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News Bytes
By Michael Conry

News Bytes


Selected and formatted by Michael Conry

Submitters, send your News Bytes items in PLAIN TEXT format. Other formats may be rejected without reading. You have been warned! A one- or two-paragraph summary plus URL gets you a better announcement than an entire press release. Submit items to gazette@linuxgazette.net

 January 2003 Linux Journal

[issue 105 cover image] The January issue of Linux Journal is on newsstands now. This issue focuses on Networking/Telecom. Click here to view the table of contents, or here to subscribe.

All articles older than three months are available for public reading at http://www.linuxjournal.com/magazine.php. Recent articles are available on-line for subscribers only at http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/.

Legislation and More Legislation

 ElcomSoft Innocent

The first criminal trial under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has resulted in a not-guilty verdict. The history of this case goes back to July 2001, when a soon to be famous Russian programmer by the name of Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested while attending Defcon in Las Vegas. He had come to the attention of the authorities through his work for software company ElcomSoft on a computer program capable of removing copy protection on documents created using the Adobe ebook format. Sklyarov's presentation at Defcon was on the subject of the weak protections offered by this ebook format

Dmitry's incarceration was to last 3 weeks, subsequent to which he was required to remain in the United States for a further 6 months while various legal details were hammered out. The result was that Dmitry would not have to face prosecution. Instead his employer, ElcomSoft, would have to face the charges, and Dmitry would be obliged to return to the US to testify in the trial. In the course of these events, widespread public opinion was sympathetic to Dmitry's plight, and this was likely a factor in Adobe's distancing itself from the case. Notwithstanding this, Adobe is still (as reported by The Register) a strong supporter of the DMCA, and advocates further criminal prosecutions.

In the intervening period leading up to the current trial, unsuccessful attempts were made to pre-emptively stop the prosecution based on challenges to the constitutionality of the DMCA law. These arguments were based on assertions of the right to free speech (including the rights of third parties to fair use of copyright materials), and also on a claim that the law was so vague as to be unconstitutional. Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed these motions in May 2002. Although the Judge accepted that computer code was free speech, he asserted that the DMCA was content neutral and thus dealt with computer programs on the basis of its purpose, rather than its content. He also decided that no fair use was prohibited by the DMCA, while acknowledging that many uses may be made substantially more difficult. Whyte also ruled that the law was sufficiently precise to be constitutional. This decision is a significant victory for the DMCA supporters, as was noted by Lewis Clayton in his review of IP cases in 2002, and strengthens the legitimacy of the law.

Following some difficulties with visas and the US State Department, Dmitry and Alex Katalov (chief executive of ElcomSoft) finally travelled to California in December 2002 for the trial. Some transcripts from the trial have been made available online. Additionally, Lisa Rein has done a good job of reporting on the court proceedings. A significant point on which the trial hinged was whether ElcomSoft wilfully broke the law. It was the jury's opinion that while ElcomSoft's product may have violated the DMCA, they did not distribute it while aware of this infringement. The open manner in which the product was distributed contributed to this image. The jury is also reported as having difficulties with the severe curtailment of users' rights inherent in the application of the DMCA to the ebook format.

The consequences of the verdict are unclear. Don Marti believes it is a hugely positive development, and that Federal prosecutors will be slow to attempt another DMCA criminal case given the failure of the ElcomSoft prosecution. Linux Weekly News is less upbeat, and sees this primarily as a victory for ElcomSoft. The point is made that it has now been shown that the DMCA can lead to "expensive criminal trials and arrests, even if they win in the end". This is only partly true, since as Don points out, the Federal authorities will only prosecute cases they believe can be won, and the ElcomSoft verdict raises the standard of evidence required to justify such an opinion. However, the civil-law provisions of the DMCA can also be used to cripple smaller companies with the burden of an expensive DMCA defence, and it is at the discretion of the complainant if and when to bring such cases.

Below is a quasi-random selection of the recent media reporting on the case, arranged in approximately chronological order.

 DVD Jon

Jon Johansen is another young man who has found himself in court in the past month as a consequence of his involvement in software development. Jon's case began three years ago, when the young Norwegian participated in the development of the DeCSS program. The purpose of DeCSS was to allow playback of DVD movies on systems, such as Linux, which lacked DVD playback software. Though Johansen has been strongly associated with the DeCSS software, he is keen to point out that he was only a minor collaborator in its development. However, the other collaborators in the project have remained anonymous, leaving Johansen facing criminal charges in a Norwegian court.

