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Leading items and editorials

A note for LWN's readers LWN.net was formed as a result of discussions between Liz Coolbaugh and Jonathan Corbet almost exactly four years ago. In those years, it has been our privilege to report on the explosion of Linux, and, in our own small way, to be a part of the success of Linux and free software in general. We would like to continue doing so for a long time.

Unfortunately, that may not prove possible. Tucows, which has generously funded LWN's operation since acquiring it in early 2000, has had to cut back on expenses, due to the well-known difficulties in the current economic environment. Tucows's support for LWN has been strong beyond the call of duty, but the company is no longer able to continue that support.

An immediate result is the loss of Senior Editor Michael J. Hammel. Michael has brought a lot to LWN, including his unique "On the Desktop" page. He will be much missed.

Things may not stop there, unfortunately. The online advertising market is difficult, to put it mildly, and attempts to turn up corporate sponsorships have not been successful. Unless we can come up with a way of paying salaries soon, LWN risks dropping off the net entirely.

The biggest reward from writing LWN has, from the beginning, been the quality of our readers. So we are now asking our readers for suggestions on how we could keep LWN going in this environment. To that end, we have created a new mailing list to host a discussion between our readers and ourselves; subscription information can be found here (note that you can send comments to the list without subscribing - at least until the spammers find the list). If LWN is valuable to you, and you have some thoughts on assuring its future, we would be most interested in hearing from you.

Playing with StarOffice 6.0. Your editor, wishing for a distraction, decided to download the beta version of StarOffice 6.0 to see how it looks. Having sworn mightily at several previous versions of StarOffice, we felt well qualified to disparage this one as well.

Lest you be confused into thinking you're dealing with free software, Sun's download page starts off with an intrusive registration process - requesting even a mother's maiden name (to help with forgotten passwords, of course). The license agreement is also interesting; it states:

Sun Microsystems, Inc. grants to Licensee, a non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty-free and limited license to use Licensed Software internally for the purposes of evaluation only. No license is granted to Licensee for any other purpose....

Licensee shall have no right to use the Licensed Software for productive or commercial use.

Proprietary software often comes with strange licensing, but it's a rare package that forbids doing anything useful at all. The agreement also obligates the user to provide feedback to Sun on the software. Finally, it requires:

Upon termination or expiration of this Agreement, Licensee will immediately cease use of and destroy Licensed Software and any copies thereof and provide Sun Microsystems, Inc. a written statement certifying that Licensee has complied with the foregoing obligations.

It's not clear just how many people have downloaded this beta; one presumes, however, that Sun will be staffing up heavily to deal with all the written notifications it will receive in 90 days when the beta license expires.

Some things have not changed with StarOffice. For example, it's big. The program comes in a 120MB self-extracting executable; the 69-page installation guide is an extra, 570K download. Oh, and if you want the full functionality, you also have to go get a suitable version of the Java runtime environment and the Adabas server - but it will function without them.

Don't be trying to run much else on your system when you run the installation - it thrashes the system pretty hard. It's interesting that the single-user/network installation distinction still exists. One would think it could simply be installed and run from anywhere that can see it.

Another thing that has not changed: StarOffice is a monster program, with a virtual memory footprint of over 100MB.

StarOffice 6.0 is, however, nicer to use than its predecessors. The "do everything in one place" philosophy is gone and unlamented; if you ask for a word processor, it's just another window on your screen. We note with pleasure that printing has become more reasonable - StarOffice 6.0 actually looks at your printcap file and finds the queues by itself.

Importing of old StarOffice files works nicely, as does importing from various proprietary formats. Imported files, in general, work far better than with version 5.x. The spreadsheet is not able to import gnumeric files, though.

And, of course, there is the new, XML file format. Actually, a StarOffice document is now stored as a compressed Zip file; unpacking that file turns up a set of XML files containing the document content, metadata, images, etc. There is a modest size penalty over older, proprietary document formats, but it is less than a factor of two and well worth it. Proprietary data formats are one of the greatest evils of the software industry; moving to something more transparent can only be a good thing.

In summary, a StarOffice 6.0 beta user will not encounter a great deal of new features. The effort, instead, has gone into making a lot of things work better. In other words, the priorities seem to be in the right place, and development is headed in the right direction. StarOffice 6.0 will be a useful tool in many environments.

And, certainly, we are looking forward to seeing much of that good work released in a free form via the OpenOffice project.

A couple of positions on RAND licensing. The deadline for comments on the W3C's RAND licensing proposal is October 11; those of you reading this page shortly after publication will still have time to sound off, if you have not already done so. Meanwhile, we have a couple of high-profile comments that are worth passing on.

The Open Source Initiative, as represented by Eric Raymond, has sent out a detailed criticism of the W3C's proposed standard. According to the OSI, a RAND term is acceptable as long as it includes an exception for open source implementations. The OSI, it seems, would be pleased if proprietary implementers of web standards had to pay royalties, while free software got by without.

Without that exception, however, RAND licensing is, according to the OSI, bad news. The tone gets strong toward the end:

If the W3C persists in its present course, it risks having its tea dumped in Boston harbor as the first move in a revolution that will vest effective control of Web standards in open-source groups like the Apache Software Foundation and entirely out of the ambit of the W3C and its sponsors. OSI would do what we can help lead that revolt.

A slighly less polemic comment can be found in HP's position, as expressed by Bruce Perens.

HP's policy regarding RAND may have been mis-interpreted by the public and the press, because the name of an HP attorney appears on the Patent Policy Framework draft. However, that attorney was not a major contributor to the draft, and he asserted to the committee upon HP's behalf that royalty-encumbered standards would not be successful.

The W3C's eventual conclusion remains to be seen. One can hope that they have heard the outcry and will act accordingly, but one sometimes hopes in vain. It may yet be time for a tea party.

Inside this LWN.net weekly edition:

  • Security: PHP Nuke hole gets worse; a couple of kernel problems.
  • Kernel: The state of kernel development; overwriting active shared libraries.
  • Distributions: The list moves; Effort Linux.
  • On the Desktop: Moving on: a personal note before leaving LWN.net.
  • Development: Apocalypse 3 for Perl 6, Printer paper tray selection, Redfoot RDF, Lisa 1.1, Pyro:Python Remote Objects, eclipse IDE platform.
  • Commerce: New IBM p690 server, US Navy tests open source, MSC.software donates $6M to Kettering University.
  • History: Fall of Microsoft predicted; Turbolinux gets money; Great Bridge hires PostgreSQL hackers.
  • Letters: LWN disinformation; RAND licensing.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

October 11, 2001


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See also: last week's Security page.


News and Editorials

PHP Nuke remains vulnerable. Two weeks ago LWN reported on a vulnerability in PHP Nuke's file manager functions. As of this writing, there has been no new PHP Nuke release fixing that problem. Meanwhile, a new problem report has come out showing how to exploit the vulnerability to upload arbitrary files and run commands on the server system. This is a serious bug.

The PHP Nuke code is used to run a great many web sites; it is disturbing that a vulnerability of this magnitude, which exposes so many systems, can go unrepaired for so long. Those of you running PHP Nuke sites will want to look at applying the simple source fix from two weeks ago, or moving to the PostNuke variant, which does not have this vulnerability.

Best Practices for Secure Development is a lengthy white paper written by Razvan Peteanu. It covers security from an application developer's point of view, describing how to write programs that are secure from the beginning. Version 4 of this paper has just been announced; this version has been completely rewritten and includes a fair amount of new material. Worth a look.

Security Reports

Race condition in devfs. At the end of September, Alexander Viro posted a description of a race condition vulnerability in the 2.4 device filesystem. This race could be used by a clueful, local attacker to bring down the system. Very few Linux distributions ship with devfs enabled at this point, but Mandrake is an exception. Thus, MandrakeSoft has issued a kernel security update to address the problem. A new kernel package is not yet available; the update contains a workaround boot option which can be used to close the vulnerability for now.

2.4.x packet filtering vulnerability. The 2.4.x netfilter code can, among many other things, filter packets based on their MAC (hardware) address. It turns out that very small packets can evade this filtering and get through the firewall. It is a difficult vulnerability to do anything interesting with, but it should be fixed anyway. A patch was included with the advisory; it should also appear in the 2.4.11 kernel.

ht://Dig configuration file vulnerability. ht://Dig 3.1.0b2 and later have a vulnerability wherein a remote user can specify that an alternate configuration file be used by htsearch. If an attacker has a way of placing a hostile configuration file on the server, this vulnerability could be used to gain access to files on the system. The fix is to upgrade to version 3.1.6 (or 3.2.0b4) or apply the patch contained in the advisory.

Only one distributor update has been seen so far:

Caldera security update to sendmail configuration. Caldera International has issued a security update regarding its sendmail configuration. It seems that the permissions are overly liberal, allowing a denial of service attack by a local user. This isn't a sendmail bug as such; it's a configuration error. The alert contains the fix to close the hole.

