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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: April 4th, 2005

Content:

1.  Gentoo News

April fools

Impossible to catch all IT-related April fool's jokes this year, they were everywhere, on Google, OpenBSD, some even found their way into Gentoo ebuilds. One seems to have qualified for the 2005 best of April fool's shortlist at many publications: The GeNToo project, Gentoo for the NT kernel, alas, is a complete and utter joke. If you believed a word of it, you've been had.

Of the several pranks played at Gentoo this year, the GeNToo plot was the most elaborate, and actually dating back to a group of three developers splitting away from the rest of the lot at FOSDEM in February for a spontaneous hacking and belgian fries session: Karl Trygve Kalleberg, Patrick Lauer and Marius Mauch. Under the influence of too many Belgian fries, karltk was the first to point out the epiphany hidden in the name of the project: "You see, when you write 'Gentoo', it has NT in the middle," said the Norwegian developer. And thinking aloud: "Now if one took the NT kernel ... there is a POSIX layer for it ... put Portage on it ..." As he drew the surreal picture in increasingly shrill colors, the three devs quickly realized that the only possible release date for this particularly fine piece of vaporware would have to be the first of April.

So, with the idea floating since February, there was time to back the story up with ample documentation and even screenshots (which were taken from VMware during a regular boot of Windows 2000 in "Safe Mode"), with a coating of a handmade bootlog text that was a rather good approximation of how emerge info might actually look on such a system.

When the announcement was posted to the website and the topics of two IRC channels almost simultaneously around noon UTC, the traffic statistics on the website where the project description was hosted went simply through the ceiling. An amazingly constant stream of traffic, weighing in at around one hit per second or 100MB per hour, was sustained over almost the entire day -- considering that the whole website is only 165KB, estimations are that the GeNToo hoax got around 600 visitors per hour.


Figure 1.1: Traffic load on the fake GeNToo project pages: Right after the announcement

Fig. 1: Screenshot


Figure 1.2: Traffic load on the fake GeNToo project pages: Slashdot effect after 22:00

Fig. 2: Screenshot

To make the illusion even more believable, a channel on Freenode was created, too: #gentoo-nt, the perfect place to discuss something that didn't even exist. An interesting twist came about when some of the first to be fooled later turned into devoted GeNToo evangelists, perpetuating the myth in the IRC channel and taking the charade even further: One produced "a patched NT kernel" and offered it online at his own website. When looked at closely, it bore a striking familiarity with a 2.6.11 Linux kernel, but nevertheless -- declared as a "GeNToo binary" -- found many curious downloaders.

While the #gentoo-nt channel on Freenode was still continuing its makebelief stance well past the dateline into Saturday 2 April, nobody was sad when the atrocities behind the other prominent Gentoo April fool's joke were taken down again. People who had followed the announcement in the Gentoo forums that the redesign had now been finished and could be applied by simply switching the user profile, quickly complained about headache, sudden bursts of claustro- and other phobia. Small wonder, looking at the effect the "redesign" had on posts:


Figure 1.3: Kallamej's announcement, rendered in the freshly redesigned Forum layout

Fig. 3: Screenshot

Reactions were mixed, while some people figured out the joke pretty fast, others complained about eyestrain. While moderators were watching and merging duplicated spawn to the central thread, they decided to create even more confusion by renaming moderators to "Ninjas" and administrators to "Ninja Masters". Bodhisatvas (the rank for ex-mods and -admins) decided not to follow this trend -- and were renamed to HAL 9000. How subtle moderator interference at the forums really is was best displayed by the fact that it took almost all day before people started noticing the change!

emerge webrsync reloaded

Portage developer Brian Harring has implemented a more resource-friendly version of emerge webrsync. Instead of pulling in the whole tarball, it only uses compressed patches between (daily) versions. That way a user can keep up-to-date with only minimal overhead even when rsync is not available (firewalls and dialup users mostly). A description and howto can be found at his blog. First estimates give up to 99% bandwidth saved compared to webrsync.

Donations surpassing expectations

Last week's announcement of the return of PayPal donations has triggered a delightful response from the community, as Corey Shields, one of the trustees of the Gentoo Foundation, has reported last week.

The opening balance for the bank account was spontaneously paid in full by Gentoo sponsor Genesi, who wired an advance payment on commissions for the sales of PegasosPPC Open Desktop Workstations.

2.  Developer of the week

"Why Gentoo? It's cool." -- Michael Hanselmann (hansmi)


Figure 2.1: Michael Hanselmann aka hansmi

Fig. 1: hansmi

This weeks featured dev is Michael Hanselmann, known to most as hansmi. He does "various stuff" in Gentoo/PPC, Gentoo/HPPA and the qmail herd, which mostly boils down to marking packages stable, fixing bugs and hanging out on IRC a lot. He is the administrator of a hosting experiment (a project called forkbomb.ch), has written some software of his own, used to do some work with fli4l and still does busy himself with the m0n0wall project, but his greatest contributions he still sees in Gentoo, including a stint on the Mac OS X team where he contributed a Mac OS panel application for setting Portage preferences.