Though Jon could have faced up to 2 years in jail, the prosecution has sought a sentence of 3 months probation along with payment of US$1400 court fees and confiscation of his computers should he be found guilty. Jon has strongly defended his innocence. Prosecution questioning appears to have focused on the possible use of DeCSS for DVD piracy. Johansen has argued that although DeCSS could possibly be used in some forms of piracy, piracy is entirely possible and quite easy even without DeCSS. The primary purpose of DeCSS is the playback of DVDs that customers have legally purchased. A verdict is expected early in January 2003.

It is worth putting this case in the context of other cases which have been taken in the US to suppress DeCSS. Cryptome has a large number of documents relating to these cases, as does the EFF. Of particular interest is Jon Johansen's testimony in the New York DeCSS trial, where he gives much of the background to these cases. Though Jon's trial relates to the actual development of the software and breaking protection on a DVD, in the case of the NY trial the issue concerned the legality of simply linking to DeCSS on the internet. Many have objected strongly to these draconian prosecutions, and have ridiculed the law by finding novel, clever or humorous ways to distribute DeCSS. An example is Phil Carmody's publication of a prime number which is also, neatly, a valid DeCSS executable. This follows from his first "illegal" prime which contains the DeCSS source code.

 The Yes Men

The DMCA has also found use in efforts to silence a group of satirical impostors, known as The Yes Men. A parody website, which was located at www.dow-chemical.com, was constructed to draw attention to the 18 year legacy of the Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India which killed 20,000 people. Union Carbide is now a part of the larger Dow company. On the 18th anniversary of the tragedy, a hoax press release was issued, purporting to be from Dow and addressing why Dow was unable to accept responsibility for the injuries and deaths.

"We understand the anger and hurt," said Dow Spokesperson Bob Questra. "But Dow does not and cannot acknowledge responsibility. If we did, not only would we be required to expend many billions of dollars on cleanup and compensation--much worse, the public could then point to Dow as a precedent in other big cases."

Dow's reaction was one of anger, and a letter was sent to the site's upstream provider verio.com requiring the removal of the website. This communication served notice of a violation of the DMCA (the parody used logos and designs from the original Dow website), and this effectively obliged Verio to take immediate action. Verio withdrew service to Thing.net, the New York activist oriented ISP hosting The Yes Men's site. This action simultaneously took down a range of unrelated arts based websites. Subsequently, Verio has served notice that Thing.net must relocate to another provider within 60 days, after which point service will be terminated.

As well as intimidating the service providers, Dow succeeded in taking control of the www.dow-chemical.com domain name (which it turns out they owned, as it was registered by the pranksters in the name of James Parker, son of the Dow CEO). Nevertheless, the website can be viewed at numerous mirrors. A list of current mirrors can be found in The Yes Men's account of events. The original press release is also included.

Linux Links

Australian newspaper, The Age, has published an interview with Rick Moen (yes, the Rick Moen of The Answer Gang).

LinuxDevices.com has published the proceedings from the Fourth Real-Time Linux Workshop held December 6-7, 2002 in Boston.

Some links of particular interest from Linux Weekly News:

An encouraging Siliconvalley.com report on the accessibility of Linux to new users.

Vanishing Features of the 2.6 Kernel.

Dustin Puryear explores recent enhancements to Samba. (Dustin is also an LG author.)

The BBC reports on free software, as explained by Richard Stallman.

Fitting a computer to an albatross.

Some interesting stories from The Register:

Newsforge commentary on teaching GNU/Linux to new users.

PC World article reporting a study which says that the appeal of Linux is emotional rather than technical.

Tinyminds.org have interviewed kernel developer Robert Love. He discusses some issues relating to the current development kernel series, and how new features will manifest themselves for desktop users.

Some links highlighted by Linux Today:

Linux and Main, rewindable desktops. Summarises a paper by Bowie J. Poag.

Some links of interest from Linux Journal.

Santa considers switch to Linux, Red Hat is frontrunner.