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

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

  • Cisco has issued an advisory for its PIX firewall systems; it seems that the AAA authentication feature is susceptible to a denial of service attack.


Buffer overrun vulnerability in lpr. A buffer overrun vulnerability in lpr has been reported. This time around, an attacker crafts a special, incomplete print job; a subsequent request to view the printer queue causes the overrun to happen. The advisory only mentions BSD systems, but numerous Linux distributions run BSD lpr as well. This problem was first reported in the September 6 LWN security page.

This week's updates:

Buffer overflows in most. The "most" pager has a number of buffer overflow vulnerabilities; this problem was first reported in the September 20 LWN security page.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

slrn executes shell code. The slrn news reader has an interesting problem: evidently slrn will execute any shell code it finds within an article, on the theory that the article is a self-extracting archive. This may have been desirable behavior in 1982, but it presents certain difficulties in modern times. Users of slrn should apply the update. This vulnerability was first reported in the September 27 LWN security page.

This week's updates:

Previous updates:

Uucp local user exploits. There is a vulnerability in the command-line argument handling of uucp which can be exploited by a local user to obtain uid/gid uucp. See the September 13, 2001 LWN security page for the initial report.

New updates:

Previous updates:


NSA offers supersecure Linux (CNN). CNN reports briefly on the NSA's security enhanced Linux distro. "SE Linux does not correct any flaws in Linux, but rather serves as an example of how mandatory access controls, including superuser access, can be added to Linux."

Experts: Easy Installations Kill (Wired). Wired covers the SANS Institute's report on computer security which says that events like Code Red and Nimda aren't the network's biggest problems, but default installations are. "System administrators have reported to SANS and other security organizations that holes often go unpatched because the constant barrage of patches and security alerts are overwhelming. So the Top 20 list prioritizes the threats and also offers comprehensive advice on detecting and fixing these dangerous vulnerabilities from dozens of leading security experts."

LinuxSecurity.com's Linux Security Week for October 8 is now available.

Wireless LAN security FAQ. Version 1.1 of the WLAN Security FAQ has been released by Chris Klaus.

Version 2.0 of the Unix Security Checklist is now available from AusCERT.


Upcoming Security Events.
Date Event Location
October 11 - 12, 2001Fourth International Symposium on Recent Advances in Intrusion Detection(RAID 2001)Davis, CA
November 5 - 8, 20018th ACM Conference on Computer and Communication Security(CCS-8)Philadelphia, PA, USA
November 13 - 15, 2001International Conference on Information and Communications Security(ICICS 2001)Xian, China
November 19 - 22, 2001Black Hat BriefingsAmsterdam
November 21 - 23, 2001International Information Warfare SymposiumAAL, Lucerne, Swizerland.
November 24 - 30, 2001Computer Security MexicoMexico City
November 29 - 30, 2001International Cryptography InstituteWashington, DC
December 2 - 7, 2001Lisa 2001 15th Systems Administration ConferenceSan Diego, CA.
December 5 - 6, 2001InfoSecurity Conference & ExhibitionJacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY.
December 10 - 14, 2001Annual Computer Security Applications ConferenceNew Orleans, LA

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: Jonathan Corbet

October 11, 2001

LWN Resources

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

Security Projects
Linux Security Audit Project
Linux Security Module

Security List Archives
Bugtraq Archive
Firewall Wizards Archive
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Distribution-specific links
Caldera Advisories
Conectiva Updates
Debian Alerts
Kondara Advisories
Esware Alerts
LinuxPPC Security Updates
Mandrake Updates
Red Hat Errata
SuSE Announcements
Yellow Dog Errata

BSD-specific links

Security mailing lists
Linux From Scratch
Red Hat
Yellow Dog

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

Miscellaneous Resources
Comp Sec News Daily
Security Focus


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

Kernel development

The current kernel release is 2.4.11, which was released on October 9. Unlike some 2.4 releases, this one actually seems to be dedicated to stabilizing things; with the exception of some block layer, superblock, and partition changes, 2.4.11 consists mostly of bug fixes and driver updates.

2.4.11 does also contain the code that marks the kernel "tainted" if non-free loadable modules are used. In some cases, users are getting warnings when using entirely free code. It's nothing to be worried about, there just is still some cleaning up to do there.

(Update: see the 2.4.12 announcement, which came out just after LWN's publication, for an update on the "sorry excuse for a kernel" that Linus now calls 2.4.11).

Alan Cox's latest patch is 2.4.10-ac11, which contains a large set of fixes and updates. According to Alan, "The 2.4.10-ac tree now seems pretty solid."

For 2.0 users, David Weinehall has released 2.0.40-pre2, which adds another set of fixes to this ancient kernel. Some difficulties with this patch have been reported, so many users may want to wait for -pre3.

Where does kernel development stand? The current kernel development situation is, perhaps, unprecedented in Linux's history. It's interesting to look at what's going on:

  • There are currently two "stable" 2.4 kernel trees, which differ significantly. The two competing virtual memory implementations are the biggest difference, of course, but there are others as well. The "-ac" series contains a number of changes which have not, yet, made it into the Linus kernel. Merging changes has been made more difficult by the degree of divergence between the kernels, meaning that stuff is moving into the Linus tree at a slower pace.

    There is also an increasing level of grumbling from various kernel developers, who are finding themselves having to support two different stable trees. There is a fair amount of work (example) going into that support.

  • There has been no development kernel since last January. Given that the kernel was (kind of) in a feature freeze for some time before the 2.4.0 release, it has been over a year since there has been a real target for new kernel developments. It's no wonder that development-like things are finding their way into stable kernel releases.
Some of the troubles, certainly, could be addressed by opening up the 2.5 series. With a real (single) development kernel to hack on, people would be less inclined to try to get bleeding-edge stuff into a 2.4 kernel.

But that still leaves the question of what will happen with the 2.4 kernel. Linus generally leaves the stable series behind when he starts a new development kernel; in the recent past, the responsibility for the stable kernel has then passed on to Alan Cox. But Alan is maintaining a different, 2.4-based tree, and intends to continue doing so. He states that it will take "another 5 or 6 releases" to get the new VM truly stable, and is thus unlikely to adopt it into his kernel for some time.

Interestingly, though, most distributors base their kernels off the "ac" tree, not the mainline Linus kernel. Conceivably, once Linus moves on to 2.5, his 2.4 series could begin to look like a dead end. That may look like an unlikely outcome, but, unless somebody backs down on the VM issue, a unified 2.4 is looking unlikely in the near future.

Why no 'text file busy' with shared libraries? Linux, like most Unix-like systems, will not allow an executable file to be overwritten if it is currently being run by a process. Many people who build or install programs have been frustrated by the resulting "text file busy" message. The reasoning behind this restriction is clear: the file in question is in use as the backing store for one or more live virtual memory areas; changing it could easily corrupt the processes using those areas.

An interesting question was asked on the kernel list: why is there no similar restriction applied to shared library files? They are mapped in the same way as executables, and form a part of a running process in the same way. But the kernel will happily allow a user with appropriate permissions to overwrite an active shared memory, with the result that a running process could find itself with some pages from the old version, and others from the new. Anybody who has ever made an incautious shared library update can attest that the results are unpleasant.

Some systems, such as those based on the Mach kernel, handle this problem with a special flag (MAP_COPY) to the mmap() system call. If a file (such as a shared library) is mapped with MAP_COPY, the mapping process gets a virtual copy that will never change. Even if the file is overwritten, the process will see a consistent view of the older version. Linus, however, doesn't like that idea (to put it mildly). His objections have to do with the difficulties of implementing MAP_COPY - it adds a great deal of complexity to a number of operations, and he sees little or no benefit. So MAP_COPY is unlikely to show up in the Linux kernel.

Another solution is to block writes to the file, as is already done with executables. Linux does have a flag (MAP_DENYWRITE) which requests this behavior, but it is almost always ignored by the VM subsystem. To do otherwise would be a security problem; if a process with read access to a file can deny write access to other processes, there are a number of denial of service possibilities. The classic exploit is to map the utmp file in this manner, thus denying logins. The password file and system logs are a couple of other possible targets for such an attack.

There is, perhaps, a solution in sight, however. As proposed by Eric Biederman, the MAP_DENYWRITE flag could be safely recognized from user space if an additional test is met: the mapping process has execute access to the file. Once shared library images are protected with the execute bit, it will no longer be possible to overwrite them when they are in use. A patch along these lines will likely appear in a future kernel.

Other patches and updates released this week include:

  • Keith Owens has released version 1.4 of the 2.5 kernel build system.

  • Greg Kroah-Hartman has released a new version of the Compaq Hotplug PCI driver.

  • Rik van Riel has posted a patch for the "ac" kernel series which makes the system reclaim cache pages more aggressively. This should improve performance in situations where a great deal of I/O is happening. There is another patch from Rik which is intended to improve interactive performance. Rik is looking for testers for both patches.

  • A new 64-bit PCI patch has been released by David Miller.

