Editors' Choice Awards

And the winners are....
+Desktop Environment: KDE

Remember how Matt Suhey didn't rap on the “Super Bowl Shuffle” but he gained a bunch of yardage, including a touchdown, in Super Bowl XX? KDE is the Matt Suhey of the Linux desktop. Despite the attention paid to a certain other desktop project this year, we're most impressed with the stability and just plain well-thought-outitude of KDE. KWord is a promising word processor, and all the desktop doodads work well too. Most of us at Linux Journal run KDE.

Troll Tech ended up fixing the KDE licensing mess with the stroke of a pen, but the next licensing controversy could go the other way, if the company involved turns out to be less cool than Troll Tech. So, kids don't try the license incompatibility thing at home.

By the way, that's Super Bowl 0x14 for those of you who aren't NFL fans.

+Mobile Devices: Tuxtops

Tuxtops is in a strange position, halfway between being a hardware vendor like VA Linux Systems and being a Consumer Reports for Linux laptops. They're too small to influence manufacturers' hardware selections, so they have to take the best laptop they can get and put customized software on it. But Tuxtops is a refreshing burst of honesty in a shrink-wrapped world.

We like their “Coming Clean” pages, in which they list the inadequacies in the hardware they ship. One page points out that one system's Lucent modem is “cranky and temperamental”, even with the supplied Linux driver, and advises buyers to “ignore this hardware and consider it vestigial”. Thank you; I'll get the optional PCMCIA modem instead of wasting my time. Funny, the more bad things you say about your products, the better you look.

+Embedded Development Tool: Microwindows

The Microwindows demo was one of our favorites at LinuxWorld. Imagine a GUI project that includes X- and WinCE-compatible APIs, alpha blending, proportional fonts, handwriting recognition, a VNC client, a Minesweeper clone and more. Now imagine it in 100K. Can you say Linux PDAs? Better put a waterproof cover on them; we're drooling.

+Real-Time Tool: Red Hat's RedBoot

RedBoot is an embedded debug and bootstrap tool for running embedded Linux systems on embedded platforms including ARM, MIPS, MN10300, PowerPC, Hitachi SHx, v850 and x86. It supports booting from flash or from the network.

RedBoot provides ways to address real-time timing requirements that allow an application to respond quickly to real world needs. It also provides some important tools to debug in this environment, which in our opinion is an extremely important issue. It is also completely open source.

+Toy: CueCat

Meow! This free bar code scanner was handed out at Radio Shack and included with some magazines (not ours). Not only did people dissect the kitty to disable its serial number (see the November 2000 issue) but they also wrote drivers and decoders to use it for all kinds of things, including cataloging their vast book collections.

The CueCat's manufacturer got into the fun by having their lawyer send out some of the most pointless and ludicrous threatening letters I've ever seen, which naturally made everyone get more CueCats to find out what all the fuss was about.

Apparently the original purpose of the CueCat was to get people to scan magazine ads instead of typing URLs, which must save some companies the trouble of learning HTTP Redirects. But, out of dumb business models come nifty toys.

+Book: The Linux Network Administrator's Guide, Second Edition

The Linux Network Administrator's Guide, by Olaf Kirch and Terry Dawson, has been a “living document” from the Linux Documentation Project since 1993 and still contains one of the best introductions to TCP/IP we've ever read. The new edition, released this year, is relevant to more Linux users than ever, since more and more of us are getting broadband Internet connections and setting up home networks instead of just using a PPP dialup. For users looking to take advantage of their DSL or cable connections, we recommend this book, which is available from the Linux Documentation Project web site.