We Talk to Everybody

A quick look at some of the people who helped make Linux possible.
Mark Bolzern

Mark discovered Linux back in 1992, and by 1994 was predicting it would be the next-generation UNIX and challenge even Microsoft. That's what I call prescient. Rather than become a Linux developer, he instead took the road of an advocate.

When he started his business, Workgroup Solutions, he sold one of the first commercial products for Linux: Multisoft's FlagShip. In fact, he persuaded Multisoft to port it to Linux in the first place. He also sold his own distribution, Linux Pro, based first on Slackware and later on Red Hat. It was always a bit behind the cutting edge, but this meant it was always stable, a definite plus for the business market at which he was aiming. Today, with all the advances in Linux distributions, he no longer feels there is a need for Linux Pro and has withdrawn it from the market. Workgroup Solutions has turned into LinuxMall, and as a business proves that supporting Linux can bring success.

When asked what he liked most about Linux, Mark replied, “Its openness, its use of the GPL, its ability to educate those willing to take responsibility to educate themselves, and finally, its flexibility to adapt to the needs of anyone educationally empowered or able to hire someone who is.” He strongly compares Linux and American history in this way: “I see the Linux movement as a parallel to the American Revolution, where the GPL is analogous to the Constitution. This, I guess, makes Richard Stallman a Thomas Jefferson, and perhaps `The Cathedral and the Bazaar' is the Declaration of Independence.”

Mark dedicates his life to his business and Linux advocacy, finding no time for a family or even a vacation. However, he doesn't feel he is wasting his life on computers, but rather providing a service that will benefit others and perhaps even the whole world, when Linux achieves “world domination”. His belief in serving others is proven through the way he runs his company. He hires people who are already a part of the Linux community, and gives a percentage of the company's gross profit back to the community in support of Linux events, projects and public relations work.

An all-around nice guy, Mark is a familiar face at the trade shows. His web page is http://www.linuxmall.com/, and he can be reached at mark@linuxmall.com.

Andries Brouwer

When it comes to Linux, mathematician Andries Brouwer has a simple explanation as to why it worked for him:

I tried it and it worked. In fact, it worked really well. FreeBSD I tried later, and I preferred Linux.

Unlike many of those whose hacking of the Linux kernel was a natural by-product of their work as a computer scientist, programmer or software developer, Andries, who managed international character handling for the Linux keyboard and console, arrived at Linux through a different route.

I use my machines mostly for mathematics—(for) both computations and writing papers and books. Whenever something is wrong, I like to fix it, and this brought me to various parts of the kernel, mostly with small fixes, sometimes with slightly larger code fragments.

But working on Linux over the Internet, in fact working over the Internet itself, is nothing new to Andries, who today still considers himself a mathematician.

I released Hack on the Net, maybe around 1984. This led to lots of contacts with many people all over the Net, both via e-mail and via net.games.hack. So, to me, cooperation over the Net was a well-known concept, not revolutionary at all.

Andries Brouwer's e-mail address is aeb@cwi.nl.

Ed Carp

Ed Carp, whose contributions to the Linux kernel include work on cron, UUCP, Elm, Pine and pico, first ran into Linux in late 1991 when someone forwarded him the Linux project announcement from a BSD newsgroup.

I was attracted to Linux because of the distributed development model. I had looked at 386BSD, but the development model was completely controlled by William Jolitz, who made releases about every six months, and I couldn't wait for bug fixes that long.

Sound familiar? At the time, Ed was working at Sun Microsystems, “downloading a full newsfeed via a Telebit modem to a XENIX box.” When his upstream newsfeed switched to HDB UUCP, and the XENIX UUCP could not support the new protocols, Ed went searching. “When I called SCO, they quoted me $1500 to upgrade my very old XENIX. So I was in the market for something cheaper and that I could tweak the source if I needed to.”

Insofar as Ed's Linux hacking rose directly from his computer needs, UUCP, Sendmail and Elm were among his first Linux contributions. Of the times, Ed remembers “overnight, I became the application port guru. People were e-mailing me from all over the world, trying to get their applications ported over.” He also counts driver and kernel work among his larger contributions.

Unfortunately, nowadays many of those moving most quickly around the Linux community are, for lack of a better word, the carpetbaggers. To those people, Ed shows very little regard, admitting that

I think [Linux] would've survived regardless—there are a lot of operating systems around that haven't received the publicity that Linux has, and are doing quite well ... I think the popularity of Linux can be a two-edged sword.

Ed is still involved with computers and, more importantly, still involved with Linux. He says, “I'm involved in two projects, one to bring a port of Linux to a PowerPC platform for an embedded ATM controller, and two to develop a new server-side scripting language for the Web.”

And outside of computers?

I backpack, and am also involved in ham radio. I don't think I've wasted my life. Working with computers has produced a lot of personal satisfaction for me. I've written pager notification systems for severe weather alerts, and I'd like to think that software has saved a life or two along the way.

Ed Carp's e-mail address is erc@pobox.com.