The Choice of a GNU Generation An Interview With Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds, a computer science student at the University of Helsinki in his early twenties, took his first course on Unix and C in the Fall of 1990. In the Spring of 1991 Linus was running Minix (a small Unix-like operating system designed for teaching) at home on his new 386. What was to become Linux started in the Summer of 1991 as a basic protected mode system that evolved from a Hello World program into a terminal program. By October 1991 Linux 0.02 was announced to the world. In two years, through the hard work of Linus and many other people, Linux, currently at version 0.99, has become an extremely useful and popular operating system. The comp.os.linux.* hierarchy is among USENETs busiest and there are several companies selling Linux and providing professional support. All this in such a short time, yet Linux is available for free, and development has almost entirely been done by volunteers. Meta interviewed Linus via E-mail to probe his mind about Linuxs future and the environment it is developed in. The results follow…

Meta Magazine (Mike Linksvayer): Do you agree that without the net to facilitate collaboration and a base of preexisting free software (e.g., the GNU tools), Linux would not be nearly as developed as it is?

 

Linus Torvalds: No question about it. Without net access, the project would never have even gotten off the ground; having access to gcc and the other GNU tools was very important. I was also able to get in contact with some people like Bruce Evans (author of the Minix-386 patches and the 16-bit assembler that is still used to assemble the Linux 16-bit startup code), and we had some interesting discussions by E-mail. Aside from getting me started, net access also kept the development going and accelerating: up to about version 0.12 or so, I wrote most of the code myself, but in the current kernel, only about 50% of the code is mine or very closely related to code written by me. The SCSI drivers, the networking code and the new floating-point emulator code is completely written by others.

 

Even when people havent sent in patches or new code, just the fact that Ive had access to a lot of testers has meant a lot for Linux development; theyve found bugs I wouldnt have noticed myself, and have suggested features that I might not have otherwise cared for, but that have turned out to be very useful indeed. One extreme example is the memory manager: I originally implemented demand-loading and swapping to disk mostly because people who used the early versions of Linux thought it might be useful.

 

Meta: Probably the most frequent complaint about Linux is the lack of certain applications. With the net, free development tools and a free Unix with source code all in place, what do you think are the prospects for free end-user applications being developed in a similar decentralized manner?

 

Linus: While Linux has a very reasonable development environment and a lot of programmers that would potentially be able to write a good word processor or spreadsheet or whatever, there are some problems which make me doubtful that it will happen soon. Right now, I think there is a better chance of getting a word processor by being binary compatible with Windows or some real 386 Unix (both of which are being worked on). The programs that have made it through a decentralized network development have usually had a few things in common:

 

(a) Somebody (usually one person) wrotevery similar, and may one day merge, the basic program to the state where it was already usable. The net community then takes over and refines and fixes problems, resulting in a much better program than the original, but the important part is to get it started (and channeling the development some way). The net works a bit like a committee: youll need a few dedicated persons who do most of the stuff or nothing will get done.

 

(b) You need to have a project that many programmers feel is interesting: this does not seem to be the case with a lot of the application programs. A program like a word processor has no glamour: it may be the program that most users would want to see, and most programmers would agree that its not a simple thing to write, but I also think they find it a bit boring.

 

I think its entirely possible that the Linux community (or some other group of net.persons) will get a good word processor going, but while having net access helps some parts of development a lot, its certainly not enough in itself.

 

Meta: Could you comment on the effort to make Linux binary compatible with real Unixes and speculate on the effect Linux is having on the Unix market, especially on Coherent and lower-tier System V vendors?

 

Linus: This one is hard for me to really say much about: I havent been in contact with any real i386-Unix users, and have only once seen a Xenix system being run on a friends machine (that one was converted to Linux, but that doesnt really count when I know him personally). I have gotten various mails and seen some newsgroup messages about persons who have switched over already or would like to switch over once Linux is able to run commercial binaries, but at least so far, I doubt Linux has dented the real unix market very much. Coherent might have a bit more problems competing with Linux. While Coherent is commercial, it doesnt carry the same real Unix stamp as SCO and the other major PC Unix providers, so a potential Coherent user is also likely to chose Linux, if he has access to it. And the superior performance and features of Linux may well be (and has been in many cases) reason enough to chose Linux despite the reportedly good documentation and support of Coherent.

 

Being binary-compatible with SVR3 and SVR4 might change the picture a lot: it would make it possible to reasonably easily mix Linux machines into an existing machine park, and would make Linux much more viable in some situations. The current kernel can load ELF binaries, and COFF support is available as patches. The actual binary code emulation is still being worked on, but there seems to be no major obstacles. If the Wine project (running Windows binaries under Linux and X11) also works out, the picture changes again.

 

Meta: What is your opinion of 386BSD?

 

Linus: Actually, I have never even checked 386BSD out; when I started on Linux it wast available (although Bill Jolitz series on it in Dr. Dobbs Journal had started and were interesting), and when 386BSD finally came out, Linux was already in a state where it was so usable that I never really thought about switching. If 386BSD had been available when I started on Linux, Linux would probably never had happened.

 

I also have very limited computer resources (right now I have 160MB of disk spacethe original Linux development was done in 40MB), so I havent tried to set up 386BSD just to see what the competition does. This means that I have only followed the 386BSD discussion and development from the side. As far as I can tell, its a good port of BSD that is plagued by some problems (mostly non-technical).

