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Ask Donald Becker

Roblimo posted more than 11 years ago | from the linux-luminaries dept.

Linux 273

This is a "needs no introduction" introduction, because Donald Becker is one of the people who has been most influential in making GNU/Linux a usable operating system, and is also one of the "fathers" of Beowulf and commodity supercomputing clusters in general. Usual Slashdot interview rules apply, plus a special one for this interview only: "What if we made a Beowulf cluster of these?" is not an appropriate question.

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273 comments

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if he needs no introduction (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446006)

...why did you turn around and give him one anyway?

Re:if he needs no introduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446249)

Because he actually did, as I had no clue who he was.

Re:if he needs no introduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446291)

This seems to be a common thread with the past few interviews. Like that burned out 60's 'one-hit wonder' rock star that they interviewed.

How the fuck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446377)

How the fuck did a fat pig like Sowboy Squeal get his disgusting picture in the NY Times?

I'll tell you how: 'cause a no talent bum named John Schwartz wrote the article. You remember John Schwartz - he's the dillhole who wrote up an article in the Washington Post about what a Linux expert he had become by installing Corel Linux on his PC. PLUS he got a cooled stuff penguin toy to give to his kids!

How sweet! Just ask Towelboy Kneel!

Ask him what? [nt] (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446007)

Yes, the cat has got my tongue.

But what WOULD happen ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446008)

if you made a beowolf cluster of petrified Natalie Portman with some hot grits down the pants and a link to goatse.cx? The people want to know.

On the other hand, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446270)

If Hemos and Cmdr Taco and CowboyNeal were built out a beowulf cluster, then Natalie Portman might no longer be petrified, and she could eat the hot grits out of her pants, while clicking on links to goatse.cx.

My Question Is... (-1, Offtopic)

cca93014 (466820) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446011)

What if we made a Beowulf cluster of those?

A question (-1, Offtopic)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446013)

What if we made a Beowulf cluster out of the lack of Beowulf questions? Would that implode with the force of a thousand suns?

One question... (5, Interesting)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446015)


(And this is a serious one!)

Why did you choose Linux, instead of *BSD, to create a Beowulf?

This is a serious question, not a flame: why choose Linux over, say FreeBSD? Is it just because your employer already used Linux? Because you had used Linux before and had more experience working with it? Because you had tested both, and found Linux better than BSD? Or because Linux had tools the *BSD did not have?

Just a question...

Re:One question... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446041)

He wrote most of the ethernet drivers for linux, so he might be a slightly biased.

Re:One question... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446062)

I don't know why. The ports system on FreeBSD seems to make a lot of sense.

What I do know is that Red Hat is often preffered for making clusters because of rpms. Sure you can say "rpms suck blah blah blah" but they are very easy to install. If you know that an rpm will work, it is a sinch to upgrade a package on all computers in the cluster at once. This way you can be sure that they are runing the same software

I guess the FreeBSD ports system would be just as easy to use... Am I right?

Re:One question... (4, Informative)

kiolbasa (122675) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446065)

If I recall, the definition of a Beowulf cluster does not specify Linux specifically, only a free operating system.

Look it up [canonical.org]

Re:One question... (3, Informative)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446306)

But, there have been beowulf clusters made out of Windows boxes.

Re:One question... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446104)

*BSD is dead. don't you know?

har har

Re:One question... (1)

Carbon Unit 549 (325547) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446150)

One good reason is the wide availability of Fortran compilers. g77 won't do it for production codes.

Re:One question... (2)

joib (70841) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446390)

I'm quite certain that when Donald Becker made the choice between Linux and *BSD (IF he ever really thought about it) there were no commercial fortran compilers for Linux either.

Re:One question... (2, Informative)

jahjeremy (323931) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446388)

Note: Only logged because AC is giving me formkey errors.

This isn't a very well-informed question. Beowulf does not specify a particular platform.

From the Beowulf FAQ [canonical.org] :
[Beowulf is] a kind of high-performance massively parallel computer built primarily out of commodity hardware components, running a free-software operating system like Linux or FreeBSD, interconnected by a private high-speed network.

