by Various


Early last year Don Marti forwarded an exceptionally clueless e-mail from a public relations person. His subject line said, “Bad flack! No bisquit!” I nearly died laughing, since (I hate to confess) I've done serious time as a flack myself. Since then BFNB has entered the private lexicon here at Linux Journal. And, now we'll share a few choice nuggets with the rest of you:

  • “If you would like to speak to __ executives about __'s future plans and how Linux 7.1 affects the Internet, network environments and the IT world...”

  • “__ also doesn't discriminate against computers using the Linux operating system. The __ has an open architecture, which means Linux users can customize it for their networks by loading their own proprietary software on top of __'s software.”

  • “I?am taking?the?liberty?of?reintroducing? you?to?__in?case?you?did?not?receive?our?previous?correspendence.?This?is ?an?excellent?opportunity?for?the?serious?investor?who,?like?us,feels? the?energy?sector?is?the?place?to?be?in?these?times?of?rising?oil?and ?gas?prices.”

  • “The 70s were cool. Earth, Wind and Fire, tank tops and mood rings were all the rage. Thirty years later, in 2001, the 70s remain cool. So don't throw away your old low-rider jeans, choker necklaces or mainframe computers—what's old is now cool, and it's called retro. __ lets you retro-fit your old technology into today's hippest platform.”

That last one never said a word about what __ was, or what it did. We must assume, however, that Linux was indeed the hippest platform.

—Doc Searls

Linux-Based Googlestructure

I remember when some Linux geek told me about Google several years back. He said the new search engine, then in public beta, was going to kick butt because they were building it on Linux servers. I didn't believe him. At the time my preferred search engine was HotBot, which consistently outperformed all the other search engines at what I cared about most: finding documents based on text strings, some of them buried deep in a page's text. HotBot recently had supplanted AltaVista as my first-choice search engine. Before AltaVista I liked InfoSeek (I was one of those few who actually subscribed to InfoSeek's services). And before that I liked Lycos, which was still an academic project at Carnegie-Mellon. Eventually HotBot lost out to FAST, the BSD-based engine with an utterly mismatched URL: alltheweb.com. But resistance was futile. Google got me.

At first I didn't like Google because it was too simple and too insistent about knowing what I wanted. I hated that. Still do. But I came to love Google, because dammit, they did seem to know what I wanted—not always, but often enough. Now, like most of us, I hardly use anything else.

Today the other engines are also-rans. With each new step forward in functionality (image and newsgroup searches, file-type searches, additional languages), Google seems to leave the others farther and farther behind.

I hadn't spoken to the Google folks in a while, so thought I'd check in and get some specifics, including the answer to the most existential question of all: are they making money yet? So I went to my old neighbor Cindy McCaffrey, Google's vice president of marketing, who told me:

We're profitable. Advertising has been a big contributor to that profitability. Both of our ad programs (Premium Sponsorships, AdWords) are ramping up quickly. We have thousands of advertisers and have just begun expanding our advertising internationally with the opening of small ad sales offices in the UK, Japan and Germany.

This was particularly interesting to me because the ads are a lot like newspaper classifieds, which are the only form of advertising for which there is high reader demand. Like classifieds, ads on Google are unobtrusive and contain no graphics. When I asked one advertiser how well the ads work, he said, “Very well. All our advertising is on Google.” In fact, they work so well that he advertises in spite of his objection to Google's policy of seeking patents for its technologies, a practice he despises. Cindy added:

The keyword-targeted approach is working well for us. Our click-through rates average about 2+ percent, about four to five times higher than the industry average for traditional banner ads. We also offer search services to other companies such as Yahoo!, Cisco, Sony, etc.—about 130 customers in about 30 countries. The split between these two revenue sources is roughly 50/50.

I asked if the company's mission had changed at all. My guess was that it hadn't, since it never succumbed to the distractions that trivialized vanquished competitors: stock prices, sports scores, cross-promotions with entertainment sites, etc. She said no, their mission is what it's always been: “To organize the world's information, making it universally accessible and useful.”

It might not be a stretch to say that Google has, for many of us, become part of the web's infrastructure—its search interface. To get some sense of how far that interface reaches, I asked Cindy to send me some numbers. Here they are:

  • data centers: 4

  • Linux computers: >10,000

  • searches per day: >150 million

  • index of web pages: >1.6 billion

  • image base: >330 million

  • Usenet messages: >650 million

  • newsgroups: >5,000

  • language subsets in the index: 28

  • international domain sites: 23

  • PDFs: >22 million

Many of those are “most on the Web”, she modestly added. But she declined to confirm the hypothesis offered by that geek who turned me on to Google in the first place: that Linux was the reason. Guess we have to draw our own conclusions.

—Doc Searls

LJ Index—February 2001
  1. Position of “white box” units among top-selling PC “brands”: 1

  2. Market share range of “white box” PCs: 50-70

  3. Millions of player pianos sold in the US alone by 1930: 2.5

  4. 1930 US population in millions: 123.2

  5. Linux training revenue in millions of dollars in 1999: 10.3

  6. Linux training revenue in millions of dollars in 2001: 56

  7. Projected Linux training revenue in millions of dollars in 2004: 285

  8. Size in billions of dollars of the system-level training market by 2004: 2

  9. Low end of projected Linux percentage share of the system-level training market by 2004: 5.8

  10. High end of projected Linux percentage share of the same market: 15.3

  11. Projected compound annual growth rate of Linux support services revenue from 1999-2004: 86.9%

  12. Amazon.com technology expenses in millions of dollars prior to migration to Linux: 71

  13. Amazon.com technology expenses in millions of dollars after migration to Linux: 54

  14. Percentage cut in Amazon technology expenses in migration to Linux: 25

  15. Cost relative to UNIX of 1,000 users tapping into a Linux server: 1/3 to 1/2

  16. Value in millions of dollars to IBM of tools donated to public domain by IBM via the Eclipse.org Project: 40

  17. Number of software tool suppliers working on Eclipse software at the formation of Eclipse.org on November 6, 2001: 150

  18. Number of individual developers involved with Eclipse at the same point: 1,200

  19. Number of hosted projects on SourceForge.net on November 11, 2001: 29,253

  20. Registered users of SourceForge.net at the same time: 290,500


1-3: Jon “maddog” Hall of Linux International

4: US Census Bureau

5-11: International Data Corp. (IDC)

12-14: CNET

15: Dan Kusnetzky of IDC, in CNET story

16-18: IBM

19-20: SourceForge.net

Stop the Presses: DMCA 2, Free Speech 0, but the FTC Offers Hope

In the last few days (as we go to press in mid-December 2001), the cause of free speech, which has been dear to the heart of the Linux community—and without which we might not have either Linux or the Internet—has taken a couple of heavy hits in the courts. The only ray of hope comes from the FTC.

In both court cases the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prevailed. The DMCA, which was signed into law in October 1998, expands the scope of copyright to criminalize circumvention of copyright schemes, among other things.

In Felten vs. RIAA, Professor Edward Felten (currently on leave from Stanford) and others sued the Recording Industry Association of America, claiming that the RIAA used threats of lawsuits to prevent him from presenting his work at an academic conference. Felten had planned to show how he and his researchers had disabled digital watermarks but backed down after a threatening letter from an RIAA lawyer. RIAA officials later said they had not intended to sue. The case was dismissed by US District Court Judge Garrett E. Brown, who found that Felten had no legal complaint.

Context: Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian academic was imprisoned and is still awaiting trial for DMCA violations he allegedly committed when he gave a presentation at a conference where he detailed weaknesses in Adobe's eBook technology software. At the behest of Adobe, Sklyarov was arrested in his hotel in Las Vegas on July 16, 2001 while preparing to return to Russia. He spent three weeks in jail and still awaits trial, even though Adobe has withdrawn its support for the case.

In a statement, Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president with the RIAA, said:

We are happy that the court recognized what we have been saying all along: there is no dispute here. As we have said time and again, Professor Felten is free to publish his findings.

In a press release following the dismissal, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn said:

Since the government and industry cannot agree on what the DMCA means, it is not surprising that scientists and researchers are confused and decide not to publish research for fear of prosecution under the DMCA....Regardless of specific government or industry threats in the past, scientists should not have to experience the ongoing chilling effects of this vague digital copyright law.

In Universal vs. Reimerdes, the 2nd US Court of Appeals affirmed a district court ruling against the defendants. The plaintiffs included Universal Studios, plus Tri-Star, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Columbia Pictures and MGM. The defendants were Eric Corley and 2600 magazine, which had published DeCSS, a DVD decryption program that has circulated widely on the Net (2600 provided a download) and that allows users of Linux computers to watch DVDs. Corley's attorneys argued that DeCSS was protected as free speech. The studios argued that harm to their industry outweighed free speech protections. The court agreed with the plaintiffs. The EFF's Cindy Cohn, who helped represent Corley in the case, said, “I think it's a setback for free speech. It appears that the court is upholding censorship of the magazine on-line.”

It is also significant that the DMCA, in the words of Eric S. Raymond of the Open Source Initiative, serves to “protect the cartelization” of playback devices. Jon Johansen and MoRE (Masters of Reverse Engineering) in Norway developed DeCSS basically so DVDs could be played back on Linux devices—something the movie studios and their partners in the consumer electronics business hadn't bothered to deliver.

On one positive note, the US Federal Trade Commission announced hearings on “Competition and Intellectual Property Law and Policy in the Knowledge-Based Economy”, starting in January 2002 (when this issue of Linux Journal should be hitting the streets). You can learn more about it and submit written comments by following directions from the Federal Register at this URL: www.ftc.gov/os/2001/11/ciphearingsfrn.htm.

—Doc Searls

They Said It

In translating Der Spiegel into English via Babelfish, I discovered that “anthrax” translates to “spleen fire”.

—Anita French

Really, the reason you see open source there at all is because we came in and said there should be a platform that's identical with millions and millions of machines.

—Bill Gates

Linux is the long-term threat against our core business. Never forget that!

—Brian Valentine, VP Micosoft Windows Division

I've imagined doing software backwards—and it almost works. Backwards 1.0 has a ton of great features. With each release it has fewer features, until, one day, it's down to its core, the bare few features that make it a killer app.

—Brent Simmons

We've recently...found that Linux—if you look at the overall cost of ownership including the hardware, software, staffing, and purchasing and retirement costs—ends up being significantly less expensive than UNIX over a three-year period for things like web serving.

—Dan Kusnetzky, International Data Corp. (IDC)

A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him. In this way, a true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them.

—M. K. Ghandi

He had the startling individuality of a man who had never owned a television.

—Gerald Hannon, in an obituary for Michael Stanley Kibbee, founder of Cemetary.org.

The soul of democracy has been dying, drowning in a rising tide of big money contributed by a narrow, unrepresentative elite that has betrayed the faith of citizens in self-government.

—Bill Moyers

Our analysis is that many users of Linux don't want their organizations or their competitors knowing what they're running. They'd rather get kudos for a job well done than criticism for how they got the job done.

—Dan Kusnetzky, International Data Corp. (IDC)

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