 

One of the major problems with 386BSD seems to be the lack of co-ordination: that may sound weird coming from the Linux background, but in fact the 386BSD project seems to suffer from a lot of people working on the same thing due to the long release cycle (I think there are three different and incompatible keyboard/console drivers for 386BSD). A long release cycle is the way to go in a controlled environment (i.e., commercial development), but I think it hurts the free development that results from a lot of unconnected persons having access to sources and doing lots of modification. The NetBSD project may be a step in the right direction, but I think 386BSD has been hurt by the way it has been developed.

 

Note that others that know more about the actual 386BSD development may disagree and think the Linux releases have been very chaotic (which is also true, but differently). Also, 386BSD has had different starting points and different goals, so any real comparison may not really be valid. In any case, I usually ignore Linux/386BSD comparisons: Ive not let any 386BSD considerations change the way I work, but just done things the way I want them done and hoping it works out. I have gotten a few mails like were considering changing over to 386BSD, as Linux doesnt do… but I refuse to be blackmailed by things like that. Ive also gotten mails from people who have changed the other way, so its obviously a matter of taste.

 

Meta: Some people, particularly Peter MacDonald of SLS, have been criticized for trying to make money on free software. What is your opinion of this?

 

Linus: The people who criticize Peter are usually persons who have written none of the kernel, or even user-level code, and I hope Peter (and others) just ignore the monetary issues raised by some. Peter not only has written code for Linux (he worked on the original pty and VC code, which was adapted by me, and he is still making suggestions and patches to the kernel), but the SLS release has been of immense value for the Linux community. SLS has its share of problems (which also get criticized), but there is no question about the fact that it was one of the things that made Linux really available for Joe User.

 

The fact that others make money by selling Linux is something that I find mostly amusing, and something which does my ego no end of good. Frankly, I wouldnt want to bother personally, so if somebody else does it, it doesnt hurt me. Its also quite legal by the copyright, and so far I havent seen any major developer stand up and say he doesnt like his code being sold, so I dont see the problem.

 

Meta: There seems to be a perception that Linux is very tied to the 386 architecture and would be very hard to port to others, yet there are apparently projects underway to port Linux to the Amiga and MIPS. Whats the real story?

 

Linus: The early releases of Linux were indeed very tightly coupled to the 386, both with memory management and process handling. This is still somewhat true, but it has gotten a lot better in later versions. Its still the case that porting is very much non-trivial, but the 68k port is getting along (reportedly running some binaries already), and the first port to a new architecture is always the hardest one. I hope that Ill be able to correct the worst portability issues once I see what the biggest problems for the 68k port were. Currently Im ignoring all but the grossest portability problems; I dont want to really work on it before I have something to go by.

 

Of course, porting Linux is never going to be easy as just doing a make on the new architecture: the drivers in particular usually have to be re-written mostly from scratch anyway, and memory management is another area that tends to need lots of work when moving from one processor to another. But I no longer think it’s doomed to failback in the time of Linux 0.12 or so, I felt that porting Linux was essentially impossible.

 

Meta: What are your short- and long-term goals for Linux?

 

Linus: This is one of those questions I dont have an answer to. I hate to admit it, but Linux development has never had any real well-defined goals. Problems have been solved as they come up, and features have been added when somebody has been interested enough to write the code (and Ive felt the result was worthy).

 

There are naturally some short-term goals: things people have started on or things Im not really happy with in the current kernel. The Windows emulator is one of these: it needed additional code to let the kernel handle multiple segment signal handlers etc., but I hope the kernel issues are resolved now. iBCS2 is still being worked on, and the memory management will need a few updates still in the near future. Getting the networking stable is a short-term goal as well and has been for a long time.

 

The long-term goals are just general platitudes like stability, POSIX conformance (which is pretty good already as far as POSIX.1 and POSIX.2 is concerned, but POSIX.4 might be interesting) and portabilitythe kind of words that would make any marketing division proud.

 

In fact, the main goal of Linux might be called usability. I want the kernel to remain clean as far as the implementation is concerned, but when it really matters, a kind of pragmatic approach has generally been the main design issue: the most important thing is that it works well and people (which most emphatically includes me) want to use it. As an example, Ive always wanted Linux to be POSIX, but that wasnt really as much a goal as a way to make porting user-level software easy. POSIX is just a small part of thatthe POSIX standards dont really cover a lot of details that people expect from a Unix system.

 

Meta: When can we expect version 1.0 to be released, and what needs to be done to get to that point?

 

Linus: You don’t expect a serious answer to this one, I hope? Frankly, I’ve wanted to make a 1.0 for a long time. Every now and then I get mail from Linux old-timers that reminisce about the times when Linux was at version 0.12. I said that its so close to 1.0 that Ill rename it 0.95 (which I did: there never was anything between 0.12 and 0.95). The main stumbling block right now is the networking. The rest of the kernel is in my opinion stable enough for a 1.0 release (and has been for some timethe rest of the kernel has also gotten better lately, but its been good enough for several months). I still hope to get it out in a few months, but judging by past performance….

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Linux Timeline

We ask you to take a few minutes of time and help record history. Consider this article post a giant whiteboard — comment on the event or events you find to be most significant in Linux’s recent history, you’ll likely see our editors doing just the same.

 

We’ll compile the events and re-release the timeline for all to share in the upcoming months.

 

Ready? Here we go:

 

August 1991

“Hello everybody out there using minix – I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).I’ve currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them 🙂 Linus (PS. Yes – it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.”

