LJ Archive


diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Zack Brown

Issue #151, November 2006

The Areca RAID driver is likely to go into the main kernel sources soon. Andrew Morton and others have been working with the maintainer, Erich Chen, to fix some remaining issues, and this work seems to be bouncing right along. There was a small disconnect when the official merge was first proposed, as some folks hadn't realized Erich had been actively maintaining the driver or working on addressing the problems.

Jesse Huang from IC Plus released an IP100A 10/100 fast network adapter driver for inclusion, and a little corporate competition came into play. Jesse's code was a fork of the Sundance driver code, with only minor changes. In such cases, the going wisdom, as Arjan van de Ven put it, is to update the existing driver to support the additional hardware, instead of starting a whole new driver. In response to this, Jesse explained that IC Plus was keen to have the ip100a.c filename in the kernel and possibly remove sundance.c at some point. But, after conferring with his company, they decided to follow best practices and just feed their changes into sundance.c.

Al Boldi submitted a patch to make RootFS swappable by using tmpfs rather than ramfs for its back-end file storage. This change would allow systems with a large initrd or initramfs image not to tie up the RAM associated with that image unless it is actually in use. The idea behind Al's patch did make sense to folks as being useful for embedded systems. But, H. Peter Anvin pointed out that one current goal is to move initramfs initialization earlier in the boot process to include loading firmware for built-in device drivers. He wasn't sure how Al's patch would affect this plan, if at all, but he said the migration to earlier initialization had to take precedence.

Nigel Cunningham has submitted his Suspend2 code for inclusion in Andrew Morton's -mm tree. In spite of forking the software suspend code from Pavel Machek years go, this is the first time he's actually submitted it for inclusion anywhere. A lot of users find Suspend2 to be much better than Pavel's uswsusp code, and they routinely download and apply Nigel's patch even though uswsusp is already in the kernel. Pavel, as the official software suspend maintainer, has nearly the final word on whether anyone else's suspend code gets into the kernel, and his antagonistic relationship with Nigel makes it unlikely the he would let the code through without a fight. But, his arguments against including Nigel's code have begun to ring hollow. He says the in-kernel code works just as well, but then hordes of users proclaim that no, Suspend2 works better for them. He says uswsusp is a better idea and users should just wait for it to be ready, but Suspend2 works now and has worked well for a long time. It does seem as though Nigel's code has proven itself, and without serious technical objections, it should be allowed into the kernel.

Hans Reiser is at it again, claiming that kernel developers have been standing in the way of including Reiser4 for political reasons. Although some kernel brawls do seem to be politically motivated, Hans just doesn't have the high ground. He's repeatedly hurled attacks and insults at the kernel developers reviewing his code—to the point where several key developers now refuse to offer any more technical feedback on Reiser4. Without these reviewers, it becomes very difficult for the Reiser developers even to identify the remaining technical issues that must be addressed before the code could be included. Because Hans doesn't seem able to see how antagonistic he's been, perhaps his friends should urge him to stay out of kernel debates and let the other Reiser4 engineers speak for him. It seems to me that the same people who currently refuse to work with Hans would be happy to rejoin the effort if they didn't have to fear his attacks.

LJ Index, November 2006

Doc Searls

Issue #151, November 2006

1. Percentage of new cars sold in the US that will have a jack that works with Apple iPods: 70

2. Number of devices other than Apple's that the new jack will work with: 0

3. “Weekly audience” rank of NPR among radio formats*: 4

4. “Listened to Most Often” rank of NPR among radio formats: 2

5. “Conversion to Most Often Listener” rank of NPR among radio formats: 1

6. Millions of people who will be watching TV on cellular handsets by 2011: 446

7. Percentage year-on-year growth rate of mobile phone TV through 2010: 50

8. Percentage of Koreans hooked to a broadband network: 90

9. Projected trillions of US dollars generated by business made possible by U-Japan (“ubiquitous networked society”) by 2010: 1

10. Rank of South Korea in broadband penetration: 1

11. Rank of Canada in broadband penetration: 8

12. Rank of Luxembourg in broadband penetration: 19

13. Rank of US in broadband penetration: 20

14. Millions of Linux-based Motorola smartphones shipped in China during Q2 2006: 1

15. Rank of Motorola among providers of cell phones in China: 2

16. Percentage of top five mobile device vendors with a “Linux strategy”: 80

17. Number of members in OSDL's Mobile Linux Initiative: 15

18. Year by which Linux will surpass Symbian as the top mobile OS: 2010

19. Linux mobile OS market-share percentage at the end of 2005: 23

20. Microsoft mobile OS market-share percentage at the end of 2005: 17

1, 2: Marketplace Radio

3–5: Center for Media Research, reporting on The Media Audit

6, 7: IMS Research, reported in LinuxDevices

8, 9: The Age

10–13: Point Topic, via WebSiteOptimization.com

14–16: LinuxDevices

17, 18: LinuxDevices, citing OSDL and The Diffusion Group

19, 20: Total Telecom, citing The Diffusion Group

* NPR is a network and not a format, but the study treated it as a format.

