Today we are announcing the 2010 Linux.com Linux Gurus and want to thank them and the rest of the Linux.com community for their important contributions to the site.

Linux.com is built for the community by the community and represents the collective knowledge of its members from across the globe. It’s this collective collaboration that makes the site the resource it is today and will continue to improve Linux.com over time.  

The Guru recognition shines a spotlight on Linux.com members who have displayed their know-how with contributions on the site in a variety of ways. This advances their careers and reputation while showcasing their skills in a market that is searching for people who know Linux.  

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Top Five Linux.com Linux gurus are all Linux users: three of them are sysadmins; at least one is an active members in their local Linux User Groups (LUGs), and one is a student.

The Top Five 2010 Linux.com Linux Gurus are:

Ultimate Linux Guru Masen Marshall (MasenM). Masen accumulated the most points and is the proud new owner of a fully loaded (with Linux) laptop from Dell and signed by none other than Linus Torvalds. Masen is a full-time systems administrator at a K-12 school district.

Linux Guru Kunal P. Bharati (kunal) works as a web developer and systems administrator at Raw Engineering. He is also a moderator for the North Mumbai GNU/Linux Users Group mailing list.

Linux Guru Andrea Benini (ben)has been a systems administrator for nearly 20 years and works today at Pluriservice.

Linux Guru Matthew Fillpot (mfillpot) is a Development and Training Specialist and is a Linux.com moderator.

Linux Guru Dennis Wiesmann (Emperor) is a student based in Germany.

You can check out who made the Top 50 list here.

The Top Five Gurus have been invited to join The Linux Foundation in just a few weeks at the Collaboration Summit. We will host a Linux.com Planning Meeting and discuss what’s working on the site and what improvements should be prioritized for the coming year. We’ll also be reviewing the results of our Linux.com Community Survey. Please take two minutes to fill it out here.

Thanks again to all of the Linux.com members who are making the site a useful resource for new and veteran Linux users alike. Keep sharing what you know and what you learn and maybe you’ll will be holding a laptop next year with Linus’ signature barely dry.

To review how the Linux Guru program works and points values, check out: http://www.linux.com/welcome-community. Points are accumulated from February 16-February 15 of each year.

 

 

 

Earlier this week, IBM announced a cloud computing program offering development and test services for companies and governments. That doesn’t sound like much, yet on closer inspection it’s a flagstone in the march toward a comprehensive cloud offering at Big Blue. It also demonstrates how operational efficiency is a competitive weapon in our service economy. Let me explain.

As the IT industry shifts from a product base economy to a service-based economy, operational competency is a competitive weapon. Contrast this with the past where companies could rely on closed-APIs, vendor lock in or the reliance on vast resources to build business and keep out the competition. Today, anyone with a good idea can connect to a cloud provider and build a software business over-night –- without massive investment dollars. Instead of forcing people to pay for a CD with your software on it, you deliver a service. In that type of environment where service is king, operational efficiency is crucial. It’s the company with the best execution and operational excellence that prospers. Yes, it’s leveled the playing field, yet ironically the cloud providers themselves are the best examples of operational excellence being the competitive advantage of the 21st century.

There are a few companies who can affect these economies of scale and create these cloud offerings: Google, Amazon, and now IBM. All of these cloud offerings run on Linux. (Microsoft will likely enter the fray with a Windows-based offering at some point.) These large giants who have built their own businesses via their operational excellence, now have the ability to drive down the cost of computing per CPU to rates that no one can compete with on their own. As InformationWeek writes: “IBM said it believes customers can cut IT labor costs by 50% and reduce software defects by 30% by moving development to the cloud.

The problem with internal development and test environments, IBM said, is that they consume as much as 50% of an organization’s entire IT infrastructure but typically remain idle 90% of the time.”

In typical IBM fashion they have focused on those workloads that make the most sense for Cloud computing. Their offering will allow customers to focus their own operations on production environments, while reducing costs in development and test services.

Why Linux?

Linux is the operating system of the cloud. Why is every cloud provider using Linux?

• Linux can be optimized for powerful parallelized computing to run these types of environments efficiently. IBM is using KVM, built into every Linux kernel, to power their offerings and partnering with Red Hat, a company based entirely on open source and known for its technical skills and high levels of service.

