Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's Letters page.
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.
May 2, 2002
From: Brian Beesley <BJ.Beesley@ulster.ac.uk> To: email@example.com Subject: BitKeeper controversy Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 08:28:34 +0000 Hi, Please note that I'm not an active kernel developer. However, like many in the linux community, I do have an ideological interest in this debate. 1. I do NOT think it is wrong to use a commercial product in association with development of the linux kernel (or any other open source software). As far as I'm concerned, if it helps those actively involved in the development and/or management of the development of the linux kernel, that's fine. 2. I think it IS wrong if for some reason developers who elect not to use a specific commercial product find obstacles in the path to getting their work implemented which would not be there if they were using that specific commercial product. (This situation is analagous to being unable to get work accepted by publishers unless you submit documents in MS Word format.) 3. The kernel source is big enough without inclusion of material in the nature of advertising for a commercial product. A small text comment to the effect that "Product X has been used to support development of this product" is more than sufficient. 4. I don't see any reason to accept the inclusion of "billboards" into the linux product (source or binary), even if commercial organizations were to offer real money to sponsor their inclusion. IMO "free software" means "free of intrusion by advertising" as well as "free as in beer" and "free as in spirit". The problem here is, if we accept advertisements in source code, where do we stop? Advertisements appearing during system startup? Advertisements during user login? Advertisements appearing at random times during normal operation? Regards Brian Beesley
From: David.Kastrup@t-online.de (David Kastrup) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Free Software / Bitkeeper Date: 25 Apr 2002 11:49:00 +0200 You wrote in your editorial: There seem to be two main camps in the free software realm. The first sees free software as something that is fun, useful, and preferable whenever possible. This group is far more interested in getting the job done than worrying about the pedigree of its tools. Linus Torvalds, a highly visible member of this group, expressed it this way: Quite frankly, I don't _want_ people using Linux for ideological reasons. I think ideology sucks. This world would be a much better place if people had less ideology, and a whole lot more "I do this because it's FUN and because others might find it useful, not because I got religion". Would I prefer to use a tool that didn't have any restrictions on it for kernel maintenance? Yes. But since no such tool exists, and since I'm personally not very interested in writing one, _and_ since I don't have any hangups about using the right tool for the job, I use BitKeeper. The other point of view sees proprietary software as an evil to be avoided at all costs. Even discussion of proprietary software is to be avoided; [...] This _very_ clearly points out the validity of the arguments from the "radical" Free Software proponents that try to avoid (and tell people to avoid) non-free software at all costs. Creating software needs an incentive: the non-availability is one such incentive. If one always turned to proprietary software whenever Free Software of equal quality was not yet available, there would be no incentive to develop or improve Free Software whenever proprietary software was already available. Free systems would be non-existent, since it is hardly likely that _all_ components of such a system were as much of a novelty as to never have existed in proprietary form before. Free Software needs users, developers, interest to thrive. The stance of Linus Torvalds with regard to Bitkeeper is not likely to foster development of free alternatives. But who knows? Perhaps the obvious lack of a free alternative will that way be pointed out much more prominently, and will be an incentive to get something going. When Stallman set out with the GNU project, avoiding proprietary software was often not possible, and often painful. If there had been noone willing to subject himself to the insufficient situation, progress would never have been made. The continuous availability of software, once free, makes it more resistant to bit rot, developer focus changes and other mishaps often killing off or thwarting its proprietary cousins. That way, in the long run, Free Software stands a good chance to prevail. But only in those areas where stagnation does not spell doom, and the short run has to get off the ground somehow, too. As an example, current proprietary compiler technologies from processor manufacturers sometimes beat the performance of GNU gcc by quite a margin. If one followed the "pragmatical" approach of Linus Torvalds to its conclusion, it would mean that distribution authors and kernel developers should switch to proprietary compilers for creating Linux kernels where available. This would increase the performance to be expected from Linux systems. IT would also remove a big incentive to further gcc development, not least of all by processor vendors. Currently, if they want to have their processor supported and accepted by the Linux community, they need to help with improving gcc. If the nonchalant stance with regard to the use of proprietary software for the creation of free systems spread further, then there will come a time when Linux will be more efficient, at the cost of not being able to recompile a kernel unless you shell out the appropriate amount of money. That's not in the interest of Free Software. It is not even in the interest of Open Source software which tries to deny the starting labors of Free projects by claiming that the process itself is guaranteed to lead to superior results from the setout. For this reason, the obstinacy, pigheadedness, perseverance and dedication of people like Stallman is not just an exercise in futility. Sometimes groundbreaking work is required, and the "there is something proprietary available already, we don't need to do this" stance will not set it in motion. -- David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum Email: David.Kastrup@t-online.de
From: Robert Hart <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: OpenCD Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 17:12:23 +0100 (BST) I have believed for a long time that the free-software is making a big mistake by concentrating solely on *nix. Any evangelist will tell you that you can't wait for somebody to come into a church if you want to preach the gospel. I realise that windows and unix are very different beasts, but if people are to be free then we must release the grasp of microsoft finger by finger. Mozilla to replace IE, Gimp to replace Photoshop, Abiword to replace word (ok wordpad), etc, and *then* Gnome/Kde/whatever to replace the lot. I hope the OpenCD project can help acheive this, however for it to work it needs open source projects to support this vision. When this does happen (mozilla, freeamp, abiword) the results benefit us all - more developers, more users, more bug reports, better software. When this is ignored, we are left with 'flagship' applications (evolution, gnumeric), that will never be used by the people who could benefit from them the most. Robert Hart
From: Rainer Weikusat <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: twisted Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2002 14:04:09 +0200 Twisted is written in Python, a high-level language, rendering it immune i to the most common class of security flaw in network software 'incompetent programmers'.
