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 April 2, 1998

Linux articles
Kernel news
Software Development
Free/Open-Source Software
Links of the week
Feedback and corrections

Other stuff:
The LWN Archives
--Now with Search capabilities
Our Linux links page
And our Linux Events Calendar

Leading items

Alan Cox is joining Red Hat! He announced this fact in a brief posting on Freshmeat. Alan is, of course, the driving force behind a number of small tweaks to Linux, such as TCP/IP networking, symmetric multiprocessing, and lots of other cool stuff. Red Hat is doing us all a favor (and themselves too) by hiring him to do Linux stuff full time.

Things must be going reasonably well at Red Hat in general...they have been doing a fair amount of recruiting recently.

Mozilla is released, but the whole world knew that already. If you are looking to download your own copy, please look at the list of mirror sites and pick a good one. Meanwhile, Elliot Lee seems to have won the race to be the first to provide RPM's for the new browser.

We've been playing with Mozilla just a little bit here at LWN; it seems to work pretty much as expected, with a few small glitches. It feels somehow faster, but that's hard to quantify. The weirdest thing that jumps out right away is that the underlines on some links show as overlines instead...

In keeping with rumours that Intel does take the Linux market seriously, Jose Marin pointed out to us that four Intel scientists working on the Intel ASCI Option Red Supercomputer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have produced versions of the BLAS, LAPACK, and FFT (and related DSP ops) which are assembler-tuned and highly optimized for the Intel platform. Intel has been supporting these libraries for some time, but until now, only for Windows.

Intel is still keeping the sources for the libraries secret, so only binaries are provided. If you are interested in supporting truly free projects, check out Manuel Kessler's GPL effort. Or better yet, if assembly is your thing, offer him a hand!

Xavier Hienne sent us a good list of embedded products that have chosen Linux as their embedded OS, due to cost, performance and reliability.

Per your many requests, we've added search capabilities to our archives page. Thanks, also, to the htdig authors for their very nice tool! Let us know what you think, especially if you have any problems using it.

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Linux in the news

Linux makes The Economist, briefly. This article is concerned with the Netscape source release, but mentions Linux as an example of how it can work. "No wonder Jim Barksdale, Netscape's chief executive, hopes that other companies will emulate him. 'Why not', he asks hopefully, 'make Windows a copylefted software?'".

Nicolas Petreley discusses the famous NT "blue screen of death" in his InfoWorld column, refusing to accept that it is caused by hardware problems. How does he know? Linux works in the same situations that cause NT to croak.

Also in InfoWorld: an interesting article on the politics of server operating systems. Very pro-Linux, but he goes on to say that few people will dare to bring it into a corporate environment because it lacks NT's suit-and-tie appearance. Hey, penguins have a natural tuxedo...

Cnet put up a series on "how to defenestrate your PC" which includes a survey of a number of "alternative" operating systems. Linux, of course, is among them. Cnet even announced the article on comp.os.linux.misc; seems they've learned how to increase their hit rates ...

Linus is one of Inter@ctive Week's "25 unsung heroes of the net".

ComputerWorld has discovered Something for nothing on the net. "freeware does provide perhaps the last line of defense against Bill Gates' potentially unbridled power. After all, the Web programming community collectively has far more resources than even Microsoft and is largely immune to pricing, bundling and tie-in sales pressure. ".

International Data Corporation has come out with a white paper entitled "Linux: What is it, Where is it, and Why?". It must be an interesting document, but it's hard to say for sure, since they want $1,500 to let you past the table of contents... The most interesting part, perhaps, is that they think people will be willing to pay that kind of money to see a report on Linux.

TechWeb News covers Corel's plans for a Linux-based network computer.

A number of other pieces came out as a result of the Netscape source release. Some of those include columns by Barksdale and Andreessen of Netscape; one in TechWeb News (which calls Eric Raymond a "co-creater" of Linux); this one in PC Week; and not one but two in Wired News.

