Linux in the news
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The Linux in schools project is working to place Linux machines in K-12 school situations. They include a fair amount of introductory and howto information, and host a mailing list for the project. This is a worthwhile project; many U.S. schools now are Macintosh based, but it's not clear if Apple will hold in that environment. If the Macs have to go, let's have a good alternative ready to replace them.
One of the very best mailing lists on the net is Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater News Service. Subscribers get 5-10 messages per week, most of which are highly interesting. See the archive site for a sample of the sorts of things that go out. One recent posting was this message about Halloween II.
November 12, 1998
Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com. 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.
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: "Michael K. Johnson" <email@example.com> From: "Michael K. Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Your review of Red Hat Linux 5.2 Date: Sat, 07 Nov 1998 09:22:17 -0500 Thank you for your generally good review of Red Hat Linux 5.2. I would like to clarify a few points, however. The first is that it is possible to keep Xconfigurator from probing and thus hanging low-quality video hardware. It is not necessary to switch to the second virtual console and kill Xconfigurator. The installation manual covers expert mode, and says, "Expert mode disables most hardware probing..." In expert mode, Xconfigurator asks whether you wish to probe. Furthermore, Xconfigurator does not probe hardware that we know causes the computer to hang, even when you are not running in expert mode. We have not experienced this problem with the Virge cards we have in our testing lab. Obviously, you have a different Virge card than any of the many that we have, even different from our Virge VX card. The second is, in regards to gnome-libs, "One wonders why they left the older stuff in the main distribution." Actually, there's no mystery here. We use the stable Gtk+ 1.0 libraries in the distribution, and whereas GNOME 0.20 is built against the Gtk+ 1.0 libraries, GNOME 0.30 is built against the unstable, development Gtk+ 1.1 libraries. This precludes us using GNOME 0.30 libraries in the distribution proper. Using the older gnome-libs is not a problem, because the only use of gnome-libs within the distribution is for the gnome-linuxconf interface to linuxconf. It does not need any of the new features of the GNOME 0.30 libraries. Thanks again, and thank you for the opportunity to clarify these points, michaelkjohnson "Magazines all too frequently lead to books and should be regarded by the prudent as the heavy petting of literature." -- Fran Lebowitz Linux Application Development http://www.redhat.com/~johnsonm/lad/
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:25:49 -0800 From: Michael McAleese <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Whither Linux? The point has been raised that Linux kernel development has been "following taillights", that is, Linux has had a vision to follow rather than having to innovate. This may be true to a great extent, but it doesn't imply that it has to remain that way. Perhaps a coordinated effort can be made to look to the future, some sort of Linux kernel research project. Something along the lines of a web site where research topics are proposed and papers submitted for review and discussion, with promising areas being targetted for actual code development with the current stable kernel. Once proof of concept has been demonstrated and Linus et. al. convinced of the utility of the idea, work could be passed on to the linux community to produce working code for integration with the development kernel. The research site would not be the place to actually work on such projects, it would concentrate on visionary ideas. Sort of the Linux version of the Xerox PARC...
From: "Gabrielson, Anthony" <AnthonyG@comversens.com> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Microsoft Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 14:26:28 -0500 Dear LWN, Many people in the Linux community are bantering on how Microsoft will be setting aim against Linux. Myself personally do not see where or how this is a big deal. Linux users are different from Microsoft Users. Linux users use Linux because it works. When and if Linux does not work they can get to the heart of the problem one of three ways they can hack around in the code themselves, they can pay someone else to hack around in the code for them, or they can now (with Linux begining to be adopted by comercial companies) find a commercial product that does what we need it to do. Microsoft is not planning to release the source to their entire OS product line, I doubt they ever will. Microsoft is not planning on charging a reasonable price, something is going to have to drastically change before they do. As long as Linux developers don't take an anti Microsoft stance, but a well that's cool Linux can do that better stance. Linux won't be going anywhere soon, as long the developers keep their pride about doing a good job. The minute its not personal for them to do a good job, Linux is in trouble. Thats just how I see it, maybe I'm wrong - maybe I'm right. Time will tell. Thanks for your time, Anthony
To: email@example.com Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:54:00 -0800 From: Jim Dennis <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: To: Michael Dell From: "vocal hundreds" It's amusing that, a few months after my open letter to Dell Computing we hear that Mr. Dell will at least acknowlege Linux. I've copied this message to every e-mail address listed on the "Contact Dell" web page at: http://www.dell.com/feedback/index.htm ... simply because their site doesn't provide a single "feedback@" or "General Feedback and Requests" page. It's quite likely that my earlier open letter (copied to "email@example.com" for lack of a better address) never reached Mr. Dell, or anyone of any importance. That would explain the utter lack of response that I get from Dell Inc. I did have a couple of Dell shareholders drop me a line to tell me that they were Linux users, and that they also wished to convey their support of my message. O.K. so their just "little guys" and not members of your board of directors. Perhaps you should have a channel for investore relations, so you can get their feedback --- or you should let your shareholders in on the secret. So you get "hundreds" of requests for Linux, rather than "thousands." You conclude from this that we are a "highly vocal group of users but not necessarily very large" group. Has it occurred to you that a couple of percent of the Linux using populace bothers to speak up? Perhaps many of your former customers are going to one of the fifty or so "little guys" that do offer Linux support. (One list of the these upstarts is at http://www.linux.org/vendors/systems.html). Perhaps most of your Linux using customers simply sigh and buy. Could it be that you're only hearing from the vocal *minority*? You've already seen that some of your corporate customers will go through the additional hassles to get it *their way*. Presumably, if you offered the option, you'd find that many more would select alternatives if they were offered without the hassles. You may have heard that Mexico is planning to deploy Linux to 140,000 school sites (with one server and about five Linux workstations at each). That's about 1 million machines. Too bad Dell wasn't ready with a low-cost, low powered Linux solution for them. Of course Linux might have a downside for Dell. It doesn't require much hardware to run (a Pentium 120 with 32Mb is plenty for a Linux workstation or server). Also your Linux customers have broken out of the "forced upgrade" cycle imposed by Microsoft. My decade-old 386DX33 can run all of the same Linux software as my Pentium II. However, ultimately the market will decide. The market for systems with standard and compatible parts put you in your current place. The market for systems that run standards-based "open" operating could very well keep you there, or put some other company in your place. -- Jim Dennis (800) 938-4078 firstname.lastname@example.org Proprietor, Starshine Technical Services: http://www.starshine.org
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 21:33:40 +0100 From: David Kastrup <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Future of Linux Now that Linux is making visible inroads into commercial market areas, a lot of excitement is around. We seem to be finally making some steps towards the goal "world domination, soon". I will point out some milestones on the way to there. a) Linux is considered of having reached critical mass for being no longer irrelevant to business decisions. We are getting there at the moment with regard to media coverage and market attention. b) various parties will want to have Linux work for their own goals, and will support Linux developers to this end, mostly with lent or donated hardware and specs. we have been seeing a lot more of this lately, as the involved costs are negligible, and the impact on the growing Linux market (and probably outside of the Linux market as well) pretty large. Examples involve Adaptec now trying to help out with driver development and specs, Sun (which has given out some Ultrasparcs to Linux developers), the I2O consortium (that has made the specs available in the hope that Linux development will provide them with reference implementations), and so on. Few parties have from the early beginnings of Linux done their part to get their hardware recognized as a good Linux player, such as Digital (which have had a history of supporting Alpha Linux from the start). Pretty few vendors have even made this sort of action official by signing up with Debian's Open Hardware Certification Program (http://www.openhardware.org), but the interest has been pretty low-profile up to now. This support will in the main make life for Linux developers easier, as well as offer them more choice of what to develop for. It will also cause more work to pile up than anticipated, and one does not want to disappoint the goodwill of the involved parties. Little harm with regard to influencing Linux policy directions can come from it, as the developers making the decisions about what to do and when remain the same. c) Some business players find the current flavors of Linux do not fit their bill appropriately, and will start their own development and distribution efforts. Well, this has actually been more or less the driving force of every distribution up to now. Still, some are more notable than others in that respect, such as Caldera, which pushes its own variants of commercial Netware-aware Linux versions. Interoperability of products of different vendors will increasingly become difficult. For damage control, rigid standards will have to be agreed on. In particular, the entire desktop environment will have to be standardized, as well. By this I do not mean that a decision on GNOME/KDE/whatever will necessarily have to be made, but that the user is free to make his choice without sacrificing a pool of software. That is, the appropriate protocols need to be defined and standardized in a way to make all applications run and interact appropriately on all desktop environments. If this sort of standardiziation does not set in, the dynamics have the potential of pretty seriously harming Linux. If Linux is considered a popular market factor, we will get a bunch of properietarily enhanced Linux versions. We will get Sun Linux (including options for proprietary compilers and proprietary high-performance NFS servers), SGI Linux (including high-performance proprietary OpenGL software and servers), yes, even Microsoft Linux (which is able to run Microsoft Office for Linux, given that you have installed the proprietary desktop servers). Microsoft Linux will cost about half of what Win98 costs now, will run much more stably, will cost Microsoft about the twentieth part of development costs that Win2000 does, but will remain a parallel product line at first because having a serious number of compatibility issues. It will probably come with Microsoft's equivalent of Wine. The resulting bloat from always having to run this emulator in between will be less than what people have come to expect of NT, though. In order to not have to diversify too much, developers will use the development tools of the widely accepted Microsoft Linux distribution, which will result in applications running smoothly under Microsoft Linux. Support for other vendors will eventually dwindle, except by some geeks not wanting to run Microsoft applications on a reasonably stable system. World domination, finally. You think this absurd? Even now, under players mostly with the same goal, (as seen with http://www.linuxbase.org), standardization efforts form tiresome and arduous work, meaning that even now some Linux vendors do not have the resources to participate (Slackware). When we have parties involved that do not like to talk with one another (like GNOME/KDE), or openly destructive parties (as to be expected with the equivalent with Microsoft Linux), things are not going to improve. If corporations see Linux as a market factor, resources will be thrown at it. If we do not have a firm commitment to open standards in place before this happens on large scales, we will get closed and/or de facto standards. Even if we get open standards, they might be as complicated as to have only the big players have enough flexibility to implement them. As an example, see how C++ has hobbled free compiler development: the incredibly complicated language definition has caused gcc development to freeze. The FSF's non-commercial development infrastructure of the gcc compiler for the comparatively simple C language could not keep up with the complications of the C++ language. This has resulted in the splitoff of egcs, mostly managed by Cygnus, a commercial entity and large-time contributor. And these are things that occur in situations where the involved parties are doing their best to cooperate and further free software development. I am glad to see that the current major players in the Linux market seem to have mostly good intentions. They will not remain the only players, though. And I certainly hope that the rules of the game will have been firmly established before the real brutes enter the playing-field. While my above scenario has centered on one potential player for illustration purposes, actually the entry of any large players with definite interests into the Linux market could cause similar problems. If Linux is to keep its diversity and prosper with it, it will have to have standards. Not "standards" established by killing off competition, but by seriously working on interoperatibility between different players. These standards will have to be minimal in order not to stifle potential developers, but sufficient in order to meet their purpose. David Kastrup Phone: +49-234-700-5570 Email: email@example.com Fax: +49-234-709-4209 Institut für Neuroinformatik, Universitätsstr. 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany