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Who will speak for the free software community? This week Eric Raymond posted a plea for somebody to "take my job please." Therein he cites several reasons for wanting out of the free software PR business. Foremost among them seems to be the harsh criticism that he has received from some people who do not like his way of promoting free software. He feels turned upon by the people he thought he was representing. Eric doesn't really plan to quit - yet - but he is feeling some stress. (See his followup "Understand my job, please" piece for more).

Part of the problem, perhaps, is simply an insufficiently thick skin. Eric perhaps lost track of the fact that, in the end, he has been playing a political game. When you play politics, you have to deal with, well, politics. It's never possible to please everybody. On the net, those who are not pleased are able to be very vocal and obnoxious about it. Combined with the fact that people without an axe to grind are generally silent, the environment looks very negative. A person who moves into a highly public position has to expect the occasional thrown tomato.

The first post-"resignation" tomato came, parhaps, from Bruce Perens, who put up this piecesaying, essentially, "good riddance" and talking about how Eric may be replaced. Bruce suggests that the "single charismatic leader" position does not fit well with the free software community; he suggests a group of ten or so "interpreters," and nominates himself for one of the slots.

Bruce's suggestion that there be more than one high-profile, presentable spokesman for free software maybe makes some sense. But the fact remains that Eric's retirement, if it really does happen, would not be a good thing. We, the editors of LWN, hereby ask Eric to remain on the job.

Eric has done us a lot of good over the last year or so. It's been said many times that technical superiority is not enough to enable a new system to find success. The sad fact is that good PR matters too. And Eric has done a lot to publicize the advantages of the free software development process. Without him, it could well be that we would not have such a large list of companies moving toward free software. Certainly many (or most) of those companies are not where we would like them to be, but they are moving in the right direction. Who expected even as much movement as we have see so far, much less perfection?

Would Mozilla, Jikes, or Zopebe available without Eric's efforts to make free software understandable and respectable to corporations? Would IBM be supporting Apache development, or SGI supporting Samba, or Corel working on WINE? Would Mexico's Scholarnet project have taken its courageous path of putting Linux systems into 140,000 schools? Some of these things would probably have happened anyway, but it's a safe bet that not all of them would have come about when they did. Eric has done free software some real good. It's silly to think that he is unable to contribute any more.

It is also worth thinking, for a moment, about who would replace Eric. It would not be Richard Stallman, Bruce Perens, or anybody else acceptable to the free software purists. Much more likely, we would see free software "represented" by a paid spokesman with a corporate tattoo on his forehead. If we are lucky, it might be a Bob Young or a Larry Augustin. But companies like Corel, Compaq, Intel, and Oracle have lots of PR money, big press rolodexes, and the desire to be in that spotlight.

Remember that the free software community can not elect somebody to this sort of position. The media does that.

Eric's retirement is not in the interest of the free software community. Getting him some backup (or even competition), and perhaps some funding would be a good thing. But to hound him out of the public spotlight does a disservice to him personally and to free software as a whole. (See also: coverage in Wired News).

Neal Stephenson has written a lengthy piece about free software. It wanders in Stephenson's usual way, but also presents some interesting insights and is good for an occasional laugh. Here's the article, we strongly recommend that you check it out. Update: this document appears to have been removed from the site, for whatever reason. Until it comes back, there are copies available on this site and also this oneout there on the net.

Alan Cox interviewed, part II. Thanks to Maya Tamiya of ChangeLog.net we have an extension to our January interview with Alan Cox. Here is part II of the interview for your reading pleasure.

IDC has put out a new high-priced report which sees a bright future for Linux. According to their press release: "Through 2003, total Linux commercial shipments will grow faster than the total shipments of all other International Data Corporation (IDC) covered client or server operating environments. IDC estimates Linux commercial shipments will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25% from 1999 through 2003..."

Linux in London. The next in the well-respected series of Netproject conferences will be held on May 11, 1999, in London. Featured speakers include Alan Cox and Miguel de Icaza. See the conference agenda page for more information. Looks like fun, we wish we could be there...

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April 1, 1999


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See also: last week's Security page.



A report of a Linux-based "worm" showed up in this story on LinuxToday. However, discussion on BugTraq, where the message was originally posted, indicated that this was 1) not a worm, in that it does not automatically self-replicate but insteads mails back information to the author, which is then manually used in further attacks and 2) not new. For example, this CERT summary mentions that a file called "admw0rm" is known to have been found on many systems that have been successfully compromised.

Most importantly, the "ADM worm", as it was dubbed, does not exploit any new vulnerabilities, but instead just searches for a large number of well-known holes that people may not have patched. So the issue here is to follow the oft-repeated security rules:

  • Keep up with the patches and updates for your distribution!
  • Firewall your networks.
  • Don't allow yourself or your users to pass plaintext passwords across the Internet.
  • Strip down your exposed hosts to limit the number of potentially exploitable daemons that can be accessed.
  • Use packet filtering to control the packets that are allow access to your machine.
  • etc.

Although the Melissa Virus was not a Linux issue, you may want to note that the CERT advisory for Melissa contains information on how to configure sendmail to filter out messages that contain the virus. For more details, check out this web page.

Security Reports

A vulnerability in Linux kernels 2.1.89->2.2.3 can leave a system open to a denial of service attack. This posting from John McDonald provides exact details. If you are currently running an affected kernel, an upgrade to Linux kernel 2.2.5 is recommended.

A race problem in XFree86 is the focus of this advisory from SuSE, which contains a patch for the problem. It's exploitable only by local users, but probably still worth implementing. Here, also, is Red Hat's advisory on the problem. Note that not all distributions may have a vulnerable version of XFree86, (see this posting.

Also from Red Hat comes updated mutt and packages containing fixes to various problems previously reported on BugTraq or by the Linux Security Audit team. Upgrades to these packages are strongly recommended.

Cisco has issued an advisory covering a vulnerability in the Cisco Catalyst Series Ethernet Switches which can be used to trigger a denial-of-service attack remotely. An upgrade to the most recent version of the Catalyst switch software is recommended. More specific information is covered in the advisory, which was issued March 24, 1999.

Another Cisco security issue was issued the same day and covers a problem in the Cisco Catalyst Supervisor software. It can be used by remote TCP/IP users to trigger a remote reload, causing denial-of-service during the reload. The advisory covers which Cisco models are affected and how to get a fix for the problem.


HostSentry is a new security tool for which an alpha version has been released. It is designed as a "Login Anomaly Detector", and while not yet bug-free or complete, should be stable enough to be used. For more information, check out the announcement posted by Craig H. Rowland. HostSentry is part of the Abacus Suite of freely available security tools .

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 1, 1999


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release is 2.2.5. In the announcement for this release, Linus stated his intention to take a two-week vacation. Thus, this will be the last official release for some time. The announcement also refers to the continuing egcs compilation problem, and asks for help in tracking it down. This problem is a nasty one, and could take a lot of eyes to find.

With Linus on vacation, folks looking for something new to compile and boot will have to go to the "ac" series. It's off to a quick start, currently at 2.2.5ac2; this release contains the usual large file array support (still hopefully to appear in the official kernel one of these days) and a fairly long list of fixes.

