Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's Back page page.
LinuxAtHome.org is an Advogato-like site oriented toward home users of our favorite system.
WeWantHackers.com. A new job site is up: WeWantHackers.com. They are looking for high-quality developers, and have included a simple "hacking" test in the resume submission process to perform the first level of filtering. This site is run by Bruce Perens and the Linux Capital Group, so the jobs behind it could be interesting.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
July 27, 2000
Two years ago (July 30, 1998 LWN): we fretted about the future of the Linux community, as mentioned on this week's front page. Linus Torvalds made the front cover of Forbes - an unheard-of level of recognition at that time.
A guy named Dave Whitinger announced the expansion of his "Threepoint Linux News" service. It would take a few more months yet for that service to evolve into LinuxToday.
The development kernel was 2.1.112 - and alleged to be in deep feature freeze. The 2.0.36 stable kernel release was in the prepatch stage. The beer-drinking penguin logo in the development series came under criticism - some people thought it would cause Linux to be taken less seriously. It eventually came out.
This was also a big week for Linux distributors; see this week's distributions page for a recap.
One year ago (July 29, 1999 LWN): The Netscape/Sun alliance backtracked and said that the Netscape Application Server would not be made available for Linux. Both IBM and VA Linux Systems announced plans to get into the Linux support business. Rumors went around that the (rumored) Transmeta processor would be used in the (rumored) new Amiga.
Life got difficult for those trying to participate in Red Hat's community stock offering, as the E*Trade system told them they were not eligible. Red Hat was breaking much new ground with this offering, and the financial system was having a hard time adapting.
No kernel releases happened this week; the stable kernel remained at 2.2.10 and development at 2.3.11. Stephen Tweedie's raw I/O patch was accepted, however, providing a long-missing functionality to the system.
Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com. 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.
From: "Aaron J. Seigo" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Miguel de Icaza: Unix and policy Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 09:25:28 -0600 Hi. The more I watch Helix Code step into the lime light under the reigns of Miguel de Icaza the more I scratch my head. Does this man actually Get It(tm)? The reason Unix does not enforce policy on the system level is because policy belongs at the application level. Why? Well, look at BeOS/Mac/Windows. They each enforce policies on programmers and users at the system level, but because of that they are each cordonned off into their own space of the computing arena. Unix is a substrate that strives to be flexible enough for _any_ policy. The idea is to OFFER choice, not limit them. As soon as one sets policy of any sort of strictness, you immediately lose a good portion of your usability (by definition). By keeping such policy decisions at the application level, you can have the proper set of policies in force at the proper times and in the proper places. To say that a lack of policy creates a "defense system for hackers" is to slap the Open Source community's reputation down and is just plain wrong. Look at the amount of responsibility many open source programmers in the UNIX/Linux world take upon themselves when it comes to security, performance and feature set. In fact, this sounds more like a Redmond compaign than a pro-Open Source developer's words. I point to Icaza's own project Gnome as an example that he is (to quoth him) "smoking crack" when spouting these arguments. Gnome sets policy, and in the right place, too: on the application level. In fact, it is only because of the gift of choice Unix brings that Gnome is possible; it is only because of the gift of grace (aka "defense system for hackers") that Gnome was allowed to stick around for as long as it did despite being as horrible as it was to come to point where it has the opportunity to actually mature. So I sit here and scratch my head. And ask: would I entrust my desktop to a project whose leading visionary is so out into left field? Then I remember: Unix doesn't force policy on me and limit my choices: I can use KDE, or Blackbox, or CDE, or the command line, or.... and suddenly Icaza's rantings seem distant and irrelevant. Which they are. ______________ Aaron J. Seigo Mount Linux
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 14:24:26 -0500 From: "Stoner, David M." <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: re: Unix sucks To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> The editors: Miguel is kidding, right? If he really liked the Microsoft way so much, presumably he would be working for Microsoft. Here are what I hope are obvious retorts to his points as summarized in your article: >Unix is stagnant. As a programmer, what I want above all else is an operating system that never changes, or at least the API never changes. I don't need a system that keeps shifting underneath me and breaking my code. >Unix's problems stem from ... not deciding policy. The user/administrator decides policy. Isn't that what we want? >High level components Fine if you want a bloated operating system which is much more than an operating system; if you control the OS and mean to control everything else and squash anyone who threatens you; if you assume that no one beyond your control will ever write an application. Yet there are high-level components for Unix, the use of which is fortunately still optional. For example, there is CPAN. And there are "glue" languages such as Tcl and its extensions. Miguel is welcome to develop high-level components if he wishes, but I hope he doesn't think they should be part of the operating system and everyone should be forced to use them. David Stoner email@example.com
