Linuxworld San Francisco, 2005 (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 11 Aug 2005

Linuxworld San Francisco, 2005

There's really not much to say about Linuxworld this year. It was smaller than last year (they moved it across the street to the "little" Moscone hall) and the mood seemed a bit subdued.

SWAG was way down: to get anything remotely cool you generally had to register to watch a presentation that gave you a chance to get something to wear that would enter you for a chance to win something cool later. Or similar indirections. You had to be pretty desperate. But maybe people were, since I saw lines at some of the booths.

I did my annual sweep of the big booths to see who was running Linux on their show machines. This year was the first time that all the major booths used predominately Linux (except on machines running fullscreen presentation software, where it's impossible to tell). It was a huge change from past shows -- I stopped keeping tabs after a while. I saw only one or two confirmed Windows machines each at most of the big booths, like Intel, AMD, IBM, Sun, and even HP. They seemed fairly evenly divided between SuSE and Redhat.

At the AMD booth, lots of machines sported cardboard signs saying "Powered by Redhat" or "Powered by SuSE". One of the "Powered by Redhat" machines clearly had a Start menu, so I had to ask. The AMD rep gave me a song and dance about virtualization technologies, pointing out that although the machine was running Windows, it displayed both Redhat and SuSE windows which he said were running on the same machine. Okay, that's a perfectly good reason to be running Windows at a Linux convention. No points off there. I suspect most of the booths showing Windows had similar excuses.

"Virtualization is the wave of the future! Everybody here is displaying virtualization technologies," the AMD rep told me. Indeed, virtualization was everywhere. I don't know that I'm convinced it's the wave of the future, but there was no question that it was the wave of the present at this year's Linuxworld.

Sweeping the hall, I passed by the Adobe booth, where someone was giving a presentation to an audience of maybe ten people. The projector showed a window which showed ... nothing. A blank window border with nothing inside. "Now, it's connecting to San Jose", explained the presenter with apparent pride, "to get permission to display the document." I kept walking . It hadn't finished connecting yet by the time I was out of earshot. Perhaps the audience was somehow persuaded by this demo to buy Adobe software. I guess you never know what people will like.

A bit past Adobe was the weirdest booth of the exhibit hall: SolovatSoft, offering offshore software development at rates starting at $18/hour. Honest, this was an actual booth at Linuxworld. I should have taken my camera.

Gone were most of the nifty embedded Linux displays of yesteryear. I saw only two: one (, I think) which I've seen there before, showing an array of fun-looking custom embedded platforms of all sizes, and another showing Linux on various cellphones and similar consumer devices. Only one laptop maker (Emperor) made it there, and none of the smaller-than-laptop manufacturers -- I was hoping Nokia, Sharp, Psion or some other maker of nifty Linux PDAs might be there.

The "Dot Org Pavilion", the place where free software groups like Debian, Mozilla, the FSF, and the EFF have their booths, was on a completely separate floor, and would have been easy to miss if you didn't look at the maps in the convention guide. But it wasn't all bad: someone on a LUG mailing list pointed out that this put them in a nice quiet area away from the raucous advertising of the big commercial booths in the main hall, so you could actually have a conversation with the booth folks. Also, the dot-orgs got a nice view out the second-floor windows compared to the cavernous indoor commercial hall.

I only went to one keynote, "The Explosive Growth of Linux and Open Source: What Does It All Mean?" The description made it look like a panel discussion, but it was really just five prepared speeches: three suits repeating buzzwords (Dave and I amused ourselves counting the uses of the word "exciting", and with Toastmasters reflexes I couldn't help counting the "ah"s) and two more interesting talks (well, okay, Eben Moglen was also wearing a suit but at least he didn't spend his whole talk telling us about the exciting opportunities ahead for company X).

I would have liked to have heard Mike Shaver's keynote on web technologies, but it wasn't worth going back to San Francisco for a second day just for that.

In the end, the real highlight of the day was hooking up with Sonja at the Novell/SuSE booth for a nice lunch. Hooray for conferences that give you an excuse to meet friends from far away! Catching up with some of the Mozilla crowd was good, too. That made the trip worth it even if the exhibit hall didn't offer much.

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[ 21:25 Aug 11, 2005    More conferences | permalink to this entry ]