed a three-stage solid-fuelled intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads—each with limited accuracy—inside Europe. The validity of this human intelligence is still being debated.

A similar argument about an imminent threat posed by weapons of mass destruction—and questions about the intelligence used to make that case—formed the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. Many in Congress have greeted the claims about Iran with wariness; in the Senate on February 14th, Hillary Clinton said, “We have all learned lessons from the conflict in Iraq, and we have to apply those lessons to any allegations that are being raised about Iran. Because, Mr. President, what we are hearing has too familiar a ring and we must be on guard that we never again make decisions on the basis of intelligence that turns out to be faulty.”

Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

In the past month, I was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities and possible regime change.

Two carrier strike groups—the Eisenhower and the Stennis—are now in the Arabian Sea. One plan is for them to be relieved early in the spring, but there is worry within the military that they may be ordered to stay in the area after the new carriers arrive, according to several sources. (Among other concerns, war games have shown that the carriers could be vulnerable to swarming tactics involving large numbers of small boats, a technique that the Iranians have practiced in the past; carriers have limited maneuverability in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, off Iran’s southern coast.) The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House’s not being “foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008.”


The Administration’s effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. Bandar served as the Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In his new post, he continues to meet privately with them. Senior White House officials have made several visits to Saudi Arabia recently, some of them not disclosed.

Last November, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a surprise meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar. The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw. A European intelligence official told me that the meeting also focussed on more general Saudi fears about “the rise of the Shiites.” In response, “The Saudis are starting to use their leverage—money.”

In a royal family rife with competition, Bandar has, over the years, built a power base that relies largely on his close relationship with the U.S., which is crucial to the Saudis. Bandar was succeeded as Ambassador by Prince Turki al-Faisal; Turki resigned after eighteen months and was replaced by Adel A. al-Jubeir, a bureaucrat who has worked with Bandar. A former Saudi diplomat told me that during Turki’s tenure he became aware of private meetings involving Bandar and senior White House officials, including Cheney and Abrams. “I assume Turki was not happy with that,” the Saudi said. But, he added, “I don’t think that Bandar is going off on his own.” Although Turki dislikes Bandar, the Saudi said, he shared his goal of challenging the spread of Shiite power in the Middle East.

The split between Shiites and Sunnis goes back to a bitter divide, in the seventh century, over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis dominated the medieval caliphate and the Ottoman Empire, and Shiites, traditionally, have been regarded more as outsiders. Worldwide, ninety per cent of Muslims are Sunni, but Shiites are a majority in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain, and are the largest Muslim group in Lebanon. Their concentration in a volatile, oil-rich region has led to concern in the West and among Sunnis about the emergence of a “Shiite crescent”—especially given Iran’s increased geopolitical weight.

“The Saudis still see the world through the days of the Ottoman Empire, when Sunni Muslims ruled the roost and the Shiites were the lowest class,” Frederic Hof, a retired military officer who is an expert on the Middle East, told me. If Bandar was seen as bringing about a shift in U.S. policy in favor of the Sunnis, he added, it would greatly enhance his standing within the royal family.

The Saudis are driven by their fear that Iran could tilt the balance of power not only in the region but within their own country. Saudi Arabia has a significant Shiite minority in its Eastern Province, a region of major oil fields; sectarian tensions are high in the province. The royal family believes that Iranian operatives, working with local Shiites, have been behind many terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, according to Vali Nasr. “Today, the only army capable of containing Iran”—the Iraqi Army—“has been destroyed by the United States. You’re now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.” (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)

Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”

The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.”

In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S. government consultant told me. First, Israel would be assured that its security was paramount and that Washington and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states shared its concern about Iran.

Second, the Saudis would urge Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that has received support from Iran, to curtail its anti-Israeli aggression and to begin serious talks about sharing leadership with Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group. (In February, the Saudis brokered a deal at Mecca between the two factions. However, Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the terms.)

The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.

Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, depicted the Saudis’ coöperation with the White House as a significant breakthrough. “The Saudis understand that if they want the Administration to make a more generous political offer to the Palestinians they have to persuade the Arab states to make a more generous offer to the Israelis,” Clawson told me. The new diplomatic approach, he added, “shows a real degree of effort and sophistication as well as a deftness of touch not always associated with this Administration. Who’s running the greater risk—we or the Saudis? At a time when America’s standing in the Middle East is extremely low, the Saudis are actually embracing us. We should count our blessings.”

The Pentagon consultant had a different view. He said that the Administration had turned to Bandar as a “fallback,” because it had realized that the failing war in Iraq could leave the Middle East “up for grabs.”


The focus of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after Iran, is Lebanon, where the Saudis have been deeply involved in efforts by the Administration to support the Lebanese government. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is struggling to stay in power against a persistent opposition led by Hezbollah, the Shiite organization, and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah has an extensive infrastructure, an estimated two to three thousand active fighters, and thousands of additional members.

Hezbollah has been on the State Department’s terrorist list since 1997. The organization has been implicated in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that killed two hundred and forty-one military men. It has also been accused of complicity in the kidnapping of Americans, including the C.I.A. station chief in Lebanon, who died in captivity, and a Marine colonel serving on a U.N. peacekeeping mission, who was killed. (Nasrallah has denied that the group was involved in these incidents.) Nasrallah is seen by many as a staunch terrorist, who has said that he regards Israel as a state that has no right to exist. Many in the Arab world, however, especially Shiites, view him as a resistance leader who withstood Israel in last summer’s thirty-three-day war, and Siniora as a weak politician who relies on America’s support but was unable to persuade President Bush to call for an end to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. (Photographs of Siniora kissing Condoleezza Rice on the cheek when she visited during the war were prominently displayed during street protests in Beirut.)

The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora government a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors’ conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting “to hijack the state,” but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. “Salafis are sick and hateful, and I’m very much against the idea of flirting with them,” he said. “They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly.”

Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, the British intelligence service, and now works for Conflicts Forum, a think tank in Beirut, told me, “The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.” Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.

The largest of the groups, Asbat al-Ansar, is situated in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government.

In 2005, according to a report by the U.S.-based International Crisis Group, Saad Hariri, the Sunni majority leader of the Lebanese parliament and the son of the slain former Prime Minister—Saad inherited more than four billion dollars after his father’s assassination—paid forty-eight thousand dollars in bail for four members of an Islamic militant group from Dinniyeh. The men had been arrested while trying to establish an Islamic mini-state in northern Lebanon. The Crisis Group noted that many of the militants “had trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.”

According to the Crisis Group report, Saad Hariri later used his parliamentary majority to obtain amnesty for twenty-two of the Dinniyeh Islamists, as well as for seven militants suspected of plotting to bomb the Italian and Ukrainian embassies in Beirut, the previous year. (He also arranged a pardon for Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian militia leader, who had been convicted of four political murders, including the assassination, in 1987, of Prime Minister Rashid Karami.) Hariri described his actions to reporters as humanitarian.

In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here,” he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a “theatre of conflict.”

The official said that his government was in a no-win situation. Without a political settlement with Hezbollah, he said, Lebanon could “slide into a conflict,” in which Hezbollah fought openly with Sunni forces, with potentially horrific consequences. But if Hezbollah agreed to a settlement yet still maintained a separate army, allied with Iran and Syria, “Lebanon could become a target. In both cases, we become a target.”

The Bush Administration has portrayed its support of the Siniora government as an example of the President’s belief in democracy, and his desire to prevent other powers from interfering in Lebanon. When Hezbollah led street demonstrations in Beirut in December, John Bolton, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., called them “part of the Iran-Syria-inspired coup.”

Leslie H. Gelb, a past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Administration’s policy was less pro democracy than “pro American national security. The fact is that it would be terribly dangerous if Hezbollah ran Lebanon.” The fall of the Siniora government would be seen, Gelb said, “as a signal in the Middle East of the decline of the United States and the ascendancy of the terrorism threat. And so any change in the distribution of political power in Lebanon has to be opposed by the United States—and we’re justified in helping any non-Shiite parties resist that change. We should say this publicly, instead of talking about democracy.”

Martin Indyk, of the Saban Center, said, however, that the United States “does not have enough pull to stop the moderates in Lebanon from dealing with the extremists.” He added, “The President sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis.”

In January, after an outburst of street violence in Beirut involving supporters of both the Siniora government and Hezbollah, Prince Bandar flew to Tehran to discuss the political impasse in Lebanon and to meet with Ali Larijani, the Iranians’ negotiator on nuclear issues. According to a Middle Eastern ambassador, Bandar’s mission—which the ambassador said was endorsed by the White House—also aimed “to create problems between the Iranians and Syria.” There had been tensions between the two countries about Syrian talks with Israel, and the Saudis’ goal was to encourage a breach. However, the ambassador said, “It did not work. Syria and Iran are not going to betray each other. Bandar’s approach is very unlikely to succeed.”

Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze minority in Lebanon and a strong Siniora supporter, has attacked Nasrallah as an agent of Syria, and has repeatedly told foreign journalists that Hezbollah is under the direct control of the religious leadership in Iran. In a conversation with me last December, he depicted Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, as a “serial killer.” Nasrallah, he said, was “morally guilty” of the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the murder, last November, of Pierre Gemayel, a member of the Siniora Cabinet, because of his support for the Syrians.

Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be “the ones to talk to,” Jumblatt said.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of a radical Sunni movement founded in Egypt in 1928, engaged in more than a decade of violent opposition to the regime of Hafez Assad, Bashir’s father. In 1982, the Brotherhood took control of the city of Hama; Assad bombarded the city for a week, killing between six thousand and twenty thousand people. Membership in the Brotherhood is punishable by death in Syria. The Brotherhood is also an avowed enemy of the U.S. and of Israel. Nevertheless, Jumblatt said, “We told Cheney that the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria—and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition.”

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Jumblatt said he understood that the issue was a sensitive one for the White House. “I told Cheney that some people in the Arab world, mainly the Egyptians”—whose moderate Sunni leadership has been fighting the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for decades—“won’t like it if the United States helps the Brotherhood. But if you don’t take on Syria we will be face to face in Lebanon with Hezbollah in a long fight, and one we might not win.”


On a warm, clear night early last December, in a bombed-out suburb a few miles south of downtown Beirut, I got a preview of how the Administration’s new strategy might play out in Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, who has been in hiding, had agreed to an interview. Security arrangements for the meeting were secretive and elaborate. I was driven, in the back seat of a darkened car, to a damaged underground garage somewhere in Beirut, searched with a handheld scanner, placed in a second car to be driven to yet another bomb-scarred underground garage, and transferred again. Last summer, it was reported that Israel was trying to kill Nasrallah, but the extraordinary precautions were not due only to that threat. Nasrallah’s aides told me that they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives, as well as Sunni jihadists who they believe are affiliated with Al Qaeda. (The government consultant and a retired four-star general said that Jordanian intelligence, with support from the U.S. and Israel, had been trying to infiltrate Shiite groups, to work against Hezbollah. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has warned that a Shiite government in Iraq that was close to Iran would lead to the emergence of a Shiite crescent.) This is something of an ironic turn: Nasrallah’s battle with Israel last summer turned him—a Shiite—into the most popular and influential figure among Sunnis and Shiites throughout the region. In recent months, however, he has increasingly been seen by many Sunnis not as a symbol of Arab unity but as a participant in a sectarian war.

Nasrallah, dressed, as usual, in religious garb, was waiting for me in an unremarkable apartment. One of his advisers said that he was not likely to remain there overnight; he has been on the move since his decision, last July, to order the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid set off the thirty-three-day war. Nasrallah has since said publicly—and repeated to me—that he misjudged the Israeli response. “We just wanted to capture prisoners for exchange purposes,” he told me. “We never wanted to drag the region into war.”

Nasrallah accused the Bush Administration of working with Israel to deliberately instigate fitna, an Arabic word that is used to mean “insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.” “In my opinion, there is a huge campaign through the media throughout the world to put each side up against the other,” he said. “I believe that all this is being run by American and Israeli intelligence.” (He did not provide any specific evidence for this.) He said that the U.S. war in Iraq had increased sectarian tensions, but argued that Hezbollah had tried to prevent them from spreading into Lebanon. (Sunni-Shiite confrontations increased, along with violence, in the weeks after we talked.)

Nasrallah said he believed that President Bush’s goal was “the drawing of a new map for the region. They want the partition of Iraq. Iraq is not on the edge of a civil war—there is a civil war. There is ethnic and sectarian cleansing. The daily killing and displacement which is taking place in Iraq aims at achieving three Iraqi parts, which will be sectarian and ethnically pure as a prelude to the partition of Iraq. Within one or two years at the most, there will be total Sunni areas, total Shiite areas, and total Kurdish areas. Even in Baghdad, there is a fear that it might be divided into two areas, one Sunni and one Shiite.”

He went on, “I can say that President Bush is lying when he says he does not want Iraq to be partitioned. All the facts occurring now on the ground make you swear he is dragging Iraq to partition. And a day will come when he will say, ‘I cannot do anything, since the Iraqis want the partition of their country and I honor the wishes of the people of Iraq.’ ”

Nasrallah said he believed that America also wanted to bring about the partition of Lebanon and of Syria. In Syria, he said, the result would be to push the country “into chaos and internal battles like in Iraq.” In Lebanon, “There will be a Sunni state, an Alawi state, a Christian state, and a Druze state.” But, he said, “I do not know if there will be a Shiite state.” Nasrallah told me that he suspected that one aim of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon last summer was “the destruction of Shiite areas and the displacement of Shiites from Lebanon. The idea was to have the Shiites of Lebanon and Syria flee to southern Iraq,” which is dominated by Shiites. “I am not sure, but I smell this,” he told me.

Partition would leave Israel surrounded by “small tranquil states,” he said. “I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,” he said. “In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

In fact, the Bush Administration has adamantly resisted talk of partitioning Iraq, and its public stances suggest that the White House sees a future Lebanon that is intact, with a weak, disarmed Hezbollah playing, at most, a minor political role. There is also no evidence to support Nasrallah’s belief that the Israelis were seeking to drive the Shiites into southern Iraq. Nevertheless, Nasrallah’s vision of a larger sectarian conflict in which the United States is implicated suggests a possible consequence of the White House’s new strategy.

In the interview, Nasrallah made mollifying gestures and promises that would likely be met with skepticism by his opponents. “If the United States says that discussions with the likes of us can be useful and influential in determining American policy in the region, we have no objection to talks or meetings,” he said. “But, if their aim through this meeting is to impose their policy on us, it will be a waste of time.” He said that the Hezbollah militia, unless attacked, would operate only within the borders of Lebanon, and pledged to disarm it when the Lebanese Army was able to stand up. Nasrallah said that he had no interest in initiating another war with Israel. However, he added that he was anticipating, and preparing for, another Israeli attack, later this year.

Nasrallah further insisted that the street demonstrations in Beirut would continue until the Siniora government fell or met his coalition’s political demands. “Practically speaking, this government cannot rule,” he told me. “It might issue orders, but the majority of the Lebanese people will not abide and will not recognize the legitimacy of this government. Siniora remains in office because of international support, but this does not mean that Siniora can rule Lebanon.”

President Bush’s repeated praise of the Siniora government, Nasrallah said, “is the best service to the Lebanese opposition he can give, because it weakens their position vis-à-vis the Lebanese people and the Arab and Islamic populations. They are betting on us getting tired. We did not get tired during the war, so how could we get tired in a demonstration?”

There is sharp division inside and outside the Bush Administration about how best to deal with Nasrallah, and whether he could, in fact, be a partner in a political settlement. The outgoing director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, in a farewell briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in January, said that Hezbollah “lies at the center of Iran’s terrorist strategy. . . . It could decide to conduct attacks against U.S. interests in the event it feels its survival or that of Iran is threatened. . . . Lebanese Hezbollah sees itself as Tehran’s partner.”

In 2002, Richard Armitage, then the Deputy Secretary of State, called Hezbollah “the A-team” of terrorists. In a recent interview, however, Armitage acknowledged that the issue has become somewhat more complicated. Nasrallah, Armitage told me, has emerged as “a political force of some note, with a political role to play inside Lebanon if he chooses to do so.” In terms of public relations and political gamesmanship, Armitage said, Nasrallah “is the smartest man in the Middle East.” But, he added, Nasrallah “has got to make it clear that he wants to play an appropriate role as the loyal opposition. For me, there’s still a blood debt to pay”—a reference to the murdered colonel and the Marine barracks bombing.

Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.

“The most important story in the Middle East is the growth of Nasrallah from a street guy to a leader—from a terrorist to a statesman,” Baer added. “The dog that didn’t bark this summer”—during the war with Israel—“is Shiite terrorism.” Baer was referring to fears that Nasrallah, in addition to firing rockets into Israel and kidnapping its soldiers, might set in motion a wave of terror attacks on Israeli and American targets around the world. “He could have pulled the trigger, but he did not,” Baer said.

Most members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities acknowledge Hezbollah’s ongoing ties to Iran. But there is disagreement about the extent to which Nasrallah would put aside Hezbollah’s interests in favor of Iran’s. A former C.I.A. officer who also served in Lebanon called Nasrallah “a Lebanese phenomenon,” adding, “Yes, he’s aided by Iran and Syria, but Hezbollah’s gone beyond that.” He told me that there was a period in the late eighties and early nineties when the C.I.A. station in Beirut was able to clandestinely monitor Nasrallah’s conversations. He described Nasrallah as “a gang leader who was able to make deals with the other gangs. He had contacts with everybody.”