On the retro side, 2.0.37pre9 is out. Unless problems come up, this will become the true 2.0.37 release.

For a graphical depiction of the Linux kernel version history have a look at this page put together by Larry McVoy.

Aegis for kernel development? BitKeeper is the up and coming configuration management system which is expected to be at least tried for the Linux kernel development process. But now Peter Miller has stepped forward with a lengthy article on why the aegis system should be considered. The message has drawn very little response, it's not clear why. Aegis is a powerful system that might well be worth a look.

A couple of patch announcements for this week:

  • The indefatigable Richard Gooch has put out version 96 of devfs.
  • Ulrich Windl has released new versions of his PPSkit patches, bringing better timekeeping to both the 2.0 and 2.2 kernels.

Richard Stallman dropped another GNU/Linux bomb this week with this linux-kernel posting. Ironically, this message was posted on the Linux kernel list, where, even by Stallman's reasoning, the simple, unqualified term "Linux" is appropriate. As one would expect, much discussion resulted from this post; also predictable is that little of it was very interesting. However, Tim Smith posted a final solution to the problem that's worth thinking about...

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

April 1, 1999

For other kernel news, see:


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See also: last week's Distributions page.



A new version of the OpenLinux 1.3 "HackPak" has been released. This one has a new util-linux package which fixes some problems found in earlier releases, particularly reported NFS mounting problems.

XFree86 w/ TrueType support RPMS are the latest gift from Andrew McRory to the Caldera user base. You can find them here.

The OpenLinux Useability Project is new, just being started by Troy Will. The goals of the project are to improve the useability of OpenLinux. For more details, check out Troy's announcement. Note that this is not a Caldera project.


A belated press release for Debian 2.1 is now available in both German and English.

The integrated SGML environment of Debian is the topic of this press release. Debian's innovative SGML subsystem positions Debian as a premier platform for SGML and XML developers, offering a complete working toolset for documenters and markup programmers with no manual setup required.

Want to convert? A HOWTO on converting from Red Hat to Debian has apparently been around for a while. No reboot required!

The Debian Weekly News is the place to find even more detailed reports on the Debian project. Here is this week's edition.

Red Hat

Red Hat 5.2 on a Thinkpad 770X. Bill Mair has put up his website with information from his installation of Red Hat 5.2 onto his Thinkpad.


Slackware 4.0.0-beta is now available. Remember, last week's announcement was for the "pre-beta", for the truly brave. This week's version is only "beta". Changes from last week include a kernel upgrade to Linux 2.2.5, a fix for the installation from a hard drive, and various other upgrades and patches. For complete information, check the change logs, now provided from Slackware.com, so that a glut of ftp users won't keep you from finding the latest information.


The SuSE security page has been updated to include an advisory on an XFree86 hole (also mentioned in the Security Section.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 1, 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


Sun has put out the reference release for JDK 1.1.8, prompting at least one person to ask if anyone is working on a Linux version. No one has stepped up to claim that they are. The JDK 1.2 is apparently expensive enough to run that a stable, slimmer JDK 1.1.8 would have a place in many people's hearts for a while to come.

The JDK 1.2 status page has been updated to indicate that the 68000 port has passed the Runtime VM report, the first status report from a port other than i386 or PowerPC.


A person with Perl knowledge and graphics sense is being sought to work on illustrations for an upcoming Perl book. If you are interested, check out this note from Ted Kennedy.


mxTools Version 1.0.0, an extension package for python, has been released.

The first public release of PyDAS, the Python Data Analysis Servant, is now out. PyDas was written to allow "interactive statistical analysis of data", similar to S-Plus.


This week's edition of Tcl-URL! is available. It mentions the release of the 1.1.2 version of Jacl and Tcl blend.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 1, 1999



Development projects


Prodded sufficiently by posts to the coas list, Olaf Kirch posted a status update on the project back in February, promising a new snapshot and warning that there were problems with coas, python 1.5 and glibc. In addition, Ricardo Strusberg mentionedthat he was working on CLAMs for Apache and IP-Masquerading. Unfortunately, no additional postings have cropped up since the beginning of March.


The first public release of XSiteCopy, a Gnome-based application for "for copying locally stored websites to remote web servers" has been announced.

Gnome-libs is now up to release 1.0.5, Midnight Command version is up to 4.5.29 and Gnumerics 0.21 is out. Users of Gnumerics version 0.18 or 0.19 are strongly recommended to upgrade due to a bad bug that was found and fixed.


Harmony lives! With this note on March 26, Adam Richter announced the revival of the Harmony project with its original goal: to produced a clone of the Qt libraries under the LGPL license. A new web page has been set up on a Yggdrasil server. With this status report Adam was able to report that things were looking better than he expected. A number of things already work quite well; Harmony's goal is closer than some had thought. It's an encouraging re-start; good luck to them.

High Availability

The High Availability web-site has been updated to contain links to Tom Vogt's udp heartbeat code. New versions of the code are expected to be pumped out almost daily, in the tradition of "release early and often". You can also get it directly on Tom's site.

The Eddieware website has been relaunched and Eddie Version 1.0 is scheduled to release on May 3rd. Eddie is an open source effort to make commercial grade web servers a reality by supporting such features as global load balancing and more.


The official Dutch KDE website has been announced by the Dutch Documentation Team. The address for the site is http://www.kde.nl.

Eight package updates were posted to the kde-announce list, including kpackviewer-0.60, arts-0.3.0, kchess-0.1 and more.


The MozillaZine newsbot is a nice way to follow interesting topics from the Mozilla newsgroups. Supported by volunteers, it contains summaries and descriptions of threads or postings, plus links back to the original articles. You'll find it at http://www.mozilla.org/newsbot/.


For any of you working with sound synthesizers, if you haven't run across Quasimodo, you may want to take a look. The project has been underway since November and the screenshots look interesting, but no new snapshots have been released for a while, due to reasons explained in detail on the web site.


Wine release 990328 is the latest version off the presses. It contains the usual mix of new OLE code, various improements and, as always, bugfixes. Wine Headquarters went through an upgrade on Tuesday, so if you noticed any glitches on the site, that is probably the reason.


The Weekly Zope News from Amos Latteier is now available.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh


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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

VA Research is outsourcing most of its manufacturing, due to the fact that they can't keep up with the demand for their systems. Most of their systems manufacturing will go to Flextronics International, a company which does manufacturing for a number of other big names. VA Research plans to retain internal manufacturing for only their very high-end, multiprocessor server systems. Flextronics, meanwhile, will be setting up offshore assembly plants for the lower-level systems. See VA Research's press release and this News.com article for more.

Red Hat has picked up yet another investor; this one, interestingly, is SAP. See their press release for more. SAP, being a German company, could perhaps be expected to have a more natural affinity with SuSE. The fact that they, too, are putting money into Red Hat shows the extent of the lead that Red Hat seems to be taking over the other distributions. According to This InfoWorld article, SAP bought a 10% share of the company.

Multi-User Solutions has announced a 24x7 support package, this one is aimed at Caldera's OpenLinux. See their announcement for details.

