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Section Editor: Jon Corbet
June 15, 2000
Two years ago was a relatively slow time. The 2.1.106 development kernel was coming together. Slackware 3.50 was released. And Ralph Nader sounded off on operating systems:
There are relatively obscure products that can substitute for Windows, such as Linux, and many of them are available free on the Internet for people to download and install themselves. Nader is upset that computer makers won't sell machines with those products already installed. (Associated Press)
One year ago: Red Hat filed for an initial public offering of stock, thus leading the pack of Linux companies seeking to go public. Jim Pick was separated from longtime kernel site LinuxHQ, which he had been maintaining; he moved his work to kernelnotes.org. Development kernel 2.3.6 was released, as was stable kernel 2.2.10. The infamous Mindcraft benchmark trial was rerun, turning up some real problems in Linux networking and process control. The Debian project adopted a new logo. Jon 'maddog' Hall jumped to VA Linux Systems. Guylhem Aznar took over as the leader of the Linux Documentation Project. LinuxPPC 5.0 was released.
The "Open Source" trademark effort officially went down, after the U.S. Government refused to register it. The OSI promised to come back with an "OSI Certified" trademark...one year ago...
In the press:
But the mere fact that there is now an official SEC document that includes the text of the GPL serves as fairly astonishing proof that the rules of the software business really are being rewritten. Stallman and the FSF have been assailed as anti-capitalist radicals for their work in ensuring that the world can enjoy the benefits of free software. Now, Stallman's legacy is intimately entwined with the ultimate icon of late 20th century capitalism -- the initial public offering. (Andrew Leonard, Salon)
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.
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 10:33:38 -0600 (MDT) From: Dave Mallery <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RMS We are indeed fortunate to have RMS in our midst. Lacking him, there probably would be no "midst". Men of vast integrity are seldom popular. They are often crucified. -- www.ramahcafe.com Dave Mallery Ramah Cafe 3270 Hiway 53 PO Box 520 Ramah, NM 87321 no gates no windows... running GNU/Linux free at last! Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds
Date: 8 Jun 2000 18:08:13 -0000 From: Eric Smith <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Patents and Free Software LWN reported on June 8, 2000: > Intellectual property laws increasingly look like the tool of choice for > those who wish to fight against free software. The ability to patent > file formats, if it stands up, adds greatly to the power of this > weapon. This is a worrisome development indeed. Fortunately, as ever-increasing amounts of Free Software is developed, we will be creating a lot of new intellectual property that is not only unencumbered, but can serve as prior art in future patent cases. As the amount innovation in Free Software (collectively) will approach and perhaps exceed that of proprietary software, it will become harder for companies to obtain and defend patents on simple and obvious file formats, etc. It also seems possible that Free Software developers could in fact obtain patents on their innovations, and license them freely for use in Free Software. The problem here is that obtaining a patent can be a costly endeavor. Perhaps an organization could be formed to handle patent applications for Free Software developers, and act as a licensing authority for the resulting patent pool. By offering non-exclusive commercial licenses for the patents, the inventors would earn royalties and the organization could be funded. It would certainly be satisfying to see a body of intellectual property that could be used freely in Free Software, but that proprietary software vendors would be required to pay to license! It is particularly good to see that many new software licenses contain terms such that the licenses terminate if the licensee initiates any intellectual property litigation against the licensor. I don't know Stallman's view on this, but I'd really like to see such terms put into the next versions of the GPL and LGPL. This would provide another reason for Free Software developers to transfer ownership of copyrights to the FSF; then if MeanAndNastySoftwareCo were to ever sue the FSF for patent infringement, their rights to use and distribute all of the FSF's software would terminate! Eric Smith
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 04:42:40 +0200 From: Juanjo Alvarez <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Software patents and VirtualDub I want to remember that software patents are not legal in Europe. Having the source it shouldn't be difficult to made an alternative implementation an put it on a non-US mirror.
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 18:53:50 -0500 From: "John J. Adelsberger III" <email@example.comArs.net> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: BSD license (Re: letter from Anand Srivastava) I think this gentleman misses the point of the BSD license. The ability to reuse code in traditional commercial settings is not regarded by BSD proponents as a "loophole." It is regarded as a feature of the license. Of course, the GPL advocacy crowd often distorts things like that. They point to Linux as a shining example of their philosophy - but is it? It is not. Linux is developed voluntarily by people who choose to give their effort away. The FSF philosophy, espoused quite openly by Richard Stallman, is not about volunteerism. It holds that software is free, must be free, and that therefore, the products(read: time (read: lives,)) of programmers are free for the taking, no matter what those programmers think about this. If you don't believe it, read the GNU manifesto and related documents from Mr. Stallman. If Mr. Srivastava were trying to accurately convey what lies in the heart of a true FSF/GPL advocate, it would read as follows(a paraphrase of a portion of his letter): "GPL License has a big loophole and we have witnessed the consequences for as long as we can see. Programmers can give their work away, but if they choose not to, they can use another license! This defeats our goal of enslaving programmers everywhere to create a propertyless information age. Stalin would not be proud." This may not be what Mr. Srivastava thinks of when he thinks of the GPL. He may well be(and probably is) a well intentioned individual who doesn't really understand the FSF. One can only hope. But, sad to say, this IS what Mr. Srivastava -should- think of when he thinks of the GPL. This IS what the GPL was made as a stepping stone towards. The funny part is, the FSF admits this in public. In fact, they insist upon it. -- John J. Adelsberger III ETAONRISHDLFCMUGPYWBVKXJQZ email@example.com
Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 12:47:20 -0700 From: Tim Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: BRU Security Exploit Posts As the development manager on the EST's BRU product, I would like to snuff out the small firestorm that has surfaced around our BRU product. First, we sincerely appreciate users for providing feedback and assisting in the evolution our products. EST's corporate servicemark of "Software You Can Trust," is based on our commitment to ensuring that our products are both secure and bug-free. This particular security issue is easily resolved as outlined in the SecurityFocus.com posting. To recap the fix, by simply removing the SUID bit on the /bin/bru and /bru/bru files, the potential exploit is totally closed. To un-SUID the BRU executables, issue the following commands as root: chmod 711 /bin/bru chmod 711 /bru/bru However, the slightly extremist stand that the permissions should be changed to 500 is not necessary, and could disable the product's usefulness for data backup by non-root users. BRU can live happily with permissions set to 511, or even 711 - as shown above, and remain secure while allowing users to properly backup files. The only reason for the root suid setting was to enable logfile write access by all BRU users. To enable logfile writes for non-root users after the SUID bit is cleared, simply set the permissions on the /var/log/bruexeclog file to 777, or add an environment variable to the users' login environment that assigns the BRUEXECLOG environment variable to a file to which the user has write permission. This issue does not exist in our new BRU 16.0 release as no files are installed SUID root. -- Tim Jones firstname.lastname@example.org Vice President http://www.estinc.com/ Enhanced Software Technologies, Inc. (602) 470-1115 "The BRU Guys"
Date: 14 Jun 2000 19:02:01 -0000 From: Eric Smith <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Openness and compatability On June 14, LWN quoted Andy Tai's translation of Bill Gates' talk in Taiwan: Also different programs can be developed on top of Linux, with each one possibly incompatible with another, and thus Linux is not really 'open.' Apparently Bill's idea of an Open operating system is one for which the end-user is only able to buy one brand of word processor, spreadsheet, etc., thus guaranteeing "compatability". By this criteria, I suppose I should ditch my "closed" Linux system and buy an "open" Windows system. Blech! Eric Smith