Cold and Unsettled: LinuxWorld NYC 2003

Yesterday morning's news warned New Yorkers about the risk of frostbite for a week that might see a double-digit temperature. We're clearly not in Seattle anymore.

I didn't make it to this show last year, so it's been a while since I've visited New York City. A lot has changed. Walking down Madison and Fifth Avenues this past Monday, MLK Day, the streets were mostly empty and about one quarter of the storefronts had "Space Available" signs posted.

Over breakfast I had read the New York Times for updates on the US's any-minute-now war plans. Now I was walking by the place where the World Trade Center once stood. Ground Zero is cleared now. Aside from the flowers and signs still present, it looks like any other piece of land ready for development. Not having seen the physical destruction beyond the television images, it's hard for me to reconcile this empty piece of real estate with my memories of visiting the WTC when I used to live on the East Coast.

So what does any of this have to do with LinuxWorld? I start with these moments in an attempt to explain why it feels weird to be here, LinuxWorld and NYC. I wrote the notes for this article while seated in the upper atrium of the Javits Center, where LW NYC takes place. Out the huge front windows, the Empire State Building is dead center. There's some sort of feeling here that I'm having trouble verbalizing.

Tuesday is the set-up day for LinuxWorld at the Javits and not too much is happening. The floor is full of unopened crates and boxes, carpets are still in rolls, Linux folks are catching up with one another. The work, though, is being done by the union workers. Which wouldn't be bad, some people note, if the workers actually did the work instead of staring at you staring at them. Welcome to New York.

I did a lap around the show floor in the afternoon; all the usual suspects are present, from Red Hat and SuSE to HP and IBM. The .org section looks like it has a few new faces and includes the politically active New York LUGs. The Ximian booth is huge and quite junglish in theme; Dell's presence is bigger than it was in the past; and SGI has the cool Altix machines on display--all three sizes. Microsoft is back; the booth is about four times as large as the one it had at LW San Francisco last August. They seem to be here promoting their .ASP net and embedded offerings. I also spent some time talking to MetiLinx representatives, who are excited to be attending their first LinuxWorld. MetiLinx is doing some interesting work with adaptive infrastructure management in platform-agnostic environments.

As for news, if there's big news for this show, no one is talking about it or even aware of it. Traditionally, this is the East Coast business show. One of the good things about LW NYC is exactly that, however; news of who else has partnered on a new Linux-based business project and who is using it. Overall, the show is a good indicator of what the upcoming business year might look like, business-wise, for open source and Linux. So it's all good news but not overly exciting. We'll see how the week plays out and if I'm proven wrong.

In the meantime, I'm going to spend my free time here in New York walking around (hopefully not acquiring frostbite as I do so), thinking about the future and trying to find out why this is all making me feel so unsettled.

Heather Mead is senior editor for Linux Journal.



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Re: Cold and Unsettled: LinuxWorld NYC 2003

Anonymous's picture

I missed the first expo day (which I was told had the best attendance) because of another commitment, but got to go the next afternoon.

The show was small. Not sparse, as last year was, but small and very compact. Only about 40 press kits in the media room. A lot of the big booths from last year were gone. Rather than something like last year's launch booth for the Zaurus, Sharp had two small standups in the IBM and Intel pods. Andover's walkway, a great place to relax and shop and shoot the bull from last year, was nonexistant - not even a single SourceForge or ThinkGeek booth. Only a few of the embedded suppliers from last year's show were there, and there was no "embedded is the next big thing" buzz.

In fact, there didn't seem to be any next big thing buzz at all. R&D were mostly being talked about by Miguel deIcaza at the Ximian booth, where many geeks were assembled for a good tech talk, and I saw no stuffed monkeys thrown. SuSE lizards were extant but rare. Mostly the show was about servers, servers, servers, and how Linux is a reliable and inexpensive platform in a down economy. SCO was giving away DVDs every couple hours and a portable player each day (the biggest prize I noted), but not talking about Jon Johansen or his acquittal. They were talking about the length of their experience in all things *IX. But then SCO's always been on the suity side, and are probably even more so now that they're in Utah.

Miguel and Jon 'Maddog" Hall were the best speakers on the floor. Maddog, who would have keynoted at a show where the focus wasn't so much on the suits, was actually speaking at the IBM booth theatre. His talk was about 1/2 technical merit, 1/6 history, and 1/3 cost benefits over Mickeysoft. They were also the only "usual suspects" I saw Thursday afternoon. No Eric Raymond, no RMS (no FSF booth in the .org pavilion, either), no Bruce Perens. I couldn't even find our local ubiquitous madman Jay Sulzberger.

It was a sad show. The underlying theme didn't feel like the old Geeks v Suits tension/excitement: Information wants to be free and people want to be paid. This year was more like: Information is cheap, and people need to eat.


Re: Cold and Unsettled: LinuxWorld NYC 2003

Anonymous's picture

This is the first time that I was on a Linux Expo. Very interesting, and I have no point of refferal vs. other epos. However I enjoy it and it seem a lil bit scarce as I was looking for the embedded solutions and development like Sharp, MontaVista and other boots that create a buzz in CES.

I think embedded is one of the true inovating things from OS.