Enterprise Linux Log

April 21, 2011  3:03 PM

Antitrust concerns force changes to Novell patent sale

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

CPTN Holdings has altered some of the terms of their patent purchase from Novell in response to antitrust concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DoJ announced on Wednesday, that “as originally proposed, the deal would jeopardize the ability of open source software, such as Linux, to continue to innovate and compete in the development and distribution of server, desktop, and mobile operating systems, middleware, and virtualization products.”

I would really like to know what part of the patent sale (and which specific patents) were deemed to be a threat to the future development of the Linux operating system. We know that Red Hat’s voice was heard via the Open Source Initiative, as we reported last week. And it sure seems like IBM would have been likely to throw some cash at the issue. There was some fear that CPTN could be another SCO debacle.

The changes that have been made to the original CPTN patent arrangement include:

  • Microsoft will sell back to Attachmate all of the Novell patents that Microsoft would have acquired, but will continue to receive a license for the use of all of the Novell patents, including those acquired by other entities or held by Novell.
  • EMC will not acquire 33 Novell patents and patent applications related to virtualization.

But perhaps the most interesting, and what could be considered the biggest victory for the open source community are the following three changes to the deal:

  • All of the Novell patents will be acquired subject to the GNU General Public License, Version 2, and the Open Invention Network (OIN) License.
  • CPTN does not have the right to limit which of the patents, if any, are available under the OIN license.
  • CPTN nor its owners will make any statement or take any action to influence or encourage either Novell or Attachmate to modify which patents are available under the OIN license.

Now that this is all settled, according to Novell documents filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the new closing date for the sale is April 27, 2011. How settled does that leave you feeling?

April 11, 2011  6:13 PM

Top 5 takeaways from the 2011 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

Last week in San Francisco the Linux developer community met to collaborate on and discuss the future of Linux. I attended, and tried to glean the most important developments that will be affecting Linux server admins and users.

1) Control groups (cgroups): Cgroups was initially developed to limit resource usage in the Linux kernel. Memory, bandwidth, CPU usage can be controlled using cgroups, and it can be used to deny access to and monitor system resources. Red Hat’s Resource Management Guide has a great description with a lot of detail on how they work, check it out for more info. The developers are still working on improving how cgroups work, so report bugs and stay tuned!

2) KVM: It’s really the hypervisor that will be most supported by developers… so get ready to switch from Xen if you haven’t already. Christoph Hellwig gave a thorough talk on how KVM and qemu handle presenting local storage to the guest and what developers are doing in that area. Mike Day of IBM set out to debunk some myths about KVM that have held it up from being adopted more broadly. Some of his points were well-received by the audience, but there was a little dissension in the audience when he tried to claim that KVM and VMware were very similar because VMware’s VMKernel is largely based on the same Linux code… Audience members (who work at VMware) said no it’s not. It hasn’t been for a while.

3) Yocto Project: While you may not care much about embedded devices, who knows how the world (or your job) might change in the future? Besides, Linux is in everything if it’s electronic. The Yocto Project is the combined effort of all the major embedded chip vendors, embedded commercial Linux vendors, individual developers and OpenEmbedded to help developers not have to reinvent the wheel each time they go to create a new device. Check it out.

4) File systems: A great talk from Michael Rubin of Google provided details on why Google chose ext4 to deploy to replace ext2 (and a little about their process of doing it slowly so they didn’t lose all the data). XFS and ext3 were considered but dismissed, the former due to its complexity, the latter because it contained some of the same drawbacks as ext2. While Google chose ext4, Rubin seemed to have caught the buzz around btrfs, which just wasn’t “mature” at the time. With a three year transition from ext2 to ext4 though, I’m doubting Google will be looking to make another move any time soon. But if you’re looking at a file system upgrade, it may be worth looking into “butter.”

5) Open vSwitch: Open vSwitch is a network switch built for virtual environments and differs from traditional switches by exporting an external interface for fine-grained control of configuration state and forwarding behavior. There was a well-attended presentation on this technology and it’s certainly something to watch or look into if you are running large virtual environments and need more efficiency.

April 11, 2011  5:00 PM

Ubuntu 11.04 beta testers divided over Unity

Nick Martin Nick Martin Profile: Nick Martin

In the short time since the release of Ubuntu 11.04 beta, the OS has received mixed reviews. Some testers say it is the worst Ubuntu beta release ever, while others say they are impressed by its new features.

