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See also: last week's Back page page.
More "Linux portal site" attempts are showing up on the net. One wonders at which point the market will get oversaturated and some of these sites start to drop out. Maybe we can get out of producing LWN soon..:-)
The Question Exchange is an interesting attempt to create a market for Linux-related questions and solutions. A person with a question can post it, along with the amount they are willing to pay for an answer; somebody with the proper answer can - once certified by the exchange, post the answer and claim (most of) the reward.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
April 8, 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, email@example.com Subject: An open letter to the free software community From: Gordon Matzigkeit <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 04 Apr 1999 00:49:59 -0600 I am writing in response to Eric S. Raymond's essay ``Take My Job, Please!'' in which he explained why he feels trapped in his career as de facto free software spokesperson (http://www.netaxs.com/~esr/writings/take-my-job-please.html). I'll take Eric's job, if he and the community will let me, but not without first making something explicit. Eric has never been a ``leader,'' merely a delegate. Eric has never ``rallied the troops,'' only helped people to begin seeing eye-to-eye. As I said to him privately, I respect Eric's work, and recognize that he was the catalyst for many great things. His passion and energy were necessary to get things started, but now they are hurting him because he throws too much of himself into the fray. It's getting too personal, and he deserves a holiday. What is necessary now are delegates with the patience to talk about the things that they love over and over and over again to people who want to understand, but not bother with the people who want only to drag them down. I am one of those people, and I'm stepping forward, whether anybody else comes with me or not. [BTW, I will not live out of a backpack, because I care too much about my family, and I love my home. If people want to talk with me, they can send me e-mail. If somebody wants a face-to-face interview, they can fly out to Regina and meet me for coffee. The Canadian prairies are unspeakably beautiful in the summertime, and more people should be forced to enjoy them. ;)] I truly enjoy being a delegate. I'm a hard-core but peace-loving free software advocate who also happens to be friends with a lot of people who make their living exclusively from non-free software. I have no bones to pick: not with the cathedral, not with the bazaar, not with Microsoft, not with Linux, and definitely not with GNU. Allow me to speak to the outside world, and I promise you I'll never speak for you, only for myself. I'll never tell you what programming language you should use, only what I use, and why I use it. I'll never tell you what thoughts to think, only what I think, and why I think those thoughts. But *far* more importantly, if you listen to me, I'll listen to you. I'll start by giving you the benefit of the doubt, then we will begin the dance of a dynamic relationship. If you are pushy, then I will push back. If you are gentle, then I will be gentle. If I ever hurt you, I expect you to say `ouch', and I will apologize, because I don't want to hurt anybody. I will say `ouch' if you hurt me, because I refuse to live in silent resentment. When we move past this, we will discover new ways of relationship. Since the masses listen to the media, I need their help to contact you. So, I have sent this message to the Linux Weekly News and Slashdot. I recognize that we are a meritocracy. I need to prove to you that I'm capable. I've already committed six years of my life to free software, but that isn't as important as my work-in-progress, the FIG License: http://www.fig.org/fig/FIG The language is scary if you take it too seriously, so don't. Some of you like allegory, others like essays, and still others like legalese. I've tried to appeal to all audiences. The FIG License (aka. _FIGL_, pronounced like the English word _wiggle_) will change a lot over the next few months as you engage in dialogue with me. I'm releasing early and often so that you can help me work on it. What is the FIGL, and why does it matter? The FIGL is the first serious attempt to unify copyright and copyleft. Copyright's strength is that it gives Creators complete control over both the Information they create, and the Products of that information. Copyleft's strength is that it prevents everybody from asserting control over either the Information or the Products. The FIGL will guarantee that Information is never controlled, but control over the Products is left to the discretion of the Information's Creator. The FIGL allows Creators to relinquish some of their control over the Products, but they are not allowed to increase their control over the Information. I like to call this `copy-centeredness'. The FIGL matters because when it is finished, there will be no reason why we, the free software *authors* (not just distributors or consultants) cannot make a lot of money. There will also be no reason why megalithic software companies cannot release *truly* free software (not just Open Source(tm)), that we can use for your own benefit. I am serving you with this work because it scratches my own itch. I want to thrive as a free software author, and I hope that you can do the same. I'm sick of sitting by and watching people argue about how everybody else is wrong. It's about time somebody stepped forward and patiently helped show people how it is that all anybody on the planet wants is fulfillment, and so we might as well start cooperating. I'm doing that with this e-mail. Do I have your support? -- Gordon Matzigkeit <email@example.com> //\ I'm a FIG (http://www.fig.org/) Committed to freedom and diversity \// I use GNU (http://www.gnu.org/)
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 1999 13:27:17 +0100 From: Derek <derek at fortstar dot demon dot co dot uk> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: The GNOME disaster? I've just spent the long Easter weekend installing and trying out GNOME-1.0, and I suppose my findings are pretty much the same as most other people's. I won't go over what I achieved and the hassles it took to get there, but basically, it's a bitch to install, it falls over a lot and it uses huge amounts of memory and resources. It may look pretty, and it may be based on sound technical underpinnings, but on the stability issue alone, this code has no business being called Version 1.0. Linux advocates have recently been telling people that Linux is no more difficult to install than the likes of NT, but any average user (or writer) who tries to install GNOME will come away with a very bitter taste in their mouth. We've also been saying that Linux has such low resource overheads it can revitalise old hardware. This is no longer true with a desktop that requires a top end Pentium and at least 64MB to get going. Above all, we have a proud boast that Linux runs for months without stopping. With GNOME on top, my experience is that Linux is much less stable than Windows '95, and no one will be impressed when we tell them that it's only the windowing system that's gone down. The release of GNOME-1.0 seems to have been motivated by all the things which motivate companies like Microsoft, and the result has been more of the same: buggy, bloated software, which will hopefully get better as new versions roll out. GNOME was undoubtedly feeling the pressure from KDE, but trying to steal users with a premature V1.0 just devalues the whole effort. A high profile trade show may have been a very tempting launch vehicle, but not for something that wasn't ready. The spotlight is an embarrassing place if you're ugly. GNOME-1.0 has the potential to do untold damage to Linux. I know users don't have to use it, but many of them don't know that. For good or bad, Red Hat is the usable face of Linux, and GNOME will be the usable face of Red Hat. While I understand the political position, Linux has undoubtedly suffered over the last year due to Red Hat's refusal to use KDE as it's default GUI. New users and reviewers think we are still in the GUI dark ages, which is not true. After seeing GNOME-1.0 they will think we're not up to writing a stable GUI, which is not true either. I will continue to use KDE on my Linux desktop, and like most KDE users, I have no axe to grind with GNOME. I want the choice of desktops, and the GNOME development team is clearly doing a superb job. This letter has not been a FUD mission; it's been a call to be realistic before serious damage is done. Steps need to be taken to somehow withdraw the V1.0 status from GNOME, and to push Red Hat and the other distributors towards offering KDE by default until GNOME is a desktop capable of world domination. Derek Fountain Southampton, England.
Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 17:40:07 -0500 (CDT) From: Dave Finton <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: ESR and JWZ (long) In the past couple of weeks we saw something rather unsettling. Two prominent open source figures have either quit their jobs or expressed their desire to pass on the buck. The more paranoid (or righteously indignant) among us might conclude that open source in of itself isn't self-sustainable. People are dropping out of the movement like flies! This is, obviously, the wrong way to look at things. Open source has moved beyond its roots. In fact it had done so quite some time ago, but only now are we seeing the ramifications. ESR and JWZ are moving on because they are burnt out. They can't carry the torch any longer because <I>Open Source has moved beyond what any one person can carry him- or herself</I>. Look at these factors: 1) The Linux community has exploded and fragmented. So many people use the software now it's impossible to gain a consensus on any issue. People will agree with you. Others will disagree with you. And yet others will curse your name from here until infinity because you dare express an opinion they don't agree with. A simple read-through on Slashdot will show all three (and other) segments fighting with each other on a daily basis. There is no longer a singular Linux (or open source) community. There are now several, or even dozens. And none of them seem to like each other very much. 2) Linus Torvalds was right when he said that any revolution that goes on for too long is by definition a failure (I believe he said that at the LinuxWorld Expo). Revolutions need their George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons to succeed. But after the American Revolution even George Washington needed to get back to his regular life after serving 8 years in office. ESR needs to move on, and so does JWZ. That doesn't mean that Open Source will die; The United States didn't die after Washington and Jefferson retired. All it shows is that the revolution is over, and it's time to get down to business in making this thing work. 3) Some people think that Mozilla was the litmus test for commercial open software development. Maybe so, but Mozilla's "failure" is hardly a beacon proclaiming the failure of open source in general. There are too many other success stories out there proving otherwise. Take, for example, Red Hat, Cygnus, O'Rielly, Caldera, Suse, and so on. Mozilla's difficulties stem from the fact that a commercial software company (Netscape) tried to move to a new development model in the hopes that they don't become another Atari or Amiga or Apple. Their relative failure in doing so only illustrates the fact that <I>commercial software companies' days are numbered</I> if open source proves to be the paradigm shift it hopes to be (and that looks more and more likely every day). If a relatively young and nimble company like Netscape couldn't cope with the new paradigm, how can the Adobe's and the Microsoft's in the world ever going to survive in the next 10 years? Of all the opinions on the possible ramifications of these recent developments, I think that Bruce Perens is pretty much the only one who got it right. The "one charismatic leader" idea only works for so long. After that, the bazaar takes over. Smaller leaders (Richard Stallman, Mark Ewing, Tim O'Rielly) are going to take up the torch. In addition to those, smaller companies and organizations will do their own bits to evangelize themselves (and by extension Open Source). Things are moving quickly now, and they will only snowball into something so huge that nobody, not Microsoft, Eric Raymond, nor Richard Stallman, will know the true final outcome of this. - Dave Finton --------------------------------------------------------- | If an infinite number of monkeys typed randomly at | | an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite | | amount of time, they would eventually type out | | this sentencdfjg sd84wUUlksaWQE~kd ::. | | ----------------------------------------------------- | | Name: Dave Finton | | E-mail: email@example.com | | Web Page: http://surazal.nerp.net/ | ---------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 04 Apr 1999 17:03:24 +0200 From: Arnaud LAPREVOTE <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Eric Raymond support. Dear Sir, I suppose that M. Raymond will be burried under encouragements of all sorts, so I do not forward him directly this mail. Instead I answer to your editorial concerning his possible resignation of the "virtual" PR jobs he holds for the free software community. I fully agree with your article. M.Raymond will NEVER pleases everybody in the community. And in my case, all people that are orbiting around the free software movement do not please me. But most do. The very first thing about M.Raymond, is his "Cathedral and bazar" article. I understood a lot reading it. It is just an excellent article and it provided me a lot of arguments to explain why "free software" just work and why closed sources software meet so much problem. I think that the high profile that he choses to have to represent free software effectively helped a lot. After all he was instrumental in the move of Netscape toward free software and this move was the very first coming from big actors in the software area. Last (well in fact first), he wrote fetchmail, and we rely on this software to get our mail every days as well as some of our customers. These 3 achievements are enough to qualify M. Raymond to his role. I hope that he will continue to clarify the free software movement for the mass. Please, if you have some occasions to express him support, let him know that he has a lot of support in the community. Friendly yours, Arnaud LAPREVOTE -- Arnaud LAPREVOTE Free&ALter Soft - Free software support for all unix. 77, rue de Pont-ŗ-Mousson 57950 MONTIGNY-LES-METZ tel : 03 87 50 83 01 - 06 11 36 15 30 E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org Web : www.freealter.com
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 18:11:45 +0200 From: Raphael Hertzog <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Registry and configuration management Hello, I've just read many mails about the configuration database that may be very useful for Linux systems. I'd like to say that this is certainly a good idea and that Debian has already (many months ago) started to write specs for such a configuration system. It's currently beeing discussed by gnome developers too so that it may be used by a large set of applications. You can take a look at http://www.debian.org/~wakkerma/config6/ and if you're willing to participate/comment, you should subscribe to debian-admintool which is the list where it has been discussed. A new list may be created one day so that the project won't suffer from the Debian-specific aspect. There are still many issues to be discussed though. Cheers, -- RaphaŽl Hertzog >> 0C4CABF1 >> http://prope.insa-lyon.fr/~rhertzog/
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 1999 21:32:30 +0200 To: email@example.com From: Andrew McGill <NOJUNKesauwood@geocities.com> Subject: The windows registry is (just) a file system Thinking about the windows registry as a file system puts things in perspective (IMHO). The windows registry supports directories ("keys"), and files ("values") which contain data (binary, string or 4 byte words and other types...). It has features found in competing operating systems, such as mount points (with fixed names) (e.g. "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT"), although these have fixed names, and some kind of hard and soft linking. And it comes with a cute regedit program, which has a dialog box (sub) grep interface. It has some features which are 'unique' - "strict" typing for files (although whether this is necessary is not entirely clear). And as a quirk, each directory contains at least one file, called "(Default)", which is usually empty. The thing that totally kills the registry concept (for MS, at least) is that programs don't access the registry with standard file API calls. There are 25 different function calls that are *dedicated* to using the registry. Why would ANYONE want to get past this learning curve if the configuration information can be stored in a file, with a well known, simpler set of functions to access it? MS would have done a lot better to have made it a pluggable file system, except that would not be original. I say it's a a case of those who don't understand unix are condemned to reinvent it - badly. And whoever suggested a name like HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE in preference to /etc should be dragged out into the street and shot. Something which *is* (I think) remarkable about the windows registry, is that it is a file system which does not have a fixed size. I would like this for ext2fs ... :) ... please can someone tell me it's already been done? Here's what I thing linux could make do with: * A file system for small files with big names (I think ext2fs is okay) (but can it resize?) * Some way to mount the win95/95/NT registry as a file system -- just for kicks * I really want some way to scribble notes about, and descriptions of file system objects. But it mustn't be hard :) (and it has nothing to do with the rest of this e-mail) &:-) ---- esau wood saw a wood-saw saw wood as no wood-saw wood saw saw wood would saw wood - of all wood-saws wood saw saw wood, no wood-saw wood saw saw wood would saw wood like the wood-saw wood saw saw wood would ps. Flames to esauwood@
From: schwarzma@mschwarz@ANTIsherbSPAMtel.net (Michael Schwarz) Subject: Registry To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 12:56:39 -0600 (CST) Perhaps this point has beaten as long as LWN might want to beat it, but I have one and only criticism of the registry idea: It creates a meta-filesystem that is (as I have seen it implemented) interdependent with the real filesystem and yet is updated *idependently* of the file system. Basically, the registry can associate the name and LOCATION of a file with a keyed tag. The file may then be moved, deleted, or renamed. Unless the registry is *automatically* kept in synch with such changes, I would argue the registry is useless. Try moving a folder that contains a program from one drive to another in Windows. The file manager lets you do this, but the program will never work again. Also, since applications do not usualy bother to document ANYTHING they put in the registry, you don't know until you try it that you are going to destroy the installation. I'm not saying that separate config files do not have a similar problem, but that is the fault and responsibility of the application developer/maintainer/documentor. I would hate to see such chaos made a part of the system. Michael Schwarz mschwarz@ANTIsherbSPAMtel.net