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Leading items and editorials

[Ottawa] The Ottawa Linux Symposium is over for another year. LWN's coverage from the event is now available. Have a look for a discussion at what happened at this important Linux event, now that the reporters have caught up on their sleep... Also included is the contents of the conference proceedings CD, which includes the original submitted paper for each talk.

Our event coverage looks at the details of what happened in Ottawa, but it is also worthwhile to step back and consider OLS from a more distant perspective. OLS is a nearly unique gathering of the people who actually make Linux what it is, and there are things to be learned by seeing who they are and what's on their minds.

One of the things that jumped out immediately this year, of course, is that a lot fewer prominent developers made the trip to Ottawa this year. Evidently the combination of travel burnout and economic worries kept a lot of people at home. Many of those people were missed.

On the other hand, IBM's presence at OLS was truly surprising. By one IBMer's guess, there were fifty people there from IBM - out of a conference maximum of 500. Despite their numbers, however, the IBM folks did not really stand out - they were simply engineers working on the improvement of free software like everybody else. Many of them are doing the same work they were doing before they became IBM employees. IBM appears to be determined to play a part in the Linux development community, and to do so on the community's terms. Linux is richer for the company's presence.

Clusters are growing up. Linux clusters have long been a valuable tool for those seeking high availability or high performance, but only for those who do not mind their "some assembly required" nature. Now we are finally seeing the development of specialized distributions which make clusters easy to build and manage, efforts to create standards for high-availability cluster interfaces, and other necessary tools of the trade. Expect cluster adoption to increase greatly as these tools mature and become widely available.

Finally, it is clear that the community needs this sort of development-oriented gathering. There is a place for flashy trade shows, but there is also a need for gatherings with lots of talk time, no suits, no trade floor, good network connectivity, a highly technical program, and plenty of beer. It's not often that the widespread Linux development community is able to get together and really talk about what it is doing. Events like OLS are a vital part of the free software development process; one can only hope that they thrive.

Dmitry Sklyarov update. Various things are happening in the story of the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov. We'll summarize them below, but here, perhaps, is the most relevant part: Dmitry Sklyarov is still in jail (in Oklahoma, last we have heard), and the government still intends to pursue the case. So, in that sense, nothing has really improved.

That said, here's what's been happening:

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation met with the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 27. In the EFF's words: "There was a productive dialog, however the U.S. Attorney's office gave no indication of dropping the prosecution against Dmitry Sklyarov." The EFF seems to think that this approach is going no further for now, and has called for a resumption of protests.

  • Canada is reworking its copyright law and is looking at anti-circumvention measures as part of that process. Anti-circumvention, of course, is at the core of the trouble with the DMCA, and is the aspect of that law that Dmitry Sklyarov is charged with violating. It remains, thus far, unique to U.S. law (or nearly so); a spread of this disease to other countries would not be a welcome development.

    At this time, it would appear that anti-circumvention provisions are not a done deal for the new Canadian law. Reading into the available documents, one finds the following:

    In other words, by providing legal recognition of the technological measures, the traditional boundaries of copyright law would be extended to include new layers of protection. There is concern that the Copyright Act may not be the proper instrument for protection measures that, prima facie, are extraneous to copyright principles.

    Those of you who are Canadian citizens may want to read about the proposed law and the comment process that is currently open. If enough people submit well-written comments opposed to anti-circumvention provisions, Canada may just be able to avoid some of the unpleasantness currently happening in the U.S.

  • Though we would certainly like to see more coverage of this issue in the mainstream press, it has gotten some attention there. Among the week's best is this article by Lawrence Lessig in the New York Times. "Yet Mr. Sklyarov still languishes in jail, puzzled, no doubt, about how a free society can jail someone for writing code that was legal where written, just because he comes to the United States and gives a report on encryption weaknesses."

  • See also this letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein from the ACM:

    We recently read that you had heard of no credible opposition to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). As the Co-Chairs of the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), we are writing to inform you that ACM has consistently opposed the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

Those interested in up-to-the-minute information can find it at FreeSklyarov.org.

You have heard it all before, but it bears repeating: it is time for supporters of free software (and thus, of freedom) to get involved with their political systems. Too many laws are being made with little understanding of the technical issues and too much influence from a small subset of the interests involved. We need to talk some sense into our governments, or we may find ourselves free to write all the code we want - as long as it does nothing interesting.

Frank Willison, editor-in-chief at O'Reilly & Associates, passed away as the result of a massive heart attack on July 30. Frank was a key player at O'Reilly and played a big role in the company's coverage of free software topics. In particular, the Perl and Python book lines bear his imprint in a big way. Frank shares, in some way, the credit for the success of those languages, though he would have denied that:

...the Camel book did not legitimize Perl. It may have accelerated Perl's adoption by making information about Perl more readily available. But the truth is that Perl would have succeeded without an O'Reilly book (as would Python and Zope), and that we're very pleased to have been smart enough to recognize Perl's potential before other publishers did.

Frank will be missed, both inside and outside of O'Reilly.

For more information on Frank, numerous quotes that are well worth reading, and the opportunity to post notes of your own, please see In Memory of Frank Willison on the O'Reilly site.

Inside this LWN.net weekly edition:

  • Security: Second coming of Code Red, Linux 2.2 masq problems, and one geek at DEF CON.
  • Kernel: A new event completion interface; ext3 improvements; initramfs.
  • Distributions: Is it time for distributors to consolidate? Devil-Linux, GNU-Darwin, and Conectiva 7.0.
  • On the Desktop: HP and the VFX market, beyond KDE 2.2, and GIMP 1.2.2.
  • Development: Python division concerns, Cluster working group, faster C++ startup, PHP conference, new Lisp, Caml, and Jython compilers.
  • Commerce: MandrakeSoft's successful IPO; Gaming on Linux takes a VAST leap forward.
  • History: William Della Croche's attempt on the Linux trademark; SGI jumps into Linux; Caldera and SCO announce plans for a merger.
  • Letters: The morality of proprietary software.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

August 2, 2001


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See also: last week's Security page.


News and Editorials

Second coming of Code Red. CERT posted a warning to administrators regarding the potential resurfacing of the Code Red worm this past week. The worm was expected to awaken on Tuesday, July 31st, 2001 starting at 8PM. The report noted that after an 11 day quiet period the worm would likely begin to spread again from previously infected systems in a mutated form.

While Microsoft has taken some heat for the spread of the worm, experts are worried a second outbreak might raise the costs of dealing with the virus even higher, with the first wave having approached $1.2 billion in lost services so far.

By early morning on Wednesday the worm had resurfaced, and by late afternoon had affected upwards of 135,000 systems. The growth of infected systems once again appears to be exponential, but mixed reports were made as to whether this second round of infections would eventually be worse than the first outbreak or less severe.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Cisco posted an update to their advisory for the Code Red worm which describes the potential impact on their customers from side affects of the worm.

When the traffic from the worm reaches a significant level, a Cisco CSS 11000 series Content Service Switch may suffer a memory allocation error that leads to memory corruption and will require a reboot. The defect is documented in DDTS CSCdu76237.

While none of this directly impacts Linux users, it indirectly affects everyone on the Internet due to the potential such attacks have to slow or even stop the movement of traffic. Fortunately, at least by press time for LWN.net, round 2 in this battle seems to have gone to the administrators.

Linux kernel IP masquerading vulnerability. A report was posted to BugTraq this week on a remotely exploitable IP masquerading vulnerability in the Linux kernel. The problem includes the Linux 2.2 ip_masq_irc module and involves situations where certain browser or MUA helper applications can cause firewalls to act as proxies to open inbound connections when they shouldn't. A patch has been provided by the IP MASQ 2.2 maintainer, JuanJo Ciarlante.

RATS 1.1 (beta). A new beta version of the source code auditing tool RATS has been released, adding the ability to scan both Perl and Python code for vulnerabilities.

Security Reports

Debian security updates for apache and apache-ssl. There have been reports that the 'apache' http daemon, as included in the Debian 'stable' distribution, is vulnerable to the 'artificially long slash path directory listing vulnerability'. There are fixes available in apache-ssl 1.3.9-13.3 and apache_1.3.9-14. It is recommended that you upgrade your packages immediately.

Trustix advisory for PHPLib. Trustix Secure Linux issued an advisory for PHPLib to address problems where an attacker can execute scripts from another server.

Long messages ids in elm cause buffer overflows. An advisory was issued by Linux-Mandrake this week for the elm mail client to address an issue with long headers causing buffer overflows.

Proprietary products. The following proprietary products were reported to contain vulnerabilities:

  • A bug in Cold Fusion 5.0 is reported to crash the server, dumping a core file that can allow decrypted tags to be seen in clear text.

  • Quake 3: Arena 1.29f/g is reported to have a buffer overflow vulnerability. No word yet on if this exploitable.

  • Cisco SN 5420 Storage Router software have been found to contain multiple vulnerabilities which can potentially provide a denial of service to user access to storage systems.


Multiple Horde IMP vulnerabilities. Check the July 26th Security Summary for details.

This week's updates:

Squid httpd acceleration ACL vulnerability. Check the July 26th Security Summary for details. Squid 2.3STABLE4 is affected; earlier versions are not. Red Hat 7.0 is reported to be vulnerable, while earlier and later versions are not. Debian is reported not vulnerable. A patch to fix the problem is available.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:


Cracking activity at all-time high (Register). According to statistics compiled by the Honeynet Project, cracking activity is at an all-time high. "Between April and December 2000, seven default installations of Red Hat 6.2 servers were attacked within three days of connecting to the Internet. From this the people behind the project concluded that 'the life expectancy of a default installation of Red Hat 6.2 server to be less then 72 hours'. Scary stuff."

Hacking Vegas at Black Hat and DEF CON: One Geek's Experience (Linux Journal). Linux Journal covers the Black Hat Briefings and DEF CON. "Darth Elmo had the good fortune to attend both this year. Unlike many Black Hat attendees he went with somewhat more of an underground perspective, or at least a non-corporate one. And unlike many DEF CON attendees, Darth can remember where he was, what he saw and what he drank for most of the time he was there. Here, then, are one geek's observations and opinions on these two fine events."


