Linux rolls into image-processing applications

Earlier this year, Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. (Redmond, WA), said he foresaw only a limited role for the emerging Linux operating system (OS) and that it would be limited to simple applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. Recent events, however, have proved otherwise. The Linux OS was originated by Linus Torvalds in 1991 while a student at Finland`s University of Helsinki; he is now at Transmeta Corp. (Santa Clara, CA).

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Linux rolls into image-processing applications

Earlier this year, Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. (Redmond, WA), said he foresaw only a limited role for the emerging Linux operating system (OS) and that it would be limited to simple applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. Recent events, however, have proved otherwise. The Linux OS was originated by Linus Torvalds in 1991 while a student at Finland`s University of Helsinki; he is now at Transmeta Corp. (Santa Clara, CA).

Since its introduction in 1991, the POSIX-like Linux OS has been used by thousands of developers worldwide, according to Robert Young, president of Red Hat Software (RHS; Research Triangle Park, NC). Honored as the InfoWorld 1998 Product of the Year, RHS Linux 5.2 is, according to Jeff Symoens, senior analyst, product reviews, at InfoWorld, "one of the easiest Linux distributions to get up and running. And Red Hat`s continued support for Compaq Alpha, Sun Sparc, and Intel processors helps to extend the reach of the operating system to a variety of hardware platforms."

As in the early days of DOS, the first applications to emerge for Linux were word processing and spreadsheet applications. However, unlike the early DOS-based programs, many of the Linux business productivity tools are free of charge and can be easily downloaded from Web sites such as www.linuxlinks.com/Software/ Office/.

For image processing, visualization, and analysis, at least six major software packages are available (see table). Most packages, such as XITE, Amira, IRAF, TN-Image, and GIMP, are available at no charge, although they are not supported by commercial organizations.

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Recognizing the importance of Linux, commercial image-processing vendors are starting to port their applications software to this operating system. The AVS5.4, for example, is now available commercially from Advanced Visual Systems (AVS; Waltham, MA) and provides support for the Linux OS from RHS.

Designed for both application developers and end users, AVS5 consists of a suite of data-visualization and analysis techniques that incorporates visualization tools such as 2-D plots and graphs, image processing, and 3-D interactive rendering and volume visualization. Using AVS5.4, developers can analyze, manipulate, and display complex data, including 2-D and 3-D images, 3-D graphics, and multidimensional numeric data.

According to Tim Greer, AVS vice president, "The release meets the needs of customers who have been using AVS5 on UNIX workstations and now require the same capabilities on the PC platform. Greer recognizes that Linux is growing in popularity and plans to provide AVS customers with visualization capability.

To empower the widespread use of applications running under Windows, Microsoft has, for several years, bundled its operating systems with PCs from major vendors. Similarly, Dell Computer (Round Rock, TX) is offering RHS software as an option on the Dell Precision 410 and 610 workstations through its Web site: www.dell.com.

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