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News Bytes

By Michael Conry

News Bytes


Selected and formatted by Michael Conry

Submitters, send your News Bytes items in PLAIN TEXT format. Other formats may be rejected without reading. You have been warned! A one- or two-paragraph summary plus URL gets you a better announcement than an entire press release. Submit items to bytes@lists.linuxgazette.net

Legislation and More Legislation

 Jon Johansen

The Register has reported on Jon Johansen's latest contribution to the controversial arena of digital rights management. He has created an open source software utility that dumps the content of a protected Quicktime encoded music track to a more easily handled format. Some seemed to find these actions upsetting, though most Register readers seemed to be more upset by the antics of the RIAA.

Johansen is likely to remain in the news as his retrial on charges relating to his involvement in the DeCSS code has just begun in Oslo. Though acquitted in a lower court, the case (which began five years ago) has been appealed.

 Broadcast Flag

The Register has also reported that the FCC in the US has approved the controversial Broadcast Flag. Though the FCC claims that the measure is necessary to prevent piracy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation contends that the rules will

"[force] manufacturers to remove useful recording features from television products you can buy today"
The archive of EFF documents relating to the Broadcast Flag regulations can be browsed online at http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/HDTV/

It appears that there may be some loopholes in the detail of the regulations relating to export of non-DRM enabled equipment. The full implications of the rules will of course become clearer over time.


Two contentious issues: electronic voting and the DMCA, have been at the centre of a recent story regarding the Diebold company. Diebold specialises in ATMs, electronic voting systems and similar products. However, their voting products have not been without their problems, the extent of which was starkly highlighted in emails leaked from the company.

Once the emails started to circulate on the internet, Diebold sought to lock down this embarrassing material by invoking the dreaded DMCA. Happily for the American electorate, the Online Policy Group, backed by the EFF, brought legal action against Diebold and forced the company to back down.

This is an important win, as the integrity of the voting system (and people's ability to verify it) is fundamental to the functioning of any democracy. As Scott Granneman has pointed out, e-voting has had a chequered history, and it is imperative that it be properly exposed to public and expert scrutiny. This is not just an American issue, as electronic voting machines are being installed in countries around the world. Some, such as those in Australia, use open-source software and operating systems, but many (for example the system being deployed in the Republic of Ireland) leave a lot to be desired in terms of transparency and openness.


Three DMCA snippets from The Register

Linux Links

Creating your own Knoppix CDs

Basic concepts or real-time operating systems [courtesy LinuxToday].

Design an application for GRID

Hardware for P2P Radio

Knoppix as a system rescue tool

Linux Weekly News reports on the fork of Linux Gazette.

Ian Murdock, rethinking the Linux distribution business model (courtesy LinuxToday)

Tips from veteran Linux programmer Spence Murray

Joe Brockmeier on how to build Debian packages.

At O'Reilly-net Joe Stump has taken readers through start middle and finish of setting up an advanced mail server, configuring delivery, webmail, secure POP3 and IMAP, and spam and virus checking.

News in General

 Kernel Exploit

As mentioned below, several Debian project machines were recently compromised by an attacker who took advantage of an exploitable flaw in the 2.4 series of kernels. Though this integer overflow in the brk system call was not initially thought to have serious security implications, now that an exploit is loose in the wild it is very important that sysadmins patch their systems. The problem has been fixed in the 2.4.23 release of the kernel.

 Kernel Backdoor Closed Before it Opened

A recent attempt to insert backdoor code into the Linux kernel has been thwarted by the vigilance and openness of the open source development process.

 Linux in Libraries

Linux In Libraries (LIL) is an electronic mailing list/user group dedicated to utilizing the Linux operating system in academic, public and special libraries as an alternative affordable solution for public access computing.

Distro News

 2-Disk X Window Embedded Linux

2-Disk X window embedded Linux is a tiny net-centric Linux that aims at portable secure remote system usage. It contains many utilities including: X Windows, vncviewer, rdesktop, a Web browser, a file manager, a text editor, a terminal, a window manager, a menu system, a dialog system, X scripting facilities, and many others. It aims to work from 1 or 2 floppy disks in any remote location. The FAQ is particularly good.