Upcoming Security Events.
Date Event Location
August 6 - 10, 2001CERT Conference 2001Omaha, NE, USA.
August 7, 2001CIBC World Markets First Annual Security & Privacy ConferenceNew York, NY, USA.
August 10 - 12, 2001Hackers at Large 2001(HAL2001)Enschede, Netherlands
August 13 - 17, 200110th USENIX Security Symposium 2001 ConferenceWashington, D.C.
September 11 - 13, 2001New Security Paradigms Workshop 2001(NSPW)Cloudcroft, New Mexico, USA
September 28 - 30, 2001Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies(CASIS 2001)(Dalhousie University)Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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 Hammel

August 2, 2001

LWN Resources

Secured Distributions:
Astaro Security
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NSA Security Enhanced
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Security Projects
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Distribution-specific links
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Debian Alerts
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BSD-specific links

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Miscellaneous Resources
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See also: last week's Kernel page.

Kernel development

The current kernel release is still 2.4.7. The 2.4.8 prepatch is currently at 2.4.8pre3; it includes the usual collection of fixes, along with the single-use patch from Daniel Phillips which was covered last week. There have been complaints that the 2.4.8pre series is much slower on systems with large amounts of memory; the VM hackers are currently hot on the trail of those problems.

Users of Adaptec adaptors (i.e. your editor, grumble grumble...) on SMP systems were unpleasantly surprised with 2.4.8pre2, which crashed on boot. The check that caused the crash has been removed, but there appears to be a strange problem that still lurks in there somewhere.

Alan Cox's latest patch is 2.4.7ac3. It contains a great many architecture-specific changes; slowly the kernel trees for the various ports are finding their way back toward the mainline. There's also some enhancements for User-Mode Linux and many miscellaneous fixes.

A new kernel API for completion events. It is common in kernel code to set some sort of process in motion, then to go to sleep and wait until that process completes. There are several ways of implementing the "wait for completion" part; which is the proper one to use depends on the specific situation. Until 2.4.7 came out, one technique used involved semaphores. The initiating process would declare a semaphore as a local variable (i.e. on the stack), starting out in the locked state; the process would do what was needed to arrange for some work to be done, then wait on the semaphore. The code actually doing the work would simply unlock the semaphore when the task was complete.

On the surface, this technique is appealing because it avoids some obvious race conditions. If, for example, the work gets done before the kernel gets around to waiting on the semaphore, it notices that fact and simply doesn't wait. The sleep_on() and wake_up() calls can be much trickier to use correctly in this situation. But, as it turns out, there is a race condition here too, which is a result of how the semaphores themselves work.

When a semaphore is to be unlocked, the code (1) sets the semaphore itself to the unlocked state, then (2) calls wake_up() to notify any processes that might have been waiting on the semaphore. If the waiter tests the semaphore between those two steps, it will never actually wait, and may well execute the rest of its code before the wake_up() call happens. That is not normally a problem, but, if the semaphore is sitting on a kernel stack somewhere, it could cease to exist before the wake_up() call, which requires data from the semaphore, runs. In other words, it could be working with a pointer into random memory; the technical term for this is "oops." This particular race is highly unlikely to ever actually happen, but it's still a race.

The performance of this approach is also suboptimal, due to the fact that semaphores are optimized for the unlocked case. In this particular situation, the semaphore will almost always be locked.

Linus chose not to change the semaphore implementation (it's "painful as hell"); instead, he created a new interface for the handling of completion events. All a process need do to use this facility is to create and initialize a completion structure:

	struct completion event;
Then it can set things in motion, and call:
to sleep until things are done. The task actually doing the work can perform a simple call to
and the waiting process wakes up.

It's a relatively straightforward solution, even if changing APIs in the middle of a stable kernel series may look a little strange. If nothing else, the whole affair makes it clear, once again, just how hard it is to avoid race conditions in kernel code.

The first initramfs patch was posted by Alexander Viro this week. This patch is the implementation of the new 2.5 boot process that was first discussed in the July 12 kernel page. In this scheme, the kernel executable image carries with it a cpio archive containing the contents of the initial root filesystem. That archive is loaded into a ramdisk at boot time, at which time it can be used to continue the system initialization process.

The hope is to move much kernel initialization code out of kernel space and into this ramdisk. The result is a smaller kernel and more flexibility in how the bootstrap process is set up. For the moment, the tasks that have been moved to user space include:

  • Finding and mounting the real (permanent) root filesystem. NFS root filesystems are handled here as well.
  • Setting up any initial ramdisk (usually for the purpose of loading kernel modules needed for the boot process).
  • Running the linuxrc boot script.
  • Finding the real init process and running it.
There is more that can be moved into this filesystem, but that's a good start. The claim is that kernels running with this patch will function identically; no boot setups should be broken or require changes. Mr. Viro would, of course, like to hear from anybody with evidence to the contrary.

Heading toward ext3 1.0. ext3 2.4-0.9.5 was released by Andrew Morton. This version continues the work toward a truly stable ext3 journaling filesystem release, fixing a number of bugs. Much work has also gone into performance improvements on a number of fronts. Among other things, synchronous operations happen more quickly; this should make people running large mail systems happy, since many mail transfer agents make heavy use of synchronous directory operations.

Another change in 0.9.5 is the ability to use an external journal. External journals live on a separate device (perhaps a non-volatile RAM device), and, in theory, can speed up the operation of the filesystem. Writes to an external journal should be very quick, and journal operations will not contend with writes to the rest of the disk. The initial performance results with external journals appear to be mixed, however.

Those interested in ext3 may also want to see an older patch announcement from Andrew which contains a detailed explanation of the three journaling modes supported.

Much slower routing performance in 2.4 has been reported by some users. The common factor in these reports is that the people involved are still using the 2.2 ipchains interface to set up their firewalling. The ipchains module in 2.4 carries full connection tracking along with it; most people setting up ipchains rules probably do not need that feature. The solution is to switch to iptables.

Other patches and updates released this week include:

  • Daniel Phillips has posted a new version of his patch for the handling of pages that are used only once.

  • Anton Altaparmakov has released version 1.2.0 of the Linux-NTFS support tools.

  • Also from Anton is this patch which adds support for Windows 2000/XP dynamic disks.

  • David Schleef has posted Comedi-0.7.60, a collection of data acquisition device drivers.

  • Alan Cox has modified the kernel Makefile to add a "make rpm" target. The result, of course, is an RPM file containing the compiled kernel. A "make deb" option will likely be added in the near future.

  • Milan Pikula has started a new mailing list for those who are interested in filesystem repair and crash recovery topics.

  • An Mwave modem driver for 2.4.7 has been released by Paul Schroeder.

  • devfsd v1.3.12 was released by Richard Gooch.

  • Richard also released a patch that, when used with devfs, enables a 2.4 kernel to support up to ("approximately") 2144 SCSI disks. He warns that it is untested and could result in filesystem corruption. There have been few problem reports, but it turns out that, for now, limitations in other parts of the system will still limit the maximum number of disks to far less than 2144.

  • The Linux Test Project has released ltp-20010801, the latest version of its kernel test suite.

  • Andreas Gruenbacher has posted an access control list patch for 2.4.7.

  • Constantin Loizides has been working with a number of journaling filesystems to determine the degree to which they experience fragmentation under long-term, sustained use. He has posted his findings; the results vary significantly between the various filesystems.

  • Keith Owens has released a 2.5 kbuild release candidate.

  • Adam Goode has started a project to write a driver for the Logitech iFeel mouse. This device is fun in that it can be used to provide tactile feedback to the user - little bumps as the pointer moves over buttons and such.

  • mdctl 0.4 was released by Neil Brown; it is a utility for controlling RAID devices, meant to replace mkraid, raidstart, etc.

  • Version 2.2.0 of the Functionally Overloaded Linux Kernel patch is now available; it has almost anything one could imagine, including several kitchen sinks. FOLK creator Jonathan Day informs us that the size of the patch is now 1/3 that of the standard kernel.

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

August 2, 2001

For other kernel news, see:

Other resources:


 Main page
 On the Desktop
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 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

Should distributors consider merging? Robin Miller argues this point in a NewsForge article called I dream of Susie Mandrake, where he calls for a merger between SuSE and MandrakeSoft. The discussion is motivated by a desire to get the best from both distributions while creating a larger, stronger company with a better chance of survival.

From our reading, enthusiasm for this idea is low in both the SuSE and Mandrake camps. This particular idea may not get too far, but the question in general is interesting: where is the expected consolidation in the Linux distribution market? Even before the times got hard, the prevailing wisdom was that there were too many commercial distributors, and that only a small subset of them would survive. In the long term, how could the market support half a dozen or more major distributions?

The fact remains, however, that all of the major distributors are still out there distributing. None have folded, none have merged (though Caldera did do an acquisition), and none have been acquired. Even if times are tough at many of them, they are all still hanging in there. Distributors, it seems, are not your standard dotcom disaster story.

It's probably still true that this situation can not last. It's a hard market, and it is hard to believe that all of these distributors can set themselves up as services companies. So we will probably see one or more of these scenarios:

  • One or more distributors is acquired, either by another distributor or by a company trying to establish a stronger Linux presence. Caldera, with its stock price down in delisting territory, looks, from the outside, especially ripe for an acquisition.

  • As suggested above, two distributors merge. SuSE and MandrakeSoft is an interesting possibility. Conectiva could also appear to be an attractive merger candidate, given its strong presence in Latin America, where Linux usage should grow explosively. Distributors value their independence, but they may eventually see a combination as being more in their long-term interests.

  • Some distributors just fade away. There are some signs that a couple of distributions, at least, are losing market share. At some point, they may decide to just give up.

As has often been said in these pages, the diversity of distributions is one of Linux's great strengths. While some see the competition between the distributors as wasteful, the truth is that Linux benefits from the contributions of each of them. The non-proprietary contributions, anyway. The Linux community would not benefit from a reduction in the number of major distributions; if it must happen, however, a merger that preserved the best from two distributors might be the best way.

