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Springtime Brings New Community Events

  • May 10, 2004
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Steve Hemminger, a Senior Staff Engineer with the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), joined us as well to talk about the 2.6 kernel. Many, many articles have been written on this topic already, so this will just be a brief summary of the most interesting points.

For one thing, as Hemminger was explaining what the OSDL is, he gave the story of how the whole "center of gravity for Linux" catch-phrase came about. Apparently someone from Microsoft said in an interview somewhere that there was no center of gravity for Linux, that basically we were too scattered. Someone at OSDL's head office knew a great opportunity when they heard one!

Some of the major improvements from the 2.4 stream to the 2.6 stream include support for sixteen and more CPUs, the ability to configure the kernel to be pre-emptible (for real-time performance), better power saving features on laptops (though these still need work), and features for studio level sound processing.

Hyperthreading has been enhanced, as has NFS, networking for very large networks, support for more than 64GB of RAM, I/O scheduling for streaming media and databases, and an "embedded profile" to make life easier for embedded Linux developers. Hemminger warned that we should prepare to see the more badly-written benchmarks claim that the new kernel is slower, since interactivity takes precedence over compute-intensive tasks in a pre-emptible kernel, and the less well-written benchmarks test only the computational tasks.

(As far as benchmarks go, he shared some pretty impressive numbers. Complex Apache Web application servers are seeing five-hundred percent improvements with the 2.6 kernel!)

The 2.7 kernel stream will likely be kicked off in Ottawa at the annual Linux Symposium this summer. Topics he expects to hear addressed there include asynchronous I/O for files, hyperthreading schedulers built to scale such that they can survive Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOSs), support for larger drive arrays, and enhanced disk I/O schedulers.

When it comes to OSDL in the immediate future, Hemminger said that they are setting up Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for security, networking, storage, and so on, that are open to all rather than just official OSDL members. Those who have a serious interest in these topics might want to check out these SIGs.

Linux Security with SSH

Bryan Hatch, the author of "Hacking Linux Exposed," presented a talk on the ins and outs of SSH. He began with best practices and some of the basics such as pubkeys, and then turned to more advanced topics like adding restrictions to your keys, to what commands can be run through an SSH connection by location, assigning a specific command to run when an SSH connection is attempted that matches certain rules (rather than logging the person in), and other really cool SSH features that most people aren't aware of. He also pointed out a number of scripts to further enhance things that he wrote, himself.

Trying to break down what we learned in this seminar would take an article by itself. Suffice it to say that this material is no doubt covered in his book, and on his site.

Linuxfest Northwest was well worth attending, even for those of us who had to leave at 6:30 am to make the drive down in time. Here's hoping for us locals that this second annual fest will continue to pick up momentum. It was nice to attend a conference without having to get on a plane!

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