DECUS conference in San Francisco

by Phil Hughes

Our first coverage of a DECUS conference was in the August 1994 issue where we reported on the May 1994 DECUS conference in New Orleans, at which Linus Torvalds spoke. In May, 1995, Linux Journal was represented at SSC's booth at the Washington DC DECUS '95 conference. That booth was quite a success so we decided to see how Linux would do at San Francisco.

The trade show ran three days, Monday to Wednesday, December 4th to the 6th, with the whole conference starting on Dec 2 and continuing through the 7th. DECUS scheduled two four-hour Linux talks: “How to write a Linux Device Driver” by Michael K. Johnson and “Linux: The Open System for Everyone” presented by me. In addition, while not part of the formal DECUS show, a special Linux Daze was scheduled to start on Wednesday afternoon and continue through Thursday.

The Trade Show

While our booth was the only Linux-specific one, there was a lot of Linux interest. As at the trade show in DC, we were the most popular booth in the “low-rent” district of booths. There were quite a few people who hadn't heard of Linux, but there were even more who had and were happy to see Linux Journal at the show. We gave out over 1000 copies of our December issue. Not bad for a show with attendance of less than 2500. We also gave out bumper stickers and sold Linux and other SSC products. Sales of T-shirts and Linux CDs were higher than expected.

We were also showing Zebu Systems' Orion Firewall Systems. Quite a few companies at the show were shopping for firewall systems. The SSC booth was staffed by an assortment of people with varying areas of expertise. Carlie Fairchild provided information on SSC's Linux products and was in charge of the overall booth operation. Michael K. Johnson and I were both in the booth to address Linux Journal questions as well as general Linux questions, as was Randolph Bentson, the author of the Cyclades driver software, and author of a soon-to-be-published Linux book.

David Bonn and Larry Stelmat of Mazama Software Labs were also at the booth. David is the president of Mazama which is a Linux-based software development company in the San Francisco Bay area and the Puget Sound (Seattle) area; David is the primary author of the firewall software that runs on the Orion Firewall System.

A walk around the trade show and talk with other vendors showed, once again, more interest in Linux. AT SSC we use the Progress database. It is currently running on a Unix 5.4.2 xystem because there is no Linux port available. I did a little Linux evangelism at the Progress booth and they admitted that there were other customers asking for a Linux port. If you are a Progress user, I encourage you to voice your interest in a Linux version. Seems like they're starting to hear us.

On Carlie's search for a power cord (you always have to forget something at trade shows), she met Jan Cherkowski, President of Advanced Business Technology Inc. Jan is an avid Linux enthusiast and wants to ship Linux/Alpha solutions. Don't be surprised if you see his ads in a future issue of Linux Journal.

Another hardware vendor, Polywell, showed similar interest in reselling Linux/Alpha systems. Because I was wearing a Linux T-shirt Emmett Kiest-Jones of Magic Software Enterprises Inc. came running after me to talk to me. Magic offers a RAD (Rapid Application Development) environment currently available on VMS and other platforms. Emmett said there was significant interest in producing a Linux board.

The people in the booth next to us were the publishers of Digital UNIX News, a bi-monthly on Unix for Digital platforms. In their current issue there is an article on Linux which initially appears to be very favorable, talking about many of the reasons Linux is a good system. It then ends with a conclusion that doesn't seem to follow—that Linux is a toy.

The Linux Sessions

On Wednesday, there were two Linux sessions as part of the standard DECUS Program. The first one, “Linux: the Unix for everyone”, was my session. While attendance was low (10 students), interest was high and the talk went very well (if I do say so myself). The afternoon session was “Writing a Linux Device Driver” by Michael K. Johnson. Michael was pleased with the participation in his session as well.

Linux Daze

Linux Daze officially started with a room of Linux vendors at noon. The vendors included Caldera, Cyclades, Digital, O'Reilly, SoftCraft, NekoTech and BVC.

At 7pm there were two talks on Linux, as part of Linux Daze. I gave a short talk called “Linux in Publishing”, and Matt Welsh spoke on “Porting to Linux”.

Thursday, Linux Daze continued with a full day of vendor exhibits (much better attended than those on Wednesday afternoon) and a full day of sessions on a variety of Linux topics. The day was wrapped up with CD-ROM giveaways, and topped off with a drawing for the grand prize—a complete Alpha System (Digital's Universal Desktop Box) donated by NekoTech.

DECUS was a success for Linux. While attendance was low, Linux interest seemed high. Some scheduling problems and lack of communication and promotion of the Linux events seemed to have resulted in the loss of a few attendees but I expect interest in Linux to remain high in the Digital community. Now on to the Feb 26-March 1 DECUS in Vancouver, BC to see how Linux does there.

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