Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's Back page page.
The Unix Guru Universe ("UGU") is a comprehensive collection of information relating to the administration of Unix-type systems in general. They have a largish Linux section, but much of what's there is not Linux specific (but useful anyway).
Designing a Linux PC takes you step-by-step through the process of choosing your hardware wisely. Great levels of detail are not present here, but there is some good advice on what to get. (Another good source for this sort of information is Net Express. They are a high-end Linux systems VAR, and they go to great lengths to tell the reader about why they choose the hardware they do. You can never buy a thing from them and still benefit from visiting their site).
October 1, 1998
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
We got some complaints about the smaller font used to format the letters last week, so we've done away with it. We'll work on the details of the formatting later... Letters this week cover UDI, Acorn, and some last RMS notes.
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 98 21:27:33 EDT From: email@example.com (Donald Becker) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: UDI comment Thank you for the coverage and commentary on the UDI effort. I agree with your assesment that this is likely not good for the Linux community. A vital element of Linux's success has been its excellent device support. I don't see UDI enhancing that. Rather I see UDI as a way for other OSes to gain additional device drivers without providing anything in return. It will also encourage binary-only device drivers from vendors in place of open source support. What do we gain from UDI? What other Unix has such extensive device support? Certainly not Solaris or BSD. And they are unlikely to convert their proprietary drivers to an open interface. Finally, when there is a defined binary interface, the GPL can be circumvented with the claim that a device driver is just another stand-alone program that may be ported to another system. Donald Becker email@example.com USRA-CESDIS, Center of Excellence in Space Data and Information Sciences. Code 930.5, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. 20771 301-286-0882 http://cesdis.gsfc.nasa.gov/people/becker/whoiam.html
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 11:41:32 -0700 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: UDI I think Intel has a good idea. To realize UDI on Linux, Intel should volunteer to become the project coordinator and get the other commercial UDI members to provide programmer support to create the UDI drivers. The Linux kernel development team I am sure would appreciate having but one commercial entity to deal with and I believe that Intel would be the easiest one for them to deal with. I assume that any UDI modifications to the Linux kernel would have merit, and not merely to support UDI. With that and the above stipulations, I think it is a great idea that the Linux community should get behind and encourge Intel to make it happen!
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 11:31:19 +0100 From: Charlie Stross <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Thought for the day ... Bill Gates gave a speech recently, reported in Le Monde Informatique: he's 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. (See Babelfish translation at http://www.con.wesleyan.edu/~jsproul/babel-bill.html). Lo, verily and forsooth, up pops the following announcement on Freshmeat yesterday: "KVoiceControl is a speech recognition system that allows the user to connect spoken commands to unix commands. It automagically detects signals coming from a microphone then performs recognition on this speech input and in case of successful recognition executes the unix command the user hooked up to it." (See http://werner.ira.uka.de/~kiecza/kde/.) Coming next week: NASA, NSA, IRS, CIA announce "US government has no plans to migrate from OS/2 before 2047." -- Charlie Stross
