The state of the swag at LinuxWorld San Francisco

While at LinuxWorld, I was contemplating how IBM's multi-billion dollar investment in free software has born fruit in the form of their hard sought after two inch rubber tux, when I met up with Robin Miller who interviewed me on the quality of this year's swag. Officially, this year's theme was mobile computing, although virtualization also predominated. I found the topic of mobile computing particularly timely given the introduction of GNU Telephony for Open Embedded earlier this year, which makes our existing library frameworks, and eventually applications built from it like the excellent Twinkle softphone, portable to handheld devices and cell phones.

This year's LinuxWorld in San Francisco may well be defined by those vendors who chose not to attend. What is to be made of the absence of both RedHat and Microsoft? Also, given this year's focus on mobile computing, it was odd to not see local vendor MontaVista. Although, Motorola was showing MontaVista based cell phones, and there were plenty of surviving MontaVista employees at all the important free beer events after the show, including the one held by PalmSource, who seemed to believe that it could gain developer mindshare by the keg.

Given this theme, it is interesting that the most important work in mobile and handheld Linux kernel based computing was not represented at LinuxWorld at all. I am speaking of purely FOSS based efforts like Open Embedded, which focus on developing complete free and open source solutions, some of which are already making their way into future Japanese cell phones. Many of the so called established "Linux" (kernel) based mobile players don't know what Open Embedded is. Nor do they know about GPE (GNU Palm Environment) or Opie (free version of Qtopia), and perhaps it will be much to their surprise when they find such platforms eventually predominating despite their best efforts at creating a more proprietary form for their chosen market.

The .org pavilion was filled with bright people, and generally well traffic'd, even given its placement as far as possible from the entrance. This year, Gentoo was left occupying the DMZ between the KDE people and the GNOME foundation. I particularly liked future work in KDE which is focusing heavily on the idea of making foreign applications appear and integrate like native KDE applications when running under KDE. This, to me, is far more effective than the Red Hat approach of trying to make both GNOME and KDE look and act as if they are the "same".

Many people were walking around with DefectiveByDesign stickers, which were to be found at the FSF booth. I have come to wonder at what point in these individuals lives did they come to this conclusion about themselves, and then find the courage to share it with us all?! But really, I love this particular campaign. In fact, I believe it is one of the best grass-roots activist efforts the FSF has undertaken in recent years. Perhaps, for the stickers that people will wear, rather than for those to be placed on machines, maybe a different slogan or design should be considered.

There was some commercial GNU/Linux vendors (other than RedHat, as already noted), including Novell/SUSE, who had a major booth. IBM had a lot of things on display also, including PPC virtualization solutions, in addition to those 2 inch rubber tux's. Intel and AMD had dueling booths, but I do not recall seeing much free software at either one. Many vendors were showing security and CRM products, which I particularly recall seeing most of, after virtualization. I did not recall seeing Xen, though VMWare was present. But none of the commercial stuff interested me at all, and I didn't see many cool new hardware gadgets either.

One problem is that there may simply be too many "LinuxWorlds" each year. There is LinuxWorld San Francisco, LinuxWorld Boston (used to be NYC, now LinuxWorld "OpenSolutions Summit" NYC), LinuxWorld Australia, LinuxWorld China, LinuxWorld Canada, LinuxWorld South Africa, LinuxWorld Paris, etc. Is there a LinuxWorld Tuvalu? If not, I would be surprised! Clearly there are too many, and this must lead to LinuxWorld exhaustion among the vendors.


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