  • The Functionally Overloaded Kernel Patch is at version 2.3.0.

  • kdb 1.9 for the 2.4.11 kernel was released by Keith Owens.

  • Jens Axboe has released a new version of his patch enabling bounce-free DMA from high-memory buffers.

  • The October 10 version of the security module patch was released by Chris Wright.

  • Steve Best has released version 1.0.7 of the IBM Journaling filesystem.

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet

October 11, 2001

For other kernel news, see:

Other resources:


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

Note: The list of Linux distributions has moved to its own page.


News and Editorials

The distributions list moves. LWN readers have been accustomed to seeing the lengthy lists of distributions along both sides of this page. In an attempt to clean things up, and to avoid that embarrassing empty space which appears at the bottom when there is not enough distributions news, the distributions list has moved its own page. For now, the page contains the same list that used to appear here; with luck, we'll turn it into something more informative and interesting in the near future.

New Distributions

Effort Linux.  The Effort Linux distribution was announced to LWN.net late last week. The distribution targets security for servers and High-Availability systems. The Web site is written in Portuguese.

Effort Linux includes a number of security-related packages, including IPSec, LIDS, and qmail. It features a configuration file structure derived from BSD systems. At the moment, this distribution is supported by a single developer; he is interested in getting some help. The current version is 1.3.3.

Distribution News

Debian at upcoming German events. Debian users in Germany will have several opportunities to meet with the developers at events this coming week. Debian will have a presence at the Wizards of OS in Berlin, the Kassel Linux Weekend, and at Systems 2001 in Munich; see the announcement for details.

Debian Weekly News. The Debian Weekly News for October 9 has been posted. It looks at the Debian Documentation Project, the new debian-books list, the use of "open source," and more. This edition of the Debian Weekly News is also available in German.

Mandrake Linux Community Newsletter. The sixteenth Mandrake Linux Community Newsletter is out. It looks at some of the features of Mandrake Linux 8.1, and highlights DeadlyServers.com as the "business case of the week."

Mandrake 8.1b3 for Itanium. Itanium-based Mandrake Linux users may want to check out the third beta release of Mandrake Linux 8.1 for that architecture.

Distribution Reviews

Red Hat 7.2: Pain-free Linux (ZDNet). ZDNet reviews Red Hat Linux 7.2. "Red Hat 7.2 isn't quite a knife in the heart of Windows yet. However, we can't help but feel that it will certainly nick a major artery. The simplified user interface, unified procedures, and product support go a long way to elevate Linux from the toolbox to the workplace. It's an upwardly mobile kick in the pants for Linux and we're happy to see Red Hat do it."

Review: SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional (Duke of URL). The Duke of URL reviews SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional "SuSE was one of the first distributions to implement a personal firewall, which really was an extension of their overall security model. This daemon is notorious for loading such services as FTP and telnet which are renown for their security holes. In fact, it would appear that the days of inetd, as we know it, are numbered as new technologies appear that are more secure. That being said, SuSE has done an excellent job by disabling this daemon by default. Users who have no idea what it is are not likely to activate it."

Open-source messaging from SuSE (ZDNet). ZDNet reviews the SuSE eMail Server II product. "SuSE eMail Server II uses the Postfix MTA instead of the more complex Sendmail MTA. Postfix is very straightforward and relatively simple to configure, but it's still functionally equivalent to Sendmail. With SuSE eMail Server II, you can configure Postfix via browser--in Expert Mode, all Postfix parameters can be modified on an HTML form."

Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol

October 11, 2001

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


 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

Moving on: a personal note before leaving LWN.net.  As you may or may not know, LWN.net's parent company Tucows recently had a round of layoffs. LWN.net was not left unscathed by this. As the only staff member to come on board after Tucows purchased LWN.net, my contract left me vulnerable to such situations. And so it has happened. This will be my last column for LWN.net and the column will be retired as LWN.net doesn't have sufficient staff to keep it going. I leave with no ill feelings towards either LWN.net or Tucows. This is a business after all. And times are tough.

This column, On the Desktop, was born out of my opinion that the Linux desktop is a fast growing environment with tremendous potential. Despite the many naysayers, I still believe that to be the case. There may be a lack of applications, but nature abhors a vacuum, and this void will soon be filled. Linux goes on. Even as this column is laid to rest.

Let me take a moment in this last edition of the column to dispell a few myths about the Linux desktop. First, Linux is not out to overtake Windows. It doesn't need to - Windows is a niche system designed specifically to make it difficult to expand into new hardware. Linux is designed to be exactly the opposite of that. While Windows may have a visual presence in most offices, computing takes place in many forms these days. The desktop is no longer just for the desk. As computing devices evolve - from the desktop to the palmtop to the Internet toaster - Linux will be adopted and ported. And each device will have an interface.

Wired recently published an article that said that the Linux desktop is dead and Linux should concentrate on the server end. The problem with that is that many servers require a user interface for configuration. I worked on a graphical interface for managing a network of base stations in a cellular network. That interface was the configuration server - and it had a desktop (CDE in that case). In the film industry, visual effects studios are adopting Linux as their workstation of choice for artists. Each of these will have a desktop of one form or another (though in practice they don't care much if it's KDE, GNOME, CDE or just some window manager). The Linux desktop is not dead. It just isn't what the world seems to think it is.

This leads to the next myth: there are no applications for Linux. In the case of the server, one has to ask if typical applications are necessary. Certainly browsers are useful. Features such as drag-n-drop and cut-n-paste are essential for some systems where the operator may not be technically oriented (this was one design criteria for the base station configuration server I worked on). Basic features of a desktop are required on servers, but applications are generally environment specific. So this myth holds no water for servers using desktop interfaces.

Expanding to the workstation desktop, and returning to the film industry example, there are plenty of applications. The end user market drives application development and the visual effects industry has told application vendors - in no small way, mind you - that they are moving to Linux and those applications better be made available. And they are. All the major tools have been, or are in the process of being ported. According to the head honchos for technology at both Pixar and Dreamworks, what's left now is for studios to port their own tools now that the off-the-shelf tools are ready. And I'll repeat that: "now that they ARE ready."

On the end user's desktop, where grandma works on recipes and Mr. Jones handles his tax accounting, there are plenty of applications. Anyone who tells you there are no office applications hasn't looked at StarOffice. The newly announced 6.0 beta is astoundingly stable and a vast improvement over the 5.2 release, having dropped much of the extra weight of a builtin desktop. StarOffice handles most Windows format files, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. One can argue - and rightfully so - that the interface is not as easy to use or performance is not as good. But when the argument turns from "there are no applications" to "those applications don't run they way I want them to", the myth is dissolved. Applications exist, if you choose to use them. If you choose not to, then so be it. At least now you have choices.

Even if you don't go with StarOffice you have plenty of options. KDE has its own office suite under development. GNOME, along with Ximian, has separate tools that combine under that environment to provide office features such as word processing, spreadsheets and calendaring. Commercial products include the HancomLinux suite, which is quite popular in Asian markets and is just entering the US market. Applix still produces its commercial suite, now known as Applix Anywhere. Games abound from Loki and other sources. And most importantly: just about any application you need can be run under VMWare on Linux. The myth of application availability is just that - a myth.

The last myth that needs to be dispelled is that the Linux desktop is difficult to use. Most corporate users will use what they're given and make the most of it. Want proof? Why are they working on Windows? It came with the box, no doubt. They just make the best use of it that they can. They certainly aren't used to having a choice there. But Windows isn't easy to use either. My wife works with highly paid oil traders who constantly have her put together their Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. They simply can't figure out how to do so. She does. She took the time to learn to do so.

The truth here isn't that Linux is difficult, but that those who use this argument are lazy. They don't want to change. That isn't a bad thing - to each his own way - but it's not a valid argument against the Linux desktop in the general sense. The Linux desktop needs improvement, but no more so than Windows. What Linux offers can be scary - choice, and the ability to add personality to the face they stare at a great portion of their working day. Change is scary. But it is inevitable as well. Users will adapt, and they will enjoy. The Linux desktop is a great place to work.

So don't buy into the "Linux desktop has died" arguments. They're just more hot air blown by those who make a living at flying balloons. The Linux desktop isn't dead. If you don't believe me, ask IBM, Compaq, HP and even Sun.

Now that I have that off my chest, there is only one thing left to say to my readers: anyone need a pretty decent C programmer?

   Michael J. Hammel

Mozilla licensing issues: a clarification.  In the September 27th issue of LWN.net we posted a note regarding the relicensing of some parts of Mozilla.

Mozilla has relicensed their project code to fall under the Netscape Public License (NPL), the GPL and the LGPL.

The announcement drew a rather emphatic response from Gervase Markham of the Mozilla project.

Does no-one actually read anything any more? Several sites had headlines like this. It's not true! We relicensed about 1/5 of our project code.

