Archive | June, 2007

DLSLUG notes, 7-June-2007

The Dartmouth – Lake Sunapee Linux User Group held their meeting on the usual first Thursday, but at a new location: the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center, where Bill McGonigle has recently set up his new offices. Nice place!

Seven attendees found their way to the meeting, and we had an informal chat covering a wide range of issue: the challenges of single-person consultancies, the business of consulting, Nagios, Dartware, a new version of Logo from MIT, having a presence at Hanover’s Street Fest (July 28, btw).

Bill had an interesting proposal: that the group create a “chuck box” (Boy Scouts’ term, ref: that could contain a GNHLUG-booth-in-a-box: a banner, handouts, a tent/canopy,… what else? Interesting idea.

Bill also recommended we check out if we’re considering making promotional items.

Good times had by all. No DLSLUG meeting in July; instead, you’re encouraged to come to the GNHLUG-wide BBQ July 15th. Hope to see you there!

MonadLUG meeting notes, 14-June-2007: Ed Haynes of WindRiver: real-time and Linux

Bill Sconce posted the notes from the MonadLUG meeting of 14-June-2007, one I had to miss due to client projects. It sounds like it was a really interesting meeting. The push to tweak the kernel of Linux to be responsive in a real-time environment benefits us all, as some portions of that specialized work can be rolled into the main-line kernel code. This is one of the great benefits of Open Source, where developers “scratching their itch” – working on their specific needs – can contribute back to the greater community at little or no cost to them.

I heard a similar sentiment voiced at FUDCon ’07 Boston in presentations about the One Laptop Per Child machines: in tracing down some of the code that was running down the batteries on these cute little laptops, the OLPC crowd found entire classes of code that were working fine on desktop and server machines plugged into the wall, but wasting CPU cycles when a different algorithm could be implemented that was more power-friendly. This doesn’t just benefit the OLPC crowd; some of their work goes back into mainline kernels where it makes everyone’s laptop battery last longer, server stacks idle cooler, requiring less AC power and less Air Conditioning power, lowering the heat-disapation requirements of data centers, and slowing global warming. Yet another case of Open Source saving the world.

ongoing · I’ve Seen This Movie

Tim Bray is ticked and he’s not going to take it any more: in I’ve Seen This Movie, Tim blogs,

One would assume that the world’s largest software company, when facing a technology choice, would take the trouble to actually, you know, understand the technologies involved, but the evidence doesn’t support that assumption.
Why? · The thing is, I’ve seen this movie before: The movie where there’s an emerging standard that’s got some buzz and looks promising and maybe it’ll raise the tide and float all our boats a little higher, and then Microsoft says they won’t play.

Geez. Nothing new on the internet but repeats. There’s a great conclusion. Worth reading the entire post.

MonadLUG, 14-June-2007: Ed Haynes: Real-time in Linux

MonadLUG is fortunate this month to have Ed Haynes of Wind River make a presentation on Real-time processing in Linux. Group coordinator Charlie Farinella posts the announcement:

Who: Ed Haynes, Wind River
What: Real-Time
Date: Thursday June 14, 2007
Time: 7:00PM
Where: SAU 1 office, 106 Hancock Rd., Peterborough

Linux is finding itself used in more applications that can be characterized as “Real Time”. What is a Real-Time system? What impact does it have to the Linux OS, and how has Linux evolved to better meet real-time challenges? What’s the difference between “soft” and “hard” real-time? A live demonstration will be held to characterize the performance of difference linux kernels.

Presenting will be Ed Haynes from Wind River. Ed currently serves as a technical resource for the New England Wind River region. He has 10 years experience as a software developer on embedded realtime systems and also led IPv6 development at Nortel.

Sounds like a good meeting!

Is ZFS Apple’s secret weapon? | InfoWorld | News | 2007-06-08 | By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld

Gregg Keizer asks “Is ZFS Apple’s secret weapon?? Sun’s CEO Jonathan Schwartz said Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard would rely on a file system that engineers at his company have spent years creating: ZFS.”

Very cool! GNHLUGgers saw ZFS presented at the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Linux User Group meeting in April when Todd Underwood mentioned the OS X rumors. An XServe running as the front-end to a whole mess of disks could mean a very easy-to-use, near-infinite scaling of storage devices, ideal for any SME with delusions of grandeur. Looking forward to seeing what Apple does with ZFS!