LinuxSecurity.com has reported that despite the availability of fixes attackers are still compromising servers with well known attacks. The article has tips on improving security and security awareness. Some interesting links from Slashdot:

Upcoming conferences and events

Listings courtesy Linux Journal. See LJ's Events page for the latest goings-on.

Consumer Electronics Show
January 9-12, 2003
Las Vegas, NV

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo
January 21-24, 2003
New York, NY

O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference
February 3-6, 2003
San Diego, CA

Game Developers Conference
March 4-8, 2003
San Jose, CA

March 7-11, 2003
Austin, TX

March 12-19, 2003
Hannover, Germany

4th USENIX Symposium on Internet Technologies and Systems
March 26-28, 2003
Seattle, WA

PyCon DC 2003
March 26-28, 2003
Washington, DC

April 7-9, 2003
New York, NY

SD West
April 8-10, 2003
Santa Clara, CA

COMDEX Chicago
April 15-17, 2003
Chicago, IL

Real World Linux Conference and Expo
April 29-30, 2003
Toronto, Ontario

USENIX First International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys)
May 5-8, 2003
San Francisco, CA

USENIX Annual Technical Conference
June 9-14, 2003
San Antonio, TX

CeBIT America
June 18-20, 2003
New York, NY

The Fourth International Conference on Linux Clusters: the Linux HPC Revolution 2003
June 18-20, 2003
Las Vegas, NV

O'Reilly Open Source Convention
July 7-11, 2003
Portland, OR

12th USENIX Security Symposium
August 4-8, 2003
Washington, DC

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo
August 5-7, 2003
San Francisco, CA

News in General


Spaces are still available for the iCanProgram course. iCanProgram began a year ago, offering online programmer training courses with a "no fee in return for a Cancer Research donation" format. Over the course of 2002 more than 1500 students have participated.


Debian Weekly News reported on the 'stable' launch of GNUtemberg! Free Documentation Database, or GFDD. The GFDD is a free database for free documentation, providing services such as indexing, translation management, information on official publishing, document ratings, statistics and search.

 Galuna S.R.L.

Galuna S.R.L. aims at supporting and improving Linux for Romanian users. The company translated major parts of GNOME desktop environment and helps new users migrate from Microsoft products to Linux, increasing productivity while reducing costs and software piracy rate which is very high in Romania.

To help clients benefit from open-source software advantages at high quality standards, Galuna offers both standard and custom solutions. Visit www.galuna.ro for presentations of Linux advantages and available desktop applications.

 IBM Ships New Linux Ready eServer Systems

IBM has announced that it is shipping Linux ready IBM eServer pSeries systems. Equipped with POWER4 processors, IBM claims the new eServer system costs substantially less than a comparably configured Itanium 2 based system from Hewlett-Packard.

 rpmseek.com - New rpm search engine

The new Linux portal www.rpmseek.com claims to offer users of the Linux operating system a convenient search engine for rpm packages. The packages can be searched by various criterions, such as package name, file name, distribution, keywords, dependencies or files that a package contains. Dependecies between packages are resolved by cross references.

For every rpm package there are numerous detailed informations collected, links to different mirror servers are listed for the download in geographically arranged order. Another highlight is the classification of all rpm packages into categories. This way, a special software type or functionality can be found by browsing the tree structure of the categories. The site also aims to offer a range of documentation and discussion groups.

Distro News


The Debian Project has updated the current stable release (Woody) to Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 updated (r1). This update has involved the acceptance and rejection of some packages. The total list of changes for both the regular and non-US branches can be viewed online

Debian Weekly News reported that apt-get.org is now up and running. It maintains a list of unofficial APT repositories.

Debian Weekly News also highlighted two resources which would be of some use to those customising Debian. Martin Sjögren has made available scripts for building CD images based on the new debian-installer. This is of use in putting together small CD images. Also of interest is Create your first Debian Package. Clemens Lee's new Mini-HOWTO entitled " How to Create Your First Debian Package", which describes how to create a Debian package for installation on one's own computer, rather than for inclusion into the official Debian archives.

DesktopLinux has published an interview Colin Walters of the Debian Desktop subproject

DebianPlanet have published an article describing the process of downgrading from Sarge to Woody with Debian.


