Archive for November, 2011

A new beta for MondoRescue 3.0


As we had a 3 days week-end in France, I used part of my time to visit the beautiful Monet exhibition at the Martigny Gianadda foundation and to build 4 new VMs in order to support Fedora 16 and Ubuntu 11.10, and publish a version of the latest beta for MondoRescue 3.0 for all the distributions (more than 100 today) including these new ones. I also made packages for afio and buffer where needed, as well as

That version is especially useful for Ubuntu users (report have been given that it’s now working correctly on latest Ubuntu) as well as for the others who where blocked by some annoyances of (NFS mount issues typically). The only fix that is still not in it and that I’d like to solve before the release is linked to tapes and OBDR. As it will still take some time, I may in parallel fix some other non-critical issues. Now, in case the bug #358 takes too much time to be solved, I’ll publish 3.0.0 without it, and the fix will be in 3.0.1 which should then be out soon after.

Feel free to give your thoughts about this on the devel mailing list and more important to test that new beta.

First Day at LinuxCon EMEA 2011


First LinuxCon ever in EMEA this year !! I’m more than happy to see it at least on our continent, and was glad to be selected to give there a talk (after the one I had made in Brasil last year).

As every conference, this one is starting with keynotes.

Keynote on a world without Linux – Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation)

Jim was celebrating here the 20 years of Linux. He looked at how would be the world without Linux and the answer as you can guess it is nowhere ! He underlined the high number of Android devices, bind on Linux naming the Internet, and he also looked at so;e quotes and predictions from Bill Gates/Steve Ballmer to show the evolution – from the caner up to Miscrosoft contributing to the Linux kernel this year ! He also used lots of video presented on the Linux Foundation Web site. Jim is absolutely partial, and that’s good to hear 😉

Kernel Hackers Round table (Linus Torvalds, Paul McKenney, Alan Cox, Thomas Gleixner moderated by Lennart Poettering)

Some notes of that open discussion. Linus put emphasis on not breaking user space. He gave the example of the introduction of a 2.6.40 version instead of 3.0 to help some programs to remain compatible ! He underlined that breaking things on purpose should be avoided, and counter-examples were given of security issues that forced the kernel community to break the kernel ABI. Linus used to run an old a.out binary from years ago (COFF format) to ensure the compatibility level, even if it has not done so for some time now. Linus said that the Open Source approach makes modifications much more easy and allow to deal with kernel complexity better (contrary to common belief that would imply that managing such a large community without stritc rules and methods would be impossible.

The average age of the kernel summit participants is increasing of one year every year said Linus 😉 Which is linked to the maturity of the community, and the fact that it takes time to take over subsystems. There are lots of new contributors, including young ones, making very few changes. There is not really an age problem in their opinion. Thomas also added that you need a balanced aproach that only older people can bring in a project of that size and complexity.

Linus said that ARM made some stupid decisions and had a lack of standards until very recently, especially with regards to x86 where Intel is playing the game fairly. Kernel support for ARM is 10 times the size of Intel’s because of the need to support multiple variant. Which Linus is sad about as he thinks this is the most important platform outside x86. But they are getting better, Linus is much happier today than 6 months ago even if there is still work to do.

Linus mentioned that he runs 3 (three) FireWall to protect his environment ! And I thought I was paranoid zith my 2 ;-). About SMP he first said who cares ? Now zith the high number of cores everywhere, even in phones, it’s seen just as normal. So who cares about cgroups, VMM, … Well, some need it and are ready to pay for the penalty. And who knows how it will evolve.

At the end Linus said that he is trusting people sending patches not companies.

It’s always interesting to hear what these guys have to say, and anyway Linus is my hero 😉

Tizen – Dawn Foster (Intel)

I was interested to hear what was behind Tizen just announced recently. I was a bit disappointed as no architecture has been validated yet, so nothing concrete to announce here 😦

Tizen is HTML5 based for application development and offers WAC API (favour code reuse across platforms/devices) and it provides a FLOSS ecosystem.
The first release is expected to be in Q1CY12.
The transition from Meego is possible, but Tizen is not a derivative from Meego, it’s a new project and some Meego maintenance activity for 1.2 is still planned. Compliance will also be reviewed compared to Meego and they want to have it less rigid.

Dawn said that they would rather publish what exists and is in place, rather than what was done with Meego (announces made too early).
She insisted on the various communities, and means of communication (IRC, ML, Wiki, …)

She gave the mic to a representative of the Mer project which goal is to take Meego code into a new direction (Core optimized for HTML5/QML/JS) (Cf:

The question around Qt availability is not clear now. Anyway once open sourced, the community could make it happen 😉

As said earlier, the architecture is still not out, and should be really soon now. The devices targeted are Handset, TV, smart phones, tablets…
They want to align more the Governance model and the reality of the governance with regards to Meego.

