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Taking Linux By Storm

Aug 19, 1999, 01:48 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

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Contributed by Linux Today reader Bruce Byfield

For months, the offices of Stormix Technologies looked empty. High on the twentieth floor of Harbour Centre in Vancouver, Canada, overlooking Burrard Inlet, the offices had once belonged to NetNation Communications. But that company was now six floors below. "NetNation has moved," workers from the same floor kept telling the people dropping by, but they were getting tired of repeating themselves.

Finally, in July 1999, a new sign revealed what was going on. Behind the closed door, in a corner of the old NetNation offices, three programmers were working over-time to take the Linux world by storm.

Those programmers were Kevin Lindsay, Atsushi Ikeda, and Garth Wood. The project was Storm Linux, a new distribution dedicated to networking and to bringing Linux to everyone.

Storm Linux was founded by the same founders of NetNation Communications Inc., a world leader in web hosting and e-commerce solutions provider.

"Originally, we chose Linux because we could set up a server for a fraction of the cost of a UNIX server," Joseph Kibur, NetNation's COO explains. "Later, we came to depend on Linux's stability and robustness. At the time, we were running Slackware."

In late 1998, David Talmor, NetNation's CEO, started talking about how to tap Linux's unrealized potential. "I wanted to do something unique," Talmor says, "Something that was useful to the Linux community."

Kevin Lindsay, a NetNation system administrator, suggested releasing a new distribution. Over a period of several weeks, the w"akness of the existing distributions were analyzed.

Gradually, the goals emerged: the new distribution would add GUIs and using pre-configured defaults that would take the pain out of Linux installation, use, and administration. A special effort would be placed on networking solutions. Finally, the distribution would be based on Debian because it was the most stable of the existing distributions.

In December 1998, Kevin Lindsay became team leader. Atsushi Ikeda and Garth Wood were hired soon after. Both Lindsay and Wood were involved with Debian development, and Ikeda was an experienced C programmer who had privately explored the use of Linux in web development.

Stormix Technologies was incorporated in February 1998. The name of its flagship product is Storm Linux. The initial investors included Joseph Kibur and David Talmor.

"In the past, Linux has been an expert's operating system," David Talmor says. "Stormix Technologies' first goal is to bring Linux to the task-oriented users. These users aren't programmers, although they can configure and maintain a system if given the right tools. But, for these users, an operating system isn't an end in itself. It's a tool to a practical end, like designing a graphic or running a network. If we can show these users that Storm Linux can help them in their daily work, then Linux will reach a new level of acceptance."

At the same time, Stormix Technologies doesn't plan to abandon old Linux hands. "We think that our distribution will appeal to experienced users, too," Kevin Lindsay says. "And we definitely wouldn't want to lose the value of their input.

"Besides, most of us are experienced Linux users ourselves. And we all believe strongly in the importance of the Linux community. That's why we've released Storm Linux and its tools under the GNU Public License. We wanted to give something back.

"At the same time, just because you can lift five hundred pounds doesn't mean you want to strain yourself by doing it five times a day. We think that Storm Linux will make daily computing easier for the experts, too.

"Anyway, if experienced Linux users don't want to use our features, there's still the console and a complete Debian distribution underneath Storm Linux."

Stormix Technologies' immediate goals are a graphical install and a series of administration tools that allow the quick, simultaneous creation of text and graphical interfaces, as well as remote administration.

Another priority is quality documentation. "That's always been a weak point in Linux", Kevin Lindsay observes, "even in recent releases."

In its next releases, Stormix Technologies will continue perfecting its tools. More interfaces are planned for major functions. The Simple Programming Language (SIL) behind the Storm Administration System will be enhanced.

In the long run, there's the possibility of gearing up for the newbies. Tutorials? On-line help systems? Wizards? "The possibilities are endless," Kevin Lindsay says, "but our future directions depend on user feedback. All we know for sure is that we want to keep our distribution as close to Debian as we can."

And if Debian chooses to include Storm Linux's tools in its distribution? "That would be great," Lindsay says.

Meanwhile, Stormix still faces the rigors of beta release. Bugs are being tracked and fixed, hardware support is being extended, and Stormix is starting to reveal itself to the world. In recent weeks, new programmers have joined Stormix (Randall Donald and Dean Wadsworth), as well as a technical writer (Bruce Byfield) and a webmaster (Kevin Teague).

A business manager is due to start shortly, too. "And about time," Lindsay adds with a grin. "Some days, we hardly have time to code because we're so busy talking to people about distribution deals and preloads. And we've barely been able to think about packaging deals, localizations into Japanese or German or French, or talking to new investors."

Storm Linux 1.0 is not due until the end of 1999. Early feedback, however, is overwhelmingly positive from those who have tried Storm Linux.

According to one tester, Storm Linux "seems poised to take the user-friendliest title away from Caldera and Mandrake. Stormix will be the desktop Linux." A system administrator writes, "I predict that Stormix will be a great alternative."

Anybody interested in beta-testing or investment opportunities can contact feedback@stormix.com or phone 604.688.9137 for more information. Stormix's web site is www.stormix.com.

nTechnical Writer, Stormix Technologies
Tel: 604.688.9137 Ext. 130
Fax: 604.688.7317
2040 - 555 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6B 4N6