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Leading items and editorials

The janitors get organized. The last few months have seen a flurry of activity from a group of developers known, informally, as "kernel janitors." As suggested by their name, the janitors make it their job to clean up messes in the kernel code base; much of their recent work can be seen in the "ac" series of kernel patches. Recent contributions include fixing a mass of erroneous user space pointer dereferences, straightening out inconsistent treatment of kernel locks, and even hundreds of spelling fixes.

Thus far, janitorial work in the kernel has been handled the way much kernel work is done - a job gets done when somebody decides to do it. Some coordination happened by way of the kernel janitor's list, a web page maintained by janitor extraordinaire Arnaldo Carvalho de Melo, but the janitors have remained a spread-out group.

No longer. Arnaldo Carvalho de Melo has announced the creation of a separate kernel janitor's project. Like any self-respecting project these days, it has a SourceForge page, but there's not much there at the present. What does exist is a mailing list and a CVS version of the janitor's TODO list. The mailing list has already started to see traffic on janitorial techniques and kernel problems in need of fixes; one can read about the proper way to initialize string variables at compile time or plans for the death of spin_lock_irq(). The janitors are getting organized.

This project raises an interesting question. The need for janitorial work is reasonably clear. Any large body of code is going to have its dark, dusty areas in need of a serious sweeping, and the kernel is a larger and more complex body than many. And the janitors have noted an important point: an error pattern that is found in one section of code has a high likelihood of recurring in other places. Once a particular type of mistake has been found, it makes great sense to go looking for instances of the same mistake elsewhere. This is essentially the same approach as that used by the OpenBSD team to root out security problems before they are exploited.

But why would kernel hackers go in for this kind of work? The kernel is full of interesting jobs that need to be done; why would a talented hacker pass them up in favor of auditing some obscure driver's locking discipline? We asked Arnaldo that question, and got the following response:

Because somebody has to do it? :) For the kernel to be considered really stable it can't stop working even in the more uncommon situations, where lots of the janitorial work has been concentrated, and it also gives kernel newbies interested in getting into kernel hacking a good start, because we have to study code and see how parts of the kernel works so that we can start fixing these small bugs....

Other motivation is that janitor work doesn't require that you spend that much time, and for people too busy but willing to help, this can be the way to help.

In fact, janitorial work can be a good entry path for aspiring kernel hackers. Performing major surgery on the kernel and getting the changes past the gatekeepers can be an intimidating prospect; small and obvious bug fixes are a much easier start. And they can lead to bigger things:

Look at me, now I'm being considered to become the kernel IPX networking stack maintainer, and this happened because I wanted to get rid of some cli and sti instructions, used for locking, and use more modern and SMP friendly locking techniques, namely spinlocks and reader writer locks...

Janitorial work, thus, is a good entry path for those wanting to build some experience and reputation capital in the kernel development community.

The organization of the janitors can be seen as another sign of "growing up" in the Linux community. As the kernel grows and evolves, organizations develop around it to keep things clean and ensure the quality and stability of the code base. At some point, the kernel may even have an organized patch management scheme, regression tests, and other tools that many development projects have taken for granted for some time. Certainly the janitors have already been greatly helped by the Stanford checker (discussed in last week's LWN kernel page).

The kernel, meanwhile, is far from the only large development project in the free software community. No doubt, many other projects should look at the kernel janitors organization and consider setting up something similar. The benefits, in terms of improved code and a better supply of new hackers, could be both large and immediate.

[Liz in Singapore] Writeup: Singapore Linux Conference/LinuxWorld Singapore 2001. While the rest of us were dealing with Colorado snow, LWN editor Liz Coolbaugh attended the Singapore Linux Conference/LinuxWorld Singapore 2001. She has now posted an extensive writeup of the event, including a report from Donald Becker's keynote and many pictures. It looks like a successful conference, if not as heavily attended as its organizers would have liked; it gives a good picture of the adoption of Linux in Asia.

Three years of Mozilla. Three years ago, with great fanfare, Netscape released the Mozilla source to the world. It was one of the defining moments in the history of free software: a large, proprietary product was being freed as a response to competition from Microsoft. To many, it was the event that brought free software (or "open source," a term which was born in the middle of all this) out into the open. It was a sign that the corporate world was beginning to see the value in free software.

Three years later, how does it look?

Mozilla has spent much of that time being presented as a free software failure. The "milestone" releases have, until recently not been up to even alpha-level quality. Mozilla has been seen as an example of features and bloat gone mad. The low point, perhaps, was when NTK sounded off in classic fashion:

Far be it for us to intimate that MOZILLA has been hijacked by the same naive completeness fanatics that collapse so many free software projects into development black-holes, but ... oh come on, two years and counting? Seventy megabytes of swap? Per *window*? Hello? Is there some kind of AOL/ crack cocaine stock-swap going down at Mountain View?

It is also the second anniversary of Jamie Zawinski's high-profile resignation from the project, which also did little to help its image. Finally, the Mozilla-based Netscape 6 release has gotten an unenthusiastic reception. Mozilla, at times, has seemed like an example of the worst that free software projects can be.

Not so quick, though. In the end, Mozilla will be seen as a slow-starting but highly successful software development project. Consider:

  • The Gecko HTML rendering engine has brought a new level of speed and standards compliance to Linux-based web browsers. It is at the core of the Galeon and Skipstone browsers, both of which are coming along nicely and seeing increasing numbers of users. Gecko is also been picked for a number of embedded applications.

  • Perhaps more to the point, the Mozilla browser itself is reaching a point of true usability. It now works well enough that people other than those hacking on the source may actually want to use it - especially when they find some of its nice features, such as its rendering speed, the ability to set minimum font sizes (no more squinting at obnoxious sites), and the ability to limit animated images. The Mozilla roadmap shows high hopes for a 1.0 release sometime quite soon. The 0.8.1 release, meanwhile, adds a number of new features, including the ability to browse Gopher sites, assuming you can find one still standing.

  • A look at the Mozilla projects page shows an unbelievable amount of development activity. Mozilla has become the central point for a great deal of web-based development activity; expect no end of great tools to come out of there in the coming years.

Mozilla is quickly approaching its goal of producing a great, free web browser. Along the way, it has taught us a number of lessons. One, certainly, is to look carefully at large piles of code when they escape from the proprietary world. Thus, for example, OpenOffice has been received with much more cautious and realistic expectations than Mozilla was, which is to everybody's benefit.

Another is that focus is important. Had Mozilla concentrated on producing just a web browser, it would likely have been further along at this point. Konqueror, while far from a small program, is an example of what can be done with a more realistic (though still ambitious) set of objectives.

Yet another thing we have learned is that bringing new developers into large projects is hard. For somebody new to a project, the code base is usually poorly documented and difficult to understand, and mailing list discussions appear to be conducted in Martian. Recognizing this, many large projects have tried to help new developers with special documentation, mailing lists, and so on.

The last lesson, perhaps, is this: don't write off a free software project too soon. A year from now, many of us will have Netscape-free desktops, and Mozilla will be the replacement on many or most of them.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: 2.2.18 security issue with published exploits, OpenSSH 2.5.2p2, FCheck, MySQL vulnerabilities.
  • Kernel: 2.4.2 glitches; regression testing; the proper size for dev_t.
  • Distributions: What's the most popular Linux distribution in Singapore?
  • On the Desktop: KDE 2.1.1, Siag Office, Mozilla 0.81, Mahogany 0.62.
  • Development: HappyDoc, Linux LVM, State Map Compiler 1.0, KDE Developer's Checklist.
  • Commerce: ArsDigita Community System; OEone to build appliance environment with Mozilla; Privacy Foundation report on TiVo.
  • History: Three years ago Mozilla was released; One year ago LWN was acquired by Tucows.
  • Letters: The leading distribution; fair use; but no letters about socialism.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

March 29, 2001


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See also: last week's Security page.


News and Editorials

ptrace/execve/procfs race condition in the Linux kernel 2.2.18. Exploits were released this week for a ptrace/execve/procfs race condition in the Linux kernel 2.2.18. Simultaneously, Linux 2.2.19 was also released. Given the fact that the exploit is already available, expect to see 2.2.19 updates from the various Linux distributions in short order. Of course, downloading and compiling Linux 2.2.19 directly will also close the hole. Depending on your distribution, though, you may end up without some of the patches that were included in your original kernel.

Solar Designer also released updated versions of his OpenWall kernel patch for 2.2.19 and for 2.0.39 as well. You will find them at the OpenWall project. The OpenWall kernel patch contains a collection of security-related features and makes them configurable for the kernel. Check the OpenWall README and FAQ for more details.

Distribution updates available so far:

OpenSSH 2.5.2p2 released. OpenSSH 2.5.2p2 has been released. It includes a number of fixes (including improvements in the defenses against the passive analysis attacks discussed in last week's LWN security page) and quite a few new features as well.

Packages of the new OpenSSH are already popping up:

SSH inventor denied trademark request (NW Fusion). Network World Fusion reports on the IETF meeting where Tatu Ylönen's request for a name change for the ssh protocol was turned down. "But IETF participants argued that both Secure Shell and its acronym SSH were generic terms that can't be protected by trademarks. Ultimately, the working group voted 3 to 1 to reject Ylönen's request. 'I'm very disappointed,' Ylönen said after the meeting. 'What will I do next? Consult my lawyers.'"

The Wireless Underground: San Francisco's Free Computer Networks. In this case, it isn't about free software, it is about illegal access to poorly secured (if secured at all) wireless networks in downtown San Francisco. Check out this SFGate article on the subject, which reports on tests done by folks from the Bay Area Wireless User Group (BAWUG).

"We walked around the Financial District with a laptop and an antenna, and we could pick up about six networks per block," says Matt Peterson, a network engineer and founder of the Bay Area Wireless User Group (BAWUG).

Aside from networks that were not intended to be open, though, others are being intentionally left open by individuals, freely allowing others to use their wireless networks to get connected if they happen to be in the area. That provides an interesting model for communities to provide Internet access to the community as a whole.

Unless you are intending to contribute to such a free community, though, configuring your wireless system to only allow specific MAC addresses to connect is recommended.

A Windows/Linux virus?. A company called Central Command ("Without us, there's no defense") has put out a press release claiming the discovery of a virus that can infect both Windows and Linux systems. It works by infecting executable files in the local directory, so it's not going to get all that far in the Linux world... the "media virus," on the other hand, seems to be propagating well, with articles in Reuters, ZDNet, and Newsbytes.

