LJ Archive



Issue #79, November 2000

Stop the Presses, LJ Index and more.


In my interview with Craig Burton in the August 2000 issue of Linux Journal (“Uncollapsing Open Source Distinctions: Talking with Craig Burton”, p. 16), I said “historically, the Open Source movement has tried to move away from the Free Software movement's anti-commercial rhetoric and policies.”

A few days ago I got an e-mail from Richard Stallman, under the subject “Who's anti-commercial?”. His answer: not him. And not the Free Software movement, either:

We do not have anti-commercial rhetoric or policies, and I'm surprised you would say this.

I know why some people say we are “anti-commercial”. We criticize a common business practice, and people who do that are often accused of being “anti-commercial”. But, the fact is that if a program does not allow commercial use, or if you can't sell copies, we reject it.

We do not compromise our principles to cater to business; business today is so used to such treatment that anyone who stands firm when business says “Change!” is likely to be called anti-commercial. For instance, the GPL is designed to prohibit some anti-social practices, and this applies to business just as to individuals and schools. If people say the GPL is not “business-friendly”, they probably mean it dares to say no to some of the things their businesses want to do.

But the GPL extends the same rights to business as it does to everyone else. And we try to cooperate with business in ways that are consistent with our principles. For example, I asked publishing company people for advice when writing the GNU FDL.

So would you please post a correction to that statement about us?

Since I was making distinctions between two movements, I decided to share Richard's correspondence with the prime mover of the other one, Eric S. Raymond, hoping to triangulate a bit on the full extent of my error. “Okay,” I wrote, “did I step in it here, or (so far as what he quotes) am I right? Or sort of right?”

ESR wrote back, “It's a tough call. No, the official interpretation of FSF doctrine is not anti-commercial. In that sense, yes, you stepped in it.”

An on-the-other-hand explanation (OTOH) followed, but it's not one that RMS found agreeable. Nor was RMS's disagreement with ESR's OTOH agreeable with ESR. The e-mail volley between the two gentlemen continues to fill my in-box, so I'll leave that one alone for now.

Meanwhile, I invite readers to visit the Free Software Foundation site at http://www.fsf.org/. Here is part of the FSF's explanation of free software:

“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free speech”, not “free beer.”

“Free software” refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom for the users of the software:

  • The freedom to run the program for any purpose (freedom 0).

  • The freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).

  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

A program is free software if users have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should be free to redistribute copies, with or without modifications, gratis or charging a fee, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do this means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission.

So the statement, and I, stand corrected. For my thoughts about related matters, see this month's “Linux for Suits” on page 20.

—Doc Searls


by Reginald Charney


Over the last 15 months, the languages with the most growth have been those directly related to the Internet. Thus, XML, Perl, HTML, and Java have flourished. However, even these high-flyers have suffered reversals in the last few months (see www.accu-usa.org for more details). It is interesting to note that the highest flyers are also showing the most deceleration in demand.


One of the major changes in the demand deceleration of platforms is that Windows 2000 has now joined the other platforms that are experiencing decreased demand. Interestingly enough, while demand for individual flavors of Windows has decreased, overall demand for Windows is still growing, albeit slowly. This includes all dialects of Windows.

What's Hot, What's Not

You must have been on an island not to know that LinuxWorld was in San Jose in August. It had so many exhibitors that some of them overflowed the exhibit hall and ended up out in the hallways. Rumor has it that next year's West Coast LinuxWorld will move to San Francisco's Moscone Center to handle the anticipated larger crowds. There also was a lot of big names there: IBM, Dell, Compaq SGI, HP, Sun, as well as the usual Linux crowd, such as VA Linux and all the major Linux distributors. The BSD folks also had an interesting presence.

If anything can be said about future trends, it has to be Linux for embedded systems. In contrast, last fall's theme was Linux in the business world, and this year delivered great growth in that arena. At this show, most of the software exhibitors were providers of B2B solutions. Two products caught my eye: the color PDA, Compaq iPaq, running PocketLinux; and the black and white Helio. At $500 and $200, respectively, they will give Palm a real run for its money (http://www.PocketLinux.com/). eGrail (http://www.eGrail.org/) is an open-source provider of content management software for the Web. It provides server-based access to the central repository and tools through any browser.


“Five years from now the government will measure open-source project starts the way it now measures housing starts.”

—Bill Weinberg, MontaVista

“In any business model you need someone to sue. That's the American way.”

—Bill Weinberg, MontaVista

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.”

—Erica Jong

“The condition of the free man is that he does not live for the benefit of another.”


“They rely on customers to find uses for minicomputers, rather than burdening the company with huge costs of developing and marketing applications of its own. Digital salesmen, engineers selling to other engineers, nurture strong and lasting relationships with customers...it's surprising how little they've caused their own growth. For years, they've been dragged along by interesting applications their customers came up with.”

