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See also: last week's Back page page.

Linux links of the week

Linux-driver.com aims to be a complete resource for people trying to get Linux running on particular hardware. There's the usual collection of HOWTOs and such; they are also aiming to get a collection of actual drivers together.

If you are looking for commercial Linux software, consider having a look at the Linux Product Guide. They have put together a nice database of commercial alternatives, including pricing information.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

September 30, 1999



Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@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.

A number of this week's letters refer to this unpleasant article in the National Post.

Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 12:45:10 -0700
From: Pascal Martin <pascal.martin@iname.com>
To: letters@lwn.net, wchiou@linuxone.net
Subject: About LinuxOne

I have been through the LinuxOne web site. A very interesting walk !

LinuxOne is founded and managed by a military industry and NASA
executive veteran, a venture capital representative acting as CFO,
a physicist & philosopher with MBAs in marketing and "high technology
management", and a salesperson. The marketing VP is listed as the one
with technology insight. The LinuxOne CEO expects to "rival Microsoft
in its formative years", based on his own business plan.

There seems to be no VP of engineering; the web site never talk about
software developers, except in the "employment" page. They announce a
"strategic relationship" with MandrakeSoft, to open a development center
in China and release a Chinese version of Mandrake. It might be possible
that their developers are in China. Why don't they talk about them ?

They announce they will "place carefully selected software modules in
the public domain [...] to encourage other companies to port their
applications [...]", maybe confusing free software with public domain.
They announce on September 9 that a beta release will be available for
free download. Well.. "download" is either UPS or FedEx 8-}, and free
is down to $9.95, from a listed standard price of $29.95. Could one be
more excited with free software than that ?

LinuxOne "plans to distribute the Apache server software to its
customers", adding that the "Apache Group has [...] captured a
significant portion of the server market". Sounds like they believe
Apache is a commercial product, which will be ported to Linux and help
them differentiate their products ?

They announce high quality support, but there is no support
organization to be found. They announce seminars, but there is no
speaker's name listed.  They will offer consulting services from
"recognized experts in the Linux arena", but their employment page
don't list any consultant position.

They intend to develop and port application software. This may be a
way to get out of the Linux distribution traffic jam. Which
applications ?  None of the managers claims to have experience in the
application software arena. They seems to be interested with high
availability, which make me think they are looking for big account
business, a fit for their corporate background.

This is a very Corporate America startup. Make me feel good about Red


Pascal F. Martin.
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 19:19:25 -0700
To: lwn@lwn.net
From: jeff@alum.mit.edu
Subject: mail-archive.com

I implemented and run The Mail Archive (http://www.mail-archive.com)
and want to share my experiences. The service was originally started
to fulfill a personal need ("I waste too much time sorting my mail")
about two years ago, and then evolved into a Internet service.
Mail-archive.com runs on Linux and makes use of lots and lots of free
software. The best engineering aspect was not having to re-invent the
wheel. Because *nix software is programmer friendly, it was quite
easy to tie things together. (And there were a lot of things! htdig,
MHonArc, nmh, the system logging daemon, apache, cron, make, rpm, the
GNU file utilities, and maybe more that I'm forgetting.) I was able to
concentrate on the unique aspects of the service and not have to
re-invent every little (or big) thing. Keeping the work simple and
small was an enormous win.

Also, the underlying software proved robust at all levels. I ended up
putting millions of files on an ext2 partition, and processing an
enormous number of emails (with varying degrees of compliance to IETF
standards) through MHonArc. Everything has held up great, and I've
seen my feedback incorporated into several pieces of software. Things
run automatically and don't crash.

In summary, it was possible to produce a quality service, on a
hobbyist sized budget, with a hobbyist amount of development time. It
wasn't dead trivial -- I have had to learn, from necessity, some
things about performance tuning and system security. But I'm very
happy to have avoided the all too common morass of complexity,
expense, time, and poor reliability (I could easily see this service
implemented with some expensive proprietary database and going
downhill from there!)

Thus far the service has supported hundreds of free software projects,
including some that are well known. Blackdown's java-linux project,
xmame, and the Linux-Mandrake distribution use our service for primary
list archives. Both the arabic-linux and the linux-il mailing lists
use the service; while it may be a bit much to expect peace in the
Middle East through Linux, I take it as a good sign.

Anyone involved with a free software project is welcome to help
themselves to the archiving service. Also, anyone interested in
creating similar services (like a quality online bug tracking service,
hint, hint), consider yourself encouraged.


Jeff Breidenbach
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 22:32:38 +0200
From: Bernd Paysan <bernd.paysan@gmx.de>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: GPL and "internal projects" (Corel beta)

Lawyers should be able to read the GPL. It says especially in point 6

"6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
these terms and conditions.  You may not impose any further
restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

This also covers "internal projects", which usually restrict rights of
recipients of informations by NDAs or other contracts. These contracts
are null and void if the information given to them is a GPL'd program -
or the license to use the GPL'd program terminates immediately. Note
that the GPL is an individual license (it talks about "the recipient"),
thus the program isn't licensed to a company, but to persons. Moving a
disk from cubicle 318 to cubicle 319 is a distribution in the terms of
the license, and henceforth any restriction or limitations are null and
void *and* cause the license to terminate.

In other words: IMHO the current treatment of "internal projects" with
modified GPL'd software are based on the goodwill of the participants,
as nothing prevents them to redistribute the software they get under
GPL. More so for less internal projects like a public beta test, where
nobody risks getting fired.

Note that there's a sort of "death penalty" in the GPL, point 4:

"4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program
except as expressly provided under this License.  Any attempt
otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is
void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License."

This means if you don't comply to the GPL, you don't have the right to
use/modify/distribute any other GPL'd program. The attempt is
sufficient, it doesn't need to be successful. I'm not for drastic
measures, but Corel's lawyers should know that they did sort of "chop
their own head off" by violating the GPL.

Bernd Paysan
"If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself"
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 11:21:13 -0700
To: editor@lwn.net, raph@acm.org
From: Seth Cohn <sethcohn@yahoo.com>
Subject: Mwave nonsense

Corrections from a former MWave user...

>    First, a small factual clarification. The modem in the tp600 may be
> considered a WinModem, but the processing is done by an on-board DSP
> chip (the MWave), not by the host processor. Further, your statement
> that the lack of interface specs is what's holding back WinModem
> compatiblity is also not true.

In fact, IBM has refused to release specs for quite a while, except under NDAs,
and Linux being what is it, developers refused to play that game, since it
was a very proprietary system.  Under Windows, Mwave caused nothing but 
problems, and was poorly supported by IBM and IBM licensees (most of who 
blamed IBM for the problems)

> All important specs on the MWave are in
> fact public (Linux driver writers have worked with a lot less).

Untrue.  Untrue for Windows drivers, Untrue for Linux.

Raph's web site points to http://watson.mbb.sfu.ca/ as an Mwave
site.  This site's been down for a year or more, and it was always
unofficial, but still much better support than anyone else ever gave.
IBM refusal to release drivers was talked about in the Mwave support
lists, over and over.  56K drivers existed, but weren't released for ages
and ages (if ever)

>    From what I can tell, it would be fairly easy for IBM to make the
> modem work under Linux. This is based on both familiarity with the
> technical issues and some informal conversations with IBM'ers. The
> software is already written and ships with Windows 9x.

Agreed.  They have the Mwave specs.  They have the source.

> If IBM were
> unwilling to release it as free software, I don't think anyone would
> fault them for releasing it as binary-only.

Yes, we would.  Binaries would suck, just as they did under Windows.

Mwave was a good idea, and if you bought one early, you could upgrade
from a 14.4 modem, all the way to a 33.6 or even 56K modem, just thru
software.  Voice features, Faxing, and other stuff was just a software
package away.  But IBM didn't understand Open Source yet, and they cut
the throat of Mwave, even to the point where the _authors_ of the code
couldn't send us copies of working code, because of fear someone 'higher'
at IBM would discover they'd 'leaked' it, even though IBM never intended
to distribute it at all.

Searching for 'Mwave' and 'Linux', you'll find lots of warnings to stay away
from Mwave.  The only answers were workarounds like loading dos drivers for 
soundblaster clone usage, then warm rebooting into Linux.

Seth Cohn

From: "Bermingham, Charles E." <berminghamc@ada.org>
To: "'letters@lwn.net'" <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: National Post article
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 09:45:56 -0500

I just read the National Post article you pointed me at in your "daily"
section.  I have two comments:

(1) Does this guy hold stock in Microsoft?  Or is he simply a conservative
business-man who has taken on the notion that the whole Linux world is a
Communist plot?  Ehter way, I found his commentary insulting and arrogant.
Since it would not be effective or appropriate to respond to his commentary
with this opinion, I'm just venting.  I have no idea how one would even
attempt to get anything across to a boor like this.

(2) If the above isn't true, this guy is an eminently superb troll.  And if
that's the case, a pox on him.

I guess I could make one more comment:  I remember that in the early 1970's,
a lot of conservative business-types and artist-types thought Woodstock was
the funniest and stupidest thing imaginable, in public.  Sometimes I wonder
if, in private, these same people were making deals for the residuals in the
back rooms?  And if *that* is the type of person this is, I can only say:
rats are shrewd, but people get tired of rats.  That's why we create rat
traps like anti-trust laws.
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 21:29:09 +0100
From: "Dirk A. Niggemann" <dirk.niggemann@peri.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Anti-Corel Article in National Post


I think I've noticed a disturbing tendency in editorials in some of the
online computing press- I would like to hear what the editors of this
publication think.

One of your major roles, like many 'linux in the news' sites is to
provide links to articles that may be of interest to the linux
community. Unfortunately, I feel that this practice reveals of the great
weakness of 'news portal' sites (Slashdot, I think being even more
vuilnerable, due to the 'informal' nature of the reader population, and
the fact that its links are largely reader-submitted.) - The slashdot
effect can be very easily exploited by online publishers seeking to up
their hitcount. 

I think that some online publications are placing an overly great
emphasis on 'hit-count' as a measure of the 'success' of articles, and
journalists and editors are exploiting the tendency of the linux
community to keep a close eye on its representation in the media by
publishing the equivalent of usenet 'trolls'. I think the authors of
some articles are hoping to draw hits simply by publishing an
inflammatory 'hey lets bash Linux/Unix/Free Software/Macs/etc....' 
article because they know:
a) There is a core of linux advocates and fans who spend a lot of time
looking through online news sites for linux articles, who will react
strongly to any anti-linux article.
b)  These people will provide these llnks to linux-specific news sites. 
c) The linux news site will quickly publish the link, making it widely
visible to the community. 
d) This will cause a 'slashdot effect' like stampede to their article,
upping the hitcount before the article has even been read (and
potentially discarded as time-wasting by the more astute of the
e) Reader talkback will first be dominated by the 'L1NuX R00lZ' style of
f) Any intelligent critiques of the of the article will be drowned out
in the stream of random invective, effectively relieving the article's
writer of posting and intelligent riposte/repy. 
g) The hitcount and amount of mail regarding the article make the
article's writer look good witb their editor, independently of the
article's quality.
I think the National Post article you linked to, containing a bitter
(and not very fact-filled) critique of Corel, with a few rather sharp
digs aimed at Slashdot, Linus Torvalds, the Open Source Movement, and
Mac users (Mac Users? hmmm.. this appears to be getting rather-
scattergun) has all the needed characteristics of such a troll article-
It is short on facts, long on biased opinions, and written in a tone
precisely tuned to incite foam at the mouth of the less calm members of
the linux community. 

I can easily accept that there are many people with strong opinions on
this subject either way, but I do find it deplorable that some online
publications are exploiting this to increase their visibility.
Admittedly, the community is somewhat gullible on this, but it is a
natural vulenrability that publishers are learning to exploit
(increasing their 'ratings'- think banner ads here). 

 I cannot suggest realistically that you should not publish links to
such articles- (since they are a valuable source of 'how not to do PR
for Linux') but at the same time I wish someone would take a closer look
at this phenomenon (link-trolling?). Would the responsible publishers
release their 
hit stats under some circumstances?. Are there 'pay-per-hit' or
'clickthrough-indpendent advertising-revenue' deals with publishers out
there? How could you find out? I also suggest categorising certain
articles as 'flamebait'. 

The main issue here is not with, say, the equivalent of the Mindcraft
report or some of the critical 'installation nightmare' articles. I am
looking more at the editorial side of the spectrum (such as Metcalfe's
'Open Sores' article) where there is a good chance the article's author
is presenting their opininons to deliberately incite people (and atract
them as a consequence).

It seems, in cyberspace, you need to insult your audience to get good
ratings. Scary.

(The really odd thing is- the article actually mentions the slashdot
effect. It's as if the author is _daring_ somebody to realize they're


Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 13:38:21 +1000
From: Matt Atterbury <matterbury@qantas.com.au>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Anti-Linux pages

Hi backpagers,

I couldn't reach the anti-linux page
(typo) maybe, but I could reach http://come.to/consortium.

I really wouldn't know how to counter the arguments of Sawman, as there are
no arguments, just a bunch of rabid anti-linux claims. If this is strongest
"argument" s/he can put, I don't think pro-linux'ers have to worry about
this person. Basically, this site is not even worth visiting to check out
what s/he has to say (IMO), but that will probably only make you do just
that! :-)

matt@qbd.com.au                                         "klaatu barada


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