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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: 9 October 2006

Content:

1.  Gentoo news

X.Org 7.1 to enter stable for amd64 and x86

The Gentoo X11 team plans to stabilize X.Org 7.1 for x86 and amd64 on or after Thursday, 12 October. The lack of binary driver support previously held up this release, but Nvidia and ATI released compatible versions that are now marked stable on both architectures.

This release features the addition of accelerated indirect GLX (AIGLX), which allows for eye candy such as the Compiz window/compositing manager, as well as running 3D accelerated display walls with Xdmx. X.Org 7.1 also integrates the kdrive (TinyX) servers for embedded systems into the xorg-server package with the kdrive USE flag. The kdrive integration additionally provides Xephyr, an enhanced Xnest-like client. Numerous video drivers also received significant updates.

Safe CFLAGS

Being able to tune CFLAGS is part of the user control and extreme configurability that are hallmarks of the Gentoo experience. Being in control brings both benefits and problems. CFLAGS tuning is not an exception.

Warning: Using anything beyond -O2 -fomit-frame-pointer -march/-mcpu/-mtune in CFLAGS or CXXFLAGS (and -mieee, -mabi etc. on selected archs that tell you to do this), and using anything at all in LDFLAGS or ASFLAGS, is usually not worth the trouble for most users. There's usually very little benefit, if any, high risks, and large amounts of time spent on frustrating tuning that could be enjoyed doing far more interesting things.

The recent upgrade to GCC 4.1 for stable x86 and amd64 users changed the CFLAGS landscape. Users that spent some time tuning their CFLAGS with GCC 3.4 might find that an upgrade to GCC 4.1 leaves them with an unstable system.

Examples of this are:

  • nss_ldap stopped working with -ffast-math (-ffast-math is often misused and must be considered a dangerous flag)
  • -fvisibility-inlines-hidden still breaks some code
  • -ftree-loop-linear now breaks in GCC 4.1 (at least with mesa)
  • -ftree-vectorize is known to be broken in GCC 4.1 (at least for x86 and ppc, there are fewer problems reported by amd64 users, but no guarantees)
  • -fforce-addr and -fweb break regularly on x86 with video libraries or graphic processing apps which use hand-optimized assembly (-fweb may be safe on amd64 but like above no guarantees)

There are known-to-be-broken flags for all GCC versions that you want to check for too:

  • -fvisibility=hidden
  • -frename-registers (may be safe on amd64, at your own risks)
  • -ftracer
  • -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64
  • -msse, -mmmx, and -m3dnow (no need for them on amd64, they are wrapped up by -march=k8/nocona/... and safely used there)
  • -W
  • -mfpmath=sse,387
  • -malign-double

Users with unsupported CFLAGS might want to return to safe CFLAGS (see warning above) if recent updates caused them stability problems. On the other hand, more adventurous users might want to experiment with CFLAGS that didn't work properly with GCC 3.4.6... As always, the user is in control (and the gun pointed to their feet is in his/her hand).

Final notes:

  • The GCC man page contains warnings for some unsafe optimization options. You should read it carefully when you experiment with CFLAGS or upgrade GCC on a CFLAGS-customized Gentoo.
  • Some options that are unsafe in the system-wide CFLAGS might be added automatically in some ebuilds if the developer deems them safe (by redefining CFLAGS or using append-flags from the flag-o-matic eclass). For example -ffast-math is added by the xmame/xmess ebuilds on most architectures even though you should not put it in your CFLAGS.
  • You might get an idea of the stability issues of a specific optimization option by running: find /usr/portage -name '*.ebuild' | xargs grep -- '-your-risky-optimization-option'. It takes quite some time, but might be enlightening: look for the 'filter-flags'.

2.  Developer of the week

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." - Daniel Ostrow, dostrow


Figure 2.1: Daniel Ostrow

Fig. 1: dostrow

Developer Daniel Ostrow, also known as dostrow, was born and raised in Michigan. Though he claims to be a New Yorker, at least in spirit -- spending 16 years there could do that -- he currently resides just outside San Francisco, CA. Daniel lives alone, though he plans to get a cat once he's settled. When living with his family back in NY, Daniel lived with three cats, some fish, a turtle, and a nine foot snake.

Dostrow learned pretty early on that college wasn't for him, though he did work for a while towards a degree in Interdisciplinary Marine Psych/Bio, specializing in marine mammals, quite the far cry from the computer geek he admits to having always been. Daniel says that in due time, he will eventually get around to a degree in something or other.

