Cold and Unsettled: LinuxWorld NYC 2003

by Heather Mead

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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