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Linux Today: Welcome to Linux Country

Aug 21, 2000, 18:47 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

Welcome To Linux Country

By Paul Ferris Editor, Linux Today

Linux World Expo, San Jose CA. (pictures)

These are truly good times for the open source movement, no matter how you slice them. My overall impressions from the show floor were that it was a great show for everyone. The attendance seemed very good, in size and quality -- actually just right. There was a healthy mix of Geeks, PR people and suits. This is also good in my humble opinion. The booths were large and small, and everybody was there except for Microsoft -- rather -- they didn't have a booth.

Oh well, maybe next year.

BSDi had a booth and was passing out daemon horns to everyone, and the usual fare of buttons, tee-shirts and the all usual common trade show shlock was available. I grabbed my tee-shirts and other show swag in a mad rush in the last few minutes that I had before I had to leave. At least there was enough booth size and separation that the shows didn't seem to have the claustrophobic interference I've experienced at other trade shows.

As for the Linux news, I can't help but think that it was good, and that a lot of stuff is just flat out changing at a rate that is beyond comprehension.

Linux has won the embedded space -- not "practically won", not "is winning", but has won. Embedded Linux vendors were present at the show, and I had some time looking over the cool stuff that TimeSys was doing with loadable modules and real-time processes under Linux. Really cool stuff. There were other embedded Linux vendors present too, including Indrema, who's making an open game console based upon Linux.

The "widest range of systems award running Linux" has to go to IBM, which had a watch that runs Linux, and an S/390 mainframe and some machines in-between that honestly I should have taken some time to examine. For some reason, I kept picturing a wrist-band on the S/390, and somebody like Arnold Schwart-zenegger lugging it around with a UPS on a tow-cart following him.

Linux is available on small computer boards the size of your hand and if that's not small enough one company has a small computer in SIMM form factor that a little bigger than a stick of gum.

I gotta laugh at one of the reasons that Linux works so well for these types of applications -- it's modularity and the fact that it's based on non-GUI operation at the core. You can interface and do real things with Linux using just a dumb terminal, in other words.

But the GUI thing is happening too for Linux, and in a big way. The big news there is that Sun, IBM and HP are standardizing on the GNOME interface for their workstations, and phasing out CDE in the long run. Being an old CDE hack, and having used/customized the product for a long time, as well as used GNOME and KDE, I can tell you this is actually very good news, except I wish that the vendors would have made some kind of commitment to KDE as well.

The partisan-ism of choosing just GNOME does have some negative connotations for the KDE folks, and I've come to favor KDE over GNOME, regardless of the licensing issues that surround Qt, which as far as I'm concerned, are pretty much over. I'd love to get upset about the idea and rant about it, except that I believe that the Open Source philosophy and style of development will pretty much run a steam roller over any corporate initiative that involves cramming standards down the throats of the collective user base.

Think of all the great progress CDE made under the direction of Sun and HP for example. No, I don't think GNOME development is going to get slowed down by all of this posturing -- nor do I think KDE is going to just go away. This despite the Trojan horse here, in the form of Sun/HP/IBM attempting to mandate GNOME as a standard. It's a potential one anyway -- possibly aimed at slowing adoption of something like K-Office.

The Trojan horse involved would break open if someone does something stupid, like make GNOME apps non-inter-operable with KDE apps in some kind of intentional way. I guess we need to "Beware of Geeks bearing gifts", if thats the case. Or is it "Beware of gifts bearing Geeks" -- I can never remember?

I still can't help but be pleased by an open source desktop on the majority of new Unix workstations in the near future. This, regardless of the situation, is good news. CDE had some cool features (Desktop Korn Shell, anyone?), but of late, it was such a step behind everything I was used to in the Linux world that when I was forced to use a Unix workstation with it loaded I felt like I'd stepped into an antique shop.

My how things change. Three years ago I'd purchased CDE because the desktop managers for Linux were so unsatisfactory for me in comparison.

The Eazel project (Bloat on top of GNOME, but easy to use bloat) looks interesting, and if they realize their goals, it would be a such a scream. Imagine overhearing someone pushing Linux because it's easy to use. I know it makes me laugh.

I got a look at some of the things they're doing, and it's actually kind of cool, if you don't mind the fact that they're trying to build some kind of server-pushing portal out of it. I don't mind, as I spend a lot of time at the opposite end of the spectrum, using shell tools to manage my data.

The show floor was teaming with Geeks and Suits, as I mentioned earlier, and the usual small mix of companies that are still obviously troubled by the issue of where they stand in the GEEK<--->SUIT spectrum. IBM (Cool old Geeks posing as Suits), HP (Young geeks wearing suit attire, wishing they could be more geeky), Sun (Suits posing as Geeks posing as Suits), and VA/Linux (Professional-looking Geeks hoping no one identifies them as Suits), and finally the guys in the Slashdot booth (Geeks so far off the Suit spectrum as to have the needle break the gauge).

All in all, the arrival of the suits is no longer an issue. It seems that the whole oil and water fear has pretty much washed away, and it's kind of obvious to anyone paying attention that the geeks are having more impact on the suits than what was predicted at first, which was the other way around.

My "the sky is falling" award goes to the breaking rumor that Microsoft might just (maybe) be planning (could be) a port of some of their (possibly) apps to Linux. Ok, so it might happen. Please wake me up when it makes any difference in our direction as a whole. The Linux ship has so much steam behind it now, something like this isn't going to hurt it one bit. The funny thing is, I kind of suspect they're really at it this time. The Linux desktop share is in the Mac area now in terms of size -- and if you take a company like Microsoft, no matter what the political motivations -- that's a chunk of change that's hard to avoid.

Dell is another example of this from a hardware direction. Here you have a company that's controlled by a guy that's personal friends with Bill Gates, and he gives a keynote where he brags about Dell/Linux sales growth figures in the 500% per year area. Most of the people I talked to at the show were extremely enthused, all conspiracy theory aside -- this is good news.

Other than that, I can say that personally this was the best Linux show I've ever attended. Very little Microsoft negations were mentioned or even necessary. Few people were talking about "ifs" and "whens" because, like it or like it, it's here now. Linux is not coming into its own -- it is its own. We're here. We haven't just staked out a beach head -- we've created an entire country and it's a nice place to live to boot (sorry about the pun).

Alas, Microsoft continues to cast Linux in the pall of an enemy in a war scenario. Try as they might, it's kind of obvious to everyone else that the future Internet servers will be Linux or some other Open Source Unix (pick a BSD). Open Source has won the server space and the embedded space, and the desktop, whether or not it's "won" will obviously soon have a rather large Linux presence. To continue to "wage war" against this is going to be more than futile -- it's going to cost them valuable resources they could be using to stay competitive. It's not going to gain them any ground, as the ground that Linux is taking is clearly staked off permanently.

This is more evident outside of the US. I ran into a guy the first day of the show who shared with me that there were a couple of European Linux shows that were even bigger than LWE attendance-wise.

Welcome to Linux country -- it's a nice place to visit, for sure, but it's an even nicer place to stay.