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When Linus is away, Linux Kernel developers will...

By Sean Kerner   |    November 30, 2010

From the 'Konichi-wa?' files:

Normally, you'd think that when the 'boss' is away, that the 'employees' will slack-off. But the exact opposite is what happens with Linux kernel developers.

Linux founder and maintainer of kernel development, Linus Torvalds was out of the country for a bit, but instead of a break, he got a deluge.

"As suspected, spending most of the week in Japan made some kernel
developers break out in gleeful shouts of 'let's send Linus patches
when he is jet-lagged, and see if we can confuse him even more than
usual', " Torvalds wrote in a mailing list posting. "As a result -rc4 has about twice the commits that -rc3 had."

Firebug 1.6 gets stable release for Mozilla Firefox

By Sean Kerner   |    November 30, 2010

From the 'Why Firefox is Better for Developers' files:

One of the most popular (if not THE most popular) Firefox extensions for web developers is Firebug. With Firebug, developers get a powerful web inspector and dev tool that for many (myself included) is now a critical part of their browser and dev experience.

Firebug 1.6 was released this week, providing users with new command line features for power users. On the core HTML side Firebug 1.6 has improved handling for iFrames, (which has always been a sore point for me).

The other interesting addition is support for Firefox's private browsing mode (aka porn mode) for those times when you want to inspect code on sites that you don't want tracked in history and/or cookies beyond the session. 

Novell Attachmate attracts class action lawsuit investigations

By Sean Kerner   |    November 23, 2010

From the 'Linux Patents? What Patents?' files:

Not everyone is happy about Attachmate's bid to acquire Novell for $2.2 billion. In fact, the deal has now attracted at least two (and likely many more to come) legal 'investigations' which could ultimately result in class action law suits.

One of the investigations is being led by
Weiss & Lurie, a national class action and shareholder rights law firm while a second investigation is being run by Kendal Law Group, led by former federal judge Joe Kendall.

Both groups are going to examine whether or not Novell has breached its fiduciary duty with the proposed Attachmate deal, by not getting the best deal possible for Novell's shareholders.

Pidgin 2.7.6 fixes MSN and provides new AIM SSL options

By Sean Kerner   |    November 22, 2010

From the 'Secure Open Source IM' files:

A new pidgin open source instant messaging client is now out.

The most noticable thing that regular Pidgin users (like myself) will notice is that MSN access has now beef fixed! An issue popped up four days ago which kept Pidgin users disconnected from their MSN friends.  Pidging 2.7.6 fixes the '"Unable to validate certificate" error for with new certificate authorities.

On the certificate front, Pidgin 2.7.6 also provides improved granularity for SSL on AIM as well.

"SSL option has been changed to a tri-state menu with choices for 'Don't Use
Encryption', 'Use Encryption if Available', and 'Require Encryption', " the pidgin 2.7.6 release notes state.

Forget 200 lines, Red Hat speeds up Linux with 4 lines of code

By Sean Kerner   |    November 19, 2010

From the 'NO BS' files:

Speeding up Linux, doesn't necessarily have to be a gargantuan task and it doesn't have to be done by Linus Torvalds either.

On Monday, Torvalds praised a new 200 line Linux kernel patch that was going to make Linux faster for all. Inside of the same week, a new userspace patch has emerged that can likely do the same thing, but with less code and even better performance.

"I really wonder why logic like this should live in kernel space at all,since a) the kernel has no real notion of a session, except audit and b) this is policy and as soon as people have this kind of group then they probably want other kind of autogrouping as well for the other controllers, which hence means userspace is a better, and configurable place for this."Red Hat developer Lennart Poettering wrote in a Linux Kernel Mailing list posting.

Torvalds (always the diplomat) responded:

Numbers talk, bullshit walks. The numbers have been quoted. The clear interactive behavior has been seen. And you're just full of bullshit. Come back when you have something working and with numbers and better interactive performance. Until then, nobody cares.

Mozilla sees a new Rainbow

By Sean Kerner   |    November 18, 2010


From the 'Pot of Gold' files:

Mozilla is out today with a new development 0.2 release of Rainbow. With Rainbow, the idea is to provide a Firefox add-on for audio and video recording.

The first release of Rainbow didn't work at all for me, (which is why I didn't write about it), but this new 0.2 milestone is another story.

With Rainbox 0.2 the add-on now has audio and video recording on Windows, though Linux users only get audio recording.

It also looks like a pile of bugs have been fixed (likely a few that made the first release unusable for me).

