iTWire - iTWire - Open Sauce iTWire - Technology news, trends, reviews, jobs Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:18:40 +1100 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb .Net is now open so what will Miguel de Icaza do? .Net is now open so what will Miguel de Icaza do?

As Linux continues to spread its tentacles deeper and deeper into the enterprise, the chief of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin, would no doubt have had many days when he had reason to quaff a glass of champagne.

But there has been no bigger day for the man who manages the organisation that serves to promote the kernel created by Linus Torvalds, than Wednesday, when Microsoft announced that it would be open sourcing the server side .NET stack and expanding it to run on Linux and Mac OS platforms.

It is an open admission by the company once considered the 800-kg gorilla of the software industry that it has no choice but to get with the prevailing trend and cater to the growing use of open source.

What Zemlin had to say about it wasn't in any way smug, but I have no doubt that he would have been grinning from ear to ear as he wrote this blog entry.

{loadposition sam08}As he put it, very diplomatically, "We do not agree with everything Microsoft does and certainly many open source projects compete directly with Microsoft products. However, the new Microsoft we are seeing today is certainly a different organisation when it comes to open source."

While Zemlin is enjoying the development, another prominent man in the open source world will be wondering what he will do next. For years, Miguel de Icaza, the co-founder of the GNOME Desktop project, has been tailgating APIs from Redmond, and building software like Mono and Moonlight to clone parts of .NET and Silverlight, the latter a technology that Microsoft vowed would be a Flash killer.

Alas, some time back, Microsoft announced that Silverlight development would effectively end and De Icaza was left with a lot of code that was of no use. There was no beacon left to follow, no light in the sky to guide his way.

Now what will De Icaza do with Mono? He always said he was working overtime on developing Mono because he wanted Linux developers to work on .NET which he lauded as a development framework. From now on, people do not need the copy – they have access to the original.

There have been countless spats and lots of bad blood generated by what De Icaza did and that will not go away. One does not need to go into detail, there is evidence aplenty of this on the internet.

Overall, it is a pity that De Icaza wasted so much of his own time – he is a talented developer – and that of other coders whom he led down the Mono garden path. Developer time is the scarcest resource in free and open source software projects and all the effort that went into Mono and Moonlight could well have been used elsewhere.

One thing that De Icaza failed to realise was that Microsoft would do what it considered good for its business. There is no room for sentiment at a proprietary software company.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 13 Nov 2014 19:28:09 +1100
OpenSSL, Bash bugs show why firms should back FOSS projects OpenSSL, Bash bugs show why firms should back FOSS projects

This year has been an unusual one for free software in that two popular projects have been hit by vulnerabilities that have had wide ramifications for all classes of software. And that is one good reason why the big proprietary software firms should look to support such projects financially.

The OpenSSL cryptographic software library was the first to suffer, when a vulnerability dubbed as Heartbleed, was discovered. This library is used across the spectrum. According to a website devoted to the bug: "This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs)."

OpenSSL has a four-man core team. The same four are also part of the 15-member development team. Many of these developers are also involved in other free software and open source projects. And, lest one forget, they also have to do paid work somewhere to put food on the table.

It is definitely not the place for a man looking for riches. Yet over the years, development has proceeded apace and, without any praise or awards, this small team has provided a library that has near universal usage. (There is now a fork of the project called LibreSSL which was started after the bug was found by Theo de Raadt who is the leader of the OpenBSD project).

{loadposition sam08}The second free software project to suffer was Bash, the Bourne-again shell which was created by the GNU Project set up by Richard Stallman in the 1980s. As the project describes it, "Bash is the GNU Project's shell. Bash is the Bourne Again SHell. Bash is an sh-compatible shell that incorporates useful features from the Korn shell (ksh) and C shell (csh). It is intended to conform to the IEEE POSIX P1003.2/ISO 9945.2 Shell and Tools standard. It offers functional improvements over sh for both programming and interactive use. In addition, most sh scripts can be run by Bash without modification."

When a series of remote vulnerabilities were discovered beginning on September 24, it was left to individual developers to come up with fixes. The lone Bash developer, Chet Ramey, was snowed under. Red Hat's Florian Weimer did yeoman work - while Apple, a company which uses Bash as its default shell, sat by and did little. It was tardy in the extreme with its patches and left the task of creating patches for older versions of its Mac OS X operating system to an individual.