• Linux has tremendous power management capabilities. This is due in part to the focus on enterprise Linux by companies such as IBM, Red Hat and Novell to bring the cost of running a data center down. But Linux also benefits from technical innovation by mobile/embedded developers who are using Linux in those devices and need advanced power management features.

• Linux because it is open and not optimized for a specific architecture can run on a multitude of hardware options, bringing down the price for the vendors building these massive data farms. Because Linux is open, IBM has optimized Linux for its mainframe computers, giving them an advantage operationally.

• It’s pricing model. You can’t build a data farm and charge $.15/per CPU hour if you have to write a check to Redmond or anyone else for every server. Microsoft may be able to run a cloud business with MSFT products, but anyone else who actually has to pay for them would not.

• Linux is the development platform of choice in today’s world. IBM couldn’t offer a Linux-based development and test Cloud service if companies weren’t developing on Linux. Linux has steadily gained momentum as the development platform of choice, largely due to the points mentioned above that make it a great candidate for cloud computing platforms.

• Ownership. I experienced this in the late 90’s as one of the founders of a “cloud services” company called Corio, which offered hosted enterprise applications (we called cloud “application service providers” then). We were required to disclose a risk in our public offering S-1 filing that stated “We depend on software vendors to supply us with the software necessary to provide our services, and the loss of access to this software or any decline or obsolescence in its functionality could cause our customers’ businesses to suffer, which, in turn, could harm our revenues and increase our costs.” If we had run our business on open source software we would have owned our own software and this risk would not have existed. This may be the single biggest advantage to Linux in the cloud. Ask yourself if Google could be the company they are today if their search engine was built on .NET servers.

The nascent history of our service-based economy is littered with companies who have failed because of a lack of operational excellence. One example: Friendster. Back in 2003, Friendster had all the momentum. Before Facebook or Twitter or even MySpace, Friendster had amassed the first-mover advantage which is usually so important. Unfortunately, the company didn’t scale and delivered innumerable uptime problems. (I remember since I was an early subscriber.) They let poor development and operational issues sink their site, providing a bad customer experience. Users flocked to Facebook, Twitter, et al, and now Friendster is a marginal regional player at best. There were no cloud offerings at the time to help Friendster scale. Perhaps if they could have outsourced their development and test operations to IBM and focused their efforts on production, the Linux Foundation would be touting its Friendster page instead of its Twitter and Facebook accounts (nearly 25,000 members by the way.)

I have a feeling this is just one of a series of cloud announcements by IBM. We are pleased to see another Linux-based cloud offering now available to create innovative service-based companies in the future.

Long-time open-source software executive Matt Asay recently left Alfresco to join Canonical as its Chief Operating Officer. Matt also founded the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), which takes place this week, and is speaking at The Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit next month. Matt took some time recently to share his perspective with me on why Canonical can take Linux places Red Hat can’t, how Linux beats Apple, and how the Ubuntu community’s passion and focus on design will change the way people see Linux for a long time.

 

After four years at an open source application company, you’re coming back to Linux. Why now? And, why Canonical?

Asay: I loved working for Alfresco, a company with excellent technical and business leadership. I joined Alfresco because I wanted executive mentoring, first, and to help build an explosive, profitable company. Both were fulfilled in my four years there.

I wanted a new challenge – one where I could apply the lessons learned at Alfresco and have success reflected industry wide. However, I didn’t want to leave my friends at Alfresco unless it was to work with other good friends.

Canonical offered me both.

When Mark [Shuttleworth] texted me shortly before Christmas it was a surprise, but a welcome one. We’ve been friends for several years and have talked extensively about business, but never specifically about me joining him at Canonical. His text hit me at the right time.

Never has the opportunity for Linux been more promising; and as Linux goes, so goes the open-source industry. Canonical can take Ubuntu Linux into markets and opportunities that no one else can, including Red Hat, a company for which I have deep and abiding respect and affection (in part because of the wonderful people I know there). 

We have the chance to turn the technology world upside down. At Canonical we have Google or Apple-sized ambition, because we have community that dwarfs both of them put together. Our task is to work with the community to fulfill that opportunity. I believe we can. That’s what I signed up to accomplish.

