August 30, 2001

Another Linux show, another $100,000

Author: JT Smith

- By Robin "Roblimo" Miller -
My feet are tired, but not as tired as they would be if this week's LinuxWorld in San Francisco had been as big as previous ones. There was a good collection of big, slick corporate booths, the kind that cost $100,000 or more to build (plus fees to be there at all), and a number of smaller commercial exhibitors. There were even a few semi-exciting products on display, but not nearly as many as at past LinuxWorld Expos.
I am tired of covering trade shows. I have been to enough of them that none of them seem to offer anything new. Yes, this company has a server that is a little faster and smaller than the ones they were selling last year, and so-and-so has replaced version 5.3.4 of their software with version and is making major hoopla over it, but so what? Been there, done that, got the sore feet and dozens of logo-emblazoned T-shirts to prove it. The swag level this week is down from previous Linux shows, a phenomenon that is not Linux-specific; every computer industry show I've been to in 2001 has less swag, fewer exhibitors, and fewer attendees than last year.

Most of the truly innovative stuff shown off at this Linux World won't surprise any dedicated NewsForge, Slashdot, Linux Weekly News or Linux Today reader, because it's all been covered fairly well by one site or another. Kylix and some of the other things Borland is working on, like the upcoming Delphi 6 for Linux, are good news because they will make it easier for developers used to working in Windows to develop Linux applications easily and rapidly. Kylix, at least, deserves a full review, not just a brief mention, and that's not something you can do at a show. (NewsForge will have a complete Kylix review within a few weeks.)

Codeweavers' CrossOver is kind of nice. It is essentially a Wine version optimized to run Windows browser plugins, so using Linux no longer means you are a second-class Netizen, forbidden to watch QuickTime movies or play Shockwave online games. This is not free software; it's like $20 downloaded, $30 on CD. You'll have to decide for yourself if it's worth the money, and free software purists won't want anything to do with it. If you're installing CrossOver on Mandrake 8.0, you had better read the README file on the CD first (assuming you're installing from a CD). There is a Mandrake-specific installation issue to deal with, one that is no big deal if you know about it, but is guaranteed to drive you up the wall if you don't.

I strongly suggest reading the CrossOver license agreement instead of just clicking "I agree." I don't say this because the terms are onerous, but because this license is actually interesting to read! Other than that, there is nothing to say about CrossOver. It worked as advertised for me. NewsForge's Dan Berkes already reviewed this piece of software, and he liked it. CrossOver was also mentioned on Slashdot, mostly favorably, on August 28th.

Thinking of CodeWeavers and Wine, they figure heavily in another interesting commercial project, TransGaming, which has already been the subject of several Slashdot discussions. Gavriel State, TransGaming CEO, is a very cool guy. He wears a floppy cloth hat much like one I got several years ago at a Renaissance Faire, sort of a medieval savant thing. He didn't tell me anything, really, that I couldn't have learned from his Web site, but the main reason we go to shows is to put faces to the names and email addresses, right?

The last item at LinuxWorld that really jazzed any of the people I was hanging with there was the OmniCluster SlotServer. This is serious mojo hardware that deserves a serious review by someone who really knows what they're doing in a production server environment. Brian Aker, Slashcode and Apache developer, is going to do that review. We hope the SlotServer works as well in Brian's tests as it did in the demos at the show; we've got to admit, we like the OmniCluster people a lot. They are not slick on marketing, but they know their stuff. They're good, old-line engineers, from CEO Chris Fleck on down, very helpful, and proud of their work in a way no big company team could ever be. (It may not be impartial journalism to root for a small company run by cool folks, but that's the way it goes.)

On the swag front, the most interesting items around were some giant-sized Velcro wire ties that James McHugh, webmaster for San Francisco ACM SIGGRAPH pointed out would make perfect bondage gear. "You open them like this," he said as he demonstrated one of the little cloth devices. "The arms go here, and this part goes around the bedpost."

We are politely not mentioning the name of the company that was giving away these items.

Tomorrow: a cruise through the .org pavilion.


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