by Various

An Introduction to Using Linux as a Multipurpose Firewall by Jeff Regan is exactly what its title suggests. Whether you want a firewall at home or office to give you the security you need in order to stop worrying about crackers entering your system, this article tells you just how to set it up. From configuration to locking it down, all the details are here.

Network Monitoring with Linux by Tristan Greaves is another introduction, this time to a freeware software package called NOCOL, designed to keep your system stable without endangering the security of your system. NOCOL does not need to run as root. Complete instructions are given for installation and configuration, as well as final tweaking to get things running smoothly. NOCOL will analyse your system and keep you informed on how it is running.

LUIGUI—Linux/UNIX Independent Group for Usability Information by Randy Jay Yarger has a long and descriptive title. LUIGUI is a new Linux group that has been organized to look at user interfaces and help formulate a standard in an effort to ease the way for Linux to move onto the desktop. Find out all about it and how you can help.

UNIX Shells by Example is a book review by Ben Crowder. Ben describes this book as a “must-have” for those wishing to learn shell programming. Learn why by reading his review.


Welcome again to another sporadic episode of Stupid Programming Tricks! Fate conspires against our would-be monthly column, but we get fired up to do it again. Last month we recklessly forked and killed processes to play midi files, before burning CPU cycles like venture capital by playing MODs and S3Ms with the MikMod library. If we're quite clever, we can figure out how to put the simple playmidi or MikMod calls into, for example, the scrolltext demo from last December. Well, it would look cool. Still, since we've touched on audio already, let's finish up with it before we get into something else exciting.

Digital audio in Linux comes to us by way of /dev/dsp, which shows up as a file but is actually an interface to your sound card. The kernel interface makes dealing with /dev/dsp fairly easy, if a tad latent. You just open it as you would a normal file, set some parameters, and make ioctl calls, a bit like filling address and data registers before calling a library function in assembly code, not that anyone would do that anymore... (haha, what was it, a whole year ago you last used asm?) So, we get all the thrills of appearing to do something exceedingly clever, while we're actually just following procedure. The audio half of Linux multimedia does exist, and it is easy to use; it's just been a tad ignored on account of visual preoccupations.

If you wish to make sound truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe and compile your kernel for sound support (or insmod the right module with correct IRQ and DMA values). Hopefully, you already have a universe and sound support (find out with cat /dev/sndstat); otherwise, prepare to be frustrated. Compiling your kernel for sound support is a royal pain, so check the Sound-HOWTO and perhaps also the Kernel-HOWTO. For now, let's assume (read: really, really hope) you've already got sound working.

The first thing to do, when you want to use digital audio, is to open your audio device, which is accomplished by using open on /dev/dsp. We'll start simply with playing sound, rather than recording and playing back, so we just need to set the WRITE_BITS (8 or 16), WRITE_CHANNELS (mono or stereo) and WRITE_RATE (typically 8000Hz, 22050Hz or 44100Hz). For clear sound quality, having 16 bits is most important (exponential quality improvement for linear CPU cost), followed by sampling rate (linear quality improvement for linear CPU cost), followed by stereo (enables cool effects at double the CPU cost). Obviously, this is a gross generalization and everyone knows we have to balance the elements, so I recommend 16 bits at 22KHz mono for optimizing performance for CPU cost. However, unless you have a computer from the neolithic, you can afford full quality stereo.

The way audio works is rather simple—all sounds are just collections of different frequencies. You can break down essentially any periodic function into a series of sine functions, the technique known as Fourier analysis. Conversely, you can create anything out of a series of sine functions. At a very simple level, if you want to hear a pure 220Hz tone, just play a sine function that repeats 220 times per second. To play an octave higher, just play a sine function that repeats 440 times per second. To play an octave chord, add the two functions together. (If you have a graphing calculator, you can add sines of different periods together and see the results.) This is additive synthesis, a simple, resource-intensive idea that is also the most powerful and flexible synthesis technique. I thought I'd share that with you, since we'll use simple additive synthesis in our demo to generate a wave table to play via /dev/dsp.

How does this work? Your speaker vibrates according to the signals it receives from your sound card, and as anyone who lives with dying appliances knows, vibrations make noise. If the speaker moves forward and back in a perfect sine pattern many times each second, you'll hear a pure tone at the frequency corresponding to the speed of the impulses (440 times each second would be A 440, the most common frequency of tuning forks). So, the values in digital audio are just amplitude data for the speaker, and these values are ultimately just composites of many, many sines. When dumped to the speaker, these generate complex tones, producing familiar sounds like human voices, snare drums and brass ensembles. All digital audio, including CDs and mpegs, works this way.

