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Leading items

The leading event of the past week was CeBIT '99, a massive tradeshow held in Hannover, Germany. The web-site" for the show calls it a "World Business Fair" and from some reports, it may very well be the world's largest trade show.

KDE and the Linux community both came in with awards from the show, KDE receiving Ziff-Davis' "Software Innovation of the Year Award for 1998/99" (see their announcement), and the Linux Community receiving the CeBIT "Highlight" award for Software, one of four categories of their Highlight awards.

SAP, a German software giant, announced its plans for Linux. That brought about a flurry of media coverage, including news.com and ZDnet articles.

Although we were unable to attend, we were lucky enough to have an on-site reporter in the form of Dan York, of LinuxCare fame. Dan is also known for his work with the Linux Professional Institute, which is developing a community-based Linux certification project. He provided us with this report from the massive tradeshow, with lots of details and even a few pictures thrown in.

In addition, a CeBIT '99 report is also available from LinuxWorld.

"Not quite Open Source". This Linux Weekly News feature article by Jonathan Corbet tackles the licensing issues of the BitKeeper software package, built by Larry McVoy, a well-known member of the free software community. It addresses the conflict produced by Larry's efforts to keep his software free, yet make a reasonable living from the years of effort he has put into his work. His novel way of extracting revenue from proprietary software developers may well fund the creation of a great new free software tool, but it also has shown that "Open Source" is not everything.

For a different commercial angle, we also offer this week our first feature story from the latest member of the Eklektix team, Dennis Tenney. In this story, Dennis has taken a look at the success of a Linux-based e-commerce solution currently in heavy use. This kind of success story was once the exclusive province of companies like IBM and Anderson Consulting. Now, however, companies that cannot afford high consulting fees and software licenses have access to similarly successful technology. They can use this technology to build enterprise e-commerce applications, open source technology that any competent engineer can evolve and apply in their customer's best interests.

The Linux Montage Project, also known as "LIMP", has revamped its website, designed to be sleeker and easier on the eye. Their goal is to "distill the Linux community's spirit down into one cool looking 'montage' poster by using user contributed images.

Eklektix, Inc., producers of the Linux Weekly News, was featured Sunday in the Boulder Daily Camera, our hometown newspaper. The article also serves as a Linux introductory piece.

It was followed a day later by an article entitled "Businesses Should Consider Free Software", by our Executive Editor, Jonathan Corbet. It is more of an advocacy piece, with the focus on the advantages free software can bring to Eklektix.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

March 25, 1999


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See also: last week's Security page.



The Better Business Bureau is launching a web site privacy program, describes this news.com article. BBBOnline will require applicants to indicate whether or not they collect sensitive information, how they use it and how they protect it. This is a commercial program and has the disadvantages of such: 1) you cannot participate without paying them a fee, possibly limiting participation (this problem is offset by a sliding scale for fees) and 2) BBB members in the off-line world are not required to sign up for the privacy program to use the seal, something that indicates a potential commercially-based bias in the program.

Bind 8.2 became available on March 16th. You can find it at this site. One report we've seen indicates that the new version contains a fully-integrated version of the long-awaited secure DNS and can therefore prevent DNS spoofing. No followups or confirmation on this have been found as of yet.

Security Reports

An OpenSSL/SSLeay Security Alert has been issued. If you have server software that is running SSLeay or OpenSSL 0.9.2 or earlier, which also supports multiple virtual hosts with different client certificate verification, then your software contains an exploitable hole. Although the authors believe the problem really stems from the difficulty configuring OpenSSL to prevent problems, rather than from a bug in their code, they have issued OpenSSL 0.9.2b with a workaround to prevent problems. A more elegant solution will be included in the next full release.

SuSE released two security announcements yesterday. The first announcement addresses a permissions problem with /dev/kmem on SuSE systems, as well as the security problems in the 2.0.35 and earlier Linux kernel versions. The second announcement addresses security problems with Netscape 4.5.

In addition, SuSE has created two new security-related mailing lists. For information on subscribing to suse-security and suse-security-announce, check out this web page.

Last, but not least, SuSE security announcements in English are now indexed and available on the web. Congratulations to SuSE for their work to improve their support and response to security issues!


The security problems in Linux 2.0.35 kernels and earlier have finally filtered around to CIAC. If you haven't upgraded your kernel yet, you may want to check out the advisory for clear information on why it is needed.


Interactively build your firewall, or at least the packet filtering rules for your firewall, with Mason, which has just been released under the GPL. Mason is in the early stages, with this initial release numbered 0.12.0. William Stearns, the author, states that, "To the best of my knowledge, it's the first tool for Linux that allows even novices to build a strict packet filtering firewall that is independant of the number and types of interfaces used, while exactly matching the traffic types needed."

A review of "Information Warfare and Security" by Dorothy Denning, 1999, has been provided by Rob Slade. The content of this book not only presents a clear picture of a number of aspects of information warfare, but does so in a very practical manner, informed by the need to use "real world" examples.


The Internet Society Year 2000 Network and Distributed System Security Symposium, also known as NDSS 2000, has issued a Call-For-Papers. The event will be held February 2nd through the 4th, 2000, in San Diego, California, USA.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 1999


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

Kernel version 2.2.4 has been released. Last week, we optimistically theorized that the 2.2.X kernel series was stabilizing rapidly. The 2.2.4 release, announced by Linus, somewhat dampened that optimism. Compilation problems were quickly found in the new kernel, in the BSD process accounting code. A patch was quickly made available for that, but another problem was found for people who enable Kernel/User netlink socket, Routing messages, and Netlink device emulation, but don't enable Ingres traffic policing. Patches for both of these problems can be found on Robert Gooch's new page, which will be used to track known problems with patches available for the latest kernel.

In addition to the compilation problem, there have been a large number of reported oopses for this most recent kernel. These include two reports of "put__dirty_page: page already exists" errors in syslog during compilations (reproducible in 2.2.3 as well), and a potential problem under certain load conditions. Linus generated a one-line testpatch for the latter, which he has asked people to check out to see if it makes any difference. Apparently the circumstances that might generate the load problem would be fairly pathological, and therefore highly unlikely to occur, at least in theory.

Last, there are some oopses occurring that may be caused by a bug in egcs, or at least triggered by a difference in behavior between egcs and gcc-2.7.2 (or possibly not). As demonstrated in this note from Linus, tests on this problem are at too early a stage to be able to actually point a finger.

In the Alan Cox tree, 2.2.3ac3 and 2.2.3ac4 were both announced this week. Presumably 2.2.4ac1 will be out shortly.

Meanwhile, the longest running discussion of the week focused on file system performance. Starting with this note from Yasushi Saito about disk head scheduling, the thread broke into several lengthy discussions. The first thread focused on whether or not optimizing for disk architecture was worth doing. The answer, in the end, is no, because modern devices do not accurately provide the physical layout of the disk. As Linus stated, " Quite frankly, anybody who even _thinks_ he knows how the disk is organized is living in the past. Give up on it, and just consider it a linear array of sectors. In addition, any potential performance improvement would be offset by the disadvantages of the added complexity of the code.

This discussion, however, spawned a new one on the kernel IO-request queue. Many people assume that the kernel IO-request queue is a single queue. Linus retorted emphatically that it is not, blaming the misapprehension on the way the SCSI layer is designed. The conversation then moved to discussing how the SCSI layer should be improved. Work on it has been dropped for quite a long time. It seems like that may change soon. Here is a nice final summary from Gerard Roudier. Lest you think, though, that a unanimous opinion on the problem was reached, this note from Gadi Oxman describes how the current behavior evolved and the advantages of it.

Last, it was suggested that the issues are all moot, since disk drives using static RAM may become actually affordable in a few years. "Disk drives currently under test use static RAM. This is not the Slow........ NVRAM where you write then read-read- read-read, etc., until it finally "takes". This is real static RAM with a 3-volt battery to keep it alive for 20 years," mentioned Richard B. Johnson. Nicholas J. Leon commented that he has built specifications for a RAID system using such technology. 60GB of data for over $50,000 using solid state disks and a fibrechannel backplane ... not affordable quite yet!

For followup information on the above topics, check out this list of publications.

Modutils 2.2.2 is nearing release. Bjorn Ekwall expressed his optimism when he released modutils-2.2.2-pre3 and it is still likely, even though he released modutils-2.2.2-pre4 shortly after pre3. Note that pre4 also requires a small patch.

Discussion of a buffer hash leakage in Chuck Lever's instrumentation patch generated three patches, one from Andrea Arcangeli, one from Chuck Lever himself, and a last patch from Linus. Linus' patch was checked out by Stephen Tweedie and given the thumbs up, at least for now.

CPU Management for Linux was the topic of this posting from Martin Neumann. In this case, cpu management means the ability to handle hot-pluggable CPUs. Martin asked if this was in the works for Linux. Jakub Jelinek and Alan Cox confirmed that it is on the to-do list for the 2.3 series, along with hot-pluggable memory. From the discussion that resulted, no one expected this to be that difficult to add in. Various other patches and utilities released over the last week:

  • Andrea Arcangeli released a patch for a virtual SBPRO 16bit 44.1khz stereo. He also posted some updated versions, of which this was the last one.

  • Andrzej Krzysztofowi posted a new version of his xconfig snapshot.

  • Chuck Lever updated his simple rlimit patch.

  • Gustavo Zacarias posted a patch against 2.2.3 to get ramdisk to take size as a parameter. It seems that otherwise you will always get 4096K ramdisks unless you modify rd.c by hand.

  • Alexander Viro provided a patch for a buglet in ntfs_create() and ntfs_mkdir().

  • Nate Eldredge made available a patch to allow debuggers to change the number of a system call when they trace it. Chris Evans commented that this technique is the same as the one used by the JANUS security system.

  • Version 95 of Richard Gooch's devfs patch is now available and contains a couple of new bug fixes, including another one for the joystick driver.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

Guest Editor for the Week: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 1999

For other kernel news, see:


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See also: last week's Distributions page.



Questions answered about Caldera OpenLinux 2.2, is a posting to the caldera-users mailing list by Erik Ratcliffe which answers several questions about COL 2.2, including a recommendation that the move from 1.3 to 2.2 be done via a total reinstall, rather than through an upgrade.

"OpenLinux Unleashed" is now "Special Edition: Using OpenLinux". Erik Ratcliffe posted this explanation of the title change of the book, reassuring people that the content of the two books are identical, though the author list has expanded. "OpenLinux Unleashed" was planned to be written by Allan Smart, Erik Ratcliffe, and Ed Orcutt. "Special Edition: Using OpenLinux" was actually written by Allan Smart, Erik Ratcliffe, Tim Bird, David Bandel, and Wil Mattos.

Linux kernel 2.2.4 RPMS are now available from Andrew McRory, the HackPak machine, as noted by this posting from Erik Ratcliffe. Before you try them out, however, you might want to check the 2.2.4 reports in this week's kernel section.


Brian White has resigned as release manager for Debian. Now that Debian 2.1 is out, Brian has turned over his responsibilities to Richard Braakman. Here is the the announcement.

Debian's contacts with AOL seem to have resulted in a change of license for the AOL TiK client to the GPL. For more information, here is Brian Ristuccia's initial letter to AOL, their response and the final resolution. More details can be found on the debian-legal mailing list archives.

Debian Developers can get free Debian 2.1 CDs from Linux Central. Check this announcement for more details.

The Debian Weekly News for this week has been published. Check it out for a lot more details on what's been happening this past week.


RPMs for Kernel 2.2.3-ac4 have been made available by the Mandrake folks.

Red Hat

Starbuck is Red Hat's future 6.0 platform. Most of you by now are familiar with Rawhide, which is Red Hat's name for its bleeding-edge development source code, made freely available for anyone brave enough to try it. Starbuck is, instead, the source code that will be stabilized in preparation for its release as Red Hat 6.0 sometime in May. So keep an ear tuned for Starbuck news ... it will tell you what to expect from the next version of Red Hat.

To experiment with Starbuck, look for it on this list of sites.


Slackware 4.0.0-pre-beta is now out, according to a note from G-man. The new version contains Linux kernel 2.2.3, egcs 1.1.2, and many other updates. Check the current changelog for more details.


SuSE released two security announcements yesterday. The first announcement addresses a permissions problem with /dev/kmem on SuSE systems, as well as the security problems in the 2.0.35 and earlier Linux kernel versions. The second announcement addresses security problems with Netscape 4.5.

In addition, SuSE has created two new security-related mailing lists. For information on subscribing to suse-security and suse-security-announce, check out this web page.

Last, but not least, SuSE security announcements in English are now indexed and available on the web. Congratulations to SuSE for their work to improve their support and response to security issues!

Correction: A couple of people have written to mention that our claim last week that the German version of SuSE 6.1 is already available was inaccurate. SuSE has announced SuSE 6.1 but shipments will not start until April 12th, 1999. Our apologies for the error.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 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


The JDK 1.2 Status page now indicates that the JDK 1.2 for i386 platforms is passing all the major tests. The PowerPC platform looks good as well, but information from some tests is currently missing. There is still no information available for Sparc and other platforms.


Twenty seven modules have been released or updated since last week. For the listings and more information, check out the Perl News page.

Mark-Jason Dominus will be teaching Perl tutorials at the upcoming Perl Conference in August, as well as the O'Reilly Perl Tutorial Program in April and May. He has provided outlines for two of this tutorials, Regular Expressions and Perl Tricks and Programming Technique (or Tricks of the Wizards).


PILGraph 0.1a7 from Richard Jones has been released.

Python usage in the Koffice spreadsheet is talked about a bit in this article on the KOffice suite of programs.


Reports from Smalltalk '99 indicate that the conference was not very large, with about a dozen exhibitors. That was much much to the preference of this poster. Garrett Johnson provided a commentary on the show and Peter Spung provided daily reports. Donald Malcolm MacQueen has some terse comments as well.


Notes from the Tcl Extension Architecture (TEA) Summit held at Scriptics on March 15/16 were provided by Jeffery Hobbs. This contains a lot of information and appears to be a very thorough report.

On a lighter note, Robert W. Lindeman took a break from his dissertation and wrote a Tcl/Tk Game.

This week's Tcl-URL! is out. It mentions that the second beta version of Tcl/Tk 8.1 has been released, with the final version expected in the near future. However, the possibility of show-stopper bugs does exist, given the number of bug reports for 8.1b2 seen on the mailing list this week.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 1999



Development projects

Open Source for computer telephony is a new project that started last week. This posting from Foo Chun Choong indicates that they already have working source code for NT, Solaris and SCO Unixware, while the Linux portion of the project is newer. If you're interested, check out http://www.opentelecom.org, the website for the project.

