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 March 5, 1998

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

Other stuff:
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Leading items

This has been another week full of good press for Linux. The full list of press coverage, as far as we've been able to find it, appears below. Check some of these out; Linux is on its way toward becoming a household term. One of the references is worth calling out specially, however.

Remember Mark Tebbe, who wrote the very negative Infoworld column about Netscape's open source decision? That column included the reference to Linux as a "renegade OS". Well, it seems that many of the renegades were proud of it, and managed to convey coherently to Tebbe that Linux deserved a bit more respect.

So now he seems to have come to a more favorable opinion about Linux. It has become a renegade, but respected OS, and he says "I suggest that you take a serious look at Linux for your corporate infrastructure if you aren't using it already." This is a big turnaround, and worth supporting.

What's more, he's interested in hearing from folks who use Linux in a business environment. I would like to suggest that those of you who have something interesting to say about business use of Linux drop him a note. Getting some good information to him could well result in more positive press in the future.

Time for our weekly dose of Eric S. Raymond. His "Open Economics" paper, discussed in last week's issue, has been moved to the website and split into a number of (expanded) pieces. There are now separate "cases" for open source, aimed at techies, businesspeople, and software buyers . The open source folks seem to be getting more organized, which is good.

One thing, though: originally their web page predicted a "major open source announcement" from a big Silicon Valley firm in the near future. That announcement doesn't seem to have happened, and the prediction has been removed. Did somebody maybe get cold feet? We'll probably never know any more about what happened, if anything, which is unfortunate; failures usually teach more than successes.

Want some hard numbers about the use of free software? Here are the results of a random query of 10,000 server Websites. These figures back up the claims that Apache has by far the largest portion of the Web server market.

Quote from Learning Tree's (large IT company) latest list of courses, where "Introduction to Linux" has just been added:

"Linux has grown into a full-featured, robust UNIX operating system with a wealth of associated free software. The quality of Linux software has improved dramatically, making it a low-cost, reliable, supported computing platform appropriate for a business environment."
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Linux in the news

A ComputingNet article entitled Analysis: Software in free fall describes the free software idea, using Apache and Linux as examples.

The Netly News surveyed some Hollywood special effects houses to see what sorts of systems they were running. Among those surveyed was Digital Domain, the folks who used Alpha Linux systems to do the Titanic. "...Linux has performed very well for us".

Also in Netly is a piece from Declan McCullagh at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference, discussing Richard Stallman, Internet culture, and, yes, a passing reference to Linux. What's more, it was Stallman recommending Linux...and not "GNU/Linux", not Hurd. One wonders if something got lost in the reporting.

In Performance Computing (the magazine formerly known as "Unix Review") is a review of the KDE desktop. There is also a brief mention of linux in their "Unix Riot" column, talking about Internet Explorer for Unix and Caldara's NetWare server plans.

32BitsOnline offers lengthy article on why hardware vendors should sell pre-installed Linux systems. They have a reasonable discussion of the pros and cons of selling Linux systems, but they completely ignore the growing list of fine vendors who already sell such systems.

Piles of PC's beat supercomputers. The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that an increasing number of Universities are putting together Beowulf clusters for their high-end computing needs instead of buying supercomputers.

Redhat 5.0 gets a positive review in ZDNet UK.

Linus's plans for world domination are exposed in this San Francisco Chronicle Column. "Go, tell these software socialists to take their radical notions of cooperative development and free code back to Europe. Americans demand the right to pay for programs that dominate markets and make entrepreneurs filthy rich." It's actually a pretty amusing column.

Do you do business on the Internet? Then you may owe money to Open Market. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued three patents to Open Market, covering much of the software in common use today for Internet shopping and credit card payments. Here is the full text of an article posted March 3rd. Hopefully the courts will squash much of these patents because they are so broad and because there are definitely examples of much of this type of software in the public domain. Meanwhile, Open Market's stock has gone rapidly up ...

The Pentagon hackers ran Linux? It's just a passing mention in this Washington Post article, but we thought we would throw it in.

A couple of SuSE releases show up in this Top Ten software list in Germany.

[Security] Here's a posting on how to use updatedb to overwrite any file on the system -- not with information of your choice, but with /bin/sort information that updatedb generates and use. Here's a patch for sort to resolve the problem.

In the continuing saga of setuid programs that have abusable symlinks, x11amp can also be abused. Reports from the x11amp staff are that this has now been fixed.

Some versions of the info2www CGI blindly open files.

[Kernel] What would be on your shopping list for a new file system?. A discussion has been going for a while on new or extended file systems, starting with the desire for a "64-bit clean" VFS. Some folks are clamoring for the ability to have >2GB files... Beyond that, there is talk of B-tree directory files, run-length encoded block lists (saves on indirect blocks), access control lists, defragmentation while the file system is live, 32-bit UID's, and so on.

