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Mozilla Development in the News. This week has seen a lot of press on the Mozilla front, not, perhaps, unexpected, considering the one-year anniversary of the release of the Netscape source code, but with some unexpected twists. It began with Netscape's press release about the anniversary. Like most press releases, it is full of good news and excellent quotes, like "In a year's time, mozilla.org has gone from being a beautiful idea to a beautiful reality", a comment from Michael Leventhal of CiTEC Information, developers of DocZilla. However, it was fairly swiftly followed by Jamie Zawinski's resignation, both from Netscape and from the Mozilla project. For Jamie, the fact that Netscape 5.0 has not yet shipped after an entire year meant that the project had failed. "For me, shipping is the thing."

Jamie's letter is really not all gloom and doom, though a lot of that is in there. Carefully separated out, the real failure he sees was Netscape's failure to live up to the promise of its early years. Concentrate on Mozilla and you'll find a list of successes, including the release of ancillary tools, such as their bug system, source-control interface, and build tools. The open-source development model also brought valuable feedback about the direction the Netscape source was originally going. "Though we didn't get a whole lot of participation in the form of source code, we did get a lot of feedback about the directions the software was going. And the right feedback at the right time can easily be far more valuable than source code. By doing development out in the open, and ``living in a fishbowl,'' I believe that Netscape made better decisions about the directions of development than would have been made otherwise." That valuable feedback was part of what slowed down the first real shipment. The delay, according to all sources we've heard, harbinges a better quality product as a result.

Mozilla is not the first open source project to slip on its deadlines. For example, releases of the Debian distribution have also been known to slip. The Linux 2.2 kernel series had lengthy delays this year as well. The primary reasons for these delays were the same: the tenet that the product should not ship until it is ready, that hard choices should be made if they are "the right thing to do", even if that holds back the release of the product. One of the good points of the open source model is that releases are controlled by the judgments of the developers, not by marketing pressures.

In addition, some tremendous new features have been added to Mozilla by developers outside of Netscape, such as the expat XML parser and the Mozilla ActiveX control. Most importantly, it brought attention and peer review, a critical contribution. As commented by Frank Hecker in his Mozilla-At-One article, "... many of the world's leading experts on Web standards (HTML 4.0, CSS, XML, etc.) have contributed valuable advice and feedback on the implementation of those standards in Mozilla; their help is a key reason why even in its current immature state the Mozilla code is more standards-compliant than any other browser available today."

So what is the final verdict? Is Jamie Zawinski's departure (along with John Giannandrea, another Netscape engineer) a signal that the open source development model has failed? Not in the least. Although his comment, "Open source does work, but it is most definitely not a panacea", is likely to become a much-repeated classic, a review of the current status of Mozilla indicates that the open source development model very much is working. Much good has already come from the development process, in the form of source code reuseable for other open source and commercial projects. Although delayed, Mozilla is currently meeting its projected milestones, the latest of which, Milestone 4, is currently being collected and should be announced within a few days.

Unlike a closed source project that fails to meet its deadlines, the whole world can find out how the Mozilla project is doing. The reports on the unfinished browser are highly promising. This comment from Robin Johansson sums it up well. "People, just keep on making Mozilla and make it as well as you can. Money isn't important. Deadlines are not important. Beating IE is not important. Just good quality is."

Other links to information on this topic:

Dell has bought a piece of Red Hat; they are joining what is becoming a rather crowded club. Information on Dell's Linux moves came in the form of one Reuters article and two press releases; all of them are interesting:

  • This one announcing the Red Hat investment.
  • Another describing their new Linux-installed systems.
  • The last one is about how they are delivering 1250 Linux-installed systems to the Burlington Coat Factory for deployment in their stores.

Dell also claimed to be "the first major systems vendor to offer Web ordering of systems with Red Hat Linux already installed." The folks at Penguin Computingtook exception to that claim, and, in typical in-your-face manner, put out a press release of their own disputing it.

The Burlington Coat Factory news is perhaps the most interesting part of the whole thing. Here we have another high-profile deployment in a decidedly non-geek, mission-critical situation. Those who say that Linux is not ready for prime time will have a hard time writing off this one.

Another interesting fact, not pointed out in the press releases, is that all Linux systems sold by Dell come with support by LinuxCare bundled in. This addition is likely to greatly increase the perceived value of these systems among those who are not confident of their ability to deal with Linux - a large percentage of the people who are getting into Linux now. It has the look of a good arrangement for both Dell and LinuxCare.

A lukewarm appraisal by the analysts. D. H. Brown has announcedthe release of their study on Linux. "The study shows that Linux provides a credible solution for four specific application areas - file- and print-sharing or Web server applications; appliance-class systems; Internet Service Providers; and compute nodes in technical computing clusters. Linux also minimizes price and avoids vendor lock-in." Beyond that they were short of positive words; their conclusion is that Linux is not really ready for most enterprise functions.

Al Gore's presidential campaign web site is open source, or so it claims toward the bottom of the front page. He is inviting contributions to the site. It's hard to know whether to be impressed that "open source" is seen to be important at such levels, or whether to just be amused. One wonders if the Open Source Initiative has approved this use of their trademark...

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

April 8, 1999


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See also: last week's Security page.



Privacy issues on the Internet took the spotlight again as IBM declared its intent to pull advertising from sites without clearly cited privacy polcies. This is probably one of the best ways to encourage commercial sites to take privacy issues seriously, by grabbing their wallets and squeezing hard.

Good news for encryption politics? This news.com article talks about another U.S. politician that has changed his tune about encryption issues. Unfortunately, he's introducing alternate legislation that would ease controls, but not fully until 2002. The Security and Freedom through Encryption Act remains the better bill. However, the latest move is another indication that support for the current White House policy on encryption is dwindling.

Security problems with insmod were the topic of this long message from Brian Szymanski. Insmod is a command that can be used to install a loadable kernel module. However, Brian's note mentions that the modprobe command is actually the recommended tool to use for this task. In addition, insmod has some security weaknesses that are potentially exploitable. As a result, version 2.2.2-pre6 of modutils, the package that contains insmod, has been produced. Any version of insmod prior to 2.2.2-pre6 will be vulnerable.

Denial of service attacks and sendmail were the topic of one thread on Bugtraq this week. In particular, this discussed attacks launched from a local user account which resulted in filling up a file system and therefore halting the mail server. The summary from the thread indicated that this was not a sendmail or MTA problem per se, but a general problem of how to prevent resource starvation caused by the actions of someone with access to an account on your system. Generally, such attacks are dealt with by finding the culprit and dealing directly with them. It is an example, however, of why even basic user accounts need good password security and protection, since even the compromise of a non-privileged account can leave you vulnerable to this type of attack.

Security Reports

rsync 2.3.1 has been released in order to fix a security hole discovered in 2.3. Here is the announcement, along with links to the source. The bug reported is serious, so anyone using rsync should upgrade as soon as possible.

Debian has released a new procmail package with fixes for multiple buffer overflows. Upgrading to this package is highly recommended. Philip Guenther, the gentleman that fixed most of these overflows, posted this note with information on the problems found and pointers to the source code for people interested in his modifications. No word from other distributions so far. Philip later announced procmail 3.13.1, with a couple more buffer overflows repaired.