The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”

The issue of oversight is beginning to get more attention from Congress. Last November, the Congressional Research Service issued a report for Congress on what it depicted as the Administration’s blurring of the line between C.I.A. activities and strictly military ones, which do not have the same reporting requirements. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, has scheduled a hearing for March 8th on Defense Department intelligence activities.

Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, a Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told me, “The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been ‘Trust us.’ ” Wyden said, “It is hard for me to trust the Administration.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Any effort that weakens Israel is anti-Semitic

From the Winnipeg Free Press.

Any effort that weakens Israel is anti-Semitic
'New' anti-Semitism targets Isiael

Sat Feb 24 2007

How odd
Of God

To choose

The Jews.

-- Willam Norman Ewer

Click here to find out more!
The sentiment behind that bit of jolly British doggerel has probably on one occasion or another run through the minds of many more people than would admit to it publicly, even if they are not familiar with the specific verse. But it's not the exact words that matter. It's the thought that counts and the thought is one of the most pervasive and perverse in modern civilization. In honesty, I have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind -- why did the God of the Old Testament choose the Jews when he could have chosen, for example, the Icelanders?

With a little bit of research the answer becomes clear -- when God made his choice, there weren't any Icelanders around. And with a little more thought, one has to admit that, given the options available to him way back then, God made a pretty good choice, because the Jews were willing to share what they got, a generosity which led American businessman Cecil Browne to reply to Ewer's verse. Was it odd of God? Perhaps, it was,

But not so odd

As those who choose

A Jewish God

But spurn the Jews.

Trust an American businessman to get right to the point. And the point here is anti-Semitism, not as it is played out in clever rhymes, but as it has been practised and experienced for centuries. Browne's quatrain, however, does encapsulate one of the huge curiosities of history. The world's three great monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- all have at their root a Jewish God, yet Christians and Muslims have been among the most virulent anti-Semites.

It is not just Christians and Muslims who are guilty, however. Anti-Semites pop up out of all of the great and popular heresies -- atheism, communism, fascism -- that sprang from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Say what you will about the persecutions of the Middle Ages or the pogroms of the 19th century, it took the intellectual sophistication of the 20th century for anti-Semitism to reach its high-water mark in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union and among the Arab nationalists of the Middle East -- not to mention the more modest but nevertheless still anti-Semitic quota systems at Canadian universities and private clubs.
It took the particular philosophical confusion of our own age, however, to bring forth the latest wrinkle in anti-Semitism -- the anti-Semitic Jew. This phenomenon is part of a new movement popular among, although not confined to Western, left-wing intellectuals. It is rooted in self-loathing, a contempt for the values and beliefs that come out of Western civilization and sustain societies such as Israel. It is a kind of intellectual nihilism embraced by people who fear, perhaps, that all the best ideas have already been thought, so all that's left for them to do is to tear everything down. Add the antagonism towards Israel that is widely popular in the West today to this self-loathing intellectualism and the result is what has been called the new anti-Semitism. The attacks are no longer against Jews and their history. It is no longer the Holocaust that is denied. Rather it is Israel and its history -- a history perceived as a relentless series of crimes against the Palestinians. It is Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state that is denied.

Anti-Semitic? Who? Me? might be the motto of these people, particularly the anti-Israel Jewish groups that have sprung up around the world. They are not, they say, anti-Jewish; they are just anti-Israel. It is a defining distinction in their minds but one that is elusive to others and preposterous to anyone who looks at their prescriptions for the future of the Jewish state.

Being pro-Israel, in fact, is seen as a root cause of anti-Semitism -- defending Israel creates "Islamophobia".

The idea of the anti-Semitic Jew may seem like a paradox with this intellectual puzzle, but consider this comment: "Defenders of Israel often argue that Israel is forced to do what it does -- to destroy people's homes, to keep them under the boot of occupation, to seal them into walled ghettos, to brutalize them daily with military incursions and random checkpoints -- to protect its citizens from Palestinian violence" -- comments by a Jewish group made elsewhere on this page, a group that believes these are continuing crimes of Israeli history.

This line of thinking leads to the belief that Israel is a nation born in blood and bred on violence and so has no right to exist -- at least, it is intended to take you to that conclusion. If it were to come out of the mouth of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there would be no doubt. He is a proud anti-Semite dedicated to the extermination of Jews, evangelical in his anti-Semitism. When it comes out of the mouths of Western intellectuals -- gentiles and Jews alike -- it is somehow not? Perhaps out of deference to their dislike for that term, we should call them anti-Israelites, but whatever we call them or they name themselves, I suspect that if you prick them, they will bleed pure anti-Semitism.

The real question here is whether it is possible to be anti-Israel, to argue that the Jewish state is an abomination in the eyes of the left, without being an anti-Semite. Perhaps it is, but I don't think so. The reason is simple enough. It is possible to oppose individual Israeli policies, deplore individual actions of the state of Israel -- indeed, to oppose most of its policies and actions -- and not be an anti-Semite. Many people, Jews among them, do exactly that. But if working toward the destruction of the Jewish state and its Jewish people -- however intellectually disingenuous your arguments are -- is not anti-Semitic, then God help the Jews, because no one else will.


Criticizing Israel is not an act of bigotry

From the Winnipeg Free Press.

Criticizing Israel is not an act of bigotry

Sat Feb 24 2007

By Jason Kunin
A grassroots revolt is underway in Jewish communities throughout the world, a revolt that has panicked the elite organizations that have long functioned as official mouthpieces for the community.

The latest sign of this panic is the recent publication by the American Jewish Committee of an essay by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, entitled Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism, which accuses progressive Jews of abetting a resurgent wave of anti-Semitism by publicly criticizing Israel.

This is the latest attempt to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism in order to silence or marginalize criticism of Israel. This approach is widely used in Canada. Upon becoming CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber declared that one of his goals was to "educate Canadians about the links between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism."

It is misleading for groups like the CJC to pretend that the Jewish community is united in support of Israel. A growing number of Jews around the world are joining the chorus of concern about the deteriorating condition of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as well as the inferior social and economic status of Israel's own Palestinian population.

In a world where uncritical support for Israel is becoming less and less tenable due to the expanding human rights disaster in the West Bank and Gaza, leaders of Jewish communities outside Israel have circled their wagons, heightened their pro-Israel rhetoric, and demonized Israel's critics. These leaders imply that increased concerns about Israel do not result from that state's actions, but from an increase in anti-Semitism.

Despite this effort to absolve Israel of responsibility for its treatment of Palestinians, Jewish opposition is growing and becoming more organized. On Feb. 5, a group in Britain calling itself Jewish Independent Voices published an open letter in The Guardian newspaper in which they distanced themselves from "Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries (and who) consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people." Among the signatories of the letter were Nobel-prize winning playwright Harold Pinter, filmmaker Mike Leigh, writer John Berger, and many others.
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This development follows the emergence of similar groups in Sweden (Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace), France (Union Juive Francaise pour la paix, Rencontre Progressiste Juive), Italy (Ebrei contro l'occupazione), Germany (Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost), Belgium (Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique), the United States (Jewish Voice for Peace, Brit Tzedek, Tikkun, the Bronfman-Soros initiative), South Africa, and others, including the umbrella organization European Jews for a Just Peace and the numerous groups within Israel itself.

In Canada, the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC) has been founded as an umbrella organization bringing together Jewish individuals and groups from across the country who oppose Israel's continued domination of the West Bank and Gaza.

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, nor does it "bleed into anti-Semitism," a formulation that says essentially the same thing. Some genuine anti-Semites do use Israel as a cover for maligning the Jewish people as a whole, but it is fallacious to argue that anyone who criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic because anti-Semites attack Israel. There are some anti-Semites who support Israel because they are Christian fundamentalists who see the return of Jews to Jerusalem as a precondition for the return of Christ and the conversion of Jews to Christianity, or because they are xenophobes who want to get rid of Jews in their midst. Anti-Semites take positions in support of and in opposition to Israel.

It is wrong to criticize all Jews for Israel's wrongdoings, yet Israel's leadership and its supporters in the Diaspora consistently encourage this view by insisting that Israel acts on behalf of the entire Jewish people.

This shifts blame for Israel's crimes onto the shoulders of all Jews. But Jewish critics of Israel demonstrate through their words and deeds that the Jewish community is not monolithic in its support of Israel.

Defenders of Israel often argue that Israel is forced to do what it does -- to destroy people's homes, to keep them under the boot of occupation, to seal them into walled ghettos, to brutalize them daily with military incursions and random checkpoints -- to protect its citizens from Palestinian violence. Palestinian violence, however, is rooted in the theft of their land, the diversion of their water, the violence of the occupation, and the indignity of having one's own very existence posed as a "demographic threat."

To justify Israel's continued occupation and theft of Palestinian land, the state and its defenders attempt to deny Palestinian suffering, arguing instead that Palestinian resentment is rooted not in Israeli violence, but rather in Islam, or the "Arab mentality," or a mystical anti-Semitism inherent in Arab or Muslim culture. Consequently, pro-Israel advocacy depends upon on the active dissemination of Islamophobia. Not surprisingly, engendering hatred in this manner inflames anti-Jewish sentiment among Arabs and Muslims. None of this is a recipe for making Jews safe.