A pre-release of Adobe Acrobat Reader 4 for Linux is available. Check this website for details.


Miguel de Icaza is the focus of a San Jose Mercury News article on Gnome and Linux, which also features some quotes from Red Hat's Donnie Barnes.

The GNU Project

Brave GNU World has just been announced. It is a bi-lingual (German and English) monthly column by Georg Greve, published by Linux Magazin, which "provides information about internal developments of the GNU Project and things of importance to the GNU community, while trying to give insights into the underlying philosophy."

The first issue is already online (German version).


ExtremeLinux will have its own track at the upcoming Linux Expo in May. The announcement for the track describes their plans and mentions that they are looking for sponsors.

Here is the Call-For-Papers for the ExtremeLinux track. The deadline for abstracts is April 5th, so you'll need to move quickly to participate. You can also introduce your Beowulf/cluster project to the community through their poster program, described in the same posting.

If you miss ExtremeLinux at the LinuxExpo, look for the second ExtremeLinux workshop, to be held at Usenix 1999. Here is the announcement for more details.


KDE won one of the top honors at CeBIT this year in the area of innovations in software. See their announcement for details. Congratulations!

An article on KOffice has been translated to English and is available on both North American and European sites.

Pre-compiled binaries of KDE 1.1 for OpenBSD have been been announced.

An emulator for the Siemens microcontroller C515 (8051 compatible) has been specially written for KDE. The authors are considering dropping the project unless there is an interest in the community in continuing it. Check it out and contact them if you want to see the project continue.

Lehmanns Fachbuchhandlung has donated DM 4.500 to the KDE project from the sale of their KDE 1.0 to KDE team members. Check this note for more details.


A note from Wietse Venema, which found its way onto the security-audit list, indicates Wietse's belief that the termination clause in the postfix license was not intended to cause problems or allow IBM to pull the rug out from underneath the software. However, just the perception that is growing that such termination clauses are bad could cause acceptance problems for the new mailer. As a result, it seems likely that the license will be changed, though he couldn't comment more specifically at this time.


The Weekly Zope News, by Amos Latteier, is now available, with lots of tidbits about Zope, including some new documentation, tools and patches.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh


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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

NEC's support for Linux in Japan was a top news story this week. We have gotten some further information on what NEC is doing with Linux in Japan. According to their Linux page (in Japanese), NEC is doing the following:
  • Providing "Linux support information" for their servers and workstations. They do not yet guarantee that Linux will work on these systems - "use at your own risk."
  • Providing Linux installation services as of April 1. They are aiming at large companies only: there is a minimum of 50 systems. Cost is 700,000 Yen (about $6,000).
  • Offering some Linux installation courses.
  • They also cite their contributions to open source software; these include Canna (a Japanese input system), a IPv6/IPv4 translator, and work on the Socks proxy system.
They evidently "support" Red Hat and TurboLinux at this time.

Many thanks to Maya Tamiya, Chris Ganje, and Kinichi Kitano.

Rumors of lay-offs at Netscape, first published on March 19th by ZDnet, were confirmed by AOL on Wednesday, March 24th. However, the lay-offs are not restricted to Netscape. Both companies will see between 350 to 500 jobs cut. Many of the people laid off will be picked up by Sun, who acquired many Netscape product lines and operations when Netscape was purchased by AOL, according to this Wired News article. Sun's involvement is specified in more detail in this Wired News article. ZDnet also published a followup.

More information on Dell's plans for Linux came from this InfoWorld article which indicates that workstations with Linux pre-installed became available on Sunday, while factory-installed Linux on servers started Monday, March 22nd. Customers buying Precision 410 or 610 workstations can now order them pre-configured with the Linux 5.2 operating system from Red Hat Software, said Dell spokesman John Weisblatt.

A couple of news stories about Caldera have cropped up this week, including:

  • Caldera has picked their support partner, announces this press release. Caldera is partnering with Multi-User Solutions, making them an authorized service center for OpenLinux.

  • MTI purchased a 20% equity investment in Caldera Systems, announced as part of their press release on their Internet RAID systems. "Linux is widely recognised as a powerful alternative to UNIX and Windows NT for application development and IT infrastructure. MTI already provides storage solutions in these latter two enterprise environments," said Doug McLean, Vice President European Sales. "We plan to offer high-performance, highly available, scalable storage solutions to the rapidly growing Linux marketplace just as We do for Windows NT and UNIX. Our goal is to work with Caldera Systems to move Linux into mission-critical IT environments."

The InterNIC website disappeared this weekend, becoming instead a redirect to an updated web page from Network Solutions, Inc., the company that has an exclusive contract for handling InterNIC domain registrations through the year 2000. Several major newssites are covering the changes:

People aren't happy about this, as represented by this quote from the IDG article: "We had no notice," said Becky Burr, acting associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Commerce Department, who had received about 250 e-mails about the move over the weekend. "We are looking into it. We are moving very quickly to get some answers here."

Network Solutions response: "The intent was to make it simpler and easier and to consolidate the services we offer," said Christopher Clough, NSI's spokesman.

Red Hat Software and Ganymede Software have come to an agreement under which the endpoints for Ganymede's performance monitoring software will ship with Red Hat Linux.

Magic Software's application development tool, a commercial, closed source package, is available for no-cost for Linux for a limited time.

Aventail Corporation announces availability of Aventail ExtraNet Center for Linux.

Press Releases:

  • Helios, announces its EtherShare 2.5, EtherShare OPI 2.0, PDF Handshake and Print Preview products for Linux
  • VAResearch, acquires Electric Lichen L.L.C
  • OpenMail, planned announcements for next week's EMA'99 conference
  • WebTrends Corporation, WebTrends Enterprise Reporting Server released
  • Comdex/Sydney '99, with Linux coverage
  • CorVu Corporation, announces Linux support for Business Intelligence and Balanced Scorecard
  • MTI announces Internet-based raid storage for Linux

Section Editor: Jon Corbet.

Guest Editor for the Week: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 1999


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

Linux in the news

We'll start this week with a few articles for recommended reading:
  • The Wall Street Journal has put out a lengthy article on the PA-RISC port of Linux being done by the Puffin Group. "The arrangement between the $50 billion H-P and the shoestring Puffin Group is a marriage between the stodgy world of big computer companies and a form of capitalism being hatched by Linux zealots around the globe." (Thanks to Jim Turley).

  • Nicholas Petreley's latest article tackles Ed Muth and his attacks on Linux. Summary Recent attempts by Microsoft's Ed Muth to criticize Linux and minimize its importance raise burning questions -- about Windows NT. Ed Muth would be well advised to remove the plank in Microsoft's eye before complaining about the speck in that of Linux. (Thanks to Robert McMillan)

  • Rumor Central has an interesting Linux-related tidbit in its second paragraph. If correct, Microsoft has certainly not been impacted by the Department of Justice proceedings, at least not enough to change their business practices. When Microsoft heard that two of its primary OEMs were planning to run Linux in public, the Redmondians dusted off their thumbscrews and convinced Gateway and Micron to pull out of the demo unless Windows NT took the place of Linux.

