Notebook: Open-Source Community Upbeat at LinuxWorld

 
 
By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2004-08-03
 
 
 
SAN FRANCISCO—Few places offer as clear a view into the evolving "digital divide" of the computer industry than the floor of the LinuxWorld expo here. This divide isnt between the haves and have-nots of our society, but rather between the hard-core coders holding high the banner of open-source software and the rest of the community trying to make a buck from Linux.

Gathered in one corner of the show were the various open-source projects, with names mostly ending in .org. Their booths were staffed by what appeared to be an academic crew dressed in jeans and T-shirts, and even an occasional camouflage kilt.

But the floor belonged to the growing list of large companies that are pitching Linux products and services to a diverse audience in scientific-technical and enterprise markets. And the booths were busy, even on the first day.

"The .org stuff isnt getting a lot of play this year," observed Philip Reese, director of network systems at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. "Much of its cooling off now that people are working for Linux companies."

"LinuxWorld is losing some of its charm to those of us whove seen it grow up," Reese said. "But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a good thing and its important to the industry."

For one recent example, Reese pointed across the floor to the booth run by LTSP.org (Linux Terminal Server Project). He said this "high-powered offering" has some of the features available from Wyse Technology Inc.s Winterm 5150SE device, which was introduced at the show.

Other attendees expressed a different variety of growing pains with the Linux market. David Sullivan is senior staff development engineer at Activant Solutions Inc. of Austin, Texas, a developer of business management solutions for the automotive and product distribution markets.

He said the company is looking at moving from Unix to Linux, but "some Linux vendors dont have a business model that makes them easy to deal with." Sullivan pointed to some OS licensing costs that would be an order of magnitude higher than the current standard-Unix licenses.

"Were looking for something supportable, deployable and with industry support behind it," Sullivan said.

But John Stevens, a system analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture based in Kimberly, Idaho, said he appreciated the growing backing of the Linux platform by large companies such as Dell Inc., IBM and Novell Inc., all of which had large booths here. "Were all in a big boat, with a lot of power behind it now," he said.

Dell this summer began offering systems preinstalled with the Linspire desktop, aka Lindows. Click here to read more.

Here are a couple of other product introductions noticed on the show floor:

  • Several open-source projects supported by VA Linux Systems Japan KK showed new versions. UltraPossum is an LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) server management implementation supporting a wide range of features such as synchronization, configuration, backup and replication.

    The project provides centralized controls for open-source components including OpenLDAP, Heartbeat (High-Availability Linux) and the Mon monitoring service, among others.

  • StarNet Communications Corp., of Sunnyvale, Calif., gave the first public demonstration of its X-Win64, PC X server for 64-bit Opteron-based systems, including Windows 2003 Server 64-bit Edition. The software lets users connect to Unix or Linux servers; supports copy and paste of both text and graphics between platforms; and comes with a variety of administration tools.

  • Psion Teklogix Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario, showed a version of its XScale-powered Netbook Pro, handheld computer running Linux instead of its usual WindowsCE OS.

    Raf Jezierski, vice president of business development at Psion, called the demonstration variously an "alpha release" and a "research project." The demonstration showed the small pen-and-keyboard device connected to the Internet via a wireless card.

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