LJ Archive



Issue #99, July 2002

Beer Contest, II

Thanks to everyone who decided that looking for a miniscule beer bottle among the pages of Linux Journal for a chance at some auto accoutrements is a worthy way to spend what little free time you have. Jon maddog Hall even sent in a correct answer (albeit too late to qualify for the prize), telling us “You can't hide beer from maddog”, as if we didn't know.

Many hundreds of readers were sharp enough to find the beer bottle on the table on page 93 in the “Crystal Space” article. Some even picked up on the hint by way of the 3-D glasses suggestion. Others should spend more time looking for beer (or better yet—a job) and less time drinking it, for they “found” beer in the most remarkable places in the magazine's pages. For these folks we're offering another chance. To make the new start fresh, this time you'll be looking for something completely different—a mug of beer—and no, it's not the one pictured here. This one is an example. For this month's prize we'll be letting you help us clean out our warehouse by accepting some pristine vintage Linux Journal XL T-shirts. This time, correct responders numbered 200-300 will win.

Send your mailing address with your answer to info@linuxjournal.com. Good luck!

The Game too Addictive for Debian?

If you're doing without Tetris or Solitaire one day at a time, stop reading right now. The free SDL-based game Frozen Bubble, in which you control a cute penguin and lob colored bubbles into a geometric pattern while a chill-room soundtrack plays, is so addictive that user Nick Moffitt reported it to the Debian bug tracking system as a “Title 1 Controlled Substance”.

Bug Report: bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=143176

Game Home Page: www.frozen-bubble.org

—Don Marti

LJ Index—July 2002

  1. Estimated millions of dollars saved annually by Largo, Florida by running Linux applications on Linux servers and thin clients: 1

  2. Number of distinct domains that lead to the Tina's Webcam site: 4,525

  3. Millions of dollars Bertlesmann loaned Napster, through April 2002: 85

  4. Millions of dollars more Bertlesmann would be willing to pay Napster, as of April 2002: 15-30

  5. Billions of dollars for which Napster was originally sued by the RIAA on behalf of Bertlesmann and other companies: 20

  6. Debian Linux CDs burned by the government of Extremadura, a rural area called the poorest in Spain, for distribution to schools through newspaper inserts: 80,000

  7. Number of schools in Extremadura: 670

  8. Number of technology centers in Extremadura: 32

  9. Expected yearly savings to the Extremadura community in millions of dollars: 7

  10. Number of government offices and schools expected in the Extremadura extranet by the end of 2002: 1,478

  11. Number of Extremadura's teachers expected to be trained on the use of Linux in the classroom: 15,000

  12. Millions of dollars spent by MCA Records to make and market the album Ultimate High by Carly Hennesey: 2.2

  13. Copies of Ultimate High sold as a result of MCA Records' efforts: 378

  14. Percentage of records that become profitable, according to record industry sources: 5

  15. Average number of records that must be sold for a major label release to break even: 500,000

  16. Size in inches at its widest side of the Transmeta Crusoe-based OQO “modular computer”: 4.9

  17. Weight in ounces of the OQO: 9

  18. Size in GB of the OQO's hard drive: 10

  19. Expected battery life in hours of the OQO: 8

  20. Trillions of calculations per second of the Linux-powered supercomputer HP sold to the US Dept. of Energy in April 2002: 8.3

  21. Number of Intel Itanium 64-bit processors in the Energy Dept.'s new Linux supercomputer: 1,400

  22. Millions of dollars the Energy Dept. will pay for its new supercomputer: 24.5


1: ZDNet

2: Ben Edelman, Harvard Law case study

3: New York Times

4-5: ABC News, MP3 Newswire

6-11: Wired News

12-15: Wall Street Journal

16-19: LinuxDevices.com

20-22: CNET

MIT Scheme Offers Historic Strength, Modern Convenience

I have a very real need for programs to treat other programs as data because I do a lot of work in program-writing programs, or “metaprogramming”, for CAD applications. I've done this sort of programming in Python and in C++, but I'm increasingly finding the Lisp family of languages to be the power tool I have always wanted. Recently, I was very pleasantly surprised with the power and features of MIT Scheme Release 7.7.0, released in March 2002.

