Letters to the Editor

by Various

Typo in “Stop The Presses”

On page 10 of the May LJ, you write that Precision Insight is operating “With funding from Red Hat and XGI”. In fact it is “SGI”, not “XGI”, that's co-funding PI's work. SGI has also donated the GLX X Window/OpenGL integration source code to XFree86, and PI is using that code as one component of the OpenGL infrastructure they're developing. More on this is available at http://www.sgi.com/software/opensource/glx/. Thanks.

—Jon Leech ljp@oddhack.engr.sgi.com

Oops, that was a bad one—my apologies to SGI for not catching this typo —Editor

Intellectual Property in a GNU Environment

Having used Linux since before kernel 1.1.13, I've found a very long list of reasons why various businesses don't develop more software on Linux. Nowadays, the reason is never performance or reliability. One reason is well-known; that is, how does one go about marketing in an open-systems environment without giving away key rights or simply being unable to enforce those rights? Secrecy is usually less expensive than a court battle.

An issue recently mentioned to me is that of knowing how to interpret what a developer will owe to others. The example in mind is OpenGL in X. My interpretation is that for dynamically linked applications requiring some form of OpenGL-compliant display libraries, it is not an issue for the developer, but instead for the user (unless the developer ships the libraries with the application). What I would like to see is a series of articles on intellectual property rights of developers, and to what extent these rights may affect marketing when a business (versus individual) must pay for using (not selling) various utilities and libraries used by a common distribution.

If, as a business, I use PPP utilities or generic NE2000 drivers but don't sell them, do I need to pay for them? If I use gawk as installed from my distribution, when do I need to pay for it? Can I use XFree as a business, without paying? Will my OpenGL application cause a liability to my end user who has Mesa? And so on. I would like to see a lengthy discussion worthy of showing to my employers. Thanks.

—Dan Stimits stimits@idcomm.com

As a start, read the article “Licenses and Copyright” by Michael K. Johnson in the September 1996 Linux Journal (issue 29). If you don't have a copy of this issue, remember that as a subscriber you have access to every issue on-line at http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/ —Editor

Larry Wall

The feature article, “Larry Wall, the Guru of Perl” (LJ, May 1999), was both insightful and delightful. Marjorie Richardson was able to convey Larry's obvious passion, joy, intellect and humor.

It was also refreshing to see one of the key figures of the Open Source community unashamedly mention God. Yes, there are some of us using Linux who realize that the ultimate in “open source” is the Bible.

Larry may not have become a missionary, but he's used his God-given talents in a very good way.

—Bob Nelson bnelson@netcom.com

Actually, Larry was able to convey his passion, intellect, joy and humor himself. I just provided him with the medium in which to express it. I enjoyed doing the interview very much—he's truly a delightful man —Editor


I just finished reading the article “Distributions Take a Stand on Standards”, and all I have to say is that all of this can be likened to Scotland when it was fighting the English (the movie Braveheart comes to mind). Microsoft (MS) is the English wanting to rule everything, and the Linux community is the Scottish. The clans of Scotland weren't unified and easily fell to the English. That is what is happening with Linux today. The different distributions are the clans. No one is trying to unite them. Linux falls to MS because it can't stand up to MS. Linux may be winning some battles, but MS is winning the war, and it's easy to see why. Take a look at both armies. One is well-organized and well-structured. The other is made up of small clans, fighting for the same main goals, but refusing to unite for the greater good.

Caldera seems to be the William Wallace of Linux. It looks like they will be the ones to take the lead and unite the different distributions. I am going to stand with their banner in my hands—I am going to give my money to Caldera henceforth.

Linux needs a leader for standardization. Stampede Linux was quoted as saying too much of a good thing can be bad, but I have to say that Linux in its present state is a bad thing. I am a user for about five months now, and have bought both Red Hat 5.2 and Mandrake 5.3. I am very disappointed in both of them. I am not able to get my printer to work, because neither distribution works with a HP 722c. I know this printer is designed mostly for Windows, but programs are available that will make this printer work with Linux. Neither of the distributions support this program. If the major distributions want to pull together and make a standard for Linux, they need to put these small programs in their distributions and support them. If this was the case, Linux would gain more support from computer users in the world than it does.

