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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 bytes@lists.linuxgazette.net

Legislation and More Legislation


Werner Heuser, the owner of the Mobilix project (Now located at tuxmobil.org) still has not given up on securing the right to use the Mobilix name. He has been involved with Les Éditions Albert René the publishers of the Asterix comic books in a long running legal wrangle over the right to use the name. The book publishers claim that the name violates their trademark of the name Obelix (a character from the books, and Asterix's sidekick). Having lost his final appeal in the German courts, it looked like Heuser would have to admit defeat. However, it now appears that the Obelix trademark itself may be vulnerable to challenge, and Heuser is exploring this possibility with his lawyers. Given the nature of this dispute, it is likely that it will be quite some time before we know how this new counter-attack will pan out.


We in the GNU/Linux community are all surely aware of the GPL, a licence under which many of the developers behind the software tools we use daily have decided to release their work. Though opinions can vary on its merits, even in the worst BSD vs GPL flamewars some shred of sanity usually persists. In this light, it is very interesting to see how very very far from sanity a competent professional journalist, such as Daniel Lyons of Forbes, can go when dealing with the issue.

Daniel discussed the GPL in the context of a licencing dispute that is currently being worked out between the FSF and Cisco regarding GPLed networking code that has been incorporated illegally into some of Cisco's products. In fact, the situation is a little more complicated in that Linksys did the incorporation, but the company was subsequently bought by Cisco who now have to deal with the problem.

What is interesting, in a mostly bland article, is the lengths Daniel goes to in portraying the FSF's licence enforcement actions as some sort of bully boy tactics. The FSF are referred to as "Linux's Hit Men", who have "in secret ... been making threats", this "hired enforcer" wants you to "burn down your house, or at the very least share it with cloners". Granted, I am selectively quoting from his article, but the message comes through loud and clear even when you read it in its entirety -- he might as well have dropped the word "terrorist" in there. What he does not mention, is that the actions of any software creator could be portrayed in this way when they attempt to enforce the terms of their licences. Indeed, the entire article could be construed as an argument against software licences in general.

It is nice to contrast Lyons' empty and misleading rhetoric with the measured and nonconfrontational response of Bradley Kuhn of the FSF. Equally encouraging, is to read the comments posted on the Forbes website by readers. They were overwhelmingly at odds with the content of the article (probably due to the coverage the article got in the Linux press) but more importantly, the tone of the responses was both thoughtful and polite.


Following up on last month's news regarding a European victory on the software-patents front, NewsForge has published a very worthwhile article by Richard Stallman giving his thoughts on the news and on the current situation. It is encouraging to see that even the great RMS was a bit confused at first whether the news was good or bad (on balance it was good news).

As Stallman points out, the success in getting the legislation amended at Parliament is only a partial victory. It still needs to be approved at the Council of Ministers on November 10th. If such an approval is secured, it will be a very significant win.

Readers who are resident in the European Union, and who support the restriction of software patentability might like to take this opportunity to contact their elected representatives and make their opinions felt. This time it is probably best to focus on national parliamentary representatives, rather than the European Parliament members, since The Council of Ministers represents the member states' governments. That said, there is no harm in putting the message out as widely as possible!


They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled off was to convince the world that he did not exist. Well, I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that the greatest success SCO has pulled off is to convince the world that they are worth wasting time on. Frankly, if they're not actually suing you (as opposed to huffing and puffing about it), and you don't feel like suing them, there really isn't much point in giving them your attention. Graham Lee, in a Slashdot comment, put it nicely:

Where SCO press is concerned, Do Not Feed The Troll. SCO are undoubtedly revelling in the fact that every time their marketing droids put pen to paper, their output is mirrored on /., newsforge, linux.com and any number of similar sites. I expect they use this coverage to show their investors how seriously the community takes SCO's business, and how the Linux-using and Open Source Software communities are incredibly worried about the fact that 'they stole SCO IP and used it in their anti-competitive software'. In short, SCO profit from the coverage, and Darl McBride's worth increases with every SCO post on /..


In summary, as I said at the top, SCO are trolls. Please do not feed them in the future.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Linux Links

Linux Focus The E-zine LinuxFocus: has for November/December the following articles:

Some links found via LinuxToday

Some links from O'Reilly:

The Chinese Ministry of Education is launching a major Grid computing initiative making heavy use of GNU/Linux running on IBM hardware

Some links from NewsForge:

Putting together a Linux based router using Zebra

Mobile internet connectivity by satellite for travelling around Australia.

