Friday, November 24, 2006

Ubuntu's Open Week - and openSUSE

Ubuntu's open week sounds like a really good idea. I'm just surprised that it is done to get users away from openSUSE as Mark Shuttleworth announced on the opensuse mailing lists.

Mark, let me reiterate that the openSUSE community and the Ubuntu communities share the same goals. We might put different emphasis on some of them, so let me speak just about one where I see a different focus.

For us at SUSE it was always important - and still is - to not only have a great distribution but to work together with the community to bring open source and Linux forward for the benefit of all. I was responsible for the port of Linux to x86-64 (now AMD64 and Intel EM64T). This port included not only development effort especially in the Linux kernel, the GNU C Library, the GNU Compiler Collection and the GNU binutils but also porting of many applications that were not 64-bit clean. All the code was available in the public and went in the public repositories before we made the first distribution. You could even get the code before any chips were available. Without this foundation, a first distribution on x86-64 would have taken much longer for everybody.

There's further development work in different areas, like NetworkManager, XGL, evolution and beagle, where Novell and openSUSE developers are involved as part of the open source community to develop a foundation that every distribution, including Ubuntu, can use.

Together with Ubuntu's great marketing and our great engineering, we can change the world (Note: I do not want to exclude other great projects like Debian, Fedora and Mandriva). The Open Week targeted at Microsoft users and developers would be a great idea!
Mark, I'd like to invite you to discuss what possibilities we have to work together against the domination of Microsoft on the desktops and servers - instead of fighting against each other.

I would prefer to see more users switching from Windows to Linux than just Linux users switching distributions.

Daniel, I liked your balanced response.

UPDATE: Burgundavia, thanks for your apology and pointing out the satirical reply.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

openSUSE 10.2 RC1

I've released today the first release candidate (RC1) of openSUSE 10.2 to the public, the announcement went out this afternoon.

For details about the important changes see

The development team handled a large number of bugs, updated a few packages - most notably D-Bus to version 1.0 (nearly no changes besides the version number) and Evolution to 2.8.2 - and included further translations. The areas that we had to work hardest on were the bootloader configuration and our software management stack.

For our software management stack we now have two different user interfaces: The ZENworks Linux interface introduced in SUSE Linux 10.1 with the commands rug and zen-updater - and the new software management tools zypper and opensuse-updater. Zypper accepts most of the commands that rug does with the same syntax. The applet opensuse-updater can talk to the zmd daemon or use directly the package management library without a running daemon. During installation the ZENworks tools are installed by default with the "Enterprise Software Management (ZENworks Linux Management)" pattern, the other one is name "openSUSE Software Management" and can be used alternatively. The newer tools have not seen that much testing to install them by default but I'll ask experienced users and testers to look at them and give us feedback.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Docking Station Support in openSUSE 10.2

With openSUSE 10.2 we have for the first time in our products some automatic docking station support. It's not yet working out of the box on my IBM Thinkpad X40 since my docking station contains a CD-ROM and the hot-plugging of the CD-ROM only works with the new libata IDE driver.

So, first I needed to install openSUSE 10.2 and configure to use the new libata drivers. This is not done automatically for old IDE (PATA) system, so I had to add "hwprobe=modules.pata" at the linuxrc prompt to tell our installer to use libata. This also means that instead of /dev/hda my disk is now shown as /dev/sda - which is especially a challenge for updates (I had to manually change my fstab and grub conf to get this working). Since a working update from previous releases is important for us, we're not using the driver by default in 10.2. We plan to do the migration of all config files for updates for 10.3.

Since my installation is finished, I now can press "Fn+F9" to unplug the laptop from the docking station, remove it - and it does not freeze anymore like it did with 10.1. Once I put the laptop again on the docking station, the screen blanks for a second and I can access again my CD-ROM - and all the rest of the docking station. Now I'm really happy with my laptop running openSUSE 10.2.

Note: This docking station support only works on limited set of hardware, currently best supported are the Thinkpads from IBM and Lenovo.

Holger, who's the author of this, calls it "Yet another collection of workarounds" - and therefore he needs further enhancements, for details check the new openSUSE wiki page:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

openSUSE and Microsoft

Last week Novell and Microsoft announced a cooperation. I'd like to write a bit about what the announcement means especially for openSUSE.

The announcement covers three areas:
  • A technical cooperation agreement were Novell and Microsoft will work together in the areas of virtualization, web services management and document format compatibility.
  • A patent cooperation.
  • A business cooperation between Novell and Microsoft
The business cooperation does not directly affect us at openSUSE at all.

The technical cooperation affects us in so far that the outcome of the work will end finally in the openSUSE distribution, e.g. the changes will go in the OpenOffice repository and then find its way into openSUSE. Far more important is that Microsoft and Novell do work together and will setup a research facility where experts from both companies will work together with customers and the community.

