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Leading items

This one needs to be looked at carefully. This week the Uniform Driver Interface (UDI) project burst on the scene in a big way. The Linux community is being told that UDI will be a great thing for it. But a closer look is called for before any real decisions are made.

UDI itself is not all that new: they first got going in 1994. The core members of the group include HP, SCO, Compaq, Interphase, Adaptec, and IBM, among others. Their goal has been to write device drivers that are source-compatible across many architectures. To this end, they have defined a set of minimal entry points that a driver must have, and they have created an extensive environment in which the driver runs. An individual device driver is well shielded from most aspects of the system it is running on; things like bus architectures and byte ordering are hidden within the driver environment. They plan to release a 1.0 version of the standard early next year.

What has brought UDI to the forefront now is Intel's endorsement of the upcoming standard. Intel has suddenly decided that supporting Unix on Intel systems is in its interest. Better late than never. Interpretations of this move vary, but it seems possible that Intel has concluded that NT will never win over the server market. One can imagine the folks at Intel reasoning that if the servers of the future will run Unix, they might as well make it easy to run Unix on Intel chips. That, after all, is where the high-margin chips are sold.

Perhaps most interestingly, Intel and UDI seem to have decided that adoption of UDI by Linux will be an important part of its success. See, for example, this ZDNet UK article on the subject. It merits a longish quote:

However, writing new drivers for the thousands of peripherals on the market is a daunting task. Hence, Project UDI is hoping the Linux community will help. Linux will be, said Quick, key to the adoption of the UDI initiative. A reference platform will be distibributed as freeware for Linux, and the Project UDI members will be counting on the Linux community to work on device drivers...

"The advantage of releasing to the Linux community is that their work will give Unix OS vendors a basis to work from"...

In other words, the Linux community, with its formidable ability to produce code in a hurry, is supposed to crank out the UDI drivers to make this whole thing work, to "give Unix OS vendors a basis to work from". This approach is simultaneously flattering and a bit presumptuous. It is not clear what Linux will get in return for providing the commercial OS vendors with a base of free drivers. Nonetheless, UDI should not be quickly rejected either. Here are a few points to consider:

  • One potential promise of UDI is that of drivers for hardware whose vendors will not release programming information. Of course, that is (1) not necessarily an entirely good thing, and (2) not guaranteed. For point (1), consider running a Linux system dependent on a base of binary-only drivers. It is hard to imagine that being a better system. A free system must have free drivers.

    For point (2), it is important to realize that UDI is a source-level standard. Just because a vendor has written a UDI driver for their hardware does not mean that they will provide one that has been built for Linux. Section 8.3 of their "Functional Requirements" document seems to address this point ("Drivers must not be required to be recompiled to run on different OSes which support the same ISA (Instruction Set Architecture), binary file format, and calling conventions"), but it is easy to see that not working out well in practice.

    It is also easy to imagine a binary-only driver that just does not work quite right under Linux, for whatever reason.

  • UDI promises to make drivers easier to write by providing a comprehensive support environment.

  • UDI claims that their drivers will not suffer a performance penalty. Others who have looked at the UDI specifications are not convinced. Extra layers of emulation code rarely are helpful in this regard.

  • It is not clear that hordes of Linux hackers will have any interest in creating lots of UDI drivers. The existing drivers work, there is little reward in converting them over to the UDI interface, perhaps slowing them down in the process. Somebody writing a new driver may choose the UDI route, but it's equally likely that they will want to write a native Linux driver. After all, native drivers have full access to the capabilities of the Linux kernel, will provide the best performance, and have a tremendous number of examples to work from.

  • Under what conditions can GPL'd Linux drivers be incorporated into a proprietary, binary-only Unix system? Conflicts over proper use of GPL code seem almost certain.

  • The image of Linux could be hurt if UDI is not supported. The cries of "they aren't serious about enterprise computing" and such can be easily imagined. It may be that some sort of UDI support will be needed just to avoid giving that sort of weapon to those who would attack Linux.

Some folks, notably Eric Raymond and Alan Cox, have suggested that the price for Linux UDI support should be an immediate opening up of the (currently nondisclosure) I2O bus architecture. Given the large degree of overlap in membership between UDI and I2O, such a deal could perhaps be possible.

Given the standards issue and the promise from the UDI backers that they will create a free implementation for Linux, some sort of incorporation of UDI seems likely at some point. That assumes, of course, that their implementation is reasonably well done, and could go into the kernel without making a mess. Nothing like UDI could possibly go in the kernel before 2.3 development starts, in any case, so there will be plenty of time to think about it.

For further information on UDI, including white papers and architecture definitions, have a look at the UDI web page. Hype can be found in Intel's and SCO's press releases.

LinuxWorld is coming. LinuxWorld is a new Linux-oriented web magazine; its editorial director will be Nicholas Petreley, the source of much good Linux commentary in the mainstream trade press. The senior editor is Robert McMillan. LinuxWorld was described to us as a "portal" site with an emphasis on professional and corporate users. There will also be original content, news articles, and the ability for readers to post items of interest. A press release should be forthcoming within a week or so; they expect to go online sometime in October.

LinuxWorld is thus the first foray into the Linux world by the mainstream technical press. Mr. Petreley is a figure with a lot of credibility in the Linux community; the chances are that he will produce something good. If this venture succeeds, there will likely be others - the world is discovering us.

Users of the Acorn Risc PCs were shocked when Acorn announced its plans to cancel their upcoming "Phoebe Risc PC 2" and concentrate instead on digital TV. For those unfamiliar with Acorn, Richard Simpson aptly summed them up as the last independent UK desktop computer design company. Comparable to Apple within the United States, Acorn has had a strong presence in UK education, but suffered from a dwindling market share. The demise of the Acorn Risc PC line definitely places Acorn among the many sufferers from the Microsoft and Intel monopolies.

