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 16, 1998

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

Other stuff:
The LWN Archives
Our Linux links page
Our Linux Events Calendar
and our new Daily Updates page

Leading items

It has been an interesting week. One need only look at the set of press articles listed below to see that Linux is being taken increasingly seriously. It was not that long ago that the mainstream press was writing obituaries for Unix; the only disagreement was about the timing of its death. Nobody seemed to doubt the eventual outcome. Now that outcome is much in doubt, and Linux seems poised to take a respectable share of the market. Even the most Microsoft-centric publications have started to change their tune.

Hopefully Linux's increasing respect will not be diminished by this account of how the U.S. Postal Service is using it.

A US Federal District Court has ruled that the Intel CPU is an "essential facility," and that Intel may not retain proprietary, nondisclosure information on this CPU. The immediate fallout from the ruling is that Intel must disclose to Intergraph its proprietary information on its x86 CPUs. This ruling does not, in itself, greatly affect the Linux world. However, if the x86 is subject to this sort of disclosure, then other, proprietary architectures, such as Merced and I2O may come under similar rules. The ramifications of all this will require time to be worked out, and it is not clear that the ruling would apply to those writing free software, but the possible results are interesting. (If you're interested in learning more about the "essential facility" notion, seemingly a bit of legal thought originating in the railroad days, check out this article in IP Magazine).

Eric S. Raymond has been cranking out the bits again. Homesteading the Noosphere discusses the customs around free software, reputation, the gift economy, etc. Check it out.

Guido van Rossum, creator of the wonderful Python language, has posted his notes from last week's "open software summit". This seems to be about the best description of the summit thus far, definitely recommended reading.

Rumors are circulating that Novell will release its Netware client and NDS in open source form. Of course, this is currently only a rumor...

The ChicagoLand Linux Users Group has put together a page on Linux events at Comdex.

Following the responses to the survey we ran last month, we are adding a daily updates page to the LWN site. This page will hold interesting things that we find between newsletters. It will intentionally be a low-volume page; there are and will continue to be better sources for complete up-to-the-second news. Nonetheless we think this page will be useful. An electronic mail version of the daily page will be available shortly as well.

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Linux in the news

NC World talks about the re-emergence of Unix and why NT will never succeed in pushing Unix in general, and Linux in particular, out of the business world. It's a good discussion, and another sign of a welcome return of reality to the press's treatment of the competition between NT and Unix.

Peter Coffee's article in PC Week talks about reliability of various operating systems. He asked for feedback in a previous column. His results were interesting: "Linux, [was] the choice of the vast majority (better than 80 percent) of the people who replied." We can't resist also throwing in this one: "I did not get a single message from anyone who took the position that Windows NT was good enough."

PC Week also tossed in an editorial on free software, concentrating on Mozilla but mentioning Linux as well. It's very favorable toward free software, but seems to think that Mozilla will be the case that proves whether the free model works or not. Some of us, instead, think that question has already been answered.

InfoWorld chimed in with an interview with Linus. They also ran a review of Caldera OpenLinux 1.2, and a brief article on IP masquerading.

Web Review is running a special issue on open source software. It includes project profiles, interviews with prominent open source personalities, and so on. Certainly worth a read.

Jean-Louis Gassée talks favorably about the future of Linux in his Be Newsletter editorial. He also addresses briefly the murmerings that have been going around that Be has been making not entirely legitimate use of GPL'd code in their system.

Salon Magazine ran an Interview with Eric Raymond discussing the free software world in general.

The folks at 32bitsonline did a review of Red Hat 5.0. They liked it.

Fast Company also has an article on the free software phenomenon, concentrating on the Apache web server.

C|Net's site ran an article on QtScape, which, as readers of last week's issue will remember, is a version of Mozilla which was built to work with Troll Tech's Qt toolkit.

C|Net also covers a talk by Marc Andreessen on open source software. They have the talk available in RealAudio form if you want to give a listen.

