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Was the Windows refund day a success? By one set of metrics, the answer would have to be "no." The turnout for the event was tiny, and, as expected, no refunds were issued. It is difficult to avoid thinking that a more concerted effort to get people out into the streets might have paid off handsomely. Perhaps publications like this one should have been a much bigger part of such an effort.

But that would be a short-sighted view, in any case. The Windows refund effort has succeeded in creating a much broader understanding of the nature of the "Microsoft tax." News reports all over the planet presented a sympathetic picture of computer users who simply wish to not be forced to pay for software that they do not use. Awareness of the problem - and of the fact that many of us have found an alternative preferable to Windows - is now much higher. The Windows refund people have done very good work, and deserve the strongest of congratulations.

It's Time to Talk about Free Software Again says Bruce Perens in this editorial sent to LWN. "I fear that the Open Source Initiative is drifting away from the Free Sofware values with which we originally created it. It's ironic, but I've found myself again siding with Software in the Public Interest and the Free Software Foundation, much as I did in 1995."

How Linux handles security problems, part II. As might be expected, last week's somewhat ill-tempered editorial on security drew quite a few responses. We would like to follow up in a couple of areas. First, with regard to how the various distributions responded the the FTP vulnerability:

  • Caldera still has not updated its security page (which is nicely available from their front page) since November. We are told that an ftpd fix was made available by Caldera's VAR network, but Caldera still does not appear to have a generally-available fix.

  • Debian had a patched FTP daemon available very quickly after the problem was found. However, they held off on a general announcement for a couple of days while the fix got into the archives and the various mirror sites got caught up, and it did not appear on the debian.org web page during that time. Wichert Akkerman tells us that Debian is working on a mechanism to get security fixes out more quickly.

  • Red Hat, as noted last week, produced and announced a patch very quickly, but, due to heavy traffic, access to their FTP site was essentially impossible. Their mirror sites, too, were blocked out, and thus did not carry the update for some time. Red Hat claims that things are working better now.

  • Slackware users don't like to be left out, and many of them wrote in to tell us that a Slackware fix for the Pine vulnerability was in place before the alerts went out. There still does not appear to be a fix out for the FTP problem, though.

  • SuSE also evidently had a patch available and noted on their German updates page. They also mention it on an English page which is accessible via a series of clicks from their English-language European page, but there appears to be no obvious path to it (or a similar page) from their North American page. SuSE tells us that they are hiring a full-time security person.

  • TurboLinux does appear to have a patch in place, but you have to look deep into their FTP area to find it. Their errata page was updated on the 16th, but makes no mention of the problem.

So, while we are far from perfection, it would appear that the response of most of the Linux distributions to this security problem was reasonably prompt - certainly far better than is seen with proprietary software.

The problem, thus, lies not with producing patches that close security holes, but in getting those patches into the hands of users and system administrators everywhere. There are two separate aspects to this problem: communications and infrastructure.

Communications has to do with letting people know that patches are needed and available, and with telling them where to find these patches. We repeat our call from last week for each distribution to make security information available from its front page (in each language that they support). When people are looking for a patch (now!), it is too late to tell them they should be on some mailing list.

Putting out patches is of limited use, however, if said patches are inaccessible. As the popularity of Linux grows, servers used by distributions will become ever more susceptible overwhelming surges in traffic. We were taken to task by some readers who thought we were expecting Red Hat to have the bandwidth to handle such surges. We were not suggesting that; as users and their available bandwidth grows it will probably prove not to be possible, much less economical to put in such fat pipes.

Setting up that amount of bandwidth is also unnecessary. All that is really needed is a mirror system that actually works. The Linux kernel archive mirror system, set up by H. Peter Anvin, is a great example of how to do things right. Access to the main site is controlled so that the mirrors are always able to update themselves. DNS is set up properly so that one need not actually know the name of a mirror site. It all just simply works.

Companies like Red Hat already have the most important piece for a good mirror system: a large set of willing mirror sites. A bit of organizational work should be all that's needed to make the mirror system function well.

Free software pioneers. The EFF is seeking nominations for their 1999 Pioneer awards. It would be nice to have some good nominations from the free software world (but remember that Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman won last year).

February 18, 1999


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See also: last week's Security page.



Red Hat's updated sysklog is still not secure? That's the word from Cory Visi, who explains in his Bugtraq posting that the updated version from Red Hat contains Cory's patch, which he states does not fix the original problem. The correct fix is to upgrade to sysklogd-1.3-30. This impacts all versions of Red Hat but will not impact Linux distributions that already use the newer version of sysklogd. Red Hat has been notified.

An update to our reports on security problems with proftpd and wu-ftp is available on our front page.

Security Reports

An error in the way cfengine handles temporary files has been identified by the maintainer of the Debian cfengine package. The Debian announcement recommends upgrading to their fixed version and provides pointers and instructions for Debian GNU/Linux. The author of cfengine has been notified but an official fix has not yet been released.

ISS issued an advisory on "Super", a utility which allows restricted super user privileges for some users. The advisory tested the problem on Debian GNU/Linux, though Super is also available for other Linux and Unix distributions. Debian uploaded a fix for the problem within a few hours. An official notice of the fix is being held until binary packages for all architectures are available and the mirrors have been updated.

Alfonso De Gregorio reported two bugs in traceroute which allow it to be used as a UDP or TCP flooder. The problems have been confirmed and, so far, updates for FreeBSD have been released.

Juan Diego Bolanos filed a report on /tmp problems with all versions of lynx. Follow ups on Bugtraq indicate that this is not a new problem; /tmp problem reports for lynx date back to March of 1998. No one seems to be stepping up to the plate to address the problems, however. In the mean time, Glynn Clements and Piotr Klaban stepped up to suggest some workarounds.

Kenn Humborg reported what turns out to be a problem with the rpms for ssh from ftp.replay.com. His followup describes the source of the problem and indicates that he'll contact the creators of the rpms and ask him to rebuild them.

A security patch for Network Flight Recorder is now available. They recommend installing the patch immediately. It appears to fix a variety of buffer overruns and some difficulties handling large alert queues when the central NFR system cannot be reached. This advisory from NAI details the vulnerability for which the patch was released.

A reported buffer overflow in mc, detailed here, does not appear to be exploitable in any way, at least according to this report from Julien Nadeau. It has been reported to the mc authors.

A buffer overflow in snplog was reported by Rupert Weber-Henschel. Check his posting for more details.

HERT reports a buffer overflow in lsof. lsof is a tool used on many systems to list open files. The HERT advisory indicates that the buffer overflow is vulnerable when lsof is installed setuid root or setgid. Vulnerable Linux distributions reported include SuSE, Debian and Red Hat. The workaround is easy, just change the permissions on lsof to 0755.


The Pine Development Team officially responded to last week's pine exploit report. In it, they explain that the problem lies not in pine but in metamail and specifically in the default mailcap file distributed the metamail MIME-support package. Thomas Roessler followed up with a description of how mutt handles the situation.

John D. Hardin updated his MIME-sanitization procmail filter to address the metamail vulnerability that affected pine. Here is his note with pointers to the new version.

Debian released an updated version of their advisory on wu-ftpd.


