OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

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Sometime this fall, Novell will merge the SuSE Linux distribution with the Ximian desktop in a new version of its corporate Linux release, Linuxworld.com predicts. Novell acquired SuSE earlier this year and bought Ximian last year.

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Decatur Jones analyst Dion Cornett is fairly bullish on Novell, rating its stock "outperform" in the latest issue of his Open Source Wall Street newsletter. "Near-term we believe that NOVL is having increased success selling back into its installed [NetWare] base," he wrote, seeing indications of "customers canceling plans to migrate away from NetWare and ... now bringing their enterprise licenses into compliance." In addition, he said Novell has gained some market share on Red Hat by more quickly incorporating the 2.6 kernel into its Linux distribution (Red Hat's 2.6-based version is due early next year).

August 5

"An IBM exec told the LinuxWorld gathering that his company will not use its might to wage a patent war against Linux," NewsFactorNetwork reports. And, adds our sister publication InfoWorld, he "strongly advocated others to promise the same."

Nick Donofrio, IBM senior vice president for technology and manufacturing, said intellectual property rights need to be balanced with "collaborative innovation."

The issue arose after a study claimed more than 180 registered software patents could be used to launch lawsuits against the Linux kernel (see story). That study happened to be funded by an insurance company hoping to sell policies to Linux users to protect them against such suits.

IBM was an early major-vendor adopter of Linux, and continues to actively tout the OS. "Linux server revenue and unit shipments have grown at double-digit rates since the second half of 2002," according to IDC, currently topping $900 million. Not coincidentally, IBM's server revenue growth of 20% in the first quarter vs. a year ago was more than any other major vendor (Dell was second, at 13%).

Nevertheless, the city of Munich said it has delayed plans to switch 14,000 systems from Windows to Linux, citing possible patent problems under proposed new European Union regulations, TechWorld.com says. "Software patents currently are not allowed in the EU, under the European Patent Convention, but many believe a directive currently going through the EU's legislative process could change the situation dramatically."

August 4

Mozilla's Firefox browser snared "best of show" honors at the LinuxWorld conference yesterday, selected as "an important advancement and a major step forward for Linux in the marketplace."

Although it doesn't have much market share (yet), Firefox has has been praised for user-friendly features such as ease of managing multiple windows. "Within minutes, it becomes clear that Firebird is a breath of fresh air compared to Explorer," a Forbes.com review raved this spring.

"Great software and you guys deserve it," one happy user posted on the MozillaZine Web site.

There have been 4 million Firefox downloads since version 0.9 was released, according to a Mozilla spokesman. About 8% of Firefox users run Linux.

Other honorees included Novell Nsure for security, TerraGrid DBScale for databases (a surprise to this MySQL fan), Rackable Systems Scale Out Server Series for hardware and Novell's exteNd Suite 5.2 for "integrated solution." You can see the full list of winners here.

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HP unveiled its first laptop with Linux, the Compaq nx5000 aimed at mobile business travelers. It comes with Novell's SuSE Linux, OpenOffice and Bluetooth, the company said. It will be selling for around $1,140.

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IBM is contributing more than half a million lines of relational database code to the Apache Software Foundation in an effort to "spur more communal innovation for Java application development," the company announced.

More specifically, IBM donated Derby, a version of its Cloudscape Java-based database. Derby has "a two megabyte footprint that is fully embeddable and requires zero administration support," IBM says. So, developers can use it to build applications that need some database features but not a full enterprise-class system.

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Sun previewed its "Project Janus" for Solaris 10 at the show, according to InternetNews.com. "First introduced back in April 2004 to Solaris Express subscribers, the new technology will let customers run Linux binary applications unmodified and un-recompiled on Solaris without having to acquire extra x86-based hardware," the article explains.

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Red Hat yesterday unveiled an application server -- a move that puts it into competition with IBM, an important vendor distributor of its OS, Business Week notes. However, the Red Hat application server is relatively low-cost (about $1,000/year) and lightweight, officials said, which is unlikely to intersect with IBM's higher end WebSphere. In fact, Red Hat says its server was "engineered and tested with Red Hat partner technologies, including those from BEA, IBM and Oracle."

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Will the U.S. become an also-ran in the global open-source movement? That's the spectre raised by Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik at his LinuxWorld keynote this week.

"Why is it that I can meet with the president of India, who spent an hour with me talking about how he was going to use open-source software ... to move his educational system to the 21st century, yet I struggle in my town just to get an appointment with the local school committee to introduce them to this thing called ... Linux?" Szulik asked, according to the IDG News Service.

It often seems that countries in Europe, Asia and South America are more eager to officially support open-source than in the U.S. In fact, there are governments in China, Brazil and elsewhere that are actively backing open-source developments. Of course, it's more problematic for governments here to help create competitors to major American companies such as Microsoft, which pay taxes and provide jobs.

Szulik also confirmed to Business Week that his company had considered buying SuSE Linux, but "the economics didn't work for our business. Our business is increasingly focused on robust [corporate] customer solutions. SuSE was primarily in retail distribution across Germany and [the rest of] Europe. So relative to the other priorities that we had, [including] the difficulty of integrating a company that's more than 3,000 miles away, it didn't match with our business."

