Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Declaring UI independence

Earlier this year, Stefan announced the availability of the YaST user interface engine separate from YaST itself.
The user interface engine, packaged in yast2-libyui (source code here),provides the abstraction from graphical user interfaces (Qt, Gtk) and text based (ncurses) user interfaces. It now can be used independently of YaST2 for generic (C++) applications.
Now what can you do with it ? First of all, you can use C++ to code YaST-like dialogs which display either in graphical mode (Qt or Gtk style) or text mode. This independence from the output media is a main feature of YaST.
Being separated from YaST, one can use the UI engine for stand-alone programs. A trivial example is a simple window with a text label and an 'Ok' button: HelloWorld.ccHelloWorld.cc Compile with
g++ -I/usr/include/YaST2/yui -lyui HelloWorld.cc -o HelloWorld
and run it via
Depending on the DISPLAY environment variable the UI engine automatically determines and loads the right plugin to render the dialog.
A simple unset DISPLAY will give you the ncurses look.

Enter SWIG

Coding dialogs in C++ takes away the highly useful edit-run mode of development which is possible with YaSTs YCP language.
With the help of SWIG, a generator for language bindings, one can now use his favorite programming language for coding dialogs. The initial release of the bindings supports Ruby (libyui-ruby), Python (libyui-python) and Perl (perl-libyui).
Swig can directly translate the C++ classes into e.g. Ruby classes making conversion of the above C++ code to Ruby straightforward: hello_world.rbhello_world.rb Translation to object-oriented Python gives you hello_world.pyhello_world.py Even Perl, although not object-oriented, gives reasonable code. But internals of the Swig-generated bindings are not for the faint-hearted ... hello_world.plhello_world.pl yast2-libyui comes with a couple of more examples.
SelectionBox1.cc shows how to fill a selection list, use buttons and update labels.
Here's the Ruby version: selection_box1.rbselection_box1.rb Enjoy !

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Open Source Meets Business - Day 3 (final)

(continued from here) The last day of open source meets business had presentations in the morning and put a spotlight on Microsoft in the afternoon.

Systems monitoring with open source

Again, a talk about Nagios. And again, Nagios was choosen for its cost effectiveness. It seems like most commercial monitoring tools charge per monitored device - customers really dislike this. Oberschwaben Klinik uses Nagios to monitor interfaces, infrastructure, services, applications and devices distributed across 200 hosts, 500 services in 6 locations. Total deployment time for Nagios was a single month:
  • 3 days initial setup
  • 1 week learning the tool
  • 2 days adaption to infrastructure
  • 3 weeks betaphase (getting the alarm thresholds right)
  • 3 days finetuning
And they only needed about one week of external consulting. Besides Nagios, the use Cacti for QoS monitoring.

Software for knowledge worker

Peter Pfläging, working for the City of Wien, pointed out that job roles have changed over the years from being topic specific towards knowledge workers, which he characterizes as
  • having many tasks
  • no applicable standards to approach problems
  • coerced to lifetime learning
  • lots of brainstorming to find solutions
  • decisions makers
and having to explain the stuff to upper management. They all face the problem of organizing information, prioritizing tasks and documentation (for themselves and others). Peter presented (his choice of) open source tools supporting this style of work on multiple operating systems.
  1. Mind maps OPML: xml data format, Freemind, DeepaMetha, WikkaWiki, Pimki
  2. Task prioritization GtD, ThinkingRock, d3/dcubed.ca, gtd-php, (Bloggers note: Tracks)
  3. Wiki Personal Wiki, Moin Moin, TiddlyWiki
  4. Blogging Weblog with private entries, document your knowledge. WordPress, Typo, Blojsom
  5. Desktop search For Windows there is Google desktop and Copernic. On Linux Beagle doesn't have a real competitor.
You should also prevent others from changing your document by using signed pdfs. Creating pdfs is a breeze on Linux but one needs PDFcreator on Windows. Then you can use Peters PortableSigner for signing.


Here one learned about the current state of LiMux. The City of Munich choosed to develop their own 'base client' (running on Debian Linux) One thousand workstations are currently migrated (first 100 in 2006, 900 more last year) and about 5000 PCs already use OpenOffice. The base client is 'usability TUV IT certified' (Gebrauchstauglicher Basisclient) and their Linux Lernwelt learning tool won the European E-Learning award last year. The 'base client' core consist of (Debian) Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox and Gimp. Specific applications run browser-based, vintage (windows based) applications use Wine, virtualization or terminal server. The clients are managed by GOsa using FAI for deployment. GOsa itself is a set of PHP5 scripts used for deployment and configuration management (users, groups, mail, dns, dhcp, ...) using LDAP as a central CMDB. For update deployment FAI is currently used, doing inventory, license managementt, log analysis (audit) and hardware-monitoring. The upcoming version 2.6 of GOsa will support scheduled and load balanced mass deployment, replacing FAI.

