15 Facts About the Linux Kernel

Celebrating the 15 year anniversary of the Linux 1.0.0 kernel, Junauza posted a list of 15 cool facts about the Linux kernel.  Here are a few of my favorites:

- An asteroid was named after the creator of the Linux kernel.

- According to a study funded by the European Union, the estimated cost to redevelop the most recent kernel versions would be at $1.14 billion USD.

- Linux kernel 1.0.0 was released with 176,250 lines of code. The latest Linux kernel has over 10 million lines of code.

- The Linux kernel can be found on more than 87% of systems on the world’s Top 500 supercomputers.

Read the full article here.

Linux For The Masses: Are We There Yet?

LinuxHaxor recently wrote a blog post discussing how every year hundreds of writers come out of the woodwork to discuss how “this is the year for Linux” or that Linux is finally ready for the masses.

Every year, every major Linux development, every major distribution release sparks a volley of so-called expert opinion of this being finally the year of the Linux. As they provide arguments and counter-arguments over certain news of Dell/HP/IBM/Asus releasing pre-installed Linux computer; and how this will single-handedly fix every problems and finally allow Linux to take over the world.

I agree that these “expert opinions” do always contain the suggestion that this could finally be the year Linux launches into a much higher stratosphere and knocks out major competition.  However, most of these “expert opinion” articles that I read every year, or every major release, mainly focus on how Linux is getting closer to becoming a much better operating system than the competition has to offer.  Isn’t that all that really matters?

As another year is coming to an end, and another major distribution is around the corner; this might be a good time to remind everyone how next year will not be much different from this year. It took years and years of dedication and innovation for MacOS to finally reach 8% market share. Depending on your level of cynicism, Linux Desktop market share is at somewhere around 1%-5% (being generous).

Sure, lets stop looking at every single Linux advancement or breakthrough with the “this is it! we’ve done it” mentality, I can agree with that.  But really, if you look at the facts, 2008 was a great year for Linux.  In fact, the past five years have been “the year of the Linux“.  Linux will continue to grow over time.  After all, Linux is an open source operating system.  Anyone can contribute, anytime, and the number of contributors continues to grow every year.  Eventually these developers will have worked out all the pesky kinks that stop most users from switching to Linux. It’s really only a matter of time before the mainstream users decide to make the switch to the Linux operating system they keep hearing more and more about.

Is HP Developing Its Own Version of Linux?

HP to develop its own Linux version

It’s been rumored in the past week or so that HP may be developing a flavor of Linux to allow them to move past all of the headaches that come with Windows Vista.  Nobody really knows at this point, but I do think that if it is true, it’s both a good move for HP, and a good thing for the Linux community in general.

If HP were to develop a flavor of Linux for their systems, there are a number of things that could finally come to the forefront for Linux.  A wider audience, official hardware and driver support, and better technical support, to name a few.  However, it’s unlikely that HP will develop a flavor of Linux made for distribution across all hardware platforms, though the Linux implementation may be easier to move to new systems than it’s current proprietary Unix implementation HP-UX.  But that doesn’t mean the contributions to further improve Linux will not help the entire community.

For Linux to finally make it as a mainstream desktop operating system, a backing like this from a major player such as HP is the final push it needs to compete with Apple and Microsoft.  This could mean big things for Linux.  Let’s hope the rumors are true, it could be interesting.

After visiting LinuxWorld in San Francisco, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols took away a common theme with the panels he sat in on, “What does Linux need to do to compete more successfully on the desktop?”  What he came up with was three specific things that Linux needs to do in order to beat Windows on the desktop.

In short, the three points are

  1. Better power management.  This goes far beyond ACPI.
  2. Applications.  Wine, virtualization, or alternative software.
  3. Device drivers.

I agree with Steven in that these three areas should be at the top of the list for Linux developers.  There is no excuse for Linux being behind in any of these areas and we should be doing everything we can to make sure Linux at least can compete with Windows and Mac in these three simple areas.

Read more here.

10 Cool Devices that Run Linux

If you didn’t know already, Linux is not just a platform that runs on desktops and servers.  Many of us use devices everyday that run Linux or Unix without even knowing.  A number of mobile phones, Digital Video Recorders, and MP3 players run a variant of Linux or Unix.

Here is a list of 10 devices that run Linux.

Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Linux

There are a number of reasons a non-Linux user will give you for not trying Linux.  The sad fact is that most of the reasons are either old Linux truths, or are just flat out Linux myths.  Things like the Linux installation is too difficult, or Linux only uses a command line interface are some of the ignorant answers I’ve heard in the past.

LinuxHaxor.net has an article that is written to dispel some of the myths surrounding Linux, check it out here.

