Originally Published: Saturday, 20 May 2000 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

A Look Ahead

Linux is an ever-evolving operating system, and the applications and utilities that help to make Linux what it is are also in a constant state of advancement. The Linux kernel is in constant development, with hackers adding new features, fixing bugs and security issues, and enhancing performance.

Linux is an ever-evolving operating system, and the applications and utilities that help to make Linux what it is are also in a constant state of advancement. The Linux kernel is in constant development, with hackers adding new features, fixing bugs and security issues, and enhancing performance. Applications like Apache, Samba, and window managers are equally challenged with offering more flexible, stable and optimized versions on a nearly constant basis. All of this development makes it somewhat difficult to keep track of this ever-changing landscape, so here we will look ahead to what is on the horizon.

Window managers are the heart and soul of a computer for many individuals as these applications take computers out of the "cryptic" command line and into the world of "point-and-click." The sheer number of window managers currently available for Linux is quite amazing when you compare Linux to the likes of Windows and the Macintosh. This variety allows users to choose the look and feel that they find most comfortable and desirable. Unfortunately, all of this variety still seems to have missed the mark for many novice computer users. Projects such as KDE and GNOME have made great strides in simplifying the Linux desktop; however, Eazel hopes to make the "quantum leap" that will generally solve the issue of desktop complexity for novice users.

Eazel was founded by a group of former Apple employees. This group of individuals brought us the completely revolutionary Macintosh Graphical User Interface in the mid-1980s, and has now set their sights on making history repeat itself on the Linux side of things. This is one of the projects to watch in the future and see just what develops.

Behind the window manager, and every graphical application that runs on it, is the X server. XFree86, the default X server for Linux, has just recently released the next major version of their software, XFree86 4.0. The new version boasts a significant improvement in speed, support for an even wider range of video cards, and numerous new features. A more modular approach, along with a new run-time loader, means that these modules do not have to be re-compiled for each platform, allowing for more frequent driver module updates. Add to the mix enhanced features such as 3D hardware acceleration support and improved font support, just to mention a few, and this new version promises to be exceptional. Expect to see XFree86 4.0 become the standard X-Server very quickly for most of the major Linux distributions in the near future.

What look at the Linux horizon would be complete without touching on the state of the kernel itself? The 2.4 Linux kernel promises to offer some great features like finally integrating the PCMCIA sub-system into the kernel itself. This feature alone will be a great help to anyone wanting to run Linux on a laptop. Additional hardware support such as rapidly growing support for USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices, Firewire, and I2O support also help to improve the Linux kernel. The 2.4 kernel series also improves upon Linux' file caching system, greatly expands the number of simultaneously executing processes and number of unique users, and also adds support for NFS version 3. These features and many, many more contribute to making the upcoming version a "big deal" for large organizations as well as individuals.

Linux is in a constant state of change, and this is a good thing. This continuing development brings an ever-improving Linux into the hands of the user community, whether a multi-billion dollar company, or a guy looking to save some money by sharing his DSL connection among a couple computers at home. As Linux continues to mature in both the kernel, and supporting applications, it becomes much more viable for more people. The growth of Linux has been remarkable, and looks to continue that trend for some time to come.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Enterprise Network Services.

The views, information and opinions provided in this article are expressed and held solely by the author. Neither Sprint Enterprise Network Services nor Sprint Corporation or any of its affiliates assume any responsibility for any opinion or statement of fact presented in this article.