What there seems to be little disagreement about is that Unity may take some getting used to. One of the biggest changes for 11.04 is that Unity, and not the GNOME shell, will be the default desktop interface. Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth explained this change last October when he said the GNOME shell was heading in the wrong direction. Unity was originally released with Ubuntu 10.10 as an alternative interface for netbooks leaving some to wonder how it will perform on a desktop system.

Ivan Wright has been an Ubuntu user for the last 18 months, and didn’t waste any time installing the 11.04 beta on his system – and then posting his experiences in a series of YouTube reviews.

“Initially I didn’t like the new Unity interface in 11.04, particularly in the early stages of development it was very buggy and slow,” Wright said. “I thought the space saving features, which were great for netbook computers, would be wasted and cause inconvenience on a desktop computer. Although once I actually started using the system I found it was absolutely fine and easy enough to use.”

As can be expected with any betas, Natty Narwhal does have some glitches, and Wright runs into many of those hiccups in his videos. Even so, Wright also says his past experience with Ubuntu betas makes him confident the issues will be resolved before the full release.

Another 11.04 tester, Antoon Freche, has also come across his share of glitches. Many of 11.04’s troubles are already well known (nVidia support problems), but others continue to frustrate Freche and other users.

“I’ve had quite a few programs crashing. Those popped up with the opportunity to provide feedback, but I’ve had these feedback forms crash on me too … It’s kind of annoying. The system that should be there to gather problem information just fails to get relevant data,” Freche said.

Freche also has mixed feelings on Unity.

“Unity itself doesn’t always do what I expect. This might be related to wrong expectations or me just not understanding the ideas behind this new desktop interface,” he said.

Wright and Freche’s feelings on having to “get used to Unity” may come to typify the experience of 11.04 converts, and we may not really know how Natty Narwhal will perform until the final release, but it appears the developers have some work to do before launch (which is scheduled for later this month).

April 4, 2011  2:36 PM

Linux devotee named Ultimate Linux Guru

Nick Martin Nick Martin Profile: Nick Martin

Matthew Fillpot has always been a student of technology clamoring for more information, but over the last year he has acted more like an encyclopedia than a learner. Last week Fillpot was chosen by The Linux Foundation as the Ultimate Linux Guru for his contributions to Linux.com. From February 2010 to February 2011, Fillpot spent countless hours on the site posting new topics and helping answer other members’ questions. So many hours, in fact, that he accumulated more contribution and participation points than any other member, according to a Linux Foundation press release.

“I’m actually surprised that others didn’t get closer to the points that I had,” Fillpot said. “I’m also one of the moderators, so I spend a lot more time trying to make sure everything is running smoothly, trying to keep spammers away. So, it was a bit surprising that others didn’t have as much content on the site when I spend so much time working in the background.”

Fillpot was one of the site’s first beta testers in 2009, and became a moderator soon after. He has been using Linux since 2000, after a friend recommended he try it just before he started college. He came to love it while getting his degree in network engineering and IT security, but he doesn’t use it in his job.

Even though he answered more questions than any other member on the website, Fillpot insists that he continues to use Linux.com primarily as a learning tool.

“There are plenty of cases where I’ve learned from others. We have some very smart network engineers and software engineers that frequent the site, and they come up with scripts and functions for different ways of accomplishing the functions that are much faster than what I normally would have done. One of the things that keeps me going back, is we have very talented people from all around the world who are willing to jump in to help everyone and share info. That’s really what binds me and some of the other [Linux.com users].”

For his contributions to the site Fillpot will be rewarded with an invitation to the Linux Collaboration Summit on April 6 to 8 in San Francisco, and a fully-loaded Linux laptop.

Aspiring Linux gurus better get posting, because Fillpot plans to use the new laptop to develop projects to help other site members set up better security platforms for their home or business systems (which, of course, will lead to more posts).

March 14, 2011  5:48 PM

Ubuntu 11.04 to have PC and server editions only

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

What’s in a name? Well if you were looking for the latest version of Ubuntu for your Linux servers it would be Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server Edition – kind of a mouth full. With Ubuntu 11.04, that will change. Canonical has announced it will no longer offer a separate netbook edition. In a blog post, the company explains that with the release of the new shell, the user interface works equally well regardless of PC form factor, and the underlying technology works on a range of architectures, eliminating the need for a netbook version.

With the elimination of the netbook edition, Ubuntu is further simplifying the name, removing the word “desktop edition” from the PC version, and instead just calling that product “Ubuntu 11.04.” The server edition will be simply called “Ubuntu Server 11.04.”

