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Editorial

Ask Alan Cox, Activist 265

Posted by Roblimo
from the fighting-the-good-fight dept.
Alan Cox is one of the world's most famous Linux kernel hackers. Lately he's been speaking out quite a bit on issues like copyright law, software patents, and the future of Linux, and has generally become a bit more politically active, at least in the public eye, than he was in the past. Slashdot interviewed Alan back in 1999. Lots of things have changed since then, but our interview procedure hasn't; one question per post, we send 10 of the highest-moderated ones to Alan, and post his answers verbatim as soon as he gets them back to us.
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Ask Alan Cox, Activist

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  • by Vodak (119225) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:01PM (#3470129)
    What are your feelings on something like GeekPAC?
  • Alan, you are a popular icon within the Linux/Open Source world, but, to be frank, outside that you aren't well known at all. Are you depending on your Linux fame to help you with your political quests, or are you trying to get fame outside the Linux world? Perhaps you are looking for someone outside the Linux world to help you out on the political side?
  • European DMCA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yohahn (8680) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:04PM (#3470150) Homepage
    Given that you won't visit the USA given the enactment of the DMCA. If the DMCA equivalent passes in Europe, will you move? If so, is there anywhere that is safe from this kind of insane law (it sounds like peru may be a new haven for free software)?
  • Alan.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:05PM (#3470171) Homepage Journal
    Who's face would you most prefer on your own personal dartboard? Why?
  • Free vs Commercial (Score:5, Interesting)

    by div_2n (525075) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:05PM (#3470172)
    With free versions of software such as Open Office constantly improving, what place do you perceive commercial software to have in the free software world as free alternatives mature to an acceptable and usable state?
    • You mean non-free, or proprietary. Why is it that so many people who seemingly care about these issues have neither used their own sense of logic to work this out already, or read what the FSF has to say about the common misuse of this term.
  • Beards? (Score:5, Funny)

    by WinstonSmith (69165) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:05PM (#3470174)
    Alan,

    I've been programming a computer since I was 8 years old. I'm 29 now. That's 21 years of "experience". Lately, however, I've come to the realization that I'm never going to make it "big" unless I grow a Big Ole Programmer's Beard. I'd like to think it's possible to be a wise UNIX guru without one, but I think it would be easier if I had a beard. A big one.

    My question is: Since my wife won't let me grow the Big Ole Programmer's Beard, what should I do to make it "big" in the world of UNIX gurus?
    • Re:Beards? (Score:3, Funny)

      by odaiwai (31983)
      you could try a fake beard.

      Alternatively, you could grow a real one, but hook two pieces of wire over your ears and tell you wife that it's actually a fake one. "see? it needs some wires to stay on."

      dave
    • You're obviously asking the wrong person. What would Alan Cox know about making it big as a Unix guru without a beard? It's not like he has great personal experience in the area. No, the clear expert in this area is Linus Torvalds. He appears to know not just how to become a guru without growing a beard, but also how to avoid being reduced to a pulp by a potentially disapproving wife.

    • Divorce your wife and marry someone more sensible.

      Disclaimer: I have a beard, but it's kept well trimmed at my wife's insistence.
    • Re:Beards? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Paradise Pete (33184)
      I've been programming a computer since I was 8 years old. I'm 29 now.

      Boy, you'd think you'd be done by now.

    • Re:Beards? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Snoopy77 (229731) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @12:27AM (#3475292) Homepage
      To save Alan the time of replying to this post I'll give it a shot.

      I think the jey here is compromise, and at the heart of this compromise is the goatie. No it's not a full blown beard, just a mini-beard. Now if your wife is willing to let you grow a goatie you'll experience the following benefits.

      1. Eligible for guru understudy status
      2. Can participate in emacs vs vi wars but must take the side of emacs
      3. Immediate membership into system administrators club but not allowed to touch the clusters
      4. Can hack kernel code as long as a 'Big Beard' is looking over your shoulder

      Good Luck
  • make linux illegal, how would you react? would you continue work on the kernel?
  • by crumbz (41803) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>gmail.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:06PM (#3470194) Homepage
    Alan:

    What do you see as being the most important developmental direction that Linux will take over the next 5 years?
    Big iron, embedded systems, desktops, PDAs, gaming system OS? Application suites, fixed use applications, games?

