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 9, 1998

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

Other stuff:
LWN Archives
Linux links
Linux Events Calendar

Leading items

We ask your indulgence as we present the (by far) longest LWN yet. There has been a lot going on this week! Future issues will be shorter, our sleep depends on it...

All Things Considered, a premier news program on the United State's publicly funded Radio Station, National Public Radio (NPR), broadcast a report on Linux, Wednesday, April 8th. The program spotlighted Linus Torvalds and the work he's done. It also touched on the Beowulf clusters at NASA and spoke with Richard Stallman. Overall, the piece was very positive and as technically correct as any newspiece trying to explain Linux to a mass audience is likely to be. Although it did indicate that Linux was primarily for highly technical people, it said, "for now", foreshadowing a day when they will be able to report otherwise.

NPR has put the Linux segment online in real audio format. (The index page for April 8 has a brief description of the program as well).

Many leaders of the free software movement met on April 7th at a free software summit sponsored by O'Reilly. Participants included Linus Torvalds, Eric Allman, Phil Zimmerman, Guido Van Rossum, Paul Vixie, and others. The first word on the results seems to have appeared in InfoWorld, and in an email note that was broadly circulated, but with little detail. Evidently the group will meet again on the 14th.

The absence of Richard Stallman from the summit has not gone unnoticed in many quarters. Stallman mentioned O'Reilly in particular at a recent FRUUG meeting, reminding people that their books are not "free", as in you cannot copy pieces of them and give them to your friends. His point was that the free software community needs to also produce free documentation.

Overall, though, the number of great contributors to free software is a very long list and no workable summit could easily hold them all.

The European Space Agency, ESA, is promoting the use of free development tools - GCC and GNAT - for its own projects based on spacecraft microprocessors. The long duration of space projects requires that compiler systems be stable and that they be supported for ten years or more to guarantee post-launch maintenance of flight software ... ESA has followed with considerable interest the work done in the USA by the Free Software Foundation in developing the GNU C Compiler ... The use of these compilers is being promoted by ESA as a way of obtaining reliable low-cost compilation systems for spacecraft microprocessors.

The Times News is running a poll to determine the most important people of the twentieth century. There is a Linux movement to get Linus voted Person of the Century or at least honorable mention by voting for him under "Builders and Titans". Richard Stallman was another suggestion.

We noticed that Richard Stallman was an invited guest at the World Affairs Conference being held this week at the University of Colorado in Boulder. We managed to get one staff member to one of his panels Monday and to the impromptu Front Range Unix Users Group meeting held Monday afternoon with Stallman as the sole presenter.

The Linux Weekly News will not, unfortunately, be sending anyone to Comdex in April. We would appreciate any reviews, summaries, comments, etc. that attendees wish to forward to us. Thank you!

Tim Buller forwarded a note concerning a possible port of SAS to Linux. Apparently SAS is getting a lot of requests for this port. However, with quality assurance costs alone estimated over a million dollars, and with their previous bad experience with their port to the Mac, a port to Linux is highly unlikely.

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Linux in the news

A number of articles resulted from Mark Andreessen's claim that Mozilla+Linux will be the platform that defeats Microsoft. ZDNet ran one titled The next battleground: Linux vs. Windows? and an opinion column as well. C|Net says Linux is a top priority for Netscape, talks about challenges to NT, but raises the old support issues. There is also an article in TechWeb News.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about the Free Software Summit. "A free program, backed by no company, provided better after ``sale'' support than Windows NT. Seems to me like the invisible hand of the market just gave Bill Gates a good, sharp slap."

Network World Fusion carried a very positive article entitled "Lookin' into Linux". "If you're delivering intranet services, you've got to check out the Linux program." Note that this article is on a site requiring registration; use "cypherpunks" for both username and password if you don't want to register to get in.

An article in Integrated System Design discusses why engineers prefer unix. Reliability, more than anything else, it seems. "Of all the Unix implementations for the PC ... Linux is by far the most bullet-proof and far more robust than NT. ". Also: "You'd think that Intel ... would recognize the value of Linux on a PC and push it as the OS of choice for the Pentium platform."

