Robert X. Cringely has reported
on a new threat to Linux: a Microsoft-driven version of the USB standard
which will not be usable by Linux. The article is rather short on details,
but the idea seems to be that only "trusted" USB devices could be written
to, and the mechanism for identifying and communicating with these devices
would be closed. You'll be able to install Linux on your future
motherboard, but it will not be able to work with the new USB devices.
This sort of story comes around fairly regularly. Long-time LWN readers
will remember some past worries:
- Once upon a time, the "Merced" architecture from Intel was to be
the future of computing. Unfortunately, Merced was under
nondisclosure, and, in any case, getting gcc to generate code for that
architecture was said to be beyond the capabilities of its developers.
In the reality, Merced, later named Itanium, had top-quality Linux
support from the beginning. We're still waiting for the "future of
computing" part, though.
- The I2O specification was kept under wraps for some time, and it
looked like Linux would be unable to drive any I2O-based hardware.
Richard Stallman called I2O
"a broad plan to keep hardware specifications secret".
As it turned out, the specifications were released, and Linux supports
I2O without trouble.
In other words, we have seen this sort of thing before. Fears of
Linux-killer hardware turned out to be misplaced even in the 1990's, when
Linux was a far smaller commercial force than it is now. In the current
climate, it is hard to imagine the hardware companies adopting a
fundamental technology (a processor or bus architecture, say) that was
deliberately closed to non-Microsoft operating systems. Not all vendors
rush out to embrace Linux, BSD, and MacOS users, but few will see a
business case in explicitly excluding them. Especially if that exclusion
would consolidate the position of a company which has not always
distinguished itself with its considerate treatment of its "partners."
On the other hand, proprietary hardware and digital restrictions management
schemes do bear watching. The troubles Linux has had with playing DVDs
have been well documented. The "broadcast flag" will restrict the ability
of Linux systems to work with digital radio receivers in the future.
"Trusted computing" schemes may keep Linux off some hardware altogether.
There are threats out there, but an exclusionary USB specification
is probably not one of them. Nobody besides Cringely seems to know
much about this new USB standard, however, and the Linux USB developers are
not particularly worried about it. For the time being, the rest of us
probably need not worry either.
Comments (7 posted)
The final release of Fedora Core 3 isn't expected until November 1
with the release
of Fedora Core 3 test 2 (FC3t2) on Monday (a week later
than originally planned) we decided to check in and see what users could
expect from the next release of Fedora Core. We also contacted Red Hat to
see if Cristian Gafton or another representative would be available to talk
about Fedora, and its relation to Red Hat's commercial products, but they
were unable to provide a representative to speak to LWN by deadline.
This release marks the addition of the GNOME 2.8 release candidate, KDE
3.3.0, X.org 6.8.0, and the udev
We gave FC3t2 a try on an Athlon XP 2000 system with 1 GB of RAM. One thing
we noticed was that the media check failed all of the disks we burned, but
we were able to perform an install from the media without any
problems. This seems to be an
issue that came up during tests of FC3 test 1 as well. While bugs and
glitches are to be expected in test releases, we note this particular issue
so that users trying out FC3t2 do not burn through a stack of blanks in a
futile attempt to burn four good disks.
Users will find that the default partitioning has changed a bit since
Fedora Core 2. By default, the installer will attempt to set up LVM rather
than the standard "simple" partitioning most Linux users are used to. There
seem to be a few bugs left in the partitioning tool, as the installer
informed us we were "probably out of disk space" when attempting to
install. However, when we performed an install using a standard
partitioning scheme, all went well. No doubt, this will be ironed out by
the time that FC3 final is released.
Fedora Core 3 marks the Fedora team's second stab at SELinux, and they are
asking that users give SELinux another try as well. According to Colin
Walters, this release marks a scaled-back approach that should cause fewer
problems while still providing additional security for "select system
Instead of the original "strict" policy which covered everything, a new
"targeted" policy has been developed which only applies SELinux
restrictions to a few select system daemons. Regular user login sessions
The initial approach to SELinux was probably a too-radical departure for
many users, so we're happy to see the Fedora team taking a more moderate
approach that will (we hope) build support for SELinux over time.
However, the actual documentation and tools for SELinux leave a bit to be
desired, as Matias
Feliciano points out on the fedora-devel list. While the "targeted"
policy is "mostly
invisible" to the end-user, so is the documentation for users
who want to customize and tweak their SELinux policy.
FC3t2 marks the introduction of the udev device model to Fedora. The udev
device model implements
devfs in userspace, creating a dynamic
/dev that allows consistent naming of devices. Users upgrading
from test 1 or installing udev on
test 1 reported a few bugs, but we didn't see any problems with udev
from a clean install.
Despite the occasional glitch in the test release, FC3 is shaping up
nicely. It's not a radical change from FC2, most of the changes are package
upgrades and further refinement of existing features. The udev device model
is probably one of the most major changes that users will see in FC3.
It bears mentioning that the Fedora Core development process still seems to
be shy on community involvement. However, Red Hat and the Fedora team have
provided a usable Linux distribution with many of the cutting-edge technologies
that users want to try. From that perspective, we think that Fedora has
become a success.
Comments (4 posted)
There is a movement afoot, initially pushed by Brazil and Argentina, to
change the mission of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
is available. There is also the text
of a declaration (PDF)
which will be debated in Geneva on
September 30. "As an intergovernmental organization, however,
WIPO embraced a culture of creating and expanding monopoly privileges,
often without regard to consequences. The continuous expansion of these
privileges and their enforcement mechanisms has led to grave social and
economic costs, and has hampered and threatened other important systems of
creativity and innovation.... We do not ask that WIPO abandon efforts to
promote the appropriate protection of intellectual property, or abandon all
efforts to harmonize or improve these laws. But we insist that WIPO work
from the broader framework described in the 1974 agreement with the UN, and
to take a more balanced and realistic view of the social benefits and costs
of intellectual property rights as a tool, but not the only tool, for
supporting creativity [and] intellectual activity.
Comments (3 posted)
Occasionally we get a message noting that we have not been posting "LWN
update" articles, and wondering how things are going. We are still trying
to keep a lid on such articles, but we're about to hit an important
anniversary. It is now two years since we began
the subscription experiment
, so the time seems right for a look at how
things are going.
Our goal at the outset was 4,000 subscribers. As of this writing, LWN has
just under 3,300 active, paid subscriptions - up from about 2,700 at this
time last year. Things are clearly headed in the right direction, even if
they are not yet where we would like them to be. The next big test will be
to see what happens over the next month as the "great expiration" sets in.
We got a big group of subscribers right at the beginning, and many of their
subscriptions will expire (again) in the next few weeks. Last year's
"great renewal" brought in enough cash to see through the slow parts of the
year (we're sure glad we hung onto it at the beginning); with luck that
will happen again. Our subscription renewal rate tends to be quite high,
and you can be sure that we are grateful for it.
We're looking to add more new subscribers, of course. The external authors
program has helped to fill out our content, but LWN could really
benefit from another editor who could write original content and provide a
bit of redundancy. We will continue to work to find those subscribers;
going out and marketing LWN to new readers has proved to be a challenge,
Meanwhile, we plan to continue to do our best to provide top-quality,
comprehensive coverage of the Linux and free software community. Many
thanks for your continued support; it is a pleasure to write for this group
[As an aside: we have noted for a while a certain number of people creating
accounts without giving us working email addresses, then trying to sign up
for our mailing lists. That is clearly not going to work. If you do not
get the mail you expect, please try going into the My
Account area and making sure we're sending it somewhere useful.]
Comments (17 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Next page: Security>>