Daniel works for a Human Resources web service company, Workstream, which provides both on premise and hosted solutions for the entire HR life cycle, from recruitment to termination. While he was hired because of his affiliation with Gentoo, he is, alas, not paid to work on Gentoo. His job title is that of Senior Systems Engineer. Daniel sums up his job as being loaned to other departments to make the impossible, possible. While this sounds a bit unsettling, he enjoys always being kept on his toes and the fact that he is never working on one thing long enough to get bored with it. Workstream is a CentOS/Solaris/Windows shop, but Daniel managed to squeeze in Gentoo on a server that needed a custom patched kernel and his own local workstation.

Being an active Gentoo developer is a skill that Daniel describes as being invaluable in the work place. He is able to apply the same skills required to be a good developer (being an effective administrator, a logical thinker, and a tinkerer at heart) easily to most any IT job.

When not working, dostrow indulges in his animation obsession, basically vegging out in front of the TV. He partakes in the pretty standard activities, going to the San Francisco clubs and bars or taking in a movie. He loves Star Wars (lots and lots) and dance music. His favorite DJ is currently Armin Van Buuren, though Tiësto, Paul Van Dyk, and Ferry Corsten are all at the top of his list. He likes techno so much that Daniel makes it to the Ultra Music Festival in Florida every year. Oh yeah, did we mention that Daniel loves Star Wars? If that wasn't enough, he also admits to a hobby of archery. The neatest place that dostrow has traveled to? Definitely his month-long trip to eastern Asia where he had the opportunity to hit up Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Taiwan.

Dostrow started his *nix experience using NetBSD and went through a phase of trying multiple Linux distributions. He found his way to Gentoo in the 1.4_rc1 days, but found that a number of frustrating 'linuxisms' confounded him, so he moved on to other distributions. He found his way back to Gentoo after having familiarized himself with Linux. He attributes his early successes to the assistance of the Gentoo community (and gives shouts to Pylon and pvdabeel for their early help in getting his first PPC up and running). Dostrow continued to hang out in #gentoo-ppc, submitting patches and writing new ebuilds for out of date packages. He was quickly recruited by pvdabeel in May of 2004. His primary roles are with PPC64 and XFCE. He absolutely loves XFCE, having recently acquired the hardware to maintain it on every supported architecture.

Daniel boasts quite the home computer collection, consisting of an x86 Dell laptop and desktop, two AMD64 systems and an AMD64 Acer Ferrari, an Alpha, an HPPA, an ARM, two PPC's, two PPC64's, a few Sparcs, a MIPS box, and an IA64. Not too surprising, the first application dostrow launches is XFCE, followed by urxvt, gaim, xchat, and evolution.

3.  Heard in the community

forums.gentoo.org

Goodbye my Gentoo servers, I hardly knew you

Forums user kashani writes about his experiences with using Gentoo Linux as a replacement for CentOS at http://jumpcut.com/ prior to being bought by Yahoo! two weeks ago. The post starts with talking about how the conversion was begun with the support servers, then the development servers, followed soon by staging and production.

gentoo-user

OT: Sansa e260 MicroSD

Devon Miller owns a SanDisk Sans E260, a flash-based MP3 player with a slot for additional SD card storage. Devon was able to mount the flash drive but not the SD card. Steve McGrath (who'd had a similar problem with a 5-in-1 card reader) advised Devon to recompile his kernel with the option "Probe all LUNs on each SCSI device" selected under Device Drivers->SCSI device support. Devon reported problem solved.

Allow a user to restart net.wlan0

In order to deal with intermittent NIC failures on his son's machine, Mark Knecht needed to allow a non-root user to run the command /etc/init.d/wlan0 restart. Mark Shields and Devon Miller advised him to use visudo to add "username ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: /etc/init.d/net.wlan0" to the /etc/sudoers file. Ian Buchanan's suggested alternative was "username ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: /etc/init.d/net.wlan0 restart" which would allow only the restarting of the service.

Nick Rout and Alexander Skwar pointed out that the Atheros card might work better with the madwifi-ng driver in lieu of the ndiswrapper-ed Windows driver which Knecht had been using.

4.  Gentoo in the press

NewsForge (6 Oct 2006)

Benetech CTO, Dr. Patrick Ball talks about open source software and Gentoo in particular.

