A report on our booth and the perception of Linux amoung Open Systems users.
Unix Expo promotes itself as the largest trade show for corporate buyers and resellers interested in Unix and Open Systems Computing, with an estimated 30,000 attendees this year. The show ran from October 4th to 6th at the Javits Center in New York City.
Linux Journal's booth at Unix Expo proved to be a fun but harried spot for our Advertising Manager, Joanne Wagner, our Associate Publisher, Belinda Frazier and our Editor, Michael Johnson. Linux Joumal gave away thousands of copies of the October, 1994, issue of Linux Journal, our annual Buyers issue. People especially admired the “Linux The Virtual Brewery” T-shirt and many returned to our booth for our occasional drawings for Tshirts, mugs, and Linux CDs donated by Linux vendors.
Due to show regulations we were not able to sell Linux CDs, but we could have easily sold hundreds of CDs, even to people who had just recently heard of Linux. More than once, a manager told us, “All my engineers are using Linux! I have to find out more about it.”
Unix Expo offered user groups the chance to meet in the early evening hours. Over a hundred people gathered for the New York Unix/Linux Group's meeting which included a panel discussion with Michael Johnston of Morse Telecommunication, Marc Ewing of Red Hat Software, and Michael Johnson, Linux [oumal Editor and general techie. Beta copies of Red Hat Software's new Linux distribution were given out at the meeting.
At the end of the discussion, HJ. Lu, the Linux GCC maintainer, was invited to join the group to talk about his work.
Probably the most spectacular Linux product at Unix Expo was the accelerated-d X server from X Inside. Thomas Roell, the author of the original X386 server from which XFree86 was also developed, is the developer of the accelerated-d server, and it shows.
Several hardware vendors dropped by our booth to sa~ that they have had many customers asking about Linux drivers for their products. The vendors had two main concerns. The first was copyright. It is difficult for many vendors to release proprietary information in the form of publically available source code for drivers for their hard ware, no matter how convincing the arguments they hear. They also aren't clear on some points of copyright.
A representative of Adaptec stopped by to say that her company has been getting many requests for Linux drivers for their highend cards, but Adaptec was unclear about some copyright issues. Instead of putting firmware in a ROM chip on their high-end boards, Adaptec downloaded equivalent firmware into RAM. This makes their cards easier to upgrade and more flexible.
Adaptec, however, considers that fimmware to be just as proprietary as if it were in a ROM chip and will not release the source code to it just because it is downloaded by GNU Public License-protected code. When we explained that the GPL does not require Adaptec to release that source code with the source code for a Linux kemel driver, she was pleased and interested in helping Linux developers with a driver.
The second main question involved support. Several vendors were quite interested in making drivers available for their hardware, but do not (for now, at least) feel that they have resources to support the driver. We offered to help find volunteers who could support a driver, given all needed technical infommation and free hardware.
Here is an incomplete list of companies that expressed some sort of positive interest in Linux: Comeau Computing, ComputerWorld, DigiBoard, Eicon, Enhanced Software Technologies, Equinox, Frame Technology, SCO World, Stallion Technologies, UnixOPEN, UnixWare Technology Group, and Z-Code Software.
It was enjoyable to chat with the very many Linux users who stopped by, despite the fact that our voices were nearly destroyed by the end of the show. Of course, there were a few people who had difficult questions, and some questions didn't get answered. What I found most interesting, though, was the very large number of users who had installed Linux in the week preceding the show; it seemed like about a third of all the users we talked to were that new to Linux, which paints a picture of very rapid growth.