New Distributions

Devil-Linux This week we stumbled across Devil-Linux, a specialized distribution intended for the creation of firewall and router systems. It [Devil Linux] has its origin in the Linux From Scratch meta-distribution, but quite a few changes have been made. In particular, it can run entirely from CDROM, with all of the needed configuration files being kept on a floppy diskette. As a result, it is hard for a cracker to compromise the integrity of the system, even if they manage to break in.

Devil-Linux is currently at version v0.42, released on July 29. This release includes features like FreeS/WAN, djbdns, and STunnel; future enhancements include intrusion detection, and much more in the way of client and server software.

[GNU-Darwin] The GNU-Darwin Distribution also found its way into our attention this week. It is, of course, not a Linux distribution; GNU-Darwin is working to provide a layer of GNU (and beyond) software on top of Apple's Darwin platform. It aims to be "the most free Darwin-based Unix distribution." Apple users may just want to take a look.

Distribution News

Conectiva Linux 7.0 released. The Portuguese version of Conectiva Linux 7.0 is now available for purchase or download. There is an announcement available in Portuguese; a Babelfish translation is also available.

This release includes a lot of the usual features: 2.4 kernel, XFree86 4.0.3, KDE 2.12, etc. Also included is Conectiva's port of the Debian APT tool to RPM, and a new graphical interface that sits on top of the whole thing and provides a friendly interface to package management. The distribution comes in both standard and professional editions.

Debian Weekly News. The Debian Weekly News for July 31 is out. Topics covered include the woody freeze (a release is expected by Christmas), the MIPS port, the size of the Debian archive, and more.

What's up with Mandrake donations? The question was asked after links to the donation page disappeared for a bit. Worry not, MandrakeSoft is still happy to take your money. Interestingly, they posted some statistics on the donations they have been getting. It seems they have been running about $5,000 per month for the last three months; not enough to run the company on, certainly, but significant nonetheless. Those who have earmarked their donations for a specific project have voted strongly for KDE and configuration tools. At the other end, 0.2% of contributors stated that they wanted to support the Sparc port...

Minor Distribution updates

Redmond Linux build 36 has been announced. This release includes a number of new utilities; it also makes the ext3 journaling filesystem the default. See the announcement for details.

Trinux 0.80rc2 is out. There has been, as far as we can tell, no actual announcement of this release, though it can be downloaded from the Trinux web page.

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

August 2, 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

HP and the visual effects industry.  The visual effects industry is moving to Linux in big ways these days. Visual effects, which is more commonly referred to simply as VFX, has two distinct sides: the renderfarm side and the desktop, or Digital Content Creation (DCC) side. While most readers are well aware of the role Linux plays on the renderfarm side (such as with the movie Titanic), few people are aware of how strongly the DCC side is being infiltrated by Linux.

Most of the major studios have already started to migrate to Linux. Originally studios relied heavily on SGI systems which had very powerful graphics hardware. When SGI began to fall on hard times, studios felt they needed alternative solutions. Most turned initially to Microsoft but found the going rough. Applications written for SGI's Irix platform were not easily ported to WindowsNT and graphics libraries and support were not nearly on par with the more evolved SGI systems. Then, in the summer of 1999 things began to change.

One of the driving events that year was the announcement of SideFX's port of Houdini to Linux. Houdini is the desktop application artists have used to create visual effects for such feature films as The Grinch, The Matrix, X-Men and Godzilla. SideFX ported its application to Linux without the availability of hardware acceleration - XFree86 didn't release support for hardware acceleration until March 2000.

Once SideFX made its software available, VFX studios could then begin to request hardware vendors to supply systems which could run Houdini. One company that answered the call was HP.

"In early 2000 we started getting strong requests from the DCC marketplace for a Linux desktop solution," said Karen Ghavem, Linux Program Manager for the Technical Computing Division of HP in Colorado that worked on HP's VFX support. "The main technology lacking on the Linux desktop at the time was the ability to run accelerated, OpenGL 3D graphics. To do that you need to run under X." At the time the XFree86 team was just developing DRI/DRM and their delivery date was expected to be after the time frame HP needed to provide their solutions to their early adopters, which HP refers to as Lighthouse customers.

"There were two options for us: one was to beef up DRI/DRM to make it robust enough," but that would have taken too long. HP decided to use its own, mature HP/UX solution that they could port over to Linux in order to deliver product to the DCC customers. Ghavam noted, "We started shipping those systems about 9 months ago," with early access customers getting systems up to 6 months prior to that.

HP ported their own X server over to Linux along with their own hardware accelerated OpenGL. This gave them better performance than what users were getting with XFree86 when used with some of the graphics cards available at the time, while allowing them to utilize their existing expertise with Linux. And while HP could deliver early to the DCC marketplace with their own proprietary offerings on top of Linux, they knew that market was looking for open source. "We recognized that the open source community and the 3rd party graphics drivers would evolve and become stable enough under the XFree86 environment."

"The reason customers are moving from those other Unix solutions to Linux is because of choice and commodity. They want to not be locked into a single vendor solution," Ghavam pointed out.

In July HP released the X2000 and X4000 systems which are based on Red Hat 7.1 and accelerated XFree86 servers for the FireGL cards. "We have an OEM agreement with Red Hat and proactively certify our systems with Red Hat releases at the time of the OS release." HP's role here is to work with graphic card vendors like FireGL to push the requests from DCC customers to make Linux and XFree86 work well with HP systems. "There are even some areas where 2D performance can be improved," says Ghavam. Some of these improvements will come as more customer demands drive the work. "But from what we're hearing from our customers, and even in our internal R&D, XFree86 is pretty stable and a good desktop now. People are pretty happy with it."

Many of HP's new Linux DCC customers come from Unix backgrounds, though not necessarily HP/UX, while many of their existing customers are happy in their current HP/UX solutions. That means they'll be maintaining both their HP/UX environment along with the newer Linux solutions. It also means that HP has begun looking at taking some of the technologies in their current X environment and making them available to the open source world. Ghavam couldn't elaborate on most of those but she did mention one in particular: SLS - single logical screen. This technology allows multiple monitors ("screens" in X parlance) to appear as one large screen, with individual windows spanning multiple monitors and the cursor moving across screens. In the XFree86 world the equivalent option would be Xinerama. "But the current Xinerama release doesn't support accelerated 3D applications to run in a window. SLS does."

When they were putting together those early Linux systems, HP decided to provide SLS for their DCC early adopters. Ghavam described the setup: "Artists like to use two screens for their work, one for animation work and another for video playback but with the ability move windows and the cursor freely between the two monitors. Even though some hardware, such as the FireGL cards, now provide multiple monitor support in hardware (removing the need for software to handle this), many cards still don't."

And in keeping with their eye toward the future, HP is considering contributing SLS to XFree86. Such contributions are driven by the requirements of their customers. "There has not been an immediate need for it, but in the future we think this will move into the XFree86 space," says the HP program manager.

While HP may appear to have skipped the open source route while putting together desktop workstations for the fast growing, Linux-based DCC market, they in affect chose to provide a solid solution with a hybrid environment while waiting for (and helping to move forward) the open source alternatives. It's a reasonable solution for commercial organizations who simply can't wait for open source to catch up to existing offerings, but who also don't want to ignore the benefits of open source, and the demands of their target industries, over the longer term.

Relocatable Java installs? Well, sort of.  This story might never end, but after last week's note from IBM that the Java RE they provide is in RPM format and therefore relocatable, one reader wrote in to let us know our test system, Red Hat Linux 7.1, might not let us do so.

Actually, relocation is broken in the rpm shipped with RHL7.1 (bugzilla bug #25876). The rpm in rawhide is fixed in that regard, but it is broken in other ways (most probably because it is under active development), so ymmv.

The bug report was against RHL 7.0 while the closure puts it against 7.1, however. (Thanks to Ronald Cole)

Desktop Environments

Kernel Cousin KDE #18. This week's Kernel Cousin KDE carries an analysis of the extended discussion on the future of KDE after 2.2. "The other main point of concern was the current state of KDE2 and the number of outstanding bug reports. Peter Kelley verbalized this objection saying, 'I think having a 2.3 version will be very important from the point of getting a stable and relatively bug-free version of khtml. Right now there are over 700 open bug reports for khtml and kjs combined...'" Eventually, Waldo Bastian posted a schedule which puts a KDE 3.0, which includes the migration to Qt3, out in the early part of 2002.

Minutes of the GF Board Meeting (July 24, 2001). The GNOME Foundation Board meeting notes reveal that the current plans for GNOME 2.0 include an imminent API freeze, and that the board wants to do more to let those with special needs know what GNOME has to help them out.

GNUstep weekly update. There was only one minor bug fix this week according to the GNUstep weekly update but that doesn't distract from the release of a new version of the Java language interface (JIGS).

FVWM2 2.4.0. We missed it somehow, but a final, stable version of FVWM2, release 2.4.0, has finally been announced. RPM's are available from the sourceforge themes site for this window manager.

Office Applications

KOffice Suite 1.1 Release Candidate 1. The first release candidate for KOffice 1.1 has been made available by the KOffice project team. Final release is targeted for mid-August.

KSpread 1.1 Beta 3 reviewed. In this second part of a full KOffice review, this review covers the KDE spreadsheet, KSpread.

Evolution 1.0 Beta 1 announcement redux. Last week we mistakenly noted the release of Ximian's Evolution 1.0 Beta 1 in the Development page under the subtopic of "Browsers". Well, we knew better. Evolution is an Outlook-styled application providing calendaring, email and an address book.

The Beta 1 preview releases begin the countdown to the 1.0 release this fall.

AbiWord 0.9.0. A new release of the AbiWord word processor has been announced. The new release includes better import/export support for RTF, XHTML, MSWord and ApplixWords, spell checking improvements, automatic numbered headings, and a plugin architecture.

The new release is also noted in the AbiWord Weekly News.

Desktop Applications

Review: theKompany's Universal Documentation Tool - DocBrowser. The DocBrowser, a KDE tool for reading man pages and info files, was reviewed this past week on GUI-Lords. " The Info pages are brought to new life and new appreciation for me with DocBrowser. Smooth treed navigation, all hyper linked. Very nice, I actually enjoy these info pages now. As for my favorite, 'man'... it was doomed. Now granted I didn't have DocBrowser's documentation, but I just could not get my systems man pages to work. "

GIMP 1.2.2 released. A new version of the GIMP 1.2.x distribution has been announced. Unfortunately, the original announcement came before a problem with building from source was noted and a second, identically named distribution was made. That means there may be two versions of this 1.2.2 release out there, only one of which may build. Be sure to grab the right one.

