Linux Weekly News

Bringing you the latest news from the Linux World.
Dedicated to keeping Linux users up-to-date, with concise news for all interests
Published May 7, 1998

Linux articles
Kernel news
Software Development
Free/Open-Source Software
Links of the week

Other stuff:
LWN Archives
Linux links
Linux Events Calendar
Daily Updates

Leading items

We have received a somewhat disturbing discussion of the proposed "shrink wrap license" law changes currently pending in the U.S. Congress. The article, by attorney Cem Kaner, is on the long side but repays the effort to read it. It really is true that, if this law passes, contract clauses like "benchmark results on this software can not be published without our permission," or even "reviews of this software will not be published without permission." And, as if that were not enough, these conditions can be hidden inside the box, unknown to the customer until after the purchase has been made.

Too many years of distressing experience with the twisted way in which government can work suggest that this bill has a good chance of becoming law. It will not be long before somebody's "help, it isn't working!" post on the Net becomes an "unauthorized review," subject to legal action. Even if such things eventually will not stand up in court, who has the resources to battle a large software company to that conclusion? One could almost believe that somebody in Congress secretly likes free software; it will only take a few bad examples to make commercially-licensed software look unappealing to a lot of people.

Commercial support is also now available for MkLinux, running on the Power-PC. Al Guerra Enterprises, Inc. has announced support contracts that provide e-mail, IRC or telephone-based support.

For those who have been wondering what Bruce Perens will do, now that he has left Debian, check out Bruce's goals for a possible new Linux distribution. It is a good thing to rally more people behind the goal of developing the user-friendly side of Linux, but a potentially bad thing for the Debian community to be pulled apart even more.

There seemed to be a fair amount of interest in the brief piece we ran on the LANL Avalon cluster last week. Now the Avalon folks have released an Avalon FAQ for people who are interested in how the thing was built. Worthwhile reading if you are interested in clusters at all.

Yet another web search engine has popped up at This one, however, states that it runs on Linux right on the front page.

The folks at InterBase have released their database system for Red Hat Linux. Their license is somewhat restrictive, but the basic system can be had for free as long as you only run it on Red Hat 4.2 systems (no Debian or SuSE folks need apply!). It is good to see more serious database systems moving into the Linux world. Interbase seems to sense a real market; their press release says some pretty strong things about the future of Linux.

A rumor is going around as well that Computer Associates has ported Ingres to Linux. Demos to universities are said to have happened, and the product is supposed to be in beta test.

Another interesting press release (this is the week of press releases, see below) came from the Portland Group; they plan to port their compilers to the IA-64 (Merced) processor. They claim the resulting compiler will run on Linux. Just a bit more grist for the "Linux will be on Merced from the start" rumor mill.

It appears that Sun Microsystems will become a sponsoring corporate member of Linux International. A letter from John Hall has been widely circulated on the net regarding the topic. LI's web site remains mute on the subject, but, then, they still have "Linus leaving Helsinki" on their front page...

The March issue of the 'GNU's Bulletin' found its way into our mailbox this week. You can read it on the GNU web site. It contains Stallman's "GNU/Linux" diatribe seemingly as a permanent feature (the subject is mentioned on their their main page as well), but the rest is interesting, as usual.

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Linux in the news

Linux shows up in a Computerworld Hong Kong article. It's quite positive, even if they did feel the need to let a Microsoft marketing bigwig sound off on Linux... Thanks to Alan Knowles for the pointer to this one.

National Public Radio ran yet another free software segment, concentrating mostly on Netscape, but including an interview with Richard Stallman. It's available in Real Audio format here; the archives page with a one-paragraph summary is here.

Smart Reseller talks about Netscape and Linux, and the fact that the big database companies are not rushing out to make Linux ports of their products available. Numerous people want Oracle to be available, and that would certainly be a good thing. But one may well wonder if it might not be more far-sighted to lobby the up-and-coming object database vendors instead.

Also in Smart Reseller was a horrific article gleefully proclaiming No open source for Corel. This guy takes joy in stomping on expectations (which probably were too high) for Corel's May 7 announcement. (See our daily updates page for info on this event as soon as we have it). He goes even so far as to say "Nor does Corel have plans to port its office software to Linux." (Of course not, they already did it). Some of the feedback is pretty good, though the person who posted a childish flame under Linus's name deserves some scorn.