Scheme is now more than 20 years old but is very robust, containing numerous concepts only now being seen in late-modern languages, such as C++ and Java. For instance, Scheme has continuations, where the state of a computation becomes in essence a controllable object. This powerful and general facility is useful for concurrency, modeling, multithreading and arbitrary control flows.

MIT Scheme's library, SLIB, contains support for working with getopt, HTML, relational databases and other functionality similar to the Python or Perl libraries. There is a very powerful Scheme Object System OOP library, which has features similar to the Common Lisp Object System (CLOS).

Scheme seems to have a close kinship with Common Lisp. However, MIT Scheme is not only GPLed, but feels more approachable, with a simpler syntax than Common Lisp. For my work, Scheme's scoping model and use of namespace are somewhat better than Common Lisp programs.

To get started with MIT Scheme, see the project home page: www.swiss.ai.mit.edu/projects/scheme. Scheme resources are available at www.schemers.org. See also The Scheme Programming Language: ANSI Scheme, Second Edition, by R. Kent Dybvig, ISBN 0-13-454646-6.

—Michael Baxter

It's Trivial


Q1 What company started in 1938 from a garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California with a resistance capacity audio oscillator as its first product?

Q2 It could have been: Calex, Elcal, Calecom, Elcom, Calcomp, Digicom, Tronicom, Comptek, Computek, Esscotek or Ectek. What name was finally chosen for this startup?

Q3 Incorporated as Computing-Tabulating-Recording company in 1911, it formally changed its name in 1924. What is the company called today?

Q4 The story goes that the campus of the University of California, Berkeley had a machine, called Ingres, connected to the ARPAnet and another machine, called Ernie Covax, that was home to the Berkeley UNIX Project, which was connected to a network known as BerkNet. These machines were interconnected, but there was no way of moving mail from one network to another. Eric Allman wrote a software program to transfer mail between these two networks and later went on to found a company. Which?

Q5 Many talented programmers, unhappy with what was going on at Fairchild Semiconductors left to create their own startups. Intel and AMD are just two examples of semiconductor companies that arose out of Fairchild Semiconductors. What did the press dub these startups that arose from Fairchild?


A1 Hewlett-Packard

A2 Intel


A4 Sendmail, Inc.

A5 Fairchildren

—Sumit Dhar

And How Many Times Will the Kernel Be Rewritten before This Is Finished?

By the time you read this, Free Radio Linux (radioqualia.va.com.au/freeradiolinux) will be about a quarter of its way through a reading of the Linux kernel by a digitized voice. The voice is a creation of r a d i o q u a l i a (radioqualia.va.com.au), an “on-line radio station aiming to open an electronic portal into the eccentricities of antipodean radio space”. The site explains,

r a d i o q u a l i a is engaged in the exploration of sound and media within the context of philosophical speculation. Informed by the discrete discourses surrounding science, art and philosophy, r a d i o q u a l i a is attempting to simulate the introspectible and seemingly monadic properties of sense-datum, through sound.

Since Free Radio Linux's kernel (they don't say which version) contains 4,141,432 lines of code, the reading is expected to take 14,253.43 hours, or 593.89 days. Transmission began on February 3, 2002, the fourth anniversary of the Open Source Initiative. You can listen in through Ogg Vorbis.

—Doc Searls

Stop the Presses: Hollywood Turns Up the Heat

It was law professor and author Lawrence Lessig who first described the battle for control of the Net as a kind of civil war between Northern and Southern California: between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

The North, he says, “believes in a free exchange of ideas”. The modern South wants to protect intellectual property the way the old South wanted to protect its privileged plantation system. If you want to traffic in any of its copyrighted material, you have to visit “their plantation and seek permission from the master”. And, “if you develop technology that interferes with their right of perfect control, you will be punished.”

In this civil war, everyone who wants to protect the Net's wide-open frontiers is a Siliconian, and everyone who wants to maintain absolute control over the distribution and use of “content” is a Hollywoodian.

The latter would include Jamie Kellner, the chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting, who was installed by AOL's Bob Pittman in the wake of the AOL/Time Warner merger. In an April 2002 interview with Cableworld, Kellner said, “I'm a big believer we have to make television more convenient or we will drive the penetration of PVRs and things like that, which I'm not sure is good for the cable industry or the broadcast industry or the networks.”

