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Linux supporters rally around their freeware OS

July 16, 1998
Web posted at: 1:30 PM EDT

by Paul Krill

SANTA CLARA, California (IDG) -- Linux, the popular freeware operating system, will be getting richer in functionality with upcoming features to include support for Intel's 64-bit Merced processor, a panel of Linux experts said Tuesday night.

Several hundred people turned out at the Santa Clara Convention Center for what was tantamount to a Linux pep rally hosted by the Silicon Valley Linux Users Group and Taos Mountain, a Bay Area-based OS support group. Although panelists noted Linux currently lacks critical features such as Merced support as well as well-rounded applications support, they stressed the momentum building around the OS will result in a more robust Linux portfolio.

"We anticipate that Linux will be running on Merced," within two to three years, said panelist Sunil Saxena, a principal engineer at Intel. More symmetric multiprocessing features also will show up in Linux, he said.

Applications such as CAD and databases also should find their way onto the Linux platform, panelists argued.

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Linux is being ported to the PalmPilot handheld device, said panelist and Linux founder Linus Torvalds, who stressed the portability of his OS. He noted he had written it originally for his own use.

"Flexibility is really the key," Torvalds said. "It's not there for really everybody right now, but [Linux] started out for one person on one machine. Now it's on supercomputers and PalmPilots for millions of people."

Issues such as a perceived lack of customer support are being addressed in the Linux community, according to the panel. Linux also is becoming more commercial, said an official of a firm distributing Linux.

"First of all, Linux is a commercial operating system," said panelist Robert Hart, manager of support services at Red Hat Software, in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "It is just not one that restricts access to its source."

Panelists were not optimistic, however, about Microsoft applications being ported to Linux.

"If you want to generate Microsoft applications, I don't think that's likely to happen," said Jeremy Allison, an application developer with the Samba team, which has developed a Windows NT-compatible file and print system for Linux.

Linux developers, however, must avoid the division that has happened in the Unix industry, in which there are multiple, incompatible versions of Unix.

"The applications have to run across everything," said Larry Augustin, president of VA Research, a Mountain View, Calif., company that sells hardware for Linux. "Otherwise, you fragment the market like Unix."

Taos Mountain Inc., in Santa Clara, is at Silicon Valley Linux Users Group is at

Paul Krill is a senior editor for InfoWorld.
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