Security Reports

New Linux worm sighted. Here's an alert from SANS on the so-called "Lion worm" which has been recently sighted on the net. This worm takes advantage of the well-known holes in BIND (fixed by most distributors back in January) to break into new systems. At that point it does a number of unpleasant things. Those who have applied their BIND updates need not worry; the rest of you should probably do so fairly soon. SANS has also posted a detection and removal script. (Thanks to Greg Bailey).

Kerberos libkrb4 race condition. A race condition in libkrb4 can be exploited to overwrite the contents of any file on the system.

VIM statusline Text-Embedded Command Execution Vulnerability. A security problem has been reported in VIM where VIM codes could be maliciously embedded in files and then executed in vim-enhanced or vim-X11.

Buffer overflows in imapd, pop2d and pop3d. SuSE issued an advisory this week concerning buffer overflows in imapd, ipop2d and ipop3d. The advisory implies that these overflows became remotely exploitable due to a configuration error: "Due to a misconfiguration these vulnerbilities could be triggered remotely after a user had been authenticated".

This implies that the vulnerability may be specific to SuSE, though the advisory does not explicitly confirm this.

FCheck local command execution vulnerability. FCheck, a perl-based file integrity checker, contains an insecurely-programmed call to open() which does not properly filter user input. As a result, a file can be created with metacharacters in the filename that, when scanned by FCheck, will cause it to execute the commands under the FCheck uid. FCheck 2.6.57 through 2.78.58 are vulnerable; FCheck 2.78.59 is not. Check BugTraq ID 2497 for more details.

UFS/ext2fs data consistency race condition. FreeBSD has reported a data consistency race condition that affects the Unix File System (UFS), commonly used on BSD and other Unix systems and ext2fs, commonly used on Linux systems. This race condition may be used by one user to gain access to data from files deleted by other users. A patch for FreeBSD has been provided.

MySQL 3.23.36 released, fixing security hole. An apparently ancient security hole in MySQL where database names starting with ".." were accepted by MySQL has been closed in the latest release, MySQL 3.23.36.

web scripts. The following web scripts were reported to contain vulnerabilities:

  • Akopia Interchange, a GPL'd ecommerce system, contains sample scripts which can allow unauthenicated users to access the web administration database with privilege. A simple change to the sample code will fix the problem.

  • SWSoft ASPSeek s.cgi versions 1.0.0 through 1.0.3 contain a buffer overflow vulnerability which can be used to execute arbitrary commands under the uid of the webserver. No fix or workaround has been provided so far.

    Update: we've been informed that we're somewhat behind the times on ASPSeek development. The vulnerability described here was fixed in 1.0.4, and remains fixed in several subsequent releases. We regret the error.

  • The cgi-script 'pwc' is reported to contain a format string vulnerability.

Commercial products. The following commercial products were reported to contain vulnerabilities:

  • Cisco has released an advisory for the Cisco Catalyst SSH Protocol Mismatch Vulnerability. It affects Cisco VPN 3000 series concentrators with software prior to version 3.0.00 and allows a flood of data to cause a reboot. An upgrade to 3.0.00 should fix the problem.


licq URL checking problem. Check the March 22nd LWN Security Summary for the original report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

timed denial-of-service vulnerability. Check the March 15th security report for this denial-of-service vulnerability in timed.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

sgml-tools temporary file vulnerability. See the March 15th LWN security page for the initial report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

ePerl buffer overflows. Check the March 8th LWN Security Summary for the initial report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

sudo buffer overflow. Check the March 1st LWN Security Summary for the original report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

joe file handling vulnerability. Check the March 1st LWN Security Summary for the initial report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

BSD ftpd single byte buffer overflow. Check the December 21st, 2000 LWN Security Summary for the initial report. NetBSD and OpenBSD systems are affected; FreeBSD is not. BugTraq ID 2124 also covers this issue.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:
  • Trustix, not vulnerable, but new BSD ftpd packages provided anyway (December 21st, 2001)
  • OpenBSD (December 21st, 2000)
  • Trustix, BSD ftpd packages updated due to a typo in the original patch (December 21st, 2000)


Bastille Linux 1.2.0.pre22 (Testing Releases). A new development version of Bastille Linux was announced Tuesday. This snapshot primarily contains bugfixes and apparently heralds the nearness of the new stable release, Bastille Linux 1.2.0.

Linux Intrusion Detection System 0.9.15 for 2.2.19. With the release of Linux kernel 2.2.19, a new version of the the Linux Intrusion Detection Systems (LIDS) has been announced, LIDS 0.9.15.

Avaya Releases Linux Security Software. Avaya Labs announced it is releasing Libsafe 2.0, a version of its free security software for Linux. Libsafe version 2.0 adds the ability to protect against security attacks that exploit "format string" vulnerabilities in software.

Czech PGP Flaw Tech Details. Details from the PGP Flaw reported last week have been released in a technical paper, along with Hal Finney's analysis of the flaw, which was posted to the OpenPGP list.

New Turbolinux key. The Turbolinux staff has updated their public key.


Upcoming security events.
Date Event Location
March 29, 2001. Security of e-Finance and e-Commerce Forum Series Manhattan, New York, USA.
March 30-April 1, 2001. @LANta.CON Doraville, GA, USA.
April 6-8, 2001. Rubi Con 2001 Detroit, MI, USA.
April 8-12, 2001. RSA Conference 2001 San Francisco, CA, USA.
April 20-22, 2001. First annual iC0N security conference Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
April 22-25, 2001. Techno-Security 2001 Myrtle Beach, SC, USA.
April 24-26, 2001. Infosecurity Europe 2001 London, Britain, UK.
May 13-16, 2001. 2001 IEEE Symposium on Security Oakland, CA, USA.
May 13-16, 2001. CHES 2001 Paris, France.
May 29, 2001. Security of Mobile Multiagent Systems (SEMAS-2001) Montreal, Canada.
May 31-June 1, 2001. The first European Electronic Signatures Summit London, England, UK.

For additional security-related events, included training courses (which we don't list above) and events further in the future, check out Security Focus' calendar, one of the primary resources we use for building the above list. To submit an event directly to us, please send a plain-text message to lwn@lwn.net.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

March 29, 2001

LWN Resources

Secured Distributions:
Astaro Security
Engarde Secure Linux
Kaladix Linux
NSA Security Enhanced
Openwall GNU/Linux

Security Projects
Linux Security Audit Project
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Security List Archives
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Distribution-specific links
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BSD-specific links

Security mailing lists
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Security Software Archives
ZedZ.net (formerly replay.com)

Miscellaneous Resources
Comp Sec News Daily
Security Focus


 Main page
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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release is still 2.4.2. The 2.4.3 prepatch is up to 2.4.3pre8; some of the issues with the memory management changes are still being worked out, so expect another prepatch or two before the real 2.4.3 release comes out. Alan Cox, meanwhile, is up to 2.4.2ac27.

The 2.2.19 kernel has been released, finally. No release notes are available yet, but the final product will look very much like 2.2.19pre18.

A couple of 2.4.2 problems have been biting people. While the 2.4 kernel is highly stable for most people, there are a couple of problems that have been creating difficulties for some users. Here's what you should be watching out for if you're running 2.4.2:

  • Loopback mounts do not work. This problem is not new - it has been known since the 2.4.0-test days. Nonetheless, one could say that the existence of the problem has not been highly publicised. Loopback mounts allow the mounting of a filesystem contained within a regular file on another filesystem. A common use for loopback mounts is to mount ISO (CDROM) images that are sitting in a large disk file. If you attempt that under 2.4.2, the mount process will go into an uninterruptible wait, thus becoming an unkillable process.

    A patch, written by Jens Axboe, has been in circulation for some time; it is already incorporated into the "ac" series and into the 2.4.3 prepatch. Some vendors shipping 2.4 kernels have integrated the patch into their systems as well. This particular problem will be history soon.

  • The "out of memory" (OOM) killer is being invoked too soon. The OOM killer is supposed to run when the system needs memory and is absolutely unable to find any. Its job is to start killing processes to free up some memory, while doing its best to not kill anything important. The approach used by the OOM killer was discussed in some detail in October 12, 2000 LWN kernel page.

    The OOM killer has gotten some bad press this week from people who think it chooses badly, or that it should not exist at all. Doing without an OOM killer entirely would be hard; even if the kernel is patched so that it does not overcommit memory, situations can arise when memory is simply not to be found. The alternative to killing a process in that situation is, generally, to allow the system to lock up.

    Most users, however, should never have the opportunity to see the OOM killer in operation. It takes a severely stressed system to run that short of memory. Or that is the idea, anyway. It would appear that the system is calling the OOM killer when there is plenty of other memory that the system should be able to free without killing processes. Nobody has yet announced that they have found or fixed the problem, however.

Regression testing for the Linux kernel? Problems like the loopback lockup described above lead some to wonder if maybe the kernel needs a formalized regression testing system. Given the complexity of the system, weird bugs are going to be a frequent consequence of code changes. Many software development projects employ regression testing in order to trap as many of those problems as possible before they bite somebody. But the Linux kernel has never had a serious regression testing program.

Some aspects of the kernel are rather resistant to formal regression testing. In particular, it would be difficult indeed to formally test all of the possible hardware combinations out there. For this sort of testing, the kernel probably already has the ideal setup: thousands of brave souls who routinely download and run development kernels. These testers can check things out on their hardware, but they are not the same as a formal testing program that is designed to cover as much of the code as possible.

There are a couple of testing efforts out there now. The most prominent one, perhaps, is the Linux Test Project which is run by SGI. It currently includes about 100 tests, most of which check the performance of various system calls (though there is also one that tests f00f bug handling as well). The PowerPC architecture also has a limited set of regression tests to be sure that its kernels can build and boot.

These are both good efforts, but they are a far cry from a comprehensive testing program. A complete job will be a tremendous amount of work, and it remains to be seen if anybody can find enough motivation to do the whole job.

How big should dev_t be? Linux, like its Unix ancestors since the beginning, identifies devices with a sixteen-bit number, known by its C type dev_t. Of those sixteen bits, eight are the major number (essentially, the index of the driver which handles the device), and eight are the minor number (usually interpreted by the driver as a unit number). Thus, a total of 256 major and 256 minor numbers are available (well...OK...actually double that, since the number spaces for block and char devices are independent).

