San Francisco, Wed. 14th Aug 2002. This was my first Linux-related exhibition, so I did not exactly know what to expect. Jill from DesktopLinux came by the house and picked me up this morning (thanks Jill 🙂 and we arrived there around 10:40 AM, with lots of enthusiasm and some expectations for a nice geek show. However, it seems that this year’s LinuxWorld is much more corporate than expected. Which is both a good and a bad thing for the Linux universe.
First booth I visited was AMD’s. Their booth is right at the entrance of the South Hall, and it is nicely designed, with lots of space to move around. Main highlight was Opteron. While they had a couple of Athlons running, most of the machines, shows, speeches and specials were all about Opteron, Hammer and the x86-64. I think it is obvious that AMD does not try to race against Intel and Pentium4 (which will be running at 3 GHz in two months) as much anymore. They are already behind in the 32bit x86 speed race, running at 1800 MHz (2200+) with the AthlonXP CPUs already maxed out in both speed and heat. Opteron/Hammer is the future of AMD, and this LinuxWorld really made it a lot more clear where the company is heading to. The whole show at AMD was about it. They also had some benchmarks going on running IBM DB2 on a 800 MHz Opteron, which performed well. The SuSE Linux used for their tests, was able to run both 64-bit and 32-bit compiled applications at the same time. For example, SuSE itself and DB2 was compiled as native 64-bit, while the Opera app I launched was a 32bit app running side by side with the 64-bit ones. Very good integration between the two architectures. Two in one, smooth switch.
Next booth I visited was Trolltech’s. They had on display the brand new ED.1 PDA, which has a folded, full keyboard! The device is kind of stuffy though, pretty thick. I asked them what their current relationship is with KDE and what if the KDE project requires some changes to the API, and they replied that they mostly do modifications for embedded or cross platform aware customers, so if a feature is not cross-platfom “enough”, or many customers haven’t asked for it, the feature probably won’t get implemented if it is only needed by KDE. (Hey Waldo, masquerade as a Trolltech customer and ask for that QSplitter… 😉
The .ORG pavilion was cool — full of real geeks. A lot of open source projects found a roof in the LinuxWorld, even if their exhibition space floor was minimal. The Debian guys were there, I bought their t-shirt for a tenner (they were joking that “KDE 3 for the next Debian will be released in 2008 or 2009), Gnome were just next to them, and it was ran by various people at different times of the day. I would have bought a Gnome t-shirt too, with the new logo on it, but the printed logo was really small, so it was really not justifying the $15. I talked to a couple of people on both the Gnome and KDE booths, asking for interoperability, perfect collaboration between Qt and GTK+ applications, and they told me that more and more developers are getting sensitive into the issue and they seek ways to do so. Today, the MIME types format is now understandable from both KDE and Gnome and they see this as the first step of the collaboration.
The NetBSD booth was just next to KDE’s, but no one and nothing was there. It seems that the guys didn’t make it to the expo.
The OpenOffice.org booth was full at all times. In fact, it had more people around it than the StarOffice booth. Lots of people were asking questions, like what is the difference between OOO and SO6. I talked to a gentleman at the booth and he told me that some Gobe people were there, and they were all discussing the idea of creating a new, XML-based, common format, that will be accessible from all major Linux offices and word processors, including SO, OOO, gobeProductive, KOffice, AbiWord etc. He said that the current OOO format is not that great and it is a bit heavy, so they would like to work together towards a new common format.
The MotifZone was there too, and except the fact that they wouldn’t like using QT or GTK+ “because not all features or widgets are there”, they were clear that they only target the corporate market, or other heavy Unix developers, and not as much Linux or *BSD. Recently, they added the ability to compile a Motif application with a new look that looks better, in their surprise, the corporate devs still use the traditional Motif look.
Some of the Gentoo Linux PPC guys were there, they were… compiling… hmm… compiling… 🙂
I was eager to meet Daniel Robbins, but he had to fly that day, he was present only the first day of the expo.
I stopped by the Aurora SPARC Linux project, who have basically back ported the Red Hat Linux 7.3 to SPARC after Red Hat stopped supporting the platform. Interesting project. Their version of Red Hat (which of course does not have any logos or mentions to the company to avoid legal issues) runs on all 64bit SPARCs, and they now port the new Installer to the 32bit SPARCs, so their port would be truly complete.
CodeWeavers were there, they were presenting Office under Linux, and they are creating two new products, one of which is the ability to run Photoshop properly under Linux! In fact, they had a beta ready to ship, but they found some last minute bugs, that put the release on hold. Just on the other side of CodeWeavers you would find the PogoLinux guys, but I had no idea that Jason Spisac from Lycoris was using it as shared booth. There was no Lycoris logos or big posters anywhere, so I missed him. If I regret one thing from the whole show, is that I didn’t meet and talk to Jason. 🙁
Just a few meters away, Microsoft’s booth was packed. Lots of people, were looking at the three products Microsoft was presenting there: WebMatrix, a 1.3 MB free ASP.NET IDE, WindowsCE with its shared source code and Windows Services for Unix 3.0. Everything was normal and smooth at their booth, lots of people interested or simply curious.
The Sharp’s booth was also packed at all times. They were selling the Zaurus for $300 (which is the price they sell it to some of their resellers). The PDA can be found in retail as low as $325+tax+shipping.
