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Marxist theory and free software

Author: JT Smith

Mikael Pawlo writes, “First Monday published an article by Johan Soderberg where Soderberg explores free software from a Marxist perspective. Soderberg is very ambitious in his efforts to apply Marxist theory to free software development. It is not easy to sum the article up in a few sentences, but basically Soderberg sees software as a showcase of the productive force of the general intellect, foreseen by Marx 150 years ago. Hence, production becomes more social, thus the hacker movement can – according to Soderberg – challenge capital’s domination over technological development. This is interesting food for thought, even if you do not share Soderberg political views on computer program development.

A related political message furnished by Gnuheter.

Stallman on why software should be free.”

Category:

  • Migration

Tonight at GNUbies in NYC: Alex Khalil will answer all questions about GNU/Linux

Author: JT Smith

We are pleased to announce that our next Gnubies meeting — this
Wednesday, March 13th will be a full Question and Answer session led by
Alex Khalil. The meeting will begin with the usual general questions
from 6:30 to 7:00, where individual questions may be asked without
regard to the level of difficulty or generality. From 7:00 on should
be
your chance to clarify things you haven’t understood about GNU/Linux
and
learn more about topics that concern you now. Bring your questions.
(Please note the security procedures required for attending).

6:30 – 7:00 General Q&A

7:00 Alex Khalil – Questions and Answers

at the IBM building, 590 Madison Avenue
(57th Street and Madison Avenue)

The most up-to-date information can be found on our website at:
http://www.gnubies.org
(or if there are problems at http://www.eskimo.com/~lo/linux)

Our meetings are held regularly on the second Wednesday of each month
and are free and open to the public.

Security Procedures

Since September 11th, IBM has implemented new security measures. We are
now required to provide a list of attendees to our meetings in advance.
If you are planning on attending this meeting you will need to mail us
your name ASAP.

You can use the links from the website: http://www.gnubies.org
or email your name to gnubies+March02@eskimo.com.

In addition you will have to present a photo ID when you
come in order to be let in to the meeting. We are sorry that these
procedures are necessary now and hope that they will no longer be
necessary sometime in the future.

NetBSD: gzip Buffer overflow vulnerability

Author: JT Smith

Posted on LinuxSecurity.com: “/usr/bin/gzip, a file compression program, does not properly check
supplied filenames against its buffer size. It could lead to
execution of arbitrary code under the privilege with which gzip is
running.

There are ftp daemon programs that invoke gzip on demand (like wu-ftpd).
If your systems run these daemons, depending on the configuration it could
lead to a remote root compromise.”

Category:

  • Security

Linux company issues plea for help

Author: JT Smith

PCWorld.com catches up on MandrakeSoft asking users for subscriptions. “MandrakeSoft claims that over 2,000 users have joined the club, each paying $5 per month. Costs for corporate memberships start at $2,500. The company did not indicate if any corporate memberships had been sold.”

SuSE announces SuSE Linux 8.0

Author: JT Smith

It’s posted at LWN.net. Today, SuSE
Linux, the international Open Source technology
leader and solutions provider, announced the launch
of the eighth generation of Europe’s most popular
Linux operating system and applications package to be
available from software retailers from mid-April.
Increased security, the newest KDE desktop, KDE 3,
super fast installation and expanded multimedia
capabilities highlight the most advanced Linux
distribution for professional and private desktop
users.

Jac virus targets Linux

Author: JT Smith

Vnunet.com reports: “Virus watchers have reported the rare sighting of a new strain affecting the Linux platform.

The Jac virus follows the recent trend of infrequent Linux infecting malware, as the first to hit the platform in three months.

Jac infects the Linux binary files in the Linux Executable and Linking Format that exist in the same directory as the virus.

Category:

  • Security

2.5 Linux kernel status summary

Author: JT Smith

It’s posted at LWN.net: “Spring must be on the way because a there has been a lot of activity
and merging in the past week.
As usual, the gory details are at http://kernelnewbies.org/status/.”

Category:

  • Linux

Some games aren’t fun: Blizzard vs. bnetd

Author: JT Smith

InfoWorld has a column by frequent NewsForge contributor Russell Pavlicek taking about the Blizzard Entertainment vs. bnetd Open Source game server controversy. “The problem here is one of precedent. If you thought you were free to use legally obtained software any way you wanted, think again. Under the guise of protecting its intellectual property, Blizzard has also demonstrated that it is possible to force its customers to use its software with its services alone. And don’t think for a minute that the rest of the software industry hasn’t noticed.