Upcoming conferences and events

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

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo HK2003
November 4-5, 2003
Honk Kong

HiverCon 2003
November 6-7, 2003
Dublin, Ireland

November 17-21, 2003
Las Vegas, NV

Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE)
November 22, 2003
Los Angeles, CA

Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC)
December 8-12, 2003
Las Vegas, NV

Linux Clusters Institute Workshops
December 8-12, 2003
Albuquerque, NM

Storage Expo 2003, co-located with Infosecurity 2003
December 9-11, 2003
New York, NY

Consumer Electronics Show
January 8-11, 2004
Las Vegas, NV

January 12-17, 2004

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo
January 20-23, 2004
New York, NY

O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference
February 9-12, 2004
San Diego, CA

March 12-21, 2004
Austin, TX

SD West
March 15-19, 2004
Santa Clara, CA

Open Source Business Conference
March 17-18, 2004
Park City, UT

CeBit Hannover
March 18-24, 2004
Hannover, Germany

March 24-26, 2004
Toronto, Ontario

2004 USENIX/ACM Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI)
March 29-31, 2004
San Francisco, CA

RealWorld Linux
April 13-15, 2004
Toronto, Ontario

CeBit America
May 25-27, 2004
New York, NY

Strictly Business Solutions Expo
June 9-10, 2004
Minneapolis, MN

USENIX Annual Technical Conference
June 27 - July 2, 2004
Boston, MA

O'Reilly Open Source Convention
July 26-30, 2004
Portland, OR

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo
August 3-5, 2004
San Francisco, CA

USENIX Security Symposium
August 9-13, 2004
San Diego, CA

USENIX Systems Administration Conference (LISA)
November 14-19, 2004
Atlanta, GA

News in General


The Register has reported that NTL, a cable company and ISP providing dial-up internet access in the UK, has introduced new dialer software that only runs on Windows and Mac. The new dialer software is the only way to make a connection with the NTL service and thus GNU/Linux (and other OS) based systems have been locked out.


Though not specifically a Linux project, the Public Library of Science is an initiative that will be of interest to many in the Free Software community. In part formed as a reaction against the strangle-hold exerted by the large commercial publishers on scientific publication, the stated aim of PLoS is to

[make]... the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource
Certainly an aspiration that many GNU/Linux users would share.

Though greeted with some initial scepticism by the larger publishing community, the first issue of PLoS Biology has been well received. This strong beginning looks like it will continue as the article "Learning to Control a Brain-Machine Interface for Reaching and Grasping by Primates"[3.3Mb pdf, synopsis] from the second issue of the journal has received extensive coverage in both the scientific and general press.

An important revenue stream for the journal is supplied by authors, who pay a $1500 fee to submit articles. This fee is intended to cover peer review costs. Though the presence of such a fee can be a barrier to publication, it is not uncommon for traditional peer-reviewed journals to also charge such a submission fee (in addition to charging readers for access to the published work).

Distro News


OSNews have published a review of of ArchLinux


LinuxForce has noted that 2003 has been a good year for Debian GNU/Linux. They have put together a list of the most significant news stories about Debian so far this year. [ Courtesy DWN]


The LFS Development Team has announced the release of LFS-5.0-PRE3, the third pre-release of the upcoming LFS-5.0 book which is available at http://www.linuxfromscratch.org

The BLFS Development Team has proudly announced the release of BLFS-5.0-PRE1, the first pre-release of the upcoming BLFS-5.0 book. You can read it online or you can download the book from to read it locally


There was an interesting recent report on Linux Planet regarding the GAR build system used by the LNX-BBC Project.


MandrakeSoft have announced the availability of a new version of its flagship operating system--Mandrake Linux 9.2 Unfortunately, the release has been the subject of one particularly unpleasant bug which can result in the permanent damage of LG CDROM drives. Various discussions on Slashdot and in newsgroups have followed this news. A preliminary list of affected/unaffected drives was posted in the alt.os.linux.mandrake newsgroup by Peter Breuer, though obviously no warranty can be supplied with the information. The most authoritative source of information on this bug is the Mandrake errata page.

The bug could have wider impact, since it appears to be associated with packet writing code added to the 2.4.22-rc2q5 kernel rather than being something that is uniquely confined to Mandrake.


PHLAK is a modular security-focussed GNU/Linux distribution, geared to be used as a live CD. PHLAK was created as a tool security professionals could use to perform security analysis, penetration testing, forensics, and security auditing. The distro is based on Morphix.


OSNews has published a review of Sorcerer Linux, a from source GNU/Linux distribution.

 Yellow Dog

NewsForge has published a review of Yellow Dog Linux 3.0.1. Yellow Dog is a GNU/Linux distribution intended for users of Apple Mac hardware.

Software and Product News


Bogofilter, a statistical mail filter, has reached version 0.15.7.


The release of version 0.9.3 of the free, open-source flight simulator FlightGear has been announced. A list of updates introduced in this new version is available online.


The release of version 22.5.8 of LILO has been announced.


OpenOffice.org has released version 1.1 of the popular open source office suite. It is available for download now.


LinuxDevices has reported on the recent release of Opera 7.21


Mick is LG's News Bytes Editor.

[Picture] Originally hailing from Ireland, Michael is currently living in Baden, Switzerland. There he works with ABB Corporate Research as a Marie-Curie fellow, developing software for the simulation and design of electrical power-systems equipment.

Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.

Copyright © 2003, Michael Conry. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 96 of Linux Gazette, November 2003

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