LJ Archive



Issue #95, March 2002

All Your Blank

All Your Blank

Few social powers exceed that of permutation. Once a catchy phrase enters common parlance, endless variants soon permute into use. This happened with “Kilroy was here” in World War II, and it's happening now with “All your base are belong to us”. Here's what, other than base, that are now belong to us (or whomever):

And that's just in the first two pages of a Google search: 1-20 out of 31,600 results.

—Doc Searls (with thanks for the discovery to Don Marti)

Savannah and Free Software Development

What began as a simple move to reduce the workload of the GNU CVS maintainers has turned into an ambitious project to create a complete development hosting facility. In October 2001, the GNU Project announced a plan to rewrite completely the SourceForge software. This rewrite will address several key technical and practical issues.

SourceForge is an integrated collaborative development environment. It presents a web interface as a portal to CVS, FTP and e-mail services. The original SourceForge server, SourceForge.net, currently hosts more than 30,000 projects and 300,000 users.

The GNU Project has been running a modified version of the SourceForge software at savannah.gnu.org since late in the year 2000. Savannah was set up by GNU volunteers to automate and ease the process of GNU project management. Developers of the GNU Project want a service specifically for free software projects, and one independent from the VA Software Corporation.

Concern has been expressed over the centralized nature of the current SourceForge system. Where do the hosted projects go when and if VA Software loses the capital to support SourceForge.net? Where do those 30,000+ projects go if some SSSCA-like bill becomes a reality?

The development team has come up with an obvious answer: decentralization. Projects will be hosted on various sites across a network. All projects will be browseable from any node of the network.

Each machine running the new Savannah system will host any number of read/write and read-only projects. A read/write project will exist locally on that machine. Read-only projects are mirrors of a project hosted elsewhere. In case one of the host machines goes down, locally hosted developers will be able to move to one of the mirrors of their project and set that to be the read/write server for the project. Project definitions are exchanged between distinct servers via an XML-based format. The Savannah service is fault-tolerant. It allows for machines going out of service without loss of data.

The Savannah developers are basing all of the content of the new system on templates. Sections of pages can be pulled from GNU gettext files, based on the language of the reader. gettext is a package for developers, translators and users for creating multilingual applications. This provides for internationalization, a feature sorely lacking in the current SourceForge system.

The developers of the new system have determined to create a system where there is a clearly defined upgrade path between versions of the software. The software will be packaged using Debian's .deb packages, and upgrades will be automated through use of the package system.

The system is based on the GNU phpGroupWare code base. phpGroupWare implements templates needed for internationalization, authentication, database access, an XML-RPC interface and session management. The Savannah team is working closely with the phpGroupWare team to exchange improvements.

Bradley Kuhn, vice president of the Free Software Foundation, wrote:

A collaborative site providing a unified interface for project management is key for free software development. To truly help the cause of software freedom, such sites must be implemented completely with free software. Savannah does this for the GNU Project and will soon do the same for all GPL-compatible free software projects.

Savannah will provide important services to free software developers. It will provide the services of SourceForge.net on a world-spanning network of servers that each speak the individual developer's language. Savannah will have fault tolerance and data recovery. Best of all, the only support that the system needs is for volunteers to provide hosting services and support to their ability. Look for more information on Savannah at savannah.gnu.org.

The GNU Project can be found at www.gnu.org. For a definition of free software, see www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.

—Nicholas E. Walker

LJ Index—March 2002

  1. Year at which the over-65 population of Germany will approach 50%: 2030

  2. Multiple of over-65 growth rate by which the under-35 population of Germany will shrink if the birth rate remains constant: 2

  3. Millions of immigrants Germany will need to acquire per year to sustain its current workforce: 1

  4. Number of times Tove Torvalds has won the Finnish karate championship: 6

  5. Cost of a Windows network solution tested at the CRN test center: $4,688

  6. Cost of an equivalent Linux-based network solution at the same CRN test center: $317

  7. Percentage of cost savings of Linux vs. Windows at the CRN test center: 93

  8. Percentage of humanity that lives on less than $2 per day: 50

  9. Billions of people who live on less than $1 per day: 1

  10. Number of women who die per minute in childbirth: 1

  11. Days of paperwork processing it would take to legalize a bakery in Cairo: 500

  12. Percentage by which use of “web bug” surveillance (via 1 × 1 pixel surveillance GIFs) has grown over three years ending August 2001: 500

  13. Percentage of top 100 web destinations that use web page “spawning” (opening of unwanted windows) of some kind: 30

  14. Percentage of the top 100 European domains that employ spawning: 20

  15. Percentage of sites on the Internet that use “mouse trapping” to prevent the user from closing a page or using its back button: 5.7

  16. Average number of sexual partners among persons aged 16-55 in the US: 14.3

  17. Average frequency of sex per year among the same population in the US: 124

  18. Position of both the above in relation to all 27 countries surveyed: 1


1-3: Economist

4: Open Source Initiative

5-7: Computer Reseller News

8-11: Bill Clinton

12: CNET, sourcing Cyveillance

13-15: Cyveillance

Quotes without Comment

The Open Source movement, and Linux in particular, are massive volunteer nonprofit projects that share the spirit of community media. It's a radical alternative movement creating successful mainstream software. In fact, it's the same movement that produced the software that the internet revolution depends on. Now the movement has produced a cutting-edge technology that suits the CBAA's needs far better than the commercial competition. The technology is Linux. A Linux server is one the CBAA could be proud of.