Edward Felton and Gary McGraw have made the entire text of their book, Securing Java, available on the Web. They are also authors of the 1996 "Java Security: HA HA. Take a look and buy a copy to support them if you are impressed with what you find.

Version 1.0 of the Linux IP Firewall Log Analyzer (ipfwlog.pl) is available. More information and the script itself are available on the web.

Rob Slade has made available his review of "Fighting Computer Crime" by Donn B. Parker, 1998. He dislikes the beginning and end of the book but indicates that there is a great deal of useful information for the security practitioner.

The February 15th edition of CRYPTO-GRAM, Bruce Schneier's monthly newsletter, is now available. [From ISN]

February 18, 1999


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release is still 2.2.1, despite the fact that Linus had promised a 2.2.2 by Tuesday when he announced 2.2.2pre4. He also stated his desire for 2.2.2 to be "really rock solid," so it's better that we wait if need be. Alan Cox, meanwhile, has put out 2.2.1ac6 for folks absolutely needing a new patch to apply.

The dominant conversation this week started with the question of why is fsync() on large files so slow? This problem manifests itself on systems with a very busy syslog daemon; syslog calls fsync after every entry that it logs to a file in the hopes that everything will get out to disk should a system crash happen. Busy loggers can have many entries every second, so fsync calls happen frequently.

The problem is that fsync requires an examination of all of the blocks in a file to be sure that none of them have been modified. If the file is large (and busy syslog daemons can create very large files) there is a lot of work to be done. In the worst case, the system bogs down and things start to hang for periods of time. Not fun.

Ted Ts'o came up with a quick patch which keeps track of which blocks in a file have been modified since the last sync; it works as long as not too many changes have been made. Further discussions with Linus lead to a preliminary design for a more extensive list of "dirty blocks" as a more ambitious solution to the problem. Whether anything that comes out of it will show up in a kernel before 2.3 is unclear.

Thereafter followed a strange discussion resulting from a suggestion by Stephen Tweedie that his journaling extensions to ext2 would also address part of the problem. Linus jumped on that with a pronouncement that journaling would never be accepted into the ext2 filesystem; it's too big a change. Big filesystem changes do tend to make people nervous. When it was pointed out to him that the plan has always been to create an "ext3" filesystem, Linus went further and suggested that ext3 be an entirely new filesystem - not based on ext2. Linus seems in particular to want to get rid of the "." and ".." entries that Unix directories have contained forever; it is not entirely clear why.

In any case, implementing an entirely new filesystem and dropping "." and ".." are not particularly popular ideas at the moment. Expect to see journaling (which is really just a way to make changes atomicly to the filesystem so that 'fsck' is not necessary, even after a crash) show up in an "ext3" filesystem somewhere in the 2.3 series.

A surge of development activity with the modutils package erupted after Björn Ekwall agreed to help maintain the package. He immediately reverted back to an older version of modutils which was written in C++ in a claimed response to some licensing problems. This change was not especially popular; in particular, there is concern about fitting modutils onto boot floppies - where every byte is precious - when the bulky C++ libraries must be included as well.

Development is pressing forward regardless, with an immediate goal of integrating the "modprobe" and "insmod" utilities. The latest snapshot was announced on Tuesday.

Kernel time in nanoseconds. Ulrich Windl put out a request for discussion on his plan to convert internal kernel timekeeping to use nanosecond intervals. This change would help to implement a number of POSIX real time functions, and also helps with the NTPv4 clock synchronization protocol. He's looking for testers for "this very experimental stuff."

New development mailing lists: a list for people interested in working on a logical volume manager for Linux has been announced. There is also a new list dedicated to Linux performance monitoring.

Own a copy of history: Riley Williams is now offering a two-CD set with almost the entire history of released Linux kernels. See his web site for details.

Thanks to Randy Appleton for his assistance with this week's kernel section.

February 18, 1999

For other kernel news, see:


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See also: last week's Distributions page.



The scheduled release date for Debian 2.1 is March 2nd, according to this note from Brian White. Uploads to the Intel base will be locked on February 22nd to give the other architectures a chance to catch up. From checking on the debian-alpha and debian-space lists, both of these architectures look in good shape to make the release date.

Debian GNU/Linux 2.0r5 has been released. This is an update to the current stable Debian 2.0, containing security and bug fixes. For details on the changes, see the changelog. Check out the announcement for pointers to more information.

Wichert Akkerman contacted us in response to mention of Debian's security practices on the front page of the February 11th, version of LWN. He corrected some minor errors in the coverage, which should be reflected on this week's LWN, but also indicated that they are looking for ways to improve their security efforts, primarily by improving people's access to information about problems and fixes, since security reports already receive a rapid response from Debian maintainers.

The Debian Weekly News for February 15th is available. Joey Hess commented that the issue is a bit slim, due to Windows Refund day and other projects. They are looking for more contributors to divide up the work.

CUTE 2000, an "all-in-one" Linux server providing DNS, SAMBA, WWW, FTP, etc, was announced at the NET & COM '99 show. It is Debian-based and you can read more about it in this article.

Definite Linux

This U.K.-specific Linux distribution is based on Red Hat 5.2. Both the latest versions of KDE and Gnome are provided, but not integrated in the distribution. They also include all the latest bug fixes from Red Hat, remastering their CD for every major bug or security fix reported. Their website also indicates that the latest versions of XFree86 and Samba are already built into their CD. Jason Clifford also indicated that up-to-date versions of ghostscript and postgresql are there as well.

As an extremely nice additional feature, about 150MB of additional security-related and other software, such as ssh, Apache-SSL, etc, are available on the Definite Linux CD, though not installed by default. They have, for example, already acquired an export license for Roxen Challenger with full encryption from the Swedish Government. If you are in the U.K. and already using Red Hat, you will want to take a good look at this distribution as an alternative.


Chyung Choi from South Korea has created a new distribution that he calls easylinux-kr. It can be run almost directly off the CD. More information is available, in both English and Korean, on his web-site.

Red Hat

Greg Herlein has posted an update to the Red Hat Module Upgrade Howto. He also mentions that he plans on working on improvements to the Modules Mini-HOWTO, previously maintained by Riley Williams, to update it for the 2.2.X kernel series. If anyone is interested in helping, they should let him know.


A Slackware FAQ is now available. It answers important questions like why you shouldn't bug them about when the next Slackware release will be ... Seriously, it includes some information about their plans for handling glibc 2.1, KDE 1.1 and more, so it is worth a read for all Slackware fans.

A large number of updates to Slackware have been released since February 4th. Information on these updates can most easily be found in the ChangeLog file for slackware on ftp.cdrom.com. Some of the more critical updates include sendmail 8.9.3 (along with procmail and smail recompiles), various changes to help support the 2.2.X kernel, new versions of imapd and pine, in response to security alerts, and, biggest of all, KDE 1.1 is now part of the current slackware.


As a couple of you noted in personal email messages, after weeks of watching for the release of the International veresion of SuSE 6.0, this editor was out sick and the announcement was missed. Our apologies. Meanwhile, for those who haven't already found the news elsewhere, the SuSE U.S. home page has links to all sorts of information about the new version.

People are very happy with 6.0! In comparison with charting reponses to 5.3 international, which had to be withdrawn due to rare, but severe, problems, SuSE seems to have reclaimed its reputation of providing extremely stable, easy-to-use releases.

SuSE 6.0 is glibc based! This is probably the largest change with the move to 6.0. Now those of you who have been waiting to try out Oracle or other glibc-based applications on SuSE have lost your last excuse ...

Reports of upgrades to 6.0 indicate that they are going reasonably smoothly, though it should be noted that the parameters for pppd have changed and some links to the rc2.d and rc3.d directory may need to be recreated. Some people have received their SuSE subscriptions while many others are still waiting.

Lenz Grimmer posted a tip on how to get GNOME up and running with SuSE 6.0.

SuSE's support for security is likely to improve in the future. We've heard that they are adding on another person for whom security will be the sole focus.


In preparation for the next official trinux release a new TrinuxHD image (0.49 beta) has been made available. Matthew Franz encourages those of you running TrinuxHD to upgrade due to significant improvements that allow automatic booting.

February 18, 1999

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


No new information on the JDK 1.2 port is yet available. We know from past weeks that the major threads problem has been dealt with using green threads. Presumably some of the other remaining problems that prevent the port from passing the JCK are also proving obdurate.

Note that the location for up-to-date news on the JDK port has moved to the News and Contact Information page. This may have been in response to a request that the information be dated. The last note is from February 13th and just states that information on the port will be provided when the porters have sufficient time.

In addition, in a move which he states he hopes he doesn't regret, Steve Byrne's has mentioned that he plans to create a JDK 1.2 porting status page with information on what portions of the JCK they have passed so far and on what platforms. Of course, that will take time and therefore has not yet happened.

This week's JDC Tech Tips is available.


The Perl Institute Web page at http://www.perl.org was down earlier this week, but back up by Tuesday, February 16th.

Several new Perl books have been published, including:

  • Learning Perl/Tk, by Nancy Walsh (O'Reilly)
  • Perl Annotated Archives, by Martin C. Brown (Osborne/McGraw-Hill)
  • Perl Power!, by Michael Schilli (Addison-Wesley)

CPAN Testers has moved to the Perl Institute web page. The new site has a database and search capabilities. [ed. some problems with this URL were seen on Wednesday, Februrary 17th]

Tom Christiansen has released pmtools 1.00, a collection of small tools to aid in managing modules, including finding modules, updating them, etc. Download pmtools from here.

Joseph N. Hall will be teaching a four day Introduction to Perl class March 2nd through the 5th in Moorestown, NJ.


PyGreSQL 2.3 has been released. PyGreSQL is a python module that interfaces to a PostgreSQL database. Check out the announcement for more details.

CNRI has summer positions for students. CNRI, the home of Python, is looking for graduate and under-graduate students to work on globally distributed name service, e-commerce, computer animation and remote instrument control, digital library architecture and mobile agent technology. Sounds like some fabulous and fun opportunities. For more information, check out their description of the work.


Here is this week's Tcl-URL!. Moderator Mark Roseman also mentions that they are looking for people interested in pulling a stint moderating Tcl-URL! themselves.

Will Duquette has released an updated version of Will's Guide to Creating Object Commands. This version fixes some errors in the original and extends it.

New Tcl-based offerings for the week include:

February 18, 1999



Development projects


Ganymede 0.97 is now available. Jonathan Abbey dropped us this note containing the release announcement for this GPL'd network directory management system. It is now possible, with this release, to register, unregister, and edit scheduling parameters for all server-side tasks through the Ganymede client. A variety of other fixes have also been included, to bring Ganymede closer to its first stable, production release.


Glibc 2.1 was released! That's the good news and you can read about everything it includes. However, note that the README for glibc2.1 indicates that the new release has been temporarily removed "until some political issues are worked out". According to this Slashdot article, rumors that the pull was due to licensing problems are incorrect. Instead, Zack Weinberg stated, "glibc 2.1 has been pulled since it cannot be compiled with gcc 2.8 and this conflicts with FSF policy. We are working with RMS to resolve the issue. In the meantime, glibc 2.1 remains available from sourceware.cygnus.com and its mirrors. " The fact that it is still available at cygnus explains why the upcoming Debian 2.1 release for sparc can be based on glibc 2.1 even when it isn't officially available yet.


GNOME "Still Conspicuously Skillful Cow" 0.99.8 is now available. GTop 0.99.8 has also been released.

The GNOME FTP site has updated its non-GNOME packages. These are packages needed to help you compile and enjoy GNOME. This note from Martin Baulig describes the new tarballs, source and binary rpms that are available.

Midnight Commander 4.5.14 is out. The new version should no longer hang when used to run other programs.

Reference documentation for gnome-libs has been made available on the web. Here is the announcement.

A mailing list for gnome-db is now available.. Michael Lausch provided instructions for subscribing.

CodeWEB, "An Exploratory Approach to Software Reuse", has created a case study using Gtk/GNOME for people interested in what the project can do (a Qt/KDE case study is also available, check the KDE section for the URL).

Version 0.12 of Gnumeric is out. The new version contains improvements to the importing of Excel files and many bug fixes.


KDE 1.1 RPMs for Red Hat 5.1/5.2, Caldera OpenLinux, and DLD 6.0 (Deutsch Linux Distribution) are available. KDE 1.1 RPMs for SuSE are due out, but a crippling two weeks battling flu among the staff have caused a delay (a certain LWN editor empathizes ...).

kpv (KPackViewer) now has its own mailing list. Kpv is a utility to help systems administrators with package administration. Here is the note that mentions the new mailing list.

CodeWEB, "An Exploratory Approach to Software Reuse", has created a case study using Qt/KDE for people interested in what the project can do (a Gtk/GNOME case study is also available, check the GNOME section for the URL).


The first stable release of Icecast, the GPL Mpeg Layer III Audio broadcasting system, has now been released. Check out news on version 1.0.0 on the icecast home page, which has been recently revamped. They are looking for comments on the new design, so let them know what you think.


Those of you interested in Linux High-Availability will want to check out GFS: The Global File System Workshop, to be held March 5 and 6th in Mountain View, CA at the NASA Ames Research Center. The agenda includes talks from both Stephen Tweedie, David Teigland and Matthew O'Keefe on various topics dear to the hearts of people wanting high availability for Linux. Here's a note from Matthew O'Keefe on that and other topics.


Themes.org chose Seth Spitzer of Netscape for their guest Tiler. The interview covers how Linux became his favorite operating system, along with some nice words for KDE and Python.

Developer.com has a nice article available on Gecko and the NGLayout Engine. It claims that the NGLayout engine is the primary reason that AOL acquired Netscape and goes into how they may use it. By being modular, the NGLayout engine can be used in other networked devices like handheld PC companions such as the Palm Pilot or set top boxes such as WebTV. Expect to see AOL use the NGLayout engine to produce information appliances as part of its AOL Anywhere campaign to make Web and AOL access both wireless and ubiquitous.

As always, check out the latest Mozilla/Netscape news at http://www.mozillazine.org.


A new snapshot of Wine is available. 990214 is the latest snapshot in the Wine series. It includes more header and driver reorganization, OLE support, functions and stubs and, as always, bug fixes galore.