 

September 1991

Linux version 0.01 is released and put on the Net.

 

April 1992

The first Linux newsgroup, comp.os.linux, is proposed and started by Ari Lemmke.

 

October 1992

Peter MacDonald announces SLS, the first standalone Linux install. At least 10MB of space on disk was recommended.

 

June 1993

Slackware, by Patrick Volkerding, becomes the first commercial standalone distribution and quickly becomes popular within the Linux community.

 

August 1993

Matt Welsh’s Linux Installation and Getting Started, version 1 is released. This is the first book on Linux.

 

March 1994

The first issue of Linux Journal is published. This issue featured an interview with Linus Torvalds and articles written by Phil Hughes, Robert “Bob” Young, Michael K. Johnson, Arnold Robbins, Matt Welsh, Ian A. Murdock, Frank B. Brokken, K. Kubat, Micahel Kraehe and Bernie Thompson. Advertisers in the premier issue include Algorithms Inc., Amtec Engineering, Basmark, Fintronic (later became VA Research, VA Linux Systems, then…), Infomagic, Prime Time Freeware, Promox, Signum Support, SSC, Trans Ameritech, USENIX, Windsor Tech and Yggdrasil.

 

Linux 1.0 is released.

 

June 1994

While at a conference in New Orleans, Jon “maddog” Hall persuades Linus to port Linux to DEC’s 64-bit Alpha computer processor chip. Less than two weeks later, maddog had also persuaded DEC to fund the project. An Alpha workstation was immediately sent to Linus. “Digital [DEC] and the Linux community formed the first truly successful venture of suits and Linux geeks working together”, said maddog.

 

Linux International, a nonprofit vendor organization, is founded by Jon “maddog” Hall. Linux International goes on to become a major contributor to the success of Linux, helping corporations and others work toward the promotion of the Linux operating system.

 

August 1994

Linux trademark dispute: is Linux trademarked? William R. Della Croce, Jr. files for the trademark “Linux” on August 15, 1994, and it is registered in September. Della Croce has no known involvement in the Linux community yet sends letters out to prominent Linux companies demanding money for use of the trademark “Linux”. A lawsuit is filed in 1996 against Della Croce. Plaintiffs in the suit include Linus Torvalds; Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc. (publishers of Linux Journal); Yggdrasil Computing, Inc.; Linux International; and WorkGroup Solutions (also known as LinuxMall). The plaintiffs prevail, and in 1997 announce the matter as settled by the assignment of the mark to Linus Torvalds on behalf of all Petitioners and Linux users.

 

September 1994

Linux is first mentioned in the mainstream press. Wired magazine features an article titled “Kernel Kid”, by Seth Rosenthal. He writes: “So, is Linus going to become the Bill Gates of Finland? Maybe not. He claims to be ‘by no means a good student’ and is in no hurry to graduate since ‘Linux has taken a lot of time from my studies, and I like the work I have at the University which keeps me alive.”’

 

Randolph Bentson reports on the world’s first vendor-supported Linux device driver in Linux Journal. Cyclades gave him a multiport serial card in exchange for developing a Linux driver for it.

 

December 1994

A major tradeshow and conference take notice of Linux. Open Systems World features a Linux track, hosted by Linux Journal. Two days of seminars include Eric Youngdale, Donald Becker, Dirk Hohndel, Phil Hughes, Michael K. Johnson and David Wexelblat as speakers.

 

April 1995

Linux Expo, the first Linux-specific tradeshow and conference series, launches, thanks to the folks at North Carolina State University and in particular, Donnie Barnes. Speakers include Marc Ewing, Rik Faith and Michael K. Johnson, among others. Linux Expo snowballs and becomes the most popular and well-attended annual Linux show for the next several years (after three years Red Hat takes over organization and becomes the major sponsor). The price for entry into the exhibit hall and a pass to the conferences? $4.

 

January 1997

First “Linux virus” discovered. Called Bliss, it actually works on any UNIX-like OS and offers a helpful–“bliss-uninfect-files-please” command-line option. Alan Cox points out that Bliss “does not circumvent the security of the system, it relies on people with privilege to do something dumb” and reminds users to install digitally signed software from trustworthy sites only and to check signatures before installing.

 

“In fact it’s probably easier to write a virus for Linux because it’s open source and the code is available. So we will be seeing more Linux viruses as the OS becomes more common and popular.”–Wishful thinking from McAfee

 

January 1998

Linux Weekly News begins publication with Jonathan Corbet and Elizabeth Coolbaugh as founders. The very first issue, dated January 22, was just a tiny hint of what LWN was to become.

 

Netscape announces that they will release the source to their browser under a free software license. This almost certainly remains one of the most important events of the year; it opened a lot of eyes to what Linux and free software could provide.

 

Red Hat Advanced Development Labs (RHAD) is founded. It has since become one of the higher-profile places where people are paid to develop free software and an important component of the GNOME Project. RHAD is able to attract developers like “Rasterman” (although only for a short time) and Federico Mena-Quintero.

 

February 1998

The Cobalt Qube is announced and immediately becomes a favorite in the trade press due to its high performance, low price and cute form factor. Cobalt’s Linux engineering is done by none other than David Miller, the source of much that is good in the Linux kernel.

 

The Linux user community wins InfoWorld’s technical support award; Red Hat 5.0 also won their Operating System award. But it was the tech support award that truly opened some eyes; everybody had been saying that Linux had no support. This was the beginning of the end of the “no support” argument.

