The Trade Shows

While Linux Journal went to DECUS in Washington DC, Randy Bentson attended the Internet World Show and Arnold Robbins took in the sights of the East Coast Comdex.
THE INTERNET WORLD SHOW

Depending on your measure, Spring Internet World 95 was a great success or a slight disappointment. With respect to its stated goal of presenting what is happening on the Internet, it was excellent. While it can't yet boast the attendence numbers of Comdex, 20,000 visitors and 190 exhibitors made this a respectable conference and may well justify the claim of being the “world's largest Internet conference.” It was held April 10-13 at the heart of Silicon Valley in the San Jose Convention Center, thus it should come as no surprise to learn that the registration was flooded with people who just took some time off from work to check out the show.

Many of the major hardware and software vendors were there. Present were the the traditional vendors: Apple, Dell, DEC, IBM, Microsoft, NCD, Silicon Graphics, Sun, and Tandem. In addition, there were also strictly network product vendors: 3Com, FTP Software, Rockwell, Telebit, Wollongong, and ZyXEL. (I know I'm going to catch flak for this—I'm sure to have missed someone in my list—but I'll press on.)

What made this different from other trade shows I've attended was the focus on user-level access the Internet and the newly discovered World Wide Web.

Everyone was touting some feature of their product that allowed one to compose, access, view, process, or control access to the web. I was amazed by the number of hypertext and HTML text preparation tools that were being displayed. I'll refrain from citing who did what, but some of the low end products were far from magic—I keep seeing the guy behind the curtain. If I were a cynic I would claim the pencil manufacturers were there to show how pencils could be used to prepare hypertext, but that would be an exaggeration.

Since I've worked with mark-up languages such as troff and TeX, I don't find HTML at all difficult. In fact, I find it is missing many of the features I've come to expect of such a language. (Apparently so do others. The proposed HTML 3.0 is a move in the right direction.) This viewpoint renders a lot of the HTML preparation tools rather ho-hum.

Still, there were some products which were close to magic and some other products which will have increased importance in our lives. Specifically, I found the integration of database searches with a web server to be a most natural outcome. Most applications have two elements: the user interface and solving the problem itself. The Common Gateway Interface is an elegent method of using the http daemon and the WWW browser to implement a GUI interface for user application. There were a number of vendors who offered WWW integrated database products.

Another class of products were security related. As we become more thoroughly connected to the network we also become more exposed to malicious intrusions on our systems. By my count there were eight vendors whose sole product was firewall or other security hardware or software. In addition, products such as Secure HTTP, will be integrated by Netscape to give secure interactions over the network.

Of course, since this was a networking exhibition, there were plenty of representation by Internet service providors. There were a number of nation-wide and international vendors present: America Online, BBN Planet, Netcom, Prodigy Services, PSInet, SPRY, and UUNET. It was also interesting to note the number of local providers at the show. If this is any indication, you should have lots of choices for Internet service in any major city.

Finally, I was gratified to see the number of traditional publishers who have recognized that the Internet is a marketplace that they should serve. Present were divisions of Dun & Bradstreet, MacMillan Publishing, San Jose Mecury News, O'Reilly & Associates, Random House, Van Nostrand Reinhold, and John Wiley & Sons.

So what was the disappointment? The poor Linux visibility. I guess this is a side effect of the commercial nature of the show. After all, how can the developers of Linux, TCP/IP, Lynx and Mosaic justify the expense of renting booth space?

This led me on a quest—that I didn't complete—looking for Linux inside. I started at one end of the exhibition hall and went from booth to booth asking about Linux support. I found some solace in the responses. A number of vendors said it wouldn't be long before a Linux version of the product would be available -- after all, that's what the developers inside the companies were using at work or at home. There's a chance that next year even more products will have “Linux” in their list of supported systems, Randolph Bentson

Randolph Bentson (bentson@grieg.seaslug.org) has been programming for money since 1969-writing more tasking kernels in assembly code than he wants to admit. His first high-level language operating system was the UCSD P-system. For nearly 14 years he has been working with Unix and for the last year he's been enjoying Linux. Randy is the author of the Linux driver for the Cyclades serial I/O card.

Arnold Robbins (arnold@gnu.ai.mit.edu) is a professional programmer and semi-professional author. He has been doing volunteer work for the GNU project since 1987 and working with Unix and Unix-like systems since 1981.

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