Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
Wrong School, Right Side of the Mountains

I just received several copies of the April issue. On page 62 I see an article written by me with the subtitle: “Assembly language is a wonderful tool for teaching about how computers work. Professor Sevenich explains how it is used at WSU.” I am at EWU, not WSU. —Richard Sevenich from somewhere east of the Cascades rsevenic@blinn.sirti.org

XFree86 with the Matrox Millenium Board

Your article on Lectra Systèmès CAD/CAM systems (Issue #36, April 1997, page 53) is very interesting. I understand you are having problems with the current version of XFree86 with the Matrox Millenium Board. Here's a possible solution:

The XFree86 Organization has recently released the new 3.2 version of XFree86, which is also known as X11R6.1. It now supports about 320 different cards, including the Matrox Millenium, and several Chips and Technologies chip sets commonly used in notebook computers. The site to download the new version of the XFree86 is: ftp://sunsite.doc.ic.ac.uk/packages/XFree86/3.2/binaries/Linux/ix86-Elf/

The web site for further information is: http://www.xfree86.org/. —T. Parker tparker@acy.digex.net

Linuxers Unite!

I am a college student attending Stephen F. Austin State University. I work in a Geographic Information Systems Laboratory (GIS), and we have been using just AIX machines. However, we do have a full-blown Linux PC, and it is great. We were considering upgrading to all Linux PCs in our lab, because they were cheaper and faster than the AIX boxes, but we ran into a problem—the software we need to run to make our GIS maps is not supported by ESRI. We gave them a call, and they told us: “Linux will not be a supported platform. Product ports are user-driven and there are not enough users wanting this OS”. How could this could be true when all you have to do is get on the web to see that millions of people are using Linux? So I need Linux users to e-mail ESRI at buspartners@esri.com and tell them you use Linux and there are many more people using Linux too. ESRI needs to get its head out of Microsoft's world and see what is going on in the real world. —Tred Riggs tred@oak.sfasu.edu

Uplifting News

I was very interested in Eric Raymond's article “Building the Perfect Box: How to Design Your Linux Workstation” (Issue # 36, April 1997, page 16), and it was a good read. But... Under the section entitled “Some pitfalls to avoid”, Eric says don't buy PnP cards—Linux doesn't support them. I would suggest this is rather a bleak way to look at it and that the situation is not that bad. Check out isapnptools on http://www.roestock.demon.co.uk/isapnptools/ for some software I wrote to configure PnP devices. This brings PnP hardware to the same state as configuring jumpers, i.e., you still need a driver.

Currently, I have a PnP internal modem and network card running quite happily using isapnptools to configure them on boot.

Debian appears to have picked this up as well. —Peter isapnp@roestock.demon.co.uk

Distributions Question

I read the descriptions of the various distributions of Linux in your 1997 Buyer's Guide. I currently use Slackware and was considering a new distribution, possibly Debian. In the review starting on page 128, Phil Hughes states “... as far as I know, no commercial software packages are available in the Debian format.” I am confused. What difference does the format really make? If company X supports kernel Y and the distribution supports kernel Y, shouldn't the product of company X run on that distribution?

I understand that the installation may not be as pretty as if it were written for a package system supported for the distribution. The software, however, should work with the kernel, i.e., if WordPerfect exists for Linux kernel ver. 2.0.0 on, say, Red Hat, should not WordPerfect work for any distribution using kernel version 2.0.0 or am I missing something? —Thomas L. Gossard tgossard@ix.netcom.com

There are two considerations: loading the package and licensing. If the package comes in a format easily unpacked on any system (such as the gzipped tar format used by Slackware), unpacking is not a problem. You may, however, need to deal with versions and locations of libraries and other files to get it running.

If the software is packaged in Red Hat's .rpm format, you need a utility to unpack it. Debian, for example, includes such a package. Here at LJ, we are in the process of converting our systems from Slackware to Debian. As part of this conversion, we are adding office suite software for some of our users. We installed a copy of Applixware on a Debian system with no problems. (And Erik Troan of Red Hat informs us that Applixware will run on other distributions as well.)

You mentioned WordPerfect, which leads us to the licensing issue. Caldera has a licensing agreement with Corel Corp., makers of WordPerfect, which states that you can run the Linux version of WordPerfect only under Caldera's flavor of Linux. My understanding is that the other applications Caldera has facilitated porting to Linux are not licensed this way—you are free to run them with any flavor of Linux. —Phil Hughes phil@ssc.com