 

Eric Raymond and friends come up with the term “open source”. They apply for trademark status and put up the opensource.org web site. Thus begins the formal effort to push Linux for corporate use.

 

March 1998

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader asks the large PC vendors (Dell, Gateway, Micron, etc.) to offer non-Microsoft systems, including systems with Linux installed.

 

April 1998

Linux is covered by the US National Public Radio news, marking one of its first appearances in the mainstream, nontechnical press.

 

O’Reilly holds the “first ever” Free Software Summit, featuring Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Linus Torvalds, Guido van Rossum, Eric Allman, Phil Zimmermann, Eric Raymond and Paul Vixie.

 

May 1998

The Google search engine pops up. Not only is it one of the best search engines around, but it’s based on Linux and features a Linux-specific search page.

 

Big databases start to arrive. Support for Linux is announced by Computer Associates for their Ingres system and by Ardent Software for their O2 object database.

 

June 1998

“Like a lot of products that are free, you get a loyal following even though it’s small. I’ve never had a customer mention Linux to me.”–Bill Gates, PC Week, June 25, 1998

 

“…these operating systems will not find widespread use in mainstream commercial applications in the next three years, nor will there be broad third-party application support.”–The Gartner Group says there is little hope for free software.

 

A Datapro study comes out showing that Linux has the highest user satisfaction of any system; it also shows Linux to be the only system other than Microsoft Windows NT that is increasing its market share.

 

IBM announces that it will distribute and support the Apache web server after working a deal with the Apache team.

 

July 1998

The desktop wars rage as KDE and GNOME advocates hurl flames at each other. Linus gets in on the act, saying that KDE is okay with him. In this context, KDE 1.0 is released. The first stable release of the K Desktop Environment proves to be popular, despite the complaints from those who do not like the licensing of the Qt library.

 

Informix quietly releases software for Linux. Meanwhile, Oracle beats Informix to the punch PR-wise and makes a Linux-friendly announcement first, suggesting that they would soon be supporting Linux. Oracle promises to make a trial version available by the end of 1998, a deadline they beat by months. This, seemingly, was one of the acid tests for the potential of long-term success for Linux; a great deal of attention resulted from both Informix’s and Oracle’s announcements.

 

Informix announces support for Linux effectively moments after Oracle does so. Sybase later announces their support for Linux also.

 

Linus appears on the cover of Forbes magazine. A lengthy story presents Linux in a highly positive manner and brings the system to the attention of many who had never heard of it before. Linux begins to become a household word.

 

September 1998

LinuxToday.com is launched by Dave Whitinger and Dwight Johnson. The site, later acquired by Internet.com, arguably becomes the most well-read and visited Linux portal of all time.

 

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer admits that they are “worried” about free software and suggests that some of the Windows NT source code may be made available to developers. The same month Microsoft goes on to list Linux as a competitive threat in its annual SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) filing. Speculation abounds that their real purpose is to influence the upcoming antitrust trial.

 

October 1998

“For the moment, however, the company from Redmond, Washington, seems almost grateful for the rising profile of Linux, seeing it as an easy way of demonstrating that Windows is not a monopoly, ahead of its antitrust trial, scheduled to begin on October 15. That may be short-sighted. In the long run, Linux and other open-source programs could cause Mr. Gates much grief.”–The Economist, October 3, 1998

 

Intel and Netscape (and two venture capital firms) announce minority investments in Red Hat Software. The money is to be used to build an “enterprise support division” within Red Hat. An unbelievable amount of press is generated by this event, which is seen as a big-business endorsement of Linux.

 

Corel announces that WordPerfect 8 for Linux will be downloadable for free for “personal use”. They also announce a partnership with Red Hat to supply Linux for the Netwinder.

 

October 1998

A confidential Microsoft memorandum on Redmond’s strategy against Linux and Open Source software was leaked to Eric S. Raymond. Raymond, with his own added commentary, releases the memorandum to the national press over Halloween Weekend. Because of all of the press surrounding the story, Microsoft was forced to acknowledge the now-infamous Halloween Document’s authenticity. This was the first time the public heard Microsoft admit Linux was becoming stiff competition.

 

December 1998

A report from IDC says that Linux shipments rose by more than 200% in 1998, and its market share rose by more than 150%. Linux has a 17% market share and a growth rate unmatched by any other system on the market.

 

January 1999

“Microsoft Corp. will shout it out to the world when Windows 2000 finally ships. Linux creator Linus Torvalds announced the arrival of the next generation of Linux, version 2.2, with a simple note to the Linux-kernel mailing list.”–Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Sm@rt Reseller

 

Samba 2.0 is released. It contains a reverse-engineered implementation of the Microsoft domain controller protocols, allowing Linux servers to provide complete services to Windows networks.

 

Hewlett-Packard and Compaq announce plans to offer Linux-based systems. Later, Dell also announces plans to begin selling Linux-installed systems. SGI contents itself with providing information on how to bring up Linux on its systems.

 

Loki Entertainment Software announces that it will port Civilization: Call to Power to Linux.

 

February 1999

Linux and BSD users unite for “Windows Refund Day”. They visit Microsoft, hoping to return the unused Windows licenses that they were forced to acquire when they purchased a computer system bundled with the OS.