—From In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman (1982), on the subject of Digital Equipment Corporation.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

—Douglas Adams

Disease can be cured; fate is incurable.

—Chinese proverb

“Prediction is especially difficult. Especially about the future.”

—Niels Bohr

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

—John McFee

“If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.”

—John McFee (on geology)

“I am the last bastard of free speech.”

—Howard Stern

Takeoffs are optional. Landings are mandatory.

—Sign in small airport

“The average knowledge worker will outlive the average employing organization. This is the first time in history that this has happened.”

—Peter Drucker

“Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining.”

—Jeff Raskin

“It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”

—Andrew Jackson

“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”

—Bertrand Russell

“All models are wrong. Some models are useful.”

—George Box.


The original BuzzPhraser was created by the staff in the office of my old company in 1990 or so. It took the form of a spreadsheet that we gradually filled with overused buzzwords. To qualify, they had to work in a phrase the way a blank tile works in Scrabble: you can use it anywhere, but it has no value.

We sorted these words into a series of columns: adverbs, adjectives, adnouns (nouns used as adjectives), nouns, prefixes and suffixes. After the columns began to overflow, I thought “Hmm...BS seems to be programmable. Let's make something here.” So I got together with Ray Miller of Turtlelips Productions and we (mostly Ray) crafted a Hypercard stack that put together random buzzphrases from the table, based on various user-defined combinations of modifiers, nouns, prefixes and suffixes. BuzzPhraser made a bit of news and then quickly became one of the most-downloaded files on both AOL and Compuserve.

Several years ago, Charles Roth (the prime author of Caucus, the primo conferencing software) kindly adapted BuzzPhraser to the Web, where it has served ever since, burping up useful but value-free generica for publicists and their enemies everywhere. Examples:

  • management technology implementation channel protocol

  • empowerment architecture topology

  • workgroup-dependent program-level i-shrinkage rule operation

  • structured client leadership chain

  • substantially phase-free product-intensive demand-elegant gesture exchange

  • enhanced policy services content dependency solution leverage policy

Now Charles has completely rewritten the entire site in Javascript and open sourced it. To get the source, go to http://www.buzzphraser.com/. And let us know what you do with it.

—Doc Searls


In the August 1999 issue of Linux Journal, Bruce Fryer wrote a piece called “Thinkful Wishing” that envisioned “a Linux-based iMac”. Here was his design: “Use nothing but end-of-life components with no fan and no floppy so it can be built dirt cheap. Boot from the CD-ROM drive. Solder everything onto the boards including memory, with the possible exception of a communications slot. We're talking about a black and white box here: simple and reliable as an old phone. Shoot for a $500+ price point, complete with all network connections, OS and software, including management agents. Put the money in memory and display, which ought to be active matrix, if there's any way.” It goes on, but you get the drift.

Pretty soon you will be able to get one, pretty much to that spec, from New Internet Computer, or NIC, http://www.thinknic.com/. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps its because yes, indeed, this is the latest incarnation of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's thin client. While the original “NC”, or Network Computer, was conceived as a kind of terminal, the NIC is a Linux workstation. It boots Linux 2.2 off the CD-ROM, along with Netscape Navigator 4.7 and a catalog of plug-ins. The hardware is a roster of generics: 266MHz processor, 64MB RAM, 24x CD-ROM, 2 USB ports, 10/100 base T MB Ethernet, keyboard, mouse, speakers. Applications and storage will reportedly be handled by a remote server (though it can save to “a capable third-party Internet storage system”. It will run Windows applications too, through the Citrix MetaFrame client. Price: $199.99 (US). Bundled with a 15'' (800 X 600) monitor, $329.98. The company offers a free ISP, or you can use your own.

The CEO of The New Internet Computer Company is Gina Smith, the high- profile veteran technology columnist, radio and TV personality. Smith's most recent gig was cohosting CNET News.com. The scope of the company's ambitions is apparent in two facts that appear to guarantee a market for the boxes. One is Larry Ellison's stated commitment to spend $100 million to computerize schools. The other is Oracle's recent donation of 500 NICs to the Chicago Public School System, with a promise to match another 500 donated by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), which is chaired by General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret). In May, Oracle also donated 1200 NICs to the Dallas Independent School District.

—Doc Searls


Theory: If you tell your name server it is in charge of the domain “doubleclick.net” then it will happily answer all requests for “Where's doubleclick.net” with the smug reply, “I know everything there is to know about doubleclick.net, and I can tell you with complete confidence that there is no such place.” If browsers can't find doubleclick.net, then doubleclick.net can't track those users.

Because many users typically use each name server, this is not only one of the fastest ad blocking techniques known to freedom-loving humanity, it's also the technique that protects the most users.

  1. Log in to the name server as root.

  2. Find your named.conf file. It may be in the /etc or /etc/bind directory. If you have trouble finding it, use this command:

find / -name named.conf
  1. Open the named.conf file for editing in your favorite text editor. Locate the “localhost” zone. It should look something like this:

zone "localhost" {<\n>
 type master;
 file "/etc/bind/db.local";

It doesn't matter if the file name on the line beginning with “file” is different.