You mentioned in your blog post about the move that you were intrigued by new challenges like cloud computing, consumer Linux adoption and community development. You’re on a panel at the Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit next month talking about the “open cloud.” Can you give us a peek: Does open source mean open cloud?

Asay: It doesn’t, but that should be a key component. As my friend Dries Buytaert of Drupal fame recently told ReadWriteWeb, the cloud threatens to lock in users by making it hard (or meaningless) to move data from one cloud/SaaS system to another. Open source mitigates against this tendency toward lock-in.

On the other hand, just because something is open source doesn’t mean it’s truly open. Source code may be open but the development process is closed, leaving users little better off than with proprietary licensing.

I believe open clouds are a combination of open source, open data, open APIs and open development. It’s at this confluence that strong communities form.  Indeed, this might be the best evidence of truly open source/open clouds:

community.

Can Linux compete with Apple?

Asay: I’m not sure this is the right question, as Linux already competes with and beats Apple in a huge array of devices. Linux spans everything from HPC to embedded devices and everything in between. Apple cannot compete with that. Could you build a supercomputer using Mac hardware? Sure, but you’d be mortgaging your house to do so and even then, the Mac would likely lose.

Of course, Apple doesn’t want to compete in such markets. It’s famously focused and opts to do a few things very well, like its iPhone and laptops.

Can Linux compete in these markets? Yes. Of course it can. Look at Android as perhaps the best example of effectively competing with Apple in mobile.  Apparently Apple agrees with me, as its patent infringement suit against HTC is almost certainly a shot over Google’s bow, as The New York Times recently suggested. Apple is worried. And it should be.

On the desktop, too, Linux is going to give Apple (and Microsoft) a run for its money. Google is at the forefront of this with Chrome OS, which challenges the very foundations of Apple’s OS, as well as that of Windows. 

But that’s just one front in the competition. There’s also the corporate desktop, where Apple competes by osmosis (if at all) and the traditional consumer desktop, where I think Canonical offers an exceptional experience with Ubuntu. I’m biased, of course, but given how much of a Mac fan I was (and still am), when I say that I haven’t felt the need to run back to my Mac after four weeks on Ubuntu, that’s meaningful.

Apple makes beautiful products, products that can be very easy to use and sometimes groundbreaking. We in the open-source world can learn much from the software Apple writes.

But having used both Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X, as well as Windows, I just don’t think using Linux is tantamount to donning some hair-shirt to pay penance in the name of freedom. 

The desktop – including Apple’s – hasn’t materially changed in the past 10 years.  Real innovation, therefore, is happening at the edges of the desktop: in the cloud (tying desktop software to server-based services), for example, but also in new form factors (which Linux is pioneering as much as Apple with its iPad) and in new experiences (like “instant-on” technology like Ubuntu’s WebNow or DeviceVM).

In sum, yes, Apple leads in some areas, but I think if we were to tally up its total record against Linux, and not simply in the narrow categories it chooses to target, we’d see the balance weigh heavily in Linux’ favor.

How do you approach the challenge of community development? How does the emergence of open mobile development impact this?

Asay: Community development is difficult, but made infinitely more so if one’s code, development and business practices are also closed. As Apple has shown, however, community (at least in terms of a vibrant developer ecosystem that contributes around Apple products, rather than to them), and an exceptional product covers a multitude of proprietary approaches.

So, I don’t think Canonical (or anyone) can afford to say, “We’re open. Come on over and develop this clunky wreck we’ve started for you.” The foundation of any great community is great software. Canonical has a great community in large part because we’re committed to great software and so the innovators within the Linux community tend to congregate around the Ubuntu desktop. They then want to see their Ubuntu experience bleed into mobile, servers and cloud.

Mobile, far from challenging community development, particularly for Linux, enhances it. Mobile is ripe for open-source development because of the immense potential pool of talent from it draws: every developer has a phone and many will have the aptitude to do something with that phone’s software, particularly as mobile devices increasingly use a general purpose operating system, and not necessarily an “embedded OS.”

