Saturday, August 28, 2004

It is very hot outside

I ran into Richard Stallman today at the hardware store.

I was purchasing nails, he was procuring shelves.

I asked him in which building in the Stata Center his office was located.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Answer is the Irony of the Situation

On my walk to work today, coffee in one hand and The Economist in the other, an armored truck turned onto a one way street. In eerie synchronization, a large semi-truck veered onto the street behind the armored truck, pulled up along it, and then cut it off, blocking it on three of its four sides, with a sidewalk and myself on the other side. All I could think of was Heat, so I ran the rest of the way to work. Which is good, because I may of missed the enusing gun fight, but is also bad, because there would of likely been free money flying in the air.

Sidewalk outside of my apartment

We put netapplet into GNOME CVS. The module is netapplet. I appreciate the positive feedback, really awesome, thanks, but the reason that Joe is Novell Employee of the Year is already known and my book sells well is due to the free plastic toy embedded in between pages 104 and 105, as much as I would like to think that it is my ninja-like coding ability and charming persona.

Boston, Home of the Beautiful

A couple of folks have raised the issue of applet vs. notification area dingus, it is the wrong way, blah blah blah. Three things, people: the notification area is a spec and thus the applet works in KDE, applet's are a pain to develop and debug because they are bonobo components while netapplet is trivial to debug and see console output from, and I think that the way the notification area works (e.g., it is just a UI component) makes more sense then the complication behind applets. Ultimately we did not think it a big deal, at all, but going with the notification area does beg the issue of GNOME needing a much better session manager.

Saw The Manchurian Candidate last night with Andy, Nat, and Pat. OK.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Pirate Shoe Salesmen

Joey and I put up the code to our netapplet. Since Nat posted about it in his blog, we have been inundated with emails. The code is shipping in a forthcoming desktop product and is very SUSE specific. We really do not have the time to work on it right now, but we wanted to share the wealth.

The Netapplet of Justice

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A life long career

By and by, we are hiring a build engineer in the Boston-based desktop group. If you are the greatest build engineer on the planet, or a reasonable facsimile, consider applying.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

There's beauty in the breakdown

"Windows XP Starter Edition allows only three applications to be run concurrently. According to Microsoft, this limitation 'helps [users] stay organized and reduces confusion."

What pikes my curiosity is the matter of where in the operating system do they enforce this lovely policy.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Kernel Summit

Two weeks back was the Linux Kernel Developers Summit. The Kernel Summit is a two day, developer-to-developer, invite-only conference where the kernel hackers sit down and talk about our feelings. It is not, unfortunately, a hack fest. Instead, the big arguments too heated or otherwise involved for the mailing lists are discussed. An attempt is made to reach consensus on the future direction of the kernel. A cabal at its best.

For whatever reason, I failed to blog the conference from the conference. To make reparations, here and now I will go over some of my thoughts.

Monday started pretty slowly. It was fairly clear, right off the bat, that this conference would mirror last year - little contention and lots of agreement. Compared to the summit two and three years ago, the lack of violent disagreement is always surprising. It certainly drives home the point about the state of kernel development. We started off with a processor panel, which was pretty neat. Both Intel and AMD provided us with honest-to-god new information and not a marketing spiel. We moved on to virtual memory, software suspend, kobjects, and then video drivers. For that session, the always charming Keith Packard stopped by to give us an overview of the current world of graphics hardware and the current situation with video drivers. We discussed where to go from there. I told him to be really harsh on us. I do not think he was harsh enough, but he definitely got across the point that the current DRI-fb-X menage a trois is not the way to go.

Following Keith's session, I chaired a session on improving desktop performance from the kernel's point of view. Issues such as boot time, interactivity, desktop-optimized I/O schedulers, and a reduction in the need for polling were discussed. Linus pointed out that he traced some desktop application and it made 30,000 system calls, touching thousands of files, in the initial seconds of start up. Clearly, he noted, the onus lies more so on these applications than the kernel for improvement.