That is not a whole lot of device numbers. Some types of devices have needed more that 256 minor numbers for some time; SCSI disks and pseudo terminals are a couple of obvious examples. To make up for the lack of minor numbers, these devices have multiple major numbers assigned. But major numbers, too, are in short supply: a look at the current device number allocation document shows that only numbers 226-239 are unassigned.

So it has been accepted wisdom that dev_t needs to grow for a while. It is generally expected that the 2.5 development series will create a larger dev_t, and deal with the various user space compatibility issues that this change will cause. In fact, most of those issues will be relatively minor; glibc has been using a much larger dev_t for some time already. Thus, most applications should not notice the change. There are some exceptions, though: tar files, for example, have 8-bit major and minor numbers built into them.

While there is agreement on the need to grow dev_t, it has become clear that there is little consensus on how big the type should become. Andries Brouwer started a little storm with a posting stating that a 64-bit value should be used. 64 bits is what glibc uses, and it would be large enough to not run out anytime soon, even if "sparse" allocation schemes are used.

Linus, however, replied by saying, flat out, that a 64-bit dev_t would not be accepted. His proposal is to go to a 32-bit value, with twelve bits for major numbers and twenty for minor numbers. His reasoning, essentially, is:

  • Major numbers do not need much expansion; we have not, yet, even managed to exhaust eight bits. Since major numbers tend to be used in table lookups (to find the driver when a device is opened, for example), the major number space should not be so large that the lookup table takes too much memory.

  • There is a need for more minor numbers, especially for things like pseudo terminals on large, multiuser systems. But twenty bits should be more than enough even for that use.
Linus sees 64-bit device numbers as being wasteful kernel bloat which encourages bad habits, and, perhaps most importantly, is contrary to the direction that he wants to go. His plan appears to be to try to get away from static major numbers for most devices. Rather than having a dedicated major number, a device driver should allocate one dynamically when it initializes and export it to user space via /proc. Either that, or it should just use devfs, which simply takes device numbers out of the picture for the most part.

That last idea is likely to draw some complaints. The inclusion of devfs in the kernel shut down most of the flame wars, but a lot of people still do not like it and do not configure it into their systems. If devfs becomes a required component in the future, expect some disgruntlement in the ranks.

The 2.5 development kickoff kernel hackers summit is happening in San Jose on March 30 and 31; it's sponsored by VA Linux Systems. This invitation-only event will host most of the planet's active Linux kernel hackers, and should lay much of the groundwork for the upcoming 2.5 development series. A preliminary agenda has been posted, showing some of the topics up for discussion.

Your humble kernel page editor managed to wrangle an invitation based on his device driver book work, and hopes to be able to do some interesting reporting from the summit - to the extent that can be done without hindering the free and open nature of the discussion.

Other patches and updates released this week include:

  • Justin T. Gibbs has posted version 6.1.8 of the aic7xxx SCSI driver. Among other things, the latest version fixes a build-time quirk that required those building the 2.4.3 prepatch kernels to have Berkeley DB1 installed on their systems.

  • Keith Owens has released modutils 2.4.5 and kdb v1.18.

  • Keith has also posted a proposal for a new kernel interface which would provide efficient access to the performance monitoring registers on large, multiprocessor systems.

  • Eric Raymond posted several updates to the CML2 configuration system, culminating in CML2 0.9.7. Along the way, there was a strong debate on the renaming of a number of configuration symbols and a push by Eric to get CML2 incorporated into the 2.4 kernel before the 2.5 development series starts. Alan Cox, however, has indicated that he is not willing to do that.

  • Jonathan Morton has released a patch which enables the kernel to run in a mode where it does not overcommit memory, making it much harder to find oneself in an "out of memory" situation. The patch also makes some tweaks to the OOM killer.

  • Richard Gooch has announced devfs-v99.20 - a backport of the device filesystem to the 2.2.19 kernel.

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

March 29, 2001

For other kernel news, see:

Other resources:


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Distributions page.

Lists of Distributions
Woven Goods

Embedded Distributions:

BluePoint Embedded
Compact Linux
Embedded Debian
Hard Hat Linux
OnCore Systems
RedBlue Linux
Royal Linux
White Dwarf Linux

Familiar (iPAQ)
Intimate (iPAQ)
Linux DA

Secured Distributions:
Astaro Security
Engarde Secure Linux
Kaladix Linux
NSA Security Enhanced
Openwall GNU/Linux

Special Purpose/Mini
2-Disk Xwindow System
Mindi Linux

Coyote Linux
Fd Linux
Fli4l (Floppy ISDN/DSL)
Linux in a Pillbox (LIAP)
Linux Router Project
Small Linux

BBLCD Toolkit
Crash Recovery Kit
innominate Bootable Business Card
Linuxcare Bootable Business Card
Sentry Firewall
Timo's Rescue CD
Virtual Linux

Zip disk-based

Small Disk
--> Peanut Linux
Relax Linux

Bambi Linux
Flying Linux

ARM Linux
Scyld Beowulf
Think Blue Linux
(Oracle's NIC)
NIC Linux
Black Lab Linux
Yellow Dog
(Older Intel)
Monkey Linux

DOS/Windows install
Armed Linux
Phat Linux

Diskless Terminal
GNU/Linux TerminalServer for Schools


Please note that security updates from the various distributions are covered in the security section.

News and Editorials

Linux Distribution Use in Singapore. Last week, Distributions editor Liz Coolbaugh had her first opportunity to report first-hand from a Linux conference in Asia. As part of that, she presented her usual talk on Linux Distributions and asked the audience for information on what distributions they were using. There were a few surprises in what she learned.

First, over half of the audience indicated that they were currently using Red Hat for their distribution. Although we expected to see a strong Red Hat presence, we had not expected it to be this strong. After Red Hat, there was a respectable number of attendees using SuSE, Debian and Slackware (at least four audience members out of around 80 attendees), but the gap between them and Red Hat was very large.

The remaining surprises? There were no Caldera OpenLinux users. Is that a surprise? Caldera has never targeted the Asia market. Well, consider that the Caldera distribution has been around for as long as Red Hat and Caldera is the only other Linux distribution vendor that made it through the IPO process last year, so it should be reasonably well capitalized. Nonetheless, it had no presence at this show, in stark contrast to Red Hat. More importantly, it was also "missing" from a similar informal survey done in January at LinuxWorld New York. This same talk and similar surveys have been done at LUG meetings and at the Atlanta Linux Showcase 1999 previously and before, Caldera was always at least represented.

Another surprise: No ASPLinux users raised their hands. ASPLinux is a Singapore-based distribution, in fact, the only one. On the other hand, they just announced the release of their first stable product, so the fact that they are not being used yet has some explanation.

The bigger surprise, though, was that not a single member of the audience claimed to be using Turbolinux. Turbolinux, with main branches in both the US and Japan, claims a sizable presence in China. We had expected, as a result, to see at least some presence in Singapore.

One key thread among many of the talks at the conference was cluster technology, an area in which Turbolinux has also been hard at work. Donald Becker was present to talk about Scyld Beowulf, Dr. Putchong Uthayopas, from Kasetsart University, in Bangkok, talked about building and remotely managing clusters, and Shuvam Misra talked about a cluster implementation supporting India's National Stock Exchange. Yet still, Turbolinux did not have a booth or other presence at the conference and was not mentioned to us by any of the attendees. We don't really have any speculation on why not; this is just a data point, a piece of a puzzle that will hopefully make sense at a later date.

Of course, having shared these impressions with you, it is time to apply the caveats. None of the data above was collected as part of an official survey. The audience participation was based on interest and does not represent a random sample. The audience was not particularly large and therefore could be easily skewed. So don't draw massive conclusions from the information above. Instead, take the information as it is meant to be, a few data points that serve as good fodder for speculation, discussion and possible future research.

Distribution News

Red Hat News. A new test release of XFree86 4.0.3-3 and Mesa-3.4-13 has been made available. Note that this release is strongly not recommended for use on production systems.

Red Hat also released three non-security-related package updates this week, for gnorpm (to enable it to work with rpm-4.0.2), ucd-snmp (also required once rpm is updated to 4.0.2) and pam_krb5, to fix a problem with Kerberos authentication that was causing intermittent login failures.

LinuxPPC News. On March 23rd, LinuxPPC announced a contest in which the ten lucky winners would receive a copy of LinuxPPC 2000 Q4, the company's latest version of Linux for the Power Macintosh platform, along with a Linux PPC T-shirt. Contestants are asked to write a brief essay on why they use Linux on the PowerPC processor. They announced their first winner today, Jiro Fujita of Omaha, Nebraska. Here is a link to the winning essay. "After spending many hours trying to maximize the performance of the web server (my boss' desktop G3/266 running MacOS running Personal WebSharing) and many many restarts, I talked him into moving to a Linux box. ... In his mind, running on a PPC 604e at 200 MHz couldn't possibly be faster than running on a G3 at 266 MHz. What he didn't realize was that Linux runs a lot more efficiently than MacOS".

Note that the contest was started in response to the release of Apple Mac OS X.

Yellow Dog News. Apparently the release of Yellow Dog Linux 2.0 has been delayed. Terrasoft has issued an explanation, along with an apology, for the delay. "In what we hoped to be our final stress tests last week, we uncovered several new problems including a bug in the partitioning code. We are working hard this week and the next to resolve these issues. We have made our 2.0 package set (based upon Red Hat 7) available for any power users to test and provide feedback. We've already fixed several, relatively minor bugs discovered through public beta tests and appreciate this assistance".

No exact date has been given for the postponed release. Presumably it will come when the problems have been resolved and they are confident in the new package.

muLinux News. muLinux 11r11 was released last Friday and includes minor feature enhancements such as a statically linked "fdformat" command and IPv4 masquerading modules. muLinux is a single-floppy Linux distribution now gaining popularity with use in the embedded Linux arena.

Debian News. Within hours of the publication of this edition of LWN, the current Debian leader elections will be over. They end at midnight, March 28th, at the international date line. To check what date or time that matches in your own time zone, use the command:

        date --date='2001-03-28 23:59:59 -1200'

Slackware News. One new addition to all three Slackware platforms this week was cdparanoia alpha9.7, a Compact Disc digital extraction program described as "really nice" and "rock-solid", despite its alpha status.

The other major update this week was the upgrade to Apache 1.3.19, which included a total restructuring of the package, moving it from the /var/lib/apache tree and placing it instead under /usr. All of the changes seem geared to bring that package in-line with the File System Hierarchy Standard. Note that the Apache upgrade has not yet been done on the Sparc platform, only the Intel and Alpha.