Lenovo Makes the Commitment

Doc Searls

Issue #151, November 2006

Around two years ago, when Novell announced a corporate commitment to move the company completely to Linux-based hardware, its laptop of choice was IBM's ThinkPad. At LinuxWorld Expo and other Linux-related conferences, ThinkPads were about the only brand of laptop populating Novell booths.

Then, after IBM sold its PC division to China-based Lenovo, many wondered if the ThinkPad would survive, or if the company would pay close attention to potential Linux customers. But, ThinkPads continued to sell, now with Lenovo instead of IBM printed on their cases. Some users even began waxing enthusiastic about them. In June 2006, Cory Doctorow, the prolific writer of science-fiction books and the top-ranked BoingBoing blog, announced that he was switching after many years from Mac to Linux:

I thought about buying a MacBook Pro anyway, since they're nice computers, and they run Ubuntu, but after pricing them out, I realized that I could get a lot more bang for my buck with a Lenovo ThinkPad T60p. If I'm not going to run the Mac OS, why spend extra money for Apple hardware? I ordered the machine last weekend, loading it to the max with two 120GB hard drives, 2GB of RAM, and the fastest video card and best screen Lenovo sells. It was still cheaper than a Mac, even though Lenovo makes me pay for a copy of Windows XP that I plan on pitching out along with the styrofoam cutouts and other worthless packaging.

With that kind of writing on the wall, something big was bound to happen. And, at the latest LinuxWorld Expo [August 2006], it did. Lenovo revealed that it would make the first Linux-based ThinkPad “mobile workstation”. It will come with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, on a ThinkPad T60p, which is built around Intel's new 2.3GHz Core Duo T2700 chipset. According to Novell PR honcho Bruce Lowry, the new offering is the product of a joint effort between Lenovo, Novell and Intel engineers.

For the last three years, most of my Linux life has been on a ThinkPad T40, most recently running Novell's SUSE Linux desktop. It's been good, but it's also been a hermit crab. You can tell by the “Access IBM” button that works only if the machine is running Windows. Well, on the Linux-equipped ThinkPad T60p, that button gets you the Lenovo Help Center, which covers ThinkVantage Technologies, drivers, basic Linux configuration and hardware issues. Novell handles core operating system issues.

Both companies are working to make sure media runs well on the machine too. By the end of this year, an upgraded RealPlayer will play Windows media files, the company says. Lenovo also says the current Helix Banshee player in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 is the only Linux software that allows encoding of MP3 audio files and burning audio CDs.

I'm looking forward to trying out this new configuration. (As a notoriously clumsy user, I expect to give the help desks a workout.) Meanwhile, look for Cory Doctorow's Mac-to-Ubuntu migration account in an upcoming issue of Linux Journal.

First Look: Sony's New mylo Handheld

Doc Searls

Issue #151, November 2006

mylo (for “my life online”) is Sony's new competitor against the Nokia 770 in the Linux-based handheld computer category. It's a bit smaller (1 x 4.8 x 2.5 inches), has a 2.4-inch QBVGA (320 x 240) LCD screen, and a retractable keyboard. Where the 770 is a rectangular tablet (with a much larger screen), the mylo has rounded corners and looks more like a mobile phone.

Like the 770, however, the mylo is not a phone, but rather supports IP telephony systems, such as Skype, which is also listed by Sony as one of its four mylo “partners”. As of August 2006, the others are JiWire (for finding 802.11b Wi-Fi hotspots), Yahoo and Google (both for instant messaging and e-mail).

Perhaps most significant, from a historical perspective, is that Sony is supporting audio formats other than its own. The mylo comes with support for MP3 audio, as well as Sony's own ATRAC3 and Microsoft's WMA. It also has a built-in MPEG-4 video player. Until now, Sony has avoided making MP3 players, a category now dominated by Apple's iPod.

Files can be transferred to and from the mylo either by USB2 connections or Sony's proprietary (but common) Memory Stick removable Flash media.

Sony hasn't released any hardware specs (such as processor or speed), but among the specs it shares are 1GB internal Flash RAM, a rechargeable 3.7-volt battery (and external 6 V DC power adapter), video playing time of up to 8 hours and talk time of up to 3.5 hours.

In general, the mylo is designed to work immediately as a consumer electronics device. But, it's still a Linux-based computer. And, like the 770, it is open to application development through the Qtopia platform from Trolltech.

We will be taking a closer look at the mylo in the next few months. In the meantime, feel free to share your own experiences with the device. Write to info@linuxjournal.com.

See www.learningcenter.sony.us/assets/itpd/mylo/prod/index.html, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony and linuxdevices.com/news/NS8202297251.html for more information.

They Said It

Used to be I couldn't spell genus and now I are one.

There are a lot of computer languages out there that are doing drugs.

If there's one problem Perl is trying to solve it's that all programming languages suck.

It takes ten years to become good at being a kid. Then another ten years to become good at not being a kid.

An adult is someone who knows when to care.

—All from a speech by Larry Wall at OSCON 2006

I'm not much interested in interoperability. I want substitutability. I want to be able to throw your software out.

—Simon Phipps, talk at OSCON 2006

Universities love to include pictures of their CIOs. I have no idea why.

—Steven O'Grady, talk at OSCON 2006

There is nothing as strong and as indestructible as a mesh network. And that's what the Internet is.

—Tom Esvlin, at a Berkman meeting

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