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 12:31:09 +0100 (BST) From: Andrew Spencer <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Acorn I was interested to read your comments on the demise of Acorn's desktop/workstation efforts. I used an Acorn machine for several years as a teenager; I still have one at home, little used anymore because I do all my work on an x86 Linux machine (I couldn't afford a new Acorn, and also they didn't and don't have hardware floating-point, which I needed). Acorn machines, or more particularly their operating system Risc-OS, actually have very little in common with Linux other than independence from Microsoft. Linux is very decidedly a programmer's operating system, in the sense that reliability and security seem to be the main things guiding its deisgn. Acorn's operating system is quite different: much of it was apparently written in assembler; it's based on co-operative multi-tasking; it's built around a single-user philosophy much like Windows, with the attendant consequences; and as far as I know does little or nothing to stop badly-behaved programs from writing on areas of memory that they shouldn't, or similar crimes. [Mind you, the operating system being on a ROM -- all 2Mb of it -- maybe makes that slightly less risky. Certainly in practice, they're better behaved than Windows machines, but it's still not unheard of for applications to take the whole machine down with them.] It also doesn't really have anything to match all the Unix tools like shell scripting, grepping etc... On the other hand, though, no-one could describe Linux as a user's operating system. The lack of consistency in behaviour of X applications verges on the ridiculous, for example. By contrast, Risc-OS is really very well designed and easy to learn: not perfect, but a model of simplicity and consistency when compared to Windows. Some of its neatest features are (and skip this if you don't give a toss): * Three button mouse: the left button acts much like the left button in Windows, the middle button brings up pop-up menus (no menu bars) and the right button produces clever variations on the left button. Right-clicking on a scroll-bar tab scrolls in the reverse direction, which is incredibly useful when scanning up and down a document. Right-clicking a menu item leaves the menu open after performing the action, instead of closing it. Especially good is the handling of directories. Directories are brought up in separate windows (rather than Windows Explorer style) i.e. double-clicking a directory folder brings up its contents in a new window. If you double-click with the right mouse button, the window you're currently in gets closed. If you close a directory display with the right button, the directory above it pops up again. Much nicer than in Windows 95. * Drag-and-drop: You load files by dragging them onto the application icon (which sits on a bar at the bottom of the screen); you save them by dragging them out of the save dialog onto a Filer window, i.e. a directory window. * Applications directories: Program files and associated odds and ends (like icon bitmaps) are kept together in a single directory per application. This directory appears as the application icon rather than a folder icon, and double-clicking it loads the application (it runs a script file inside the directory called !Run). This might not be to everyone's taste, but I like it a lot. * Integrated OS support for anti-aliased text since about the year dot (well, 1988ish)... All of which is intended to say that I'm not sure whether the demise of Acorn's workstation division is going to lead to any significant number of talented programmers migrating to Linux. Probably most (ex-)Acorn programmers who might have been inclined to program for Linux already do so. Rather, I think the message in this event is to remind us of the sad failing of the computer industry to produce thoughtful, good and consistent design *for the user*. We already know that technical superiority is not, on its own, enough to win (or even survive). Ease of use is even less so. Which is a shame, because there's more need for it now than ever. LWN is excellent - well written, interesting and level headed - keep it up!! all the best, Andrew -- Andrew Spencer Dept of Biology and Biochemistry and Centre for Mathematical Biology University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY UK
From: "Zenaan Harkness" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <email@example.com> Subject: What should we do with rms. Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 09:43:42 +1000 I would briefly like to state my full support of RMS and his vision. Thank you for printing the LWN flames that clearly expressed (I thought) the relevance (as if that had to be stated in the first place) of RMS in _our_ Gnu/Linux world. I would ask you not to write something so arrogantly repulsive (as the original article) again. Do so, and I will consider not reading LWN again. As a pennance, I suggest a change of the name of your editorial to include 'Gnu'. On the whole I do find LWN to be an exceptional publication. I do not expect to see such indiscrimate editorial in the future. If not so, I would expect to see an alternative publication started. Something like "Gnu Weekly News".
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 11:33:10 -0500 From: Mike Hammel <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: The Linux Press: editorial power and responsibility I read the responses to your rms article. A few were well worded (Danny Yee's in particular) and argued valid points. And perhaps they were right in stating that your editorial should not have been out to target Richard in the manner that it did. But I can't help but feel that the responders missed the opposing viewpoint as well. The problem (yes, problem) with RMS is not his ideas or ideals, it is in the manner in which he expresses them. No one likes to be degraded or verbally abused and battered and, based only on the reports of conferences and his other public appearances, it would appear this is this is the manner he uses to make his point. Of course, if this is not how he really presents his views, then those who responded should consider taking up the journalistic trade to make their own reports on RMS' actions. We, people in general, make many decisions based on the writings in the press. The Linux press is still young - we have limited resources and our ability to ferret out the true story is sometimes limited by those resources. Most of us (I speak of writers for LWN, The Linux Gazette, Slashdot, and the various other Linux-specific press sites on the web) are generally not professional writers much less journalists. We can and do make mistakes. I've never written about RMS in my Graphics Muse column. I tend to avoid the issue publicly as much as possible. But a similar editorial about GGI generated quite a bit of unhappy mail. Like LWN, I made a public stance. I wasn't quite prepared for the response. Lesson learned. But its the press who have to hang themselves out on the line on issues like these. It gives us a power and it requires a responsibility to be truthful and as accurate as possible. We'll do our best. All we ask of our readers - all I ask - is that you not use RMS' tactics in responding. Be succint - we get a lot of email. Follow up counterarguments with verifiable proof, where possible. And most of all - don't be mean. Remember, however the press may attempt to be unbiased, it still has the power to sway the world. You don't want to sway them away from your point of view, do you? Michael J Hammel The Graphics Muse firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 25 Sep 1998 16:32:32 -0000 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: comments on the rms commentary It looks like most of these people didn't read the original article very closely -- though I think the author's right that it's a little unclear. I think it's true that RMS is in danger of making himself irrelevant (except historically, obviously), because he's an extremist -- not just in his goals, which I think are by and large good goals, but in his methods; he doesn't seem to see value in subversion or in short-term compromise. The danger, of course, is losing sight of your original goals, and perhaps that's what RMS sees happening. I don't want to see RMS become the Leon Trotsky of the free software revolution (but who's the Stalin in that picture?), but on the other hand, a revolution without the support of the populace, a revolution that confines itself to the literary salons and the debating societies, is doomed to failure. "Open source" may be gaining mindshare, but I don't think it's gaining it at the *expense* of "free software"; it's gaining mindshare in places where "free software" was too blatantly revolutionary to stand a chance. I'm sorry such places exist, but we can't make them go away by wishing, and if "open source" gets GPLed software into places "free software" can't take it, then it's a victory for the Movement. I have to disagree with the writer who says "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." I don't think Linux ports of the large commercial databases will have any effect on the development of industrial-strength free database systems -- they're not going to charge significantly less for the Linux version than for the other versions, not in the long term; anyone who can't afford a commercial database for Solaris or NT will also not be able to afford one for Linux. Most computers are sold to commercial concerns and most software is used in commercial concerns. A victory for free software has to include victory in the business world, or it's an irrelevant sideshow -- as long as we can't get rid of the business world altogether. My opinion of the current issues is that anything that extends the reach of free software in commerce is progress, even if it means short-term compromise. The writer who says "people would be only too happy to slowly switch to a system where they will have to pay for all but the core components" is not thinking straight -- remember, for most computer buyers (as opposed to coders, who look a little more closely into these issues), that's the situation they're in *now* -- you buy the machine, the core components come free (actually they've gone into the cost of the machine, but they seem free), and you buy software to run on top of those "free" components. Now the large commercial concerns that can afford Oracle will be able to run it on Linux, and faced with the possibility of UNIX' stability and security without UNIX' proprietary hardware price tag, hopefully, many of them will choose to. They'll then have the experience of using a free software product to do serious work, and discover that it can in fact be powerful, reliable, and well-supported. Today it's the OS; perhaps tomorrow they'll decide that they don't need to pay Informix per-user-per-processor license fees either, and move to PostgreSQL (once it's a little faster and has a few more features) or SQRL (once it's finished). How can this not be a good thing? --D (David Moles, email@example.com, http://www2.eccosys.com/~deivu/)
A couple of silly mistakes slipped through last week... We mistakenly said that this C|Net Builder article was a comparison between Linux and NT 4.0; instead it compared Linux with NT 5.0 beta 2. And we don't know what slip of the fingers put the city of Madison (WI) in Ohio...
Also, Michel Emde pointed out that the "Hacker Timeline" which we had reprinted from the ISN mailing list had been taken from Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown" book. We regret the misuse of Mr. Sterling's table and the lack of attribution.