Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Marching Bands of Manhattan

Bookpool has a special where a purchase of Linux in a Nutshell 5ed comes with a free Linux in a Nutshell t-shirt. Unfortunately, the t-shirts do not have my face on them, but be trendy and order a copy or two today.

Fejj is working on GNOME Volume Manager of late. Among other sweetness, he committed working iPod, printer, and scanner support. I have been mulling over renaming the project GNOME Hardware Manager.

view of midtown
Midtown Manhattan from the top, last weekend

Updated the IBM Hard Drive Active Protection System driver and user-space utilities. The driver now does DMI-based whitelisting and automatic axis inverting. The user-space tools now perform a lot smoother, especially the GL laptop toy, thanks to some jitter management.

Yesterday, Joey and I walked to Newberry Comics to get the new Death Cab CD. A little more produced than earlier efforts, but the big label jump was not the Causa Mortis I feared.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Auf Deutsch

LKD 2ed in German

The german language version of my book, Linux Kernel Development, is now available.

Die deutsche Sprachversion meines Buches, Linux Kernel Development, ist jetzt vorhanden.

Strangely, the book is available in two different covers and is now titled "Linux-Kernel-Handbuch".

Sonderbar, das Buch ist vorhanden in zwei unterschiedliche Abdeckungen und wird jetzt "Linux-Kernel-Handbuch".

Good, however, is that the book comes in hardcover!

Gut, jedoch, ist das Buch kommt in harte Abdeckung!

Please buy a copy or seven. I promise that, unlike the above, I did not perform the translation. Of course, the book is available in its native tongue, english, as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

School and GL

Registered for my first graduate classes the other day, and attended orientation last night. Excited. Or maybe just stupid.

Yoni Rom and Patrick Kilian answered my call:

3D laptop
hdaps ala gl on xgl

It requires OpenGL and GLUT. Download and play.

Development on the hdaps driver has been speedy; I have released updated drivers.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I wrote a GNOME applet, Tilt, that displays the (x,y) position pair from the accelerometer in real-time in the notification area.


Via the power of open source, I hope someone extends it to show a little 3D ThinkPad in the notification area, which rolls and pitches in response to the data. That would be a nice hack.


Back in Boston. Posted the hdaps driver and user-space tool.

The driver exports three things:

  • A device node, /dev/hdaps, that provides an interface via read(2) for retrieving all of the information from the device.
  • A collection of sysfs files, in /sys/devices/platform/hdaps, for manipulating the device and retrieving some basic information.
  • An input class device, allowing the position sensor to act as a pinball machine-esque mouse. Enable via the mousedev sysfs file.

Most, if not all, IBM ThinkPad T41, T42, and T43 models should contain the hdaps hardware. First pass, I want to get the driver working and user-space API down. Second pass we should look into parking the disk heads in an emergency fall. Finally, we should let the creativity flow: Xgl hacks, modify a pinball game to support physical tilt, an accelerometer applet for GNOME.

Use it, love it, extend it. Send me patches. Let's get this thing locked, loaded, and into Linus's kernel.

Shake it

Sitting in an airport lounge, nondescript, wood paneled walls and leather seats. With Foo Camp over, waiting for the redeye back to BOS from SFO. Glass of wine as I hack.

At the start: self-organization

As with last year, Foo Camp was invigorating, an insight into tomorrow's innovation. Lots of interesting people were among the ranks of the campers. I waxed with Jordan Hubbard about inotify and Darwin, had spirited debates with r0ml, chatted with Tim, was able to meet the awesome Steven Levy (who needs to update that picture) and a wonderful gentleman who worked on Corona and Jimmy Wales and others.

Eventually we had to leave, undoubtedly sooner than anyone wanted to, but with raised spirits. Talking is fun, but doing is better, anyhow.

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

On the plane ride up and now in this lounge, I have been working on a driver for the Hard Drive Active Protection System (hdaps) in recent IBM ThinkPads. They bill the hardware as an accelerometer, but its a glorified two-axis position sensor in my eyes, which is actually preferred: You can do a lot more with the first-order values, and you can always derive acceleration and whatever else if needed.

My driver exports both a device node and some sysfs files. I guess we could park the drive heads in an emergency. Or something. But the cool hack--really cute, I must say--is to use the hdaps as an input device, replacing your mouse with the laptop itself, which is now acting like a pinball machine, albeit with a second axis.

Nat and a Segway
When Segways Get Even

So here I am, dropping my laptop to test the acceleration-sensing user-space program I wrote, and tilting the laptop to and fro to select windows. Wait, one second, need to tilt this baby to the left, little more, there we go, to select this window. Okay.

Why does this kid keep dropping his laptop?