Nagios at Stadtwerke Amberg

The city of Amberg suffers from an understuffed IT department and outsourced monitoring. This works fine with Nagios and the external consulting company is soo great, blah, blah, blah ...

How open is Microsoft after the EU ruling ?

This was mostly about the Samba/Microsoft agreement as detailed on Groklaw. Conclusion: with the current business model (public company, maximizing shareholder value), Microsoft will not open up too much.

Open source and Microsoft

Sam Ramji, director Open Source and Linux Strategy at Microsoft, tried to put his employer in a good light by pointing out that 50% of all open source deployments are on Windows. Half of all sourceforge projects run on Windows, 3000 are for Windows only. He continued to outline Microsofts open source strategy with Windows at its core, surrounded by OSS applications. (see also this post) A Microsoft based infrastructure (Active Directory, Systems Center, SQL Server) will grow Windows with help of OSS applications. Microsoft will develop free software to support the interface layer between the free and the proprietary world. This is done in the Open Source Software Labs (OSSL), currently established in Redmond and Cambridge, Mass. These labs focus on strategy, technical research and development of document formats, network protocols, security&identy, systems management, virtualization and application platforms. The long term goal is "respectful relationship to produce insights and technology to compete, interoperate and collaborate". Best quote (Ramji on Ballmer): "Its time to reset peoples perception of what he means when he talks"

Panel Discussion: Microsoft and open source

Dr Oliver Diederich (Heise Verlag) assembled Roger Levy (Novell), Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation) , Paul Cormier (RedHat), Sam Ramji (Microsoft) and Dr Johannes Helbig (Deutsche Post) to discuss the relationship of Microsoft and the open source movement. The complete discussion was recorded and is available here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Novell Brainshare registration fun

Novell Brainshare will be held March 16-21. 2008 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT. Registration is open now and you can also apply for Brainshare Connect to find other conference registrants with similar interests. The application form asks for your area of expertise, some work information, areas of interest and to choose your hobbies from a predefined list. Among this list are competitive eating and dumpster diving. I just wonder if these groups will do a BOF at Brainshare ...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Open Source Meets Business - Day 2

(continued from here)

Workflow management with BPEL

BPEL, the business process execution language, can be used as interface between management (defining/modeling process requirements) and IT (implementing services). Its object-oriented approach makes it possible to divide & conquer large tasks into Business/Architecture/Processes. BPEL allows to apply a consistent and repeteable processes which can be measured/monitored. The basic concept is SOA (service oriented architecture). Bpel adds a recursive aggregation model for web services and workflow mgmt. This all should allow for service orchestration and programming in the large. BPEL is standardized by OASIS as WS-BPEL). A graphical workflow designer and debugger is available through the Eclipse project. One can download an open source implementation of both the BPEL4WS 1.1 specification and the WSBPEL 2.0 standard at http://activebpel.org

OPSI - open pc server integration

OPSI is an open source desktop management system available at http://opsi.org While it is based on a Linux server its primary targets are Windows workstations. Written in Python, it provides inventory, deployment and patch & update management through a java UI. The presenter gave a short demo and highlighted the nice interface for composing database queries. Windows admins wanting to deplay opsi shouldn't be afraid of the command line, though.

Complete scalability with integrated virtualization

The title gave the impression of getting some facts and the presenters title of 'Solution Architect' made me actually believe this. Boy was I wrong. I couldn't stand half an hour of marketing fluff and 'Redhat can do it all' without any proof. Had to leave early...


This one was nice. VirtualBox is (yet another) open source virtualization solution. Unlike Xen, it provides full virtualization and is able to run unmodified guest even without hardware (Intel-VT, AMD-V) support. So it plays in the league of VirtualPC, VMware or Parallels. VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS and Solaris and supports all major operating systems (Windos XP, Windows Vista, Linux, Solaris, OS/2). I downloaded a copy and installed it on my OpenSUSE 10.3 laptop during the presentation and was impressed with its nice and intuitive configuration and management interface, highly recommend. VirtualBox is mostly used for windows virtualization and supports Microsofts RDP (remote desktop) protocol, implemented directly in the virtual graphics card. Then the VirtualBox server acts as terminal server, delivering graphical content to (a less powerful) PC. In this configuration, one can even use the USB ports of the dumb terminal, impressive. Other features are snapshots of running clients and shared folders between clients.

Collaborative Software Development

This talk, given by a consultant from McKinsey & Company, tried to put a spotlight on the influence open source has on traditional economies. It started to show how working in the open empowers individuals and communities through distributed co-creation, pro-sumption, firm of one / firm of one billion, interactions and collaborations It very much changes how people work and focuses on knowledge workers (see also 'Software for knowledge workers' on day 3) A couple of prominent development in the open projects were named
  • Linux
  • Wikipedia
  • we>me textbook (collaborative creation of learning material, see here for a broader scope)
  • oscarproject (open car engineering)
  • loncin motorcycles china (Using an open development and manufacturing process, they have huge cost savings)
  • prosthetics project (prosthetics cad design)
This new development style has a huge economic influence on the gross national product of countries (up to 15% are expected in the future). The presenter pointed out several times that working on open (source) projects is substantially different from traditional work. Only very few companies have realized this yet. All industries will be affected. First those with much IT, like Banks, Insurances, etc. Next are (car) manufacturers or similar companies with a big portion of high technology in the value chain. The media (broadcast) industry was also named. Big changes ahead.

What's next for Open Source

Given by Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource, a company selling 'shrink-wrapped' open source solutions, this presentation had a similar topic like the previous one. Key messages were open source is disruptive, dramatic market evolvement, huge effects on global economy. She continued to talk about here company (yes, one can make money with open source) and the usual marketing fluff. Coming trends will be
  • mass market devices (Google adroid)
  • proprietary and o/s convergence (Novells 'mixed source' strategy came into mind)
  • virtual appliances
  • online marketplaces (Amazon is Linux based)
  • consolidation plus proliferation

Open Source Barometer

Alfresco does open source enterprise content management based on a good deal of market analysis. The talk was a preview o the annual open source barometer focussing on the european and german open source market. Lots of graphs, trends and colorful view on the survey results. Looking at Alfresco deployments, there is Windows and Linux equality as an evaluation platform but Linux wins clearly when it comes to actual deployments. Looking more closely at Linux (for hosting Alfresco), SUSE Linux wins over RedHat by a factor of five. However, globally (looking at Linux in general) RedHat has four times more systems out there. Overall, Linux raise is undamped but the Novell/Microsoft patent agreement resulted in a clear kink for SUSE.

Linux System Management at Rewe

Yeah, great title and bad content (pure RHN marketing blurb). Go here if you really want more.

Nagios at Bundesstelle für Informationstechnik

Driven by ITIL, this german government agency needed
  • consistent monitoring, platform independent
  • fast deployment, extensibility
  • transparency
  • acceptance by people
  • Integration into HP Service Desk + HP Network Node Manager
  • Support for UC4
Main reasons for Nagios were cost effectiveness (cost for one server: 1500EUR with a commercial suite, 25EUR with Nagios), api, extensibility, scalability, integration in existing environment and ongoing development.

VMware releases Perl WS-Management library

VMware just announced the availability of a WS-Management (client side) library written in Perl "Starting with VMware's VIPerl Toolkit v1.5, an experimental version of Perl WS-Management library is included for infrastructure management with Web Services. The library currently supports 7 out of the 11 generic operations described in the WS-Management - CIM Binding. The library is available for download at http://www.vmware.com/support/developer/viperltoolkit" Nice ! Maybe this can act as a guideline for the openwsman language bindings. Lets see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Open Source Meets Business - Day1

Heise Verlag held its annual Open Source meets Business conference in Nuremberg last week.

The conference was quite well attended, reportedly over 700 participants with approximately 699 from Germany, all in business suites ... Redhat was present with a booth (showing olpc, http://laptop.org). Novell was nowhere to be seen - strange.

Most presentations had about 80% marketing content, 10% about the business model and 10% actual information. Redhats virtualization talk was especially contentless, a marketing talk given by a 'solution architect'. I had to leave early.

Presentations where limited to 30 minutes (incl. Q&A), with 6 to 7 tracks in parallel. I tried to choose the one with systems management or software architecture relevance.

Presentations - Day1


Ralf Wirdemann gave a good and easy to follow introduction to the REST architecture style. Nothing new, but its good to see that such topics are presented to (reportedly) CIO level management.
Too bad he had little 'real world' experience with either REST or Rails as his (non-)answers to questions showed.

SugarCRM: Is open source a viable business model ?

Short answer: Yes. Look at recent acquisitions: RedHat/JBoss 420M, Citrix/XenSource 500M, Sun/mySQL 1B. Nothing about SugarSRM as a product, but about the development (open) and business model (service & support).

Network Monitoring with Nagios

This was the first of four (!) talks about Nagios.
Monitoring is a hot topic for most IT admins. The presenter spend most of the time fighting the incompatibilities of MacOS Powerpoint with Windows Power Point and OpenOffice (doesn't show speaker notes ;-))
Filtering out the company marketing blurb, one learned that Nagios allows for cross-platfrom device and service monitoring. It uses its own client agent (available for Linux, Unix and Windows) but can also process SNMP management information from network devices. The client agent has a pluggable API for gathering information and there is a whole website dedicated to plugins.
The Nagios server, running on Linux only, provides the management infrastructure including a sophisticated alarm and notification system.
Customers seem to be quite happy with Nagios and only miss a reporting function. But this is planned for the future.


I presented my favorite topic, Web Services for Management. A remote management protocol providing true interoperable management capabilities between Linux and Windows.
Slides are available in german (I said it was a german conference, didn't I ?)