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Re: Future of the s390 port

I just joined this list server yesterday; so I apologize for
the un-timeliness of my replies to earlier posts.

> Is this really an important problem?
> Does a significant number of people actually use Debian/s390 on
> production servers? And if they exist, why they are not helping?

> -- 
> ciao,
> Marco

This logic makes an unwarranted assumption.  It assumes that
those who use Linux on S/390 don't want to help.  In most cases,
the problem is not a willingness to help but a lack of the requisite
skills to help.  I have been using IBM mainframes for 34 years
as end user, application programmer, and system programmer.  I know
a number of traditional mainframe programming languages, such as
PL/I, FORTRAN, and S/390 assembler language.  And I know the
primary mainframe scripting language (REXX).  But Linux is a
different animal.  Linux is written in things like C, shell scripts,
perl scripts, etc.  Those are not skill sets that a typical
mainframe developer would have.  Similarly, the Linux gurus typically
know very little about the mainframe.  The number of people with
advanced technical skills in both arenas is a very limited talent
pool.  And many of them work for IBM, Suse, or Red Hat and may be
restricted by employment contract from helping with Debian.

I am willing to help.  But I lack the requisite skills.  I think
I have basic computer programming aptitudes, but I will need to
learn new skill sets before I can be useful.  That probably won't
be in time for getting Squeeze into production.  But I'm willing to
do whatever I can.

> One simple way to help a bit which will make it more visible to the
> Debian community at large that the s390 port is used, is to install
> and activate popularity-contest on these machines and thus make sure
> 236 machines show up on <URL: http://popcon.debian.org/ > as running
> the s390 port. :)

> At the moment, only 8 machines are reporting to popularity-contest,
> which put s390 in line with hurd-i386, kfreebsd-amd64 and m68k as
> ports with very small user groups.  That number made me and probably
> others believe that very few are using the s390 port - at least until
> your email came along. :)

As a number of other responders have already said, this is a security
problem in the eyes of most network managers.  There are a lot of
Debian s390 host images out there.  But most of them are either
internal-use-only servers with no access to the internet or are
restricted by policy from participating in popcon.

We cannot allow the s390 port of Debian to die.  That would be a
great tragedy.  I've been extolling the virtues of free and open source
software for a long time and management is finally beginning to listen.
I just got approval this week for a new Debian s390 server for an in-house
pilot project.  One of the reasons I got the approval is Debian's
"Universal Operating System" appeal.  If the s390 port dies, management
is likely to either switch their focus back to Windows or else choose
another Linux distribution to work with, not just on the mainframe,
but on Intel boxes as well.  Either way, Debian loses on all platforms.

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