The heart of Linux might not be ready yet, but companies and volunteers are releasing new versions of the rest of the operating system.
German Linux seller SuSE said it will release version 7 of its Linux edition in mid-August, while TurboLinux has begun shipping a version accompanied by IBM's DB2 database software, the companies said.
Red Hat yesterday began offering a download of the beta version of its next edition, version 7.0. Red Hat is the biggest of the Linux software companies.
These new versions, though, are a step ahead of the heart of Linux, called the kernel, which isn't moving along as fast as earlier hoped. Despite psychological tricks such as naming the current development version "2.4.0-test," the new and improved 2.4 kernel still hasn't arrived.
Linus Torvalds, the founder of the Linux movement and still its highest authority, said recently he expects 2.4 in August or September.
Caldera Systems, though, isn't waiting. On Monday it started selling a $20 "preview version" with a test version of the 2.4 kernel. It also comes with the latest, faster version of Sun Microsystems' Java.
SteelEye Technology today will announce a new version of its Linux "clustering" software designed to make sure computers running the popular Apache Web server always stay up and running. Pricing begins at $1,500 per server and increases according to the complexity of the configuration.
On the user interface front, KDE has released an updated beta version of its new graphical user interface for Linux, featuring a more polished look, better reliability and several new features. A start-up called Eazel is working at the same time to bring its own improvements to Gnome, a competing user interface.
The new version of KDE, called KDE2, will make it easier to associate a type of file, such as an MP3 format, with the program a computer user wants to use to open that file. It also has an updated suite of office applications, Koffice, and plugs for several memory "leaks." A box in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen allows people to type commands in a sort of cross between the Windows 98 "Run" box and the Unix command line.
Eazel, which has received $11 million in funding, is developing a file manager that makes it easy to choose between seeing lots of files or seeing comparatively few files but with many details.
Eazel's longer-term plan for making Linux easier to use, though, isn't just a simpler interface, chief executive Michael Boich said in an interview. Instead, the company hopes to make money by offering a service to keep people's computers up-to-date with the latest versions of software, including bug fixes and security updates.
Part of the goal is to make installing software easier so that customers won't have to worry about details such as which underlying software libraries they have installed, Boich said.
The company also will offer online file storage integrated into the file manager, so customers can store files over the Internet, he said.
The TurboLinux package is tuned to work well with IBM's database, called DataServer. It's part of TurboLinux's strategy to offer Linux in combination with other software. The version works on Intel-compatible computers, costs $2,500 for a five-user version, and includes 60 days of installation support.
The new SuSE version also comes with the ReiserFS file system, one of several competing "journaling file systems" that allow faster rebooting after a crash. The version, which costs between $40 and $70, also comes with an improved "Yast2" installation tool and with XFree86's new version 4.0 of the graphics engine used by most Linux systems. SuSE supports XFree86 and employs four of its lead developers, including SuSE chief technology officer Dirk Hohndel.