Linux Weekly News

Bringing you the latest news from the Linux World.
Dedicated to keeping Linux users up-to-date, with concise news for all interests
Published February 5, 1998

Linux articles
Kernel news
Software Development
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Leading items

This is going to be the year of free software. I have honestly come to believe that. The free software movement is about to make tremendous gains in respect and mindshare in realms where it has long been ignored. Big software firms may want to start worrying, because the world is changing around them.

Anybody who didn't read Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar paper should go and do so now. It describes the Linux development model nicely, as well as the reasons for the success of that model. Netscape has credited this paper with being a crucial influence in their decision to free the source to their browser.

As of this writing, Eric is evidently in Silicon Valley discussing licensing terms with Netscape. The word is that he is also meeting with several other "leading Silicon Valley CEO's" to discuss the free software model. One wonders who else may decide to adopt the bazaar model of development.

Whether or not other firms follow Netscape in the near future, free software now has a visibility that was lacking before. Peruse the set of articles listed below, and you'll see what we mean. This can only be good for the Linux world, as the validity of its model of development gains the recognition it deserves. It's looking like interesting times.

David Miller, the force behind the Sparc and SGI ports, finally resurfaced after a longish, low-profile period. To see what he has been doing, check out the Cobalt Micro page. I don't know anybody who has actually run one of these cool, blue Linux boxes, but they look like a fun toy...

Does unix need to be rescued from the hackers?. This item isn't particularly new, but Michael Hoffman's article on the need for a seamless graphical user interface for unix systems is still good food for thought. Another person, Perry Harrington, would like to replace the X window system with something better, and which would include a serious user interface policy. See his page if you would like to participate.

Peruse the LWN Archives.

Our obligatory Linux links page.

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Linux in the news

Wired news ran an article on free software last week. The obvious point of interest was Netscape, but Linux rated some favorable mention as well. It's a reasonable discussion of the merits of free software in general.

Accolades from the Emerald Isle. An article in the Irish Times financial section is also favorable toward Linux, explicitly as an alternative to NT. I assume that "Linux remains at the coalface technologically [...]" is a positive thing...

There is a four-part series on free software in this week. It's a reasonably good and sympathetic series, despite its title: "Socialist Software."

Many of us have heard the old argument: "There is no technical support for Linux." Well, then, why has Infoworld awarded its 1997 technical support award to the Linux community? It's a great bit of recognition that just because software is free doesn't mean that it's unsupported. Show this one to your boss.

Ah yes, and their award for operating systems went to Red Hat 5.0...

Two other articles in Infoworld: Nicolas Petreley thinks that Netscape's move could be a winning strategy, while Mark Tebbe talks of the model used by "a renegade OS such as Linux" and raises, you guessed it, the spectre of support.

"[Linux] is emerging as a viable competitor to Microsoft's Windows NT" according to an article in the New York Times. Note that this site requires registration now... The old convention of using 'cypherpunks' for the username and password will get you in, if you don't wish to register separately.

The folks at TBTF ran a couple of Linux-related articles this week. One, dedicated to estimating the size of the Linux community, comes up with 5-7 million installed Linux systems in the world.

We are told January's issue of Sky & Telescope has a nice Linux article in it. We haven't seen it, though; check your local newsstand.

CNN's article on top selling software for January includes a reference to Red Hat Linux. It's number three in the "Business Software (MS-DOS/OS/2)" section. "Business software" can almost make sense, but "MS-DOS"???

[Security] A serious X-windows security problem has been reported in XKB, depending on X11 version and environment, which can allow local users to exploit a "feature" XDB to execute arbitrary programs with extra privileges. Quick vulnerability check and fix are provided in the posting to linux-alert. You can also see Red Hat's advisory on this bug.

The AT&T Crowds project has chosen linux for their next target. Crowds is intended to protect a person's anonymity as they browse the web and already runs under SunOS, Solaris and Irix.

The filter program that comes as part of the elm-2.4 package contains two vulnerabilities, one of which could be remotely exploited. Details here.

Michal Zalewski reported a problem with gzexe, part of the gzip package. Seems it uses predictable filenames in /tmp, which may allow users to destroy the contents of files on your system. Use of gzexe is not widespread, but Red Hat recommends upgrading your version of gzip.

[Kernel] The current development kernel version is 2.1.85. It includes the ability to boot off of MD striped disks, a bunch of SCSI changes for machines with the IBM MCA bus, bug fixes, and documentation updates. Thus far, reported problems are few, though there are evidently some build problems with the MCA SCSI stuff.

Alan Cox states that TCP is "somewhat broken" in the 2.1.8x series, "and will remain so until it's fixed." As always with development kernels, be careful out there. Patches continue to roll in towards a (still somewhat distant) 2.2 release.

