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Security web site Packet Storm was taken off-line by Harvard University on July 1st. Packet Storm was described by SecurityPortal.com as, " gigabytes of open source and free security software, categorized in a well thought out manner. We could find nearly all the tools we needed there, from network analyzers and intrusion detection utilities, to firewalls and encryption solutions. " They covered the incident in this article, focusing on the need to share responsibility for protecting important software archives, such as Packet Storm.
A mainstream media view of the incident came from this ZDnet article, which focused on how Harvard was caught in the cross-fire between Packet Storm creator and maintainer Ken Williams and Anti-Online's John P. Vranasevich. More partisan views can be found at hackernews.com or Slashdot.
From our perspective, the good story that came out was how quickly people were able to work together to retrieve the thought-to-be-lost data from Packet Storm. Rik van Riel started a movement to find pieces of the site downloaded by various people and piece together the original site, with relatively quick success.
Harvard has now returned Ken's data, but the effort to find a new primary home for the site continues. Downloads from Packet Storm were estimated to run over 8GB per day, so the development of a good mirror system is essential and up to 50 mirrors may be required to spread the load of support for Packet Storm across the world. If you would be interested in becoming a mirror for Packet Storm, consider joining one of the packetstorm mailing lists, described here, and inform people on the list of your willingness to help.
Linux for mission-critical applications is the topic of this PCWeek article by Anne Chen. It contains two major case studies where Linux was chosen for a mission-critical application. The first was by Cendant, looking for a cost-effective way to implement an efficient hotel reservation system for its franchisees, including Ramada and Days Inn. In the second case study, oil-giant Amerada Hess saved millions of dollars by replacing an IBM SP2 system with a "parallel multiprocessor Linux solution" (can you say Beowulf?). That decision was recommended by the company geophysicists; management listened.
These are some fabulous examples of Linux moving out of the realm of web servers and ISPs, into situations where its cost-effectiveness and reliability can reap great rewards.
It seems Lotus will only come kicking and screaming into the fold after all. This article takes a look at Lotus' plan to release a Linux version of their Domino product in late 1999. However, it ends with the comment, "What Lotus won't be doing, however, is bringing the Lotus Notes client or SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.5 office suite to Linux. Users looking to using Lotus applications on their KDE or Gnome desktops can forget about seeing Linux ports of these--at least for the immediate future. Of course, we don't know what portability or technical issues may be responsible for this lackluster response to demand for such products. If there are no such barriers, it is hard to understand why Lotus would not welcome an opportunity to bring office desktop applications to a new platform on which Microsoft applications are not yet available.
In his column from yesterday, entitled "Linux Don't Blink, Dave Winer had some encouraging words for the Linux community and some good advice for Microsoft. Actually, the advice is so good, that we hope (and expect) that Microsoft won't follow it! To sum it up, he tells them to first match our price (or at least get in the ballpark), keep their hands off the Linux community (it will only backfire) and market to developers based on their intelligence. That's powerfully good advice.
Last week, we mentioned the Free Practice Management Project, the first open source project in the Medical field for which we'd received a press release. As is not unusual, a few of our readers wrote in to point out other projects in this field that have been around longer, but received little press, including the Freemed Project, which is reported to be only a month away from a stable, usable release. Also out there in this field are LinuDent, for dental offices, and Tk_familypractice, which runs on both Linux and Windows95 and has modules for prescription management, progress notes and more.
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July 8, 1999