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This week in Linux history

Three years ago (March 12, 1998 LWN): Netscape finally came out with the license under which the Mozilla browser would be released. Not everybody liked the MPL, but it was generally seen as an attempt to balance Netscape's interests (being able to release proprietary browsers with Mozilla code) and the need for a free license. Certainly (then) Debian Project leader Bruce Perens was pleased:

This is a historic day for us, since it means that Netscape will eventually be in the "main" part of Debian and all Linux systems, not the "non-free" section any longer!

Ralph Nader started pressing Dell to sell Linux-installed systems. Sun, meanwhile, offered a 70% discount for those willing to upgrade to Solaris 2.6 from Linux.

Development kernel 2.1.90pre was released:

I just put a pre-90 on ftp.kernel.org, and I'm happy to report that Davem seems to have found and fixed the TCP performance problem, which means that the code-freeze for 2.2 is going to go into effect shortly..
-- Linus

Little did we know that 2.2 was still almost a year away...

Two years ago (March 11, 1999 LWN): Echos from LinuxWorld still dominated the landscape, in many forms. The "free software vs. open source" battle raged on:

However, in Stallman's eyes, the programming community is more interested in talking about practical issues, like performance -- an anathema to Stallman. And this conflict is partly why Stallman is marginalized. Most people don't want to talk about freedom. There's been a splintering of the movement: away from free software created by ideologues to open-source software created by business-friendly pragmatists like Torvalds.
-- Wired News.

In the rest of the world, though, some felt that they needed to counteract some of the attention brought to Linux via bad press:

You implicitly trust a vendor to deliver a product or service as promised. And if the product or service is of poor quality or fails, you have recourse: a lawsuit. Right now Linux is more Woodstock than Main Street. There aren't enough vendors dedicated to the operating system, and it's kind of hard to sue the surfer in Venice Beach, Calif., who gives you poor Linux advice.
-- CIO

But will Linux find its way into the enterprise and (gasp) the corporate desktop? Don't bet on it. Commercial firms are risk-averse by nature. They are more than willing to pay an OS license for the right to sue somebody if things go wrong.
-- Internet Week.

The "who do you sue" argument seems to have faded over the last two years. Perhaps people have figured out that the number of successful lawsuits against proprietary software vendors is pretty low...

Debian 2.1 ("slink") was released on March 9.

Red Hat announced equity investments from Compaq, IBM, Novell, and Oracle. It was still a big deal back in those days.

One year ago (March 9, 2000 LWN): Free books online were the theme of the week, with the availability of Grokking the GIMP, an updated version of Using Samba, and the first bits of Andrew Leonard's Free Software Project.

Linux-Mandrake 7.0 PowerPack was released.

The OpenNMS project launched 'BlueBird', a free enterprise network management system. Believe it or not, the first stable release of DOSemu was announced, after that system had been used by many for years. Also released was "McKinley," the first preview of the Helix (now Ximian) GNOME desktop.

Bluepoint Linux surprised the world by becoming a publicly-traded company overnight via a "reverse takeover" deal with a shell corporation. LinuxMall.com completed its merger with Frank Kasper & Associates. Meanwhile investors were beginning to complain about Corel's proposed merger with Inprise; Inprise director Robert Coates resigned in protest.

Forbes wondered what might become of SGI:

The thinking at this point is that the most likely buyer would be a company like VA Linux, the maker of Linux-based workstations. Acquiring SGI would give that young company established engineering skills, plus entry into businesses that already use SGI systems.

Times have changed somewhat...SGI is now worth four times VA.

March 8, 2001


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