The UpFront Section


LJ Index, September 2007

1. Dollars spent by Nike on its swoosh logo: 35

2. Billions of dollars spent on marketing last year by Nike: 1.7

3. Percentage of Web sites that are pornographic: 12

4. Pornographic percentage of all search engine requests: 25

5. Porn percentage of all downloads: 35

6. Number of users viewing porn per second: 28,358

7. Dollars (US) spent on port every second: 89

8. Number of new porn sites going up every day: 266

9. Estimated billions of porn Web pages: .372

10. Position of “sex” among the most searched words: 1

11. US revenue from Internet porn in 2006, in billions of dollars: 2.84

12. Male percentage of Internet porn users: 72

13. Percentage of porn traffic during the 9–5 eight-hour workday: 70

14. Percentage of porn sites produced by the US: 89

15. Position of AdultFriendFinder among most popular porn sites: 1

16. Number of AdultFriendFinder sites followed by Netcraft: 75

17. Number of AdultFriendFinder sites known to be served by Unknown: 46

18. Number of AdultFriendFinder sites known to be served by Windows: 1

19. Number of AdultFriendFinder sites known to be served by BSD: 2

20. Number of AdultFriendFinder sites known to be served by Linux: 28

1–15: Good Magazine

16–20: Netcraft.com

diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

UMSDOS, once a proud gateway into the Linux world for MS-DOS users, has been gone from the kernel for a while, and now even its dregs are being culled, bit by bit. Jesper Juhl has posted patches to remove the configuration entries from kconfig, as well as the ioctls UMSDOS had used. But, it turns out we still can't get rid of the ioctls, because the software of the future must know not to reuse the numbers. So, like DevFS, it may be impossible to remove all evidence of UMSDOS fully.

Intel has released PowerTOP, a standalone utility to help identify how much power is being used by the various applications and other parts of the system, including kernel drivers. The goal is to help all software developers trim down their power usage to extend laptop uptime greatly. Arjan van de Ven, who announced the project on the linux-kernel mailing list, said that on a test laptop Intel had been able to increase battery life by more than an hour.

Dave Jones has posted a patch to undeprecate the Raw I/O driver. This driver is no longer needed because users simply can open the target device with the O_Direct flag. But evidently, there is a significant number of users who are just not in a position to change their software. So, even though a better method exists, it looks like the Raw driver will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Even listing it as obsolete is now a no-no, because, as Dave says, it would just lead someone to add the driver to the “to be removed” list, which would start up the whole discussion again.

Geert Uytterhoeven posted patches for a Flash ROM storage driver for the PS3. This seemed to be a welcome set of patches, with no significant technical obstacles.

Jesse Barnes at Intel, working with the Framebuffer developers, is attempting to change the way graphics are handled in the Linux world completely. They want to enhance the kernel's graphics support to enable full-featured non-X Window System graphics capabilities to Linux. As it turns out, this is a very controversial project, and it represents another in a long line of attempts to replace the X Window System. The problems with such a project are enormous, not the least of which will be that any alternative to the X Window System will have to provide a competitive set of features, making it at least as large as the X Window System itself. This prospect will never appeal to kernel developers who feel that a small, sleek kernel is best. But, it's also true that graphics devices have been a strange exception to the general rule that hardware controllers belong in the kernel. It'll be very interesting to see how this particular attempt at a kernel graphics system plays out.

Rob Landley has decided to reorganize a bit of the Documentation directory, creating a directory for the Amiga architecture, and putting arm, cris, blackfin, parisc, powerpc, s390, x86_64 and uml into that directory. While he was at it, he moved the Multiport Serio IO cards into the serial directory.

The World Continues to Await Dell Linux

Dell's IdeaStorm site opened earlier this year to a hurricane of strong input from the Linux community. As we reported in the June 2007 issue, nearly all of the top ten vote-getters among new ideas for the company were Linux- or open-source-related. Since then, Dell has committed to making Linux-based desktops and laptops, and it offers a nice array of product choices based on Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu distros—in the US, that is.

