All Linux, All the Time
My main assignment at LinuxWorld was to speak with the multitude of vendor representatives, gathering information on new products specific to Linux. I did just that. It was exhausting, but I learned a great deal and enjoyed meeting with everyone. Read on to see what new products are available for Linux.
My week began with a breakfast with the folks from Lynx. They were in town to debut BlueCat Linux 1.0, the Lynx version of Linux for embedded applications. I met with Dr. Inder Singh (Chairman), Lorie Bowlby (Marketing Director), Lou Covey (VitalCom PR) and William Hogan (President and CEO) who were the first to inform me of the "Linux fridge"--a smart refrigerator, complete with web browser. While Lynx is not connected with this device, it does offer a glimpse into the enormous potential of embedded systems. BlueCat Linux, based on Red Hat 6.1, is open source and is "part of the LynuxWorks suite that allows embedded systems development of both BlueCat Linux and the LynxOS real-time operating system with a common compatible tool set." Mr. Hogan explained that the LynxOS is quite similar to Linux, and I see from their press kit that it includes the GNU C/C++ compiler tool chain, as well as X-Windows, TCP/IP networking software and a large number of BSDI utilities.
That is all well and good, but what I found most interesting was the enthusiasm of the team. This was their first trip to LinuxWorld, and they seemed quite ready for the onslaught of interested attendees and the seemingly unlimited potential of the embedded market. With a dedication to the open-source model and support from such companies as Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Metro Link, I expect good things from Lynx. More information on Lynx can be obtained here.
For those of you who find yourself saying, "I've been looking for a free program for CAD parametric modeling for a long time...", there is Matra DataVision. I learned (and promptly forgot) a bunch of cool stuff involving the manipulation of three-dimensional geometric ... things. Open Cascade 3.0 is the most current version, and is the product I was shown. Open Cascade runs on Linux, is open source and includes C++.
Matra DataVision fully supports its product. This includes, as stated in their press kit, "consulting, deployment and implementation, education and engineering services". Matra DataVision is a worldwide company. Some of their 6,000 customers include IBM, Mack Truck and Renault.
This is a highly specialized and technical program. It is beyond my grasp, but the people from Matra DataVision seem friendly and willing to advise. Check out their web site at http://matra-datavision.com. Or, go right to to the Open Cascade page at http://www.opencascade.org.
I think it's safe to assume that most of us have heard of a little company called Hewlett-Packard, or HP. While big companies jumping on the Linux/open-source bandwagon scare me, this was certainly one of the more impressive booths at LinuxWorld. There were clusters that will one day run on the IA64 architecture. HP has joined the Trillian project-- along with Cygnus (now merged with Red Hat), Intel, SGI and VA Linux--to get this technology ported to Linux. Trillian announced at LinuxWorld that they have opened the source code to IA-64. That announcement was fairly exciting news at LinuxWorld, possibly second only to the latest acquisition by VA Linux.
Besides clusters, the folks from HP showed off their new, state-of-the-art, 3-D graphics capabilities for Linux, which were demonstrated in a gaming environment. The hardware is OpenGL on HP VISUALIZE fx+ graphics, and there are plans to release HP's large model-rendering toolkit to the Open Source community. This will enable Linux to be used with high-end technical applications in Digital Content Creation (DCC) and Mechanical Design Automation (MDA). Seems important to me.
Probably the most useful thing Hewlett-Packard is now offering is a support web site offering extensive information and software relating to HP products and Linux. Say you need to know if a certain driver will be compatible with your system, or maybe you're wondering if a scanner or sound card is right for you. All this information can be had by visiting the site, which is a collaborative effort with Aalborg University, located in Denmark. If you are into HP products, this site is for you.
Getting back to something I can understand a bit better, there is Lineo and the wonderful work being done with embedded systems. Lyle Ball, Lineo's vice president for marketing communications, was one of the nicest people I spoke with at LinuxWorld, and I see no reason why these folks won't be near the top of the embedded heap. I won't go into Lineo too much, but I will say that their Embedix Linux received the 1999 Linux Journal Editors' Choice Award for best new embedded system application. So, you know we like Lineo!
Certainly the biggest announcement from Lineo was its acquisition of Zentropix, developers of RealTime Linux, a scalable, preemptable, "and with effort--ROMable" version of a real-time Linux operating system. Jim Norton, CEO of Zentropix, seemed very optimistic about the merger, saying that "by integrating our technology with the Embedix technology, we are able to provide the embedded Linux community a greater range of powerful development tools that have more functionality than ever before." Real-time technology is an integral part of the future of embedded technology, and this partnership should produce good things.
Lineo also announced it will be joining forces (not an acquisition) with Everybook, Inc., which bills itself as "the developer of the world's first true electronic book". Everybook will use Lineo's Embedix Linux operating system and Embedix Browser with its EB Dedicated Reader, an electronic reading device designed for use with the Everybook Store, which is expected to launch this summer. Basically, this seems like an on-line library, set up to help people find data without having to actually go to a real library. Such is the way of the world!
Strong, reliable network security is a necessity these days, and Progressive Systems' Phoenix Adaptive Firewall technology has just been deemed "Linux Ready" by the know-it-alls at Linuxcare. This appliance is based on the Cobalt RaQ2, which would explain why I met with the Progressive people at Cobalt's booth.
The Phoenix Firewall uses a 64-bit, 250MHz RISC processor. It reaches speeds of 45MBps, and offers support for IP, TCP, UDP, ICMP, GRE and IPSEC. You get a dual Ethernet interface and a LCD front panel, which allows for a very short set-up time. The Phoenix is compatible with most Linux distributions including Caldera, Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux. A limited trial of the product can be downloaded for free at http://www.progressive-systems.com.
Cartoons can't be just cartoons these days. Today, a comic strip, User Friendly in this case, has become a "Media" group. The strip is now a "brand". I am not saying this is bad ... actually, I'm not sure what I'm saying, because I would prefer it to be just a cartoon. Still, I would like nothing more than to see Illiad and the UFie faithful take over the comic strip world. With 10 million web site hits per month, they seem well on their way.
So, I am mentioning User Friendly under vendor news, because it IS a product, one that requires endless hours of work, strategic market planning and the like, just as any other product. At the UF booth, you could buy t-shirts, dust puppies, books and more. These characters have been brought to life in stuffed form through video rendering and, most impressively, through the time-honored form of mascoting. The Dust Puppy was hands-down the coolest mascot at LinuxWorld.
User Friendly has become extremely successful. The first book is out, and another is on the way. There are talks of an animated version, and who knows what else? The sky seems to be the limit. I went home with a Dust Puppy and a signed copy of the first book (thanks, Illiad!). Now go to the web site and show some support!
Well, these are just a few of the companies I visited at LinuxWorld. Look at the "Vendor News" section in the May Linux Journal for more information on the exciting world of Linux products and services.