Editors' Choice Awards

After much deliberation, here are our choices for 2001.

The Linux landscape has been altered considerably since last year's Editors' Choice Awards, which were given at what was somewhere near the peak of the technology/dot-com boom from which the economy is still attempting to recover. Last year we remarked at the difficulty of choosing winners among such a numerous field of competitors, and you'd think that a reduction in competitors necessarily would make the decisions easier. But it ain't necessarily so. Though there's been a decrease of vendors in some categories (most notably hardware), there are still numerous quality offerings (free and otherwise) that, along with the Linux kernel, have improved in quality during the last year.

The Linux Journal Editors' Choice Awards are open to both open-source and proprietary software, and among this year's picks in the software categories you'll find representations of both. While all of us may now be smug in being able to choose among so many open-source products for our software needs, let's not forget to do our best to ensure this choice continues by guarding against the dangers of SSSCA-like legislation that would require mandatory Digital Rights Management, making a free or even source-available operating system illegal. Write directly to Senator Hollings and Senator Stevens and to your representatives if you are a US citizen (you can look your representative up on congress.org), support or join the Electronic Frontier Foundation and educate friends and associates.

Contrary to last year we won't encourage the use of alcohol in reconciling you to any of our choices that may not be in accord with your own. But if you find yourself piqued in the extreme with any of our selections, may I refer you to our Readers' Choice Awards?

Server Appliance: Filanet InterJak 200 802.11b

Do you want to set up an 802.11b network with high-performance antennas for inexpensive WAN connections? Do you want an 802.11b base station with VPN functionality to keep users' laptops secure? Do you want to deploy centrally managed mail, Samba and VPN boxes to all your company's home office users? Filanet makes a series of inexpensive, fanless embedded Linux network devices, based around a custom ASIC with an ARM CPU core and hardware 3DES, that will solve a lot of problems for companies and ISPs at only a little more than the price of a dumb DSL box.

Security Tool: Nmap

You know your program has caught on when people start to use its name as a verb. Running Nmap every time you set up a new Linux server, and periodically to see if anything has changed on your network, has become a standard security practice. It's no coincidence that the spread of Nmap has coincided with Linux distributions finally paring down the menu of potentially exploitable services offered by default. For providing an easy-to-use “security idiot light” to Linux system administrators and distributions everywhere, Nmap, we salute you.

Web Server: APPRO 1124

We put this system's dual Athlon MP motherboard in our Ultimate Linux Box but APPRO, working from an original design by VA Linux Systems, put it in a thin, rugged 1U server with four hot-swap SCSI drives plus a thin CD-ROM. Powerful blowers and a custom power supply make this the web server we wish was on the market when there was still such a thing as a web server budget.

Office Workstation: Thinkpad T Series

Any of this year's notebook computers are cheap enough and fast enough to be a primary workstation for almost anyone. But when you have a machine that you need to work and can't fix yourself, you need really good service. The following is a true ThinkPad service story for a 1998 model with a broken display cable: IBM sent a padded shipping box at their expense; we returned it with the computer inside on a Tuesday. It came back that Thursday. Our cost: $0. Got to love that three-year warranty.

Other things we like about ThinkPads include the keyboard, the red nipple pointing device and the thriving user community that posts good compatibility reports to the site. The T series, which Phil, our publisher, carries now, has a nifty white LED light just bright enough to illuminate the keyboard and comes with screen resolutions up to 1400 x 1050.

Some new ThinkPads are available with 802.11b; check www.linux-laptop.net/ibm.html for the latest compatibility reports. Sadly, not all models can be ordered with Linux preinstalled, and IBM, in violation of Microsoft's license, does not offer Windows refunds.

Technical Workstation: Monarch ULB 1200 MP

This is the box spec'ed by our staff and built (and currently offered for sale) by Monarch Computer. It was one of the two Ultimate Linux Boxes described in our annual ULB article in the November 2001 issue. It's got a great looking case and features some excellent hardware including the Tyan Thunder K7 motherboard.

Web Client: Konqueror

Put down that crack pipe, I mean Netscape 4.x browser, Linux fans! Mozilla and Konqueror have both reached the point of stability and featurefulitude that we needed to drop the crusty, Motif-based old Netscape for good. We had to give the Editors' Choice to Konqueror because of its excellent integration with the KDE desktop environment, general speed and ability to easily use that Flash plugin we need to see all those goofy animations people keep sending us. And there was much rejoicing.