NewsForge recently reported on the ADIOS boot CD. It includes some features not so common on boot CDs, such as User Mode Linux and Security Enhanced Linux.


Debian GNU/Linux has been updated. The new version, Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 (r2), mainly adds security updates to the stable release, along with some corrections of serious bugs.

Several Debian servers were recently compromised by a local kernel exploit. Fortunately, the attacks were noticed and it has been confirmed that the archives were not tampered with. The investigation report makes for interesting reading.

From Debian Weekly News Jonathan Oxer wrote about caching Debian packages in order to save bandwidth when updating or installing multiple Debian machines.

 Linux From Scratch

The Linux From Scratch community has announced the release of LFS-5.0. This release features a new method with strong emphasis on building a correct compilation environment and base libraries independent from the host system. Release 5.0 features the Linux kernel version 2.4.22, the GNU C Library (glibc) 2.3.2, the GNU Compiler Collection (gcc) 3.3.1 and a bootloader change from LILO to GRUB, amongst other package upgrades. The book's explanatory texts have also been enhanced, providing an even richer learning experience while you build your own customised, hand-crafted Linux installation.


Mandrake Linux 9.2 ISOs are now available for download, including the new LG CD-ROM fix.

Mandrake has also released MandrakeMove "...a new product based on Mandrake Linux 9.2 that provides a complete personal desktop operating system on a bootable CD".

 Red Hat

News that Red Hat will discontinue maintenance and errata support for Red Hat Linux 9 from the end of April 2004. This also marks the end of the Red Hat Linux product line. To some extent, the Fedora Project will carry the torch from now on.


It has been announced that Novell is to acquire SuSE Linux. This is an interesting development, to say the least.


Vector Linux 4.0 review.

Software and Product News


Distcc is a distributed C/C++ compiler.


The Ogg Vorbis CODEC project has released new versions for all its tools and software. Libogg 1.1, vorbis-tools 1.0.1, libvorbis 1.0.1 and OggEnc 1.0.1 are included.

 QicsTable for Qt

ICS has announced the release of QicsTable, a sophisticated grid/table GUI object. With QicsTable, developers can present large tables of information using a familiar spreadsheet-like user interface paradigm. This makes their applications easier for end users to understand and use. Built on the Qt framework from Trolltech AS, applications written with QicsTable run without changes on Windows, MacOS, Linux, and UNIX based systems. QicsTable is being released under both the GNU Public License (GPL) and a commercial license that includes access to source code.

 Apache 2.0.48 Released

The Apache Software Foundation and the Apache HTTP Server Project have announced the eleventh public release of the Apache 2.0 HTTP Server. This version of Apache is principally a bug fix release.

Also recently released is an update to the Apache 1.3 codebase, the new version is denoted 1.3.29.

 Linux on FPGA Design and Verification Board

Semiconductor distributor The Memec Group and embedded Linux and eCos consulting firm Mind have collaborated on a port of Linux and RedBoot to Memec's Virtex-II Pro Development Board. The board is used to design and verify applications based on the Xilinx Virtex-II Pro Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) family.

 Mod_python 3.1.2 Beta

The Apache Software Foundation and The Apache HTTP Server Project are pleased to announce the 3.1.2 Beta release of mod_python.

Some feature highlights:

Also available is the stable version 3.0.4.


The Middle East's e-learning platform, EduWave, is to be made available on the Linux platform following a deal between IBM and Jordanian IT company Integrated Technology Group(ITG).


Mick is LG's News Bytes Editor.

[Picture] Originally hailing from Ireland, Michael is currently living in Baden, Switzerland. There he works with ABB Corporate Research as a Marie-Curie fellow, developing software for the simulation and design of electrical power-systems equipment.

Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.

Copyright © 2003, Michael Conry. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 97 of Linux Gazette, December 2003

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