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LJ Index, October 2006

1. Linux-based services among the ten most reliable hosting companies: 5

2. BSD-based services among the ten most reliable hosting companies: 4

3. Windows-based services among the ten most reliable hosting companies: 1

4. Linux-based services among the top 50 hosting companies with the fewest failures: 21

5. Windows-based services among the top 50 hosting companies with the fewest failures: 13

6. BSD-based services among the top 50 hosting companies with the fewest failures: 7

7. BSD-based services among the top 50 hosting companies with the longest uptimes: 43

8. Linux-based services among the top 50 most requested sites: 29

9. Apache's percentage of server market share: 73.24

10. Billions of dollars in Linux server sales for Q4 2005: 1.6

11. Billions of dollars in Linux server sales for all of 2005: 5.7

12. Position of Kambja, Tartumaa, Estonia among the most “Penguin-Friendly Places” on Earth: 1

13. Position of Antarctica among countries with the highest densities of Linux users: 1

14. Highest uptime hours for machines followed by Linux Counter: 3,802.2

15. Years on the highest uptime machine: 10.4

16. Firefox + Mozilla browser share percentage of those visiting W3Schools.com in June 2006: 24.9

17. Linux OS percentage of those visiting W3Schools.com in June 2006: 4.4

18. Mac OS percentage of othose visiting W3Schools.com in June 2006: 3.6

19. Percentage of LinuxDevices survey respondents that have used Linux in embedded projects or products: 47

20. Percentage growth in Linux embedded use over last year's survey: 2

1–8: Netcraft.com (as of June 14, 2006)

9–11: ServerWatch.com

12–15: Linux Counter (as of July 10, 2006)

16–18: W3Schools.com

19, 20: LinuxDevices

Bill's Retirement

Dear Bill,

I read in the paper the other day that you are retiring. Good for you! I have not quite gotten to that age yet, but I envy those who have put a little away so they can take early retirement.

Now, you know that you and I have not seen eye to eye on how to make money over the years. I believe in making people pay money only once, if that, and you seem to believe that they should pay you again and again for the same products. Well, that is water over the dam now, and I just want to make sure that you get on the right path to retirement.

The first thing I should talk to you about is saving money. Now that you are retired, that income will not just be rolling in as before. You should think about how to save money. I recommend looking closely at this “Free Software” thing. That is where you pull down the bulk of the software off the Internet (you know, that thing you said would never catch on) and then decide if there are any small changes or improvements you need to make to the software. If there are no changes, you have it for free! If there are some small changes, all they ask is that you give those changes back to the group. Nothing wrong with that, is there Bill?

Another thing you should think about is diversifying some of your investments. This is what my stock advisers keep telling me all the time. They tell me that when I have a lot of income coming in, it is okay to play around with those high-risk, high-return stocks, but when you retire, you should think about that solid, steady income.

I know that a lot of your money is tied up in that company you started. That is all well and good, but I have experienced that sometimes things go downhill after you leave, and you should not put all your eggs in one basket. I have heard, for instance, that there is this really interesting startup you might want to put a little seed money into, called Google. Lots of people are talking about Google, and I think it could be a good investment for just a little of your “mad money”.

I have also heard that you are going to do a lot of volunteer work with charity. Now those charity people do a lot of things in foreign countries, and believe it or not, those countries do not speak English all the time. Once again, you should take a look at that Free Software stuff, as it allows those countries to change the software to meet their own cultural needs. And, if you teach them how to do it themselves, they can save even more money. “Teach the man to fish”, Bill, remember that line?

This is another reason for you to divest some of your investments, Bill. You have too much tied up in certain companies that may cloud your thinking. With as much money tied up in that company you started, you might think that the best thing for these educational needs, health needs and job needs are to give them copies of the products produced by your old company. You need to clear your head! You need to think outside the box! You need to embrace the idea that Free Software is the way to go for these charities!

Just think for a moment what happens when you give some of your products to a poor student in the Congo, and then the WPA program starts acting up on him. Who is he going to call? And without the source code to WPA, how is he going to use that software you gave him? Surely you can't expect him to pay the license fee for the update?

I found some students in South Africa that were studying photography. When they were using the software in their school, everything was fine. But when they went home to practice on their own computers, they had to use pirated software! So I gave them all copies of GIMP, the free software, and they were pirates no more! See how simple that was?

Now I heard that your good friend Mr Buffett gave somewhere around $35 billion to your charity fund! That was awful nice of him. I bet that he has no restrictions on his gift, like making any of the charitable organizations or groups he is helping buy any of his CDs, or go to any of his concerts. You need to match his generosity by making your donations without strings also (Get the joke? Guitar strings?).

