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The Supercomputing '98 conference is next week. For many years supercomputing has been the realm of "big iron"; one of the last remaining holdouts of the mainframe priesthood. To a great extent it is still that way; an awful lot of people will tell you that the only way to solve a great many problems is with multi-million dollar vector supercomputers enclosed in glass rooms with white-coated attendants.

Some of these people may be surprised next week. A look at the Extreme Linux guide to Supercomputing '98 shows that Linux and Beowulf will be there in force. Events include a panel session on Friday, the 13th, entitled "Clusters, Extreme Linux, and NT" with Jon "Maddog" Hall as one of the panelists. There will be a number of Linux-interested vendors there, include Paralogic and Alta Technology(sellers of pre-built Beowulfs), the Portland Group(high-performance compilers) and Compaq. Look for quite a few exhibits from users of Linux-based clusters, including one displaywith over 160 nodes.

As an example of the sorts of results that will be shown, check out this paper about the TERRA earth model, which runs on a Beowulf cluster.

The world has only begun to see what these clusters can do. A Beowulf system provides a level of performance and price that are unmatched anywhere. The "big iron" looks like more of a dinosaur every day.

Nonetheless, Beowulf systems still have a long way to go before they can really reach their potential. The software is still relatively primitive, and requires a fair amount of work on the part of the user. There is not much in the way of commercial software available yet for Beowulfs; when products like Oracle's Parallel Server are ported Beowulf's will be useful to a larger class of users. But what's really needed is software and systems support to make a cluster truly seem like "one big computer" to most users. That means load balancing, process migration, etc. Projects like MOSIX are heading in the right direction; we wish them luck. This is an area that Linux should absolutely dominate.

For further information, see the SuperComputing '98 home page or the Beowulf page.

The Halloween Memo. If you have not yet read Microsoft's memo on open source software with Eric S. Raymond's annotations you really should do that now. It is long, but it repays the effort required to push through it. While it is likely true that the document does not represent exactly the position of Microsoft as a whole, it is nonetheless a revealing look at how they look at open source, and how they may react to it. The beast is now awake, and can be expected to act.

Readers of the memo may be struck by the character of Raymond's annotations, which turn the whole thing into an anti-Microsoft strategy study. There is much talk of "exploitable weaknesses" and such in Microsoft's approach. Not everybody sees Microsoft as being even relevant to their lives, and many do not think that Linux needs to be part of a head-on charge against Microsoft. But it seems clear that, at this point, the battle is going to happen. Microsoft sees a threat, and will act against it. It is right to think about how to approach this battle, lest Linux somehow end up being relegated back to a marginal role.

(Along these lines, one of the suggested tactics in the memo is to hire away the best Linux developers. Given that, it is interesting that Microsoft apparently tried to hire Alan Cox a few days ago. One hopes he was not too tempted.)

Some have suggested that the memo was planted deliberately. Certainly the timing of the event (during the antitrust trial) and the speed with which Microsoft acknowledged the veracity of the memo point in that direction. It seems unlikely, however. A planted memo would have revealed less damaging information (i.e. "de-commoditizing protocols"). They probably did not intend for this one to get out.

The best source for information is the document itself, along with Eric's annotations. This week's press page includes a rundown of the media coverage. Folks who are interested in the memo's author can visit Vinod Valloppillil's home page. You may also wish to look at Tim O'Reilly's open letter to Microsoft, which addresses this issue. Finally, another useful resource is Raph Levien's essay on just what "decommoditizing a protocol" means.

Linux systems in French schools. The folks at the Association Francophone des Utilisateurs de Linux et des Logiciels Libres (AFUL) have signed an agreement with the French Ministry of Education, Research and Technology to support Linux in the French school system. This agreement essentially puts Linux on an equal footing with other, proprietary systems. Congratulations are in order for AFUL, which has come a long way in a very short time.

See also: AFUL's announcement in French or English; the Ministry's announcement in French; and the text of the agreement in French or via Babelfish.

Followup: Linux systems in Mexican schools. After last week's article about the "Scholar Net" project went out, the leader, Arturo Espinosa Aldama, put out an FAQ about the project.

Happenings in the Linux press. Rob Kennedy's ext2 magazine went online at the beginning of November. And Freshmeat and 32bitsonline have announced a partnership. Freshmeat will get editorial content out of the deal, while 32bitsonline gets to give its readers better access to software. Linux.org is still off the net; visitors to their URLget a description of their dispute with their ex-ISP. We also got a note from USNet (the ex-ISP) explaining their side of the story. Regardless of what the truth of the matter is, the situation is ugly and unfortunate.

November 5, 1998



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See also: last week's Security page.


As most of you are probably aware, the security-related story of this week was the rootshell hack, where www.rootshell.com was hacked into and its web pages replaced. You can read Rootshell's report of the incident at their main site or from their larger posting to freshmeat.

The incident spawned a larger storm over the implication that a vulnerability in ssh was exploited to allow the break-in. The potential vulnerability was denied by both SSH Communications Security Ltd and the author of SSH. Rootshell responded to these claims referring to a draft advisory from IBM. IBM, in turn, rescinded the alert, stating that the problem it described was not reproducible.

In the meantime, work continued on Bugtraq and elsewhere, a buffer overflow was reported, patches were put together and eventually a new set of ssh RPM's were made available (on ftp.linux.org.uk) by Stephen Tweedie. If you prefer the actual patches, rather than rpm files, they are available on the Bugtraq archives.

There is no final word on whether or not the patches to SSH are necessary. Many highly regarded people outside of SSH Communications and the ssh author have examined the code and (so far) found it secure, so it is not an issue of denial or damage control by the authors. The controversy will likely remain until or unless an exploit is found and published, or those who believe that ssh is exploitable change their mind. In the meantime, you can choose to run with the a patched version if you prefer, or compile ssh under Stackguard, or both.

Tuesday, November 3rd, was the tenth anniversary of the Internet Worm. Here is a brief summary of the historic incident, which includes a link to an MSN article on the topic. This editor remembers the day very well ...

In our list of Netscape security problems last week, we missed this announcement from Netscape, which details a caching problem with Netscape 4.5. They provide a "workaround", and promise a fix "in the next release." The issue only affects people running Netscape on a shared machine, but it is a serious problem, since it can expose information from SSL transactions. Another recently reported bug, also caching-related and impacting Netscape products through 4.5, apparently does not impact Unix systems. A confirmation that Linux systems are not susceptible has not yet been received. Note that the News.com article on this bug indicates that the person who discovered it, Georgi Guninski, will reap a $1000 finder's fee. Now that's the way to motivate people to find and report security problems ...

mpg123-0.58k has a reported buffer overflow. Apparently the more recent versions have fixed this; you may want to upgrade to mpg123-0.58o.

A bug in quake has been reported as well. It allows a person to force the drop of an existing IP connection, if the IP address of the remote end is known.

Tim Yocum reported that the APC PowerNet SNMP module is still vulnerable to many widely known Denial-of-Service (DOS) attacks, such as nestea, etc. APC indicated no plans to resolve the problems but instead recommended that the module should only be used behind a firewall.