Walking a bit further, someone with a familiar face passed me by. I immediately recognized Linus Torvalds. He was walking alone, with a… smile in his face. I could see he was feeling pretty happy (and that is not just women’s instict ;). I decided to talk to him, he was very kind and cool, but also seemed a bit… lost, as he was there for an appointment and he couldn’t find the appropriate booth. 😉
The biggest booth of all, was HP’s. I did not like it and to be honest, I don’t quite understand their business with Linux. Instead, I asked for information about… HP-UX. They did not have anyone from the HP-UX team on board, while Sun did have a lot of Solaris stuff to show off just a few meters away from the HP booth. In fact, the Sun’s booth was shared to many projects, like Solaris, StarOffice, Sun Linux, other third party Solaris-related companies and Gnome 2.0 (btw, their default configuration of Gnome 2 is even worse than the default Gnome 2). Also, all the CDE applications instead of evenly show in the Applications menu, they have their own folder on the root of the menu, called “CDE”. Great integration Sun. NOT.
The booth that had by far the most people of all, and it was packed all the time, was Red Hat’s. These guys are big. They ran the whole show at LinuxWorld. You go to Sun, they use Red Hat. You go to Google, they use Red Hat. You go to some other booths and products, and they still use Red Hat. Robert Young was there, very obviously happy, discussing business with some other people in their booth’s mini-lounge. Ximian was using a bit of Red Hat’s space floor too.
And if Red Hat was the strong player there, SuSE was the weakest one. SuSE gets the award for the worst “professional” booth at LinuxWorld. I was very disappointed by the people who were running it. The booth was very plain, they had nothing to give to visitors, and the guys were so no-enthusiastic, that really depressed me and made me wanna go away from their booth. Half of their booth was about SuSE Linux 8 and their email server product, and the other half was about UnitedLinux. Very few people around them. And the exhibitors did not help with their attitude. I heard from other media people (I went there with a “media pass”) the exact same complaints for their performance.
And talking about Red Hat and SuSE, the biggest absent from the show was Mandrake! Where did these guys go anyway? A lot of Linux-friendly companies and lots of OSS projects were missing, but Mandrake’s was the most obvious and un-excused one. [Update: I now hear they were there, under the AMD booth. Well, they were completely… undetectable.]
Intel’s, IBM’s and Borland’s booths were pretty big, Intel was showing lots of embedded stuff. Netraverse was there showing their three products, Covalent, Google, and also lots of embedded-related companies.
This LinuxWorld was a bit corporate, not many geeks around, but still always a few, mostly around the .org pavilion. The kinds of products mostly presented there were either for the embedded world, or for servers. In fact, because of this very professional/corporate embedded-feel of the Expo, even Microsoft’s presence was kinda making sense… However, in general, nothing ground breaking was shown in this Expo…
The highlight of the Expo would be AMD’s multiple Opteron presentations really. And I am not even a lot into hardware (still happy with my dual 533Mhz)… It was kinda of a let down to not see ANY new desktop-oriented application presented at the Expo. There was no company exhibiting, that its commercial products would be truly for the desktop. No professional DTP applications, no video editors, no Illustrator-killers, no high end audio apps or 3D. Nothing. Just embedded and server stuff. A lot of Linux users try to convince us or establish the idea that Linux is or can be big on the desktop, but the absence desktop-oriented exhibitors, tell the opposite story so far – and this is indeed kinda of a let down.
Just 15 minutes before I leave the building, Michael Bego, the Xandros VP, spotted me (because of my back pack, a woolly sheep-bag 🙂 and we talked for a while. Mr Bego is an exceptional, kind young man. He really does not deserve your harsh criticism to their (unreleased yet) product guys. He told me that because of the feedback from the OSNews forums, the colors and some of the icons and other elements of the UI will be changed and will be ready for the last beta, before the final release of the product. He also told me that the large majority of the Xandros Desktop 1.0 will be open sourced completely, and only some of their enhancements to the file manager, installer and some wizard pref panels that they were engineered from scratch won’t be opened immediately. In fact, the company is studying the possibility of opening their source code at some point, to a (stricter) license scheme similar to SuSE’s Yast2. But it is not certain yet, it is still under discussion. They are about 25 people working today for Xandros. I asked Mr Bego which kind of desktop users Xandros targets: The Linux-aware desktop users, or the completely unexperienced ones. Xandros apparently tries to play nice with all. He also said that Lindows bases some of their under-the-hood code on the Xandros one, however “While we both have similarities, we both do a significant amount of development in our own directions. That said, there are cool features that Xandros has that Lindows does as well. If you check them out, they have some pretty similar neat wizards,
etc. that others don’t,” Michael said. However, Xandros respects the users and root Unix accounts (while on Lindows you are only logged in as root).
I got some pictures from the expo, but my camera is not digital (neither I am sure it works, haven’t used it for 2 years :), so I will have to find some time and go and print them. It might take a couple of days to do so. Update: The pictures can be found here.
My… LinuxWorld Awards:
1. Best Booth: AMD
2. Worst booth (ever): SuSE/UnitedLinux
3. Most crowded booth: Red Hat
4. Less crowded booth: X.org and 2-3 others.
5. Most interesting project: Aurora Linux.
6. Most interesting product: Borland Kylix.
7. Most interesting person: The main Microsoft guy. Wasn’t that guy sharp or what?
8. Sweetest person I talked to: Sharp Zaurus marketing manager (spoke to her at the Intel booth too) and Michael Bego.
9. Sleepiest person I talked to: All these guys at SuSE/UnitedLinux… What were they thinking?
10. Best Free Gift: Sun’s Gnome2 light pen! Kewl… 🙂
Until next year!