The UpFront Section


LJ Index, January 2009

1. Number of finds in a search among Twitterers for “linux”: 1,540

2. Number of OLPC followers on Twitter (which runs on Linux): 969

3. Percentage of surveyed students who said college would be much harder without Wi-Fi: 79

4. Percentage of surveyed students who said they wouldn't attend a college without Wi-Fi: 60

5. Percentage of surveyed students who have checked Facebook or MySpace and sent or received e-mail while in class: 50

6. Percentage of projected Wi-Fi penetration at universities by 2013: 99

7. Number of acres in the University of Minnesota's 802.11n deployment: 1,200

8. Percentage running Linux or BSD among Netcraft's most reliable hosting companies for August 2008: 50

9. Position of Linux-based Hurricane Electric among Netcraft's most reliable hosting companies for August 2008: 1

10. Number of Linux-based companies among Netcraft's top 50 most reliable hosting companies for August 2008: 26

11. Percentage of Internet traffic growth between mid-2007 and mid-2008: 53

12. Percentage of Internet capacity utilized in the same period: 29

13. Percentage of Internet peak utilization in the same period: 43

14. Median wholesale $/Mb price in for a 1Gb IP transit port in New York in Q2 2008: 10

15. Median wholesale $/Mb price in for a 1Gb IP transit port in Hong Kong in Q2 2008: 37

16. Number of Ubuntu servers on which Wikipedia now runs: 400

17. Millions of visitors to Wikipedia per year: 684

18. Millions of articles in Wikipedia: 10

19. Thousands of active contributors to Wikipedia: 75

20. Number of languages used in Wikipedia: 250

1–2: Twitter

3–5: Wakefield Research, via InformationWeek

6: ABI Research, via InformationWeek

7: InformationWeek

8–10: Netcraft

11–13: TeleGeography's Global Internet Geography

14, 15: ars technica

16–20: Computerworld

What They're Using: Tom Limoncelli

I first met Tom Limoncelli on a cold January day in Burlington, Vermont, where he was a volunteer geek at the Howard Dean campaign headquarters. I was extremely impressed not only by his technical know-how, but by his real-world wisdom about where technology and humanity intersect.

At the time, Tom was coming out with his first book, The Practice of System and Network Administration, cowritten with Christine Hogan. Since then, he also has written Time Management for System Administrators for O'Reilly.

These days, Tom works as a System Administration Manager for Google in New York. Although he wrangles many platforms, he remains a devoted Linux user and advocate. Here's how he runs down what he's using right now:

The bumper sticker on my car reads, “My other computer is a massive Linux cluster!” It's true. At Google, we use massive clusters of Linux boxes for our Web services and nearly everything else too. (The actual number of computers is a company secret.) Once I used MapReduce (Google's parallel scheduling system) just to copy a database (each machine copied less than 1% of the total rows). In our remote offices, we deploy small Xen clusters and manage them with Ganeti (a package we recently open-sourced). The Xen clusters run Ubuntu, as does my desktop and one of my laptops. My phone runs Android, which is also Linux.

Since all my data is on servers, I can do all my work with an SSH client and a Web browser. My documents are all in Web-based office applications, and thanks to “Gears”, they work whether or not I'm connected to the network. My preferred SSH client is OpenSSH with an old-school xterm, but Mac OS X's Terminal app is winning me over. My favorite Web browser is Chrome, but I use Firefox as a close second. When I use Windows, I immediately install Cygwin's OpenSSH and rxvt to reduce the pain.

I cowrote my first book using vim, CVS, make and teTeX. My next book was written using vim and Subversion. Now I'm moving everything to Git. Even for solo projects, I can't live without a source code repository on a safe, backup'd, server.

I couldn't live without screen, rsync, wget and curl. I think more system administrators should use make to maintain servers as I described in TM4SA. I program in Python at work, Perl at home, and awk so much it makes younger sysadmins cry. I also love cat, tee, sed, grep, bc, mount, man, date, cal, ftp and ping...but doesn't everyone?

When people ask me, “When will Linux be usable by a typical grandmother?”, I reply, “She uses Linux every time she uses Google! So there!”

You can keep up with Tom at his blog, EverythingSysadmin.com.

diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Tejun Heo has expanded FUSE (Filesystem in USErspace) to allow creating character devices as well as filesystems. He calls the new branch of code CUSE (Character device in USErspace). Tejun's first example application to use CUSE, however, might have been better chosen. His sound card wasn't working so well with the ALSA drivers, so he implemented an OSS proxy character device using CUSE. It worked for him, which at least demonstrated the usefulness of CUSE itself, but as Adrian Bunk pointed out, a better approach for that specific case might have been to fix the ALSA drivers instead of emulating OSS. On the other hand, as Tejun said, even his CUSE-based OSS implementation would let people run old binaries that hadn't been ported to ALSA and compile old source trees that were no longer maintained.

Jonathan Corbet has announced the election of several new members to the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board (TAB). Kristen Carlson Accardi, James Bottomley, Dave Jones, Chris Mason and Chris Wright will each serve for two years, and Christoph Hellwig will serve for one year. Christoph replaces Olaf Kirch, who resigned recently. The vote actually was split between Christoph and Theodore T'so, so the folks decided by a coin toss.

BtrFS seems to have been selected as the filesystem of the future by a number of influential kernel folks, including Theodore T'so. This was partially the result of back-room discussions about the need for a “next-generation” filesystem for Linux, and about which of the available options it might be. BtrFS, thus, has gained the focused attention of a wide-ranging group of developers and companies (including HP, Oracle, IBM, Intel and Red Hat), and we can expect its development to proceed along carefully considered lines. We also can expect BtrFS to be accepted into the main-line kernel tree fairly quickly, even though it hasn't yet stabilized, as part of an effort to recruit a wider body of users and contributors. Andrew Morton supports this plan, and Linus Torvalds' new policy of favoring early merges in general seems to support it as well. However, folks like Adrian Bunk caution that the code may not be ready yet, and that merging it into the main tree may not get the users and developers that folks expect.

David Vrabel has created a git repository for the Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio, Certified Wireless USB (WUSB) and WiMedia LLC Protocol (WLP) subsystems that he maintains, and he made some motions to get the code accepted into the main kernel tree. At the time he did this, it wasn't 100% clear whether he was submitting the code right then or looking for final feedback before submission. But one way or the other, it does seem as though the code will be going into the kernel soon.

In a step along the road to running multiple operating systems on a single machine at the same time, Yu Zhao has written code to allow those various OSes to share the same PCI device during concurrent operation. This single-root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) is part of a general trend of allowing very different operating systems to coexist productively, almost as different subsystems of an overarching OS, that may in time come to communicate with each other and rely on each other in more and more integrated ways.

Tribler: BitTorrent and Beyond

P2P (peer-to-peer) is the nature of the Net. You can fight that, or you can embrace it. Here in the US, the mainstream entertainment business has mostly been fighting it. Hollywood and its phone and cable company allies have long regarded P2P, and BitTorrent in particular, as a copyright piracy system and a bandwidth hog. In the European Union, however, P2P is more than accepted: it's supported by the Union itself.

Early last year, the EU granted 14 million euros to P2P-Next, a consortium of 21 media companies and universities, including the BBC, Delft University of Technology, the European Broadcasting Union, Lancaster University, Markenfilm, Pioneer Digital Design Centre Limited and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The purpose of the grant is “to develop a Europe-wide 'next-generation' Internet television distribution system, based on P2P and social interaction”. (An additional 5 million euros is also being donated by some of the P2P-Next partners, for a total of 19 million euros.) The project has a four-year span and will include technical trials of new media applications on many devices.

“Everything we're doing is based on open source”, says Johan Pouwelse, PhD, scientific director of P2P-Next and Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Delft. The good doctor also runs P2P-Next's first trial application: Tribler (pronounced “tribe-ler”), a BitTorrent-based client with no servers and a “zero-cost” business model. Tribler provides an all-in-one way to find, consume and share media.

But Tribler goes beyond BitTorrent to support live streaming and other enhancements. The project's Research page lists 26 allied development projects, including six that are already completed and operational. If you're looking to help media evolve past the TV model, there's a rich pile of possibilities on the Tribler project list.

The Tribler download page lists two Linux sources: Ubuntu Linux and “GNU+Linux/Source”.

Check it out, and let us know how it works for you (or, you for it).

Find It at LinuxJournal.com

This month's issue of Linux Journal is all about security. At LinuxJournal.com, searching for the term “security” returns 435 results, which might take some time to wade through. Here are my picks from articles that recently have been popular on-line:

You'll also want to check in with our on-line News Editor from time to time. Security is frequently a topic of discussion:

Stay safe out there!

They Said It

You cannot bundle abundance with scarcity; it's like trying to implement region coding of the air that you breathe. But then some people will try anything.

The market right now is just too good for individual developers who have experience in writing open-source software for Linux, especially the low-level plumbing of Linux, to waste their time working for companies who do not allow them to contribute back, if they want to.

When you tell me I should give proprietary software a fair technical evaluation because its features are so nice, what you are actually doing is saying “Look at the shine on those manacles!” to someone who remembers feeling like a slave.

—Eric S. Raymond, esr.ibiblio.org/?p=556#more-556

I worry about the idea of trying to centralize everything. The Washington tactic is, when there's a problem, you appoint a czar, and the czar is responsible. It's like the War on Drugs or the War on Poverty. But it never quite works; you don't get very good solutions.

Always beware of wolves dressed as Grandma, they may be more like Microsoft than they admit.

eyeOS: Clouds for the Crowd

Cloud computing from the likes of Google and Amazon has become quite the rage in the last few years. Nick Carr's The Big Switch and other works have pointed toward a future of “utility” computing where we'll all use hosted apps and storage, thanks to the “scale” provided by big back-end companies and their giant hardware and software farms. But, there also has been pushback. Most notable among the nay-sayers is Richard M. Stallman, who calls it “worse than stupidity” and “a trap”.

At issue is control. Of Web apps, RMS says, “It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's Web server, you're defenseless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.”

We wrote about it on-line at LinuxJournal.com, and among the many comments was one that pointed to eyeOS: a cloud computing approach by which people can make their own clouds: “...all you need is a Web server that supports PHP and OpenOffice.org to get the most out of the included office suite”, the commenter said. “It's cloud computing, but at the same time you still have control over your data.”

eyeOS is based in Barcelona, and obviously, it doesn't believe you need to be a Google or anyone special to run a “cloud” Web service environment. Unlike Google's cloud, you don't need to run the eyeOS's hosted apps. You can upload your own or choose ones from eyeOS or other developers. The UI is a virtual desktop, inside a browser (just as with Google), and the initial suite of apps are the straightforward set you'd expect, plus many more. These come with user ratings and a very active set of forums for developers and users.

eyeOS is a commercial company, privately held (and debt-free, it says). Its business model is service and support. If you need help installing eyeOS or adapting apps for your company, they're available.


Geek Guide
The DevOps Toolbox

Tools and Technologies for Scale and Reliability
by Linux Journal Editor Bill Childers

Get your free copy today

Sponsored by IBM

Upcoming Webinar
8 Signs You're Beyond Cron

Scheduling Crontabs With an Enterprise Scheduler
11am CDT, April 29th
Moderated by Linux Journal Contributor Mike Diehl

Sign up now

Sponsored by Skybot