May 12, 2004 Edition

By Stephan Windischmann (


Cooperative Linux

This week, we present you the thoughts of Migues de Icaza on desktop Linux and software patents, and we give you a peek at Cooperative Linux. Also, we have started working on a guide on setting up a small business network with Linux and open-source software, like the ongoing guide ( on doing the same with Windows 2003 by Nerio Musa here on Ars. Expect the first part in a couple of weeks or so.


Miguel de Icaza on Linux on the desktop

OSNews had the opportunity to talk with Miguel de Icaza ( of GNOME and Mono fame. Among other things, they talked about patent law and the influence it has on free/open-source projects. Miguel isn't very happy with the current situation, since according to him too many patents get filed over trivial things. He believes that it'll get worse in the near future. While the free/open-source community hasn't had any major patent-related lawsuits yet, Miguel is sure that his will eventually become a problem.

Because of this, Ximian is going to split mono into a free and "non-free" part. The free part, while not complete, is still a complete application platform, with C#, GTK#, GNOME#, database bindings, et. al. Hopefully this will entice more distributers to ship mono, even though some will probably still refuse to ship mono due to 'political' instead of technical reasons. Is picking a product on technical merit only that hard? Miguel also has an alternative vision on how Linux/open-source software will take over the world. i.e. gain substantial market shares. He believes that this process will start in poor/developing countries, due to the prohibitive cost of software licenses, even with volume and/or educational discounts. From there, the spark should jump over to Europe, and then to North America. One thing Miguel is forgetting is the high rate of software piracy in poor and developing countries, but open-source software could still catch on there, since it's not as resource-hungry as the latest Microsoft and Apple operating systems.

"Poor countries don't have the money to buy and maintain Windows; this is where open source software is becoming a real and powerful alternative," he said. More developed countries also use Linux: Miguel mentioned the 200,000 Debian machines in Spain running Gnome and many other smaller projects using Linux and OSS at many levels: schools, government applications, servers, even on home desktops. And long as EU won't adopt similar patent laws like US currently employees, Miguel sees Linux (and F/OSS in general) becoming a major power in the industry, competing head to head with Microsoft in a few years. "Even the Linux desktop is almost usable today", he said semi-joking and continued "if the whole world is using Linux in the future, US will have to 'switch' eventually too, regardless of patent problems. And when that happens, there's no stopping".

Miguel talked about other things as well, saying that Suns refusal to even consider shipping mono with their GNOME-based Java Desktop System (JDS) is great for the Novell/Ximian desktop, and he confeses that he loves Debian. Also, he admitted that Ximian is considering starting to work on a mono-based video editing program for Linux/GNOME. This would be a great move, since Linux is really lacking a usable video editing program.


OpenBSD 3.5 released

OpenBSD 3.5 ( was released on May 1st. Among many other features, it debuts with a native Athlon 64 port, featuring full support for the 8 extra registers which are used, and the NX bit used to implement W^X. W^X stands for "Write xor Execute" and is OpenBSD's protection mechanism to prevent executable code from being written to in memory. This is intended to prevent most buffer-overflow type exploits from occurring. The OpenBSD devs have tested their Athlon 64 port on Intel's IA-32e CPUss as well, and it runs fine except for the lack of the NX bit, and hence lack of full W^X.

OpenBSD 3.5 also brings two Cisco-killer tools: CARP and PFsync. These tools were created in response to licensing issues with Cisco's VRRP protocol. CARP allows two OpenBSD boxes to appear to use the same IP to provide redundancy. This makes it simple to build redundant firewalls or web-servers. PFsync provides the ability to synchronize two PF firewalls, so that another firewall can take over if one fails. Together, they make it possible to build highly-available firewalls using OpenBSD. Another new feature is hardware acceleration of OpenSSL encryption for the VIA C3 processor. This allows you to have a fanless VPN or IPSec machine that can perform AES cryptography over ten times faster than the fastest consumer CPU today. You can order the CDs for US$40 from the OpenBSD store ( or download the install files from an mirror (


apt-checkpoint An open-source project in the making

Our very own LKF moderator Adam "StoneTable" Israel has started working on apt-checkpoint (, a utility that can take point-in-time snapshots of a Debian system. These checkpoints can then be compared to the current system, similar to diff, or used to downgrade (rollback) to a previously-working system state. This is especially helpful in the case of an unsuccessful "apt-get dist-upgrade" or broken package.


Cool App of the Week Cooperative Linux

This week's cool app, Cooperative Linux ( (coLinux), is special, since it doesn't run on Linux, but instead it's a port of the Linux kernel that allows you to natively run Linux along a number of different operating systems (i.e., on top of Windows 2000/XP). So it's unlike Cygwin, which is just a POSIX system on top of Windows, and also unlike VMware, since that virtualizes a CPU. coLinux uses the CPU of the host system natively. The best-supported port of coLinux is for Windows 2000/XP, and it's the only port for which precompiled binaries (and ready file system images) are available.

Setting up the system is fairly straightforward if you stick to the binaries. Afer downloading ( the binary package and the filesystem root image of your favorite distro (currently Debian GNU/Linux, Fedora, and Gentoo images are available), you install the binary, copy and unpack the filesystem root image into the installation directory, and then follow the instructions here ( on the excellent coLinux Wiki ( to set up virtual networking with the host system and the coLinux XML configuration file.

Missing image

You get a fully operating Linux system running on top of Windows, with all the features of your favorite distro.

Missing image

Missing image

coLinux showing the host system's CPU

coLinux is nowhere near complete, though. For example, you cannot run a local X server on it yet, so if you want to use X11 with the system, you'll either need to run a X server on the host system and launch the programs over the virtual network, or you'll have to run a VNC server on the coLinux system and access that with a VNC client.

Still, it's great having the ability to run Linux on top of Windows without having to virtualize the CPU.