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Linux Counter Drops 90.000 Users 190

hta writes "Over the 7 years that the Linux Counter has been operative, a lot of people have registered who can no longer be verified. We do not want to publish false data to the world. So we have to remove the data when it is too old, and have decided to give two grace periods." See below for more information - but go out and get counted!
  • Two years for entries with an email that might be valid
  • One year for entries without a valid email entry
More technical details are available from the Counter.

Since there has not been any routine for this before, there is a backlog of almost 100.000 entries.
We have decided to pull the whole backlog at once on November 1.
After this date, the aged-out entries will not be included in the Linux Counter user count, and will not receive email notifications from the counter.

If you registered with the Linux Counter long ago, go over there and log in in order to make sure your entry stays counted."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Linux Counter Drops 90.000 Users

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  • by Unknown Bovine Group ( 462144 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:25PM (#2431377) Homepage
    May I suggest using the tactic many mass-emailers use: Assume EVERYONE is a Linux user, and force them to opt out if they DON'T want to be counted.

  • I think I even registered a slackware install way back in '96. I had no idea the linux counter still was alive. In any case I think it safe to say that most people who installed linux over the past few years are not aware of the existence of the good old counter so it must be way of by any standards and removing 90000 unverified users won't do much good.
  • Yea, I didn't expect 90.033 users, or something. Of course it would be a whole number!

    ~stupid american

  • Who's next? (Score:3, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:27PM (#2431401) Journal
    Will slashdot delete all those unused and bitchslapped troll accounts?
    • If it can keep its database up long enough, sure.... :)
    • Actually, something like this might really help /. I'm not familiar with their database setup, but clearing out users that haven't logged in in x amount of time (there must be thousands) might save quite a bit of space, and possibly some cpu cycles.
      • by sulli ( 195030 )
        I doubt they'd actually want to, though, because high userid numbers make the place look more popular than it is. ("Look Ma, half a million accounts!")
  • by bperkins ( 12056 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:30PM (#2431427) Homepage Journal
    Sometimes it seems like slashdot is this raving monster, destroying everything in its path. Small sites with cgi scripts seem particually vunerable to being sent into oblivion.

    Isn't there a better way of doing things?

    Maybe we could remind people to lay off just after the story is posted.

    Maybe we could have a slashdot turnstile where you can wait in line to get into the site. The biggest problem I see is figuring out when people are have finished downloading.

    • Actually, the inteligent thing to do would be for slashdot to cache a copy of the page the way google does (wget, anyone?) BEFORE the article gets posted then make the cache link available as well. Heck. Make the cache link prominent and add a "original story" link at the bottom of the headline posting.

      • They've already answered the questions about caching pages [slashdot.org].

        • Okay, so he answered the question about caching the pages. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't be the inteligent thing to do.

          If I cache one of their pages, this will mess with their statistics, and mess with their banner ads. In other words, this will piss them off.

          And if you link to them and give them a hundred thousand hits that they would not otherwise have had, you're messing with their statistics.

          So perhaps we could draw the line at sites that don't have ads. They are, after all, much more likely to buckle under the pressure of all those unexpected hits. But what happens if I cache the site, and they update themselves? Once again, I'm transmitting data that I shouldn't be, only this time my cache is out of date!

          If they change the content the article refers to, then your article is out of date. If you have a cache, you have the original text for readers to refer to and the readers can see the site for the update. Best of both worlds.

          I could try asking permission, but do you want to wait 6 hours for a cool breaking story while we wait for permission to link someone?

          It could take 6 hours for their site to recover for the DDoS slashdot imposes on them. *shrug*

          • PS.

            If I cache one of their pages, this will mess with their statistics, and mess with their banner ads. In other words, this will piss them off.

            If you DDoS them and their regular customers can't get through to the site, this will also piss them off. You can't prevent pissing off somebody who is looking to get pissed off.

            The other side of the coin is that they might be appreciative of you sparing them the DDoS, or they might be appreciative of the traffic. Six of one, half dozen of the other. Don't walk on eggshells. You aren't doing anybody any favors.