Make a copy of the localhost zone elsewhere in the file. Change the copy to read “doubleclick.net” instead of “localhost”.

zone "doubleclick.net" {<\n>
 type master;
 file "/etc/bind/db.local";

Save the file and exit the text editor. If you mess up the file, exit without saving and do step 3 again.

Step 4. Find out the process id of named with this command:

ps ax | grep named

Let's say you get something like this:

7907 ?        S      0:03 /usr/sbin/named
Do the following:
kill -HUP 7907
Use whatever process ID your named has, not “7907”. You're done. Clear your browser cache and rejoice!

—Don Marti


  1. Number of Britain's FTSE 100 companies that have no web site or cannot be contacted by e-mail from their web sites: 29

  2. Number of U.S. Fortune 100 companies that have no web site or cannot be contacted by e-mail from their web sites: 23

  3. Percentage of the remaining 71 FTSE 100 companies that fail to respond to multiple requests for basic investor information even after three months: 20

  4. Percentage of the remaining 76 Fortune 100 companies that fail to respond to multiple requests for basic investor information even after three months: 33

  5. Number of ways “ough” can be pronounced in English: 9

  6. Year when the first traffic accident occurred: 1896

  7. Number of traffic accidents at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills in 1998: 242

  8. Rank of that intersection among most dangerous in the U.S.: 4

  9. Position of less than $25K per year (U.S.) households among all income groups in Internet usage: 1

  10. Annual rate of increase for less than $25K per year U.S. households: 50

  11. Position of less than $25K per year households among all income groups in time spent online: 1

  12. Age at which William Roseman became the youngest elected official in New Jersey: 18

  13. Age of William Roseman at the time he founded Linux Global Partners: 40

  14. Amount invested in Linux start-ups by Linux Global Partners as of September 2000: $25 million

  15. Number of Linux start-ups in which Linux Global Partners has invested: 8

  16. Amount invested by Linux Global Partners in Helix Code: $2,200,000

  17. Helix Code quarterly earnings expected by William Roseman by 2002: $30,000,000

  18. Typical number of new Helix Code downloads and installations, per day: 4,000

  19. Combined ages of Helix Code's cofounders: 49


  • 1-4: The Rainier Web-Index Study

  • 5: viz: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”

  • 6-7: USA Today

  • 8-11: Media Metrix, Inc.

  • 12-13 and 15: San Jose Mercury News

  • 14 and 18: National Public Radio

  • 16-17: Boston Globe

  • 19: San Jose Mercury News and Business 2.0.


It was six years ago this month that Phil Hughes wrote an article titled “Selecting Hardware for a Linux System”. Dust off the copy from your archives, or read it at the LJ web site (http://www.linuxjournal.com/lj-issues/issue7/2850.html).


While Linux has quickly emerged as a winning embedded operating system, the main reason has never been speed. In fact, some forms of embedded Linux, such as Lineo's popular Embedix, make Linux a “hard” RTOS (Real Time Operating System) by combining it with a second kernel built for real-time work. MontaVista Software, Inc., however, has been implementing Linux itself as an RTOS since the company was formed early last year, and has worked to improve the performance of the Linux kernel to the point where it qualifies—all by itself—as a “hard” real-time OS. At press time (September 9) for this issue, MontaVista has delivered what it claims is a hard real-time Linux kernel, based on the current 2.4 code version. The company claims that this new kernel is fully preemptable, and provides a 30-fold improvement in performance over the 2.4 base. Claimed worst case application responsiveness will be in the hundreds of microseconds. In an interview for Embedded Linux Journal (this month's supplement to LJ), James Ready, Montavista's president & CEO, said, “This isn't just a better embedded Linux. It's a better Linux.”

As for the new kernel itself, Ready explains that the real issue is not just responsiveness to interrupts, but preemptability. Also that making Linux preemptable involved leveraging the same engineering work that yields Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP).

Hard Hat Linux is MontaVista's embedded Linux brand. The new version, which is expected to come out of peer review by January, will offer a real-time scheduler that features deterministic real-time application selection and dispatching, without altering standard Linux scheduling. There will also be an optional interrupt accelerator, based on technology from RTLinux, which is a product of FSMLabs of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This has a 5x claimed interrupt responsiveness improvement. The first prototype is for IA32 platforms and was available immediately at press time from ftp://ftp.mvista.com/ A technical paper explaining MontaVista's real-time developments is available at ftp.mvista.com/pub/Real-Time/2.4.0-test6/preempt.txt. Read the interviews with both Jim Ready and Lineo's Bryan Sparks in the current Embedded Linux Journal also see responses to MontaVista's announcement by TimeSys and Lineo on page 22.

—Doc Searls

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