Jewish people can help avert the catastrophic effects of Israeli behaviour, but only by taking a stand in opposition to it.

Jason Kunin of Toronto is a member of the administration council of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians. This article was written with help from other council members, including Cy Gonick and Dr. Mark Etkin, both of Winnipeg, Andy Lehrer of Toronto, Sid Shniad of Vancouver and Abraham Weizfeld of Montreal.

2007 Oscar predictions

I'm usually more wrong than I'm right, but it's fun to guess.

+ = I think should win
Y = I think will win
bolded = actually won

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio/Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling/Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole/Venus
Will Smith/The Pursuit Of Happyness
+ Y Forest Whitaker/The Last King Of Scotland

I've only seen the first film here and I didn't think Leo's performance warranted an Oscar. I'm hearing Forest Whitaker is the one to beat.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin/Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley/Little Children
Y Djimon Hounsou/Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy/Dreamgirls
+ Mark Wahlberg/The Departed

I've seen the first, third and fifth films.

Best Actress
Penélope Cruz/Volver
+ Judi Dench/Notes On A Scandal
Y Helen Mirren/The Queen
Meryl Streep/The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet/Little Children

I've only seen the second film.
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza/ Babel
+ Cate Blanchett/Notes On A Scandal
Abigail Breslin/Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson/Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi/Babel

I haven't seen the fourth film.

Best Animated Feature Film
Y Happy Feet
Monster House

Haven't seen any of these.

Art Direction
The Good Shepherd
Y Pan's Labyrinth
+ Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

I saw the second, third and fifth.

The Black Dahlia
+ Y Children Of Men
The Illusionist
Pan's Labyrinth
The Prestige

I haven't seen the first one.

Costume Design
Curse Of The Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

Haven't seen any of these.

+ Y The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
The Queen
United 93

Haven't seen the third or fourth. I hope Scorcese wins for The Departed.

Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
+ An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq In Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

I want to see Jesus Camp! This is the one where they were brainwashing kids in the name of God and George Bush. I've only seen the Al Gore movie, though.

Documentary Short
The Blood Of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing A Dream
Two Hands

Haven't seen any of these.
Film Editing
Blood Diamond
Y Children Of Men
The Departed
+ United 93

Hard to choose a winner here. All good choices.

Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding
Days of Glory (Indigènes)
The Lives Of Others
Y Pan's Labyrinth
+ Water

Only saw the last two.
+ Apocalypto
Y Pan's LabyrinthPan's Labyrinth

Saw all three. Click was such crap!

Music (Score)
The Good German
+Y Notes On A Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth

Notes On A Scandal has a score by Philip Glass, who is famous.
Music (Song)
An Inconvenient Truth

I don't recall the songs from the Al Gore film and didn't see the others.

Best Picture
+ The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Y The Queen

Sound Editing
+ Y Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Flags Of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Sound Mixing
+ Y Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Flags Of Our Fathers
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Visual Effects
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
+ Y Superman Returns

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Borat Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
Y Children Of Men
The Departed
Little Children
+ Notes On A Scandal

Writing (Original Screenplay)
+ Babel
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Y Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Friday, February 23, 2007

South Africa government to switch to open source.

The South African Cabinet today announced that it had approved a free and open source strategy and that government would migrate its current software to free and open source software.

At a Cabinet media briefing government said that it had "approved a policy and strategy for the implementation of free and open source software (FOSS) in government.

In a statement the cabinet said "all new software developed for or by the government will be based on open standards and government will itself migrate current software to FOSS. This strategy will, among other things, lower administration costs and enhance local IT skills."

"All the major IT vendors in the country have both supported the initiative and made contributions to the development of FOSS. Government departments will incorporate FOSS in their planning henceforth."

Government plans to set up a FOSS project office by April this year. The office will be established by the department of science and technology, the CSIR and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita).

Reuters writes that Themba Maseko told reporters the cabinet would use the open source Linux operating system in a bid to lower administration costs and enhance local IT skills.

"This is going to be a long process... What this (open source) initiative is basically trying to streamline (is) our use and development of software in the country," Maseko said.

Maseko said it was too early to provide timeframes for implementing Linux.

South Africa joins governments in other emerging markets like Brazil, China, Spain, India and Malaysia in adopting open source software, with proponents of Linux arguing that the free software could help slash the cost of getting computers into schools, homes and community centres.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Film - Breach

Movie - Breach

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There's nothing particularly wrong with Breach, the story about the surveillance and capture of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, the biggest intelligence security offense in US history, but it's not as gripping as it could have been.

Chris Cooper appears yet again as a stern, humourless, government man, senior FBI agent Robert Hanssen. Hanssen attends mass every day and otherwise appears to lead an exemplary lifestyle, despite his arrogance and rudeness. Ryan Phillippe plays a junior FBI employee hoping to make it to agent, who is enlisted to spy on Hanssen. Together, they end up an office in which they are supposed to plan out a new way for the bureau to handle electronic case data.

Both Phillippe and Cooper are adequate in their roles, but the scowling Cooper brings nothing new to the role that he has seemingly played a million times in other films, such as the Bourne series. It just seems that we're watching the same guy from any number of Cooper films. It would be an understatement to say that he is consistent in his characters. There seems to be a ceiling with Phillippe's acting abilities and it seems that they could have picked someone with a bit more depth. He lacks the inner fire to really seem like someone playing cat and mouse with a master cat. Laura Linney plays the agent handler for Phillippe's character, Eric O'Neill, and she is superb in all her scenes.

There's a lack of unpredictable tension. Every possible conflict has been seen before and their outcomes are already known. No surprises. The script doesn't tell the story about how Hanssen became a turncoat or why he did it. Now, that would have been interesting. Hanssen was a member of Opus Dei, and his brother-in-law, who also worked for the FBI, told the bureau back in 1990 that Hanssen should be investigated for spying after discovering unusual amounts of cash in Hanssen's home. We also didn't see any of Hanssen's relationship with a stripper, who he was apparently trying to get "closer to God." You wonder if they couldn't have included more background on Hanssen's motives and yet still kept the film to a reasonable length.

This isn't an action thriller by any means. It has more in common with the cerebral CIA birth film, The Good Shepherd, than say, The Bourne Identity. On the other hand, one could say that by focusing on the overall life of Robert Hanssen, this isn't a run of the mill spy film. Either way, it's not as compelling as it could have been.

Director Billy Ray has ten films under his belt as writer, but this is his second outing in the director's chair, having debuted with Shattered Glass. His screenplays include Flightplan, Suspect Zero, Volcano and Hart's War. Breach also stars Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer from 24), who appears yet again as a government "man."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Virgin Mary links Muslims and Christians

From the Winnipeg Free Press, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007.

Both Islam and Christianity revere Mary above all other women, a human divinely appointed to bear Jesus in a virgin birth. However, the Qur'an mentions Mary 34 times, and names an entire chapter after her -- more than she gets in the Bible, according to Cruden's Complete Concordance. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an, and some scholars say Muslims actually revere her more than Christians do.

"Without a doubt, she is the most spectacular female figure that appears in the whole of the Qur'an," says Bruce Lawrence, Islamic scholar and author of The Qur'an: A Biography. "That's quite something extra for Christians to have to deal with."

Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, agrees. In one sense, "I would say Muslims have more veneration of Mary -- those who are believing Muslims -- than most Christians today. That's because of the decline of Marion veneration in Christianity."

Pockets of worshippers around the world still pray extensively to Mary, especially among Catholics, but her influence has waned in the last generation. As women struggled to be heard, in church hierarchies and society at large, exhortations to follow Mary's example of chastity and acceptance of God's will started sounding like clerical spin designed to keep the women in line.

"She is not out of the picture, but she is not woven into the warp and woof of the faith," Moynihan said from his office in Rome. "That shattered with the confrontation with the modern world."
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Muslim women are not as likely to have submitted Mary to this political litmus test, so they are still comfortable turning to her, he says.

Aynur Gunenc is a 37-year-old Ottawa native who commutes to Montreal every week to complete her master's degree in bio-resource engineering at McGill University. She is also a practising Muslim and the mother of two sons.

Like many Muslim women, she looked to Mary while she was pregnant and went into labour, reading Surah 19, the chapter in the Qur'an named for the virgin. She also ate dates as Mary did while giving birth to Jesus.

"It is supposed to help for an easy delivery." Did it work? "Yes."

"For us, Mary is a symbol of purity and patience, honesty and believing 100 per cent in God, even when things are difficult. I am full of respect and love for her. I cannot imagine, myself, keeping your faith when you have had a baby without a husband, close to people who disapprove. It would not be bearable.

"If there had been a woman prophet, it would have been Mary. She knew this life is temporary."