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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

The Burlington Coat Factory will be installing Linux on 1150 computers in its 250 stores, according to this ComputerWorld article. "Despite Burlington's adventurous reputation, Aberdeen analyst Sandra Potter said such a large company's willingness to base a substantial amount of its operations on Linux could send a strong signal that it's a low-cost option that other companies should consider." A strong signal indeed. This development, along with the Jay Jacobs deployment, indicates once again that there are few places where Linux can not go.

Real-time Linux CD's are now available from Zentropix. Their product is essentially a version of Red Hat 5.2 with a real-time kernel added. $35 gets you the set. They have also put out a real-time Linux roadmapshowing what products they intend to come out with in the near future.

Silicon Graphics is releasing their GLX (OpenGL/X window system integration) source under an open source license. See their press release for details. The immediate target, of course, is allowing high-performance graphics under Linux on their hardware, but this release will be of general benefit to anybody doing serious graphics. Very good news. (Thanks to Jeremy Allison).

Advice from the Gartner Group for companies contemplating Linux. This report suggests a very cautious approach at this time, and questions the sincerity of vendors in the Linux market. "...while PC server vendors are seriously considering a Linux strategy, fears of cannibalizing their own Unix strategies and concerns about the chaotic nature of the market will limit their sincerity to opportunistic sales." (Found in Slashdot).

Linux-installed UltraSparc systems have been available from EIS Computers for a while. They have just announced a new line of systems based on 350- and 400-MHz processors. These look like nice, fast systems, and you can get them with Linux. No need to organize a "Solaris refund day" here...

Pacific HiTech has rolled out a server version of their TurboLinux product - at least in Japan, according to this AsiaBizTech article. "TurboLinux Server version 1.0 is the first corporate server product provided by the company. The company is preparing for the sales by creating corporate alliances with system integrators and arranging support services. To date, system integrators selected for providing support services are Fujisoft ABC Inc. and a company in the Otsuka Shokai group."

On-site support from Linux Hardware Solutions has been announced, see their press release for details.

Sun Microsystems has released a Samba benchmark result on their hardware; from the Samba web page: "We have measured Netbench performance of Samba on Solaris 2.6 on an E450 at 231.954 Mbits/Sec. While not officially supported by Sun, Samba has been found by many of Sun's customers to be a high quality, acceptable solution." (Thanks to Jeremy Allison).

LinuxWorld is a commercial success. IDG has put out a press release crowing about the success of the upcoming LinuxWorld conference (9,000 attendees, over 100 exhibitors). "Based on the response from the Linux community, space has already been secured for the twice-per-year LinuxWorld/US conference for the next four years. Internationally, LinuxWorld Singapore will be held this March 5-7 at the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, and plans are currently underway to launch conferences and expos in Europe and Japan."

Press Releases:

February 18, 1999


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

Linux in the news

This week's Linux press, not surprisingly, was dominated by windows refund stories. We have a pile of those down at the end of this page. Meanwhile, here's the recommended reading for the week:
  • First Monday reports on hacking. "Hacking is discussed in the context of being a method for system development. Finally, it is argued that this system development method under certain circumstances may yield superior software artifacts." (Thanks to Dunstan Vavasour).

  • What is a business to do with all the confusion coming out of Microsoft? That's the topic of this PC Week editorial. "We think the real message to IT managers is that they need an independent technology strategy. If Microsoft's meanderings sow confusion, then managers should not lean too heavily on Microsoft as a partner. Instead, they should scan the horizon for products based on such standards as CORBA, Java and Linux."

  • Red Hat Linux wins InfoWorld's Product of the Year Award for operating systems. "Red Hat Software has definitely been an instrumental force in ushering Linux into the enterprise. In past years, Red Hat Linux won for its ease, stability, and utility as a multipurpose, low-end to midrange server platform. We selected the product again this year for continuing to build on those themes in its latest release." (Thanks to Troels Arvin).

  • Fortune Magazine has put out a hilariously cynical summary of Microsoft's defense thus far in the antitrust trial. "But no moment has been quite so Alice in Wonderland as the one we're about to see... The video begins. 'Hello,' chirps an effervescent young Microsoft employee. 'This is a demonstration of the Caldera OpenLinux operating system.' ... The young Microsoftie continues: 'The demonstration will show that Caldera's operating system provides effective functionality for end users.'" (Thanks to Marty Leisner)

  • The LinuxPower folks have put up an interview with Wichert Akkerman, the leader of the Debian project. Worth a read.

  • The folks behind the Linux in Brazil site have put together an extensive review of all word processors that run on Linux. And they mean all, proprietary and free alike. The site is in Portuguese, of course, but translations of a sort are available via Babelfish. (Thanks to Augusto Campos).

There were just a couple of introductory articles out there:

  • PC World discovers Linux with this basic introductory article. It seems almost like something from a year ago. "It won't be replacing Windows anytime soon, but a geeky, once-obscure variant of UNIX is winning the hearts and minds of a growing number of PC users."

  • The L.A. Times ran this introductory article. "'Intends' seems to be an operative word when it comes to programs that turn Linux into a user- friendly operating environment. Although Linux is well-tuned as a server operating system for professionals, it is more of a work in progress as a desktop platform for the masses."

There were lots of business-oriented articles, as usual. IBM, VA Research, and LinuxCare all got special mentions, but there was a lot of other stuff as well.

  • Perhaps the most detailed coverage thus far of IBM's plans can be found in this News.com article. "IBM is in the midst of a company-wide adoption of Linux, lifting the Unix-like technology to the status of more traditional operating systems."

  • InfoWorld reports on IBM's upcoming Linux announcements. "Some observers question whether bundling an open-source operating system might threaten proprietary software businesses surrounding AIX, including the operating system and the thousands of AIX-compatible applications. IBM officials reportedly believe the opportunity available to them in the Linux market can cover any losses they would suffer elsewhere."

  • This PC Week column tries to make the point that Linux is not IBM's most interesting offering - AS/400 is. "With its gestures of support for Linux, IBM opens people's minds, but IBM is ready to drive through that opening with a system that is more fully proven and supported."

  • The first report on IBM's plans seems to have been this PC Week article. "IBM also will lead a new trend by announcing support for more than just one commercial Linux vendor. IBM plans to announce licensing deals with several top Linux distributors, including Red Hat Software Inc., Pacific HiTech Inc., Caldera Systems Inc. and S.u.S.E." (Found in Slashdot).

  • This TechWeb article is yet another in the series about LinuxCare's opening, but they also claim that Cygnus will be announcing a Linux support program at LinuxWorld. "With corporations suddenly being faced with having to pay for support for something they didn't even know they had, it raises the questions as to whether there could be an anti-Linux backlash by corporate managers who seek to regain control by ripping out all the Linux and installing NT."

  • Folks wanting more coverage of LinuxCare's startup can find it at Inter@ctive Week or MSNBC (but it's the same article in both places).

  • The Age writes about VA Research (with a digression into the writings of Eric Raymond). "Augustin said the move to open source is so inexorable, it is likely that soon we won't even consider its existence; instead we will question when we can't get the code. He said Sun Microsystems has told all its divisions they have until the end of the year to provide road maps to move development to open source, or give good reasons why they should be exempt."

