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Leading items and editorials

A shakeup at MandrakeSoft. At this point, layoffs at Linux companies are not particularly surprising news. But MandrakeSoft, the producer of the Linux-Mandrake distribution, thus far had seemed immune from such problems. It was [Mandrake logo] as if the famous "Mandrake touch" extended to the company's business dealings as well.

That changed this week, as the word went out that MandrakeSoft had been through a layoff of its own. The initial rumors were scary, but the picture that emerged after the dust settled was more reassuring. What MandrakeSoft is going through now is certainly no fun, but the company may well be better off afterwards.

MandrakeSoft has eliminated some 25 positions, leaving the company with about 125 employees. Among the departed is the top management team, including CEO Henri Poole, and much of the e-learning division. MandrakeSoft's developers, including many who work on external free software projects (KDE, the kernel, etc.), are still on the job. There are, says the company, no more layoffs planned.

Understanding what's happening here requires just a bit of history. The Linux-Mandrake distribution is relatively new - the first release was put together by GaŽl Duval in July of 1998, using Red Hat Linux 5.1 as a starting point. Mr. Duval had no commercial aims at the time - in fact, he took a two-week vacation immediately after the release and was rather surprised by the quantity of mail he had when he got back.

It didn't take too long to figure out that Linux-Mandrake had commercial potential, however, and Mr. Duval started MandrakeSoft with a couple of colleagues later that year. MandrakeSoft continued with the idea of making the best, friendliest distribution available, and met with considerable success. The current PC Data numbers for the first quarter of 2001, for example, show Linux-Mandrake at the top of the U.S. market with almost 34% of sales - and that was before the 8.0 release was available.

With success came venture capital and a new management team. Henri Poole was brought in as CEO to grow the company and take it toward an initial public offering of stock. But Mr. Poole, it seems, never quite understood the nature of MandrakeSoft's Linux business; instead, he wanted to take the company in the direction of electronic learning and services, and away from Linux.

This change in direction did not sit well with the founders and employees of MandrakeSoft. The low point, perhaps, happened with the LinuxWorld announcement of the acquisition of Coursemetric, an electronic survey company which had nothing to do with Linux. The company's board did not go along, and that acquisition was silently canceled later on.

In the end, MandrakeSoft and Mr. Poole agreed to part company. As Mr. Duval told us:

As soon as it was clear that we wouldn't agree any longer about the strategy, we mutually decided to stop our collaboration. Our core component is the Linux-Mandrake system, an attractive OS targeted both to personal use and server use, with a business around.

In other words, MandrakeSoft is back on its original track. Co-founder Jacques Le Marois is back in the CEO's office, and the company is back to its focus on the Linux-Mandrake distribution. Mr. Le Marois will continue running the company for the foreseeable future.

The electronic services offerings will remain, but will not be the primary focus of the company. Work will continue toward putting Linux-Mandrake on the desktop, but there will be an increasing emphasis on server deployments as well. MandrakeSoft is also working on "one of the biggest Linux clusters in the world," for a European research agency. There's a set of OEM deals being worked out, including one with HP. The distribution business makes money now (though the company as a whole does not), and a break-even result is possible in the near future.

In fact, MandrakeSoft is even planning to restart its IPO process. There is a registration page for those who want further information on the IPO, once that information is available.

So the rumors of MandrakeSoft's demise are somewhat premature. Refocusing a company in this way is hard, to say the least, but MandrakeSoft has a good base to build on. By focusing on what it does best, and what has already brought success, MandrakeSoft should be able to position itself as one of the survivors of the current shakeout. They have earned that position.

(See also: the full text of our interview with GaŽl Duval, this interview with Jacques Le Marois on NewsForge, another interview (in French) with GaŽl Duval on LinuxFr.org (English translation available via Babelfish), the MandrakeSoft press release, and this interesting Slashdot comment by an ex-employee of MandrakeSoft).

License trouble ahead? Free software depends on the integrity of, and respect for, its licenses. This reliance has worked well so far; most licenses are reasonably clear on their terms, they have mostly been respected, and the occasional problem is generally cleared up fairly quickly. That situation is probably too good to last, however.

Even though most licenses attempt to specify exactly what is covered, and under what terms, there are still situations that are not entirely clear. Licensing ambiguity can lead to no end of problems. As more software companies feel the pressure - from the economy, from free software, and from each other - they could be motivated to ignore or attack the rules. It would not be surprising to see an increase in cheating on free software licenses, and on the GPL in particular. There also may be, at some point, a deliberate effort to break, in court, a license like the GPL. Consider, for example, Microsoft's increasing fear of the GPL; that company would certainly not hesitate to send out lawyers to disable the GPL if it thought it would be successful.

The following two items look at two situations - one real, one still hypothetical - which show the sort of trouble that the free software community could encounter. The moral of these stories is clear: it is important that we have our act together with licensing.

BSD is not free software? IPFilter is the firewalling system used in FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD; it provides many of the same features as the Linux "netfilter" package. The IPFilter code is copyrighted by Darren Reed, and has long carried the following license text:

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms are permitted provided that this notice is preserved and due credit is given to the original author and the contributors.

A recent update, however, has added the following:

Yes, this means that derivitive or modified works are not permitted without the author's prior consent.

That means, of course, that IPFilter is not free (or even open source) software.

Mr. Reed claims that this is not a license change, that the IPFilter license has never allowed the modification of the code. This, of course, has come as a surprise to some users, who had assumed that an important part of BSD would be distributed under the BSD license. It is also not surprising that, in a free software climate, people might interpret "use" to include modification.

This is not a theoretical issue. OpenBSD distributes a modified version of IPFilter; the modifications, they say, are needed to make IPFilter work properly with their system. OpenBSD leader Theo de Raadt has told us he does not believe the "reinterpretation" of the license is valid. Mr. de Raadt is not known for backing down from confrontations, so an interesting legal situation could develop here.

Mr. Reed is unconcerned about potential problems with his license. What if he gets hit by a bus and no longer distributes updates to IPFilter? "I won't care, I'll finally get to RIP." He also refused to answer questions from LWN ("I really don't like Linux").

There is only so much room for criticism of Darren Reed, however. The author of the code gets to pick the license. The real problem is that code with a non-free license was incorporated into the core of a free operating system. Carelessness with licenses invites trouble.

The boundaries of the GPL. It is tempting to say that the above situation would never happen with the Linux kernel. After all, the kernel is licensed under the GPL, which would have prohibited the incorporation of code carrying the IPFilter license in the first place. But the Linux kernel, too, carries a potential time bomb with its licensing.

It is a standard feature of the GPL that the code it covers can not be linked with code that does not carry the GPL's protection. This is the so-called "viral" feature of the license. But it is always an interesting question to determine what constitutes "linking," and what is "mere aggregation."

Linking code into the kernel code itself clearly requires the linked code to be licensed under the GPL. On the other hand, a program that runs in user space is not considered linked, despite the fact that it relies on the kernel for operating system services. But what about loadable kernel modules? They are linked directly into the kernel image (at run time), and run in kernel space. Need they be licensed under the GPL?

Linus Torvalds answered this question many years ago through an "interpretation" of the license; in essense, as long as loadable modules limit themselves to the "published" interface, they need not be free software. So proprietary device drivers are possible. It is also possible to add a great deal of other functionality into the kernel using the loadable module mechanism - this is a reasonably large loophole.

It is also a problematic one, for a couple of reasons. The first is that the published interface that may be used by proprietary modules is not particularly well documented. Presumably it means that a proprietary module may only access data structures and functions which have been explicitly exported to modules. Linus also once stated that modules are not allowed to add system calls. But the fact remains that a great deal of functionality could be added to the kernel via a proprietary module, and it is not clear just where it crosses the licensing line.

But the real problem is that Linus does not own the copyright for the entire kernel. Many major contributors have retained their own copyright on the code they have added, and many of them are opposed to proprietary modules. That leads to a couple of troublesome scenarios:

  • Linus, having decided he would rather make a living writing Visual Basic macros, passes responsibility for the kernel onto another developer who promptly reinterprets the license in a way that prohibits proprietary modules. The text of the license will not have changed (it's still the GPL), but the rules have.

  • Linus resists the allure of Visual Basic, but another kernel developer gets unhappy and decides to challenge a company's right to distribute a proprietary module. After all, this developer never gave permission for his work to be linked with closed-source code.
Either scenario could conceivably lead to court battles and, perhaps, a ruling on the enforceability of the GPL. At the very least, this possibility should cause some concern for anybody who is considering distributing a proprietary module (which, one should add, is just fine with many kernel developers).