  • In a world where politicians are a taxable asset (ok, no - but they ought to be), how do you expect anything that you push to work? DMCA is a very easy to find example. If you were to speak out against that, how would you do that so as to have an actual impact? Money talks really loud, and unless we're taking up bribes...
  • by Rampant Atrocity (559341) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:08PM (#3470209)
    In regards to restrictive (to put it lightly) legislation like the CBDTPA: Do you think that some sort of compromise could or should be worked out with the proponents of such legislation? That would probably be the best way to win over moderates in the Senate. Or should all efforts be taken to stop such legislation as a matter of principle? I'm just asking where you want to draw the line between practicality and principle (think politics).
  • by 1+(smarterThanYou) (539258) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:08PM (#3470211) Homepage
    Do you feel that the current trend the Government is showing of providing more protection to Big Business over consumers/American Public is in violation of the Rights of the People that the Government is supposed to be in place to protect? Do you think that the Government will ever get rid of the DMCA and other bills protecting Businesses over Consumer's Rights and start to protect the people they were sworn to protect?
  • Will you release this interview under an open content license?
  • What would you advise as to get Linux wide personnal desktop acceptance, especially what do you think still needs to be developped.
  • Linux politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adam613 (449819) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:11PM (#3470244)
    Mr. Cox -

    Your famous series of -AC kernel patches is described by most as being much more experimental than Linus's kernels. Do you feel that Linux should be an experimental OS rather than one which is designed for production use? Or do you write these patches to take Linux closer to (or beyond it's limits) in the spirit of kernel hacking?
  • The future of Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by halftrack (454203) <jonkjeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:11PM (#3470245) Homepage
    With the rise of KDE3, increased user friendlyness and "simple" distros such as Mandrake and Lindows. Do you belive the development of Linux and the open source comunity would be harmed in any way, if Linux ever became mainstream?
    • by Telastyn (206146) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:18PM (#3470314)
      Yes. *duh*

      A more interesting question I think would be:

      What are your views, as they pertain to *nix in the mainstream, of OS X? Does it hurt or help Linux's chance in the area, or allow Linux to perhaps concentrate on server side areas?
    • why would it hurt to have more testers?

      I think what Linux userspace needs is a bugtrack system built in that will log the error messege, what you were doing, and all other information, then update it's list of Bugzilla accounts as to where to sent the bug report, then all you need to do is hit "ok" to send the report.....like MS is doing now in XP.
  • by linzeal (197905) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:12PM (#3470249) Homepage Journal
    Would you think that you or a person like yourself would be suited to lifestyle of a politician? Would such a platform as what you have been proposing (against the slow but certain erosion of core technological and civil liberties) give more effect to your voice and the voices of countless others who support you or would it merely serve as an easily ridiculed figurehead?

    I'm a supporter of direct action myself, and see a lot more utility in public debate & protest than I do in politics.

  • by Vodak (119225) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:12PM (#3470250)
    As a whole Linux companies where hit hard when the "tech bubble" burst. Where do you think Linux companies need to head to avoid the fate of a BeOS or OS/Warp?
  • Is Red Hat's way of solving dependency problems for all the broken apps that Red Hat includes in its distro to simply abandon the desktop user in ITS politic?
  • by Capt_Troy (60831) <tfandango@noSpaM.yahoo.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:14PM (#3470276) Homepage Journal
    Alan-

    What is the goal you hope to obtain in regard to the DMCA dispute? How to you intend to meet those goals ?

    Personally, I think that as time passes, people will become more and more technical and eventually the absurdity of the DMCA will be exposed on a more general population than just the techies that it is now. So the nest means to an end IMHO is educating the general public. Is this your intention?

    -Troy
  • Past Interview. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by reactivo (189273) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:15PM (#3470286)
    Would be interesting if Alan Cox Answers the same questions of the last interview after 3 years.
  • GPL and BSD et al (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gnujoshua (540710)
    In your mind, when does a license stop allowing you enough freedom to work with it, that is develop code underneath that license? (e.g. GPL, LGPL, BSD, or some other less restrictive license that allows for intergration with proprietary software)
  • Another one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adam613 (449819) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:17PM (#3470302)
    Mr Cox:

    What are your feelings on microkernels vs. monolithic kernels? Linux attempts to be both through the use of loadable modules; is this an ideal answer to the question? How do you define what is an essential component of an operating system kernel?
    • Eh.. Linux is still a monolithic kernel even with loadable modules. IANAKP (kernel programmer) but I remember that in microkernel systems everything but the core is in user space. The Linux loadable modules are still in kernel space. I think in the "purest" microkernels only process/context switching (interrupts) and memory management reside in the actual kernel. The rest runs in user space.
  • Kernel Trees (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wizkid (13692) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:17PM (#3470305) Homepage
    Over the last year, the Linux kernel has been developing more branches.