In our example code, we'll generate an additive wave table of a chord using sine tones. The function for equal-tempered, 12-tone intervals is simply freq*(12th root of 2)<+>n<+>, where n is how many intervals up you want to go from freq, your starting frequency. For an A major chord (meaning the 1st, 5th, 8th and 13th tones of the 12-tone scale, the 13th tone being an octave on top) starting at 220Hz, these are our values: 220 277 330 440.

We'll generate the wave table by adding the sines together. (Remember, our wave table contains 44100 16-bit values (88200 bytes), which is exactly 1 second of audio data at 44.1KJz 16-bit mono.) Then, we'll open the digital audio, loop for a few seconds while playing our chord, then close up shop and go home. By replacing our wave table with an audio file, we could add a sound effect to a game, such as the “intoxicating” sound that occurs after blasting one of the turrets in Fleuch. The code for our project is in Listing 1.

Compile with

gcc -Wall -O2 sound.c -lm -o sound

meaning gcc, warnings all, optimization level two, from the source sound.c, linked to the math library, producing executable object named sound.

—Jason Kroll

Listing 1. sound.c
#include <math.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <sys/ioctl.h>
#include <linux/soundcard.h>
int main(void)
  unsigned short int wave[44100]; /* our wavetable */
  int c; /* a counter */
  int out; /* audio out */
  /* open /dev/dsp for write only */
  out = open("/dev/dsp",O_WRONLY);
  /* now we use ioctl to set audio quality */
  c=16; /* 16 bits */
  c=1;  /* 1 channel */
  c=44100; /* 44.1KHz */
  /* this generates the wavetable of our sines
   * it's standard trig, so play around with
   * whatever crazy equations you want to hear!
  for (c=0; c<44100; c++) {
    wave[c] =8000*sin(220*2*M_PI*(c+13)/44100);
  /* now we write the wavetable to /dev/dsp
   * as though writing to a simple file
   * we'll loop for 5 seconds of sheer joy
  for (c=0; c<5; c++)
    write(out, wave, sizeof(wave));
  close(out); /* close /dev/dsp ! */
  return 0; /* satisfy gcc */

This listing is available by anonymous download in the file ftp.linuxjournal.com/pub/lj/listings/issue71/3836.tgz.

GAME FOCUS—>MAME Emulation of 1951 games

Imagine if computers had a use: if you could walk in, turn one on, and use it for something. Case in point: suppose that on your wall lived an enormous, flat panel monitor, and controlling it, a Linux box—very fast, faster even than normal. What to do? Revel in high culture! What's that, you say? Play games, that is, bigger and better than you've ever seen them before. What games? Antique games. Vintage games. Aged rarities. Far more than just games, these are cultural entities, which so many of us grew up with, and which once resided in arcades and pizza parlors when games cost a quarter to play. As is well-known, aging does a lot for software. Unlike people, who grow old and die, computer programs gain in energy with age, and when double-compiled and then stored in silicon casks for several years, the bits reduce and compress, leaving stronger elemental semiconductor properties, while taking out the fire. A fine vintage game is more fun than vi!

Oh, but arcade machines were often 6502-based, or even 68000-based (and a host of others); at any rate, not x86. How can we possibly run these programs, and where are we going to get the code? Fortunately, in 1997 a very cool Italian hacker by the name of Nicola Salmoria began a project to write an emulator for old hardware in order to preserve classic games so that they would never be forgotten, but enjoyed and shared around the world. Within a short time, MAME had grown to support over a thousand games, with 1951 at last count.

MAME can be played in X or console mode, and on several different platforms (including DOS, Macintosh and Amiga). You need to have a fairly fast machine in order to get the best performance on complicated games, but the farther back in time you go, the less processor-intensive the games are. If you have anything halfway decent in terms of hardware, you can enjoy the finer elements of computer culture.

The one problem is that MAME is only an emulator; it doesn't include the ROM images. You have to get ROMs, but apparently it is quite illegal (a felony) to duplicate these things. Hence, instead of openly distributing these images, we have to make secret hunts over the Web to find them. Fortunately, it's very easy to find huge ROM repositories, even though Dave's Classics, which used to be the most complete location, was coerced into taking the ROMs off-line a couple of years ago. Major gaming companies are upset with ROMs, probably since they see emulation ultimately encompassing the console games they currently make (or maybe they realize the older games are superior in game play anyway). Either way, it's a major greed issue. Many of them have taken steps to make emulation itself completely illegal, which would be such an abuse of government authority that it rather invalidates any arguments against ROMs based on “moral” or “ethical” grounds, since holding civil liberties hostage at corporate or economic whim is probably not ethical, and one who is flagrantly unethical has little validity to impose moral censure on others. But then, we've seen it before when lobbyists tried to make mpegs illegal, simply because the record industry might lose money, and without any regard to the technological implications of outlawing algorithms for being too efficient, let alone the civil libertarian issues involved.

