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 19, 1998

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

Other stuff:
The LWN Archives
Our Linux links page

Leading items

Bruce Perens (major leader in the Debian distribution and President of SPI) will be speaking about free software at the University of Chicago's "The Challenge of Modern Democracy" conference, on April 10. The talk will be covered by C-SPAN. He joins a list of other illustrious speakers, such as Bernard Shaw of CNN, Canada's former prime minister, former Haiti President Aristide and more.

Unfortunately, it is true that Bruce Perens is resigning from the Debian effort. The timing and reasons are unfortunate, seeming to come as a result of a flame war in debian-devel. He will remain as president of SPI and will be redirecting SPI's mission to be for all free software.

Eric Allman is creating a commercial corporation to support sendmail. It appears that future versions of sendmail will remain free, but that has not been explicitly stated. The new web site has some info, including the new 8.9 release. They even already have commercial vaporware in the form of "sendmail 8.9Pro". Cynicism aside, this venture marks another attempt to make money from free software, and we wish them luck.

The morale in comp.unix.solaris is very bad. Seems many of them already feel like Unix has lost to NT. When people talk about projects or software they *are* confident about, they mention KDE, StarOffice or gimp. Compare that to the energy in the Linux newsgroups, which is very high!

Alas, the GIMP 1.0 release has been delayed. Hopefully not for too long. It's better if they take the time to get it right, though. Watch the GIMP news site for more information as it becomes available.

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Linux in the news

"You can buck the system, but there's a price to pay" according to this story in the LA times. "I doubt if Linux or BeOS will ever become commonplace, but they do represent alternatives."

HotWired ran an article on the upcoming GIMP 1.0 release. This nice bit of software is finally getting some well-deserved attention. "My desktop computer runs Linux so I don't have to kick someone off the Mac to do graphics now... In fact, I've got people kicking me off my computer to use GIMP."

TechWeb News discusses Free Software's Quiet Influence. Linux features prominently as a free software success story.

A long series of articles in WebReview discusses Netscape, free software, etc.

Fortune also talks about Netscape and the free software model. "Robust examples of such 'freeware' include Linux, an industrial-strength version of Unix for PCs".

Who is interested in Merced? According to PCWeek, it's PC Unix users who will be the first to get into it, including Linux folks.

The New York Times talked about Eric's plans to improve sendmail's anti-spam capabilities. They describe features in sendmail 8.9, including checks against the Realtime Blackhole List. (Use "cypherpunks" for ID and password if need be to get past the registration screen).

For our francophone readers, Liberation ran a lengthy article on Linus, "L'anti-Bill Gates". It starts with Linus's talk at the San Jose Linux user group meeting last week (described as a "curieux mélange d'étudiants, de cadres et de vieux hippies"), and wanders into some of the issues of free software in general.

[Security] A new mailing list is available, InfoSec News, which will cater to distribution of information security news articles from newspapers, magazines, online resources, and more.

The discussion of how or whether to "fix" /tmp goes on. In the midst of it, we found a good example of how what looks like proper programming practice can still leave you vulnerable to a race condition, for those who are wondering what all the fuss is about ...

Michal Zalewski wrote a /tmp event logger which can be used to help possible vulnerabilites. He then posted a list of scripts found in /usr/bin that allow /tmp/ races.

We also found a posting on some games with overflow problems and a problem with lincity.

We'll try to keep the listing of such programs shorter and shorter as there are more and more of them ... Add bash-2.01.1 and lynx and magicfilter to the list of programs with /tmp symlink/race problems...

On the network front, Secure Networks Inc. has posted an advisory about the Access Router, which is vulernable to denial-of-service attacks and theft of information. Exploitation scripts have been posted to bugtraq. The filter Ascend provides only handles IP traffic. A filter that can handle non-IP traffic has also been provided.

[Kernel] The current development kernel release is 2.1.90. Initial reports are mixed, with some people happy and others complaining about crashes and compilation problems. TCP wrinkles are still being ironed out, but the worst of the problems seem to have been solved. The replacement of kerneld with kmod has brought out a few areas in which kmod isn't quite ready for prime time; in particular, loadable modules which load other modules as part of their own load process create difficulties. Kmod also fails with initial ramdisks in some cases. There has also been one post claiming that memory management problems (swap thrashing) continue in this release.

David Miller says that more TCP improvements are coming soon, presumably in 2.1.91.

