Linux in the news
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See also: last week's Linux History page.
Correction. Last week we said that "Unisys has never tried to enforce its patent" on the LZW compression algorithm used in GIF images. We didn't do our homework very well on that. Don Marti wrote in to set us straight. Software patents show up again in the year 2000 this week.Three years ago (November 12, 1998 LWN): Stop terrorism. Use free software.
Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel international, says he has seen a still more ominous element in the software piracy food chain. "I'm not prepared to talk about specifics," he says, "but we have seen organized criminal groups using the proceeds from software counterfeiting to pay for terrorist operations overseas. We have seen a couple of terrorist organizations get involved in software counterfeiting."
The current development kernel release was 2.1.127. This kernel drew some complaints, mostly about compilation errors. Alan Cox released an -ac1 patch containing numerous minor tweaks seemingly aimed at the "jiffies wraparound" problem, MCA stuff, and an apparent return of the AVL tree for mapping virtual memory areas.
What a week ago was a discussion about the inroads Linux and Apache have made against commercial software has suddenly and instantly been redefined into a discussion of the threat Microsoft poses to Linux and Apache, and what those two development efforts have to do to survive. The very fact that we are talking this way means Microsoft is successful in redefining our way of looking at the whole subject. This is both dangerous and wrong. While Linux and Apache may be threats to Microsoft, the truth is that Microsoft in no way represents a threat to either Linux or Apache. No threat, none, zilch, nada.
Two years ago (November 11, 1999 LWN): RedHat and Oracle announced a collaborative distribution based on RedHat Linux that was intended to be aimed at high volume e-commerce sites.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact revealed that Microsoft had a monopoly in the operating system business. In the ruling, Linux was written off as a viable alternative:
Fortunately for Microsoft, however, there are only so many developers in the world willing to devote their talents to writing, testing, and debugging software pro bono publico.... It is unlikely ... that a sufficient number of open-source developers will commit to developing and continually updating the large variety of applications that an operating system would need to attract in order to present a significant number of users with a viable alternative to Windows.
Publicly traded Linux stocks jumped up in price after the announcement. Cobalt Networks fortuitously chose this week to go public, and immediately jumped to $130/share - then the third biggest opening day "pop" ever.
Rumors circulated that Red Hat would buy Cygnus - these turned out to be true.
Journaling for ReiserFS was released by Hans Reiser. Another Journaling filesystem, Stephen Tweedie's ext3 version 0.0.2c filesystem was released.
The freeze of Debian 2.2 was pushed back - until January of 2000. That seemed like a long time away, but the eventual 2.2 release was even further away.
FreeDevelopers is a democratic entity for the development of free software. The free company, probably the first of its kind in the world, will be owned and run by developers worldwide on a democratic basis in a sacred trust for the benefit and protection of the world's citizens. It will pay all developers to work on free software, and all developers will receive company shares and stock options
As an official 2.4.0 grew ever closer to reality, the "getting close to release time" ritual of last-minute queries as to why some particular subsystem is out of date and working poorly, focused on the IrDA (infrared) subsystem. This rant pointed out that the version in the mainline kernel not only didn't work, it could crash your system as well. In this case it was not that IrDA was not maintained; the problem was just that the patches are not getting into the kernel. Linus wasn't getting patches in the way he wanted them. The IrDA developers did learn to send small, clear patches frequently, instead of large chunks of code at long intervals, which were inevitably ignored. After a few months IrDA patches started getting into the 2.4.2 kernel.
LWN looked at a LynuxWorks patent covering loadable kernel modules.
But the basic claim is "A computer operating system that can be flexibly constructed by inclusion of any of a plurality of processing components." That, of course, would describe many of the operating systems created over the last twenty years. This patent is not so old, however - it was granted last June. One can only assume that the company will not attempt to enforce it.
As far as we know, this one has not been enforced. No doubt someone will tell us if we are wrong.
So it was something of a surprise when Levien posted a notice on his Web site earlier this year, offering a free license to anyone who uses his patented ideas in software protected by the Gnu Public License. In other words, anyone who shares "open source" or free software doesn't have to worry about Levien suing for patent infringement.
The LWN Linux Stock Index was upgraded to include stocks traded in currencies other than US dollars.
Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.
November 8, 2001