Desktop Linux

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-12-23 Print this article Print

For those who want to exercise their choice and cut their desktop costs to the bone, Red Hat Inc. announced plans for an early-03 desktop distribution of Linux. With Mozilla browser code and OpenOffice productivity applications also emerging as ready to roll this year, and with the K Desktop Environment and GNU Network Object Model Environment GUIs giving those applications a comfortable home, 2002 was the year in which desktop Linux became a credible proposition.

Having done the unlikely by putting its Unix-based operating system on both desktop and portable personal systems, Apple did the obvious by entering the Unix server space with its sleekly designed Xserve: a rack-mountable 1U (1.75-inch) server that inspired the adjective "unparalleled" from eWeek Labs for its combination of functionality, usability and affordability.

This year, the workload borne by Xserve and its server-room brethren tilted toward the pumping and processing of XML-punctuated text. XML continued its relentless expansion as the foundation of exchanging data and loosely coupling distributed systems by means of Web services protocols. Microsoft announced that its Office 11 would make extensive use of XML to enable highly automated interactions—and also controversially announced that this Office upgrade would leave Windows 9x users behind.

For developers who preferred to build their applications on less rapidly shifting foundations, Java 2 Enterprise Edition tools such as Oracles JDeveloper (the first product of that name to offer Oracles own tool set, not a tweaked and relabeled version of Borland Software Corp.s excellent JBuilder) began the year by raising the bar for extensive use of XML throughout the tool environment as well as in applications.

We were less impressed by the XML visualization tools in Microsofts otherwise-outstanding Visual Studio .Net, but we got an early Christmas present with Version 5 of Altova Inc.s XML Spy editor and its graphical schema editing tools, grid-based XML data editor and graphical Web Services Description Language file editor that augments XML Spys useful Web services debugger.

Keeping all that XML where it can be efficiently used became the high-profile task of database servers this year: Oracle9i combined XML storage with strong relational query performance, although were still looking forward to 2003s expected emergence of an XQuery standard in preference to this years tentative implementations.

In the meantime, enterprise users are liking the new climate that XML is encouraging. "The good thing about XML is, its allowed us to use a standard engine, an XML parser, to look inside definitions and data stores—although we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that were interoperable between two people in the same industry," said Gary Gunnerson, an eWeek Corporate Partner and IT architect at Gannett Co. Inc., in McLean, Va., in qualified praise for XMLs rapid progress.

Adoption of Web service application models proceeded at a brisk pace in 2002, although this success was partially obscured by overemphasis on user-oriented services—for example, Microsofts Passport and HailStorm (the latter universally acknowledged as perhaps the worst code name ever). Internal application integration proved a far more credible proving ground for these tools, as business models for their use in the open market continue to take their time emerging.

One Web service that received mainstream attention was elgooG, the search site that spelled Google backward and accepted reverse-spelled search terms. The service used new Web service APIs to return reverse-spelled results—a ploy to evade Chinas Internet censors and an elegant demonstration that the Internet refuses to be contained.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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