It was asked whether it is safe now to compile kernels with gcc 2.8.1. Responses went both ways, with some saying that all was great, and others complaining about problems, especially with sockets and X. Your editor suggests that avoidance is probably still in order, unless you're really curious.

David Mentré has put together the beginnings of a FAQ for symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) users.

Regis Duchesne wants to replace the kernel configuration system with something that works better. Check out his announcement if you're interested.

As we mentioned last week, the old callout tty devices (/dev/cua*) will go away before 2.4. One of the 2.1.90 pre-patches put in a warning to that effect, issued whenever a program access a callout device. Predictably, people have started asking (and complaining) about this warning. Recommended reading for people interested at this point would be Ted Ts'o's description of why the change is being made, and how to cope with it.

A long and painful flame war has been raging in comp.os.linux.development.system regarding Linux file system safety. The ext2 file system does not take pains to write out the "metadata" (directory structure, block allocations, etc.) in such a way as to keep it always consistent; instead, ext2fs concentrates more on performance. Some people think that is negligent, that the ability of Linux to survive crashes without losing data is compromised in this way. A certain OpenBSD advocate has been quite clear on this point, as well as on his opinion of the skills, education, and hygene of Linux folks in general.

Linux people respond that perfect metadata is not particularly helpful if it points to inconsistent data. If anything, it may be better to lose the metadata in a crash (which can (hopefully!) be repaired with fsck), rather than lose the data itself, which can not be repaired. The reality of the situation seems to be that ext2 has proved itself to be quite solid; the whole debate risks missing that point.

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 has chosen BRU as a backup utility to ship with its new Caldera OpenLinux 1.2 product line.


Well, it is official! Debian 2.0 is in code freeze! The announcement also mentions Debian's new user-maintained FAQ system and the replacement for dselect.

For those interested in the nuts and bolts, a list of packages that have been removed from Debian until and unless all critical, grave, or important bugs registered against them has been posted. As you might guess, the actual removal of packages caused quite a bit of pain and agony. That should pass and more and more fixed packages will be uploaded.

Bruce Perens will be speaking about free software at the University of Chicago's "The Challenge of Modern Democracy" conference, on April 10. He joins a list of other illustrious speakers, including former Haiti President Aristide.

Thanks to Novare International, the failed CPU board on "master" was quickly replaced and debian also has a new machine for its listserver.

Red Hat

Red Hat has announced a Software Vendor Distribution Program. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can have demo, "lite" or "full-fledged" versions of their products shipped with the Red Hat distribution.


One S.u.S.E. user recently upgraded his SuSE Xserver to XFree86 3.2.2 using YaST. He is very happy with the result and recommends the upgrade highly.

Word on the streets is that 5.2 may start shipping from Oakland as early as mid-April. The masters are currently being burned ...

YaST has an undocumented feature that allows installations of RPMs via ftp.



The folks at Alpha Central have put up a roadmap of Samsung's Alpha production plans. The new Alphas should start shipping in June.


An ongoing FAQ for the Sparc port has to do with how well it works on sun4c systems. Problem reports are common. If, however, your goal is simply to turn your aging Suns into X terminals, you may want to check out SLXT - the SparcLinux X Terminal Package. It's a simple, easy to install package that can keep those old IPC's and Sparc 1's in business for a while yet.

Meanwhile some Sparc users are reporting that the 2.1.89 kernel works far better than just about any that came before. Folks are happy with the performance of it. The one big complaint seems to be that SunOS emulation is not working in this particular version. For those who can not get the source from the vger CVS repository, James Moody has put together a tarball that can be obtained by FTP from It also seems to be mirrored here.


One suggestion for getting around the problem of availability for Intel's code generator for the Merced chip is to write a savvy little p-code interpreter for it. Larry Smith believes a system could be produced that was every bit as fast as a native code version despite the overhead.

Of course, not everyone is concerned about the difficulty of writing a new backend for the Merced ...

On another front, ymmv ran an article claiming that Merced information will only be released under non-disclosure agreements, which, of course, makes it useless for systems like Linux. How this mixes with rumors that Intel is already porting gcc to Merced is unclear.


If you're interested in some of the development history of the Cobalt-Micro and its use of Linux on the MIPS chip, check out a recent posting by Ralf, the guy who "did most of the MIPS stuff". He mentions that the MIPS port is still missing required floating point support in the kernel and none of the feature or performance enhancements or the support for the Cobalt hardware have been merged back into Linus' sources.
[Software Development]


The Java-Linux web site is up, with a few rough edges. Work will begin soon on the ftp mirrors. The address is

The Java Lobby is asking developers the question "Does Linux Need Official JDK from Sun?" Stop by and give them your feedback. Sun needs to start seeing the Linux community as a possible ally in their battles with Microsoft...

