Linux at DECUS and OSW/FedUNIX
On November 11 through 13, Carlie Fairchild and I attended the DECUS show in Anaheim, California. While DECUS has generally been a good show for SSC, this show was small and we were the only Linux vendor attending. The best guess why is with UseLinux coming up in the same place in January, it was an easy show for people—vendors as well as Linux-heads—to skip.
There was a series of talks on Linux presented by Jon “maddog” Hall and myself. Attendance was between 20 and 50, and I think we managed to make some converts.
Carlie had also arranged for me to speak to the local Linux users' group on Wednesday night. About 25 people attended (including “maddog”). I presented a talk called Looking at Linux. Much of this talk focused on the commercial viability of Linux, which was an issue many of the group's members had been attempting to address on their own. I stressed four criteria for commercial viability: reliability, interoperability, support and capabilities.
The talk was well received and the meeting turned into a informal discussion of Linux in general. I look forward to talking with these people again during the UseLinux show.
By the time you read this I will have presented this talk again at The Evergreen State College for their Linux Users' Group. I am also being interviewed on a program called Geek Talk on their radio station. While I hardly consider myself a geek, the last time I was on this station was 17 years ago, so I guess it is about time to be a radio personality again.
SSC's emphasis on users' groups is not new. We made LUG/nut, an inexpensive package consisting of a Linux CD and a card good for a sample issue of Linux Journal, available to users' groups over a year ago. We are now working on a way to help new users' groups form, get publicity and attract new members. Watch our web site for details.
—Phil Hughes, Publisher
The first week of November, I went to Washington, D.C. to attend Open Systems World/FedUNIX. While several dedicated Linux fans came by the booth, most of the people I talked to knew very little about Linux. Some were just cruising the booths, collecting whatever anyone was giving away, but we don't mind—the literature they picked up may spark some real interest later on. (One show attendee, in addition to taking a few of whatever we had also took the neat twirly thing we'd acquired from another exhibitor's booth.)
Linux vendors in attendance were Yggdrasil Computing, InfoMagic, and Red Hat Software, giving me a chance to meet Adam Richter of Yggdrasil, Bob Young and Lisa Sullivan of Red Hat, and Henry Pierce and Greg Deeds of InfoMagic.
Adding credence to Linux's worth in the minds of those with no free software experience was Digital Equipment's display of a DEC Alpha running Linux and maddog's enthusiasm for the operating system. (By the time I got over to actually see the machine, someone was demonstrating Quake on it. I sat down and showed him a couple things I remembered from playing Doom—it was kind of surreal to be sitting amidst all the professional frumpery of the show while virtually running around swinging a very large and lethal axe.)
Jeff Leyland of Wolfram Research, the makers of Mathematica, spoke about Wolfram switching to Linux as their development platform. There were other speakers I should have made time to hear, but I got caught up talking to people coming by our booth and asking about Linux. I knew that after a few talks, the Linux booths would get flooded with people excited to check it out.
I also heard that Ernst & Young—well-known for their accounting services among other things—apparently use Red Hat Linux in-house and have asked IBM, with whom they contract for computer services, to support their Linux machines. (If you're from Ernst & Young, please send me some mail. We'd like to hear about how you're using Linux.)
Adam Richter predicted a new version of Yggdrasil's Plug-and-Play Linux in the first quarter of '97. At OSW they had pressings of their new 8-CD Internet Archives set, which includes several distributions, including a couple I hadn't heard of before.
I would have felt cut off from the world (yes, even in D.C. on election night) if it hadn't been for David Lescher, who set me up with dial-in PPP access for my laptop; and David Niemi, who made some necessary tweaks to my chat script. I'm also grateful to Mark Komarinski, who put together a Linux talk on very short notice when I found I was dangerously close to having no time whatsoever to prepare one myself.
The Santa Cruz Operation was there giving away copies of their Free SCO OpenServer. Someone who'd just acquired one of those gems asked me why she'd be interested in Linux if she had OpenServer; I noted its limitations and handed her a copy of Linux Journal, hoping to plant a seed. Some attendees were being less subtle, affixing prominently to their big blue IBM literature boxes the Linux bumper stickers we were giving away.
—Gary Moore, Editor