OpenOffice anniversary report and build 633. The OpenOffice site has posted a report on the anniversary of the release of StarOffice as an open source project. "To put it bluntly, OpenOffice.org is not here to produce a finished product. Sun Microsystems is doing that with StarOffice 6, which will have been built using code derived from OpenOffice.org. Rather, OpenOffice.org's far more ambitious goal is to create a sustainable process of code making and community building."

Interestingly enough, as this note was being added to the Desktop page word arrived of the latest build release from the OpenOffice group: build 633 is available for download.

New desktop layout package: Scribus. A new desktop layout program was brought to our attention this week: Scribus. This package is still in early development but does fall under the GPL and comes with a Qt/C++ based interface. (Thanks to Florian Cramer for pointing us to this package)

And in other news...

Chinese language Qt/KDE programming text. A new text on programming Qt/KDE2 is available in traditional chinese.

  ISBN:   9572085689
  author: Chuang, MingChe
  publisher: SoftChina
  Pages: 432

Vituascape releases Flash SDK as open source. Noted on the GIMP-User mailing list: Virtuascape, a media design agency, has released a Flash SDK as open source (using the BSD2 license), with the company suggesting it might make a nice addition to the current GIMP 2.0 work currently underway.

Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel

August 2, 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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Development projects

News and Editorials

Python Division Concerns Guido Van Rossum has posted an updated revision of Python PEP #238 that concerns the division operator. Python is a dynamically typed language where a single variable can assume the properties of a float, integer, complex, or other type. This leads to ambiguities in dealing with the division operator.

The current division (/) operator has an ambiguous meaning for numerical arguments: it returns the floor of the mathematical result of division if the arguments are ints or longs, but it returns a reasonable approximation of the division result if the arguments are floats or complex. This makes expressions expecting float or complex results error-prone when integers are not expected but possible as inputs.

Guido is dealing with the problem by splitting division into three different cases, true division, floor division, and classic division. True division is intended for the normal mathematical operation involving floating point numbers. Floor division is used when dealing with integers, and classic division is the combination of both true and floor division. Classic division is the method that current versions of Python implement.

The PEP proposes the split of division into two operators, the / operator for true division, and the // operator for floor division. This change will no doubt cause some compatibility problems when compiling old code under the new compiler.

Guido states:

It is the opinion of the authors that this is a real design bug in Python, and that it should be fixed sooner rather than later. Assuming Python usage will continue to grow, the cost of leaving this bug in the language will eventually outweigh the cost of fixing old code -- there is an upper bound to the amount of code to be fixed, but the amount of code that might be affected by the bug in the future is unbounded.

Guido is going to deal with the division issues in the following manner:

  • Classic division will be the default mode in Python 2.X.
  • Python 3 will use true division as the standard.
  • The // operator will be added for the unambiguous use of floor division.
  • A future division statement will be available to allow programs to work under the new model.
  • A command line argument will turn on run-time warnings for classic division when it is applied to integers.
  • The standard library will use the future division mode and // in order to avoid the use of classic division.

Hopefully, these changes will be sufficient to solve the division problems and people will be willing to do a little work now to have a better Python language in the future .

The State of the Onion 5 (Perl.com). Perl.com's Simon Cozens covers Larry Wall's State of the Onion talk at the recent Perl conference. "The bell tolled, and so Larry had to move onto talk four - control structures. To loud applause, he announced that Perl 6 would include a switch statement; to some bemusement, however, he let on that it would be called 'given' - case statements would be called 'when'. Another notable renaming: 'local' will become 'temp'."


Audacity 0.96 released. Version 0.96 of the Audacity cross-platform audio editor has been released. New to this version are mute and solo buttons, MP3 exporting, amplify, fft filter, phaser, and waawaa effects. With the exception of the MP3 code, Audacity has been released under the GPL license.


Linux High Availability Working Group at OLS. The recent Ottawa Linux Symposium featured a working group that intends to build a standard platform for developing high availability and high performance clustering software. People who are working on Linux based cluster systems should consider getting involved in this effort. See the LWN report from OLS for more details.


SAPdb, another free database. SAPdb is one of the lesser publicized open-source SQL databases that runs on Linux. The history of SAPdb goes back to the early 1980s when it was developed as a commercial product. The database has changed names several times since then. SAPdb was released under a GPL license in October of 2000.


New software from the gEDA project. New versions of several gEDA electronic design tools have been announced on the gEDA site. New releases include gEDA/gaf cygwin, Icarus verilog, and SAVANT.

Embedded Systems

Embedded Linux Newsletter for July 26, 2001. This week's Embedded Linux Newsletter from LinuxDevices covers an interview with Lineo's COO, an animated BusyBox tutorial and Isamu, the humanoid robot.

Mail Software

Mailman 2.0.6 released. Version 2.0.6 of Mailman, the GNU MailingList Manager has been released. This release fixes a security problem involving empty passwords, several other minor bugs have also been fixed.

System Administration

OpenSSH key management (IBM developerWorks). In this first of a series of articles on IBM's developerWorks, Daniel Robbins explains the workings of RSA and DSA authentication. "SSH, specifically OpenSSH (a completely free implementation of SSH), is an incredible tool. Like telnet or rsh, the ssh client can be used to log in to a remote machine. All that's required is for this remote machine to be running sshd, the ssh server process. However, unlike telnet, the ssh protocol is very secure. It uses special algorithms to encrypt the data stream, ensure data stream integrity and even perform authentication in a safe and secure way."

Linux hardware stability guide, Part 2: Drivers, IRQs, and PCI latency (IBM developerWorks). In an IBM developerWorks article, Daniel Robbins shows how to diagnose hardware problems under Linux using the NVIDIA TNT-based AGP card. "Yes, I was having some kind of stability problem. But I didn't know exactly what was causing the problem. Did I have flaky hardware, or was the card misconfigured? Or maybe it was a problem with the driver -- did it not like my VIA KT133-based Athlon motherboard? Whatever the problem, I wanted to resolve it quickly."

Web-site Development

New Versions of Zope and Python (O'Reilly). Stephen Figgins talks about new versions of Zope and Python in an O'Reilly article. "What I have found better about Zope 2.4 has little to do with Zope itself. The documentation is better."

The latest Zope News. The latest Zope News contains articles about Formulator 1.0.1, a binary installer for Zope on MacOSX, new database and session helpers, and more.

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

August 2, 2001

Application Links
High Availability

Open Source Code Collections
Le Serveur Libre



Programming Languages


Proposed method for improving C++ startups. A note posted to the KDE Development list has proposed a method for preprocessing C++ object files before linking in order to improve performance during program startup. "Waldo Bastian's document demonstrates that the current g++ implementation generates lots of expensive run-time relocations. This translates into the slow startup of large C++ applications (KDE, StarOffice, etc.). The [proposed] program "objprelink.c" is designed to reduce the problem. Expect startup times 30-50% faster. "

Red Hat's Jakub Jelinek also posted another C++ prelinking solution that is worth looking at. (Thanks to Anthony Green)

OSE 7.0b8 C++ class library available. A new release of the OSE C++ class library has been released. This release also includes mature Python wrappers. " At its core, OSE is a C++ class library for general purpose programming, but also includes support for building event driven systems and distributed applications using a request/reply and publish/subscribe style service agent framework. The ability to interact with an application is facilitated using a HTTP servlet framework and RPC over HTTP interfaces."


Objective CAML version 3.02 released. Version 3.02 of Objective CAML has been released. RPM and tar.gz versions are available for download.


The Java 2 user interface (IBM developerWorks). Matt Chapman takes a look at the Java 2 UI in an IBM developerWorks article. Check it out for a good review of the graphical capabilities of Java.

The Embedded Java+Linux Quick Reference Guide (LinuxDevices). LinuxDevices brings another quick reference guide to the table with the Embedded Java+Linux Quick Reference Guide. "Blame it on Moore's Law, but it's now practical to embed moderately high performance computing and connectivity in just about everything that runs on electricity -- whether tethered or mobile. This trend is fueled by powerful and highly integrated system-on-chip processors, coupled with large capacity system and storage memories (both disk and silicon), and empowered by wired and wireless communications interfaces (Ethernet, IrDA, 802.11, BlueTooth)."

Tunneling through the corporate network (IBM developerWorks). Malcolm Davis writes about using Java applets over HTTP with an emphasis on the passing of information through corporate firewalls. "The corporate firewall is a double-edged sword. It helps prevent unauthorized access to the corporate Web services, but can disable access for legitimate clients. Due to the number of safety measures taken by system administrators, HTTP has become the universal entry mechanism to the corporate network."

Open source Java going strong (ZDNet). Michael C. Daconta writes about open source Java projects in ZDNet's Java Opinion column. The article covers many current open-source Java efforts and discusses the idea of GPLing the Java virtual machine.


OpenMCL 0.5 released. Version 0.5 of OpenMCL has been released. This release adds improved ANSI compliance, Gray streams, exception handling for floating point operations, and more.


Artistic License Revisited (use Perl). This analysis of the Artistic License, which covers the Perl programming language, says that the license is too restrictive. "In almost all instances of the OAL, especially with Perl, it is used inside of what is called a 'dual-licensing model', specifically with the GPL. This is done because they do not need to choose between the OAL or the GPL until they need to litigate a position. This has never been tested in court, so it is not known how defendable of a tactic this is. "

YAS, Perl Monks, Perl Mongers to Merge. Three well known Perl groups are merging to form a non-profit foundation in support of Perl. "Not only does this have the blessing of the Perl elders (Larry has agreed to be on the board) but there is corporate interest from the community which recognizes the importance of Perl and free software. "

Shared Source vs. Open Source (use Perl). The first report from the Mundie v. Open Source debate at the O'Reilly conference comes from use Perl. "To Tiemann's aid came Clay Shirky, Brian Behlendorf, and Mitchell Baker. To Mundie's side jumped Ronald Johnston and David Stutz. The groups circled each other for awhile, throwing out jabs. Baker finally threw a folding chair at Mundie when she remarked, 'Control of all our data flow by one entity is not healthy.'"

