Linuxcon Coverage

I’m in Boston at Linuxcon and while I usually liveblog the events I attend, I’m going to try something new this time. While I may blog some of the event, I’ll be tweeting much more heavily than I have at past events. Check my twitter page if you’re interesting in following my coverage at Linuxcon.

On the topic of blogging, it’s been a bit quiet here lately. I’m hoping to resume regular blogging when I return from Linuxcon. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

Intel & Nokia Merge Maemo + Moblin to form MeeGo

In case you haven’t heard, Intel and Nokia are merging their respective Mobile Linux initiatives into a project called MeeGo (an unfortunate name, IMHO, but I guess that’s fairly common in the FLOSS world these days) that will be hosted by The Linux Foundation. From CNET:

Intel and Nokia are combining their respective Linux operating environments to power future smartphones and tablets, another step in a technology tie-up launched last year.

The technology merger will fuse Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo software to form a new operating environment dubbed MeeGo, which is expected to power a range of devices, including pocketable mobile computers, Netbooks, tablets, connected TVs, and in-vehicle infotainment systems.

Intel’s Moblin operating system has been offered on Netbooks from Dell, Acer, and Asus and made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show on a future smartphone from LG Electronics. Nokia’s Maemo OS has powered its N900, a high-end smartphone that Nokia refers to as a “mobile computer”–a likely precursor for future MeeGo-based devices from the Finnish telecommunications giant.

The Intel-Nokia collaboration began in earnest in June when the two companies announced the beginning of a “long-term relationship,” focusing on developing new chip architectures, software, and a new class of Intel-based mobile computing devices. This move is part of a major shift for Intel–a giant in PC chips but not a player in cell phones.

The goal for MeeGo is to put more flesh on the bones of last year’s announcement. In short, to combine two disparate, unwieldy operating environments under one roof, said Renee J. James, a senior vice president at Intel. “Across a range of devices we’re looking to build a single Linux platform with a single developer environment and a merged API,” James said in an interview with CNET. An API, or application programming interface, is a way for a program to interact with other software.

Both companies stressed that applications that run on Moblin and Maemo will run on top of MeeGo.

Importantly, MeeGo will support equally ubiquitous ARM-architecture chips, in addition to Intel processors. “It’s going to be cross-platform. That means it supports both Intel and ARM,” James said. ARM processors are offered by Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Samsung, and others, while Intel’s Atom processor powers Moblin-based devices today.

The official Linux Foundation page adds:

MeeGo is fully open software operating system for the next generation of computing devices. Formed by Intel and Nokia and hosted at The Linux Foundation, the MeeGo platform is set to revolutionize computing and be adopted widely by device manufacturers, network operators, software vendors and developers across multiple device types. We welcome participation in the workgroup, and encourage all ecosystem participants to join the Linux Foundation and participate more closely with the MeeGo project.

As usual, RedMonk has a very good Q & A post up. Here are a few salient bits:

Q: So this project is basically a consolidation of two projects that were competing, essentially, in the same space?
A: There was some minimal distance between the projects, actually: maemo, for example, was never aimed at the full fledged netbook market. When Nokia entered that market, remember, they went Windows 7, not maemo.

So there’s more differentiation between their target audiences than is commonly supposed. But to the point, yes: this can be considered market consolidation.

Q: Isn’t that a good thing?
A: It certainly can be. It is not clear, for example, that either project had sufficient oxygen to sustain itself indefinitely. So by joining forces, they have a better opportunity on paper.

Q: Why do you say on paper?
A: Because these are technologies that – apart from their shared kernel heritage – don’t really have all that much in common. The packaging systems are different, the UI frameworks are different, the applications are different, and so on. Meaning that not only is the merger likely to be complicated, both communities are likely to be significantly impacted.

Q: Can you give an example?
A: Consider the packaging format. Moblin, being Fedora based, uses .rpm, while maemo, being derived from Debian uses .deb. According to the FAQ, MeeGo is going to support only .rpm. In practical terms, then, all of the packages available for maemo will have to be repackaged.

Q: So they should have supported both?
A: No, that just makes things more complicated. That’s the approach they’re taking with the UI frameworks, and it’s probably not wise.

Q: How so? What’s the story with the UI frameworks?
A: Without rehashing a lot of unimportant history, let’s just say that there are two popular open source UI frameworks: GTK and Qt. Qt had generally been better thought of, technically, but until 2009 was more restrictively licensed. GTK, being more permissively licensed, was more widespread.

