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See also: last week's Linux History page.

This week in Linux history

Three years ago (April 23, 1998 LWN): Linus announced "Linus 3.0". A girl, 3270g (7lb 3oz), otherwise known as "Daniela."

Netscape, Sun, Oracle, and others formed a group called "ProComp" to "promote" competition in the computer business - by bringing down Microsoft. Those famous high-tech figures Robert Bork and Bob Dole were brought in to help.

But before Bork sits down in an attempt to rewrite the law, he will need to brush up on his knowledge of the Internet. "I am going to have to analyze something about this technology," he said at Monday's news conference. "My wife gets on the Internet, but she'll have to teach me about it."
-- Wired News.

Three years ago, LWN editorialized that the best thing to do about Microsoft was to ignore it and build the best free system we could. In the year 2001, it's easy to believe that Linux has done more for competition in the software world than Bork and Dole ever did.

Two years ago (April 22, 1999 LWN): Caldera released OpenLinux 2.2, becoming the first major distribution to come out with the 2.2 kernel. Nicholas Petreley raved about it in InfoWorld. He predicted that this version would challenge Linux on the desktop, mostly by making it easier for Windows users to install Caldera OpenLinux without losing Windows.

Caldera isn't the perfect answer to Linux on the desktop. But even with a minor flaw or two, Caldera OpenLinux is at least 51 weeks closer to being perfect than I ever would have imagined. In short, Bill had better get out of the way. Because it looks like an 18-wheeler is unexpectedly barreling down the road in his direction.

In spite of Mr. Petreley's predictions, Linux remains under-utilized on the desktop.

Corel announced that its upcoming distribution would be based on Debian and KDE.

The gcc and egcs projects agreed to merge, bringing an end to a long and sometimes destructive fork in one of the more important free software projects. The end result is called "gcc," but was based mainly on the egcs code base.

The birth of Evolution? Miguel de Icaza posted this note exploring the need for a truly powerful mail client.

The Mindcraft benchmark (mentioned in last week's history page) spawned a flurry of articles, mostly defending Linux. Mindcraft admitted that its Linux system was not tuned at all, while its NT system was tuned very well for the test. In this ZDNet article looked at some of the reasons that NT was able to beat Linux in this test and what Linux needed to do to improve in the future.

For one thing, there's a useful lesson here for Linux resellers and integrators. Linux tuning information is hard to gather up. Yes, it's there. But, it really requires an expert Linux user to find it. If Linux is to win commercially, information known only to Linux gurus and hidden away in a dozen Web sites needs to be gathered together and made more readable and approachable. For new users, learning advanced Linux is still much too difficult.

Tuning information may be no easier to find two years later, but one important thing has changed: far less tuning is required, in many cases, to get Linux to perform well.

Jesse Berst wrote this ZDNet article. He accuses Linus Torvalds of taunting Microsoft during a Spring Comdex keynote in which Linus predicted Linux would crush Microsoft. Later on Jesse writes:

Peer past the posturing and PR boasting on both sides, and here's what's really going on: Linux is making steady progress on the server side, especially for must-stay-up installations. But it's making no dent in Windows NT's growth as the standard OS for departmental servers. And it is light years away from being a threat to anybody on the desktop.

Well Linux has made a serious dent into server market now, and while not quite "there" on the desktop, "light years away" seems like quite an exaggeration.

Tim O'Reilly had a somewhat different point of view. During an interview he said,

If the open-source community doesn't get it, they are going to end up fighting the old battle trying to win on the desktop. But you know, who cares about the desktop? The web is the platform. What you want to be is like 'Intel inside' - you want to be like 'open source inside' for the next generation.

These days we do see 'open source inside' for a large segment of the web, and in many other spaces as well.

One year ago (April 20, 2000 LWN): A back door was found in Microsoft's FrontPage server software. It was apparently deliberately inserted by a Microsoft engineer and had been there for years. Eric Raymond had some things to say about it.

Webmasters all over the world are going to be pulling all-nighters and tearing their hair out over this one. That is, webmasters who are unlucky enough to work for bosses who bought Microsoft. At the over 60% of sites running the open-source Apache webserver, webmasters will be kicking back and smiling -- because they know that Apache will *never* have a back door like this one.

"Never" was, perhaps, a bit strong. There have been a couple of "back door" issues with free software recently, but they tend to be the sort of exception that provies the rule. Consider, for example, the back door found in InterBase shortly after the code was released.

Brendan Shea became the first new Debian maintainer in a long time, showing that the new maintainer process was finally working again.

The ugly stock market hit in force when several Linux stocks, including VA Linux Systems, Caldera, and Andover.Net, fell below their initial offering prices for the first time. Of course, people holding those stocks now would see the prices of a year ago as a very nice thing...

VA Linux, which traded at $320 a share following its IPO in December, went into a freefall almost immediately and hit a low of $26.88 last week. Thats below its IPO asking price of $30. Larry Augustin, chief executive of VA Linux, which makes Linux-based computers, has seen his personal wealth plummet from a post-IPO $2 billion to just over $200 million. That doesn't even get you a table near the kitchen in Silicon Valley.
-- Forbes.

Corel's Linux distribution was selling well. The company had just released Corel Linux with German, French and Dutch support. The press release claimed that this was the "First Multilingual Linux O.S.", which was not true. In a ZDNet story about Corel's chances of survival a variety of factors from plunging stock prices to allegetions of insider trading by then CEO Michael Cowpland.

[CTO Derek] Burney says Corel pretty much owns the Linux desktop market, though there is competition. Both Caldera Systems and Macmillan USA, for example, sell Linux for the desktop on retail shelves for $10 to $20 less than Corel's Linux.

Mentioned too, is the expected merger between Corel and Inprise, which never happened. The general conclusion was that Corel would survive if it could make Linux work for them. While Corel still supports Linux for some software, the company (with funding from Microsoft), has headed back to its Microsoft roots, sans the beleaguered Cowpland.

The Linux Standard Base project announced the release of version 2.1 of the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard.

April 19, 2001


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