The first LWN.net Weekly Edition
was posted on
January 22, 1998. We didn't really hit our stride until the following week
, but the fact remains: LWN is now
five years old.
LWN was originally intended to be an attention-getting mechanism for a
startup Linux support and consulting business. The whole plan was based on
a number of misconceptions, beginning with the idea that demonstrating our
expertise in an online newsletter would show the world that we could help
them deploy Linux in their companies; somehow it never quite worked that
way. We also thought that Red Hat was serious about its ill-fated "support
partner" program, and that we might actually make some money with it.
Perhaps worst of all, we were under the impression that helping people with
their system administration problems would not drive us completely crazy.
All told, it's not entirely surprising that things did not go the way we
thought they would.
But, it appears that was maybe for the best.
From the beginning, it can be argued that our heart was really in the
LWN effort, rather than in the "money making" activities it was meant to
publicize. Even so, we could never have imagined that LWN would still be
around in five years - or that it would be such a wild ride.
At this point in its history, LWN is in as good a place as it has ever
been. It's easy to miss the funner aspects of the Bubble Days - indeed,
the money coming in is still not what it needs to be for the long term -
but LWN is now sustaining itself by selling a service directly to almost
2500 individuals (and 30 companies - thanks to Zope Corporation for being the most recent
subscriber) who find it worth paying for. Our
success depends directly on keeping our readers happy, rather than trying
to sell our readers' attention to a small number of big advertisers. We
can, thus, concentrate on making our content the best it can be with no
need to worry about conflicts of interest. Advertising will remain part of
our income stream, but it's relatively small.
Looking forward, we'll soon be deploying a new version of our text ad code
- there will be a separate announcement when that happens. Then, with
luck, we can direct some effort away from site coding and toward content
creation. We have been experimenting with content from external authors
with some luck; we hope to be able to expand that program in the future.
We are also working with the folks at Progeny as they expand
their Programmers Toolkit offering; that partnership should help us to
expand LWN's reader base. And, of course, we'll be looking for other ways
to expand our list of subscribers; we'll tell you more about what we're
doing when we figure it out ourselves.
In any case, it is our plan to be part of the Linux and free software
community for the next five years; we expect them to be at least as
interesting as the previous five. Many thanks to all of you for half a
decade of support.
Comments (13 posted)
One of our favorite things to worry about here at LWN is software
monocultures. When everybody is running the same thing, a single
vulnerability can compromise them all. The BIND nameserver package has
thus occasionally come up as a topic of concern, since it has one of the
strongest monopolies in the free software arena. There have been very few
free alternatives to BIND which have become stable enough for people to
trust them with their name service tasks.
That situation is changing, however. Over the last week, two different
free DNS server implementations have announced new releases. So it seems
like a good time to give them a look.
The announcement of the first public release
of the Oak DNS server went
out recently. Oak is written entirely in Python, with the result that it
is portable to many systems (even Windows) and should be relatively
resistent to buffer overrun attacks. Oak is licensed under the LGPL, and
supports most of the features one would expect in a nameserver: recursion,
master and slave modes, etc.
That said, Oak is very much a work in progress. It comes packaged as one
big Python module and a driver script; no distutils installation support in
sight. It reads the usual DNS master file format to get zone information,
but the top-level configuration takes the form of a screenful or so of
Python code - not something every system administrator will want to get
into. Documentation is scarce; those wanting to make serious use of Oak at
this point will likely have to delve into the code. This is definitely not
Aunt Tillie's DNS server.
But the core functionality of Oak appears to be solid, and the project's
maintainer (Ed Stoner) is responsive to problem reports. It would not take
all that much work to turn Oak into a simple, secure, high-quality DNS
server, especially for smaller installations. If you like Python
programming, Oak is worth a look now; with luck it will be ready for
everybody else in the near future.
For a very different sort of nameserver, see the
announcement for PowerDNS 2.9.4. PowerDNS was, for some time, a
proprietary system; it was released under the GPL in November of 2002. The
pace of development seems to have picked up since then, and PowerDNS is
evolving into an impressive system.
While Oak may be best suited to small networks, PowerDNS is clearly aimed
at large ISPs and others who must serve huge numbers of domains. It can
obtain its DNS information via several backends; it can, for example, run
existing BIND configuration, or talk (using a pipe) to an arbitary process
via a simple and well-documented protocol. The most developed backends,
however, would appear to be those which work with a MySQL, PostgreSQL, or
Oracle database. PowerDNS comes with a database scheme that it expects to
use, but the SQL it uses is easily changed via the configuration file.
PowerDNS, thus, will happily fit in with just any sort of in-house system
used for the management of domain information.
PowerDNS also includes its own built-in web server which provides
information on performance and the most frequent queries. It can also
produce statistics meant to be fed directly to MRTG. PowerDNS
supports the usual security features (setuid, chroot), and has been written
for high performance when dealing with thousands of domains. It is also
extensively documented on doc.powerdns.com.
The one thing that PowerDNS lacks is support for recursive name
resolution. With its default configuration, if PowerDNS is does not have
an authoritative answer for a given query, it refuses to answer at all. It
is thus suitable for handling primary and secondary nameserver duties, but
not for handling name lookups for users. That is changing, though; version
2.9.4 includes a recursive nameserver which can be built and run as a
separate process. The plan, apparently, is to integrate that functionality
into PowerDNS itself in the 2.9.5 release.
Oak and PowerDNS are not the only alternative free nameservers, of course.
