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Linux users are not an easy bunch to profile or to count. Many Linux users download the operating system for free and never perform any kind of systems registration to enumerate their hardware.
That's where Smolt may be able to help fill the gap. Smolt is an open source hardware profiling technology that is already being used by Red Hat's Fedora and is set for inclusion in the upcoming Novell OpenSUSE 11.1 release.
Ubuntu is currently considering Smolt as well.
"There are plenty of enterprise Linux users that won't use Smolt today, simply because it is not there, and if it was shipped with an enterprise Linux distribution, many enterprise Linux servers are behind firewalls, and thus would not be counted for Smolt," Ts'o added.
The Smolt effort began at Fedora back just prior to the Fedora 7 release as an opt-in profiling tool that lets Fedora know what hardware users have in addition to knowing the installed base number.
At the time, then-Fedora Project Leader Max Spevack noted that he had been in discussions with Novell about Smolt being included with OpenSUSE. Those discussions have now led to Smolt being part of the upcoming OpenSUSE 11.1 release.
"I just did an OpenSUSE beta 4 install today and sent my hardware profile up using smoltGui," Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier openSUSE Community Manager told InternetNews.com.
Novell's OpenSUSE isn't the only one that is looking at Smolt. Ubuntu Chief Technology Officer Matt Zimmerman told InternetNews.com that his developers have been in contact with Smolt developers.
"We're exploring ways we can collaborate to our mutual benefit," Zimmerman said. "We are not currently shipping Smolt in Ubuntu."
Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, however, noted that Ubuntu has a tool that pre-dates Smolt and has been included in Ubuntu for some time. Shuttleworth claimed that Ubuntu already has a database of user hardware platforms running Ubuntu.
The idea of a large multi-distribution effort to improve hardware compatibility is one that is appealing to Red Hat's current Fedora Project Leader, Paul Frields.
"It's absolutely a good thing whenever distributions work together to improve the overall coverage of hardware in Linux," Frields told InternetNews.com. "I'm glad to hear Ubuntu is considering it as well, because Smolt is completely free and open source software, and offers an excellent way for Linux distros to see what hardware their users employ."