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Kernel Traffic #39 For 18 Oct 1999

By Zack Brown

Table Of Contents


The printer-friendly version is now linked from the table of contents, so there's no need to link from anywhere else. That saves some trouble.

Mailing List Stats For This Week

We looked at 976 posts in 3950K.

There were 388 different contributors. 166 posted more than once. 137 posted last week too.

The top posters of the week were:

1. knfsd Discussed

23 Sep 1999 - 8 Oct 1999 (19 posts) Archive Link: "knfsd 1.5 is released"

Topics: FS: NFS

People: Neil BrownH.J. LuDavid WoodhouseH. J. Lu

There was a bit of an implementation discussion following the announcement of knfsd 1.5; H. J. Lu, while not the maintainer of the patch (there's actually no official maintainer) does put out releases now and then for his own use. This time, someone had sent him some patches against a previous version, and H. J. replied asking for a more uptodate version to include in his next release, since he had already included some patches from David Woodhouse which conflicted with these new submissions.

Neil Brown pointed out that David's patches had not really been intended to be included in an official release, and were more a work-in-progress. According to him, David intended to tidy them up soon, but until then they should not be used. He also gave a pointer to David's and his thoughts on the direction for the patch culled from private email and various lists.

H. J. replied with some patches, in light of the new situation, and Neil had some criticism and suggestions. He summed up the problem as he saw it, with, "An NFS file handle has xdev and xino entries which indicate which export entry is being used. If mountd is to give an NFSEXP_NEGATIVE entry to the kernel to reject a given file handle, it needs to know this xdev/xino information somehow. Currently it doesn't (unless, by luck, xdev/xino is the root file the filesystem). It is only given the device, and the path to the actual file which is being accessed" and went on to describe his own ideas for a solution. H. J. thought these represented too divergent a direction, and chose a different method, closer to what he had done originally. Neil had a whole bunch of problems with H. J.'s solution, and posted a long description of problems he'd found in the latest release. There followed some further implementation discussion. At one point, H. J. said, "I see 1.5.x as alpha. Nothing is final yet. The reason I like it is it gets rid of /var/lib/nfs/rmtab. However, that means we have to find a way for kernel to communicate to mountd. Maybe RPC is a better choice. Anyone wants to implement it?"

Later, under the Subject: A new Linux/NFS mailing list, H. J. gave a pointer to the subscription page of a new discussion list.

Later, under the Subject: knfsd 1.5.x and 1.4.x, H. J. said, "As people have found out that knfsd 1.5.x is not as stable as 1.4.x. knfsd 1.5.x should be viewed as alpha. The production system should use 1.4.x. The current one is 1.4.7 and I am planning to make soon."

2. 'Fuck' Removed From Kernel Docs

2 Oct 1999 - 8 Oct 1999 (18 posts) Archive Link: "The URL to "Tour of the Linux Kernel Source""

People: Tigran AivazianRik van Riel

This Subject was first discussed in Issue #24, Section #2  (8 Jun 1999: Ooooooo!) . This time, someone pointed out that, listed in the Documentation/kernel-docs.txt file, was no longer available, and asked if the "Tour Of The Linux Kernel Source" could be found anywhere else. Rik van Riel volunteered to help set up such a thing, and other folks gave links to Linux Cross Reference and the Kernel Hacking HOWTO. Regarding the latter, Tigran Aivazian was offended by the word "fuck" in the title of section 3.1; several folks weighed in on various sides of the issue, and although no solution presented itself on the list, a quick check shows that the word is no longer in the Kernel Hacking HOWTO.

3. Vmware Developers Unresponsive To Bug Reports

2 Oct 1999 - 5 Oct 1999 (5 posts) Archive Link: "2.2.13-pre6+ ide cdrom issue"

People: Jens AxboeAlan CoxSteven N. Hirsch

Steven N. Hirsch was still having problems with vmware failing to recognize his cdrom drive. He told Jens Axboe that reverting Jens' patches got rid of the problem. With them in, the problem would still appear from time to time. Jens replied, "Sigh. The vmware guys are not answering my mails which makes this issue hard to resolve." He offered to back out the changes that were causing Steven's problem, but Alan Cox interrupted, with, "Don't do this. This is the wrong answer for a development kernel. Backing it out means we never find the problem until its too late." Jens replied that he'd just been looking for a quick fix, but in light of Alan's objection, he'd start looking into the problem more forwardly. No solution appeared during the thread.

4. 3rd-Party Modules Interfere With Kernel Debugging (More Vmware Problems)

3 Oct 1999 - 10 Oct 1999 (16 posts) Archive Link: "Kernel 2.2.11 crash..."

Topics: Binary-Only Modules

People: Alan CoxMike A. HarrisDavid S. Miller

Mike A. Harris posted an oops he'd gotten from 2.2.11, adding that he'd been using vmware. Alan Cox replied, "If you have 3rd party modules loaded then its not a useful oops report. It could be the third party modules." Mike replied, "So does that mean that as long as I'm using VMWARE, which is virtually 100% of the time, that if I incur an oops, it is useless and unwanted on l-k because VMWARE _might_ have caused it?" Alan replied, "Yes."

