Letters to the Editor

by Various
Excellent Article on X Administration

The article “X Window System Administration” by Jay Ts in the December 1998 issue was well-written and full of relevant information. I am the IT Manager at a Novell/NT shop and have been using Linux at home off and on over the past couple of years. I still consider myself a novice user. A couple of weeks ago, I secretly switched a few of my users from an NT/IIS server to a Linux/Apache server running our Intranet. They noticed a definite increase in performance, and I plan to eventually move everyone over to the Linux server. However, on my end I was having problems setting up X on the server and finally decided that the command line would do. Then I read the article on X administration in LJ. Now X is up and running and configured to my specifications. Thanks for the help.

—Barry Julien bjulien@wallacefunds.org

User Friendly

Just wanted to let you know that I think adding the comic “User Friendly” to Linux Journal was one of the coolest things you have done. Well, on top of the awesome tech articles, etc. Thanks.

—Shawn Nyczd scordia@eden.rutgers.edu

Linux Threatens More Than Microsoft

Everywhere I look, I see articles describing the threat Linux poses to Microsoft. While there is some truth to this, I think what everyone seems to be overlooking is the threat it poses to other UNIX systems. I think this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Sun and SCO have started offering free licenses of Solaris 7 and SCO 5.0.4 for educational and non-commercial use (users must pay a fee of approximately $20 US for the media and shipping). Admittedly, commercial users must still pay full price for a license, but by making their systems available to home users, hobbyists and students, they are acknowledging the threat Linux poses to their systems. After all, the reason Linus started developing Linux was to make it easier for him to learn UNIX. It would seem that Sun and SCO have come to the realization that anyone wanting to learn UNIX will not be learning their versions unless they make them affordable.

As a side note, I have already received and installed Solaris 7. While it is a good package, I found it a little disappointing. Having used various Red Hat distributions, I found Solaris to be a rather bare-bones system. I expect this will also be the case with SCO 5.0.4 when I get a chance to experiment with it. Sun and SCO should watch out—their efforts may be too little too late.

Keep up the great work with LJ.

—Mark Mathews garcin@earthlink.net


Thanks to Brian Harvey for his excellent article on VNC, “Virtual Network Computing” in the February issue.

I have tried several commercial tools to allow me to maintain an NT server from my desktop (the server rooms are cold). At best, I have had mixed results, often serious disappointment and consequences. I work in a semi-homogeneous networking/computing environment, mostly Novell and NT, with ERP/MRP management on OS/400, Win95/NT at the desktop, and a smattering of other UNIX workstations (mostly Sun). Linux is hiding all over the place on an increasing number of “dedicated service” boxes. We don't talk about it too much, since our IS upper management is still very skeptical.

Encouraged by Mr. Harvey's comments, I tried VNC the morning I read his article. I am delighted at both the cleanness and the benign operation on the several platforms of interest to me. It is a great effort on a strong computing foundation with room to grow. What more could anyone want?

Hats off to the good folks at Olivetti & Oracle Labs for such a fine addition to the rapidly expanding Open Source universe.

—Charles Cluff charles.cluff@cwix.com

Issue 58, February 1999

LJ is to be congratulated in consistently publishing a technical journal of high quality for a diverse readership. It clearly merits being classified as a journal even though it is not published under the auspices of some professional society.

Moreover, and this bears upon the ideas of the first paragraph, LJ is to be thanked and applauded for including articles and editorials dealing with the social issues pertaining to open software. The February 1999 issue stands out for both the guest editorial by Alessandro Rubini (citing prior work by Russell Nelson, August 1998) and the article by Dr. Steve Mann. A journal should take on such social responsibility.

The ubiquitous computer, as no other machine invention before, has impinged upon the workings of society, for the most part to its benefit. It is necessary for the commonweal that computers be developed in the open, both to accelerate the benefits they may provide and to prohibit their misuse and the stifling of progress.