Specific to the Alpha platform was an upgrade to XFree86 4.0.3. All platforms also got upgrades to the tcpip2 and yptools packages, as well as new versions of fdutils and mtools.

On the userlocal.com forum, we found a link to this new article, Slackware Linux 101. It uses Slackware to demonstrate the system initialization sequence. "In particular, Slackware's init structure is more akin to the BSD UNIX structure than the System V structure, though with the latest distribution of Slackware there are some concessions for programs that want to add services to startup but expect a System V directory structure".

SuSE News. SuSE announced two new products this week, including SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, a new version of the SuSE Linux operating system that has been optimized for use on servers and SuSE Linux 7.1 Power PC Edition.

The first finishes SuSE's move from providing a single distribution product for the Intel platform to providing three tailored versions: "SuSE Linux Personal", "SuSE Linux Professional" and now "SuSE Linux Server".

The second makes the latest version of SuSE available for the PowerPC platform, bringing the number of supported platforms for SuSE Linux 7.1 up to three, including Intel, Alpha and now PowerPC. SuSE also supports the SPARC and IBM eSeries (S/390) platforms, so presumably there are more such announcements to come.

Distribution Reviews

SuSE Linux 7.1 (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL released a review of SuSE 7.1 this week. "Performance is pretty good for a distribution that is optimized for the 486 based PC. There is a noticable speed difference when running the 2.4 kernel, though not enough to make a major difference. However it does have a good feel to it that makes it very acceptable for day to day productivity". Overall, they commented that SuSE 7.1 had set a new standard for other distributions to beat.

SuSE 7.1 Professional still in minor leagues (ZDNet). The review above contrasts a bit with this one from ZDNet. "As a desktop operating system, SuSE 7.1 Professional would be a good fit only for Microsoft haters and cash-strapped companies installing systems for the first time". Note that this review was specific to the Professional version of SuSE, aimed at technical desktop users, and is being compared with Windows, not other Linux distributions. They did still compliment KDE 2.0, Yast2 and the level of device detection now provided.

Section Editor: Liz Coolbaugh

March 29, 2001

Please note that not every distribution will show up every week. Only distributions with recent news to report will be listed.

Caldera OpenLinux
Debian GNU/Linux
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Also well-known
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Non-technical desktop
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Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a proprietary product, (w) denotes WINE based tools.

Office Suites
Ability (*)(w)
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(formerly "Applixware")
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StarOffice / OpenOffice
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Java / Web Office Suites
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Desktop Publishing
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Web Browsers
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Handheld Tools
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On The Desktop

KDE 2.1.1 release announcement. The KDE folks have announced the release of KDE 2.1.1. "The primary goals of the 2.1.1 release are to improve documentation and provide additional language translations for the user interface, although the release includes a few bugfixes, and improvements to the HTML rendering engine."

The list of changes details the differences between KDE 2.1 and 2.1.1. A few highlights are: Lithuanian language support, improved translations, better docs, and new icons. Chinese support has been improved. Konqueror saw the most change with security fixes, lots of KHTML work, and other bug fixes. In general, this release appears to contain a lot more fixes than additions, stability is a good thing.

KDE 2.1.1 is available for download on the numerous project mirror sites.

Siag Office. Siag Office is a free office package for Unix. The name stands for Scheme In A Grid, where Scheme, of course, is a variant of the Lisp programming language.

With a motto like It sucks less! and a word processor called Pathetic Writer, we can assume that the Siag Office developers have a sense of humor. [Siag]

Siag 3.5.0 pre1 is the recently released development version, and Siag 3.4.8 is the stable version, both are available for download.

  • Siag Spreadsheet contains some rather unusual features, including use of the Scheme programming language, a built-in mini web server, a file manager, mail capabilities, and even user mangement tools. The online docs fill in the details.
  • Pathetic Writer, the Siag Office word processor seems fairly straightforward, it has support for RTF, HTML, ABS, and PDF formats, and visually resembles a number of other popular word processors. The Pathetic Writer Docs give a good introduction to the program.
  • Egon Animator is the Siag Office animation tool, which allows animations to be created with a GUI interface or written in Scheme. Egon Animator can save its output in HTML, PDF, PostScript, and plaintext formats. See the online docs for more information.
Siag Office is licensed under the Gnu Public License. It is good to have choices, and Siag is a welcome addition to the list of free Linux office suites. (Thanks to Ganster)

Desktop Environments

KDE Community Launches New KDE Zine Project. A New KDE Zine Project has been launched. "Just a few short weeks ago, discussion about the possibilities of creating a print magazine cropped up on the KDE-promo mailing list. Today, the discussion has spawned its own mailing list, the beginnings of a Web site located at zine.kde.org, and a small group of volunteers who are busy working out myriad details involved in bringing a print publication to life."

Kernel Cousin KDE Issue #3 is Out. The Kernel Cousin KDE #3 for March 23 is now available. It summarizes ten threads, including coverage of the new powerful Kant editor in kdebase, Palm Pilot ioslaves, KDE socks support, a new font selection widget with font previews, and more.

KDE 2.1, What's new, what's cool, and why you need to get it (Linux Orbit). Linux Orbit takes a look at KDE 2.1 in a feature article. "With the release of KDE 2.0 on October 23, 2000, the KDE development team upped the ante in the bid for the hearts and minds of GNU/Linux desktop users. With major improvements in features and stability, KDE users couldn't wait for the next version. When KDE 2.1 arrived on February 26, 2001, few were disappointed."

Sodipodi 'GNOME Hall of Fame'. The Sodipodi Project (which is producing a nice vector drawing editor) announced the Sodipodi 'GNOME Hall of Fame'. The SGHF is part-fun, part serious. It is intended to be a list of respected hackers of the GNOME Desktop, with Portraits of all the people in question.

Office Applications

AbiWord: Free Word processing on all platforms now! (LinuxPower). LinuxPower talks to AbiWord developer Dominic Lachowicz. "AbiWord supports a large number of document formats, and we're always hoping to add more, as they only enhance our total value and usability. Currently AbiWord can import from the following formats: AbiWord, MsWord, DocBook, XHTML, Palm Doc, Psion Word/Text, RTF, TXT & UTF8, WML, and Gzipped AbiWord. AbiWord can export to the following formats: AbiWord, Applix 4.0, DocBook, XHTML, LaTeX, Palm Doc, Psion Word/Text, TXT & UTF8, WML, and Gzipped AbiWord. We're currently working on MsWord export, as well better Applix support and supporting the KWord, MIF, Siag Pathetic Writer, and OpenOffice formats."

Desktop Applications

Mozilla 0.8.1 released. A new version of the Mozilla browser, version 0.8.1, has been released. The release notes document a number of changes, including an improved Chatzilla IRC client, an improved JavaScript Console, better theme switching, a theme uninstaller, hierarchical history, gopher support, and lots more.

Important announcement for users of KMail 1.0.x / KDE 1.x. Old versions of KMail will stop working correctly on September 9, 2001 according to this announcement. Users should update to KDE 2.1, which includes KMail 1.2 to avoid problems.

GNU nano's first stable release. GNU nano is a GPL'd clone of the UW Pico editor. While remaining close to the original, it also adds some features that were missing in Pico as well as a sane license. GNU nano is a good editor for newbie users, as it's very simple and easy to learn.

Mahogany 0.62 release. Version 0.62 of the Mahogany mail and news client has been released. This release includes numerous bug fixes, speed optimizations, and a few new features.

Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel

March 29, 2001

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a proprietary product, (w) denotes WINE based tools.

Desktop Environments

Window Managers (WM's)

Minimalist Environments

Widget Sets

Desktop Graphics
CorelDRAW (*)(w)
Photogenics (*)

Windows on Linux

Kids S/W
Linux For Kids

Send link submissions to lwn@lwn.net


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News and Editorials

A new version (1.4) of a document extraction tool known as HappyDoc has been released. "HappyDoc is a tool for extracting documentation from Python source code. It differs from other such applications by the fact that it uses the parse tree for a module to derive the information used in its output, rather that importing the module directly. This allows the user to generate documentation for modules which need special context to be imported."

This is an interesting concept, there must be a ton of useful information embedded in the source code of software projects. Code analysis is by no means a new field, but the creation of documentation from code analysis could be an area that is worthy of further study.

Documentation could be derived from code using several approaches:

  • Looking at the code's structure: The structure of a program reveals a lot of how the code works. Happydoc works on this principal, and there are, no doubt, many other examples of this kind of code.
  • Analyzing the code's data: Data structures reveal much about the function of code, software that collects this information and presents it in a useful way could be helpful in writing documentation.
  • Filtering out the code's comments: A lot of the information embedded inside of comments is very specific to the code that it describes, possibly to the point of uselessness for generating documentation. Comments can also be out of date or misleading. Nonetheless, looking at all of the comments in a body of code as a whole could be a useful method for deriving some useful documentation from code. Trouble areas in the code would likely stand out. In fact, the comments in the Linux kernel source code were analyzed and a lot of colorful language was revealed.
Through the use of Perl, Python, or other high level languages, it should be possible to write a program that looks at a piece of code from all of these angles and produces a pile of output, some of which could be useful for writing documentation. Documentation is famous for being left as the last task, or never finished. Having automated tools for assisting in the generation of documentation could go a long way towards making the job less painful. Such an effort might even uncover a new bugs.


SnackAmp 1.3 released. Version 1.3 of SnackAmp has been released. SnackAmp is a Tcl/Tk based Mp3 player that uses the snack sound extension.


LDP Weekly News for March 27, 2001. Just in time for LWN publication, the March 27, 2001 edition of the LDP Weekly News is out. This issue features a new document, the Remote Serial Console HOWTO, and numerous updated documents. (Thanks to David C. Merrill.)

Embedded Systems

Embedded Linux Newsletter for Mar. 22, 2001 (LinuxDevices.com). The weekly Embedded Linux Newsletter from LinuxDevices.com is available. This week's coverage included A 6-part special feature on Midori Linux, GtkFB -- GTK+ for the Linux framebuffer, and details about Sharp's new Linux-based PDA.

Filesystem Software

Common threads: Learning Linux LVM, Part 1 (IBM developerWorks). In this article from IBM developerWorks site, the concepts behind Linux LVM (Logical Volume Management) are introduced, showing readers how to get the latest kernel patches and tools installed on a system. "What happens if you need to expand a filesystem so that it spans more than one hard drive, or what do you do if you need to dynamically expand or shrink a volume's storage capacity while allowing Apache to continue to serve Web pages? In a highly available, dynamic environment, a basic partition resizer just won't work. For these and other situations, Logical Volume Management is an excellent (if not perfect) solution."