Under the technical cooperation Microsoft and Novell will work together to improve the interoperability of both Windows and Linux. Currently you can run Windows virtualized on Linux but the other way round is not working - now Microsoft and Novell will work together to support this. Additionally the virtualization support is going to be better optimized.

Most users have to exchange documents with people running Microsoft Windows. The collaboration on the filter for Office Open XML will ensure that this works smoothly for them. will continue to use Open Document Format by default and Novell will continue to invest in improving it.

I doubt that many of us will benefit from the Web services for managing physical and virtual servers. I find it interesting to see that Microsoft will develop tools to manage Linux systems.

For working together with each other and the community, there's one road block that Novell and Microsoft had to resolve - patents. The patent cooperation is controversial for many people. Note that I personally think that software patents in its current form are completely wrong and should all be invalid - but since they exist, we have to work with them somehow.

We have an internal intellectual property review process at openSUSE for quite some time already that checks all packages, this covers both contributions by internal and external developers. Due to this announcement, we will not change that process in any way at all. If our reviewers find packages that would infringe a patent they will take the necessary actions independent of who owns the patent. The normal way to handle a patent infringement is to find prior technology to invalidate the patents, rework the code to design around the infringement, or as last resort remove the functionality.

There's one exception where we do ship code that potentially infringes patents - and Red Hat seems to do the same thing in this example: If the patent is declared by a party to be completely open for any open
source software, like IBM gave a royalty free license for GPL software with some patents regarding register allocation in GCC and RCU in the Linux kernel, then we would consider allowing the code to go in.

We're also shipping code that we have contracted like the proprietary - closed source - RealPlayer where our contract with Real allows the distribution and RealPlayer contains as far as I'm aware licensed code.

We have basically two different groups that the patent cooperation addresses, customers and developers, so let's look separately at them:

A number of our potential customers had serious concerns that especially Microsoft would sue them if they use Linux code and Microsoft would claim patents are infringed by Linux code - as SCO sued Autozone and DaimlerChrysler as Linux users (not for patents but I think this is something that gave a bad example). With the new agreement, they can be sure that Microsoft will not sue them, even if Novell had shipped this code with their Linux distribution before.

Open source developers write code - and nobody can ever check all the patents that are out there. If they wrote code that infringed Microsoft's patents, then Microsoft could sue them, but due to the Novell/Microsoft agreement they are protected now. I still expect that the developers - once becoming aware of an infringement - change the code so that it can be freely distributed e.g. under the GPL.

The statement here is two-fold: Microsoft will not sue individuals - the patent pledge does not cover companies - that are either a) non-commercial developers, e.g. work in their spare time and not for
money or b) write code that ends in our SUSE Linux Enterprise distribution (this covers also individuals receiving money for their open source work). In the first case (non-commercial developer) this patent pledge is not revocable by Microsoft - unless the developer chooses to pursuse patent ligitation against Microsoft. This is a standard clause that can be found also in many open source licenses, one example is the "Open Software License".

Let me state clearly: We do not think that Novell's Linux distributions violate valid patents - but if they do, we do change the code to avoid or work around the patent. Meanwhile we have some means in place to protect customers and developers better. So, it's some kind of important insurance.

We did not expect that Microsoft would sue individuals. But who would have known a couple of years ago that the record industry is going after individuals downloading or copying music and driving them in bankruptcy. Therefore the agreements consider a promise not to sue.

Novell is a founding member of the Open Invention Network (OIN) which was formed to protect many commonly distributed open source and free software packages, including Linux, from legal attacks, no matter where an attack comes from. OIN provides coverage to the entire Linux industry by providing a form of retaliatory protection for Linux customers, developers and companies that might be targeted in patent litigation.

Novell is strongly committed to OIN and will continue in its support, we are one of the members that brought in a significant patent pool to protect Linux. The Novell/Microsoft agreement strengthens the protection of our customers.

I think that with this agreements between Novell and Microsoft the intellectual property situation is not worse than before - for some users and developers the status quo has not changed and for others it is improved.

Microsoft is historically the arch-enemy of Linux. So, is this "sleeping with the enemy", "Novell selling out" - or a 180 degree turn of Microsoft? I think all of us fear Microsoft and therefore are very cautious about every step they do. I'm interested whether this is a first step in a new direction and others will follow - or just a trap? Microsoft is still competition and both Novell and Microsoft state this. But they want to make Linux and Windows work together seamlessly so that the customer is not the looser in this competition (see the technical cooperation). Microsoft is facing for some time an image problem, investigation from the EU lawyers about monopolistic behaviour and faces competition from Oracle and Google - one can only guess what has brought this change in direction by Microsoft.