 

March 1999

“Like a Russian revolutionary erased from a photograph, he is being written out of history. Stallman is the originator of the Free Software movement and the GNU/Linux operating system. But you wouldn’t know it from reading about LinuxWorld (Expo). Linus Torvalds got all the ink.”–Leander Kahney, Wired magazine, March 1999

 

The first LinuxWorld Conference and Expo is held in San Jose, California. As the first big commercial “tradeshow” event for Linux, it serves notice to the world that Linux has arrived; 12,000 people are said to have attended.

 

Linux Magazine debuts, bringing some additional competition to the Linux print business. Later, other magazines rise and fall including Open, Journal of Linux Technology (JOLT) and Maximum Linux.

 

VA Research buys the Linux.com domain for $1,000,000 and announces plans to turn it into a Linux portal. Microsoft’s rumored bid for the domain is frustrated.

 

April 1999

“…please imagine what it is like to see an idealistic project stymied and made ineffective because people don’t usually give it the credit for what it has done. If you’re an idealist like me, that can ruin your whole decade.”–Richard Stallman on GNU/Linux

 

Al Gore’s presidential campaign web site claims to be open source. That claim is gone, but the site still claims: “In the spirit of the Open Source movement, we have established the Gore 2000 Volunteer Source Code Project; http://www.algore2000.com is an ‘open site’.”

 

HP announces 24/7 support services for the Caldera, Turbolinux, Red Hat and SuSE distributions. They also release OpenMail for Linux.

 

The Linux FreeS/WAN Project releases a free IPSec implementation, allowing Linux to function as a VPN gateway using what is now the industry standard.

 

“But the mere fact that there is now an official SEC document that includes the text of the GPL serves as fairly astonishing proof that the rules of the software business really are being rewritten.”–Andrew Leonard, Salon

 

May 1999

“Those two little words–open source–have become a magical incantation, like portal in 1998 or push in 1997. Just whisper them and all will be yours: media attention, consumer interest and, of course, venture capital.”–Andrew Leonard, Wired

 

August 1999

First Intel IA-64 “Merced” silicon. Although Intel had given simulators to several OS vendors, Linux is the only OS to run on the new architecture on its first day. The Register headline: “Merced silicon happens: Linux runs, NT doesn’t”.

 

SGI announces the 1400L–a Linux-based server system. SGI also announces a partnership with Red Hat and begins contributing to kernel development in a big way.

 

Red Hat’s initial public offering happens; a last-minute repricing helps to create difficulties for people participating in the community offering. The stock price immediately rises to $50; a value that seems high at the time.

 

“For the umpteenth time, someone paved paradise, put up a parking lot. For the thousands of Linux coders who’ve built the utopian open-source movement–offering free help to create a free operating system–the IPO of Red Hat Software was a sure sign of Wall Street cutting the ribbon on the new Linux mall.”–The Industry Standard

 

Motorola jumps into Linux announcements of embedded systems products, support and training services, and a partnership with Lineo.

 

Sun acquires StarDivision; it announces plans to release StarOffice under the Sun Community Source License and to make a web-enabled version of the office suite.

 

September 1999

“’Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. in Burlington, New Jersey is spending $1 million or so to buy 1,250 Linux-equipped PCs from Dell, but it won’t pay Red Hat a dime for support’, says Michael Prince, chief information officer. ‘I suppose Red Hat’s business model makes sense to somebody, but it makes no sense to us’, he says.”–Daniel Lyons, Forbes, May 31, 1999. Then in September, Burlington ended up purchasing support from Red Hat.

 

The first big Linux stock rush happens. Shares in Applix more than double in volume, reaching nearly 27 million shares–three times the 9 million shares that are actually on the market.

 

SCO trashes Linux in a brochure distributed in Northern Europe: “Linux at this moment can be considered more a plaything for IT students rather than a serious operating system in which to place the functioning, security and future of a business. Because Linux is basically a free-for-all it means that no individual person/company is accountable should anything go wrong, plus there is no way to predict which way Linux will evolve.”

 

Stock in Red Hat hits $135/share. The price seems unbelievably high at the time.

 

October 1999

Sun Microsystems announces that it will release the source to Solaris under the Sun Community Source License. The actual release drew criticism: “In a move aimed at Linux, Sun said it will announce Wednesday that it is making the source code for its new Solaris 8 operating system ‘open’. Webster’s has lots of definitions for the word, including ‘not sealed, fastened, or locked’. But when you dig into the details of Sun’s announcement, you’ll find that what it is offering doesn’t come close to meeting the dictionary’s definition, let alone that of the Open Source movement.”–Lawrence Aragon, Redherring.com, January 26, 2000

 

November 1999

“…if there’s one thing about Linux users, they’re do-ers, not whiners.”–Andy Patrizio,

 

Red Hat buys Cygnus for almost $700 million in stock. Rumors of other acquisitions by Red Hat begin to circulate and show no signs of stopping.

 

December 1999

VA Linux Systems goes public after two repricings (originally priced at $11-$13/share). The final IPO price is $30/share; that price rises immediately to $300 before closing around $250. It sets the record for the biggest IPO rise in the history of the NASDAQ.

 

“Gee. Remember when the big question was ‘How do we make money at this?”’–Eric Raymond

 

January 2000

VA Linux Systems announces SourceForge (although the site had actually been up and running since November 1999). SourceForge also makes the code for its operation available under the GPL. By the end of the year, SourceForge hosted over 12,000 projects and 92,000 registered developers.

 

Version 1.0 of Red Flag Linux is released in the People’s Republic of China.