Some others which appear to be reasonably stable and under active
- MaraDNS (a simple, recursive
- MyDNS (an authoritative-only
system which works with MySQL or PostgreSQL).
- NSD (authoritative-only).
(And yes, in order to forestall a flood of email, we should mention that
the not-quite-free djbdns package is also
BIND is a package with a long history of service; the Internet is literally
built on it. Its security record is not that bad, considering its wide
deployment and the amount of energy that has gone into finding
vulnerabilities. But the security of the Net as a whole can only be
improved by the emergence of solid, well-supported alternatives.
Comments (21 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker'
Every trade show produces a slew of press releases from vendors, and
this year's LinuxWorld Expo is no different. Here's a quick summary of
some of the more interesting announcements made this year.
AMD introduced a trial version of the 64-bit Opteron CPU at LinuxWorld.
AMD and IBM announced that a 64-bit trial version of DB2 was ready for computers based on the Opteron. The company is planning to make about 500 Opteron-based systems available to system builders and potential customers. In further Opteron news, AMD and Scyld announced that they are working on a 64-bit version of Scyld Beowulf for Opteron machines.
While working together on DB2 on Opteron, AMD and IBM were touting
separate Linux-based PDA solutions at LinuxWorld. AMD has partnered with
Metrowerks to produce the OpenPDA
platform. OpenPDA is designed to run on the AMD Alchemy Solutions Au1100
processor for PDAs and smart phones. AMD's reference platform includes
Trolltech's Qtopia multi-language user interface, Insignia's integrated
Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and the Opera Web browser.
SYS-CON Media plans to debut its own Linux-focused magazine, Linux
Business & Technology, in May. The
magazine is a spin-off of SYS-CON's Linux Business Week website and
will be aimed at enterprise market. LBT will carry a cover price of
$5.99. SYS-CON also publishes
Java Developer's Journal, Web Services Journal and
There were a few UnitedLinux
announcements at LinuxWorld Expo, including plans to create a
software developers program and partner with the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) to
create a certification program. The United Linux developer program is
designed to encourage development for the United Linux platform and
includes a Software Evaluation Kit developed by IBM. LPI and United
Linux will be rolling out the new certifications in the first quarter of
2003: a UnitedLinux Certified Professional (ULCP) certification and a
UnitedLinux Certified Expert (ULCE) certification. UnitedLinux also
announced that HP was becoming an UnitedLinux Technology Partner.
Speaking of HP, the company announced Tuesday that it is now raking in
billion a year on its Linux offerings. This announcement was actually
made by Carly Fiorina at HP's annual storage and enterprise event in
Amsterdam, but it seems to fit in nicely. At LinuxWorld, HP announced several new
Linux-based products, including a line of workstations with Red Hat 7.3
pre-installed and a four-processor blade server.
The Ximian folks were also busy at LinuxWorld. Ximian announced
a collaboration with Sun Microsystems, releasing the Sun ONE Connector
for Ximian Evolution. Like Ximian's Connector for Microsoft Exchange, the
product will allow users on Linux or Solaris systems to exchange calendars,
schedules, address books and task lists. Ximian also announced the release
of Red Carpet Enterprise 1.2, which adds rollback support so admins can
return a system to a previous configuration.
Dell was somewhat low-key at LinuxWorld this year, but did announce a
new line of server blades that will fit 84 servers in a standard rack.
The PowerEdge 1655MC blade runs Red Hat Linux. Red Hat was also fairly
quiet, though Michael Tiemann gave a keynote address with Jeffrey
Birnbaum of Morgan Stanley on Wednesday.
its Desktop edition on Tuesday. The SuSE Linux Office Desktop includes
CodeWeavers CrossOver 1.3.1, allowing users to run Microsoft Office and a
number of other Windows applications on Linux. The Office Desktop also
includes Sun StarOffice for companies that would prefer to migrate off of
MySQL AB announced
that a few new features had been added to MySQL. MySQL 4.1 now includes
subselects and improved SSL support. The company also used the occasion
announce their own conference. The MySQL Users Conference & Expo
will take place in San Jose, April 10-12.
Some of the more interesting Linux-related products announced this year
include the LTrix
Engineering lice 1.7 Patchless Linux Kernel Debugger and the PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire MCAD software for Linux.
The next LinuxWorld Expo is scheduled for August 4-7 at the Moscone
Center in San Francisco.
Comments (none posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: The CVS vulnerability; new holes in bugzilla, dhcp, vim, and others.
- Kernel: The NUMA scheduler; 32-bit dev_t.
- Distributions: Linux Standards Base Certification for many distributions
- Development: Sweep 0.8.0, JACK Software Releases, MySQL 4.1, Knoda 0.5.6, LPRng-3.8.20,
Quixote 0.6 Beta, Lynx 2.8.5dev.13, Wine release 20030115, OpenOffice 1.0.2,
GnuCash 1.7.8, OpenMCL 0.13.3, Jext ProjectMaster 1.3.
- Press: Whitfield Diffie on open source and security, LinuxWorld press coverage,
IBM's open-source stance, two DMCA reform bills, SCO IP issues,
Bruce Perens and Eben Moglen on NPR, Spamtrap Race.
- Announcements: LinuxWorld press releases, UnitedLinux Announcements, Linux.conf.au draws record numbers, Linux Summit 2003, Finland,
OMG Days Europe 2003, YAPC::NA::2003 CFP, OpenOffice.org Conference CFP
- Letters: MaraDNS, Mickey Mouse