Linux in the news
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See also: last week's Back page page.
This week, we will feature a pair of Liz's favourite links. We've mentioned them before, they've been around as long as LWN has, but they are still two sites she loves to go back and read on a regular basis. Note, they are best read as a pair:
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
February 24, 2000
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.
From: Collins_Paul@emc.com To: email@example.com Subject: capability bits Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 08:31:10 -0500 Dear Editor: From this week's LWN, Kernel Development section: > Given the amount of trouble people (and distributors) > have with the existing permission bits, how will they > cope with dozens of capability bits that must be > correctly set on every file? If capability bits (CBs) in the filesystem were implemented like this, then we would have a problem. The Right Way is as follows: You would set the standard system-wide capabilities on /; they would then flow down to the rest of the filesystem. If you needed to augment/restrict capabilities, you would do so on the specific file or directory that needed it, in a fashion similar to the Inherited Rights Filter in Netware. Both NetWare's filesystem and NDS operate like this; permissions are dynamic, based on the location of an object/file/directory. Active Directory uses a static arrangement, where the rights are placed with each object individually. Issues that would need to be resolved: 1) Do capabilities flow across mount points? (Mount-time option?) 2) What impact will looking up capabilities have on filesystem performance, given the dynamic configuration outlined above? (Caching would absorb much of the overhead.) 3) Would there be user/group/other capabilities? (Extension: Access Control Lists?) Sincerely, Paul Collins -- Please note that I speak on behalf of no-one but myself.
From: Andrew Kenneth Milton <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: [Zope] Press Release: WorldPilot 1.0 released To: Jens Vagelpohl <Jens@digicool.com> Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 10:22:31 +1000 (EST) CC: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, +----[ Jens Vagelpohl ]--------------------------------------------- | | WorldPilot will run on any platform supported by Zope, so far it has | been tested on Linux, Windows and Solaris. And FreeBSD! d8) -- Totally Holistic Enterprises Internet| P:+61 7 3870 0066 | Andrew Milton The Internet (Aust) Pty Ltd | F:+61 7 3870 4477 | ACN: 082 081 472 | M:+61 416 022 411 | Carpe Daemon PO Box 837 Indooroopilly QLD 4068 |email@example.com|
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 12:40:23 -0800 From: kenengel <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: UCITA in its full glory Let's assume the worst possible outcome becomes reality and UCITA passes in all states, is ratified into law, even perhaps amended to the U.S. Consti- tution. We agree it is a soberingly radical and cynical proposition. Then I propose we resort to a radical and cynical counteraction. I'm advocating nothing less than widespread civil disobedience. I propose everyone who opposes UCITA disregard it at every turn - only when it's appropriate. That is, if you discover you are being manipulated by your vendor, either with ludicrous licensing terms or litigation or just poor quality product, then engage in counter-offensive tactics. Make as many copies of proprietary license-per-copy software, or other "protected" information like databases, as you need. Distribute freely. Hack a work-around on software that expires or is remotely disabled. Hack the software so that it doesn't violate your privacy by, for example, collecting confidential information or scanning your hard drive. I suspect such methods will be published by L0pht, 2600, Cult of the Dead Cow, et. al. I hope they do, and I would encourage anyone to use them. Publish candid reviews and critiques of such licensed software. Reverse-engineer it to your heart's content, for whatever purpose, whether to fix interoperability or just to see how it works. Break it apart and use the useful bits in your own programs. And simply ignore any other contractual terms you find unacceptable. Sure, it's easier said than done. But it will be necessary when we face the reality that there is no other recourse. Just as people have died to estab- lish and protect Freedom of Speech, some companies and individuals will suffer violations to freedom, not only court injunctions and legal costs, as the ugly consequences are brought to light. It is likely, if UCITA truly becomes the Law of the Land, it will take a judge, or a panel of judges, with real integrity to strike it down, as one did to CDA, in order to restore fairness and sanity. ---------------------- Do you do Linux? :) Get your FREE @linuxstart.com email address at: http://www.linuxstart.com
From: "Stuart Herbert" <S.Herbert@sheffield.ac.uk> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: <email@example.com> Subject: LWN Letter: VA's Aquisition of Slashdot Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 01:02:02 -0000 Hi there, I've been reading with interest all of the concern about VA's purchase of Andover.net, and what it might mean for the future direction of Slashdot. Why should we care? Slashdot may be a community resource, but I'm not sure what particular community that might be. It certainly isn't the OpenSource / Free Software area many of us have worked to build over the years. If you're not involved with one of the "headline" packages, *you* try getting anything published on there. These days, sites like Alan Cox's www.linux.org.uk provide a far better range (and quality!) of articles (and in a more timely manner too!) than Slashdot ever has. Slashdot is fast aquiring a reputation as a place for wannabes, not as a place where the real work gets done. If VA were to close it down tomorrow, those of us at the coal face probably wouldn't even notice. If ESR and VA want to provide the community with real resources (as they have already with SourceForge), then concentrate on making Freshmeat the premier site instead. I've never met those behind Slashdot, and I wish them well for the future. Best regards, Stu -- Stuart Herbert S.Herbert@sheffield.ac.uk Generic NQS Maintainer http://www.gnqs.org/ --
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 06:49:05 -0800 From: "Jonathan Day" <jd9812@my-Deja.com> Subject: SGI's STP Hi, SGI's Scheduled Transfer Protocol looks an ingenious piece of code, and I look forward to seeing what people actually do with it. (Code isn't meant to be used for the purpose for which it's written. With suitable application of hammers, saws and an editor, code can be applied to problems the original coders never envisaged.) As for Larry McVoy's suggestion, see: Commodore PET, IEEE 488, and the 4040 floppy disk drive. Back in the 1970's, Commodore had this crazy idea of building computers into the printers and disk drives, so that the main processor could do useful work, rather than be tied up. If you were copying a file from one drive to another, for example, using the main computer as a buffer was considered daft. You could even attach two drives to each other hand have them copy files, without having a main computer connected at all. I see this new protocol as allowing an extension of this 70's technology and also meeting Larry's idea of having a uniform network bus. Ethernet devices are now faster than most PCs, and certainly faster than most "traditional" parallel busses. The benefits of parallel transmission cease to be relevent if you can't keep up with a serial stream. In fact, there is absolutely no need to stick to hard disks with this. Printers can already be networked, but this might make life a lot easier for them. Also, why stick to peripherals? ISA, EISA, MCA, PCI, VME, etc, are all fancy ways of connecting what are really "external" devices to the computer. You've then got all sorts of electronic wizardry to handle local busses, etc. All this is very expensive, as you've got to lay expensive, high-precision parallel tracks to each expensive, high-precision connector. And the faster the bus, the higher the precision and the higher the cost of the bus. That's one of the reasons the original PC had only 20 address lines. The difference in cost was worth it. If you put -everything- on one gigantic, very high-speed serial ethernet connection, you don't have the high-precision to worry about. A bunch of gigabit ethernet adaptors, and some ethernet cable is orders of magnitude cheaper than a high-precision VME rack. (The rack alone can cost $3000.) This would put every device and every card on a completely uniform bus. Cards to other devices would be reduced to simple 2-way or 3-way hubs with maybe some processing. Lastly, as this e-mail is getting long, if everything's on ethernet, you can use all of the tricks that have been developed for it. Want to find the nearest idle disk drive? Do an anycast. Want to do software RAID 5, without overhead? Multicast, where the drives to be used are all in a common group. Jonathan Day --== Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/ ==-- Share what you know. Learn what you don't.
