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Version 1.1 of the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) is out. As is the case with other licenses from the Free Software Foundation, the FDL is an extensively thought-out attempt to codify user freedoms; this time with regard to documentation. It recognizes, however, that documents raise different issues than source code; thus many of the provisions of the FDL differ from those of the GPL and LGPL.

The FDL does preserve the "viral" nature of the GPL in a couple of ways. A work covered under the FDL can not have its redistribution restricted - there can never be proprietary works derived from an FDL-licensed document. The FDL also does not combine well with other licenses; a document licensed under the FDL can only be combined with other text under the same license.

Derived works can be made from documents covered under the FDL. However, the restrictions are stronger than those spelled out in the GPL. The FDL allows the specification of "cover text" (short bits of text which appear on the document covers) and "invariant sections," both of which must be carried forward unchanged into any modified version. The FDL specifies, however, that "invariant sections" must be "secondary sections," meaning that they do not directly address the subject of the document. The invariant section provisions, thus, are meant to cover author introductions, acknowledgements, rants against software patents, etc. without allowing restrictions on the modification of the technical meat of the document.

The baggage of invariant sections and cover texts will likely make it hard to incorporate small sections of documents into other works, even if the latter are also licensed under the FDL. If one document contains an outstanding tutorial on "using development kernels for nuclear power plant control," that tutorial can not be added to another document without pulling along all of the cover texts and invariant sections as well.

Interestingly, the FDL's requirements vary depending on the number of copies being distributed. The license calls for a "transparent" machine-readable copy (i.e. no Word or StarOffice files) to be made available on the net, but only if more than 100 copies are being made. The FDL also contains something the GPL has explicitly avoided: an attribution requirement. The authors' names must be carried along with copies.

Not everybody likes the GPL, but there is little doubt that it has been one of the defining forces behind the rise of Linux. The FDL attempts to fill a gap in the licensing of documentation. It may well be that the FDL will give a similar shape to the coming wave of free documentation.

XFree86 4.0 has been released, after a long wait. Since the X server provides the view that most users see of a Linux system, a major new release is interesting. Some of the highlights of this release include:

  • The separate server binaries for different video cards are a thing of the past. The X server now comes as a single executable with a loadable module system to bring in pieces as need be, including video drivers, X extensions, font renderers, input device drivers, and so on.

    Interestingly, the X server does not use the loadable module mechanism provided by the underlying operating system. They have a separate implementation which is OS-independent. Thus, a loadable driver compiled for the i386 architecture will work on any operating system (Linux, *BSD, ...) which runs on that processor. This setup should greatly reduce the overhead of supporting drivers on the many systems that run XFree86.

  • Multi-head support has been much improved. There is also a feature, called "Xinerama," which allows a single logical screen to stretch across multiple physical displays.

  • DDC (Device Data Channel) support has been implemented, so the server can learn about your monitor's capabilities directly.

  • The direct rendering infrastructure (DRI) and GLX code has been implemented, providing fast OpenGL support.

  • There is new support for TrueType fonts.

  • There is even an update to the venerable Xaw widget set which provides a long list of new capabilities and even the ability to do themes.

The above list is incomplete, see the release notes for the full list. But it should be clear that this is a major release. Congratulations are due to the XFree86 team, which worked long and hard to make this release happen.

The story of Linux-Mandrake. GaŽl Duval, creator of the Linux-Mandrake distribution, has written a feature article describing how Linux-Mandrake (and MandrakeSoft) came to be. A distribution that started as one person's project has turned into one of the major Linux players with 70 employees, venture funding, and more. It's a classic Linux success story.

The Worldforge Project: A Gamer's Perspective We asked Douglas Sundseth, a dyed-in-the-wool gamer, to take a look at the Worldforge Project, an open source effort to develop a complete system for massively multiplayer online roleplaying. Here is is the result: The Worldforge Project: A Gamer's Perspective.

Colorado Linux Info Quest. Now only two weeks away, the Colorado Linux Info Quest has finalized the list of speakers and lined up some prominent names for leading Birds of a Feather sessions as well, including Paul Everitt, from Digital Creations, who will be presenting a Zope demo and leading the Zope BOF, Bdale Garbee, who will be leading the Debian BOF and Tom Christiansen and Nathan Nathan Torkington, who are coming to lead the Perl BOF. For more information, check out the latest press release.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: Trustix, Linux, PGP duplicate key id update,.
  • Kernel: The pre-2.4 series begins, fun with shmfs, kernel latency
  • Distributions: ix86 Linux, Linpus Linux, FreeBSD and XLinux 3.0.
  • Development: Progress on the desktop, new Apache release.
  • Commerce: Closing in on Caldera's IPO, a bogus open source license, the latest on Amazon.com patents
  • Back page: Linux links and letters to the editor
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

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March 16, 2000

 

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