There is an apparent problem with IBCS support, which can cause a system panic as a result of a simple, non-privileged command. The problem is being forwarded to the IBCS development list.

Some unconfirmed reports have come out about a possible Sendmail/Qmail DOS and a vulnerability in lightbar.

This item from the ISN mailing list describes Teiresias, a computer algorithm developed to unlock information from complex DNA strands can also be used to detect a system attack. It sounds like a lot of fun ... too bad it appears to belong to IBM and therefore likely to be a proprietary algorithm.

Another mailing list has been created, this one a newsletter focused solely on the issue of digital identify theft. It appears to be fairly interesting. The author is a lawyer rather than a computer hacker, so technical aspects can be expected to be thin. However, the issue above does report on recent legislation in this area and a new type of Neighborhood Watch. [also from the ISN mailing list]

Last week's LWN included a pointer to this InfoWorld article, which talked about "Linux's gaping security problems." Evidently they heard from a number of Linux users, because they sent out this noteexplaining their position. Their view of Linux security is pretty negative.

November 5, 1998


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current development kernel release is still 2.1.126. 2.1.127 prepatches are up to version 7; it's likely that the real 2.1.127 release will happen before you read this. This is a large patch, almost 1mb uncompressed. Included are lots of Sparc changes, lots of driver updates, a bunch of autofs fixes (H. Peter Anvin proclaims it "ready for 2.2"), NFS fixes, and quite a few memory management tweaks.

The memory management changes are the result of a long discussion on how to make the kernel perform better under heavy memory load. In the end, Linus found a small problem which led to many of the memory difficulties. The resulting fix, combined with some work by some of the other memory management heavies (Andrea Arcangeli, Rik van Riel, etc.) has lead to a system with much improved memory behavior.

2.1.127 will break the PCMCIA drivers, due to some variable name conflicts. Presumably a fix will be forthcoming from David Hinds. This is not the first time a kernel change has caused PCMCIA problems; to a great extent, these problems are due to PCMCIA not being part of the standard kernel. Evidently David Hinds has never submitted the PCMCIA system for inclusion.

Stable kernel 2.0.36 prepatch 16 is available, see the announcement for details. Alan is especially looking for people to test out large memory machines, TCP, and "weird CPU's".

NFS was a topic of discussion again this week. On one front, Matthias Urlichs posted some NFS performance results which were rather disappointing, especially on the read side. H. J. Lu and others continue to work with knfsd, fixing bugs as they come up. A fair amount of progress has been made with UDP-based version 2 NFS, but it's clear that Linux NFS is still not really where it needs to be. If things continue this way, 2.2 will go out with a substandard NFS implementation.

One bit of good news is that Alan Cox has started merging in an old set of NFSv3 patches, originally done by Olaf Kirch. There are a lot of reasons to do this: these patches contain some needed bug fixes, the resulting NFS server performs much better, and, of course, they result in a v3 NFS server. Alan is unsure whether these changes will go into 2.2 - it is a large set of changes for so late in the game. It would, however, be unfortunate if 2.2 went out without them. Linux will criticized harshly, with some reason, if it goes out without a reasonable NFS server.

The I2O folks have released their specifications, meaning that the I2O bus is now openly documented. See their press release for more info. The days of nondisclosure for this bus are over. Since I2O support has worried a lot of people in the Linux world for a while (even though there does not seem to be a whole lot of relevant hardware currently), this is a good development.

To get access to the specification you do have to become one of their "registered developers." To do so, head on over to this web page and sign up.

November 5, 1998

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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See also: last week's Distributions page.



Although the party is long over, the Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 'Slink' Freeze really began Monday, November 3rd. The details on why the Slink freeze was held up (or even that it was held!) were absent from the public Debian lists. Presumably the discussions were held on debian-private instead. Too bad ... the public nature of the Debian development has made it a particularly enjoyable distribution on which to report.

Lars Wirzenius posted some interesting, unofficial figures comparing the size of slink with the previous release, hamm. More than 70 million lines of source code ...

By the way, with the freeze of 'slink' finally official, the name of the next version of debian has been announced as well. It will be 'potato', taken from Mr. Potato Head in the movie Toy Story. Mitch Blevins suggested a possible logo for the new release.

Debian published an announcement that the web pages for Software in the Public Interest (SPI) have been updated. SPI is the non profit organization founded originally to collect donations or revenue related to Debian and disperse those funds. It now provides a monetary and legal infrastructure for several different projects, including Debian, GNOME and the Linux Standard Base.

If you are interested in references to Debian in the media, the Belarussian newspaper Computer News carried articles on installing and booting Debian. English translations are available from the author, Dmitri Borodaenko.

Red Hat

Red Hat announced version 5.2 of their distribution this week. We got ahold of a copy here at LWN Labs and gave it a try; here's our experience with and impressions of this release.

Chris Evans has started a new page to record bugs in Red Hat 5.2. Six open bugs are currently listed, some possibly simple permissions errors, while a couple of the others listed are more difficult, such as the X11 related problem, which really needs a response from the XFree group.


S.u.S.E. happily announced a major upgrade to their ftp server. It is now connected to two major backbones, which should provide increased throughput and better download rates. You'll find it at ftp.suse.com.

November 5, 1998

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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See also: last week's Development page.

Development tools


Jetty, a Java HTTP/1.1 server, version 2.0, has been released under an Open Source License. It is designed to be embedable [sic], extensible and flexible, thus making it an ideal platform for serving dynamic HTTP requests from any Java application.



Version 0.8 of Fnorb, the Python CORBA ORB, has been released. The question was asked whether or not a java-enabled Fnorb existed. The response was not yet, but it is high on the TODO list.

Andrew Dalke released the source code for CrossCopy, a simple python program for a Tk GUI that runs an HTTP server.


A conversation on comp.lang.smalltalk regarding demand for VisualWorks on Linux generated several messages from people stating that they would happily pay just as much for VisualWorks on Linux as they do on NT. The result was this note from Peter Hatch, indicating that Objectivity has a C++ binding for VisualWorks that has been ported to Linux, and they are getting excited about the Linux Market. Sounds like a VW3.0 binding for the Linux version of Objectivity could become a priority soon.


John Ousterhout posted the Scriptics roadmap, an outline of projects we can expect to see from Scriptics in the next six months or so. TclPro 1.1 and 1.2, Tcl/Tk 8.0.4 and 8.1 are discussed.

Just for fun, you can visit Tom Poindexter's Tcl-Wear chronology, a history of tee shirts, hats, office toys and other Tcl-related paraphernalia.

  • Tik 0.10, a Tcl/Tk AOL Instant Messenger Client
  • Jultaf 0.0.7, a collection of scripts and loadable extensions

November 5, 1998



Development projects

The Object Management Group put out a press release indicating that they have figured out that CORBA implementations are available for Linux. This, of course, is not exactly news, but it's nice that they have caught on anyway.

Richard Stallman is trying to put together a list packages that need free manuals. His message describes the project and provides an initial list. Drop him a note if you have additions.

High Availability

If you've noticed recent comments about the availability of new commercial packages for supporting high availabiity under Linux, but prefer free software, you'll be pleased to note the release of fake 1.0.1. Fake is a Redundant Switch Server, designed to switch to a backup server or servers in the event of a system failure. It is available under the GPL.

On a similar note, Michael Callahan wrote in to mention that his company, PolyServe, is looking for beta-testers under Linux for Understudy, an IP alias fail-over product.


The Mozilla project happily reported that XPViewer is now up and running. It is almost totally cross-platform code. You'll find the original reference to this, and a screen shot, at mozillaZine.

MozillaZine has also put out a nice interview with Rick Gessner, chief architect of NGLayout.

Palmzilla? Don't get excited, Mozilla for the Palm Pilot is just the topic of this thinking-out-loud post by "spacecow".


A few readers questioned the assertion from last week that Corel intends to assist the further development of WINE. Apparently even some of the principal WINE developers had not heard about this. Confirmation came in the form of this message from Gavriel State of Corel. "...we've decided to put our support into the Wine effort. We are actively committing engineering resources to the Wine project."

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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

Linux in the retail business. A press release from Informix and Apropos went out this week. Therein is described a retail system that will be deployed into more than 100 Jay Jacobs (a U.S. clothing chain) stores over the next year. The system, of course, is based on Linux and Informix. According to the president of Apropos: "We place heavy demands on our store systems, including not only speed and reliability, but 24-hour availability, scheduled tasking, and remote support ability as well. Linux provides all this and more, with far better performance and at a much lower cost to our customers." It's hard to find a better endorsement than that.

Another fancy IT consulting house has come out in favor of Linux. SI Futures Limited, in the UK, has put out this press release with the news. "Despite one or two disadvantages, Linux provides an Internet operating system which is reliable, scalable, and easily manageable. As it is also one of the world's fastest growing operating systems, it could pose a real threat to Microsoft's dominance in the future." Getting the think tanks to endorse Linux is an important step toward getting the pointy-haired bosses to sign off, so this is a good thing.

Speaking of fancy consultancies, The Gartner Group has announced its annual operating system survey. "The biggest discovery is the rise of new operating systems, which are growing faster than any other non-Microsoft system... The most promising are Linux and JavaOS." See their announcement for more.

Red Hat has hired Matthew Szulik to be the president of the corporation, according to this News & Observer article. (Found in Slashdot).

Are you certified? Linuxcertification.org popped up on the net this week. Therein is described a possible Linux engineer certification group, and a list of topics that a certification test might cover. Some of the background for this site is to be found in this open letter from Tobin Maginnis, who is the driving force behind this effort. If certification is really deemed to be necessary, some sort of vendor independent body is probably the best way to go about it.

Press Releases:

November 5, 1998


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See also: last week's Linux in the news page.

Linux in the news

As might be expected, the Halloween memo generated a great deal of press this week. To a great extent, the press had a bit of a problem: Eric Raymond had annotated the memo so well that there was not a great deal for them to add. So much of the coverage consists of quotes from the document and not much more. A few reporters dug in a bit deeper, though. Here is our selection of the best of the Halloween coverage.

  • Salon Magazine has covered the issue in their usual thoughtful manner. "In other words, batten down the hatches -- Microsoft is likely to go after the informal community of hackers and geeks who have gathered online and collectively developed Linux, the Web server Apache, the scripting language Perl and other 'free' software." (Found in LinuxToday).

  • Dave Winer's column, entitled "How Microsoft Thinks." "Microsoft has had recent great success with its Embrace and Extend strategy in its competition with Netscape and Sun. It's virtually certain that they will respond to open source with the same tactic, that they won't resist open source, they will embrace the idea and then take it where they want it to go."

  • The San Jose Mercury Dan Gillmor, as is usually the case, has put some real thought into the issue. (Thanks to Karsten Self)

  • LinuxWorldhas a fairly long piece with references as well to Microsoft France's "open letter".

Here's the rest of the Halloween memo coverage.

  • The Industry Standard.

  • The New York Times. (Registration required). Calls FUD a "traditional Microsoft tactic." (Thanks to Thomas Widmann)

  • Wired News. (Thanks again to Karsten Self).

  • The Register with their usual take on things. "So Microsoft should try to turn NT into a sort of Microsoft-owned Linux, and it should also adopt the Linux OSS development environment internally, and use its bucks to buy up OSS talent. If Microsoft tried this, it quite obviously wouldn't work -- OSS developers work the way they do because it is open source, and opening little bits of NT isn't going to convince them. At this very moment, they're no doubt rolling in the aisles of the Linux List."

  • The Wall Street Journal. (Found in LinuxToday).

  • TheWashington Post.

  • The Boston Globe.

  • InfoWorld (thanks to Karl Vogel).

  • C|Net. This seems to have been the first article to confirm that the memo was genuine. C|Net also put out a followup article the next day.

  • TechWeb.

  • PC Week.

  • Silicon has a brief article carrying Microsoft denials that they are worried about Linux.
Network World Fusion continues with A sermon on Linux, Part II. "Given there is a fast, zero-cost, reliable operating system that is in principle (if not in practice) as supportable as Windows NT, why aren't you using it?" (Registration required).

Here is a weird little piece in the Register suggesting that not everybody is happy with the OMG's announcement about CORBA under Linux. "Linux is the software equivalent of Viagra and raises false expectations."

C|Net has put out a special report on Linux. It can be thought of as an extended introductory article, for the most part. A good pointer to hand to people who wonder where the whole thing came from. Still, one wonders if they entirely get it. "Ultimately, Linux has turned the tables on the computing industry. It calls into question the benefit of charging money for an operating system, and Microsoft, Sun, and others like them will have to answer."

Here is a Red Herring article about Sun's "Jini." It talks about the source-available licensing and Sun's hope of getting some Linux-style community development going.

ComputerWorld ran a brief articleabout Corel's Word Perfect giveaway.

According to this ZDNet UK article Lotus really is going to port its "SmartSuite" and "Notes/Domino" applications to Linux after all. "A native Linux version of the software would represent a major coup for Linux, which is becoming increasingly prominent in the IT departments of large organisations and is seen by some as a potential threat to Microsoft's Windows NT." They also quote some analyst who says that Linux has "an uncertain parentage."

Forbes Magazine revisits Linux in this brief column. "We predicted Microsoft would have to reckon with the phenomenon sooner or later. It was sooner."

The Atlantic has an introductory article online which is a mixture of talk about Linux and Netscape. "Now, less than ten months after Netscape announced its decision, nary a gloat can be heard from Microsoft partisans, not so much because Netscape's fortunes have changed radically (they haven't, yet), but because of the amazing story of Linux, which in the same brief period has gone from geeky obscurity to the very brink of doing the unthinkable: putting an end to the hegemony of Microsoft's own OS, Windows."

Internet World covers the Atlanta Linux Showcase. "After years of laboring in relative obscurity, the creators of Linux have suddenly been knighted as the next Microsoft-slayers. Although Linux is still playing catch-up on the user interface front, it is capturing market share as a stable and capable Internet server."

C|Net has an article on the Avalon Beowulf cluster. "The Avalon designers researchers chose Linux chiefly because the operating system's freely available source code can be customized, explained Dave Neal, another Los Alamos researcher who helps to run Avalon."