The Xylan OmniSwitch has an interesting lack of security features, as described in two email messages posted to Bugtraq: message 1 and message 2. If you have one of these, you may want to check out the postings, confirm the reported problems and talk to your vendor. However, the problem reported has only been confirmed with the 3.1.8 and 3.1.9 versions of the code, so if you are running a newer version, you may not be impacted.

ICQ-Webserver users need to check out this security report from Jan Vogelgesang. If confirmed, it indicates a severe enough security problem with ICQ-Webserver that you will probably not want to continue using the software until it has been repaired.


Procmail can also be used against Melissa, et al. John D. Hardin dropped us a line to point out that the same CERT advisory that describes how sendmail can be used to filter mail containing the Melissa virus also contained a link to a web page containing information on how to use procmail to search for Melissa as well. The site actually includes a variety of email security notes and the procmail filter continues to be developed and improved.


For your amusement, if any of you have managed not to see the Tuxissa Virus Report, it is worth a chuckle or two.

Rob Slade's review of "Hacker Proof", a book by Lars Klander, is now available [Source: ISN mailing list] The alpha2 release of the Nessus security scanner has been released. It is claimed to be stable and usable by all, despite its "alpha" designation.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 8, 1999


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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release remains 2.2.5, as expected, given that Linus Torvalds is on vacation. Alan Cox has pushed his "ac" series up to 2.2.5ac6 for those who want to stay on the edge. It contains a fairly substantial list of updates and fixes at this point.

Discussion in general was slow in linux-kernel this week; the stable kernel seems to be really stabilizing and there's less to talk about. The GNU/Linux debate filled in a lot of volume without adding much in the way of new understanding or new code. Gluttons for punishment can check out Stallman's it can ruin your whole decade note, Jim Gettys' response, and Stallman's response to the response which spells out his view on how we came to have a free operating system.

Newsflash! The Kernel Newsflash Page is maintained by Richard Gooch in an attempt to cut down on some of the traffic in linux-kernel. That page is kept current with known problems with the current release; the idea is that people should check there before asking about a problem on the mailing list. (Thanks to Horst von Brand).

Journaling is coming. Stephen Tweedie let slip that he expects to have his journaling file system code ready for testing in about four weeks.

How best to represent capabilities for executables? Capabilities are the Linux implementation of the old "privileges" concept first used by other operating systems many years ago. The idea is to replace the current privilege scheme - where, if you are root, you can do anything - with a more fine-grained scheme. Thus, for example, a network daemon which needs to be able to bind to a low-numbered socket would be given a capability to do just that, and no more. If somebody finds a way to compromise that daemon, they have gained very little in the way of additional access to the system.

It was mentioned this week that work is proceeding on integrating capability masks into the upcoming ext3 file system. The file system would thus support extending the setuid scheme to a "setcapability" mechanism, allowing trusted executables to be installed with the needed capabilities. This seems like a logical extension of how things have been done in the Unix world for years.

But is it? A vocal group of dissidents, with Albert Cahalan as its most visible member, is pushing a different scheme. Why not embed a "capability header" into the executable itself? The kernel would read capabilities from that header before running the program, but only if it is installed setuid root.

There are a number of advantages that proponents of this scheme can point to. Hacking filesystems is always a bit scary, and this approach eliminates the need for filesystem changes. Capability headers will be automatically backed up and restored by programs like dump and tar without modification. If the system is booted with an older, pre-capability kernel, the setuid binaries should still be able to function in the old mode. This method will work over NFS. And so on.

Arguments in the other direction tend to be more vague. There is a certain sort of "bolt-on kludge" nature to the capability headers that some don't like. And there is some discomfort with the idea of an executable telling the system what its capabilities should be, even if it appears that this could be done safely.

In the end, of course, this is a 2.3 issue. Even though 2.2 has some basic capability support, the needed changes to the filesystem and/or the executable loader are more than are likely to be accepted into a stable kernel series. (See also: John Wojtowicz's description of how capabilities work).

A new version of the Framebuffer HOWTO has been released by Alex Buell.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

April 8, 1999

For other kernel news, see:


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See also: last week's Distributions page.



The latest Hackpak contains the Linux 2.2.5 kernel. Check out the announcement for location and details.


Problems with Debian 2.1 installations from CDs were reported by Ian Smith. From the conversational thread that follows, it appears that apt's support for multiple CDs is just not there. Several workarounds were mentioned, from running apt multiple times to using dpkg-multicd. Still, it is apparent that Debian's support for installation from a large number of CDs still needs work. Since Debian continues to grow in size, they are likely to get the practice they need to smoothe out the problems.

Andrei D. Caraman has an issue with the Debian Apache configuration. In his posting to Bugtraq, he points out that the default Apache setup makes the /usr/doc directory available via http, which can allow anyone on the Internet to see the exact packages installed on your machine. This type of information is very useful to a hacker looking for a vulnerability to exploit. Andrei has notified Johnie Ingram, the Debian package maintainer for Apache, who replied that the problem was already logged to the Debian Bug Tracking System, along with a suggested workaround. A repaired package is reported to have been uploaded.

Stephen Gregory noted that the Boa package, a light-weight web server, has the same problem.

Updated packages for XFree86 will be made available shortly, even though apparently Debian is also not susceptible to recently reported race conditions reported in this package.


Those of you with access to the alt.* newsgroup hierarchy may want to take a look at alt.os.linux.mandrake. We haven't been able to check it out personally, but Tom Berger dropped us a note to mention its creation.

A call for developers for the next version of Mandrake has been put out. If you are interested, you'll want to subscribe to the devel@linux-mandrake.com mailing list.

Red Hat

XFree86 RPMS with TrueType support, mentioned for Caldera last week, are also available for Red Hat, as noted in this message from Jon Sundquist.


The TOSHIBA Satellite Pro 490CDT is the topic of this website, which contains information on how the author got his Toshiba up and running with slackware 3.5, Linux kernel 2.2.5 and the XFree86 SVGA server. Declan Malone dropped us a note to tell us about the site and mention that he found it quite helpful for non-Slackware installs as well; he's using Debian 2.1.


Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 8, 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


Cygnus announced an open source Java compiler, complete with a set of class libraries. Looks like good stuff.

A security hole in the JDK 1.1.X and 1.2 (Java 2) has been reported by Gary McGraw and Edward W. Felten. "The flaw is in the "byte code verifier" component of the JVM. Under some circumstances the verifier fails to check all of the code that is loaded into the JVM." Sun issued a press release in response, indicating that they have created and tested a fix for the bug, which should be released in April with the JDK 1.1.8 and Java 2 version 1.2.1.

The JDK 1.2 Status Page has not changed in the past week, so there is no new news on the project.


The Perl Institute has been dissolved. The Board of Directors for the Perl Institute voted unanimously on March 1st to disband the Perl Institute. All assets of the Perl Institute, including domainnames, etc., are to be given to Perl Mongers, the organization that supports the perl user groups. The transition leaves many questions up in the air. No official press release is available, but comments from the Perl News Page indicate that it was felt the Perl Institute was an ineffective effort at "top-down" management, while the perl community worked best in a "bottom-up" development mode.

No mention of the dissolution has been seen on the newsgroups, indicating either that the word has been slow to get out out or that people are not concerned about it. The latter seems likely and would mirror the reasons given for dissolving it.

A Perl Inference Engine version 0.02 is now available.

