One of the many changes called for in the new Mozilla roadmap was a new
emphasis on the Phoenix browser
- and a
new name. The Phoenix name, it seems, has a number of trademark problems.
So the Mozilla project, after some thought, came up with a new name for its
to-be flagship browser: Firebird.
There's only one problem: the Firebird relational database
project has been using that name since 2000. This project is working
on a fork of the InterBase code; it just announced
the availability of the first Firebird 1.5 release candidate. The
Firebird developers are, needless to say, less than impressed with
Phoenix's new name.
The response from the Mozilla project, to the extent that there has been
one, seems to be that the two projects exist in different spaces, so there
is no naming conflict. The fact that "Firebird" is the name of an
automobile made by Pontiac is not a concern; a relational database with
that name is no more of a problem. Mozilla and its corporate sponsor may
have a defensible argument with regard to trademark law, but this is
clearly not a good way to treat other members of the free software
community. The Firebird name is not yet established - in the browser
domain, anyway. The Mozilla project should pick a new one now, when it is
Comments (14 posted)
SCO has sent out a
on a new version of SCO Linux Server 4.0. It is a
fairly mundane offering; SCO, too, wants to sell high-priced "enterprise"
version of its distribution; the version just released starts at $999 and
runs on the Itanium architecture. It is only "licensed" for up to four
processors, however; bigger machines will cost more.
If you go to the product page on
SCO's site, though, you see some interesting things. They advertise all
sorts of "next-generation enterprise features" including logical volume
management, asynchronous I/O, the O(1) scheduler, journaling filesystems
(including JFS), PCI hotplugging, high availability features, etc. All the
sort of stuff that an aspiring business distribution with a (probably) Red
Hat-derived kernel should have.
The only problem, of course, is that these are all features that, according
to SCO's suit against IBM, could not exist in Linux unless SCO's
proprietary technology had been stolen and put there illegally. SCO is
even advertising features (JFS, EVMS) that were directly developed and
contributed by IBM; JFS was even listed explicitly in the company's
complaint. This is all stuff that, according to SCO, is
destroying SCO's Unix business and depriving the company of a billion
dollars (minimum) worth of intellectual property.
The proprietary technology that, according to SCO, was misappropriated is
certainly contained in this new distribution. And SCO is shipping it with
source, licensed under the GPL. Before filing suit, SCO might have been
able to claim that they didn't know that "their" property was contained
within their Linux distribution. But they have no "plausable deniability"
now. SCO is, itself, shipping the code that, it claims, is destroying
its business. The company is trying to have it both ways, selling Linux
while claiming that the product is tainted. It would be interesting to
hear how SCO justifies this position. Unfortunately, SCO did not respond
to questions sent by LWN, so we can't tell you.
Comments (7 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
What is Software in the Public
Interest (SPI) up to these days, and does anybody care? If you're
newish to the Linux Community, it wouldn't be surprising if you hadn't
heard of SPI, though SPI and the Open Source Initiative (OSI) were big
news back in 1998 when they were squabbling over the
Open Source trademark.
SPI is a non-profit organization that acts as a kind of umbrella
organization for Free Software projects like Debian, the Linux Standard Base and GNOME. SPI is a non-profit
organization, and it accepts donations for the projects and holds the
trademarks for supported projects that have them.
SPI has two classes
of membership, non-contributing and contributing. The only requirement
for a non-contributing membership is a valid e-mail address, but it does not
confer voting rights. Contributing membership is reserved for "people
who are actively contributing to the free software community."
Recently SPI added three new members to its board of directors, Bruce
Perens, John Goerzen, and Benjamin Mako Hill. Perens, who originally
helped found SPI, left the organization in 1998 to work with the OSI and
was part of the big dust up over the Open Source
trademark. SPI board
members are elected by contributing members of SPI.
Prior to the recent election, Perens said that the group was having
problems making a quorum at board meetings. In fact, V.P. Martin Schulze
his position as V.P. because several other members were not donating enough
time to their positions. Ean Schuessler is now V.P., and the position of
president is still
Lohner stepped down
Recently, there had also been some concerns about allocation of funds by
SPI, but the new board passed
a resolution to clarify how donations would be earmarked. SPI will also
no longer be taking a five percent cut of donations for overhead, because
it was not clear that part of a donation for a specific project, like
Debian, would be going towards SPI.
