Linux World Boston - Hijacking a Community

Posted by tadelste on Feb 21, 2005 4:00 AM EDT
LXer; By Tom Adelstein
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Have vendors hijacked Linux? Who owns Linux now?

Racks and racks of Linux computers ramble along the aisles at AOL. In fact, the SGI and Sun metal have all gone away, replaced with commodity Intel systems running Linux and Apache. But when I ask a high ranking executive if we can have a Linux AOL client - well you know the answer.

Wednesday night in Boston and Google hosts a party for the Dot Org pavillon, honoring the people who make Free Software and contribute it to the world. This year, Linux World has two giant exhibition halls - to the left you will find the vendors: Novell, Red Hat, IBM, Sun, Intel, AMD, etc. To the right in an exhibition hall of its own you'll find the projects. The projects of which I speak aren't like a part of town. These projects host the folks sharing rooms, chatting on IRC and writing the code. That's the DOT ORG pavillion.

Wednesday: A distinguished analyst visits with us at lunch. We discuss Linux and he confides that someone hijacked the operating system. We do not mince words - we all know who did it.

Over a six year span I have visited Linux World. How many vendors have honored the people who write the code, compile the kernel, answer questions on-line? You won't find people from the projects at IBM customer day, munching on cucumber salad. No people from the projects in the HP lounge.

In the summer of 2000, Michael Dell gave the keynote address at Linux World. According to Mr. Dell, Linux made sense to companies like his for support and cost reasons. As Linux grew, it made sense for Dell to start using and offering it. He explained that Linux was a disruptive technology for companies not used to that business model. He said he saved several million dollars per year per factory by using Linux to load customer specific disk images on new machines.

A few weeks after hearing Dell's keynote speech, we called to order a half dozen high-end laptops loaded with Linux. Oops!!! Surprise guys!!! The Dell order taker put it quite simply, "we don't do Linux."

With a bit of disbelief, I went to the Dell web site and all the little penguins had disappeared. Doing further due diligence, we discovered that the community got hijacked by those guys north of Austin, Texas. Michael Dell promoted Linux and grabbed the attention of the world. Shortly afterward, his company shook the confidence of the public by telling people that they didn't find Linux good enough.

So that was August 2000. Do you supposed Dell might find it advantageous to put Linux on their low-end desktops, increase their margins and put drivers in Linux for the consumer devices they sell? It makes sense for Dell to offer a public wanting an alternative: A complete line of PCs and peripheral devices for the Penguins.

We saw some Dell boxes in the Novell and Red Hat booths. I didn't look carefully enough to see if any other exhibitors had Dell hardware.

LinuxWorld has changed over the years. In March 1999, a crowd of 5000 Linux advocates met in the San Jose convention center. That event started the ball rolling. Venture Capitalists threw money at little Linux companies who in turn gave away all kinds of convention goodies. We not only got some nice Tee shirts, we got leather Harley-Davidson jackets if we visited enough booths and happened to be on the Expo floor at the right time. But that was not the main point of the first LinuxWorld.

LinuxWorld started as a celebration for people who came together to express their enthusiasm for a Free Operating System. The technology and community gave us joy. According to Linus, LinuxWorld in March 1999 created the biggest event in the history of GNU/Linux. That event was the coming out party.

Much has changed over the years. In the syntax of Redmond's conversation, we have become a threat. They need to kill open-source. We're attacking them. We taking away territory.

One has to wonder who owns Linux these days. Does it continue to belong to the community or have the vendors hijacked it from us? I do not believe we will discover that at LinuxWorld. We'll see lots of spin and meet with friends. But, who out spends who does not let us in on the truth.

LinuxWorld Boston provided an interesting dichotomy. In the vendor area, as I mentioned in an earlier article, I sensed much CONFIDENCE. In the projects, the desks drew less media attention. But this year, those folks who put confidence back in the stock market threw a party for people from the those projects. Thank you Google for remembering, innovating and starting a free directory service when you did. And thank you for not hijacking the OS.

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