Moving forward, the release notes indicate that developers are now working onQTKit

backends for Video and Audio on the Mac, as well as a V4L backend for Video on

AMD says Me Too to MeeGo

By Sean Kerner   |    November 15, 2010


From the 'Intel-who?' files:

Back in February, Intel and Nokia merged their respective mobile Linux effort into the new MeeGo project.
Ever since then, whenever I've heard MeeGo spokespersons talk about the project, they've stressed that it's not an Intel and Nokia-only effort.

To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure that was entirely accurate for many months - after all MeeGo to my naked eyes. looked like tech that would only run on Intel and Nokia gear.

Today, Intel rival AMD announced that they would be joining the MeeGo project, now run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. Yeaah, it feels like a - Me Too - effort to me. Why is AMD joining MeeGo (essentially the evolution of Intel's Moblin) now?

I think part of it has to do with the Linux Foundation and the fact that AMD is a member (as is Intel). The Linux Foundation does an excellent job of providing a vendor neutral space for projects to evolve and grow.

Did Ubuntu disrespect Fedora Linux with openrespect?

By Sean Kerner   |    November 12, 2010

From the 'We Don't Really Like You' files:

Flame wars are a part of open source development and communities. A new effort called wants to try and change the tone of cross-distribution name-calling, but I think they've really gotten off on the wrong foot. is founded by Ubuntu Linux community manager Jono Bacon, as a way to encourage mutual respect across Linux distributions. Apparently though that mutual respect didn't fully extend to Red Hat's community Fedora Linux distribution.

"Jono Bacon talked to Jared (Smith, Fedora Project Leader) about this, and said he would draft a
statement and would involve Jared but ended up releasing via his blog
without collaborating before release and emailed Jared afterwards," Fedora's Board Meeting notes for this week state.

That's pretty lame in my book.

Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta 7 gets a Jager shot of speed

By Sean Kerner   |    November 10, 2010

From the 'Good Hangover Memories' files:

Apparently, even after six previous betas, Mozilla still has more new tech that they want to jam into Firefox 4.

Firefox 4 Beta 7 was released today including the JagerMonkey just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compiler and some neat hardware acceleration tech.

How on Earth Mozilla developers don't expect that these new features to give them a pile of bug reports and further push out the Firefox 4 final release date is beyond me.

I'm all for speed, but this is late in the game, and acceleration tech in my experience never quite works as you'd like, unless you've got a massive sample base (which Mozilla will now get with the beta).

That said, speed is king in the modern browser era, so Mozilla has to do what it takes to keep pushing the bar forward and not just settling for being -- good enough.

Apache's Java threats aren't new

By Sean Kerner   |    November 10, 2010

From the 'Been There, Done That' files:
The Apache Software Foundation isn't very happy with Oracle leadership of the Java Community Process. They've gone so far as to issue a lengthy statement saying that if certain items and conditions don't change that they'll leave the JCP.
So what?
This isn't a new threat is it? Apache has voted against Sun's leadership of the JCP as well as voted against Java EE 6 back in 2007. Apache has a very different view of how an open community should work, and the Apache model has worked very well for many projects.
It was back in 2002, that the ASF finally got some type of license they wanted from Sun, but it has never really been a 'harmonious' relationship has it?
Having Apache on the JCP provides a voice of reason as well as some solid technical input, but does it really matter? Aren't most ASF members also employed by companies that are also part of the JCP? 
The issue this time around though is a bit more complex though as the ASF is alleging that Oracle is unilaterally changing the rules of Java licencing.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.6 hits Beta as RHEL 6 looms

By Sean Kerner   |    November 09, 2010

From the 'Where is RHEL 6?' files:

Red Hat today announced the first beta for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.6 -- on the eve of a major Red Hat event in San Francisco, where we could be hearing about the release of RHEL 6.

But first we've got RHEL 5.6 (beta) today, providing some updated apps.

Red Hat's release notes are a little sparse, but the key new items are: BIND 9.7 providing improved DNSsec support and PHP 5.3.

Yeaah, I know, shocking that PHP 5.3 which was released more than a year ago is listed as a 'new' feature.

Other new items include:   ebtables  an Ethernet layer firewall,
dropwatch network stack packet analysis and   sssd offline credential caching.

So no, this is not the big update the RHEL 5.4 was, which provided KVM as the new default virtualization tech for Red Hat. The RHEL 5.5 update was mostly about hardware enablement.

The BIG DEAL of course is RHEL 6 which I think is going to be announced any day now (maybe tomorrow even). With RHEL 6, Red Hat will debut it's first major update since RHEL 5 in 2007.

Mozilla Firefox turns 6 - Happy Birthday!

By Sean Kerner   |    November 09, 2010

From the 'Many Happy Returns' files:

It was six years ago today that Mozilla officially released Firefox 1.0. Yes, I was writing about Firefox back in 2004 too when 1.0 came out.

