Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Mehdi Daoudi, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Move Over Kernel Hackers, It's Mozilla Time

Move Over Kernel Hackers, It's Mozilla Time

Software provides functionality for the benefit of real people. Most software resides in applications, not in drivers or kernels. Today the open source community needs enabling kernels like Linux far less than it needs enabling application frameworks like Mozilla. Kernels have achieved most of what they can achieve, and the game is moving on. Can this be believed?

Have you noticed that small red or aqua lizard icon on your Linux desktop? It's Mozilla, best known in the guise of a Web browser. You're going to notice that icon a lot more in the future, whether you're a programmer, an IT guru, or an end user.

When we think of open source, Linux usually comes to mind before Mozilla. That is despite the groundbreaking open source release of the Netscape source code in the middle of the '90s browser wars. After all, Linux has garage credibility (or should that be university lab credibility?), whereas Mozilla is more of a corporate escapee. But Mozilla's history is as long as GNU/Linux; Mozilla has been the internal project name for the former Netscape browser since Netscape 1.0.

So much is written about Linux, meaning the Linux kernel and associated tools, and yet the kernel source and documentation is overall not very large. The very largest open source projects are in fact all corporate gifts rather than grassroots developments. OpenOffice is the premier example at 120 MB. You might not expect Mozilla to be a massive project, but surprise, it weighs in at number 2 or 3. A hundred AOL/Netscape employees didn't work away four years over nothing. Its source is massively bigger than Apache, bigger than Perl and Tcl/Tk combined, twice as big as the biggest kernel source bundle you can find.

Except for OpenOffice developers, most of us mentally discard OpenOffice as a technology building block. This is because of its obvious end-user intent. After all, you can't build a nuclear reactor out of the GIMP. The GIMP is best left doing what it does best - manipulating images. And the same applies to OpenOffice.

It might seem that Mozilla is tarred with the same brush. After all, isn't it a Web browser first and foremost? Well, in short, the answer is no.

Larry Wall this year re-popularized the Universal Architectural Diagram in his State of the Onion 2003 speech (www.perl.com/pub/a/2003/07/16/soto2003.html). That progress report on Perl used a diagram that goes back at least as far as early IBM mainframes. In the diagram, a generic layer of technology is used as the basis for several specialist applications. Because the generic layer is common to each application, those applications are seen as having identical status. At least they are seen as members of some common group. The Universal Architectural Diagram is a very common design pattern. Java, .NET, Perl, X-Window, Pick, XML, and many others have used it to provide a generic, enabling technology layer, and a set of interesting offshoots. Even the relationship between BIOS and Windows/Linux/QNX uses this pattern, as shown by the success of VMWare and other BIOS emulators.

Mozilla is another example of the Universal Architecture. An e-mail client is not the same thing as a Web browser, and yet Mozilla supports both. The Mozilla Platform, which is a set of files shorn of any browser, is a generic basis for user-oriented, GUI-oriented, possibly networked applications. Out of that platform the Mozilla browser has been built, a highly successful browser at that. But that platform has also been used to build e-mail clients, composers, debuggers, IDEs, desktops, settops, palmtops, calendars, PIMs, chat clients, dictionaries, and educational software. That's a broad range.

Jim Gettys, of Hewlett-Packard and www.freedesktop.org fame, has recently been analyzing the technical services offered by open source Unixes that support desktop applications (http://freedesk top.org/~jg/roadmap.html). If you peruse this list, you'll see that most of the desktop technology is expressed in terms of libraries and programmer frameworks - pretty low-level stuff to some. What's missing is a very high-level, easy-to-use system for desktop GUI application development. In fact, Unix has been missing a Visual Basic-like system for a long time, with only Tcl/Tk offering any kind of easy solution. It's no wonder that desktop applications have been slow to arrive on Linux.

Until now, rapid and professional development of Unix desktop applications has relied on proprietory equipment like Oracle Development tools, Smalltalk, or other closed vendor offerings. That is now changing. The Mozilla Platform provides exactly that kind of environment, for nothing. The sweet spot is that this environment is also easy to develop in. You don't need to be a kernel hacker or even have C/C++ literacy. The required skills are no more than JavaScript, some XML (in the form of XUL), some CSS, and some optional manipulation of extensive object libraries. The hardest thing that needs to be learned is perhaps a bit of RDF. If you know a little XML, then Mozilla-based applications are as easy as Perl, but have a professional GUI.

Mozilla is therefore well poised to be the application development framework of choice for Linux. It even comes with a bonus: Linux applications will work without change on Windows, Mac OS X, and other platforms, provided some basic portability rules are followed. They also work from local disk, across the Web, and from across the Internet.

You might ask: Why bother? Don't all good Linux hackers go armpit deep in code, as close as possible to the bare metal? And isn't Java the obvious solution for applications? Well, no, and no. Most of the comfy spots close to the open source bare metal are taken, and that kind of thing appeals only to a narrow class of programmers anyway. By comparison, there are 45,000 IT people in New Zealand (pop. 4 million) alone - that's great deal of variety. Second, Java is a very object-oriented language, and frankly, that doesn't suit a lot of people. JSP doesn't exist because Java is trivially easy to work with. Sure, Java is popular, but scripting languages are just as popular. Mozilla's easy development style suits a very big chunk of the middle ground, where all the good spots aren't yet taken, and where the code isn't too convoluted.

If you think this is unguarded opinion, then listen to Gartner (www.gartner.com). Their "Hype Cycle for Open-Source Technologies, 2003" barely remarks on core operating system features at all. That report just says applications, applications, applications, over and over. That's good news for LAMP developers (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl) if you don't mind using a browser as a GUI. Now you can go forth and Mozilla as well.

More Stories By Nigel McFarlane

Nigel McFarlane is a freelance science and technology writer with an extensive
programming background. His latest book is "Rapid Application Development with
Mozilla," and his Web site is at "http://www.nigelmcfarlane.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, will provide a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
Recently, IoT seems emerging as a solution vehicle for data analytics on real-world scenarios from setting a room temperature setting to predicting a component failure of an aircraft. Compared with developing an application or deploying a cloud service, is an IoT solution unique? If so, how? How does a typical IoT solution architecture consist? And what are the essential components and how are they relevant to each other? How does the security play out? What are the best practices in formulating...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...