Category:

  • Games

Helping new (enterprise level) Linux users

Author: JT Smith

By Robin “Roblimo”
Miller

Looking at my email and talking to people I meet at various industry association meetings, I am seeing a shift in the kind of people who are switching to Linux. And the latest round of “converts” I see are not dumber or less computer-savvy than “old-line” Linux people. If anything, they’re more experienced than the talented students and hackers who made up the bulk of early Linux adopters.

Any article about marketing or advocating Linux to “the mainstream” draws a set of fairly predictable responses from those who want Linux to stay geeky instead of getting “dumbed down” for “Joe and Jane Sixpack.” But I am not seeing any huge increase in the number of help inquiries coming into editors@linux.com from people with AOL email addresses asking if they can run their Windows genealogy programs and games on Linux. We still get those, and always will. But we are seeing a veritable explosion in the number of information requests from IT professionals who are seriously investigating Linux for the first time.

Here’s an example of the “new wave” of inquiries we’re seeing:

I am the IT administrator for a medium-sized school district, and we’re talking about switching some or all of our servers to Linux. We are currently using a mix of Sun Solaris and Microsoft, especially Exchange and Outlook for email. Do you have any migration guides that can help us make a smooth transition to Linux? Is there any way we can continue using Exchange on Linux or can you reccomend a Linux equivalant? We are making this move because our IT budget has been cut and proprietary software license fees are going up. We are excited about Linux and need to learn more about it.”

An excerpt from another one:

My name is [removed] and I recently visited a web page discussing the benefits of Linux Operating Systems and in particular the ability to reduce on purchasing software licensing. I currently work for the [removed] law firm based out of [removed] and we are rebuilding our entire network down to the cabling. If you could send me any info on Linux systems and their ability to support databases and possibly up to 2500 users. Thank you.

These are sophisticated computer professionals, not home users. They are, no doubt, highly competent with Windows NT/2000 and/or Unix, but when it comes to Linux, they are “new users” who don’t know much. They are entirely capable of reading manuals and learning; they have already learned how to deal with complex networking issues or they wouldn’t have their jobs. But before they start learning Linux, they need to know what they can (and can’t) do with it, what kind of work they’re looking at if and when they start deploying Linux, and what kind of problems they are likely to encounter.

We can’t say, “Go download a copy of [favorite distribution] and if you have any problems, look for help on IRC,” to someone who is talking about using Linux on a significant network that is critical to a company’s or government agency’s operation. They need more and better information than that. And never forget, if the Linux migration doesn’t work out, the person within the organization who pushed for Linux is probably going to lose his or her job, which raises the stakes (for that person) even higher.

I guess what I’m asking here is, “Hey, seen any good white papers lately?” Most of the “newbie-oriented” Linux tutorials and HOWTOs I’ve seen were written for home users or students, not for professional network administrators or IT managers. And where should that Windows-experienced admin thinking about at least experimenting with Linux turn for help? I have no problem advising them to turn to local Linux User Groups, because every sizable LUG I have had any contact with had a “hard core” of professional, very knowledgeable IT people in it — often including consultants eager to help with corporate Linux migrations professionally, for a fee. But where else should we point new or potential enterprise-level Linux users?

Companies like IBM or Red Hat and almost any other Linux distribution publisher will happily supply all the enterprise-level Linux support anyone could want if the money’s right. Are they the best places for corporate IT managers to go for Linux advice? What about training current employees? Is it better to send people already working in the organization off for Linux training, and rely on their newly-acquired Linux knowledge instead of turning to outsiders? What formal Linux training programs are best? Or is it better to just buy books, set up a couple of test systems, and rely on self-teaching?

Then we come to the problem of choosing enterprise-level hardware and software. NewsForge and other publications that cover tech matters can easily have a staff member or freelancer test and review a standalone computer or a single-user program, but how are we going to test a server that’s supposed to be able run 800 thin clients? We don’t have 800 thin clients in daily use that we can suddenly change over to a new, untried system in order to write a review of it. Neither do most school districts, law firms, manufacturers or retailers, and that’s a major problem they have not only with switching to Linux but with switching to anything new to them.

Managers responsible for corporate or government IT systems are going to be conservative about major decisions. They should experiment with Linux (or anything else they haven’t tried yet) a little at a time, and gradually increase its use as they gain experience with it — assuming it works better for them (or costs less) than what they were using before.

But that still leaves us — the people who already use Linux — with the question of how we can best help new enterprise-level Linux users have satisfactory initial experiences with Linux.

Any suggestions?

Category:

  • Migration

Video of Alan Cox giving the BT Public Lecture

Author: JT Smith

ITWales is launching its online magazine by featuring, among many other articles, a streaming video of Alan Cox at the University of Wales, giving a lecture entitled “Doing Things Differently – Linux Past, Present and Future.”