            • Don't walk on eggshells. You aren't doing anybody any favors.

              He's doing himself a favor, by not having to deal with the issues presented in the FAQ. Unfortunately for those who think otherwise, the site operator's opinion is all that matters.

              That said, I think that setting up squid and pointing links through a slashdot-operated caching proxy would be a good idea. Not that I see it happening anytime soon...

          • But what happens if I cache the site, and they update themselves?

            HTTP has already solved this problem. Use their Expires value, with a reasonable default depending on the urgency (hours? minutes?) if they didn't bother to send one. It's not as if they can expect individuals to see their updates if they don't offer correct metadata--our user agents cache by the same rules. Hey, wouldn't squid or something correctly refresh its cache automatically?

            do you want to wait 6 hours for a cool breaking story while we wait for permission to link someone?

            The alternative is a up-to-the-minute link that's effectively useless, and a few hundred comments expressing nothing more than ignorance and wild guesses. Or we start asking those lucky souls that get slashdotted resources to post comments with their freenet [sourceforge.net] IDs for good distributed caching but without any support for updates....

        • "They've already answered the questions about caching pages."

          Personally if I were to run a little website that was /.'ed and thus incured huge commercial rate data transmition fees, Taco/VA would be hearing form my solicitors/lawyers. Why can Google do what /. cant be bothered? Its not as if page impression data cant be passed back to the site in question or perhaps an account opened with the main adbanner companies, and fresh banner impressions made through the 'cache' credited to the orriginal website author. Obviously there are legal issues to be addressed, but frankly how does /.'ed compare against a DOS attack, one is mediated malicously over IRC or some such and the other via what a cohort of geeks think is cool, or is that the other way around. :)

          Perhaps we should just tack on something to the next HTML standard, rather than robots.txt, slashdot_sod_off.txt. :)

          • "Personally if I were to run a little website that was /.'ed and thus incured huge commercial rate data transmition fees, Taco/VA would be hearing form my solicitors/lawyers."

            And why is that? Because your site couldn't handle the traffic? This was covered before, when Slashdot linked to a story on Something Awful, and Lowtax ended up redirecting people to goatse.cx, because he couldn't handle the traffic.

            I felt bad for him, but in all honesty, if you don't want people to visit your website, make it password protected, or take your server offline. You put your site up so people could visit, right? Just because your server can't handle legitamite traffic doesn't mean it's a DOS attack. It means your server can't handle the traffic, plain and simple.

            If your logic held true, then maybe the guys at kernel.org should be suing Rob and Co. for every time they link to a new kernel update. Sorry, that doesn't work. Sure, maybe Slashdot should cache pages. And if they don't, do you suggest that they e-mail the site beforehand and say, "Hi, I'd like to link to you, can your server handle the load?" Do you want to do that if you want to link to somebody?
      • but then that would end the /. effect! What the hell, that would be as bad as removing "first post".

        Oh wait.
    • Ouch! This reminds me of Fileplanet. Who wants to see 'You are 3954 of 4132'?
      I know it really peeves me when a company [godgames.com] puts all their patches on Fileplanet so I have to wait _forever_ to get them.
      OTOH, a queing system may be better than taking down the site -- I think.
    • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @01:03PM (#2431597) Homepage
      ... so it is hard to fault /. ethically in this case.

      Per Abrahamsen, registered Linux user #367.
    • Slashdot already seems to have a queue system for releasing stories at regular intervals - you could just email the owner of the site when the story gets added to the queue.

      This would give them time to go through and reduce the size of their images, call up their provider and order more bandwidth, etc. On the other hand, it would undermine slashdot's sterling reputation for journalistic integrity - you would end up with webmasters making changes to *content* of their site in advance.
    • by hta ( 7593 )
      I think being slashdotted is fun. (twisted sense of humor :-)
      The counter has been slashdotted twice before, and broke down; this time, it has 10x the processing power and 30x the disk space compared to then. But it seems that the slashdot community has expanded by a similar factor in the meantime - the counter is running at a load of 16, but it is STAYING UP.
      Watching, and enjoying.
    • Post Articles by region..