Network Management

OpenNMS Update. The OpenNMS update for March 20, 2001 is available. This issue covers project status; new offices, new servers, new build stuff, upcoming road shows, and more.

Just in time for this week's LWN, the OpenNMS update for March 27, 2001 is also available. Topics this week include preparation for the 0.7.2 release which just may show up late next week, new core team members, report generation, and more.


BioRuby, Bioinformatics in Ruby. The BioRuby project has been created to provide an integrated environment for Bioinformatics software development with the Ruby language.

Software Development Tools

Optimizing your machine for your needs (IBM developerWorks). Teodor Zlatanor shows us some tricks for setting up a Linux user account for software development in an IBM developerWorks article. "After customizing tcsh, Enlightenment, Eterm, and Emacs for a Java and Perl-oriented programming environment, Teodor shows us the configuration of his desktop in Linux. It is optimized for a Java and Perl programming setup, but doubtless other programmers will find many useful tips." We feel obliged to add some Unix trivia, the rc suffix for .cshrc, .bashrc etc stands for Run Command.

State Map Compiler Version 1.0 beta 4 released. A beta version of the State Map Compiler has been released. "SMC takes a state map description (stored in a .sm file) and generates State pattern classes in a target language (C++, Java or Tcl currently supported). SMC is a console based app written in Java 1.2 which means SMC can run anywhere Java 1.2 (or better) can run."

Web-site Development

Squishdot 1.0 released. Squishdot 1.0 has been released. Squishdot is a Slashdot-like system built on Zope. This release includes an important security fix; sites currently using squishdot should certainly upgrade. (Thanks to Navindra Umanee).

Midgard 1.4.1 released. Version 1.4.1 of the "Midgard Content Management and Application Serving Suite" has been released. This release, codenamed 'bifrost,' includes PHP4 support and a number of other goodies.

Measuring Web traffic (IBM developerWorks). Andrei Malacinski, Scott Dominick, and Tom Hartrick delve into the topic of web server logfile analysis in a two-part IBM developerWorks article. Part 1 covers the general ideas and strategies and part 2 goes into the nitty gritty details of log file content analysis.

Window System Software

The Pango connection: Part 1 (IBM developerWorks). IBM developerWorks introduces Pango, the next generation text rendering library that will be delivered with GTK+ 2.0. "Pango is an open-source framework for the layout and rendering of internationalized text, including right-to-left scripts and scripts such as Tamil where glyphs are context-sensitive. Not surprisingly, Pango uses Unicode characters internally (represented using UTF-8), and Pango's interfaces also use UTF-8."

The People behind KDE: Michael Häckel. KMail hacker Michael Häckel is the focus of the latest "People behind KDE" feature. "KMail is a central tonality of the KDE harmony. Part of the team of developers who invest work and passion into this interesting project, Michael Häckel hacks away, making great contributions to the KDE Project".

KDE Developer's Checklist. Jeff Tranter has put together a KDE Developer's Checklist with a ton of useful advice for porting software to KDE. "KDE developers, especially new ones, can easily overlook some tasks or features when developing applications or making changes to existing ones. KDE is a large system and, while much of the information exists somewhere, there is no one comprehensive set of development standards."

Word Processors

LyX Development News for March 28, 2001. The March 28, 2001 edition of the LyX Development News is available. This edition contains a number of amusing awards such as the Asbestos Suit Award. Also included are notes on the LyX-1.1.6 release, and numerous other LyX related items. (Thanks to Allan Rae.)

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

March 29, 2001

Application Links
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Open Source Code Collections
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Programming Languages



Caml Weekly News. The latest report from the Caml world by David Mentré is out. News includes the CamlP4 3.01 release, LablGTK 1.2.0, the Timbuk A Tree Automata Library, a Caml development kit, and more.


Securing systems: Using Java technology in high-stakes systems (IBM developerWorks). Joseph Sinclair talks about security issues facing the development of Java based information systems. "As J2EE-based systems become more prevalent, and sensitive data is more commonplace, the ability to effectively secure and manage Internet-accessible systems ceases to be a luxury and becomes a necessity. This general overview -- the first in a series of articles -- examines how Java technology can be used to secure systems in which the consequences of mistaken identity can be particularly destructive."


Perl 5 Porters for March 26, 2001. The March 26, 2001 edition of Perl 5 Porters is out. Topics include glob(), a bug in use Errno, open() trickery, Net::Ping, and much more.

DBD::Chart 0.30 announced. Version 0.30 of DBD::Chart has been announced. "DBD::Chart is a Perl DBI driver abstraction for rendering charts and graphs using a variant of SQL".

Inline::Java - Write Perl classes in Java. Inline::Java version 0.01 is available. Inline::Java allows you to write Perl classes in Java.


PHP Weekly News for March 26, 2001. The March 26, 2001 edition of the PHP Weekly News is out. Topics include the new PHP 4.0.5 RC2 release of PHP, PHP-GTK 0.3, Fast CGI, documentation updates, and more.

Variable Manipulation and Output (O'Reilly). John Coggeshall discusses PHP Variables in an O'Reilly PHP Dev Center article. "This article will conclude our discussion of variables in PHP by presenting the numerous ways that atomic PHP variables can be manipulated and accessed within PHP scripts."


Python 2.0.1 heads-up. Moshe Zadka has posted a 'Release 2.0.1 Heads-Up' describing what will go into the imminent Python 2.0.1 release. This release is unique: it is a pure bugfix release, the first in Python's history. This is a testament to both the stability of the Python language implementation and the speed of its evolution. In the posting you'll find the rules for what can go into this release: they are quite strict. Mr. Zadka intends for the first bugfix release to be successful.

Python 2.1b2 released. Python 2.1b2 is now available. What's new for this version are: "Bugs fixed and documentation added. There's now an appendix of the Reference Manual documenting nested scopes".

Dr. Dobb's Python-URL! for March 26. The Dr. Dobb's Python-URL for March 26 is now available. It contains the Python 2.1b2 announcement, a 2.1b2 SRPM announcement, new documentation and more.

TuxBot Programming with Python (O'Reilly). Stephen Figgins talks about using Python and Linux for work with robotics in an article on the O'Reilly Python Devcenter. "Jonathan Pennington works with Legos. Specifically, he works with Lego Mindstorms, the robotics invention system. Pennington uses Lego robots and robots built with Handyboard kits to teach geological science to 8th grade kids -- in a program he calls Science Programs and Robotics for Kids (SPARK). The program has been good, but Pennington wants more power for his robots, more flexibility for the kids. He wants to program his robots in Python."

PyTREX: Python implementation of TREX (xmlhack). Xmlhack features an article on PyTREX, an open-source Python implementation of the TREX validation language.


Tix 8.2.0 Beta 1 released. Tix 8.2.0 Beta 1 has been announced. Tix is a library of useful widgets for Tcl/Tk and this version features improved support for Tcl namespaces, a revamped build system, updated docs, and more.

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

Language Links
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Linux and Business

ArsDigita Community System 4.0 Java release. This ZDNet article titled "ArsDigita gives Open Source a Try" makes it sound like the ArsDigita Community System (ACS) is just now being released as open source. In fact what's new is the Java-based version, ACS 4.0 Java that has just been released. The original ACS is a Tcl-based product. Both the Tcl-based product and the Java-based product are released under the GNU GPL and always have been according to Jim McManus, Director of Corporate Marketing at ArsDigita.

This press release contains more information about the ArsDigita Community System (ACS) 4.0 Java, which they believe is currently the only Open Source Java-based e-commerce system.

OEone to build appliance environment with Mozilla. The OEone Corporation has announced that it will be building its Operating Environment platform using Linux, Mozilla and a variety of components including productivity, entertainment, communications, and personal portal applications. This Operating Environment can be used in a host of Internet devices ranging from All-In-Ones, WebPads, SetTop Boxes, and Screen Phones. OEone-enabled devices are designed for accessibility to first-time computer users and mozilla.org hopes to gain widespread recognition as well.

Privacy Foundation report on TiVo. The Privacy Foundation has posted a report on TiVo's privacy practices, showing that the (Linux-based) device records a great deal of information on its users' habits. "The diagnostic log contains an enormous amount of information about the TiVo's device's internal processes. On one day, for instance, we observed almost 100 pages of information being deposited in the diagnostic log. We are not aware of any other consumer device that routinely transmits so much operational information to corporate headquarters."

TiVo, of course, claims that it carefully safeguards the information it collects on its users, and it may even be sincere. There is an important lesson to be learned from this report, though: just because a device is built with Linux does not mean that its designers are more concerned with customer privacy than designers of proprietary systems.

France Against Software Patents. The EuroLinux Alliance announced that State Secretary of Industry Christian Pierret, who is directly in charge of the French Patent Policy, stated in an interview, "I am against software patents in Europe. It would kill innovation and promote juridical terrorism because multinational software publishers would multiply legal disputes against start-ups".

Linux Steps Up: 23% Expected To Switch Over. SuSE has issued a press release with statistics from a TNS EMNID survey done in Germany. The results, however, are quite fun to hear. "According to a recent TNS EMNID survey, 56 percent of the interviewed PC users have heard of Linux and ten percent already use the alternative operating system at home or at work. ... Furthermore, 23 percent of the computer users consider switching to Linux when upgrading their equipment".

Carter Kohlmeyer also pointed out that some survey details were provided in the press release: "On behalf of SuSE Linux AG, telecommunication and IT market researchers of TNS EMNID interviewed 5,000 individuals, ages 14 and up, regarding the level of awareness and interest in the Linux operating system compared to Windows. The survey was realized from February 23 to March 9, 2001".

Red Hat breaks even. Red Hat has announced its 4th quarter results. The company brought in $27 million in the quarter, more than double last year's earnings. The total loss was $600,000, which is being presented as a break-even result, given that the loss is less than one cent per share.

Open source innovators join ActiveState. ActiveState has announced a reasonably impressive set of appointments to its technical advisory board: Larry Wall, Brendan Eich, Guido van Rossum, Rasmus Lerdorf, and Jon Udell.

Great Bridge and Zend announce partnership. Great Bridge and Zend Technologies have announced a partnership to tighten the integration between the PostgreSQL database the PHP scripting language.

Great Bridge also announced that PHP core developers Rasmus Lerdorf, Thies Arntzen and Sascha Schumann have joined the Great Bridge advisory committee.

