March 22, 2001

Web review: Developers can plunge into the blue-ness of IBM.com

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -

My boss got a press release from IBM recently, touting the new and improved IBM.com Web site. First thing I did was go test it out with my version of Konqueror -- it still doesn't work, but they tell me that this time it is Konqueror's fault. The latest version of KDE's browser is completely compatible with IBM.com. I guess I should upgrade. Tomorrow.Then my other boss (are we detecting an unpleasant trend here?) noticed a freaky, swirly, psychedelic kind of ad on the front page of NewsForge. Being the curious cat that I am, I clicked on it, and guess what? It was an ad for IBM.com. Big Blue sure is getting funky these days. If you were anywhere near the party IBM threw for LinuxWorld attendees back in February, then you know what I mean.

Yes, it's a far cry from the old days of no facial hair, white button-down shirts, and blue ties. IBM is catering to Linux developers now, and it's a brave GNU world.

But what about the Web site? Is IBM.com useful? Or is it yet another slick corporate brochure? When I pull up the main page, I notice that some things never change. It's big and there's a lot of blue. Menu on the left side with several choices. I pick "developers" and then "linux." (No, I'm not a developer, but I play one on ... uh, I write stuff for them.)

The page comes up. Looks full of things at least worth investigating. One cool graphic -- an oyster shell with a glowing blue pearl inside. It highlights a feature article entitled, "A Programmer's Environment." As I click through, a subtitle tells me more: "Optimizing your machine for your needs." Let's see: written by Teodor Zlatanov in March of 2001! It's current. This is good.

One of the beginning paragraphs explains:

"This article is intended for the intermediate to advanced Linux user. Perl 5.6.0, or at least 5.005, should be installed in order to do some of the examples. The Emacs editor is
mentioned and may need to be installed if you want to try the Emacs examples. The Enlightenment window manager is mentioned and may need to be installed together with the
Eterm terminal emulator, but most recent window managers and terminal emulators have features similar to what Enlightenment and Eterm provide in the context of this article."

It turns out to be a nice, long article that is packed chock full of usable knowledge. It's a keeper. OK, back to the main Linux developers' page. What else? I see something called "Zone Highlights" and a list of articles and summaries underneath: hardware diagnosis techniques, security-enhanced Linux, learn to use CVS, write GUI apps in minutes, and the story behind the new K desktop environment. All very much on topic. I am particularly interested in the CVS tutorial.

Wow. Big surprise. This is no mere article. It's a two hour tutorial that requires (free) registration. Somehow, I already have a user ID and password for IBM.com, so I jump right in.

The tutorial gives step by step instructions for compiling and installing CVS from sources. Then it talks about basics like CVSROOT, the remote password, interacting with CVS, and for developers, there's info about how to modify files, deal with merging conflicts, the CVS commit, and the .cvsrc file.

I don't have time to absorb the tutorial right now, so I back out and find that there is a long list of these tutorials: compiling the Linux kernel, advanced Linuxconf, Java courses, and hey, even "Brave GNU World" tutorials. There are too many to list here.

I go back to the main page because I noticed a few columns earlier. We have "Charming Python," "Common Threads," and "Cultured Perl," the latest issue of which is one and the same as the featured article I mentioned earlier.

All of this is only the information linked to in the center column of the page. I haven't even mentioned anything off to the sides, like "favorite links," "latest developerWorks Open Source projects," (there are several), and other things you will find interesting if you are interested in Linux.

No kidding, they don't call it Big Blue just for the heck of it. There is almost too much information here -- definitely more than you can consume in one sitting. It's the Disney World of developer's sites -- but it won't set you back a week's salary to check it out.

Let me know what you think of IBM's developerWorks site for Linux. And if you know of a site worthy of the NewsForge spotlight, pass that along, too.

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