Gartner Group on thin servers. Stéfane Fermigier pointed out this article on thin servers put out by the Gartner Group. They evaluate a number of operating systems for this role. They seem to like FreeBSD best in the text, but end up recommending Linux for most actual applications. Proprietary systems did not come out so well.

French-capable readers may want to check out this FAQ on a French government site which discusses the possible uses of free software in the French administration. A partial translation to English is available via Babelfish, but the document is far too long to translate in one shot. (Thanks to Stéfane Fermigier).

Linux is moving further into the electronic design arena. Synopsys has put out an announcement that they will be offering their Verilog circuit simulation package for Linux; availability is said to be in July (though beta testers apparently have it now).

CodeWarrior for Linux. MetroWerks has announced its CodeWarrior development tools for Linux, ported in conjunction with Red Hat.

Pacific HiTech has announced a set of partnership programs for companies that sell products that work with TurboLinux. There are a few different levels available; see their announcement for more.

Kiwis and penguins. Christchurch, NZ-based company iOpen has announced its existence to the world. They are providers of dedicated Linux systems and a number of free-software based services. They are "...dedicated to the installation of superior network services using only the most reliable software and hardware." Check them out.

Press Releases:

Section Editor: Jon Corbet.

April 1, 1999


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

Linux in the news

It was a relatively light week for press coverage (by recent standards) and, in the absence of earthshaking events, there aren't too many distinct themes to point out. We'll do our best, though, starting with this week's recommended reading:
  • ZDNet UK interviews Tim O'Reilly. "The challenge for Open Source is to become the 'Intel Inside' of software apps, for the Amazons of this world. People are now buying a computer so they can use Amazon -- now that's a killer app. That's a market Open Source has to lose."

  • Here's a PC Week editorial arguing for the continued success of open source software. "We fear that Intel, because of its investment in Red Hat, will give that vendor favored treatment with regard to confidential information. This would be a mistake, fanning the smoldering factionalism in the Linux community and thwarting key open-source aims." Worth a read. (Thanks to Jon Lasser).

  • In Salon Magazine: a review of Bill Gates' new book that touches on Linux for a while. "To anyone with a reasonably long memory, Gates' pooh-poohing of Linux offers an overpowering whiff of déjà vu: The last time Microsoft dismissed a popular new technology as being good only for 'the student and hobbyist market,' as Gates is now describing Linux, it was the early '90s, and the technology in question was the Internet itself -- which, like Linux today, was 'too hard to use,' 'didn't have a good graphic interface' and just didn't fit into Microsoft's vision."

  • Here's an article (in German) in PC Praxis which discusses a cracking competition hosted by IBM at CeBIT. They put up two machines, one running NT, one running Linux. The Linux system came out on top. English text available via Babelfish. (Thanks to Richard Jones).

  • An in-depth review of KDE 1.1 has been posted on the ArsTechnica site, providing pages worth of information about the system. When the day is done, KDE smashes the myth that Linux can't be friendly. A Linux box running kdm is so Windows-ish that the old "I'm afraid of the CLI" excuse just doesn't hold anymore. Give KDE a try if you're adventurous but don't want to stumble around in a dark cave. (Thanks to Matthew P. Anderson)

There were a few moderately technical articles out there:

  • Data Communications Magazine has a lengthy article on the use of Linux in network server environments. "Getting involved with open-source software is a bit like getting married. Network architects don't just get the code, they get a family to go with it." (Thanks to Flemming S. Johansen).

  • Network Computing has a lengthy Samba article which dwells on the challenges of configuration. "SMB solutions for Unix have a dirty little secret: User management will make you want to swerve into a bridge abutment."

  • Sm@rt Reseller reviews Samba 2.0.2. "Even if your customers seem to have dug their heels into the Microsoft camp, Samba's one-two punch of far faster SMB file and print services without Microsoft licensing fees makes it an option that must be considered."

"The business of Linux" was the subject of a number of articles, in one way or another.

  • Here's an article in News.com about Compaq's new Linux-based Alpha server systems. "Compaq has launched a plan to use the popularity of Linux to give a boost to Alpha sales, which have historically lagged below expectations. To accomplish that, however, Compaq has begun offering help to a variety of Linux distributors, not just Red Hat, with their Linux-Alpha editions."

  • Computer Reseller News ran this article about Red Hat's success. "A keenly focused management team attracts first-class Linux kernel developers and world-class financial backers..."

  • InfoWorld interviews IBM's Steve Mills. "I don't think commercial customers are going to put a lot of stock in dealing with a loosely affiliated organization of part-time developers. There's got to be some underlying strength brought to this environment. Linux has been in what I would characterize as 'early adopter mode' for years now. The next step is to get it into the IT mainstream. We think we can be a catalyst for that."

  • Here's an article in the Irish Times about how Corel plans to do some of their Linux graphical interface work in Dublin. "'You're going to see Linux dominate in five years' time,' Dr Cowpland said."

  • This La Repubblica article is a brief one about Siemens and Linux. Siemens, they say, is "the most important sponsor" of Linux. (English available via Babelfish). (Thanks to Arrigo Triulzi).

  • EE Times has an article about the upcoming release of Synopsys's Verilog simulator for Linux. "VCS for Linux will ship in July starting at $40,000, the same price Synopsys charges for Unix and Windows NT."

  • MSNBC has an article about VMWare- the "virtual platform" system which allows running multiple operating systems concurrently on a PC. "...some industry executives see VMWare as enabling the kind of free choice of operating systems that will ease the grip that Microsoft has on PC software."

  • This Inter@ctive Week article suggests that VA Research may become the next Compaq. "Augustin said he intends to take his privately held company out for an initial public offering - but not until next year, after the company gets through some growing pains."

  • Corporate developers are showing increasing amounts of interest in Linux, according to this InfoWorld article. "Particularly when mixed with the Java programming language, Linux is emerging as a contender to win over the corporate developers as a stable platform for building serious applications that can run on multiple operating systems." (Thanks to Christof Damian).

  • Linux sells Alpha Chips is the lesson that Compaq has learned (after Maddog explained it to them enough times). This article talks about Compaq's plans in return, to encourage the use of Linux on the Alpha. Compaq will soon introduce new pricing geared to encourage Linux users to "step up" from Intel to Alpha chips, Berman said, targeting Alpha-Linux primarily at technical computer users who can fully appreciate the number-crunching abilities of the Alpha. Next on the list will be Internet service providers or companies wanting to set up internal Web sites. Third will be educational markets, according to Berman.

And here's a collection of the rest of the articles we found.

  • Performance Computing has belatedly gotten around to covering LinuxWorld. "For those at the show who had been around during the early days of commercial UNIX, LinuxWorld was almost like a revival meeting."

  • This week's Fairfax IT OpenLine column is about CeBIT. "From wearable computers running Linux, to Linux Alley inthe US pavilion and Cobalt's MicroQube Linux-based plug and play servers, the buzz was that OpenSource had arrived."

  • David Kastrup, whose letters have occasionally appeared in LWN, got a letter published in Internet Week. His topic is the old "who do you sue?" charge which is frequently aimed at Linux. "When was the last time a company sued Microsoft for crashing software, late delivery or nonworking functionality?"

  • Slate (Microsoft's e-magazine) has a feature on Linux. It consists of two long articles, each of which is a diary of the author's installation difficulties.