Some asked when you decide that so many new features are going in that it's just better to create an ext3fs. Seemingly, that should not be necessary any time soon. Ext2fs has a mechanism for dealing with the incorporation of new features in a backward-compatible way; see Stephen Tweedie's description to learn a bit more about how this works. But, as was pointed out by Ted Ts'o and others, even though ext2fs can handle new features, it's still not easy to actually implement them. In the words of Albert Calahan: "It takes guts to do serious filesystem hacking".

Ted Ts'o is asking people who want B-tree directories to pull some info from their systems for him. There may be ways of improving directory performance that don't require such large-scale hacking. If you think directory lookups are too slow, please send the info he requests.

The GGI debate continues, with no signs of resolution any time soon. Concern surfaced in some new areas this week:

  • The "EvStack" subsystem, which is used to allow filters to be placed between devices (i.e. keyboards) and upstream processing. This sounds an awful lot like "streams" to a lot of folks. Since streams are not a suitable topic for polite Linux company, this is clearly an unfortunate association. The GGI folks claim there is no resemblance.

  • GGI makes changes to the keyboard driver. Some people think that a video project should not be messing with the keyboard; notably, Linus is one of them.
Meanwhile Geert Uytterhoeven is pushing his abstract console subsystem as a simpler alternative.

Who does faster thread creation: Linux or NT?. Gregory Travis set out to produce an answer to this question, and came up with these benchmarks. The winner wasn't NT...

Some users are reporting lockups on 2.0.33 SMP systems, typically associated with certain ethernet cards. An effort is underway to track this one down, but no results as yet. 2.1 kernels do not seem to behave this way, for what it's worth.

There has also been a discussion of intermittent hangs on 2.0.3* systems under heavy load. One disgruntled user posted a serious complaint about the problem, and the perceived lack of interest in fixing problems with the 2.0 kernels. Alan Cox responded with a set of debugging patches; get the tarfile here if you want to apply them. People with troubles who want them fixed should really make the effort to run with Alan's patches; otherwise don't complain when the problems don't get fixed.

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.


As expected, Caldera heard their users loud and clear. An upgrade price for current Caldera users is available through May 1, 1998 at $99.00. This includes annual maintenance for one year, quarterly CD's, etc.

No reports on installation of COL 1.2 have been posted yet, but we are watching. Check back next week.


Apparently Debian expects to have a proposal in hand this weekend from a commercial company to coordinate the worldwide support of this distribution.

Here is the current list of bugs that must be fixed before Debian 2.0 is released. There appear to be approximately 92 left.

Marketing invades the Linux World! Not really, but for a small start, here are the details of the design contest for a retail version of Debian...

Marketing got involved also in the "Deity" name change issue, which continues to dominate the airwaves in the Debian group. No final decision on a new name. This must be one of those weeks for flame wars.

Red Hat

RH5.0 + JDK1.1.5 + JFC1.0.1 WORKS! Here is a report from one user who, with help from the net, has gotten it all working together. A brief synopsis of his install steps is included.


There is a bug in the S.u.S.E. init scripts for setting up an NIS server. Bodo Bauer posted a workaround.


In response to rumours that Intel was going to require that an operating system have a license to run on the Merced, this posting says that it is Intel's code generator that will be licensed. If he is correct, though, the Merced is going to be a genuine nightmare on which to generate code, so Intel's code generator may be a stumbling block for the free software community.


Jakub Jelinek released a prtconf utility for SparcLinux and UltraLinux, which prints out the PROM setup. See his announcement for details. He is looking to put together a set of prtconf outputs for the range of Sparc systems as well.

Here is the announcement of the pre-release of boot floppies for Debian on SPARC. Also posted was a summary of developments still needed for the SPARC port.

[Software Development] VNC was listed in our software announcements last week. This desktop-alternative project had one java-linux user saying it "blew his mind". Walk up to a Mac or a NT machine, type in a URL and use your X Windows desktop...

One user reported that problems with AWT applications and the New JDK 1.1.5v3 for glibc mostly cleared up after he downloaded a current snapshot-version of LessTifand compiled a Run with the dynamic java version, AWT worked, most of the demo applets worked, even Swing version 0.7!

To bring Internet Explorer 4.0 to Unix, Microsoft relied on the talents of known Linux hackers. To quote: "There are definitely a lot of people here who use Linux," Chapman says flatly. "It's used for compatibility testing, and of course it's the best way to approach UNIX-based solutions and problems." Microsoft's marketing message is a bit ugly in here, so make sure your stomach is ready.

Swing 1.0 is out!

For the "brave, foolhardy, or both", here is the announcement of the lightly-tested latest version of JDK 1.1.5 V5.

[Articles] For people investigating Digital Cameras, the proprietary KDC file format used in the DC120 is described here.

This weeks's StarOffice tips:

Since many people find it slightly insane that StarOffice installs 11MB per user for multi-user installs, there are alternate scripts that will use symlinks to the shared directory install instead of simply copying the files.



Package Version Description
binutils based on the binutils 980303 snapshot plus Linux/ARM support
BurnIT 0.1 a graphical front-end to cdrecord and mkisofs
delfin 1998.2 Realtime sampler project, originally intended for breakbeat, electronic music.
DICT 1.0 client/server dictionary database software
Ding! n/a Java real-time collaboration tool
DUMB 0.10 GPLed Doom engine
euracom 1.1.3 Logging and evaluation tool for 'Euracom' ISDN PBX
Fortify for Netscape 1.2.1 worldwide 128-bit encryption for Netscape users
HP Eloquence A.06.01 an integrated environment for development and execution of commercial applications (commercial)
ip_count n/a analyze nacctd output or other accounting data
kdrill n/a java version of "kdrill" (kanji quiz program)
Motif 2.1 Red Hat's version of Motif 2.1 (commercial)
MultiMail 0.9 Blue Wave & QWK packet reader for Unix
SYSLINUX 1.33 boot loader
tomsrtbt root/boot emergency rescue fix floppy image
Workplace 1.0.a1 a filemanager which use gtk
XploRe n/a an interactive statistical computing environment


Stephane Fermigier and Jean Pierre Laisne are studying the impact of free software on the industry and the enterprise. Here is their "Linux Enterprise Questionnaire" (French/English) if you want to help them out.

Roy Stogner needs your Linux links for the Linux Web Map, . Stop by and share a page or two!

The Linux Counter's report for February still shows less than 60,000 Linux users! If you haven't registered yet, step up and be known!

Balazs Scheidler is looking for co-developers for his new ftp server.

A common effort has been started to create an Open Audio Library (OpenAl).

Tim Norman has created a piece of software that will allow you to print postscript files to HP PPA printers. It is useable, but in alpha test. He is looking for people willing to test, research and help develop this product.

Rumour has it that Maxspeed will have Linux drivers for their thinclient solutions for attaching multiple users to a server. One user called these a maintenance-free option to PCs. SEUL SEUL has been torn recently by resignations. Much bandwidth has been spent trying to prove either that SEUL is dead or that SEUL is very much alive. We see some work advancing in the documentation arena, but dissatisfaction is certainly high.


Genesis Linux Systems has released their CD with their GPL Release of Red Hat Linux 5.0.

LinuxFocus, a free on-line magazine, has released their March issue. It has articles on X-Windows, OpenGL and more, plus an interview with Linux Torvalds.


The 12th USENIX SYSADMIN CONFERENCE (LISA'98) has released their Call for Paper's.

The 23rd Annual USENIX Technical Conference will be held June 15-19, 1998, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Web sites

The March (mail archive management utility) homepage has moved. The new site is

A new page, describing BackSpace and Delete Configuration for VT, xterm, X, bash, tcsh, less, netscape, joe, nedit and more, is now available at

Linux Journalists International is is a meeting point for journalists who use Linux as a tool to do their jobs or simply write about Linux and Linux related software.

User group Meetings

The Manchester Linux User Group will meet next on Saturday, March 21st, 1998.

The next meeting of the West Yorkshire Linux Users Group (WYLUG) will be held on Monday, the 9th of March, 1998.

The Cowichan Valley Linux User Group (COWLUG), serving the Duncan and surrounding area on Vancouver Island meets next on Tuesday, 10 March 1998.

There will be a "Free Unix Rally" in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 5th, 1998. This is during a Microsoft presentation, so bring a cheerful attitude and a thick skin ...

The Puget Sound Linux User Group (PSLUG) is offering a Linux installation workshop to be in Kirkland, WA on the first Saturday of March.


Linux links of the week

Linas Vepstas maintains the Linux Enterprise Computing page. Herein you'll find no end of stuff relating to the use of Linux in business situations. There are a lot of tools available, even if a lot of them aren't in the state that one would like. This is a crucial area if the World Domination goals are to be met on schedule; Linas has done an outstanding job of pulling together a lot of the necessary pieces to address this area.

Feedback and Corrections

Several incorrect or broken links were reported in the last issue. All of them have been corrected, so if you reload that issue, you should be able to reach them all.

Christopher B. Brown wrote to point out that Gno Money was not the only "Quicken clone" in progress. His posting includes a fairly exhaustive list. He adds that it is too bad to have ten different programs all designed for managing peoples' chequebooks. Perhaps some of these authors can join together and end up with more resources for adding some interoperability or some investment portfolio management capabilities?

We've also been corrected, not on our knowledge of French (which we knew was limited), but on our memory of the correct meaning of "GPL". From the text of the copyleft,, we find GPL defined as the "General Public License", (referred to as the GNU General Public License) and therefore "licence publique ge'ne'rale" is the correct translation.

And we're told the Linux Java Server bug is now in the top five. Expect to see it number one in no time ...

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