Originally Published: Saturday, 14 October 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Hardware at ALS

The leaves are turning, the weather is cool, and a subtle breeze blows from the north. That can mean only one thing: time for Atlanta Linux Showcase. ALS is a great way to take a sample of Linux development and see what interesting things developers can do with hardware.

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The leaves are turning, the weather is cool, and a subtle breeze blows from the north. That can mean only one thing: time for Atlanta Linux Showcase. ALS is a great way to take a sample of Linux development and see what interesting things developers can do with hardware.

While I sit on a blue bean bag chair, listening to Eric Raymond talk about the economics of open-source in the consumer market, I survey the ALS exhibit hall. Tons of companies, lots of hardware vendors, and many women in skimpy outfits handing out penguins: distracting, but well worth the visit.

Linux-enabled hardware comes in all sizes at ALS. The large end of the scale has Compaq, VA Linux, Penguin Computing, SGI, Sun and IBM, rack-mounted servers, large scale workstations, high-end computing. This extends well past the traditional x86 architecture, leveraging RISC processors like the Compaq Alpha.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the embedded market. Companies like Embedded Planet are creating pocket-sized PowerPC platforms with an emphasis on networking. Small boxes with integrated hubs, performing all of your routing/firewall/ipmasq needs in something the size of a sandwich. Absolute Value has created a mini-router for 802.11 wireless networking, using a standard PCMCIA wireless adapter in the base station. These systems may utilize "slower" processors in comparison to the PC market, but it doesn't take a lot of power to do network routing.

ALS demonstrates the fact that Linux hardware vendors are becoming more creative in their configurations. Most every potential computing market is represented at the show, which is a nice demonstration of how far Linux has come in such a short time.

PocketLinux is an entire development platform for Linux on PDAs. By using Java and XML instead of X for GUI functions, PocketLinux saves the limited processing power of the average PDA for actual application tasks.

Companies like Atipa and Linux Labs are entering the market using off-the-shelf hardware to create rack-mount server solutions. By leveraging "off-the-shelf" technology, these solutions can be more affordable than the higher-end companies (while not focused on supercomputer performance).

The current fan favorite for "neatest toy" is the ZapStation from ZapMedia. ZapStation is a multimedia appliance based on Linux. This black appliance looks like a large DVD player, but does so much more: MP3 playback, CD ripping, broadband access, internet radio, streaming video and DVD playback (yes, DVD playback) with a full-featured remote-control. ZapStation is coming soon, so watch for it.

Sure, not everything about Atlanta Linux Showcase revolves around hardware development, but I don't think I'll be doing any Java articles today. Now, having completed my writing goal for the convention, I must go and find that booth babe with the free bumper stickers.





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