LJ Archive


diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Zack Brown

Issue #113, September 2003

Kernel development seems to be inching toward a 2.6 release. The October 31, 2002 feature-freeze has not held firm, and many new features have been going into the kernel ever since. However, Linus Torvalds and others have been more strict about how invasive any new features can be; in early May 2003, Linus said he would begin rejecting patches that were not completely obvious, unless they went through a lot of other folks in the chain of command. My guess is the chance of seeing a 2.6 kernel before the end of 2003 is slim, but we may see a code freeze by September or October 2003.

Linus Torvalds has made this very clear: he will accept patches supporting Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM is intended to deprive users of control over how data on a system may be used. For instance, with DRM, a digitized song might be played only a certain number of times before requiring the user to pay money to a vendor. DRM is a generic term referring to any attempt to exert this kind of control over how data is used. It may be implemented in software or hardware. In the free software and open-source world, DRM is regarded as a terrible threat, possibly to the very existence of free and open software. Linus feels the fundamental kernel features involved in DRM are not bad in themselves, but represent generic security measures that could be used for DRM or for something else. Some patches already have been proposed, and by adopting them or others into the kernel, Linus may be creating a foothold to prevent the eventual criminalization of free software.

The HFS+ filesystem, the default on Mac OS X systems, has been given a fresh infusion of life by Roman Zippel. On behalf of Ardis Technologies, he took the existing HFS+ driver by Brad Boyer and made a big batch of improvements, including full read and write support, better performance and support for hard links. This is a real benefit for iPod and other Mac users, but unfortunately, as is so often the case, Roman forgot to tell Brad what he was doing, so there was a bit of a skirmish over maintainership when Roman announced the new code. As of this writing, it remains unclear as to whether Roman or Brad will lead the project or whether something else will happen.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has made some API changes to their SE Linux distribution as part of a push to get SE Linux patches into the main 2.5 tree in time for 2.6. Their changes include support for extended attributes on the ext3 filesystem. This would allow virtually any kind of additional file metadata to be stored with a file. Extended Attributes (EAs) can be used to implement security features such as Access Control Lists (ACLs) and filesystem capabilities. The Linux Security Module (LSM), at the back end of SE Linux, also received some attention from the NSA. They modified some of the module's hooks in order to prevent security exploits during the fraction of a second between when a file security label is changed and the corresponding inode security field is updated to reflect that fact.

It seems that some Wireless LAN chips (Broadcom's BCM4306 and BCM2050, to name two) are capable of receiving military communications and transmitting at those same frequencies. This is slowing down the creation of free drivers for these chips, because the hardware manufacturers can release the chip specifications only at the risk of angering various government agencies around the world. As one might expect, once the “features” of these chips became known, many hackers dropped whatever they were working on and started reverse engineering the chips with all their might, in some cases using the existing Microsoft Windows drivers to guide them.

ibmonitor: ibmonitor.sourceforge.net

David A. Bandel

Issue #113, September 2003

For those who like to watch traffic while it's passing, ibmonitor allows you to do this. It shows you maximum traffic, data throughput and average traffic as well as current traffic. Display is designed to fit on the standard VT, although that depends on what you have turned on and how many interfaces you have. Requires: Perl, Perl module Term::ReadKey, Getopt::Long, Term::ANSIColor and Data::Dumper.

ifGraph: www.ifgraph.org

David A. Bandel

Issue #113, September 2003

If you find, for whatever reason, that MRTG isn't the tool for you, but need something to show you the I/O on a router interface (or even a host interface, like your mail or Web host), check out ifGraph. By default, it creates graphs for interface statistics and memory usage but should be adaptable to most anything you can collect with SNMP. Requires: Perl, Perl modules FindBin, Getopt::Std, Net::SNMP, File::Copy and rrdtool.

LJ Index—August 2003

  • 1. Number of Windows desktops in London's Newham district expected to be replaced by Linux and open-source applications: 5,000

  • 2. Numbers of Windows desktops expected to do the same if Nottingham follows Newham's lead: 6,500

  • 3. Expected cost cuts in both cases: 1/3

  • 4. Number of computers migrating to Linux in Munich: 14,000

  • 5. Number of police computers in Lower Saxony expected to switch to Linux: 11,000

  • 6. Percentage of computers sold in Western Europe on which Linux can be found: 15

  • 7. Percentage of broadband usage growth in Europe in 13 months ending April 2003: 136

  • 8. Percentage of the same growth in the UK: 235

  • 9. Percentage of European users now connected by broadband: 28

  • 10. Percentage of US users now connected by broadband: 35

  • 11. Percentage of Hong Kong users connected by broadband: 85

  • 12. Millions of Europeans who will be using broadband by March 2004: 50

  • 13. Percentage of Australian McDonald's restaurants equipped with Wi-Fi: 100

  • 14. Number of rural communities in the Loni-Shirdi area of western Maharashtra that have raised money to form a technology cooperative: 200

  • 15. Number of Wi-Fi hot spots established by the cooperative as of May 2003: 50

  • 16. Idle percentage range for one provider's 350,000km of fiber-optic cable in India: 60–70

  • 17. Billions in Wi-Fi device sales expected by 2006: 2.3

  • 18. Millions of Wi-Fi users Cometa expects to see by 2008: 50

  • 19. Millions of Wi-Fi devices Cometa expects to see by 2008: 100

  • 20. Number of hot spots Cometa plans to install by February 2004: 5,000

  • 21. Number of hot spots Cometa plans to install by 2005: 20,000

  • 1–6: ZDNet UK

  • 7–12: Nielsen/NetRatings

  • 13: New York Times

  • 14–16: The Hindu

  • 17: Jupiter Research

  • 18–21: Reuters

nefu: rsug.itd.umich.edu/software/nefu

David A. Bandel

Issue #113, September 2003

nefu, another monitor for services on your network servers, can test for a number of well-known services, or you can write your own scripts. One thing nefu understands that some others don't is dependencies. That is, if you tell nefu about a router between it and your mail server, and the router goes down, the router is noted as down in an e-mail to you, not the mail server, which may be down. Requires: libresolv, libnsl, libssl, libcrypto, glibc and libdl.

