UpFront

by Staff
diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

by Zach Brown

Last month I wrote about digsig, a security module that checks the checksum of a binary before executing it to ensure that no compromised code is run on a given system. Apparently, I was a bit more enthusiastic than various kernel developers, notably Alexander Viro and Pavel Machek. It turns out (and the digsig developers agree with this) that digsig is no more than a temporary security tactic, which script kiddies would be able to work around after a fairly short time. Historically, these sorts of temporary measures never have been adopted into the kernel, precisely because they don't provide a robust solution.

With the 2.6.0-test1 kernel released in early November 2003, Linus Torvalds announced a stability freeze, meaning patches would be accepted only if they fixed data corruption, system crashes or some other serious breakage. Even cleanup patches that don't actually change the behavior of the code are being rejected now. According to Linus, the goal is to start the final preparations for the official 2.6.0 release, at which point he has strongly hinted that he immediately will hand maintainership of the 2.6 tree to Andrew Morton. This is a change from 2.4, where he handed maintainership to Marcelo Tosatti only after several releases. There is still no indication of when the 2.7 tree will fork; it could occur at the same time as the hand-off to Andrew, though certainly not before.

Rusty Russell and Tim Hockin together have produced a patch to raise the number of supported groups under Linux to well over 200. In fact, the patch supports thousands of groups, something various folks (like some of Tim's Samba clients) sometimes want. Linus Torvalds felt that some incarnations of their patch were uglier than others, but apparently he's ready to consider support for that many groups, as long as the implementation doesn't make him retch too hard into his hand.

Ian Pratt and others from the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group have produced the first stable release of their Xen virtual machine monitor for the x86 architecture and have ported the 2.4.22 kernel to it as a guest OS. Xen is designed to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer. Once a kernel is ported to Xen, all user binaries apparently will run unchanged; so in theory any Linux distribution would run under Xen, with a drop-in kernel as the only modification. Currently, it's not possible to run Xen recursively, though various twisted kernel hackers have expressed such an interest.

Eli Billauer has created /dev/frandom, a random number generator that is up to 50 times faster than /dev/urandom, under some tests. Although not intended to be random enough for cryptography (but it might one day become so), it nevertheless is good for scientific simulations, stress tests on algorithms and performing data-wipes. In spite of its various good qualities, it probably will have to live as an external patch for quite a while, as several kernel developers like Nick Piggin feel there is no compelling need to do /dev/frandom in kernel space, because it could be done well enough entirely in user space.

Roman Zippel announced in mid-October 2003 an implementation of the iSCSI specification. Although it's not a complete implementation and uses the deprecated /proc filesystem instead of SysFS for its interface, it apparently is already somewhat usable. Roman has promised to continue maintaining it if there is enough interest, but without help he says it may be slow-going.

SQL-Ledger: www.sql-ledger.com

by David Bandel

I don't think I've seen any project come as fast or as far as this one has in the three years I've been using it. This system offers full double-entry accounting for almost any business in a large number of languages. I'd be hard-pressed to find a better accounting package. Installation is extremely simple. If you have LaTeX installed, you can output PDF files directly or e-mail your bills or statements. The out-of-the-box configuration is based on the Canadian tax system but easily can be adopted to any other system. One of the best features is that the database uses PostgreSQL. If you need a full accounting package for a business, this is it. Requires: Perl, Perl modules DBI, DBD- (DBD-Pg or DBD-Oracle), PostgreSQL or Oracle, Web server capable of running Perl scripts, Web browser and LaTeX (optional).

They Said It

I do not believe that we should be willing to buy or use voting systems where the source code and design is not open for public review. I think there are companies that would be willing to work in this model, particularly if the contract provided some long-term commitments. This is not Britney Spears we're talking about here–the integrity of our voting system is a fundamental component of our government.

—Phil Windley, www.windley.com/2003/11/03.html#a893

eGovernment applications need to cost less, allow for rapid development, provide a user–friendly experience for constituents and offer enhanced security. Linux provides everything eGovernment initiatives need.

—Tom Adelstein, www.linuxjournal.com/article/7076

Interestingly, the most popular source of embedded Linux for future projects is “home grown (I build my own from GNU/Linux downloaded sources)”. That is, developers apparently prefer freely downloadable noncommercial sources–such as kernel.org, Debian or the uClinux project–over commercial embedded Linux distributions.

—Rick Lehrbaum, linuxdevices.com

gtick: www.antcom.de/gtick linuxdevices.com

Need a metronome? This metronome doesn't only give you a simple beat for your music, it also gives you selectable beats, such as 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 or a customizable beat. Variable speed and volume controls with both slider bars for coarse tuning and an incremental wheel for fine-tuning allow you a lot of flexibility. Requires: libgtk-x11-2.0, libgdk-x11-2.0, libatk-1.0, libgdk_pixbuf-2.0, libm, libpangoxft-1.0, libpangox-1.0, libpango-1.0, libgobject-2.0, libgmodule-2.0, libdl, libgthread-2.0, libglib-2.0, libpthread, glibc, libX11, libXi, libXext, libXft, libXrender, libfontconfig, libfreetype, libz and libexpat.

LJ Index—February 2004
  1. Minimum projected percentage TCO (total cost of ownership) savings for Sanchez Computer Associates' Linux-based core processing system for banks: 50

  2. Millions of people using Linux in the world: 18

  3. Top dollar price of Commercequest's software for helping companies meet the new Sarbanes-Oxley corporate compliance law: 500,000

  4. Percentage of IT budgets that go to internal staff: 70

  5. Annual percentage growth rate of Wi-Fi access-point shipments through 2008: 50

  6. Millions of Wi-Fi access points expected to be shipped annually in 2008: 1

  7. Projected percentage growth rate in Wi-Fi access-point shipments in 2005: 132

  8. Rank of Linux among embedded Wi-Fi access-point operating systems: 1

  9. Percentage of embedded Linux developers who preferred “home grown” as their “Linux source/vendor” during the past two years: 15

  10. Rank of “home grown” as the preferred “Linux source/vendor” for embedded developers during the past two years: 2

  11. Percentage of embedded Linux developers who preferred Red Hat as their “Linux source/vendor” during the past two years: 17

  12. Rank of Red Hat as the preferred “Linux source/vendor” for embedded developers during the past two years: 1

  13. Percentage of embedded Linux developers who prefer “home grown” as their “Linux source/vendor” during the next two years: 18

  14. Rank of “home grown” as the preferred “Linux source/vendor” for embedded developers during the next two years: 1

  15. Percentage of embedded Linux developers who prefer Red Hat as their “Linux source/vendor” during the next two years: 17

  16. Rank of Red Hat as the preferred “Linux source/vendor” for embedded developers during the next two years: 2

  17. Minimum percentage of future Linux embedded projects “attributable to essentially noncommercial sources”: 50

  18. Millions of Apache Web servers surveyed by Netcraft for November 2003: 30.30

  19. Percentage of all surveyed Web servers that run Apache: 67.41

  20. Percentage gain by Apache over the prior month: 2.80

  21. Percentage loss by Microsoft Web servers during the same period: 1.65

Sources

  • 1: Sanchez Computer Associates

  • 2: Wired

  • 3–6: Forbes

  • 7–17: ABI Research, Linux Devices

  • 18–21: Netcraft

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