From: "Tom Cowell" <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Best Sot Linux Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 11:13:52 +0200 So, Best Linux is Sot Linux again, because it no longer matters that Sot means "disease" or "soot" in Swedish. Does it matter that "sot" means "drunkard" in English? Tom
From: Michael Concannon <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Regarding RMS's interview (a litte belated) Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 22:29:55 -0400 I have long been an advocate of free software in my personal and professional life. However, I am by nature a pragmatist and economically conservative excluding all but the most mundane forms of activism... That said, after using Linux since the 1.x.x kernel days, flailing through the early days of Alpha/AXP integration and now moving on to integrating Linux into my professional life (ASIC Design and verification), I am troubled by the extremism of some of those who are out there rightfully and thankfully fighting to ensure that free software can: 1. exist at all in the face of increasing regulation 2. coexist (I would hope that is a goal) with non-free software. Like many Linux power users I write software for a living. Whether it is in C/C++, Perl, VHDL, Verilog or anything else, what I do day-to-day is write, compile, debug and sell my services in developing software. I greatly appreciate the ability to do so and I feel that it is my right to sell my services in this form as I see fit at a price the market will bear. In no way does this mean I oppose the distribution, creation, protection and general proliferation of free software. In fact, as I mentioned above, I find myself advocating and facilitating its use frequently where it offers an equivalent or superior solution. Always making sure to account for the real costs of using free software (all software has bugs -- someone has to make sure they either do not hurt you or are fixed in a timely manner). Further I have written a great deal of code to facilitate its use (which is very much not free and strictly speaking the property of my employer -- to whom I am really selling it for the sum of my salary). To quote Richard Stallman (taken from the lwn interview): "At a deeper level, though, the biggest threat to the future of free software is the idea that non-free software is acceptable." Recognizing that historically, extremists have driven incremental change, this seems like a flawed goal for the following reasons: 1. Software development has a high cost in the form of human time taken or given from a skilled and specialized developer. Any time you are asking someone to give of their time, you are asking them to give up a portion of their existence. Some times, for the greater good, it is worth it to do so without direct compensation, other times, it is only valuable to a small group of people and should be traded for something of value (i.e. money!) 2. Non-Free software need not fear free software and vice versa. People trying to make money from solving a problem which is already solved need to fear it and move on to more interesting problems. People solving a given problem poorly and coercing you to use their flawed solution need to fear even more. 3. The more pressing concern is not that copyright and IP ownership exist but that at present anti-trust violations, inane interpretations of the laws and laughable execution by the US Patent Office allow them to be used to prohibit people from using free software to get what they want... True Type Font rendering and DVD players demonstrate this at present... I am willing to trade my time and frustration for my hard earned money, but I cannot easily do so at present because of the current litigious environment with regard to "digital rights". In short, the more useful goal would be to facilitate the free integration of free and non-free software. Non-free software will ultimately benefit from standards created by free software. Users will benefit from the ability to select from a range of solutions and pick what fits them and their needs. Free software will benefit in that it will be used and maintained as it is the foundation on which non-free and free software rely to execute. It is always nice to find tarball on the net that solves a pressing problem. It is rewarding to circulate your own "solution" in return... Further, there are tangible benefits to releasing your source to the public: a. If it becomes the standard, you can ensure that things you build upon it will work in the future b. Developers can spend more time solving more higher level problems which build upon your solution. c. Someone else may return the favor and release a solution to a future problem of yours... However, you must recognize that __everything__ you do in life comes with a cost (time, money or longevity). You have to keep this in mind what you talk about software being "free". The best answer is almost always exactly half way between the two extremes and I do not see how this is an exception... /mike