3-D Application Tool: Maya 4

As reported in Robin Rowe's recent GFX columns, Linux literally is taking over the motion picture industry for use in special effects and animation. In no other industry is there such a massive migration to Linux. Maya is a big part of this, porting their product to Linux in response to customer demand. It's even earned Linus' approval, and he calls it “the most complex and powerful 3-D graphics application ever to run on Linux”.

Backup Tool: BRU Pro

We thought we had lost BRU to corporate shenanigans, but thankfully longtime BRUmeister Tim Jones, formerly development VP of BRU's original vendor EST, saved the old-school backup workhorse and is offering it under the TOLIS Group brand name. BRU offers easy configuration of your backup plan to match it to the tapes you use and sponsors the linuxtapecert.org web site that lists tested and approved tape drives for Linux.

Miscellaneous Utility Software: Acronis OS Selector

This is a nifty boot and partition manager that has the great advantage of supporting ReiserFS for that added data protection.

Communications Tool: OpenSSH

We have twenty-some OpenSSH processes going on one server at our offices at Linux Journal. One workstation has six. We start up tunnels, scp stuff around and basically live in ssh sessions. It's convenient, stable, and a real pleasure to set up and administer. But the real reason for giving this award to OpenSSH is that if not for OpenSSH, we'd all have to live in Seattle.

Development Tool: KDevelop

KDevelop has a thriving user community, offers debugging and class browsing tools and even makes it easy to start up a new project in the standard GNU style. People coming from proprietary IDEs will find that KDevelop can mimic several popular interface styles. Embedded distribution vendor REDSonic chose KDevelop as the integrated development environment for their RedIce Linux.

Database: Oracle

Ported to Linux in 1999, Oracle has become quite a competitor. Last year the award went to PostgreSQL, and while it's still a strong contender and has received a lot of publicity this year, one can't ignore Oracle's sheer performance.

Office Application: AbiWord

This word processor starts up in about three seconds on a decent system and takes about 5MB of memory for a blank document. That is not a misprint—just a good, basic word processor, nothing fancy. Yes, it has printing now, and yes, it will import Microsoft Word documents. Try it—you'll either like it or you won't have wasted much time downloading it.

Desktop Environment: KDE 2

The new KDE desktop environment has a bit of a way to go as far as resource consumption and stability, but each succeeding version promises that it is on its way to a high polish. It has improved architecture and some very active development. Among the nicest features is the integration of the KDE browser, Konqueror, into the desktop as a file manager. Type any word into the address bar and get a Google search of that term. Also, KDevelop is completely integrated as well—see Development Tool.

Mobile Device: Compaq iPAQ

Linux-capable PDAs come in two flavors: capable of running minimal software only and high-powered with speed and space to experiment. The iPAQ is the best of the latter bunch, with a good industrial design except for the almost-symmetrical stylus. It's attracted quite a development community, so there are plenty of applications and documentation for people starting out with a Linux PDA. And with accessories such as a PCMCIA card sleeve and an upcoming camera/accelerometer, the iPAQ looks to be a good platform for Linux innovation into the future.

Embedded Development Tool: Lineo's Embedix SDK 2.0

Lineo has done a good job of making a product that appeals to a wide range of embedded developers. Embedix has a nice interface, plentiful features and great documentation that work to lessen the embedded Linux learning curve and allow developers to concentrate on their applications.

Real-Time Tool: Preemptible Kernel Patch, Nigel Gamble et. al., MontaVista Software

This patch is only 1,000 lines and uses the existing kernel SMP-locking strategy for respectable real-time gains at a small price. Not just for embedded systems weenies, everyone who wants to listen to an audio stream and untar a big archive at once will appreciate this.

Training and Certification: Linux Professional Institute

The LPI team did an extensive research project before beginning its exams to determine what skills Linux professionals actually use in their jobs. Then they conducted an extensive item-writing and technical review process, performed a Modified Angoff study on Linux experts and did a bunch of super-scientific Hari Seldon stuff to give the test the best possible chance of actually measuring Linux skill. Newly LPI-certified people report that the test is hard but fair.

Game: Tribes 2

This multiplayer game was developed by Dynamix and ported to Linux by the folks at Loki. As our game reviewer, Neil Doane says, “Not since Quake III have so many developers lost so much time, over so many networks and produced so little. This game rockulates.”