  • VA Research was also the focus of this article in Internet Week... "At a time when blue-chip names like Compaq, Dell Computer, IBM, Lotus, Oracle and Informix Corp. are tossing their hats into the Linux arena, why should anyone pay attention to an unknown company? Because it knows more about Linux than the large companies, according to VA Research founder Larry Augustin..."

  • This article in ComputerWorld is about how most IT managers still don't know what Linux is, or oppose it if they do. (ComputerWorld also doesn't know, given their frequent use of the term "shareware"). "A typical Linux-averse example is Wells Fargo & Co., a commercial bank based in San Francisco... The bank knows how to deal with blue-chip operating systems such as Windows NT and NetWare, he said. But shareware -- with little or no support -- could pose a risk, he said. The company has sought to root out unauthorized shareware installations, including at least one Linux implementation."

  • Computer Currents is carrying a Newsbytes article about the North American release of SuSE 6.0. "'We've almost sold more in the past week than we sold of (version) 5.3 in its whole distribution,' [SuSE manager] Kohlmeyer said. 'The preorders have been really strong here and the pattern is international. The German version has sold 100,000 in the past 6 weeks, compared to about 60,000 for the whole run of 5.3.'"

  • InfoWorld has handed out more "1999 Product of the Year" awards. The Industry Achievement Award goes to "Tim O'Reilly and the collaborative software community." Oracle, Sybase, and Informix won the Enterprise Development award. "I bestow this joint award in recognition of the companies' database implementations on the Linux platform this past year. The introduction of these database management solutions on Linux promotes continued growth and collaboration among open-source, commercial, and corporate developers." And the Firefighter of the year award went to a guy named Scott Anderson, who made a crucial travel agency application work properly by moving parts of it to a Linux system.
A few other miscellaneous stories of interest, including non-English articles:
  • InfoWorld columnist Bob Lewis rates several technologies for their potential for success. Linux as a server is "a winner"; on the desktop, instead, it's "iffy." (Thanks to David Morgan).

  • Here's an interesting story in The Age about Samba. "[Samba developer Andrew Tridgell] said customers were starting to demand Microsoft be compatible with Samba, edging out the larger software vendor as the locus for the network."

  • Also in The Age: a two-part piece about the "Slashdot effect." The first part is about Slashdot proper, while the second half focuses on LinuxToday and, well, LWN.

  • The Swedish paper Datateknik has put out a lengthy "white paper" on Linux that is said to be an interesting read. It's available in PDF format (in Swedish, of course) from this directory. (Thanks to Mattias Sandström).

  • For Dutch-capable readers: De underground-software mist een promotiedienst in InterMediair is a positive introductory piece. (Thanks to Mark Tetrode).

  • Also for Dutch folks: this article in De Volkskrant, which is about Linux and how it may be a threat to that large, proprietary software firm. (Thanks to Jan Christiaan van Winkel, Jaap van Bekhoven, and Pieter van den Hombergh).

Now...we know you've all been waiting breathlessly for yet another barrage of windows refund day stories. Wait no more...
  • If you want to read just one article on this topic, you can do worse than this San Francisco Chronicle story. It also includes some pictures and a quicktime movie. "Yesterday's demonstrations could be dismissed as the act of a small but vocal band of Linux fanatics. Yet computer industry analyst Rob Enderlee of Giga Information Group in Santa Clara said the protests may be only the first assault by Linux proponents on Microsoft's seemingly impenetrable fortress."

  • There are two separate articles in Wired News ( firstand second).

  • Also two in PC Week, the first geing a general piece, and the second about activities in Manhattan.

  • There is an article in the Deseret News.

  • CBS Marketwatch has a windows refund day article which looks a bit more closely at efforts to market Linux. "'Hackers are finally discovering the power of publicity,' said [Don] Marti. 'It should have been obvious. Instead of using code to improve a machine's behavior, you are using words and actions to improve a person's behavior.'"

  • ComputerWorld also has a windows refund day story which includes some brief coverage from New York City and Germany.

  • Stéfane Fermigier has sent out a summary (in French) on windows refund day events in France. (English text available (sort of) via Babelfish).

  • The Age had a windows refund day article of its own.

  • There's an article in the New York Daily News with a microscopic picture. (This is the AP article which ran in a lot of US papers).

  • MSNBCran a longer AP article (with a bigger picture).

  • Finally, there was an article in The BBC.
More articles can be found in this Slashdot topic.

February 18, 1999


 Main page
 Linux in the news
 Back page

See also: last week's Announcements page.



A new version of the Linux System Administrator's Guide has been released, see the announcement for details.

Using TrueType Fonts in XFree86 is a mini-HOWTO by Ying Zhang for anyone that wants to get the Truetype font server up and running.

Jean Tourrilhes has updated his Linux Wireless LAN HOWTO.

Rob Slade sent in his review of "Upgrading and Repairing PCs", by Scott Mueller and Craig Zacker. To say that he liked the book would be a gross understatement. ...the book is without peer.

Meta-Slashdot effect. Steve Adler has put out another Slashdot effect paper, this one chronicling the effect of the appearance of his first paper in Slashdot...

Sang-Hyun Shim has provided a Korean translation of RMS's article "Why you should't use the Library GPL for your next library".


Comdex/Spring (April 19-22, Chicago) is setting up a special Linux Global Summit - a two-day affair headed by a keynote presentation by Linus Torvalds on the 19th. It appears that Comdex has decided to jump onto the bandwagon in a big way... (Found in Slashdot).

THE LINUX HAPPENING - TEL-AVIV '99 will be the first big Linux event in Israel. Scheduled Feb 25, 1999 as part of InternetWorld@Israel, the Linux Happening is sponsored by the Israeli Linux User Group.

Emacspeak at LinuxWorld. T. V. Raman, "Mr. Emacspeak," will be presenting his package for blind users during the conference. See their announcement if you're interested.

The folks organizing ApacheCon 1999 are looking for suggestions on how this year's event should go. Fill out their survey and help make a better conference.

Web sites

The Guide ("A Guide to India's Internet Services") has put together an extensive introduction to Linux which includes an overview, an FAQ, an installation guide, and a software map. The author is looking for feedback and suggestions, let's help him out.

User Group News

If the windows refund thing doesn't go your way, consider joining the Skåne Sjælland Linux User Group as they offer instead to exchange your unused Windows for a free Linux installation. The event happens on March 9 in Copenhagen; see their announcement for the details.