    With more branches of the kernel popping up all the time, are you concerned with managing a stable kernel with the latest drivers? What problems with kernel tree management do you see in the future!

    PS: DCMA SUCKS!
    • if you are never wrong...then what is the DCMA??? I"ve heard of the DMCA, but not the DCMA....
    • how would more trees hurt the main tree?

      Linus has "control" over the main tree and nothing gets submited for his blessing if the maintainers do not put it up for a blessing.
      realy, the maintainers sheild the Trunk of the kernel and all the experimentation is handeled in the branches....good experiments are destined for the developmental cycle, bad ones...wel they get trashed :-).......as Linus says in his book Linux is organic and has a life of its own(paraphrased)

      there is very little managment that occurs at the main tree level to keep everything coherent other than the basic "here are the rules for patche submitions, follow them or be ignored"
      • Linus currently has control over the main tree I believe, although I think I may have read somewhere he is or may be passing this on in the future.

        Having allot of branches on the Linux kernel tree is a double edged sword. It can create allot more developer input, but it can also make maintaining a stable tree with all the drivers for the latest hardware a royal pain. The further a branch with a unique driver is out on the tree, the harder it is to patch into the main trunk, to make it available to the majority of the Linux users and distributions. And the more branches there are, the more entropy results. Many of the kernel hackers out there are donating their time. It takes a fair amount of time to filter the good stuff out of the branches, and incorporate it into the main trunk. As more Branch's are created, the more time it takes to manage the main trunk. These guys need a life too ya know!

        As a side note:

        Alan has done a great job, and has been one of the leaders in Linux kernel development. Most of his AC branch of the kernel usually makes it into the kernel. If Linus ever steps down from handling the main trunk of the Linux kernel, I suspect Alan will be the primary candidate to take his place. His work and input has helped to make LINUX what it is today, and we appreciate his efforts!
        W.Kid

  • by iamsure (66666) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:22PM (#3470339) Homepage
    As someone in the Information Security field, I am constantly working to improve the security of Linux machines.

    One of the low points of Linux administration is that very few daemons are chroot'd, and the few that are, dont have much protection because of the Linux kernel's very weak chroot protection.

    Projects like OpenWall [openwall.com], GRSecurity [grsecurity.net], and SELinux [nsa.gov] (from the NSA), all attempt different solutions to this problem.

    Of course, they are all incompatible with each other, but the problem remains that the Linux kernel, as shipped by RedHat is insecure when it comes to chroot protection.

    Will this ever change, does RedHat care, and if so, which of these projects do you personally feel is most appropriate to lead the way in the future?

    • Of course, they are all incompatible with each other, but the problem remains that the Linux kernel, as shipped by RedHat is insecure when it comes to chroot protection.

      I really do not mean to troll, but does any other mainstream OS include good and correct chroot support ?

      AFAIAC, "Trusted" version of commercial Unices don't count. They are no more mainstream in regard to their respective Unix brand than SELinux is in regard to RedHat.

      It always kind of bug me off when people expect from Linux what they don't get from other OS, then complain about lack of "feature" in Linux. Maybe Linux is really dragging in chroot support compared to other mainstream OS and I am clueless; please enlighten me.

  • by jmv (93421) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:25PM (#3470368) Homepage
    There are many plagues that threaten the open-source community and even the software industry in general. There are software patents, DMCA and the like, frivolous lawsuits, MS bullying to name a few. In your opinion which one is the most dangerous? Also, what do you think is the best way to fight it?
  • The average user (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YanceyAI (192279) <yanceyai@yahoo.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:29PM (#3470392)

    Alan, I use a Mac at work for general administrative work and some desktop publishing. At home, I use Windows, mostly for gaming and surfing the net. I like the idea of Linux, but am not yet convinced enough to go through any trouble to do it and then have to worry about compatability issues. What argument would you use to persuade me (and others standing on the fence)?

