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LWN reviews two Linux firewalling books. In the latest addition to the LWN Book Reviews Page, we look at two books on building firewalls with Linux: Linux Firewalls by Robert L. Ziegler and Building Linux and OpenBSD Firewalls by Wes Sonnenreich and Tom Yates. Our reviewer liked the latter rather more than the former...
There is one point from the review that is worth repeating here: both of the books reviewed will shortly be obsolete. The 2.3 kernel development series has replaced the ipchains mechanism with the new "netfilter" package, which is better in all respects. While much of the information contained in the firewalling books will remain valid; the actual discussion of how to set up firewall rules will show its age as soon as the first 2.4-based distribution hits the shelves.
Obsolescence is, of course, the fate of much Linux documentation. A great deal is happening with Linux, and keeping up with the changes is difficult. However, if there were a book on Linux firewalling available under an open content license, chances are somebody would already be at work updating it for the new kernel. It would actually have a chance of being current when the new kernel comes out.
This may be the point that eventually pushes publishers toward more open licensing of their books. Closed, proprietary, paper-only books simply are too hard to keep current in the fast-moving open source world.
A cooperative group has been formed to develop open source customer relationship management (CRM) applications. This group (OpenSourceCRM.org), which announced its existence this week, is sponsored by a handful of companies, including VA Linux Systems.
OpenSourceCRM's first product is not necessarily something to cheer about: it's an "outbound email promotions system." If it becomes a delivery mechanism for spam people will not like it, whether it is open source or not.
The interesting thing about this announcement, however, is what it suggests for the future. Much open source software has been developed by individuals by companies, each pursuing their own interests. Consortiums of companies, thus far, have taken a lower profile in open source development. This is likely to change as the next wave of companies jumps into open source.
There are numerous industries that could be well served by suites of open source, industry-specific software. Think of hotel management, restaurants, broadcasting, etc. If the software is sufficiently well done, it would be a win for the industry as a whole. It seems almost inevitable.
Some steps in this direction can be seen now. The OpenSourceCRM group is one such. There are the Free Practice Management and FreeMed initiatives in the medical industry. But this is just a tiny beginning. There is probably a good living to be made for a company that can establish itself as a coordinator for this type of project.
Amazon.com does it again: the web retailer has been awarded yet another patent. This time around, it claims patent rights for its affiliate program - which is much like many other such programs on the net. Advanced technology like "referral links" is now proprietary. Given Amazon's record so far, it is to be expected that other web-based retailers will start getting friendly letters from Amazon's lawyers.
Tim O'Reilly has come out strongly against the Amazon patents. He argues the points well; there is not a whole lot we can add. The O'Reilly Network has also created a software patents page with resources and news on this subject.
LWN, meanwhile, has decided to withdraw from the Amazon.com affiliate program. We'll be looking at ways of replacing it in the near future; in the meantime the Amazon links on our book reviews page will be going away shortly.
(See also: News.com's article on the affiliate network patent).
Colorado Linux Info Quest update. The speaker line-up for the Colorado Linux Info Quest is now complete. The latest announcement is the addition of Scott Draeker, CEO of Loki Software. He'll be talking on "Free Software, Beer and Games". Keep an eye out ... we have five additional speakers that we'll be highlighting in the next week or two.
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March 2, 2000