Nevertheless, every now and then some fool makes a big fuss over emulation and how immoral it is, and tries to spoil everyone's fun, so we're forced to distribute games underground. I've always considered copyright law to be illegitimate. I even opted out of becoming a professional programmer because I decided it would be immoral for me to write proprietary software, so you can imagine where I stand on this issue. Nevertheless, the world is swarming with particularly evil people in whom the money drive has taken hostage all forms of reason and compassion, and these people are legally allowed to lock you in an iron cage for five years if you get convicted. In addition to stealing your life, the feds can abscond with $50,000 (or perhaps more) for every count. How's that for thievery? Maybe “piracy” is a better name for how the government behaves than for the act of duplicating bits. But I digress.

Games, games, games! We can have so much fun as long as no one catches on. Fortunately, even if the Web goes down, so many people have stockpiled ROMs and burned them onto CDs that you can probably get them from anyone. But what can we do to protect our hobby?

One technique that works is cyber-squatting; no, not bad-faith domain name squatting, but merely claiming the unused “property” as our own by using it. People took over abandoned farms after the plague, and no one complained. By mixing their labor (<\#224> la ESR's perennial favorite, John Locke), they made the farms their own (and MAME was certainly a lot of labor). Or we can use the law of the sea, sunken-treasure metaphor, whatever ways we can possibly think of to justify it! If we continue in this vein for long enough, the so-called “property” will fall into public domain on account of disuse. (The squatter tradition ensures that wasted resources are put to good use, and in the case of video games, these wasted treasures could bring so much entertainment to so many.) Get ready for homesteading the arcade-o-sphere.

Another technique is one that was most effective in the DeCSS situation. One Slashdotter called it the “whack the mole” phenomenon, whereby every time one site is closed, two more pop up. (The name comes from a popular carnival game where in poor little plastic moles get bopped.) What with Don Marti's Great International DVD Source Code Distribution Contest, maybe we'll find some truly clever ways to get information passed around. As with DeCSS and mpegs, authoritarians soon found it was impossible to win, and either gave up (with mpegs) or lost (with DeCSS). Commercial forces will fight hard on this one, and the situation is a bit unclear, nowhere near as pure as the GNU/Linux movement. Maybe it will even make the movement look bad if we participate in ROM trafficking, but we as a society have an interest in seeing that these games are preserved. After all, they are part of the culture of a developing technology and relate much about our times.

If, of course, you believe in “intellectual property” and that copyright restrictions have to be respected no matter what, or you just don't want to commit felonies, what should you do? Well, rather than writing hate mail or telling the teacher, just ignore MAME and go develop some completely free wares under the GPL. If you really have to say angry things and call people “pirates” and whatnot, there is a place for people like you: Usenet.

For the rest of us, let's dig in (archaeologically/anthropologically speaking) and enjoy! www.mame.net

—Jason Kroll

LJ INDEX—March, 2000
  1. Position of Procter & Gamble as a “branding” company: #1