Societies make laws permitting the existence of corporations and their exclusive exploitation of inventions and intellectual property, not for the benefit of a clever elite, but for the common good. Monopolistic practices may be tempered by restrictions when they become antithetical to social welfare. The current state of computer software suggests that such change is needed.

We, as citizens, can bring about necessary changes through political action aided by open discourse and the publication of ideas.

—David E. Baker debaker@pacbell.net

Response to LTE in February

I felt compelled to respond to a letter submitted by David Briars to the Linux Journal editor in the February 1999 issue. I applaud David for being relatively informed on the issues of security. Yet I am disappointed at the solution that he devised. Of course, a properly configured Linux box is a safe house in regards to people breaking in. I emphasize properly because a default Red Hat 5.2 Linux install is extremely insecure from some of the default services running. I found out the hard way that somewhere between the included POP2, POP3 and IMAP services and the way they are configured, a significant security threat exists. I had a Linux machine on the network, accessible by the Internet for web services, and I noticed an IRC bot running illegally. All this from the most secure operating system available, in my opinion.

I learned not to blame the operating system, but to go to the source. Windows 9x is not insecure by default. Faulty applications (earlier versions of Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.), malicious programming such as Back Orifice, or perhaps enabling File and Print Sharing for a personal home network but not removing the binding to the dial-up connection are examples of how a good thing goes bad.

Don't be so quick to blame the OS; be informed and stay on top of the game. As long as a human creates the code, a human can break it.

—James W. Radtke james.w.radtke@uwrf.edu

Non-X-Based Office Suite

Regarding the “Best of Technical Support” letter in issue 58, a non-X-based office suite called Cliq is available from Quadratron. Look at http://www.quad.com/linux.htm.

—George Toft LinuxAdvocate@iname.com

On-line Only Articles

You recently began having articles which are available only on-line. Could you please tell me the reasoning? I find it very annoying because I do not always get a chance or even remember to come look at the site when the next issue is available to see what you have left out of the magazine. Some of these articles are excellent and I don't see why they are not included in the magazine.

It is especially annoying as I receive my copy of the magazine about a month after it is available and so your site is usually showing a couple of issues ahead of what I am reading. Thanks.

—Sean Preston spreston@icon.co.za

We added this feature to our web site because we are very fortunate in having an excess of articles for each issue. We think they are excellent too and do not want them to go to waste because a particular issue has no space for them. If we hold on to them too long while waiting for space, they can become dated. All of these articles are listed in the magazine's Contents, so there is no need to look at the site to see “what we left out”. Also, since the Contents is put on the web site about three weeks before the magazine is shipped, these articles are available for your perusal in advance. I hope you will come to see this as an asset rather than an annoyance —Editor

Grace Hopper's Computer Bug

The January issue's article on women in technology repeats a persistent myth about Grace Hopper coining the term “bug”. Hopper herself was not present when the moth was removed from Harvard University's Mark II computer in 1947 and “First actual case of bug being found” entered in the log book. The term was popularized by Hopper's telling of the story, but was in use before then, as Hopper herself noted, and as the log entry makes clear. It was used as far back as the end of the last century, applied then to electrical equipment.

—Niall Kennedy nkennedy@acm.org

Re: Red Hat Phenomenon

In his letter in the March 1999 Linux Journal, Reilly Burke states that Red Hat “is unconventional in layout, difficult to install, extremely difficult to reconfigure and deficient in basic tools. The worst problem is that Red Hat requires extensive editing of C source code and rebuilding of the kernel.”

I use Red Hat Linux every day at home and work and have installed it on several machines, both Intel and Alpha-based. I don't understand Mr. Burke's complaints. While I don't have much experience with non-Red Hat flavors of Linux, I have installed and used several other operating systems, and I find Red Hat Linux easier to install than most. The base distribution contains almost every tool I have ever needed and I've never had to do extensive editing of C source. However, I have needed to recompile my kernel a few times and have had a few configuration problems, mainly due to lack of knowledge.

While Red Hat Linux does have a few warts, especially on my Alpha system, I do not agree with Mr. Burke's objections. Thank you.

—Richard Griswold richard@home.com

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