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 18:10:19 -0500 From: Zygo Blaxell <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Subject: "From the Ether", Friday Feb 11, 2000 --ZGiS0Q5IWpPtfppv Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable I can't speak as a representative of the "open source community", but it's statistically likely that other people coincidentally share the=20 following views: CPU's have traditionally been closed-source. Certainly, Transmeta is doing nothing particularly new by releasing a chip without also releasing the complete specifications required to manufacture a clone on that home chip foundry set you have in your basement. They're also not particularly doing anything new by not releasing the full source code for their proprietary application software (for that is really all that it is) that emulates an x86 virtual machine. While this isn't a step forward, it's not a step backward either. We already have proprietary code in Linux device drivers (they're a constant pain to use, they're buggy, they can't be distributed with the kernel...but they still exist anyway). We already have proprietary virtual x86 emulators for Linux (VMware for x86-on-x86 and Digital's thingy for x86-on-Alpha). Of course, if we actually had usable open-source x86 virtual machines and CPU's whose chip mask specifications could be copied off the Internet from Transmeta's competitors, then we could fairly hold Transmeta up to higher standards. I think Linux's single greatest feature is its ability to embrace fragmentation. I don't think there can be such a thing as bad fragmentation. What killed the Unix market wasn't fragmentation. Fragmentation is the scapegoat. Fragmentation is the scary word that Microsoft says to make you want to buy Windows. What killed the Unix market was the conflict of interest between Unix vendors and Unix customers. This conflict will kill Microsoft too, eventually, although nothing is going to kill a ~$300 billion dollar company very quickly. Most customers choose the vendor that does well the one thing that they want done, and resist paying for anything else, so they search for products that meet their requirements at the lowest cost. Most vendors want to maximize their profit per transaction and minimize their engineering costs, so they figure out what 90% of the market wants, prioritize the mutually exclusive goals, compromise until the cost is low enough to be feasible, and build many copies of a single box that tries to do all of those things at the same time. Old-style Unix vendors succeeded as well as they did because they picked customers who all wanted the same thing. That means their boxes did one thing well, and they formed a niche or vertical market around that thing. IBM dominated the business data processing market. SGI made frighteningly cool I/O and graphics subsystems. Sun got its start making really cheap Unix hardware. HP made computer systems that were built like scientific instruments. SCO targeted the vertical applications market. Digital made (and Compaq is still making) CPU's with floating point performance that is still unmatched today. They all ran Unix (and usually at least one other OS as well), and they collectively decimated those vendors who were building complete software and hardware solutions that didn't or couldn't run Unix. During the 1980's, dozens of small-workstation (not to say "personal computer") vendors tried to sell a lot of complete packages that would--by themselves, using only a single vendor's components--attempt to be and do everything one could want in a personal computer. Few could really understand what, exactly, everything one could want in a personal computer was--and those who did understand knew that the cost was prohibitive and compromised their designs in order to stay on budget. As a result, everyone who tried, failed. In the absence of a real technological leader, the market drifted along with the company that happened to have the cheapest, most accessible, and most extensible hardware. Small hardware vendors could focus on doing their one thing well, then put it on a card that fits into a PC. So if one wanted a cool PC, one would buy a box full of cards from different vendors, each of which does its thing well, and collectively it does a better job for the customer than the competition's box which does everything but nothing very well. Collectively, the PC vendors decimated their competition as well, by focusing on keeping the one component of a PC that they manufactured as small, fast, and cheap as possible. Apple boldly rushed into the marketplace as a total PC solution from a single vendor. Their major problem was that they refused to compromise on the technical quality of their equipment or software, so every Mac was saddled with a totally untested OS design, expensive SCSI disk drives and Sony Trinitron monitors--components that few users needed and even fewer were willing to pay for--while PC vendors were shipping a 20-year-old OS design with crappy IDE disk drives with retrofitted 13" TV sets on top for just under the same price. We all know who was ultimately more successful in the marketplace--very few users will actually notice even a 50% difference in disk speed, since most "desktop" users use their disks less than 1% of the time anyway. We are seeing the same effects beginning to affect software. Sun's attempt to force Java, unfragmented, into the marketplace has almost completely fallen apart. Those who actually want or need Java are willing to accept it--if "just a few" modifications are made here and there, and if it worked with this or that system a little better, and if it supported this set of application-specific extensions, and if any corporation other than Sun Microsystems had stewardship over it. Java by itself can only deliver its value proposition if Java is the totally dominant run-time environment out of of all candidates in existence, so Java is only successful in places where it has no viable alternatives to begin with. Microsoft is beginning to realize its mistake when it tried to make Windows do everything, and is now launching a variety of slightly different versions of Windows in an attempt to specialize its products more, hoping that if one or two fail then the others may still be viable. So far, every attempt by Microsoft so far to expand Windows and Windows-related products into areas outside of what they are good at has failed miserably. Microsoft would do better to spend its resources on protecting what advantage it does have--consumer-level desktop operating systems--than taking huge risks to try to force their products to do additional things that dozens of others are already doing very well, thank you. Meanwhile, Linux is being tweaked by thousands of people to do thousands of different things well. Collectively, Linux will decimate the OS software market because every vendor is focusing on making Linux do=20 their one thing well. Fragmentation is what made the PC into the dominant desktop hardware platform. With only minimal central control over the system design--a PC hardware vendor can get away with anything, as long as they don't violate too many patents and the machine still does something--anything--well enough for someone to want to buy it--the PC exploded into thousands of different variations with designs optimized for everything from low cost to low power to high performance to hostile environments. If you want a custom PC that just _looks_ cool, you can even find someone, somewhere, who manufactures hardware with esthetically pleasing form factors. If you want a standard PC that works well with everyone else's stuff but doesn't do anything spectacular on its own, you can get one of those too. Every customer can find a product that fits their needs. Fragmentation is what will make Linux into the dominant operating system platform. With only minimal central control over the system implementation--a Linux distribution vendor can get away with anything, as long as they don't violate any licenses and the software still does something--anything--well enough for someone to want to buy it--Linux will explode into thousands of different variations with implementations optimized for everything from low cost to low setup time to high performance to high availablity. If you want a custom OS that just _looks_ cool, you can even find someone, somewhere, who writes esthetically pleasing KDE or GNOME themes and pre-installs them with the OS. If you want a standard Linux that works well with everyone's software but doesn't do anything spectacular on its own, you can get one of those too. Every customer can find a product that fits their needs. --=20 Opinions expressed are my own, I don't speak for my employer, and all that. Encrypted email preferred. Go ahead, you know you want to. ;-) OpenPGP at work: 3528 A66A A62D 7ACE 7258 E561 E665 AA6F 263D 2C3D --ZGiS0Q5IWpPtfppv Content-Type: application/pgp-signature -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.0.1 (GNU/Linux) Comment: For info see http://www.gnupg.org iD8DBQE4scXa5mWqbyY9LD0RAitKAKCZo4HjQw4bUSFvm6dcLSb+8zY2oQCgtaas OSg9sLnpfp2J+YH4RaibfJg= =VQZV -----END PGP SIGNATURE----- --ZGiS0Q5IWpPtfppv--
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 22:12:50 -0800 From: Jim Dennis <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: KU Real-Time Linux (KURT) In your recent white paper I think you missed making reference to the Kansas University real-time Linux project: http://hegel.ittc.ukans.edu/projects/kurt/ Here's an excerpt from their old web pages (since their new web pages presents most of the docs in large PDF and PostScript files, their link to the "old" pages is preferable for the white paper and executive audiences). ``A purely binary distinction between hard and soft real-time is clearly not acceptable for all applications. Many applications have requirements spanning a continuum between the two. To service a wider range of requirements, we have developed a firm real-time Linux. We call this system "KURT" Linux for KU Real-Time Linux. KURT Linux allows for explicit scheduling of any real-time events rather than just processes. This provides a more generic framework onto which normal real-time process scheduling is mapped. Since event scheduling is handled by the system, addition of new events such as periodic sampling data acquisition cards (video, lab equipment, etc.) is highly simplified. KURT introduces two modes of operation - the normal mode and the real-time mode. In normal mode, the system acts as a generic Linux system. When the kernel is running in real-time mode, it only executes real-time processes. While in real-time mode, the system can no longer be used as a generic workstation, as all of its resources are dedicated to executing its real-time responsibilities as accurately as possible. A simple system call allows the kernel to be toggled between real-time and normal mode. During the setup phase, the schedule of events to be executed in real-time mode is specified and the various processes that are to be executed in real-time mode are marked. The kernel is then switched to real-time mode. When all of the real-time tasks finish execution, the kernel can be switched back to the normal mode. Presently, this system is available only for the i386 architecture. Porting KURT to other architectures requires only minimal additions. If you are interested in porting KURT to other architectures, please send mail to email@example.com. '' You can find more of this sort of info at: http://smalllinux.netpedia.net/links/embedded.html I found your white paper linked from Linux Weekly News: Daily. I've heard that someone was working on unifying the RTLinux, RTAI, and KURT work into one set of patches which would allow users and kernel developers to build kernels with soft and/or hard real-time extensions enabled. I don't know the details, though the principles at Zentropix probably do. -- Jim Dennis firstname.lastname@example.org Linuxcare: Linux Corporate Support Team: http://www.linuxcare.com