Canonical recently announced that Ubuntu 11.10, is called Onieric Ocelot. Shuttleworth also hinted that Canonical will be looking to limit the cloud platforms that the next long-term support release (Ubuntu 12.04 LTS) will support.

March 1, 2011  5:44 AM

Linus in Hollywood

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

I ran across this blog post this evening, and just couldn’t help but share. Apparently the father of Linux, a very well-known celebrity in our little circle, attended a Hollywood Oscar party and found himself feeling like a geek out of water (or code?). Linus Torvalds and his wife, Tove, were invited to the Night Before Oscar party and found themselves among the likes of David Spade, Mila Kunis, and Natalie Portman among others. If you’re saying “who?,” you’re not alone… Linus was too. Linus and Tove had to Google to verify the names of many they saw. Linus reports they made a couple of faux pas, asking Warren Beatty twice who he was, but they survived the night.

Said Linus:

We probably won’t be invited again. But we have pictures for the kids, to prove to them that their parents are cool people.

This phenomenon seems like an obvious situation. Of course, who would know what Linus Torvalds looks like? Well, a lot of Linux geeks sure would. And why would Linus, a man with a lot of other important and complex things on his mind, care about the hottest Hollywood celebrities? Answer: He wouldn’t.

But the real sad part to me is that really more people should recognize the likeness of Linus Torvalds just as they recognize Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Donald Trump. Surely, the software Linus has created is important to the manufacturing of goods, trading of stocks, and creation of animated masterpieces like “How to Train Your Dragon.” But because Linux is open source, Linus sits in the office over his garage (a step up from his basement lair) in his tattered bathrobe, not in his New York City penthouse or Seattle mansion. And because of this, we all can use and contribute to this great software and make it the great tool that it is. No platform lock-in or outrageous licensing fees to deal with, just good, efficient software to get things done.

I think a comment on Linus’s blog post would be a good way to let him know that we would recognize and adore him, and let his kids know that he’s definitely “cool.”

February 14, 2011  6:08 PM

Linux I love thee – users count the ways

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

Linux users are sometimes derided by others as geeks or fan boys, dismissed by some who prefer the more popular Windows operating system (OS) or more posh Mac OS. But the Linux faithful have found something in Linux that lures them in and keeps them coming back for more. I thought it would be fun to share some Linux Valentine’s sentiments, so I asked for feedback via Twitter. And Linux users responded and told me exactly why they love (and use) Linux. See what they said and comment below with your own Linux love note (let’s make Linus Torvalds blush).

The most thorough, was Dale Strickland-Clark of Out-Think Ltd. He wrote a listing of why he loves Linux:

  • Reliable – doesn’t slow down or break a month after being installed.
  • Sensible security structure. It doesn’t get in the way of work.
  • Work quickly with files. Konqueror and Dolphin are excellent file managers. Explorer is a mess.
  • Full access to entire systems. Windows has bits even administrators are shut out of without a lot of work.
  • Full function system without a GUI if you don’t need one for lightweight applications and servers.
  • Community support that doesn’t try to rip you off.
  • Multiple desktops let you split work functions logically.
  • Full function, secure remote control with or without GUI.
  • Excellent tools for diagnosing Internet/network issues standard on most distributions.
  • Powerful batch languages with transparent (exe-like) invocation.
  • Highly extendible and configurable user environment. Power users are empowered.
  • Dead Linux systems can usually be recovered without a re-install.
  • Use Linux on a memory stick to boot broken Windows machines to recover data.

Major Hayden a self-described “Linux guy” highlighted his top reasons:

  • Makes old hardware usable
  • Free
  • Makes it so you can turn anything into a server
  • No mouse required
  • The people who use it and develop it genuinely care about the user experience.

One of our regular site contributors, Ron McCarty shared that his big reason is that Linux is a “solid operating system with a reliable TCP/IP stack, good server software, and it just runs!” What’s not to like?

Demonstrating the versatility of Linux, Jesse Casman, who is a bit of an international Linux and open source ambassador, shared that Linux is the best mp3 player for his car.

Riocar was a British company that made a pull out Linux computer for your dashboard, you could connect it to your PC, load with mp3s, and rock and roll,” said Casman. “It still works — Really cool.”

Open source technologies like Linux wouldn’t be so successful if it weren’t for the developer love. One developer, Piotrek Tomiak, Eclipse Technologist said, “Linux is designed for programmers: it’s highly-customizable, fast, and has an outstanding console.”