  • I'm a young developer with 10 years experience on programming with a MS on computer science. What can I do to live only from free programming?
  • by SL33Z3 (104748) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:35PM (#3470440)
    What are your feelings on Microsoft's .NET and any initiatives to make the technology work on Linux?
  • by gosand (234100) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:36PM (#3470448)
    Alan,

    Do you have any other interests, besides Linux? I know in order to get to the "guru" status you have to be pretty dedicated to one thing. But what else do you like? Or are you a 100% Linux-kernel-hacker? I swear I saw you the other day riding a Harley. ;-)

  • by alfredo (18243) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:38PM (#3470467)
    Would you go to work for Apple if they wanted you to work on their Darwin project? If yes, explain and likewise if the answer is no.
  • RedHat's stand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jdavidb (449077) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:39PM (#3470481) Homepage Journal

    I admire your firm convictions and the stands you take on various issues. I also admire RedHat's stand on shipping (almost) exclusively free software. (For example, I think they didn't ship KDE for awhile when it was non-free, and they replaced Netscape with Mozilla as soon as they could. AFAIK, Netscape was the only non-free component of RedHat from 7.0 or earlier onward.)

    My question is, do you feel that part of RedHat's commitment to free software is based on keeping you satisfied working with the company? Does a possibility of losing their biggest-name developer help to keep them from changing their model too drastically?

  • by fruey (563914) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:41PM (#3470492) Homepage Journal
    I work in Morocco and travel around Africa, where I have seen a small base of Linux installations being put to good work. It helps leverage more power per server per dollar spent, and keeps any of the money from going to Microsoft. I am, in my own small way, trying to champion that issue here. All that needs to be paid is labour costs, and this can usually be kept within the local market, benefitting local companies. Of course, European and sometimes American gurus also get paid to come out here, but are more likely to be Cisco engineers and commercial firewall types.

    Have you been involved in any "Linux for development" type issues?

    I would have linked to another post I made in more depth about this but I can't get at it, it's more than 25 posts ago :-(

  • by OpCode42 (253084) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:49PM (#3470566) Homepage
    The ultimate question to OSS, kernels and everything...

    vi or emacs?
  • Piracy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by halftrack (454203) <jonkjeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:52PM (#3470594) Homepage
    Plain and simple. What's your take on piracy and acceptable means to fight it?
    • Plain and simple. What's your take on piracy and acceptable means to fight it?

      As for me, I would take the old-fashioned approach. Have a swashbuckling crew. Of, if you prefer the more modern approach, a 50mm cannon is a handy substitute.

    • Piracy should be dealt with by the coast guard, or in extreme cases by the nazy.

      Or were you talking about unauthorised copying ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:52PM (#3470598)
    Alan,

    I read a while ago in an article on eweek.com that you were working on a mini web server that is part of the kernel, similar to what Novell has done with Netware 5.X. This would be great, enabling basic server management over http but not requiring a full-blown service to be running.

    What is happening with this project? Was it abandoned, not technically feasible, or is progress being made?

    Thanks in advance, and thanks for all the fine work you've put into the community!
  • This may sound like a rather facetious question, but in light of the latitude of development in Linux OS application (from mainstream, friendly GUI OS to embedded OS, to clustering), the recognition of just what is "Linux" may be harder and harder to define, at least in a way that doesn't confuse people who aren't knowledgable about it (or computer OS's in general).

    The strengths of Linux are strengths very difficult to explain to people who don't see why Windows and Microsoft aren't good enough for everyone.

    I suppose, ultimately, my question is this: has the development of Linux out-stretched it's ability to be well-defined to the general public, and if so, how can it be successfully marketed (which seems to be the competitive endgame these days)?

    Cheers.
  • by Parsa (525963) on Monday May 06, 2002 @12:59PM (#3470641) Homepage
    Whenever I read mainstream articles about Linux they seem to say have differing ideas on what's stopping Linux from becoming widely used on non-geek computers. The interface is brought up alot, and so is installation (although with the newer releases of Mandrake, Suse, and others installation shouldn't be an issue anymore). But do you think that any of these "usability" arguments are valid anymore? I've read article after article about Microsoft "pressuring" places about going with anyone else. Do you think that Linux is ready or almost ready for prime time just M$ strong arm tactics with vendors and business's keep it pushed back?

