LJ Archive



Issue #97, May 2002

Stop the Presses, LJ Index and more.

Who says computer mags have to be dry? We've wetted this issue by hiding a bottle of beer somewhere within its pages. So put on your 3-D glasses (or don't—it will probably make it harder) and look for the bottle. If you find it, send the page number to info@linuxjournal.com by May 31st. The first 100 people to send correct answers will receive a “Powered by Linux” license plate frame and one of each of our popular Linux bumper stickers.

The Largest Open-Source Event in Latin America to Happen May 2-4. 2002

Richard Stallman is one of over 200 speakers set to talk at the largest open-source event in Latin America. Every year, thousands of members of the Open Source community meet at the Fórum Internacional do Software Livre, scheduled this year from May 2-4, 2002 in Brazil.

Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil and host of the event, is a leader in the adoption of open source by the government and commercial users. The state has specific legislation regulating the use of software by government agencies, giving preference to open-source software.

More information on the Fórum can be found at the official site, www.softwarelivre.rs.gov.br/forum (Portuguese) or by e-mail at contato@softwarelivre.rs.gov.br.

—Marcio Saito

Linux Bytes Other Markets: Linux Helps Make Meals Special

Ypsilanti, Michigan, February 4, 2002—Linux, the open-source operating system, is at the heart of a popular new recipe service, recipesbyemail.com. Developed by Tap Internet, this service allows anyone with an e-mail client to search hundreds of recipes quickly and easily.

“It was something originally done as a proof-of-concept for a client—a database searchable through e-mail”, said Michael Kimsal, director of Tap Internet.

But soon after we'd finished the core technology, we decided to put up a “sample” to show other clients. Recipesbyemail.com has quickly become a staple for many users on the Internet to find just the recipes they're looking for.

A sizable percentage of the loyal users have turned out to be blind, due primarily to the fact that many web sites are so wrapped up in JavaScript rollovers and fancy flash animation that users relying on text-to-speech systems cannot use them at all. “It was quite interesting to get e-mails from some of these users because it was something I'd never even considered before”, said Kimsal.

“We intentionally keep the e-mails text-only to ensure maximum compatibility whether you're using Outlook or a Palm Pilot or a cell phone”, said Kimsal. “By building on Linux, we were able to do this on a shoestring and still provide value to the users, many of whom don't have very fast connections or modern browsers.” The system is built on Slackware Linux, using a combination of Perl, MySQL, procmail and PHP.

“We will be introducing a new feature soon to allow users to send in their own recipes, which we hope will help increase interest in the system even more.”


LJ Index—May 2002

  1. Pentagon transactions, in trillions of dollars, for which there is no accounting: 2.3

  2. Approximate amount, in millions of dollars, wasted by the Pentagon in the last two minutes: 2

  3. Number of moons in the solar system with diameters larger than the planet Pluto: 8

  4. Number of kilometers by which the diameter of Earth's moon exceeds that of Pluto: 1,176

  5. Hours between the crawling of a barely exposed web page by an e-mail-harvesting robot and the arrival of its first spam: 8

  6. Estimated ten-thousandths of a second that Earth's rotation will be slowed by global warming by 2100: 1

  7. Percent by which the world's over-65 population will grow by 2025: 100

  8. Percent by which the world's number of children will grow by 2025: 3

  9. Number of wireless public “hot spots” scheduled for deployment in Korea before the Soccer World Cup this summer: 25,000

  10. Percentage of users who arrive at web sites by direct navigation or bookmarks (rather than search engines), as of February 6, 2002: 52

  11. Same as above, one year earlier: 46

  12. Millions of dollars in reported Yahoo profits in 2000: 71

  13. Billions of dollars in losses Yahoo would have had in 2000 if option expenses had been factored in: 1.3

  14. Percentage of engineers whose career interests solidified before or during 10th grade: 59

  15. Percentage of engineers who “decided to pursue their careers because of an affinity for math and science and their desire to innovate and explore new approaches to everyday actions”: 79

  16. Billions of dollars in pocket change circulating in the United States: 7.7

  17. Number of operating systems bundled with a $399 US PC at Walmart.com: 0

  18. Number of Wal-Mart stores worldwide: 4,382

  19. Low end of estimated range of Linux users: 2,403,060

  20. High end of estimated range of Linux users: 60,076,500


1-2: CBS News, January 29, 2002

3-4: Solarviews.com

5-6: DSL Reports (dslreports.com)

6: Astronomy.com

7-8: United States Census Bureau

9: Wireless World Forum

10-11: ZDNet UK, sourcing WebSideStory

12-13: Fortune

14-15: MathSoft survey of 1,200 engineers (mathcad.com)

16: Business 2.0

17-18: Wal-Mart

19-20: Linux Counter, February 21, 2001

Netcraft: Steady as She Goes

Netcraft's latest (January 2002) web server survey (www.netcraft.com/survey) still has Apache in the lead among active sites with a 63.69% share, up 0.35%. Microsoft IIS holds a 26.07% share, down 0.55%. Both saw increases in numbers of servers. iPlanet was third with 2.99%, and Zeus was fourth with 2.16%. Both were essentially unchanged.

