Apple – only 391 days behind

In the curl project, we take security seriously. We work hard to make sure we don’t open up for security problems of any kind and once we fail, we work hard at analyzing the problem and coming up with a proper fix as swiftly as possible to make our “customer” as little vulnerable as possible.

Recently I’ve been surprised and slightly shocked by the fact that a lot of open source operating systems didn’t release any security upgrades to our most recent security flaw until well over a month after we first publicized the flaw. I’m not sure why they all reacted so slowly. Possibly it is because vendor-sec isn’t quite working as they were informed prior to the notification, and of course I don’t really expect many security guys to be subscribed to the curl mailing lists. Slow distros include Debian and Mandriva while Redhat did great.

Today however, I got a mail from Apple (and no, I don’t know why they send these mails to me but I guess they think I need them or something) with the subject “APPLE-SA-2010-03-29-1 Security Update 2010-002 / Mac OS X v10.6.3“. Aha! Did Apple now also finally update their curl version you might think?

They did. But they did not fix this problem. They fixed two previous problems universally known as CVE-2009-0037 and CVE-2009-2417. Look at the date of that first one. March 3, 2009. Yes, a whopping 391 days after the problem was first made public, Apple sends out the security update. Cool. At least they eventually fixed the problem…

An FTP hash command

Anthony Bryan strikes again. This time his name is attached to a new standards draft for how to get a hash checksum of a given file when using the FTP protocol. draft-bryan-ftp-hash-00 was published just a few days ago.

The idea is basically to introduce a spec for a new command named ‘HASH’ that a client can issue to a server to get a hash checksum for a given file in order to know that the file has the exact same contents you want before you even start downloading it or otherwise consider it for actions.

The spec details how you can ask for different hash algorithms, how the server announces its support for this in its FEAT response etc.

I’ve already provided some initial feedback on this draft, and I’ll try to assist Anthony a bit more to get this draft pushed onwards.

curl goes git

Just a few days ago the curl project turned twelve years old, and I decided that it was time for us to ditch our trusty old CVS setup and switch over to use git instead for source code control.

Why Switch at All

I’ve been very content with CVS over the years and in our small project we don’t really have any particularly weird or high demands on the version control software.

Lately (like in recent years) I’ve dipped my toes into various projects that have been using git, and more and more over time I’ve learned to appreciate the little goodies that git does that CVS simply cannot. I’m then not even speaking about branches or merges etc that git does a whole lot better and easier than CVS, I’m in fact even more in love with git’s way to ease handling with diffs sent by email and its great way of keeping track of authors separately from the committer etc. git am and git commit –author are simply two very handy tools missing in CVS.

Why Git

So if we want to switch from CVS to another tool what would we chose? That wasn’t really the question in my case so I didn’t answer it. In my case, it was rather that I’ve been using git in several projects and it is used in some of the biggest projects I work with so it was some git’s features I wanted. I didn’t consider any of the other distributed version tools as quite frankly: they wouldn’t be much better for me than what CVS already is. I want to reduce the number of different tools I need, and I’m quite sure anyway that git is one of the top contenders even if I would do an actual comparison.

So the choice to go git was quite selfish and done by me, but I felt that quite a few guys in the curl community supported this decision and very few actually believe remaining with CVS was a better idea.

The fact that git itself uses libcurl for its HTTP access of course also proves its good taste! 🙂

How did the conversion go

Very easy and swiftly. First, as I mentioned above we never used branches much so we basically had a linear development with a set of tags. I did an rsync of the full repo to get a local copy to work with, then I ran ‘git cvsimport’ on that to created a new repo. I did run it a couple of times to make sure I had done a correct mapping of all CVS user names to their git equivalents. Converting >10 years of CVS commits took roughly 10 minutes on my desktop machine so it wasn’t that tedious even.

Once I had a local repo created with all authors looking good, I simply followed the instructions on on how to add a remote origin to a local branch and when I pushed to that, git sent off all commits ever made to curl to the remote repo now exposed to the world from


When that part was done, I did a quick read on the ‘git help daemon’ docs and 30 seconds later I had a local repo setup that is a mirror of the github one, so that users can still opt to get the code from

Unchanged work flow

Git allows different ways of working with the code, but I’ve decided that at least as a start we won’t change the way we work. I’ll offer all committers push rights to the master branch on the repository and we will simply all push to that, as our head development branch.

We will prefer patches made with git format-patch sent to the mailing list, but as before you can still produce patches by diffing source code using extracted tarballs or whatever approach you prefer.

All details on how to get the code for curl using git is available online.

two competitors or one united

In a discussion on the libssh2 mailing list, the founder and maintainer of the libssh project got involved. The actual discussion is not what I want to talk about here, but something he touched on in one of his mails:

“I think a bit of competition in open source is fair and leads to innovation”

Recall that there are only two existing SSH libraries written in C that are free and open. These two libs have roughly the same features, the same goals and a lot of other similarities.

So, does it help open source projects to have an identified and known competitor to compete against and to try to steal users from and to try to outperform in other ways? Is there any research done that proves this theory?

Or is it just so that we have a number of developers with a certain amount of time, and if we divide those in two or more groups we therefore make sure that neither is advancing as fast as they could if all those persons would participate in the same project? Open Source projects are so often driven and developed by volunteers, and within a given area (say people interested in a SSH library) there is only a given amount of people and to make the best use of that limited set, wouldn’t it be better if they all would work together in a single project?

Would OpenBSD, NetBSD and FreeBSD  have been better off by not having split up? Would KDE and GNOME have reached further today if they had been a united project?

I don’t know the answers here, and most probably the answer isn’t very clear or binary applying to all cases anyway as I bet all situations are slightly different and thus should be considered separately.

In the history of FOSS, many forked projects end up getting merged again but we don’t often see two independently created projects merge. I guess the Compiz and Beryl fusion is an exception. I think the sense of “my pet project” is often too strong, not to mention that different licenses and different development cultures make mergers hard to take place.

Look, I’m not really advocating that libssh2 and libssh should merge at this point. I’m just playing with the idea and trying to see the issue from different angles.

There are of course several things that would speak against projects to merge: different views on what licenses that are suitable, religious things such as how to indent source code or what build system to use. Quite possibly also other social aspects: development and team “culture” and behavior and why not just the “Not Invented Here” syndrome – it isn’t always that easy to give up what you made yourself or to appreciate someone else’s work.