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					COMMUNITY                         Community Notes

                                              Community Notes

                                              THE YEAR WAS 2006
                                              Jon Masters looks at a few of the defining moments of 2006 and rounds

                                              up the latest activities from the many different Linux User Groups

                                              around the world. BY JON MASTERS
                                              and is on its way toward being a best-             it impossible for these drivers to load on
                                              selling examination of the power of com-           systems running Linux through technical
                                              munities like our own.                             restrictions in the Linux kernel. It wasn’t
                                                 In 2006, we saw the first revisions of          until Linus Torvalds stepped in and
                                              the new GPL version 3 license, which               pointed out how much such actions
                                              will, for the first time, introduce restric-       smelled like those of the big movie com-
                                              tions for distributors of GPL software             panies (who love their DRM technolo-
                                              who wish to assert their rights to certain         gies) that some people saw how the
                                              patents and intellectual property. GPL             power of free software often comes from
                                              version 3 goes way beyond just provid-             the ability to do “evil” things with it.
Jon Masters is a British-born                 ing patent protection for GPL authors. It             One of the most interesting things to
Linux kernel developer who                    also tries to prevent “tivoization” of             happen in the Linux community over the
                                              GPL-based projects through their use in            past year came from one of the most un-
works for a US-based Linux                    devices featuring restrictive DRM and              expected dark and dreary corners. Mi-
                                              digital signing technologies designed to           crosoft, having realized that Linux and
vendor. He has been actively                  make it difficult (or “impossible”) for the        FLOSS (Free, Libre, and Open Source
involved with the Linux com-                  community to make modifications.                   Software) are here to stay, decided to
                                                 These may be laudable goals, but not            shift its whole anti-Linux strategy to-
munity since he started his first             everyone was happy to see this happen;             ward supporting certain Linux projects
                                              we’ve seen a lot of community fragmen-             and a variety of attempts at standardiza-
degree at age 13. Jon is a mem-               tation and positioning over the endeavor.          tion in order to further the company’s ef-
ber of more than 50 Linux User                Some projects directly affected by GPL             forts to break into new markets. Where
                                              version 3 (like the BusyBox project) al-           this ultimately will lead is unclear – I’m
Groups around the world.                      most imploded over the issue. We’re                cynical when it comes to anything in-
                                              likely to see more serious discussions             volving Microsoft. It’s hard to see how
                                              about the adoption of GPLv3 in 2007.               the traditional “Embrace, Extend, Extin-

        his past year will be noted as one       An interesting counter-point to the             guish” philosophy will apply to Linux,
        in which even the most tradi-         issue of “tivoization” came from recent            but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see
        tional software companies who         debates in the Linux kernel community              the first release of a major Microsoft
didn’t “get it” – such as Microsoft – sat     about binary device drivers. We know               product for a popular Linux distribution
up and finally tried to listen. It was also   that using binary graphics drivers on              sometime later this year. In fact, I think
a year in which the dynamics of the           otherwise “free” Linux systems stinks of           that if we don’t see such an offering in
Linux community changed. There was a          hypocrisy, but many
shift away from the mainstream media          of us are getting ad-
                                                                                                                                        Tigran Hayrapetyan, Fotolia

and users caring solely about “Linux,” to     dicted to the higher
users becoming more interested in the         performance and in-
fundamental concepts behind free and          creased feature set
open source software. I know of many          some of these drivers
Windows users who discovered Firefox,         have to offer. Some
Wikipedia, and Thunderbird in 2006,           Linux distributions
but who have no interest in making the        have been making
switch away from their Mac OS X or            such drivers available
Windows PC – yet they still do “get it,”      for a while as part of
and are increasingly getting involved in      their default installa-
areas in which the different project com-     tion. Things came to
munities overlap. In fact, a recently pub-    a head in December
lished book, Wikinomics, aims to draw         2006 with the pro-
various conclusions from these trends         posal to finally make         Figure 1: Greater London discussed the EU Streaming petition.

90        ISSUE 76 MARCH 2007                    W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M
                                                                              Community Notes                     COMMUNITY

2007, that’ll speak even greater volumes
about the continually evolving strategy
over in Redmond.

                                                                                                                                      Vera Handojoa, Fotolia
   Finally, the past year has seen further
growth at the local level. As I mentioned
last month, I’m noticing tremendous
growth in countries such as India, where
users are often stuck with older releases
of popular distributions (due to a combi-
nation of bandwidth and lack of good in-
frastructure to promote alternatives), but
I’m also noticing the continued evolu-
tion of existing communities.
   Some Linux User Groups are now
more than 5 or even 10 years old, and
some members have known each other           Figure 2: Our Boston LUG contended the problem of a lost database.
for years. We’re all growing together in
different ways, and the growing popular-     Birmingham Linux User                              GLLUG also discussed the various
ity of community-organized social            Group (SBLUG)                                   Linux magazines available on the mar-
events illustrates this. Haven’t been to     A group member started a discussion             ket. Included was mention of this publi-
one of these yet? Check out a BarCamp        about the lousy state of WiFi support on        cation and the choice quote, “Linux
[1] coming soon to city near to you.         many Linux systems (a popular topic on          Magazine bills itself as ‘the magazine for
                                             many LUG lists). In this case, they were        advanced Linux know-how’, and its con-
Canadian Association for                     using the “madwifi” drivers and experi-         tent is much more technical; it’s less
Open Source (CLUE)                           encing lockups from time to time. This          flashy and is a sister title to a German
Members of CLUE [2] have been taking a       isn’t surprising – the Linux wireless           Linux magazine.” It’s always good to
retrospective look at 2006, with thoughts    stack is getting a much needed overhaul,        feel appreciated.
of a transition the group made last year     but problems persist. The member uses
away from being just a meeting point for     the Broadcom bcm43xx driver and still           And finally…
cross-LUG communication, toward an           has an occasional hard lockup on his            My local LUG had an outage last month,
advocacy and policy-making role. CLUE        Apple Powerbook.                                which wiped out the subscriber database
now engages in discussion concerning           Another member brought attention to           for the mailing lists; there wasn’t a re-
key pieces of Canadian (and worldwide)       a pledge drive for open source 3D driv-         cent backup to restore from. It’s always
legislation affecting technology and         ers for Nvidia graphics cards, noting that      interesting to be reminded that all tech-
Linux users, while also serving to pro-      a US$ 10 donation could help the project        nology will fail in the end; disks are vol-
mote Linux both at home and abroad.          with hardware and other resources. The          atile, and backups are of utmost impor-
                                             Nouveau project [4] looks interesting –         tance. Yet, like many others, I now suffer
New York Linux User Group                    interesting enough that at least one            from having too much data to easily
(NYLUG)                                      Linux distribution intends to support           back up. I’ve taken to using external
The group recently discussed an article      Nouveau in its next release.                    disks to back up a few hundred GB at a
on [3] about getting a refund                                                      time – really the only alternative unless
for your “windows tax” (the cost of a        Greater London Linux User                       you love sitting around while hundreds
Microsoft Windows license that’s rolled      Group (GLLUG)                                   of DVDs are burned one at a time. As
into most new PC purchases) and how          A longish thread called “EU Council             Roger Light mentioned on the Notting-
to get a refund for your unused copy of      Streaming Petition” noted that the Coun-        ham Linux User Group mailing list –
Windows. Many people were actively           cil of Europe makes various sessions            encfs is finally in Linux 2.6.19 if you
praising Dell for their continued efforts    available online through electronic             need a lightweight encrypted filesystem
to offer the Linux community a choice of     media streaming, all of which is only           that’s reasonably easy to set up for off-
products without a pre-installed copy of     supported on Mac and MS Windows sys-            site backups. ■
Microsoft Windows. Dell Linux systems        tems, because they choose to use Micro-
may not be easy to order via the website,    soft’s proprietary WMV (Windows                                  INFO
but you have to consider that the site is    Media Video) format for the streamed
                                                                                              [1] BarCamp:
still designed for the legions of buyers     content. Most disturbing was a quote
                                                                                              [2] CLUE:
who think they want Microsoft.               from the EU FAQ, which notes “We can-
                                             not support Linux in a legal way. So the         [3] Refund for Windows tax:
       LUG of the Month                      answer is: No support for Linux.” A
 Send a description of your LUG (along       petition is underway to convince the
 with some high-res images) to:              Council of Europe that supporting Linux          [4] Noveau Projects: http://nouveau.                                                                     
                                             wouldn’t really be such a bad thing.

                                                W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M           ISSUE 76 MARCH 2007              91

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