David S. Miller pointed out that binary-only modules created a black-box situation that strongly interfered with kernel debugging, but Mike corrected him, saying that vmware's modules did indeed come with sources, although they were not GPLed. David replied, "I stand corrected, and publicly apologize."

Alan added, "Those modules allow vmware itself to do a lot of clever unsafe things behind the kernels back. So we don't have a good way to track what vmware does. We also get a lot of vmware caused crash reports. Even with the modules for those small bits it is impossible for anyone but the vmware people to debug such a crash. All I ask people to do is to not load vmware from a boot up (system or modules) and duplicate the crash. Then I can debug it"

5. Mobile Modems Under Linux

4 Oct 1999 - 6 Oct 1999 (3 posts) Archive Link: "Mobile modems under Linux"

Topics: Modems

People: Harald MilzMarc MutzRiley Williams

Riley Williams asked if anyone knew how to set up a mobile phone that was supported using Linux's IRDA suite. Marc Mutz gave a pointer to The Linux IrDA Project homepage, adding that the IR-HOWTO linked from there, discussed at least the Ericsson SH888 and Nokia 6110; but Harald Milz pointed out, "6110 doesn't work yet. You need a mobile with a built-in hardware modem. The Ericsson is one of them. Nokia 8110 should work too. If you don't want to pay the premium, a GSM capable modem like the Xircom Realport or those from Option work just fine with most mobiles and a cable. I have the realport and a Nokia 6150, works just great."

6. Microsoft's Attack Discussed

5 Oct 1999 - 7 Oct 1999 (35 posts) Archive Link: "Microsoft Web Site"

Topics: Access Control Lists, BSD, Clustering, Disks: IDE, Microsoft, POSIX, SMP, USB, Web Servers

People: Bernard WeiBernhard RosenkraenzerAndreas GruenbacherSteven N. HirschRik van RielHenrik Olsen

Derek J. Balling gave a pointer to a Microsoft article that pointed out Windows' superiority to Linux. There were some disagreements with the factual quality of the article, and Rik van Riel volunteered to collect "annotations" and put them up on the web.

Bernard Wei made the following plea:

Any misinformation found there must have been deliberately put there to generate reactions from the Linux community. Please ignore them.

Think about it: Why sending a list of satisfy linux users to them? So that they can target their marketing power on these users? Why correct them of their misconception? (whether deliberately put there or not) Why argue with them when we knew all they will do is ignore us? Probably covering their ears and chat NT is better, NT is better...

If you post a response, it is easy to prove some of those responses are wrong by simply a case or two where it doesn't apply. This would make their propaganda even more believable. We end up throwing the ball back and fore... At lease now, most knowledgeable people know there is something wrong in those article and I'll leave it at that.

Responding to such things will only waste developers' time, slow down linux development, make us target the wrong area of development. We could end up trying to improve on insignificant areas of the kernel while the important technology are falling behind.

Why don't we just drop this thread and work on problems we have here? There are definite IDE/SMP/Network/crash threads floating around for some time.

He was not the only one who felt the discussion was either pointless, detrimental, or off-topic. But at least one post made it to the list, criticizing many of the points made in the article. Bernhard Rosenkraenzer replied to Rik's suggestion:

Ok - guess you already have a lot of those, but first of all here are a couple of definite wrongs that could even be used to sue Microsoft (they'd do it to us if we wrote something similar about NT - I suggest we at least contact them and threaten we'll do the same unless they correct themselves!):

  1. "The Linux SWAP file is limited to 128 MB RAM": Entirely untrue. v0 swapfiles are limited to 128 MB, v1 swapfiles have no limit.
  2. "Linux only provides access controls for files and directories" They never heard of ACLs apparently. Hasn't been true for ages.
  3. "Linux security is all-or-nothing. Administrators cannot delegate administrative privileges:" Unless you're intelligent enough to know how to use sudo, setuid or ACLs.
  4. "This is made complex due to the fact that there isn't a central location for security issues to be reported and fixed" Never heard of bugtraq or cert, have they?
  5. "Linux as a desktop operating system makes no sense" No comment - it's obvious they're wrong here.
  6. "Linux does not support important ease-of-use technologies such as Plug and Play, USB, and Power Management" Linux PnP support (isapnp) has been reliable for quite a while, the PnP support in 2.3 kernels works well, USB works well in 2.3, the USB patches for 2.2.x work well, Power Management has been supported forever. NT 4.0, which they're talking about in the article, doesn't have good PnP support either...
  7. "cumbersome nature of the existing GUI's" Let them show ONE point where KDE and GNOME are cumbersome and Windoze isn't...
  8. "The Linux operating system is not suitable for mainstream usage by business or home users." No comment...

