Catégories: "Informatique"

OpenCascade : How to make money with free software ?

Avril 11th, 2006

I wrote this article 6 mois ago. I was waiting for some stuffs around this. However, it is too late so I release it.

My main concern about free software as a way of doing business is "how do you make money out of it ?".
Unfortunatelly, I still don't see any solution ... Of course, it is possible by selling services, maintenance, help, more (costly) advanced version, side development (usually proprietary) but it is not doing money only on free software/development.

Let's me describe on of the solution that uses Opencascade, a former department of Matra.

They produces for a quite long time (about 10 years) a big project called "Open CASCADE". It is a framework used to modelise, visualise 3D models (and many other things that I hardly understand)... It has an aspect of gas factory ("Usine à gaz" as we say in French) because the size/age/complexity of the project. However, it is a very convenient way of doing 3D (many famous corporations use it).

At work, I am working on a project launched by the BRGM (Bureau de recherche géologique et minière ... the equivalent of the french CNRS but for earth sciences) about 10 years ago. The aim of the project is to provide to geologists and geophysists a way of representing the underground. The corporation where I work is doing the work of adding new features, packaging and selling the software. For this project, we use Opencascade.

My work on this project was to provide a visualisation of drillholes in a 3D space (holes that are dug in the ground to get the geological structure of the underground). Basically, I was supposed to represent a (drunk) worm hole from a serie of points.
I tried many way (from the ugliest to the sharpest) but I found some problems with my favorite. When I used too much points, the framework start to reject me (technical description is following my message). As I don't like when a software rejects me, I spent time one this issue (I thought that it was my fault because it is a quite basic feature in the software). I finally successed to isolate the issue and send a kind of SOS/bug report to someone at OpenCascade.
This request cost us 2 units of support from our contract.

Then, one week after, they get back to us with a "There is a bug in Pipe algorithm.". OK, cool. I was a bit proud to find a bug in this kind of big software (for the courageus/crazy, the reason of the bug is : "This bug is caused by complex structure of the curve approximated from 14 (15) points (some discontinuities of derivatives of high levels). Such structure of the curve causes turbulence of the local coordinate system of section along the curve. That is why the algorithm can not build a pipe where the section is orthogonal to the curve in each point all along the curve.", obvious no ?). However, I was expecting a small patch which will fix the issue and a "thank for the bug report". Instead of this, I saw :

The bug fix production can be started after your confirmation.
Please note that the standard price of a query is 15 units of your support program.

OK, now, I know how they make cash (at least a part of it).
You submit what you think to be a bug, it costs you 2 units. They confirm that is a bug, you have to pay 15 units to get the fix. Otherwise, you have to wait for the new release planned whenitwillbeready.
I am not saying it is a bad solution (and I do understand why they do that ... it is called support) but it could be more respectful for the user who spent many time to isolate a bug and report it and consequently helped to improve their software...
(For their defense, they provided me a workaround for my issue).

Lire la suite »

Monitoring a specific virtualhost apache

December 29th, 2005

Monitoring apache quite easy. There are plenty of solutions to do that. When it comes to monitore virtualhost one by one, it starts to be difficult. Of course, there is always the solution of using stats softwares but usually, it is not really time and doesn't give a quick and efficient overview.

Here comes mod_watch. A quite old module for Apache (1.3 & 2.0). Basically it monitores the incoming/outcoming traffic and the requests.

There is no debian package for this module. However, it is very easy to install.

apt-get install apache-dev

tar -zxvf mod_watch318.tgz
cd mod_watch-3.18

make install

Edit /etc/apache/modules.conf
And add in it :

LoadModule watch_module /usr/lib/apache/1.3/

Edit /etc/apache/httpd.conf
Add :

<IfModule mod_watch.c>

# Allows the URL used to query virtual host data:


<location /watch-info>
SetHandler watch-info

Order allow,deny
Allow from hostname


# Intended for debugging and analysis of shared memory

# hash table and weenie files:


<location /watch-table>
SetHandler watch-table

Order allow,deny
Allow from hostname



Stop & start apache (not a restart)

/etc/init.d/apache stop && /etc/init.d/apache start

For each virtualhost, you should be able to see a line containting this kind of data : 49 0 499775 39 9 1 0.000 136656176 3221223448

This means :

sylvestre.ledru.infotarget name
49uptime in second
bytes received from requests
499775bytes sent
39number of requests received
9number of documents sent
1number of active connections
0.000approx. 5 minutes average of bytes sent per second
136656176bytes sent during the current 5 minutes period
3221223448start time() of the current 5 minutes period

This data are meant to be retrieve by MRTG thought the mod_watch client in order to produce graphs, ie :

# ./



This returns the number of bytes out.


# ./ -f ifRequests,ifDocuments



This returns the number of requests and documents.

Finally, as the developer knows that ITs are lazy, he made a script which will automatically create an MRTG configuration file from the apache configuration (I made a small patch in order to monitore also the documents/requests with this script and fixes a bug with mrtg indexmaker)


patch < patch_apache2mrtg.diff
Add Workdir: /path/to/www/ for the output dir

./ /etc/apache/httpd.conf > /etc/vhosts_mrtg.cfg

Caution ! will parse ALL the virtualhost. Even those with htaccess login/password and then won't be able to access to the watch-info files. Remove them from the vhosts_mrtg.cfg file.

There is many solution to customize the value & data. Check out the documentation here :

Advantages :

* Quite easy to install, configure & maintain
* Quite fast

* Make very easy the task to find which virtualhost takes all the bandwith.

Disavantages :
* Impact on the performance ?