Please mod accordingly. Let's not waste Becker's time or one of the ten questions on ill-informed pablum refuted in the first question of an FAQ.

Childhood Taunts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446017)

When you were a child, did the other children taunt you with names like "Donald Pecker"? It seems like the natural insult, so I just thought I'd ask.

What one thing would you like to see added... (5, Interesting)

CSG_SurferDude (96615) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446027)

What one thing would you like to see added to the Linux Kernel? Why hasn't anyone done that allready? And how would that "One Thing" be better than somebody else's suggestion?

Your dream machines (3, Interesting)

trevry (225903) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446035)

Seein' as we all want to make beowulf clusters out of toasters and keyrings and coffee makers......
What are the five dream machines that you want to have on, under, near, beside or in you over the next 10 years? And what do you forsee actually happening?
And can we make beowulf clusters out of them?

How to bring this up with your boss?? (4, Interesting)

Bob Abooey (224634) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446037)

This reminds me of when I was working at Apple in the secret (heh... my NDA ran out and they did away with the division so it's no longer a secret...) two button mouse division. Basically we used open source tools, like Linux/Emacs and Linux/gcc because they were fast and very functional, but we could never get any of the team leaders to permit them company wide due to the fact that they didn't come shrink wrapped and thus were not officially supported. Now I know that you can get great support from Usenet but that's not good enough for the pinheads who are in upper management at Apple.

So, my question would be, what's the best way for an engineer at a large company to address this issue with the people they report to.

Re:How to bring this up with your boss?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446093)

Nerf guns. Lots of Nerf guns.

Seriously. If your bosses were putting that much effort and cash into the adoption of a common device that the rest of the world already uses, rational arguments just won't work.

Nerf guns.

Re:How to bring this up with your boss?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446140)

Easy. Don't address it. Use the tools you're comfortable with if they do the job. I'm supposed to have a windows machine and use outlook for email. I installed linux on it and check my email with emacs. Do the managers know? No, they're too busy trying to look important. What they don't know won't hurt them.

Shouldn't you say "were"? (2)

burgburgburg (574866) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446199)

How long ago were these efforts? The current upper management of Apple has built the foundation of their company on FreeBSD with Darwin, so it seems that you crack about the pinheads in Apple upper management is a past tense statement.

Re:Shouldn't you say "were"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446210)

I think you would be more accurate to say that the company is built on Darwin with FreeBSD, as only the userland apps of their operating system are based on FreeBSD.

Blah! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446042)

It's Linux, not GNU/Linux. Stop with that crap.

Dear Don, why do geeks like Steely Dan so much (0, Troll)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446044)

and what kind of computer gear do you and Fagen have at home?

Can't Buy a Thrill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446246)

damn, you beat me too it...

It's a PLOT, I tell ya!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446289)

Hmmm... DONALD Fagen... Walter BECKER... and now DONALD BECKER!!!

A crack team of rogue genetic engineers is at work creating MERGED CLONES of famous rock stars!!!

Let us hope that we get to Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger in time, or the world will be in mortal danger from the lips of Mick Tyler!!!

hardware insights? (5, Interesting)

rambham (60312) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446047)

With your experience creating so many ethernet
drivers do you have any opinions or suggestions
for hardware makers? Aside from good documentation
what makes a given hardware device easy to work
with and what makes a device hard to work with?

gnu/linux ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446051)

what the hell is gnu/linux? I run mandrake linux on my computer, I know IBM uses linux for some of their software.. but what the hell is gnu/linux ? is there an old/linux? is it a new distro? or another slashdot typo?

Re:gnu/linux ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446069)

Amen!

Introduction (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446053)

I thought you said he needed no introduction :)

MPI OS X and the future (4, Interesting)

eadint (156250) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446055)

Where do you see the Beowulf project going in the future. Plus I hope that this isn't a redundant question but will you be adding MPI into your clusters to create a kind of PVM / MPI hybrid. how about really good documentation. and finally. Have you considered porting your software over to the OS X platform. if so how can the apple community help.

