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Interview: LinuxPPC's Jeff Carr

by David Sims
   About LinuxPPC is the site for information on OS developments. is the site to order LinuxPPC from Carr's company.

• LinuxPPC was the topic of Slashdot's interview with Steve Wozniak (Jan. 7, 2000).

Jeff Carr is president of LinuxPPC, the company that develops and distributes LinuxPPC, the Power PC version of Linux, which runs on Apple Macintosh computers, IBM Power PC machines, and Motorola's embedded hardware systems. O'Reilly Network Editorial Director David Sims recently talked with Carr and LinuxPPC's chief operating officer, Sean Peters, about the development of LinuxPPC--where it's working and who uses it. The first question was who developed LinuxPPC.

listen Listen to this interview:

Jeff Carr: The users and the developers online were really the people that developed LinuxPPC. I ended up being the president of a company that ended up coming together to help support the development of LinuxPPC, specifically the web site,, which is really ... was the centerpoint of the LinuxPPC development effort. So three years ago when that all started, a couple of us put together this web site to try and gather all the software and information about the Power PC hardware and try and push the effort forward.

David Sims: So, you were one of the developers contributing to the effort?

Carr: I was more the system admin, really, and webmaster. And I wore a lot of hats. Eventually, I started making CDs of it for my own use and thought, "Hey, I wonder if people would find these useful?" So, I put up a little order page online where they could buy the CD and that was where the selling of the CDs started coming from and eventually started to pay for the cost of the bandwidth and the machines and stuff like that.

"I started making CDs of it for my own use and thought, 'Hey, I wonder if people would find these useful?'"

Sean Peters: A good portion of the development of LinuxPPC is rooted in the development of Linux in general. As LinuxPPC has developed, there's been more developers that are developing free software for the Linux platform that are creating the specific version for the Power PC platform.

Carr: I know what you're getting towards, like the Gnome effort is software that we all use in the Linux world, so there are few Power-PC-specific things--mostly kernel level, compiler level, core libraries like glibc, and some other utilities related to the Power PC hardware. But, the rest of it is all that other software that we get to use because we're a Linux operating system.

Sims: Who are the users? Who are the people who buy the CD? I mean, we've had some discussions about this that were interesting. Are these Mac users who want to go someplace else? Are these Linux users who like Mac hardware? Or what's your take on who is a LinuxPPC user?

Carr: Now, Sean can probably get us good numbers on this from the database, so we're getting to that point in the future where we'll have better numbers on the breakdown. But, it used to be about 75 percent Mac OS users and 25 percent were the rest of the Motorola and IBM users, mainly the R6000 crowd that were migrating from AIX.

Sims: Why are they migrating from AIX?

Carr: AIX is expensive. It's an older design of Unix and they just wanted something modern that had the features that they loved in Linux.

Peters: Because the source code is freely available. Unlike other flavors of traditional units--such as AIX--that you'd have to pay a relatively large licensing fee for, having the source code allows you to make any specific modifications for your own personal use, which, if it is deemed as something useful by the Linux community, will become part of the core operating system or the core of the specific application that you've modified. So, having that freedom to more easily have modifications to whatever application or the operating system that you're using is probably a big feature that attracts people to using Linux for a Power PC, as well as other flavors of Linux.

Sims: Similar to any open source operation. I'm thinking there is an image of a Mac user and it's a designer, and I'm trying to think who would be Mac OS users that would find themselves sort of dissatisfied with the operating system and want to move into Linux.

"The Mac OS is really best used as a client OS and they found that they had great hardware and they didn't have an operating system to use."

Carr: Well, the beginnings of that migration for Mac OS users came from the people that were network server administrators and they were trying to make the Mac OS actually work as a server and it's such a nightmare. The Mac OS is really best used as a client OS and they found that they had great hardware and they didn't have an operating system to use. So LinuxPPC was what they started using as their servers. Later on, or more recently, when you start to see the new operating systems from Apple come out like, that are Unix-like, there's even more of a migration to Linux.

Sims: You guys were just down at Macworld last week? What kind of interest did you find from people there?

Carr: Lots of interest. One, because we gave away a lot of CDs. They couldn't believe it was free, like "Wait, this is a demo, right, or a trial? This isn't the whole OS, is it?" "Yep."

Peters: "When does this expire?" was a question that I got from many people.

Sims: They're probably used to getting CDs that have a URL on them.

Carr: Yeah, that's right. You can go here to order it.

Peters: Yeah. I got a lot of response from local educators that were at the show, high school teachers, and I was describing to them why they might want to use Linux because there's no site licensing fee. This one CD, or a free download from our Web site, allows you to install the operating system on as many machines as you want. There's no "I'm going to have 30 users, so I have to pay for 30 users." Not only for the operating system but for applications as well.

Carr: And compilers, because when you're going to teach a computer science class you have to have a compiler so you can teach beginning programming. And, here you can put Linux in the classroom and maybe--like we grew up using BASIC on the Apple IIE--we're going to have a whole mess of classrooms and a whole mess of students growing up maybe learning how to use Perl or writing simple bash scripts on Linux.

Peters: Perl, in my opinion is probably the best first language for anyone to learn because it's not compiled and there isn't a lot of including of various header files, like in C, which is a very powerful language but it's a bit more work to get started. The classic "Hello World" program in C is much more complex. Or your professor gives you the framework for it and you don't understand half of what's going on, whereas in Perl, it's truly a one-line program.

Sims: What are your thoughts on OS X?

"Apple's going to have a lot of trouble talking Mac users into using a BSD-like OS."

Carr: : Well, Apple's going to have a lot of trouble making Mac users, or talking Mac users into using a BSD-like OS. As pretty of an interface as they put on it with Aqua, it's still not Linux. Linux just has such amazing movement behind it that Apple is going to have to try to catch up with the Linux community and it's just not going to happen. The battle between Microsoft and Linux is the future of the OS battle and we all hope Apple is going to eventually succumb to that Linux effort and join it to compete against Microsoft.

David Sims was the editorial director of the O'Reilly Network.

Discuss this article in the O'Reilly Network Linux Forum.

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