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Parrot, Cfengine, OpenBSD's PF, XMMS, and MySQL

by chromatic
Linux Newsletter for 04/19/2004

Hello, readers, and welcome to the Linux newsletter, a weekly report of new articles relating to open source and Linux development, deployment, and discussion, as seen on Here are the new articles this week:

Parrot lead designer (and Perl 6 and Parrot Essentials, 2nd Edition coauthor) Dan Sugalski has contributed Building a Parrot Compiler. Suppose you already know that Parrot is the virtual machine intended to run Perl 6. Did you also know it will (or in some cases does already) run Ruby, Python, Tcl, BASIC, or almost any other language you can imagine? You might not want to port a big language to Parrot right now, but what about a domain-specific language? Dan's saved his company much time and trouble by building a Parrot compiler for an aging, unsupported 4GL. Perhaps it's time for you to dust off that Dragon book and see if Parrot is right for your project.

If you're more of an adminstrator than a programming geek, you may be more interested in making multiple computers work together than in making multiple languages work together. Luke Kanies knows this feeling. His new article series, starting with this week's Introducing Cfengine, explains how to use Cfengine to describe the state in which you want your system or systems. Cfengine will perform the actions necessary to achieve that state. That sounds a little abstract—but think of it as a way to automate your administrative duties by describing the end results, not the steps along the way.

OpenBSD 3.5 will release in a couple of weeks. Federico Biancuzzi has taken advantage of the timing to interview some of the hardest working developers anywhere. His OpenBSD PF Developer Interview, Part 1 explores the beginning of the packet filtering project through the current features and goals. This is an opinionated, detailed, and often fascinating look at one of the most innovative projects in open source today. Stay tuned for the second half of the interview in a few weeks.

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If you prefer your innovation in making your current, day-to-day tasks easier (and if your daily tasks don't involve knowing much about TCP headers), Rickford Grant's Getting the Most Out of XMMS presents ten handy tips to improve the behavior, performance, and experience of playing music on the de facto music player in the Linux world. (You might know Rickford as the author of Linux for Non-Geeks, a book which your editor hopes will finally appeal to his parents.)

Editor Andy Oram's report from the MySQL Conference, per usual with the insightful Andy, is more an article than a weblog. Why MySQL Grew So Fast explores the ideas of a distruptive, good-enough technology that keeps improving, baffling critics and naysayers. There are also some interesting thoughts on the stages of commercial adoption. What do Apple, Sun, HP, and Novell have in common? They're all at least two steps into switching to open source.

If Perl powers part of your LAMP, Larry Wall's Apocalypse 12 is out. Besides far more than you ever thought you might possibly want to know about how objects and classes will work in Perl 6, Larry's usual humor and thoughtfulness peppers this 20-page "doctoral thesis". (Your editor particularly recommends the section on Roles.)

This week's weblogs feature Robert Kaye reporting from Larry Lessig's Free Culture book signing, Jacek Artymiak counting the costs of the GPL's freedom, Tim O'Reilly debunking silly objections to Gmail and privacy, and Simon St.Laurent looking for locally focused weblogs.

That's all for this busy week. Next week, learn a little more about Nessus and how to tune your Apache logs to make debugging and performance tuning much, much easier.

Stay safe,

Technical Editor
O'Reilly Network and Linux Devcenter Top Five Articles Last Week

  1. Linux on the GameCube
    As consoles grow in power and digital convergence looms, they become fever more attractive targets for free operating systems. What better hack than to port Linux or BSD to the GameCube? Howard Wen interviews the developers behind GameCube Linux.

  2. Linux on the PS2
    As consoles increase in power and alternate operating systems increase in functionality and flexibility, it's ever more attractive to port your favorite free operating system. In the case of Sony's PlayStation 2, the company even encourages it. John Littler explores Linux on the PS2, including hardware, installation, upgrades, alternatives, and game programming.

  3. OSDL's Carrier-Grade Linux
    As Linux grows and matures, it moves into more and more applications and markets. A recent initiative from the Open Source Development Lab brings together telecommunications companies to build carrier-grade features into Linux. Ibrahim Haddad examines what that means, what progress the CGL team has made, and what plans they have yet to achieve.

  4. Eleven Metrics to Monitor for a Happy and Healthy Squid
    Duane Wessels offers 11 tips to help you stay on top of Squid's performance. If you follow this advice, you should be able to discover problems before your users begin calling you to complain. Duane is the creator of Squid and the author of Squid: The Definitive Guide.

  5. Speeding up Linux Using hdparm
    Instantly double the I/O performance of your disks or, in some cases, show 6 to 10 times your existing throughput!

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