So, let us continue to work as before and build the finest distribution - and beat Microsoft Windows ;-)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Flying back to Nürnberg

Zürich airport was in fog but we landed a bit early - and only left 35 minutes later to Nürnberg. The flight was fine, and the fog looked really nice from above.
So, no trouble like on the trip to Boston, all of us arrived with their luggage, even Micha who somehow disappeared from the computer and did not had any ticket according to the computer but just received some boarding pass - and Ralf who was on stand-by.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Freedom Trail in Boston

My colleagues and I walked today the complete Freedom Trail in the "Walking City" Boston which connects a couple of historic sites. It was a bit cold but we had lovely sunshine the whole time.

A special highlight was a short detour in a large bookshop to buy some books and magazines.

The trail starts at the Massachusetts State House which is build on top of Beacon Hill.

We passed a statue of the statesmen Samuel Adams who was "incorruptible and fearless" - our countries need more like him.

It was still pumpkin season but we did not see as many as I did the day before.

The fall colours were really beautiful, it was just difficult to take pictures that showed it.

USS Constitution - the oldest Navy ship still in service, we even had to go through a security check with baggage x-ray and metal detector. The contrast between the old ship and some modern necessities was gross.

Finally we took the water taxi back to the city center, enjoying the view of the city from the harbour and after a short lunch...

walked to the underground - entering below the old state house - and finally arrived by bus to the hotel and from there back to Germany via Zürich.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Stroll through Boston

I walked this afternoon through beautiful Beacon Hill in Boston with its brick townhouses and small streets. Boston won this year an award for the most pumpkins their streets and lots of them were still on display at the house entrances.

From Beacon Hill I went through the Common Ground and then to the main shopping street (Newbury Street) full of normal houses used as shops, often using both basement and ground floor for two
different shops.

Walking back to the Hotel it became dark and the Boston skyline looked really beautiful this evening.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Boston by Night

After a long day of good meetings, I took a walk from my Hotel through MIT to the Charles River and enjoyed the Boston skyline with the river and its sailing boats. The weather was lovely - up to 18 degree Celsius during the day and the evening was mild.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Flying to Boston

I left this morning for the US to meet at the Cambridge offices. We sat in the plane in Nuernberg, went through the security explanations and then the pilot told us that he just got information about fog at the Frankfurt airport and we would get a slot only an hour later.
According to the original plan, we had two hours time in Frankfurt but landed finally at the time the plane to Boston was scheduled to leave.

Kurt - who arrived by train - was on the plane and told us that they were still waiting a few minutes. But running to the gate would have been at least 30 minutes (including the extra US security checks) and unfortunately Frankfurt airport did not organize to bring us via bus to the gate. So, Micha and myself had to change flights, arrived just a few minutes before check-in time at the gate, and were sent via Washington D.C. - just passing Boston - and then back to Boston, with a scheduled arrival there in the evening (18:19) instead of at noon (12:15). Washington Dulles was a mess of an airport with overly long queues for immigration and customs - over 90 minutes queuing in total - and once we were through customs, our plane had left already. Fortunately an hour later the next plane brought us to Boston.

If we would have got the original plane in Frankfurt, our luggage would not have made it - and sitting in the plane I saw it getting loaded out of one box and then in again and just hoped that this luggage box would go into our plane as well - as it did. I moved it through customs in Washington - and then it disappeared :-(. Hope to get it soon. My colleagues received their luggage, just mine got lost.

Joe was flying in from Munich to Frankfurt, and he was even later than us in Frankfurt, he has been taking a machine after us but managed to fly with us on the final leg to Boston.

Having a window seat over the Atlantic, I enjoyed looking out and even took some pictures - it was a sunny flight and some rather interesting clouds. One time we even overtook a Delta machine that was flying several hundred feets below of us.

I'm glad that I'm now at the hotel - after more than 20 hours of travelling :-(, and with missing two planes in a single day.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thanksgiving Parade

In Fürth there's currently a big country fair and today was the thanksgiving parade with 85 different groups consisting of more than 3000 people.
One of the many thanksgiving crowns that was shown on the various carriages.

Even the tractors were decorated.

The fire brigade also took part...

... and a couple of brass bands.

The whole parade lasted for over two hours and was quite joyfull, it's the second biggest parade of its kind in bavaria (only the Munich Oktoberfest parade is larger).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Software Groupings for Installation - or Patterns

I'd like to bring to your attention one of those small details of a distribution that most people never really notice - and if that happens, we might have done a good job behind the scene ;-).