  • Salon has an article (scroll down) about the Slate articles about Linux. "But there's a larger problem with Slate's coverage. Although it chose to run two separate pieces on Linux, both said essentially the same thing: Linux is hard to install, and isn't an adequate desktop substitute for the average user."

  • The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has published an interview with Roberto di Cosmo, an Italian anti-Microsoft activist based in France. Much of the interview has to do with the evils of Microsoft, but they get into free software toward the end. "If Microsoft lost the source to Windows 98, what would we do? Yes we have a copy, but it's fixed and you can't fix anything, we can't evolve it, and all the money we have invested in this solution will be lost. It would, instead, be difficult to lose the source for Linux because there are hundreds of thousands of copies spread out over the world and the Internet. This summer Microsoft claimed...that it had lost part of the source for Windows 3.11, Windows 95, and DOS." (Translation by the editor; here's the Babelfish link, but the article is long and Babelfish quits long before it gets to the free software part). (Thanks to Massimo Marengo).

  • Here's an AsiaBizTech article about the April 1 startup of the Japan Linux Association. "Starting as a voluntary group, the JLA is expected to contribute to spreading Linux across Japan." (Thanks to Conrad Sanderson).

  • OS/2 Headquarters has an editorial (scroll down a page) claiming that Microsoft intends to Hijack Linux by porting Office. "Sooner or later, MS will have positioned Office as the 'Linux API' and developers will have to code to whatever 'standard' that the latest version of Office provides. Using Internet Explorer for Linux will become mandatory, too." They conclude with the suggestion that the only platform that truly can not be taken over is, surprisingly, OS/2.

  • LinuxPower has put up a strongly-worded editorial against "Open Source" and the flurry of incompatible licenses that has come out under that name. "I implore the developers of the free software community to not let Eric Raymond lead the community down this road of self-destruction, but fight him with every fiber in your body. Software needs to be free, not just open."

  • The Sunday Times has run a not entirely positive piece about Linux's increasing success. "...Linux is difficult to set up, fails to understand the difference between a desktop PC and a notebook, and lacks any kind of plug and play facility." (Thanks to Seán ó Ríordáin).

  • This LinuxPower editorial addresses the topic of the "Re-unification of Unix". "The first and most important result, one which I feel strongly about, is that ANY Unix flavour which wishes to survive must open it's sources to the public. This is a profound statement I know, but to anyone who has read and generally agrees with Eric Raymond's "Homesteading the Noosphere" , this result is predicted by his explanation of why Open Source works."

  • Richard Stallman and the GNOME press release at LinuxWorld are the topic of this ZDnet article by Charles Babcock. He speaks of the way in which Stallman's objections to the use of the term "Linux", rather than "GNU/Linux" eventually turned all attention at the press release away from Gnome. "There were no further references to plain "Linux." There were hardly any references to Gnome, either, as the discussion got sidetracked. There was no airing, for example, of Gnome's chief visual characteristic: its ability to be configured into four distinct desktops of the user's choice. That wasn't what was important at this press conference. "

  • Hiawatha Bray's latest column talks concretely about both KDE and Gnome ... and specifically where the two still fall short of their goals. That's okay. We know they are works in progress and will continue to improve rapidly. I've got the two most popular Linux GUIs running on my home machines, and both of them are just good enough to make me wish they were better. (Thanks to Donald Braman)

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

April 1, 1999


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



Software in U.K. higher education is the subject of this study, published recently. Linux is considered at length and quite favorably; they conclude that there are insufficient applications for now, but that the situation could change quickly.

NetAction has put up a lengthy white paper about government support for Open Source software. It takes the position that open source software has been a primarily government-supported thing since the beginning, and calls for explicit support in the future. "What is needed is a revival of a federal government public policy that supports open source computing and strong standards that can again support the promise of open source innovation." They also say that the government should "demand uniform standards for Linux" in its own purchases.


Here's a press release from COMDEX hyping their spring conference in Chicago. They are presenting Bill Gates' and Linus Torvalds' keynotes as some sort of high-noon showdown between the two systems. Apparently this is "IT's most controversial event of the year."

Web sites

Robert Levin has put up an essay on "Agalmics", defined as "the study and practice of the allocation of non-scarce goods." It is, of course, a study in how the free software economy works.

User Group News

In San Diego, the Adult Education division of the San Diego Community College District will be offering two more sessions of their free, hands-on Linux classes. Caldera OpenLinux on Toshiba laptops is used for the class. Here is a note from Joe McGerald with more information and links.

A Rock River area user group is forming; this area is evidently on the Illinois/Wisconsin state line. See the announcement for details.

A user group for Texas A&M University is in the works, see the announcement for the full scoop. Their first meeting will be April 7.

