Jan 232004

Linux World Expo – Day 2

On day 1 (yes, I know this article is about Day 2, but I finished the Day 1 report before heading to the BOF), I attended the PostgreSQL BOF. It was there that I finally met Bruce Momjian. Does anyone else think he looks just a little bit like Bob Vila?

Bruce spoke about the increase in PostgreSQL popularity as evidenced by the number of speaking engagements over the past few years.

20022 talk 200315 talks in 10 countries 20056 talks by end of Feb

The current state of affairs indicates that in order to be taken seriously, a conference which includes databases as a topic, must include a talk on PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL support is widely available in more than 8 countries around the world. Vendors are taking up PostgreSQL because of the very friendly license. It is cheaper to take PostgreSQL and modify it to meet your customer needs than it is to buy a proprietary database. More importantly, you can actually hire people who can do this type of work.

I also met Jan Wieck (aka JanniCash) who has been working on a replication solution. He has high goals, but they are admirable and demonstate what I would like in a replication solution. Existing solutions work fine if you have one master and never promote a slave when the master dies. But in enterprise solutions, you want to be able to fail over to a slave, and then “fail” back to the master when it is repaired. You also want to be able to bring a new slave into the cluster without affecting the uptime of the other systems. In other words, you want to add slaves without taking down the master and the other slaves. You also need to bring the master back up to the current status and then promote it back to be the master.

I’ve been sufficiently impressed by what Jan is doing that I want to get involved with his replication project. What he’s doing is the type of thing I’d like to get involved with. Clusters, replication, and fail-over are pet interests of mine.

Lost in the subway

I got lost last night in the New York subway. I wasn’t technically lost. I knew where I was at all times. I also knew where I wanted to get to. I just didn’t know how to get there. I left the Javits Center at 7:10, and walked east on 34th until I got to 8th Avenue where I entered the subway. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong subway. I actually wanted the red line (a 1 or a 2 train) to get over to Brooklyn. So… I experimented with finding the right train and the right subway. I got to George’s place at about 8:40.

George, Micheal, and Don were there, waiting for me. George is opening a restaurant soon. Or he should be. He prepared a meal which was enjoyed by all. The chicken was great, so was the wine.

Found in government

I attended the “Open Source in US and International Government” talk this morning. Sadly, they did not mention Canada. I am sure this was not malicious. They just didn’t know about GOSLING and the great progress they are making.

There were about 40 people at this talk. They heard about OS in the US Department of Defense from Terry Bollinger. He had the following analogies or explanations of the various licenses:

GPLSchoolhouse – community built, once a schoolhouse, always a schoolhouse BSDPublic lease LGPLLiberal Lease

In 2002, there was a study on US DoD Open Source use. It was DISA sponsored. They found:

  • 251 uses of Open Source
  • 115 applications were identified

In addition, Open Source was used for Infrastructure Support, Software development t, Security, and Research. OpenBSD was being used for Firewalls and Open Source was proving to permit rapid response to cyber threats.

Terry also mentioned that Open Source ensures that there are no secrets. The software can be examined and proved to be doing exactly what it claims to be doing. This is proving to be increasingly important as more and more governments become wary of what others are doing.

Peter Gallagher, from devIS said that Open Source use by government is inevitable. He stressed that COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) is not incompatible with Open Source. A COTS solution can be Open Source.

Peter mentioned that the US Department of Labor has over 50 websites which use Open Source. The Department of State has been using Open Source since 1999. Peter says his company is able to reduce their quotes to clients by 10% because of Open Source use. Government departments are finding the Open Source licenses very attractive because of the reduced procurement issues and the lessened of license compliance costs. In addition, once an application is bought and paid for, it can then be reused by other departments because of the Open Source license. Reuse reduces costs.

Peter mentioned that what we should be asking the governments for is a level playing field. Allow Open Source to compete in that environment and it will win.

SELinux – also found in government

This version of Linux was produced by produced by the National Security Agency (NSA). This Security Enhanced Linux (or SELinux) includes new features to provide new and stronger protection against tampering and bypassing of application security. The good thing about this is the features which NSA have created can be added to any OS. I was impressed by what Peter Loscocco from NSA had to say. Very interesting project.

If you want to read more about Mandatory Access Control (MAC) and how NSA overcame the limitations of traditional MAC, please read this link.


I was at the NYCBUG (nice bug) BOF on Thursday night. This was very well attended. We had users from at least four different BSDs (many were OpenBSD users). Michael Welsh outlined the basic ideals of the group, the most important of which was tolerance. Bashing is not something the group believes in. Requests for help can be responded to with RTFM only if supplied with the URL to the relevant documentation. The group is here to help others. All very good ideas.

I think the group got off to a very good start. I counted over 45 people there. Interest in BSDCan was high. A dozen people expressed interest in coming up by train. I’d love to see a hack-a-thon on the train. Someone could bring a hub, someone a WAP. Our own little network traveling north-bound to Canada.

Bacula Demo

Interest in Bacula has been steady. So much so that I have been asked to give a demo on Friday at 1:00pm. If you are interested, head out to the BSDMall booth and see just how easy Bacula is to set up and use.

Subway Demo

You will be pleased to hear that I made it through the day without any embarrassing subway experiences. In fact, I was able to help a family who asked me how to get to Penn Station. I actually knew the answer! We were on the red line at 42nd street. Penn was the next stop. It’s kind of ironic… Here I was on my 4th trip into the NYC subway system, and I was already helping out others. If you think about it, that’s pretty much how this website got started.