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Where, oh where is SAIR?

by Tina Gasperson
The SAIR Linux/GNU certification body has been keeping a low profile since it was absorbed into Thomson Learning. Not only that, but Thomson has been tight-lipped about the program – incommunicado. Whether that’s due to typical corporate confusion about who’s babysitting what, or to a deliberate effort, we’re not sure. But a little-known .org has surfaced to rescue SAIR, and it is backed by some biggies who have a stake in the success of getting staff members trained on Linux.The search for SAIR began with a call to Thomson Learning’s press contact. They told us to send an email to reply@course.com with our request and it would be “filtered” to the correct person. “Can I have an actual name?” I asked.

“No, we have to decide who is supposed to get it after we receive the email,” the Thomson representative said. When pressed, she said that the reason it is so difficult to get in touch with a real person is that they are not sure what they’re going to do with SAIR.

NewsForge never received a response to that inquiry. Likewise, it was difficult at first to get a response through the organization that the SAIR website points visitors to: the Linux Professional Group.

“Sair Linux and GNU Certification has moved to Houston, Texas and has been integrated into Linux Professional Group. Linux Professional Group is developing, promoting and managing the SAIR Linux GNU certification. SAIR Linux curriculum is available exclusively through Course Technology, Thomson at 1-800-648-7450 x8269. For all other information and requests, please email us at support@linuxpg.org or call us toll-free at (866) OK-LINUX.”

We called the toll-free number and asked for the media relations department.

“I handle that,” said the lady who answered the phone. I gave her my spiel, asking for statistics on pass/fail ratios, the number of people certified with SAIR, employment figures, etc. “Oh, I don’t have that information,” she said. “Let me give you the email address of the president.”

“Can you give me his phone number?” I asked, remembering the recent “reply@course.com” snub. She insisted that she could not, but that if I sent my questions in email format to one Bill Patton, that he would respond in a day or so.

Making a mental note that the people who had told me that SAIR was toast were probably right, I took down the email address, formatted the questions, and sent them. Waited over a week for a response; called again and walked through almost exactly the same conversation with the same person. When she got to the part about emailing the president, I called her on it. “OK,” she said, “email the questions to me and I will find the answers and get back to you by tomorrow noon.”

Lo and behold, I get a phone call at about 5:10pm that same day from Bill Patton, the head man at the mysterious Linux Professional Group, who wants to answer my questions about SAIR.

“We have about 5000 people certified, including Linux Certified Administrators, Linux Certified Professionals, Linux Certified Engineers, and Master Linux Certified Engineers,” says Patton. He adds that the pass/fail ratio for the first level exams is 60/40, and the ratio is about 50/50 for the Engineer level exams.

Patton says that the Linux Professional Group was formed at the behest of Thomson, who called Patton because he has been the head of SAIR’s steering committee, a group that has included notables such as Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, Bruce Perens, and John Hall. Patton says that SAIR’s founder, Tobin Maginnis, is the president emeritis of Linux Professional Group. Of Thomson’s seeming inability to deal with SAIR, Patton says they “pushed it the best way they knew how. They didn’t have too many people inside who were part of the Open Source community,” and hence the confusion over how best to administer the certification body.

Interesting is Patton’s assertion that several large corporations have signed on to the Linux Professional Group in hopes of bringing SAIR training and certification to their enterprises in a big way. “We’ve got people from Fedex, GlaxoSmithKline, HewlettPackard, [and others] helping us develop the courseware and the testing.”

Why is SAIR any better than, say, LPI? According to Patton, it’s the courseware. LPI justs makes the tests, and it is up to training centers and authors to create training materials. SAIR, by contrast, creates training materials using the same psychometrics and competencies it employs putting together the exams. Pattons says that makes for better training.

SAIR is targetting Fortune 100 and 500 companies that are moving from Unix or Solaris-based systems to Linux, says Patton. “Our test developers are from many corporations that are supporting Linux.”

Little information is available about the Linux Professional Group – the website is unfinished and looks too homey to be backed by big corporate bucks. A June 27, 2002 press release calls the Linux Professional Group “a non-profit developer of Linux curriculum, training, and testing, to deliver the official Sair Linux and GNU certification and training materials,” but it’s apparent that little actual development nas taken place yet, almost six months later.