Knowing we can, at times, oversimplify a situation, I asked Gervase if he'd like to offer a clarification, here's what he said:

Some time ago mozilla.org announced its intent to seek relicensing of Mozilla code under a new licensing scheme that would address perceived incompatibilities of the MPL and NPL with the GNU GPL. We have now implemented the first phase of Mozilla relicensing, using an NPL/GPL/LGPL "triple license" for Mozilla source files previously licensed under the NPL and for some files currently licensed under an NPL/GPL dual license. This is only about one fifth of our source tree - a good start, but there's a long way to go. In the next phases of this effort we will seek to have source files under the MPL or an MPL/GPL dual license be relicensed under an MPL/GPL/LGPL triple license.

The primary aim of this is to allow more of the free software community to use our code; we believe that the more people use it, the more people will contribute bug fixes and improvements back to the codebase. The full reasons, and much other information, is set out in the Relicensing FAQ. We'd like any LWN reader who has ever contributed a patch to mozilla.org-hosted code to help by mailing relicensing@mozilla.org. to give their permission for the relicensing.

We hope that clarifies the licensing issues with Mozilla code.

Desktop Environments

GNUstep Weekly Editorial.  We're not sure how weekly these are, but this edition of the GNUstep Weekly Editorial lists some of the major happenings in the GNUstep project, which aims to provide a complete environment alternative to GNOME, KDE, and XFce.

GNOME Summary 2001-09-23 - 2001-09-29.  This weeks summary of the GNOME world includes news of the first GNOME 2.0 alpha release, an introduction to Bonobo from Michael Meeks and a note on the latest MrProject release.

Gnome-print 0.30Gnome-print is a library for use by applications needing common printing support within the GNOME environment. This new release is the first in a series intended to introduce new features and includes support for an arbitrary number of fontmaps.

KDE 3.0alpha1 ships. The first alpha release of KDE 3.0 has been announced. This release is primarily for developers, though curious users are encouraged to try it out as well. There is a great deal of new stuff, of course; see the announcement for details.

Office Applications

Evolution 0.15. Another beta release of Evolution has been announced. Evolution 0.15, also called Evolution Beta 5, carries many bug fixes as the development team pushes towards the 1.0 release.

StarOffice 6.0 Beta - Out of the (Cyber) Box Experience (LinuxOrbit). StarOffice 6.0 beta is reviewed by Linux Orbit. "The first obvious difference from the 5.2 release is that the beta release completely removes the unnecessary (for most users) StarOffice Desktop. No longer does StarOffice place its own window-manager-like desktop on top of a perfectly sane and operating desktop. Each application in the suite starts up in its own window and looks and acts fully independent of the other applications."

LinuxOrbit doesn't mention it, but we tried importing a Word document from a Windows 95 system and it worked perfectly. Support for XP is also listed in the Open and Save dialogs. Sun obviously has Redmond in their sights. And we were wrong - SO 6.0 does add itself to the GNOME menus. It just does so quietly (under the Favorites menu).

StarOffice offers IT real choice (ZDNet). ZDNet has posted a review of StarOffice 6.0. "The most promising part of StarOffice is its new XML-based file format.... In addition to insulating companies from future changes to proprietary Microsoft file formats, a set of open file formats will enable software developers to work with productivity files in ways not possible now."

AbiWord Weekly News. Volumes 63 and 64 of the AbiWord Weekly News are now available. With these updates, the AWN is now caught back up to real time.

Gnumeric 0.71. Gnumeric 0.71 has been released. This version is considered to be a major release; among other things, graphs are now a standard feature. Gnumeric now goes into feature freeze in preparation for a stable release.

Desktop Applications

Sodipodi 0.24.1.  Hot on the heels of Sodipodi 0.24 comes 0.24.1, a bug fix release put out to address some major flaws found immediately after the 0.24 release. Sodipodi is a vector graphics tool that supports SVG format import and export.

And in other news...

German agency contracts S/MIME, X.509 for mutt, KMail. Word has reached LWN.net that the German Federal Agency for IT Security, BSI, is sponsoring the development of S/MIME, a PKIX compatible X.509 profile, for inclusion in both mutt and KMail. (Thanks to Jan-Oliver Wagner)

KDE-Look.org. KDE-Look.org is a new site dedicated to themes and wallpaper for KDE desktops. There's some slick stuff there, worth a look.

Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel

October 11, 2001

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

Desktop Environments

Window Managers (WM's)

Minimalist Environments

Widget Sets

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

Windows on Linux

Kids S/W
Linux For Kids

Send link submissions to lwn@lwn.net


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

Development projects

News and Editorials

Larry Wall's Apocalypse 3 for Perl 6 Larry Wall recently published Apocalypse 3, with a long list of changes to the Perl 6 operators.

To me, one of the most agonizing aspects of language design is coming up with a useful system of operators. To other language designers, this may seem like a silly thing to agonize over. After all, you can view all operators as mere syntactic sugar -- operators are just funny looking function calls. Some languages make a feature of leveling all function calls into one syntax. As a result, the so-called functional languages tend to wear out your parenthesis keys, while OO languages tend to wear out your dot key.

In all, sixteen new RFCs covering a wide variety of changes were included in this Apocalypse.

Meanwhile, Damian Conway followed up on Larry's post with Exegesis 3, a lengthy explanation Apocalypse 3.

As with all the Apocalypses, only the new and different are presented -- just remember that the vast majority of operator-related syntax and semantics will stay precisely as they are in Perl 5.

If you don't feel like wading through the many pages of detailed information, Damian has given a quick summary of the changes at the end of Exegesis 3.


Editing Sound Under Linux (O'Reilly). Linux audio guru Dave Philips has written an article about the Snd audio editor on the O'Reilly network. "Sound workers migrating from Windows or the Mac will look for tools similar to what they have enjoyed using on their previous platforms, and one of their most frequently asked questions is 'What Linux audio editor will most completely take the place of Cool Edit?'"


Recent CORBA developments. Several CORBA projects have released new versions of their code: A new version of ACE+TAO 5.2+1.2 is available, see the announcement for details.

Also, omniNotify 1.1 has been announced. See the omniNotify home page for more information. (Thanks to Cristof Merrwald)


Pointrel Data Repository System. A new version of the Pointrel Data Repository System has been announced. "The Pointrel Data Repository System is a variant of an Entity-Relationship model database. The Pointrel system provides a way to easily handle loosely structured data stored on disk, like for INI files, version control systems, bug tracking systems, or simple AI type applications."

Desktop Software

AbiWord Weekly News. Volumes 63 and 64 of the AbiWord Weekly News are now available. With these updates, the AWN is now caught back up to real time.

Embedded Systems

Embedded Linux Newsletter for Oct. 4, 2001. This week's Embedded Linux Newsletter has been published. News includes Espial's DeviceTop offering, OSDL benchmarking tool, and Transmeta's move into the embedded market.

An overview of Linux for embedded developers (LinuxDevices). Greg Haerr, CEO of Century Software and founder of the Microwindows and ViewML projects, presents a whitepaper introduction to embedded Linux. "The X Window System is overkill, especially when running a dedicated graphics application. For this reason, the Microwindows Project was created. Microwindows is an open source project aimed at producing desktop-quality graphics functionality for small devices. The architecture allows for ease in adding different display, mouse, touchscreen and keyboard devices, as explained below. Starting with Linux version 2.2, the kernel contains code to allow user applications to access graphical display memory as a framebuffer, which ends up being a memory-mapped region in a user process space that, when written to, controls the display appearance."


Wine Snapshot for October 4, 2001. A new version of Wine was released on October 4, 2001. Changes include improved typelib support, the beginnings of shared window handles, new code in the quartz dll, and lots of bug fixes.

Printing Systems

Omni 0.5.0 released. Version 0.5.0 of the Omni printer driver package has been released. This version adds the ability to query job property keys from the Omni driver, and it now supports more media types. New devices supported include numerous printers from Epson and OkiData.

Paper Tray Selection for PCL Laser Printers. The Linux Printing Site has a discussion on using Foomatic to select printer input trays. "One big problem of free operating systems was that on most non-PostScript laser printers one could not select from which input tray the paper to be printed on should be taken. Most of these printers are PCL printers and nearly all GhostScript drivers for PCL printers lack an option to select the input tray. Now I (Till) have solved this problem with the help of Foomatic."

System Administration

PAM Modules (O'Reilly). Jennifer Vesperman covers a wide variety of PAM modules in an O'Reilly article. "PAM was designed for authentication, and it remains the most common function of PAM modules. Programmers being programmers, there are now PAM modules to do much more than authentication. A variety of security tasks can be done through modules, and there are utilities for session management."

Web-site Development

Zope Members News. The latest Zope News from Zope.org members includes an announcement for a new French language Zope site, a discussion on ZOQL, the Zope Object Query Language, an initial release of XPath Methods, and more.

