[ Prev ][ Table of Contents ][ Front Page ][ Talkback ][ FAQ ][ Next ]

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

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

 April 2002 Linux Journal

[issue 96 cover image] The April issue of Linux Journal is on newsstands now. This issue focuses on interoperability. Click here to view the table of contents, or here to subscribe.

All articles through December 2001 are available for public reading at Recent articles are available on-line for subscribers only at

Legislation and More Legislation


The US SSSCA, so enthusiastically promoted by Senator Fritz Hollings, has metamorphosed into the CBDTPA: the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, which has now been introduced in the Senate. Unfortunately, it has not become any more palatable during the transition. The direction of the bill is unchanged. If passed, it would mandate government-approved security standards and "digital rights management" systems which would have to be included in electronic devices. Import or interstate distribution of devices not meeting these requirements would be illegal. Such regulations would apply to software or hardware that reproduces, displays, retrieves or accesses copyright work. Such a definition covers a staggeringly broad range of devices and programs. Measures which would fulfil these obligations could render even completely legitimate procedures such as backups and disk optimisation impossible, or at least illegal.

(That "interstate distribution" clause is what allows the federal government to get involved; they cannot interfere with in-state commerce. However, this is small comfort, since most electronic products in the US are imported from Asia, and few states have domestically-produced substitutes available.)

Business support for the bill is not universal, and there were heated exchanges between Hollings and Intel executive VP Leslie Vadasz at a recent hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. LWN's coverage provides some insight into the nature and conduct of this hearing. Support for the proposed measures is strongest among "content providers" such as Disney. The technology business naturally fears being hamstrung by regulations which would diminish the usefulness of their products. Following this apparently courageous stand by Vadasz, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested that people mail Intel to express support and solidarity. However, a subsequent joint statement by AOL Time Warner and Intel painted a somewhat different picture, critiqued by the EFF here. This statement "envisions a world in which corporate negotiations decide consumers' rights, and government outlaws devices falling outside a `consensus' imposed by Hollywood." It seems the divisions are not only between companies, but also within. A Slashdot comment on the story indicated that this is perhaps really a power struggle between the two industries, with the tech business trying to evade regulation so as to gain leverage over the entertainment business. It sounds plausible, especially when Disney starts accusing Apple of aiding and abetting music piracy.

Naturally, this story has gained a lot of coverage in the tech press. Slashdot had stories on the hearing, the introduction of the bill to the senate, and a follow up to the same story. Wired also ran a good story or two following the debut of the bill in the Senate. An excellent commentary by Doc Searls is available online at the Linux Journal website which comments on the issues surrounding this case, and rebuts much of Hollings' testimony to the clumsily titled Hearing on Protecting Content in a Digital Age-Promoting Broadband and the Digital Television Transition . Another fine commentary, well worth reading, was published in Linux Weekly News.

Hopefully, after reading some of those links, one gets pretty angry about the terrible laws some interests would like to control you with. This leads to the question, what can be done? One important step is to stay informed about these issues. As usual, EFF have a page collecting various resources and documents surrounding this case. Also, their CAFE (Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression) webpage is a good source for info on this and related topics. This EFF press release has some advice on specific measures which can be taken to help stop this law. You are advised to:

And before those in Europe start sniffing that this whole business is typically American and couldn't happen here, they should take note of LWN's warning that the European Commission is considering similar measures [pdf].


The Register came up with a few good software patent stories over the last month.

The argument is often made by pro-patent apologists that patents are essential to a growing economy. Historically, this has not been shown to be the case. George Monbiot has written an excellent article in The Guardian, which tells the story of how many of the companies now demanding intellectual property rights were built without them. In particular, patent free regions enjoyed exceptional growth, until political pressure from patent enforcing nations lead to a change in policy.


The GPL almost made it to the courtroom during the last month. The circumstances concern a dispute ongoing between MySQL AB and NuSphere Corp. In June 2000 NuSphere licensed distribution and support rights for the MySQL Database, from MySQL AB; under a deal that was also to see significant code contributions from NuSphere into the body of MySQL. Relations soured between the two companies. MySQL accused NuSphere of trademark infringement (for setting up the web site), of breach of contract, and of infringing the GPL. The Free Software Foundation became involved in the case as an expert witness on behalf of MySQL.