Now, on to the slightly less obvious stuff:

  1. "For File and Print services, according to independent tests conducted by PC Week Labs, the Windows NT 4.0 operating system delivers 52 percent better performance" Any OS can be tuned to perform better than any other OS for one task.
  2. "Windows NT 4.0 with Internet Information Server 4.0 delivers 41 percent better [...] than Linux and Apache" Unless, of course, you compile Linux and Apache with the right optimizations. The mmap patch for apache helps quite a bit too... And khttpd beats everything for static pages...
  3. "The Linux community continues to promise major SMP and performance improvements. They have been promising these since the development of the 2.0 Kernel in 1996" And it has happened. Slowly, but gradually, SMP is getting better... They don't seem to understand 2.2.x kernels aren't supposed to bring in a lot of new features...
  4. "Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 has been proven in demanding customer environments to be a reliable operating system." Of course they have - but that doesn't mean Linux hasn't. Let's just send a list of satisfied Linux customers...
  5. "There are no commercially proven clustering technologies to provide High Availability for Linux." There are no open-source proven clustering technologies to provide H.A. for NT...
  6. "Therefore, commercial support services for Linux will be fee-based and will likely be priced at a premium" They aren't much more expensive than commercial support for NT, and they're better (how many commercial NT supporters can fix kernel bugs for you?). And of course you can get FREE support in mailing lists/newsgroups/... which usually works better than M$ support...
  7. "Linux is a higher risk option than Windows NT" Entirely untrue... "How easy is it to find skilled development and support people for Linux" Very easy... Just look at any technical Linux mailing list/newsgroup.
  8. "Who performs end-to-end testing for Linux-based solutions" Red Hat, MandrakeSoft and SuSE, just to name 3 of them...
  9. "Linux system administrators must spend huge amounts of time understanding the latest Linux bugs and determining what to do about them." NT system administrators must spend huge amounts of time waiting for M$ to release a new service pack that fixes the latest known problems... Or doesn't! In the mean time, the only thing they can do about them is switching to a different OS. On Linux or *BSD, they can just fix it or find someone who does.
  10. "Misconfigure any part of the operating system and the system could be vulnerable to attack" The same is true for any OS including NT...
  11. "cumbersome nature of the existing GUI's would make retraining end-users a huge undertaking and would add significant cost" Our secretaries have been using Windows and Excel before. Now they're using Linux and StarOffice without even noticing a difference (except for the lack of bluescreens).
  12. "A recent report from Forrester Research highlighted the fact that today 93 percent of enterprise ISVs develop applications for Windows NT, while only 13 percent develop for Linux" A recent report highlighted the fact that today 95 percent of open source developers develop applications for Linux, *BSD, or similar Unixes, while only less than 1 percent develop for Windows NT.
  13. What about the "There is no good remote control system for NT" 'myth'?
  14. What about the "Linux will still work well on a 386/486" 'myth'?

Being in a Linux-only company, I have no idea about the TCO stuff... Someone else take this. ;)

Steven N. Hirsch and Henrik Olsen were quick to point out that Bernhard was wrong in item 2 of his first list: ACL's were not in the official kernel (although there were patches floating around). Andreas Gruenbacher gave a pointer to the POSIX Access Control Lists (ACLs) for Linux page.

7. Red Hat 6.1 version.h Modifications

5 Oct 1999 - 11 Oct 1999 (25 posts) Archive Link: "Red Hat 6.1 version.h modifications"

People: Ben CollinsBernhard RosenkraenzerMiquel van Smoorenburg

I pointed out that David Mandala noticed that Red Had had changed the format of the version.h file. It had previously contained the kernel versioning information, but now contained pre-processor commands that would yield the proper versioning information if the pre-processor was run, but would break any package that relied on a simple "grep" or other tool to determing the kernel version from version.h; Bernhard Rosenkraenzer defended the change, and pointed out that 'autoconf', for instance, still worked fine with it. But Ben Collins replied, "It seems to have added one more complexity that isn't standard on other systems, however. So now when users manually upgrade their kernel, and things break, we will have to ask them, "are you using that redhat > 6.1? did you upgrade your kernel headers in /usr/include/{linux,scsi,asm}?""

Bernhard replied, "People manually upgrading their kernel don't have the modified version.h, because /usr/include/linux should be a symlink to /usr/src/linux/include/linux in any case..." but Miquel van Smoorenburg groaned, "Argh please not _that_ discussion again. On my (Debian) system, /usr/include/linux is _not_ a symlink to /usr/src/linux/include/linux and hasn't been for ages."

8. New Encryption Signature Key For Linux Kernel Archives

6 Oct 1999 (1 post) Archive Link: "Linux Kernel Archives: new signature key"

People: H. Peter Anvin

H. Peter Anvin gave a pointer to The Linux Kernel Archives OpenPGP Signature, adding, "I'm posting this here to maximize distribution and minimize the risk of a spoof, today or in the future. Sorry for being semi-offtopic. The Linux Kernel Archives authentication key has changed; we are now using an OpenPGP key compatible with GnuPG and PGP 5/6. The new key and the old key revokation certificate are attached, and are always available at and from common PGP key servers."







Sharon And Joy

Kernel Traffic is grateful to be developed on a computer donated by Professor Greg Benson and Professor Allan Cruse in the Department of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco. This is the same department that invented FlashMob Computing. Kernel Traffic is hosted by the generous folks at All pages on this site are copyright their original authors, and distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2.0.