Christianity and Islam differ on the fundamental nature of Jesus. For Christians, he is God the Son; for Muslims, a prophet who was fully human.

But their accounts around his birth are startlingly similar. Both tell of an elderly couple beseeching God for a child.
In the Bible, Elizabeth and her husband, the temple priest Zachary, become parents to John the Baptist.

In the Qur'an, the elderly Zakariya pleads to God for a son, and his prayer is answered with the birth of "Yahya" -- John.

Mary's mother, Anna, offers her child-to-be to God, but she is surprised and dismayed to see that she has given birth to a girl, whom she names Mary, or Maryam. She offers the child to God anyway and brings her to the temple where she comes under the protection of Zakariya.

Every day she has holy visions, and when Zakariya comes with food, he finds angels have already provided for the young girl -- details remarkably similar to the Proto Gospel of James, scripture that is not included in the Bible, but is considered credible by Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics.

In the Qur'an, the angel Gabriel comes to tell Mary she will bear a child, to which she says: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"

He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': It is a matter (so) decreed."

So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.

In the Qur'an, there is no Joseph to protect her reputation. Instead, Mary goes off to an unspecified location to bear the child. Once there, she cries out in pain and says she wishes she had died before this.

In response, God provides a stream for water, and dates from a tree above.
When she returns home with the babe in arms, the villagers are horrified. How could she have a child without a husband? Jesus himself speaks to them from her arms, even though he is only a few days old.

Mary is also a bridge between Islam and Christianity, something Pope Benedict XVI touched on in his trip to Turkey where he celebrated Mass at Ephesus, the western town in which she is said to have lived her final days.

The Pope pointed to her as an explicit link between Islam and Christianity, stressing that a common devotion to Mary can help bind the two faiths.

Vatican expert and author John Allen also comments on the link: "It is true that Mary is actually referred to more often in the Qur'an than she is in the New Testament," he told reporters during the pope's visit.

"She has always been a figure of strong popular devotion for Muslims as well as Christians. And it would not at all be surprising if Benedict XVI were to want to build on that in some fashion."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Is Windows losing out & Linux gaining?



The penguin’s come of age. What began as a battle between proprietary and open source Linux software, started by geeks around the world, isn’t plain tech rhetoric anymore. It’s now a mainstream commercial platform — a technology that enterprises are taking very seriously and looking at as a major cost-effective solution that has scalability and a great future roadmap.

A free software that can be downloaded from the Web, Linux has a source code that’s open and therefore available for anyone to use, modify, and redistribute freely. Proprietary Unix and Windows operating systems aren’t available for such tweaking.

With the movement getting the support of IT biggies such as IBM, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, which have devoted many of their engineers to work with the open source movement, enterprises are now showing confidence in adopting Linux. It’s no more now about getting your software free — in India the dominating Linux brands are Red Hat and Suse from Novell.

But companies are ready to pay. “You know, it’s not really about getting you software free — it’s about getting software that’s secure and robust... it’s about a system on which their applications will run well,” says Manojit Majumdar, country leader, academic initiatives and Linux, IBM. That’s the line Linux vendors are selling taking — making the most of the fact that Windows systems have the attention of hackers across the world and are often prone to virus attacks.

Spreading its wings

It’s now, however, not just about tweaking software solutions for Linux systems — there are, in fact, a host of peripherals from top brands such as Canon and HP that are compatible with Linux.

Meanwhile, enrolment for Linux-based courses are increasing, governments around the world are pushing for Linux, and more and more tech companies are modifying their solutions to run on Linux. It’s a movement that’s sweeping the backend operations, but you’re unlikely to notice it since the desktop is still dominated by Microsoft Windows. But chances are the many of the servers right in your own office are running on Linux but you’ve never known.

“We now see Linux moving to mission-critical applications — we see a lot of adoption in sectors such as banking, financial services, government and large corporations,” says a senior official of Red Hat, the leading Linux distributor in India. Some of the major Linux implementations in recent times took place at LIC, UTI, Central bank of India, Canara Bank, KBC’s SMS systems, various Airtel applications. What’s more state governments in Kerala, Chhatisgarh and West Bengal are looking at large scale adoptions of Linux to bring down technology costs.

The Kerala government has, in fact, announced that the state will be a FOSS (Free and open source software) destination and had introduced Linux in 12,500 schools in the state.

Meanwhile in West Bengal too, Linux is seen as a cost-saving solution in many e-governance projects. Other governments, such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka too have various projects running on Linux.

David-Golliath Alliance

What’s more — what looked like a David-Goliath battle between Microsoft and Linux now has Goliath crossing over to David’s side. It started with the Microsoft’s alliance with Novell, and its attention-grabbing presence at the recently-held Linux Asia in New Delhi. While Linux distributors such as Red Hat and Novell see it as a sign of acknowledgement that “Linux is now a mature technology”, Microsoft contends that it has customers that have servers running on different operating systems and with inter-operability becoming an issue, it had to step in to solve the problem for them.

For anyone who had doubts that Linux might work in India, considering the tardy nature of tech adoption here, there are IDC figures that show that in terms of server shipments, Linux had a market share of 19.3% in 2005, 21.1% in 2006, and expected to increase to 25.7% in 2010. The market share for Windows too will grew from 63.1%, to 64% in 2006, and is expected to grow to 65% in 2010. That’s impressive, but even more so when you realise that all estimates of Linux are actually conservative because many organisations use free downloads that can’t even be downtracked. This can be quite a challenge for analysts tracking Linux growth because it’s common for them to find organisations where Linux is being used and they’ve never known about it before.

That doesn’t mean Microsoft’s Windows operating system is losing out. “The pie is getting bigger and the reason we’re collaborating with Novell is because many of our clients have servers running on different operating systems. With virtualisation becoming a big trend in tech adoption, we’ll see more of that. And we’re there to solve such issues for our customers,” says Radhesh Balakrishnan, director - competitive strategy, Microsoft. The fact, is that a large enterprise will have multiple operating systems and different applications that run on it.

In fact, if you look at the spending figures, Linux shows a decline from 15.4% in 2005 to 14% in 2006. “This does not amount to decline in absolute value of Linux server spending,” explains Rajnish Arora, director, enterprise servers and workstations, IDC Asia/ Pacific. “The decline in value share is stemming from the fact that other operating systems such as Windows are growing much faster than Linux in the high-end of the market.” And that’s where the big revenues are.

In India, Unix share actually increased almost 1 percentage point from 2005 to 2006, resulting in decline in Linux share. “That was due to strong growth in spending across the telecom and financial services space for core-processing workloads,” Mr Arora said.

The trend may not continue till 2010 (see chart) as confidence in Linux gains ground.

Meanwhile, Apac figures (excluding Japan) show Windows market share declining from 69.3% in 2005 to 65.1% in terms of unit shipments, but revenue spending nevertheless increasing from 36.9% in 2005 to 40.5% in 2010. In the case of Linux unit shipments increase from 16.0% in 2005 to 26.4% in 2010 with revenues to spending also increasing from 9.4% in 2005 to 14.7% in 15.5%.

The figures (look at chart) show that both Linux and Microsoft are in fact benefiting from migration that’s happening from from other servers such as Netware and Unix. Globally, Microsoft Windows server revenues too grew 4.6% year on year with a revenue of $4.8 bn in the quarter ending November. The Linux server growth was 5.4% YOY, with the revenue being $1.5 bn for the quarter. Unix servers experience a 1.7% decline year on year.

A learning experience

All the action in the enterprise segment is spinning off some new trends in the education space too. IT training institutions such as Aptech and New Horizons too report increased number of students for its Linux courses. At New Horizons, the number of students for Linux course has been growing 100% year on year. “The reason is that companies like Oracle and IBM are putting more and more applications on Linux,” says Mr Ajay Sharma, president, New Horizons India.

At Aptech too students there are indicators that the industry is looking for more Linux experts. “Since a large number of organizations are adopting Linux, the requirement for professionals is increasing accordingly,” D. Venkat, national academic head, Aptech & SSi Education. Manish Bahl, senior analyst, Springboard Research, corroborates that, explaining that it’s India’s major IT companies such as Infosys and TCS that are recruiting Linux professionals in a big way. “Overall, I expect to see a Linux professionals demand of around 18% in 2007 and beyond,” says Mr Bahl.

Says SPS Grover, VP -Tech Sales, Oracle India: “We find that Linux is finding increasing acceptance among enterprises across the country. And with that happening we’ve extended our support from the six metros to 17 other cities.” He added: “We offer customers all our solutions — data base, development tools, key packages — on Linux because we feel it’s a system that’s robust and secure. And we’re running these for large enterprises in the telecom sector, financial services and government.” With the base for Linux still small, it’s the fastest growing business for Oracle, but the company wouldn’t divulge actual figures for its Linux business.