Book: Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolution by Linus Torvalds with David Diamond

It's a testimony to the factiticy of Internet Time that one of the Net's most influential personalities came out with his first autobiography at age 31. We say first because the fun has clearly just started.

Linus Torvalds is no less accidental as an author than he is as a revolutionary. But in a way that's the point. The book seems less published than floated, as the title says, just for fun. It's one side of a conversation about some stuff that might be worth talking about. If not, well, the author doesn't care. Viewed from an angle more native to Linus' tribe, Just for Fun is a hack, and an early one, subject to completion and revision over time. From similar angles it's not hard to see as a set of man pages or bug lists.

It's an interesting irony that the operating system best known for its founding character actually is authored by a vast peerage of other characters. It's a subtle thing, but reading this book is a great way to gain insights into what brought all these characters together, and into why it's possible for anything so ordinary as an operating system to be so darn much fun.

Toy: Velcro

In today's economy a lot of people can't afford to go out buying hot geek doo-dads on impulse like some of us had been doing for a while. Fortunately, there are no new expensive must-have toys this year. Time to consolidate, become more efficient and get ready for the next boom. Velcro ties for organizing cables, adhesive-backed Velcro for putting on equipment and pre-Velcroed products are all part of living a more organized, neater life, especially if you use a laptop as your main work machine and need to bundle up all those accessories and cables. No word on whether or not Velcro is good feng shui, but if it helps tidy up messy cables it can't hurt. And it's fun.

Web Site: LinuxDevices

Recently acquired by DeviceForge LLC, LinuxDevices is back in the hands of its founder, Rick Lehrbaum. The site has done a terrific job of providing a wealth of information in the form of news, HOWTOs, product reviews and comparisons, and discussion forums. While primarily focused on embedded Linux, it has a lot to offer the average Linux geek as well.

Product of the Year: SuSE Linux 7.3

In some ways the last year hasn't been a banner one for the German company with the tropical mascot. SuSE took some collateral damage from the dot-com implosion, destaffing offices in the US and cutting back elsewhere in the world.

But while the dot-commies of the world played air guitar, pretending to have real business models, SuSE continued to produce music the old-fashioned way, and for old-fashioned customers. They were a business, and they were in business to do business. The result in 2001 was a series of 7.x distributions, each built around the 2.4 Linux kernel, that have earned a torrent of praise for their comprehensive utility, their documentation and their performance, among many other virtues, all adding up to a real winner. Plus, it's currently the only distribution to offer an encrypted filesystem as an install-time option.

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Re: Oracle as DB choice...

Anonymous's picture

I'm a bit disapointed that Oracle won top awards. While I think it is great that they are not leaving us in the dark, and they should certainly be encouraged, they don't have anywhere near the platform support that PostgreSQL or MySQL has.
We run our central web servers on PPCLinux (YellowDog), we chose PostgreSQL as our database because it was opensource *and* ran on just about any hardware.
This was the reason why we chose Linux as our OS, it ended up making our system very scalable and we could move to just about any hardware if we out-grew our current machines. Using Oracle would limit us to Intel only.

I use mozilla

duman6's picture

I use mozilla, but konqueror is the best browser on Linux. The Print Dialog of mozilla is ugly.

Re: Oracle as DB choice...

Anonymous's picture

Why not Oracle? Yes it is expensive, source code not customizable etc etc. but can MySQL and PostgreSQL compete with Oracle's features? To mention few features (from over hundred unique features) that comes to mind immediately are:

* Clsutered database with Cachefusion (called RAC in 9i and OPS in earlier versions).

* Extensive Bitmap index support

*.Multiplatform/OS support.

* A very powerful SQL query optimizer.

* Parallel execution support etc.

Re: Oracle as DB choice...

Anonymous's picture

I think are correct if looked at in the correct light. Oracle does support many platforms. Linux, Solaris hell any *nix OS. Plus windows and most other sold platforms. Ok maybe it doesn't currently run on Mac OS X but give me a break.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Why Konqueror? Why not!

Konq + relevant KParts have evolved at a tremendous rate, and is one of the major reasons why KDE is becoming so popular - its by no means perfect, but I have no doubt that problems will be fixed very quickly.

Its good that projects on a roll get recognition from the community - in this case, it provides extra competition for Gnome, and so our favourite desktops evolve at a faster rate!

