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17 October 2008, 11:08

Linux Kongress 2008

Thorsten Leemhuis

At the recent 2008 Linux conference, big names in the world of Linux presented current and future developments. Samba developers now want to combine the code for Samba 3 and 4, which until now have been developed separately. In future, HA and cluster developers want to bundle their efforts on specific modules. Dirk Hohndel showed off a netbook that boots up Linux in five seconds and in his keynote speech, he called on developers to orient themselves more toward the needs of users.

Linux Kongress 2008 took place in Hamburg last week, once again attracting well-known developers working on the Linux kernel and other core components of modern Linux distributions as guests or speakers. But the Linux Kongress today has little in common with the star-studded events that the German Unix Users Group (GUUG) organised in the 90s. Back then, the Linux Kongress was still the main venue for Linux developers to exchange experiences and it attracted all of the big names in Linux. This function has now been taken over by the annual Kernel Summit, which has been held at locations on various continents in recent years.

The Kongress these days is still a formidable event. Speakers in the two-day programme of presentations included big names, such as James Bottomley (administrator of the Linux SCSI subsystem and Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board Chair), Jonathan Corbet (Kernel developer known for his work on, Volker Lendecke (Samba developer and co-founder of SerNet GmbH), and Dirk Hohndel (Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist at Intel). Most of the presentations were at an advanced level and offered a good overview of current and coming developments in and around the Linux kernel.

Quid pro Quo

James Bottomley discusses the value of open source
Zoom James Bottomley discusses the value of open source
In his keynote address, "What is the Value of Open Source", at the opening of the Linux Kongress, James Bottomley spoke about what really matters in open source development. He talked about the development history of BSD, GNU, and Linux, explaining the difference in motivation behind the different projects. He underscored repeatedly how Linux is different from the others: to contribute to Linux it wasn't necessary, according to him, to embrace some philosophy (GNU) or definition of freedom (BSD). Rather, what was important above all else was technical merit and refinement of the code. He put forward that the GPLv2 primarily serves to ensure that improvements would flow back into Linux, a "Quid Pro Quo". The freedom of the code would thus not be defined ahead of time, but rather it would arise naturally out of the GPLv2. He compared this to the United States Constitution, which never explicitly states the goal of creating a "free society"; instead, it lays down some rules that are intended to set up the conditions for such a society. Bottomley's presentation slides give further details of his thinking; video recordings of his address, as well as those of Jonathan Corbet and Dirk Hohndel are also available online.

In his "Kernel Report", Corbet offered an overview of current developments in the Linux Kernel. The talk began with a brief retrospective – Corbet, after all, gave one of the first kernel reports at Linux Kongress 2001. Looking at Corbet's 2001 presentation, anyone who has been around the Linux kernel for a long time will surely catch himself smiling now and again. Some of the things the report describes have become commonplace, while others have been completely thrown out and a whole new approach taken; an approach that at the time would have been on the distant horizon.

Corbet's presentation this year dealt with, among other things, updates to the latest 2.6.x versions and gave an overview of the challenges ahead. He discussed the quality of the kernel, calling attention to the regression tracking that Rafael J. Wysocki has been working on rather intensively over the past few months, as well as the helpful Kerneloops project. Corbet also underscored Linus Torvalds' recent strict enforcement of the mostly unwritten rules of the development process and he addressed numerous other challenges; among them, "out of tree code", which kernel developers have increasingly been countering by refusing to integrate drivers and updates that are not fully developed into the main development branch, where they would be further developed. Regular Kernel Log readers are likely already familiar with these and other issues discussed in the presentation.

Plumbing the depths

The numerous other presentations went much deeper into technical details. Many of the speakers, have made their presentation slides available online:

  • Samba specialist Volker Lendecke provided a "Samba Status Update" (presentation slides, text). In his presentation, he not only discusses Samba's new cluster support and data encryption, but also presents plans for Samba 4. While its support for operation as an active directory (AD) compatible domain controller (DC) is now firmly established, Samba 4 lacks numerous functions available in Samba 3 such as support for clusters, printers, and Posix ACLs. Developers have therefore decided to combine Samba's two development lines. The Samba 4 daemon would accept connections and be responsible for AD/DC functions and it would start a Samba 3 process for most of the other functions. Samba developers followed a similar strategy years ago with Samba 2.0 before Samba 2.2 combined the two code development lines.
  • In his presentation entitled "Samba’s New Registry Based Configuration" (presentation slides, text) SerNet employee and Samba developer Michael Adam discusses Samba's registry database which was introduced in Samba 3.2.
  • In "Chasing the Penguin: Evolution and State of the Kernel" (presentation slides, text) Wolfgang Mauerer deals with documentation and Linux kernel development. With this frame of reference, he takes a closer look at high resolution timers and the completely fair scheduler (CFS), which are both relatively new to the Linux kernel.
  • Glauber Costa's talk, "There can be only one – The unified x86 architecture" (presentation slides, text) provides details and background on the merging of the Linux source code, going on since Linux 2.6.24, to support the x86/32 and x86/64 architectures.
  • Some Novell and Red Hat developers want to promote a unified software stack for HA systems and clusters
    Zoom Some Novell and Red Hat developers want to promote a unified software stack for HA systems and clusters
    In "High-Availability on Linux: The Future", Lars Marowsky-Brée reported on a recently held developers' meeting, among other things. At the meeting, developers active in cluster and HA development from Novell, Oracle, Red Hat and other companies – far from the watchful gaze of their marketing directors – discussed which components from the very different RHEL and SLES software stacks would be the best basis in the long-term for halfway unified HA and cluster stack under Linux. The presentation slide pictured in the photograph shows that a good mix of open source software primarily promoted by Novell (green) and Red Hat (red) has been developed.
  • Remote replication was the subject of a talk entitled "Device-Mapper Remote Replication Target" (presentation slides, text) by Red-Hat developer Heinz Mauelshagen.
  • Sun employee Dalibor Topic was primarily concerned in his talk, "Evolution of Java Software on GNU/Linux", with aspects of distributing (Java) software and what it means in terms of Linux distributions. In this context, he explains some of the problems and discusses solutions that are already being worked on. The solutions will make it easier for distributions and developers to distribute and acquire (open source) Java software, now that the large distributions are providing OpenJDK open source Java.


Intel employee Dirk Hohndel, one of the driving forces behind moblin, designed for netbooks and mobile internet devices (MIDs), was the closing presenter at the event. Hohndel, who in his blog briefly sums up the history of the Linux Kongress and underscores that it was the first such event, showed off a netbook that only needed five seconds, from the time the Linux boot process began, to bring up a usable desktop interface. Intel employee Arjan van de Ven had already demonstrated the same fast boot up some weeks ago at the Linux Plumbers Conference, explaining exactly, how it was done.

Also in his keynote, Hohndel criticised the practice among some open source developers of constantly starting over, rather than improving existing software. He called on the developer community to orient themselves more to the needs of users, so that even inexperienced users could use netbooks or MIDs as intuitively as an old pad and pencil.


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