The Linux Letter for
November 7, 2003
This month brings a new release of
Mandrake Linux (along with potential trouble for its users).
Also, SCO is upping the rhetoric in its battle against IBM and
SCO and Red Hat announced the end of Red Hat Linux. Read
on for the dirt...
Mandrake Linux 9.2 hit the street last month with a bang,
particularly if you use a CD-ROM drive made by LG Electronics.
Early versions of the software can cause the CD-ROM drive to
erase its EEPROM, rendering it useless. Apparently,
somewhere during the installation process, Mandrake Linux issues
a "flush cache" command that the drive interprets to be a
command to write to the firmware. This causes the firmware
to become corrupted and the drive to become a paperweight.
Mandrake has confirmed that the problem is isolated only to LG
Electronics CD-ROM drives and has updated their software to
avoid issuing that command.
Several online forums have noted that the
CD-ROM drives in question are out of spec with regard to the
ATAPI standard, but also point out that Mandrake Linux seems to
be the only operating system that issues the flush cache command
in such a way that causes the drives to self destruct.
Here at FreePCTech.com, we've made sure that the version of
Mandrake Linux 9.2 that we sell has the updated software.
SCO is continuing their barrage of fear,
uncertainty and doubt against IBM, SCO and, now, the GPL.
In what seems to be a remarkably twisted interpretation of US
copyright law, SCO has filed papers in its ongoing lawsuit
against IBM, claiming that the GPL violates the law because it
allows making multiple copies of software. SCO's position
is that copyright law does not allow for redistribution of
copyrighted work - that is, if you buy a copyrighted work, you
can't make another copy, even if the copyright holder says that
it's OK to do so. Thus, according to SCO, the GPL is
invalid as a license, but since (remember, this is all according
to SCO) the copyright holders wanted the software to be free,
the next best thing would be for the software to be released
into the public domain. Thus, suggests SCO, any software
released under the GPL should really be declared to be in the
public domain. As you can imagine, there is some
resistance to this interpretation.
SCO has also filed papers complaining that
IBM is not properly responding to SCO's motions during the
discovery phase of the case. IBM's response is that they
have asked SCO to provide them with a list of the infringing
lines of code - that is, IBM wants SCO to tell them exactly what
code they think IBM has misappropriated so that IBM can review
its library of code and determine if they are infringing.
SCO's response? A list of hundreds of thousands of lines
of code, along with the caveat that somewhere in those lines is
the infringing code. But SCO won't say exactly which code
is infringing...in effect, asking IBM to compare its code to
SCO's code and rat themselves out. IBM's response, as one
might expect, is that they won't do SCO's work for them.
So the case continues.
Back in February,
Red Hat announced that it
would be discontinuing support for Red Hat Linux at the end of
the year. The end of the year is nearly here and the
company has just announced that Red Hat 9.0 is the last release
in the series. The company will, instead, concentrate on
its Advanced Server, Enterprise Server and Advanced Workstation
products. Although none of these products are available
for free download, Red Hat has not left its supporters in the
lurch. They have worked with the Fedora Project to create
a new distribution, one derived from Red Hat Linux, called,
appropriately, Fedora. The aim of Fedora is to provide a
more cutting edge distribution that is suitable for hobbyists
and casual users, as opposed to the commercial product that is
targeted at corporations who want a more stable product.
Fedora Core 1, the initial release of
Fedora is now available.
It is positioned as an update to Red Hat Linux 9.0. I am
in the process of installing and evaluating it, with a full
review to come in a week or so. Fedora includes virtually
everything that Red Hat has always shipped with its Linux
distribution, with some new features, particularly for updating
the software. Also, Fedora will have a much faster release
cycle than the old Red Hat Linux, roughly every four to six
months. This will allow users to keep up with improvements
in the operating system, yet not have to worry about
compatibility issues or about breaking something when installing
a new feature that didn't originally ship with the OS.
Although Red Hat provides no support for
Fedora, several mailing lists are available online, along with
an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel for live discussions with
other users. Red Hat does sponsor Fedora and backs the
project with bandwidth, server space and development resources
parallel with their commercial products. Fedora is still
Red Hat, but with much greater community support and
responsibility. Obviously time will tell just how
successful this will be.
It's hard to get away from using a
terminal window in Linux, but sometimes it's a little
frustrating and tedious to type in obscure commands or long
filenames. Installing RPM packages comes to my mind
because it seems like the package names, in order to be as
descriptive as possible, are also long and convoluted. I'm
not the world's greatest typist, so I make mistakes. But
Linux has a feature that saves the day. Let your mouse
type for you!
Here's an example: I was installing
up2date on the web server here at NOSPIN network headquarters to
fix a security certificate problem. The RPM filename was
up2date-gnome-18.104.22.168-1.i386.rpm. Now for me,
that's just asking for trouble. Here's how I made it easy!
Simply change to the directory that contains the file you're
looking for and type ls to list the files. Then
double click the left mouse button on the filename to highlight
it. Next, type in the command you wish to execute (in this
case, it was rpm -Uvh) and click the middle mouse button
(or the mouse wheel on a wheel mouse, or both left and right
mouse buttons at once on a two button mouse with no wheel).
The highlighted text appears on the screen. Hit enter and
you're on your way!