On the Desktop
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See also: last week's Linux History page.
Six years ago: Miguel de Icaza released Midnight Commander version 3.0, a Unix file manager and shell. Red Hat Commercial Linux 2.0 was released.
Four years ago: Linux Systems Labs was offering the latest version of Redhat, 4.2 GPL, for $6.95 (which included a $5.00 donation to Linus Torvalds). Of course you could still get the CD for $1.95 without a donation.
Three years ago (September 17, 1998 LWN): Some people began to question the role that Richard Stallman was playing in the Linux world. An LWN article on the subject drew more hostile mail than anything else we have ever written. RMS is as uncompromising as ever, but somehow he seems less controversial these days (KDE "forgiveness" editorials notwithstanding). To an extent, that may be because his points on freedom have sunk in.
The development kernel was 2.1.112; it was in the 2.2 feature freeze. 2.0.36 was in the prepatch stage; people were complaining because Alan Cox would not include patches to make gcc 2.8 and egcs compile it correctly (due to stability concerns).
Shipments of the international version of SuSE 5.3 were halted due to an unpleasant installation problem.
Our "must read article of the week" showed a high degree of clue, in spite of this seeming bit of prime-time FUD.
Yet, the idea that Linux could become a serious alternative to Windows still seems absurd, a dream born of desperation. How could any responsible company think about putting an operating system with no unified marketing or support organization to work in "mission-critical" situations? After all, Apple Computer Inc., Novell Inc. and Sun all seem unable to stop Microsoft Corp. from dominating the desktop and, eventually, the server. How could a piece of free software, like Linux, ever hope to turn the tide?
Two years ago (September 16, LWN): a company called "Channel One Gmbh" registered the "Linux" trademark in Germany. Whatever their plans were, they didn't last long. Under great pressure, they caved in and signed the trademark over.
IBM's first "Red Hat Certified" laptop turned out to not run Linux very easily or well; see the lengthy instructions on how to make it go.
The development kernel was 2.3.18; this kernel saw the long-awaited integration of PCMCIA support into the mainline source tree. Linus also announced a feature freeze:
The feature freeze should be turning into a code freeze in another two months or so, and a release by the end of the year. And as everybody knows, our targets never slip.
One year (and quite a few new features) later the 2.4.0 kernel was still in testing.
Caldera 2.3 was released that week, as were LinuxPPC 1999 Q3 and Yellow Dog Champion Server 1.1. Corel put out its first call for beta testers for its upcoming distribution. And SuSE 6.2 got a review:
My view is that, if you study SuSE Linux, you'll see a revolution in the making that will devastate current hi-tech business models, causing a fundamental shift in the computing world. I found that Linux was the Aladdin's Cave of computing.
Cobalt Networks surprised people by becoming the second Linux company to file for an IPO.
One year ago (September 14, 2000 LWN): looked at the "intense competition" in the Real Time Linux scene. The two largest players were RTLinux and RTAI. Lineo, through its acquisition of Zentropix, favored the RTAI approach. MontaVista had just joined the party with its own "hard real-time fully preemptable Linux kernel prototype".
"Real-time capability is the final barrier to comprehensive adoption of Linux throughout the embedded systems industry," said MontaVista president and founder Jim Ready in the release. "MontaVista's hard real-time fully preemptable kernel technology advances Linux to the responsiveness attributes of proprietary kernel products."
Not everyone agreed that MontaVista's approach provided "hard" real-time capabilities.
The current development kernel release was 2.4.0-test8. This version seemed to finally fix the file corruption bug that had proved particularly difficult. Linus added a note that only the current version of the GPL applies to the source - any future versions of the GPL would not automatically be applicable.
Bob Young and Marc Ewing, founders of Red Hat, Inc., announced the Red Hat Center, a non-profit, private foundation. Now renamed the Center for the Public Domain the project appears to be alive and well, having awarded over $5 million US in grants to projects worldwide.
Andrew Leonard wrote How Big Blue fell for Linux: chapter 7, part 1 of his Free Software Project book (Salon).
The story of how IBM made friends with free software hackers, from the early days when it dipped its toes into the Apache Project to its current headfirst plunge into Linux, is not the story of a carefully executed strategy. It is instead a tale of contingency, luck, a few committed engineers and a few canny executives. Its twists and turns hinge on the results of combating agendas, political maneuvering and software ambition. At its most mundane, it is a story that hints at how the battle for dominance over new software markets will be waged over the next few years. At its most metaphysical, it is a story that illuminates the contradictions inherent in the very concept of a "corporation."
Section Editor: Rebecca Sobol.
September 13, 2001