Shopping on Penguins

I was pointed recently to Zappos as a near-perfect example of a company that brings the principles of open source to business. Its site is inventive and fancy (as you'd expect a clothing retailer to be), but not a triumph of design over utility. What's more, it's fast. I can check Web site responsiveness with some confidence, because our little apartment near Boston has 20Mb/s symmetrical service from Verizon FiOS (that's fiber, and pretty cheap, considering), and the speeds I get at the office I share at Harvard are more than twice that.

So I decided to see what they were running that site on, by checking with's “What's that site running?” service. The answer was Linux. Zappos itself is in an Akamai Netblock, and of the 13 other results (all, the results for OS were Linux or “unknown”.

Then I decided to look beyond Zappos to other on-line retailers. Here are the results for the top ten, as listed by, with sales volume numbers in parentheses. Results for are first, and other results for each company are summarized in text (Netcraft gives results in lowercase):

1. Inc. ($14.8 billion): linux.

2. Staples Inc. ($5.6 billion): linux, through akamai.

3. Office Depot Inc. ($4.9 billion): the top result is linux for, but (without the dubs) is windows server 2003. Other sites are a mix of the two and “unknown”.

4. Dell Inc. ($4.2 billion): f5-big-ip, though (Dell laptops) is linux and a couple of sites are “unknown”.

5. HP Home & Home Office Store ($3.4 billion): hp-ux.

6. OfficeMax Inc. ($3.2 billion): f5-big-ip, with a mix of solaris, windows server 2003, linux and “unknown” among other officemax sites.

7. Apple Inc. ($2.7 billion): “unknown”, but the company uses linux through akamai for a number of sites.

8. Sears Holding Corp. ($2.6 billion, includes and for, linux, plus some “unknown”, solaris, f5-big-ip and windows server 2003 for For, linux (through akamai), plus linux (with and without akamai) for various sites. is windows 2000. Most of the rest are linux, plus a couple “unknown” and one f5-big-ip.

9. CDW Corp. ($2.4 billion): the top result is linux for (through akamai). (sans dubs) is f5-big-ip. The rest are a mix of linux and f5-big-ip, with one windows server 2003.

10. Newegg: windows server 2003, though linux shows up in five out of the nine results.

Although that summation is far from a complete picture, or even a completely accurate one for this Top Ten, it's clear that the picture can't be painted without linux as the most primary color.


Internet Retailer Top 500 Retail Web Sites:



Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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alltopuggboots's picture

What the chef don’t want you to know
We mentioned in our Lunchtime Poll that you'd be hearing about those fine folks at Stone Park Café again, and whaddya know? It’s 5@5 time.
Meet the man behind our managing editor’s Brussels sprouts epiphany - Josh Grinker. He’s the executive chef of the Brooklyn UGG Bailey Button 5803
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The old adage goes, "everybody has a secret," including chefs - and Grinker should know because, well, he is one.
Five Things Chefs Don't Want You to Know: Josh Grinker

1. There’s butter in everything
"No, that’s not true - there’s also cream and oil.
In every culinary school in America, they hammer home the same three-word mantra to students day after day, year after year, until it’s like a little voice in your brain that guides virtually every culinary decision you will make for the rest of your career: 'Fat is Flavor.' And you know what? It’s true.
You know how you cook a great steak? You slather it in butter, throw it on the grill, paint it with more butter just about constantly, take it off the grill to let it rest - and paint it again. Then you slice it, put a nice big dollop of butter on it and let it gently melt under the broiler. Voila."
2. They aren’t in the kitchen
"The mark these days of a successful chef is that they don’t spend much time in the kitchen. In fact, it’s almost an inverse principle that the better the restaurant, the less chance there is that the chef is back there cooking away. And, it’s almost certainly true that the chef hasn’t picked up a knife since his last appearance on 'Iron Chef America.'
People don’t really seem to understand this. I have a friend who is a waiter at Po in Brooklyn, a small Italian restaurant that opened about four years ago. The original Po, in Manhattan, was once upon a time co-owned by Mario Batali before he sold it and went on to found a restaurant empire.
My waiter friend has people ask all the time if Mario is in the kitchen tonight. Actually, he’s just off the red-eye from Vegas, in a cab this very minute, racing back here to make sure your eggplant Parmesan is up to his specifications."
3. There’s salt in everything
"This simple fact is what separates good cooks from bad ones, or at least flavorful food from bland food. Good restaurant cooks know how to season food and that’s why their food tastes good.
It’s not some genius alchemy of exotic ingredients, or zig zag farm-to-table freshness that makes you coming back wanting more - it’s salt.
I don’t know why lay cooks are so resistant to this ideal, but they are. I taught a class on grilling a steak once and when I showered the beef with a crust of salt there were gasps from the audience as if I had just stabbed a small child. The result was a perfect steak.
When I give people a recipe that invariably ends with ‘salt to taste’ and they tell me it wasn’t as good as mine, I know the reason: not enough salt."
4. Your food was cooked by minions
"Well, not quite - but migrant workers, would-be criminals and mindless idiots? Yes, most definitely. The restaurant business, despite its celebrity pretensions, is a tough business. Profit margins are razor-thin and competition is brutal. Restaurants, to be successful, must get the most skilled laborers possible and pay them as little as possible. That means lots of immigrants. And if you think they’re all legal and paid handsomely for their six-day weeks, well, just enjoy your soup.
The other major demographic working the skilled restaurant job are dumb blue-collar kids who have been lured by the chance of stardom, sort of like playing the lottery.
Oh yeah, there’s one group I forgot: alcoholics."
5. Chefs are jerks
"This is a fact that is nearly universal and one that chefs most certainly want to conceal. The culture of the kitchen is one where abuse is assumed and condoned. Combine that with the pressure of feeding hundreds of diners, lots of details and a militaristic hierarchy and you get some out of control egos.
Many, although not all, chefs are savvy enough to realize that their baby tantrums would be laughed at in the real world, so they step into the dining room in full regalia, all smiles and charm. Rest assured, the more gregarious and charming they are to you, dear diner, the more draconian and out of control they are to that poor fry cook."
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

BigIP front ends

David Lane's picture

Remember that BigIP is also a Linux engine ;-) We used to run them at SunRocket to front end our Linux web servers and some of our SER stuff. If they are properly configured, you have no clue what is running behind them but they make great loadbalancers.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack