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 19, 1998

Linux articles
Kernel news
Software Development
Feedback and corrections
Links of the week

Other stuff:
The LWN Archives
Our Linux links page

Leading items

"Open source" or "free" software? The debate began for real when Richard Stallman weighed in against "open source". He has a point. While it is true that "free" doesn't bring the right image to an awful lot of English-speaking folks, "open source" doesn't do a whole lot better. If nothing else, far too many of us have long learned to distrust any product that describes itself as "open" anything.

The question remains: how do we get across the notion of free software, and what it really means? Free software means a lot more than "I don't have to pay for it." If free software is really going to be the major force that it deserves to be in the near future, people in positions of corporate power have to understand all that it is really doing for them. Maybe we need to write some articles for airline magazines?

Meanwhile, the debate has turned a little nasty toward Linux distributions that include licensed software. In particular, SuSE has taken a bit of a beating. This seems unnecessary and inappropriate. People who want a 100% free distribution have a fine product in Debian; if they buy something else, one would assume that they are finding some value in it. Free software is an amazingly cool thing, something to be valued, used, contributed to, and promoted. But it is not a religion. Or at least it shouldn't be.

The Open Source folks are pushing ahead, anyway; they now have a web site, though not much is in it yet. They have also trademarked the "open source" term, which was almost certainly a good thing to do.

SCO now claims to be the largest provider of Unix-based servers, and the third largest server vendor overall. This press release trumpets their having surpassed OS/2 in 1997, having shipped 288,000 systems overall. Now, it's hard to say how many of the two-million-plus Linux systems that were installed last year were "servers," but it's fair to say that it could maybe give SCO a run for their money. Of course, one must give them credit for having sold more server *licenses* than Linux...

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Linux in the news

Jesse Berst's Anchor Desk asked the question, could you get fired for Choosing Linux? Here's his article. He actually says some nice things about Linux! Overall, the title seems to primarily be an attention-getter, and it certainly worked, given the number of responses on his site and on many newsgroups.

Renegade OSes and defenestration strategies. An Infoworld forum discusses pulling in Linux as a web server (or some such) to get a foot in the door, then opens up the floor for discussion, of which there is quite a bit.

From Smart Reseller: Linux: Not Just For Geeks And College Kids Anymore. It concentrates mostly on how VAR's can make money on Linux, and is very favorable toward the system.

Software Development Magazine gave Red Hat Linux 5.0 a "Productivity" award in the "Special" category of its Jolt awards, announced during the 1998 trade show February 10th through the 12th.

In the world of Open Source software, InfoWorld has given the NT version of Apache an excellent review. titled this "good news", since it will help sysadmins learn to like and trust open-source software.

"...the largest of the giants is beginning to teeter." Red Herring talks about why Microsoft is vulnerable, but fails to mention our favorite OS as one of the potential problems.

[Security] Sniffer-driven intrusion detection systems are fundamentally flawed? That is the point of a recent technical paper from Their recent posting to bugtraq strongly re-iterated this.

Security flaws in JavaScript for the Netscape Communicator suite have been reported and appear to be present in all 4.x versions for Win32 and Unix platforms (Mac version not tested). These flaws allow the creation of web pages that can steal sensitive information.

Cracking passwords out of Samba running on Linux? l0phtCrack v2.0 has been released and includes the SMB session network sniffer. Although primarily for Windows 95 and Windows NT, the applicability to Samba brings this within the Linux domain.

[Kernel] The current development kernel release is 2.1.87. This one was a fairly big patch, with big 68K and Alpha updates, lots of SCSI updates, sound updates, support for 4.4BSD UFS filesystems, UMSDOS updates, and the clever page protection tweak (see below). Reports from the field suggest that this is not one of the more stable development kernels, and that the fainter of heart may want to wait another release or two before moving up.

Should there be an open source BIOS to go along with Linux?. The discussion started out of a question as to whether LILO (or MILO) couldn't be put into the BIOS, thus easing the boot process somewhat. People immediately started coming up with ideas for cool features that could be added, as well as a number of hassles (IO-APIC, APM) that could be eliminated by a publicly available BIOS. A precedent for a board-independent BIOS already exists; it seems it would be a feasible project. Dave Cinege promptly set up the OpenBIOS mailing list to discuss the project, complete with a web-based archive.

2.1.8x development kernels have a floppy-handling bug which can corrupt diskettes. This problem strikes with ext2 filesystems on diskettes, as well as with SYSLINUX. 2.1.87 should have the fix in place, so if you're having problems that's where you need to go.

Another new sound driver project. Jaroslav Kysela announced a project to create a new "Ultra" sound driver, presumably for 2.3. There are now at least two people starting out on this sort of project; hopefully they'll manage to get together and do it right.

Can you protect pages in memory against read access? "Kamran," working with distributed interprocess-communication stuff, asked how to do this so that multi-host shared memory could be made to work. The discussion was heading toward a conclusion that it was too hard to make work right, when Linus came in with a scheme and a patch to solve the problem. The patch, in classic Linus "I haven't tried to compile this" style, didn't work quite right, but a fixed up version went into 2.1.87. An amazingly quick fix to what seemed to be a truly gnarly problem.

Another reason to look forward to 2.2. A quick posting from a satisfied user shows how multiprocessing performance has improved dramatically since 2.0.

A project in need of doing: make the kernel NFS implemention work with libc6. One of the key enhancements in the 2.1 series is the much improved NFS implementation, including the kernel-based NFS server. Bill Hawes and others have been working mightily to get the performance up and the bugs out of this implementation. It should put complaints about Linux NFS performance behind us altogether. But it needs further testing before 2.2 comes out.

Unfortunately, the userland utilities for the new NFS, ( available here), do not compile on glibc2 systems (such as Red Hat 5.0). That makes it hard for a bunch of people who are willing to test this system to actually do so. Olaf Kirch, the author, is too busy with other stuff to do this work now. Maybe somebody else could step in and help?

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.


Caldera support partners called for Caldera to include a list of support partners with their Base distribution. That way, even if someone picks the distribution through a mass retailer, they can find someone locally to help them. A list both by geographic region and by specialty was the favored suggestion.


Lintian has been released and is now at version 0.2.1. New checks have been added, but the number of reported errors is still decreasing, which is good news!

Note that the registration conflict with and has been resolved. Reports of fraud appear to have erupted from some misunderstandings that have since been talked out.

It seems likely that an "Origin: " field will soon be added to debian packages. Third-party packages (like those provided at GroundZero) drive the need for such a tag, but it has other beneficial side-effects, like making it possible for sysadmins to choose acceptable sources and disallow untrusted ones.


The Deutsche Linux Distribution (a commercial german linux distribution) has announced the release of DLD 5.3 for the Alpha platform. Here is their announcement, in German and English.

Red Hat

Here is an RPM Repository which may not be new, but was recently recommended on redhat-install-list. It is not just an FTP mirror; for every package you can check its name, size, vendor, date and more. Check out the posting.

Upcoming from Red Hat will be a "Contrib Net" which will run in parallel with the current contrib section, but each package will have a designated maintainer who will actively support the RPMs. They will hopefully address issues such as bugs and new releases. Here is the relevant posting.

One nagging problem with 5.0: NIS is still not really stable. NIS, aka "Yellow Pages," aka "Yellow Plague," is crucial for a lot of larger installations. Unfortunately, ypbind doesn't always bind, and information is not always where it needs to be. These systems can be made to work in NIS environments, but it's not as easy as it should be. Rumors say that upcoming versions of glibc and ypbind will help.


The debate on which editor to ship with SEUL continues. So far, the leader for a console editor is pico, while the choice for a GUI editor is more opened. Apparently the best choices are Motif-based, not acceptable for SEUL, which plans to be entirely free (oops ... I mean "open-source" ...). Reviews of some key editors, plus screen shots, are available here.

Another recent suggestion was to use m4 and a short configuration file to build the Xconfig file for you. sendmail is an example of the use of m4 to improve ease of configuration.


S.u.S.E. is currently moving their internet connectivity to their Oakland office. As a result, you may see some strange mail headers, DNS behavior, etc. No need for concern, but contact Bodo Bauer if anything goes wrong as a result.

Jonathan Markevich contributed some bash redialer scripts to the suse-linux-e. If you are interested these, check here. Followup comments mentioned that ppp 2.3.0 will do 90% of what these scripts do, but they are pretty nice if you don't want to upgrade.



Sparc users were disappointed when Red Hat released 5.0 without Sparc support. It now appears that a Sparc release of 5.0 is in the works, though the timing, as always, remains unclear.

SparcLinux users in Sun4c machines (i.e. SparcStation I, II, IPC, LX) still complain about extremely poor performance at times. Some of these problems have been fixed, others remain mysterious. In the end, few people are interested in putting real effort into making such an old platform work well; the newer machines are not only more fun, but they seem like a more long-lived investment of development time. That is why the Sun4m and Sun4u machines work so much better with Linux.


Is MkLinux dead?. The question came up after people began noticing that the web pages for this distribution have not been updated in some time. The answer is that all of the current info is in the mailing lists, because the developers are too busy putting together the "DR3" release to work on the web pages.
[Software Development] Karl Asha regretfully announced that he can no longer continue hosting and maintaining web pages, mailing lists and mirror sites for java-linux. Here is his message. In response, the domain has been registered and the www and ftp servers are being set up. Check out the java-linux mailing list for details; decisions are happening fast.

Malcolm Beattie happened to mention the results of some NFS benchmarks he ran recently...

The latest news on a commercial version of Java for Linux were posted by Ean Schuessler (of Novare, Inc). He has spoken with JavaSoft and formed a plan that includes the creation of a collective to handle the interaction with JavaSoft and streamline operations.

Here is a copy of an initial proposal that he has sent to his first-line contact at JavaSoft.

Java Workshop 2.0 is now being distributed by S.u.S.E. A successful download and install has been reported. If you're interested, download it from S.u.S.E..

The java jdk 1.1.5 for redhat alpha/5.0 is ready for testing. Here is the related posting.

[Articles] All of our recent tips have been about StarOffice! We'll need to find some new topics or rename this column ...

Some people have had problems with StarOffice and libc-5.4.38 (recommended in the tips file on They've found that using libc-5.4.41 works better in some cases. Of course, others swear by libc-5.4.33. In either case, be sure to follow the directions so that the special libc is only used by StarOffice, to prevent problems with other applications.

Yet another StarOffice download site, this one is rumoured to be much, much faster.

An unofficial StarOffice 4.0 for Linux FAQ is now available.



Package Version Description
AD1815 driver ALPHA low level driver for ANALOG DEVICES AD1815 based sound cards
Casio Digital Diary 2.2 backup/restore CASIO BOSS/ILLUMINATOR data
C-Forge 1.0 Integrated Development Environment (commercial)
CDM0.11 CD writing software
cdparanoia prerelease Read audio CD's as data
DFKI Oz2.0 Oz (a high-level programming language) development tools
Edith Pro for X11 1.50 a windowing text editor
fetchmail4.3.7 mail retriever for POP and IMAP
locus 0.64 a fulltext database
LyX 0.12 GUI front end to LaTeX
march 0.1.01 Web-based mail archiver
Metro Link Motif 2.1 A glibc-compatible version of Metro Link Motif (commercial)
Mmucl1.0 Mark's MUD client (tcl/tk)
Motif for Alpha 2.1 Commercial version of Motif for the Alpha Linux platform
MultiMail0.8 MultiMail Blue Wave & QWK packet reader
nosql0.8 a simple Relational Database Management System
ObjectManualn/a "javadoc" like Documentation Generator For C++
Pathmakern/a simple packaging system (new)
syslinux 1.32 Floppy boot loader
Telnet98 updated telnet source distribution
Threads++0.3 OO C++ threads library for POSIX threads
xabn/a Bug-fix release of the X11 based address book
XFCE 1.2.5 a free X toolbar
xfpovray1.3 An X interface for POV-Ray raytracer


Ldescent, a project for porting descent to Linux, has working code available. Here is the home page for the project. A mailing list is available.

Comanche stands for COnfiguration MANager for apaCHE, a front end for the Apache Configuration Server Project. It will provide a GUI interface for Apache configuration.

