Linux in the news
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See also: last week's Development page.
News and Editorials
Art vs. Craft. osOpinion carried a story this week on software style and review, the difference between coding as an art and designing and engineering code. What prompted the article was the author's examination of code for various Linux based USENET clients, aka news readers.
What I found both amazed and dismayed me -- most of the code I looked at was a mess. Badly commented (if at all), patched, crufted, and generally bolted together. It looked like the developers had no design at all in mind before they began; they just threw code at the wall and kept what stuck.
Shock of shocks. While I won't defend the programming style of some open source developers, I can't say it produces significantly worse code than some I've seen in many other places. At Samsung there was no coding standard and developers in both the US and Korea - let your mind wander for a moment. At Dell coding standards were optional, and frequently ignored. At EMASS (now ADIC), well, spaghetti looked more uniform.
But while these projects were formatted badly, they all seemed to work fine (mostly). What coding standards bring isn't more stable code, just the ability to more easily maintain projects. Coding standards work well for larger organizations, especially spread across multiple development sites, because you never know who will end up maintaining the code at some given point in the future.
Sounds like open source, don't you think?
Open source projects often start with someone with an itch and a spare minute. Design isn't the goal - results are. Interestingly enough, that's often true of successful proprietary projects as well. The need for processes and standards comes with project maturity. Software is like humanity - we like change less and less with age. But any change we do accept needs definitive rules and order. Code needs to be clean to provide extension and maintenance. But seldom is it that way from day one.
So while open source offers many advantages over proprietary solutions, it isn't all that different in the larger picture. Style is important, in its own time. What open source forces us to do is examine our processes for proprietary projects and understand just why they develop the way they do. Youth motivates change while maturity forms stability.
Netscape 6 Browser Launches. It's official: Netscape 6 is publicly available for download.
Things have changed a little in the installation process. Now you download only an installer application which will grab the software components from Netscape automatically for you and install them locally. Once that finishes, you launch into registration - yes, registration.
If you had a Netscape NetCenter account before you'll need your password to register; otherwise you can create a new one. After registering with NetCenter. you'll be up and running. Fairly painless, but that registration thing is annoying. And what's worse - it's not even required. You can use the "I forgot my password" link which takes you to a page with a Help button. Clicking on that pops open a browser window with a full menu bar that you can use to exit the registration process. When you do, a new browser opens and you're ready to start browsing. Alternatively, if you have no qualms about being 13 or younger, you can choose that option and Netscape will happily ignore your need to register. Oh, to be young again.
Once you get past that first registration you're into the new and improved Netscape. It's flashy and gimmicky, and at least to this reviewer bounces up and down like a billiard ball on a granite floor. And be prepared for lots of debug messages on the console. Someone forgot to turn those off in the production distribution.
While Netscape deserves kudos for continuing to provide and enhance for the Linux platform, this was not its best work. It shows terrific promise, but there are some stability issues to shake out first. If Netscape is anything like Red Hat, version 6.2 should be terrific.
(See also: this review of Netscape 6 sent to us by Jay Ashworth).
Netscape's open source browser ready at last (Upside). Here is Upside's take on the Netscape 6 release. "Netscape 6 is based on the Netscape Gecko browser engine, an ongoing technology that has evolved to support a number of Web standards, operating systems and platforms. Netscape built its newest browser based on open standards, a process that spanned more than two years and enlisted the help of thousands of open source geeks."
Mozilla status 2000-11-08. Of course, Netscape isn't the only Mozilla-based browser. The November 8, 2000 Mozilla Status Report for the open source Mozilla project is out. Issues of interest include plans for post Netscape 6 integration of PSM into the Mozilla build system, a report that describes memory consumption over time and and a huge number of bug squashes.
Paul DuBois of MySQL Joins NuSphere. New Riders "MySQL" author Paul DuBois, who has also contributed heavily to the official MySQL documentation, has joined NuSphere.
Open Source Databases: As The Tables Turn (PHPBuilder). Tim Perdue takes a real world look at the differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL in this article on PHPBuilder's site.
With that in mind, I decided to test out a full port of SourceForge.net to Postgres. The site was written with a database abstraction layer and it turned out to be a cinch to get it up and running on Postgres, including a full import of all production data from MySQL.
