Looking into the Future

As I write this in mid-November and look back on 1994, I see some amazing happenings in the computing field—and most of the amazement has to do with Linux itself.

Here are a few examples:

  • Decus invites Linus to speak at their conference in New Orleans.

  • The Australian Unix Users' Group invites Linus to speak at their annual meeting.

  • Linux Journal has a booth at Unix Expo and gives out 3,000 copies of the magazine.

  • PC Week names Linux as software Product of the Week.

  • Rumors are that HP, IBM, and other big names are using Linux internally.

  • I went into three mainstream computer stores and said I was looking for a laptop to run Linux. One store didn't know what I was talking about. Another suggested a particular system because it had a larger hard disk which would be good for Linux. The other told me that the laptop they sold didn't run Linux (they had tried it), but suggested another brand that did.

  • Companies such as the Roger Maris Cancer Center and Virginia Power port applications from commercial operating systems to Linux and explain that they did it because they needed something “better”.

  • Open Systems World, in its sixth year as a Washington, DC, based trade show decides to have a Linux Conference right along with the SCO and Solaris conferences.

  • Unix Expo contacts Linux Journal about doing a Linux section at their New York show in 1995.

Why is this amazing?

Because these aren't “Linux events”, these are cases of the “real world” showing an interest in Linux. At the beginning of the year, mainstream computing hadn't even heard of Linux. At Uniforum in March, Linux Journal had a booth. Although the booth was very popular, the most common question was “What is Linux?” Today people seem more likely to ask “Why should I run Linux?”, and then actually listen to the answer.

Now comes the assignment. If we want people to take us seriously we need to give good answers. Yes, Linux is a fun “hacker” system. But some of these people want to do real work. We need to listen to their needs and either explain how Linux can meet those needs or, if it can't, tell everyone who is interested in development what these people are looking for.

And this is where Linux Journal can help. Let us know what people are asking for and we'll help get the word out.

To start off this effort, here is an idea I am working on—a Linux-based “freenet” system. For those of you not familiar with a freenet, it is a public-access computer system designed to offer communications within a local community. Access is free, users are generally not computer oriented and much of the information on the system is supplied by local volunteers.

Current freenet software has a lot of shortcomings which include being inefficient, not particularly user-friendly and generally running on expensive hardware. Combining the openness and capabilities of Linux with this movement could offer a much better starting point for these freenet projects. And implementing a freenet on Linux could help us spread the word on how useful Linux can be.

In future issues of Linux Journal I want to explore the current limitations and see what Linux can offer in the way of a good base for the freenet of the future. Again, your input is welcome. If you want to get involved, write me via Linux Journal or e-mail freenet@ssc.com.

Phil Hughes is the publisher of Linux Journal.


Phil Hughes

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