Web services networks (IBM developerWorks). Kelly Truelove gives an overview of of web services networks on IBM's developerWorks. "In the physical world, enterprises use many intermediaries in the course of conducting business with one another. For example, the Federal Express package delivery network greatly simplifies the transport of goods and communications between organizations that, in lieu of substitutes, would have to establish custom point-to-point delivery systems. A Web services network performs analogous intermediary duties by facilitating communications between Web services operated by different enterprises. As in the physical case, the intermediary adds tremendous value by solving a number of hard problems that businesses would otherwise be left on their own to address."

Redfoot 1.0 released (xmlhack.com). Version 1.0 of the Redfoot RDF Application Framework has been released. "It can be used to develop personal or workgroup information environments, community web sites or any kind of web application that involves managing the relationships between different information objects in a consistent yet extensible manner." Redfoot is licensed with a BSD style license. If the term is new to you, an RDF is a Resource Description Framework that uses XML for integrating catalogs, directories, news, and other data across the net.

Quixote 0.4.1. Several new versions of the Quixote Python based Web Applications Framework have been released recently. Version 0.4.0 featured lots of new features as well as a reorganization of the software. Version 0.4.1 just came out and fixes a few new bugs.


Gnumeric 0.71. Gnumeric 0.71 has been released. This version is considered to be a major release; among other things, graphs are now a standard feature. Gnumeric now goes into feature freeze in preparation for a stable release.

Twisted, an event-based framework for internet applications. A new release of Twisted, an event-based framework for Internet applications, has been announced. This version adds support for Jython, a new DNS system, better SSL support, security enhancements, and more.

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

October 11, 2001

Application Links
High Availability

Open Source Code Collections
Le Serveur Libre



Programming Languages


The latest from the Caml Hump. The Caml Hump features an article entitled "Practical hints for using OCaml", as well as discussions on OCamldoc, and OCamlCVS.


JSci: An open-source alternative for Java 2D graphing (IBM developerWorks). John Carr examines the graphics capabilities of JSci, a.k.a. Java Objects for Science, on IBM's developerWorks.

Stateful Session EJBs: Beasts of Burden (O'Reilly). Tyler Jewell talks about the use and misuse of Stateful Session EJBs in an O'Reilly OnJava article. "SFSBs have a very limited use in development and should rarely be seen. But somehow, these infiltrating creatures have wormed their way into designs where they do not belong. This article discusses the true purpose of SFSBs, where they belong in a J2EE design, and the situations where they should not be used."


LISA 1.1 released. Version 1.1 of LISA, (Lisp-based Intelligent Software Agents) has been released. "The most significant new feature in this release is support for dynamic rule definition; that is, it is now possible to create new rules from the RHS of existing rules at runtime."


Perl 5 Porters for October 10, 2001. The October 10, 2001 edition of Perl 5 Porters includes a call for known PerlIO bugs, discussion of a problem with attributes, dealing with side effects of multiple FETCH operations, and more.

Asymmetric Cryptography in Perl (Perl.com). Vipul Ved Prakash and Benjamin Trott discuss the use of Perl for asymmetric cryptography on perl.com. "In the early days of public networks, Witfield Diffie & Martin Hellman, then researchers at Stanford's mathematics department, were battling against this fundamental problem - how to enable two complete strangers to bootstrap secure communications over an insecure network. Their work culminated in a seminal paper, titled ``New Directions In Cryptography,'' that laid down the foundations of what has come to be known as asymmetric cryptography."


The latest Python-URL. Dr. Dobb's Python-URL for October 9, 2001 is out, with the latest from the Python development community. Covered topics include HTML serving options, Zope vs. PHP, and the upcoming 2.2 release.

Last week's Python-URL. In case that wasn't enough Python news, the Dr. Dobb's Python-URL for October 4 also came out after the previous LWN was published. Topics include interfaces and signature oriented polymorphism, regular expressions, setattr differences between Python 2.2 and earlier versions, and lots more.

Developing Games with Python (O'Reilly). Stephen Figgins looks at SDL, PyGame and PyUI in the context of Python based gaming software on O'Reilly's OnLamp site.

Pyro 2.1 available. A new version of Pyro, PYthon Remote Objects, is available. "With this, it closely resembles Java's Remote Method Invocation (RMI). It has less similarity to CORBA - which is a system- and language independent Distributed Object Technology and has much more to offer than Pyro or RMI. But Pyro is small, simple and free!" Pyro features an LGPL license.

Roundup Issue Tracking System. A preview release of the Roundup Issue Tracking System has been announced. "The system will facilitate communication among the participants by managing discussions and notifying interested parties when issues are edited. One of the major design goals for Roundup that it be simple to get going."

Final Draft of Online Python Book. Boudewijn Rempt has announced the final draft of his book GUI Programming with Python and Qt. An online version of the book is available.


The latest from the Ruby Garden. This week the Ruby Garden has discussions on Socket#gethostbyname, Hash#keys, subclassing array, chaining relational operators, Regexp#options #lang, and more.


The Tcl-URL for October 10, 2001. Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL for October 10, 2001 is out; covered topics include the changes in Tcl Wiki, embedded Tcl, object-oriented Tcl extensions, and more.

The Tcl-URL for October 6, 2001. Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL for October 6, 2001 is also available. Topics include a generic Tcl interface for various SQL databases, Tk::MDI, a Multiple Document Interface, and lots more.


SMILGen 0.9.9 released. Version 0.9.9 of SMILGen, a Python based XML authoring tool is available. "SMILGen is a SMIL (and XML) authoring tool designed to ease the process of XML content creation. SMILGen understands XML syntax and handles the nesting and formatting XML."

Integrated Development Environments

The eclipse project as a universal tool platform. The eclipse project is being developed at IBM. Eclipse aims to be a common component that is to be used for developing a wide variety of IDEs. "The Eclipse platform itself is a sort of universal tool platform - it is an IDE for anything and nothing in particular. It can deal with any type of resource (Java files, C files, Word files, HTML files, JSP files, etc) in a generic manner but doesn't know how to do anything that is specific to a particular file type. The Eclipse platform, by itself, doesn't provide a great deal of end-user functionality - it is what it enables that is interesting. The real value comes from tool plug-ins for eclipse that 'teach' the platform how to work with these different kinds of resources. This pluggable architecture allows a more seamless experience for the end user when moving between different tools than ever before possible."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

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

 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and Business

IBM Launches p690 Server. IBM has announced the launch of the p690 server, claimed to be "the world's most powerful." It can run Linux, of course.

Some more details on how the p690 is designed can be found in this Register article.

Linux Stock Index for October 04 to October 10, 2001.
LSI at closing on October 04, 2001 ... 22.31
LSI at closing on October 10, 2001 ... 22.74

The high for the week was 22.84
The low for the week was 22.31

Press Releases:

Open source products

Proprietary Products for Linux

Hardware and bundled products

Products and Services Using Linux

Products With Linux Versions

Java Products


Personnel & New Offices

Linux At Work


Section Editor: Forrest Cook.

October 11, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

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

Linux in the news

Recommended Reading

Sites Scramble To Fix Web Portal Security Bug (NewsBytes). NewsBytes reports on the PHP Nuke file manager vulnerability, which is being actively exploited. (see the LWN security page). "The bug in all current versions of PHP-Nuke allows unauthorized users to copy files to and from the server hosting the program, according to an advisory from a hacking group known as TWLC. A search at Google.com revealed that approximately 131,000 Web sites use PHP-Nuke, a free, open-source software program that runs on Linux as well as Windows and other operating system platforms."

Discussion: W3C and Patents (TechWeb). TechWeb reports on the W3C RAND licensing proposal. "It's hard to defend the intertwining of Web standards and patents. Where would we be today without royalty-free standards like HTML, HTTP and XML? But it's not surprising to see this development occur. Savvy vendors, from Microsoft to IBM to Sun have been 'gaming' the standards process for years now."

Will W3C mean dollar signs? (News.com). C|Net provides more coverage of the W3C patent policy fiasco. "Microsoft declined to comment on the proposal. Bob Sutor, director of e-business standards strategy at IBM, said that Big Blue does not plan to change its strategies regarding its own patents and standards as a result of the new proposal. "In the past IBM has worked in both royalty-free and RAND (reasonable and nondiscriminatory) environments," Sutor said. "Depending on the particular technology involved, we'll evaluate the licensing terms involved.""

MySQL database to get revamped (ZDNet). ZDNet looks at MySQL's development plans. "At the U.S. Census Bureau, in Suitland, Md., an Oracle site license is available, but many projects run MySQL because of its speed and customization features via the Perl scripting language, said Rachel LaPorte Taylor, Internet technology architect for the agency. Even if the bureau needed more Oracle-like features, such as advanced transaction processing, another open-source database such as the University of California at Berkeley's PostgreSQL would be considered first, Taylor said."


Build your own supercomputer, the HP way (ZDNet). HP's off the shelf use of their e-PCs and stock network adapters turned a 225 node cluster of Mandrake Linux boxes into one of the top 500 most powerful computers in the world. "The individual machines that made up the I-Cluster are now out of date, each running on 733MHz Pentium III processors with 256MB of RAM and a 15GB hard drive. HP introduced a faster version at the beginning of this month and will launch a Pentium 4 e-PC by the end of the year.

