...making Linux just a little more fun!
By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Breen, Chris, and... (meet the Gang) ... the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
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Hello folks, and welcome once more to the world of The Answer Gang.
It's been a crazy month for me. Linux World Expo was a lot of fun. At first glance, the silliness had gone out of it... mo more colorful oddities delimiting the .Org Pavilion, people were wandering around muttering that there aren't as many toys as there used to be, and there was nobody in hot giant-character costumes.
On the flip side our friendly local .org folks, at least the ones who were present and manning their booths... a decent number... seemed to be being treated with the same respect that the businesses with small, ordinary kiosks were. Maybe at later shows we'll see some of the .Org groups with meta-booths for their variety the way the big comapnies do, funded by a corporate entity here and there that uses what they have under its hood, and is willing somehow to give up the glory of their own name at the center of the booth. Now that'd be cool.
And there were toys - in great abundance - for those who paid the respect to actually express a real curiosity about the products on display. Oh sure, there were a few grumpy sorts. I didn't get given an official Red Hat Baseball Cap because some girl at the booth gave me the brush-off: "At the end of our presentation". I glanced at the shiny paperwork, and decided I could visit 3 other booths in the time it would take their presentation to finish. I only had two half days at the show and didn't feel inclined to waste them for a hat, an oversized t-shirt, and a slideshow I can probably see online (if they're smart). Most of the toys were much better than that too. Glowing pens were everywhere, but to get a green one you had to go to AMD. Jim asked them quite a bit about the Opterons' dual processing improvements.
Best toys goes to Sun for having different toys at each mini-booth within their area. Of course they were also announcing that their new LX50 is coming with Linux preloaded - a Red Hat based distro with a perfectly tuned kernel and extra goodies related to behaving well in a Sun-oriented environment. Kudos for that too
One of IBM's mini-booths was announcing an educational service - for free - which roughly sounds like a great competitor to The Answer Gang. Unfortunately, IBM's website made no particular splash of it, and my mild thrashing around didn't find it. I applaud their ideas but usability and getting the word out is going to need better work than that. Perhaps we can cajole them into sending a note to News Bytes about it.
Linux seems to be under the hood of an awful lot of big storage devices lately.
I asked a few businessmen about what they thought of the show. They see the enthusiasm is up, the companies really trying to make the mark in the marketplace. And As I think back on it - they're right - I saw very few booths where people didn't seem to know which way is up, what Linux is, or anything like that. A particular booth had a really cool looking shaker table, but had nothing to do with embedded or even industrial computing. Nada, Zip, null pointer overflow. Duh. But the dot-com winter is almost over; companies with the wherewithal to not push too far into the glitz and glory, like Penguin Computing, are surving the boom-bust cycle and doing okay. "Mr. Gates, I'll be your server today" was just as popular as the first time it appeared, though of course, it wasn't the only poster there.
The fellow stuck in the Microsoft booth explained sheepishly that they begged and pleaded not to be put in the hatchery area. He and I are both guessing, but apparently some folks in charge of space allocation couldn't be convinced that embedded dev tools != linux dev tools ... it being a linux tradeshow and all. However, they do have a new attitude with WinCE - free for non-commercial use, including code so you can debug it. And commercial entities can debug with it too; you don't need royalty games until you start making derivitive works and trying to sell it ... although what else an embedded developer would do with it, I'm not clear. But that puts them no worse off than the original Troll Tech license, which satisfied some and annoyed others. And he says they want to understand how our dev community works a bit better. I'm reminded of a quote from Baylon 5 "But humans are different. You build communities."
So who gets the prize for Making Linux A Little More Fun? Hmm, it's a toss up. http://www.affero.com Affero threw a great party for the http://www.fsf.org FSF and http://www.eff.org EFF folks; music, lots of pinball games, actually edible spread ... invited speakers included a comedian, and a legal eagle involved with the RIAA cases who is pleased to see so many "geektivists" but wants it made clear that just grousing isn't enough. Grouse enough instead of act, and it will be too little, too late, because we can't route around bad laws after the're established nearly as well as we can prevent them, any more than software can do more than an occasional workaround past true hardware issues. We have to keep the heat on so that large corporate pocketbooks can't make it criminal to do these things which we already do, day to day. While that message itself isn't entirely fun, any successes in that category will help keep things fun.
The other competitor is CrossOver Office from the http://www.codeweavers.com Codeweavers people. I've been saying for years now that somebody needs to package Wine so that normal folk can use it. When they do, I'm glad to buy it. As it is, now it's real, it's cheaper than an "upgrade" pack of the Beast from Redmond, and I've got a side bet that it's more stable, too. Maybe I can finally play my Starfleet games without resorting to a Borg invasion, or having to realign my phase injectors, uh, mountpoints first.
And speaking of Starfleet - I'm involved in a handful of local Linux User Groups, but most actively with the U.S.S. Augusta Ada. We're running the Internet Lounge for Worldcon this week. In fact, this blurb is taking a little while out of my busy life over there to get our 'zine published. But, regardless of the hassles of setup and keeping older systems happy under serious desktop-station use, we're getting thanks in abundance for our wireless and tireless efforts to keep people able to hit the email, chat online, and surf the web. It's a great feeling. Folks of all plaforms (their laptops, our stuff, the Macs next door in Pubs) are all sharing the 'net happily together. Now that ... is IDIC.
See you all next month!