The YaST package manager groups the packages into various groups. Until 10.1 we used a concept called "selections" and switched with Alpha3 of openSUSE 10.2 to "patterns". Full details of patterns are are available at the openSUSE wiki.
  • Patterns include a list of software packages to install.
  • The list of software packages contains packages that are:
    • required (must-have, will always get installed if the pattern gets installed)
    • recommended (should-have, will get installed if the pattern gets installed but users can deselect it)
    • suggested (may-have, will not get installed if the pattern gets installed but users can select it)
  • In the future, we would like to drive work flow with patterns as well. For example, if you select the (imaginary) LDAP server pattern, the LDAP configuration work flow will be called during installation.
  • Patterns can be grouped into roles, like "Development" or "Desktop".
  • Patterns can require other patterns. They have the same set of (possible) dependencies as packages have. So they can also obsolete(replace) or conflict with other patterns, or have language dependencies, and so on.
  • Add-on products can have additional patterns.
You might wonder why I consider patterns that important since they are only used during installation of packages. There are various reasons:
  • They help to structure the system: Patterns define a type of functionality the system should have. They do this by either directly naming required packages, by grouping of sub-patterns, or a combination thereof. This partitions the huge list of installed rpms into building blocks that can be combined (almost) at will. By listing each and every rpm in a (ideally, exactly one) pattern, this relates rpms to functionalities. This in turn finally provides the answer to the often asked question: "Why is this package installed?
  • With optional packages, the users sees what else might be interesting - while others can still have a minimal system.
  • It's easier to tell users "install the LAMP pattern" instead of giving them a list of more than a dozen different packages.
  • We can create media like CDs as just a collection of patterns with their dependencies. Note this works also the other way around: All packages on a CD might be just a pattern.
  • New users know what they want to do with their system, e.g. setup a LAMP server but they might not know exactly which packages to install. With patterns - as with selections - we guide the user.
During the last two months a lot of discussions about patterns have happened on the openSUSE-factory mailing list (see the archive). With Alpha5 coming out this week, you'll see the current status and I hope to be 90 per cent finished with it so that only a few more patterns might be added and patterns will get additional packages as necessary.

With the number of patterns, it's important to structure them properly. There's a simple hierarchy where a pattern belongs to a role like "server functions". Also some of the patterns will not be visible directly to the user, they will get folded into others to make the list smaller - but internally they are separate.

Patterns are really powerful. I've defined for example three graphics patterns: A generic one, a GNOME specific one and a KDE specific one. If a user selects the generic pattern, then the desktop specific ones are selected automatically, so that if you have selected GNOME, you get the GNOME specific graphic pattern as well. If the user now switches from GNOME to KDE the specific graphic pattern is changed as well.

Currently development is going on in the pattern dialogs to present the patterns in an easier way. A few small changes might get implemented:
  • Optional packages will be in a light grey to distinguish them from required packages
  • The hierarchical tree structure can be folded and unfolded, e.g. all development patterns might be hidden initially until the "development" role is opened.
  • The packages from totally invisible pattern can be shown in their parent. With the graphics example above, the user might only see one graphics pattern that consists of packages of all three graphic patterns (if we make the two desktop specific patterns invisible) - but the selection logic and resolving is done on the basic patterns.
Our usability experts are looking into further, more radical, improvements for the dialogs but this is beyond 10.2.

I'm looking forward to further discussion of patterns on the openSUSE-factory mailing list after openSUSE Alpha5 is out. There will always be some use cases that our defined patterns cannot satisfy but I hope that we get the most common use cases perfect, so please play around with them in Alpha5 and report how you like it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Training in Brussels

I spend the week in Brussels on a "Management Excellence" training course. We learned a lot - with practical hands-on experience - about management, Novell and ourselves. Communication was one important topic, there can go so much wrong, especially with different cultures, languages and via email...

We went one evening in the city centre and my colleague Thorsten and myself took a couple of photos of the city. The ones at day time were bad since the sky was full of clouds but the night photos looked nicer. Brussles has a really fine old town centre, the picture above is taken at the Grand Place and shows the town hall.

After taking the underground back, we walked along the Atomium to our hotel. The Atomium at night looks more like a strange christmas decoration.

I didn't have much time to think about anything else besides the training and therefore took this photo (in front of one of the many chocolate shops) instead as an alibi.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Switching to Beta Blogger

I decided this morning to switch to the beta of blogger to see how much is improved. The layout can be configured much easier than before and there are a few new options. Unfortunately the atom feed for the blog has changed, so if you used it before, you have to change your akregator.

For just publishing a post, there's not much difference. Uploading photos I now see them in the confirmation window, I can add labels to blogs but nothing really fancy. The major facelift you might notice is the Blog archive.

Sunrise in Fuerth

Thursday morning (or would you say night for 4:30am?) Jana left for Provo (see her blog) and I took my camera and bike to cycle to the office around sunrise (7am). The cycle way is along the river Pegnitz and between some idylic meadows. That morning there was some fog on the ground and I really enjoyed the sun rise. I guess I should cycle more often.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Indian Summer 2006 - SUSE Teambuilding Event

Our Prague colleagues invited us to the so-called Indian Summer 2006 event in Harrachov, Czech republic. Harrachov is located in the Giant Mountains close to the Polish border. The event took part after the SUSE Labs conference, so that I had a chance to meet not only most colleagues from Prague but also the Labs developers from Australia, Italy, France, the US etc.