  2. Number of Procter & Gamble brands: >300

  3. Percentage of U.S. households with at least one P&G brand product: 98

  4. Number of categories where P&G has the #1 or #2 brand: 32

  5. Place of Procter & Gamble in the series of companies that have employed AOL chairman Steve Case: #1

  6. Year by which AOL's estimated advertising revenues will pass those of ABC or CBS: 2003

  7. AOL advertising revenues in the year ending June 1999: $1 billion US

  8. Number of web pages that contain the word “brand”: 1,699,630

  9. Number of web pages that contain the word “branding”: 92,288

  10. Estimated year when Egyptians first branded cattle: 2000 B.C.

  11. Range among estimates of 1999 Internet advertising revenues by 14 research resources: $839 million-$5 billion US

  12. Estimated amount spent on advertising by Linux companies in 1999: $15 million US

  13. Date on the fourth day of the current year, according to the I-Advertising and Seinfeld web sites: January 4, 19100

  14. Same date on the Oldham Chronicle site: Tuesday, January 04, 100

  15. Same date on the Gigabyte site: January 4, 2100

  16. Same date on the Case Western Reserve site: Tue. Jan 04 1900 EST

  17. Number of J Builder for Linux downloads by December 1999: ~100,000

  18. Number of J Builder for Windows downloads by December 1999: 50,000

  19. Building number on the Microsoft campus where Bill Gates works: 8

  20. Number of theses nailed to the Wittenberg Church by Martin Luther in 1517: 95

  21. Number of theses to begin the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999): 95

  22. Year Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto: 1848

  23. Months after publication Marx became editor for an industrialist-funded newspaper: 2

  24. Months before publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto Doc Searls became Senior Editor of LJ: 7

  25. Number of women named to Linux Magazine's Who's Who in Linux: 0

  26. Amount, in stock, RHAT paid to “merge” with HKS, Inc.:$97,000,000 US

  27. Amount the world has spent since 1977 on licensed Star Wars merchandise: $4,500,000,000 US

  28. Expenditures which the Pentagon could not account for last year:$22,000,000,000 US

  29. Fee charged by a Pennsylvania cyber-psychologist for on-line treatment of Internet addiction, per minute: $1.50 US

  • 1-18: Sloan Brands, Procter & Gamble, Fast Search & Transfer ASA, Inprise, Fortune, I-Advertising, Linux Journal, The Register

  • 23, 28, 29, 30: Harper's

  • 19-22, 24: Jason Schumaker

  • 25: http://www.linuxgrrls.org/

  • 27: LinuxToday


We think IT managers would be irresponsible not to take a hard look at Linux and consider it as a platform for new applications. The year 2000 will be marked by the rise of Linux and the release of Windows 2000, creating real choice among operating systems. There is a risk, however, that Wall Street greed-mongers could ruin it all by overheating expectations and seeking to turn a leading Linux player, such as Red Hat, into the next software monopoly.

—Editorial in PC Week

Amazon has obtained a U.S. patent (5,960,411) on an important and obvious idea for e-commerce: the idea that your command in a web browser to buy a certain item can carry along information about your identity...Amazon has sued to block the use of this simple idea, showing that they truly intend to monopolize it. This is an attack against the World Wide Web and against e-commerce in general.

—Richard Stallman in Linux Today

Source code is like manure, if you spread it around things grow. If you hoard it, it just smells bad.

—Zachary Kessin in Slashdot

Gates' Law: Every 18 months, the speed of software halves.

—Omer Shenker in Slashdot

Communication has changed so rapidly in the last 20 years. E-mail, which now sends data hurtling across vast distances at the speed of light, has replaced primitive forms of communication such as smoke signals, which sent data hurtling across vast distances at the speed of light.

—Steve Martin in The New York Times

olestra, olean, olestra, olean, Pringles, Wow chips, Max chips, Frito Lay, Procter &amp; Gamble, anal leakage, diarrhea, gastrointestial problems, carotenoids, cramps, cancer, macular degeneration, Stampfer, Willet, vomit, Michael Jacobson, Jacobson, CSPI, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action Healthletter, food police, olestra, olean, olestra, olean, Pringles, Wow chips, Max chips, Frito Lay, Procter &amp; Gamble, anal leakage, diarrhea, gastorintestial problems, carotenoids, cramps, cancer, macular degeneration, vomit, Michael Jacobson, Jacobson, CSPI, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action Healthletter, food police,olestra, olean, olestra, olean, Pringles, Wow chips, Max chips, Frito Lay, Procter &amp; Gamble, anal leakage, diarrhea, gastorintestial problems, carotenoids, cramps, cancer, macular degeneration, vomit, Michael Jacobson, Walter Willett, Meir Stampfer Mark Donowitz, Mark Hegsted, Ian Greaves, Herbert Needleman, Fernando Treviño, John D. Potter, Johanna Lampe, Jerianne Heimendinger, Cancer Research Center, Norman Krinsky, Ernst J. Schaefer, John S. Bertram, Sheldon Margen, Jacobson, CSPI, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action Healthletter, food police

—HTML metatag for “A Brief History of Olestra”


Applix has been in business for a generation. Its office suite, Applixware, has been a market leader since the '80s. By extreme contrast, Cosource has been in business for less than a year. But it has (along with its competitor SourceXchange) quickly helped establish a whole new market category: the development marketplace where buyers and sellers of open-source code can meet and do business.

Now Applix and Cosource are one: Applix acquired Cosource in December. Linux Journal, which has featured Cosource development news on its web page for much of the past year, was curious about the synergies that brought these two companies together. Doc Searls interviewed Cosource founder (and now Applix executive) Bernie Thompson on January 3, 2000.

Doc: What did Applix see in Cosource? The FAQ seems to say that Cosource is mostly a way to drive Applix development, rather than something for everyone—a marketplace. That's a big conceptual shift.

Bernie: In doing the acquisition, I made sure we would still be able to have say over Cosource and keep it unbiased. So Cosource is and will remain an independent broker of open-source work. Any other path would be self-destructive.

