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Linux Links of the Week

No household should be without the After Y2K Geek Action Figures. Run right out and collect the whole set.

Tigris is an ambitious project to create a new set of collaborative development tools. It almost looks like they are building the structure to make the next generation of SourceForge-like sites. Projects that are well underway include a bug tracking system, an access control package, a UML editor, and more.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

August 31, 2000



This week in history

Two years ago (September 3, 1998 LWN): The world was trying to figure out what to make of Corel's jump into Linux.

"I expect Corel to making tens of millions of dollars in the Linux space within the next 12 months," says Robert Young, president of North Carolina-based Red Hat Software Inc., a leading distributor of Linux software. "It's got some very well known software brands and there is a lot of demand among Linux users for more advanced software," he adds.
(Ottawa Citizen, August 26, 1998).

Oh well.

Salon Magazine, meanwhile, talked with Richard Stallman:

Never mind that Stallman started the free software movement, or that thousands of lines of code that he personally authored are an integral part of what most people today call "Linux." To the new generation, Stallman is an embarrassment and a hindrance who must, at all costs, be trundled into a back room before he scares off the investors.

The kernel developers were working on 2.1.120 and the 2.0.36 stable kernel prepatches. Multistream files were a topic of hot debate - something that has changed little in the intervening years.

The Debian Project released "Hamm-JP", its first shot at a Japanese version of its distribution.

Caldera split into two companies: Caldera Systems and a thing called Caldera Thin Clients, which handled the DR-DOS/embedded systems business. Caldera Thin Clients would eventually rename itself Lineo.

But the big news, of course, is the LWN adopted a new, multi-page format, leaving behind the "one big page" except for the hard core that refused to do without it....

One year ago (September 2, 1999 LWN): Red Hat parted ways with a company called LASER5, which had been doing all of Red Hat's localization work in Japan. LASER5 stated its intent to go into the business on its own and dominate the Japanese Linux market. A year later the company is still around, but is not quite the market force it had hoped to be.

Sun's purchase of StarDivision was made official. Sun also announced plans to release StarOffice under the Sun Community Source License, which did not raise a great deal of enthusiasm. A year later the SCSL is (almost) history, and one doesn't hear much about the "StarPortal" plans...

The development kernel was at 2.3.16; there were rumors that a 2.3 feature freeze was imminent. The stable kernel release was 2.2.12, which turned out to be a little less stable than some might have hoped.



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: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 21:21:57 -0400
From: "Eric S. Raymond" <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>
To: Tom Cowell <tcowell@terma.com>

You wrote:
>                                          ESR should not abuse =
> his position as a celebrity among users of the Linux kernel by =
> publicising his views on other issues.

FYI, I fully intend to `abuse' my position in this manner as often as the
demands of effective publicity will allow.   There are two reasons for

(1) Tactical.  Yanking peoples' chains just a little is an excellent way
    to get their attention.  And authenticity is terrific PR <evil grin>.

(2) Principled.  You fight for freedom in your way, I'll do it in mine.
		<a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>

The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably
by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for
the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot
be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime
in this country is closely connected with this.
	-- Albert Einstein, "My First Impression of the U.S.A.", 1921
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 08:31:53 -0500
From: [withheld by request]
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Geeks with Guns

Concerning "Geeks with Guns" you write:

"If you're not offended by the nature of this gathering, have a look to
see what went on."

Actually I am offended by the nature of this event, but more importantly
I think this event has a lot to do with guns, a little to do with geeks,
and nothing to do with Linux.  Associating Linux with an extremely 
controversial minority political group does a great disservice
to the Linux community.  I am a regular LWN reader, and a fan, but
this was a very poor editorial choice.

To: letters@lwn.net
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 08:04:27 -0700
From: "   " <lkollar@my-Deja.com>
Subject: Re: "Let's move towards easier software installations"

A *very* timely piece. I had this very thing hit me in the face earlier
this week, when I managed to install Gnucash 1.4.4 from a source RPM onto
my PPC Linux system. What a hassle!

I had trouble from the very beginning. While Gnucash does not require
Gnome, the developers sure don't make it easy on those of us who prefer
something else. I had to install several packages on my system, some of
which conflicted with other packages, before I could even start
compiling. Then I had to get a tarball of g-wrap and compile that.

