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See also: last week's Commerce page.

Linux and business

This week it was Andover.net's turn to file for an IPO. Andover, of course, is the firm that recently bought Slashdot and Freshmeat. They are very much trying to position themselves as a Linux IPO, in the hopes of getting the same sort of rewards that Red Hat has received. Andover, however, is a very different sort of company, and their ability to convince investors is yet to be seen.

As always, there is a wealth of information to be found in their S-1 filing. Here are some highlights:

  • They claim: "Andover.Net is the leading Linux/Open Source destination on the Internet." Not bad for a company that only occasionally mentioned Linux before their acquisition of Slashdot this summer. Their claims extend to having "over 50% the visits to Linux resource sites on the World Wide Web."

  • Nonetheless, they want, surprisingly enough, to expand their market share further. Acquisition of other sites is listed as one way in which they will achieve that goal. They also want to make more money from e-commerce.

  • They plan to sell 4 million shares, just over 25% of the 15 million shares that will be outstanding at that time. A 25% piece is relatively large for "Internet" offerings - Red Hat sold closer to 10% of the company. Their stock symbol will be ANDN. They expect to bring in just under $50 million from this offering.

  • The usual sort of list of scary risk factors is listed, including: they are new at the Internet business; they plan in incur losses for some time; their quarterly results fluctuate a lot; they rely on the growth of Linux, and will suffer if Linux falters; negative reaction in the open source community could hurt them; their ad revenues come from a small number of advertisers; competition on the Internet is intense; they are vulnerable to Internet disruptions; they could be sued for what they publish;

  • A fair amount of information on the Slashdot acquisition is presented. Outright they paid $1.5 million in cash and $2.0 million in stock for the site. Those numbers will bump up to a maximum of $3.5 million cash and $5 million stock if the Slashdot principles remain employed there and meet "performance milestones."

  • Rob Malda has a three-year contract with Andover. Andover can terminate this agreement for "continued, uncured insubordination." How this clause fits with his claim of "total editorial control" is not spelled out in this filing. Rob can quit and take a year's salary with him for a number of "good reasons," including "the requirement by Andover.Net that Mr. Malda perform his duties from any specific location for a prolonged period of time."

  • Freshmeat was bought for $367,000 and $111,111 in stock, heading up to $667,000 and $333,333 in stock over the next two years.

  • Their e-commerce plans include the sales of computers, books, and CD's, as well as consulting services.

  • The majority of Andover stock is held by its management team, with a large chunk also in the hands of a handful of venture capital firms.

Andover sees much of its future role in helping people "transition" to free software from their current systems. Beyond that (and the e-commerce), much of their vision seems to consist of "do more stuff better."

Andover's IPO will not be handled in the typical Wall Street fashion - instead, the shares will be sold via a "dutch auction" process through the OpenIPO network. Essentially, this means that any interested party can put in a bid for the IPO shares. The highest bids will be selected until all of the shares are accounted for; the shares will then all be sold for the lowest of the selected bids. People interested in participating may want to look into getting an account with an OpenIPO-enabled broker in the near future.

LinuxOne also filed for an IPO this week. This company, with ten employees, plans to bring in $24 million from its stock offering; they want to trade under the symbol "LINX". Some of you may not have heard of LinuxOne before; some more information about the company can be found on its web site.

LinuxOne has its own distribution, called LinuxOne; it has only been available since September 9. Despite its newness, LinuxOne has high goals: "we believe it will become one of the more popular Linux-based operating systems in the world." LinuxOne is also apparently working with MandrakeSoft on the opening of MandrakeSoft's Beijing office.

Like Red Hat, LinuxOne plans to make its web site into a major attraction, "to create one of the definitive online destinations for the open source community." It is interesting to note, though, that if you telnet to their web server, you get a Red Hat prompt. As of this writing, they are not running their web server on their own distribution. A traceroute shows that their web server, the future major attraction, currently lives at the far end of a Pac Bell ADSL line.

They also plan to make money through the provision of professional services and support.

The company has been incorporated since last March, and has lost $17,000 since then. They have had zero earnings thus far. Nonetheless, they currently have almost $150,000 in the bank. This money seems to have come from private sales of stock; since the resulting owners have less than 5% of the company, however, there is no information on who bought it. About a third of the company is currently held by Wun C. Chiou, the president; another third belongs to the "Global Village Foundation," a nonprofit corporation where Mr. Chiou serves as a director.

There is an interesting quote regarding the offering price: "The offering price of the Shares was arbitrarily established by us in order for us to raise a gross amount of approximately $23,000,000 in this offering. The offering price bears no relationship whatsoever to our assets, earnings, book value, or other criteria of value."

