Week of March 27-April 2

by David Penn
March 31

Vocalizations! "Unfortunately for those of us looking to find one company that will drive the Web industry, it's not going to be like the PC days. I don't foresee a situation where a few companies (such as Intel and Microsoft) have the same ability to set dominant standards that drive the entire business. Instead we'll see a proliferation of standards such as MP3 for music, Bluetooth in personal-area networking, Palm OS for organizers, and so on." Aaron Goldberg, from his Upshot column, "Hardware is an outdated idea" in UpsideToday.

A Lean, Clean (and Legal) Linux DVD Machine: InterVideo, a company specializing in PC digital video and audio, just announced that it has developed the "first legal DVD software solution for the Linux OS." Once the scene of Linux's biggest hack controversy to date (read about it in our pair of hacker/cyberfreedom pieces by Jason Kroll here and here), the Linux DVD space is now starting to become downright respectable. Said vice president of sales and marketing for InterVideo, Inc. "InterVideo has made a commitment to support the Linux community with digital audio and video products. LinDVD is the first product in a lineup that will ultimately include all of our Windows multimedia products." According to InterVideo, LinDVD will give Linux users access to a wide variety of multimedia options, from DVD movies, MPEG video content and Video CDs. The decoder/player includes integrated MPEG1 and MPEG2 file playback, a powerful VCD 2.0 player, and SVCD playback. Also included is a full, multi-channel Dolby Digital audio decoder will be included. The Linux DVD player, LinDVD, is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2000. "Late" in the second quarter.

Corel Kicks Tail: Judith O'Brien of Corel Corporation writes to let us know that Corel is kicking hindquarters and taking names as the up-n-coming Linux distribution. According to PCDATA, Corel's market share in the Linux OS US retail market has increased from 2.3% in November 1999 to 19.3% in February 2000. Said Dr. Michael Cowpland, president and CEO of Corel, "Access to alternatives in the marketplace is vital for healthy competition and it fosters innovation ... People are excited about what we have to offer. We look forward to continuing this momentum with the release of WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux--the first marquee application on Linux ..." Over the same period, Red Hat saw its market share shrink from 58.5% to 40.4%, while SuSE recorded an increase almost as dramatic as Corel's, with SuSE's market share rising from less than 1% to just over 7% of the US retail Linux market. TurboLinux saw modest gains in market share, while Caldera saw its market share actually cut in half from November 1999 to February 2000.

Linux and Windows Ready to Rumble in Embedded Space: Rick Lehrbaum of LinuxDevices wrote in to tell us about the new Whitepaper taking a look at the showdown between Linux and Windows in the embedded systems market. Far from being an obscure, tedious treatise on embedded technology, Rick's piece goes from "What's an Embedded System?" to a list of "10 Reasons why Linux will beat Windows in the Embedded Market", ranging from such standbys as "control" and "rapid innovation" to the obvious "Linux is cool" and "It's not from Microsoft". In between, Rick makes a great argument for Linux as an embedded OS, and his thoughts are certainly worth reading for anyone who hasn't yet dialed in to the man who is quickly becoming the patron saint of embedded Linux.

Clued-in/Clued-out "Linux is obviously what I'm really bullish about. You can twist it and bend it and cut it and slice it and dice it however you want, and you'll still have a stable operating system in the background." Piper Jaffray analyst Amir Ahari, talking about Linux and Windows 2000 in CNET.

March 30

Vocalizations! "Instead of choosing valiantly to fight, Mr. Gates should just call it quits. Though his company won't be struggling any time soon, thanks to its still-impressive control of the desktop software arena, neither is it cutting-edge enough to warrant Mr. Gates' attention. With its huge market capitalization and massive cash reserves, Microsoft could keep its current position with Homer Simpson at the helm. But it's hardly a place for technology innovation, not when the company still considers a new operating system a really big deal." Paul Kapustka, in his article, "Big Fish: Time for Gates to leave", from Red Herring.

Anybody Wanna Buy Some Red Hat?  The world's top computer maker, IBM, is as committed to Linux as ever, as Big Blue's recent moves have shown. But that doesn't mean that IBM is beyond making a few fazools by dumping a total of 400,000 shares in Linux stalwart, Red Hat, over the last 30 days. The company filed to sell 250,000 shares of Red Hat stock on March 23, having sold 150,000 earlier in the month. The combined value of the stock sale is estimated at nearly $23 million. Red Hat's market performance, more specifically the company's fourth quarter results, has been in the news lately and, while slightly beating analysts' expectations, much of that news has consisted of hand-wringing over the company's inability to turn a profit and speculation that the "Linux bubble" (as represented by Red Hat, apparently) was only inches from the needle. While IBM has not commented on its sale of Red Hat shares, it is worth noting that while buying stock is almost always indicative of confidence in a given stock's performance (at least in the short term), there always are a hundred reasons to sell.