Both Moblin and maemo were, at their inception, GTK based, though Moblin also used Clutter, which we’ll come back to. Nokia, however, acquired in 2008 Trolltech, the vendor behind Qt. They asserted at the time that maemo would continue to be GTK, but a number of people – myself included – were skeptical. And sure enough, maemo subsequently transitioned to that UI toolkit.

Back to Clutter. A very cool OpenGL toolkit built in part by Intel acquisition OpenedHand, Clutter allows for hardware accelerated UIs via OpenGL and integrates well with GTK.

Complicated, no? The net is that there is considerable overlap between the UI technologies, but rather than annoint – or at least pick out of a hat – a winner, MeeGo is following in the footsteps of Linux desktops that preceded it, and intends to support all of the UI options.

Now, while it’s clear that Moblin and Maemo had an uphill battle ahead and long term viability was never guaranteed for either, I don’t know that it’s clear that MeeGo will fare much better. From Nokia’s statements it’s pretty clear they will be sticking with Symbian on all of their smartphones and will be putting MeeGo only on what they call “pocketable devices”. It seems unlikely then that others will attempt to use Meego on smartphones, which steers it clear of competition from Android, the iPhone and other more traditional phone OS’s. In the “pocketable devices” category though they already have competition from some established Linux distributions such as Ubuntu NetBook Remix, and ChromeOS will be ready soon. Add the soon to be released iPad to the mix and the space begins to look cluttered (zing) pretty quickly.

On the technical side, their is some compelling technology in both Maemo and Moblin. I’ve owned multiple Nokia Maemo devices and have really enjoyed them. Moblin boot times are looking extremely impressive. That being said, the two projects have some large technological differences (the RedMonk Q&A covers some of them, but think QT vs. GTK, RPM vs. deb… etc.) that will almost ensure that bits of both communities, which are fairly diminutive to begin with, will be alienated as part of the merge process. Will what remains be enough to fend off the well funded competition from Google, Apple and the others who may enter this up and coming product space? Only time will tell.

Additional Reading:
Thoughts about MeeGo
Ari Jaaksi – MeeGo time!
Official MeeGo site

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Let's Get Together: Coordinated Software Releases, The Linux Ecosystem and the Impact on the Global Marketplace (liveblog)

Keynote – Mark Shuttleworth

* Open Source has the power to “end up defining the experience that the average person has when they turn on their computer”
* For every 1 Ubuntu alpha user there are about 10 beta users and then about 100 final release users.
* There’s a disdain about marketing for some in Open Source… but if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be seen as “marketing”, but talking about something you’re passionate about.
* We’ve seen many high profile projects move to time based releases – Mark calls this project cadence.
* For an enterprise Linux distro, Ubuntu research seems to indicate that a 2 year release cycle makes the most people happy.
* It turns out that for the most part, distro’s do not compete on which has the latest version of product $X. I can see some major exceptions here though.
* Automated testing should be seen as critical. Mark sees a clear difference in projects that fully support a make check and those that don’t.
* There are at times a huge chasm in Open Source projects between in the inside “cabal” of trusted contributors and people who are new and interesting in contributing code. Mark sees automated test suites as a potential way to mitigate this.
* As Open Source becomes more mainstream, the gap between “users” and “developers” is going to continually widen. Automated crash reporting integrated into source management can help here.
* We have to ensure the software we create can compete with the best of breed solutions, proprietary or otherwise.
* Note: The Linux sound subsystem has really been taken a beating at LinuxCon
* Cadence, Quality and Design are the points Mark wanted to drive home.

This keynote wraps up the event. I’ve really enjoyed LinuxCon and look forward to attending the event again next year (in Boston). Kudos to the Linux Foundation.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Beyond the Hype: The True Cost of Linux and Open Source (liveblog)

Moderator: Matt Asay
Panel: Noah Broadwater (Sesame Workshop), David Buckholtz (Sony Pictures), Anthony Roby (Accenture)

* Open Source was the number one answer for what kind of software executives are planning to implement in the next year
* roughly 4 of every 5 programmers have used some kind of Open Source. Even for .NET programmers, the number is 3 of every 5.
* Forrester has seen multiple demonstrable million plus dollar savings via Open Source implementations, including a 100M savings by Sabre.
* Accenture: Open Source allows you to tackle problems that were previously economically just not viable.
* Sesame moved to Open Source to reduce licensing costs and allow them to compete with companies like Disney while being a non-profit. They only have two developers since moving to Open Source; they previously had 10.
* Mid-sized shops that don’t look at development as a core competency is currently a place where Open Source is perceived as weak and can improve its uptake and success rates moving forward.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Roundtable – The Linux Kernel: Straight from the Source (liveblog)

I’ll be liveblogging from LinuxCon here in Portland. I have not been posting as many traditional blog posts recently, something I’d like to remedy after LinuxCon. Stay tuned.