John Markoff covered the Open Source Summit in a New York Times column. This is on a registration-required site. Using "cypherpunks" as both username and password will get you in if you do not wish to register yourself. Paul Kimoto noticed that, among the URLs at the end of this column, there were no links to any free software sites; he dropped us a copy of a letter he wrote to the Times bringing up that point.

PC World covered the open source summit. There was also a column in Internet World, and one in PC Magazine. If you still want more information, check out O'Reilly's official press release.

Apache is Network Magazine's web server product of the year.

TechWeb News interviews Larry Wall, creator of Perl.

Companies Learn a New Word: Linux is the title of the April Editorial of PC Quest, produced by Cyber Media India, Ltd. Atul Chitnis brought this editorial to our notice, pointing out the new Linux section on their monthly CDROM, and the coming May issue which will feature prominently feature RedHat Linux 5.0.

Internet World says that free software will not take over because it is too expensive. It's a bit of classic FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about long-term support and such, completely missing the fact that it no longer matters if the company you bought Linux from goes out of business.

We generally try to avoid talking about Microsoft. Bashing the 900-lb Gorilla doesn't get us anywhere; better to treat it as irrelevant. However, enough interesting things came out this week that it's worth tossing a few of them in here. Top on the list would have to be the LA Times story on Microsoft's scheme to create the illusion of a groundswell of support for the company. Sheesh. See also Peter de Vries' editorial on the inevitable decline of Microsoft which appeared in Slashdot. USA Today speculates that Microsoft might be forced to open-source Windows. PC Week discusses the privacy implications of the Windows98 "update wizard" and the interesting fact that the price of Windows continues to go up in a world where software prices are otherwise declining.

  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  
[Security] Here is the full text of the Bind security alert. Potential results ranging from name server disruption to root-level access by an intruder. In addition to the new Red Hat RPMs we mentioned last week, patches from Slackware are also available. (See the Slackware portion of our Distributions section for pointers).

Yet another serious server hole in quake. Upgrading to version 1.07 appears to solve the problem.

Summercon X as been announced, for those who wish to indulge. more than just a convention that attracts America's greatest phreaking and hacking personalities.

  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  
[Kernel] The current development kernel version is 2.1.96. It is a mostly bug-fix release, as befits these feature-freeze times. The one big change was the new aic7xxx SCSI driver. Initial reports are scarce but lightly positive. The flood of "it hangs on me" reports that has welcomed recent 2.1.9x releases is much reduced, though at least one such has turned up.

Alan Cox has put out the 8th pre-patch for 2.0.34. You can pick it up at his FTP site. According to Alan's web page, this should be about the last one before the whole mess goes to Linus. Now is the time to find bugs, if any; there really, really shouldn't be any more 2.0 releases after this one. There has been no (public) word from Linus as to whether he'll actually accept all this for a 2.0.34 release, but it would be surprising if he didn't.

Much work is going into kmod, the replacement for kerneld whose job involves automatically loading kernel modules when they are needed. Adam Richter did some major work in "exorcising" kmod, meaning that it no longer needs a daemon process. See Adam's "final patch" for more comments, as well as the actual patch. If you are trying to use kmod on a 2.1.96 system, applying the patch is probably a good idea. They want to shake out any remaining problems and get this one to Linus so that it can go in before 2.2.

One interesting feature of the exorcised kmod is that no automatic unloading of modules is done. The idea here is that (1) a lot of configurations never really need unloading, and (2) this is a task that is better handled as a user process anyway. A quick fix, if unloading is needed, is to have cron run "rmmod -a" every so often.

Some people recently have had troubles with the kernel returning ELOOP on a file access because there are too many symbolic links in the path. The current limit is only five, which is apparently less than is needed to build the new version of bind. A number of folks have discussed options for dealing with the problem. Peter Joot posted a patch which lets you change the limit with sysctl. However, injudicious changes can make it easy for the kernel to overrun its stack, so this approach seems dangerous. Scott Ananian put out a patch which partially eliminates the recursion involved in symlink lookup, thus allowing the limit to be larger. His patch has problems, but a future version might be adopted as a short-term (2.2) fix for the problem. Others have suggested simply raising the limit from five to something more reasonable and not worrying about the rest.

