ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 3, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Open source movement

Techno Page By Harendra Alwis

Recent surveys conducted in more than a dozen countries indicate that all around the world, IT workers who specialise in free and open source software are earning more than the average wage. This is not to say that working on open source software is the path to riches and wealth, because the majority of people surveyed who were working on open source software were hobbyists who don't get paid for the work they do. However, what the data does suggest is that people who work with open source are likely to have better skills and are likely to get better jobs.

IT giants like IBM have embraced the open source movement and incorporates some of it in their business solutions. Almost a quarter of those who were working on open source software were doing so in their paid job some of the time, while the highest paid segment consisted roughly about one in ten who worked full time on open source software.

Even though the survey data showed significant variations in different countries, they all showed a clear trend that people with skills and experience in the open source community were in high demand and therefore more likely to be better paid.

This also sends a clear message to the IT education sector, to encourage them to develop open source software and also to design programs that would require students to participate in the open source movement. Many of the respondents said their knowledge of open source was a self taught skill, but universities are increasingly rolling out graduates with experience and skills gained through their active participation in the open source community. How can open source software pay? Write in with your views and comments to

Improve your computer literacy


In consumer technologies, multi-core is usually the term used to describe two or more CPUs working together on the same chip. Also called multicore technology, it is a type of architecture where a single physical processor contains the core logic of two or more processors.

These processors are packaged into a single integrated circuit (IC). These single integrated circuits are called a die. Multi-core can also refer to multiple dies packaged together.

Multi-core enables the system to perform more tasks with a greater overall system performance. Multi-core technology can be used in desktops, mobile PCs, servers and workstations. Contrast with dual-core, a single chip containing two separate processors (execution cores) in the same IC.

Security Chill

A group led by a Princeton University computer security researcher has developed a simple method to steal encrypted information stored on computer hard disks. Encryption software is widely used by companies and government agencies, notably in portable computers that are especially susceptible to theft. The technique, which cannot be carried out remotely, exploits a little-known vulnerability of the dynamic random access, or DRAM, chip that holds data temporarily, including the keys to modern data-scrambling algorithms. When the computer's electrical power is shut off, the data, including the keys, is supposed to disappear. The group demonstrated that standard memory chips actually retain their data for seconds or even minutes after power is cut off. Then, when the chips were chilled using an inexpensive can of air, the data was frozen in place, permitting the researchers to easily read the keys – long strings of ones and zeros - out of the chip's memory. Special pattern-recognition software was then used to identify security keys among the millions or even billions of pieces of data on the memory chip.

Best intentions?

The hacking group 'Cult of the Dead Cow' has released a tool that should make Google hacking a little easier for novices. Called Goolag, the open-source software lets hackers use the Google search engine to scan Web sites for vulnerabilities. This is something that hackers have been doing for years, but it can be tricky work – involving custom scripts and tools that sift through the mountain of data available via Google. 'Cult of the Dead Cow' is best known for creating the Back Orifice software 10 years ago, which could be used to remotely control a Windows machine. Like Back Orifice, the software could be used by both legitimate security professionals and criminals. Goolag comes with an easy-to-use graphical interface. In a statement, The Cult of the Dead Cow said that the software is "one more tool for Web site owners to patch up their online properties."

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