...making Linux just a little more fun!
By Michael Conry
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Linux Weekly News has drawn attention to the growing awareness among Linux kernel developers that they may be routinely violating patents. The LWN report has links to the mails on the kernel mailing list (including contributions from Alan Cox and Linus Torvalds), along with reader comments. Further reader comments can be found with the Slashdot coverage of the story.
In more encouraging patent news, BT (British Telecom) has lost its patent lawsuit against Prodigy over a patent BT claimed covered the hyperlink. You can read reaction to the story at Slashdot.
Here are some links and news related to the DMCA which you might find of interest.
News.com has reported that some of the supporters who helped the DMCA pass are having second thoughts. This has emerged through a RIAA vs Silicon Valley debate sponsored by the Cato Institute. Wired also reported on the same debate, focusing on how the computing revolution of 1950-2000 wouldn't have happened under today's copyright regime (DMCA). This recalls George Monbiot's article describing historically how the absence of patents has produced strong economic growth.
Declan McCullagh of News.com has written that the DMCA is not so bad and the EFF is overreacting.
"The DMCA is both an egregious law and a brazen power grab by Hollywood, the music industry and software companies. It is probably unconstitutional. It creates unnecessary federal crimes, cedes too much authority to copyright holders, and should be unceremoniously tossed out by the courts... [However,] a careful look at the DMCA shows that, far from prohibiting all security research, the law does not regulate as many activities as people seem to believe. And if activists hope to assail a law like the DMCA, they'll be taken more seriously if they know what they're talking about."Slashdot readers generally reacted with scepticism, though there were some dissenting voices. LWN's coverage of these issues is interesting reading too. Also worth a look are Declan's photos of the DMCA's corporate sponsors hobnobbing with Congressmen during the DMCA's success party -- looks like it was a good night!
More Declan! Slashdot highlighted an interview by Declan McCullagh with Sarah Deutsch, a vice president and associate general counsel at Verizon. She is argues against the DMCA and explains how her company plans to stand against such developments.
The Register reported recently that HP made moves to use the DMCA to quash a Tru64 bug report. Later on, they appeared to see the public relations nightmare the tactic could turn into and abandoned the DMCA-fuelled madness. Maybe Alan Cox wasn't so far off the mark before when he began censoring his changelogs.
Slashdot highlighted an interview with Ben Edelman in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ben Edelman is a Harvard law student and internet researcher who is bringing suit against the DMCA with the ACLU. He wishes to be free to publish research on the lists of sites blocked by internet filtering software.
The Register recently reported on the proposed United Kingdom implementation of the European Union Copyright Directive (sometimes called "Europe's DMCA"). Comments are currently being taken by the UK Patent Office, and these could influence the final shape of the law. It could turn out badly, but if the UK government is encouraged to take advantage of all available opt-outs, it would be a help. Obviously this is primarily of interest to UK readers, but it has relevance to all EU readers.
The trial of Jon Johansen, creator of the controversial DeCSS software has been postoponed [The Register] until December. The delay is to facilitate the appointment of a suitably technically informed judge. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has further information on the case.
Cory Doctorow has written an in-depth analysis of how Hollywood's plans could interfere with the electronics industry, and the computer industry in particular. This was also discussed on slashdot
Another interesting article, on the subject of online music/media distribution , is The Internet Debacle - An Alternative View by Janis Ian. It highlights things that are wrong with the current situation, along with possible ways to change it. The fallout and follow up to the article has also been published.
A third article definitely worth reading is Lawrence Lessig's keynote speech from the O'Reilly Open Source Convention. You can read it in html, and if your connection/patience is up to it you can download the audio in mp3 format.
Finally, the Boston Review has an article entitled Reclaiming the Commons, which has a lot of relevance to the Open Source community. Further online comments and replies are also available.
Microsoft and other players on the proprietary software scene have been sufficiently rattled by advances of open source software into government infrastructure to set up a lobby group [News.com] called The Initiative for Software Choice to convince governments in Europe and South America that legislation favoring open-source software is not in their best interest.