Assignment of device names at boot time was again an issue in a few venues. The current scheme assigns device names (minor numbers, actually) when the system boots, and these can change if the hardware configuration on the system changes. So the addition of a disk drive breaks mounts (or RAID configurations), a new network card screws up routing, and so on.

This issue came up anew with regard to the configuration of devices on the PCI bus. Around 2.1.93 the order in which PCI devices was changed; the kernel now goes straight to the bus, instead of asking the BIOS what it thinks of the device ordering. This, of course, broke some things, including how the BusLogic drivers find the boot device. People are annoyed. A long discussion ensued, with the probable outcome that the old behavior will come back (at least as a configuration option) for 2.2.

These sorts of problems demonstrate once again the need for the devfs system, or something like it. It is a shame that devfs will, seemingly, not go into 2.2. With any luck, we should see some sort of more rational approach to devices early in 2.3.

A new version of the (in progress) real-time Linux manual is available. See the announcement if you want to check it out.

Also relevant to real-time Linux: W. Wright of NASA did some interrupt latency tests with real-time Linux. His results? He could generally get an interrupt response in just over two microseconds. This is, shall we say, "not bad." See his announcement for more information; he also posted a pointer to some screen shots from his oscilloscope showing how he measured the response time.

The latest symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) FAQ has been posted. Lots of good information and pointers; this thing is definitely becoming required reading for anybody who wants to venture into the SMP world.

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.
  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  


The COL 1.1 to COL 1.2 script has not been released yet. It is still undergoing rigorous testing. From the comments about the trashing of one tester's machine, the delay appears to be reasonable and worthwhile!


Brian White made a call to arms on Tuesday. No way will Debian 2.0 be ready for an April 20th release date. If you want to see it out, roll up your sleeves and get down & dirty.

Branden Robinson is looking for help with XFree86. He's formed the X Strike Force, a web site with around 300 outstanding bugs. If you'd like to see X get better, faster, check out the page and see how you can help. He can also use people to test their X server against the list of bugs and let him know if any of them have actually been solved, but not closed out.

For an overall look at where you could help with the Debian project,check out the latest Work-Needing and Prospective Packages post.

Red Hat

Aaron D. Turner found volunteers quickly when he asked for people to help him with the Red Hat Linux User's FAQ. He received responses from more than enough helpers within the first twelve hours of his posting.

The Principia line of software from Digital Creations (commercial) has been chosen for inclusion in RedHat Software's Software Vendor Distribution Program.


Slackware Linux 3.4 BIND packages were fixed shortly after the CERT announcement went out. These packages will be upgraded to the final releases of BIND 4.9.7 and BIND 8.1.2 when they become available.


S.u.S.E. users will not be seeing StarOffice on S.u.S.E. CDs in the near future. The terms of the current agreement between Star Division and Caldera give Caldera exclusive distribution rights.
  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  


There is still no version of Mozilla for the Alpha as of this writing. Several people are working on it, and running into problems. LessTif, and g++ difficulties are both cited as contributing to the troubles.


There has been some discussion among folks who are trying to get decent modem performance out of a Sparc IPC. The idea being that such a machine, though old and slow, should still be good for a basic network gateway. Unfortunately, an IPC running SparcLinux doesn't seem to be able to keep up to even one modem at "full" (38,400) speed. The blame was placed on both the quality of the Sun serial driver, and that of the serial ports themselves. It is your editor's experience, as well, that Sun has never managed to make serial ports work as well as they should.

This sort of problem is yet another disappointment for people who are trying to make the older Sun4c machines perform some sort of useful service in a modern network. Very few developers are interested in making things work well on such musty old machines, unfortunately. It is probably time to give up on making any great use of old IPC/IPX/Sparc II computers; it doesn't cost much to buy a low-end machine that outperforms them anymore.