In the past month, MandrakeSoft has publicised financial difficulties that could threaten the future of the business. The company has appealed for more users to contribute financially through the purchase of Mandrake products, or by investing directly in the company. It is also hoped that the introduction of commercial licences will help generate larger revenue streams, though Mandrakesoft is at pains to emphasise that this does not represent a retreat from Free Software.


ROCK Linux 1.5.20 has been released.


Slackware 8.1 has recently been reviewed by Unix Review and by Distrowatch.


SuSE Linux has announced that the German city of Schwäbisch Hall (population 36,000) will build its IT infrastructure entirely on SuSE Linux - replacing a more costly Windows installation. The town will deploy SuSE Linux on IBM Intel-based servers as well as up to 400 PCs - saving the city an estimated amount of more than one hundred thousand Euro over the Windows installation.

 Xandros Desktop

DistroWatch has published a review of Xandros Desktop 1.0.

Software and Product News

 ActiveState PureMessage: email protection

ActiveState Corp., a producer of email gateway filtering systems, has released PureMessage 3.0 (formerly PerlMx), an update of its anti-spam, anti-virus, and policy compliance solution. PureMessage 3.0 provides IT administrators with new features including a web-based administration console, enhanced spam identification and management flexibility, optional end user quarantine management, next generation anti-spam heuristics, and the McAfee anti-virus engine. The product is aimed at mid to large sized organisations.

 SCO Update and UnixWare 7.1.3

The SCO Group has announced the launch of SCO Update Service, a new program that is claimed to make the upgrade process for SCO operating systems more efficient and less costly. The service is available for SCO Linux 4.0, UnixWare 7.1.3 and will be available for SCO OpenServer 5.0.7 when it ships early next year.

The Update Service simplifies and streamlines the process of deploying new technology and keeping deployed systems up-to-date. This service provides electronic notification and delivery of operating system changes, gives the system administrator control of the upgrade process and helps customers accurately budget for the cost of system upgrades.


Farpointer Technologies has announced a new automated session management tool for the Apache server. The company's iConductor server module interacts with HTML files to automatically implement session tracking via any URL. In addition, iConductor manages simple key/values as well as complex documents such as Web Services requests and replies. These features save a significant amount of developer time in building Internet-based applications. A free trial version of iConductor and an online demonstration are available online.

 CylantSecure free for personal use

Cylant, a provider of host-based intrusion prevention systems for the Linux server platform, has announced that it is offering the newest version of CylantSecure (2.0.2) free for personal use.


ProjectForum provides a solution for flexible workgroup collaboration and coordination of projects over the web. It can be used for project planning, todo lists, design notes, task assignments, meeting notes, problem reports, team discussions, collecting feedback, research, brainstorming and more. Version 1.1 (the first public release) is now available, with versions for Linux, as well as Windows, MacOS X, and FreeBSD.

 ActiveState Updates Perl Development Portfolio

ActiveState has announced new releases of its Perl tools and language distribution: Perl Dev Kit (PDK) 5.0, Visual Perl 1.7, and ActivePerl 5.8. The Perl Dev Kit features tools for building and deploying Perl applications. Visual Perl is the Perl plug-in for Visual Studio .NET. ActivePerl is ActiveState's quality-assured distribution of Perl, available for Linux, Solaris, and Windows.

 Fast Hardware Backup of Big IDE Drives

Arco Data Protection Systems, a provider of low cost IDE disk mirroring (RAID 1) hardware, has announced the release of The DupliDisk3. DupliDisk3 facilitates maintenance up-to-the-minute backups of data and software. The DupliDisk3 supports the Windows, LINUX , Macintosh and DOS operating systems and works by creating an exact bootable replica of your hard drive. The software is designed to handle drives as large as 131 Petabytes (131,072 Terabytes) and can provide copy speeds up to 48 Gigabytes per hour (800 Mbytes per minute).


Mick is LG's News Bytes Editor.

[Picture] Born some time ago in Ireland, Michael is currently working on a PhD thesis in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin. The topic of this work is the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has been very useful in this work, and Michael has a strong interest in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering. When his thesis is completed, Michael plans to take a long walk.

Copyright © 2003, Michael Conry. Copying license http://www.linuxgazette.net/copying.html
Published in Issue 86 of Linux Gazette, January 2003

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