The Wall Street Journal also recognized Linux on April 3 - but only in some editions. There is no online version available, at least not for free; fortunately, Richard Hipp was kind enough to scan it in and send it to us. Some excerpts: "Collective development and troubleshooting make Linux both a nimble and uncommonly stable operating system, proponents say." "The free software model, for a long time anathema to most commercial software makers, is gaining currency." The bulk of the article discusses the history of the Free Software Foundation and Linux, goes into the Red Hat and Caldera business models, and mentions Digital Domain and the Beowulf project, quoting Donald Becker. Overall a factual and neutral article.

Rumor has it that PC Plus magazine was overwhelmed with favourable responses when they suggested the idea of including Linux coverage. As a result, you should see it soon.

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[Security] A nasty bug in bind has turned up which can give root access to remote people with no local account. This is one to fix quickly. Red Hat has made new RPMs available with a fix. We've not yet seen a debian announcement.

Within 15 hours of the release of the source code for Netscape 5.0, the Mozilla Crypto Group made available "cryptozilla", a mozilla (free netscape) with SSL enabled! A Wired News article on this work can be found here.

Here is Aleph One's latest posting of contacts; who to contact when a software security bug is found.

The alpha release of a new security tool, Nessus, has been announced. Available under the LGPL and GPL libraries, Nessus currently compiles and "hopefully runs" under Linux. Renaud Deraison is currently looking for people to help port Nessus to other platforms (he can support Intel Linux and PowerPC Linux) as well as to write more plugins.

Michal Zalewski reported a variety of security problems with mailcap-compatible unix mail clients. His examples are based on pine 3.96. The consequences include the ability to execute an arbitrary command.

One study reports that the U.S. curb on export of encryption technology could cost the U.S. economy over thirty-five billion dollars over the next five years.

Transactions-TCP (RFC-1644) has security problems that include vulnerability to a new variant of the SYN-flood attack and to an attack via rshd/rlogind that may allow someone to execute a command on the attacked machine.

This week's /tmp race problems include liloconfig-color, pkgtool and makebootdisk, discovered in Linux Slackware.

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[Kernel] The current development kernel is 2.1.94, released just moments before this paragraph was typed. The first reports indicate that it fixes many of the problems people had with 2.1.93; as Alan Cox said, "2.1.93 hates most people. Await .94". Lots of changes in 2.1.94 - the patch is almost 900KB - mostly bug fixes, documentation updates, and such.

The announcement of the 2.1 feature freeze has brought a number of proposed additions out of the woodwork. Things that people would still like to see put in before 2.2 include:

  • Plug and Play support. It would appear that serious PnP will not ever go into the kernel, since Linus doesn't like it, and, for the most part, it perhaps isn't necessary. (Those of you having trouble with PnP mouse pads may want to check out Linus's advice for dealing with these problematic peripherals).

  • Compression in the ext2 filesystem. Again, its inclusion is unlikely at this point. As Ted Ts'o points out, this feature is quite new, and filesystem changes should be very well tested before going into a stable kernel.

  • In-progress memory management changes. Probably not. Recent memory management work made a number of recent kernels hard to deal with; and the new stuff is evidently much more extensive.

  • A BSD-like securelevel capability, which is useful to prevent crackers from messing with certain things (like log files) even if they are able to obtain root access on the machine. Securelevel was the subject of some highly acrimonious debate among some of the principal kernel developers. Linus doesn't like it, so it's almost certainly out. Linus favors a solution based on per-process capabilities (a.k.a. priveleges).
Finally, a few people requested that the 2.3 development cycle be rather shorter than 2.1 has been. There seems to be universal consensus on this point; Linus has stated that he will try for a shorter period ("half the length or less") before 2.4 comes out.

For folks who are curious, Myrdraal has put together a document on how the "magic SysRQ" keys work.

Alan Cox is up to version 7 of his pre-patch for the 2.0.34 stable kernel release. It looks like there will be at least a version 8 before the official release, though. Alan's patches are available here.

Philip Blundell has made a new version of net-tools available. The main purpose of this release is to keep up with some /proc changes that have been giving people trouble.