But clearly there’s room for coexistence of both proprietary and open source. Says Mr Arora of IDC: “There are some areas such as web workload, firewalls and high performance computing, where Linux has a strong presence. Windows, on the other hand has a sound position in business processing, CRM (customer relations management), messaging, collaborating, etc.” But don’t be surprised if Microsoft has been racking it’s collective brainpower to get into these areas too. “We are working with SGI to get into the high performance computing space too,” says Balakrishnan.

Experts pooh-pooh that. In the case of high performance computing or HPC, the world’s top 500 computers run on Linux. “High performance computing is done by extremely technologically-savvy people, who aren’t going to work on proprietary operating systems, and I’m not sure how Microsoft is going to address that. In fact, they’re are the kind who will fine-tune the operating system to suit their needs, strip off parts of the source code that aren’t necessary so that they don’t overload it with functions and features that they don’t need,” says Mr Arora.

More migration

Linux is benefiting from migration that’s happening from other servers such as Unix and Netware. But then, so is Windows. Security and robustness are other factors that Linux vendors are selling. Reacting to Microsoft’s claims that it’s more secure than Linux, Mr Arora says: “In the case of Linux, the source code is open and there are thousands of developers around the world working on it. Any vulnerability is resolved immediately — that’s not the case with Windows. Which is why Microsoft is frequently putting out security updates, while in the case of Linux, updates are not quite as frequent.”

But it’s not as though Linux doesn’t have it’s challenges. For instance, though a company like IBM has 1,000 of its workforce devoted to Linux, all its software doesn’t run on Linux yet — it’s high-end enterprise version database solution called DB2, for instance, as well as its WebSphere Application Server. “We have over 400 software products available on Linux, including Eclipse to write code in Java,” says Manojit Majumdar, who heads the Linux business of IBM, adding that customers could always check the company website to see if the application they planned to run would be compatible with Red Hat’s version of Linux or Novel’s Suse version.

Microsoft is at an advantage here — it can boast of an ecosystem (comprising applications, software developers trained on its software, training programmes) that the Linux vendors cannot hope to match yet. “But what we tell our customers is that if you want to scale up, Linux would be a more cost-effective proposition. Besides, the fact that it’s more secure,” says Mr Majumdar.

Meanwhile Microsoft commissioned Frost & Sullivan to do a study on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison of Windows 2003 and Linux. “The Windows environment across enterprises has close to 15.9% advantage over Linux and constitutes lower TCO in 80% of the instances encompassing application servers, network servers, and mail servers,” according to the study. And the fact is that Microsoft still does have the major market share and the confidence of enterprises.

However, Linux vendors don’t see that as a huge challenge. “More than challenges, there are opportunities for open source that have to be truly projected and we’re working with governments to achieve that,” says Red Hat officials.

Says Sandeep Menon, director, Linux business, Novell, “We now no longer need to substantiate that Linux is a mature system — what we’re now looking at are new work loads, such as data centres, etc.” Mr Menon adds that his company’s alliance with Microsoft will help address Novell’s customers’ problems with inter-operability and will also bring them under a customer protection clause.

The deal will also see the two companies getting into some joint marketing. There has been
some foreboding about the collaboration, but experts say that this just may be the beginning of a new scenario — one in which each Linux vendor can say: “My Linux is better than yours.”


Friday, February 02, 2007

Ubuntu Linux vs. Vista

A Vista vs. Linux matchup -- Part 1: Leveling the Playing Field by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (Jan. 24, 2007)

In this multi-part series, DesktopLinux.com columnist and operating system curmudgeon Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols pits Microsoft's latest wares -- Vista -- against Linux's fair haired boy -- Ubuntu -- to see how the pinnacle of commercial desktop operating systems stacks up against the free, community-developed Linux upstart.

A Vista vs. Linux Matchup

Part 1: Leveling the Playing Field

by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

So, which really is better for the desktop: Vista or Linux?

I've been working with Vista since its beta days, and I started using Linux in the mid-90s. There may be other people who have worked with both more than I have, but there can't be many of them. Along the way, I've formed a strong opinion: Linux is the better of the two.

But, now that Vista is on the brink of becoming widely available, I thought it was time to take a comprehensive look at how the two really compare. To do this, I decided to take one machine, install both of them on it, and then see what life was like with both operating systems on a completely even playing field.

My first decision was to acquire a new system. I think almost anyone -- unless they have a loaded gaming system -- will make the same decision. The folks up in Redmond can tell you until they turn blue in the face that Vista Premium Ready needs only a 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor, 1 GB of system memory, and a graphic card with support for DirectX 9 graphics, a WDDM (Windows Display Driver Model) driver, and 128 MB of graphics memory. They lie like rugs.

You can no more run Vista, with its pretty Aero interface, on a system like that than you can ride a bicycle on an interstate. Yes, you might get on the road, but you're not going to enjoy it and you'll be in danger of getting over run at any moment.

A modern Linux, like SLED 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) or Ubuntu 6.10, runs well on such a system. Vista with all the trimmings? Forget about it. It's not happening.

So, from the get-go, Vista starts with a knock against it. If you own a PC that's over a year old, and haven't upgraded it, chances are you won't be able to run high-end Vista. Last spring, Gartner, the research house, estimated that only half of the PCs then shipping could support Vista Premium. In other words, if you don't have a shiny new machine, you're not going to be running a shiny new Windows operating system.

That said, you can buy Vista Premium-capable systems now for about a grand without too much looking. I managed, I thought, to do it for only $800.

I went to a local Best Buy store after Christmas and I found an HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n PC floor model on sale. This high-end, for early 2006, system had originally listed for $1,200. Now, when you can find this one-time PC Magazine Editor's Choice, since it's no longer being made, you can pick up a brand new one for about a $1,000.

The m7360n comes with a hyper-threaded 2.8 GHz Pentium D 920 dual-core processor, 4 MB of L2 cache, an 800 MHz front-side bus, and 2 GB of DDR (double-data-rate) RAM. It also has a 300-GB SATA hard drive, a dual-layer, multi-format LightScribe DVD/CD burner, a DVD-ROM drive.

For peripherals and multimedia, the m7360n has six USB 2.0, two FireWire, one VGA, one S-Video, and one composite AV port. It also comes with a 9-in-1 memory card reader, 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet, 56K V.92 modem, and 802.11g WiFi. For graphics, it has an NVIDIA GeForce 6200SE video card which takes up 256 MB of the system's main RAM, Intel High Definition audio (aka Azalia) with 5.1-channel surround sound.

Not bad, eh?

I decided to give Vista every chance to strut its stuff, so I decided to install Vista Ultimate -- the top of the Vista line -- on it. For the Linux, I decided to go with SimplyMEPIS 6.01, which is 99 percent Ubuntu 6.06.

I chose MEPIS (the 32-bit version), rather than straight Ubuntu, for several reasons. The first, is that I prefer the KDE interface to GNOME, and I've never developed much affection for Kubuntu, the official KDE version of Ubuntu. Your Linux love affair may vary. The other reason is that the 1 percent that MEPIS adds to Ubuntu includes features that I really like a lot, such as easy interoperability with Windows domain and AD (Active Directory) networks.

You see, I run my computers on a business network that includes the Windows networking infrastructure, as well such old Unix standards as NFS (Network File System) and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). So, I prefer operating systems that can plug and play with Windows networks. Home users, who don't need to worry about such issues, will probably find genuine Ubuntu or Kubuntu fine for their purposes.

So, now it was time to rip out the m7360n's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Update Rollup 2. This was no great loss. But, the story of what happened next will need to wait for Part 2 of my series.

A Vista vs. Linux Matchup - Part 2: Dual-booting Vista and Linux by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (Jan. 26, 2007)

Foreword: This is Part 2 of a series that pits Microsoft's latest wares -- Vista -- against Linux's fair-haired boy -- Ubuntu. When we last saw our fearless curmudgeon, he was busy preparing a level playing field for Vista and Linux to play -- and work -- together on.

Note: If you missed Part 1, read it here.

A Vista vs. Linux Matchup

Part 2: Dual-Booting Vista and Linux

by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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Last time around, I described the HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n that I'm using for my Vista vs. Linux shootout. Getting the PC was the easy part. Getting Linux and Vista to live together on the same machine turned out to be a bit harder.

On XP and earlier Windows PCs, making Windows and Linux live together was almost automatic. Any of the major distributions made it easy. With Vista, things have changed. Microsoft has deep-sixed its old boot.ini bootloader in favor of a new bootloader.

The new bootloader, BCD (Boot Configuration Data), is designed to be firmware-independent. It also comes with a new boot option editing tool, BCDEdit.exe, which isn't so much user-friendly as user-hostile. I'm not, by the way, talking here as someone whose chief concern is dual-booting Linux. BCDEdit is a pain to work with no matter how you're modifying Vista's boot behavior. Unfortunately, though, you're going to have to work with Vista bootloader, because Vista doesn't deal well with being installed on a system that already has an operating system on it that you mean to keep.

