HP to Hardware Vendors: Peddle That NDA Somewhere Else
HP to Hardware Vendors: Peddle That NDA Somewhere Else

Bruce Perens, Linux czar of Hewlett-Packard, has what he calls a “very good” chance of getting a preference for Linux-compatible hardware made into corporate policy at the new largest Linux vendor, the merged HP/Compaq.

The policy would mandate a company-wide “at design-in time, preference for devices that have publicly documented interfaces”.

For HP engineers, it means that if you have a choice between two hardware products, select the one for which an open-source driver exists or for which the vendor publishes programming information. If a part comes with a nondisclosure agreement, don't use it unless there's no alternative, or the alternative would be prohibitively expensive.

How much less will NDA-shrouded hardware be worth to HP? Perens doesn't put a number on it. Or, to look at it the other way, how much of a price premium will HP be willing to pay to use a publicly documented device? The advice to designers is “use your head”, he says.

“I was concerned about graphics display chips”, Perens said. ATI's low-end graphics hardware is fairly clean, but at the high end, “They're all crazy”, he said. The policy has already resulted in HP dropping NDA-covered modem chips for openly documented ones.

Although the documented hardware policy was approved at a “corporate policy level” within HP before the merger and was ready to become the standard within the company, Perens has to get management of the new, merged company to approve it all over again. “The merger has held off a lot of things, and I have to get [Compaq managers] to be cognizant of the reason we need it”, he said.

Just because HP laptops and PDAs will be Linux-friendly doesn't mean the company will formally support Linux on them. There are no plans to offer a Linux laptop or to commercialize Jim Gettys' work on running Linux and X on the Compaq-now-HP iPAQ.

“Most of what I'm doing with Linux is servers”, Perens said. The merger's overall effect on Linux at HP and Compaq? “Unless something awful happens it should make it better.”

—Don Marti

Hot and Cool Linux Dot-Com Actually Makes Money

HOTorNOT.com offers a simple and democratic answer to a common but embarrassing question: how good do I look? Voters play a kind of whack-a-mole, only they whack human beings instead of moles and use a mouse instead of a mallet, rating each candidate on scale of 1 to 10. As soon as one gets rated, another pops up next to a thumbnail of the last one, with the current rating.

The site was conceived in October 2000 by James Young and Jim Hong, a couple of 27-year-old Berkeley-trained hackers, roommates and drinking buddies. They were going to put it up on XMethods, their web site for publicly available web services.

For what instantly became obvious reasons, they made HOTorNOT.com an independent site. In just over a week, the site was getting almost two million page views per day. By May of this year, HOTorNOT had counted over 2.1 billion votes and had over one million user accounts.

But here's what's really hot: it runs on Linux. “In fact”, James Hong recently told us, “we couldn't have done it without Linux.” By “it”, he means make money. According to Hong, HOTorNOT pulls in more than enough income to pay for itself and its staff, which still consists of the original two guys.

That's because they've adapted quickly. “When the advertising business began to crash, we added a paid 'meeting' service to the system.” The result was countless dating success stories, including more than a few marriages. But the most important success story is HOTorNOT's own.

“HOTorNOT is a viable business built entirely on Linux”, Hong says. More specifically, “Linux (Red Hat), Apache, MySQL and PHP on 35 1U rackmounts, mostly from Rackable Systems.” (See picture.)

—Doc Searls

LJ Index—August 2002
  1. Number of countries considering a bill or motion to mandate or promote free-software use by the government: 9

  2. Number of complete sets of tapes required for one year of tape backups: 29

  3. Number of sound cards and chipsets supported by ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture): 94

  4. Number of cards for which docs are available but no ALSA driver yet exists: 20

  5. Number of sound cards for which manufacturers are refusing to provide documentation to the ALSA Project: 4

  6. Length in characters of a Perl regular expression that matches any valid URL: 7,579

  7. Names in CREDITS for Linux 1.0: 80

  8. Size of Linux 1.0 compressed: 1.2MB (15.4KB per contributor)

  9. Names in CREDITS for Linux 2.4.18: 411

  10. Size of Linux 2.4.18 compressed: 28.8MB (71.5KB per contributor)

  11. Size in billions of dollars of the e-mail marketing industry: 1

  12. Predicted average number of spam e-mails per inbox per year by 2006: 1,500

  13. Number of spams accumulated in an idle inbox on Earthlink over the year leading up to August 2001: 1,200

  14. Number of spams accumulated in the same inbox between April 18 and May 13, 2002: 1,124

  15. Number of spams, received by one Linux Journal editor's inbox on May 1, 2002: 197