Regarding the alleged GPL infringement, the contention of the FSF is that by statically linking their Gemini product against the GPL'ed MySQL code, and then failing to distribute source code, NuSphere violated the terms of the license. NuSphere vigorously opposed these allegations, asserting that their product did not infringe the licence terms, and pointing out that they also distributed the Gemini code under the GPL (an earlier version was, however, distributed without source code).

Though the FSF expected the case would serve as a test of the GPL, the judge's preliminary injunction limited the terms of the case to the copyright infringement issue. She took the position that since NuSphere appeared to be currently in compliance with the licence, it is unlikely any irreparable harm is being done to MySQL AB.

Linux Links

Linux Weekly News has drawn attention to several security alerts which have come up all at once, affecting a broad area of Linux code, including OpenSSH, PHP and zlib. If you are running a system it is very important that you keep up to date with such security alerts. LWN have thoughtfully provided links to most of the major distributions' security advisories, so you have no excuse.

Comments at Gentoo on some distributions' failure to pass patches upstream. If you want to help, check out

Newsforge ran a story on the LNX-BBC (Bootable Business Card) rescue disk project. This is a descendant of the original Linuxcare BBC.

Eric S. Raymond on how Microsoft could have killed off the open-source movement in 1998

Linux on Big Iron, saving big money.

Unix punks "counter-culture music, counter-culture operating systems."

Penguins around the World fun & facts about penguins.

Some links courtesy of Linux Today

Some stories featured on The Register over the past month:

A few interesting links from the O'Reilly stable of websites,

Some links picked up from Slashdot:

Here is a collection of links to Linux Journal web articles which might be of interest:

Upcoming conferences and events

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

SANS 2002 (SANS Institute)
April 7-9, 2002
Orlando, FL

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Malaysia (IDG)
April 9-11, 2002

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Dublin (IDG)
April 9-11, 2002
Dublin, Ireland

Internet World Spring (Penton)
April 22-24, 2002
Los Angeles, CA

Software Development Conference & Expo, West (CMP)
April 22-26, 2002
San Jose, CA

Networld + Interop (Key3Media)
May 7-9, 2002
Las Vegas, NV

Strictly e-Business Solutions Expo (Cygnus Expositions)
May 8-9, 2002
Minneapolis, MN

O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (O'Reilly)
May 13-16, 2002
Santa Clara, CA

Embedded Systems Conference (CMP)
June 3-6, 2002
Chicago, IL

June 9-14, 2002
Monterey, CA

PC Expo (CMP)
June 25-27, 2002
New York, NY

O'Reilly Open Source Convention (O'Reilly)
July 22-26, 2002
San Diego, CA

USENIX Securty Symposium (USENIX)
August 5-9, 2002
San Francisco, CA

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo (IDG)
August 12-15, 2002
San Francisco, CA

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Australia (IDG)
August 14 - 16, 2002

Communications Design Conference (CMP)
September 23-26, 2002
San Jose, California

Software Development Conference & Expo, East (CMP)
November 18-22, 2002
Boston, MA

News in General

 Good News for Mozilla

It appears that following the recent 0.9.9 release, Mozilla is finally nearing the magical 1.0 release. The development tree has been closed in preparation for the release.

Additionally, Newsforge has reported that AOL is to move closer to Linux and Mozilla, thus gaining more independence from Microsoft and Internet Explorer. The move towards Linux appears to involve a support deal with Red Hat to deploy Linux in back-room functions. However Mozilla appears destined to be deployed on the ubiquitous AOL CD's. Though this development will be welcomed by many in the Free Software and Linux communities, some are worried it might lead to wider enforcement of web standards. We should be so lucky.

 HURD and Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman, announced in a recent interview, that he expects the GNU Hurd to be ready for production release this year. This story was picked up by Slashdot, and also received some comment on Linux Weekly News.

While on the subject of Richard Stallman, you might be interested to note that O'Reilly have published his biography, written by Sam Williams, entitled Free as in Freedom. You can view the book contents online, as well as an interview with the author. Naturally, the book is published under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).

 Open Source PCI Bridge Soft Core

OpenCores is an organisation whose main objective is to design, reuse, and integrate IP cores under the General Public License (GPL) helping the concept of freely available, open-source hardware to emerge. OpenCores have recently announced the immediate availability of the open-source, free, complete 33/66MHz 32-bit PCI Bridge Soft Core solution. The PCI Bridge Soft Core is a complete, synthesizable RTL (Verilog) code that provides bridging between the PCI and a WISHBONE (System-on-Chip) bus. The complete package includes comprehensive specification and design documentation, a comprehensive verification suite, and a test application.

Test application is a VGA card implemented using a Xilinx Spartan II device on a PCI development board from Insight Electronics. PCI bridge core is connected to a simple VGA controller core forming a system-on-chip and comes with a Linux frame buffer device driver. You can download the PCI Bridge Soft Core from the OpenCores PCI Project Website.

Distro News


Debian Weekly News has reported that a new stable revision (2.2r6) is in preparation. The list of packages contains no less than 24 security uploads and seven important updates currently. This revision should be out around the beginning of April.

Also reported was a story on Debian as Aid Server. Matthew Grant from an organisation that hosts GNU/Linux Projects for Developing Countries reported that they chose Debian to build an Aid Server whose purpose is to enhance communications for aid organisations and NGOs.

The Securing Debian Manual 2.0 has been released. Still a few FIXME's left for people to help with, and translations are needed.


Mandrake have announced the release of a fourth beta of the upcoming Mandrake Linux 8.2.

In less happy news, Mandrake is also under a bit of a cash squeeze at the moment, which has led the company to launch a subscription based club, priced from $5 per month. This development was commented upon both in The Register and in Linux Weekly News. ZDnet also covered the story, reporting dissatisfaction among club members when it appeared that the terms of membership were being changed. This change was the result of an unexpected change in Sun's pricing structure for Star Office. Mandrake has replied to these criticisms, in its official announcement of the availability for club-members of StarOffice 6.0 for Linux.


There appears to be some feuding going on around the Sorcerer camp. An unsigned webpage was posted at alleging that the distribution had effectively been stolen from its creator Kyle Sallee. This page is no longer available, but can be read at this mirror. These allegations were replied to by the guys at, who disagree with just about everything in the original story. Interestingly, does actually appear to be operated by Kyle. An interesting article to read in this context is Making the distribution (this link appeared in a comment on


SuSE Linux has announced the launch of the eighth generation of their Linux distribution to be available from software retailers from mid-April. This releases features an almost fully automated installation routine and the KDE 3 graphical desktop environment. Improved hardware detection greatly facilitates the installation. The SuSE system assistant YaST2 (Yet another Setup-Tool) detects existing Windows 95/98/ME partitions and makes useful suggestions for allocating hard disk space and selecting software. The fast installation finishes by simply entering a user name and password and confirming monitor resolution. Even printer, sound card, and TV card are installed automatically with a mouse click.

SuSE Linux 8.0 will be available from software retailers from mid-April 2002. The recommended retail price for SuSE Linux 8.0 Personal (3 CDs, 2 manuals, 60 days of installation support) is EUR 49.90; SuSE Linux 8.0 Professional (7 CDs, 1 DVD, 3 manuals, 90 days of installation support) is EUR 79.90.

SuSE Linux has also announced that the latest version of its enterprise operating system, the 64-bit SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7 for IBM eServer zSeries, will be available by the beginning of May.

 Yellow Dog

Terra Soft have announced the release of Yellow Dog Linux 2.2. Features of this Red Hat 7.2 based distribution include XFree86 4.2.0, KDE 2.2.2 and Gnome 1.4 with Nautilus and Evolution.

In a NewsFactor article Terra Soft co-founder and CEO Kai Staats said that in real-world applications, Motorola's processors are better equipped for Linux than their Intel counterparts. (Link courtesy Linux Today).

Software and Product News

 Vim 6.1

Bram Moolenaar has announced the release of Vim 6.1. It is principally a bugfix release.

 Micro Sharp Technology

Micro Sharp Technology, Inc. a technology provider of thin server solutions have announced a way to head off virus attacks that are now making their way into cellular phones. Their solution is via configuration of the Netule EM-I email server in conjunction with a Netule FW-I enterprise firewall. EM-I and FW-I are based on Linux, "an extremely powerful, stable and reliable UNIX like operating system".


The DOSSIER series now includes 14 volumes, many of which are relevant to Linux systems. Current topics include C, Email, File Systems, Kernel, PostgreSQL, Python, Security, and Text. The demand-printed volumes may be ordered from BSDMall. The motivation and rationale for DOSSIER are covered in DOSSIER and the Meta Project (Part 1).

Copyright © 2002, Michael Conry and the Editors of Linux Gazette.
Copying license
Published in Issue 77 of Linux Gazette, April 2002
[ Prev ][ Table of Contents ][ Front Page ][ Talkback ][ FAQ ][ Next ]