Tucows, Infonautics announce merger. Tucows and Infonautics have announced a merger, with the resulting company to be called "Tucows." Tucows, of course, is the owner of LWN.net, so we, at least, are interested in this news...:) We don't expect that it will bring about changes in how LWN is operated.

SGI and Platform Computing Collaborate to Offer an EDA-Ready Linux Technical Compute Farm. SGI and Platform Computing Inc. announced the SGI Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Technical Compute Farm for Linux. The compute farm is based on the SGI 1100 server, featuring 32 1 GHz Pentium III processors. Platform's LSF (Load Sharing Facility) software is also a key component of the system.

Avaya Releases Linux Security Software. Avaya Labs announced it is releasing Libsafe 2.0, a version of its free security software for Linux. Libsafe version 2.0 adds the ability to protect against security attacks that exploit "format string" vulnerabilities in software.

Alias/Wavefront Ships Maya 3 For Linux. Alias|Wavefront, an SGI company, announced that it has ported its entire suite of Maya 3D software products to the Red Hat Linux operating system. The products - Maya Builder, Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited for Red Hat Linux 6.2 and higher - will all begin shipping this week.

Linux Stock Index for March 22 to March 28, 2001.

LSI at closing on March 22, 2001 ... 29.34
LSI at closing on March 28, 2001 ... 29.59
The high for the week was 31.37
The low for the week was 29.34

Press Releases:

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Unless specified, license is unverified.

Distributions and bundled products

Proprietary Products for Linux

Servers and Desktop Systems

Products and Services Using Linux

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Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.

March 29, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Linux in the news page.

Linux in the news

Recommended Reading

SSH inventor denied trademark request (NW Fusion). Network World Fusion reports on the IETF meeting where Tatu Ylönen's request for a name change for the ssh protocol was turned down. "But IETF participants argued that both Secure Shell and its acronym SSH were generic terms that can't be protected by trademarks. Ultimately, the working group voted 3 to 1 to reject 'Ylönens request. 'I'm very disappointed,' Ylönen said after the meeting. 'What will I do next? Consult my lawyers.'"

A World Without Microsoft (Red Pepper). A British magazine called "Red Pepper" has posted an introductory article about free software. "But [free software] is hardly a clear-cut, politically committed resistance movement -- or even a straightforward single-issue campaign. It is a convergence of individuals and groups ranging from philanthropists, to libertarians, to free market believers, to nerds with more passion for the minutiae of operating systems than any political ideology. And as the movement matures and its principles gain commercial ground, the community is cracking along its ideological faultlines." (Thanks to Tony Stanco).

Open-source credo moves to chip design. From Open Source Software to Open Source Hardware: not everyone is convinced that the situations are parallel, but work in the Open Source Hardware arena has been ongoing for several years. This CNet article takes a look at Opencores, one Open Source hardware project. "Open-source hardware owes its life to a number of individuals who, above all else, think it's fun to design chips and other hardware. The leaders of the movement congregate and share their ideas at focal points on the Internet, such as the OpenCores Web site". (Thanks to Sean Leather).

Embed Linux, and put Microsoft on the desktop (ZDNet). ZDNet's Kewney has put a finger on why Microsoft has been getting hot and bothered about Linux lately. "Embedded Windows is where Microsoft is hoping to make all its new revenue over the next decade. And Linux is a big threat to it, there".

On the desktop, though, he does point out another stumbling block we'll be encountering over the next few years. "'You can believe that Linux is ready for the desktop if you like,' he [the Man] told me recently while I was walking the dogs. 'But you just go to any temp agency, and say you need someone with Star Office experience for a week, while your office assistant is away on holiday. See what they say'".

In years past, temp agencies have coped with providing people who knew how to punch cards, who knew a variety of arcane proprietary hardware-based word-processing systems and more. So someday, finding a temp who knows Open Source will be possible. The author is correct, but he doesn't understand the time scale under which Open Source works. We can afford to be patient.

The nasty flip side to diversity: What's holding Linux back (ZDNet). After celebrating diversity by comparing Linux to pizza, ZDNet's Evan Leibovitch looks at the flip side, diversity creates problems for application developers. "There are many reasons you don't see a lot of commercial application software for Linux, but I have to put the lack of a single porting standard near the top. In my view, it even impedes the progress of open source software. The effort spent porting code and packages to multiple distributions is effort that could --and should--be spent making the packages themselves better."

Bulletin: 'Dangerous' Linux worm in the wild (CNN). CNN covers the Lion worm. "William Stearns, a senior research engineer at the federally funded Institute for Security Technology Studies housed at Dartmouth College, and chief author of the Lionfind utility, urged Linux system administrators to download the free code and ensure that their machines aren't infected."


Red Hat's Numbers Get a Boost (Motley Fool). The Motley Fool takes a critical look at Red Hat's latest quarterly results. "At first sight, the announcement looks like a winner, but it's clear Red Hat beat estimates by cutting costs and with the help of an acquisition. For a high-growth software company, more profits on lower revenues gives little reason for excitement."

Red Hat gets red hot on earnings news (News.com). C|Net says investors are happy, but analysts are not, about Red Hat's earning report. "Although Red Hat shares gained, analysts warned that slowing information technology spending may be hurting the company. ABN AMRO analyst Keith Bachman reiterated his "hold" rating on the stock."

Compute farms yield a fine crop of data (ZDNet). ZDNet covers Biogen, a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Mass. that uses a compute farm featuring dual-processor Pentium PCs running Red Hat Linux in its genome research. "Scientists will use the computing power to sift through sections of data over days, weeks or even months to find diseases lurking in our DNA, as well as clues to new generations of biotech drugs that will fight them. "

Open source proves winning ticket for Just Sports USA.com (SlashTCO). Here's an open source success story found on SlashTCO. Using Linux and PostgreSQL, Just Sports USA was able to grow and expand its business. "An open source platform has provided Just Sports USA with the technological flexibility, scalability and intelligence it needs to win big in e-commerce. By harnessing the strength of the PostgreSQL database and other open source technologies, Just Sports USA is well-positioned to become an e-tailing star."

Device profile: HNT's Linux-based Handheld Multimedia PCs (LinuxDevices). HNT Co. Ltd. of Seoul, Korea has announced a new family of Linux-based handheld multimedia PCs, called the "Exilien" series. "In general, these new HNT handhelds are typical of a new breed of PDAs that have high performance processors, generous memory capacities, and "flash" ROM storage..."

Intel uses Linux, Mozilla in AOL Web gizmo deal. Intel will supply 250,000 Web access devices, known as the Dot.Station, to Spain's biggest bank, Banco Santander Central Hispano, who in turn will offer them to clients with America Online Inc. The Dot.Station, which is a blue color similar to the one Intel uses in its logo, runs the Linux operating system and uses a Mozilla Web browser.

Mitac unveils Bluetooth-connected Linux-based PDA (LinuxDevices.com). LinuxDevices.com reports on the just announced Mitac CAT PDA, a sub $200 Linux-based PDA with Bluetooth support. "The product will come with a multilingual distribution of the Linux operating system developed in Taiwan by Linpus, and will feature Bluetooth connectivity, a perk that was also demonstrated at CeBIT. Mitac executive Lon Cheng also revealed that the product will be priced between $150 and $199."


Commentary: Bad economy's good for open source (ZDNet). Now that the hype is over, the Open Source revolution can begin. Okay, that's a massive paraphrase of this ZDnet article, but it fits pretty well. "Open source, however, is much more than Linux. The melding of the open-source development model and a capitalist economy will bring the most exciting changes to computing that we've ever witnessed".

On trust and open source (ZDNet). Here's an article about the roots of open source. "A very interesting view of how far we've come is found in a new edition of Steven Levy's seminal work "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution." In it, Levy describes a computing utopia that is in sharp contrast to today's open-source "industry" - not to mention the proprietary and bureaucratic establishment of today's for-profit software business."


Fibre Channel for Linux (Linux Journal). Linux Journal looks at Fibre Channel options for Linux and why they might be a better solution than a SCSI network. "The simplest use of Fibre Channel is to replace external SCSI-attached storage units on a single server. This involves one HBA, some FC-storage units and perhaps an FC hub for making the cabling simpler. There are several advantages for using FC here. Having several external SCSI units often leads to cable mess. SCSI cables have limits for how long they can run are usually thick and impractical, and your equipment will most likely require different connectors and cables."

Linux hardware stability guide, Part 1 (IBM developerWorks). Another article from IBM developerWorks shows how to diagnose hardware problems from a Linux perspective. "How many of us have set up a Linux box, installed our favorite distribution, compiled and installed some additional apps, and gotten everything working perfectly only to find that our new system has an (argh!) fatal hardware bug? Whether the symptoms are random segmentation faults, data corruption, hard locks, or lost data is irrelevant -- the hardware glitch effectively makes our normally reliable Linux operating system barely able to stay afloat."


New Linux-based "mobile multimedia communicator" (LinuxDevices). LinuxDevices.com profiles Galleo's Linux-based "Mobile Multimedia Communicator". "The unit's bundled software supports cellular phone communication, Internet access, Web browsing, PIM applications, multimedia (mp3 player, streaming video), games, and personalized content, plus IPsec-compliant VPN network security."

IBM clocks in with new Linux watch (C|Net). IBM's second generation of the IBM Linux Wristwatch is less bulky than its predecessor, but still not ready for the average wrist, according to this C|Net news report. "The highlight of IBM's watch--besides the novelty of cramming an operating system designed for servers into a computer smaller than an Oreo cookie--is its bright OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display. The display crams an array of 640 by 480 pixels into a watch face just 0.65 inches tall by 0.87 inches wide, said Chandra Narayanaswami, manager of the IBM Research Division's wearable computing program. The pixels are so small that sprinkling them judiciously gives the illusion of the ability to show a range of shades of gray, he said."


Singing hosannas for Linux (News.com). News.com talks with Dan Frye, head of IBM's Linux Technology Center. "The open source sell to the senior executives at IBM was extremely easy. That wasn't necessarily the same thing with middle management. Sometimes that took a little more time and effort. But the senior executives just picked up on it. We dispelled a lot of the myths about open source. That was the big thing--the myth that open source was not secure or the myth that it was undisciplined. It's highly disciplined--more disciplined than a lot of proprietary shops."