 

Transmeta breaks its long silence and tells the world what it has been up to–the Crusoe chip, of course.

 

The Linux Professional Institute announces the availability of its first Linux professional certification exam.

 

Linux wannabe press releases flow from companies trying to ride on the success of Linux stocks. Vitamins.com, for example, posts the following: “Vitamins.com has further distinguished itself in the competitive Internet health industry race by being one of the first to integrate the Linux Operating System, produced by Red Hat, the leading developer and provider of open-source software solutions.”

 

February 2000

The latest IDC report suggests that Linux now ranks as the “second-most-popular operating system for server computers”, with 25% of the server operating system sales in 1999. Windows NT is first with 38% and NetWare ranks third with 19%. IDC previously predicted that Linux would get up to the number two position–in 2002 or 2003. The revolution appears to be well ahead of schedule.

 

VA Linux Systems acquisition of Andover.net in a high-profile purchase that values Andover shares at 0.425 of VA’s, or roughly $50/share. Andover.net is the owner of the popular web sites Slashdot.org and Freshmeat.org.

 

LinuxMall.com and Frank Kaspar and Associates also have made plans to merge. LinuxMall.com has been at the top of the retail side of Linux almost since the very beginning; Kaspar is one of the largest distribution channels.

 

Red Hat wins InfoWorld’s “Product of the Year” award for the fourth time in a row.

 

March 2000

“The law in open code means that no actor can gain ultimate control over open-source code. Even the kings can’t get ultimate control over the code. For example, if Linus Torvalds, father of the Linux kernel, tried to steer GNU/Linux in a way that others in the community rejected, then others in the community could always have removed the offending part and gone in a different way. This threat constrains the kings; they can only lead where they know the people will follow.”–“Innovation, Regulation, and the Internet” by Lawrence Lessig for The American Prospect.

 

A new version of LILO is posted that is able to get past the 1024-cylinder boot limit that has plagued PC systems for years.

 

The latest Netcraft survey shows Apache running on just over 60% of the Web.

 

Caldera Systems goes public after a short delay, on March 21. The stock, which was offered at $14/share, began trading at $26 and closed at $29.44. It thus registered a 110% gain on its first day.

 

“Caldera knows of no company that has built a profitable business based in whole or in part on open-source software.”–Caldera SEC filing

 

Walnut Creek (the parent company for Slackware) and BSDi announce their merger. Yahoo! will be taking an equity investment in the new company.

 

Motorola Computer Group announces the release of its HA Linux distribution. This distribution is aimed at telecommunications applications that require very high amounts of uptime; it includes hot-swap capability and is available for the i386 and PowerPC architectures.

 

The Embedded Linux Consortium is announced. Its goal is “to amplify the depth, breadth and speed of Linux adoption in the enormous embedded computer market”. The initial leader will be Rick Lehrbaum, the man behind the LinuxDevices.com and DesktopLinux.com web sites, among other things.

 

Ericsson announces its “Screen Phone HS210” product–a Linux-based telephone with a touchscreen that can be used for e-mail, web browsing, etc. Ericsson and Opera Software also announce that Ericsson’s (Linux-based) HS210 Screen Phone will incorporate the Opera web browser.

 

April 2000

Code is ruled to be speech. On April 4, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit published its decision regarding Peter Junger’s challenge to the Export Administration Regulations that prevented him from posting information on the Internet that contained cryptographic example code. Most critical in the ruling: “Because computer source code is an expressive means for the exchange of information and ideas about computer programming, we hold that it is protected by the First Amendment.”

 

Andy Tanenbaum releases the the Minix operating system under the BSD license. Had Minix been open source from the beginning, Linux may never have happened.

 

May 2000

SuSE releases the first supported Linux distribution for the IBM S/390 mainframe.

 

“Approximately 140 distribution companies exist across the globe. We believe all but the top five will be bought, will go out of business or will be relegated to insignificance. Market-share leaders are currently defined around geographic boundaries. Red Hat has the largest global brand recognition and leading North American market share; SuSE leads in Europe, Turbolinux leads in Asia, and Conectiva leads in South America.”–Keith Bachman, an analyst for WR Hambrecht, predicting in The Red Herring

 

June 2000

Commercial considerations help prompt the relicensing of MySQL under the GPL. Now the two freely available databases that are widely used in the Linux and Free Software communities, PostgreSQL and MySQL, meet the Debian Free Software Guidelines and the Open Source Guidelines. In addition, Progress Software forms a new company, NuSphere, just for the purpose of supporting MySQL.

 

July 2000

“In a world of NDA-bound business agreements, Debian is an open book. In a world of mission statements, Debian has a social contract. At a time when commercial distributors are striving to see how much proprietary software they can pack into a box of Linux, Debian remains the bastion of software freedom–living proof that you can have a fully functional and usable operating system without needing any proprietary code.”–Evan Leibovitch, ZDNet

 

Sun announces that StarOffice is to be released under the GPL. The code is going to be reworked, integrated with Bonobo and GTK, and released as a set of reusable components. StarOffice will also be reworked to use a set of open XML-based file formats.

 

Oracle’s Linux-based internet appliance system hits the shelves. The “New Internet Computer” (NIC) is the latest result of Larry Ellison’s long personal crusade to make non-Microsoft systems available to the world. It’s aimed at people who only want access to the Net; as such, it’s essentially a $199 (without monitor) X terminal.

