If you haven’t seen the latest rant from Novell‘s Greg Kroah-Hartman, I’m not going to link to it.  You’ll have to find it on your own.

Greg has used at least two high-profile speeches this year (a Linux Plumber’s Conference keynote, and a Google Tech Talk) to tear down the contributions of Canonical to the Linux ecosystem.

I hope that people take it for what it is, pure and simple…

a negative marketing campaign
engineered by a high-profile Novell employee
against a key competitor

Greg threw out some numbers in his slides, usually showing a very small number next to Canonical, and then much larger numbers next to Red Hat, Novell, and others, such as IBM.

Full Disclosure…

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that:

  1. I am currently employed by Canonical
  2. I was an IBM employee from 2000 – 2008
  3. I spent most of 2005 as an IBM employee on-site at Red Hat

Some missing numbers…

I dug up a few numbers that Greg missed.

So, yeah, Canonical is a small, young company.  It would be nice if Greg would normalize some of his numbers against each company’s size.

But why pick on Canonical and Ubuntu…

Here are some more numbers from Google Trends.

Google searches of “suse” vs “fedora” vs “ubuntu”, over the last 5 years:

Site traffic of opensuse.org vs. fedoraproject.org vs. ubuntu.com, over the last year:

These numbers are corroborated by DistroWatch.com‘s popularity ratings:

Drum roll please…

Ubuntu’s popularity has some people from other distributions uneasy.  But I think the next chart is the most impressive, humbling, and telling. The following shows the Google trend between people searching for “linux” vs. “ubuntu”:

I left “red hat”, “fedora”, “novell”, and “suse” off of this chart because they don’t even show up.  Click here if you’d like to see.

At that pace, there will soon be more people searching for
“Ubuntu”, than searching for “Linux” on the Internet.

So back to this “ecosystem”…

As Matt Zimmerman discussed, Greg’s “Linux ecosystem” seems a bit unfairly limited to the kernel, gcc, and binutils, and neglects a wider macrocosm of Ubuntu’s contributions to the Linux, free, and open source space.  Canonical and Ubuntu actively contribute to GNOME and KDE, as well as dozens of other open source projects (e.g., I’m co-maintainer of the upstream eCryptfs project and have contributed considerable code there on Canonical’s dime).

Something must be said for the user base that Ubuntu brings to the ecosystem.  While some Ubuntu users may have come from Red Hat, SUSE, Debian, Gentoo, etc., many Ubuntu users are first time Linux users.  I dare say that some of these individuals are Linux users because of Ubuntu.

I personally know Fedora and OpenSUSE users (I used to be one of them) who actively search the Ubuntu Forums and the Ubuntu Wiki when they run into problems on their respective distributions.  The Ubuntu documentation spectrum is simply the most informative, comprehensive, and useful in the Linux business.

Reducing the Linux ecosystem down to the kernel, gcc, and binutils is equivalent to reducing the human diet down to bread and water.  I suppose one can do that, but that’s not a very satisfying existence.  There’s so much more to a complete and fulfilling life-sustenance.

Or, better yet, let’s work our way back to the Linux Plumber’s Conference.  While we need plumbing in our house every day, don’t we also appreciate a roof, electricity, windows, and furniture?  And did your plumber also roof your house and wire your electrical sockets?  Perhaps that was another team of qualified specialists…



Hostnames Meme – DSotM

September 16, 2008

Some of the these are VM’s, and others are machines with multiple purposes, and thus multiple hostnames.

  • Speak – asterisk server, ekiga machine
  • Breathe – guest wireless access point
  • Run – laptop
  • Time – NTP server
  • GreatGig – private wireless access point
  • Money – printer
  • Us – secure firewall
  • Them – DMZ firewall
  • Colour – MythTV backend
  • BrainDamage – test machine
  • Eclipse – development machine
  • DarkSide – squid, bip proxies
  • TheMoon – file, mail, web, ftp
  • Syd – MythTV frontend
  • Dave – MythTV frontend
  • Rick – MythTV frontend
  • Nick – MythTV frontend
  • Roger – MythTV frontend


I wrote a little over a week ago to announce the Ubuntu Manpage Repository.  I must say that the response has been tremendous, thanks to some 600+ Diggs and a slew of responses on the Ubuntu-Devel mailing list.

I received a number of great suggestions for improving the interface and user experience.  Some of the new features now available on manpages.ubuntu.com:

I’m still working on:

If you have more suggestions, please file a bug in Lauchpad against the ubuntu-manpage-repository project.


From the Ubuntu Server Team…

Ubuntu Intrepid is racing toward Beta Freeze, scheduled for 25 September 2008.

I’ve been working hard on getting software RAID to work a bit better on the Ubuntu Server.  I’d appreciate any testing assistance the Ubuntu Community can offer.

This work focused on 3 main areas..

  1. Enhancing the initramfs to allow booting on a degraded RAID.  The user can now specify that preference in one of several ways:
    • permanently in a configuration file, see: dpkg-reconfigure mdadm
    • as a kernel boot parameter, bootdegraded=true
    • interactively in the initramfs shell, Do you want to boot degraded [y/N]:
  2. Enhancing grub to install multiple MBRs, one actively sync’d disk in a mirror
    • in the installer, grub-installer
    • and in a running os, grub-install
  3. Adding a question to the Ubuntu Server installer, when it detects that you have installed / or /boot onto a RAID device to prompt the user for their desired behavior, booting degraded or not

Ubuntu Intrepid Alpha 6 will be released in a few days (18 September 2008) containing all of this new functionality, and I would appreciate any assistance testing those server ISO’s!  Once they are built, you can download them from:

File any bugs you find against grub, grub-installer, initramfs-tools, or mdadm, and subscribe kirkland to them.