Interview with Linus Torvalds

Richard Morris recently took some time out to interview the great Linus Torvalds, the founder and creator of our favorite operating system, Linux. The interview is very well put together with both great questions and answers.

Here are two of my favorite Q & A’s with Linus:

RM: ‘Do you think software patents are a good idea?’

LT: ‘Heh – definitely not. They’re a disaster. The whole point (and the original idea) behind patents in the US legal sense was to encourage innovation. If you actually look at the state of patents in the US today, they do no such thing. Certainly not in software, and very arguably not in many other areas either.

Quite the reverse – patents are very much used to stop competition, which is undeniably the most powerful way to encourage innovation. Anybody who argues for patents is basically arguing against open markets and competition, but they never put it in those terms.

So the very original basis for the patents is certainly not being fulfilled today, which should already tell you something. And that’s probably true in pretty much any area.

But the reason patents are especially bad for software is that software isn’t some single invention where you can point to a single new idea. Not at all. All relevant software is a hugely complex set of very detailed rules, and there are millions of small and mostly trivial ideas rather than some single clever idea that can be patented. The worth of the software is not in any of those single small decisions, but in the whole. It’s also distressing to see that people patent ‘ideas’. It’s not even a working “thing”; it’s just a small way of doing things that you try to patent, just to have a weapon in an economic fight. Sad. Patents have lost all redeeming value, if they ever had any. ‘

RM: ‘What part of an Operating system do you think is the most difficult to write?’

LT: That’s actually an interesting question, just because my answer is that it’s never any particular part. Yes, all the details tend to be complicated too, but the real job is to make it all work together. Compared to that, any particular detail you might want to point at may be a technical challenge, but ultimately not anything that really puts people off. For example, one area that we had a really hard time with (and that still causes problems, even if it’s gotten much better) is power management and the whole suspend/resume that people do on laptops. And it was hard not so much because any particular detail was really intractable, but because it touches every single subsystem in the whole kernel (and many out in user land too!), and that was really what ended up making it so challenging.

Read the full interview here.

First alpha release of Amarok 2.0

Amarok has finally released a alpha version of Amarok 2.0!

Here is the official announcement:

The Amarok Team is proud to present the first official alpha release, codename Malina, of the upcoming Amarok 2 series. Features available in this release outline the feature set of Amarok 2.0 while making a starting point in the Amarok 2 journey.

Some of the highlights of the new alpha include:

New fascinating look: With the use of vector graphics, artwork looks crispier than ever, while color scheme independence guarantees it’ll look gorgeous no matter what.

Innovative user interface: Don’t miss several UI innovations like the Plasma powered Context View, new space efficient playlist, and amazing PopUp Dropper! The new Context View allows you to show all the context information you care about. We expect a lot of Plasmoids to be provided by the community in the first months after the release of Amarok 2. PopUp Dropper lets you do different things with your files by simply dragging them to the context view and dropping them on the appropriate area. Append songs to the playlist, copy songs to your local collection, transfer them to your mobile device and edit their tags are just some of the operations PopUp Dropper offers.

Almighty Internet service framework: Seamlessly integrate online music repositories and web services into your musical experience. With online sources like Magnatune, Last.fm, Jamendo, Ampache and MP3tunes you’ll be supplied with music 24/7.

Powerful scripting: The new scripting interface is fully based on Qt technology. The APIs are being redesigned, so script authors are asked to wait at least for the first beta release before porting their scripts.

Dynamic and new Biased playlists: Let Amarok choose the music for you. In this alpha you will see the foundations of the new Biased playlists which in the future will let you specify dynamic playlist for any occasion.

Mobile devices support: We are working hard to make sure you’ll easily and efficiently access music on your media devices within Amarok, and integrate it with your music collection.

Cross platform: This Alpha release lays the groundwork for a release on all major platforms. Future releases will feature Linux, Windows and MacOS versions.

Don’t wait any longer! Grab your copy of Amarok Alpha 1 and help us polish it into a best release so far! Any kind of help is highly appreciated: from patches and bugfixes, through testing and bugreports, to documentation writing, translating and promotion. Oh, and we like artists too! Check out our Jobs page, or drop by in #amarok on Freenode.

Please be aware that this is alpha stage software. Bugs and unfinished features are to be expected. All of the features mentioned above still need work.

The Amarok 2 FAQ addresses some of the questions you might have about Amarok 2.

Read more here..

If you’ve had the same Ubuntu installation for a while and have just been upgrading to newer releases, you may have noticed that a lot of older kernel versions are piling up in your grub menu and on your system.

How to remove older kernels from Ubuntu

This can be done by using the Synaptic Package Manager, however I will show you how it is done on the command line.

