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This week in Linux history

Three years ago (February 5, 1998 LWN): Eric Raymond wandered around in Silicon Valley discussing licensing terms with Netscape executives. As part of the whole thing, many people discovered The Cathedral and the Bazaar for the first time. The document apparently inspired Netscape to release their browser code as open source.

The funny blue cube shaped Cobalt Qube came out, it offered a multi-functional office-capable server with a web interface. Cobalt Networks has since concentrated on more conventional 1U rack space boxes and was acquired by Sun Microsystems last fall.

InfoWorld gave its 1997 Best Technical Support Award to the Linux community:

When users of commercial software have a problem, they have a limited number of increasingly expensive resources offered by the vendor to get the answers they need. Linux users said they have a virtually infinite array of free resources such as posting a question on various forums, doing a search of the innumerable Web pages with posted fixes, e-mailing the program developer directly, or looking at the source code and figuring out a fix of their own.

Remember, back then, people were saying that Linux had no support...

Perry Harrington suggested that the X window system should be replaced, similar talk is currently going on, and there are even some results from the Berlin project, but X continues to have tons of momentum in the Unix world.

The development kernel was version 2.1.85 and contained a bunch of fixes for SCSI on the IBM MCA (Micro Channel) bus.

Debian was dumping the pesky dselect program and revamping its package system, that was a good move.

Some interesting SuSE history was published, SuSE stands for Software und System Entwicklung.

Two years ago (February 4, 1999 LWN): Linux Certification was a big topic at the time with five different companies in the certification business. They were the Linux Institute, Digital Metrics, LinuxCertification.org, Caldera, and Red Hat. In the last two years, the Linux Institute has become the Linux Professional Institute, and it has absorbed the Digital Metrics certification effort. LinuxCertification.org is now called SAIR, Caldera is no longer doing certification (it's a supporter of the LPI), and Red Hat is still offering RHCE certification.

The FSF decided to discourage use of the Library GPL. Quoting Richard Stallman:

Proprietary software developers have the advantage of money; free software developers need to make advantages for each other. Using the ordinary GPL for a library gives free software developers an advantage over proprietary developers: a library that they can use, while proprietary developers cannot use it.

The license was, at this point, renamed the "Lesser GPL."

But is Bob Young the Richard Stallman of Red Hat? Let me tell you something. I know Bob Young. Bob Young is a friend of mine. And Bob Young is no Richard Stallman. Bob proudly states that he is behind the GPL for exactly the opposite reason most people think Richard Stallman created it. Bob Young wants to make money.
-- Nicholas Petreley, LinuxWorld.

In the world of security, the possibility of a relaxation of the US encryption export restrictions was discussed, fortunately, that actually happened, much simplifying the job of packaging and distributing security software. The topic of built-in CPU serial numbers was hot with respect to privacy, fortunately, that issue seems to have passed by for now.

The current stable kernel was version 2.2.1, also known as the "brown paper bag" release. Lots of fixes were pouring into this relatively new release. Two years later, 2.4 remains, so far, free of "brown paper bag" problems.

Wichert Akkerman replaced Ian Jackson as the Debian Project Leader, and Red Hat moved to a new, larger building in Durham, North Carolina.

Gnome was up to version 0.99.5 and KDE version 1.1pre2 was out. The Beta version of Qt 2.0 had been announced and KDE was being ported to it.

IBM Software Solutions just joined Linux International as a sponsoring corporate member.

One year ago (February 3, 2000 LWN): Sun announced the release of the Network File System version 4 (NFSv4) code to the open source community. There were still a number of issues over the restrictions presented by the Sun Industry Standards Source License and the usefulness of such a move to the Linux community.

Richard Stallman had set his sights on UCITA:

This is too outrageous an injustice to wish on anyone, even if it would indirectly benefit a good cause. As ethical beings, we must not favor the infliction of hardship and injustice on others on the grounds that it will drive them to join our cause. We must not be Machiavellian. The point of free software is concern for each other. Our only smart plan, our only ethical plan, is...to defeat UCITA!

A year later, UCITA seems to have vanished from the news. It would probably be a big mistake, however, to assume that it has gone away.

A sign that cryptographic policy really had relaxed: kernel.org began to carry crypto software.

Linux World was underway in New York City, as it is currently. Lynx, now Lynux Works, had announced its Blue Cat Linux distribution and was heading into the world of Linux. The LinuxOne people were apparently spreading the word that they were planning on buying SuSE after they made tons of money on their IPO.

The stable kernel was version 2.2.15 pre5 and the development kernel was version 2.3.42. Lots of new device support was being added to the development kernel.

Tucows reported some interesting stats on Linux distribution downloads, Corel had the largest share at 37 percent, RedHat was at 20 percent, and Debian had 11 percent. The other distributions with notable stats were Suse, Slackware, and Caldera.

LinuxPPC Developer Release 1.1 was released, as was Turbolinux 6.0 (in both server and workstation versions).

OpenSSH version 1.2.2 was released and was the first stable release of the software under Linux.

The Red Escolar project was into Phase 2 of deploying Linux in Mexican schools, they estimated that going with free open-source software had saved them approximately $120 Million dollars in software licensing fees.

Andover.net launched "server51.freshmeat.net" - an apparent attempt to compete with SourceForge. A year later, of course, Freshmeat is in no position to compete with SourceForge and server51 has disappeared from the net.

The Motley Fool discovered the DeCSS case:

But then the DVD Copy Control Authority (a name straight out of a James Bond movie if you ask me) attempted to sue the ENTIRE INTERNET. It's like a class action lawsuit in reverse. Even for Hollywood, this has to set some kind of record for sheer bulk corporate idiocy. The mind boggles

IBM announced the port of Linux to the S/390 platform, a project that is still going strong.

The embedded Linux craze was just starting to get interesting, Lineo acquired Zentropix, Monta Vista Software partnered with FSMlabs, and RedHat announced its Red Hat Tools for Embedded Developers.

Linux stocks were still soaring at incredibly high levels, VA Linux was around 125 and RedHat was around 108.


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