Currently he is doing a programmer apprenticeship in Liechtenstein which will be finished this summer -- job offers in Switzerland are therefore highly appreciated! His favourite applications are the vim, mutt and qmail, which all runs somewhere on a heterogenous mix of x86, sparc, hppa and ppc, with fluxbox quite possibly being the only element that binds them all together. Asked what the first application to launch after he boots his systems, he insists on an appropriately geeky answer: "Technically, /sbin/init is the first application I (or my kernel) launches at startup. Or maybe you mean bash when logging in. In a graphical environment, it's aterm and ssh."

In those rare moments when he is not attached to computer peripherals he fiddles with electronics, building or breaking stuff, and sometimes really considers "real" life less interesting than computers.

3.  Heard in the community

Web forums

Banned from OTW

A new feature, originally introduced by ex-developer Christian Hartmann and available to forum administrators since about a month ago has now been officially announced to the public. The OTW ban button provides the forum admins with a finer-grained ability to ban someone for disregarding the guidelines for postings in Off the Wall, while leaving their ID intact and activated for posts in the technical support forums. People can be hotheads and still eager (and competent) to help others with their Linux problems. Until the new feature was introduced, banning resulted in a full ban from the forums altogether.

gentoo-dev

The Pluggable Hell - PAM

Diego Pettenò explains his work with getting PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) to behave the same on non-Linux Gentoos as on normal Linux. For anyone interested in porting software this should be an interesting read, showing how small differences can make you life really difficult when trying to get something to work properly ...

GTK / GTK2 USE flag madness

As it happens every 6 months or so, a discussion on the (ab)use and the combinations of GTK and GTK2 USEflags was started. There are many ideas to improve the situation, but no real consensus on what "-gtk gtk2" would mean has been reached (yet)

ApRiL FoOlS!!!

As it happens every year, a few jokes were sent to the -dev mailinglist on April 1. Here's a list of those messages:

4.  Gentoo in the press

NewsForge (28 March 2005)

Bruce Byfield discusses the upcoming OpenOffice.org version 2.0 and the implications of its move towards Java: "Since Java's license is neither free nor open source, a small but vocal minority has responded both strongly and negatively," says Byfield, and explains in detail why there are fears of platform support for OOo falling apart (FreeBSD and Linux for PPC, for example, currently "have no official version of Java," as he notes), and of alienating users. In his article with the provocative title "Java fallout: OpenOffice.org 2.0 and the FOSS community", he looks at the plans at major distributors of how to go about the issue of OOoand Java inclusion, he quotes Gentoo developer Paul de Vrieze as preferring an open-source implementation of Java such as GCJ, but being open to include Java proper if no alternative is available.

Summary of release coverage (28 March 2005 and later)

The long-awaited release of 2005.0 received a lot of attention throughout the week, here's a compilation of some major sightings:

5.  Moves, adds, and changes

Moves

The following developers recently left the Gentoo team:

  • Chris White

Adds

The following developers recently joined the Gentoo Linux team:

  • Joe Sapp (nixphoeni) - gDesklets
  • Jory Pratt (anarchy) - qmail

Changes

The following developers recently changed roles within the Gentoo Linux project:

  • None this week

6.  Gentoo security

mpg321: Format string vulnerability

A flaw in the processing of ID3 tags in mpg321 could potentially lead to the execution of arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Smarty: Template vulnerability

Smarty's "Template security" feature can be bypassed, potentially allowing a remote attacker to execute arbitrary PHP code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

netkit-telnetd: Buffer overflow

The netkit-telnetd telnet client is vulnerable to a buffer overflow, which could allow a malicious telnet server operator to execute arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

LimeWire: Disclosure of sensitive information

Two vulnerabilities in LimeWire can be exploited to disclose sensitive information.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

telnet-bsd: Multiple buffer overflows

The telnet-bsd telnet client is vulnerable to two buffer overflows, which could allow a malicious telnet server operator to execute arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Sylpheed, Sylpheed-claws: Buffer overflow on message display

Sylpheed and Sylpheed-claws contain a vulnerability that can be triggered when displaying messages with specially crafted attachments.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

7.  Bugzilla

Summary

Statistics

The Gentoo community uses Bugzilla (bugs.gentoo.org) to record and track bugs, notifications, suggestions and other interactions with the development team. Between 27 March 2005 and 03 April 2005, activity on the site has resulted in:

  • 911 new bugs during this period
  • 489 bugs closed or resolved during this period
  • 32 previously closed bugs were reopened this period

Of the 8410 currently open bugs: 87 are labeled 'blocker', 235 are labeled 'critical', and 633 are labeled 'major'.

Closed bug rankings

The developers and teams who have closed the most bugs during this period are:

New bug rankings

The developers and teams who have been assigned the most new bugs during this period are:

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Print

Page updated April 4, 2005

Summary: This is the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of 4 April 2005.

Ulrich Plate
Editor

Wernfried Haas
Author

Patrick Lauer
Author

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