April 1, 1999



Software Announcements

Package Version Description
abs 0.6a Full featured spreadsheet for X11
Acrobat Reader 4.0 Pre-Release Acrobat reader for linux and other unices
Aegis 3.12 Transaction-based software configuration management system
AleVT 1.4.4 Videotext/Teletext decoder and viewer
AMaViS 0.2.0-pre4 A Mail Virus Scanner, looks for viruses in e-mail attachments
Apache JServ 1.0b3 Java servlet engine
APE 0.1.0 APE Portable Environment for C++ Threads, Sockets, etc...
arla 0.23 Free AFS client for Linux/*BSD
ArsDigita Community System 19990325 DBMS backed Web collaboration tool
aRts 0.3.0 Analog realtime synthesizer
asDrinks 1.5 News headlines from nerd/UNIX type sites in your AfterStep startmenu
ATPPCF 0.0.2 Automatic Theorem Prover in calculus of Positively Constructed Formulae
Bandmin 0.48 Bandmin is a package that monitors and logs ip accounting data
bip 1.3.1 Send messages to pagers using the Internet
BlueJ 0.9.0 Java Development Environment aimed at teaching
Bnetd 0.4 Emulates a StarCraft Battle.net server
Boa Lightweight and High Performance WebServer
Bomb 1.23 automatic interactive visual stimulation
Bond Distributed Object System 2.0 beta 1 Distributed object system, agent framework
bookmarker 1.0 WWW based bookmark manager
BRLTTY 2.1 Access software for Unix for a blind person using a soft Braille terminal
bzexe 1.0 bzexe permits you to compress you binaries with bzip2 keeping them executable
carnegie 0.3 a class scheduler
CDDA Paranoia III Alpha 9.5 CD ripping application
cdlabelgen 1.1.3 Generates frontcards and traycards for CDs
Cinderella 1.0 Interactive Geometry Software (like Geometers' Sketchpad or Cabri)
Cistron Radius Server Free Radius Server with many features
ClanLib 0.1.13 The platform independent game SDK.
class.POP3.php3 1.0 An RFC 1939 compliant PHP3 class to the POP3 protocol.
class.Validator.php3 1.2 A PHP class with common data validation routines.
clock 1.5.3 Sets system time from CMOS clock and vice versa.
Codewizard/Java 1.2 final beta An Open Source Conformance test suite for POSIX.1
CSSC 0.10beta.pl0 SCCS clone
DAC960 drivers for Linux 2.2.0 Mylex DAC960 drivers updated!
DailyUpdate 7.01 Grabs dynamic information from the internet and integrates itinto your webpage
DECnet for Linux 1.05 DECnet socket layer and applications
dexios.template 1.1 HTML templating system for Java servlets
dfm 0.99.1 Filemanager like OS/2 WPS
DHCP with Dynamic DNS 0.14 Dynamically update DNS from dhcpd.leases file
dhttpd 1.03 Minimal secure webserver. Fast and efficient, no cgi-bin support.
Dia 0.40 gtk based diagram drawing program. Much like Visio.
Diald 0.98.3 Autodial Daemon
diald applet 0.0.1 A GNOME panel applet to control diald
DND 0.3.0 GUI of Molecular Dynamics
dnsjava 0.5 Implementation of DNS in Java
Downloader for X 0.9-ALFA Downloads files from the Internet via both FTP and HTTP
DPS-FTP 0.4.1 Bulletproof-like ftp client
Dr Geo 0.7.3 Interactive Geometry
drawtool 0.01a Util to read coordinates from stdin and draw them in a gtk window
Eagle 3.55 Eagle EDA Software for Linux
egrep-finger 1.22 Extended finger program using extended regular expressions
EHeadlines 1.1 Root Menu news system.
Email Security through Procmail 1.76 Email filter to remove remote security exploits of email clients
epssplit 1.0 A program to split encapsulated postscript files
Extreme Wave 0.1.0 A libre 3d modeler being developed for Linux.
fbgetty 0.1.0 An extended mingetty for Linux
FFTW 2.1.1 The Fastest Fourier Transform in the West
Filelooker 0.5 A small X11 program for viewing Oracle datafile information
Flog 0.15 ftpd log analyzer
FLS 0.1.1 Library catalog/circulation system
FLTK 1.0.1 C++ user interface toolkit for X and OpenGL
flwm 0.20 The Fast Light Window Manager
GCD 1.6 A cd-player with a gtk+ interface
gcombust 0.1.11 gtk+ frontend for mkisofs and cdrecord
gdict 0.7 GTK Online Dictionary Program
gEDA 19990327 gEDA is an collection of tools which are used to make electrical circuit design,
gentoo 0.11.3 Two-pane filemanager using GTK+, 100% GUI configurable
GeoStats 1.0.3 IRC Statistical Services
gEyes 0.02a Gnome clone of xeyes
GF1 0.99.4 beta Play GIPF against your computer
gFTP 1.13 A multithreaded ftp client for X Windows
gHostLookup 0.1 Finds the IP address of the hostname the user specifies
GHX 2.75 GTK clone of the Hotline software
Gifsicle 1.12 Command-line tool for creating, editing, and optimizing GIFs and animations
Glade 0.4.1 GTK+ interface builder
GLib 1.2.1 The GLib library of C routines
gMOO 0.3.0 GTK+ based MOO (and MUD) client
gnokii 0.2.4 Preliminary release of tool set for Nokia mobile phones.
GNOME 1.0.4 GNU Network Object Model Environment
GNU Privacy Guard 0.9.5 GPLed PGP replacement tool
Gnumeric 0.21 Spreadsheet, a new foundation for spreadsheet development, part of GNOME
Goal 0.02a General purpose libraries for C++ programmes
GPL Argument Analyser 1.5.2 Utility to manage the arguments of your programs
GQmpeg 0.5.1 A front end to the mpg123 mpeg audio player
Grace 5.0.2 (beta) a WYSIWYG 2D plotting tool
GREED .52 A utility that can get and resume files from a web site.
Grip 1.7 A gtk-based frontend for CD-rippers
Grumble 0.03b An authenticating chat server somewhat different from IRC
grunch 1.2 Merge partial scans into a larger image
gstar 0.01 GUI for Alan Paeth's starchart
GTK+ 1.2.1 Library for creating graphicaluser interfaces
GtkBalls 1.04 GtkBalls is a simple logic game.
GTKYahoo 0.11 GTK based Yahoo! Pager client
GtkZip 0.5a3 A program for maintaining your Iomega Zip drive disks underLinux
Gwget 0.3.2 gwget is a Gtk+ front-end for the wget program.
GXanim 0.10 GTK+ front end for Xanim movie player
Heretic for Linux 1.0beta1 Port of Heretic to Linux
hexedit 1.1.0 View and edit files in hexadecimal or in ASCII
hindent 1.0.1 HTML indentation (pretty printing) utility
Hopkins FBI for Linux 1.02 Adventure game
HostSentry 0.02 Host based login anomaly detection and response tool
HSX 99/03/30 Hotline Server clone for Unix
HTML PLAIN 1.0beta2 A revolutionary HTML precompiler
HTML::Mason 0.4 A component-based perl web development environment
ICBM3D/2 Alpha 1 A 3D
IcePref 0.3 A graphical configuration tool for Ice WM written with PyGTK
icewm 0.9.36 Window Manager designed for speed, usability and consistency
id3ed 1.4 ID3 tag editor for mp3 files. Interactive and command line modes.
IDS POP 0.9.1 A small, fast, and efficient POP3 server.
installwatch 0.5.4 Installwatch logs created and modified files during the installation of a progra
iplog 1.7 tcp, udp, and icmp logging utilities for Linux.
ippl 1.4.0 IP Protocols Logger
IPServer 1.0 Dynamic IP Server
irssi 0.7.6 GTK+ based IRC client with GNOME panel support
iSelect 1.2.0 Interactive Selection Tool
ivtools 0.7.5 Application frameworks for drawing editors and spatial data servers
Jacl 1.2.2 Tcl shell implemented in Java, a perfect way to add scripting to a Java app.
Java Search System 2.0 Javascript based interface for 9 search engines
JCheckLinks 0.2 HTML hyperlink validator, java, multithreaded
jEdit 1.5pre3 Powerful text editor
Jetty 2.1.4 HTTP/1.1 Servlet server written in Java
jpub 0.5 Integrated platform for intranets with OS like features
KBlinsel 0.1.2 Simple stereogram generator for KDE.
kchess 0.1 KDE frontend for chess programs
kdbg 0.2.5 A KDE front end to GDB.
kexpress 0.1.7 kexpress is a newsreader for KDE. Easy to use, with offline reading.
killer 0.90 Background/idle Job Killer
KisoCD 0.3pre2 KDE frontend for mkisofs and cdrecord
kmikmod 2.03 Multithreaded module player for KDE
