Laser Blog

Articles tagged "open source"

77 A day without Open Source

Friday 11th May, 2007

Link updated April 2015

This interesting article hypothesises a day without Open Source software. It raises some interesting points.

For starters, the Internet would “disappear” for the average user. Most Domain Name Servers (DNS) are run on open source software like BIND, which turns into the IP address of the appropriate server. The majority of basic Internet users would be literally lost in translation.

It's the readers' comments which raise some of the more interesting points. Imagine suddenly being without Firefox, Mac OSX (based on FreeBSD), Apache.

MSN couldn't handle load without open source.

Their sole load balancing solution is boxes from F5 Networks, all running embedded linux

Other readers mentioned that Windows would lose it's TCP/IP stack (based on FreeBSD), and that many cell phones, home routers, e-mail, and most NAS devices would stop working.


76 Arch Linux review

Tuesday 8th May, 2007

There's an interesting review of Arch Linux (my distro of choice :) ) on the website.

I wouldn't call Arch "smooth and cuddly", but it is a good distro for those wishing to learn about Linux. It has a philosophy of trying to keep things simple, which suits my mentality! Minimal configuration is performed, it's up to you to set up the system the way you want it to be; it doesn't come with all the bells and whistles thrown in automatically. This does tend to make a secure system.

Arch is not for beginners, but if you're feeling jaded by your existing distro and want a bit more control from the start, give Arch a try on a spare machine. Have an internet connection available so you can refer to the forums and Wiki if it's your first time using Arch. The community is helpful.


74 One man writes Linux drivers for 235 USB webcams

Monday 30th April, 2007

I came across this eye-opening article on the Inquirer website. The author relates how he had problems with a cheap USB webcam he bought. Memory leaks with the provided driver meant he had to reboot Win2K on a daily basis. When he started to look for some other OS which might support them, he relates:

I found out last week that there are now Linux drivers for hundreds of those cheap "Made in China" webcams with strange brand names and a Vimicro chipset inside. The surprise was more shocking when I realized that drivers for 235 webcams -at the time of this writing- are the work of a single unknown hero who works from his home in France, does so with no corporate sponsorship, and what's even more outrageous, very few people know about the existence of those drivers and about the person behind them.

The author sought out and managed to interview the man responsible for these Linux drivers. Parts of the interview are quite telling, and show the difference between the motives which drive the communities and individuals who create open source software, and the companies which produce proprietary software. The interviewer in the excerpt below is FC. MX are the initials of Michel Xhaard, the "webcam driver" man.

FC: How do you feel knowing that there are a few really big corporations with million dollar budgets all peddling Linux, and you do all this critical work of helping Linux gain webcams support -by the hundreds!-, yet not a single one of those big firms has decided to formally sponsor your work?
MX: my work is not "Linux Kernel centred" my goal is to provided video input support for Linux users, and I am not sure that these big companies are interested in the end user :).

(Emphasis added.)

He's being sarcastic. Of course these companies are not interested in the end user. Look at how Vista tramples on your freedom and rights. It's the job of listed companies to keep shareholders, not customers, happy. Of course they'll try and do both, but if they have to choose, then the shareholders will be chosen over the customers every time.

I've heard some folk say that Linux or Free/Libre/Open Source software (FLOSS) "needs big business". That's claptrap. If anything, "big business" needs Linux/FLOSS. When big businesses go down (and they always do), Linux and FLOSS will still be around, maintained by the efforts of people like Michel Xhaard.

(Edited 4 May 2007: title changed: 352 -> 235)


66 Myths, Lies, and Truths about the Linux kernel

Monday 19th March, 2007

A very interesting transcript of a speech, including the accompanying slide-show, given by Linux kernel hacker Greg Kroah-Hartman on some of the Myths, Lies, and Truths about the Linux kernel

Some fascinating information is presented here.

Linux supports more devices "out of the box", than any other operating system ever has.

There are also a few very interesting paragraphs on the Linux USB code. (Greg Kroah-Hartman specialises on the kernel's USB subsystems, amongst others.) Here is a severely cut-down excerpt:

Linux now has the fastest USB bus speeds when you test out all of the different operating systems. We max out the hardware as fast as it can go, and you can do this from simple userspace programs, no fancy kernel driver work is needed.

Now Windows has also rewritten their USB stack at least 3 times ... each time they did a rework, and added new functions and fixed up older ones, they had to keep the old api functions around, as they have taken the stance that they can not break backward compatibility due to their stable API viewpoint. ... now the Windows core has all 3 sets of API functions in it, as they can't delete things. That means they maintain the old functions, and have to keep them in memory all the time, and it takes up engineering time to handle all of this extra complexity. That's their business decision to do this, and that's fine, but with Linux, we didn't make that decision, and it helps us remain a lot smaller, more stable, and more secure.

All of this, plus arguments against the "stable API" approach, plus more! Well worth a read.


63 Microsoft - friendly towards Open Source?

Wednesday 14th March, 2007

The title is rhetorical of course; not a chance. It does seem that Microsoft have suckered many people in the industry into believing that they are being friendly towards the Open Source movement.

Microsoft is crafting a multifaceted plan to approach open source from a number of different levels: Linux as an operating system competitor; interoperability with Linux in mixed environments; partnering with open source ISVs; development of Shared Source Licensing; contributions to and support for community development sites.

Ooh, "interoperability with Linux in mixed environments". Jeremy Allison has something to say about Microsoft's attitude to interoperability, from his experiences at the San Francisco 2005 Linuxworld conference:

Microsoft even joined in the fun by turning up as "Darth Vader" and a couple of "Star Wars" stormtroopers... It all gathered a lot of positive press for Microsoft of course, which is why they did it. "Look what good sports they are" everyone said, and of course they were, showing how much things have changed with Microsoft at a Linux show, talking about interoperability

Wow, maybe they are changing ... oh, hold on, there's more:

The week before the LinuxWorld San Francisco conference that Microsoft attended with such a flourish was the much quieter CIFS (Common Internet File System) conference, also in the Bay Area in Santa Clara. You remember CIFS don't you ? It's the file system that all Microsoft clients use to communicate with the Microsoft servers. The conference was started by Microsoft and was attended by all the server vendors who have to make their software actually interoperate with Microsoft clients. It's one of the largest events in the calendar for the Samba Team as we all get together with peer engineers from all CIFS vendor companies to make sure our software actually interoperates and works well together. Except for one major server vendor of course. The biggest one in fact. They didn't even bother to turn up, or send any engineers to work on interoperability. Can you guess who that was ? Maybe they were too busy getting ready for their presentations on "Interoperability" at LinuxWorld to actually do any work on interoperability.

So, what's it all about, all this courting of Open Source? Let back to our first article again, right near the top:

"It does seem to me that Microsoft is trying," says Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "Bill Hilf seems to be trying to figure out how to get the advantages of the open source development methodology. And there's no question that one of the lessons of Vista development is that companies have to evolve their process of engineering. Microsoft needs to look at their processes and borrow best practices from anywhere they can get them."

(Emphasis added.)

So this is what it's all about. Saving money. It seems that the communist cancer is somewhat more efficient than some folks gave it credit for.

Trust Microsoft? Not me.