  • Open Source Tools Gain Credibility is the title of a CMP article which covers the numerous advantages of open source debuggers, compilers and more."A CIO who tells people to use only commercial tools is committing malpractice," says Cameron Laird. [Linux Center]

  • For the next installation of the rumor that Microsoft is actually porting its Office Suite to Linux, this article by Simson Garfinkel includes specific denials from Microsoft (of course, it is just a rumor, right?). The focus of this article sounds familiar, in that Microsoft is claiming that no such port has been done because none of their customers have expressed any interest. Microsoft hasn't heard an outcry for Linux in its surveys, its usability studies, or in discussions with its major customers.

    Simson ends his article by calling on all of us to let Microsoft know that we'd like to see their software ported over. Do we? If the answer for you is yes, let Microsoft know (and copy your letter to Simson ...).

  • Serious speculation on Microsoft's next counter-moves against Linux is the topic of this article by Matthew Chappee. I can tell you this, there can be no peaceful coexistence between Linux and Microsoft. It's going to come to a head.

News from Abroad

The French newspaper Le Monde has several Linux articles out (obviously in French). Jean-Michel Collard has reviewed them and indicates that there is no "FUD" in any of them. He also indicated that he may be able to provide us with a translation for at least one of them in the near future. For those unwilling to wait, here is link to Babelfish where you can specify the URL of the piece you want translated.

The Tide Turns for Linux is the title of this article from The Press, New Zealand. It focuses on a local company, Egressive, which is specializing in Debian GNU/Linux support and development. The changing tide has reached Christchurch, with the establishment of a company offering customised Linux systems and support for small to medium-sized businesses.

The Jerusalem Post published an article on Star Office in their March 21, 1999 edition. They were apparently quite pleased. I downloaded the program and was able to successfully use the StarWriter component to open and save to MS Word files, and StarWriter was enough like MS Word to impress me. An on-line version of this article exists but requires payment in order to access. If you are interested, search the Jersalem Post archives for "User-Friendly", the title of the article.


Desktop alternatives to Windows are the focus of this brief article by Robert Lauriston. Using a MacIntosh is mentioned as an acceptable alternative, but Linux, BeOS, OS/2 and NextStep are all found to fall short. I estimate that it will be at least two more years before Linux is a practical alternative to Windows for the average user.

USA Today has entered the legions of media providing coverage of Linux with two articles. The first is a fairly lighthearted look at a Linux Installfest. This isn't the '60s of placards and protests, but of be-ins and expanding consciousness. Or in the case of the Linux operating system, install-fests and the road trip called Bierwanderung.

The second article takes a more serious approach, starting with a talk with Richard Stallman and the reasons behind the development of free software. "From Stallman you get the idea that any (software) contribution should be available to the general populace for the advancement of all humankind," says George Weiss, an analyst with the Gartner Group in Long Island, N.Y.

Ben Elgin at Smart Reseller brings up a topic that has been known to start a few flames within newsgroups, "Is Red Hat becoming the Linux Microsoft?" He specifically addresses Red Hat's Certification Program and its luke-warm support for the LSB. ... some critics contend that Red Hat's business practices, under CEO Robert Young, are becoming heavy-handed and bad for the open-source industry.

A couple more main-stream press articles came out this week about Apple's open source announcement, including:

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

Guest Editor for the Week: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 1999


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



Bleeding Edge Magazine is the latest on-line Linux magazine. Note that everything at Bleeding Edge is provided under the Open Content Public License.

Excerpts from Linus Torvalds' essay in O'Reilly's recently published book, "Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution", have been made available on the LinuxWorld site. This essay is aimed at the topic of the Linux kernel, including design, portability issues and the future. There aren't a lot of major new innovations in store for the kernel. It's more a question of supporting a wider range of systems than anything else: taking advantage of Linux's portability to bring it to new systems.

LinuxStart.com can now be added to your "My Netscape" Homepage by simply going to LinuxStart and clicking on an icon. For more information, check out this note from Victor Goodman.

In response to the mentioned desire for pre-installed Linux systems for less than $1000.00, Mark Nielsen wrote us to let us know what he has available. In addition, he also provides systems on the high-end, having recently hired a Beowulf expert.


Journees du Libre (Days of Free Software) is an event sponsored for the second year by the Linux User Group of Strasbourg, France. It will be held on March 26th and 27th. The program is available free of charge.

Oliver M. Bolzer sent us a link to his report on LinuxWorld Japan '99 (in Japanese).

Web sites

The Linux Forum is now at a new address.