For the most part, SPI's functions are pretty low-key. Perens says that
SPI's function is basically to "handle funds well" for its
organizations. According to Schulze, one of the things that SPI is
currently working on is counting votes for the Open and Free Technology Community
election, and working against "reasonable and non-discriminatory" patent
policies in several standards organizations.
Perens says that board is now making quorum at meetings and that things
should go more smoothly in the future. "Can't say there's a ton of news.
There used to be problems, but they're not problems anymore."
Comments (3 posted)
The installation nightmare story was a fairly common feature of the
late-90's press. Some reporter who had never tried to install any sort of
operating system before would write about his or her horrifying week trying
to get Linux running on some system or other. The conclusion, invariably,
was that Linux wasn't ready for the masses.
You don't often see that sort of story anymore; the mainstream
distributions have become ridiculously easy to install. And, if you don't
worry about installation, plenty of companies will happily sell you a
system with Linux already on it.
But that doesn't mean that all the problems have now been solved...
Your editor recently needed to replace a failing inkjet printer. Some time
spent wandering the detailed information at LinuxPrinting.org turned up a
reasonably inexpensive model which, according to the information there,
"works perfectly." That is music to a Linux user's ears, of course. So, a
quick trip and some minor credit card damage later, the printer sat on the
table, ready to start burning through expensive ink cartridges.
I'll not inflict upon you the details of what it took to make this printer
work on an almost-current Red Hat Linux system. In general terms, it
required building new versions of CUPS and gimp-print from source, editing
the PPD file by hand, and several other hacks. It took a couple days of
effort. Now, your editor has been making printers work on Unix (and other)
systems for a good twenty years. Printers have always been a pain.
But this was worse than many.
It should be pointed out that, in a lot of ways, things are better than
they have ever been. It is possible to put an inexpensive printer onto a
Linux box, get top-quality output in all of the modes that the printer
supports, and make it available over the network. Only a few years
ago, doing this required hacking on filter scripts and learning more about
strange ghostscript options than one would ever want to know. Now, most of
the hard work has been done; it's mostly a matter of getting the right
software running in the right place. The people working on Linux printing
have done an impressive amount of great work.
But it's not yet enough. Users should not have to rip out their print
system by the roots and rebuild it from source just to plug in an
off-the-shelf printer. They should not have to navigate a complex array of
software with names like foomatic, gimp-print, ghostscript, etc. and figure
out how it all goes together. They should not even have to upgrade to a
bleeding-edge distribution to make their printer work.
Windows users don't have to go through that sort of process. Of course,
they have the advantage that their new printer comes with a CD containing
the software needed to make that printer work. Linux users do not (yet!)
receive any such courtesy. So we have to come up with a different way.
Some of the work has been done. The PPD files used by modern free printing
systems contain much of the information needed to present an interface to
the user. What's missing is a description of how to drive the printer. We
need a means of describing printers in data, so that support for any
printer is just a text file away. This was done for terminals a good
twenty years ago; getting vi to work on a terminal was just a
matter of setting an environment variable. Printers are harder to describe
than ASCII terminals, but we've solved a lot of hard problems over the
Imagine a world where any Linux user can go to the store and buy a nice
looking printer, along with plenty of spare flesh-tone, DMCA-protected ink
cartridges. The system, once it notices that a new printer has been
plugged in, goes out on the net and grabs the right description files. And
the printer just works. That would be a system that is ready for
desktop and home users. And it's something that we should be able to
Comments (13 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: How spammers find you; new vulnerabilities in ghostscript, KDE, lprng, xfsdump, ...
- Kernel: Dynamic device naming; translating kernel messages; two new driver porting articles
- Distributions: Which Distribution for Grandma? New this week: blueflops
- Development: Kodos: A Python Regular Expressions Tool, Planet CCRMA updates,
new versions of iptables, CUPS, Foomatic, Analog, Quixote,
BEAST/BSE, GNUsound, Epiphany, GNOME Fifth Toe, Evolution, Crystal Space,
GIMP, GRASS, Wine, OpenOffice.org, CMUCL.
- Press: Linux ready for the desktop, OpenBSD goes after buffer overflows,
ACLU loses DMCA fight, Super-DMCA, Stallman interview, Linux soundapps.
- Announcements: Novell's open-source web site, MySQL conf, PyCon papers, GU4DEC registration,
Linux World Keynotes, Argentina's BioLinux Group.
- Letters: Distribution tracking; searching for software; Linux and Longhorn.