LinuxWorld -- Day One

A downsized, but healthy Linux market shows up at LinuxWorld

10:20am -- LinuxWorld Expo just started, and it looks like a neutron bomb went off. The back wall, I am told, used to be booths. They're gone. So is FreeBSD, with their pretty girls dressed up like devils, handing out little devil horns and hugging geeks for cameras all over the floor. So is Lineo, which actually is here, but not as an exhibitor. My colleague Don Marti tells me Lineo just put on a great press conference that featured software for detecting GPL violations, or something like that. LynuxWorks is boothless, too.

"It's less of everything," says James McHugh, the alpha geek I've known for years and ran into unexpectedly last night standing in his back yard, which is next to the back yard of my buddy's house, where I'm staying here in San Francisco. Small world.

"Less how?" I ask.

"Penguin's not here. Slackware's not here. And Eric isn't here. Geeks with Guns won't be the same without him."

Which brings us to VA Linux, which somebody told me almost wasn't here; but, as a big-deal sponsor, had to be here anyway. Even if that report isn't true, it's made plausible by the fact that VA was in the hardware business at the last LWE and now they're in the proprietary closed-source software business, among other things. Eric, who has always been VA's best PR instrument as well as its most prominent board member, explained why a couple days ago.

Apparently neither IDG (which puts on the show, where speeches by Eric have been pro forma since the first one), nor VA Linux were willing to fly him here. So Moses is not here to lead His Hackers out of Egypt and into the promised land. Nor will Eric be around tomorrow for the Infrastructure panel I'll be moderating, which is a bummer because it would be handy to have Eric's take on his own subject.

12:35pm -- Yet there are plenty of booths, and plenty of people. From what I gather on the floor, the demand side of Linux is not only fine, but getting bigger than ever. So is the supply side, if you just count herds of eager programmers and massive Linux implementors like HP and IBM. There is also something of a great sigh of relief. "When the free money runs out, free software will roam free once again," one hacker told me with a big smile. "It's good to see the surviving Linux dot-coms going through money withdrawal de-tox," said another.

Here in the press room, the mood is restrained but optimistic. "We're getting down to business," a guy behind me just said.

Unrelated: Gabe Espinda just gave me one of his cranes -- an origami creation the size of a fruit fly that makes "eye-hand coordination" seem like an understatement. While I stare at it in amazement, he says "I do this for stress relief". "Why?" I ask. "It feels good when it stops", he says.

4:30pm -- In the three-hour break between the last paragraph and this one, I participated on the Nerds team of the Golden Penguin Bowl. I was scared going in, because I am far less technical than 99% of the audience, as well as the rest of my team. But fortunately there were a lot of questions about old Monty Python movies and other matters of semi-popular culture about which I had fortuitous knowledge. Our side kicked butt and I brought home the only trophy I've ever won, (other than in a Chili Wars event in North Carolina twenty years ago, where I was the only entrant who wasn't certifiably stoned while cooking my dish). Our golden penguin now stands proudly in the Linux Journal booth. If you're around, come by and visit. We're in the far left corner.


Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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