2004 was an exciting time for Firefox, it was literally changing the way we see, use, and work with the web.

After six years and many point releases later, Firefox has achieved much with great 1.5, 2.0, 3.0 and 3.6 releases that have expanded the concept of what the open web is all about.

That said, Firefox at 6 is now entering a new phase, where it faces its toughest competition yet as it stares down the double loaded barrel that is Google that could threaten its existence.

When Firefox 1.0 came out, the pace of Mozilla's innovation was above and beyond any other browser vendor. That's no longer the case.

The idea with the Lorentz branch of the Firefox 3.6 series was supposed to be about introducing new features faster, but that really hasn't happened in my opinion. With Firefox 4 development, Mozilla developers are still on a not-quite Agile approach to development that is put to shame by the extreme agility of their open source peers at Google's Chromium effort.

Firefox 4 development has not progressed at the milestone pace that it should or could have in my opinion. Lorentz promised us rapid innovation, but waiting 6 plus months between releases when Google puts them out every 3 months is not the definition of agile.

That said, when it is done at some point in 2011 it will be a solid browser, but the pace of innovation is a cause of concern at age 6, especially as power users begin to move in increasing numbers to Chrome.

The other large issue facing Firefox at 6 is the revenue model, also fueled by Google. Mozilla has loads of cash on hand, but I don't think that they can expect that the same revenues they get from Google today, will be around for them 6 years from now.

Money and agility questions aside, at age 6, Firefox still enjoys the skills of a fantastic technical community. I think that Mozilla's technical leadership is now the best it has ever been with leadership on the standards front as well as on usability. On the security front, their response to issues is un-paralleled in its speed.

Overall, I personally have been very happy to be a Firefox user for the last 6+ years, it's a platform on which I work, live and play.

Happy Birthday Firefox!

Xfce 4.8 GO'ing to Linux in 2011, preview out now

By Sean Kerner   |    November 08, 2010


From the 'Speedy Desktop' files:

The first public milestone of the Xfce 4.8 Linux desktop is now out, giving Linux users the first taste of this powerful, yet minimal interface.

With Xfce 4.8 developers have incorporated a long list of changes. Among the biggest items that I see in this new release (so far) is the replacement of the  ThunarVFS with GIO.

"All functionality previously based on
ThunarVFS is now implemented on top of GIO and GVfs," the release notes state."This means that
remote filesystems can be accessed via SFTP, FTP, SMB etc,"

GIO is a GObjects based abstraction layer of I/O. Overall, Xfce 4.8 is making extensive use of

For the Xfce Panel, the code has been rewritten in GObjects.

"This makes each individual part easier to understand," the release noted state. "All
plugins are ported to GObject-based plugins and use Xfconf for storing
their information."

Ubuntu Linux moving to Wayland from X is a Natty move

By Sean Kerner   |    November 05, 2010

From the 'Unity Spells Change' files:

As if moving away from the GNOME Shell wasn't enough, Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth has now announced that Ubuntu is moving away from X too.

Yes -- X, the primary X Window tech that has powered all *nix graphics since the beginning.

Instead, Shuttleworth wants to move to the Wayland system -- which in my mind is an interesting move. Wayland is new (not a bad thing) and lacks the stability and maturity of X. That said it also lacks the decades-old baggage that comes with X.

"We're confident we'll be able to retain the ability to run X
applications in a compatibility mode, so this is not a transition that
needs to reset the world of desktop free software," Shuttleworth blogged.

With the move to Wayland, I personally believe that Ubuntu will face new challenges in trying to get enterprise software certifications. It's just, yet-another innovative (but not battle-hardened) technology that will make conservative types very nervous.

Red Hat not worried about Ubuntu Unity for Linux

By Sean Kerner   |    November 04, 2010

From the 'Ubuntu Unity Doesn't Scare Us!' files:

It's been over a week since, Ubuntu dropped the bombshell that it was going with its own Unity user interface instead of GNOME Shell, for the next Ubuntu Linux release.

While some in the open source community have had a negative viewpoint on Ubuntu's move away from GNOME Shell, a key Red Hat staffer doesn't have a problem with it.

Red Hat's Fedora Project Leader, Jared Smith told me that he's been using GNOME Shell (in its current development state) for the last few months and he's happy with it. On a personal level, he noted that GNOME Shell represents a paradigm shift for how users get around the Linux desktop.

As far as Ubuntu's decision to abandon GNOME Shell, Smith sees it as a matter of choice.

"Different distributions will do different things and I think
that's a healthy part of the open source way - people get lots of choice," Smith said. "That
may influence some people not to participate in GNOME Shell and it may encourage others to step up and do more."

