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The best of LinuxWorld Expo 2001

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(IDG) -- While the number of Linux devotees remains small in the scope of PC World, their number keeps growing -- as evidenced by the continuing expansion of LinuxWorld Expo, which concluded last week in New York. Linux continues to make inroads at all levels of computing: in the enterprise, in the server space, and in markets nearer and dearer to PC World readers -- in small offices and on personal desktops. More than ever before, you could find something for everyone at LinuxWorld Expo 2001.

Best reasons to stop complaining that Word doesn't run on Linux: NeTraverse's Win4Lin Desktop 2.0 ($90 boxed, $60 for the downloadable edition) and VMWare's VMWare Express ($80) both let you run Windows from inside Linux, so you don't have to leave your favorite Windows apps behind. You'll need an actual copy of Windows to make the magic happen -- these products actually install the OS from Redmond on the Linux filesystem.

Start either program, and your Windows desktop appears in a window (or can go full-screen if you choose). Generally, any Windows application that doesn't require 3D support will work. Both companies are showing bits of Microsoft Office running; VMWare also has its software running Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and Palm Desktop (and synched the Desktop with a Palm).

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Most impressive vaporware: Ximian (formerly Helix Code) has software to worry the folks in Redmond. We drooled over Evolution, its nascent groupware solution. On first glance, you'd swear you were looking at a slicker version of Microsoft's Outlook. But this product, already available in beta with a 1.0 release expected by summer, sports more than just good looks, with full e-mail, calendaring, and contact list functionality.

Ximian is also demonstrating Red Carpet. Still in development, this app plays a role analogous to that of Windows Update, but it's already a heck of a lot friendlier and can update more than just core system components. Finally, though it's saddled with a boring name, Ximian Setup Tools could be the friendly, all-in-one graphical system configuration utility that Linux users have long been waiting for. Setup Tools isn't scheduled to make its public debut until the release of Gnome 2.0 late this year.

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More from the floor

Product that ends your Mac OS X envy: Eazel got attention last year when it brought together members of the original Macintosh user interface team to create a new graphical shell for Linux. That shell, dubbed Nautilus, is described all too often as a file manager. That's like calling a classic Harley Davidson a "bike." Nautilus represents a new way for users to think about their data, and adapts to meet the user's needs in ways we haven't seen before.

Got a document or a folder that's more important than the other things you're working on? Make it bigger, or slap an "Important!" tag on its icon. Have Nautilus track down all files marked "Important!" no matter where they are on the system. Wanna hear an MP3 file? Just hover your pointer over its icon. Wanna see the first few words of a text document, to remind yourself of its contents? It displays in the document's icon. The list of "Why didn't anyone think of that before?" features goes on and on. And best of all, Nautilus is scheduled to be an integral part of the 1.4 release of the Gnome Desktop, debuting this spring.

Products most likely to make geeks say "Ooh! I gotta get me one of those!": EmperorLinux has an entire line of preconfigured notebooks running Linux. Our favorite: the two-pound Kiwi VN. Based on the Sony Vaio C1VN, this pocket-size portable offers a 600-MHz Crusoe processor, 128MB of RAM, a 12GB hard drive, a 9-inch LCD screen, and your choice of Red Hat, Slackware, or Mandrake preloaded, with a Windows Me dual-boot option. Also available were three-, four-, five-, six-, and seven-pound models.

Coolest looking hardware: It doesn't matter what it does or how well it does it, Sun's $999 Cobalt Qube 3 just looks cool. Unlike those boxy gray appliance servers that hide under a desk or in a corner, you'll want to display Sun's bright blue Qube prominently. But the Qube doesn't just sit there and look pretty. It's designed to provide up to 150 networked users with full Internet access, e-mail, file sharing, and more, all with a minimum amount of configuration.

Most visible OS other than Linux: As usual, FreeBSD, another open source Unix-like operating system, is in full effect at the show with its trademark red devil mascot standing atop a 30-foot platform. (FreeBSD also wins the award for tallest booth.)

Best proof that Java isn't dead: Running at Appgen's booth is a beta of Moneydance 3.0, personal finance software written in Java. Moneydance features tools for account tracking, budgeting, and creating reports and reminders. Moneydance appears responsive and quick -- demonstrating that Java applications are not only alive and well, but can be fast, too. The final release of Moneydance 3.0 should arrive in three to four weeks. (It runs on Linux; OS/2; FreeBSD; Mac OS and OS X; Solaris; and Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000.)

Best free office suite that keeps getting better: If you ask us, Sun's StarOffice 5.2 is one of the best office suites around: It's free, runs on Linux, and offers greater file compatibility with Microsoft Office than any other suite under Linux (or Windows). The only thing better than a free office suite is an open source office suite built by a community of volunteer developers and Sun employees. That's what StarOffice 6.0 aims to be. Through OpenOffice.org, folks collaborate on StarOffice 6, which is in the alpha stage of development right now. Look for a new and improved StarOffice 6 in the second half of this year, or check out prerelease binaries on OpenOffice.org.

Beyond the products and pitches

Best booth (or "Where did I put my machete?"): Crowds packed into Ximian's jungle-themed booth, by far the most elaborate and creative at LinuxWorld Expo. Sporting an intricate display of foliage, nets, and plush monkeys hanging from vines, it feels more like the entrance to a theme-park ride than a trade show booth.

Usually pervasive product we didn't miss in the slightest: PowerPoint. It seems you can't attend trade show sessions and keynotes without being bombarded by PowerPoint presentations. Presenters at LinuxWorld Expo, however, generally run Linux on their notebooks, and use native Linux apps. We saw presentations driven by StarOffice, Applixware, and even simple HTML (displayed in KDE's Konqueror browser).

Most impressive of all was open source evangelist Eric Raymond's talk about the "Great Brain Race." He booted nothing at all. When a conference facilitator asked Raymond if he was having trouble with the screen, Raymond replied, "I don't use visuals. They're for the weak." The geeks guffawed.

Most awkward moment for a kernel creator: During the Golden Penguin Bowl, a quiz-show event, it fell to Linus Torvalds to define "BogoMips," a term he himself invented. When the judges ruled his answer insufficiently specific, the look on his face was absolutely priceless.

Best non-computer-related sentiment expressed by a Linux star: During his session on "Lessons Learned in 30 Years of Computer Science," John "maddog" Hall, president of Linux International and director of evagelism for VA Linux Systems, took a moment to talk about stress. Referring to the multiple herniated discs on his spine, maddog told the crowd that, among other things, stress will "screw up your back," and that folks ought to take the time not just to smell life's roses, but to grow them as well. Preach it, maddog! We'll see you in the fall, when LinuxWorld Expo comes to San Francisco's Moscone Center.




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RELATED SITES:
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