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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@linuxgazette.net

Legislation and More Legislation


The European Union directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions has been rejected by the European Parliament by a large margin; the final tally was 648 votes to 14, with 18 abstentions. This high turnout came following intense lobbying on all sides in the run up to the vote. As reported by The Register, the directive seemed to hemorrhage support as the vote approached. The Pro-patent camp became afraid that the anti-software patent amendments might be reintroduced and given a second stamp of democratic approval (the Commission could still shelve the whole thing, but that could be politically difficult). Meanwhile, the anti-patent activists have been keen to kill this directive, which they see as having been severely tainted by the involvement of big (huge!) business pro-patent interests.

In the aftermath of this decision, both sides have tried to claim success. The Commission, which had been pushing hard for software-patentability, portrayed the vote as offering support for the current status quo, where software patents are being tacitly allowed by the EPO. However, the possibility of better enforcement of current patent regulations regarding software-patentability has been pointed to by a UK court decision to reject a software patent on the basis of Article 52 of the EPC (European Patent Convention).


The recent behaviour of Cisco regarding the publication if a flaw in its products has highlighted the ways in which legal proceedings can be used to the detriment of individuals and indeed the security of a community. This story centres on the decision of Michael Lynn, an employee of Internet Security Systems, to publicly announce a flaw in Cisco's IOS (Internet Operating System) software. Lynn came to his decision to go public after Cisco was notified of the vulnerability, but had failed to remedy the fundamental problem. As Lynn has noted, the source-code to Cisco's IOS has been stolen twice, so he felt there was a significant chance that outside parties would soon be able to develop a practical exploit unless measures were taken to force Cisco to patch the flaw.

When Cisco became aware of Lynn's decision to speak at the Black Hat Conference, pressure was put on ISS, Lynn's employers, to prevent him from going through with his presentation. Lynn was also personally threatened with legal action. Following this pressure, Lynn resigned from his position at ISS, but went ahead with his presentation.

The basis for Cisco's legal attack on Lynn was that he had illegally obtained his information, as to do his research he had violated the Cisco license agreement with regards to reverse engineering. Although in the immediate aftermath of Lynn's presentation he was still being threatened with legal action, a settlement has since been reached. The terms of this include preventing Lynn from further using the Cisco code in his possession for reverse engineering or security research, and he is also forbidden from presenting his research on this flaw again. In the meantime, Michael Lynn is looking for a new job.

Bruce Schneier has posted (and updated) a very good summary and analysis of this case on his blog.

Linux Links

Preliminary work is underway to launch an EFF-like organisation for Britain

Joel Spolsky has reviewed Eric Raymond's book, The Art of Unix Programming. Incidentally, the entire book is available online.

Five addictive open-source games

Linux & Scaling: the Essentials

OpenOffice.org, FOSS, and the preservation of Gaelic

MythTV: Easy personal video recording with Linux

News in General

 Norwegian government backs open source

Another country pushes towards Linux. The Norwegian Minister for Modernisation Morton Andreas Meyer is asking governmental institutions to prepare, before the end of 2006, plans for the use of open-source. In particular, it is hoped to avoid the use of proprietary formats for communication with citizens. (courtesy Howard Dyckoff).

 Linux vs Windows-Mobile

It has been reported that embedded Linux powered 14 percent of smart phones shipped worldwide in Q1. Meanwhile, Windows Mobile shipments made up just 4.5 percent of the market (courtesy Howard Dyckoff).

 Critical MySQL Flaw Found

A "highly critical" flaw has been reported in MySQL that can be exploited to cause a DoS (Denial of Service) or to execute arbitrary code on the open-source database.

Distro News


Asterisk@Home is a GNU/Linux distribution aimed at lowering the level of technical skills required for home users to be able to make use of Asterix, the open source PBX (Private Branch Exchange) telephony software. NewsForge has a detailed article on this distribution.


The Debian project has moved to reassure users by confirming that the security infrastructure for the new current release, Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (alias sarge) and the former release (3.0, alias woody), both enjoy the benefits of a working and effective security infrastructure. This reassurance followed a brief period after the release of Sarge, during which issues with the security infrastructure prevented the issuing of updated to vulnerable packages.

From Debian Weekly News, Following the recent release of a new Debian GNU/Linux stable version, readers may be interested to peruse an online screenshot tour.

Progeny, and a handful of other Debian GNU/Linux distributors are planning to form a shared Debian GNU/Linux distribution for enterprise applications. Ian Murdock (the "Ian" in debIAN, and Progeny head honcho) has commented on this development, and it was also discussed on the LQ Radio Show.

The Debian project has announced that this year's Debian Conference was a great success with more than 300 people attending and over 20 sponsors. One highlight was the presentation about the large-scale deployment of 80,000 Debian workstations in Extramadura, Spain. The presentations were captured by the video team and are available online.


Foresight Linux, is a GNU/Linux distribution showcasing some of the newest developments in Gnome (e.g. beagle, f-spot, howl, and hal). Mad Penguin has taken a look at this distribution.


Though it is not of course based on Linux, many GNU/Linux enthusiasts will doubtless be interested to learn of the existence of FreeSBIE, a FreeBSD based liveCD. This software has been featured on NewsForge.


The Knoppix bootable GNU/Linux liveCD is now also available as a version 4.0 DVD including a huge selection of software. Kyle Rankin has reviewed this Knoppix version for O'Reilly's linuxdevcenter.com.


Coinciding with the release of version 0.1 of the Debian based Enlightenment liveCD project, NewsForge has plugged a screenshot tour of the distribution.


Puppy Linux has been profiled in NewsForge's My Workstation OS series.

Software and Product News

 C/C++ interpreter Ch 5.0 for Linux PPC Released

SoftIntegration, Inc. has announced the availability of Ch 5.0 and Embedded Ch 5.0 for Linux on PowerPC Architecture. Supported platforms include iSeries, pSeries, OpenPower, JS20 Power based Blades and zSeries from IBM as well as computers from Apple Computer. Ch is an embeddable C/C++ interpreter for cross-platform scripting, 2D/3D plotting, numerical computing, shell programming and embedded scripting. The release of Ch and its toolkits for Linux PPC continues SoftIntegration's involvement in cross-platform scripting, numerical computing and embedded scripting. Ch Control System Toolkit, Ch Mechanism Toolkit, Ch CGI Toolkit and C++ Graphical Library are available in Linux PPC as well.

 Apache HTTP Server 2.1.6-alpha Released

The Apache Software Foundation and The Apache HTTP Server Project have announced the release of version 2.1.6-alpha of the Apache HTTP Server ("Apache"). The 2.1.6-alpha release addresses a security vulnerability present in all previous 2.x versions (but not present in Apache 1.3.x). Apache HTTP Server 2.1.6-alpha is available for download.

 Sun and Open Source

Sun has announced that it will open source the next release of its Java Application Server. Also planned is to release its Instant Messaging code as open source. This will take place under the CDDL license, also used for Sun's OpenSolaris project. (Courtesy of Howard Dyckoff)


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 © 2005, 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 117 of Linux Gazette, August 2005

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