April 1, 2002

Weekly news wrap-up: You can now run MS Office on Linux; Linux on enterprise scuffle

- By Grant Gross -

It was the week for a couple of big software releases impacting people using Open Source software in business settings. Our own Tina Gasperson and friends reviewed Codeweaver's Crossover Office, which is supposed to allow Microsoft Office products to run on Linux, and found that it mostly works as advertised.

Another big excuse for why people can't switch to Linux -- "but we can't run Microsoft Office in Linux" -- now falls by the wayside. At what point do businesses and government offices finally admit that paying huge license fees for products that spy on them no longer makes any sense?

If you're looking for a simpler solution than running Crossover Office with expensive Microsoft software on Linux, Robin "Roblimo" Miller reviews a pre-release copy of StarOffice 6.0, the office suite that opens most Microsoft documents. Sun Microsystems is planning to start charging for StarOffice, but Robin says the added features in StarOffice over Open Source counterpart OpenOffice might be worth $50 or so. The big new feature in StarOffice: support for dBase and database files.

Mozilla inches closer

There are more reports of the impending Mozilla 1.0 release. It should be available for download within days, say project leaders. The Mozilla cvs tree closed this week to prepare for the release.

Fighting the SSSCA, or whatever it's called this week

Business columnist Jack Bryar gives advice on fighting the Consumer Broadband and Television Promotion Act, formerly the SSSCA, which would require copy protections on every piece of piece of hardware and software produced in the United States.

More mainstream press besides the technology media is noticing this is a bad bill, too; the headline on a Salon.com story this week: "U.S. prepares to invade your hard drive." The Washington Post suggested the bill would tample all over customers' fair use rights and presumes all computer users are guilty of "stealing" music.

Wired.com noted that many technology users are "howling mad" over the bill. Infowarrier.org even called the bill's backers the "American Techniban."

In other news about bad legislation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that on Monday a Northern District of California Federal Court judge will hear arguments on Russian software firm Elcomsoft's motion to dismiss the criminal charges leveled against it under likely unconstitutional provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Says the EFF, "Elcomsoft is charged with offering a tool that circumvents the copy protection in Adobe eBooks, allowing fair, noninfringing use by eBook purchasers."

In other news ...

Could Microsoft have killed Linux? Open Source advocate Eric S. Raymond thinks so. But Microsoft made some strategic missteps in the late '90s, he says. Microsoft, in return, blamed Linux's small market share on Red Hat's lack of internal development. Microsoft really doesn't get the Open Source model of development, does it?

Apple's Open Source Darwin project kicked a programmer off the project because he was only 15 years old. And I always thought the Open Source and Free Software movements welcomed anyone who wanted to contribute or use their software. It's all about freedom, as long as you fit into the age demographic of an Apple buyer?

Unlike Apple, Microsoft is trying to indoctrinate them while they're young, at least of college age. Microsoft announced it was sharing more than a million lines of code with college students interested in the company's .Net Web services initiative.

Newly released

Tina noted KDE 3.0 was out on cvs as of Friday.

Gentoo Linux 1.0 was announced this weekend.

Yellow Dog Linux 2.2, a leading Linux for Macintosh distribution was released this week.

Newly reviewed

Our own Russell C. Pavlicek reviews two business-card bootable Linux CDs that can help sysadmins repair damaged systems.

TuxReports provides an overview of Kondara MNU/Linux 2.1, a Japanese distribution.

Stock news

The Nasdaq ended last week at 1,858.25, up slightly from 1,851.30 March 22. It wasn't Open Source-related stocks that pushed the Nasdaq up; of our 11 stocks below, only three posted gains for the week.

Among the business news, Red Hat announced what it called the "first enterprise-class Linux operating system," which prompted reactions from competitors SuSE and Caldera, with SuSE wondering if Red Hat has ignored its enterprise OS released six months ago, Caldera claiming Unix scales better than Linux. Those Caldera statements were met by a rebuttal from DissociatedPress.net.

Here's how Open Source and related stocks ended this past week:

Company Name Symbol 3/22 Close 3/29 Close
Apple AAPL 24.09 23.67
Borland Software Int'l BORL 11.99 13.01
Caldera International CALD 1.61 1.591
Hewlett-Packard HWP 18.15 17.94
IBM IBM 105.60 104.00
MandrakeSoft 4477.PA e3.00 e2.60
Red Hat RHAT 5.95 5.709
Sun Microsystems SUNW 8.86 8.82
TiVo TIVO 5.18 5.30
VA Software LNUX 1.72 1.70
Wind River Systems WIND 12.53 13.59
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