When asked to explain why, he continued:

Because of the ad skips....It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming.

PVRs are Personal Video Recorders. The most popular PVR is the Linux-powered TiVo. Its main competition comes from ReplayTV, which sells under the Panasonic and SonicBlue brand names. ReplayTV PVRs have the power not only to record TV programs, but to share them over the Net. To Hollywood, sharing is theft. In testimony before Congress, Jack Valenti, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), said, “The potential undoing of America's greatest export trade prize...is the theft of movies in both the analog and digital formats.” In that same testimony, he outlined a three-prong attack on “piracy” that began this way:

First, we have taken on the task of protecting copyright laws in the courts....We have to insist that copyright laws cannot be casually regarded, for if those laws are shrunk or loosened, the entire fabric of costly creative works is in deep trouble.

So, as I write this (on May 2, 2002), ReplayTV finds itself the subject of a lawsuit brought by a raft of TV and film studios. In the course of discovery, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking ReplayTV to turn over precise customer usage records. Cory Doctorow, outreach director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, describes what happened next:

As we understand it, the Court ordered ReplayTV to change its software to include spyware that will capture its customers' clickstream—every commercial skipped, every show watched, every recording shared over the network. The plaintiffs—a cabal of Hollywood studios and TV networks—asked for this information as part of the pretrial discovery process, and when ReplayTV responded that it did not have the data or the means to collect it, the judge ordered them to change the software to collect the information within 60 days. When ReplayTV tried to safeguard its customers privacy by making the mandated spyware an opt-in process, the judge denied the request.

By the way, TiVo does not collect individual data—only aggregate statistics—and all data gathering is opt-out for customers. But the precedent here puts TiVo no less at risk than ReplayTV. Valenti's legal attack strategy is sure to send a message to the legal departments of the world's TiVos.

In a recent interview with Business 2.0, Lessig explained the strategic context:

The problem today is that the words “intellectual property” have become captured by people like my friend Jack Valenti, who goes around talking about intellectual property not as a balance but as an extreme; not as something that we're supposed to be constantly restriking as technologies change to make sure it doesn't stifle innovation, but as a tool that the dinosaurs can use to make sure there are no mammals in the future.

Cory Doctorow puts it another way, “The role of the technology industry is to blaze new trails that create new opportunities for Hollywood. The role of Hollywood is to seek injunctive relief from those opportunities.”

But Silicon Valley has some friends whose jobs cross the boundaries. Mark Cuban, most familiar these days as the high-profile owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team, is also chairman of HDNet, the first all-HD (high definition) TV network. At a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, Cuban called on the broadcasting industry to “just completely ignore” Hollywood in the fight over copyright and intellectual property, calling the litigious studios a “chicken little environment”.

—Doc Searls

They Said It

I would point out that linked lists, mark-and-copy garbage collection, and the Tab key are all patented too. Somebody who always carefully checked first for software patents would never write anything at all.

—Martin Pool, in the rsync FAQ

VANTEC does offer a limited warranty but as a practical matter that warranty is seldom applicable to competitive and particularly destructive robot contests.

—Vantec.com web site

The public interest in public-domain intellectual property freezes dead with the humble birth of a cartoon mouse on a tabletop in Kansas City. The Mouse is flash-frozen in legal ice. He's unrotting. He's undying. He's cryogenically preserved....In ancient Rome, folks thought it was pretty decadent when the Emperor Caligula made his horse a Senator. But in the modern US Senate, there's a Senator who's a cartoon mouse!

—Bruce Sterling

Don't be fooled. The BPDG standard is not about stopping “piracy”. It's about Hollywood regaining some measure of control over what you can and can't do with television. It's about cramming the VCR genie back in the bottle and giving Hollywood the power to bring new technologies to heel before they can deliver new capabilities to consumers.

—Fred von Lohmann

If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

—Samuel Adams

We're moving towards a “Creole” of technological concepts. The idea comes from language theory, specifically Steven Pinker's work where adults come together in an area with lots of different languages and end up coming up with a broken, lumpy language that is put together as a pidgin language. When the next generation comes along, however, it becomes more sophisticated and develops into a real language, then called a Creole. You only have to watch kids today using technology to realize the similarities, and that we adults are very much the pidgins.

—Douglas Adams

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