Can Linux be the OS in POS?  Actually, the "OS" refers to "of-sale", as in "point-of-sale" terminals, which are rapidly replacing the old-fashioned cash register as seamlessly as PCs replaced typewriters a few decades ago. But Linux is increasingly moving into this POS terminal space, a territory presently dominated by operating systems from Microsoft in particular, according to a study by IHL Consulting Group. According to Group president Gary Buzek, though Linux is "getting a lot of press" and software from both Red Hat and VA Linux is being considered by a number of POS vendors, "this will be an uphill battle ... Right now there are hundreds of POS software solutions that run on the Microsoft Win-32 architecture, while there are only a handful that run on Linux." The long and short of IHL Consulting Group's report, titled "2000 North American Retail POS Market Study", is that Linux will make inroads into the POS market, but that the "adoption rate will be slower than the hype would suggest." As for the hype, we don't know nothing about that. But as far as Linux and POS is concerned, check out Linux Journal coverage with more and less technical takes.

"We Love VA! Yes We Do! We Love VA! How About You?"  Just when Linux companies were getting their chops busted for not living up to market expectations, for not being as big and bad as Microsoft, for not making bucketloads in earnings ... up steps WR Hambrecht & Company, an on-line investment bank, to not only initiate research coverage of VA Linux Systems, but also to kick that coverage off with a brand, spanking new "buy" rating for shares in the Linux hardware maker and SourceForge steward. What makes VA Linux a "buy" in WR Hambrecht's eyes? Company analyst Keith Bachman pointed to VA Linux as offering a "complete Linux solution set" and strong branding in the Linux market. "We believe that an investment in VA Linux is an investment in one of the strongest competitors in Open Source. VA Linux is involved in virtually all parts of the Open Source market including systems, services, portals and software, and we believe it has opportunities to enhance its position in each of these markets," Keith added. VA Linux has increased its value over the past few months through acquisitions of companies like Andover.Net and through projects like SourceForge, an on-line repository and directory of open source development projects. This may help VA Linux not only live up to its fat market capitalization, but also may help it withstand competition from larger, established hardware companies such as IBM, through an increasingly diversified approach to the open source business model.

Clued-in/Clued-out "This is a double-edged sword. The bad guys have access to the same source code as the creators. They can use that information to exploit the code and make it do what they want it to do." Scott Hissan of Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute, on the subject of Linux security, as quoted in The New York Times

March 29

Vocalizations! "If those in the open source community can avoid a potential split in Linux, if POS drivers can be written, and if vendors step up for support, Linux could make some significant impact in the market. But these are some major challenges for a product that has no clear owner." Greg Buzek, President of IHL Consulting Group, talking about Linux and the POS (point-of-sale) Terminal market.

Linux's eBiz Leader Ships eDesktopCaldera Systems, Inc., fresh off its moderately successful yet widely dissed IPO last week, has announced that its "Linux desktop product for the Internet", eDesktop 2.4, is shipping. In calling eDesktop 2.4 a "product for the Internet", Caldera is referring to the software's ability to provide quick Internet access by way of preconfigured, preinstalled browser plug-ins and ISP access numbers. eDesktop 2.4 also comes with the Citrix ICA client and Webmin, which lets system administrators manage both software and configuration remotely through a Web browser. The software, which runs on top of Caldera's OpenLinux, also comes with application developing tools; the Java Development Kit from Sun Microsystems, JDK 1.2.2 is included. For more information about Caldera's "Internet obsessed" eDesktop 2.4, which retails for $39.95 USD, visit Caldera's eDeskTop Web page here.

