Linux was everywhere and Microsoft was wise to be absent from Computerworld Expo in Auckland last week.
If Microsoft had shown up — it failed to front for planned product shoot-outs against open source OS and office suite rivals — it would have heard complaints about its Software Assurance licensing scheme. Instead, Linux reseller Bryce Coad had audiences eating out of his hand as he demonstrated the operating system running OpenOffice.org 1, a newly released equivalent of Microsoft Office.According to developer Greg Fawcett, of Sydney-based Xpedite, open source software is “within a sniff” of reaching a mass commercial market.
“[Microsoft’s] Software Assurance will tip Linux over the edge” into widespread acceptability, says Fawcett, who sat through an OpenOffice demo.
Developer James Quickenden, whose two-person Wellington company, Perfectdata, caters for large government and commercial customers, says he’s hearing plenty of complaints about Microsoft’s licensing, changes to which take effect on July 31.
According to Quickenden, some of those customers are ready to consider Linux for functions such as email gateways and web servers.
“To do that with Microsoft, you need to persuade the customer to spend an arm and a leg on licensing,” he says.
Quickenden isn’t fully convinced Linux is ready for prime time, and won’t be persuaded until installation of the OS is made painless. When he last tested the process 10 months ago using a version of Red Hat, the installer got stuck.
“We’re ready to give Mandrake 8.2 a go,” Quickenden says, after hearing about the new OS release on the New Zealand Linux User Group (NZLUG) stand at the expo.
Coad, of Auckland’s Zombie Linux, was to have shown Linux and OpenOffice in a direct comparison with Windows XP and Office XP. But at the last minute Microsoft decided not to take part in the shoot-out, managing director Ross Peat saying it would not be “appropriate”.
One of the few signs of Microsoft at the show was on the Vodafone stand, where the Wallaby Pocket PC-based phone-cum-PDA was on display.
Linux, in contrast, was impossible to avoid, even making an appearance on Sony’s PlayStation II. The expo was the venue for the launch of Sony’s Linux Kit, which includes a 40GB internal hard disk, 100 Base-T ethernet network adapter, keyboard, mouse and software to turn a PlayStation II into a Linux PC, for $599.
The willingness of users to learn about Linux was demonstrated when Coad’s technical staffer descended into the bowels of the OS to tweak its font displaying capabilities. One person in the audience nervously asked whether such tinkering was standard practice for Linux users, and seemed to accept Coad’s assurance that it was the administrator’s job.
Igor Portugal, technical head at Linux reseller Asterisk, which made its first appearance at the show in 1999, says Orix, Linfox Logistics, the Health and Disability Commission and Vita New Zealand are among its customers. Portugal collected a wad of business cards from visitors to his stand, many of which he expected to turn into sales.
Asterisk was showing FireflyX, what it calls a hybrid fat-thin diskless Linux terminal, which runs local applications in Flash RAM and connects to a Windows or Linux server. Local apps include a web browser and clients for email, Oracle Forms and Borland's Kylix Linux development tool.