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Linux Kongress mini-summary. The 8th Linux Kongress was held on November 28 to 30 in Enschede, the Netherlands. This event is one of the oldest Linux gatherings still around, and it was the site of Linus's first talk on his new creation. It remains a small, technical, and kernel-oriented meeting, with developers making up much of the attendance.
Much of the interesting talk happened before the conference itself started. A well-attended clustering workshop nailed down a detailed plan for the creation and implementation of the "Open Cluster Framework," a set of standards intended to help the development of cluster-based applications. The shape of the Framework architecture is beginning to emerge; details will be put up on the new web site at opencf.org, which, as of this writing, is not yet available.
The Netfilter team also gathered to discuss the future of firewalling with Linux. Perhaps the best news is that it appears, for the first time in a while, that the Linux firewalling implementation will not be replaced wholesale in the 2.5 development series. A lot of work is still planned, however; some of it will be covered in a future LWN kernel page.
The conference itself was made up of a solid set of technical talks. The real value in these events, however, is in getting that many developers into the same room and letting them talk about what they are doing. It is clear that the community needs these occasional opportunities to meet and socialize. As money gets tighter, however, these opportunities could prove harder to come by. Let us hope that our companies and governments see the advantages in continuing to support developer meetings.
Evolution, again, and proprietary offshoots. Our review last week of the Evolution 1.0 release candidate drew a fair amount of mail. Most pointed out that there is, indeed, a way to generate a contact entry from a mail message; one simply clicks on the sender's address with the right mouse button. It's good that the feature exists, but the difficulty of finding it points out the need for continued usability testing for Linux desktop software. Desktop software, after all, really should be sufficiently user friendly that even an LWN editor can figure it out. Without a serious commitment to usability testing, the Linux desktop will continue to be a second-tier offering.
Meanwhile, Ximian has released the final version of Evolution 1.0. It's available for free download, or for purchase as a boxed product. Expect it to show up in your favorite distribution before too long.
The 1.0 release is significant, but more attention seems to have been drawn to the announcement of "Ximian Connector." Connector's purpose is to turn Evolution into a full Microsoft Exchange client. Unlike Evolution, it is a proprietary product with a per-seat charge. Also, in the best proprietary software tradition, it's vaporware; Connector is not actually available until sometime "early next year."
A year or two ago, the Connector product would have drawn a great deal of criticism. After all, Ximian is supposed to be about free software. The relatively muted nature of the complaining shows that, perhaps, times really have changed. Nobody assumes that Ximian will be able to survive just by virtue of cranking out useful code. The money has to come from somewhere.
The choice of Connector as a proprietary add-on was clever. Connector's purpose is to ease the integration of Evolution into proprietary environments. People who are concerned about running only free software will, in general, have no use for Connector, and will not be affected by its proprietary nature. The only people who will have to pay are those who are already running proprietary systems.
If this plan works out, a number of things will be accomplished. The Linux community will have a top-quality, graphical mail (and more) client that will continue to see serious development. Linux will become a more viable desktop system in corporate environments, and its adoption will grow. That, in turn, will lead to more Linux applications and more resources for Linux development in general. And Ximian will have succeeded in showing that it is possible to make major contributions to the free software community and, simultaneously, thrive as a business.
Difficult days for DMCA opponents. Shortly after last week's LWN weekly edition came out, a couple of rulings were handed down in outstanding cases challenging the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The news was not good.
In the 2600 DVD case, the appeals court upheld entirely the initial ruling that posting (or linking to) the DeCSS code was illegal. Those who are interested can go read the full ruling. Essentially, the court agreed that code is speech, but that the government still had the authority to regulate it. Fair use concerns were brushed aside with a note that the Constitution does not actually protect fair use.
The only remaining course of action in this case is an appeal to the Supreme Court; it has not yet been decided whether that step will be taken or not.
The Felten case, which is actively challenging the DMCA, was thrown out of court on motions from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Recording Industry Association of America. This ruling does not appear to be online; the EFF plans to appeal this decision.
See this issue of EFFector for more information from the EFF on both cases, as well as a motion that has been filed to dismiss the Bunner DVD case.
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December 6, 2001