Perl 6 architecture overview now online. Dan Sugalski's Perl 6 internals talk from the recent Perl conference is available online in both PowerPoint and OpenOffice format.


PHP Weekly Summary for July 30, 2001. The July 30, 2001 issue of the PHP Weekly Summary has been published. Topics include the installation of the Chora web based cvs tool, an If Else bug, some handy security tips, and more.

PHP Conference Coverage (php.net). The php.net site is featuring coverage of the recent PHP Conference. The talks that were covered include:

  • Rasmus Lerdorf's PHP - Spinal Injection.
  • Thies Arntzen on Making efficient use of Oracle8i thru Apache and PHP 4.
  • Andrei Zmievski and Frank M. Kromann on PHP-GTK.
  • Jon Parise on The PHP Extension and Application Repository.
The site also lists several additions to the PHP documentation.


Parrot -- should life imitate satire?. Eric S. Raymond has posted a note to the Python-Dev mailing list discussing the possibilities of having Perl6 and Python compile down to the same byte code, prompting, as expected, a thorough discussion from such notable individuals as Andrew Kuchling and Nathan Torkington.

Dr. Dobb's Python-URL! for July 30, 2001. Dr. Dobb's Python-URL! this week covers topics such as the argument for dynamic typing, a quick start tutorial for CORBA, and Pippy, the Python port to PalmOS.

Python for the PalmOS (IBM developerWorks). Installing Pippy, the Python subset for the PalmOS, is the subject of this article from IBM's developerWorks. "How you upload these two files to your handheld varies depending on the desktop OS that you are running. However, users who have installed any additional applications to their PalmOS handheld will be familiar with the procedure. Under Windows and MacOS environments, you will usually use the "Palm Desktop" and its "Install" button. Under Linux or other UNIX-like platforms or OS/2, you will probably use the pilot-link utilities -- specifically the pilot-xfer program."

Object-Oriented Language: Python (Cetus Team). The Cetus Team has assembled a list of useful Python language links that looks like a worth addition to any Python programmer's bookmarks file.

Python Is Middleware. Tim Daneliuk discusses the use of Python as middleware in additon to many other language considerations in an online paper. "This is the real reason to stay on top of Python. The vagaries of the "Mine is bigger than yours" battles between McNealy, Gates, and Ellison will be with us until they aren't. Python lives outside this Billionaire Battlezone because none of the warring factions own the technology and it plays nicely with them all. It is precisely because both Perl and Python have avoided choosing sides in these silly ego competitions that they have and will survive."

Jython 2.1 alpha 3 released. Jython 2.1 alpha 3 was released on July 29, 2001. The summary of changes includes settable console encodings. Several bugs have also been fixed.


Programming in the Ruby language (IBM developerWorks). Joshua D. Drake introduces the Ruby language in the first of a four part article on IBM's developerWorks. "Joshua begins his exploration into Ruby with a discussion of variables, quotes, arrays, objects, and methods. Subsequent articles in this Ruby series will deal with more advanced topics, including developing graphical applications and using Ruby with databases."

The latest from the Ruby Garden. The Ruby Garden features a few new articles this week. Topics covered include signal querying, lots of new method additions, and more.


Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL! (July 30). This week's Tcl-URL! includes discussion on the Snack Sound Toolkit and Wavesurfer, news of the 8th annual Tcl conference, and a tutorial on using WSDL4TCL.


xmldiff 0.1.1 released. The first beta release of xmldiff has been announced. Xmldiff is a tool that shows the difference between two XML trees in a manner that is similar to the diff command line utility.


RunTime: Block memory copy, Part 2. Dr. Edward G. Bradford discusses programming techniques for high-performance computing on IBM's developerWorks site. Memory to memory copies of various data elements are compared between Windows 2000 and Linux. You should probably start with the first article in the series to get the whole picture.

Borland introduces open source Kylix IDE for Linux. Borland has released an IDE called Kylix that is aimed at open source development. Kylix itself appears to be proprietary software, but it is licensed in a manner that makes it useful for use on open source projects. (Thanks to Paco Zàrate)

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
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 Linux History

See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and Business

MandrakeSoft announces successful IPO. MandrakeSoft has gone public on the Paris Euronext's "Marche Libre" exchange. A total of 688,480 shares -- priced at 6.2 Euros each (about $5.46US) -- were sold. This resulted in capital of 4.3 million euros for the company.

Additional information can be found at the MandrakeSoft Investors pages. We would also like to welcome MandrakeSoft to the LWN Linux Stocks Page.

Gaming on Linux takes a VAST leap forward. A new company called Rebel Arts has announced its existence. It is working on the Rebel Arts' Versatile Accelerated Server Technology (VAST(TM)) System, which will first be deployed in the online game industry. Strategic partners AMD and Linux NetworX are providing Rebel Arts with support, including the AMD-760(TM) MP dual processor chipset and Linux NetworX's Evolocity(TM) cluster server system. The end result will be large-scale multi-player gaming with the VAST technology designed to handle in excess of 100,000 simultaneous users generating more than two million transactions per second.

Tux Games Open Source Donation Center. Speaking of games: Tux Games has opened their Open Source Donation Center. This donation center is inviting any game-related open source project to register, and Tux Games will provide credit card acceptance services for anyone that wishes to donate money to the project.

Penguin Computing and Scyld to offer cluster product. Penguin Computing and Scyld Computing have announced that Penguin will be selling cluster systems with Scyld's specialized distribution (described in our Ottawa Linux Symposium coverage) preinstalled.

Caldera and LinuxKorea to Provide Linux Solutions for Korean Enterprise Business Market. Caldera International Inc. announced it has signed a strategic alliance MOU with LinuxKorea Co. Ltd., Korea's largest Linux system integrator, to cooperatively develop the enterprise Linux market in Korea.

Linux based ISP Provisioning Software Company Up For Sale. ISPDB Limited, the Cambridge (UK) based ISP solutions firm, has announced that the Company is to be dissolved, and the Copyright to all its software is now up for sale.

Learning Perl, Third Edition released. O'Reilly has announced the release of Learning Perl, Third Edition.

VMware Announces New Pricing for VMware Express. VMWare has dropped the price of VMWare Express, the version of VMWare suitable for Linux users, from $79 to $49.95.

Evans Study Finds Increase in Embedded Linux Projects. The Evans Data " Embedded Systems Developer Survey" shows a dramatic change in the software content of the microprocessor-controlled devices in the workplace and in our homes. Based on a survey of more than 500 embedded systems developers, the comprehensive report projects a three-fold increase in Linux-based projects in the next year.

July Netcraft web server survey. The Netcraft web server survey for July is out. Apache shows a distinct drop this week, to just under 59% of the total; evidently, the change is due to a couple of very large hosting providers switching to Microsoft. The real news, perhaps, is that the number of Solaris machines on the net is in decline.

LPI News - July 2001. The Linux Professional Institute News for July includes: the Level 2 release, a new president and a new board member, and more.

Linux Stock Index for July 26 to August 01, 2001.
LSI at closing on July 26, 2001 ... 28.48
LSI at closing on August 01, 2001 ... 28.99

The high for the week was 28.99
The low for the week was 28.18

Press Releases:

Open source products

Red Hat 7.1 installed

Proprietary Products for Linux

Products and Services Using Linux

Products With Linux Versions

Java Products

Books & Training


Investments and Acquisitions

Personnel & New Offices

Financial Results

Linux At Work


Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.

August 2, 2001


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Linux in the news

Recommended Reading

The verdict: Is Adobe a software thug? (Upside). Upside put Adobe "on trial" with the charge of "being a software thug" with regard to its role in Sklyarov arrest. The verdict is now in: guilty. "Members of our jury overwhelmingly felt that Adobe acted thuggishly and ran roughshod over free speech, finding the company guilty by a margin wider than 80 percent on both counts. Jurors were passionate in their indictment of the company, calling its actions antithetical to basic liberal ideals and human rights, commercially stupid and generally un-American."

Rep: Give Fair Use a Fair Shake (Wired). Wired reports that at least one congressman thinks Sklyarov should be freed. "'I think the current case adds impetus to the growing effort to fashion an amendment to the DMCA that would restore the classic balance (of fair use rights),' Boucher said."

Microsoft, Red Hat argue open source (C|Net). C|Net reports on the O'Reilly conference debate between Microsoft and open source advocates. "This shared-source thing has nothing to do with building community outside of Microsoft," Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Michael Tiemann said in a speech immediately after Mundie's. "It is not so much a license, I think, as it is a treaty crafted by executives trying to buy time while they quiet the internal rebellion that is Microsoft's own civil war."

The true struggle behind the MS-open source fight: ideology (ZDNet). ZDNet covers the Microsoft vs. open source debate at the O'Reilly conference. "You are doubtlessly aware of the debate over so-called "free software," of which the most visible proponent is the Linux community. However, the real debate isn't so much about technology as economic opportunity, about "little people" who feel disenfranchised and "big people" who don't understand what the fuss is all about. "

MS Welcomed With Open-Source Arms (Wired News). Wired covers the O'Reilly conference and says events like this may be the start of turning Microsoft to the "...charms of open-source programming. Nobody's suggesting that this week will be enough to do it. But Nathan Torkington, co-author with O'Reilly of Perl Cookbook and the 'content planner' for this conference, said that 'there are good people at Microsoft -- people who see what we are saying about open source. We want to make them a bit stronger, try to engage them.'"

Industry execs debate future of open source (CNN). Cisco and Morgan Stanley debated the future of Open Source at the O'Reilly conference in San Diego, with the banking company touting open sources strength at infrastructure. "While Moore looks for open source to keep driving software technology infrastructure, Fred Baker, a fellow at Cisco Systems Inc., pushed the open-source community to move out of the back end and begin making applications ``for Mom.''"

Open source Java going strong (ZDNet). ZDNet shows how Java is thriving in the open source world. "On the server, projects like Jigsaw, JBoss, Enhydra and Apache's Jakarta are flagship efforts with mature and stable products. Java client applications are showing strong promise with projects like JEdit, Jext, LimeWire, NetBeans, BlueJ, ArgoUML, and many others."

