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.