March 25, 1999



Software Announcements

Package Version Description
AbiWord 0.5.2 Fully featured word processor
Aegis 3.11 Transaction-based software configuration management system
Apache 1.3.6 High performance, UNIX based HTTP server
Apache-SSL 1.3.4+1.3.1 Secure Webserver (using SSLeay)
Applix SHELF 1.3 An embedable fully featured programming language for Linux
aptilis 1.044 build 0020 Free CGI space with a new easier language
Artistic Style 1.8.2 Indentation and reformatting filters for C, C++, Java
ascp 1.0 A Control Panel for the AfterStep window manager
Authen::Smb 0.6 Perl module to authenticate against NT domain servers from UNIX
AutoGen 4.5.1 Templatized program/text generation system
BANAL 0.08 Book-keeping (and other stuff) for small businesses
Berkeley MPEG Tools 1.0 A set of tools for playing, encoding MPEG layer 1 video files
bgcheck 0.3 A process monitor used to limit the amount of background processes
bip 1.3 Send messages to pagers using the Internet
BitchX 75p2-10 ANSI capable, textmode IRC Client
Blackbox 0.50.4 WindowManager for X11 written in C++
BNC 2.6.0 IRC proxy server
BoboBot alpha 3 A
Buildkernel 0.89 Automates the task of building a Linux kernel
CGI::WeT 0.6.3 A set of Perl scripts to allow Web Themeing.
CircleMUD 3.0 beta patchlevel 15 Multi User Dungeon for Linux
Code Medic 0.7.0 UNIX Debugging Environment
DailyUpdate 7.00 Grabs dynamic information from the internet and integrates itinto your webpage
Dallas DS-1820 Sensor Monitor 0.0.3 Basic interface to Dallas Semi 1-wire temperature sensors
dcd 0.50 Simple command-line CD player
DHCP with Dynamic DNS 0.12 Dynamically update DNS from dhcpd.leases file
Distmp3 0.1.5 Distributed mp3compressing
Djvu Compressor 2.0 Innovative document image compression technique
Djvu Reference Library 2.1 Netscape plugin to decompress and view Djvu images.
DLDialog 0.19.2 Displays dialog boxes in terminal and X11 mode to interact with scripts
dnsjava 0.1 Implementation of DNS in Java
Domtools 1.4.0 High-level name server query tools
DubMed 1.1.3 An experimental Medline GUI with metadata-based links from cites to articles.
Enlightenment 0.15.4 Fast, flexible and very extensible Window Manager
Eraserhead RPG 0.0.4 RPG/II, RPG/III Compiler
FastGL 0.99z6 A very wonderfull C/C++ graphics library
FreeAmp 1.2.0 Open Source MP3 player
Freeciv 1.8.0 pre 2 Implementation of Civilization II for UNIX/X released under the GPL
FreeWorld BBS 0.2.1 BBS Software for Linux
FreeWRL 0.19 Free VRML browser for Linux
freezetag 0.9.1 Program for Editing of id3 Tags of mp3 files
freshmeat.php3 1.1 Retrieves the latest freshmeat news for a webpage
fvwm_menu_conv 1.2 Perl scripts that convert fvwm2 menus into icewm or blackbox
Galway 0.1.1 Guile-gtk HTML Editor
Ganymede 0.98 GPL'ed Network Directory Management System
GCD 1.5 A cd-player with a gtk+ interface
gcombust 0.1.9 gtk+ frontend for mkisofs and cdrecord
gdict 0.4 GTK Online Dictionary Program
GenPage 1.0b Provides framework for separating content management from layout design
GeoStats 1.0.2 IRC Statistical Services
GIMP Imagemap plug-in 0.5 GIMP plug-in for creation of clickable imagemaps.
Giram 0.0.11 Giram is a modeller, written in GTK+
gnlogin 0.1 A GTK interface to ncpmount.
GnomeTREK 0.2 Search tool for the 1998 Star Trek Encyclopedia.
gnotepad+ 1.1.3 An easy-to-use, yet fairly feature-rich, simple text editor
GNU Plotutils 2.2 Utilities for plotting scientific data
GQ 0.1.9 GTK LDAP client
Graph Lm_Sensors (GLS) 0.02 Makes graphs and html file from lm_sensors output.
Graphic Counter Language 2.10 Programming language for the development of web counters
GREED .4 A utility that can get and resume files from a web site.
Grip 1.5 A gtk-based frontend for CD-rippers
Gsh 0.0.12 Shell with an integrated terminal window.
GTetrinet 0.1 A clone of the game Tetrinet.
GTKWave 1.1.0 Wave viewer for Verilog simulation
GtkZip 0.5a2 A program for maintaining your Iomega Zip drive disks underLinux
GXanim 0.02a GTK+ front end for Xanim movie player
GXedit 1.23 Simple GPL'ed graphical editor using GTK
icewm 0.9.35 Window Manager designed for speed, usability and consistency
id3ed 1.3 ID3 tag editor for mp3 files. Interactive and command line modes.
ipchains-firewall 1.6 Shell script to set up firewalling and IP masq rules for ipchains
ip_masq_icq 0.52 ICQ masquerading module for Linux
IsinGlass 1.18 Firewall setup script designed to protect dial-up users.
JCheckLinks 0.1 HTML hyperlink validator, java, multithreaded
Jetty 2.1.3 HTTP/1.1 Servlet server written in Java
Jikes v0.47 Java compiler that translates Java source into bytecoded instruction sets
Juke 0.2 Curses based juke box program
kbd 0.99 Keytable files and keyboard utilities
KBiff 2.2.8 New mail notification utility for KDE
KDevelop 0.31 KDevelop is a new C++ development environment for Unix/X11.
kdf 0.5.0 KDE frontend to df (status of disks), gives you quick access to all drives.
KIllustrator 0.6.3 Vector drawing program for KDE
kmodbox 0.4.0 Module player for KDE based on MikMod
KNewMail 3.0b6 KDE application designed to check multiple pop3 servers for email.
KPackage 1.2 GUI interface to the RPM and the Debianpackage manager
KPackViewer 0.60 Package viewer to ease package administration
kstock 1.0 BETA Grabs market information from webservers and displays a scroll text
LCDproc 0.4-pre5 Displays system statistics on an external LCD display
libmikmod 3.1.6 Full-featured sound library
libtcp++ 0.0.1c C++ class library to create TCP/IP clients/servers
Linux Scorched Terrareth Alpha 0.003 A Sc*rch*d E*rth clone for Linux
loop 0.2 Console utility
Lowlevel Quicktime Library 0.6.5 Low level Quicktime library for *NIX
Lynx 2.8.2dev20 fully-featured, text-based World Wide Web browser
Mailcrypt 3.5.3 Provides a simple interface topublic key cryptography with PGP
Mason 0.12.0 An automated firewall builder for ipfwadm or ipchains firewalls.
matritsa 0.1.0 A board game for kids
mdate 0.5.4 A freely-available mayan date program
Midnight Commander 4.5.27 Unix file manager and shell
mmusic 0.8.4 Database Frontend to handle large music collections
mod_ssl 2.2.6-1.3.6 Apache Interface to OpenSSL
moiss 0.5 Quantum Monte Carlo simulation program
mon 0.38pre7 Highly configurable service monitoring daemon
moodss 6.5 Modular Object Oriented Dynamic SpreadSheet
Mops 0.42a5 3D modeling environment written in C with Tcl/Tk.
MpegTV Player (mtv) A realtime MPEG Video+Audio player
Muffin 0.8.1 Filtering proxy server for the World Wide Web written entirely in Java
MySQL 3.22.20 SQL (Structured Query Language) database server
Ncurses Hexedit 0.9.3 Ncurses file hex editor - edit/insert/delete/search
net-tools 1.51 Programs that form the base set of the NET-3 networking distribution
opensched 0.0.4 A project scheduling system for Unix systems, with LaTeX and EPS output.
OpenSSL 0.9.2b The Open Source toolkit for Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security
OpenXML 1.0.4 Pure Java, commercial-grade, fully featured framework for XML-based applications
OSS 3.9.2f Provides sound card drivers for most popular sound cards under Linux
PDAI 0.5.0 Public Domain Artificial Intelligence for Linux, etc.
percy 0.9 Percy, the talking penguin
perldap 1.2.1 Perl C and OO interface to LDAP
pi-address 0.2.13 X11 based Address Manager for Palm Pilot Address DB
pk 0.8.9 An Open-Source POSIX Threads embedded real-time kernel
playcd 1.27 A nice cd-playing tool
Poqqo 0.1 CD Data server
Postfix 19990317 The Postfix MTA
Postilion 0.9.1 A mail user agent based upon the popular TkRat program
procps 2.0.1 A package of utilities which report on the state of the system
psgplay 0.6 Music player for all the old Atari tunes.
QpThread Library for C++ 0.5 Thread library for C++ with support for signals, exceptions, timer etc.
quicklaunch_applet 0.6 Small launcher icons for the GNOME Panel
RAPID 5.12 Commodity and stock graphing for technical analysis trading decisions
Red Hat Linux Starbuck BETA The Red Hat Official Linux distribution
rlinetd 0.3 inetd replacement on acid
rpm.cgi 0.25 A Perl CGI script frontend to the Red Hat Package Management (RPM) System.
rsync 2.3.0 File transfer program to keep remote files into sync
rxtx 1.3-1 rxtx is a native serial library for linux supporting CommAPI
Sarien Play Sierra AGI version 2 and version 3 games like Kings Quest and Space Quest.
savant 1.0 VHDL 93 analyzer/code generator
Services 4.2.1 Provides nick/channel/memo services for IRC networks
sfspatch 2.2.4 The Steganographic File System Kernel Patch
ShareTheNet 2.1.0 Linux router on a floppy. Windows based setup.
shout_tools 0.01.0001 CGI suite for icecast/shout song status/requesting
sitecopy 0.5.0 Maintain remote copies of locally stored web sites
Sketch 0.5.4 Vector drawing program, implemented in python
SkySOUND 0.35.000 Free demo or game oriented MP3 Library
slashdot.php3 1.1 Retrieves the latest slashdot news for a webpage
solariscentral.php3 1.1 Retrieves the latest news from SolarisCentral
SoundTracker 0.1.1 A music tracker for X / GTK+
Soupermail 1.0.3 Generic form to email handler
sqlbind8 0.4.0 SQL backend to Bind 8
SQLWork 1.1 A blatant rip of Oracle's SQL Worksheet for Windows.
Stathosts 1.5 Python app to gather network info and display in web page
sXid 3.2.0 All in one suid/sgid monitoring script written in C
tavrasm 1.03 tavrasm - assembler for the Atmel AVR series of micro-controllers
tcpgate 0.0.1 TCP Proxy/Gateway Daemon
Teaser 19990318 Server for the Teaser and Firecat System
terminatorX 2.3 Realtime Audio Synthesizer (DJ Scratching)
Terraform 0.2.8 Interactive digital terrain (height field) editor/viewer
tgif 4.1.3 Vector-based draw tool
TiMidity++ 2beta-3 Experimental MIDI to WAVE converter
tintin++ 1.73 (T)he k(I)cki(N) (T)ickin d(I)kumud clie(N)t
Toenail 0.1 App to parse menu and output to Blackbox style submenu file.
TrueReality 1999032200 N64 Emulator
TWIG 0.1pre7 A web-based IMAP client written with PHP3
Unix Desktop Environment (UDE) 0.1.10b A new GUI for Unix with a completely new look'n'feel
Uptime 3.00 Keep track of your uptime and compare it with other hosts.
util-linux 2.9o Miscellaneous system utilities
vb2c 0.01 Visual Basic to C/GTK Converter
VFU File Manager 1.46 Extensivelyl featured console (text-mode) file manager.
VM 6.70 Emacs-based mail reader
VMWare Build 103 Allows you to run multiple OS's at the same time (ie: windoze in linux)
vppp 2.1 Virtual PPP channel over a TCP connection with traffic shaping
wcd 2.2.2
Web Secretary 1.3 Web page monitoring software
Webalizer 1.22 Web server log analysis program
WebFetch 0.03 Perl5 module infrastructure to export and retrieve news for web display
WebKNotes wkn0.3076 Web based knowledge notes database written in Perl.
WebSQL for Sybase ASE 1.1 A web based SQL utility.
WMBeats 1.2 InternetTime Clock .. that features UTC and Local Time displays as well as date
wmsound 0.9.4 Sound server package for WindowMaker
wmToshiba.app 0.6.7 WindowMaker dock app. to control the fan on Toshiba laptops.
wmtv 0.6.2 WindowMaker TV dock.app
WWWThreads 3.2 WWW based discussion forums
www_proxy 0.0.3 HTTP proxy with the capability of modifying User-Agent value
xanim 2.80.1 Video Animation Playback for X11
xautolock patchlevel 15 automatic X screen locking/saving
XawTV 2.39 TV application and a few utilities
xcallerid 2.2.0 callerID program that pops up incomingphone numbers in an X-window
Xclasses 0.40.2 pre 3 C++ layout library for the X Window System
XCmail 0.99.7 MIME and POP3 capable mailtool for X11
XEBOT 0.3.01 Multiplatform stand alone GUI with rapid prototyping and external linkage
XML Parser for Java v2.04 XML Parser & Generator for Java
xtell 0.8 Simple messaging client and server, kind of networked write
YAX YUGO System 0.2.0 A basic implementation of the YAX Graphic System
Zgv 3.2 graphic file viewer for VGA and SVGA displays
Zigzag 0.68 A unique hyperstructure kit for Linux
ZMech 0.3.01 State machine development tool

