LJ Archive

Internet Changes/Linux Changes

Phil Hughes

Issue #42, October 1997

This month the Internet took a big step toward maturity compliments of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both Linux and the Internet are growing—in size and in maturity. This month the Internet took a big step toward maturity compliments of the U.S. Supreme Court. I'm talking about the Communications Decency Act.

At issue was an overhaul of telecommunications regulation that included a section restricting the distribution of indecent or “patently offensive” material to minors over the Internet. While this restriction may sound reasonable to people less involved in the Internet than your average Linux user, I think we all know that attempting to legislate control over something with no central control, such as the Internet, doesn't work. If there were central control, the Internet itself couldn't work.

In what seems to be a well informed decision, the court said that the Internet deserved full First Amendment protection, pointing out that it was unique as a public forum for the exchange of ideas and information. They rejected the argument that the Internet is similar to television and radio industries. The difference, obvious to Internet users, is that while information is pushed at you on television, you seek information on the Internet.

Justice Stevens said “The [Communications Decency Act] is a content-based regulation of speech,” and went on to say, “The vagueness of such a regulation raises special First Amendment concerns because of its obvious chilling effect on free speech”.

At the same time, Linux is maturing in a very good way. First, CD distributions for the PowerPC are finally starting to appear. In June, the Linux for PowerPC project announced another release that supports hardware from Be Inc, Apple Computer, IBM, Motorola and most any other manufacturer of PowerPC computers.

The PowerPC is distinct from the MkLinux port for PowerMacs. MkLinux is based on the Mach microkernel. This project is based on a port of the standard Linux kernel. More information is available at http://www.linuxppc.org.

Another way Linux is showing its maturity is by addressing the usefulness of any computer system to people with disabilities. One organization that is involved in this effort is the Center for Disabled Student Services at the University of Utah. They offer a mailing list and pointers to pages that offer access information. You can find their web page at http://ssv1.union.utah.edu/linux-access/.

I wasn't surprised to find software addressing use of Linux systems by the blind including information on efforts to make documentation on Linux available text to speech and text to braille software. There is also a tips page on accessible web page design and even a list of hardware and software for the blind.

Here at LJ we have had inquiries over the years about printing the magazine in braille. This has never been practical because of the volumes involved. To address this we have made parts of the magazine available on-line and also have plans for a back issues CD. It is great to see that there are Linux-based options based on Linux for the blind to access this information.

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