Netcraft also reported “mixed fortunes” for Sun's Cobalt subsidiary, which sells Linux-based web servers. “Although numbers of IP addresses on Cobalt machines has increased over the last year, their share of the total number of sites running on Linux has fallen, almost relentlessly month on month.” Netcraft notes that two large customers have switched from Cobalt to conventional Linux machines. Texas ISP Everyone's Internet recently announced “the largest single purchase ever by an independent North American ISP from Cobalt”. The company bought seven hundred Cobalt RaQ servers.

—Doc Searls

It's Trivial


Q1. Whose web site is titled “The homepage of a WWW-illiterate”?

Q2. Torvalds commenting on a certain person's rant about open-source software: “I'd rather listen to Isaac Newton than to X. He may have been dead for almost 300 years, but despite that he stinks up the room less.”

Simple question: who is Torvalds talking about?

Q3. What's the collective noun for a group of penguins?

Q4. Vinod Valloppillil of Microsoft certainly said quite a few flattering things about Linux:

“Linux represents a best-of-breed UNIX that is trusted in mission-critical applications.”

“Linux has been deployed in mission-critical environments with an excellent pool of public testimonials.”

“I previously had IE4/NT4 on the same box, and by comparison the combination of Linux/Navigator ran at least 30-40% faster when rendering simple HTML + graphics.”

Where did Vinod Valloppillil make these flattering comments about Linux?

Q5. We all know Linus was studying at the Department of Computer Sciences, University of Helsinki when he started working on Linux. But what is Linus' mother tongue?

Q6. Ray Tomlinson, a scientist working at BBN, Cambridge achieved a unique distinction in 1971. What was it?

Q7. A word origin question: William Gibson, in his famous novel Necromancer, coined a word that has become very popular. What word?

Q8. What is Linus Torvalds' middle name?

Q9. Which application is Linux Journal talking about when it says “You know your program has caught on when people start to use its name as a verb”? Later in the same article LJ says, “It's no coincidence that the spread of this application has coincided with Linux distributions finally paring down the menu of potentially exploitable services offered by default.”

Q10. The author of this seminal work ends his acknowledgements with “and AT&T Bell Labs for firing me and making this all possible”. While talking about this book, Wired magazine says, “The book the National Security Agency never wanted to be published.” Too many clues already, but name the book and author.

questions and answers.


A1. Linus Torvalds—check it out at www.cs.helsinki.fi/~torvalds.

A2. Craig Mundie, Microsoft Senior Vice President.

A3. A waddle of penguins or a raft of penguins. A group of penguins in water is called a “raft of penguins”, while a group on ice is called a “waddle of penguins”. This was decided at the 4th International Penguin Conference in Chile in September 2000.

A4. In the (in)famous Halloween Documents. In case you haven't heard of the Halloween documents, go to www.opensource.org/halloween/halloween1.html.

A5. Though Linus grew up in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, his mother tongue is Swedish. Finland has a significant Swedish-speaking population and they call themselves finlandssvensk.

A6. He sent the world's first network e-mail. And according to him, the first e-mail most probably was something as innocuous as QUERTYIOP.

A7. Cyberspace.

A8. Benedict.

A9. Fyodor's Nmap. The article is the Editors' Choice Awards [December 2002 issue of LJ, /article/5525], and Nmap was judged the best security tool.

A10. Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier.

—Sumit Dhar

Stop the Presses: Linuxcare Founders Launch Sputnik Wireless Network

While Boingo (the new national wireless internet system headed by EarthLink founder Sky Dayton) has been getting a lot of attention, the three Linuxcare founders—Dave Sifry, Dave LaDuke and Art Tyde—have been quietly building a system of their own—one based on the sharing model pioneered by the Free Software, Open Source and Linux movements. The company is Sputnik, and after a cautious beginning, the service has finally been launched.

