“Information wants to be $6.95.”
—Don Marti, VA Linux Systems
“Dot-coms are falling all around us like the frog plague at the end of the movie Magnolia.”
—Richard Thieme, in an “Islands in the Clickstream” essay
“For a list of the ways which technology has failed to improve our quality of life, press 3.”
—Phil Reed, on Slashdot
“People never grow up, they only learn how to act in public.”
—Tina Kimbley, Mudrealms.com
“Men are just teenage boys with credit cards.”
What were Linux people talking about in April and early May? Below is a sampling of some of the hotter news stories over the past few weeks, as reported in “The Rookery”, Linux Journal's on-line source for news, notes, quotes and reports from the field (updated daily and found at our web site, http://www.linuxjournal.com/):
Yopy's palm-sized Linux device set to debut this summer. Developers wanted!
A $17 million Linux supercomputer being used at NOAA's Forecast Systems Lab to improve weather forecasting.
Applixware's Linux division spinning off into its own company, VistaSource.
Linuxcare canceling its IPO plans.
Lineo accepting $37 million in funding.
New York and Northern Virginia geeks (including ESR) protest outside the Library of Congress. Their target: the infamous Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
After years of steady climbing, Apache's share of the web server market peaked, according to Netcraft. Through the second half of 1999, its shares slipped. So did Microsoft IIS, but as the end of the year came around, Microsoft suddenly surged up and Apache began to reciprocate in the downward direction.
But that was for just one month. Since the first of the millennium, Apache has been steadily going up to reach record shares, and IIS has mostly gone down, relatively speaking (although in absolute numbers, it has been going up). In April, Apache tallied 8,812,960 web servers for a 1.48% increase to 61.53%. Microsoft was second, with 1,047,890 servers and a .16 percent increase to 21.09% of the total. Third was iPlanet, the family of Sun Solaris and Netscape servers sold by Sun. iPlanet servers may trail the leaders, but not among the top-traffic sites. “The Solaris/Netscape combination does particularly well amongst high-transaction SSL sites such as the leading retail brokerages, Charles Schwab, E*Trade, and Fidelity,” Netcraft says.
After two months at the number-one position in Tucows downloads (measured in MB), Mandrake yielded the lead to Red Hat which more than doubled, from 15 to 33% of the total share, edging out Mandrake's 31%. Number three Corel returned to its February level at 13%. Number four Phat Linux lost half its share in one month, from 10% to 5%. Debian also continued to drop, from 6% in February to 3% in April. SUSE, FreeBSD and Slackware were each tied and holding about even at 3%. Caldera continued dropping, to just 2%. Everybody else held even at 1% or less. (Note: While February and March were full months, April was tabulated through the first 25 days.)
The natural-language market is under attack by several competitors. The most successful of these so far is “Ask Jeeves” (ASKJ), Ask.com. Ask Jeeves is a proprietary, closed-source natural-language understanding program for the Web. ASKJ attracted much attention in 1999 with its wildly successful IPO. In addition to AskJ, there are a number of smaller, pre-IPO companies entering the highly valued natural-language market. Forecasters see fantastic growth in applications such as intelligent customer service agents, web-based help desks and customer support.
In October 1999, AskJ and Microsoft announced a partnership to provide natural-language-based help desk support for Windows 2000. ASKJ is to ALICE what MS is to Linux. Although the markets are much smaller, the stage is set for a classic open-source/closed-source battle.
Ask Jeeves has been a magnet for lawsuits. In 1999, the company was sued by MIT professors Boris Katz and Patrick Winston, among others, who claim they have the patent on web-based natural-language transactions. The ALICE project has been operating “under the radar” in stealth mode, under the GPL.