While none of this was particularly difficult, it was much more tedious
than it had to be. Testosterone get the better of me and I fought on until
I got it installed -- but a less technical user would have simply given
up. Aside from my belief that an important user app like Gnucash should be
WM-agnostic anyway, I got a fresh look at what Linux must be like to new

Before I continue, I have to say the Gnucash developers don't deserve all,
or even most, of the blame. LinuxPPC has some serious problems with their
package organization (which may in turn have been inherited from
RedHat). Maybe Debian's package system would have made things easier. And
perhaps if I'd used the binary RPM at linuxppc.org, I'd have had a better
time of it.

Or maybe I expect too much. But non-technical users expect even more, and
most of them just want to get something done with their computers that
doesn't involve low-level administration. A good package design should
eliminate file conflicts. A good package manager should at least look for
(and install?) packages needed but not installed. And if you release a
source package, make sure you have packages for everything it depends on.

A little effort goes a long way toward making users happy.

-- Larry "Dirt Road" Kollar
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 13:35:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joseph J Klemmer <klemmerj@webtrek.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: FUD response

Hash: SHA1

	Your comments about responding to FUD are right on target.  For
the last few years I have been responding to FUD with the complete
contempt of silence.  It has become obvious, especially in the last few
years, that Linux and Open Source Software are winning (just like you
mentioned).  The only reason articles like Mr. Moody's are published are
to attempt to provoke a backlash from the "Linux Zealots".  I now simply
ignore the articles and use calm, real-world examples when anyone asks me
about Linux or comments on the article.

	Flaming Mr. Moody does no good.  Helping the people who don't know
understand the facts about Linux, what it can and especially what it can't
do, does more to offset the FUD in the long run.


- ---
Don't ask me, I took the blue pill.
Version: GnuPG v1.0.1 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: pgpenvelope 2.8.9 - http://pgpenvelope.sourceforge.net/


Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 08:18:17 -0600
From: Bruce Ide <nride@uswest.net>
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Lunatic Fringe

zealots who would start flaming at the slightest provication (In the
form of a negative article or posting on a message board.) These people
were the reason IBM kept Team OS/2 at such a distance. They represented
probably around 1 percent of the OS/2 using community but the press and
flame mongers in the forums took no end of delight in baiting them and
then trotting their messages out as a sample of the "scary" OS/2
community. If I recall correctly, there was a similar group associated
with the Amiga and you probably wouldn't have to go too far to find one
associated with Windows, too.

Well things never change and the Linux Community has its own Lunatic
Fringe, which writers like Fred Moody are tapping in to. There's not a
lot you can do about the Lunatic Fringe. Fortunately the writers who
like to go kicking up ant hills when they've nothing better to do
quickly show the quality of their work and most people discount what
they have to say anyway.

The Linux press and the OS/2 press before it seemed to be more
responsible than to go looking for the Lunatic Fringe of the
competition. I suspect that the relatively low distribution of reporters
for those OSes has something to do with it. As more writers join the
Linux press, the quality of articles will no doubt go down. Not much you
can do about that either.

My advice is to ignore both parties and get on with writing better
software and better articles.

Bruce Ide                   greyfox@paratheoanametamystikhood.net
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 08:47:03 -0700
From: Tim Jones <tjones@914fan.net>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: LinuxWorld Expo Awards .... What Do They Mean?

I was witness to a most amazing thing at LWCE in San Jose -- a backup
utility manufacturer won an award for best development tool.  In fact,
when I voted, I discovered that I could vote for every vendor in every
category.  Imagine, I could award Loki with "Best of Show," but I could
also award them with "Best Database," or "Best Office Suite."  This lack
of categorization lessens the impact of the awards that do fit.  Since
any vendor could win any award, do the awards mean anything outside of a
few users' (the number of actual votes weren't released, but I wasn't
witness to any huge crowds trying to vote....) having fun with the
voting software?

While I enjoy the opportunity to impart awards upon deserving companies,
I find the lack of logistical planning on the part of the voting
software designers to be unbelievable.  Awarding a company in an
environment that they are not part of is absolutely worthless.  When
Lonestar/Cactus won "Best Development Utility," the assemblage didn't
applaud, they laughed nervously.  I'm certain the Lonetar authors found
that to be most rewarding.

The user awards are important; they allow plain folks to say thank you
to Linux vendors for dedication and support.  But, let's be a bit more
careful in future voting to ensure that the awards are actually
something that apply, rather than another geek floor event to see how
ludicrous we can be as users.  In New York, let's assign categories to
each vendor's true offerings so that things like this don't happen

Congratulations to the real award winners like Loki and Sun.  Thanks for
helping make Linux a great place to be!

