Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Day two, yeeh! Started of with a bit of a sizzle, as Jeff Waugh didn't show up due to some personal problems, he made up for it during the closing talk of fosdem though.

first up was Greg Stein, working for Google on the excellent subversion. Which is a better CVS, because they based it upon it. The reason for this is simple, the program is so immensely popular. The main advantages of svn are; a better use of resources, good binary handling, use of revision numbers instead of dates and maintenance of branches. In the future Greg would like to add merge support and a database back-end.

Next up was Julian Seward with his little talk on valgrind, an excellent memory usage profiler. It will analyze any program, even closed source ones, on their memory (mis)use. Valgrind is the name of a suite containing many tools like memcheck and cachegrind. You can use it to detect many memory mishaps like; memory leaks, cache hit fails and bad references. Julian suggest running valgrind on any program you write by default. It will detect a lot of bugs you never though of and will make your program more stable after fixing those bugs. Some people I was sitting next to questioned the difference between valgrind and dtrace. The first is a reporting tool on program memory usage while the second provides you with an interactive system querying tool. Both powerful tools in their own right.

The afternoon started of with Jon Trowbridge (which is now working for, surprise, Google) on Beagle. Jon is no longer working on this project so he considered this his farewell speech. Beagle started as a back-end for the dashboard project. dashboard was very hard to make work correctly because it was missing this back-end infrastructure, beagle was supposed to be just that. At the moment there is no active development on dashboard. Beagle contains an easy to devel for plugin interface, so everybody can extend it to include any program/data. The most difficult part is getting data out of programs. Each program is pretty good at managing its own data, but does not report anything about it. Evolution is a prime example, it is very hard to get evolution to report the data it maintains, but it is also hard to tell it to show certain data if you know what you want. Things you have to keep in mind when writing search aware applications. Jon did confess that beagle was not developed with multi user machines in mind.

Micheal Meeks is a very energetic speaker, last time I saw him at fosdem he was still working for Ximian, now he's a Novell employee. He's hacking away at OO.o, an important project because it is so visible and everybody uses it. It is an important revenue source for MS, and accounts for 75% of the software costs of a new PC. The spreadsheet appears to be the most important part of the suite and yet this has a small team of developers (while MS has many). Some improvements where made in speed, using valgrind, and VBA macros support is available (only 20% of the language is covered, but it turns out to be enough to get most things working).

The final fosdem talk was given by Jeff Waugh, he talked about the Linux desktop and the challenges it holds. He started of showing the differences between Gnome 1.x and the current version. This really showed how insane some of the earlier options were, much up to the point of being plain silly. Now Gnome tries to do the right thing most of the time, while still allowing you to change the options you could care about. The same is true for dialog boxes, these can be interpreted now most of the time by just reading the button text instead of the while dialog text. The talk slowly transformed in why and how to get people over to a free/open desktop. We have to offer a package, which is compelling enough to switch. One single application never makes people switch, rather a framework does. Examples of this are; LAMP and iPod>iTunes>ITMS. The 'gratis' part is important as well. Ubuntu tries to do these by never charging for their distro and providing a framework like launchpad.

Some random pictures of the event to end my report. As a bonus you can try to find the hidden Chipzz!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fosdem, day one. I skipped the morning talks, they are mostly the same every year and no need to get out of bed too early.

First talk I went to was the DTrace developers presentation by Jon Haslam. Never had the time/chance yet to play around with DTrace before, but after this talk I'm sure to install OpenSolaris in a VM and try to build some scripts. It's a nice tool, and can be used for many purposes, not just performance but debugging as well. The nice thing is that you can get results very fast with small scripts. Even if you have no idea where to start it's easy to start with a top overview and start drilling down. Jon demonstrated this by creating a script that showed a lot of polling events, after digging deeper and deeper by extending the script each time a little bit, we got to the X.org server doing mouse polling.

Next up was an OpenSUSE power management talk. Important for laptop users, and the environment in general. The guys hooked up a laptop to a power meter and dropped the power usage from 28Watt/14Ampere to 15Watt/7.5Ampere. The important thing about this speech was that results differ from laptop to laptop. Some of them don't benefit at all, it all depends on the 'intelligence' of the driver. They did not yet have a list with all their test results online, but they were thinking about it.

