by Various
LJ INDEX—March 2001
  1. Power consumption per day of an IBM z900 (formerly S/390) mainframe: $32 US

  2. Starting price of an IBM z900: $750,000 US

  3. Number of Linux instances that have been run on one z900: 41,000

  4. Percentage of companies that have deployed, or intend to deploy, at least one Linux system: 68

  5. Number of US information-appliance unit sales in 2000: 7,440,000

  6. Projected US information-appliance unit sales in 2005: 51,800,000

  7. Compound annual growth rate of US information appliance sales: 47.4%

  8. Worldwide information-appliance unit sales in 2000: 29,000,000

  9. Projected worldwide information-appliance unit sales in 2005: 305,000,000

  10. Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of worldwide information-appliance sales: 59.8%

  11. Number of BSD-based Apple OS X betas downloaded or shipped by January 2001: 100,000

  12. Number of people submitting input to the OS X beta process: 70,000

  13. Volume of résumés posted per day on Monster.com: 38,000

  14. Monster.com's total job database: 12,000,000

  15. Pounds of ground beef that might be contaminated by one diseased animal: 32,000

  16. Chances that an American will have a fast-food meal today: 1 in 4

  17. Number of class action lawsuits filed against VA Linux in January 2001: 5

  18. Number of those lawsuits that erroneously referred the company as “Linux”: 4

  19. Number of similar lawsuits filed by one of those firms, Milberg Weiss, in one decade: 200

  20. Estimated cost in millions of dollars of a complete Linux solution on one IBM mainframe: 7

  21. Estimated cost in millions of dollars of the same solution on equivalent Sun hardware: 55

  • 1-2: CRN

  • 3: LinuxPlanet

  • 4: CIO

  • 5-10: eTforecasts

  • 11-12: Apple

  • 13-14: ZDNet

  • 15-16: Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

  • 17-18: Linux Weekly News (www.lwn.net)

  • 19: law-phoenix.com

  • 20-21: Infoworld

The Kernel Speaks

Which computer architecture is best? We got the Linux kernel source, version 2.4.0, and counted the instances of George Carlin's “seven words you can never say on television”, plus “crap”, “damn” and “sucks” in each subdirectory of /usr/src/linux/arch.

The results:

alpha: 1arm: 0i386: 7ia64: 0m68k: 3mips: 22mips64: 5parisc: 4ppc: 3s390: 0sh: 1sparc: 19sparc64: 13

So, it's clear that ARM, IA-64 and System/390 are, from the kernel developer's point of view, the best computer architectures, and as for those piece-of-[expletive deleted] MIPS and Sparc boxes, well, the less we [expletive deleted] say about them the better.

—Don Marti

Linux Bytes Other Markets: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART): Under Control with Linux

by Gary A. Messenbrink and Frank Ruffa

In the Operations Control Center (OCC), 20 feet underground in the heart of Oakland, California, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is managed by a group of dedicated individuals tasked with moving residents quickly and safely from one end of the San Francisco Bay area to the other.

Along the sides of the room are 30 projection TV systems that display the Train Control map for the system and the Traction Power Electrification Display. The TV projection systems are driven off of NCD X terminals that connect to a Tandem S4000 that maintains the state of the system. The controllers use Sun workstations to query and manage the system, which in turns communicates to the Tandem.

The extension of the BART system to the San Francisco Airport required an upgrade to the Electrification Display Systems of the OCC to be available by July of 2000. In planning to support this upgrade, we decided to improve some of the human factors relative to managing the system too.

The system was originally designed to use multiple high-resolution (for the time) Tektronix displays. As a result, experienced controllers could quickly glance at these displays and immediately grasp the state of the system. In moving from the Tektronix displays to Sun workstations, the concept of overlapping windows was introduced because of limited screen real estate. Although functionality was increased, the overlapping displays were not popular with the controllers as they lost the ability to understand the system at a glance.

Sony has recently released 24-inch monitors with larger screens. With the wider 16:9 aspect ratio, these monitors were ideal for the type of landscape display that BART needed to eliminate overlapping windows. Unfortunately, the Sun Solaris 2.4 operating system didn't provide support for these new monitors as the resolutions required, forcing us to investigate other options.

We quickly found that the open-source nature of Linux provided the solution. Supporting the new monitors required nothing more than some simple changes to the configuration file used by XFree86. With this knowledge, we selected an economical off-the-shelf PC system driving the Sony 24-inch monitor running Linux as our new OCC workstation.

We selected Motif as our user-interface toolkit, instead of using Qt or GTK+, based its proven rock-solid stability in mission-critical applications. Then we started looking for software that would speed the development of user interfaces and deliver an improved graphical display of the system. We found solutions to both of these needs with LOOX++ from LOOX Software (http://www.loox.com/) and Builder Xcessory PRO (a 1999 Linux Journal's Editors' Choice award) from ICS (http://www.ics.com/). LOOX++ simplified the visualization of our Electrification System by providing us with the ability to easily create a graphical display for our model. We used Builder Xcessory PRO to quickly build and tailor the graphical user interface for the application.

The development of the new electrification software started in December of 1999 and took approximately three months, meeting the required date to support the San Francisco Airport Extension. The Suns that once ran the controller workstations have been retired, and Linux is now the workstation used by all controllers in the OCC.

Given the potential for human tragedy resulting from either a hardware or software failure, our selection of Linux was initially a politically charged issue. However, we have demonstrated considerable success with the new Electrification System and have recently been given the approval to initiate the second phase and convert the Train Control System to Linux, too.

The use of commodity PC hardware, not having to purchase software licenses for the operating environment and the rapid development tools resulted in a cost savings of approximately 15-20% of the project budget. The performance record of the Linux environment has been flawless despite the 24/7 active operation.

Gary A. Messenbrink is a principal computer systems engineer and long-term BART employee. Frank Ruffa is a manager of IT development at BART.

Penguins on the Concept of Teamwork

In The Penguin Post (yes, it exists, www.penguin-place.com) we recently found two reports of great interest and no importance suggesting that penguins are unusually sporting birds.

Item #1: Bird Bowling: The British Air Force in the Falkland Islands discovered a way to “bowl” for penguins by flying over large groups of the groundbound birds. See, penguins are observant creatures that are unusually interested in airplanes (flight envy perhaps?). Herds of up to ten thousand penguins will, in unison, all point their beaks at a plane flying overhead, tracking it accurately as it passes by. Sooo...if the pilots fly over the penguins at just the right angle, the little animals all fall over backwards—again in unison—just as the plane passes overhead.

Item #2: Birdball: The penguins hanging around the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Antarctica have been observed to take interest in games of football played by humans on flat fields of snow and ice.

One day the scientists came out to discover that the penguins had taken the field. They would line up in two rough groups, and then start squawking and running around bumping into each other. After a bit of this, they would pick themselves up and start the process all over again. They hadn't quite got the idea that a ball was important to the process, but they kept at it for some time. The sight was so ridiculous that everyone was rolling on the ice laughing.

Stop the Presses: Kylix Clix with CLX

Borland, the development tools company that recently returned to its original name (shedding the confusing “Inprise”), has finally come out with Kylix, its long-awaited rapid application development (RAD) Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Linux—and for cross-platform development as well.

Developed entirely for Linux as a native Linux development toolset, Kylix is also very familiar to users of Delphi, Borland's popular Windows RAD toolset. Kylix not only allows developers to use nearly identical tools and skills but to move Delphi-developed Windows applications over to Linux. Borland claims there are over two million Delphi and C++ Builder users, millions of applications, thousands of vertical and horizontal components, and over five hundred registered third-party tool and component vendors that will easily leverage from the Windows world to Linux using Kylix.

At the core of Kylix is the Component Library for Cross Platform Development, or CLX, pronounced “clicks”. This is an open-source application infrastructure that supports both the commercial version of Kylix and the core component architecture, which Borland is releasing under the General Public License (GPL). These are expressed in three product editions: Open Edition, Desktop Developer and Server Developer. All three are available as shrink-wrapped products with the Open Edition available for free download as well. All CLX class libraries, however, are open source and GPL'd.

Like other commercial Linux vendors, Borland is attempting to support both commercial application development and ubiquitous Linux-based infrastructure. There is plenty of demand for both. This was manifest before the Kylix project began, when Borland conducted an extensive survey (partly through Linux Journal) in 1999. The survey had more than 24,000 responses that included both Linux and Windows developers. RAD development tools were at the top of the wish list for both groups. The top types of planned applications were application/utility development and client/server database development.

Ted Shelton characterizes Kylix's potential impact this way:

Imagine what would happen if Microsoft open sourced .Net, the crown jewels of their new strategy to dominate the emerging market for “web services”. Imagine how thousands of developers would be able to take .Net and not just build applications with it, but truly extend it—move it to new operating systems, add functionality, specialize key interfaces for new devices, environments and vertical applications. Imagine how fast the world would change. We're ready to provide the drills, hammers and circular saws for developers to build an entirely new application infrastructure, one that will be industrial strength, open source and Linux-ready.

After the press conference announcing Kylix, it appeared to me that the deepest significance of Kylix may be in its cross-platform class libraries—in CLX. During the conference, Borland CEO and President Dale Fuller compared CLX to .Net, calling CLX “.Now”. I asked Ted Shelton if this positioned CLX as a cross-platform framework that competed not only with .Net (which is not really cross-platform but cross-language within the Windows platform), but with Java as well. He replied, “When you develop, you essentially choose a set of class libraries. Java offers one. Microsoft offers another with .Net. CLX is now the third. But it's the only one that is both open source and cross platform. I expect that after the Open Source community gets into it, the CLX libraries will outnumber Java's.”

They Said It

We need to start teaching programming and hacking in first grade or, better, earlier.

—Bob Frankston

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII, and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we've realized it's a brochure.

—Douglas Adams

Wade's Maxim: No one ever made money by typing.

—Wade Hennesey

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

—onyxruby on Kuro5hin.org

Linux is like a wigwam: no windows, no gates, Apache inside.

—Albert Arendsen

A thinking computer...you mean, like a swimming ship?

—Albert Arendsen

We cannot trust some people who are nonconformists. We will make conformists out of them in a hurry...the organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization.

—Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's

We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code.

—David Clark

Win on Lin on Thin

The New Internet Computer Company (better known by its acronym, NIC, and perhaps best known as the creation of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who owns it personally) has teamed up with Menta Software to offer the equally inexpensive and ironic combination of Windows apps running across the Net on a $199 US Linux “thin” client. The NIC, which was shown running Menta's “thin server” WinToNet at Linux World Expo in New York, is designed for schools and other “price sensitive” networked environments.

We asked Gina Smith, NIC's CEO (and former high-profile journalist) to give us the skinny on adding value to extra-thin devices. “It is really cool”, she said. “Basically, our system is a super-affordable hard disk-free Linux client. We have 56K modem and Ethernet connections built in. Using Menta's Java app, we can run Windows apps from a server over the Internet.” Adds Menta's Bruce Fryer, “Why put fat apps on a thin client? When people see WinToNet running on the NIC, they are blown away.”

What are their chances? Consider these two facts: 1) their sole stockholder is worth a few dozen billion dollars—give or take a few billion a day; and 2) their home page features a prominent link that reads “GNU General Public License”.

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