Tim Jones

From: Aaron King <AaronK@4-Serv.com>
To: "'letters@lwn.net'" <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: "The first round of the DVD case is over"
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 11:46:22 -0400

I wasn't around in the 60's so I have never had anything to really fight
for!  I'm 18 and I think this is something worth fighting for.  We are
talking about rights for ourselves AND the rights which will passed down to
our children.

We should be doing something, not merely reading the news and sending angry
email.  WE SHOULD get out there and protest!  Why does no one push for that
type of movement here?  If we leave technology decisions up to judges who
use computers to browse the "interweb" then we will never win in a fight
like this.  These judges see "Windows" as "a computer".  They don't
understand how computers work, how closed source and patents HURT technology

So far no one has said, "Hey, computers are NOT like the rest of the
American Industry".  WHY?

Something needs to be done and I want to help.  What do you think?  Please
send reply to islandblend@home.com, this is my work email.

Aaron King
4th Generation Services
248-680-9400  x 112

Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 17:53:43 -0700 (MST)
From: "M. Leo Cooper" <grendel@theriver.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Libelous statement in DeCSS case

Dear LWN editor,

I'm sure you are already aware of attorney Jonathan Shapiro's libelous
statement in a legal brief against the Open Source movement. It was,
after all, discussed at length on Slashdot.

   ...the so-called "open source" movement, which is a dedicated to
      the proposition that material, copyrighted or not, should be made
      available over the Internet for free...

The full text of the brief is available on-line at

I have been pondering appropriate responses to this. After all, most Open
Source developers, such as myself, depend on a trust relationship with
employers or clients for a livelihood and this could actually cause us
financial damage. I probably don't have the resources to actually file
a libel suit in a local court, but others might.

What I suggest is sending reasonably polite and literate letters to the law
offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges L.L.P., 767 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
10153, complaining about Shapiro's conduct. Likewise, e-mails to the New York
State Bar Association Ethics committee, ethics@nysba.org, might do some good.

I'm hoping Red Hat, VA Linux, Caldera, and all the rest do not let this go
unchallenged. After all, they were libeled, too.

Mendel Cooper

Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 12:13:14 -0700
From: Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>
To: dave@userland.com
Subject: Base-64 code (is code with no license open source?)


The copyright law is clear that works of authorship are copyrighted by
default upon creation -- with or without a copyright notice -- and
that making copies legally requires the permission of the copyright
holder in most circumstances.  Cf. Brad Templeton's copyright FAQs,
where this point is covered in detail.

If you publish an article of your own -- with no copyright notice, and
no license -- bearing perhaps your name and the date, put it up on
your web site, and somebody reprints it without asking you, or puts it
on a different web site:

- You can send a cease and desist letter.

- You can then sue, and win (if the letter is ignored), and perhaps recover

The situation is exactly the same with a piece of software.

That's why the Debian Free Software Guidelines and the derived Open
Source Definition refer to "the license" and why the OSD had to make a
specific exception for source code "explicityly placed in the public
domain".  You see, I raised the question a while back of why public
domain source code should be excluded by the phrasing of the OSD; the
conclusion is that we'd definitely still need an explicit statement
_proving_ that the code is in the public domain.

Many people do not understand this, but some day somebody will be sued
for including a random source code fragment found on a web site in a
GPLed package, and then people will get the idea.  Already the OSI is
quite clear that "open source doesn't just mean access to the source
code" (but must also include clear legal authority to use, modify, and
redistribute it in compliance with the OSD, etc.), and the Free
Software Foundation, even mindful of software copyright law even in
the face of its opposition to most of that law, requires clear and
explicit statements about copyright permissions from prospective
contributors of code to the FSF's free software projects.

I don't want to disparage Tim O'Reilly's answer to the question.  Here
is the basic problem: Tim is 100% right about the tradition that
publishing code means it's OK to re-use it.  This is true since before
I was born, and no doubt Tim, like the guy in the epigram, knew that
before I was born.  And open source _should_ be about attitudes and
community expectations.  The problem is that, in the mad state of
copyright law, when we rely on attitudes, traditions, and community
expectations, we get sued, and judges laugh at us, and we lose.  No?

Thus the disagreement between programmers and lawyers which you mention.

Many software authors who publish code without a copyright notice do
intend for it to be in the public domain.  Oops!  It's definitely not,
unless they have explicitly said so.  I could sue people for re-using
the little Python number-theory experiments on my web site in a book
about combinatorics, because I've granted no license -- so I'm guilty
of the same mistake.  Or maybe the copyright law is guilty of
ballooning wildly so that everyone's intuitions about what is
reasonable are eventually overthrown... but I was going to try not to
get too partisan here. :-)

Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:  http://www.loyalty.org/   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5


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