There are rumors that that other Linux certification body, Linux Professional Institute (LPI), had a problem with Linux Professional Group because the name is just too similar and could be a trademark violation. Patton denies that allegation; he says that he’s had many discussions with LPI, but the subject of trademark violation has never come up. He believes the names are not too similar, and that Group and Institute are different enough to clearly delineate the two organizations.

Is there a rivalry between LPI and SAIR? If there is, it goes back at least to 1998, when Tobin Maginnis, Dan York, then president of the BOD of LPI, and Evan Leibovitch, current BOD president, exchanged a little vitriol on the lpi mailing list. Back then, when there was still talk of creating one central certification body for Linux, it was apparent the SAIR camp and the LPI camp weren’t ready to work together. There’s nothing to indicate they are ready yet, although industry insiders have said that there’s a possibility if SAIR were to fall through the cracks at Thomson, LPI would be willing to scoop it up.

SAIR tests are still readily available through Thomson at local training centers around the globe. The tests are downloaded and administered on demand by proctors at the training centers. The average cost to take a SAIR examination is $100.


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IBM Linux Scholar Challenge: Jeanna’s story

“Jeanna Matthews, assistant professor of Computer Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, had only six students in her Advanced Operating Systems class last year. All of them entered the IBM Linux Scholar Challenge. Four of them won. And won big: IBM ThinkPads for themselves and an IBM Linux zSeries for the University! How did this small technology school in the frozen north country of New York State produce three of the 25 winning Linux Scholar Challenge projects worldwide? To tell you how, Dr. Matthews shares her classroom experiences and illustrates the teaching environment at Clarkson. In the rest of our series, the students give you the details on their winning entries.” More at IBM developerWorks.


  • Linux
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Open Source hardware

Embedded.com: “Hardware design’s growing abstraction might lead you to think open-source development is just around the corner. Jim [Turley] says that’s not the case.”


  • Open Source
  • Forums

Real-Time and Linux, Part 2: the preemptible kernel

“By improving the kernel, and not changing or adding to the API, applications can run more responsively by merely switching out a standard kernel for the improved one. This is a big benefit. It means that ISVs need not create special versions for different real-time efforts. For example, DVD players may run more reliably on an improved kernel without needing to be aware that the kernel they are running on has been improved.” More at LinuxDevices.


  • Linux
  • Forums

Weekly news wrap-up: Microsoft loses Lindows fight, Sun to charge for StarOffice

By Grant Gross

A judge has ruled against an injunction Microsoft is seeking against Lindows.com, the company that’s trying to make more Microsoft programs work in Linux. Microsoft alleges that Lindows is violating its Windows trademark, but our own Jack Bryar notes dozens of other cases where Windows or Windows-like names are used in company products.

Looks like Microsoft either has dozens of trademark violation cases to sue over, or much more likely, will be told by a judge that if it wants a trademark, it should come up with words less common than windows, word or office. But don’t hold your breath — when was the last time you saw Microsoft do something truly innovative?

In other business-related news, there were several reports this week of Sun Microsystems’ plans to start charging for its popular StarOffice suite, an alternative to Windows that opens most Microsoft-formatted documents. The Open Source project for OpenOffice will continue, however.

Disney buys a bill

Sen. Fritz Hollings — who’s from South Carolina but gets a sizable chuck of money from Disney and other large copyright holders –finally introduced a version of his Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, now going by the name the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. The proposed law would require electronics manufacturers to embed copy-protection controls in all PCs and consumer electronic devices sold in the United States, pretty much squashing any kind of fair use rights the public has on copyrighted works, and further limiting legitimate reverse engineering done by Open Source developers and others.

I’m not sure how much good a few thousand signatures will do against the corporate resources of Disney and and the motion picture industry, but there is an anti-SSSCA petition available. The petition had more than 70,000 signatures as of Sunday evening.

Linux at federal trade show

Linux continues to be in the background at the FOSE technology-in-government trade show, but don’t blame the efforts of the Northern Virginia LUG. Members were hoping to pass out 1,000 Linux CDs at the three-day event.