The (US) Computer Shopper ran a column on how there may be an opening for "alternative" operating systems. "People seem to be genuinely asking themselves if what's good for Redmond is still good for them. Such a mood can encourage consumers to seek alternatives." (Thanks to Rajesh Bhandari).

The Irish Times has a brief column reviewing Red Hat 5.1 and S.u.S.E. 5.3, as well as the book "The Linux Network". They seem to have liked S.u.S.E. better. (Thanks to Lenz Grimmer).

This Babcock column in Inter@ctive Week talks about the lack of applications for Linux. In some ways it seems like it should have run a year ago; this is an area where things are happening quickly. "We are still two years away, but it seems to me that some group of developers will form to create, not necessarily a word processor or spreadsheet, but the undefined application of the future that every Linux user will have to have"

Here is an InfoWorld column from Michael Vizard entitled Unix vendors need Linux to tackle NT. "To counter that long-term threat, the Unix system vendors should try to get customers to adopt Linux instead of Win2000 as their primary application server platform. That way they can still provide the value-added services needed to make Linux robust, as opposed to simply becoming only one of many NT distributors."

C|Net covers the linux.org outage. "But [McLagan is] mostly chagrined that the Linux community is missing out. 'It's Linux in general that's suffering at this point,' he said."

According to this InfoWorld article Sun will be releasing a Java 1.2 port for Linux. Note that this goes beyond what we had heard before: they say Sun is doing the port itself. If that is really true, one wonders what involvement, if any, the existing Linux porting groups will have.

Nicholas Petreley has another InfoWorld forum going. "...I figure the only way Notes can stay competitive in the long term is if IBM uses it to fuel the Linux fire. If IBM is really smart, it will cut a deal with Caldera to resell a distribution of Linux with Netware, Novell Directory Services, and Notes as a bundle. What other companies or strategies do you think would keep the PHB rating of Linux from being overwhelmed by Microsoft's most excellent PR?" (Thanks to Didier Legein).

This forum, of course, goes along with Petreley's column from this week, entitled "Linux and the formula for success as defined by the Pointy Haired Boss."

Another InfoWorld story: Lotus weighs its Linux options takes a more positive slant toward the possiblity of a port from Lotus than we have seen in the past. "Linux support is a no-brainer, said Zisman, who also said this move is in direct response to market demand for the increasingly popular operating environment." (Michael Zisman is the "executive vice president of strategy" at Lotus).

And yet another one from InfoWorld: this article talks about increasing support for Linux in the proprietary Unix world. "As the standards for the Linux platform continue to solidify, the number of major systems providers considering support for the platform increases, making it clear that there is major industry support developing for the nascent open-source operating system."

This Unix Riot column in Performance Computing goes into the "Win2k problem", and the increasingly bright future for Unix systems. "Developers have lost their patience with Microsoft's inability to hit deadlines.... As a result, development time and money that would have gone into NT applications has been diverted to Java, UNIX, Y2K, NetWare, and especially, Linux." A good, upbeat column. (Found in Linux Reviews).

Just in time for Halloween, ZDNet UK comes out with some really top-quality hilarious FUD. Have a look at this article and one can only laugh. "...Linux is basically nothing more than a Unix look-alike that complies with the Posix standard. It carries with it the techno-babble culture that surrounded Unix, but even more so. It belongs to an authority-resenting community of propeller-heads who need a bizarre operating system to make them feel superior to the rest of us." As always, please try to keep to the moral high ground when responding to this kind of stuff. Nasty flaming will not help the Linux cause.

Uwe Klein wrote in to say that folks with an interest in such things can watch Jerry Pournelle struggle with Linux by reading his diary on the subject.

The editors of Data Communications and LAN Times have announced that Red Hat's "Secure Web Server" is a "best of show award winner" at Networld+Interop '98.

Make money with Linux in Sm@rt Reseller shows that the reseller community is beginning to catch on. " All of its prodigious power and extensibility isn't ultimately what makes Linux important to resellers, however. The reason ... is that Red Hat's Linux will make Unix desirable for small to midsize businesses and SOHO installations. No other version of Unix has ever successfully penetrated those market segments." (Found in LinuxToday).

Microtimes has a new cover story titled, "Weighing Your Options, NT versus Unix: Which operating system is right for your environment?" It starts and ends with a mention of Linux, but the bulk of the article is a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of both NT and Unix. He has done this fairly evenhandedly, meaning that both sides will find quotes they like and quotes they hate. However, if you check most of his criteria, "Total cost of ownership," "Scaleability", "Security" and "Flexibility of Administration", it is pretty clear that Unix/Linux comes out ahead. (From LinuxToday).

In French: Linux cogne aux fenêtres de Microsoft. It's an introductory sort of article, with emphasis on the increasing amount of attention Linux is getting from Microsoft. There is also a side article about the agreement between AFUL and the French ministry of education. (From NNL). (Babelfish translation available here).

November 5, 1998

``Whatever happens in Washington, the browser conflict is yesterday's battle. The new David that the Goliath of Redmond has in its sights is the free Linux operating system and the 'open source' software development community that built it.''
Salon Magazine

``[Microsoft manager Muth] also downplayed Valloppillil's assertion about software quality, stating that he must have been comparing Linux to other flavors of Unix.''
The Industry Standard

``Well, if you believe the hype you deserve all the frustration and competitive disadvantage that such gullibility will surely bring. By all means try to convince your competitors that Linux is the next wave in corporate computing, but at the same time make sure you nail the garlic cloves to your own data-centre door to keep away the Linux suckers.''
Martin Butler, ZDNet UK


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



BURKS (the Brighton University Resource Kit for Students) is a non-profit CD set providing over a gigabyte of compilers, tutorials and reference materials for over 20 programming languages. It also includes a Linux distribution (they don't say which one), Linux manuals and more. Check out their announcement for prices and more details.

Didier Legein has written a mini-HOWTO on WIDD, a front end application for sql3/sql92 databases (including postgresql).

Here is an announcement for a free book about Linux in Danish.

Michal Gomulinski sent us a note pointing out This new Polish Linux Magazine

Check out One the shoulders of giants, a paper arguing that the dominance of open source software is inevitable. (Found in LinuxToday).

An introduction to Linux course will be offered starting November 17th in New York. It is an eight week course, sponsored by the Association of Computer Support Specialists (ACSS).


The LinuxWorld Conference and Expo sitehas gone online. The content is still a little thin, but one assumes that will change as plans get firmed up.

Con Zymaris copied us on his announcement of a Linux Business Breakfast, to be held November 17th, in Melbourne, Australia.

The 1st MICO/CORBA Workshop will be held November 23rd in Daarmstadt, Germany. Here is the announcement in French and in English.

The Milwaukee, WI LUG is having their second annual installfest on November 14. See their announcement for details.

Web sites

Richard Stallman has put out a call to create a web site listing all of the hardware that is friendly to free software, so that users can more easily choose compatible systems. He is looking for help, as always.

The Italian Linux Press site is dedicated to listing and summarizing articles about Linux in the Italian press. They are looking for volunteers, of course, to submit articles as you find them.