Mozilla is of course potentially ground breaking in its flexibility and cross platform abilities, BUT until recently was not really stable. I've had a lot of fun with .94-.96 releases though, so next year, who knows?

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Konqueror may be nice, but I don't believe that it can beat Galeon. Galeon takes the rendering engine of mozilla, neglects to add mail and news clients (good thing) and wraps it in a nice quick GTK interface. It has done tabbed browsing for months, supports 'skins' (to a degree), is stable and fast.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I don't understand why noone even mentions Opera ?

I personnally think it's th emost promising browser out there ! Even if the linux port is still new, it's usuable, and offers a lot of flexiblity while being ultra fast ! Check it out : www.opera.com

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I'll put in a word for Opera. I used the Windows version for a couple of years before moving to Linux and have been using Opera 5 since the change. It was good, but I just recently upgraded to the latest 6.0 TP2 pre-release, and even as alpha software it's terrific. Faster than and at least as stable as Konqueror or Netscape 6.2. Runs the Flash plugin, picks up your desktop colors in KDE. Simply install the new package right on top of the old one and it'll kep all your bookmarks, configuration, etc, just like a Windows install. I'm a paid user of both Widows & Linux versions, and glad to spend the money. Great in either flavor.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Oracle the best database for Linux ?

I beg to differ. The pricing and attitude of Oracle remind me very much of M$. Even their boss would like to be Bill Gates !!!

For proprietary offerings there is IBM's DB2, which comes from a company which is proving itself as the "friend of Linux". And it can beat the pants off Oracle any day in performance (despite the FUD from the Oracle spindoctors).

And you could at least have encouraged the open source developers trying to make MySQL and PostgreSQL as good as the proprietary offerings.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Are you talking about "best database for Linux " or "best FRIENDS' database for Linux " or "best FREE database for Linux " ?

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I am most interested in official benchmarks indicating that DB2 outperforms Oracle 9i on Linux.

I am not religiously tied to any technology, and will gladly get on board with the best. Those who do not, don't catch the big fish. I need industry-standard benchmark proof of this claim.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I agree. As a seasoned Oracle vetern and DBa etc, I recently set up my own business - requiring a database backend and all of that. Having so much Oracle and a small sense of 'thanks for all the work', I phoned up to inquire on the licence fee, for a Linux/Apache/PHP implementation. I was flabbergasted - and no consideration for the sad 'start up phase'.

So now I am a very very happy PostgreSQL guy.

PostgreSQL can easily step up to the plate. I will be a strong supported going forward.

Good luck.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

What about SAP DB ? I'm pretty darn impressed with it.

And the good folks at the other three-initial corporate monolith deserve to get some kudos.

www.sapdb.org

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

How can you say IBM's a "frien of Linux" ???? Oracle database was the first real RDBMS ported under Linux environnement...

When was DB2 available for Linux ??

Concerning performance, I don't know where are you taking your informations from... Did you ever saw any real benchs ??? I made some of them, with heavily-loaded web sites... Oracle is far away faster, and obviously more robust than any other RDBMS. Sure, it's a bit complex than DB2 or MySql...

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I'm not certain, but I believe I have a DB2 cd at home that came out prior to Oracle, it was a beta copy. IBM also came out with VIA-voice prior to 1999, and the logical volume manager that exists in the current kernal was developed with IBM's help using the LVM model on their AIX system. IBM also came out publicly in their support of LINUX before any other major vendor, IBM will be the leader in getting Linux in the mainstream.

Years ago in it's infancy, the C-language was thought of as a joke, until IBM ported it to the mainframe, it was only then that it became a mainstream language.

SuSE 7.3

Anonymous's picture

It's a great product, but can be difficult to install.

Preempt-kernel

Anonymous's picture

Nice to see the preemptible kernel project mentioned. It is a great patch, not just of benefit to RT users. The maintainer's website is http://tech9.net/rml/linux ... too bad he didn't get any credit. But, hey, oh well, check it out.

John

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

SuSE 7.3 Award is well deserved and easily beats the other Distributions released this year! Anyone who gives it a try will more then likely exclaim, "Red Hat who?"

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I disagree. RedHat 7.3 is easier to use because I'm used to it. If I wanted to load SAP on linux, I might interface with SUSE.

I prefer Oracle on RedHat, apache, php....etc on RedHat.