* No monitoring of CPU / Memory
* Based on headers (ie, if I start a download of 200 mo and I stop at the beginning, it will count 200 mo... Problem Described here)

Next tasks :

* Patch the software to add CPU & Memory monitoring PER virtualhost or find a module which does that.
* Find a way to fix the headers issue.

* Add the total bytes transferts

Edit : Comments closed. Thank you spammers !

Flying tux

Décembre 13th, 2005

Lors de mon vol Melbourne => Hong Kong, le système de vidéo de la business class avec Cathay Pacific est tombé en rade. Donc on a patienté pour que ça revienne et on a vu que le système tourne sous Linux. Le problème était visiblement que le serveur de fichier NFS était en rade et donc que les clients n'arrivaient pas à le monter...

Voila la photo... Je suis un peu passé pour un cinglé à prendre ça en photo dans l'avion.
Linux / Tux used by Cathay Pacific
Linux / Tux used by Cathay Pacific

A silly & boring PHP bug ...

November 3rd, 2005

This morning, I received a emails telling me that there is a big problem on a website that I host. Users are not able to upload any image on the server. (Warning: imagejpeg(): Unable to access 474/10434/59107.jpg in /www/libs/functions.php on line 226) Weird... The problem is in a daily used function which has been running for years. The only recent changed was the migration from v4.4.0 => v4.4.1 of PHP few days ago.
Because of the time difference, I only saw this problem when I woke up this morning. And fortunately, Julien has been able to find a temporary workaround... By disabling the safe mode... Dirty but it fixes the problem.

In the first place, I thought it was a change in the default configuration of PHP but I received a other email about the same kind of problems. Let's see the bug tracker of PHP... Ok, I am not the first one who has this issue.

One of the workaround that I found in this bug report is to make a touch() before calling the imagejpeg() function... Almost worster than the safe mode fix as I use it everywhere.
And I saw that Sniper is considering this as a feature (this is not a bug but a feature). Well, I don't see the point of touching a file before creating it after but well...
And people are complaining about this. Like this message :

Changing the way functions work within a minor update (version+=0.0.1) is an irresponsible way of maintaining software. This bug (please don't call it a "feature") caused a lot of trouble on our servers.

And I don't think that the way Sniper is any answering really help in the first bug report.
However, it seems that he considers this as a bug in the second bug report. The modification here shows it : (details here :

Now, let's see if they are going to release a version or we will stay with a safe_mode=off for a little while...

Edit : Comments closed. Thank you spammers.

Bug fixes admin & dev

November 2nd, 2005

Three small problems at work/personnal today.

  • I had to update the kernel of my boss's computer (running Ubuntu) in order to change an include.h into the GNU/Linux kernel (no more modification in the kernel). Then, I rebooted the computer but the data partition was not mounted. Getting stuff like :
    root@scully:/# mount /data/
    mount: /dev/hdb1 already mounted or /data busy
    Of course, hdb1 is not mounted and /data is not busy (fuser -v /data is your friend).

    After a few investigation, I found that evms is trying to access to the drive on boot and I guess it is not releasing the hard drive properly or something like that.
    Nov 02 17:07:28 scully _5_ Engine: is_volume_change_pending: Change pending: Volume /dev/evms/hdb1 needs to be activated.
    The dirty workaround is to launch evms AFTER the mount all options.
    mv /etc/rcS.d/S27evms /etc/rcS.d/S99evms

    Be carreful, this could cause side effects.

  • I had to debug an issue under the linux version of our softwares. Impossible to read big files (over 2 go).
    Then, I created a fake file of 3 go and made a small program to reproduce the issue.
    Here is the source :

    void myRead(FILE * fichier){
    	/*lit le fichier caractere par caractere*/
    	char buf;
    	int ret=1;
    	if (fichier!=NULL)
    int main () {
    	FILE *myFile = fopen( "bigfile","r" );
    	if (myFile!=NULL) {
    		printf("myFile not opened");
    	return 0;

    Amazing, isn't it ?

    When I run this program (after tsize testsize.cpp), I only get a myFile not opened.
    Launching again this software with strace and I can see in the middle of the dump a :
    open("bigfile", O_RDONLY) = -1 EFBIG (File too large)

    After a few links, I finally found the solution :
    Add at the beginning of the source (before some includes) these three lines
    #define _FILE_OFFSET_BITS 64
    => defines which interface will be used by default
    #define _LARGEFILE64_SOURCE
    => permits the use of 64 bits functions
    => permits the use of fseeko() and ftello()
    Of course, it is possible to specify these define in the g++ command line like that : g++ -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 -o testsize testsize.cpp


  • Sealers Cove - Wilson PromontoryLast but not least (I like this expression), an trick avoid stealer to make a direct link to one of your image on their website and wasting your bandwith. Personally, I don't care. I have plenty of bandwith and it represents a small part of the current traffic.
    However, I had to fix this problem for a website which offers legal mp3 & avi.
    The trick consists of using mod_rewrite. It checks the referent and if it is not from the official website and that it is trying to reach a file with a specific extension (mp3 and so on), we redirect the navigator to an other URL.

    Just put this few lines into your .htaccess and it should do it (if you have access to mod_rewrite for your website) :

    DirectoryIndex index.php
    RewriteEngine On
    # Rewrite Rules for files
    # if the referent is not empty
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
    # if the domain is not our
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^(.*)(|*)$
    # if the extension if in the list 
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} \.(mp3|wmv|wma|zip|avi|mpg)$ [NC]
    # Redirect to an URL 
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [L]

    Pretty simple isn't it ?

PS : why this image ? Well, this post is too technical... This picture has been taken last week end in Sealers Cove in Wilson 's Promontory in Victoria.

Edit : comments are closed. Thank you spammer.