Pondering the Reiser Fallout

After the exuberance that followed Hardy Heron’s landing not long ago, the mood on the Linux blogs shifted considerably last week in the wake of the conviction of ReiserFS file-system designer Hans Reiser of first-degree murder.

Before the highly publicized trial, Reiser and his team were working on Reiser4, but “the project is more than likely to die an unfortunate death by virtue of its lead programmer [possibly] having to serve a minimum 25-year life sentence in prison,” noted ZDNet blogger Jason Perlow. “The question is, what do we replace ReiserFS with?”

That question spurred some 600 comments on Slashdot by Friday afternoon last week, where the discussion extended even into the role of the media in such cases.

‘Makes Me Sick’

“Did you throw away your ‘Naked Gun’ movies because OJ Simpson killed those people?” asked sm62704 on Slashdot. “The tabloid mentality that seems to have overtaken the entire world makes me sick. The file system’s designer’s personal life is none of my (or your) business.”

On the other hand: “I’m hoping that maybe control of ReiserFS will now be in the hands of someone who is not a total c**k… sorry, a wife-murdering total c**k,” countered gowen. “Hans Reiser’s ability to play nice with others made you long for Theo de Raadt’s sunny demeanor. Given that the code is Free, having it under the control of someone who is not a complete sociopath can’t help but increase the uptake of the novel parts of the ReiserFS structure.”

News of the conviction drew such widely divergent views of its impact on the technology that LinuxInsider felt compelled to dig a little deeper.

‘Losing Relevance for Years’

“The Reiser murder conviction is unfortunate, but ReiserFS has been losing relevance for several years now thanks to Reiser4 not turning out how they planned as well as SGI and IBM moving into the Linux file-system scene in a big way,” Gerhard Mack, a Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger, told LinuxInsider.

“One of the big blockers for Reiser4 was Linus [Torvalds] panning the idea of a ‘file system as a database idea,'” Mack added. “Yes, that’s right: One of the central features planned for Vista was already working in Linux and decided against.”

In the last few years “I’ve seen things move towards XFS anyhow,” Mack asserted. “Linux-kernel has certainly been quieter without him.”

Along similar lines: “The latest innovations in file systems seem to have come from Sun’s ZFS, and Reiser’s influence has been largely irrelevant in that anyway,” Monochrome Mentality blogger Kevin Dean told LinuxInsider.

Life Goes On

Then again: “I believe the Reiser conviction will definitely have an impact on the development of the Reiser4 file system,” Foogazi blogger Adam Kane told LinuxInsider. “However, I don’t think ReiserFS will completely stop producing.”

The technology is open source and “GPL’d, so it’s available for anyone to pick up and continue work on, which I believe people will do,” Kane asserted. “This also shows a great example of the open source community and free software in general — there’s always alternatives… ext3, xfs, jfs2, etc. And as with every alternative, there are advantages and disadvantages.”

Don’t Forget Mom

Speaking of life going on, which it undoubtedly will, we here at LinuxInsider would like to remind our sometimes-distracted readers (not that we blame you, of course) that Mother’s Day is in just a few short days.

What to do? Something involving Linux, of course. And, as is always the case on the Linux blogs, help is close at hand.

First, how about creating a Linux box for your Mom? A Virtual Hosting post from Jessica Hupp is full of tips — even if some of them are a bit dated.

Our favorite links in there are “Ubuntu for your grandmother” and “A Senior Citizen’s Introduction to Linux” — both highly recommended!

Not so sure you want to go there? For further inspiration, check out Foogazi’s post on “5 Reasons your parents should use Linux.” Included in it is a handy list of alternatives to Mom and Dad’s Windows applications.

Long-Distance Fixes

“Linux for my mother? I would in a moment if I could,” said Mack, who lives far from his maternal parent. “Being able to fix her stuff from an ssh shell would make my life a whole lot easier.”

Mack’s father also needs AutoCAD for his job, he pointed out. “I would switch them but unfortunately there is no Linux AutoCAD version and no viable replacement. It’s also unfortunate that many city planning departments only accept plans in AutoCAD format.”

Perhaps, too, the suggestions out there adhered a bit too closely to the “parent-as-newbie” stereotype.

“My grandmother is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and a geek to boot,” Dean said. “She’s always racing to have the latest and greatest computer, she’s skilled enough to securely manage a Windows system and she’s able to build her own systems.”

Therein may lie a telling sign, Dean added: “Aside from freedom, there’s not too much that Linux does better than Windows.”

Incendiary? You tell us.

Showing the Love

Yet there’s no doubt Linux can help people show their love for each other, as we noted back around Valentine’s Day.

“I actually have a post prepared that explains one neat way of honoring your mother on Mother’s Day — or any day,” Kane said. “Take an old laptop and create a digital picture frame out of it.”

A useful guide to creating the frame and configuring a Linux installation can be found here.

“What’s neat about this idea is that if you can set up an Internet connection on it, you could essentially configure it so you can remotely update it via SCP or RSYNC with pictures from anywhere,” Kane explained. “So your Mom can always be up to date with pictures from you.”

Hard to imagine anything that would bring more joy to a mother’s heart. Linux geeks, it’s time to get busy!

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