You say Framework, I say Toolkit, let’s call the whole thing off

Well, it seems that a million monkeys pounding on a million keyboards will write… a million PHP frameworks. I’ve got a client project that needs a rich client front end, likely with DHTML-Javascript-AJAX, a powerful middle tier with complex business logic and processing, and an interface to the backend data that can both support (and hopefully automate and generate) the dozens of generic CRUD processes but also allow overriding with complex SQL (you know, the nasty, multiple page, outer join, union, correlated subquery, inline-function SQL that takes days to write, debug and document, runs in milliseconds, and makes the whole operation worthwhile). Bonus points for caching at the component level, plugin widgets that do all the latest cool stuff (tags, RSS, digg, widgets, etc.) and a smart graphical IDE that can act as a design surface, debugger and data browser. A good manual available online and on paper, along with an active developer community is essential, too. Oh, and Free as in beer along with Free as in speech is desirable (for the former) and required (for the latter).

A guy can dream, can’t he?

There’s a great comparison chart on 10 PHP frameworks from, although dated last year. The many comments indicate that some folks think some of the features aren’t properly credited or misunderstood. Some posters may disagree on the meanings of “MVC” or “ORM.” Some may disagree on what “is” is. Some, I suspect, are those monkeys typing at keyboards. Others likely have valid points. The chart is 14 months old (March 26, 2006) and not getting any younger, while the frameworks either rocket ahead or wallow in the doldrums. I note, for example, the Zend Framework version 1.0 is in Release Candidate phase, just two weeks ago, a major milestone usually taken with some gravity.

There’s not a lot of discussion on how and why these ten frameworks were chosen. Why not blueshoes or dojo? And how about those CMSes? A number of the more powerful Content Management Systems could serve as the basis for an application: already they have a user gui, a writer/editor/moderator/developer UI, connections to a database, and “stuff” in the middle. How well the stuff is designed and whether it’s flexible enough to fit application logic in there brings into place the philosophical questions of where an application begins and where content management ends. I fear that way leads madness: a tool specifically developed for one purpose stretched into a general-purpose tool can be a rough fit. The closer the designers stayed to their original focus of “delivering content” the less likely it is to be flexible enough.

It looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me sorting the wheat from the chaff… any pointers from readers would be welcomed. The good news: it’s all about choice. Having many choices is great news.

Alex Feldstein: Dèjá Vu: Entity Framework will not be a part of original Orcas release

Alex Feldstein reports Alex Feldstein: Dèjá Vu: Entity Framework will not be a part of original Orcas release

“Mike Pizzo [MS] in the ADO.NET Team Blog, tells us that the Entity Framework will not be part of the initial release of Orcas. Note that the EF link is from June 06 when things were a looking a little more rosy… Sounds to me like WinFS all over again. And Im not the only one. Mike Pizzo gets the message and explains or apologizes depending on your point of view. And swears that this is not WinFS all over again.”

Here’s one problem with a single-vendor solution: if/when they blow it, you’re stuck waiting for them to fix it. With Open Source, you can pick up the code and finish it yourself, find someone else to finish it, or decide the version 0.4 is good enough for you to put into product (yikes!). It’s your choice. Or, in the Open Marketplace of software, you can decide to go with a different project, whether a fork of the original or a different project. It’s your choice.

It’s too tempting, as a leading vendor, to overpromise and then lead your customers along. IBM is credited with refining the process of “vaporware” by releasing far more press releases and promises than by releasing working code on time. That’s not to say every software project doesn’t start with overblown hopes. gold-plated requirements, delusions of grandeur and overly aggressive delivery schedules. You have to be a hopeless optimist to be in the software development business, thinking that you are going to outsmart these machines and defy Murphy. You don’t need to be crazy to work here, but it helps. We offer on-the-job training.

I’ve noticed in dealing with a number of Open Source shops that there is no rush to get the latest and greatest. That might be what the vendor wants for revenues, but it’s not necessarily in the best interests of the software. Sure, security exploit patches need to get out fast, but those are often back-ported to several well-used versions; if there are folks using the code, there’s a good chance there’s someone with the savvy to add the patch into the source tree and rebuild the older versions. But we all know new features bring new bugs and need a little settling time to stabilize, even after thorough betas. Early adopters can get a “first to market” advantage, but not if they are so mired in bugs, workarounds and patches that nothing works. So, there’s often interesting mixes of old and new: an older and stable OS, web server and database server, and a cutting edge language or framework. You use the latest of the tools that matter, but don’t have a public beta of every element of your application stack.

The dynamics of the software development market continue to churn. May we live in exciting times!

Phil Windley’s Technometria: Saying Yes to Paper Ballots

From Phil Windley’s Technometria | Saying Yes to Paper Ballots:

The standards are still evolving and experience is showing that the electronic machines do have problems accurately recording votes. (Emphasis in the original)

Paper ballots. Paper ballots. Paper ballots. Tell your congress(wo)man. Tell your senator. Tell your reps. Paper ballots. Let’s stop paying private firms huge amounts of money to ship badly-designed, poorly-engineered, easily-tricked voting machines. Voting is a lot more important than getting the results on the TV that night. Let’s do it right. Paper ballots. Audit trails. Open standards. Open code review.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.