Linux.com Interviews Shawn Gordon, CEO of theKompany.com (Linux.com). Shawn Gordon, CEO of theKompany.com, which focuses on developing software for the KDE desktop environment, tells Linux.com that their Aethera is similar to Ximian's Evolution. "I would say at their core they have a similar idea: they are doing email and a few other things. I know Evolution got a lot of ideas from Magellan, and since Aethera is a fork of Magellan, they have some similarities. I think our target for Aethera is a lot different than Evolution. They want to sell advertising or subscriptions or something into your desktop, while we are writing plug-ins for extended functionality. Aethera is going to be more of a platform like Lotus Notes, where you can create vertical market applications and drop them in and get the groupware knowledge management as part of the package."

CeBIT Coverage

SuSE: Germany tops Linux market (News.com). News.com covers SuSE in this interview with Chief Technology Officer Dirk Hohndel during the CeBit trade show in Germany. "SuSE's business in Germany has been focused much more on services such as customizing or installing Linux systems--an approach that flopped in the U.S, Hohndel said. SuSE laid off 30 people, two thirds of its U.S. workforce, in February."

Notes from CeBIT (Linux Journal). The Linux Journal reports from CeBIT. "Further attention was drawn to Linux when KDE2 was distinguished as one of three finalists in the Innovation of the Year award ceremony held at CeBIT on the night of March 22nd. The judges were booed by the largely German audience when the announcer proclaimed Microsoft 2000 as the winner."

Life gets serious for Linux (BBC News). The BBC News covers Linux at CeBIT. "From IBM to Nokia, from SAP to Sharp, the giants of the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover are all showing products based on the system which began life as a Finnish student's hobby." (Thanks to Scott Crittenden)

LG demonstrates wireless Linux Web pad at CeBIT (LinuxDevices). The Digital iPAD is a Linux-based Web pad, demonstrated at CeBIT by LG Electronics. "The device was demonstrated running on the latest version of the Linux kernel, 2.4. First unveiled in January, the iPAD is aimed at home users wanting Internet access and multimedia thrills without all the bells and whistles of a conventional PC."


Hackers Channel Talents Toward TiVo, ReplayTV Video Recorders. The Dallas Morning News looks at the new focus of the hacker crowd: Tivo's. "The TiVo is particularly popular among hackers, in part because it uses the Linux operating system that many technically inclined computer users run on their own PCs. ReplayTV is more difficult to hack because it uses a proprietary operating system."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

March 29, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Announcements page.



USB Modems Under Linux, Part 2: Zoom's 56K USB (SignalGround). Signal Ground continues its series on USB modems under Linux with this article covering the Zoom 2985L 56K USB modem. "In this second part of our USB modem series, we'll look at the preview releases from Mandrake and SuSE, and we'll also take the opportunity to describe the Zoom 56K USB modem. Can it be added to the list of Linux-supported USB modems?"

Beginner's Guide to Linux Apps (Duke of URL). This Duke of URL column looks at Linux applications, what's there and how to get them. "Yes, there is a lack of commercial Linux applications, but that, naturally, means that you'll get next to every program for Linux for free. This makes buying that game you've wanted a no-brainer. Thanks to Loki Games and other companies faithful to Linux, such a happening is a reality, with soon-to-be hits like Tribes 2, Doom III, and Neverwinter Nights appearing on Linux at the same time or shortly after their Windows counterparts. These are all titles that once could only be seen on Windows, but my, how times have changed. "

Mojolin featured in Recruiting Industry Top Directory. The job site Mojolin has announced improvements to the site. These upgrades include a partnership with SAIR/GNU certifications, new mailing lists, a search engine and more of an international flavor.

Using Quota (LinuxNewbie.org). "Edquota allows you to specify limits on two aspects of disk storage: the number of inodes a user or a group of users may possess; and the number of disk blocks that may be allocated to a user or a group of users." Find out more here.

Tip Of The Week: Banging Around in vi. LinuxLookup's totw this week is about using the "bang" (exclamation point or "!") in 'vi'.


ApacheCon 2001 Keynotes Offer a Look Into the Future of Computing and Open Source Software. The Apache Software Foundation announced the keynote speakers for this spring's ApacheCon 2001. Futurist David Brin and Linux International director Jon "maddog" Hall will both speak and the next wave of Apache deployed projects will be discussed at the Santa Clara Convention Centre in the heart of Silicon Valley, 4 through 6 April, 2001. Covalent Technologies also announced its participation in ApacheCon.

Embedded Systems Conference Exhibit Floor Reflects Demand For Embedded Tools For Connectivity, Linux Development, and System-On-Chip Design. We expect to see lots of Linux activity at the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference, running from April 10-12 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

SAGE-AU 2001. SAGE-AU 2001 will be held in sunny Adelaide, Australia, which is one of Australia's (and the world's) prime wine producing regions. Dates for SAGE are July 9 - 13, 2001 and the call for papers is open.

Linux Expo Birmingham 2001. The Birmingham, UK Linux Expo will be held September 12 - 13, 2001. Registration and a call for papers are open now.

Call for papers: 5th Annual Linux Showcase. ALS 2001 has issued a call for papers. This year's ALS takes place in Oakland, CA, November 6 - 10, 2001. The deadline on the CFP is June 5.

15th Systems Administration Conference. LISA 2001 also has a call for papers. LISA 2001 happens December 2 - 7, 2001 in San Diego, CA.

Conference on File and Storage Technologies. Here's the FAST 2002 call for papers. Submissions are due July 13, 2001 for this conference in Monterey, CA, January 28 - 29, 2002.

March/April/May events.
Date Event Location
March 30, 2001. Colorado Linux Info Quest Denver Marriott Tech Center, Denver, Colorado.
April 2 - April 5, 2001. COMDEX Chicago McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois.
April 4 - April 5, 2001. Linux Expo Madrid Palacio de Congresos, Madrid, Spain.
April 4 - April 6, 2001. ApacheCon 2001 Santa Clara, California.
April 6 - April 8, 2001. GNOME Users And Developers European Conference (GUADEC) 2001 Copenhagen, Denmark.
April 8 - April 11, 2001. XML DevCon Spring 2001 New York Marriott Marquis, New York City.
April 9 - April 11, 2001. Smalltalk Solutions 2001 Conference Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, IL (Near Chicago O'Hare)
April 9 - April 13, 2001. Embedded Systems Conference San Francisco, California.
April 12, 2001. 2001 Twin Cities Linux Solutions Conference - A Real Time Perspective Radisson South, Bloomington MN.
April 20, 2001. 2nd Annual Symposium on Pliant Implementation and Concepts (ASPIC 2001) Paris, France.
April 23 - April 27, 2001. Linux Expo Road Show Eastern Europe.
April 24 - April 26, 2001. Linux Africa Kyalami Exhibition & Conference Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
May 8, 2001. Linux@work Copenhagen, Denmark.
May 9, 2001. Linux@work Oslo, Norway.
May 9 - May 10, 2001. Linux Expo Brazil São Paulo - Anhembi - Palácio das Convenções.
May 10, 2001. Linux@work Stockholm, Sweden.
May 11, 2001. Linux@work Helsinki, Finland.
May 13 - May 17, 2001. Spring 2001 Enterprise Linux Implementation Conference Doubletree Hotel, San Jose, CA.
May 14 - May 17, 2001. The 2001 Applied Computing Conference Santa Clara, CA.
May 15, 2001. Linux@work Frankfurt, Germany.
May 15 - May 18, 2001. Linux Expo China Shanghai Mart, Shanghai, China.
May 16, 2001. Linux@work Zurich, Switzerland.
May 17, 2001. Linux@work Milan, Italy.
May 18, 2001. Linux@work Vienna, Austria.
May 20 - May 23, 2001. eXtreme Programming - XP2001 Villasimius, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Additional events can be found in the LWN Event Calendar. Event submissions should be sent to lwn@lwn.net in a plain text format.

Web sites

New Linux Site in Spanish. TOOLINUX has a new Spanish language Linux portal to go along with the French TOOLINUX site.

User Group News

OCLUG Programming Wars. The Ottawa-Carlton LUG is having a "Programming Wars" contest. Winners will be determined at the April 5 general meeting. See the rules for more information. Sounds like fun. One catch, at least one member of your programming team must be present at the meeting to win.

LUG-Camp 2001: Meeting of Linux User Groups in the German speaking area. This year's LUG-Camp will take place at the Karlshof in the Noerdlinger Ries, Germany from May 25 - 27, 2001.

LUG Events: March 29 - April 12, 2001.
Date Event Location
March 29, 2001. Bergen Linux User Group (BLUG) Bergen, Norway.
March 30, 2001. New Jersey Linux User's Group (NJLUG) New Brunswick, NJ
March 31, 2000. Central Ohio Linux User Group (COLUG) Columbus, Ohio.
April 2, 2001. Baton Rouge Linux User Group (BRLUG) The Bluebonnet Library, Baton Rouge, LA.
April 2, 2001. Rice Linux User Group (RLUG) Rice University, Houston, TX
April 3, 2001. Missouri Open Source LUG (MOSLUG) Culpeppers Restaurant, Kirkwood, Missouri.
April 3, 2001. NorthWest Chicagoland Linux User Group (NWCLUG) Harper College, Palatine, Illinois.
April 3, 2001. Linux Users' Group of Davis (LUGOD) Z-World, Davis, CA.
April 3, 2001. Omaha Linux Users Group (OLUG) Clarkson College, Omaha, Nebraska
April 4, 2001. Southeastern Indiana Linux Users Group (SEILUG) Madison/Jefferson County Public Library, Madison, IN.
April 4, 2001. Kansas City Linux Users Group DemoDay (KCLUG) Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO.
April 4, 2001. Silicon Valley Linux Users Group (SVLUG) Cisco Building 9, San Jose, CA.
April 5, 2001. Linux User Support Team, Taegu (LUST-T) Taegu, Korea.
April 5, 2001. St. Louis Area Computer Club Linux workshop Thornhill Branch Library, Creve Coeur, Missouri.
April 5, 2001. Edinburgh Linux Users Group (EDLUG) Holyrood Tavern, Edinburgh, Scotland.
April 7, 2001. Greater London Linux User Group (GLLUG) CFC Preview Theatre, London, UK.
April 7, 2001. Twin Cities Linux Users Group (TCLUG) Minneapolis, MN.
April 10, 2001. Long Island Linux Users Group (LILUG) SUNY Farmingdale, NY.
April 10, 2001. Victoria Linux Users Group(VLUG) University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
April 11, 2001. Columbia Area Linux Users Group (CALUG) Capita Technologies Training Center, Columbia, MD.
April 11, 2001. Silicon Corridor LINUX Users Group (SCLUG) Back of Beyond pub in Kings Road, Reading.
April 11, 2001. Toledo Area Linux Users Group (TALUG) University of Toledo, Toledo, OH.
April 12, 2001. East Side Phoenix Linux Users Group (PLUG) Sequoia Charter School, Mesa, AZ.
April 12, 2001. Boulder Linux Users Group (BLUG) NIST Radio Building, Boulder, CO.

