Distros Don’t Drive Development

Lots of press and people focus on Linux distributions when they check out what happens in Linux land. This and that distro come in new releases and they offer this and that brand new feature. This is also true of the many linux podcasts. They give credit to distros for new things that pop up.

Mostly everyone of us involved in open source projects have a different view on all that:

Distros package the developments that are done elsewhere by other people. Sure they contribute with glue code and they do put pieces together in useful ways but really, most of the real grunt work – the actual sweating, is done by ordinary open source teams working independently of distros (but sure, sometimes people related to or even employed by distros contribute in such projects).

This is also part of the explanation to why most distros are at about the same level of development, why no distro outcompetes the others at one go. When X11 brings a fancy new feature, all distros have it. When compiz can rotate the screen in yet another way, all distros ship that…

Of course the other part of the explanation is that most distros release their own work as open source, free for the other distros to absorb.

In fact, many times the distros actually hinder the work of the open source projects since they add a filter to bug reports, they patch in their own dirty solutions in their distro rather than to work with the projects to do the fix the best possible way and similar.

Distros are exactly what they’re called: distributions – they distribute bundled collections of software, the vast majority of that software is not made by the distro.

I Like GMT+2 better

In Sweden we switch to good time (daylight wise) in the early spring and we switch off the good time over to bad time in late October (the 28th this year).

Seriously, the non-daylight savings time is not good for us not even during winter. We’d be much better off with GMT+2 all the time.

I’m not sure this is because we’re this far up north in this particular time zone (Central European Time), or if perhaps most citizens in it feel the same. And if they do, would that imply that most of the people in neighboring zones also think they have the wrong time?

wget going libcurl?

Micah Cowan is the current maintainer of GNU Wget, and he recently posted a long mail to the wgetA gnu head! mailing list titled “Thoughts on Wget 1.x, 2.0“.

Two fun quotes for the curious who don’t feel like reading the whole post:

1. On the subject of making wget deal with multiple simultanous connections/requests: The obvious solution to that is to use c-ares, which does exactly that: handle DNS queries asynchronously. Actually, I didn’t know this until just now, but c-ares was split off from ares to meet the needs of the curl developers.

2. Following the first reasoning, they can indeed get away with even less work if they base that work on an existing solution: While I’ve talked about not reinventing the wheel, using existing packages to save us the trouble of having to maintain portable async code, higher-level buffered-IO and network comm code, etc, I’ve been neglecting one more package choice. There is, after all, already a Free Software package that goes beyond handling asynchronous network operations, to specifically handle asynchronous _web_ operations; I’m speaking, of course, of libcurl. There would seem to be some obvious motivation for simply using libcurl to handle all asynchronous web traffic, and wrapping it with the logic we need to handle retries, recursion, timestamping, traversing, selecting which files to download, etc. Besides async web code, of course, we’d also automatically get support for a number of various protocols (SFTP, for example) that have been requested in Wget.libcurl

I am of course happy to see that the consideration exists – even if this won’t go further than just expressed in a mail. I did ventilate this idea to the wget people back in 2001, and even though we’re now more than six years down the road since then the situation is now even more clear: libcurl is a much more capable and proven transport layer solution and it supports much more protocols than wget is/does.

Me biased? naaah… 🙂

Tomtom MapShare

Tomtom ONEI have one of these lovely little Tomtom ONE GPSes, and the other day my brother notified me about their cool recent update to their firmware!

Now they feature map correction abilities, and apparently your map corrections and added details such as points of interests etc can be shared with your friends!

Very cool (sounding). This turned out to be a little easier said than done (as usual). First, I had to boot my computer into in Windows and run the “Tomtom HOME” software. It turned out to crash repeatedly after about 20-30 seconds of use, but after a lot of restarts it managed to upgrade both the GPS unit and get a fresh new “HOME” software version. With the new HOME software it stopped crashing and funnily enough the new version immediately downloaded yet another new HOME upgrade…

Anyway, now I have the latest firmware and I try out the menu option for map correction only to see… that it claims my maps are too old to use this feature! OK, I have the “Scandinavian” version and using the Tomtom HOME it says I already have the latest version… I assume this means that I should rather buy another map set or similar. It claiming I have the latest is suspicious anyway since I know my brother have newer maps. After some checking, I learned that he bought newer maps a while ago. Ok, time to get updated maps. In fact, they don’t even sell “Scandinavian” maps these days so I guess my map route was a dead end, now the closest thing is “Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland” which is almost twice as much data – and thus such an upgrade requires me to get a larger SD card first! 😉

I’ll get back when I’ve got a new card and a new map!

As many times before, one can’t but to wonder what my parents or similarly (not at all) tech-skilled persons would do if they would face this kind of challenge…

curl work towards release #102

libcurlThis is a bug fix week in curl land, trying to get everything sorted and fine to be able to release a really fine 7.17.1 release within a week or so. We got some nasty memory-related problems with changed protocols re-using the same easy handle, but it was good that they crept up and I think we’re doing good changes now that stabilize curl.

Release date now targeted perhaps around October 28-30.

OpenMoko yes, Greenphone no

Trolltech’s GreenphoneObviously Trolltech announced their killing of the Greenphone, a Linux and qtopia powered GSM phone. I was seriously trying to get one when they launched it, but during the time they had troubles providing me one I rethought my position about it and decided I didn’t really have time nor energy to work on it and thus I never ended up getting one…

Openmoko So for the eager hackers wanting an open phone to hack on, I guess the Openmoko Neo1973 is now the evident “winner” of this moment.

China and Chinese Technology

Still in China… I find it quite amazing that at the markets I’ve visited there are hoards of salespersons trying to sell me “ipods” that are almost exclusively all fakes. The fake/real ratio must be something like 20:1 or so!

While here, I’ve enjoyed a talk/lecture by a man called Fredrik Härén who lives here in Bejing. He talked about how China is developing at a marvelous pace and that we in the western world have “settled down” and if we don’t wake up and realize how things actually are, we are going to be overtaken by the asians a few years ahead. I think I’m quite prepared to agree with Fredrik on that. The Chinese are all hungry, eager and developing. We are full, laid back and more eager to teach others about how good we are…

Bejing is currently one gigantic construction area . They build countless skyskrapers, buildings, centers, streets, houses in preparation for the olympic games that will take off here in August next year. They also seem to more or less build the entire olympic setup: arenas and buildings etc from scratch. People who were in Bejing 10+ ago witness about how nothing is the same anymore. And quite frankly: Bejing is just another modern city with large buildings, streets and concrete. There are hardly any signs of anything Chinese, asian or eastern left in the city. I bet you can fool anyone that this is New York or Singapore or any other no-cultural-aura-left-world-city for quite some time if you’d just take a city tour. Amazing, but a bit boring. Impressive skyskrapers. I’ll love to see how the CCTV buildings will look like when they’re ready – two leaning towers currently under construction meant to be ready before the olympics.

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