A few words from your leader....

First of all sorry for the long delay in the production of this fourth issue of Linux@UK. I have been cajoling and generally hoping for more material from the membership so this does not end up almost all written by myself again :(

The fact that you are reading this now means that the cajoling worked! Indeed in the last few days I have had quite a rush of submissions.

Unfortunately we only managed to produce three rather than the hoped for six issues in 1995. The newsletter is produced entirely by volunteers so even three issues represents a great deal of time and effort donated for your benefit. Interest in Linux is picking up fast as is its importance to the Unix community as a whole. We would hope that with more member participation we will have enough material for quarterly or even the originally envisaged bi-monthly issues this year.

Since the last issue that came your way back in October much has happened on the Linux front. After months of quiet behind the scenes diplomacy we are at last starting to see Linux taken seriously by the UK computer press. In the past month or so Linux distributions have appeared on more than one magazine cover disk and articles about Linux have appeared in many places. I myself have had material published in Micro Mart and Computer Shopper.

My apologies to anyone trying to get hold of me on the cell-phone number. The building I am working in at the moment is not at all cell-phone friendly. I now have a fax/answering machine so you can get in touch with me on 0121 604 5310. Email at mhouston@mh01.demon.co.uk is still the preferred method though!

Linux is now coming a more ingrained part of the Unix world. At the UKUUG winter conference apart from the Linux 'Birds of a feather' session there were several other Linux running laptops present. It is also reckoned that about 9% of the servers on the World Wide Web are Linux based. Linux was born of the Internet and is undeniably an important part of it.

On the distribution front the hottest item of news are that Lasermoon have joined X/Open and are evolving their Linux-FT distribution into a fully Posix & FIPS certified system.

This although moving away somewhat from Linux's roots as a 'free to be hacked' system does provide much needed credibility and stability for real commercial use. The ultimate goal will be to use Linux as the basis for a full spec 11-70 certified operating system that could rightfully be called UNIX&tm; (except that royalty payments would be required just to use that name). Linux development is and will continue to split into twin tracks. Firstly a hackers system which will always be free or nearly free but will be difficult to support in anything like a professional manner for 'mission critical' uses. Secondly Lasermoon with their FT release as a trail blazer and possibly followed by others make a slower changing and better understood code tree that is testable, supportable, verifiable and therefore more acceptable to the corporate Unix users who are the ones with the money to pay for such a process of quality assurance and support. Obviously once a system has been certified the freedom for the user to hack about with it has gone. A certified system will have to be administered with only patches supplied directly by the the vendor who certified the system in the first place.

Irrespective of any legal issues of restrictive copyright - a thorny one as so much of Linux comes under the GPL - a system that has any certification worth having cannot be freely redistributable as the value of that certification is weakened if it does not go with an active programme of support that can only be delivered from a qualified (as far as the certification is concerned) person.

The difference between software that works but with no warranty/support and software that comes with a comprehensive support commitment is that you have to pay a realistic amount of money for the latter. Unlike the costs of writing software in the first place which dilute to virtually nothing if the number of contributing users is large enough; the costs of providing enough people with enough knowledge to give those users assurance that the thing will keep working is something that will never be cheap for the sort of quality service that business users need. Professionally supported (and supportable) Linux is not a cheap option. However as it runs on low cost hardware with less historical baggage of royalties for work done years ago than mainstream Unix it should still prove cost effective compared to proprietary systems and may even make significant dents in Microsoft's domination of the desktop.

The two Linux tracks will both undeniably be Linux. Experience gained with a freely 'hackable' Linux will be useful and relevant, and will slowly (carefully) permeate into a standards conforming Linux system. In fact a system that is still Linux will be a better fit to the software skills that large numbers of people are now acquiring through their own Linux systems that corporate putting in Linux servers will be able to take skills learned by people on their own low cost Linux installations and use them directly. Vendors of other Unix based systems need not despair. A Linux training is still a far better preparation for Unix in general that life with DOS and Windows ever could be!

Other news that has just broken as this newsletter was compiled is that Apple in conjunction with the Open Software Foundation is actively promoting Linux as an operating system for the Power Mac. What is most interesting to the Linux community as a whole is that the Power Mach Linux will have at its heart the Mach microkernel. This brings modern OS thinking to Linux giving a basis for Linux systems to evolve well into the next century. Apples full press release on the move is included in this issue.

Another point of excitement is the actual release of the long previewed Caldera Network Desktop. The appointment of Caldera Value Added Resellers and Channel Partners means that at last focal points are appearing so that business can be done on Linux.

How this Newsletter was produced

After being a died in the wool vi user for years I decided to bite the bullet and try out emacs. I have tried to use text mode versions of emacs in the past but found that the sheer number of key combinations to learn very off-putting.

Emacs under X Windows is a much more friendly beast! Keys on the keyboard do what you would expect them to do and pull down menus to do the vital things like loading and saving files.

A book that I am working my way through at the moment and would recommend to others is "GNU Emacs" by Michael A. Schoonover, John S. Bowie and William R. Arnold, Addison Wesley ISBN 0-201-56345-2. The advice that the book gives is to only learn the aspects of emacs that you need at the time. The great power of emacs is there under the sleek X Windows exterior. Learning emacs is a great way to invest your time. Because emacs is text based once keyboard commands have been learned that correspond to the neat commands in pull-down menus you will be able to do complex editing tasks even on the smallest text only Linux system.

Web pages were checked with both Netscape2.0 for Linux and Chimera browsers.

A word about copyright

Linux@UK does not pay for contributions. Like Linux the copyright of each individual article remains with its author. This means that authors are free to offer articles for sale to other publications. If you do so please make sure that the publication is aware that the piece has been already published on the Web and on paper in Linux@UK.

We would also like to know about any such publicity about Linux related technology that appears elsewhere - a plug for the UKUUG Linux SIG would not go amiss. If people have an interest in Linux whetted by your article you should encourage them to join the SIG.

Joining the SIG and encouraging others to do so has a very positive effect in sending signals that Linux is a serious and permanent part of the computer industry now.

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Joining Information:

The Linux SIG is run by the Uk Unix User Group. For further information please phone the UKUUG Secretariat on 01763 273475 or Fax 01763 273255.