Proprietary software companies love to use code that is available under the BSD family of licences,  because they can take it, make changes, and lock it away for good in the depths of their own operating systems. They benefit no end from this, but rarely offer even a cent in goodwill to those who wrote the code.

Developers who release their code under the GPL family of licences have a safeguard against the kind of usage detailed above, because the GPL licences are a "share and share alike" breed. One can freely use code and modify it for one's own purposes. But if one distributes it, then one has to offer all the changes to anyone who asks for it.

But despite these safeguards, proprietary software companies often do not play fair. And free software and open-source software developers are not the most militant, and let things lie. Unless someone takes up cudgels for them, they just let it go as it is too exhausting to fight these battles.

But the year has shown clearly that there is more manpower needed in projects like OpenSSL and Bash, and others where there is wide usage. For example, the usage of OpenSSH, an implementation of the SSH protocol by the OpenBSD team, is more than 80 per cent. When he came to Melbourne a decade ago, OpenBSD project leader de Raadt was quite frank about the help he had received from big companies: "Hardware donations do not come from vendors who use OpenSSH on parts of their stuff. They come from individuals. The hardware vendors who use OpenSSH on all of their products have given us a total of one laptop since we developed OpenSSH five years ago. And asking them for that laptop took a year. That was IBM."

Developers need hardware to test their software against. They need bandwidth. And they need to be paid because they can then take their time to concentrate and code, instead of having to do a rush job because they have to also attend to their responsibilities at a paid job.

There are any number of big proprietary software companies that benefit from free software - Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Cisco, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo!, and Oracle to name a few. It is high time that these companies started contributing money to a developers' fund from which projects like OpenSSL and Bash can be supported.

All these companies have billions stashed away yet rarely does one see any decent-sized donation to any free or open source software project. And all the while, those very projects are saving the companies plenty.

Both the OpenSSL bug and the Bash bug have shown that it will cost far less to pay for some more coders in these projects simply because it will lessen the chances of remotely exploitable bugs being introduced into software by overworked and underpaid individuals who are trying their best to manage to release software in the face of unimaginable odds. It is a cheap solution to preventing oneself from faciing public embarrassment and problems down the track.

Image courtesy

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Fri, 07 Nov 2014 11:08:40 +1100
Linux Australia puts curbs on mailing lists Linux Australia puts curbs on mailing lists

Linux Australia, the umbrella group for Linux user groups in the country, has imposed a censorship regime on its mailing list, with regulations that run to nearly 1000 words to govern them.

The stated aim of the new policy, which took effect on October 22, "is to foster open dialogue and discussion on relevant forums, while providing a safe space free from undesired behaviours such as personal attack and 'flaming'," according to a post by the LA secretary Kathy Reid.

In sharp contrast to the avowed open nature of the group, the policy was never put up for discussion on the LA general mailing list. The policy was developed by the office-bearers and announced as being in effect.

And nobody has objected!

{loadposition sam08}After announcing that the policy had taken effect, Reid wrote: "If you would like to propose amendments to the policy, the best place to discuss amendments is the policies mailing list, and changes can be proposed openly via GitHub."

Reid has now created a new mailing list to discuss amendments, a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.

The need for such a bureaucratic policy is questionable as there is very little that is offensive on the list. On the other hand, the policy does tend to discourage animated discussions between geeks which can be extremely illuminating.

As iTWire has reported in the past, there have been very occasional flare-ups on the Linux Australia mailing list, far too few to justify anything like the policy which has been drafted to cover it. It seems like overkill and that is putting it mildly.

However, there is a strain of political correctness running through Linux Australia, driven mostly by the feminists in its ranks; some in these ranks have actually enunciated a wish to make talks at the organisation's annual conference suitable for anyone who is 12 years old.

This is a ridiculous aim as conferences for adults are generally not meant to cater to 12-year-olds. But LA has been in thrall to the feminists ever since John Ferlito, a weak-willed president who could easily be led by the nose, took office a few years ago. The new president, Joshua Hesketh, who took over in 2013 has shown no desire to go against the feminists who now control the show.

But then this is not surprising, as feminists among the open source crowd have now come to even believe that they have the right to try and have talks with which they do not agree removed from the agenda of conferences.

Coming back to the mailing list policy, the pall of censorship may well extend to removing any offensive posts of the past from the list archives. This has been proposed by one member, Glen Turner, and shows the thinking prevalent in the group right now.

Linux Australia's conferences and its mailing lists were once an open area for members of the community, But now it appears to be meant for mediocre bureaucrats - Reid is a typical example - who want to control the show and rise up the ranks. Members of the American Republican Party would feel right at home reading the lists now.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 06 Nov 2014 17:36:07 +1100
Facebook aids terror. UK foreign policy? Certainly not Facebook aids terror. UK foreign policy? Certainly not

Another day, another bunch of asinine statements from a government official. This time, it's Robert Hannigan, the new director of GCHQ, Britain's spook agency that has been outed as being hand-in-glove with the NSA as far as mass surveillance of people goes, claiming that Facebook aids terrorists.

In an article written for the Financial Times, Hannigan is quoted as accusing technology companies like Facebook and Twitter of having "become the command and control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us".

The general tone of his rant is that these companies - and others like WhatsApp, YouTube, or Russia's VKontakte, all of which are used by members of the Islamic State to spread their message - should co-operate more with the spy agencies.

And Hannigan, of course, had a few choice words for the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is generally blamed for all the problems that intelligence agencies face these days. Snowden, an NSA contractor employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong early last year and took a massive tranche of classified documents with him.

{loadposition sam08}He finally gained asylum in Russia and the material he took has been released to a few journalists, like Glenn Greenwald. The extent of spying on ordinary people revealed in these documents has led to a backlash against many US companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Cisco, which have lost foreign business deals as a result.

Hannigan whines that Islamic State should not be using the internet the way it is: "Where al-Qaeda and its affiliates saw the Internet as a place to disseminate material anonymously or meet in 'dark spaces', Isis has embraced the web as a noisy channel in which to promote itself, intimidate others, and radicalise new recruits."

So in some respects, Islamic State has learned from what spy agencies do online. Who's to blame?

No spin of this nature would be complete without some reference to child abuse and Hannigan does not disappoint on this score. "I suspect most ordinary users of the internet are ahead of them: they have strong views on the ethics of companies, whether on taxation, child protection or privacy; they do not want the media platforms they use with their friends and families to facilitate murder or child abuse," he writes.

But Hannigan is silent on what is actually causing terrorism to ferment in countries like Iraq. He makes no reference to the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US, the UK, Australia and a few others, an invasion that resulted in a massive power vacuum and the installation of Shias in power. The resultant bloodshed – other minorities fought back and the place is now a bloody mess – has culminated in the rising up of the Islamic State, a movement of Sunnis, the other dominant sect in Islam.

Of course, had Hannigan spoken out about the actual causes of terrorism, he would have probably had a very short reign as GCHQ director. British Prime Minister David Cameron would have been on the phone in an hour to sack him.

Hannigan, who was formerly with the British Foreign Office, also made no mention of the foreign policy of the US, the UK and a number of other vassal states, policy that has supported – and continues to support – any number of dictators in Muslim countries, at the expense of the local populaces.

There is a simple equation that Hannigan would do well to meditate upon: the schoolyard bully can keep punching weaker kids in the face for some time. But when those skinny kids develop a bit of muscle, they will waste no time in hitting back.

The blowback has been evident for some time, with the most spectacular being on 11 September 2001. One wonder when people like Hannigan will realise that they, and their outmoded thinking, are part of the problem. If Hannigan expects public support after expressing views like these, he will probably be disappointed.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:37:20 +1100
Data retention: what happens when bytes go missing? Data retention: what happens when bytes go missing?

At this stage of the Australian government's clumsy effort to put data retention laws in place, it is clear that the public is not being told the whole truth. Or even a fraction of it.

When it comes to tripping over one's own incompetence, one can't find a better duo than Attorney-General George Brandis and - surprisingly - Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. At times I find myself tending towards the explanation that Turnbull is making the blunders he is, simply because his heart is not in selling this legislation - which, deep down, he opposes - and he wants to make that point  clear.