So, okay: Parking the disk heads in an emergency fall is perhaps more practical. But a mouse replacement is a lot more fun.

We have some fun ideas for Xgl plugins, next.

Anyhow, I will post the code soon as I land and recover from the overnight transcontinental flight.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Live from Foo Camp.

Golden Gate

The DiBona and Nat "Blabbermouth" Friedman and I had no idea that Segways were so fun.

Me on a Segway

We all feel really bad for The Other Robert in GNOME, whose tent was attacked by a swarm of crazed North Californian locusts last night. On the brightside, Steven Levy is here.

Nat on a Segway

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Have to ask what Google's intention is with their announced stock sell off. Merely taking advantage of their high stock price in order to increase their reserve capital or do they have a specific plan for the four billion dollars, such as greater expansion into the Asian market?

The best part of their SEC filing: We may apply the proceeds of this offering to uses that do not improve our operating results or increase the value of your investment.

F-Spot, Beagle, NetworkManager, an Inotify-enabled kernel, and Xgl, all at once, all in the same place:

Screenshot of Molly, my laptop
Notice the drop shadows and all around sweetness

You know that it must be the future, because the modem works. PPP, on Linux?

Off to FOO Camp.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sing it to Me

The news of CNOOC withdrawing its 18.5 billion dollar takeover bid of Unocal was greeted with sighs of relief by many. The whole ordeal raises the broader question of whether the United States should care if a Chinese company purchases a large American company. What United States interests are damaged by such a purchase?

Let's presume that CNOOC was successful in purchasing Unocal and, further, that CNOOC decides to sell its oil only to China--a move that it promised not to make. Unocal's oil would then go exclusively to China, causing China to purchase less oil on the world market. This would lead to additional oil in the world market, increasing supply and decreasing demand (as China would not be purchasing the oil). America, who already imports over 60% of her oil needs, could then purchase this oil, a fungible resource, at roughly the original price.

A second argument, and the primary reason for the proposed Congressional bill by Sen. Dorgan, is that energy is a resource of national security and Chinese control of domestic oil would be a problem in the event of a military conflict. Partly this argument is discredited by the previous paragraph. But there is another angle. Presume there was a military conflict and domestically-located foreign-owned energy resources did come into play. Surely the United States would seize, without breaking a sweat, the domestic oil. Consequently, is it not China who has a bigger national security risk in purchasing foreign energy assets? If anything, does not such a deal allude to improving relationships?

Another argument is that the Chinese government has a 70% ownership in CNOOC and this is inappropriate for a publically owned company. To be sure, China is a communist single-party state. But the Chinese government's involvement in the deal has led primarily to a series of subsidized, cheap loans. If anything, this access to cheap capital, coupled with winner's curse, suggests that CNOOC is overpaying for Unocal--effectively transferring capital from the Chinese government to the US. I don't think the protectionists should mind that.

China's Central Bank owns hundreds of billions of dollars in US debt. Using this money to purchase Unocal is a smart asset-allocation on the part of the Chinese government. They could do much worse with their money: Selling a large chunk of their US government bonds, flooding the market, would cause significant damage to the US dollar and thus be far worse than anything that CNOOC could do with Unocal.

I bet an old energy conglomerate family such as Gasman's would agree.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Linux in a Nutshell

LIAN 5ed

The fifth edition of Linux in a Nutshell, which I coauthored, is out and ready to be bought.

This edition covers all of the crucial user, administrator, and networking commands across all of the major Linux distributions. New or updated material in this edition include Subversion, package management, Postfix, GRUB, Emacs, vi, sed and gawk. Commands and utilities have been updated for their latest versions, including changes brought on by the 2.6 Linux kernel.

A comprehensive yet concise reference manual, this book will be the golden trophy on any user's, administrator's, or developer's bookshelf.

Grab a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller today. Not tomorrow. Today.

Pick it up along with Linux Kernel Development and complete your Robert Love Collection before the Joneses.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Times are Rough

Poor FSU. First your quarterback, disheveled and disoriented, claims he is the son of god after a disturbing the peace arrest.

Now you need a new mascot. I have a few suggestions. Maybe a Giant Free Shoe?

Wednesday, August 3, 2005


schedutils, my package of scheduling-related utilities, is now part of util-linux, starting with util-linux version 2.13-pre1.

All of our old friends--chrt, ionice, taskset--are there and ready to play. I will not make any more external schedutils releases; 1.5.0 is the last.

What is it that Meatloaf is not willing to do for love?

The 30-year T-Bond makes its return, reversing 2001's braindead decision, allowing the Federal government to finance its debt with the same super low rates as everyone else in the world. This time, let's try to avoid the urge to allow recent trends to overshadow long-term historical data.

Monday, August 1, 2005