—From the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia

Big Blue Offers Big Tux Test Drives

One of the most successful commercial Linux initiatives last year was IBM's offering of Linux eServer partitions on its zSeries mainframes, which can mount up to thousands of simultaneous Linux servers. Winnebago Industries and Korean Air are two high-profile customers that already serve a lot of Linux out of zSeries mainframes.

Now IBM is moving downscale toward smaller businesses, noting IDC's estimate that small businesses represent 48% of all Linux installations, and that small and medium-sized businesses will account for over 50% of the worldwide server market in another two years. The company claims that over 200,000 customers around the world already run their business on IBM eServer iSeries, but they want to raise that number with a new offering: the Linux for iSeries Test Drive.

You can test drive Linux on an iSeries system with a choice of Turbolinux or SuSE distributions and 170MB of user space, for up to 14 days. There are fee-based offerings available as well. Visit www.iseries.ibm.com/developer/factory/testdrive for details.

—Doc Searls

Stop the Presses: Linus Torvalds Wins World Technology Award

Linus Torvalds has won the 2001 World Technology Award for Commerce. These awards are given by the World Technology Network “to honour those individual leaders or, at times, co-equal teams from across the globe who most contribute to the advance of emerging technologies of all sorts for the benefit of business and society.” It honors

...those innovators who have done work recently which has the greatest likely future significance and impact over the long-term...and who will likely become or remain key players in the technological drama unfolding in coming years.

The group adds that the awards “are about those individuals whose work today will, in our opinion, create the greatest ripple effects in the future...in both expected and unexpected ways.”

“Linus Torvalds was selected for his work on Linux and the Open Source Software Paradigm”, the Awards site says.

Linus Torvalds wrote the kernel of Linux and established the Open Source software model, which is a revolutionary way of creating software. In doing so, he not only designed one of the most important pieces of software ever, but he also created a new paradigm for software engineering.

It continues:

Linux is one of the most important operating systems, at least as important as UNIX and MSDOS. It is crucial for mobile communication devices, for webservers, for the development of the Internet and for many other areas in computing, networking and information technology.

Linus Torvalds is not only an outstanding software engineer, but also a global community leader (of the open source software community).

The winners are announced at the end of each year, so the 2001 Awards were announced at the beginning of 2002. There were awards in twenty-three categories, with five finalists in each category. Other winners included:

  • Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University and author, for Law.

  • Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, for Communications Technology.

  • Gordon Moore, cofounder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel, for Information Technology—Hardware.

  • Shawn Fanning, author of Napster, for both Entertainment and Entrepreneurship.

The full list of award recipients is at Nature: www.nature.com/nature/wta.

—Doc Searls

They Said It

The world doesn't fear a new idea. It can pigeon-hole any idea. But it can't pigeon-hole a real new experience. It can only dodge.

—D.H. Lawrence

The world is full of abandoned meanings.

—Don DeLillo

While the flightless bird may have been booted off Wall Street, it is being welcomed on Main Street as a dependable substitute for more expensive software sold by competitors such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. From auto dealers in Florida to grocery stores in the Arctic Circle, companies are using Linux to run web sites, power databases, track inventory and balance the books.

—Elise Ackerman, in the San Jose Mercury News

If you stop and look at the broader picture, in many cases Linux has gone from a novelty to something that people are starting to deploy certain types of software solutions on. It's the deployment that's quiet, but ultimately more important than the noise.

—Dan Kusnetsky, IDC

It has occurred to me that if people really knew how software got written, I'm not sure if they'd give their money to a bank or get on an airplane ever again.

—Ellenn Ullman

Diogenes was run out of town for counterfeiting coins. Conscience is the small voice that says “someone might catch me”. Integrity can only exist in a vacuum. Cynicism should be taught in kindergarten. Have a profitable day.

—Opus Dark

When they say, “Gee it's an information explosion!”, no, it's not an explosion, it's a disgorgement of the bowels is what it is. Every idiotic thing that anybody could possibly write or say or think can get into the body politic now, where before things would have to have some merit to go through the publishing routine, now, ANYTHING.

—Harlan Ellison

Education is a state-controlled manufactory of echoes.

—Norman Douglas

Redefining the role of the United States from enablers to keep the peace to enablers to keep the peace from peacekeepers is going to be an assignment.

—George W. Bush

War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.

—Ambrose Bierce

Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.

—Blaise Pascal

So where are these imaginary earthshaking geek outlaws who laugh in derision at mere government? Well, they do exist, and they're in Redmond. The big time in modern outlaw geekdom is definitely Microsoft. The Justice Department can round up all the Al Qaeda guys they can wiretap, but when they went to round up Redmond, they went home limping and sobbing, and without a job. That is a geek fait accompli, it's a true geek lock-in. In 2001, Microsoft has got its semi-legal code in every box that matters. They make those brown-shoe IBM monopolists of the 1950s look like model public citizens.

—Bruce Sterling

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