February 18, 1999



Software Announcements

Package Version Description
AbiWord 0.3.3 Fully featured word processor
ALSA driver 0.3.0-pre4 An alternative implementation of Kernel sound support
Apache::Session 0.99.5 Session manager for web applications
Arrow 1.0.1 An elegant, powerful, graphical interface to electronic mail
ascpu 1.3 A CPU load monitor.
asGin 0.2 Linux Today headlines in your AfterStep root menu
asp2php 0.63 Converts Active Server Pages (ASP) to PHP3 scripts
asRum 0.2 segfault.org headlines in your AfterStep rootmenu
AutoLink 2.11.2 Provides functions to the user for transfering dynamic MPI
barrendero 0.1 Program for keeping free space in the mail spool dir
BFS Filesystem for Linux 19990214 read-only BFS modules for Linux
BigBrother WebStats 0.17 Counter for websites that produces some statistics based on the info gathered
bison 1.26a GNU Project parser generator (yacc replacement)
BladeEnc 0.76 Freeware MP3 Encoder
Bugzilla 2.2 mozilla.org's bugtracking system
bvi 1.1.0 Editor for binary files using common vi commands
C-Forge IDE v1.1-12 Multi-user C/C++ integrated development environment
cdda2wav 1.0c A CD ripping application
cdrecord 1.8a17 Allows the creation of both audio and data CDs
Cistron Radius Server Free Radius Server with many features
Coral Tree Library Set 1.3.11 Set of abstraction libraries covering both UNIX and Win32
COSA 1.04 Linux driver and tools for the COSA and SRP synchronous serial boards
ctBLD 1.3.11 A platform independent builder similar in purpose to make.
ctGUI 1.3.11 GUI development portion of the Coral Tree Library Set
ctNET 1.3.11 Networking abstraction portion of Coral Tree Library Set
CUP 0.10h CUP is a LALR arser Generator for Java
Directory Stack 1.2 Directory Stack is a very CSH-like pushd/popd for both Korn and Bourne shells
DLDialog 0.15 Displays dialog boxes in terminal and X11 mode to interact with scripts
DOSEmu 0.99.8 Application that enables the Linux OS to run many DOS programs
edna 0.1 tiny HTTP server for selecting and streaming MP3 files
EHeadlines 1.0 Root Menu news system.
eject 2.0.2 eject removable media
ELKS 0.0.75 A subset of the Linux kernel that runs in 8086 real mode and 286 protected mode
EPIC 4pre2.001-NR15 ANSI capable textmode IRC Client
esh 0.6.5 New Unix shell
exdump 0.1 exdump watches/dumps/logs TCP/IP network packets.
exscan 0.4 An enhanced network/Internet port scan utility
FakeBO 0.3.2 Fakes trojan server responses and logs incoming requests
flwm 0.16 The Fast Light Window Manager
Free Trek 0.0.10 Star Trek type space battle simulator
Freebirth 0.2 Integrated bass synthesizer/step sequencer/sample player
fsh 0.3 Fast and secure remote command execution.
fvwm2gnome 0.4 Clean, efficient window manager configuration with GNOME functionality
Galway Html Editor 0.0.75 Guile-gtk HTML Editor
Ganymede 0.97 GPL'ed Network Directory Management System
gdict 0.1 GTK Online Dictionary Program
geg 0.99.0 Simple GTK+ 2D-function plotting program
Generic Graphical Server Daemon 0.1 Generic Graphical Server Daemon
GeneWeb 1.11 A combo web interface and genealogy program combined on steroids
gFTP 1.12 A multithreaded ftp client for X Windows
GGUI 0.3.1 An easy multi-purpose, multi-program GUI.
GHX 2.40 (98/02/12) GTK clone of the Hotline software
gIDE 0.0.16 Gtk-based Integrated Development Environment for C
GILT 0.1.0 Vector drawing program based on openGL and gtk
Giram 0.0.6 Giram is a modeller, written in GTK+
GNOME 0.99.8 GNU Network Object Model Environment
gnome2wmaker 1.0 gnome2wmaker is a GNOME to Window Maker menu converter.
GnuDIP 2.0.3 Dynamic DNS package. Includes everything to run your own ml.org equivalent.
GNUJSP 0.9.8 A free Java Server Pages implementation
grep 2.3 GNU grep, egrep and fgrep.
gShMap 0.1.2 GTK/Linux 2.2 Shared Library Monitor
gTick 0.1.1 GTK+ based metronome
GtKali 0.1.10 Gtk+ interface to Kali.
GtkICQ 0.60 GtkICQ is a clone of Mirabilis' ICQ program based on Gtk/GNOME
GTKstep 1.4 Improves the default look and feel of the GTK+ widget set
gView 0.1.0 GTK/ImLib Image Viewer
Heretic for Linux 0.9.5 Port of Heretic to Linux
HSX 99/02/12 Hotline Server clone for Unix
icod 1.0 Converts .ico files to .xpm
Install Toolkit for Java 1.0 A Java program for writing install programs for Java or non-Java programs
ippl 1.0 IP Protocols Logger
ip_masq_icq 0.49 ICQ masquerading module for Linux
isapnptools 1.18 ISA plug and play configuration utility
Java weather 1.0.0 Access realtime, local weather information from Java code.
jEdit 1.4pre4 Powerful text editor
Jikes 0.42 Java compiler that translates Java source into bytecoded instruction sets
Jiten 0.4 Perl DICT Server
KJukeBox 0.1.3 KJukeBox is an MP3 Player which can handle big MP3 archives
klm 0.5.0 KDE frontend for the LM SENSORS linux kernel
KMySql 1.1.1b A MySql client for KDE.
KNewKDE 0.2 Puts the What's New from KDE's page in your KDiskNav
KPackViewer 0.50 Package viewer to ease package administration
Krabber 0.3.2 KDE audio cd grabber and mp3 encoder front-end
KSniffer 0.1.5 KDE Network Sniffer/Monitor and Stats Collector
Kticker 1.0.0beta1 News ticker widget that downloads news headlines and displays them periodically
KTimeMon 0.3 Yet another system usage monitor for KDE, with nifty features.
ku 1.1p2-4 Autmp based shell admin utility for maintaining shell logins
Launcher 0.62 One-stop filetype/application mapping solution
Leafnode 1.9 NNTP server for small leaf sites
Linux Virtual Server 0.7 Linux Load Balancing and NAT
Listar 0.118a Mailing list managementsoftware
logi.crypto 1.0.2 Pure Java Strong Encryption Package
lpe 1.0.0 Featureless, small editor
Lynx 2.8.2dev16 fully-featured, text-based World Wide Web browser
M 0.10a Powerful, user-friendly, scriptable mail/news client
mcl 0.50.00 MUD client for Linux
mcrypt 2.1.10 A replacement for the old unix crypt(1). Uses several block algorithms.
mg^2 0.1.8 3D modeller for X11 using Gtk, Glib, Imlib, Gtk glarea, andMesa/OpenGL
midentd 1.4 identd with masquerading support
Midnight Commander 4.5.14 Unix file manager and shell
mmake 1.25 mmake will generate a Makefile for your Java programs.
mod_hosts_access 0.9.0 causes Apache to respect the rules in hosts.allow and hosts.deny
mod_perl 1.18 Brings together the full power of Perl and the Apache HTTP server
Moneydance 2.0b6 Personal finance application written in java
MOSIX 2.2.1 BETA-3 Single-system-image Clustering Software for Linux
mp3tools 0.5 Utilities for managing MPEG audio files
mpEDIT 1.14 A moderately featured text editor written in Java
mrtg 2.6.4 Multi Router Traffic Grapher
mSQL 2.0.6 Mini SQL implementation
muLinux 4r0 A tiny implementation of Linux, which can reside on a single floppy
Mutt 0.95.3 Small but very powerful text-based mail client for Unix operatingsystems
MySQL 3.22.16a SQL (Structured Query Language) database server
NcFTP 3.0 beta 17 UNIX application program implementing the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
NcFTPd 2.4.0 High-performance File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server for UNIXsystems
netcomics 0.2 A perl script that downloads today's comics from the Web
Netscape Flash Plugin 0.4.3 A Netscape plugin to view Macromedia-Shockwave-Flash files.
newplayer 2.0 ncurses based mp3 player.
newsbody 0.1.3 Run a program on the body of a mail or news message
nss 1.3 Netscape Startup Script. Script to handle Netscape launches.
NumExp 0.0.3 Numeric methods implementation for Linux
OpenLDAP 1.2 LDAP suite of applications and development tools
OpenShare Linux 1.0b OpenShare Linux - Full distribution of Linux Server or Workstation Editions
OSKit 0.97 Software kit for easily building new OSes
Perl 5.005.54 High-level, general-purpose programming language
plextor-tool 0.1.0 tool for querying and setting options of Plextor CD-ROM drives
Poor Man's Cam 1.1 PMCam allows you to set up a web cam on a remote site.
procinfo 16
ProFTPD 1.2.0pre2 Advanced, incrediblyconfigurable and secure FTP daemon
Python/Tk Empire Interface 0.35a Cross Platform Empire GUI Client
QuickPlanning 1.0 Planning software for X11
Quicktime low level library 0.5.0 Low level Quicktime library for *NIX
RAPID 5.10 Commodity and stock graphing for technical analysis trading decisions
rc.virt 2.50 perl script to automate adding ips for ip aliasing
RealTimeBattle 0.9.6 RealTimeBattle, a robot programming game for Unix
Request Tracker 0.99.3 Web, command-line and email based trouble ticketing and bugtracking package
Robo Rally 29 An Excellent 90% completed Robo Rally server needing an equivalent client.
rpm.cgi 0.21 A Perl CGI script frontend to the Red Hat Package Management (RPM) System.
Sambaconfig 0.4 Edit your smb.conf file with you web browser. CGI scripts & C++ source code.
site-dater.pl 0.9.2 Generates a table of web links within a local hierarchy sorted by date.
SLinux 0.3.5 Security enhancement suite for RedHat
snes9express 0.99-6 Gtk GUI front-end for snes9x
Socket Script 1.16
sourceit 0.5 A perl script for publishing source code examples on the Web
SplitFire 1.0 Complete IRC script for IRCII-EPIC.
Squid 2.2.DEVEL3 High performance Web proxy cache
stamp 1.3 Adds a graphical timestamp to a jpeg image
Sula Primerix 0.05.5a Extensible multi-server IRC Client for X
Swift Inspector 0.1 Flash file editor
The Glasgow Haskell Compiler 4.02 A compiler for Haskell 98
tictactoe 0.1 A simple console perl script that plays a coordinate-based tictactoe game
TiMidity++ 1.3.2 Experimental MIDI to WAVE converter
tkRunIt 0.94 A simple, but featureful run dialog box for executing commands without an xterm
TkWho 0.8 Graphical frontend to the Unix who, ps, and finger commands.
TkX10 0.91beta Perl/Tk frontend for HEYU X10 control
TkX10 0.91beta Perl/Tk frontend for HEYU X10 control
traffic-vis 0.31 Network analysis tool
TThread 0.2.3 A Cross-platfrom Threading library.
TWIG 0.1pre2 A web-based IMAP client written with PHP3
VelociGen for Perl (VEP) 1.1b High performance server programminglanguage
VFU File Manager 1.43 Extensivelyl featured console (text-mode) file manager.
Video Server 0.5.4 indexing, searching and video streaming mpeg data across the network
Where's Your Grammar? 1.0 A simple config-file-and-command-line-parser generator.
Wine 990214 Emulator of the Windows 3.x and Win32 APIs.
wmakerconf 1.7 GTK based configuration tool for WindowMaker window manager
WMGlobe 0.5 The whole Earth spinning on your desktop
Wolfenstein 3d for Linux 0.1 A Linux port of Wolfenstein 3D
WWWThreads beta1 WWW based discussion forums
x11amp 0.9 alpha3 Mp3 player for Xwindows
xcallerid 2.1.3 callerID program that pops up incomingphone numbers in an X-window
xnetload 1.6.0 Displays packet traffic and uptime in an X window
xplay 1.00 WAVE/AIFF/au audio player
xtet42 2.21 Two-player tetris with a twist
Zope 1.10pr1 Web application platform used for building high-performance, dynamic web sites.
ZorkCit 0.50 A CGI-based Web approximation of the Citadel BBS system.
Zsid 1.00 Zsid, a C64 music player