    • [...]although with the newer releases of Mandrake, Suse, and others installation shouldn't be an issue anymore[...]
      I've had plenty of problems with newer releases and new hardware. I don't think it's true that this has become a non-issue.

      I'd be interested in hearing what AC thinks can and can't be done to make Linux easier to install. Is lack of cooperation from hardware vendors going to keep it from ever being a hassle-free process? It may be that installing any OS is too much to expect of non-geeks. Are we better off concentrating on getting Linux preinstalled on machines in stores? Or on winning people over to free software via free apps that run on non-free OSes?

    • You have the answer of why linux user interfaces still have so many usability problems.
  • Linux and M$ (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CptSkydrop (577286)
    Do you see a possible future where Microsoft and Linux work together - not against each other?
  • make Europa (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BESTouff (531293)
    Alan, Europa is building now, and many free software residents fear it'll adopt the American model wrt software patents, DMCA, etc. What are, in your enlighted opinion, the steps individuals can take to prevent such a thing to happen ?
  • by Bilbo (7015) on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:04PM (#3470678) Homepage
    Not too long ago, Bill Gates and Microsoft treated Linux as little more than an annoyance -- a pesky gnat buzzing in their ear, but of no particular significance to anyone other than geeks and raving, MS bashing loonies. In the past few years however, this attitude has taken an abrupt turn, to the point where Microsoft in one statement declared Linux as their #1 threat.

    Obviously, a lot of this is marketing bravado and chest-beating, with Microsoft alternately dismissing Linux (when talking to their clients about OS choices), or trumpeting Linux as a serious competitive threat (when talking to the lawyers/politicians/judges in the Antitrust trial).

    In your opinion, what fundamental changes have taken place deep down in Microsoft's attitude towards Open Source/GNU software (including, but not limited to Linux as an OS), and how has that change shifted the playing field?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:04PM (#3470682)
    Based on this lkml thread [zork.net] it sounds like you are against binary only kernel modules (e.g. the National Instruments GPIB driver [ni.com]). What is your stance on the legality, morality, and practicality of binary only kernel modules? Specifically, is a binary only kernel module a violation of the GPL or DMCA, and if so, why? Isn't a binary kernel module driver better than no driver at all?
  • After posting my first question without much thought I realised what I really wanted to ask was: Do you think Microsoft will ever co-operate with the Linux/OSS community and the ideas it represents? Do you think it will need to in the future?
  • by Kasreyn (233624) on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:08PM (#3470718) Homepage
    What specific issue (software patents / DMCA abuses / Linux issues / other) was the "straw that broke the camel's back", such that you decided to become so much more active politically?

    Thanks,

    -Kasreyn
  • Still MUDding? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dorzak (142233) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `kazrod'> on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:09PM (#3470726) Journal
    Alan, you were one of the coders, if not the primary coder behind AberMUD. Do you still play around with the MUD scene?
  • Market Share (Score:4, Interesting)

    by danheskett (178529) <{danheskett} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:09PM (#3470738)
    Alan,

    Thank you for your contributions. On to the question. You have spoken out at great length and with some vigor in regards to Microsoft and its tactics, ploys, and technology.

    In many ways, and in many cases, Linux based solutions are largely replacing Microsoft products. People, especially here at slashdot, will readily tell you the benefits of using a free, Free, stable, and progressive platform. My question is really, at what point will you consider the "Microsoft monopoly" defeated? How many users or what level of marketshare do you think is or would be necessary to consider MS "just another competitor"?

    Once again, thank you for help and insight, and keep up the good work.
  • Kernel drivers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:14PM (#3470767) Journal
    Waiting for new open source drivers to be included in the kernel is a pain in the rear-end, and when they finally arrive the hardware may even be obsolete. install proprietary drivers suplied by the manufacturer is also annoying, and usually requires a recompilation, something average users don't know how or don't want to do and finally, some hardware manufactures don't like the idea of releasing source drivers in order to protect their "secrets".