Early friday morning (8am), our group of 25 developers left for Harrachov. Our bus drove us directly to a shooting range where we got some food and practised with air guns. We then went to the Hotel where the first preparation for the saturday event had to be done during our BBQ: Building a team of four people with at least three different nationalities. Our team consisted of Jiri (Czech), Jean (French), Sonja (German) and myself (German).

Saturday morning the "computer adventure like game" started. We were sent running through Harrachov from one place to another where each place corresponded to a place in the virtual world, e.g. we were in the middle of a real forest but our virtual world told us we were in an archive. At each place a short story was written and we could choose which action to take next. Sometimes real and virtual world were connected, in the virtual world we had lots of contacts with miners and therefore visited in the real world an old mine and exited through the emergency exit. Then in the virtual world we were at the end of an alley and had to figure our way out of it - and in the real world we had to abseil from the ski jump. In the virtual world we had the item "hunger" in our inventory and removed that after visiting a place in the real world you would call a restaurant - and the virtual taxi ride was done with real horses.

The game started at 9am and our team was the first team to finish the game around 5:30pm - the last came 4 hours later - but could only answer four out of five questions about the game and therfore did not win. Nevertheless we fully enjoyed the game and walking through Harrochov and its surroundings.

Sunday we visited a Glass factory with a mini brewery. Three of our group got a crash course in glas-making and created a piece of crystal. Unfortunately we then had to drive back to Germany.

The organizing team had done a great job creating the game and planning the whole weekend, all of us really enjoyed it!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Propietary Software and openSUSE

There have been some comments on an ZDnet article including one from Linspire that was brought a few days ago to my attention which turns into advocation of their new Freespire release.

I'd like to comment especially on Kevin Carmony's Linspire letter and explain what openSUSE is, since there seem to be some misconceptions.

Proprietary Applications

The ZDnet article rightly claims that we "have ceased distributing proprietary software modules such as 3D video drivers that plug into the Linux kernel". From this Kevin Carmony concludes that Novell removed "proprietary software from their Linux offerings" which is plainly wrong. SUSE Linux 10.1 comes with six CDs. The first five contain only Open Source software, only the last one (if you download: the binary add-on CD) contains proprietary software. Freespire speaks about their "OSS Edition", a term SUSE Linux 10.0 already used a year ago.

The list of commercial software on SUSE Linux 10.1 (full list available at Novell's website) includes Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java, Opera, and RealPlayer.

To be clear, I'm mainly talking about the openSUSE distribution, but let me point out that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 also comes with proprietary software including Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java and RealPlayer, and that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 provides Java as well, for examples.

openSUSE 10.2 (the successor to SUSE Linux 10.1) will follow the same model as SUSE Linux 10.1 in distributing and supporting both Open Source and proprietary software - and leaving the user a choice.

I love open source and that's why I'm working on openSUSE. I do also use proprietary software and consider it vital to have a good and stable platform on which both Open Source developers and proprietary software vendors can develop software. Users using this platform are free to use the software of their choice. With Linux and openSUSE, there's such a platform. For mixed source source, I suggest reading our CTO's blog.

The Free Standards Group with their Linux Standard Base (LSB) standardizes a application binary interface allowing application developers to build software that runs on any LSB certified platform. Recently both MySQL and RealPlayer certified their applications by the LSB.

Novell has certified all their recent distributions by the LSB, including the just announced SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 products as well as SUSE Linux 10.1. This is a clear commitment by Novell to a standard conforming base that both proprietary software vendors and open source developers can use. If you look at the other distributors certifying their products, you see there a few others as well - including Red Hat. But there is no certification for Fedora and neither for Linspire/Freespire.

Proprietary Kernel Drivers

So, what about proprietary kernel drivers? Fedora has taken an admirable stand against those (see e.g. Mike Harris' comment). Since about half a year ago, the openSUSE project has been vocal about our position, too (e.g. my announcement in february).

There are a couple of reasons for this in my opinion. The first reason is to respect the opinion of those members of the Linux kernel community that consider binary drivers a violation of the GPL. Supporting a proprietary kernel driver is a nightmare because such a driver might change the kernel in an unpredictable way. The Linux kernel developers will not investigate bug reports if a binary-only kernel module is loaded and ask for reproduction without the loaded module (e.g. read the linux-kernel FAQ).

During the last years lots of hardware vendors have opened their specs to developers so that they could write open source kernel drivers and support their hardware since they believe this is the best way to go. I think that we as community really need to constantly encourage companies to support the development of Open Source kernel drivers - and personally support this from our wallets.