After some time, a new release of autofs has been released. Autofs is a newish automounter for Linux systems, a much-needed replacement for amd. This release has quite a new features, including recursive automount points and new filesystem types. See HPA's announcement for more.

Ian Collier announced a generic graphics driver for the 2.0 kernel. This is a driver that should work on almost all devices, providing workable, though not accelerated graphics on most systems. It should be useful for weird laptops, or for any device for which an accelerated driver has not been written. He's looking for people to test it out.

A shared memory file system patch has also been made available, and is looking for testers. This patch adds a new filesystem type, which stores all its blocks in swap space. It's intended use is for shared-memory areas, but other uses could be imagined (it looks much like Sun's tmpfs). The author says "The filesystem is fully functional, but I am the only one who has tested it so far."

Gerard Roudier has put together a new driver for the NCR 53c8xx series of SCSI adaptors. He has a patch available, and is requesting that people help him test it out.

The GGI discussion continued in linux-kernel, with hundreds more messages being generated. It's not clear that much of any value was actually said, though. A number of people, including Linus, are getting pretty tired of the whole thing. However, the thread did turn up information on the Coca-Cola recipe...

Toward the end Linus apologized in his own way and promised to sit out the rest of the discussion.

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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Caldera has announced the availability of Helius for OpenLinux. Helius is a satellite-based internet gateway system, providing 400KB/s download speeds.


Ian Jackson put forth a formal proposal for the adoption of the new constition. This generated new postings, a formal amendment, many changes in the original proposal and something close to a final version for voting.

Votes will be taken using the current draft to bootstrap the process.

Ian has also officially appointed Brian Bassett as Project Secretary and given him the job of determining the exact number of Debian developers. Brian numbers them currently at 313, using the Debian PGP keyring.

Barak Pearlmutter posted a nice summary of the process he used to convert his alpha machine from Red Hat 5.0 to Debian.

Consensus seems to be moving towards releasing an alpha version of Debian 2.0, though it will be only a subset. The sparc version is further away and is not likely before Debian 2.1.

Some efforts towards new Debian and SPI logos are available for browsing. These are likely to be a small part of the total, as the new voting system may be put into use within the next few weeks to help choose the final versions.

An Apt User Manual! Jason Gunthorpe, Apt author, has provided a quick guide.

Here is a partial list of http enabled mirrors for use with Apt. It appears that http (using features from HTTP 1.1) is consistently faster than ftp.

Red Hat

If you're one of the many folks who have been having trouble with the portmap process dying on a 5.0 system (resulting in denial of NFS service, among other things), you should check out the errata page and get the latest RPM's for glibc and portmap. Install them, and you'll be free of that line of users outside your door wondering why they can't get to their files.


S.u.S.E. is on an "every fourth month" release schedule, with some variance. Therefore, we should expect either a 5.3 or a 6.0 release somewhere around August. 6.0 will be S.u.S.E.'s glibc release, as well as their first alpha version.

Bodo Bauer (one of this editor's favorite S.u.S.E. posters) will be at the Linux Expo, along with other members of the S.u.S.E. team. If you've met him on the net, you'll get a chance to meet him in person.

suse-linux-e is now archived! This is good news for people who want to browse through the old listings for help. The other S.u.S.E. mailing lists will be getting their own archives next week.

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The Alpha folks still have not reported any successes in getting Mozilla to build on their systems. The conversation has trailed off somewhat; one hopes they are not getting discouraged.

On the other hand, Armin Ollig got HotJava working on the Alpha. He has put together a tarball for those who would like to grab his work.


Jakub Jelinek has announced a beta release of the next UltraPenguin distribution. UltraPenguin, of course, is Linux for Sun Ultra machines. Version 1.1 will be out shortly, once bugs are fixed and a couple more goodies are added. This version runs in 32-bit mode only, even on 64-bit machines; Jakub says that will be fixed "soon afterwards." That, presumably means after the 1.1 release. See his announcement if you want to give it a try.


Yes, VAX. Those of us who grew up on Vaxen were amused and pleased to see an announcement for a project to port Linux to the VAX architecture. You know, we probably still have that old 11/780 sitting around somewhere...
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[Software Development]

Software development

A DCE Threads library has been made available for Linux, as part of a larger "FreeDCE" project. See the announcement for more info.