"We're Here! We're Geeks! Get Used to It!" Maybe it took the eve of the millennium for geek consciousness to elevate to that of other socially maligned groups, but now that we're here ... Andover.net and VA Linux are sponsoring a "Geek Pride Festival" this weekend in Boston. "Do you smile like this :-)? Do you chat more online than you do in person? Have you ever argued the merits of old Star Trek vs. new Star Trek?" asks one promotional piece for the Festival. "If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you're probably a Geek." The Festival begins March 31 and ends, appropriately enough perhaps, on April 1, and there are a bevy of activities in between: from the Switchhouse Swap Party on Friday to the anti-trade show and lectures on Saturday, featuring folks like Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda and Jon Katz, from Slashdot. For more information, check out the Geek Pride Festival Website. Contrary to appearances at the Website, however, there will be no Jumping Castle. Sorry.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's ... shares of Corel?! TechWeb is reporting that shares of Corel Corporation rose by as much as 17.5% yesterday on news of Corel's acquiring the source code to International Microcomputer Software, Inc.'s FLOW and TurboProject (the press release from IMSI is here). The rocketing share price is also somewhat startling given the difficulties the Canadian software maker is facing in try to digest Borland/Inprise, which announced a merger with Corel last month (check our interview with Borland/Inprise's Dale Fuller here). As of this writing, however, the ride is over. Corel stock (Nasdaq:CORL) is down to $10.50 a share USD, after being up about $2 yesterday. It should also be noted that, while shares of Corel have not revisited the depths of their 52-week low of $2.61 USD, Corel's stock has languished ever since a dizzying plummet from its 52-week high of over $40 a share USD in early December.

Clued-in/Clued-out " ... the point needs repeating as open source spreads its message (or hype, or evangelism) beyond the OS and into other realms. The further away you get from generic OS functions and into industry or task-specific work, the harder it will be to sustain--let alone complete--a good bazaar project." Evan Leibovitch, from "Finding Itches to Scratch" at ZDNet.

March 28

Vocalizations! "Let's see, I count more than a half a dozen significantly different current versions of Windows: three W2Ks, three NTs, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows CE. There are fundamental incompatibilities between all four major variants. Funny, I don't see any stories predicting Microsoft's fall because of forking ..."--Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, in his commentary, "Linux--Fork you!" posted at AnchorDesk UK.

The Stallman Cometh: New Yorkers soon will have the pleasure of sharing their gleaming metropolis with one of Free Software's finest on Monday, April 3 when the Columbia University chapter of ACM brings Richard Stallman to campus. Titled "Copyright versus Community in the Age of Computer Networks," Richard's talk is free to the public, and will take place on the Columbia University campus at 301 Pupin. Directions and more information is available here. If you've heard aboutRichard Stallman, but not yet heard the Stall-Man himself, you can read his most recent proclamations on the UCITA legislation here, and a biography and background information from his Web page here.

Is the Hat Half Full? Perhaps it was inevitable that the mass hyping of Linux would be followed by much tongue-clucking about the fortunes of Linux companies once the E wore off and everyone had to stumble home like a group of seratonin-depleted ravers. And perhaps it was the fact that Caldera, Inc.'s IPO only popped 80% on its first day of trading (as opposed to the near 700% pop of VA Linux), that gave license to the naysayers to start pooh-poohing the prospects of a variety of Linux companies. Red Hat, once seen as the sturdiest of public Linux companies, is starting to get a few knocks--one of the more interesting coming from the open source financial site Motley Fool. What seemed like good news to many--Red Hat's announcement of fourth quarter losses that were somewhat less than analyst expectations--was only cause for deeper suspicion for some. "(Red Hat's) 28% revenue growth, at a time when a young company should be seeing hyper-growth, seems disappointing ... " noted TMF Tardior Brian Lund, and he has a point, at least if we compare companies selling free software (and services!) with other small companies in the high-technology arena. But however much the open source/free software industry has managed to erect a variety of business models that may or may not be viable over the long-term, what the industry (and its analysts) have yet to develop is a reasonable, contextual method for evaluating the real value of these Linux companies in the here and now.

Clued-in/Clued-out "Similarly, hackers have a highly-developed desire for accuracy and precision in language; spending so long learning to avoid and correct badly formed input in computer languages spills over to their use of human languages as well. This leads to a lot of programmers being labelled as incorrigible pedants, something which is a source of pride to many of them. Never argue with a programmer, as they saying goes: you both get dirty and the programmer loves it."--Simon Cozens, from his commentary posted at osOpinion.

March 27

Vocalizations! "Documentation should be viewed as an important part of the whole product. If the documentation isn't done, then the product isn't done. If a product isn't done, then it isn't released. So, if you look at it from that perspective, it's not so much 'holding back on a release' as 'not releasing until product is complete'. Will the open source community adopt this sort of attitude towards documentation? Hopefully. This doesn't go against the 'release early, release often' philosophy, either. 'Publish early, publish often' is a perfectly reasonable way to treat documentation releases, as well."  Deb Richardson, leader of the Open Source Writers Group, as quoted in an interview at Slashdot.