Open Sourcers Shy From Criticism (Wired). Open source developers know that when Wall Street is using open source, it's a big deal, according to Wired. "Open-source software is Wall Street's dirty little secret, Moore said. For some reason, none of the financial companies like to admit that they use Perl, Linux and Apache, but all the firms are teeming with it because it's the only way to get software to conform to the varying needs of a big business."

Which OS is Fastest -- FreeBSD Follow-Up (SysAdmin). SysAdmin Magazine has posted an update to their online series on operating systems performance, this time adding FreeBSD. "As expected, the asynchronous option greatly improved FreeBSD file system performance, bringing it in line with Linux and Windows 2000, which both have a similar feature. FreeBSD performed better (by about 30%) than the others at the 8-k and 16-k file size. However, FreeBSD performed worse with a 128k file (16% worse than Windows, 39% worse than Linux), which skewed the "total run time" results, because that file size took the longest to run. "


Red Hat and 3G Lab team up to make 'wireless Linux'. U.S. software and services company Red Hat and Britain's closely held 3G Lab said on Monday they will develop a " Linux for the wireless world" as they team up to write an operating system for Web phones.

More on Red Hat's wireless move. LinuxDevices editor Rick Lehrbaum takes issue with Red Hat's wireless headline published by Reuters this week. "...the Reuters story is wrong in labeling the new webphone-oriented OS as "Linux". It's actually based on Red Hat's eCos operating system rather than on Linux, as indicated later in the Reuters story itself"

Meanwhile, the Register says, whether it's Linux or eCos, Red Hat will have a mountain to climb in the 3G market. "With seven hundred of the finest engineers drawn from Nokia, Motorola and Psion's old software division, it's taken Symbian three years to deliver its first open phone the Nokia 9210 communicator. And that's starting with a base OS (Psion's old Epoc) that was already mature. " There's an old saying that may apply here: managing programmers is like herding cats, and herding seven hundred cats doesn't sound like an easy task. Perhaps RedHat will have better success if they start with a much smaller working group.

Hewlett Packard Offers CoolBase Set In Open Source (ZDNet). ZDNet examines HP's CoolBase offerings to the open source world. "In one example, H-P features an Internet radio that includes a Web server for delivering Web pages and interacting with other devices. A "beacon" inside the radio broadcasts its URL presence to the mobile devices of nearby passers-by..."

What Ximian's trying to accomplish with Mono (LinuxWorld). LinuxWorld talks with Ximian's Nat Friedman about the Mono project. "If you accept the premise that .NET will advance the Windows world, you're left with the question, "So what?" Friedman cited two benefits immediately -- interoperability and superior development tools -- and concluded with a third later in our conversation."

Ximian CTO Issues .Net Challenge To Open Source Code Developers (ZDNet). Miguel de Icaza, chief technology officer of Ximian, issued a call to arms to fellow open source code developers at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference. "De Icaza said that not all open source developers have shared his early enthusiasm for the Microsoft development platform, which is still being shaped by ECMA committee review. But he said that he could foresee no legal barriers to his project's implementation, because Mono will proceed with its own coding based on specifications that Microsoft has submitted to ECMA. He said that neither Ximian nor developers involved in the project can be accused of copying Microsoft code because no .Net source code is available yet for review. "


The LHD Motherboards Superguide (ZDNet). ZDNet presents the Linux Hardware Database guide to motherboards which are compatible with Linux.

Whitepaper: Embedding Linux (LinuxDevices). LinuxDevices whitepaper on embedding Linux talks about the evolution of embedded systems, the introduction of embedded Linux and how to put Linux into an embedded system. "Linux is not a real-time operating system, but in many applications, lack of real-time performance is not a deal breaker. Linux tends to be a better fit for devices that are considered 'not-so-deeply' embedded, or devices with relatively high levels of human interaction. Linux is also a robust and reliable player in networking applications."


Linux handheld device holds 10GB (News.com). The Terapin Mine is based on a stripped down version of Linux, according to this C|Net News.com report. "The company announced the $599 Terapin Mine in the Europe, Japan, the United States and Singapore on Friday. The product will go on sale in late August. "

Are twice-as-fast handhelds within ARM's reach? (ZDNet). Does the ARM family of processors make for better handhelds? They do, partly because of how well they run Linux, according to this ZDNet article. "[Compaq's Project] Mercury is pushing the envelope by integrating all sorts of whizzy features into a handheld. Mercury is based on Compaq's off-the-shelf H3600, which is sold as a PocketPC device, but has gained great favor as a particularly spiffy handheld Linux platform, albeit an expensive one."

Free Mainframe (TechWeb). Here is a review of the Linux Community Development System from IBM. "The Linux development community has already taken a liking to the program, and the enrollment numbers are impressive. Unfortunately, IBM has struggled to keep up with the demand because the program requires that each developer be screened and assigned his or her own virtual Linux machine with a dedicated IP address for a limited time. Increasing the resources used to manage the program should help--impatient developers will only wait so long."

Device profile: the briQ - a CDROM-sized Linux system (Linux Devices). LinuxDevices reviews the briQ from Total Impact, a CDROM-sized Linux system. "One unique feature of the briQ is its dual PCI bus architecture. The first , a 32-bit 33MHz PCI bus, supports the built-in 100Mb Ethernet LAN interface which is accessable via a board-mounted RJ-45 connector on rear of the briQ. The second, a 64-bit 66MHz PCI bus, is used for internal expansion; this is accomplished by plugging custom modules (which can have up to 8 PCI loads or functions) onto a board-mounted connector."


Linux: The electoral test that pencil and paper meet (I.T. Australia). This article from Australia talks about one consultancy's decision to use Debian as the platform for a electoral voting system. "[Douglas Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa] said open source goes much of the way towards code audit accountability, especially when combined with strict version control so that code doesn't change from inspection to deployment."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

August 2, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Announcements page.



Linux Gazette #69. The monthly Linux Gazette is out for August, 2001. This issue includes part 2 of a series on combining Perl and PostgreSQL, an article on installing Tomcat, and a how-to for writing a kernel driver for the PC speaker.

LinuxUser issue 12. A new issue of LinuxUser has been published in multiple PDF formatted files. This set of files includes interviews of Bob Young of Red Hat and Eric Allman of Sendmail, a look at clustering and data centers and a look at StarOffice.

Small systems for Linux-based projects/products. LinuxDevices.com has launched a resource list that provides information on small systems that can serve as platforms for prototyping Linux-based applications, or as pre-built systems for creating custom Linux-based systems and devices.

Richard Stallman speaks out on software patents. On 24th July 2001 geek guru and the President of the Free Software Foundation, Richard M. Stallman, talked to a packed audience at Model Engineering College, Kochi, India on the Danger of Software Patents. Audio tracks are available in Ogg Vorbis format.

Linux Buyer's Guide #12. The Duke of URL has posted the Linux Buyer's Guide #12, with a look at the progress on Linux drivers for gaming.

Tip Of The Week: bash Variable Substitution. This week LinuxLookup examines variable substitution in bash. "bash variable substitution works as a little code shortcut when assigning a value to a variable in a script. It also makes little sense syntactically, and you probably wouldn't know what it was doing at first glance. But it's a standard bash idiom that saves a few keystrokes, so it's a good thing to learn."


Trends in Embedded System Design Highlighted at September Conference in Boston. CMP Media announced that the educational program at the Embedded Systems Conference Boston (September 4 - 7, 2001) will highlight tools to simplify programming complexity and implement Open Source technologies in embedded applications.

2002 USENIX Annual Technical Conference CFP. USENIX has posted their call for papers for their 2002 conference to be held in Monterey, California.

Events: August 2 - September 27, 2001.
Date Event Location
August 2 - 4, 2001Yet Another Perl Conference Europe 2001(YAPC)(Hogeschool Holland)Amsterdam, Netherlands
August 4 - 5, 2001LinuxCertified Linux System Administration BootCampCupertino, California
August 13 - 18, 2001IPsec Interoperability Workshop (Bakeoff)Espoo, Finland
August 14 - 16, 2001Embedded Internet Conference 2001Santa Clara, CA
August 14 - 16, 2001LinuxWorld ChinaBeijing, China
August 19 - 22, 2001Forum 2001University of California at Santa Cruz, Calif.
August 20 - 24, 2001HP World 2001(McCormick Place)Chicago, IL, USA.
August 20 - 21, 2001JabberCon 2001Keystone, Colorado
August 23 - 25, 2001LinuxWorld Hong KongHong Kong
August 25 - September 1, 2001The Linuxbierwanderung (Linux Beer Hike) 2001Bouillon, Belgium
August 26 - 30, 2001LinuxWorld Conference & ExpoSan Francisco
September 1 - 2, 2001LinuxCertified.com Linux System Administration BootcampCupertino, California
September 2, 2001Erlang Workshop - FirenzeItaly
September 4 - 7, 2001Embedded Systems Conference(Hynes Convention Center)Boston, MA
September 6 - 7, 2001Open Source Health Care Alliance(OSHCA)(The Posthouse Hotel Kensington)London, UK
September 12 - 13, 2001Linux ExpoBirmingham, UK
September 17 - 20, 2001O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference - Washington, DC. 
September 17 - 18, 2001Red Hat TechWorld(Brussels Expo)Brussels, Belgium
September 17, 2001XML Information DaysAmsterdam
September 18, 2001XML Information DaysBrussels
September 19, 2001XML Information DaysMunich
September 20, 2001XML Information DaysZurich
September 21, 2001XML Information DaysMilan
September 24, 2001XML Information DaysParis
September 25, 2001XML Information DaysCopenhagen
September 26, 2001XML Information DaysOslo
September 26 - 28, 2001Australian Unix User Group's Annual Conference(AUUG 2001)Sydney, Australia
September 27, 2001XML Information DaysStockholm

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 German weblog system. The BUUG (Berlin Unix User Group) announced a new German weblog system which is engaged in the discussion of free and open source software on Unix- and similar operating systems. The site will present news, articles, tips and tricks, as well as interviews with famous and less famous persons.