Free software licenses have served the community well for almost two decades, and will certainly continue to do so for a long time. But a certain degree of attention and vigilance is clearly called for, or licensing will lead to ugly messes that somebody has to clean up.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: Code scanners, defacements get too numerous and SDMI faulters.
  • Kernel: ioctl considered harmful; open-time options; ext3 on 2.4.
  • Distributions: Caldera Professional Services Offerings; New US Linux market figures.
  • On the Desktop: Automated installers, icon removal and KDE corrections.
  • Development: Python Documentation, a new LyX, Using Stunnel, Apache 1.3.20, GCC 3.0 coming soon, Perl and the :CueCat.
  • Commerce: GNOME 1.4 for Solaris; VA Linux posts third-quarter loss.
  • History: Three years ago - LSB proposed; two years ago - Mandrake's future; one year ago - Lineo files for IPO.
  • Letters: Linux backup solutions; desktop icons.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

May 24, 2001


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


News and Editorials

Code scanners. Two new security related tools were announced this week, both relating to code scanning: RATS and flawfinder. Both tools perform tests on source code in an attempt to find common coding problems that can lead to security vulnerabilities. Such problems are limited to function calls for both RATS and flawfinder. Any functions specified in a flawfinder database are known as hits and will cause any references to them in the source to be examined to be flagged. Flawfinder and RATS join another application its4, which was noted by LWN.net late last year.

According to David Wheeler, author of the Secure Programming for Linux and Unix HOWTO, flawfinder is Python based and was developed in response to issues surrounding Cigital's use of the term open source with its its4 product. Additionally, both flawfinder and RATS developers have agreed to work together.

The developers [of flawfinder and RATS] didn't know about each other's efforts until just before their releases, but they have agreed to coordinate in some way to create a "best of breed" source code scanner.

These scanners are very useful for finding function calls that are often the cause of security problems. Unfortunately, RATS wouldn't compile even though the required Expat library was installed under /usr/lib. Flawfinder worked out of the box, as did its4. Each produced varying results on the same piece of code.

While such tools are helpful, they shouldn't be considered cures for security illnesses in any software. They should be used in conjunction with memory checkers to catch potential buffer overflows. And, of course, nothing beats following some simple programming guidelines.

Hacker-tracking site throws in the towel (ZDNet). Defacement of web sites has become such a common problem that Attrition.org, a volunteer run web site that follows computer security issues, is halting their tracking of these events. According to the ZDNet story,

when online vandals deface a site, they typically tip off Attrition, which then confirms the defacement by going to the tagged page itself, copying the page and putting it in the archive.

Rethinking Music Security (Wired). SDMI appears to be mired in its members own political posturing, according to this Wired News story. "SDMI's Phase II specifications were to provide hardware and software makers with parameters to build players that would work with secure formats, legally obtained MP3s and CDs, while blocking access to files that had been hacked. But the consortium became entangled in its own internal politics, which ended any chance of the screening specifications getting developed."

Security Reports

Reiserfs kernel race condition. A race condition in reiserfs has been reported that can expose raw data from the disk to an unprivileged user. Chris Mason has made a patch available to fix the problem. Check the reiserfs mailing list for more details. The same problem has been reported to affect the ufs and ext2fs drivers in FreeBSD systems.

MIT Kerberos FTP daemon buffer overflows. Multiple buffer overflows have been reported and confirmed in the gssapi-aware ftpd daemon included with MIT Kerberos 5, all versions. If anonymous ftp is enabled, a remote root exploit is possible. Otherwise, a local root exploit or a remote root exploit via an authorized login.

Red Hat update to mktemp. Red Hat has issued a security update for mktemp which does not support making temporary directories in certain versions of their distributions.


man -S heap overflow. Check the May 17th LWN Security Summary for the initial report. The exploitability is definitely on whether or not the man command is installed setgid group man.

This week's updates:

ptrace/execve/procfs race condition in the Linux kernel 2.2.18. Exploits were released the week of March 29th for a ptrace/execve/procfs race condition in the Linux kernel 2.2.18. As a result, an upgrade to Linux 2.2.19 is recommended.

The Linux 2.2.19 release notes give the specifics on all the security-related fixes in 2.2.19 (all thirteen of them!) and give credit to the Openwall project and Chris Evans, for the majority of the third-party testing and auditing work that turned up these bugs. Fixes for the same bugs have also been ported forward into the 2.4.X kernel series.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

XEmacs/gnuserve. Check the February 8th Security Summary for details.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

mgetty tmp file race problem. mgetty was one of twelve packages reported in January to contain tmp file race problems. Check the January 11th LWN Security Summary for the initial report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

Minicom XModem Format String Vulnerabilities. Check the May 10th LWN Security Summary for the original report or BugTraq ID 2681.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

gnupg. gnupg 1.0.5 was released on April 29th. Check the May 3rd LWN Security Summary for details. An upgrade to 1.0.5 is recommended.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

Samba local disk corruption vulnerability. Check the April 19th LWN Security Summary for the original report. This problem has been fixed in Samba 2.0.8 and an upgrade is recommended. Note that all versions of Samba from (and including) 1.9.17alpha4 are vulnerable (except 2.0.8, of course). BugTraq ID 2617.

Note that recently Andrew Tridgell released Samba 2.0.9 stating that the fix in 2.0.8 did not really resolve the problem. Samba 2.2.0 users are not affected by this problem.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

OpenSSH 2.5.2p2 released. Check the March 29th LWN Security Summary for the original report.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:


Linux Kernel Instrumentation Project. John Munson has formed a group to work in instrumenting various kernels from Linux to BSD. Here is the introduction from the Sourceforge home of the project:

Hand instrumentation of common kernel for the purpose of behavioral analysis. And kernel modifications that insure that proper execution of the processes analyzing the behavioral profiles produced. Proposed kernels: linux, *bsd, and solaris.

Worldwide Copyrights a Quagmire? (Wired). Wired News has an article on Richard Stallman's presence on a Commerce Department roundtable on the Hague Convention. "Currently the Hague Convention includes copyright offenses in a section that Stallman, Internet providers, and consumer groups are lobbying to remove. Stallman, for instance, claims countries that are even more permissive about awarding software patents could sue U.S. programmers for violating them -- and thereby wreak havoc on the free software movement."


Upcoming Security Events.
Date Event Location
May 29, 2001Security of Mobile Multiagent Systems (SEMAS - 2001)Montreal, Canada
May 31 - June 1, 2001The first European Electronic Signatures SummitLondon, England, UK
June 1 - 3, 2001Summercon 2001Amsterdam, Netherlands
June 4 - 8, 2001TISC 2001Los Angeles, CA, USA
June 5 - 6, 20012nd Annual IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Information Assurance WorkshopUnited States Military Academy, Westpoint, New York, USA
June 11 - 13, 20017th Annual Information Security Conference: Securing the Infocosm: Security, Privacy and RiskOrlando, FL, USA.
June 17 - 22, 200113th Annual Computer Security Incident Handling Conference (FIRST 2001)Toulouse, France
June 18 - 20, 2001NetSec Network Security Conference(NetSec '01)New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
June 19 - 20, 2001The Biometrics SymposiumChicago, Illinois, USA.
July 11 - 12, 2001Black Hat Briefings USA '01Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

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: Michael J. Hammel

May 24, 2001

LWN Resources

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

Security Projects
Linux Security Audit Project
Linux Security Module

Security List Archives
Bugtraq Archive
Firewall Wizards Archive
ISN Archive

Distribution-specific links
Caldera Advisories
Conectiva Updates
Debian Alerts
Kondara Advisories
Esware Alerts
LinuxPPC Security Updates
Mandrake Updates
Red Hat Errata
SuSE Announcements
Yellow Dog Errata

BSD-specific links

Security mailing lists
Linux From Scratch
Red Hat
Yellow Dog

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

Miscellaneous Resources
Comp Sec News Daily
Security Focus


 Main page
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 Linux History

See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release is 2.4.4, as it has been since April 28. The 2.4.5 prepatch is up to 2.4.5pre5; it still contains mostly bug fixes, cleanups, and stuff merged in from the "ac" series. Alan Cox's series, instead, is at 2.4.4ac15. It contains, as usual, a larger set of fixes, including the results of a renewed janitorial effort that has targeted a number of common driver problems.

ioctl considered harmful. Last week we mentioned how the kernel hackers were considering alternatives to the venerable ioctl() system call. That consideration has turned into an all-out assault; it may well be that ioctl() will be a deprecated, legacy interface in the 2.6 kernel. One might even think that, now that the Linux kernel has established itself as a complete, high-performance, Unix-compatible kernel, the developers are beginning to look beyond Unix in search of better solutions.

The ioctl() call, of course, is the general "device control" system call; it handles operations that do not readily map to any of the other available calls. An application would call ioctl() to rewind a tape, format a diskette, or change the data rate on a serial line.

Clearly, these are important operations to be able to perform. So what's the problem with ioctl()? In the end, it comes down to structure. Consider the standard write() call:

    ssize_t write (int fd, const void *buf, 
                   size_t count);
Everybody knows exactly what this call is supposed to do - it moves count bytes from buf to whatever is represented by the file descriptor fd. The buf argument is read-only. Any implementation of write() which violated this understanding would not pass any sort of review. As Linus put it, "Code like that would not pass through anybody's yuck-o-meter."

The ioctl() interface is somewhat different:

    int ioctl(int fd, int request, ...);

Here, the request is a magic number (usually) understood only by the driver or filesystem behind the file descriptor. The third argument ("...") is not even named by the man page, so there is little point in asking how it should behave. It might be an integer, a structure, or a pointer, and it could be either an input or an output parameter, or both. It could even be a pointer to a structure containing other pointers which will be dereferenced by kernel code.

