September 17, 2001

Weekly news wrap-up: Community and government responses to terrorist attacks

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Open Source news took a back seat this week to world events, and even tech news sites focused on the terrorist attacks on the United States, for at least part of the week. Latest estimates of the missing in New York now top 5,000, with hundreds more dead in the hijacked airplanes and at the Pentagon.

The airplane hijackings even prompted a debate in the Open Source community, or at least readers of this site.

Open Source advocate Eric S. Raymond, stepping away from his more traditional types of advocacy, commented on how the United States could avoid further attacks. From ESR's commentary: "Perhaps it is too much to hope that we will respond to this shattering tragedy as well as the Israelis, who have a long history of preventing similar atrocities by encouraging their civilians to carry concealed weapons and to shoot back at criminals and terrorists. But it is in that policy of a distributed response to a distributed threat, with every single citizen taking personal responsibility for the defense of life and freedom, that our best hope for preventing recurrences of today's mass murders almost certainly lies."

That commentary provoked hundreds of responses, including one from veteran technology journalist Bruce Tober, who called Raymond's proposal absurd. Wrote Tober: "Decentralizing government, or more specifically the justice system, would result in sheer chaos as each state and county and local municipal government enacts its own, often contradictory, laws. At which point no one knows what laws pertain and which don't and confusion reigns supreme. Raymond seems to even go beyond this, suggesting we all administer our own personal justice." Tober's commentary prompted several dozen responses itself.

Less political, but perhaps more moving, was NewsForge business columnist Jack Bryar's early tribute to the victims of the attacks. Among the victims was Daniel C. Lewin, co-founder, chief technology officer and board member of Akamai Technologies. Here's a list of ways to help the relief efforts.

Government response: Spying on U.S. residents, illegal encryption?

Some of the fallout from the attacks are likely to affect the technology community. The U.S. Senate approved a measure that would allow police to spy on Internet users and issue wiretaps without search warrants. One senator is calling for a global ban on "uncrackable" encryption products.

Whatever your view on what measures should be taken to combat terrorism, these measures are worth more debate than the quick passage they seem to be getting. Some people might actually be uncomfortable about a national police force that can spy on its own citizens without even a judge's permission.

RTLinux vs. the GPL?

Back to news of a more Open Source/Free Software nature. The Free Software Foundation is accusing RTLinux of violating the GPL. No word yet from the company.

Bad business news

Two companies with Open Source ties announced bad news recently: Lineo announced it was cutting 60 positions and EBIZ Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

New in NewsForge

Stories that appeared first in NewsForge this week:

We report that Lutris Technologies has backed away from its active support of the Open Source Enterprise Enhydra project because of licensing problems with Sun Microsystems' J2EE.

Mike Newlands reports that Turbolinux has discontinued on-the-self sales of its Linux operating system in the United States.

Tina Gasperson reviews the Linux section of Tucows.com and finds it a good site to find your favorite Linux programs.

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