Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's Back page page.
Joseph Pranevich, author of some good Linux documents, is also the host of the Linux club on Lycos. He claims this club is the largest one hosted by Lycos, if those devoted to adult topics are not considered.
The MetaChart is an accumulation of comparison information between Linux and Windows NT. Not perhaps the most fun everyday reading, but it can be a good source for advocacy material.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
March 11, 1999
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 Subject: Distribution Inconsistencies FUD Date: Thu, 04 Mar 99 18:12:59 -0800 From: Dan Benson <email@example.com> I am going to have to disgree with Conrad Sanderson's letter to the editor in regards to inconsistencies between GNU/Linux distributions. This is indeed a very serious problem. The LSB wouldn't have formed if it were not a problem. I think it is an even more serious issue now than ever before. Let's face it commercialism in the GNU/Linux community is here. Companies have and will port to GNU/Linux. In fact, many companies have annouced the various distributions they will be supporting. This has created a whole new problem. If the LSB and it's participants are not successful then other "not so big" distributions will most likely have to conform to the distributions that these companies are supporting. In my mind this takes away a very large chunk of free out of freeware. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) I think Richard Stallman has it all together and the rest of us are nuts. Plus, libraries are not the only issue here. For example, some distributions choose to use sysV startup scripts whereas others prefer bsd based scripts. This minor detail is not a problem for more UNIX types but for a company to support both cannot be expected. A good solution to this would be the way FreeBSD handles it, but this is just my opinon. Obviously, the LSB isn't the best solution. The little guy who wants to be different is always going to get screwed. But, I will say this, I would much rather prefer the LSB making the decisions than the most popular GNU/Linux distribution. In affect, the Linux community has created not just a single UNIX based operating system, but rather several of them. Even worse I can't even do something like 'uname -a' to find out what is being run on a particular machine. I use GNU/Linux religously, but I am also not blind to the sort of problems it faces. -Dan
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 14:19:42 +0000 From: Thomas Hudson <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Kudos to Trident I'm writing you to let you know of a recent hardware company's exceptional support to the GNU/Linux community. Trident Microsystems (http://www.tridentmicro.com) recently contacted the ALSA developer mailing list to announce that they had written ALSA compatible drivers for their 4D Wave PCI sound card chipset. Trident has offered the source for these drivers, as well as complete technical documentation for the chipset. All of this material has been provided voluntarily, without external pressure, and will be licensed under the GPL and incorporated into the ALSA driver suite. See http://hyppo.screwdriver.net/show.phtml?id=102919 for the original announcement. The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) project (http://alsa.jcu.cz) is a project designed to build an architecture for pro-quality sound and MIDI applications, from low-level drivers for sound and MIDI hardware to high level libraries and sequencers. The project is committed to releasing all work under the GPL. The 4D Wave chipset is used in the following products: Company Product Name ======================================= Addonics SoundVision (model SV 750) AzTech PCI 64-Q3D Best Union Miss Melody 4DWave PCI CHIC True Sound 4Dwave HIS 4DWave PCI Jaton SonicWave 4D Paradise WaveAudio Interactive (Model AWT4DX) Promedia Opera CyberPCI-64 Shark Predator4D-PCI Stark PCI Warpspeed ONSpeed 4DWave PCI You can read more about ALSA and the call to sound card manufacturers at http://alsa.jcu.cz/call.html Thanks, Thomas Hudson Cygnus Solutions
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (kent w daniels) Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 14:37:35 -0500 (EST) To: email@example.com Subject: Platform support GIven that Linux is platform-neutral, it is my great hope that as many Linux users as possible will consider non-Wintel plaftorms in their purchases. I think supporting the opposition (AMD, PowerPC, etc.) can strengthen Linux's market as it can deter the monopolistic business practices of Microsoft and Intel. I myself am a Mac user, but also think Linux very much represents the future. Apple is likewise releasing a Unix-based operating system later this year. This raises the possibility that these two such operating systems can coexist in way that could strengthen each other. I also believe that Linux just may be the best thing to happen to the Mac plaform, as now consumers will begin to see Unix in a new light.
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 14:44:58 -0500 From: John Kodis <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Editorial on FUD [ Dear Editor, Following are some comments on the spate of "Who do you sue?" articles you've cited recently. Please feel free to use this in your editorial column. Thanks, and keep up the good work. ] The Linux FUD meme seems to have shifted recently. In months past, authors looking for a weak spot in which to jab Linux would bring the "there's no support" idea to bear. This theme seems to be dying -- perhaps due to effective refutation, perhaps just due to lack of novelty. However, recent weeks have seen a new type of misinformation rising to the surface. The current FUD-of-the-week seems to be the "who do you sue" theme, as typified by the articles you cited from _CIO Magazine_ and _Internet Week_ (Mar 9). This concept boggles my mind. Has there ever been a CIO who approached his board of directors with an IT business plan along the lines of: "To improve our productivity, we'll standardize on software that's known to be unreliable; To insure our long-term viability, we'll stick to software that's only available as a binary, so that we're completely at the mercy of our software vendors. "This way, if anything goes wrong, we can simply cease operations and sit back while our team of lawyers find a way around the "We're not responsible" clauses in all our shrink-wrapped software, and proceed to sue several of the largest, richest, and most litigious corporations in the world for damages." I wish that authors would learn that writing FUD is like writing any other form of fiction -- the premise has to be plausible for the story to be entertaining. -- John Kodis.
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1999 22:43:01 -0300 From: Leandro =?iso-8859-1?Q?Guimar=E3es?= Faria Corcete Dutra To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: XFree and free riders. I wonder if it is Richard M Stallman's (RMS) strong ideas -- and even perhaps sometimes unreasonableness, but I suspect he's right more often than wrong even about technical issues like EMACS vs XEmacs and gcc vs egcs -- that generates such hate against the GNU General Public License (GPL). When I read "Liz's XFree86 4.0 session notes" at http://lwn.net./1999/0304/a/xfree.html, the following glared thru the text: > The development of X is running into finance difficulties. > There are very big companies interested in keeping up X, but they are > annoyed with the "free riders", that so many companies benefit and yet > don't share in the costs. I am optimistic that it will continue. If > the X effort fails, we'll continue and take over. The sad thing is that the free rider problem has largely been solved by the GNU GPL, and some people refuse to use it because it's too free or because it's too restrictive. Even if XFree has pragmatical reasons for not using GPL, as they need to collaborate with some stubborn video equipment vendors, the solution has been offered of GPL'ing everything -- and if the proposal was originally Stallman's, The Open Group (TOG) had accepted it in principle. But the XFree refusal prevented this solution. GPL'ing the X Window System would sense because then Sun, IBM, HP, SCO, Compaq and any other vendors, including the free riders, would have to face a choice of releasing their source code, falling behind the latest and greatest releases, or entering into commercial licensing agreements with TOG, what would very probably supply the funds necessary for continuing development. But it seems that people would rather risk ruining their life's efforts than saying "I was wrong, perhaps that long-haired fat RMS guy was right!" If such stubbornness persists, there are many GPL'd projects like Y or Berlin which would gladly step into XFree's place, including backwards compatibility! The same solution would apply to TrollTech and its Qt product, which could be superseded by Gtk. -- Leandro Guimar„es Faria Corcete Dutra Brasil
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 1999 16:47:19 -0800 To: email@example.com From: Matt & Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Linux doesn't need Corporations, Corporations need Linux. Now that all the big companies are (apparently) jumping on the bandwagon it seems like a good time to say something I've been thinking about for awhile: Linux doesn't need Corporations, Corporations need Linux. Think about it. In less than a decade, Linux grew from an academic curiosity to a world class operating system with some 7 (8,9,10?) million users. This happened without major corporate involvement. Sure RedHat has had a significant impact and many good things are coming out of their involvement RHLabs. But RedHat is a small corporation relative to the likes of IBM and Compaq. Why is there such intense capital 'C' Corporate interest in Linux now? Because they _need_ Linux, or something like it. Computer software is now so large and so complex it is impossible for any single company to develop, and debug, and market, and support. For that matter, it's probably impossible for a group of companies to do. They are effectively at war with each other and (long term) cooperation is against their nature. Because _they_ need Linux. Billy Borg is assimulating everything in sight. At the moment, Linux is the only way out. Linux is 'safe'. It is not owned by any competitors. It is cheap, both in aquisition and in total cost of ownerhsip. It has a well established and communicative network of developers, debuggers, and supporters (as in assistance) with an impressive track record. It is global and multilingual -- for both humans and computers. But doesn't Linux 'need' corporations: to become more than hacker's tool? to get on the desktop? to become mainstream? to achieve world domination? Short answer: No. Linux is already more than a hacker's tool. I'm not a hacker, I don't program, I don't run a webserver, or do many other things a "traditional" Linux user might. Linux is already making inroads on the desktop. Look at Gnome and KDE. Sure we're not there yet, but I don't have any doubts we won't make it, and not too far in the future either. Mainstream? World Domination? From where I sit, it's _inevitable_. Linux is, or is fast becoming, technically superior to the alternatives. The Linux development model is the only one which _can_ effectively tie the world's computer system together. Corporate involvement could potentially make all these things happen more quickly. I think it more likely they will slow it down as they apply different strategies to attempt to own or dominate the biggest piece of the Linux pie. Just look at the browser wars, MSN, and Java for prime examples. Coming soon to a theater near you. If Linux really wants a big boost, it should go after Governments first. Nothing in this document is orignal. It has all already been said at one time or another by various people. I think (obviously) it bears repeating. A note on 'Linux'. Throughout this document when I use 'Linux' I really mean the whole community of people and organizations who are working on and using GNU Utilities, FreeBSD, XFree86, OpenSource and all the other libertarian development efforts. Linux currently has the highest profile and has become, to my mind, the flagship. That's all, <a href="mailto:email@example.com">-matt</a>
Date: 6 Mar 1999 02:02:12 -0000 From: Eric Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Cobalt web server security hole In your 4-MAR-1999 issue, you quoted a Wired News article: "Vivek Mehra, vice president of product development at Cobalt, said the hole, which could give a hacker access to a history file documenting a user's activities, wasn't specific to their appliance, but to the Linux operating system." This statement is very inaccurate, and this is not your error or Wired's, but rather shows that Mr. Mehra is not well versed in how his product compares to other real-world Linux systems. In point of fact, this weakness *IS* specific to their appliance. Most Linux-based web servers use the Apache web server. By default, they do not serve the user's home directory, so this weakness will not be available for exploitation. A sysadmin would have to explicity change the "UserDir" directive in the Apache configuration file to make this happen. If Cobalt's product serves up user home directories by default, that is a brain-damaged decision on their part, not a weakness of Linux or Apache. And this weakness of the Cobalt's default configuration doesn't only compromise the "root" user; it could be used to attack any user's account. The default configuration of Apache (not that of the Cobalt product) is generally quite good, however, there are optional modules that can improve on it. For example, on my server I run a module called "disallow_id", which I have used to prevent Apache from *ever* serving files owned by root. Eric Smith http://www.brouhaha.com/~eric/
Date: Tue, 09 Mar 1999 11:31:51 -0600 From: Craig Goodrich <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Ellis Booker <email@example.com> Subject: Vendor Interests are Driving Linux... [ref http://www.internetwk.com/columns/pers030899.htm ] ... is an excellent column; it should be required reading for everyone in this crazy biz. Thanks. I do have one minor quibble, though: > But will Linux find its way into the enterprise and (gasp) the > corporate desktop? Don't bet on it. Commercial firms are > risk-averse by nature. They are more than willing to pay an OS > license for the right to sue somebody if things go wrong. Well, OK, that's a good restatement of the conventional wisdom, and it's hard to argue with it. I've been hearing it for over a year now, and Lord knows our society isn't getting any less litigious. On the other hand, though, Microsoft has [whatever -- 85%? 90%? 112%?] of the desktop OS market, with products that are by near-universal agreement buggy and crash-prone. Simply running Word 6 for an hour on a moderately complex document would lock up the machine and mulch the doc file back in 1993, and the newer versions are not a whole lot better, modulo the more complex documents they're supposed to handle. Windows NT4, Microsoft's paradigm for the enterprise, literally leaves a Navy ship dead in the water. Microsoft announces the availability of a fix for a bug that's been in Win95 since it was Chicago. The bug crashes the OS when the 32-bit millisecond uptime counter rolls over at 49.7 days; nobody had noticed it in five years because nobody _even at Microsoft_ had ever managed to keep Win95 up that long in the first place. And yet -- when was the last time you heard of some corporation suing Microsoft for lost time and productivity? Maybe it's happened, but in over a decade I've never heard of it. The corporations have simply learned to accept bugs and crashes and lost work the way they've learned to accept theft of paper clips and legal pads. And Microsoft's reputation for support is hardly anything to brag about.... Now, the PC revolution of the '80s involved a corporate culture shift in the way computing was perceived. I can still remember columns pointing out that when all was said and done, corporations would never entrust their mission-critical data to desktop toys. (Many of them did -- possibly most of them -- and it may have been a mistake, but that's beside the point.) Embracing Linux at the server level, then sneaking it into engineering departments, may lead to yet another culture shift. There are some fairly serious but not insuperable problems remaining for Linux on the average corporate desktop -- installation is infinitely easier now than it was when I started using Linux a few short years ago, but it's still 'way over the head of users who have never installed _anything_; office automation tools are few -- though Applix, Star Office, and Corel's forthcoming Word Perfect Suite (not to mention whatever Lotus does) will make the effective range of choice wider for Linux than it is for Windows, where MS Office so dominates the market that it might as well be the _only_ choice. And then of course there's the longstanding problem of X configuration and (still!) printing. But all of this stuff is being worked on, and at a frenetic pace. KDE is already a polished product; Gnome is coming along quite nicely (in fits and starts, like everything else in the open source field); the various distributions are competing with each other in painlessness and elegance of installation, and the Big Boys are starting to throw their weight (and their software engineers) around. So I dunno. Looking back over twenty years as a techie, the only dependable truths I'm left with are a) it'll always be cheaper and faster next year, unless it's from Microsoft, and b) all predictions about what'll happen next in this silly business are very likely to be wrong. Thanks again for the column, keep up the good work -- Craig ============================= Craig Goodrich Rural Village Systems somewhere in the woods near Huntsville, Alabama Politics for the Thinking Redneck -- http://airnet.net/craig/g4c Linux miscellany -- http://airnet.net/craig/linux