What that means is that every ioctl() implementation is different, and that there are no standards for what is implemented or how it is done. Alexander Viro described the problem well:

I think that we have several thousands of these beasts. And that's several thousands of undocumented system calls hidden in bowels of sys_ioctl(). Undocumented == for most of them we have no information of argument types, which arguments are in-, out- or in-out, which contain pointers to other userland structures, etc.

The Linux system call interface is generally held under very tight control, since, for all practical purposes, it defines the kernel to the rest of the system. In the middle of that interface, however, is ioctl(), a loose cannon which circumvents that control and makes anything possible. It is, says Linus, unfixable:

Basically, ioctl's will _never_ be done right, because of the way people think about them. They are a back door. They are by design typeless and without rules. They are, in fact, the Microsoft of UNIX.

Thus far, the discussion has been heavily one-sided - ioctl() has very few defenders. Things get more interesting, of course, when you get into what the replacement for ioctl() might be.

One alternative would be to allow device options to be specified at open time, as part of the device "name". This option was discussed last week, and we'll see it again in the discussion of Ben LaHaise's patch, shortly. It would make some things simple, but does not eliminate the need for some sort of control interface - not all operations can be performed at open time.

Another approach calls for the opening of a control channel as a separate file descriptor, then invoking operations with write() and read() calls. Such an approach is workable and network-friendly, but it lacks the atomic nature of ioctl(). Things can happen between when an operation request is written and the results are read back.

Yet another possibility is for device drivers to create little control filesystems. A tape driver, for example, could export a filesystem for each device that included a file called rewind; a write to that file would cause the tape to be rewound. A variant of this approach would be for drivers to export a control interface via /proc, but, to a lot of people, /proc suffers from the same problems as ioctl().

Linus thinks it might be sufficient to just redefine the call interface to explicitly specify the input and output buffers, and their lengths. That would nail down much of the semantics of ioctl() at a level that the kernel could support (and check) them; ioctl() calls would become much more standardized. He has also suggested just removing the ioctl() operation entirely from the standard driver interface in an attempt to force people to come up with something new - much like what he has done with major numbers.

The shape of the solution is far from clear at this point; it is going to be an interesting development to watch. At least, from a distance... quoting Alexander Viro again:

It should be fixed, but it won't be easy and it won't be fast. If you want to help - wonderful. But keep in mind that it will take months of wading through the ugliest code we have in the tree. If you've got a weak stomach - stay out. I've been there and it's not a nice place.

Open-time options and disk partitioning. One way of avoiding the need for ioctl() calls, at least some of the time, is to make various device operations available at open time. So, for example, if you want to work with the serial port at /dev/ttyS0, and you need to talk at 9600 baud, you could just open /dev/ttyS0/speed=9600 and everything would be taken care of. This approach eliminates an ioctl() call, and also makes life easier for people who want to deal with devices from shell scripts.

Ben LaHaise has posted a patch which implements these "device arguments." It provides a generic mechanism which allows device drivers to specify which arguments they handle, and to do the parsing.

Some people have complained about this sort of "side effect" associated with open() calls. But, as Linus pointed out, this sort of behavior is really nothing new. The first diskette drive on a system, for example, is known as /dev/fd0, but it can also be opened as /dev/fd0D360, /dev/fd0H1440, or any of a number of other names. Each name is associated with a different device behavior - one that can also be selected with ioctl(). Tape devices, too, have long used naming to distinguish between different densities, compression settings, rewind behavior, etc. The only thing that is new here is the use of a standard mechanism for device arguments, rather than encoding them in the device minor number.

Ben's patch goes further, however, by using device arguments to push the handling of disk partitions into user space. Once you have arguments, you can set things up to open a disk drive with a name like /dev/sda/offset=1024,limit=2048, which provides access to a subset of the disk. If you can do this, it is no longer necessary to understand partitions inside the kernel; it's just a matter of setting up your open-time (or mount-time) options.

There are a number of objections to this approach; see Linus's response for some of them. So this particular approach to disks is unlikely to be adopted. It is, however, an interesting example of the kind of thinking that is happening around access to devices. The 2.5 series is going to be fun to watch.

ext3 on 2.4. Stephen Tweedie's work with the ext3 journaling filesystem is interesting, but many have lamented the fact that it works with the 2.2 kernel only. Now a port to 2.4 is available, thanks to the efforts of Andrew Morton and Peter Braam. There's a glitch or two left, but the overall assessment is "quite solid." You have to get it from a CVS tree, however; there is no more convenient distribution available. See the detailed instructions on how to check out a copy.

vger.kernel.org enables ECN. Rather later than had initially been threatened, the vger.kernel.org mailing list server has turned on the explicit congestion notification (ECN) option. That means it can no longer talk to systems which are behind a firewall that does not handle ECN properly. If you're wondering what happened to your linux-kernel mail (or mail from any of a number of other vger lists), ECN could well be your problem. See Jeff Garzik's ECN page for more information on ECN problems and how to deal with them.

Nobody distributes a standard Linux kernel? Last week's kernel page made that claim, stating that no distributor includes a "standard" kernel without adding patches. Such a claim is always dangerous, especially given the diversity of the Linux world and the sheer number of available distributions. So your author fully expected to get mail on how some distribution with a name like "Mongolian StoutLinux" does not patch its kernels.

What came back, instead, was a small pile of polite mail stating that Slackware distributes pristine kernels. Your author must confess to not having run Slackware since sometime in 1994, so some research was in order. It turns out that the claim is almost true. Slackware did add a couple of fixes to its 2.2 kernels, but the 2.4.4 kernel in the slackware-current directory is exactly as Linus made it.

Other patches and updates released this week include:

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

May 24, 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

Caldera Expands Professional Services Offerings. Caldera International, formed by Caldera System's acquisition of parts of SCO, announced some offerings based largely on SCO's existing services. The Professional Services offerings was developed from SCO's Professional Services Division, now a part of Caldera International. The Caldera Solution Partner Program combines the most significant benefits from Caldera's eSolutions Provider and SCO's North American Reseller and Worldwide Partner programs.

Penguin Computing, Red Hat Inc. Announce Partnership. Penguin Computing and Red Hat Inc. announced a partnership which offers Red Hat certification on Penguin Computing's solutions along with certified Red Hat support.

New US Linux market figures. LinuxGram released the retail market shares for the USA during the first 2001 Quarter. Here are the results:

  • Mandrake - 33.8%
  • Redhat - 30.7%
  • Suse - 23.8%
  • FreeBSD - 5.6% (Not Linux, but it deserves its place on the list).
  • Caldera - 2.5%
  • Corel - 2.3%
  • Turbolinux - 1.2%
(Source: LinuxGram Newsletter/PC Data).

Distribution News

Debian Weekly News. The Debian Weekly News for May 22 is out. Topics covered include the new Hurd ISO images, /etc bloat, new packages, and more.

KRUD Linux 6.2 May 2001 edition. The folks at tummy.com have released the May 2001 edition of KRUD Linux 6.2. KRUD is based on the Red Hat distribution, but features numerous additions and security enhancements; it is available as a monthly subscription service.

RTLinux on IBM PowerPC 405 Processors. Finite State Machine Labs announced RTLinux and the RTLinux Development Kit for the IBM Walnut PowerPC 405 evaluation platform.

BlueCat Linux to Ship With Intel(R) Internet Exchange Architecture Software Developers Kit 2.0. LynuxWorks announced a version of BlueCat Linux for Intel's Internet Exchange Architecture Software Developers Kit (Intel IXA SDK) 2.0 for the Intel(R) IXP1200 Network Processor family.

SuSE Linux Ready for IBM eServer iSeries. SuSE Linux AG announced support for IBM's eServer iSeries. SuSE Linux is the first Linux distribution available on IBM's successor of the AS/400 series. This is a popular server in the business sector, so SuSE Linux should see some increased market share while they remain the sole Linux distro available.

Distribution Reviews

Linux Mandrake 8.0 (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL reviews Linux Mandrake 8.0. "KOffice includes KWord (the word processor), KSpread (the spreadsheet), Kivio (a Visio like CASE tool program), KPresenter (a presentation software program like PowerPoint), and KIllustrator (the graphics program). Pretty much everything you need in an office suite is included here. Other programs you might expect in an office suite are included with KDE itself. Email is handled by KMail and the Personal Information Management chores are handled by KOrganizer and KAB (the address book)."

Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol

May 24, 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
Red Hat

Also well-known
Best Linux
Conectiva Linux

Rock Linux

Non-technical desktop
Icepack Linux
Redmond Linux

Boston University
Red Escolar

General Purpose
Alzza Linux
aXon Linux
Bad Penguin Linux
Black Cat Linux
BluePoint Linux
BYO Linux
CAEN Linux
Cafe Linux
ChainSaw Linux
Circle MUDLinux
Complete Linux
Console Linux
Corel Linux
Darkstar Linux
Elfstone Linux
ESware Linux
Eurielec Linux
eXecutive Linux
Fried Chicken
HA Linux
Halloween Linux
ix86 Linux
Lanthan Linux
Linpus Linux
Linux Cyrillic Edition
Linux MLD
LinuxOne OS
Linux Pro Plus
LNX System
Lute Linux

NoMad Linux
Omoikane GNU/Linux
PingOO Linux
Plamo Linux
Project Ballantain
Rabid Squirrel
Root Linux
Serial Terminal
TimeSys Linux/RT
Tom Linux
VA-enhanced Red Hat
Vine Linux
Virtual Linux
WinLinux 2000

GNU/Linux Ututo
Definite Linux
Red Flag
Linux Esware
Kaiwal Linux
Thai Linux Extension

Related Projects
Chinese Linux Extension

Historical (Non-active)
MCC Interim Linux
Storm Linux


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's On the Desktop page.

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

Office Suites
Ability (*)(w)
Anywhere Desktop (*)
(formerly "Applixware")
GNOME Office
StarOffice / OpenOffice
Siag Office
WordPerfect Office 2000 (*)(w)

Java / Web Office Suites
ThinkFree Office (*)
Teamware Office (*)
Cybozu Office (*)

Desktop Publishing
iceSculptor (*)
Maxwell Word Processor
Mediascape Artstream (*)

Web Browsers
Netscape (*)
Opera (*)

Handheld Tools
Palm Pilot Resources
Pilot Link

On The Desktop

Automated Installers. End users are not generally interested in updating system components, such as the kernel, windowing environments or basic tools like shells. Their prime concerns tend to be with installing higher level applications. The problem with users ignoring updates to low level software components lies mostly with the Internet, where security concerns are paramount and updating system components a necessity to keep the wolves at bay.

Automated update systems are the latest attempts by software makers (open or proprietary) to get end users to update low level software. Recently, Ximian released the first version of their Red Carpet system for doing automated updates of their GNOME environment distribution. The system works fairly well for Ximian sponsored components: it's easy to use, moderately quick (depending on the network connection speed that is available) and most importantly follows Rule #1: don't break what wasn't broke. Red Carpet appears to install the updates without doing damage to a working system. Ximian requires users to register for channels on their site, three of which exist at the time of this writing: Red Hat Linux 7.0, Ximian GNOME and Ximian Evolution. While users can examine each channel independently for updates and check previously installed packages on their system, Red Carpet also allows the user to view available updates in a summarized form.

Ximian isn't the first company to announce such a project, however. Red Hat has had their Red Hat Network in place since mid April. Red Hat's client side update tool, known as the Update Agent, searches for updates on Red Hat's servers applicable to the user's registered system.

The problem with systems like this on Linux is that some of the software that would be considered system components come from different places. The most notable example of this is the desktop, where an OS distribution can come from one of many vendors, while GNOME and KDE can come from either commercial organizations or the open source projects directly. So what automated installer do you use to get updates for these separate, but equally important, parts of the system? Are the updates compatible? So far, considering Red Hat Network and Ximian's Red Carpet, the installers appear to work well together. Both systems use the RPM package format. And so far they don't seem to be stepping on each other's toes.

Still, using two different installers to install different pieces of the system would seem prone to error. Red Carpet provides an interesting solution to this issue by providing different channels for important bits of software. By providing a Red Hat Linux 7.0 channel users can use Ximian's Red Carpet to upgrade their OS and their desktop software. The Red Hat Networks updates exist for that company's various distributions while Ximian's channel setup could potentially allow for updates to any OS distribution and even KDE updates.

But there is a catch: users will have to depend on Ximian to make updates available as quickly as possible. Users who need, for example, the latest version of Mozilla in order to run the Galeon web browser might be stuck waiting for someone at Ximian to do the packaging of both products. Such dependencies on a single company are not encouraged in the open source world. In real world use, I find myself using Red Hat's Network for security updates because Red Hat tends to have those updates first. Ximian, aside from a slew of initial package updates, has been fairly quiet since their Evolution 0.10 release.

As long as installers use the underlying client side databases for packages, such as the RPM database, these problems shouldn't amount to much. Ximian's naming schemes for packages which they deliver, however, don't match Red Hat's. We're still trying to determine whether this will cause dependency issues in the future.

One other note on automated installers: the Debian project has probably had this issue addressed longer than anyone with their set of "apt" tools. Use of apt to update just about any package is pretty painless. All that may be missing from this might be a graphical front end integrated into KDE and GNOME.

KDE Installer rumors.
A brief note posted on the KDE-Devel mailing list stated that while no Red Carpet-like installer currently exists specifically for KDE, a project of that nature has at least been started. In the mean time, Shawn Gordon from theKompany.com noted that using Red Carpet to install KDE files should be possible, if someone steps up to manage it. "The limiting factor is someone who will host the applications and data and get them packaged up as needed - a non-trivial thing." No details were given on the status of the installer project, unfortunately. However, a posting on KDE Dot News stated that the project may be in trouble. The 16 year old lead developer says all that is really needed is some coding help.

KDE Updates and corrections. The KDE FAQ is in need of a maintainer, according to a proposal posted to the KDE FAQ mailing list. The proposal recommends splitting the FAQ into pre- and post-KDE2 documents. The proposal states that "installation instructions are outdated and incorrect." One reply to the proposal points out the apparent need for a generic installer for KDE:

A problem here is that no one person can be familiar with all of the various systems and distros and the various hoops that you have to jump through when trying to install/update kde on them.

Last week's Desktop page carried a note on better page renderings coming from KDE's Konqueror than those rendered by Netscape Communicator. This improvement was mistakenly attribued to KDE itself, when in fact antialiased fonts come from the new Xft extension to the newest XFree86 server. Newer releases of KDE actually makes use of that extension, while tools like Netscape and Opera do not.

Icons on the Desktop. The request for help in removing icons from my desktop root window last week generated quite a bit of mail. A number of readers reported on multiple ways to get rid of the icons from both the GNOME and KDE desktops. In GNOME the easiest way to remove all the icons at once was to disable gmc (GNOME Midnight Commander). If you want to keep gmc running for your next session, just disable the desktop icons on startup. Be sure to save your sessions when you exit, though!

Disabling gmc works perfectly though mouse buttons may work differently, but the technique also removes all the icons. If you want to remove a single icon you can select it and delete it manually.

One KDE reader suggested moving the icons to the KDE Trashcan. However, a simpler method comes from dragging a selection box around the icons you want to remove to select them and then right mouse clicking to open the icon menu and choosing the Delete option. The icons will be removed from the desktop.

Dell: Linux too tech for the desktop (News.com). Apparently, no one in Dell sales or marketing has looked closely at either GNOME or KDE recently.

"It's still a fundamentally technical operating system," said Steve Smith, Dell's European market development manager for client systems. "It's very easy for someone who doesn't know what they're doing to break."

Desktop Environments

Open Request to KDE and Gnome. Bynari, Inc. announced its initiative to assist in extending functionality in the KDE and GNOME teams' groupware products for messaging and collaboration. "Bynari's Insight client allows Linux and UNIX workstations to peer directly in an Exchange enterprize without the need for proxies. Bynari wrote modular componets [sic] which provide Outlook interoperabiliy in anticipation of working with OpenOffice and KDE's mail, addressbooks and calendars."

Introduction to KDE: An overview for newbies (IBM developerWorks). Another developerWorks article, this time with a bit more meat to it (and no registration required), introduces new users to the world of KDE. "The way the windows respond to the mouse can be customized in the "Window Behavior" entry in the Look and Feel menu. I always have a ton of windows around, so I have very specific settings I use for managing them. First, I set the focus policy to "Focus follows mouse". This allows me to change the window that I'm typing into just by moving the mouse over it."

GNOME Summary for May 13 - May 19 2001. This week's summary of the GNOME world is out. Topics include a discussion on starting new projects, the end of Eazel and the GNOME 2.0 release plan.

GNOME Board meeting, 15 May 2001. The minutes from the latest GNOME board meeting have been posted. Highlight for the meeting was the development of the preliminary GNOME 2.0 schedule.

Gnome 2.0 release schedule. The tentative release schedule for GNOME 2.0 has been posted to the GNOME 2.0 developers mailing list. In short, the team is planning for a very late (December) 2001 ship date.

Qt on Windows. The KDE Announce list carried the announcement that Qt is being ported to Windows via the Cygwin environment in an attempt to get KDE on Windows platforms.

GNUstep Weekly Update. This week's updates to the GNUstep project include updates to GNUstep-Guile, the Guile language interface, and the regression test suite.

Office Applications

KOffice 1.1Beta2. The KDE Project has announced the release of KOffice 1.1Beta2.

AbiWord Weekly News #42. The latest release of the semi-weekly AbiWord Weekly News is out. "This week we've seen at least three very interesting checkins: Martin added support for LaTeX style tables (simple outlining of your text) which is the closest we're likely to get for table support this side of 1.0. Dom checked in a first version of an AbiWord GTK widget, and also did some work on a module plugin architecture."

Gnumeric 0.65. A new edition of Gnumeric was released this past week. New features include a xls overwrite export option and improvied XL95 export. There were also numerous bug fixes. Note that dependencies have also been changed for this release: gnome-xml 1.8.12, GAL 0.8 and libole2 0.2.2 are now required.

Desktop Applications

Loki to ship MindRover: The Europa Project on May 23rd. Loki has announced that it will begin shipping MindRover: The Europa Project for Linux starting May 23rd. The new game will carry a suggested retail price of $29.95.

GNOME Pan newsreader update. An new release of the GNOME based news reader Pan hit the streets this week. Fixes include better handling for message threads, better handling of article headers and a fix for very large article decoding.