    I consider this as a major impediment to the acceptance of linux as a mainstream desktop OS. don't you think is about time to create a standard, wrapper for binary drivers that'll allow hardware manufacturers to:

    1- create closed source drivers;
    2- make the closed source drivers kernel version independent
    3- make it simple to "joe average" to install new hardware such as a video card and the related drivers ?
    • Re:Kernel drivers (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CJ Hooknose (51258)
      Waiting for new open source drivers to be included in the kernel is a pain in the rear-end, and when they finally arrive the hardware may even be obsolete.

      Examples, please? I know of a few things that are not well-supported--Kyro video cards, really cheap software modems, really cheap USB devices, and really cheap printers--but your question is pretty nebulous.

      install proprietary drivers suplied by the manufacturer is also annoying, and usually requires a recompilation,

      nVidia's evil binary-only X server and kernel module doesn't require this, presuming you're using a distro-supplied kernel (as all the newbies you're referring to will do.) Just install the proper nVidia RPM! Heck, SuSE 8.0 has very recent builds of those, and the installer asks you if you want to use them, should it detect an nVidia card in the system. The Lucent Winmodem drivers also have RPMs available for Redhat and some other distros.

      create a standard wrapper for binary drivers that'll allow hardware manufacturers to make the closed source drivers kernel version independent

      This is a very nontrivial task. A better solution has been implemented in the nVidia and Lucent modules I mentioned--there's a source wrapper distributed with a big chunk of binary code, you recompile the source wrapper against the kernel headers of the kernel version you want to use, and bingo, you've got a module that works. This approach avoids the kludge of putting together a binary interface, and puts the burden of hardware support directly on the manufacturer, where it really belongs.

      make it simple to "joe average" to install new hardware such as a video card and the related drivers ?

      Something you may not know is that XFree86 4.N has an abstract binary interface that allows people like nVidia and Kyro to create binary-only X servers. The problem is that, for various reasons, most of the binary-only X servers currently available also rely on binary-only kernel modules to do some work. (one part of the nVidia module actually emulates part of the Windows Registry... gack.)

      • Examples, please?

        3Dfx Voodoo. they had their own (open source) driver, but when it was oficially added to the kernel the company had gone titsup.com. other example ? you gave one. soft modems. remember Mwave, that ugly piece of crap included with IBM aptivas ? it's on the kernel now, but the modem is obsolete.

        presuming you're using a distro-supplied kernel (as all the newbies you're referring to will do.) Just install the proper nVidia RPM

        and I do. I use distro-suplied kernel. now if you could point me where I can find a pre-compiled nvidia module for a CONECTIVA kernel... I can find conectiva rpms for lucent winmodem because AFAIK a brasilian mantains them, but I don't remember seeing nvidia rmps for conectiva. If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.

        there's a source wrapper distributed with a big chunk of binary code

        That's EXACTLY what I meant. a source wrapper, but instead of having dozens, maybe hundreds, of diferent wrapper, a standard one, included with kernel sources (licensed under LGPL, maybe) would be better. it'll make things easier for everybody and his dog. including driver developers working for hardware companies, tech support vendors, my mom...

        Something you may not know is that XFree86 4.N has an abstract binary interface that allows people like nVidia and Kyro to create binary-only X servers.

        I know that. I'm not THAT new to linux. but AFAIK 3D acceleration requires a kernel component, and that's where a wrapper comes in. to make it easier to companies uncomfortable with the idea of realeasing specs to produce drivers.
  • Alan, As a linux geek, I am a little concerned about those wanting to make linux a mainstream, 'user-friendly' OS. I assist a friend of mine in teaching a intro to linux class at my local community college, and these are the answers I get to important questions: Me: "Why do you want to use linux" A: "Because Windows sucks" Me: "What do you want to do with linux?" A: "I wanna use it like I use windows" I find that all most people just want to do windows stuff with linux. In my opinion, this is not in the true spirit of linux, and if anything, this would be the thing that would make linux sucks. I am very opposed to linux for users. The class calls me elitest, maybe I am. What are your feelings on the subject? Would going mainstream kill linux once all these investors and company's start turning linux into windows?
  • Can you mention three things you would like the most to be addressed by enthusiasts of Open Source software?
  • by dbretton (242493) on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:24PM (#3470851) Homepage
    Alan,

    On the enterprise side, one of the greatest strengths of Linux has been its ability to be an extremely secure OS.
    Now that Microsoft has shifted its focus [com.com] to security being the top priority, and given their ability to shift gears extremely quickly and effectively (ala Internet Explorer), it is quite apparent that Microsoft will be contending for top honors in the security area within the next 2-3 years.

