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KernelNewbies.org is the home page for the "#kernelnewbies" IRC channel. #kernelnewbies tries to help ease people into the world of kernel hacking by providing them with a friendly environment to ask questions and talk about their problems. Some of the recent memory management hacking has been done in the context of #kernelnewbies.

[northern lights] The Gimp-Savvy photo archive features over 15,000 images, all copyright-free, which an aspiring GIMP basher may use to create amazing new pictures. There is a keyword indexing system, and a mechanism for users to add keywords to images to help others in finding what they are after.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

June 15, 2000



This week in history

Two years ago was a relatively slow time. The 2.1.106 development kernel was coming together. Slackware 3.50 was released. And Ralph Nader sounded off on operating systems:
There are relatively obscure products that can substitute for Windows, such as Linux, and many of them are available free on the Internet for people to download and install themselves. Nader is upset that computer makers won't sell machines with those products already installed. (Associated Press)

[Debian] One year ago: Red Hat filed for an initial public offering of stock, thus leading the pack of Linux companies seeking to go public. Jim Pick was separated from longtime kernel site LinuxHQ, which he had been maintaining; he moved his work to kernelnotes.org. Development kernel 2.3.6 was released, as was stable kernel 2.2.10. The infamous Mindcraft benchmark trial was rerun, turning up some real problems in Linux networking and process control. The Debian project adopted a new logo. Jon 'maddog' Hall jumped to VA Linux Systems. Guylhem Aznar took over as the leader of the Linux Documentation Project. LinuxPPC 5.0 was released.

The "Open Source" trademark effort officially went down, after the U.S. Government refused to register it. The OSI promised to come back with an "OSI Certified" trademark...one year ago...

In the press:

But the mere fact that there is now an official SEC document that includes the text of the GPL serves as fairly astonishing proof that the rules of the software business really are being rewritten. Stallman and the FSF have been assailed as anti-capitalist radicals for their work in ensuring that the world can enjoy the benefits of free software. Now, Stallman's legacy is intimately entwined with the ultimate icon of late 20th century capitalism -- the initial public offering. (Andrew Leonard, Salon)


Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 10:33:38 -0600 (MDT)
From: Dave Mallery <dmallery@cia-g.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: RMS

We are indeed fortunate to have RMS in our midst.  Lacking him, there
probably would be no "midst".

Men of vast integrity are seldom popular.  They are often crucified.


Dave Mallery
Ramah Cafe
3270 Hiway 53
PO Box 520
Ramah,  NM  87321

no gates
  no windows...

running GNU/Linux
free at last!

Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds

Date: 8 Jun 2000 18:08:13 -0000
From: Eric Smith <eric@brouhaha.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Patents and Free Software

LWN reported on June 8, 2000:
> Intellectual property laws increasingly look like the tool of choice for
> those who wish to fight against free software. The ability to patent
> file formats, if it stands up, adds greatly to the power of this
> weapon. This is a worrisome development indeed.

Fortunately, as ever-increasing amounts of Free Software is developed,
we will be creating a lot of new intellectual property that is not only
unencumbered, but can serve as prior art in future patent cases.  As
the amount innovation in Free Software (collectively) will approach and
perhaps exceed that of proprietary software, it will become harder for
companies to obtain and defend patents on simple and obvious file formats,

It also seems possible that Free Software developers could in fact obtain
patents on their innovations, and license them freely for use in Free
Software.  The problem here is that obtaining a patent can be a costly
endeavor.  Perhaps an organization could be formed to handle patent
applications for Free Software developers, and act as a licensing authority
for the resulting patent pool.  By offering non-exclusive commercial
licenses for the patents, the inventors would earn royalties and the
organization could be funded.

It would certainly be satisfying to see a body of intellectual property
that could be used freely in Free Software, but that proprietary software
vendors would be required to pay to license!

It is particularly good to see that many new software licenses contain
terms such that the licenses terminate if the licensee initiates any
intellectual property litigation against the licensor.  I don't know
Stallman's view on this, but I'd really like to see such terms put into
the next versions of the GPL and LGPL.  This would provide another
reason for Free Software developers to transfer ownership of copyrights
to the FSF; then if MeanAndNastySoftwareCo were to ever sue the FSF
for patent infringement, their rights to use and distribute all of the
FSF's software would terminate!