Re:MPI OS X and the future (2)

joib (70841) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446414)

Beowulf, or rather bproc, has supported MPI for quite some time already. And if you don't want any single system image thing, MPI has been available for Linux for bloody ages. And I don't think it requires any kernel parts, so probably it would be quite easy to port to OSX.

Hi (-1)

I'm not a script (612110) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446059)

Would you recommend Beowulf Clusters for desktop use ?

Role of GNU in GNU/Linux (0, Interesting)

PenultimatePenguin (588422) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446064)

GNU seems best known for applications/utilities like gnupg, gawk, and GNU sed. Since GNU has played such a large (albeit discreet) role in the development of the various GNU/Linux distributions out there, why is the role of GNU in that process so little understood, so misunderstood, and so little recognized? (I get many blank stares when I call it GNU/Linux, even from some very technical folks.)

Re:Role of GNU in GNU/Linux (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446317)

The kernel is the core piece of the OS, and it wasn't developed by GNU. Yes, GNU tools are used to build the kernel, but the kernel itself, the core of the OS, is not GNU produced. Each distribution may or may not include GNU tools, and if someone releases a GNU-less distribution, is it still GNU/Linux? I don't think so.

Great timing for a change also, with all the new users coming to this OS. Let's confuse them.

So why call it GNU/Linux? Just to satisfy the ravings of RMS who can't get enough attention to his political (not technical) causes by himself.

Re:Role of GNU in GNU/Linux (3, Insightful)

dozer (30790) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446398)

This is not a good question for Donald Becker or any kernel hacker. His answer will probably be along the lines of, "Linux? GNU/Linux? Who cares?" Of course, it would be worse if he actually had an opinion on this tired, pointless argument.

Even Linus doesn't feel strongly one way or the other. The only person who seems to be working up a lather is RMS. It's sad.

If you could make.. (2, Funny)

dknight (202308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446066)

If you could make a Beowulf cluster out of anything, what would it be and why?

THE question... (-1, Offtopic)

digitalamish (449285) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446070)

Boxers [cafeshops.com] or briefs?

Enterprise Computing (5, Interesting)

llamalicious (448215) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446074)

What is - in your opinion - the single most important, necessary evolution of GNU/Linux systems to help them become a commodity in the enterprise arena?

Re:Enterprise Computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446242)

Well duh. They'll need at *least* an impulse propulsion system.

What's the future of distributed computing? (5, Interesting)

theBraindonor (577245) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446077)

What do you see as the future of distributed computing? Will it be massive P2P distributed networks for the masses? Or will it be large commercial distributed networks?

What tools exist that will be used to create this future? What tools still need to be invented?

I haven't any questions ... (0, Offtopic)

Triumph The Insult C (586706) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446092)

because i use intel cards in my boxes =)

but, kudos on the hard work

Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (5, Interesting)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446095)

You've written code that's used by millions of people, just about anyone who's ever networked a Linux box has used your driver. Yet, you're not rich. Would you like to see Linux people chip in a few bucks out of gratitude?

Re:Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446190)

Nah. What most folks don't realize is that I own their box(es) thanks to some backdoor code in the drivers. I've got the worlds most powerful beowulf cluster at my fingertips, so money means very little to me. Believe me, if I wanted money I could take whatever I wanted.

-Don

Re:Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446328)

Well, the joke is on you. Linux users don't have any $ to steal. What are you going to do? Swipe their GNU/Cash files and get the $4.76 they have in their saving account at the credit union?

Re:Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446374)

Feh. Why would I want to do that when I could knock out entire networks with a massively parallel DOS? Think, think!