And the JavaOne Conference ends on this humorous note.

Attention RedHat users! Steve Byrne has provided a technique for resolving problems RedHat 4.2 users have been having with Linux JDK v5 or v6. He asks people to give it a try and report your success/failure to him.

Steve Byrne's contributions to Java were recognized at JavaOne, where the Keynote ended with a presentation of an award to Steve in recognition of his huge contribution to the free porting and free software community...

Having problems with ugly fonts under Java? Amaury Darsch has an explanation and suggestion. Jeremy Cook tackled the problem by downloading some scalable fonts from Debian and has a workable, though imperfect, file.

Red Hat has posted a new, fixed glibc which, from the errata report, might help fix some of the problems with java that people have been reporting. The first report from Jan-Henrik Haukeland was not promising, though ...


Tom Phoenix posted a message to help people find the Perl FAQ.

Perl Scripts/Modules Announcements:

Hanno Mueller is looking for beta-testers for his TIEHASH module, for storing and reading data in a dictionary file.


If you've been having problems trying to download LITweb, note that it has been broken into smaller chunks to ease download.

Python Scripts/Extensions Announcements:

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[Free/Open-Source News]

Free/Open-Source Software News

Richard Stallman posted a note on Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism. Is the GPL pragmatic? It has helped him achieve many of the goals he had, so yes, for him it is? Is it for others? Some people use the GPL for other reasons; if it helps them achieve their goals, it is pragmatic as well ...

Ben Pfaff has started an Archive for Free Software in Real Life. Not a software repository, this site is intended be a community resource center recording thoughts and experiences. They've put out a few stories and are looking for yours! They are also hosting a mailing list for the discussion of free software issues.


The "KDE Free QT Foundation" has been established to try to address concerns regarding the not-entirely-free status of the Qt GUI toolkit. If it all goes as planned, the KDE developers should have sufficient say to prevent Troll Tech from imposing more restrictive licensing on Qt, as well as the ability to release Qt under the BSD license should Troll Tech cease to maintain and develop it.


Pictures from the celebration party are up! Meanwhile, the Netscape developers are going to take a weekend off, after weeks of all-nighters.

Along with releasing the source to Netscape 5.0, Netscape will (eventually) cause all of the bugs that have already been reported to or found by them to miraculously appear in the new bug database on, if they apply to the 5.0 code (which many do). This step will save the free software community from duplicating the effort of finding and analyzing these problems. The release of internal bug reports has been dubbed "as revolutionary as releasing the source code."

The folks at Troll Tech have released a version of Mozilla built with the Qt toolkit. This version is called "QtScape". They claim that it's better than the original...

Dan McGuirk has posted some Mozilla and Lesstif patches as a start towards getting Mozilla and Lesstif to like each other. Note that you may need to use "" rather than

We also heard that the new release of Lesstif uploaded on April 1st and compiles with the Netscape code without error. No confirmation of this yet.

An FAQ for the Mozilla release has been posted. It's gone through four revisions before this week's edition, so be prepared, by the time you read this, three newer versions will have been posted!

Jeff Caldwell has built a site containing many of the URL's that have been mentioned in mozilla-general over the past week. Send him comments, etc.

Team Jazilla is in action, ready to work on building a Java-version of Mozilla. No, not from scratch! They are currently working through mozilla-general, though they are also pushing loudly for a separate list. (Wired News ran an article on this work).

Brett Viren was quick to report that the Mozilla.deb package was made available only hours after the .rpm package: A photo finish in the world of software ...

If you've seen a recent error of the form:

	sh: -c line 1: missing closing `)' [...]

and wondered what the problem was, check out the end of an email discussion forwarded to us by Ted Powell. It contains an explanation of the cause of the message, the source fix that we'll hopefully see eventually, and how to get around the problem now.

Also note the quick release of an SSL-version of Mozilla, under our Security section.

X Window System

Jeremy Chatfield, a commercial developer, posted his view of the X11R6.4 license. It is no more onerous, IMO, than Netscape's or Qt's licenses for source code. This post was forwarded to the debian-devel list, where it generated some scathing comments, particularly about his suggestion that XFree86 has not contributed to the X Consortium.