 

Reports first appear that SCO may be purchased by Caldera. Later in 2000 Caldera and SCO announce their intent for Caldera International to be formed from Caldera’s existing operation and two of SCO’s three divisions.

 

Ted Ts’o steps forward to become the new 2.4 status list maintainer. Alan Cox was doing the job until he said that it was time to “find someone else to maintain it”. Ted Ts’o responded to Linus’ subsequent call for a new status list maintainer.

 

August 2000

HP, Intel, IBM and NEC announce the “Open Source Development Lab”, which makes large hardware available to Linux developers for benchmarking and testing.

 

September 2000

“I’m a bastard. I have absolutely no clue why people can ever think otherwise. Yet they do. People think I’m a nice guy, and the fact is that I’m a scheming, conniving bastard who doesn’t care for any hurt feelings or lost hours of work if it just results in what I consider to be a better system.”–Linus Torvalds trying to change his image.

 

The RSA patent expires, allowing for secure web transactions without proprietary software.

 

Trolltech releases the Qt library under the GPL, putting a definitive end to a long-running and unpleasant license flame war.

 

The CueCat fiasco begins. Digital Convergence attempts to shut down programmers who have written Linux drivers for its CueCat bar code scanner. The company has given out large numbers of these scanners for free, expecting people to use them with its proprietary software and web site. The threats cause the drivers to become marginally harder to find for a short period, after which the company declares victory and moves on.

 

October 2000

Microsoft says that penguins can mutate in a European print ad that quickly becomes famous.

 

December 2000

“I was dumbfounded to discover that installing Linux was easy. Why? Well, the world has changed. No more do you have to understand everything about Linux before you install it, downloading the many chunks of code necessary to run a complete system and getting them all to work together. That was BSW–before shrink-wrap. With companies such as Red Hat and Corel putting all the software you need in a box, the pain is (nearly) gone.”–John Schwartz, Washington Post

 

IBM announces plans to invest $1 billion in Linux in 2001.

 

January 2001

The long-awaited 2.4.0 kernel was released on January 4.

 

The US National Security Agency (NSA) releases SELinux under the GPL. SELinux offers an additional layer of security checks in addition to the standard UNIX-like permissions system.

 

March 2001

The Linux 2.5 kernel summit is held in San Jose, California; it is, perhaps, the most complete gathering of Linux kernel hackers in history.

 

April 2001

IBM gets into trouble over its “Peace, Love and Linux” graffiti in several cities.

 

“Slackware has always made money (who else producing a commercial distribution can say that?), but with BSDi we ended up strapped to a sinking ship.”–Patrick Volkerding

 

May 2001

Sony’s PlayStation Linux kit, shipped in Japan, sells out in eight minutes despite a doubling of the available stock.

 

June 2001

Sharp announces its upcoming Linux PDA based on Lineo’s Embedix system.

 

VA Linux Systems exits the hardware business, choosing to focus on SourceForge instead. Later VA drops the word “Linux” from its name altogether, relaunching as VA Software Corporation.

 

“In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, VA Linux CEO Larry M. Augustin called the shift in strategy a logical move. ‘Our differentiating strength has always been our software expertise’, Augustin said”.–Wired. You only thought VA was a hardware company.

 

July 2001

Free Dmitry! Dmitry Sklyarov is arrested in Las Vegas after Adobe complains about the Advanced eBook Processor. The following month he is charged with DMCA violations and conspiracy: the potential penalties add up to 25 years in prison. Dmitry’s defense is based on constitutional challenges to the DMCA, on free speech and jurisdictional issues. Later in the year, charges are dropped, conditional on one year of good behavior and testimony in the ElcomSoft trial.

 

“Although Adobe withdrew its support for the criminal complaint against Dmitry Sklyarov, we respect the grand jury and federal government’s decision to prosecute the company, ElcomSoft, and as a law-abiding corporate citizen, Adobe intends to cooperate fully with the government as required by law.”–Adobe’s position

 

November 2001

Sharp Electronics Corporation begins a special Linux developer prerelease of the Zaurus PDA to attract free software developers to the hot new platform.

 

February 2002

Avaya, the former PBX and enterprise systems division of Lucent, announces Linux-based PBX systems.

 

“So there are some–and I’d list myself among them–who believe that the return to Earth is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with making a buck, but Linux doesn’t benefit from being elevated beyond reality on a shaky foundation.”–Evan Leibovitch takes a look at the post-rush world of Linux.

Addressing the State of the Linux Union

Linux is often thought to be all about collaboration and contribution to a project. Yet the community doesn’t always get along, even as Linux’s supporters are enjoying new levels of success against entrenched proprietary vendors like Microsoft.

 

To assess where Linux is today, to help hammer out some of the divisive issues in the community, and to sort through Linux’s own complex relationship with vendors like Microsoft, the Linux Foundation is hosting the invitation-only Linux Collaboration Summit in San Francisco. At the event, which begins today, the state of the Linux union — and the community’s take on collaboration, contribution and competition — will be on the table for discussion.

 

Solving these issues is becoming increasingly critical as the Linux community enjoys unprecedented prominence in the enterprise, as well as the prospect of continued growth. Recent research from IDC found that Linux is poised to gain during the current economic downturn, a prediction that Linux vendor Red Hat is already bearing out with its latest financial results.

 

“Linux remains in a two-horse race with Windows, but we’re finding Linux growing at two to three times the rate of Windows,” Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, told InternetNews.com. “We see this growth happening as a result of three main factors: the economy, mobile computing and cloud computing.”

