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Leading items and editorials

Richard M. Stallman speaks out. Richard M. Stallman (RMS) is a man of strong views, and strong principles. Quotes from RMS, taken out of content, are often misconstrued. A glance at last week's letters to the editor page show that different people interpret what RMS says in different ways. To clear up any confusion, we asked Mr. Stallman to answer some questions for us. He kindly took the time to respond, and now we are happy to present this interview with RMS. The interview covers a number of issues, from the GNU Hurd to copyrights. The following contains selected excerpts, from the interview.

Free operating systems based on other kernels are now widely used; what will Hurd-based systems offer that will make them attractive relative to the others?

RMS: The Hurd offers the power of a microkernel-and-servers architecture. For instance, you can run two copies of the Hurd at the same time, debug the new one using the old one, even gradually switch from one version to another. You can even use GDB to debug the file system while the system is running--thread-specific breakpoints allow you to debug the file system's activity for certain files, while the same file server runs normally when GDB opens the source files of the file system.

These servers do not in general require special privileges. As an ordinary user you can write a new file system and attach it to a file name in your directory. Then anyone who accesses that file name talks to your file system. The file system can emulate the behavior of a single file, or the behavior of a directory.

Is it your belief that "high-paying organizations" (i.e. proprietary software vendors) should be banned?

RMS: I would not ban high salaries, but I think they should have a high tax bracket. As for making software proprietary, I really don't care whether it is legal as long as in practice it is rare enough to have no significant impact on society.

How will the FSF respond if the SSSCA becomes law in the U.S.?

RMS: We are responding already--by helping to organize grass roots groups in several cities to oppose the proposed SSSCA and the existing DMCA. (I think they chose the unpronounceable new name CBDTPA on purpose to discourage people from talking about the bill, so we need not let them saddle us with it. Why let them make the rules?) Please visit digitalspeech.org if you want to help.

There is, for example, some disagreement (among the copyright holders) over whether run-time loading of modules into the kernel, Linux, requires that the modules have a GPL-compatible license. As the creator of the GPL, do you feel that Linux kernel modules fall within the boundary?

RMS: They clearly are covered by the GPL; modules for Linux are extensions of Linux, so under the GPL these modules must be free.

However, anything the copyright holders of Linux give permission for in use of Linux is certainly permitted, regardless of what the GPL by itself would say. The license used on a program is legally a statement of what the copyright holders permit. Any statements they make that they permit this or that, once others rely on them, have the same legal force.

This is just a sample of what's included in this interview. Please read the full text in this uncut feature article.

Anti-Unix campaign has opposite results. Late last week, CNET News.com introduced the news that Microsoft and Unisys were to team up in a large and well-funded marketing campaign against Unix. The 18-month, $25 million campaign, dubbed "We have the Way Out", would specifically attack the Unix offerings of Sun, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard.

On Monday, however, CNET learned and published the ironic news that the website for this campaign is actually running on Unix, specifically, FreeBSD and Apache. While this fact alone would certainly provide more than enough fodder to make the Unix crowd rejoice, amazingly the fun doesn't stop there.

Once the server's operating system discovery was made and publicly revealed, Microsoft and Unisys wasted no time in moving the server to a Windows-based system. Since the switch was completed on Tuesday, however, the server has not been able to serve pages. At the time of this writing, the server is continuing to display a blank screen with the lonely message "No web site is configured at this address.", which appears to nicely summarize the true message that is being sent via this campaign.

Counterpoint: Tom Wu has sent us a letter that states his views on the issues raised in last week's LWN front page editorial about iSCSI and patented technologies. See this week's Letters section.

Inside this LWN.net weekly edition:

  • Security: Introduction to msec; Caldera updates; CVE has 2000+ entries
  • Kernel: Jon's on vacation, Stable kernel prepatch 2.4.19-pre5, Stable kernel prepatch 2.2.21-rc3.
  • Distributions: New thin client distributions; Reviews of OEone HomeBase, bootable business cards, Mandrake 8.2, Red Hat Advanced Server, SuSE 8.0 beta and some very small distributions..
  • Development: LibAfterImage PosgreSQL 7.2.1, GnuCap 0.30, PowerDNS, WaveSurfer 1.3.1 GNOME 2.0b3, AbiWord 0.99.3, OpenOffice 641d, Mozbot 3.0, SBCL 0.7.2, Exegesis 4
  • Commerce: Prentice Hall PTR Publishes the Premiere Guide to Linux Administration; Free Standards Group and Tokyo University of Foreign Study Launch Major Project.
  • Letters: close() and the kernel; iSCSI and SRP; Programming and security; CBDTPA; 2nd Linux Accessibility Conference.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

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April 4, 2002


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