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[Security] As a direct result of Netscape's release of their Communicator 5.0 source code, a grassroots coalition has formed in Australia to create a cross-platform Web browser by adding the full-strength cryptography provided by SSLeay, a free implementation of Netscape's Secure Socket Layer. By developing the crypto support in Australia, without US technical support, the alliance neatly bypasses US Commerce Department regulations barring the export of most strong encryption technologies ...

Adam Borowski found that doing strange things to floppies under Linux, can kill your current session or hang the entirecomputer.

The /tmp race problems of this week include the "savetextmode" command (a script typically run by root), Apache 1.13, svgalib and kbd (fixed RPMs available), and majordomo.

Note that the /tmp race reports have caused a new problem: they are so easy to find that people are reporting them to the security lists without notifying the author(s) as well. Please do copy bug reports directly to the makers/maintainers; that can allow them to get out a fix as quickly as possible ...

A website that relies heavily on mSQL or MySQL can be severely disrupted very easily. This has been confirmed under Slackware, as well as other non-Linux systems. This has been fixed in MySQL 3.21.27. Hopefully a patch for mSQL will be available soon as well.

Configuration errors can also cause some other problems with MySQL. As a result, the authors will be added a security section to their manul.

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[Kernel] The current development kernel release is 2.1.92. Linus actually sent out an announcement for this one; it includes Alpha stuff, more networking fixes, and, perhaps most needed, memory management fixes. This kernel might actually be usable. It also has a getcwd() system call.

With this release, Linus has declared a feature freeze. Thus, no new goodies should be going into the kernel before the 2.2 release; only bug fixes from now on. The kernel has been in a "slush" state for some time; this freeze is certainly about due. Maybe we'll have a 2.2 by summer, though, clearly, no dates have been announced.

Richard Gooch has put out a few releases of his devfs patch for the 2.1 kernels. Devfs allows for constant device names in the face of hardware changes; it's especially useful for SCSI devices. His current release as of this writing is version 23. Given the feature freeze, it's not clear whether this change will make it into the 2.2 kernel. It would be unfortunate if devfs got frozen out; it's a useful feature for people who run larger SCSI-based systems who get tired of all their disk names changing every time they add a drive.

A web site has been set up for the real-time Linux manual project. Here's their announcement if you want to see how this project is coming along. One of the RTL folks has also put up a document on the use of shared memory in the real-time system. (The Real-Time Linux project has its home page here).

Meanwhile, in the 2.0 arena, Alan Cox has made the fourth 2.0.34 pre-patch available on his FTP site. There's still some stuff to be dealt with, so a pre-5 patch will be forthcoming.

Version 1.3.1 of the IP firewall chains implementation has been released. This is a reimplementation of the IP firewalling system with more flexibility and better performance. See their announcement for more info.

The GGI project has no interest in leaving Linux according to a number of GGI developers, some of whom wrote directly to us to express their views on this point. Some claim that all such talk was just a joke, though some of the discussion on their mailing list contradicts that slightly. Nonetheless, it appears that they plan to stick around.

It is true that they are getting pretty tired of all the discussion and controversy surrounding their project, with good reason. They do not feel that the GGI system is ready for inclusion into the Linux kernel, and do not appreciate people pushing that cause at this time. A plea was posted to their web site in an attempt to reduce flame wars regarding GGI.

Unfortunately for the GGI folks, a full-scale flame war has been running meanwhile in linux-kernel. A lot of the arguments this time seem to center around perceived problems with the X window system. Some claim that switching quickly between virtual consoles can cause system crashes when one is running X; others have never seen this problem. Others complain about security problems with X, or the simple size of X. Another talked about leaving the console in bad shape if you deliberately kill the X server, drawing one of the nastier rants from Linus that your editor has seen for a while. Some people think that GGI is a fix for the troubles with X; others disagree.

Another important point for some is performance with games; quite a few people seem to think that the goal of Linux World Domination will not occur unless Linux becomes a top-quality environment for the development and playing of games. They might just be right.

