A Look to the Future

My goal was to have Linux Journal address as many of the needs of the community as possible.

In 1993, before I began publishing Linux Journal, I knew that in order to succeed the magazine would need the support of the Linux community. At that time, most of the community existed on the Internet—not surprising, since Linux development was primarily on the Internet and most developers had met only over the Internet.

To test the waters, I posted a questionnaire to the comp.os.linux newsgroup on Usenet. I had two goals: to find out how much interest existed for a print publication and what information was needed. Interest was high; I received very positive feedback. My goal was to have Linux Journal address as many of the needs of the community as possible.

The first need was to help newcomers join the Linux community. Many were not familiar with Usenet or didn't have access to it. These newcomers needed an accessible source of information in a convenient format—a print magazine addressed that market.

Introducing businesses to Linux was another area that had to be addressed. While our very existence was a help—many people have told us they managed to get Linux integrated into their business by showing their boss a copy of LJ to prove Linux was real—we wanted to be more active. We started our “Linux Means Business” column to show LJ readers where Linux was being used as a business solution.

The Community Evolves

Today, the Linux community is quite different from what it was five or six years ago. A strong development community still exists, but the business and commercial user community is now a significant portion of the total Linux community and growing rapidly. Linux is no longer a development project—it is a real solution for a significant number of enterprises.

The Jay Jacobs retail chain is installing point of sale systems based on Linux in their 180 stores. The U.S. Postal Service has installed 5000 OCR systems based on Linux to scan mail. Also, Linux is being used to run elevators in Japan, trains in Germany and interactive TV in Denmark—even to mediate reality in Canada.

Is there still a community here? Yes. Its members aren't sales clerks in Jay Jacobs stores or postal workers bagging mail, who most likely don't even know they are using Linux. They are the people porting software to Linux, IT managers selecting Linux and those installing Linux. These people need to work together and learn from the work of others.

To help build this community, Linux Journal has done two things. First, I volunteered to coordinate a mailing list for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) as part of the Linux standardization project. This list is designed to give ISVs an opportunity to have a united voice in the standardization effort. Second, we added an IT Solutions supplement to Linux Journal, designed to help IT professionals see Linux as a possible solution to their needs. The first supplement appeared with the January, 1999 issue of LJ; the next will appear with the June issue.

Two Communities?

We are, in fact, building two communities. If this was happening with proprietary software such as Microsoft products, I would see this as a problem. In the Linux realm, however, I feel all is well. Let me explain.

The Linux development community benefits from growth in the commercial use of Linux. This growth also means more hardware and software vendors will want to support Linux, resulting in more potential employment for Linux professionals.

On the other end, commercial users of Linux benefit from growth in the development community. Unlike proprietary software, more developers means better software without increased cost.

These two communities complement each other. Their levels of interests or understanding may not all be the same, but one benefits the other; hence, cooperation is needed between the two.

Linux Journal has plans to aid in that cooperation. Just as we provided a forum for developers and newcomers in the early stages, we hope to provide a forum for the development and commercial communities to better understand each other. We are addressing this goal by doing the following:

  • IT Solutions supplements, help for business professionals wanting to know what Linux can do for them

  • Linux Resources (http://www.linuxresources.com/), a starting place for finding all you want to know about Linux

  • Linux Journal Interactive (http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/), containing serious articles on Linux from both a technical and a business point of view

  • Linux Gazette (http://www.linuxgazette.com/), an open forum for discussion of technical issues, as well as articles and Linux tips

SSC, the owner of Linux Journal, publishes books and reference cards to help people use Linux and Linux-related programs. Examples include books on Samba and the GIMP and a whole series of reference cards to help the more technical user deal with utility programs included in Linux distributions. In 1999, expect to see new titles to help Linux move to the desktop. More information can be found at http://www.ssc.com/.

The bottom line is we have been a part of the Linux community since 1993 when SSC first began selling Linux distributions. The Linux community and Linux Journal have grown up together, and we plan to remain the primary print resource for Linux as its evolution continues.

Phil Hughes, Publisher

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Phil Hughes

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