I love the Ubuntu Wiki, and I think the Official Ubuntu Documentation is great!  These are two important reasons why Ubuntu has been such a successful Linux distribution.

But at the end of the day, I’m a terminal-and-manpage kind of a guy.

Earlier this year, I found myself on IRC answering basic questions from an Ubuntu user about some random utility, and I asked him if he had read the manpage yet.  He responded that he had read whatever he could find on the web, but he didn’t really dabble on the command line in general.

It occurred to me that there may well be a contingent of Ubuntu users who are entirely disconnected from the wealth of resources so many developers have poured into manpage-based documentation.

A cursory search turned up a couple of RH-based, or advertisement-riddled Linux manpage websites.  I also found manpages.debian.net, which is closer to the Ubuntu target, but unfortunately, the pages are CGI-generated and thus not indexable by Google/Yahoo.

So I submitted a request-for-comments to the Ubuntu Documentation team, and no one could point me to an existing web repository of Ubuntu’s manpages.  I started the obligatory Launchpad Blueprint, Wiki Specification, and Bazaar project.

And as of today, the Ubuntu Manpage Repository is live at:

This site contains nearly 300,000 HTML viewable manpages included in Ubuntu releases (Dapper, Feisty, Gutsy, Hardy, Intrepid) and across all of (main, universe, restricted, multiverse) and across all languages where manpages are available.  It is automatically updated daily.

I expect there are some remaining issues, or oddball manpages missing from the archive due to not matching my regular expressions.  I invite you to file bugs against the ubuntu-manpage-repository Launchpad project.

The site also hosts the gzipped manpages too, and I’m working on a patch to man(1) that would optionally fail over to remotely retrieve a requested manpage if not found on the local system.

Thanks to Kees Cook, Jamie Strandboge, and Colin Watson for their patches and code review, as well as LaMont Jones for helping bring the site online!


From the Ubuntu server team…

Every time you ssh or login to an Ubuntu system, you see some text that looks like this:

  Linux t61p 2.6.26-5-generic #1 SMP Fri Aug 15 13:54:22 UTC 2008 x86_64

  The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
  the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
  individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

  Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
  applicable law.

  To access official Ubuntu documentation, please visit:

These are the contents of the file /etc/motd. “MOTD” stands for “Message of the Day”.  Hardly. Instead, this file is rather static, and somewhat bland. But there are some plans in the works by the Landscape team for making this more dynamic, and informative.

To do this, however, it would be useful to have a generic framework for automatically updating /etc/motd with the output of any given status-gathering script.

I have created a new package that provides this functionality, called update-motd, available in Ubuntu Universe for Intrepid:

  • sudo apt-get install update-motd

Once you’ve done so, create a script in /etc/update-motd.d.

Perhaps: /etc/update-motd.d/10-stats


Make sure you chmod +x /etc/update-motd.d/10-stats

Then, you can either run /usr/bin/update-motd, or wait for the cronjob to automatically update /etc/motd.

And the next time you log in, it should look something like:

  Linux t61p 2.6.27-2-generic #1 SMP Thu Aug 28 17:18:43 UTC 2008 x86_64

  The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
  the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
  individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

  Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
  applicable law.

  To access official Ubuntu documentation, please visit:

  Tue Sep  2 11:19:53 CDT 2008

  kirkland tty7         2008-09-01 10:58 (:0)
  kirkland pts/0        2008-09-01 22:00 (:0.0)
  kirkland pts/1        2008-09-02 07:53 (:0.0)
  kirkland pts/2        2008-09-02 09:29 (:0.0)
  kirkland pts/3        2008-09-02 09:41 (:0.0)

  11:19:53 up 1 day, 23 min,  5 users,  load average: 0.11, 0.11, 0.13


For more information:


I managed hundreds of Red Hat, Fedora, and CentOS servers between 1998 and 2006. That’s over 8 years of using the service command to start, stop, restart, and obtain the status of the many services located in /etc/init.d.

After my migration to Ubuntu, I would often find myself trying to use the service command at an Ubuntu command prompt.

With some digging, I might have found two different implementations in Ubuntu, trying to provide the service command’s functionality, in the packages:

  • sysvconfig
  • debian-helper-scripts

However, neither of these implementations were very good or complete.

After taking an overnight flight to London, Rick Clark and I were on the Gatwick Express heading into Canonical’s office in London.  We decided that the Ubuntu Server would very much benefit from a clean implementation of the traditional Red Hat service command, installed by default.

And thus, /usr/bin/service is now provided by sysvinit-utils (2.86.ds1-59ubuntu4) in Intrepid.  This provides a convenient wrapper for running things like:

  • service apache2 restart

And it also provides a comprehensive mechanism for gathering the status of all services on the system:

  • service –status-all

Which, at the moment, exposes how many init scripts we have that are lacking status actions.  If you would like to help with that, please see: