Letters to the Editor

by Various
Commercial Applications for Linux

In the April “Letters to the Editor” column, two people made comments about commercial applications for Linux. Every time I call a software manufacturer about an application, I ask if they have a version to run on Linux. If not, I ask them to put in a request.

I use Linux as my main operating system at work with Wabi so that I can use MS Office. Now that MS has upgraded Office, I am finding it hard to maintain this plan.

To convince more companies to build software applications for Linux, it might help to run a survey on a web site. The survey would find out how many people are running Linux, if they would be willing to buy software applications, and what price they would be willing to pay. The information garnered from the survey should be made public.

—David Hepner dfh@svl.trw.com

X Display Fix for Lifebook

In response to Michael Scott Shappe, “Accelerated X Laptop Display Server v4.1”, March 1998 (Issue 47), there is a simple fix to the problem of the rightward-shifted X display on the Fujitsu Lifebook (and possibly other laptops with a Phoenix BIOS, where the problem arises).

Go into the BIOS setup, select “Advanced”, then “Video Features”, then “Compensation: Enabled”. The X display will now fill the screen (using either XFree86 or Xi), and you can run Linux in text mode. Windows (I boot both 95 and NT 4.0) will still work with no problems (other than the usual ones).

Some technical details of my laptop: Fujitsu Lifebook 435D, NeoMagic video card and Phoenix NoteBIOS 4.0. It boots Linux (2.0.30), Windows95, NT 4.0 workstation and the NT 4.0 server.

—Dr. Constance A. Stillinger connie.stillinger@kla-tencor.com

Getting Rid of Spam

I enjoyed Mr. Browning's article in the March 1998 issue, “Getting Rid of Spam”, on using procmail and the Alcor filters to catch spam. However, I think I've found an easier way to filter spam using procmail. I've observed that spammers seldom send mail to your personal mailing address; instead, they use a mailing list. So instead of seeing a header line like this:

To: rsmit06@ibm.net

I'm seeing lines like:

To: friend@foobar.list

Knowing this, it is easy to write a procmail rule to catch it:

*! ^To:.*rsmit06@ibm.net
*! ^Cc:.*rsmit06@ibm.net

This rule catches virtually 100% of the spam I get. Unfortunately, it also catches the mailing lists to which I subscribe. The solution is to write rules that intercept the valid mailing lists and put them before the “spam-interceptor” in your .procmailrc file. This has two advantages: all mailing lists can be put in a separate folder, and virtually all spam is caught. The only disadvantage is adding each valid mailing list to your .procmailrc file. For me, this isn't a problem.

—Roland Smith, The Netherlands rsmit06@ibm.net

Importance of the GUI

I feel compelled to correct Michael Babcock about what he wrote in his article “The Importance of the GUI in Cross Platform Development” (March 1998) regarding OpenStep. I have been a professional consultant for 14 years and have worked on most workstations, operating systems, languages and engineering paradigms.

I have been staying with OpenStep/NeXT Step/Rhapsody for some time now because it is, in my opinion, the best software development and deployment platform.

OpenStep is not simply a “GUI API (along with some non-GUI functions)...” as he puts it. The very use of the term “API” is misleading. OpenStep is an operating system based on a MACH microkernel, BSD UNIX and object-oriented frameworks, consisting of other frameworks (of objects and classes) for everything from graphics to distributed objects to enterprise computing. This is a radical departure from “APIs” like the ones he discusses in the article; they are not even in the same category.

OpenStep is a complete software solution that lets you write programs using its objects, or extending its objects, and can run on Intel, Motorola, SPARC and HP. Furthermore, the OpenStep OS and development tools run on Windows95/NT, MACH native Intel, MACH Motorola, MACH SPARC, Solaris and HP/UX. With Rhapsody around the corner, we can add Power PC to that list, and most likely Macintosh OS.

As for the complaint about learning ObjectiveC, I have to say that it is much easier to learn than Java and has a smaller linguistic requirement. The hardest thing to learn is that one sends a message to an object with “[object message:arg]” rather than “object.message(arg)”.

OpenStep has a lot of momentum behind it right now. Major Fortune 500 companies and many others have been using it for years. There is no need for “hype” in order to make this technology mainstream. It is a well-established technology that in my opinion could literally save Apple-NeXT. While I am prevented from disclosing details about Rhapsody, suffice it to say this is truly a next-generation technology. It is UNIX, too.

Finally, I wish to say that I applaud the efforts of the GNUStep developers; it would be very useful to have a version that is free, for which source code is available. My hope is that Michael Babcock does indeed get an OpenStep box, so that he can discover his vast underestimation of it for himself.

—Erik Scheirer, sonYx, Inc. boom@sonyx.com

Open Source Editorial

Phil, congratulations on a great magazine. Your editorial in the May issue on Open Source is excellent as far as it goes. Using the phrase “Open Source” in lieu of “free” should overcome many of the negative perceptions and biases that business has with “free”. In addition, “Open” has become a very positive buzzword in IT.

However, there is a crucial element missing in all discussions of Open Source. What is the underlying business model that can allow a business to make money? Though primarily a technology magazine (and a good one), Linux Journal could make a major contribution to the Open Source movement with a short article summarizing the business argument for Open Source. This way, those of us in industry can have a succinct response to “Sounds good, but how do I make money?” Obviously, this short article should stay away from MBA gobbledygook and concentrate on principles. A brief case history would be desirable.

Unfortunately, I am not involved in the Open Source industry and thus can't help with such an article. I can continue to persuade mainstream industry to recognize Open Source as viable software.

—David T. Kjellquist david.t.kjellquist@lmco.com

I agree, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Russell Nelson has written a guest editorial describing just such a business model. See it on page 10 of this issue.

—Phil Hughes, Publisher phil@ssc.com

Summary: Dog eats LJ?

Some time ago I wrote here, asking people if their Linux Journal magazines were arriving in the mail as dog-eaten as mine. It seems some people get their LJ in pristine shape, and this is independent of distance.

Others get theirs in the same shape I do; these people frequently mention that this is puzzling, since they also receive other magazines, which arrive okay. It seems to be only LJ that has problems. This, in fact, is true for me.

Thus, I speculate that the size, page-count, binding method or other variables causes LJ to be susceptible to mangling in the Post Office machinery. I wonder if LJ might consider putting small sticky tabs on some edges of the Journal, to prevent them falling open in Fido Machineries' “Bow-Wow Special Mail Sorter”?

LJ would probably rebel at the suggestion that they send the magazine in an envelope, which, it would seem to me, would be the best preventative measure.

Thanks to all who replied, some with very amusing posts or e-mailed stories.

—Robert Lynch, Berkeley, CA rmlynch@best.com

Actually, we have been trying to find a solution to this problem for some time. Our current printer is not able to polybag domestic mail; foreign mail is outsourced and does go out in an envelope. Our cover is now printed on heavier paper. When we find an affordable solution that can be handled by the printer, our readers will be the first to know —Editor

Latvian Police Archives

I liked the use of Linux by the Latvian Police force to make a legacy single-user Clipper application available to everyone, although I think the use of DOSEMU is a bit dubious. In the first place, you require a DOS license for each user logged into the system, and second, it is certainly not the most efficient way to run applications. There is a commercial Clipper engine available for Linux (Flagship) which is available for a very modest fee. Using this engine to run legacy Clipper applications instead of DOSEMU should yield better performance with fewer resources and make it easier to evolve the system into something better, perhaps migrating to one of the Linux SQL engines (available both publicly and privately).

—Roger Irwin irwin@trucco.it


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