The e-PCs linked by fast Ethernet. Features like super-quiet cooling and low power consumption, originally designed for the corporate buyer, proved useful in the supercomputing environment too--the cluster runs surprisingly quietly and doesn't require anything more than standard air conditioning to keep it cool."

IBM: Web services, databases and Linux (ZDNet). IBM's commitment to the OS can't be questioned, but even they say Linux still has a few issues to solve. "IBM was frank enough to admit Linux still lacks the robustness and scalability of some Unix versions that are tied to proprietary hardware."

Linux and AIX link up on IBM's biggest Unix server (ZDNet). IBM is getting Linux closer to AIX, according to this ZDNet story. "Having slated other suppliers for the multiplicity of their Unixes, the IBM team then had to explain how AIX is positioned alongside Linux. As you might expect they both have their place: AIX is tunable while Linux is customisable, AIX offers performance and Linux is cheap, and so on. However the plans showed the two getting closer, as IBM "accelerates the maturation" of Linux, and adds Linux-like features to AIX."


Did Linux Miss Its Window? (OSOpinion). This OSOpinion piece suggests that Linux has waited too long to go for world domination. "Linux has not aggressively exploited the nearly two-year gap between the release of Windows 2000 and the release of Windows XP. With the Home Edition of XP now the standard operating system shipped with most PCs, Linux advocates can no longer use the instability of Windows 95/98/Me as an argument for Linux."

The Open Source Movement (Information Today). We don't see too many introductory pieces on open source these days, but this one from Information Today is a cut above the rest. In it, the author explains how many library IT environments are converting to open source. Comments are incorporated from the community showing which open source tools are used and where they can be useful. "Today the CCFLS servers run on a combination of Linux and OpenBSD. Murdock also uses SIPS, the open source blogging program (an integrated Weblog and link-indexing system), to allow librarians to post library news and events. In addition, she uses Gimp and Bluefish software to create graphics and Web content."

Finnish city plans switch from Windows to Linux (Register). Another city goes the way of the penguin: The Register reports on Turku, Findland's move away from Microsoft. "If Turku does switch, it'll be moving 3-5,000 computers over to Linux and replacing Microsoft Office with OpenOffice. City director of computer operations Heikki Kunnas commented that he felt compatibility was no longer an issue for local government, and pointed to Finnish Customs' use of OpenOffice as evidence that switching away from Windows was feasible"

Pressure increases over Microsoft licensing (ZDNet). The UK is having its own revolt against the new Microsoft licensing schemes, according to this ZDNet UK story. "IT managers themselves said the new licensing scheme might put them off buying from Microsoft in future. "We have no budget to sign up for Microsoft's new scheme. I'm hoping to get a Linux server in the door and maybe we'll be able to say goodbye to Microsoft," said the IT manager of an international recruitment firm."

Linux threatens Unix, not Windows (ZDNet). This opinion piece says that Linux isn't a threat to the Windows desktop, but is a threat to the Solaris server market. "Linux is a Unix clone and is therefore architecturally similar to the more commercial Unix versions like Solaris, though there are some differences between them. Windows and Linux/Unix, however, are quite different. So if you've got a Windows server, migrating to a Linux/Unix server is a major and difficult event. The same would go for migrating from Linux/Unix to Windows. Even migrating from one Linux/Unix to another is difficult, but nowhere near as hard as switching to Windows. Since Unix users would have a much easier time migrating to Linux, it's no surprise that they constitute the bulk of those migrations."

Is Linux Going Mainstream? Maybe . Washington Technology reports that IDC surveys show Linux is moving out beyond simple web hosting in corporate and government sectors. " According to [Sandy Quant, associate analyst covering Linux and Open Source for the research firm Giga Information Group], the government continued to use Linux-based platforms in science and technology research at Los Alamos National Laboratory and elsewhere. But widespread adoption of Linux in government is potentially hindered by scalability issues that "hamper the ability of the operating system to support high-end applications," she said. Another hindrance may be the lack of a clear endorsement of the Linux OS from the Bush administration, Quant said."


Sneak preview: a Linux powered wireless phone (LinuxDevices). LinuxDevices.com looks at the "GITWiT" cellular phone. "'We chose Linux for a number of reasons', explains GITWiT VP of Engineering Peter Zatloukal. 'We are building a user interface that is leagues beyond what exists on current wireless phones, and Linux provides us with a rich environment with which to render our ideas.'"

iPAQ on Linux (Linux Journal). Here's a little history of the process of getting Linux onto Compaq's iPAQ handheld, from Linux Journal. "Admittedly, Hicks said, Linux on the iPAQ isn't for everyone. While running Linux on your iPAQ is cool, there are few "real" personal information management tools that novices can use as seamlessly as Palm OS or some of the ActiveSync systems from Microsoft. However, programs are in the works to ensure that basic PDA functions are covered."

GNOME version 2.0 officially 'not of use to anyone' (Register). The Register looks at the first GNOME 2.0 pre-release. "It's a major rewrite, first announced at LinuxWorld Expo in August 1999 when it was slated for a September 2000 release. The software is accompanied by a note warning that 'this release does not include anything of use to end users,' which at least makes it consistent with all the previous versions of GNOME Desktop we've used." At least you know where they are coming from.


Interview with Vim's Bram Moolenaar (EUP e-zine). The European Unix Platform e-zine site is carrying an interview with Bram Moolenaar, the creator of the "vim" editor. "My experience is that most users prefer a Vim with much functionality. For daily use it's most important to be able to edit productively. But it's still an editor. I managed to avoid letting it grow into multi-functional do-it-all-in-one-program like Emacs."

Section Editor: Forrest Cook

October 11, 2001


 Main page
 On the Desktop
 Linux in the news
 Linux History

See also: last week's Announcements page.



Setting up devfs (developerWorks). IBM's developerWorks site looks at setting up devfs. "And this is the problem with having the kernel mount devfs. If the kernel mounts the devfs filesystem at /dev before any process is able to start, then we have no opportunity to perform the bind mount, and the original contents of /dev are completely hidden. Icky, isn't it?"

Embedded Linux Cool Devices Reference Guide. Just in time for the early Christmas shopping season: LinuxDevices.com has updated its Embedded Linux Cool Devices Reference Guide. Check it out to see what sorts of fun toys are being built with Linux inside.


Linux Kongress 2001 Clustering Workshop. A Linux clustering workshop will take place on November 26 - 28, 2001 prior to the Linux Kongress 2001 in Enschede, NL.

Python Conference Tools Track. Proposals are being accepted for the tools track of the 10th International Python Conference on February 4-7, 2001 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Linux Scholar Challenge. IBM is sponsoring an online event, called the Linux Scholar Challenge, for college level students where they can win ThinkPad's or IBM internships for themselves and a 16 node cluster for their school.

Events: October 11 - December 6, 2001.
Date Event Location
October 11 - 13, 2001Wizards of OS 2(House of World Cultures)Berlin, Germany
October 11 - 12, 2001IBM pSeries and UNIX Technical University(Hotel Munchen)Munich, Germany
October 11, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeOslo
October 12, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeCopenhagen
October 12, 2001Porto Cidade Tecnologica(City Hall)Porto, Portugal
October 13, 2001Linux at LAX User's Group(LILAX)(eLinux)Torrance, CA
October 14 - 18, 2001ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications(OOPSLA 2001)(Tampa Convention Center)Tampa Bay, Florida
October 21, 2001LUGOD Linux Installfest(Engineering Unit II, Rm 1131, UC Davis)Davis, CA
October 22 - 25, 2001XMLEdge International Developer Conference & Expo 
October 22 - 26, 2001The Open Group Quarterly ConferenceAmsterdam, Netherlands
October 27, 2001LUGOD Linux Demonstration(Davis Food Co-Op)Davis, CA
October 30 - November 1, 2001LinuxWorld GermanyFrankfurt, Germany
October 30 - 31, 2001tech-u-wear 2001(Madison Square Garden)New York City
November 6 - 10, 2001Annual Linux Showcase and ConferenceOakland, CA
November 6 - 8, 2001LinuxWorld MalaysiaKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
November 6, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeParis
November 7, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeAmsterdam
November 8, 2001NLUUG Annual Autumn conferenceDe Reehorst, Ede, Netherlands
November 8 - 9, 2001XFree86 Technical Conference(Oakland Convention Center)Oakland, CA
November 8, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeFrankfurt
November 8, 2001Embedded Linux Expo & Conference(Sheraton Reston Hotel)Reston, VA
November 9, 2001Open Source in Banking and Finance(OSBAF)(Baltimore Engineering Society)Baltimore, Maryland
November 9, 2001Java Information Days, EuropeZurich
November 28 - 30, 2001Linux-Kongress 2001(University of Twente)Enschede, The Netherlands.

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

"Open for Business" opens its doors. A new Web site launched today: Open for Business. The site is another in the emerging group of solutions aimed at IT managers and groups planning migration to open source software.

LUG Events: October 11 - 25, 2001.
Date Event Location
October 11, 2001Boulder Linux Users Group(BLUG)(Nist Radio Building)Boulder, CO
October 11, 2001Kernel-Panic Linux User Group(KPLUG)San Diego, CA
October 12, 2001St. Louis LUG Linux InstallFestSt. Louis, MO
October 12, 2001Porto Cidade Tecnologica(City Hall)Porto, Portugal
October 13, 2001Consortium of All Bay Area Linux(CABAL)Menlo Park, CA
October 13, 2001Route 66 LUGLa Verne, CA
October 13, 2001KPLUG Installfest(National City Adult Center)San Diego, CA
October 13, 2001Linux at LAX User's Group(LILAX)(eLinux)Torrance, CA
October 15, 2001Linux User Group of Davis(LUGOD)(Z-World)Davis, CA
October 16, 2001Bay Area Linux User Group(BALUG)(Four Seas Restaurant, Chinatown)San Francisco, CA
October 16, 2001KCLUG InstallfestKansas City, MO.
October 16, 2001Linux Stammtisch(Bandersnatch Brew Pub)Tempe, AZ
October 16, 2001
October 23, 2001
Kalamazoo Linux Users Group(KLUG)(Western Michigan University)Kalamazoo, Michigan
October 17, 2001Central Iowa Linux Users Group(CIALUG)West Des Moines, IA
October 17, 2001Linux User Group in GroningenThe Netherlands
October 17, 2001Washington D.C. Linux User Group(DCLUG)(National Institute of Health)Bethesda, Maryland
October 17, 2001New York Linux User's Group(NYLUG)(IBM Building)New York, NY
October 18, 2001St. Louis LUG(SLLUG)(St. Louis County Library, Indian Trails Branch)St. Louis, MO.
October 18, 2001South Mississippi LUG(SMLUG)(Barnes & Noble)Gulfport, Mississippi
October 18, 2001Gallup Linux Users Group(GalLUG)(Coyote Bookstore)Gallup, New Mexico
October 18, 2001New Orleans Linux Users' Group(NOLUG)(University of New Orleans (UNO) Mathematics Building)New Orleans, Louisiana
October 19, 2001Rock River Linux User Group(RRLUG)(Rockford College)Rockford, Illinois
October 20, 2001SVLUG InstallfestSilicon Valley, CA
October 21, 2001Beachside LUGConway, South Carolina
October 21, 2001Mesilla Valley Linux User Group(MVLUG)(Village Inn on El Paseo Rd.)Las Cruces, New Mexico
October 21, 2001LUGOD Linux Installfest(Engineering Unit II, Rm 1131, UC Davis)Davis, CA
October 23, 2001Hazelwood Linux User Group(HLUG)(Prairie Commons Branch Library)Hazelwood, Missouri
October 24, 2001Linux User Group in AssenNetherlands
October 25, 2001Bergen Linux User Group(BLUG)Bergen, Norway
October 25, 2001GalLUG Installfest(Connecting Point Computers)Gallup, New Mexico
October 25, 2001K-LUGRochester, Minnesota

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: Forrest Cook.

October 11, 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 Kenneth Harker announced his new Linux Laptop page. After all those years, this page lives on at a new URL, and remains the definitive source of information for anybody installing Linux on a laptop system.

Three years ago (October 15, 1998 LWN): The word went around that Oracle was about to launch its own Linux distribution. Three years later, one can probably say that the rumor has not stood the test of time.

If Microsoft could crush us, it would already have done so. It is now several months too late for them to succeed.

Their window began to close when the first of the enterprise database announcements hit the streets. With Oracle's announcement of a bundled, supported, Oracle-over-Linux combination on CD-ROM offering the 24/7 reliability unattainable with NT, it has effectively slammed shut. [...]

Not only can't they crush us, but it will take a reversal of present trends for them to avoid a collapse into irrelevance within eighteen months.

-- Eric Raymond, in LWN's "Letters to the Editor" column.

Well, it seemed that way at the time...

Larry Wall was the recipient of the first Free Software Foundation Award.

The development kernel was 2.1.125; Linus announced that the last of the showstopper bugs had been fixed, and that it was about time to move into the pre-2.2 series. Meanwhile, one kernel hacker decided to go looking for foul language in the kernel source, and was not pleased with the results. We posted the resulting linux-kernel posting with a warning that it wasn't for the easily offended; it was one of the most popular files we have ever put up.

And no, the kernel source has not gotten any cleaner, at least not in the comments. User-visible output is held to a "suitable for children" standard, but comments in the source itself are unregulated... It would be interesting to know how other operating systems compare to Linux in this regard.

Two years ago (October 14, 1999 LWN): TurboLinux racked up its first big round of equity financing. Longstanding retailer LinuxMall.com also pulled in a sizeable investment from SCO, which was clearly beginning to realize that it needed to take Linux more seriously. Both of these investments were announced at the Atlanta Linux Showcase, which was underway.

Mr. Miller says that about 40 investors have approached Turbolinux, offering a total of nearly $200 million in potential funding. A lot has changed since Mr. Miller and his wife founded Turbolinux seven years ago.
-- The Red Herring, October 11, 1999

Of course, a lot has changed yet again since the above was written. Turbolinux is no longer turning down financing opportunities, the Millers are long gone, and LinuxMall.com, as part of EBIZ, is currently in bankruptcy.

OpenSSH 1.0 was released; it was the first free ssh release in a very long time.

VA Linux Systems, O'Reilly & Associates, and SGI announced plans to produce a commercial, boxed version of the Debian distribution.

VA also filed for its initial public offering of stock, setting in motion what was to be the most spectacular IPO of the year.

In making such a bold move (Solaris is their core product) Sun is embracing everything that has made the Open Source movement such a success. Everything, that is, except that bit about opening up their source code.
-- Feed Magazine was unimpressed by the Solaris code "release."

One year ago (October 12, 2000 LWN): the KDE project was worrying about its public relations. The project felt that it had better code than its rival, but that it had been outmaneuvered on the PR front.

Scyld Computing announced its "Beowulf 2" software.

The first Python 2.0 release candidate came out, as did the first beta of the Opera browser for Linux. Bind 9 was released. KDE 2.0 was supposed to be released, but was pushed back one week to deal with a few remaining issues.

Three core PostgreSQL developers joined Great Bridge; they have since lost those jobs, and the PostgreSQL project has been relatively quiet for the last couple of months. Looks can be deceiving - the PostgreSQL hackers are as busy as ever. The Great Bridge team have not immediately found other PostgreSQL jobs, however.

ZDNet noted that the DMCA had some problems:

There are now black boxes, whether in hardware or software, that are illegal to peek inside. You can pay for it and use it, but you are not allowed to open up the hood. You cannot look to see if the box violates your privacy or has a security vulnerability that puts you at risk.

Section Editor: Jonathan Corbet.

October 11, 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.

October 11, 2001

From:	 Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@canada.com>
To:	 lwn@lwn.net
Subject: Disinformation Campaigns
Date:	 04 Oct 2001 11:28:38 -0400

I'm a little disappointed here: 

  "Last week, the Gartner Group suggested that businesses should
  consider moving away from IIS toward other, more secure web
  servers. The latest Netcraft survey suggests that a number of
  businesses are doing exactly that - tens of thousands of IIS-based
  web sites have disappeared from the net recently. ..."

This is disinformation, at minimum misleading; a quick trip to that
Netcraft survey turns up

  "It has been a very mixed month for Microsoft. Although the top line
  figures appear to present steady growth in adoption of
  Microsoft-IIS, this masks some significant events.

  "The impact of Code Red has resulted in around 150,000 Microsoft-IIS
  sites on 80,000 ip addresses disappearing from the internet, one of
  the most visible proponents of Microsoft technology for mass hosting
  has closed down, and Gartner Group has issued a strongly worded
  advisory, recommending that people presently running Microsoft-IIS
  should replace it as quickly as possible.

  "On the plus side, receipt of a site list from homestead.com which
  has over a million small sites based on NT, has more than offset the
  losses from Webjump, and from the empirical evidence to date it
  appears that people are not yet inclined to act on Gartner's advice.


  "However, the implications for Microsoft are better than one might
  initially expect. Of the 80,000 ip addresses no longer running
  Microsoft-IIS, only around 2,000 are now running a competing web
  server. Notwithstanding the fact that when a web server is replaced,
  the replacement will not necessarily be on the same ip address, it
  does seem that in most cases sites have been taken down, or port
  filtered as part of a general tightening of security in the wake of
  Code Red, rather than the Windows disks being formatted and replaced
  with Linux/Apache."

Thus, what the Netcraft survey really reports is that MSIIS use is up
dramatically in September, and that it's Active Host growth rate is 3x
the growth rate of Apache, but more importantly than this, what the
survey _really_ says is that statistics on their own mean _nothing_
without context.