User Group News

The Linux Users' Group of Davis (California). LUGOD meets on August 7, 2001 to discuss Automated Retrieval System (Robotic Cranes) presented by Michael Egan, Sonoma State University.

August events in St. Louis Missouri. The St. Louis Area Computer Club is hosting a Linux PC Configuration Workshop on August 2, 2001.
The Missouri Open Source LUG meets August 7, 2001.
The St. Louis Unix Users Group discusses open source software on August 8, 2001.
The St. Louis LUG talks about Jabber on August 16, 2001.
The Hazelwood MO LUG meets August 21, 2001.

Sacramento area Linux Installfest. Three Sacramento (California) area LUGs [Linux Users' Group of Davis (LUGOD), the Sacramento Linux Users Group (SacLUG), and the Roseville Area Linux Users Group (RoseLUG)] will be holding a free Linux Installfest workshop on September 16, 2001.

LUG Events: August 2 - August 16, 2001.
Date Event Location
August 2, 2001Linux User Support Team, Taegu(LUST-T)Taegu, Korea
August 2, 2001Edinburgh LUG(EDLUG)Edinburgh, Scotland
August 2, 2001St. Louis Area Computer Club Linux workshopSt. Louis, MO
August 2, 2001
August 16, 2001
Gallup Linux Users Group(GalLUG)(Coyote Bookstore)Gallup, New Mexico
August 2, 2001UNIX/Linux Special Interest Group of the Dayton Microcomputer Association(DMA office at 119 Valley St)Dayton, OH, USA.
August 2, 2001SSLUG: Hyggemöte på Malmö HögskolaDenmark
August 4, 2001Twin Cities Linux Users Group(TCLUG)Minneapolis, MN
August 4, 2001Sheffield LUG(ShefLUG)(Sheffield Hallam University)Sheffield, UK.
August 4, 2001LEAP-CF InstallfestOrlando, FL.
August 6, 2001Haifa Linux Club(Technion CS dept. bldg.)Haifa, Israel
August 7, 2001Linux User Group of Davis(LUGOD)(Z-World)Davis, CA
August 7, 2001Omaha Linux User Group(OLUG)Omaha, Nebraska
August 7, 2001Missouri Open Source LUG(MOSLUG)Kirkwood, Missouri
August 7, 2001
August 14, 2001
Kalamazoo Linux Users Group(KLUG)(Western Michigan University)Kalamazoo, Michigan
August 8, 2001Toledo Area Linux User's Group(TALUG)Toledo, OH
August 8, 2001Columbia Area LUG(CALUG)(Capita Technologies Training Center)Columbia, Maryland
August 8, 2001Silicon Corridor LUG(SCLUG)(Back of Beyond pub in Kings Road)Reading, UK
August 8, 2001St. Louis Unix Users Group - Open Source Software(SLUUG)(Sunnen Products)St. Louis, Missouri
August 8, 2001Linux Users Group of Sacramento(sacLUG)(Calweb)Sacramento, California
August 9, 2001Boulder Linux Users Group(BLUG)(Nist Radio Building)Boulder, CO
August 9, 2001Phoenix Linux Users Group(PLUG)(Sequoia Charter School)Mesa, AZ.
August 9, 2001Kernel-Panic Linux User Group(KPLUG)San Diego, CA
August 11, 2001Consortium of All Bay Area Linux(CABAL)Menlo Park, CA
August 11, 2001Route 66 LUGLa Verne, CA
August 11, 2001GalLUG Installfest(Connecting Point Computers)Gallup, New Mexico
August 11, 2001KPLUG Installfest(National City Adult Center)San Diego, CA
August 14, 2001Victoria LUG(VLUG)(University of Victoria)Victoria, British Columbia
August 14, 2001Long Island LUG(LILUG)(SUNY Farmingdale)Farmingdale, NY
August 14, 2001SSLUG: Hyggemøde hos DKUUG/SymbionDenmark
August 15, 2001Central Iowa Linux Users Group(CIALUG)West Des Moines, IA
August 15, 2001Linux User Group in GroningenThe Netherlands
August 15, 2001Washington D.C. Linux User Group(DCLUG)(National Institute of Health)Bethesda, Maryland
August 16, 2001St. Louis LUG(SLLUG)(St. Louis County Library, Indian Trails Branch)St. Louis, MO.
August 16, 2001South Mississippi LUG(SMLUG)(Barnes & Noble)Gulfport, Mississippi
August 16, 2001Linux Enthusiasts And Professionals of Central Florida(LEAP-CF)(DeVry Institute)Orlando, FL.
August 16, 2001New Orleans Linux Users' Group(NOLUG)(University of New Orleans (UNO) Mathematics Building)New Orleans, Louisiana
August 16, 2001SSLUG: Hyggemøde på Niels Bohr InstitutetDenmark

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

Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.

August 2, 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

Six years ago Red Hat Software and Pacific Hi-Tech (now known as Turbolinux) announced the co-production of the "Official Red Hat Linux CD Rom" (version 1.1).

Five years ago Caldera announced the acquisition of DR-DOS, and the filing of its antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

Mark Bolzern, of LinuxMall fame, got the first letter from William R. Della Croche, the clever guy who thought he would register the Linux trademark and start hitting up Linux companies for payments. That, of course, didn't last very long...

Three years ago (August 6, 1998): LWN commented on the relative lack of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) attacks against Linux, and predicted that there would be more such in the future. This year Microsoft has obliged with its attacks on open source.

Eric Raymond celebrated the first six months of the "open source" term.

In fact, we've come an astonishingly long way in a short time. Six months ago `free software' was barely a blip on the radar screens of the computer trade press and the corporate world -- and what they thought they knew, they didn't like. Today, `open source' is a hot topic not just in the trade press but in the most influential of the business-news magazines that shape corporate thinking.

The development kernel was 2.1.114; work continued on the 2.0.36 stable release. Much energy went into a vast flamewar over whether the devfs patch should go into the 2.2 kernel; in the end it didn't happen, but it will be there in 2.4. The beer-drinking penguin logo was removed from the development series.

Two years ago (August 5, 1999 LWN): SGI jumped into Linux with both feet, announcing a new Linux-based server system. The company also let it slip that Irix would not be ported to the Intel architecture.

Eric Raymond addressed the question of whether free software can be original:

But there is a more fundamental error in the implicit assumption that the cathedral model (or the bazaar model, or any other kind of management structure) can somehow make innovation happen reliably. This is nonsense. Gangs don't have breakthrough insights -- even volunteer groups of bazaar anarchists are usually incapable of genuine originality, let alone corporate committees of people with a survival stake in some status quo ante. Insight comes from individuals.

The development kernel release was 2.3.12. Linus Torvalds announced that the 2.3 kernel would go into feature freeze "in about two weeks." The 2.3 feature freeze was still months away in reality.

There was a rumor that VA Linux might file for an IPO.

ZDNet reported on Time magazine's top 100 important people of the century list. Bill Gates was number 16. Linus Torvalds ranked number 15 and also got his picture on the cover of Time.

One year ago (August 3, 2000 LWN): The FUD was flying this week. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said Linux is communism in The Register. Michael Swaine questioned the originality of open source in this WebReview article. Dave Winer at Userland predicted the death of the software industry partly blaming open source. There was even an article on ZDNet claiming that security holes should be hidden to keep crackers from exploiting them. Of course holes that are not made public tend not to get fixed...

The current development kernel release was 2.4.0-test5. Linus sent out an announcement for this release, which contained lots of changes.

Grant Taylor launched LinuxPrinting.org, still a good resource for information about printing under Linux.

Caldera Systems and SCO announced a merger.

Ready for prime time? IBM was selling its S/390 with Linux. Computer Associates announced "a comprehensive suite of eBusiness management software" available for Linux on S/390.

Copyleft was added as a defendant in the DVD suit as a result of their selling T-shirts with the DeCSS code on the back. Copyleft founder Steve Blood was quoted in this ZDNet article.

"We've been marketing this since last January," Blood said. "It seems a bit late." According to the subpoena he received Monday, the DVD CCA had trouble locating him, despite the fact that the organization's Web site is easy to find.

Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.

August 2, 2001

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


 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.

August 2, 2001

From:	 Lutz Horn <lh@lutz-horn.de>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: Is proprietary software a valid option?
Date:	 Sat, 28 Jul 2001 19:47:07 +0200
Cc:	 discussion@fsfeurope.org

Hash: SHA1

Dear folks at LWN,

Thanks for publishing my letter regarding your coverage of the Caldera
licensing scheme. To this you added the honour of quoting it as an
example for an opinion 'common among certain types of free software
advocates' in your july, 26th Main Page. Since you take some trouble of
argueing against something you claim can be found in my statement, let me
respond to your editorial.

There are some points in your article that need to be addressed.

1) You start of by asking 'Is it immoral to use proprietary software?'.
Of course, I never asked this question in my original letter. You, too,
are aware of this, since only three paragraphes later you rephrase the
question to 'Is it truly "no valid option"', using my words. Let me
point out that I'm not talking about morals. I restricted myself in
talking about valid or invalid options which is a completely different

Since, as far as I can see, inside the Free Software community there is
no generally agreed idea about what is morally right or wrong in
everyday live, said community focuses on one goal: Free Software and
ways to further it, increase it's use, etc. Everything that is said and
done about Free Software has to be judged under consideration of this
goal. If something does or doesn't further this goal, it's not moral or
immoral but a valid or invalid option.

2) Regarding the use of proprietary software, you ask 'What, exactly, is
the harm in doing so'. The infliction of actual harm is only one thing
why using proprietary software is no valid option. It is no valid option
since proprietary software keeps people from helping each other, from
learning while using software, and generally keeps them in a state of
dependence. There may be no actual harm done from this but it sure is
against the spirit of Free Software.

3) After restricting yourself to the actual harm done by the use of
proprietary software you cosider the 'biggest fear' which you detect in
proprietary software 'block[ing] the development of a free package'. Of
course this is a major problem but the arguments you present to calm the
fear down are worth considering. I agree with you that there is no need
to discuss this issue.

