The Wide World of Linux

by Jason Schumaker

The first day of LinuxWorld produced a number of exciting announcements, events, exhibits and keynotes. Kicking off LinuxWorld yesterday at 9:50 AM, Linus Torvalds addressed the multitude of suits, hackers, press and other interested parties. As per his usual opening statement, he began by saying, “I don't like talks. I am a programmer.” In an attempt to not give a “talk”, Linus addressed some questions he is frequently asked.

Dressed in a black dress shirt (sans tie) and black dress pants (sans sandals), he spoke for thirty minutes before answering questions from the audience. The non-talk was complete with slides, perceived problems facing the future growth of Linux (namely, fragmentation), quick jabs at Microsoft, and the latest developments from the 2.4 kernel. Linus was his usual relaxed self. He was often funny, and at times self-effacing, wanting everyone to know he is just a programmer and not the “poster boy” for open-source software, deferring that title to RMS. Linus truly has become a rather polished speaker, no doubt due to his distaste for speaking (and the amount he is “forced” to speak).

I wouldn't say the keynote was devoid of new information, but most of what Linus had to say was somewhat canned. And, the more interesting and more important action was taking place elsewhere. To me, the most interesting part of LinuxWorld is always the people in attendance and the enthusiasm of the community as a whole. Linus is a big draw, but hardly a source of much news. The news comes from the tradeshow floor.

My days here are filled with interviewing various vendors selling various products, and talking with any representative from any company wanting to make an announcement. Being on the tradeshow floor offers insight into “what people are talking about”. And the word is: Embedded! The biggest announcements from yesterday involved Lineo's acquisition of Zentropic, a company firmly entrenched in the world of real-time applications. Red Hat recently unveiled its embedded plans, and everyone from Lynx to Linus has been talking about the “Linux Fridge”. It seems that a group of engineers and programmers at Fujitsu created a smart fridge using Linux, complete with a web browser built into the door. At some point, I imagine, you will be able to link up to (through your fridge browser) and automatically have certain items “magically” appear at your doorstep. You may not realize the milk is gone, but your fridge will! Linus speculated, in his keynote, that the point might be to keep people from eating more, seeing that their time is occupied with using the browser. Quite possible.

Dr. Inder Singh, Chairman of Lynx Real Time Systems, Inc., spoke with me about a BMW that has some 30 processors! Service technicians can be contacted from your car, by your car, and the appropriate action can be taken—and fast. Embedded system development is certainly one of the more flashy and exciting areas, but the investors and suits usually make the biggest announcements.

Acquisitions, partnerships and mergers spread from booth to booth and throughout the press. Red Hat struck again, closing a “technical partnership” with Alpha Processor, Inc. (API), which specializes in high-performance clustering. Red Hat plans to house a world-class Linux clustering lab.

VA Linux Systems bought, which is already the highlight of today, and likely to be the most talked-about merger of the show. Details are still being released; in fact, VA Linux President Larry Augustin is soon to begin his keynote address. The deal is upwards of $900 million, and sets VA Linux on a path toward Linux news dominance—Linux Journal excluded!

On a lighter note, Linuxcare threw a party for attendees last night at the Javits Center. There were free video games, drinks, music, pool tables, air hockey and a few basketball hoops. I represented Linux Journal long enough to drink my two free beers before leaving to explore something unrelated to Linux. Spending the entire day at the Javits was enough, and seeing geeks chucking basketballs off the wall was more than I could bear.

I ran into a few of the FreeBSD girls, who easily took the award for tackiest and most sexist booth presence. The hired booth help wore very tight red devil suits, complete with tails and horns. Nothing wrong with having a little fun, but you wouldn't catch a classy OS like Linux slipping to such a low level.

Eric Raymond (and me without my 3D glasses ... if you don't get this, check out the print version of the January Linux Journal) stopped by the LJ booth to chat and check out the inflatable penguin chairs, which we had been giving away regularly. The User Friendly group has a dust puppy cruising around. The SuSE lizard (or whatever it is) is in the house, and looks even more strange in person. There is a FreeBSD devil (male version) and various penguins roaming the floor. All and all, a good start to a very exciting show. Today is a new day, and has already started with big news. More soon...

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