The government's bungling has been written about from the day that Brandis started fumbling around to try and explain what metadata means. There's been a fair bit of commentary about it.

But on another front, there is certainly much more to say. And that is the matter of security.

{loadposition sam08}A few days back, the government announced that it would introduce new laws, to stop companies from storing the metadata that is to be retained for two years under the proposed legislation, in places that are vulnerable to hackers. This is obviously a reaction to the statement by ISP iiNet that it will look for the cheapest data repository in China to store the retained data.

Pray, how does the government determine which place is vulnerable and which isn't? Is it planning to hire an whole army of technical staff to make this determination at a time when well-qualified and experienced folk are at a premium?

Or will it hire a bunch of callow MCSEs to go around and make judgments on this score? Since when did cost become an indicator of competence? If it were, you would expect a higher degree of competence from both Brandis and Turnbull, two of the better-paid people in the country.

Over the years, as more and more data has moved online, there have been reports from different parts of the world about data theft. More recently the incidents seem to have lessened.

There is one reason for this (and it isn't speculation). Most data theft these days is done with a view to making money - and personal data, such as that which Brandis and Turnbull propose to keep for two years, is prime material which will fetch a handy price. (Why, if Google could buy the whole lot quietly, the Australian government may be able to balance its budget sooner.)

Such data breaches are not publicised either by those who commit it or those who are at the receiving end. The person/people who stole the data want money and a quiet ransom note is all they send. The company concerned quietly pays up and keeps things hush-hush; if the incident were to become public, then that company's business would suffer greatly.

Hacking has, thus, become a very sophisticated activity. Banks have budgets to handle this threat, expenses which are filed away under various heads. But mum's the word as far as possible.

In this scenario, for the Australian government to mandate data retention, and allow the bits and bytes to be stored outside the country, is sheer lunacy. Turnbull has gone on the record, saying that data storage outside the country does not bother him. The Australian, more or less an official government mouthpiece, reported that he made the comments at a panel discussion.

If the government mandates that Australians' data - and metadata is just that, data - is to be stored at reputable institutions, then the cost will rise astronomically. And who pays that cost? If the government does so, then ultimately it will be you and I who will pay for it  Brandis and Turnbull live off our taxes. And if the ISP does, then it would make no difference at all, because it would be passed on to subscribers. Once again, that's you and I, gentle reader.

Either way, the mugs are the ordinary punters.

What happens to ISPs caught selling the data for their own gain? Oh, the government will introduce laws to take care of that too. In other words, one can go against the fundamental principle that one cannot legislate for everything and actually do so.

Why are locals so apathetic about the data retention proposal? Is it that they trust Brandis and Turnbull? It's difficult to think that anyone could be so dumb. Do they not understand what it means to live in a surveillance state?

Or could it be that they are too busy getting drunk, going to the races, and plonking their hard-earned at the nearest bookmaker, before washing down a pie with a litre of beer?

Sad to say, the typical Aussie, said to be someone who bites back when taken for a ride, has gone missing. As one hack put it, we are sleepwalking into another Stasi-like regime.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 05 Nov 2014 03:51:13 +1100
Data retention: Turnbull does massive backflip Data retention: Turnbull does massive backflip

A little over two years ago, Malcolm Turnbull was waxing eloquent about the evils posed by the Labor Party's plans for data retention and the introduction of a blacklist of websites. Yesterday, the same man, now communications minister in a Coalition cabinet, introduced data retention plans in parliament. Oh, the irony.

Turnbull's opposition to data retention was made clear in the Alfred Deakin Lecture of 2012. It is there in full on his own website, spotted by an eagle-eyed Guardian journalist. It is grandly titled: "Free at last! Or freedom lost? Liberty in the digital age."

Of course, some time in the future it might quietly disappear from the website. Statements by politicians that prove to be an embarrassment to them have a funny way of going into the bit bucket.

But while it's there, one can muse on some of the sentiments expressed therein and wonder when the silver-haired Turnbull, who has just crossed 60, underwent a more dramatic conversion than the Biblical Paul did on the road the Damascus.

{loadposition sam08}Talking of the right of an individual to delete data that he/she had created, Turnbull said: "And how far should a right to delete go? Just like we cannot delete an email or a letter we have sent to someone else, how can we delete the photograph we posted on line which was then copied by another? How can we have a right to be digitally forgotten without impinging on others' right of free speech?

