UniForum '97, April 12-14, 1997

My trip to San Francisco to attend UniForum'97 was very satisfying as I got to see two great luminaries of our time—the Hale-Bopp comet and Linus Torvalds.

My trip to San Francisco to attend UniForum'97 was very satisfying as I got to see two great luminaries of our time—the Hale-Bopp comet and Linus Torvalds. Hale-Bopp was visible in the pre-dawn sky on March 12 and 13. Linus was visible at the Keynote speech on March 13 and was definitely the brighter of the two.

The president of UniForum, Tom Mace, was present to welcome Linus, and Douglas Michaels of SCO presented Linus with UniForum's Achievement Award. The award itself is a clear, pyramid-shaped trophy, about which Linus said he was pleased to have something “physical” to show for his work. Linus' acceptance speech was brief and self-effacing as usual. He referred to himself as the “spider at the center of the web” with many others working around him. Tove and their 3 month old baby girl, Patricia Miranda, had accompanied Linus and both tolerated my pushiness in taking pictures. After the keynote, Linus and Tove made the rounds of the Exhibit Hall, visiting all their fans in the Linux Pavilion. Tove confided that they were enjoying the weather (no snow), but that the arrival of their furniture had been delayed by a bad storm that had forced the ship back to Germany.

Mitchell Kertzman of Sybase gave a vibrant keynote speech that morning, in which he ignored Linux as a possible factor in a paradigm shift that might topple Microsoft. Perhaps he hasn't heard that Linus' goal is “world domination”. Kertzman compared today's software industry to the automobile industry of the fifties—that it is designing products to be obsolete in three years, while consumers are wanting long term reliability. Sounds to me like consumers are looking for Linux.

While 7000 people had pre-registered for UniForum, only about 75% of those actually attended. Perhaps the others went to one of the competing shows such as Internet World. At any rate, at times the floor was crowded with attendees, while at other times (particularly toward the end of the day) it was quite empty. The Linux Pavilion was placed in the right rear corner of the floor, yet it seemed to me that most attendees were gravitating over to check out this upstart operating system that dares to be freely available. SSC gave away their stock of magazines and bumper stickers, as well as displaying T-shirts, reference cards and the new “Tux” mugs. IBM and Lucent Technologies both had central positions on the floor, but I saw many people passing them by to visit Digital to check out both the Alpha and Jon “maddog” Hall's new Linux setup for Digital's Intel box. Jon is providing us with a short article about this setup that will appear next month.

I attended two of the talks: one on Electronic Document Interchange and one on high speed Internet access. Both were well presented and full of good information. I was particularly impressed with Jeff Wilbur's thoughts on the directions that access to the Internet will take in the future (i.e., cable modems, xDSL, satellite, ISDN), and so asked him for an article.

Since UniForum '97 was my first conference as Editor of Linux Journal, I met many people I had only heard about before, including Joel Goldberg of InfoMagic (who is a sponsor of Linux Gazette), Mark Bolzern of WGS, Adam Richter of Yggdrasil, and of course, Jon “maddog” Hall of Digital. Jon introduced me to Ted Cook of BRU, who told me of his plan to give away BRU software to Linux User Groups at the upcoming Linux Expo and to groups that are members of G.L.U.E. (http://www.ssc.com/glue/).

On Wednesday night Joanne Wagner, one of our advertising representatives, and I attended a press conference/party put on by XiGraphics—free food and drink, always a plus. The press conference was held to announce the recent name change (from X Inside) and the latest release of Xi's Accelerated X software. The president and founder of the company, Thomas Roell, gave a short presentation in which he described the directions he envisions for Xi Graphics.

All in all, I had a good time at the conference and a pleasant stay in San Francisco.

Marjorie Richardson, Editor