-Don

Re:Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (1)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446263)

Define rich. He's a CTO, so therefore he probably makes more money in a month than I make in a year. I don't see him complaining anywhere in the linked web pages :)
Furthermore, there's nothing in the GPL (and most other licenses) forbidding creators of open source software to sell their product or even their code.
Also, you probably want to fix your homepage adress, since xoom.com went under like 2 years ago or something :)

Re:Dear Don, does it suck not to be rich? (-1, Troll)

Illuminati Member (541846) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446382)

What I'd like to know is when he'll give gratitude to those of us that helped him early on. I did a lot of pointer tracking for him to track down memory leaks, and ensure that all clustering was efficient memory-wise.
Most of it I did anonymously, but not all of it. Regardless, he takes most of the credit, or, at least, doesn't give credit where it is due.

Not that I mind much. After all, I did do most of it anonymously, but I happen to know of a few friends that didn't and wish they were at least given a tiny bit of credit.

The Future.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446100)

What do you see the future holding for:
(a) Beowulf technology
(b) Different uses for Beowulf

Usable (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446106)

Do you believe X-windows + Gnome & KDE are / can provide an easier gui than available on Windows and Mac OS?

OSS methodologies (3, Interesting)

Jack Wagner (444727) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446116)

How do you address the issues that Gnu/Linux suffer from by sticking with legacy programming methodologies and legacy (sad but true) programming languagues? Namely, lack of modern programming methodologies like eXtreme Programming and C++ or Java on the language issue.

Warmest regards,
--Jack

how does it feel (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446119)

how does it feel to be giving all your work away for free when you could be making money working for a big company like microsoft?

beowulf out of these? (-1)

PhiberKut (9428) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446132)

What if we made a beowulf cluster out of Donald Becker clones?

is this right? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446148)

I was typing something in my GNU/vi editor the other day and after GNU/grep'ing the output I noticed an error in spelling. Perhaps my GNU/emacs would have served better but I just didn't think. I might fire up my GNU/gcc on some code I wrote to enable automatic spell checking of documents saved to key directories. GNU/Linux would allow me to do this in a nice way that makes me oh so happy!

hey i got an idea (-1)

redhotchil (44670) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446149)

make linux so usable that i dont have to spend 2 weeks getting it to work with all my stuff!

Processor/Architecture (5, Interesting)

Bonker (243350) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446157)

If you could add features to the x86 processor or architecture to make clustering work better, what features would you add?

Why (4, Interesting)

idontneedanickname (570477) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446161)

Why did you name it after the epic "Beowulf [amazon.com] "?

Two questions (5, Interesting)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446162)

First one I really think should be in your faq [canonical.org] , but that I haven't been able to find there: why did you choose the name of an millenia old epos about a Scandinavian warrior for something that does not even seem distantly related?

Secondly, do you read Slashdot, and if so, what do you think about all the troll jokes about Beowulfs? Was at least funny in the beginning to hear about people "imagining" clusters of just about anything?

Ok, so it was more than two questions. Sue me.

Re:Two questions (1)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446195)

That's "a millennia," not "an millenia." Sorry. I can't even stand my own spelling mistakes.

Re:Two questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446300)

Since you brought it up, it should actually be "a millenia-old".

Need the dash.

Re:Two questions (1)

White_Mage (587172) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446427)

First one I really think should be in your faq [canonical.org], but that I haven't been able to find there: why did you choose the name of an millenia old epos about a Scandinavian warrior for something that does not even seem distantly related?

In the epic Beowulf is described as having 'the strength of many'. Why he thought of that when naming the system, I don't know.

OS X (4, Interesting)

paradesign (561561) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446166)

What are your thoughts on Mac OS X?

It seems to have all of the polish and usability Linux/BSD people dream about, whie still maintainging a fully open source BSD core (Darwin). Have you ever been tempted away from Linux like so many ohers?

Life with ALS (0, Troll)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446167)

What's it like living life with ALS, communicating through a computer with only the blinking of your eyes, and not being able to shred Serrana Parts on the guitar or get up on stage with Marty Friedman and Rick Marrino again?