We've been acquired by a great company. Applix—the name means “Applications for UNIX”—is a software company that's been around since 1983. It would like to extend this noble history for another seventeen years. Like most software companies, it has derived much of its revenue from licenses. It saw that, as open source gained market share, the revenue balance would tend to shift away from licenses towards services. Cosource is a web-auction system that encourages open-source work and can thrive in this new environment. By having Cosource in the portfolio, Applix can have a more balanced mix of products and services and be a more healthy company as a result.

For things like seeding the development of open-source applications on our application builder (called SHELF, which we've released under the LGPL), we'll do that right on Cosource.com as a sponsor just like everyone else. If Applix wants to do anything related to their products that requires special logic (which is quite possible—like getting pre-commitments to buy copies of our commercial products), we'll do that by using the Cosource.com logic on another site like Applixware.com, which is specific to our company's products.

Doc: What will happen to Cosource? All kinds of questions come to mind here. In what new directions will you take it? Will you still run it? If not, who?

Bernie: Our goal for this year is to take the cooperative marketplace concept that we—Cosource—helped pioneer to the next level. We've done an okay job so far, but there are a lot of things we want to do better. If you look at our front page, you'll see that we've got a lot of good information there about what feature enhancements are in demand. But we need to do a better job providing customized views of that data. More importantly, we need to enhance our interface to make it easier to express interest in projects and commit money to specific proposals.

From the business perspective, we need to bring more partners into the system, and have them share in the risk and the reward. A site like eBay was able to launch as a largely closed-loop site that doesn't allow for affiliates or competition. It's an island. We doubt that will work anymore. We're looking to do a network approach, where partners like VA Linux, Red Hat and independent Linux consultants can participate side by side and benefit by driving the development of open source.

As far as who's running the show, Cosource.com is still my baby. The great team that built it is still intact. When you create something from scratch, there's always a strong emotional attachment to it. So while I'm responsible for a bunch of other products now, including the Applixware Office Bundle and Applix Anyware (an 800KB Java client to access the office suite running on a server), I'll still be looking over Cosource with the same goals and the same philosophy as before.

Doc: What exactly is your new job with Applix? What are your goals there?

Bernie: My new role is as the President of Applix's Linux Division. Whew! It's quite a challenge, but also a chance to do so much good.

Doc: What kind of changes should we be looking for from Applix over the next year?

Bernie: We're going to be focused on producing great Linux and *BSD applications. Our strength is that our applications were developed on UNIX many years ago. Our focus is on fast, tight, native applications. Toward that end, we're launching our Applixware 5.0 product this spring and summer that uses and integrates with GTK, for closer integration with the Linux desktop. We hope to make it the “most native” of all the office suites, and thus the most comfortable and hassle-free to use. Beyond this one release, it's our intention to keep up and increase the pace of innovation, since that's our primary value to customers.

Doc: Do you plan to open source any of Applix' products?

Bernie: We've already open sourced our application builder platform called SHELF (see http://www.applixware.org/). We've built a complete PalmPilot desktop interface using that tool and released it as open source. And as part of our Applixware 5.0 product, we have developed a graphical interface to the Pine e-mail program which will be released as open source. In each of these cases, we try to use public, well-known licenses such as the LGPL and GPL, rather than custom “Applix” licenses. We're going to be open sourcing more software in the future, as it makes sense. See Eric Raymond's “Magic Cauldron” paper for some guidelines. In particular, we're going to be using more and more open-source infrastructure in our applications—to the extent the licenses allow—and passing our enhancements to these infrastructures back to the community. This is the natural process of community enhancement that licenses like the GPL/LGPL pioneered, and it works great for us.

In short, the goal here is to prove that software product companies can still exist and thrive in this new market that the Internet and open source have created. They'll look different, but we still need them. We need companies that can pay programmers for their hard work and not lose money every quarter. We need companies that can invest large sums in R&D, with the ability to earn back that risky investment by winning customers who license the product. Once that investment has been recouped, we can eventually shift over to an open-source service model.

These companies will be different in that they will be more open with information—not trying to lock customers in—and more focused on empowering the community around the product. Hopefully, this happy balance can be found between the “give it all away” and the “keep the customer in the dark” camps that divide the open-source and traditional software communities today. That's what we're aiming for: we hope to find that middle ground.

We know as well as anybody that the Open Source movement has done only good things for customers. It has demonstrated the amazing power of the community to do great things by working together. It's up to companies to absorb these lessons and learn how to apply them back to serving our own customers better. This is our challenge and mission in the coming year.

—Doc Searls


Adobe Systems announced its initial support for Linux. In the first quarter of 2000, Adobe is offering a Linux version of Adobe Acrobat Distiller software. A beta version of Adobe FrameMaker software for Linux can be downloaded from the Adobe.com web site.

The Jan III Sobieski Hotel (Poland) announced that its official operating system is Linux and its office suite is StarOffice. The installed software includes various releases from Linux, Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, LX router, StarOffice, HS Partner and others.

Sangoma announced in December that it is involved in a reverse takeover of Inlet Devices Corporation, a public company registered on the Canadian Venture Exchange (CSV). Details can be found in the entries for Inlet on the SEDAR web site at http://www.sedar.com/.

Bitstream Inc. and Corel Corporation announced that Corel has licensed a Linux font server currently being developed by Bitstream. Corel and S3 Incorporated's Professional Graphics Division announced a partnership to deliver 2-D/3-D graphics to the Linux desktop. Corel and Creative Technology Ltd. announced an agreement that will advance the development of Linux applications for high-quality audio and video. Corel also announced it has acquired an ownership stake in LinuxForce Inc. of Philadelphia. LinuxForce delivers a full range of technical services and support for Linux, allowing Corel to deliver end-to-end Linux solutions.

Eicon Technology, a worldwide provider of remote access products, announced the release of Linux drivers for its PCI bus ISDN server adapters, the DIVA Server BRI-2M and the DIVA Server PRI-23M. The new drivers will work with Caldera's OpenLinux 2.3, Red Hat Linux 6.0 and SuSE Linux 6.2.

Development has begun on a free open-source Linux Firewalling System. Home page is located at http://www.sinusfirewall.org/. This firewall works with kernels 2.2.x and supports NAT. It has a configuration and management graphical interface written in Java.

LinuxBusiness.com aims to build a huge repository of different ways to use Linux in corporate environments. If you use Linux in your corporation or belong to a service company that has deployed Linux solutions for customers, please post your detailed comments at www.linuxbusiness.com/en/bizform.html.

Hewlett-Packard has stepped up efforts to make Linux compatible with its most powerful processors. HP has retained a Linux consultancy, the Puffin Group, to ensure Linux runs on its advanced, 64-bit PA-RISC chips in the first half of this year. A 32-bit version of Linux for the PA-RISC chip architecture is ready now.

StarBurst Software announced that its product OmniCast, content distribution management software, now supports the Linux operating system. StarBurst's OmniCast is like a multicast mimicker, sending content over satellite, terrestrial and the Internet without any changes to the customer's network.

Digital Media Online, a developer of web-based vertical communities for the digital media market, announced the launch of the first Internet community for professional content creators working on Linux-based systems at http://www.CreativeLinux.com/.

A training partnership has been established between Linuxcare and Wave Technologies. Wave Technologies will now be delivering Authorized Linuxcare training courses to prepare participants for certification.

O'Reilly & Associates is leading a discussion of open source's impact on publishing. O'Reilly editor Andy Oram is hosting a web conference that examines how the Open Source community and professional publishers can use the principles and practices of open-source development to create technical documentation. Join the conference at http://forums.oreilly.com/~publishing/.

QLogic Corp., a provider of Fibre Channel host bus adapters and SCSI connectivity solutions, announced full, optimized support for the Linux operating system on its QLA2100 and QLA2200 series Fibre Channel host bus adapters as well as its Ultra3 and Ultra2 SCSI host bus adapters.

TSCentral has set up an on-line directory of Linux event- and training-related resources. You can find out more by visiting http://www.linux.tscentral.com/.

SuSE announced a beta version of SuSE Linux 6.3 for the Macintosh PowerPC at MacWorld in San Francisco, with sales release planned for spring. Based on the current version of SuSE Linux, this version includes all open-source software found in the Intel version and is identical in use and administration to other SuSE Linux versions. A free test CD can be obtained by contacting SuSE, or software can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.suse.com/.

Inprise Corporation announced it is open sourcing InterBase 6, the new version of its SQL database. InterBase will be released in open-source form for multiple platforms, including Linux, Windows NT and Solaris during the first part of this year.

Simon Phipps, IBM Corporation's chief Java and XML evangelist, will kick off the O'Reilly Java Conference on March 27-30, 2000 in Santa Clara, CA. The O'Reilly Java Conference is an intensely technical four-day conference for Java programmers. See http://conferences.oreilly.com/java/speakers/.

IDG World Expo announced that The XFree86 Project, Inc. is the recipient of the February 2000 IDG/Linus Torvalds Community Award. IDG Chairman and Founder Patrick J. McGovern and Linux creator Linus Torvalds will present the $25,000 award at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, following Torvalds' keynote address on Wednesday, February 2, 2000 at the Jacob Javits Center, New York, NY.


