The Coolest Stuff for the Penguin

Asterisk Turns Professional, the World’s Smallest Penguin, and iTunes for Linux

“PyTunes,” iTunes, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

Apple has neglected the Linux market, refusing (at least so far) to produce an iTunes Music Store client for penguinistas. So, in true form, the open source community has taken matters into it own hands. Jon Johansen (of DeCSS fame) and friends have created PyMusique, an interface to the iTunes store written in Python. The application allows you to preview and purchase songs like the standard iTunes software, but PyMusique lets you re-download purchased songs and strip Apple’s digital rights management (DRM) protections.

Great news, right? Not so fast. It’s likely that PyMusique will prompt an unfavorable response from Apple. Apple and PyMusique have already gone a few rounds, each countering the other’s moves. As the magazine goes to press though, PyMusique has the upper hand.

Even if PyMusique ultimately fails, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, Apple will respond with its own official client. In the mean time, though, download PyMusique from http://fuware.nanocrew.net/pymusique/.

Asterisk Goes Pro

In yet another open source success story, Digium (http://www.digium.com/) has announced Asterisk Business Edition ABE). ABE is a commercial version of the oft-praised, open source PBX named Asterisk.[ See http://www.linux-mag.com/2004-09/asterisk_01.html.]

ABE is based entirely on the open source version and contains no new features. The company performed extensive testing to focus on stability, real world performance, and out-of-the-box setup. As a result, some unstable and unnecessary features were actually removed. The release is geared toward businesses whose operations depend on telephony and demand higher reliability and support. In addition to a software support package, Digium sells and supports several hardware devices that are compatible with Asterisk.

If you’ve worked with Asterisk before, it’s easy to see the appeal of ABE. Hello, operator? Connect me with Tux.

One Tiny Penguin

Kleinhenz has recently released a Linux system just slightly bigger then an RJ-45 Ethernet jack. The device, known as the Picotux (http://www.picotux.com), weighs only 0.64 ounces and is barely noticeable attached to the end of a standard network cable. (Pictured at right.)

The initial hardware specifications for Picotux are rather modest, with an ARM7 CPU running up speeds of 55 MHz, 2 MB of Flash memory, and 8 MB of RAM. Picotux is running uClinux 2.4.27, and Busybox has been loaded onto the device. Picotux is based on NetSilicon’s Digiconnect ME module. NetSilicon also offers a very similar device with 802.11b, so a wireless version of might be in the works.

There are some very intriguing applications for a device with this form factor, making it a must have for the Linux hackers toy chest. Pricing for Picotux currently starts at just over $120.

A New Take on “Live” CDs

Live CD-based Linux distributions have been great tools for spreading the Linux gospel. They let a user to experiment with Linux, without changing their existing hard drives. But they also limit what you can do, since no data can be saved. Enter the Puppy.

Puppy Linux (http://www.goosee.com/puppy/download/downpage.htm) is an intriguing Linux distribution that’s extremely small and fast. It can run off of flash drives, CDs, or Zip disks, and loads totally into RAM. Included in the 50 MB distribution are several applications that round out a surprisingly robust system.

Next, Puppy Linux is tackling the multi-session live CD. Since Puppy Linux is so small, there are several hundred free megabytes left on a standard CD. The new multi-session version has a standard ISO on the CD, but when booted from a CD burner, it saves (burns) changed files back to the CD at shutdown. So, the next time the CD is loaded, the changes are still in place! If you happen to fill up the remaining space, you can insert a blank CD to continue. Newbies can have several extended sessions before fully installing a distribution to a hard drive. More advanced users might “carry” a reusable Linux box with them on CD.

Puppies and penguins: aw, what a beautiful team.

Lindows, Er, Linspire Boots 5.0

Linspire has released Linspire Version 5.0. Like previous Linspire releases, 5.0 is geared for the desktop and is designed for those migrating from the Microsoft world to Linux.

Version 5.0 contains several enhancements, including a customized theme by well-known Linux graphics artist Everaldo (http://www.everaldo.com/). The user interface is very clean and intuitive, and new users should have no problems finding their way around.

Under the hood of 5.0 is the 2.6.10 kernel, KDE 3.3, Reiser 4 FS, and improved wireless support. Linspire also contains built in-support for BitTorrent, an in-line spell checker, AOL dialer, and media applications Lsong and Lphoto. Open Office 1.1.3 and a new, built-in VPN are included for business use. Installing 5.0 is very simple and the release has excellent hardware support. Additionally, there are voice tutorials for new users.

Linspire 5.0 won’t attract the power user, but it’s an excellent choice for someone just dabbling in the Linux world. It’s also a great operating system for the growing segment of low-cost desktops. At $49.95, Linspire is definitely worth a look.[ See the review of Linspire 5.0 on page XX.]

Matthew Tanase is President of Qaddisin (http://www.qaddisin.com), a company that provides nationwide Linux and security consulting services.

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