So diverse yourself of the temptation, and invest in Free Software companies like Red Hat Software or even Novell. This will make your charitable donation stretch the farthest.

Speaking of charitable donations, I wonder how much money the Free Software people would have generated if they had sold their software again and again like you did instead of contributing it? Do you think it might have topped your donations? Mr Buffett's? A lot of margaritas there! So much about your donations in the press and so little about theirs! But I bet you can fix that when you start supporting Free Software.

Well, that is about all the news and advice I have to send you for right now. I will note that the papers said it would take you two years to remove yourself from the company you created. My gosh! I am glad you have never been hit by a truck! The company might have collapsed without you! If this is true, it is probably about time for you to move on. But I would even more strongly suggest that you diversify your portfolio.

Say hello to Melinda for me, and tell me how she liked the penguin earrings I sent to her.

Warmest regards,

maddog

P.S. My secretary tells me that it was Warren Buffett that gave you the donation, and not Jimmy. Too bad. I never met Warren personally, nor played cards with him, but I think Jimmy would have been more fun at your retirement party. And, you can forget the joke about the guitar strings.

They Said It

The people are the network.

—Erik Cecil, arch-econ e-mail list

Every night there's a Mashup get together, or a TechCrunch party, or it's Tag Tuesday, or SuperHappyDevHouse, or SXSW, or this conference or that conference. And this stuff is fun. It's a real community. But all of these things are great by themselves, but terrible in combination. I see some entrepreneurs in photos from every single event. Who's talking to the users, writing the code, tweaking and retweaking the UI? It ain't the Chief Party Officer.

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.

—Robert Heinlein

So Design Some Penguin Ones, Somebody

John Fluevog (www.fluevog.com) would rather have a tongue in cheek than foot in mouth. Else how to explain the shoemaker's felicitous approach to his business, his shoes and his approaches to making and selling them.

The About page on Fluevog's site begins:

John and his longtime friend and ex-partner, Peter Fox, go back to biblical times. In those days, such scriptural characters as Methuselah lived to be, quite literally, thousands of years old. John, himself, is thousands of years old and Peter Fox is, in fact, Methuselah. Before they founded Fox & Fluevog, in the ancient biblical age of 1970, they were shepherds. Actually, they worked at Sheppard's, a venerable Vancouver shoe emporium, albeit a tad on the conventional side.

The story goes from here to Fox & Fluevog, “the very coolest place to treat the feet and has remained so ever since”. Then:

Around 1980, Peter heard the siren song of New York City and moved there to open his own store, specializing in design of Ladies' (particularly wedding) shoes. John took over the business and built it into the multinational mega corporation it is today, along the way forging his undaunted reputation for the world's most distinctive shoes.

The FAQ below has questions such as “What's the capital of Uruguay?” (The answer is in Spanish.) And, “Are John Fluevog Angels really Satan resistant?” (Answer: “You're wearing Angels right now, right? Look around—do you see him?”)

Among the many delightful pages on the extensive Fluevog.com site is one (www.fluevog.com/files_2/os-1.html) that goes:

You've Heard of Open Source Software? Get Ready for John Fluevog's Open Source Footwear.

“But how can a software concept work with shoes?”, we hear you gasp in astonishment. Keep reading.

YOU ALL KNOW how open-source software works, right. Sure you do: everybody has access to the program's source code and anybody who thinks of an improvement can just write it up and send it in. If others use it, Yahtzee! Everybody wins! It's simple, it's people-driven, it's non-monetary and it makes software people really want. We're going to make shoes the same way.

In a word balloon from a video frame of John Fluevog speaking:

It's a concept that's well, maniacally tremendous: got an idea for a shoe? Even just for part of a shoe? Scribble it down and send it to me. I don't care if it's on a bar napkin, as long as I can make it out.

ARE YOU FRUSTRATED, not finding the shoes you really want? Is your imagination ahead of the whole shoe industry and you're sick of waiting for them to catch up? Here's your chance to go over their heads and deal with someone who really cares what you want. All you need is a brilliant idea. Fax it, mail it, upload it, e-mail it, bring it in—just get it to me.

These lead to an updated Results page where readers can vote on submitted designs.

And below that is a link to a page that explains open source as “both a software philosophy and an important progressive movement”.

Not coincidentally, the Fluevog site runs fast for a graphics-heavy one. It should be no surprise that it's served by Apache off Linux servers in Vancouver, BC. Same with Peter Fox Shoes.

By the way, if your shoes really do get produced, John names them after you, and the design goes into the public domain—as well as admission to what John modestly calls “the hallowed ranks of Fluevog Design Alumni”.

If any of you submit designs, and they turn into real Vogs on real feet, send photos to ljeditor@ssc.com, and we'll show them here.

To submit your order, visit this page: www.fluevog.com/files_2/os-1.html.

What's in My Backpack

Having traveled to more than 60 countries during the past ten years, and most of them more than once, I have gathered quite a few things in my backpack that allow me to leave the house feeling confident I can handle whatever comes my way electronically. Planning ahead helps, and things have changed over the past ten years, but I noticed lately that I have not added or left out anything from my backpack for about a year now, so things seem to be fairly stable. Keeping these items in the backpack means I have them ready at all times for that “next trip”.

The first thing is the backpack itself. After trying more than a few of them and having them fall apart under heavy use, I finally settled on the Wenger SwissGear Synergy Model #GA-7305-14. I do not know if it was really made for the Swiss Army, but it sure seems that way. With lots of pockets internal and external for stuff, it holds cables and various wires in their own places so I know where they are. It also has really strong straps and a carrying handle that is wrapped around a steel cable—talk about solid! The zippers are big-toothed and rugged, good for squeezing the last bit inside the bag.

The model I have seems to be missing from the Wenger site, but I found it at www.avenuesusa.com/wenger/7305.html, and they are carried at a lot of different retailers, such as Circuit City, Best Buy, Staples and so on.

One warning though, the main pocket is said to fit “most 15–15.4-inch screens”, and some of the on-line reviews talk about the “snugness” of their 15" and even 14" notebook, so if you have a notebook with a very large screen, this may not be the backpack for you. I do not go for the largest screens on a laptop, because I expect that the person in front of me on an airplane will recline his or her seat and crush my laptop screen. My 12.1" laptop screen avoids this.

The backpack has a separate pocket in the top that carries an audio player, a set of earphones and the charger for the player, with a hole in the backpack to thread the earplugs through. I have a set of permanently installed earphones, so I can listen to music as I walk along and not have to unthread them when I get to where I am going. If I leave the backpack some place, I just unplug the earphones, grab the player and another set of sound-reducing earphones from the pocket and go where I need to travel.

The audio player itself is an iRiver H340, with a 40GB drive. It is one sweet unit, having the ability to play WMA, MP3 and Ogg formats, a built-in radio and a microphone to record. Unfortunately, it records only in MP3 format, but someday I hope iRiver will give its customers the chance to choose their recording format also. I ripped my 400+ CD collection into Ogg format and loaded it onto the disk. It is only about half full, so I can listen to music for more than 150 days continuously without having to hear the same song by the same artist. And, I also can listen to radio, of course. I chose iRiver mostly due to the Ogg support. I wanted a format that was truly free, and for which I could get all the software I needed to encode and decode it in source code format, and without patent issues. Unfortunately, the iRiver people do not make the H340 anymore, but they do have additional models at www.iriveramerica.com that support Ogg. You also can find a lot of Ogg players at wiki.xiph.org/index.php/PortablePlayers.

I also carry a Belkin FM Tunecast transmitter (Model F8V3080), which allows me to broadcast my iRiver (or laptop, or anything with an 1/8-inch stereo jack) to an FM radio, so I can easily listen to my music in the hotel room or automobile. This unit is only for sale and use in the United States, but perhaps other countries have similar units. Finally, I keep a stereo splitter, with 1/8" stereo jacks in the same pocket, along with a cheap set of earbuds that are very light. You never know when a friend may want to listen to your stereo, and the idea of sharing one set of stereo earbuds between two people does not cut it with someone who wants to hear both Simon and Garfunkel at the same time.

In the front pocket of the backpack, I keep two Kensington cable locks, combination type—one lock for the notebook and one for the media slice that comes with the notebook. I can run one or both of the cables through the steel cable of the backpack handle and secure that at the same time. I chose a combination lock cable because of my usual habit of losing keys. You can find these at us.kensington.com/html/11209.html, but other manufacturers make them too.

The next pocket has a set of retractable cables from Ultra. This is a 13-piece set that comes in its own carrying case. It includes a stereo headset with microphone (good for listening and recording voice for my notebook and also good for VoIP), an RJ-11 cable, RJ-45 cable (with separate crossover converter), a FireWire Cable, two USB cables and a bunch of adapters for various sizes of USB and FireWire. The collection is great, I have never needed any other “connecting cables”, and the holder keeps them all organized and ready to go (I often lose cables too). You can find it at www.ultraproducts.com/product_details.php?cPath=9&pPath=148&productID=148 for $39.99 US, but I have noticed that in the SkyMall airline shopping magazine, they are listed for a lot less, and for those of you who do not fly much, here is where you can find them on-line: www.skymall.com/webapp/skystore?process=prodDisplay&action=&pid=69697606&catId=14101.

The next thing is pure “maddog”, but I told you that I would tell you everything I keep in the backpack....a roll-up piano from Hecsan. This is my feeble attempt at trying to learn another keyboard, the musical keyboard. Don't ask me to play something for you, the time that I have had to practice has been nil, but I keep it there “just in case” I get the time. You can see them at www.hecsaninc.com/home.html. I have the original model, purchased several years ago, and although it is good, I can see that they have improved it as well.

Moving closer to my back in the backpack is a larger pocket. Here I keep most of the “goodies” except the notebook itself, which I keep in a separate pocket in the backpack.

The first thing out of the pocket when I travel is a Kensington adapter plug. Now, there are a lot of adapters on the market, but they usually come in many pieces. You know how I am with keys and cables. This plug is all-in-one and supports the plugs for 150 countries (there are approximately 200 countries in the world), most exceptionally South Africa, which has the strangest plug I have ever seen. I have the older model (model number 33117) that retails for $19.99 US, but Kensington also has another model adapter so you can plug in your USB chargeable device and charge it without having to turn on your notebook (model number 33346), which retails for $10 US more. Both can be seen at us.kensington.com/html/11172.html.

Into the Kensington, I plug a three-outlet power strip that is very small and light, which handles 110 up to 240 volts, but uses US plugs. Then I plug in all my US-plugged devices to this. Now you can see why I need only one adapter plug. When I am going to plug in only my notebook, I take out just the Kensington adapter and do not have to bring out the power strip. Of course, if you are from a different country, you can look for a power strip that supports your type of plug, but make sure it can handle all the voltages.

APC (www.apc.com) also makes an interesting UniversalPlug, but do not throw away the little picture of how to put it together for all the different socket types of the world. If you do, you will need to be sure that you have a friend that is good at Rubik's Cubes, in order to get the plug into the proper configuration for any socket. I try to keep all three pieces (the plugs and the instructions) in one pocket of the backpack. The URL is www.apc.com/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=INPA&tab=models.

Often I get to a place where there is broadband Internet, but not wireless broadband, only cable. How quaint. So I bring along my D-Link Model DWL G730AP wireless access point, router and client. I can set up a wireless bubble for myself and whoever else wishes to use it. This is also useful in a hotel room that I might be sharing with a group of people—that might be interpreted wrong—I meant a suite of rooms that I am sharing with a group of people. You can find this at www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=346 and of course other manufacturers make similar devices.

When I am looking for a hot spot, I can use my Canary Wireless HS10 Hot Spot finder (www.canarywireless.com). It has the capability of finding the hot spot, showing whether it is “open” (there is that word again) or “secure”, and the signal strength. By continuing to push the power button, it also shows all of the hot spots in that area, not just one, and it gives you the ESSID and channel of the hot spot. Some people simply use their notebook and appropriate software to do this, but the Canary tells me if it is at least worth hauling out the notebook. Of course, my notebook does B/G and A, and Canary does only B and G, but most hot spots are only B and G anyway. One problem with the Canary is that the power button is not recessed enough, so sometimes it gets pushed inside of the backpack and uses up its battery. Careful positioning of the Canary as I put it back keeps this from happening.

I also carry a Delorme Earthmate GPS unit (USB), so I can run gpsdrive to find out where the heck I am sometimes. And, I carry an old IBM VGA camera (Model XVP610) for a portable Webcam. It was very cheap when I bought it, and if it breaks I will not get upset.

Finally, I normally carry in my backpack a small case for my digital camera, and in that case I also carry a small recharger for AA batteries and a couple of sets of those batteries. Most of the portable devices that use batteries seem to use AA or AAA, and the recharging unit handles both, four at a time. A PCMCIA card makes the transfer of pictures to my notebook very quick.

And, there are also a few other dongles for recharging devices, such as cell phones and PDA devices. I have not looked at the iGO power devices.

The notebook itself is an IBM X31 with a “media slice” that provides extra ports, an extra battery and a removable device bay for CD/DVD reader/writers. I bought it almost two years ago, and knowing that it would be my main system for a while, I bought top of the line, with 2GB of main memory, an 80GB disk, 802.11 b/g/a wireless networking, FireWire, USB 2.0 and IR. I also prefer the ThinkStick of the IBM over the glidepad for “mousing”, but when I am some place where there is a bit more room, I also have a three-button optical mouse (Newpoint, www.newpoint.com/catalog.jspa?webcat=3&itemNumber=230828&method=showProduct) that has a self-retractable cord and a clear case so you can see the components (geeky, I know). The X31 also has a ThinkLight built in, which illuminates the keyboard for typing at night when you just can't “remember” where that particular key is.

I chose the IBM because of its titanium case, good support for Linux and good field support. Recently, I had to replace the keyboard because the oils in my hand dissolve plastic (“a mutant, you are maddog!”), and they shipped me the field replaceable keyboard overnight. The power supply for the laptop is not only good for the 110–240 volt crowd, but also has an adapter for the car cigarette lighter socket and the airplane seat socket, so I do not have to have a separate power adaptor to use it in the car or airplane. This is what every vendor should do for its laptop customers.

I do not do floppy drives anymore, opting for a USB stick, which people are now giving away from time to time, but taking off the media slice allows for the X31 to become very small and very light. If I need a floppy drive, there are plenty that are USB-based and work fine with Linux.

So there you have it, a combination of components that fit in my backpack. The next time you see me running through the airport, you will know that it is not because I forgot a needed piece of equipment!

diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Just as ext3 emerged as the successor to ext2 after Linus Torvalds said he didn't want additional features like journalling to clutter up a stable and functional filesystem, it now looks like ext4 will emerge as the successor to ext3. This goes directly counter to the desires of the ext3 maintainers, who don't want to give up their user base or have to struggle with maintaining divergent source trees between two projects. But, Linus doesn't consider these to be serious objections, and he is unwilling to sacrifice the stability and reliability of ext3 for the convenience of its maintainers. Assuming the controversy doesn't tip the other way, we can look forward to an ext4 that can hold 1,024 petabytes, instead of ext3's paltry 8 terabytes, and that supports filesystem extents, a technique of preventing disk fragmentation and slow-down.

Intel has launched a project to support WiMedia Ultra Wide Band (UWB) and the wireless USB standards. UWB is a wireless technology with a very short range, useful primarily for communicating within a single room. The hardware supporting this technology is so new that it is apparently still hard to find. But, Intel is gearing up to support it and has invited the Linux community to contribute to its effort.

Theodore Y. T'so has been working on removing as much data as possible from disk inodes, and keeping them elsewhere in the kernel. The idea behind this is that files use a lot of inodes, and accessing a lot of files uses a lot of RAM for the inodes. If inodes were smaller, the system would need much less RAM to deal with open files. The best part is because all filesystems use inodes, shrinking the inode data structure will improve the memory usage of every filesystem out there. A bunch of folks, including Alexander Viro, have been helping to trim the inode data structure. Linus Torvalds also apparently supports the work, and Ted has very quickly submitted some patches to accomplish a lot of what he originally set out to do.

Sean Estabrooks has written a tool to import Perforce repositories into git and has posted his code and documentation for inclusion into the git tree.

Jon Smirl has begun the arduous task of attempting to import eight years of Mozilla development into git from a CVS repository. Whether the resulting repository will be used for ongoing Mozilla development remains to be seen.

Paul Mackerras has enhanced gitk to show the nearest tags (typically official version numbers) to a given commit. This allows users to identify more easily which release was first to accept a particular patch. Because this feature requires a significant amount of computation, Paul has set it to run in the background and update the display once the information is derived.

It's now possible to alias git commands (with all their command-line arguments) to other names, effectively creating customized commands. This ability to create short, quick alternatives to commonly used or favorite commands can save a lot of time if, like Linus Torvalds, you have to process massive quantities of patches on a daily basis.

There's been a small amount of confusion over the way git should interpret the changelog text portion of a patch. Eric W. Biederman recently patched git to interpret From headers anywhere within the changelog entry, as indicating patch authorship. But, Linus has insisted that the From header should indicate authorship only when it appears at the very top of the patch. The reason for this, he says, is that git (and really any version control system) should never guess at the meaning of data. As he puts it, “SCMs are not about guessing. They are about saving the exact state that the user asked for. No 'let's try to be nice', no gray areas.”

The diff output of git can now be colorized, though the precise command-line option to do this is still being hashed out. And, as Linus said, the initial color-set selected for git's diff output “will make most people decide to pick out their eyes with a fondue fork”. So, clearly there is some tweaking still to be done.

______________________

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