Several government agencies are using Linux and Open Source, however. On Friday, the Cyberspace Policy Institute at The George Washington University announced a plan to gain an international security rating for the U.S. National Security Agency’s Security Enhanced Linux project.

Also this week, Internet architects at the U.S. Census Bureau detailed how Open Source software is being used on several agency Web projects.

Newly released

  • Mandrake 8.2 was release, but some users reported some installation problems.

  • Netscape 6.2.2 hit the download sites this week.

  • One reader says we should “prepare to fall in love with KDE 3. The was released this week.

    Newly reviewed

  • LinuxLookup.com reviews RAV AntiVirus v8.5 for Linux. “Defiantly a must have for you system administrators!”

  • OSNews has a review of the Lycoris Desktop/LX Linux distribution, but says the OS isn’t quite ready for the desktop.

    New at NewsForge and Linux.com

    Other stories that NewsForge and Linux.com reported first this week:

  • Tina Gasperson reported on Caldera’s OpenLearning product, a Linux training curriculum for everyone from new users to big business customers.

  • Robin “Roblimo” Miller talked to a custom browser programmer about the ease of moving from development based on Internet Explorer to Mozilla, now that AOL is planning to use the Mozilla engine as its default browser.

    Stock news

    The Nasdaq ended last week at 1.851.30, down ever-so-slightly from the 1,868.30 March 15 close. It was the second week in a row the Nasdaq fell. Of our index of 11 Open Source-related stocks, 10 fell, with only MandrakeSoft rising a week after the company asked for more customer support because of a cash crunch.

    Red Hat saw its stock price tumble 17% Wednesday on reports of lower than expected quarterly earnings. The company did report an “adjusted” profit, despite what was called “weak” sales.

    Hewlett-Packard’s merger with Compaq was approved by Compaq shareholders, but even that didn’t help HP’s stock price.

    Here’s how Open Source and related stocks ended this past week:

    Company Name Symbol 315 Close 3/22 Close
    Apple AAPL 24.95 24.09
    Borland Software Int’l BORL 12.26 11.99
    Caldera International CALD 2.05 1.61
    Hewlett-Packard HWP 19.05 18.15
    IBM IBM 106.79 105.60
    MandrakeSoft 4477.PA e2.89 e3.00
    Red Hat RHAT 7.10 5.95
    Sun Microsystems SUNW 9.06 8.86
    TiVo TIVO 5.32 5.18
    VA Software LNUX 1.89 1.72
    Wind River Systems WIND 13.73 12.53
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    Author: Benjamin D. Thomas

    MkLinux takes advantage of the Mach Kernel abstraction to run on
    HPPA, Intel, and PowerPC. MkLinux will run on almost all Macintoshes, with new support added every week. MkLinux is based on Red Hat with a new kernel
    for more hardware support.


    MkLinux is an Open Source operating system which consists of an implementation of the Linux operating system hosted on the Mach microkernel. We
    estimate that there are somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 MkLinux users. A significant number of the installed MkLinux systems are being used in
    mission-critical applications.

    Why MkLinux?

    MkLinux abstracts the hardware from the operating system and allows the possibility of running multiple operating systems at the same time. The two
    operating systems essentially should be able to coexist without affecting each other.

    MkLinux is a microkernel based operating system which is 100% compatible with the monolithic (ie. original) Linux since it is based upon almost
    entirely unmodified Linux code, but becomes trivial to port to any platforms supported by the OSF Mach3 microkernel. The Linux sources now include the
    Mach interface as a new machine type, but the same sources can equally well be used to build the original monolithic linux.

    By using the OSF Mach3 microkernel the resulting Linux system will also be able to take advantage of additional functionality made available such as
    SMP, MMP, and hard real-time support, to mention but a few.

    Visit http://www.mklinux.org/ for more information.

    KSI Linux

    Author: Benjamin D. Thomas

    KSI Linux (current release is 2.0) is a powerful well built
    distribution with support for
    Russian, English and Ukranian languages.