First, find out what kernel you are currently running:

# uname -a

Linux foogazi 2.6.24-19-generic #1 SMP Wed Jun 18 14:43:41 UTC 2008 i686 GNU/Linux

From the output you can see that you are currently using the 2.6.24-19-generic kernel.

Next, let’s take a look at all of the kernel versions you have installed:

# dpkg -l | grep linux-headers-*


linux-headers-2.6.24-16                    2.6.24-16.30                                       Header files related to Linux kernel version
linux-headers-2.6.24-16-generic            2.6.24-16.30                                       Linux kernel headers for version 2.6.24 on x
linux-headers-2.6.24-19                    2.6.24-19.34                                       Header files related to Linux kernel version
linux-headers-2.6.24-19-generic            2.6.24-19.34                                       Linux kernel headers for version 2.6.24 on x
linux-headers-generic                      2.6.24.19.21                                       Generic Linux kernel headers

Now all you need to do is remove the old versions with apt-get.  Since we’ve noted with uname -a that we are currently running 2.6.24-19-generic we want to make sure we do not remove it.  All of the others can be removed.

# sudo apt-get remove linux-headers-2.6.24-16 linux-headers-2.6.24-16-generic

Now the older kernels are gone.  Repeat the apt-get remove step to remove any others you may have.  Remember to not remove your current kernel.

Important note: It is a good idea to keep at least one old kernel version around in case anything breaks in your current kernel and you are unable to boot into it.  An example would be that you boot into your current kernel but recieve a kernel panic.  With an old kernel still available you can reboot the computer and select the older kernel version from the Grub menu and still access your system to find out what is going on.

Are Linux Users More Productive?

I’ve been wondering if using Linux actually makes me more productive.  I can think of a few reasons why a Linux user may be more productive but I can also counter those reasons with ways running Linux can make you unproductive.  Ultimately, I think it doesn’t really matter what operating system you’re running, your level of productivity mostly depends on your motivation and what you choose to do with your time.

Why Linux users may be more productive

Linux offers a variety of command line and desktop applications for just about anything you’re wanting to accomplish.  There are all kinds of reasons people may argue that using Linux allows them to be more productive.  Here are a few I can think of:

  • Less gaming distractions – Though it’s not necessarily a good thing that Linux has no native computer games worthy enough of distracting users and bringing productivity levels down, it is indeed a fact; using Linux will definitely allow you to be more productive without the distraction of your favorite computer game icon sitting on the desktop.
  • Highly customizable – The Linux desktop is completely customizable to your liking.  You’re able to place things wherever you want, run multiple desktops, easily create scripts that automate simple tasks for you, etc.  All of these things can indeed boost a users productivity if used correctly.
  • Viruses – In Windows, it’s safe to say that a considerable amount of time is spent either blocking, removing, or preventing viruses and spyware.  It’s like walking down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood all alone, you have to be on the defensive and make sure nobody is going to jump out and get you.  In Linux, you really don’t have to worry about catching viruses over the Internet.  The fact that Linux is not as highly targeted as Windows allows you to go about your business without being on that defensive, which in turn allows for more productivity.
  • System Maintenance – On a Linux desktop there really is not much system maintenance that needs to be performed on a regular basis.  With the exception of security updates and recommended application updates on a distribution like Ubuntu, you really have no required maintenance that you have to perform.  On an operating system like Windows XP or Vista, if you want your system to remain running seamlessly you’re forced to do things like defrag your hard drive.  If you have a large hard drive, you know that defraging completely halts all other productivity as you really can’t do anything else while the defrag is taking place.

Additionally, here are a few tools and applications in Linux that help productivity:

  • BASH
  • Tab completion
  • APT
  • GNU/Screen

Why Linux users may be less productive

Just as there are a lot of arguments as to why Linux users may be more productive, I can think of reasons why Linux users may produce less.  Lets take a look at a couple reasons Linux users may be less productive.

  • Tweaking and Customizing – Just as it can allow you more productivity, the ability to customize and tweak your Linux desktop can also work against you.  I can count how many people in the community I speak with that are obsessed with tweaking their desktop over and over.  This is a real productivity killer and can become an addicition for some.
  • Learning and exploring – Sometimes a new Linux user can find themselves getting lost in the exploration and learning process Linux.  Once you start understanding Linux you tend to want to know more and more about how everything little thing works.  A great example of this is that you are wanting to do some scientific research for a school project, so you install an application you found on the web, open it, but it crashes.  Now you’re in investigative mode and trying to find out why it is crashing.  Checking logs, checking mailing lists, searching forums, etc.  Eventually a few hours have gone by and you really haven’t accomplished what you set out to do even if you do indeed get the application up and running.

Overall, it’s my opinion that productivity comes from the user and not the operating system.  All operating systems and distributions have the tools and the ability for you to create a producitive work environment, it’s simply up to you to do so.