"This issue has been brought into sharp focus by the Attorney-General’s vague but at face value far-reaching plan to expand data interception, mandatory data retention, and government access to private digital information."

Yet, the proposal put before Parliament by Turnbull is no less vague than the one he railed against (the Labor plan never reached Parliament but was contained in a discussion paper to which many parties submitted responses). The Coalition's plan does not say what will be retained, how much it will cost or who will foot the bill.

Turnbull went on: "Leaving aside the central issue of the right to privacy, there are formidable practical objections. The carriers, including Telstra, have argued that the cost of complying with a new data retention regime would be very considerable with the consequence of higher charges for their customers."

What happened to these objections over the last two years? Did they just disappear? Or is Turnbull now viewing the world through different glasses?

Turnbull also raised the question of data stored offshore, data that is collected by companies like Google. "Google currently permanently deletes emails or Youtube videos from their server once the customer deletes it. Search logs are rendered anonymous after nine months. It would be utterly impractical, and possibly unlawful, for Google to discriminate against customers from Australia and treat them differently from any others," he said.

Has the situation with Google changed now, minister?

But Turnbull wasn't finished with the arguments against data retention. "And finally – why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?" he asked.

Yesterday, I wrote about the levels of hypocrisy exhibited by the Labor Party. Turnbull has proved that the Coalition is every bit as good in this respect.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:04:05 +1100
Data retention: Labor tops the hypocrisy polls Data retention: Labor tops the hypocrisy polls

Just by coincidence, the reason why the Labor party is scared to death of bucking the trend when it comes to data retention laws - and, indeed, any legislation relating to national security - was brought into sharp focus last week.

On Tuesday, 21 October, Australia bid goodbye to Gough Whitlam, the nation's best prime minister, a giant of a man both literally and in terms of social reform. So great was his reforming zeal that he came into conflict with the Americans and those lovers of democracy decided to teach him a lesson.

The details are outlined in meticulous detail here by that great Australian journalist, John Pilger. Since the overthrow of Whitlam, both major parties have bowed to American diktats, and never criticised Washington no matter whether the Republicans or Democrats are in power.

And so it is with the data retention laws.

{loadposition sam08}Last week the Americans - and leaders of the 10 other nations involved in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement - were in Canberra and they would, no doubt, have urged their Australian host, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, to push his leader on the laws that will make it easier for proposed copyright laws in the treaty to be effective.

Today, the draft laws were introduced suddenly into parliament by one of the better parliamentarians around - Malcolm Turnbull. Yet he, too, knows on which side his bread is buttered, and is still apparently harbouring ambitions of being prime minister one day. So he went the way of all flesh and pleased the Americans.

Labor will bend over and let the data retention laws pass. Indeed, let us remember that it was this very party that first raised the issue of data retention during the dying days of the Gillard-Rudd regime.

As I have said for some time now, this proposed treaty - the TPPA - is the real reason why the data retention laws are being pushed through. And you and I will pay for it - the government does not want to specify the cost right now as it has got enough negatives going for it.

The sneaky way in which the laws are sought to be rushed through is apparent from the fact that the Coalition party room was briefed for just half an hour. And there for the briefing were the ASIO chief Duncan Lewis and the AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin, to drive home the fact that this is about pleasing the Americans.

Uptil now, the politicians have carefully steered clear of talking about metadata for tracking online copyright infringement, but Colvin saw no need for secrecy, telling reporters: "Illegal downloads, piracy, cyber crimes, cyber security, all these matters - our ability to investigate them is absolutely pinned to our ability to retrieve and use metadata." One can't get any clearer than that.

Labor will, of course, make a lot of noise after it has voted for the laws in parliament. When it comes to hypocrisy, the Labor variety is one of the finest in the market. Let's hope the electorate remembers this when the 2016 elections come around.

And so, Australia will become another surveillance state. And the person standing against abuse of power? Attorney-General George Brandis has arrogated this role to himself. He had no idea how Orwellian he sounded when he said that he would, if needed, prevent action against journalists that have been mandated by the second tranche of security laws passed recently by the Australian parliament. The fox is now guarding the hen-house - and asking to be trusted!

