LWN Comdex 2000 - Sunday and Monday coverage
|November 20, 2000|
Forrest Cook and Rebecca Sobol
Sunday Nov. 12
Due to the large distances that needed to be covered and limited time,
the only keynote address we managed to see was given by
Microsoft Chief Software Architect
Bill Gates on Sunday evening.
Monday Nov. 13
First thing Monday morning we headed out to the Linux Business Expo
(LBE) portion of Comdex. Upon entering the area we were greeted by
giant fuzzy and scaly animals.
Tux the penguin greeted people as they entered the Expo and the big
Suse chameleon was hanging around the Suse booth, of course.
Here's Rebecca with the SuSE chameleon.
- At the
booth we stopped to see Nick Carr
Mission Critical Linux
give a short talk on Linux clusters.
He gave an overview of three different kinds of clusters; Beowulf
systems, Load balancing systems and commercial application
systems. He showed clusters that work with a 3 tier systems with
web servers, file servers and databases as the respective tiers.
Transvirtual Technologies demonstrated its PocketLinux system
running on the Compaq iPAQ color palmtop. The demo system was
running with a wireless network card. Numerous impressive
multimedia applications were shown running on this pint-sized
machine including a movie viewer and an mp3 player.
The graphical user
interface uses a simple Java based framebuffer that offers decent
performance without the overhead of X. Programs are fired up from
a simple icon based user interface that was explicitly designed
not to have an excess of cascading menus. The applications are
WAP-XML based and run with the Jabber protocol. PocketLinux is
being licensed to several palmtop hardware companies. The iPAQ
platform has a beautiful color display, but runs fairly hot,
especially with a wireless network card, ensuring rather short
LinuxWizardry provides Linux desktop PCs in an attractive
Penguin case. They also sell a VPN networking box that runs
uCLinux under the hood. The box is intended for home network
connectivity and features a web-based Java interface for
configuration from hosts running on a variety of platforms.
When asked about why embedded Linux was used instead of a proprietary
system, the LinuxWizardry rep said that they simply could not
afford to hire enough programmers to build a similarly powerful
system using proprietary software. Lack of software royalty
charges is, of course, also a critical factor. LinuxWizardry is a
partner, working most closely with Lineo's Moreton Bay subsidiary.
showed off an impressive pen-based plotter that
was made entirely of Lego blocks. The plotter was running Hard
- At the Helix Code booth we
spoke with CEO Nat Friedman. Helix Code is an open source desktop
company working on GNOME. Many of the primary architects of GNOME are
full-time Helix Code employees, including GNOME founder and leader
Miguel de Icaza.
We asked Nat why someone who is already using GNOME on their
desktop would want to download and install Helix Code GNOME. The
answer is that Helix Code GNOME is a more mature product than the older
versions of GNOME that are shipped with most major Linux distributions.
Helix Code is working on a "holistic desktop environment" that puts
GNOME on nine Linux distributions, Solaris, and HPUX. Helix GNOME is,
of course, the same GNOME that graces many Linux desktops, but its a
more mature and stable version, with better functionality as well as
more flash and glitter. And Helix Code has worked hard to make Helix
Code GNOME easy to install. So if you are using an older version
of GNOME you might want to check out Helix Code's GNOME.
The upgrade looks to be fairly easy, the Helix Code people were passing
out business card promos with a one-step installation:
lynx -source http://go-gnome.com | sh
Although easy, one might cringe when they
consider the security implications of feeding output from a web site
directly into a local root shell. It would be safer to get the
official CD and install from it.
is also available online.
Since Helix Code GNOME is a free, open source product, we asked
Nat what Helix Code was doing to make money. Nat told us about
Helix Code's Red Carpet program. Red Carpet is a new network
based software distribution system supporting various "channels",
or sources of software updates. The Channel concept allows for
open source software to be distributed freely on some channels and
closed source software to be distributed with a commission other
Commercial software providers can work with Helix Code to provide
updates via the channel system. This co-existence of open and
closed source software looks like it could prove to be a good
method for making money from proprietary software while supporting
open source software at the same time.
Helix Code plans on building the
number of available channels as a means for increasing profits.
Red Carpet allows Linux users to easily install new software and
software updates. Red Hat's RPM format and the Debian dpkg format
Helix Code has employed a full-time documentation specialist who
is busy writing documentation for Evolution. Around 90 pages are currently
available. Documentation starts as SGML/Docbook and is turned into
XML for display.
is another Helix Code project. We talked
with Evolution developer JP Rosevear to learn more. The Evolution
desktop suite is designed with a focus on using the desktop as a
communication tool. The main components of Evolution are email,
calendar, and address book. The components communicate with each
other. For example, vcard-vcf formatted business cards can be
easily saved from email messages into the address book. LDAP
connectivity is provided for interoperability with directory
The calendar uses the itip format internally. The itip
format is also used by the ical program, so ical calendar data can
be easily entered into the Evolution calendar. The vCalendar
format is also supported. Evolution includes tools for
communicating with palmtops and can upload and download palmtop
data. Evolution can also handle the job of archiving palmtop
data. Addresses and calendar events can be shared between
Evolution and the palmtop, or emailed to others. Data can also be
transferred between Evolution and cell phones. It's a
full-featured suite that rivals Microsoft Outlook and Lotus notes.
- To round out the day we decided to visit the KDE booth where
SuSE's Waldo Bastian discussed
with us. The KDE philosophy
is to build small, modular component pieces that interconnect with
each other. The components are built with solid reliability in
mind. KDE2 is currently delivering on the object model for window
systems. The KDE2 rollout has had a few inevitable bugs, but in
general, it has been going smoothly.
KDE2 brings some fancier
graphics and more configurable toolbars and icons to the system.
Many of the basic KDE tools have been embellished and renamed
under KDE2. The Konqueror is a multi-purpose file manager and web
browser that also serves up the Konsole help system. KDE2 has a
full office suite with KWord, KSpread, KPresenter, KChart,
KIllustrator and various audio toys. In summary, KDE2 provides
plenty of functionality in a good, reliable desktop.
Friendly competition, or shall we say coopetition, between
Gnome and KDE can only help to strengthen each of the desktop systems.
Its good to have choices.
Eklektix, Inc. all rights
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