On the Scene at the Boston Desktop Linux Consortium
Another sign of the acceptance of Linux in the enterprise and beyond, the first ever Desktop Linux Consortium conference was held outside of Boston this week, at Boston University's Corporate Education Center. Although widely covered in much of the specialist and general media, most of the conference coverage has focused exclusively on IBM's embracing of Linux on the desktop for its clients. That is a great headline, but it has overshadowed some other good news from the conference. This report is a overview of other parts of the conference and their newsworthy items. The sessions ran concurrently and had some scheduling conflicts, so it was impossible to visit all the breakout sessions. Some ran well over their allotted time, due to attendees piling on the questions to presenters.
The fact there is such thing as a Linux Desktop conference is encouraging. This is doubly true when you consider the high caliber of presenters and some of the new technology that previewed at the conference. Most of the presenters focused on the enterprise angle, which From my vantage point is 100% true. Most enterprise IT shops have the UNIX skills and mindset to translate the advantages of open source and Linux into better IT for their companies.
The conference was principally organized by the Desktop Linux Consortium (DLC). It was led by Bruce Perens, acting executive director of the DLC and chaired by Jeremy White from Codeweavers. The attendees and presenters were a mix of the top tier of Linux desktop developers, including Nat Friedman of recently purchased Ximian, to other folks in the Linux desktop community, such as Sam Hiser from OpenOffice.org. Reactions and comments from the attendees I spoke with were uniformly positive, and the overall atmosphere of the conference was collegial and relaxed.
I spoke with Jeremy White about his reaction to the conference.
Jeremy White: The truth is Jill Ratkevic has really been the driving force behind this conference. She really brought it all together, and she, along with the very generous folks at BU, really made it possible.
Linux Journal: Did it meet your hopes and expectations ?
JW: Absolutely! It was enormous fun; I think the presentations were excellent and of a very high caliber. It was a great place for me to reconnect with many of my peers. And the food and hosting by BU was absolutely top notch. [Ed note: It was.]
LJ: What did you think was the best part of the conference?
JW: For me the highlight came in the afternoon as I was out in the hall chatting with a guy from IBM and guy from HP. The IBM guy said, "15,000 desktops, that's probably the most in the world". Then the HP guy said, "Oh, sure, by numbers, but on a percentage basis, HP is way ahead of IBM. And Martin Fink runs Linux on his laptop." Think about it: two of the worlds biggest IT companies were having a pissing match about who used more Linux on the desktop!
LJ: What is next for the Linux Desktop Consortium?
JW: Next comes a membership drive, followed by board elections. Once the board is in place, our job (the formation committee) will be done.
Finally, Jeremy added, "I think Nat [Friedman of Ximian] said it best--I'm paraphrasing, don't recall his exact words--"The Linux Desktop won't come with a bang. It's here already, stealthily creeping in and around everywhere."
John Terpstra, one of the Samba team founders, gave an thoughtful and detailed presentation, "State of the Art FLOSS: No Roadblocks Ahead", that discussed the differences and the strengths of the open-source development model. His main theme was how it can produce superior software. He made some important points, including the open-source model puts more control back into the hands of the end user. Not only can the end user modify or fix problems in the source, but the revenue model gets reversed from an item-costing model to a service model. This new model cannot be monopolized by one vendor. John gave some well diagrammed examples of the development process and how eventually as software matures, it becomes more of a commodity--a trend the Linux community has mastered. This is the kind of message in a format readily understood by CEOs and CIOs that needs to be driven home by Linux advocates in and out of the enterprise.
Chris Lahey from the GNOME project and Ximian was there showing off the latest bits of code going into the next version of GNOME 2.6. Watching the demos, it was clear that a lot of attention has been paid to ease of use and strictly following HIG from GNOME in the basic desktop functions.
KDE developer George Staikos showed attendees a preview of the upcoming KDE 3.2. KDE 3.2 looks to be the most polished and refined KDE version to date.
There was, of course, a lot of chatter by attendees about the recent purchase by Novell of SuSE. This kind of announcement in the general business news sections has the positive side effect of bringing to the larger business world the value Linux adds to its IT solutions.
Besides his introductory remarks, Bruce Perens gave a separate talk updating attendees on the SCO lawsuit. He said many other ISVs that have UNIX source code licenses have looked but cannot find significant evidence of SCO code in the Linux source code. He again noted the dangers to free software development posed by patents and digital rights management.
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