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Section Editor: Jon Corbet
August 10, 2000
Two years ago (August 13, 1998 LWN): Bruce Perens, Eric Raymond, Ian Murdock, and Tim Sailor announced the formation of the Open Source Initiative. The OSI's job was to be to police the use of the "Open Source" trademark and to promote open source in general. Since then Mr. Perens has left in anger, the trademark application was denied, and the OSI seems to be mostly dormant (the "what's new page" on the OSI web site was last updated in July, 1999).
The formation of the OSI was greeted with a great deal of criticism and anger, and there are certainly many who do not lament its fall from prominence. But the OSI did play a useful role in advocating open source, and in keeping early adopters of the term honest. An article in Upside this week explained it well:
But to a large extent the new visibility of open source is due to a clever marketing strategy on the part of Torvalds and his compadres--and a new willingness to talk the language of the corporation. These days, open source advocates talk less about freedom than about reliability--pointing out that when source code is opened up to the masses, the masses tend to locate and eliminate bugs very quickly.
The OSI was the embodiment of that marketing strategy.
Bruce Perens also left, angrily, the Linux Standard Base project, which he had been heading, this week.
Richard Stallman called for free documentation to accompany free software.
Please spread the word about this issue. We continue to lose manuals to proprietary publishing. If we spread the word that proprietary manuals are not sufficient, perhaps the next person who wants to help GNU by writing documentation will realize, before it is too late, that he must above all make it free.
Since then, the amount of free documentation available has expanded greatly - even if it still is not enough. Publishers no longer panic at the idea of making manual content free. Progress has been made.
The development kernel release was 2.1.115; Linus announced a hard code freeze with this release. This freeze proved less than firm, however, and the 2.2 stable release turned out to be more than five months away. The stable kernel release, meanwhile, remained at 2.0.36.
But the big news, of course, was the successful completion of Red Hat's initial public offering of stock. The actual event caused yet another round of trouble for those participating in the community offering, since a last-minute raise in the IPO price required a reconfirmation of interest. Many of the participants, who were at the conference, had a hard time doing that, though just about everybody got in before it was done.
The stock shot up to a (split-adjusted) price of $26, which seemed amazingly high at the time. The real significance of the IPO was to mark Linux as a truly interesting business phenomenon. A year later, with the Linux stock frenzy behind us, Linux remains more vital and interesting than ever.
Andover.Net announced the acquisition of FreshMeat this week.
The development kernel was 2.3.13; the long-awaited 2.2.11 stable kernel release also came out this week.
Red Flag Linux, a high-profile Chinese distribution, was announced this week. The newly-renamed Lineo announced its Embedix distribution.
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: Fri, 04 Aug 2000 12:10:36 +0200 From: David Balazic <email@example.com> Subject: Napster, DeCSS and copyright To: firstname.lastname@example.org On lwn.net front page on August 3, 2000 you wrote : > One thing that's worth adding to this discussion: remember that the free > software world, too, is dependent on copyrights. Licenses like the GPL > depend on copyright law. The free software world has a lot to contribute > to the discussion on just how far copyright protections should apply, but > if we promote the ignoring of copyright altogether, we are polluting our > own well. Specially "if we promote the ignoring of copyright altogether". I don't think anybody ( except some unimportant kids ) is promoting the ignorance of copyright law. In the DVD case , watching a DVD you purchased is not and can not be held for a copyright infringement. And that is the main purpose of DeCSS. Napster : Here is no copyright infringement either ( at least Napster claims so ). Downloading a song for your home use is legal ( as per Audio Home Recording Act ). All tough I must admit that I find it hard to label the act(*) of distributing a song to millions of napster users as "home use". * - I mean the act of a napster user marking a song on his HD as "shared-over-napster" Just my 0.02$ David Balazic
From: "Aaron J. Seigo" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Elliot Lee's Response to my letter to the editor on July 28 Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 14:03:39 -0600 Hi. LWN posted one of Elliot Lee's responses to my letter to the editor regarding Miguel de Icaza's "Unix Sucks" rant that was covered on the front page of LWN. Elliot and I went back and forth quite a bit on this one via email, and I'd like to have the opportunity to make the result of our conversation available. I wrote: > I point to Icaza's own project Gnome as an example that he is (to > quoth him) "smoking crack" when spouting these arguments. Gnome sets > policy, and in the right place, too: on the application level. Elliot responded: > That is incorrect - all desktop-generic policy is set in gnome-libs and > the other Gnome libraries, not in the applications themselves. gnome-libs > and related pieces would generally be accepted as part of the operating > environment, rather than part of the application. After much running around the mulberry bush, we discovered (surprise!) that Elliot (and apparently Miguel) and myself (and apparently many others) have different definitions of the words "application" and "system". To Elliot, the "system" is everything below the actual final app. This includes the kernel, system libs, windowing subsystem, window manager, desktop libraries shared by apps, etc. To me, in Linux an application is anything that isn't a system library or in the kernel. Everything else is an application. Therefore, when I said that Gnome sets policy on the application level I meant that by apps being compiled against the gnome libs which are optional in Linux, that counts as occuring on the "application level". To Elliot, however, its virtually the same as linking to a system library: it's all part of the "operating environment". This may seem like a semantic issue, but I think it shows deeper differences in viewpoint. The MOMENT someone views their software contribution to our Open Source world as "being part of the system", they are creating a potential break point between themselves and the rest of the community who doesn't use their software. It is to say: "Hey, we're aren't just an application layer built on this framework (Linux) and therefore optional (however useful and important), we are part of a new foundational system." Remember, this isn't Gnome/Linux. In fact, all it takes is a quick CTRL-ALT-F# while running Gnome (or any X session), or a quck edit of an Xclients script to make this absolutely clear. But by approaching it with the attitude that Gnome is part of the Operating Environment , it can quickly become the way people (especially those new to Linux) view it and therefore start using it, treating it, and developing for it. Instead we should be striving to reinforce the idea of choice and option. We should be clear that things such as Gnome are applications only and completely optional; that they are not part of the Linux "Operating Environment" and that Linux does not suck just because it doesn't have such a system as part of its default environment. I think that Unix desktop environments are a terrific idea and important to the adoption of Linux on the desktop. However, the consequences of failing to communicate clearly that these are _optional_ environments seperate from the underlying system are potential fragmentation and a perceived loss of choice and options on the part of the user. ____________ Aaron J. Seigo
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 10:57:55 +0200 From: Bernd Paysan <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Ballmer: Linux = communism I know that this Ballmer thing from hell spits and throws dirt whenever it can. But in this case, I really don't understand. Isn't he saying that the thing people like about communism is that "it's free"? The only thing I'm quite sure about communism (the real existing socialism) is that it was all but free. Is he using newspeek or what ("freedom is slavery")? Free software, if at all, is "communistic", because: * no alienation of workers (people write software because it scratches an itch, not because their boss demanded it) * no exploitation by greedy capitalists, voluntary work instead The main problem I see here is that the *real* communism (or socialism) was all but that. Workers were alienated, because some stupid functionaries directed them, and their work wasn't volutnary. In real communism, you also had to fear that the people with power wanted to know where you want to go today, and kept a detailed record of your actions, if you were suspicious (or even if you weren't, just to find out if you are suspicious). That is, Microsoft clearly matches real communism much more than free software ;-). -- Bernd Paysan "If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself" http://www.jwdt.com/~paysan/
From: Jeff Buck <JeffB@umci.com> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Fearing the word Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 13:01:40 -0700 The "communist" label does come out every now and then to describe linux and the free software community, and most of the time it's pretty clearly FUD, but there is something that almost always gets overlooked by the free software community. The fact is, that in many ways they are right. We are in a way a communist community. Now don't misunderstand me here, I don't mean to say that we're like the old Soviet republic, or any of the other "communist" governments that ruled (or currently rule) their countries. In fact, we're a much better example of communism than any real government ever has been. The original ideas behind communism were really aimed at creating a sort of a utopian society, where everyone works for the common good. They use their talents for the common good, and in turn the reap the benefits of everyone else using their talents for the common good. We've also taken the best of a democratic society and thrown that into our virtual community melting pot, and the combination seems to work quite well. The next time someone accuses the free software community of being communist, we might do well to simply point out that they're right, but that we're also democratic and libertarian as well. It seems pretty ironic that it took a pure democracy (absolutely everyone votes, either with code, or with their (virtual) feet), to make a communist society that works. -Jeff Buck (email@example.com)
Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000 00:36:41 -0500 From: beasley <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Linux, Open Source, and Communism Sir / Madam Regarding Mr. Ballmer's recent comments [Open Source = Communism], LWN wrote: "In any case, one wouldn't think that a communist phenomenon would be so thick with libertarians and venture capitalists. Free software is a capitalist phenomenon: free agents are contributing to a public good because it is in their own selfish interest to do so. Use of words like "communist" show either a lack of understanding of free software or a great fear of it - or both." I believe you're entirely correct here. As a Libertarian Linux user, acting very much in my own selfish interests, I'd like to submit these interesting links: The "Linux FAQ" http://www.mainmatter.com/linux-faq.html The "Open Source FAQ" http://www.opensource.org/faq.html The "Museum of Communism FAQ" http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/bcaplan/museum/comfaq.htm Oh, and here's another minor difference: According to Professor R.J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii: "Communism has been the greatest social engineering experiment we have ever seen. It failed utterly and in doing so it killed over 100,000,000 men, women, and children, not to mention the near 30,000,000 of its subjects that died in its often aggressive wars and the rebellions it provoked." http://www2.hawaii.edu/~rummel/COM.ART.HTM#* The total loss of life attributed to "Open Source" and "Linux" is unknown, but is most probably very much less. Michael Beasley
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 12:09:39 +1000 From: Rev Simon Rumble <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Communist? The communist label for free software is always a laughable one. When Americans say "communist" they invariably mean Soviet Socialist, ie USSR. The USSR was in fact a centrally planned totalitarian regime using communist imagery in its propaganda. That means that "the State knows what is best for you and you'll do what the State deems you should do" was the way it operated. This has more in common with the centrally planned (Cathedral) Microsoft telling users that they WILL have a browser embedded in the operating system than with free software. To claim free software is communist is to reveal a distinct lack of understanding of political terminology, although that is very common in post-McCarthy America. Free software has more in common, although most free software geeks don't realise it, with anarcho-syndicalists. Anarcho-syndicalists believe in absolute freedom with coorperation between individuals when it helps all the individuals (ie a syndicate). This means that anarcho-syndicalists may even elect or inherit a leader, but anyone in the syndicate is free to leave at any point they want -- kind of like Linux kernel development with Linus controlling it. It's curious how apolitical most free software geeks are, even though using free software over non-free software is an intensely political act. Anarchists talk about freedom being the natural state of man, which would ring true when you see free software geeks without a conscious political bone in their bodies becoming intensely political and unconsciously gravitating towards anarchical structures. I'm sure in future years the free software movement will be studied by political researchers everywhere. -- Rev Simon Rumble It seemed the world was divided into good firstname.lastname@example.org and bad people. The good ones slept better http://www.rumble.net ... while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more. -- Woody Allen, "Side Effects"
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2000 20:24:04 -0400 (EDT) From: "Donald J. Barry" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: email@example.com Subject: Editorial on the 3 August 2000 Linux Weekly News Dear Jonathan and Elizabeth, I must take issue with your claim that "Free software is a capitalist phenomenon: free agents are contributing ... because it is in their own selfish interest to do so." Not everyone in the free software game (and out of it) is a capitalist, you know, and not all of us despise either the term or the philosophy of communism. I'm a dedicated marxist and I tend to go, when possible, by the philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number. Remember us when you deliver your all-encompassing evasions from the accusations of the proprietary crazies. Cheers, Don Barry, Ph.D. Cornell Astronomy