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Linux Links of the Week

ZeligConf is the "European meeting of digital counter-cultures." It will be happening in Paris, December 15-17. The program covers a number of topics of interest, such as software patents. Could be fun if you're in the neighborhood...

LinuxDevices.com turned one year old on Halloween. Congratulations to Rick Lehrbaum for a great year, and here's to many more!

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

November 2, 2000



This week in history

Twelve years ago: The Internet Worm was released, rendering the entire Internet unusable for two or three days.

Two years ago (November 5th, 1998): The first of the infamous Halloween memos from Microsoft was leaked to the public. The topic of the first memo was Microsoft's possible responses to the Linux/Open Source Software phenomena. If you're new to Linux, we strongly recommend you check out these documents.

OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft, particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat.

The Linux 2.2 kernel was poised for release, but the NFS implementation was known to be substandard. This problem has plagued Linux for a long time. Fortunately, the current Linux 2.2.18 prepatch series has a decent NFS implementation in it, so, once the next stable kernel is released, that problem should finally be behind us - two years later.

Matthew Szulik became President of Red Hat. That was the beginning of the change of guard, with the gradual departure of most of the Red Hat founders from the very top. Here's the current Red Hat Executive bios.

Red Hat 5.2 was announced. LWN's impressions of the release were mostly positive, but it contained so many security-related bugs and unnecessary setuid programs that Chris Evans set up a website just to track them and harass Red Hat to fix them. That website survived through the Red Hat 6.0 release and its subsequent series of updates, but now reports "no known issues".

The Debian 2.1 freeze began. Debian 2.1 was finally released four months later, in early March, 1999.

Supercomputing 1998 hosted Beowulf talks for the first time. Supercomputing 2000 will start this Saturday, November 4th, and run through November 10th. Here is a summary of Linux or Beowulf-related talks planned for this year.

And, not to be forgotten, Worldforge, a project to develop a complete system for massive multiplayer on-line role-playing games, came into being. They celebrated their first birthday a year later.

One year ago (November 4th, 1999): The DeCSS source code was made publicly available. The repercussions from this are ongoing. The curtailment of free speech peaked with a federal judge ruling that linking to a site that contained the source code was also prohibited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Plans are in the work to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court (financed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Last year, Don Marti and others organized Burn All GIFs day, an event planned to eliminate all GIFs on the Internet, in protest of the Unisys patent. Many GIFs went away, including some on the LWN site, but many, many more remain.

64GB memory on the IA-32 became a reality! Support for up to 64GB of memory slipped into the 2.3 kernel series, courtesy of Ingo Molnar. This removed an embarrassing limitation of the Linux kernel. Each individual process, though, can only use up to 4GB of virtual memory.

Red Hat announced the Red Hat Center for Open Source. Money for the new center was donated, in cash and stock, by Red Hat and three of the initial founders. The Red Hat Center has focused primarily on awarding grants for activities to entities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They operate now under a shortened name, Red Hat Center, and a new mission statement in support of "transparent technology".

Slackware 7.0 was announced. Patrick Volkerding also explained his decision to "join the crowd" and jump Slackware from 4.0 to 7.0.

The planned feature freeze for Debian 2.2 was postponed, finally occurring almost three months later, in January of 2000. The official release of Debian 2.2 happened eight months after that, in August this year.



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.
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: GNOME
From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@eazel.com>
Date: 26 Oct 2000 02:57:33 -0700

The Oct 26 issue of Linux Weekly News cites GNOME as an example of a
project with "a prominent corporate sponsor", namely, Helix
Code. Actually, things are even better than that for the GNOME project
- it has many prominent corporate sponsors! Helix Code as well as
other companies, including Eazel, Red Hat, Sun, Henzai and Gnumatic
are contributing significant amounts of code to GNOME and supporting
the platform. Better yet, the GNOME Foundation, a membership
organization of the people who have created GNOME, is in charge of the
platform' future as an independent voice. 

It is true many corporations and non profit organizations (including
the ones mentioned above, plus HP, IBM, Compaq, the FSF and the OMG,
with more along the way) have joined the Foundation advisory board,
showing a broad base of corporate support. But the Foundation itself
is holding elections where the developers, documentors, artists,
designers and organizers of GNOME will represent the project on a
Board of Directors.

While GNOME does enjoy a healthy level of corporate support, it
remains a community project and its fate is not tied to the future of
any one company; so it's incorrect to lump it with projects that may
be in trouble if the one sponsoring company does not do well.


Maciej Stachowiak
Member, GNOME Steering Commitee
Hacker, Eazel Inc.

Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 14:55:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joe Klemmer <klemmerj@webtrek.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Re: KDE2

	On the front page of issue 1026 -

> Two years ago, critics were still saying that the free software world
> was not capable of producing something as complicated as a modern
> desktop. How much fun it is to point out to those critics that we now
> have two...

	I want to point out that there are three open source modern
desktop options available.  XFce <http://www.xfce.org> is extremely
capable and more advanced than GNOME and KDE.  It was the subject of one
of the talks at ALS and it received a very strong and favorable response
from people who saw it there.