OpenSUSE 11.0 Countdown

Posted in Linux. 1 Comment »

openSuSE 11.0 Alpha 3 Released!!

Hello folks, After the successful release of openSuSE 10.3, things are taking shape for the next release, openSuSE 11.0 Alpha3 is released and is really looking good. read on the release announcement to know what to expect from the Final release that is on 19 June 2008. For screenshots click here.

Here’s the detailed changelog.

openSuSE 10.3 ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

openSuSE’s 10.3 was released on 4th October 2007, 10 months after openSuSE 10.2. I’ve been using SuSE since its version 10 and its getting better and better. I think its the only OS that is so professional in its approach and that is a perfect contender from the Community driven GNU/Linux OS projects against the desktop OS’s like Windows and the OS X variants (yup I include the latest Vista and Leopard).

openSuSE 10.3 Bootsplash

I placed an order for a DVD on the same day it was released. I got it from KiranInfotech here in India. All I had to do is login to http://www.kiranInfotech.com go to their Linux CD store pick a distro from the list and it get added to your shopping cart. on checkout it has option to pay by Cheque, Online funds transfer, Paypal and few other. You can also track your current placed order status on the Account profile details. I got the DVD in 3 days. It was time to pop it in and try out the distro.

Installation:

With this version openSuSE has an Installer that can be run into Windows Environment for the initial setup, so you don’t need to go into BIOS and change the boot priority. What this does is modify boot.ini(in case of Windows XP) and adds openSuSE Installer in the boot menu and restarts. On the boot menu select the Installer with the DVD in the Drive, this starts up the Installation process and are Greeted by a Lush Green screen. The colour theme is all green this time, but it looks good. Rest installation is same as in the previous versions using YaST. There are few changes as in the DVD is added as a repository, it also ask you if u want to add the community repositories, I choose not to as you can do that anytime. Package selection is done using patterns introduced in openSuSE10.2. It detected all my hardware without any issues. From the Desktop Environments this time you have 3 options KDE, GNOME, XFCE.I usually prefer GNOME. For those systems that are low on resources XFCE is the best option. It took 40 Mins for the complete setup as I installed all the three DE, and development packages.

First Impression:

KDE Desktop GNOME Desktop

openSuSE 10.3 boot in 25 secs flat!!!!!!!!!. A MAJOR improvement over previous distros which was around 40 – 60 secs.I logged in as root and to my surprise I was warned about logging in as root and that whether I want to continue. As I continued the login process I was greeted by the opensuse10.3 GNOME login Splash. The desktop this time looks very refreshing because of the new colour scheme. I fired up Amarok and tried playing my MP3’s and viola! MP3 support is built in. They have included the Fluendo MP3 plugin in the package list. But when I tried playing the videos in DIVX, x264, Real format it refused to play as codecs were not installed. So I got into YaST and this time YaST has a new GNOME native GTK interface rather than QT. The Menu is very well organized and goes with the Control Center Menu Arrangement. There I went to Software Repositories connected to Internet and it automatically downloaded the available repos and asked me to select the ones I need. The repos package list was downloaded and cached. Now all I had to do is start up software manager from YaST, search the packages I want and add to the Installer list. All the dependencies are automatically handled. But I prefer SMART Package Manager to YaST’s new Installer as YaST donot save downloaded packages (If there’s any way please let me know) . Also YaST refreshes the repos every time I start Software Installer, This is very slow compared to SMART. Anyways all in all its good. Other packages included on the DVD are

Multimedia Applications:

Amarok Media Jukebox, Banshee Music Jukebox, TOTEM Movie Player, Real Player 10, K3B CD/DVD Burning, Brasero CD/DVD Burning and Lot more.

Image Editing:

GIMP 2.2, Inkscape, F-Spot and Lot more.

 

Office Applications:

Openoffice.org 2.3, GNUCash, Evolution and Lot more.

 

Internet Applications:

Firefox 2.0.0.6, Pidgin 2.0.1, Kopete, Ekiga and Lot more.

 

Development:

Anjuta IDE, Mono Develop, Kdevelop, QT Designer, GTK Designer, Cervicia Revision Control and Lot more.

1-Click Install:

 

This is the best thing that could happen to the GNU/Linux. This was the much needed improvement in the Tux camp and I think all the distros should follow the same process. Lemme explain how this works. Lets say you don’t know what are repositories, how to add them and then select the packages to Install them. Just go to Build Service http://build.opensuse.org search for the package you want and click the “1-click Install Link” this will start the YaST Meta Package Handler, it will add all the repos required for the Installation, figure out all the dependencies download them and Install the packages. Its very easy and best for a newbie.

A Month Later….

I’m very happy with this distro, It has everyting any Desktop user will ever need. Ive aso downloaded few other packages like Exaile Media Jukebox, VLC Media Player, Kmplayer, Gstreamer Plugins for all the encoded videoplayback like Gstreamer ugly, bad,good, Extras. ffmpeg and others. Compiz Fusion, Avant Window Navigator few new icon Set, Wallpapers.

My Desktop

Desktop in Compiz Fusion

 

My System

Desk with Screenlets

openSuSE 10.3 RC1 Review

 openSUSE10.3 RC1

openSuSE 10.3 will be released on 4th October 2007. Few days back the First release Candidate was released. Tux Machines had a review for the same. Here’s the Article.

openSuSE 10.3 RC1 Review.