To put Sputnik in context, it helps to see a wireless network (802.11b, or WiFi) as one of three things: 1) a closed wireless Ethernet LAN, 2) a wireless way to get on the Net for a fee or 3) a wireless way to get on the Net for free. Any one of the three might show up in your wireless client software when your laptop is within range of a “hot spot”. But only the last two offer ways to get on the Net. The main difference between Boingo and Sputnik is that Boingo aggregates businesses offering number two, while Sputnik extends both numbers two and three—especially three. Think of it as a fee-for-use value add-on to all the participating hot spots in the world.

Here's the difference in frame of reference: Boingo comes from the PC world, and Sputnik comes from the Linux/UNIX world. Boingo offers users client software and service for a fee, while it offers service providers a uniform way to interact with those users, along with a straightforward revenue stream. Sputnik offers users a way not only to take advantage of WiFi bandwidth, but to serve it up as well. As with Linux, your laptop is both a client and sever. You become a fully empowered part of the system.

With Sputnik Gateway Software, you distribute bandwidth while you use it. Your laptop becomes an access point—a hot spot. But instead of performing as an indiscriminate hub, Sputnik's gateway acts as an intelligent router, sending traffic by priority to other Sputnik members. The system expands with each new member. Dave Sifry says, “The gateway is a smart edge device, there is no need to run a special client in order to use it. No software to download onto your box! Totally standards-driven!”

Here's how Glenn Fleishmann of 802.11b Networking News puts it:

This is totally amazing.

The Sputnik folks have solved all the problems Boingo didn't while offering an interesting, viral alternative. They solve the firewall issue (local networks are protected while the AP is open), authentication issue (captive portal without any work) and priority issue (local users and Sputnik affiliates have QoS above random folk).

Because being a member opens the rest of the network to you for free, it plays on both aspects of the Internet in general and wireless community networks in particular: enlightened self-interest, as your adoption increases the size of the network and the likelihood of others to join; and generous selflessness, as you have nothing in particular to gain by allowing others to use your access point and network. Only in combination do these two virtues turn into a viral message.

Of course, some may cavil at this: it co-opts community networks by offering a prefab, PC-based package that looks like a closed box. Money is only taken from outsiders, those not generous or sophisticated enough to become affiliates.

I'm curious if this will provoke a firestorm of criticism.

The gateway comes with a firewall. It also serves as an application platform, does caching, tracks usage, handles authentication, remote management and other things. Its core technologies are also open source and available under the GPL.

Subscribers pay a monthly fee, but for a limited time (as we go to press), subscribers can roam for free. Sputnik is at www.sputnik.com.

—Doc Searls

They Said It

SETI is a science, not a screensaver!

—SETI Institute (www.seti.org)

The present invention relates to the creation and use of synthetic forms of existence, or androids, and more specifically relates to the development of a universal epistemological machine in which any forms of the universe, conventional technologies included, are represented, embodied and realized as eternal moments of an infinitely expanding continuum of enabled existential forms, as an alternative approach to resolving the problems of the human condition.

—Patent No. 6,341,372: “Universal machine translator of arbitrary languages”, January 22, 2002

With open mail relays, lists of 30 million e-mail addresses and a cable modem, it only takes a handful of professional spammers...to deposit ten or more daily pieces of spam into the mailbox of practically every frequent user of the Net.

—DSL Reports

Linux keeps me up at night in terms of the energy that IBM is putting in it. The thing that's a corollary to that—but much more important—is the intellectual issues associated with that, GPL in particular. I worry a lot because it goes to the heart of whether you can have a business selling software. Whether (or not) we're innovative keeps me up at night....The complexity, the legal restrictions keep me up at night. As to why I'm still here, I don't know. I do love technology.

—Jim Allchin

I finally found a really interesting Linux-based alternative to Microsoft's tools and applications. But somehow I couldn't get excited about going after Microsoft's crown jewels.

—Stewart Alsop, venture capitalist and Fortune columnist

Business revolutions happen whenever demand acquires the power to supply.

—Doc Searls

If in the real world everybody is going to be famous for 15 minutes, on the Web everybody gets to be famous for 15 people.

—David Weinberger

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.

—John Keats

Next Move: Sell It with Linux for the Same Price

Want to know what a headless, vanilla white box PC ought to cost? It's hard to imagine a better place to check than Wal-Mart.

At the Wal-Mart web site (www.walmart.com) you'll find a generic 1GHz Intel white box (the Microtel SYSMAR116) with the usual state-of-the-moment features and figures: 128MB RAM, 40GB drive, keyboard, mouse, modem, amplified speakers, floppy, etc. And in bold uppercase letters, this welcome disclaimer:


Commodities don't get much more commodified than that.

The price: $399

The site: www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=1731327

LJ Archive