    What impact, if any, do you perceive this having on Linux development, Linux deployment, and the Linux community in general?

  • by Byteme (6617)
    I always found that you can tell a lot about a person based on their musical taste... as well, I listen to things that people list as their favorites when I have not heard them before - both to understand where thay are coming from, or if the person and I have common interests I may like what I hear.

    Alan, what would you list as your Desert Island Discs? Those ten discs that you would want with you if there were none others to be heard...

  • Linux & Hardware (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jedi1USA (145452)
    Greetings Alan,
    I am new to Linux and have been working on getting my system up and properly configured. The biggest stumbling block for me has been difficulty getting hardware problems properly diagnosed and correctly configured. I have talked to several people and this has been a common gripe. In my opinion, this is a major reason that Linux has not spread more quickly in the desktop arena. In your opinion, are there things that the Open Source community should do to improve this situation? Or do you feel this is entirely the fault of Hardware manufactures for not releasing better drivers/tools for their hardware under Linux?
  • by akb (39826) on Monday May 06, 2002 @01:48PM (#3471001)
    Free software programmers and the extended community are arguably the most organized non-hierarchical, grassroots constituency in the world. The community includes the tens of thousands developers and millions of endusers tightly networked through institutions like sourceforge, slashdot, countless LUGs, etc. The ability to produce projects of the scale and complexity of the Linux kernel, the Debian distribution, or the engineering behind the Internet itself is a testament to the community's ability to organize more than anything else.

    Despite this incredible organizing for software production, support and distribution very little of this gets translated into the political realm. In his last slashdot interview [slashdot.org] Lawerence Lessig chided the community for this.

    Organizers of traditional political campaigns for social justice or equitable distribution of power would drool over having a constituency as organized as that which we have. How do you think the community can translate its effective organizing in the technical arena into the political realm?
  • I have 50 karma points, so I need to burn some. Did you ever get picked on in high school for your name? Do you still get picked on for it? I seems to me that it must be difficult to get people to treat you seriously with a name that sounds like numerous, uhm, parts.
  • AC:

    There has been much talk of linux development fragmenting. This is a real risk, but I am seeing a different story taking place that to me is of more lasting importance:

    1. Apple has moved toward *nix (albeit not linux) with OS X, essentially being Borged into a free (but somewhat customized) *nix.

    2. Sun seems (to me) to be having trouble with Linux eroding its user base.

    3. IBM has backed linux in a big way and is reaping big dividends.

    4. Linux is being moved into virtually every kind of device imaginable, from PDAs to servers to desktops to embedded systems to routers.

    5. Windows servers, while very popular, are becoming harder to rationalize in terms of price/performance and (currently) security (although MS has sworn to change this).

    The desktop, in corporate america and in the home, appears to be the last reservation for MS.

    Is the current state of (free) *nix really this good or is this a Pollyanna summary? Is winning the desktop battle really that important anymore? Was it ever?

    Guac-foo.
  • RMS (Score:5, Funny)

    by Z4rd0Z (211373) <joseph at mammalia dot net> on Monday May 06, 2002 @02:17PM (#3471229) Homepage
    Have you ever met RMS, and if so, did your beard get tangled up with his?
  • being a man who has programmed a few micros

    what is your favorite ?

    and what do you think the future holds ?
    (AMD or Intel, MIPS or ARM Sparc ???)

    regards

    john jones
  • Shawn Gordon published an essay [ http://www.linuxandmain.com/essay/sgordon.html ] on the difficulties of using a GPL licence on a product - it seems to me that the problems described are caused more by people than by the licence itself.
    Stephen Figgins seems to think that Mr. Gordon is merely a whiner [ http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/1217 ] and shouldn't be charging for source.
    What's your take on using the GPL on commercial software?
  • by isa-kuruption (317695) <kuruptionNO@SPAMkuruption.net> on Monday May 06, 2002 @03:24PM (#3471822) Homepage
    Over the past year more than previous, more and more organizations have switched to Linux, however some companies (such as the Fortune 100 I work for) still struggle to get Linux in house. The question is, what technological advantage does Linux have over commercial UNIX systems? (aside from the multiple-platform idea)... and of course, what technological advancements will Linux have in the next 2-3 years that will truelly give Linux the advantage over traditional commercial UNIX systems in Fortune 100 companies where money really is not the issue?
  • by I91MM (571626) <mm@@@neverness...freeserve...co...uk> on Monday May 06, 2002 @03:41PM (#3471985)
    Alan,

    It looks like us PC hardware hackers are likely to have a much harder time in the next ten to twenty years as the average (desktop) PC becomes increasingly integrated. I see a trend away from the PC of today towards an increasingly closed 'black box' where the components are no longer a set of cards which are easily replacable. This is inevitable, especially at the lower end of the PC market, since increasing integration leads to lower costs for the manufacturers. Correspondingly, custom hardware will become more expensive and be increasingly restricted to the high end...

    How do you think such a trend away from "open" hardware would affect open source development, especially at the lower end of the spectrum? As the computer becomes more and more of a mysterious black box, do you think that the would-be hardware hackers of tomorrow are more likely to turn towards software and application development, and would this be mostly good or mostly bad for open source software (more applications/systems programmers, but fewer hardware-level programmers)?

    -Malcolm.

  • by jukal (523582) on Monday May 06, 2002 @04:31PM (#3472375) Journal
    Name your horror scenario:
    What incidents would compose a paralyzing blow to the Linux "momentum". Do you believe Linux is immune for the loss or sudden mental illness of 10 key persons for example? Why? Or could, these core people, including you, deliver a killing blow by poisoned decisions, for example?
  • by Pflipp (130638) on Monday May 06, 2002 @04:42PM (#3472467)
    Why the hell doesn't anyone ask this?

    Oh wait, that's not my question to AC. This is:

    I haven't been able to act against the DMCA much, because I'm not an American and thus haven't got much ground to criticise the American law system (even if I'd like to). But I'm Dutch and I would love to take any opportunity to act against restricting acts within Europe, of course. I've been informed by Slashdot [slashdot.org] lately that such acts are in the making. Some guy named Alan Cox seems very exited, but the article doesn't direct me, as European citizen proposing such laws, further.

    ...where the heck can I go?
    • AC has taken a stand against the DMCA and he is a European. There are a lot of us who would like to know his take on fighting some of the excesses in the US IP area that are being planned for introduction in the EU. I would include software patents in this as well.
    • If youre not one of the people who already reacted to my earlier call to action, I am currently trying to get enough people together to do something about the Dutch implementation of this law.

      You can get my e-mail address, and my earlier post in the thread you mentioned, from my User Info.

      Mart
  • by raahul_da_man (469058) on Monday May 06, 2002 @11:46PM (#3475146)
    Alan, after all your years in the field, what do you think is the biggest problem in Unix,and linux in general that is still unaddressed?
  • Pessimists Question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Empty_One (90408)
    With things like the DCMA seeming to spread out across the world, and worse bills on the horizon, how worse do you think it is going to get before people come to their senses, and things come around. More importantly, do you see things ever turning around?
  • what do you run? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chr15m (544156) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @01:50AM (#3475564) Homepage Journal
    Alan, What do you run? which kernel, window manager, desktop, widgets, editors, and favorite programs?
  • I think Alan vastly underestimates the power of the OSS community when it comes to political issues. It would seem to me that the community is very tuned into what is going on in the tech world and is responsive when it coems to issues. The SSSCA (or whatever it is now) has been shelved and may be dead for the time being.

    It's not widely publicized, but it IS happening, when lawmakers get hundreds (or more) of letters with a disticnt opinion on a topic. It puts lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of listening to voters as opposed to campaign contributors. Which is WHY it's not widely publicized - "If those darn voters start getting intersted, I'm going to have to do some real WORK, the bastards".

    I think Alans comment on the EFF is off-base. The OSS community is a loose confederation of geeks ("Bazaar" in The Cathedral and the Bazaar). I don't speak for everyone, but I don't want to be associated with any one group, I enjoy the freedom and chaotic nature of OSS and the "community". Not to say I don't support some of what the EFF does, but I'll not join a group to give political power to a group when the power of the masses is of greater concern. If they have something worthwhile I want to support, I'll do it, otherwise I'll ignore it.

    As long as I'm discussing geeks "acting up", why don't some folks go take a whack at RIAA? [saveinternetradio.org]

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