This is a reaction to developments such as California's proposed Digital Software Security Act, which would forbid the state from purchasing closed-source software. However, as LWN reports, the law is quite extreme and has little chance of actually being passed. None the less, it is good to see these ideas floating into the mainstream. In a similar vein, it has been reported that the Spanish Administration has been pleased with its initial experiences of Linux. Advogato have the full story.
The following articles are in the July/August issue of the E-zine LinuxFocus:
A couple of links from Linux Journal
Some links from The Register:
And a few links from Linux Weekly News:
Michael Lucas at O'Reilly discusses how using groups minimizes the need to give users the root password, while still allowing them to accomplish their jobs.
Infoworld report that Bruce Perens has left HP to devote more time to activism
Linux and Main report on the release of GCC-3.2.
CNN and Money Magazine take a look at Linux.
Drew Daniels has written a report that describes methods of backing up a Debian system. The program cruft is used to find files that are not covered by properly installed packages. This complements the chapter in the sysadmin guide about making backups. ( From Debian Weekly News.)
Bruce Sterling's talk on Open Source, from the recent O'Reilly Open Source Convention.
Linux makes headlines in professional DJ circles with Final Scratch.
As a follow-up on the USB 2.0 announcement in last month's News Bytes, here's a FAQ from linux-usb.org for your further information. www.linux-usb.org is always good place to look if you have any problems with USB devices on Linux.
Rick Moen has written a FAQ on WordPerfect on Linux, which also covers some other topics of longer-term interest than the decline of WP. (The FAQ is also available in single page format.)
Some links from Slashdot
Communications Design Conference (CMP)||September 23-26, 2002|
San Jose, California
IBM eServer pSeries (RS/6000) and Linux Technical University||October 14-18, 2002|
Software Development Conference & Expo, East (CMP)||November 18-22, 2002|
Listings courtesy Linux Journal. See LJ's Events page for the latest goings-on.
The Samba Team has a number of significant expenses and so have decided to setup a donation system to allow users of Samba to make contributions to help cover the cost of running samba.org and developing Samba.
The project to get Linux running on an XBox is proceeding quickly. In August the news emerged that the first functional version of XBox Linux had been released. At time of writing, the current release is 0.2, and features framebuffer support (screenshots here). ISO images are available for download from the project's Sourceforge site. The project has not run entirely smoothly, however, and it was recently reported that project founder Enrico Kern has left the development group due to differences with the current team leader.
OpenSSH was trojaned in early August. The LinuxSecurity.com advisory has details on how to tell if you are affected (basically, you should be worried if you downloaded the OpenSSH source between 30th July 2002 and 1st August 2002).
You can read news coverage of the vulnerability at The Register, and at Slashdot.
We Want Linux, a self-funded non-commercial group of IT professionals, would like to see the computing consumer have as many options in the marketplace as possible, and in particular would like to see those who have an interest in GNU/Linux be able to try out a demo machine in stores like CompUSA and Best Buy, the same way they can right now with Windows. The group also feels that the potential Linux desktop user ought to have the same opportunity as those who use Windows, that is, to buy a computer with Linux pre-loaded and thereby avoid the hassle of installing an operating system. To these ends the group have created a web site www.wewantlinux.org, for the purpose of surveying the computer-buying public and determining how much demand there is for off-the-shelf computers with GNU/Linux pre-loaded. You are invited to visit the site and participate in the survey. Once a significant amount of survey data has been gathered, the findings will be presented to the retailers in the hope of persuading them to demo Linux in their stores.
LinuxOrbit's tutorials on the Debian packaging tools and on the Debian way to install a kernel are probably of interest to most Debian users. Also likely to be of interest is Jay Salzman's Debian Jigdo mini-HOWTO which was recently added to the Linux Documentation Project. Jigdo has made retrieving Debian ISO images far easier and more convenient than it was in the past.
Knoppix 3.1, a Debian based distro run entirely from CD was released recently. Knoppix featured as project of the week on Linux and Main.
Several security updates are now available for Slackware 8.1, including updated packages for Apache, glibc, mod_ssl, openssh, openssl, and php. The details are in the Slackware 8.1 ChangeLog.