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

ClickWalk AS, Oslo, Norway is a company that has worked to develop a better and more visually-oriented interface to websites. Their premiere site provides information on the city of Oslo, Norway (alternatively, the site can be viewed in Norwegian) by taking you on a visual tour, complete with maps. The emphasis is on speed of access, yet the Oslo tour contains over eight thousand photos. And, of course, since we are telling you about it, the site was also developed on a Linux server using Apache, postgresql, and a java servlet under Apache JServ. For more details, check out their kind note in response to our questions. It also contains a full press release with more information on the site.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

Guest Editor for the Week: Liz Coolbaugh

March 25, 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: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 11:43:41 -0800
From: Marko Rauhamaa <marko@calnet28-100.gtecablemodem.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: Free Software

Sean Hennessy <geishan@ozmail.com.au>:

> I'm an small independent software developer. 
> The company consists of
> me.  That's all just me.  My work provides 
> for my family. I create
> proprietary software.  I am therefore the enemy

> in some peoples eyes.
> I like Linux. I like the open source. Hell I'll proberly even
> contribute to Linux.  But to have all software free?? That sucks.

I'm on the dark side of the force as well, and like you, I'm using
free software in my work and in our product. I'm currently the sole
breadwinner for my family.

Moral issues aside, I believe our fates are sealed. In the end, all
software will be free because free software will simply blow away
proprietary software. We are living a transition period during which
numerous profitable, proprietary niches can be found, but it's only a
matter of time before most applications are free.

You and I may have made our fortunes before the transition is over,
but don't count on it. Whole industries disappear and that affects the
livelihoods of thousands or even millions of people. There's little
you can -- and probably nothing you should -- do to slow the natural
evolution down.

In the future, software developers' work will be like scientific

 (1) They will advance in their careers by publishing their works.

 (2) They will be hired by universities, foundations and governments.

 (3) Their will be paid poor salaries, and unless they are tenured,
     their job security will be nonexistent.

 (4) Their results will kick ass.

I used to be a computer scientist. People in the academia are willing
to work below minimum wage, without pay or as department secretaries
just to be able to continue their work in the research community.

It's a bright future for software.


Marko Rauhamaa   mailto:marko.rauhamaa@iki.fi   http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/
Suomenkielinen esperantokurssi http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/esperanto/kurssi/
    Free Esperanto Course http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/esperanto/course/
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:12:18 -0700
From: Jeffery Cann <jcann@techangle.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: RE: Free software

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

In his letter to the LWN Editor, geishan
<geishan@ozemail.com.au> writes:

    "I'm an small independent software developer. The company consists
of me.  That's all just me.  My work provides for my family. I create
proprietary software.  I am therefore the enemy in some peoples eyes."

My first point is that few in the Free Software community would
consider you "an enemy".  They would encourage you to release your
source code under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

He continues his letter with:

    "I like Linux. I like the open source. Hell I'll properly even
     contribute to Linux.  But to have all software free?? That

My second point is that the writer misunderstands the meaning of the
word 'free'.  Richard Stallman has spoken of this problem before and
there is simply no other way to explain it in English.

If you were to release your code under the GPL, that does not mean you
could not profit from it.  In fact, you could sell your application.
You could sell services that relate to you application.  You could
contract yourself to write enhancements for your application.  The
point is that many programmers (including ISVs) have released their
code under the GPL and have made significant profits using the ideas
suggested above.

When released under the GPL, your source code would be free.  Not in
cost, but in libery.  Your code would be free for other programmers
like myself to contribute to the development of your software.  My
development contributions could possibly earn you money, but I would
not contribute my time and programming effort solely for you to
profit.  I would be contributing to your source code because it would
benefit me directly in some other way.  For example, fix an annoying
bug or add an enhancement that could save me hours.

