Archive for December 2003

Hardware And Linux

December 23, 2003

I’ve found getting hardware to work with Linux to be a royal pain. I’m a tinkerer. I don’t mind following instructions to get something to work, especially if I learn about the technology I’m using along the way. But getting a wireless networking card working on Linux, that was truly an exercise in pain. Ultimately I made a LinkSys WPC11 work. Don’t go out and buy one though. You have to get version 3. Most likely you will find version 4 in stores and I never did get that working.

The Discover project aims to correct this problem by providing a number of infrastructure pieces necessary to get better hardware support to Linux users.

Obviously some hardware detection code is needed, and Discover provides that. What gets tricky is mapping the hardware identifiers it finds to kernel drivers, X modules, etc. This is where Discover stands out from it’s competitors.

Discover allows the user to specify multiple sources for hardware mapping information, including remote sources. This could enable the user to download hardware info from a central repository, but also include up to date information from specific hardware vendors.

For instance, a vendor releases a new device for which existing drivers in the Linux kernel will work. The vendor need only provide some XML files which tell Discover how to make the device work. The user needs only add a URL to a file and the device will work.

I like how this arrangement encourages hardware vendors to keep their hardware interfaces open.

Perhaps in the future I will examine how Discover could fit in with the HAL project.

ISVs and Linux Standards

December 18, 2003

What I’d like to find out is, what do ISVs want from Linux? By ISV I mean companies like Alias, Apple, MindJet, etc. Possibly in naive zeal, or just oversight, the open source community has mostly left these folks out. Or maybe they’ve left themselves out. Maybe they are late to the party because they haven’t had the resources to spend on figuring out the right way to move their apps to Linux. Certainly there is a wrong way, which is to pick one or two distributions and certify against them, leaving the
others out. This certification practice is common right now. Unfortunately it adds political hurdles to the aready difficult problem of making diverse Linux environments interoperable from the ISV’s perspective..

What is needed is a stable ABI that ISVs can write apps against. Once an ABI has been defined, there needs to be a straightforward way to verify that the expected ABI is present and correct.

So far ABI stability has been “certified” by the Linux Standard Base for only a few core libraries. The effort to move from monolithic
standard to a modular
one is a step in the right direction.

Potential Blogspam Silver Bullet

December 18, 2003

Ok, maybe that’s too bold of a claim. But I’ve been thinking over blog spam quite a bit and I think have a solution that will scale and would like some comment on it.

Basically it’s this: Use robots.txt to hide anything a spammer could post to your weblog from search engine crawlers.

So before I go any further, I should point out two assumptions I’m making. First, I assume spammers are hitting weblogs, not to do direct marketing, but to fool search engine crawlers. Second, I’m assuming that any search engine crawler of any importance will follow the specifications of The Robots Exclusion Standard as documented in tutorial form here.

Assuming the best about my assumptions, there is significant impact on end users. First of all, comments and trackbacks can no longer appear on your content pages, at least not the ones that search engines will find.

I don’t think that one or two bloggers practicing this would make a big difference. But, if a lot of people start using this technique, it will be harder for spammers to find searchable comments pages where they can post their links.

The beauty of this idea is that it yanks the payoff out from under the spammer.

Perhaps in the future I will try to cook up a real life example of how to apply this technique.