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LinuxWorld Conference & Expo 2008

This year, 2008, I decided to register and go to LinuxWorld. It is in August and my kids are not at school so it was easy to manage. Also, I had to go to the French consulate to get a birth certificate for my daughter. In other words, I had the chance to do two things at once!

I found it quite interesting to hear that many people were not too excited about the event. Many of the people walking around are like me: they themselves sell their own Linux solution. In other words, they are not going to be customers. I had the chance to talk with Roger Levi, the Vice President of the Open Platform Solutions at Novell. I was surprised to not see them (and RedHat, if that matter) having a large booth as usual. This is why. This show attracts people in the field, not customers.

So why are all of these people attending the show since they already do Linux? Well… they certainly are interested in what their competition does! Although, for us at Made to Order Software, we do not see them as competition since most of the things we do have nothing to do with most of the people present at the show. And on my end, I specifically was in search of a possible partner for an idea I have. And of course, maybe I’d find a few things I had not seen before and could be of interest.

I have to say, it was similar to the first time I went to the show: 50% of the companies present are selling data center or network products. That is probably why the show is not so good for me, in a way. Now, of course, some have terrific solutions. And there are the other 50% of the companies too, many that are really good. There is what I liked and disliked:

Coverity was present! These guys create terrific software that checks your code very closely. It finds a lot of bugs and potential bugs and gives you detailed reports of why those are. For instance, it will tell you if you are eventually going to use an uninitialized variable in C or C++.

From what I understand, they now fully support Java. Good thing, also variables are always initialized, there are ways to write bogus code in Java too.

This company creates more than complete computers that run on nearly no power. They were showing the computer at LinuxWorld displaying a movie, using a lot of processor power, and yet, the AMP on their meter was very low. (I do not remember how much, but in comparison to usual monster computers, it is like 1/10th.)

If you want to run a farm and don’t want to break the bank on electricity, this is your solution! Send them an email at inquiry@sustaincomputing.com

This small company already has 300 customers. All wireless ISPs. They offer a software written in PHP to control all your ISP servers including emails, websites, billing and filters (fast & dirty as well as deep packet sniffers.)

I was impressed because I always thought of an ISP as a huge complex set of heavy tools to control all sorts of things, but in fact, it is rather simple. Of course, I’ve been in I.T. for a while, thus simple for me is not equal to simple to you, but that’s my way of saying that there is really no magic other than what I already know of running a set of servers.

This company offers a GUI application created with Qt that is an ERP and a CRM. In other words, a full contact suite. They offer a quite interesting licensing model: about $100/mo per seat if you have 10 or more seats. If you have 9 or less, it is free.

At first, I looked into it because they are using PostgreSQL. My favorite SQL database.

Otherwise, they are friendly and their system has been around for a while now so it is really usable (it has been tested enough to be 99.9% bug free.)

  • Unison

This company offers a unified way to get all your telecommunications needs through your server. This includes emails, phone, fax, instant messages, calendar, and contacts. All you need to run Unison is a Linux box that is compatible with their software. All the other computers can run any operating system such as MS-Windows, Mac OS/X and even SunOS or some other Unix based system.

According to them, the cost of ownership of one server for 1,000 users (your employees) is only $115,000. A similar solution from Microsoft would cost you $700,000 since you would need several Windows Servers, and 1,000 licenses for each product (Exchange, OCS CALS, Office Communicator, Outlook.) And the installation process of the Unison solution is a breeze in comparison.

Ah! And best of all, if you have a small business, 10 people or less, you can download and use all the software for free. Everything is open source.

This company is working with these brand new “hard drive” from large manufacturers like Samsung. These new drives are actually solid state drive. The same as your thumb drives, but… with a much bigger capacity! They are at 64Gb for a drive the size of a floppy disk drive (if you ever saw such a drive in your lifetime!?)

And they are working on the next version: 128Gb. With the same physical size factor.

Now, these solid state drives use flash memory. There are good things and bad things about Flash memory. The best good thing is certainly that it is a lot faster to read from that memory than from a hard disk, a lot more! They are nearly 10 times faster. Not like it is slow today, is it?! But anyway…

The next good thing is that these drives do not have a motor to make the disk turn, it is just memory. And they do not need a complex head to read data from the disk. In other words, you do not need to park them. And they are not getting hot like hell (in case you were going to, think twice before touching a regular hard drive after a shut down!) And of course, since there is no motor and no head, there is no need to wait for the motor and/or head to be at the right place to read the data. The reads happen at the speed of light plus/minus the latency.

And there is one more thing: they consume a lot less electric power.

Okay, these are all good things, but there is one really bad thing: writing to a flash drive is dead slow. So slow that it usually is not considered to be a good solution for anything more than the BIOS parameters and thumb drives.

This is where Easy Computing Company comes. They invented a piece of software (a driver) that properly distributes the data on the drive and accelerated the writes 50 to 60 folds. And this method helps save the flash memory too. In other words, your drive will work twice as long as if you did not use their driver.

In effect, one of these drives cost a little more per Gb, but they go 60 times faster than your 15,000 RPM hard drive. More info about the managed flash disks: http://www.managedflash.com

The tincan tools company is a hardware company. There seems to be many of them sprouting around. They create tiny (what I’d call embedded!) computers. The two they showed me were only about twice bigger than a regular thumb drive.

In itself, it isn’t that exceptional. However, it cost close to nothing (under $200) and runs Linux 2.6.x at 200Mhz pumping an incredible 0.1 AMP. And that is exactly what I think will make a huge difference in many appliances in the near future.

The boards are very simple. One includes two ports: USB and NIC. A real mini-Linux server! Another includes 17 ports include serial, USB, I2C, SPI, timers, and 30 pins of general I/O’s.

This one is a lift. Yes. A lift for these super heavy servers. Frankly, I have been carrying the servers myself, but I never had to put one at the top of a 6 ft rack (lucky me!)

This left system carries servers from ground level to over 6 feet (I’m 6′4″ and this lift is taller.)

And the table of the lift will hold the server while you put the safety screws. In other words, it makes your life real easy and the work space safer (no breaking backs.)

I’m sure they have competition, but the owner is really a nice guy. Trust me, I can tell. He’ll sell you those at the full price I’m sure, but you’ll have no problem dealing with him!

Voilà! That is my personal review of LinuxWorld 2008.