On the Desktop
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See also: last week's Linux History page.
Three years ago (May 14, 1998 LWN): How many of you remember the Wang lawsuit, alleging that Netscape had violated its Videotex patents with its web browser? On May 6, 1998 that lawsuit was dismissed. Netscape's lawyers credited people on the net with having sent in much useful information that lead to the dismissal of the suit.
The Association Francophone des Utilsateurs de Linux et des Logiciels Libres was founded to promote free software in the French-speaking world. In the last three years it has been a powerful force behind free software in France. Happy Birthday!
Corel made a much-hyped "we support open source" announcement, which essentially boiled down to the company porting all of its applications to Linux.
Dell claimed that none of their customers wanted Linux in this ZDNet article. LWN received an open letter from Jim Dennis to Dell telling them that their customers were already using Linux on Dell computers. Dell still isn't completely convinced. To this day the main Dell site does not mention Linux and won't even point you to the Dell Linux site.
My experience and some of my friends' experience is that Linux is quite unreliable. Microsoft is really unreliable but Linux is worse. In a non-PC environment, it just won't hold up. If you're using it on a single box, that's one thing. But if you want to use Linux in firewalls, gateways, embedded systems, and so on, it has a long way to go.
Eric Raymond talked to Ken about his "anti-Linux" stance and provided LWN with summary of the conversation, which was much less negative than the original statement.
The best news, I guess, is that Ken says he didn't intend to write off Linux itself as simply an anti-Microsoft backlash; what he was trying to say was that he believes the recent popularity of Linux in the press is an anything-but-Microsoft phenomenon. He adds ``i very much appreciate the chance to look at available code when i am faced with the task of interfacing to some nightmare piece of hardware'' and that ``i think the open software movement (and linux in particular) is laudable.''
Of course Linux is still a work in progress, and having someone like Ken Thompson point out flakiness just gives developers another challenge. Those areas where Ken saw flaky code two years ago, we see Linux flourishing today.
Linus released kernel 2.3.0, beginning the new development series.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the U.S. Government's Crypto export regulations were in violation of the first amendment. Source code is speech, and the government can not regulate it, they said. While the decision was only binding in a few western states, it was an important step in allowing the free flow of cryptographic information that we enjoy today.
Open Season was an article appearing in Wired about free software.
Never mind that some of these open-source-come-latelies may be trying to cover up for some misbegotten product that would never have had a prayer in the marketplace, or that they may well be aiming to exploit open-source resources without giving anything back in return. Those two little words - open source - have become a magical incantation, like portal in 1998 or push in 1997. Just whisper them and all will be yours: media attention, consumer interest, and, of course, venture capital.
Of course these days venture capital is pretty hard to come by, regardless of magical incantation. Nonetheless several open source companies are profitable. See this week's front page.
One year ago (May 11, 2000 LWN): Security was very much in the news. Microsoft users were contending with the "ILOVEYOU" virus/worm that was turned loose on the net by somebody with a strange idea of fun. Nicholas Petreley wrote:
Put bluntly, most developers in the Linux community would not be stupid enough to create a program as insecure and dangerous as Outlook. And if anyone were foolish enough to do so in the open source community, such a design would not be likely to survive the peer review it would receive.
True enough, but LWN warned Linux users not to gloat. It is true that we have little enough to worry about with viruses like "ILOVEYOU", but this was also the week that apache.org was cracked and the folks at Digital Creations found an ugly problem with redirects. The Apache hack turned out to be an exploit of a badly configured configuration file, easy enough to document and fix. The redirect problem is not that hard to fix either, but it still exists on many sites and has been occasionally exploited.
From time to time Microsoft advocates like to point out that with open source software there is no one that you can sue when bad things happen. Of course, even with proprietary software there are no guarantees. Although millions of people were affected by "ILOVEYOU", with damages estimated in the billions of dollars, Microsoft disclaimed any responsibility. Phil Agre wrote that "Microsoft shouldn't be broken up. It should be shut down."
Red Hat gave up its portal ambitions, laying off most of the Wide Open News staff and ceasing original writing there. Instead, Red Hat went into the venture capital business. "Red Hat Ventures" would make investments of $500,000 to $2 million in new, open source-related companies, they announced. Investments had already been made in Sendmail, Inc., Rackspace.com, and e-smith.
The Linux Standard Base (LSB) and Linux Internationalization Initiative (LI18NUX) joined forces to become the Free Standards Group. An announcement about the 0.9 release from the Free Standards Base is covered on this week's development page.
May 10, 2001