PHP 5.4 set to boost performance by 35%

By Sean Kerner   |    November 03, 2010

From the 'Speed Boost' files:

It's a busy week for PHP developers with Zendcon going on. Among all the big corporate type news from Zend the other day, was a really interesting tidbit dropped by Zend CEO Andi Gutmans.

Gutmans stated during his keynote that his firm has been spending a lot of time working on the Zend Engine which is the core kernel in PHP. Part of the effort has been working on getting better optimization for PHP on x86 chips working with Intel compilers.

"We've managed to lower the memory footprint by up to 35 percent," Gutmans said. "It will be part of a future version of PHP."

That is huge.

According to Zend CTO Zeev Suraski, the memory improvement could be landing in the upcoming PHP 5.4 release. The improved memory footprint of PHP has performance implications that could serve as a massive boost for web apps that use PHP.

As to when, PHP users and developers should expect to see PHP 5.4 -- I learned a long time ago that PHP feature releases follow their own organic schedule, but I'm personally hopefully that it will see the light of day sooner rather than later.

Fedora 15 codenamed Lovelock

By Sean Kerner   |    November 03, 2010

From the 'huh?' files:

The Red Hat sponsored Fedora Linux distribution pushed out their latest release Fedora 14 codenamed Laughlin this week. Now their turning their attention to the next release and the first matter of business it the release name:


The way the Fedora naming process works is community members vote on the name which needs to have some kind of relationship between releases.

So what's the relationship between Lovelock and Laughlin?

Laughlin is a city in Nevada, and so is Lovelock.

Yeaah, I know. Vegas would have made a better choice (and check out the naming wiki -- I added it there -- a bit late -- but hey i'm just a hack).

Naming issues aside, Fedora 15 will likely be the first Post Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 release of Fedora and it will be really interesting to see what new tech gets rolled in.

GNOME loses Stormy leadership to Mozilla as Unity looms

By Sean Kerner   |    November 02, 2010

From the 'GNOME has Troubles' files:


The GNOME project is a big and diverse one with many contributors. For me though, the face of GNOME for the last two years has been Stormy Peters the executive director and leader the GNOME project.

Peters announced today that she's leaving GNOME for Mozilla.

That's a real shame in my personal view and it couldn't come at a more difficult time for the GNOME Foundation. GNOME is in the process of pushing out its most important update in years with GNOME 3 and the new GNOME Shell UI. Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu last week took a few shots at GNOME and announced that Ubuntu wouldn't be using GNOME Shell, but instead would be using their own Unity shell.

The timing of the Ubuntu shift and Peters leaving GNOME may just be coincidental, but hey I sure do love a good conspiracy. Peters notes in a blog post that though she's leaving as executive director, she plans on remaining an active member of the broader GNOME community. She also doesn't expect her departure to affect GNOME 3.0.

"My leaving will not affect the development of GNOME 3.0," Peters blogged. "My job was to
run the GNOME Foundation to support the GNOME community. I did not set
technical direction nor contribute to the code base - the GNOME
community, led by the release team, individual contributors and
partners, sets the technical direction and does the work."


Peters is headed off to Mozilla to head up their developer engagement program. In my personal view, Mozilla already has so many talented people, Peters will now become a smaller fish in a bigger pond. Then again, Mozilla is in the fight of its life now against aggressive rivals including Google and Microsoft, so Peters charisma and talents will certainly be an asset for them.

Linux 2.6.37 kills the Big Kernel Lock

By Sean Kerner   |    November 01, 2010

From the 'Locks are Bad' files:

Linus Torvalds released the first RC for the 2.6.37 Linux kernel today, including nearly 10,000 comitts.

Yeaah, that's a lot of code. Perhaps the most noteworthy item at this early stage though is about the final stage of a fix that has been in the working for years in the Linux kernel.

"The part that I think deserves some extra mention is that we've
finally largely gotten rid of the BKL (big kernel lock) in all the
core stuff, and you can easily compile a kernel without any BKL support at all," Torvalds wrote.

The problem with the BKL is that it's an older less-elegant approach to locking, than more modern fine-grained spinlocks and other locking mechanisms.

Why this matters from my perspective is that with the removal of BKL, Linux can now become even more real-time in the mainline. as well as potentially improve performance and control through the kernel.

It's also a sign of the maturity of Linux that kernel developers have been able to look back in the past of Linux and correct a long standing issue with new code approaches. Sure there is some bloat in the Linux kernel code-base, but the BKL fix to me looks like proof-positive that you can teach an old dog new tricks (not that Linux is that old either but...).