      Eg. 2 articles are queued for 'display' (I obviously have no knowledge of the workings of slashdot).

      Display 1 to the 'left' half of the world, the other to the right half.

      Next hour, flip em.

      At the very least, you could only let .com,.co.uk see this article now, and all others see it in an hour.. Randomize who sees it first..

  • ...when you consider that the Linux following counts millions of users.

    A drop in the ocean.
  • Mostly Useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kruemelmo ( 21012 ) <moritz@dan[ ]n.de ['ebe' in gap]> on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:34PM (#2431461) Homepage
    This has really become useless, hasn't it. While many geeks would register some years ago, the big majority of Linux users wouldn't ever today.

    In a way, everyone is a Linux user as soon as they surf the net, using apache installations. If the number of non-geek desktop Linux users grows, they certainly won't register there because they just won't care.

    There are more reliable ways to get estimates for numbers of Linux users.

    Finally, the counter is currently slashdotted.
    • In a way, everyone is a Linux user as soon as they surf the net, using apache installations.

      And in that same way, everyone uses an M$ platform as soon as they surf the net, using IIS installations.
    • In a way, everyone is a Linux user as soon as they surf the net, using apache installations.

      In a way, everyone is a Windows user as soon as they surf the net, using IIS installations. ;)
      • In a way, everyone is a Windows user as soon as they surf the net, using IIS installations.

        In a way, everyone is a Mac user as soon as they surf to a design-heavy site full of giant jpgs and rollover animated gifs. ;)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:35PM (#2431470) Homepage Journal
    ...if the Linux Counter people ran a mass OS fingerprinting campaign, fingerprinted every reachable machine on the Internet and added in any non-reachable address for which a registrant has given some data.

    THEN we might see some real, useful figures.

    Well, until the RIAA sued them for infringing their patent on mass-scans. (See earlier article.)

    • Except that not every Linux user has a persistent connection to the internet. Some of us pathetic users still have dial-up...
    • hmm. fingerprinting... google cache... hmm..
      Ill bet google already has an idea of the OS running on each web server it catalogs. Some interesting statistics could come out of that.
    • Perhaps, but the results would be skewed by firewalls. For example, I have three Linux boxen but they're sitting behind an OpenBSD firewall so they don't get counted. At work I used to run a few Linux machines, but they were hidden behind an NT proxy server. But still, these results may be more accurate than what they've got now.
    • ...if the Linux Counter people ran a mass OS fingerprinting campaign

      Great idea, except that my linux (and other) boxen aren't vulnerable to OS fingerprinting. Some of us actually care about network security...

    • In all likelyhood, the count would not be accurate at all, as more people start to use network address translation (including large businesses,) many computers would not be counted. Fingerprinting also is not always accurate. In addition, it would take so long that by the time it was done, the actual proportions would probably be very different.
  • google mirror [google.com]
    Now this is a proper ./ effect.

    ok, it works after a while, but I guess you cant register yourself since their scripts still are overloaded ..

    hmm just got a flashback..."Amiga forever, forever.. ever ver.. er.. r." :-)

  • by Knunov ( 158076 ) <eat@my.ass> on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:37PM (#2431485) Homepage
    It's been up for 7 years and all it took was 30 seconds on /.'s front page to bring it down.

    On the bright side, I'm sure that 90K will come back in spades.
  • Better tracking idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arethan ( 223197 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:39PM (#2431498) Journal
    I can't get into the site since it's been slashdotted, but from the sounds of it, the system in place is based on the honor system. You could very easily falsely register yourself as a Linux user, or simply not register at all. What might work a little better is an opensource project to write a piece of software that occasionally contacts a registration server to 'touch' it's record. When you register the machine, you might even want to specify it's use (personal desktop, business desktop, business server, etc). Records that go 'untouched' for over 6 months are considered extinct and are removed.

