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The week in review: Penguin power

Fans of the open-source movement get a boost from new converts as LinuxWorld Conference and Expo kicks off in New York, but that doesn't mean that all is well in Linux land.

Members and fans of the open-source computing community schmoozed this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York.

Linux has racked up an impressive list of converts, thanks in large part to the role IBM has played in trying to convince others that the operating system is worthy of real-world use. To further its cause, IBM put on display four big-name Linux customers at the conference.

Big Blue has good reason to promote Linux. The operating system runs on IBM's four server lines, and the company committed itself to spending $1 billion on Linux in 2001. This week the company said it recouped almost all of that investment the same year.

Indeed, Linux converts represent a wide cross-section of the tech world.

• Turbolinux signed deals under which Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer will promote and sell its Linux server management software, which lets administrators control Linux servers remotely.

• Veritas Software said its Foundation Suite now runs on Red Hat's version of the Unix clone. The Foundation Suite, which long has existed for Unix servers, lets administrators more easily manage how a server communicates with multiple storage devices.

• Alcatel, Cisco Systems and Nokia have joined the Open Source Development Lab and have become members of an advisory group seeking to define what exactly is needed in a "carrier grade" Linux server designed for telecommunications use.

• E*Trade announced that it is moving its computer systems over to IBM servers that run on Linux. E*Trade cited cost savings and performance as reasons for switching to Linux.

• Linux even infiltrated the brains of the DreamWorks digital animation studios, with HP machines displacing SGI workstations.

Yet is all happy in Linux land? Not quite. A proposal to help Linus Torvalds keep up with patches for Linux has sparked a controversy over whether the operating system has outgrown its creator.

A Linux evangelist has proposed a "Patch Penguin"--a person who would help integrate fixes for the myriad small problems that plague the current development kernel, Linux 2.5. The proposal comes after many developers have grown frustrated with Torvalds for not keeping up with the slew of minor fixes hatched by volunteers.

Were you able to keep up with all this week's Linux news? If not, check out News.com's comprehensive package from LinuxWorld, complete with video clips from the show floor.

The wireless world
Verizon Wireless became the first wireless carrier to launch commercial service of its third-generation, or 3G, phone network. The new network lets customers wirelessly surf the Net at faster speeds, among other services. The service is being offered in an area between Virginia and Boston, which includes New York and Washington, D.C., as well as the San Francisco Bay Area, including Silicon Valley.

The new Express Network service will allow laptop computers and PDAs (personal digital assistants) to access the Internet, intranet and e-mail. Typical speeds will be 40kbps to 60kbps, but can be as fast as 144kbps.

Consumers are pulling the plug on traditional phone lines at home as wireless service and broadband connections become cheaper, according to a recent survey. New communication services, such as those offered by AT&T Wireless and Sprint's PCS business, have already replaced landline service in 1.7 percent of households.

By 2006, more than 5 million U.S. homes will start using mobile and high-speed broadband networks as their primary connection, according to Forrester. That would make wireless services the predominant means of communications in 11 percent of households.

Not everyone is sold on going wireless, though. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has banned the use of wireless computer networks at its facilities over concerns that security flaws in such systems could leave classified information vulnerable to hackers.

The lab, which produces research on nuclear weapons and other national defense technologies, disabled the two wireless local area networks that were in use at its Livermore, Calif., campus as a result of the ban.

Running the show
IBM named Sam Palmisano to succeed Lou Gerstner as its chief executive officer, effective March 1. Palmisano, currently IBM's president and chief operating officer, has been widely expected to take over for Gerstner, who has been credited with transforming IBM from a lumbering giant into a profitable services titan.

With Palmisano, IBM will have a CEO who is clearly familiar with the company's operations. The 50-year-old executive has managed a number of Big Blue's divisions, including the services group and server division. He also ran Asian operations for a time.

Microsoft is making a new high-profile hire in appointing a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney to its top security position. Scott Charney, currently the principal for digital risk management and forensics at PricewaterhouseCoopers, will become chief security strategist on April 1, overseeing the software giant's internal and product security policies.

Security has become a critical issue for the software giant. Despite several initiatives to secure the Windows operating system and Microsoft's major applications, bugs have still plagued the company.

Coming soon
Apple Computer broke the 1GHz barrier not once but twice in one day with the delivery of new Power Macs. The faster Power Macs could close the "gigahertz gap" with PCs. The fastest Intel-based PCs soar past 2.2GHz; Apple had been stuck at 867MHz as its fastest available processor.

Apple shipped three new Power Macs, with the top-of-the-line model packing two 1GHz PowerPC G4 processors. The other new models have single 800MHz or 933MHz processors. The release of faster Power Macs could be important in preventing Apple's new iMac from cannibalizing low-end professional system sales.

Palm unveiled its second-generation wireless handheld--the i705, the key feature of which will be always-on, secure wireless e-mail access through its Palm.net service. The service will also be able to notify subscribers when there is a new message in their in-box.

The i705 will cost $449 and will also come with a Secure Digital expansion card slot, 8MB of memory, and a monochrome screen with a resolution of 160 pixels by 160 pixels.

Not to be outdone, Research In Motion is developing a new version of its BlackBerry handheld device that will allow people to make phone calls over AT&T Wireless' network. RIM's new device will come with an earpiece and microphone and will use AT&T Wireless' GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks.

RIM also struck a deal with Ontario, Canada-based Rogers AT&T Wireless. The deal means that the same device that will be used on the AT&T Wireless network in the United States will also be available in Canada, but will run on Rogers AT&T Wireless' GSM and GPRS networks.

Also of note
Compaq's Alpha chip may be heading toward the periphery of the market, but its influence will live on in versions of Intel's Itanium chip coming out in 2004 and beyond...A federal judge has asked Microsoft and the Justice Department to file a joint status report on their proposed settlement and, in an unusual move, has asked if they're planning any changes to the settlement in response to public comments...European regulators approved the pending mega-merger between HP and Compaq, leaving industry watchers to ponder whether U.S. regulators will follow suit...Firing another salvo in the battle over instant messaging, America Online is blocking people using the Trillian interface from linking to its AOL Instant Messenger system...Named after the popular Google search engine, Googlewhacks, and the game of finding them (two search terms with only one result), are the latest pursuit of legions of bored and increasingly obsessed Web surfers searching for the next big thing.

Want more? Check out all this week's News.com headlines.