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:42:29 +1100
TPPA: Like Oliver Twist, the US always wants more TPPA: Like Oliver Twist, the US always wants more

Leak number four of the IP chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a multi-country "free trade" proposal, tells us little more than the earlier leaked drafts. It does, however, give some reason for cheer.

While the treaty itself will bring nothing but doom and gloom for the man on the street, the fact that it is becoming unwieldy to negotiate in direct proportion to the increasing number of countries involved, is good news indeed. So far, there have been 20 rounds of talks. (Leaks: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Talks began in Canberra on October 19 to try again to reach the broad outlines of a deal and will go until Friday. Trade ministers of the countries involved will then meet in Sydney from October 25 to 27.

The World Trade Organisation's talks on a global trade treaty - the so-called Doha Round - went on and on and on. Finally the US, fed up with the inordinate delay, initiated the TPPA. Initially, there were eight countries, including Australia and New Zealand involved; now there are 12.

{loadposition sam08}The countries involved are the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Chile. The US has been hoping each year that the treaty can be finalised and announced at the annual APEC conference which is held in November.

But that has been an annual ambition since 2011, the year after the talks began. Since March 2010, there have been 20 rounds of talks, in various parts of the world. With each session, it looks like the disagreements are growing.

For Australians, what is interesting to note is the way the government's proposals for data retention seem to dovetail neatly into the ambitions expressed in the TPP - mostly US-driven - to extend copyright beyond even what its most fervent supporters have wet dreams about.

Internet service providers are being asked to act as the watch-dogs for copyright holders - read the big film studios and music companies in the US - and this is sought to be made mandatory. Australian attorney-general George "you have a right to be a bigot" Brandis's data retention laws would be very helpful in this regard, a link I have drawn all along.

Indeed, the latest draft shows that any company which provides online services could well be asked to the police force that dobs in those who access copyrighted material without authorisation.

And even though there are safe harbour provisions for ISPs, this is made conditional on their agreeing to act as enforcers of what would be similar to a DMCA-like set of provisions for all countries involved.

The new draft seeks to make unauthorised access of a trade secret through a computer system a criminal offence, an obvious reference to the Edward Snowden affair.

The draft seeks a minimal copyright term for all TPPA participants, a modification of the earlier proposal to have an optimal term.

The current terms of copyright in the US border on the ridiculous. "...for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first."

How much more does Uncle Sam want?

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:50:25 +1100
Feature-creep will ensure that systemd stays Feature-creep will ensure that systemd stays

A few days back, the Debian project leader Lucas Nussbaum averred that the new init system, systemd, that has been made the default in Debian, could be avoided and that users could go back to SysV init.

Nussbaum was, no doubt, sincere in what he said. But his remedy to avoid what has become a major issue for many Debian users can only be used for so long.

Feature-creep is a major aspect of systemd. It seems to want to take over the entire Linux system and poke its tentacles into unwanted places. And there is no better way to describe this feature than the way senior systems administrator, Craig Sanders, did recently.

Sanders, a Debian developer himself, has that rare ability of being able to strip a great many things of hysteria and emotion - very common in the FOSS world - and stick to pure commonsense. With a few others, he resides in the no-BS zone. In this respect, what he has to say is worth reading.

{loadposition sam08}"The problem with systemd is not that it makes some minor changes to the init process, but that it tries to do too much," Sanders wrote in a post to one of the mailing lists of the Linux Users of Victoria a week ago, as part of a thread about Lennart Poettering's baby.

"If systemd just did init, then nobody would give a damn, but it's absorbing way too many low-level system functions into itself - udev has been merged; it does logging; has half-arsed substitutes for ntpd, cron, automount, inetd, and network configuration. This feature-creep is on-going, with more being absorbed into systemd all the time... and announced just a few days ago, a console daemon to replace the kernel's virtual terminals.

"Apart from the inevitable problems associated with being a jack-of-all-trades (and) master-of-none, the result will be the death of innovation for all functions absorbed into systemd as it is impossible to replace any one of them without replacing systemd entirely... which makes the job of developing improvements just too big a job.

"Right now, we have several alternatives to choose between for cron, ntp, logging, etc - each of them with different advantages and disadvantages. With systemd, it becomes a one-size-fits-all-or-else situation. If what it does doesn't suit you then tough luck, because you can't replace it without breaking your system.

