Linux Grows Up

by Phil Hughes

Each month we allocate a page for this column. The space is reserved past the regular deadline to give us an extra week to find the right earth-shattering event to report—which sometimes doesn't happen. This month we missed the initial deadline and were left with about a day to find some earth-shattering news and write the column.

Back in the early days of Linux there was a new kernel almost every day, which produced a continuous stream of new topics. Linux has grown up—it's too stable, reliable and routine.

Or is it? I went to the comp.os.linux.announce newsgroup hoping to find an exciting event. I didn't. I read it again. Still no exciting event. Then, I realized I was so busy looking for one thing that I had missed an event of more significance than any single post.

Linux is being recognized as a serious OS with real commercial potential. It's not that we haven't had anything commercial posted before, it is that there were so many posted in the last week and the type of information posted. Here is a sample:

  • Process credit cards on your computer: Credit Card Verification System (CCVS) from HKS, Inc. is a package that gives you a command line interface and GUI to do credit card processing as well as libraries to call from programs.

  • WebMagick Image Web Generator 1.29: WebMagick is a package which makes putting images on the Web as easy as magic. Or, more specifically, WebMagick builds HTML pages and image maps from a set of image files. Thus, rather than manually building a page using thumbnails and writing HTML so the thumbnails are clickable, WebMagick builds maps consisting of the thumbnails and writes the HTML. Besides saving you time, WebMagick improves performance by decreasing the number of individual files that make up a clickable page.

  • Linux nominated for a European Software Excellence Award: These awards are sponsored by Ziff-Davis, Europe's largest computer magazine publisher. The three finalists for the Desktop Environment Award were Microsoft, IBM and Red Hat Software. They said: “... Linux has grown up from being a programming freak's playground to a stable and easy to install operating system. ...”

  • Web-based application development platform: TalentSoft Web+ 3.0 is a premier web-based application development platform for Unix and Windows. The article states “Web+ is extremely scalable, having been tested successfully on a web site with an average of 2,000,000 hits/day, 40% of which are hits to the Web+ server.” Now, the posting didn't say it was a Linux box that handled the 2,000,000 hits per day, but the product is available for Linux—the limitation is the hardware, not the software.

  • VBVM—A Visual Basic 5 Virtual Machine: This product from Softworks Limited is a portable version of the MS Visual Basic 5 virtual machine. It enables you to take VB5 executables and run them, unmodified, on other platforms. While not an application, it will make it possible for lots of existing applications to run on Linux.

  • Rent-a-dedicated-server for $250: Vipex Internet Presence rents Linux servers including DNS and an unlimited number of domains for $250/month.

  • Qbib-1.1 bibliography management system: Herrin Software Development, Inc. had built a bibliography management system based on qddb. It features all sorts of import and export options plus searching and report generation.

  • Motif Interface Builder VDX 1.1: VDX from Bredex GmbH is a GUI-based interactive tool that generates C and C++ source code.

  • Regulus 1.1: Regulus is a package to manage customer accounts for ISPs and includes customer activity logs and a web interface to access those logs.

This is enough of a sample of what's out there to give you the idea. Being an old Unix hacker, I see this influx of postings as the tool box getting filled with new, fancy tools. For example, using Regulus and CCVS, you can quickly put together an ISP with automated credit-card billing. Use Web+, WebMagick and a Vipex server to build a web site.

Tie all of this together with a post about an article on Linux in the June 1997 issue of Business Computer World that concludes that “Linux is very solid, widely used, and a real potential threat to Microsoft.” It also states “Linux is behind in the availability of applications, but is catching up.”

Maybe some day STP will cover NT being replaced with Linux.

Phil Hughes is the publisher of Linux Journal and can be reached via e-mail at

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