Eric Smith
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 04:42:40 +0200
From: Juanjo Alvarez <jajs@retemail.es>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Software patents and VirtualDub

I want to remember that software patents are not legal in Europe.

Having the source it shouldn't be difficult to made an alternative
implementation an put it on a non-US mirror.
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 18:53:50 -0500
From: "John J. Adelsberger III" <jja@wallace.lusArs.net>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: BSD license (Re: letter from Anand Srivastava)

I think this gentleman misses the point of the BSD license.  The ability
to reuse code in traditional commercial settings is not regarded by BSD
proponents as a "loophole."  It is regarded as a feature of the license.

Of course, the GPL advocacy crowd often distorts things like that.  They
point to Linux as a shining example of their philosophy - but is it?

It is not.  Linux is developed voluntarily by people who choose to give
their effort away.  The FSF philosophy, espoused quite openly by Richard
Stallman, is not about volunteerism.  It holds that software is free,
must be free, and that therefore, the products(read: time (read: lives,))
of programmers are free for the taking, no matter what those programmers
think about this.  If you don't believe it, read the GNU manifesto and
related documents from Mr. Stallman.

If Mr. Srivastava were trying to accurately convey what lies in the heart
of a true FSF/GPL advocate, it would read as follows(a paraphrase of a
portion of his letter):

"GPL License has a big loophole and we have witnessed the consequences for
 as long as we can see.  Programmers can give their work away, but if they
 choose not to, they can use another license!  This defeats our goal of
 enslaving programmers everywhere to create a propertyless information
 age.  Stalin would not be proud."

This may not be what Mr. Srivastava thinks of when he thinks of the GPL.
He may well be(and probably is) a well intentioned individual who doesn't
really understand the FSF.  One can only hope.  But, sad to say, this IS
what Mr. Srivastava -should- think of when he thinks of the GPL.  This
IS what the GPL was made as a stepping stone towards.

The funny part is, the FSF admits this in public.  In fact, they insist
upon it.

Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 12:47:20 -0700
From: Tim Jones <tjones@estinc.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: BRU Security Exploit Posts

As the development manager on the EST's BRU product, I would like to
snuff out the small firestorm that has surfaced around our BRU product. 
First, we sincerely appreciate users for providing feedback and
assisting in the evolution our products.  EST's corporate servicemark of
"Software You Can Trust," is based on our commitment to ensuring that
our products are both secure and bug-free.  This particular security
issue is easily resolved as outlined in the SecurityFocus.com posting. 
To recap the fix, by simply  removing the SUID bit on the /bin/bru and
/bru/bru files, the potential exploit is totally closed.  To un-SUID the
BRU executables, issue the following commands as root:

  chmod 711 /bin/bru
  chmod 711 /bru/bru

However, the slightly extremist stand that the permissions should be
changed to 500 is not necessary, and could disable the product's
usefulness for data backup by non-root users.  BRU can live happily with
permissions set to 511, or even 711 - as shown above, and remain secure
while allowing users to properly backup files.  The only reason for the
root suid setting was to enable logfile write access by all BRU users.  
To enable logfile writes for non-root users after the SUID bit is
cleared, simply set the permissions on the /var/log/bruexeclog file to
777, or add an environment variable to the users' login environment that
assigns the BRUEXECLOG environment variable to a file to which the user
has write permission.

This issue does not exist in our new BRU 16.0 release as no files are
installed SUID root.

Tim Jones                                   tjones@estinc.com
Vice President                              http://www.estinc.com/
Enhanced Software Technologies, Inc.        (602) 470-1115
                             "The BRU Guys"
Date: 14 Jun 2000 19:02:01 -0000
From: Eric Smith <eric@brouhaha.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Openness and compatability

On June 14, LWN quoted Andy Tai's translation of Bill Gates' talk in

    Also different programs can be developed on top of Linux, with each
    one possibly incompatible with another, and thus Linux is not really

Apparently Bill's idea of an Open operating system is one for which the
end-user is only able to buy one brand of word processor, spreadsheet, etc.,
thus guaranteeing "compatability".  By this criteria, I suppose I should
ditch my "closed" Linux system and buy an "open" Windows system.  Blech!

Eric Smith


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