I've used both, and I will never again willingly use a Microsoft
server, but that's no excuse for trying to pump up opposition by
twisting reports and inflating statistics.  Lying about it only opens
ourselves up to attack ("(ahem) about those stats you gave us at the
last meeting ..."). Where Opensource is better for the task, and I
believe that covers most server cases, it will succeed on its own

My $0.02

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@teledyn.com> TeleDynamics Communications Inc
Business Innovations Through Open Source Systems: http://www.teledyn.com
"Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers."(Pablo Picasso)

From:	 "Sujal Shah" <sshah@progress.com>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: Your editorial re: RAND licensing and the W3C
Date:	 05 Oct 2001 14:08:52 -0400

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my disagreement with both the Patent Policy and
the reporting of this activity.  After reading much of the emails,
public comments, and reporting of the W3C's implementation of a new
patent policy, I've been appalled at the misunderstandings that have
been perpetrated by many folks, including, respectfully, LWN.

	From my understanding of the W3C's action, and reading through much of
the W3C's patent policy draft
(http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/), I would like to
express my opinion that the policy could be a step in the right
direction.  Characterizing the W3 as attempting to create a "proprietary
web" is not reasonable or productive.  It's important that we realize
that a new policy is necessary, and that certain aspects of the proposal
are actually beneficial to an open web.

	Specifically, the W3C proposal imposes, for the first time by my
understanding, a full-disclosure policy for all members regarding
patents that may apply to standards being considered by the W3C.  This
is indeed a good thing.  A policy would go a long way in assuring those
of us that work on Free software that our work is indeed clear of
intellectual property concerns.

	In addition, full disclosure would allow pressure to be applied when
the standards are being created.  I believe, quite strongly, that there
will be strong voices in favor of RF licensing for W3C recommendations. 
As each standard comes up for review and public comments, the general
public, as well as W3C members facing the prospect of accounting for and
managing royalty requirements, will lean in favor of RF standards.

	This being said, I do disagree with the selection of RAND as the
minimum requirement for a standard.  My personal opinion is that if a
member is not willing to relinquish royalty payments for a particular
technology, we as a development community don't need it as a standard. 
To be honest, do we really need "standard" at all costs?  If a company
is unwilling to part with royalties, then they should bear the costs of
creating their own market penetration.

	I hope that LWN and others try to clarify the need for the PPF and
problems with this specific writing of it.  Specifically, if the W3C
pushed the minimum requirement from RAND to RF, most everyone should be
happy.  If a member is not willing to allow for a RF license, then that
technology should not be part of teh standard, or the standard shouldn't
be a standard.




---- Sujal Shah --- sujal@sujal.net ---


Now Playing: Rage Against the Machine - Mic Check

From:	 Bob Goates <bob.goates@echostar.com>
To:	 www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Subject: W3C Patent Policy Framework working draft
Date:	 Mon, 08 Oct 2001 14:39:25 -0600
Cc:	 letters@lwn.net

WWW Patent Policy Working Group


I have a comment regarding the Working Draft of 16 August 2001 of the
W3C Patent Policy Framework.

In section 4.(a)2 it is stated that Essential Claims will not include
"claims which would be infringed only by ... enabling technologies that
may be necessary to make or use any product or portion thereof that
complies with the Recommendation but are not themselves expressly set
forth in the Recommendation (e.g., semiconductor manufacturing
technology, compiler technology, object-oriented technology, basic
operating system technology, and the like)."

I am concerned that this limitation on the definition of "Essential
Claims" will allow a standard to be adopted, without appropriate
licensing requirements, that depends on the proprietary API (Application
Programming Interface) of a proprietary operating system.  In other
words, the standard would require users to purchase a specific
proprietary operating system in order to use products based on the
standard.  I believe such a situation would be unacceptable and contrary
to the tradition of World Wide Web usage.

A similar problem might crop up with the implied exclusion of other
software interfaces from the definition of "Essential Claims".

A possible solution to this problem is to remove the wording "compiler
technology, object-oriented technology, basic operating system
technology" from section 4.(a)2 and add to the definition of "Essential
Claims" the statement:  "Any claim regarding a software interface, which
interface is required by a standard, will be considered an Essential

Thank you.

Bob Goates
From:	 Wesley Felter <wesley@felter.org>
To:	 <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: Blame Apple? Blame Sorenson?
Date:	 Wed, 3 Oct 2001 23:10:52 -0500 (CDT)

LWN editors,

As you noted, Apple blames Sorenson for not releasing a Linux version of
their codec, but Sorenson claims to have an exclusive contract with Apple
preventing them from releasing anything except Mac and Windows versions. I
stopped caring a long time ago about who's lying to us.

Meanwhile, there may be an alternative. On2 recently open-sourced their
VP3 codec, which is supposed to be comparable in quality to Sorenson
Video. While VP3 won't help you watch the movie trailers from Apple's
site, it does provide open source tools to encode video that can be played
on Mac, Windows, and Linux. All that's needed is for someone to plug the
VP3 code into OpenQuicktime.


Wesley Felter - wesley@felter.org - http://felter.org/wesley/

From:	 John George <jgeorg109@yahoo.com>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: Making Money in Linux Web Distribution
Date:	 Sat, 6 Oct 2001 09:06:56 -0700 (PDT)

I am a download customer of my favorite Linux
distribution.  I have used both DSL and Cable Modems. 
My favorite distro is largely distributed by mirrors
on the internet which actuall slow down when new
releases come out.  

I used to buy boxed sets, but it gets expensive to
order several competing versions of Linux to find
which one works best for your particular equipment.  

I would be willing to pay for "high bandwidth"
downloads of my favorite distros.  It seems to me that
getting downloads quickly "by subscription" or "fill
out a web form with your credit card" would be a way
to make money from the bandwidth that modern internet
companies currently offer for free even though it is
an expense to them. 

I am sure that there is some price between "free, but
slow and flakey" and "expensive boxed set, even
slower" that would work for someone like myself.  I
find it hard to go back to my distro website and
donate after spending up to a week to get a download
completed.  I usually buy my ticket to the movie
before I go in, not the other way around.  

Perhaps there is a multiple of the raw bandwidth cost
that would work.  I know there is at least one
customer asking for this service, me.  I am sure there
are many more, especially if this service was included
in "exclusive club" membership or as a side benefit of
on-line stock purchases.  

Come on, Linux Distros, get your marketing hats on! 
Make money off of the internet.   


Do You Yahoo!?
NEW from Yahoo! GeoCities - quick and easy web site hosting, just $8.95/month.
From:	 "Kim J. Brand" <kim@kimbrand.com>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: a new message: LINUX LASTS LONGER
Date:	 Mon, 08 Oct 2001 06:24:29 -0500

it seems to me that the 'costs less/works better' message of linux 
marketing messages has been ineffective.  microsoft's campaign advertising 
99999 reliability will simply be believed through the magic of 
repetition.  consumer awareness of microsoft's products sells most of them 
before they are advertised; the rest get sold due to the success of 
microsoft's FUD campaign.

i would like to suggest a new PR theme for linux which can be used to 
communicate an idea that consumers will understand and which microsoft 
can't defend: microsoft's new 2 year licensing strategy for their Office 
and OS products.  i propose that all vendors of linux simply use the 
service mark: LINUX LASTS LONGER on their products.  this will establish a 
'brand' that is identified with performance, economy, and simplicity 
unencumbered by complicated licensing restrictions.  the fact that multiple 
vendors use it will help to create an awareness of linux and start moving 
it from off-beat to main stream.

i've received many benefits from open-source in general and linux in 
particular.  i hope this 'gift' to the linux community begins to repay my debt.


From:	 James Cameron <quozl@us.netrek.org>
To:	 letters@lwn.net
Subject: The Venerable Netrek
Date:	 Tue, 9 Oct 2001 12:31:27 +1000

G'day from outback Australia,

Thanks for the mention of the venerable Netrek in LWN, October 4th.
I'm the OSS project leader for the Netrek server.

Our problem in the Netrek project is lack of packaging.  It is
difficult to install Netrek, so we fail to compete.  Netrek evolved in
a community of technical expertise, and has not changed with the

We need help.  We need to improve the GUI; it is too venerable.  We
need to package the game on the popular Linux distributions.  We need
a SETUP.EXE style installer for Windows users.  If anybody is
interested, please contact me.

An update on LWN, April 2000: http://lwn.net/2000/0406/backpage.php3

Netrek was played at the two computer camps in the past year.  Other
games that were popular were BZFlag and StarCraft.  The open source
games (Netrek, BZFlag) were easier for us to use because of licensing.

I commend the BZFlag development team, it is quite an improvement on the
venerable xtank!

James Cameron    mailto:quozl@us.netrek.org     http://quozl.netrek.org/
Eklektix, Inc. Linux powered! Copyright © 2001 Eklektix, Inc., all rights reserved
Linux ® is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds