Brave GNU World, Issue #6Aug 19, 1999, 04:14 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Georg Greve)
How You Can Improve Your Machine Learning with Spark REGISTER >
Brave GNU WorldPermission statement below
[DE | ES | FR | JA] Welcome to the sixth issue of the Brave GNU World. After the last months were dominated by single topics, this issue takes a more widespread approach. I´ll begin with an introduction into the Java activities of the GNU Project.
GNU and Java?
Although this may come as a surprise to some people, there are no problems with GNU Projects based on Java anymore. A project can only be as free as the implementation of its language, so the free Java implementations Kaffe  and Japhar  created the basic pre-requisite for the involvement of the GNU Project. The current relationship between GNU Project and Java can always be found on the GNU Webserver .
Of course a completely free Java system also needs free classes, which is the reason for the GNU Classpath project. This seeks to create a free replacement of the proprietary "class libraries" by Sun. This project is rather young and some important parts like the java.text class are still missing. The other problem is that it only runs on Japhar right now although Kaffe is the preferred implementation at the moment. People interested in participating in this project should take a look at the homepage  and contact the GNU Classpath mailinglist that is mentioned there. The timing for entering this project is pretty good right now as the basic structures have been laid out and there is a lot of work to chose from.
The next project stems from an area traditionally dominated by firms like Microsoft, Novell or IBM: Network Directory Management Systems. These are basically systems to administer users, computers, email accounts and projects in medium- and big-scale networks.
Ganymede  is the successor of GASH and has been developed by the Computer Science Division of the Applied Laboratories of the University of Texas in Austin for over three years by now. The project has been realized in Java in order to achive a good platform independence.
The idea behind Ganymede is not to replace the services like LDAP, NIS, DNS, Radius, Tacacs, NT, Samba and so on, but to administrate them. Ganymede creates a central, standardized facility with a graphical user interface that allows anyone to fulfill administrative tasks. Modification and distribution of the resulting configurations is then done in the background with external Perl or Shell scripts.
The benefits of Ganymede are obvious. First of all it is released as Free Software under the GNU General Public License. Combined with its capability to use "plug-in" modules this means there should be no problem customizing Ganymede for local needs. The server´s "multi-threaded" design gives Ganymede a strong performance; a P200 with 64MB should be sufficient to maintain a complete network with about 1000 users.
Of course there are still a few weaknesses. First of all Ganymede uses a memory-based database because weaknesses in Java´s memory management don´t allow a disk-based database. Ganymede also doesn´t support distributed servers and it has no encryption between server and client, so it should only be used behind a firewall.
Plans for the future are to create an official release with good documentation and then start working on CORBA support so Ganymede can easily be implemented into GNOME and KDE.
I´ll continue with a more abstract concept that will probably be implemented using Java.
A report by Ian Clarke describes the theoretical background of a distributed decentralized network. The underlying principle is that information is not attached to a special node as it is the case with traditional homepages, it rather "floats" through the network.
When a computer looks for a piece of information that is not available locally, it starts asking the computers in its close vicinity (in this context the definition of close is related to topic rather than geographical location). The search spreads until the information has been found and is being passed through to the computer that initiated the request. On its way the information is being stored on all nodes it passed. To keep harddisks from overflowing there needs to be a way to get rid of information, as well. At the moment this is done by checking the time that has passed since the last request; finding a better way may be a good idea.
This way information that is put online in Germany but is only used in a university in the USA will eventually end up on their node.
Of course this also means that information may "die out" if it is not very popular, which makes FreeNET´s functionality comparable to that of the News system. But that´s pretty much all they have in common. The basic idea is to create a medium without central control where the author and the reader of information remain anonymous. This way Ian Clarke hopes to create a forum where the freedom of speech and thought can be cultivated.
Considering the recent developments in Australia this looks like a very interesting project and if you´re interested in participating I recommend having a look at the homepage .
The next topic is in here due to special request by Patrick Springys who also asked me to clarify the relationship between GNU Project and Java.
The FreeDOS Project was started in 1994 by Jim Hall and it is a GPL-licensed implementation of the well-known DOS for the PC. Of course FreeDOS contains not a single line of code from MS-DOS; it is a complete redesign of the old concept.
Although GNU/Linux is the preferred free operating system for most people, a lot of people do have old DOS programs that they do not want to miss. In these cases FreeDOS offers a free operating system which is also the official DOS-implementation for the DOSEmu. And anyone who thinks that this area is pretty much dead should reconsider. Since July 1999 FreeDOS is on the GNU Software CD-ROMs and a look on the homepage  shows that development is still very much alive.
Since I introduced GNU Enscript in issue #4 I have been asked to do the same for the next project.
As the name suggests, GNU a2ps  by Akim Demaille and Miguel Santana is an "Any to Postscript" filter, a program that takes any input and creates well formatted postscript.
GNU a2ps is very easy to use and understands a lot of different formats. One example is the "card" mode that allows converting the help message of programs printed into nice reference cards. Since it concentrates on postscript, a2ps also offers some special functions like a "pdiff" that displays differences between two postscript files.
Both GNU a2ps and GNU Enscript are GNU Projects and their goal is kind of comparable although the priorities are different. A cooperation between projects has been considered but the concepts weren´t compatible enough so the developers decided instead to retain the different directions. So making the choice is up to the user.
The next project doesn´t exist yet. In fact I´m hoping to start it with this issue.
We run GNU
After I complained about the lack of GNU artwork on the internet, David S. de Lis contacted me and sent his first designs which included the one you see here.
Over the last 16 years GNU Software has earned a good reputation among professionals and it is time to make this visible. There has been a steady increase in the demand for GNU motifs but it never really resulted in actual work being done. The GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP provides the perfect tool to fix this - now I´d like to see what a determined designer can do with it.
Everything is possible and everything is allowed, starting with motifs for T-shirts to embroidery-patterns. Anyone who is interested in presenting new designs to a wider audience may get featured on the GNU Webserver  where I already placed the designs of David S. de Lis.
The last meters
There are two more things I´d like to say. First Okuji Yoshinori and I have been talking about the reasons why people work on Free Software. No single person can give a satisfying answer so I´m asking you to tell me your personal motives why you work on Free Software.
Last month I received a mail by someone who did not know whether he could contact me to present his project because, though it is GPL'ed, the copyright is held by a University. That´s why I would like to set this straight. This column tries to provide a forum for all Free Software projects - whether they be official GNU Projects or not. Everyone is welcome to send his or her ideas, questions; and all Free Software has the chance to be featured by the Brave GNU World.
So once again I´m asking everyone not to spare with ideas, comments and questions. As usual the address can be found in the info box .
Brave GNU World home page
Copyright (C) 1999 Georg C. F. Greve, German version published in the Linux-Magazin
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this transcript as long as the copyright and this permission notice appear.
0 Talkback[s] (click to add your comment)