August 3

Not everyone who claims to be ditching Windows for Linux actually goes through with the switch. "In another example of a large customer using the 'Linux threat' to negotiate better pricing from Microsoft, Telstra, Australia's largest telco, has backed off its prior announcement to roll out 40,000 Linux desktops. Instead Telstra has struck a deal with MSFT, valued at almost $15 million, or, we estimate, about $90 per user per year, the first enterprise-wide deal we are aware of for less than $100," writes Decatur Jones analyst Dion Cornett in the Open Source Wall Street newsletter. Telstra still plans to go ahead with a thin-client pilot project, Cornett added.

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Was Sun thinking about buying Novell? Both tech and business media are abuzz with the news, after Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz told the Wall Street Journal that was one potential target under discussion at his company. However, it never actually got as far as anyone from Sun even talking with Novell. Schwartz added that acquisitions are "a topic of daily debate." Sun has $2.1 billion in cash and $4 billion in "long-term marketable debt securities," the Journal notes.

August 2

The LinuxWorld conference and expo starts later today in San Francisco, with one theme of the four-day conference likely to be latest options for the desktop (see Computerworld story). More than 10,000 attendees and 190 exhibitors are expected, up substantially from 135 exhibitors last year, the San Jose Mercury News notes. One notable non-returnee this year: Microsoft.

Even as the open-source OS takes a major share of the enterprise server business, IDC predicts that Linux will grow to just a 6% market share with more than 10 million shipments by 2007. However, advocates say there's some serious interest in a non-Microsoft desktop overseas, and U.S. businesses are starting to notice. (My take? Notice is one thing; action is another. It's going to be tough to shake Microsoft's dominance.)

Presentations this week are slated to include tips for corporations that need to recruit Linux specialists, advice for organizations seeking to evaluate other, non-Linux open-source software and an update on how industry, government and the open-source community are collaboratinig in Brazil.

The conference will also bestow its annual Linux "product excellence awards." You can see the finalists on the conference Web site. Best open-source solution nominees: Mozilla FireFox, Computer Associates' Ingress, Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and Gentoo Linux 2004.2.

In conjunction with the conference, Unisys announced this morning that Red Hat Linux is now an option on its ES7000 servers, and E.piphany said its E.6 CRM software suite will be available to run on Linux.

July 30

"A Washington state technology union says [Microsoft] has sent increasingly high-level jobs overseas, including some related to Longhorn, the next version of Windows," the San Jose Mercury News reports. "The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers says it obtained internal documents from a Microsoft worker that show dozens of Microsoft projects now being handled by companies in India, such as Satyam, Infosys and Wipro."

A Microsoft spokesman told the paper that the union's charges were off base.

"Microsoft now employs nearly 2,000 workers in India, double the 970 number it previously acknowledged, as shown in internal company documents obtained by WashTech News," according to a posting on WashTech's Web site. "Microsoft has said that it does not send its core-technology work overseas, and that most development work is done at its Redmond, Washington headquarters. But [evidence] suggest that increasingly, higher-level development work is being sent to India."

Update: A Microsoft spokesman told the IDG News Service that key development work on Longhorn is not being done overseas. "Our partners don't work on core product development," the spokesman said. However, the company wouldn't comment on whether some non-core Longhorn work is occurring in India.

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Fewer than 1 in 10 Linux developers have been hit by viruses, according to Evans Data Corp.'s survey of 500 developers. "Contrast those findings with data from Evans' Spring 2004 North American Development Survey where 3 in 5 non-Linux developers reported a security breach and 32% experienced 3 or more breaches," the company said.

Almost 80% reported their systems have never been hacked; of those reporting intrusions, 23% were by internal users with valid access.

"The main ways that Linux machines can be compromised are: Inadequately configured security settings, vulnerability in Internet service and Web server flaws," according to the survey.

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KDE and Gnome may be the most popular desktop environments for Linux, but NewsForge notes there are others out there as well. "Sometimes a lighter-weight window manager is in order, such as for laptop usage . . . or quick start-up applications," this review says, looking at four other window managers "that are mature, fast, and functional."

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RoboTask from NeoWise Software "is a great tool at a great price, and the potential for creating powerful automation solutions is fantastic," raves columnist Mark Gibbs at our sister publication Network World. The $99 package helps automate tasks in Windows 98/ME/NT 4.0/2000/XP. It's "easy to use but offers rich and complex functionality," Gibbs says.

July 28

In the Not-Exactly-What-SCO-Was-Hoping-For-Department: A 15-store Louisiana grocery chain is switching its SCO Unixware-based point of sale system to one built around Linux.

The upgrade was originally only to update hardware, according to the integrator that won the contract at Rouse's Supermarkets, ACR Retail Systems. However, Rouse's decided on the Linux-based ACR 5000 system after estimating it would save more than $30,000 per store over five years compared to a system based on proprietary operating systems.

Jim Lockwood, development vice president for ACR, said that if all else is equal (and no legacy issues are involved), "we would recommend Linux" for clients because of its stability, cost, relative ease of administration and ability to run on many hardware platforms. "We haven't had any customers back away from Linux because of what's happened," he said, when asked about SCO's lawsuits claiming the OS infringes on its intellectual property rights.

There are some Linux-based ACR servers that have been running a year without needing to be rebooted, Lockwood said. And, he added, he doesn't think he can say the same about their systems running Windows.

July 23

SCO is "satisfied" with the outcome of the DaimlerChrysler ruling, says a headline in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald. Although a judge tossed out all but one of its claims against the automaker, a SCO statement says its suit forced DaimlerChrysler to respond whether it was in compliance with its Unix license.

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