Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: December 22nd, 2003
First Anniversary of the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter
This week marks the first anniversary of the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter, whose first issue was published on 23 December 2002. As inaugural editor Kurt Lieber said, "the GWN was started as a way of giving the Gentoo community one source of information about the Gentoo Linux project." We've added, changed, and retired sections; and contributors and translators have come and gone, but we hope to continue to provide you with news about your favorite Linux distribution.
To celebrate the first anniversary, this week we're bringing you some special content. First, for those of you who've wondered who we are, we have profiles of the contributors and translators from whom we were able to catch and force a picture and some words. In both Featured Developer and the new semiregular Developer Interviews we're interviewing chief architect Daniel Robbins. In the first interview you'll find out about Daniel and his role in the project, and in the latter about new features being considered or in development, and the future of the project.
We'd like to thank the great team of contributors and translators who make the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter possible. As always, we're seeking volunteers to help make the GWN better; see the end of the newsletter if you're interested.
GWN Staff Profiles
Figure 1.1: Yuji Kosugi
Yuji Kosugi has worked on the GWN
since its inception at the end of 2002, mostly on the Featured
Developer section, and has been the editor since July 2003. A freshman
majoring in mathematics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island,
USA, he spent way too much of his first semester there playing Cosmic
Encounter, Magic:the Gathering, Dance Dance Revolution, and other games
instead of going to class. Yuji also practices Aikido and enjoys
Figure 1.2: AJ Armstrong
AJ Armstrong (aja) is responsible
for our Featured Developer and Bugzilla sections. He is
an instructor in Computer Engineering Technology at the Northern
Alberta Institute of Technology. He is an omnivorous reader who
practices Karate and enjoys SCUBA diving. He lives in Edmonton, Canada
with his wife, who is expecting their first child in April.
Figure 1.3: Brian Downey
Brian Downey heads up the
gentoo-user mailing list summaries, and just got married earlier this year
at the age of 28. Hailing from Farmington, Michigan, USA (just outside of
Detroit) Brian enjoys jamming on drums
& guitar or working on building up the small Linux consulting start-up he founded in 2002. He also
works full-time for a large Detroit financial company and is proud of the
progress he has made transitioning servers to Gentoo Linux in that
organization. A self-admitted Apple Mac fan, he explains it simply: "OS X
rocks." His motto is unsurprisingly Unix-influenced: "If you're going to
do it, you might as well do it right."
Luke Giuliani (coldflame) is responsible for our -dev mailing list update section. He is a student at the University of Melbourne, studing Engineering (Mechatronics)/Computer Science. In his spare (and not so spare) time he enjoys consuming copious amounts of coffee, shooting pool, and arguing philosophy with friends. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Figure 1.4: David Narayan
David Narayan is responsible for
our Tips & Tricks section. He works as a systems
administrator for a university in Georgia (United States). When not at
work he can usually be found playing pool or backpacking.
Figure 1.5: Ulrich Plate
Ulrich Plate, responsible for the weekly Forum fallout and the International news section, has just turned 40
last month. When he joined the GWN team at its inauguration one year ago, he was still on post in Tokyo, representing a number of European IT
companies in Japan and Asia. Since his repatriation to Germany in May, he is Managing Director of a small
technology consultancy in the Taunus mountain range just outside of Frankfurt am Main, focussing on open source migration strategies and IT
security. As a former journalist he's delighted to get to write stuff at least once a week for the GWN, and could definitely use some more
pressure to fulfill his duties as a Forum moderator and press relations officer for Gentoo Linux. His motto is borrowed from Douglas Adams: "I
love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Marc Herren aka dj-submerge
is 26 years old and lives in Bern (Switzerland). He's using Linux
since 1998 and Gentoo for about 2 years. Currently he's working as a
project leader in a networking company mainly dealing with HP-UX and
Linux. Besides computers he plays volleyball a lot and spins the turntables.
Tobias Scherbaum aka dertobi123
is 22 and lives in Oberhausen (Germany). He is using Gentoo for
something about one and a half year. Since december he's reponsible for
german translations within the Gentoo Documentation Project.
Steffen aka MadEagle ist 32,
lives in Hamburg (Germany) and is an IT Consultant when he is not
translating the GWN. He uses Linux on and off since 1998 but for the last
two years consistently Gentoo.
Tobias aka SirSeoman is 23 and
lives in Trier (Germany). Besides being a translator for the GWN, he is
a student of applied computer science at the Trier University of Applied
Sciences. He is using linux and Gentoo permanently for 6 months and learns
Daniel aka Sputnik1969 lives
in Berlin (Germany), is 34 years young and uses Linux since 1998 and
Gentoo since Spring 2002. If he doesn't translates parts of the GWN he's
looking for a new job as a Software Developer or System Administrator.