User Group News

The Greater London Linux User Group UK (GLLUG) has moved both their web page and their mailing lists.

Two user groups have reported to us in the last week that their membership has exceeded 1000. This includes the Skaane Sjaelland Linux User Group (SSLUG). Drop us a line if your group has grown this large as well.

bob@bobby.com would like to start a LUG on Long Island, New York. Here is his post to comp.os.linux.announce.

A new Linux User's Group was recently created in Rennes, France. Here is the announcement for their first meeting, which was held on October 31st.

A LUG is also forming in Dayton, Ohio.

Richard Stallman is the planned speaker for the December SVLUG meeting.

The first meeting of the new Triangle, NC Area Linux User Group (TriLUG) will be this evening, November 5th. Here are the particulars.

Ron Gage is looking for people interested in forming a LUG in the Saginaw/Bay City/Midland Michigan "Tri-Cities" area.

The Slovak Linux User Group - SkLUG in Slovakia has just been formed. The announcement is in both English and Slovak.

Help Wanted

John Ousterhout posted a note mentioning that Scriptics (think Tcl) has started another big growth spurt and has many current openings.

November 5, 1998



Software Announcements

Package Version Description
ACE 4.6 Object-oriented C++ class library and framework
ASBeautifier 0.8.2 Automatically reindents C++,C, and Java source files
ascpu 1.1 A CPU load monitor.
Aspell .23 alpha Intelligent Spell Checker
AtariBridge 0.1 Record a 8-bit Atari program file to a cassette tape using the soundcard
BeroFTPD 1.2.1 FTP server program based on WU-FTPD
Bit::Vector 5.6 Provides an efficientimplementation of arbitrarily large bit vectors and sets
Blackbox 0.40.12 WindowManager for X11 written in C++
Blender 1.40 Extremely fast and versatile 3D Rendering Package
Blue Moon Rendering Tools 2.4 beta The Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT) are a collection of rendering programs whic
Bochs 981102b Portable x86 PC emulation software package
C Masqdialer Server 0.0.11 Protocol compatible replacement for Masqdialer server written in C
cdcd 0.3.11 A no-nonsense CLI CD player
cdda2wav 0.95beta08 A CD ripping application
cdr 0.41 CD ripper and encoder frontend
CDRDAO 1.0 Disk-At-Once Recording of Audio CD-Rs
Connect 1.1.3 Client-server to easily share (open/close) one ppp link among a small network
daVinci0.2+churchill Multipurpose Internet Bot
dcd 0.35 Simple command-line CD player
DOSEmu 0.99.3 Application that enables the Linux OS to run many DOS programs
Drall 0.9.0 Allows users to access their directories and files remotely via a web browser
egcs snapshot 19981026 Experimental set of enhancements for the GNU tools
esound 0.2.6 Enlightened Sound Daemon
Fake 1.0.0 Utility to switch in backup servers on a LAN
Fetchmail 4.6.5 Free, full-featured, robust, well-documented remote-mailretrieval utility
fix-rhcd 0.1 Tool for creating your own Red Hat Linux CDR from the ftp site.
Flight Gear 0.55 Flight simulator
Fortify 1.3.0 Provides full strength, 128-bit encryption facilities to Netscape browsers
ftpcheck 0.3 Searches for anonymous ftp sites on given nodes/networks
fvwm2gnome 0.3.5 Clean, efficient window manager configuration with GNOME functionality
FXmame 0.4 Glide (3Dfx) driver for the xmame classic arcade game emulator
g2 0.30 Easy to use, portable and powerful 2D graphics library
Gamora 0.62.2 Java based server construction, hosting, and adminstration architecture.
Generic NQS 3.50.4 The Leading OpenSource Batch Processing System For UNIX
GFIG 0.5.0 Figure drawing tool for GTK, similar to xfig, TeXCAD and SmartDraw
GHX 2.00 (98/11/01) GTK clone of the Hotline software
gIDE 0.0.11 Gtk-based Integrated Development Environment for C
GLOBAL 3.3 A common source code tag system for C and Yacc.
Great Nations 1.3.0 Civilization(tm)-style game with superior network-play and customizability
GTK+ 1.1.3 Library for creating graphicaluser interfaces
Gtk-- 0.9.21 C++ interface for the popular GUI library gtk.
GtkSamba 0.1.0 Gtk front end to configuring Samba
GtkWhois 0.6b GTK frontend to the 'whois' command
guiTAR 0.0.2 guiTAR is a tar frontend for Gtk+
Hitchhiker 1.0.2 An astronomy program which shows the planets and their orbits
ht://Dig 3.1.0b2 Complete world wide web indexing and searching system
InfoPrism 0.0.5 A General Document Processing System
Internet Junkbuster 2.02 Blocks unwanted banner ads and protects your privacy
ipchains 1.3.8 Linux packet filter control utility (replaces ipfwadm for kernels 2.1.102+).
ivtools 0.6.12 Application frameworks for drawing editors and spatial data servers
jed 0.99 snapshot 981030 Powerful editor, terminal and X11 interface
JEL 0.2 A compiler for one-line expressions into java bytecode.
Jultaf 0.0.8 Jumble Library for Tcl and Friends
kBeroFTPD 1.0.0pre2 KDE Front-End for BeroFTPD configuration
KBiff 1.1.6 New mail notification utility for KDE
Keystone 0.40.02 Web-based problem tracking system, rewrite of an older system called PTS
kISDN 0.7.0 ISDN configuration and monitoring GUI
KOrganizer 0.9.16 Personal Information Manager for the KDE Desktop Environment
KPackViewer 0.17 Package viewer to ease package administration
KSniff snapshot 981101 KDE packet sniffer/analyzer
KStage 0.1 Adaptive Cue System for Theatre
ktalkd 0.8.9 KDE-aware talk daemon
Lesstif 0.86.9 LGPL'd re-implementation of Motif
Licq 0.44 ICQ clone for linux with most of the functionality of the official Java version
Lynx 2.8 fully-featured, text-based World Wide Web browser
Melange Chat Server 0.93 Chat server written in C including a Java-client
mHockey 0.45 OpenGL based hockey game
MHonarc 2.3.2 A Perl mail-to-HTML converter
Midnight Commander 4.5.1 Unix file manager and shell
MindsEye 0.5.30 3D modelling program for Linux
MMX Emulator 0.6 Allows execution of MMX binaries on non-MMX machines
mod_ssl 2.0.14-1.3.3 Apache Interface to SSLeay
Moneydance 2.0b3 Personal finance application written in java
mtr 0.28 Network diagnostic tool
MUMail 1.2.5 A Java applet designed to let you read your mail from a website
Naken Chat 0.7 Chat Server ported from Javachat
Name Server Configurator 2.1 A set of scripts for easy DNS configuration.
Netscape Communicator 4.5 All-in-one browser and communications suite
Netscape Flash Plugin 0.3.1 A Netscape plugin to view Macromedia-Shockwave-Flash files.
netwatch 0.8a Ethernet Monitor
NQCC 1.0b1 Alternate development language for Lego Mindstorms
ocs-base 1.0-8 Base system for Linux intranet applications
ocsadmin 1.0-4 ocsadmin is a web admin tool to maintain user accounts
ocscal 1.0-5 An intranet calendar system featuring shared appointments
ocsemail 1.0-4 Electronic web email system for you intranet
ocsexplorer 1.0-0 ocsexplorer is an intranet file explorer for linux
ocsfiles 1.0-1 Front-end to your ftp site, allowing easy uploads and indexing
OSS 3.9.1h Provides sound card drivers for most popular sound cards under Linux
PalmPython 0.5.5 PalmPilot interface library for Python
PIKT 0.96 An innovative new systems administration paradigm
PostgreSQL 6.4-BETA4 Robust, next-generation, Object-Relational DBMS(ORDBMS)
psntools 1.2 Administrative tools for large numbers of accounts
Rasca 0.9.9 Extended MP3 Player.
rc.firewall 1.0 Shell script to set up firewalling and IP masq rules for ipchains
Replay 0.57 GTK-based MP3 player for X11
rsync 2.2.0 File transfer program to keep remote files into sync
Samba 2.0.0 alpha 15 Allows clients toaccess to a server's filespace and printers via SMB
setserial 2.15 Controls configuration of serial ports
Sketch 0.5.0 Vector drawing program, implemented in python
slang 1.3.2 snapshot 981030 A powerful interpreted language
SoundTracker 0.0.10 A music tracker for X / GTK+
Squid 2.1.PRE3 High performance Web proxy cache
Squij 0.66 Squid logfile analyzer
TableGen 1.5 Creates java classes to represent and access an SQL database
TeamWave Workplace 4.0 Shared Internet places for any-time collaboration
ThorMail 0.9.4 Web front-end to IMAP and (soon) POP3 accounts
TowerJ 2.2 Optimizing Native Java Compiler and Runtime VM for Linux
truc 1.0.7 Two shell scripts that allow you to transfer big files via e-mail
TrueReality 1998102101 N64 Emulator
TSpaces 2.0 Allows heterogeneous, Java-enabled devices to exchange data
Unix Desktop Environment 0.1.0 BETA A new GUI for Unix with a completely new look'n'feel
Upclient 2.03 Keep track of your uptime and compare it with other hosts.
VelociGen for Perl (VEP) 1.0c High performance server programminglanguage
VelociGen for Tcl 1.0c High performance web server programming using Tcl
web500gw 2.1b3 Connects WWW browsers to LDAP based Directories.
WebKit 0.1 Python scripts for website management
WIDD 1.1.0 Front-end application to manage databases through an X11interface
WMiNET 2.0.1 A dockable applet for monitoring all your inet daemon activity
wmsound 0.8.1 Sound server package for WindowMaker
WSoundPrefs 0.8.1b WMSound Server Configuration Utility
XAmixer 0.1.9 An ALSA based mixer program written with GTK+
XawTV 2.29 TV application and a few utilities
xcrun 1.0 single-lined command tool
XFCE 2.1.1 Easy-to-use and easy-to-configure environment for X11
xinetd Powerful inetd replacement
Xrun 0.1.6 A Gtk+ based program to run commands with a history.
Xterminal 0.6 Object Oriented User Interface with a client-serverarchitecture
ZipCracker 0.0.5 Cracks password protected zip archives with brute force(TM)
Zsh 3.1.5 Powerful UNIX shell

