Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, August 05, 2003

  Live from LinuxWorld - w/Jim Gettys

This year I got a press pass. Love that free food in the press room!

I went from the booth of a vendor (to remain nameless) that had things like TinyX wallbatising their boards. I played dumb and asked the salesdroid: "What do you mean by X?"

He replied "We do a lot of work with the Intel Xscale processor. We do design, initial bring up, everything you need in the design cycle to ship your product in 8-9 weeks, tops. We've got multimedia/video/networking all..."

Me: "So that doesn't mean Xwindows..."

He: "Oh, yea, we do Xwindows too."

He kicked back into the memorized hardware salespitch again... it was obvious he'd ingested too much coffee prior to facing the LinuxWorld mob, so I moved on. I do Xwindows.

I hooked up (briefly) with one of the godfathers of Xwindows graphics system, Jim Gettys himself. He hails from HP and currently gets his kicks from hacking on arm based pdas via the site handhelds.org. HP's booth, right by the door, showed off HP's ipaq series running two versions of Linux. There was a full Debian release, running off a local flash hard drive, and Familiar, a version that fits (comfortably) in less than 32MB of flash. On familiar were the current releases of Opie and GPE - the competing open source environments for handheld Linux PCs.

I had a chance to play with the GPE release. It's NICE. It's pretty. It's functional. I gotta get home and download it for my ipaq - it's GTK 2.2 based... But anyway, I'm here to meet people, not hardware... and I caught Jim's attention.

Taht Has anyone commercialized handhelds.org's technology?
Gettys Various people are doing stuff with it or are ready to deploy it, there's some security stuff is about to be deployed, for example. It's not to say that I believe that Linux is ready to be a volume product in place of PocketPC. I think that will take a few more years. It's the vertical things that Linux can do that WinCE and and PalmOS can't touch.

it's going to take 1-2 more years til we catch up, but after then we are playing to our strengths rather than theirs.
TahtLately I've been playing games with where metcalfe's and moore's law intersect. One thing I noticed is that flash ram costs less than half as much this year as last year.
GettysI understand. That's why the people doing framebuffer based stuff are all wet. With another turn of the crank it won't be that much to have regular qt and regular GTK on the same Ipaq. In fact, with most of our current models (not the low end ones) that's true already.
TahtI don't think that Moore's law dominates the cost of these devices. There's Gene's law which describes power consumption, then there's the cost of the actual display itself.
GettysDifferent technologies are on a different technology curve. Disk drives traditionally were at a very low rate of 20-30% per year, and then for reasons I don't fully understand they suddenly 5-7 years ago went to a faster than semi-conductor improvement rate.
TahtHow about the cost of displays...
GettysI don't know. If I did, I couldn't tell you.
TahtAnything else going on?
GettysA bunch of us (the X.org folks, the freedesktop.org folks) are trying to get a large scale engineering project focused the fundamental technologies required on the desktop. It's a larger charter than just the X server itself. X is just a piece of what we need. It's not funding we're looking for, but talent.


The XFree86 project forked a while back, with the Xwin group of developers splitting off. The philosophical differences between the design paradigms between the XFree group and the Xwin Group are readily apparent via the difference in their website designs....

The news today is that the infrastructure for the fork is almost ready...

From today's discussion on xwin.org...



In 1998, Jim wrote an excellent article on The Two Edged sword - on his reconversion to X. He reconverted me with it. It's taken far longer than I ever dreamed it would for X to re-become viable - but I look at the quality of redhat's bluecurve, gnome 2, and kde 3, gtk2 and qt 3, and then back at 1998, when none of that stuff existed - and I think that the prospects for Linux on the desktop in the next 5 years look bright indeed.

I'm going to go catch a session on clustering samba and then the keynote.
 
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