Sure, there’s the fear of fragmentation as the Linux Community disperses into competing efforts. But the reality is Linux has always been like that, and the kernel has thrived as a result as the different groups borrow from each other’s ideas. Mobile is not going to converge on just one or two platforms owned by Microsoft and Apple, as Accel partner Richard Wong asserts.

That’s good for mobile development.

What are the remaining hurdles for Linux in the enterprise? Are they technical or business challenges?

Asay: There are technical challenges, but after spending the last four weeks with Ubuntu Linux, I think the primary problem is simply human nature. People are used to their Windows or Macs machines. Most don’t necessarily have a strong preference for their OS. It’s just there. They care about the applications.  Which ones? Facebook. Email. IM. Music. Movies.

Guess what? Only one of those is unavailable on Linux (iTunes, if that’s the preference, though there are other good alternatives).

Most people don’t know this. Most people don’t care to know this. They’re going to use whatever is put in front of them at work. Individuals don’t use SAP or Outlook or other enterprise software because they necessarily want to. It’s just what shows up on their machines when they start at a new company. They find their way to Facebook.com and Gmail.comwithout IT’s help or intervention.

However, I don’t think this is really where we’re going to see Linux adoption.  Rather, I think the real opportunity is not in replacing an existing experience, like for like, but rather in creating new experiences for them, be it netbooks, instant-on offerings, mobile, etc. Most people are going to discover Linux by accident when they buy their TiVo, Kindle, etc. They won’t necessarily know that it’s Linux, and that’s just fine.

Like the Mac, Linux will find its enterprise momentum through the consumers who carry it into the company from their homes.

Canonical and the Ubuntu community have done a lot to change the perception of Linux simply being an server OS. How does the company sustain that momentum and continue to push the technology envelope? What’s required?

Asay: A passion and eye for design. We have both. We’ve made the Linux desktop experience so easy that even I can use it. We’re going to do that on the traditional desktop, but we’re also going to continue to push Ubuntu into a variety of exciting form factors. Our community and our business partners haven’t allowed us to rest on our laurels, and I don’t expect them to start doing so. 

This is what has animated our push into the cloud, where Ubuntu is already the dominant operating system, and by a wide margin. Not surprisingly (at least, to us), it has been the Ubuntu desktop experience that has made us so appealing on the server and in the cloud. Linux innovators use Ubuntu and have wanted that same tight experience for their servers. We’re the fastest growing server OS in large part due to the enthusiasm of our community.

OSBC returns for the seventh year in a row (wow!) this week. How have the conference sessions changed since those early days? What can we expect from the event this year?

Asay: I hadn’t realized we had been staging it for so long until you said that. “Wow” is right. It started out as: “This open source thing is interesting but how are we possibly going to fund its future?.” Then, it morphed into being about sharing strategies to fuel commercial open-source growth. Today, it is an excellent place to learn how to make open source work for your business, whether you’re Delta Air Lines, Facebook or Alfresco. 

A significant portion of our program this year addresses what open source means for a Web-centric world. So, Facebook is keynoting but we’re not just talking about so-called “Web 2.0” companies. We also have a range of Global 2000 enterprises like Virgin talking about how they’ve implemented open source, whether and how this saves them money or boosts productivity, and more.

I also really like how our legal track has matured, which reflects the maturing of the industry’s views on open source. The first OSBC dealt extensively with the legal risks of open source, but this one focuses on more practical issues like how to conduct due diligence when acquiring a company with open-source assets, or how to avoid patent pitfalls set by proprietary software. It’s nice to see people talking about the perils of proprietary software, seven years on, rather than the risks of open source. I think that’s the right perspective.

You’re helping to design the business track at LinuxCon. What do you think the business conversation at LinuxCon will focus on?

Asay: I’m fascinated by what Linux is doing to the mobile industry, and we’ll take a deep look at the business opportunities and challenges Linux is creating for a whole host of mobile operators. Generally speaking, Linux is lowering the bar to entering new markets for companies as diverse as Nokia, IBM and Red Hat. Why is this? And how do we take this wonderful thing we’ve all shared in creating and ensure it remains vibrant, free and revolutionary? We’re going to have a lot of fun.

Finally, what music are you listening to this season on the slopes?