"The second major problem with systemd is that it is becoming (or has become) mandatory - unnecessary dependencies on logind or systemd itself make it nearly impossible to avoid having systemd installed.

"At least, when Gnome jumped the shark with Gnome 3 there were alternatives like KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc we could switch to. There'll be no such alternative for systemd. For a while it will still be possible to hang on to SysVinit or Upstart or whatever, but eventually the effort required to keep everything working with dependencies breaking stuff all the time will be too great."

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:15:57 +1100
No interest in Poettering's problems, says Torvalds No interest in Poettering's problems, says Torvalds

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has indicated that he has no interest in the problems faced by chief systemd developer Lennart Poettering that led to the latter blaming Torvalds for the negative feedback he (Poettering) has faced.

Poettering made his feelings known in a long and rambling post on October 1. Complaining about the amount of criticism he faced and the backlash to the adoption of systemd - an init system replacement which has taken over many additional functions - Poettering said Torvalds was the reason why people in the open source community behaved in this manner.

In his post, Poettering wrote: "The Internet is full of deranged people, no doubt, so one might just discount all of this on the grounds that the Open Source community isn't any different than any other community on the Internet or even offline. But I don't think so. I am pretty sure there are certain things that foster bad behaviour. On one hand there are certain communities where it appears to be a lot more accepted to vent hate, communities that attract a certain kind of people (Hey, Gentoo!) more than others do. (Yes, the folks who post the stuff they do usually pretty clearly state from wich community they come).

"But more importantly, I'd actually put some blame on a certain circle of folks that play a major role in kernel development, and first and foremost Linus Torvalds himself. By many he is a considered a role model, but he is quite a bad one. If he posts words like "[specific folks] ...should be retroactively aborted. Who the f*ck does idiotic things like that? How did they not die as babies, considering that they were likely too stupid to find a tit to suck on?" (google for it), than that's certainly bad. But what I find particularly appalling is the fact that he regularly defends this, and advertises this as an efficient way to run a community. (But it is not just Linus, it's a certain group of people around him who use the exact same style, some of which semi-publically (sic) even phantasize (sic) about the best ways to, ... well, kill me)."

{loadposition sam08}Asked for his reaction, Torvalds told iTWire that he was happy to join in what he described as "spirited discussions".

"I'll happily join 'spirited discussions' (aka flame wars) about actual technical issues, but Lennart's problems? I don't see why I'd want to get involved," he responded.

Torvalds is well known for his sharp and expletive-laded rejoinders to kernel developers - and at times developers of other software. But he has indicated in the past too that he has nothing much to criticise about the systemd project from a technical angle.

Torvalds has, however, levelled sharp criticism at one of the other systemd developers, Kay Sievers. Back in April, when Sievers showed an unwillingness to fix problems in his code that caused problems with the kernel, Torvalds let him have it with both barrels.

"Key (sic), I'm f*cking tired of the fact that you don't fix problems in the code *you* write, so that the kernel then has to work around the problems you cause," Torvalds wrote.

"Greg - just for your information, I will *not* be merging any code from Kay into the kernel until this constant pattern is fixed."

The reference to Greg was to Greg Kroah-Hartman, a senior kernel developer who is responsible for releases other than the current version.

Torvalds continued: "This has been going on for *years*, and doesn't seem to be getting any better. This is relevant to you because I have seen you talk about the
kdbus patches, and this is a heads-up that you need to keep them separate from other work. Let distributions merge it as they need to and maybe we can merge it once it has been proven to be stable by whatever distro that was willing to play games with the developers.

"But I'm not willing to merge something where the maintainer is known to not care about bugs and regressions and then forces people in other projects to fix their project. Because I am *not* willing to take patches from people who don't clean up after their problems, and don't admit that it's their problem to fix.

"Kay - one more time: you caused the problem, you need to fix it. None of this 'I can do whatever I want, others have to clean up after me' crap."

In many ways, Sievers' attitude is common to the entire systemd project; on many occasions, Poettering has indicated to others that if they have problems with systemd, then it's because their code is to blame, not his.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 09 Oct 2014 10:29:19 +1100