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See also: last week's Back page page.
Dan Kegel has put together an SSL Acceleration page which contains everything he could find on how to make secure socket layer-enabled web sites perform better. Dan's looking for input from anybody who has additions or corrections for the page.
The GNU/Linux Audio Mechanics (or GLAME) project has set itself the task of producing a top-quality sound editor for Linux systems.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
April 20, 2000
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 01:17:39 -0400 From: <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: John Gibson's letter on the DOJ vs. MS John Gibson claims "There would be no competitive economic environment without the regulation of law specifically crafted to promote and sustain it!" He is deeply in error. Economic competition is not a fragile hothouse flower requiring the constant protection of governments, but a robust and ubiquitous phenomenon that flourishes whenever human beings need to solve scarcity problems and are not forcibly prevented from trading with each other to do it. There are any number of counterexamples to the silly claim that government-made law is essential to economic competition. Customary law maintained by the self-interest of economic actors is quite sufficient (the economist David Friedman has written extensively on this topic). For especially pure cases, interested readers should investigate the history of dumb-show trading on the coasts of Africa, or of the Nevada silver-mining camps in the 1840s. He is even more fundamentally confused when he writes: >Or does anyone think we'd be better off without the regulation >implied by First Amendment protection? What "First Amendment protection" does is not regulate speech but rather *prevent* regulation of speech. Despite himself, however, Mr. Gibson has chosen a useful parallel. Just as the quality and vigor of public speech is improved when government is forbidden from regulating it, the quality of economic competition is improved when governments refrain from attempting to improve on it. -- <a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr">Eric S. Raymond</a> Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good. -- Mohandas Gandhi
From: "Wolf N. Paul" <email@example.com> Subject: Andy Tanenbaum & Minix To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 09:59:53 +0200 (CEST) Hello, I would like to correct the impression given by your item about the license change for MINIX. When MINIX was first released it was part of a book published by Prentice-Hall, and like the text of the book was covered by P-H's copyright. Andy Tanenbaum went to great lengths to get P-H to agree to personal copying, etc; and in his note announcing the change to the BSD license says that now, with Linux, Free Software and Open Source being well-known bywords, it took two years to get P-H to agree to this change. While I deplore Andy's initial attitude towards Linux and its creator, I also deplore the implication that he is somehow to be blamed for the fact that MINIX simply predated the Open Source movement and was therefore published under a different license. Regards, Wolf Paul Crossnet.AT Technical Manager email@example.com
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 11:20:48 -0700 (PDT) From: Christopher Laprise <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: WordPerfect "review" To: email@example.com I was surprised by this review, which read like so much flamebait. I've used WP Office on Corel and Red Hat Linux, and it works well (not having crashed even once). I find it very usable on a Cyrix PR200, although Wine has a tendancy to scan (and time-out on) every empty CD-ROM drive in the system; With CDs inserted, the apps start up in reasonable time. If WordPerfect doesn't work with his/her pet flavor of Linux, too bad. Linux distros are missing *SO* many services that mature apps rely on, and Corel is not going to sit around waiting for a standards group to set things straight. Corel is adding necessary functionality to Linux as they go (witness their involment in extending Linux printer support), but they can't write code to retrofit every distro. Most Linux distros are hideous, sprawling, inconsistent masses. And every major player who lumps in a new technology thinks they have bettered Linux. But thank goodness they're wrong; Linux consists of the kernel and nothing more until standards for various levels of functionality are set. These emperors are wearing no clothes. When people try to intimidate users with the implication they're running "crippled" Linux unless they have at least 4 or 5 scripting languages installed, at least I know better. Think of all the people who lumped their pet tools into Linux distros just to support their quick-and-dirty, user-unfriendly contributions. Why should Corel be lambasted for making their own additions and making their own apps dependant on them? Those OS additions are available to the community just like the other pet technolgies (which are often less usable anyway). IMO, the opinions offered in the LWN article are entirely incredible. The reviewer was not honest enough to describe the distro in use (Corel only supports a finite number, you know) or the modifications it contains, *or* to admit they were working from a particular brand of Linux conventional-wisdom. He/she also didn't acknowledge X-Windows' shortcomings as a source of GUI problems (lack of support for modal windows and dialogs, for instance). This is why the LinuxWorld review, in contrast, was much more fair and ultimately more positive toward WP Office. They stated the distros and mods being used, and gave Corel credit for extending Linux up to the task of serving a mature application.