    About KSI-Linux

    Number 1 Russian and Ukranian Linux – suitable for all!

    OS Linux has become the most popular UNIX-like operating system about the end of XX century, and also a cheap alternative to cost-intensive (HP,
    Sun Solaris, Digital
    UNIX) solutions. At present, the pace of Linux’ occupying the marked (compared to other OSes) is the most intensive and the tendency stay on.

    The strong point of Linux is it’s mulipurpose nature. Linux covers all the range of applications, from desktop PC to powerful
    super-high-performance clusters of computer
    systems. Today multiprocessing Linux kernel successfully functions on a wide range of hardware platforms: PC, DEC Alpha, Apple Macintosh, DEC VAX,
    PalmPilot, HP
    PA-RISC, Sun Microsystems SPARC and Ultra-SPARC-64, StrongArm, etc.

    A wellknown problem of software localization in order to suit Russina and Ukrainian’ users requirements is not viewed by western manufacturers of
    Linux distributions as the
    one worth an attention. Instead they are annoyed with quantities of small bugs in different Linux distributions, with the absence of qualified
    consulting and product technical
    support services for Ukrainian users. The spectrum of applications distributed with Linux system by foreign vendors is insufficient to solve the set
    of tasks common for
    Ukrainian users, ISPs, other IT companies.

    On January 27, 1999, with conformance to the world-wide process of Linux development, an own custom Linux distribution — KSI Linux 2.0 (Nostromo)
    — was announced by
    Global Ukraine engineers. This new version has been developed for about a year after previous, 1.2 (Tornado) version of KSI Linux was issued.

    The arrival of this distribution is backed by desire to get an industrial quality, full-featured all-in-one product, which will be developed in
    conformance with Linux project
    world-wide. KSI Linux project assumes distribution of the product almost for free (at the cost of CDROM) and provision of support and consulting
    services for Ukrainian users.

    KSI Linux 2.0 distribution (already available on CDROM) is supplied with a set of software packages necessary and sufficient for many common tasks.

    At present, the process of “KSI Linux Co.” creation is almost complete. Company’s main goal is the most complete and qualified satisfaction for a
    demand of Ukrainian
    companies and enterprises, and personal users, for this software product, and provision of technical support and consulting services for them.

    Even today the emerging company is able to satisfy Ukrainian market demand for ready-to-run, stable, localized, professional quality Linux
    distribution, and in the nearest
    future the company will be able to extend it’s supply to the international market of former-USSR countries. The product went through a year of field
    testing at Global Ukraine’
    production servers. Today KSI Linux backs up almost every PC-platform server of first complete Linux distribution built around the new-generation
    kernel of version 2.2.x,
    while all other Linux distributions offered worldwide are based at 2.0.x kernels. The product than get an ability to support all the modern PC
    hardware which arrived on the
    market during last two years — RAID arrays, watchdogs, scanners, TV-cards etc.

    KSI Linux Company, 15.03.1999
    phone: (380)-044-249-1726.
    Moscow distributors:

    Slackware Linux

    Author: Benjamin D. Thomas

    Since its first release in 1992, Slackware has been built
    with ease of use and stability as top priorities. Including the latest popular software while retaining a sense of tradition, providing simplicity and
    ease of use alongside flexibility and power — this is what a Linux distribution should be.

    The Slackware Linux Project
    Slackware Linux was first released in April, 1992 to provide a stable, easy to
    use distribution of the Linux operating system. Years of evolution have not
    changed the fundamental philosophy of the Slackware Linux Project — that
    simplicity is important and stability is key.

    Compliance with the published Linux standards (such as the Linux File System
    Standard), a determination to produce the most UNIX®-like distribution possible,
    and a focus on simplicity and ease of use have made Slackware one of
    the most popular, stable, and friendly distributions available.

    More Information
    More information on Slackware Linux, including installation and configuration
    help, Frequently Asked Questions lists, a web-based discussion forum for users,
    and of course the latest Slackware news is available at
    www.slackware.com, the official
    website of the Slackware Linux Project.