An item in "InfoBeads" discusses market share of operating systems at Internet Service Providers. Linux is number 2, at 26%. According to their data, number 1 is NT, with almost 50%. This does not correspond to the experience of a lot of people, leading to questions about the source of the data. Nonetheless it is good and interesting press. "...vendors like IBM, Sun, HP, Dell, Digital and others will have to take a hard look at what level of support and testing they have to offer for Linux. Should Microsoft worry? In my mind they should." As an unfortunate side note, Linux folks who hit their "more Infobeads" button get a message saying that our browser is not supported...Microsoft products only, please...

Modes of Production: Free Software and the Internet in "Bad Subjects" is a reasonably thorough discussion of free software, aimed at those who don't really understand it. It has minor factual problems, but is nontheless a good article to hand to somebody who is asking "what is all this free software stuff about, anyway?"

InfoWorld has been the source of a lot of good Linux press recently. This week Nicolas Petreley discusses his difficulties with a network card, and how he was able to solve the problem with some help from the net. It is a clear case of how open source helps, and he says as much. "There's no waiting for the Godfather to pass out service packs that usually introduce new bugs that won't get fixed until the next service pack."

32BitsOnline talks of Free software and the real problem with Microsoft. It's a somewhat lengthy article on how free software poses a real threat to the Gorilla, worth a read.

Just in case anybody hasn't seen the Linux-powered refrigerator article in Asia Biz Tech...

The Australian APC Magazine has run an article on free desktop environments, such as KDE, GNOME, etc.

A group called Europe Inside Solutions has put together a list of the ten best "Europe made" solutions to information technology problems: things like "File server" and "scientific workstation". This list is available in French or English, but the articles for each solution seem to be in French only. Of their ten "solutions," eight are based on Linux. Another good example of the sort of high-level recognition that Linux is earning all over the world. (Thanks to the excellent Nouvelles Neuves de Linux French news site for this one).

Pacific Connection ran (back in February) Swimming Against the Tide: Linux Users in North America. It's a very positive article about folks who bring Linux into corporate environments.

There has been a surfeit of press releases from companies that support Linux in their products. We have not been including them thus far, but it is interesting to look at a subset of what has come by in the last week: Tau Simulation (circuit simulator), Rainbow Technologies Cryptoswift, Paragon OAK (CORBA ORB), Moreton Bay PCI multi-modem card, Cobalt Micro (Linux-based micro server), Alliance Paladin 3D accelerator chip, CyberCash e-commerce application, Tower Technology Java execution environment, and Baltimore Technologies e-commerce stuff. Overall it is not a bad list for one week, especially given that we didn't look that hard. Question: are you, the Gentle Readers of LWN, interested in seeing these? If so, let us know, and we'll try to keep digging them up.

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[Security] The XFree86 project has released a fix for the recently-reported buffer overrun problems in Xaw and xterm. See their announcement for details. We have not seen any distribution-specific announcements yet.

As we reported last week, CERT had produced an advisory for this problem which passed over XFree86 as a vendor. It seems that the Open Group, not content to mess with the X11 licensing, has now decided to no longer be open with security information. To say that this has led to some annoyance is an understatement. Withholding security information is a poor way to convince the world of your good intentions.

Versions 1.0 and 1.2 of turbolinux are overly generous in their default access to the X server. They have made a fix available (with an addendum), or you can simply comment out the "xhost +" line in /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.

There appear to be some more buffer overrun problems in lynx, but no fixes are available yet. Be careful out there.

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[Kernel] The current development kernel is 2.1.99. As of this writing, there is a third pre-100 patch available for folks who want to live on the extreme bleeding edge; however, you may need to apply a small patch to get it to compile.

Kernel versions greater than 2.1.99 break ppp. A naive comparison on the version number doesn't cope with the three-digit minor version number. Think of it as a mini-year2000 problem. If you want to run PPP with a 2.1.100+ kernel, you need to either (1) manually set the version number down (yuck), or (2) get and install ppp-2.3.5.

Majordomo on has been having one of its periodic tantrums. This one resulted in a lot of people being unsubscribed from the linux-kernel list. If you're wondering where your mail went, and you're missing that delightful pile of 200 or so messages every day, you likely need to resubscribe.

Some folks are reporting lots of "TCPv4 bad checksum" messages out of recent 2.1 kernels. This is, seemingly, not a Linux problem - the bad checksums originate in PPP difficulties at the remote end, which can be somewhere very distant on the network. There is not much to be done about the messages, and they cause no harm; they will be turned off before 2.2 is released.

If you are seeing weird stats from ifconfig with a 2.1 kernel, it means that you need to install net-tools 1.45. The next person who asks about this on the kernel list may get flamed into the ground...

Versions of binutils and greater create broken kernels. The bug is actually in the kernel source, but another bug in binutils covered it over. The fix has been made, and should appear in 2.1.100.

A patch to 2.0.32 has been announced; it provides T/TCP (transaction support in TCP). It is probably not for everybody; it has the look of being at the end of a development cycle unless somebody takes up the cause. But it is a capability that Linux users are likely to want at some point.

Richard Gooch has put out the second draft of his virtual file system (VFS) documentation.

Since we're a weekly publication, chances are we'll be behind a rev or two on the kernel release by the time you read this page. Up-to-the-second information can always be found at LinuxHQ.
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The Caldera FTP Site /pub/README file reports that the upgrade script for moving from OpenLinux 1.1 to OpenLinux 1.2 is now available for beta-testing. So if you really, really want that upgrade script now, contact Caldera Support.


The current status of Debian 2.0 seems to be that the beta is almost ready for testing but the testing group needs more time to work with the base disks. When your testers have finals ... you cultivate patience!

Jason Gunthorpe compiled a new version of Apt for bo/hamm. It should work on every Debian system from 1.2 onward. An official .9 version should be out in a few days.

Brian White announced that Christian Hudon will be the new manager of the "stable" Debian release, responsible for deciding which packages will go into "stable" and when a new "point" release needs to be made. Good luck, Christian!

Traffic and feelings ran high this week on debian-devel in the wake of Bruce Perens' proposal to build a new Linux distribution, based on Red Hat Linux. The energy generated, though, did seem to have some potential for good, including discussions about getting serious regarding building a more user-friendly "variant" of Debian, technical issues of using apt with rpm, and even a proposal for a special, end-user-only variant of Debian, from Jim Pick.

Christian Schwarz posted his letter of resignation. He is leaving the position of Debian Policy Manager, feeling that he no longer had support for his position. Many people wrote to apologize for skipping all of the flamewar on policy and to assure him that he had their support. No respose so far from Christian, who is planning for now on joining Bruce Perens' endeavour.

Red Hat

We hear the new release from Red Hat is currently code-named "Manhattan". Henrik Edlund dug up this information when he downloaded a new RPM and found it belonged to distribution "Manhattan".

Donald Barnes has put out a couple of articles on the newt programming library, a good tool for developing a programmer-friendly text mode user interface.


S.u.S.E. S.u.S.E.'s expected "mid-April" ship date is now officially May 1st. Not too bad as far as estimates go. Their announcement mentions improvements to Yast, Netscape 4.04, KDE b3 and an updated manual that covers these products. In addition, they are shipping their own XFree86TM 3.3.2, which extends hardware compatibility further than ever before with several new graphics cards and chipsets supported, including most AGP, PCI, and Permedia chipsets.

It would be interesting to find out if S.u.S.E.'s extensions to XFree86 have been released back to the community. That may not have been possible if they were the results of commercial agreements with the vendors involved.

Note that the announcement states that both the "list price" or "subscription price" of S.u.S.E. 5.2 is [sic] "US.95". From their website, it appears that the base price for 5.2 is actually $49.95, with various add-ons such as Applixware, Adabas D, etc., starting at $24.95 and going up from there.


The Stampede distribution has announced the "Gillian" 0.79 release.
Please note that not every distribution will show up every week. Only distributions with recent news to report will be listed.
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A quick tip for people wanting to build new kernels on the Alpha: the command to make the kernel image file is "make boot". Other variants that work on Intel, such as "make zImage" or "make zlilo" do not work in the Alpha environment. This difference seems to cause a fair amount of confusion...

A couple of people have reported the Debian 2.0 alpha bootdisks are "not bad", which is good news for the potential release of the alpha version of Debian 2.0. Note that this didn't mean the installations were a breeze, but with caution and a lot of reading of the documentation in advance, the installations were successful.


A new version of UltraPenguin 1.0.9 beta is available for testing. Nobody has said as much, but it would not be surprising to see the 1.1 release be more or less concurrent with the 2.2 kernel. Meanwhile, Sparc Ultra folks should give this a try and pass bugs back to Jakub.

Derrick Brashear has been busy, producing some audio-related products for SparcLinux. Sparcaudio is a set of audio drivers for the 2.0 kernel. On top of that is a version of "audioctl" for basic audio operations; his first and second announcements give a bit of detail on audioctl.

Michael Shuey reported that he has made some progress with X running Debian/sparc. Sparc support may even make it into version 3.3.2-5 of Xfree, though with a few problems.


Geert Uytterhoeven has posted a request that m68K Linux users register with his counter. The posting includes a registration form, and some information on the registrations they have thus far. "The mean Linux/m68k user lives in Germany, has a MC68036.77 running at 36 MHz, equipped with 19.88 MB RAM and 1482.12 MB diskspace."

A crucial resource for people wanting to use the M68K port is the RedHat m68k install FAQ. Definitely give it a read before starting out.

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[Software Development]

Embedded Systems

The Embedded Linux Project Page is up and running. The only thing on it so far is the miniHOWTO that Paul Moody provided to linux-embedded last week, but it is a good start. We're glad to see information on embedded linux have a permanent location.


We seem to have missed the announcement of FreeBuilder 0.7, a free Java Integrated Development Environment in development. Thanks to Kaare Rasmussen for forwarding the announcement to us. The Free Builder Project has goals that include portability, small size, Java Beans compatibility and more.

Sun's latest JDC newsletter has come out.


The next meeting of the Chicago Perl Mongers will be on Friday, May 8th. Check our calendar for more details.


Oliver Andrich has released a new set of Python 1.5.1 RPMs. Included here is a lot more than just the interpreter; he has created a rich set of add-on packages with a lot of cool functionality.

The squeeze utility has been announced. Squeeze can be used to distribute a complete Python application as one or two files, and run it using a standard interpreter.


What is Oberon? It is a "modern version of Pascal." Some of us have spent almost twenty years trying to forget Pascal... Maybe Oberon is better. In any case, for those who are interested, a detailed list of Oberon resources for Linux has been posted. Oberon appears, in fact, to be a very well supported language under Linux.
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[Free/Open-Source News]

Free/Open-Source Software News


A Mozilla newsletter has been posted. Very informal, the newsletter plans to describe happenings that are of interest to the Mozilla developer and/or Mozilla users. It appears that it will come out approximately once a month.

A couple of interesting tidbits from the newsletter: One small, but highly valuable, feature that has been added to Mozilla is the ability to tear off the bookmarks menu. Plus, the newsletter gives the status of Mozilla on all the different platforms. The Aurora component is not yet stable but it allows links to applications and documents to be stored within the browser.

Overall, a nice effort for people who want to "catch up" on the Mozilla news without reading the voluminous newsgroups.

The java-mozilla group has officially chosen the commercial version of Together/J for the case tool to use for their development efforts.


A Wine Bug Repository has been created. This small section at Wine HQ will allow small programs to be uploaded for demonstrating a flaw in Wine.
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[Articles] Annoyed by inconsistencies between the backspace and delete keys, and the way different applications interpret them? The Consistent BackSpace and Delete Configuration document has been revised, and may well have the information you need to straighten things out.  
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Package Version Description
asp 1.7 Find dynamic-IP hosts on the net
EsounD 0.2 Enlightened Sound Daemon
gpstrans 0.32 Extract route data from Garmin GPS receiver
ghostscript 4.03 GNU version of ghostscript
kjoy 0.4 KDE joystick calibration utility
lftp 1.0 Command-line FTP client
LinkScan 4.1 Commercial Web page link validator
JM_Mailtool 0.9 Motif-based mail client
Jthreads/C++ 1.0 Java-like threads for C++
mxApps 1.10 Motif-based mail and FTP clients
moodss 3.3 Tcl/Tk modular spreadsheet
novatel Novatel GPS receiver driver
plotutils 2.1 GNU Plotting utilities
sac 1.7 System accounting tool
satlas 0.95 Electronic atlas of the solar spectrum
taper 6.9pre1 Tape archive program
webmin 0.51 Web-based system configuration utility
wxGTK 0.11 alpha A port of the wxWindows library to GTK



The Enthusiastic Carinthian Linux Project is an Austrian-based advocacy group.


The folks at Usenix have been sending a note around stating that Linux Torvalds and Richard Stallman will be at the Usenix conference in June.

Web sites

The Linux Sound Page has begun spring cleaning and added a bunch of links at the same time.

The site is up and running.

The Linux PenguinPlay site has moved; PenguinPlay is a project trying to provide tools for the creation of first-class games for Linux; a worthy goal for sure. Their announcement gives the new URL, and a bunch of other information as well.

New user groups

LICOR - Linuxeros de Cordoba has been founded; see their announcement mostly in Spanish.
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Linux links of the week

The "Linux Links by Goob" site has set up under their own domain: It is a reasonably large, hierarchical site full of Linux links; they are strongest in their links to software sites.

A different approach is taken with Gary's encyclopedia, which attempts to key things under concepts of interest to the Linux world. If you see a term you don't understand, this may be the place to go to learn more.

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