August 9, 2001

Checking back on LinuxOne: A former employee's tale

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

After a long period of silence, it's time again to check on LinuxOne, that Linux company that many in Open Source community like to accuse of trying to cash in on the Linux IPO craze of 1999. The company seems to have disappeared even farther into the woodwork than previously noted.

LinuxOne (not to be confused with a Korean company that at last report was calling itself NuxOne to avoid confusion) launched in March 1999, filed for an IPO, then promptly disappeared. At last report, LinuxOne was merging with a Baltimore, Md., white box manufacturer, Micromatix.net, but that deal is apparently long dead. A search at Google and Hotbot turns up no merger news since the an October 2000 press release announcing the intended merger.

So it's a slow August news day, and I figure I'll poke around a little more to see if anything's turned up since our last report. Since the first NewsForge story, I've exchanged email with Rick Collette, LinuxOne's v.p. of software engineering for short time, and asked him if he's heard anything new.

Collette, founder of the DeepLinux project and now an engineer with the Redmond Linux, has a lot of second-hand information about LinuxOne, but also observed a lot in his four months with the company in early 2000.

Collette says LinuxOne lured him to Silicon Valley with promises it intended to market a product. "Two weeks after I arrived, the CTO quits," he says. "I'm
moved up from senior software engineer to v.p. of software engineering (I
have no idea WHY... I was happy as a code monkey).

"They turned down every product I came up with, from a games installer for Linux ... to embedded OSes, to console designs. I thought my ideas and designs must have been really bad, turns out, they aren't trying to sell ANYTHING. The sales staff was getting all frustrated, the marketing people loved what I kept bringing them, but
when the CEO presented them to the founder, he would say no. The rest
of the engineering staff had been working on getting Linux working on a
Fujitsu Siemens settop box. Nine months they worked with no results."

Others in the company, which had about 30 employees when Collette first started, were working on a top-secret remote USB project that he says most geek kids could create with information on the Internet. LinuxOne had another company create a plastic box, and LinuxOne was pitching its remote USB product to customers using the empty case, Collette says.

The company, he says, was spending $30,000 a month. "We didn't have $30,000 worth of anything," he says. "We borrowed most of the equipment to do development on."

Collette says when he questioned why the company wasn't trying to create a product, he was fired.

Collette doesn't include his LinuxOne experience on his resume, but he's still sad that LinuxOne actually had a working product, LinuxOne Lite, a small version of Linux designed to run beside Windows without partitioning. "That was a really good product," he says. "It worked on systems nobody else could get [similar products] to work on. It could've given us a springboard."

No one from LinuxOne was available to comment on Collette's version of events or the proposed merger with Micromatix.net. Emails to LinuxOne's info addresses weren't returned, and no one answers the phone at LinuxOne's California phone number.

Micromatix.net CEO Timothy Jewell doesn't return a phone message, and Michael J. Morrison, a Nevada lawyer that was representing LinuxOne in the merger, hasn't returned an email or a phone message.

Collette says he sees LinuxOne founder Wun Chiou's wife around Mountain View, Calif., checking on the several properties the couple manages there. But Collette says he hasn't seen Chiou himself for several months.

Category:

  • Open Source
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