The Linux Option for School Computers

Walt Pennington

Issue #113, September 2003

Mandrake Linux is now available on free computers for schools and nonprofits in California from the Technology Training Foundation of America (TTFA). Since 1998, TTFA has accepted donated computers from corporations in California and provided computer access to more than 40,000 students. First, TTFA finds corporations wishing to recycle computer hardware. Many corporations replace between 20–30% of their desktop computers annually, and TTFA eagerly anticipates those 2- to 4-year-old computers.

TFTA uses the services of refurbishing partners throughout the state of California. TTFA coordinates the transportation of the computers to one of its 16 refurbishing partner sites, nine of which are run by the California Department of Corrections (CDC), that meet the applicant's technology standards. The refurbishing partners remove all data from the hard drives, repair or replace components as necessary and configure the computers to meet the needs of the recipient.

CDC and TTFA offer three choices for operating systems and software, including Mandrake Linux 9.0 with OpenOffice.org, The GIMP and other standard software packages. TTFA and CDC have the ability to install additional software but require proof of licensing before installing proprietary software.

TTFA accepts working monitors and computers with a speed of 300MHz or faster. TTFA is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in San Diego, California. More information about TTFA and its computer donation program can be obtained from their Web site at www.computers2learnby.org.

They Said It

People object that there is no economic model for it, but there is: the economic model of flower-boxes...I put out flower-boxes to raise my self-esteem and make my house look more attractive. If almost everyone does it then the whole town becomes more beautiful. The same thing can happen with communications. The challenge for telecom is to combine wireless with very intelligent devices....The combination will allow us to use spectrum in a very different way, in more efficient and organic ways than before.

—Nicolas Negroponte (Nordic Wireless Watch, www.nordicwirelesswatch.com/wireless/story.html?story_id=3152)

We were discussing the future challenges in information technology, including the issues related to software security...I made a point that we look for open-source codes so that we can easily introduce the users-built security algorithms. Our discussions became difficult, since our views were different....The most unfortunate thing is that India still seems to believe in proprietary solutions....Further spread of IT, which is influencing the daily life of individuals, would have a devastating effect on the lives of society due to any small shift in the business practice involving these proprietary solutions. It is precisely for these reasons open-source software needs to be built, which would be cost-effective for the entire society. In India, open-source code software will have to come and stay in a big way for the benefit of our billion people.

—A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India (ZDNet News/India, news.zdnet.co.uk/story/0,,t272-s2135401,00.html)

We know that Linux is not for everything....But there are not many applications that require more than Linux can give us.

—Mark Snodgrass, VP Global Technology & Services, Merrill Lynch (CNET, news.com.com/2100-1016_3-1014287.html)

There's no fancy equipment, so a lot of what we use as test equipment turns out to be hacked development boards, blinking LEDs, and occasionally a loud buzzer which scares the hell out of everyone.

—Andrew Greenberg of the Portland State Aerospace Society, which uses Linux and open-source code to control suborbital satellite launches

Be a guest on Jay Leno—not exactly, but your TiVo can claim you are. With the simple use of some scripts to run on your TiVo, you can change the descriptions of the television programs to guest star you.

—Rafi Kirkorian on TiVo hacks (Wasted-Bits, www.bitwaste.com/wasted-bits/index.cgi/media/books/tivo-hacks)

w3m: w3m.sourceforge.net

David A. Bandel

Issue #113, September 2003

Three years ago I reviewed several good programs, but the hands down winner for me was the text-based browser w3m. With the large majority of systems today using frames and images, using a text browser on the Internet can be a frustrating experience. Although great for slow links or systems not running X, this is not ideal. However, w3m works well with frames, allowing you to see multiple frames on the screen. It also, depending on your build options, allows you to see some graphics. The older Lynx has long since been replaced on my system with w3m. Requires: libgc, libpthread, libm, libnsl, libgpm, libncurses, libssl, libcrypt o, glibc, libstdc++, libdl and libgcc_s.

watchfolder: dstunrea.sdf-eu.org/files/watchfolder-02.2-p3.tar.gz

David A. Bandel

Issue #113, September 2003

Forgiving the misleading name, watchfolder watches directories for additions, then takes action on those additions. It runs as a dæmon and can act on new files or changed files as you configure it. You do need to be careful of permissions, but it's perfect for a repetitive task. I print files in Mozilla as PostScript into a watchme directory, and watchfolder handles converting them to PDFs and moving them into a another directory. Requires: glibc.

Watching the World

Doc Searls

Issue #113, September 2003

Linux Journal has added a new publication to its on-lineup: WorldWatch (WorldWatch.LinuxGazette.com). “Linux is a truly global phenomenon with a diversity of developments occurring in different societies. Therefore we're eager to transcend national and cultural borders in our articles, viewpoints and analyses”, says Willy Smith, editor in chief of the new publication. WorldWatch offers a daily digest of articles from publications around the world about topics surrounding Linux and open-source software. These topics are generally nontechnical and offer big-picture perspectives on the growth of Linux and its impact on societies. A sophisticated feedback system allows readers to comment, interact and elaborate on each issue.

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