News Schmooze: Linux unites, partly

Linux vendors joined forces, pirates ripped Eminem, and Carnivore went vegetarian

What's better than four Linux distributions? One Linux distribution. That, at least, is the theory behind UnitedLinux. This will see Caldera, SuSE, TurboLinux and Conectiva give up their own customised server versions of the open-source operating system in favour of a standardised base, with their own individual add-ons. If they do a good job, software makers could start paying attention to just two distributions, namely Red Hat and UnitedLinux, which would be an encouragement -- to put it mildly -- for other vendors to join the UnitedLinux group. Well, that's one way of speeding up the standards-adoption process...
Linux vendors move to standard platform In the meantime, Caldera's Ransom Love insists that all the hype about UnitedLinux versus Red Hat is the wrong way to think about things -- Red Hat, MandrakeSoft et al are all buddies. Unfortunately, Red Hat's Bob Young isn't quite playing along, as he has in the past been fond of saying that he's not overly attached to the standards idea.
Love: The competition is not Red Hat Online piracy -- if that's what it is -- seems to be making its way into the real world. An Internet database that keeps track of which CDs people are playing in their PCs found that the new Eminem disc made it to No. 2 -- the week before it was released. There are some puzzling things about this, one of which is that the service involved is generally looking at people who are getting CD information off the Net in preparation for ripping the music onto their computer, meaning that they got the disc from somewhere in the real world. If there's one thing the record industry hates more than online piracy, one guesses, it's offline piracy.
Will the real Eminem CD please stand up? This may come as a shock to some of you, but it turns out that the FBI isn't infallible when it comes to surveillance technology. In fact, it hasn't even figured out a foolproof way of listening in on all the data communications of one person without accidentally hoovering up the private messages of everyone else in the area. It turns out that not only has the FBI been accidentally tapping into lots of ordinary people's private communications, but that its clumsiness might have lost valuable clues warning of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Whoops!
Documents reveal Carnivore failures Here's what we really need to remedy this sort of ineptness: broader police powers. If you didn't think they already had enough leeway to access email, phone calls, faxes and the like, well, now they have a bit more. They will also, under a new bill, be allowed to store your personal information for the long term, just in case you do something wrong in the future.
EU vote relaxes e-privacy rules Britain has a new e-commerce minister, which may surprise some readers who weren't aware that we had one in the first place. While Douglas Alexander didn't seem to know much about computers, however, Stephen Timms MP is a former Ovum analyst. That's just what we need -- an analyst running things. Wasn't it them who brought about the whole dot-com bubble, and its aftermath, in the first place?
Stephen Timms is new e-commerce minister The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.


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