Of what interest is this to the Linux community? Richard sent us a note mentioning that the Acorn announcements produced a wailing and gnashing of teeth and that the most common answer to the oft-asked question, "What now?" is to move to Linux. A quick perusal of the comp.sys.acorn.misc list backs him up. Here is a post by Phil Norman, outlining why he will be moving towards Linux and there are many, many others. The upshot is that another pool of talented and dedicated computer enthusiasts and programmers may be joining the Linux community. Of course, perhaps the very first reason they should join is the fact that they can count on Linux not just "disappearing" one day as a result of a management decision outside their control ...

We have set up a new address for letters to the editor. If you have a comment, correction, or dissertation that you would like to see published in LWN, send it to editor@lwn.net. We will assume that anything sent to that address is meant for publication. We can not, of course, promise to include everything sent to us; our goal is to include a not-too-large number of well-written items with each issue. For now, the "letters to the editor" section is in the back page, along with the links of the week.

As always, any other sort of correspondence should go to lwn@lwn.net.

September 24, 1998



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See also: last week's Security page.


Tobias Richter reported a problem with faxcron, xferstats and recvstats as provided in hylafax-v4.0pl2. These programs can be used to execute arbitrary awk programs. If you are using hylafax, disabling these scripts is recommended; that should not break hylafax.

A new problem with locate has been reported by Crispin Cowan. It is affected by long filenames, much as bash was in recently reported exploits. No fixes have been reported yet, but they should start rolling in soon.

Yamamoto Hirotaka has written a short guide on getting started with SSH2. It is targeted at people using SSH1 now but who plan on switching to SSH2.

From the ISN mailing list, we found this hacking timeline, which you may find amusing.

September 24, 1998


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current development kernel release is still 2.1.122; no new releases have happened over the last week. There is a 2.1.123 pre-patch available, but things are likely to change somewhat (see below) before a real 2.1.123 comes out.

H. J. Lu continues to work on the NFS code. Bugs have been dying in massive numbers, and the NFS subsystem is beginning to look like it is ready for a stable kernel release. Good NFS is crucial, and H.J. deserves many thanks for his efforts here. He does have a new version out for testing, give it a spin if you can.

Stephen Williams posted an interesting comparison of the Linux and NT device driver interfaces. It is a thorough and fair-minded work. Give it a read and see how two worlds compare.

A last minute thrashup of the network driver interface is in the works. This change comes from discontentment on Linus's part with the use of a couple of the driver flags (dev->tbusy and dev->interrupt). While both of these flags had well-defined uses at one point, actual usage has drifted in multiple directions and consistency is hard to come by. The result is unpleasant driver bugs. (Linus summarized his complaints in this posting).

To fix this problem, both of those flags will disappear. The dev->tbusy flag, however, is still needed (it tells the network queueing system not to try to attempt to transmit further packets through that interface). A new flag will be created to fill this function, but with better-defined semantics. The result will be changes that ripple through a number of drivers, even though the code freeze is in effect. Much more extensive changes are waiting for 2.3.

Some people have noted that context switching times have increased in recent kernels. There are, as it turns out, a couple of reasons for that. First is that Linux has changed from using hardware context switching to a software switch scheme. This change was evidently needed to get around some other problems; see Linus's explanation for some gory details. The second reason is that the aforementioned software context switching scheme had a bug that made things worse. The fix is in 2.1.123; at this point context switching times should be pretty close to what they were back with the hardware scheme.

Streams in the Linux kernel? The question has come up yet again, for the same old reason: Netware uses streams. Most of the rest of the world gave up on streams some time ago, once their inevitably poor performance characteristics became clear. Thus, the lack of streams in Linux has inconvenienced very few people. Streams in future kernels remain unlikely, though some tweaks have been made recently making it easier to add them as a loadable module for those who must have them.

September 24, 1998

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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See also: last week's Distributions page.



Debian has provided new versions of tcsh that fix problems with long filenames.


David A. Gatwood has made available a New GENERIC-01 kernel, swiftly followed (as often happens) by a New GENERIC-01a kernel.

Red Hat

From the Red Hat mailing lists, it was gleaned that Red Hat is working on ldap support within pam, pwdb and more. Presumably, then, if everything goes well, some result of this work might showup in Red Hat 5.2.


S.u.S.E. has started bunding Applixware 4.4.1, KDE, GNOME, the Gimp and ADABAS D Personal Edition as part of their Linux Office Suite 99 product, scheduled to start shipping October 12th.

September 24, 1998

Please note that not every distribution will show up every week. Only distributions with recent news to report will be listed.


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See also: last week's Development page.

Development tools


The latest release of the JDC Newsletter is now available. It includes information on a variety of Java platforms and some words on the planned API for programmable logic devices.

San Jose Mercury columnist Dan Gillmor says that Sun should turn Java into an open-source product. His article makes that point that this may be the only way to save the language. "There's no doubt that Java, for all its successes in certain areas, has lost some of the momentum it enjoyed even as recently as a year ago. Andreessen thinks -- and I agree -- that Sun could give Java a huge boost by following Netscape's open-source lead."



It appears that JPython is very close to passing Debian's strict free software guidelines, at least according to this post to debian-devel by Gregor Hoffleit.

Python 1.5.2 is apparently in alpha for PSA members. A mention was made that threads and tkinter will be useable together, but only sort of and there are still problems.


Viktor Dukhovni posted a variety of tcl related patches to comp.lang.tcl, too many to list here. Check out comp.lang.tcl if you are interested. Covered programs include TclX, Tk,Tcl, Itcl, TkTable and more.

Slides from John Ousterhout's talk at the Tcl conference are now available, along with results of the Ouster-votes taken during his talk. Ouster-votes are informal polls that John takes during his yearly presentation. From the poll, you can get an idea of what people are using Tcl for and in what direction Scriptics is likely to take Tcl.

Also mentioned in the poll, the Tcl/Tk workpace sources will soon be opened to allow read-only access to the Internet. That will allow more people to play with the latest development versions.

September 24, 1998



Development projects

A beta version of HDF5 is now available. HDF5 is a new, experimental version of the Hierarchical Data Format (HDF), widely used in many scientific and research environments. The new version seeks to address limitations in HDF4 and anticipate future data format needs.

The Innerworld Project is a new project which is developing a number of components which will come together to create a modular, dynamic, and real-time virtual world server. Upon initial release, the project will move to an open development model, but for now, the development is private. However, if you believe you have something to contribute, contact them via email. The end result will be "freely available".


A special repository of just the debian packages needed to add GNOME to a debian system has been made available.

Due to bandwidth problems, the Gnome FAQ has temporarily moved. Steven Hill volunteered to help out.


Gael Duval has done an interview with Matthias Ettrich, the founder of LyX and KDE. The article is very well done and should be of strong interest to people using, or thinking of using, KDE. KDE 1.0 is much more powerful and much more complete than what we originally planned for the first enduser release.


From Jacques Gelinas' postings to the linuxconf mailing list, it appears that the linuxconf 1.20 release should be imminent.

The Linuxconf mirror site run by Don Schupp has been taken off-line indefinitely due to damage done by a cracker. Don reported, since keeping ahead of the almost daily attempts to hack my box is costing me too much time, my mirror site is shutdown. It is sad to see volunteer efforts like this frustrated by the malice or ignorance of others.


The Linux-embedded project has a homepage now and archives of linux-embedded are also available. The word is that they will soon be hypertext browsable and searchable.


The Mozillazine published The Week in Review, covering the Aurora code, the current layout engine, the javascript console and many other updates provided over the past week. Best of all news was hearing that the GTK/GNOME port is now building successfully.

Oliver White posted this week's Jazilla Report, which summarizes some items we've mentioned before, but also covers what some of the individual Jazilla contributors are currently working on. Sounds like they've gotten some good responses to their recent publicity.


Wine, and a quote from Doug Ridgway, were mentioned in this article on the demise of Freedows (also listed in our press section). Less ambitious but more successful might be a comparison of Wine to Freedows ...

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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

Linux now boasts an almost complete set of commercial database products. In two separate announcements:
  • IBM has announced that their "DB2 Universal Database" will be made available for Linux "later this year." More details are not yet available. See IBM's press release for the official word.

  • Sybase has released its "Adaptive Server Enterprise" for Linux. Sybase's product will initially be distributed by a number of the commercial distribution. See Caldera's press release and Sybase's announcement for the hype. Unlike IBM's product, Sybase is available now, and it can be downloaded for free (but you have to really want it - it's 40mb of stuff). Interested folks may want to have a look at the Sybase technical overview on Caldera's site, Caldera's Sybase download page, or Red Hat's Sybase download page. S.u.S.E. is also said to be distributing Sybase, but it does not yet show up on their web pages.
At this point, the Linux application drought can be said to be over, at least for certain types of applications. All that is really needed now is a top quality free relational database system for Linux. In that area, the best alternative seems to be PostgreSQL.

Many people have been wondering: where is the Oracle8 trial CD that was supposed to be shipped after the 15th?. While some people have received it, many have not. For those who are still waiting, here is a message posted to the Oracle discussion list by the Oracle folks:

We realize many of you haven't received your CDs yet, and we wanted to let you know that we're working to deliver the remaining shipments ASAP. Sorry for the delay.

Also, many of you have asked why we don't make the software downloadable. Simply put, Oracle has some legal restrictions that prevent us from making the software downloadable until we release a trial version. We'll notify you as soon as the trial is available for download. Unfortunately, this also means that we can't authorize any of you to post your copies for download.

Thus, patience is called for.

Red Hat has announced that they will be releasing the source for their NeoMagic X server to XFree86. Until now, this source has been restrained by NeoMagic's hardware nondisclosure policy, meaning that the NeoMagic server was available in binary format only. It seems that NeoMagic has seen the light and allowed this disclosure to happen. It is probable that NeoMagic came to this decision after seeing how much interest was generated by Red Hat's binary server release; Red Hat has demonstrated here that this sort of engagement with hardware manufacturers can yield positive results. See Red Hat's announcement for more.

The Open Group has decided to revert X11 back to the old license. This should end an exercise where it looked as if they were trying to turn the X window system into a proprietary product. The license for X11R6.4 is short and clear.

According to a message (in French) sent to the NNL mailing list, Compaq has announced that they will support the installation of Linux on their hardware. The actual installation work will be done somehow by Compaq VARs.

Press Releases:

  • Netbeans is now bundling Cloudscape's embeddable Java-based object relational database
  • The Better Counter CGI script now ported to Linux
  • webMethods, "B2B for SAP R/3, an XML-based solution that facilitates inter-enterprise application integration between SAP R/3 and other ERP systems over the Internet."
  • Eolian, Content-tracking for their Linux-based web cache.
  • AVS, AVS5.4(R), a scientific visualization package.
  • PowerQuest. Partition Magic 4.0, which now understands (and can resize) ext2 file systems.
  • GuestTrack, Web personalization software.

September 24, 1998


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See also: last week's Linux in the news page.

Linux in the news

John Dvorak at PC Magazine is catching on. This column is about the PDA market, but he drifts into why Microsoft isn't (yet) taking it over: "I also believe that developers are trusting Microsoft less and less because of its public reputation as a take-no-prisoners kind of company. Why develop for a Win CE machine if you suspect that Microsoft will take over your niche if it's showing profits? ... I suspect we'll see developers slowly moving away from Microsoft's platforms out of a simple need for self-preservation. Once this trend reaches critical mass, things will change. It bodes well for Apple, Linux, and Palm, among others."