Our software announcements are provided courtesy of FreshMeat


 Main page
 Linux in the news
 Back page

See also: last week's Back page page.

Linux links of the week

The Linux Internet Server Administration Guideis a cooperative effort which is developing a comprehensive manual for the administration of a Linux machine on the network. They are still a bit short on actual content, though they have a nice table of contents. This looks like a good project.

Alan Cox's linux.org.uk site serves as his soapbox in front of the Linux community. It includes some basic useful resources, including his y2k page, and also has an editorial by Alan on whatever's on his mind (currently an Atlanta Linux Showcase summary and the Halloween memo). Plus, of course, a link to his ever-interesting diary page.

November 5, 1998



Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to editor@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.

Of course, we should have known better than to solicit more letters to the editor; this week we have been buried in them. There is no way that we can include even a significant fraction of them. Our apologies to those whose letters were left out. Please write us again when the urge hits.

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 09:40:07 -0500 (EST)
From: Jonathan C Day  <j.c.day@larc.nasa.gov>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Some thoughts on the Mexican project

Dear LWN,

  I was thinking a bit about the Mexican project to install Linux in
140,000 centers. If they installed and configured some of the distributed
processing toolkits (eg: PVM, MPI), I know there are programs for
administrating groups of machines in one go, using such toolkits. This
would make life a lot simpler for whoever will be administrating these
  Purely incidently, (of course! :), by doing so, they would have set up
the world's largest Beowulf and (depending on how the speed calculations
are done) possibly the worlds fastest supercomputer. Whilst, in practical
terms, these would offer no direct advantages, it might help if they
wanted or needed corporate involvement or sponsorship. I don't know what
morale in Mexican schools is like, but I know in many countries including
the US and UK they aren't known for their self-esteem or self-image.
Getting into the world records might help a little there.

Jonathan Day

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 22:09:48 +0200
From: Amos Shapira <amos@gezernet.co.il>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Mexican announcement is a call for arms!


I too was very glad to hear about the new Mexican schools project,
but there is a risk here too - the eyes of many other educational
and corporate bodies are now watching how this will develop, any
negative aspect found (or percieved) during this "experiment" might
make Linux look very bad and bloated by its opponents to discredit

I'm not saying this to discourage the project, on the contrary, I'm
saying this in order to *encourage* every person who cares about
Linux to do whatever they can to help make this project succeed.

You should not look at this announement as a conclusion of whatever
been done so far, but rather as an announcement about a certain goal
to be achieved - namely to equip Mexican schools with Linux machines,
make them love it, and above all - show the world it's possible.

This is a call for arms much more than a pat on the back.



--Amos Shapira                  | "Of course Australia was marked for
                                |  glory, for its people had been chosen
amos@gezernet.co.il             |  by the finest judges in England."
                                |                         -- Anonymous
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 17:21:24 -0500 (EST)
From: Clemmitt Sigler <siglercm@alphamb2.phys.vt.edu>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: You asked for it... ;^)

Well, I thought I'd chip in my $0.02 worth on the current state of
Linux since you asked for letters to the editor.  You'll probably be
*swamped* now....

It's my opinion that, since Linus has worked so hard and diligently
and greatly improved SMP support, we need to turn our attention to three
other critical hardware subsystems.  My bet is that these will help make
or break wider scale acceptance of Linux in the 2.2/2.3 phase.  They are:

1.) USB support;
2.) FireWire (IEEE 1394) support, and;
3.) I2O support.

We now know that with Intel coming on board with Red Hat in a modest
way, I2O specs may come to Linux through, for lack of better terms,
"diplomatic" or "political" channels.  And, since it's a closed
standard there's not much an open development-model project like Linux
can do about it any way.