In my case, I had already decided to blow away my system's existing Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Update Rollup 2 operating system. I could have "upgraded" this system to Vista, but I really do want to give Vista its best chance to shine, and upgrading an existing Windows system appears to be an almost sure way to find trouble.

Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, you don't mind running into incompatibility problems, and you know exactly what you're doing, do not "upgrade" to Vista. Do a clean install, instead.

In the case of a dual-boot system, you're almost certainly going to need to do a clean install, anyway. You see, if you "upgrade" a system, you have to do it from within Windows XP or 2000. And, if you do that, you can't repartition or reformat any of the hard drive. The only way you can work on your drive fundamentals at the start of a Vista install is if you boot from the Vista DVD. So, unless you already have a big enough partition on your drive for another operating system, you're better off with a clean install.

With all that in mind, I did a clean install of Vista Ultimate on my system. I divided my system's 300GB SATA hard drive into two equal partitions. On the Vista side, I had the option of using BitLocker Drive Encryption, but I decided not to use it.

BitLocker actually makes a good deal of sense. In particular, if I was planning to lug around a Vista-only laptop, I'd like knowing that if anyone swiped it, they wouldn't be able to easily get at my data.

For me, though, that has two problems. The first is that it requires a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 1.1 chip or a USB drive. While the HP doesn't have a TPM chip, it does have six USB 2.0 ports. But, if I use a USB drive to keep my BitLocker encryption key on, isn't it always going to be on my machine anyway? Now, this doesn't really matter with this hefty tower system, but if I were using a notebook, anyone who grabbed my laptop bag would also be likely to get my USB BitLocker key at the same time.

The real problem for dual-booting with BitLocker is that it blocks Linux from accessing any data in that partition. Security guru Bruce Schneier thinks "You could look at BitLocker as anti-Linux because it frustrates dual boot," but I don't think it does. Even with BitLocker installed, Vista still needs an unencrypted partition to boot from, so dual-booting should still work. It's just that getting at data on the BitLocker-protected NTFS partition will be close to impossible for Linux users.

One final thought on BitLocker before I go. Microsoft has only made it available on its Enterprise and Ultimate editions. Enterprise is only available to volume buyers, and Ultimate's the most expensive Vista of them all. I find it more than a little annoying that small business users will have to upgrade to Ultimate to get what I think of as one of Vista's best points for business users.

As for Linux and disk encryption, this functionality has been baked into Linux using the CryptoAPI since version 2.6.0 first appeared several years ago. For detailed instructions on how to use CryptoAPI, see, A Structured Approach to Hard Disk Encryption. If you don't want to get your hands dirty with this do-it-yourself approach, you can use a GUI-enabled open-source program, TrueCrypt to get the job done.

Now, I started to install Vista. One of Vista's better points is that it will alert you when it runs into hardware that it hasn't a clue on how to handle. On the down side, it will also, like all operating systems, run hardware that it thinks it knows how to run, but it doesn't really have a clue.

With the m7360n, I quickly found that neither Vista nor Ubuntu nor MEPIS could run all of the system's hardware. I found one component that Vista couldn't deal with at all, and several that required some work with MEPIS before I could get them operational.

I'm going to save those stories for the next installment where I talk about hardware compatibility, so I can continue talking about making Vista and Linux dual-bootable. Before I do this, though, let me make one thing clear. People are always talking about how Linux has problems with devices. And, that's true. Vista, however, at this point in its development anyway, also has a goodly number of hardware problems.

For the most part, both the Vista and MEPIS installations went without any problems. Both operating systems come on DVDs and once you boot the system up and start installing them, your "hardest" job will be setting the proper time.

In the case of Vista, though. I did have one of those "What the heck?" moments. If you look at the Windows setup screen you'll see that it lists both Home and Business as choices, but there's really no difference between them. Or, if there is, you sure can't tell it from this display. I do have to wonder for a moment, too, about anyone who's not sure if they're at home or in the office, but I'll let that pass.

One of those "What the heck?" moments.
(Click to enlarge)

Once both systems are on the machine, though, you're going to quickly find that you can only boot the system into Linux, thanks to the unfriendly Vista BCD.

There are several ways to get around this. For Ubuntu-based systems like MEPIS and Kubuntu, which use the GRUB bootloader, here's how you set it up.

First, you want to switch to root, aka super-user mode. MEPIS enables me to do this with the su command. Most of the Ubuntu family requires you to use the sudo command. For our purposes, changing the bootloader settings in Ubuntu with its sudo settings will work in exactly the same way.

Then, in most of Linuxes, you open up the file /boot/grub/menu.lst with your favorite text editor, not word-processor. In my case, that's vi in a terminal window.

Configuring GRUB to dual-boot Linux and Vista
(Click to enlarge)

Then, you enter the following lines at the bottom of the file...

    title Vista
    rootnoverify (hd0,1)
    chainloader +1

...and then you save and close it.

In my case, Vista is on my first -- and only -- hard drive's second partition, so the root setting is "hd0,1". If it were on my second drive's first partition, it would be "hd1,0".

Now, when you boot your system up, the first thing you'll see is the MEPIS boot screen. If you want to go to Linux, you just leave it alone and off you go. If you want to boot Vista, simply select it, and that will put you into Vista's BCD menu and you'll be on your way to Vista.

If you want to get fancier, say run Vista, XP, Red Hat, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Solaris, and -- oh, what the heck -- OS/2, on a system, you should get a high-end boot manager editor. At this time, the best I know of, which can also handle Vista's BCD, is EasyBCD 1.52, from NeoSmart Technologies. This is a Windows-only, freeware program.

My Vista desktop
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My MEPIS desktop
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At the end of this, as you can see, I had both Vista Ultimate and SimplyMEPIS 6.01 installed and running successfully on my PC. Well, mostly successfully. For what went right -- and wrong -- with the system's hardware with both operating systems, stay tuned for the next exciting chapter.

Oh, and yes, that is an Internet Explorer icon on the MEPIS window.

by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (Jan. 31, 2007)

Foreword: This is Part 3 of a series that pits Microsoft's new Vista OS against Linux's fair-haired boy, Ubuntu. At the conclusion of Part 2, our fearless curmudgeon had just finished configuring his test system to dual-boot Vista Ultimate and SimplyMEPIS 6.01, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution with a KDE desktop.

Note: If you missed the previous installments of this series, read them here:

A Vista vs. Linux Matchup

Part 3: Hardware Wars

by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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When last we left my exploration of Vista vs. Ubuntu/MEPIS Linux, I had the system up and running in a dual-boot environment.

Now, came the interesting part: seeing how each operating system would work, or not, with the hardware on my HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n PC. When it was first built, in early 2006, this was a high-end system. Today, in early 2007, it's still a powerful system; but, it's in no way, shape, or form a cutting-edge PC. In other words, neither Vista nor MEPIS should have too much trouble with the hardware. Right?

Well, I was half-right.

To start with the very basics, neither operating system had any trouble using the PC's hyper-threaded 2.8GHz Pentium D 920 dual-core processor, 4MB of L2 cache, 800MHz front-side bus, and 2GB of DDR (double-data-rate) RAM. Both recognized and appropriately used those system resources.

MEPIS provides a detailed look at what's what in memory, and that's not much at all with the Linux in a resting state.
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With both systems completely idle except for their memory map programs and the screenshot program, MEPIS has a memory footprint of less than 100MB, while Vista is pounding down its foot with over half-a-gigabyte of RAM.
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For the purposes of my evaluation, I didn't make the best possible theoretical use of the hardware, however, because, on this 64-bit system, I used 32-bit versions of both OSes. I did this because both Vista and Linux still have teething pains on 64-bit systems. They'll run just fine, but there are nowhere near enough 64-bit hardware drivers or applications for either one.

Actually, Vista has far more trouble than Linux does with the 64-bit environment. Microsoft decided, in the interests of security, to require 64-bit Vista drivers to be digitally signed. If they're not signed, they don't load, they don't run, and that's the end of the story. That actually does make some sense. For example, it will stop some rootkit attacks cold. On the other hand, it also means that there are darn few digitally signed drivers available.

Therefore, since I was interested in seeing how Linux did against Vista on a level playing field, I decided not to go 64-bit. When it comes to 64-bits, Linux has a clear advantage in hardware compatibility. You could argue it does that by being less secure, but consider the track record: Windows, as secure as the web built by the itsy-bitsy spider in the rain spout; versus Linux, no known significant viruses or rootkits. All things considered, I'm not worried about Linux's lack of digitally signed drivers.

Both operating systems ran flawlessly with the Maxtor 300GB, 7200rpm SATA hard drive. And, both of them were able to recognize and use the system's dual-layer, multi-format LightScribe DVD/CD burner drive and the DVD-ROM drive. Vista was also able to use LightScribe, which enables you to burn gray-scale graphics and lettering onto special DVDs and CDs, whereas MEPIS doesn't have this functionality built-in.