Additional events can be found in the LWN Event Calendar. Event submissions should be sent to lwn@lwn.net in a plain text format.

March 29, 2001



Software Announcements

Here are this week's Freshmeat software announcements. Freshmeat now offers the announcements sorted in two different ways:

The Alphabetical List and Sorted by license


Our software announcements are provided courtesy of FreshMeat


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Linux History page.

This week in Linux history

Three years ago (April 2, 1998 LWN): Alan Cox joined Red Hat, where he remains to this day.

The Mozilla source was released, as covered on this week's front page.

As a direct result of Netscape's release of the Mozilla source code, a grassroots coalition was formed in Australia to create a cross-platform Web browser by adding the full-strength cryptography provided by SSLeay.

Inter@ctive Week ran 25 unsung heroes of the net. Tim O'Reilly was number 19 and Linus is number 23 on the list. Neither is quite so unsung anymore.

TechWeb News covered Corel's plans for a Linux-based network computer. "Corel could begin seeing revenue from its forthcoming network computer as soon as its next fiscal quarter, said CEO Michael Cowpland on Thursday."

Linus declared a feature freeze for 2.2 kernel release - which turned out to be almost a year away still.

Orders were being taken for S.u.S.E. 5.2.

Kevin Forge on the seul-dev-apps group mentioned the project underway to create a free QT Widgetset. The Harmony project planned to cover the subset of QT used by KDE, hopefully stopping the "Troll" wars. Harmony never did reach completion, of course, but it was part of the environment that brought an end to that conflict anyway.

Michael Hammel announced his site graphics-muse.org, dedicated to graphics tools for Linux. We wrote: If you do anything with graphics, you will probably learn something from a visit with the Muse. That is still true even though we keep him pretty busy on LWN.

Two years ago (April 1, 1999 LWN): Eric Raymond threatened to quit after being flamed a few too many times. As a follow-up to his memo, called "Take My Job, Please!", he wrote Understand My Job, Please! Eric has, in fact, remained on the job.

Neal Stephenson wrote a lengthy piece about free software, entitled In the Beginning was the Command Line.

The current kernel release was 2.2.5. In the announcement for the release, Linus stated his intention to take a two-week vacation.

The official Dutch KDE website was announced by the Dutch Documentation Team. The address for the site is http://www.kde.nl.

VA Research announced it was outsourcing most of its manufacturing, due to the fact that it could not keep up with the demand for their systems. C|Net's News.com covered the news.

VA has benefited from this boom, quadrupling its staff in the last four months to more than 60. The Mountain View, California, company also is in the process of moving to new headquarters with four times the floor space. The last stage of the move, transferring the computer assembly operation, is scheduled for completion April 17.

VA Research, of course, later changed its name to VA Linux Systems.

Bill Gates came out with a new book that was reviewed by Salon:

The one person at Microsoft who doesn't seem to have received the bad news is Gates himself. Last week, he dismissed Linux with these words: ''There has certainly been a lot of free software out there for the last 20 years. The main thing that has held that back is that because it's free software there's no central point of control. So what you see with Linux, and other things, is you get proliferations of different versions and everybody can go into the source code, and everybody does.''

Some things never change.

One year ago (March 30, 2000 LWN): LWN announced its acquisition by Tucows.com. We closed April 4, 2000. It's been a great year for us and, we hope, for you too.

The UCITA ("shrink-wrap software") bill passed in Virginia, and was headed toward Maryland. Fortunately, it appears to have slowed down considerably since then.

LWN was also getting ready for the Colorado Linux Info Quest (CLIQ) on April 1. LWN team members Jonathan Corbet, Rebecca Sobol, Dennis Tenney and Forrest Cook shared booth duty. Liz Coolbaugh ran the talks and BOFs. Michael Hammel managed CLIQ 2000. Of course he wasn't a LWN senior editor yet. CLIQ 2001 is on March 30.

The current development kernel release was 2.3.99-pre3. Jay Fenlason posted a note to Bugtraq covering a local denial-of-service attack that impacted both the 2.2.14 and the 2.3.99-pre2 kernels. Alexey Kuznetsov responded with a patch for 2.3 for the problem.

The Timpanogas Research Group announced the release of its NWFS 2.2 NetWare file system under the GPL.

Russian software distributor CPS announced a Corel Linux Download special edition and Corel Linux received this glowing review on Technofile.

We reported that LinuxPPC developer Jason Haas was in a serious car accident. He was released from the hospital on May 1 and by early August was able to spend a few hours every day on the computer.

Red Hat 6.2 was officially released. Also Red Hat reported its fourth quarter results. Last year it reported revenue of $13.1 million, this year the company reported fourth quarter revenue of $27 million. Red Hat does continue moving toward profitably.

Linuxcare was reviewing an application a week. The application for that week was the Gnumeric spreadsheet. "This application looks sharp and functions pretty well for my current needs. Given the momentum behind the GNOME project, Gnumeric is on its way to becoming a convincing alternative to similar proprietary applications."

March 29, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Letters page.

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.

March 29, 2001

From: Ian Stuart <Ian.Stuart@ed.ac.uk>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: "Who really is the leading distributor?"
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 16:59:54 +0100

This article should really have been called "Who really is the 
leading retail distributon?".

The article is all about retail, not distribution.  For example, 
Debian would not appear in your list, even if it existed on 75% of 
the installed systems in th US - why, because there is no retail 
distribution channel to give you statistics. (I doubt that the Debian 
Team could tell you how many system there may be, +/- 20%!).

As an article, it was interesting, but the headline was definately 

Ian Stuart - EdINA, DataLibrary, University computing services.
Truth is what you believe it to be.
  I cannot force my facts on you, only make you believe my beliefs.
From: (anonymous)
To: "'lwn@lwn.net'" <lwn@lwn.net>
Subject: SuSE and market share
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 12:19:03 -0800

I  think its important for everything to be in perspective- The PC Data
numbers that SuSE use to claim its "48%" market share are only for ONE WEEK-
PC Data releases weekly numbers to its subscribers and has YET to release
the numbers for February in total....obviously that one week was when SuSE
7.1 was released and the other distros were silent. Retail sales over all
for Linux distros are flat or declining - with Caldera pulling out all
together, Corel soon to be done and Turbo can't be far behind. Basically-
from a retail perspective, the distros are just trading customers and not
seeing true market growth...I encourage you folks to get the PC Data numbers
and look for yourselves- do not just rely on respective press releases...as
they say...Torture the data until it confesses.

Its best I be anonymous....

Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 14:44:59 +0100
From: Duncan Cragg <duncan.cragg@2020me.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Embedded Linux and Freedom

So RMS says:

> I'm less concerned with what happens with embedded systems than I am with
> real computers. The real reason for this is the moral issues about
> software freedom are much more significant for computers that users see
> as a computer.  And so I'm not really concerned with what's running
> inside my microwave oven.

And I say the opposite:


The reason we differ is simple: I predict an imminent new 'generation' of
'programmable machines' (not 'computers') which are fundamentally
embedded. I believe that we have lost a battle to Microsoft in the current
generation (Unix tried, but failed).  But we have a second chance this time
around! And in the new generation, issues of privacy and freedom come into
very sharp focus.

RMS has, in a way, hit the nail on the head: you see present-day
computers. In the future you may not.  In the future, you will see your
'virtual stuff' before you see anything that looks like a computer. And
that virtual stuff can be instantly manifest anywhere in the world many
times over. Spot the privacy issues!  But more importantly, spot the
freedom issues: 'Intellectual Property' simply becomes moot when seen in
the light of this highly volatile and mobile virtual stuff. There can be no
such thing, since it only exists by government decree and the technology
has outgrown such boundaries!

Now, in the new generation of programmable machines, you see virtual stuff
before you see any program. The stuff 'implies' and draws in to you the
programs that are needed to animate it. So (a) you can't have to license
your programs just to be able to do things with your own or your colleagues
stuff; (b) you all have to agree to use the same programs to ensure
compatibility with other virtual stuff, and (c) you have to be able to
trust (i.e., see and improve) those programs when they control virtual
stuff that could even be running your home - or running nanobots around
your home!  So the Intellectual Property absurdity over virtual stuff
applies fully to the programs used to animate it. Thankfully!

Duncan Cragg

Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 14:46:05 +0100 (CET)
From: ?Erik_Inge_Bolsø <erik@tms.no>
To: lwn@lwn.net
Subject: ALSA & Suse


One thing that could be noted about your recent editorial about ALSA, is
that it is not exactly surprising that ALSA is included in the Suse 
distribution - since all three of Jaroslav Kysela, Abramo Bagnaro and
Takashi Iwai, the three core developers of ALSA, are employed full-time
by Suse. :)

Erik I. Bolsø, Triangel Maritech Software AS
Tlf: 712 41 699		Mobil: 915 79 512

Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 15:13:54 -0500
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Re: Ol' Uncle Harlan
From: Zygo Blaxell <zblaxell@washu.furryterror.org>

>The *ability* copy does not confer the *right* to copy

Sorry, but I _do_ believe that the ownership and possession of an object
_does_ confer the right to do nearly anything to that object, including
but not limited to destroying it, modifying it, analyzing it, and making
(or attempting to make) copies of all or part it, provided that my doing
so does not necessarily constitute an infringement of the rights of
someone else.  I further believe that these rights deserve the highest
levels of legal protection.

I believe that activities such as using copyright works to cause direct
harm to people, whether by evading an established legal framework
for other people to derive compensation from their creative work, or
by breaking up CD media containing copyright works into sharp plastic
shards and building some kind of weapon out of them with demonstrable
intent to use the weapon on somebody, do not deserve legal protection.

Distributing copies of copyright works without permission should be
illegal.  Merely making the copies in the first place should be a
protected activity as long as privacy is maintained.

"You acknowledge that Zygo Blaxell is not responsible for the Internet
or whether it should continue to exist in its present form or whether
or not a government or governmental agency, either foreign or domestic,
will control, regulate, or disband the Internet." GPGkeyID=0x69722DEE

Version: GnuPG v1.0.4 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: For info see http://www.gnupg.org


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