Dia 0.88.1 released. A new version of Dia, the GNOME diagramming tool has been released. Version 0.88.1 includes experimental unicode print support, new shape and export filter plug-ins and better SVG support.

Sodipodi 0.23. Another GNOME drawing program also got an update this week. Sodipodi was rev'd to version 0.23 with various bug fixes and internal architecture updates. Sodipodi has a low version number but appears to have some serious features that may make it worth examining if you're looking for vector drawing tool along the lines of Corel Draw (though not yet as sophisticated).

And in other news...

Life after Eazel (Salon). Andrew Leonard asks if the era of free software is already over in the Salon.com article. "Free software may truly never go away, but will it stay relevant to the contemporary software marketplace? The collapse of Eazel, combined with the difficulties faced by many other companies with open-source/free software dependent business plans, raises some serious questions about the future (and past) of free software. Namely: Just what role did the bubble economy of the '90s play in free software's march to prominence?"

KDE accessibility issues. Posted to the KDE Development mailing list was a note on adding accessibility features to KDE, much like the GNOME Accessibility project.

The Agenda VR3: Real Linux in a PDA (O'Reilly Network). In this 2nd part of a series on Linux-based handheld systems, O'Reilly examines the Agenda VR3. "The VR3's display has the lowest resolution of the three, at only 160 by 240 pixels, 16-bit gray-scale. Think of the display as the same size, physically as well as in resolution, as the new Palm m100/m105 models, except with renderable space on the VR3 where the fixed Graffiti writing area exists on the Palm."

Linux looks good on server (ZDNet). While server benchmarks are keeping Linux looking good as a server, this eWeek article thinks the Eazel demise is a bad sign for Linux on the desktop. "The imbalance has less to do with the quality of the open-source desktop technology and far more to do with the fact that investors do not see a sustainable business model for commercial desktop open-source companies."

Linux takes Hollywood by storm (ZDNet). Linux is no stranger to serving up digital renderings, but now companies like Pixar are moving the OS onto the desktop to make their movies. "Alias/Wavefront, an animation software unit of SGI, in March adapted its flagship Maya program to run on Linux. It estimates that at least one-quarter of the major studios have begun switching to Linux. Softimage Co., whose animation software helped create a colosseum in "Gladiator," expects to ship Linux versions of its two leading products in September. The Montreal firm expects the Linux market to account for 15% of sales shortly."

Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel

May 24, 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


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Development page.

Development projects

News and Editorials

Python documentation seems to be a hot topic this week. Cameron Laird has taken a look at Python documentation in a feature article on O'Reilly's onlamp.com site: "What's important and best about Python is not its use of white space, or capacity for metaprogramming, or any other single feature in isolation. Python's use is exploding because it fits well. It's a tool engineered with good balance, the right combination of rigor and flexibility to match our human needs. Yet one of the best things about Python is its documentation -- especially the kinds of documentation reference books and tutorials rarely explain."

[Python] The python.org site's Python Documentation page contains a whole slew of interesting document categories such as Python Introductory Material for beginners, Python HOWTO Documents for getting started on a specific topic, Language Comparisons for comparing Python to other languages that you may know, and the important Python Global Module Index for all of the details about the hundreds of Python modules, the real meat of the documentation. The site also offers up the entire Python 2.1 documentation for downloading.

Meanwhile, a new Python 2.0 quick reference by Simon Brunning and Richard Gruit has been announced. A Python 2.1 version is also coming along soon from the same folks.

Lastly, for those of you who speak Portuguese, a Brazilian Portuguese translation of the Python Tutorial release 2.1 has been announced this week.

Happy reading!


Stacking briQ's. LinuxPPC.org has received a stack of briQ's - small PowerPC systems the size of a CD-ROM drive. This report talks about installing and running Linux on these boxes. (Thanks to Jason Haas)


Building a Database-Driven Web Site Using PHP and MySQL (MySQL.com). MySQL.com is running an in depth tutorial that explains how to set up a database driven web site using PHP and MySQL. "By the end of this series, you can expect to have a grasp of what's involved in setting up and building a database-driven Web site."


LDP Weekly News. The latest LDP Weekly News has been published. This week saw updates to the Linux FAQ and the Transparent Proxy with a Squid mini-HOWTO. Also included is a new overview of the X Window System architecture.


SEUL/edu report for May 14, 2001. The May 14, 2001 edition of the SEUL/Edu report is out. Topics include the Linux For Schools Project in the UK and Linux-SIS in Thailand, as well as a few new educational software releases.

Embedded Systems

Embedded Linux Newsletter for May 17, 2001. The latest edition of the Embedded Linux Newsletter has been published. Topics include a feature article on switching from Windows to Linux, news on Loki and Nokia bringing Linux games to the Nokia Media Terminal, and a report on Motorola's upgrades to its Linux for telecom applications.

Three reasons why Linux will trounce the embedded market (IBM developerWorks). Linux is likely to win the embedded market wars according to this IBM developerWorks analysis. "'A side benefit to Linux is that embedded developers can use the device drivers, applications, and libraries that the open source development community keeps up to date', said Larry Macfarlane, director of Application Environments at Wind River. 'It's not Linux our customers want,' said Macfarlane. 'They like open source software because they like to have the community maintain the device drivers.'"

Office Applications

LyX Development News for 20010523. The latest issue of the LyX Development News is now available. The LyX project has also released another stable version of LyX, version 1.1.6, which features lots of bug fixes.


Freemed version released. The Freemed Foundation has released a new test version of Freemed, an open-source EMR and practice management package for the medical community.

DURITO: search the web and CDROMs. DURITO is a new Perl based XML and RDF semantic web search tool that aims to be used in the humanities and social sciences areas.


Encrypting with Stunnel (IBM developerWorks). John Viega discusses the use of stunnel for encrypting network communications in an IBM developerWorks article. "Most network-aware programs should use cryptography to protect data from prying eyes but many do not, either because they are legacy applications or because Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) can be difficult to add into applications. Stunnel is a program that allows both programmers and system administrators to easily add encryption to arbitrary TCP sessions. You can SSL-enable clients and servers with ease -- and you can do so without interfering with program source."

Web-site Development

Apache 1.3.20 Released. The Apache Software Foundation and The Apache Server Project have released version 1.3.20 of the Apache HTTP server. This release contains primarily bug fixes and security updates.

Zope Weekly News for May 18, 2001. The Zope Weekly News for May 18th is available. "Tired of the Web? Talk to zope in many ways. Who has the biggest zope? the longest? Zope 2.4 alpha coming soon, and more Zope.org information in this week's Zope Weekly News."

MWS for 18th of May, 2001. The Midgard Weekly Summary for May 18th, 2001 is available. Topics include: Midgard 2.0: the reason and the means to get there, Linksystem Muenchen and the midHoo project, Yet Another Midgard Packager and more.

mnoGoSearch version 3.1.13 available. A new version of the mnoGoSearch web search engine is available. This version features a new install script, HTTPS support and lots of bug fixes.

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

May 24, 2001

Application Links
High Availability

Open Source Code Collections
Le Serveur Libre



Programming Languages

Assembly Language


25 days to GCC 3.0. A posting from Mark Mitchell to the GCC Project mailing list states that GCC 3.0 should be out on or about June 15th. (Thanks to Nathaniel Graham)


Caml Weekly News for May 16 through 22, 2001. The May 16 through 22, 2001 edition of the Caml Weekly News is out. News includes a new release for Camlp4, a new draft of the CDK documentation tool, and snapshots of the lablgtk with Glade support.


Faster apps on a better machine (IBM developerWorks). Running faster Java requires faster boxes, and this article from IBM's developerWorks looks at how to profile, monitor and performance tune those boxes. "If your application is not I/O- or network-bound, the simplest way to improve performance is to increase memory and processor speed. If your application is network bound, check your network topology and network adapter card settings, since they can affect overall performance." Bigger sledge hammers drive bigger nails.


LISA 0.9 Beta released. The first official beta of LISA, version 0.9 Beta, has been released. This version includes improved documentation and a new RETRACT-INSTANCE function.


Perl 5 Porters for May 20, 2001. The May 20, 2001 edition of the Perl 5 Porters Digest is out. This week's topics include internationalization, the death of pseudo hashes, magic, a legal FAQ, and more.

Perl 6 Porters returns. After a bit of a hiatus, the Perl 6 Porters digest has returned with the May 21, 2001 edition. Topics include Perl 6 internals, perl 5 and Perl 6 differences, Sandboxing, Undecorated References, Lexing and Pushdown Expressions, and more.

New site: learn.perl.org. A new web site, learn.perl.org has shown up with the purpose of teaching Perl to beginners. The site currently manages a few mailing lists including one for daily Perl tips, and the operators are looking for article contributions.

Perl and :CueCat Help You Roll Your Own Data Capture (Dr. Dobb's). Dr. Dobb's is running an article on how to use the freely available :CueCat bar code scanner and Perl to read ISBN bar codes off of books, pull information on the book from the net, and store the results in a MySQL database.


PHP Weekly Summary for May 21, 2001. The May 21, 2001 edition of the PHP Weekly Summary is out. Topics include manual language translations, PHP 4.0.6 RC1, Associative and Indexed arrays, a disktotalspace function, and more

Advanced PHP Variables and Functions (ONLamp.com). O'Reilly's ONLamp.com is running an article by John Coggeshall on Advanced PHP Variables and Functions.


Dr. Dobb's Python-URL! (May 21, 2001). Dr. Dobb's the week on Python summary is available. Topics this week include comparisons of Python to Lisp, compatibility of Zope with Python 2.1 and a discussion of an upcoming Python 2.1 quick reference.

Charming Python: A review of Python IDEs (IBM developerWorks). David Mertz continues his IBM developerWorks series on Python with an article on Python Integrated Development Environments. "My overall impression of Python IDEs leads me to a somewhat surprising conclusion. Perhaps some general principle underlies this, or perhaps it is merely chance. In general, I find the free tools quite a bit better than the commercial ones that cost money."

Python:The one-size-fits-all programming language (IT World.com). Nicolas Petreley looks at Python in an IT World.com article. "I'm a big fan of Python -- the open source programming language. In case you're wondering, Python is indeed named after the BBC comedy group Monty Python. The language was created around 1990 by Guido van Rossum, a fan of Monty Python. Since then it has matured at a phenomenal rate, thanks to its open source nature."


Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL! (May 21, 2001). Dr. Dobb's has posted their weekly Tcl-URL! summarizing the weekly news for the Tcl world. News this week includes a discussion on creating a database in pure Tcl, a Tcl benchmark, and the release of the Tcl-enabled AOLServer 3.4 web server.


Perl XML Quickstart: The Standard XML Interfaces (O'Reilly). O'Reilly's XML.com site features a second article by Kip Hampton on using Perl to produce XML. "This month we look at the Perl implementations of the standard XML APIs: The Document Object Model, The XPath language, and the Simple API for XML."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

Language Links
Caml Hump
g95 Fortran
Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC)
Gnu Compiler for the Java Language (GCJ)
IBM Java Zone
Free the X3J Thirteen (Lisp)
Use Perl
O'Reilly's perl.com
Dr. Dobbs' Perl
PHP Weekly Summary
Daily Python-URL
Python Eggs
Ruby Garden
MIT Scheme
Why Smalltalk
Tcl Developer Xchange
O'Reilly's XML.com
Regular Expressions

 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and Business

SUN delivers GNOME 1.4. Sun Microsystems released GNOME 1.4 for Solaris for both the Intel and Sparc architectures. The GNOME 1.4 Desktop package includes Nautilus, GNOME-VFS, Bonobo and GConf. This is an unsupported version serving as a prelude to GNOME 2.x.

Sun sees a great future for GNOME on the Solaris desktop, according to this paper.

netbeans.org expands open source tools. Sun Microsystems also announced that the NetBeans open source project has added more than a dozen additional modules into its open source code base.

VA Linux posts third-quarter loss. VA Linux reported revenue of $20.3 million for its third fiscal quarter, 2001. The company reported revenue of $34.6 million in the same quarter of fiscal 2000. Net loss for the quarter, on a pro forma basis, excluding non-cash and non-recurring charges, was ($0.38) per share.

"The difficult current market environment has significantly impacted our financial results," said VA Linux Systems CEO Larry M. Augustin. "The market is very challenging and the competitive environment is very aggressive. Our focus is on ensuring that we come out of this slowdown strong and well positioned to resume growth. We are balancing cost reductions and management structure improvements with the introduction of exciting new products and services. We have a strong cash position and are confident that we will successfully navigate the current business conditions."

Synplicity Announces Support for Linux. Synplicity announced it plans to add support for the Linux operating system to its entire portfolio of semiconductor design and verification products.

Great Bridge Lays Off Five Employees. Great Bridge, which offers commercial versions of the PostgreSQL database, has laid off five people, mostly in technical support roles, but has no plans for further layoffs and actually expects to continue hiring sales and engineering staff.

LPI-News, May 2001. The Linux Professional Institute has posted its summary of news from the Linux certification arena.

Mundie round 2. Last week, we said no more Mundie, but there was a deafening clamor among our readers for more Craig Mundie material. Well, maybe not, but here's a followup piece in ZDNet with more of his wisdom:

When comparing the commercial software model to the open-source software model, look carefully at the business plans and licensing structures that form their foundations. This comparison leads to the conclusion that the commercial software model alone has the capacity for sustaining real economic growth. Intellectual capital has always been, and will remain, the core asset of the software industry, and of almost every other industry. Preserving that capital--and investing in its constant renewal--benefits everyone.

Meanwhile, from Eric Raymond, we have an analysis of Microsoft's 'Shared Source' program.

We here at Microsoft call this 'protecting intellectual property rights in order to create a sustainable business model'. Um, that would be *our* intellectual property and *our* business model. You surely weren't thinking we cared about *your* business or *your* rights, were you?

Linux International also rejects 'Shared Source' in favor of open source.

Linux Stock Index for May 17 to May 23, 2001.

LSI at closing on May 17, 2001 ... 32.71
LSI at closing on May 23, 2001 ... 33.83

The high for the week was 34.45
The low for the week was 32.71

Press Releases:

Open source products

Unless specified, license is unverified.

Proprietary Products for Linux

Hardware and bundled products

Products and Services Using Linux

Products With Linux Versions

Java Products


Investments and Acquisitions

Personnel & New Offices

Linux / Open Source At Work

Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.

May 24, 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

Linus Week (Silicon.com). Silicon.com is running a week long salute to the "poster boy for open source". Not all the articles have been posted yet, but you can get a start on them now. Much of this seems like advance press for the Torvalds autobiography, Just for Fun.

Unix applications may be hurdle for Apple (News.com). According to this story, Apple's new OS X may bring in Unix converts, but also needs Unix applications. "Unix developers' interest in Mac OS X is simple: It is the first desktop, Unix-based operating system to reach the mass market. Early signs show that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is off to a good start in wooing Unix developers despite the loss and replacement of its head of developer relations earlier this year."

Worldwide Copyrights a Quagmire? (Wired). Wired News has an article on Richard Stallman's presence on a Commerce Department roundtable on the Hague Convention. "Currently the Hague Convention includes copyright offenses in a section that Stallman, Internet providers, and consumer groups are lobbying to remove. Stallman, for instance, claims countries that are even more permissive about awarding software patents could sue U.S. programmers for violating them -- and thereby wreak havoc on the free software movement."

Is Open Source for You? (Software Development Online). This introductory piece describing open source as both code and philosophy is rather thorough and a good reference for those who don't quite get what "freedom" really means to the community. "According to its advocates-and setting aside the social agitprop for now-the strongest advantages of open source software are quality and reliability. If a project can attract enough users and developers, it can leverage The Cathedral and the Bazaar author Eric S. Raymond's famous epigram: 'Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.'" (Thanks to Kyle Roberson)


IBM uses mainframe to woo Linux fans (News.com). While most individuals can't afford their own mainframe, IBM is offering space on their zSeries for Linux fans. "IBM will announce late in the week that it has made one of its 10-processor zSeries mainframe computers available via the Internet for access by people interested in working with the Linux operating system."

VA Linux's losses grow fourfold (News.com). C|Net examines VA Linux's just released revenue report. "Asked if the company could meet its stated goal of profitability by the quarter ended October, 2002, [WR Hambrecht analyst Prakesh] Patel said, 'Not at the current burn rate' --the rate at which the company consumes cash as it tries to get into the black."

Eazel Collapses, And Some Mourn (ZDNet). ZDNet examines the demise of Eazel. "Eazel originally attracted investors because it represented a lot of accumulated experience from the Apple Macintosh design team. An Apple veteran, Andy Hertzfeld, was a founder of Eazel, and Darin Adler, the equivalent of Eazel's vice president for software engineering, had been the technical lead for Apple's System 7."

Life after Eazel (Salon). Here's a pessimistic article in Salon about the collapse of Eazel. "The collapse of Eazel, combined with the difficulties faced by many other companies with open-source/free software dependent business plans, raises some serious questions about the future (and past) of free software. Namely: Just what role did the bubble economy of the '90s play in free software's march to prominence?"


Device Profile: Hi-Muse -- the ultimate music appliance? (LinuxDevices). LinuxDevices.com looks at Future Sound Technologies Hi-Muse, a Linux-based entertainment gadget. "Basically, you can use the Hi-Muse to record, play, and store your music from CDs and other sources; it also provides a simple means by which you can locate, listen to, and store music from Internet radio stations, music portals, and other online sources -- without the use of a PC."

Game machines tackle new jobs (News.com). Do people really want a gaming console that can also surf the web, record TV shows and play DVDs? This C|Net article examines the question and the Nokia Media Terminal. "Nokia is counting on consumer who aren't hardcore gamers or power Internet users to embrace a device that offers multiple functions in one streamlined form, said Romulo Pinheiro, product market manager for Nokia."


Meet Linus, the accidental revolutionary behind Linux (ZDNet). Here's an interesting analysis of Linus, done based on an interview of the Linux leader while on tour for his autobiography. "But I was there--at least when Torvalds used the word "crap"--and have to say he didn't seem all that worked up about Mundie, sounding like he considered the Microsoft exec more of a misinformed child than a leader of an industry-defining company set on doing Torvalds's invention harm."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

May 24, 2001


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See also: last week's Announcements page.



ClusterNews(TM) Newsletter to Provide Information on Linux Clustering. The ClusterNews Newsletter is a bi-monthly electronic newsletter sponsored by Linux NetworX. ClusterNews is now accepting outside subscription requests and submissions for technical articles relating to clustering.

Tip Of The Week: Extracting Text with "strings" (LinuxLookup). If you're looking for printable data in a mostly binary file, the command line tool to use is "strings".

Duke of URL's 10th Linux Buyer's Guide. Here's the Duke of URL's Linux Buyer's Guide #10. This one includes NVIDIA's GeForce3.


First European Enterprise Linux Conference. The Enterprise Linux Conference will run alongside the Linux Expo at London's Olympia, from 3 - 5 July 2001.

LinuxWorld launches developer conference. The LinuxWorld Conference and Expo has announced a "Worldwide Developer Conference" that will happen in association with the LinuxWorld event in San Francisco this August. It will be more technically oriented, featuring presentations by Guido van Rossum, Rasmus Lerdorf, Wickert Akkerman, Larry McVoy, and others.

Apache Software Foundation And Camelot Communications Take ApacheCon To Dublin, Ireland. ApacheCon Europe will be held in Dublin, Ireland, October 15 - 17, 2001.

Events: May 24 - July 19, 2001.
Date Event Location
May 24 - 26, 2001LinuxWorldKorea
May 24, 2001MontaVista seminar(Santa Clara Hilton)Santa Clara, Calif.
May 29 - 31, 2001II Forum Internacional do Software LivreBrazil
May 31, 2001The Unix Users Group the Netherlands Spring Conference(De Reehorst)Ede, the Netherlands
May 31, 2001MontaVista seminar(Irvine Hilton)Irvine, Calif.
June 5, 2001MontaVista seminarChicago.
June 6 - 7, 2001Linux ExpoMilan, Italy
June 7 - 8, 2001Second European Tcl/Tk User MeetingGermany
June 7, 2001MontaVista seminarToronto.
June 11 - 14, 2001Hot Springs Educational Technology Institute conference(Hot Springs High School)Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 13, 2001Linux@workParis
June 14, 2001Linux@workBrussels
June 15, 2001Linux@workAmsterdam
June 20 - 21, 2001Linuxdays 2001St. PŲlten, Austria
June 25 - 30, 2001USENIX Annual Technical ConferenceBoston, Massachusetts
June 25 - 27, 2001NCSA Linux users' and system administrators' conference(University of Illinois)Urbana, IL
June 29 - July 1, 2001Linux 2001 Developers'' ConferenceManchester, UK
July 3 - 5, 2001Enterprise Linux Institute ConferenceOlympia, London
July 4 - 9, 2001Libre Software MeetingBordeaux, France
July 4 - 5, 2001Linux Expo ExhibitionOlympia, London
July 5 - 8, 2001LinuxTag 2001 - Stuttgart,Germany
July 9 - 12, 2001Embedded Systems Conference(Navy Pier Festival Hall)Chicago, Ill.
July 9 - 13, 2001SAGE - AU 2001(Grosvenor Vista Hotel)South Australia
July 19 - 25, 2001Networking Event 2000(ne2000)Nuenen, the Netherlands, South

Web sites

User Group News

Linux Users' Group of Davis and Kylix. The LUGOD meeting on June 5, 2001 will feature a presentation on "Kylix" Rapid Application Development Tool by Anders Ohlsson of Borland Software Corporation.

LUG Events: May 24 - June 7, 2001.
Date Event Location
May 25 - 27, 2001LUG-Camps 2001NŲrdlinger Ries
May 26, 2001Consortium of All Bay Area Linux(CABAL)Menlo Park, CA
May 26, 2001Central Ohio LUG(COLUG)Columbus, Ohio
May 26, 2001LUGOD Linux DemoDavis, CA
May 28, 2001NJLUG: Kend din shellDenmark
May 29, 2001Phoenix Linux Users Group(PLUG)(Glendale Community College)Glendale, AZ
May 29, 2001DK-TUG: Introduktion til MetaPostDenmark
May 29, 2001LinuxDK: Netvśrk Telecom Internet 2001Denmark
May 30, 2001KLID: AFS - Andrew File SystemDenmark
May 31, 2001Bergen Linux User Group(BLUG)Bergen, Norway
May 31, 2001The Unix Users Group the Netherlands Spring Conference(De Reehorst)Ede, the Netherlands
May 31, 2001AaLUG: Generalforsamling i AaLUGDenmark
June 2, 2001Twin Cities LUG(TCLUG)Minneapolis, MN
June 2, 2001Sheffield LUG(ShefLUG)University of Sheffield, UK
June 4, 2001Baton Rouge LUG(BRLUG)Baton Rouge, LA.
June 5, 2001Linux User Group of Davis(LUGOD)(Z-World)Davis, CA
June 5, 2001NorthWest Chicagoland LUG(NWCLUG)(Harper College)Palatine, Illinois
June 5, 2001Missouri Open Source LUG(MOSLUG)Kirkwood, Missouri
June 6, 2001Silicon Valley LUG(SVLUG)San Jose, CA
June 6, 2001Southeastern Indiana LUG(SEILUG)(Madison/Jefferson County Public Library)Madison, IN
June 6, 2001Kansas City LUG Demoday(KCLUG)(Kansas City Public Library)KC, Missouri
June 7, 2001Edinburgh LUG(EDLUG)Edinburgh, Scotland
June 7, 2001Gallup Linux Users Group(GalLUG)(Coyote Bookstore)Gallup, New Mexico

May 24, 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 (May 28, 1998 LWN): The Linux Weekly News moved to its own domain at lwn.net. If you haven't updated your bookmarks yet, it's probably about time.

Perhaps one of the more important events that took place at Linux Expo was the BOF on the proposed Linux standard base. The LSB was seeking to create a standard for Linux systems, such that an application that runs on one compliant system will run on them all. This worthwhile effort is alive and well. LSB 0.9 was released a couple of weeks ago, and the 1.0 release is expected in the next few months.

Our nomination for FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) of the week went to PC Week's Case Against Linux.

... Linux is a communist operating system in a capitalist society. Its popularity is going to lead toward its fragmentation. There are several for-sale versions of Linux available. For example, both Corel and Interbase said they'd support Red Hat Linux. Does this leave Caldera in the dust? What about the other for-sale Linux distributors, each of which has access to the original source code, and each of which can modify it to their liking?

The author was our old friend John Taschek; anybody who wonders if he has learned anything in the last three years need only look at his comments on the Mundie affair.

Transmeta was still a mystery. Salon Magazine ran The Transmeta Enigma.

Once upon a time, only a Pynchon would have dared such silliness. And only a Pynchon could have conjured up the Transmeta scenario: A start-up company backed in part by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen attracts international attention by hiring one of the most famous programmers in the world -- free-software hero Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system. Then it refuses to say a single word about what he or the rest of the company is cooking up behind closed doors.

According to the The Star Online in Malaysia, IBM had no plans for Linux. The Star wrote, "...our customers are concerned about liability issues when using public code for mission-critical applications." Perhaps, but that obviously has nothing to do with IBM's plans for Linux.

Red Hat Linux 5.1 was released.

Two years ago (May 27, 1999 LWN): Linux Expo '99 had just completed. LWN commented:

Nothing is written in stone, but it seems unlikely that Linux Expo will be able to recapture its former position as the primary trade show for Linux.

In fact, the 1999 event was the last Linux Expo.

Alan Cox released 2.3.3ac3 with some small changes. Alan had said, previously that the "ac" patches would go away when 2.3 became active. Now the "ac" patches are an established part of Linux kernel development.

SGI announced it would release their XFS file system for Linux under an open source license. It was almost a year later before the first developer release, and XFS 1.0 only came out a few weeks ago.

The LWN distributions page wondered if Mandrake had a future. Linux-Mandrake started out as a version of Red Hat with KDE integrated. Red Hat's latest distribution included KDE. Mandrake already had a loyal following of users though, who appreciated Mandrake's greater use of Pentium optimizations, more current software, and better responsiveness to its users and with the Lothar project, a nicer system for the configuration of hardware. Two years later, MandrakeSoft is in the news again, but nobody really doubts its place in the Linux community or the Linux commercial arena.

InfoWorld reported that Pacific HiTech was on the move, attempting to carry its dominance in the Asian Linux market to the U.S. Actually, this was when Pacific HiTech changed its name to TurboLinux after its Linux distribution. (They now spell it with a small 'l' - Turbolinux.)

A partnership with IBM was part of the plan, with IBM optimizing DB2 for the TurboLinux distribution and the two companies working together on sales and future development. IBM also announced it would provide support services for TurboLinux. The deployment of over 600 IBM Netfinity servers running TurboLinux at Kyoto Sangyo University provided an impressive start to the IBM / TurboLinux partnership as well.

Two years later Turbolinux has all of 1.2% of the American Linux market.

Slackware 4.0 was released.

One year ago (May 25, 2000 LWN): EBiz Enterprises officially acquired LinuxMall.com, in a deal that was intended to be the reverse. EBiz, best known for TheLinuxStore.com, was already a public company. LinuxMall wanted to be one, but the market wasn't going to let that happen. The initial plan was for LinuxMall to be the controlling company after the merger; Forbes called it A Marriage Made In Linux Heaven:

Under the agreement, LinuxMall will end up controlling the new company, even though it is being acquired. "They're buying us, but it's not quite a one-for-one stock swap," says Shaw, who will be CEO of the merged company. "We ended up with a larger share of the stock, as well as control of the board." Jeffrey Rassas, founder and CEO of eBiz, will become president of the combined company.

By the time the deal was completed, however, EBIZ had a rather stronger position than had originally been contemplated.

Lineo, Inc. went ahead and filed for an IPO, in spite of the market. This Open Season column in Upside compares Lineo to Linuxcare.

Finally, there is the issue of growth. Like Linuxcare, Lineo has emerged out of the woodwork within the last 18 months thanks to an aggressive campaign to grow over the 200-employee mark by IPO-time. Since the beginning of April, the company has tripled in size, acquiring no less than six new companies. The company spent $6.7 million on UK competitor Zentropic, adding another $1.2 million for smaller engineering shops such as USE, Fireplug and RT-Control. Such costs do not include the discount equity packages offered to the new engineers coming on board.

Lineo is still waiting for the market to change.

Eric Raymond hacked up a new kernel configuration scheme.

Caldera Systems reported second quarter results. It was the first time since the company went public. For the quarter ending April 30, they brought in $1.4 million - up from $544,000 a year ago. They managed to lose $9.2 million during the quarter.

VA Linux Systems, meanwhile, announced revenue of almost $35 million. One year later, the same quarterly announcement proclaimed revenue of just over $20 million. Ouch.

PHP 4.0 was released.

May 24, 2001

LWN Linux Timelines
1998 In Review
1999 In Review
2000 In Review
2001 In Review


 Main page
 On the Desktop
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 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.

May 24, 2001

From:	 Dan Kegel <dank@kegel.com>
To:	 letters@lwn.net, dank@kegel.com
Subject: The way of CVS vs. the way of the patch
Date:	 Thu, 17 May 2001 00:44:41 -0700

There have long been friction between Linus and kernel subsystems 
developed using CVS.  On the one hand, the subsystem maintainer
uses CVS because it gets rid of the need for a central person to understand
and merge all changes; on the other hand, Linus rightly rejects patches
that contain tens or even hundreds of intertwined changes.

Thus I was surprised to read LWN saying "write access to the CVS 
repository for the LVM project is now enabled. This step is being 
taken as part of an effort to open up LVM development and to better 
integrate it with the rest of the kernel process."  Given the bad blood
between CVS and the standard kernel process, that statement is almost

The only way I can see the two worlds (CVS-lovers and 
human-readable-patch-lovers) coming together is if the LVM 
project put aside their current tree, started over from a CVS 
tree that contained exactly the 2.4.4 kernel version of LVM, 
and set up cvs to email some lieutenant of Linus the corresponding 
patch whenever a change was checked in.

Assuming each checkin was carefully tested and well commented,
and the lieutenant did a good job of filtering the patches and
providing quick feedback to the CVS-folk, this might keep the
two trees in good alignment, and avoid bloodshed.

Dan Kegel
From:	 Bill Carlson <wcarlson@vh.org>
To:	 <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: Perhaps you missed...
Date:	 Thu, 17 May 2001 12:03:43 -0500 (CDT)

>From the May 17,2001 LWN:

"That said, it is worth pointing out that, as far as we know, there is
still not a free, top-quality large network backup and restore system
available for Linux. Numerous commercial alternatives are out there, but
the available free systems just do not have the same level of features and
scalability. This could be a good project for somebody..."

Perhaps you missed a nice package by the name of AMANDA

You can read more about it here: http://www.backupcentral.com/amanda.html


Bill Carlson
Systems Programmer    bill-carlson@uiowa.edu	|  Opinions are mine,
Virtual Hospital      http://www.vh.org/        |  not my employer's.
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics	|

From:	 Rob Funk <rfunk@funknet.net>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: backups and icons
Date:	 Thu, 17 May 2001 21:16:10 -0400

I have two comments on the May 17 edition of Linux Weekly news....

First item: I greatly agree with your comments on the possible demise
of the BRU backup system and the implications of using proprietary
backup software, and have often argued similar things in the past.

However, I must take some issue with your final paragraph:
> That said, it is worth pointing out that, as far as we know, there
> is still not a free, top-quality large network backup and restore
> system available for Linux. Numerous commercial alternatives are out
> there, but the available free systems just do not have the same
> level of features and scalability. This could be a good project for
> somebody...

I don't think you give enough credit to the Amanda backup system
(www.amanda.org), which is quite scalable.  It doesn't have the pretty
GUI of BRU, but if you need a GUI for your backup system you're in
trouble when you lose the disk your X11 setup is on.

Before suggesting that somebody start a project to replace BRU, you
might suggest that someone contribute to existing projects such as
Amanda to make up for whatever deficiencies those projects might have
in comparison to BRU.

Second item: In the "On the desktop" section, Michael J. Hammel says:
> One other note for both GNOME and KDE: would someone please explain
> to me how to remove those icons on the root windows for both KDE and
> GNOME! Those silly things were introduced by Microsoft years ago and
> are, in the humble opinion of one old timer, an abomination.

I don't have an answer to the question (other than switch to something
like icewm and run GNOME and KDE apps from there), but I'm surprised
that this self-described "old timer" and graphic artist thinks that
Microsoft introduced those desktop icons.  Apple, of course,
introduced them to the world with the Macintosh back in 1984, and
Windows 95 adopted them (moving them from right to left and changing
the trash can to a recycle bin).  Not to understate Xerox PARC's role
in the issue, but Xerox didn't exactly introduce such things to the
world like Apple did.

While I generally respect Hammel's work, like others I am beginning to
question how his writing fits into LWN.  It reads more like a column
than a section of news, and none of the other sections read like that.
I don't remember ever seeing a line like "would someone please explain
to me how to do this..." in any other section of LWN -- LWN is
supposed to be a source of information, which knows how to find the
information it needs from other sources.  I believe that
desktop-oriented news is important, but the current style doesn't
inspire confidence in this news source.
==============================|   "A microscope locked in on one point
 Rob Funk <rfunk@funknet.net> |Never sees what kind of room that it's in"
 http://www.funknet.net/rfunk |    -- Chris Mars, "Stuck in Rewind"
From:	 "Floyd Sykes" <floydls@home.com>
To:	 <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: On The Desktop May 10 -- KDE Bloat
Date:	 Thu, 17 May 2001 17:40:53 -0400

> "The most practical solution for most people may well be to
> get a new motherboard with a 1.3 GHz CPU, install the latest KDE or
> GNOME, and not worry about small differences in window system
> performance. "

B. S. -- most people cannot afford new equipment, so this is not very
practical.  Most people run about 3 to 5 years behind the latest computer
systems.  They do not buy the latest because of the high cost and then tend
to keep the computer for a long time until it is clear that it will no
longer do.  A case in point: I got a Gateway P100 in Nov 1996.  At the time
it was on the knee of the price performance curve.  I still run (horrors)
win95 which does most of what I need.  Last year I got two P90s and a P133
with 48 MB RAM, all running the old KDE that came with Suse 6.4.  I run
icewm on an old 486-66 with no problems.  Yes, a faster computer would be
nicer but cast is a definite issue.

Also, I agree completely with Michael A. Schwarz in his email (Wrong way to
look at it).  The time to make a program fast and use less memory is when
it is designed and implemented, not later.  If you wait till later then you
miss the most beneficial time to improve it.  KDE and GNOME should work OK
on old equipment.  After all MS windows works and KDE and GNOME.  They are
not all that much more advanced.

Floyd Sykes

From:	 Dylan Griffiths <Inoshiro@kuro5hin.org>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: Untruth about kernel forks
Date:	 Sun, 20 May 2001 22:39:54 -0600

	In the 17th of May, 2001 LWN you said:
"*  No distributor ships a standard Linus kernel - all apply patches."
	This is not true.  Slackware ships with a standard kernel.  Only in rare
cases (such as the 2.2.16 kernel in 7.0) do they ship a patched version.
    www.kuro5hin.org -- technology and culture, from the trenches.
From:	 Eric Johansson <esj@harvee.billerica.ma.us>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: browser challenges
Date:	 Sat, 19 May 2001 08:23:59 -0400

in the May 17th Linux weekly news, there was a discussion of the state of
various browsers.  For me, one of the major shortcomings is the poor
quality of Java implementations.  I have managed to wean my wife off of
Microsoft products and the browser is the last hurdle.  My wife is addicted
to http://www.jigzone.com and http://www.popcap.com/psychobabble.html and
both sites count heavily on Java.  Unfortunately, both sites stress Java
enough to cause her machine to lock up under Netscape.  Mozilla Java
doesn't even start running and Opera isn't shipping a Java implementation
yet for Linux.

Unfortunately, a good quality browser means more than just rendering pages
correctly.  It's also a program execution environment which can impact the
rest of the machine.  I hope that browser developers will improve the
quality of their Java implementations and handle sites such as the ones
listed above.

--- eric

Eklektix, Inc. Linux powered! Copyright © 2001 Eklektix, Inc., all rights reserved
Linux ® is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds