Linux in the news
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See also: last week's Back page page.
Workspot is definitely worth a look. By way of some Java cleverness, they make it possible to operate a complete (Debian) Linux desktop within a web browser. They are giving away accounts, making Workspot an excellent way for people who don't have a Linux system around to try it out. Response is a bit slow, and putting confidential files on the system is probably a poor idea, but it's still fun to play with. (Thanks to Tres Hofmeister).
The L4 µ-kernel is an experimental microkernel system which runs on Intel processors. One interesting application of this system is the Linux on L4 project, which has gotten the Linux kernel running on top of the L4 microkernel.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
January 13, 2000
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
From: "pat eyler" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: open documentation Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2000 10:25:30 EST Liz, et al., I appreciated your link to the Open Documentation discussion on O'Reilly. I think that this is an area that needs to get more visibility. Documentation is only going to become more important as the Free Software community grows to include more end-users. I think you guys missed a big opportunity though. During the last week, there was a column on osOpinion about the need to keep package documentation freely available but not open. O'Reilly has created a link to this saying "Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote a convincing rebuttal to Richard Stallman's recent statement that software documentation doesn't have or need artistic protections." Both Rusty and O'Reilly seem to have missed the point. When documentation is written for a Free Software package, and the end lacks the ability to update it to reflect the changes that he/she made to the software (under rights legally granted by the software license), the community suffers from incorrect documentation. It certainly makes sense that books (technical or artistic) can and should have the artist's voice protected. That point can not be argued. But documentation packaged with software really needs to provide the end-user the same rights to modify and redistribute that the software itself does. -pate email@example.com
From: Greg Owen <gowen@SoftLock.com> To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com> Subject: Network Solutions and PGP Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 10:42:44 -0500 A small modification to your "DNS Insecurity" item: According to Network Solutions, PGP protection for DNS records is no longer an option. In August/September 1999 one of our domains was the victim of an email spoofing attack, and we asked about moving to PGP security and were told NSI was phasing it out because it didn't work right. A survey of the new domain vendors shows that none of them are much better on security; I haven't seen any scheme yet that can't be sniffed. (In one case, when attempting to try using https for the web login, their site redirected me back to http. Thanks.) -- gowen -- Greg Owen -- gowen@SoftLock.com
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 16:54:25 -0500 (EST) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: UCITA From: email@example.com (Kragen Sitaker) You write: > If UCITA goes through, the future may well regard it as the beginning > of the end for proprietary software. Even the most conservative CIO > will have to think hard about the business risks involved (built-in > shutdown features, non-transferability, etc.) with this sort of > licensing. UCITA poses little threat to companies big enough to afford CIOs; I think they have the negotiating oomph to keep their suppliers from forcing them to accept criminal licensing terms like those UCITA legalizes. It poses a threat mostly to individuals who buy things governed by UCITA. But more importantly, it poses a major threat to free software development. Software and hardware sold under UCITA will likely be immune to legal reverse-engineering or decompilation, due to aforementioned legalization of criminal licensing terms. Of course, it can only pose such a threat in locations where UCITA or something similar is enacted. My fear is that, if much of the USA enacts it, other countries will be under pressure to follow suit. This is one step closer to the dystopian world described in "The Right To Read": http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html Let's not let that world happen. -- <firstname.lastname@example.org> Kragen Sitaker <http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/> The Internet stock bubble didn't burst on 1999-11-08. Hurrah! <URL:http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/bubble.html> The power didn't go out on 2000-01-01 either. :)
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 13:22:20 GMT To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Shrin-wrap licences in the EU You might like to know that under UK law, accoridng to various genuine lawyers, all the "by openning this envelope oyu agree to the licence" stuff is illegal and therefore void. I suspect the sales of goods and services act (and similar legislation elsewhere) makes many of the disclamimers illegal as well. The EU gives me an inalienable right to reverse-engineer for any purpose other than cloning a product, which would make a successful procession for this hard work (can you *prove* I was intending to cloen your product?). It would be interesting to know how much of these contracts is actually valid under various different juristictions. The UCITA is something that is unlikely to apply anyware outside the US (and would contravene EU law even if anyone was sufficiently bribed to propose it).
Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 10:56:59 -0500 From: Andrew Pimlott <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: How free software licences differ You article on "The DVD case as a test of shrink-wrap licensing" poses the issue, It will be interesting to consider how free software licenses differ legally - if at all - from the commercial shrink-wrap variety. The difference is simple. Under copyright law, you are granted a set of rights with respect to any piece of copyrighted material you receive. Commercial shrink-wrap licenses attempt to restrict you to fewer rights, while free software licenses grant you (strictly) more rights. That is why the GNU General Public License may openly state, You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. If you don't accept the license, you may keep and use the material, you just get fewer rigths (the default set). Commercial software vendors, on the other hand, resort to tricking people into "accepting" their licenses. Stopping this would be an unmitigated blessing to free software. Andrew
Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2000 10:32:01 +0800 From: Leon Brooks <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Y2.038k solution LWN> That 32-bit LWN> Pentium doorstop in the corner of the machine room may still be LWN> doing something important when the rollover happens. Speaking as one who uses a Cyrix 486SLC40 as an Internet gateway, I don't think we have a serious problem here. The oldest piece of hardware in my gateway was made in 1993, 16 or 17 years ago. This machine would be ancient by most standards now, and the power supply running it is the sole survivor from an original collection of four. Except for the fact that it's hanging in midair, so shape doesn't matter, I'd be in trouble trying to buy a similar power supply today. If it had used a CPU fan, I could almost guarantee that two or three of them would have filled up with dust and died since manufacture. In point of fact, I added a fan to it (even though it runs cooler under Linux than it ever did under Windows) and had to hacksaw down an existing heatsink to fit. It takes 30-pin SIMMs, which can only be had for love, since money is insufficient. The point I'm working towards is that over more than double the lifespan of this machine, there are going to be vanishingly few survivors, especially since newer machines (like newer cars) are being made with tinfoil-like flimsiness. The only working 486es will be curiosities in museums, sharing space with Eniac, and likely also today's mightiest Athlon will rest alongside. Forty years ago, in 1960, the very first useful integrated circuits (LM309 5-volt regulators, for example), were on the horizon, valve computers were in active use, and many computers were built out of individual transistors. Computers of 40 years hence (presuming we're still here) will use molecules or better; the idea of a mere silicon chip in your computer, with a clock cycle of millions of femtoseconds and a buss-width that fits into just two digits, will sound even sillier than building a new machine out of valves would sound today. -- Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation. If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee. When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. The two great secrets of success are: don't tell anyone everything that you know.
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2000 05:06:49 -0600 (CST) From: Dave Finton <email@example.com> To: Stephen Forte <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: Comment on your white paper I hope that the response wasn't too zealotous (is that a real word?)... I was rushed in posting it and was away from my e-mail for a few days so I couldn't respond right away. In re-reading my response to your paper I realized that while my response was technically accurate I failed to take into account that your experiences might have differed to mine as far as Linux in the workplace goes. There are a lot of places moving towards Linux (my school and a few businesses in the area), but there are probably a few moving towards NT. However, the point I wanted to stress the most is that most businesses are moving towards *both*. Thanks in part to software for Linux (Samba, WINE, etc.), Linux makes an excellent compliment to an Windows shop due to its cheap price and ability to run on cheap hardware. Linux also is excellent by itself (I have been using Linux as my personal environment exclusively for 3 years now), but in the real world out there most networks exist in heterogenous envoronment. Linux has found its home in those environments for a variety of purposes. My response regarding desktop Linux is true, however. This is due to recent business developments (Red Hat and VA Linux IPO's) increasing mindshare in the general populace. I was afraid that Linux wasn't really ready for people used to Windows but what some people are telling me indicates that experiences regarding Linux have been generally positive. Last year I had a friend of mine try out Linux with the K Desktop Environment and he was hooked. This guy is a business major. I've also talked to business professors who've expressed enthusiasm for Linux (one of them installed Red Hat on his machine and said he was impressed by its stability and some of its features). In the past few months quite a few Linux converts have popped up out of the wordwork in increasing numbers. I remember a time when I had to walk a few of my friends through Linux installations; this is no longer the case. Granted, there's still some milage to cover, but the past year or so has been astounding as far as ease-of-use goes... I can't wait to see what the next year will bring. Often, too many pundits think of "archane command line" when they think of Linux. Nobody ever brings up the modern desktop environments that have cropped up in the past few years. In fact Linux (and other Unix environments) have managed to accomplish in the past 3 years what took Microsoft nearly a decade. The reason why it took so long for Unix to start catching up in the first place was that Unix systems were very expensive (and therefore not suitably priced for desktop usage). Linux (and the BSD variants of Unix) have changed that tremendously. NT (and W2K) are here to stay. But Linux isn't going to go away anytime soon. Sure, the hype will fade just as it did for the internet, but that won't stop it. If anything, it will mean the further entrenchment of an excellent operating environment whose time really has come. - 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/ | ---------------------------------------------------------