Finally, closed source drivers can sometimes block you, you might not be able to update to newer kernel versions to support e.g. another driver you need...

Personally, I agree with Pamela Jones' column called "On Binary Drivers and Underwear" for LinuxUser & Developer: "I totally get it that folks want their computers to just work. I want that too. But would you please consider that if we pollute free-licensed open source software with secretive code, which we must with binary drivers, we lose what make GNU/Linux special - its openness and our freedom to control what happens on our computers."

For those users really needing an external kernel driver in SUSE Linux and openSUSE, users might easily find them for most recent distributions. External kernel drivers can now be provided as kernel module packages in a better way than before.

Arjan van de Ven wrote about a Doomsday scenario if binary drivers would be allowed universally, read it yourself in the archives of lkml.


So, summying up, what is the openSUSE distribution? It's a distribution containing open source packages including an open source Linux kernel with open source modules - and additionally some closed source user land applications in an add-on.

One of the goals of openSUSE is to create better software. I'd like to talk one day about our openSUSE buildservice and how that one will help to increase the amount of high quality open source packages. I would like to see the openSUSE distribution as platform of choice for both open source and proprietary software developers.

Freedom of Choice and Open Source

In my personal opinion you cannot talk about open source without talking about freedom of choice. I'm glad to be able to run open source software that I can change myself - both fixing and improving-, write bug reports about, discuss the source code, analyze it and check for privacy violations and security holes etc. Certain proprietary software might be in some areas more mature and I can get commercial support for it - something I wouldn't get for openSUSE but could get with commercial enterprise distributions. It's my choice which software to use and if both commercial and open source software can talk to each other, e.g. have standarized data formats for interchange of files, then I can do this any time. I do hate beeing forced to use exactly one tool to do my job - this is some kind of monopoly - and prefer a good competition in the market place.

I have the choice to buy proprietary software and/or help improving open source one. I would like everybody to have at least the same choice with kernel drivers - the chance to run an open source driver on all of your hardware.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Gunreben Wedding

Last weekend Berthold and Marion had their great day - and not only chose to invite Jana and myself as their colleagues and friends but also as the official wedding photographers. We refused
to take the real "official" staged photos of the couple but took lots of photos: from the decoration of the church the day before, guests before the church, the ceremony and the big party.

We really enjoyed the wedding despite - or because of - all the photos we were taking. Berthold is a musician - but not employed as such - and plays the tuba expertly. He had lots of friends and family members invited who made the wedding a delight to listen: A choir of friends and family sung at the ceremony, Berthold played with his brass quintett in the afternoon, a band played during the evening - with different members and different styles...

Taking photos on such an event is a huge task for both equipment and photographers so we borrowed an extra flash from a local shop, had most of our lenses and cards with us including a Jobo drive to empty the cards once they were full. I'm not sure how much Jana ate, but do know that we were more standing and taking photos then sitting at our table. Looking at my photos I'm torn with delight and glad about the positive feedback - and then again think that so many could be much better and that Jana's are better than mine (and she sometimes thinks the opposite). Nevertheless we did enjoy it!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

openSUSE 10.2 Alpha3

[published as well at]

Our engineers have done a great job bringing our distribution foreword and integrating releases done by the Open Source community and I'm looking forward to announce the release tomorrow.

The most interesting part of the release process was for our build guru to learn a new language. We had a chicken and egg problem with the update of and the path changes: Previously we used some links and now those are directories, e.g. /usr/include/X11 was a link to /usr/X11R6/include/X11 and is now a directory. RPM is not able to change a symbolic link to a directory, so in case of an update RPM will not change the link. The directories are part of the filesystem packages which is installed as one of the first packages. The idea was to remove the symbolic link in a pre-install script and then RPM will create a directory. This works fine but needs a shell and that's not available at this time (no problem in case of updates since then we have a shell but now new installation is broken - where we do not need pre-install script). Using sash as static shell did not work since it was not possible to call sash properly. We then considered a static program that would just remove the links - an ugly solution we did not really like.

Finally our RPM expert Michael rescued us and told us about LUA - a programming language that is embedded in rpm. We're glad that Michael did not disable it since we now have a use for it - the only one so far in our openSUSE distribution. These three lines saved us:

%pre -p <lua>

os.remove ("/usr/include/X11")

os.remove ("/usr/lib/X11")

So, what else is new in openSUSE 10.2 Alpha3?

It's the first time that we're call our distribution "openSUSE" instead of "SUSE Linux". The codename of openSUSE 10.2 is "Basilisk Lizard". With the rename of the distribution, we renamed also the name in so that you have to report bugs against "openSUSE 10.2".

Compared with Alpha2, we've made a number of significant changes:

  • We switched to kernel 2.6.18rc4 - and not all kernel module packages(kmp) have been adopted for the new kernel. Especially Xen is not working yet.

  • openSUSE 10.2 contains KDE 3.5.4

  • We started the switch to GNOME 2.16 Beta and have now the base packages in, more to come later.

  • The new branding "openSUSE" is shown in the first places but there's still some existing SUSE Linux 10.1 branding.

  • X11 R7.1 with different pathes (no more /usr/X11R6 for the xorg packages):

Users with a working X11 configuration will not see many real changes. First, the pathes have changed, so most applications that lived in /usr/X11R6/bin now exist in /usr/bin. So, hard coded paths need to be changed. The X11 Release 7 is fully modularized. This is reflected in our packaging as it enables us to provide updates for individual components like drivers and libraries once they become available independently of the release cycle of the X Window System.

As with every major update, a lot of bugs have been fixed in all areas.

The changed pathes broke building of packages, so developers might need to change their software.

  • cups 1.2.2: This is a major update (from version 1.1.x), the highlights are IPv6 support, network printer discovery (CUPS can now find printers on the LAN using SNMP) and LDAP support. A cool feature are unique job ids: CUPS maintains a new job-uuid attribute which provides a unique identifier that can be used totrack a job on your network or anywhere in the world.

  • Updated development tools like gettext 0.15, autoconf 2.60,

  • We now have a gcc package and a gcc41 package in such a way that in the future a gcc42 package might be available as well, giving you the chance to use different gcc versions at the same time.

  • Using patterns instead of selections in the package manager (think of patterns as package groups with some semantics). We currently have only a basic set of patterns and will enhance them.

All these changes needed changes by other packages, so a lot of other packages have been fixed to build again and some still need fixing. Other packages have also been upgraded since new major versions were released.

Both the cups and changes have been requested by our users for some time already, I'm glad to have these in now.

This Alpha3 of openSUSE 10.2 is quite untested and more for the experimental folks. I do not suggest to use it in production. But I do consider it an important milestone for development and testing. A lot of integration has been done to give us a better product.

There're also some bugs, the list of major known bugs is available at the openSUSE most annoying bug page.

openSUSE 10.2 Alpha3 will be announced tomorrow on the mailing list. You'll be able to download it from one of our mirrors - we're currently distributing the ISOs to them.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Novell Cool Blog: Who's AJ?

I've been asked to participate in Novell's cool blogs and will cross post my entries I add there here as well. Here's my first entry:

I’ve been with S.u.S.E, SuSE, SUSE Linux and now Novell for 7 years. My first job was continuing what I did before I joined: Development of the GNU C Library (glibc). In that engineering role I ported glibc to x86-64 (as AMD64 was called at that time) - and at the same time also lead the project at SUSE to port Linux to x86-64. I’m currently responsible for our SUSE Linux distribution and involved with the openSUSE project. Since we’ll rename the distribution with our next release to “openSUSE”, I’m working now on “openSUSE 10.2″.

openSUSE is more than just the SUSE Linux distribution, it’s our way to build together with the community “cool” software:
  • We’re working heavily on the new openSUSE build service which allows to build packages for a variety of distributions, we support not only SUSE Linux releases but also e.g. Ubuntu.
  • The wiki and the mailing lists were our first milestones when we launched the project 12 months ago.
  • Since SUSE Linux 10.0, we have an open bugzilla to publically report bugs.
  • We have an IRC channel and also hold regular open meetings there.

The different sub-projects will be discussed by myself and my fellow cool-blogger colleagues in the next weeks.

I’m living in Germany and work from Novell’s German engineering office in Nürnberg. Older blog posts of myself and some ore private stuff can be found at

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bardentreffen Nürnberg 2006

Friday to Sunday we were at the Bardentreffen in Nürnberg. The Bardentreffen is a Singer-Songwriter Festival taking place at seven public stages in Nürnberg with with more than 60 bands in the official program - and a lot of musicians playing on private venues or just on the street - and everything for free! Jana's two sisters and our friend Christoph visited us to listen with more than 200 000 people to the various performances.

Friday evening we first listened for a few songs to the Japanese band PASCAL. The music was not my style but it was interesting to see the band perform in a crazy way. The drummer was the clown of the band, the chimes player was using a rubber duck to play.

We soon went on to the next stage and listened to Chumbawamba acoustic who sang about "war, homophobia, fascism and the like" - great voices and some good songs of protest.

Saturday it was time for SIRBA - playing klezmer and balkan music. The women playing the tuba and the saxophones were the better half of the excellent team, I've seldomed heard the tuba performed so good. After that we listened really briefly to Trio Mundo on another stage, we moved on to the next stage:

Here Monsters of Liedermaching, a team of six men signing some funny songs, made us laugh a lot.