XFree86 has issued a full statement outlining their position regarding the recently announced licensing of X11R6.4 by The Open Group (TOG) of Cambridge MA. Their position has the support of Linux Torvalds, Metro Link Incorporated, and the the OpenBSD group, and will come as no surprise to the Linux community. The TOG licensing change is incompatible with the goals of XFree86 ... The XFree86 Project will continue its development based on the freely available X11R6.3 SI ...

So it is official ... unless The Open Group changes their mind, X development will now be split.

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[Articles] No tips this week, at least not in this section. This issue is long enough already! :-)  
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Package Version Description
Aegis 3.3 a project change supervisor
Apt0.0.3 Debian's new whizz-bang .deb package manager
automake 1.3 Automatic Makefile generator
axw3 0.2alpha http proxy server and AX25 gateway
basic n/a a PC Linux BASIC language
bib-search 0.9.9 a bibtex utility
Blender 1.3beta the in-house software of a high quality animation studio
brs 4.00a a patch for the bible program
BurnIT 0.22 Java front-end to cdrecord and mkisofs
cipe 0.5.6 encrypting IP tunnel
IPAD v0.6.1 Intelligent vector drawing package (COMMERCIAL)
IRCIT 0 IRC for the Information Terrorists
glbiff 0.1a OpenGL mailbox monitor
Gmp3 0.02a A Front-end to mpg123
Kawa 1.6.1 Scheme compiler and runtime in Java
kaffe 0.10.0 Java virtual machine and JIT compiler
KOrganizer 0.9 a Calendar/Scheduling tool for KDE
Linbot 0.5 Site Management Tool for Webmasters
mem_test 0.12 memory leak detection library
NEdit 5.2 modern GUI-style text editor
News Peruser 3.0Beta1 a simple, X-based, offline newsreader
NFTP 1.2 a powerful interactive textmode ftp client
OMNeT++ 3.0 Discrete Event Simulation System
pavuk 0.8pl2 WWW mirroring tool with or without GUI interface
perf 0.1 personal financial calculator
pict 4.1 a concurrent programming language
pbm2ppa 0.8.1 Linux/Unix support for HP PPA printers
q2-wrapper 0.01 fixes quirky Quake2 behaviour
qnet 0.69 Front end to Samba and smbfs
readyBase n/a a dynamic embeddable database library (COMMERCIAL)
Shaman 0.1.10 a set of C libraries for some common tasks
tomsrtbt "The most Linux on 1 floppy." root/boot system
ups 3.31 Graphical gdb front end
Vmusic n/a Music CD database
vtfontd 1.0.1 utility (daemon) to save and restore console fonts
Webmin 0.42 web based admin for Unix
Workplace 1.0.a3 a Gtk-based filemanager
xabt n/a alva braille driver for xterms on Linux
XDELTA 0.15 a binary delta generator
XFCE 1.2.7 toolbar for X11
X-Files 2.00alpha1 X filemanager
Xwpe 1.5.7a An integrated development environment
zmech n/a example visual tool built using IPAD (Commercial)


SAL (Scientific Software Packaging) is a new endeavour supported by Kachina Technologies, Inc. Their goal is to provide an archive and software repository for source and binary packages of free scientific software. They are requesting feedback on their current plans.

The "Linux Fortune Cookies for Email" (LFCE for short) has a first sketch for their repository. Check out their cookies and contribute your own!

Mark Wooding is looking for some brave souls to test his patch to kernel 2.0.33 which causes `open' on a Unix-domain socket to do the same thing as `connect'ing normally does.

Winfried Truemper is looking for examples of high-throughput on Linux machines. He has a web site intended to list workload levels he has already documented; it is currently empty, but check it first to make sure no one has already submitted a better example for a given situation.

The public beta period for the GPL'ed Mesa (OpenGL clone) bindings for Ada has begun.

Jem Berkes is building yet another free software site, this one not specific to Linux, but including DOS, OS/2, and flavors of Windows as well. You will be able to choose your operating system and only view relevant software.