Perl 5.005_03 was released on March 29th. This description of the new release was posted to the Perl News Page: "Included in the fixes for this release are many multithreading fixes and security fixes relating to running setuid scripts running on mounted nosuid filesystems and a buffer overflow in POSIX::strftime. Included amongst the updated documentation and modules are a new standard module (Dumpvar) and three new manpages (perlreftut, perlopentut, and perlthrtut). "


Current rumor pegs the 1.5.2 release of Python around mid-April. This was mentioned by Guido in a noteabout a Tkinter bug in Misc.tkraise and Canvas.tkraise.


Tcl-URL! for this week is now available.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

April 8, 1999



Development projects


For those interested in licenses: the FIG license is a new attempt at a free license which appears to be a combination of a license for written works and a general philosophy of life. The license is still under development, and the author claims that it will not go out as version 1.0 until Richard Stallman endorses it. Judging from this note we got from RMS, that endorsement is still a little ways away.


The GNOME FAQ has been updated. The latest version is 1.0.5a.

Control-Center version 1.0.5 has been released.

GTransferManager 0.3.0 is out! The author, Bruno Pires Marinho, promises it is "almost a new program because of the new features" in his his announcement.

A pile of cool features are promised in this latest release of gnumeric, version 0.23.


Two new Mozilla mailing lists have been announced, including netscape.public.mozilla.small-devices and netscape.public.mozilla.crash-data.


This InfoWorld story was linked to the front page of Wine headquarters soon after its release. It claims that Microsoft is considering opening up the source to Windows. Such a move, though still highly unlikely and more potentially just another ploy in Microsoft's normal games, would obviously be of great interest to the Wine crowd. Some might claim that Wine would no longer be needed. However, most likely, the benefits of having access to Microsoft's code would show up in faster development and progress for Wine, if the current painstaking reverse-engineering was no longer necessary.


The Zope Weekly News for this week provides a pointer to an article entitled "Zope Builds on its Success" by Cameron Laird and Kathryn Soraiz.

Paul Everitt will be giving a talk on "Open Source and Venture Capital" at the upcoming LinuxExpo and hopes to be showing off Zope 2.0 beta 1.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh


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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

Another Linux VAR opens shop. CPU MicroMart has launched TheLinuxStore.com as another source of pre-installed Linux systems. Their site is a little dense and hard to work through, it appears that they are aiming at the low end of the spectrum - their bottom end system starts at $649. See also their press release.

Salon Magazine has reworked itself as Salon.com, and has put out a special press release to announce that their new setup is running on Linux. "...Linux will provide a solid technical backbone to support Salon's move from a magazine-based model to a network of web sites. The site redesign needs the versatility and power of Linux to keep pace with its growing business and e-commerce needs."

System administrator survey announced. The Linux Professional Institute has announced that they are running a survey of Linux system administrators. The results are intended to help them in the creation of their certification program.

Free support in India. Hughes Software Support has announced a 24x7 support offering for Linux in India. According to the announcement, this support will be available free of charge.

In the area of commercial Linux support, the folks at Linux Support Services have launched a commercial support offering. Both phone and net-based support are available at this time.

The Linux Mall has announced its new associate program. The basic idea is that you link to their site from yours, and they give you a percentage of everything they sell via that link. There is also a multi-level marketing-like aspect, where you get a percentage of sales brought in by people you bring into the system. See their announcement for more.

Linuxapps.com has been acquired by 32BitsOnline. 32Bits thus continues its push to establish itself in the Linux world. One assumes, from this move, that their cooperation with FreshMeat didnt' work out. See their press release for more.

Compaq is pushing Alpha as a Linux platform. Here's their press release about their new Alpha-based servers. "...Compaq offers Tru64 UNIX on AlphaServers as its scalable, robust enterprise platform and will establish Alpha systems as the high performance leaders for Linux operating systems."

Cool new Linux product of the week. Nbase-Xyplex has announced a high-end router product based on Linux. This looks like a nice box, with a claimed maximum throughput of 26 million packets per second. They stress that basing the system on Linux gives their customers access to the low-level functions of the router when needed for specific applications development.

Press Releases:

Section Editor: Jon Corbet.

April 8, 1999


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

Linux in the news

OK, here's this week's recommended reading:
  • Big software struggles with open source says the Industry Standard. It talks mostly about Mozilla's troubles. "In fact, if you go to Netscape's Mozilla.org site and do a search to see who's checked out code in recent months, every one of the e-mail addresses come from a netscape.com domain."

  • Inter@ctive Week has an article about the new Linux-based NBase-Xyplex router. "By providing carriers with a router based on an operating system that boasts legions of programmers and is familiar to most ISPs, NBase also is offering service providers potential freedom from dependence on equipment manufactures, such as Cisco Systems, that use proprietary software to supply routing instructions."

  • Nicholas Petreley plays with GNOME 1.0. "GNOME oozes with potential. But it also oozes with bugs. And, although I can sympathize with the design philosophy, GNOME increases confusion by refusing to take on the responsibility of window manager. Since I am running GNOME plus Enlightenment, it is often difficult to tell where the GNOME bugs stop and the Enlightenment bugs begin." (Thanks to Jay Ashworth).

  • Here's an article in Intraware SubscribNews Alert which looks at Red Hat's lead over the other distribution vendors. "I have a feeling Red Hat executives may be studying Netscape's example closely to see if they can work the fine line between wanting world domination and staying true to their roots. Meanwhile, many of those software and hardware vendors who publicly or privately bemoan the domination of Microsoft are helping recreate the entire process all over again." (Thanks to Benji Selano).

  • LinuxWorld has put together a list of Linux-related April Fool's Day pranks - all that they could find.

Let's get the Dell articles over with now. There were quite a few, and, almost without exception, they didn't really go beyond the press release.

Events at Netscape drew a few articles:

  • Here's an article (in French) about Jamie Zawinski's departure from Netscape. The article claims that Zawinski's resignation "probably means the end of Mozilla development at Netscape," an unlikely scenario. English translation available via Babelfish. (Found in NNL).

  • Here's a rambling column in Bleeding Edge Magazine which looks at the current state of Linux and free software. "Jamie Zawinski resigns from Netscape/AOL, and rings true with his resignation. You *can't* wave a magical 'Open Source' wand over a project and hope for the best. It doesn't work."

  • This News.com article is about the recent departures from the Mozilla project. "Widespread rumors suggest that other client engineers, including key players who have been with the company since its early days, will be leaving in coming weeks."

Lots of business-oriented pieces:

  • InfoWorld has put out an article about the D. H. Brown report. "The open-source nature of the Linux OS -- hailed by enthusiasts as one of its primary advantages -- could stymie developers in their attempts to make the OS suitable for enterprise use, according to a study released Monday."

  • MSNBC has an article about the D. H. Brown report. "Indeed, Tony Iams, author of the D.H. Brown study, said that even if it makes no further gains, Linux has already had a major effect in the computing world by slowing the growth of Windows NT."

  • News.com writes about Salon Magazine's makeover. "Salon says it made the move from NT to a customized version of the Red Hat 5.2 distribution of Linux 'in order to support Salon.com's growing needs.'"

  • Should you consider Linux? asks a short article in ZDNet's "Small Business Advisor." The answer kind of looks like "no." "It would be quite unlikely to find Linux in a small manufacturing company or construction firm. This is not a condemnation of Linux, just a factual statement of where Linux stands in the current small business market." (Found in NNL).

  • Here's a News.com article about Compaq's new Alpha systems. "Compaq said it's working to raise Linux to a higher level and increase its appeal to software companies. Later this year, the company will release in-house compiler technology that will mean software for Linux-Alpha will run twice as fast on average..." (Thanks to Conrad Sanderson).

  • This L.A. Times article looks at the competition between Linux and Microsoft. "...while the users of Communicator and Linux may not rise to the level of mass resistance to monopolization, you can at least thank them for prodding Microsoft to serve us all better."

  • Computer Reseller News has figured out that Linux might be a bit of a threat to SCO, but SCO disagrees: "SCO even has encouraged some of its users to use Linux, said [SCO VP] Bondi. In fact, Linux may be better-suited than SCO Unix for 'one or two' application areas, he said."

  • Also in Computer Reseller News: a case study of a VAR that went over to Linux. "As many of our clients are small businesses, we are always on the lookout for hardware and software that can save them capital-the less they spend on capital assets, the more they can spend on support services. This philosophy led us to Linux."

  • Here's an article in the Montreal Gazette about IBM's support for Linux. "Jason Woodard, program manager (open-source development) for IBM, said Linux is moving away from its traditional Internet and Web-server applications toward business applications."

  • Linux on the fast track is the title of this News.com article about the latest IDC report. "Linux shipments will grow 25 percent over the next five years, compared to 12 percent growth for all server operating systems and 10 percent growth for all client operating systems..."

And, to finish out, here's the rest of the stuff we were able to find: intro pieces, FUD, and miscellaneous articles.

  • This TechWeek column is a collection of recent Linux-related happenings, ranging from CeBit to Eric Raymond's "retirement." Not too many surprises for LWN readers. "StarOffice for Linux is free for personal, non-commercial use. 'The product comes out of Germany, where it already has a market share of close to 40 percent, leaving MS Office slightly behind, and Corel definitely in the dust' ..."

  • Conrad Sanderson pointed out this interview with Linus Torvalds which appeared in Time International a couple weeks ago. "I'm not interested in doing a company because I'm a technical person first. I want to do what I enjoy doing, and that includes Linux."

  • Here's a Chicago Sun Times article about the upcoming Comdex event; the article is actually mostly an introductory piece about Linux. "Mr. Microsoft, Bill Gates, and the so-called ``Microsoft slayer,'' software developer Linus Torvalds, will appear at the same event for the first time when the Comdex conference opens here April 19. But don't expect them to exchange pleasantries."

  • A publication called "Windows NT Systems" has published an article on Linux. They don't like it. "The problem with Linux is that it is just another unadulterated version of Unix. Your choices of graphical user interfaces are the Unix command shell or X Window, a primitive windowing system designed more than 15 years ago." (Thanks to David A. Maxwell).

  • PC Magazine reviews TurboLinux 3.0.1 with particular attention to its installation routine. "TurboLinux's ease in installation, though not quite rookie-proof, is a step in the right direction to bring Linux to the SOHO or home."

  • MacWorld has an article about Unix and Linux on Macs. "Unlike MkLinux, whose evolution has floundered, LinuxPPC is under very active development, bringing continuous improvements in usability, speed, and reliability with it."

  • Here's another one of those "Linux is hard to install" articles, this one in the Chicago Tribune. It must be time to write one about the joys of installing Windows... "The people at RedHat technical support are knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and witty. The only problem is that they're stuck supporting a project that, for non-programmers, may be unsupportable." (Thanks to Bill Longabaugh).

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

April 8, 1999


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



The Dilbert/Linux cartoons from March 29th and March 30th are now available on-line, for any of you who missed them, or want to print them out for posteriy.

The April issue of Ext2 is available. It includes an interview with Eric Raymond and a bunch of other good stuff.


Open Networks 99 is a three-day conference being held in Copenhagen, Denmark on April 30th, May 1st and May 2nd. It is sponsored by the Danish UNIX User Group and SSLUG.dk. KDE and GNOME will both get good coverage, since the keynotes include speakers Kalle Dallheimer of the KDE project and Miguel de Icaza of the GNOME project. Other high-quality speakers are promised as well. For more information, check out http://www.on99.dk.

For folks in the Benelux region: the Linux and Open Source Congress and Trade Fair has been announced for June 29 and 30 in Brussels, Belgium. They also, finally, have their web site up and running.

Ready for prime time? The AIIM '99 conference will host a panel entitled Is Linux ready for prime time?. Panelists will be Linus Torvalds, Jon Hall, Jim Ewel of Microsoft, and Tony Iams of D. H. Brown and Associates. This event will happen from 9:00 to 10:00 AM on April 14, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Web sites

A web site for people new to Linux has been created by Michael Burns and can be found at http://home.earthlink.net/~michaelburns. "It'ss an easy-to-follow site which discusses installation, configuring Xwindows, common commands, connecting to the internet and firewalls with ip masquerading."

Discussion and Information Forums have been added to LinuxStart.com according to this announcement.

Job Openings

Linux, Linux internals and device driver development experience, plus GNU tools and more, are part of the requirements for this job posting for a company in San Jose, CA, which is apparently working on Giga ethernet switching.

