March 20, 2004

Letter from CeBIT - the world's largest IT trade show

Author: Michael 'STIBS' Stibane

Every year in March in Hannover Germany, the worlds biggest geek show runs. Nearly every company with a name in the IT business hurries to CeBIT to show off their products, including the big players in the Linux market.Red Hat mised the last two years but in 2004 they are present again. Their red clothes make some nice color dots in the otherwise yellow-themed Linux area. LPI is here. The Linux Professional Institute has now an official German subsidiary and they organized everything. The little LPI booth is so stacked with people that I had to go to a nearby restaurant to find a place to write these lines. They of course offer certification tests again this year.

The CeBIT Linux area is crowded with little booths run by many companies. Most of them provide software and solutions. While in previous years CeBIT had two major Linux centers, this year there is only one, with other Linux solution providers scattered through the rest of the show, but the Linux area has a nice big stage and many events are taking place there. Each weekday has its own topic, for instance "Desktop Day."

SUSE's exhibit was part of the Novell booth, right in front of IBM's main display. I asked one SuSE guy, since I read this article and the comments on it about their 9.1 press release, why the German and U.S. press release have different content, the English one heavily focusing on Gnome and the German one mentioning Gnome in only one sentence. Of course he played dumb -- or didn't know what I was talking about.

Since Mandrake has from my experience not had their own booths at CeBIT, I tried to find them at one of their partners, Shuttle. Nobody there. Unfortunately I haven't found the AMD stand yet. It must be in Hall One, but that hall's so huge it's like an overdimensional labyrinth. Unfortunately, there is no HP at CeBIT this year, nothing. Why is one of the world's biggest computer manufacturers not present at the worlds most important industry shows? So also no Mandrake at the HP booth. If I find one of the French guys, I'll ask him if he knows what's going on.

Deep down in the hardware halls I of course got curious, walked around and asked many of the guys in front of the screens with Windows XP about Linux support of their hardware. Most of them gave me a blank stare or, "Ahem ... well ... I unfortunately ... ahem ... have really no experience with this ..."

An ATI partner guessed about availability of an actual Linux Radeon driver but his expectations were not very friendly. On the opposite, Via reacted very positively, and Michal Lisiecki, Via marketing manager for Europe, explained that Via tests each motherboard with Linux. What he didn't let me do was make a photo of a Linux Live CD running on their upcoming Nano ITX platform. Oh, well.

Sun was showcasing its Java Desktop system and its 3D features. It's really impressive what this system is able to do, but it scares me a lot: Where is my favorite text editor? A Sun guy showed me how to turn a window around, and that you can type text on a yellow note on the backside, plus he demonstrated some basic tasks like sorting windows three-dimensionally like books om a shelf, and "shaking windows" (huh?), but I want my Kate. Anyway, it's impressiive what Sun has done with Java Desktop, but I need to run around the show and look at other exhibits. I'll send in another report Monday, which means you'll probably read it Tuesday.


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