If I have no access to your source code and there is a bug or
enhancement that I would like, I would be helpless to resolve the
situation -- i.e., I would literally be at your mercy for resolution.
Thus, your proprietary license restricts my freedom to resolve this
situation.  This is the meaning of the word 'free' in the GPL.

Note that by enhancing the freedom of your users, you are not limiting
your own freedoms.  You would have the freedom to profit from your
efforts.  There are no such restrictions in the GPL.  On the contrary,
if you read the GPL and other material on the Free Software
Foundation's (FSF) web site (http://www.fsf.org), it clearly explains
how a person can profit from using the GPL.  The additional benefit is
that if you release code under the GPL and later decide not to
maintain it, no one will be left without their freedom to continue to
maintain or enhance the code.

As the ideals of the Free Software Foundation are exposed to a greater
audience, I fear that people will continue to misunderstand what is
meant by free software.

I encourage you not to restrict the liberties of your users (their
freedom) by continuing to release restricted software programs.  I
encourage you to read the GPL and its usage 
on the FSF web site (http://www.fsf.org).

Jeffery Cann

"Who does not trust enough will not be trusted."

- Lao Tsu

From: guylhem@barberouge.linux.lmm.com
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:04:52 +0200 (GMT-2)
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: "Libre" better than "free"

I have to agree with Conrad idea, "libre" will avoid confusing free
software, shareware, freeware, gratis...

* Free software would be software you get for $0 like internet

* Libre software would be software you can freely change and
redistribute without restriction, like what BSD, GPL and many other
licences provides

* Open source is yet another idea, anyone can see/change the sources
but there might be additional restrictions, like QT license or MPL

But who will want to make words clearer for newbies ?  Who can
decide how we should call the kind of software we're talking about ?

We some tough opinion.
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Standish
From: Nathan Myers <ncm@nospam.cantrip.org>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:40:38 -0800

To the editor,

LWN wrote:
> "The Standish Group recently interviewed Fortune 1000 IT executives
> in several industries. Despite all the hoopla about Linux, not one
> company was found to be running a mission-critical application on
> Linux."  Surely there must be somebody out there with an example that
> can put an end to this?

I'm not sure it does any good to participate in things like this,
even so far as to call for counter-examples.

The Standish Group gets its money by mirroring the biases of its
customers, who are now heavily invested in legacy software.  At the
moment, those customers are paying to be reassured that they haven't
wasted their money.  In the future they will pay to be told
otherwise, and then the Standish Group will oblige.  It will be
their well-paid job to gather examples.  Why should LWN readers do
their work for them, unpaid?

Free Software achieved its current success despite the Standish
Groups of the world.  While the buyers of reports like The Standish
Group's are keeping their ears plugged, Free Software is
strengthening its position.  It is better that they remain
complacent while Free Software infiltrates their organizations from
below, so that they find themselves already dependent on it when
they do wake up, and less inclined to attack it.  Organizations
already using Free Software openly have a competitive advantage
against those using buggy legacy systems, and it benefits Free
Software to preserve that advantage.

The only area I know of where this argument doesn't apply is in
government.  Those reports that influence government administration
decisions need the best up-to-date information, and readers of LWN
can really help in getting those reports into line with reality.

Nathan Myers

Date: 18 Mar 99 21:12:53 PST
From: Ken Engel <kenengel@netscape.net>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: What's wrong with proprietary software?

By no means am I the first nor the last to have a similar experience
to which Richard Stallman had with Xerox. But I'd like to see more
public awareness (read: raising hell) about this kind of problem.

The company by which I am employed has decided to standardize on a
third-party product. It has been my assignment to create a custom
application with this product. It's been a nightmare.

The third party's primary target platform is Windows NT, and has
been ported using one of those NT-to-UNIX conversion tools. The
result is a slow, bloated, black-box monolith. Proprietary software,
binary file formats and lack of command-line/scripting awareness
constrain my effort to Point-&-Click, Drag-&-Drop
"development". This translates to inefficiency, high cost and high
blood pressure.

Software whose source code is freely available is not merely
ideology - it is the ultimate practical solution. I urge IT
supporters, developers and managers, anyone concerned with the
bottom line, to seriously consider it.

Thank you
Ken Engel
My opinions are mine only.

More than just email--Get your FREE Netscape WebMail account today at htt=
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Apple and Open Source.
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 21:05:37 -0400
From: Humberto Ortiz Zuazaga <zuazaga@coqui.net>

Let me get this straight:

1 Apple takes Mach and BSD 4.4 and Apache, bundles it with a GUI

2 Apple releases this as MacOS X server, a commercial product

3 Apple then takes the GUI back out, and releases Darwin under a
license that bright people can't agree whether it's free or not.  In
any case contributions to Darwin can get rolled back into Apple's
proprietary products.

This advances free software how?

In fact this is the kind of thing that the GPL was designed to

This is the best argument ever that RMS's presence is still needed.

So what about mklinux?  That's Mach plus a linux single server,
right?  Why didn't Apple ship a product based on that (hint: the
kernel work would be covered by the GPL)?

Humberto Ortiz-Zuazaga - zuazaga@coqui.net 

Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 11:55:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Conrad Sanderson <conrad@hive.me.gu.edu.au>
To: matthew@mattshouse.com
Subject: comments on your "Here Comes Da FUD" article + more

[ originally to matthew@mattshouse.com ]

An interesting article, pointing out some of the avenues that
Microsoft can take.

What surprises me more is the responses that you are getting.  It
seems there are too many naive people out there thinking that Linux
is half-invincible because it is a "movement" or that Microsoft will
hold itself back, or that other companies will come to the rescue of
Linux.  Microsoft is a 800 pound gorilla that is pissed off.  Most
companies would rather get out of its way than defend something as
small as Linux.

Microsoft doesn't play by the rules - your readers think that
certain facts exclude Microsoft from doing something nasty,
particularly the PR aspects.  But the truth of the matter is that
Microsoft is stupid, arrogant, and above all, a bully.  It hasn't
grown up yet, as is demonstrated by the personality of Bill Gates
(especially in the DOJ video), and as such, will use any means
necessary, whether it is bad PR or not, to attempt to crush or
minimize the "Linux threat".  Microsoft is a teenager in the
computing business, who refuses to grow up.  It doesn't think too
far into the future, and it is ruthless.  The only way it will learn
to be nice and think of the long term effects is when it gets a
bloody nose.  The DOJ lawsuit is only the start.  Something else
besides the lawsuit and Linux is needed to smash Microsoft's face to
a pulp.  What that is, I don't know yet.

Microsoft will attack.  I wish I was wrong.

To learn more about the corporate culture of Microsoft, head over to
"Why you shouldn't use Microsoft products", at: 

Conrad Sanderson - Microelectronic Signal Processing Laboratory
Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Linux needs a registry?
From: Alan Shutko <shutkoa@ugsolutions.com>
Date: 18 Mar 1999 10:53:45 -0600

In his letter on March 16th, Tom Atkinson said that Linux needs a
single database which holds all configuration info, and it Linux
gets one, it'll be easy to write unified configuration managers.
In other words, we need the same kind of thing that NT has in its
registry.  This could be helpful in some ways, but it won't cure
all the problems facing admin tool authors!

There are several issues in configuring other apps:

* Finding the config files.  A central database would help with
  this, but finding config files isn't that much trouble now.