	I would recommend that anyone looking for an alternative to GNOME
or KDE that uses _much_ less resources and is easier to manage and use to
look at XFce.  I know that Sun and IBM _might_ possibly be looking at it
in place of GNOME.

Disclaimer:  I am <B>NOT</B> trying to start another desktop holy war!  
GNOME is good!  KDE is good!  There is nothing wrong with using either of
them.  I just wanted to point out another option.  The strength of open
source is the power of choice.  The more choices we have the better off we

There are just 67 days till the beginning of the 21st century and the next

Date: 26 Oct 2000 17:38:37 -0000
From: Eric Smith <eric@brouhaha.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Treaties


In your 26-October-2000 issue, you talk about problems with the Cybercrime

> Another reason for concern is the fact that this treaty is so
> far-reaching, yet the process of developing it side-steps the internal
> process of the U.S. and other countries for guaranteeing input and
> review from citizens.

By their very nature they are not developed through the same process as
the internal laws of nations.  In this regard the draft Cybercrim treaty
is no different than any other treaty.  There's no reason to be upset
about the process, but we should still try to influence it.

I'm only familiar with the treaty process as applied to the US, though I
assume other countries deal with them similarly.  As US citizens we have
three additional ways to prevent bad treaties from taking effect:

1)  Convince the US Administration not to sign the treaty

2)  Convince the US Congress not to ratify the treaty

3)  Convince the US Congress not to pass legislation enacting or
    enforcing the terms of the treaty.  (This is harder to do if the
    previous steps fail.)

Without our signature, ratification, and legislation, the treaty has
no effect on us.

In any case, no treaty can supercede our Constitution (as amended).  The
*only* way to do that is to pass a new Constitutional Amendment.  As a
last resort, the courts can be used to block implementation of any
unconstitutional provisions.  For instance, there are currently
conflicting circuit court rulings on whether software source code is
speech, and thus protected by the First Amendment.  This issue may be
decided by the Supreme Court within the next few years.  It may turn out
that even if this horrible Cybercrime Treaty is signed and ratified,
that the imposed limitations on source code may end up being

Eric Smith
From: rongage@att.net
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Microsoft cracked - personal perspective
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 13:32:18 +0000

Hi folks:

You just recently posted the note about the Microsoft 
breakin along with the comment "It's not really a Linux 
story, so we'll pass these on and be done with it".

Well, that's not entirely true.  You see, since Microsoft 
has (for some time) been telling the world that the Linux 
security model is insecure, it is entirely appropriate 
for "us" to prominently note anything that "refutes the 
FUD".  Sure, we can take the "high road" and remain 
silent but I would suggest to you that doing this would 
be a huge mistake.  As we all can currently see with all 
the election garbage on the TV and radio, the candidate 
that does not respond effectively to the garbage gets 
trampled and eventually loses the effort.  

This breakin story is a Linux story.  It's a testimonial 
about how effective the Windows security model really is. 
 If Microsoft can't defend itself, how on earth can the 
corporate world possibly hope to.  This is where Linux 
comes in.  By being effectively immune to these sorts of 
attacks (software that installs itself into a trusted 
system), Linux (and other unix based system like *BSD, 
Solaris, HP/ux, and Tru64 to mention a few) is shown to 
be the truely superior security model.  

Yes, this story is indeed a Linux story - it's probably 
some of the best advertising we could ever hope to get! 

Ron Gage - Saginaw, MI
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 15:44:28 -0500 (EST)
From: "Donald J. Barry" <don@astro.cornell.edu>
To: don@isc4.tn.cornell.edu, felten@cs.princeton.edu, letters@lwn.net

Dear Dr. Felten,

You'll receive dozens of moralistic letters about your team's
attack on SDMI: this is one of them.

It's convenient for scientists to hide under cover of the claim that
pure analysis is apolitical---after all, it's a lot of fun.  But there's
always a political subtext when the subject is so charged as a technology
which either affects the lives of millions or stands as a barrier between
people and millions in potential profits.  

In this case, SDMI is one part of a broad deployment of both technological
and legal barriers intended to containerize information.  Its advocates are
a distinct political entity, and its effects, in practice and in intended
function, are to eliminate, among many other things, existing standards of
fair use.

Because of this, I regard it as unfortunate that your team has chosen to
do intellectual work complementary to that of the SDMI advocates.  Ultimately,
this type of analysis, when done prior to deployment, aids and abets those
seeking to deploy practically effective technology.  It does so because you 
neglect the legal part of the DMCA which seeks to force analysis underground.  

If one's goal is to protect freedoms, in particular that of fair use, which
I hope you would share as a fellow academic, then an analysis of method 
including both the purely technical aspect and the sociological aspect of 
contributing one's art and industry is essential.  Without this sort of 
approach, one's creative labors too easily find themselves in the service 
of ends which, in the full analysis, we would oppose.


Don Barry, 
Cornell University


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