Thomas Raschbacher aka LordVan is
21 years old and lives in Austria. He's using Linux
since 1995 and Gentoo for about 2 years. Currently he's self employed as a
Computer reseller and consultant. When he's not coding or translating GWN
he's usually listening to music, read Mangas or watch Animes.
Matthias aka haim is 21 and
lives in Vienna (Austria). When he isn't translating the GWN into German
language, he is working as a freelancing Linux IT Consultant. In his spare
time, Matthias likes to party with friends or reading an interesting book.
Figure 1.6: Marco Mascherpa
Marco Mascherpa, italian lead translator, is 24 years old and he lives with his family in Milan, Italy.
After the last exam left to pass, he's going to get a degree in Information
Engineering and now he's quite busy studying and writing his thesis about
Open Source software in the enterprise. His interests include playing with Gentoo,
watching movies, reading books and playing strategy games.
Figure 1.7: Claudio Merloni
Claudio Merloni aka paper is 25 years old, born and living
in Milan, Italy. He is currently fighting against the last exam left to obtain
a degree in Computer Engineering at the Politecnico of Milan, while
working on his thesis on Natural Language Processing. When not trying to
break his Gentoo, he enjoys playing on his piano or listening to music,
from jazz to progressive rock.
Christian Apolloni aka bsolar lives in Lugano, Switzerland and is
studying Computer Science at the Swiss-Italian University of Applied
Science. He likes to go to the cinema, go-karting and reading.
Figure 1.8: Stefano Lucidi
Stefano Lucidi is 23 years old and at the moment lives in Rome (italy). He studies computer
science. He loves power and progressive metal (stratovarius, dream theater
During waste time he likes to play the guitar, read, code in his
favourite languages (C, python and java), test open source software
or update his Gentoo portal Gentoo Italia.
Sergey Galkin aka Zlodey is 26
and lives in Saratov (Russia). He uses Linux since 2001 and Gentoo for
the last year. Currently he's working as a network administrator
managing Ciscos' devices and servers running Gentoo, Solaris and FreeBSD
Sergey Kuleshov aka svyatogor
is 18 years old and lives in Cyprus. He's been using Linux for the last
3 years and switched to Gentoo around a year ago. Apart from being a GWN
translator he's also a follow-up translator for the Russian team and
lead of the Gentoo Documentation Internationalisation Subproject. In
real life he's a student doing his B.Sc. in "Maths Computing and
Aleksandr Martyncev aka Aleks is 17
years old. He lives in Bryansk (Russia) and works as a programmer for
one of the enterprises. He began using Linux in 2003 and seems to really
like it When Aleksandr joined our team he didn't use Gentoo, but now he's
got strong interest in this distro.
Alex Spirin aka asp13 (don't mix with a
dozen of others :) is 26 years old and lives in Saratov city (Russia,
Volga-river). He's doing his best in order not waste any time on his way
to work/home. Alex works as a network administrator maintaining Ciscos'
devices and other "damned stuff" and certainly uses Gentoo, especially
the _very_ powerful Gentoo LiveCD. He hopes it was him who invented
(or probably stolen?) the best Gentoo's motto - "Emerge YOUR world".
Featured Developer of the Week
Figure 2.1: Daniel Robbins with daughter Tzipporah
In honour of our anniversary edition, we are featuring an interview
with Daniel Robbins (drobbins),
the founder of Gentoo. The interview is in a question-and-answer
format rather than our usual summary format, to give Daniel a chance
to speak directly about the distro, it's origins and where it's going.
GWN: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Montreal, Canada, and lived there until I was eight.
Then I moved with my mom to Brookline, MA (Boston area) where I stayed
until I finished high school. I spent most of a year at WPI (Worcester
Polytechnic Institute) before dropping out near the end of my freshman
year. I then started working, including a stint at Sony Electronic
Publishing. After that, I moved out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where
I met and married my wife, and where we now live with our two young
daughters, Hadassah and Tzipporah.
In Albuquerque, I've had various computer-related jobs such as serving
as a syadmin at the University of New Mexico. This is where I first
started using GNU/Linux. For the last 3 or 4 years, I've done a lot of
writing for IBM developerWorks, SAMS and Intel Developer Services,
which became a close to a full-time thing. For most of 2003, a sponsor
in Germany has been generously supporting me financially so that I can
work on Gentoo full-time. So now I'm now devoting all of my
work-related efforts to moving Gentoo forward.
GWN: Could you tell us about how Gentoo started?
