On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

A review of some of the presentations and news from this week's desktop conference.

Another sign of the acceptance of Linux in the enterprise and beyond, the first ever Desktop Linux Consortium conference was held outside of Boston this week, at Boston University's Corporate Education Center. Although widely covered in much of the specialist and general media, most of the conference coverage has focused exclusively on IBM's embracing of Linux on the desktop for its clients. That is a great headline, but it has overshadowed some other good news from the conference. This report is a overview of other parts of the conference and their newsworthy items. The sessions ran concurrently and had some scheduling conflicts, so it was impossible to visit all the breakout sessions. Some ran well over their allotted time, due to attendees piling on the questions to presenters.

The fact there is such thing as a Linux Desktop conference is encouraging. This is doubly true when you consider the high caliber of presenters and some of the new technology that previewed at the conference. Most of the presenters focused on the enterprise angle, which From my vantage point is 100% true. Most enterprise IT shops have the UNIX skills and mindset to translate the advantages of open source and Linux into better IT for their companies.

The conference was principally organized by the Desktop Linux Consortium (DLC). It was led by Bruce Perens, acting executive director of the DLC and chaired by Jeremy White from Codeweavers. The attendees and presenters were a mix of the top tier of Linux desktop developers, including Nat Friedman of recently purchased Ximian, to other folks in the Linux desktop community, such as Sam Hiser from OpenOffice.org. Reactions and comments from the attendees I spoke with were uniformly positive, and the overall atmosphere of the conference was collegial and relaxed.

I spoke with Jeremy White about his reaction to the conference.

Jeremy White: The truth is Jill Ratkevic has really been the driving force behind this conference. She really brought it all together, and she, along with the very generous folks at BU, really made it possible.

Linux Journal: Did it meet your hopes and expectations ?

JW: Absolutely! It was enormous fun; I think the presentations were excellent and of a very high caliber. It was a great place for me to reconnect with many of my peers. And the food and hosting by BU was absolutely top notch. [Ed note: It was.]

LJ: What did you think was the best part of the conference?

JW: For me the highlight came in the afternoon as I was out in the hall chatting with a guy from IBM and guy from HP. The IBM guy said, "15,000 desktops, that's probably the most in the world". Then the HP guy said, "Oh, sure, by numbers, but on a percentage basis, HP is way ahead of IBM. And Martin Fink runs Linux on his laptop." Think about it: two of the worlds biggest IT companies were having a pissing match about who used more Linux on the desktop!

LJ: What is next for the Linux Desktop Consortium?

JW: Next comes a membership drive, followed by board elections. Once the board is in place, our job (the formation committee) will be done.

Finally, Jeremy added, "I think Nat [Friedman of Ximian] said it best--I'm paraphrasing, don't recall his exact words--"The Linux Desktop won't come with a bang. It's here already, stealthily creeping in and around everywhere."

Notable Presentations

John Terpstra, one of the Samba team founders, gave an thoughtful and detailed presentation, "State of the Art FLOSS: No Roadblocks Ahead", that discussed the differences and the strengths of the open-source development model. His main theme was how it can produce superior software. He made some important points, including the open-source model puts more control back into the hands of the end user. Not only can the end user modify or fix problems in the source, but the revenue model gets reversed from an item-costing model to a service model. This new model cannot be monopolized by one vendor. John gave some well diagrammed examples of the development process and how eventually as software matures, it becomes more of a commodity--a trend the Linux community has mastered. This is the kind of message in a format readily understood by CEOs and CIOs that needs to be driven home by Linux advocates in and out of the enterprise.

Chris Lahey from the GNOME project and Ximian was there showing off the latest bits of code going into the next version of GNOME 2.6. Watching the demos, it was clear that a lot of attention has been paid to ease of use and strictly following HIG from GNOME in the basic desktop functions.

KDE developer George Staikos showed attendees a preview of the upcoming KDE 3.2. KDE 3.2 looks to be the most polished and refined KDE version to date.

There was, of course, a lot of chatter by attendees about the recent purchase by Novell of SuSE. This kind of announcement in the general business news sections has the positive side effect of bringing to the larger business world the value Linux adds to its IT solutions.

Besides his introductory remarks, Bruce Perens gave a separate talk updating attendees on the SCO lawsuit. He said many other ISVs that have UNIX source code licenses have looked but cannot find significant evidence of SCO code in the Linux source code. He again noted the dangers to free software development posed by patents and digital rights management.

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Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

This entire writing is so wrong. I wish that there is one Article showing up one day which reflects the real situation around GNOME. I as a contributor to GNOME see the things a bit differently. First of all I am curious why companies such as IBM or Novell are writing in high tones about GNOME while they obviously have no significant clue what they are talking about. On the otherhand their information for their slides seem to depend on the stuff given to Novell through Ximian here. E.g. Ximian Desktop, GNOME etc. and the way how Ximian is pushing their own stuff here.

They significantly forget that Ximian Desktop is nothing else than real GNOME made by many paricipants in the open source community. By people like you and I who sit at home every now and then and hack on some applications. They sound so what big here that it makes one belive that this product was DONE entirely by Novell or IBM which is definately wrong and nothing else than a big lie.

