LJ Archive

Letters to the Editor


Issue #34, February 1997

Readers sound off.

Fixing PGP for Linux

I read your article in Linux Journal #32 about using PGP and came across the comment that building PGP from source for Linux was, well, difficult.

I have included a patch which will allow you to build PGP 2.62 on a Linux 2.0 box. (I'm running gcc 2.7.2, and a 2.0.25 kernel, so your mileage may vary with other setups).

Obtain the US distribution of PGP 2.6.2 from http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html (this may work for the international version, but I haven't tried it). Untar everything. Following the instructions in setup.doc, do the following:

cd rsaref/install/unixstrip pgp

Then do the tests setup.doc suggests.

There's definitely a cleaner way to do things, but I stopped playing with it once it worked. Sean C. Malloye-Net, Inc., smalloy@zilker.net

See Listing 1 for the code Sean included with his letter.

It was good to see Michael Johnson's introductory PGP article in the December issue (#32). PGP can indeed be a bit of a challenge to set up, as he notes. This is particularly true for people with ELF systems. I put together a tips page for my local Linux user's group when we had a meeting devoted to installing PGP and integrating it with other applications. It's at http://www.rust.net/~strix/pgphand1.htm.

You really don't need to be a cloak and dagger type to appreciate PGP. In a more mundane setting, I like the ability to keep things private (like course gradebooks) and discourage e-mail forgery (“emergency, exam cancelled...”).Regards, strix@rust.net

More FreeBSD?

In the December (#32) issue of Linux Journal, a reader asks whether it would be possible to see more FreeBSD-related articles. Your response mentioned an informal survey, with which I must say I'm unfamiliar, citing a lack of interest in the FreeBSD community.

I'm not sure how you were given such an impression, but I can certainly say that such a verdict is rather inconsistent with my own experience—we're always happy to see articles (or, indeed, entire magazine issues) devoted to our operating system and currently invest considerable energies in promoting it through magazine articles, public presentations and trade show appearances. I would be more than pleased to see the Linux Journal take a greater interest in FreeBSD and, until reading your response, was not even aware that such a possibility really existed.

Though some of the more overzealous users in both camps might perceive FreeBSD and Linux as operating systems in strong competition, this viewpoint is both short-sighted and foolish. The real dividing line here is free software vs. commercial software and open systems with complete source code vs. “open systems” which are open only in some marketing department's imagination.

Linux and FreeBSD have far more in common than the zealots would care to admit, and far more important than lineage is the fact that both provide users with something none of the commercial operating systems can match—a sense of actual control over the OS environment and the ability to learn from or change any aspect of it as they see fit, no longer tightly constrained by whatever arbitrary restrictions the manufacturer chooses to impose on them.

I hope that LJ does someday extend its reach beyond the implied focus of its title, making it clear the real fight lies not between FreeBSD and Linux but in combating market ignorance about the kinds of things of which free software is capable and how truly viable an alternative to the much more well-known commercial alternatives it can so often be.

The world of free software is only the richer for having multiple solutions to choose from, each with its own unique strengths and areas of coverage, and frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Jordan Hubbard jkh@FreeBSD.org, http://www.freebsd.org/

Where Is Linux?

Now more than ever, I find Linux to be the number one operating system of choice for several reasons. Not only is its stability far superior to some commercially developed operating systems; the variety of applications available for Linux is exploding like never before. Its practicality for Internet access exceeds that of any other OS for the PC, and more hardware than ever is supported by it.

I'm the president of the Computer Society at Western Connecticut State University. The goals of the Society are to enlighten and inform its members and to create a common ground on which computer students, professionals, and educators can convene. To meet ongoing demand, we hold Linux discussions and demonstrations as frequently as possible. In addition, Linux is now being used as the primary teaching tool for the Operating Systems course. Not only are computer majors, professionals, and hobbyists alike using Linux as a primary operating system; even those less technically inclined are finding Linux suitable for everyday tasks.

My only question has been and remains: Why are we still not finding Linux distributions on the shelves of local software stores? Currently, I see it widely available at trade shows, expos, conventions, the computer sections of local book stores, and several other locations the general public does not go for software. So, while Joe or Jill Average shop around for new software to try out on their computers, they never see Linux. Why hasn't some company put Linux on the shelf where the light shines? Cory Plock coryp@i84.net

More Praise for Debian Linux

Having just attempted to install Debian Linux, I read your product review on Debian 1.1 in the November Linux Journal (#31) with interest. My installation was plagued by problems with an inconsistent file system on my CD from iConnect, apparently as a result of “growing pains” in the process of upgrading Debian to kernel version 2.0. The problems gave me ample opportunity to correspond with the Debian “bugs” server and the folks who develop and manage several of the various packages which make up Debian Linux.

This led me to what I consider (in spite of my failed installation) to be one of the real strengths of Debian Linux—a feature not mentioned by the authors of the LJ article. Debian is obviously supported by many people who believe strongly in its value and genuinely want it to work for everyone. The Debian bug reporting system is well organized and efficient. All my questions and problems were addressed promptly by folks who not only sent me friendly and astute replies, but continued to correspond with me, and in a couple of cases, asked for my input and observations. Debian, like GNU software and Linux itself, is truly a community effort.

This is in stark contrast to my experience with another popular distribution which I'm also using. After having SCSI host adaptor problems with the distribution boot disk (identical to one of the problems I had with Debian), I submitted a problem report to both the distribution author and the primary distributor. After several months, I have yet to hear from either.

The Debian folks at iConnect are sending me a replacement CD, and I'll certainly give the distribution another shot.Lindsay Haisley fmouse@fmp.com, http://www.fmp.com/

Linux for Secondary Schools

Linux would seem, in many ways, well positioned to satisfy the growing thirst for computer technology in the secondary schools. It's cost effective, it excels at networking, and the open orientation of the Linux community offers an antidote to both the Mac vs. PC turf wars and over-dependence on a few corporate providers. Perhaps more importantly, Linux offers the option of lots of cheap, reliable, quiet, easy-to-maintain, dumb terminals attached to a single server, vastly increasing the workstation-to-pupil ratio schools can achieve within their meager budgets. Such terminals may not meet our expectations for colorful graphics, but are quite adequate for teaching and using communications skills (word processing, e-mail, ftp), office use (records management), etc. Is anyone in the Linux community targeting this area? Jack McGregor jackmack@interserv.com

Graphics Are Important

Hello, Linux Journal! I've just read LJ issue 31 and was positively surprised that most of the articles were about graphics. “Multimedia” is important for the desktop market and the private user, but it was forgotten in former times. I found the article on GGI an important concept for Linux. It cannot be the future of Linux that all device drivers must be programmed by hackers on the Net—the manufacturers must be more involved in this part of developing. The GGI article mentioned an essential way to achieve this: the manufacturer can link his own optimized driver in object form into the system that provides a well-defined interface to communicate with the special type of device. I think this must be possible for any type of device, so the manufacturer has minimal work to provide a driver for Linux. Olaf Milbredt o.milbredt@gsn.pb.nw.schule.de

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