Last was XEN by Ian Pratt, the famous virtualization software. Good talk once again, nice to see how far and advanced XEN has become. All the features are there to make this the virtualizer by choice on OSS operating systems. On the roadmap area; support for NUMA machines and other performance fixes, more hardware support and better tools. XEN is also available on PPC machines and IA64, although not all features are support on all CPU's. The ultimate goal of the project is to have a machine boot XEN by default, so whenever you would need it, it's there available for you. This is possible because running linux native or in XEN introduces almost no performance impact.

Also, we got RMSposing for the camera and some other picture to capture the atmosphere of the first day of the event.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

If you live in the EU, be sure to go to FOSDEM this weekend! A very high quality event which is free, but you are always free to donate (as I do every year).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

In my quest for finding a decent Python IDE (using GTK), I bumped into PIDA. It is very nice and integrates things like Gazpacho, the editor of your choice, python documentation and a version management system. Try it out if you're a python freak.

Second price goes to Pydev, which is recommended for Eclipse users.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I weekly check Kernel Traffic. But this week I didn't get the regular Linux kernel mailing list summary but a temporary(?) break notice from Zack Brown.

The only site, I know of, that has a similar concept is Kernel Trap, if anybody knows any others, leave a comment please.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Warrem Woodford is looking at Ubuntu to base his distro, Mepis, on. For the moment it is using packages from Debian, but this seems to be hard to maintain by the small team that makes Mepis.

All in all, I don't think it is a bad idea. In fact Ubuntu-Mepis could replace Kubuntu which is really not that good, meaning that Mepis has more or less comparable philosophies as Ubuntu.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A new flaimbate article on OSNews. Several things are wrong, lets try to list them;

  • Users don't have full access to all files, except his own. That is what most companies want, in a lot of corporate environment windows is set up like this as well, and you won't be able to install software and only write 'office' documents in your own folders. Nobody uses windows like that at home, hence all the problems they get. Linux always runs in this mode, and it is perhaps not the most convenient for home use, but it doesn't have to be like that. In fact, this can be easily solved, but I have not seen a distro yet who actually takes care of giving normal users some basic rights or implementing a user level tiering model - root (by default available), advanced users (should be allowed some things, like network settings and install updates for example) and then normal users.
  • Unix can be infected as well. Sure, you could get infected by a virus, or mal/ad/spyware on Unix, but the probability is so low, so small and so unlikely that is it to be ignored.
  • Only the user files are important. The system is not compromised, and still running which has no benefit to the user. But it sure still has benefit to the support staff. This together with a decent backup policy or some sort of data protection scheme should allow fast restores of data to the previous state.

  • It simply is not a false sense of security. I turned my wife's PC to Linux and i'm never bothered with these things. But every month a windows PC returns to me, ready for reinstall. Despite all security measures against any type of ware it still fails.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    The Escapist has a few really nice articles online, again. The first is about males playing with woman avatars in games. I do this myself as well and the article is pretty much spot on. The second is about some kind of test where they did some form of LARPing, but not everybody involved knew about it. They probably suspected something though, or at least figured out it was some kind of game because of the setting (wizards etc.), but still. Suddenly the notion of a real life game seemed pretty cool to me. Where did we see that before?

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    EMC might release VMware GSX for free. Which would be weird. Not so long ago they released VMware Player, basically the workstation version without the capability to create new images. Sure, I understand the are facing some competition, but why this move so soon after releasing the player, didn't they think it through or are they getting a lot of complaints about the limited functionality?

    If they do it, it will be a good move as a lot of companies/people will (continue to) use it and if they will provide paid support for the product it could turn out to be a pretty good revenue source.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Linus Torvalds has raised his concerns against GPLv3. Basically it boils down to a few points, all regarding DRM. According to Linus it is not applicable to programmers, the problem is situated at the hardware level or there is no issue because GPLv2 already provides the source code.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    A nice article on Xen can be found on LinuxDevCenter, it's a quick guide to get you started on Xen. Indeed interesting things are happening in the virtualization area, and OSS is delivering very good products as usual. If you do not have a spare PC or don't want to mess around with your current install, you can use QEMU, it will be included in your distro in most cases. QEMU is neat, and is not just another VM, it has an edge as it can emulate complete architectures. Run PPC, ARM, SPARC and others on your host. Try out PPC Linux, or find out how well Linux works on a 64bit machine, all from your current machine.