    SuSE Linux

    Author: Benjamin D. Thomas

    SuSE Linux includes over 1500 applications. With the new graphical
    installation tool, users can be up and running
    Linux on a drag-and-drop desktop in under 20 minutes. Advanced features include hardware acceleration for 3D graphics chips and a journaling
    filesystem. SuSE Linux

    Summary of Products and Services:

    SuSE’s Linux
    expertise has led its flagship product, the SuSE Linux
    distribution, into becoming one of the most popular Linux distributions
    worldwide. Now an international company, carefully localized versions of
    SuSE Linux are available in many languages. SUSE Linux is available for
    the Intel, Alpha, and Power PC* platforms. SuSE was founded in 1992, making it one of the earliest commercial Linux companies.
    *Spring 2000.

    In addition to its Linux distribution, SuSE provides professional services
    to both enterprises and end users, offering technical support, consulting,
    Partner Programs, and sales support to customers, resellers, and
    distributors around the world. Because IT professionals respect the
    reliability, comprehensive range of support, and level of technical
    consulting SuSE offers them, SuSE is the platform of choice for server
    systems at many companies.

    SuSE is a technology leader in Linux. Through its SuSE Linux Labs division, SuSE contributes significantly
    to Linux research and development with projects like XFree86, ALSA,
    KDE, glibc, and kernel development, as well as with ports to other
    platforms such as Sparc, Alpha and PPC, always releasing its contributions to the
    Open Source community.


    SuSE has a solid engineering team: With over 250 employees worldwide,
    two-thirds are employed in development, support, and information technology

    Because SuSE Labs is leading several important Linux development projects, more than 50 key developers from the Linux Community work
    for SuSE. This level of Linux expertise enables SuSE to provide global
    support for “mission-critical applications.”

    Software Products: SuSE Linux Distribution

    SuSE Linux comes with installation and administration tools, a
    carefully maintained set of over 1500 applications, an extensive
    manual, and 60 days of installation support. SuSE’s Linux distribution
    adheres to international standards.

    The current version, 6.3, premiered in early
    December 1999 in both CDROM and DVD formats. Check http://www.suse.de/en
    for upcoming information about new versions.

    Non-Linux users sometimes wonder why SuSE releases an updated distribution every
    4 months if Linux is so stable and reliable. The
    quarterly releases allow the SuSE Development Team to bring the latest
    Linux software and technical innovations to the market. However, while
    Linux itself is continuously updated, SuSE controls its own releases.
    SuSE only incorporates updates to the heart of the Linux operating system,
    the kernel, when stable and when they provide performance improvements.
    Experimental software outside the kernel is always labeled as such and
    comes with documentation. SuSE ensures both innovation
    and stability with every release.

    In other services to its users, the majority of the new packages
    are also available from our ftp server: ftp://ftp.suse.com. Technical information is always available online
    through the support database.

    Software Awards and Reviews:

    The SuSE Linux distribution has won many different industry and user
    awards, including:

    • Favorite Linux Distribution: Linux World, Conference and Expo, February 2000 and March 1999
    • Favorite Linux Distribution, Reader’s Choice Awards: Linux Journal, 1/99; PC
      Professional 4/99; Computer Bild 6/99; PC Intern 4/99; PC Magazin 4/99, PC Answers 8/99

    The SuSE Linux distribution is also frequently praised for having
    excellent documentation, comprehensive hardware support, and an encyclopedic
    set of Linux tools. The technical editor of Linux Journal Magazine,
    a major US Linux publication, summarized many SuSE Linux benefits
    when he stated in a recent review (10/99):

    “SuSE is a serious, high-performance distribution which is more
    complete than practically any single distribution, and at the same
    time is clean and fast due to effective configuration and
    intelligent design.”