Finally, neatly summing up his reasons for Linux adoration was Todd Williams of Genuitec: “It boots quickly, operates efficiently, and runs perpetually.”

What’s your favorite feature of Linux, why do you love it?

February 7, 2011  4:36 PM

IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer runs on SUSE Linux

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

IBM’s Watson supercomputer is gearing up for a big Jeopardy! match next week, and the system will be dueling it out with the aid of a SUSE Linux backbone.

IBM’s DeepQA software powers the technology that allows contestants to participate in Jeopardy!, and runs on SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 11 and 10 racks of IBM Power 750 servers. According to Novell, SUSE Linux is the fastest operating system available for Power7 based on SPEC benchmarks, and would be ideal in handling the high-capacity computing demands put upon Watson, its software and its servers during competition. Watson has 200 million-plus digital pages of information, and with SUSE, operates at a speed of over 80 teraflops to interpret questions and give answers.

You can see Watson in action against human competition — former Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter — beginning next Monday, Feb. 14 through Feb. 16. You can also check out the full release of Novell’s announcement.

In addition to Watson in action on Jeopardy!, The Linux Foundation announced details for its 2011 End User Summit which will feature the project lead for the IBM supercomputer. The Linux Foundation End User Summit will take place March 1-2, and David Ferucci, Principal Investigator of the IBM Watson supercomputer, is one of the featured keynote speakers at the conference.


For more on how Watson works, read this story from National Public Radio (NPR).

UPDATE: MIT crowd gathers to watch Watson. See how the supercomputer fared the first night in competition.



January 18, 2011  1:56 AM

RHEL 5.6 boasts new bug and security fixes

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

Though Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 may have just been released in November, RHEL 5 still has a lot left in the tank: Red Hat just announced version 5.6 of the platform with a host of new bug and security fixes.

Overall fixes in RHEL 5.6 number approximately 2,000, and there are 340 individual enhancements. Some of the security enhancements include updated Domain Name Service (DNS) packages – RHEL 5.6 improves the cryptographic signatures that are good for high-security installations such as in government organizations.

There is also now support for sVirt (SELinux virtualization), which allows Mandatory Access Control (MAC) profiles to be applied to virtual guests, enhancing the system’s security. In addition, ebtables, a Layer 2 firewall application, is introduced in RHEL 5.6. With this application, those using RHEL for large virtualized deployments can securely partition guest traffic with the application while configuring using multiple software bridges within RHEL.

Security enhancements aside, there is also a wealth of other improvements in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.6, including support for new processors and chipsets. RHEL 5 will continue to be updated until 2014 by Red Hat. For more on the update, check out SearchDataCenter.com’s news brief and Red Hat’s blog.

January 4, 2011  6:00 PM

Grant allows open source crisis response work to flourish

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

The Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSU OSL) announced that its partnership with CrisisCommons, a grassroots network of volunteers that aids regions in crisis through computer technology, was further bolstered by a $1.2 million grant. The funding will allow the two organizations to expand open source into areas affected by natural disasters.

The grant was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which manages the CrisisCommons project. The grant will aid OSU OSL “open source” crisis efforts including hosting core CrisisCommons training resources and using open source to build a model for efficient crisis and disaster response.

CrisisCommons is a young organization – it formed after the devastating January 2010 Haiti earthquake and partnered with the OSU OSL after it needed help with its infrastructure. The organization has also aided in the Chile earthquake relief efforts, floods in Tennessee and Pakistan, and has built numerous applications using open source technology for relief efforts, including a “Person Finder” and “Tradui,” a Creole translation app.

According to Leslie Hawthorn, Open Source Outreach Manager with the OSL, the partnership on more projects like these was a no-brainer.

“Our mission is to help open source projects, and it’s even better when we can help open source projects with a mission focused on humanitarian aid and the public good,” said Hawthorn.

But why is open source playing such an important role in crisis efforts? For one, the minimal cost of open source software is huge for countries with fewer economic resources, according to Hawthorn. There are more practical, important reasons, though.

“Open source systems allow for rapid, real-time innovation by volunteers,” said Hawthorn. “CrisisCommons’ Crisis Camps are excellent examples of how hundreds of individuals can come together and contribute their skills as developers to alleviate suffering, all of which is made possible because the source code they are improving is open source.”

To learn more about the OSL, CrisisCommons and this grant, check out CrisisCommons’ announcement about the partnership.

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