So promising, but not yet concrete. Also remains to see the position of this new OS compared to Android and …WebOS 😉

File and Storage Systems – Ric Wheeler (Red Hat)

Ric started by mentioning that Linux has a world class storage, supporting a wide variety of device types, and scales well (GB/s of IO, IOP increase for PCI-e, 100’s of TB).
So what’s wrong ? Well, e.g. keeping up with competition’s management platforms (VMWare in particular) especially around storage management. He underlined that standards around array offload functions are not driven by Linux companies. And that ease of use on Linux is still hard. Linux has several level of layers (MD, DM, LVM, FS, mount options)

Linux has powerful and sophisticated CLI tools, but no good library today to manage storage (no abstraction layer, typically around snapshoting e.g.).
Making things easier implies identifying common operations per use case, a common API, reducing the options of mount and mkfs, and avoid jargon (LUN, ALUA, barrier, …).

He then mentioned some ongoing projects:

  • Btrfs: single interface to LVM, RAID, ease of use.
  • Fsadm: keep the stack but provide a simple interface. (controls FS and LVM)
  • Standardized options between FS and kill dead options. Default options are critical
  • Oracle storage connect (Joel Becker) in python recently open sourced. GPL/Proprietary license for plugins from EMC/HP/…
  • Libstoragemanagement (Tony Asleson – Red Hat) under the LGPL and look for interesting contributors. similar to the Oracle project: a vendor neutral API to allow for storage array management (cloning, mirroring, snapshots, …).

There are vendor APIs: VAAI (vSphere API for Array Integration) and also work on automatic offload operations.
Ric took the snapshot example: btrfs do it at FS level, LVM at block dev, storage arrays at HW). Users should be able to choose.He also cited the copy example: for SCSI (SCSI token based copy offload) and NFS (in NFS4.2 as server side copy)

Ric has the art of making these complex topics very easy to understand by his abilty to syntheticly present them, and give a good overview of where we are and where we go.

I skipped the Mission impossible session, which I found not that interesting, after attending a couple of minutes, in contrast to a very promising title.

Freedom out of the Box! – Bdale Garbee (HP)

Impossible however to miss that one ! Bdale is another one of my FLOSS heros 😉

Bdale started by explaining what the FreedomBox was: A personal server running FLOSS designed to create and preserve personal privacy, running on cheap power-efficient plug computer server that individuals can install in their own homes.

Political aspects as well as privacy aspects (who shares what with whom) were clearly explained and this was obvious that this new device is thus contributing to building a privacy-respecting federated alternatives to contemporary social networks.

As its cousin the OLPC, It favours mesh networking.
The software is based on the Debian project (focussing on freedom as well, being international, multi-architecture, and benefiting from a strong infrastructure). Bdale indicated that the future Debian stable should have everything to create a FreedomBox out of the box.

Bdale then described the FreedomBox Foundation (FBF) relying on 4 pilars (technology, user experience, publicity and fund raising with industry relations). Ease of use is central, as some pieces of software are complex to configure.
The FBF has now various Working groups, so contributors have plenty of areas to contribute to !

DreamPlug was first selected for the implementation platform (made by GlobalScale Technologies) using a Marvell Kirkwood (ARM on chip) processor with 512 MB of RAM + 2 GB of Flash + a 2 GB microSD card for the kernel and root FS + 2 x Gb Ethernet ports + Wifi + USB + e-SATA + SD socket + audio. Quite amazing in such a form factor !
The Marvell uAP chosen has some technical challenges (FW and driver outside of kernel tree – which probably won’t change in the future – user space tools were binary only, now GPL). They gave their modifications back for GPL u-boot (better late than never 😉

How to trust first a Freedom Box ? A study is ongoing with Smartphones to facilitate initial key exchange (Stefano Maffuli). Debcamp before Debconf 2011 was useful to create a great community to work on various topics.
First application to appear could be a secure XMPP chat one

This topic, is a very sensible one currently, after the population move in arabic countries. Privacy should remain a concern of every day, as our freedom, not only in software, is precious, and technology should be here to help us reinforce it rather than alienate us. Bdale is supporting a great initiative, first of this type, and that should allow us in the future to have a real P2P Social Network, not control by a central entity.

The it was time for me to jump on stage:
FOSSology a GPL compliance tool – Bruno Cornec (HP)

FOSSology is still a unique tool, developped by a great team lead by Bob Gobeille (HP), and deserve that we pass time to advertise it. I made a status of the current versions and their features, calling for more contributions to enhance the platform. I was happy to meet with the dutch translator of the tool, and to have some interesting questions about SPDX support, leading to some animated talks !

The lack of web/ftp availability for the project, due to the Linux Foundation infrastructure is still hurting the project, as well as SPDX. Hopefully this shold be solved soon now.

12 years of FLOSS license Compliance: A historical perspective – Bradley M. Kuhn (SFC)

Bradley started by explaining the GPL quickly. He compared it to the US constitution.
He also explained how it works in theory and in reality, especially when people don’t respect it.
If social presure doesn’t work, you need to go to court for copyright enforcement (same as the MPAA !) but for good reasons. (at least we hope !)