Panel: Bottomley (moderator), Jonathan Corbet, Greg KH, Linus Torvalds, Arjan van de Ven (detained in Holland – NP), Ted T’so and Chris Wright

Opinion on what’s the most innovative recent kernel feature:
Chris – virtualization
Jon – ftrace and performance counter framework
Greg – USB 3.0 (best thing to come out of staging: a working laptop for Linus)
Ted – expanded on Jon’s performance counters answer and then added kernel mode switching
Linus: his job has gotten much easier in the last 3 months. He really likes this… (added: “Xen will have a difficult time merging their tree into mainline as-is”)

Linus: Over the last 18 years, what has been the most inspiring or motivational aspect of the Linux kernel?
* started out being all about the technology, then become more about community and even the “fame”; these days it’s “all about the Linux kernel community”. “I really enjoy arguing”
* “The Linux kernel is a life-long calling for me”
Bottomley added: “Interestingly, the average age of kernel maintainers is continuing to rise. How do we guarantee kernel development continuity long term.
* Linus: There continues to be young people getting involved.
* Greg notes that in many cases, they don’t even know the age of maintainers
* Jon: “I don’t think we’ll lack for talent”
* Ted: roughly 50-60% of people going to the kernel summit are first timers. At the very top, however, people have remained fairly constant over time
* Chris: as we add more subsystem maintainers, people are getting more niche. It takes a fairly motivated person to get involved as a maintainer.

As the rate of kernel contributions increase and as the kernel becomes higher profile, is it getting more difficult to keep out malicious code?
* Greg: We do currently track regressions
* Linus: Our issues have never been intentionally malicious, they’ve been unintentional bugs. The only worry he’s had about malicious people, he addressed in git by cryptographically signing the public repos. This was a result of someone breaking into the bitkeeper repo years ago and being caught.
Follow up by Bottomly: as we add more code more quickly, performance has been going down 1-2% a release, with a 12% degradation in the recent past. How do we address this?
* Linus: “I’d like to tell you I had a plan”. Admits there is some bloat but says part of the issue is possibly unavoidable.

question about the state of the current sound subsystem
* Linus: “The sound subsystem isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be – don’t listen to the crazies on slashdot”.
* No sound maintainers on the panel. Dave Phillips would be a good person to ask.
* Jon: “Sound is a mess in a lot of ways. A lot of flux and professionals don’t like Pulseaudio. latency is an issue.” “I do think things are starting to get better”
* Greg: A lot of new mixing boards and actually now running embedded Linux

What would you like to see in the Linux kernel, but feel may not be feasible?
* Linus: “We’ve never hit a problem that we felt was impossible to implement and generally useful”
* Ted: “Speaking with the Microsoft NTFS team at Redmond, they have actually come up with a system remarkably close to the Linux kernel development model”

Note: 2 out of 5 of the panelists read “almost every message on LKML”. Linus was not one of them (Greg KH and Jon)

Will next year be the year of the Linux desktop?
* Ted: “Next year will be the year of the Linux desktop because ‘next year’ is always the year of the Linux desktop.”

–jeremy

Roundtable Discussion: Why Can't We All Just Get Along (Liveblog)

Panelists:
Jim Zemlin – Linux Foundation
Ian Murdock – Sun
Sam Ramji – Microsoft

* Lessons learned after being at MSFT for a couple years as the “Open Source” guy
– Sam: When he came in from BEA, things working together “just made sense” to him. Day 1 he would have explained what he was doing a bit better to the legal team. Engineers tend to change much quicker than lawyers, whose job is to mitigate risk.
* Similar question to Ian:
– Was a bit of a culture shock going to Sun. He was used to working at 50+ person companies that he had started. Thinks he may have been a bit naive when first going into Sun. “Large companies have more inertia than you might think”.