Double Dealing Red HatRed Hat, has chosen to brighten this last Monday of March with the announcement of not one, but two new Red Hat Linux distributions. Both Red Hat Linux 6.2 and Red Hat eCos 1.3 (Red Hat's embedded Linux OS) are scheduled to ship in early April, and Red Hat is touting the OSes as a pair, stating that Red Hat is "the only company to provide a powerful continuum of reliable open source Oses and supporting development tools ... " One of the big selling points for companies developing embedded Linux OSes has been the ability to move projects from Linux 6.2 to eCos (from "regular" to embedded operating systems) without difficulty. Red Hat Linux 6.2, Professional Edition includes such enterprise features as the CCVS credit card processing system (which Red Hat gained through its purchase of Hell's Kitchen Systems early this year), and all versions of Red Hat Linux 6.2 feature improved X configuration, a "Web-based interface for configuration of clusters" and several tools added for easing installation. Red Hat Linux 6.2, Professional Edition, is priced at $179.95 USD, and can be ordered directly from Red Hat now for those who can't wait until April. The company's embedded operating system, eCos 1.3, is also available immediately from http://sourceware.cygnus.com/ecos. Downloadable implementations for a variety of platforms are available, including ARM, Intel x86, PowerPC and SPARC, among many others.

Too Tough Torvalds? One of the more interesting "Getting to Know Linus" pieces to come around in awhile is the one that was posted late Friday at Computer Reseller News. Apparently, the cute 'n' cuddly Linus Torvalds, whose benevolent intensity is rivaled only by that of, perhaps, the Dalai Lama, has his rough side--as hackers who were unfortunate enough to present Linus with some, ahem, inferior code, were chagrined to find out. As the CRN story by "ShadowRAM" reports, Linus was driven to distraction by repeated Internet newsgroup visitors offering patches for the Linux kernel. Apparently, Linus was forced to announce: "I don't think people understand. I will not apply the patches I've seen so far. They suck. There are absolutely no advantages to doing it the stupid way." You go, Linus! Of course, the kinder, gentler Linus is still available in his interview with our Margie Richardson here.

Hip-Hop Hackers? What is Linux like? Let me count the analogies ... Well, the comparison of Linux and rap music is perhaps the most creative comparison yet, and it sure beats the hell out of that tired old "Linux is Communism" saw that we haven't seen dragged out since VA Linux broke IPO records last year. No, Linux isn't like rap music because they both share constituencies--uniquely talent but nonetheless marginalized men and boys (generally) with underdeveloped social skills inadvertently making large sums of money on something they'd just as soon do all day for free ... hey, wait a minute ... Linux is like music, say the authors, because both acted as disruptive (to use IBM's favorite phrase) agents in their respective markets: rap music literally forced its way into mainstream music, and not just because is was better than what was being offered (a debatable point, to say the least), but because listening to rap and hip-hop was, to a degree, embracing a cultural attitude and stance and, as such, offered much more than just a listening experience. Similarly, more than just offering a new way to process words, Linux introduced an alternative computing culture (open source/free software) and implicitly provided a worldview from which to understand new technology and public policy as it relates to science. Of course, since hip-hop is hip, comparing Linux to it makes Linux hip, which is one of the things you might want to if you're trying to hawk Linux mobile technologies, which seems to be the other point of the piece, as they go on to discuss Samsun YOPY PDA and other Linux-to-go offerings. Still, it's worth a read, yo'.

Clued-in/Clued-out  "The reason that we have not seen a real Linux virus epidemic in the wild is simply that none of the existing Linux viruses can thrive in the hostile environment that Linux provides. The Linux viruses that exist today are nothing more than technical curiosities; the reality is that there is no viable Linux virus."  "Ray" in a commentary called "The Short Life and Hard Times of a Linux Virus" posted to Sitereview.

Linux Flashback!  The April 1995 edition of the Linux Journal, issue 12, featured "Building Shared Libraries" by Eric Kasten, a Linux port tour by Joseph L. Brothers, and Terry Dawson's article on "Ethernetting Linux."

Wanna let everybody know? Send your announcements, thoughts, comments, rude gestures and flattering remarks to: rookery@linuxjournal.com

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