Please donate to the ALS fund [als-tdf.org] -- we need Stephen Hawking and Donald Becker back!

imagine a beowu- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446174)

ah, right.
Score -10, Retarded

Message Passing vs. Single System Image (5, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446179)

Why do you think that message passing clusters are more popular than single system image clusters, and do you see the balance changing eventually? In other words, is there no compelling reason to choose single system image for most problems? Also, when do you think that the 32-bit addressing limitations of x86 hardware will become a problem for doing Big Science on clusters?

Re:Message Passing vs. Single System Image (3, Informative)

fgodfrey (116175) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446442)

These two ideas aren't mutually exclusive. The Cray T3E is a single system image machine, but applications running on it are almost exclusively message passing in nature. My opinion on why there aren't proliferations of SSI clusters is because they are a lot harder to build. If you go with a set of seperate machines, which means you don't have a single *memory* image, getting the various kernels involved to all talk to each other is non-trivial. If you go with a single memory image, then you're not really doing a cluster, you are building a real supercomputer. Examples of single memory image machines of large size include the Sun Enterprise 1x000 line, the SGI Origin 2000/3000 series, the Cray T3E, and the not-quite-in-full-production-yet Cray X1.


As for the 32 bit address limit, it's already a problem. For large scientific code, 4GB per processor is already not enough. Now, people live with it, but that doesn't mean they like it. Intel's 36-bit addressing hack doesn't help, either, since you still have a single-virtual-address space limitation of 32 bits. This is probably the biggest motivation to go to a 64 bit architecture. Note that this problem also applies to large databases.

Grid Computing? (2, Interesting)

SilverThorn (133151) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446185)

Is Grid Computing (http://www.butterfly.net) [butterfly.net] ) really the foundation of enterprise-based Beowulf technology? If so, what other modernized aspects can this technology be applied to?

Only one question (2, Funny)

gowen (141411) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446186)

Do you ever regret leaving Steely Dan [steelydan.com] ?

History... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446198)

So what did people use to do with hot new hardware before...


You know...

Donald Becker is a world-class guy (4, Interesting)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446212)

In addition to being extremely smart, Donald Becker is a world-class guy. When I was new to Linux, I had trouble with one of his drivers. I emailed him, and within a day he emailed me back. It was a pretty stupid issue - I needed to download the latest drive :) However, he was very nice about it, didn't send me an RTFM - in fact he included instructions for building and installing it.

Anyway, Donald - thanks for helping me out when I was a stupid newbie, you are truly a world-class fellow.

Re:Donald Becker is a world-class guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446316)

Wipe your nose, it's all dirty now.

Ok, how about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446220)

What if you made a Beowulf cluster of Beowulf clusters?

Linux kernel 2.6/3.0 ? (5, Interesting)

unixmaster (573907) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446221)

What do you think about the affect of next Linux kernel v 2.6/3.0 on clustering when the new O(1) scheduler and VM and many new features taken into consideration?

Memory-Oriented Logic (5, Interesting)

Effugas (2378) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446235)

Dr. Becker,

As I'm sure you've noticed, the price of memory has been driven into the ground -- indeed, it's so inexpensive, the economics seem to have rendered the usage of virtual memory nearly obsolete. Need another 256MB? Spend the $20 and buy it. It's just that simple.

Now, memory makers can't let their goods be absolutely commodified forever, and I'm unconvinced that further speed increases, either in latency or bandwidth, will remain permanently relevant. So I'm curious about your opinion of embedding highly localized simple logical operators amongst the core memory circuitry itself. I've heard a slight amount about work in this direction, and it seems fascinating -- instead of requesting the raw contents of a block of memory, request the contents run through a highly local but massively parallelizable operation -- bit/byte/word interleaved XOR/ADD/MUL, for example. Obviously semiconductors can do more than store and forward; do you believe we a) will and b) should see memory implement trivial operations directly? What about non-turing complete instruction sets?

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Research
http://www.doxpara.com

P.S. Please forgive me if this entire post reads like "What about a beowulf cluster of DIMMs?"
P.P.S. Be honest: Do you ever find it ironic that the Internet Gold Standard for Ethernet cards ended up being called Tulip?

Just curious... (2)

toupsie (88295) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446238)

ually read Beowulf? [amazon.com] If you have, could you please write a 5,000 word book report for the that the children that have difficulty finding information on the book because of the saturation of Beowulf trolls, jokes and legitimate information online.

Thanks for thinking of the children!

Post screwup... (2)

toupsie (88295) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446286)

First sentence shoud have read:

Have you actually read Beowulf?

Considering you're on the board at scyld.. (5, Funny)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446251)

Did you ever have anything to do with crynwr?
And why don't you people like vowels? :)

(Thanks for the ne2000 driver!)

Re:Considering you're on the board at scyld.. (2, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446310)

crynwr...And why don't you people like vowels
Crynwr is a Welsh word, and in Welsh both 'y' and 'w' are vowels. So thats a pretty good ratio...

Re:Considering you're on the board at scyld.. (1)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446380)

Crynwr is a Welsh word, and in Welsh both 'y' and 'w' are vowels. So thats a pretty good ratio...

I knew that (not because I'm smart, but I've seen it asked before). At least you could have waited until I got a +1 funny ;)

probably way too many but what the hey... (5, Interesting)

jahjeremy (323931) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446260)

Please describe the general process you follow for writing and testing ethernet drivers on linux.

A couple more specific questions...

1) What approach do you take in creating drivers for cards which have inaccurate or insufficient documentation?

2) What tools do you use for debugging and and/or "discovering" the workings of old/obscure/poorly documented hardware?

3) What skillset, i.e. languages, knowledge & tools, do you consider necessary to perform the kind of coding you routinely do (outside of hacker wizardry and C mastery)?

I am also wondering how you got started writing ethernet drivers and clustering software for linux. What lead you down this specific path rather than other aspects of kernel/OS development?

JM

Re:probably way too many but what the hey... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446437)

Apologies for asking too many questions (I guess two is supposed to be the limit according to interview rules).

If this is picked, editors please choose the most interesting two or combine as neccessary.

Java (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446280)

What do you think about Java and its role in distributed computing? Do you have much experience with Java, and what are your opinions of it?

Which Network gear manufacturer? (5, Interesting)

iamsure (66666) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446294)

As the man responsible for writing multiple network card drivers, you are in a unique position to answer this..

What (FastEthernet/100mb) Network gear manufacturer do you prefer and recommend to others?

Whether its servers, or home use, its an important question, as some are as buggy as all get out, and others are to die for.

And if its a different answer, which manufacturer do YOU use?

Re:Which Network gear manufacturer? (3, Interesting)

dozer (30790) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446438)

Yes! If any question is to be answered, please let it be this one. After my Tulip card, my ethernet HW has all been poo. Does anyone make decent gear these days?

I want to create a cluster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446297)

Of naked blonde women with really trim and atheletic bodies, all clustered around my naked body. I want tham all to be pneumatic as in 1984 by Orwell. Can we make a cluster of these? And would it be scaleable to include redheads and brunettes?

Obligitory BC-DB reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446304)

Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of Donald Beckers...

How would I make (0)

nenolod (546272) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446322)

How would I make my own beowulf cluster? What steps are involved? Are there any kernel patches that you have to apply to make it work? How large can they get?

I've read that adaptive networking is very similar to clustering, but are they the same, related, or different? Do you know anything about that?

Imagine.... (1)

psycho (84421) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446325)

someone writing network drivers as well as commodity supercomputing software.

Well, what else did you think I was gonna say...?

making money via a lawyer (0)

develop (88564) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446334)

Q: you have made a large amount of money off the open source community in a way i don't consider on the "up and up". you write drivers for linux while being paid by an employeer, you give away the drivers then personally get a lawyer to threaten the company using your driver with a lawsuit. You then get the offending company to pay up money and take the money for yourself. don't you feel the company you work for and paid you to write that driver deserves the money? I have personally witnessed you do this to many companies (QNX, BeOS and Intel to name three). As an american taxpayer that paid your salary, i want that money - you don't deserve it. you are using open source software as a means to steal basically.