    This would obviously only work for machines that have internet access, but it's still better then having to manually update your entry...
    • The counter contains such a subproject.
      There is a script you can install that will update the data for a machine on email - this is the basis for the "uptime" and "kernel version" statistics.
      So far, a few hundred people have registered machines there; DO install more!!!!!!
    • That could be done, perhaps, using statistics on package requests by package managers. Consider, say, Debian's package server [debian.org] and its mirrors-- every time someone apt-gets the base packages, the server can log this as another installation. It should even be possible to implement your suggestion about the use of the machine in a similar way (is it asking for many daemon packages, or office programs?).

      Of course, if you're running a cache (say, for other users on your network), you'd need to submit your figures separately; but then, users clueful enough to do this perhaps aren't usually the ones who are slipping through the current system.

  • Nice headline (Score:1, Redundant)

    Linux Counter Drops 90.000 Users

    At least that's better than the time they dropped 89.947 users. My buddy still can't find his finger.
  • by volpe ( 58112 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @12:42PM (#2431522)
    Might I siggest that it is sufficient to say ninety users have been dropped and that there is no need to specify that to three decimal places? I can't think of 1.000 good reason why it is necessary to be that precise.

  • And how am I supposed to register when that darn LinuxCounter already is slashdotted? Couldn't we use snail mail?

    And now the serious part of the comment, how do they do this counting stuff anyway? It's rather clear to me (and to them too???) that just a small part of the Linux users ever would find that page and sign up. I've run Linux for several years now and have never heard about that site until today.
    And do they think about the fact that not all of those who finds it will register? My guess is that many people hesitate to sign up because they just think they will be spammed. Or maybe they just don't bother to get a crapmail-account-to-be-used-for-signing-up-stuff to sign up with. I bet thay haven't thought about that. This counting stuff should be named "Counter for those Linux users who bother signing up when they finally finds this page"
    • You must use an inferior Linux distribution. I know that on Slackware, the root user has an e-mail waiting for them after the system is installed to add themselves to the Linux counter.
      • Ah, that explains why I'm on the Counter -- my first distro back in '95 was Slackware, and now that you remind me, I remember that email which was automatically plonked into root's email every time you did a new install...
        But RedHat doesn't do this at all. A pity, it seems like a pretty nifty idea to me.
        This could mean that earlier figures were more accurate, as more people were using Slackware back then? (Seeing as there were a lot less distros to choose from then than there are now)

        Linux Counter User #9316 (yes, I'm so ancient I'm in the 4-digit range!) (-8
  • Americans who venture outside their native land are often confused by the European convention for decimals and separation of thousands, which are exactly the reverse of those in the United States,
    making 90.000 in fact ninety thousand. I suspect that this was not a typo, simply a lack of conversion to the American "standard".
  • by thilmony ( 248711 ) <slashdot AT thilmony DOT com> on Monday October 15, 2001 @01:00PM (#2431574) Homepage
    Go verify that the billions and billions served were really served... those signs may have to change!
    • They have to define what they mean by "served" first. Does it mean that x number of consumers paid for and received a somewhat edible substance grudging provided at their stores, or that n number of people were served hot food fast, by friendly, courteous McDonald's employees?

      There has to be several orders of magnitude between x and n.
  • by grytpype ( 53367 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @01:00PM (#2431579) Homepage
    It may have made sense when the community was small and a there was a reasonable likelihood that the count might be accurate, but now, it just makes no sense. The vast majority of Linux users aren't going to register, so what are you counting? You're just generating an inaccurate, meaningless number.
    • I don't mean to be purely critical of the counter effort, though. I understand the "Stand up and be counted" impulse. But why not change it into a "Linux success stories" weblog, where admins can provide details about their installations (how many boxes, the kinds of services they run, number of users, etc.) that might inspire others?
    • ...accurate to three decimal places, according to the story ... good enough for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I registered when I first got involved with Linux. When you register, you get a neat little certificate you can put on a web page (can see mine at http://gma.sourceforge.net). It is a worthwhile effort.
  • Has anyone here signed up with an email address? Did you receive any unwanted email as a result?
    • Yes, they are spam-free. I have never received any mail from them I didn't want (to be more accurate: I can hardly remember getting any mail from them at all). And I'm user #38371, registered back in dec 95.

