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March 22, 2001
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 19:02:56 -0800 From: email@example.com (Bryan Henderson) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: What is Linux? You bring up the issue of just what is a Linux distribution. You conclude that it's fuzzy, but seem sure of one thing: It must have a Linux kernel. I can't see a classification of operating systems that include the Linux kernel as being very useful. In fact, 90% of the times I read "Linux," the statement is not at all dependent on the system running a Linux kernel. Replacing the Linux kernel with Hurd or the Solaris kernel makes about as much difference in the overall system as replacing the Apache web server or KDE desktop (or X Window System). I don't know why Linus allowed his name "Linux" to be used to refer to entire operating systems, while at the same time also being the name of the kernel he distributes, but by far the most widespread use of the name now is for the class of systems, not the kernel. If Linus decides to limit the use of the name to systems that include a Linux kernel, we should respect that (and in many cases will be legally forced to), but then we should get a new term for the general class of systems that we know today as "Linux." I think Stallman would donate something with "GNU" in the name. -- Bryan Henderson Phone 415-505-3367 San Jose, California
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 10:21:40 -0600 From: John Palkovic <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: re: XFree86 4.0.3 - time to dump version 3.x ? I run Debian GNU/Linux and xfree86 on powerpc hardware. Non i386 hardware is not well-supported. Does lwn.net assume that everyone running linux is on intel hardware? We who are not have a different perspective. I tried upgrading to X 4.02 last week. I think I had to power-cycle my machine 4 or 5 times. I lost count. It was locking up. I ended up restoring /, /var, and /usr from a backup to get back to a stable configuration. My linux box is sitting behind a firewall on a home lan. So I'll stay with xf 3.3.6 for now, thanks. It works and my box is nice and stable. Sincerely, -John Palkovic -- "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001 12:59:18 -0500 (EST) From: Joe Klemmer <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: "Harlan Ellison vs. the right to code" and "Perl Literacy" I read this article with a bit of amusement. A number of years ago the Sci-Fi cable channel had a show "Sci-Fi Buzz" on which Harlan had a 5 minute rant segment on which he would spew venom on whatever topic he felt like, though usually with some kind of SF bent. Half the time I agreed with him and the other half I thought he was a total brick-head. I remember one where he blasted every 'Net user as being completely devoid of any intelligence or even habits of personal hygiene. But I digress... The point of his statement "This presents interesting issues regarding the responsibility for the release of software which effectively pollutes the intellectual property environment" is one that we all should take a good, hard look at. Just the idea that software is in some way different than any other tool for information distribution is one that seems to becoming more prevalent of late. Napster being the highest profile case of this but there's more issues, like the DMCA and IP/Copyrights, that need to be fought off. The phone company is not legally responsible for illegal acts done by users of their system (i.e. threatening calls, drug sales, etc.). Software developers should have no less protection. On a smaller side issue; the little blurb about 99.99% of high school seniors not being able to read perl was, IMO, not something worth publishing. Perl is a good thing and and all but not being fluent in it is in no way going to make US high school seniors "painfully unprepared for life after graduation." In the grand scheme of things (and even in the world of software development) perl is a very little blip on the radar. When it comes to software development C/C++ and COBOL are more important programming languages to be fluent in for working on any new software development project (I won't even mention the maintenance side of things where COBOL has more code in existing systems than all other languages combined). Better that high school seniors be fluent in English and software development fundamentals than any specific language. Expecting high school seniors to be fluent in perl is on par with expecting them to be fluent in Japanizes. --- If I actually _could_ spell I'd have spelled it right in the first place.
From: email@example.com Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 12:37:31 -0600 (CST) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Ol' Uncle Harlan I am a deep admirer of Harlan Ellison. Anyone who can create as much art (and good art too boot) and still find time to stir every hornet's nest he can find (always in the name of the integrity of the creator's rights, mind) is someone far more worthy of admiration than any pop star or sports hero. What LWN finds ominous, I find familiar. We have been through this before with copiers and VCRs. Harlan is not to be denigrated for attacking Gnutella. He is availing himself of his legal rights to bring suit in court. The question to be settled is not the right to code, but the right to steal creative works. There can be no doubt that the copier and the VCR can be used to facilitate theft of creative works. The question that was settled in those cases was that there were substantial legal uses of those devices that outweighed the potential for criminal use. That's why you can still buy copiers and VCRs. That doesn't make it legal to pirate books or movies with them. Harlan (and his lawyers and co-plaintiffs) is asking a court to decide the same question of Gnutella. Now, if you want to defend gnutella, I suggest that you stop accusing Harlan Ellison of trying to gag programming, and start making legal use of Gnutella to copy files you have a right to copy. Start using to set up web server mirrors and so forth, so there is a body of legal use to point to in court. If, as I suspect, the primary use Gnutella is criminal copyright infringement, then Harlan and company have every right to use the courts to block its use. I think too many users of Free Software think it means the disappearence of author's ownership and rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Free Software is a redfinition of how the author is compensated for his or her creative effort. He gets paid in kind with the free use of others source code. Harlan is quote right to draw a distinction between this and, for example, fiction. A work of art is sui generis, and quite different from an algorithm. Certainly a program may be artfully expressed, but it is not a purely aesthetic construct. It is, at leat in part, a practical contrivance. And the value the GPL places on the author's work is the practical value. It says "I'm giving you this practical thing, and in return, I expect any new practical thing you make from it to be available to me, and to anyone else." I must agree with Harlan that this concept doesn't extend to the signle solitary work of art. The *ability* copy does not confer the *right* to copy; neither should Stallman's invention of the GPL be construed as an implicit right to the same priviledges with a non-GPL'ed piece of code. Both Ellison and Stallman are arguing that it is the creator's rights that must be respected. The copying of copyrighted works of art is an attack on the same social order that upholds the GPL. Only a child thinks everything is "Mine! Mine! Mine!" -- Michael A. Schwarz email@example.com
