October 8, 2001

Weekly news wrap-up: Community responds to Web patents, proprietary copy protection

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Lots of reaction from Open Source advocates this week on two proposals, one introduced in the U.S. Congress, and one winding its way through the World Wide Web Consortium, both with the potential to have a large impact on the Free Software and Open Source communities, as well as technology users in general.

First, we have the W3C's proposal to allow Web standards to be patented and therefore, for makers of those standards to collect fees. That proposal has drawn criticism, of course, from Open Source advocates and others, with Open Source leader Bruce Perens suggesting the community would fork the Web instead of paying for patents. The W3C ended up extending the comment period on the proposal after so much feedback.

Meanwhile, the Open Source community is firing up protests against the proposed Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, which would require proprietary copy-protection standards on computers. An online petition has already collected more than 11,000 signatures urging defeat of the SSSCA, which one advocate predicts would turn Linux users into "federal felons overnight," reports NewsForge's Tina Gasperson.

Also, the guys that bring us The Linux Show every week are calling for a boycott of Disney, one company advocating the SSSCA.

In other government news, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, under a new Republican chairman, has taken what some commentators are calling a u-turn on privacy policy. No new consumer privacy laws -- on the Web and elsewhere -- are needed, according to the new chiefs of the FTC.

Big in Europe

While the United States seems to be doing its best to beat down Open Source, some government entities in Europe are embracing it. The German Federal Agency for IT Security has contracted with three companies to include Open Source options like KMail and mutt in its secure email project.

Over in Finland, the city of Turku is protesting Microsoft's licensing schemes by considering a move to Linux, on as many as 5,000 city desktops.

The Fins aren't the only ones considering a switch: A survey done this week suggests many more Microsoft customers are concerned with the company's new licensing policy that would mandate customers update their software every two years. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed say they will consider competing products. A chance for Open Source software to make a move?

Bad news for FreeBSD

Most of the developers on the development team of the Unix-like operating system were laid off from Wind River Systems this week. There are reports that a handful of remaining FreeBSD developers at Wind River will work to release a commercial FreeBSD product.

Throw away Microsoft Office

The first round of reviews for Sun's new StarOffice 6.0 beta, which runs on Linux, came out this week. LinuxWorld says the office suite loads faster, but it still hogs memory. Generally, the review was a positive one, saying the 6.0 beta is much improved over earlier versions. Over at Linux Orbit, the verdict was similar, with the reviewer saying StarOffice 6.0 has improved handling of Microsoft-type documents. "I'm sure I'll like it more and more as I get a chance to create and edit more complex documents in StarOffice. If you can spare the download time to get the software, I would recommend that you do so."

New in NewsForge

Stories that appeared first in NewsForge this week:

Why do commercial Linux software projects fail. Robin "Roblimo" Miller has some ideas: Often the software doesn't work the way it's promised to.

Dan Berkes tests out the new RealOne music player for Linux and says it shows promise. Look for more software reviews from NewsForge soon.

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