Shawn Porter wrote in about this C|Net Builder article comparing Red Hat 5.1 and NT 5.0 beta 2 for a web server application. "In the end, Linux gets my vote over NT. Although I am a big fan of development tools like Cold Fusion, Linux offers the hard-core flexibility essential for a working Web server platform."

Interactive Week has published a column describing Intel's increasing interest in Linux, and going into the reasons for that interest. "Under the circumstances, why not seek future customers by supporting another powerful operating system: Linux? In another year, Linux will have a Windows-like front end, and its popularity will extend beyond the confines of the technical cognoscenti to users who dare surf the Internet with a cool system whose origins more closely reflect the Net itself. A little support from Intel could make this a more likely scenario."

Here is an article in AsiaBizTech entitled Linux surfaces as alternative to Windows NT. It is a longish introductory article, with an interesting (from Japan) perspective on Linux and its prospects. "So far, Linux has been handled only by medium- and small-scale system integrators. But, here, large-scale vendors have forecast a good business opportunity in it, and have finally made their debut in the Linux market."

Nicholas Petreley asks: People hated OS/2 and network computers; why don't they hate Linux?. He has a few reasons, including the higher moral ground that Linux advocates seem to occupy. "The ones who charge you for buggy software and keep the source code secret are the nasty black hats. The white hats keep source code open and often donate their time and effort for the good of the cause. As a result, to quote Red Hat Software President Bob Young, 'attacking Linux devotees would be like attacking Mother Teresa.' Any effort to do so would surely backfire." This article has also been republished by CNN.

Petreley also has another InfoWorld forum going. Here he, too, notices all the good press that Linux has gotten: "I find it fascinating that so many mainstream publications would suggest that Microsoft is threatened by Linux. The idea itself doesn't surprise me. It's the spin -- or, rather, the conspicuous absence of it."

Thanks to Paolo Amoroso for the link to this net.Opinion column which is ostensibly about Netware 5.0. The author concludes, however, that the best network operating system available is Linux.

Here is an article in Computer Reseller News which talks about a heart clinic in Florida which replaced its struggling NT server with a Cobalt Qube. "The Qube is an unqualified hit..." This is beautiful, FUD-free good press, both for Cobalt and for Linux.

Yet another story about NASA's anti-computer-crime Beowulf system can be found in Government Technology news (you'll need to scroll down some to find it).

There are not one but three separate articles in the Australian "The Age":

  • Welcome to Linux's vision of a free world is a Stallman-centric introductory article. "Proprietary software that runs on a free operating system is not the ideal. It's not what our community needs. It's only a half measure." (Found in the Threepoint Linux news mailing list).

  • Servers with Hart seek increased market share is mostly about Red Hat's Robert Hart, who is currently (back) in Australia. "He puts the success of the Red Hat Linux distribution down to `skill in managing the links to the Linux development community' - a process he says has been compared to `nailing jelly to a tree'."

  • Intel identifies a new greenfield: V8 servers talks about Intel's recent moves. "'We've got all the Unix OS vendors behind us,' said Van Deventer, ticking off his fingers, 'SCO, HP, Solaris, as well as freeware and open source such as Linux and FreeBSD.'"

Douglas Ridgway pointed out this Chronicle of Higher Education article about the self-destruction of the Freedows project. "[The project leader] modeled the project's organizational structure on those of other cooperative efforts to design operating systems, some of which have been successful. Perhaps the best known of those efforts is the one that created Linux, a free version of the Unix operating system."

Jimmy Aitken sent us a couple of links to stories in "Computing." (A U.K.-based weekly newspaper). Linux: All systems are go is a fairly positive, longish introductory article. "But there is an added attraction. The legal wording of the Linux licence prevents anyone getting control over the kernel. Even if someone came along with a pot of money and suggested that Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux, quietly went away, it would be very difficult to bring the whole operating system under commercial control." There is also a shorter article entitled Red Hat rival to Windows which really seems to be about Digital Networks (a new Linux VAR in the UK).

There is an article in Techweb talking about how the high price of Windows is making life harder for the ultra-cheap PC vendors. Linux is mentioned as an alternative, but essentially written off. "Several vendors have attempted to chip away at Microsoft's lead in the OS market by releasing versions of Linux, an open OS. Sophisticated PC users have embraced the stable, Unix-like environment because it's easy to program and customize. However, the two leading retail versions, Caldera Linux and Simon & Schuster's Complete Red Hat Linux 5.1, hold only 1.6 percent of the U.S. market, according to PC Data, Reston, Va." Thanks to Maciej Jastrzebski for pointing this one out to us.

This Sm@rt Reseller column by Brett Glass compares Linux with FreeBSD and talks about why resellers may want to go with the latter. "Also, FreeBSD's development has been less chaotic than that of Linux. The software is updated and improved by a group of core developers. That makes for slower development than the widely modified Linux, but higher stability."

Olivier Montanuy wrote in about this brief piece (in French) in Le Monde Informatique. Therein, Bill Gates is quoted as saying that Linux will never have goodies like voice recognition software, and that he sees it already joining OS/2 in the history of data processing. For non French-capable readers, Jason Sproul has put up a page with the Babelfish translation of this article.

ComputerWorld has a brief introductory piece entitled Good (and bad) news: No one owns it. Not much new here; it is a mostly favorable introduction. Thanks to Dan York for pointing this one out.

Confused columnist of the week: Windows NT Now Open in PC Week makes the claim that Windows NT is going open source. Enough "clarifications" have come out of Microsoft to make it clear that this is not true... The author has some nice things to say anyway: "According to many in the developer community, open-source software - including the Web server Apache (which runs almost 50 percent of all public Web sites), Linux, and Perl - are superior products compared with their commercial counterparts from Microsoft and others.".

Design Shrink has a comparison between Linux and NT from a productivity perspective. (Found in the threepoint news mailing list).

