March 23, 2007

Open source at CeBIT 2007

Author: Dmitri Popov

Although CeBIT has been shrinking steadily for the past few years, there were still plenty of interesting things and exciting products on display at the big trade show earlier this month, especially if you are interested in open source.

Traditionally, most companies that work with open source software cluster at the Linux Park in Hall 5, and this year was no exception. Nor was there any exception to another CeBIT tradition, namely the release of a new version of Knoppix, which is now at version 5.2. However, this time Klaus Knopper -- Mr. Knoppix himself -- wasn't handing out free disks and answering visitors' questions. Instead, German publisher Heise was selling copies of its C't magazine containing the latest version of Knoppix.

This release focuses on virtualization, and Knoppix is the first Linux distro that includes an open source version of the VirtualBox virtualization software. The 5.2 version also comes with QEMU (including the KQEMU acceleration module), Xen, VServer, and OpenVZ. Besides this virtualization bonanza, the new version features a brand new installer called 0wn (Zero Work Needed), which replaces the Knoppix installer. As the name suggests, the new installer offers a more straightforward way of installing Knoppix. The new version will be available for download sometime in April.

Speaking of VirtualBox, I had a nice chat with Dr. Ulrich Möller of InnoTek, the company that develops the software. According to Möller, the past few months have been pretty exciting for the company. The release of VirtualBox under the GPL generated enormous interest in the software: on January 15 alone (the official date of the release) the software was downloaded more than 60,000 times.

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Although the company has no plans to release binary versions of the VirtualBox Open Source Edition, the software is already included in Knoppix 5.2, and, according to Möller, the upcoming version of Ubuntu (Feisty Fawn) will come with VirtualBox as well (although I wasn't able to confirm that). While the company continues to release incremental updates for version 1.3, InnoTek expects to launch a major release of the software in a few weeks' time. There are three major new components in VirtualBox 1.4: a Mac OS X version of the software, a 64-bit version, and the ability to work with VMware images without any modifications whatsoever. It looks like this release will make life harder for both VMware and Parallels.

At this year's CeBIT the developers of O3Spaces, which we've covered before, were presenting the upcoming version of the document collaboration software. The current version of O3Spaces provides integration with the suite using a separate Workplace Assistant applet. The new version will offer much better integration with both and Microsoft Office via an extension and plugin respectively. Both modules provide seamless access to most of O3Spaces' features directly from within the office suites, including automatic check in and check out, versioning, comments, and the ability to publish documents.

CeBIT wasn't all software, though. Yoggie Security Systems showed Yoggie Gatekeeper, a neat Linux-based device designed to keep Windows users safe from viruses, spam, and other nasties. The device boasts no less than 13 integrated security applications, including anti-spam, anti-phishing, anti-spyware, anti-virus, email proxies for POP3 and SMTP, Web proxies for HTTP and FTP, a VPN client, and a stateful inspection firewall. Best of all, you don't have to worry about installing, configuring, and updating the device: simply plug Yoggie into a USB port in your computer, or add it to your network, and you are ready to go. Since Yoggie easily fits in the palm of your hand, it's even suited for laptop users on the move.

All in all, it was a good CeBIT this year. While it can't compete with shows dedicated exclusively to Linux and open source software, it still provides a good overview of what's shaking in the open source world.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, US, German, and Danish computer magazines.

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