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See also: last week's Linux History page.
Six years ago Slackware Linux 3.0 was released. It included such bleeding-edge features as the ELF binary format and the 1.3.18 kernel.
Five years ago, Red Hat released version 4.0 of its distribution. For the first time, it supported the Sparc and Alpha architectures, along with the usual x386. Other innovations included an XFree86 configuration process accessible to mere mortals, pluggable authentication modules, and the ill-fated "Red Baron" web browser.
Three years ago (October 1, 1998 LWN): This was the week when Intel and Netscape announced investments in an obscure company called Red Hat Software. If you were not paying attention at the time, you will likely have a hard time understanding the impact that those investments had. Intel has put its support behind numerous Linux companies over the last few years, and an investment from Intel is now relatively unremarkable.
At the time, however, it was the first direct statement from an established technology company that Linux was going to go somewhere. It brought a new legitimacy to the Linux business arena. To a great extent, this investment changed the situation overnight.
In a way, the investments could be looked at as the day Linux bought a suit and shaved. Linux, a Unix-like operating system, so far has mostly been an underground computing phenomenon.
LWN reviewed GNOME 0.30. Things have come a very long way since then.
Cygnus released the first version of its eCos embedded operating system.
Red Hat, which had a proprietary CDE offering back then, discovered that it was full of bugs. Not only that, but Red Hat couldn't fix them. So they dropped the product, and pretty much got out of the proprietary software business altogether.
The development kernel was 2.1.123. This kernel came out with a bunch of compilation errors due to a messed up patch application. After the screaming reached too high a point, Linus threw up his hands and left to take a vacation. This was one of the famous "Linus does not scale" events of the 2.1 development series, and served notice that something had to change.
Three years later, kernel development seems much more stable - at least, from this point of view. Of course, there has been no development kernel since January...
Caldera officially launched its 1.3 distribution. SuSE announced its "Office Suite 99" -- essentially a package built around its distribution and the ApplixWare office suite.
Two years ago (September 30, 1999 LWN): Embedded Systems Conference was in progress, with lots of Linux activity. The big players were Cygnus, with its new EL/IX platform, and Lineo, which had a thing called "Embedix" in the works.
PC Week put up a "Hack PC Week" challenge; its Linux server was promptly hacked. The problem, as it turned out, was a third-party ad serving script they had put on the system, along with a distinct lack of attention to application of security updates.
Somebody was trying to get a project management system for the Linux kernel adopted. It's still not there.
The first release of GNOME's Bonobo component system happened.
The Magic Software penguins got pink slips.
It wasn't fatal because Java was a smoke-blow. But Linux is for real. Now is Microsoft going to make the same mistake? The smart thing to do, IMHO, is to fully embrace Linux. Let's work together to make Windows apps run beautifully on Linux. It'll be good for Microsoft. The only other choice is to be at odds with developers because the pull to Linux is economic and inexorable.
We hope Dave wasn't holding his breath, waiting for it to happen.
Linus Torvalds was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Stockholm.
Yes, open-source licenses are boring, complicated, obtuse and multiplying in number faster than porn spam. But they are also the heart of the flourishing open-source software scene. The way they are used, or more to the point, the way they are not abused, is worth paying close attention to. Particularly if you are part of an industry like, say, the music business, where there currently seems to be a wee problem of copyright violation.
Hewlett-Packard won our 'fun patent of the week' award. They have a patent on embedded web servers. HP, thus far, has made no move to enforce this patent.
Red Hat released Red Hat Linux 7 and also launched the Red Hat Network. Intel introduced an open source software implementation called CDSA - Common Data Security Architecture. Lineo released Embedix 3.0 and announced uClinux 2.4, based on the 2.4 pre-release kernel series.
The Embedded Systems Conference hosted a panel session entitled "The Open Source Movement: Boon or Bane for Embedded Developers?" LWN's report can be found here. The anti-open source side brought up the old "open source does not innovate" charge:
It is significant that the major open source companies are all leveraging already existing open source products, which were originally written with no commercial motivation. I contend that these companies will fail to ever truly innovate. Innovation requires a level of risk, and the returns will never justify the risk when the playing field has been levelled by an open source philosophy.
Quoting John Fogelin of Wind River Systems:
The embedded market is inherently fragmented, and therefore does not lend itself to being supported by a community-based open source development process. One way or another, in the embedded market, you really must invest in unique technology, because the needs are truly individualized. Innovation really does cost money.
And here is the other side of the debate.
The truth is that the free software movement is a long overdue course correction that reverses the software technology industry's progression towards a state that holds the rights of software vendors in higher regard than the rights of software consumers. Furthermore, products of the free software movement provide models that demonstrate how software should be designed, managed, and marketed in the coming years.
Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.
September 27, 2001