The top topic on the IdeaStorm site as of mid-June 2007 was “Sell Linux PCs Worldwide—not only the United States”. It has more than 24,000 votes. Next in line was “Dell Ubuntu for Europe”, with 11,370 votes. Other items on the same page were “Ubuntu Dell Must Cost Le$$ Than Windows Dell”, “Same discounts available on Ubuntu and Windows”, “Provide Linux Drivers for all your Hardware”, “Pre-Installed OpenOffice.org | alternative to MS Works & MS Office”, “Have Firefox pre-installed as default browser” and “TV Commercial for New Ubuntu PCs”.

For its part, Dell says it is simply starting in the US and is “still working out details of its global programme”. Support in languages other than English is an issue. Look up “linux” at www.google.com/trends, and you'll find the top country sources of Linux searches are Czech Republic, Russia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, India, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary and Poland. You'll find similar results with searches for any of the distros. The US isn't in the top ten for any of them.

There's also room for improvement in the US. Dell still buries Linux details deep in its Web site. Although plenty of pages are devoted to Linux or Linux-related products, the word “linux” cannot be found on the home page or any pages up to two layers down the Dell site schema—not even in the pages for enterprise servers (as it is, say, for HP). Yet, there are plenty of “Dell recommends Windows Vista—Home Premium” messages at the tops of Dell product pages.

Meanwhile, Michael Dell's interest doesn't seem to be flagging. As of press time, the top computer on Michael's list is still a Dell Precision M90 running Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn (www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/biographies/en/msd_computers?c=us&l=en&s=corp).

Chumby rasa

The question at this point is whether the name Chumby will come to stand for every other hackable pillow-like device. (Such was the fate of Kleenex and Escalator.) If all goes according to plan, Chumbys should be on the market by now. Prototypes and development versions have been circulating for about a year, and a sizable development community has grown around it. Given how much it has grown and changed in the public womb, there's no telling how it'll evolve out in meatspace.

Photo by Bunnie Huang, VP Hardware Engineering and Founder of Chumby

“Chumby Industries was formed by hackers who wanted to create something interesting, useful and different. The starting point was the humble clock radio”, its creators explain. Since then, Chumby has evolved from a clock in a cushion to an Any-purpose Net-native Linux device. That's any with a capital A, because the Chumby is built to be hackable at every level, including the physical. Not only does it sense motions and squeezings, but it also hosts an assortment of charms, through its “outerware API”. The charms and much more about the Chumby were designed by Susan Kare (who designed the original desktop icons for the Macintosh and Windows, among too many other things to mention). Susan is Creative Director for Chumby. The company might be cuddly, but it means business too.

Tech details: 3.5" LCD color touchscreen, two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports, 350MHz ARM controller, 64MB SDRAM, 64MB NAND Flash ROM, 2-Watt amp with stereo speakers, headphone output, squeeze sensor, accelerometer, Wi-Fi connectivity and microphone—plus whatever you can do with it. For more information, visit www.chumby.com.

They Said It

There's really only one rule for community as far as I'm concerned, and it's this—in order to call some gathering of people a “community”, it is a requirement that if you're a member of the community, and one day you stop showing up, people will come looking for you to see where you went.

Every Web service has ended up being its own little snowflake, needing its own special treatment. The thing is, it's better than nothing so we trudge along and build the client libraries anyway.

Les Orchard says each API is a snowflake that every developer has to build custom interfaces for. Someday all these guys will realize they need to get together and come up with some standards for serializing data to simplify the work for themselves and developers. A lot of compromise and working together will be needed to make this happen. And when they have finished, many years from now, they will be where we were with XML-RPC in 1998.

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.

—John Gall's 15th law of Semantics, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemantics

It's reasonable to talk about software as being alive. It's symbiotic. It needs a host geek in which to live.

—Jeremy Ruston (author of TiddlyWiki), from a talk about TiddlyWiki in London


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