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: [Correction] linux-msdos review just wrong.... From: email@example.com (Eric W. Biederman) Date: 15 Apr 2000 11:36:29 -0500 This thursday you publish a link to a review of the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list. This appears to be a cascade of lack of knowledge. This is the mailing list for discussing running msdos on linux. In particular dosemu. The review appears to have been wholly gennerated from the title, without any thought. If you are going to link to flames about a public mailing list could they at least be correct flames??? Eric
From: Dub_Dublin@tivoli.com To: email@example.com Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 13:03:52 -0500 Subject: Re: de Icaza Speaking Ad? I gotten several challenges to my assertion about patents as a desirable thing (mostly asking for examples of small inventors that actually did profit from patents) so here's my quick response, FWIW: Anyone saying patents don't do immense public good, and provide worthwhile, needed, and *effective* protection of small inventors against large corporations is simply ignorant of the history of even quite recent technology. Many inventors started small, but because of patent protection were indeed able to profit greatly from their inventions. >From the "gararge-shop" POV, well, just off the top of my head, there are the examples everyone is familiar with: Bill Hewlett and David Packard (HP, instruments), Steves Jobs and Wozniak (Apple, home computer), and outside the computer industry, folks like Edwin Land (Polaroid, polarized materials and instant camera), Chester Carlson (Xerox, xerography), Henry Ford (Ford, affordable automobiles), Thomas Edison (GE, light bulb, motion pictures, phonograph...), and Alexander Graham Bell (AT&T, telephone), all of whom profited greatly from their patented works. (One could argue for the inclusion of Jeff Bezos in that list, although around here, that's a bit like whacking a hornet's nest with a stick...) But the classic twentieth century example of patents providing exactly the kind of protection I'm talking about is probably that of Philo T. Farnsworth, whom you may never have heard of, although you likely use his invention (electronic television) every day. Farnsworth was the prototypical individualist inventor who persevered against all odds and eventually defeated David Sarnoff and Vladimir Zworykin of the immensly powerful RCA. RCA was truly the Microsoft of its day in terms of control of the market and underlying technologies through acquisition - often under severe economic and other pressure. RCA had a policy of never paying royalties for any technology - a policy they managed to uphold until they met Philo Farnsworth, who just wouldn't give up. Farnsworth fought virtually alone against all of RCA's power for seven years before the final court rulings that his patents had clear validity and precedence over Zworykin's, forcing a tearful RCA lawyer to sign a royalty payment agreement to Farnsworth. (Farnsworth publicly displayed television *five years* before Sarnoff unveiled RCA's infringing version to the world amidst great fanfare at the 1939 World's Fair, leading many to believe Sarnoff and RCA were the inventors of television - sound like anyone today?) Farnsworth's experience is, if anything, a case study for the need to *strengthen* patents and either streamline patent appeals or extend the length of patents when thier commercial utility is impacted by unsuccessful challenges. (World War II intervened, and the government outlawed television for the duration of the war (the technology was needed for radar, night vision and other inventions Farnsworth then worked on), and so Farnsworth's patents expired before he could profit from them. Do you still think patents are a bad idea? I'd argue experience shows that patents should be strengthened and perhaps that the duration of Farnsworth's patent should have been extended, due to RCA's clear abuse of the patent system and the courts. (I also think the government should have been upright enough to grant extensions in the name of fair play to all inventors whose inventions were commandeered for the war effort, but that's another issue entirely.) History clearly shows that often patents are all that stands between real progress and innovation and the acquisition by force so typical of a Sarnoff or Gates. Strong patent law is the *only* effective defense against large companies stealing technology from small inventors. (What RCA tried to do could be accurately portrayed as theft.) I'm amazed more people don't get this, but they tend to avoid history, and fail to recognize that our American forefathers were wiser than we are in pretty much every way. Although it's not perfect, there are very good reasons the patent system is the way it is, and we meddle with it at our peril. It would be nice to see a balanced discussion of this issue rather than the knee-jerk reactions that are more common in the open source/free software community. Dub P.S.: I recommend spending some time browsing through some of the links below to see how many of the great inventors of recent history were independent - the protection provided by the patent system allowed them to develop and in many cases profit handsomely from their inventions. You might be surprised at the diversity and "ordinariness" of many of these inventors of important breakthroughs - they're not such an elite group as you might imagine (the list is somewhat US-centric - our culture celebrates invention, and so links for US inventors are much easier to find): National Inventor's Hall of Fame: http://www.invent.org/book/index.html MIT's Invention Dimension Archive: http://web.mit.edu/invent/www/archive.html Good Internet Public Library list of links to Inventor information: http://www.ipl.org/ref/QUE/PF/everyday.html
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 15:49:55 -0400 From: Derek Glidden <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: What is XiG's problem? I noticed in the April 13 edition of LWN a note about Xi Graphics releasing accelerated, OpenGL-compliant drivers for 3DFX Voodoo3 cards and was intrigued, being an owner of such a card. However, after just skimming over the press release and their website, I had run across such appealing quotes as: "Xi Graphics Engineering Manager Jon Trulson said that all Linux distributions have freeware graphics software because it's free, not because it's good." (Yeah, like all that other crappy, free software that comes with your Linux distro.) "In fact, if you have Mesa installed on your system, it should be removed when you install an LGD. Mesa is a freeware "knockoff" of libGL..." and mentions Mesa may cause conflicts with XiG's GL libraries and that without removing it, "things go to hell in a handbasket, and our code get [sic] a bad rap!" (Mesa is a "knockoff" of OpenGL the way XFree86 is a "knockoff" of X11R6 and Linux is a "knockoff" of UNIX I suppose.) "Then one notices that the system runs, and runs, and runs. Those annoying crashes and lockups you experience with the freeware drivers are gone." (I'm not familiar with those...) "On the other hand, some users seemingly will put up with about anything, so long as the software is free. We see our fair share of these folk, and needless to say, they are not our target customer." (They're really winning me over now with their honesty.) Then I recalled seeing a story on Slashdot at one time: "XiG Ad Campaign Slamming Xfree?" (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/10/14/1420204) that covered a full-page ad run by XiG with the statement: "If you're still using that 'free' X server that came with your Linux distribution, well, hazardous conditions lie ahead" (one wonders why they felt the need to put "free" in quotes. I can think of few licenses more "free" than the X11 license under which XFree86 is distributed) and follows up with the completely false claim that: "When the X server 'falls over' - crashes - the entire operating system goes down." So XiG's advertising strategy appears to be one of slamming their free counterparts whenever the opportunity arises with claims of bad performance and instability. (Strangely, I don't notice them attacking Precision Insight or MetroLink, although I probablyl just overlooked it.) In light of this, I find some of the other quotes on their Voodoo3 driver page even more interesting: "Please be advised that the LGDs are not yet up to the performance level that can be obtained on other systems ... Direct Graphics Hardware Access is not yet implemented, and some speed optimizations are yet to be done." (You mean to bring them up to the level of functionality and performance of the freeware drivers?) "... we expect frequent updates for bug fixing and to increase performance, which is much slower than we like. The updates will be available free to owners, since their Key can be used to unlock the newest (faster, less buggy) demo version of the LGD." (Bugs? Increase performance?) One has to wonder what the marketing department is thinking at XiG to believe that this kind of smear advertising is going to win over the loyalty of the "demanding Linux user" they mention so frequently on their site. Yeah, we demand performance and stability, and we like "free" but we also demand a bit of common sense and fair play. This kind of attitude is NOT going to score XiG brownie points with the average Linux user, much less the "demanding Linux user." Oh, but maybe we aren't their target customer... A couple of quotes from the DRI mailing list (you know, that freeware graphics driver project) make the point just as well: "Mesa and XFree86 have pretty good reputations in the Linux community. I think Xi's only hurting themselves by printing such nonsense." "We've certainly put off buying their $300 product primarily because of their poor attitude." Exactly. -- -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- With Microsoft products, failure is not Derek Glidden an option - it's a standard component. http://3dlinux.org/ Choose your life. Choose your http://www.tbcpc.org/ future. Choose Linux. http://www.illusionary.com/