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[Touchphone] The Linux-powered telephone. Our latest feature article looks at the Touchphone - an intelligent telephone product which runs Linux internally. It is an interesting piece of technology, and an even more interesting look into a possible future of Linux: the system of choice for embedded consumer applications.

Eric Raymond has released a new paper: The Magic Cauldron. It's the third in the series that started with "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." According to Eric: "This paper focuses on economics and the `How do I make money at this?' question."

The Mindcraft rerun. The results are in; as expected, NT still beat Linux strongly, though not so strongly as before. For this particular set of tests, NT just performs better. For details, see the PC Week article that first made the results available.

There are a few things to note about these results. First, perhaps, is that much of the Linux community (including this publication) reacted a little too strongly to the initial results. Certainly there were numerous problems with how the first test was done, and it was right to bring those to light. But, in the end, fixing the problems did not change the ultimate results of the test.

More recent criticism points out that the benchmark has little to do with any sort of real world situation. Doug Ledford of Red Hat was quoted widely as saying "The tests do not accurately represent how and what our customers are using Red Hat for." Penguin Computing put out a strongly worded press release arguing the irrelevance of the benchmark. See also Chris Lansdown's article on the sort of network connectivity it would take to actually sustain the number of hits per second tested in these benchmarks. A separate set of tests documented in this c't article show that, under more "realistic" conditions, Linux performs much better.

All that is true - the connection with the benchmarks and reality is weak at best. But complaints along those lines just sound like sour grapes at this point. They make Linux look bad, and are not worth the trouble.

A few problems with Linux have been found as a result of these benchmarks. There is a bottleneck in the networking code that appears to be the cause of the plateau in Apache's performance, for example. Work is already well underway to fix those problems. See Dan Kegel's page for a detailed discussion of what is happening in this area.

And that, really, is the best result out of these benchmarks. There is no deep design problem within Linux that causes performance problems in these conditions. There are, instead, specific implementation problems that have been found, and will soon be fixed. It may not be long before Linux starts winning these benchmarks. The end result will be to show how quickly Linux can adapt and deal with problems. In the long run, these benchmarks will probably look like a good thing for Linux, from both the technical and public relations point of view.

Slashdot has been acquired by Andover.net. If it works out as planned, the deal should be a good thing for Slashdot - they will get money to pay for help and redundant servers, and absolute creative control is written into their contract. Details can be found in Slashdot's announcement and Andover.net's press release.

The Free Practice Management Project has been launched. FreePM seeks to create an open source system to handle most of the information system needs of medical offices and clinics: appointment scheduling, medical records management, insurance claims, etc. If it is successful, this project could well be the biggest one of its kind: a deeply domain-specific system for the needs of a particular industry. For details, see the FreePM announcement.

Whether the project will be successful remains to be seen, however. This project appears to have broken one if the cardinal rules of free software endeavors by starting out with no code base whatsoever. Getting their desired "100 to 1000" volunteers could be hard given that there is very little for them to start hacking on.

We wish FreePM luck. It is, in any case, likely to be the first of many such projects. As free software gains "respectibility," players in many industries will see the advantages of having an industry-specific base of free code. It is certainly a question of "when," and not "if" free software will move into this realm.

Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond are fighting again. Stallman posted some comments via Slashdot about how he wants no part of "open source." Raymond responded with a piece called Shut up and show them the code claiming that open source tactics have a lot to do with the current success of Linux and related software, while FSF tactics have been ineffective. Ho hum...

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July 1, 1999


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