I became involved in the development of Stampede Linux, but wasn't
enjoying the experience. So I decided to create my own distribution to
learn about Linux. Because I was working by myself, I had to make sure
that everything was as automated as possible, and that's when the
development of Portage began. At that time, Gentoo was called Enoch.
GWN: What do you see on the horizon for Gentoo in the near term?
In the long term?
For 2004, you'll see us move to a quarterly release schedule, and
transition to a new naming scheme -- the next release of Gentoo will be
called "Gentoo Linux 2004." Under the hood, you'll see the fruits of
several efforts to improve quality, organization and efficiency within
our thriving and rapidly-growing community project.
Organizationally, we will be moving to a not-for-profit organizational
model some time in 2004, and will continue to improve our ability to
develop and deliver innovative technologies to the public. You'll also
see portage-ng ("portage -- next generation") development begin, as we
work on a full community-driven redesign of our package manager/ports
system. Overall, you'll see Gentoo continue to grow and flourish.
Beyond this? We'll continue to have fun and focus on delivering powerful
free solutions to the public.
GWN: What role do you think Gentoo plays (or will play) in the
broader Linux and Open Source communities as they gain more market
share and media attention?
I think there is a tendency for Linux-related technologies to become
commercialized and "less free" due to the involvement of for-profit
companies, some of which tend to be more pragmatic than idealistic in
their day-to-day behavior. Their actions often end up working against
the "hacker ethos." In contrast, our efforts are focused on advancing
the hacker ethos, because we're all hackers. That's why people tend to
become quite devoted to Gentoo -- because they can see we're doing and
are excited about that vision. Having a thriving free software community
is more than just choosing the right license.
GWN: Is there anything you'd like to say to the Gentoo
Thank you for using Gentoo Linux and please be sure to let us know how
we can make Gentoo better for you. Gentoo is what it is today because of
This week we're beginning a new, semiregular Developer Interview section. Like in Featured Developer of the Week, this section will be based on an interview of a developer, but here we'll focus more on what these developers can tell us about Gentoo Linux and its future. As it turns out this week we're interviewing Daniel Robbins again; here's what he had to tell us:
Thanks for taking the time to talk a bit with us here at the GWN.
You're welcome :)
Your title is "Chief architect", but what do you actually do within the Gentoo Linux Project?
My efforts are generally focused on "stretching" or elevating Gentoo as a project in certain critical areas, usually technical. With a project as large and dynamic as Gentoo, there is often a lack of focus. My job these days is to get certain things on the agenda -- things that are
important goals, and may not otherwise happen if someone isn't pushing for them.
Because of my position on the project, I can push things forward that others may not be able to move forward by themselves. A lot of my efforts have to do with helping others to get their important efforts moving forward and bearing fruit
With Gentoo currently storming on, and gaining popularity (Distrowatch.com labels Gentoo 4th most popular distro within the last 12 months), what do you think has made Gentoo such a succes.
A lot of things. From its inception, I made a very concerted effort to make Gentoo the ideal distribution for true Linux power users and developers. This allowed us to attract a lot of talented people rather quickly. We had a very liberal developer recruitment policy, which allowed us to grow rapidly.
When we had a lot of skilled developers who were making Gentoo better, a user community started to form. Our development team did a lot of good things to nourish this user community and be responsive to its needs. Because we took care of Gentoo users, a lot of Gentoo users seemed to get rather excited and started helping out newcomers to Gentoo as well.
Then we had another level of growth, where things like the forums really flourished. Users were helping other users, and this created a really healthy ecosystem for Gentoo, and this is something that we continue to enjoy today.
Speaking of the current succes, you recently announced the start of Portage-ng development (http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/devrel/manager/meetings/summaries/2003/20031103.xml). You outlined as a goal that portage-ng should be "beyond peoples' wildest expectations. Would you care to elaborate a bit on what we can expect.
You can expect all planning, goal-setting and development to be done publicly, with full accountability and involvement of our user and developer community. This is the only way we can approach a project as significant as portage-ng.
By making the community the key part of this process, and collecting their ideas and requirements for portage-ng, the result will indeed be beyond what any of us could have thought up all by ourselves.
Gentoo 1.4 was released a while ago, what can we expect from the upcoming Gentoo release?
We're moving to a new year-based versioning scheme, so the next release of Gentoo will be called Gentoo Linux 2004. We're also moving to a quarterly release schedule, and all our releases will be built with the new catalyst build tool. Users will be able to rebuild the entire release using a stage1 and a portage snapshot. Our LiveCDs will be
user-rebuildable and tweakable, thanks to catalyst.