....if you think about it, Redhat is more of what Americans are used to.

That's my opinion.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Let me tell you that SUSE, undoubtless one of the best distribs, doesn't put the ISOs of their CD's in their FTP servers.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Where can I found Iso image of SuSeE

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

You cannot find iso's of SuSE.

There are only iso's of Live Evalution CDs.

Please check out:

ftp://ftp.suse.com/pub/suse/i386/

In my opinion SuSE is the best of all Distributions.

Greetings from Germany

tdk

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I forgot to tell you why there are no iso's of SuSE.

At the moment you get 7 CDs and 1 DVD when you buy SuSE Linux 7.3 Professional.

It is only allowed to copy the CD 1-3, because they contain only free Software.

The rest is commercial Stuff, that's not for free.

P.S.: YAST2 is the best Setup Tool ever.

Greetings from Germany

tdk

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I agree! YAST2 is a really great setup tool.

My SuSe 7.3 installation was much more easy and much faster than ever Windows installation I used before.

KDE2 is the 1st LINUX GUI better than Windows.

Niko

Vienna, Austria

don't like yask

linux me's picture

somehow I just don't link YaST at all, only prefer command myself

I agree! YAST2 is a really great setup tool.

My SuSe 7.3 installation was much more easy and much faster than ever Windows installation I used before.

KDE2 is the 1st LINUX GUI better than Windows.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I simply hated pre 6X versions because thay still contained many German in documentation, dialog boxes etc. I simply don'y understand German, but from 7.0 on SuSE has been my mainstream distro for business deployment. Just try to install a ldap capable mail server with bot IMAP and pop3 integrated to openldap2 on a Redhat in just one and a half hour and make it work in your first try :)

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

The awards for Nmap and Abiword were right on, but

Konqueror? What were you thinking?

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Better check out Opera once again!

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Do you know about any other good browser and file manager for linux ? Konkeror is very good.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

For a browser, try Opera 6. For me, Konqueror sucks as a file manager - slow, buggy, just seems like a kludge in that role. Try Midnight Commander, or maybe my particular favorite variation of it, XWC Commander. Very much like Windows File Manager. Extremely fast, fairly stable, has some nice features like mount/unmount buttons, etc.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I'd have to agree. Why Konqueror?

It's fine if your using KDE, and whilst KDE users spend a lot of time talking it up, I've never seen the need to switch.

My vote goes to Mozilla, which as a browser, not only works well, but works across both KDE and GNOME, and also other OSes as well, helping not only to improve the browsing experience, but also to break down the platform barrier.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

"My vote goes to Mozilla, which as a browser, not only works well, but works across both KDE and GNOME, and also other OSes as well, helping not only to improve the browsing experience, but also to break down the platform barrier."

Hopefully you're aware of this, but if you just install the KDE libraries, you can run Konqueror under Gnome.

Why Konqueror? I'm sorry, but if you pull up just about any web page in Konqueror and do a side by side comparison with Mozilla, you will see my favorite reason why, it just plain looks better. Not to mention feels a bit faster. Also, for me, if I leave Mozilla open for a week or more(I'm a nerd, so sue me), the thing will just close down, especially if I was just posting something on a website like this. Not a big deal but it annoys me.

Konqueror looks great and since I've already switched from Gnome to KDE(try Kdevelop and you'll have a good idea why I switched), I might as well use it. Not that I'm trying to knock either the Gnome or the Mozilla teams, I just happen to prefer KDE and Konqueror.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

I use mozilla, but konqueror is the best browser on Linux. The Print Dialog of mozilla is ugly.

Re: Editors' Choice Awards

Anonymous's picture

Try "Enhanced Browsing" in Konqueror some time. It comes with shortcuts for popular sites such as Google (just type gg:gifs to search for GIFs) and you can add enhanced browsing for every site you search. No more visiting the home pages of sites such as SourceForge just to do a search -- have Konqueror do it for you.

New Konqueror windows do pop up a lot slower than new Mozilla windows, though.

...I simply hated pre 6X

proxy site's picture

...I simply hated pre 6X versions because thay still contained many German in documentation, dialog boxes etc. I simply don'y understand German, but from 7.0 on SuSE has been my mainstream distro for business deployment. Just try to install a ldap capable mail server with bot IMAP and pop3 integrated to openldap2 on a Redhat in just one and a half hour and make it work in your first try :)....

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