Linux software, hardware and service providers gathered at the Comdex/Spring Linux Pavillion - the first at a show that has traditionally been dominated by Microsoft Windows software.
The chief Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, Caldera and Suse, were all present, demonstrating new updates of their Linux flavours and in some cases handing out free copies.
Caldera showcased its Openlinux 2.2, which started shipping on Monday. The update features the new Linux 2.2 kernel and a new installation procedure, dubbed the Lizard (for Linux Wizard).
At its booth, Caldera demonstrated how a PC can be set up to use Openlinux 2.2 in only a few minutes, following a simple graphical procedure that automatically recognises most peripherals. Openlinux 2.2 is priced at $49, though it was being handed out free to Comdex/Spring attendees.
Red Hat, the most popular Linux distribution, was also demonstrating its upcoming release, though it is still a month or two from shipping. The successor to the successful Red Hat Linux 5.2 will not only feature the updated 2.2 kernel, but also the long awaited new graphical shell, Gnome.
As was evident at the Linux Pavillion, the Linux community has not yet agreed on a common graphical user interface for Linux. While Red Hat and Suse will move to Gnome as the default and Caldera will stick with the popular KDE desktop, most vendors offer a choice of at least half a dozen alternative GUIs with their Linux versions.
Also at the Red Hat booth, Oracle was demonstrating its Oracle 8.5 database running on Red Hat Linux. A Linux version of Oracle 8i, the latest release, is due in 60 to 90 days.
One of the most heard concerns about Linux is the lack of commercial support. But several companies at the Linux Pavillion were promising just that.
David Manala, vice president of Linuxware, said the San Francisco based company now has about 50 technical support engineers available at all times, offering 24x7 support. The company now provides round the clock support out of San Francisco, but is looking into opening a European office later this year - possibly in the UK or the Netherlands.
To drive home the fact that Linux is not the only open source Unix derivative, the FreeBSD movement also had a booth at the Linux Pavillion.
As Mike Smith, who does developer support for FreeBSD, remarked, Linux itself is little more than a kernel. Many of the other operating system modules are shared by FreeBSD and Linux. And many FreeBSD supporters feel Linux has "sold out", said Smith. While FreeBSD has not had as much publicity as Linux, said Smith, "we plan to be around after the bubble bursts."
Judging by the crowds at the Linux Pavillion, there appears to be little risk of the bubble bursting just yet.
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