However, USB is starting to appear (I have a Kodak DVC300 web cam that's
USB that I bought in December of 1997 -- I wish it would work under
Linux :^), and with the spectacular performace Fire Wire can offer
its implementation is only a matter of time.  To date, there's no
non-alpha, non-beta support for either of these peripheral busses in

I can hear proponents of NT/Windows 2000 now, dismissing Linux out of
hand because it has no USB or FireWire support.  We've already seen this
type of press starting to appear just in the last week.  We can argue
about how important these will be to current Linux users, that's for
sure, but to potential future users?  If we want Linux to break into the
desktop and home-user markets in a larger way (eventually), items like
this *have* to be addressed, IMHO.

The USB and FireWire project pages are located at, respectively:



Please, if you can, give these projects some help, even if it's only
by alpha- or beta-testing for them.  And it would be really sweet if a
sponsor like Red Hat who has hard cash to spend on development (a la
hiring kernel developers and supporting GNOME) would get behind these
efforts.  They could probably get these systems solidly supported even
before Windows 2000 is publicly released if they start now!

Thanks for letting me get this off my mind :^)

					Clemmitt Sigler
					Linux/Unix Users' Group
						of Virginia Tech

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 00:45:30 -0500
From: Aaron Sherman <ajs@ajs.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Letter re: recent Anti-Linux flame on ZDNet

ZDNet recently published a rather rabid anti-Linux rant, from a company
called "The Butler Group". I've composed a public response, which is open
for others to copy or quote. It's at http://kr.com/~ajs/linuxresponse.html

Aaron Sherman			Safety Net Solutions
ajs@ajs.com			Senior Perl Snob (and bottle-washer)
www.ajs.com/~ajs		finger ajskey@lorien.ajs.com
Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 10:37:49 -0800
From: "Roy P. Ammeraal" <ramme@concentric.net>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Screenshot of WP regarding Microsoft France Reaction


That text within the screenshot of WP, running on Linux, regarding the
Microsoft France reaction, does not look very professional. I understand
that we're all very enthusiastic about Linux, but I don't see why we
should react with mud, if another (opposing) party is throwing with mud.
I think we all should be professional in our responses, even if the
other party, Microsoft in this case, is not being professional. I
suggest that this screenshot be either removed or replaced with a more
professional screenshot. Otherwise, I have been enjoying LWN very much.


Roy P. Ammeraal

Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 17:09:20 +0100 (MET)
From: Maurizio de Cecco <Maurizio.de.Cecco@ircam.fr>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Why Microsoft forget about commercial Applications ?

In the Hallowen report there is no single word about commercial
application running on Linux.

This make the whole competitive analysis of Linux vs NT or vs Windows
98 useless, beacause based on the restrict view of the OSS reality.

On the server side this is already happening with the Data Base editors:
they realized that Linux can be a market for a more open competition, and
now the Linux choice is not a pure OSS choice anymore.

It is happening on the desktop; Linux already have the Applix suite,
the Corel Office Suite will follow, and may be Lotus stuff also.

Software editors realize that Linux can be a market for a commercial
competition, a clean start over the current monopole situation.

I wonder why this threat, a lot more real and incombent that a world
with only OSS solutions, have be completely ignored in the report.


Maurizio De Cecco                 Real Time System Team
				  IRCAM, Centre Georges Pompidou
                                  1, Place Stravinsky 75004 Paris, France

tel:   +33-(0)1-44784779  - fax:   +33-(0)1-44781540 - email: dececco@ircam.fr
Date: Wed, 04 Nov 1998 10:03:50 +1030
From: Stephen Donaldson <Stephen.Donaldson@adelaide.on.net>
Subject: Tied to the Monster
To: editor@lwn.net

Its not easy to finally bite the bullet and make my presence known to
the linux world at large, however, needs must as the saying goes.

I have watched the tide of linux swell up in the media like a wave of
titanic proportions and wondered why?  Why is it easy to set up and go
go go? Can I quickly install software and get on line with little or no
hassle? The answer from 'me' is not really, YET.

I am using my NT machine and it runs well, good software and easy
connections to the net mail etc. etc.  Now please don't go jumping on to
me and telling me all sorts of things I already know....yes I have put
redhat5.1 onto my other machine, curiosity is my weakness and I feed it
constantly.  However, I don't want to spend hours and hours...and hours
getting my machine up to speed and I mean by me learning the ropes of

But I do, YES, like lots of my friends and colleagues want to give
Microsoft the heave (colloquialism for the boot) I desperately want a
machine is not microsoft dependent, has the latest software and I can
use to develop business notes on, web pages with the latest software
(easy stuff to use).

Am I expecting just a tad too much?  I hope not.  I want all that is
good morally and at the leading edge of development. I want my cake and
I want to eat it. And I want it now.  I want Microsoft to feel the heat
from good honest people like me. (smile) because that's where linux will
win, when people who know how microsoft operate and don't like it one
little bit suddenly find they don't need a year of sleepless nights
coming to grips with linux and vi (shudder) and who can easily switch
with as little pain as possible and find the final transition to be
nothing more than a couple of days readjusting to a few key strokes.

Make it easy for me guys and I'll come over, give me the good software
and I'll be there tomorrow.

Thanks for reading my rant.

(Give me a mate who knows linux and I'll buy the beer)

Stephen Donaldson
An ordinary user

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 15:25:48 +0100
From: David Kastrup <dak@neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Recent attention for Linux

The last year or so has featured a lot of surprises from the corporate
world.  The latest being the announcement of Corel for providing a
no-cost version of Wordperfect for Linux non-commercial users.

We have a no-cost version of Netscape (and an upcoming free version of
Mozilla, which might be more important).  We have no-cost versions
restricted to non-commercial use of Staroffice, several databases and
so on.  We have quite a few promises of commercial versions of several
other software.  We have a lot of media attention, mostly due to it.
Linux is getting employed a lot for internet solutions by now.  We
have a few players not traditionally Unix-centered investing in
RedHat.  We have even the recent announcement that Mexico will go
Linux in its educational system.

What's in it for Linux?  Mostly trouble.  But a lot of chance to get
vastly faster ahead from where one is currently than anticipated, too.

The big problem is that Linux is still very much evolving.  It is not
yet ready for high-performance serving tasks (work on consistently
supporting SMP as well as better networking performance are ongoing,
but much is scheduled for 2.3 which will probably turn into a stable
version about 2 years from now).  Fortunately, this gets somewhat
obscured since what mostly counts to people is just performance as
compared to NT, a sitting duck, and there is quite lot you can make
Linux do with even a single-processor Alpha workstation (and, of
course, despite of working suboptimally, a two-processor machine under
Linux can still deliver quite a bit more serving power than a single

Yet it is already now that Linux has to encounter enormously rising
demands.  In the server market, I suppose it will grow to meet them
smoothly enough.  But the expectations with regard to userfriendliness
and application availability frankly cannot be met in a whiff.  A lot
of development will need to be done to satisfy even a fraction of the
people reacting to Linux hype.  The current calls for applications are
what has caused a few players (including the major database vendors)
to experiment with offers for Linux.  But in the long run they will
want to see whether Linux gives a successful path to revenue for them,
and that is when we might be experiencing some serious backlash, at
least with the availability of evaluation copies, if not with whole
product lines.

I'll skip commenting on the office sector which is largely
monopolized, even though Linux currently provides a small uncontested
niche for alternatives.

In the gaming sector, Linux is currently not an attractive platform.
Kernel sound support leaves much to be desired (even just compiling
the drivers in current stable kernels can be a nightmare, much less
getting them to run).  Hardware GL is supported only sketchingly, and
mostly by commercial Xservers not in wide circulation.  Good GL
implementations would be very important to have, not only because this
means support for high-performance graphics, but also because it
enables easy multi-platform programming and porting and thus lowers
the cost of side-entry into the Linux market.

So what's the gist?  In the serving section, Linux is pretty much up
to demand except under highest strain, and will probably prove mature
enough to reasonably comply with demands, or at least be able to react
to them satisfactorily and adapt properly in time.  For this reason I
believe that it will be able to provide a satisfactory platform also
for database servers, so it is reasonably probable that the current
database server excitement will not cause much trouble when abating.

To the average user, expectations will not be met soon.  It is only a
question of time until people trying it out will come to the
conclusion: "yes, it does not crash, but it really does nothing else
worth noting, too".  This could be changed if application and game
vendors were to join the quest.  They just might, if not the
environment was as dissimilar to Windows as it is, making the porting
quite a lot of work, and if it was not yet as immature (no established
desktop up to now, no serious GL support...).  Yet at least there have
been encouraging ports by large players, such as Corel and Netscape,
and lots of announcements.

Will Linux be able to ride the crest?  A lot of people are placing
their bets on Linux, and Linux is not yet ready to deliver.  It is
crucial for the long-term success of Linux that it *will* deliver
before people get turned off.  I would have said that we could stand
vendors currently trying out the Linux market eventually turning their
back again, and we could at least pick up the truly free scraps that
happen to fall from their tables sometimes (like the things RedHat
develops with an interesting set of sponsors, like the Mozilla
browser, like a set of developers getting familiar with Linux and
quite a few other things).  Even if the tables get cleared one day,
these things will remain with us.  But what we cannot afford is having
something like the project for equipping Mexican schools and high
schools fail.  Having a whole country's educational system hedge its
bets on Linux and failing is press Linux will not be able to put aside
anytime soon.  And you can bet on it that a lot of people are eagerly
waiting just for this to happen.  Currently Microsoft can still say
"oh, just try out Linux and see where this will lead you" for scaring
people.  Now that somebody indeed seriously is going to try just that
on a large scale, we better take care that they'll end up better than
anybody anticipated.  The pioneering is not yet finished.  Having this
succeed will set an example for free software systems that will
literally change the world.  It will also create markets and
infrastructures that will make Linux a major platform for developing

But for this to happen, the usability aspect (including word
processors etc.) has to be tackled much more vigorously than before.
In addition, hosts of *new* developers need to be supported.  This
means that both online help for applications and programmer's
documentation for GUI programming must be forthcoming.  Right now,
both are sadly lacking almost anywhere.  Just try to press a "help"
button in some GNOME application.

Can we take the heat?  We better should.  And we'll need all help we
can muster, including what parts of the software industry one can
persuade to join the ranks.  And we'll need a lot of work in order to
catch up with free offerings eventually for what may be temporarily
available only proprietarily, if we want to finally reach that old
dream that started the GNU project decades ago: the availability of a
completely free system for the generic needs of computing.

David Kastrup                                     Phone: +49-234-700-5570
Email: dak@neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de       Fax: +49-234-709-4209
Institut für Neuroinformatik, Universitätsstr. 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany

From: "maskatron" <maskatron@curvedspace.org>
To: <editor@lwn.net>
Subject: article submission
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 20:05:01 -0500

I'd like to submit this editorial about Linux for possible inclusion in your
magazine (which I enjoy very much; thanks for doing it).  It is called
Politics, Money and Linux, as it discusses the recent media success of Linux
& where I see things going in the next couple of years. I hope you enjoy it.

Shayne White

Politics, Money and Linux

Let me just preface this article by explaining that these views are entirely
my own.  They are based on my distorted view of the world. If you disagree
with me, take a deep breath, send me an email and we can discuss it.  I'm
not out to start a flame war with anyone. What do I see when I look into my
crystal ball and utter the word "linux".  Well, it looks something like

I see some very chaotic times ahead.  There are many forces at work in the
rapidly growing linux community. I see more and more developers working
together, sharing ideas and sharing code. I think this is great.  It never
fails to amaze me what can be accomplished when people get excited about
something and work together to make it happen.  Linux is the poster child
for open source, and it should be.  It keeps getting more and more press.
It seems to be the newest media darling.  The up and coming OS.  The
greatest threat to Microsoft's dominance.  This is all well and good, but
what people that are new to Linux don't understand is that it is much more
than a piece of software.  It seems to have a character all it's own.  And
everything is just great.  The plan of world domination is right on
schedule.  Or is it?  Personally, I don't think things are quite that rosy.

Because of it's success, Linux as we know it is headed for trouble. Now hold
on...before I get labeled as a non-believer, listen to my reasoning.  Linux
will become wildly successful, but during this trip to the top, it will
change.  Thus, it won't be the Linux we know and love. The Linux community
is currently made up of developers who do this as a hobby in their spare
time. They do it because they love computing.  They do it because they want
to give back to the community of developers that has given them so much
enjoyment. Most don't get paid for it, and that is fine with them. For some,
they actually prefer it that way.

But along comes politics and money. In the current model, Linux is truly
free.  From both an economic and political standpoint. Anyone who is
reasonably technically proficient can download and install Linux. For free.
It is written for developers by developers.  Anyone is free to make changes
and generally these changes get thrown back into the pot.  This system works
and works quite well. It has resulted in perhaps the best OS in the world.
So what the fuck am I talking about?  Well, many people are excited about
some of the big companies jumping on the Linux bandwagon.  They see this as
a good thing for the Linux community. It makes it legitimate.  They see it
as big companies who are changing their ways and are getting into open
source and free
software.  Well, I think these companies are merely latching onto something
that can enable them to compete with Microsoft.  These companys exist to
make money for themselves and their shareholders.  They have a very
different agenda than the average Linux developer.  Today they are embracing
the Linux community, but it is a community that they don't really
understand, nor will they ever fit into. Today it is a political move.
Tommorrow it will be an economical one.  That's when the problems will
start.  Personally, I don't think developers will be as excited about coding
up feature X for Linux so that XYZ Corp can make money off 'supporting' it.
And no, I'm not talking about Redhat. They understand the Linux community.
Thus, XYZ will support their own version.  What will happen?  My guess is
that Linux will split into different groups.  XYZ will lag behind in
features once the politics of a big company get in the way and hamper
progress. The mediocre masses will use the XYZ version, while technical
users will stick with a more grassroots version, like today's Debian.  Like
so many things, the whole thing will come full circle.

This is not an article against commercial development for Linux.  I believe
that people
should be compensated for their work.  I just think that Linux does not fit
the mold of a typical business software product, and when push comes to
shove, the 'real' Linux will go back 'underground'.  Things have already
started in this direction.  Just look at the UDI project by Intel....

-Shayne White

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