A brief mention in the San Jose Mercury: this column wanders through a few topics, touching on the author's disappointment with an upgrade to that other operating system. "For 7 million computer users around the globe there is an alternative operating system. It's called Linux, and it's free for downloading at many Linux sites..."

Another brief mention: this article in the Albuquerque Journal is about the dominance of Microsoft in PC software. They try to do the right thing in pointing out alternatives, but have a few accuracy problems: "...a fairly new system called Linux is gaining favor among more advanced computer users; Unix (which served as the basis for Linux) is still used in about 1 percent of computers. There are also IBM's OS/2, Solaris, VMS and BeOS. All of the above, save for Macintosh, can be used to operate a standard PC if the user uninstalls Windows." VMS on a PC?

Joao Carlos pointed out this interview with Linus in Portugese in the Brazilian magazine INFO Exame. This appears to be a translation of the Boot Magazine interview from a few months back. They also have a page of Portugese Linux links.

September 24, 1998


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



The Antwerp Linux User group is giving an introduction to Linux course in three parts

The OpenHealth mailing list is a place for people interested in open source software in the health care industry. See their announcement for more information.

The Guide du ROOTard, a French Linux cookbook over 150 pages long, has now released version 2.8. The new version covers Slackware 3.5.0, Red Hat 5.1, and more ...

Rafal Maszkowski sent us a note about a new Polish magazine called Linux and Unix. Your editor is unable to understand much of what they are saying (it is in Polish, after all), but it's nice that they list Linux first...


Early registration for the SANE'98 conference closes on October 19th. SANE'98 is the first international Systems Administration & Networking Conference. It will be held November 18 through the 20th in Maastricht, The Netherlands, is organized by the NLUUG and co-sponsored by USENIX and NLnet Foundation. If you're planning to go, early registration is a good idea. They dropped us a note and mentioned that Bob Young from Red Hat will be doing the keynote speech and many other Lions of the Linux community will be giving presentations ...

The 7th International Python Conference will be held November 10th through the 13th in Houston, Texas. The announcement included a list of invited speakers, with Eric Raymond, David Beazley, Jim Hugunin and, of course, Guido van Rossum on the list.

There will be an open source forum at ISPCON on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Panelists will include Linus Torvalds, Robert Young, and Marc Andreessen. Here is their press release.

The Autumn Linux Workshop in Warsaw, Poland will happen from October 22 through 24. See their web site (in Polish) for more.

The folks at AFUL (the French-speaking Linux users association) put on a Linux show at Apple-Expo in Paris last week. They have posted some pictures of the event for those who are interested.

Web sites

The Linux Sound Page announced a major update on September 17th. Over 18 new listings have been added. This is an excellent site for anyone interested in sound applications on Linux.

G. R. Gaudreau has announced his Penguin Power site, another budding Linux links site with plans for more and different in the future.

An ACM/SIG group devoted to Linux in Austin, Texas, held its first meeting on Thursday, September 21st.

User Group News

A new group has formed in the Madison area (of Wisconsin, we presume). Their first meeting will be this Friday, September 25th.

Stephan Fassotte wrote to say that he wishes to form a linux user group in El Salvador, presumably the first such group. Send him mail if you willing to work on the formation of the group.

A new user group is also forming in Troms\370, Norway. See their announcement for more information.

A new user group is forming in Stuttgart, Germany.