Trees do not grow to the sky, and right now, the Redmond Redwood is about as close as it's going to get. Worse, it may be getting ready for a big fall. At least that's what Eric S. Raymond thinks, although as a gun enthusiast, he tends to favor firearm metaphors. Recently, the alpha hacker and libertarian economist shared some of his latest thinking in a conversation with Linux Journal Senior Editor Doc Searls.

Doc Searls: I heard you've been saying some new stuff about Microsoft. What's up?

Eric: There is a new section of my talk that I'm doing these days. It's called “The Seven Bullets Microsoft has to Dodge to Survive the Next Eighteen Months”. I haven't written it down yet. The bottom line is that Microsoft has much bigger problems than either the Department of Justice lawsuit or Linux. It's just that few people have noticed these problems yet.

Doc: To keep this short, what's the biggest bullet?

Eric: The margin crunch problem. Here's how it works: Microsoft's stock price has to rise every quarter. If that doesn't happen, two very bad things occur. First, the employee stock options stop rising in value. When that happens, their talent bails out. All those people stop working eighteen-hour days in Redmond, and go off to build mansions.

Doc: Which is already happening?

Eric: Yes. The other problem is that Microsoft makes more money playing option games with its own stock than it does selling software. Thirty six percent of its income, and that income goes away if the stock price doesn't trend reliably upwards. If stock prices must always go up, so must revenues, quarter to quarter. This is a problem. Every quarter, it becomes harder and harder to find the additional revenues.

Doc: Why?

Eric: They've got 91% of their market. There isn't enough room for them to get the revenue they're accustomed to.

Doc: But the overall market has tended to increase.

Eric: Not fast enough. And we know this without econometric modeling. Microsoft is raising prices on its high-end customers. In the long term, this is suicide because it will only drive customers to competing operating systems. It really only makes sense if they're caught in the short-term scramble for revenues, and absolutely must have the money.

Doc: I've heard from corporate guys in big companies that the real aversion to Microsoft has less to do with software than licensing fees: expensive licensing of NT servers that customers would rather avoid.

Eric: Today, if you buy a Windows NT server, they not only charge you per seat for the number of developers on your site, but they also charge you per seat for the number of simultaneous web accesses you want to support. You see where that's going. So we know market expansion won't work for them. Now, here is where it really starts to bite: the price of hardware is dropping like a rock. Microsoft makes money from the hardware vendors—the OEMs—they hold captive. These guys are caught in a bind. From one side, Microsoft has to take a bigger piece of their margin every quarter just to stay afloat. From the other side, the price of hardware is falling. If your total system price is $2500 US, it makes sense to pay the $80-$100 Microsoft tax. When your total system price is down around $600, the margin pressure becomes unsustainable. This implies that there is a price level in the PC and appliance market below which you can't make any money dealing with Microsoft. The key point is that this price level is not fixed over time.

Doc: Where does it stand now?

Eric: In appliance territory. Which is why you see companies like Nokia and GTE Sylvania defecting from the Windows CE alliance. They've figured out they can't make any money at that price point, given the license price of Windows CE. Over time, because the price of hardware is dropping, the functional point represented by that price point is going to rise into low-end consumer PC territory. When the price point at which you can't make any money dealing with Microsoft passes the average price point of a consumer desktop PC, the game is over. And I think this is going to happen before the justice department gets its final verdict.

Doc: Will Zachmann also predicted this quite a long time ago. He thought the margin squeeze would hurt their stock and then they would be abandoned by all those optioneers who have been working the long hours, waiting for a stock payout.

Eric: It's coming. Microsoft simply can't maintain their existing margins. Stepping back and looking at economic history, this is what always happens to monopolies unless the government props them up. They get comfortable at a certain price level, and get that level built into their whole financial structure, then collapse when they price themselves out of their own markets.

—Doc Searls

STOP THE PRESSES: Cool Chips for a Hot Category

After four and a half years, Transmeta has lifted its veil of secrecy and spilled the beans—or rather the chips. There are two, both built to run x86 code at high clock speeds while delivering unprecedented battery mileage. The larger of the two (TM5400) is targeted to the notebook and sub-notebook Windows laptop market. The smaller one (TM3120) is targeted to the new Mobile Internet Appliance market.