Another aspect is freedesktop.org here. While freedesktop.org has some good aspects as well it on the otherhand doesn't participate well enough with KDE or XFCE as they would like one to make belive. This is simply NOT true. It's true that KDE and some other people have agreed on some simplification stuff such as the Trayicon or the definitions of *.desktop files in the whole Enviornment but the GNOME people are not having a leading role in all this.

All in all I must say that this Article as many other articles is not reflecting the reality. Even GNOME (or Ximian Desktop) are far from being complete or as usable as they may like to make people belive. There are many broken aspects in GNOME that wont get solved anytime soon. I am curious but I wonder why such companies as IBM or Novell gonna spent so much hype and make such big public relations around GNOME while on the otherhand they do not contribute any stuff into the Desktop itself.

I as someone contributing to GNOME for many years feel so what offended by this article that I need to puke. Sorry reader buy you are NOT reading the truth in this Article. E.g. GNOME is lacking good developers in so many areas such as gnome-vfs which is basically unmaintained and horrible broken. A lot of duplicate code which recently got marked deprecated, a lot of HALF things inside GNOME e.g. bugfixes are done half, things are working half etc.

The technical far mature and far better Desktop if you want to hear the truth here is KDE, it has still a bunch of problems so I need to recommend people to use Microsoft Windows if they plan to do some production stuff but suggesting customers to switch over to GNOME is plain counterproductive here because they are getting a not good Desktop.

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

You've only been "contributing to GNOME for many years" if you call trolling against it a contribution.

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

If you call 'saying the truth' trolling then you have been trapped in a huge misbelief because you do not understand the reality.

Pragmatically.

Anonymous's picture

First, I'll say I agree with you about the facts you expose. I think one could comfortably say, without fear of being unfair that KDE was made top-down and Gnome bottom-up.

By that I mean, KDE is structurally much more well-thought, but its apps are only now catching up (see Koffice, for instance). Gnome, I think, has serious structural problems (maybe because less object-oriented?) but has killer, completely well-done apps like Gnumeric, Evolution, etc.

So, it's difficult to say which is better: that depends on how one uses a computer. For me, personally, I selected KDE. But this is because we have OpenOffice.org. If this wasn't available, I'd probably choose Gnome, because IMHO Abiword has a lead over Kwrite (at least, for the moment).

Now, regarding your recommendation of Windows, with all of its advantages comes so many problems (see last week critical patch for IE, in versions up to XP and 2003)... is this really a wise choice? My father isn't 90 yet, fortunately he's 70; I will choose Gnome or KDE over Windows at any moment for him. This, because I lack the time to apply each and every patch MS forces us to install almost *every week*.

And, should it happen I'm not available, I guess he already would have linux folks to hire (as we live in a big city). He would need a Windows expert, anyway, there's no hope he would be using regedit to change registry variables, when things lock up...

Meanwhile, KDE apps are gradually becoming good-enough (and OpenOffice.Org is doing their part, too). Gnome may be rewritten (KDE and Mozilla have done it, IIRC) or maybe the Mono thing ends up being a good thing, after all. Who knows?

Windows (and especially, Windows+Office) is over, if you compare what it offers against no-cost linux alternatives (I'm avoiding the Freedom-free aspect, but I consider it important). Right now, people stay with it because of inertia, and many are gradually asking more and more: "Why Windows and not Linux?".

And longhorn is so far away it may not matter when it comes to be, *if* it ever comes to be, that is. My guess is MS will come up with a bridge version to keep its users happy, like they did with Windows ME --- with equally unsatisfactory results.

Re: Pragmatically.

Anonymous's picture

My mistake: I meant Abiword has a lead over Kword. Kwrite is perfectly ok and plays in another league.

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

A lot of things raised here are simply not as true as they want to make people belive. They sound bagging here. GNOME is definately NOT following the HIG as strict as they would like to make people belive here:

http://www.gnome.org/~chrisime/random/ui.tar.bz2

Read this UI review. Another not as true thing here is that GNOME is not the default chosen Environment by Novell. The reason why it was propagated in the slides is easy, it's made by the Ximian people. GNOME is by far immature to be a serious competitor to Microsoft Windows or KDE (Open Source).

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

and what is Ximian?... Gnome + Gnome utils + some kind of special configuration + red carpet.

So in fact, Novell IS using using Gnome.

And it seems that you don't have seen Gnome for a long time.

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

Digi cams, scanners etc. That is one of the projects at freedesktop.org Its called d-bus, a common protocol for hardware notification on the desktop.. Fedora has I think the first implementation.

P Linnell

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

What did the conference have to say about the two issues that IMO are the two greatest drags in Linux - lack of support for printers/digital cameras, scanners and the absolute mightmare that is installing new software (dependency hell)?

gazza

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

I showed a windows XP user how easy it is to setup a printer in linux and they were actually amazed. They said it was just as easy if not easier then Windows.

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

Actually I was dreding setting up my Epson C40UX... well guess what? I turned it on and redhat 9 recognized it and configured for it... I almost didn't need to do anything... well I needed to turn the printer on... Hmmm... at least it was so easy I don't remember doing anything...

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

easy to install software if you are using Lindows and use cnr

Re: On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium

Anonymous's picture

Thanx for the great report Peter.
You're ahead of the curve as usual.

Walter wb@eCape.com

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