September 24, 1998



Software Announcements


Package Version Description
3dom snapshot 980918 A general purpose 3d object modeler.
Aladdin Ghostscript 5.50 An interpreter for the PostScript (TM) language.
Alien 6.18 Converts between the rpm, dpkg, stampede slp, andslackware tgz file formats
Amcl 0.4.2 A simple Mud CLient for X written in GTK libs.
ANICI 2.0.3 An extended version of Tim Long's ICI interpreter
Apache 1.3.2 High performance, UNIX based HTTP server
ascpu 1.0 A CPU load monitor.
BGM 0.1.4 Background music player / music on-hold source daemon for PBX
binutils Provides programs to assemble and manipulate binary andobject files.
Bit::Vector 5.5 Provides an efficient implementation of arbitrarily large bit vectors and sets
Bugzilla 2.0 mozilla.org's bugtracking system
cdda2wav 0.95beta07 A CD ripping application
CDM 0.30 Offers copying, mastering and manipulation of CD tracks
clock 1.5 Sets system time from CMOS clock and vice versa.
Cooledit 3.7.4 Full featured text editor for the X Window System
Cryptonite 0.10 Pure Java Strong Encryption Package
Date::Calc 4.2 Package for all kinds of date calculations based on the Gregorian calendar
dbMetrix 0.1.5 GUI Database Tool
DBS Server 0.1.0 Telephony Server for integrating a Panasonic DBS telephone system
DECnet for Linux 0.11 DECnet socket layer and applications
DNi 0.6 An IP Filtering Firewall script generator for dial-up users.
DOSEmu 0.98.1 Application that enables the Linux OS to run many DOS programs
egcs snapshot 19980921 Experimental set of enhancements for the GNU tools
EPIC 4pre2.001-NR5 ANSI capable textmode IRC Client
FAIM 0.07 An open source client for America Online's Instant Messenger service
Falken 10.7.3 An excellent multi-user BBS system for Linux.
Fetchmail 4.6.0 Free, full-featured, robust, well-documented remote-mailretrieval utility
Filaments 1.0 A parallel processing library package
fvwm2gnome 0.2.5 Clean, efficient window manager configuration with GNOME functionality
g2s 0.3.5 An alternative to inetd/tcpwrapper/chrootuid/ relay/tcp-env/antispam/etc.
Gamora 0.61.0 Java based server construction, hosting, and adminstration architecture.
getstatd 0.9 Statistics Daemon for Linux Systems
GHX 98/09/17 GTK clone of the Hotline software
GICQ 0.22 GTK based ICQ client
Gifsicle 1.4.1 Command-line tool for creating, editing, and optimizing GIFs and animations
gmysql 0.2.0 A GTK+ front-end to MySQL databases
GnomePGP 0.2a Gnome frontend for PGP
GNU Privacy Guard 0.4.0 GPLed PGP replacement tool
GNU Wget 1.5.3 Network utility to retrieve files from the World Wide Web
Gpasman 1.0 Keeps track of all your passwords in a secure way
GTK+ 1.0.6 Library for creating graphicaluser interfaces
GtkICQ 0.53 GtkICQ is a clone of Mirabilis' ICQ program based on Gtk/GNOME
gtkmod 980920 Gtk mod,s3m,xm player
http-tiny 1.2 Tiny portable http C library and raw client
icewm 0.9.13 Window Manager designed for speed, usability and consistency
ICI 2.0.3 A dynamic, interpretive language with C-like syntax
IMP 1998-09-21 IMAP and PHP3 based webmail system
install-todos.c 0.0.1 Drop in replacement for install-todos.c that comes with pilot-link.
IPTraf 1.3.0 An ncurses-based IP LAN monitor
IRCIT 0.3.1 An advanced text-mode IRC client
Javachat 0.99b Small chatserver written in Java 1.1.x
Jikes 0.37 Java compiler that translates Java source into bytecoded instruction sets
jmk-x11-fonts 1.1 Jim's character-cell fonts for the X Window System
JSFormatter 0.3.3 Free style-formatter for Java source files
karpski 0.101 Network sniffer/scanner with a GTK interface
KDat 1.99d Tar based tape archiver
KFourier 1.1c An image filtering application which uses the Fourier transform
kicq 0.2.0 ICQ clone for KDE that looks like Mirabilis' ICQ client
KMid 1.2 Midi/Karaoke player with many features
kmp3 0.1.1 A KDE MP3 Player
KNewMail 2.1 KDE application designed to check multiple pop3 servers for email.
KOrganizer 0.9.13 Personal Information Manager for the KDE Desktop Environment
Krabber 0.2.2 KDE audio cd grabber and mp3 encoder front-end
KuickShow 0.5.3 A fast, comfortable and easy-to-use image viewer/browser
Lesstif 0.86.5 LGPL'd re-implementation of Motif
LinPopup 0.9.3 Linux port of Winpopup, running over Samba.
Linuxconf 1.12r4 Sophisticated administrative tool
lm_config 0.0.5 GUI to configure Alexander Larsson's lm78 kernel module
Loadmeter 1.20 System monitoring app for X11 that displays stats and info
lsof 4.37 List open files
ltrace 0.3.4 A library call tracer
Lynx 2.8 fully-featured, text-based World Wide Web browser
Mesa 3.0 3-D graphics library which uses the OpenGL API
MikMod 3.0.4 Multi-platform open-source module player
mod_ssl 2.0.11-1.3.2 Apache Interface to SSLeay
mr 0.9.4 Console based mail reader
muh 2.02 Full-featured IRC bouncing tool
MySQL 3.22.7b SQL (Structured Query Language) database server
NcFTPd 2.3.1 High-performance File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server for UNIXsystems
Nessus 980914 A free, open-sourced and easy-to-use security auditing tool
NEStra 0.4 Dynamic-Recompiling NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) emulator
Netscape Communicator 4.5PR2 All-in-one browser and communicationssuite
Netscape Flash Plugin 0.2 A Netscape plugin to view Macromedia-Shockwave-Flash files.
Nevermind Who 0.1.0 GUI for rwho with face/image display for each login
News Peruser 3.31 An offline newsreader for Linux and X11
npasswd 2.01 Replacement for the passwd command
ObjectTeam for Linux PE 8.1.1 Beta 2 Object-oriented modeling and design for Linux
oidentd 1.0 ident (rfc1413) daemon for linux that allows users to specify usernames
ORBit 0.3.0 Thin/fast CORBA ORB
PathFinder 1.0.0 A personal web search engine
pavuk 0.9pl3 Webgrabber with an optional Xt or GTK GUI
PentiumGCC snapshot 19980921 Pentium/ PPro/ P-II/ K6/ Cyrix/ MMX optimising egcs clone
perlmoo 0.021 lambdamoo style moo written in perl
PHP 3.0.4 HTML-embedded scripting language
Pine 4.04 Tool for reading,sending, and managing electronic messages
pircd Alpha Zero An IRC daemon, written in Perl.
PnP driver for Linux snapshot 980913 Plug and Play driver for Linux
PySol 1.02 A Python-based Solitaire card game
QtDragon 0.6.3 A tool to configure the telephone-related stuff of a DataBoxSpeed Dragon
rdbm 0.2 reliable database library
Replay 0.50 GTK-based MP3 player for X11
Saint 1.3.1 Security Administrator's Integrated Network Tool
Samba 2.0.0 alpha 6 Allows clients toaccess to a server's filespace and printers via SMB
sar 0.2 Command-line search and replace tool written in Perl.
Scirc 0.40 An IRC client in Guile Scheme
Squid 1.2beta25 High performance Web proxy cache
ssh 2.0.9 Remote Login Program
sudo 1.5.6 Provides limited super user priviledges to specific users
The Board 0.1.2 BBS Software for Linux
TkDesk 1.1 Tk/tcl based X11 Desktop/File manager
TkReq v8.0 19980921 X Windows interface to the req system, written in Tcl/Tk 8.0
trn 4.0.69 Text-based newsreader with threading
TrueReality 1998090701 N64 Emulator
twz1jdbcForMysql 1.0.0-GA A type 4 JDBC driver for MySQL
VaS 0.3a Vote and Survey scripts
VM 6.62 Emacs-based mail reader
wmakerconf 1.1 GTK based configuration tool for WindowMaker window manager
WMiNET 1.0.0 A dockable applet for monitoring all your inet daemon activity
WMPPP 1.3.0 WindowMaker frontend to PPPD
WN 2.1.0 A simple, robust Webserver whose design emphasizes security
Word Inspector 0.1a GTK frontend to Dict dictionary program
www-sql 0.5.6 Displays information from MySQL or PostgreSQL databases in web pages
X-Chat 0.1.3 GTK+ Based IRC Client. Alot like AmIRC (Amiga).
X-Mame 0.34b3.1 The Un*x version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator
Xafe 1.0 A frontend for XAnim
XawTV 2.26 TV application and a few utilities
XCmail 0.99.6 Stable MIME and POP3 capable mailtool for X11
XFCE 2.1.0 Easy-to-use and easy-to-configure environment for X11
Xscreensaver 2.28 Modular screen saver and locker for the X WindowSystem
Xsql 2.1.7e01 A Java based interactive SQL editor which uses Swing/JFC pluggable GUI