Asay: I never listen to music while I ski; though I do sing quite often while I’m skiing, and I tend to crank music on the way up the canyon to the slopes (everything from Rage Against the Machine to Thom Yorke to Silversun Pickups to Morrissey to The Killers to…Haydn, when the mood is right). Recently I was rocking to Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers” and Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch,” with a little Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” thrown in as I hit Little Cottonwood Canyon (I couldn’t help it, looking up at the beautiful slopes of Snowbird and Alta).

But when I’m on the slopes, I just love hearing nothing but the snow under my skis. It’s the same when I run: it’s my time to let my mind just go and not have it cluttered with noise (even if it’s noise I enjoy).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Linux.com in its newest form. A year ago, we built the site based on your rankings of features on IdeaForge. Today, we want to hear how you’re using Linux.com and what is most useful. And perhaps even more importantly – what isn’t useful. We also want to better understand who is using the site so we can provide resources that specifically meet your needs.

So, we’re launching a short survey today to gather important input on where we go from here. We will review the results at our annual Linux.com Planning Meeting at the Collaboration Summit in April where the 2010 Linux Gurus (to be announced shortly) will review the findings and help us determine what’s next for the site. Please take five minutes to fill out the 8-question Linux.com Community Survey.

We’re also preparing to run a series of profiles on our individual members. If you’re an individual member and have a fun or interesting story about how you’re using Linux and taking advantage of your Linux Foundation membership, email me at
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.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to more formally introduce myself. I’ve gotten the chance to talk to some folks about my recent career move to join the Linux Foundation as Director of Communications & Community, but I’ll share a little more detail here.

First, I’ve been working with the Linux Foundation as a partner (Page One PR) for many years and you’ve probably seen me (and in many instances, talked with me) at the Collaboration Summit, LinuxCon and other events.

So it is a very natural step to come on board full-time. I’m hoping this will lead to even closer collaboration with the Linux community in the spirit of helping bring more awareness to Linux and to provide important information to the growing masses of new Linux users.

The evolving definition of the desktop makes this year a very important time for Linux. For the first time in its history, Linux is the front-runner OS for a new generation of computing devices. This translates into a new level of demand for business and marketing support, to which I’m humbled to be able to contribute.

I will help meet this demand by serving Linux Foundation constituents, which include corporate and individual members, press and analysts, and our Linux.com members.

I’ve spent my career so far working in PR and social media so what I hope to contribute is an ability to bring attention to other people’s contributions. For example, there is unique content on Linux.com and gifted writers in the community who are writing for the site today. I will strive to help drive traffic and attention to the important work and unique resources available on Linux.com as well as to facilitate collaboration on the site.

I look forward to the work ahead and hope to see you at the Collaboration Summit next month!
 

Today we launched a new initiative at the Linux Foundation: a merchandise store on Linux.com. These aren’t logo Ts that you get at every trade show (and probably use to dry your car.) The T-shirts, mugs, stickers and babies gear in the Linux.com store are truly unique and hopefully capture the irreverence, wit and attitude of Linux and free software. My personal favorites:

While I like these designs, I also realize that the minds of many generally produce superior product.  That’s why we’re also launching a community design contest. Just like the open development process has proven to develop the best code, an open design process will surface the best designs for apparel featured in the Linux.com Store. Make us laugh or gasp with your submissions. We’ll host the top 5 designs on Linux.com through June 6, 2010 for community vote. The winner will get to join us in Boston for LinuxCon as well as see their design on apparel in the Store. Get your designs in by April 11: http://www.linux.com/tshirt-design-contest. And please let me know your impressions of the store and the designs. We know there are other sites where you can buy Linux or free software merchandise, but the proceeds from this store go to maintaining the Linux Foundation’s programs and services. We hope to see you wearing these shirts at an event in the future to show the world what OS you support.

In the past few years, the use of Linux in embedded devices has skyrocketed. Televisions, phones, cars, ATMs: you name it, it probably has Linux running in it. At the recent Mobile World Congress, Linux dominated virtually every product announcement: Samsung’s Bada, many new Android phones, the Linux Foundation’s MeeGo project, Palm, and many more. Embedded Linux today has been nearly as disruptive as Linux was in the data center in the 90s and 2000s as it displaced proprietary Unix OSes.