KNewMail 3.0 KDE application designed to check multiple pop3 servers for email.
kooBase 0.92 Extendable music application
kPGPShell 0.41 A KDE shell for GPG/PGP2/PGP5
ksamba 0.3.3 Setup SAMBA networking and connect to Windows
Ktail 0.4.2 KDE app to monitor log files
Ktk 0.4 KDE look-and-feel for Tixwish apps
kvideogen 1.2 Modeline generator for XFree86
kwintv 0.6.16 Watch TV in a window on your PC screen
Launcher 0.72 One-stop filetype/application mapping solution
LCD Developer's Toolkit (LcDTK) 0.0.1 LCD Programmer's Toolkit for Matrix Orbital LCD Displays
LEM 0.3 A small Linux/X11 distribution for embedding apps.
LEM 0.2 LEM, a small linux distrib < 10Mo for embedding X apps
Lexmark 5700/7000 Printer Driver 990321 Lexmark 5700/7000 Colorjet Printer Driver for Linux
Lilo-Colors 1.21.1
Linux Logo 3.0b2 Displays an ANSI or ASCII Linux penguin, along with some sytem information
Linux Snipes 0.8.7 Text-based maze game based on an old DOS game.
Linux Wireless LAN Project 0.2.5 A driver and utility set for 802.11 standard wireless networking.
Linuxconf 1.14r2 Sophisticated administrative tool
LinuxInfo 1.0.8 Gives system information about your Linux system
loop 0.4 Console utility
Lynx 2.8.2dev21 fully-featured, text-based World Wide Web browser
MAGE Adventure Game Engine 0.1.3 Framework for playing and (in the future) authoring text-based adventure games.
MailMan 1.0b10 Mailing list manager with built in web access
mailtunnel 0.2 Perl script to pierce firewalls using convential mailsystems
man-pages 1.23 The Linux manpages collection
MARS 1.2pre3 Java-based network services status monitor
Masqdialer Server 0.5.0 Protocol compatible replacement for Masqdialer server written in C
masterplant 0.0.1 convertor generator
Midnight Commander 4.5.29 Unix file manager and shell
MiniVend 3.12 Powerful freely redistributable shopping cart package
mklinuxfw 0.930 Project to develop a configuration tool which can configure filewalls
MM 1.0.0 Shared Memory Library
mod_auth_ldap 0.3 LDAP authentication module for Apache web server (http://www.apache.org/).
mod_frontpage 1.3.6- FrontPage server extensions patch
mod_hosts_access 1.0.0 causes Apache to respect the rules in hosts.allow and hosts.deny
mod_roaming 1.0.1 With mod_roaming you can use Apache as a Netscape Roaming Access server
mod_ssl 2.2.7-1.3.6 Apache Interface to OpenSSL
mp3blaster 2.0b6 Provides interactive playing of mp3 files on a text console
mrtg 2.7.2 Multi Router Traffic Grapher
mSQL 2.0.8 Mini SQL implementation
muLinux 5r0 A tiny implementation of Linux, which can reside on a single floppy
Netnews 1.0 News group article downloader
Netscape Communicator 4.51 All-in-one browser and communications suite
netwatch 0.8e Ethernet Monitor
News Peruser Peruser-4.0 Alpha 50 An offline newsreader for Linux and X11
nullidentd 0.9 Minimal lying identd daemon
onShore Timesheet 2.1 beta 1 A comprehensive, web-based, multi-user, time-billing and project management tool
OSS 3.9.2g Provides sound card drivers for most popular sound cards under Linux
Pairings Provider 1.0 Magic The Gathering(tm) Pairings Provider
pidentd+fm patch 1.0 Patch for pidentd to add fake userid query, IP masquerade and relay
pinfo 0.3.9 Hypertext info file viewer
Poor Man's Cam 1.2 PMCam allows you to set up a web cam on a remote site.
Portslave 1.2.0pre3
POV-Ray 3.1e High-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics
Public Bookmark Generator 0.2.2 Generate a public bookmark (selected items) out of your bookmarks
Q2Java 0.9.1 Allows Quake2 games to be written in Java
Qpopper 3.0b14 POP3 server
qpopper-mysql 0.5b A patch to add a decent set of MySQL capabilities to qpopper 2.53
quftp 0.90 Command line FTP client with queueing
quicklaunch_applet 0.8 Small launcher icons for the GNOME Panel
Rasca 1.0.3 Extended MP3 Player.
Raven SSL Module 1.4.0 RSA licensed 128-bit strong cryptography SSL module for the Apache web server.
rhlupdate 0.70 Connects to a FTP server with RHL on it, checks for updates, and installs them.
rmd160 1.2.1 RIPEMD-160 digest hashing library for C
rpm.cgi 0.27 A Perl CGI script frontend to the Red Hat Package Management (RPM) System.
rpm2html/rpmfind 1.1 Utilities to create HTML pages and solve dependancy problems of RPM packages
Sarah Tracker 0.2 Program to create music with samples
SClient 0.5.1 Mud Client for X windows
scrmgr 2.7 curses based screen design and data entry
Siag Office 3.1.8 Free office package for Unix
Simple File Manager 1.7 Fast small shortcut-driven Gtk-based file manager
sitecopy 0.5.1 Maintain remote copies of locally stored web sites
SkySOUND 0.40.000 Free demo or game oriented MP3 Library
SpeedyCGI 1.5 Speeds up Perl CGI scripts by running them persistently
Stones of Asterind 0.9 Single-player game
Sula Primerix 0.07.9 Extensible multi-server IRC Client for X
taptunnel 0.2 Ethernet-tunnel over TCP/IP using the new Linux-2.2-ethertap-device
tavrasm 1.04 Assembler for the Atmel AVR series of micro-controllers
TB MultiSound Drivers Driver for the Turtle Beach Pinnacleor Fiji,
Tcl Blend 1.2.2 Tcl Blend is a Tcl extension that provides access to Java inside Tcl.
Teaser 19990326 Server for the Teaser and Firecat System
Temperature Converter 0.1 Perl/Tk app to convert between different temperature scales
Template.html 0.1 Easy html,cgi page creation using templates.
terra 2.2.0 A feature packed ircd, based off of dreamforge
Terraform 0.2.9 Interactive digital terrain (height field) editor/viewer
Test Environment Toolkit 3.2f A toolkit for test development and management
The Gimp 1.1.4 The GNU Image Manipulation Program
The Linux Image Montage Project pre-486 LIMP Preview Release Tagged as Version 325
TiK 0.65 Tcl/Tk version of AOL Instant Messenger
TiMidity++ 1.3.7 Experimental MIDI to WAVE converter
TOAD 0.42.18 C++ GUI library
UPSomatic 0.14 UPS parcel pricing for US sources, all destinations
Uptime 3.01 Keep track of your uptime and compare it with other hosts.
UPX 0.70 powerful executable packer
utftpd 0.1.3 tftpd daemon with finer grained access control
Videobase 0.21 Video / Movie database
VMWare Build 106 Allows you to run multiple OSs at the same time
vpnd 1.0.2 Virtual Private Network Daemon - encrypted TCP/IP.
vTcLava 0.3 Visual Java development module for Visual Tcl
WallP 0.64 Random desktop wallpaper changer
WebCal 1.02 A simple browser based calendar program.
WebEvent 3.1b2 WebEvent is web calendar software for your web site.
whowatch 1.0 Console program which displays in real time list of logged users.
Wine 990328 Emulator of the Windows 3.x and Win32 APIs.
wmchoose 1.0 Flexible utility for choosing a window manager as X starts
WWWOFFLE 2.4b Simple proxy server with special features for use with dial-up internet links
wxPython 2.0b8 Python extension module for wxWindows
X-Chat 0.9.4 GTK+ Based IRC Client. Alot like AmIRC (Amiga).
X-Mame 0.35b8.1 The Unix version of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator
XawTV 2.40 TV application and a few utilities
Xfiles 1.2 Xfiles file tree synchronization and cross-validation
xfreecell 1.0.5 Another implementation of famous solitaire game
XHourGas 1.0 An alarm clock that exhibits what can happen with an improper diet
xinetd Powerful inetd replacement
Xpromacs 1.02 Project editor for managing makefiles, dependencies, linking. Runs with Xemacs.
XTC 0.1.0 An XTree Clone for Linux and other UNIXes
xterm Patch #94 A terminal emulator for the X Window System
ywho 1.9 Yet Another Who Utility
Z Tool Kit 0.1.5 Class library to make most difficult things easy.

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

Looking for a nearby installfest? Or would you like to host an installfest of your own? You'll find a great deal of information and resources for would-be participants and organizers at installfest.com, hosted by the Silicon Valley Linux Users Group.

SourcePower.org is the web page for what appears to be an attempt to create a free software advocacy organization. Some sort of combination of Linux International and the Open Source Initiative, but with a bit more of an activist bent.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

April 1, 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. Opinions expresses in letters to the editor belong solely to their authors.
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: Not quite open source
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 19:01:48 +1100
From: Peter Miller <pmiller@acay.com.au>

In your feature ``not quite open source''
(http://lwn.net/1999/features/BitKeeper.phtml) you say "Larry McVoy is
out to change the way cooperative software development is done, and he
may just pull it off."

But it's not a one-horse race.  In an article recently posted to
linux-kernel, I propose that Aegis
(http://www.canb.auug.org.au/~millerp/aegis/) be used instead.  See
for details.

Peter Miller   E-Mail: millerp@canb.auug.org.au
/\/\*          WWW:    http://www.canb.auug.org.au/~millerp/
Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily
        reflect the view of my employer or the views of my colleagues.

Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 11:12:47 -0700
From: "Dr. Glenn Butcher" <gbutcher@cos.colotechu.edu>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: What Linux Needs Next

Mr Atkinson has identified a true need for Linux to move into the
mainstream, but he's whacking on the wrong nail.  The configuration
files can stay where they are if we start using configuration tools that
hide their locations.  I've been using webmin for a couple of months
now, and it provides excellent facilities for developing and including
modules for any software requiring configuration.  I plan on developing
webmin modules for all the Linux software I develop.  Abstraction can
occur at many levels; the "market" will eventually gravitate to one or
the other for integrated configuration...

Glenn Butcher
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 18:28:23 -0600
From: Dub Dublin <dub@pswtech.com>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Registry isn't inherently evil

In reading the many responses to Tom Atkinson's letter suggesting that
Linux needs a configuration database (CDB), I noticed that many people
are opposed to the idea of a MS Registry-type thing without exactly
knowing (or at least cogently stating) why.

At the risk of being accused of defending Microsoft, I'd like to point
out that it's important to draw a distinction between the concept of a
fast database to store and index critical OS and application
configuration information and Microsoft's specific implementation of
the concept.

I argue that the Registry/CDB *as a concept* is a good and valid idea.
I also argue that the rat bag of incompatible and inconsistent
Registry entries has failed for *exactly the SAME reason* that the rat
bag of incompatible and inconsistent Unix config files has failed:
lack of any agreement on how to use the things!

In principle, the Registry concept has a lot going for it: it's fast,
compact, easily accessible (well, sort of), highly optimized by some
programmer other than the one calling it, etc.  The problem is that
Microsoft never adequately specified how it was to be used (and, of
course, no one else could, either.)  As a result, many applications
use configuration parameters that *should* (in a good architecture) be
keys under, say HKEY_CURRENT_USER, but are actually implemented as
keys under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE or something similar.  It's this sort of
ambiguity over what the registry is intended for and how it should be
used that has left it in the sorry state it's in today.  Every
application developer does that which is right in his own eyes, with
little regard to what might happen if, say, the application is served
rather than local, or used by multiple users
simultaneously. (ref. Proverbs 12:15 <g>) It's this sort of
short-sightedness that can make things like running a "test" version
of an application on an NT machine that also has a "production"
version loaded a very challenging excercise - even though this is
pretty trivial in Unix..

As for stability, it's true that a CDB represents a critical single
point of failure, but then so do filesystem FATs - and we don't seem
to mind that much anymore.  If properly implemented, CDBs would have
reliability features such as journalling, integrity checking,
etc. that would allow graceful reconstruction of a munged CDB. Again,
the Windows registry falls short of the mark, but a poor
implementation should not damn the entire concept.

We need to set aside the anti-registry bias and seriously look at what
forms a CDB might take, and what value it might have to the community
at large.  ***More importantly, much of the key tree needs to be well
mapped out in advance so that there are predictable and reasonable
locations and formats for OS and application data.***

At the risk of starting a flame war, this is one place where infinite
malleability and extensibility may be suboptimal.  Such constructs
tend to become the only ones used by lazy programmers, leading to a
tragedy of the commons in which there is a standard format which
(thanks to an extensiblity hook) has unused standard entries and
beaucoup proprietary data.  Witness IGES type 102(?) "copious data",
the SNMP "enterprise MIB" tree, HL-7 extensions, etc.  Ultimately,
these just produce a legion of proprietary formats shoehorned into an
awkward "standard" wrapper, resulting in what is arguably the worst of
both worlds.  (Interestingly, XML may provide a very useful mix of
exensibility and self-explanation, even though it's very malleable.)

As an interesting aside, I think it is exactly the "pre-thunk"
attributes that have made the Macintosh implementation of this
(essentially a CDB in the resource fork of every file) arguably the
most successful implementation of the function to date.  In spite of a
relatively clunky file-by-file storage structure, the keys and value
formats are well known and understood, and can be shared and used
freely without worry.  The value to the user/programmer comes from the
consistency, predictablity and organization, not from ease of access,
or even speed.

I look forward to a time when Linux has a powerful, flexible, and
*predictable* mechanism for holding OS and application config
information.  The exact implementation mechanism is much less
important than how well-thought-out it is in other respects.
(Personally, I'd prefer some sort of persistent object store, since it
maps well to the real world and inheritance would be handy, but it
really doesn't matter...)

Dub Dublin

From: Alex Shnitman <alexsh@hectic.net>
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 17:45:25 +0300 (IDT)
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Re: What Linux needs next


Last week a lot of people wrote in with responses to Tom Atkinson's
article that suggested a central binary "registry" for storing all the 
configuration data of all the programs.

Most of them compare the idea to Windows' registry, and reject it on
that basis. They miss one thing. Don't ever confuse the idea with the
implementation. You are right that the registry, in the way it's
implemented in Windows, is a nightmare. But that doesn't mean that the
idea sucks, it only means that the implementation sucks. Perhaps it
isn't a good idea to store all the entries in one file (that can
easily get corrupted). And perhaps there needs to be a better
structure for the registry, one that is designed very carefully to be
easy to clean (or rather hard to get bloated in the first place), and
that doesn't acquire slack over time. But don't discard the idea on
the basis of one if its implementations.

Having said that, I do agree that strictly a *binary* database isn't a
good idea. In my opinion the approach taken by KDE and GNOME is the
best. The configuration remains in text, but there's a unified API for
accessing it. Thus, it's still script-processable, and yet GUI-
manageable and consolidated. The configuration of each program is
stored in its own file, so it's not easy for the database to get
corrupted. You see - we don't have to invent anything new. Perhaps
more programs should be written with the KDE or GNOME libraries, even
if they don't use Qt/GTK or are not even graphical. Then again there's 
the KDE/GNOME conflict, but reducing the configuration to *two*
databases is certainly better than what we have now.

Alex Shnitman                            | http://www.debian.org
alexsh@hectic.net, alexsh@linux.org.il   +-----------------------  
http://alexsh.hectic.net    UIN 188956    PGP key on web page
       E1 F2 7B 6C A0 31 80 28  63 B8 02 BA 65 C7 8B BA
From: "Greg Owen {gowen}" <gowen@xis.xerox.com>
To: <editor@lwn.net>
Subject: Re: replacing flat text config files with a database
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 10:55:18 -0500

Art Cancro writes:
>   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.

   The fact that Microsoft did it poorly should not be taken as an
indicator that it can't be done right.  Isn't that the Linux motto?

   What Mr. Atkinson proposes, in short, is replacing a flat-file
database, with all its parsing and lookup headaches, with a reasonable
database backend.  I think the advantages in speed, performance, and
reliability are potentially quite large.  The largest obstacle is not
in building a good system, but in making various packages that have
been using crappy config files for 20 years compatible with the new

   Such a system, built from the ground up, could target the problems
of the Windows Registry and learn from Microsoft's mistakes:

1) Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy.  Build the system to beat
corruption.  Microsoft didn't do it, but nobody said it can't be done!

2) Cleaning.  The RPM system manages to do a reasonably good job of
protecting the filesystem from cruft, and if the system is a database,
it is perfectly designed for keeping the associated information
required to clean up.

3) Fix the obscurity problem.  For example, each key has an associated
help entry that describes what it does and what forms of values it
takes, and have it do some sort of checking on the entry to see if it
complies.  That, to me, represents an improvement over reading
flat-file examples and 5 man page entries, then searching the web to
see an example of someone else's syntax.

4) I don't know what the Registry does for layers of permission, but
that's something that should be thought about too.

    Is there a mailing list appropriate for discussing this idea?  Is
anyone else interested in doing the thought experiment of picturing
how such a system could be designed?  Let's spend some thought on it
and see what we come up with.

        gowen -- Greg Owen -- gowen@xis.xerox.com -- gowen@scansoft.com

        Please note my new gowen@scansoft.com address which will
        become my default address in March, and which works now.

From: nride@us.ibm.com
To: editor@lwn.net
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 12:12:48 -0700
Subject: Re: What Linux Needs Next

I, like many others, feel that a single binary "registry" would not be
the way to go with Linux. I've seen the effect of such things on other
systems (Windows and OS/2) and they generally hide information from
the user that should be easily accessable.

I also agree with many of the other people who wrote on this topic
that a single unififed format for the various files in /etc would be a
great idea.  Not only is it difficult to remeber the various formats
(The only thing that seems to stay constant is that # starts a
comment) but a lot of programmers are wasting a lot of time writing
parsers for their servers.

What I suggest (And will try to work on in my copious spare time
*snort*) is a migration to XML format. Intead of /etc/sendmail.cf,
you'd have /etc/sendmail.xml. There are lots of tools available now to
do parsing of XML data and the language is ideal for this sort of
thing. In addition if it's done correctly, system configuration for
the average user should be as simple as pointing mozilla at /etc. You
could also write a file that each server could register in to which
would contain the server name, some info about it, and the name of its
config file.

If we really wanted to get clever about this we could write a tool
that would import a DTD or schema and output a C header file with
structures that you could read directly into. You could then use some
library routines to import your data as needed.

I'm trying to get a push on to start work on this but I don't
currently have a central location from which to coordinate something
like this.  Perhaps someone else would like to start a project page?
I'm planning on working over my weekends and nights and hope to start
by moving the init file format to xml. It would be nice to have a
central dumping ground for patches though.

Bruce Ide           nride@uswest.net

Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 10:53:18 -0600
From: Craig Goodrich <craig@airnet.net>
To: bruce@perens.com
Subject: ESR's Leadership ...

[ref http://perens.com/Articles/Evangelist.html ]


I agree with your editorial's conclusion that it would be more
healthy for the open software movement to have several prominent
speakers to act as ambassadors to the curious alien culture on
Planet Suit, rather than placing that burden on any one person. 

The difficulty, though, is that basically what we refer to as
the "movement" or the "community" really _has_ no leader, at
least not in the sense that the commercial (much less political)
world uses the term. We're a spontaneous order, and when we call
ourselves followers of ESR or RMS, that's simply a shorthand way
of characterizing our own individual philosophical orientation
vis-a-vis some of the licensing and advocacy issues currently
being debated within the community. (At least, that's what it
means among the grownups who express themselves in the mailing
lists, newsgroups, and such fora as Slashdot.) 

It's not as though the community itself elected anyone by
anything like a formal (or even informal) process. What happened
was that ESR wrote a very perceptive and original paper -- "C &
B" -- contrasting two different approaches to the technical
probem of software development, _both approaches being within
the "open software" tradition_, and pointing out the practical
advantages in productivity, reliability, etc. of the bazaar
method. Hackers for a commercial software company found the
paper, decided it was relevant to their company's current
problems, invited ESR to speak at Netscape, and the rest is

If anyone appointed ESR spokesman, it wasn't the hacker
community at large, nor ESR himself. It was just what happened,
and the press, wondering what it was all about, gravitated
towards ESR since he was the most visible source of information.
And this became self-reinforcing: press coverage leads to more
press coverage as the name becomes better-known. 

So ESR was faced more and more with a choice between a) pulling
a Marlene Dietrich and retiring quietly to his machine in
Pennsylvania, or b) accepting an expense- paid week in some
fascinating place in exchange for talking to suits. (I know the
choice I would have made, and I'm pretty much burned out

Basically, I think, if ESR really wants to step out of this
role, all he would have to do is start saying "Sorry, I can't
make it, but you might want to contact Fred or Bruce or ...."
when invited to speak. And he probably will eventually, when in
his personal judgment the conditions are right -- although it's
doubtful, at least to me, whether this position can actually be
passed on by primogeniture or apostolic succession; only time
will tell. 

But in the meantime, would-be bureau speakers don't have to
convince the hacker community of their talents (except possibly
Eric). We could unanimously vote somebody Supreme High Long
Integer and it wouldn't make much difference to the audience ESR
is reaching. The ones to convince are the press and the suits. 

Craig Goodrich
Rural Village Systems
somewhere in the woods near Huntsville, Alabama

Politics for the Thinking Redneck  -- http://airnet.net/craig/g4c
Linux miscellany                   -- http://airnet.net/craig/linux


Though my heart be left of centre, I have always known that the
only economic system that works is a market economy, in which
everything belongs to someone--which means that someone is
responsible for everything. It is a system in which complete
independence and plurality of economic entities exist within a
legal framework, and its workings are guided chiefly by the laws
of the marketplace. This is the only natural economy, the only
kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity,
because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life
				-- Vaclav Havel 
				  _Summer Meditations_
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