Our software announcements are provided courtesy of FreshMeat


 Main page
 Linux in the news
 Back page

See also: last week's Back page page.

Linux links of the week

Sometimes life in the Linux world gets too serious, and that is not a good thing. It's worthwhile to remember that, after all, Linux is supposed to be fun. To that end, a visit to the Humorix page on occasion is worthwhile. Go and have a smile, then you can proceed to the rms flames below...:-)

Another venerable Linux site that we have not yet featured here is the Linux Web Watcher. It is organized as another hierarchical Linux link site, but with a twist: sites are listed by when they were last modified. A quick look at the tables for the last week can give an interesting view of where things are happening. The Web Watcher is definitely one of the more useful Linux web resources.

September 24, 1998



Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to editor@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 08:32:43 -0400
From: Dave Phillips <dlphilp@bright.net>
To: lwn@eklektix.com
Subject: rms commentary (no flame)


  It was with great interest that I read your comments on Richard
Stallman. In my remarks that follow, please understand that I do not
know the man nor do I have any sort of dealings with him. What I know of
rms is primarily through Steve Levy's description in his book "Hackers"
and in various journal and news entries.

  I think you miss a point which perhaps rms himself does not make so
well: Linux did not begin with a plan for "enterprise" readiness, nor
was "world domination" its original brief. As far as I can tell, Linus
wanted to write a better version of Minix, and the rest is history. But
now, because it is indeed a full-fledged UNIX replacement, there seems
to be a strong trend to perceive it as a business solution, and many
people seem to want to cast its very survival into that arena, as though
without success in the marketplace Linux will somehow fail and cease to

  Yet I believe that very few Linux hackers ever cared much about that
market scenario, and it is somewhat insulting to them to insist that
it's "Business or Death". Eric Raymond's recent themes are focused on
Linux as business, and Tim O'Reilly has a company to run. I admire both
these men and their achievments, but frankly I don't believe they're
sharing anything like the space occupied by rms. Richard must indeed
feel sold out again whenever he sees a trademark after Linux, or
whenever he reads another article concerned with the Linux vs. M$ battle
for the market share. This man by himself kept alive the whole notion of
freely available software when the rest of us were hacking MS-DOS and
thinking it was 'way cool to pay so little for Borland's compilers.
Emacs, the FSF, the GPL, and GNU itself: the man's achievements speak
for themselves, and I would say rather than wondering what to do about
rms perhaps we should wonder how to live up to his vision.

  How could he not view the current trends as anything but backward
steps ? In his philosophy there isn't competition with the business
world because that's precisely where things go wrong, where software
becomes hidden again, where code goes proprietary, and programmers stop
sharing. Stallman has seen this happen, where the rest of us haven't
lived the history. Rather than disparaging rms I think we should
consider his views quite carefully, and perhaps we could scrutinize our
own motivations a little more squarely.

  Yes, I know rms isn't nearly as attractive an icon as Linus Torvalds
(Man Of The Century, IMHO). He is harsh-spoken, he looks weird, and he's
an Old Guy (Slashdot's poll indicated the vast majority of its readers
were in their 20s). Yet the substance of rms's life is a clear indicator
of his dedication to something we all now share and care for.
Personally, I don't think we need to do anything about rms except
listen, make an effort to understand him and where he's coming from, and
maybe learn something. After all he's done for Linux it is the very
least we can do for him.

Thank you for your time and patience.

== Dave Phillips


To: lwn@eklektix.com
Subject: Your editorial on RMS
From: David Kastrup <dak@neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de>
Date: 17 Sep 1998 11:08:37 +0200

Your editorial on RMS has left me speachless.  You ask the question
"What should be done about RMS?  Something should be done."  The
obvious solution, of course, is to crucify him.  This was the approach
taken almost twenty centuries ago towards one that rekindled searching
for the meaning instead of the letter of the law, but caused a ruckus
wherever he went, for example, upsetting the moneylender's tables in
the temple.  A lot of people seem to be eagerly waiting for RMS to
pass away so that they can interpret his visions in the matter they
find expedient.

The key thing to note is that Richard Stallman has not changed his
vision one bit since first starting in the free software movement.  He
was nice to show a vision when nobody else was really concerned about
matters, and served as a spearhead.  Now that many people feel that
things have arrived at a state that makes them feel somewhat
comfortable, they want to silence him in order not to upset the
authorities not really into the movement and let matters drift in the
direction suiting them.

He has been fighting for a completely free system from the beginning
of his actions in the area of free software.  Now people scald him for
not being enthused about offers of non-free components for otherwise
free systems.  People would be only to happy to slowly switch to a
system where they will have to pay for all but the core components
(and never get to see the source of either), while the usability of
the free parts alone slowly drifts into oblivion.

