Editors' Choice Awards
As reported in the 1999 Editors' Choice Awards, it's been another year of bursting developments and blossoming advancements for our favorite operating system. Not only is Linux becoming the hot OS of embedded environments, but the first year of the new millennium has witnessed the expiration of the RSA patent, allowing open-source security tools to be included in Linux distributions. The SourceForge site, furnished by VA Linux has quickly become perhaps the most valuable resource for programming tools and information. More attention than ever is being paid to the penguin OS as a desktop alternative by large corporations and venture capitalists who are finally beginning to understand the free business model and are, happily, coming to accept the GNU GPL instead of coming up with their own incompatible licenses. Additionally, an increasing amount of previously proprietary software is becoming open source, such as Sun's StarOffice, now free under the GNU GPL. All this translates to an ever-enlarging field of competitors for the Editors' Choice Awards. And not only are there more entries than ever, but almost all entries are increasing in quality and functionality, making the choice of our favorites akin to deciding on a drink at an open bar with a one-drink limit. Sure you can have that Tom Collins, but only at the expense of the White Russian. If some of our choices rub you wrong, make it a stiff one and be reconciled.
We know, we know, we should have picked the rackmount version of this easy-to-configure server. The “RaQ” is the one that people have been buying by the truckload. But we like the cube shape. It's so...cubical. The whole thing just works, even for people who aren't Linux experts. It was the happy, new users who clinched our decision in favor of this box. Read the QubeQuorner weblog if you want to see some of the stuff that the user community (Quommunity?) is up to.
VA Linux Systems has a good reputation for getting good hardware and installing Linux on it. Last year, they got ambitious, designed their own easy-open 2U chassis, and filled it with hot-swap RAID drives and other quality parts. This year, the puzzle is complete, as they put Debian on the latest 2200 series servers. Now you can upgrade your software as easily as you swap a drive.
Everybody has been jumping up and down at how clueful IBM has become in the Linux department. But why change the name of the System/390? That's like renaming the battleship Iowa. But silly name or not, you have to love a server that lets you start up a whole new instance of Linux for a project without even going down to the server room to run another Ethernet cable.
Except for a loud fan in the preproduction system we tested, we like this box a lot. It's put together well from top-quality components and supported by a small, friendly company. The CPU is AMD's Duron, the cheap version of the celebrated Athlon, and we like the well-supported Matrox video card and the reliable IBM hard drive too. Just the thing for running the new, free StarOffice, or designing your new web site.
Frankly, nobody has yet shown us a high-end Linux workstation that has really knocked our socks off. The Linux workstation industry is still in its infancy, and good 3-D support still requires some tweaking and RTFM-ing. So, socks still firmly on our feet, we visited elinux.com, browsed their selection of Linux-compatible parts and built our own workstation. Maybe next year there will be a workstation that impresses us right out of the box, but we'll still like elinux.com for important stuff like SCSI cards and name-brand RAM.
Early this year, we heard quite a bit about privacy abuses by the web advertising agency Doubleclick. So rather than getting “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered” by their global-tracking database, we've installed privacy protection software: the Internet Junkbuster Proxy.
If you travel with your laptop, put a copy on it too. Not downloading banners can make hotel dial-up speeds tolerable.