Linux in the news
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See also: last week's Back page page.
The Link Controversy Page is an attempt at a comprehensive collection of information on the use of links on the web. If linking issues, such as those that came up in the DVD case, interest you, this is the place to find more information.
A related site is EFF's Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression. Check it out for news from that front of the fight for freedom.
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
September 21, 2000
Two years ago (September 24, 1998 LWN): The Uniform Driver Interface (UDI) burst on the scene with great fanfare. UDI was a layer intended to make it possible to write device drivers that would work on multiple systems. Surprisingly, Linux was not only to be supported by UDI, but was being actively courted:
However, writing new drivers for the thousands of peripherals on the market is a daunting task. Hence, Project UDI is hoping the Linux community will help... A reference platform will be distibributed as freeware for Linux, and the Project UDI members will be counting on the Linux community to work on device drivers...
The Linux community showed little enthusiasm for the idea of providing device drivers for the convenience of proprietary Unix vendors, and UDI faded away.
The development kernel release remained at 2.1.122. Linus called for a change in how the network drivers worked, because it was all wrong at the time. The changes called for happened, but not until 2.3.43.
IBM finally got around to announcing that its DB2 database would be made available for Linux. Sybase, too, got in on the act with its release of "Adaptive Server Enterprise."
One year ago (September 23, 1999 LWN): A previously obscure company called LinuxOne released a new distribution (called by some "Red Hat with the serial numbers filed off") then promptly filed for an IPO. Needless to say, this move was not well received. One year later, now, the IPO has not happened.
Corel Linux went into beta test. The event was overshadowed, however, by a rather severe nondisclosure agreement that beta testers were expected to sign. Linux-Mandrake 6.1 was made available for download.
LinuxOne was not the only IPO filing that week; Andover.Net also put in for an offering. They had rather more success at it.
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Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 14:18:20 -0600 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: RTLinux story Your story was very nice, but, of course, I have to complain about something. And the something is RTLinux makes many changes to the standard kernel source, while RTAI takes a minimalist approach to kernel changes. RTLinux has always done only minimal changes to Linux: working only at the lowest level of the architecture dependent interrupt handling. RTLinux on PowerPC requires no changes at all to Linux kernel and on x86 and Alpha the changes are all localized. In fact, from the beginning of this project, making it easy to track the kernel and staying out of the core operating system have been priorities for us. -- --------------------------------------------------------- Victor Yodaiken Finite State Machine Labs: The RTLinux Company. www.fsmlabs.com www.rtlinux.com
From: Massimo Dal Zotto <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Cisco patents NAT To: email@example.com Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 22:06:39 +0200 (MEST) Hi, the Cisco patent on NAT was filed on 3 Nov 1995 and my old copy of the linux-1.3.20 kernel, dated approximately August 1995, already contains many references to the constant CONFIG_IP_MASQUERADE, so we have a clear case of prior art in the linux kernel itself. Should this be enough to invalidate the Cisco patent or do we need some legal battle to defend our version of the same idea? -- Massimo Dal Zotto +----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | Massimo Dal Zotto email: firstname.lastname@example.org | | Via Marconi, 141 phone: ++39-0461534251 | | 38057 Pergine Valsugana (TN) www: http://www.cs.unitn.it/~dz/ | | Italy pgp: see my www home page | +----------------------------------------------------------------------+
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 15:03:18 -0500 From: Dave Finton <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Am I the only one? Lately I've noticed a big trend with Linux news sites. Due to it's rather populist roots, Linux advocates have always been extremely passionate about their beliefs (I know this because I'm from the same camp myself). No more is this true than with those who run popular Linux-oriented web sites, such as Slashdot and LinuxToday. This, too, is the result of a long history, where these types of web sites were the voices of Linux and Open Source in the earlier days. Nowadays, Linux is jockeying for position in multiple markets (successfully in many cases) and the concept of "Open Source" or "Free Software" (or whatever your preferred buzzword is) has taken root even in business executives' minds. Linux has hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars surrounding it when counting public and private companies together. Times have changed, in other words. So why haven't our advocacy methods changed at all? Take the recent ruckus with online polling between LinuxToday and MSNBC. MSNBC has so far refused to comment in great deal concerning the mess. They have so far refrained from trying to sully LinuxToday's reputation. This is simply because LinuxToday is doing a fine job of shooting itself in the foot on its own. What the Paul Ferris's and the Rob Malda's of the world have to realize is that it ain't the best strategy to provoke an opponent to react to outrageous actions they've committed and then whine when the opponents do react in some way. I can't fault MSNBC for rigging its own polls, because LinuxToday forced them to. Yes, we all know online polls are a joke, but I disagree with the methods being used to combat their use in public discourse. What is LinuxToday trying to accomplish with this? Are they pointing out that MSNBC is owned by a corporation with a conflict of interests a mile long when it comes to technical journalism? Well no duh. Are they trying to say that MSNBC was at fault for reacting to a (what could be interpretted as) legitimate attack on their