RMS reminds us that this is not the vision he has been fighting for
from the beginning.  While some people feel they should be allowed to
make pacts with the non-free sources in order to get their free pieces
a bit more lustre more quickly than achievable in other ways, it is a
good thing that RMS is around to remind people that this is not what
the vision of free software is about.

It is all very nice if people find that their personal utility of free
software does not require a vision.  But it is something entirely
different to demand that people with a vision need to have "something
done about them" so that one can boast of having a fulfilled vision
already without reproach from their side.

Personally, I am glad that RMS is around to tell the unmasked and
inconvenient truths from time to time.  He is a blockhead, arrogant,
self-conscious and other things, but he has always been that and
people had no problem with it as long as they had him clearing the
paths ahead they personally found nice to have.

It is, BTW, also a lie that the GNU system is drifting into
unimportance.  All of its major components are in use in free software
systems such as Linux, and more and more are being added.  Any free
software developer with a conscience tries making his software as
portable as possible, sharing the original vision that free software
should be available on any system, not just on certain, isolated and
dedicated systems like Linux or the Hurd.

David Kastrup                                     Phone: +49-234-700-5570
Email: dak@neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de       Fax: +49-234-709-4209
Institut für Neuroinformatik, Universitätsstr. 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany

Subject: Re: What do we do about Richard M. Stallman?
To: lwn@eklektix.com
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 23:32:00 +1000 (EST)
From: "Danny Yee" <danny@staff.cs.usyd.edu.au>

For once I find myself stunned by an LWN editorial.


What do we do about Richard M. Stallman?

If Richard Stallman is, as your editorial depicts him, a lone figure
with bizarre and idiosyncratic ideas, then I suggest that you simply
ignore him: giving him editorial attention can only make things worse.
If, on the other hand, Stallman's ides are shared by a large, albeit
minority, fraction of the free software community (as is most patently the
case), then your editorial is rudely patronising, denying that those of
us in that part of the community even exist and dismissing our concerns
without any consideration at all.

Regardless of the good intentions of O'Reilly and the quality of their
books, the issue of freedom of documentation *is a real issue* and can
not be ignored.  Being able to share documentation is a critical part
of being able to share software - yet the typical price of an O'Reilly
book is greater than the average monthly income in most of the world.
Perhaps it would solve the problem if O'Reilly (and others) GPLed their
books after a year in print (Stallman is not too critical of the Aladdin
ghostscript licensing scheme).  Perhaps not.  But such ideas deserve
a discussion.

It seems _prima facie_ obvious that Oracle and Informix ports to Linux
will be good for Linux but bad for the development of industrial strength
free database systems.  Surely there is room for disagreement about the
net value of such a tradeoff?  And the GNU/Linux naming issue may be
parochial, but it is hardly a threat to anyone.

Your attempt to make everything a matter of Stallman's personality
is just a lazy way to avoid facing some real and important issues.
People do matter, but ideas matter more -- there is no point asking
"What do we do about Tim O'Reilly and Eric S. Raymond?".

Danny Yee.


Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 12:37:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jason McNeill <mcneill@xenon.cchem.berkeley.edu>
To: lwn@eklektix.com
Subject: The "Problem" With rms


I had a completely different impression than yours after reading the Salon
article.  I feel there is room for reasoned dissent within the free
software / open source (tm) community.  I also found esr's comments to be
highly hypocritical.  He wanted to present a very one-sided view of free
software and was incensed that rms wanted to offer reasoned counter
arguments.  Who's bullying whom?

I think it is counterproductive to insist the the free software / open
source (tm) community present a united front.  We are not a corporation,
we are a collection of independent agents.  When, say, Larry Ellison and
Bill Gates disagree, does this reflect poorly on the computer industry as
a whole (assuming they represent some important or relevant part of that
industry)?  They might even openly disagree at the same conference, but it
doesn't send the industry into a tailspin or threaten to ruin the
conference.  I oppose the type of closed-mindedness promoted by some free
software advocates and think the free software movement is big enough to
accommodate differing views such as those of rms.

rms is not a spoiler or splitter.  He says a lot of things that need to be
said, and says so without resorting to ad-hominem attacks (in contrast to
esr's actions, in my opinion). I think he was right to question the "get
the software for free and buy the book" business model.  He was voicing a
valid concern that many of us share.  Importantly, he's not compelling
anyone to follow his advice or attempting to shut anyone up.  When you
call for the silencing of rms, you are attempting to silence an important
voice in the free software movement. Paraphrasing loosely the quote from
Chris Hanson in the Salon article, rms' ideas and philosophy are
well-reasoned and hold up well to intense scrutiny and analysis.  I
believe they will stand the test of time. 

I doubt I'll convince you that your representation of rms is unfair, but
after reading your analysis I felt compelled to respond.  Please feel free
to quote this letter in whole or in part.


Jason D. McNeill
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720 USA
GNU software user since '92,
GNU/Linux user since '94.



Editor's note

Last week's editorial on Richard Stallman drew more hostile responses than anything else LWN has ever run (indeed, more than all the rest combined). I feel that the column was badly misunderstood. If there is fault to be assigned for that, of course, it belongs with the author; clearly the quality of the writing was not what it should have been. Nonetheless, I do feel the need to point out that nowhere in the text was there any call to "censor," "silence," or "crucify" (!) rms. Indeed, I said that he still had much to contribute, and that we still need him.

This author has been a fan of rms ever since first struggling to get GNU emacs running under VMS many years ago. That has not changed. That is not inconsistent with pointing out that some of his actions are harmful to those who, really, are on the same side. When I asked "what do we do," I really wanted to say "how do we come to an understanding that we have the same goal, even if our tactics differ?"

Your editor hereby promises to try not to write any more columns far after his bedtime.


Eklektix, Inc. Linux powered! Copyright © 1998 Eklektix, Inc., all rights reserved
Linux ® is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds