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Transmeta set to release Linux for Net appliances

The chipmaker is preparing to post Mobile Linux, its take on the open-source operating system, as early as next week.

Transmeta plans to release its version of the Linux operating system for Internet appliances and other devices as early as next week so that developers can begin testing it.

The chipmaker is preparing to post Mobile Linux, its take on the Linux OS, under the GNU General Public License process in the near future, company representatives said this week. Although the exact release date isn't set, the release could come next week or the week after.

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, works as a programmer at Transmeta.

The once-secretive company, located in Santa Clara, Calif., has intended all along to release Mobile Linux to the open-source community. In fact, it's required under the GNU license to release improvements to the open-source community.

The company, however, CNET's Linux Centerchose to wait until it got to a point where it was satisfied with the OS, said Dan Quinlan, an engineer with the company. Mobile Linux is used in Internet appliances from Gateway, Hitachi and others. Notebooks containing Transmeta chips don't use Linux, but instead rely on Windows.

Quinlan would not comment on the details of the release's timing but said Transmeta will post the OS to its Web site soon. The company expects people to download Mobile Linux, tinker with the OS, and then make suggestions on how to improve it.

"We want to put it out there in a way that's useful to people. We're going to be putting it out on our Web site, and we're going to try to put it up in a way that people can download it and use it and send us feedback," Quinlan said.

Developer suggestions invariably get included in future versions of the OS, Quinlan said, although the team hasn't determined yet how often updates will be posted.

As far as features go, Transmeta has worked to reduce the amount of memory required to run the OS. Unlike PCs, which come with fairly large amounts of memory and storage, devices must economize.

"We've done a lot of work on bringing the size down and being efficient about memory," he said.

Mobile Linux uses the standard Linux kernel and will run on Intel or Transmeta processors. And it may be applied in several areas. There is development work being done, for example, on Linux-based routers and Linux MP3 players, Quinlan said. A number of Linux companies are already pointing the OS toward these markets.

Meanwhile, Transmeta has also been busy on the chip front. The company has begun shipping faster Crusoe processors, some of which will be used in a flurry of new notebooks to be unveiled in Japan over the next few weeks.

Sony, for example, will offer a pair of new Vaio notebooks, one of which will offer the first 667MHz version of the Crusoe TM5600 chip. NEC will offer two new LaVie notebooks with 600MHz versions of the chip, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. Casio will also begin to sell Crusoe-based notebooks.