April 8, 1999



Software Announcements

Package Version Description
AB.pl 0.02 Portable PIM
aKtion! 0.3.3 KDE video player based on xanim
analog 3.11 WWW logfile analysis program
asDrinks 1.6 News headlines from nerd/UNIX type sites in your AfterStep startmenu
asp2php 0.67 Converts Active Server Pages (ASP) to PHP3 scripts
aspbm 0.8 AfterStep Phone bill monitor
August 0.27 A free html editor for Linux/Unix.
autostatus 1.1.3 A fast, hierarchical network monitoring system
Backburner 0.51 CD-Rewritable stream fixation and restoration (backup) software.
Batalla Naval 0.74.0 Networked BattleShip game
bidwatcher 0.9.3 tool for eBay users - track and snipe auctions
binutils Provides programs to assemble and manipulate binary andobject files.
BNC 2.6.2 IRC proxy server
Bochs 990312b Portable x86 PC emulation software package
BootLogo 0.2 A bootmessage generator for Lilo-colors
Builder Xcessory PRO for Linux 5.0.5 The industry's most advanced graphical user interface builder for Motif
Calamaris 2.23 Statistic tool for Squid, NetCache and relatives
CarAudio Player 03.31.1999 Easily play audio CDs, mp3s and mp3cds in a car-based computer
ccsh 0.0.3 C language based scripting language
cdrecord 1.8a20 Allows the creation of both audio and data CDs
ClanBomber 990405 Bomberman clone for ClanLib (X11 for now).
Comanche 990406 Multiplatform configuration manager for the Apache web server
curl 5.6.2beta Tiny command line client for getting data from a URL
DeleGate 5.91 Multi-purpose application level gateway (proxy)
dexios.template 1.2.2 HTML templating system for Java servlets
dnsjava 0.7 Implementation of DNS in Java
drawtool v0.1b Util to read coordinates from stdin and draw them in a gtk window
EasyStat 1.0 EasyStat is a statistical application for web pages.
EiC 3.9 A bytecode C interpreter/compiler
Email Security through Procmail 1.80 Email filter to remove remote security exploits of email clients
Empath snapshot 1 A new mail transfer agent for KDE. Uses maildir and will contain news reading.
Encap Package Manager 0.5.1 Installed Source Package Manager
Energymech 2.5.31b5 Bot for irc with eggdrop like features to manage a channel
Enlightenment Fast, flexible and very extensible Window Manager
eSquire Web based Majordomo replacement and autoresponder manager
Etherboot 4.1pre9 Source code for making TCP/IP boot ROMs to boot Linux and other OSes
Ethiopian Fortunes 0.1 Ethiopian Fortunes in UTF8 Encoding
Express 0.0.6 Open source web browser being part of the GNOME desktop project
Fetchmail 5.0.0 Free, full-featured, robust, well-documented remote-mailretrieval utility
fileutils 4.0e The GNU file management utilities
freshmeat Ports Collection release 6 A quick way to download and compile FM-listed sources
GCD 1.7 A cd-player with a gtk+ interface
GenPage 1.0b2 Provides framework for separating content management from layout design
gentoo 0.11.4 Two-pane filemanager using GTK+, 100% GUI configurable
GeoStats 1.0.4 IRC Statistical Services
gEyes 0.03 Gnome clone of xeyes
GGUI 0.4.0 An easy multi-purpose, multi-program GUI.
gHostLookup 0.2 Finds the IP address of the hostname the user specifies
Giram 0.0.12 Giram is a modeller, written in GTK+
GMame 0.1 X-Mame frontend
Gnome Websearch Applet 0.3 An applet for the GNOME panel that can search the web.
GnomeICU 0.62b Formerly GtkICQ, now Gnome Internet Communication Utility
GNU Maverik 4.3 Free Virtual Reality system for GNU/Linux PCs and Silicon Graphics workstations
GNU Oleo 1.99.1 Free spreadsheet application
GNUJSP 0.9.9 A free Java Server Pages implementation
GNUMail.app 0.02 Clone of the excellent NeXTSTEP Mail.app
Gnumeric 0.23 Spreadsheet, a new foundation for spreadsheet development, part of GNOME
GPM 1.17.6 A mouse server for the console and xterm.
Grail 0.6
Grip 1.8 A gtk-based frontend for CD-rippers
GSpot 1.21 A control panel for cDc's Back Orifice
GTetrinet 0.2 A clone of the game Tetrinet.
gtkgo 0.0.8 Go game for Linux and Windows
GTransferManager 0.3.0 GNOME frontend and more for wget
gView 0.1.1 GTK/ImLib Image Viewer
Hand 1.03b Utility for manual starting applications
Hevea 1.03 HEVEA is a quite complete and fast LATEX to HTML translator.
hotmole 0.73 Bash script to download and forward a user's Hotmail email as a batch job
howto pager 1.01 This program is a clone of man,showing HOWTO pages
HSX 99/04/03 Hotline Server clone for Unix
htnews 0.5.0 Email robot for adding news items to a webpage.
icecast 1.1.4 MP3 Audio Broadcasting System
IcePref 0.5 A graphical configuration tool for Ice WM written with PyGTK
icewm 0.9.37 Window Manager designed for speed, usability and consistency
icqmail 1.1 ICQ->Email gateway
ICQnix Beta 1 ICQ clone for X
id-utils 3.2d Very fast, very high capacity indexer for C/C++ source code.
ImageMagick 4.2.2 Package for display and interactivemanipulation of images for X11
IMP 2.0.0 IMAP and PHP3 based webmail system
industrialMUD 00.00.01 MUD Telnet Server for Linux,
iNES 1.0 Portable emulator of the Nintendo Entertainment System
interpcom 1.2.1 Command interpreter Library
ippl 1.4.1 IP Protocols Logger
IPServer 1.2 Dynamic IP Server
irssi 0.7.7 GTK+ based IRC client with GNOME panel support
ISDNCALL 1.0 Pops up an X message if someone is calling via ISDN
JayGo 1.32 Game engine for any tile/stone based game, specifically written for Go.
jEdit 1.5.1 Powerful text editor
Jigsaw 2.0.2 W3C's leading-edge Web server platform
KanjiPad 1.2.1 Look up Japanese characters through handwriting
KBiff 2.3 New mail notification utility for KDE
kdbg 0.3.0 A graphical KDE front end to the GDB debugger. Also used by kdevelop.
Kimon 1.1 An ISDN-monitor for the K Desktop Environment
kmuser 0.9.1 User-Administration-Tool for the KDE-Desktop
Ktail 0.4.3 KDE app to monitor log files
Lab3Timer 0.4 A Laboratory Triple Timer Application
Langton's Ant 1.0 Langton's Ant-Cellular Automata
less 335
LibGGI 2.0 Beta 2 Generic graphics library running on top of many graphics subsystems
librt 0.3.1 General Programming Library
libutf-8 1.0 Library of i18n routines for UTF-8 encoding/decoding
Light Speed! 1.0 An interactive relativistic simulator
Linux Logo 3.0 Displays an ANSI or ASCII Linux penguin, along with some sytem information
LinuxInfo 1.0.9 Gives system information about your Linux system
logi.crypto 1.0.4 Pure Java Strong Encryption Package
loop 0.5 Console utility
lpe 1.1.3 Small, fast console mode programming editor
maildircmd 0.1.0 Run a command on messages in a maildir
MailMan 1.0b11 Mailing list manager with built in web access
MARS 1.2 Java-based network services status monitor
MathMap 0.8 A very generic GIMP plug-in
mdate 0.5.5 A freely-available mayan date program
mepl 0.40 Software to control the self-employed mode of 3COM/USRobotics Messagemodems.
mgstep 0.7.8 An attempt at creating a small lite derivative of GNUstep
MM.MySQL 1.1i JDBC Drivers for MySQL
Mmucl 1.1.4 Mud client written in Tcl
mod_dav 0.9.8-1.3.6 DAV protocol extensions for Apache
mp3blaster 2.0b7 Provides interactive playing of mp3 files on a text console
mp3pvm 0.3 Convert CD-ROMS to MP3 format in < real-time using clusters
mpg_applet 0.1 This great applet plays mp3's, but not without mpg123.
mscal2html 0.8 Generates an html calendar from a calendar saved as text from an ms/windows app.
mtr 0.34 Network diagnostic tool
MultiMedia Panel 0.3pre1 MultiMedia Player and Audio Mixer for linux consoles.
MySQL 3.22.21 SQL (Structured Query Language) database server
NcFTPd 2.4.1 High-performance File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server for UNIXsystems
ncurses 5.0beta1
Nessus alpha 2 A free, open-sourced and easy-to-use security auditing tool
netcomics 0.6 A perl script that downloads today's comics from the Web
newplayer 2.2 ncurses based mp3 player.
News Peruser 4.0 Beta 1 An offline newsreader for Linux and X11
NFTP 1.51 Powerful, full-featured FTP client
nlog 1.5.3 nmap 2.x log management and analyzer toolkit
nmap 2.12 Full featured, robust port scanner
nullidentd 0.9.1 Minimal lying identd daemon
Online Promotions Publisher 0.16b A web-based publishing service for OSS promotional efforts.
onShore Timesheet 2.1 beta 2 A comprehensive, web-based, multi-user, time-billing and project management tool
opensched 0.0.5 A project scheduling system for Unix systems, with LaTeX and EPS output.
OpenXML 1.0.5 Pure Java, commercial-grade, fully featured framework for XML-based applications
OverCR 1.49.01 A simple system monitoring tool that utilizes a simple language for queries
Oxyd 990405 Logic game like Marble Madness or Rock'n'Roll
pagesucker 1.01 Web Page Downloader
Pairings Provider 1.1 Magic The Gathering(tm) Pairings Provider
pavuk 0.9pl7 Webgrabber with an optional Xt or GTK GUI
Perl 5.005_03 High-level, general-purpose programming language
Petite Chez Scheme 6.0a An implementation of extended ANSI Scheme
Pharmacy 0.1.6 GNOME frontend to CVS
PIKT 1.3pre An innovative new systems administration paradigm
pinfo 0.4.5 Hypertext info file viewer
PoPToP 0.7.37 PPTP Server for Linux
Portable Easy Quote (PEQ) 7.1 A fortune like random quote displayer
ppp 2.3.7
procmail 3.13 Versatile e-mail processor.
procps 2.0.2 A package of utilities which report on the state of the system
purl 0.16 A tool to check if web-pages have been modified
PVM 3.4.0 A portable message-passingprogramming system
PyGCS 1.2 A very stripped down MUD-like chat-server written entirely in Python.
pyrpg 0.0.1 The Python Role Playing Game Engine
Q2Java 0.9.2 Allows Quake2 games to be written in Java
qps 1.6.4 Displays processes in an X11 window
Qt Architect 1.4-4 GUI dialog designer for the Qt widget set.
QuakeLaunch 0.05 Console application to grab Quake servers from master servers
quftp 0.91 Command line FTP client with queueing
QuIRC 0.9.70 X IRC client written in C++ with full Tcl/Tk scripting.
RabbIT 1.8 Mutating, caching webproxy to speed up surfing over slow links
Rasca 1.0.4 Extended MP3 Player.
rxvt 2.6.PRE3 A VT102 emulator for the X window system
SANE 1.01 pre4 Provides standardized access to anyraster image scanner hardware
show-host 1.1 Lets a website always point to a DHCP'd or dialup computer.
Siag Office 3.1.9 Free office package for Unix
SkySOUND 0.43.000 Free demo or game oriented MP3 Library
Slashdot Grabber 0.2.1 Grabs the ultramode.txt file from slashdot and stores articles via MySQL
Slashdot Offline Agent 0.10 Useful script for subscribers of the Slashdot email newsletter
Slashdot Reader 1.15 Slashdot article and comments reader.
SmartPlay 0.0.1 Perl/GTK mpg123 front end w/ artificial intelegence
snes9express 1.0 Gtk GUI front-end for snes9x
Soupermail 1.0.4 Generic form to email handler
SpeedyCGI 1.6 Speeds up Perl CGI scripts by running them persistently
STAMOS 0.1 Gathers several information about the computer and generates an HTML file
Sula Primerix 0.07.10 Extensible multi-server IRC Client for X
TCL Developer Studio 0.24 (1.0pre2) small
Terraform 0.2.10 Interactive digital terrain (height field) editor/viewer
The Gimp 1.0.4 The GNU Image Manipulation Program
The Graph Template Library 0.2.6 Graph library for c++, inspired by STL
The Linux Memory Game 0.2 A children's (and adults') game based on the card game
TiK 0.66 Tcl/Tk version of AOL Instant Messenger
TinyMARE 1.0.6812 TinyMARE (Multi-user Adventure Roleplaying Epic) MUD Server
tkDict 0.1 Search for dictionary lookups and viewing
TkSmb 0.8.4 TclTk X11 shell for smbclient
Toenail 0.6 App to parse menu and output to Blackbox style submenu file.
twz1jdbcForMysql 1.0.4-GA A type 4 JDBC driver for MySQL
UOOS V.33b Ultima Online Game Server Emulator
Uptime 3.02 Keep track of your uptime and compare it with other hosts.
Uptime Record Suite 0.1.3 Records the record uptime
utftpd 0.1.4 tftpd daemon with finer grained access control
utrans 1.0 Converts any plain text to UTF-8
vcron 1.4 Graphical interface to cron and at
VFU File Manager 1.50 Extensivelyl featured console (text-mode) file manager.
vgproxy 0.9.0 Virtual-hosting generic network proxy
vtun 1.0 Virtual Tunnels over TCP/IP networks.
WebCal 1.03 A simple browser based calendar program.
WebEvent 3.1b4 WebEvent is web calendar software for your web site.
WebMailFolder 1.0.5 Convert emails to html and creates index and statistics
Welcome2L 3.00 Linux ANSI boot logo
whowatch 1.0.5 Console program which displays in real time list of logged users.
wmx 5sec4 Rather less minimal derivative of wm2
Worm Zone 1.3 Worm Zone is a multi-player worm game with Linux, win32 and DOS ports available.
X11 tuXeyes 0.0.1 pre3 Draws a tux on your screen that will follow your mouse with its eyes
XDelta 1.1 Library and application for computing and applying file deltas
XGGI 1.6.0 X server which uses LibGGI to do hardware independent graphics and input
Xlogmaster 1.6.0 Tool to monitor logfiles and hardware status
xskijump 3.0 Xskijumping game for X
Xsoundtrack 0.0.6 http://www.ecoledoc.lip6.fr/~roux/xsound/index.html
XTC 0.1.2 An XTree Clone for Linux and other UNIXes
Xtradius 0.8 Cistron based Radius Daemon that allows user auth and acct via external scripts
Xwhois 0.3.4 Small and fast GTK+ X11 client for the internet whois network services.
ya-wipe 0.58.3 Secure file wiper
zICQ 2.9 A console ICQ clone based on mICQ.
ZNibbles 0.0.2 Networked multiplayer nibbles/snake game for X11/Motif

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

More "Linux portal site" attempts are showing up on the net. One wonders at which point the market will get oversaturated and some of these sites start to drop out. Maybe we can get out of producing LWN soon..:-)

Anyway, a couple of new ones worth checking out include Opensource IT which includes news and discussion areas, and JustLinux, which includes a hierarchical set of Linux links, news, etc.

The Question Exchange is an interesting attempt to create a market for Linux-related questions and solutions. A person with a question can post it, along with the amount they are willing to pay for an answer; somebody with the proper answer can - once certified by the exchange, post the answer and claim (most of) the reward.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

April 8, 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.
To: editor@lwn.net, malda@slashdot.org
Subject: An open letter to the free software community
From: Gordon Matzigkeit <gord@trick.fig.org>
Date: 04 Apr 1999 00:49:59 -0600

I am writing in response to Eric S. Raymond's essay ``Take My Job,
Please!'' in which he explained why he feels trapped in his career as
de facto free software spokesperson

I'll take Eric's job, if he and the community will let me, but not
without first making something explicit.  Eric has never been a
``leader,'' merely a delegate.  Eric has never ``rallied the troops,''
only helped people to begin seeing eye-to-eye.

As I said to him privately, I respect Eric's work, and recognize that
he was the catalyst for many great things.  His passion and energy
were necessary to get things started, but now they are hurting him
because he throws too much of himself into the fray.  It's getting too
personal, and he deserves a holiday.

What is necessary now are delegates with the patience to talk about
the things that they love over and over and over again to people who
want to understand, but not bother with the people who want only to
drag them down.  I am one of those people, and I'm stepping forward,
whether anybody else comes with me or not.

[BTW, I will not live out of a backpack, because I care too much about
my family, and I love my home.  If people want to talk with me, they
can send me e-mail.  If somebody wants a face-to-face interview, they
can fly out to Regina and meet me for coffee.  The Canadian prairies
are unspeakably beautiful in the summertime, and more people should be
forced to enjoy them. ;)]

I truly enjoy being a delegate.  I'm a hard-core but peace-loving free
software advocate who also happens to be friends with a lot of people
who make their living exclusively from non-free software.

I have no bones to pick: not with the cathedral, not with the bazaar,
not with Microsoft, not with Linux, and definitely not with GNU.
Allow me to speak to the outside world, and I promise you I'll never
speak for you, only for myself.

I'll never tell you what programming language you should use, only
what I use, and why I use it.  I'll never tell you what thoughts to
think, only what I think, and why I think those thoughts.

But *far* more importantly, if you listen to me, I'll listen to you.

I'll start by giving you the benefit of the doubt, then we will begin
the dance of a dynamic relationship.  If you are pushy, then I will
push back.  If you are gentle, then I will be gentle.

If I ever hurt you, I expect you to say `ouch', and I will apologize,
because I don't want to hurt anybody.  I will say `ouch' if you hurt
me, because I refuse to live in silent resentment.  When we move past
this, we will discover new ways of relationship.

Since the masses listen to the media, I need their help to contact
you.  So, I have sent this message to the Linux Weekly News and

I recognize that we are a meritocracy.  I need to prove to you that
I'm capable.  I've already committed six years of my life to free
software, but that isn't as important as my work-in-progress, the FIG


The language is scary if you take it too seriously, so don't.  Some of
you like allegory, others like essays, and still others like legalese.
I've tried to appeal to all audiences.

The FIG License (aka. _FIGL_, pronounced like the English word
_wiggle_) will change a lot over the next few months as you engage in
dialogue with me.  I'm releasing early and often so that you can help
me work on it.

What is the FIGL, and why does it matter?

The FIGL is the first serious attempt to unify copyright and copyleft.
Copyright's strength is that it gives Creators complete control over
both the Information they create, and the Products of that
information.  Copyleft's strength is that it prevents everybody from
asserting control over either the Information or the Products.

The FIGL will guarantee that Information is never controlled, but
control over the Products is left to the discretion of the
Information's Creator.  The FIGL allows Creators to relinquish some of
their control over the Products, but they are not allowed to increase
their control over the Information.  I like to call this

The FIGL matters because when it is finished, there will be no reason
why we, the free software *authors* (not just distributors or
consultants) cannot make a lot of money.  There will also be no reason
why megalithic software companies cannot release *truly* free software
(not just Open Source(tm)), that we can use for your own benefit.

I am serving you with this work because it scratches my own itch.  I
want to thrive as a free software author, and I hope that you can do
the same.

I'm sick of sitting by and watching people argue about how everybody
else is wrong.  It's about time somebody stepped forward and patiently
helped show people how it is that all anybody on the planet wants is
fulfillment, and so we might as well start cooperating.

I'm doing that with this e-mail.  Do I have your support?

 Gordon Matzigkeit <gord@fig.org>  //\ I'm a FIG (http://www.fig.org/)
Committed to freedom and diversity \// I use GNU (http://www.gnu.org/)
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 1999 13:27:17 +0100
From: Derek <derek at fortstar dot demon dot co dot uk>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: The GNOME disaster?

I've just spent the long Easter weekend installing and trying out
GNOME-1.0, and I suppose my findings are pretty much the same as most
other people's. I won't go over what I achieved and the hassles it took
to get there, but basically, it's a bitch to install, it falls over a
lot and it uses huge amounts of memory and resources. It may look
pretty, and it may be based on sound technical underpinnings, but on the
stability issue alone, this code has no business being called Version

Linux advocates have recently been telling people that Linux is no more
difficult to install than the likes of NT, but any average user (or
writer) who tries to install GNOME will come away with a very bitter
taste in their mouth. We've also been saying that Linux has such low
resource overheads it can revitalise old hardware. This is no longer
true with a desktop that requires a top end Pentium and at least 64MB to
get going. Above all, we have a proud boast that Linux runs for months
without stopping. With GNOME on top, my experience is that Linux is much
less stable than Windows '95, and no one will be impressed when we tell
them that it's only the windowing system that's gone down.

The release of GNOME-1.0 seems to have been motivated by all the things
which motivate companies like Microsoft, and the result has been more of
the same: buggy, bloated software, which will hopefully get better as
new versions roll out. GNOME was undoubtedly feeling the pressure from
KDE, but trying to steal users with a premature V1.0 just devalues the
whole effort. A high profile trade show may have been a very tempting
launch vehicle, but not for something that wasn't ready. The spotlight
is an embarrassing place if you're ugly.

GNOME-1.0 has the potential to do untold damage to Linux. I know users
don't have to use it, but many of them don't know that. For good or bad,
Red Hat is the usable face of Linux, and GNOME will be the usable face
of Red Hat. While I understand the political position, Linux has
undoubtedly suffered over the last year due to Red Hat's refusal to use
KDE as it's default GUI. New users and reviewers think we are still in
the GUI dark ages, which is not true. After seeing GNOME-1.0 they will
think we're not up to writing a stable GUI, which is not true either.

I will continue to use KDE on my Linux desktop, and like most KDE users,
I have no axe to grind with GNOME. I want the choice of desktops, and
the GNOME development team is clearly doing a superb job. This letter
has not been a FUD mission; it's been a call to be realistic before
serious damage is done. Steps need to be taken to somehow withdraw the
V1.0 status from GNOME, and to push Red Hat and the other distributors
towards offering KDE by default until GNOME is a desktop capable of
world domination.

Derek Fountain
Southampton, England.
Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 17:40:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: Dave Finton <surazal@nerp.net>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: ESR and JWZ (long)

In the past couple of weeks we saw something rather unsettling.  Two
prominent open source figures have either quit their jobs or expressed
their desire to pass on the buck.  The more paranoid (or righteously
indignant) among us might conclude that open source in of itself isn't
self-sustainable.  People are dropping out of the movement like flies!

This is, obviously, the wrong way to look at things.

Open source has moved beyond its roots.  In fact it had done so quite
some time ago, but only now are we seeing the ramifications.  ESR and
JWZ are moving on because they are burnt out.  They can't carry the
torch any longer because <I>Open Source has moved beyond what any one
person can carry him- or herself</I>.  Look at these factors:

1)  The Linux community has exploded and fragmented.  So many people use
the software now it's impossible to gain a consensus on any issue. 
People will agree with you.  Others will disagree with you.  And yet
others will curse your name from here until infinity because you dare
express an opinion they don't agree with.  A simple read-through on
Slashdot will show all three (and other) segments fighting with each
other on a daily basis.  There is no longer a singular Linux (or open
source) community.  There are now several, or even dozens.  And none of
them seem to like each other very much.

