Week of April 17-April 23

News from the Rookery
April 20

Vocalization! "Hackerdom is a ruthless meritocracy, dedicated to winnowing out bad code and spreading good. A lesson for other voluntary endeavors is that praising people just for showing up will not attract the best talent. To be valuable, reputation and recognition have to signal something significant." Virginia Postrel, "Open-Source Software Arouses Researchers' Curiosity" at New York Times.

Red Hat's Code Blue: It's one thing to claim to be the Linux e-business leader and quite another thing to gobble up private companies whose products and services will improve the way Internet infrastructures and applications manage and maintain customer transactions. Red Hat, the biggest rose in the Linux garden, may not always grab the best technology to add to its Linux package for business (i.e. choosing Hell's Kitchen's CCVS over Payment Plus). But the fact of the matter is that Red Hat is aggressively putting together the most compelling array of e-commerce software for Linux, and their acquisition of management provider, Bluecurve, Inc. only goes to underscore the point. Bluecurve's software allows users to both simulate and measure transaction volume and client/customer activity. This information can then be used to "plan and scale" Internet infrastructures to provide maximum customer service. The company's products, which include Dynameasure 3.0, and services will be available on a subscription basis through Red Hat's web site. Claimed Tom Grubb, co-founder of Bluecurve, "Red Hat and Bluecurve are redefining what it means to buy and use an Internet server OS." The deal is expected to be closed by July 2000. Red Hat will issue over 1.2 million shares in exchange for all outstanding shares of Bluecurve, which is privately held.

ZDNet Nabs Embedded Linux Site: Is the acquisition of LinuxDevices.com by ZDNet half-empty or half-full? Somewhere between ZDNet CEO and president Dan Rosensweig's beaming "a killer site that will be a key addition to our new ZDNet Business & Technology channel" and The Register's "as ever, money, not community, talks" is the reality that there's a whole lot of Linux to go around. And the best of the Linux community--from individual hackers to web sites to entire open-companies--is liable to attract the attention of the best of the larger, high-tech/Internet community. To be sure, Rick Lehrbaum's LinuxDevices.com is a helluva web site, and Dan is right to say that "the authority of his content as the last word on embedded Linux applications and devices is underscored by LinuxDevices.com's sponsor list, which reads like a 'who's who' of the embedded Linux market." Because terms to the deal have not been disclosed as of yet, it is difficult to speculate on the size of the carrot dangled before Rick's eyes. But the increased visibility to what will become his corner of ZDNet's "Linux Resource Center" (not to be confused with Linux Journal's Linux Resources), as well as the additional attention embedded Linux is likely to receive as a featured component of ZDNet's e-content empire, may have been reward enough. Added Bryan Sparks, CEO of Lineo, Inc., "the merger of (ZDNet and LinuxDevices.com) will enable Lehrbaum, who has quickly become a respected analyst for the embedded Linux space, to address a much larger audience seeking to understand the rapid developments in the embedded Linux market."

Bell Labs' Libsafe Outhacks Crackers: The folks who brought you UNIX now bring Libsafe to the GPL. Bell Labs has announced that it is releasing free Linux software that will prevent system intruders from overwhelming an application program's buffer memory in order to gain unauthorized access. According to Bell Labs, which cites a report from the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology, buffer overflows are the most common form of computer security vulnerability exploited by system intruders over the past decade. Buffers are parts of computer memory where applications store information temporarily. Unfortunately, many applications that store information in buffers but do not check the size of the buffers create potential security risks. When attacks are launched, the excess data can overwrite the memory beyond the buffer region, inserting additional code into the application program-- additional code that can take over the program for the purpose of executing the inserted code. Libsafe, a Lucent Technologies product (Bell Labs provided the research and development) does not require the source code of the applications it protects, and the software's effect on computer performance is considered "negligible".

Clued-in/Clued-out "The most important of Microsoft's strong suits is its business savvy. Microsoft's success, I believe, is a product of ingenious strategic business design, great marketing, and superb financial management. Ironically, for a company so closely associated with technology, Microsoft's specialty is not at all in developing innovative technology, but rather in designing profitable business models." Matt Richey, "Macrosoft: The Bull Argument" at Fool.com.