There are, of course, different problems in the use of proprietary
software which do actual harm to Free Software even though no developer
is discouraged from developing Free Software. If there is no Free
alternative to some proprietary tool the use of this tool does
strengthen it. By increasing the user base of proprietary software users
make it more difficult for late coming Free Software to get a food in
the door. We all know that switching tools is an undertaking not readliy
done. Or is there some other reaseon why people are still using the
proprietary Netscape browsers even though Mozilla is Free and ready to

4) You appease the users of proprietary software by saying that they
need not 'feel an outsider just because the programs they need to get
their work done now are not available under a free license.' In this you
assume that they are being thrown out of the community by the 'Church of
the FSF'. I don't think this is the case. Being a member of the Free
Software community is not a question of conforming to some church rules.
But of course if somebody considers himself a member of the Free
Software community he has to ask himself where his priorities lie. Do
they lie in getting 'their work done' or in working for Free Software.
If they lie in the first, the use of proprietary software may be a valid
option.  If they lie in the second, it is not.

Lutz Horn
- -- 
Lutz Horn <lh@lutz-horn.de>
For PGP information see header.
Version: GnuPG v1.0.6 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Weitere Infos: siehe http://www.gnupg.org

From:	 Mark Koek <mark@koek.net>
To:	 lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Is it immoral to use proprietary software?
Date:	 Thu, 26 Jul 2001 13:13:55 +0200

While I generally appreciate LWN.net's editorials for their clarity 
and insight (although I occasionally disagree with them), today I was 
disappointed to see that you have been unable to resist the 
temptation of joining in all the RMS-bashing that seems to be so 
popular these days.

Aside from the fact that you are making claims that I find difficult 
to believe and are unsubstantiated (the "little fact that Richard 
Stallman and the GNU project developed much of its early code on 
proprietary Unix systems" for example - I would venture that RMS used 
free Berkeley systems in the eighties), the general tone and 
direction of the article reveal a shocking lack of understanding of 
(or worse, lack of respect for) the way Richard Stallman thinks and 

Even though I am on your side where the basic question is concerned 
(I used Netscape when there was no free alternative, and I don't 
think that's morally wrong), you approach the issue not from a moral 
perspective such as the FSF would do, but from an "Open Source", 
"how-do-we-convince-the-managers" viewpoint, which I think is 
entirely wrong.

In fact, your text perfectly illustrates why I agree with Bruce 
Perens that Open Source has had its day, and it's time to talk about 
Free Software again.

RMS takes the moral high ground, certainly, but unlike most people 
who do that he consistently abides by his own rules, at his own 
personal expense. If only because of that, he deserves fairer 
commentary than an editorial concluding that his actions are 
inappropriate and unhelpful. They most certainly are not.

Mark Koek
From:	 "Michael W. Gilbert" <mgilbert@oit.umass.edu>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: In response to "Is it immoral to use proprietary software? "
Date:	 Thu, 26 Jul 2001 10:34:13 -0400
Cc:	 Jeremy P Lemieux <vndibere@oit.umass.edu>,
	 Michael W Gilbert <mgilbert@oit.umass.edu>

Dear Editors,

In response to "Is it immoral to use proprietary software? "

It is this writers opinion that an essential freedom is the right to choose
one's software tools, free or proprietary, without the fear of so-called
excommunication. By using, enhancing, contributing to, and spreading the
word about free tools, these free tools will be ameliorated to a level
where they become a real choice, not by virtue of their political status,
but by virtue of their usefulness, quality, and community-oriented support.

To suggest, however, that when no free tools exist, the only moral choice
is to create them and not use proprietary ones, indeed smacks of political
correctness, and will only serve to divide a community that could better be
served by working together wherever possible. Many creators of software,
faced with the reality that the commodity of their daily bread requires
payment at the bakery (no FBF?), have opted to exchange their work for
money so they can eat (and have time to develop free software as
well). While it may be somewhat politically expedient to view this issue in
absolute terms, it is more an issue of continuum, on which one must find a
workable place.

Denying individuals the freedom to come to their own definition of what
this place may be for them, or suggesting that it immoral to do so, in the
name of freedom, strikes me as somewhat hypocritical. The debate is far
more valuable to all parties than is the dogma.


MICHAEL Wm. GILBERT  mgilbert@oit.umass.edu
Technology Development and Special Projects
Office of Information Technology (OIT)
Lederle Graduate Research Center A115
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
740 No. Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA  01003-9306
Voice: 413-545-3124   Fax: 413-545-3203

From:	 Paul Sheer <psheer@icon.co.za>
To:	 Jonathan Corbet <corbet@lwn.net>
Subject: Re: Free software
Date:	 Mon, 30 Jul 2001 19:45:06 +0200

I am constantly surrounded by anti-microsoft bigotry
on the one hand, and Free Software Foundation / RMS
bashers on the other, so it is worthwhile presenting
a view that everyone can live with, that holds together
practically, ethically, and philosophically.

In the first place, RMS is not ``wrong'' in his ideals.
Anyone who is asked to paint a utopia, will doubtless
come up with a sharing, socialistic world, however
unattainable it might be in the present. As an ideal,
the Free Software Foundation's essays are mostly correct:
we ultimately want all useful technical information to
be in the public domain, as well as the revocation of all
policies that result in the duplication of human effort.
The less secrets there are, and the more we all
collaborate, the better.

However, it is true in any age that ideals must cope
with the capacities of the population at large. The
assumption that all history is made through political
decisions is not correct: often culture has to evolve
before a political decision is viable. A classic
example is drug abuse: it is my *right* to consume
whatever substance I like. However, removing all drug
controls from the law would result in instant chaos,
so I prefer that drugs stay illegal for the time being.

I suppose this is why the FSF does not call for a law
forcing the release of all source code. Such a law is
probably not practical. They merely try to appeal to
people's ethical responsibility. And there are three
ways a person can respond:

The classic response is denial. In this mode, the person
tries to find some fallacious rebuttal to the arguments
of the FSF. Ultimately, this is self-defeating, since
there is little in the FSF's essays that each of us
does not really want anyway.

The second response is quite rare: complete acceptance
of the ideals, *and* the resolution to put them into

The third response is the acceptance of the validity
of the ideals, while acknowledging ones inability to
follow because of ones own personal limitations.
That is: "I know I should, but I am to selfish to share."

The last two are responses that make sense. I myself
refuse to release certain of my own work under the
licenses recommended by the FSF for two reasons: First,
I am to selfish; and second, society has not evolved to
the point were it would ultimately be of more practical
benefit to do so---my work has reached a level of quality
that I don't think would be possible unless it were a
proprietary venture. There is nothing wrong with
admitting that people need, at this time in history,
to be competitive and selfish in order to function.

With regard to last weeks front page, the very
juxtaposition of Free and proprietary software does
not make sense. Free software pundits are trying to
create a Free system. Until that goal is entirely met,
the existence of proprietary packages logically poses no
interest to them. Also, there is a tremendous difference
between proprietary free software and proprietary
commercial software.

"...there is no moral _need or purpose_ in trying to
_prevent_ others from using the tools that work best for
them..." Trying to make someone feel guilty about using
proprietary software does not come within the definition
of the word "prevent" in the preceding quote.

There are also several "need or purpose"s that this
sentence erroneously groups together. There are the
needs of a Free Unix system, the need to popularize Free
software, the need for IPOs to get a return on their
investment in Linux, and the needs of the thousands of
non-software companies who now depend on this Free


Paul Sheer Consulting IT Services . . . Tel . . . +27 21 761 7224
Linux development, cryptography, installations, support, training
http://www.icon.co.za/~psheer . . . . http://rute.sourceforge.net
L I N U X . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Choice of a GNU Generation
From:	 Brad Hards <bhards@bigpond.net.au>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: Article Comment: Linux: The electoral test that pencil and paper meet
	 (I.T Austrailia)
Date:	 Sun, 29 Jul 2001 12:32:26 +1000

I noted the LWN coverage of the Software Innovations press release.

You might be interested to know that some of the work on this project is being
done by "big name" open source people, including Andrew Tridgell (aka Mr
Samba), Dave Gibson (orionoco wireless LAN driver), Martin Pool (apache), and
Rusty Russell (netfilter and other gross kernel hacks).

The code is available for public review in CVS, see http://evacs.samba.org/

From:	 Marshal Newrock <marshal@simons-rock.edu>
To:	 <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: Proprietary Document Formats (PDF's)
Date:	 Thu, 26 Jul 2001 14:42:02 -0400 (EDT)

With all the fuss against Adobe, I'd like to point out that there are Free
Software versions of most of their products available.  I'll focus on
Acrobat.  There's quite a few programs I've noticed which will create a
PDF, some from text, some from HTML, doubtless from other formats too,
even dynamically.  What I haven't seen is anything that can replace
Acrobat Capture.

Capture is a part of Acrobat that will convert images scanned as a PDF
into a PDF with text and images.  The OCR works pretty good, and the
resulting document looks the same as the original image.  Perhaps the
biggest feature is it does not convert words it's not sure about, but
leaves them as images of the words, along with information for a suggested
replacement (usually wrong, of course).

Software that does OCR within an image would be extremely helpful.  PDF's
seem easily enough created, so it could save to a PDF, or perhaps also to
an open format.  If there are no open formats suitable (which I don't know
if there are or not), then I'm sure the Free Software community would have
no trouble creating one.  And doubtless it would have a better
encryption/password protection scheme than Adobe's, which I've read can be
gotten around using Ghostscript.

Perhaps there could be an On The Desktop segment about Adobe alternatives.

Marshal Newrock, Simon's Rock College of Bard
Answers are easy.  It's asking the right question that's hard.

From:	 Jarkko Santala <jake@iki.fi>
To:	 <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: Usage of SSH
Date:	 Sun, 29 Jul 2001 09:02:48 +0300 (EET DST)


I've just been wondering why every time there is a problem with Secure
Shell from SSH Communications Security Corp (which, believe me, is really
rare), it is so clearly stated that the problem is only in the commercial
product, but when the problem is in an open source implementation of the
protocol, quite a few sites don't bother making the point of specifying
the product. They just talk about SSH.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for open source, but looks like open source
folks are quite good at FUD too.



ps. on the 3.0.0 incident, anyone who has a valid shell for a pseudo-user
is asking for it anyway.

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