2)  Linus Torvalds was right when he said that any revolution that goes
on for too long is by definition a failure (I believe he said that at
the LinuxWorld Expo).  Revolutions need their George Washingtons and
Thomas Jeffersons to succeed.  But after the American Revolution even
George Washington needed to get back to his regular life after serving 8
years in office.  ESR needs to move on, and so does JWZ.  That doesn't
mean that Open Source will die; The United States didn't die after
Washington and Jefferson retired.  All it shows is that the revolution
is over, and it's time to get down to business in making this thing

3)  Some people think that Mozilla was the litmus test for commercial
open software development.  Maybe so, but Mozilla's "failure" is hardly
a beacon proclaiming the failure of open source in general.  There are
too many other success stories out there proving otherwise.  Take, for
example, Red Hat, Cygnus, O'Rielly, Caldera, Suse, and so on.  Mozilla's
difficulties stem from the fact that a commercial software company
(Netscape) tried to move to a new development model in the hopes that
they don't become another Atari or Amiga or Apple.  Their relative
failure in doing so only illustrates the fact that <I>commercial
software companies' days are numbered</I> if open source proves to be
the paradigm shift it hopes to be (and that looks more and more likely
every day).  If a relatively young and nimble company like Netscape
couldn't cope with the new paradigm, how can the Adobe's and the
Microsoft's in the world ever going to survive in the next 10 years?

Of all the opinions on the possible ramifications of these recent
developments, I think that Bruce Perens is pretty much the only one who
got it right.  The "one charismatic leader" idea only works for so
long.  After that, the bazaar takes over.  Smaller leaders (Richard
Stallman, Mark Ewing, Tim O'Rielly) are going to take up the torch.  In
addition to those, smaller companies and organizations will do their own
bits to evangelize themselves (and by extension Open Source).

Things are moving quickly now, and they will only snowball into
something so huge that nobody, not Microsoft, Eric Raymond, nor Richard
Stallman, will know the true final outcome of this.

                          - Dave Finton

| If an infinite number of monkeys typed randomly at    |
|   an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite   |
|   amount of time, they would eventually type out      |
|   this sentencdfjg sd84wUUlksaWQE~kd ::.              |
| ----------------------------------------------------- |
|      Name:      Dave Finton                           |
|      E-mail:    surazal@nerp.net                      |
|      Web Page:  http://surazal.nerp.net/              |

Date: Sun, 04 Apr 1999 17:03:24 +0200
From: Arnaud LAPREVOTE <laprevoa@easynet.fr>
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Eric Raymond support.

Dear Sir,

I suppose that M. Raymond will be burried under encouragements of all
sorts, so I do not forward him directly this mail. Instead I answer to
your editorial concerning his possible resignation of the "virtual" PR
jobs he holds for the free software community.

I fully agree with your article. M.Raymond will NEVER pleases
everybody in the community. And in my case, all people that are
orbiting around the free software movement do not please me. But most

The very first thing about M.Raymond, is his "Cathedral and bazar"
article. I understood a lot reading it. It is just an excellent
article and it provided me a lot of arguments to explain why "free
software" just work and why closed sources software meet so much

I think that the high profile that he choses to have to represent free
software effectively helped a lot. After all he was instrumental in
the move of Netscape toward free software and this move was the very
first coming from big actors in the software area.

Last (well in fact first), he wrote fetchmail, and we rely on this
software to get our mail every days as well as some of our customers.

These 3 achievements are enough to qualify M. Raymond to his role. I
hope that he will continue to clarify the free software movement for
the mass.

Please, if you have some occasions to express him support, let him
know that he has a lot of support in the community.

Friendly yours,

Free&ALter Soft - Free software support for all unix.
77, rue de Pont-ŗ-Mousson
tel : 03 87 50 83 01 - 06 11 36 15 30
E-mail : laprevoa@easynet.fr
Web : www.freealter.com
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 18:11:45 +0200
From: Raphael Hertzog <rhertzog@hrnet.fr>
To: editor@lwn.net
Subject: Registry and configuration management


I've just read many mails about the configuration database that
may be very useful for Linux systems. I'd like to say that this
is certainly a good idea and that Debian has already (many months ago)
started to write specs for such a configuration system. It's
currently beeing discussed by gnome developers too so that it may be
used by a large set of applications.

You can take a look at http://www.debian.org/~wakkerma/config6/
and if you're willing to participate/comment, you should subscribe
to debian-admintool which is the list where it has been discussed. A new
list may be created one day so that the project won't suffer from 
the Debian-specific aspect.

There are still many issues to be discussed though.

RaphaŽl Hertzog >> 0C4CABF1 >> http://prope.insa-lyon.fr/~rhertzog/
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 1999 21:32:30 +0200
To: editor@lwn.net
From: Andrew McGill <NOJUNKesauwood@geocities.com>
Subject: The windows registry is (just) a file system

Thinking about the windows registry as a file system puts things in
perspective (IMHO).

The windows registry supports directories ("keys"), and files
("values") which contain data (binary, string or 4 byte words and
other types...).  It has features found in competing operating
systems, such as mount points (with fixed names)
(e.g. "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT"), although these have fixed names, and some
kind of hard and soft linking.  And it comes with a cute regedit
program, which has a dialog box (sub) grep interface.

It has some features which are 'unique' - "strict" typing for files
(although whether this is necessary is not entirely clear).  And as a
quirk, each directory contains at least one file, called "(Default)",
which is usually empty.

The thing that totally kills the registry concept (for MS, at least)
is that programs don't access the registry with standard file API
calls.  There are 25 different function calls that are *dedicated* to
using the registry.  Why would ANYONE want to get past this learning
curve if the configuration information can be stored in a file, with a
well known, simpler set of functions to access it?  MS would have done
a lot better to have made it a pluggable file system, except that
would not be original.  I say it's a a case of those who don't
understand unix are condemned to reinvent it - badly.  And whoever
suggested a name like HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE in preference to /etc should
be dragged out into the street and shot.

Something which *is* (I think) remarkable about the windows registry,
is that it is a file system which does not have a fixed size.  I would
like this for ext2fs ... :) ... please can someone tell me it's
already been done?

Here's what I thing linux could make do with:

* A file system for small files with big names (I think ext2fs is
okay) (but can it resize?)
* Some way to mount the win95/95/NT registry as a file system -- just
for kicks
* I really want some way to scribble notes about, and descriptions of
file system objects.  But it mustn't be hard :) (and it has nothing to
do with the rest of this e-mail)


esau wood saw a wood-saw saw wood as no wood-saw wood saw saw wood would
saw wood - of all wood-saws wood saw saw wood, no wood-saw wood saw saw
wood would saw wood like the wood-saw wood saw saw wood would

ps. Flames to esauwood@

From: schwarzma@mschwarz@ANTIsherbSPAMtel.net (Michael Schwarz)
Subject: Registry
To: editor@lwn.net
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 12:56:39 -0600 (CST)

Perhaps this point has beaten as long as LWN might want 
to beat it, but I have one and only criticism of the
registry idea:

It creates a meta-filesystem that is (as I have seen
it implemented) interdependent with the real filesystem
and yet is updated *idependently* of the file system.

Basically, the registry can associate the name and
LOCATION of a file with a keyed tag.  The file may then
be moved, deleted, or renamed.  Unless the registry
is *automatically* kept in synch with such changes,
I would argue the registry is useless.

Try moving a folder that contains a program from one
drive to another in Windows.  The file manager lets you
do this, but the program will never work again.
Also, since applications do not usualy bother to
document ANYTHING they put in the registry, you don't
know until you try it that you are going to destroy
the installation.

I'm not saying that separate config files do not have
a similar problem, but that is the fault and responsibility
of the application developer/maintainer/documentor.
I would hate to see such chaos made a part of the system.

Michael Schwarz

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