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More Fans Line Up For Linux -- Or Is That GNU/Linux?

I've used Linux on my home computer ever since a spectacularly disastrous "upgrade" to Windows XP in the fall of 2003 ("Linux Inc.," Cover Story, Jan. 31). I keep hearing that Linux is more suitable for specialists than for ordinary desktop office users and that there will be incredible training costs. I was able to convert from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice quite painlessly with just a bit of hunting for MS Office command equivalents. My father, 75, was able to access his e-mail on my computer without any problems and without having used Linux before.

Yes, Microsoft (MSFT) should worry: Someone has come up with a far more stable, secure operating platform with a decent range of quality office-productivity tools at a licensing price far below anything Microsoft (MSFT) can hope to match profitably.

Gary Layng


Steve Hamm's "Linux Inc." was not entirely accurate in what it said about me. I criticize Linus Torvalds for publicly and visibly using a nonfree program to develop Linux, but I do not refuse to speak to him. Tie-wearing officials and even some businesspeople continue to talk with me, mostly outside the U.S. The article mentioned St. IGNUcius without identifying him as a comedy routine -- since our detractors sometimes call free software a cult, St. IGNUcius turns this around as a joke.

More fundamentally, the article repeats a common confusion when it speaks of Linux as an operating system. The article explained the system's origin -- how Torvalds' Linux kernel filled the gap in the nearly complete GNU operating system -- and the GNU/Linux combination is the system that people use. But then it disregarded this and went on to use the name Linux indiscriminately, both for Torvalds' part and for the whole system. This creates a confusion that takes an expert to straighten out.

History shows that people who undervalue freedom are apt to lose it. Most operating systems were developed for commercial or technical reasons; GNU/Linux, the only one gaining in popularity, is also the only system ever developed primarily for freedom and community. When you use free software, you are free to make the software do what you wish -- on your own, by hiring someone, by working with other users, or doing all three. When GNU/Linux users know its history -- how it is the result of a campaign for freedom -- it may lead them to value freedom.

Richard Stallman, President

Free Software Foundation

Cambridge, Mass.

Our research into the evolution of the Linux ecosystem over the past five years, based on the support of third-party independent software vendors, reinforces your chart "Where Linux is going." In a networked setting, the acceptance of servers and desktops is dictated by the strength of third-party applications. The ecosystem supporting Linux exclusively is small but growing, so Microsoft's position may shift. The trends of third-party (for-fee) application providers should be added to the seven stages of "How Linux Inc. works" to fully understand its future.

N. Venkat Venkatraman

Bala Lyer

Chi-Hyon Iee

Boston University School of Management


Some of my comments were misconstrued in "We're not a phone company" (Information Technology, Jan. 31). Allstate Corp. (ALL) has no plans to turn over its computer security to anyone. We consider our customer, employee, and agent computer security inviolable and will always maintain control over it. However, we appreciate the security tools MCI Inc. (MCIP) has built into its network system that provide a first line of defense in our security approach. For the record, Allstate has not decided to "tear out all its old analog lines by 2007." Our strategy is to move to voice over IP, but we will do that judiciously based on several factors, including lease expirations and new business opportunities. The 3% savings referenced in your article would be typical in greenfield locations and not a total savings across the enterprise.

Cathy Brune

Allstate Insurance Co.

Northbrook, Ill.

Class actions involving thousands (and sometimes millions) of citizens from many states belong in federal court ("A phony cure," News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 7). Such lawsuits typically involve more people, more money, and more national policy ramifications than any other kind of litigation. Such national cases should not be handled exclusively by county court judges elected by -- and accountable only to -- the few thousand people in one particular community. The federal Judicial Conference has stated that allowing more interstate class actions into our federal courts would stop the serious class action abuses occurring in state courts.

The suggestion that state courts have more time for these gigantic cases is dead wrong. The average state court judge is annually assigned three times as many cases as his/her federal counterparts.

Stanton D. Anderson

U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Editor's Note: The writer, a partner in the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, chairs the Chamber's Class Action Fairness Coalition.

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