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001 23:36:15 +0000 From: Pete Birkinshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: ESR on Socialism I respect ESR a great deal for the marvelous work he has done for Open Source Software, but his claim that "Under socialism, if you do not choose to "cooperate", you will be oppressed, imprisoned, and quite possibly killed." is bizarre. Most of the developed world is frequently governed by "Socialists", yet I can't remember them being any more oppressive to their citizens than the USA is. Is he really grouping the governments of Canada, Europe, Australia and so on with Stalinist states? If he is, how? Totalitarian, oppressive states are nasty whatever their political alignment. Mr Raymond should try to see the difference between liberal, christian-democratic parties and communist dictatorships. In all fairness, Thomas Hood and Andrew Pimlott made the same basic error, but they aren't as high profile. ESR's views on Open Source Software deserve to be heard. If he continues to make silly, extremist statements like that, then most people outside the USA will think he's crazy, and that will hurt the OSS movement he works so hard to promote. Is Linux "socialist"? No. It's based on a gift economy. ESR's right about that. Pete Birkinshaw
From: Christian Hellon <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: free software and politics To: email@example.com Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 13:24:17 +0000 (GMT+00:00) Oh, dear, what a tizz about one little word. Thomas Hood writes a letter offering an opinion on the political character of a particular social movement - admittedly, not a commonly-shared opinion - and suddenly half your letters page is devoted to a mass apoplexia. The usual suspects figure, of course; Eric Raymond libels a goodly number of European states with his broad statement: Under socialism, if you do not choose to "cooperate", you will be oppressed, imprisoned, and quite possibly killed. Hmm. The USA is a capitalist democracy, and has the death penalty. Sweden is a pretty good example of a socialist democracy, and doesn't. Where is one more likely to be "imprisoned and ... killed", exactly? P James writes: But when you publicly defame someone, as Mr. Hood did, he ought to at least provide some proof of his opinion. This gets to the heart of the matter. Over in the UK (in fact, in most of Europe) socialism isn't a dirty word, and any attempt to claim that saying someone is a socialist is somehow defamatory would be laughed out of most serious arenas (except possibly John Smith House, but that's a minor detail). Not to mention that socialism, communism and anarchism are all very distinct, with quite separate historical roots and very little sympathy for each other. But this confusion over where in the political spectrum the whole free software movement lies would appear to indicate that we seem to have something genuinely revolutionary on our hands, which indeed we do - as Eric Raymond points out in CatB, we've rectified the tragedy of the commons; a commonwealth of software now exists, and rather than being taken from, every time it is used it is added to. More than this, we've created an entirely free market; it's capitalism without the capital. Every player can compete on equal entry terms, for there is no scope for monopolisation of any kind. The only determinant to how well you do is how good you are. Isn't this what Ayn Rand was on about for pretty much the entirety of "Atlas Shrugged"? And yet, there are some distinctly anti-capitalistic overtones to the whole business. As capital (also known as property) has effectively ceased to exist, so the concept of "ownership" has been undermined. Everyone knows Linus is "the guy who wrote Linux", but which of us would be brave enough to claim that he, or Alan Cox, or any of the other developers "own" their code? Certainly in this society, ownership dictates a certain level of rights, but adopting the GPL as a licence amounts to a voluntary rescindment of many, if not all of those. The right to future control over the product, for example - Linus can't withdraw his code from the GPL, only his continued efforts. Nobody can. So we end up with a protected commonwealth - a deeply left-wing ideal, whichever hue you prefer. And since we've managed it without state support (one could even say "despite state opposition", given what copyright law was intended to do), it could be argued that it's closer to anarchism than to anything else. Hence all the ideological arguments - it's a genuinely confusing position. I come off well from it, because it reflects my own confusion. :-) But at the end of the day, it's just software; it makes computers work better, but it doesn't solve any pressing social concerns. Could someone please figure out a way to apply it to growing wheat? -- the desk lisard is at firstname.lastname@example.org "i don't know why i'm crying, am i suspended in gaffa?" ____________________________________________________________ Freeserve - get your free ISP service including web-mail at: www.freeserve.co.uk
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001 17:14:59 +0000 (GMT) From: Jonathan Riddell <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Eric Raymond's LTE I would like to thank Thomas Hood for his recent letter on free software and socialism. He made some good and reasoned arguments. What he didn't do was accuse his targets of being murderers, as Eric Raymond did in his reply - a more shallow and un-thought out argument would be hard to find. Clearly American schools are doing a poor job of teaching a balanced criticism of all political ideologies. If you can't "cooperate" under pure capitalism then you'll struggle to survive. A person who is, say, physically disabled in a socialist country will receive fair state help. As for Eric Raymond, he has lost all my support for anything "open source", from now on it's free software all the way for me. Jonathan Riddell Bridge of Allan, Scotland email@example.com http://www.jriddell.org ________________________________________________________ 1 Allanvale Road | firstname.lastname@example.org Bridge of Allan | http://www.jriddell.org FK9 4NU Scotland | 01786833048
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 16:20:13 -0500 From: "Steve Mercer" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: re: Commentary: Microsoft co-opts open source approach >From http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-201-5067896-0.html Some comments... >However, the agreement does not allow customers to modify or customize the >code, and Microsoft anticipates that problems or bugs that customers may >find in Windows will be reported to Microsoft for resolution through normal >support channels. [snip] >The advantage of providing Windows source code is that Microsoft enlists tens