UpFront

The UpFront Section

UpFront

LJ Index, June 2007

1. Number of billionaires in the world: 946

2. Number of billionaires in India: 36

3. Indian billionaire gain over the prior year: 12

4. Position of India among countries with billionaires: 1

5. Number of billionaires in Japan: 24

6. Position of Bangalore among number of “Linux” queries on Google: 1

7. Position of Tokyo among number of “Linux” queries on Google: 2

8. Number of Western Hemisphere locations among the top ten sources of queries for “Linux” on Google: 0

9. Number of US locations among the top ten sources of queries for “Microsoft” on Google: 7

10. Millions of Internet radio listeners per month in 2005: 45

11. Millions of Internet radio listeners per month in 2006: 72

12. Dollars (US) paid per-listener/per-“performance” (recording) by US commercial Webcasters between 2002–2005: .0007

13. Same obligation as above for noncommercial Webcasters between 2002–2005: .0002

14. Dollars (US) to be paid per-listener/per-“performance” (recording) by all US Webcasters (commercial and noncommercial) retroactively for 2006: .0008

15. Dollars (US) paid per-listener/per-“performance” (recording) by all US Webcasters for 2007: .0011 per performance

16. Same rates for 2008: .0014 per performance

17. Same rates for 2009: .0018 per performance

18. Same rates for 2010: .0019 per performance

19. Position of Linux-based Radio Paradise as “most successful in its class” of Internet radio stations: 1

20. Royalty obligations of the above as a percentage of Radio Paradise's current total income: 125

1–5: Forbes, CNN

6–9: Google

10, 11: Radio and Internet Newsletter

12, 13: Librarian of Congress in 2002

14–18: Copyright Royalty Board in 2007

19, 20: KurtHanson.com

This Issue of LJ Dedicated to John Backus

I had written and submitted this month's Beachhead column, with a slant toward this issue's theme of computer languages, and in particular, the language FORTRAN, which was the first computer language I ever learned. And, although in my column I pointed out the benefit of learning machine and assembly language, I honestly do not believe that I would have gone into the programming field if it were not for FORTRAN.

On March 20, 2007, two weeks after I submitted the article, I got the very sad news of the March 17th death of John Backus. John was the man who people credit as the “Father of FORTRAN”, and one of two people credited with Backus-Naur Form, a language invented to describe languages. I sent the message out to my local Linux user group, and during the next week it appeared again and again in various mailing lists.

With today's languages and computers, it is hard for people to know or (for those of us old enough) even to remember those early days. Today, concepts we take for granted were both revolutionary and difficult in conception in those days. There were people who thought computers would never be able to be programmed in anything other than machine code, and I am sure that John and his staff met more than their share of skeptics, but they persevered. And, out of the work they did on the first successful high-level language came many more successes by many more people on many more languages.

So I asked Linux Journal to dedicate this issue devoted to languages to John Backus: Computer Scientist Extraordinaire and Humanitarian, 1924–2007.

And, as we contribute our pieces to the future of computer science, may we hope someday in our own way to contribute as much as he did.

diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Ingo Molnar has implemented a new language-like wrapper system called Syslets to manage system calls from user space. These little mini-programs can run system calls asynchronously, responding to their behavior as the user desires, without having to return out of kernel space. Using Syslet wrappers, Ingo has measured 33.9% speedups over cached synchronous I/O and 19.2% speedups over uncached synchronous I/O. Interest in Syslets among kernel hackers is fairly high, though Linus Torvalds feels the Syslet programming interface is too complicated and difficult for casual users to experiment with. Clearly some work remains before Syslets are ready to go into the main tree.

Intel has produced a PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection adapter driver. Unlike some other Intel drivers, this one doesn't depend on a proprietary dæmon; it is fully open source. It does, however, require a microcode upgrade. This improved licensing situation is apparently not due to any different feature of the hardware, but rather is due to improvements in the microcode itself. Intel's driver has received a good reaction among kernel folks, and it seems on the way to being included in the source tree.

The well-known and long-standing \0 loophole, allowing drivers to pretend to be GPLed when they aren't, is being closed. Several folks are working on this, most notably Jan Engelhardt, who recently posted a patch to fix it. There's a controversy surrounding this patch, because some folks feel that if the kernel places greater restrictions on non-GPLed drivers than on GPLed ones, this constitutes a license enforcement feature, which could violate the terms of the GNU General Public License. So long as the loophole exists within the code, the debate can stay dormant, because driver writers can bypass the controls. Once the controls actually start to work, the debate gains immediacy for companies such as LinuxAnt, who have made use of the loophole in the past.

The KVM virtual machine code has migrated its development tree from Subversion to git for a couple reasons. Avi Kivity said, by way of explanation, that Subversion could not efficiently host the entire kernel tree and that developers wanted to maintain their own branches independently.

Jon Masters is the new module-init-tools maintainer, having taken over the job from Rusty Russell and patched the MAINTAINERS file to reflect the change. Evgeniy Dushistov also has created a UFS entry in the MAINTAINERS file, and listed himself as the maintainer.

Alessandro Di Marco got more than he bargained for when he posted a new user inactivity trigger he's been playing around with. It's a nice little feature that issues an ACPI event when no user activity occurs for a certain amount of time. He'd hammered the code out for fun, intentionally avoiding questions about optimal implementation details, on the assumption that not too many folks actually would be interested in this work. As it turned out, a lot of folks were interested, and they had many implementation suggestions. For starters, Arjan van de Ven pointed out that uevent would be a better delivery mechanism than ACPI. Pavel Machek pointed out that Alessandro's new /proc file would be better in the /sys directory. Pavel also suggested that user space would be a better place overall for such a feature, although Alessandro feels this would add a lot of complexity to the code. He responded quickly to a lot of the suggestions, producing new versions of his patch that answered the objections raised on the linux-kernel mailing list.

Planning for the next Linux Kernel Summit has begun. The kernel folks are spicing it up with a move to Cambridge, England, instead of the traditional Ottawa gathering in Canada. The new venue has opened up the possibility of different venues in the future, and a bunch of them have been proposed, including Australia, India and the Czech Republic. A major factor in selecting future locations will be the overall cost. A lot of kernel folks work at companies that pay for their plane tickets to the Summit each year, but some prices become prohibitive. Countries that are home to more attendees are more likely to host the Summit than others, according to Theodore Y. Ts'o, one of the organizers. But of course, anything can happen.

Where Wants What?

One of the fun uses to which Google puts its vast Linux server farms can be found at trends.google.com. Here you can see and compare queries for keywords over a period of time that runs from the end of 2003 to the present.

In addition to showing trends on a graph, Google Trends also shows the top ten places from which queries come. This brings up some surprising results.

See if you can match the search terms on the left with the top search query locations on the right.

Answers on page XX.

Match Up

  1. gnome

  2. kde

  3. linux

  4. shell

  5. hat

  6. hacker

  7. laptop

  8. widget

  9. driver

  10. emacs

  11. vi

  12. weenie

  13. redhat

  14. oracle

  15. asterisk

  16. internet

  17. net

  18. majordomo

  19. maddog

  20. Vulnerability

  1. Prague, Czech Republic

  2. Pune, India

  3. Oslo, Norway

  4. Athens, Greece

  5. Washington, DC

  6. Honolulu, Hawaii

  7. Tokyo, Japan

  8. Rancho Santa Margarita, California

  9. San Francisco, California

  10. Stanford, California

  11. Jakarta, Indonesia

  12. Austin, Texas

  13. Lima, Peru

  14. London, England

  15. Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

  16. Kyoto, Japan

  17. Bangalore, India

  18. Bogota, Columbia

  19. Ljubljana, Slovenia

  20. Hanoi, Vietnam

IdeaStorm: Hardware OEM Learnings of Linux for Make Benefit Glorious Company of Dellstan

Early this year, Dell created a Digg-like site called Dell | IdeaStorm (“Where Your Ideas Reign”). The idea was for readers to submit ideas for the company, then have other readers vote and comment on them. Next to the title logo ran hints, such as “How can technology companies address climate change?” (over “click here to Read Dell's point of view”). Needless to say, this opened the floodgates holding back a tide of Linux demand.

As of 8am CDT on March 13, 2007, here were the top ten vote-getters:

  1. 108,886 votes: “Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot”

  2. 73,840 votes: “Pre-Installed OpenOffice.org | alternative to MS Works & MS Office”

  3. 54,300 votes: “Stripped down, fast Linux box”

  4. 50,653 votes: “Have Firefox pre-installed as default browser”

  5. 49,990 votes: “No OS preloaded”

  6. 51,048 votes: “NO EXTRA SOFTWARE OPTION”

  7. 35,867 votes: “Provide Linux drivers for all your hardware”

  8. 29,041 votes: “Linux 2.6.16 ready (sticker)”

  9. 20,288 votes: “National Call Centers”

  10. 17,376 votes: “LinuxBIOS instead of proprietary BIOS”

One hour later, Dell added two more posts of its own. On the IdeaStorm page, it posted “Linux—We're listening—Now Tell Us More”. On the Direct2Dell.com page, it added “Dell to Expand Linux Options”. Both pointed to a survey at www.dell.com/linuxsurvey. The survey was also titled “Linux Learnings: We're Listening”.

Hence the headline above.

They Said It

The problem, of course, is that life is anti-formulaic, anti-institutional....Life can't be shrink-wrapped, caged, dissected, analyzed, or owned. Life is free.

—Christopher Locke, The Cluetrain Manifesto

I think a world full of anonymous monopolists is a really painful one to live in and create in.

Good thing Henry Ford stopped in Waltham, Massachusetts, to learn about bicycle manufacturing rather than spending time in Mr Hobson's stable shoveling up after those horses.

—Bob Frankston, from an e-mail message

In isolation our wants exceed our powers. In society our powers exceed our wants.

—Frederic Bastiat, quoted in The Logic of Co-operation by George Jacob Holyoake, Co-operative Printing Society, 1873, www.citizenblog.org/node/23

A Nice Handful

You've gotta like an MP3 player that goes out of its way to play OGG and brag about its Linux-friendliness (the literature says “Linux from kernel 2.4.x”). That would explain why TrekStor's Vibez player has been getting some nice buzz in Linux circles.

Upsides: you can load it as a plain USB storage device. It plays back OGG (plus MP3, WAV, FLAC and WMA). It has line-in and microphone recording, a color display, a USB-chargeable battery (plus a spare), device-deletion of files, adjustable play speed and a very slick non-iPod design. It's the size of a soap bar—4"x2"x.7", with highly rounded corners. And, it's a lot lighter—only 2.5 ounces.

Downside: not a lot of storage. Ranges from 8–15GB at prices that start at around $200 US.

______________________

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