On Sunday we first listened to Mckinley Black and her guitar, and then moved on to the stage on the Insel Schü...

on the way we listened to The Midden playing at the beergarden of O'Shea's Irish Pub. The three sisters from Glasgow amazed us already last year.

We then listened to a spanish band called Costo Rico. Before going home, we enjoyed some anonymous singer with his guitar on the street.

All in all three long days with lots of great music - and look forward to next year's Bardentreffen.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Searching for Offline Blog Editors

During my vacation I noticed the need for an offline blog editor which should have the following features:
  • Creation of several blog entries while not connected to the internet
  • Inclusion of photos and automatic upload of all pictures when the entry is done (a better image upload function to blogger might make me switch even for online blogging).
  • Needs to support Blogger since my blog is hosted there.
  • Spell checking and formatting support would be nice but is not essential.
I tested the following editors that run under Linux:
  • Bleezer: It did not upload the image I put in the text and therefore is unusable for me. Upload of text worked.
  • JBlogEditor: The application crashed on me. I tried it a couple of weeks ago and there it worked but it did not convince me and I don't remember the details any more.
  • gnome-blog: It does not support uploading of images with blogger. The user interface is rather basic and only the website told me that using drag and drop was the way to add images.
  • Drivel: Can not upload images at all.
  • BloGTK: I did not test it since it does not seem to be able to upload pictures as well.
  • Picasa: Uploading of pictures worked fine but it did not gave the blog entry a title. Unfortunately picaso does not have off-line support and therefore is not an option either.
  • Performancing for Firefox: This one uploads photos only to an ftp server but not to blogger.
  • Flock: The beta browser looks fine but instead of uploading an image it uploaded the filename of it.
During my vacation I used Emacs to write the text, added a short note about which photo should go there - and then spend a couple of hours uploading and formatting everything once I was home again. That's not the way I like it but for now I see no alternative, none of the programs tested supported both uploading of images and offline editing.

I'm interested how others have solved this and whether I have missed a solution.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fürth Festival - Friend N' Fellow

Just back from the Fürth Festival where we listened to a concert from Friend ´n Fellow. Excellent performance by Constance Friend (vocals) and Thomas Fellow (guitar)! The people at our table didn't know them and were amazed. We already bought their CD "Taxi" (and now ordered "Covered") and therefore went to the concert on purpose - and their live performance is way better. We enjoyed a lot of covered songs and some of their own. Both are experts on their own - and I've been asking myself how often Thomas needs a new guitar, he was sometimes using it as a drum...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tying up loose ends after the vacation

Today we took care of our luggage and our flat and I uploaded the complete vacation blog that I did.

My wife Jana has her own blog now at and gives a slightly different angle on our trip - together with her own photos.

Vacation - 24th June: Lofoten, Oslo, München, Nürnberg: Travelling home

We flew back to Germany - leaving Leknes by plane at 9:25am, then Bodo, Oslo and finally München - and then it was time to travel by train to Nürnberg and then take a taxi to Fürth. We arrived at home about 1:30am on the 25th. A long day with long stops in Bodo (2h), Oslo (4h) and Munich (2h). Since the football WM game between Sweden and Germany took place in Munich we returned in a completely packed train to Nuernberg with lots of celebrating but friendly fans of both teams. Finally home again!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vacation - 23rd June: Lofoten: Final day

It's always amazing how fast the weather changes and clouds form - and change their shape. We had today again sunshine and rain, with a light breeze coming up. The first two photos were taken yesterday evening, the last one today.

A view of Krystad from the other side of the fjord, our house is just visible. Jana did a closer shot with her longer lens. We drove today through Moskensøy and enjoyed the small fishing villages and said good-bye.

In the afternoon I took a couple of shots of a pair of birds - called Tjelp in Norwegian, Austernfischer in German - that lived in our garden and made high "tjelp" noises as soon as anybody came close to them. Some days ago they even attacked and scared some sea gulls away.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Vacation - 22nd June: Lofoten: Flakstadstien

Wonderful calm water at 9am, the mountains are mirrored in the fjord.

We decided to do the Nesland to Nusfjord track - part of the so called Flakstadstien - and drove to Nesland - but it was so rainy that we returned to our cozy house. At 1pm it stopped and cleared so we left again and drove this time to Nusfjord to do the track the other way (the road to Nusfjord is much better than the one to Nesland).

The track is - according to our travel guide - well marked. But the first one or two kilometers not much of this is seen unless we found this sign.

The track went along the coast going up and down as needed and we followed it for about two hours and then decided to return. Soon the weather got worse - we were walking in t-shirts which is a first time for this vacation! - and it started to drizzle and then it poured.

I took a couple of photos of flowers on the way - thanks to Jana for pointing some of these out to me. There were a lot of orchids (in german called "Knabenkraut") and other tiny flowers - really beautiful.