Linux Making Mac Inroads

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Although the Cube is the machine getting all the press these days, in terms of operating systems, the buzz clearly goes to Linux -- at least until an OS X beta ships. Linux is predominantly found on Intel boxes, but if this year's Linux World Expo is any indication, the "open source that could" is making steady inroads into the Mac community.

SuSe was showing off version 6.4 of their Linux OS, which is designed for Power PCs. Version 6.4 allows users to either auto- or custom-install Linux on a partitioned Mac. The setup software detects hardware, sports a graphical interface, and will even partition your drive for you -- although the SuSe rep I spoke with recommended running the custom install and partitioning the drive yourself. SuSe Linux 6.4 allows users to run either Gnome or KDE desktops. Since it comes with Mac-on-Linux (among other applications), this is one time when Mac users can have their cake and eat it too. In addition, Linux 6.4 supports USB for almost all keyboards and mice, as well as several other devices.

Eazel, a company founded by several ex-Apple employees, debuted a new file management system with a URL-based naming scheme called Nautilus, which should give Mac users a more familiar way to access and manage their files in the Linux environment.

One of the more interesting products at the expo was Agenda's Linux-based PDA, the VR3, which the company expects to ship in October or November. The VR3, which sports a 66MHz 32-bit MIPS processor, 8MB of RAM and 2MB of Flash storage in their base model, is almost as much PC as it is PDA.

The VR3 features a screen about the same size as the Palm's, yet the entire surface is able to recognize natural handwriting. By connecting the VR3 to a cell phone, users can send and receive e-mail and attachments and browse the Web. What's more, the VR3 is engineered to multitask, meaning you can work on a spreadsheet while that e-mail is downloading. In the spirit of Linux, Agenda is releasing nearly all of its code for both the operating system and applications under general public license.

The VR3 does have its drawbacks, however. Currently, it only syncs via a serial connector. Even worse, it doesn't sync with the Mac at all. Yet, Agenda said they are working on both these issues.

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