Why not try to be an astronaut while at CESDIS? (1, Redundant)

forged (206127) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446338)

It must have been cool to be part of the Goddard Space Flight Center staff. Did you meet famous people <insert astronaut name here> while working there? Didn't this make you want to ditch IT, and become an astronaut yourself instead?

OpenMosix (5, Interesting)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446367)

As someone who has made small contributions to the OpenMosix project, while I'm amazed at what clustering can do, I'm dissapointed at the same time at what it cannot.

Distributed shared memory is a big hurdle facing the OpenMosix project over the next couple years. Right now any program that allocates shared memory cannot migrate. What do you think of projects like OpenMosix? Do you think we will reach a point where parallel programming is a thing of the past, discarded in favor of tools like OpenMosix that require no special programming considerations except implementing clean threading?

What have you done for me lately? :-) (5, Interesting)

gosand (234100) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446381)

Donald, as the founder and CTO of Scyld, as well as a member of the board of directors, do you still get to hack, or is your time all taken up with business? Do you ever get the itch to get back to hacking code? If so, what are you working on?

mod me down please (0, Offtopic)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446383)


Why did it take so long after 'Gaucho' for you and you cohort Walter Fagen to record another Steely Dan record?

NASA, Government, Linux, Open Source (5, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#4446393)

Would you care to comment on your experience in NASA working on an Open Source project? (I understand you've left NASA for Scyld, maybe that partially answers my questions, but I still want to know...)

It seems as if your work on Beowulf clusters had a nice spin-off in terms of providing not only low cost supercomputing for academic, government and industrial users, but also in terms of Ethernet support for all sorts of Linux users.

  1. Are further spin-offs in the works, be it for advanced network interfaces or anything else?
  2. Are the program managers in government aware of the beneficial impact they have on a wider scale by funding work like yours?
  3. Do they even care?

Big facilities (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446397)

Hi, Mr. Donald Becker, I'd really like to know if you think that beowulf clusters are real competitors to big processing facilities [tinyurl.com] and why you have chosen Linux, given that Linus [tinyurl.com] himself seems to be addicted to other approaches.

Wheres the value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4446411)

The term open source--it's a philosophy. People don't look at open source; they look at Linux. That's really all it comes down to. People say 'What about Linux, vs. your stuff?' And people are going to look at whether we double our prices or take them down. If we changed our prices, people are still going to look at alternatives.

Second thing, our product is a more complete product. We have a built-in application server that's well integrated; there is no such comparable notion in the Linux server. We have a directory server built in; there is no such comparable thing in Linux. The Linux client hardly runs any applications, except a bunch of shareware stuff that's not very good.

I think it's not complete, it's a poor value proposition vs. Windows. It is a clone of an operating system. There has yet to be any innovation, new features or new capabilities out of the Linux platform. First they cloned Unix, and there are people working on cloning some of our stuff. But it's just a cloning operating system. That doesn't mean we can stand still--we have to push along. But I don't think anyone should expect anything innovative coming out of that world. There's no data to support that.

People highlight, 'OK guys--where's the source code?' I think most people don't want their employees using the source code everyday. Really, they don't. That's a distraction from real work. But a lot of people do have a real need to see source code from time to time for debugging and for security purposes. We've have initiated a shared source program. We're learning, if you will, from the Linux world. We're not above getting smarter every day. If you are a large account, for example, you can get access to source code.

If you take a look at the Linux world, there has been some interesting things going on in the use of community in support tools. There are many more communities in the Windows world than in the Linux world. I don't think we have mobilized that community as effectively as the Linux community has. We have some in Visual Studio, and you will see more and more of that.

In the areas where we think they have a real lead...we're not going to be cheaper to acquire. But we have lower total cost, more complete, more innovative, and we are going to share source as broadly as we can, but not as broadly as they do. And we are going to have as or more a community as Linux does. I think if you put all of that together, that's our competitive proposition.

Hugs and kisses,
Steve Ballmer
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