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ClickWalk AS, Oslo, Norway is a company that has worked to develop a better and more visually-oriented interface to websites. Their premiere site provides information on the city of Oslo, Norway (alternatively, the site can be viewed in Norwegian) by taking you on a visual tour, complete with maps. The emphasis is on speed of access, yet the Oslo tour contains over eight thousand photos. And, of course, since we are telling you about it, the site was also developed on a Linux server using Apache, postgresql, and a java servlet under Apache JServ. For more details, check out their kind note in response to our questions. It also contains a full press release with more information on the site.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
Guest Editor for the Week: Liz Coolbaugh
March 25, 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.
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 11:43:41 -0800 From: Marko Rauhamaa <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Free Software Sean Hennessy <firstname.lastname@example.org>: > I'm an small independent software developer. > The company consists of > me. That's all just me. My work provides > for my family. I create > proprietary software. I am therefore the enemy > in some peoples eyes. > > I like Linux. I like the open source. Hell I'll proberly even > contribute to Linux. But to have all software free?? That sucks. I'm on the dark side of the force as well, and like you, I'm using free software in my work and in our product. I'm currently the sole breadwinner for my family. Moral issues aside, I believe our fates are sealed. In the end, all software will be free because free software will simply blow away proprietary software. We are living a transition period during which numerous profitable, proprietary niches can be found, but it's only a matter of time before most applications are free. You and I may have made our fortunes before the transition is over, but don't count on it. Whole industries disappear and that affects the livelihoods of thousands or even millions of people. There's little you can -- and probably nothing you should -- do to slow the natural evolution down. In the future, software developers' work will be like scientific research: (1) They will advance in their careers by publishing their works. (2) They will be hired by universities, foundations and governments. (3) Their will be paid poor salaries, and unless they are tenured, their job security will be nonexistent. (4) Their results will kick ass. I used to be a computer scientist. People in the academia are willing to work below minimum wage, without pay or as department secretaries just to be able to continue their work in the research community. It's a bright future for software. Marko -- Marko Rauhamaa mailto:email@example.com http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/ Suomenkielinen esperantokurssi http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/esperanto/kurssi/ Free Esperanto Course http://www.iki.fi/pacujo/esperanto/course/
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 23:12:18 -0700 From: Jeffery Cann <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: RE: Free software --------------65B851295062EF233B499D30 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit In his letter to the LWN Editor, geishan <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes: "I'm an small independent software developer. The company consists of me. That's all just me. My work provides for my family. I create proprietary software. I am therefore the enemy in some peoples eyes." My first point is that few in the Free Software community would consider you "an enemy". They would encourage you to release your source code under the GNU General Public License (GPL). He continues his letter with: "I like Linux. I like the open source. Hell I'll properly even contribute to Linux. But to have all software free?? That sucks." My second point is that the writer misunderstands the meaning of the word 'free'. Richard Stallman has spoken of this problem before and there is simply no other way to explain it in English. If you were to release your code under the GPL, that does not mean you could not profit from it. In fact, you could sell your application. You could sell services that relate to you application. You could contract yourself to write enhancements for your application. The point is that many programmers (including ISVs) have released their code under the GPL and have made significant profits using the ideas suggested above. When released under the GPL, your source code would be free. Not in cost, but in libery. Your code would be free for other programmers like myself to contribute to the development of your software. My development contributions could possibly earn you money, but I would not contribute my time and programming effort solely for you to profit. I would be contributing to your source code because it would benefit me directly in some other way. For example, fix an annoying bug or add an enhancement that could save me hours. If I have no access to your source code and there is a bug or enhancement that I would like, I would be helpless to resolve the situation -- i.e., I would literally be at your mercy for resolution. Thus, your proprietary license restricts my freedom to resolve this situation. This is the meaning of the word 'free' in the GPL. Note that by enhancing the freedom of your users, you are not limiting your own freedoms. You would have the freedom to profit from your efforts. There are no such restrictions in the GPL. On the contrary, if you read the GPL and other material on the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) web site (http://www.fsf.org), it clearly explains how a person can profit from using the GPL. The additional benefit is that if you release code under the GPL and later decide not to maintain it, no one will be left without their freedom to continue to maintain or enhance the code. As the ideals of the Free Software Foundation are exposed to a greater audience, I fear that people will continue to misunderstand what is meant by free software. I encourage you not to restrict the liberties of your users (their freedom) by continuing to release restricted software programs. I encourage you to read the GPL and its usage on the FSF web site (http://www.fsf.org). Sincerely, Jeffery Cann -- "Who does not trust enough will not be trusted." - Lao Tsu
From: email@example.com Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:04:52 +0200 (GMT-2) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: "Libre" better than "free" I have to agree with Conrad idea, "libre" will avoid confusing free software, shareware, freeware, gratis... * Free software would be software you get for $0 like internet explorer * Libre software would be software you can freely change and redistribute without restriction, like what BSD, GPL and many other licences provides * Open source is yet another idea, anyone can see/change the sources but there might be additional restrictions, like QT license or MPL But who will want to make words clearer for newbies ? Who can decide how we should call the kind of software we're talking about ? We some tough opinion.
To: email@example.com Subject: Standish From: Nathan Myers <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:40:38 -0800 To the editor, LWN wrote: > "The Standish Group recently interviewed Fortune 1000 IT executives > in several industries. Despite all the hoopla about Linux, not one > company was found to be running a mission-critical application on > Linux." Surely there must be somebody out there with an example that > can put an end to this? I'm not sure it does any good to participate in things like this, even so far as to call for counter-examples. The Standish Group gets its money by mirroring the biases of its customers, who are now heavily invested in legacy software. At the moment, those customers are paying to be reassured that they haven't wasted their money. In the future they will pay to be told otherwise, and then the Standish Group will oblige. It will be their well-paid job to gather examples. Why should LWN readers do their work for them, unpaid? Free Software achieved its current success despite the Standish Groups of the world. While the buyers of reports like The Standish Group's are keeping their ears plugged, Free Software is strengthening its position. It is better that they remain complacent while Free Software infiltrates their organizations from below, so that they find themselves already dependent on it when they do wake up, and less inclined to attack it. Organizations already using Free Software openly have a competitive advantage against those using buggy legacy systems, and it benefits Free Software to preserve that advantage. The only area I know of where this argument doesn't apply is in government. Those reports that influence government administration decisions need the best up-to-date information, and readers of LWN can really help in getting those reports into line with reality. Nathan Myers http://www.cantrip.org/
Date: 18 Mar 99 21:12:53 PST From: Ken Engel <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: What's wrong with proprietary software? By no means am I the first nor the last to have a similar experience to which Richard Stallman had with Xerox. But I'd like to see more public awareness (read: raising hell) about this kind of problem. The company by which I am employed has decided to standardize on a third-party product. It has been my assignment to create a custom application with this product. It's been a nightmare. The third party's primary target platform is Windows NT, and has been ported using one of those NT-to-UNIX conversion tools. The result is a slow, bloated, black-box monolith. Proprietary software, binary file formats and lack of command-line/scripting awareness constrain my effort to Point-&-Click, Drag-&-Drop "development". This translates to inefficiency, high cost and high blood pressure. Software whose source code is freely available is not merely ideology - it is the ultimate practical solution. I urge IT supporters, developers and managers, anyone concerned with the bottom line, to seriously consider it. Thank you Ken Engel My opinions are mine only. ____________________________________________________________________ More than just email--Get your FREE Netscape WebMail account today at htt= p://home.netscape.com/netcenter/mail
To: email@example.com Subject: Apple and Open Source. Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 21:05:37 -0400 From: Humberto Ortiz Zuazaga <firstname.lastname@example.org> Let me get this straight: 1 Apple takes Mach and BSD 4.4 and Apache, bundles it with a GUI 2 Apple releases this as MacOS X server, a commercial product 3 Apple then takes the GUI back out, and releases Darwin under a license that bright people can't agree whether it's free or not. In any case contributions to Darwin can get rolled back into Apple's proprietary products. This advances free software how? In fact this is the kind of thing that the GPL was designed to prevent. This is the best argument ever that RMS's presence is still needed. So what about mklinux? That's Mach plus a linux single server, right? Why didn't Apple ship a product based on that (hint: the kernel work would be covered by the GPL)? -- Humberto Ortiz-Zuazaga - email@example.com http://home.coqui.net/zuazaga/
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 11:55:35 -0500 (EST) From: Conrad Sanderson <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: comments on your "Here Comes Da FUD" article + more [ originally to firstname.lastname@example.org ] An interesting article, pointing out some of the avenues that Microsoft can take. What surprises me more is the responses that you are getting. It seems there are too many naive people out there thinking that Linux is half-invincible because it is a "movement" or that Microsoft will hold itself back, or that other companies will come to the rescue of Linux. Microsoft is a 800 pound gorilla that is pissed off. Most companies would rather get out of its way than defend something as small as Linux. Microsoft doesn't play by the rules - your readers think that certain facts exclude Microsoft from doing something nasty, particularly the PR aspects. But the truth of the matter is that Microsoft is stupid, arrogant, and above all, a bully. It hasn't grown up yet, as is demonstrated by the personality of Bill Gates (especially in the DOJ video), and as such, will use any means necessary, whether it is bad PR or not, to attempt to crush or minimize the "Linux threat". Microsoft is a teenager in the computing business, who refuses to grow up. It doesn't think too far into the future, and it is ruthless. The only way it will learn to be nice and think of the long term effects is when it gets a bloody nose. The DOJ lawsuit is only the start. Something else besides the lawsuit and Linux is needed to smash Microsoft's face to a pulp. What that is, I don't know yet. Microsoft will attack. I wish I was wrong. To learn more about the corporate culture of Microsoft, head over to "Why you shouldn't use Microsoft products", at: http://wave.me.gu.edu.au/~csand/md/0soft.html Conrad Sanderson - Microelectronic Signal Processing Laboratory Griffith University, Queensland, Australia
To: email@example.com Subject: Linux needs a registry? From: Alan Shutko <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 18 Mar 1999 10:53:45 -0600 In his letter on March 16th, Tom Atkinson said that Linux needs a single database which holds all configuration info, and it Linux gets one, it'll be easy to write unified configuration managers. In other words, we need the same kind of thing that NT has in its registry. This could be helpful in some ways, but it won't cure all the problems facing admin tool authors! There are several issues in configuring other apps: * Finding the config files. A central database would help with this, but finding config files isn't that much trouble now. * Reading the config files into some internal structure. A central database would make this much easier, and this would help things out considerably. But it won't do anything for the bulk of the labor: * Dealing with the application specific configuration information. For example, which is more of a problem configuring sendmail: the fact that it has a wild configuration file format, or the fact that it has truly hairy capabilities in that configuration file? Any tool which attempts to configure sendmail will have to deal with its multiple tables, rules, etc regardless of the file format. You can write a 4-function calculator using sendmail rules... a config tool to deal with such information is going to be difficult no matter what. For evidence that a central database is no panacea, look at the Windows Registry. Lots of information is stored in a central location, but there are a number of registry entries which store completely incomprehensible strings. A Linux config database could solve some of these problems, but there are difficulties for config manager authors that the database will not address. -- Alan Shutko <email@example.com> - (314) 344-5214
From: Art_Cancro@uncnsrd.mt-kisco.ny.us (Art Cancro) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Thu Mar 18 13:27:29 1999 Subject: Dear Editor: Dear Editor: I'm certain that I speak for a huge segment of the Linux community when I say that I take exception to Tom Atkinson's proposal that the various configuration files present on a Linux system be combined into one huge database. The configuration database that Mr. Atkinson proposes is, essentially, the Windows Registry. Anyone who has had even minimal experience with the administration of Windows systems knows that it's quite easy for the registry to become corrupted, or (perhaps even worse) loaded up with defunct settings for programs which are no longer installed on the system. While there are advantages to such a database -- the ease with which it can be saved and restored comes to mind -- to see the many disadvantages, one need only spend some time running an operating system which already implements it this way. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in between. Configuration files in a standardized location and with a standardized format, perhaps using a standard set of library functions to read and manipulate them (much like pre-registry versions of Windows used standard functions to access .INI files) might be a worthwhile mix of flexibility/reliability with easily implementable administration tools. --- Art Cancro UNCENSORED! BBS email@example.com http://uncnsrd.mt-kisco.ny.us
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 01:37:14 +0100 From: Tom Simonsen <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Subject: What Linux needs next Hi, Having read the letter from Tom Atkinson about configuration data; I have to disagree. His idea about a central database for all configuration data is, in my opinion, a flawed one. This is the same as the registry in Windows. A central registry has one major flaw (at least in the MS flavour); you computer dies when it gets corrupt (note when, not if...). Tom does not miss the boat though, as he points to a real problem. Configuration data should follow a standard set of rules; lessening the learnig curve. My suggestions are: Use ASCII files, so you can get at the data, even when booting a minimal system. All applications should have sensible default values, or die gracefully, if the configuration data is missing. All applications/deamons etc. should have their own configuration file, so that screwing up one file, doesn't screw up anything else. User setup should be in own files, separate from the system setup It might be useful to have a central database that works as a cache though... If things stops working, delete the cache, and it rebuilds automatically over time. Thanks for your time, Tom
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:31:27 -0800 From: Jeffrey.M.Bolden@healthnet.com Subject: Tom Atkinson To: firstname.lastname@example.org I just read Tom Atkinson's piece on system administration. I found it rather ironic to read a piece about how Linux could defeat Win 95.98/NT by adopting a "system database", an approach that amounts to adopting the Window's registry. As anyone with experience with the registry can tell you maintaining and modifying the registry is a nightmare compared to those ASCII files in Linux. I imagine Mr. Atkinson doesn't realize this because he has never tried. I'd recommend that he open up regedit and see his unified non-ascii database in action. The difficulty in installing Linux does not lie here.
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 18:35:26 -0500 From: Herschel Cohen <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: What Linux needs next ... [Not so sure] Response to Tom Atkinson letter in 18 March, 1999 Linux Weekly News Tom, While in general I agree with many of your statements, I disagree with certain specifics that are myths that are too easily taken at face value. For example, Win95 seems easy because it comes pre-installed, read the documentation on reinstalling Win95 on say my Micro Xku. Compare that to a new install of NT Workstation, the latter (<I> i.e. <B> NT </B></I> is <B> easier! </B> Moreover, configurations under Win95 for such <I> simple things </I> as sound volume are easy to set in multiple locations [this time using my laptop as the example], but one just changes the sound level for that session [Fn+F7] whereas the sliders are more permanent. The registry is a database, but what a horror - subject to corruption newer versions overwrite <B> parts </B> of older applications. Fragments of old applications remain to cause conflicts. Etc., etc. I just think Win95 is a poor model. Nonetheless, I am in the process of solving problems configuring my latest installation of Linux. While I am much further along, I too am convinced that the vision of casual users flocking to Linux is not practical for the present condition of this OS. Moreover, even with OEM installations and configurations adding a new application that requires su user access rights may go astray! So perhaps now you see why I understand and even support some of your ideas, but I think the solutions cannot be postulated on a false premise such as the <I> usability of Win95. </I> Nonetheless, an interesting take on the problem of making the Linux desktop a more mainstream option. Take care, Herschel B/ST Software Developers
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 05:38:14 +0100 (CET) From: "Anthony E. Greene" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: What Linux Needs Next In last week's Letters to the Editor, Tom Atkinson advocated a central database of configuration settings for Linux. This is supposed to help ease end-user configuration of Linux. I think he's looking at the problem from the wrong angle. The problem is not that configuration data is stored in text files. I see the problem as twofold: 1. Many of the config files use different formats. This means a user cannot count on a specific syntax every time. Sometimes a colon separates the setting key from the value, sometimes an equals sign, and sometimes just whitespace. Sometimes multiple values are separated by commas, and sometimes by whitespace. Comments are usually marked with a pound sign, but Samba uses a semicolon. User's need to have a consistent interface. 2. Todays casual users are accustomed to point and click configuration. A consistent text file syntax would be helpful, but not nearly as much as a point/click interface, which tends to enforce some consistency just by having a familiar set of widgets. This could be accomplished without a consistent text file syntax, but would be much easier if the underlying text files were consistent too. The strength in using separate text files is that a mistake in on application does not cripple the system. What would happen if the GUI config utility made an error writing a system-wide configuration database? Anyone who has had to recover the Win95 registry can confirm that it can be painful. A distributed database (text files) avoids that single point of failure. The other strength of text files is that you can use any text editor to update the system. Relying on a specific configuration utility is a single point of failure too. I loved being able to edit INI files in Win3.11. You could often change settings that were not available in whatever GUI config utility included with Windows or with the application. This is an advantage, not a weakness. Mr. Atkinson is correct in that it takes some defensive programming to have applications read hand-edited text files. I see this as an acceptable price to pay for the resulting flexibility and reliability. -- Anthony E. Greene <email@example.com> Homepage & PGP Key <http://www.pobox.com/~agreene/>