LinuxWorld: It’ll Make Your Head Spin

Reporter’s Notebook: SAN FRANCISCO — As I predicted a week ago, the LinuxWorld show here this week had a few surprises.

And it had its share of same old, same old.

The announcement that HP would formally and fully support Debian kicked off the week.

It’s a revelation that will
fundamentally change the enterprise Linux landscape in a significant way.

No longer are there only two top-line-supported enterprise distros for HP.
It will be interesting to see whether IBM or Dell follow suit on either Debian or
another community distro.

The world’s largest and most profitable Linux vendor, Red Hat , did not exhibit, which was the biggest question mark that I heard at the show.

Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens told me that he had
trouble with the show floor and that it hurt his head trying to figure out
what was new.

It’s an argument that I’d be hard pressed to disagree with.

I might even extend Stevens’ argument and say it was hard to tell what,
if anything, was new in any of the keynotes or press conferences.

The opening keynote, delivered by Professor Lawrence Lessig, was similar to one that my colleague
David Needle saw Lessig deliver earlier this year.

Motorola delivered a
keynote about mobile Linux that was similar to a discussion I had with a Motorola executive earlier this year.

Intel delivered a keynote
about Grid computing that was neither new nor novel.

Novell had a press conference to trot out
their market start partners and talk about how wonderful their new SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 is.

Considering that the software came out nearly a month
ago, I’m not sure what the news was.

IBM had a press conference immediately after Novell where it announced it would now have a multi-pronged strategy to
support open source beyond just Linux.

Considering that IBM has long
been a supporter of three of the most significant open source efforts on the
planet in Eclipse, Apache and Mozilla, I’m not sure that what they had to
say constituted anything really new.

Sun held a press conference, which I attended with another colleague, Andy Patrizio.

It was, for me, an exercise in futility. Sun revealed nothing particularly new, though the assembled throng of journalists was madly tapping away
at their keyboards.

Once again Sun tried to blindside the Linux community
with its open source Java talk. Apparently it’s planning to open
source it. Go figure.

Speaking of Java vs. open source programming approaches, I was highly
anticipating Round 2 of the battle royale panel discussion of J2EE vs. .NET/Mono vs. LAMP, which was a highlight of the Boston event for me.

In San Francisco, though, a funny thing happened. Or, rather, didn’t happen.

Two of the three listed speakers, Miguel DeIcaza of Novell (talking about
.NET) and Marc Fleury of JBoss (talking about Java), didn’t show up.

So Peter
Yared of enterprise LAMP vendor ActiveGrid was
left to argue with himself why LAMP is the best.

I guess that kinda means
that .NET and Java conceded defeat to LAMP.

There were, however, some downright amazing sessions.

The 15 years of Linux panel was insightful and interesting.

I’ve been using
Linux for nearly a decade myself but to hear Maddog Hall and Dirk Hohndel
talk about meeting Linus in the early 90s and using the first versions of
Linux was a real treat.

It was also quite cool to see Eric Raymond rant
about how the Linux community needs to do whatever it takes to win the

Google’s Chris DiBona’s session on open source licensing went 30 minutes over its allotted time.

Not so
much because DiBona had a long presentation, but more so because of the
thoughtful and engaging discussion period.

Linux kernel luminary Greg Kroah-Hartman delivered an engaging discussion
about how kernel development actually occurs.

MontaVista engineer Sven-Thorsten Dietrich enlightened me
in a technical session on Real Time Linux. And Eben Moglen admitted that
mistakes were made in the GPL version 3 draft discussion.

Floor traffic was also brisk.

Many exhibitors told me they were getting great traffic and certainly
more than they expected.

One bookseller told me that he had actually sold
out of titles, which was a stark contrast to his Boston LinuxWorld
experience in which few books were sold.

The .org pavilion as usual was the heart and soul of the exhibit floor, with
community-driven projects such as GNOME, Debian, FreeBSD, Fedora, Gentoo,
PostgreSQL and even Sun’s OpenSolaris showing off their wares and engaging
floor traffic with their infectious enthusiasm.

So was Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens comments about the show correct? Hard to
say in the final analysis.

There was some new stuff, there was a lot of old stuff and then there was a
lot of marketing fluff too.

Just enough to make your head spin.

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