The Freenix Banner Exchange has started, a service to all people interested in the free unix community. The service is currently free, with members receiving one exposure of their banner for every banner of a member that they display on their site.

Fsdext2 has moved to a new site. Fsdext2 allows you to view your Linux partition when running Windows 95on a dual or multi boot computer.


We've recently seen messages on some newsgroups about the development of free software for sending messages to alphanumeric pagers. Since these are in the early stage, if your needs are critical and high priority, you may want to take a look at the commercial application Silent Messenger produced by MessageNet Systems.

SSC, publishers of the Linux Journal, have teamed up with UniForum to produce the 1998 Open Systems Product Directory CD-ROM.

The Linux Software Database (LSDB) has added a Linux Web Robot, which searches the net for Linux sites. The database currently has over 9000 entries ...

Linux Gazette issue #27, April 1998, is out and can be found at:

Bochs for Windows 3.1 has been ported to Windows 95. Bochs allows the user to run Linux within Windows 3.2/95 (or Windows 95 within 3.1, etc.)

ShareTheNet 1.0 is a commercial package that comes in both for-free and for-pay versions and which lets you share your low cost Internet connection across your network. If you have to deal with non-TCP network connections, you may want to take a look at this.

The LinuxMall has released their April edition of the Linux Newsletter.

The Linux Systems Labs has announced the publication of LINUX: THE COMPLETE REFERENCE, the 2nd edition, containing updated version of the Linux Documentation Project's Linux Installation and Getting Started, Linux System Administrator's Guide as well as coverage of new topics like SCSI hardware and software interfaces.

GCOM, Inc. announced their Linux STREAMS X.25, SNA, Frame Relay, SDLC, HDLC, LAPB, LAPD, QLLC and BiSync Data Communications Protocol Suites.

The X11 Address Book has moved, as has the locus homepage.


We've received a couple of responses to our request for reviews for reviews of O'Reilly's Linux Device Drivers book. Here are some excepts: all in all, very good ... the book is much above my expectations, and IMHO, much better than the Linux Kernel Internals by Addison Wesley.

Review 1 and Review 2. Many, many thanks!


Events are now stored in the Linux Events Calendar.

Web sites

The Linux Links Directory has been announced, a searchable directory of Linux links. A gentle way to find cool Linux sites.

A site to promote the creation of Linux Press Releases has been created. Their announcement explains why they feel press releases can help the free software effort. Given the press that free software has been getting lately, well-written press releases could bring a lot of notice to upcoming software releases, such as the Gimp 1.0 and Linux 2.2 ...

New user groups

Paul Stewart wants to organize a LUG in the Fort Walton Beach area. Contact him for more information or to help out.

Ted Serreyn is trying to organize a LUG in the Milwaukee/Waukesha area to replace the defunct one at the Waukesha Technical College.

Mailing lists

A new mailing list for people interested in speech recognition software under Linux has been announced.

The PenguinPlay (also known as the Linux GSDK Sound Team) mailing list (linux-gsdk) is back on-line after a move of the project to People interested in developing games under Linux will want to check them out. Now that their server problems are over, hopefully they will get back on track.

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Linux links of the week

Issue 27 of the Linux Gazette has an article on the selling of Linux that is worth a read. To make the next steps, Linux is going to have to move beyond the "Windows sucks" mode of advocacy; here's some more thoughts on how to do that.

The folks at Linux Focus have gotten their own domain: This site is a laudable effort to produce a high-quality, multi-lingual Linux magazine. We wish them success.

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Feedback and Corrections

Herng-Jeng Jou wrote us to point out the LAPACK was not included in the "Intel ASCI Option Red Supercomputer" project. After checking out our original sources and the website, it appears that our editing introduced an error. BLAS, LAPACK, and FFT are all examples of libraries for which Intel has previously provided optimized Intel libraries for the Windows platform. Only BLAS and FFT are now available as a result of the "Intel ASCI Option Red Supercomputer" project.

Herng-Jeng Jou has also provided a page with additional information about optimized BLAS on linux.

Eklektix, Inc. Linux powered! This page is produced by Eklektix, Inc.