Tuesday found a customer panel and topics on clustered storage, kexec, RAS, networking, asynchronous I/O, multipath I/O, virtualization, security, CKRM, and OSDL. Much of it was yawn material.

Kernel Summit Group Photo

The final session raised some contention. As Slashdot and other fine news reporting agencies have noted, we have decided to delay the release of 2.7. Yes, delay, not cancel. I have never been a huge fan of the kernel development process - especially after working on GNOME - but I am cautiously interested in this new direction for 2.6. Especially since it really is not a new direction. We are, in fact, ready to and capable of forking 2.6 and starting 2.7. But 2.6 is mature, stable, and we are all generally very happy with it. We also do not have any huge stability-crushing baby-killing changes queued up. Instead, we have a lot of incremental changes, new features, and such. We have been able to slip a lot of these into 2.6, in fact -- we merged 4K stacks, huge scheduler behavior changes, and object-based reverse mapping in post 2.6! A solid 10MB of patches a month have found their way into 2.6. Yet stability has not suffered. 2.6 is better off than any previous kernel, and the dynamic duo of Linus and Andrew is really working. Progress is fast, features are merged, yet stability remains. The question we asked, then, is why change that?

The answer, as noted and second guessed and complained about, is that there is no reason to. As long as we can sustain it, we will continue to use Andrew's 2.6-mm tree as a staging ground for new patches. Linus will continue to work on 2.6. 2.6 will remain a stable kernel, yet from time-to-time see more adventurous (but still well-tested) patches. This is the stuff that vendors ship, anyhow. Ultimately, if the size or stability of 2.6-mm ever becomes unwieldy, we can then fork 2.7. In the meantime, 2.6 can remain stable (in both the code sense and the user-space API/ABI sense) yet address the too-long-release-cycle problem.

The only risk is a loss of time on the kernel developer's part. If we realize that this method is unsustainable in the face of stability, we will merely end up branching 2.7 later rather than earlier. I have faith that it will work, however. The combination of Andrew and Linus working together is gold. Andrew's patch scripts let him manage everything on a per-patch basis, and he can easily maintain a tree of patches against 2.6 proper. Linus's use of BitKeeper, on the other hand, allows him to easily pull from the trees of maintainers. Also, Andrew just rocks.

All in all, the kernel summit was a lovely opportunity to get together and see friends I see much too infrequently -- especially Pat, Greg, Zwane, Chris, Rusty, and Andrew. Some good decisions came out of it, but the most important is the very clear notion that the kernel is mature in terms of features and that innovation lies elsewhere. Which is fine with me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004


It is nice to be home in Boston, back from OSCON in Portland. OSCON was surprisingly rad, lots of different folks I do not often see. I also got a chance to hang out with Pat Mochel and the other Portland area hackers. Pat had a fun party at his place Wednesday night. OSCON was my fourth conference in nearly as many weeks, and I am very much done with all of that for at least awhile.

This weekend found my good friend from UF, Mike, in town. Mike and I had a lot of great times back in school and it was really quite nice to see him. We had a sweet weekend, running around town, eating, drinking, partying.


The Hatch

Saturday we went to the Dispatch show at the Hatch Shell, which is located right on the Charles. It was a free, well promoted, long planned (we made these plans before I even moved out here) show. It was also their last show - they are breaking up - a big "goodbye" event for themselves as much as for their fans.

Dispatch knocks out this college rock, a mix of reggae and white-boy funk. It is pretty mellow but they still rocked out, in one of the longest sets I have ever witnessed -- three and a half hours, with no break. The show's crowd was also the largest I have ever been a part. They claim 110,000 people, which seems a bit high, but the number was definitely huge. You never know.



Mike is one of those people who is always up for anything and consequently we get along real well. We once drove seven hours, went to eleven bars, violated a city hall, stole the shovel of justice, all in one night. We always have fun, and this weekend was no exception.

The show was pretty moving, you could tell that the band loves what they do, and the crowd's chants of "don't break up!" could only fuel their emotions. I was glad to be there, especially with Mikey.