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Atlanta Linux Showcase Report

Phil Hughes

Todd M. Shrider

Issue #41, September 1997

ALS was a success—everyone had fun and went home happy. Here's a report from Phil, and following it is one from an ALS attendee, Todd Shrider.

The Atlanta Linux Showcase (http://www.ale.org.showcase/) is over, and everyone is beginning to recover. Recover, that is, from being awake too long, being on a plane too long and stuffing more Linux than will fit into one weekend.

ALS was put together by the Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts, the local Linux users group in Atlanta, Georgia. The show began in the evening on Friday, June 6 and ran through Sunday afternoon. More than 500 people attended. The report following this one by Todd Shrider covers much of the show, including the talks.

I want to thank Amy Ayers and Karen Bushaw for making their photos available to us, with a special thank you to Amy for getting them scanned and uploaded to the SSC ftp site. (Additional photos are available on the Linux Journal web site in the July issue of Linux Gazette, http://www.ssc.com/lg/.)

I spent most of my time in the Linux Journal booth giving away magazines and talking to show attendees. One aspect that made this show special for me is the lack of time I spent explaining to attendees that Linux is a Unix-like operating system. Instead, I got to discuss Linux with experienced people with thoughtful questions, letting them know in the process how LJ could help them. Each attendee was truly interested in Linux and stopped at each booth in the show. I expect attendees appreciated the low signal-to-noise ratio in the booths; that is, conversations were solely about Linux.

The Roast

On Saturday night there was a roast. No, I didn't change from a vegetarian into a meat eater overnight—we were “roasting” Linus. That is, a group of people presented interesting stories about Linus, intended to only slightly embarrass him.

In front of about 115 people, Eric Raymond, David Miller, Jon “maddog” Hall and I got to pick on this Linus character. Topics varied from Linus almost being hit by a car in Boston, because he was so engrossed in talking about a particular aspect of kernel code, to the evolution of the top-half/bottom-half concept in interrupt handlers and why Linus was apparently moving from geekdom to becoming a “hunk” sportswear model. (See the cover of the San Jose Metro, May 8-14, 1997.)

Maddog finished the roasting by telling a few Helsinki stories and showing a video that included Tove's parents talking about Linus. A good time was had by the roasters and the audience, and as Linus's closing comment was “I love you all,” we assume he had a good time, too, and wasn't offended by our gentle ribbing.

The Future

The show came off very well. I consider this success an amazing feat for an all-volunteer effort. The ALE members plan to write an article for Linux Gazette about how they made this happen. We'll also make this information available on the GLUE web site (http://www.ssc.com/glue/). I would like to see more shows put on by user groups. The local involvement, the enthusiasm of the attendees and the all-Linux flavor of the show made this weekend a great experience. We are already thinking about a Seattle or Portland show, and we would like to help others make regional shows a reality.

More on ALS

by Todd M. Shrider

I first started writing this article in my hotel room late Sunday evening (or early Monday morning) planning to get just enough sleep that I would wake up in time to catch my plane. The plan didn't work—I missed my 6:00 AM flight out of Atlanta. I did the second draft while waiting for my new 9:45 AM flight. The third draft came (yes, you guessed it) while waiting for my 1:30 PM connection from Detroit to Dayton, also having missed the previous connection because of my first flight's late arrival. Suffice it to say, I'm now back home in Indiana and still enjoying the high I got from the Atlanta Linux Showcase.

Thanks to all the sponsors and to our host, Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts, the conference started with a bang and went off without a hitch. The conference was a three-day event, starting with registration on Friday and ending on Sunday with a kernel-hacking session led by none other than Linus himself. In between, there were numerous conferences found in both business and technical tracks, several “birds of a feather” (BoF) sessions and a floor show. These events were broken up with frequent trips to local pubs and very little sleep.

This was my first Linux conference, and I found that an added benefit of ALS was meeting all the people who use Linux as a business platform and tool. (These same people tend to be doing very cool things with Linux on the side.) From companies such as Red Hat, Caldera, MessageNet, Cyclades, DCG Computers and others, it was obvious that many people have very creative ways to make money with Linux. This enterprising wasn't limited, by any means, to the vendors. Many of the conference speakers spoke of ways to make money with Linux or of their experiences with Linux in a professional environment.

All of these efforts seemed to compliment the key-note address, “World Domination 101”, where Linus Torvalds called for applications, applications, applications. (Did I say he thought Linux needed a few more useful applications?) Anyway, he pointed out the more or less obvious fact that if Linux is going to be a success in a world of commercial operating systems, it needs every application type available for commercial operating systems. In other words, if you're thinking about writing application software for Linux, don't think—just do it. Another thing pointed out by Linux, and which I was glad to hear echoed throughout the conference, is the need for Linux to be easy to use. It needs to be so easy that a secretary or corporate executive could use it as productively as they would Windows 95. We need to make people realize that Linux has eliminated the high learning curve usually associated with Unix.

Don Rosenberg, while speaking on the “how-to” and “what's needed next” of commercial Linux, said that we are now in a stage where the innovators (that's us) and the early adopters (that's us, as well as the people using Linux in the business world today) must continue to push forward so that we can get another group of early adopters (the old DOS users) to take us seriously. In Maddog's closing remarks, he urged us all to find two DOS users, convert them to Linux, and then tell them to do the same. Today, as a step in this direction, I introduced a local corporate computer sales firm to Linux; whether they take my advice remains to be seen, but believe me, I'm pushing.

The rest of the conference was filled with business and technical talks. The business track included such talks as Eric Raymond's “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, talks on OpenLinux by both Jeff Farnsworth and Steve Webb, and “Linux Connectivity for Humans” by none other than Phil Hughes. Lloyd Brodsky was on hand to speak about “Intranet Support of Collaborative Planning”, while Lester Hightower brought us the story of PCC and their efforts to bring Linux to the business world. Mark Bolzern spoke of the significance of Linux, and Bob Young talked of the “process”--not the “product”--of Linux.

The technical track started with Richard Henderson's discussion of the shared libraries and their function across several architectures. Michael Maher gave a how-to of Red Hat's RPM package management system, and Jim Paradis discussed EM86 and what remains to be done so that one can run Intel/Linux binaries under Alpha/Linux. David Miller then followed, giving a boost of enthusiasm with his discussion of the tasks involved in porting Linux to SPARC, and Miguel de Icaza took us on a trip to the world of RAID and Linux. We convened the next day to hear David Mandelstam discuss issues involved with wide-area networks, and to hear Mike Warfield's anatomy of a cracker's intrusion.

All in all, the conference was a huge success. As an improvement for next year, I might suggest more involvement from the vendors (or maybe just more vendors), discounted prices for conference attendees from the vendors on their special Linux wares and a possible tutorial session, like those seen at UseLinux (Anaheim, California, January 1997). Otherwise, a few virtual beers (I owe you, Maddog) and lots of great geek conversation made for one wild weekend.

Phil Hughes is the publisher of Linux Journal.

Todd M. Shrider (todds@ontko.com)

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