* Reading the config files into some internal structure.  A central
  database would make this much easier, and this would help things
  out considerably.  But it won't do anything for the bulk of the

* Dealing with the application specific configuration information.

For example, which is more of a problem configuring sendmail: the
fact that it has a wild configuration file format, or the fact that
it has truly hairy capabilities in that configuration file?  Any
tool which attempts to configure sendmail will have to deal with
its multiple tables, rules, etc regardless of the file format.  You
can write a 4-function calculator using sendmail rules... a config
tool to deal with such information is going to be difficult no
matter what.

For evidence that a central database is no panacea, look at the
Windows Registry.  Lots of information is stored in a central
location, but there are a number of registry entries which store
completely incomprehensible strings.  A Linux config database could
solve some of these problems, but there are difficulties for config
manager authors that the database will not address.

Alan Shutko <shutkoa@ugsolutions.com> - (314) 344-5214
From: Art_Cancro@uncnsrd.mt-kisco.ny.us (Art Cancro)
To: editor@lwn.net
Date: Thu Mar 18 13:27:29 1999
Subject: Dear Editor:        

Dear Editor:  
   I'm certain that I speak for a huge segment of the Linux
community when I say that I take exception to Tom Atkinson's
proposal that the various configuration files present on a Linux
system be combined into one huge database.
   The configuration database that Mr. Atkinson proposes is,
essentially, the Windows Registry.  Anyone who has had even minimal
experience with the administration of Windows systems knows that
it's quite easy for the registry to become corrupted, or (perhaps
even worse) loaded up with defunct settings for programs which are
no longer installed on the system.
   While there are advantages to such a database -- the ease with
which it can be saved and restored comes to mind -- to see the many
disadvantages, one need only spend some time running an operating
system which already implements it this way.
   Perhaps we can meet somewhere in between.  Configuration files
in a standardized location and with a standardized format, perhaps
using a standard set of library functions to read and manipulate
them (much like pre-registry versions of Windows used standard
functions to access .INI files) might be a worthwhile mix of
flexibility/reliability with easily implementable administration
   Art Cancro                            UNCENSORED! BBS  
   ajc@uncnsrd.mt-kisco.ny.us            http://uncnsrd.mt-kisco.ny.us  

Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 01:37:14 +0100
From: Tom Simonsen <tomsim@eunet.no>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: Subject: What Linux needs next


Having read the letter from Tom Atkinson about configuration data;
I have to disagree. His idea about a central database for all
configuration data is, in my opinion, a flawed one. This is the
same as the registry in Windows.

A central registry has one major flaw (at least in the MS flavour);
you computer dies when it gets corrupt (note when, not if...).

Tom does not miss the boat though, as he points to a real problem.
Configuration data should follow a standard set of rules; lessening
the learnig curve.

My suggestions are: Use ASCII files, so you can get at the data,
even when booting a minimal system.  All applications should have
sensible default values, or die gracefully, if the configuration
data is missing.  All applications/deamons etc. should have their
own configuration file, so that screwing up one file, doesn't screw
up anything else.  User setup should be in own files, separate from
the system setup

It might be useful to have a central database that works as a cache
though... If things stops working, delete the cache, and it
rebuilds automatically over time.

Thanks for your time,

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:31:27 -0800
From: Jeffrey.M.Bolden@healthnet.com
Subject: Tom Atkinson
To: editor@lwn.net

I just read Tom Atkinson's piece on system administration.  I found
it rather ironic to read a piece about how Linux could defeat Win
95.98/NT by adopting a "system database", an approach that amounts
to adopting the Window's registry.  As anyone with experience with
the registry can tell you maintaining and modifying the registry is
a nightmare compared to those ASCII files in Linux.  I imagine
Mr. Atkinson doesn't realize this because he has never tried.  I'd
recommend that he open up regedit and see his unified non-ascii
database in action.

The difficulty in installing Linux does not lie here.

Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 18:35:26 -0500
From: Herschel Cohen <hcohen2@home.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: What Linux needs next ... [Not so sure]

Response to Tom Atkinson letter in 18 March, 1999 Linux Weekly News


While in general I agree with many of your statements, I disagree
with certain specifics that are myths that are too easily taken at
face value.

For example, Win95 seems easy because it comes pre-installed, read
the documentation on reinstalling Win95 on say my Micro Xku.
Compare that to a new install of NT Workstation, the latter
(<I> i.e. <B> NT </B></I> is <B>
easier! </B> Moreover, configurations under Win95 for such
<I> simple things </I> as sound volume are easy to set
in multiple locations [this time using my laptop as the example],
but one just changes the sound level for that session [Fn+F7]
whereas the sliders are more permanent.

The registry is a database, but what a horror - subject to
corruption newer versions overwrite <B> parts </B> of
older applications.  Fragments of old applications remain to cause
conflicts.  Etc., etc.

I just think Win95 is a poor model.  Nonetheless, I am in the
process of solving problems configuring my latest installation of
Linux.  While I am much further along, I too am convinced that the
vision of casual users flocking to Linux is not practical for the
present condition of this OS.  Moreover, even with OEM
installations and configurations adding a new application that
requires su user access rights may go astray!

So perhaps now you see why I understand and even support some of
your ideas, but I think the solutions cannot be postulated on a
false premise such as the <I> usability of Win95. </I>

Nonetheless, an interesting take on the problem of making the Linux
desktop a more mainstream option.

Take care, Herschel
B/ST Software Developers
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 05:38:14 +0100 (CET)
From: "Anthony E. Greene" <agreene@pobox.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: What Linux Needs Next

In last week's Letters to the Editor, Tom Atkinson advocated a
central database of configuration settings for Linux. This is
supposed to help ease end-user configuration of Linux.

I think he's looking at the problem from the wrong angle. The problem is
not that configuration data is stored in text files. I see the problem as

	1. Many of the config files use different formats. This
means a user cannot count on a specific syntax every
time. Sometimes a colon separates the setting key from the value,
sometimes an equals sign, and sometimes just whitespace. Sometimes
multiple values are separated by commas, and sometimes by
whitespace. Comments are usually marked with a pound sign, but
Samba uses a semicolon. User's need to have a consistent interface.

	2. Todays casual users are accustomed to point and click
configuration. A consistent text file syntax would be helpful, but
not nearly as much as a point/click interface, which tends to
enforce some consistency just by having a familiar set of
widgets. This could be accomplished without a consistent text file
syntax, but would be much easier if the underlying text files were
consistent too.

The strength in using separate text files is that a mistake in on
application does not cripple the system. What would happen if the
GUI config utility made an error writing a system-wide
configuration database?  Anyone who has had to recover the Win95
registry can confirm that it can be painful. A distributed database
(text files) avoids that single point of failure.

The other strength of text files is that you can use any text
editor to update the system. Relying on a specific configuration
utility is a single point of failure too. I loved being able to
edit INI files in Win3.11. You could often change settings that
were not available in whatever GUI config utility included with
Windows or with the application. This is an advantage, not a

Mr. Atkinson is correct in that it takes some defensive programming
to have applications read hand-edited text files. I see this as an
acceptable price to pay for the resulting flexibility and

Anthony E. Greene <agreene@pobox.com>
Homepage & PGP Key <http://www.pobox.com/~agreene/>

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