Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
“Linux Means Business: Highway POS System”

In Linux Journal, November 1997, there is an article by Marc Allen about Linux running a gasoline station. Mr. Allen, an employee of the vendor of the system, Schlumberger, states: “We are, however, the only Unix-based one.”

Not a bad story, but not completely true. At the gasoline station where my brother works, the whole system (pump control, sales, e-cash) has been working under SCO Unix for more than 1 year—24 hours a day, 7 days a week, running on a 80486 PC.

The company that makes the software is Sofitam of Belgium (Satam is the gasoline station equipment).

—Groeten Ben Erkens, The Netherlands berkens@airchips.xs4all.nl

Linux as Proxy Server

I would like to point out that in the article called “Linux as a Proxy Server” by Peter Elton in the December issue of LJ there was absolutely no mention of Linux's built-in firewalling and proxying support. As I think most seasoned “roll your own” kernel compilers will know, Linux can do almost all of what Peter describes without resorting to any extra user-level daemons or utilities. I am speaking specifically of the kernel's IP Masquerading, Transparent Proxying, Accounting and Firewalling features. From the included Listing 1, it seems that Peter was using a very antiquated kernel indeed and perhaps these features did not exist. When writing about bleeding-edge operating systems one should do the proper homework to be aware of current OS features.

—Oliver Jones orj@ihug.co.nz

Something Funny

I have been following LJ for over a year now and can't believe how good it's getting. I like the design changes, the way you shortened the “What is Linux” part, and every issue is a better mix of topics than the last one.

If you want to hear something funny, my brother works at a major American software company, and he tells me that developers there are bringing up the topic of porting their products to the Linux platform more and more frequently. Apparently there is a lot of Linux quietly installed around the world (enough to be seen as a significant market by a large American software player).

—Harold Sinclair morelife@stealth.net

Microway Screamer 533 Review

I'm writing in response to the review of the “Microway Screamer 533” by Bradley Willson which appeared in the January issue of Linux Journal. This review is especially timely for me as the research group I work with is purchasing a new computer for development work, and the price and performance of the Alpha-PC running Linux are extremely attractive. As I started to read the article, however, my excitement quickly waned. Nowhere in the review of the Screamer 533 are there meaningful benchmarks. Moreover, the benchmark that the author put together is worthless for precisely the reasons mentioned in the article: so why include it?

The author would have done better for Linux Journal and Microway if he had included results from the SPEC benchmarks (SPEC benchmarks run on the Screamer 533, not benchmarks from Digital with the 533/21164A chip running Digital Unix in some form of an Alpha Station), the BYTE and Bonnie benchmarks and, perhaps, some of Microway's own programs. All benchmarks have shortcomings but they are much more useful to convince coworkers and bosses with than stories of fast cars.

Please Linux Journal, give us meaningful hardware reviews.

—Rich McClellan rich@chemistry.ucsc.edu

I wrote to Ann Fried and asked her if she would make 533 benchmark numbers available on their web site. I have not received a reply yet.

For you, the article did not satisfy your questions and for that I apologize. I wrote the article for a less technical audience because of market demographics. There are simply more Intel/Linux users than Alpha/Linux people. The focus of the piece was to direct their attention to a machine they might otherwise overlook because of price, technical astigmatism or both. The academic and technical audiences generally have resources that allow them to own an Alpha and understand it, as you have demonstrated.

I realize that this does not help you sell the machine to management, and to that end I will continue to work with Microway to get some meaningful numbers to you.

—Bradley J. Willson cpu@ifixcomputers.com

Evil Cookies

In January's “At the Forge”, Mr. Lerner writes that cookie information cannot be shared between different web sites. True, but cookies still present a danger to people's privacy. The large banner ad sites all use cookies, and their ads appear as in-line images on many web sites. So it doesn't matter if you visit Lycos, the New York Times or some other site—as long as the banner ad is there, the banner ad site will be able to use its cookie to track where you've been and tailor the ads it shows you appropriately.

—Joey Hess joey@kitenet.net