—Troy Davidson clandaith@netzero.net


I love your high-quality magazine and look forward to each issue. Only one complaint: you've started putting a thick black border around the feature article pages. The ink sticks to my fingers and gets smudged all over the pages, making it much less appealing to read. Please get rid of the borders! I would also like Metro-X to get rid of all the black on their back page ad, which also smudges all over the place, but I guess that's another letter to be written to their marketing department. Or maybe your whole magazine is just too hot to read! Thanks.

—Walter Cooke wcooke@paragon.bm

We added the border to call attention to the feature section—makes it easy to find. The smudge factor did not occur to us and doesn't happen on the copies we receive. However, yours is not the only complaint we have received and we are talking to the printer about possible solutions. Perhaps we need to rethink this one. Thanks for your comments —Editor

Compounding Errors?

I will be the first to admit there are no absolutes in this world, but the comment offered by Shawn McMahon in the Letters section, Linux Journal, June 1999 issue concerning PCI modems not working in Linux, is absolutely wrong. Unfortunately, your response to his letter was likewise in error, thereby perpetuating this misinformation. You stated, “PCI modems are basically Windows-only.” I realize you used a caveat in your response; however, as the (in my opinion) pre-eminent and “first-class” leader in Linux-related magazines/journals, you should do a little more research before making blanket statements that are inaccurate.

I am limiting my comments to one modem only for obvious reasons, but I must tell you that “some” PCI modems work equally well in Linux and Windows. For example, I recently installed a US Robotics/3Com V.Everything PCI modem in one of my computers, and have not experienced any problems with it whatsoever. I configured the modem to use com2 when operating in an MS Windows environment, and /dev/ttyS1 when using Linux. I connect to my ISP consistently at 48,000 bps (probably due to the antiquated wiring of our local telco) regardless of the OS I am running.

I enjoy perusing your journal immensely; in fact, I anxiously await its arrival every month. When it finally gets here, I scurry into my “library” and don't come out for an hour, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family. Kudos to all at LJ! Keep up the good work!

—Greg Bailey gsbailey@foto.infi.net

Sorry, everyone I talked to about Shawn's letter agreed he was right. With so much hardware available today, no one can know everything. Congratulations on finding a PCI modem that works for Linux and you —Editor

Linux in Schools

A Linux lab was constructed in December 1998 by a volunteer group of Linux users in Tucson, Arizona for Corbett Elementary school. All machines within the lab run only Linux, except for the district's server console—we were not given permission to remove Windows 95 from it, unfortunately. Even if it isn't the first Linux lab in a public school within the U.S., it's most likely the first in an elementary school (K-6). It contains 32 Compaq Pentium 90s, one AST Pentium 90 server, one 486 DX-33 Ethernet switch, one Gateway 486 DX/2-66 print server and one Compaq Pentium 200 MMX (district)—all running Slackware 3.6 and 4.0. The lab officially opened late January 1999, and the students love it. Some were having too much fun with XBill though, so we had to remove the gore. The entire district, which constitutes 105 schools, pipes out to the Net on a single T1—not everything can be perfect. On that note, I'm the network administrator for this lab.

—James Daniel root@phreaked.net

Linux Standards and Distributions

I think your article “The Distributions Take a Stand on Standards” by Norman Jacobowitz (June 1999) does not prove a thing. No vendor in his right mind would state that they will not go along with existing and upcoming Linux standards and invent their own for “product improvements”. Not even Microsoft did so before introducing new proprietary software solutions.

At the moment, it's all about market share for a huge upcoming market and who's best in keeping up a good “front show” while thinking about how to get the biggest piece of the pie in the back office. What do you think about new software for Linux labeled as running on “Red Hat Linux”? Check out www.kai.com/C_plus_plus/download.html#intel_linux.

I think Linux needs an independent organization like the OMG for CORBA. At the moment, there is not even one “Linux Standard”. How do you explain to your customer which Linux configuration your software runs on? Some distributions know how to use this fact for their own benefit and could cause standards to go down the drain in a few years. Greetings from Germany.

—Roland Koeckel roland.koeckel@gmx.de

The Linux Standards Base, written about in “The Past and Future of Linux Standards” by Daniel Quinlan in that same issue, is striving to become that independent organization you are wanting —Editor

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