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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis,


¶: Greetings From Heather Stern
(?)Wrong Support Center, Folks
(?)YOU can help the Answer Gang
(?)Procmail Arguments
(?)Random Numbers --or--
Getting Random Values in sh
(!)Limiting exported symbols --or--
More on Exporting Symbols from Shared Libraries
(!)re Corel Linux and Blank Passwords
(!)subshells in ksh, etc.
(!)Windoze on 2d Hard Drive --or--
A Usable Example lilo.conf for 2 Drive Dual Boots
(?)Multi- Boot LINUX, NT and WIN98
(?)Lilo --or--
Boot Stops at LI
(?)Can't get into telnet --or--
Accessing Shakespeare's Lear: Get Thee to a Help Desk!
(?)How can I disable anonymous login to my ftp server --or--
Disabling Anonymous FTP
(?)Login as root problem --or--
Remote Login as 'root': Don't do it! (Except using SSH or ...)
(?)Linux DEVFS --or--
Linux devfs (Device Filesystem)
(!)FW: Linux --or--
Multiple append= Directives in /etc/lilo.conf
(?)question --or--
Getting Addresses Routed: Use IP Masquerading or Application Proxies
(?)Linux as a firewall/router --or--
FTP Through a "Firewall"
(?)Simple Shell and Cron Question
(?)Uninstalling red hat --or--
Left in the Lurch
or: Uninstalling Linux the Hard Way
(?)help....need to delete a linux partition
(?)UVFAT --or--
Getting UVFAT
(?)Find the source for specific program.

(¶) Greetings from Heather Stern

Hello everyone, and welcome to this month's issue of the Answer Guy. For any of you that are coming in late, next month we'll have a team of several, the Answer Gang. Folks, please welcome Michael Williams and Ben Okopnik.

I'd like to especially thank Michael for stepping up to the wizard's hat early. Also we have a few answerbubbles this month which I think people will enjoy.

I'd like to please discourage people from sending us questions on both plaintext and HTML versions. The HTML produced by mailers is just not of publishable quality, and the mime attachment just makes our mail clunkier. Thanks for the thought, but just text will be fine.

That said, I had an interesting time this month. USENIX Annual Technical was in San Diego, and a number of core linuxers, *BSD developers, and other open source developers were there. There's been a crossover for ages but with their Freenix track it's a little more obvious. Last year the Freenix track book was half as thick as the normal proceedings. This year it's just as thick. I suspect it's a really good thing that Atlanta Linux Showcase (ALS) is partnered with USENIX now, because I think there is a lot more research to publish where those came from... I'll be there of course.

Now, on to the editorial. I thought of this mid-month. I told my friends to look for it. I didn't really expect it would become a slashdot flamewar and so on but I still think it needs to be said. So I'll add a disclaimer which many of you will consider obvious, but others may need to have clear:

Solved thousands of years ago, still argued today

Looking outside the tiny little box in front of me, and indeed outside the open source world, we have one of the most hotly debated arguments about what is, and what isn't okay to use. We should follow its model, as it appears to have stood the test of time while most of its strongest adherents have not starved to death.
I am, of course, referring to kosher food.
Many of you may think this cannot possibly relate to computing except insofar as the usual meal preceding a product release is nightly orders of pizza until it's a go. Or chinese food or whatever else it is the managers and engineers share a yen for. Last I recall vegetarian pizza is kosher (though not pareve) and the usual Meat Lover's Special definitely is not. Neither is oyster sauce.
We can think of food in this context because it covers mixing code, as well as dynamic linking. I can take a slice of good Jewish rye, and dynamically link in some corned beef. Yum, still kosher. If I also dynamically link on some swiss cheese, um, no. Still removable? Ask your rabbi if the touched meat remains trafe. Most customers wouldn't be able to tell if this had been done in the kitchen. If I make that a hot sandwich, I statically linked it, guess I should get a new one.
A big fuss in the GPL seems to be about the sentence fragment which, paraphrased, is something like "the whole of derivitive works shall be under the GPL". One of its more common allergies is what to do about things which require linkage against something that is under some other license. (I refuse to label other licenses more or less restrictive, without a context to apply.)
But the fact is, that the rules of kosher food are not about preventing jewish kids from enjoying cheeseburgers with their schoolfriends. They're about health. It just isn't safe to eat crustaceans from the wrong part of the sea, pork that may be undercooked, and a number of other things. Conversely our concern over licenses is about our health. If a company, or a coalition of friends, that is responsible for maintaining a product stops answering their email forever, what am I as a user of their product able to do with it? Even if I don't personally read its source code, under the DFSG compliant licenses, I can always hire some programmer to solve my problems with it and make derivitive works. This truth is made more useful by the fact that it was also legal for me to glom a copy of the source code and keep it around.
It's perfectly normal for me to buy products at the store, in neat packaging even, which are not directly consumer-level food. At least, I know very few people who buy a bag of flour in order to scoop handfuls of it into their mouth and call it lunch. It's normally statically linked against some dairy products or water, leavened with yeast, and made into sandwich fixin's or (with more linkages) sweets. Ooo, I almost forgot. Leavening it means it's not kosher for passover. Do some people eat in this "more kosher" fashion all the time? I suspect some do.
There are other products, like cereal, which we normally expect to be dynamically linked (milk please!) but which are sometimes prepared in other ways (eg. rice krispie bars) and yes, I know kids who eat cereal straight out of the box.
So this is what I was thinking when the debate was re-awakened: Is the K project kosher? I think so. Others don't have to think so. Right now, the "Harmony" project ( ? I can't read German, and couldn't find code) which would claim to also meet Qt's API, isn't enough to make even little bitty sandwiches with. But one of the Harmony crew feels that the QPL is kosher enough for him (read his letter to LWN at so it may be a bit of work. I think I'll go get me a nice, thick, not-kosher-for-passover, corned beef sandwich on rye.

Copyright © 2000, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 55 July 2000
HTML transformation by Heather Stern of Tuxtops, Inc.,
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