Ball's personal desktop is a Gentoo Linux box. "I've used Gentoo for years, because it was a lot of fun and it taught me a lot about how to administer a machine," he says, noting its unique choose-and-compile-everything philosophy. But he also says that you're not caught out on a limb when you use it -- the people who use and support and develop it are there to help you.

"The community is really strong and they're responsive at different levels," he says. "Other [free software communities] are responsive maybe at the newbie level or way out at the expert level, whereas Gentoo is there across all levels -- they don't flame you with Eric Raymond's URL and tell you to get lost."

While Benetech had previously chosen Red Hat and Gentoo for its desktops, today they're all running Ubuntu. Ball cited Ubuntu's ease of setup and installation as the reason for the switch. "If you have to roll out 10 or 15 machines, Gentoo's [inconvenient]. Most of our machines are Kubuntu, but there are a couple of GNOME people in our organization."

Linux Magazin (Nov 2006)

Germany's Linux Magazin has published an article about http://overlays.gentoo.org and layman in the November edition of their print magazine. The article, entitled "Community-basiertes Qualitätsmanagement" (Community-based Quality Management), talks about how Gentoo demonstrates how a strong interaction with the community breaks with traditional quality assurance procedures and still produces a stable result.

German-speaking members of the community should pick up the November edition of the magazine for the article, as it is not available online.

5.  Gentoo developer moves

Moves

The following developers recently left the Gentoo project:

  • Tim Yamin (plasmaroo)
  • Gregorio Guidi (greg_g)

Adds

The following developers recently joined the Gentoo project:

  • Alon Bar-Lev (alonbl) crypto team
  • Jeffrey Gardner (je_fro) sci-* team
  • Timothy Redaelli (drizzt) Gentoo/FreeBSD

Changes

The following developers recently changed roles within the Gentoo project:

  • none this week

6.  Gentoo security

Mozilla Thunderbird: Multiple vulnerabilities

The Mozilla Foundation has reported multiple security vulnerabilities related to Mozilla Thunderbird.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Adobe Flash Player: Arbitrary code execution

Multiple input validation errors have been identified that allow arbitrary code execution on a user's system via the handling of malicious Flash files.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

ncompress: Buffer Underflow

A buffer underflow vulnerability has been reported in ncompress allowing for the execution of arbitrary code.

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 01 October 2006 and 08 October 2006, activity on the site has resulted in:

  • 748 new bugs during this period
  • 584 bugs closed or resolved during this period
  • 34 previously closed bugs were reopened this period
  • 213 closed as NEEDINFO/WONTFIX/CANTFIX/INVALID/UPSTREAM during this period
  • 166 bugs marked as duplicates during this period

Of the 11080 currently open bugs: 33 are labeled 'blocker', 121 are labeled 'critical', and 505 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:

8.  Upcoming package removals

Starting this week, the GWN is debuting a section listing the packages that have been announced for removal from the tree. This list is compiled manually, at present, and may not be entirely inclusive. The goal of this section is to help inform the community on packages that will be removed from the tree, allowing them to migrate to new packages, or even volunteer to help with the package and keep it alive. The GWN staff hopes to make this a recurring section in the GWN and wishes to make this an automated report in the future. The package removals come from many locations, including the Treecleaners and various developers.

Last Rites:

Package: Removal date: Contact:
app-emulation/vmware-workstation-3.2.1 27 Oct 06 Chris Gianelloni
games-fps/quake3-truecombat 27 Oct 06 Chris Gianelloni
net-mail/quotient 28 Oct 06 Christian Heim
media-radio/ax25-tools 29 Oct 06 Christian Heim
x11-libs/buffy 29 Oct 06 Christian Heim
net-im/gabber 01 Nov 06 Olivier Crête
net-im/jabbero 01 Nov 06 Olivier Crête
media-sound/fobbit 03 Nov 06 Diego Pettenò
sys-apps/sal-client 05 Nov 06 Christian Heim

9.  GWN feedback

Please send us your feedback and help make the GWN better.

10.  GWN subscription information

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11.  Other languages

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Print

Page updated October 9, 2006

Summary: This is the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of 9 October 2006.

Ulrich Plate
Editor

Donnie Berkholz
Author

Chris Atkinson
Author

Lionel Bouton
Author

Chris Gianelloni
Author

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