Telia Connect, a Danish subsidiary of Telia, a Scandinavian telecommunications and Internet service provider, executed a long-term agreement with the Nuremberg-based SuSE Linux AG for the maintenance of its IBM zSeries G7 mainframe systems. Telia Connect's positive experience with SuSE Linux Enterprise Server started in 2001, when the ISP consolidated a heterogeneous farm of 70 Unix servers on one IBM mainframe. Since then, the Internet pages and e-mail accounts of more than 400,000 customers continue to be processed on one single IBM S/390 mainframe.
MTU Aero Engines has decided to use a Linux cluster for its engine development. The Linux cluster consists of 64 Dell PowerEdge 1550 standard rack servers with two 1.13 GHz Intel Pentium III processors each, and a total main memory of 144 GB SDRAM for the implementation of additional computing capacities. SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7 is used as the operating system. The computers are networked using Fast Ethernet and 2 GBit/s Myrinet.
United Linux participants Caldera (now The SCO Group), Conectiva, SuSE Linux and Turbolinux have announced that UnitedLinux will be available as a closed beta product by the end of August to partners of the four founding companies. It is expected to be publicly available in open beta by the end of Q3 2002.
To participate in the UnitedLinux closed beta, please visit www.unitedlinux.com or contact any of the four founding Linux companies.
Kevin Scannell has announced the release of a new version of his package ispell-gaeilge (Irish language support for International Ispell), and the launch of a completely new package aspell-gaeilge which uses the same word list plus a description of Irish phonetics to improve the suggestions when a misspelled word is encountered. This second version works with Kevin Atkinson's "aspell" program.
More information (in English) is available from http://borel.slu.edu/ispell/index-en.html
A new version of NSA's Security-Enhanced Linux has been released, dated August 23. It includes a 2.4.19-based kernel.
GMx Solutions has announced the release of CM_SAFE version 1.5 with support for Linux on iSeries and disaster-recovery functionality. CM_SAFE provides configuration management and version control for configuration files on Open Systems servers. Systems administrators can save configurations to the configuration repository. When a configuration problem occurs, they can retrieve a known-working configuration with a single command.
The CM_SAFE server is available for Linux partitions on iSeries and zSeries, with agent support available for all major UNIX distributions and platforms.
SableVM is a portable bytecode interpreter written in C, and implementing the Java virtual machine specification, second edition. Its goals are to be reasonably small, fast, and efficient, as well as providing a well-designed and robust platform for conducting research.
SableVM implements many innovative techniques (bidirectional object layout, spinlock-free thin locks, sparse interface vtables, etc.) and is licensed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License.
Manning's Extending and Embedding Perl aims to explain how to expand the functionality and usefulness of the Perl programming language and how to use Perl from C programs. The book spends a lot of time discussing how to write interfaces to C libraries (as well as C++ and Fortran libraries). It shows how to implement Perl callbacks for C libraries, how to pass Perl hashes and arrays between Perl and C, and how to use the Perl Data Language infrastructure to improve the speed of array operations.
The book is available both in 384pp softbound format ($44.95), and 2Mb PDF format ($13.50), from the publisher at www.manning.com/jenness. (Note, I have not reviewed this book - MC.)
Rev. Linda Richard is planning to expand her Christian Publications website into a resource for those seeking Linux Compatible Software which is religious/inspirational in its content. Currently the site features a collection of documents in relatively Linux-friendly formats (PDF), but there are plans to include further resources and links to resources.
Appligent, a suburban-Philadelphia software developer and provider of PDF-related software applications is introducing SecurSign 2.0, a server-based solution that allows for the high-volume, on-demand application of security and digital signatures to PDF documents. SecurSign 2.0 also offers user and owner passwords and restrictions for printing, modifying, and copying text and graphics, as well as adding or changing notes and form fields.
SecurSign 2.0 is compatible with the Adobe Acrobat Digital Signature Mechanism found in Acrobat 4.0 and 5.0, and documents signed using SecurSign 2.0 can be verified using Adobe Acrobat. SecurSign 2.0 is available for Windows, Linux 7, AIX, Mac OS X, Solaris and HP-UX.
RoadRunner has reached version 0.9. RoadRunner is an application toolkit library implementing BEEP (Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol). (LG wonders if RoadRunner 1.0 will implement the BEEP-BEEP protocol ;-).