PostgreSQL v7.0.3 and rumors of a book. The PostgreSQL Global Development Group announced this week the release of PostgreSQL v7.0.3. There have been several fixes in this release from v7.0.2, but, being a minor release, there have been *no* changes that will require a dump/restore. For more info and a list of changes, check out the latest news.
It's also probably worth noting that Bruce Mimjian's Addison-Wesley book on PostgreSQL is supposed to hit the shelves any day. Currently it's free on the net at http://www.postgresql.org/docs/awbook.html
Icarus Verilog snapshot. The gEDA project announced this week a new Icarus Verilog snapshot: 20001112.
Nevrax Introduces NeL: An Open Source Platform for Massively Multiplayer Games. Looks like World Forge may have competition. Nevrax is a European company that, according to its .com web site, is aimed at producing massively multiplayer games under an open source (GPL) license. The first product is scheduled for shipment in 2002. In conjunction with that work, Nevrax has opened a .org web site for NeL, the Nevrax Library that contains a framework, a 3D engine, an AI engine and a Network engine aimed at running massively multi-user entertainment in a 3D environment over the Internet. NeL is also GPL.
The joys and perils of open-source life (LinuxDevices.com). LinuxDevices.com is running a guest column by Karim Yaghmour, on the development of the Linux Trace Toolkit. "As described above, LTT has progressed at a phenomenal rate, in a very short time -- AND with lots of outside help. It has been said that LTT has already surpassed many available tracing tools. This is confirmed by the large number of Fortune 500 companies that currently use LTT to develop Linux based applications."
Free Embedded Telephony project started (LinuxDevices.com). uCommon is a new project designed to build a library of tools for use as network services for tiny footprint embedded Linux kernel based systems
Qt/Embedded and Qt Palmtop Environment (LinuxDevices.com). Trolltech announced the released of their Qt/Embedded and Qt Palmtop windowing environments this week.
Embedded Linux Newsletter, November 9th 2000. The latest edition of the Embedded Linux Newsletter is out with a story on Linux and PDAs and device profiles on Gateway's Connected Touch Pad and Sony's SNT-V304.
WINE Weekly News for November 13th, 2000. This week's WINE Weekly News has been published. Items of interest include an implementation for generation of import stubs, overlapped (asynchronous) I/O for serial port objects, and discussions of building WINE without X.
OpenNMS update. Here is the OpenNMS update for November 15. Topics covered include the software stress test in progress, and the stress on the development staff as well.
LyX Development News. Here is the LyX Development News for November 15, with the latest from the LyX hacker community.
AbiWord Weekly News. The AbiWord Weekly News is back with its first issue since early September.
On the Desktop
KDE, Gnome And The Media. LinuxToday Australia carried a story this week about the sensationalism often poured over KDE vs GNOME issues by the news media.
Others have told me that we journalists view the world more in terms of black and white than the wider population. There is a reason for this. News writing is, in effect, the first draft of history. Or in more scientific terms, it is simply the first approximation to the truth. By its very nature it has to be simplified, we can't spend hours chasing down every loose fact because there are deadlines. And we can't lard our stories with qualifications to every statement because it makes them unreadable. This drive for speed and clarity leads towards a dualistic view.
People Behind KDE: Sandy Meier. In another in its series of developer profiles, the People Behind KDE talks with Sandy Meier. Sandy is the maintainer of the KDevelop package, including the project Web site and mailing list.
Kasbar update. Kasbar author Richard Moore has written up his plans for Kasbar, the KDE taskbar replacement, and posted them to KDE Dot News.
Balsa 1.0.0 released. The 1.0 release of the GNOME Mail client, Balsa, which sports a Eudora-like interface, has finally arrived. New features include multiple address book support (both local vCard and remote LDAP books), CRAM and GSSAPI Kerberos authentication, spell checking, support for gnome-print and various other items.
Gnumeric 0.58. has been released. Jody Goldberg sent us a brief release announcement.
GTK+ News. GUI developers who grew up with Motif may be asking themselves what all the fuss is about GTK+. In this article from SunWorld, authors Cameron Laird and Kathryn Soraiz look at the positives and negatives of GTK+. "There's inertia, of course; other toolkits are as much as a decade older, and thus more trusted. But perhaps the most frequent complaint about GTK+ is its mediocre support of Win32. While GTK+ 2.0 includes a framework that addresses this problem, GTK+'s Windows support hasn't ripened like Qt's and Tk's. A couple of ports to Mac OS of GTK+ have also been started, but seem stalled in a far less usable state than the Win32 GTK+."
In a related story, Havoc Pennington has posted to the rumors section of the Red Hat Advanced Development Labs site that GTK+ 2.0 is considered to be "just about feature complete". A few months of bug fixing is in order before it hits the streets. We can't wait for the new text widget...
What up, gPhoto?. gPhoto is being evolved into its next incarnation - gPhoto2. Linux.com carried an article this week on what gPhoto is and will be. "With new cameras added constantly, this is arguably the fastest moving digital camera project in the world. Far outpacing and outperforming anything available under Microsoft's Windows or Apple's MacOS platforms, gPhoto2 promises to deliver compatibility with many cameras to developers, leaving them free to create any user interface they can dream of."
FreeMed 0.2 released. LinuxMedNews reports this week that FreeMed 0.2.0, the GPL'd Electronic Medical Record and Practice Management system, has been released onto SourceForge.
Midgard Weekly Summary. Here is the Midgard Weekly Summary for November 10 with the latest in development news from the Midgard project.
Zope Weekly News, November 8th. The November 8th edition of the Zope Weekly News has been published. News includes the "Wiki for now" proposal, aimed at resolving some of the immediate shortcomings of the current Wiki product regarding its use for dev.zope.org, news on the the HiperDom project, and an update on documentation efforts.
Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel
November 16, 2000
Blackdown releases JMF 2.1.1-beta2 Performance Pack. The Blackdown Java Linux Team has announced the release of the Java Media Framework 2.1.1-beta2 Performance Pack for Linux. JMF is a streaming media package for Java applications and applets.
Beginning Perl Book Review. LinuxLookup posted a very brief review this week of Simon Cozens with Peter Wainwright's "Beginning Perl" book.
This week on perl5-porters (08 Nov -- 14 Nov 2000). Perl5 Porters posted their latest newsletter. Some of the topics covered include "stat vs lstat," threads and POSIX, and a discussion on locales.
PHP Weekly Summary. The PHP Weekly Summary for November 13th has been published. Highlights include a new Qt XML extension and a discussion on the RFC for PHP's release cycle.
This week's Python-URL. Here is Dr. Dobb's Python-URL for November 13 with the usual summary of events in the Python development community.
Charming Python: Reloading on the fly. IBM developerWorks has another in the Charming Python series, this one covering dynamically reloading modules in long-running processes.
Suppose you want to run a process on your local machine, but part of your program logic lives somewhere else. Specifically, let us assume that this program logic is updated from time to time, and when you run your process, you would like to use the most current program logic. There are a number of approaches to addressing the requirement just described; this article walks you through several of them.
This week's Tcl-URL. Here is Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL for November 14 with a number of goodies from the Tcl development community.
Software Development Tools
GNU Autoconf text online. The new book from New Riders Publishing, GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool, which was to be published in October, has also been placed online from Red Hat's site. At the time of this writing the link to the text of the book within the body of the page was incorrect, but the link in the upper right corner has the proper URL.
Inprise takes its Linux app tool open source (ZDNet). Along with its release of JBuilder, Inprise (now Borland) is rumored (by ZDNet) to be releasing the code to Kylix to the GNOME foundation. "Inprise also is joining the foundation and will participate in the Bonobo out-of-process component specification, as well as add support for Bonobo to Kylix, which is in beta."
UDI reference implementation for Linux. A UDI (Uniform Driver Interface) environment has been made available in binary format for Red Hat and Caldera Linux distributions from Software Technologies Group. Source releases are expected later.
Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel
Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC)
Gnu Compiler for the Java Language (GCJ)
IBM Java Zone
Free the X3J Thirteen (Lisp)
Dr. Dobbs' Perl
PHP Weekly Summary
Tcl Developer Xchange