August 15, 2005

LinuxWorld Conference and Expo - Wrapup

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

I've said this before, and so have many others: The semi-annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo has become a business-to-business gathering. Last week's edition, held in the west building of San Francisco's Moscone Center, had more exhibitors than last year -- about 200. It had the same number of attendees -- about 11,000. But most of the exhibitors I asked said the show was better for them than last year because the quality of attendees was better -- at least from their point of view. And there was still the "meeting ground" aspect, centered on the Dot-Org area that was located well away from the main show floor. This still makes LinuxWorld worthwhile for those whose primary interest is learning about new advances in the GUIs and other software that keep GNU/Linux evolution strong and steady."If you want to meet developers and talk development these days, you need to go to OSCON (the O'Reilly Open Source Convention)," one attendee told me. "It's like LinuxWorld was five or six years ago."

There's also the Ottowa Linux Symposium, where kernel hackers and others gather for tech sessions, and the exhibit floor -- along with the number of attendees -- is strictly limited.

If you're a developer who wants intense conversations with other developers, in other words, LinuxWorld is not for you. But if you want to show your work to commercial and enterprise Linux users, it's probably still the best show in North America for this purpose.

A brief glance at the commercial displays

Splunk was a first-time LinuxWorld exhibitor, and a heartening one in that its presence proved there is still -- perhaps I should say "once again" -- venture capital available for companies working with Linux and open source. Splunk's first (beta) software releases are for Red Hat, Fedora, and Solaris. This is not open source software, but users are encouraged to write open source extensions to it. The Splunk booth drew significant traffic. Almost every time I looked, I saw people asking for information. This, for commercial vendors, is what makes LinuxWorld "a success."

Here are some "Splunkers" at their booth:

Here's a Novell presenter speaking to a nice little crowd at the company's booth. Green SUSE caps were all over the place. Red hats from Red Hat were not nearly as abundant. They were even scarce among Red Hat booth personnel, most of whom went bare-headed.

Across an aisle from Novell's huge booth, IBM's similarly huge one didn't draw nearly as large a crowd for presentations, especially on the show's third and final day. But several IBMers told me they got plenty of sales leads; that LinuxWorld is always a great show for them.

One huge advance at recent LinuxWorlds: at early ones, most of the exhibition-supplied PCs in the press room ran Windows. This time, there was a row of Linux/KDE desktops supplied by Xandros, with only a single token Windows desktop among them.

You still meet cool people at LinuxWorld

Here's Doc Searls of Linux Journal (and other) fame.

Russell Pavlicek is a perennial LinuxWorld speaker. Two of my friends said his session on how to "sell" GNU/Linux and open source to upper management was one of the most valuable they attended.

For the record, this was the first meeting between Donald Becker, who wrote almost all of the original Linux NIC drivers, and Marty Connor, who rewrote many of Don's drivers for EtherBoot. The two of them, together, probably have more brainpower than five average people. It is a humbling experience to be in the presence of this much genius.

A final note

It's easy to complain about the increasing commercialization of LinuxWorld, but the funny thing is that many of the people manning and womanning corporate booths are the same ones we met back when LinuxWorld still had a trekkie "cult" feel to it. Except now those people have jobs and polo shirts -- and in many cases, mortgages and families. GNU/Linux is no longer an "upstart operating system" but has become part of the computing mainstream. And that's good for all of us.

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