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[Software Development]


Jeffrey Moyer is getting started on a transparent process migration project for Beowulf clusters. He's looking for suggestions on how to do things. Process migration will, in your editor's opinion, be a crucial part of the long-term success of Linux cluster systems, so we wish them luck.

Beowulf systems are everywhere...see the announcement of a Beowulf tutorial in Thailand to see how far they have gotten.

High Availability

The linux-ha list is archived at .


Infoworld ran a couple of Java articles this week. One describes a restructuring of Javasoft and the problems that brought this restructuring about. One of those problems, it seems, is the increasing number of free Java implementations that are becoming available.

Which JAVA port should you use? Al Anderson posted a pretty good suggestion. Basically, if you are "playing" with JAVA, go with the Nikitin port. If you're doing production work, go with the Byrne port, but be prepared that doesn't work straight out of the box yet, particularly on Red Hat 5.0 systems ...

Steve Byrne reports that his jdk1.1.5v7 will go back to including libc and libdl as the jdk1.1.3 used to. This will hopefully make life happier for people.


Lively debate is going on in the comp.os.lang.perl group ...of course, most of it started with the "Open Source Software Summit" and continues on as a debate of the difference software licenses!

Russ Allbery has recently prepared a release of a module that emulates the functionality of the functions open2 and open3 of the IPC module.

Perl Scripts/Modules Announcements:


Guido van Rossum has announced the release of Python 1.5.1! Following tradition, he is now on vacation until Monday, April 20th. Let's give it a whirl and have plenty of feedback for him on his return!

Oliver Andrich responded quickly that the Linux RPMS have been updated to 1.5.1 as well, and Fred L. Drake gave pointers to the new python documentation.

Python Scripts/Extensions Announcements:

  • Pipermail 0.05, a framework for building customized message archivers (prelease snapshot)
  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free
/ Tips / Announce / Feedback
[Free/Open-Source News]

Free/Open-Source Software News

Miguel de Icaza has put out a GNOME status report. GNOME is coming along quickly. (Cool pic: if you don't mind a large image, check out this electric eyes snapshot at Red Hat Labs. Electric Eyes seems to be the GNOME replacement for xv).

The GIMP Toolkit (GTK+) has finally had its 1.0 release on Monday, April 13th. One hopes that a 1.0 release of the GIMP itself will be forthcoming shortly.

SciTech Software is trying to follow in Netscape's footsteps. SciTech Software previously made their SciTech MGL graphics library freely available with full source code to foster development of versions of the MGL for other operating systems and platforms, such as Linux. They received feedback that their original licensing terms were too restrictive for free software development community. They are trying again, with a new license modeled on the NPL.


In a true example of the creativity (and therefore, humor!) generated by the free software movement, we introduce our first song written under the FGPL (Filk General Public License), courtesy of Steve Savitzky.

Bugzilla is here! if you treat her kindly, she'll remember your bug reports for you.

The Mozilla Release FAQ is up to release level 14. Bookmark the URL to always get the latest version. Will Sutton posted an in-depth mozilla development faq, which covers many of the same questions, but in much more detail for those planning to develop.

There are already plans in the work for a European CD containing the Mozilla source and more, to help get information out to people not using the Internet heavily.

Java Mozilla (previous called Jazilla) is working on a contact list for companies/organizations with which to coordinate. Early candidates include the JOS Project, a free Java-based operating system. An FAQ just for java-mozilla has been started.

Appropriate case tools for the java-mozilla project are also being investigated.

The question of whether to integrate vector graphics into Mozilla or relegate it to a plug-in has begun with Macromedia's announcement that they have opened up the The Flash file (.swf) format. Flash and PGML will now be evaluated. Note that though the Flash format is to be free, the Flash source code will only be available to licensed to platform vendors. Here's Dotan Dimet take on the possible upcoming Vector Wars.

A FreeBSD Mozilla group has been formed.

The Random Factory has announced the availability of a CD containing the Mozilla 5.0 source, for those not wishing to download it.


Wine has a new Web site promoting documentation for the WINE project. It is just a beginning, but good documentation can never be a bad thing.

