March 23, 2004

More inside information from CeBIT 2004

Author: Michael 'STIBS' Stibane

HANNOVER, Germany -- Saturday was consumer day at CeBIT 2004, where more than 220,000 people visited in the first three days. Most visitors come with empty bags and go home with filled ones. After an interesting dinner with Evan Leibovich and the German LPI guys -- and too little sleep -- we were back in the booth with minutes to spare before the gates opened.

Torsten Scheck, a German member of LPI's board of directors, talked about upcoming projects for the Linux Professional Institute. They plan developing an open source system for test delivery. I think I heard that they are looking for developers. Then the masses started to roll in, and we got busy answering questions. Unfortunately, we had to deny requests for on-paper tests because all the seats were taken.

I visited Lithuania on Sunday. Just the booth, actually. They had an interesting piece of hardware there: a Linux cluster solution based on Oscar. One of the company's clients is an Italian police department which uses the appliance for fingerprint recognition. They told me Linux is really big at the universities and in the companies there, since people are not rich and Linux has just the right price for gaining knowledge and getting the work done. I think we can expect some interesting developments in the software market when they finally join EU this May.

I was searching for AMD again today, but they don't have a real booth. "Mr. Nobody" noted in a comment on the first article (thanks!) that there was a well hidden, very little AMD booth on a balcony in the hall. They seemed to follow the proven Mandrake model by splitting their presence among roughly 20 partner stands.

Looks like Linux New Media AG, who issued the Linux Magazine in UK, Germany, Romania, and Poland, built the Linux hotspot of this year. We had dinner at a Spanish restaurant with Brian Osborn from Linux New Media. We talked about things such as the Linux scene in the UK, which he considers in need of a healthy push -- not to mention more cooperation.

The MySQL booth was buzzing a lot of the time.

At the presentation highlights at the Linuxparc stage, Gnome, KDE, OpenOffice.org, LPI, and security experts received heavy applause for their slides and speeches. Biggest event while I was there was Klaus Knopper's presentation of Knoppix 3.4. It was funny to see it scan all the Bluetooth cellphones within a 20-meter radius. Some guys use strange names for their devices, thinking nobody will ever find them; then their names appear on a large screen in front of about 150 people. It was so packed for the demo, nobody could push a way through the crowd.

The German Ministry of Inner Security passed out its annual data security report as a PDF document on a self-running Knoppix CD. "Runs from CD, no installed operating system required" was written on the case.

The joke of Sunday was a band around the Microsoft booth which proclaimed in fat letters, "Do not pass!" There probably is probably nothing more closed than Microsoft in this IT world. But as good open source fellows, we just stepped over it, went went right through.

Monday morning, I finally had a chance to get a word with the Gnome guy. Here is his little-big secret: The new version will be released on Wednesday, March 24. It features the new file chooser in which the OSnews discussion and Eugeniasexample interface caused a bit of buzz in the community. He compiled it in front of my eyes. And hey, you indeed can make the Gnome icons smaller. As everywhere, it's just a matter of settings. The default ones are just way too big and take alot of space on our small XGA laptop screens.

OpenOffice.org was at the same booth, called the "Open Booth." They do very well. We brainstormed with them about a Linux desktop certification and a university project in Germany, where OpenOffice.org could be handed out as the tool to write their theses. But we would need a nice template and some funding for CD production.

The Lithuanian booth did not lack for color.

On my way out to my car, I stumbled by the MySQL stand. They shared it with the Arkeia guys. MySQL wasn't at the SAP booth, but all the SAP guys knew about the partnership with the Finnish company. Their Linux involvement caused them to be very friendly with me, even though I had no tie around my neck. I had an interesting talk with Frederic Renard from Arkeia about their new standalone backup server solution, and a not so successful one with the sales lady from Babylon Translator. I asked her, when their translation tool will be available for Linux. She then had to ask the big boss whose face was stone after she came back. Well, it's not planned within the next nine months. There already are similar tools for Linux, but I was playing dumb.

Yes, I'm bad. Of course, I had planned this with the guy from the Debian stand one evening, drinking a beer after the show. He will walk around in his spare time and ask more of these questions. You should see my evil grin here.

Let me close this with an overall observation about what I saw during my three and a half days at CeBIT: Linux is going big business -- Linux business on the server side, Linux business on the client desktop. Most companies monitor Linux and its big gain of market share, and many prepare solutions. For instance, one company which builds reporting tools and consults for financial software solutions -- with many clients in the Top 500 companies -- is right now porting their AIX solution to Linux. It will be available by the end of the year.

Linux today means business for everyone, in every country. But while you're doing the business, please don't forget to give back to Linux and the community which built the base for your business success.

Michael "STIBS" Stibane is a regular NewsForge contributor based in Europe.

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