With massive growth comes the need for skilled developer talent. As many of you know, the Linux Foundation launched Linux training courses for developer and sys admins last year, and has been steadily expanding its offerings. This January we announced a free webinar series to help connect developers to the experts they need to advance their careers. Based on the demand we’re seeing in light of these recent announcements, we are announcing a new free training webinar on embedded Linux.

In this free webinar, you will receive the basics of embedded Linux development and get an overview of best practices. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about a very hot area in technology. I hope you take advantage of it and find it useful for your career.

We also have a five day course on embedded Linux development for those ready to dive in on March 22 in the Bay Area. There are a few spots left so please register if interested. Those who attend the free webinar will receive a discount for the course.

I’m probably moving my office to be above the garage.

In preparation for that, I did the whole “get CAT6 networking to the new location” thing, which has involved re-acquainting myself with our crawlspace. Spending my days crawling around, hoping I’m not going to encounter any dead mice (or live ones, for that matter).

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It has now been almost exactly five years since kernel development community tentatively started using the git source code management system with the 2.6.12-rc2 commit. That was an uncertain time; nobody really knew how long it would take the development process to get back up to speed after an abrupt core-tool change. As it turned out, git was almost immediately useful, and has only become more so since. Making the development process work is git’s main claim to fame, but, as a side benefit, git also makes it possible to learn a lot about how our kernel is developed. And that, as it turns out, includes taking a look at the code which is not changed.

The speed of the development process is impressive; the nearly-released 2.6.33 kernel is the product of nearly 11,000 individual changes affecting nearly a million lines of code (look here for more 2.6.33 statistics). Those numbers are boringly normal for a three-month development cycle; things are always moving that fast.

Given that, one might think that, by now, very little of that 2.6.12-rc2 kernel which was first committed to git would remain. After all, over 500,000 lines were deleted in this development cycle alone. I got curious, and decided to look a bit deeper. The result was the creation of some brutally hackish Python scripts, the expenditure of about a week of solid CPU time, and some statistics on the age of the kernel code base.

It turns out that, of the approximately 12 million lines of code and documentation that make up the 2.6.33 kernel, about 31% dates back to that 2.6.12-rc2 commit. A third of our current kernel has not been touched in the last five years.

Some parts of the kernel (including the network stack, the filesystem layer, and, alas, the documentation directory) have higher-than-average amounts of old code. Over 40% of our documentation is at least five years old. Some of that documentation covers things which haven’t changed – how to configure old hardware, for example, and Klingon language support – but much of the rest is just … old.

The newest code can generally be found in the core kernel, which is much more aggressively improved and updated. But, even there, 25% of the memory management layer dates from 2.6.12, as does about 13% of the “kernel” directory.

Does this mean that we have a lot of old and unmaintained code sitting around? In places, that will certainly be true; no body of code this large can be without the occasional cobweb-filled corner. But I also think these numbers show that we have built this kernel to last. The development community’s focus on code quality and maintainability means that, even in a rapidly-changing kernel with contributions from thousands of developers, a third of our code works so well that it has not even needed a dusting-off in the last five years.

Microsoft today issued a news release to announce a patent cross-license agreement with Amazon. And, the news release, in the lead, explicitly calls out a set of technologies covered by the agreement: the Kindle, which employs open source software, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers.

Companies reach broad cross-license agreements all the time, never disclose the patents involved and don’t often issue press releases about it. Amazing how despite the “broad range of products and technology” covered in their cross license, Microsoft chose to focus on Linux and open source – distinctly calling it out from “proprietary software” and wasn’t specific about any patents.

It is worth noting that most technology companies have invested heavily in patents and that a cross-licensing agreement is a non-news event. The fact that two entities with expensive stockpiles of outdated weapons felt the need to negotiate détente is not surprising.

Let’s avoid second-guessing and implication. There’s nothing to see here. We have real code to write.

So I was in Costco waiting for a car tire rotation and check yesterday. Wasting time, I blew three bucks on a slice of pizza and a sundae, and looked around for a place to sit down and pig out. The place was packed, and it was the middle of the day.

So I sat down next to this group of people, and realized that one reason it was busy was that apparently people use the Costco foodcourt as a lunch place. Fair enough. A couple of bucks gets you a long way there.