A stated goal, once development starts on 2.3, is reworking and cleaning up the sound driver code. Some of you may have noticed that it can be a bit, um, difficult to configure and make work right. It's not clear how that development will proceed, but Colin Plumb posted a good, concise article on some of the issues involved.

Richard Gooch continues to update his enhancements. The MTRR patch (MTRR stands for Memory Type Range Registers - now we all understand, right?), which greatly speeds frame buffer access, is up to rev 1.8 (against kernel 2.1.84). His "devfs" patch (runtime creation of the /dev tree) is up to version 18. Both are available from his patch page. Still no word on when (or if) these patches will go into the 2.1 kernel.

Unless you have a multiprocessor machine, be sure not to compile your kernels with SMP enabled. Recent development kernels seem to be even less than usually forgiving in this regard; SMP kernels on a uniprocessor machine can die in weird and unpleasant ways. Unfortunately, SMP is still the default, and is not a configuration option; you need to edit the Makefile and comment out the SMP = 1 line near the beginning. Believe me (voice of experience here) it's an easy thing to forget...

Also in the SMP arena is a flurry of activity around IO-APIC use. The IO-APIC is an interrupt controller on multiprocessor systems which is able to route interrupts to any CPU, thus helping to create a true symmetric multiprocessing system. However, each motherboard seems to do it a little different, leading to one of those bits of hardware obnoxiousness that takes a long time to sort out. The 2.1.85 kernel added a document describing IO-APIC for those interested in the details.

Is the Linux Maintenance Project dead? The question was raised this week, since the web pages have not been updated in recent times. The answer is that the maintainer is busy, and some new ways of running the web pages are being worked out. Expect some activity there in the not-too-distant future.

William Stearns is working on a program to automate the process of building a new kernel. Check out his web page for more info.

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.


Yes, it's true! Debian is dumping dselect! From the recent mention on debian-announce, the new package manager meant to replace dselect is now being demonstrated and will probably appear in 2.1 or one of the early point releases.

Mentioned recently on debian-announce, a Debian system was used to develop the AMSAT Phase 3-D satellite, one of the series of Ham Radio Satellites. Check it out here.

A reminder to frustrated Debian users who are only finding their favorite software in RPM format: "alien" can be used instead. If you have trouble with alien, try upgrading to debianutils 1.6.

The January issue of the German magazine CHIP Extra comes with a CD-ROM containing Debian 1.3.1 and the Beta version of StarOffice 4.0 for Linux. Review from debian-user indicates that the issue is very well done, with a lot of useful info for both novices and users. Here's CHIP's Web site, primarily in German.

Red Hat

Red Hat reports recent turn-over in their support staff which has hurt the Red Hat installation support they provide via e-mail to people who purchase their $50 set. They "have been working to midnight and beyond" to catch up with the backload and have hired new staff. Robert Hart (Red Hat's support manager) assured people on redhat-list that Red Hat installation support will not be terminated at 30 days if a delay on their part caused the time to run out.

Red Hat 5.0 users have also been griping a bit about how the errata pages are handled. Complaints include slow updates, and Red Hat's tendency to update existing entries, making it very hard to notice a second update for a given package. A call was made for public announcements from Red Hat whenever updates go out.

Users on redhat-list have been poking at, finding that accessing it from Netscape 4.04 crashes some Xservers, and not others, depending on your Xserver and Linux version. No direct link is provided, on-purpose, but feel free to check it out!.

Off-topic, but on the redhat-list, Dave Wreski compiled and posted a list of free ssh-clients for Windows. He would like to see people choose one, try it out and post a review, since interest in them is so high.


Reported on bugtraq: Imapd/ipop3d problems in slackware 3.4 if you install the pine package. When fed an unknown username, imapd and ipop3d will dump core. Detail here. Patrick Volkerding [maintainer of Slackware] has already responded and will put out a repaired package.


For the Linux trivia buffs, S.u.S.E stands for 'Software und System Entwicklung', which means software and system development. If you're interested in S.u.S.E's history, check out this post from Bodo Bauer.

How do you pronounce S.u.S.E? A popular Americanism is "Suzie", but if you ask in Germany, the pronunciation will be closer to "Seuss-eh" (as in Doctor Seuss) or "Souss-uh". Boy was it fun to watch people try and describe a sound in an e-mail message!

There are a lot of converts from various Unix flavors on the suse-linux-e list (of course!). If you're interested in comments from one person who recently installed the distribution, check it out.



At least one Linux system vendor (Net Express) has stopped selling Alpha-based systems as a result of the Compaq takeover of Digital. See their Alpha systems page for details on their reasoning. On the other hand, most other vendors and the Alpha discussion lists remain relatively calm on this subject, suggesting that not everybody is worried.