LightScribe recently released its own driver and software for RPM-based Linux systems such as Fedora and openSUSE. The drive vendor Lacie, however, has also released software -- 4L: LaCie LightScribe Labeler for Linux -- that enables any Linux, including Debian-based ones such as MEPIS and its parent Ubuntu, to use LightScribe.

The usual array of memory card reader ports -- CompactFlash I and II, SmartMedia, Memory Stick and MS Pro, Secure Digital (SD) and MMC MicroDrive, and XD Picture Card -- worked well. The USB 2.0 and FireWire ports also ran without a hitch for both OSes.

Moving right along, while installing the operating systems, I ran into a complete failure of an operating system to recognize an integral component of the system. The naughty operating system? Vista.

Yes, I know you've been taught to think that Windows runs everything, and that Linux is the one with hardware driver problems. Well, yes, Linux does have some shortcomings with drivers thanks to proprietary drivers, but Vista has its troubles, too.

Vista's problem child surprised me though: it was the audio. I can't recall the last time any operating system I worked with had trouble working with a motherboard's onboard audio. While Vista had no trouble finding and activating the Intel High Definition audio chip (aka Azalia), what it couldn't work with at all was the common-as-dirt RealTek ALC 882 audio chipset.

The result was that while Vista could push Dolby 5-1 media audio to my media speakers, it actually couldn't use my plain-old vanilla speakers. I checked into this further, and quickly discovered that I was far from the first person to run into this problem. At this time, there also doesn't appear to be a solution.

Vista found the high-end audio, but it couldn't find the basic audio.
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MEPIS, on the other hand, immediately recognized and put all the system's audio to work. At this very moment, I'm listening to the Dropkick Murphys' Boston-branded Celtic-Punk off the system using my favorite Linux music player, Banshee.

No trouble with the audio hardware in MEPIS.
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Not long after my musical interlude, I switched back to Vista... and found that Vista has other audio problems.

My test system's high-end audio outputs are S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) compliant. S/PDIF is probably the most common high-end audio port around for PCs today. It also has no built-in DRM (digital rights management) capability, and that turned out to be an important matter.

When I switched back to Vista, I tried to play Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot CD. Whoops! Not a single sound emerged from my speakers. After a little investigation, I found that Vista disables media outputs that don't incorporate DRM, when you try to play DRM protected media through them.

My test system's high-end S/PDIF audio port lacks built-in DRM. Without that functionality, Vista won't play music through the PC's speakers with Windows Media Player 11. MEPIS, on the other hand, has no trouble playing online music. In this case, I'm using Streamtuner.
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That was a kick in the head. I have a fully legal CD in my hand. Any other version of Windows will play it, Linux will play it, Mac OS will play it, and my CD player will play it, but if you're using S/PDIF for your computer-driven audio and Vista, you're out of luck. If you have a card with a Toslink optical digital audio port, you will be able to play it.

One of the ironies of the situation was that this very album had been first released on the Web without any DRM, in part as a protest against DRM. Ah well, that was yesterday.

There's a very detailed report on just how Vista goes wrong with DRM, which I recommend to you. I'll just content myself by saying an operating system -- any operating system -- is not the place for DRM.

Next up, I came to the system's Agere Systems PCI K56flex data/fax modem. It was, of course, a WinModem. These accursed modems consist of a bit of hardware and a lot of Windows code. Vista has no problems with it, but MEPIS was unable to work with it.

Now, most people assume that Linux, by and large, can't work with WinModems at all. That's not true. Many WinModems will work with Linux. The trick is to find the right driver for your modem. The motherlode of Linux and WinModem information is at Linmodems. An extremely useful site for Ubuntu Linux family users is the Dial Up Modem section of Ubuntu's online documentation. Alas, in my case, I'm stuck with a WinModem I can't get to work.

Since the chances of me using a modem on a desktop system is somewhere between slim and none, I don't regard this as a major failure.

Things, however, did go much better with my PC's networking systems. Unlike any other tower PC I've ever met, this HP system comes with both an Intel Pro/100 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet port and 802.11g WiFi. As you would expect, both Vista and MEPIS took to the Ethernet like ducks to water. What might surprise you, though, is that MEPIS had no trouble swimming away with WiFi as well.

While Linux often has trouble with WiFi, thanks again to proprietary drivers, the WiFi system on the m7360n uses an Atheros Communications chipset and Linux can work with most, albeit not all, Atheros-based WiFi devices. This works thanks to the Madwifi project, which has worked for years on enabling Atheros equipment to work with Linux. While not all Linux distributions include Madwifi, MEPIS, fortunately for me, does.

If you're stuck with a laptop that doesn't use Atheros WiFi hardware, there are also many other Linux WiFi drivers. And, if worse comes to worse, you can always try using a Windows WiFi driver in Linux by installing NDISWrapper. This project implements a Windows driver API and the NDIS (Network Driver Interface Specification) API within the Linux kernel. You then take a working Windows wireless network driver, say the one with Vista, and use it to connect to WiFi networks. For the best reference to Linux and WiFi, visit Hewlett-Packard and Jean Tourrilhes's Wireless LAN resources for Linux site.

Again, in my case, though, there was no fuss or muss. Both OSes just worked with both network interfaces.

I was also pleased to find that MEPIS, as well as Vista, could work with the TV tuner and video capture chipset -- the Conexant Falcon II NTSC. Between it, and the GeForce 6200SE graphics card, it boasts S-Video and composite inputs and outputs, coaxial cable TV, and FM antenna ports.

Neither operating system had any trouble turning the PC into a TV. Here, we see a shot from a recent episode of Ugly Betty being rendered by VLC media player on MEPIS.
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While it's enjoyable to watch TV with both operating systems, I won't go into anymore detail on it since (1) the Conexant only has a single-tuner, and (2) it doesn't support HDTV. If you want to get serious about a 2007 "media center" using either Vista or Linux, you'll want a much more recent and capable TV video card.

Finally, I come to graphics. Here, I have to report that while both operating systems worked with the NVIDIA GeForce 6200SE video card, neither worked with it as well as I had hoped. Of the two, I was most disappointed with Vista.

Now, the GeForce 6200SE is no speed demon. Instead of having its own video RAM, it cannibalizes 256MB of the system's main RAM. No one expects to get any kind of WOW experience from this card.

What I did expect, though, was, given the rest of the system, to be able to at least run Vista's fancy-pants new GUI, Aero, decently. Wrong.

While I was installing Vista, it told me that my "Windows Experience Index" was going to be 2.4. Let me translate that for you: my graphics quality was going to be mediocre. A 3.0 is considered adequate for Aero.

A Vista experience of 2.4 isn't a good experience. Time to go out and buy a graphics card with its own dedicated 256MB of RAM -- or should that be 512MB?
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Things were better on MEPIS, but its 3D graphics, using both Beryl and Compviz were, well, OK. While working with these, Linux finally lived up to its reputation as being difficult to install.

Other Linuxes, such as openSUSE with Compviz and Foresight with Beryl, already incorporate the 3D, special-effect windows managers. On those systems, installing a fancy graphics manager goes much easier.

That said, I installed both Beryl and Compiz. Most Linux users probably could install them. But, Mr. Joe Windows? Forget about it. He'll never get it done. That said, I got more eye-candy goodness from MEPIS than I ever did with Vista.

Along the way, I might add, I updated the graphics drivers in both operating systems. In the case of MEPIS, it made a real difference. With Vista, well, if the new driver improved things, I couldn't tell.

Don't get me wrong. Both operating systems did well at showing videos and snapping 2D applications in and out of focus. It's just that if you wanted to have a spectacular graphics experience, you were at the wrong PC.

What I learned from this experience is that Microsoft has low-balled Vista's requirements even more than I had thought they had. Seriously, if you're going to run Vista and you want Aero, get a high-end video card with 256MB of dedicated memory -- 512MB would be even better. I have to say that my last thought on both Vista and Linux is that if you really, really want the best possible graphics... get a Mac.

Putting aside Apple hardware, where all the software works with all the hardware so long as it's all up to the minute, I found that MEPIS actually has better hardware support for this PC than Vista.

Now, that may change as Microsoft puts dollars into hardware vendors' hands to support Vista. But, for now, if you're going to upgrade your operating system on an existing PC, Linux gives you the better shot of everything working correctly.

On the other hand, if you're planning on viewing or listening to DRM-protected media of any sort, Linux is clearly going to give you better hardware support. By incorporating DRM into the operating system, Microsoft is going to make it very difficult for everyone from PC DVR (digital video recorder) users to just a guy who wants to play a DRM-crippled CD to be certain that everything will work properly.

Adding insult to injury, since DRM protection schemes must evolve constantly, to stay ahead of hackers tearing them down, I have little doubt that one day you'll come home to find that a Vista update to DRM-protection has just locked you out of your media collection. You know, the same collection, which had worked just fine the day before. Repeat after me: DRM does not belong in operating systems.

Next up, I'll start looking at what both Vista and MEPIS have to offer with their basic, built-in software. See you then.

To be continued . . .

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