Overall this is an interesting filing. There are numerous established companies which have not yet gone public; it is a bit surprising to see another one come out of the blue like this. It will be interesting to see how far they get. (See also: this Slashdot topic for more strongly-worded thoughts on this IPO).

LinuxBerg CD cover The Tucows Linux Software Archive. The folks at LinuxBerg were kind enough to send us a copy of their "Tucows Linux Software Archive" CD Set. It is a nicely-packaged box with four CD's inside. The contents: essentially the entire LinuxBerg site, including downloadable software.

In normal use, one selects a disk from the set, mounts it, and points a web browser at the "index.html" file on the CD. The result is a display that looks very much like the LinuxBerg site itself. One can select software categories, read the reviews, and "download" the software itself through the web browser. It's the full LinuxBerg experience, with over 2100 packages, but without the network delays.

On the downside, the packaging format for the software varies. A disk like this is most useful for browsing through the various software alternatives and trying things out. Most people will then likely want to download the current version of their selected software from the net. This mode of exploration would be much facilitated by providing all of the software in the package formats used by the major distributions. Trying to clean up after tarball-packaged software is a pain.

The ratings are also not the most helpful. Almost everything is four or five penguins, and there is little information on how the ratings were done. More information on the ups and downs of each package would be helpful.

Nonetheless, this is a useful set of disks. It is probably the best collection of free software out there, with the possible exception of the Debian distribution. Interested people can find this disk on LinuxCentral's site.

Freedom to innovate.

  • Eric Raymond takes on Microsoft's "Freedom to Innovate Network". "Microsoft's call for 'freedom to innovate' would be a lot more credible if they published full interoperability documentation for things like the Word file format, the SMB file-sharing service, NTLM, and the Exchange wire protocol. These proprietary, closed so-called 'standards' are the weapons with which Microsoft maintains its stifling monopoly on the PC software market."

    Press Releases:


    • Brooktrout Technology announced support for the Linux operating system on their TR114 Series intelligent fax and voice boards.

    • CAD-UL announced that a recent research study conducted by Venture Development Corporation (VDC) concludes that CAD-UL was the primary revenue generating provider of x86/Pentium embedded development tools during 1998. CAD-UL products are available for Linux.

    • Cobalt Networks announced the availability of a set of clustering solutions for its server appliance systems.

    • Lexmark International, Inc. announced MarkVision for Intranets, Unix version, now supports Red Hat Linux 6.0, SuSE Linux 6.1, and TurboLinux Workstation 3.6.

    • MontaVista Software announced that "Hard Hat Linux" will be demonstrated at next week's Embedded Systems Conference.

    • Philips Digital Video Systems Company offers the Philips PC-DVB card in a Linux version, integrated in a Satellite Router developed with Helius Inc., of Orem, Utah.


    • CynApps introduced CynApps Suite with its open-source Cynlib class library that facilitates hardware description and simulation in C++. The CynApps Suite is available for Linux.

    • Loki Entertainment Software has come up with an interesting promotional activity for the Atlanta Linux Showcase: they will pick 30 people to turn loose on the Civilization: Call To Power source for two days - they can add whatever features they want. See Loki's press release and articles in Next Generation and GameSpot.

    • Magic Software announced the release of "Magic Enterprise Server v8.3." It runs on Red Hat, and "...enables developers working on other platforms to quickly and seamlessly port existing e-commerce and other business solutions to the operating system."

    • Merlin Software Technologies Inc. announced PerfectBACKUP+ 6.0, a Linux-based back-up utility and system crash recovery tool.

    • MessagingDirect announced the release of Execmail ("the #1 Extranet email client in the world") for Linux (Red Hat only).

    • MSC.Software Corp. announced MSC.NASTRAN, simulation software, for Linux.

    • NeoCore, LLC announced the release of its PacketEyes software development kit (SDK). The SDK supports several platforms: Visual C++, Metaware, GNU, Solaris, Windows 95/97/NT4, Linux, and others.

    • Objectivity, Inc. announced Objectivity/DB Hot Failover, a new option that provides support for the types of redundant processors, which are common in telecommunications applications.

    • PLX Technology, Inc. announced the release of WinDriver for PLX I/O Devices, a software package helping developers write drivers for the PLX IOP 480 PowerPC I/O Processor (IOP). This software package also supports development of IOP 480 drivers for Linux.

    • ProSyst Software GmbH is offering a free, unlimited usage developer version of its EnterpriseBeans Server for Linux over the Internet.