You can learn more about our plans at the release engineering project page.
When can we expect the change to kernel 2.6?
Kernel 2.6 will be supported as an option in Gentoo Linux 2004. We will continue to support 2.4 for as long as people need it. When the driver support in 2.6 begins to surpass 2.4 in breadth and quality, then we'll look into making a 2.6 kernel the "default" kernel. This may happen sooner rather than later, because the 2.6 kernel series seems to be off to a fine start.
Could we expect a GUI installer to be developed for an upcoming Gentoo release?
I think this is likely to happen in late 2004. In the past, we've had several developer-led installer projects start, fizzle, and then die. Generally, this was because these installer efforts were pet projects of one or two developers and never really got support or interest from the rest of the project. People who work on installers have historically tended to be "lone ranger"-style developers, and a fair number of our developers don't really care about having a graphical installer.
Before we start another installer project, we really need to create some consensus about what our goals for the installer should be. Once we have a clear and inspiring vision for how the Gentoo installer should operate, it can be accepted project-wide. Then we can get a project organized and finally get a cutting-edge installer done for Gentoo that everyone can be proud of.
Everyone cares about security these days, many distros now ship with a firewall enabled per default, Microsoft even started to compile their software with a compiler with stack protective measures (like ProPolice). What can we expect Gentoo to do in terms of encouraging safe computing in the near future?
The fundamentals include more use of GPG in critical areas of Gentoo and Portage and more organization and focus in regard to our GLSAs (Gentoo Linux Security Advisories.) But the key work in this area is happening thanks to several ambitious efforts being pursued by our hardened project, led by Joshua Brindle (Method)
There seems to be some indication that there will be a "hardened" version of Gentoo available some time in 2004, thanks to the efforts of this project.
What current development in the Linux community are you most looking forward to?
My focus is unbashedly on Gentoo. Technically, I am most looking forward to Gentoo Linux 2004, catalyst and especially portage-ng. From a larger perspective, I'm looking forward to seeing our development team and user community continue to create, innovate and inspire. As a project manager, I'm most looking forward to watching Gentoo become more "professional" by adopting software development practices that allow us to drastically improve quality and user involvement throughout the entire project.
Organizationally, I'm looking forward to seeing Gentoo transition to a not-for-profit entity or entities some time in 2004, which will mark a new level of maturity for Gentoo as an organization.
There were no new security announcements or bugs this week.
Heard in the Community
Flash For PPC
Slow week for most of the Forums (except for a particularly untimely flurry of gratuitious flamemongering in the Off the Wall section). Among the more useful things to be posted was g-rem's howto for getting Macromedia's flash player to work in Linux on Macintosh - so useful, in fact, that it got replicated into the Italian forum right away:
Downtime and Upstream
With people cheering wildly at the reinstatement of the gentoo-user mailing list after four days of downtime, they seem to have encountered mostly non-Gentoo-specific development problems further up the stream, specifically concerning the odd Christmas install of a freshly minted 2.6 kernel:
A move of development sources.
As some people may be aware, the linux kernel recently reached version 2.6.0. As this is technically a stable release, the question was asked whether vanilla-sources in the portage tree should now point to these sources. Have a look here for the full discussion, including arguments for and against.
Italy: Major Revamp of GECHI Website Under Way
Two stickies in the Italian Gentoo forum talk about the redistribution of tasks for the GECHI (GEntoo CHannel Italia) website. If you feel like helping out with the technical administration workload or with content creation, kindly respond to these two threads.
Bugzilla - Annual Closed Bug Rankings
The Gentoo community uses Bugzilla (bugs.gentoo.org) to record
and track bugs, notifications, suggestions and other interactions
with the development team. Over the year following the first
publication of the GWN, the developers and teams who closed
the most bugs are:
Tips and Tricks
Linux Magic System Request Key Hacks
This week's tip is about the 'magic' SysRq key that can be used to
send events to the kernel in Linux.
To enable the SysRq key, compile CONFIG_MAGIC_SYSRQ into the
kernel. To disable it during runtime, use echo "0" >
To use the SysRq key, use ALT-SysRq-<commmand key>. This
allows you to send commands straight to the kernel that will be
executed immediately unless the machine is completely locked
Some of the many uses of SysRq are:
- Kill all programs on the current virtual console
- Immediately reboot the system
- Sync all filesystems
- Dump memory info to the console
- Kill all processes except init
- Set the console log level
For more detailed information on using SysRq see the kernel
Moves, Adds, and Changes
The following developers recently left the Gentoo team:
The following developers recently joined the Gentoo Linux team:
The following developers recently changed roles within the Gentoo Linux project:
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