According to Transmeta, that market wants three things: real web browsing, real portability and long battery life. The market, they say, demands Linux, and they are more than equipped to give it to them. “We have a certain amount of expertise with the Linux OS,” says Transmeta co-founder and Chairman David Ditzel. Transmeta is famous as the employer of Linus Torvalds. Mobile Linux is a native x86 version small enough to fit into ROM with enough room left for a browser and other software components. Mobile Linux runs on the smaller and cooler of the two chips, and the system is upgradable.

The figure demonstrates that an Intel and a Transmeta chip are as different as a stove and an ice cube—between 105.5 and 48.2 degrees Celsius. LongRun technology on the TMS400 even regulates clock frequency and voltage to correspond exactly to the demands of the application, drastically conserving energy and further reducing heat load.

Ditzel, one of the originators of the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) concept and the leader for many years of Sun's SPARC effort, co-founded Transmeta to tackle the challenges of mobile computing. What Transmeta finally delivered not only meets that challenge, but achieves some RISC ideals as well.

In effect, Transmeta designed a whole new breed of microprocessor—one idealized for mobile computing. The Transmeta architecture is utterly unlike anything coming out of Intel or its standard competitors. At its core is a powerful VLIW (very long instruction word) engine, surrounded by a “code morphing” software layer that translates x86 instructions and intelligently caches them while observing the needs of the system's applications, so the chip optimizes execution of translated instructions at extremely high speeds. By replacing millions of transistors with software, the Transmeta chip is small, fast, efficient and extremely undemanding in the way it consumes electricity.

The result is a breakthrough into territory that has remained closed in the absence of designs featuring the kind of long battery life that customers now expect of portable radios, telephones and other popular hand-held devices—the Mobile Internet Computing market.

The big question is: will the market buy it? Linley Gwennap, a microprocessor analyst with The Linley Group, thinks chances are good:

The fundamental problem is the simple fact that microprocessors are consuming more and more power every generation. And Dave Ditzel is right: we're headed for a hundred watt chip on the desktop. So this isn't a problem in the mobile area. This kind of technology, which gets away from the complexities of doing everything in the chip, and shifting more of it into software, makes a lot of sense. It solves a lot of big problems.

Note: More Transmeta articles can be found on our web site at http://www.linuxjournal.com/articles/misc/013.html and ~/articles/business/030.html and an interview with Linus at ~/articles/conversations/012.html.


During the month of December (and the start of January), people were talking about:

  • SuSE's debut of the beta version of its 6.3 Linux distribution for the Macintosh at MacWorld Expo in January. The finished release is expected to ship this spring and will be identical to the SuSE we know and love.

  • Apple's release of its newest operating system, Mac OS X, later this summer. The kernel, code name Darwin, is said to be “Linux-like, featuring the same FreeBSD UNIX support and open-source model”. We shall see! (from PRNewsWire, January 5, 2000)

  • Macromedia's announcement that it will be releasing its Flash Player Source Code SDK & Flash File Format (SWF) SDK in mid-January. (Linux Today, January 6, 2000)

  • Gillian Bonner's (Playboy's Miss April 1996) posting a positively glowing review of Linux (Red Hat and Corel) in which she predicts “that very soon the Linux OS will dramatically change the operating system...and thus the way we work and play on our computers.” (Linux Today, January 5, 2000)

  • Intel Corporation's announcement that it is developing a family of Intel-branded, Linux-based web appliances expected to debut later this year. The first category of Intel appliances will combine phone and web services, which will not run on Windows!

  • The Chinese government's potential ban on governmental use of Windows 2000, as they move toward open-source technology with development of Red Flag Linux! (The Register, January 6, 2000)

  • RHAT becoming quite chummy with Salon.com, who will provide “award-winning journalism” for Red Hat's Wide Open News web site. Hmmm...didn't Microsoft do something similar with Slate? (Linux Today, January 06, 2000) —Jason Schumaker

Rumor: Top geeks at Red Hat, Inc. are seriously considering dropping the well recognized brand name in favor of its NASDAQ ticker symbol (RHAT). The change is expected to help push RHAT's new product line: stocks!

Factoid: VA Linux millionaire Larry Augustin tabbed Office, not Windows, as Microsoft's real killer asset. (Linux Today, January, 5,2000)

Factoid: The revolution begins another year. With it comes a new title for the Linux faithful: Penguinistas. Xavier Basora coined the term and to that we say, Viva la Penguinistas!

Quote: Every morning when I wake up, I try to remember who I am and where I come from. —Harry S. Truman (The Cluetrain Manifesto)

Factoid: An oil slick near Phillip Island has endangered nearby penguins. Any support would be appreciated (http://www.penguins.org.au/). For off-line donations please send to Phillip Island Nature Park, att: Penguin Hospital Support Fund, P.O. Box 97 Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria, 3922, AUSTRALIA.

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