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LinuxWorld SF 2001

Tuesday, August 28th, 2001 Summary

LWN.net Senior Editor Michael J. Hammel and staff member Dennis Tenney are covering the LinuxWorld SF 2001 conference and exhibit this year. Today's summary is a brief rundown of what they saw on the first day of the full conference talks and exhibit.

Keynote: "Linux Through the Enterprise - Ready or Not?" -  Shane Robison, CTO & Senior VP, Compaq

Robison's talk was a scripted affair that, in summary, said that Linux was still lacking some features that would make it ready for the enterprise. His main point was that Linux is still immature. Corporations are still waiting on applications and better hardware support, specifically better multiprocessor support. But a bigger issue is the open source model itself. Robison claims that large corporations are hesitant to adopt Linux across the enterprise because of a lack of a single point of contact when problems arise. Judging by the show floor, IBM, HP and Compaq seem to prepared to fill that gap today.

Another of Robison's arguments against Linux being ready for the enterprise - it's not secure enough yet for enterprise requirements and the distributed development model makes security difficult to guarantee. This sounded like Microsoft talking. Has a non-distributed model provided guarantees from traditional software makers? Not hardly.

One interesting tidbit: Robison alluded to the so-called fact that open source folks aren't crazy about standards groups (possibly because, in his view, they take too long to act), but we found that comment way off the mark. Open source developers have always been very good with standards compliance.

Robison demo'd a Compaq implementation of a mobile IPv6 application using an iPAQ handheld with the communications backpack and a camera connected via a wireless network to a couple of servers on stage. When the guy holding the iPAQ walked across the stage the iPAQ switched networks without losing much of the video signal (though the signal was kind of spotty anyway). He also demonstrated adding CPU's to an Oracle based cluster environment without any downtime to the database.

Feature Presentation: Linux for the Production Pipeline -  Ed Leonard, Head of Technology, DreamWorks Animation

Ed Leonard spoke more from the heart than the script, but his message was clear: Linux is ready for the Visual Effects (VFX) industry. DreamWorks, along with much of the VFX industry, realized last summer the need to move from older technologies, first to Linux and later to more open source oriented production environments. Ed spoke of how the commoditization of Intel hardware has made the need for graphics specific solutions, primarily from SGI, outdated. While being certain to emphasize that his was not an anti-SGI talk, but rather pro-Linux instead, he noted how being locked to a single vendor was something that worried the industry as a whole. His notes included statistics gathered at a special Linux summit at the Visual Effects Society (VES - the professional member organization for the industry) meeting last summer. Effectively, all major special effects house plan on migrating to renderfarm servers based on Linux (with most already doing so) while adding desktop Linux for their workstations in the near future. DreamWorks used Linux in their production pipeline - both on the renderfarm server side and on the artist's graphics workstation side - for the making of their recent hit "Shrek!".

Leonard provided some clips from both "Shrek!" and their upcoming "Spirit-Stallion of Cimarron", due for release in May 2002. He closed with some real out takes from "Shrek!" - not manufactured ones like those from Pixar's "A Bug's Life" but rather production scenes where rendering problems produced clips that had character's bodies displaced from their clothing or heads and eyeballs out of sync. It was quite a funny reel.

Ximian packaged products and services reveal business model 
Ximian's booth drew big crowds
It's been a while in the making, but now we're starting to see the business model Ximian plans to use to make a living. Their announcements this week included two packaged versions of their GNOME desktop, a service agreement with Mission Critical Linux for enterprise customers and a services offering for premiere access to Ximian software. The packaged products include the GNOME environment, the Evolution PIM, and their Red Carpet update tool. A standard edition will list for $29.99 with a Professional Edition, which comes with Sun's StarOffice office suite, listed at $49.99.

KDE applications companies theKompany and Hancom merge  A few weeks past we noticed for the first time a Korean company with a complete desktop office suite for Linux: HancomLinux. This company is making big news in the desktop marketplace this week at LinuxWorld by making three important announcements. The first was the release of a preview version of HancomOffice 2.0. This package carries a hefty set of tools:

  • Word Processor - HancomWord
  • Spreadsheet - HancomSpread
  • Graphics Tool - HancomPainter
  • Presentation Graphics - HancomPresenter
  • Flowcharting - HancomEnvision
  • Web page layout designer - HancomWebBuilder
  • Database manager - HancomEasyDB
  • Personal Information Manager - HancomQuickSilver
This release signals the second announcement: HancomLinux has merged with KDE standout theKompany. The new company will be headed by Shawn Gordon, originally of theKompany. It also marks the emergence of the merged company on U.S. soil, with offices opening in Orange County, California.

Sun, Ximian working on accessibility features to meet government guidelines.  Representatives from Sun and Ximian reported that work was proceeding at a fast pace on accessibility features for GNOME and, more specifically, GTK+ in order to meet guidelines set forth by the U.S. Government. Ximian reported that the government has said that GNOME can't be adopted unless accessibility features have been added and those guidelines are pushing the release of both GTK 2.0 and GNOME 2.0 by year's end. GTK+ 2.0 has been completely rearchitected from the 1.2 release and now includes a lower level dependency on the new ATK level libraries which provide accessibility features.

As part of this effort, the Gnome Foundation released the Gnome 2.0 Accessibility Framework. This consists of the ATK API, which automatically gives existing GTK 2.0 widgets accessibility features, and the Assistive Technologies Service Provider Interface (AT SPI) which provides an interface for I/O sytems such as text-to-speech, screen readers and voice recognition.

The only problem with all this, according to Bill Haneman of Sun, a developer on this project at Sun's Ireland GNOME Engineering center, is that there aren't any applications written for GTK+ 2.0 yet. In fact, GTK+ 2.0 hasn't even officially been released. But by year's end it, along with Gnome 2.0, should be available and ready for application porting efforts.

KDE's KOffice 1.1 released
KDE League Chairman Andreas Pour
KDE issued a press announcement to introduce the latest major release of the KOffice office suite, version 1.1. KOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, vector drawing tool, and mail client, all integrated into the new KDE 2.2 environment. This means all applications take advantage of the new KDE 2.2 features, including the completely rewritten and feature rich printing subsystem.

According to KDE League Chairman Andreas Pour, all the major Linux distributors were able to get access to KDE and KOffice a week early in order to generate binary packaged distributions. The press release for KOffice 1.1 includes links to packages for Caldera, Conectiva, Debian, Red Hat, Linux Mandrake, and SuSE.