GNU Emacs was the first GPL’d program and its copyright was never infringed.
GCC was the second. More interesting for proprietary SW companies. Next (the company) was the first GNU GPL violator (so Steve Jobs !!) with the Objective C front-end. Violation was resolved quickly with code publication.

GNU tar was used by lots of backup companies, which were also violating the GNU GPL. Sysadmin found them, and all but one violator came into compliance. Last GNU tar enforcement was mid-2002. The company decided to remove tar and rewrite it.

Nothing concrete for SFC to get from a court (money or injunction – already done – but no code, which is the ultimate goal)

Bradley then reminded the Linksys (Cisco) history with busybox (Erik Andersen) and Linux (Harald Welte). Compliance takes soooo long. In that case, Broadcom was the upstream. Source was finally released, but the driver remained proprietary (due to FCC policy prohibiting it). OpenWRT FLOSS project spawned from that release. Harald was frustrated by the time it took in the FSF to launch that action and he created in order to go to court earlier than what FSF was doing. He organised 8 lawsuits in Germany (2005-2008) getting mostly injunctions.

How to fund enforcements ? The violators should be paying. (The SFC had a compliance program costing 10kUSD per Software which is too expensive so doesn’t work).

He acknowledged that dual licensing (a la MySQL) is a corruption of the GPL.
SF Conservancy is helping Erik Andersen since mid-2006 with copyright enforcement (request queue is > 300 right now). Lawsuits become necessary. Goal is to settle with full compliance (get the source code). Money and injunction is a consolation price only.

He then explained how bad some OEMs are by not providing code to their customers and letting them be accused of violations.

He then talked about the build environment underlining that normaly the GPLv2 forces people to also release script to compile and also to install. The GPLv3 phrases it even better.

He advertized a lot FOSSology vs BlackDuck, mentioning anyway that it doesn’t solve the redistribution issue (which is a human task to do, where tool are just helping). He mentioned that there is a free software to scan binaries (didn’t give the name however).

He also mentioned that HP was a fair participant to the ecosystem, Scott Peterson (now at Google) being very responsive to his queries around compliance questions.

Another view, more centered around trials and legal actions, that have become a necessity to have our licences respected. I just hope I’ll never have to be involved in this myself, as it sounds like a lot of headaches in perspective !!

Some pictures of this event are available on Picasa, and I was so happy with my new Nikon D7000 which makes so great pictures in such difficult conditions. I’ll have a problem going back to the D70 now 😉

New thoughts on WebOS


After sharing some first thoughts around HP and WebOS, I think it’s time to come back to these.

So the Autonomy acquisition is done. I still think we could have done something great with 13 B$, but it’s too late (and always was).

So the PC business is still at home. That’s great and continue to think it’s a good differentiator. Lots of analysts would like us to mimic IBM. But why ? There may be more than one successul business. And still being the largest IT manufacturer able to cover everything from PC to SuperDome, from printers to 3PAR gives us wonderful opportunities, and is a way to satisfy customers, as well as being able to talk to them with various entry points.

Now remains the WebOS question. It seems that the shut down of WebOS is an “unfounded rumor”. I’m really delighted to hear that. Because being a user of both the Touchpad and the Pre 3, I think WebOS is a darn good environment. And honestly would deserve a much better future than what was disclosed before. So hopefully the final decision will be the same as for PSG.

The technology provided is at the state of the art right now, with HTML5, Canvas, multiple popular Javascript bricks. That’s what Tizen is looking at, even if their architecture is not yet disclosed. This is also what Android devices are adopting. It is really becoming the standard environment that could be to mobile what HTML has been for desktops in the past. For WebOS, it’s just a matter of couple of months to have more apps, a better developer community and a better platform. But nobody else than HP is able to take that opportunity to be a major new player in that market. And it would be good for customers to have choice. The Apple environment is closed, the Android is not as open as one could expect, so we have with this ecosystem all good reasons to think we can be successful. Even if not fully open source now, it’s much more open (upstream patches made regularly) than the others. And I prefer to see HP investing more in R&D as said earlier, to own the technology and drive the market rather than following it.

Now, seeing the announces for future HP Touchpad with Windows 8, I’m afraid we are not going in the right direction (or are pushed to the wrong one – you said conspiracy !). So at worst, if we don’t want to persue, instead of letting a great techno die, it would be worthwhile to look at open sourcing it as much as possible (where no patent is blocking us) and provide that content to the Tizen community e.g., which could help make for a greater (and more time to market) solution, that we could in return adopt on some of platforms.

Contrary to what most people think, open sourcing a technology helps driving the business in favour of the open sourcer, and doesn’t reduce it. Especially when the most costly part (the investment in R&D) has already been done.

But I’m not in charge of that, nor have any specific information about choices made. Just trying to influence as much as I can 😉