The whole discussion shows signs of very little understanding by many of the people involved. Anybody who is interested should wander over to the GGI project web site and inform themselves of what the GGI people are trying to do before jumping into the fray. But it would be even better to let said fray die out; the issue of whether KGI (the kernel part of GGI) should go into the kernel will not come up for real before 2.3 gets under way.

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.
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Bill Campbell has run into the following problems with Caldera 1.2:
  • The name of the program that sets the CMOS clock has changed from "clock" to "hwclock".
  • The format of the /etc/lpd.conf file has changed.
  • The ps command now complains about the use of the "-" character in argument lists.
  • The behaviour of the ``bc'' command has changed as well.


The release of AutoRPM has raised questions on debian-devel as to where plans are for providing a .deb equivalent. They appear to be a ways off, though the functionality has been discussed for eventual inclusion in Apt (formerly known as Deity).

"Slink", derived from "Slinky" in Toy Story, is the name of the new unstable Debian. So "Hamm" will become Debian 2.0 and "Slink" will presumably become the next version someday.

The installation manual for 2.0 is being worked on by Igor Grobman. He hopes to have a draft out by the end of the first week in April. If you want to speed that up, he asked for offers of help.

The latest version of the new Debian constitution is available. Ian Jackson also provided a summary of the changes.

If you're interested in the exact packages where the alpha release is behind the intel frozen hamm, the quinn diffs were posted recently.

Red Hat

The folks at Red Hat have announced a publicly available netnews server for their redhat.* hierarchy of newsgroups.

Red Hat has also put up a new web site at It's allegedly aimed at people developing on Red Hat systems, but seems to have a broader focus than that, including an "in the news" section, the beginnings of a web-based RPM repository, project lists, an online bug list (at last!), and a Freshmeat bar just like Slashdot have.


As the volume on suse-linux-e has grown, talk has developed of moving it or reflecting it to a newsgroup. Pros and cons are being thrown about, with no resolution as yet. Interesting that some people found mailing lists less reliable than newsgroups, with fewer lost messages; the experience of this editor has been slightly different.

S.u.S.E. will be at Comdex, April 20-23, 1998, and at the Linux Expo, May 28-30, 1998. They invite you to come and meet them in person!

Orders are now being taken for S.u.S.E. 5.2, still due to ship in mid-April.

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Digital is committed to continued development and production of Alpha chips, according to an article in TechWeb News. They are even optimistic about Alpha's future under Compaq, should the merger go through.

There has been a fair amount of grumping about Digital's Titanic publicity. Their releases (example) don't mention the fact that most of the Alpha boxes that did the Titanic rendering were running Linux. In our opinion, these complaints are a bit overstated. Of course Digital isn't going to say that their officially-supported operating systems weren't used. It would be surprising to expect that of any company, and Digital has never been the most enlightened on this score. Remember how they treated Unix in the 80's.

Nonetheless, this Digital page is slightly more forthcoming.

Need ssh for the alpha? Hugo van der Kooij has succeeded in compiling the latest version, and has put the result up for FTP.

As of this writing, nobody has managed to build Mozilla on the Alpha. A number of people are trying, all are running into problems.


James Moody has made available a 2.1.91 Sparc snapshot from the CVS repository. See his message if you want to snarf a copy.
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[Software Development]


John Mitchell posted a field report on some of the happenings at the JavaOne conference. It reports back from the Java-Linux BOF, covers several philosophical issues! and comes back to give a very good picture of the future of Java on Linux.

It also appears that the chance to meet people face to face has had a very salutary effect. For example, we note that Alex Chaffee has now met John Mitchell in person and, after playing pool with him, states categorically that he is not a Napoleonic megalomaniac ...

Several people on java-linux have downloaded and successfully run the JMark v2 benchmark, which ZDnet reported would not run under Linux. The speed, on the other hand, was not spectacular, but the tests were not run on the same hardware as ZDnet used.

