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X is the Spot

Back in 1989, I discovered the X Window System, and almost immediately, I fell in love with it. X was fun to play with and a blast to program for. In fact, I was so enamored of graphical user interfaces and the ins-and-outs of windowing systems, I spent the next three years or so working on little else but X. I even had the privilege of participating as a member of the X Consortium, shuttling regularly back and forth between coasts for X technical conferences and hands-on "interop" sessions. Indeed, to this day, I trace my eventual career in consumer software and computer game development back to the day when I launched X on my Sun 3/60 workstation.

Back in 1989, I discovered the X Window System, and almost immediately, I fell in love with it. X was fun to play with and a blast to program for. In fact, I was so enamored of graphical user interfaces and the ins-and-outs of windowing systems, I spent the next three years or so working on little else but X. I even had the privilege of participating as a member of the X Consortium, shuttling regularly back and forth between coasts for X technical conferences and hands-on “interop” sessions. Indeed, to this day, I trace my eventual career in consumer software and computer game development back to the day when I launched X on my Sun 3/60 workstation.

So, perhaps it goes without saying that I had a very keen interest in this month’s feature on the state of X. While I use X every day — just like every other Linux user — I knew little about recent advancements of the technology. Of course, I did hear about the row between true X man Keith Packard and the XFree86 board of directors, but that only sparked my curiousity more. I wanted to know where X was headed: What new features were planned? Can X keep up with the ambitious plans many have envisioned for the Linux desktop? How would the establishment of xwin.org affect future development?

I am pleased to say that Amit Asaravala, one of our new writers, answers these questions and more in his story starting on page 32.

Of course, X wouldn’t be so compelling if it didn’t run across a network. The seamless presentation of disparate, distributed computing resources on a single desktop remains one of X’s most compelling features.

But X is really a very primitive way of tying network resources together. As we saw in last month’s issue on cluster computing, there are many ways to tie resources together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Novel networking hardware and software is certainly important to cluster builders, but in an increasingly wired and wireless world, networking is perhaps even more important than what operating system you run. If you want proof of how impactful networking can be, borrow my Titanium Powerbook and walk into a room of other Mac users. In an instant, Apple’s Rendezvous technology provides ad-hoc, instant connectivity to every Mac owner in the room.

Beginning this month, Linux Magazine launches a semi-regular series on emerging networking technlogy. This month, we present Infiniband, a technology closely aligned with high-performance computing. In coming months, we’ll also look at iSCSI — a technology for sharing SCSI hardware over IP — and Zeroconf, the specification that forms the basis of Apple’s Rendezvous. I hope you’ll find our “Cables and Connections” series illuminating and informative. I look forward to your comments about the series and welcome your suggestions.

Last but not least, I want to wish Editor-at-Large Bob McMillan a fond farewell. Bob is hanging up his freelancer’s cleats for a “real job,” and we’ll miss his talent and wit. Of course, before he could get out the door, we weasled two more stories out of him — this month, a very rare interview with MySQL creator Monty Widenius, and next month, a look at how Linux is changing the landscape of retail sales operations. Thanks again, Bob.

And, of course, thank you for reading.


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Martin Streicher, Editor

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