The build of jdk 1.1.5v5 is being done on systems using the 5.4.xx revision libc. Therefore, if you're having problems using it, you may want to upgrade your libc and see if that helps.

If the libc version does turn out to be the main source of the crashes and other problems seen with jdk, there will be a growing demand for a statically linked version. This appears to be a general difficulty with software distributed without source code. Another possible solution suggested, though it has not met with much approval so far, would be to distribute the object code and allow users to do the linking.

TYA 0.5 has been announced! This is a ``100% unofficial'' JIT-compiler.

Sun's latest JDC Tech Tips and JDC Bulletin have been released. Possibly of very high interest in the bulletin is the availability of $50 million dollars in development funds from Novell for leading-edge companies that are developing Java software for network servers.


Version 1.1 of the "NumPy" numerical extension to Python has been released.

High Availability

Alan Robertson has made available some of his ruminations on Linux-ha and heartbeat. He then coded up his heartbeat proposals and is currently seeking permission from his company to release them under the GPL. Let's hope he does, since we hate to see any advances in high-availability for Linux lost ...
[Articles] A new man page, setuid.7, has been written, which runs over considerations for writing setuid programs. Hopefully this will make it into the Linux Documentation Project.

Linux Administration Made Easy is a new site that attempts to describe day-to-day administration and maintenance issues commonly faced by Linux system administrators.

Linux Undercover, the packaging of the Linux Documentation Project's output, was edited by Eric S. Raymond, the author of the famous "Cathedral and the Bazaar" paper. Buy it to use and to support the LDP!



Package Version Description
AutoRPM 1.5 RPM manager
binutils Latest non-beta release of binutils
dosdoom 0.61 an enhanced version of doom based on the source code released by id software
egcs 1.0.2 Enhanced GNU compilers
GIMP 0.99.21Image manipulation program
GNUStep 0.5 Free openstep implementation
ImageMagick 4.0.3 Great image manipulation system
IndexMaker 5.2 an index.html maker from PDF,HTML,VRML, etc.
LessTif 0.83 a freely available Motif clone
libtool 1.1 Machine-independent shared library creation 1.2.1 Replacement for xdm
Mayko Xmap beta5 display digitized maps
moonlight 0.4.2 3D modeling environment
PDF library 1.05 a proposed library for accessing the information contained inside a PDF file.
PGPHTML 3.0 a perl script to make PGP signed web-pages
prfm 0.2.0 Piett's remote file manager
Wine 980315 Windows emulator
Zen n/a A Linux BASIC interpreter


There is some effort starting on linux-admin to create a website for the mailing list that would provide archive space, thread summaries and more. They are looking for similar, existing resources to coordinate and prevent duplication of effort, so if you are doing something similar or know of something similar, post and let them know!

For those of you that love to fill out surveys, here is another on the benefits of free/open-source software.

WANTED! Someone to take over the XFree86 Xbench survey.

If you are interested in developing a Btrieve Server Engine for Linux that would be compatible with the Btrieve server engine that runs on NetWare 3.X, contact Bob Smallwood.


Neil Zanella posted a Brief Linux FAQ on comp.os.linux.misc. Start your reading here before you post and you will receive many blessings ...



The 15th International Conference and Exposition on TESTING COMPUTER SOFTWARE will have a theme this year of Testing Under Pressure. It will take place June 8-12, 1998 in Washington, D.C.

Mailing Lists

AutoRPM now has its own mailing lists, discussed in the AutoRPM 1.3.2 announcement.

Linux links of the week

Linux tends not to appear on their radar, but NTKnow is a worthwhile read for folks interested in technical and related political issues anyway. The information can be good, and the humor can be outstanding.

An interesting feature that has been in 2.1 for a while that you may want to check out: the Coda filesystem. It's a network-distributed file system, an alternative to NFS, which has some nice features for performance, security, reliability, and flexibility in the networked environment.


Feedback and Corrections

A couple of people wrote in to explain the term "EDA", used in an EETimes article we mentioned last week. They provided the encyclopedia definition from techweb:
(Electronic Design Automation) Using the computer to design and simulate the performance of electronic circuits on a chip.

Some folks found a dead link to the USA Today article "Is Windows Forever?" We know it worked once, but they moved things around on us. Now this link will get you there...hope it stays constant for a while.

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