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

LinuxStart.comappears to be another "Linux portal" attempt, run by the LinuxSupportLine.comfolks. For the moment they are offering free banner ad placement for all takers; head to their site for an automatic signup routine. (Found in LinuxToday).

A new Linux-specific search engine has popped up at 1stLinuxSearch.com.

February 18, 1999



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: 11 Feb 99 00:20:22 PST
From: Ken Engel <kenengel@netscape.net>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Untapped markets

In response to your observation of the paucity of cheap Linux desktop

I want the world to know that I, for one, would grab a sub$1000 Linux PC
faster than NT boots up, if an OEM steps up to the plate.

And even sooner, I would get a reasonably priced Linux PowerPC or ARM or
Alpha desktop.  

C'mon, guys!!

Ken Engel
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 13:24:35 -0500
From: Eric Lee Green <eric@linux-hw.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Why Linux VARS don't do much low end stuff

Basically, economies of scale. Compaq buys motherboards in quantity
1,000 for about 2/3rds the price of what a Linux VAR would pay. Compaq
buys processors in quantity 1,000 for about 80% of the price that a
Linux VAR would pay. The savings they get at the low end from
economies of scale go across the board -- basically, for components of
equal quality to Compaq's or Dell's, today's Linux VARs will pay
anywhere from 10% to 33% more for the component.

On the other hand, in the server market Compaq doesn't have the
advantage of scale. Thus we can sell for $20,000 a machine that Compaq
sells for $35,000 because our labor costs are lower, our manufacturing
costs are lower (believe me, getting Linux to run on a high-end server
is a LOT easier than getting Windows NT to run on a high-end server!),
and standardized "white box" components mean that we don't pay the
huge R&D costs that are a pittance on a run of 100,000 desktop
machines, but which add up to a hunk of change for low-volume server

Thus expect Linux VARs to continue scrambling for the middle and
middle-upper end of the server market. Without huge infusions of
venture capital to buy their way onto the shelves at Best Buy (and
thus be able to churn out tens of thousands of machines and take
advantage of economies of scale), they just can't compete at the low
end. Not at a 10% to 33% price disadvantage on components alone.

[Disclaimer: I *DEFINITELY* do not speak for Linux Hardware Solutions.] 
Eric Lee Green         eric@linux-hw.com     http://www.linux-hw.com/~eric
 "Linux represents a best-of-breed UNIX, that is trusted in mission
  critical applications..."   --  internal Microsoft memo
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 23:32:37 -0600
From: Jeff Licquia <jeff@luci.org>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Module Interface Compatibility

As a sysadmin with little kernel hacking experience, I thought I should
weigh in on this debate.  I think Linus is right.

It seems that one of the enduring fallacies of the proprietary world is
some sort of "ownership" feeling about the operating system.  Perhaps it
is bred from the monopoly position Microsoft currently owns.  Wherever
it comes from, it seems that ISVs who do anything interesting to feel
that they have to patch the operating system to do it.

