The Linux Letter for
January 14, 2004
Welcome to yet another Linux Letter. In
this month's edition, we'll look at more news from SCO versus
the world, filtering out spam with Spamassassin and how to make
Java work under Fedora Core 1. Ready? Let's go!
The Santa Cruz Operation's lawsuit against IBM
seems to be morphing into less a legal action and more a
desperate attempt to keep the company's credibility from
drowning in a sea of ludicrous claims and counterclaims.
Among the latest, SCO responded to a court order requiring them
to reveal to IBM all of the Linux code that is alleged to
infringe upon UNIX System V. As you may recall, SCO's
position was that millions of lines of code of Linux were
infringing. SCO's initial response was, apparently, to
actually print out the entire kernel source tree and send it in
hardcopy form to IBM...thousands of pages of code.
Unfortunately for SCO, IBM challenged this action, saying that
SCO couldn't claim that every single line of code was
infringing. The court agreed and SCO's response was to
submit a 60 page document listing the infringing code. It
should seem obvious that millions of lines of code won't fit
into 60 pages.
In another move, Novell, the company who sold
certain rights for System V to Caldera (which then changed its
name to SCO) has jumped into the fray with both feet. I
say "certain rights" because it appears that there is plenty of
confusion about just exactly what SCO purchased. Last
month, Novell applied for copyrights to sweeping portions of
System V, claiming that they had not sold the copyrights to SCO.
And, to confound the issue further, Novell also claims that they
have the power to limit enforcement of any System V licensing
contracts. With that power, Novell promptly absolved IBM
of any licensing violation. Of course, SCO contends that
Novell has no power at all to do such a thing, although the
reasoning seems to be along the lines of "we spent $150 million
on System V...why would we spend that much money and not get the
whole works?" This will almost certainly also end up in
And just to twist things a bit more, Novell
purchased SuSe Linux. SCO, in an apoplectic fury, pointed
out that this acquisition seems to violate a non-compete clause
in the System V purchase contract, a position that Novell, as
expected, completely disagrees with.
At this point, the score appears to be
something like this:
SCO has sued IBM, IBM has sued SCO, RedHat has
sued SCO, Novell has forgiven IBM for any alleged contract
violation, Novell says SCO doesn't own what it thinks it owns
and Novell owns a major Linux distribution. Oh, and SCO is
still pursuing its $699 per CPU licensing scheme, both
domestically and abroad. And the company also seems poised
to file a lawsuit against Google, claiming that the vast array
of computers that the search giant runs are using Linux with SCO-owned
code, in violation of SCO licenses. I'm sure that from
here the case can do nothing but get stranger.
A few weeks ago, SCO pointed out that by
refusing to indemnify their customers, the major companies that
distributed Linux were obviously afraid that they were really
infringing upon SCO's code. This week, several companies,
including IBM and Hewlett-Packard announced an indemnification
fund that would provide up to $1.5 million in protection to
their customers. SCO promptly issued a press release
stating that by indemnifying their customers, the companies
showed that they were afraid that they were infringing upon
SCO's code. You figure it out.
On to less frustrating things.
Spam sucks. Besides eating up bandwidth,
some of the stuff that comes into my mailbox is just about the
most offensive junk that I never, ever wanted to see.
While I could stand to lose a few pounds, I don't need message
after message trumpeting the fact. And my bodily
appendages are quite nicely proportioned, thank you. And I
don't know about everybody else, but my voyeuristic tendencies
aren't anywhere nearly twisted as the spam that I receive might
I'm lucky because I run my own mail server.
I administer mail.nospin.org (in fact, it whirrs away on a Sun
Ultra 1 server in the spare bedroom), so I have control over
what comes into the server. That gives me the opportunity
to use a great program called Spamassassin.
If you run your own mail server, you can run
Spamassassin. If you don't, check with your ISP...chances
are good that they run the program and you can configure it to
analyze your email and stop spam.
Spamassassin uses several different methods to
identify spam. It has a Bayesian filter that examines the
text of the message for patterns indicative of spam (a Bayesian
filter actually "learns" over time), connections to several
databases that maintain lists of known spam sources and header
searches that search for inconsistencies in email headers that
are typical of spam. Each detail is given a point score
and any message that exceeds a configurable threshold is
identified as spam. You can chose to filter the spam into
a folder for later examination or to delete it at the mail
server so that you never even download it.
Installing Spamassassin isn't difficult, but
it's not trivial either. I installed it on a Sun Ultra 1
server running Aurora Linux (a clone of RedHat 7.3). It
should work on virtually any version of Linux, including Fedora.
The documentation provides some instructions on how to "train"
the Bayesian filter to recognize the difference between spam and
"ham" (mail that isn't spam). After about a week of
training, Spamassassin was catching more than 99% of my spam.
Better yet, it did not identify any legitimate messages as spam.
Spamassassin also supports whitelists and
blacklists. This allows you to enter email addresses that
you know will never send spam, as well as those that always send
spam. After using Spamassassin for about a month and a
half, I'm confident enough in its abilities that I simply have
it delete spam at the mail server. I've gone from
downloading about 1000 messages per day to around 250 - and only
one or two of them are actual spam that was not caught.
You can find out more about Spamassassin at
Fedora Core 1 does not ship with Java.
That's because Java is not Open Source software. That
keeps in line with the Fedora Project's goal of delivering an
Open Source-only distribution, but it doesn't do much for us
when we run into web pages that use Java applets (or for my
Neuros audio player which uses Java for its Linux application).
The problem is that if you use Netscape to download the plugin
for Java, it won't work. The fix? Download and
install the latest version from Sun's web site.
The download page is
The link for Linux is listed under "Download J2SE v 1.4.2_03".
Select the first entry in that section and download the JRE
(Java Runtime Environment). After you agree to the
license, you can download a self extracting RPM. For your
own sanity's sake, select that option. Once you've
downloaded j2re-1_4_2_03-linux-i586-rpm.bin, change the
permissions on it to make it executable. You'll have
another license agreement to accept, then the RPM file will
extract. Install the RPM as root using the options -ivh
which will preserve any existing Java installation that you
Once you've installed Java, you'll need to
link the plugin to your browser's plugin directory. If you
are using the latest version of Netscape, Mozilla or Firebird,
change to the browser's plugin directory, then create a link by
ln -sf /usr/java/j2re-1.4.2_03/plugin/i386/ns610-gcc32/libjavaplugin_oji.so
You'll need to restart your web browser for it
to detect the plugin. After that, you're set to view Java
applications in all their glory!