Note that WINE is not under the GPL license. It has its own, WINEL, license. This editor hasn't seen the text yet, but from postings it appears to be more strict than the GPL about author-attributions. A side-effect of this is that GPL-code can not be included in the project.

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[Articles] Questions about plugins for Netscape are common. Rob Penrose has provided a sparse Web page with some suggested plugins for Linux and some notes on how to get them working. Send comments to Rob.  
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Package Version Description
binutils 2.9 GNU binary utilities
Interbase 4.0 port of the InterBase database software available for free (commercial)
jcam n/a Digital Camera Software (commercial)
kclock 0.5.1 A clock, and more...
kjoy 0.3 Joystick setup utility for KDE
lcc-win32 beta2 a compiler system
microlinux 1.0 small croatian Linux distribution
mirrordir 0.9.23 Almost 1.0! a powerful utility for copying and mirroring directories and files locally or over ftp
qnetmon 0.71 alpha Graphical frontend to SMB filesystem
rescuedisk n/a A simple rescue disk in German
SmallEiffel 0.81 The GNU Eiffel compiler
WXftp 0.1 new GUI FTP client for Linux
xviewdata 1.0.3 Viewdata terminal client


Michael Stutz firmly that the future of both art & computing are tied together, and that free software will play an important role in this. If you agree, bring your ideas, opinions and projects to the linart mailing list!

Jeremy Allison is coordinating sources for a possible Infoworld article on people using Samba to replace/supplement NT servers in commercial organizations within the USA. His post (originally to caldera-users) includes a long list of requirements, so check to see if you fit first. If you do and you're interested, contact Jeremy directly.

Sam Lantinga has announced the Simple DirectMedia Layer, developer release, version 0.6e, a simple cross-platform API for game development. Currently supporting Linux, Win32 and BeOS, all APIs are seamlessly supported across all platforms. The full story is available on the SDL web site. SDL has everything you need to get started programming your games.

Also on game-related development, the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture project (ALSA) recently made contact with the GSDK sound team on linux-gsdk. Hopefully that will produce some good cooperation.

Looking for GPL'd or otherwise public software for CAD? Check out gEDA, the GNU Electronic Design Automation project. Version 0.0.1 is out, for the very brave, with 0.0.2 due any day now. Screenshots are available on the website. Author comment: not ready for prime time use (not even close). Good luck to them!

Other projects in this area that should also be mentioned: the Alliance VHDL simulator from France, reported incorrectly as dead. They've just GPL'd the project and released Alliance 3.2. And the FreeHDL project, a work in project with some portions done.

Kyle Bateman is developing a contact manager as a front end for postgres. His posting includes a list of tasks yet to be done. Contact him if you are interested in helping out.


We mentioned a commercial source for paging software in our last edition. This week, we come prepared (thanks to Mike Venaccio) with a free software alternative, QuickPage. According to Mike, it works with myriad Unix flavors and supports a paging server/client model, so that only one modem is required.


Please note that Linux User Group meetings and other Linux-related events are added to our Linux Events Calendar as soon as we see them! That means the calendar is constantly updated, not just once a week.

Reminder: the deadline for paper submission for the SANE'98 conference is April 17, 1998.

New user groups

A Linux User Group for Southern New Mexico and Far West Texas is being established.
  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  

Linux links of the week

The folks at OS News seem to be making some progress. In particular, their daily news page has become a good source for news with a fairly wide perspective.

The Freely redistributable software in business page is an Australian-based collection of resources for businesses. Another good attempt to fill in that all-important business link.

  Top / News / Security / Kernel / Dists / Ports / Devel / Free / Tips / Announce / Feedback  

Feedback and Corrections

Alexander Kjeldaa wrote in about our reporting of the discussion regarding securelevel and capabilities in last week's kernel section. He points out that securelevel support was already in the kernel, and is being dropped in favor of capabilities. While that is true, it's also true that it was not implemented very well, and needed some work if it were going to be there when 2.2 comes around.

Let us hear from you!

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