There have been problems with the FTP mirrors at with the changeover. About half the sites have started picking up the site correctly as of Sunday, March 29th. Meanwhile, they are looking for someone to take on the job of organizing and maintaining the ftp site.

For those not on the mailing list, the latest JDC Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 8 from Sun has been released. It includes news from the JavaOne Conference, including a list of the software announcements from Sun: embeddedjava, javablend, javasafe, javaserverengine, etc.


Randal Schwarz has just announced the"Shell to Perl" translator. This is still in development stage, but it could be fun to see what you get ... send problem reports to Randal.

The announcements of perl modules are starting to compete with the list of Linux software! Here are some recent ones:


The Python CGI FAQ has been updated.
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[Free/Open-Source News]

Free/Open-Source Software News


From, the news came about changes to the status of the latest release the X-Window System software: As of this release, there is a fee associated with commercial use of the X Window System technology. We are unable to continue to support this technology without the participation of those companies who build business from re-selling this technology.

The XFree86 folks maintain that their distribution will remain free for the time being. It is hard to imagine that this is a good move on the "Open Group's" part. X became dominant as free software; for them to close it down means that they will be competing against the free versions that are out there, and relegated to the commercial Unix platforms only.


Some of the Netscape mail code in 5.0 used proprietary database "stuff". That portion has been removed from the source code. As a result, other Linux mail tools will have to be used until new code is provided.


Kevin Forge on the seul-dev-apps group mentioned the project underway to create a free QT Widgetset. It plans to cover the subsection of QT used by KDE. This project is known as Harmony. If you are a KDE fan (and there are many!), contributing to this sub-project is the most effective way to bring KDE to the forefront and stopping the "Troll" wars.


The GIMP is up to release 0.99.23 as of this week. There is still no new date for the 1.0 release; they are presumably taking their time until they get it right. The GIMP news page is the place to watch for developments on this front.
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[Articles] The Linux HOWTO Index has been updated, along with the Linux INFO-SHEET, which provides basic information about the Linux operating system, and the Linux META-FAQ, a list of valuable sources of information. Make yourself the most popular person on the newsgroups, and browse these sources of information before you post your next question!

If you are trying to use an HP Colorado 5Gb IDE ATAPI tape drive, you may want to check out recent posts by Dave Ihnat to redhat-devel-list. There are some serious problems with a recent patch for that tape drive that could result in unreported errors and therefore unreliable data.

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Package Version Description
amanda 2.4.0 Network automated backup system
Apache 1.2.6 the most widely-used Web server
BERT 77 1.05l Fortran "parallel conversion" tool
ImageMagick 4.0.4 Image manipulation/conversion system
IndexMaker 6.0 anindex.html maker from PDF,HTML,VRML and others
korganizer 0.9 Calendar/organizer for KDE
Samba 1.9.18p4 SMB file/printer server system
sendmail 8.9.0.Beta3 mail delivery system
vim 5.1b Tty/X11 text editor


The Aachen Linux User Group (ALUG) has set up a Linux Questionnaire. Originally intended only for local use, it is available to provide a standard way to report your Linux experience.


O'Reilly sent us a press release on their Linux Device Drivers book. If you write or need to learn how to write device drivers, you may want to check this one out. If you do, please forward your opinions to us! The book is for the 2.0 kernel. Things changed a somewhat in 2.1, but the book should still prove highly useful.


Check our Web Calendar for event details.

The following events have been added to the calendar:

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Linux links of the week

Michael Hammel has put together a very nice site at dedicated to graphics tools for Linux. If you do anything with graphics, you will probably learn something from a visit with the Muse.
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Feedback and Corrections

Several of you noticed last week that we reversed some column headings in our posting of the reader survey results, rather biasing the numbers against ourselves. Needless to say, we quickly fixed that one.

We also misspelled Eric Kidd's name; please accept our apologies for that one, Eric.

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