The Linux/Microcontroller Project supports the port of Linux to 68000 processors without Memory Management Units. Embedded systems currently supported include the 3Com PalmPilot or IBM Workpad with a TRG SuperPilot memory card, with the Motorola MC68332 microcontroller expected soon.

The results of David Mathog's Operating system survey are now available. Here's his announcement.

An attempt is underway to write a manual for Real-time Linux. See the announcement if you would like to participate.

Project PEAL: Project to Equip Astronauts with Linux, is looking for people to help port the applications used by astronauts to Linux, so each astronaut has a choice of operating systems.


The EFNet #Linux Channel is an IRC channel for the "discussion and advocacy" of the Linux operating system. From this announcement , it appears to be particularly geared towards getting help for Linux problems and getting it quickly.

For those souls using AOL (America On-Line) for their Internet connection, note that they have now opened up a Linux forum.

A new ftp site has been unveiled in the UK. will hopefully eventually be a comprehensive collection point for the latest and greatest versions of "cool" software related to Linux mirror. Faster tranfer rates for the UK and Europe ...

For those who like to know what to expect in advance, the Linux Journal has announced the table of contents for their April Issue.

InfoMagic Linux(R) Developer's Resource, a 6-CD Set, was made available in January, 1998.

The latest version of the Linux FAQ was posted to comp.os.linux.announce.

The Caldera Open Linux Standard CD is on sale for $99.95 for a limited time.


A great 'computerfair', 'Microcomputerdagen', is being held in Antwerp, Belgium, Friday, February 20th through Sunday, February 22nd, 1998.

Web sites

Zinux is a French on-line magazine. A review of its intentions is dependent on this editor's grasp of French, but the plans include assisting those having difficulty with Linux documentation due to the standard language being English. It will be modeled on the Linux Gazette and therefore is soliciting articles.

New user groups

Jason Maggard is trying to start up a new Linux User's group in Richmond, VA. Here is his announcement; send him email if you want to help.

The Eustis Linux User Group (ELUG), serving Central Florida Linux enthusiasts, is having their first meeting and a free dinner on Friday, February 20th, 1998.

User Group Meetings

The next Sacaramento area Linux Users Group is February 19th, 1998.

The Victoria Linux Users Group Monthly Meeting will be held Tuesday, February 24, 1998, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

The February meeting of GLUG (Gauteng Linux Users Group Meeting) will be held Wednesday, the 25th of February, 1998, in Johannesburg, South-Africa.

The OSU (Ohio) Free Operating Systems Users Group are having a meeting, class and installation party all on the same day, Thursday, February 26th, 1998. Free CDs!

A joint meeting with NUUGs (the Norwegian Unix User Group), and DAF will take place in Oslo, Norway, on February 26th, 1998.

The Dusseldorf Linux User Group will meet on Thursday, the 26th of February, 1998.

The LUNICS [Linux, UN*X,Coherent,HpUX,AIX...] SIG {Special Interest group] of the ACGNJ [Amateur Computer of NJ] will meet on the FIRST MONDAY of the Month beginning in March 1998.

Mailing Lists

The Alge Mailing list, for general discussion around mainly Linux but also other unices, is now available. Here is the announcement.

These lists are not new, but for new Adabas D users, there are two known Adabas D lists:

Multilingual, with most postings in German:
     suse-adabasemail, content:
     subscribe suse-adabase

For the Germain-impaired:
    email, content:
    subscribe adabas-linux

Linux links of the week

The REAL indicator of what's the best operating system. The Operating System Sucks-Rules-O-Meter shows you graphically what people are saying about their operating systems. It's as scientific as many other polls we've seen...

How should one go about selling Linux?. This collection of suggestions and techniques - hosted by the same folks who do the "meter" site above - may well prove useful for those of us trying to "sell" Linux into new environments. There is some good stuff here.

This is hardly a new one, but the excellent Scientific Applications for Linux site certainly deserves a bit more publicity. Their interpretation of "scientific" is quite broad, and they list all software, free or commercial, with descriptions and (sometimes) screendumps.


Feedback and Corrections

Ola Garstad reported a problem following the link to Alan Cox' 2.0.34 patch. The problem has been corrected. Here is the correct URL:
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