servers? Maybe, but personally I am beyond caring at this point. Are they trying to improve their corporate image? If so, man do they ever need help in that department. Personally I find the behavior of the Linux advocates highly questionable, simply because it just looks like (to me) a provocation done for the sake of provocation. Even though I single out LinuxToday in this rant, a lot of news publications devoted to Linux are guilty of the same misdeeds. And when someone like me (a Linux advocate who's more than likely ventured out into the land of zealotry on more than one occasion in the past) finds that behavior extreme, what does it say to "the unwashed masses"? Do they think that this is supposed to make themselves look good to the public? If so, how? My criticism is harsh, but I think the point needs to come across some of the "great leaders" of this big movement that we need to move on. When trying to paint a friendly face on Linux and Open Source, it's best to put your best face forward, not scream and hollar like children whenever things don't go the way we want them to. We must all learn to adapt. If we don't, soon we'll find ourselves starting at square one all over again. -- - 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: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 11:44:25 -0600 From: Jim Easter <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: A hit with a bullet? Regarding "MP3.com yanks song with illegal DVD-hacking code (News.com)": Years ago, my family lived next door to a man named Dolf, who had grown up in Poland during the 1940s and 50s. We were talking about popular music one day, and Dolf told us about how new songs had gotten exposure in the Poland of his youth. He said that the coffeeshops and bistros of Polish cities had a kind of permanent open-mike policy, and that aspiring musicians would hang out there in search of fame. Some got well-known over the course of time, but the best shortcut to renown was the government censor. Each coffeehouse had a government representative sitting at the side of the stage, whose job it was to stop performers from singing political satire which strayed into forbidden territory. When that happened, the censor would step forward and firmly state that the song in question could not be sung. According to Dolf, the coffeeshop would then empty out as people ran to their friends' houses with the new song: "Didja hear the song the censor just shut down? It goes like this ..." I can't speak for anyone else, but this story was all the encouragement I needed to download Joe Wecker's hilarious song from the (perfectly legal) Gallery of DeCSS Descramblers  maintained by Dr. David Touretzky. Give it a listen. It should be noted that MP3.com is a reluctant censor, acting out of fear rather than malice, but the effect is the same as if the DVD CCA had been sitting at the side of the stage. Fortunately, the end result is that these threats tend to backfire. You can't buy that kind of publicity!  Touretzky, D. S. (2000) Gallery of CSS Descramblers. Available: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/DeCSS/Gallery, (14 Sept 2000)
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 04:56:52 -0500 (CDT) From: <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Jon Corbet <email@example.com> Subject: Teensy ELF Executables [Regarding last week's link of the week on teensy ELF executables: http://www.muppetlabs.com/~breadbox/software/tiny/teensy.html ] Given that this isn't really an ELF file that you end up with, why not just use the following: $ echo -n 'exit 42' > a.out $ chmod +x a.out $ ./a.out ; echo $? 42 $ wc -c a.out 7 a.out Frankly, I'm tired of those bloated 45 byte executables. BTW, this works on all Unix variants. Shane p.s. Yes, this requires a interpreter, but given that /bin/ash is about 60 Kbyte and /boot/vmlinuz is about 600 Kbyte, I'd say that's fair. :)
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 12:34:22 +0100 From: Richard Kay <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Failure of the free software movement ? Your article in Dr Dobbs Journal might describe the as yet incomplete success of what to some seems an extreme ideology perhaps. The many examples of adoption of open-source development methodologies which you record for perfectly good commercial reasons also suggests very considerable pragmatic success of this movement. I also don't see the core free software ideology as anti-commercial, though a few who claim to support this may seem to do so for such motives. Another factor you miss is the noticeable drift of important semi-free software such as Netscape/Mozilla, Star-Office and KDE towards becoming completely free software, also for very pragmatic commercially-driven reasons. Your anti-GUI ease of use argument is way out of date. I might accept your critique that Linux is less easy for newbies to use in respect of my more than 2 year old Slakware 3.4 FVWM95 system. Having very recently upgraded this using the new Mandrake 7.1 basedKDE desktop this gives such a significant improvement on the GUI ease of use front that this is an improvement over Windows 98 and NT4 in this area, let alone Windows 3.1. There exists a core issue to do with the principles behind free software which your article fails to address. The progress of the free software movement described and the general advantages to inventors, authors, programmers and artists of having access to free distribution not mediated by powerful corporations is leading many of us to question in whose interest the copyright and patenting system works. This leads to a definite political question: should the state be involved in the protection of the private vested interests which patent and copyright laws involve ? To what extent do these laws protect the interests of inventors and authors as opposed to those of corporations and publishers ? There was clearly a case for such state protection 200 years ago when a well capitalised printer could readily cream the commercial value of an impoverished author's work, but copyrights and patent laws are no longer seen to protect those in whose interests they were originally passed. It is now up to those who would seek to maintain these protections to justify why the general public should be deprived, by the force of law, of their pre-existing natural right to make copies of works considered worth copying. Richard Kay