There is an article in SunWorld Online about the Compaq takeover. No real conclusions, but they raise some concerns.


People are already asking whether SPARC/Linux will run on the new, PCI-based Ultra workstations. No definitive answer has been posted, but it seems awfully unlikely. The new bus, new video, and (oh joy) IDE disks are all stuff that SPARC/Linux has never had to deal with before.
[Software Development] Almost overnight, the linux-ha (linux high-availability list) has revived and is generating good discussion! If you are interested in high-availability Linux solutions, now is the time to get involved! You can subscribe to linux-ha on the Linux Mailing Lists page.

[Articles] Some folks are discovering they can no longer access hosts with underscores in their names. Host names with underscores have always been against the rules, but many systems have let them work anyway. However, the new GNU C library, shipping with the latest Linux distributions, enforces this rule. If you have host names with _underscores_, you might want to consider renaming them soon.

Want to run Oracle 7.3.3 under Linux? Jan Andersen posted a detailed howto describing the path to there using the IBCS package.

If you see these errors from Netscape Communicator 4.04:

sh: -c line 1: missing closing `)' for arthmetic expression sh: -1 line 1: syntax error near unexpected token `;' sh: -c line 1: `((/usr/local/bin/rvplayer /tmp/MO34B2F4B209B0136.ram); rm /tmp/\ MO34B2F4B209B0136.ram )&'
your problem is actually probably your version of bash. Try upgrading to the latest version (2.01) to fix the problem.

Software and documents

Package Version Description
accton 4.0 Driver for Accton pocket ethernet adaptor
buslogic 2.0.11 Leonard Zubkoff's outstanding BusLogic SCSI adaptor driver
CD patch Patch to 2.0 33 kernel to support new CD formats
datapult 2.02 Scripting language for web servers
ddd 2.2.2 Graphical front end to gdb (very nice)
FireMyst 0.8 Small, UMSDOS-based system (for recovery diskettes)
fnorb 0.4 CORBA object request broker for Python. One of the best-named packages out there, in your editor's opinion.
freetype 1.0 TrueType font rendering engine
ImageMagick 4.0 Amazing image manipulation/conversion system
KDEbeta 3 K desktop environment
lftp 0.14.0 Command-line FTP client
lilo-color Patch to Lilo 20 to display boot messages in color
linbot 0.3 Web site management tool
mat 0.15 System administration tool
plor 0.3.2 Offline mail and news reader
secure-linux Patch to kernel 2.0.33 to add a number of security features.
SMS client 2.0.5 Send SMS messages to mobile phones
snipix 2.12 Run SNA (and talk to your old IBM mainframes) on your Linux box. Free for Linux, commercial for other OS's.
Software Building mini-HOWTO 1.52 HOWTO on building software from source
StarOffice 4.0 Office suite, free for private use
TkInfo 2.4 Tcl/Tk-based info browser
TtH 1.1 Translate TeX to HTML
webalizer beta WWW server log analysis
xbomb 2.1 X-based minesweeper game
LLNL XDIR 2.1 Motif-based graphical FTP client
xtc 0005 X toolkit in Java
zed 1.0.1 "Fast, powerful, simple, configurable" text editor.


A bunch of ambitious folks have announced the Java/Linux NC project. They want to provide a complete network computer implementation, with a full set of Microsoft-type applications, for free. Java and Linux are their tools. It's a big project, and I wish them luck; check out their announcement for more info, or to join up.

Other folks want to clone Userland's "Frontier" scripting environment. See their announcement for more.

A volunteer-supported (commercial) Webzine, 32 Bits Online is looking for LINUX writers to share with the world why Linux is their operating system of choice. If you're interested in an audience for your opinions, send e-mail to Ronny Ko.

The Virtuoso project seeks to put together a fancy 3d graphics package for Linux. See their announcement if you would like to help.

The folks with the amazing samba project are setting out to create a free NT domain controller.

The Linux Clothing Project moves into a new phase of Linux fashion. Heaven forbid we have any naked Linuxes out there...

Web Sites

The LSDB (Linux Software Database), a cgi searchable database of linux software has moved. The new address is


1998 Atlanta Linux Showcase, October 23 - 24, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia.

Asia and Pacific Rim Internet Conference on Operational Technologies (APRICOT). Manila, Philippines, February 16-20, 1998.

On the lighter side

A native returning "down under" after a year and a half gives a note on Linux' increased popularity in Australia.

Some fear that the joke announcement that Linus was going to integrate Netscape into the Linux Operating System may have the same lifespan as the Good Times Virus ...

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