    — Jason Kroll, Technical Editor, Linux Journal Magazine

    SuSE Linux for Business

    Businesses adopt Linux because it now features
    business-level applications in addition to technical versatility
    and economy for IT solutions. SuSE supports businesses with its
    distribution as well as with associated applications running on the
    SuSE Linux platform. Such applications include:

    • Informix SE enterprise database solutions
    • StarOffice 5.1 (Personal Edition) and Corel WordPerfect 8.0**
    • “Linux Office Suite 99,” a SuSE product featuring a set of office
    • ADABAS D Linux Edition
    • Arkeia Backup Tools

    SuSE Linux ISVs offering enterprise-level
    applications include, among others:

    • Hummingbird, provider of Exceed and other network connectivity and business intelligence products
    • Appgen, a major provider of client/server-based general
      business and accounting applications
    • Metrowerks, provider of professional software development
      tools, including CodeWarrior(R)
    • Progessive Systems, a premier network security vendor
    • Quadratec, providing backup and archival solutions

    Combine SuSE’s popularity as a server platform with the availability of
    business solutions on SuSE and SuSE technical support, and you have
    solid business solutions.

    Contact Information

    SuSE Inc. can be contacted in the US at (510) 628-3380 or info@suse.com. The web site is

    SuSE Linux AG, the international headquarters, can be contacted at +49 911 740 53 31 or suse@suse.de. The
    international web site is www.suse.de.

    v. 1.0 January 2000
    SuSE Inc.

    Storm Linux

    Author: JT Smith

    Storm Linux is a Debian GNU/Linux based distribution designed for
    the desktop and network markets. Enhancements include the Storm installer, the Storm Package
    Manager and the Storm Administration System.Storm Linux 2000

    Storm Linux 2000 has been greatly improved as of August 2000,
    and is now based on Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 “potato” release.
    There are three editions of Storm Linux 2000 available:

    • Starter Edition
      Boxed set. $19.95. Includes 1 CD, Installation Guide, PowerQuest Linux Prep Tool and Star Office 5.2
    • Deluxe Edition
      Boxed set. $69.95. Includes 5 CDs, Installation Guide, User Guide,
      PowerQuest Linux Prep Tool, Star Office 5.2, Heroes of Might and Magic III (network play disabled), Macromedia Flash, Acrobat Reader.
    • Open Edition
      Freely redistributable, this edition is available for free download from the
      Stormix servers and mirrors.

    Storm Linux 2000 currently includes:

    • Linux kernel 2.2.16
    • KDE 1.1.2
    • Helix GNOME 1.2
    • glibc 2.1.3

    Debian GNU/Linux
    The Debian GNU/Linux
    project was begun in August 1993, with funding
    from the Free Software Foundation as part of their
    GNU Project.
    Debian’s goal is the creation of a complete operating system that
    uses only Free Software. There are now over 500 Debian developers worldwide who are actively working on Debian GNU/Linux.

    Storm Package Manager
    Storm Package Manager is the graphical front-end to Debian’s advanced package management system. It enables you to install, update and remove software
    and packages effortlessly. Simply choose the package that you want to download, and let Storm Package Manager do the rest. By automatically accessing
    the Debian archive over the internet, Storm Package Manager enables you to easily download the most recent versions of all your favourite
    Linux-compatible software packages. Upgrades are just as easy, and your system will stay clean, without you having to remove old, unused programs.

    Storm Administration System (SAS)
    The Storm Administration System is the network administration tool developed by Stormix. An integral part of Storm Linux 2000, it enables users to
    maintain and configure systems remotely.

    SAS is module-based, allowing the interface client to run separately from its core applications. This allows remote connectivity, giving the user
    the ability to execute applications on a specific Linux box from other systems. Its 3 main components are:

    SAT – Storm Administration Tool – a generic interface for the selection, loading, and display of various system modules.
    Modules – software designed for a specific configuration task under Linux. There are currently 3 modules implemented: network, users, and dial-up.

    MID – Module Interface Daemon – the software that facilitates communication between the system modules and SAT. Additionally, MID was
    designed as a network aware daemon which allows SAS to be used over either LANs or WANs (internet). In technical terms, MID is referred to as a relay

    SAS offers benefits to both users and developers.

    Users benefit from:

    • Remote administration from anywhere in the world
    • Advanced user interface in both text and graphics

    Developers benefit from:

    • Creating graphical applications easily with SAS and SIL (Simple Interface Language)
    • Modularity of SAS, which means that code doesn’t have to be re-written.
    • Graphic and text interfaces accessed from same code-base.