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 18:22:47 +0200 From: Martin Cracauer <cracauer@BIK-GmbH.DE> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Staroffice GPL Most people cheering after the annoucement overlook that they won't give us the source for the currently working product. They give us the source for some future experimental stuff. That will be the same situation as with Netscape/Mozilla. We aren't allowed to fix our lovely Navigator-3.x (which is what most people I know would prefer), we have to hack on some Uebercode that in any case is slow and probably won't lead anywhere in the foreseable future. In no way I can share LWN's editor's opinion that Sun tries to avoid Netscape's mistakes. They do exactly the same thing, the delay between annoucement and release (why not next weekend?), the refusal to give out the working cod and even the XML-based components approach. Not a problem for Sun, of course, it will be "OpenSource" that has failed. -- %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Martin Cracauer <email@example.com> http://www.bik-gmbh.de/~cracauer/ BIK - Aschpurwis + Behrens GmbH, Hamburg/Germany Tel.: +49 40 414787 -12, Fax. +49 40 414787 -15
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 20:56:46 +0300 (EETDST) From: Tuomas Lukka <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: GPL StarOffice Let's not forget for a moment that there's only one reason for Sun to release StarOffice under GPL: they want to hit Microsoft where it really hurts. And I believe that it will; this is what is needed to topple their empire. Say in about a year it will be possible to provide a cheap, reliable, care-free distro that can do all the things that business users want and is completely open-source. Microsoft does NOT want to see that day. So while the announcement is great news, don't make the mistake of trusting Sun any more because of this. We have a common enemy but once Microsoft crumbles, I don't expect any more such actions from Sun. Which is all right: GPL will stay GPL, and companies need to compete. But just remember: even though it isn't really said publicly anywhere (the FAQ has some wording which alludes this but Microsoft is not mentioned), this move takes direct aim at Microsoft. Nothing more, nothing less. Tuomas
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 16:54:03 -0700 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RSA Patent Expiration From: Rick Moen <email@example.com> Dear Mr. Corbet and Ms. Coolbaugh: You may be amused to hear that the data and time the (USA) patent on RSA expires may be literally indeterminate! The RSA algorithm is covered by US patent #4,405,829, which was issued September 20, 1983 (and thus is a 17-year patent) to Ronald Rivest, Avi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman. Everyone says it therefore expires this September 20. Here in the Bay Area, we have tentative plans for a celebration party and informational event concerning RSA and other crypto software, when the patent expires. But, the question is, when exactly? 5 PM Washington DC time on the 20th? 8 AM Washington DC time on the 21st? Hoping to find out when exactly the algorithm can be freely used in the USA without royalties or infringement, we posed that question to some friendly and knowledgeable patent attorneys at the firm Bever, Hoffman, and Harms, LLC (http://www.beverlaw.com/), in San Jose. Partner Julie Stephenson kindly responded, with an e-mail from that firm (which presumably should not be considered legal advice): ---<snip>--- I researched the question right after we spoke. Unfortunately, the answer is that there is no answer. According to Chisum (a premiere researcher in the field), the caselaw on the subject is in conflict. Thus, if a patent has a date of June 28, 1983, and the term of the patent is 17 years, then the last day of coverage of the patent has been interpreted to be both June 27, 2000, and June 28, 2000, in different cases. I looked around a little further, and found no information relating to the time of expiration of a patent. Because the caselaw is still in conflict on the date of expiration, I can't imagine a situation where the *time* on the date of expiration (much less the time zone of the time on the date of expiration) would have been litigated without clarifying that whole date of expiration mess. So I can give you no direction as to *when* you should begin partying. What does this mean for you? Well, you can either party on September 20, 2000, and be prepared to change the name of your party from "the first day of no coverage by the RSA patent" to "the last day of oppression by the RSA patent" while knowing that anyone partying from 11:55 pm to 12:05 am will have actually partied on the right day (ignoring that whole time zone thing) OR you can party on September 21, 2000, and be assured that you are partying on a no-patent coverage day. However, in the minds of some people, you would be partying on the day after the day the patent expires. :) If it helps a all, it appears that generic drug manufacturers would begin selling their drugs on (in the example above) June 29, 2000. (Note that this ignores the issue of then manufacturing the drugs prior to the expiration of the patent, which was one of the bases for litigation in one of the conflicting cases mentioned above.) Sorry I couldn't be more clear - that is the pitfall of working in the law.... There is often no right answer, only opinions and arguments. On the bright side, you can choose a reasonable time and date of expiration (say, 11:59 pm EST on September 20, 2000), and have some caselaw basis for choosing that date. If you think of it, please let me know what you decide. I'll have a drink at that time in celebration. :) Have fun, Julie ---<snip>--- Happily, after one notices that the 20th is a Thursday, the alternative of skirting all these issues by holding the party on Saturday the 23rd, instead, became (er...) patently obvious. -- Cheers, "Open your present...." Rick Moen "No, you open your present...." rick (at) linuxmafia.com Kaczinski Christmas. -- Unabomber Haiku Contest, CyberLaw mailing list