    • SGI announced it has released to the open source community Jessie, a next-generation Integrated Development Environment (IDE) framework that will simplify and accelerate the creation of Linux applications.

    • Tivoli Systems Inc. announced Tivoli Storage Manager, successor to the IBM and Tivoli ADSM storage management software product set.

    • Veritas announced a new version of its file server system. Previously limited to NFS service, Veritas can now also serve files via the SMB protocol, thanks to the incorporation of Samba.

    • Xi Graphics, Inc. announced graphics system software support for laptops that use the newest graphics chip from ATI. Besides Linux, the new software also is available for laptops running Solaris x86 and FreeBSD operating systems.

    • XMLSolutions Corporation announced the general availability of the ExeterXML Server release 1.0. Linux versions are available.

    • XMLSolutions Corporation also announced XMLZip for Linux.

    • Ziatech Corporation announced a continuing series of one-day seminars focusing on real-time operating system solutions for applied computing applications.


    • Here's an editorial on GBDirect's web site outlining what they see as Microsoft's possible strategies regarding Linux. The editorial essentially assumes that Linux wins. "[Microsoft is] unlikely to turn around and adopt Linux: it would look like an admission of failure and in any case it's too far outside their control to fit their culture. They desperately need a Unix product and the fastest route is through acquisition rather than development. Buying SCO would seem the obvious choice and would, oddly, be a form of repatriation since SCO took over Microsoft's own Unix product (Xenix) years ago."

    • Alcove, a French consulting company, announced (in French) a project to convert all of France Telecom's intranet sites over to the Linux platform. The new sites will be based on Debian, using Apache, PHP, and PosgreSQL. They also mention ProFTPd; one wonders if they will reconsider that one in light of recent problems. English translation of the release available via Babelfish.

    • Caldera Systems announced a deal with Tech Data which sets them up as the first major Caldera distributor.

    • Leo Cooper has sent us a translation of Channel One's press release, which explains why they registered the "Linux" tradmark in Germany.

    • Compaq Computer Corporation announced the Compaq Solutions Alliance (CSA) New Technologies Test Drive program, at http://www.testdrive.compaq.com. The New Technologies Test Drive website allows people to "test drive" not only Compaq's new hardware, but also various flavors of Linux.

    • DataDirect Networks Inc. provider of interoperable Storage Area Networks (SAN) and SAN-enabling technologies to the distributed computing community, has announced its intention to integrate Linux support throughout the company's SAN-enabling architectures, SAN infrastructures and SAN solutions.

    • The I2O Special Interest Group (I2O SIG) announced that it has provided a new web site for system developers who use I2O technology in their products. I2O technology runs on Linux and other platforms.

    • The Linux Cabal, a non-profit organization providing meeting space to Open Source groups in the Bay Area, has gotten into the web hosting business in order to pay its expenses.

    • Linux Korea Inc. announced the receipt of a venture investment from Korea IT Venture Investment.

    • MandrakeSoft announced the July sales for LinuxMandrake - twice those of Red Hat's distribution.

    • Macmillan's (Mandrake-based) Linux distribution was the best selling Linux product in July, according to this press release. "PC Data's July figures show 10,445 retail sales for Macmillan's 'Complete Operating System 6.0' compared to 4,802 sales for the Red Hat distribution. In all, five of the top-sellers were Macmillan products. These included the 'Deluxe Linux O/S 6.0,' the 'Secure Server Edition Linux O/S 6.0' and Macmillan's Linux Complete Starter Kit.'"

    • MTI Technology Corp. announced the MTI DataServices strategy, using Vivant hardware.

    • O'Reilly put out a press release regarding their upcoming book by Eric Raymond (which is a reworking of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and its sequels). There is also an entry for the book in their online catalog.

    • O'Reilly announced the publication of the first UserFriendly comic book.

    • Red Hat announced its second-quarter numbers. Revenue is up to $4.4 million; they managed to lose over $3 million anyway.

    • Romac IT Services and Aranea Training Institute have announced the availability of a three-day class on "Linux in a network environment," taught in the Netherlands. Please see their announcement for more information.

    • Siemens announced the results of a benchmarking exercise with R/3 running under Linux on a Siemens server. The results: 243 simultaneous users - the highest number ever on a four-way Intel server.

    • Ziff-Davis and MediaMap join to provide exhibitors with a list of editorial opportunities associated with COMDEX/Fall '99 and LINUX Business Expo.

    Section Editor: Jon Corbet.

  • September 23, 1999


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