* It’s clear that Microsoft sees the computing landscape changing. What can the Open Source crowds do to help the agents of change within the company?
– Sam: We’re a large company and some parts are changing faster than others. Identifying that there is a place to go with the things you think are not going well is important. He’d like to be seen as the unelected representative within Microsoft for us. He might not have an immediate answer, but he wants to better understand the problems.

* Why does he (Sam) care what the Open Source and Linux communities think?
Sam the person: “I think computing just needs to get better”
Sam the MSFT representative: We’re at a point in our history that we need to understand what the next engine of growth is going to be.

* What is Sun going to do with MySQL?
– Ian: We’ve fully committed to the Open Source model. MySQL represents a huge opportunity. The kinds of software you see being used in Web 2.0 and cloud computing represent a new dynamic. Sun’s global sales force plus products like MySQL are where Sun will grow.

* Where is Microsoft going next?
– Sam: We want to build software that is in demand on every platform. He sees 4 general directions for this: server, client, mobile and cloud.

* Sam: “When you hear the same thing from enough customers, you listen…even if you don’t necessarily agree”. Gave the example of Microsoft supporting PHP, despite having put a lot of resources toward and really liking ASP.NET.

* We’re clearly disappointed about Software Patents in this community. The recent FAT lawsuit included.
– Sam: We agree there are issues, but don’t think the whole system should just be thrown out. Says Microsoft suffers more than anyone else in the current system. Spends over $100M a year defending against patent suits. Did not address FAT lawsuit specifically.
Ian: It’s a bit of an arms race and large companies feel the need to amass patents for defensive reasons. No one wants to be the first to drop all their patents.

* Ian: With cloud computing, are we losing many of the advantages of Open Source?
– Jim: I don’t think the operating system discussion is going to be decided for a while.
– Sam: Now the “cloud” is just elastic computing. The next cloud with be more like Google App Engine or Microsoft Azure. The idioms and structures are different… it’s a whole different environment.
(Note: I don’t think they fully understood the question Ian was asking, but it’s a really important question…and one I’ll be thinking about quite a bit moving forward. It’s not always just about access to the code. It’s about the code being usable outside the original context, portability and other related issues)

* Question from Jeremy Allison: Asserting patent rights is fundamentally against the Open Source ethos. FAT lawsuit aside, Jeremy would simply like clarity around what interoperability IS possible and what interoperability (from a legal perspective) IS NOT possible.
– Sam: We learned a lot from the work MSFT did with Samba on licensing protocols, but it won’t scale to 1,000 of protocols. “We can and must do more about predictability on where we’re going”. Places where we currently have a licensing program are probably good places for Open Source to stay away from, at least in the near future. “We need to improve here”. The SMB/CIFS agreement went through 35 iterations in 6 weeks. We’re willing to learn.

The final consensus: where we can be more clear with each other, let’s do it. Linux, Microsoft and Sun are all going to be around for the long haul. We’re all going to be here, let’s make the best of it. Let’s move beyond ideology and be pragmatic.

That’s the end of the Summit for today. See you at the Exploratorium for the evening reception.

–jeremy

Linux in the Enterprise: The Journey, Milestones and What's Ahead (Liveblog)

Edward Screven – Chief Corporate Architect at Oracle.

* In the late 90’s they were looking for an OS to recommend to their clients. They immediately ruled out Windows for a variety of reasons, both technical and political/personal. It came down to BSD and Linux. They went with Linux. “While it looks like an obvious choice now, at the time it was not”.
* 1998 was the first commercial database port for Linux. 2001 was the first 64-bit port for Linux.
* “We will run our whole business on Linux” – Larry Ellison in 2002. They now do.
* They spend about $3B a year on R&D. Most of it is done on Linux.
* “In retrospect, we are VERY happy with our choice to use Linux”.
* Oracle has 42,000 Linux servers and 10’s of Petabytes on Linux.
* Side note: LQ uses OCFS2 and I have been quite happy with it.
* Big on Virtualization. Oracle VM is based on Xen. It’s main goal is manageability.
* They would like to help make Linux the “default data center operating system” with “NO questions asked”. They see this manifesting itself in a fungible “Linux Grid Infrastructure”.
* Oracle likes btrfs better than zfs.
* “We make more money with Linux than ANY pure ‘Linux’ company”.

–jeremy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,163 other followers