      What I'm FAR more worried about: I can't remember my password so I think I'm going to lose my registration :-(
    • I'm #108731. I only received mail when I realised that the email I signed up with had gone away years ago, and had to send a few messages back and forth to establish my identity and get the entry corrected. Since I *asked* them to mail me, I guess that was acceptable. Oh, and I got the confirmation mail, too. :)

      The image has been on my personal page (http://www.cloudmaster.com/cloudmaster/ [cloudmaster.com])
      for a long time... Oh, the memories. Sniff. :)
  • Counting users (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why not simply ask the various Linux companies, i.e., Redhat, Suse, Debian etc., how many sales they have had, this should give a reasonable indication of how many CD's have been shipped either directly to people or to stores.

    Its not a particularly scientific way of getting the info, but will yield numbers. More to the point, if numbers can be got for the various versions (i.e., rh6.2 vs rh7.1)..that would be much more interesting to me. I'm interested in who stays on the bleeding edge vs remaining a little behind the curve because of stability, compatibility or whatever reasons
    • The problem is not counting sales (although it would be better than the counter)... the problem is isos. A better way may be if the linux distributers and mirrors installed tracking software on downloads. That might give a more reasonable total on top of the sales. Of course if there was some tracking software everytime a new install is done... then we wouldn't have this problem.

      ps - of course we could just make up numbers like microsoft
  • Is the USER_AGENT logged? Any public statistics? Would be interesting to know both web browser and OS ...
  • ..for Florida ballots.

    It could've made his win even more convincing by dropping voters who didn't vote in the last two elections.
  • by angry_beaver ( 458910 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @01:37PM (#2431846)
    Why don't the distro's add a counter module, so that when you install you get the option of anonymously being counted?
    Or, maybe they should release a "counter daemon" that would update the Linux Counter page once a day with a simple "yep, I'm a running linux box" sort of message.

    okay....I'm done ramblin...
    • Uptimes.net [uptimes.net] sort of did this; their client would keep the database updated and indicated the type of system it is running on. Unfortunately the project got canned since too many firewall products complained about the outbound connections made by the client.
    • Pine used to do this when you first started it. I don't know if it still does, since I've graduated to mutt, but a few years ago I remember sending a bunch of "new linux box" mails to the pine counter. I wonder if those stats are available anywhere...
    • Should it decrement when the (many) trial(s) is(are) over?

    • A lot of Slashdot people are such alarmists about this sort of thing, and yet here it is suggested. Here should be a fairly comprehensive list of suggestions as to why it isn't a good idea:

      • Not every box has an internet connection
      • Privacy (anonymity)
      • Security (through obscurity, typical paranoid geeks)
      • Conensus (each distro will have its own server to ping)
      • Hardware overload (things like Distributed.net get enough hits as it is, without having EVERY Linux box doing it)
      • Minimalist design (Yet Another cron script? Or even worse - another daemon?)
      • Security
      • ... your reason here

      So ... no. :-(

  • The page in the Google cache is hanging on the graphics files, text only viewing works fine. That said, here are the contents of the page from the Google Cache:

    At Oct 14 2001 16:53:42 GMT, there are
    users registered
    machines registered

    My guess at the number of Linux users [li.org]:
    Eighteen million

    Get Counted! [li.org]

    Count your Machine! [li.org]

    98946 dead accounts will be deleted [li.org] on November 1.
    Rescue an account! Log in today [li.org]!

  • ...since i've even looked at that counter. I remember back in the day when everyone was fighting over who was really responsible for turning the counter to "1337"...it was like some big "day of eternal remembrance" for us fledgling linux h4x0r5...
  • Why is a 90 user drop significant?
  • Thats quite a bit of precision for just 90 users. :)
  • and has (or had:) net access, I guess this [li.org] must be Osama Bin Laden!

  • Most of us.. including myself, change ISPs often.
    When I registered through the Linux Counter I was
    with ici.net, Now... a few years later I have
    Cable Modem access and I am with mediaone.net
    I am sure we will see that the number of users will be higher.

System restarting, wait...