IDG's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City January 29 - February 1, 2002, felt a lot like, well, a conference and expo in a real industry with real vendors, real products, and business customers--but with the Linux, open source message still coming through loud and strong.
"Corporate infiltration is making the corporations play ball the free software way, not the other way around," observed Don Marti, editor, Embedded Linux Journal, who was at the event. "It was fun to hear major vendors brag, 'We're getting this into the official kernel,' in the same tone of voice they would have used to say 'This is our proprietary patented technology' a couple years ago."
According to IDG, there were over 16,800 attendees this year, versus 24,000 at last year's show, and 150 exhibitors including the 30 or so in the .Org Pavilion. Many of the attendees came in during Customer Days sponsored by AMD, Compaq, HP, and IBM. According to the IDG person I spoke with, that "brought in a lot of very qualified people."
However, like the Interop/Networld+Interop shows of the mid-1990s, this one felt like it reflected the growing, serious acceptance and interest of Linux and open source by established vendors and corporate users--in other words, more suits. For example, most tellingly, the big-space exhibitors included AMD, Computer Associates, Compaq, HP, IBM, Intel, and Sun, and they were all touting serious Linux products. Sharp was also there with their Linux-powered Zaurus handheld PDAs. Announcements at the show included Linux being considered to power ASCI Purple RFP.
Missing, not surprisingly, was Microsoft. Also not exhibiting was Apple, which, arguably, with its new *nix-based/like OS X, could have justified a presence.
"The giddiness of the boom period is gone, but I saw a lot of people doing business," said Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
In addition to vendors, the show floor included the .Org Pavilion (sponsored by Compaq), whose roughly thirty groups included the A.L.I.C.E Al Foundation, BOFH International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Etherboot Project, The NetBSD Foundation, the Free Standards Group, and Window Maker.org.
Here's some of what was on display on the show floor.
As you've probably read elsewhere already, Sony announced Linux for their PlayStation 2, in the form of a kit that will be available in May through their Web site.
The kit, expected to be priced at $299, includes a 40GB hard drive that will fit into an existing bay in the PlayStation 2 (at least in models sold in the United States), plus Ethernet and monitor cables, a two-DVD Linux distribution, a USB keyboard, and a mouse. Users will need a monitor, plus, of course, their PlayStation 2. Check the PlayStation 2 Developer site for news and discussion.
The kit was previously available in beta in Japan, and according to one of the booth staff, "We did a limited run there and it sold out immediately."
According to Adam Bertsch, senior system administrator at Sony Computer Entertainment America, who was at the booth, Sony created this product "to foster a relationship with the developer and hobbyist community. The open source programmers can now have access to the PS/2 hardware in a new way. Now they can develop in their free time. We're creating [a group of] people who know how to program for the PlayStation."
He also noted, "We want to let people know that the PlayStation is more than just a game console; people can run office productivity software, et cetera."
Users will then have a boot-time choice of running the machine as either a PlayStation or a Linux system. You won't be able to run PlayStation games in a Linux window.
Spectra Logic was showing their iSCSI-compatible networked tape storage, for SANs based on Ethernet rather than fibre channel, that will connect to Linux and other hosts. The biggest box at the booth was their Spectra 6400, capable of supporting up to 166TB of tapes. Spectra Logic says their systems are intended for backup, rather than primary storage, and the boxes allow for storage virtualization (capacity pooling and abstracted addressing). FYI, Spectra's systems currently run on their Tape Appliance Operating System (TAOS), but they're looking at porting to Linux.
NeTraverse's Win4Lin software product lets Linux users crank up a Windows 98 or 95 session and run Windows applications on their box. (Like VMWare and unlike WINE, you need a [licensed] copy of Windows.)
NeTraverse's new NeTraverse Server Standard Edition (NSSE, pronounced "Nessie" like the Loch Ness critter) permits multiple Windows sessions on a single Linux server (assuming, again, the appropriate number of Windows licenses), and, according to the folks at the booth, it lets clients access these sessions through normal X and IP protocols. NSSE has been shipping since July.
According to one of the booth staff, "Each user launches a complete session; when you log off, it goes away," This, he claims, makes it easier for sysadmins to reset the entire environment in places like schools. "Games, viruses: they all go away."
Platform Computing introduced their new Clusterware for Linux, for management of distributed computing on heterogeneous hardware, such as Linux, Unix, and Windows. The company claims this is "the industry's first hardware-independent, commercially supported solution for cluster management." Clusterware for Linux is currently in beta testing at sites working on government research and life sciences, according to someone at the booth.
Over in the .Org Pavilion, the EtherBoot group was busy showing how to load up ROMs for Ethernet cards for x86 machines to make the machines network-bootable, for example, as bootable, diskless PCs for classroom clusters.
According to Marty Conner, "The trick is putting the code into 8K. This lets you make use of older hardware to boot a new OS--it lets [people] boot off another machine."
Vita Nuova had boxes of the Inferno distributed operating system (originally developed at Bell Labs, along with Plan 9).
"Inferno is the coolest thing," claimed Anthony Sorace. Asked why, he explained, "It takes the Unix metaphor of everything being a file and applies it much more aggressively across the system. There are no special files, unlike Unix, which has I/O controls for dealing with devices."
What can you do with Inferno? "The STYX protocol is a very simple and efficient distributed file-system protocol that's used through the entire system, for net access, graphics devices, and remote file servers. This is cool for developers."
Uses for Inferno, according to Sorace, include device manufacturers working on embedded systems, or anything in which strong network capabilities are needed, such as PDAs and set-top boxes.
Inferno can run on Linux and BSD operating systems, as well as the Compaq iPAQ handheld PDA.
HancomLinux was showing its HancomOffice 2.0 for the Linux office suite. It's capable of running on embedded-Linux PDAs and is file-compatible with Microsoft Office, except for OLE support. In fact, they say that HancomOffice will be included with the Sharp 5500 Zaurus.
Among other things, Compaq was showing its ProLiant BL10e server blade, a card-form-factor system including an Intel ultra-low voltage 700MHz Pentium III processor, and up to 1GB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive. Up to 20 BL10e's can be stacked into a 3µ space, which in turn lets up to 280 fit into a rack, for uses such as front-end Web hosting or high-performance clustering.
Ximian's new version of its Desktop has the latest distributions (Red Hat 7.2, Suse 7.3, Mandra 8.1, Yellow Dog 2.1) for $40.
Cobol on Linux: Acucorp just made its first sale of AcuCobol-GT, its Cobol Linux product, on the IBM S/390, to the Taiwan Securities Central Depository.
Ximian GNOME for HP: HP recently announced and is working on a port of Ximian GNOME. It delivered a port of the pilot for HP-UX and will track the development of GNOME Desktop on Linux with ports for HP-UX.
Daniel Dern is a freelance technology writer. Most recently he was executive editor of Byte.com. His Web site is www.dern.com.
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