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Notes from a Senior Editor: Elvis Linux Is Everywhere (CES Day One)

Jan 06, 2006, 19:00 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by James Turner)

By James Turner
Senior Editor

Good morning from my recovery from the first full day of CES. To say that my feet are killing me would be like saying that Larry Elison has a mild dislike of Microsoft. The essential experience of a day at CES can be simulated at home by the following exercise:

  1. Walk 1000 yards through heavy crowds
  2. Stand in line at the department of motor vehicles for 30 minutes
  3. Repeat until your feet feel like they will fall off if you take another step

Anyway, for those of you who complained about the Microsoft content of my day zero coverage, you'll be happy to hear that today is devoted solely to Linux and Linux-related products. Now shove off or I swear, tomorrow it'll be all iPod accessories... don't make me do it.

Elvis asks, why aren't you moving to Linux?
Elvis asks, why aren't you moving to Linux?

The day started for me with a tour of the massive Samsung booth (the size of a small city block...) Among all the pretty pretty LCD and LDP displays, I found for your viewing pleasure their latest color laser printer. Featuring a 4 page per minute full color 600x1200 output, and a 15 cent per page cost, this printer also explicitly supports Linux in it's specifications. It also sports an under-$300 list price, if my leaky brain remembers correctly.

This killer color laser printer from Samsung sports Linux as an explicitly supported operating system
This killer color laser printer from Samsung sports Linux as an explicitly supported operating system.

I spent some more time wandering around the floor before heading off for a press lunch. It's impossible to describe just how big CES is, and because of some poor booth layouts that make nasty traffic snarls, it can take 20 minutes just to get from one end of a hall to the other (did I mention my feet already?).

If you enjoy hand-configuring your kernel build parameters, this is the amplifier for you
If you enjoy hand-configuring your kernel build parameters, this is the amplifier for you.

The annual press lunch at a nearby restaraunt was by far the Linux goldmine of the day. The PicoPSU is designed for use in embedded applications, the power supply is literally the size of the ATX power connector, and will turn 12V DC into everything a MiniATX system needs to run.

The PicoPSU from mini-box is just the thing for your next embedded Linux application
The PicoPSU from mini-box is just the thing for your next embedded Linux application.

VIA was showing off some of their MiniATX and other small form factor barebones systems. Although they were running Windows Media Center, they'll have no problems running Linux.

Ignore the Windows screen in the background, this VIA barebones can serve as the heart of a fanless Linux set-top
Ignore the Windows screen in the background, this VIA barebones can serve as the heart of a fanless Linux set-top.

Linspire was there with their Koolbox retail Linux PC, but also had a new system based on an A/Open chassis that is not much bigger than a DVD drive. Can you say set-top?

Linspire was showing their Koolbox desktop system
Linspire was showing their Koolbox desktop system.
As well as a new teeny tiny system based on an A/Open barebones
As well as a new teeny tiny system based on an A/Open barebones.

Probably the most surprising vendor at the lunch was Khronos Group, who were promoting their OpenMAX open standard for media streaming and authoring. They already have a royalty-free version available for Linux, and are hoping for someone to implement an Open Source version soon.

Khronos Group was showing their work in developing an open standard for video acceleration and authoring
Khronos Group was showing their work in developing an open standard for video acceleration and authoring.

In addition for VIA, there were a TON of other small form factor and fanless systems on display, all ready and willing to accept Linux as their true path. These included fanless devices from Hush Systems and and Mini-ATX chassis by the dozens from Logic Supply.

A fanless system from Hush Technologies
A fanless system from Hush Technologies.
And a slew of Mini-ITX systems from Logic Supply
And a slew of Mini-ITX systems from Logic Supply.

chilisystems was also showing an end-user appliance combining a firewall, file sharing with Samba, and a sendmail-implemented mail server intended for small businesses and SoHos. It runs on top of BSD, but in the fight against the great Redmond Beast, all Unixes are brothers in arms, right?

chilisystems had a firewall, fire sharing and email appliance based on BSD
chilisystems had a firewall, fire sharing and email appliance based on BSD.

Another leisurely stroll back to the convention center (the phrase "conviniently located next to" takes on a new and frightening connotation in Las Vegas), and more strolling through the cavernous halls before my meeting with SageTV.

More walking, but at least it was a nice day
More walking, but at least it was a nice day.

My official Big CES Linux News of the Day item (accept no substitutes) is that SageTV is now officially supporting a Linux version of their product. This means that their is a commercially available alternative to MythTV for those who want to run a DVR using Linux. In addition, the Linux version of SageTV can stream content to clients running on Linux or Windows, or to the Hauppauge MediaMVP appliance.

Actual Linux on the floor, SageTV announces availability of their product under Linux
Actual Linux on the floor, SageTV announces availability of their product under Linux.

Next, it was over to the Sands convention center to look at a couple of quirky consumer products. The Sands shares space with the Adult Video News show (which is open to the general public.) Watching the crowds walk by, it's fun to play "Guess which show this person is attending." It's not a hard task, the CES folks are suit and tie and usually don't look happy, the AVN attendees are shorts and t-shirts and baseball caps, and definitely look like they're glad to be here.

Show of hands, who wants me to cover this show tomorrow instead of CES
Show of hands, who wants me to cover this show tomorrow instead of CES?

A/Open led me through their strategy for Motherboards for the coming year. Although they'll continue to support the latest and greatest (such as dual core), they are focusing on the use of mobile processors in non-mobile applications, to take advantage of the reduced power and cooling requirements.

A/Open is focusing on mobile processors in desktop and embedded environment
A/Open is focusing on mobile processors in desktop and embedded environment.

I had about an hour to kill, so I wandered the Sands some more. Of the various venues, the Sands has the most diversity and in some cases, wackiest of products. I mean, there was a guy there selling ladders. Not USB-enabled ladders. Not robotic ladders. Just ladders. There was also a section devoted to Robotics, which included the new generation of Lego Mindstorms based on the Connex system.

I, for one, welcome our new Lego Mindstorm masters
I, for one, welcome our new Lego Mindstorm masters.

The high point of the day for me was competing in the TigerDirect Build a PC Race for Charity. Basically, 30 industry analysts and writers compete to see who can put together a PC pretty much from scratch (the motherboard and processor are installed for us), with the winner getting $10,000 to their favorite charity. This was my second time competing, and I turned in a pretty fair 15 minute time, placing me 11th out of 30. The winning time was just over 9 minutes. My charity, Heifer International got the PC I built (worth about $3500), as well as a Ferrari-inspired laptop that I won in a random draw. I got a nifty toolkit and an apron.

Your humble correspondent placed a respectable 11th out of 30 on the PC Race for Charity
Your humble correspondent placed a respectable 11th out of 30 on the PC Race for Charity.

Finally, off to ShowStoppers, which is basically a big party with around 100 vendors pitching their products while we eat Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli and drink. Not much in the way of Linux here, except for a couple of products with Linux inside them. However, be sure to check out the chassis from Kick Butt Computers. Every data center needs a disco ball, especially inside the system itself.

Linux Inside this Devicescape Appliance
Linux Inside this Devicescape Appliance.
As well as this one from eli
As well as this one from eli.
Just the thing to enliven your data center; note the hanging disco ball
Just the thing to enliven your data center; note the hanging disco ball.

I've got to sign off, I'm going to be late for my morning meetings. Hopefully, at least a few more interesting Linux products today and Larry Page's (Google's) keynote this afternoon.

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