The results are such curses as the various DiskMangler programs (Disk
Manager, EZDrive, etc.), which sought to solve a problem in MS-DOS's
ability to access large drives by patching the OS in very scary ways.  I
don't need to get into the problems that caused; I'm sure anyone with
lots of experience with them is shuddering right now.

If they were willing to do this without source access to the OS, imagine
what they'll do with source.

I'd much rather encourage people to avoid patching the kernel (for
that's what a module does) for their own proprietary gains.  Or, better
yet, release source for their patches.  Or roll the proprietary stuff
into a userland daemon of some kind, interfacing to the kernel with an
open-source module that hooks into the userland daemon.  Or something.

By not guaranteeing the module interface, Linus effectively discourages
this.  By forcing those few vendors of proprietary modules to recompile
for a new kernel interface once in a while, Linus is also forcing
vendors to actually look at their code every so often and make sure it's
still needed and still makes sense with the general turn of Linux.

From: "chyung g choi" <cgchoi@hotmail.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: [News] Using linux without installation??
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 19:04:28 PST

 Hi there.
 This is Chyung Choi from South Korea.
 Recently I developed new distribution form of linux.
 I put the name "EASYLinux-kr". I found German company
 put the name easylinux and I put -kr in the end of name.
 One can use linux as CD-ROM as well as installed form 
 on hard disk. Therefore beginner can use it quickly.
 One can use it as demo and rescue and education material.
 I am more than happy to answer any questions
 My homepage is "http://www.netian.com/~cgchoi"

 Thank you for reading.

 Chyung Choi

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 21:41:25 +0100
From: Andi Kleen <ak@muc.de>
To: cph@martigny.ai.mit.edu
Subject: Re: Structure vs purism

You wrote:

> I've written a fair amount of code in Pascal, and I can
> say from experience that I missed the goto statement when programming
> in that language; at least C _has_ a goto statement, and I use it when
> I think it is appropriate.

It is hard to believe that you did that without noticing that Pascal has 
a (although inconvenient) goto statement - at least all versions of Pascal
I used had and I'm pretty sure that Wirth's original definition had it too.


This is like TV. I don't like TV.
From: David Kastrup <dak@neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de>
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 13:10:41 +0100 (MET)
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Goto followup

For your information: Pascal *does* have "goto" and did from the
start.  Better check up the documentations you have been using.

Yes, you have to declare any "goto" labels you want to be using in
advance.  But what of that if it's really needed?

Most commonly the necessity for "goto" arises for structured leaving
of scopes.  C at least offers "break" and "continue" for the innermost
scope, but beyond that it's "goto" or the obfuscated use of flags and

Perl has very nice multi-level "break" and "continue" constructs, so
hardly ever needs a "goto" when doing properly structured programming.

"Goto" has got its worst reputation from Fortran's arithmetic if, a
three-way goto.  And of course, from other "if"s that only offered
gotos as targets.  In many cases, programmers would not interrupt the
flow of the not-taken branch by jumping to the end of the taken
branch, so the code for a true "if" tended to accumulate somewhere at
the end of the program, giving the dreaded spaghetti code.  If anybody
should be allowed to produce spaghetti for efficiency, it is to be the
compiler, not the programmer.

For this reason, structured "if"s and other control structures have
helped to get rid of "goto" where it was causing problems without end.
It is still a good idea to avoid uncalled-for "goto"s whenever possible.
It takes a skilled programmer to know precisely when a "goto" is indeed
in need.  For that reason, it is a good idea to tell newbies to not
use it.  Only after you know all the ways of avoiding it and their
consequences are you in a qualified situation for judging when it is
better to use it than not.

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

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 14:23:40 +0300 (EET)
From: George Bronnikov <goga@bronnikov.mccme.ru>
To: cph@martigny.ai.mit.edu
Subject: Re: Structure vs purism

I want to reply to your letter published in the latest issue of LWN.
While I tend to agree that gotos are sometimes tolerable, the posting
has a number of technical errors:

1. Pascal does have a goto statement. Read the standard
(unfortunately, I don't have a copy at hand to give an exact

2. Scheme has other iterating constructs besides tail recursion: read
the standard (the do construct, section 4.2.4 of R5RS).

It is true, however, that the constructs mentioned are not used
widely; in fact, they are considered bad style in both languages.

3. The 'expressive power' of a language is not that easy to define. It
is a proven fact that you can reformulate any program that uses gotos
by using only 'normal' iterating constructs like ifs and loops. In
fact, if the initial program was written in a style that Dijkstra et
al. fought with in the late 60-ies, the result of de-goto-ifying will
usually even look and read better.

3. Tail recursion is not simply 'goto with arguments': it is a highly
restricted version of goto, which only allows gotos to the beginning
of the function.  Thus it also reduces 'expressive power'; it just
happens to do that in a way that does not cut out interesting cases.

By the way, Scheme happens to be my favourite language as well.

	George Bronnikov

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 10:44:24 -0500 (EST)
From: cph@martigny.ai.mit.edu (Chris Hanson)
To: goga@bronnikov.mccme.ru
Subject: Structure vs purism

   Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 14:23:40 +0300 (EET)
   From: George Bronnikov <goga@bronnikov.mccme.ru>

   I want to reply to your letter published in the latest issue of
   LWN.  While I tend to agree that gotos are sometimes tolerable,
   the posting has a number of technical errors:

   1. Pascal does have a goto statement. Read the standard
   (unfortunately, I don't have a copy at hand to give an exact

I guess the version I used back in the 80s (HP Pascal for the HP 9836)
was broken; it didn't have goto.

   2. Scheme has other iterating constructs besides tail recursion:
   read the standard (the do construct, section 4.2.4 of R5RS).

Those other iterating constructs are all defined as patterns of
iterative procedure calls, and in practice are implemented as macros
that expand into those patterns.  So I stand by this statement.  (And
you don't need to quote references to Scheme's standard -- I'm one of
the authors.)

   3. The 'expressive power' of a language is not that easy to define.
   It is a proven fact that you can reformulate any program that uses
   gotos by using only 'normal' iterating constructs like ifs and
   loops. In fact, if the initial program was written in a style that
   Dijkstra et al. fought with in the late 60-ies, the result of
   de-goto-ifying will usually even look and read better.

Nevertheless, I still claim that not using goto eliminates some of the
expressive power, at least in the case of C.  The problem I usually
run into is that "break" only exits the innermost construct, and
there's no way to specify that you want to get out of multiple
constructs.  So it's necessary to either kludge around this using
flags, or to use goto and say what you mean.  Theoretically, I can
imagine a language that doesn't have this problem, but C isn't it.

There are other situations in which goto is useful, but that's the
primary one.

When I say "expressive power", this is the kind of thing I mean: if
you can say something that _directly_ conveys your intent, the
language is more expressive than one in which you must do so
indirectly.  Perhaps I am misusing the term.

   3. Tail recursion is not simply 'goto with arguments': it is a
   highly restricted version of goto, which only allows gotos to the
   beginning of the function.  Thus it also reduces 'expressive
   power'; it just happens to do that in a way that does not cut out
   interesting cases.

Yes, you're right about that.  My mistake.
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